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March 31, 2017

Save the Bees



Okay folks, today's lifestyle post is very different to the usual but it's something very dear to my heart and therefore, something I wanted to share on NB because y'all, I'm straight up loving the fact that this lil' blog is becoming a more personal space. So since last week (and particularly over the last couple of days) people have been discussing the awful news that the bombus affinis a.k.a. the rusty patched bumblebee is officially on the endangered species list for the US. Not only are they now on the endangered species list overseas, but their once healthy numbers are rapidly decreasing here in the UK too as now there are only 25 species compared to the 50 native species that were around in the 1950's. Bees are one of my favourite animals/insects and they're so important in our society that it genuinely gets me down that people don't seem to be in more of an uproar about this news. Whilst I understand that a lot individuals fight bees intimidating as they're scared of them or allergic to their sting, they're vital in our survival and guess what? I'm not being one ounce of dramatic when I say that - they genuinely do keep us humans surviving and thriving. As they're such key characters in our existence and because spring has arrived (and the fact that I just bloody love them), I thought I'd put together some information on why these little fellas should be so looked after by us all and what small or big steps you can take to make them feel at home and hopefully get there numbers back up to a healthy amount!

Some Facts and Statistics
I really need to give you some facts about why these wee guys are so vital to us. Bees are our primary pollinators and are economically valued at around 265 billion euros annually worldwide. That means if they died out, we'd have to invest that money from our various country's economies in order to replace the hard work bees do. Just Europe alone would have to pay 14.2 billion euros a year to cover the loss! So even if we were just looking at bees from a commercial point of view, they're invaluable for so many nations. With that in mind, since 2010, 45% of the UK's honeybees have been wiped out. The number of bees we have has almost halved in 7 years - that number should be terrifying especially when we consider that various economies rely so heavily on them. So I know I know, I bet some of you are wondering exactly what it is that bees are producing right? I mean, 265 billion euros is a hell of a lot of money and you know why? It's because one third I repeat, one third of our food production is directly linked to pollinating insects (this includes bumblebees and other wild bees as well flies, wasps, butterflies etc.). So if we didn't have bees - not only would supplies such as honey inevitably dwindle, but we'd also lose out on *a lot* of other produce that we would then have to manually manufacture ourselves and thus, consuming a lot of money, time, effort and resources. The growth of around 4,000 vegetables a year in Europe alone depend of bees pollinating. We could kiss goodbye to naturally and organically grown things such as courgettes/zucchini, coriander, almonds, various fruits... They all rely on the work of our top pollinators. I mean come on, imagine a world without potatoes, watermelon, cherries, nuts, carrots, avocados... Need I go on?!

According to Greenpeace, wild and domestic honey bees are responsible for 80% - eighty percent - of pollination worldwide. So if some of you are sat there thinking "yeah Amy, but we'd still have butterflies and wasps etc. if the bees did die out" we would be in a bit of a shit show actually and would have an awful lot to try and do ourselves. If 70 out of 100 of the most popular food crops are the result of bee pollination, and those 70 make up around 90% of the world's nutrition, surely it's a no brainer that these wee buzzing fellows need a bit of TLC and we need to give them a helping hand to survive?



So, why are they dying?
There's some obvious (and some natural) reasons why bee numbers are decreasing globally and nationally, but there are also some things that are entirely our fault, as the human race, that really needs to stop in order to prevent this major issue from getting any worse. It will be no surprise to any of you that one of the main causes for the decline in bee numbers - particularly wild bees - is the use of of chemicals such as insecticides in industrial agriculture. Of course agriculture is a central part of our human existence as we need to farm in order to live. It is what we have done for thousands of years but doing it naturally and organically is few and far between now and not the "routine" method. Farmers bathe their crops in all sorts of chemically-intensive solutions that are dangerous to many insects including bees in order to grow ripe and bountiful crops (side note: these chemicals can be detrimental to our health also!). However this is exactly what is killing off those workers who product many other crops and nutrition for us, for free.

Studies have shown that exposure to insecticides has a direct correlation with negative health impacts on whole bee colonies. If it is not instantly harming bees, it is harming them in a multitude of physiological and neurological ways. The little buzzers have been shown to be malnourished growing at a slower rate (meaning they take longer to reach adulthood and therefore taking longer to reach their "full potential" as a pollinator) and sometimes deformities are present within the hive. And neurologically? These guys have been successful for all these years because they're damn smart. They learn from each other and their environment incredibly quick. But these pesticides are effecting their cognitive processes so they're struggling to learn from each other in the hive but also learning the wrong way out and about in the big wide world. They're identifying flowers and locations that would actually be incredibly beneficial for the pollinators to visit as being dangerous "stay clear" areas and flora as they may have had one bad experience with that particular plant (as it was covered in chemicals) and therefore run from it instead of harvesting from it.

Other factors are of course, also responsible. Climate change as a whole is having an impact on bee populations but as is bee mites which fester on the little guys just like we can be prone to disease and infection ourselves. These causes are things a little more out of our direct reach in the sense that they're not things we can solve quickly or at all in the essence of naturally occurring bee mites, but another major problem for bees is yep, yet again, something we're doing. Our 25 remaining wild bee species are used to the lovely colourful rolling hills of Britain yet as the years go by, they have smaller and smaller areas to find such lush green land. We are being destructive to our planet and our environment and whilst this isn't something new to us, we're not doing enough to prevent it and it's having more and more of an effect on many species of flora and fauna than ever before. It has been estimated that we have lost around 97% of land rich in flowers since the 1930's and considering flowers are bees main source of food, can we really be surprised to see that all fingers of blame are pointing towards us for their endangerment?


Okay so we're to blame - what can we do to help?
Let me quickly apologise for how negative this post has got - whilst I think we need to take a great deal of responsibility for this ongoing fuck up, there is actually a hell of a lot of work that we could do in order to rectify the mistakes we have made and hopefully help bee populations get back on their feet.

