Sunday, 31 January 2016

Fresh Face February: Make Up and Me

So it's February, (well in a few hours) which for me comes with it's own challenge: a month without make-up. Yes, for some crazy reason I've decided to attempt to go an entire month without make-up, minus any valentine day celebrations with the boyfriend because how can I expect him to love me if I don't look pretty! I joke, but seriously I deserve to be able to get dolled up for valentines, surely!
I'm not 100% sure where the idea of Fresh Face February started and it doesn't seem to be a very big thing on social media yet as far as I can tell. But at some point last year I stumbled upon the idea and noted it down as a potential personal challenge which obviously then evolved into a series of blog post ideas. 12 months later here I am foolishly accepting that challenge.
The whole idea is that in ditching the make up you will start to feel more comfortable in your own skin, and not only accept but start to like your face without all the paint. There's so many girls that are terrified to let those closest to them see them with a bare face, let alone dream of leaving the house with one. For the most part I tend to be one of such girls, and unless I'm in a real f*ck-it mood I prefer to not leave the house without a combination of concealer, bb cream, powder, eye-shadow,  mascara and eyebrow filler... I tend to say I don't wear a lot of make up but listing it out like that makes me realise I've probably been lying to myself for years (and that's what I wear on a minimal day!).
So for all us insecure girls out there I'm taking a stand, saying goodbye to my make up and hopefully hello to a new lease of confidence in my own naked skin.

When I first decided on actually doing this challenge, I didn't really think it would be too big a deal. Sure some days would be harder than others, depending what I had on in my diary, but overall? Pfft, child's play, I thought. In fact I was cheered by the thought of spending 20 minutes extra in bed every morning instead of on dressing my face.  Now the night before my first day of facial nakedness I'm full of anxiety. Terrified of who I might see tomorrow and trying to think over my routes to lectures, outfit and ideas of how I can cheat. Maybe just one coat of mascara and some concealer? That's practically still make-up free, right?
This, right here is the problem. I always thought I wore make-up for me. Yes, it has the effect of making me feel more confident in myself, and I prefer how I look with it, but when did it become a necessity? Surely my eye-liner flicks and true red lips should be no more than an accessory, like a scarf or bag, I shouldn't feel so lost without them. I shouldn't feel any less able to take on the world because I have them. The idea of not being able to leave the house without a specific bag is laughable, and evokes the memory of my old comfort blanket. Man, I use to take that thing everywhere, and if it was ever out of my sight for a moment there'd be tears and tantrums. Now it seems that make-up has become my comfort blanket, or at least some form of powerful mask that shields me from the big scary world out there...  All the awful things that are going on in this world everyday, and I'm prepared to loose sleep over whether I'll allow myself a little eye-shadow or not. Talk about first world problems.
Being a typical counsellor's daughter I'm now wondering what the root of such a reaction could be. Is it my self-esteem? A fear that others may think less of me because of how I look? A need of a mask or protector? Or do I really think I might just not be able to function without it? (Like the days I don't wear my rings always seem to be bad days, coincidence? I think not!). Hopefully that's something I might be able to answer by the end of the month, if not tomorrow. And of course, fingers crossed, my world won't fall apart the day my make up brushes are first all neglected.

What is your relationship with make-up? Would you ever feel up to giving Fresh Faced February a go? Let me know in the comments, or join the discussion on social media! And of course don't forget to check back for more updates.

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Saturday, 30 January 2016

E.L.F Haul

Today I received an order from e.l.f and thought I'd share my purchases with all you guys, as it's something I haven't really done before. It felt like my birthday this morning as I'd completely forgotten what I'd ordered and paid for way back in November. Yes, I ordered all these goodies practically 3 whole months ago, but that's not because of e.l.f, in fact they deserve some recognition for their wonderful customer care team. If you follow me on Twitter you may recall my tantrum over Royal Mail's mess up, as they sent my order back to sender after one failed delivery attempt without waiting the standard amount of time for me to reschedule. Unfortunately I didn't find this out until after I'd taken 2 days off to sit around at home all day waiting for my item when they'd assured me of it's arrival, even though it was probably half way back to America at that time. When I finally became privy to this information I contacted e.l.f and they understandingly rearranged to resend my order straight away, and offered to issue a refund if I no longer wanted it. Which made me a very happy bunny and allowed me to kinda forgive Royal Mail, more so as they actually did their job this time round!

So enough with the back story, what did I buy!?

I treated myself to e.l.f's Daily Hydration Moisturiser (£9), Ex-foliating Face Scrub (£7.50), Eye Shadow Primer in Blush (£4.50) and their Blemish Control Primer in Clear (£7.50). My total spend of £28.50 not only qualified for free delivery but also a FREE 'Ultimate Beauty Stash'. Talk about value for money! This stash included an e.l.f Studio Blush in Tickled Pink (£4.50), Contouring Kabuki Brush (£7.50), Baked Eye Shadow in Chocolate Dreams (£4.50), Lash Extending Mascara in Black (£4.50), Shimmer Lip Gloss in Believe (£3.00) and a Lip Kiss Balm in Smooch Spice which unfortunately I couldn't seem to find on their website so I can't tell you the value of that one. But hey, that's £24 plus a lip balm of free stuff! I'm going to be giving Fresh Faced February a go this year (look out for relevant posts on that!) so won't be using the majority of these products for a little while but when I do I'll try and put up some reviews for you all.
But my initial impression is that e.l.f provides a vast range of cruelty-free vegetarian make-up, skincare and beauty tools for incredibly low prices! My first time ordering from their website has been a pleasant experience and I hope the products live up to it.

