Sunday, 29 December 2013

CNTCWC D8: New Year's Eve

Hey y'all!

So today we come to the close of my first completed nail art challenge, and it's bittersweet.  I'm proud of a lot of the work I've done, but of course there's still a lot of room for improvement, so that will focus me going into 2014.  Today's final theme is New Year's Eve.  I knew I wanted to do something a bit glamorous and sparkly, and I found the perfect inspiration on a video by Lacquerstyle.  She uses purple/fuchsia and gold in her very elegant look, whereas I've changed the color scheme around to make it very NYE, in my not-so humble opinion.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Christmas Puke

Hey y'all!

Today I have a funny little mani fail to show you that I like to call Christmas Baubles, aka Christmas Puke.  Originally I had thought I would capture the effect of all the bits and bobs on a Christmas tree cascading down my nails.  In reality, it just looked awful, but it tickles me so I thought I'd show you.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

CNTCWC D7: Winter Characters

Hey y'all!

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas, whether you celebrate the day or not!  Today is called Boxing Day in the UK (and assorted Commonwealth countries), where tradesmen and people in service positions traditionally receive a box of gifts or money from their bosses.  I still like to think it's called Boxing Day because that's when you clean up all the boxes and wrapping paper from Christmas presents, though.  It's kind of weird having the day after Christmas be a holiday, whereas in the States we celebrate Christmas Eve instead, but I guess either way it's two days for Christmas.  Today we've come to the penultimate challenge of the CNTCWC today, and our theme is Winter Characters.

I wanted to do a non-traditional take on the theme (I can hear you gasping in shock already) so I played around with ideas for a while and something about the thought of Santa's view of his reindeer as they were returning to the North Pole after Christmas struck me as cute, so today, you get REINDEER BUTTS!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Llama Nails Holiday Challenge week 10: Christmas

Hey y'all!

First off, let me wish all of you a Merry Christmas!  I'm going to keep today's post relatively faff-free, but picture-heavy, because I kind of love this manicure for the Llama Nails challenge: Christmas.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

CNTCWC D6: Christmas Food

Hey y'all!

Christmas week is finally here, and last night, we finally got a bit of snow that stuck around til morning.  Of course it has all melted now by the afternoon, but it's something, right?  Today's theme in the CNTCWC is Christmas Food, which has already been on my mind as we get preparations done for Christmas day. I toyed with several ideas for what constituted Christmas food, but the one that *always* makes me think Christmas and nothing else is gingerbread houses, so that was the inspiration for today's manicure.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

CNTCWC D5: Christmas Toys

Hey y'all!

I made a few changes yesterday to my blog content, including the new banner up top (whee!) and I've changed my watermarking system for future pics.  Please do leave me some feedback, if you have any, because I'm curious to know what y'all think.  For today's theme, I did some experimenting with watercolor paints.  Granted, it probably wasn't the best idea to experiment during a nail art challenge, but there you have it.  The theme is Toys, and the scenario that played out in my head was that Santa got disoriented in a blizzard and crashed his sleigh, spilling his sack and all the toys and presents inside.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Llama Nails Holiday Challenge week 9: Winter

Hey y'all!

Hard to believe Christmas is only a week away, isn't it?  Here in southwestern England, the weather has been quite mild for what I expected midway through December.  We've had a few nights of drizzling rain filled with teeny little tufts of micro snowflakes, which hubby says they call sleet.  After some research, it turns out that once again, this is another word that has completely different meanings in the UK vs US.  Back home, sleet is rain with actual ice in it, not to be confused with hail, which is bigger.  Apparently here, they call them "ice pellets".  It's true, we really are two countries divided by a common language.  In any event, the winter is here, but I expect it to get much worse before it gets better.

This week's theme for the Llama Nails challenge is, in fact, Winter.  I wanted to capture some traditional wintery images, even if we haven't really experienced much of it where I live.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

CNTCWC D4: Christmas Traditions

Hey y'all!

Today's theme in the CNTCWC is Christmas Traditions.  When I was a kid, of course, we had a few traditions around the house, mostly involving decorations and the like.  I think my favorite part of Christmas was in our stockings, Mom would always give us an orange, a few chocolates, and a LifeSavers Story Book.  For my non-American readers, LifeSavers are are little ring-shaped hard candies and mints that come in a foil-wrapped roll of about a dozen or so.  At Christmas time, they would bundle several different flavored rolls (including my favorite, butterscotch) together in a box that opened like a book and was filled with different Christmas images.  I'm not sure why that was my favorite stocking stuffer, but I always looked forward to that being in my stocking each year.

As I've grown and since I have no children of my own, Christmas has taken a back burner for me.  It all seems far too commercial and hectic and ugly, and I haven't put up a tree in probably 15 years.  The past several years I've spent Christmas dog- and house-sitting for Mom so she could go visit family who couldn't let us bring our dogs, and I was okay with the arrangement because I just haven't "felt it" for so very long.  Today's theme gave me an opportunity to really play around and have some fun with Christmas traditions, so I've opted to show off two of the less-popular traditions that a lot of people struggle with every year - untangling Christmas lights and dealing with kitty cats in Christmas trees.  Most of the polishes and the stamping plate in this mani were in The Pink PrincessZ's giveaway I won and posted about in my Giveaway Mania post.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

CNTCWC D3: Holiday Colors

Hey y'all!

So today's theme is Holiday Colors (actually, the list says Holiday Colours, but yanno, I'm a 'murkin), and this is the first time that I've ever had a mani ready to go with pics and everything and then completely changed it on the day of posting.  I got some nail mail this morning of two limited edition Quirk polishes (and by limited edition, I mean there were like, 3 of each made) and was so excited that I scrapped my Christmas baubles mani altogether, though it may show up later in the challenge.

