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

March 29, 2018

3 Years til' 30: The Space Between Where I Am & Where I Want to Be

Holy shit. Has there ever been a more daunting thing to type than that title? I'm probably being dramatic but I'm having flashbacks to being 16 and thinking your 20's was old and now I'm like har har, you silly wee fool, being twenty seven is old. Again - I'm being dramatic. Of course 27 isn't old but boy oh boy, it is scary to think that as of today, I'm only 3 years away from 30. For the last couple of years on NB, I've shared a couple of lighthearted posts about getting that one year older and I'm not one for breaking tradition. But I apologise now for today's offering not starting off quite so lighthearted; it is a more cynical, anxious look at my life thus far and why I - like many others - set a bar that we constantly move for ourselves making it consistently unattainable. But don't fret, I will also be sharing 30 things I'd like to achieve in the next 3 years to set myself some actually attainable goals and make sure I live my life to the fullest, with only myself to impress or prove wrong.

By the age of 25, I thought I'd be married and have at least one kid. That seemed like a good age for everything to have fallen into place yet here I am, 27, not remotely married, and certainly nowhere close to having at least one kid (or even a sparkle in my eye towards the creation of one). I joked in my post celebrating turning 25 that people would start asking the "Got married yet? Bought a house yet? Have you heard the pitter patter of tiny feet yet?!" questions that fill most of us with dread, but it genuinely does happen. Not only do we put ourselves under unnecessary pressures to 'accomplish' certain things by a certain milestone, but it seems that it is all linked to outside influencers too. One thing I am learning though is that this pressure, whilst I still seemingly let it get to me at times, isn't a true reflection of me and my happiness at this moment in time. I think I'm growing up in a generation that are looking for that instant gratification and it's fuelled by the skewed view social media gives us of other individuals. How many times have you sat there and compared yourself to that girl who didn't like you at school who has just bought a house and is expecting her first child or that blogger who has the same amount of followers and engagement as you do, yet they're currently jetting off on a free trip to a different country for a blogging opportunity? We do it all the damn time and unfortunately, I think it's part-and-parcel of being in the *millennial era*.

Enough of this doom and gloom though - it is my birthday after all! I always see my birthdays as an opportunity to reflect on the past year and also set some goals for myself so this year has been no different. So to let you guys in to the fold, here's 30 things I'd like to achieve before 30 (some of which are just things to work on rather than this "bucket list" sort of thing) and I have a grand old 3 years to achieve them all:

1. I want to continue to work on not saying sorry all the goddamn time. I've already stopped doing this in some aspects of my life, but it would be wonderful if I could stop it completely. I should not be sorry for being myself.

2. I will go on holiday alone at least once.

3. Minimalism isn't a lifestyle for me, but I do want to minimise and cut down in every aspect of my life - my makeup and skincare collections, my clothes, my books, my stationery etc.

4. Go to gigs a hell of a lot more - like I'm talking at least once every 2 months more. This isn't a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it is a lot more than I currently attend so I want to change that.

5. Go glamping somewhere in the UK. No, really.

6. Take a trip to Edinburgh.

7. Go on a long weekend camping trip alone.

8. Spend more time exploring my local nature spots - I'm looking at you, New Forest.

9. Join a kayaking club.

10. I have 25 tattoos on my "to get" list. Let's get that down to 15 in the next 3 years if we can, team.

11. Start a masters and gain my postgraduate in a subject I actually enjoy.

12. Spend time studying a trade - gas and electric particularly (yes, I did actually want to study these at college but parental pressure pushed me into A-Levels instead).

13. Try my hand at vlogging.

14. Podcasts too - why the hell not.

15. Take a pottery making class or 30.

16. Completely switch out dairy for dairy alternatives.

17. Be happy and content within my home (wherever and whatever that ends up being).

18. Be happy and content within myself and mental health.

19. Spend at least one day of each weekend doing something worthwhile. That could be creating, crafting, photographing, studying, writing, or getting outside and exploring. Anything and everything as long as it makes me feel good and fulfilled.

20. Try to find a way to actually enjoy eating avocados because I know I know, they're good for you but *mate*, they taste rank.

21. Get a goddamn dog.

22. Play ukulele at an open mic night.

23. Read my poetry at an open mic night.

24. Spend more time with family. This has been a difficult one over the last 5 years as I moved to the other end of the country, but I've got the opportunity to change the lack of family time into "too much family time" and I need to grab that chance with both hands now.

25. Do a "photo a day" challenge for a whole year with my film camera.

26. Make sure my little brother has a perfect 18th birthday party. Holy shit I want to cry writing that.

27. Become as zero waste as possible.

28. Learn how to propagate succulents.

29. Get at least one of my archaeological pieces published.

30. Find the inner strength and determination to rely on just myself to make my own happiness. When I say hello to 30, I want to do it knowing I'm not relying on or seeking out others to fill the happiness void, I want to be happy and it to be because of myself - everyone and anyone else is a bonus. I want to put myself first more not in a selfish context, but more in a "I deserve to be happy" context because boy oh boy am I notorious for just going along with anything and everything to keep everyone else happy and I struggle to stay afloat that way.

Most of the things I've just listed aren't strictly measurable, but they are all valid and all things I want to work on to some degree. They are also things that I'm fully aware will possibly and probably change over the next 3 years as circumstances and mindsets change and grow, but ultimately I want to continue to work on being a happy individual, feeling fulfilled, at peace with myself and others, and also minimising the negative impact I have on the world and maximising the positive. If I had 27 candles right now, you betcha I'd be popping 27 of these goals on them as wishes to come true.