If you enjoyed this post why not have a read of:

Dry January: Tea Over G&Ts    |     Cruelty Free vs. Vegan

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Dry January

As I'm sure everyone is aware by this stage of the month, its Dry January! This is the month that we're all challenged to give up alcohol by Alcohol Concern. For some this is more of a challenge than others; Students and young people in general are notorious for binge drinking, but this stereotype may not ring so true for much longer. More and more students appear to be abstaining from the booze, and I happen to be one of them.
Yes, it might not seem like much of a shock that someone in their final year has decided they want to retire from heavy nights out. But this isn't a new thing, I've always been a bit of a "grandma" preferring cosy nights in to nights out. I haven't really enjoyed drinking for a few years now, and the occasional times I've forced myself out in the past I've always regretted it. So I've decided to make 2016 a dry year, because one month just wouldn't be much of a challenge. (I've made it this far without trying!)
Although I'm generally not fussed by the idea of getting drunk, I am not nor have ever been teetotal. I can go several months at a time without touching a drop of the devil's water but I am a lover of whisky and dark rum, so when the opportunity arises I can seldom help myself. The issue is that eventually a situation will come along where I end up drinking more than I should, or can handle. Issue is because I never drink and am already a lightweight, I never know my limits. Obviously I end up turning into a bit of an embarrassment and feel absolutely awful the next day. Okay, there's been a few occasions where I've managed not to make an idiot out of myself but still regret drinking in the best case scenarios, where I'm always left with some form of hangover (My general health issues mean no hangover or not feeling absolutely awful the next day is simply not possible). When I was young... Yes, cliché.. Back when I first started drinking I never got hangovers, only suffered with the lack of sleep, and could astound people with my standard party trick of downing sickening amounts of straight vodka like water. (Plus remain standing for the most part.) But things have changed, I guess I must have grown up some where a long the way. Although I had some great nights and a lot of fun, I kinda found it got kinda dull... Maybe that's just me? Plus that lifestyle just isn't healthy!

I know that I can go out sober, stay sober and have a great night with no consequences. Yet somehow I usually end up ruining it by changing my mind mid night. I would say that I curb to peer pressure but that just wouldn't really be true. While I have several friends who also don't drink very often, or at all, there is still a portion who really enjoy that stereotypical student lifestyle which means they fail to understand why I might not. This means that even though they might not question me on my decisions directly, any time I do attend an evening out with them I seem to pressure myself into joining in on the drunken antics (Which of course involves getting VERY drunk). I get scared of being the alien, 'grandma', or simply left out, plus how many times can I deny somebody the wish of being drunk Laura, who apparently is a legend. Yes, drunk Laura can be a massive pain in the butt for me, but to others she seems to be absolutely hilarious and incredibly lovable. (I don't understand how that's any different from my normal self, but I won't think about it too much) So to stop myself from falling into this pattern I'm setting myself this challenge, a great chance to practice my awful lack of will power.

There have been several factors which led to  me making this decision:

1). I don't always like my drunk self.
Yes others might, but I no longer like the idea of holes in my memory or acting out of turn. No matter how friends might try to reassure me with 'Don't worry it was just funny' or 'But you were drunk'. It doesn't really put my mind at rest, I want to be in control of my actions and emotions.

2). I really really don't like hangovers. Like who does?

3). I lack the ability to say no, so need to set rules for myself. Plus this is my first real proper New Years Resolution, and everybody should have at least one, right?

4). I'm attempting to lead a healthy lifestyle, which doesn't really work if I go out and get completely smashed, binge on Dominos, cheesy chips and spend 3 days nursing migraines. Alcohol is effectively poison so I just don't really want to put it in my body any more.

5.) I simply don't need to drink, so why should I?

I hope this post doesn't come across in the wrong way. If you love drinking and are happy with that choice then go you! But if you tried Dry January, even if only for the week days, let me know about your experiences.

You can find out more about Dry January here, and all the work that Alcohol Concern do over here.

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Sunday, 17 January 2016

Controlling Exam Stress

It's January which for all us students out there only means one thing, assessment period. Christmas is long gone, and with it all notions of relaxation as the exam period is now in full swing. We've had our chance to over indulge in free time, and now we're paying for it. No matter whether it's GCSEs or University, exams are really scary things, or at least to me they are! Then as you climb up the ladder of education you have more and more to cramp into your brain, and trying not to lose your sanity in that process can be kinda difficult. You may, or may not, be aware that January is Mental Wellness Month, (someone had a big laugh with that one, huh?) so I thought it would be the perfect time for me to put together a little something about how to deal with all these exam stresses, or at least my top tips! Note, these are in a completely random order.

