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Leopard print has been a popular fashion choice for years but this summer, animal prints seem to have made their great comeback and stolen the spotlight (and our hearts) once again. From Victoria Beckham to Claire Waight-Keller, a multitude of designers have hopped back on the animal print bandwagon and given it a 2018 refresh - much to my bank balance's dismay. Everywhere you look, store shelves are lined with leopard print, snake print, zebra print - I've even spotted cow print on the horizon. For me, no high street store does bold animal prints quite like Topshop and so while browsing their newest animal themed picks, I decided to compile some of my favourites into a post. Personally, I love reading these because it saves me raking through tonnes upon tonnes of clothes online, so I hope you find this helpful too. Bring on the prints.










*images from topshop.com

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The kitchen is the heart of the home, a place to entertain guests or a place to refuel after a long day yet despite this, it remains one of the most under-loved rooms in our homes. It's often assumed that re-vamping a kitchen is costly and time consuming but there are a number of simple ways to give it a quick refresh. Here are some of the things that you can do in your kitchen this summer to bring it to life.

1) Get cleaning!

Going about day to day life it's easy to end up with a splash of oil or crumbs here and there and normal to forget small bits of mess/let recycling build up. Bleaching countertops, vacuuming the floor and moving things around to declutter, will make it look larger and often, brand new. This goes for any room and is fairly self-explanatory but you would be surprised as to how overlooked this is as a step.

2) Shine bright

A lot of the time the reason for being bored of a kitchen can be down to worktops. If you're bored of your worktops, maybe think about upgrading your worktop and changing to a modern shiny marble or other stone design. Alternatively, vinyl can be used to re-vamp a surface on a budget for example, marble effect adhesive film from B&Q. This can be applied to furniture in all parts of the home.

3) Fresh colours

Sometimes the best possible thing you can do in a kitchen is simply change the colours of the walls. Your walls can make a huge impact on the overall look and feel of a room, and if you want the space to feel new and full of life, you could go for a radically different colour to the one you already had there (providing it still matches the furniture). The beauty of this upgrade is that it will only take a day or two and could leave your kitchen feeling brand new. Often plain, light colours will leave a room feeling new, light and airy.

4) Declutter

One of the things we are all guilty of in most rooms, is displaying too many things on flat surfaces like worktops or desks. In the kitchen, if you have your kettle, toaster, microwave, coffee maker and so on covering the surfaces, you really aren't left with much space to do anything. Putting away and concealing anything you don't frequently need in cupboards will make a huge difference in your overall space. Clearing items off windowsills will also add space to the room. If you have a larger budget, you could even install larger residence 9 windows in the kitchen to really open up the space, letting more light in.

5) Fresh flowers

There is nothing that can make a room feel more cosy and welcoming than a vase of fresh flowers. Fresh flowers can be a lovely addition to a kitchen - you could even pick flowers from your garden and put them in a jar for a budget friendly addition to the home. I know I love picking flowers and creating my own bouquets, there's something a lot more satisfying and enjoyable about doing this as well as the fact you can tailor them specifically to your decor.

Personally, I love finding simple, inexpensive ways to add life to a room and interiors is something I've found myself increasingly interested in over the years. One of the things I love to do for inspiration is make boards on Pinterest - this can be a great source of inspiration for anyone. Alternatively, blogs by home-ware sites such as Anthropologie are great too.

Elle



*This is a collaborative post





The sun is shining, its 30 degrees in Hertfordshire, and here I present to you *drumroll please*, some denim jeans. Classic Elle. It goes without saying that I struggle fashion-wise in any weather that isn't trouser friendly - skirts and shorts just aren't really my thing although, this heatwave has made me start to embrace them. While the common thing is to wear bright colours in summer, it doesn't hurt to tone it down now and then (even if you do give yourself minor heat stroke), and so the other day I shoved on a load of basics and called it a day. This was the result.