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March 26, 2018

Easy Peasy Lemon (Squeasy) Easter Cake

If someone plopped me on a dessert desert island (I know, I'm messing with your minds already) and said I had to live off one type of cake and one type only, y'all need to know that I would say "lemon drizzle cake please!" with no hesitation. Lemon cake is always my first choice as it's sweet but not too sweet, can be both heavy and light, and can have some super zingy and refreshing sugary drizzles and icings - not to mention lemon curd stodge now and again too!

With that being said, I realised recently that I had never actually made my own. Why? I've no idea. Somehow this delicious idea had not crossed my mind, despite it being a really simple and easy cake to make. My great grandma was the master when it came to baking so I thought I'd share her recipe (don't get used to this mind as we all know grandma recipes are highly coveted and top secret) as it's ridiculously easy to make, pretty much fool-proof, and tastes bloody lovely. My grandma had everything measured out in grams/ounces but as I currently have no scales in my kitchen (I'm also stunned that I'm still surviving), I've re-jigged the recipe to cup measurements which makes it even easier to follow and even more fool-proof as anyone can follow how easy it is to make. Although lemon cake of any kind is just generally my favourite all the goddamn time, there's something about it that makes me always think about Easter and the spring time so I thought today was a perfect time to share this recipe - just in time for the Easter weekend!

So here's what you will need:

- Large mixing bowl
- Sieve for dry products (not essential)
- Spoon/spatula for mixing
- Standard loaf cake tin

Ingredients for the Cake
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup of self-raising flour
- 1 cup of unsalted/baking butter (keep it at room temperature)
- 1 cup of caster sugar
- 2 x lemons zest

Ingredients for the Drizzle
- 2 x lemons juice (just use the ones you zested!)
- 1 cup of icing sugar

So before you begin, preheat your oven to 180C/350F and grease your loaf tin (regular/medium/standard size) with some butter to prevent the cake from sticking.

Next, you need to cream together all of the cake ingredients in a large bowl. There's no right or wrong way of doing this, but I tend to sieve the flour and caster sugar in together, crack the eggs in and begin to combine, then add the butter gradually before pouring in the zest. Sieving the powder ingredients helps keep them fine and clump free, making your cake batter more smooth in the long run. Mix the ingredients until the batter is smooth and pour it evenly into your baking tin.

Pop the baking tin into the oven and leave cooking for 30-35 minutes*. As it's a cake and you want it to rise a little, don't keep opening the oven door and instead just check once it gets to the 30 minute mark. *(I actually ended up leaving my cake for a whole 60 minutes this time around as it just wouldn't rise/the middle wasn't setting. I've recently moved into somewhere that has a non-fan oven and it makes cooking taking *so* much longer - so please bear this in mind!)

Whilst you're waiting for the cake to bake, it's time to make the drizzle. Lemon drizzle is what makes this cake the tastiest thing on the planet but it's super simple to make and add to the cake. Simply add the juice of your two zested lemons to your cup of icing sugar and mix well until the ingredients are fully combined. If you're wondering what consistency this mix should be, it should have a runny consistency and opaque look to it when poured out to ensure it's not too runny but not too thick either. You want to be creating a sugary drizzle that will dry to create a yummy crisp rather than make actual icing for the top of a standard cake!

When it gets to the 30 minute mark*, pierce the centre of the cake with a knife or skewer and if it comes out clean, it's all ready to go! If any cake mix is on the knife, pop the cake back into the oven for a couple of minutes. Once it's looking golden and ready to go, you need to skewer the cake all over the top. Using a knife or skewer to just repeatedly pierce it all over, pushing the knife/skewer in all the way to the bottom, as this will give the lemon drizzle icing little tunnels to seep down into to make the cake extra moist.

Once you've done that, pour the drizzle all over the cake and leave to cool. Putting the drizzle on when the cake is still warm is perfect as it soaks up the glaze really well and also I'm not going to lie - I'm pretty impatient and think it takes amazing warm. But leave it to cool and the drizzle will create a nice sugary crust all over the cake. Once it has cooled, you can pimp it up further if you like by drizzling over melted chocolate (I personally think white chocolate is the nicest pairing), adding any leftover lemon zest shavings, or by crumbling up a little bit of merignue too! But if you're too impatient like me, simply scoop it up out of the tin, place on a tray or cutting board, slice like bread, and dish up!

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March 20, 2018

Setting Up My Spring Skincare

Gang, we've done it - we've managed to survive what has felt like the coldest, wettest, and longest winter ever and we can greet spring time "hello" today as of 4:15pm (I'm not clock-watching or anything). Although spring usually means there's lots of "April showers", I don't think I will mind if the weather is getting milder, the mornings are getting lighter, and nature is beginning to blossom properly again - especially considering there's still snow on the ground somehow. The start of all these lovely things means I also have to switch up my skincare as the heavy-duty, very moisturising products I lathered on myself during winter aren't really needed or suitable any longer and thus, I need to think about what my skin needs - and it certainly needs a spring in its step (I'll see myself out).

Although I've been buying and trying a lot less skincare products since trying to minimise my collection, I still have a lot of products I like to alternate and rotate through that give my skin very different things and answer to my different needs. For Spring this year, I'm saying goodbye to intense moisture and excessive hydration and hello to the brightest skin I can manage to create without dipping my face in sequins and glitter and there's some fail-safe products that do that for me:

Cleansing is such an important step I used to severely overlook but revel in nowadays. I love using a micellar water to get rid of my makeup and top layer of daily grime when I come home each day as it's gentle and can leave the skin feeling instantly refreshed without feeling stripped. The Botanics Hydration Burst 3 in 1 Micellar Water* has been my go-to lately as it truly feels hydrating but isn't unbearable for someone with oily skin. I really love Superdrug's Vitamin E Micellar, but as I've been using such moisture-rich creams and serums over the winter period, I was finding using those as well as the Vitamin E water was all just a little too much for my greasy wee face to handle. The Botanics Hydrating Micellar Water is a nice balance between cleansing and hydrating and just feels lovely when you initially take that makeup off - so revitalising. Another product from Botanics that I've been dabbling in and will certainly continue to use heading in to spring is their All Bright Soothing Eye Makeup Remover. I've never seen the fuss over eye makeup removers and will often just opt for my micellar water, but I've really noticed a difference using this product. It's a very oily watery consistency and I'll be honest, it does sting my extremely sensitive eyes if I'm not careful with it, but it is *so* nice to use. It melts stubborn mascara away in seconds and whilst I don't wear heavy eye makeup, I do like to use this every other evening as I feel the oiliness helps to hydrate my under-eye area really well and it leaves my skin feeling soft and looking more awake.

