June Favourites 2018

How is it July already? It seems like fifteen minutes ago we were wading through snow during the Beast From The East, now I’m somehow managing to get a tan. In the North East. Miracle of biblical proportions, truly.

Apologies for the late arrival of my favourites post. As I said in my last one, it seems like any blogger worth the keyboard they type on is doing favourites posts at the moment, and I feel like it would be fun to join in. It would, however, be a bit better if I could get them done on time…

I’ve not been blogging much over the last month, or even doing my customary over-sharing on Instagram – I’ve been a bit busy, and, um, getting far too into PC gaming again. Blogging has definitely taken a back seat… I’ll explain in a bit.

Anyway here are some of my favourite things from last month!

Beauty

We can all blame Superdrug for my obsession this month. Well, I say blame, ‘thank’ is more appropriate because they’ve certainly done nothing wrong. I’ve always been a fan of Maybelline make-up: ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been loyal to their foundation, and their Master Ink liquid eyeliner is the best I’ve ever used (and I’ve tried a lot of eyeliners, from budget to high-end). Lately, though, I’ve been exploring cheaper options; so it was fabulous to hear that Superdrug had a ‘two for £12’ deal across all Maybelline in store a couple of weeks ago.

I took great advantage of it, and got myself some real bargains. I’ve just picked my two favourites but, suffice to say, more than two items may have made it into my basket…

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First up, the Tattoo Brow eyebrow tint gel. Since taking my eyebrow piercing out a few years back, I’ve had one somewhat patchy brow, and I tend to fill them both in every day. With the Maybelline Tattoo Brow, you just paint it on your brows, leave it for a couple of hours, peel it off in satisfying clumps and voila – perfectly filled-in eyebrows for three days! That alone costs £12.99, so on the Superdrug deal, I was already on a winner.

I paired it with the Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner. As I said, I’ve used their Master Ink liquid eyeliner for years and it’s incredible, it doesn’t budge at all (as a fine example of both the eyeliner and my character, it was what I wore on my hen night in Hamburg – I put it on in the morning, partied most of the day and night, fell into bed and passed out utterly trollied at about 3am, then woke up in the morning and my eyeliner was still absolutely on point).

However, I find liquid eyeliner a bit of a faff to put on at speed, which is my typical state of being at the moment with a whirlwind toddler clamouring for attention. So I thought I’d give gel a try. It comes in a satisfyingly heavy little glass pot, with a precision brush and a blending brush, so you can make detailed flicks or go for a smudgy kohl effect. It glides on so well, and I find I can control it a lot better than a liquid. And if I do mess it up a bit, I can blend it out a bit and pretend it was the look I was going for!

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Yes, this is a totally poser-esque selfie wearing most of the make-up pictured above

Maybelline Tattoo Brow – £12.99

Maybelline Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner – £8.99

I got these on a Superdrug ‘Two for £12’ deal which has now ended, but I’ve included the Superdrug links as all Maybelline products are currently on their website as a three-for-two deal!

Books

My Goodreads Challenge has taken a bit of a hit again this month – mostly because of the whole gaming thing (I’ll get to it soon…). Instead of battling through new books, I’ve wanted to retreat firmly into some old favourites, especially in this heat – my brain just isn’t working well enough to absorb anything new.

I think I’ve recommended these before, but I’ve just finished a full series reread so I’m going to recommend them again: the Earth Girl books by Janet Edwards.

Earth Girl‘ and its two sequels ‘Earth Star‘ and ‘Earth Flight‘ are young adult novels set in a pleasantly sci-fi future of our own universe, where, hundreds of years before the story begins, humans invented portal technology to travel around Earth. They then developed the technology to aid in space exploration and, eventually, colonisation of new planets, spreading humanity across the universe. Of course, most of humanity wanted to travel to the stars and make new lives on these fabulous new worlds, setting up new societies divided into mostly peaceful sectors. However, one in one thousand babies are born incompatible with life away from Earth, and need to be portalled back to the homeworld immediately or they will die. These ‘Handicapped’ babies are mostly abandoned at birth to be raised by Hospital Earth, essentially a benevolent dictatorship that runs the planet. The Handicapped are a shameful joke for all of humanity, and are usually referred to as ‘apes’ by anyone with the good fortune not to be born one.

