Self care, skin care, & nurturing Mother Nature.

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Trying to live a more minimal and conscious life in search of pure happiness and joy

November 19, 2017

Bullet Journal: October Review

Hey folks! Today I thought I'd share with you a review of October's bullet journal entries. If you've been a reader for a while, you will know that at the start of each month, I used to write a review post covering the previous month's activities, favourite new discoveries and what music/tv/video games I had enjoyed etc. Whilst I did enjoying compiling these posts so I could look back on them and remind myself of things I might have otherwise forgotten about, I did grow tired of the style of them and realised that writing them became forced and they were just no longer something I was enjoying putting together.

So at the end of September, I decided to finally give bullet journaling a go. I was100% one of *those* people who didn't see the point in bullet journals as to me, they just seemed like an excuse to put a lot of effort into list making without any pay off. Like, why would you draw lovely detailed and pretty daily to-do lists to then just discard them at the end of each day? I didn't understand but as someone who enjoys drawing/painting/keeping the creative juices flowing but also as someone who was finding it increasingly difficult to explore those joys, I realised bujos might be the answer. So, I started a bujo. I watched some videos to get an idea of what other people were including and then set about making my own. If you're someone who enjoyed my review-style posts then don't you worry, I'm going to drop review bits and pieces in here and there as I take you through my October set up and those of you who are here to see what I documented, what worked, and what I might be changing for November's layout, sit back and enjoy:

I knew starting out my bullet journal that I wanted it to have a very hand-drawn feel. I didn't want it to be too minimal and I certainly didn't want it to look editorial - for me, the idea of keeping such a journal is that it *should* look well used, well loved, and show creativity and thus that's what "aesthetic" I went for in this first month. The main theme I wanted to go with was of course, leaves and nature in general as that's instantly what comes to mind for the month of October. I knew from the get-go that I also wanted to include lots of quotes about autumn and other doodles resembling the month and the fact that the season is growing colder. A nod to Halloween also needed to be in there too! I started out with watercolour painting each and every page but by time I got to my weekly layout pages, I realised how time consuming it was to do the more background images (for lack of a better name for them) as watercolours and switched to pencils instead. I wanted the colours to be quite muted so both watercolours and pencils worked well here with a light hand.

October wasn't a particularly busy month for me, but I did do some nice things. Firstly, it was the month I got my shit together for work. I've become the primary/main tutor at a new centre for my job and whilst it's been daunting and hard work, I feel pretty damn grateful that I've only been in this role for around 9 months and have already been given this amount of responsibility. As a result though, a lot of my time in October was seen rushing to and from meetings and trying to make the new office and teaching room look and feel like my new "work home". I also decided to buy a new ukulele this month and I'm so pleased I did - whilst I haven't been steady with playing it regularly, when I do make sure I sit down to play it, I'm often losing myself in it for a few hours at a time and I'm quite pleased with my progression with it - not to mention I'm loving learning to play all my classic teen-emo songs on it! Speaking of ukulele playing, I also saw Itch from The King Blues play at one of my old haunts, The Railway in Winchester in October too. It was an intimate small gig and very much had a "this is just an open mic night" sort of vibe. He played some fave The King Blues classics acoustically and was also promoting his new poetry haiku book, too. Although there's a lot of controversy around the guy (particularly earlier this year), he's lived such a wild life that I like to listen to what he has to say as a result of such experiences and as someone who has grown up listening to The King Blues, it was nice to see a more calm show by their lead man.

Monthly Calendar Overview
So the first thing I felt needed to follow the month's title page was of course a monthly calendar. I wanted to include one of these because it means it gives you a quick and easy way to overview any special dates or events coming up for the month. I'm one of the few people who doesn't use the calendar on their phone, so this paper copy was greatly appreciated for my busy and forgetful mind. I decided to just add a little symbol for days of my period too which, although I use the Eve app religiously each month, was nice to have as another visual que to go back to if need be to track any irregularities etc.

One thing I was determined to include was this idea of tracking the weather. Now, it may seem a bit pointless or a bit of a nerdy thing to do but I actually really enjoyed it! I had seen Lunestelle do this in her bujo and knew I had to steal the idea. It gives me another little creative doodle minute every evening and it was also nice to look at it alongside my mood/habit trackers to see if there was any correlation between the weather and my mood and productivity.

I knew I would have to have a "very adult" page in there somewhere and yep, it had to be this. This might come across as very snobbish, but money hasn't been a worry or concern for me for a few years now but I completely realise this comfort has brought with it some slapdash spending on things I don't need. The idea of the expenses tracker was to document how much money I need to spend - e.g. on travel for work - and also how much more I seem to spend each month of stuff I definitely don't need - hey there miscellaneous section! This well and truly proved my point this month as a lot of money was spent on takeaways that were ordered when I was too lazy to cook. I want to try and make it more visually impactful in November and I also want to make it more functional for my trends in spending, but it will undoubtedly be a page I replicate in future months.

My Mood and Habits Trackers
These two pages are my absolute favourite pages for sure. These are heavily influenced by Amanda Rach Lee who is the goddess of bujo design if you need some inspiration, but they've not only been aesthetically pleasing for me, they've also been very functional and influential. I really wanted to make sure I tracked my mood in my bullet journal because I usually feel quite down as a person yet give off the vibe that I'm always fun and giggly so I wanted to see how I'm *truly* feeling day to day. Thankfully, this mood tracker has made me realise that actually? I'm not the negative raincloud I always thought I was and I am in fact usually in a pretty damn good mood. The odd occasion when I had a negative colour creeping in, it's nice for me to try and think back to that specific day and work out what it was that made me feel so down. So surprise surprise, I'll be keeping this page for sure in November but just switching up the design (although I can't lie, the circle layout was mega cute to complete).