1. Don't just plan, get to know your syllabus. 
The first thing I do when I start revising is break down everything; the time I know I'll put in, the syllabus, the exam paper and how the marks are distributed. If you feel fully aware of what you need to do, what's expected of you and how to achieve it, it should hopefully make you feel more in control and therefore less stressed. I know a great deal of people that make up revision planners, but few that go as far as I do in this process. It might not work for everyone, and taking time away from actually revision time to do this could cause more stress than reassurance for some people but it really helps for me!

2. Take breaks.
 As tempting as it can be to zone right into your revision, it's important to take regular breaks. You don't want to fry your brain! If you struggle to get back into your work after taking a break, or don't know when to take breaks or for how long I'd recommend trying out my app of the month for January, Pomodoro Time. This app could help improve your productivity and make sure you take regular short breaks! Whether it's 5 or 10 minutes every hour or half an hour, breaks are important so you don't exhaust yourself. A break can be anything, from making a cup of tea to a skype session with a friend, just as long as you're doing something different in that time so if you're worried about keeping up with your revision schedule, you can still use your breaks to do something productive like the washing up!

3. Eat Well. 
I'm sure we've all heard about brain foods and if you have an exam why wouldn't you want to feed your brain?! As tempting as it can be to let your diet slip a bit when you've got exams, do your best to stop it from happening. I can truly sympathise with the situation, in fact I've been there, eating all that 'study food' and having nothing but ready meals or take out as I make the excuse that 'I don't have time to cook proper food as I need to revise.' Well I'm afraid it's not a good enough excuse, and fuelling your body with junk food and then expecting it to run on stress and late nights at the library, well it's a recipe for disaster. So no matter how much you crave those chocolate digestives or mini cheddars opt for an apple, and take the time to prepare real nutritious meals. For one you'll feel a lot better when you don't gain weight and better in yourself with more energy and all those other perks of a decent diet. Comfort and stress food does nothing for you and you don't want it making you feel more sluggish and low when you're suppose to be conquering the world or atl east that exam paper.

4. Drink! Don't over do the stimulants. 
Yes, exam season can seem like the best reason to get down to the local and drown your sorrows but that is not the drink I'm taking about. We all know that during revision time we're putting a lot on our poor old brains, and as well as feeding them good stuff you don't want them to go thirsty. Therefore to help your concentration it's important to stay hydrated, which is best done by drinking your recommended 2 litres of water a day. For some that's simple, but others that might be slightly harder as I know more than a few people that really struggle to drink water - my boyfriend for one refuses to drink 'rain' as he calls it. Squash or flavoured water is the next best thing. Just remember that certain drinks, no matter how you think they might initially benefit you with an energy boost or whatever they could be doing more harm than good. Anything that contains caffeine has the side effect of dehydration on some level, so make sure you don't over do the energy drinks, coffee or tea! 

5. Reward yourself.
Like training a dog, or reinforcing good behaviour in a child, it's important to reward yourself when you do good. When you finish a good chunk of revision, spend a whole day at the library or whatever your accomplishment is make sure to give yourself a little treat to say well done. Because what are we if not over grown hairless dogs... or grown up children. Okay the first example sucks, but the point still stands, reward the behaviour you want to repeat because as much as we wish we were better than that we all do respond to basic training. Plus why shouldn't you be rewarded for the things you achieve, focusing on the revision you have done rather than what you haven't should make you feel better and help get rid of some of those stresses. You deserve to be proud of every thing you tick of that list, so whether it's something small like a certain food, a sleep in the next day or a new piece of clothing, don't forget to do treat yourself to something and recognise each achievement!

6. Exercise.
I'm being a bit of a hypocrite with this one as I am forever guilty of putting off the gym for revision or my chill time, but I always make excuses not to go so now is really no different from the rest of the time. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, release endorphins and get a great boost. If you're spending a lot of time sat still at a table revising all day, taking a break to go for a quick jog or gym sesh is a great way to get that blood pumping again!

7. Get plenty of sleep!
If you're really freaking out about an exam it can be pretty tempting to spend all hours working and revising but you can't skimp on looking after yourself. In the same way as eating a balanced diet, taking breaks and drinking enough water is important so is sleep! We're recommended to get at least 8 hours sleep a night but that's just a general recommendation and some of us may be able to run off more or less. I, for example, really struggle with anything less than 9 hours so if I want to be on top form I make sure I get those and maybe the occasional extra bit! Oversleeping can make you sluggish, but not getting enough sleep can have much worse effects, so figure out what your sleep needs are and cater to them. If you're struggling to sleep at night because of all those exam woes then try switching off earlier, taking kalms, trying sleepy tea or meditation exercises.

8. Take time to relax. 
Yes, this is basically just reiterating the taking breaks and getting enough sleep points but it's worth repeating! You won't sleep if your mind is continuously buzzing so however you do it make sure you get some you time. Everyone has their own ways of relaxing and getting rid of all that stress whether it's face masks and nail painting, drawing, going for a run or watching a film/tv, so whatever yours is make sure you still make time for it. Some people do run off stress, and to be honest I think those people are pretty lucky to have the magical power of turning stress into great accomplishments, but for the rest of us our best work isn't going to happen that way so prioritise your chill time.

