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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, and consuming with a conscience

May 27, 2016

Me & My Other Interests: Music

Here on Northern Blood, you've probably noticed by now that I'm a big lover of makeup, I'm into personal style (particularly if it has something to do with denim and clogs), and I like to go out exploring and photograph the lovely countryside and architecture various spots of England has to offer. Although they are some of my big interests, I seem to have failed to mention other big parts of me and my personality on this blog and for the longest time, I've managed to convince myself that it was for good reasons: my content will be too varied and not have any constant "themes", people won't be interested, wondering if I should share a particular interest with the great worldwide web... But I've now realised, all those reasons are null and void - after talking about it a little on my Twitter and getting positive feedback from some lovely people, I've decided I needed to include these parts of me on NB. Sure, it is wonderful that you fantastic individuals take the time out to read my 3 times a week rambles, but ultimately? I made this blog for me. I made it so I could document my interests, I could share my thoughts, feelings, and wishes. I need to keep me in mind. So with a combination of self-power and love and all that jazz, and the fact that you guys expressed an interest in to the other sides of my hobbies and personality, I'm going to drop in some posts about these other aspects of Amyleigh and I hope you will enjoy them.

So, where should I start? There's so many things I would say are so important to me, but one thing seemed to stick out more than the others - and that is music. It will come as no surprise that I love music like every other Tom, Dick, or Harry, but I'm always intrigued to find out other people's tastes in different genres and bands and I love that so many people who I speak to can sometimes be surprised by my own tastes, so it seemed like a great idea to share.

As someone who grew up with a rock n' roll loving mother, I was exposed to the likes of Bon Jovi, Meatloaf, Alice Cooper, and Sisters of Mercy and as a result, became the movie Wayne's World's biggest fan at around aged 4. Alice Cooper and Aerosmith became firm favourites and still have a place in my heart and whilst I did listen to the likes of Steps, S Club 7, and Gareth Gates (remember him?! That hedgehog haired guy was on the "boys to marry" list for Amyleigh aged 11), I always remember getting my first Linkin' Park hoodie at around the age of 10 and wearing it to school and from that moment on, I was dubbed as one of the goths/emos until I left secondary school. Being a MySpace generation teenager, I listened to the usual suspects such as My Chemical Romance, Fallout Boy, Panic! At the Disco, The Used, Metro Station (awful, I know, I know) to name but a few, but this was also the age I really fell in love with the 80's. The Smiths, The Cure, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Joy Divison, David Bowie, Prince... they were all regulars on my old iPod shuffle alongside all the screaming hardcore-ness of The Devil Wears Prada, Alexisonfire, Heavy Heavy Low Low, letlive., Dance Gavin Dance, and also some of my super faves - Slipknot, Oceana, and Deftones.

Heading into my twenties, I fell head over heels time and time again with Frank Sinatra and Seasick Steve in particular. I love jazz. I love the blues. My mam loved her soul music and rat-pack tunes just as much as her classic rock, so maybe this is where her influence took hold of my tastes again. Seasick Steve is one of my all-time favourite artists because if a dude can wear a string vest, play guitar that has only 3 strings at best and still sound effing amazing, he is a musician who is definitely worth my time.

Other genres also came into my life at this age. I started to fall more in love with the likes of Cult of Luna, Russian Circles, King Dude, and discovered my all-time favourite artist, Chelsea Wolfe. Chelsea Wolfe has a sound of her own that I can't even begin to describe, but drone, doom metal, instrumental music has taken a huge hold of me and I'm super pleased about it. Whilst I love bands that fit the "heavier" genres, I also love the likes of The Gaslight Anthem, The 1975, Busted, Purity Ring, Spookyland, Modest Mouse, and City and Colour to name but a few other very varied favourites. I've also recently realised I have a major soft spot for hard-hitting, powerful female singers - Lana Del Rey, Amy Winehouse, Alanis Morissette, and the 4 Non Blondes are some killer ladies who I can and will listen to on repeat for days and weeks at a time.