Ah, and now for the habits tracker. Again, I wanted to track a few things in my day to day life that I often overlook and think is just part of mundane life. For this tracker, I included everything from healthy eating and exercise to practicing ukulele and how many cups of tea I'm drinking. What this month showed me is that I am a wee lazy bitch. I didn't do half as much working out or blogging as I wanted to, but it means I can hope for a more positive layout the next month! I'm hoping the more I do this whole bujo thing, the more and more positive colours will appear on each habits tracker page as I have become a firm believer that the phrase "I don't have time" is the cop out line to wriggle out of doing productive things for me and I want to rectify that.

Instagram Tracker
One page I'm having a love hate relationship with but I'm going to persevere with for the time being is without a doubt the IG tracker. Again, I stole this idea from Lunestelle as I thought it would be interesting to see if there were any patterns in what content was most popular and to see if my IG growth really was as bad as I thought. Turns out my growth is indeed as bad as I thought and it was actually a bit disheartening each day to open to this page and fill in my decline of followers etc. I'm not someone who gets hung up on follower counts or likes, but IG is my favourite platform as it can so visually pleasing, so it was disappointing to see how much the algorithm has ruined the way it functions. One good thing I took away from it though is that I enjoy the mix of media I publicise on there and I like that it made me actively want to post - I've always been quite consistent with posting on that platform, but having a written account of how often I'm posting and seeing whether or not I've posted every day really helped motivate me further.

Brain Dump
Ah, the lesser used brain dump page. I still like the idea of this page but the problem is, I like everything to have a place and be somewhat neat and tidy so a brain dump page was never really going to work for me. I still like the idea, but for me I've realised I need it to have a bit more structure like some categories or titles or maybe just to be a collage page of pretty pictures or tickets etc. collated that month. I need to figure it all out for November's layout.

Weekly Layouts
My weekly layouts were nice. I like that they had a handwritten and hand-drawn feel and weren't too structured. They made me realise how monotonous my day to day life is though so I definitely need to mix it up a little and try to be more spontaneous! But ultimately, it gave me a chance to fill in any gaps with little quick doodles or quotes (which I *loved* peppering throughout October's pages) and also gave me a chance to be a little creative in general. I liked that to begin with, each day was very uniform and laid out exactly the same as the previous and next but with each doodle and framing, it became less and less uniform. I'm still debating whether or not to try this layout again for November or whether or not I should shake it up further.

So there you have it - that was our lovely mild but cloudy and bloody humid (?!) October. How was yours?

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November 15, 2017

Real Talk: Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

Mam, dad, wider family - I'm sorry if you're about to read this and think it's all a little bit TMI, but today's post is about the hot-topic of sex. Sex is something I believe people should be happy and confident to talk about, not shy away from, and generally be open about. I'm not saying that everyone should and would want to share every last detail about their sexual experiences or their sex lives, but I think feeling free to discuss it with friends, relatives, or partners should be something that is advocated and practiced much more in our society rather that us all being typically British and having a stiff upper lip about it all. Really for today's post I not only wanted to talk about sex generally and how it should be treated as normally as any other topic of discussion, but how sex can be liberating for women, how women shouldn't be treated or received negatively for enjoying it or being open and honest about it, and how we also need to educate ourselves and younger generations so much more than we do currently.

Something I've always found a little bizarre is that women are treated so oddly for enjoying sex and god forbid they talk about it too?! I've started to believe this is rooted in upbringing and the unfortunate way everything is black/white, pink/blue, girl/boy categorised. I caught a conversation a colleague was having with some students a while ago and heard: "Boys do that. But if a girl is sleeping around like that then she clearly is missing something in her life and trying to fill the void". I was stunned. I couldn't believe that someone with so much life experience and influence would say something so damaging - what was worse was that I saw young impressionable female heads nodding along with such a statement whilst the one male-identifying student squirmed in his seat. Sex shouldn't be something people feel shame over and it certainly shouldn't be something that is only a readily accepted topic depending on what gender you identify as. Your sexuality also seems to dictate whether or not it is acceptable for you to dicuss such a topic. Last year I posted a very tongue-in-cheek but painfully true post covering some of the things that have been said or things I've experienced once people learned I am bisexual. In that post, I talked about how identifying as bi means you're often also given the label of being incredibly promiscuous and "greedy" with sexual partners and the negative connotations that go along with those often inaccurate claims.

Sexuality - not just for women but for all - should be something that can be openly discussed that people feel no shame over. What you get up to in the bedroom and out of it is your business, but if you're embarrassed by that business, and you don't feel you want to lie about your sexual partner count etc. then you shouldn't feel you need to. I guess I'll never fully understand why it's accepted and just assumed that a heterosexual male can and does, sleep with 1Oo+ women and that's absolutely fine but if a heterosexual woman was to do the same, she's slut shamed to no end. Which brings me on to my next wee rant: slut shaming.

Slut shaming is fervently still a big problem in our society and whilst I know we can't wave a magic wand and just make it stop, I wish I bloody could do just that. There's still a lot of stigma around what women choose to wear and how they conduct themselves that leads individuals to say "she's asking for it" or "well what did she expect? Dressing/Acting like that?" and there's many many reasons those sort of opinions need to be educated and stamped out. Unfortunately, there's no specific group who are to blame for this shaming and unfortunately for many individuals who identify as a woman, the group responsible can be sometimes be other women. I touched on this a little bit when I talked about internal misogyny and it's always a shame to see it happen. Call me an idealist, but I think all women should support other women, not drag each other down or berate them about their life choices and lifestyles. I know not every woman will be friends and of course, not every woman is going to like each other, but slut shaming is a real issue and it does not need additional support from fellow women who may actually be victims of such a horrible thing themselves.

