10 Metal Songs To Add To Your Halloween Playlist

As contrary as it might sound from someone who just posted something Halloween related, I’ve never really celebrated the holiday. I like to attribute it to the fact that as an adult I have access to all the sweets I could ever want, but I guess the fact that I scare easily also contributes. Surprisingly some of my favourite songs cover subjects like a crazy scientist and a stalking monster, so it just seemed too holiday appropriate to resist compiling a whole playlist. Whether you’ve always appreciated a heavier sound or simply want to add some diversity to your party music, these songs are guaranteed to send chills down your spine! Atmospheric organs playing and howling wolves included.

You can listen to my Halloween playlist on Google Play Music here.

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Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I was never the biggest fan of banana bread, or bananas for that matter, until I found this recipe. I’ve made a few changes to it over the years, but now I think it is perfect!

It is fair to say that I have a few hang-ups regarding bananas, as I love artificial banana flavoured things (Beacon’s Fruit Salad sweets come to mind) but I don’t love bananas themselves and the idea of a warm banana freaks me out! They’re okay when eaten slightly green, but after that they just become a slimy mess with an overpowering taste. So I made this recipe with two ripe bananas, not overripe, and I the end result just has a hint of banana.

 

This is definitely a recipe to save for the next time you miss the three seconds that bananas are perfect to eat!

Ingredients:

  • 220g  flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • 100g milk or dark chocolate slab, chopped
  • 100g salted butter, room temp (I usually pop it in the microwave for a few secs)
  • 120g  sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 80 ml milk

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C and prepare a baking dish or loaf tin if you have one.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and chocolate in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar.
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla essence to the butter mixture and beat until combined.
  5. Mash the bananas until it is fairly smooth. I find a fork usually does the job.
  6. Add half the egg mixture and the milk to the mixture and beat until combined.
  7. Gently fold in the other half of the egg mixture and the bananas.
  8. Bake in the oven for roughly 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.
  9. Best enjoyed hot!
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Bathroom Makeover: Part 2

It is finally here! I am so happy to show you what our bathroom looks like nearly a year after it was done. If you remember from the before, the corner bath was taking up most of the room and it felt dark and dingy, whereas now I love how open and fresh it feels. It still isn’t large by any means, actually it is tiny, but it has everything I need and I couldn’t be happier with the end results.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we initially settled on an all white palette until we found these hexagons with the black dots here and there (I see flowers and you?). Now I couldn’t imagine anything but these tiles, I absolutely love them! We decided to eschew the classic designer tip of larger tiles to create the illusion of a bigger room, as we’d seen enough Pinterest examples of our tiles to know that it would work in a smaller bathroom. We actually had one contractor quote us on installing these tiles, which we’d already bought, but all the while insisting that we should rather go with something bigger. It was an incredibly frustrating experience as he was pushing us to go for a completely different style because he didn’t like installing these smaller tiles, which can be more labour intensive. Eventually though we found an incredible contractor who does both tiling and plumbing, an incredibly useful all-in-one for bathroom renovations, and he was absolutely lovely. If you are in the Northern suburbs I’d definitely recommend him! It is probably also worth noting that both our hexagon floors and subway tiles are slightly larger than the traditional/standard, so I do think that helps ever so slightly in keeping it from feeling too doll house and busy.

 

Along with choosing tile came grout choices. I spent hours poring over examples of colours and sizes and eventually we settled on a 1 mm light grey for the walls (although it looks darker) and a slightly darker dove grey on the floors. I wanted the pattern of the tiles to be pronounced, but also didn’t want it to feel too stark or modern as some of the examples with dark grey and black grouting felt.

We actually spent months hunting down the perfect bathroom cabinet as it was one of the first things we had to replace in the bathroom, even before the actual reno took place. We didn’t have the widest variety to choose from in 60 cm and found that a disappointing amount of the cabinets came with what is usually referred to as a “prego basin” (see here for reference). So we decided to take matters into our own hands and my husband built this shaker-style cabinet to fit into the space. It is everything we dreamt of and has a tonne of storage in the inside. We could have gone the other route of a custom cabinet, but as with many features in the bathroom, we didn’t want to splurge too much as this isn’t our forever home.

Unfortunately when we were looking for taps, there weren’t many options for cool taps that also had a lever. Now Flush Bathrooms have Meir’s mat black range which I’m seriously drooling over. We decided to go for the Hans Grohe Decor range as it is superb quality and we could make it work in our budget.