Quirk is another UK indie, created by Kerrie of PishPosh and Polish.  They are handmade, 3-free, and currently consist of glitter toppers, but since the line is new, I imagine this will not always be the case.  I purchased her two holiday LEs, one called Candy Land and the other called Evergreen.

Since the theme is Holiday Colors, I thought what better way to play with new polish than to use them in the nail art challenge THAT VERY SAME DAY???

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Llama Nails Holiday Challenge week 8: Kwanzaa

Hey y'all!

So, this has been an interesting week so far.  I had a ginormous fail on my first attempt at today's challenge theme (pic at the bottom of the post), I received a great prize I won in a giveaway (and posted about it yesterday), picked a winner for my giveaway, and almost adopted another dog who wandered into our garden yesterday.  He's back home where he belongs now, but since he didn't have tags, I was sorely tempted to convince Hubby to let me keep him, because he really is very sweet and I feel bad because I have listened to him whine and cry outside pretty much since the neighbors got him earlier this summer.  However, he has a little buddy who did not follow him through the fence, so I feel better at least knowing he's not just a little dog living outside by himself.

I'm also in the process of working with an independent rep in the US to get some content that I'm fairly sure will be the first UK introduction to this cosmetic line.  The line is planning on expanding into the UK in 2014 and I'm psyched to be on the front lines of it.  Samples should be coming to me soon, and I'll have some reviews and swatches for you when that happens.  Exciting!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Giveaway Mania up in hurr! (CLOSED)

Hey y'all!

Short post, but today's an exciting day at Camp Faff.  Last night a winner was selected for my elf Gift Bag giveaway, and the winner responded to my email this morning, so her prize will be mailed out later today.  Congratulations to Lucy of the Lucy Loves, who is also a newbie beauty blogger like myself, but she's covering a whole range of beauty, fashion, and nail stuff.  Give her a peek! 

Additionally, I received a prize that *I* won from the beautiful Zoe of The Pink PrincessZ!  I am SO excited about this prize set, you guys.  I just can't even.  Over the course of the giveaway, Zoe made improvements to the original prize pack, upgrading all of the nail polishes to Essies.  I currently have only 2 Essies in my collection, not including their ridge filler, so that made me really happy, but what I was REALLY drooling over was the MoYou Christmas Collection 01 plate.

Click to expand - this is worth taking a look at!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Hey, Swatch It! Belle Glamour UK Indie swatch and review

Hey y'all!

So I'm very excited to be reviewing my first UK Indie polish today!  I received four shades from Catriona's Cosmetics Belle Glamour line of polishes, which will be officially launched on January 24, 2014.  In addition to selling some really pretty polishes from her own line as well as some other brands, she also sells hand-painted false nails and loose glitter.

There were SO many polishes to choose from, I really had to have a long sit-down with myself and figure out the best way to select a decent review sample.  In the end, I selected 4 polishes (3 shimmers and 1 glitter) across the color wheel.

Colors listed:
Sunlight in the Water (blue)
Grass is Always Greener (green)
Bloodstain (pink)
Amulet (purple)

Sunday, 8 December 2013

CNTCWC D2: Winter Nature

Hey y'all!

Hope everyone's getting into the Christmas spirit by now.  I'm certainly lagging behind on Christmas cheer, but then I'll be honest; it's never been my favorite holiday.  This nail art challenge is certainly helping me to think Christmas, but I've never been a home decorating type, and I can't remember the last time I had a Christmas tree in the house.  Call me a Scrooge if you will.  It's not that I dislike the holiday, more that I just don't get into it the way most people do.  The dog certainly doesn't seem to care, anyway. :)

So I've decided not to type out "Crumpet's Nail Tarts Christmas Winter Challenge" twice a week for the next month in my post titles, so when you see "CNTCWC" - that's what it means.  Today's theme is Winter Nature.  I had a plan for this look that involved having a lot more time to work than I wound up with.  Unfortunately, the morning I was going to work on this mani, I woke with a start and ended up flapping my hand on poor Isis' head, cracking a nail in the process.  Crisis!  Luckily I had put down base coat, base color, and a matte topcoat the night before, so the nail didn't fly off.  It is definitely damaged but I was able to do some surgery with a teabag and nail glue to save the nail.  Losing this length would've been a calamity for my plans for the rest of this winter nail art challenge!

In the end, I would up with this:

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Crumpet's Nail Tarts Christmas Winter Challenge D1: White Christmas

Hey y'all!

So yesterday I went to my first British dental appointment.  I have to say that the Brits get a bad rap when it comes to dentistry in general.  Although it's been many years since I'd seen a dentist in the States because I've not had dental coverage for a long while, I have to say that the experience was not at all different from any other dental appointment I've had.  Got a couple of fillings and the colors match and they're just as good as any work I've had done before.  The only noticeable difference was that she didn't have nitrous oxide (which I usually prefer, as it helps keeps me from having anxiety problems in the chair) - but overall I was able to breathe through my nerves and was only there for an hour.  I'm very pleased and not at all as nervous as I had been about the series of appointments to come, as I've got a few issues to address (like I said, I've not had coverage for a while).

Anyway... so today starts a new challenge I've taken up, which I mentioned in yesterday's post, hosted by Crumpet's Nail Tarts on Facebook.  I'll be posting new nail art twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays.  Today's theme is White Christmas.

Personally, I've never seen a White Christmas, since I hail from Central Texas and we only see snow once every few years.  Even the winters I spent in Chicago and England last year didn't see snow on Christmas day, so I can only imagine and look at pictures for inspiration.  Also, the movie White Christmas was oddly uninspiring, although I do love hearing Bing sing and Vera-Ellen dance, and Danny Kaye cracks me up.