The ‘Earth Girl’ stories follow a history student called Jarra, a typical Handicapped teenager brought up in a communal residence on Earth, making her own family from other children. She’s stubborn and bitter, and wants to cause a bit of a ruckus… so when she hits eighteen, she joins an off-world university pre-history course, excavating ruined cities on Earth.

I’ve loved these books since I first read them, a couple of years ago. I’m not going to say they’re literary masterpieces, because they’re not – there’s a slight tendency towards over-exposition, a lot of characters explaining things to one another that they would most definitely already know. But the characters are (pardon the pun) stellar, and the universe Janet Edwards has created is absolutely fascinating. My absolute favourite scenes are where the pre-history archaeologists are excavating ruined cities, cities that we would be very familiar with in this day and age, and absolutely marvelling at what they find. Some of the characters can get a bit irritating, there’s the occasional element of Mary-Sueism that makes me tut a little bit, but the well-developed background characters absolutely shine. I want to know more about Playdon! And Rono and the Replays!

Janet Edwards has written a whole host of supporting material for the Earth Girl series, in the form of several novellas and short stories… but I would like another full sequel, please and thank you.

Side note: I have extra respect for Janet Edwards because of this article. I was also forced to study That Book at school, and I personally can’t even get through the opening titles of the TV series without shuddering.

Earth Girl – currently £3.99 on Kindle, £8.46 in paperback

Earth Star – currently £1.49 on Kindle, £9.99 in paperback

Earth Flight – currently £3.49 on Kindle, £9.99 in paperback

Motherhood

Once again, my favourite motherhood-related thing this month is… another sling library. Of course it is; I’m such a babywearing-enthusiast at the moment, I’m using every means possible to get my hands on as many slings as I can.

This month, I used It’s A Sling Thing. I discovered this online sling library right at the start of my babywearing journey, when I had spotted a Harry Potter-themed Connecta online but couldn’t find one to buy anywhere. In the end, I tracked one down to the It’s A Sling Thing library, and I wheedled my way into buying it from them.

They’re a truly lovely bunch of babywearing experts, with an extensive collection of slings and carriers. They don’t only hire out their slings, they sell them too, as well as doing Skype consultations. Getting my membership sorted caused a few technological blips (not to mention the computer system eating my address and sending my order out to a random house at the other end of my estate) but the customer service was brilliant, the women running the business are lovely and friendly, very keen to make sure every experience is perfect.

When it came to actually hiring a sling… I knew I had a couple of big days out planned in June with Ted where a comfy sling would be a necessity. Much as I love my beloved Connecta, for really long stretches of carrying Ted, nowadays I need a more padded waistband to spread his weight over my hips a bit better. I’ve had lots of success with a Lenny Lamb buckle carrier, but wanted to try something different – so I used It’s A Sling Thing to hire a Caboo DX Go. I greatly loved my Close Caboo Lite when Ted was tiny, and I was interested to try their hybrid carrier: a wide, buckled waistband, with comfy, stretchy ring straps.

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It was beautifully comfortable, exactly what I wanted. I could wear it and happily walk around for ages with Ted on my back without anything starting to ache. The only problem I had was for front carrying: it’s got rucksack-style straps, whereas I’m used to straps that cross at the back. Try as I might, I’m just too stuck in my ways when it comes to front carrying, and I just couldn’t get the hang of the rucksack straps – they seemed to constantly be sliding off my shoulders.

Other than that, though, it was a lovely sling, and it even got my husband back-carrying with confidence!

 

It’s A Sling Thing – affiliate link

Caboo DX Go – £65.99 to buy, or hire from £10

Gaming

Oh yes, the gaming. So… this is why I’ve been somewhat less than productive over the last month.

It all started with a chair.

Since we moved into this house, we’ve been using an uncomfortable, backless stool as a computer chair. Buying a comfortable desk chair was really not a priority when we were digging into old handbags looking for change just to buy bread, so we sucked it up and considered ourselves lucky that we even had a computer.

That didn’t make it any more comfortable to play on, of course. I practically ignored the spare room as a whole – even having fixed my post-partum back issues, I still felt the occasional twinge if I sat on that damn stool for any length of time, and I wasn’t going to risk getting into a proper state of pain again.

Then Kev happened upon a charity shop… and found an enormous, padded leather desk chair for a fraction of the price it would have been new.

He must have looked an interesting sight wheeling it up the hill to bring it home, but we didn’t care. We could play in comfort again!