My last mention is no stranger to this blog so I'll keep it short, but if I feel my skin is still looking lack-lustre or needs some extra hydration, exfoliation, and just some general perking up once I've removed my makeup with my micellar water, I will always go in with the Superdrug Naturally Radiant Hot Cloth Cleanser. Holy smokes this cleanser is always such a luxury to use and costs next to nothing. I've raved about it so many times yet my opinion stays unaltered - it plumps up my skin, it gets rid of any dryness and flaking my skin is facing (particularly around acne that is healing), and always musters up some inner radiance. Cannot recommend this guy enough.

Over the winter period, I seriously got in to using serums and now follow one of those "*insert number*-Step Korean Skincare" routines so serums heavily feature in those. I've dabbled in the past and have found them to be very hit and miss, but there's a few that have been game-changing and the Botanics All Bright Radiance Concentrate Serum has certainly been one of them. I initially used this morning and night and fell in love almost instantly. I find it really smoothing for skin texture, it helps my pores appear smaller, somehow helps my makeup last longer, but also hydrates and most importantly, gives my skin some serious glow. I'm not talking about that artificial pearlescent shimmery glow many skincare products like this have oh no, I'm talking straight up looking like you've slept for a month, getting good sex regularly, and drinking all of the water sort of glow-up. This is a radiance product I will be piling on in the spring months as it doesn't irritate my sensitive skin at all, doesn't cause any excess oils or acne flare-ups, and it just does a fab job at being a great skincare product.

There's not much too see here as yet again, I'm going to rave about some skincare that I've definitely raved about before, but the ultimate moisturiser I will be using on the daily heading into spring is the Superdrug Naturally Radiant Day Cream for normal/combo skin (they also do a normal/dry version too!). I've been in love with this guy for many months now but it's still going to be my go-to until the months get a lot hotter. This does a great job of yep, you guessed it, moisturising the skin, but it also helps build up that glow, sits well on top of different serums, and sits well under makeup. It has SPF included so it's a great lazy option for the days when doing sunscreen is an extra chore and it doesn't make this oily girl any oilier which is a blessing. Something that's been a bit more new to me has been the Superdrug Naturally Radiant Brightening Eye Cream though. I love the Naturally Radiant range if you hadn't of noticed, but I've only recently started to use the eye cream from the range and again - this stuff is fab. I have very sensitive eyes so finding the perfect eye cream can always be a bit of a nightmare, but this one doesn't irritate my eyes, it moisturises really well and creates a good base for my makeup products. Although I can't say for definite if it does brighten the eyes just yet, if you are someone who suffers from dry under-eye areas, this stuff will be a dream come true to use.

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March 18, 2018

Sustainable Sundays: My Favourite Sustainable Fashion Brands

Welcome back to Sustainable Sunday this week gang! The last instalment of this series talked about how you can find more sustainable or eco-friendly brands or products on the high street and if you're on a budget because y'all, we know that sustainable fashion isn't the cheapest. When it comes to fashion, I used to be such a big consumer of high street brands and retailers and whilst there's nothing wrong with enjoying that, I realised that I was trying to make myself happy with these constant purchases and that actually? I didn't find it at all fulfilling and I didn't like to know the impact fast fashion is having on the planet and those responsible for making items at their source. So I made the jump to slow fashion in 2O17 and whilst I still find my impulse to buy fast fashion I see that I love difficult to fight sometimes, overall I have majorly curbed my spending and also managed to restrict the spending that I do do to second hand pieces.

With that being said though, sometimes I just want to buy myself something brand spanking new and whilst there's definitely plenty of ways and reasons to shop second hand and thrift fashion items, it can be difficult to find exactly what you want (particularly if it's out of season) and sometimes you just really want to treat yourself, y'know? But all is not lost as the realm of conscious fashion is growing bigger and bigger with more and more independent and even high street retailers making a conscious effort to provide sustainable fashion items which are made from organically grown sustainable fibres and materials, ethically created and made, and often sold with some sort of profit going to the right people to help local communities. So what's there not to love right? Therefore I'm going to share with you some of my favourite sustainable brands, why I love what they're doing, why I like their products, and why you should buy from them in future:

1. Positive Outlook Clothing - Positive Outlook Clothing are so sleek, you'd want to buy from them regardless, but their organic fabric and natural, sustainable materials are what makes them a great brand to buy from. Catering in both men and women's wear as well as backpacks, camping mugs, wallets, and underwear, Positive Outlook are doing just that - putting a positive spin on the fashion industry.

2. Lucy & Yak - If you're relatively new around these parts, you might not know this girl's obsession with a) denim and b) dungarees/overalls/pinafores. Give me an outfit that makes me look about five years old and I will be overjoyed. So in steps the wonderful Lucy & Yak. They create some of *the* comfiest dungarees in a range of great colours, patterns, cuts, and fabrics not to mention some pretty ace trousers too! They are consciously trying to lower their business' environmental impact and make sure they work fairly with their employees. Lucy & Yak are very transparent about their ethics and their manufacturing etc. which is refreshing to see in the contemporary fashion industry.

