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January 28, 2018

Me & My Other Interests: Serial Killers I'd Have A Cuppa With (Part 1)

Let's kick off 2O18 properly with something I've wanted to blog about for a long long time. If you've been a reader of NB for a while now, you may be familiar with my sporadic "Me & My Other Interests" series which covers all aspects of yep, you guessed it, my interests that don't make a common appearance here on the blog. One thing I wanted to include in this series originally was my interest in criminal psychology and in particular, serial killers. Since I was young, I've had a big fascination with true crime, forensics, and certainly the psychological studies on serial killers as it's so against the societal norm, it's fascinating to try to understand if nature or nurture (or a blend of both) are to blame for their actions. Now, you may have noted I used the term "fascinated" twice there and there's a reason for this. As a teen I used to (very foolishly) refer to my interest in this topic as "I love serial killers". As you can see, there's so many reasons that's not okay to say and as there are actually people out there who *do* feel that way towards serial killers, I've educated myself over the years to not say something so misguided and to ensure I am not associated with such people. I think it's important to note here that although I find the whole topic incredibly interesting, especially to discuss with others who also find it interesting, romanticising serial killers or true crimes I find very distasteful and that is not what this post is about. With that in mind, please do take it with a pinch of salt that this topic is part of this series, but I simply did not know where else to place it!

So, I've said "serial killers I'd have a cuppa with" and I definitely mean that. The first time I saw The Silence of the Lambs, I was convinced I would grow up to be a criminal psychologist and work with those who were seen as "no help/life imprisonment for their crimes" individuals. The idea of being able to speak to such people and try to analyse and understand their actions, motivations, and why they do what they do was such an interesting concept. I can now say I'm pleased I didn't go into that line of work as I honestly don't think my mental health could cut it but, I still find it incredibly gripping to read, research, and learn about. Serial killers in particular captivate me because it goes against every moral social fibre in our day to day lives. They're very much on the fringe of what is accepted by society and I'm always intrigued to know just what it is that made that particular person think what they think and then actually take that a step further and act upon it. Some serial killers have awful upbringings and back stories which are blamed in part, some don't, some have patterns and strict "tell tale" signs that it is their crime, and others just seem to have no rhyme or reason to their chosen victims or their murders. So in this post, I thought I would briefly talk about the individuals who I'd be most interested to talk to for a variety of reasons. Whether it's because of their motives, their intelligence, or their backstory, there's some criminals out there and throughout history that I would like to have a conversation with and just ask "why?".

Dennis Rader - the BTK Killer/Strangler
Dennis Rader is an interesting character for a number of reasons for me. He operated between 1974-1991 and confessed to having murdered 1O people in Kansas during this time. His nickname he penned for himself stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill" and this was included in letters he left in public places such as public libraries or letters he sent directly to various local media outlets and the authorities. These correspondences were referred to as "chapters" by Rader as he was creating the "BTK Story". Rader is one of those killers who lived a double life - he was a church goer, a boy scout troop leader, and a happy husband and loving father so when he pleaded guilty to the murders in 2Oo5, many people in his local community were completely stunned.

I find Rader interesting because for the most part, he seemed to have a good upbringing but it has been sourced that he dabbled in hanging animals when he was younger (and animal killings seem to be "a sign" for authorities when it comes to serial killers backstories). He seemed to be able to function well in society and keep up appearances but he's also interesting as it is evident that he wanted to be caught. Not only did he taunt the authorities and media by leaving evidence behind such as letters and semen at some crime scenes, he then sent letters including victim and crime scene pictures and a word puzzle to the police and media again in 2Oo4; the 3Oth anniversary of the Otero Family deaths (Rader's first 4 victims which he strangled in their home for the 15 year old son to come home from school to find). When speaking to the police, he asked if his location could be traced if he corresponded with them using a floppy disk and the police told him "no" but of course, they were lying. He was arrested in 2Oo5 after the authorities traced the floppy disk use back to Rader's local church's computer. He is serving 1O life sentences at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. Rader is also said to have mentioned "Factor X" in his correspondences with authorities and claimed that other killers he had evidently romanticised (such as Bundy, Jack the Ripper, Son of Sam etc.) also shared this Factor X. In 2Oo7, Rader tried to explain that Factor X was essentially a demon which sometimes took on the appearance of a frog or a traditional-looking demon that controlled his impulse to kill and thus, he blamed Factor X for his behaviour. Obviously this creates more psychological depth to this egotistical killer which is further interesting in his case.

Herman Webster Mudgett - H.H. Holmes
A con artist, a bigamist, and a serial killer, Dr. Henry Howard Holmes certainly made a name for himself in the criminal field in the 19th Century. Often dubbed the American Ripper and one of America's first serial killers, H.H. Holmes confessed to 27 murders but could only be pinned for 9 as some individuals he had claimed to have killed were still alive. It has been rumoured since his killing days that Holmes is actually responsible for up to 2Oo deaths but this has never been confirmed and after changing his statement upon the gallows and claiming to have only ever killed 2 people, it is difficult to truly know what crimes Holmes committed. A medical university graduate, Holmes crimes really came into play when he moved to Chicago and started working in a pharmacy which he later took over. As a uni student, Holmes would steal cadavers, disfigure them, then claim they were individuals who were involved in accidents to claim health insurance. Once he owned the pharmacy business, he started the construction of a three-story building nearby which was later dubbed "Murder Castle".

