Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Things I'm Really Grateful for This Year

If you've read any of my 'end of year' blog posts before, you'll know I'm not the biggest fan of faddy resolution posts. This year I've also been watching people scramble to pick their three biggest achievements to post on a viral quote tweet, and I'm not sure I dig that either. It's great to shout about your successes if you're proud, so don't let me stop you. But if you're feeling pressured to come up with something impressive or you're finding that despite being happy for others, you can't help but compare your personal story with theirs, then know that you're not alone.

I don't want to shout about the fact that my only real achievement this year was that I completed a second course of CBT, after my mental health got pretty out of control, and that the panic attacks don't snatch my breath away from me nearly as often as they did only a few months ago. I don't want to talk about how much I've struggled. I'm just glad I've come out the other side of it, whether it's the end of the year or not.

I don't talk about this stuff a huge amount online because I feel like there are already plenty of people sharing their similar stories more articulately than I ever could. I've already allowed anxiety and depression to dominate my life and thoughts outside of this space and I finally feel like I'm on top of it, so I'll be damned if I let the bastard invade all of my writing too. 

So yes, I found 2017 pretty rough going, but there will be plenty who found it far worse. I'm grateful for my own resilience, and I'm grateful for the people who have supported me. I feel like I've changed and grown an awful lot, so I'm thankful for that, too. I've learned what I should and shouldn't give my time and energy to in order to stay 'sane' and get back on track. I've realised my own worth and am starting to embrace the fact that I'll always feel like a black sheep. I'm also grateful for medication and therapy and YouTube yoga routines and endless Netflix reruns of That '70s Show'. And Krispy Kreme donuts - whoever said you can't eat your problems was totally wrong.

Despite the above probably reading a little bit like the 3am tumblr post of an emo teenager, I'm actually feeling positive about 2018. I'm going to spend the first few months of the new year working on my confidence and trying new things, making up for all the time I spent in a negative head-space this year. 


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Budapest Diaries - Day One

Before Mat booked this trip for us, I'd felt as though I would like Budapest. I had heard there was plenty to do, and that it was a very affordable place to visit. What I didn't bank on is just how much I would fall for it. 

The Perfect Apartment

This was very much a budget trip for us back in October, having just been on our main family getaway to beautiful Crete, however we found that our money went so much further than we expected. We did everything we wanted to do and ate everything we wanted to eat (which is the most important thing!). Our flights were the usual Ryan Air cheap fares, and luckily they weren't among the many that were being cancelled at the time!

We stayed in a lovely little Air Bnb apartment, located on Andrássy Avenue, that was only £36 per night. It was about 15 minutes walk from the famous Szechenyi Baths in one direction, and 10-15 minutes from the Parliament building taking metro line 1. 

This was the perfect location for us, and we found public transport really easy to navigate. It was also a bargain, with a 72-hour travel card costing only £11 each. We were able to use these on the metro lines, buses, trams, boats - you name it! Of course, if you prefer to walk a lot, everything in Budapest is also doable on foot. 

The Craziest Views

Once we had been shown to our apartment and had dumped our bags, we headed straight into the city. Although we weren't initially sure how we wanted to spend our first day in Budapest, we ended up walking across the famous chain bridge and making our way up towards the very picturesque Fisherman's Bastion. 

You have to pay the equivalent of a couple of quid to walk along the top, but it's worth it. It's essentially a big terrace, designed to look like something straight out of the Gothic era - except it was actually only built in 1902. I felt a little bit like Cinderella walking up the (endless) steps. There was even a wedding party in full swing on one section of the terrace.

We had arrived just as the sun was starting to go down, and boy was it a sunset and a half! I hadn't seen too many pictures of Budapest before going - the whole time we were there I kept finding myself taken aback by how pretty this city is. I could've stayed up on the Bastion all day!

On a clear day, you can see for miles, with the majestic parliament building standing tall and Margaret Island separating the Buda and Pest banks. 

The Grand Palace

With the sun still setting, we decided to walk from the Bastion over to the other side of the hill, and see the Royal Palace in all its glory. I should add that it's worth seeing these impressive buildings both from up close and from the opposite side of the river. By day they look ornate and Gothic, and by night they're lit up and make the whole place magical.

After taking so many pictures that my Olympus Pen battery finally gave out, and my feet started to feel like they might drop off, we decided to get back down to river level via the Funicular Railway. It's a very quick trip down, but it's worth the experience of being on a train that's moving completely the wrong way!

The Best Burger

Just a short distance from the bottom of the Funicular Railway, we stumbled upon a restaurant called Meat Boutique. We decided to go in for dinner despite it being a little early at 6pm, partly because we were absolutely starving and partly because I thought the name was funny.

I wish I'd taken some phone snaps of our dinner - not only was the restaurant a gorgeous place to sit and eat, but the food was of a really high standard and the staff couldn't do enough for us. I think it may have been the best burger I've ever eaten, and I've had a lot of burgers!!

After that, we had a slow wander back to the metro and were soon back at the Air Bnb for an early night. Driving to the airport at 4am and walking 12km really takes it out of you...

I'll soon be posting what we got up to on days 2 and 3 of our break in Budapest, so I'll link them here when I do.

If you have any questions about visiting, just let me know in the comments!

Monday, 20 November 2017

A Christmas gift guide for the homebod in your life (under £15)

If there's one thing I love about this time of year it's starting my Christmas shopping. From searching for the perfect prezzie to give someone to sitting on the living room floor wrapping them up while Elf is on TV in the background - it might be my second favourite part of the season, after the food.

I've seen soooo many gift guides popping up all over the place, so I won't bore you with multiple posts. I did however round up a selection of wallet-friendly gifts that I think would be perfect for a pal or relative who loves to live life in the slow lane, get their hygge on and feed their Netflix addiction on the regular. Depending on your budget, you could even gift your recipient a little bundle of goodies for the perfect night in!

