Something to Tell You

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I haven’t updated this blog in forever but I’m back now and boy do I have something to tell you. (Three copies of it, in case you were wondering.)

If you follow me on any social media, you’ll have some idea of what I’m about to say so I’ll cut to the chase: I saw Haim, I met Haim, I love Haim.

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2014: A Year in Review

1920336_10152035606485698_205299555_n2014, for me, was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of year. There weren’t any big life-changers. Time just passed me by and before I knew it, we were on the cusp of a new January. Looking back over the events of the year is a happy reminder that it wasn’t all just a waste of time, so allow me to reflect on the last 12 months…

  1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

I went on a little holiday without the parents. It only took 22 years. You quickly realise that within a group of friends, everybody quickly adopts the archetypal family roles in a holiday situation. I think I was probably the dad that no one really listens to and often mocks, but who still gets to sit in the front seat of the car. My friends might argue I was the grumpy teenager but don’t listen to them, they are all known liars. These kids don’t gimme no respect!

  1. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I’m not really a new year’s resolutions type of gal, but I definitely went into the year with the hope that I would continue to progress in my running, having run my first 5k on Christmas Day. I can happily say that all of my fitness goals were achieved. I’m training harder than ever and I’ve run nearly 40 races this year. And I won my little trophy for my efforts.

For next year, I have no resolute goals but I would like to keep the running going strong. I hope to run further and faster over the course of the year, with my eyes on a quarter marathon or perhaps even further.

  1. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No.

  1. Did anyone close to you die?

No.

  1. What countries did you visit?

None. I’m rather deficient on the wanderlust. Also quite poor.

  1. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

Given that I’m about to drop off the end of a big ole cliff, finally reaching the end of my degree, a heavy dose of confidence wouldn’t go amiss. I can feel the anxiety rising in my body, stress coursing through my veins as though my transformation into the nerve-killing superhero I always knew I could be is imminent.

I hope that finishing university will also give me a little time to just enjoy being a person in the world again. So much of the last five years has been consumed by essays and exams and journal articles; I can’t wait to just take a breath. Not that the prospect of finishing education isn’t also terrifying.

  1. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 14th. HAIM. UEA LCR. Not only was it an incredible experience to watch my favourite musicians absolutely slay on that stage, but seeing three incredibly talented women at the top of their game was energising. They can do anything with their guitars in hand, and why shouldn’t I be able to do the same with a pen in mine? Sharing it with my best friend, my soupsnake, the platonic love of my life made it every bit more beautiful. I believe that seeing the band you love the most is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The hope that we’ll be able to repeat the experience enthuses me no end. Este, Danielle, Alana – your move. Tickets please.

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Este Haim performing Go Slow at the LCR. Photography by me.

  1. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Probably my little running trophy. Surviving my second second year of university was no small feat, though. Both of my experiences in second year have been rough but knowing how much more it mattered this time, both personally and professionally, made the knocks harder to take. I’m proud of how I dealt with it, though – by taking the advice of the wise women in my life and lacing up my trainers, which brings us full circle to my original answer: my little running trophy. Not only was it an acknowledgement of my efforts on the track, but it represented overcoming the challenges I faced and continue to face at university. It made me feel like I could accomplish anything I wanted. I felt strong.

  1. What was your biggest failure?

Maybe the mark I got in February for an essay that I thought I’d nailed. I remember picking it up first thing in the morning and having it hang over me throughout a day of lectures and seminars. Nothing stifles creativity like being on the verge of tears, and so I left my creative writing seminar feeling totally defeated and spent about an hour in the uni toilets. The real kicker was that I was weeping in the cubicle so long that the motion censor lights switched off. Picture me sniffling away while performing star jumps in an effort to get the lights back on. I wish I could say it was the most pathetic moment of my life.

  1. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I went over on my ankle at the end of a Parkrun in April, landing arse-first in a muddy puddle, putting me out for a few weeks. Later in the year, the saga of my terrible toe began. No, Taylor, we are not out of the woods yet.