This "Murder Castle" was Holme's home which he opened and showcased as a hotel. It has been said that he never shared the full blueprints of the hotel layout to builders and contractors as doors leading to brick walls, windowless rooms, and human size chutes which lead to two furnaces in the basement would have obviously raised some alarm bells. It is believed that Holmes would torture and murder his "guests" and he was also known for having a number of fiancés that suddenly would disappear and therefore many believe he murdered them, too. After the local World's Fair in Chicago and after being wanted for arson, Holmes left Chicago and gained an accomplice called Benjamin Pietzel. Pietzel and Holmes schemed to fake Pietzel's death to claim $1O,Ooo insurance to split between Pietzel's wife and Holmes. Holmes instead knocked Pietzel unconscious with chloroform and set his body on fire. When he was eventually arrested for this crime in 1895, the authorities realised the other crimes he had committed over the years in Chicago. He was hanged in 1896 for Pietzel's murder and plead that he had only murdered 2 people. During a time of "yellow journalism" when everything was over-exaggerated to create hysteria, I think it'd be fascinating to actually speak to H.H. Holmes to find out what actually happened and to ask about the "Murder Castle".

Theodore Robert Bundy - Ted Bundy
I feel that writing a post such as this, without mentioning this man, would be a mistake. That's not to romanticise the man or his crimes (because I think more than enough people do that already), but as he is often the inspiration behind many films, books, and contemporary killers, not to mention often believed to be the person responsible for the phrase and label "serial killer" being used for specific criminals, Ted Bundy is a notorious name in the serial killing game. A serial murderer, rapist, and necrophiliac, Ted Bundy has become a well-known name and face who after a decade of denying his crimes, eventually admitted to killing 36 women over several US states roughly between 1974 and 1978. It is believed by many that this victim count actually exceeds 1Oo but the exact number of deaths he is responsible for will never be known.

Ted Bundy is often considered a "typical" serial killer case when looking at his backstory and upbringing. He was an illegitimate child which his grandparents adopted as their own and Bundy was told that his mother was actually his sister thus to not bring shame on the family. He was an intelligent child but showed disturbing signs from an early age as people such as his Aunt claimed he was fascinated with knives from as young as three thought nothing of peeping through people's windows and stealing. In interviews with Bundy in his later years, he spoke highly of his grandfather and felt he could relate to the man well but he was known for beating Bundy's grandmother, raising his voice often, swinging neighbourhood cats around by their tails, and throwing one of his children down the stairs. Bundy also seemingly lied about his social life as a teen in interviews as a convicted adult as he claimed he didn't have any friends and didn't understand social interactions which led to friendships but high school classmates claimed Bundy was relatively well-known and well liked throughout the school.

One of the reasons I would like to speak to Bundy is because he became so prolific, it was as if he was a celebrity. Often described as incredibly charismatic and attractive - even by victims - Bundy played on this in many ways from luring victims to his car to beat them and later murder them, to acting as his own defense lawyer in court. He seemed incredibly full of himself for lack of a better phrase and seems quite arrogant and self-assured in any court case/interview footage I've watched. He is very much the traditional essence of a serial killer in the fact that he had a modus operandi (tell-tale signs or specific things he performed in carrying out his crimes) and victims often seemed to fit in a certain box of being a young white woman, often a student, and quite often with long dark hair. Professionals often associate Bundy's break up with his college girlfriend as a pinnacle moment in his life which caused the decent into his murders and the hold he seemed to have over women right up until his death is bizarre. It is evident that he had a distaste for women and no respect for them, but he cleverly engineered his behaviour to demonstrate an interest in them to gain what he wanted from his victims.

I could discuss here for days and days the interesting links in his murders, the psychological profiling and analysing he underwent to try to understand his pathology and so on, but we really would be here for days. One thing I personally find interesting about Bundy is the fact that he shared that he always needed to be "extremely drunk" when seeking a victim and carrying out his heinous acts. He claimed this was to sedate his dominant personality so it could not influence his entity which I think suggests that there was a part of him who knew he was doing wrong and was trying to fight back. Of course he was an absolute monster of a man and no psychological realisations about him can falter that, but his crimes, his brazen lying, and his escapes from prison all portrays a manipulative man who had a lot going on in his mind.

If you want to read more on Bundy's crimes and pathology, this wiki page is a good place to start.


Before this post becomes some sort of novel, I will cut it short here and a part 2 will be heading to NB shortly. As I mentioned at the start of this post, I truly believe that true crime - particularly involving serial killers and sadistic murderers - should never be romanticised, but it can be an incredibly thought-provoking topic and needs to be discussed. Of course true crime history is looked back on in the realms of criminology and psychology to learn and educate for the the future, but true crime also fills that void for many people as it's out of societal norm and is so out of the ordinary for many individuals that you can't help but find yourself engrossed in a documentary or a book detailing what happened and the backstories to these criminals. I don't know what that says about us as human beings so I'm not going to dwell on it too much, but I hope you've enjoyed this little bit of a different segment on NB and you're looking forward to part 2!