- First off, honey. Where possible, buy your honey organically from local artisan suppliers. I'm not talking about the stuff with the "organic" label slapped on it in the supermarket that suspiciously came from the same place the non-organic stuff came from; I'm talking about the "proper stuff". Not only are bees misused in industrial mass-produced honey making as they're transported in trucks from their native familiar surroundings and land, but all of the natural health benefits of honey are cooked out of the honey before it gets to the shelves. If you can't get artisan stuff because hell let's be honest - it will be expensive and not readily available - look for "non heated/transformed" honey otherwise it won't benefit your health at all. You can also be safe in the knowledge that you're supporting domestic honeybee farming that does not over farm or misuse the bees.
- Eat organic as much as you can. Yes, it's more expensive. Yes, you often get less for your money but it is the easiest way to support bees as you are putting the money in the pockets of those companies and individuals who refuse to make their crops poisonous to pollinators.
- Gardens fit for bees. I'm sure every single one of you have seen a huge bumblebee come buzzing past your back door during the hot summer months, looking for some tasty nectar in order to recharge. So obviously one of the best things you can do is make sure your garden is jam-packed with flowery delights for every visiting bumble. Ideally, a garden will have flowers/plants which will bloom through spring til autumn so no matter what the crazy British weather throws at them, bees will have somewhere to feed come rain or shine. These flowers should be planted in large patches/clusters to make it easy for foraging. As for example, bumblebees like to stick to one particular species of flower as they forage and can often tire themselves out looking for more of the same type. Imagine the only place you could get some Chinese cuisine was in a little China Town in your local city and you had to travel to the next city's China Town to get your next fix - it's exactly like that for these guys. Your flowers will preferably be different shapes also as different species have different tongue lengths and therefore have a preference on where they feed - just like us and our taste buds and appetites!



*****

Favourite flowers for bumblebees:
Lavender, Rosemary, Deadnettle and Oregano (and other flowering plants from the Lamiaceae family) are all main sources of nectar and Clover - particularly red clover, Trefoils, and Runner Beans (and other plants from the Fabaceae family) are the main sources of pollen for bumblebees so they'd really appreciate seeing these in your garden! Other flowering families they tend to like are:
- Asteraceae (Thistle-like flowers, Cardoon, Knapweeds etc.)
- Boraginaceae (Comfrey, Cynoglossum, Cerinthe, etc)
- Dipsacaceae (Teasels, Scabiouses)
- Ericaceae (Blueberries, Strawberry Trees, Heathers)
- Rosaceae (Brambles, Raspberries, Single-flower Roses)
- Scrophulariaceae (Foxgloves, Veronica, Hebe etc)

Not so favourite/down right bad for bumblebees:
- Insecticides of any type - including "organic" ones! (Who even wants to use organic pesticide man?!)
- Most bedding plants - in other words, those plants which are sold in polystyrene strips in garden centres and DIY stores (e.g. Petunias, Begonias, Busy Lizzies, French Marigolds, Pansies etc.)
- "Double" flowers

For a super comprehensive list of flowers/plants that are good for our bee buddies and when they bloom so you can plant a good array is available on the Bug Life website!

*****



- Give them a home! Of course if you're planting flowers for our pollinator pals, you're doing a grand job supporting them as it is. But if you don't mind being around bees, you can provide them with somewhere to thrive in small groups. Something as simple as putting a pile of leaves in a sunny quiet corner of your lawn will provide a welcomed habitat for bumblebees. They also quite like undisturbed compost heaps or quiet hedgerows for building nests. If you want to go a step further, you could buy a bee hotel from many garden centres and online stores or simply make your own! Simply dig out a patch of your grass, place some dry grass or moss at the bottom of it and cover the hole over with a paving slab or a brick leaving only a small entrance for them and voila! an instant home. I've currently got some guys who nest in my wall outside my front door and they seem content there.
- Help track bees. Another great way to help is to track bee activity in a variety of ways. Bumble Bee Conservation have a couple of ways you can help from tracking which species enter your garden with apps, to surveying which flowers are certain bees favourites to visit and use, to being involved in Bee Walks to survey areas if you're into your fitness and getting out in nature - there's something for everyone.
- Make donations. There are a lot of different charities and activists trying to grow and support bee populations through anti-pesticide farming to creating bee keeping sanctuaries to try and grow numbers. You can obviously donate to these causes but also invest in packs like Bee Saver Kit which can tell you everything you need to know about helping our buzzing buddies.
- Educate yourself further. The last recommendation I want to make is actually a documentary by Markus Imhoof. More Than Honey does exactly as it's name suggests; the film delves deeper into the treatment of bees and basically how fucked we'd be without them. Please, watch it if this post has got your interest peaked as it's incredibly insightful.

Wow, that was a long one wasn't it? I commend you if you've made it all the way to the end, but this is a topic that I think is extremely important to discuss and make more people aware of as I often feel, as human beings, we are quite relaxed about things like this until it's too late to change them. If I somehow haven't bored you and you want to find out more about bees in general - not just how you can help them - the Sussex Wildlife Trust have some great articles and videos on there that will hopefully make you love and appreciate bees as much as this gal does.


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March 29, 2017

A Coffee Date with 16 Year Old Me



Hello world it's me, freshly *just turned 26* me and I'm here to have a word with my former self. I'm very much a nostalgic person and I always think about my teen years and they might not have been all singing and all dancing (but come on, who's are? Its such a turbulent period of everyone's life and as cheesy as it sounds - it's a time of self discovery) but I do look back on them fondly - even the bad times! Last year I wrote a post on 25 Things I Learned in 25 Years and it seemed to go down well with you guys and to date, it's been one of my most favourite posts to write because I got to be nostalgic, laugh at some things I'd almost forgotten about and just reflect. So today, I'm another year older and not necessarily another year wiser, but I am going prove that I definitely am compared to my 16 year old self.

