Wednesday, 18 December 2013

What To Buy Your Postgrad For Christmas

It's been a long term. But somehow, finally it's over, and your pet postgrad has emerged blinking into the dim, watery December sunlight, shivering and mumbling, "What, it's Christmas? No it's not. What day is it?"

They are too busy and confused to write their own Christmas list, so here are some suggestions of my own about what to buy them.
Paperblanks: because you need to feel important

A nice diary
A hardback one with an attractive cover, good quality paper, and lots of space per day for writing ESSAY DEADLINE!!! in pink highlighter and underlining it five times. Paperblanks and Moleskines are reliable favourites, and luxurious enough to make a really nice present. This diary will save your life (or degree, which at this point is essentially the same thing), because it will help you keep track of what day it is.

Collections of poetry and short stories
Because you don't have time to read whole novels any more, but maybe you can fit in a poem or two in between The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography, Photographs Objects Histories: On The Materiality of Images and Photography, Anthropology and History. Sob sob. These are on my list:

Coffee syrups
Anything to make your seventh coffee of the day go down easier.

Grad school breakfast.

Literary prints posters
These will make you feel like an intellectual in front of all your smart new PhD friends, and inspire you when you think 5000 words is impossibly long and you'll be writing this essay forever. Take "Write drunk; edit sober" to heart as thesis advice; it can only help.

Non-rustling library snacks
After hour 5 in the library, you will need more energy because you are starving and on the edge of tears, but whipping out giant bags of Doritos and popcorn, while emotionally satisfying, will swiftly turn you into the most hated person in Oxford. Consider decanting some yummy, energy-releasing snacks into cute portion-sized jars and pots from which they can be surreptitiously eaten under the desk. I can recommend these peanuts and dried cranberries drizzled with dark chocolate by my very own hand (it looks impressive, elegant and Christmassy, and took all of five minutes) - also try other dried fruit like mango or pineapple, bite sized brownies (although avoid crumbly foods), jelly babies, and caramelised nuts. Drizzle it all with extra chocolate, because really, I've been in the library for five hours. Have mercy.

graze box subscription would also work perfectly for this.

Because if you're going to take stop working long enough to eat something that takes more than 0.5 minutes to prepare, it had better be worth it. Failing that, you can look at the pictures and dream of the day you will have enough free time and money to make any of it. Here are some I have my wistful eye on:

Is this not the most beautiful cookbook you have ever seen
Because sometimes they let you out of the library and require you to interact with other humans, sometimes quite important ones at quite fancy occasions, and you need to impress them with your good taste in classic rich lady jewellery. I'm into gold knot earrings, and tiny ones with elegant, non-sparkly stones like these gold and garnet ones from Pia.

MAC lipsticks
Because feeling pretty sometimes is helpful in avoiding a total meltdown. I personally am hoping Crosswires (left) will give me a youthful glow, to help me blend in with all the 18 year old Brasenose freshers in the Radcliffe Camera.

A Spotify Premium subscription
Because nothing - NOTHING - ruins your essay writing flow faster and breaks your concentration more irretrievably than loud, inane adverts for Sourz shots, Ford dealerships, anti-wrinkle cream and Christmas compilation albums. Please just let me listen to the calming sounds of Yo Yo Ma playing Bach in peace, Spotify. Please.

Stuff with pugs on
It's the little things.

Urban Outfitters

Thursday, 5 December 2013

FOTD: Christmas Party Time!

 It's nearly Christmas and that means I get to go to parties and parties mean I get to wear a lot of make up and that makes me excited.

I discovered this one spot in front of the mirror in the hallway of my house where the lighting is super flattering and makes my skin look glowy and flawless. And I am never moving again.

Lipstick hero. Eyebrow hero. Earrings hero. 
This party face is brought to you by MAC, and my makeupspiration, Liz Taylor. It's pretty simple, but classic and festive.