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January 16, 2018

Go Outside

Hello friends, I hope you read this and feel inspired, but I just wanted to share with you all how important it is to go outside. Now, before I inevitably tumble into one of my long rambles, I am not suggesting for one minute that going outside is easy. It's a matter of accessibility, physical and mental health, and sometimes just sheer bravery, confidence, and motivation. I think it's fair to say that the majority of us have been there - been in that rut where we've gotten stuck in a constant loop with the cabin fever so it's more like cabin comfort and it's been a struggle to break the routine. It can feel impossible to break the habit of staying in but oh the euphoria some of us can feel once we've stepped outside and into a safe space that makes us feel something I just don't think any words in the English language can quite cover.

Although it's not easy for all and it's not even an option for some, many of us don't have a valid reason for not getting outside and that's what I hope to help change - even if just one of you try to get out a little more. Nature is an absolutely beautiful thing. When I'm saying we should all get out more, we should be taking in what's around us. It's very easy to feel contained and comfortable within the confines of our urban centres but when we branch out that little bit - whether it's just wandering through a lush open park or getting out into the wilderness and mountains - we feel simply euphoric no matter how much you may not like camping or the outdoors! Being around nature, the trees, plants, open water... all of it can be so positive for mental health, for helping you just generally feel happier, and it's certainly good for getting rid of stress. The air is cleaner for our lungs, we can leave feeling inspired, and my goodness - it's just beautiful, right? So here's my quick run-down on why we should get out and about more this year and make 2O18 the year for going outside.

Give your mental health a good boost
As I mentioned, going outside can be really difficult for many individuals, but I've found it a huge help with my mental health when I've needed a pick-me-up. Whilst I'm very much a homebody and an introvert who likes to keep themselves to themselves most of the time, going out can be a godsend and that switch in scenery that I desperately need. When I'm stuck in a rut and find myself struggling with my fatigue or motivation and happiness, I tend to declare myself housebound and won't really leave the house for anything. I've seen myself not step foot out of my home for 4 days at time and even when I haven't had any food in the house, I've just ordered takeaway to avoid leaving the house. As you can imagine that sort of environment only helps breed more anxiousness and negative feelings for me so when I do pluck up the courage to step out the door or the cabin fever just gets too much, the relief of that fresh air hitting my face is so refreshing.

*(Images: Near Dark Photography)*
Outfit Details: Asos Mens Beanie, Vintage Coat, H&M Jeans, UK Glamorous via Topshop Fringe Bag (old), Doc Marten Boots

Feel fit, healthy, and content on the outside too
So going outside may help your mental health, but it's also no surprise that it can help your physical health, too. I'm not the biggest health buff - only choosing to dabble in yoga here and there - but just going out and walking is something I can get behind. Regularly going out and walking in nature, whether it's in the woods, along the beach, or just laps in the local park, it can make you feel so much fitter and healthier and always makes me feel like I've spent my time well. Breathing in fresh clean air can instantly impact your mood and give you a bounce in your step. Being consistent with trekking outdoors can also help you set goals that can be challenging but definitely achievable. Think about how far you might have walked lately on an outing and promise yourself you're going to walk for longer/further/faster next time. Just because you're enjoying something doesn't mean you can't let it be a benefit to other areas of your life so if exercise is something that doesn't appeal to you or you simply don't think you're capable, just try letting your feet guide you and reap the benefits it has on your physical body.

Nothing can rival it's beauty
The biggest argument anyone will ever present to you for convincing you to go outside is the sheer beauty of it all. As I said earlier, urban centres are lovely for a variety of reasons, but nothing beats stepping out into those lesser populated, more scenic places. The views can be amazing, the smells cannot be rivalled, and you have every chance of seeing wildlife in their natural habitats and that should be a reason enough to get out there! If you're an avid photographer of any description or you just simply like to explore and soak up all views and experiences "in the moment", wandering around in nature is bound to tick so many boxes for so many people. If you're someone who likes to have a bit more energy to their adventures, there's great apps that you can download that do things like tell you what mushroom you've discovered growing when you're out and about, what birds you've spotted flying overhead, or simple challenges for you to try and complete whilst you're out like spotting a rainbow! If you're someone like me though and want to just enjoy what's going on around you and maybe snap a photo or 5O, there's absolutely nothing wrong with just letting your feet guide you, getting (sensibly) lost and just observing your surroundings. Mother Nature is such a beautiful gift we have that I can even begin to describe with enough justification, so don't let it pass you by in this ever-changing world of ours.

It can always make a great date
The last little point is just something silly but I feel a lot of people often overlook because of it's simplicity. Having a date out in nature is so good. If you're thinking "I really want to have a nice time that's a little different, something that can be extremely fun and let us pull our hair down, and doesn't need to cost a thing" then nature has totally got your back. Pack yourself a lunch in a backpack, take a thermos flask of a warm drink, a bottle of water to share, and a blanket if you plan to plonk yourselves down at a beach to watch the evening sunset, and you're all ready to go! If you drive, why not drive out to the woods, sit on the bonnet of the car at night and look at the stars? Once you get out of the built up city areas, the skies become much clearer due to less pollution and you can see *so* much so much more clearly too.

I feel odd almost trying to sell the idea of going outside to you all because it's something so simple but for that reason I think we all need to remind ourselves to do it - myself included. I think being out amongst the trees, the sea, and the clear sky can really help us remember how beautiful it is and assist us in becoming more humble. Getting outside in nature reminds me to be more proactive with my life choices such as how much plastic I consume as it just makes me think about how the pollution I and millions and billions of others is effecting this natural beauty and it helps me connect to it - it helps me make positive changes in my life. If that isn't a good enough reason to go outside, then I don't know what is.

