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

November 29, 2017

How to Stay Creative When You're "Too Busy"

First off, that's bullshit. If you're already thinking, "steady on Amy, a hello and an introduction would be nice first", then I apologise but come on now, we're never "too busy" for things. I catch myself constantly saying I'm *so busy* when in reality I actually have plenty of free time, I just plan and utilise it badly. This is something I've been working on and one of the things I've been making a major conscious effort to make time for is creative outlets. Growing up I was 1Oo% *that kid* who was constantly drawing, rubbing crayons over textures in the garden, or even making little movies with my camcorder and Disney Princess dolls in my bedroom. I was always bursting with creative energy but unfortunately, fast forward to adulthood when the peppering of responsibilities starts to flow thick and fast and surprise surprise, that creative bright burning flame became subdued and almost burned out time and time again.

Now that I've settled into a job that gives me more freedom with my personal life, I've been trying to ignite that creative passion again and feed the low-light ember so that it starts to burn bright once more. It's tough to have hobbies that can become time consuming as an adult as you cannot prioritise them no matter how many positivity promoters say you need to focus on what you enjoy. Sometimes it's just not plausible and your passions have to take a backseat to make way for the things that pay the bills and help you sleep at night. I used to think that there was no balance between exploring creativity and living care-freely and also being sensible and work-focused but actually? You can totally strike a balance and there's *always* enough time to do something a little creative, you just need to know where to look for that hidden 15 minutes of opportunity.

Use a bullet journal. Okay okay so, when bullet journals first swept in like a crazed frenzy, I just didn't see the point. To me, it was an excuse to make pretty lists but that was it - you were making pretty daily lists that you would use for a single day then never use again so why go to that effort? I recently started one and boy oh boy was I wrong. Having a bullet journal means that even if I am super busy or if I'm super tired it doesn't matter - I can still be creative for a few minutes every evening as I track changes and things that I'm doing. Everyone creates a trial and error style that will adapt to their needs when it comes to bujos, but I'm really liking the journey so far. It gives me the opportunity to make daily lists (which I sadly love), do little daily doodles to keep my artistic juices flowing, and helps me get more organised so I can actually dedicate more time to being creative. If you haven't bought into the hype yet, I can honestly say it's worth it and I am a big ol' bujo convert.

Sketch once a day - no matter how minute. I know not everyone enjoys drawing or thinks they're good at it, but if it is something you quite like doing, try to draw every single day to keep up momentum and that passion alive. I'm my own worst critic and constantly criticise my artistic abilities, but I do love to draw and paint so even doodling for a minute on my commute to work or in my bullet journal each day helps me feel like I'm practicing and nurturing a talent that needs a little TLC now and again.

Keep written notes on your phone. If art is definitely not your thing but you have a penchant for words then write! I once started writing a fantasy fiction novel and tossed it by the wayside because I thought it was no good, but recently I've picked up the writing bug again but in the form of poetry. Poetry that has no rhyme but a whole lot of reason has become incredibly popular over the last couple of years and I'm all for it. I'm hoping to one day feel brave enough and confident enough with some of my poems to get up on a stage and read them out at some open mic night or slam poetry show, but for now I'm content that I'm just collecting my thoughts somewhere. Although I tend to like doing physical tangible copies of creative things, my poetry is all in the notes section of my phone. Most of my urge to write poetry comes at the least convenient times to rummage around for pen and paper, so I collate my thoughts in the notes on my phone on the go. I'm now transferring some of them to my bullet journal for extra safe keeping, but never see your phone as a distraction as it can actually be a very handy creative tool.

Set aside time to nurture your creative spark. Obviously this will depend on what creative outlet you're enjoying or practicing, but making a conscious effort to dedicate time to it is key to not fall into the "I'm just too busy" trap. I now write in my bullet journal that I need to practice ukulele on a daily basis so I can hold myself accountable when I don't live up to my own expectations. Having a visual cue that details how often I practice has spurred me on to make sure I practice often so I don't look like a failure to myself. I've bullied myself into making time for it essentially but it's certainly worked. Even if it's just a spare 15 minutes whilst I wait for dinner to cook or those 1O minutes I've got running spare in the morning rush to get ready because I got ready just that little bit quicker, spending them wisely really helps you feel accomplished.