First up, who doesn't love a good scented candle! These jars from H&M home smell absolutely divine. My personal favourite is 'Firewood Figs' but Cinnamon Spice is lush too. Plus they're currently only £1.49 so a fab stocking filler.

Help your recipient add to a cosy atmosphere with some subtle but extremely pretty Firefly Lights from Primark. Again they're an absolute bargain at £2.50. They come in a variety of styles in the home section.

Speaking of Primark, they also do some very reasonably priced cosy furnishing. My Harry Potter blanket is kitten soft and super fluffy, and it was only £6. Why not give the gift of snug-ness?

When I'm not watching Netflix on the sofa, I'm usually scribbling notes and ideas down in a pad of some kind. I'm a sucker for stationery and can never resist a pretty notebook. I treated myself to a beautiful journal from Central 23 earlier this month and it's lovely quality. £12.00 might be a lot for a notebook but the design brings me so much joy when I go to scrawl in it. It would make a brilliant gift if you know someone who's into their journalling!

And finally, who doesn't love a good snack? Especially at Christmas (hello endless Quality Street and Matchmakers). Why not give a treat that's a little more luxurious, like a tin of shortbread from Crabtree and Evelyn - they can keep the pretty tin afterwards! Or, if you're buying for a chocoholic, Hotel Chocolat's Milk Chocolate Santas are incredibly moreish.

So there you go, those are my top picks for anyone you'd like to treat to a little R and R and home comfort this Christmas. Have you guys seen any other steals you'd add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Investing time in myself | The Trove Autumnal Workshop

When was the last time you went out and spent time doing something that was completely and utterly for you? If you're anything like me, you probably can't remember. I'm often so busy getting caught up in the things that 'must' be done (menial life admin, tidying, food shopping, working, etc, etc) that I don't set aside dedicated time to actually invest in myself.

Yesterday I decided to do just that. I had ummed and aahed about going on some kind of course or workshop for some time, and an event in Cambridge popped up at the right time. The lovely Stephanie, who runs Cambridge Creatives website, The Trove, held a gorgeous craft workshop that I just couldn't resist. The bonus was that this event was put on as a fundraising event for Cambridge Food Cycle (a fab initiative so deffo check them out!), alongside a craft and clothing sale arranged by Charlotte for her #CBGTown Indoor Market. AND there was cake!

I have to say, I was worried that since I'm not very 'arty' I might end up bringing home a pile of poo and committing it to a dusty cupboard once home, but thanks to some helpful tutoring my painting, flower arranging and (the best bit) glue gunning really paid off. My gorgeous golden ampersand is now proudly hung on our bedroom wall.

The other thing that struck me was how relaxing it was. If I'd have attempted this myself at home there would have been a lot of fiddling and mumbling 'oh shit' under my breath. But this was far less frustrating than those overly intricate adult colouring books and crazy craft kits. Knowing someone could help me if it went wrong and getting lost in some therapeutic painting left me feeling very chilled.

The social element of a workshop like this is also a massive plus. I'm notoriously antisocial most of the time, but being able to sit and do something a little bit different with some of my fellow blogger pals and put the world to rights with a natter was a welcome way to spend the afternoon. In fact, I'd thoroughly recommend it. I felt proud of my little creation and I'd actively invested some time in myself!

If you're interested in getting to grips with some kind of craft workshop, Facebook or Instagram are amazing places to do some research and find out what's available in your area, from floristry and jewellery making to pottery, and more, there's probably something you'd really enjoy right on your doorstep.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Crete Photo Diary | September 2017


September took a long time to roll around this year, but once it did, I was grateful to be off on my way to a week spent in Crete with my family. It was a relaxed holiday, with a few trips out and about and many hours spent absorbing the last of the summer heat (and desperately trying to tan). 

There's something about the Greek islands that always leaves me wanting to come back. Beautiful landscapes, the food, some serious sun, nice people, and... did I mention the food? Who doesn't love feta and olives on tap?

I took my Olympus Pen along for the ride of course, and going through the photos I felt like they looked somehow nicer in black and white. They just seem more calming that way. The sense of tranquility that I had finally found by the time we were leaving Koutouloufari village took me almost the entirety of this year to find - I kind of want to hold onto it when I look back at these images.

One of the best things we did on the holiday was go out on a day-long jeep safari across the middle of the island. Crete has some seriously impressive landscapes and, away from the more built-up touristy areas, some beautiful bays. We were treated to hours of stunning vistas during the safari, but this is my favourite. We were pretty high up in the hills when I snapped this, and I was instantly smitten with how it turned out. Ansel Adams eat your heart out? (Maybe not...)

Oh, and did I mention that I actually drove the jeep on this safari? I was going to shy away from taking the wheel since I was a little nervous about getting in the drivers seat of our dusty little 4x4 on what can only be described as the top of a mountain, but I ended up really enjoying it. My first task was to get us over this narrow old stone bridge (one car at a time as it couldn't take the weight, which wasn't disconcerting at all). Needless to say, I smashed it and felt like a total badass. Until I then took a wrong turn and a convoy of 6 cars had to stop and wait for me. Oops.

We also stopped at a village with a population of about 12 people and an average age of 70-odd! They grow so much of their own produce, with grape vines and olive trees everywhere. At one point, when someone's car broke down, we even ended up in someone's back yard. He offered us grapes and let us play with his dog while we all waited for the mechanic! The Greeks are an incredibly hospitable bunch.

No visit to Crete is complete without a visit to Knossos. It's a huge site that was inhabited as far back as 7000 BC, but the vast palace that is the main attraction dates back to around 1900 BC. I love a bit of history and mythology, so we braved midday heat and a small crowd to wander in and out of the many rooms and columns that still stand today. It's a must-see if you've ever heard the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, since the story originated here with Minos, the son of Zeus and the 'first king of Crete'.

The village of Koutouloufari was quite and traditional, with tavernas aplenty and a sense of slowness that you just don't find in an everyday British town. It's a stones throw away from a larger town, but up in the hills this place had a chilled vibe of its very own.