I knew I wanted to add an element of matt black though, so we decided to use a black curtain rod on ceiling suspenders and it works wonderfully as a towel rail. The slightly matt finish really grips the towels so that they don’t slide off all the time and as we were able to customise the size, it means we can both spread out our towels to dry completely. We also added a hook behind the door for a hand towel.

Other small details included the custom roman shade I made, the ugly boob light we replaced with recessed lights and the new trim (cornices and skirting).

All in all I’m in love with our bathroom, but it is still not done. I’d love to replace the mirror with something more special (I’ve been on the hunt for almost a year!) and my husband wants to create a custom glass shower door. We also still need to replace the cracked window pane – something we remember every now and again- and I can’t figure out what to do with the blank space above the towel rail as it can’t be something that stands out too much. All of my moaning aside, this has really become one of my favourite places in the home, whereas previously I literally rushed in and out as fast as possible.

 

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Easy Entertaining

One thing I’ve learned of myself as I’ve grown older is that I love entertaining our family and friends at our home. Over the last year I feel like I’ve really found my groove, in the sense that I have a good idea of what will work and what might be too ambitious to take on.

I never really thought about my own style of entertaining as relaxed, until I came across Kate Spade’s book which listed ridiculous suggestions like exchanging all the light-bulbs in your house to a more flattering wattage and writing “hello gorgeous”  in red lipstick on the mirror. Can you imagine trying to clean the mirror afterwards?

In contrast, my parties are usually hosted in slippers and they might not be the fanciest, but they feel special to me and hopefully my guests too. I certainly don’t have it down to the T, but I think I’ve narrowed down which things are really worth spending your time on so that you can enjoy the party with your friends. Chances are, that is all your guests care about too!

Vacuum

Parties are messy, there is no getting around it. So there really is no point in doing a full house deep clean, but at the same time no one wants to see your dust bunnies. If you feel that it is incredibly noticeable and you have time, giving your house a quick vacuum will put you at ease. When I’m feeling fancy I might even mop up some spills with a piece of damp toilet paper!

Clean bathroom

If you’re running short on time and the vacuuming isn’t an option, at least give the mirror and basin a wipe and flush a bit of thick bleach down the toilet. You don’t want your guests to be grossed out in your home.

Tidy

Some people are naturally tidy, others aren’t and it doesn’t really matter to your friends and family. Just be sure to maybe stash the wet laundry somewhere other than the dining room and create some space on the table for dining. Anything more than that really is optional.

Ensure you have alcoholic & non-alcoholic beverages

My husband and I aren’t big drinkers, so we usually make sure to have some non-alcoholic yet special drinks on hands for when friends visit. If our friends ask what they can bring, we usually suggest a wine they’d like to enjoy with the meal. That way guests that like a wine with their food has their favourite on hand and designated drivers and secretly pregnant guests don’t have to make a fuss about requesting a non-alcoholic drink.

When I’m feeling really fancy, I’ll even put a bottle of ice water on the table filled with fresh mint so that everyone can stay adequately hydrated. This is imperative for board game nights!

No one likes a hangry guest

I don’t know why, but it is quite common in South Africa to be invited to a braai at 16h00 only to be served dinner after 20h00. Hungry guests never make good conversation, so try to serve the main meal within two hours of your guests’ arrival or be prepared with plenty of snacks!

Serving

This obviously depends on the style of event you’re hosting, as sometimes we serve our friends takeaway pizza out of the box, but I feel like people appreciate it when they can help themselves comfortably. How you interpret this depends on what you are serving and the type of event you’re hosting. So if you’re inviting around people for the first time, help them by setting out the glasses they can use and keep the wine they bought on the table (not hidden in the fridge).

Also when serving salads and other side dishes, be sure to go with a slightly larger bowl and don’t over fill it as it might be uncomfortable to try and help yourself without making a big mess! Been there, done that and got the t-shirt.

Do something fancy (if you want to!)

Sometimes I remember to put some aroma oils on the lamp ring burner and my home smells amazing, other times I forget. As long as the food smells amazing, I don’t think guests even notice! Fresh flowers, beautiful candles and carefully set tables are all appreciated when it feels effortless or passionately done but they aren’t necessary. If the food is good (heck, even if it is just okay!) and the company is great, whatever else you add to it will just be the cherry on top!

