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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, searching for pure happiness & joy

August 15, 2018

Book Club No.16

Welcome back to another Book Club gang! I've been really into reading lately - more so than normal - so I'm finding that I've been ploughing my way through books quite quickly which is great news for a) my brain and b) for reviews for NB. So here's some good reads I've picked up recently and finished with mixed feelings:

Born Scared by Kevin Brooks
Another classic "I picked this up on a whim" book of mine, Bored Scared sucked me in via the blurb and the thinness of the book itself. Although I really love reading, I'm a very slow reader so books that are on the thinner side sometimes appeal to me as it leaves less opportunity for me to get bored of the story. It also makes it a great option to take with me on my commute to work. So once I'd picked it up and felt the thinness, reading the blurb confirmed my purchase. Born Scared is about a young man/teen who is scared of everything. Elliot lives with his mum and is scared to leave the safety of his room, only usually going to see his "aunt" with his mum and that's it. He's home schooled, takes a lot of medication to try and deal with his fears, and was one of two in the womb and feels that a lot of issues stem from that.

On Christmas Eve, Elliot's mum nips out for 10 minutes to get his medication for him as his pills have almost ran out. She should be only 10 minutes because she's just popping to Elliot's "aunt's" house to pick up the pills which is a mere 400 metres away except, she doesn't come back. She doesn't answer her phone. There's a snowstorm outside and the landline telephone won't work either. Elliot realises he has no choice but to leave the safety net of his home and with the support of his imaginary friend (his deceased twin sister), he braves the great outdoors. I quite enjoyed reading Born Scared because Brooks has a great easy-reading writing style. He did a great job at presenting Elliot's acute fear of almost everything in a way that was easy to understand without him over explaining how Elliot felt or how he processed his fears. The book focused on the right areas and gave Elliot's character a lot of depth whilst leaving the other characters with the bare basic information the reader needed and I feel like that really worked.

In true Amyleigh style, I won't say too much about the plot itself as it will ruin the story, but there wasn't really any twists or surprises but that didn't dampen the story or drama at all. I do feel that the story wasn't totally believable towards the end as I feel that the way Elliot was portrayed would have meant he wouldn't have acted the way he did towards the end, but I can forgive Brooks for that as it was still a quick, enjoyable read. Brooks gives a believable and educational insight into mental health and even if it's not relatable for the reader, you can at least understand and learn more about Elliot's mental health and that's an aspect of this book that I think makes it well worth a read. You can grab a copy of Born Scared for around £7.74 here.

Ink by Alice Broadway
Ahh, this one's going to be a long one gang so strap yourselves in! Ink is a book I've wanted to read for ages purely down to the beautiful cover catching my eye many times in different bookstores, but I finally caved and picked up a copy after getting it for a bargain in a local shop. As soon as I shared that I was reading this one on my Instagram and Goodreads, people wanted to know my thoughts ASAP and after seeing the very varied reviews on Goodreads of this guy, I can see why. Ink is about a young girl 16 year old called Leora who lives in Sainstone with her mum and dad. She's finishing school, doing her exams to determine her future career, has a best friend called Verity, and is just your typical teenage girl who is portrayed as quite quiet and bookish. She dreams of becoming an inker as in Leora's society, tattoos play a big part of people's lives. Everyone is covered in tattoos from pretty much the day of birth and they symbolise all the different parts of your life (e.g. everyone has family trees on their backs, you have age lines/dots on one of your arms etc.). Once you leave school and your career is chosen, you can begin to get your own chosen marks too but these will also determine how people read you.

As tattoos are so important in this society, when someone dies the skin is flayed from the individual to create a skin book. This book is then taken to trial and it is decided whether or not the individual lived a good life or not, determined a great deal by their marks/tattoos. If they lived a good life, the book can go home with the family for them to keep, if not, it will be burned and the individual will be forgotten. Society share folklore and fairytale stories about the White Witch and her sister, Moriah, to scare the community away from blanks. As you can guess, blanks are people who choose to not get their life story tattooed on their skin so they can't be read and have been shunned from the town/community. They're seen as disgusting and the White Witch is the horror pinnacle of them all. Leora is like everyone else in Sainstone and shares the negative view of the blanks but after her dad's death and as she starts her job as an inker, her life begins to crumble and drastically change in ways she never would have expected.