I took a lot of photos of the beautiful buildings in Crete as well as the landscapes. The white walls and heat-cracked exteriors make for an interesting texture. The strategically parked scooters and bicycles seemed cute and quaint, but were mostly there because the winding streets were too narrow for big cars. I lost count of the amount of times mum told me to "mind out!" and hug the side of the pavement as a taxi came flying past!

I don't know if Greek buildings seem so much prettier to me because we just don't have this style back at home, or because I associate them with holiday vibes. Either way, coming back to my boring brown brick block of flats the week after seemed depressing.

It was sort of fitting that we spent our final full evening on the island on a beautiful sunset cruise. The boat owner barbecued up some of the best pork and chicken I've ever tasted while we went for a dip in the sea, and we set sail again just in time to watch the sun disappear over yet more Cretan hills. I'd recommend a sunset cruise to anyone on holiday in this part of the world. We also took one in Turkey last year and there's something about them that brings me a nice injection of inner peace.

Congratulations if you made it to the end of this post. It was a little long, and probably a bit different to what you guys are used to, but I wanted to share! I hope you enjoyed a little peak into my snaps of Crete, and are maybe even thinking of going there yourself!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017


The Beginning

I've been thinking about when I started my very first blog around the time I finished uni. I used to post creative poetry and prose out into the ether on a rubbish Wordpress site with an awful header and a hard to read font. I started with zero followers, zero pageviews per day and tonnes of motivation to express who I really was. 

Not all my content was good, but some of it was pretty OK. Eventually people started to engage with my posts - the likes and comment built up and it gave me the boost to keep up the hobby. I would read tonnes and tonnes of blog posts on my lunch breaks and commutes, jot down new ideas for new posts in a little notepad. Some of them made the cut.

I took inspiration from everyday life and personal experiences but I never divulged the deep workings of my mind. Instead I took these thoughts and feelings and turned them into sweeping metaphors, sometimes corny, sometimes striking. The emotions still came through. I knew it resonated because people would engage with the content and respond to it. They appreciated what I had taken the time to do.

While I was busy blogging and dreaming about making it big as a writer (spoiler - I fell into a marketing career instead because this girl needs to eat/clothe herself), I began to notice another kind of blog emerging. A whole other world of beauty reviews and outfits of the day was gaining popularity across the internet. And what's more, a small group of people were even being paid to do it. 

I tried my hand at a few reviews and the response was OK, but my following on that blog was largely a creative writing and literature one and the strange new mix of content was a little jarring to them. Those first few posts died a death, but I began to care less about being creative and more about doing what was popular. And that's where was born. 

The Middle

I kept the content up for a few years, blogging mostly about makeup, occasionally about books or travel or everyday life. I got a few unpaid opportunities from brands, shops and restaurants but that was about it. I kept going regardless. I attended events, networked, posted three times a week without fail. I was waiting for that big break to come. It didn't.

Why? Nothing I created during that time was any different to what anyone else was doing. The quality was OK since I'm a decent writer and I'm not too bad with a camera, but there was no real passion in my words. I didn't love it, so most of my readers didn't either. I left myself behind on a now defunct Wordpress blog and sold out to the masses. 

I didn't like my content, I didn't like the space between the real me (a turbulent and sensitive twenty-something going through the motions) and the perfect image I felt I had to project. Over the last six months or so things have been going on behind the scenes that pulled me away from online life and have pushed me to admit that the standards I set for myself were outlandish. 

The last few months forced me to reflect on my blog as I watch pageviews dwindle and try to find the time and motivation to pick the pieces up and get it going again. I asked my self why it wasn't fun anymore. I realise that at one point I was so caught up in trying to curate the ideal online profile for myself that I forgot how much I used to enjoy consuming the content of others - how much it inspired me. And how much I miss getting creative with words. 

We're obsessed with being the biggest, working with this brand, and that brand, posting PR requests, emailing marketing departments. We also seem to spend more time blogging about blogging than we do creating content that carries any great meaning to ourselves or our readers. This post is no exception. We keep our websites and profiles updated regularly out of habit rather than passion, scared to see that follower number sink back below a certain arbitrary number. We're churning out shallow content by the bucketload for more likes, more comments, more validation. 

The End?

I feel like many of us have stopped consuming blogs ourselves. I used to scroll my Bloglovin app for hours but these days I maybe at most read a blog post a day, and that's if I get to the end of it. Instagram and Twitter give us such hard and fast access to the here and now that a blog post written two weeks ago and scheduled to go out at the same time on a Sunday evening as everyone else's just doesn't cut the mustard anymore. Most of the comments I receive on my blog these days are from people who just want an excuse to leave their own links there. 

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who is both desperate to be heard, but doesn't want to listen? It doesn't go anywhere.

There have been a spate of posts recently, on blogs and across social media, from some of my favourite bloggers/Youtubers/content creators (whatever you're supposed call them) that carry a theme of change. This online world isn't what it used to be and anyone who's been here for three years or more can feel it. It's faster moving, more competitive, and a pure numbers game no matter how you spin it. If you can't keep up, you'll drown in a sea of scheduled Tweets, click-bait titles and Instagram hashtags.

It's no surprise that after trying to keep up the act for so long many of us are now in a crisis. How do we stand out? How do we inject life back into our content? How do we reach the right audience? How do we turn this back into something we love?

After all this rambling I think the answer is simple - don't feel pressured to follow the crowd. If you're going to put a huge amount of effort into something, make sure it's something you would find interesting yourself. Make content you're passionate about and forget about conforming to what's hot in that moment. 

Life isn't a squeaky clean set of flatlays. It's messy and it's hard and it's OK to show that.

Whatever you blog about, be yourself. Not somebody else.

The Future

When it comes to my own blog, I'm focusing less on trying to cut through the noise and make it big. I'm focusing more on the quality of the content and the topics I discuss. 

It's going to be less materialistic, out of personal choice - I still love fashion and beauty content and enjoy makeup and clothes, I just don't want to write about it all the time. There are so many good #fbloggers and #bbloggers out there that do it wonderfully, you don't need me chiming in!