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In attempt to make my blog more fashion based (fashion is what I enjoy creating posts about the most) I thought I'd start including more OOTD (outfit of the day) posts on here. One week today marks 1 whole year since I visited New York city, the place of my dreams. It was here I visited a flea market in Dumbo, Brooklyn and this morning I was left reminiscing of the rails of beautiful vintage clothes. While there, I purchased this striped blouse and so, to fill my heart with New York dreams once again, I decided to build an outfit around it. Sadly, I'm not the most photogenic of people when other people try and snap shots of me so after many attempts, I'm being a bad blogger and posting a mirror selfie (gotta keep it real round here).

What I like about this top is the 60s feel it has with the super high neckline, it's something I feel is timeless and can't see myself ever selling/getting rid of. After all, this shirt carries so many memories from my trip it really does feel like more than just a piece of clothing to me.

I decided to add some colour to what was a somewhat monochrome look but still keep it muted, if you know me you'll know it's rare I wear bright colours - I don't know what it is but I just really love neutral looks. These trousers are from Zara and no longer in stock but almost identical ones can be found here.

In terms of shoes, I always seem to be chucking on these wedge sliders from New Look,  they're plain and simple but just so comfy and they seem to go with so many of my outfits. They really are just an
easy choice in this hot weather. These can be found on my 21 buttons page.

Elle

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Ever since last Christmas, I've had an ever-growing love for NUXE as a brand. After receiving a cracker with a selection of their mini's as well as a few bits in my advent calendar, it didn't take me very long to realise how good their products were making my skin look and feel. On a recent trip to Cannes I decided to take the plunge and purchase some of their full size products (that I hadn't previously tried) and see if I got on with those too.

It's worth me mentioning I have a pretty normal skin type, my skin doesn't tend to get oily and it only really gets slightly dry in winter so while these may work for me, they may or may not be for everyone. In terms of my skin, I get the odd spot here and there but other than that it's pretty clear (I have plenty of other shitty genes that make up for it) - my main problem is slight blemishes around my jaw/cheek area.

The first product I chose was the Micellar cleansing oil with rose petals as I'd recently run out of my Clarins Instant eye makeup remover.  It must be said, the Clarins remover is my all time favourite, it's oil based so melts makeup off your face and it's something I've re-purchased time and time again. That being said, I noticed this NUXE cleanser was cheaper, appeared to do the same thing and was also oil based. I can say, despite being oil based cleansers, they do different things and I love them equally but prefer them for different areas of my face.

The NUXE oil suggests rubbing the oil over your face using your fingers (not a cotton pad) which I must admit, is a bit of an alien experience and feels slightly wrong at first. That being said, it literally removes skin makeup completely in one wash and leaves the skin feeling softer than I can even describe. Sometimes I find scrubbing your makeup off with cleansers to be quite tough on the skin but this whole process feels really delicate and good for the skin. This product claims to work on the entire face (eyes included) but if I'm completely honest, while it works brilliantly on the face, I don't find it to work particularly well on eyes. It does remove the makeup but it leaves the eyes blurry and watery which, as you can imagine, isn't the most pleasant experience. As well as this, despite the product suggesting not to, using a cotton pad definitely works better on the eyes - removing mascara with your bare fingers is a really odd experience.

This cleansing oil has really helped to clear my skin and remove blemishes to the point where I don't even feel the need to wear foundation anymore - something which is so nice in summer because there's nothing more unpleasant than slapping a full face on in this heat.

The second product I decided to try from the range was the Gentle Toning Lotion. Toning is something I've never really been bothered with until very recently and now I have a bit of an obsession. You'd think someone who's main skincare issue is their skin tone would immediately think to use toner but no, not Elle. Toning was something I only did when I was doing a full on PAMPER (you know those days) but since using this, I've been doing it literally every day. Not only does this remove any extra makeup residue that the cleanser missed, it also works brilliantly with the NUXE oil cleanser since it also removes the oil residue - being left looking sweaty and oily ain't the one! This lotion is so soft and I genuinely believe it's the reason my skin has become so clear recently, I've found it's not even a short term after-use effect too, it's really helped my skin long term.