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January 11, 2018

Reasons to Thrift & Shop Second-hand Fashion

Hey gang, today I thought I'd share something with you that I've mentioned more than a few times over on NB before but never really done a "guide" so to speak. There's no real "perfected" way to shop - obviously, shopping is very much an individual activity and although we all tend to go about it in a similar manner (going in stores or browsing online) we all have our preferences as to how we conduct it and what we're searching for. Now I know what you're thinking - why on earth are you suggesting "a guide" for something so mundane, Amyleigh? And well, it's quite simple really. Since saying goodbye to fast fashion for 99% of my wardrobe, I've realised that second-hand shopping and thrifting can be be daunting for many people. There's a lot of things that can put people off shopping second-hand (some excuses I've heard questions the quality as the items are not new, the cleanliness of items, and also just the discomfort of wearing something someone else once owned) but honestly? I think shopping second-hand is so incredibly worth it and I feel that everyone would benefit from buying second-hand, even if it's only occasional items.

I absolutely love shopping but it's something I've become really conscious of over the past year as I've realised that it can be an indulgence that isn't beneficial. Particularly buying into fast fashion, I've researched more and more about the harm and damage it can cause to the environment, those who are already working for not a lot of money and in poor conditions to create fast fashion items, and also just simply the impact it has on my bank balance! This isn't a post to make anyone feel guilty about shopping in the fast fashion world, but I can hopefully prove to any sceptics that second-hand can be just as good - if not way better and why.

- There's always more chance of finding a unique piece. We've all been there. We've bought something we really love from Primark, Zara, some of us even something from Gucci, then within a matter of days you've bumped into everyone and their nan wearing the same item and you can't help but feel a bit awkward about it. Buying things second-hand, especially rutting around in charity shops/thrift stores, gives you an almost guaranteed opportunity of finding a unique item. You can always find something that is "in style" or "on trend" because fashion has a good routine of coming back around so just keep your eyes peeled and do some digging and you'll be finding one-of-a-kind pieces or at least pieces everyone else isn't wearing in no time!

- Often tailored goods fit so much better & are truer to true size. How many times have you bought a particular inch waist and leg in a pair of trousers from a high street store and they haven't fit despite the measurements being your exact body measurements or somewhat worse, you buy the same style trouser again in a different colour for example and the size is completely different? This seems to be a big fault with a lot of fast fashion stores and brands and it can be incredibly frustrating buying say a size 25" waist from ASOS and then a 29" from H&M (I'm not even exaggerating this is usually what happens for me). One thing I've found with every vintage piece I've bought is that each piece of tailoring fits like a glove. Particularly when it comes to trousers, whatever waist and leg length they're advertised/sold as is exactly right and fits perfectly true to size. This makes your silhouette look fab and means you're more likely to fall in love with an item because what's better than when it fits your right in all the right places?

- If designer stuff is your bag, charity shops should be your best friend. You guys. If you're someone who is always trying to track down a bargain, particularly when it involves designer clothing or accessories, if you're not scouting out your local charity shops or second-hand selling apps then you're doing this kind of shopping all wrong. It's quite commonplace to find designer bags, coats, and jackets etc. in charity shops and as it's a charity shop, you can betcha that the price is minute compared to that item's original RRP. A great thing about getting designer items second-hand is not only is the price a fraction of what it once was, but 9/10 the original owner of the item has taken good care of it because it was so expensive on it's first purchase.

- Second-hand shopping stops you from buying just for the sake of it. A black hole I used to find myself fall into almost every time I used to buy fast fashion was the sheer amount of items I would pick up. Buying online meant I could spend hours browsing, filling a virtual basket that somehow distorts the reality of how much you're needlessly spending/buying and browsing physically in store was no better. When looking in charity/vintage shops it's much easier to stay out of the neverending black hole. I find as the contents of charity shops are more hit and miss upon each visit, you don't naturally pick up as many items that catch your eye and therefore you save a lot of your money which is never a bad thing.

- There's more opportunity for personal style. Kind of linked to my first point, second-hand shopping gives you the opportunity to play around more with your personal style. Not only can you find some more unique pieces, but charity shop prices often mean you have more of a chance to buy items you're unsure of but kind of like and the repercussions of buying such items isn't drastic. I know most high street stores allow you to return items free of charge, but buying second-hand usually means you've paid either towards a charity or an individual person and they receive the benefit of that, and if you then don't like an item, you can pass it on. Charity shops have such an eclectic range of clothing that it's great to stumble across and item that is really out of your comfort zone yet you're still incredibly drawn to because for the sake of usually £5 or less, you can try out that item and see if you can make it work.

- It is cheaper & more ethical on your wallet. I've kind of already mentioned this in my previous point, but charity shops, second-hand apps, and vintage stores can be *so* much kinder on your wallet. Usually charity shops are incredibly reasonably priced and apps can often give you the opportunity to haggle with sellers. It's also a cheaper burden on your conscience if you're conscious of fast fashion, ethics behind consumerism shopping, and the pollution clothing causes for the planet.

