Exercising with Teddy

Friday, 22 December 2017

I thoroughly enjoy being one of those humans who wears a fitness tracker. I’m the annoying person who stands up every hour to walk 250 steps because my tracker has told me to and I check my step count periodically to ensure I beat the previous week’s exercise. It’s put me in direct competition with myself which I love and my dog benefits from my constant movement.

Black Labrador Retriever Cross

If you’re not familiar with my black Labrador-Retriever cross then I’d like to introduce you to Teddy; my 3-year-old former Guide Dog puppy that my fiancé and I adopted last year. He is the sweetest, friendliest, wiggliest dog I’ve ever met and I protect and spoil him at all times like he is my child. Other than biscuits, he doesn’t want much and is happy so long as you sit on the floor and let him cuddle into you. He also occasionally sits on me which was fine when he was a puppy but now that he weighs 34kg I get pins and needles pretty quickly when he decides to plonk himself down on me. He’s too cute to turf off though so I just have to sit there with numb legs until he eventually decides to move.

The problem with Teddy being so content with very little is I fear he’s not getting enough exercise. He thoroughly enjoys walking the same routes and they’re not always lengthy walks. I can see how much exercise I’m getting thanks to my fitness tracker but that doesn’t mean a whole lot for Teddy as he’s not always by my side. Fortunately, Teddy now has a PitPat, a fitness tracker for dogs that securely attaches to their collar and monitors how much walking, running, playing and resting a dog does each day. You just have to sync it to a free app via Bluetooth and you get to see your dog’s daily stats and whether they’ve met target that day.

PitPat Fitness Tracker for Dogs

After inputting Teddy’s information into the app, his target exercise goal came out at 80 minutes which doesn’t seem like enough for Teddy but it’s completely doable. For the most part, he gets at least 80 minutes of walking a day and further playing time with our other puppy so he’s a very active dog. He isn’t one for chasing things and was never allowed a ball until he was withdrawn from training so, if you try to play with him, he looks at you in utter confusion and makes you fetch whatever it is you just threw for him. I swear the majority of my steps are a result of me throwing a ball and then running after it myself.

Teddy does have his mad moments though which typically happen in a forest I run with him in and when it’s snowing. He has a habit of running at top speed all over the place before stopping and staring at me with a look on his face that never fails to make me laugh before running around again. He doesn’t go far but if there’s water, you can guarantee he’s going to end up in it and I’ll have forgotten a towel.

Black Labrador Retriever Cross

Before Teddy wiggled his way into my life, I would very much avoid exercising beyond walking to the fridge and back. I understood the importance of exercise but walking from my house to the end of town just to come back again seemed rather dull. Having Teddy with me makes that walk a little bit more exciting (and challenging when he decides he wants to go one way but I want to go the other way) and it makes running so much more fun. I actually enjoy being outside now which amuses me greatly since I was the kid who would build a fort in their bedroom and sit in there for days on end reading book after book. I’m actually not alone in preferring to be outside and exercising more thanks to my dog, it’s quite a common occurrence for dog owners.

I’m so happy I decided to adopt Teddy when he was withdrawn from training. I can’t imagine my life without that weird little dog taking up all the room on the couch, getting his head stuck in the laundry basket and staring at me with his big brown eyes until I give in and feed him copious amounts of biscuits. He’s a happy dog who is probably currently hatching a plan to break into the room I keep his food in and eat it all again. He would’ve gotten away with it if he hadn’t burped.

Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with More Than. The PitPat was sent to me (and Teddy). All opinions are my own.

Why I Hate Christmas

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Christmas Starts Earlier Each Year

Ok let’s get this out of the way, I don’t actually hate Christmas. Yes I am outing myself as a liar and I suppose a user of clickbait titles in the first sentence but hear me out, I love Christmas on the actual day and the few days leading up to it, it’s the rest of the time when it irritates me. As a kid, I was never that bothered by December 25th and everything that comes with it but then I joined the big bad world of adulthood and had to start fending for myself. Christmas isn’t as fun when you suddenly have to spend your own money and budget accordingly.

There are a number of things that have made me dislike Christmas over the years. It’s the fact I’ve been forced into listening to the same Christmas music playlist one too many times and that I can’t drive down a nice residential street without neon signs for “Christmas trees” blinding me. It’s the Christmas lights twinkling away around the gutters of someone’s house in the middle of November and it’s the sudden realisation that everyone I have to buy presents for has everything they could ever want or need but social convention dictates I have to get them something. It’s the Secret Santa for people I don’t like, it’s the Christmas cards to people I barely know and it’s because you’ve put on Elf for the 400th time this year.

Despite all of that though, I can just about stomach Christmas until I have to venture into a store to do my weekly food shopping. I’ve almost turned to the luxury of ordering my food shopping online despite the fact Tesco is 5 minutes from my house because I can’t handle the obnoxious amount of Christmas decorations and products plaguing every single aisle. Do we really need an aisle dedicated solely to Christmas chocolate that’s so full to the point where Toblerone practically jump off the shelf and smack you in the face? All I want to do is buy my odd looking sweet potato and get out; I don’t want or need any more tinsel.

The sad reality of my disdain for 3 months of festive crap ruining my already least favourite activity is that Christmas and the months leading up to it are always the biggest push for profits. Last year, the only big store out of both supermarkets and fashion retailers that reported a loss in sales was Next and they decided to use the tired old scapegoat of Brexit as an excuse for the dip. The supermarkets and stores that reported the best increase in sales were cheap and cheerful companies such as Aldi, Lidl and B&M. Asos reported an increase of sales by 18% in the UK and 52% internationally (unlike Next, Asos can actually use Brexit as a legitimate reason for this due to the decreasing value of the pound) which is possibly a result of the rise of internet shopping and the Christmas season requiring a number of sparkly dresses.

Doesn’t the likes of Aldi and Lidl doing better than Tesco and Sainsbury are not say something about us as a nation? There is an estimated £4.2 billion expected to be spent in the week before Christmas but with Brexit in the air and inflation rearing its ugly head while our wages remain the same, can we actually afford Christmas at this point? We have adverts pushing £99 interactive tigers that will be forgotten about within 5 minutes when approximately 20% of people in Britain live in poverty. There are people dipping into their savings for the first time just so they can put together a simple Christmas as the big blowout is out of the question. Cries for people to refrain from writing “from Santa” on all of the presents to their children are abundant on social media as there’s a worry other kids won’t receive the same kind of expensive toys and will wonder what they did wrong for Santa to ignore them.

This is the part where I’m sure someone would say “it’s not the present but the thought that counts” but let’s be honest, that saying is a load of crap. The present counts just as much as the thought which is why we spend hours fighting the crowds and scrolling through websites to find something that they maybe won’t throw out in the trash along with all the wrapping paper. No one wants to be the person who is giving bars of Milka chocolate that they got from Poundland when someone else is giving bottles of Chanel No 5.

Christmas has become one giant warped competition that we happily enter into because we’re told to. We’re shown shiny adverts that don’t actually mean much when it comes to Christmas but we talk about them regardless and then end up purchasing a load of garbage from those stores. Debenhams isn’t actually selling Ewan McGregor (and if they were I’d fight you for him) but the use of him in their modern Cinderella story advert got you talking and now you’re unconsciously making your way into Debenhams.

If we could eliminate the profit margins and the sales tactics, I’d be ok with Christmas but a part of me resents how over-commercialised it’s become. I don’t want to see fully decorated Christmas trees in the corner of supermarkets in September, I don’t want selection boxes diving off the shelf at me in October, I don’t want to walk around with The Final Countdown stuck in my head thanks to whichever supermarket used it in their advert last year. All I want to do is spend time with my family, eat chocolate for breakfast and laugh as my dog excitedly runs around the house with his new toy. You can keep your overhyped John Lewis adverts and vicious Toblerone. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to buy someone a remote control Range Rover.