3. Mud Jeans - Next up is a brand I simply would love to buy from in the future but just haven't had the chance to yet. Mud Jeans specialise in yep, you guessed it - jeans. The great bit about it though? Each pair are made completely from recycled jeans which have had their old jean fibres harvested to repurpose to create a new pair. If you're not completely sold on buying a pair, the company also have a lease scheme so you can pay a monthly member fee, rent a pair, wear them as much as you want, and then simply decide to keep them, swap them for another pair to try, or return them and get a voucher to spend online in their store. Anything returned is simply recycled. Now if that's not sustainable, I don't know what is.

4. Bibico - When it comes to sustainable fashion brand which are truly doing some good in the world, Bibico are paving the way for many other brands and companies to follow. Working with natural organic materials and ensuring a fair trade work ethic does not falter, Bibico work with women's cooperatives in India which help their workers receive thorough training, education, and fair work to help empower those women and help them and their children move up and out of the world of poverty. Is there any greater cause for your money to go towards? Also, if you're a fan of well-made items, like denim and simple pieces that are perfect for a capsule wardrobe then you will love this brand.

5. Seasalt - Based in Cornwall, UK, Seasalt are one of those sustainable brands that many people have actually heard of. They focus on making clothing that is locally manufactured and resourced to try and minimise environmental impact during production. Something I particularly like about this brand is their Breton striped tops and their range of ridiculously comfy and colourful boots and shoes. Seasalt are the first company to get Soil Association certification back in 2Oo5 which they dedicate to organic cotton growing. They're an all-round great brand as they do a lot of fundraising and also help local communities with bursaries for a variety of things which just makes me want to throw all my money at them (not to mention their sales are great).

6. Antiform - If you're into more vintage thrift shop vibes and tend to shop by themes or prints/textures etc. then Antiform are the ones for you. They are locally sourced and manufactured in the UK as often as possible and to quote their site, they "mix fashion forward shapes with heritage craft" and that's the best fitting description I've ever seen a brand have. They reclaim materials to maintain a sustainable stance on fashion production and they're ethically sound as they are a small team who work in their own studio to design and create their pieces. The staff are also readily available to share their knowledge in the form of lectures, installations, and more! Spreading that good message of sustainability is never a bad thing.

7. Mayamiko - Hold on to your hats gang because this brand is about to blow almost every other out of the water. Tackling excessive packaging problems our consumerist society has by ensuring all their packaging is recyclable, zero waste, and using solar power for their manufacturing, Mayamiko are taking sustainability to the next level. Not only that, but Mayamiko are partnered up with a fantastic non-profit organisation called One Tree Planted so every time you place an order with Mayamiko, they will pay a donation to the organisation your behalf without it costing you any extra. This brand have thought of so many ways to either protect or give back to the planet and their items are pretty darn nice too. One potential downside to sustainable fashion is that it can sometimes have *middle-aged geography or RE teacher vibes* in the choice of cut, print, or styling (I'm allowed to say this as an RE teacher who has already started to dress like that in her mid-2Os) of the items, but Mayamiko go against that grain completely. Their items are great if you're looking for "on trend" inspired pieces and unusual prints that are fashion-forward.

8. People Tree - Describing themselves as "pioneers" in ethical and sustainable fashion, People Tree are certainly one of *the* brands that pop into most people's minds when they think of sustainable clothing. They have been a fair trade company for over 25 years and work exclusively with organic materials such as cotton and wool. They work also vow to only ever work with certified producers which means working environments for those who produce the clothing we buy are clean, comfortable, and socially and environmentally meeting strict standards. People Tree work with marginalised producers too so those in the worst-off corners of the globe really benefit from the wages and money People Tree pay to them for the creation of their garments. If there was a daddy/mother brand out there that all other sustainable brands look to for guidance, People Tree are without a doubt *that* brand.

I feel that sustainable brands are making big waves in the fashion industry and more and more are either becoming popular or popping up and starting up and either way, I think it's all brilliant. I often think that people shy away from sustainable fashion because it's not necessarily the first or even the tenth thing you think of when you want to purchase something, but it's something I've become more and more aware of in my spending habits. Sustainable clothing is good for the planet, the people who make the items, and often local communities but of course, there can be things that stop people from buying from them. It can be simply not knowing where to start, which brands are sustainable, or even the price point as sustainable fashion tends to be more costly.

Although I certainly agree with the latter and sometimes that has stopped me from purchasing an item I like, I think it actually helps you to adopt the mindset of only purchasing what you really want/need and also helping me maintain a more "capsule" wardrobe. Of course I'm not for one minute taking the "suck it up buttercup" approach and acting like everyone can afford to buy sustainable fashion because that would be unrealistic, but if you've got your eye on something specific you want, and you really want to give sustainable items a go because their fibres/materials etc. or usually naturally & organic and therefore tend to last that little bit longer, definitely take the plunge with even just one item and feel happy knowing that you're helping the planet and it's people along the way.

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March 12, 2018

Me & My Other Interests: Serial Killers I'd Have a Cuppa With (Part 2)

Hey folks and welcome back for the second instalment of the serial killers I'd have a cuppa with. If you missed Part 1, I basically explained about my interest in true crime, particularly serial killers and the psychology/pathology behind their motives, and wanted to share that interest here on NB. I don't have any certain rhyme or reason to these posts other than just sharing with you some of the cases and individuals I find most fascinating and if I could have the impossible opportunity, which individuals I would like to speak to about their crimes to try and gain some insight into their drives and why they did what they did. I mentioned it in the last post but I'll reaffirm the message here - these posts are not designed to romanticise serial killers and it's certainly not to advocate them. These posts are merely a way to express my interest in criminal psychology and the history of psychopathy.