- You never know what to expect so it's EXCITING. One of the best thing about shopping second-hand is that even if you're looking for something in particular, you can still be totally surprised by what you find. Charity shop stock always changes and doesn't necessarily follow the trends so you can find a wide range of items. I've already mentioned finding unique pieces, but the experience is more fun too. You have to actively search for things in a mountain of stuff you're not interested in or that's not to your taste and I don't think you get that same excited, accomplished feeling you do when you shop in your typical high street stores.

- You can still pinpoint particular things you're searching for. So although you never know what you might find, and it might be more difficult to find what you want because the stock is always changing and doesn't have a particular trend or style, you *can* still find what you want. I find shopping second-hand helps me really narrow down my search as I pinpoint what I'm lacking in my wardrobe and can focus on finding that. This is great especially for apps as you can search just as you would on lots of high street store sites!

- It's helping the planet and other people by recycling or donating. If you're a big fan of Blue Planet, you may have seen David Attenborough highlighting the major problems plastic is causing the oceans and earth in general, but clothing is the second biggest cause of pollution. Buying second hand means you're not consuming new pieces, you're giving clothing new life and keeping it out of landfill. This is incredibly good for the environment and keeps clothing in circulation for longer. Not only are you helping keep items out of landfill by buying second-hand, you're helping out people! Charity shops are just that - they're there first and foremost to help charities. A wide variety of types of charities exist and the donations they receive from charity shop earnings really helps them all out. If you're buying on apps such as Depop too, you're just helping others get by and if that means others are benefiting from your spending, and those benefiting are not big corporations, then that's always a good thing!

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January 08, 2018

Revisiting Pilgrim 55: CF & Organic Skincare

If you've been a reader of NB for some time, you might remember a post right back in July last year where I introduced my love for the brand, Pilgrim 55. Pilgrim 55 are a great independent small brand based in my home city of Newcastle Upon Tyne. They're big believers in skincare being made from good, clean, natural ingredients and not testing those ingredients or the finished skincare products on animals. Pilgrim 55 approached me last year to try out some of their products and I really really liked them. As their products are so natural, they're incredibly gentle on the skin but still get results. In my last post, I fell in love with their cucumber cleanser and their charcoal and liquorice scrub mask and still regularly use both in my weekly skincare routine so when Pilgrim 55 offered me the chance to try out some more products, I could not pass up the opportunity!

Some products I was really interested in trying out was stuff from their stem cell range (which helps with anti-ageing), the green tea mask (also for anti-ageing - can you see a theme developing), and they were super generous to also through in their caffeine rich moisturiser (also for anti-ageing - I think they're trying to tell me something). I've been trying out each product for a couple of consecutive months now and thought it was high-time to share my thoughts on them.

Green Tea Anti-Ageing Clay Face Mask* | £18.99-£29.99, 6Oml-12Oml
This product is something I was desperate to try from Pilgrim 55. Green Tea skincare products are some of my favourite to use and can be so good for the skin. It can detoxify the skin by drawing out impurities and can improve skin elasticity. This particular mask promises to keep skin glowing and healthy and includes other natural ingredients as apple, watermelon, and cucumber which are all gentle on the skin. This mask is nice and cooling to apply onto the skin and smells lovely - Pilgrim 55's products almost have a signature gentle scent, and this mask is no exception. It applies nice and thickly to the face and doesn't completely dry down like other clay masks. The great thing about this though is that it doesn't feel tight on the skin once it has done this but still leaves my skin feeling soft, supple, and my pores are noticeably smaller. With prolonged use, I've noticed that my skin has indeed got a natural healthy "from within" glow that it was lacking before. I really like to use this mask when my skin needs a detox - especially when I've been somewhere with lots of pollution or I've been putting my skin through the ringer with makeup, not drinking enough water etc. as I can always see an immediate improvement once I was it off.

Caffeine Rich Super Anti-Ageing Moisturiser* | £18.99-£29.99, 6Oml-12Oml
The caffeine rich moisturiser was something that intrigued me because of it's ingredients. If you're someone who wants to start using good anti-ageing products and/or need to tackle your normal to dry skin, definitely give this cream a go. This is the first moisturiser I've used in a long time that feels incredibly luxurious and smooths onto the skin effortlessly and is very silky to the touch. I'm a big fan of the The Ordinary Caffeine 5% Solution for my undereye care day and night, so was looking forward to trying another caffeine-rich product. As you can imagine, caffeine in skincare is great for firming up fine lines and wrinkles and anti-oxidise your skin. It does this by boosting the blood flow around the skin and stimulates cell renewal to help tone up the skin. This moisturiser includes coffee extract as it's main ingredient, but it also includes good stuff like pumpkin seed extract, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. Although I really liked using this cream and it has been a lifesaver in the cold weather (it instantly gets rid of any dry patches I have overnight), it is better suited to those on the drier side so I've donated it to my mama and she loves it. She uses it day and night and feels like it's giving her skin a new lease of life and keeping her skin from looking dry.