It seems so acceptable for a man to have a one night stand and wander home the next day in broad daylight. See a woman doing the same and there's tuts, stares, comments... Where it all stems from, I'm not quite sure. One thing I am sure of though is that no one should be made to feel guilty about what they enjoy, how they spend their time, and how they dictate their own sex life. It's yours first and foremost and no one should influence it in any which way except you.

If I haven't said it enough already, I honestly believe sex needs to be openly talked about much more. When we shy away from it, not only does it open up this option for individuals to shame others about it, but it also leads to a lack of education. A big thing for many teens especially is pornography. As a teenager when your hormones are running rampant, porn is commonly something that is explored during that time. So many young people - including myself - are lead to believe that pornography is a true representation of sex and that needs to be challenged not only for safety and consent, but also for self love and your own expectations of yourself. I'm not insulting anyone's intelligence here and suggesting that every teen thinks if the pizza guy turns up and brings the pizza into the kitchen he's going to have a gang bang with all of your family, but what I am saying is that porn can open up a lot of questions for young people and if no one is willing to answer them because it's a topic that shouldn't be discussed, that's when we have a problem. I myself was lead to believe that sex is always rough, involves a lot of saliva, moaning for the sake of moaning if someone so much as brushes past one of your nipples, and pouting. Of course, this may be reality for some individuals, but for the majority? The set up of pornography does not reflect real life. Being comfortable with someone so you might both have a laughing fit during foreplay, the fact that our bodies can make embarrassing noises that are only embarrassing because we didn't know they'd do that until it actually happens... Those sorts of things need to be mentioned and normalised so there isn't this unattainable expectation to strive for.

I think shows which are often on Channel 4 which explore the body, sex, and our reproductive organs etc. are absolute gold not for any entertainment value, but for the sheer fact that at least it's normalising our bodies and desires and making it accessible for people to educate themselves and feel comfortable about it. In the light of so many recent sexual allegations in the media, it's very clear that issues such as consent and what is and isn't acceptable are still huge issues we need to tackle as a society. Not only do we see these issues cropping up time and time again, but we have also had an incredibly large increase in the amount of sexual diseases that are spreading and affecting each younger generation, too. If we treat sex as a common topic, maybe we'd see more individuals who are comfortable with getting treated and speaking to a doctor. Maybe we'd see more people enforce safe sex on their sexual partners because you guys, bare back isn't the only way, that's just what porn makes you believe. Maybe we'd see less teen or unwanted pregnancy if we talked more about contraception openly. And maybe, just maybe, we'd see a society who accepts that if you want to sleep with no one or you want to sleep with 3 different people every day of your life, either or is fine and so is everything in between as long as those involved are safe, consenting, and happy.

I know, I'm getting *all idealist* again.

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November 14, 2017

Who's That Girl

That's right guys, I'm finally back. What was planned to be a super short and sweet break from blogging in order to move into my new home quickly snowballed into some extended time off from it all and planning behind the scenes. So despite the lack of posting over the last few weeks, there's been a lot going on as I've collated, written, and created content for Northern Blood that is refreshed, full of energy, passion, and love and just generally makes me feel great to have been part of. The problem with blogging sometimes is that the spark and life can fade from it a little and that's what started to happen to me. I was comparing myself to others, feeling down about my own creative abilities, and just felt stuck in a rut with it all. I was desperate to not take a break because I worried once I stopped posting that I'd never come back to it but alas, here I am, confidently coming out of the other side of it feeling more enthused to blog than I ever have before.

If you're an old reader then you will know I'm all about that "don't compare yourself to others as it's damaging" lifestyle however, I've found I flipped the whole comparing myself on its ugly head and saw it in a positive light - I tried to view it as a "friendly competition" thing. Blogging is so saturated but saturated with so many fantastically talented and dedicated writers, creators, and photographers that I realised being part of that community and realm is a sure-fire way to keep myself motivated to feel deserving of that position of place. Seeing people owning and killing it on a weekly and even daily basis gave me the kick up the backside I so desperately needed and I'm hoping it's impact on me will shine through in my new content.

That's not to say that my blog posts now will be drastically different - my content will still very much reflect me, my interests, and what I've always wanted Northern Blood to be. However I've scrapped the schedule and switching everything up a little. I still love personal style, beauty and skincare, and general lifestyle/miscellaneous rambles, but working to a strict weekly schedule for each of those topics was sucking the fun out of the writing for me and began to feel more like a chore than an enjoyable pastime and outlet in my spare time. So from now on, we can all expect to see Northern Blood feeling and reading a little more freely, covering even more mental health and body positivity topics, lots of DIY and interior posts as I've recently moved house (you guys I have been preparing *so* many posts for you!), many more books and comics, and of course I'll still be blogging about cruelty free beauty. The difference now? It won't be forced. It won't be strict. It will be written as life is intended to be lived: with focus, a little bit of unpredictability now and again, honesty, and (hopefully) a great deal of humour and reliability.

So if you're an old familiar face - welcome back, it's nice to see you again. And if you're new to all that NB will hopefully have to offer? Hi, I'm Amyleigh, and hopefully we'll get to know each other a little better as time progresses. If you want to know a little more, pay this wee page a visit.

