Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The cheat's guide to hair volume

Cheating at hair volume with Scunci Boost It sponges

I know, they don't look like much do they? But in fact, these Scunci Boost It sponges have sort of changed my life in that they cut down my daily hair prep time and made me feel a lot more confident about my naturally-limp hair. I discovered these sponges earlier this year, after a hunt for something, anything that would help give me some solid volume that didn't rely on hair-destroying daily backcombing. I had no idea if I'd be able to make them work for me.

But I did - and I don't think I quite use them how they were intended as I get a bigger uplift with my method, so I thought I'd share my secret after a fair few requests for some more hair tutorials recently!

Before vs after...

Cheating at hair volume with Scunci Boost It sponges

I'm not a fan of my natural, flat hair. I have a lot of hair, don't get me wrong, but it's incredibly fine and on its own will just sit stubbornly against my head as in the above left photo. When I look at that picture, all I can think is how big and gross my face looks - I like having volume to balance everything out. In the second photo, the only difference is that I now have my cheat's sponges in and a little bit of back-combing to help the hair lay in place.

So without further delay, let's show you how to do it!

1. First, middle section & sponge

Cheating at hair volume with Scunci Boost It sponges - step by step guide

Starting a good inch or so away from the front of my hair (I have a fringe, so this will be further back if you don't - think of it as needing to sit on the curve of the back of your head), I gather together a chunk about an inch deep that's roughly the width of the biggest sponge. This doesn't need to be precise, because you're going to see you will blend the top section of your hair together later, but the closer you are to the right width the easier you'll find this to get it to look neat. I gently back comb at the roots at the back of this section, because this helps the hair to stay in place over the sponge. 

The sponge itself has a standard metal hair clip stuck to the back, so try to slide it against the middle of the hair lying flat behind the section in your hand and it should look like the below left picture. If it's not secure in place, slide out and try again until it is. Once you've done that, lay the hair down like the below right picture.

Cheating at hair volume with Scunci Boost It sponges - step by step guide

2. First side sponge

Cheating at hair volume with Scunci Boost It sponges - step by step guide

This is a bit more fiddly than the middle section and might take some practice to get it to work for you. I also always find this easier on the right side of my head than the left - which could well be because often you have thicker hair on one side than the other and in my case hairdressers love to comment on how vastly different it is (great for the confidence!). Anyway, if you roughly copy what I've done top right (I actually had no idea I overlapped them until I saw this picture), you should find you have a natural 'slope' of volume from the middle sponge to the less deep side sponge. It's the same process - lift a section of hair the same depth as before and roughly the width of the sponge, backcomb behind at the foots, slide the sponge on its hair clip under, lay over the top. It's just in this case, I've taken the section of hair at a slight diagonal angle towards the back of my head, again following the shape of my skull. 

If the hair isn't sitting quite right over the second sponge, you can tweak it into place. The great thing with these sponges is they have a sort of velcro surface, so where you place the hair on them it tends to stick almost like it's sitting on a tiny brush. Bottom right I'm tweaking, bottom left is the finished result of said tweaking.

Cheating at hair volume with Scunci Boost It sponges - step by step guide

3. Second side sponge + smooth down

Cheating at hair volume with Scunci Boost It sponges - step by step guide

Now, just repeat what you did on the other side. I'm backcombing in the left picture, and on the right is when the hair is laid down over and I've tweaked and smoothed it into place. There was a lot of tweaking to get an even layer of volume over the head, but you can see it's fairly easy to get something that looks like a tonne of backcombing has been done.

4. Decorate + refine!

Cheating at hair volume with Scunci Boost It sponges - step by step guide

What I'm showing you in this mini tutorial is actually exactly how I got the hair (well, minus the curling part) in this post, which loads of people commented on. I love wearing hair scarves, but I previously hated how difficult it was to get any kind of oomph behind them with my stubborn hair. In actual fact, I often wear the sponges now as the foundation of beehives and even to give volume to ponytails - once they're on your head securely, not very much moves them so the possibilities are endless. Anyway, in this example, I tied the scarf before where the sponges start and then I use my brush to blend the hair together. I sometimes need to add a little back-comb to the underneath section of my hair, if there's a gap between the hair lying over the sponge and the hair sitting under. That usually does the trick to blend them together.