So here's what I did:

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Llama Nails Holiday Challenge week 7: Hanukkah

Hey y'all!

Hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving break.  Here in jolly ol' England, business was much the same as usual:  chilly weather punctuated with days of "nice" weather.  By nice, of course, I simply mean I wasn't freezing my ovaries off.  It's officially December now, which brings with it a new nail art challenge and continuation of the existing challenge I've been working on for Llama Nails.  Doing two challenges at once will be interesting, and by interesting I mean "oh god, oh god, we're all gonna die."  The new challenge comes from the FB group Crumpet's Nail Tarts which is spearheaded by Debbie of The Crumpet, and is a really large group of nail enthusiasts.  The challenge is winter/Christmas themed and will only last for the month of December.  My first challenge nails will be posted tomorrow.  I'm really looking forward to this theme as I have some great ideas for it.

Today, however, I continue on the path of the Holiday themed manis with this week's entry: Hanukkah.

Monday, 2 December 2013

#2014BloggerChallenge - I'm in! Are you?

Hey y'all!

I was browsing some beauty blogs the other day, as I often do, and came across an intriguing post from Dawn of Sassy Little Nails, where she talked about joining a blogger challenge that sounded like fun, called the #2014BloggerChallenge.  The event is the brainchild of Gaby from Another Girly Blog.  I ran down the list of participants and saw a lot of familiar blogs, so I opted to join in, and you can too!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Tag: British Nail Bloggers "Get Rubbed"

Hey y'all!

I need to come out and say this:  I have been seriously rubbing myself lately!  Sometimes it's deliberate, when I am consciously aware of the need to do it and the gratification that comes from the rubbing and touching.  Sometimes I do it as a compulsive reaction to anxiety or stress, and I find myself doing it and counting the number of strokes I make.  Most commonly, however, it's just an absent-minded habit.  I'll be watching television, or reading blogs, and look down and realize I'm doing it right then, just gleefully rubbing away without any thought to who might see or what they might think of me!

I've been living with this horrible secret for some time now, and I'm thankful that someone else brought it up in the British Nail Bloggers forum, because after a rather lengthy thread, we all now realize we're not alone.  We rub ourselves and we're tired of being ashamed of it!  That is to say, we rub up against our painted nails, either against our lips or fingers (or other places?? - I dunno).  So, in a little group therapy session, today we're all going to be showcasing the best polishes on which to rub it out!  I've selected 10 polishes and toppers that I find myself continually touching, but I can't possibly rank them, so I'll just group them into "types".  It's also important to note that these polishes should always be completely dry before anyone goes smearing their fingers against em, or sticking em to their lips or in their mouths.  Nail polish is not intended to be ingested, y'all, so let's use a little common sense when we're rubbing ourselves, shall we?

Without further ado, let's get started:

The Top Coats
 Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat
Seche Vite over OPI DS Pewter
Since this is the most common exterior barrier on my nails, it only makes sense that I would find myself rubbing on it a lot.  All nail bloggers and connoisseurs know, it's a thick, glossy topcoat that dries like glass on top of my nails, and the smooth finish makes it irresistible for my fingers to run over the surface of one another, just *trying* to find a bump or blemish on the surface!
OPI Matte Top Coat
OPI Matte Top Coat over Sinful Colors Dancing Nails
I don't own any matte nail polishes, because with this top coat, I don't feel like I *need* them!  This gorgeously supple top coat mattes out even the shiniest of shinies, and leaves a satiny smooth finish on top of my nails.  The bonus:  It's a fairly quick dry-time, too.  Sometimes I'll finish a bit of nail art or a nail look in general and realize that while it looks nice, something is just *off*.  That's usually when I reach for this mattifying top coat to see if I can't make the look come together.  This is one polish I'm definitely guilty of rubbing against my lips - specifically I find myself rubbing my thumb against my bottom lip, usually while I'm deep in thought or otherwise concentrating.

Shatter/Crackle Toppers
OPI Super Bass Shatter over Models Own Indian Ocean
Almost every brand has at least one version of this type of polish, which is best applied in a thin, single layer, over a contrasting color.  My favorites are the OPI Shatters, though I also have some W7s and one Barry M that I'm not fond of (Croc Effect).  I love the textured feel that results from a good cracking polish, and unless I need to wear the look for longer than a day, I often don't top coat because I like the way the cracked polish feels against my fingertips when I rub across.

The Jellies/Crellies
China Glaze Are You Jelly?
China Glaze Are You Jelly? and Max Factor Fantasy Fire (on middle and ring)
While they're a bit of a pain to work with if you want an opaque nail, jellies (clear but tinted base, can see through) and crellies (sheer base, slightly opaque but thinner than a traditional creme finish) give a great texture to your nail if you're a compulsive rubber.  Pictured above are 3 coats of the crelly Are You Jelly? on all fingers and a single coat of the jelly Fantasy Fire over my ring and middle fingers.  I love the additional flare that Fantasy Fire adds to the gorgeous grape jelly color of Are You Jelly? while not changing the color too much.  In addition, this mani left me with two different but similar textures to play with on my fingers, with the satiny finish of the crelly and the smooth but rubbery feel of the jelly on different fingers.

Effect Polishes

Maybelline Color Show Vintage Leather
Maybelline Tanned & Ready
I only own two of the Vintage Leather collection from the Color Show line, but I found myself quite pleased with the texture of the polishes once they were on the nail.  This isn't the really thick plastic feel of some of the higher-end leather effect polishes, but it is very much like a thin plastic or rubber with some grittiness from the shards in the polish that give it the "distressed" look (though not very successfully, in my opinion).  I did find myself rubbing my middle finger against the top of my index finger pretty frequently, enjoying the very different feel of the polish.