Part 1 and 2 of this mini-series here on NB is not some sort of distasteful top trumps of murderers but is instead hopefully an insight into some serial killers you recognise and want to know more about, or even possibly some that might have went under your radar as there are many out there in criminal history. As a huge aficionado of crime documentaries and books, writing these posts have been enjoyable as it has given me the opportunity to further research these particular individuals and educate myself more in the process. If you enjoy these posts then please do let me know as I'd like to write more true crime themed content in the future! Before I inevitably start waffling again, here are the second group of criminals that I would like to be able to analyse and just try to gain more understanding of:

Kenneth Bianchi - The Hillside Strangler
So, I can't help but start this post with Ken Bianchi - one part of the "Hillside Strangler" duo that went on a kidnapping, raping, and killing spree in the late seventies. Bianchi and his cousin Angelo Buono were responsible for the death of 1O women aged 12-28 over a span of just 2 years and Bianchi was also responsible for a further 2 deaths in 1979 when he acted alone and killed 2 female students. They were dubbed "The Hillside Strangler" as they would drive around LA in a fake unmarked police car, pull over or stop women with their fake police badges, order those women to get into the car and then take the victim bank to Buono's house to torture, rape, strangle, and kill. They would then usually dump their victims' bodies on the hillside of the Glendale Highland Park area thus, gaining their combined nickname. Although they worked together, I find Bianchi particularly interesting not because of his murders per say, but the rings he ran around psychologists after his arrest.

Bianchi seemingly had an issue with women since a young age. Dubbed a compulsive liar by his mother from the tender age of 5 and prone to violent outbursts, Bianchi had a lot of issues and upon his arrest, he seemed to play on these and use them as excuses to suspend and alter his sentencing. After his arrest, Bianchi claimed that it was not him who had murdered these women but in fact "Steve/Stevie Walker". Bianchi stressed to authorities and later psychiatrists and doctors that he couldn't remember the details of any of the murders because it wasn't actually him, Ken, who had committed them but instead was Steve's fault. Bianchi pleaded this so strongly that the judge in charge of the case demanded he be scrutinised, questioned, and even hypnotised by several professionals as if he did indeed have a multiple personality disorder, this could alter his sentencing and change things from him being a cold-blooded killer to being someone with extreme mental health issues who could plead insanity. Bianchi kept up this whole charade by acting like two completely different people - making Ken seem quite the kind, caring gentleman and portraying Steve as a woman-hating, chauvinistic pig who would talk about women (especially the victims) like they were something gross he had trodden in. This act had several psychiatrists convinced he did indeed have this split personality and some linked this split with him trying to deal with a turbulent relationship with his mother when he was a child. Bianchi was known whilst in prison to crawl under his bed during the night, whimpering, asking Steve to "go away" and reportedly told doctors that he in fact "met" Steve when he had crawled under his bed as a child when his mum was shouting at him.

As the judge was sceptic about all of Bianchi's claims, he brought in one final professional (Martin Orne) to analyse Bianchi to see if his statements held any truth. Orne set up another hypnosis situation in which Ken happily took part in, acting along as he had previously with other professionals. Prior to this however, Orne purposefully said within earshot of Ken that he couldn't possibly have MPD (multiple personality disorder) as those who do tend to have 3 different personalities. With that information, and under the "hypnosis", Ken suddenly changed into "Billy" rather than Steve and thus a third personality no one knew about was born. Whilst pretending to be Billy, Ken was asked to shake his lawyer's hand and happily obliged; leaning over to shake an invisible hand of a man that didn't exist. When his lawyer did walk into the room moments later, "Billy" exclaimed "how can I see two of you?" and Ken reportedly said afterwards that once his lawyer had walked through the door, he knew he was up shit creek without a paddle and the charade was bust. His acting teamed with the fact that Steve Walker was actually the name of student he had used in fraudulent activity, and the fact that Bianchi had a lot of psychology books in his possession which discussed MPD, the judge ruled that he was once again lying and did not accept his plead of insanity. As Bianchi ran rings around psychologists and some of the psychologists involved still to this day believe that he did indeed have a mental disorder, it would be fascinating to talk with Bianchi and try to work out what was truth and what was fabrication.

Ahmad Suradji - The Sorcerer
Although we always seem to think of serial killers as a western phenomenon, there are of course serial killers from all corners of the globe and Ahmad Suradji is certainly one I would want to speak to if I could. The Indonesian cattle breeder admitted to killing 42 women and girls (aged 11-30) over a period of 11 years from 1986-1997 and was eventually arrested in 1997 to later be executed via a firing squad in 2Oo8. Suradji is of particular interest to me due to the superstitions and religious connotations to his killings. Dubbed "The Sorcerer" or "Black Magic Killer" particularly in western media, Suradji was known for his ritualistic killings and burials of his victims. Although Indonesian government only recognises the 6 major religions, many Indonesian people believe in Shamanism and spiritual healers commonly called "Dutaks" or "Dukuns". Suradji promoted himself as one of these Dutaks/Dukuns and claimed that he could help women become more beautiful or find true love etc. with his magic. The majority of the 42 victims Suradji claimed actually came to him willingly as they were seeking his spiritual healing help but unfortunately, did not know their true fate.

Suradji began his killing spree after he claimed that his deceased father visited him in a dream and said he would kill 7O women to boost his spiritual powers. He therefore set out with a goal in mind and when women didn't seek him out themselves, it is thought that Suradji visited town to pick up prostitutes to keep his kill-count on the increase. The 42 women and girls he murdered were buried upright, to waist-height, in the sugar cane fields surrounding his home and were buried to all be facing his home as he thought this would help him draw on his power. He strangled his victims with a cable once they had been buried like this as they would be immobilised and he convinced his victims that this burial procedure was part of a ritual for whatever need they were hoping Suradji could help them with. His victims unknowingly all dug their own graves and voluntarily climbed into them because of this. He then proceeded to drink the saliva of his victims as the ghost of his father had also told him that this would make him a mystic healer. Once he was arrested and imprisoned, he stopped being a Shaman and became a devout Muslim, becoming a very popular inmate with other prisoners and often giving them guidance and advice. As these crimes are steeped in superstition and beliefs, both in the victims' and the killers minds, I think it would be fascinating to hear what Suradji truly believed and if he had any remorse for his actions.