  1. What was the best thing you bought?

Cinema tickets for Guardians of the Galaxy. Spending the last hours of my birthday with a giant Chris Pratt, watching him dance-off into a new day was very special. It was a new dawn, a new day, a new life for me. And yeah, I felt pretty good about it.

  1. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

This answer would probably remain constant whether you asked me this year, last year, next year. My best friend, Hannah. She is there for me day in, day out. No matter what is going on, I have someone to go through everything with me. Every best memory I have from this year, and from the moment I met her for that matter, has Hannah at the heart of it. And if I think about my bad memories from the year, it’s Hannah who was helping me deal with them – that, or texting me cute things about Josh and Donna (e.g. “Today I thought about Josh and Donna’s child having a first crush and Josh offering advice. I did other stuff too but that was important.”). On top of that, she really nailed my presents this Christmas. I’m still reeling from her gift-giving prowess. (more…)

June Favourites

My father warned me yesterday that if I neglected my blog any longer, all of my followers would desert me. This one’s for you, Dad. Partly because I don’t want you to worry about me being forever alone and partly because Sunday was Father’s Day, so.

Upon finishing my (second) second year at university, I have mostly just spent my time doing all the chores that had built up, marathoning TV shows and running around wide open spaces celebrating temporary freedom from academia. Thankfully, I live in Bournemouth so there are lots of outdoorsy havens. To get back into my blogging groove, I thought I’d post a nice variety of favourite things. Some have helped kickstart my summer, while others were the fuel to get me there. Here are my June favourites…

Favourite Places

Poole Park, Poole

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This lovely place is the setting for my weekly Parkrun on a Saturday morning, and it’s dreamy. You have no idea how inviting that water looks after a second lap of running around it in this heat. See that fountain in the second picture? So close and yet so far. That is what I’m thinking about as I stumble through the fourth kilometre wondering if this is it for me. It’s a beautiful park and that’s true all year ’round. Right now, though, it’s peaking. Warning: lotta lotta geese gangs.

Durdle and Diddly Door, Lulworth

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When my parents mentioned the Jurassic Coast, I was thinking velociraptors. But a world heritage site is cool too, I guess. The highlight of this little adventure, surprisingly not the calamitous walk, was discovering that Durdle Door’s tiny little brother is, as yet, unnamed according to the map sign. I, here and now, am calling for the cute little Durdle-wannabe (top right) to be henceforth named Diddly Door. And in a thousand years, when Durdle’s worn down by the fame (and the water), there will just be Diddly left and it will no longer be Diddly. People will come from miles away and say, “Why is it called Diddly?” And it will be lost in folklore and legend. A thousand years is about right, isn’t it? I quit geography young. Rock erosion is the ‘watching paint dry’ of the natural world. I should note, this only applies to geological rocks and should not be confused with rockstars whose careers can be known to break down almost instantaneously.

Favourite Music

HAIM, still.

Basically, since I got my eager claws on Days Are Gone, the days of me listening to other things are, you guessed it, gone. However, as it’s summertime now, to shake things up a little I’m having a phase of replaying the many remixes of the singles. My favourite, which I was unable to embed, is the Cerrone Funk Remix of ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’ but the above Cyril Hahn remix of ‘Don’t Save Me’ is pretty special as well. The sister trio got me through the latter half of second year, and I can’t wait for more tour dates because I will be there will bells on. I’ll run, run, run when they call my name… Remember that time they did, though? #haimlyf

Little Mix

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Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of seeing Little Mix live in concert when they visited my hometown. Me and my lovely friend put on our glad rags and made ourselves at home in a crowd of tweens. Let me break down some pros and cons of being comparatively elderly in terms of concert demographics. Con: the pitch of screaming was almost high enough to be off my hearing frequency, but not quite, and booooy was it loud. Pro: being taller than literally everyone else is a rarity for me, and being that we were only four rows back, I had a perfect view for the entire show! Unheard of! I think it balances out, all in all. All four members of the band were on form, killin’ it with the vocals. While the support acts wore me down a little, clearly aimed at the young’uns, I loved Little Mix.