Use your lunch break effectively. This again is dependent on the individual and the creative process/outlet you're part of, but if you can use your lunch break at work to nurture your talent and hobbies further then that's a quick and easy fix. If you are a busy bee, sometimes your lunch break is the only opportunity you get to just take stock for 5 minutes and relax. If you can squeeze creativity into that time and it won't feel like a chore, I couldn't recommend it enough as I've found it can also boost my mood for the rest of my shift.

Make mundane activities more enjoyable and creative. This isn't necessarily a creative outlet like others I've suggested, but let your creativity overflow into aspects of your life so you don't feel like it's a chore. If you usually find cooking boring or just a necessity, spice it up by trying a new *out there* recipe and see how that goes down. During your commute to work or walk/drive to do the grocery shopping, see if there's places you can stop and snap some photographs to use any which way later in life. Having a bullet journal helped make list making and organisation more interesting and creative for me, but there's many other ways you can make things more enjoyable in your day to day life. If you're planning to redecorate, why not try DIY with some furniture instead of buying it all ready done for you? Put your stamp on things. If you're staring blankly at your wardrobe in prep for getting ready for work, try a new outfit combo out of your comfort zone and play dress up to see if that sparks some inspiration. The possibilities are all there, you just have to grab at them!

Sometimes we all get stuck in a rut with ourselves and our actions and it's easy to slip into an auto-pilot lifestyle, particularly the older you get once you settle into a home, job, relationship etc. It's easy to slip into this but it's also just as simple to step a foot out of line and switch it all up too. We all have become so focused on success, making ends meet, and just generally looking after ourselves financially, but often that is not what feeds the hunger of creativity for us and makes us feel whole. If you're still feeling unmotivated to nurture that little inner creative you're housing in your soul, here's a few more things you could try to see if they stimulate you further:

- Keep a diary. They're not just for emotional-rollercoaster teens!
- Vegging out in front of the TV is fine, but stimulate the mind! Watch a documentary on a creative outlet that interests you or watch something about a topic you don't know a lot about. Education and feeding a thirst for knowledge can work wonders.
- Try gardening.
- Download apps that could make you feel creative. I like using photo editing apps for Instagram as much as the next person, but I also like listening to podcasts and Audible when I need an injection of inspiration, and less obvious apps such as Mushroom Book when I want to heighten my knowledge and look at lovely nature artwork.
- Experiment with your wardrobe.
- Join a new class at the gym.
- Head to an evening class at your local college or school.
- Try knitting or sewing.
- Scrolling doesn't need to be seen as a negative thing. YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram can all be very influential for creativity.
- If you're a blogger then honey, you're already doing great. Blogging is incredibly creative in many different ways.

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November 26, 2017

Sustainable Sundays: Switch Out Plastic

Happy Sunday folks - I hope you're all relaxing and taking Sunday in a slow and steady stride (as the restful day is intended). I wanted to start a new instalment on the blog but I was kind of struggling with how to categorise it but I think I've finally cracked it. Sustainability is something I've touched on briefly in previous posts in the realm of fast vs slow fashion for example, but other than that, I haven't talked about it in any further detail. It's a current trend wave that's washing through the millennial crowd and whilst it may just be a trend and eventually pass society by, right now I think it should be celebrated and advocated a great deal.

Sustainability encompasses things which I used to greatly overlook as a carefree teen who didn't hold a lot of remorse or thought about my place on this planet and the impact I might have. Whilst minute and not really noticeable in the grand scheme of things, I've started to realise more and more that I want to live my life knowing that I'm doing good in the world - however small or insignificant my actions may seem - and I want to feel that I've contributed in a positive way. I want to feel like this rollercoaster gift of life we get was well spent, doing spontaneous and adventurous things, but also things that are beneficial to this amazing planet we all get to call home. Whilst there's plenty of things us humans do in our day to day lives that damage and harm our environment, there's also a whole host of things we can do that won't damage mother earth and will in actual fact, help nurture and care for it as thanks for putting us up for our life spans.