In conclusion, not only do I love both of these products individually, I feel they work particularly well as a duo. I'd be interested to see how they work with other products but for now, I'm really loving them together.

Elle

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(me - trying to demonstrate I don't hide who I am anymore lol)

If you're a blogger I suspect (like me) you've had moments of wanting to hide your blog be that from family, friends, peers or work colleagues. I've had my blog for 5 years now and it's something I've kept very on the down-low up until extremely recently - I've always reffered to this as blogging fear or blogging embarrassment. Don't get me wrong, I've always loved blogging and been proud of this outlet I've created but naturally, it's not something everybody understands. For some reason, there's something ~awkward~ about putting yourself out there on the internet in ways that are less common and conventional than the regular social media outlets (I know some YouTubers express this too, especially in scenarios like vlogging in public).

Back when I was in lower school (I was more open about it in sixth form) I'm sure there were people that knew about my blog - after all, it's pretty hard to hide something completely but still, barely anybody knew the URL. Not only this, before my blog became 'ELLE MARY JANE' it came under two different titles which didn't have my name in - this obviously made it more anonymous and easier to hide. As I got more and more into blogging I wanted this space to be somewhere where I didn't have to remain anonymous - there's nothing wrong with this but there's something more trusting about reading opinions/reviews when you can match them to a name and face and I kind of wanted to develop my blog into an extension of my own personality.

Blogging 'embarrassment' was something I had to get over and here's how I did it:

1) Be 100% Yourself. When I decided to make my blog more public, one of the things I had to do was try and eradicate all the cringe. Some of my posts I read and thought, yeah that's alright I wouldn't be embarrassed if someone read that, and others, well, consider them deleted. Way back in 2013 when I started blogging, I feel as though I hadn't really found my blogging style and my online identity and this was really reflected in my blog posts - really cringe, really 'wannnabe' blogger, really un-engaging. If I'm totally honest, I only found my feet in creating the content that I want to around last year, but doing this has made me proud of what I create and want to share it instead of hiding it.

2) Create content that you LIKE. The bottom line here is that if YOU don't like your content, you won't have confidence that anybody else will - thus leading to embarrassment. Don't put your work down - if somebody compliments a post or your blog in general don't be like 'oh thank you but its awful' - this used to be me. If you really and genuinely like your own content, there will for sure be somebody else who does.

3) Invest in your blog. People see invest and instantly think money, but this doesn't have to be the case. Personally, I've invested a lot more time into my blog than money - money does help in terms of buying domain names, templates, hosting and what not but those things aren't necessities to begin with. If you're just starting out or you're unhappy with your blog, invest some time into it. Spend time making it look how you would love it to look (this doesn't have to cost money), spend time creating content you love (cheeky plug for point 2) and hopefully these investments will bring you to a point where you are proud to show off your blog. You can't expect to create a blog in a day and be completely happy with it - blogging is a constant learning curve and you'll chop and change bits as you go!

4) Stop caring what other people think. I know this is significantly easier said than done but changing your outlook on how other people see you can bring you more confidence without even taking into account the points above. If someone wants to worry about and judge what you're doing, they're clearly too bored or unsatisfied in their own life. Don't like it? Don't read it. If you can maintain this attitude and just keep doing what you want, it makes things a whole lot easier. This attitude might come straight away for some people, but if it doesn't, just keep going for it.

5) Enjoy what you're doing For smaller bloggers (like me) it's not uncommon to get snide remarks or looked down on because you don't have 30k Instagram followers or your own Boohoo collection. Don't let this scare you away from celebrating and sharing your blog content - nobody should be embarrassed about their blog. The amount of traffic you drive and the amount of #spons you have (or haven't) done is no indication of the quality of your content, your blog as a whole or you as a person. Don't let that embarrass you, keep doing what you love and things like traffic will increase naturally.

