Learning Italian for 100 Days

Today I hit somewhat of a milestone in my attempt to learn a second language, as I hit a one hundred day streak on everyone’s favourite language app, Duolingo.

We could wax lyrical on whether this constitutes a milestone - time spent on a language doesn’t equal fluency in a language and a hundred days worth of learning will yield different results from person to person anyway. Success shouldn’t be measured by time spent learning a language (least of all on an app) over actual proficiency, but still, I’m pretty happy to have hit one hundred days.

Really I’ve been learning it for a little over one hundred days as I started using the app towards the beginning of the year but broke my ‘streak’ (consecutive number of days spent learning) in the first month, which was surprisingly frustrating at the time. Since that broken streak I have diligently logged into Duolingo every day to complete at least one lesson and I have to say, that level of consistency feels pretty satisfying.

There is gratification in knowing that I have not given up. While I can’t boast about my Italian skills just yet - the extent currently being ‘la ragazza ha un delfino‘ (‘the girl has a dolphin’ - a crucial phrase for all conversations) - I can feel that I am making some headway. It is fair to say my vocabulary has grown, I feel more comfortable now with basic sentence structure and most importantly, I remember what I am learning. Which is, you know, kind of crucial for learning a language, no?

Most importantly, I am still very much interested in learning Italian - even though there have been times when it would have been very easy and far more enjoyable to give up. I go through each module the maximum amount of times before I move on to the next one, which can get mind-numbingly repetitive when you are typing, speaking and listening to the same five phrases for fifty lessons - but that reiteration has now seared such phrases into my brain (how could I ever forget ‘i gatti bevono latte‘?). And it means that when, weeks after having started the module, I finally finish and move onto the next one, it is so exciting to learn something new.

In reality, one hundred days is nothing. I will not be having a decent conversation in Italian anytime soon, and I know that eventually I’ll have to diversify my learning (there is only so much one app can do) but for now, I feel pretty proud of this very small accomplishment.

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A Walk to Mumbles

On a temperate day back in March I embarked on a walk from my home to The Mumbles, known as the ‘gateway to Gower’ it is a coastal town (or rather a village, lest I ruffle any feathers) with a host of good ice cream joints (important), a few shops, plenty of cafes, and of course a beach. It is also over four miles from my home. I guess I fancied the challenge.

I walked beside the beach, stopping every now and again to read my book and enjoy the bird song. It was thoroughly delightful, but I felt deserving of a hazelnut ice cream basket from Verdi’s Cafe by the time I arrived (it was delicious, 10/10 would recommend.)

I then had a wander around the town (village), headed to the pier (closed), strolled up to Oystermouth Castle (also closed), read some more of my book, and took a whole host of photos on my Grandad’s old film camera – which I am still struggling with. I think it is a bit too complex a film camera for me at the moment, but I’m nothing if not persistent.

Most of these photos were captured on the journey back, as for some reason, despite my legs crying out for rest, I thought walking back would be a good idea too. By about a third of the way home I deeply regretted my decision but didn’t want to quit, because I’m stubborn. I practically fell into the house on my return and felt so stiff I could barely walk up the stairs. I feel it was worth it though, given the golden light tinging most of these photos. It was a beautiful walk and I would gladly do it again.

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My Favourite Pieces From The Warehouse x Shrimps Collection

If you follow any fashion bloggers on Instagram, you’ll no doubt have seen this now iconic beaded bag crop up on your feed at some point. The pearlescent purse from the faux fur designer Shrimps has now reached cult status, if you haven’t already parted ways with your hard-earned £400 for it, chances are you’ve been considering whether to sell one of your kidneys in order to make the splurge. All of that is to say, Shrimps is very much an ‘it’ brand, but unattainable for most of us. So when it was announced at the beginning of the month that Shrimps had teamed up with Warehouse to bring some of their quirky designs to the high street, it is fair to say I was excited. The following collaboration features retro summer pieces in gingham, denim and white embroidery at price points that don’t make my eyes water. The 40 piece collection is so well-curated in my opinion, but below I have selected my stand-out items.

As a big fan of gingham for summer, I was instantly drawn to the green gingham offerings on site – it is such a fresh pop of colour and a nice spin on an old favourite. I love the cut of the bikini, the top half is very vintage-inspired but paired with the bottoms it still looks modern, so I think it is a great option if you love the print but were terrified of this throwback swimsuit they also released. Similarly, the maxi dress in the same print looks like the perfect summer holiday dress, I think it would look great thrown on with some white wedge espadrilles for a more put-together look. The white daisy blouse is also very cute, with the puffed sleeves it would definitely add a bit of whimsy into a wardrobe.