Andrei Chikatilo - The Rostov Ripper
The last killer I'm going to mention in this post is Andrei Chikatilo - a man responsible for at least 52 deaths who was also a cannibal and paedophile. Chikatilo was born in a rural village in Ukraine in 1936 - a time when Stalin's policies on agricultural collectivisation caused widespread deprivation, poverty, and famine. There was lots of rumours circulating that because of this time of hardship, the people who felt it worst were prone to cannibalism in order to survive and apparently even Chikatilo's mother told him that his brother had been eaten by starving neighbours (it's not even confirmed that Chikatilo had a brother - but I digress). Chikatilo was born with hydrocephalus (water on the brain,) which meant he was prone to bed-wetting and an inability to sustain an erection in his late adolescent years; which is important to note in reference to his killings. After overpowering a girl when he was 15 in order to gain a sexual experience during his adolescent years and ejaculating almost immediately in the process, this resulted in ridicule for Chikatilo from peers at school but most significantly, it gave him a link between sexual pleasure/relief and violence.

Chikatilo married, had a couple of children despite his impotence, and he also became a teacher - a job he managed to hold down for almost ten years despite often being accused of child molestation. On December 21st 1978, after moving to Shakhty (a town near Rostov), Chikatilo committed his first known murder. Moving to Shakhty was a result of the child molestation accusations piling up but once he moved here, his paedophilic fantasies worsened and he would hide in a hut on a street to watch local children. His first victim was a nine year old girl who he abducted and stabbed to death in the woods. He ejaculated in the process of the killing and thus further cemented the link between sexual relief and violence. Over the next 12 years, Chikatilo committed over 5O known murders but unfortunately walked free on the couple of occasions he was suspected due to other individuals confessing to the crimes. The lack of punishment is also believed to be the result of a clerical error when semen was tested from crime scenes as it was not linked to his blood type (when it should have been). In the Soviet Union, serial killers were some sort of unknown phenomenon as the state-controlled media often played down or suppressed incidents of murders and child abuse in order to retain public order so, the increasing number of murders were even believed by result of werewolf attacks by local people.

The reason I would like to talk to Andrei Chikatilo has a lot to do with his actual trial to decide his fate. He spent the trial in a large iron cage, designed to keep him safe and separate from his many victims' angry families. Throughout the trial, his behaviour was bizarre. He would swing from seemingly angry and agitated to looking completely bored with the whole affair. He reportedly talked gibberish at times, broke into song so loudly when the prosecutor was talking that he needed to be removed from the court room, and also dropped his trousers and waved his genitalia at the surrounding court room too. This behaviour - and his hard upbringing - has given many the belief that Chikatilo was dealing with some severe mental health issues. An appeal was made after he was sentenced to death for each of the 52 murders there was evidence for, which claimed that the psychiatric analysis of Chikatilo that said he was sane of mind and suitable to stand in court was biased. I would be inclined to say there was definitely issues with Chikatilo's state of mind, but that can never excuse his actions. Police only originally accused Chikatilo of 36 murders and after he confessed to 56, he later retracted some of his confessions, further adding to the belief that he was not fit for trial. On February 14th 1994, he was executed with a single shot to the back of the head and his final words were reportedly, "Don't blow my brains out! The Japanese want to buy them!".

Keep your eyes peeled for Part 3 of this mini-series which will be coming soon!

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March 08, 2018

2O18 Birthday Wishlist

Happy Hump Day folks - it's that time of year again: it's almost my birthday! At the end of March (29th to be exact) I will be turning a sour-sounding 27 and I'm clinging to youth with all my might. I'm never a big celebrator of my birthday, but over the last couple of years I've made sure to actually enjoy turning another year older and making sure I do something I enjoy for the day. This year, I'm planning to go to Oxford for the day to have a snoop or the museums or I will be getting my new tattoo - I haven't quite decided yet!

As it's almost that fabulous *another year older another year wiser* time, I thought I'd share with you all what I'm lusting over right now, what's been hanging around in my Amazon wishlist for yonks, and just generally what I might purchase for myself for my birthday (if friends and family members don't take the hint first, ahem).

1. Seasalt Original Seafolly Jacket | £89.95 - I've realised this past winter that I'm turning into a "proper adult" after buying a proper winter coat and I absolutely bloody love it. The only problem is, it's like wearing a quilt out and about and whilst that's been great for winter and when we had snomageddon last week, I've realised I need a good waterproof jacket for those rainy days that spring usually brings along with it. Seasalt are one of my favourite sustainable fashion brands and their clothes are always top quality. So naturally, I've been lusting after one of their classic waterproof/wind proof jackets for a long long time. Everything about the cut of this jacket and it's details (like the toggles and flap pockets) are right up my street - the hardest thing decision to make is which colour to choose but I think I'd pick red (although the bottle green and then the yellow - of course - are pulling my heartstrings).

2. How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh | £4.28 - I've been wanting to read work by the Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh for a long time now. He specialises in talking about mindfulness, effective meditation practices and more. Over the past few months due to various different reasons, I've been trying my best to practice mindfulness and I'm always looking for inspiration so I want to read Hanh's wise words even more than ever, now. "How to Love" is one of his many works but it's one of the ones I want to read the most as Hanh discusses how in order to love ourselves and our loved ones effectively, we need to become more connected to the world and love *it* before we can love anything else. He breaks down the act of love into 4 "categories": "you can only love another when you feel true love for yourself; love is understanding; understanding brings compassion; and deep listening and loving speech are key ways of showing our love" and if that doesn't make you want to read this lovely humble book I don't know what else.