5. Final tweaks and you're done!

Cheating at hair volume with Scunci Boost It sponges - step by step guide

I use my fingers to comb the curls together neatly and then there you have it, the finished look. What a difference a few cheap bits of sponge make! And if you beef up your backcombing for special occassions, these sponges can really support some extra height.

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Thursday, 18 August 2016

Outfit: pink posies

Around the crazy house-moving period, I was determined to take some photos of a summer outfit, lest the whole of my favourite season pass us by with barely a sundress to be seen (the dog dress in my previous post ironically being snapped in spring)! It's been a blessing and a curse moving house in summer - usually, it wouldn't be a problem in the UK. Temperatures don't get up much above 20 degrees Celsius, perfectly manageable to pack boxes in. But oh no, the two weeks we had to pack and move in were precisely the two weeks we had a 'heatwave' and temperatures were up around the high 20s and even early 30s. So not only did I miss prime sun-lounging weather, I also had to heft stuff around in that - which wouldn't have been that bad, but heat in this country means humidity that makes it unbearable to even walk, so you can imagine how much fun that was and how well B and I got along during that nightmare.

We got through it though, as you do, and we did get out for this set of photos, taken after a long day of me sweltering in our old study while I worked my office job from home, which was like being trapped with a computer in a sauna (that house had serious air circulation issues). My hair had given up the ghost completely, I didn't know what to do with it, but then, it came to me - this is what hats are for. And so this outfit was born! And then I went and spoiled it all by completely overdoing my make-up. It's not coming across as Bobo the Clown in these pictures as it did in real life - thank you miracles of photography - but it's definitely not my best work, folks. For some reason, I thought the answer to a face that had sweated off most of the make-up it had on by this point was to come back at it twice as hard. Lesson learned.

I should also add as far as this outfit goes that it's also evidence of the fact I really haven't had the spare cash to buy things this summer - every piece in this outfit has been in my closet for some time now. I'm sure I'll get back to my bad old spending ways soon, but I am also working hard to not over-spend on things I don't wear since changing my habits this year. This is a lot easier to do when you don't have the money to waste in the first place ;)

All of this being told, I'm still glad we have this set even though I don't look my best and the outfit's not uber exciting, because it was the last batch we took in our favourite spot a few doors down from our rental house at the end of the road, which had the perfect floral backdrop for the occasion (remember how good the berries looked in winter?). And even though we've taken photos in this spot at least a half dozen times by now, of course it was during the very last time that the owners of the house I was in front of came and asked about what we were doing (in a nice way, they were thrilled we were using their house as a back-drop). C'est la vie.

Pink flowers, a floppy sunhat and the usual 50s inspired look

Floppy sunhat and floral top

Banned Orient pink around bag

Pink flowers, a floppy sunhat and the usual 50s inspired look

Pink flowers, a floppy sunhat and the usual 50s inspired look

Floppy sunhat and floral top

Pink flowers, a floppy sunhat and the usual 50s inspired look

Pink flowers, a floppy sunhat and the usual 50s inspired look

Topshop criss-cross floral suntop

Floppy hat and Topshop suntop

Pink flowers, a floppy sunhat and the usual 50s inspired look
Hat: via ASOS (similar navy colourway)
Top: Topshop (old)
Belt: eBay
Skirt: Peacocks (very similar)
Bag: Banned
Shoes: c/o Sandgrens (no longer available)

Those who follow along on Instagram (@ciciandmarie) know I've just got back from an extra long weekend in Paris - there will definitely be outfits to share soon :)

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Thursday, 11 August 2016

Come show me your outfits at The Vintage Carnival + ticket giveaway!

The last carnival's Best Dressed line-up!

I love how many events like The Vintage Carnival are popping up in the UK at the moment - a whole festival dedicated to the fun things from decades gone by with everyone in fab outfits - yes please! The second Vintage Carnival is being held in Nottingham so if you're free on Saturday 3rd September, why not pop along? I've got two free tickets to give away below...

It really does seem like a fun day out - if the 100 stalls for vintage shopping don't float your boat (and if they don't, I think you've landed on this blog by mistake!!), perhaps the live music, classic cars, dancing classes, hair and beauty, funfair games, quirky bars etc etc will.

But if all that doesn't convince you, how about entering the Best Dressed competition? Guess what - surprise! - yours truly is an as-yet-unannounced judge! So yes, if you do come along you may see a small brunette looking quite surprised/bemused to be sitting on a panel, wondering what she's done to judge other people's clothes...! And yes, there is a prize (and hint: you can drink one of them).