I have such mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand I really enjoyed it because its YA dystopian fiction and I'm all for that genre. I also thought the idea of your actions in your life being documented on your skin so you can't escape from your mistakes etc. really intriguing but of course, there's a bit of a massive "but" coming your way. Although I was a fan of the general premise of the book, I sometimes struggled with Broadway trying to be a 16 year old main character. The way Leora is portrayed at times reads like an adult pretending to get into the mind of a 16 year old. I know that is somewhat unavoidable but it meant that I kept getting distracted by how un-16-like Leora was and it took away some of the magic and believability of the story (lets just pretend that's a word, okay?). Another thing that was a bit of a let down for me was the fact that inking is a job role as initially, I thought the story implied that marks/tattoos appeared on your skin at will - so for example if you stole something, a mark would appear to show that - but unfortunately it's just a case of people going to see either a government inker or their own choice of one depending on what mark they are receiving.

I did enjoy the majority of the characters and I do think Broadway did a great job of making each character unique without over describing their personalities/looks and that is always something I bang on about as super important to me in a read. The one last gripe I have with the book is I feel that for 3/4 of the story, not a lot happened and then suddenly the gritty bits were stuffed into the back pages as if Broadway had ran out of a limited page count. I know from other reviews people found the story a thrill ride from start to finish, but I found it a bit predictable up until the last couple of chapters. That's not to say I found the story boring as I still happily read through it each day, but it wasn't as thrilling as I was expecting. That being said, I will definitely pick up the next book in the series as I'm intrigued to see what happens after the cliffhanger this one was left on (more so because the cliffhanger was so obvious in a "har har you have to buy the next book suckers!" kind of way). Ink is available right now on Amazon for just £2!

The Beauty by Jeremy Haun & Jason A. Hurley
Last up for this Book Club is The Beauty - the first volume in the series from Image Comics. I've mentioned before how much I enjoy reading Image Comics and The Beauty has been on my radar for a long ol' time. The general plot for this series is "The Beauty" is an STD that people are actually wanting to contract. If your hair is thinning, you're getting out of shape, your wrinkles are starting to show - The Beauty will fix it all and make you exactly what it says on the tin: beautiful. It's no surprise that the outbreak of this STD has gained a lot of fans and that people are going out of their way to catch it, but when individuals with the disease start to spontaneously combust and burn from the inside out, it becomes clear to the police and mayor that there's more to this STD than meets the eye.

The story mostly follows two detectives who are trying to understand what is going on and most importantly, how to stop more people from dying as so many people have the disease, there's going to a worldwide epidemic and mass death if they don't figure out how to stop it or cure it. I've really enjoyed this first volume as it gets straight into the action after the first couple of pages and the characters are standard "comic book" characters thus far and that's familiar and enjoyable for me. I also like the fact that the further you delve into The Beauty, the more politics and fragmented societal groups are mentioned and brought into the story and that's always an element I enjoy in fiction too. The art style in this graphic novel is fab too and I'm already looking forward to picking up Volume 2. If you're new to graphic novels or you get put off reading things that are way out there and "too fantasy/sci-fi" etc. definitely consider giving this one a go. Pick up a £8.50 copy here

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August 11, 2018

Books to Read for True Crime Fans

Just in case you weren't already aware, I have a bit of a soft spot for true crime and serial killers. "Soft spot" is probably a phrase in bad taste, but I am fascinated with true crime and serial killer history and life stories so it should be no surprise that I've read my fair share of serial killer-related texts in my time and will continue to.

One thing I enjoyed about introducing this interest of mine into my blog earlier this year, was the conversations it started with all you guys - it turns out I am amongst friends when it comes to enjoying these darker topics! With that being said, I spoke to a few people who found the whole topic of serial killers in particular very interesting but just didn't know where to start with learning more about famous killers etc. because let's face it: it's a big ol' subject with a lot of information overload. So I thought I'd compile a wee list of some of the best non-fiction (and kind of fiction, but we'll get into that!) to read if you've recently discovered an underlying interest in serial killers and/or true crime or you're a seasoned expert on the topic and would just like to know which reads are the best to have in your collection.

