Books of April

Monday, 15 May 2017

Books to read

April was a shaky month for my reading challenge. I started with a book that seemed interesting on the surface but was really a jumbled mess and I ended with a book I never want to read again. It was an unfortunate month choice wise so I only managed to get through 3 books. Annoyingly, I was actually on target for 5 books in April but that third book made me lose all momentum.

Enough of the self-pity, let’s start with book number one. Eating the Elephant by Alice Wells* intrigued me as it’s written by the wife of a paedophile who killed himself the same day their house was searched for child pornography. It seemed like such an interesting albeit tragic book but, while I did enjoy it to an extent, I found Eating the Elephant to be like reading someone’s diary after it had been torn apart. The “climax” of the story happens right at the beginning and the rest of the book is a messy timeline that didn’t make much sense to me. Eating the Elephant could have been so much more but unfortunately, it falls short.

Books to read

It was my future mother-in-law that recommended the second book of the month. She mentioned her mother-in-law had read this book countless times and had passed it over to her to read. She actually wanted to pass it over to me but had recently given it to a local charity shop and the shop had already sold it by the time I went to visit. Regardless, I got hold of the book and positively devoured it.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini* follows the story of a girl born out of wedlock in Afghanistan. Her life is met with tragedy but after forming an alliance with a local teenage girl she once resented, she finds strength in herself to do the unthinkable and ultimately, become the true heroine of the story. I actually felt a little sad while reading this book because of how much hardship surrounds this one character but at the same time, I remained hopeful and I don’t think I’ve ever felt that strongly towards a story before. A Thousand Splendid Suns is such a compelling read I really wish I could go back and read it again for the first time!

Books to read

Finally, we have the dreaded third book; the book that destroyed my reading mojo. I don’t know why I read it, I know fine well I detest young adults books and have done before I even hit the “young adult” age. I’ve always found YA books too easy to read regardless of what subject matter they’re covering. They’re not my cup of tea but for some reason, I picked up The Manifesto on How to be Interesting by Holly Bourne* and I still regret it.

The Manifesto on How to be Interesting features every cliché to exist in YA. It features high school age characters, the protagonist is a loser who suddenly becomes popular, there’s a boy everyone fancies who of course is interested in the former loser girl, the characters are rich and the mean girls get their comeuppance in the end. This isn’t the Manifesto on How to be Interesting; this is the Manifesto on how to Write a YA Book.

With the exception of A Thousand Splendid Suns, I’m extremely disappointed with April’s reading choices. The YA book was a lapse in judgement but I really hoped Eating the Elephant would be extremely thought-provoking. I guess you can’t win them all but I least I’ve learnt a good lesson for May’s reading; don’t read books you don’t like!

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

Fun Ways to Exercise

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Skateboard graffiti

If the Olympic torch hadn’t made its way through my hometown before the 2012 London Olympics, I probably would have never bothered going for a run. I felt inspired by the man running down the street proudly holding the torch and decided to finally put my running app to use. I got 6 minutes into the run, sustained a shoulder injury and went home to nap. My running career was extremely sporadic until last year when I finally completed the aforementioned app (I’m embarrassed by the fact it took me 4 years to complete a 9-week program) and continued to rack up the miles. While I love seeing my average pace per mile get quicker and my distance get longer, I absolutely detest running. It’s hard and it’s sweaty and it leaves me with a bright red face. There are significantly more enjoyable ways to exercise and also meet new people while you’re at it.

Back in the day, I was obsessed with skateboarding. I couldn’t do anything cool on my skateboard but, while everyone else sat on theirs and rolled down a hill, I would show off my amazing “standing up on a skateboard” skills. I was a little gutted when the skateboarding/BMXing/scooter trend died out so when I saw micro scooters had recently made a comeback, I was rather hyped to see them. I never realised as a kid how much skateboarding was actually keeping me fit but it was building up my fitness level and giving me some serious leg muscles.

I still have a strong love for skateboarding/BMXing/scooters and would urge anyone of an age where it’s acceptable to hang out at a skate park to try it out. Of course, these aren’t the type of sports you can do without the equipment (you could try but you won’t get very far) so head over to Skate Hut for everything you need. Even if you don’t fancy taking up the more extreme sports, buy yourself a pair of skate shoes as they are seriously the comfiest shoes around.

If trying to be the next Tony Hawk or Dave Mirra isn’t your thing, try out some team sports. I’m a sucker for American sports so if you invite me to play baseball, basketball or American football, I will show up and will more than likely take it far too seriously. You don’t need to be as ridiculous as me though; just gather a bunch of friends, decide on a sport and find an open patch of grass to play it on. If you do invite me though, can we play American football and can I be the running back?

