Veganuary – Week One

Finally, after over two years of being a vegetarian and banging on about how I want to eventually be vegan, I’ve gone and given it a go!

So far, it’s going really well, and I’m so pleased. I’ve had two tiny dairy slip-ups – one on New Year’s Day when extremely hungover and I was made a milky cup of tea, and the other stealing a small piece of bread with butter on it – but that’t it, and after a week I’m getting used to it and I don’t think it’ll happen again. After all, the first time I said I was going to do a veggie big shop, I came home with a ham and pineapple pizza, and I haven’t done that since!

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Linda McCartney sausages, mash, peas and onion gravy – vegan comfort food 

I definitely think it’s a good idea to go vegan gradually. I have a number of friends who have gone straight from being an omnivore to trying veganism and have failed within the first few weeks or months; many then giving up on the idea because they think it’s too hard.

Being veggie first means I’m used to cutting things out, finding alternatives and reading food labels. It also means I’m firm in my beliefs and my reasons behind giving up meat, and extending that to giving up eggs and dairy, so it’s less about willpower and more about remembering why I’m doing this, and that makes it much less difficult.

Here are some of my favourite vegan products that I’ve found so far:

 

First is obviously that vegan staple: tofu. These marinated tofu pieces are so easy to cook and so delicious I don’t know why I wasn’t using them before. The meal is a yummy stir fry – Sainsbury’s frozen stir fry veg, Cauldron tofu pieces, Yutaka wheat noodles and Sainsbury’s light soy sauce.

Next there’s my favourite, so far, plant-based milk: Oatly! oat milk. Perfect in porridge, my favourite breakfast (Quaker Oats Golden Syrup Flavour), and I’ve heard it’s great in tea so I’ll definitely be giving that a try.

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Hazelnut milk in coffee is pretty good, and rice milk is okay, but I’m hoping when I try more milk alternatives I’ll find one that I like more.

Next something that is very important to me: vegan cheese. I was so happy when Sainsbury’s brought out a range of free from cheese-style products, but very nervous to try them.

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Luckily, I like them! The cheddar-style is probably my least favourite, but on a sandwich with some salad it’s hard to tell the difference. The other two are perfect straight swaps for the dairy version, and I use them in the exact same way.

Finally some sweet things I found in the free from section where I work (Booths, northern Waitrose if you haven’t heard of it :)) Lazy Day Foods free from millionaire shortbread and Bell’s Gluten-free jam tarts – they’re delicious! Who needs dairy or eggs??wp-1483893785930.jpg

Next week I’ll make another update on how the month is going – possibly with some reviews of the documentaries I’m planning on watching this week, just to keep me motivated.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Why I love Audiobooks

Audiobooks and I haven’t always had such a good relationship. When I first downloaded Audible (yes, with a discount code from a Youtuber; I can’t evenaudiobooks remember which one it was now there’s so many), I used the free book I downloaded to help me go to sleep, which was a great help, but it was pretty hard to keep up with the story because I couldn’t keep up with what was happening in the story from one night to the next.

But, I persevered with it, and eventually got to the end of my first audiobook – Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. It might have taken me a while – what with having to
keep going back a chapter to find the last bit I remembered and everything – but it was totally worth it.

And now, I’m hooked.

Listening to audiobooks means I can actually have two books on the go at once; something I could never do before, because it was too confusing for my wee brain. The experience is so different that I can keep up with both stories more easily; and I have a better chance of reaching my goal of reading thirty books this year!

Another plus is that now I have a new job which is a forty-ish minute walk away, I can use that time wisely by listening to a book on my way. Sometimes I might look a bit crazy walking along laughing to myself or holding back tears, but that’s a very minor downside I can definitely live with.

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Audiobooks also allow for reading when travelling without causing travel sickness; particularly on Virgin trains between Manchester and London which always make me feel queasy whether I’m reading or not.