I hope some of these tips help - I know these are things I've come to realise over the last couple of years. Keep creating, keep sharing!

Elle

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Image source: https://www.fifa.com/worldcup/history/fifa-world-cup-trophy.html

If you're a fellow Englander you'll likely know the heatwave we've been experiencing the last few weeks but as beautiful as it is, it did cause me to have a sleepless night last night. At approximately 2:30am I was scrolling through Twitter when a particular tweet, from ex Love Island star Amber Davies, caught my attention. 'The offside rule for girls'.




Okay cool, I thought. Amber Davies now understands the offside rule but, in my opinion, there's more to that within this tweet. First of all, this explanation is aimed directly at women, as if its all women who don't understand the offside rule - I can only imagine how much it must piss off a female footballer to read this. Equally, by targeting women it ignores the fact that not every man on this planet likes football OR knows the offside rule - knowing a rule within a sport has nothing to do with gender.

You only have to read what's in the pink box to appreciate just how patronising this explanation is - of course shopping is used as an example because what are women even good for other than shopping? How could we possibly understand something more complex than buying shoes? I get this might be a light hearted attempt at explaining the rule for people that don't  understand and it could have been completely innocent, but that doesn't hide the fact there are clear problems with it. Sexist might be a strong word to use but its a pretty degrading way of explaining something. Naturally, it doesn't help when (influential) women play up to it because it just further enforces the idea that certain things have to be 'dumbed down' for females to understand.

What this isn't, is an attack on Amber Davies. If this helped her to understand the offside rule, that's completely fine. Good on you girl. The problem lies where this is generalised to all women. And yes, this alone isn't necessarily groundbreaking in terms of damaging women's reputation in sport but when piled on top of all the other small digs there are, a cumulative effect occurs.

One google search of 'women and the offside rule' shows this isn't a one-off





I guess my point is yes, there probably are significantly less females that understand the offside rule than men - I'm not going to deny facts but this is likely due to less female involvement in football and the fact that we're just 'expected' to not understand it. This however, doesn't mean women require things to be dumbed down and doesn't mean they don't understand anything unless it's in the context of shopping. The World Cup is something to be enjoyed by all, and if that means enjoying it without knowing the complete ins and outs of it - that's FINE! Too many times you see women expressing an interest in football and Twitter trolls responding with something ridiculous like 'Oh you like football? Ok so name Newcastle's 2017/18 squad in alphabetical order while hanging upside down from a tree' - the same trolls who moan their girlfriend won't watch the footie with them (I wonder why).



We've all seen it, we've all heard it - apps like Instagram often only show the best snippets of people's lives (unless you have a 'Finsta', of course),  though this has been widely accepted by the majority of people, at what point does this become fake? Is it fake at all?

For some reason, I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I go through phases of frequent posting on social media, as well as times where I delete my social apps altogether in attempt to clear my mind and focus on more important things. More often than not, this is when I'm going through a more down or difficult time and want to focus on whats going on in my own life rather than other people's. Despite this, obviously there are periods where we aren't going through the best of times and frequently turn to social media for distraction, entertainment, or an outlet share our thoughts and feelings. Personally, I try (where possible) to minimize sharing negative things but for me, and many others, this varies between apps - it's rare to see someone share something negative about their life on Instagram but more common on Twitter.

There's been times I've been to beautiful places or taken photos that I instantly want to share however, in the midst of these things, still suffered with personal problems such as anxiety. Yes, I did do what I'm posting and yes I did enjoy it - to some extent - but what a photo doesn't capture is the true extent of somebody's life. You can see a pretty sunset, you can see smiling people but you have no idea what they were feeling at that particular moment - part of the reason it is so important to not take everything on the internet literally. I'm not sure my point makes complete sense, but have you ever not wanted to post a photo because you don't want people to think you're having a brilliant time when you're not? I don't want people to think 'wow her life looks good' when that's not how I feel! Obviously it doesn't have to be something as extreme as anxiety, you could've been having a bad week and posted a photo of brunch that captured one good hour of it. But to me, sometimes it feels wrong to paint a positive picture online when it doesn't reflect real life.