So I’ve been spending a lot of time in that chair, reconnecting with my favourite games. I’ve never been a big ‘gamer’ as such – with traditionally linear games, I get bored, and peril tenses me up so I don’t really enjoy myself. I’m an author through and through, and I just love playing God. City builders, management simulations, and of course, The Sims. Those are my bread and butter.

In the last month, I’ve been getting back into Cities: Skylines in a big way. I’ve played this game since it was released back in 2015, even though I was operating it from a very old laptop that could only cope if it was propped up on books in front of a cold fan. It’s both beautiful and addictive: the true spiritual successor to the old SimCity games, which took up a big portion of my teenage years. It is of course a city builder, and the best one I’ve ever played. Every control you can think of, from zoning, to budgeting, right down to naming each individual civilian walking down the street – and their dog, if you so desire. It’s had plenty of expansions over the past couple of years, some of which I own and love – I can definitely recommend the Mass Transit expansion for anyone as anal as me about transport. I do love a good railway, after all.

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Sneaky little view of my biggest city’s train terminus

 

It’s a beautifully done game, with the most detailed graphics of any city builder I’ve seen – and the most gorgeous sweeping soundtrack, too (multiple sweeping soundtracks, actually, with many gloriously weird radio stations to choose from). I thoroughly recommend it if you have some time to spare, and don’t mind it being totally eaten by this game. I don’t pretend to be anything but a complete amateur at this game – some of the YouTubers I watch have created Metropolises that I could never, ever emulate – but it’s still fabulous fun nonetheless.

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The beginnings of an epic railway network, I can assure you.

The other game that’s taken my attention is of course, my old favourite, The Sims. Even though I eagerly bought The Sims 4 on its release day (at midnight, no less) and tried very hard to get into it, I was always a die-hard Sims 3 girl, letting it swallow me up for hours on end.

Since having a baby, real life has taken up far more of my time than it used to – I can hardly vanish off to the PC and disappear into a fantasy world for hours on end any more. I can usually manage an hour or so while Ted naps, and maybe some playing in the evening if I’m not too knackered after he’s gone to bed.

That’s why over the last month, The Sims 4 has risen to the fore to be crowned my absolute favourite game of the month. I know, right? Weird.

Two reasons for this: number one, as I just mentioned, I’m short on time when it comes to gaming now, and even though I lose interest in The Sims 4 a lot quicker than I do in The Sims 3, that’s actually a good thing. I don’t have the time for quite so much detail – The Sims 4’s simplified way of doing things actually works in my favour now I’m a parent.

And number two… The Sims 4 Seasons expansion pack was just finally released!

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Not hugely seasonally appropriate for the real world, but it’s raining in my game…

Seasons is absolutely beautiful, and brings an extra layer to the game that it really did lack before. With it being the fourth generation of The Sims, I think most people really expected Seasons to be included in the base game, right when it was released back in 2014. People have been waiting for this. And I don’t think it disappoints at all. The dynamic weather brings a level of realism that I, personally, love in my game. The new holidays are a lot more interesting than the ones in The Sims 3, too – the ‘traditions’ give goals that are fun to achieve, and make you feel like you’re actually doing something with your game, rather than just watching another dull day play out (appeasing gnomes is a fabulous addition).

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Reaper Gnome might be my favourite thing about the Sims series… ever.

Tied in to my happy little ramble about these games is a recommendation of where to buy them – CDKeys.com has been an invaluable resource while I’m still hardly flush with cash. Instead of a physical copy of a game, you pay for a game code, the kind you get in with old-style PC games on discs. You put the code in on either Steam, Origin, or uPlay, and they work beautifully to download your game. It’s just as easy as downloading from Steam etc, only significantly cheaper. Example: The Sims 4 Seasons is still £34.99 on Origin. On CDKeys.com, it’s £23.99. In fact, there was a problem when I downloaded Seasons that meant my code wasn’t sent, so I emailed their customer services: I not only had a solution within an hour, I also had an effusive apology, a refund, AND a discount code. Excellent customer service, and now that I have the game, it’s working perfectly.

Cities: Skylines – £5.99

The Sims 4 – £17.99

The Sims 4 Seasons expansion pack – £23.99

That probably covers at least a selection of my favourite things from June – I can already predict my July Favourites will probably consist of a collection of ice lollies and aftersun creams. Long may this heatwave continue!

 

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