Just some of my favourites (in no particular order): The Smiths, Chelsea Wolfe, Purity Ring, Lana Del Rey, Frank Sinatra, The Cure, Morrissey, Joy Division, David Bowie, Dance Gavin Dance, Saosin, Townes Van Zandt, Chvrches, King Dude, Amy Winehouse, Seasick Steve, The 1975, Prince, 4 Non Blondes, The Gaslight Anthem, Alanis Morrisette, Twin Shadow, Haim, Spookyland, Letlive., Brand New, The Chariot, Pixies, Mastodon, The Old Wind, Dead Man's Bones, Slipknot, Cult of Luna, Electric Wizard, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Earth, Arab Strap, City and Colour, Oceana, Alexisonfire, Modest Mouse, HIM, Deftones, Klaxons, Twin Atlantic, Jake Bugg, Frank Turner, Funeral For a Friend, Mumford & Sons, Architects, Elvis Presley, Band of Horses, Placebo, Cosmo Sheldrake, Jimi Hendrix, Norma Jean, William Fitzsimmons, New Order, Adam and The Ants, Bon Iver, Kavinsky, Nirvana, Luke Pickett, Little Comets, †††, Vance Joy, Glassjaw, Caribou, Taking Back Sunday, Future Islands, Fuck Buttons, Fever Ray, Alice in Chains, Deafheaven, Thursday, Stone Temple Pilots, Zola Jesus, Circa Survive, HORSE the Band, Nicole Dollanganger, Sigur Rós, Sun O))), Boris, Converge, and Gothic Tropic.

I guess what I'm really saying in this post is that I think it is great to have a rich and varied music taste. I will happily listen to woeful country cowboy tones of Townes Van Zandt one day, then shout along to Black Sabbath the next. I wouldn't say I have any guilty pleasures because every band and artist I listen to, I'm happy to shout to the world about how much I love them and I think everyone should do the same. Yes, Bieber has had some absolute bangers out relatively recently and 14 year old Amy would shudder to know I declared such a thing, but the likes of Blink 182 and Bring Me The Horizon have also pleased my ears in the last couple of months, so I'd say everything is a positive.

- A.
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May 25, 2016

New-In from The Body Shop

The Body Shop has been a store I've went back to time and time again from being a young age when they had pencils, rubbers etc. with their slogans about looking after the animals and our natural world (remember those?) to enjoying the makeup and skincare in my ripe old age now. I always forget about it though. I overlook the store if I'm shopping or I just simply forget to check out new products but as I've developed an insatiable love for their primers and as they recently had a 40% off sale site wide, I couldn't resist picking up some products I've been desperate to try.

I tried to not go overboard and stuck to just skincare items for my purchases as I really need to take a break from buying makeup (its not that I want I'm just genuinely running out of storage space), so I picked up a variety of skin care things that I wanted to test. I picked up these items around a month ago now, so I have had ample time to trial and test them to give you my honest opinion - so here we go!

First up: face masks. Face masks are something I love to use regularly but I'm not particularly loyal to any certain ones so I'm still trying as many as I can in the hopes that I find *the one*. After much deliberation, I settled on the Blue Corn 3in1 Deep Purifying Scrub Mask and the Tea Tree Skin Clearing Mask. Both masks are some of The Body Shop's best sellers and both are great for anyone with oily skin that needs a little help with balancing out its condition. The Blue Corn mask first grabbed my attention as it is designed to help with excess oils but also that it is a 3in1 product. It promises to cleanse, moisturise, and exfoliate the skin so I was intrigued. The mas comes in a 100ml tub retailing at £11.oo and is a exactly what you'd expect consistency wise: thick, creamy, and full of "bits" as it is an exfoliant. I tend to steer clear of exfoliants like this usually as they can damage the skin if overused, but sometimes you just really want to scrub your skin clean right? So, my verdict? I love this mask. You can feel it working, its very cooling and also comfortably heating when drying on the skin and the exfoliating "bits" make its removal really feel like its buffing away those dead skin cells. It leaves my skin looking instantly more radiant and 100% softer. As for the excess oil tackling, I'll have to get back to you on that as I think I need to test it a little while longer to know for sure, but either way, it's a lovely mask to use.

