Beauty Essentials | Packing for a Short Trip | Tips & Tricks

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Being able pack light is a skill and learnt over time through experiences of packing too much! I enjoy planning for a trip and I actually love packing. Whether I'm filling a suitcase for a two week holiday or stuffing a backpack for a camping weekend; I enjoy making lists and thinking about how I can take everything I need but not be weighed down on my travels. Next week I'll be catching the train down to London for short two day break with one overnight. Of course, I want to bring some makeup, toiletries and hair products along - but I don't want to lug a heavy bag around with me. We'll be doing a lot of walking and jumping on public transport so a bulky suitcase is just going too far.

I'd like to think I've become pretty good at packing. Gone are the days where I add 'options' to my suitcase. If I don't have a personal assistant to carry all my bags then I'm only going to take what's necessary. For this blog post I'm going to show you how I manage to slim down my makeup and beauty bag, taking only the essentials for a overnight or short trip. And of course there are some tips and tricks along the way to make things easier...

Tip #1 Wrap Hair Ties to a Bottle and Hair Grips to a Credit Card
It saves space when you're packing and you're able to keep track of your little hair items instead of them all rolling around at the bottom of a bag. I push my hair pins on to wallet size gift card and wrap some twistband ribbon hair ties around a mini bottle of dry shampoo. You could also tie them on to the handle of a hair brush.

Tip #2 Decant Products / Chop Tubes in Half
If you're only going away for a few days you don't need a full bottle or foundation or a 200ml tube of your favourite moisturiser. Instead you should be squeezing the products out into little containers and only taking what you'll use. Empty out and clean old pots of lip balm and use these to hold liquid foundation or eye cream. When a tube gets low, cut it in half with scissors to scoop out remaining product. Wash out and re-use by pushing the top back over the base. It's not water tight but will still hold moisturiser or thick creams.

Tip #3 Take Sample Sizes and Miniatures 
Sample sized or mini products are also brilliant. Save hotel minis or freebies from magazines. Perfume atomisers are fantastic for carrying around your favourite fragrances, but I like to carry rollerballs in my travel kit. At the moment I love Benefit's Roller Lash mascara and the sample size is lasting ages!

Tip #4 Look for Disposable Products in Sachets
Such as these Murad Clarifying Wipes that work to cleanse and tone the skin. These handy sachets came in a Glossybox and are perfect for popping into your travel kit. If you prefer a deeper cleanse, I like to take my travel sized Liz Earle products with me and the muslin cloths are thin enough to be folded up and slipped into a side pocket.

Tip #5 Push Makeup Wipes into Plastic Capsules 
Stuff makeup wipes into plastic capsules (like you'd find in Kinder eggs or those that disposable gloves come in) one capsule can hold two or three makeup wipes and they keep them from drying out. Plus it's a fantastic excuse to go out and buy Kinder eggs.

Tip #6 Take Multi-Purpose Products 
Such as a small eye palette with the right matte shade for your brows. I use a couple of the matte brown shades in the Urban Decay NAKED original palette for filling in my brows. How about a lip and cheek stain? A highlight and bronzer duo compact such as the Sleek Contour Kit. Double ended eyeliner. A cream for face, eyes and lips, day or night.

Tip #7 Don't Double Up on Products
I have two highlighters that I have been using loads recently. I really want to take both, but that's silly. The cream highlighter wins due to its teeny packaging. Do this with all your beauty products to save space. No one needs two different concealers for a short trip.

Tip #8 Find the Right Bag
You could opt for one giant makeup bag but I prefer to split my essentials up into smaller compact bags. All my hair items (including brush, bands and grips) in one bag, and a 'bathroom bag' for toiletries such as toothpaste and shampoo. This Ted Baker makeup bag* (sold as a jewellery case but can be used for a variety of things) is from Country Attire and features Ted Baker’s signature cascading floral print and its patent finish makes it easy to keep clean.

Rose Gold & Copper Delights

Saturday, 25 July 2015

I've been wearing these three pieces on my wrist together and separately, almost everyday. I don't own much rose gold jewellery, but after building my collection to just these three items, I can see why so many people choose rose gold over anything else...

This copper bangle is from Trollbeads who make beautiful 'build-your-own' style jewellery. They kindly asked me if I'd like to design my own bracelet and I opted for this simple copper bangle with the bead 'Honey Dew' between two copper stoppers. It's such a classic design it goes well with any outfit. With a easy white shirt and jeans this is the only piece of jewellery I need. The whole process of choosing what bead/s to add to the bangle is really wonderful, Trollbeads have so many to choose from, you could easily spend a few hours browsing their site. Copper bracelets are thought to have medicinal benefits, for joint stiffness or pain. Which whether true or not, it can do no harm to wear one, especially if it looks like this!

Never has a friendship bracelet looked so glamorous. I think you'd have to be a really amazing friend to be given this luxury Links of London bracelet. It's easy to wear and looks great day or night, layered up with lots of bracelets for a festival vibe, or left on it's own for a classy and understated look.

I love everything about my Daniel Wellington St Mawes watch. I blog about DW regularly! This is the men's version, so the face is slightly bigger but that's how I like my watches. The rose gold surround makes it the perfect companion for my copper and rose gold bracelets.

What's on my iPad Mini? | Two Year Update

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The last time I talked about my iPad was two years ago when I first purchased the mini tablet, and you can still read that blog post where I go into detail about my favourite apps and first impressions. I felt like it was about time I updated you all. It's important to do your research when it comes to buying electronics, especially pricey items. I'm always keen to hear what people are using their gadgets for the most, it helps me make a decision before buying. So how are things two years on? Am I still using my iPad for the same reasons and have I discovered anything new...?