9. Know when, where and how you work best.
Again, different for everybody but most people will work better in certain environments opposed to others. If you could be getting more work done in the library than at home then go to the library! Same goes for if it's a coffee shop, your room etc. Trying to get work done somewhere you know you're more likely to procrastinate is going to lead to more time spent doing less work which will probably lead to stressing out over that wasted time, so cut that out and don't waste the time in the first place.
The same thing applies to making the most out of your most productive hours, while I work better in the evenings a lot of people don't. It might mean making a few temporary changes to your routine but if you're going to get more done and therefore be more confident in your revision surely it's worth it?

10. Comparisons are a sure way to stress yourself out.
This applies to absolutely everything in life. Comparisons are killer, so do your best to stop making them! If Steve or Suzy have been living in the library for 3 weeks and have done loads more revision than you as a result then 'woop woop' for them, but that doesn't mean you should being doing that. Steve/Suzy might be fully aware that they're not great at this subject so need to put a lot more time into it, but even if they are the smart-arses of the group that doesn't mean you should stress yourself out because you haven't done what they've done. Guess what you're not them, you're you. Hooray for you! As long as at the end of the day you know you've done your best, and feel as confident as you could come exam day, that's all that matters. You set your own expectations and if you meet those, you shouldn't give a damn about what Steve and Suzy are doing. Plus, it's a waste of time stressing about them when you should be focusing on yourself.

11. Under pressure.
Don't put an undue amount of pressure on yourself. I am fully aware that everyone wants to do their best in exams, and we're always going to strive to accomplish those top grades but be realistic. If you know you'd do well to get a certain grade than be happy for that, and don't stress yourself out striving for something you know fully well is unlikely to happen, it'll just lead to more stress and bitter disappointment. You should be happy with achieving YOUR best grade whether it is the best grade by other peoples standards or not. I may have gotten a 2:2 in one of my language modules this year but I struggled with it from the word go and I'm over the moon with my grade because I know I could have very easily failed. Yes some people got firsts and some people got 2:1's but that's no reflection on me or my very own capabilities so it shouldn't and doesn't have any effect on me.

12. Support network.
Exam nerves are something a lot of people don't seem to really talk about, unless it's in some blasé way with your friends. If you're getting really worked up with stress make sure you know where your support network is, who they are and go talk to them. Your school, college or university should offer some form of support service that you can go and let off steam to, and even get advice on how to deal with everything, or find a family member or friend that you can really talk to about exams to make sure you get everything off your chest rather than just having the usual 'I'm stressed' 'me too' 3 second conversation that has the potential to just go round in circles. 

13. Get some changes of scenery.
This may appear to contradict my other point of working where you know you'll do it best, but it isn't suppose to. If you're working in the same place day in day out, spending all of your time there then you're likely to get bored quicker and maybe go a little crazy spending all those hours in the same 4 walls, so change it up every now and again. I'm sure there's more than one library in your area you can visit, more than one coffee shop, and if you like working in the comfort of your own room then I might be a little stuck on suggestions so maybe just get out of it for a few days for a change of pace. (There's that contradiction) Hopefully the change will be refreshing and get you right back in to your work. 

14. Forgive yourself.
Okay maybe you didn't start revising as early as you should, slept in on the days you promised you'd get up and go to the library or stayed in bed watching netflix and scrolling through facebook when you were suppose to be working. As annoyed at yourself as you might be when that exam date finally comes around, forgive yourself. Exams are hard, as is doing all that revision so we're bound to slip at some point and I don't think anyone ever accomplishes as much revision as they set themselves. Maybe you focused on one topic more than another, whatever it is be at peace with it and forgive yourself. 'It's okay I was lazy, I needed that day off.'  

15. Look at the bigger picture.
Your exam isn't the be all and end all. Yes it might seem it right now, and yes your results could contribute to your future but at the end of the day it only has as much significance as you let it. If I mess up university this year it will suck, I know that but I will still have had amazing experiences, learnt new things, have an amazing boyfriend, some wonderful friends and a very supportive family. Yes it will hurt but I know that despite my initial plan going wrong, I'll be able to pick myself up, brush myself off and carry on pursuing my dreams. There's always more than one way to get were you want to go, so step back, take a deep breath and take a look at that bigger picture. 

I apologise for the crappy quality photo, (note to self; don't take photos at midnight in your badly lit room) and for the fact that this post is coming out a little late as I'm sure many exams have come and gone by now. For those of you who have yet them, Good Luck! I hope this helps even just a little, let me know how you got on and if you have any of your own exam-stress busting tips to share!

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Friday, 15 January 2016

App of the Month: Pomodoro Time

This month’s app is a simple one, and very appropriate for the time of year! As it’s all about time management, improving your productivity, limiting procrastination and getting things done. Yup, something we all need in the working or studying world, but it seems particularly relevant now that it’s the winter assessment season. So if you’re studying for exams, writing essays or already out there in the big scary real life working world, this app could be a pretty useful one for you!