Stem Cell Active Face Mask* | £2O.o4-£35.O4, 6Oml-12Oml
Next up on the anti-ageing wagon of goodness is the Stem Cell Active Mask. This face mask is great for all skin types and aims to rejuvenate and regenerate skin cells to combat ageing. This mask is jam-packed with hibiscus flower powder which often gets referred to as the "botox plant" in skincare due to it's ability to promote elasticity and eradicating lines and wrinkles. Grapeseed extract is also a main ingredient in this mask which helps boost collagen production, further helping in the anti-age fight. I really like this mask. This one has certainly been a go to for when it's been particularly cold outside and my skin feels like it needs a bit of additional TLC as it's incredibly moisturising and leaves my skin feeling like it's had a big ol' drink. I really like to use this mask in targeted areas too - such as my forehead and laughing lines - as it noticeably improves the appearance of the lines in these areas. It may sound ridiculous to some at the age of 26 to be really paranoid about the fine lines on your forehead, but this mask helps me feel better about them as they look filled in and so smooth. Another great thing about this mask is that you only need to leave it on the skin for as little as 5 minutes to see a difference and that is a huge bonus for if you just want a quick pick-me-up.

Stem Cell Facial Serum | £24.99-£41.99, 6Oml-12Oml
The last product to mention is the Stem Cell Serum which is great for so many different skin needs. Whether your skin is combo, normal, tired or dull, this serum will help you out and make some improvements. This serum includes a whole host of fruit extracts and aloe vera gel making it a smooth and easy serum to use and apply. Just like the face mask counterpart, the Stem Cell Serum also includes the hibiscus flower powder to help promote elasticity and keep your skin looking glowing and healthy and targets wrinkles and cell growth. The gel itself is opaque and has a gentle scent and is best applied just as the site suggests - to a warm damp face. I tend to use the Stem Cell Face Mask first then wash it off gently with a muslin cloth. Once I've wiped away the mask, I then apply this serum to my still cloth-damp face and neck. A little goes a long way and I like to smooth it all over the areas I need it before getting tapping the product into the skin to try and increase blood flow and ensure the product is sinking into the skin as deeply as possible. Using this serum right after the mask continuously at least twice a week has seen a great improvement in my "glow" and also the lines on my forehead. I imagine further use and more rigorous use would greatly benefit anyone in the fight against ageing!

All in all, Pilgrim 55 have certainly impressed me again. The products are wonderful from this company and they're a company who really deserve support, promotion, and your hard-earned pennies. In the contemporary beauty world, it's difficult to find genuinely good-at-heart brands as it's a world filled with consumerism and a lack of positive ethics, but Pilgrim 55 go against the grain in that respect. I really admire the fact that this brand no only promote the use of natural ingredients (no nasties such as parabens, sulfates etc. are used in any of Pilgrim 55's products) and committing to cruelty-free testing, they also are consistently working towards being environmentally and socially responsible by supporting communities and pledging to become carbon neutral, too. I can't rave about these guys enough so if you're looking for some good honest skincare, they've got you.

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January 05, 2018

Book Club No.12

Hello you lovely folk! It's been a while since the last Book Club post as NB has been going through a relaunch, but I've still been reading behind the scenes and boy oh boy, I've read some good stuff. I've read a range of fiction lately that stems from complete fairytales to period-drama style stories based on real historical accounts so stick around if you fancy a new book recommendation because as always, I have three to dish the dirt on!

Lost Boy by Christina Henry
For once, I'm going to start with the best of this bunch because you guys this book is easily one of my favourites this year and has certainly wormed it's way into my all-time favourite list too. After reading A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan (read my full review here), I was actually worried about picking up a new book because I loved this one so much that I thought everything would be sub-par in comparison. So, I searched for some more YA fiction that might float my boat and stumbled across Lost Boy. You might guess from the title and the cover that Lost Boy is a retelling of the classic Peter Pan story (which happens to be my favourite book ever and also one of my favourite Disney films), so I was always intrigued but after reading a short description I just knew I had to read it as soon as possible. Henry retells the tale of Peter Pan but from the perspective of my favourite villain, Captain Hook, before he became the evil Captain we all know and love him as. The story follows Jamie before he becomes the notorious Captain James Hook back when he was Peter's best friend and was so very much in love with him and everything him and his Neverland Island promised. Henry's writing style is so descriptive but in such a subtle way that you can visualise every detail without her explicitly explaining what everything looks like. You can hear the sounds, see the horizons, feel the weather and smell the scents. One thing I particularly enjoyed about this retelling was the darkness of it - if you've been put off reading this as it's based of the fairytale of Peter Pan, maybe the graphic bludgeoning of children, the almost domestic abusive nature of Peter, and the monsters that stalk Neverland will persuade you otherwise.

As such a huge fan of Peter Pan I obviously had my hesitations about this story but it's honestly one of my favourite books I've read this year and ever. As I'm so accustomed to the Pan story, I ultimately knew that the book had to end with Hook and Peter no longer being friends, but the journey up until that point was full of twists and turns and unpredictability. The focus on their intense relationship and the breakdown of it is so palpable through every page that I found myself getting incredibly emotionally invested. I felt cheated when Peter was sly, I felt upset when something happened to one of the Lost Boys... If you want a story of complete fantasy that you can lose yourself in that actually deals with some very real feelings, emotions, and situations we can find ourselves in in relationships, I urge you to read this. I'm currently ploughing my way through her Alice and Red Queen books too which surprise - is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland and this one is also bloody amazing so far. You can grab a copy of Lost Boy here!