Though this is the case for me, this may not have crossed some people's minds. It's just left me wondering, at what point does posting on social media become fake? Should we be brutally honest about our lives or is that TMI? Is it okay that people see ourselves differently to how we actually are because of the ideal version of us we show online? I know that for some people, having people view their ideal self might make life easier and increase their confidence but naturally, that isn't the case for everyone and especially not me!

All this being said, there really is a line when it comes to social media, not only do you not want to portray a life that you don't have but you also don't want to be a negative nelly all the time, after all, what you post can affect other people as well as yourself and moping around on Twitter will hardly make you feel any better! It seems there somehow needs to be middle ground that encompasses the perfection of social media lives and the imperfections of real life. I'd be interested to know if anybody else feels this sometimes, that your social media accounts don't necessarily reflect you?

Elle



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There's nothing I love more than trying out products from smaller businesses - after all, why should huge brands get all the spotlight? When the opportunity came to give A Pony Called Steve's products a try, me being me, I absolutely could not miss it. One peek at their website and I was swept into a nostalgic wave of pear drops and green opal fruits that came in various forms from candles, to body lotions, to soap and even perfume. 

APCS started their brand almost 5 years ago and it has since flourished into a gorgeous indie retailer. They use 98% natural ingredients, almost all of their products are vegan friendly, they never test on animals and all their products are handmade. Personally, this is one of the things I particularly admire about the brand, it's always nice to know you're buying products made with love and that weren't formed as the result of harming animals. Not only this, with the use of so many natural ingredients, it's hardly surprising they all feel so lovely on the skin.

The two products I've been trying out are the Pink Lemonade hand wash and the Pear Drops body lotion, I must admit I was especially excited when I saw something pear drop scented as these were my absolute favourite sweet when I was younger! Starting with the handwash, if I'm completely honest there is nothing about this I don't like. Often I find hand washes can make your hands very dry, especially in summer and this is something I am particularly prone to. However, after two weeks of use, this hasn't happened at all and I've been left with nothing but clean hands and a beautiful sweet lemonade scent. That's another thing about this hand wash, it is so beautifully scented that you can smell it after usage but not so much that its overwhelming or too strong - some how, these guys have got the scent absolutely perfect. I'm sure most people aren't as fussy with hand wash as I am, and if you're not, all I have to say is that this does the job!

The Pear Drop body lotion has the ability to whisk me right back to when I was about 6 and tried a pear drop for the first time. Like the hand wash, this body lotion is beautifully scented however, not too much. I'm sure you all know that horrible sting you can get from using scented body lotion after shaving - well, this doesn't do that! I'm definitely one of those lazy people when it comes to applying body lotion, I hate doing it, I hate waiting for it to soak in and I hate sticking to all my clothes. It's quite rare to find a body lotion that doesn't do all of those things but I'm pleased to say this one soaks in right away and doesn't leave you feeling oily. In a way, I look forward to using this after showering and knowing my skin will feel smooth I'll be smelling like sweets all day long!

Not only are A Pony Called Steve's products perfect for your daily summer wind-down, they also make great gifts. It goes without saying that the packaging for all of these products is super cute and they would look incredible on their own or even part of a hamper - chuck some pear drops in there for good measures! 

If you would like to check A Pony Called Steve out, their links will be below, they have also kindly given me a 10% discount code for you to use which is ELLE10 - enjoy!

WEBSITE: https://www.aponycalledsteve.co.uk/

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/aponycalledsteve/

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/PonyCalledSteve

If it hasn't become obvious by now, mental health awareness is something I am infinitely passionate about. Admittedly, what started out as a fashion and beauty blog has become somewhat centred around health and lifestyle and while I try to keep my post themes under a specific umbrella, I've been aching to branch out for a while. There's so much I have to say regarding mental health (anxiety in particular) that I've just never really got round to expressing. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've had experience with anxiety that predominantly started around 2016. Back then I found it hard to connect with the thousands of threads found online, most were from adults who's experiences and coping mechanisms were naturally, different from that of female teen. For that reason, I wanted to compile a post full of different resources and methods which I have either tried or found helpful in the hope it helps somebody else, stuck in the midst of online threads.