So now for the Tea Tree mask. This mask also comes in a 100ml tub for £11.oo and is again perfect for those with combination to oily skin and especially go for those prone to blemishes due to its tea tree ingredients. This mask is very cooling on the skin so it's been a lovely one to apply on those muggy days we've had when it has been a little too humid during this month of May. Whilst this mask not give you the instant radiance the Blue Corn one can, it is more gentle on the skin as it isn't an exfoliant and it does a brilliant job at drawing out the impurities in the skin and drying up any spots you may have on the surface. This is a great one to use if you are planning to go to an important event or a wedding etc. soon and you need to try and get your skin prime conditiona before hand as it brings all the *bad stuff* to the surface and tries to dry it all up. Excellent.

Sticking with the tea tree products, I also picked up a 20ml bottle of the Tea Tree Oil. This product comes in 10ml or 20ml options and ranges in price from £8-11.oo. I'm so pleased I picked this up. I add a generous amount of drops to the palms of my hands every night and smooth the oil over my whole face and down my neck. It is paraben free, soothing, and antibacterial so it is naturally good for any sensitive blemish skin sufferers. I've noticed a difference in the few weeks I have been using this as my skin feels so much happier. The healthier, non-blemished areas of my face feel softer and plumper and the areas where my acne has broken out have been successfully tackled using this as it does a great job at soothing the soreness and drying up open spots. It might not be as potent and hard-hitting as some other acne treatments, but it feels a lot more natural and gentle for the skin and I really thing that is what my routine has been lacking.

Another product I have really been loving to use most nights is the Vitamin E Face Mist. There is a whole range of Vitamin E products available at The Body Shop, but I have always overlooked them as I've always thought "I'm already an oily motherf*cker, why would I want to add more moisture to *this*?!" but this mist has changed everything. It includes rosewater, vitamin E, and wheatgerm oil which helps to moisturise the skin and give you that instant hydration if your skin needs it. I have enjoyed using this some evenings as an extra step in my skincare routine as a lot of my moisturisers, toners etc. are quite harsh and can be quite stripping of the skin as they're designed to fight my oils and acne. This helps level everything out and replace any hydration my skin may have lost in my overnight acne battle. This is also a beautiful product to use as a setting spray for makeup. It is in no way a heavy product, but it does leave a soft velvety veil on the skin so it is nice to use if you're having a busy day and need to freshen your makeup up midday but don't want to pack on extra products. It is also a lovely spray to use on brushes or beautyblenders/sponges as part of your base application as I've found it blends and works beautifully with all of the foundations I have tested it with. Another winner winner product from my mini-haul.

The last product I need to mention is the All-in-One BB Cream. Okay okay, so this is technically a makeup product but I think it doubles up as skincare as it is more nourishing for the skin than foundation is so hear me out... I initially ordered this as the Tea Tree BB Cream was sold out in the lightest shade. I picked up the All-in-One in 00 for Fair Skin Tones and hoped it would be a good match and well, it terrified me at first. When it arrived in the post, I quickly swatched it on the back of my hand and genuinely thought I must have accidentally order a liquid highlighter. It was almost white in its pigment and seemed incredibly dewy/shimmery once it had been blended into the skin. As an oily girl, the last thing I want is a dewy complexion. Now I know what you're thinking - what were you expecting from a BB Cream Amyleigh? Of course it's going to be dewy? - and yeah I know, but I guess I was just a bit overwhelmed with the initial swatch.

However, I finally plucked up the courage to apply to my whole face to use as my base product one day when I needed to pop to the supermarket and I've got to be honest, I actually kind of like it. It melts beautifully into the skin and despite the scary white shade on first applying it, it sets and dries down to match my pale yellow tone skin really well. It is quite illuminating but not overpowering but I do like to set it as it's still a little too dewy for my tastes. I think this would be a gorgeous product to use on holiday in those warmer climates as its a light coverage but it is definitely buildable as it doesn't set or turn cakey after a few hours. My only gripe with it? Areas that I applied my concealer to (my concealer I use to cover spots/redness) went reeeally patchy over the top of it and sat on the skin so it was obvious those areas of my face were a different colour/coverage to rest of my face. This is a shame because the product was so light and comfortable to wear, I thought I might have a new base to wear on good skin days. I think this one needs a little bit more testing before I fall in love with it.