The blue blouse immediately caught my eye as I was perusing the site – it has a sort of Hawaiian shirt vibe but with a more refined print and feminine shape with the same puffed sleeves as the daisy blouse. I love how it has been styled over the white swimming costume as well, for the ultimate poolside look. This swimsuit is also my favourite of the four swimwear offerings, the cut looks quite flattering, especially on the bust, but the merman print stops it from looking too dated. I like the look of the crochet top as well (it even has matching trousers!) and suspect this one could become a blogger favourite as it has a cool-french-girl feel to it. I have to say, I think it is expensive for what it is though, I think a lot of this collection is fairly priced and matches Warehouse’s general price range, but £56 for a top you could probably find in a charity shop seems extortionate.

I like the denim offerings in the collection as well – the espadrilles look super comfortable and though they come in two other colour-ways, I think the denim pair is far more versatile. I am also head over heels for the denim midi dress, as not only does it have pockets (as all dresses should), it also has the sweetest daisy buttons running down the front. I also really love the white daisy version of this dress, it is very me, but I actually think this denim one is more unique because of that button detail. The straw hat is also seriously tempting me as a fair-skinned gal – sun protection never looked so cool! To be honest, I’m torn between the daisy print and the gingham version, as I think the white would go with more than the green, but I am an absolute sucker for gingham…

My eyes have been firmly on the accessories since seeing pictures of all the items styled together, the diamanté daisies are some of the true stand-outs in my opinion. I may have to buy these drop earrings, they’ll look so good styled both smart or casually and can be used to add a bit of interest to a plain outfit. I love all of the jewellery pieces but I also like the circle earrings for the same reason. I have to say that I am a bit disappointed by the bag offerings, as I think Shrimps is most well-known now for their bag designs and they have on this occasion left me wanting. However the straw bag with the same diamanté daisies is a great spring/summer bag, and one worth picking up if you don’t already own any straw bags. And finally, the raffia belt looks perfect to add to any summer look. It looks like it is adjustable so you may be able to wear it both on your waist and on your hips, meaning there are plenty of styling options.

So those are my 12 favourite pieces! I love the collection (apart from the bucket hats, I can’t wait for this trend to die) but I do think some of the pricing seems a little inconsistent. There is something at every price point though so I think anyone who wants to own a little bit of Shrimps whimsy can. A little tip, if you were thinking of buying, is to consider signing up for the Warehouse newsletter as you can get a 10% off code that way, which is valid on this collection – it isn’t a huge saving, but it is still something!

You can shop the whole collection here. Are you planning on picking anything up?

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Switching Up My Skincare

For the last year or so I have stuck to the same skincare products, loyally repurchasing the same serum, toner and moisturiser ad nauseam in fear of picking up a new product which could aggravate my skin and cause breakouts or dry patches. And to be honest, I’m not sure why I went back to those products again and again, when they were really nothing special, simply some of the cheapest and easiest on the market. I’d become complacent.

At the start of the year I ran out of a slew of products, and rather than repurchase my tried and tested, I replaced them with all new products. Two months later, here are my thoughts on the products…

First up an inexpensive serum, The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% and Zinc 1% breakout buster. It is designed to regulate sebum, minimise pores, even out skin tone and fight blemishes - all for only £5. I’d have been stupid not to try it for that amount! It can be used morning or evening underneath your moisturiser, though I specifically bought it for morning use thinking the pore minimising abilities would help make my makeup look better. Unfortunately, that is not what it did. 

On application it felt like it left a light film on my skin - if I applied too much it would pill, clearly unable to absorb into my skin; and it also just doesn’t sit well underneath makeup, leaving me looking quite shiny - and not in a ‘lit from within‘ way, in an ‘I look like I’ve got a very thin layer of cellophane on under my foundation‘ type of way. Not exactly what I was after.

I started using it in the evening instead but found that it still just did not sit well underneath other products, causing pilling anytime I applied my night oil over it. Obviously, this is less of an issue at night than in the day, but it doesn’t feel very nice.

This is honestly a product I’ll really struggle to use up, which is such a shame because from other reviews I’ve seen it is incredibly popular and effective for other people. Unlike so many others, I did not see a difference in my pore size, skin tone or blemishes - in fact, I find it actually clogs my pores causing slight milia around my cheeks. It isn’t anything too serious, but still, isn’t that the opposite of what it’s supposed to do? 

All that said, I don’t think I’d necessarily dissuade people from it as it does work for so many other people. I mean, for £5 I think anything is worth trying! It’s just a shame it didn’t work for me!