I'm wearing MAC Paint Pot in Bare Study, a kind of nudey glimmery gold cream, on my eyes. I'm not super keen on creams but this is a nice one, that goes on smoothly and doesn't really crease. No 7 black liquid liner in a very slightly thicker than everyday line - I just started using this, and it's a very decent liquid liner. Star of the show is MAC Russian Red lipstick. True story: I was torn between Russian Red and Ruby Woo at the MAC store in Times Square, and when I flung myself at the sales guy for advice, he looked at me and said "Russian Red will make you look like Liz Taylor!". SOLD. I can pretend he doesn't say that to all the girls.

My earrings make me excited. They're from the 50s, and I got them at the vintage fair, and they have a matching necklace and unf sparkles. Fact: I need more occasions to wear inappropriately sparkly costume jewellery. Liz would never stand for this. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Hanging Out In: Brew, North Oxford

Tiny, delightful Brew on North Parade combines many of my fave things about coffee shops, including quirkiness, fancy cakes, and being a very, very short walk from my house. 

Since, as pictured, it is hipster as hell, in the name of objective blogging, I went undercover to explore.

Accessories for dressing up as the kind of person interested in buying hand-ground Sumatran coffee from an indie retailer with a record player include: plastic glasses (, gap yah scarf (ASOS), antiqued gold-ish deer head necklace (Primark), ironic expression (model's own).

Just kidding, these are my regular clothes. Hashtag academicjumblesale.

The centrepiece of Brew's decor is this shiny, shiny coffee machine. I have no idea how this makes coffee but it looks like a robot and has all kinds of exciting dials and knobs on it and a bird on top and therefore I love it. 

On the right side of this photo, note a pile of sticky cinnamon buns. From personal experience I can tell you that these are an excellent breakfast food. For your convenience, I am also working my way through all the other cakes, and so far they've all been delish. 

Pro tip: this is also a prime people-watching location. One time I sat next to an earnest tutorial about an Ian McEwan novella during which there was a reference to Daria. One time I came with a friend and we sat opposite a guy who she was 70% sure had messaged her on OKCupid. Almost always there's a swoony beardy guy in a cable knit jumper. 

Upsides to Brew!:
  • It's run by two cute guys and is always full of cool attractive people having interesting, eavesdroppable conversations. This is a bonus.
  • They have great taste in music and a giant record collection. If you feel like listening to Neil Young, Animal Collective, Neutral Milk Hotel, or some band so cool you've never even heard of them on vinyl, this is where you should hang out.
  • They really know about coffee. I mean, I don't understand it, but I'm impressed. Tastes good to me.
  • They sell super cute birthday cards and notebooks and things, which I love.
  • The sugar comes in tiny jars. Swoon.
  • A little bird told me they sometimes host teeny tiny gigs here on Sunday evenings.
  • It's super close to a bunch of university buildings, so if you are a student, you get the holy grail of wifi access. (This also means it is in between my house and my tutorials.)
  • I have been here for over an hour and a half now and no one has yelled at me. (cf. the nearest Starbucks, which put up a bunch of annoying signs telling students not to stay too long, the cutthroat capitalist jerks.)
  • It is so cute I can't even deal. Fact.
Downsides to Brew:
  • There are exactly four tiny tables, so if you get there at the wrong time, you are doomed to take away or perch awkwardly on the corner of a bench. Boo.
  • The seats are wooden stools and benches. Ouch. Cushions, please.
  • The coffee only comes in one size: small. I think this is some kind of function of the shiny shiny coffee machine, but also, I need more caffeine than you can fit in one tiny latte.
  • They MIGHT be judging me when I put two spoonfuls of sugar in said tiny latte.
  • I just overheard cute coffee shop boy disparaging Harry Potter. Not cool, cute coffee shop boy. Not cool. 
In short: go to Brew, and join me in pretending to be a cool, attractive person. If you can find somewhere to sit.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Make Your Own: Brown Sugar Body Scrub

There's a Pinterest-y trend, for making your own body scrubs at home going around, and since I just finished my huge tub of Soap & Glory's The Breakfast Scrub, which I love (and is that not the best pun you've ever heard?), I decided to give it a shot. It's super easy, you guys. This is a really cute way to spend half an hour and you'll end up with a gorgeous-smelling scrub which leaves your skin silky smooth, and it's also all natural in case you get hungry in the shower. And! Even better, you likely have all the ingredients already sitting in your cupboards.