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Emma Donoghue is renown for her fantastic book, Room (read my full review here), which quickly became one of my favourite books after the first time I finished it. Therefore when I saw The Wonder in my local Waterstones, I thought I'd pick it up and give it a shot despite the very different sounding blurb. Unlike Room, The Wonder is set in a small Irish village during the late 19th century and is described as a psychological thriller. It focuses on a young nurse from London who trained under the provision of Florence Nightingale who has been sent to this tiny backwater village to investigate what is believed to be a religious miracle. The young nurse, Lib, meets a young Irish girl who has apparently not ate any food for months and believes to have sustained herself on "God's mana" the whole time. Lib and a nun are asked to come into the family home of the child and observe her. They are merely there for two weeks to decide whether or not the little girl is telling the truth or is actually a fraud. During this time, Lib realises everything is not what it seems and in this very Catholic household, village, and country, weeding out a possible fraudster is not something she should be doing.

The story sounded really interesting to me as I'm aware that there has been historical accounts of this exact thing happening - young girls claiming to not need to eat because their spiritual fulfilment is sustaining them to survive enough. So tie that in with Emma Donoghue's gripping writing style, I thought that this would be an instant hit with me. Oh, how wrong I was. Although I love Room, this books is of course very different in so many ways. I was still a fan of the writing style but of course, it was no where near the same as Room. There were a couple of hurdles for me when reading this book and the main one was the main character. Lib is very much a no-nonsense sort of woman and having to be a nurse in a time of demand, it's easy to understand why, but whilst a main character is often likeable and an antagonist, Lib just grated on me to the point where I would finish a chapter and feel angry and frustrated and in need of a break from the book. I feel like I've never had that experience with a book before and it meant it stopped the easy flow of reading for me. I did grow to like Lib by the end of the book and as you see her character develop throughout the story, it's hard not to agree with everything she says or does but for a good 3/4 of the book? I couldn't bloody stand her. My other issue with the book lasted about as long as my disgruntlement with the main character. The pace of the story in hindsight really suits the plot as it is a bit of a slow burn and leads up to a huge speeding crescendo at the end, but when reading it, I found it really dragged. I can't quite put my finger on what it was, but I only felt really engrossed and immersed in the story and the characters in the last 1/4 of the book. Like I said, the pace suited the story and mirrored the waiting Lib experienced well onto the reader, but ultimately this just left me wondering when it was going to "get good" for the most part.

That's not to say that this story wasn't good - it was an interesting read and a period/genre I don't delve into that much, but I feel like it was very much like on of those ITV period dramas they do in 3 episodes that aren't really my cup of tea. Don't let my pretty rubbish review put you off though if you like period drama or if you like stories with a good twist. There's an element of detective work for this as the reader and although the ending and the lead up to it wasn't a huge shock, it was enough of a twist to draw my attention in eventually which I obviously can only applaud. It has been a bestseller and has had high-praise from the likes of Stephen King, so there's plenty of folk out there who love it but me? I thought it was just okay. Pick up a copy of The Wonder, here!

The Invisible Child and The Fir Tree by Tove Jansson
The last book I'm going to mention in this post is such a good purchase for so many reasons. Recently, Oxfam teamed up with Waterstones and released The Invisible Child and The Fir Tree as a little hardback additional. These two tales are from the classic The Moomins series and for someone like me who bloody loves The Moomins, it's a lovely little nostalgic book. The book itself is a gorgeous little hardback and has beautiful illustrations throughout as well as a beautiful cover and dust cover too. The best thing about this purchase though is that 1Oo% of the sales goes directly to Oxfam to help support projects which are tackling inequality and helping support women and girls worldwide to escape abuse, neglect, and poverty situations. At only £4.99 each, the books are supporting a fantastic cause and aren't breaking the bank either. I picked up this copy for myself, but I also think that it would make a lovely worthwhile and completely selfless gift for others, too.

The stories themselves are great and it makes a perfect short read for anyone. The Invisible Child reflects the typical mentality behind some of the most popular Moomin characters so if people are new to The Moomins, this story is a great introduction. It - surprise surprise - follows a tale of an invisible child who comes to live with the Moomin family for some time. It's a great little read for both adults and children as Jansson's writing style always has that wonderful way of making the characters relatable for all ages. The Fir Tree is the second little story and this is what makes it a perfect Christmas gift. If the title didn't quite give it away, The Fir Tree discusses Christmas and Christmas traditions in an non-obvious way and highlights the fact that if you are alien to them, you'd be quite surprised at those traditions and what they mean.

If you're a collector The Moomins or want to have a good addition to a child's collection, this instalment is also worth picking up as it has a character breakdown throughout the last few pages in which it details every The Moomins character with illustrations and a brief description of their personality which I absolutely love. You can pick up a charitable copy of The Invisible Child & The Fir Tree here and make sure you check out the rest of the Waterstones site as there's also tea towels and tote bags raising money for Oxfam too!

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January 01, 2018

This Year I Plan to...

Hey gang, how refreshing is it that the first day of a new month, of a new year, is also the first day of a fresh new week? 2O18 is obviously pulling out the big guns from the start and trying to make sure it's better that 2O17 (it might not be *that* much of a difficult feat considering everyone seems to have had a bad year in 2O17?). Well goodbye, auf wiedersehen, senora 2O17, 2O18 is stomping its way through.