Favourite TV

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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Mostly, if I’m honest, this is about these two dorks. I got into this series totally accidentally, having not cared at all about The Avengers, or any of the related films. After a couple of episodes, I was endeared by adorable, brave Science BFFs and couldn’t stop myself marathoning the series. Yes, my lack of exposure to previous MCU productions left me more sensitive to Clark Gregg’s wooden acting. Yes, perhaps I should have watched the crossover Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie before it was spoiled by the relating plot in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But you know what, my life’s a mess! I’ll get over it.

While I am, as I mentioned, critical of Gregg’s leading role, the ensemble together is all kinds of brilliant. I don’t mind Coulson. He’s a likeable dude and the crossover is key, but I question whether his leadership of the group should equal leading the show (#Skye4lead). Agent May was badass from the word go, but was all the more interesting once fleshed out towards the first season’s end. Enigmatic Skye is delightfully quippy and I love her. Ward is now dead to me (U CAN’T HURT PUPPIES AND SCIENCE BABIES AND GET AWAY WITH IT!!!). As for Fitz and Simmons, well they’re like a Special Agent Jim and Pam. How could you not love ’em?

Favourite Things

I Just Can’t Cope-Acabana, OPI

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Just as I was struggling to cope(-acanaba) with my university stress, I treated myself to a manicure at my local beauty salon. Presented with a rainbow of choices, a smorgasbord of colour, I decided to embrace the dawn of summer and go bold with yellow. A wild choice for me. If you’re going to take fashion risks, the nails are a good place to start. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many compliments on a nail colour as when I wear this one. My mother has since treated me to the bottle, so I can bring the sunshine nails whenever I like. Be surprised if you see me not wearing this during the summer now! Yellow is my summer colour.

Daisies

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Forget June Favourites, this is a life favourite that just so happens to be every-bloomin’-where! On the left you can see young Jess, clearly in the middle of telling my mother, “See, THESE, THESE are the flowers I want on my dress pattern!” And on the right, adult Jess is narcissistically telling herself, “NAILING the daisy pattern!”. What you might not be able to tell is that in addition to daisy dress, I’m also wearing daisy headband and daisy bracelet and Daisy perfume. If it’s got daisies on it, I want it. My bank balance is going to go on one hell of an emotional rollercoaster this summer.

And with that, I will sign off my first post-Y2 blog post. This time, I promise I’ll be back v. soon.

**All images, bar the Agents of SHIELD cap, are my own.

HAIM 14/03/14: Concert Review

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“I was worried your expectations were maybe a little too high,” admits my best friend, The Wise One, after the lights of the LCR come up and people begin filtering out. She was probably right to be worried too. Since we’d very serendipitously procured our tickets, I’d been monomaniacally immersing myself in all things HAIM. It’s fair to say I was monumentally pumped.

The day itself proves a stressful experience, and one that I would not recommend to friend or enemy. The usual seven-hour trip from Bournemouth to Norwich comes with a bonus hour, a pair of crying babies (a pair!) and stifling heat, to the point that the cheese in my Mum-made sandwiches actually melts. By the time I arrive at Norwich Coach Station, I couldn’t be less in the mood to party down. We go straight off to the LCR, though, get in line with some very excitable people (too many of which pronounce it “Hame”, those fools), and by the time we hear a few drumbeats of the “Falling” soundcheck I’m game-ready. My mood is as changeable as the English weather, after all.

The support act, Saint Raymond (band or person, no one knows), keep us all happy for their half hour set, putting in a solid performance. There were definitely some songs that I’m keen to check out now, and I know my bud felt the same. Supports can be hit and miss, and I would definitely call them a hit. As we watch them, I find myself distractingly amused by the timidity of the Saint Raymond bassist in comparison to Este’s approach. After they finish up, we are then treated to pretty much a complete run-through of the most recent Beyoncé album, with the crowd enthusiastically singing along to tunes like “Drunk in Love” and “XO” – an exciting tease for what is to come.