What are some of your fave The Body Shop products?

- A.
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May 20, 2016

Romsey Road Catholic Cemetery

One day during April, I had finished work, got home, and realised I needed to head to university. I wasn't pleased about this after being up since 5:30am and dealing with teenagers all day, but the sun was shining so things could have been worse. As I began to reach university, I suddenly remembered the graveyard close by and decided to take some snaps in it whilst the skies were clear. This cemetery is pretty small and is situated in a really odd place. If you were to walk up or down the main street, you wouldn't notice it is there as it is built higher up than street level. There's a big red brick wall running down the street and the cemetery is nestled not just behind this wall, but at the top of it. Surreal huh? I've been meaning to take some photos in there for months and months, so I finally tried to get some quick pics. I'll be honest, I really wanted to get in there to look at the mausoleums but was disappointed to see they were now being used as storage cupboards for gardening tools.

Some of the photos didn't come out as nicely as planned because it was so sunny, it was too bright for photos, but as I was running on a tight time schedule, I couldn't spend too long in there! Despite this, I did get some photos I'm rather happy with and I'm pleased to say I've now had a good look around in there. There were some flowers in bloom in there too which just made the whole area look really pretty. Despite being right beside one of the busiest roads in Winchester, it was so peacefully quiet walking around; it was a really nice escape from my busy and stressful day. The cemetery has been in use since 1847 so it has some good history to it. I'd like to take another look around sometime soon as I didn't spend a long time actually *looking* at the graves in there (this was down to time constraints and the fact that some men were doing building work overlooking the graveyard and I don't know, I'm still not 100% confident with taking photos in public and certainly not in cemeteries because I'm convinced people will think I'm bizarre). Enjoy!

DaffodilsTree in the CemeterySunny CemeteryJesusGraveyardCemeteryMausoleum and GravesGravestonesMausoleumGravestoneShaded GravesLife n' DeathSun Beams

- A.
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May 13, 2016

Is University Really Worth It?

Now that it is May, I've just realised it has almost been a full year since I finished my undergraduate degree and was no longer a student, needing to quickly work out what I wanted to do with my future. Since May 2015, I have started and almost finished my Post Graduate Certificate in Education to teaching Religious Education to 11-18 year olds and that, alongside my undergraduate degree, has certainly been a whirlwind of emotions for me. So now that it is exam season, its the time when some of you may be considering your next steps in education or you may even be reflecting on your own choices to go to university and whether or not it was right for you, I thought I'd sit down and join the worldwide web discussion and give you my honest thoughts about university.

So first things first (I'm the realest. Sorry.), I went to university later than most. I didn't make the jump to go until I was 21 because I'd always struggled with education. I was bright, but I lost my drive and ambition with each passing year. I didn't do as well in my GCSEs as I should have, I was unsettled throughout my A-Levels and moved from school to college to college, and then I just thought I couldn't deal with doing any more of it. I love to learn, but I just didn't know what to do, where to go, or if studying anything any further would actually benefit me in any way. So, I finished college and worked for sometime but I was never truly happy. I wanted to carry on learning - I craved to improve my knowledge - but I just didn't know where to start when it came to choosing a degree. During my A-Levels, I realised I had a real knack for Sociology. Getting 98% in my exams meant it was certainly a subject I excelled in, and whilst I did find some aspects of it interesting, the subject as a whole didn't really float my boat. So in steps my mother. My mam has always been the best kind of supportive parent - she's always had high expectations for me but has never pushed me to do any better than my best. When I told her I was unhappy, I wanted to study but I didn't just want to study something because I was good at it, she told me to do something I liked, something for me. Coming from a working class family of which no one had been to university, my family really wanted me to go and "improve" and "better" myself. So after really looking at what I thought I would find interesting and worthwhile, I settled on studying Archaeology and moved to the other end of the country - down to Winchester.