Therefore, I wanted to kind of collate these little changes that I've started to make in the hopes that I can advocate these changes to some of you, friends. I feel that many of us are becoming more conscious consumers and starting to truly be aware and mindful of our waste, or demands, or dietary habits etc. and all the effects they have "in the bigger picture" and that isn't something that should be sniffed at. Any little changes can be positive changes so I thought the best thing to talk about first - as it's something we can all take part in to some degree - is saying no to plastic and how you can live a more plastic-free life.

Every year, approximately 3Oo million tons of plastic is produced with an estimated 5O% of that being single use to feed our ever-growing disposable lifestyles. 8 million tonnes of this ends up in our oceans and is responsible for the deaths of one million sea birds and 1Oo,Ooo marine mammal deaths every year. It is estimated that by 2O5O, the amount of plastic waste floating on our ocean surfaces will tally up to a greater number than all the fish who call those oceans home. We currently only repurpose or recover five percent of the plastic we use meaning we're not effectively recycling it or making sure it's not causing harm to the environment (bearing in mind it can take up to 1Ooo years for plastic to degrade and plastic is found in every sea turtles stomach and in a growing number of fish and birds tummies too!). It's something I've really started to care about over the past year and whilst I know many individuals would say "well what difference would it make if I made lifestyle changes in the grand scheme of things?", I believe every small change is a step in the right direction. So here's some small, easy ways you can help reduce your disposable, single use plastic pollution and help out our green world maintain it's clean green glory and make it a happy home we inhabit with other species:

Don't use single-use plastic for drinks. I like going out and grabbing a hot cup of something at a coffee shop as much as the next girl, but there's *so* many ways to can make each trip kinder for the environment. Think about your trip to Starbucks or Costa etc. - you will get a cardboard cup (which has a thin inner lining of plastic which is only currently recycled in a couple of places across the UK), a plastic cap for the cup, or a plastic cup with a plastic straw for those chilled beverages. Everything is plastic. I myself never used to even think about how wasteful I was being every time I tossed an empty cup into the bin but now I shudder at the thought. So many independent and chain coffee stops have travel/reusable cup options that not only are better for the environment, they can be kind to your wallet too. If you want to be even kinder to the environment, companies like Bamboo Coffee Cup use a natural and organic bamboo to create their reusable coffee cups but they also create the with low CO2 emissions to be even kinder to the enivronment. Many coffee houses/cafés provide discounts or loyalty points for those who use reusable cups and also guys - straws aren't a necessity for many of us so ditch them! You can buy metal straws just like these for pretty cheap, they can be washed and reused and kept in your bag for any drinking emergencies. Plus, if you pop them in your fridge they're great on hot days too!

The same rules apply for bottled water. Of course I'm not suggesting that if you're thirsty and you're out and about that you shouldn't buy water if you need it, but try to remember to take along a reusable/refillable bottle again. There's so many options out there for reusable water bottles and you can actually find some that are super aesthetically pleasing too. Again, this helps minimise your single-use plastic pollution drastically and most refill bottles are better at keeping your fluids cool and refreshing due to their insulation. If you do buy a plastic bottle, simply reuse it as often as you can so you can cut down your waste that way too. Brands such as Jerry are great options for a reliable reusable that will last for years as 1Oo% of their proceeds fund clean water projects around the world.

Opt for a bamboo toothbrush. This is relatively new territory for me, but switching to using a bamboo toothbrush means you're not buying disposable plastic every other month when you replace your toothbrush. I used to use an electric toothbrush but I realised I was still causing plastic pollution when I threw away old brush heads. Bamboo toothbrushes are made of yep, you guessed it - bamboo, so they're much more eco-friendly and can be recycled once finished with. They're more than affordable, often retailing for the same or even cheaper than the plastic versions, so it just makes sense y'know?