Name: Pomodoro Time
Category: Productivity
Available On: iPhone (However similar apps can be found for other platforms)
Price: Free

I was originally recommended a similar app called Orange Time Management by a friend, but after doing some research I found this app, Pomodoro Time, which is identical with a few added extras. Although being a more basic version of Pomodoro Time, Orange Time Management is available on the Apple App Store, Amazon and Google Play for free if you’d like to give it a go and have an Android or Kindle or something else other than an Apple product.
If you’ve ever heard of the ‘Pomodoro Technique’ you’ve probably already guessed what this app is all about, however if you’re like me and thought that Pomodoro was purely something to do with pasta then get ready for some knowledge coming your way! 

First fact, Pomodoro means tomato in Italian, congrats you now know at least one word in Italian. You’re welcome. So I’m taking about some kind of tomato timer? What do tomatoes have to do with anything? And why am I suddenly starting to feel hungry? All the talk of Italian food has my stomach rumbling.
Image Source:
But back to the point in hand. The Pomodoro Timer is based on that Pomodoro Technique I mentioned earlier. The Tomato is actually kind of relevant, because if I say Tomato Timer, what do you think of? Hopefully a kitchen timer! And this app is essentially just a timer.

The idea is you spend 25 minutes working distraction free, and then have a 5 minute break. Do another 25 minutes solid work, then take another 5 minute break. Rinse and repeat. Then after you’ve done this 4 times you’ve earned a half hour break. So that works out as 1 hour 20 minutes solid distraction and procrastination free work for 50 minutes of down time.

So you're getting me so far? Or rather you’re understanding the dynamics, don’t worry I didn’t get it at first either but I gave it a go, and somehow an app I didn’t think would be staying on my phone for longer than 5 minutes is something I’ve used almost every day for the last week of my revision, and even now while writing this post.

I know this won’t work for everyone, but it has for me, and I put the PRO in procrastination. Whether it’s snacking, cleaning, seeing how many veggie marshmallows I can fit in my mouth, social media, Netflix… I really do struggle to get into my work. But this app really forced me to focus for those 25 minutes, which really felt like no time at all but before I knew it I was getting more and more done in those brief slots. Then 5 minutes is just enough time for a quick refresher. In 5 minutes you can have
a catch up on social media, take a few pics of your accomplishments to flaunt on Instagram, make a cup of tea, have a toilet break, do some stretching, maybe have a quick ciggie, basically there’s a lot you can do in 5 minutes.. Hmm… I see a potential blogpost there.

So there’s the general idea. These 25 minute slots are called ‘pomodoros’ and ‘Pomodoro’ Time allows you to set how many you want to complete a day, track them and assign them to different categories of task. As a result you can keep up with how much time you’re actually putting into things, and hopefully improve your productivity! 

This one definitely has a thumbs up from me! If you try it out let me know how you found it!
If you enjoyed this check out one of my other App of the Month’s:

Monday, 11 January 2016

Feelings of Gratitude

So now that Christmas is long gone, and pretty much forgotten as we put all our concentration into the new year and all those challenges we've been silly enough to set ourselves. I've never been hugely in to Christmas, but I don't think any one can truly say they don't enjoy the season. It's all about what truly matters to us, getting all cosy with the ones we love and there's plenty of things to do: Christmas shopping, the Christmas lights switch-on, decorating, cooking... It's hugely busy, and probably the most social time of the year (Even if we feel at our least social, I mean who wants to go out in in the winter weather). I can't be the only one guilty of completely ignoring all my uni work so I can gorge on family time and cuddles with the boyfriend.
But with everything that's going on, the message can get a little lost as we spend more time worrying if we bought enough for people, whether they'll like their gifts or not rather than how much quality time we're actually spending together. There's a huge list of stress inducing issues at this time of year which means constant distractions.

I have to say I feel spoilt every year, especially since being at university, but this year felt like something different all together, so I wanted to put a post together to say a big thank you to all those who made my holidays so special. I feel sometimes we can forget to say it and really mean it. My thank you cards have all been posted, and this year I took the extra time to stress just how grateful I am for the things I was spoilt with. By sharing this with all of you I hope to inspire the same kinda thoughts and positive thinking. When I talk about being spoilt I don't mean in terms of physical presents but time, friendship, love and all the rest of those soppy things. At the end of the day, things are just things and we can't really measure our self-worth or the love of others against them. Yes, it's a good feeling opening a pretty present on the 25th December or your birthday or whatever special occasion it is, but it's not the most important thing.

Decorating the tree and house was so much fun!