It’s not all doom and gloom since a lot of us get a little bit more charitable this time of year so, if you have a few extra pennies and you’re in a giving mood, here are a few ways you can donate time, money and presents to people who really need it:
- Cash for Kids is looking for toys for underprivileged kids. These can be dropped off at your local branch of Wickes.
- Oxfam sells fairtrade chocolate so not only are you giving money to charity, you’re also getting a few delicious presents for people.
- Supermarkets often have containers for local food banks; check what kind of food they’re looking for and purchase a few bits and pieces as you do your Christmas food shop.
- Your local animal shelters may require food, blankets and toys for the animals.
- Guide Dogs and Canine Partners require toys for their puppies in training. Please check what kind of toys they’re looking for before donating as some cannot be given to the dogs (for example, a certain former Guide Dog puppy of mine swallowed a “roadkill” type toy and had to have it surgically removed).
- St Mungo’s along with Street’s Kitchen are turning Euston station into a shelter for 200 homeless people on Christmas day. They’re always looking for additional funding and more volunteers.
- Any local charities will happily welcome donations and, if you have the time this Christmas, volunteering is a great opportunity. If you have a teenager who’s spending their time gorging on food and watching a movie they’ve seen countless times, encourage them to volunteer for a few hours. It’s not only beneficial to the community but it’s a great starting point for a CV.

My Month As A Trump Supporter

Monday, 4 December 2017

Donald Trump painting

There was a point during the US election where I realised President Clinton was a title reserved only for Bill. It became apparent, regardless of what the polls said, that Donald Trump would soon sit in the Oval Office. I can’t tell you why I came to the realisation; I could take multiple stabs in the dark and never hit the right answer but I can tell you I woke up to the presidential announcement with an open mind. President Trump was no longer a joke from an old episode of The Simpsons, he was officially real and at the helm of America whether we liked it or not.

At no point during the election did I ever want Trump to win. I still cannot work out how America could only find Trump and Clinton to represent the 2 major parties and I still maintain that neither was the lesser of 2 evils; they were both unfit candidates but one person had to win and that person was Trump. In the months since Trump has taken office, so many things have happened that I never thought I would see in my lifetime. I didn't expect to see white supremacists marching on Charlottesville or hear about how Russia may have meddled in the election. I didn't think Nazism was going to become part of my daily conversations but this is what we are faced with.

Before we really get into how I became a Trump supporter for a month, I want to make it clear that I don’t believe every Trump supporter is racist, ignorant and extremely conservative. I’m not oblivious to the fact there are a lot of people who felt like they were left behind by the Obama regime and responded to Trump’s policies and boldness.

That being said, I’m seeing less and less of those Trump voters and significantly more ultra-conservative voters who regurgitate Trump’s opinions and lies as if they are their own and I wanted a better understanding as to why they think the way they do. I couldn’t do it as myself; I’m not a liberal and I’m not a conservative but I have enough bias in me to realise that I can’t truly hand myself over to the alt-right. To get around my own views, I made a fake Facebook profile for a homophobic white supremacist I fondly called Christian Whiteman Junior.

Initially, it was difficult to shake off some of my views. I wanted to jump into the comment sections of a lot of racist and homophobic articles being shared by the pages I had liked and defend the ones I was supposed to be berating but I stopped myself. I wanted the full immersive experience so I started screaming about libtards, how homosexuality was wrong, why crooked Hillary should go to jail and I called all NFL players who are peacefully protesting “babies”. My most liked comments are ones that are based on nothing more than hatred and ignorance, the comments that were widely shunned were ones where I allowed some degree of humanity in and corrected inaccurate headlines. If I said same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt, a lot of people agreed with me, if I pointed out the exaggerated claims in a news story, I could see the tumbleweeds roll by.

I realised over the course of this month that “fake news” is very easily spread so long as it fits the agenda of the people you want to read it. If you are anti-Islam and you read a story on how Muslims will now be allowed to wear burkas in their Chicago driver license photos, then that will fuel your hatred further and will encourage you to scream about western values. It doesn’t matter that the story is false, what matters is the story exists and it benefits you in some way.

As Christian Whiteman Junior, these were the type of stories that appeared on my timeline almost every minute. I read a lot of the articles and I read the comments from multiple Facebook users. I didn’t read one article that was factually correct, in fact, the vast majority of these websites never loaded across 3 devices and on 3 different wifi networks. The headlines were controversial enough to engage the supporters of these views to not have to worry about supplying a user-friendly, functioning website. The comments I read were merely a reaction to an often very racist headline and never the actual content. They were written by people who get their news from places that won’t offer different opinions or different accounts of an event. It’s designed to be extremely one-sided and it’s extremely disturbing.

One of the stories in particular that stood out to me was about Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started the “take a knee” movement, is either an extremely well-liked or a widely hated person depending on which side you’re on. He has been dubbed anti-American by extreme alt-right supporters and this story worked perfectly in their favour. The headline was “Anti-American Kaepernick Just Denounced US & Leaves the Country – Here’s Where He’s At Now”.

The story was about how he had gone back to his “bug and crap-infested homeland of Ghana” (he’s actually from Wisconsin) and how he has no gratitude towards the white parents who adopted him from a 3rd world country. It was extremely low brow journalism but it worked; people celebrated his departure from the US in the comments but what they failed to realise was none of it was true. Kaepernick may have ties to Ghana somewhere in his family but he’s American, he didn’t denounce the US, he just wanted to educate himself more on a country that America ransacked for slaves. The entire article reeked of racism and stupidity but it was lapped up. I almost couldn't believe such an article could be written from a serious standpoint so I looked into whether the website in question was legitimate and not just satire. I couldn't find anything to suggest that this was supposed to be comical.

Even as I switch between writing this post and Christian Whiteman Junior’s Facebook page, I’m met with a headline that reads “Watch as THOUSANDS of Black People Storms Stores and Trash the HELL Out of it On BLACK FRIDAY”. I read the poorly written article and then watched the video embedded in it. The video shows a lot of white people fighting with each other over TVs but very few black people. The headline is designed to fit the “black people are thugs” narrative and, so long as you don’t bother watching the videos, you’d believe the headline.

At some point today I will go onto Christian Whiteman Junior's Facebook page and will be met with numerous articles claiming that NFL ratings and attendance are down due to the NFL players protest and images of empty stadiums will accompany these headlines. The articles will feature no evidence to back up the claims, the comments will consist of calling NFL players ungrateful and stupid and the images will have been taken before the games kicked off and before the majority of fans were even in the stadium. Is any of that important though? For as long as you carry the opinion that the protests are disrespectful and NFL players have no right protesting anything, none of that matters. You want to see empty stadiums and that’s exactly what you’re getting; it doesn’t even occur to you that there are no players on the field in those pictures.

Looking at the difference between the news I usually consume in comparison to the news I allowed a fake Facebook profile to be flooded with is staggering. The level of hypocrisy of people screaming “fake news” while engaging with the very definition of fake news is mind-boggling. I don’t doubt that there are false claims made by both sides of the argument but I’ve never truly immersed myself into anything but exaggerations and false narratives because I’ve never felt the need to until now. At no point in my life have I ever watched empathy and logic crumble while hatred thrives but here we are with Donald Trump as the President of the United States, white supremacy rearing its ugly head once more and fake news being at the forefront of every political conversation.

Christian Whiteman Junior's Facebook page made me ashamed to be a human being but admittedly, spreading his views was easy. It takes no effort to deem homosexuality as immoral, to call black people thugs and to yell that libtards are ruining everything. You don't need to think, you don't need to remind yourself that you're talking about a fellow human being who contains both good and bad traits; all you have to do is be a hateful, degrading, vile person who believes everything put in front of them so long as it's not opposing views. All you have to be is ignorant.

Why I'm Changing My Blog

Monday, 27 November 2017

Blue Lillies

I’d be lying if I said I’m 100% happy with my blog. I suppose any blogger will tell you there are little things they’d like to change about their blog’s overall appearance and the content they’re producing but recently, my desire to drastically overhaul my blog is all I can think about and I’m not talking strictly cosmetic changes.