Those are some of the practical reasons why I’ve grown to love them, but there are also reasons to do with the listening experience itself. One of these is that with the likes of Neverwhere, narrated by Neil Gaiman himself, you get to hear how he intended the words to sound,and how they are meant to make you feel; and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, also ready by the author, Maya Angelou, is especially interesting as it is a semi-autobiographical novel, and therefore hearing it in Angelou’s voice makes it all the more gripping.

I have also listened to books that have been on my to-read list for years: Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. artworks-000157543876-ntnu51-t500x500Firstly, the narrators in both of these audios were fantastic. They took Jonathan’s language and made the whole experience so immersive, it’s probably lucky I don’t have too many busy roads to cross on my way home! One particular part of Extremely Loud that struck me was when Oskar is telling ‘the renter’ about his dad’s phone messages; we hear ‘are you there?’  thirteen times (forgive me if that’s wrong, I think it’s thirteen) complete with the long pauses, and I thought about how if I had been reading those repeated questions, it wouldn’t have had nearly the same kind of powerful effect.

If you haven’t given audiobooks a go yet, I strongly recommend giving them a go, even if you don’t think it’ll be your thing.

P.S. I wish this was sponsored by audible, but sadly, it’s not 😉

P.P.S. Images not my own

Lush Haul!

It’s been a while since I had a massive splurge on bathbomby goodies, and I wanted to share that joy with you!

Unfortunately, I had my phone stolen out of my coat pocket this week, so I can’t take any pretty pictures or videos of the bombs in action 😦

I can instead provide the photos from the Lush website and give you my first impressions/reviews of these lovely products.

The first one I’m gonna talk about is this little cutie (and the only one I’ve used so far): The Monster’s Ball Bath Bombmonsters_balls_bathbomb

This smell is wonderful, fresh and floral, and lingers nicely on the skin without being overpowering. The bath eventually turns a lovely purpley/blue colour, but releases all kinds of pinks and blues and purples and looks beautiful fizzing around the bath.

Autumn Leaf Bath Bomb

I am weirdly obsessed with autumn leaves. The beautiful colours give me so much joy I can hardly explain. So obviously this was at the top of my list; I can’t wait to watch it when I put it in the bath.
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Lord of Misrule Bath Bomb

The description of the scent on the website didn’t inspire much in me, but I was sold by a lovely Lush employee and actually smelling it in real life. I can imagine this is going to be a really nice relaxing bath before bedtime.

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Goth Fairy Shimmer Bar

Now this is one of those products that wasn’t even on my radar, but I got in a conversation with another Lush employee and she sold it to me too well to turn it down! Firstly I adore the name, and it’s so cute, not to mention it smells delightful, if subtle. It leaves such a gorgeous shimmer on the skin I can’t wait to try it on a night out and see it sparkle (yes, like a Cullen, but less problematic).

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Luxury Lush Pud Bath Bomb

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Christmas in a bathbomb. I need say no more.

Northern Lights Bath Bomb

Looks really boring on the outside, but apparently has to be dropped in the water to release the magic.

Sugar Plum Fairy Lip Scrub

I looove the Bubblegum lipscrub, and this one tastes even more delicious and works just as well. So simple and so effective. It is especially necessary now it’s dark lipstick season, for flawless application.

Brb gonna go waste away in the bath now.

‘The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs’ – BBC Documentary Review

Ill-thought-out, dangerous and way too simplistic

I came across this programme because, as she very often does, my mother had ripped out an article from the Daily Mail for me to read that she thought I may find interesting and/or useful (they very often are neither of these things, but I gave this one a go).

Within the first couple of paragraphs I was infuriated by the fact that Dr Van Tulleken is grouping antidepressants (drugs I have been taking for three years now, give or take) with other medication that is used for an entirely different purpose:

“I’m talking about the drugs we take because the world we live in makes us unfit, unhappy and overweight – antidepressants, painkillers and drugs like statins.”

Oh so us depressed folk take antidepressants to make us feel better cause the world makes us feel sad; it just gets us down sometimes, y’know? It’s exactly the same as having high cholesterol due to a bad diet and lack of exercise.