I said goodbye to family in the north east, sat on a crammed coach with all my belongings in one suitcase for 12 hours, and eventually landed in Winchester at 8pm on a Sunday evening. As soon as I stepped off the coach I fell in love with the city. It felt like a home from home - the cobbled streets, the history you could see and feel from the architecture... It all just reminded me of Durham. I moved into university halls that night and that was that. So now, let's talk about whether or not it's all really worth it.

Choose a Degree for YOU
I'm going to be brutally honest with you now - most undergraduate degrees mean squat nowadays. Because university has become a more mainstream thing for our generation to be part of, there is a lot of university students across the country. This is fine, and this shouldn't be something to put you off, but if you have a specific career goal in mind, you need to be ready for potential competition and to push yourself to aim for the highest grades you can possibly get. You will come across a lot of people at uni who are there just because they can be - they will cruise through, make minimum effort to pass their assignments, and will really be there because its a great way to party for 3 or 4 years and put the adult responsibilities on hold for a little longer. I went to university just because I could. I went thinking "I may as well, I know if I try I am smart enough" but that quickly changed into me wanting to really do well and to excel once I saw how many people were using it just to coast through life. This isn't me having a go at those who do that though - I literally chose Archaeology as my degree subject because I've been interested in it from a young age. I had no, and still have no, true intention of becoming an archaeologist full-time as my career. I say pick something you're interested in. Pick a subject you are fascinated by, that you think you can study for 3 or 4 years and not grow bored of. Pick something for you. If you're not planning on being a doctor or a lawyer and you just want to go to uni because you have the opportunity, do it. All I suggest is don't take it for granted. Work hard and appreciate the opportunity you have because you'll only have that first undergraduate experience once - don't lose it all to drinking and going out every single evening.

If you're on the fence about it though, read around what it is you think you want to do. There's so many undergraduate degrees out there that promise you positions and roles in certain areas of work that you can actually get without a degree. For some roles its just a case of working your way up the career ladder. You could walk into a job and within the 3 years you would have been studying at uni, you could have moved above and beyond the position the end of university promises you just by gaining experience and building up your CV. A lot of it really comes down to whether or not you're academic. Do you like to write, to learn, and excel at that? Go to uni. If you don't? You can definitely get to where you want to go without uni.

The Pros and Cons: The Cons

It's a whole lot of money for a piece of paper. I've touched on this already, but it is seriously a lot of debt to get yourself into if you're just going "for a laff mate". I'm currently sitting on around 50,000+ debt if I include my Post Grad studies too and that is and effing should be, terrifying. Far too many people see uni as a free pass to be young and carefree for a bit longer, but you should always be aware of how much money you are putting on the line for it.

If you're not a social butterfly, you might struggle. This is a con and pro for me (I'll tell you how on earth it is a pro later). If you like your own space, your own company etc. oh my my, you will struggle. In my first year, I was living in student halls and let me tell you - you have no time to yourself. The only time I felt comfortably alone was when I was sleeping, in the shower, or on the fucking toilet. University living, especially in halls, is very insulated and your friends and fellow peers will be in each others pockets and in each others business 99.9% of the time. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore and love every single one of my close friends I made through uni, who I spent all of my time with, but if you are someone who likes time alone, be prepared to lose that for a while. I wasn't prepared and it completely drained me. During my second and third year, I managed to get things back on track for how I am as a person - seeing friends now and again and it being wonderful because you're constantly catching up. Just be strong enough to say no and to say you don't want to go out every evening if you don't want to and you will find the whole ordeal a lot easier than I did!

Some of the lectures aren't all they're cracked up to be. Overall I bloody loved my degree, but there were times I sat in a lecture and thought "in these next 2 hours, I have plummeted into an additonal £300 worth of debt for this shit slideshow". You can't obviously know what all of you classes/lectures/workshops etc. are going to be like before you attend, but if you've got your heart set on some unis/courses, try your best to check them out fully before you make a choice. Look on student forums, attend open days/evenings, ask students around the campus etc. - don't do what I did and just pick somewhere at random that you had never even visited. I got lucky, but not everyone will.