The basic recipe for this is (roughly) 2 parts sugar + 1 part oil. After that, you can get creative with the kind of sugar and oil and flavourings you want to use.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Max Factor Lipfinity Lasting Lip Tint 01 Pink Petal - and, What I'm Wearing

Double post! Product review and an outfit selfie today. What lucky bunnies we are.

I picked up this Max Factor felt tip-style lipstain on a 3 for 2. The marketing promises that it "permeates the upper layers of the lips" (umm...!?) to create "kissproof" colour.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

P in V Is Not The Only Kind Of Sex, or, Nadine Dorries Is Still The Worst

So, everybody's least favourite MP/human being Nadine Dorries has been at it again, arguing against gay marriage in the House of Commons like the smug ignorant bigot that she is:

"The definition of sex is for ordinary and complete sex to have taken place. Same-sex couples cannot meet this requirement."
05.02.2013, from her blog

Headline: 'Nadine Dorries Says Same Sex Couples Can't Have Sex'?

This nasty, heteronormative little remark hurts everybody. It hurts gay people, it hurts straight people, it hurts sexually active and asexual people, it hurts the victims of sexual assault, it hurts everybody with its rigid, controlling definition of what 'proper sex' is. Dorries clearly understands the phrase "ordinary and complete sex" to mean P in V penetration*. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else - just P in V. It's vastly heteronormative and extremely sex-negative in implication, and an incredibly damaging message. Here is my counter-message:

There are many, many forms, kinds and actions of sex, each as valid and as complex as the others, because sexuality is limitless.

Sex does not require P in V penetration. It doesn't require a P or a V at all. The idea of 'sex' contains a vast, wonderful realm of activities, of people rubbing themselves on each other and rubbing things on themselves and squishing themselves together and all around in all the messy, glorious combinations imaginable. I'm sure there's no need to make a list, but many, many things can be sex. Sex cannot be defined as a certain set of activities or experiences, because the spectrum of human sexuality is undocumentably huge and uncategorisably intricate. Lying down fully clothed and spooning can be a form of sex. Kissing a man or a woman or either or both can be sex. For some people, touching feet is sex. P in V is only one way of having sex, and its fetishisation in society as the only or the most important kind of sex is damaging for everyone. 

How? It's clearly obvious how this idea is alienating for same-sex couples, denying the validity of their experiences, but emphasising P in V as the be-all and end-all of sex also hurts hetero individuals as well, defining and denying a wealth of experience, rather than educating, liberating and encouraging people to understand and be confident in their own sexuality. Attempting to define sexuality by the standards of other people (especially, by god, conservative, conventional, religious, heteronormative standards) can only lead to misery, because sex is individual and idiosyncratic. Some people (even straight people) hate P in V sex, or find it painful or uncomfortable or boring. The good news is, there's a lot of other sex out there to be having.

Fetishising P in V as the most valid, real form of sex is another way that we tell people that their own feelings and desires are not valid when they don't conform to convention, and when people believe that their desires aren't valid, that creates unhappy sex. That creates everyone who ever said "well...alright, I guess", everyone who did it because they thought everyone else was doing it, everyone who thought they should or they had to, everyone who ever lay back and thought of England. Reluctant sex is not happy sex. If you're enthusiastically consenting to P in V, great, have at it, but the social emphasis on P in V devalues enthusiastic consent to all the other forms of sex. 

Dorries's comment also has extremely worrying implications for issues of sexual assault. If activities not involving P in V penetration are not real sex, when unwanted, are they still sexual assault? Does Dorries - the woman who once asserted that the sexual abuse of children could be stopped if only children were taught abstinence - mean that it is not possible to rape someone of the same sex? 

You know what, here. This is my sex-positive, anti-Dorries message:

Sex comes in many forms and many shapes. Some of them you might like, and some of them you will not, and as long as you have the informed, enthusiastic consent of everybody involved, all of it is absolutely fine. All of your feelings are very valid. Go forth and explore. Say yes to things you want and no to things you don't want. Learn your desires and your boundaries and respect them, and have others respect them. Be safe, physically and emotionally. Have exactly the sex that you really want, the sex that makes you feel good, exactly when and how you want it. Your sexuality is your own. Do with it exactly what you will. 