OPI DS Raw Granite
OPI DS Pewter
 The Raw Granite duo which came out this fall is a beautiful pair of polishes, both of which are in my line to swatch and review.  However, this post came up first, so I had to bite the bullet because I'm in LOVE with the texture of these polishes.  Shown above is Pewter, which only slightly edged out Lapis for having a better "lip feel" - because the formula lays down just slightly better and the Lapis was JUST SLIGHTLY more gritty feeling once dried.  They both have an amazing texture that feels like smoothed igneous rock, as though someone took a sanding belt to a piece of granite!  These are both very similar to the Liquid Sand line, see below, but have slightly larger glitter hexes and supposedly contain real diamond dust, for added sparkle.  If you don't believe me on the sparkle, check the very first picture on this post and compare the natural finish here to the extra sparkly finish after adding a clear top coat! 

OPI Liquid Sands
OPI Solitaire, from the Bond Girls collection
I am late on the bandwagon of the Liquid Sand polishes.  My first bottle was Honey Ryder, also from the Bond Girls collection, and I loved it so much I came back and got two more, though I'm sure they won't be the last.  I love the slight grittiness to the finish and find myself rubbing not only my fingers over top, but also my thumb against my bottom lip when I'm wearing any of the Liquid Sands.  

Rimmel Space Dust
Rimmel Moon Walking
Like the crackle/shatter polishes, it seems like everyone will soon be joining in with a version of this type of textured polish, created by adding fine glitter to a thin base so much that it won't lay down smoothly.  Whereas I have a handful of the OPI line, I was very curious when I saw that Rimmel had started their own line, since I have become a fan of the brand since moving to the UK.  There will be a swatch and review post coming on the 4 polishes I got, but like the Raw Granites, that review post got superseded by this one, so there you have it.  These are definitely much rougher in texture than the Liquid Sands, but they have more sparkle and feel a bit like spice drops or Sour Patch Kids against my lower lip. 

The Add-Ons

Technically, these last two aren't "polishes" per se, but they are a firmly established part of the nail art community, and because I absolutely LOVE to feel these on my nails, they merit inclusion in this list.

Microbeads/Fish Eggs/Cavy-arh
elf microbeads in purple and pink from the Ursula Villains nail art kit
The "fish-egg" manicure has been on the scene for a couple of years now, one of the first things besides rhinestones that nail artists found in craft stores and decided to stick on their nails.  Typically made from glass or plastic polymer, these round little beads add a bumpy-smooth surface to nail art and can be applied across a whole nail or strategically (and painstakingly) placed to create unique 3D designs.  For me, they make excellent textural distractions for my fingertips.

Flocking Powder
MUA Fur-Effect Fluffy Bobbin
Nail art enthusiasts, in continuing with the "Oh look at this crafting supply thing I found; I'm gonna stick it on my nails" theme, also quickly added flocking powder to their manicures.  Originally used as a crafting supply by model builders (to create carpet and grass effects) and paper crafters (to create velour effects on cards, gift boxes, and other items), these synthetic fibers are glued onto a surface to give a velvety texture.  In nail art, many creative uses have arisen, from creating snow effects in wintery manicures to making popular puppets come to life on the nail bed (see my first creation).  If I ever want to add a special 3D touch to my nails, specifically knowing that I'll be unable to resist rubbing against them all day long, I'll use flocking powder and enjoy the feel of a soft blanket on the ends of my digits. 

So there we have my 10 picks for the best nail things to rub up against.  Are you a compulsive nail-rubber too?  Sound off in the comments, and let me know what you think of our weird proclivity!

Also, be sure to check out the other "British Nail Bloggers Get Rubbed" entries in the inlinkz below.  Next week I'll have some exciting news to share, and continue on with holiday challenge nail art as well as some great new swatches and reviews of stuff I've found.

Much love,

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Llama Nail Holiday Challenge week 6: Thanksgiving

Hey y'all!

This has been a fairly exciting week for me.  I got a lot of things accomplished, including registering with the doctor, who in turn gets me registered with the NHS, so in essence, I have health care again! Yippee!  Also, I completed construction of my new light box!  Yippee again!  I also managed to do my first actual successful water marble design!  Yippee f'reals!  Also got some shopping done including a few new nail polishes, and I got some nail art done.  All in all, I'd say this week's one to mark in the black.

This week's theme in the LN challenge was Thanksgiving.  This of course is kind of a tough one for me this year, as I won't be home to spent the long weekend with family.  Although, the last few years I've been on obligatory puppy-sitting duty so that Mom could go spend the holiday with the rest of the fam.  This was okay with me, because it meant I could order pizza and watch all the crap television I wanted without guilt.  However, I do of course still struggle with a bit of homesickness here and there, and nothing drives that home like knowing people back home are enjoying a 4-day weekend while Britain carries on.  Because that's what they do:  carry on.

I wanted this mani to incorporate the feel of Thanksgiving in colors and have a touch of "back home" without being cliche or too out-there, so I opted for this:

Saturday, 23 November 2013

It's finally here! Doctor Who 50th Anniversary!

(Fair warning, this post is faffy AND pic heavy.  You've been warned.)

Tonight's the night we geeks have been waiting for - the long-anticipated airing of "Day of the Doctor", the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who.  I knew I had to create some nail art to mark the occasion.

Doctor Who has a pretty special meaning in this house.  When hubby and I first started bonding online, what with him being British and me being an Anglophile, it was only natural that the subject of the good time-traveling doctor would arise.   Hubby's doc is Tom Baker.  Mine is David Tennant.  Although I remember seeing the show on PBS as a kid; it was Colin Baker's era, and I remember looking at his ridiculous costume and the not-good monsters and thinking, "this is a little too weird" - even for a weird kid such as myself.  It just didn't "take" back then.
I mean, seriously?