It's going to be less personal - I'm a professional working adult with my own shit to deal with, and that doesn't have to be done online. I will absolutely share a part of myself with you, my readers, but the form that this takes is going to be less about the nitty gritty details and more about how these life experiences make me feel and how I'm navigating them.

It's going to be more creative - Since changing my blog I've been hesitant to write in creative styles. God forbid I ever post a short poem or train of thought! I want to change this though and am going to start working harder on the actual quality of my writing.

So, if you made it to the end of this higgledy piggledy post and you're still interested in seeing where this takes me, stay tuned...

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Dealing with a crisis of confidence

Confidence. Seems like you either have it, or you don't, right? We all have those friends who ooze the stuff. They're totally self-assured, would take on any challenge in a heartbeat and would never be heard putting themselves down. 

But what if you're not the confident one? Or maybe you used to be, but somewhere along the way, you lost it? 

I've been spending some time recently trying to connect with my younger, more confident self after a series of events found my self-belief and sense of worth sitting at rock bottom. For almost the whole year I've been on a downward spiral when it comes to confidence.

The voice in my head has steadily eaten away at my sense of self, uttering constant criticisms ranging from "You look 10 feet wide in these jeans, you've really let yourself go," to "It's not even worth handing this piece of work in. It's so bad it'll get shot down immediately," and "Don't arrange that get together - nobody wants to hang out with you anyway."

Hearing that 50 times a day is enough to bring anyone down, right? To make you feel even worse. Eventually you retreat into yourself because it's easier. You let those voices win. I know I'm not the only one.

But you can't go on like that forever. There comes a point where the only way is up. For me, that moment of epiphany was when, within the space of a couple of days, three of the people closest to me pointed out that I had lost that ballsy spark they used to associate with me. That they could here in my voice and tell by my body language that I was in a bad place.

I was going through a hard time, and in many ways I still am, but how can you tackle what comes your way if you're already telling yourself you're not good enough to tackle it?

Talk to anyone in your life who you'd describe as 'confident' and the first thing they'll tell you is that they don't have it together all the time. They don't always feel great about themselves and they definitely have worries and hang ups just like everybody else.

So what makes them different? They don't give those negative voices the time of day. They focus more on their past achievements and future goals than they do their failures and faults, and that shines through in their mannerisms and behaviour.

At the risk of sounding like a dodgy Nike advert, sometimes you just have to do the things that scare you, ignore that voice that tells you "you can't do this" and fight back with "hell yes I can!"

Look in the mirror and focus on something you like about yourself instead of stressing about your frizzy hair or puffy eyes.

Take action and plough on with a task instead of letting procrastination take hold just because it feels safer. Worry about what might go wrong after you've done it.

Focus on the things that make you who you are, not on the things someone else can do better than you.

Hell, I've even created a sickeningly upbeat girl power playlist for mornings when I feel like I just can't take on the day. And it works. Because confidence is infectious.

It takes a lot to pull yourself out of a hole and put this stuff into practice, but distracting myself from my own negativity by moving swiftly onto doing or thinking something else is slowly starting to have an effect on me.

I have good days and bad, but I can feel a little bit of the old, confident me returning. I can feel a hint of a zest for life, a hunger for a bit more than just plodding along, coming back to me. And I've really missed it.

Have you ever felt like you're lacking confidence? How did you build yours back up? Let me know in the comments below.

Outfit details

Top: River Island | Jeans: F and F Clothing | Bag | & Other Stories (Old) | Watch: Olivia Burton | Ring: Regal Rose | Bracelet: Primark

Thanks to the lovely Pippa from Clashing Time for the photos

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

When will the blogosphere implode?

I've had a blog for over four years now, and for me it's always been a place of self expression. I feel like it's that way for a lot of people! Until recently I'd always found the blogging community a pleasant one. I never seemed to follow or associate with bloggers or YouTubers that caused 'Twitter drama' or engaged in cyber-bullying or subtweeting (whatever that even is). But that seems to have changed now, and to be frank it's bloody spoiling it for everyone.

I'm not dumb enough to think that what's grown to be a huge online space full of bloggers with aspirations to grow and possibly even make a career out of what they're doing is always going to be a nice, fluffy lovely place to be. Putting half our damn lives on the internet there's always going to be realness, negativity and disagreements.

But lately it seems like some bloggers can't move without being criticised. Can't try to make a living without enormous backlash. Considering that many of us dream of being paid to collaborate on our blogs, Instagrams and YouTube channels, would we want to be treated that way by our followers? This 'industry' - and I'm not even sure I could call it that anymore - is propped up by people aspiring to do the very things they berate others for.

Everything anyone says is wrong - it's not inclusive enough or doesn't present every viewpoint or isn't 'relatable' (whatever that really means). How can anyone win? The more I see of it, the more I want to log off and disengage. The more I see of it, the more I want to ditch my Twitter account and go back to the real world.

Sooner or later something has to give. The backlash against the backlash is just as strong. I see people taking long breaks from blogging and social media for the sake of their own sanity. I see people picking fights on my timeline just for a bit of validation. It's not OK. Having an opinion is fine. Forcing it upon others is not. And for me it's all getting a bit boring.

I've seen multiple posts this week on Twitter/blogger hate and why it's OK to unfollow people. Of course it flipping is. You should unfollow people. I unfollow people daily at the moment because for some reason there's some kind of poisonous virus spreading where everyone forgets their manners and just leaps right whatever 'drama' of the moment is without really thinking about it.

You don't have to support someone who doesn't echo your values or produce content that you love, but you don't have to lurk around ripping them to shreds either. This whole thing is INSANELY draining.

I have NO idea where this post is going, but I had to get it off my chest. Maybe that's part of the problem. I don't know. We're all aching to be heard and feel validated in a sphere that's so overcrowded that recognition is hard to come by. But we will never achieve anything by going at each other's throats day in day out.