If you move away, you will miss your family. That sounds pretty obvious, but even for me as someone who is quite a secluded person who doesn't call family members regularly to check how they are etc., I found it tough that I was living so far away from home. Choosing to go to uni over 300 miles away is 100% my doing, but there would be some evenings or days all I wanted to do was talk to my mam, listen to how shit my brother thought his day at school was, and go to my grandma's for a cuppa and catch up. I spent most of my money going back home every other weekend during my first year (which in hindsight was ridiculous because it used to take me 10+ hours to get there and then 10+ hours to get back but the few hours I had at home were worth it). I did get used to it and as I still live in Winchester now, I obviously have acclimatised to the situation, but if you are thinking of moving away for uni, really think about it and consider how far you're willing to travel because there will be a time you will consider spending £200 on a train ticket, to travel 300 miles, at 5 am, all in aid of having a cup of tea with your mam and listen to her tell you your degree is worth it.

And now, for the positives.

The Pros and Cons: The Pros

I found my soulmate. I know that is sickeningly cheesy, but I did. I grew unhappy in a relationship I had outgrown and university gave me the opportunity to meet a whole range of new people - including my boyfriend. I never would have met him if I hadn't moved. I never would have met him if I hadn't chose the degree I chose. This obviously isn't a reason to attend uni - you can't think "omg I might meet the person of my dreams!" as you're filling out your UCAS application - but for me, that's got to be the biggest bonus university presented to me.

I made lifelong friends. The beauty about doing my degree meant I made more friends and most importantly, made more friends with similar interests. My best friends from home of course I have things in common with, but it was lovely to meet more people who I knew I would have a multitude of things to talk to about. The beauty of university is that it is social, even for shy retiring anti-social butterflies like me. I hate most social situations, they make me feel uncomfortable and send my anxiety rocketing, but uni was somehow different. You can join clubs. You can join sports teams. You will always find like minded individuals from so many different backgrounds, countries, and beliefs that it is truly humbling. Even if you struggle with social aspects of life, university can be such a benefit.

I realised I was actually quite bright. Okay, so I knew I kind of was at school, but learning about an area I was so interested in gave me the opportunity to really research and write about something I was passionate about. Every chance I got, I wrote about the Aztecs, Egyptians, and world religions. Every time I did and made the effort with my work, I got better and better feedback from my lecturers, I got better and better grades. For someone who is so full of self doubt, my assignments and in particular my dissertation gave me such a confident boost that if I put my mind to things, I can smash my goals out of the ball park.

I became more me. I honestly want to thank university for the fact I am now comfortable in my own skin. I now know it's okay to prefer to sit in your PJs most nights curled up with a good book or film to going out getting drunk every night. I now know it's okay to be interested in whatever you're interested in and if anyone finds that weird, you don't need to interact with them. It gave me the chance to realise I'm quite an introverted person. I discovered I enjoy my own company and like being independent and that that is okay. If I had of stayed at home and not moved, I always wonder if this would have happened but I honestly think I wouldn't have been such a self-assured person if I hadn't have left.

You will be so bloody proud of yourself and others. I could have cried all day at my graduation - no joke. I was in such an elated mood all day to see how proud my parents were, to receive the well-wishing texts and phone calls off my grandparents and extended family, to see my friends graduate alongside me and see their families cheer for them too - the whole experience is one big pat on the back I will never feel again. It made me realise the sleepless nights typing in the café, on my fifth cup of gross tea and on my seventh chocolate bar from the overpriced vending machines was all worth it. I will always remember hysterically crying and having my only positive panic attack (if those are even a thing?!) the day I opened my results email and saw that I had a First Class Honours in a subject that I love so much.

For me, the whole experience was a rollercoaster. It's something everyone says but that's because its true. I would recommend uni to anyone and everyone, but it will always have its positive and negative sides. It's all a matter of weighing them out and working out if it's right for you and if its not? Its not the end of the world. You can get to where you want to be in life without it.