Friday, 22 November 2013

Do You Know Who?

Hey y'all!

So, tomorrow is a pretty highly-anticipated day in geek culture - it's the 50th anniversary of the longest-running sci-fi show, Doctor Who.  I've got a HUGE post tomorrow with some very special nail art to show you, commemorating the series, but today I wanted to show you what's on my OTHER hand, since I wanted a full mani but time and non-dominant-hand-art-skills prevented me from duplicating the look on both hands.  Call it a cheater's mani, if you will.  I don't care.  I'll be wearing these nails all weekend, and then next week I'll get back into my holiday nail art challenge.

I'm also planning on doing an additional nail art challenge in December, courtesy of Crumpet's Nail Tarts, but more on that later.

This is really just intended to be a quick post without a lot of faffing, so here we go.

I mentioned a few posts back about the MJXII stamping plate I got while we were back in the States, and I've pulled that bad boy out again because it's got some great Doctor Who images on it.  This design is a full nail image, and I've done a double-stamping to give the look some depth.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Llama Nails Holiday Challenge week 5: Native Americans

Hey y'all!

OMG this past week has been super hectic for me!  After all the hoopla with the elf event and getting the giveaway ready, I still had to finish editing a manuscript that I received while we were on vacation!  Now that's turned in, I feel like I can pay attention to some other things, like building a light box, putting together my jewelry organizer, and oh, I dunno, maybe doing some nail art.

I knew I had to do at least two manis this week, one for the LNHC and one for Doctor Who.  The 50th Anniversary is coming up this Saturday with the premiere of Day of the Doctor, so I've stocked the kitchen for a Who-feast:  fish fingers and custard, Jammie Dodgers, and Jelly Babies.  Hubby swears he will not eat fish fingers with custard, so I guess that leaves more custard for me!  The hardest part will be keeping him out of the sweets before Saturday.

Moving on... so this week's LNHC theme is Native Americans.  I struggled for a bit to come up with something that would be appropriate to the theme without being crude or too intricate for my fat fingers to paint.  Ultimately I was looking at my autumn colors and decided that maize (aka: "Indian Corn") might be fun and relatively simple to recreate.  In addition, I did a lot of web searching to find tribal images, and remembered that my mom once told me that I have about a drop of Seminole blood in my veins, which is kind of hard to believe since I'm fair skinned, fair-eyed, and have naturally wavy auburn hair, but if mom says it, it must be true, so off I went in search of Seminole designs, and a mani was born.  Here's my final design.

Monday, 18 November 2013

elf Cosmetics Store - Cardiff: VIP Opening Event recap (GIVEAWAY CLOSED)

Hey y'all!

Are you familiar with elf Cosmetics yet?  If not, you really should be.  This is a brand that started online, offering high-quality cosmetics for less-than-drugstore prices.  I remember my first order with elf - pretty sure I got about $100 worth of makeup for around $20, plus shipping.  I've been a loyal fan ever since, utilizing mostly their online store, but occasionally picking up brushes and eyeshadow palettes in stores like Target.  Last year they launched a flagship retail store in NYC, and last month they launched the first European store in Cardiff.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I got so beside myself because I got this:

Well, despite having a last-minute attack of social anxiety, I buckled down and went, and I'm glad I did.

I wasn't really sure what to expect, having never been to a store opening party before.  Hubby spent a lot of time beforehand talking about how he wanted to meet a celebrity - wanted his picture taken with a Welsh rugby player.  Despite my repeated instructions for him not to get his hopes up, he persisted, even speculating at one point that since John Barrowman lives in Cardiff and might like makeup, maybe he would show up.  Well, we did see one celebrity there - Miss Monmouthshire 2013.  Hubby was not impressed.  Cardiff isn't even in Monmouthshire.

Since I know a few of you will be wondering, here's the mani I wore to the event:

I started with two coats of OPI Vesper, a deep dark purple Liquid Sand from the Bond Girls collection.  Then I created a Ruffian-style second layer using OPI DS Pewter from the Raw Granite series - a very thick polish in a black base, filled to the rim with silver micro and slightly larger round glitters.  The effect is textured and looks a lot like black granite to me!  I topped off the look by adding fuchsia rhinestones over the arch of the Ruffian, et voila!  A mani fit for the overall black, white, and fuchsia look of the Cardiff store.

I also went and got my hair did because I am so not on the ball with hairstyling anymore, so I had the curls piled high and added a rhinestone butterfly to the side.  Unfortunately I didn't think to have hubby take pics of that.  Continuing with the black and fuchsia look, I wore a black cowl-necked top with fuchsia sequins over a black skirt and black leggings with black boots.  Pics didn't happen this time, sorry.

Anyway... a little over an hour after setting off, we arrived in Cardiff and only had to drive around the city for a half hour before finally figuring out how to get to the same parking garage we go to every time we go to Cardiff.  Hubby swears they keep changing the roads around, and I can't argue because lord knows I have no idea where I'm going!

For my American audience, let me describe the Cardiff city centre.  We parked in the huge multi-story parking garage over the mall.  This garage always makes me a bit nauseated because you have to drive in a tight spiral up several floors before you finally get to a floor where there's parking available, and my vertigo kicks in if I'm not careful coming up or going down this spiral.  After riding the elevator (or "lift") down to the ground floor of the shopping center, you basically wind up in the food court.  Now, around the mall are several side-street alleys called arcades, which are covered but open-ended.  Inside there are shops of all different sorts - clothes, food, gifts, you name it.  Luckily, the arcade where the elf shop is located is directly adjacent to the main shopping center, so we only had to walk out the door of the mall and across a cobbled pedestrian street to enter the arcade, and the shop was about 3/4 of the way down the strip.  The arcades were all lit up with white Christmas lighting, which I found quite beautiful.