I thought I’d try the Hydraphase Intense Eye Cream from La Roche-Posay for £10. I liked that it is specifically targeted to moisturise rather than brighten as that is what I most need from an eye cream. 

I would not classify this as a cream however, this is very much an eye gel in my opinion - had I known that beforehand I would not have purchased it. I’m just not that into gels – I don’t find them to be as hydrating as a cream. There is nothing inherently wrong with this one, it hasn’t irritated the skin around my eyes in any way. It just doesn’t feel incredibly moisturising and I have found that my concealer doesn’t apply quite as evenly or smoothly when I use it. I will definitely be looking elsewhere for an eye cream (not a gel!) in the future.

Having tried clarifying toners from both La Roche-Posay and Avene in the past that were too drying and abrasive, I was initially unsure about trying the Eucerin DermoPurifyer Toner. This claims to use salicylic acid (a blemished skincare favourite) to unclog pores and minimise and prevent blemishes - supposedly all without drying out your skin due to its compatibility with acne medication - which is not something I’ve ever seen advertised on other products, so that had me intrigued.

It definitely isn’t drying, unlike the other toners mentioned. I can’t say if it has helped to unclog my pores and prevent blemishes, in part because I have been using other products to help with those issues anyway, but also because I do not see a huge difference after applying this.

I wouldn’t necessarily rush out to repurchase it when it runs out as I could happily try something new. I would be intrigued to try more from the DermoPure range, and I would buy this toner again at a push.

I felt like it was time to take an anti-ageing step in my routine and so decided to add the La Roche-Posay Redermic Retinol. I chose this as my first retinoid in part because of the price (so predictable), as it was on offer for £20 which makes it one of the cheapest on the market. At 0.3% it is also one of the lowest percentage retinol you can get.

If you’re new to retinol the low percentage probably doesn’t seem like a good thing, don’t we normally want larger quantities of good ingredients in our skincare? But it is actually best to start small if you’ve never used one before as it is an incredibly potent ingredient that can cause all sorts of adverse effects if you haven’t built up your skin’s tolerance to it.

I still approached this product with caution despite the low percentage - I did not want red, flaky, spotty skin. For about the first month I used it twice a week, and upon having no reaction to it then upped my usage to three times a week. I don’t know if it was this approach prevented any peeling, or the dreaded purge period, but I can honestly say I didn’t experience any negative reactions to this retinol. Maybe it was the percentage, maybe my skin is just made of sterner stuff - I don’t know! But I would definitely recommend this approach. 

Now, onto the good stuff - did it work? Retinols are basically a do-all product, they help to diminish fine lines, brighten, tighten pores, regulate your skin’s oil production, fight acne, soothe inflammation and re-home kittens and puppies. Ok, the last one isn’t true, but you get the gist, it is supposedly a wonder-worker. Now, I can’t really comment on its anti-ageing abilities because I don’t have a lot to anti-age, but everything else listed is much higher on my ‘concerns’ list. So after two months, honestly, I wouldn’t say it has been a miracle worker. A lot of the benefits I notice after use - smaller pores, smoother skin - only last temporarily, a day, maybe two at most. But that one day will be a great skin day. 

It is possible that I need to use it more often to see more of a lasting effect - a lot of the rave reviews I’ve read for this product mention almost daily use, so perhaps it is time for me to try using it every other day, and see if the improvements stick around. I will say that I don’t think it has done anything to lessen my pre-existing acne scars, but when I did have a hormonal break-out last month it did seem to help shrink the spots somewhat - albeit quite slowly.

I’m glad I picked it up, it is the one item in this post that I have been most pleased with, but I think once I run out I will look for a slightly stronger retinol, and perhaps a much cheaper one!

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A Few First Impressions

I realised I am just at the beginning of quite a few different things, and thought it might be interesting to share my initial thoughts on them. I’ve not consumed enough to give a fully informed review, but you know what they say about first impressions – they tend to stick.

Though inevitably I’ll contradict myself later, after having written this post, when I say my opinion has changed. But that isn’t as catchy a saying – ‘first impressions stick, but also sometimes they won’t because things change, or perhaps you were stupid to decide something is absolute after only an initial impression because sometimes things take time‘.

Anyway, here are my (non-concrete) thoughts on stuff. First up, some skincare.