- A.
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May 06, 2016

April in Review

Previously on this little ol' blog of mine, I haven't really shared monthly favourites or recap style posts because I thought they'd be too same-y and I felt like I'd be copping-out if I used old Instagram photos etc. which I know I know, that's silly. If there's one thing I like to read on blogs and see on YouTube, its review posts of things people having been getting up to or loving. I also recently decided to try and make my blog a little more personal - now I don't mean that in some sort of in-depth TMI "Dear Diary" sort of way, but I would like to get more of my personality and various interests across because believe me, there is a lot more to me than just makeup, skincare and fashion, and that's not me being bigheaded, I just mean I have a lot of different interests that just don't get talked about on Northern Blood and I don't know why! So now that I've provided you with a rambling, boring introduction to this new monthly series I aim to maintain, let's see what I've been up to in April 2016.

The Personal
So, my birthday was on March 29th and I decided to head home for a week a couple of days after that to see friends and family. It was a two week Easter break from school so it would have been rude not to really! I went out for drinks with my best friend who I hadn't seen since Christmas time, watched a lot of movies, and spent some quality time with family members (I even helped my younger brother with his Art GCSE coursework because I'm that nice read: I like art and he is lazy). My friend and I had a great stroll around the nature reserve, Rainton Meadows and Joe's Pond, which I blogged about last week if candid nature photography and horses are your thang, then check that post out! Besides that outing, I went to the beach and swooned over lots of dogs - I mean, what else should you do at a beach really? - and realised the coast in the north east of England is one of the things I miss the most since moving to Winchester. I often miss Newcastle as a city with so much life and culture, and I often miss Durham's beautiful cobbled streets, but the coastline in the north east? Nothing rivals it. Sure it's freezing, heck yes it's usually grey and grim, but nothing compares to it for me. We passed some adorable beach huts whilst at Roker Beach and I'm now adamant one day, somehow, one will be mine.

This month I've been dealing with the fact that I've been very down generally for no reason and its been a tough feeling to shake. I still don't think I've fully defeated it, but I'm getting there! I think its partly to do with still not knowing what I want as a career. Well, I know what I would love to do: draw & paint for a living or teach uni students, but both of those ideals are so far off what I can accomplish right now. I had a couple of job interviews (and bagged myself my first teaching job!) this month and whilst it is still something I am extremely passionate about, I think I've hit that dark area in my training that makes you question what you're doing and why you're investing so much of yourself into a job that sucks all energy, sociability, and enthusiasm out of you. I think I've picked up down-trodden Amyleigh now though, as I'm enjoying being in the classroom once again, but I'm learning that no matter what, no "dream job" is ever smooth sailing.

I also cut a lot of my hair off, stopped wearing hair extensions and got some tattoos. Why you ask? I have no idea. I've put off getting tattoos for literally years because of numerous reasons and then I realised, every single one of those reasons was because somebody else didn't want me to get them. Well I couldn't give a hoot want anyone else wants me to do! And after getting my first one last month, I got number two and three just 3 weeks later... Middle finger to the system! I kid, I'm too polite and painfully apologetic to be punk, but nevertheless I love my tattoos and I'm planning to get more as I type. And the hair thing? Maybe I was treating my bad attitude like a relationship break up. My Aunty always said that when you break up with someone, you get a new hairstyle or a new hair colour and everything won't seem so bad and you know what? I think she's right.

This month was the month I went to my first wedding as an adult guest - up until this point I've only ever been prancing around as a Flower Girl or Bridesmaid but now I've finally hit the age where people are getting married and it's terrifying. Naturally I managed to find the sweetest, fattest pig to talk to though, so I stayed true to myself and my childish ways. I also had some rather tasty foods which masterchef Matt rustled up for us. I also made my absolute favourite summery meal - a simple crispy garlic chicken and salad dish - as soon as the sun came out. I think I may have jinxed the weather doing that though as it has plummeted back down to freezing cold weather now!

I also watched a ton of movies and TV whilst I was home and made a trip to the cinema which I rarely do now as the south is so. bloody. expensive. 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Boy are two I really need to mention. I never intended on seeing 10 Cloverfield Lane at the cinema, but I'm so so pleased I did. I absolutely loved this movie. Without giving anything away that isn't already shown in trailers, the movie is about a female main character who is living with a guy and the main man, John Goodman (yes, the guy from The Flintstones and The Borrowers). I don't want to spoil the story, so all I will say is it is not what I was expecting considering I went into the cinema thinking it would be like a Cloverfield Part II, but it went above and beyond what I thought it would be. John Goodman is absolutely incredible in it and plays his character to such a high level I don't think anyone could have played him except Goodman himself. The film is full of suspense, the characters are all excellent and believable, and the twists to the story are genuinely out of the blue and unpredictable. I think this film needs more recognition and I urge you to watch it if you like any sort of thriller/suspense storylines!