When I first started this blog, it was under an entirely different name, it had an ever-changing colour scheme, a bog standard template, and the content was nothing more than spoilt, whiny teenage ramblings. Eventually, I moved into YouTube so this blog became an extension of my channel and it was a poor excuse for a beauty blog that featured over cropped, incredibly dark images of products that I bought for the sheer sake of reviewing.  Finally, my blog became what it is today; a mish-mash of my ramblings, occasional beauty reviews and lots of books. It doesn’t make any sense and I’m a firm believer that you do not need a niche to be successful but I hate what my blog has become.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy creating my content because I do; it’s more a case of this blog is no longer an accurate representation of my thoughts or my overall being. I’ve  felt myself get sucked into the idea of needing bright white photos, beautiful flat lays and calling everyone “lovely” in order to maintain and grow my readership and in all honesty, I hate all of that. The bright white photos hurt my eyes, I don’t have the ability to create pretty little flat lays and the mere idea of me calling anyone “lovely” makes me cringe. I’ve watched myself try desperately to belong to a community that, on some level, I can’t relate to and it’s exhausting.

That’s not to say every blogger is the same and I would hate for anyone to walk away (or click away if we’re going for the literal sense) from this post thinking I’m tarring every person who calls themselves a beauty or lifestyle blogger with the same brush. It’s more like I’ve watched this community grow and change and I tried to adapt but always found myself standing on the wrong side of the fence. If blogging was evolution, I'd be extinct.

The change in myself also plays a role in how I’m viewing my own blog. I don’t really care about buying the latest makeup release or what haircare product I should be using. I have no interest in spending my money on products just so I have blog content. I don’t want to have to set up the perfect layout in order to photograph a new item before I allow myself to use it. I just want to write my opinions on things I care about and articulate my thoughts beyond the limited characters of Twitter.

I also want to stop biting my tongue. I’ve written countless tweets that I’ve then deleted because I’m all too aware of how often people read between the lines that aren't there and try to start an argument on things I never said or even thought. I can’t be bothered with people pushing their agenda into mine just so they can discredit whatever it is I’ve said and then never do anything to promote whatever it is they just shoved down my throat again. I’m bored of feeling like if I share an opinion that may be a little too controversial for the safety of social media I’ll probably offend someone and become enemy number one.

So, with all that in mind, this blog is going to become more of a social commentary than an odd selection of beauty, ramblings, and books. I don’t expect anyone to enjoy whatever it is I have to say as it will solely be my, hopefully, well-thought-out, opinions but I know that my enjoyment of my hobby is more important than someone’s dislike for it.

I will still feature the things I like; the books won’t go away especially with the next round of books I plan on reading as they fit in nicely with the direction I’m going in but the beauty posts for the sake of content are going. They may return, there may be a product I love that I just have to feature or I may be paid to promote something and will decide paying my bills is more important than my integrity but I’m done trying to conform to something I have no interest in. I was never good at creating bright, white photos and pretty flat lays anyway...

Winter Night-In Essentials

Friday, 17 November 2017

Winter Night-In Essentials

I admit it, I hate winter. I hate the cold weather, I hate how the damp air makes my hair frizzy, I hate having to defrost my car in the morning, I hate the awkward steps I have to take when I know there’s ice lurking somewhere on the pavement and I hate the fact daylight only exists until 4 pm. The only real positive to winter is it allows a homebody like me to stay indoors without feeling guilty but I need a few things to be totally comfortable and avoid cabin fever. My winter nights revolve around a couple of things so here they are!

Binging on TV Shows:

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would happily spend time watching TV on a tiny tablet or phone screen I would’ve taken one look at my then giant TV and laughed at you. It’s true though, I have taken to binging on extremely obscure documentaries (who doesn’t love a documentary on French sculptors though?) on screens smaller than a ruler thanks to Netflix and Amazon Video. More often or not, I’m too lazy to hook my tablet up to my TV (or my dog is lying on me and looks too comfy to disturb) and tablets are handy. I can’t stand the horrendous tinny sound that phones and tablets produce though so I make the effort to sync it via a Panasonic Waterproof Bluetooth speaker; I may be too lazy to move but I still have standards when it comes to sound.

This is the part where I should probably recommend some TV shows but I’m still stuck in an endless loop of Friends reruns and early episodes of Modern Family so I’ll refrain from doing that. On the other-hand, I know some great documentaries so I urge you to check out Final Portrait, Betting on Zero, Disposable Hero, The Crash Reel and The First Monday in May.

Comfort Food:

Put a bag of crisps in front of me and I will demolish them before you’ve even finished offering me one but I’m trying to eat healthier (she says while munching on a bag of crisps) so I’ve changed my description of comfort food. I try to stick to warm, filling vegetarian meals that are quick to make and oh so delicious. Shepherd’s pie with sweet potato and empanadas made with meat-free mince always go down a treat but my absolute favourite meal for exceptionally cold nights is a spicy root and potato casserole. I also won’t say no to a kidney bean burger made by my other half and if you throw a sweet potato and lentil adaption of sloppy joes my way, I’ll love you forever.


I’ve officially lost count of how many books are on my to be read list but winter is the perfect time to get through them all. As the days are shorter and my opportunities to paint are dwindling, curling up with a good book in a cosy corner of the room is too appealing to pass up. I’m still slowly plodding my way through Stephen King’s IT but, once I’ve finished that, I have plans to dive straight into either John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let The Right One In or Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I’m also tempted into rereading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead as I believe there are a few details I may have missed the first time around.


While the lack of daylight may be hindering my painting, I love using electric light to work on my actual drawing ability. Being able to work on drawings where I don’t have to worry about guidelines for where to put colour or even ruining the line drawing by adding paint is liberating. I’m horrendous when it comes to perspective so my refusal to paint with artificial light means I get to work on that. This does mean I have quite a few unfinished drawings lying around but at least I can see a minor improvement across the board.

Being a comfy, lazy human who is full of nice food and has a couple of pencils nearby helps me get through winter. If I could hibernate until spring I would but apparently, there’s this thing called adulting that I have to be a part of so hibernation isn’t possible. I’m hoping the world will keep churning out documentaries and I’ll keep finding nice, hearty meals to consume otherwise winter and I will never get along.

What are your essentials for a cosy winter night in?

Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with Panasonic.

My Favourite Podcasts

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Up until recently, I would always listen to music while trying to do anything considered productive. Music was the only thing that would work whenever I needed pure concentration but now, Wiz Khalifa and Eminem in my ear is so distracting I end up procrastinating just to listen to them. I can’t work in utter silence though and having the TV on is a no go (Come Dine with Me is just too good to ignore) so I decided to try out podcasts and haven’t looked back. Having someone speak about subjects I'm interested in usually helps me get on with whatever it is I’m doing. There are a few podcasts I always put on whenever I need to focus on something and I wanted to share those favourites with you. Open the podcast app on your phone, tablet or whatever else you’re using and get ready to do some subscribing!

At Home With... Podcast

At Home With… - At Home With… was the first podcast I subscribed to and I stumbled upon it by chance. I wanted a podcast but didn’t know what kind I was looking for so started searching through the top-rated podcasts. At Home With… jumped out at me as I recognised Lily Pebbles and Anna Newton from the thumbnail. I don’t typically follow their YouTube channels and blogs so had no idea they were even doing a podcast together but once I realised they had just released an episode with Lisa Eldridge, I was sucked in!

At Home With… is around 40 minutes of Lily Pebbles and Anna Newton chatting to some amazing people inside their homes. They discuss how the person being interviewed got started in their chosen career and what they’re up to today as well as describing a few rooms of their house. Guests include the aforementioned Lancome Creative Director and makeup artist extraordinaire Lisa Eldridge, Glamour Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jo Elvine, wellbeing guru Liz Earle, Cult Beauty founder Alexia Inge and a whole bunch of others. I really hope they do a second season of At Home With… as it’s such a great podcast.

Wellness with Liz Earle – Speaking of Liz Earle, listening to her episode of At Home With… made me search for her wellbeing magazine and of course, her own wellbeing podcast. Wellness with Liz Earle covers a broad variety of topics including menopause, gut health, kefir, juicing and staying safe in the sun. She’s also had guests such as the youngest winner of The Great British Bake-Off Martha Collison, Strategy and Policy Director for the Association’s Food for Life programme Joanna Lewis, Legology founder Kate Shepherd and business psychologist and founder of Department Store of the Mind Ruth Williams. Liz Earle is such a calm, chill lady and is so knowledgeable about a wide variety of subject matters to the point where you're going to want to learn about things you never even considered before.