Plastic bags are the devil. You might say I'm being dramatic, but I stand by my point. I've caught myself swearing out loud at myself in the queue in Aldi as it's suddenly dawned on me that I forgot to bring my reusable shopping bags with me as it has meant I had to pay for plastic ones. There was a big movement in promoting the reuse of plastic bags and whilst stores still advocate that, they also offer a wide range of alternatives that are made from woven fabrics that are biodegradable and will also last you a lot longer too as they're more robust. Most of the UK big supermarket chains and stores such as Superdrug and Boots also offer the opportunity to take in your own plastic bags from them that may no longer be functional (holes in them, the handles have snapped etc.) and you can trade them for a free new bag. Whilst that still means you're using plastic, it will significantly decrease they amount of single-use plastic you're consuming and mean you're giving it a longer shelf life which helps. I've gotten into the habit now of always keeping some sort of fabric tote tucked away in my bag when I leave the house just in case I need it later and it's saved me a bunch. Doing this also helps you save your pennies because 5p might not seem like a lot each time, but I bet you those 5p's quickly add up if you're purchasing a bag in every store you visit on every trip!

Who even needs cutlery anyway? If you're out somewhere buying street food or ordering food to go, plastic cutlery is readily an option to accompany whatever you're eating. Most of the time it's unavoidable as salads in plastic pots with have plastic fold up forks lurking around in there somewhere too. However, being aware of this and making smart choices to shop in places that use wooden cutlery that can be recycled or simply carrying your own can make this an easy step to accomplish on minimising your plastic pollution. Of course there's going to be times when you're eating something that needs cutlery and you might just have to suck it up and use some plastic utensils, but if you keep something in your bag that can simply be wiped clean and popped back in there after use, you can cut down that waste so easily and you don't really need to even think about it. If you want to go all-out kind to the environment, our good friend bamboo is the way to go. Bamboo cutlery sets are well worth investing in and usually cost under £5. Bargain. They are incredibly lightweight so fit into bags and can be easily forgotten about.

If you can buy loose - buy loose! So I kind of started to mention the packaging food tends to come in earlier and I honestly think this is one of the biggest struggles of all. As an advocate of a more plastic-free movement, I envy the YouTubers and bloggers over in The States who have wholefood "fill your own container" style stores as they can dramatically decrease the amount of plastic they're buying in that way whereas it's not so easy here in the UK. However, if you have the opportunity to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from a local green grocers where they are loose and packaging free for example, you can minimise how much throw-away plastic you consume tenfold. I'm fully aware that at times, buying loose foods and foods with alternative packaging to plastic can have a higher price point and may not be as convenient, but I personally feel the little extra effort or the extra spend is worth it to know that I've cut out a great deal of waste in my purchases.

Trying to go plastic-free is not an easy journey and you guys, I've got a long way to go myself. There's still things I buy such as certain foods and skincare items that come in plastic packaging and I just can find alternatives that suit me but I'm constantly on the lookout for them. Being aware of the effect plastic is having on our planet and taking steps towards helping minimise it is admirable and it fills my heart with joy to see so many people making a conscious effort to consume less plastic in their day to day lives and make small changes to their lifestyles that will benefit the planet in the long run. It's a cheesy thing to say, but we truly do have only one planet to call home so shouldn't we be trying our best to look after it and keep it happy and clean?

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November 21, 2017

Searching for a Good Nights Sleep

The older I get, the more I seem to either be talking about sleep or crying into my pillow over the lack of it. As a teen, I could quite happily survive on an average of around 4 hours a night and go to college full time, work 2O hour weeks at my part time job, and socialise in all of my free time. Now? Now I get incredibly anxious if I'm not in bed, ready to sleep by 1Opm (11pm if it's not a school night. Rock and roll is not dead in my household). As I've gotten older, I've grew to truly appreciate a good night's sleep and how a good bedtime routine can be invaluable to not only making sure I get some solid hours each night, but also how good it can be for my mental health and overall health in general. Since moving house and moving from a very quiet area to living on an extremely busy main road that is also near a train station and an airport (I fucking know), I have tried and tested what feels like everything to try and ensure I get some good sleep that is not disrupted and is a healthy amount.