Last year's top three - with winner Jessica Bonarius in the centre

So yes, if I sound like I'm going for the hard sell it's because a) I think this event really does look fab and b) it would be awesome to see some of you there! Hopefully in your glad rags...

Enter to win the tickets via the Rafflecopter widget below, but meanwhile here's the details:

When: Saturday 3rd September, 10am - 6pm
Where: Nottingham Racecourse, Colwick Park Close, Nottingham, NG2 4BE
Entry: £6 early bird, £8 on door; concessions available

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Now excuse me while I go fret about what a judge of an outfit competition should wear...

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Sunday, 7 August 2016

Building my retro home - my favourite furniture find

Mid century modern style furniture bargains from La Redoute

So I've recently explained that I've been working hard in recent weeks to sort out my new home - and for the first time, I can decorate a place exactly how I want it to look. Part of that includes investing in furniture for a place I can't be booted out of at two months' notice because it's mine and no one can make me, ner ner (at least, as long as I'm paying the bills!).

Now, we already had a lot of our furniture that I've been building up gradually over the past year, basically as soon as I knew we were hoping to buy our own house. You might remember a post about our tv stand in fact - which, as it happens, fits nicely into our new living room. It wasn't all going to fit, though. For a start, we've gone from three bedrooms to two and what was our 'study' is now a corner of the living room. Being the savvy shopper I am, I made arrangements with the sellers to measure up the house long before the sale went through and, keeping my fingers crossed things would go to plan (house sales can break down up until the last minute in this country), set about selling off or downsizing the furniture we couldn't take with us and planning what new stuff we'd need.

I'll admit, I was worried. I can't afford high-end furniture (particularly not right now) and charity shops round my way haven't been very good the past few months. Having one too many disasters with poorly-made flat-pack furniture, I was really hoping to avoid going this route, but it became apparent it was the only cost-effective option left to us... Now Ikea is the best of a bad bunch in many ways, but while they have some awesome retro options, there's a lot they don't have too. But where do you go if Ikea don't have what you want and you're on a budget? I was at a loss... But step up, my new favourite, La Redoute!

Mid century modern style furniture bargains from La Redoute

I never really realised that La Redoute made furniture or that it was any good, until stumbling across this desk while googling. I have to add the usual apology: the pretties I'm about to show you are fairly inaccessible to North America and Australia. If you're in Europe though, you're probably going to be in with more luck. I guess that's the thing with furniture - it's just not that easy to post to the other side of the world!

This desk was a bargain for what I got, which is a very sturdy, stylish piece of flatpack furniture. This thing is absolutely solid - and to my surprise, as we constructed it everything attached together so darn smoothly - there was no trying to force joints together because a hole was drilled a millimetre out. I've never said this about building any flatpack before, but I actually enjoyed putting it together, it was so easy to follow the instructions and the finished piece was so satisfyingly perfect. Of course, I immediately put a scratch on the top because that's what I do when things are pristine and I love them - destroy them within the first 24 hours (I've since added more marks by accidentally putting the drawer back wrong post move - d'oh!). But my clumsiness aside, I wasn't expecting anything much from this desk and it sure proved me wrong. I also love the light grey colour - I've got a lot of grey in the living room and it fits right in without clashing with my mishmash of wooden charity shop finds. B also loves it, which wasn't essential but is a nice bonus ;) Flatpack win!

Mid century modern style furniture bargains from La Redoute

(I wasn't exaggerating about the 'corner of the living room' thing...)

It was a no-brainer to source the next thing we needed from La Redoute too - the bedside tables for the main bedroom. Thankfully they didn't disappoint, they have a huge range of them to choose from (I've selected some favourites below) and I found one that would fit in with our ash wood and white furniture colour scheme oh so perfectly (trying, as I was, to keep the bulk of the bedroom furniture we already had), and was slim enough that we could both have one either side of the bed.

Mid century modern style furniture bargains from La Redoute

These were so easy to put together that I did the second one on my own in half an hour. Again, it's another example of flatpack done right - everything's straight and the end result is a sturdy little table that perfectly suits a retro aesthetic.