How do you entertain? Obviously we go to a little more trouble at birthdays and Christmas, but generally I try to keep a balance between being casual and doing something to make our guests feel special. I hope they like attending our small get-togethers as much as we like hosting them.

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Bathroom Makeover: Part One

I thought instead of sharing the horrifying before pictures, I’d start the post on a high with our inspiration. When we first moved in our bathroom had few redeeming factors, among which were the natural light from the window and an extractor fan. That was pretty much where it ended. The cabinet was cherry laminate wood and mouldy, the bath was way too big and took up most of the room. I could barely reach the towel rail that stretched over the bath, toilet and behind the door and entering the room was tricky. You kind of had to enter the bathroom, walk into the only gap between the bath, toilet and cabinet to close the door and that space wasn’t even large enough for a full bath mat to lay flat.

Here is a picture of our nightmare. At least the bath and toilet were white – it could have been much worse! The wall tiles were a textured peachy-cream and the walls were painted butternut. We put up a temporary blind for privacy and patiently counted the days until we’d have enough saved for the whole reno.

Besides actually finding a way to fit everything in, the next biggest challenge was deciding on our style. The first “renovation squabble” was around marble – I love it and he thinks it belongs on the kitchen counter. If I had my way, we’d have white subway on the walls and calacatta marble tiles on the floor.

Both me and my husband like the classics, but we also like modern touches and found ourselves attracted to patterned floor tiles. We were stuck for some time, before we finally decided on an all white bathroom (hexagons on the floor and subway on the walls) with light grey paint. We liked the more graphic flooring options like that beautiful white and grey option above, but felt that we needed something a little more timeless.

By the time the plumber was able to come around, we’d found a cheaper hexagon floor tiles (at about half the price of the original all white) with a touch of black and decided to ditch the grey wall in lieu of classic white.

The Architectural Digest image at the top, which had been pinned on my Bathroom Pinterest board a million times, became my inspiration.

As I mentioned, the layout was also a little bit of a head-scratcher. There weren’t a lot of options, but by simply changing the regular swing door to a sliding door (not pocketed) we were able to really increase the usable square footage in the bathroom. See the rough layout below.

Although there are still a few things I’d like to change, I am so happy with the end results and can’t wait to share it with you next week. Have you ever tackled a bathroom make-over?

 

 

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Notes on At Home Dermaplaning

If you are even remotely interested in the beauty industry, chances are you’ve heard of dermaplaning. It is is one of the latest beauty techniques that involves a trained aesthetician shaving your face with scalpel, which of course sounds so appealing (NOT!). Basically it removes all peach fuzz and dead skin cells and it is not invasive at all, comparable to a more extreme microdermabrasion. I’ve heard a tonne of international beauty bloggers talking about it but haven’t really heard anything about it from our local scene. So when I spotted these face razors (called Brow Razors) in Dischem I jumped at the chance of trying the treatment at home.

The Tools

International bloggers all recommend these from Amazon, but I just picked up these brow razors from Dischem. They were around R25 for three and I suspect I’ll get around two uses out of each. Initially I thought they weren’t sharp enough as I tentatively tried to shave my face, but as I gained confidence that I wasn’t going to slice my face open, I began applying enough pressure and speed to my strokes to get results.

The prep

Resist the urge to add something for lubrication and only do this on clean, dry skin as you might be removing some of the top layer of your skin. You really don’t want anything to clog your pores. The friction is minor as the hairs are generally very fine on your face so the risk of actually hurting yourself is minimal. I only experienced slight discomfort, not unlike shaving your underarms.

Timing

I like to do this in the evening as it does leave my skin slightly red and irritated, not nearly as extreme as when I do exercise though! I find it a good idea to do it inbetween other exfoliations and definitely not on the same evening as sensitive skin won’t be able to handle it.

The process

So I usually start where I have the most peach fuzz, which for me is between my brows and hairline (also the reason I never bring foundation up to my forehead). I hold the blade at a 30-45 degree angle and then work in short strokes down my face trying not to go over the same area too often. You might have to pull the skin taught with your other hand, especially on fleshier parts like your cheeks. Every now and again I give the blade a wipe as the hair gathers around it and continue. You don’t have to do your entire face and should definitely skip your eyes and lips.

Once I’m done with my whole face, I follow with a toner (to remove all the dead skin cells left on my face) and follow with serum and a moisturiser.