To My Momma
Thank you for your endless support in everything I do, and always wanting what's best for me - even if we don't always agree on what that is. You're forever there for me no matter when I call or where in the world you are. Sometimes I feel your only goal in life nowadays is ensuring that I'm as happy as possible and my life goes as smoothly and as easily as it can, something I can take for granted. Forgetting that you're not just my mom, but a person with everything of your own to deal with. As  much as I want to, I feel like I'll never be able to repay you for all the stuff you've done and continue to do for me. You always put yourself out for me, even when it's not necessary, you should really stop! You're the first person to run to my rescue.
Thank you for coming all the way up to Cardiff to pick me up so I didn't have to get the train home and struggle with all my uni books. Thank you for insisting that I bring all my laundry home, because you wanted me to focus more on my end-of-term assignments and just looking after myself. Thank you for doing all you do and continuing to do it  even if I forget to say real 'thank you's each and every time. Thank you for your silly need to feel like your treating and spoiling me when you've already done too much. Thank you for forgiving me for an abundance of bad moods, tantrums and forgetting to keep in contact as much as I should (and want to) while I'm away.
Thank you for all the gorgeous home cooked meals, and delivering them up to me in Cardiff whenever you visit! The nagging, as annoying as it can be, it shows you care and worry about me, plus I do need that kick up the butt every once in a while. Thank you for not holding it against me when I slip up and prioritise time with the boyfriend over you, and understanding why, I'm so sorry for that! Thank you for hosting the most amazing Christmas and making it so special, for all I've mentioned and all I haven't as if I wrote down everything I doubt I'd ever finish.

I really enjoyed our family trip to the Hippodrome's Panto.
To My Ickle Sister
Thank you for not only being my sister but the greatest friend I've had all my life; well, actually not my life but yours. I know we hardly talk what with our busy busy lives at university and Christmas was the first time I'd seen you since September! But I know you're always here for me and know I'm always here for you! Thank you for the random calls, the not getting each other presents pact because we're poor students, being more of a big sister than a little one when I need it and usually always being on my side (or atleast telling me you are) but still telling me, always in the best and kindest way, when I'm in the wrong. Thank you for the lovely times this Christmas, the words of encouragement whenever I need them, beauty tips and eyebrow appreciation.

Cooking our first family all Vegetarian dinner was a blast!
To My Boyfriend
 Oh how you would hate this! But grimace and read on like you do with all my essay texts. So thank you for doing that every time! Of course thank you for the surprise presents and spoiling me when I really felt I didn't need deserve it and for telling me that I do. Thank you for choosing to spend your money on me, at a time you had every reason and excuse not to.
Thank you for all your patience, when I say the wrong things, get hysterical as you put up with all my forever ongoing 'problems' and 'issues' whether that be health (mental or physical), general drama or whatever else life throws at me. Thank you for listening to me whenever I have to get shit off my chest, ramble on about nothing and all those other things. Thank you for always being there for me, on the end of the phone, text message and willing to do a hell of a lot for me. And of course the biggest thank you for putting up and coping with three years of a long distance relationship, at last it's finally almost over.
Thank you for forgiving me for all my mistakes, for telling me how it is when I need to hear it and kicking my butt when I need that too. Thank you for all that you're taught me, and all you've given me over the years; the confidence, independence, self-awareness, the list goes on. Thank you for being the best boyfriend I've ever had and could ever want. 

I have quite a few more thank yous to write and to say; my flatmates, best friends, friends, my boyfriend's family... But as much as I hate to think it there's probably always going to be a thank you I'm going to forget, so one of my new goals for 2016 is to say real thank you's more often. I hope you enjoyed this little snippet into my thank you notes, as soppy and cringey as they are (something I hate being!). 

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Saying Farewell to '15

I thought about writing one of those posts that summed up everything I've accomplished this last year and all my highlights of 2015, but when I sat down and starting to really think about it I realized there was just too much for me to talk about. I've had my ups and downs like everyone does every year but this year especially I feel has been a big year that involved a lot of new experiences and personal growth. So at the end of my long and dull thought process I concluded that I just simply couldn't be bothered to write it all down, plus who would really want to listen to me getting all pretentious about what a wonderful a year I've had and how much I've improved as a person... Does the idea not make you feel a little sick? And the negative stuff? Well, I always prefer to just ignore that so I guess I'll always say I've had a great year unless there's a particularly shit December hanging over me.  No hate to anyone who writes those kind of posts, as I do genuinely enjoy reading them but it's just not for me. Plus it seemed a little irrelevant to this project as I only started blogging back at the end of August, so maybe I'll rethink that idea for 2017.

With that idea firmly planted in the waste paper basket I was left wandering what I could do to embrace the New Years theme, I feel I owe you all after my Christmas failures... So fashion or makeup looks were out the window as I've already bored you to death with wish-lists and I don't have a decent camera with me at home because I'm useless plus New Years Eve is long gone now (although I do hope to experiment with those kinda things in the future!). New Years resolutions? HA! What a joke. I'll never stick to them, in fact I've had the same one of quitting smoking for the last 3 years and evidently *puff* *puff* that hasn't even gone very well. Guess it would be pretty hypocritical of me to come up with any just for the sole purpose of a blog post. Wait a second, maybe not resolutions as such but goals? Yeah, I have a lot of them, so why not share them with you all?
Ready? Set, and of we go!