Talking with Psychopaths and Savages by Christopher Berry-Dee
Having reviewed this book before for NB, I won't discuss the ins-and-outs of it too much here, but I feel like Christopher Berry-Dee is a great author to have in your serial killer/true crime book collection for a number of reasons. One thing I enjoy is Berry-Dee's easy-reading style of writing. You can pick and drop off the book whenever you feel like it and not lose your place or the flow of the content at all. He also talks about the individuals included in his work in such a personal way because he has met them, confronted them, and got to know each one on a personal level due to his criminologist career.

If you want to get an idea of what it's like speaking to serial killers first hand, Berry-Dee is your man. I particularly like this book of his the most as it explores a variety of criminals and Berry-Dee explains why some can be seen as "one time" people and why others will repeatedly reoffend again and again. It's a great introductory book to learn about killer motives, logic, IQs and psychological backgrounds as well as getting know some of the lesser known/talked about serial killers. This book seems to get a bad rep because of Berry-Dee's constant name-dropping of himself and the terrible editing, but if you can get past that, it gives you a wide variety of true crime topics so it's fab for newbies to this genre/topic. It's an absolute steal at £3 to buy, here

Mind Hunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
Although there's a lot of non-fiction books out there that talk at great length about one particular killer and their backstory, there's also quite a few books that bunch a lot of famous killers together. This book however really gets down to the nitty gritty and is a fantastic look at what it's like to deal with serial killers and true crime on the front line so to speak. This book is a NY Times bestseller and it's easy to see why as John Douglas, one of the most famous criminal profilers in the world, talks in detail about how does his job. Douglas shares first-hand accounts of how he tackles case files for the FBI as a special agent and it's *so* eye opening to the "behind the scenes" of true crime activity. You might recognise the name of this book as it's the inspiration behind the very popular Netflix series so if you've watched that and loved it, go back to the OG and give this a read. Mindhunter is £7.19 to buy here

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
Next up I have to mention this book that fits into my aforementioned "kind of fiction" category. Recently the Jeffrey Dahmer movie came out and seemed to be popular with critics and those interested in serial killers alike and this is a great accompaniment for the film but the joy about this book is it's a graphic novel. I've talked at great length about my love for comics and graphic novels before so naturally, I thought this book was amazing when I got my hands on it. I always feel that graphic novels do a great job of really creating an image in your mind of the plot/scenarios etc. because of the illustrations used and the limited writing and this one is no different.

My Friend Dahmer is written by a classmate of Dahmer's and its really insightful into what sort of an individual Dahmer was growing up as a vulnerable teen, susceptible to things going on around him that could have influenced aspects of his adulthood. Pick up My Friend Dahmer for £11.99 here

Murder in Mississippi by John Safran
Okay so I know y'all are here for the serial killer sort of content but this book will blow your socks off even with it's single killer/murder story. John Safran is a controversial Australian journalist (think our beloved Louis Theroux but, well, Australian) who interviewed one of Mississippi's most notorious white supremacists back in 2009. After finding out he had been murdered, Safran flew back to Mississippi to talk with the killer.

The reason this book is *so good* is because the story goes extremely deep with many twists and turns, so many quirky characters and drama that it's almost unreal that it's a true story. Safran's writing style is extremely enjoyable to read and he somehow gets a lot of humour into this piece of work which makes it even more of a thrill ride to flick through. For £9.99, you can get a copy here

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry
Another book I've reviewed on NB before, but one I couldn't possibly miss out of this post. Helter Skelter is the number one bestselling true crime book in publishing history and ya girl ain't surprised as it's a fantastic in-depth read. The book details the "true events" of the Manson Family - possibly one of the most well known names in true crime history. Manson himself read this book and critiqued it, and Bugliosi has come under fire from some critics for sharing his opinion amongst the cold hard facts throughout the pages, but you just have to pick it up if you haven't already.