HAIM open with “Falling”, taking the concert so far off the ground with their first song that it is going to take the entire set to land again. The band’s third single is the biggest lyrical treat they’ve offered as yet, with lines like “I can feel the heat but I’m not burning”, but it is the concluding proverb that Danielle repeats over and over that has the crowd yelling at the stage: “Never look back, never give up.” In fact, the atmosphere at the venue adds another dimension to what already felt pretty close to perfection. The HAIM ladies seem truly warmed by the reception, and the confidence with which the entire room sings along makes for a flawless introduction. “Falling” quickly transitions into “If I Could Change Your Mind”, with an equally impressive performance that sees Danielle get to show off her mad guitar skillz (a recurring treat that night).

As soon as “IICCYM” finishes up, odd members of the crowd begin the birthday heckles to the now-28-year-old Este. She beams, touched. “It took us a while but we finally fucking got here. And it’s my fucking birthday!” Este announces loudly so as to be heard over the small crowd. Cue a merry singsong of ‘Happy Birthday’ that gets the eldest Haim sister extra giddy, and then, in return, she and her younger sisters blow up the speakers with a killer cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”. This is perhaps the biggest opportunity of the night that HAIM have to show off just what brilliant musicians they are, and it doesn’t get squandered. Danielle and Este look and sound unstoppable on the right hand side of the stage, while Alana parades some serious swagger around the left. I truly don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone play a maraca with as much gusto as Baby Haim during “Oh Well”. Props.

Next comes “Honey and I”, my personal favourite, and the first album track of the night. It’s another example of how beautifully HAIM seem able to adapt their songs for each medium they explore. The laidback album version of “Honey and I” works perfectly for iPod listens, but on-stage they play much more with the build-up of the song, toying with their audience until everyone is joyously dancing around on the spot, yelling, “My, my, my, my honey and I!” The album’s title track, “Days Are Gone”, quickly follows and still the energy of the audience doesn’t let up. Every syllable seems to bounce right back at the stage.

One of the highlights of the evening comes in “My Song 5”. It might well be the peak song of the set for bassface, though Este’s game was looking tight all night, and we see Danielle let loose once again at centre stage. She seems to get a real kick out of coaxing the audience into bellowing, “Honey, I’m not your honey pie!” prematurely, before that particular lyric eventually does blast out – as though in response to the audience’s eager attempt.

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It is in the preamble to “Don’t Save Me” that the sisters, famed for their on-stage banter, kick things up a gear with Danielle telling the audience to prepare for a rap. “Y’all have to come up with a really good topic,” she explains, with a charming shyness that sharply contrasts the entertaining brashness of her older sister. Este adds, “I’m like the Jay-Z of jingles.” The crowd then proceed to soak up an explosive performance of “Don’t Save Me” that has me mentally booking more HAIM concert tickets to dates not yet announced. The chosen topic for the rap is Tinder and, with the help of soft-spoken drummer Dash Hutton and the littlest Haim, Este freestyles: “Motherfucker better impress me… Don’t try to trust me. No, you can’t undress me, ‘cause what? My name is Este!” Without missing a beat, as Este takes her bow, Middle Haim is already kicking off the band’s inaugural hit, “Forever”. It proves to be yet another contender for song of the night.

After “Forever”, the band disappear off-stage and the crowd is standing still for what seems like the first time in… well, forever. I think we suddenly all realise how mobile we’ve been, throwing shapes in whatever space we could make for ourselves. Thankfully, before we even have time to worry about where they’ve gone, Danielle quietly reappears behind the drum kit. A spotlight comes down on her, and she starts “XO” as Este, Alana and Dash return to front-of-stage. It’s Este’s biggest moment of the night, and somehow a thousand times better than their Radio 1 Live Lounge rendition. It’s also the most mellow that the show gets all night, but still everyone sings along, echoing Este’s conviction as they go. “The Wire” follows, giving a nice close to the evening as each of the sisters gets their own lead vocal through the song with a corresponding big cheer from their appreciative crowd.