Although we arrived about 5 minutes after the official opening, the store was already quite packed.  This was, of course, incredibly disconcerting for me, because I do suffer from severe anxiety in tight-packed crowds.
Luckily, there were all sorts of little cocktails available to sooth my nerves, but the music was fairly loud and it was kind of hard for me to move around much at all.  We managed to negotiate our way through the crush and see all the products on display.  All in all, the store looks great.  I think they've laid it out really nicely and of course I'm already in love with the products!
We finally pushed our way to a back corner beside the checkout registers where I could get a little breathing room and try to figure out my next move.  Of course I knew nobody there and my "fabulous" was feeling shy, so I only really connected with a couple of people.  The first of these was Neil Phillips, codirector of Distribeauty UK, who owns the store with his sister Jo Westlake.  I knew of Neil through a FB group called The Beauty Crowd, which was created by Distribeauty to reach out to the beauty blogging community.  I joined shortly before I started this blog, and it's through my membership there that I was able to obtain the invite to this event, so I'd like to send out a huge thank-you to the folks at Distribeauty UK and the Beauty Crowd for that, specifically Amy White, who I've corresponded with via email, but unfortunately I wasn't certain who she was in the mass of people and didn't get to introduce myself in person.

The other person I was able to meet was Chelsey, who is one of the makeup artists in-store.  I gave her my card when she rang up my purchases from the event, so Chelsey if you're reading, "HI!"

So, I spose maybe y'all wanna see what was in my mini-haul?

A breakdown:  Matte Lip Color in Rich Red, Mineral Infused Face Primer in Clear, Nail Polish in Chic Confetti, Copper, Party Purple, and Sea Escape, and Pressed Powder in Porcelain.

Besides the copious amount of booze that was going around there were also deliciously adorable cake pops, both round and shaped like little lipsticks!  We got round ones.
I mean, seriously, how cute can a simple cake pop be?

In addition to my purchases, we got swag bags!  Since hubby has very little use for makeup, even the free kind, that means I've got a spare VIP Gift Bag from the event to giveaway!  Entering is easy, using the Rafflecopter widget below.  I'm going to run the giveaway for 3 weeks, so it ends December 10, 2013, at 6:00AM GMT.

The prize package consists of the elf Studio Baked Eyeshadow Palette in NYC, the elf Powder Brush, and the elf Eyelid Primer in Sheer, all in a cute black "I <3 elf" tote bag!
Retail value £15.25 (about $22).
This giveaway is open internationally.  I will randomly select the winner on December 10 and notify the winner immediately.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will pick a new winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Llama Nails Holiday Challenge week 4: Veterans Day

Hey y'all!

I came to a bit of a conflict with this week's theme.  Being a 'merkin, of course Veterans Day is nothing new to me.  It's a day of remembrance for all those who served in the armed forces, marked on November 11 since 1947, when WWII veteran Raymond Weeks led the first national commemoration of all those who served our country under President Dwight D Eisenhower.  Prior to 1947, November 11 had been reflected as Armistice Day, having been proclaimed in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson.  Armistice Day was, at that time, a day of remembrance of those who died in WWI, celebrated on the anniversary of the end of the first World War, marked by the signing of the Armistice Treaty between the Allied nations and Germany on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.  While Armistice Day is still celebrated in many parts of the world, both it and Veterans Day are also celebrated at the same time as Remembrance Day, or Poppy Day, in Commonwealth countries.  The day has been officially known as Veterans Day in the US since 1954.  Confused yet?  Don't be.  November 11 has come to be known world-round as a day of remembrance for all veterans, both living and dead, who served their countries in times of conflict.

Remembrance Day is traditionally associated with the red poppy flower, which covered the graves of fallen soldiers on the fields of the second battle of Ypres, in the Flanders region of Belgium.  The poem, In Flanders Fields was written by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae in honor of his fallen friend and the other soldiers who died on that battleground.  Since its first publication in 1915.

So, what's a trans-Atlantic replant to do on 11/11?  Well I had to incorporate both, didn't I?

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Hey, Swatch It! - ILNP Holographics

Hey y'all!

This will probably be my last post before Wednesday's Challenge nails this week, because of course on Monday night I'll be at the elf Store Cardiff Grand Opening party.  Cannot wait!  So excited.  I'll be sure to take lots of pics and you might even get an outfit and makeup post from me!  My plan is to use as many elf products as possible for the night, which shouldn't be too hard because practically my whole makeup stash is elf!

One of my friends back home went to a Steve Wariner concert this week, and posted some pics and a video, and for the past 2 days I've had "The Weekend" stuck in my head.

"Couple of days isn't a very long time.  
Why can't I just walk away?  I used to be good at goodbye.  
Out on the water, under the stars
I let the moonlight play a trick on my heart.

You had some fun for the weekend
But I'll be in love for the rest of my life.
You took me out to the deep end 
And I fell right over; I didn't think twice.

I finally got something worth keeping
And if I can't have you tonight,
At least I had the weekend."

Friday, 8 November 2013

Hey, Swatch It! - ILNP UltraChromes, pt 2

Hey y'all!

So yesterday we looked at the first half of the ILNP UltraChrome collection.  Today I'd like to look at the other half.  I think I've saved the best for last on this one. 