The Savvy Painter with Antrese Wood podcast

Savvy Painter Podcast with Antrese Wood – I was getting ready to start a new painting when I discovered the Savvy Painter podcast. I wanted to hear from other artists about what it is they struggle with and how to maintain momentum when they’re frustrated with their work and Antrese Wood’s podcast was exactly what I needed. In the Savvy Painter podcast, Antrese speaks to a wide variety of artists about everything from being a self-taught artist to selling your art to artist’s block. There is such a huge selection of topics and so many episodes; I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of listening to the Savvy Painter podcast. Added bonus, it keeps me motivated whenever I do decide to pick up a pencil or paintbrush.

99% Invisible – Thanks to the recommendation of another blogger (I can’t remember who it was but thank you) I started listening to 99% Invisible and immediately fell in love with it. 99% Invisible is a podcast that focuses on design. The very first episode I listened to was called The Finnish Experiment and not only did I get to hear about something happening in Finland that I would be completely ignorant to if it wasn’t for this podcast, I also found a plethora of episodes covering other topics on things I’d never even heard of. You may look at the title of these episodes and think they’re going to be really dull but the way Roman Mars and his team present each episode is so intriguing you’ll be completely sucked in. Who’d have thought learning about the origin of the sports bra would be so interesting!

The Memory Palace podcast

The Memory Palace – 99% Invisible takes me to The Memory Palace now as I actually discovered the latter through the former. The Memory Palace focuses on points in history that you may or may not have heard about. The vast majority of episodes are no longer than 15 minutes but contain so much information regarding each subject matter that my brain is now full of knowledge I wouldn’t have accumulated so quickly if it wasn’t for The Memory Palace. Nate DiMeo is so poetic with his words and so softly spoken that I often find myself totally relaxing whenever I listen to an episode of The Memory Palace.

Southern Hollows – Finally, there’s Southern Hollows. This podcast focuses on historical events that took place in the south of America. I have a really strong interest in past racism in the US so hearing about things I’d probably never find without an abundance of research is really exciting for me; I’m really fun at parties, honest! Southern Hollows uploads around once a month so there isn’t a lot of episodes yet but the ones that are there are really interesting. If you’d rather not hear about lynchings and people tricking parents into giving up their children, I’d maybe give Southern Hollows a miss but if you are interested in past American atrocities, this podcast is for you.

So there you have my favourite podcasts and it turns out, I have more favourite ones than I originally thought. I don’t know if the fact my level of productivity decreases significantly without a podcast is disturbing or fascinating but so long as it keeps giving me an excuse to listen, I’m going to keep subscribing to podcasts. Actually, I think I might listen to one now as I finish off this post…

What are your favourite podcasts?

How to Quit Smoking

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

How to Quit Smoking

When I first met David, my adorable fiance, he was a smoker. He started randomly at the age of 17 and developed a smoking routine that he executed with military precision. Despite never being a fan of smoking, his habit never bothered me. I couldn’t smell the smoke on him and he was courteous enough to not smoke around me and my asthmatic lungs. He never really discussed the possibility of stopping until he was diagnosed with MS at the end of 2014. His smoking habit continued for a few months after his diagnosis but eventually, after realising how smoking could seriously affect his already aggressive case of MS, he decided to call it quits. He didn’t know where to start; no smoker he knew had ever tried to stop so he was pretty much left to his own devices. He muddled through and eventually came up with a strategy to help him quit. He's even been nice enough to share his methods with you which you can read as soon as you have finished this sentence. Go!

Invest in an E-cigarette/Vape:

David decided to go down the e-cigarette route initially as it allowed him to stay in his routine but without having to deal with the lasting effects of smoking. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the world and cigarette smoke contains 5000 chemicals; 70 of which can cause cancer. E-cigarettes, however, contain no tobacco and instead use a nicotine liquid that helps satisfy your cravings. You can get a variety of flavoured liquid and the cost of an e-cigarette plus refills work out a lot cheaper than constantly buying packets of cigarettes. The one thing my other half did find while using an e-cigarette though was to avoid buying the really cheap ones as they’re prone to breaking after just a few weeks. If you’re interested in an e-cigarette that is not only functional but intuitive and sleek, Vape Ayr has got you covered.

Chew Gum and Always Have A Packet Nearby:

There are 2 routes you can go down when it comes to chewing gum; one is nicotine gum while the other is just good old fashion peppermint or spearmint chewing gum. My other half dabbled with nicotine gum when he first decided to quit smoking but deemed it too expensive and switched over to regular gum instead. He’s been cigarette free for 2 and a half years but continues chewing regular gum or munching on mints as part of a new routine. If you are planning on trying nicotine gum, ensure you follow the instructions correctly and begin to taper off at the appropriate time. The gum is typically designed to only be used for 12 weeks but at least 10% of people continue chewing the gum for at least a year.

Self-Help Books Aren’t As Ridiculous as You May Think:

Ignore the stigma that surrounds self-help books as you wander over to that section of the bookstore as there are some fantastic books to help you quit smoking. For as long as I can remember, my uncle was a heavy smoker until he was given a book on how to quit smoking by a former cigarette loving colleague. A good self-help book will tell you to continue smoking while reading the book as it allows you to get into the right frame of mind before you put down the cigarettes forever. If a book advises you to quit right there and then, put it back on the shelf and walk away as quitting before you’re fully prepared is not going to make your body like you.

Willpower is a Must:

It’s the one thing no one ever wants to hear as we all want quick fixes to our problems but willpower is one of the most important things when it comes to doing pretty much anything. Giving in every single time you feel the urge to smoke isn’t going to get you very far. If you truly want to quit, you have to fight your cravings otherwise you’ll just be going round in circles. Using willpower to stop smoking is, of course, easier said than done and you are allowed to slip up once in a while but you have to get that willpower in check and stop that one slip up from turning into your old habit.

Have a Positive Mental Attitude:

Like willpower, having a positive mental attitude is easier said than done. There will be plenty of points in our lives where dwelling in negativity over something that isn’t going our way seems significantly more fun than trying to see the positives but that won’t get us anywhere and it certainly won’t help you quit smoking. David is a fairly positive person as it is and isn’t one for giving up on things easily so he developed the positive mental attitude fairly early on in the quitting process. When I asked him what his best tip for quitting smoking is, this is the first thing he came out with. Having a positive mental attitude is cliché but it’s constantly recommended for a reason. Think of yourself living a cigarette-free life and acknowledge the little triumphs; going an hour longer than usual without smoking is a win so don’t forget to celebrate that little win. Just don’t celebrate with a cigarette.

Nicotine withdrawal typically lasts for 3 days so the first 72 hours after you quit will be when your patience, desire to quit and willpower is tested. If you can get through the first 3 days without a cigarette, you can get through the rest of your life without one too. Making smoking a habit is easy but, like most things, breaking that habit is extremely difficult. If you are serious about quitting though, you’ll find a way to beat the addiction and hopefully, there is something in this post that will help you along your way. Good luck!

Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with vapeayr.com

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead Review

Sunday, 29 October 2017

TW: Racism
Contains Spoilers.

In 2017, we live in a world where white supremacy is not only very much alive but making itself known in a very public manner. We all saw the images and footage of neo-Nazis marching along Charlottesville, we heard about Heather Heyer who lost her life protesting against hatred and just yesterday you may have seen footage of white men screaming “white lives matter” in Tennessee. We’ve watched the President of the United States refuse to condemn white supremacists, we’ve watched him attack black NFL players again and again and we’re all too aware of the fact his supporters are very much the ones spewing the racist venom.

I can voice my disgust and hatred towards the acts of these pathetic excuses for human beings but my disgust is purely superficial in comparison to the anger and fear any person of colour will experience in their day to day life. I can’t relate because I’m white and sit firmly in my privilege; the only thing I can do is educate myself on past racism and the current racial climate and I chose to begin that educational journey with *The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad tells the tale of Cora, a motherless slave girl who escapes a Georgia cotton plantation and her owners with her friend and fellow slave Caesar. Their escape begins with them fighting their way through a swamp when they discover fellow slave Lovey has followed them. Cora, Caesar, and Lovey continue through the swamp in hopes of reaching the first station of the Underground Railroad. Lovey’s story ends abruptly after all 3 slaves are cornered; Lovey is captured but Cora and Caesar make it out alive and it’s at this point where we’re introduced to the Underground Railroad and the people willing to help slaves escape.