You didn't ask for my advice, but God damnit I'm gonna give it to ya cos recently I seem to have grown a pair. Step away from the laptop, put your damn phone down and go get some fresh air. We all need a nice, healthy dose of perspective. Blogging in its current capacity won't be here forever if we carry on like this.

I'm exhausted after trying to formulate this rant into something that makes any sense at all, so I'm off to make myself a cuppa. Night guys.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

A holiday essentials haul

I'm not sure if I'm alone on this one, but I quite enjoy a bit of pre-holiday planning. It usually involves a spot of shopping, putting a few outfits together and thinking about itineraries. I recently hit the shops for a little splurge after realising I was missing a few essential getaway bits and bobs for our trip to Crete , so I thought I'd share them with you!

First on my list was storage. I picked up a set of travel bottles from Tiger for a couple of pounds so I can save on weight and ditch massive bottles of shampoo and shower gel. Then I spotted a triple set of toiletry bags in Primark in shiny copper and couldn't resist. Who doesn't love to be matching? Plus they were just £8!

When it comes to summer holidays, it doesn't get more essential than SPF! This year I've gone for Nivea's Protect & Sensitive range, to help prevent the prickly heat rash that seems to plague me when faced with a week of sunshine and swimming pools.

I picked up some nail polish remover pads too - they do the job without weighing down your suitcase like a bottle would. And of course, no sight-seeing trip is complete without aching feet, so some heel cushions are also coming along for the ride.

Makeup-wise I've also purchased my first ever CC Cream from Bourjois. I've been meaning to try one for a while and although it's a little heavier on the skin than I was expecting it's still lighter than foundation and I love the way it looks. There's an SPF of 15 in there alongside three different colour correcting pigments so I'll definitely be taking it with me! I picked up a mini palette from Collection too, that contains a highlight, blush and bronze in one. There's just no way I would take my gigantic Kat Von D one all the way to Greece with me.

Last year I picked up a mini argan oil from Schwarzkopf at the airport on the way to Turkey and despite using it ever since there's still half left. It tames my hair despite the humidity, meaning I can leave other styling products and fancy masks at home for the week and let my mane drip dry instead.

Now, I know that facewipes are something of a taboo in the beauty world, but when I'm away I just find them so convenient. No annoying bottles of cleanser or muslin cloths required, just wipe makeup away and hit the hay! These oil balancing wipes from Simple really agree with my skin, helping to refresh it after hot and humid evenings.

And lastly, I always pick up a pack of anti-bac wipes - great on the go (again, no pesky liquids) for messy hands and yucky seat-back trays on the plane.


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Why I still (kind of) blog

Everyone's a blogger these days. So much so that people no longer act like it's an unusual hobby when they find out. Little girls are growing up dreaming of starting their own websites and YouTube channels and Instagrams. While there's nothing wrong with that, the world of blogging has definitely become a much busier place. It's a legitimate profession now. And that's totally OK!

But one thing I've noticed more and more with the phenomenal rise of vlogs and YouTube, and continuing popularity of other social media, is that I read blogs less and less. I used to pour over the newest posts from my favourites, but now I see their content on my Instagram feed and Twitter timeline along with so many others, and I'm much less likely to click through and engage with it. That doesn't mean I wouldn't enjoy the post, but when scrolling through any app is an assault of 'check out my latest content', it's impossible to take the time to look at everything without feeling overloaded.

I struggle to find inspiration to provide my readers (who I'm very glad are still here after all these years!) with something unique, or at least a perspective they haven't seen somewhere else that very same week. It sometimes seems like it's almost impossible to grow, too. My followers on social media have been stagnant for months - why would anyone follow yet another small-time blogger with little to say?

I've struggled in my private life so much lately, with anxiety rearing its ugly head not for the first time, and in taking the time to try and deal with that and prevent it from taking over my life, I really neglected this space. And not keeping your blog and social up to date is sinful these days. My pageviews have plummeted, my Instagram followers and engagement have dropped dramatically (I wish I could blame that stupid algorithm entirely). Any attempt to blog in the last few months has only come from a random spurt of inspiration, that vanishes almost as quickly as it appears before I lose enthusiasm once more.

I wrote a while back about how sometimes this whole blogging thing seems too superficial. I'm not sure I feel exactly the same right now, but I do know that something is stirring in me to create something a little more meaningful out of the turmoil I've been going through offline. I guess that whatever comes out of this will only be a good thing. Because after considering packing this all in I've decided that's not an option.

Thinking about it, blogging at all in my current mindset is still an achievement. I've managed to keep up a blog in some shape or from since 2013, and it was only in April that I found myself dwindling from my usual 2-3 posts a week. This blog as always given me something to work at, something to try with, something to distract myself with for a little while.

It's also given me some wonderful new blogger friends. I wish I saw more of them, but hopefully as I get to building up my confidence and motivation again I'll be able to get more involved in the local scene and maybe even arrange something myself.

A blog gives me a chance to develop a whole host of skills, too. Since moving into social media marketing a few months ago with a new job, I'm struggling to remember the last time I wrote more than 160 characters. It's time to learn how to pour my heart out again. It's time to pick up the camera again and actually remind myself how to switch off the auto setting. It's time to put on a sassy outfit and take an image that makes me feel more 'girl boss' than empty shell.

There are so many reasons not to keep this blog running, to pack it all in and find something else to do... but the truth is I don't know if I'll ever be ready to give it up altogether. There are so many more reasons to continue. So, yes - I'm still here! In an impossibly tricky online space, I still want to succeed in growing and learning and bringing even more of you on board for the ride.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

The 'self care' advice worth taking

You can't scroll through Twitter these days without encountering a thread of 'self care' tips. They're all over blogs, vlogs and even magazine pages. The recommendations made in self care content range from the perfectly sensible (e.g. eat something), to the downright ridiculous (purchase some organic lavender oil spray and spritz your new fairtrade cotton bed sheets to your heart's content while adding even more unnecessary steps to your to do list). 