Before I continue it is worth mentioning that I am no professional and these resources are only being reccomended from my own personal experience and therefore should not be taken as medical advice!

1) "AT LAST A LIFE - Anxiety And Panic Free" By Paul David

This book, written by Paul David outlines Paul's own personal experiences of anxiety and the key to him overcoming it completely. The book informs the reader of all the ins and outs of anxiety, allowing them to gain a complete understanding of what they are experiencing - which itself helps as not understanding what is happening to you or why makes it difficult to deal with. Paul's book carries a strong message that anxiety is not something you should try to 'solve' or 'get rid of' since it is this which reinforces it, and this book outlines excellent ways in which you can continue with life even when anxiousness is present.

https://anxietynomore.co.uk/the_book/


2)  Dr Purves - Youtube and Website

While Dr Purves offers courses that you have to pay for (I haven't tried any of these), his site offer an email subscription service where tips, advice and blog posts get sent directly to your inbox. I found this particularly useful reading as they didn't get sent too frequently and often were just a light and motivating read. As well as this, there are youtube videos which are helpful to watch, most of which just offer advice and techniques for managing anxiety. These may work for you or they may not but it can be helpful to try new methods.

http://drpurves.com/category/anxiety/

https://www.youtube.com/user/TheMoodControl

3) Apps

There are countless apps available for smartphones for various different things: helpful quotes, guided meditation, relaxing background noise, you name it and they've got it. Some of these are admittedly quite naff but having (probably) used almost every single one, there are 2 that I thoroughly reccomend:





4) A Tip!

Something I myself (and many others) use to cope with pretty much anything is music. Music is so wonderful and so powerful and one thing I have found that really helps is the radio. Sometimes when you're anxious or have low mood it can feel quite surreal and lonely - like you're kind of in your mind alone. For me, sometimes listening to my own music on Spotify increased this and listening to the radio brought me back into reality, knowing there were thousands of other people zoning into the same thing as me and hearing the news or an entertaining voice just really helps! Its simple things like this that can make a difference.

5) Another Tip TBH

Though this may not be a realistic approach for everyone, for me this made a HUGE difference in my life and that is cutting out caffeine. At this point coffee lovers everywhere are hating me I'm sure but as a coffee-lover myself I can confirm that decaf coffee isn't THAT bad! Caffeine is notorious for inducing axniety-like symptoms and while some people can drink cups and cups and not be affected, for me even one caused havoc so I cut it out completely. You may drink coffee or caffeinated drinks and have never noticed this before so watch out next time you do and see if you notice anything, if so, reducing caffeine intake may help.

6) Pukka Herbs - Wholistic Ashwagandha



It was only recently I discovered Ashwaganda - a natural herb that promotes good cognitive function. I was put off by how pricey it was but after reading not a single negative review I brought it as a one-off, I have since repurchased it as it made such a difference for me. I found while taking this supplement that my thoughts were a lot less clogged, my outlook was more positive and my nervous system was all round more relaxed. I have always personally been against using medication to treat my anxiety (just a personal choice) and so herbal supplements seemed like a good alternative. One positive of herbal remedy's is that generally there aren't side effects due to them being natural. Ashwagandha isn't something that ever came up throughout 2 entire years of trying to research anxiety so I'm sure many people aren't aware of its benefits - I wish I had discovered it sooner!

While this isn't everything I was going to post, I don't want to bombard anyone with too much choice so I'll likely do a sequel to this post in the near future. I hope for now that these are useful to even at least one person :) Do let me know in the comments or on twitter (@ellemaryjane) if there is anything you find useful too!

Elle