And now for The Boy. This was the movie I really wanted to see because it seemed ridiculous. I love horror but I'm also the biggest scaredy cat and freak myself out watching them, but this one seemed so silly I couldn't pass it up. The main character is the gorgeous well-known Maggie from The Walking Dead and she essentially comes over to England for a nannying job. Except when she turns up at the house, the family actually want her to nanny the creepiest looking doll you'll ever see besides Chucky. She naturally thinks it is a joke, the family 100% do not, and they leave her in charge with a schedule to keep to and a list of things she needs to do. Of course as soon as they're gone, she just drinks lots of wine and does none of the things she's expected to do and all I will say is, oh how silly of her. This horror is a pretty great one purely for the twist in the movie. I won't spoil it so I won't say anything else, but I didn't see the twist coming at. all. There's a few jump scares in there, its the right level of creepy without being totally cheesy, and its just a good horror all-round.

I'd also recommend Pacific Rim and Calvary - Pacific Rim was great and not at all cheesy. If you like your sci-fi action sort of movies and like films like Transformers, this will be right up your street (the soundtrack is pretty great too,) and Calvary is available on Netflix right now and is super. It has a great British cast, really dark humour, and is a whirlwind of emotions when you watch it. I'd highly recommend it if you're into your more indie, dark, real-life style films.

Other TV things I've also enjoyed is literally anything to do with Brian Cox on Netflix. That guy is so incredibly smart, passionate, and charismatic, he makes me love anything and everything to do with Space even more. I've also finally started watching Vikings and although I think it's been a slow burner for me so far, I am enjoying it and look forward to watching more of the series. I've also watched a disgusting amount of Destination Truth and Expedition Unknown. Both shows are quite similar and are both hosted by Josh Gates - a pretty cheesy stereotype of an over-enthused American, but I love him all the same. If you're into your cryptozoology, ghost hunting shows, or just your regular weird and wonderful myths and legends from history, these shows will tick so many boxes for you.

I haven't been playing a lot this month due to a heavy work schedule, but I have been hammering Final Fantasy X HD Remaster whenever I get the chance. Matt bought me a copy for the PS4 for my birthday and I was so ridiculously excited to play through it once again. FFX is one of my all-time favourite games which has an incredible story, spectacular graphics (especially for its age and now that it's HD!), and some of the best character designs ever. The Final Fantasy franchise is a firm favourite for me, but I will always recommend FFVII and FFX to those who may have never played them but are interested in the series. FFIX is my personal fave too but I feel like I'm alone in loving that one...

I've also been playing through Dragon Age Inquisition again as my old save was on the old Xbox 360. I'm enjoying this one so much more the second time around as I've finally come to terms with how much bigger the world is compared to the quite restricted world of Dragon Age 1 and certainly 2, as initially, I resented the fact that they'd made it so much more open map. I'm still incredibly upset that Alisdair doesn't make more of an appearance in this one though as he is my all-time favourite character of anything ever and I just want a game dedicated to him okay, Bioware? Okay.

This month I haven't listened to a lot of new music. I've been repeatedly playing The 1975's I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It since its day of release and a couple of favourites from this album are definitely UGH!, Somebody Else, and Change of Heart (which if you haven't seen the video for this song, go and watch it because it is super sweet and shot beautifully). I've also listened to one of my favourites, Spookyland, on repeat, listened to a whole lot of Fall Out Boy, Alien Ant Farm, Gym Class Heroes, and MCR whenever I've came in from work and just wanted to chill in a happy nostalgic mood, and I've also had Future Islands - Singles on rotation all month too (listen to these guys if you haven't already -

Have you had a good month this April?

- A.
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