If you're not doing so well mentally, for whatever reason, the simplest daily task can feel like another mountain to climb. That's why however trendy it seems, self care is important. If you struggle to completely look after yourself sometimes then having key actions to focus on can help you get into a routine and take your mind off of your troubles. 

Self care is not, however, an endless tick list of treats and luxuries. It's not an aspirational lifestyle choice. It's not a 'trend'. The internet seems to have forgotten that part. For many people, myself included during a few periods of my life, getting out of bed at all feels like an achievement. There's no need to then add the weight of a bunch of unobtainable goals. It's all about taking things one step at a time

It's not healthy to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Instead focus on 2-3 simple things you can do each day, and try to make these a habit. If you have to put a written list somewhere to remind yourself then do it, but don't beat yourself up if you don't succeed, just start again.

Some realistic things you can do to look after yourself

Get out of bed

Even if you just move to the sofa, getting out of bed will make you feel more awake. If you have trouble falling asleep then separating day and night locations could also help. By the time you've gotten out of bed, you may even start to feel like getting dressed, having breakfast etc. Even if you don't, you've succeeded at motivating yourself just a little.

Wash your face, comb your hair and brush your teeth

I find brushing my teeth such a chore when I feel down, but once I've done it I feel weirdly cleansed. The same goes for washing your face. Self-care isn't about looking perfect, it's about being clean and feeling a tiny, tiny bit better for it.

Take your medication

Whether you're on prescribed tablets or are taking the supplement route to deal with whatever you've got going on, skipping doses is going to make them less effective and help you less in the long run. If it helps, you could get one of those weekly pill boxes to keep track. Keep it somewhere prominent e.g. by your kettle or on the bedside table. If you're not taking anything at all, it could be worth looking into if things are bad - there's no shame in asking your doctor.

Talk to someone

Even though I'm rarely truly by myself, in episodes of anxiety or depression I manage to convince myself I'm completely alone. Of course, that's never true, but I need to be reminded of this. Finding someone to talk to, whether through a helpline, a partner, parent, other relative or a friend, could make you feel a lot lighter. I can't tell you the amount of times I've gone quite literally crying to my parents as a grown adult because I've struggled to cope. They're always ready to listen and help me get my thoughts in order. Asking for help or advice doesn't make you weak, annoying or needy, and social interaction is important. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Go outside

You don't have to take up an extreme sport or buy hiking boots, but moving around a bit and getting some fresh air and sunlight is so important for your health. Vitamin D is a natural mood booster and a lot of us don't have enough of it. Even if you just step into the garden, it's a change of scenery.

Drink something. Eat something.

It's easy to forget to look after your body's basic requirements in the midst of a panic attack or when you feel like you're in the pits of despair. I have to admit that when my anxiety is simmering away in the background I'm more of an emotional eater (Krispy Kreme's for breakfast, anyone?). However when it really takes hold I can go the whole day without feeling hungry or thirsty. It's like that part of my brain has been disconnected. A slice of toast and a glass of water isn't much, but can keep you going when you're not interested in putting together a gourmet quinoa and avocado salad.

As far as I'm concerned, anything else is a bonus on those days where everything seems to take ten times the energy and effort it usually might. And who knows, once you've conquered the basics then maybe you'll be ready to start adding in new steps and getting back on your feet.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Everyday Summer Makeup Staples

Hi guys.... long time no blog! I took a long break from posting (it's an even longer story!) but I'm happy to be back in the swing of things again. I'm writing this on the hottest day of the year so far, so I thought it'd be the perfect chance to chat about my summer makeup routine. These products are what I use virtually every single day in the warmer months and have seen me through some pretty sweaty situations!

The Base

Now, I'd love to be confident enough about my skin to forgo foundation altogether on a hot day, but the only places you'll ever see me totally makeup free are the gym and the beach! I have very oily skin and some acne scarring so I tend to opt for a light layer of something medium coverage and mattifying - the last thing you need on a hot day is an oil slick going on.

Last year I discovered Maybelline's Fit Me Matte & Poreless foundation and I've been using it on and off ever since, for when I'm worried about my skin getting its shine on. It keeps the dreaded sheen at bay for longer than my other products and doesn't feel heavy on the skin or cling to any dry patches.

The Concealer

I've yet to find a girl that doesn't own a Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer, and for good reason. It does the job and it stays put all day! I use the no. 1 shade, which is probably a touch too light for me, but no. 2 is a little orange on my skin. A bit of blending hides that completely though and I feel a lot more confident with scarring and spots covered.

The Contour

When Kat Von D Beauty hit Debenhams last year I was so bloody happy. One of my first purchases was the Shade and Light Contour Palette and I think I must have used it every day since. You can tell by the photos in this post that my favourite shade is the lighter cool tone for daytime wear, but I do head to the darker shades and highlighters in the evenings. I use these as a contour and as a bronzer too to add a bit more of a glow,

The Blush

I've spoken before about how much I love the Soap and Glory blushes. They're pigmented but blendable and 'Rosy Chic' is a beautifully natural looking colour. Admittedly if it's a day as hot as today I'm already so beetroot that blush isn't needed, but most days I'll splash this across my cheeks with a Real Techniques brush to look that bit more awake and alive!

The Brows

I don't wear any eye makeup, so brows are my go-to area when it comes to giving a bit more oomph to my look and looking 'done'. I'm currently crazy about Soap and Glory's brow pencils - you can either get them with a brush at the opposite end or a liquid tint, which is handy! The pencil is fine so that you can add lots of small strokes and get beautifully filled-in brows in no time.

As my eyebrows are quite long and bushy (SO glad that's become trendy by the way!) they can get messed up easily. I go over the shape with Maybelline Brow Drama mascara just to fix the shape in place. I use the Medium Brown shade despite having dark hair because I find the end result is far less harsh.

The Lips

If winter is for matte berry lips, then summer is about muted glosses and going natural. I received an Arrow Boost lip balm in a Birchbox a while back now and I use it all the time. The stick of balm is totally clear but when applied the PH of your lips causes the product to change colour and provide a flush of pink along with some serious moisture. It means that no two users of the product end up with the exact same shade!