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September 11, 2017

Colder Weather Transitioning

When that chill in the air starts becoming palpable and the mornings and evenings start to get increasingly darker, one of my favourite things to do is throw items of clothing together that totally juxtapose the weather but also kind of compliment it. A big movement on the high street this past year has involved playing with proportions of the body/figure and thus wearing dresses or extremely long line tops over jeans has become the norm. I personally love doing this when it starts to get colder as it means I can still get some use out of my more summery pieces but also I can't lie - I think the whole look can be pulled off really well by anyone. I like to go for shorter dress or a one with a dip hem and that way it doesn't swap my petite height and frame, but still shows off whatever jeans I'm sporting. I tend to go for my vintage mom jeans most of the time as again, this lets me play with proportion a little as they're not figure hugging and add a slightly androgynous aspect to an outfit.

Can you believe that this time next week I'll be moving into my very own house?! If you'd have spoken to me even a year ago and suggested such a grown up thing I would have scoffed yet here we are - packing boxes in all of my free time and frantically making sure broadband is booked in and furniture is on the "to desperately purchase" list. I've mentioned it a few times now here on NB and on my various social media accounts that once I'm settled into the new place, I want to shake up the content here on NB a little. I'm not saying I'm giving the blog a complete overhaul because that would just be silly - I still very much enjoy fashion, beauty and miscellaneous lifestyle posts - but I want to add in more variety. I've always struggled with labelling this blog and it's content and up until now I've tried to minimise too much variety. But now? Now I enjoy writing about mental health. I like talking about feminism and body positivity for women. I want to share my progress of making my future house a home and all the DIY struggles that are bound to go along with it and more. I think the current schedule might go out of the window just so I can get back to truly *enjoying* blogging. I wouldn't say I've fallen out of love with it at all, but it has certainly been feeling like a chore at times so for the benefit of my motivation and love for this pastime, I need to give myself and it a major revamp so watch this space.

Miss Selfridge Dress (similar) | Oh Lover Vintage Jeans | Bohemia Design Circle Bag | Matalan Sandals (similar)

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September 08, 2017

Book Club No. 11

Another Friday, another book review post! My last Book Club post was back in July so I haven't actually posted any reviews for a wee while, but I'm back today with some pretty perfect books - all of which I thoroughly enjoyed (for once). So if you're into fantasy fiction with a good dose of macabre or twisted magic, then you've come to the right place for some recommendations.

Anno Dracula by Mr Kim Newman
Okay so we need to start off with the most brilliantly British-feeling book but it's also easily one of the most bonkers plots I've ever had the pleasure to dive into. Anno Dracula first came onto my radar when Matt told me all about it - think Penny Dreadful but even better. The plot centres around Victorian London and follows a variety of characters from an ancient vampire from an prestigious bloodline, to Dorian Gray, to Jack the Ripper. Queen Victoria has wed Vlad Tepes - the very much fictional over-the-top version of Vlad we see tourist traps talk of today which paints him out to be Count Dracula. Dracula has killed the famous Van Helsing and is slowly dominating England as more and more vampires are swooping into the country's capital and are seen as a pest by many. He has the Prime Minister under his thumb, has his own ancient vampire soldiers roaming the streets, and impales folk in his delightful true-historical fashion if they so much as do something he's not quite happy with. The story mainly centres around a senior vampire called Geneviéve Dieudonné who helps out at what is a make shift hospital/hostel for vampire orphans and sick vampires with the aid of a peculiar doctor and a man called Charles Beauregard who is a member of the Diogenes Club and is essentially a spy trying to discover the true identity of Jack the Ripper.

As more of the story unfolds, Geneviéve and Charles meet more and more frequently as what they're both trying to investigate seems to be leading them down the same path and to the same culprit. It's a fantastic murder mystery style book but with a great nod to actual historical events, historical people, and of course many characters from popular fiction. At first, I was reading the book and really struggling with it - I don't know if it was the language or the pace of the story, but I just couldn't keep up. I found myself flipping backwards time and time again because a character's name would come up and I'd think "eh? Who?" and need to re-read parts to try and make sense of it all. However there's a distinctive part of the plot - when Geneviéve gets into essentially a street brawl with an ancient Asian being - that hooked me in for the rest of the story and everything seemed to fall into place. The focus around this ancient oriental aspect of the book really sparked my interest as there was just something about Newman's description of certain elements that ignited my imagination and my imagination took a very Studio Ghibli route visually. I found this book incredibly good for not giving you *too* much description, but just the right amount to help you form a clear picture in your mind of what *you* think is going on. It does dive straight into things so if you sometimes struggle with following storylines that don't over explain and describe, you might find you flick back and forth like I did at first but hang in there - this book is without a doubt worth the read. It is part of a series so I will 1Oo% be picking up the next book in the line up sometime soon, but if you think it sounds up your street, you can pick up a copy in various formats here.

A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan
Now onto the show stopper. This book has been hyped up so much during the last month or so and it's clear to see why. A Place Called Perfect is the debut novel from Helena Duggan and it is just the perfect (see what I did there) fantasy book for children and adults alike. First up we need to address the gorgeous cover - if that doesn't draw you in and make you want to at least read the blurb then I don't know what will. The book centres around a young girl called Violet who has recently moved to a place called Perfect with her Dad and Mam - you guys have no idea how happy I was to see that Mam was called Mam and that her family often affectionately call each other "pet" throughout the book as it made me think of home and my own family. Okay waffling aside - back to the story. So they move to Perfect at the request of two brothers who run the town as they're interested in Violet's Dad's expertise when it comes to eyes and everything optical. Everyone in Perfect need to wear glasses otherwise they have incredibly impaired blurry vision and it seems that no one knows why. So in steps Violet's Dad to try and solve the conundrum. As you might have guessed, Violet soon discovers that Perfect is actually far from Perfect and that there's actually a lot of strange and suspicious things going on in the town once you remove those rose tinted glasses.