It's always awfully cliché to do a "yearly goals" post at the start of the year but do you know what? I really like them. I think they're refreshing because so many of us see the start of a new year as an opportunity to change or to alter past problems, leave negativity behind, or simply just look at ways to improve ourselves or our lives and I'm all about that optimism. So today I'm sharing with you all what my goals are for the year and they're a huge mix of personal development things, pushing boundaries things, and also a couple of bucket list things too. Enjoy:

- Travel somewhere alone. This is something that was on my list of goals for last year too, but surprise surprise, I never got around to ticking it off. I've realised that a lot of the "big" goals I set for myself have a tendency to be neglected, so I'm focusing on this one this year and making it my main goal. I'm still struggling with settling on where exactly it is that I'm going to visit, but I'm certain that it will be somewhere in Europe and I will make sure I have the best time.

- Spend more money on travelling in general. With that first goal being mentioned, I really want to spend more money on travelling in general and spend more time exploring anywhere and everywhere this year. I want to start spending money more in the areas that I think is most important, so I need to be spending it more on experiences that materials and of course, travelling definitely helps tick that box.

- Carry on minimising consumer ways. Another goal kind of linked to the previous one is minimising my consumer ways. I've been making a good effort with this already so maybe it's cheating to set a goal for the year you're already half-doing, but I've been really pleased with my effort thus far. I've been spending a lot less on fast fashion since switching to a slow fashion lifestyle, I've been buying less skincare/makeup since switching to cruelty free, and just generally want to save up much more to either improve my home or to pay for adventures so this is a goal I can see me achieving no problem!

- Donate more to charity. I quite regularly donate clothing and occasional household items to charity already, but I'd like to step this up a notch and ensure I'm really giving back and giving to anyone less fortune than myself. I will be kicking this off with a big clear out of my clothes and doing some charity shop runs, re-homing any unwanted Christmas gifts, and then also making sure I donate money to good causes. I also want to donate more of my free time to good causes and I hope to do some sort of donation of either time or money (or both!) every month.

- Read at least 1O books. Another recycled goal from last year, in 2O18 I would like to keep up my good reading streak and read at least 1O books. I know that might not seem like a lot to some, but I do always struggle to fit reading into my free time despite it being one of my favourite things to do. When I say 1O books, I'm not including graphic novels or comics in that target either so those will just be Brucey bonuses.

- Be more consistent with exercise. Exercise was very hit and miss for me in 2O17. When I was good I was great, when I was lazy, I was practically horizontal at all times. I really enjoy the feeling I get and the headspace I end up in after exercise so for that fact alone, I know I need to get into a better routine with it. I bloody love yoga but sometimes fall off the wagon with it so heading into 2O18, I'm promising myself to do yoga at least every other day to ensure consistency and I also want to go swimming once a month as although I'm not the best swimmer, I lovebeing in the water.

- Educate myself more. One thing I really miss is being at university. Not for the socialising or the drinking, but the actual studying. I really enjoy learning - particularly about subjects I really love already or completely new things that are alien to me. Therefore 2O18 is the year I'm going to get back into education. That's not me saying I'm going to go back to uni (I'd love to be ha, as if I have the money or the time!), but I am going to set myself the task to study at least free open university course. There's so many great courses out there that don't cost a thing and you can complete them in your own time too so to me, it just makes sense that I start to capitalise on that and use my free-time more wisely! I haven't yet decided what I'm going to choose to study, but I'm already excited!

- Capture moments more. As I want to spend more time on making memories and having a good time with good people and even just by myself, I want to also focus on capturing those moments more too. I can get pretty snap-happy when it comes to photography, but I want to get more candid, unplanned shots of people I love and life "in the moment". To do this, I also want to spend more time using my 35mm film camera so I can get printable, proper photos. The joy of film for me is the fact that they can't really be edited - each snapshot is a surprise and might turn out blurred, too bright, blown out etc. and that actually makes each photo all the more special.

Most of my goals are small changes that just need constant optimism and drive to achieve; a couple of them need a little more than that but I know the outcome of them will make me feel like I've truly achieved something and feel like a better version of myself. I always feel like I can be quite reflective at this point in the year so there's definitely some other mini goals I have for my year that I hope to carry forward and they're things that I hope we all do - things that mean you look after yourself, your physical and mental health, your spirituality and mindfulness, and just promises to make sure you're your own number one and the greatest version of you you can be. So here's those other little things I'm going to be mindful of in 2O18 that will hopefully develop my already happy (but could always be a little better) life:

- I will put myself first in more situations and decisions because there's only one person I'm going to spend the rest of my life with for certain and that's me myself and I
- I will maintain healthy and happy relationships and cutting ties with any that are remotely toxic or failing. This includes those that I believe that it is myself who is playing the toxic part
- I promise to take my makeup off as soon as I get home if I have no other plans because my skin is beautiful and deserves to breathe and be treated with respect
- I will drink enough water everyday as I nourish my plants but should make sure to also nourish myself
- uncomfortable underwear is not on my agenda so bye bye ugly bras and panties
- I pledge to eat less and less meat and dairy because the industries are damaging
- I will say something nice about myself to myself in the mirror every morning so I start off the day on the right foot and I also give myself that much needed confidence boost
- I will focus more on horoscopes, astrology, essential oils, and crystals/minerals because I find it all incredibly interesting and I no longer care if people will make fun of those interests
- I will not feel guilty for enjoying what I enjoy
- I will eat what I want to eat and not feel guilt but also enrich my body and mind with what I put into my body
- I will make time every week to practice ukulele
- I will draw or paint something detailed at least once a month
- I will try to maintain a positive outlook on everything and see the good in every situation so I can grow and learn from each scenario in a constructive way

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