3. Happy Little Accidents: The Wit & Wisdom of Bob Ross | £9.99 - If you know me at all, you will know that Bob Ross is everything to me. I never get bored of watching The Joy of Painting and will audibly laugh and cry each and every time I watch the whole show. He was such a beautiful soul and such a happy, positive, inspirational man who had some pretty darn good hair and jean/shirt combos not to mention an insane talent for painting. This book is something I just *need* because it captures the very essence of Bob Ross and all his joyfulness. I've always criticised "coffee table books" because I feel they're just there for show and don't really serve a purpose, but this would definitely be a coffee table I would lovingly situate in pride of place and want everyone to see it.

4. Nobrow Comics | £5.2O - £6.5O - I've gotten ridiculously behind on reading my pile of "to-read" comics and graphic novels, but there's still many more I want to add to that never diminishing list and that's where these ones come in. Nobrow is a publisher I haven't read from before but I've been lusting after quite a few from this publishing house over the last few months due to their gorgeous cover art and the great synopsis' I've scanned. Although there really are quite a few from Nobrow I want to read, these three in particular are the ones I'm desperate to get my hands on first:
Obsolete has me hook, line & sinker because it has rave reviews for the artwork by Danish artist, Mikkel Sommer, and the storyline covers a typically "robbery gone wrong" crime genre but apparently with a twist.
New Ghost is another comic from Nobrow that has great reviews relating to the art and the fact that the story centres around an observatory worker and the supernatural/whether or not there is life elsewhere threads of fiction means I *have* to pick this guy up.
Vacancy is the one out of the bunch that I really want to read the most. Centred around a dog named Simon who has been forgotten and abandoned by his owners in his backyard, he befriends a racoon and a deer who take him into the woods which he doesn't feel he's quite ready for as he's never lived in the wild. The story takes a turn when the destroyed and abandoned parts of the local town seem to have weird things happening in them. If that little snippet doesn't make you want to read this asap, I don't know what will.

5. Monstera/Swiss Cheese Potted Plant | £15 - I, like many other people my age, am obsessed with houseplants. I am growing quite a collection but I have postponed buying larger leafier plants until I'm settled into my new home. The first one I will be making sure to get my hands on is without a doubt a bit ol' monstera plant. These plants are gorgeous to look at, grow to monstrous sizes (see what I did there?), and are surprisingly easy to look after. What a beauty.

6. Craftamo Watercolour Brush Pens | £12.95 - As a girl who loves painting but doesn't quite have the time nor the motivation to set up all the prep painting can take, I've be desperate to get a pack of these watercolour-style pens due to their convenience and some of the lush work I've seen some people create with them.

7. Rock n' Rose Truly Miraculous Medal Pendant Necklace | £29.Oo - I've always had a soft-spot for religious artwork and jewellery (maybe I was destined to become a qualified RE teacher) so it's no surprise that I really love this necklace from Rock n' Rose which I think is just stunning. I don't wear a lot of jewellery but when I do, I always gravitate towards gold and if it's a necklace, I like a fuss-free large-ish pendant so this just ticks all the boxes.

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March 04, 2018

Sustainable Sundays: Sustainability on the High Street & on a Budget

Happy Sunday folks! It's been a wee while since I posted my last Sustainable Sundays post so I thought it was high-time I got back into the sustainability rhythm. So, sustainable homeware and fashion is great right but sometimes the price can be terrifying. Buying sustainable items can be a shock to the system as you tend to pay a lot more money for even basic pieces because of the effort that has gone into the growing, harvesting, and manufacturing of the items. They're not jacked out at rapid pace from an underpaid and ethically-deprived sweatshop and that means that the lack of mass production can reflect a rise in price and the materials are produced with a mindful eye on the pollution production can cause etc.

This is often something that can be off-putting for many and I'd certainly include myself in that group as it took me a long time to want to invest in clothing (in particular) that I was buying as throwaway fashion's convenience, change of pace, and ability to satisfy any and all of my tastes was more appealing. Nowadays I'd much rather buy second hand or buy from a brand that I can see are doing good for the planet and it's inhabitants, but I'm well aware that buying sustainable fashion is often a luxury that many can't invest in no matter how much they want to. That's why today I'd share some potentially hidden gems on the physical and virtual high streets that you may not immediately think of when you think of sustainable shopping but boy oh boy, do they do their bit to help look after Mother Nature.

H&M Conscious Line & Recycle Scheme
First up, let's talk about one of my favourite high street brands back from when I shopped fast fashion readily. H&M are a global brand who are taking steps in the right direction to be mindful of fashion ending up in landfill, the effect fast fashion production is having on the environment and on climate change. There's two great aspects to H&M that you can utilise when shopping in an attempt to be more sustainable with your choices and that is their Conscious concept/line and their recycling scheme. Whether it's homeware or fashion you're shopping for, the Conscious line at H&M is across the board. Conscious focuses on using natural/organic material in its products and is available in both men and women's lines as well as children's! They are labelled with a green "Conscious" label in stores and have their own searchable category online on H&M's site so you can easily find what products and items are sustainable and which ones aren't.

Another great thing about H&M is that they have a recycle scheme that I feel not many people know about. If you ever have a clear out of your clothing and for whatever reason you don't eBay it or take it to your local charity shop/shelter etc., take it along to your local H&M store instead. The store actively accept bags of no-longer wanted textiles (no matter what brand or condition the items are in), which will then be recycled to produce new items of clothing. By recycling clothing, less natural resources are needed to create new pieces and it stops clothing end up in landfill which is extremely harmful for the environment. Not only is it a good scheme to take part in just because of the benefits it has on the environment, but H&M also hand out vouchers when you donate textiles to this scheme so it's a win/win for you.