The thing I really love about this shop is that they don't just do the odd thing that's got a retro vibe, there's a huge range to choose from. Here's my picks of the mid century pretties they're currently offering and there are an awful lot more I didn't feature too...

Mid century modern style furniture bargains from La Redoute

I should add I'm in no way being sponsored by the company, I just really love their homeware!

While I'm on this subject, would you like to see what the rooms look like as we finish them off?

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Sunday, 31 July 2016

Outfit: unicorn dogs

You may have noticed that I've been posting a little bit less frequently around here lately - or you didn't, in which case, consider me offended ;) - and that's because life is pretty busy right now. I bought and moved into a new house a week ago and I've moved house before, but never into my own. I just didn't know how much STUFF that would require and how much of my time and energy would go into acquiring said stuff. On the plus, I'm getting some great fodder for homeware posts, should I ever find the time to write them :D Throw into that still doing bits and pieces of arranging for the wedding and an all-new even longer commute to work and there just isn't much left of me to go round. The good news is, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! Things are beginning to sort themselves out and normal service will be resumed soon.

Now that I've explained myself, onto the outfit (which has come from my stockpile of photos, which I thankfully had prepped in advance of said move)! Before anyone gets too excited, there are no actual unicorn-dogs in this outfit post, because that would be weird. I'm, instead, of course referring to the hunt for a no-longer-sold item that is so elusive on eBay et al that it's as rare as a unicorn. It will surprise no followers of this blog to know that said item, for me, has dogs all over it. 

I've loved this Bernie dress for a long time. I love that it's red (my favourite colour) and that the print features so many varieties of dogs and not just pugs. (Seriously, I like pugs and everything, but why are they the main source of dog novelty items right now?) I've been keeping an eye out for it for a long time, but to no avail. It really is a rare one. Then I bought the Paris dress I wore for my 30th birthday and I became even more desperate to find it, as now I knew that Bernie Dexter dresses are a good fit for my frame too and it wasn't such a risk anymore. Then, lo and behold, a week or so after my birthday, there it was. But, alas, it was an XS and I am an S! Something told me to contact the seller just in case and it turned out the XS ran a whole size large. Hurrah! When does that ever happen in life? Me and this dress were meant to be.

With such a busy print, I kept my accessories to a minimum. I usually never ever wear my hair without my usual roll at the front (see every other photo of me on this blog ever), but on a lazy hair day I got it to look nice with a headscarf and some volume behind it, courtesy of my cheat hair sponges. So no, I haven't suddenly worked out the secrets of volumising, it's a total cheat. I may share it some day, in another of my vintage style life hacks type posts (although no one seemed to read that, and I was really darn pleased with it). Oh and my 'curls' are a cheat too, created with the only heat styler I've ever managed to get to grips with. Again, perhaps for another post one day, if you're up for that?

Hopefully you can forgive me for being such a phoney when I'm wearing a dress this cute...  

Bernie Dexter Chelsea dog print dress for a 50s summer look

50s headscarf and dog print sundress

Bernie Dexter Chelsea dog print dress for a 50s summer look

Bernie Dexter Chelsea dog print dress for a 50s summer look

Bernie Dexter Chelsea dog print dress for a 50s summer look

Bernie Dexter Chelsea dog print dress for a 50s summer look

Bernie Dexter Chelsea dog print dress for a 50s summer look

Bernie Dexter Chelsea dog print dress for a 50s summer look

Bernie Dexter Chelsea dog print dress for a 50s summer look
Headscarf: eBay (similar)
Dress: Bernie Dexter (no longer available)
Bag: vintage via Goody Goody Berlin

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Sunday, 24 July 2016

On living and blogging in Cambridge

While I'm in the middle of house move hell (although yay for finally home owning!), here's one I made earlier... I was recently interviewed for Modcloth's blog about what it's like to live and blog in the beautiful city of Cambridge where I live. (This is slightly ironic as this post will go up as I've literally just moved out of the city proper to a nearby village.) It occurred to me this might be interesting to my readers, most of whom are many miles away from me, so I'm sharing them here too :)

Punting on the river Cam, Cambridge

We know that Cambridge is home to one of the most prestigious Universities in the world, does being surrounded by such a history of education and academia influence the culture of the town? How has it influenced you? 