Throughout the story, Colson Whitehead uses the Underground Railroad as a fully operational legitimate railway. I think some people will argue that this was to make things convenient and speed up Cora’s and Caesar’s escape but I personally loved this added touch. Up until recently, I believed the Underground Railroad was, in fact, an actual railroad with old-fashioned passenger trains so seeing my silly idea being used as a premise for a book amused me while simultaneously making me cringe at my own ignorance.

Their first stop of the Underground Railroad is South Carolina; a state that presents itself as progressive and willing to help integrate former slaves into society. Cora is given a job, a place to stay and an education. She lives a fairly happy life but the worry of a slave catcher named Ridgeway being hot on her tail is always at the back of her mind. While everything seems great on the surface it becomes apparent that South Carolina’s progressive nature isn’t as it seems.

The white people of South Carolina are conducting forced sterilization on the black people they’re pretending to help and are also carrying out inhumane things such as the Tuskegee experiment. While The Underground Railroad is set in the 1800s, Colson Whitehead uses a broad timeline to tell the story. The Tuskegee experiments, for example, happened between 1932 and 1972 but Whitehead has manipulated the dates to make the story more horrifying than it already is. Admittedly, I found the story became disjointed in places as a result of the mismatched timeframe but it does make for a good starting point if you’re looking to do further research into past racism.

There is a distinct lack of description of the brutality slaves experienced on a daily basis at both the hands of their slave owners and after they’ve escaped if they ever manage to do so. There is enough to make your mind wander and explore what else could have possibly happened to all of these people but I personally don’t believe the human mind can truly comprehend these atrocities without a little guidance. I wanted The Underground Railroad to make me uncomfortable and it didn’t quite manage it. I know enough about slavery and historical racism to put the pieces together myself but I feel like Colson Whitehead missed an opportunity to really drive home the horrendous nature of white people.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

One of the few descriptions of brutality comes in North Carolina. After Cora escapes the illusion of South Carolina, she finds herself in a state that has begun the process of eliminating black people. The road from the North Carolina Underground Railroad station is lined with rows of black people hanging by their necks, there is a lynching in the park every week which draws in huge crowds of white people looking for cheap entertainment and raids on houses are carried out on a regular basis as the locals search for abolitionists and Underground Railroad operators harbouring escaped slaves. If there is ever a point where you really hope Cora escapes, it’s during her stay in North Carolina. You fear that the fate instilled upon the unfortunate people who are caught will be placed upon her but instead, Cora meets a different kind of fate. The slave catcher named Ridgeway finally gets a hold of her.

As Ridgeway takes Cora back to her slave owner in Georgia, another part of history is intertwined in the form of yellow fever that gripped Tennessee in the second half of the 1800s. You plead for yellow fever to strike down Cora’s captors or for her to somehow find a chance to escape but it never happens, she’s chained up and forced to listen to Ridgeway as he slowly takes her back to meet her death. It’s at this point where we discover what happened to Caesar. He has of course been tortured and killed in a disturbing fashion but that wasn’t what caught my attention. I had completely forgotten Caesar was even in the story at all as he is an extremely underdeveloped character. His only real contribution to The Underground Railroad is that he gets the ball rolling on Cora’s escape but even then, Cora could have muddled her way through that without him.

Cora eventually escapes Ridgeway and then escapes Ridgeway again. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find her multiple escapes from him to be convenient. There are points where I just don’t believe the things Cora is capable of as she is presented as an uneducated 15-year-old girl naïve to the world outside of her own plantation. She seems to have an inordinate amount of strength both physically and mentally and I personally just don’t buy it. It makes her a true heroine but it doesn’t feel like an entirely accurate depiction of a girl who, up until Caesar’s suggestion to escape, never ventured beyond the borders of the plantation she was forced to work and live on.

There is also the additional issue of Cora’s mother Mabel. She is often referenced throughout the story as Cora tries to come to terms with her abandonment. Mabel is presented as a woman so desperate to escape the plantation that she leaves her daughter behind and runs into the swamp. You believe Mabel escaped and is living somewhere in the north or made it to Canada but in reality, Mabel never made it beyond the swamp. She got a few miles away from the plantation in the dark before having a change of heart and went to make her way back but was bitten by a snake and died. Mabel was so focused on through The Underground Railroad that the truth of her demise seemed rushed and forced. I believe that her escape should have ended with her coming across a variation of the Great Dismal Swamp as this would have set up another good point for further research and would provide the reader with a glimmer of hope for any future runaways.

You’re probably thinking while reading this review that I didn’t enjoy The Underground Railroad and in a small way, you would be correct. There are a few things I would change about this book but that doesn’t take away from the fact I think it’s a brilliant piece of literature and something worth reading. There are very few people who can tackle a subject matter like slavery, intertwine it with other historical events from different periods and make a captivating and worthwhile story out of it but Colson Whitehead managed just that. I do believe there would be more emotion and urgency to the entire story if it was written in Cora’s voice but there is also a chance I am looking for a way to relate to her as a character when in reality, I can’t.

Admittedly, I think it would be an ignorant move on my part to present The Underground Railroad as an entertaining way to pass a couple of hours. This isn't entertainment, this is a fairly accurate insight into a life that should never have happened and I would urge anyone, whether you have an understanding of racism or are adamant racism doesn't exist, to read The Underground Railroad. It's not without its flaws but it's a flawed book worth reading.

Disclaimer: Anything marked with an asterisk (*) is an affiliate link.

What's On My Desk?

Thursday, 26 October 2017

First things first, the title of this post is a lie. I could show you what’s on my desk but I don’t think you want to see a pile of clean clothes that I somehow could be bothered washing and ironing but can’t be bothered putting away. You probably don’t want to see the random notes I leave for myself that are usually not much more than doodles of pizza and cartoon faces either. So, instead of the mundane items that lie upon a desk, I’d thought I’d show you the more interesting things that are scattered all over the area I tend to do my best work; the entertainment unit that I hunch over every day.

Winsor and Newton Art Materials

I have plenty of surfaces and plenty of chairs in my house so I can’t explain why I choose to sit on the floor and destroy my posture by leaning over an entertainment unit other than it’s surrounded by a constant source of inspiration. Above the unit is a painting of Stirling Castle but Jan Nelson, to the right of Jan Nelson’s work is a painting by Roderick Gauld and further along is a poster of Stephen King’s IT. Next to the unit is a steadily growing pile of books; some of which are illustrative fashion books, others are full of drawing techniques and the rest are fictional. Of course, there is a TV on this entertainment stand which will remain off while I’m chilling on the floor.

On the actual unit is a whole bunch of art supplies. This is where I tend to work on new paintings and drawings and doodles that aren’t pizza or cartoon characters. I’m gravitating more towards watercolour recently so there are a few palettes scattered everywhere and a couple of tiny paintbrushes. I also have a fondness for ink so I have multiple bottles of various colours lying around. A plethora of pencils - both graphite and watercolour - decorate the unit as well as a few pens for outlining. The dreaded smelly masking fluid lies near the ink so I can block off areas that need to stay clear of colour. There are tubes of gouache which admittedly, I keep eyeing up and then going straight back to the watercolour palettes. There are also half eaten packs of Polos everywhere as I discovered in high school that the mint with the hole in the middle helps me stay focused.

Polos Sharing Pot

You’re probably thinking one of these things is not like the others and you would be right although I have tried to erase lines with Polos on numerous occasions. I keep Polos everywhere; they’re in my pocket, my car, my bag, the side of my bed etc because, although I thoroughly enjoy having minty fresh breath, they’re a “normal” thing for me. If I’m going into a situation that’s completely out of my comfort zone, I pop a Polo in and it gives me something else to focus on while my legs carry me to said scary situation. Polos have gotten me through countless exams, job interviews, driving tests and awkward human interactions. I always have them to hand while drawing and painting as they somehow focus my mind which means I’m less likely to make stupid irreversible mistakes. Having the new sharing pot of Polos to hand is an absolute dream although I am worried I’m going to try and wash my brush in the Polo pot.