Everyone is young and stupid as a teen. Please don't be offended when I say that - I'm not directly calling you stupid if you're that age right now - but I would happily bet all my money on the fact that when you're my age, you'll think of some of the stuff you did, said, thought at 16 and think "what on earth was a doing?!" because it's all a learning curve. Even if you are or were a teen with your head screwed on and were wise beyond your years, you'll never believe that every decision you made was a good one. But like I said, it's all part of growing up and growing and learning as a person and it's not something you should regret or worry about, but it's something you should be able to reflect on and hopefully shake your head in laughter at the worst. So. 16 year old me. What would I say to her if we went for a coffee?

First of all it would be in Starbucks in Newcastle, right by Grey's Monument because that's where I wasted a good 4 hours of every Saturday afternoon with my friends. If I wasn't in there, I'd be in the glorious underground coffee shop/tanning salon hybrid just off Northumberland Street(that I'm sure only the likes of Newcastle would combine) because the hot chocolates there were as big as my head and came with enough sugary snacks that they basically made a meal for weight conscious, skint 16 year old Amyleigh. She'd be sat there, in a pair of skinny jeans that were so tight, you could see the pocket outlines on the front so they looked spray painted onto her legs. Her hair would be backcombed to buggery and ill-fitting hair extensions which had been perfectly straightened or ringlet curled would be hanging down around her face. She would be wearing a mask of the wrong colour foundation, far too much mascara, blusher, and a sticky Britney Spears lip gloss that came free with her beloved Britney Fantasy perfume. She'd have a septum piercing through her nose that doesn't suit her and be wearing her much-loved brown (I know) leather jacket with the anchor pin badge on the collar because she was so hardcore/MySpace and her ballet flats would match whatever vest top and cardigan combo she was wearing that day. She'd have one of her many skull print scarves draped around her neck and one of her Topshop handbags that would match her ballet shoes too. She'd be sat shivering from the cold but god forbid she'd put another layer of clothing on. She'd be extremely sarcastic, closed off, and really, not that different to 26 year old Amyleigh.



There's so much I could say to her - so much I would want to say. I think however I would start with boys because boys were the centre of the universe and the driving force behind everything from how she did her makeup, to what bands she listened to, to how much she got into trouble with mam. I'd tell her:

- Don't shrug off that guy who was dating you to see how far he could get with you. Fight him. Boys and girls can be mean during your teens and they can be after one thing and one thing only. It's fine if you don't "put out". It's fine if you'd rather go to the cinema than stay at home watching a movie because a) you don't want to get awkward about not having sex and b) mam will cut his willy off if she caught you anyway.

- When you're 17, do not let that guy who text his friend "I'm not sure about her teeth" on your first date go anywhere near you. He doesn't even deserve a hug. You might think it's great having a "proper boyfriend" (because apparently after 16 they become "proper") but have a bloody high bar they have to hit. Giving him a chance will mean you'll find out he's also given at least 5 other girls that lovely chance (so generous of him) at the same time. Your teeth are always going to be something you're not happy with but you know what? You're going to get comfortable with them. Heck, you're going to post a full teeth smiling selfie on Instagram and actually think you look nice. I know right? So yeah, that guy? Not worth a dime.

- You didn't meet your soul mate at 15. You'll be alright. You might have been like peas in a pod and you might have basically have been the male and female versions of each other, but it won't last, don't cry and stay off school because of it - get a grip! You'll still wonder about how he is and what he's doing now from time to time because ultimately, he was your best friend, but you weren't destined to be together (though you'll forever be thankful that he stole you a copy of The Hungry Caterpillar from the mobile library for you and he was worth that day of skipping school - and all the trouble you got into as a result. You little no so sly devil, you).

- When you're 26 you'll still be kind of shy about your sexuality at times and you know what? That's okay. You're getting there. Sound the alarm. Being bi wasn't a MySpace kid phase and your girlfriends as a teen are some of your most valid, genuine, and enjoyable relationships so do not let anyone dismiss them. You might keep the whole thing secret from most of the world and from those who matter most at times, but at least you're being true to yourself and there's no shame in that.

- Don't let others hold you back so you can make them happy. You should be your main priority. Doormat is a forehead tattoo you do not want Amyleigh but if you're not careful, that's what you're going to end up with. You have always been a girl who's been more concerned with everyone else (grandma always likes to remind you of the fact that in primary school you were always the last one out at the end of the day because you were zipping everyone's jackets up for them and making sure they hadn't lost their gloves). But guess what? Think about you because trust me, it will take you a good long time to eventually do it more, but loving yourself and putting your needs first is paramount.

- Mam was right, snakebite piercings and 2 Monroe piercings is not a good look for you. Trust me, you'll thank the fact that she was so against piercings when you're older.

- Your social anxiety is going to get worse and worse each year but do your best to fight it. This is something you will work on but also kind of let take hold in life and the balance will work out for you. Don't feel pressured to do social things you don't want to do but also don't turn away opportunities because you're scared. You'll strike a balance and manage to function just fine so hang in there.



- No you won't go to your girlfriends' weddings and be godmother to their kids. Being a teen means you often don't have a lot to focus on so friends are usually prioritised and become the centre of your universe. But guess what? The girls you're friends with at school aren't going to stick around. They're not going to be there for you and you're not going to be there for them. You're allowed to grow apart and it's a natural part of life that actually? You'll be pretty pleased about one day because realistically you don't have a lot in common with them do you?


- You wear too much fucking blusher. Your cheeks don't need to guide planes in to land.

- By 26 you will be a seasoned solo-flyer and actually crave travelling alone. I know you're terrified of flying right now, 16 year old me, but believe it or not - that will go! By time you're 26 you will casually rock up to the airport numerous times a year and board a plane like it's no big deal. You'll do stupid shit like get a hire car with 3 complete strangers and hurtle your way down the A1 to get home during a severe storm and not even blink an eye. You might have this increasing anxiety to deal with when the rest of the world is concerned but you? You're going to get so much stronger so give yourself a pat on the back.

- You might think your eyebrows are great right now but trust me, that shit won't look good til you're 24. Trust me, I've seen all of the photographic evidence. The brows need and thankfully receive many improvements.