What products to you always reach for when it comes to summer makeup? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Rejecting perfection: Why I couldn't care less about having my 'shit' together

I'm someone who has always put a lot of pressure on myself: to have a spotless home, an organised handbag, an endless selection of (largely unused) notebooks and makeup organised meticulously into shiny acrylic display holders. But lately I've become more and more aware of something that was probably inevitable but is still pretty disturbing. Having your shit together has become ridiculously commercialised, and I've really fallen victim to it.

Think about some of your favourite bloggers, YouTubers or famous faces. From lifestyle bloggers to healthy chefs, Instagram yogis and more - all we really see in their social media are images of pure perfection. They make appearing organised, well put together and successful look easy. And their followers, myself included, find this aspirational. We want what they have, and to project a similar image, because it's cool to have your shit together.

From bullet journalling to self help books, influencers have spawned an entire industry dedicated to being organised. Expensive Pinterest-worthy homes paraded on social media have also contributed to this. What 20-something woman doesn't have a set of cute miniature cacti on her bookshelf, or a motivational print hanging above her desk? (I certainly do) A craze for ladylike brunches of avocado on toast has also taken off even though most of us probably find the stuff gross. Working in scandi-chic cafes on marble encased MacBook Pros is all the rage.

But it's made to look so attractive that everyone is doing it. Perfection is the new black. 

Lately I've noticed several hugely well-known influencers complaining that it's not all glamorous outfit photos and exclusive brand dinners, but I find it very hard to be sympathetic towards this. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that most of these figures have worked incredibly hard to get to where they are, and just like every job I'm sure there are downsides. I'm sure they have all kinds of personal struggles behind the scenes just like you and I. But herein lies the crux of the problem. 

The parts of their lives that we are shown are a glorified highlight reel. It's very rare (with the exception of a few big names that regularly engage in #realtalk) that we see anything about these people's lives that humanises them. I'm sure that they, just like me, have been so tired and overworked that they drop a 4 pinter of milk on the kitchen floor and just burst into tears. I'm sure they have relationship problems, health scares, messy bedrooms and career worries the same as anybody else. But they just don't show it. 

And I really wish they did. It would mean so much to so many young women who are struggling with everything from mental health to financial problems, who feel like they could never achieve what these influencers have, to be reminded that really we're all the same and all get lost in the chaos of life sometimes. When all we're confronted with are edited versions of others, we start to believe we're inferior with our messy lives and rented magnolia bedrooms.

Perfectionism is the devil. Obligation and guilt are demons we can all live without

I don't blame big influencers for wanting to seem perfect - the picture of health, style and positivity. It's what makes them so attractive to brands. It's how they make their money. But ultimately, it's just not real. 

Many of these people have agents, managers, accountants, videographers, editors and everything in between helping them take their success to the next level. Product placements and PR events have evolved into huge brand campaigns, book deals and makeup lines. But where is the substance? Where is the realness? The lines are so blurred that audiences just doesn't know anymore.

And I'm not suggesting that influencers should have to share every nitty gritty detail of their lives with us - privacy is a basic human right, and most us are grown-up enough to know that what we see is very much censored. But I do feel is that there is an element of responsibility here, to inject a touch of balance into the squeaky clean videos and images girls as young as 11 or 12 are consuming on Instagram and YouTube daily. 

All I know is this

For too long I've been feeling like I have to be just like these people. To spend every penny on the latest stuff, to spend so long taking photos of my coffee it's gone cold when I finally take a sip, to carefully design a weekly schedule in my bullet journal and never tick any of it off anyway. Comparing my acne-scarred face to a photoshopped version of someone who's used face creams costing hundreds of pounds that I don't have. And I've finally realised that none of it matters.

It's not healthy to put pressure on yourself to always be hyper-organised perfectly dressed and fully in control of your life. Nobody actually has their shit together. It's a disturbing projected image that reminds me a little too much of that 1950s-style Stepford Wives aspirational lifestyle. Be practically perfect in every way or be rejected by society. 

Why are we so afraid of being publicly honest about the struggles of everyday life? Why do we allow advertising and social media to set such high standards, and get disappointed when we don't live up to them? We are we so worried about being our own weird selves and straying from a spotless bleached white and pastel colour palette? Where did our personalities go?

Do what you want

One evening a while back I'd been scrolling Instagram for what seemed like hours (to the point that my hands hurt) and it hit me just how much I'd been sucked into all of this. Many of us preach that comparison is the thief of joy, but we allow other people to shove their supposedly perfect lives under our noses for hours and hours of the day. 

After this moment I stepped back from all things blogging for a few weeks. I turned off push notifications and abandoned Instagram pods, I missed Twitter chats, ignored my YouTube subs and abandoned the blog post schedule I was struggling to keep up with alongside changing jobs. And it did wonders for my mental state.

It felt so bloody good to remember what it was like not to obsess over Instagram themes, monthly pageviews and how many retweets I was getting. I went for dinner and didn't take photos of my food. I didn't feel desperately compelled to place an order for a bunch of 'useful' stationery I'd never use. I posted dark, low quality photos of little moments on the go that made me smile. Who cares if my hair's a mess or my nails are chipped or I didn't use a selfie light to show of my highlight?

Is my engagement worse as a result of it? Yes. Of course it is, because we're all so obsessed with perfection that anything less gets ignored (or worse, unfollowed). But did I enjoy it? Hell yeah. It was liberating. And should I continue to blog and keep up my social media from now on, you can expect less of the stuff I think you'll love and more of what interests me.

Be more real, don't change yourself or buy things just because that's what somebody else has done. Don't agonise over 'having it all'. Just do what makes you happy.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Olympus Pen E-PL8 - worth the upgrade?

I've been the proud owner of an Olympus Pen E-PL7 for about 18 months now. I absolutely love it, but like many I found myself wondering if it was worth an upgrade when the shiny new E-PL8 was unveiled. A couple of weeks ago I got the chance to try out the new model at Campkins Cameras in Cambridge. Here's how I got on.