While hunching over the entertainment unit is probably going to ruin my back over time, it’s the only place where I seem to be motivated and creative. I don’t know if it’s to do with my surroundings or if it’s just because I really can’t be bothered putting those clean clothes away but for now, I love having art supplies scattered all over a unit that sits in the room I spend most of my time in.

Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with Polo.

The Power by Naomi Alderman Review

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Contains spoilers

With the fall of a certain Hollywood producer that I have fondly nicknamed “Harvey Wankstain” and the sexual harassment that has been brewing under the surface of blockbuster movies for quite some time finally making itself known, the idea of women dominating the world is appealing. With more women coming forward about their own dealings with sexual harassment and sexual assault there are more men – a term I use loosely - waiting to tear them down. You can’t share your own experiences without a male telling you that it’s a compliment, that you’re overreacting, that you should be grateful for the attention. It’s easy to ponder how life would be if the world’s power were switched; if men were the oppressed ones while women stomped all over them and Naomi Alderman explores just that in her fourth novel, The Power*.

The Power Naomi Alderman

The Power is a dystopian sci-fi novel that is set over the period of 10 years. During this timeframe, we’re introduced to and follow the lives of 4 main characters; 3 female and 1 male. The first character we’re introduced to is by far the most exciting. Fourteen-year-old Roxy is one of the youngest and one of the first girls to experience the power; an ability women have to generate electricity through their fingertips. She’s the daughter of a British mob boss which shapes her character development throughout the story particularly towards the end. If this was any other novel, Roxy would be a male as she’s often depicted as a strong hero who exudes confidence while maintaining some degree of vulnerability.

Tunde is the one main male character of The Power. He is the first male who experiences the women’s dominance in the story and his experience comes during a minor sexual encounter. The feeling leaves him confused but sparks a degree of interest. He chooses to film another female letting off her power and after posting it online, decides to become a journalist documenting the rise of the women. It’s through Tunde that we see how the power is developing across the world especially in poorer countries where women are significantly more oppressed than in the western world.

I personally found the other 2 main characters, Allie and Margot, to be rather dull and one dimensional. Allie is an orphan who escapes the abuse of the people who are trusted to look after her and lives in a convent. Throughout The Power, Allie becomes Mother Eve and brings a heavy religious aspect to the story. Margot on the other-hand is a mother and a mayor who desperately tries to hide her power at all times. Throughout The Power, Margot is presented as a strong female who uses her political connections to build up girls and help them control their own power.

The beautiful thing about The Power is how easily Naomi Alderman has taken everyday life for girls everywhere and turned it on its head. There are rape culture references scattered throughout the story as the women justify what they’re doing to men, there’s the use of religion which more often or not paints the women as the weaker sex but in this scenario, it’s used to empower women and the men are fearful for their lives and terrified that women will humiliate them through rape and assault. Alderman makes the switch so easily that it provokes your own sense of empowerment while also building up rage towards the men who resist the female uprising. The anger I felt was predominately directed at the males posters of a Reddit style forum as they plotted to take the women down and assert their dominance once more. It is an accurate depiction of the thoughts of some men expressed violently on the internet.

The Power Naomi Alderman

The Reddit forum in question is mainly a discussion surrounding the real identity of Mother Eve i.e. Allie and this is where my interest in the book began to waver. Allie/Mother Eve preaches religion to anyone who is willing to listen and it got to the point where my eyes would roll whenever I saw her name at the top of a new chapter. I’m struggling to find the value Allie/Mother Eve brings to the story other than being a stepping stone for Roxy's character development.

As the story progresses and tensions between males and females rise, it starts to feel disjointed. Allie/Mother Eve seems to be everywhere and nowhere and Margot becomes governor but continues to contribute nothing of interest to the overall development of The Power. Roxy however, is the first and only introduction we get to a woman losing her “skein”; the part of a woman that allows her to generate the electricity.

Roxy’s brother and father surgically remove the skein so it can be implanted into her brother which leaves the once powerful and sure of herself Roxy, intensely vulnerable and scared. Tunde also begins to fear for his safety as tensions boil over and laws are implemented that make men worthless. He needs to escape but he finds himself in the mountains and a witness to a rape and the death of a man. It’s at this point where a mild romance between Roxy and Tunde blossoms which in turn gives Roxy a more human quality to her as a character.

It’s not long after this moment where The Power falls flat on its face. The ending to the entire novel seems rushed and it highlights how many loose ends remain throughout the story. The entire premise of the story is built on all women reacting violently with their power and, although I understand what Alderman was trying to do with this depiction, I personally felt it removed my overall enjoyment of the book as it painted women as cold, callous and shallow. Other than Tunde, Roxy and the women who were victims of sex-trafficking it was hard to cheer for anyone throughout The Power.

If I had to read The Power all over again, I would sit on my hands and take an exceptionally long time to do it. It’s not that it’s a terrible read, it would make an excellent TV show (I believe it is being turned into just that) but it’s not without its flaws and unfortunately, the flaws outweigh the entire premise of the story.

Disclaimer: Anything marked with an asterisk (*) is an affiliate link.

Book Haul

Sunday, 8 October 2017

I was promised a book if I got out of bed. It was 2 pm on a sunny Saturday so I really shouldn’t have been in bed that late anyway but regardless if being horizontal for prolonged periods of time means I get a book then I will happily snooze away. I did say I was promised a book, didn’t I? As in, a single book but you’ve probably already figured out based on the fact this post is entitled “book haul” that I walked away with more than one.

Book Haul

Let’s do the book I’m most excited to read first. I saw the latest film adaption of IT in the cinema last week and ended up with more questions than answers so I decided I had to read the book. IT, in case you’ve somehow managed to avoid the clown hysteria, is written by horror extraordinaire Stephen King. He tells the tale of Pennywise, a clown that awakens every 27 years to terrorize a small town in Maine, USA, and prey on children. Pennywise becomes the thing you fear the most and haunts a group of children before they decide to take him down. The latest film adaption is incredible (Bill Skarsgard anyone!) and I’m hoping I’m going to love the book just as much as I love the film.

Books To Read

Home Going by Yaa Gyasi was another book I picked up. I have recently finished The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and wanted to delve a little deeper into slavery in America. Home Going is about 2 women; one who is sold into slavery and the other a wife of a slave trader. Each chapter focuses on a different descendent of the two women so we learn about their lives through the eyes of a relation. I’ve heard good things about Home Going so I have high expectations.

You may remember this book from such awful films starring Brad Pitt. World War Z the film adaption was dreadful but the book is supposed to be spectacular. World War Z by Max Brooks is, of course, about the zombie apocalypse and is written from the perspective of the survivors in an interview style. It follows the people who were there at the beginning of the outbreak and their take on events. Personally, I’m not into zombie things but World War Z doesn’t sound like the usual cliché zombie apocalypse book so I’m very intrigued by it.

Books To Read

A recent addition to my book wishlist is I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin and I already get to remove it as I now own it. I Am Not Your Negro is an accompaniment to the documentary directed by Raoul Peck. Civil rights activist James Baldwin started a project to tell the story of America through Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers; all of which are murdered black civil rights activists. James Baldwin died before his project was complete so Raoul Peck finished the project using James Baldwin’s voice and notes through the documentary. I haven’t watched I Am Not Your Negro (it’s currently on my watchlist ) but I’m in two minds as to whether I should read the book or watch the documentary first. Either way, this subject matter is right up my street!

With the recent shooting in America, it seems a little morbid to read a book on the subject but I’m doing it regardless. Every day, there are seven children and teenagers killed by guns in America and Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge tells the story of 10 deaths on November 23rd, 2013. These stories are of children and teenagers you probably never heard about, they flew under the radar because it’s such a common thing to happen; media outlets will not waste their time reporting on the deaths. Gary Younge chose these deaths at random and researched their family and their lives up until the day they died. Another Day in the Death of America is going to be an emotionally difficult and an incredibly frustrating read but it’s disturbingly interesting.