Manson died earlier this year and his death seemed to reignite conversation around his involvement in the murders, the cult he led, and just everything surrounding the Manson cases. If you want to know the ins and outs of one of the most famous cases in true crime history but also be entertained by an extremely good writer, this is the one for you. To add this must-need book to your collection, grab it for £7.99 here

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
Another book a little like My Friend Dahmer, The Stranger Beside Me is about a well known serial killer from the voice of someone who knew them in real life. The Stranger Beside me is about the notorious Ted Bundy but from the point-of-view of one of his former co-workers, Ann Rule, who writes about the sort of person Bundy was - surprisingly, not the cold-blooded killer you would be able to just identify off the bat. Rule writes so much detail and gets down on a really personal level that makes it impossible to put this true crime book down. If Bundy is someone who fascinates you and/or you're keen to see the biopic Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, this is a good appetiser for the movie's release and a great insight into the sort of man Bundy was behind the murders. Grab a copy of £8.95 here

Devil's Knot by Mara Leveritt
The last book I'm going to mention is possibly the greatest choice for you fans out there of the hit Netflix series, Making a Murderer. Devil's Knot follows the story of three men: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, who were more commonly known as the West Memphis Three and blamed for the murder of three eight-year-old boys. In 2011, they were released from prison after it was concluded that the 18 years they had spent behind bars, Echols on death row, was a great miscarriage of justice and in fact these teenagers at the time were wrongfully imprisoned and were innocent.

This case was so controversial from start to finish as there were huge pot holes in the investigation, the teens at the time just seemed to be randomly targeted and accused of being members of a satanic cult, as well as much much more. Leveritt manages to condense down all the dark aspects of this case and squeeze them into this page-turner that you honestly need to get your hands on. Reading this makes you literally say out loud "how TF did this happen?!" and is bound to outrage you but in the best way. Devil's Knot is available from £5.99 here

There's *so* many great reads in the true crime category that to be honest, you can pick up a vast majority of non-fiction books and get an exciting insight into various crimes, particularly serial killer stories, but of course there can be just as many misses compared to hits. These are some personal favourites that I would recommend for very different reasons but if you're new to true crime reading or you need some new reads that might have slipped under your radar, hopefully I've added to your "to-read" pile!

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August 02, 2018

A Letter to My Body

"My body lets me down, betrays the real me to everyone watching - the me who is not the right kind of anything. It doesn't matter though. I'll cover this skin with new shades of black and grey; I'll become someone new. Through blood and pain and ink I can be remade. I have more to tell than this."
- Ink, Alice Broadway

Those words in one of my most recent reads resonated with me instantly. One part of me read it in a mocking tone - "who's this super-serious killjoy?" - but the other part of me, the part that the words struck a thousand cords with, that part of me related on so many levels. You see, body, me and you haven't really got along ever have we?

Loving your skin, your body, the fibres that make you *you* is something I always preach about and promote, but both you (body) and I know, I just don't practice what I preach: I don't really show you that love you deserve. So let me start by saying sorry for not always seeing your perfectly acceptable size 6/8 cusp body in a positive light in the mirror. Often seeing a grotesquely disproportioned individual staring back at me with a multitude of flaws has led me to neglect you, to not care for you and fail to nurture you, and to simply lock you away from view at times. I have and still continue to compare you to every other body I see - bodies that pass me on the street, bodies that grace my TV screen and social media feeds - I'm working on this, I promise, and I've come a long way but we've got just as much of a long way to go together.

These track marks across my thighs are normal. "Everyone has them" echoes from every body-positive person yet I feel so disappointed with them. They're signs of my growth. They're signs of my adulthood and my visible timeline of becoming a fully-grown woman. But I just can't love you. I can't parade you around with confidence and unshakeable self-assurance like some others can. I can't love your mismatched nostrils. I can't love your crooked teeth. I can't love your polka-straight thin hair. Flaws. That's what I'd describe many aspects of you as but there's a golden saying about "what you see as your flaws, others see as your best parts that make you unique" and maybe I need to start using that as a mantra for us to follow. I'm trying my best to tell myself that if all I see is flaws, that means that's all I'm actively looking for. If all I'm ever doing is actively looking for your flaws, I can never hope to praise you in ny sort of way because the flaws will blind me to any potential beauty - no matter how small or insignificant in my judgemental eyes.