Oxfam x Marks & Spencer Clothes Exchange
This next one isn't about buying sustainable but more like just getting involved in sustainable fashion and reaping the benefits. If you take any clothing donations into Oxfam and at least one item is from M&S, you will be given a £5 voucher to spend in M&S. You must use this voucher in the same calendar month as you received it and it can only be used on a minimum spend of £35 on clothing, home, or beauty, but it's a fab little incentive that encourages donations and recycling clothes via charity shops which helps you save a little on future spending.

Nobody's Child
Next up is a brand I really love. Nobody's Child are a great brand who are available on Asos and Topshop as well as their own site and they always have their tagline "fast fashion with a conscience" at the forefront of the publicity. Although Nobody's Child does identify as a fast fashion brand, they are a brand who also work hard to minimise waste by keeping the whole production process of their clothing contained to their own factories which makes them a much more environmentally-friendly brand than most. If you're a fan of this brand, you will notice that their items tend to sell out or go out of stock quite quickly (particularly on their own site) and this has a lot to do with not creating a ridiculous amount of items for the consumer market that is then not consumed. They are taking a conscious approach and taking steps to improve fast fashion and attitudes towards it.

ASOS Eco Edit & Recycled Items
Next up, I need to mention the fashion giant that is ASOS. As an old ASOS VIP member, I used to buy something from the site almost on a weekly basis and I know I'm not the only one. ASOS is extremely popular not only for it's own brand items, but the wide selection of other brands, the convenient postage and returns, and it's reward schemes for being a regular buyer. But ASOS are not all bad and actually have a few things which help this fast fashion heavyweight be more sustainable. Firstly is their Eco Edit. The ASOS Eco Edit is a collection of all the items available on the site that are eco-friendly and/or made with organic materials/resources. It not only included clothing but also beauty products that meet the criteria too.

Since 2O16, ASOS have worked with Doddle and TRAID to recycle clothing for good too. TRAID are a charity which tries to prevent clothing going to landfill and aim to repurpose or redirect clothing to charity shops nationwide. Working with ASOS and Doddle, TRAID will take your unwanted but wearable clothes and footwear and redistribute them to charity shops and all you have to do is drop them off at your local Doddle store and Doddle will make sure they take care of the rest! Not only that, but over the next two years, ASOS have agreed to increase the amount of post-consumer recycled materials that are used to make their clothes and they are also committed to eliminating any clothes which cannot be recycled from their supply chain. They have also signed up to a commitment alongside 1Oos of other brands to be more consumer-conscious and have vowed to introduce a garment collection recycle scheme like H&M and M&S already practice.

Bohemia are a brand I've featured in my fashion posts before (see here, here, here - phew - and here!) and since purchasing my first straw tote from them, I have purchased all sorts from their site from Moroccan slippers to homeware embroidered pots. Bohemia are a great independent brand who work closely with their suppliers and are proud to be 1Oo% artisan and are strong believers in maintaining positive human relationships despite being a business. I'm mentioning these guys here because they are a Scottish-based brand but are very on-trend without the true suppliers missing out. The ever-popular straw bag trend of last summer seems to be having a revamp for spring 2O18, but rather than buying from Topshop or ASOS where the item has been mass-produced, potentially in an underpaid and overworked sweatshop factory, why not spend the same money on a brand who bring genuine items from genuine craftspeople who have ethically produced the items in comfortable and fair conditions.

Overall Thoughts on Sustainability on the High Street
Think about how much we all love the sales when it comes to fashion - we can get some absolute bargains but next time you're celebrating your spoils, try thinking about why so many items ended up in that sale. It's usually because they weren't popular when they were full price - they weren't worth your money when they were full price. A cut in the price can convince all of us to then purchase something but just think *how* many garments may have been created to meet the consumer market. If a product or garment has been popular thanks to bloggers and influencers for example then that's fine - a brand will make their money on sales when every size goes out of stock and the consumerist ways has worked like magic, but when items haven't had the desired "sell out" effect, that's when they get plopped into the sales in a last ditch attempt to get rid of them. Think about what happens to those things that can be shifted even in the sales and that's why any opportunity to shop more sustainably is welcomed in my opinion! Again, this isn't me suggesting anyone feels bad for purchasing or enjoying what they do, but shopping more sustainable - particularly when it comes to fashion - will have a small but undoubtedly positive effect on the planet in many different ways and your items should last you longer due to the good materials and resources that have gone into them. Sustainable items are out there, it's just a matter of trying your best to seek them out.

Although we all get sucked into various high street stores because they're ultimately convenient and at our disposal, with the internet at our finger tips, searching for sustainable fashion can be easier than you think. Somewhere that is great to effectively search for sustainable fashion is Etsy. Simply searching "sustainable clothing" will present you with hundreds of hits that you can then browse through and filter to just the UK or a particular kind of item. Shopping for sustainable fashion can be a little extra effort, but it's more than do-able and certainly has it's benefits.

142 brands recently signed to be part of the 2O2O Circular Fashion System Commitment which promises to make the processes of their production more sustainable in the next two years. Brands such as ASOS, M&S, Pull & Bear, and Zara are all taking part and it's fab to see the fast fashion industry taking some responsibility for their waste and impact on our planet by helping cut down fashion waste and putting more garment collection options for recycling clothing in place. A full report of this 2O2O Circular Fashion System Commitment is due to be released in May which details what each brand has promised to do and each brand's individual movement to more sustainability and less fashion waste. I'm excited to see what this Commitment brings and so happy to see so many brands joining it from the fast fashion realm.

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