Telling you guys anything more than that would definitely ruin the story so I won't say much more about the actual plot, but I just loved this from start to finish. Although Violet as a character annoyed me sometimes, it is so fantastic to see a children's book that has a female main character who is a gutsy heroine with lots of sass and spunk. She doesn't take no for an answer and I think for young girls to read this would be really positively influential and uplifting for them. Despite being targeted at a much younger audience, A Place Called Perfect reads so well that I'd be very surprised if any adult reads it and doesn't enjoy it. It's incredibly quick and easy to read but it's got the right amount of description and a great pace to it to make it feel like you've really went on a journey with the characters. If you're a Neil Gaiman or Tim Burton fan and enjoy those slightly creepy/macabre twists they manage to put into children's fiction so cleverly, you'll absolutely love this book too as Duggan manages to add those slightly spooky elements expertly. I'm not going to lie, as an adult reading it, there were a couple of times I thought "hang on, that can't work because of xyz" so there are some loopholes in the story, but overall I am more than happy to overlook them as they don't ruin the story at all. If you couldn't tell already, I bloody loved this and I can't wait to see what else Duggan releases as this has easily crept it's way up to one of my favourite books this year without a doubt. Pick up a beautiful copy of A Place Called Perfect here.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The third and final book to mention in this post was also a big hit with me. The Night Circus did it's rounds in popularity a couple of years ago now, but I just never got around to reading it because I knew there was a romantic element to it and y'all - I'm straight up not interested in that nonsense when it comes to my reading material choices. But after some convincing from Matt, I decided to give it a try and I really truly rate it to anyone who wants to read what would make a spectacular film. The plot is exactly what the title suggests - it centres around a travelling circus which opens at dusk and closes at dawn. It is magical, mystifies those who visit it, and just generally becomes an eagerly awaited and anticipated event in every town it pops up in. The whole story behind the circus and it's creation is down to two gentleman who are magic. They like friendly competition and for years have had apprentices that they have feverishly taught their skills and talents to who then will "battle" the other apprentice in "a game". The Night Circus follows the latest apprentices and their upbringing, training, and encounter. Characters along the way create the Night Circus as a fun project and both apprentices have some involvement in it. I know I say this at least once in every book review post, but I genuinely don't want to say much more than that about the general plot as it will honestly spoil it for any of you who want to read this in the future.

This book is very descriptive so it plants a clear image in your mind and oddly enough, I quite liked it. I usually like books that aren't overly descriptive or packed with information as it sucks the fun out of reading for me, but this one had the perfect amount to accompany the very busy and character-packed story. The whole time reading this I got instant "I could see this on the big screen one day" vibes as everything about it screams Hollywood blockbuster done in the style of The Great Gatsby crossed with Water For Elephants. The imagery is great, the range of characters and all their intertwining lives is so easy to get lost in, and there's still an air of mystery about what will happen threaded throughout the book right to very end. If you like magical, fantasy, complete fairytale style stories but also like a little bit of romance dashed in there too, this is the one for you.

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September 06, 2017

My Current Favourite Natural Highlighters

When it comes to highlighters, I am *that lass* who wants to smother herself in them but also wants them to be subtle and not blinding. So yeah, the most awkward highlighter customer. Since going foundation free many moons ago, I've looked more and more towards natural-looking products that help me not look clownish as my red blotchy skin is parading out and about and this has increasingly applied to those genius products that give your skin an artificial glow.

So with that being said, although I have now accumulated some firm favourites I rely on 9O% of the time, I also like to try out others so I have *options* because that's the sort of desperately non-minimalist life I lead. I've recently tested out some new ones, reacquainted my love with some old amazingness, and I thought I'd give you the lowdown on them all (all cruelty free of course!).

W7 Hollywood Bronze & Glow | £5.95: W7 are a brand who I love dearly for their eyeshadows but after stumbling across this palette online, I just couldn't help myself. Charlotte Tilbury is a *great* brand but y'all, I hate spending a lot of money on one singular beauty product so they purchases from that brand are few and far between. So when I saw this Hollywood Bronze & Glow contour palette that is so obviously a CT Filmstar Bronze & Glow palette dupe (if you couldn't tell by the hilariously similar name then the indentation of the powders will be yet another dead giveaway!) I wanted to give it a shot. So as you can see, the two powder products look very very similar to the CT offering and guess what? They're just as good. As I've mentioned, I prefer the natural look nowadays and these powders aren't super pigmented so they're perfect for subtle looks but they're long lasting so for me they're the best of both worlds. The highlighter is a golden champagne shade which is a shade I tend to gravitate towards and it has no chunky glitter and only gives a subtle sheen to the skin. Perfect for "no makeup days".