Sleep is so important and I feel we all start to truly understand that in our twenties. It's as if our bodies play catch up and tell us to calm down a bit and suddenly PJs and a snuggle in bed at 8pm on a Saturday night can become more desirable than queuing up outside a bar to buy shots. It can reduce your stress levels, it can make you feel less anxious, and it can certainly improve my mood. Good sleep stops me being short tempered, helps me retain information better and not be so scatter-brained (although I think that's my default setting no matter what), and having a better sleeping pattern has dramatically decreased how often I become sick or ill. It can be healing both physically and mentally but it can also be incredibly hard to grasp and maintain. I don't think anyone has the answer for how to have the perfect night's sleep night after night, but there's definitely a few things to try to see what works for you.

One of the first things I had to get over was the fact that I hated sleeping for a long time. Why I hear you ask? I felt like I was missing out. I had this odd obsession when I was teen with the fact that I felt like I wasn't living my life to the fullest if I "wasted" time sleeping. Obviously my logic was flawed as I was always running on minimum energy and probably would have benefited in many situations if I'd have clocked more hours in the night before, but I just couldn't do it. My essentially 4 hour cat naps every night sustained my needs so I thought that was just fine. Now I realise I need so much more than that and always make sure I'm in bed at a good time. If I'm not in bed by 1Opm on weekdays I feel antsy and start worrying that I won't get enough sleep and boom: suddenly I can't sleep because I've woken up my brain and fired off these worried thoughts. I find I still apologise to friends constantly for going to bed "early" but actually? I'm not sorry. It helps me keep my shit together so I work well at work and can function properly. No apologies needed.

Get rid of any and all screens
So besides worrying myself, there's a few other things I try to avoid to ensure I'm actually ready for bed when that 1Opm rolls around. Firstly staring at screens will without a doubt make it harder for you to switch off and slumber. I got into a bad habit of just endlessly scrolling through Twitter, Instagram etc. in bed and a) it wasn't actually stimulating or interesting and b) it made it *so* difficult to switch off and go to sleep. I now try to avoid my phone and if I do need to use it, I will always put it into night mode so the screen is dimmer. I also turn the brightness right down on my laptop if I'm using it past 9pm and never do any blogging/admin work in bed before I plan to sleep anymore. If you're a restless sleeper and often wake up at intervals during the night, I can't stress enough how much you should not use your phone. I fully understand the utter frustration when you just can't sleep and that the temptation to tweet "can't fucking sleep *insert all the sad face emojis*" is there, but just don't do it. It makes the brain too active and you've got no chance of drifting off to dreamland.

Bed is for sleep - not hanging out
Another "rule of thumb" I've adopted is that bed is for sleep - not hanging out. This was difficult when I used to live in a studio flat as my bed unfortunately also doubled up as my sofa and my dining table because I just didn't have any other space to utilise but, if you have the luxury of your bedroom being a separate room, only use your bed when needed for sleep (or sex you know, whatever). Now that I live in a house, I don't have lazy mornings in bed. Sure, I might wake up early and lie there for half an hour at the weekends because I can, but I always get up as quick as possible, make the bed, then don't return to it until I'm going to bed the next night. This helps me trick my brain so that it only associates bed with rest and sleep rather than snacks and back to back binge watching of my favourite TV shows.