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Dr Chris and his bowls and bowls of pills

As a doctor of medicine I would assume you know it is much more complicated than this, Dr Van Tulleken? Not everyone who has clinical depression/anxiety or any of the other numerous disorders people take these life-saving drugs for can be treated using “non-drug alternatives such as exercise”.

Also, why are we classing mentally-ill people as ‘healthy’? He didn’t make the definition of ‘an average healthy person’ clear in his experiment, where he poured lots of fake pills into bowls to demonstrate how many this ‘average person’ will take over a lifetime. Feels more like a visual aid more invested in the shock-factor than actual facts and research.

This theme of carelessness when it comes to language used when talking about these issues continued in the documentary. In the introduction a clip was shown where Chris stated he felt “intensely depressed” at the enormity of the challenge. My jaw literally hung open. I’m guilty of using phrases such as this in a light-hearted manner, even comics-shoeboxblog-depression-help-544297though I know I shouldn’t because it perpetuates misconceptions and therefore the stigma surrounding mental health, but to hear not only a doctor, but a doctor who is claiming we need to stop prescribing so many antidepressants because “their effect is feeble”compared to basically just exercising (I didn’t hear or read any other alternatives apart from swimming in some cold water)…

It just shows how naive and ignorant this man clearly is, despite his arrogance and smugness, and this disgusts me. He essentially said that one woman’s chronic pain wasn’t getting any better because she was too lazy to do her exercises. Nice, huh?

Of course I recognise the dangers in prescribing so many antibiotics because bacteria are becoming immune etc., and I definitely don’t agree with just throwing antidepressants at anyone who shows signs of depression; other options should be explored and discussed and a joint decision made with the GP/psychiatrist and the patient.

The tone and attitude of both the article and the documentary was patronising and derogatory towards a wide and diverse range of patients; from the depressed to the chronic pain sufferers to those withpmdd_2_53503329 infections.Which I would like to reiterate, shouldn’t be put into one big bundle and compared to one another.

Dr Chris Van Tulleken may have had the best intentions going in to this, but really, if you’re that clueless about the things you want to so drastically change, maybe do some research before spouting rubbish? People look to you for advice as a doctor, at least make it accurate.

At this point in my life, I need my antidepressants to keep going, get me through day to day and earn a living. Someday I really would love to come off them, but until then, I refuse to be made to feel belittled, weak and ignorant by anybody. And so should you. Whether you take antidepressants, painkillers, statins or any of the other drugs demonised by this programme.

Resources: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3785796/How-swimming-cold-water-helped-depressed-woman-pills-TV-doctor-reveals-cases-drugs-don-t-work.html 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07w532p/the-doctor-who-gave-up-drugs-episode-1#group=p02q33dg 

http://miamant.blogg.se/category/personligt.html

http://funnyjunk.com/7+comics+on+depression/funny-pictures/5794158/

The Grammar School Debate

Theresa May wants to make it possible for new grammar schools to be opened in England. And people are angry.

Most of those people didn’t go to a grammar school or live in an area where there is one.

I am in an interesting position; because I did go to a grammar school (the top state school in the country, no less) and I hated it. I came out with 9 GCSEs (4 A*s and 5 As) and 3 As at A level, getting me into my top choice uni, and I made lifelong friends there, but I can’t say I’m a big fan of the school or the way it’s run.

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Our last day of Year 13 in our old uniforms, ft. the school entrance covered in post-it notes – one of our ‘end-of-year pranks’.

However, whilst I am on the fence over the issue of whether creating new ones is the right way to go, I do not believe that grammar schools are evil; like many people who are against them seem to believe.

Firstly, the notion that only ‘privileged’ kids get to go to these schools and they’re basically just free private schools is quite frankly, complete bollocks. When did being eligible for free school meals become the only measure of ‘poor’ children? I live in an area that on the whole is relatively well-off, so it’s unsurprising that lots of people that went to my school lived in big houses and mummy and daddy bought them cars for their 17th birthday etc. Assuming that’s what we mean by ‘privileged’.