Results

I’m left with smoother skin that easily absorbs all the beauty products I apply and my make-up applies noticeably smoother. As mentioned earlier, my slightly red and irritated skin was happy as can be the next morning. Depending on how hairy you are, you can repeat the process roughly every two weeks.

Comparing at home to salon dermabrasion

I haven’t had a salon treatment, so I’m not the best to answer this but from what I’ve read I think an at-home treatment is milder and more focused on removing hair versus the entire top layer of your epidermis. It does do a good job of removing dead skin cells and leaves my skin noticeably smoother, but you might get even better results with a trained professional. However I’m so happy with the at home results, I can’t imagine I’d ever want to pay for a professional.

My skin is generally very sensitive so I was surprised and happy to find that I had such a mild reaction, it really looked like I’d just gone a bit crazy with the face scrub. Have you tried at home dermaplaning or does it all sound a little gimmicky to you?

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Testing Basics: Slouchy Black Tee’s

I recently found myself on the hunt for the perfect slouchy black tee, as summer is around the corner and all that. I bought one last year from Mr Price and found myself constantly grabbing it from the washing line, before it was even properly dry, so knew I wanted to invest in at least one more. I don’t like spending a tonne of money on these as they often need replacing, so kept them all under the R200 mark. Below you’ll find some really unflattering pics of me and my review of each that might save you some time should you also be on the hunt for the perfect basic tee.

The Crew Neck Tee by Mr Price

Although I clearly favour a V neckline, this was surprisingly my favourite out of them all. The fabric draped beautifully and didn’t hug any curves or add extra bulk (which I certainly don’t need!). I would have liked this more sans the pocket though, as it would be easier to layer necklaces over it or dress it up. I’ll definitely keep an eye on Mr Price as they seem to get in a few options each season, so holding thumbs for a V-neck version. Undecided on whether I’ll keep this as it is a great back-up and very affordable, but I’m trying to buy less.

Price: R69,99

Size: Large

Fabric: 100% Viscose

The High-Low Basic Tee by Edgars

This was my husband’s favourite and I was actually also quite surprised at how well it fared considering I really don’t like the fabric. It is semi-see-through and feels as though it is going to pill easily, so it is far from my top pick but the cut is pretty flattering. It is slightly longer at the back which makes it perfect for the half-tuck, doesn’t stretch over my chest (which is often the reason I have to up-size) and the neckline doesn’t plunge too low.

Price: R99,99

Size: 10

Fabric: 65% Polyester and 35% Rayon

The Ecologically Grown Cotton Tee by Zara

Similarly to the Woolworths version, this one is largely made out of cotton and the stiffer material doesn’t drape as well. Usually cotton would be my first choice in a tee, but with oversized options I like it when it has a heavier fabric as it drapes and tucks better. I can’t fault the fit however, it would be perfect with a jean and I surprised myself by quite liking the lower cut as it isn’t too revealing. I picked up the stripe version in this as I wouldn’t want to tuck that one am quite happy with myself. To note though, I have a feeling it is going to shrink a little bit so erred on the side of caution with the large although the medium also fit fine. Will keep you updated as I wash the striped version.

Price: R129

Size: Large

Fabric: 100% Cotton

The Fashion Tee by Woolworths

Considering almost all my existing tees boast a Woolies label, I was surprised by how much I disliked it. I have to admit that I tested both the large and medium, and this (the large) is the most flattering out of the two and it is still miles off from being considered remotely flattering. The medium just didn’t fit my bust at all and this one was clearly too large over the shoulders and belly, creating a curtain-y effect that even my husband/photographer commented on. I’m rushing to return this. (P.S. If you prefer a round neck, I spotted other versions of the Fashion Tee in a better fabric which might be a great option although I haven’t personally tested them.)

Price: R129

Size:

Fabric: 50% Modal and 50% Cotton

P.S. Excluded from my test was this one from Cotton On as I couldn’t find it in my size (but the other colours all fit lovely), this one from Superbalist as I forgot to order online in time and this one from H&M as my nearest store is still too far for such experiments.

So in conclusion, the Mr Price t-shirt took the top prize with the Zara one in close second (I went with the stripes in the end) and the Woolies and Edgars ones were promptly returned. Do you have a go-to option or have you tried any of the ones I excluded? Would love to hear what your favourites are!