As I mentioned yesterday, I originally ordered 2 and loved them so much I had to go back and get the other two.  The original order was for Birefringence and My Little Glacier. After wearing each of those colors for like, an hour, I realized I had made a grave mistake not ordering the rest of the set.  I'm hemmed and hawed over it because I knew I'd have to have them shipped to me before we left Texas.  Finally on the Tuesday before we left, I broke down and placed my order in the morning.  I sent an inquiry email to make sure I had selected the proper shipping type to make sure the polishes would get to me on time.  Within an hour, I had a very lovely email back from Barbra saying that I'd managed to catch her just before she went to the post office, and that she would make sure my order went out that day!  I was over the moon on that one.  So often when you order things online, you're never sure how long it's going to take before they process and ship your order (born pretty store, I'm looking at you).  So frustrating!  However, ILNP's customer service is definitely as top rate as everything else that I've learned about this company.  Just cannot say enough how pleased I was with these two orders.

Enough faffing, let's get to the polishes!  Please meet Cygnus Loop and Birefringence.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Hey, Swatch It! - ILNP UltraChromes, pt 1

Hey y'all!

So as part of my MASSIVE haul when we were in Texas, I broke down and decided to order some of the GORGEOUS UltraChromes from Barbra at I Love Nail Polish. ILNP is an indie brand based in Las Vegas, and while it's only a little over a year old, she has truly created a great brand for herself.  First off, all of her polishes are 3-Free, so there's no nasty chemicals to worry about.  Secondly, all of her packaging, including the shipping boxes and even the TISSUE PAPER are branded to match!  Totally made it feel like I was receiving something special.  In fact, I WAS!

So my initial order was for 4 polishes- two UCs and two holos.  I loved the two UCs so much that I had to go back and order the other 2 before we left the States!  In total, that means I have 6 polishes to show you, so I'm going to break this down into 3 posts.

Today, let's take a look at Mutagen and My Little Glacier.

Both of these gorgeous polishes have a kind of rose-gold shift, so I thought they'd be appropriate to swatch together.  Let's start with a bottle shot, side by side.  I should say that none of my bottles looked as nice as the pics on the website, however, the polishes all came out stunning.  I assume temperature may have something to do with it, and also maybe I need to hurry up and finish my light tent for photos.

Mutagen on left, My Little Glacier on right.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Llama Nails Holiday Challenge week 3: Diwali

Hey y'all!

This week the Llama Nails Challenge theme was Diwali.  I had no idea what Diwali was, so I had to turn to the little magic box to provide answers.

Diwali, also called Divali and Deepavali is the Hindu "Festival of Lights" that runs for 5 days, usually between mid-October and mid-November.  From Wikipedia:

"Diwali involves the lighting of small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil.  These lamps are kept on during the night and one's house is cleaned, both done in order to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome.  Firecrackers are burst because it is believed that it drives away evil spirits.  During Diwali, all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends."

It is also celebrated by Sihks and Jains, though for different origins.  Over the course of my research, I learned that Diwali's spiritual significance is that it marks the triumph of one's inner light (higher awareness) over ignorance in order to bring about joy and peace.  This resonates with me because I have been on my own path towards this kind of joy and peace for a few years now.  The more I learn about Hinduism, the more it seems that I should learn, because though it is a very complicated religion, it seems more of a philosophy and way of life that closely aligns with some of my own personal beliefs.

One of the most iconic images of Diwali is that of the ghee lamp called a diya.  It was from this image that I derived the inspiration for today's challenge mani.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Llama Nails Holiday Challenge week 2: Halloween

Hey y'all,

Quick post to put up my Halloween mani.  This week's theme was Halloween, and I struggled a bit before I finally decided on something that I liked but wasn't too cliche.

Last month I picked up a couple of W7 crackle polishes at Poundland or somewhere similar (Americans: think Dollar Store) and hadn't really had a chance to use them yet, but one of them is a lovely cranberry purple and I thought it would make a nice Halloweeny hue.

To start, I put down a base color of elf Cranberry on my pinky, middle, and index fingers, and Maybelline Onyx Black on my ring and thumb.  Then I splotched on dabs and smears of Collections Scorched over all the nails, making sure I left some base color exposed.  I used Rimmel Black Graffiti over the pinky, middle, and index, and the W7 Crimson Crackle on the ring and thumb.

The effect was sort of wood-grainy, but in a dark and kind of vampy way.  I finished off the look by adding eyeballs with Fright Night Glow-in-the-Dark Claw Polish and added pupils with the Black Onyx. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Llama Nails Holiday Challenge - Oktoberfest, plus some fantastic news!

Hey y'all!

I just got the best email and I'm so excited I have to share.   I just received my VIP invitation to the grand opening event of the European e.l.f. Cosmetics Store, which opened a couple of weeks ago in Cardiff!  I've been totally psyched about this store opening since I first heard the announcement just after I moved to England.  Cardiff is a little over an hour away, and I cannot WAIT to see the store!  I haven't really posted about it yet, but I'm a huge e.l.f. fan and about 90% of my cosmetics are e.l.f. brand.  In fact, part of my Texas haul was a huge e.l.f. order with a ginormous freebie inside, and I will be doing a post about that as well.

So the event is smart dress and I'm pretty sure I already know what I'm going to wear, but now I have to decide how to do hair, nails, and of course MAKEUP.  Squee!  Looking forward to rubbing elbows with some other beauty bloggers and maybe doing some networking while I'm there, as well.  I'm also sure Hubby will be bored to tears with me in yet another cosmetics shop, since he about had his fill of that while we were on vacation.

Either way... that's all I have to say about that.  Let's move on to some nails, shall we?

About a month ago, I joined a group on Facebook for nail bloggers called Llama Nails.  From what I can tell, this is a VERY talented group of girls and I'm very excited and happy to have been able to join them.  Like many other blogger groups, they do challenges, and I'm going to start my first challenge today.  Technically, I'm a week late, but since I was in Texas, I think I'm allowed.  Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to post week 2's challenge entry.  Anyway... here's the challenge schedule:

Monday, 28 October 2013

Texas Recap and Mani Parties!