Favourite Apps to Use

My number one use for my iPad mini... it's a toss up between watching Netflix and browsing Pinterest! The iPad mini screen is definitely 'individual' sized. It's lightweight and portable, I think it's ideal for watching Netflix or Prime Instant Video alone. I've just finished all three seasons of Orange is the New Black. After being late to catch the bandwagon I stormed through 3 seasons in 3 weeks. It's really good.

I also love flicking through the Pinterest app on the iPad. I prefer using Pinterest this way more than viewing it via desktop or on a phone. There's something about the ease of use on the iPad that makes it different to any other device. My iPad tends to live on my bedside table so I'll pop on Pinterest for some late night inspiration (which is when my brain switches on creatively anyway) and update my boards.

Other apps that I use frequently are Tumblr, YouTube, Bloglovin and shopping apps such as ASOS and Amazon. Although it must be said, the ASOS app is pretty rubbish and crashes all the time. I rarely play games, I just don't get hooked on them. I did play Sims for quite a while but after forgetting about my families for a few weeks I just haven't gone back to it.

Reading on the iPad Mini

I regularly use the Kindle app. I did have a Amazon Kindle but I've since sold it as it really wasn't getting used. I worried the bright iPad screen would hurt my eyes after hours of reading but I don't find it too strenuous at all. At night I turn the brightness all the way down and it doesn't affect my sleep or how tired I feel. An hour of reading actually improves my sleep and helps me to wind down. It's avoiding checking Instagram before bed that's tricky! The Kindle app is brilliant. I love the dictionary feature. If you want a definition of a word you're not sure on, you just tap and hold down on the word. This, and the notes feature, would have been so useful to me when studying English Lit.

I also love the Stylist magazine app. It's 100% free with new issues of Stylist out every Tuesday. I used to pick it up every week in Manchester on my way to Uni or work and read it on the train home. Since finishing my degree and changing jobs I'm happy to have found a downloadable version of such a fantastic magazine.

iPad Mini Skin* - CaseApp

This beautiful ipad skin is from CaseApp, I picked the design 'Black Wild Waters' straight from their design gallery, but you can always create your own custom case and CaseApp have kindly offered a discount code for my readers GWENMCASE20. They're very easy to apply and don't leave any sticky residue should you want to peel them off in the future.

I'd love to know which apps you're using regularly on your ipad and if you have any suggests for me!

How to | Take Photos of Cats

Monday, 13 July 2015

Yes, this blog post is completely serious. Who doesn't want to know how to take cracking photographs of cats? Everyone loves cats.

Hopefully you'll have a cat or two of your own to practice your photography skills on, but if not, find a friend who has a cat and ask to borrow it.

As a photographer I open my studio doors to many pets; mainly dogs, as they are better travelers and adapt easily to new environments. But on occasion I've had people bring their cats along or I've been asked to do a home-visit and set up a little studio in someone's house. My mum works for Cats Protection, fostering cats and kittens until new forever homes are found for them (and yes that is the best job ever). So I've been lucky enough to get my hands on many kittens for cuddles ...and photography purposes!

Types of Cat Photography

I bet you didn't know there were different types of cat photography! Well, that's probably because I've just made it up. But there are different ways of approaching your pet photos and by splitting these ideas up in to categories for this blog post, you can decide which methods you'd like to try...

Candid & Lifestyle

Capturing cats in their most natural environment. Whether that's the garden or your (their) living room. Follow your cat around the house, lie on the floor and get down to their level, entice your cat with treats and toys. Use the environment around you to improve your images and snap them doing the things they love the most. I love this black and white shot above, the longer you look at the photo the more detail you see; like the double reflections of the cats' faces in the window.

Sleeping Cats

The easiest way to photograph a cat is to find a sleeping cat. Tip toe around said cat, being careful not to wake it! A short focal length can create some beautiful images here, f.2.8 or lower, blurring out the background and leaving all attention on the cat's features. If you're very quiet you can get super close and capture all the teeny hairs and whiskers for a detailed portrait. I just had to grab a photo of this beautiful tabby kitten relaxing in his bed after a long day of playing. Cats sleep in the most unusual positions!

Preened & Posed

It is possible to 'pose' your pet and style the whole photoshoot to your liking. But it's hard work, and you will need a helping hand. I've found kittens easier to capture if there are noisy or fluffy toys involved. Wait for them to tire themselves out first so they will be slightly more cooperative when the camera comes out. Have everything set up waiting and ready. Think about your background, lighting, props and composition. Take a few test shots without the cat/kitten. Then you have to think fast and shoot faster. Put the cat/kitten in place and immediately catch their attention with loud funny noises and shiny things. Take lots of photos!

Hectic Motion Capture

Cats and kittens can really move. To photograph your pets when they are playing or running around, you'll need lots of light (natural daylight is best). And a fast shutter speed. Anything under 1/100 will be too slow. The faster your shutter speed the better. I could use anywhere up to 1/800 and beyond if shooting outdoors on a bright day. Your camera may have a burst-mode setting which can be useful when capturing a fast moving cat. This will take lots of photos one after another and you can flick through and select the best one, discarding the rest. Most phone cameras have this setting!

My Top Tips

Find the Angle
try shooting from above, find a unique angle, it can make all the difference.

Find the Light 
the more light you have the sharper your images will be.

Find a Friend
having a second person to dangle cat toys or dispense treats is very useful.

Find the Time
you can't rush a cat into doing anything. You'll need patience to get perfect shots.

Best of luck with your cat photography, I hope some of the above tips were useful. If all else fails, you can come to me and I'll photograph your cats for you! You can share your cat photos with me via Twitter, because I always want to see pictures of cats. And you can read more of my photography tips and tricks here.

*Please note all images are copyright of Gwen McMullin / Photography by Gwen and must not be used, copied, saved or reproduced without consent.