L.A. Girl Spice Beauty Brick Blush Palette | £8.Oo: Next up I need to mention another super natural offering but a one that is even more bargain-licious when you consider just how many products you're getting for a wee 8 quid. I fully reviewed this blush palette from L.A. Girl a few weeks ago now because it has quickly become my favourite thing to pack when I'm travelling due to the great blush shades, the easy to blend contour and surprise surprise, that subtle highlight. This palette is great all round, but the highlight is a fave for me right now because it's probably the most natural one I own in my collection. Despite it being a powder, it doesn't look heavy or chalky etc. on the skin and just gives the high points of your face a very natural shine - not greasy, wet or glittery looking like many other highlights offer, but more of a "this is where sunlight hits" look. If you are on the lookout for a great palette in general but also a highlight that makes you skin look naturally radiant without looking like highlight, this is a game changer.

theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer Gold Highlighter Powder | £16.Oo - £19.99: I know what you're thinking - Amy, this highlight is *poppin'* how can you call it a natural highlighter - well lemme tell you. theBalm's holy grail highlighter has become a cult classic amongst beauty bloggers and vloggers and that's simply because it's a brilliant product. It's finely milled, feels feather light on the skin, and my goodness does it pack a punch. So, it is a blinder of a highlight but only if you intend it to be. I used to pile this puppy on but now I use a delicate hand and only pop my brush into the powder once, tap off, then apply a light dusting to my cheeks and nose. It's my favourite option for an evening out or a special occasion as it's one of my most blinding highlights but again, it can be toned down pretty easily. It's that lovely champagne/gold shade that I seem to gravitate towards too so I think that's really why it has stolen my heart over the last couple of years.

From left to right: Colourpop Super Shock Highlighter in 'Lunch Money', theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer Highlighter Powder, L.A. Girl Spice Beauty Blush Brick Palette Highlighter, W7 Hollywood Bronze & Glow Highlighter

Colourpop Super Shock Highlighter in 'Lunch Money' | $8.Oo: It is no secret - I ruddy love Colourpop Cosmetics (particularly their lipsticks), but a product I've loved for an age now is their highlighter in the shade Lunch Money. Colourpop's classic Super Shock highlighters are a creme to powder formula that at first I absolutely hated because I prefer powder products, but the effect of this highlight made me persevere and I eventually fell in love. This shade is my favourite out of the few I own in this formula because it's that nice gold champagne shade I love but it's slightly lighter in shade so its more pearly/opal and it looks gorgeous on the skin. I like to use this alone when I'm having good skin days and therefore really do wear minimal base products as it sits really nicely on bare or just primed skin, but I also like to use this as an almost highlighter primer under some of my favourite powder ones to give more of a glow from within. This is a great trick for nights out or when you want to go a little bit more overboard with the glow and glimmer as it helps keep the powder products blinding through the day/night. Lunch Money blends out beautifully as it settles into the skin seamlessly and looks incredibly natural due to it's formulation despite also being pretty damn good at giving the cheeks that nice wet-look appearance in the sunlight.

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September 04, 2017


Happy Monday folks! If we could all ignore *just* how creased my jacket is in this post, that would be grand. This duster coat is something that I can't wait to wear more and more now that the weather seems to have totally cooled down, I will be cracking it out more often (despite how easily it creases).

I had a gorgeous weekend this weekend just gone ,celebrating weddings and trying my best to not cry at speeches because apparently that's the one thing that makes this black-hearted ice queen blub up. It was a lovely time but I'm certainly feeling it now as I'm absolutely exhausted and could do without a full week at work - which is unfortunately exactly what I have planned for the next five days! Having a little mini-break this weekend made me realise just how much more I want to get out and travel. It doesn't have to be to some far off exotic place each time, but materialistic things are taking more and more of a back burner position for me in life as I get older and actually making memories - as cheesy as the whole thing sounds - is what I seem to be seeking more frequently.

Bershka Duster Coat (similar) | Bershka Tee | Asos Jeans |
Pimkie Fedora (similar) | Primark Saddle Bag (similar) | Topshop Clogs (old)

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September 01, 2017

August in Review

I always start my review posts by saying how surprised I am at how quickly the month flew by and how far we are into 2O17, yet August was a very slow burn for me but was jam-packed with fun stuff. I did a lot, a lot happened, and let's just say I'm mega excited to see what the rest of this year brings my way.

The Personal
So first off, August sees in my little brother's birthday and despite the 1O year age gap, we have an extremely strong bond and his birthday is always a cause to celebrate in my world. I went home to the glorious north east for a whole week to see in his 16th (I know, I feel ancient) birthday and to also see my much-missed family and friends. Living down south is my life now and I do love it but I also miss the north east and closeness of my family and the fact that I don't always get to be a part of it due to distance more and more each year. This time around my trip was very oriented and was spent eating a lot of junk and homely foods with my mama and brother and also my lovely grandparents and wider family. The bowling, the cinema and just simple visits to family homes were experienced and it made me feel so thankful for the supportive family I have.

I also got to see one of my good friends whilst I was home and do some cool horror photography with him in the process. Dave is like a horror and gore film guru so I'm so happy to see he's started to do some great horror photography in his spare time. It was hilarious to prance around the woods as some sort of creepy, innocent, yet bloody rabbit girl *thing* and I can't wait to do some more shoots with him in the future (check out his great work here).

Okay so whilst everyone else was at the cinema watching Dunkirk, I stupidly opted against it and went to see Annabelle: Creation instead. Annabelle the haunted/possessed doll is a bit of a cult classic in the horror movie world so of course a film about its origins seemed like a great watch. It's set in the 194O/5Os and shows a sweet family with a doll-making husband who goes to church every Sunday with his wife and young daughter who all live in a small quaint "typically American" town. The daughter ends up in an accident and dies and then the whole story fast forwards to 12 years later when the mother is bed bound at home and the father has agreed to let a group of young orphan girls come and stay at his home with their Sister carer as long as they help out around the family home and land. Of course, it doesn't stay all sweet and quaint and before you know it, there's drama drama dram around every corner and a whole lot of jump scares. I have to admit - it wasn't an awful movie as the jump scares were regular enough and good but its as if the director thought "what kind of horror genres and *things* do we have? Great! Let's put them all in this one film!". I did enjoy it but it's not a horror I need to write home about.