Smothering and suffocating you under layers and layers of fabric in the hopes that you'll run out of breath and morph into something new like some real-time reincarnation has been an attempt to "fix" you in the past. Just as wearing very little in the hopes that someone else will compliment you because I can't has also been a failed attempt at some point in our journey. Right now though, I'm learning. Tolerance is a beautiful word and it encompasses a lot of what we share together. So for now, I tolerate your lumps and bumps. I tolerate your stubborn "pooch" on our tummy that won't disappear no matter how hard I wish and try to work it away. I tolerate your bright and dark veins that have the ability to make my porcelain skin look sore, bruised and award me with the "are you okay? You look really tired" comments from others. I tolerate your pain. I tolerate you not always working properly the way you were designed to. I tolerate your acne (but only just).

"I look at the stretch marks across my hips and the paleness of my skin. I get tired of the people who tell me how refined it is to be pale, how lucky I am. I'm not the right kind of pale - there's no alabaster beauty about me. I'm more of a dull grey. I'm not the right kind of anything. My breasts are too small for me to be curvy; and I'm sure my bum is too big for me to be slim. My face is too quirky to be pretty and too plain to be striking. My hair is too straight to be curly and too wavy to be straight, and no matter how many times I say I'll grow it long I always get bored and chop it short again. I know for a fact that no one has ever chosen to dye their hair the colour mine is: no one asks for mousey brown.

I do quite like my blue eyes, but whatever it takes to be beautiful I certainly don't have it. I see the purple lines clawing their way down my breast and feel ashamed. I notice a new stretch mark and try to rub it away. Surely it's not fair to have stretch marks on practically non-existent boobs? Where is the justice in that?" - Ink, Alice Broadway

We're not always going to be the best of friends and we're not always going to see eye to eye, but there are some promises I want to make and assure I keep from now on. The older I get, the more I realise there's no point in fighting you. There's no gain in hiding you away like a dirty secret and there's no sense in always seeing you as a hindrance. Tolerating you has been the first step but I promise to celebrate you in the future. It won't be all of the time and it won't be filled with love and overflowing praise and positivity, but if I make a slightly sarcastic comment with a sprinkling of "I guess me and my body don't look totally horrendous today", please know that that's me saying thank you to you, body. Thank you for being mine. Thank you for getting me from A to B. Thanks for putting up with the bullying, the put-downs, and the rare compliments I bat away from others about you. I promise I'm going to start accepting them with a big "thank you" and letting you blossom from them.

We've still got a whole lot of time to grow together so I promise to feed you full of nutrition, encouragement, tolerance, and one day, one day we'll get to "love".

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July 23, 2018

CF Face Masks for Every Face and Feeling

Hey folks, today I'm coming at you all with a classic beauty post because other than the odd brand review here and there, I haven't posted much in this category for a wee while. That's because I've kind of been experimenting with switching up my skincare, but also wanting to test things out for long enough that I can post about an effective updated skincare routine for you all - but enough of that because that's not what this post is about.

I've always been a fan of a good face mask and find them to be really effective when your skin most needs a pick-me-up, but I also just like to use them as a self-care item too. I'm someone who kind of forgets to look after themselves from time to time and even if it's just a 5 minute face mask I remember to do, I feel a bit more pampered and a bit more like I've got my shit together. As I've been using face masks more and more frequently during each week and have reaped the benefits of listening to my skin's needs and injecting a face mask into my evening routine each time in response, I feel like I've tried and tested a great number of masks that help with every skin need. So here's a definitive list of my favourite face masks which are cruelty free, effective, and help out my skin with every condition it ends up in:

Hydration and Softness for Dry Skin
Nip + Fab Kale Fix Clay Mask | 50ml | £5 - £12.95 - Dry skin is something I'm battling with more and more as I get older and this mask works actual wonders when I need it. It's a really gentle mask that I find very refreshing to use and tend to use on a lazy weekend morning if I feel I need it or simply when my skin is feel dry or dehydrated. If you're someone who suffers from dry flaky skin due to eczema or after a bad acne break out, or simply just dry skin in general, this mask helps soften up the skin so it feels baby soft and really soothes raw broken skin and minimises flakes instantly. (It's currently half price on the Nip + Fab website!)