Hey there guys and gals!

So I've had a very busy last two weeks.  Hubby and I have been on vacation to visit my family and friends back home, and I may or may not have gone a little kooky picking up new polishes to add to my collection.
Totally did.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The goodie parade is about to start!

Greetings, dolls! I've been having an adventure, which is why I haven't had a chance to post as often as I'd like, but I wanted to toss a quick mani up for you, using some new goodies I've recently hauled. There will be a full haul update soon, rest assured, and it's a HUGE one! 

In the mean time, however, I wanted to share something, not nail related.  I finished my first major crochet project!

I know it looks a little wonky, but it's folded in half for photography reasons.  My first small project was a scarf in a half-double stitch.  When I presented this scarf to my mother, she decided that she would rather have a blanket.  Moms, amirite?  So, in the spirit of complete laziness, I decided to just make a bunch of other scarves of the same length and then stitch them together.  Each scarf has a varying width on purpose, promise.  Mom seems impassive as ever.  *sigh*

Alright, how about some nails?  As I mentioned, I recently did some hauling, including some new OPIs.

For this mani, I started with a base color of OPI's I Knead Sourdough.  This is another of the San Francisco Fall/Winter 2013 Collection.  I had passed on it online, but when I saw it in person I knew I had to have this rich coppery brown shade.  I'll do full swatches in another post, because it really is gorgeous.

Then I used some striping tape to mark off the V shapes, and covered the nails in a coat of OPI Honey Ryder, which is a gold liquid sand from the OPI Bond Girls collection from Spring 2013.  This is my first of the liquid sand texture polishes, and I think I might be hooked!  I finished the look by placing triangular rhinestones centered inside the Vs. 

Have you tried any of the liquid sand texture polishes by any maker?  What do you think of them?  Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Breast Cancer Awareness mani!

Well hello again, friends!

So the last week I've been pretty quiet online because I was pushing really hard to finish an editing job.  I've learned more about Norse mythology over the past 6 weeks than I ever really cared to know.  If it tells you anything, I didn't even change my nail polish for a WHOLE WEEK!  Crazy.  Suffice it to say, I finished up the book and turned it in, so I had a bit of free time to do a pink mani for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is of course, October.

Now, I'm not a fan of pink.  In fact, I kind of loathe it.  I actually had a hard time when I started doing this mani because I didn't have much selection of pink polish with which to work.  However, the cause is dear to my heart, because my mother is a breast cancer survivor of over 15 years.  I've also seen several friends' mothers go through the process, and it's not pretty.  In the past year, a friend was diagnosed, and she is even younger than me, so it really hit home.  However, she's doing really well since her surgery and we're all hoping for a full recovery.  I'm not going to preach on it, but ladies, please check your tatas and get mammograms on the regs.  Early detection is key. 

Either way, I knew that I wasn't going to be content with just slapping on some pink polish with some ribbons, so I decided to do go holo and add pink french tips.  I also have an abundance of pink rhinestones that I will probably never use during any other month than October, so I plopped those on as well.  Did some underlining detail with a hot pink striper, and a white accent nail with a single pink ribbon in the same pink striper.

Colors used:
Born Pretty Holo Effect #1
Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear White On
Kiss Nail Artist Paint in Beach Pink (from the MDK07 Kit)

I'm pretty happy with this mani, though it's fairly simple.  I'll be wearing it for a few days, anyway, or at least until I get my hands of a certain cache of new polishes.  Expect lots of swatches to happen over the next month (including another pink polish - oh well, can't win 'em all).

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Shh... Ali's working.

Working on a tight deadline to finish up an editing job before we take our holidays, so I'll be going dark this weekend.  With a little luck, I'll be back in time for Mani Monday.

In the mean time, here's what I'm currently wearing:

Essie's For The Twill Of It, then I attempted to marble on some holographic topcoat with plastic wrap.  Didn't exactly come out as glamorous as I'd planned, but it'll do for now.  No time for nails, Doctor Jones!

With flash and slightly blurred so you can see the holo.
Hope you're all having a fantastic week, and I'll see you soon!

Monday, 30 September 2013

Mani Monday: Inspired by a television show

Happy Monday, friends!

Hubby and I have a running issue: finding movies and TV shows that we can both enjoy.  I tend to lean towards fantasy and sci-fi, and whereas he can get into sci-fi, he isn't really a fantasy guy.  In the past, we've been able to find common shows that we can watch together (Doctor Who was one of the first things we bonded over), and he's turned me on to things I hadn't seen in the past, and vice-versa.  For instance, he has gotten me watch Game of Thrones (we're still going thru season 1, NO SPOILERS PLEASE!), District 9, Super 8, and a few other assorted movies.  I suggested he watch Being Human and Battlestar Galactica.  I've tried my best to turn him on to my Joss Whedon obsession - the first time we met I made him watch Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, and though he'd seen Serenity but didn't "get it", on my first trip to England we sat and watched Firefly, which he didn't really start appreciating until midway through the only season that exists.  Pardon me a moment, I still need time to grieve.

Okay, I'm better.  Moving on.  He liked The Avengers, hated Cabin in the Woods and Buffy, but he willingly watched Much Ado About Nothing with me last month and enjoyed it quite a bit.  After many discussions about the kinds of sci-fi he likes, I figured I had one last trick up my sleeve to make him realize why I would, at any given moment, leave him to go make genius babies with the mangod Joss. 

Hey wait, isn't this supposed to be a manicure post?  Oh yeah.  Can you guess from the mani below which Whedon tv show I've suckered hubby into watching, and he actually loves it?