 

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How To Make Mondays Bearable

I know I’m not alone in saying that Mondays are literally the WORST! By the end of most Mondays I am ready to crash on the couch and start the weekend all over again, but alas we need to carry on. So I’ve come up with a few simple things I do to make Mondays more bearable.

Make dinner in advance

I love cooking more than enough food on a Sunday so that we have leftovers for the Monday evening. Dishes like lasagne, pies and pastas are great. This way I can have a delicious meal ready to pop in the microwave. Plus we also save on dishes.

Plan something fun for Tuesday

Whether you need an evening of takeout and Game of Thrones or a dinner with friends, having something to look forward too always makes the day go by faster.

You could make plans for Monday night, but I like to chill it out and rather head out on Tuesdays.

Treat yo’ self

Whether it is a special cappuccino or a DIY nail polish, rewarding myself after a particularly hectic Monday makes it ever so slightly better. It is the little things!

To-do list

Making a to-do list is a great way to start any day, but sometimes sneaking in a few easy to complete tasks helps start a great trend for ticking off the items and getting sh*t done.

Go to bed early

Making sure you start the week well rested not only ensures a more productive day, it also means you start the day without having to press the snooze button multiple times. Now if onky there was a way for me to get to bed on time.

When all else fails, just get a cat or two! They make everything better. Hope your Monday flies by!

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Winter Accessories

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Can we just all take a moment to acknowledge that this year has really flown by before diving head first into this post. Like seriously, it is the last week of July already! Which also means that we’re just about halfway through winter. It is usually around this time that I start getting bored with the season and my wardrobe. It might be because I favour a monochrome wardrobe, but lately it just feels lacking. I’ve somehow fallen into a trap where I wear variants of the same outfit day-in and day-out.

So I thought it is high time I shake it up with a few accessories I already have in my wardrobe.

The newest item to my wardrobe and definitely the most attention drawing in my line-up is this leopard print winter scarf. I was searching high and low for the perfect classic yet not old fashioned print and finally found this at Woolworths (can’t find it online). It is massive and incredibly soft (so doubles as a blanket) and also works with grey.

Then I also decided to swap my non-descript big black handbag for a smaller one with more detail like the quilting and gold hardware. I love feeling more structured when so much of winter is oversized and comfortable.

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I’ve also taken my hat out for a spin a few times. Granted it isn’t the most practical item for a day in the office, but as the wind has been pretty chill this winter I’ve definitely worn it more. I can confirm that in some instances you do feel overdressed, but always in a good way! Plus I am sure everyone assumes you are stylish, even though you might be wearing a sweater that has pilled.

Unfortunately this liquid lipstick from Essence has been discontinued, but any matt red or power shade of lipstick (and nailpolish for that matter) can really make you feel extra zush. Whenever someone talks about the power of makeup, I think of red lipstick. Find a bolder shade that you’re comfortable with (preferably in a long-lasting formula) and keep it at hand for when you feel in need of some magic.

Lastly are these eye catching sunglasses I scored for less than R30 online! I found the same ones in YDE for R200, so guess the young designers are all based in China? Anyway I think they are fun and perfect for those sunny winter days. Plus they offer a pretty good disguise for when you just feel gross and your hair is all frizzy from the rain (what just me!??) I was going to throw a straightening iron in the mix, but even a GHD can’t guarantee me good hair days!

 

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How To Avoid Crocodile Hands this Winter

 

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I usually start off with one of my year-round essentials for great cuticles – a good cuticle oil. I’ve used and liked this one from the Body Shop before (the smell is heavenly!) but whilst this one from Sally Hansen isn’t as convenient it is just such better value. Regular application keeps my cuticles from becoming dry and white, making it easy to keep them at bay.

I usually follow this up with a thinner Vitamin E-based hand cream. Something like the cult classic from Vaseline usually does the job. It just immediately soothes and gets absorbed, leaving my hands feeling wonderfully soft. I’ll often pop something like this on during the day as well as it doesn’t leave my hands feeling greasy and it isn’t gross to touch anything afterwards.

I then follow this up with a more intensive cream, like the ones pictured above from Woolworths. They feel almost like a butter in the sense that they are definitely oil based and take a while to absorb, which makes them great for P.M. applications.

So this is my three-step routine for soft hands. I also try to put on gloves when facing extreme cold in mornings, just for extra protection. How do you tackle dry hands in the winter?

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