- You're intelligent. Use it. Flaunt it. Don't get lazy. Aged 26 you'll still struggle with blowing your own trumpet but hey! You're a clever girl *insert Chris Pratt Jurassic World style voice* and you need to flaunt that some more. Even after university (I know - you get there eventually sister so hold tight) you'll put yourself down but keep the flame of "I'm pretty damn smart" burning at the furthest recesses of your mind just so you don't lose sight of your intelligence.

- You're always going to be a "what if" person and it's a shame. Turns out even at 26, you still won't take the leap a lot of the time and you'll just wonder what could have been or should have been and that's one thing that we need to work on, girl. If I could time travel back and make sure you knew one thing it would be to go with your gut. Whatever you feel in your heart is what you should be doing - do not let Mr Clever Clogs upstairs in flat "Brain" tell you any different.

- All the stupid shit that comes your way; just embrace it. You're going to look back on it all so fondly one day. The sitting in a field at 1am with good friends and a bottle of white rum in the middle of summer - worth the bollocking off mam the next day. The hopping from college to college because you will be unsure about what you're doing with your life - worth it because you'll go to uni to study something you love eventually. The friendships you forge with the least likely characters - worth it and don't question them. You'll realise they're the ones you still want to speak to when you're 26 who mean a huge bunch so make an effort, yeah?

I would apologise for this long waffle of a post but I can't tell actual 16 year old me the good the bad and the ugly so it falls on your guys' shoulders instead. I said it last year and I'll probably say it every single birthday but I'm not worrying about getting older and I don't feel any older, but I do like to use this time to think of all the good and not so good in my life and how it's helped me grow. No doubt this time next year, I will be looking back on things with a totally different spin on it all, the spin of a 27 year old (good lord).



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March 24, 2017

Real Talk: Let's Stop Body Shaming



A couple of weeks ago I asked you guys over on Twitter which lifestyle/wellness post you would prefer to see and whilst my post on why you should date yourself won the vote (and got a great response - so thank you?!), a post all against body shaming came a close second and some of you guys asked for both so guess what? You get what you ask for!

So let's jump straight in. Body shaming is fucking disgusting. I'm going to be really opinionated on this topic in this post so if y'all don't want to deal with that, I urge you to not read any further, but I have thoughts on this topic and I damn well want them to be heard. The reason I feel so strongly about body shaming is because it's such a subjective thing that honestly should not happen but I'm not delusional - we'll never live in a world where body shaming isn't a thing and isn't happening. We need to try to move towards collectively, as a society, to preventing body shaming and making people realise just how harmful it can be. It's difficult to point the finger at individuals and say to them "hey you can't say that" when we're almost conditioned to think that way by the media. We're surrounded by judgemental headlines and photos of celebrities on the beach being chastised for wearing a bikini when they're "the size of a beached whale" and then they're celebrated when they inevitably release a weight-loss fitness DVD because they've felt the pressure to look a certain way in our society.

It's such a harming thing that seems to be more and more common as the years go by and in an odd way, don't we just accept it? Sure the majority of us will sit there and complain about it, we will say it shouldn't be happening but does anything really get done about it? It's difficult when its so prevalent in our day to day lives to know how to tackle it but there's definitely some things that I think can help:



1. Every body is a perfectly good and right body. Okay so this might seem pretty self-explanatory, but the best way to tackle body shaming is to accept that everyone's body is different and that is okay. So many times I see women and men tear each other down and say that someone is "too skinny" or "that's not curvy, that's just fat" without giving any thought as to how hurtful or damaging that can be someone. What if you're saying this to someone with an eating disorder? What if you're ridiculing someone with a weight-related illness that means they can't shed the pounds like other people? Body image is not something we can take at face value as it is always linked to the individual's mind inside that body. In an ideal world, we'd all be concerned with ourselves and ourselves only. One can only dream.

2. Support changes. So this next point again, is pretty easy to do, yet we don't seem to do it enough. How many times have you seen someone get ridiculed at the gym because they're a bigger guy or girl who is trying to make a change to benefit them? How many times have you seen someone make an insanely misjudged and outright rude comment about an individual who is sharing their success story of overcoming their inability to put on weight? It seems to happen frequently when during those times the one thing everyone should be doing is supporting that particular individual through their change. If your pal is going to Weight Watchers club and they're super excited to tell you how many pounds they've lost each week - root for them. If they "slip off the wagon" because you've gone to Pizza Hut and they've taken full advantage of the endless supply of ice cream and diet cokes - tell them it doesn't matter. They're allowed to enjoy life but be a support. Let them know how proud you are of what they're doing. Make them aware of the positive change you can see in them. If they're happier because they're going to the gym 6 times a week then be happy for them too. If they're ecstatic because they've finally worked out how to put on some weight then celebrate with them. Just think about how much it sends you positively reeling with ecstasy for that split second when someone compliments you and think about how that will feel to someone who needs encouragement and reassurance that they're doing great and their hard work is not going unnoticed. It will potentially make them feel a million dollars.

3. Don't mirror your beliefs onto others. A lot of the body shaming we see tends to be along the lines of
"I think you've put on weight"
"I think you looked nicer with blonde hair"
"In my opinion plastic surgery is disgusting"
Notice something? It's not about you. This seems to be something that has become more and more of an issue on the likes of Instagram and YouTube where people seem to think it is okay to parade around their beliefs without rhyme or reason. Don't get me wrong, often people on those platforms will put themselves in a position of which they've asked for opinions and are therefore being judged by potentially millions of people, but consider what you are saying. This is something that doesn't just happen on social media but in everyday friendships and conversations with family members too. How many of you have had a family member comment on your appearance? I've got both hands raised here. It can be the smallest comment but it can stay with a person and eat away at them. I'm not saying don't give your opinion when someone asks for it but be kind. Be constructive. If you can see that someone is unsure of a change they've made, think before you speak. You should be making that person feel safe, secure and confident in themselves not tearing them down or making them feel they have to fit a mould.