My parents don’t have that kind of money, but I consider myself privileged because I’ve always felt loved and encouraged when it comes to learning and schoolwork, without being pressured or pushed too hard.

Yes, I had a tutor to help when it came to the 11+ and the entrance exam to my grammar school. Yes, I may not have passed without him, but I think that’s a fault with the test itself, which is a totally different point.

My brother had the same tutor, for the same amount of time as me, and he passed the 11+, but didn’t get into the grammar school. And he got a first in his Chemistry undergraduate and Masters from Leeds Uni, and is currently doing a phd at Liverpool. Basically, he’s pretty clever.

He didn’t go to a grammar school but thrived in academic subjects at a really good school, which is arguably so good because it has had to keep up, like other high schools in the area, with the achievements of all of the surrounding, high-achieving grammar schools.

Is it a coincidence that Trafford, one of the top areas for good schools and excellent results across all schools – grammar schools, high schools, faith and secular, single-sex and mixed –  in the country, also has one of the highest number of grammar schools? Personally, I don’t think so.

Do your own research before spouting things about grammar schools “entrenching inequality” and dividing rich from poor. Grammar schools aren’t private schools. It’s the insistence on this belief that divides people – if you live life with a chip on your shoulder, acknowledging barriers that aren’t really there, there’s no way we’re going to break down the ones that are there.

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AGGS Year 11 yearbook 2010 – this post prompted much nostalgia

I know this is probably really controversial, and I could talk about this forever; but what do you think? Did you go to a grammar school and love/hate it? Let me know I’m honestly so intrigued.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

 

‘Canned Lion Hunting’ in South Africa

A couple of days ago, I saw this piece on BBC News about lions being bred specifically to be hunted and killed, mostly by foreigners, who pay thousands of dollars for the privilege; and of course to take home a ‘trophy’ in the form of the beautiful animal’s head.

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Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert on this subject, I’ve read a few articles and web pages such as the CACH (Campaign Against Canned Hunting) website and this article on Nature World News.

From the research I have done, I am, of course, appalled and disgusted that these majestic animals are being used in this way. It sickens me that anyone would want to pay money to shoot such a beautiful creature.

I bet you can feel the ‘but’ coming… here it is:

But, I can’t help feeling uncomfortable hearing the similarity in the language used to describe this horrible act, and that used to describe practices of breeding animals within the meat industry.

For example, “these lions are bred in captivity with the sole purpose of being taken out onto hunting lodges, and shot by hunters.”

This is obviously a sentence in the BBC News report meant to shock and disgust the viewer.

I would argue however that just by changing a few words, it would have a totally different impact. Let’s say, “these pigs are bred in captivity for the sole purpose of being taken out into slaughterhouses, and killed for their meat.” This is just what happens, right? Because it’s a pig and not a lion, we aren’t shocked or disgusted, we just accept that that is true.

Now I know many people will say it’s different because the pig meat is going to be eaten and therefore not wasted. But the lions’ fur and bones are all used and sold to make a profit for the breeders (sold in Asia to make medicine, wine and even cakes?): it’s not just the head that gets ‘used’.

So is it really any different? Is it right that outrage and disgust is directed towards one and not the other? Particularly when the one we ignore/accept is happening in our country.

Is this controversial? I don’t know, probably. I hope I’ve put my thoughts across in a way that makes sense, I wanted to keep it brief, especially as it is an opinion piece from someone that has pretty limited knowledge on the subject.

Let me know your thoughts! My next post will be less upsetting, I promise. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Diagnosis and the aftermath

Since watching Emma Blackery’s video  over a year ago, I have been convinced that this was it; this is what has been wrong with me for the past five/six years.