“Let Me Go”, really the only decent way you can end a concert like the one we’ve just beheld, closes out the night. It begins with the sisters all playing their guitars and heartily singing their pleading lyrics. What it builds to is other-worldly. Halfway through, after a guitar solo that blows the roof off the building, Danielle puts her instrument down and picks up her drum sticks. Soon those perfectly-conditioned manes are flying everywhere as the sisters unite for a drum battle finale the likes of which I have never witnessed before. The four accomplished musicians on stage reach the climax of the song and the show triumphantly, as there’s no doubt that what we’re witnessing is special. I can’t imagine a single person who saw that concert not wanting to go back for more. The band briefly stay on stage a while longer to drink to the end of the tour and to Este’s birthday. Alana soaks it all up, having run around the stage so much that it seems she’s grown attached to the place. And then it’s goodnight.

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“I was worried your expectations were maybe a little too high,” admits my best friend, The Wise One, after the lights of the LCR come up and people begin filtering out. “But that was unbelievable. HAIM live are a religious experience.”

She’s a wise one, like I say. Best. Night. Ever.

A Matter of HAIM

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To give my nearest and dearest some respite from all the HAIM all the time, I thought I would indulge in a little public gushing. If you haven’t yet discovered the Californian sisters, Este, Danielle and Alana Haim, I suggest you get on it – stat! (Stat means now!) There are two reasons for urgency: one is because why deprive yourself for a second longer, the other is that their days of playing intimate venues are numbered. Or rather, those days are gone.

Haim1_0When I belatedly discovered the percussive sister trio, I was immediately struck by their on-stage energy. At times, the electricity of their performances seems to inspire an almost orgasmic reaction in the musicians – especially bass player and resident badass, Este Haim. Their quirks  – “bassface”, shoulder shaking, hair flying everywhere, the just-sipped-a-Coke “ahs” – are immensely compelling, without ever seeming performative. Danielle, the more enigmatic of the sisters, often delivers lyrics with an aggression that the studio recordings don’t capture, and the conviction of her delivery makes the performances all the more enthralling.  In fact, there are moments (lots of them, extremely close together), where it seems as though HAIM are completely caught up in their music, running on the energy radiating from their audience without conscious performance. The climactic drum battle of Let Me Go perfectly showcases exactly this quality, a rhythmic explosion of raw talent for all to see. They are just making their music and we’re all invited to watch.

In a mere couple of weeks, my time has come for the live experience and I’m monumentally pumped. In my ideal world, they would play every track they’ve ever put out and every cover they have ever touched (notably, Strong Enough and Hazy Shade of Winter). Honey and I, If I Could Change Your Mind, Falling and Oh Well are the songs that I’m most excited to hear of the likely choices, while Better Off, of the 2012 Forever EP, is probably more of a pipedream. No matter what they play, though, I know I’m in good hands. Those ladies are rockstars.

In contrast to the explosive live show, studio HAIM has an entirely different vibe. Their debut album is mellower than their performances might lead you to expect, but benefits from it. Days Are Gone is one of very few albums of which I can honestly say, I love every single track. The songs are a versatile bunch, perfect for writing to, running to, relaxing to and, most delightfully, for dancing to. The band’s latest single, If I Could Change Your Mind, is perhaps the finest example of all of the above. The track had been a go-to for my writing playlists, until the video came along, filled with throwback dance routines that looked slick and cool, and so much fun. I no longer have the ability to sit still when I hear IICCYM, its lyrics now catchier than ever. It reminded me of being ten years old and pretending to be in a girlband with my best friends, making up dance routines in our bedrooms. HAIM have a knack for inadvertently celebrating the form of female friendship that rings true for me, just in the way they interact. Watching them in the Forever, Falling, Don’t Save Me and If I Could Change Your Mind videos, it’s clear that they enjoy dancing together and are doing it for the love of music. It struck me as rare in 2014 to see three female musicians, or popstars, or whatever you want to refer to them as, dancing in a completely non-sexualised but completely sincere, fun, freeing way. Thank god for it. They make me want to dance! 