To Travel and Explore both Near and Far
I know I am not alone in this, there's a hell of a lot of us that suffer from wanderlust. In the modern day travelling seems like it should be really easy, but in reality that's seldom the case. There's a lot of bad stuff going on in the world at the moment, well there always is, but the current climate makes being a tourist pretty risky business. So I am fully aware that this is something I might have to be a ickle bit patient with. Luckily I'm not just eager to explore those exotic and tropical horizons but also those that are a lot closer to home.. well kinda. I've been at university in Cardiff for almost 3 years and there's so much of the city and it's surroundings that I've never explored. I've never even been to the annual Christmas wonderland, and as I don't intend to be living there next year probably never will. Now although I can live with that, there are other things I might not be so happy with leaving Cardiff/Wales without seeing/doing or whatever verb is appropriate to the event. So I'm going to get off my butt and instead of spending lots of lazy weekends inside watching Netflix wasting my youth, I'm going to do my utmost to get out and have little adventures whether it be Breacon Beacons, Barry Island or somewhere I'm yet to hear of, there's a lot to do. Then there's the rest of the UK. I have never been to Scotland, Ireland or any where North or further West than Cheltenham. So I plan to sort out some weekends away this year and stop making excuses for me not seeing more of the world when there's enough of it on my door step!

Ticket for one, please
This one kinda ties in a little with the one above, because although I have a fair few dear dear friends, a wonderful and supportive boyfriend and amazing family not all my interests and wants are going to overlap with theirs all the time. I am more than happy with my own company but tend to feel ashamed about going out and doing things by myself. I can't be alone in this, and it's so stupid. Why am I missing out on doing the things I want to do just because I don't always have someone who either has the same interests as me or can afford to do the things I want to do right now. I sick of waiting, and missing out on the opportunities to do things because I'm too embarrassed to go it alone. Obviously there are certain things like travelling abroad I might not want to do by myself, but if it's a day trip to Barry Island or a ticket to the theatre from now on I vow to try my utmost to be okay with flying solo.

Decide on a Career
This is a big one, and probably a pretty important thing too, although I doubt it'll ever be my priority because I suck at priorities, I mean look at me I'm writing this instead of getting stuck into my dissertation or revising for exams.. Bad move, Laura. Oh well, I'm quite comfortable with the fact that I am and will always be (because I'm too lazy to change) a human disaster. I'm 21, in my final year at uni and I still have no idea what I really want to do with my life. I have a lot of dreams, a huge number of fantasies but when that dreaded question of 'What are you going to do after Uni?' comes up I die inside. Stare blankly for a couple minutes and then might mutter something incoherent about teaching or journalism before swiftly moving the conversation on to a much less depressing topic. So  yeah, over the next year I plan to get as much experience as possible in all the fields I'm interested to and then maybe finally somehow arrive at a decision of where I want to be and where I want to go in the more immediate future.

Blogging is something still very new to me and I know that I've got a hell of a lot to learn. I'm really enjoying the whole process so far and this is something that I want to keep up and hopefully grow. At the moment, I still don't know where I'm really going with this blog, what my niche is or what kinda posts I really want to do, so please bear with my possible experiments.

This is something that's going to happen whether I like it or not, time ticks on and there's nothing we can do to stop it. It's my final year at university, and I just want to finish it off on a high. I've faced a lot in the last 2 years and to be honest there were times I didn't think I would make it this far but here I am not feeling ready to step over that finish line just yet. Guess I just got to get over that fact and hit the ground running, and hope to come out with the best possible grade I can achieve!

Go Vegan and Completely Cruelty Free
This is something I've already been working towards and am pretty much halfway there! So kinda a cheat, but I'm continuing down this path and hoping to carry on progressing. I've already talked about this quite a lot so don't want to repeat myself! (Cruelty-Free and Vegan product guide over here!)

Be Better At Looking at Myself 
I am fully aware I can be my own worst enemy sometimes, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has this tendency. I can be too hard on myself, skip meals, put myself down and put other people's needs too far in front of my own, to name a few of the things I slip up on. So one of my goals for the upcoming year is to become my own best friend, give myself that positive boost when I need it, let myself have those extra 5 minutes in bed every now and again, make sure I get that 5 a day etc etc. Because as wonderful as my family, friends and boyfriend are and as much as they look after me, they're not always going to be around, I mean I'm currently living 200 miles away from most of them most of the time. I want to be self-sufficient (probably not the best word). As happy as I am in my own company, there's some more 'me' stuff to work on - feels like it never ends, huh?

So I hope you enjoyed the little round up of some of the things I hope to accomplish over the next 12 months. If you're not aware January is a month of may campaigns such as Dry January, Veganary and Mental Wellness Month, things I aims to be addressing over the course of this month, that is between relentless revision and essay writing so look forward to a lot more from me!

Wishing everyone the best 2016! Happy belated new year.

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Saturday, 2 January 2016

Catching up with Christmas Television

'Tis the season for great telly, sha-la-la-la-la, la, la, la, la.
Oh sorry, is that not how it goes? If you follow me on Twitter you will know that I have spent my day being disgustingly lazy, which involved curling up with a hot water bottle and chocolate Santa and catching up with all the great television I've missed over the last few weeks.
Like many students, I no longer have the privilege of watching TV due to my refusal to purchase either a television or TV license, and therefore have been left to survive on only what Netflix has to offer (not that that's a bad thing). So when coming home for Christmas one of the big perks after seeing my family, not having to do my own laundry, having home cooked meals and all the other big things is being able to have a flick through the TV guide and watch anything I want. Although most of the time I visit home I'm so behind with or clueless about all the series I end up not bothering.
But not this time! Christmas means good telly, everyone knows that. So in order to be able to say I did at least one thing slightly productive today I thought I'd compile a little list of Christmas and new year telly shows that I would recommend. I'm sure there's loads of great things I've missed out or am yet to catch up on so feel free to point those out or leave any recommendations in the comments. Enjoy!