A film I watched this month that I did actually really love was Swiss Army Man. I had been meaning to watch this movie for months and months but after it was finally added to Amazon Prime, I got settled in to watch it with some snacks. This indie film starring Daniel Radcliffe as a corpse really blew everything else out of the water at film festivals upon its release and the story seemed too good to pass up. So - you read right - Daniel Radcliffe plays a corpse that washes up on an island beach just as a man is about to hang himself due to being stranded there alone. Just like Tom Hanks in Castaway, he decides to make a pal except this pal is decomposing, letting his bowels empty, and getting random boners as the body goes through rigor mortis. Despite that basic description of the plot, the film is really funny and quite deep in places and well worth a watch if you like films that are a little different or have humour like The Office or Arrested Development.

Guys, if you haven't been watching Game of Thrones, have you really been existing? Season 7 is over but it certainly was a good one. Although overall the season wasn't as *wow* as some previous seasons have been, there were a couple of standout episodes and I'm also so hyped for the next season as there's been so many story developments. I won't say anything else because I know we all hate spoilers (especially over this show), but now that this season has finished I'd recommend going right back to season 1 and giving it a watch from the start. A new show that I somehow overlooked for a little while but I now love is Rick and Morty. Originally, I just couldn't deal with Morty's voice but after blitzing through 2 seasons and then eagerly awaiting each week for a new episode, I think it's fair to say I got over that hurdle. If you haven't watched Ricky and Morty, it is essentially like someone mushed together the adult humour from Family Guy with the craziness in Adventure Time then occasionally set the whole thing in space. It's got a sly nod to Back to the Future's Doc and Marty but it's even funnier.

Another show that I never really gave a chance the first time around was Penny Dreadful. Penny Dreadful is any old classic horror novel guy's fantasy as it's set in the Victorian period and incorporates Dr Frankenstein, his Monster, witches, werewolves, and the paranormal. Oh, and you've also got Dorian Gray thrown in there too for a bit more variety. It's actually a really good show and somehow the first time I watched it, I just didn't get *that* into in but by the last season this time around I was hooked. As Halloween is around the corner, I'd highly recommend giving this show a binge watch as it has some fantastic actors and actresses in it - not to mention Eva Green is absolutely amazing in it. On a complete flip, I've rewatched Modern Family from the very beginning and it's still as funny as I remember it. As a fan of Arrested Development, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia etc., I always enjoy those clever witty Amercian comedy shows so naturally, I've always been a fan of Modern Family. The show follows one large family but focuses in on each household - the grandad and his second hot young wife and her oddball overly romantic son, the classic 2.3 mother, father, and three kids family, and then the "contemporary" son, his boyfriend, and their adopted baby. If you like comedy shows that you can drift in and out of but also hook you when you do drift in then definitely give this one a try if you haven't already.

If you thought I was going to talk about any album other than Brand New's latest and last one first here, you were sorely mistaken. Brand New have been one of my all-time favourite bands (I feel like I say "all-time" a hell of a lot in this section each month but just bear with me,) since I was a young teen and a couple of years ago when they seemingly announced their future split via a merch tee that said "2OOo - 2O18" and it broke my heart. Fast forward to this August and they dropped Science Fiction - their last album and it was everything I hoped it would be. Unlike a lot of fans, my favourite Brand New abum is The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me not Deja Entendu and I think that's because I like some of the more slow and certainly more emo songs (1Oo% no shame). So when I started listening to Science Fiction and it had a similar vibe, I was pretty damn ecstatic. They're the original emo band for me but they're emo in the best sort of non-cheesy way. Some of my fave tracks from the album are Could Never Be Heaven, Desert, and 451.

Another firm favourite - Iron & Wine - released another indie folksy acoustic lovely jubbly album called Beast Epic this month too. Iron & Wine is such easy listening that makes you want to sing along but also fall asleep to it in the best possible sense. Beast Epic is without a doubt my favourite to date from him even though I've only given the album one listen thus far, I've already fallen head over heels with is very autumnal sound. A band that were new to me this August are Girl Ray and their album Earl Grey. They're a very indie band but their sound is very 7Os to me and they also sound like their tracks would be used for Wes Anderson films or films like Submarine. Another nice easy listening album and it's nice to see it's an all-girl piece.

Going back to favourites, Soccer Mommy - Collection dropped and again, it's more easy listening that just makes me think of lazy days sitting out in the sun or driving in a car when its hot with the windows rolled down. Soccer Mommy is a one-piece musical talent in the form of Sophie Allison who is a singer songwriter. Her whole sound is quite indie but acoustic and meaningful and I think she's got a simply gorgeous voice. This album is already growing on me and I can't wait to give it a little more of a listen. She's yet another musician who produces tracks that sound film soundtrack worthy and tracks such as Try and Benadryl Dreams are so damn catchy. Speaking of great voices, PVRIS released All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell and it's taken over my life. I've been super eager for PVRIS to release some new music and this new album has not disappointed. Although PVRIS are always described as a rock band, they always remind me of some sort of mash up between CHVRCHES and a band like Issues and I have absolutely no issues (ha) with that. This latest release is definitely the best they've produced so far and I would recommend this album to anyone who has never given these guys a listen.

The last lady I need to give a mention to is Amy O. I first listened to Amy O last year when she released her album Arrow and fell in love. If you like ladies who are Alanis Morrisette-level sassy but with a more modern indie twist, you will like Amy O. She's got a similar vibe to Soccer Mommy and Palehound - both of which I really like - but with a bit more variety in her tracks in a lot of ways. She has been an artist for over a decade but recently became a full band and some of her songs throw me back to Postal Service vibes due to the male/female duet pieces and calm sounds but the whole album keeps the indie flame burning brightly.