17806-alana-haim-este-haim-and-danielle-haim-0x375-1Of HAIM‘s many virtues, their enviable style is not to be overlooked. The perfect waves of Haim hair are a constant, and you can usually count on at least one leather jacket between the three of them, as well as a nice pair of shades. Este’s trademark style is the bold red lip, light blonde ombre and an LBD of the day. You can expect to see Alana in a pair of cut-off denim shorts and a top borrowed from Danielle’s wardrobe. Danielle herself is, her sisters claim, the most stylish of the bunch with a chic wardrobe that sees her showing up even the most fashionable of humans. It’s usually trousers for the middle sister, but they range from the YSL suit she rocked for the Brits to her beloved black jeans. No matter what, their fashion choices really make it seem like they have their lives together. And if they don’t make you want to rush out and buy a leather jacket, well then I just don’t think we’re on the same wavelength.

As their ‘Sound of 2013’ accolade might suggest, HAIM seem to have nailed a formula that draws upon innumerable musical influences, both past and present, while still sounding completely current. While Forever was the perfect soundtrack to 2013, If I Could Change Your Mind confidently brings them into the new year and leaves me desperate for album two. Given that it took Este, Danielle and Alana about six years to perfect their debut, I should probably hold my damn horses. In the meantime, I shall just spend my money buying leather jackets and red lipstick in the hope of waking up of one day waking up as the fourth Haim sister. Oh, and happily snapping up every HAIM concert ticket I can get my little mits on!

OMBRE

Photo 18-02-2014 18 20 29Oh, ombre. The best trend that no one’s entirely sure how to pronounce.

A friend just assured me that “an entry about your transformation into the fourth Haim sister will be a thrilling read” so I thought I would post about my third ombre. It was definitely the most successful attempt yet and I think we’ve mastered it, folks. Before I continue, let me apologise for the weird pictures I include – nothing can be done about my not-so-photogenic awkwardness. C’est la vie.

This is my straight-up before and after:

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Jerome-Russell-bblonde-highlighting-kitI used Jerome Russell’s Bblonde Highlight Kit. If you have trouble remembering it, it’s the one with the Natalie Dormer lookalike on the front. It’s really good value in Boots for about a fiver (sorry, can’t find it online!). I chose it because a lot of the ombre blogs and tutorials I’d read beforehand had used this one, and I really like it because it picks up on the natural highlights in your hair so that the blonde is not just an unnatural block colour. For ombre, I want it to look as natural as possible with a gentle fade to blonde.

Both times previously, I was very eager to see the results and took out the dye after only about twenty minutes. Both of those times young, naive Jess ended up reapplying for a second go to get a bolder effect for a further twenty minutes. This time, I was a little more strategic about it.

Clairey, my trustee hair-dyer and commander-in-chief, first applied about half the dye mixture/ blue stuff up to about halfway down my hair – about chin level – and we waited half an hour for it to take effect. I used a Haim playlist to kill the time, which is a very important step that you should not miss under any circumstances. We washed out the dye and used the shampoo and condish that they give you in the pack, and it looked a little like this after drying:

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I was a little disappointed because it looked slightly lighter but it had to catch the light for any real effect to show up. I suggested that the second dye should just be about an inch or two up so that I could have much blonder ends. Claire also made sure to put a little dye onto the ends of my growing-out fringe too, which was a nice touch. I left this on for about 45-50 minutes. AND HOT DAMN IT WORKED SO MUCH BETTER. I also gave my hair a deep condition after because gotta look after my mane.

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Thanks to Claire for helping with the blondifying. I’m very happy with how my hair looks now! I plan to do a few more deep conditions over the next week or two, just so that the dye doesn’t damage my hair too much.