4. Body image isn't restricted to any gender, size, race, or style. When I think of body image, I think of everything you see on the outside - everything from the person's weight, to their gender (if they wish to show it), to the colour they choose to dye their hair. We get caught up in thinking about weight when "body image" is uttered and I think that's probably because it's what comes under fire the most but as I mentioned earlier, there's lots of things people do to their body to express themselves and to feel comfortable in their own skin and again, it's important we help build that up. I don't care if I'm wearing a lipstick that's "not right for my skin tone" because I want to wear it. I like it. I feel confident in it and I wouldn't like anyone to go out of their way to tell me any different. In our contemporary society, people should be free to identify how they want to both inside and out and feel safe that they can do that without any repercussions. For some people it might be something small - like me - of feeling free to have whatever hair colour they want and feel sort of okay about their acne, for others, it may be feeling safe to walk down the street wearing a dress if you identify as a male, wearing a hijab if you are British born white woman who used to be Christian... All of these outward signs we express are our own unique ways of saying "hey look! I'm me! The one and only!" and why that is not celebrated more I do not know - just *think* how wonderful our species is that we have that much diversity?!

5. Social media is never a true representation. So we might blame the media for our negativity towards diversity in body image and appearance but a major factor in the last 5 years in particular is without a doubt the growth of social media. Sites like Instagram for example have whole accounts dedicated to "fitness babes" or "IG baddies" and it's just full to the brim with beautiful, slim, athletic women which yeah, a lot of them look like that, but we all have to bear in mind the majority don't look like that at the same time. For example, that girl who looks like she's got a teeny tiny waist and a big butt? She has stood in such a way to emphasise that. That girl who's got flawless skin and lovely hair on her "just woke up lol" snap? You didn't see the 63 other photos she took where she didn't look quite so bangin' and you didn't see the 10 minutes she put in to editing the photo. I want to make it clear that I am absolutely not tearing these people down, but those who are comparing themselves to these people need to be aware that real life does not always correlate. The girls on IG that advertise the skinny teas and the hair vitamins etc. whilst actually working out a butt-tonne and actually wearing hair extensions should be honest and celebrate what they are actually (how many times can I say actually) doing to look the way they want. I'm all for modifying yourself to a point that you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin but y'all, be honest about it so it doesn't damage others. I'm looking at you, Kylie Jenner.

I'll be honest, I don't really know where I was going with this post, but I have such a strong feeling towards body image and body positivity that I feel I needed to try and get my thoughts down somewhere. Being body positive is a step that only an individual can make and work towards however think how much of a nicer place it would be if, along that journey, other individuals gave the occasional pat on the back, high five, twit-twoo to keep you going - to reach your goal and ultimate happiness. It's not too much to ask now is it?





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March 10, 2017

Book Club: No.6



Happy Friday folks! I hope you all have some wonderful plans to keep you busy (or chilled out) over the coming weekend. I've got some grown up things to do like house viewings and mortgage meetings (I know) but I also want to make some time for colouring in and reading this weekend too. It's been a little while since the last book club post so I thought I'd share with you two books I've read recently that were varyind degrees of success in my eyes.

Dance of Death by Edward Marston
The first book we need to talk about was a bit of a disappointment - but keep reading because it wasn't all bad. I've never read any Edward Marston books and I have never read any from this "Home Front Detective" series but the cover promised me that he was a bestselling author of a "Railway Detective" series and lovely buttercup yellow cover and the old-fashioned, tattoo-style illustrations of the early 1900s initially drew me in. Reading the blurb on the back, I discovered that this book was about a Detective Inspector Harvey Marmion and his Sergeant, Joe Keedy, who were trying to find out why a renowned ballroom dancer had been found butchered in an alleyway. Instantly I thought I would like this - its a classic gruesome murder crime story and as it's set in 1916 and hinted at the topic of the First World War, I was intrigued.

The story actually follows a whole host of characters to the point that the assumed main character, Detective Marmion, isn't really that much of a central figure. You follow Marmion, his Sergeant, Marmion's son, his daughter, his wife, his neighbours, the murder suspects... It didn't really have a focus character which to be honest, worked quite well and despite a lot of characters being so heavily involved in the storyline, it was really easy to follow and know who was who. A great thing about this book was that the author got the "stiff upper lip" of a late Victorian English gentleman vibe across to the reader incredibly well. The story is the kind of thing you'd imagine ITV1 would make into a feature-length one off TV special and echoed some nostalgia of the TV show Poirot that I used to watch every weekend with my gran. But, we need to talk about why it let me down.

The actual story is fine. It's almost cluedo-esque in the set up, but oh my god, the ending. I love books that can keep me guessing and crime/thrillers that have multiple characters and therefore multiple suspects need to keep you guessing. Dance of Death *did* do that quite well, throughout I kept changing my mind for who was responsible for the dancer's murder but the ending was so abrupt I was genuinely taken aback how - frankly - rubbish it was. It seemed that the ending was just stumbled on suddenly, lasted about 5 pages then that was that. It didn't really feel like the writer had thought it out and it honestly seemed to me as a reader that it was either rushed, the writer had lost interest, or they didn't want to go over a word/page limit. As I haven't read any of Marston's other books, I can't say if this is just an anomaly or if it is in fact the author's style and I just happen to not enjoy it, but it did make me really scrutinise what I had thought I had enjoyed about Dance of Death up until that point and realised I was probably being generous. Overall it was an okay read but it's not something I would shout from the rooftops that people need to read immediately. You can pick up Dance of Death here.



The Watchers by Neil Spring
Now for a complete 180 turn-a-round, we need to have a quiet moment of praise for this next one. I picked up The Watchers at the same time as Dance of Death and again, it was a completely random purchase that drew me in with it's cover, it's blurb and this time, the genre or let's say the topic it covered. This isn't the first book by Neil Spring but the lovely cover and the fact that it said "You can run from your past but you cannot escape The Watchers" across the front cover completely hooked me in. Turning over to the blurb, I realised that the story is actually based on true events that happened in The Havens in Wales during 1977. Recently, the BBC produced an article talking about the anniversary of the true events of this incident (which I will talk all about in just a moment) so definitely check that out if you want to know what actually happened in The Havens 40 years ago and yep, you've guessed it, it was all to do with aliens *turns into that guy with the crazy hair*.