One of the main things you'll notice about the city, particularly at this time of year, is that there are tourists everywhere! So actually, during the summer months especially, a lot of how the city influences my life and more specifically my blog is the constant battle to avoid the places they're congregating, so they don't keep walking in front of my camera! The unfortunate thing is that the really beautiful architecture of the colleges that Cambridge is famous for tends to be quite central and the city itself is fairly small, so it's not as simple as rocking up to King's College and taking some photos. The example I often give when I explain how tricky it can be to be a blogger shooting around Cambridge is the time my partner and I researched a quiet side street (with nearby parking - bonus!) and how seconds into the shoot a huge group of tourists appeared out of nowhere right next to us - which is when I noticed the blue plaque on the building that declared the house we were in front of was a place Darwin had occupied...! It's a beautiful city to live in for the amazing architecture and places of interest to visit, but it's not ideally sized for the amount of attention it gets... and it's an absolute nightmare for parking! Really though, I think one of the biggest impacts it's had is to thoroughly spoil me - and when we go to other places in the UK I realise how lucky I am to have it all on my doorstep.

A pretty side street in Cambridge, UK
The 'quiet' side street with the Darwin plaque

King's College, Cambridge
Tourists everywhere at King's College!

Walk us through a quintessential day in Cambridge.  

Well, you'd probably do well to start with a hearty brunch in one of the many independent cafes on the outskirts of the city centre, so you can spend the afternoon exploring the sights. If you're in Cambridge you have to see King's College, so I'd head over there via the market square, where there's loads of permanent stalls offering everything from street food to retro video games. Perhaps pick up a homemade brownie while you're there, then take in the sights of King's College and try to leave some time for walking round 'The Backs', which are the grounds behind it running alongside the river. Speaking of the river, your next stop has to be a punt on the Cam! If it's your first time, have a guide do all the work and tell you all the university's secrets (they're usually students so they know their stuff), but if you're feeling brave it's a lot of fun to punt yourself (or be punted by a hapless friend - I have been in punts where said friend has fallen off the boat, which can provide a hilarious turn to your day!). Fit in a look at some of the other nearby colleges (and more on that below) if you can and then have a big dinner at one of Cambridge's excellent restaurants, which I'll elaborate on next! If you're lucky, you might be able to finish your day with a good gig at the Corn Exchange or the Junction, where I've seen a couple of great comedy nights.

The permanent market in Cambridge, UK
The stalls on market square in the city centre

The Backs, Cambridge
View of a college from The Backs

CiCi Marie near the river Cam
With the river Cam behind me

As always, we're interested in food! Tell us more about the greatest eats Cambridge has to offer! What must we try when we're visiting? 

You're spoilt for choice really as there's a lot of great restaurants and a range of cuisines on offer in a city as diverse as Cambridge. One of my personal favourites is The Cambridge Chop House, who do a mouthwatering steak (for cheap on the pre-theatre menu), along with many other dishes, often quite British in flavour and all done incredibly well. Fun fact: it was also on the way to this restaurant that my partner tripped over a paving slab and gave himself hiccups... so you never know your luck! Other than that, one of my favourites was a tiny little restaurant down the road from me in a converted house called Backstreet Bistro, but unfortunately it closed in May this year (I'm awaiting its reopening under new management with baited breath!).

The Cambridge Chop House
At The Cambridge Chop House

You're a vintage loving lady living in a very vintage city! Which of these places are at the top of your list for visitors and where is fave place to shoot outfit photos?

That's a tricky question as there's so many great places to visit! I actually tend to love the green spaces that belong to some of the colleges as I'm not a fan of busy areas. There's a particular spot near Darwin College which is essentially a patch of grass near the main punting area, which in good weather is great for picnics because you can do some really fab people watching! Recently, we sat and watched a bride being punted down the river by her new husband. I also really love wandering around the grounds of the colleges that are freely accessible to the public and aren't guarded, but fewer people know about. I may be giving my secrets away, but one of my favourite blog photo locations in Cambridge is Magdalene College's grounds. I only found out we could easily access them because one of my closest friends studied there and it's always virtually deserted every time we're there, yet it has the prettiest view of the river and tonnes of different picturesque spots for photos.

Magdalene College, Cambridge, entrance
The subtle entrance to Magdalene College (I swear it looks more subtle in real life!)

CiCi Marie at Magdalene College, Cambridge, entrance
At Magdalene College

Hope you enjoyed this insight into my beautiful (now, sort of) home!

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