I headed to the Campkins store along with a few other bloggers from the #CambMeetUp Facebook group. They're ladies I've gotten to know at events over the last year or so and a really lovely bunch! A special shout out is in order for the lovely Alice who organised the event. After a couple of minutes spent setting up the cameras with our memory cards and connecting them to the Olympus sharing app, we set out on a photo walk around the city.

It was a beautiful Spring day and despite stopping every hundred metres or so to take a snap, we covered a lot of ground around some of Cambridge's prettiest streets. David, an Olympus specialist, lead the walk and was on hand with his reflector and insider know-how to help us get the most out of the E-PL8. He gave me a tip on how to get the gorgeous starburst effect below in the afternoon light.

In terms of the user interface and software features, there's virtually no difference in capability between the E-PL7 and E-PL8. What I love the most about the Pen series of cameras is that there are functions for all abilities, styles and interests. If you don't know how to go fully manual or you're finding it tricky to get a particular effect, the auto mode has an extensive menu of sliders that allows you to tinker with things like exposure, warmth and background blur to get professional looking images.

The other thing that impresses me so much about these cameras is the clarity. I moved to the E-PL7 from an outdated Fujifilm bridge camera that struggled to focus and ran on 4x AA batteries, and the results are just dreamy. On this particular day we just used the kit lens, but I also own a zoom lens that produces amazing results.

My favourite feature of the Pen range is the Wi-Fi sharing. The app creates its own connection, so you can be in the middle of nowhere with no signal and still be able to quickly import photos from your camera to your phone. You can also use your phone as a remote, with an in-app viewfinder. It's helped me take a few outfit photos in the past when no one's been around to take them!

The E-PL8 hardware is very similar in design to the E-PL7, just slightly sleeker in terms of the hand grip being less bulky. It's such a pretty piece of kit that I strategically and quite deliberately place mine on the bookcase to look at in-between shoots.

There are a couple of possible negatives to consider if you're thinking about investing in either of the Pen cameras. Firstly the weight - being a compact D-SLR the Olympus Pen is much lighter than your usual large Canon or Nikon camera and is perfectly portable in a small handbag. However, don't expect to be vlogging on it for more than a few minutes before your arm goes dead. Luckily, YouTube isn't my bag so that's not an issue for me.

Again, if YouTube and selfies are your bag, you might get a little frustrated with the flip out screen, as on both models the primary direction of the screen flip is down, not out to the side. This has never bothered me and you can also pull the screen up and out so you can get some weird flatlay angles without having to contort your body to see the screen.

And finally, there's the price. I was lucky enough at the time I purchased my E-PL7 to find a 25% discount code online, but these are few and far between. Olympus Pen cameras are gorgeous, good quality and well worth  the investment in my opinion, but be prepared to part with several hundred pounds for the standard kit and an extra lens.

All in all, although the Olympus Pen E-PL8 performed fantastically, it isn't quite different enough from its predecessor for me to make the upgrade just yet. I'd highly recommend getting your hands on either if you're after a camera that's easy to use but allows you to learn more and use high-tech features as you go. As for me...I'll be waiting to see what the E-PL9 has in store!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

How to launch a career in marketing when you don't have a marketing degree

Since entering the blogging world I've noticed that some of us have something in common - an awful lot of bloggers I follow are working in or hoping to work in marketing. I only settled on marketing as my chosen field during my final year of university, and have managed to carve out a career for myself armed with an English Literature degree and buckets of enthusiasm. But when so many employers are on the hunt for candidates with pure marketing degrees and absurdly expensive certifications (I'm looking at you Certified Institute of Marketing), how can you make yourself stand out?

Know what you don't know

The hardest thing to do is sell yourself - I can confidently produce marketing material for just about anything, but when it comes to talking all things 'me' it gets difficult. That's why it's important to find the gaps and weaknesses in your CV before somebody else does and invest some time in filling those holes, adding as much value as you can to your experience and qualifications so far. Whatever you do, don't claim you have extensive knowledge of something if you don't. Marketing is a very broad field and most interviewers will expect you to have specialisms and areas you may not have as much experience of.

Apply your skills

Some of the qualifications best suited to marketing aren't even taught in the business faculty. My degree in English Lit gave me heaps of transferable skills, from the obvious ones like a high standard of written communication and the ability to hit multiple deadlines, to less obvious ones like working in groups and conducting in-depth research. I've met marketers with communications degrees, multimedia degrees, graphic design qualifications, and no higher education at all - the point is they've all learned a range of skills that fit into marketing really well, and are able to make those connections.

Use free resources to learn more

There are organisations out there that will charge you thousands for an additional marketing qualification, but with the internet now a huge 'how to' resource they're actually becoming less common. There are a large number of free courses and articles out there that you can use to help educate yourself further on different aspects of marketing, from social media to SEO, Google Analytics and more. I've completed a few of them myself over the years, and some are more widely known and highly regarded than others. A good set of short online courses to start with could include:

Get a related hobby

If you've got yourself a blog or are always on your own social media accounts, then you've already got some real-life experience of some aspects of marketing. Growing a blog takes a lot of work and its success ultimately relies on how you market it, so treat it like you would a business and you're bound to have learned more than you think. 

You can also volunteer yourself as a marketer for community events, for example I had my first experience of creating and executing a marketing strategy for a charity day at my university, and also got the chance to help market a Winter Fair in my city. Employers are generally quite impressed if you're enthusiastic enough about the field to do something similar in your own free time - your passion will shine through. Just don't be surprised if after you mention it they go and have a little snoop!

So there you have it - you're ready to take your first steps into the world of marketing, hopefully feeling super prepared and raring to go!

This post is something a little different to my normal subject matter, but I'm working hard to make this space both more personal and above all useful to you lovely readers! If you've found my story and suggestions helpful, or have some other tips you'd like to give, please let me know in the comments!
© kelly anne rist

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