The Watchers follows a character named Robert Wilding who's parents died when he was a young child and as a result, he had to go and live with his grandfather who is described as being a bit of a religious nut to put it politely. Robert eventually leaves to go and live and work in the Ministry of Defence in London to try and work out what happened to his mother (read it to find out what that's all about,) but is then asked to go back to Broad Haven to find out what is going on there as people are claiming to have seen ghostly figures, strange lights, and giant objects appearing in the sky and following them. Although this book is based on actual events in The Havens, the author makes a point of saying that it's only loosely and that he has gone to town with what he has fabricated and embellished in the story so a lot of it is untrue. However Spring did go and live in The Havens in order to speak to actual witnesses and people who can remember the things that did happen in 1977 so there is an element of truth running throughout the story which I'm keen to research and read about now due to this book.

So I've got to be honest with you guys now - I've never been hooked into a book so easily and so quickly as I was with this one. After reading just the prologue and the first chapter, I had goosebumps, my heart rate was actually running high and I couldn't put the book down. That's pretty impressive for only 25 pages into a novel, right? As a believer of other life in the universe, I maybe found this story so easy to get into whereas sceptics might find it more difficult, but its such a great psychological mind fuck that I've genuinely felt a bit on edge after reading it if I've read it late at night or if I've just really lost myself in it whilst on the commute to work etc. The book has everything I typically like in fiction - the occult, religion, cult groups, the paranormal, UFOs, general weirdness, murder... It's got it all. The suspense throughout the story is unreal. It has a crime thriller element to it in the fact every character Robert Wilding comes into contact with seems a bit suspicious and you never know who is telling the truth or who is genuine, and even by the end of the story, there's so characters you're still left wondering about. Because Spring really goes to town on the design of the "aliens" and the military spin behind those "characters" it makes the story extremely unique and unlike anything else I've ever read. In case you can't tell, I bloody loved this book and I will be picking up Spring's bestseller, The Ghost Hunters, as soon as possible because his writing style is just fantastic and kept me on edge the whole time I was reading it. Even when I picked the book up again after not reading it for a day or two, I instantly had a rush of adrenaline as if my brain instantaneously switched on and thought "oh yeah! I forgot this was happening! Oh my god what's going to happen next?!". If you want a book that's not some wild conspiracy theory but it plays on that a little and it prevents you from putting it down (that also has a very dramatic over the top ending which is fab) you need to get this book. You can buy The Watchers here.



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March 03, 2017

February in Review



Happy March you lovely lot! So it's March now which means I'll be 26 at the end of it (what joy) and I finally feel like I'm on my feet when it comes to life. People always say it, but you really won't have your shit together at the age you think you will and that's okay. I'm starting to feel more reassured about this but I'm also starting to see improvements in where I want to be and where I thought I'd be too so that's something!

The Personal
February has been a crazy month for me - I finished working as a teacher at secondary school and at the end of the month I left that position (heartbroken because oh my god, I love the kids) but I started my job as tutor for a charity then and I haven't looked back. Whilst I loved the kids at school, working with the kids for the charity is extremely rewarding - I feel like they're the people who need support and I'm really looking forward to getting to know them more because I already think they've got fantastic personalities and seem hilarious so I'm so excited for this next month. This month I also got to spend some time with Matthew's parents and his sister which was so so lovely because I hadn't seen them all since before Christmas and I hadn't seen them together as a full family for months so it was a such a luxury to have them in Winchester, in my hometown, and sharing lots of drinks and good food with them.



Films

Films this month kind of sat in second place to TV but one film I did watch was After Earth. After Earth is dun dun duhhh, set after Earth has been habitable and is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie starring Will Smith and Jaden Smith. They play a father and son duo which was really sweet to see on screen and made the acting so much more real and believable. The story essentially follows what is basically a space station which is training youths to join the like "space army" which Will Smith's character happens to hold quite a senior position in. This space station/ship they have happens to crash land on Earth which humans haven't lived on for years so the world is very overgrown, taken over by nature, and animals have evolved further than what they have at present. The film follows the fact that Jaden's character is a bit of a wuss and his dad isn't and he basically needs to get a bit of a backbone after the crash. The film was okay, it wasn't boring to watch but it also wasn't as amazing as it could have been. Just little things got to me where the film wasn't as consistent as it should have been and you naturally question things throughout it like "how has all of these animals totally changed through evolution so fast when this actually would have taken thousands of years?" and it just niggles away at you as you watch it. Is it worth watching? Maybe if you've exhausted all other avenues.



Television
Television has been a winner for me again this month. I caught up with the latest season of Vikings on Amazon Prime and ohhh boy, I did not see coming what happened. I won't spoil it for people but I kind of kept guessing if *that thing* was going to happen then kept thinking "surely not" but I was right, *that thing* definitely happened. It was another good season of this show and if you haven't watched it yet, I don't think we can talk until you do. When I first started watching this show I genuinely didn't see what the fuss was about but then there was an episode where someone got blood eagled and I knew I was going to love it from then on. If you like stuff like Game of Thrones or The Tudors, Vikings will be a winner for you, too.

February also saw me get a bit more caught up with American Horror Story as Matt & I blitzed our way through the whole season of Hotel in a matter of days. I can remember when Hotel first came out people were loving it and particularly loving the fact that Lady Gaga was a central character in it. I wasn't sure if I was going to love it but after the first 20 minutes of the first episode in which I saw some graphic graphic things (if you're not okay with gore and rape scenes, you might want to skip the first episode and just read about it) I knew I was going to actually like it - morbid I know. I'm really interested in the hotel the series is actually based on anyway and the fact that serial killers from real life history were characterised in the show was also amazing to see. I think this might be up there in terms of what order I would put the different AHS seasons in so if you're a fan of the weird and the bizarre, give this season I good try.