I won’t bore you with all the details and long list of symptoms, but trust me when I say they all add up to CFS. I have had years and years of tests and examinations that have all come back negative, meaning I’ve hit wall after wall after wall. Which, as you can imagine, is very frustrating, stressful and incredibly upsetting; the latter particularly when you’re constantly being brushed off and told by ‘professionals’ that essentially there’s nothing wrong with you.

Finally, being convinced CFS was what I had, I forced my GP to listen, and she actually agreed, and referred me to a specialist. Various cancellations (by the hospital, obviously) later I attended my appointment in July, and after some final blood tests to rule out any other possibilities, I was diagnosed, and put on the waiting list for some treatment.

But now, I’m just confused.

There’s no cure, and treatment is mostly self-management and lifestyle-based, so I feel a little lost and alone. And my anxiety is through the roof, of course.

And the physio I saw recently for Graded Exercise Therapy confirmed what I already feared… I’m already doing all that I can. I go out to work and do everything I need to do, no matter how tired I feel, so in a sense I’m already in control of it. Which just makes me feel defeated, deflated and, to be honest, pretty devastated. I feel awful pretty much 24/7 and there’s nothing I can do about it.

So now what?

Well, I guess I’ve just got to keep on keeping on; and waiting for my CBT appointment, which will hopefully be more useful than the GET.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it could be a lot, lot worse. But if nothing changes, my mental health is going to suffer, I can already feel it, and I’ve already upped my dose to the maximum with my meds!

But for now, I’m going to relax, and enjoy the end of the new Great British Bake Off.

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

 

‘Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets’ – BBC Documentary Review

I’ve been really intrigued by the ‘clean eating’ or ‘plant-based diet’ craze that’s been going around the internet for a while now; and even seriously considered giving it a go with so many bloggers and vloggers talking about all of the health benefits and how good they feel on this diet. I’m willing to try anything at this point to stop feeling so tired and awful all the time!

I’m also planning on going vegan (I’m veggie currently) in the near future, but I see a big difference between veganism and ‘plant-based’. The latter seems to be all about the health benefits, whilst the former is about animal cruelty and not wanting to contribute that.

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Now I’m not going to lie, clean eating sounds like a big commitment, and too much hard work for me to keep up with. I think in a way I’ve been looking for an excuse to not give it a go for that reason; so the title of this BBC documentary really appealed to me when I was scrolling through iplayer trying to find something to watch.

First of all, I’ve never seen any of Grace Victory’s videos, but I loved her from the opening of the programme, and I subscribed immediately. Shes’s hilarious, honest, and genuinely relatable, so she was the perfect person to host this documentary.

I think Grace clearly explained that there are many different definitions of ‘clean eating’, and it isn’t the same for everyone. This is worrying considering there’s so many people spreading possibly conflicting messages about what we should and shouldn’t be eating.

What works for one person might not work the same for another, so preaching a one-size-fits-all message is, frankly, dangerous. Having been one of those people obsessed with food, calories and exercise (looking back I probably had orthorexia) I know how easy it is to get caught up in the spiral, and how long it takes to basically rewire your brain into thinking about food and eating in a healthier way. Of course thinking about what you’re eating is important, but obsessing over reading ingredient lists on every packet of food you think about eating isn’t something I would recommend to anyone.

What really struck me wasn’t the nutritionists and dietitians saying how what the likes of Freelee are preaching is a load of rubbish, because I expected that. It was the interview Grace did with the ‘wellness blogger’ Natasha Corrett who has brought out a series of cook books promoting the ‘alkaline diet’ under the company name ‘Honestly Healthy’. She was asked a simple enough question, or rather a statement about a doctor’s view on pH balance in the body, and immediately said she wasn’t going to answer it.

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If that doesn’t ring enough alarm bells, then certainly the fact that Natasha’s co-author and ‘nutritionist’ adviser Vicky Egerton was inspired by Robert Young; a man who Natasha herself says she won’t answer any questions on because he’s just been arrested… for practicing medicine without a license. And he’s the father of the diet that Natasha is promoting!? How can we really trust anything that these essentially unqualified people are telling us?

We can’t.