Video Games
After that whopping long music section, you might be pleased that this bit will be short and sweet as a I honestly haven't played a thing this month! Between going home, working, blogging, and worrying about house stuff, I haven't had the time to just sit and lose myself in a game. A game I am actually interested in trying out though is Mad Max after watching Matt plug quite a few unexpected hours into it. It's very much an open world, free-roaming RPG but rather than your usual mage/rogue/warrior sort of scenario typical of those style of games, this one is of course loaded with cars, mechanics, and weird post-apocalyptic vibes.

Also, would it be an August review without talking about the one game everyone and their gran seems to be excited for? Destiny 2's general release drops in September and I have to admit, the gazillion chatty videos with it's designers and the umpteen videos of early gameplay make it look pretty great. I tried playing Destiny a while after the initial hype died down because again, Matt had plugged so many hours into it I just needed to see what it was all about, but I liked the storyline of it more than the whole playing as a multi-player team with crucible matches etc. so I stopped playing. One thing I loved about the original game however was how smooth the gameplay was in terms of shooting - being a Mass Effect fan girl, I was used to controls being clunky and difficult to manoeuvre, but Destiny made my realise a game *can* actually be enjoyable to play with good controls. No doubt I'll end up giving Destiny 2 a go, but I'm just wish the whole game included that Mass Effect 3 "do you want to shoot stuff or do you kind of just wanna do the story?" option a little more.

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August 30, 2017

3 Budget Cruelty Free Mascaras

After blogging about switching to cruelty free with my beauty and the process I went through to achieve it, I thought it would be great to recommend some of my favourite CF products that have had to replace some firm favourites before I transitioned to cruelty free only beauty. Finding particular makeup products was difficult for me because I either used the same product previously for years and loved it or liked to try new products again and again as I liked to experiment. So when it came to finding a new mascara, I wasn't too worried about finding something new that I loved but the brands I previously turned to were non-CF so it would mean more experimenting than usual. I also had fell in love with a L'Oréal mascara not too long before I switched to CF so I not only needed to find some favourites that I liked, I needed to find some that would be better than my firm favourites such as the L'Oréal Baby Roll mascara and the Bourjois Volume Clubbing Mascara.

Something I wanted to do when switching to CF was find some mascaras for a variety of looks - I used to have certain mascaras I would use depending on the looks I wanted to achieve and therefore had a range of different ones I would purchase. There would be natural ones, ones for volume, and more. So although I still like to dabble in the world of mascara and test out different ones regularly, here are three firm favourites from great CF brands which I will repurchase again and again.

Essence Lash Princess Volume Mascara | 12ml | £3.3O: First up I need to talk about a mascara I used to love but somehow forgot about. Essence are one of my absolute favourite cosmetics brands as they're extremely affordable and have a range of fantastic products (obviously a blog post all about these guys will be coming to NB in due course). One of their products I've been a fan of for years is the Lash Princess Volume Mascara because it's ridiculously cheap but ridiculously good. This is only £3.3O and knocks the socks off any high end mascara I've ever tried. As the name suggests, this mascara gives your lashes volume and the curved end to the wand also gives them a great lift and curl. I find that it never clumps up and really separates the lashes making your lashes look full and thick. The formula is very lightweight so it doesn't feel heavy on the eyes and doesn't dry out and go flaky or crispy on the lashes. The packaging isn't my favourite as it's a little cheesy and feels like something I would have liked when I was 12/13 years old, but I am *more* than happy to look past this for the great effect you get on the lash. If you are a fan of the popular Maybelline or L'Oréal mascaras that really boost and volumise the lashes, this is a great CF and cheap alternative that lasts all day.

Essence Lash Princess False Lassh Effect Mascara | 12ml | £3.3O: The next mascara I love is another Essence offering from the same Lash Princess range. The False Lash Effect Mascara has a very similar formula to the Volume option as you'd probably expect but it's a little harder to work with. Sometimes I find that some mascaras need to dry out a little first before they're really good and grip and coat the lashes well and this is definitely one of those. Once this one has dried out however, I do really love it - it's great for lengthening the lashes and separating them. I've mentioned before that my lashes are pretty good as they are which is why I like to try different mascaras, but this one is great at giving them length. Usually, my lashes get a good natural curl so if a good curl is something you need from your mascara, this one is probably not for you but if you want that length then this is your jam. The wand is very simple and has a typical bristle head which goes into a triangular point so it's great at grabbing each individual lash. Something I forgot to mention about the Lash Princess range is the fact that the mascaras are all 12ml - that's around 4ml more than most other drugstore mascaras - so you get a lot of product for your tiny price point!

Seventeen Falsifeye HD Mascara | 9ml | £6.99: My last fave mascara is from another go-to brand I love a lot - Seventeen. Their Falsifeye HD Mascara was the first mascara I purchased since my switch to CF and has stayed a firm favourite. Despite the claims of giving your lashes lots of volume, length, thickness, and definition, I like this mascara on days when I want a really natural looking lash. The Falsifeye mascara definitely gives the lash all of those previous claims, but I find the formula looks really natural on the lash and I can't quite decide if it's because it doesn't look mega black on the lashes or if it's super thin. Those aren't complaints about this mascara by the way as this makes the product the perfect option for layering on the lash. I usually opt for one solid layer of mascara but this is a great day-to-night option as you can wear a minimal amount for the daytime and then layer it up if you need to go out straight out after work etc. The wand has a typical tapered shape but has rubber bristles which really grab and coat the lashes well. When I want definition and separation I always reach for this one and if I need my mascara to last for longer than normal, I always choose this one too as it never flakes or feels dry on the eyes.

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