When I re-ordered my beloved Clinique cleanser, it arrived with a deluxe sample size of the Moisture Surge 72-Hour Auto-replenishing Hydrator – which is a very long-winded way to say ‘moisturiser‘. As I am trying to use up the beauty products that I have instead of constantly buying new products, when I ran out of my evening Boots Botanics Face Oil, I decided to replace it in my routine with this Clinique mouthful. The two are not the same, one is obviously an oil, which I tend to prefer at night as I find oils more moisturising and specifically rosehip oils good for acne scarring. And the other is a gel-cream, not something I tend to opt for even in the day, generally finding that gels do not give me the level of hydration I can get from a cream or oil. But, the lengthy name got me, with its promise of 72 hours worth of hydration. Plus, it was free, so, why not?

I’ve used it three times now, twice at night and once in the morning, just to work out where it fits best in my routine. I can’t say I have noticed a huge difference in my skin, but that isn’t surprising considering I have only just started to use it. I do have a few dry patches on my face at the moment and it does seem to have helped somewhat with softening them – though they are still there. It seems to layer well over the top of both my morning and evening serums, feels nice and lightweight, and it wore well underneath my makeup today as well. So, first impressions are not bad, I will keep using it, but my gut instinct tells me I’ll be back to oils once I’ve finished because I am a creature of habit.

On my Mum’s recommendation, I started watching True Detective Season 3, which follows the disappearance of two children in the 1980s being recalled by a detective suffering from memory loss in his old age. I enjoyed the first season of this anthology series by Nic Pizzolatto but thought the second was an incredibly dull parody of itself, so I was unsure about starting the third season, worried it would be more of the same. And I have to say, two episodes in, it does share some similarities to the first, but personally, I’m finding it as dull as the second. I’m unsure if I’m struggling with it because I’m simply not in the mood to watch a series with a heavier tone right now, or whether I am just no longer interested in the stories Pizzolatto writes. These are slow-paced series, dealing with serious crimes, with a saturated colour palette (that is how you know a show means serious business) and with characters that mumble more than they actually talk. Perhaps if I had never seen the first season or even the recent adaptation of Sharp Objects which has a somewhat comparable mystery, I would feel more invested and interested in this series, but at the moment it feels like a less gripping rehash, and I’m just not that into it.

In an attempt to combat the sombre tone of True Detective, I decided I wanted something more light-hearted and watched the first episode of After Life, the newest comedy show from Ricky Gervais about a man who has stopped caring about social etiquette after the death of his wife. It was something I had not intended to watch, as I don’t tend to get on with Gervais’ humour as much as I once did, finding it quite repetitive, but I saw a lot of good reviews and thought I’d give it a go. I’m only one episode in and think my gut instinct was right on this one – I have never laughed less at a comedy. To give the show its dues, it does toe the line between drama and comedy, what with the themes around death, but it definitely inclines more to comedy and it just is not to my taste. A lot of the scenes felt constructed for a specific punch line, which takes away any feeling of spontaneity – and, yes, I realise something that is filmed and edited cannot be spontaneous, but any joke made has to feel organic and of the moment especially if it is situational. That is part of what made The Office so great, it felt improvised and real even though it wasn’t. In contrast, everything in After Life feels scripted and forced, even in the choice of certain shots. And this is an issue for a show that is supposed to be grounded in real life and the ugly emotions felt while grieving – if it feels fake and forced in the more flippant moments then I will never buy the more serious scenes. But hey, it is one episode, maybe it gets better. And as it is a series that can be binged in around three hours, perhaps I should give it a second chance.

I’ve just started reading two books, the first of which is Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, which is a multi-generational novel which starts with two Ghanaian sisters, one of whom marries a white colonizer and the other of whom gets sold into slavery. I believe each chapter follows a different member of the same family tree, so I have just finished each sister’s individual chapter and will now be moving on to a different character – one of their children perhaps. I liked both the chapters that I read, the contrast between the two and the way the interlinked was really interesting, and I have to say I am disappointed to not be following them for longer. I’m curious as to how I’ll get on with following multiple characters, it normally isn’t something I like or look for, but the first two chapters were beautifully written and incredibly powerful so I am eager to read on and see how it all connects by the end.

The other book I have started is The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, which is a retelling of The Iliad (I guess? I’m not good with Greek myths) and the myth of Achilles, who would’ve guessed it? I picked this up because Miller’s recent novel, Circe has been doing the rounds, and I saw it on offer in the Kindle store and thought I would start with her debut novel. I’m less than fifty pages in, but so far I really it. In terms of a retelling, it feels like everything I wanted The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood to be, in that it appears to actively be retelling and redefining the original tale – though it is worth mentioning I don’t know that much about The Iliad, so who knows. If it keeps on in the direction I think it is headed then I think I’ll love this novel, but obviously, anything could happen in the next three hundred pages, so I am cautiously hopeful.

Those are all of my first impressions, let’s see if they last.

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