Note these come in no particular order! Click on the show title to be taken directly to the relevant iPlayer or On Demand viewer of the initial episode.

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Luther - BBC iPlayer Series 4 Episode 1 and 2

The first episode has you on the end of your seat immediately, a new series of grim and bloody murders with Luther battling with his ever present demons. If you haven't already watched the previous series you may be a little lost at first, not knowing Luther's relationships with past and present characters but I don't think that means you can't enjoy the new series. In the second episode Luther proves just how good he is, biting off a hell of a lot but never more than he can chew (look forward to some impressive metaphorical chewing!). Not only is he chasing, not that Luther ever really chases but maybe speeds up his swagger a bit, after the solutions to two mysterious crimes but also has a few assassins on his tail. As always there's the perfect balance of trouble, enigma and action.  If you're a fan of crime drama, Luther is a must! The previous series are all on Netflix (or were last time I checked) and the two latest episodes will be available to download or stream from BBC iPlayer until the 14th January and 21st January.
Although I wouldn't recommend this to the overly squeamish or faint hearted. 

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Sherlock - The Abominable Bride

The Abominal Bride was a much anticipated television release, as we're been left Sherlock-less for an entire year, and we'll be deprived again for another year. The new series won't be airing until 2017, how cruel they are to us!
Things are picked up exactly where they were left off last year, but at the end of the episode they were in pretty much in the same place. That's not to say nothing happened, on the contrary quite a lot did just not in the fictional 'real' world that our Sherlock and Watson usually inhabit in the 21st Century. Instead we witness the creepy case of the Abominable Bride as Sherlock envisions the 200 year old murders from his mind palace. It's awfully typical Holmes drama as it was before he was updated for the BBC. Some fans had a few complaints about the jumps back in time, and failure to drive the overall plot forward much but I failed to be upset by this, and didn't find the changes in time disrupting at all.
What's great about it in fact means that you can enjoy this particular episode whether you've seen the previous series or not, except that you might want to ignore all the present day snippets and mentions of Moriarty as they won't make sense at all. The previous episodes are all on Netflix too!
This special episode will available to watch online until 31st January. 

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Made in Chelsea: Christmas and New Year

Who doesn't love a bit of MiC? Okay, I guess there's actually a fair amount of people who often complain about these kinds of reality shows. But never mind, as I, for on,e am not the type to be ashamed of my tastes in, well, anything! I've never enabled a private session on Spotify in my life, so if haters gonna hate, they can carry on with it. Whether I fancy disney tunes, abit of Elvis or Parkway Drive I ain't going to feel bad about it and I sure am not going to change! In fact I shall happily admit that I can have trashy taste in TV sometimes but whatever, I'm happy doing me.
Made in Chelsea was filled with drama for the festive season, whether it be backstabbing and bitching, relationship dramas or outfit inspo to die for it's all covered! With just the right about of class. Champers all round, me thinks.

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Mrs Brown's Boys: Christmas and New Years Special

Watching Mrs Brown's Boys on Christmas and New Year's Day is a must in my house. It's a classic! If you haven't seen it before you have been missing you for too long and need to change that fact. If you're in need of a giggle what with the January blues potentially setting in you can find both episodes on BBC iPlayer  until 29th January and 31st January.

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Snow Wolf Family and Me

Shortly after Christmas I was brought to tears by this two part documentary which shows the incredibly hard lives of a family of snow wolves. There are stunning shots of these magnificent animals, as one wildlife cameraman begins his journey living next to and following the small pack. These beautiful yet incredibly dangerous creatures appear to build a relationship with him; it's rather endearing to watch as each member of the pack becomes more confident and comfortable in front of the camera, letting their personalities show. I would recommend Snow Wolf Family and Me to anyone, even if you're not typically a fan of wildlife shows as it is a truly heart-warming, wonderfully entertaining and informative show, portraying the kind of experience I yearn for!
Both episodes available until 23rd January.

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And Then There Were None

Gorgeous actors (including our recognisable Poldark - it's worth watching just for the topless shots), gorgeous fashion, gorgeous art deco furnishings and murder. Of course I was completely taken with this mini series. Based on Agatha Christie's novel, this crime thriller is definitely a must watch!

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Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special

Last but not least is Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special, something I wouldn't have expected to be adding. I have never watched it before, but at my mom's request, or demand rather, we all watched the Christmas special and funnily enough I really enjoyed it! The dances were all great and very entertaining, however some of the attempts at humour by the hosts fell flat.
The costumes and make up were spectacular and I completely agreed with the audience's chosen champion. It'll make you want to dance or at least get lessons, speaking of which where do I sign up!? You can watch this until the 24th January!