Books To Read

I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Amazon TV show The Man in the High Castle but I didn’t realize it was originally a book until my other half picked it up. In Philip K. Dick’s novel World War II went a bit wrong for the rest of the world and now the Nazis run New York (sorry New York-born rappers), the Japanese control California and the entire continent of African no longer exists. Hitler is incapacitated throughout the story so his hideous power is overshadowed by the men trying to take his place. The Man in the High Castle is a sci-fi novel which isn’t usually my cup of tea but I think I may make an exception this time around. I’ve also just discovered – through writing this post – that Philip K. Dick is the author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the novel that inspired Blade Runner so there’s that random fact to run with. I didn’t like Blade Runner so this doesn’t bode well for me.

Finally, we have The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton. This was actually chosen by my other half as I’ve introduced him to the wonder of podcasts and he’s really getting into philosophical ones. The Consolations of Philosophy jumps into things such as lack of money, the pain of love, inadequacy, anxiety, the fear of failure and pressure to conform (just to completely quote the synopsis). I believe the book is designed to help us live our lives and as I’m forever bothered by 5 out of 6 of the above things, I should probably get stuck into The Consolations of Philosophy sooner than later.

I’m really excited about the variety of books I’ve chosen this time around. I’ve been researching present racism in America and historic slavery a lot recently so having physical material to further my personal studies is extremely appealing right now. My to be read pile is getting far too big but I need more books. If I stay in bed until 2 pm again next Saturday will I get more?

What Are Essential Oils?

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Watercolour Leaves

You’ve probably heard of it in passing but have never really considered what it might be. You might even use a few every single day without even realising. You could be watching a shiny advert on TV right now (get your eyes off the TV and pay attention to me!) that is using them in a way to make their product sound like the greatest thing imaginable. You may know the name but don’t actually know what it all means and that’s where I come in. Essential oils meet reader, fabulous reader meet essential oils.

Before we dive too deep into the essential oils swimming pool, let’s actually talk about what the bloody hell these things are. Essential oils are derived from plants and are used for an abundance of things. Some essential oils are used to help us sleep, to promote calmness particularly in anxiety sufferers, to assist acne prone skin and others are used in perfume. There is a long list of essential oils and as much as I’d love to prattle on about the different type of essential oils, I think we’ll just cover the basics for now.

When I was a kid I had a huge issue with a very dry and flaky scalp caused by eczema. I had to use this foul smelling shampoo for months on end and it was of course made from, everyone’s favourite essential oil, tea tree oil. I detested the scent but it eliminated the dry, flaky skin and stopped me from scratching my head a million times a day (not something you want to do in primary school as it actually makes you look like you have nits!). Tea tree oil can also help with infections, acne and can improve the appearance of scars. It may not be my favourite smell in the world but boy does it get the job done!

Rose oil is something I come across on a regular basis since I have a habit of gravitating towards natural skincare products. Rose oil is used for its scent as it’s believed to give you a little mood boost (some say it’s an aphrodisiac as well but I can’t confirm or deny this) and, let’s face it, it smells delightful. Rose oil is also great at soothing and calming the skin; it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that my favourite moisturisers for battling eczema flare-ups and even sunburnt skin all contain rose oil.

Now for all you stomach issue sufferers out there, you might want to try some peppermint oil if you haven’t already done so. A lot of my family suffer from stomach issues and they all swear by peppermint to keep their symptoms at bay. Not only does peppermint have a calming and cooling effect on the body it also controls symptoms of the likes of IBS; the vast majority of my family who have seen their doctor for their issues have been prescribed peppermint oil tablets.

Hands up if you struggle to get to sleep! Yeah, I feel you! Fortunately, there are some great essential oils to help with that as well. Tuberose oil is one of the real magic oils that does a variety of things. It can help you sleep, relieve stress, help with anxiety and depression and can promote better blood circulation. Frankincense (yeah that thing they brought Jesus) oil can also help you get a better night’s sleep while simultaneously healing acne and preventing the signs of aging. Who doesn’t want to sleep while their body maintains their youthful look?

I have something in common with this oil; we share a name…minus the oil part of course. Melissa oil treats skin issues like eczema while also relieving allergies and fighting cold sores. It can help relieve symptoms of PMS, promote healthier digestion and it puts up a good fight against the cold and flu. This oil is so much more badass than I am, maybe I should change my name as I’m clearly not worthy of it.

If you suffer from dandruff but don’t like using an anti-dandruff shampoo that is full of chemicals and tested on animals (I’m looking at you certain shampoo brand that eliminates the look of flakes from 2 feet away) you might want to check out clary sage oil. Clary sage is an antiseptic and has a calming aroma; it is great at helping fight dandruff and can also be used in facial cleansers. It makes for a good natural deodorant and, like Melissa oil, it can help when menstruation comes to town.

Ok, I think we’ve covered a decent number of oils here so I shall let you jump forth into the essential oils swimming pool and let you choose what you think is best for you. The beautiful thing about essential oils is you’re probably already using the more commonly known ones in your everyday products without actually realising but there are so much more to discover. The majority of them are easily accessible and easy to use but make sure you read any instructions especially since some are more beneficial in a topical cream for certain things. Happy essential oiling...that's not a thing is it?

Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with New Directions Aromatics

Soap & Glory Hand Food Review

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

If there is one thing I do without fail each and every single day it’s moisturise my entire body. As soon as I’m dry after my morning shower a moisturiser will be slathered all over my skin before I get dressed. I feel like my morning routine isn’t complete unless there’s a faint smell of chocolate (thank you Palmer’s Cocoa Butter) or vanilla (and thank you Lush Sympathy for the Skin) lingering on my skin. I moisturise and moisturise but I forget about the part of my body that is used in almost everything I do; my hands! My hands rarely get the TLC they deserve and I’ve gone years without bothering to moisturise or *gulp* apply sunscreen to them. They’ve forgiven me for now but I had to change my lazy attitude towards hand cream before my hands resented me for good.

Soap and Glory Hand Food

Soap & Glory is quickly becoming my favourite skincare brand so naturally, the hand cream I would start using consistently would be Hand Food. The pretty pink bottle stands out against all of my other half’s skincare products (I swear he has more than me) so I’m always reminded to use Hand Food on a regular basis. The scent of Hand Food also encourages me to use it as it smells delicious; it’s a little on the strong side but the gorgeous almost floral scent makes me want to cover myself in this cream.

Ok, enough with the superficial part, let’s get into how Hand Food actually works as an actual hand cream! Hand Food is a great hand cream for me in the summer when my skin maintains its moisture and just needs a little pick me up every so often. The winter, however, is a different story. My hands get dry in the colder months and it’s especially noticeable in between each finger. Hand Food doesn’t do a great job at moisturising those areas. It may disguise the dry patches for a few hours but they always return and I’m forever fighting a losing battle with my own hands…maybe they haven’t actually forgiven me for ignoring them for so long!

Soap & Glory Hand Food

Hand Food does dry quickly so at least I’m not left with a greasy feeling and getting Soap & Glory scented fingerprints everywhere whenever I’ve applied it. I’ve also found a little goes a long way which means I’ve been using a 125ml bottle since February this year and I still have plenty left.

I’m not going to back Soap & Glory if they ever make a bid for the title of “world’s greatest hand cream manufacturers” (which would totally rival the Oscars during award season) as Hand Food isn’t without its flaws but I adore it for when the weather is luring me into believing it’s summer. It’s not my Holy Grail hand cream and it’ll be put on the shelf for winter in favour of a heavy-duty hand cream but at least the pretty pink bottle will look good while it sits there.

Confession: Why I'm Not Against Plastic Surgery

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Watercolour Female Body

I was always a funny looking kid. I was dorky and awkward and had a face that was far too round for my skinny body. I was smaller than the majority of kids my age and was always told by the adults around me that one day I would shoot up and be the girl who goes to clubs in impossibly short dresses and be a wild child. I never shot up (I barely got over 5 feet), I don’t go to clubs all that often because the music bothers me (fickle right?), I own short dresses but I constantly worry my butt is on show while wearing them and I was hardly a wild child. Looking back, I guess they were all assuming my more flamboyant ways would remain firmly in my childhood and I would become the same as everyone else but my body and mind had different ideas.