If team sports are appealing but your friends aren’t up for it, start scouting for local team activities. There’s been a recent rise in 5-a-side tag rugby and the majority of participants are there to have fun so the rules are relaxed. 5-a-side football is also another great way to get your muscles going and I promise you it’s significantly more fun to play football than it is to watch.

Despite the fact I hate running, I am going to throw a running related thing into this. I’m part of a few running groups on Facebook (if you want to feel bad about yourself, join one and cry over the man running 20 miles at an average pace of 7 minutes per mile) and the vast majority of people in them join in on a park run every weekend.

A park run is typically 5K (daunting but doable) and is held in your local park either on a Saturday or Sunday morning. There are so many people of various running abilities who go to park runs and have a whale of a time. Some people are trying for personal bests but you’ll find most of them are there just to run in a more social environment. There’s no time pressure and if you want to walk, you’ll have plenty of people alongside you doing the exact same thing.

With the promise of warmer weather, the increase in affordable athletic wear and a variety of exercise groups popping up all over the place, there is no excuse to not get some form of exercise into your week. I do my best to ensure I go for 3 runs a week plus a cycle and maybe even a horrendous 30 minutes worth of core strength training but I get that they’re not for everyone. Exercise isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but if you put yourself into a social situation or find a sport that you really enjoy, you’ll never know that you’re actually working out!

Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with Skate Hut.

Lush Starter Kit

Monday, 1 May 2017

Before I became a Lush addict, I would always become extremely overwhelmed in Lush. There are so many products for a rookie to choose from that it’s difficult to find the best item for your skin or hair. I was put off Lush thanks to the first product I ever tried being completely wrong for me and it took me a long time to start making my way through the sea of Lush goodness. Now that I’ve pretty much become a self-proclaimed Lush veteran, I’ve got my firm favourite products and I rarely want to stray from them. It’s hard to know where to start during your first Lush experience but my Lush starter kit is all you need (and a bottomless bank account because your money is going to be spent hard).

Best Lush products

I’m going to level with you here, Ocean Salt is arguably Lush’s greatest product but it’s too rough for sensitive skin and it tastes disgusting (I don’t intentionally eat it). That being said, if your skin can handle the abrasiveness I’d tell you to purchase Ocean Salt immediately. It smells fresh, it looks awesome and it leaves your skin looking and feeling incredible. I only use it on my face as opposed to my whole body so a small tub lasts me for a long time but if you plan on exfoliating the hell out of your body, get a big tub and go nuts.

Continuing with the sea salt theme is Big shampoo. Big is my favourite hair product from Lush for 2 reasons: a small amount of product leaves my hair squeaky clean and it smells so good. Like Ocean Salt, it smells fresh and it leaves your hair with a subtle yet delightful scent all day. I’d ignore the small tub of Big and go straight to the big (ha) one because you’re going to want to use this stuff every single day.

Best Lush products

I suppose once you’ve washed your hair you’re going to want something to wash your body with right? Well, Dirty Springwash is your shower gel for such a task. As much as I like trying all of the shower gels Lush has to offer, I can’t stay away from Dirty Springwash. It has a beautiful mint scent that is strong enough to wake you up in the morning but mild enough to not make any parts of you burn (why do so many mint products do this? We’re washing sensitive regions here!). It’s also a rather nice shade of blue so if that’s not a reason in itself to try Dirty Springwash, I don’t know what is.

So you’ve washed your hair and body and you’ve scrubbed your skin silly, now what you need is a good body lotion. Sympathy for the Skin is the body lotion from Lush that you have to try. I’m an eczema sufferer and have tried almost all of the Lush moisturisers for some assistance and Sympathy for the Skin is the one that helps every time. It’s a very light moisturiser which soaks into the skin quickly and it has a beautiful vanilla scent to it. Sympathy for the Skin also lasts an extremely long time as you only need a small amount for your entire body.

Best Lush products

I guess the only other part of your body that needs a product assigned to it is your face. Skin Drink is something I recently came across in Lush and it is quite possibly the best face moisturiser I have ever tried. I used to swear by Celestial but it has a very clinical scent to it so Skin Drink wins this round. It’s a thick moisturiser so it isn’t really suitable before makeup application but it’s a great night-time product. It takes a while to soak into your skin but if you use it before bed, you’ll wake up with a very smooth, very hydrated face. A 45g tub will set you back £14.95 but you only need a small amount for your whole face so a tub will last a long time.

I could honestly go on and on about what products a Lush rookie should try but I think 5 will make a nice dent in your bank balance so I’ll stop gushing over everything (if you fancy a bubble bar though you need to get The Comforter). If you are going to Lush for the first time and become a little overwhelmed, just ask for help; the staff are honestly the friendliest and most knowledgeable people I’ve ever come across in a store before and, as an added bonus, they all use the products too!
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