So no ‘clean eating’ for me. Just more fruits and veggies and less veg lasagne ready meals. Do your own research, don’t follow the advice of just one or two people on the internet because they look amazing and their lives seem perfect.

I highly recommend watching the documentary; it really is food for thought! 😉

 

Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf

I have been keeping up with the reading for Banging Book Club (honest!), just not the blog posts. But I have so many feelings about this one, I really had no choice but to make time.

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Firstly, I believe this book, compared with March’s read Bonk by Mary Roach, was much easier to read for someone like me who struggles with the sciencey mumbo-jumbo. I much preferred Wolf’s writing style, which I knew before I began reading, but unfortunately this may also be the book’s biggest downfall. In making the narrative and the language more poetic than the likes of Roach’s, Wolf risks skewing the actual scientific facts in a way that sensationalises them and leads to sweeping conclusions that may not be entirely accurate.

Having said this, so many things in  Vagina rang true and seemed to join up some of the dots for me, that I can’t believe these things aren’t common knowledge or discussed by all members of society, in public and private and everywhere in between.

Within the first ten pages or so my jaw was practically on the floor. I had no idea, like most people, I can only assume, how closely the vulva/vagina was connected neurologically to the brain? Please excuse my lack of technical knowledge, you should read it yourself for what I actually mean, but my brain was just in a constant state of ?!?! for weeks afterwards.

The chapter on ‘The Traumatized Vagina’ was equally horrific and fascinating. Of course the main subject of this chapter was women who have suffered sexual abuse, and the link between the physical trauma, their mental well-being, and their general change in personality as a result of the violation.

On a personal level, it was the second section of this chapter ‘Vulvodynia and Existential Despair’, that gave me a lot of food for thought. I never suffered from vulvodynia, the condition that is primarily discussed in this section, but I have experienced pretty awful pain in that region on a fairly regular basis between the ages of 13 and 16. I would also pinpoint the start of my mental health problems being around the age of 15/16, so the following passage by Nancy Fish, ‘a patient and counselor to sufferers of vulvodynia’, struck a particularly powerful chord with me:

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This whole section of the book simultaneously blew my mind and made me nod so furiously my head nearly fell off my shoulders. I’ve never read anything like this before, and to think that I’m not the only one who’s ever felt this way was another ?!?! moment; whilst also feeling as if a weight has been lifted off my chest, and I can breathe a little easier.

I could go on and on about what I loved about this book (being a history nerd I thoroughly enjoyed the vagina through the ages section, for example), but all I really want to leave you with is a plea for you to read this book. If you have a vagina, or if you ever want to be close to a vagina, this should be compulsory reading. It should be on the national curriculum.

People will argue that because the science isn’t exactly spot on then we shouldn’t be promoting it this way, but it’s books like this that open up this kind of discussion. I, someone who is a participator in the Banging Book Club so clearly has an interest in this stuff, would have had no introduction to these topics had it not been for Vagina.

So, in a concluding nut shell… PLEASE READ VAGINA!

 

Review – Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara

In short – I love it. Looove it. Amazing.

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I was so excited to make this purchase. I’ve been wanting it for so long and it finely felt like the right time to treat myself to it.

The packaging is gorgeous; of course, it’s a Too Faced product, so it has gone on my shelf, in the section I like to call ‘make up packaging that was too pretty, and I spent too much money on, to bin’.

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Look how pretty! Anyway, on to the actual product.

It goes on really easily, very few clumps, provides loads of length and loads of volume. I love the shape of the brush, the hourglass, it really does make it easy to coat all of the lashes and provide all of that volume.

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If you don’t have £19 to spare to spend on a mascara though, I don’t think it’s quite beaten the Soap and Glory Thick and Fast mascara, I think it’s on par. The latter is £10.50, so it’s not exactly cheap, but in my opinion it’s whether you think the beautiful packaging is worth the extra £8.50, in the end.

9.5/10, so, Too Faced…

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…yes it was, thank you 😉