Admittedly, I tried to go against the grain as a kid. Everyone I was friends with was too similar and that just didn’t seem fun to me. They turned up to school discos in jeans and t-shirts and I turned up in pink sequinned dresses knowing fine well I’d get funny looks and bitched about all night. They played with makeup while I learned to skateboard. They worked out dance routines to Busted and I sang along to Linkin Park. We naturally drifted apart once we got to high school but, while I maintained my internal differences to the majority of people, I couldn’t help but notice the external differences. Puberty found me at 10 years old but it forgot to give me the thing that it gave every other girl.

We’d been told about puberty numerous times at school; we heard all about body hair and periods and pregnancy so it wasn’t exactly a scary thing for me to go through. I was fully aware I was growing up and figured I’d finally get rid of the awkwardness and the round face and would have big boobs and a nice butt. I got the nice butt (thank you mum!) but the big boobs never arrived. The boobs just didn’t want to make an appearance and that made me more self-conscious and awkward than ever.

My lack of lady lumps raised a few issues for me. Throughout the whole of high school, I still felt like a little kid because my body looked like a child’s with the added addition of unwanted body hair and a period. Finding clothes was a problem as tops would just bunch up and highlight my lack of boobage. When I did find clothes that showed I had something on my chest people made the assumption that I was stuffing my bra so I would shove those tops to the back of my wardrobe. I took to wearing hoodies all the time so I could hide my body; even in the summer, I was walking around in black hoodies while everyone bared their pale Scottish skin.

Once I hit the age of 18 I thought surely something is going to happen. Surely these breasts are going to finally find me and I’m going to have something to make clothing look better and stop me from feeling so childlike but nope, that never happened. I was hateful of my own body by my late teens and wanted to change a lot of it. The best option for me was plastic surgery and, despite the fact all surgical procedures make me squirm, I spent hours watching videos of breast augmentations, I scoured a Plastic Surgery Directoy Info, I researched people’s experience with their surgery and had numerous favorited websites on the aftercare. I was ready to save up for a boob job and then my breasts appeared. I’m always late to the party.

Don’t get too excited for me, they’re still small in comparison to the size I wanted but they’re perfectly in proportion to my body and I’m eager to keep them in their current state for as long as possible. That means I haven’t ruled out the idea of a breast augmentation, it just means I’ve put it on the back burner for a while. I don’t need a boob job right now because anything bigger than what I have would look ridiculous but, as gravity and age take over, my breasts will get closer to the ground and I have no issues with fighting age with surgery. I’m really not against having a bit of Botox and the occasional facelift to keep age at bay. Growing old gracefully is a beautiful thing but I love the fact that I can make fine lines disappear and stop my boobs from swinging across the floor if I really want to. It took 10 years for my lady lumps to appear so I want to keep them in their current perky state for as long as I possibly can.

Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with plasticsurgeryinfo.ca.

Lush Oatifix Review

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

If you haven’t eaten a whole “sharing” bag of Doritos while watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey you’re a liar.

I’m usually ok when it comes to my diet but sometimes I just want to bathe in Irn Bru and have an unlimited supply of crisps next to me. It’s incredibly obvious when I’ve gone on a junk food binge as my skin makes me look even more zombie like than usual and I’m probably trying to hide the moon craters that have erupted all over my face. Usually, my skin will go back to normal after a week of drinking nothing but water and force feeding myself carrots but a week is too long for my impatient self. I want quick fixes to all of my problems and my quick fix skin care starts and ends with Lush.

Lush Oatifix fresh face mask

Thanks to Lush’s bring back 5 empty pots for a free face mask deal and my Lush addiction, I’m doing pretty well in having a steady supply of fresh face masks to work with. I usually opt for Cosmetic Warrior but, as I had been on a junk food binge in the days leading up to visiting Lush, I wanted something that was going to help my dried out, icky skin. I went for Oatifix on the recommendation of a Lush employee who always seem to be the nicest people both in personality and smell wise.

Oatifix is made from bananas, illipe butter, oatmeal, ground almonds and a whole bunch of scientific sounding things to help moisturize dry skin. It smells like a hearty breakfast cereal and is just as thick and lumpy. My other half and I had a hell of a time trying to get Oatifix onto our faces as it doesn’t stick to skin as well as other Lush face masks.

Once you’ve battled with the application of Oatifix and you have a nice, thick face mask all you have to do is wait around for 10 minutes before washing the oat lumps off. Washing Oatifix off is just as difficult as applying it so I really wish I had used this face mask right before showering; that would’ve been too sensible for me though!

Lush Oatifix fresh face mask

I was adamant Oatifix was going to leave my skin looking and feeling greasier than a chip pan after I’d washed it off but I couldn’t have been more wrong if I tried. Oatifix had actually managed to get my skin back to normal after just one use and it had evened out my other half’s skin tone (he suffers from acne scarring and a little redness). Admittedly, my other half did resemble a wax figure but that look had disappeared by the following morning. Every other use of Oatifix gave us the same results which meant I didn’t have to consume an obscene amount of carrots! My other half did accidentally fall asleep with it on but, despite having oat goo on his face for 2 hours, it didn’t have any negative effect on his skin whatsoever.

My only wish for Oatifix is that it didn’t expire so quickly. The face masks in Lush are amazing but only getting around 3 weeks of use from them before they go out of date isn’t fun. More often or not, I never finish the small tubs and I’ve seen one too many moldy Lush products to risk using them beyond their expiration date. Despite the limited timeframe to use Oatifix in, I’d still happily pick this face mask up every time I’ve got tubs to return and skin to fix.

Benefit Cheeky Stowaways Beauty Kit

Friday, 1 September 2017

Do you know what really annoys me about airports? People; airports would be much more enjoyable if it wasn’t for other people. It’s not that I don’t want to share an airport with you (it totally is but let’s pretend I’m nice) it’s just I can’t handle people getting in my way at 4 am when I’m dragging an overweight suitcase and my tired butt around. I actively avoid moving anywhere in an airport until my gate is called as I know I’ll end up throwing my passport or a shoe at someone. The benefit of my aggressive airport tendencies means I rarely spend any unnecessary money as the idea of fighting my way through duty-free is not even remotely appealing. That being said, Prague airport is so unbelievably efficient that I ended up in duty-free without anyone but my other half so they won, I bought something. How dare they run an airport correctly and ruin my foul mood!

Benefit Cheeky Stowaways Beauty Kit

In my weak defence, I did want some new makeup products especially blusher and bronzer as I’ve been using nothing but MAC Dollymix and Benefit Dandelion for years now. I had plans on buying individual products as opposed to a palette as I always feel like large palettes are anything but travel-friendly (which goes against the travel set that this is supposed to be). I couldn’t walk away from the Cheeky Stowaways beauty kit regardless of how much of a pain it is to travel with though so it instantly became mine.

The Cheeky Stowaways beauty kit consists of Benefit’s infamous Hoola, Coralista, my beloved Dandelion and Rockateur. It also contains a small tube of They’re Real mascara and They’re Real push-up liner. There’s a small blush brush as well which will never be used.

Benefit Cheeky Stowaways Beauty Kit

I’m really taken by the variety of the shades in the Cheeky Stowaways and I’m amazed by the fact they’re all light enough for my skin tone. I’ve stayed away from Hoola for a long time as I was certain it would be far too dark for my ghostly complexion but it’s such a beautiful, light shade that it almost makes my horrendous contour skills look good. Coralista is another shade I would typically stay away from as I feel like coral is a total hit and miss. I don’t think Coralista looks amazing on me, it is too peachy for my skin tone but, with the right look, I can just about get away with it.

Dandelion is probably my all time favourite blusher as it’s the perfect light pink. It works well with my pale complexion and provides me with just the right amount of colour with minimum effort. Rockateur on the other hand looks too dark in the palette for me but it’s currently in a fight with Dandelion for the title of my favourite blusher. I absolutely love wearing Rockateur when I’m going for a subtle “hey look at my face” kind of deal as it provides a pretty pink flush to my cheeks without making it look like I’ve just been slapped.

Benefit Cheeky Stowaways Beauty Kit

Aside from the non-travel friendly size, I love everything about this beauty kit. I may not use the mascara and eyeliner very often but I love having them there in case I feel like having a raccoon eye look (I can’t use eyeliner and mascara to save my life) and the variety of shades of blusher means I’ve got shades for almost every mood. All I need now is a bright red for when I feel like looking like a clown. I wonder if I can get one in duty-free...
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