As for actual "new to Netflix/Amazon Prime" shows, the anime 7 Deadly Sins seemed to have a new series so Matt & I got very excited because despite 7 Deadly Sins being a very cheesy stereotypical anime, we both really like the story of it. Turns out it was a teaser trailer group of episodes to say "hey, a new season will be coming soon!" so just when we were getting into it, it stopped and I was fuming. But for those of you who may not have watched this but you like anime, 7 Deadly Sins basically follows those sins we all know but they're people - people who are trying to save the world but are also feared by the majority. Like I said its a very cheesy, "boys grabbing big-boobed girls who get very embarrassed" sort of anime, but the overall story is great and really different. However if anime isn't your sort of thing but humour in the style of Arrested Development or The Office is, I've got the show for you. The Last Man Earth is available on Amazon Prime and oh my god, I never thought I'd enjoy this show as much as I did. There's two seasons on there at the moment and it is honestly hilarious. It is exactly what it says in the title - it is about the last man on earth and how he is living. I don't want to say anything more about it but if you like awkward humour shows which just focus on personal relationships we develop as human beings, you need to watch this.



Music
Music in the month of February has been pretty darn good. First of all, I have to mention the fact that Lana Del Rey dropped her new song, Love, and oh my god guys, I've had it on repeat so so much. To me, this song sounds like "old Lana" aka Lana in her Born to Die phase (not her Lizzy Grant days) so I'm super excited for her next album because her latest album was not my favourite. As for album drops, there's been some fantastic ones from some of my favourites and of course, some amazing ones that are new to my ears.

Great favourites who dropped new music to my ears is Ryan Adam's newest release, Prisoner. Prisoner is a great album and I can honestly say I like it already just as much as I like his other work. It's very Ryan Adams and therefore very good. Tall Tall Trees dropped their new album too called Freedays and this is possibly one of my fave releases in the last few months if I'm being totally honest! It's a really chill album and a nice one to listen to when you're doing other things like reading, drawing, studying, doing a face mask etc etc. as it's not completely acoustic but its nice upbeat easy listening. Another chill but upbeat album, Enter the Kingdom by Frontier Ruckus, dropped this month and I'm a big fan. Frontier Ruckus somehow remind me of the indie bands of the 90s but they have an almost 70s vibe about them too so I really like their quite unique yet familiar sound.

Okay for a straight up country vibe, you guys need to give Little Bandit - Breakfast Alone a good listen. I really really like this guy despite it being a very classic country sound that I don't tend to listen to. As someone who grew up as a line dancer and who has listened to a lot of country music over the years as a result of that, Little Bandit is some producing something that is very classically country yet it sounds so refreshing and catchy. One of my all-time favourite musicians is Townes Van Zandt but he is usually reserved for sad days when I'm feeling sorry for myself but Little Bandit might be reserved for the happy days when I need a bit of a yee-ha injection in my life. Now back to a band I've listened to before, Youth in Revolt's The Broken album was a goodie this February and was a bit more my usual taste. It's very typical of them so it gets a good rating from me and if you've never given them a listen, if you like the sort of music like Circa Survive, Tides of Man, or any other bands who have quite a high-pitched male singer but a bit of a "heavier" vibe, you might just like these guys too.

Last little music mention has to be The Moomins. Yep, you read right. The Moomins soundtrack was released by Graeme Miller and Steve Shill this February and dude, I was ecstatic when I realised. It's quite 8-bit so plays homage to my teen MySpace years, but it's also The bloody Moomins and if there's one thing this girl loves, it's The goddamn Moomins. Give it a listen and let it transport you back to your childhood and make you forget your troubles.



Video Games
Okay, I know I keep harping on about it, but have you been keeping up to date with Andromeda?! It looks better and better every time I see a new release about it. I'm still a little bit hesitant to play it because I keep worrying that it will be *so* different from what I'm used to and love about the Mass Effect games but I'm super excited nevertheless. Again, I haven't played an awful lot of games throughout February buttt I will be playing as much as possible during March because I actually have time to do such things now which is amazing. If you've got any game recommendations, send them my way.



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March 01, 2017

Boots Ingredients Sheet Masks



Happy hump day lovelies and also, happy first of March?! I know, when did that sneak up on us?! I can't believe that we're in the third month of the year already - 2017 seems to be flying by at lightning speed! Today I thought I'd give you a little run through one of the skincare faves that seems to be making the rounds lately for most people: sheet masks. Sheet masks are big news in Korean skincare but seem to have been rejuvenated in the UK due to Korean beauty starting to filter through into our beauty trends and I'm super excited about that. Korean skincare and makeup is always interesting to me because they seem to tackle problem skin in a totally different and fresh way with their choice of ingredients etc. and let's face it, the packaging is usually cute to boot too. So basically sheet masks have come back into the beauty spotlight and I've got to be honest - before now I had never ever tried them. I can remember my mam using them occasionally when I was younger and I thought she looked terrifying, but I hadn't really got my hands on any until recently.

So on a recent Boots order, I decided to grab a few from the Boots own range. The Boots Ingredients sheet masks have 5 different options, each mask promising to tackle a different skin issue. I decided to purchase four of the five choices because I was interested to see if they were that different from each other or not and they were really reasonably priced (and on offer at the moment too!). I've got to be honest, one of the major things that has put me off trying sheet masks is the fact that they're usually one use masks that cost £5+. I personally think cost per use that sort of price starts adding up quickly if you use them frequently but these Boots Ingredients are £2.50 (2 for £3 currently) so they fit the price tag for me personally so much better.



So as I mentioned, I bought myself four different ones: Charcoal & Willowbark, Lotus Flower & Tiger Lily, Rooibos, and Super Hyaluronic. Each mask is designed to target a specific aspect of the skin ranging from detoxifying to moisturising. As I've mentioned a thousand and one times here on NB, my skin is generally extremely oily and I've suffered with acne for the last 13 years so I am usually fighting those losing battles. However lately, since wearing no foundation, my skin is often getting the odd dry patch on my forehead, chin, or around my nose so I figured I could do with some hydration injected into the skin too. So now that I've tried each of these 20ml/0.67 Fl. Oz. puppies out, let's talk about each of them in a bit more detail.