*(Conventionally, that is also what it means in law, but I do not credit Dorries with critical analysis of legal complexities, nor do I really know the ins and outs of it. Heh heh heh. "Ins and outs".) 

Book Review: Kate Grenville - 'The Secret River'

The Secret River tells the story of William Thornhill, a boatman living in Dickensian poverty in London, who’s transported to Sydney as a convict along with his family in 1806. In Australia, still little more than a handful of convict townships and a lot of empty space, he settles on a hundred acres of land he claims for his own, only to discover that the indigenous people were there first, and they’re not moving. Thornhill’s clash with “the blacks” miniaturises the contemporary global sweep of white colonialism with crushing inevitability.

The novel is a gripping read, containing some truly stunning descriptive passages and building real tension and raw emotion. However, it verges on the simplistic, and its use of archaic language is often awkward. The habit of putting dialogue into italics instead of quotation marks is also just plain annoying. I would suggest that this book thinks it’s a little cleverer than it really is, and I find myself wary of texts about colonialism that gloss over the perspective of the indigenous culture, as this does.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

FOTD: Make Up Much More Exciting Than My Day Deserved

 Another make up post! This is turning into a theme. The theme is that I am lazy and these are easy to write. Also, my Face Of The Day today looks pretty good. I'm just saying. Apparently I have a lot of time on my hands on Saturday afternoons to play around with make up looks way more dramatic than my activities really call for. That's the fun part, right? Getting ready? Realistically, this is more of a going out, evening look than for daytime. 

Friday, 15 February 2013

Max Factor Colour Elixir Lipstick 825 Pink Brandy

I have fallen for yet another lipstick. There is nothing to be done about it.

Here seen with some artfully arranged props. 
Max Factor Pink Brandy is a silky, super pretty medium pink. Hilarious PR spiel:

Friday, 18 January 2013

Kate Moss for Rimmel Lasting Finish Matte Lipstick - 101 & 107

So, I'm not a fan of Kate Moss, but I am a fan of lipstick, and as it happens I like these ones quite a lot.

 The matte red and black tubes look classy and expensive and feel good to touch, as well as relatively sturdy. The slanted caps with the Rimmel crown are cute. I can even ignore the obnoxious heart on KM's signature. (Seriously, lady is 39 years old. Most people grow out of doing hearts by 16. Okay, maybe I can't ignore it.)

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

DIY: Painted Make Up Brushes

This post on A Beautiful Mess inspired me to make these fun, cute custom make up brushes. This was a reeally quick'n'easy project but it makes my bathroom cabinet look so much more put together and stylish! I love that my brushes are a matching set now, instead of the mishmash of collected colours and brands I had before.

You'll need:

A handful of make up brushes you want to perk up

Masking tape


Base colour paint

Top colour paint - or do like I did and use a Sharpie

A paintbrush 

Monday, 14 January 2013

Ailsa's Many Thoughts About Golden Globes Outfits

Awards season, you guys!!! Dresses that cost more money than I will ever earn in my lifetime! Droopy boobs, ugly lipstick, ill chosen shoes! It is all so exciting.

Adele: pretty, but the same thing she always defaults to. Just because she's bigger doesn't mean she always has to wear black and cover up.
Amy Adams: prettyish dress, dreadful non-colour. Boring.
Emily Blunt: almost. The colour seems a bit off. Too yellowy beige?
Helen Mirren: Great shape on her, but I wish the studs didn't go all the way down the sleeves.

Came dressed as a grubby knock off Oscar:
Emily Blunt
Still the Queen: Helen Mirren

Jennifer Garner: gorgeous shade of red, everything else totally standard.
Jessica Alba: super pretty hair and jewellery, dress and bag chosen by a committee of 7 year old girls. Love her lipstick.
Kelly Osbourne: made her dress herself out of old bras.
Amy Poehler black suit: she is PARFAIT. I'd kill for that necklace. Great shoes.
Jessica Chastain: LOVE that beautiful colour but her boobs are melting.

Everybody loves parfait: Amy Poehler
Half melted mint sorbet: Jessica Chastain