Don't go to bed in a bad mood
Something I've noticed more recently too is making sure I don't go to bed in a bad mood. If I've had an argument with someone or a stressful day, I can always guarantee that my night's sleep that night will be broken and I won't really feel rested the next morning. Therefore, I always try to go to bed in at least an "okay" mood. I know this is obviously easier said than done as sometimes bad moods and vibes just can't be avoided, but if you can do something to either distract yourself or improve your mood - do it. Yoga can always help me feel either energised when I need a boost or calm when I need to rest so I rely on that. Others might find meditation helpful, masturbation, listening to calm music, podcasts, or reading. Whatever it is, include it in your bedtime routine and I would be willing to bet money that you will see an overall improvement.

Calming the mind like this helps create that routine and expectation for bed that will work towards tricking the brain and preparing it the same way each evening. Having a routine can sometimes mean you can cruise along on auto-pilot and what better way to go to bed? Cruising through your bedtime routine means you don't need to think too much and you're not swarmed with thoughts or concerns. Make sure your bag is packed for the next morning, check your weather app and plan your work outfit... All these little prep things that can make your mornings more smooth sailing can also improve your sleep.

Temperature, Lighting and Scent
A couple of other things that I've noticed can help improve my sleep are little environmental things that can make a huge difference. Temperature, lighting, and scent can all effect your sleep and although they might seem subtle, they can influence how deep and well you sleep. Make sure your bedroom and the bed itself is a comfortable temperature for you. This can be tricky when it's hot and sticky in the summer and freezing cold in winter, but use a fan and a hot water bottle if and when needed and you might reap the benefits. I used to *always* read in bed for an hour or so before going to sleep and this used to see me have a pretty well rested night so it's something I'm trying to get back into. Something worth noting here though is making sure you've got suitable lighting. At the moment, I only have the bright "big" main light in my bedroom and it's too harsh - it leaves me feeling wide awake as soon as I shut it off. Soft lighting that doesn't make you strain your eyes but keeps you in a comfortable lazy state can be a big help for prepping you for sleep time. And lastly - scent? Again, it can impact you big time. Strong smells, particularly those you don't find pleasant or even those you find too pleasant can be distracting and keep your brain active. Pillow sprays and scents like lavender and chamomile are popular for getting a good night's sleep so test and try what subtle scents you could have active in your bedroom that will help your brain think "I can smell sleep".

Be mindful of your diet
Lastly, one area I struggle with constantly but I'm trying to actively change is my diet. We all know eating healthy in general is good for you and that's a no-brainer, but being wary of your diet or eating/drinking habits before bed is really important too. I love me a good cup of tea or seven throughout the day but I make sure I never drink a cup of regular, caffeinated tea after 8pm. That's still probably too late in the day and probably still effects my sleep, but it makes me feel in control of that aspect of my bedtime routine and makes me feel like I'm making a conscious effort to better it. I'm a serial snacker too and try my best to keep sugary snacks to a minimum and again, to a curfew. I can demolish a whole share bar of chocolate as quick as the next person, but those quick sugary releases of energy are going to happen right before bed if you're eating late and that'll ruin your hard work before you've even tried to get settled into a comfy position. Steering clear of caffeine and sugar particularly right before bed can be a big help. If you seek a hot drink because its comforting for going to bed, try things like hot milk, Ovaltine, or a herbal tea as there's many brands out there that have bedtime/nighttime ranges or simple chamomile can help.

Making positive small changes to your bedtime routine can really help you get your head down and feel rejuvenated the next day but there certainly isn't a one size fits all approach to it. What might work for some people might do absolutely nothing for others and not to mention that many of us have mental health, physical ailments, and sleeping disorders which can all greatly impact sleep too. I'm still battling through this mindfield of restless broken sleep and sometimes rely on herbal sleeping remedies and tablets to help me when I really need it. Having a solid routine and sticking to it no matter what is definitely improving my sleeping and how awake and alert I am the next day which is great to see, but if you're on this journey and search for good sleep yourself, keep note of your sleeping pattern - when it's good and bad - or use a sleeping tracker app to see if there's anything in particular influencing you.

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November 19, 2017

Bullet Journal: October Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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November 15, 2017

Real Talk: Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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November 14, 2017

Who's That Girl

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

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

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

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

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