Charcoal & Willowbark for Clearing & Purifying - This is probably my favourite of the masks for a number of reasons. This was the first of the bunch I reached for to try out because it was common ground for me - anything that promises to try and clear up my problem skin a little gets a green light from me. Charcoal is a fantastic ingredient for clearing and detoxifying skin and willowbark is also frequently used in spot targeting just like witch hazel and tea tree. This mask was not only familiar for me but it was the one that gave the best results. I used it after a gentle exfoliation when my skin was particularly spotty and you can feel it working. It really tingles the skin during the first couple of minutes of application to the point where it almost feels uncomfortable (this could have been due to the previous exfoliation leaving my skin extra sensitive though!) but either way, it feels like its doing something which is a thing I love to find in any type of face mask. I was expecting this mask to draw out impurities and bring them to the surface but the next day my skin was actually clearer instantly. Smaller spots that were starting to rear their ugly heads pre-sheet mask had disappeared or at least minimised and the gross sore open spots I had on my chin had been significantly reduced in size and no longer hurt to the touch and didn't feel as hard. The rest of my skin also felt hydrated rather than stripped like charcoal masks can unfortunately usually make the skin feel. I'm a huge fan of this one and I'll definitely be purchasing it again.

Lotus Flower & Tiger Lily for Radiance & Brightening - Since I've been wearing no foundation, I've actually become more and more interested in getting radiant skin because my face is looking more dewy than matte (naturally!), So radiance and brightening products are something I'm dabbling in more and more so I thought I'd give this one a go. If you saw my recent review of the L'Oreal Pure Clay Glow mask and face wash, you will know I'm a big fan of that one and feel like it really does give the skin some glow so this sheet mask had a lot to contend with. It doesn't have an offensive strong smell and it also doesn't irritate the skin at all. I definitely feel like my skin looked more healthy and plump the next morning but immediate results were even better. The great thing about these sheet masks is the fact that the leftover product can be massaged into the skin and this one certainly gives the skin a lovely glow once the residue has been massaged in. Because of this I would highly recommend this mask before a night out or a date because it would give your skin a lovely starting point before you apply makeup or additional skincare as it doesn't make the skin greasy or tacky but it does give you some moisture, softness, and a brightens the skin. It does what it says on the sachet!



Rooibos for Energising & Revitalising - I bet some of you are sat there thinking "Roo what now?" which was my initial reaction until I realised what the main ingredient in this sheet mask was. Rooibos is particularly popular in South Africa and is the more commonly known "red bush tea" in the UK (you know, Tetley jumped on board and made some). When drinking this, it is prepared in exactly the same way as black tea (so with sugar and milk) or with lemon like other herbal teas. Rooibos is popular due to the fact that it has no caffeine in it but is jam-packed with vitamin C in it's pure loose leaf form. So I am going to assume that it is this vitamin C boost that is going to be the skin benefit and skin energiser here rather than caffeine which is a nice change as lots of energising masks tend to include less pure ingredients to achieve what it sets out to do. This mask again, was nice to use, didn't have a strong smell, and was nice and moisturising and softening for the skin. I used this one the very next day after the charcoal & willowbark one because I had whacked so many detoxifying and purifying products on my face, my skin was noticeably looking a little weary, tired and drained. This doesn't brighten your skin up quite like the lotus flower & tiger lily one does, but this one does plump up dull skin nicely and makes you look like you've managed to get more sleep than you perhaps did. Whilst it does plump up the skin, this mask was possibly the most disappointing for me as I didn't see a lot of difference. The plumping and moisturisation I could have gotten from a thousand other masks so whilst this wasn't a rubbish product at all, it just wasn't a wow mask either! It was just meh.

Super Hyaluronic for Moisturising & Nourishing - As I mentioned earlier, I have been struggling with some rare dryness and also stripping my skin a little bit due to fighting a bad acne break out so I thought my last sheet mask purchase should be something moisturising. I don't really do moisturising masks because I like ones that purge the skin, but this one is lovely. This one is the most "sensitive skin appropriate" out of them all because you can't feel it tingling the skin or anything like that but of course it can be lovely and cooling to place onto the face just like the others. This one isn't reserved for those with dry skin though - I really enjoyed putting this on for 15 minutes during my evening skincare routine before I put all of my moisturising-based products as it gave a little extra injection of nourishment. As an oily girl, I preferred this for night time as it gave my skin a chance to drink up all of the residue product I massaged in after removal of the mask and my skin looked so fresh and hydrated the next day. You know when you've been really good with your fluids and making sure you get your litres of water into your body every day and you can see the difference in the texture, colour, and vibrancy of your skin? Well this mask gives you that but as a little extra boost. If you are suffering from dry skin, this really eliminated flaky areas for me and I imagine it would be a great one to do before your makeup routine to give your skin that little bit of a barrier against your makeup products/the outside elements that effects the skin. Who'd have thought my second favourite face mask would be a moisturising one?! I know, I'm shook too guys.

So overall? I think these little sachets are an absolute steal. As they're so affordable, you can try out the various types to see which works best for you and although they're one use, they do a great deal in the 15 minute window you wear them. I personally have left some of them on for a lot longer because they're not tightening or drying for the skin. Due to the masks being a universal size, if you have a small face like me you will have a lot of access mask flapping about the place but if you just lie down and chill out with it on for 15 minutes it's not in the way or too annoying. They are packed full of hydrating liquid so you end up with it dripping a little bit so just be aware of that if you're wearing a nice top etc. There's a lot of product left in the sachets too so if you want, you can always scoop that out and apply it to the neck/collar bone area to give that area a boost too. I will definitely be repurchasing the charcoal & willowbark for sure and the super hyaluronic will be stocked up for when my skin is in a dry patch-tizzy that needs fixing ASAP. Try these guys out if you want an affordable sheet mask option and let me know what you think!



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