Oh K! Sleep Mask | 20ml | ~£7.50 - Okay so I've talked about this mask before (here and here) because I've bloody loved it for a long while and could sing it's praises for days but I'll keep this short and sweet. This sachet is supposed to last you 5-6 uses but I find this can last me up to 20 and I don't know if that's because I don't apply enough or if I just have tiny face, but either way, it's a great buy. It's a very very gentle and light mask that you apply before bed which is incredibly nourishing and leaves the skin the next morning feeling buttery soft but never greasy or weighed down. I also find this mask to be very soothing to break outs and again, can work wonders on flaky broken skin. It also smells amazing.

Stabilising Excess Oils for Oily Skin
Liz Earle Deep Cleansing Mask | 75ml | £18.0o - I've always been a fan of Liz Earle products since I was a little girl and used to use them at my grandma's each weekend, but now as an adult, there's some particular products I will always go back to and this is certainly one of them. The Deep Cleansing Mask has ingredients such as green clay, manuka honey, and aloe vera so it is also a very purifying mask if you have problem skin. The green clay and manuka honey work wonders on excess oil and sebum and help mattify the skin without making it tight or dehydrated. I like to use this mask when my skin is oily but also sometimes when I've had a break out as the manuka honey and green clay really help out any pimples with either drying out and healing up, or just soothing them in general.

Mask of Magnaminty | 125g - 60og | £9.95 - £19.95 - When it comes to stablising and mattifying oily skin, it's been years since I've used super harsh and drying face masks because frankly, they do much more harm than good for oily skin and that's why Lush's Mask of Magnaminty is a firm favourite in this department for me. This mask tends to be advertised as something that brightens and gives your skin some glow, but I find it is excellent for excess oil too. Whenever my skin is becoming too oily from anything from shitty diet choices recently or from hot weather, using this mask always helps control it and neutralise my skin but it also cools it with ease due to the peppermint oils in the ingredients. I like to use this mask where I get most oily (T-zone, especially around my nose and also my chin) and always notice a huge difference the following day with how long my face manages to remain looking healthy but shine-free.

Detoxifying and Cleansing for Impurities
The Body Shop Japanese Matcha Tea Pollution Clearing Mask | 75ml | £17.0o - This 10o% vegan mask is a firm staple in my face mask collection and one I reach for at least once a week. The Body Shop Matcha Tea mask aims to rid skin of congestion and pollution and purifying it once more. Something I've looked more an more into recently is the effect the world around us can have on our skin and thus, I've become pretty interested in how pollution can effect the skin particularly. This mask has no nasties added but includes nourishing products such as matcha tea, dandelion extract, and aloe vera which are gentle but extremely effective. The mask itself is very cooling so it's nice to use either mid-week or at the end of a busy week to feel rejuvenated. When you rinse your face, the mask also gently exfoliates the skin making it feel softer, look more radiant and most importantly, it looks and feels clean and fresh with no impurities in sight!

Sukin Super Greens Detoxifying Masque | 10oml | £11.95 - A mask that recently came into my life and has shook it ever since is the Sukin Detoxifying mask. This mask is from the Sukin Super Greens range which is a range I really enjoy using because it's effective, has great natural ingredients, and you can really notice a difference in your skin with consistent use. This mask is my go-to when a bad break out is brewing and I want to speed things along. Unlike the Matcha Tea mask from The Body Shop which detoxifies what is already happening to the skin, this Sukin mask is perfect for bringing underlying skin issues to the surface. This helps decongest the skin but also helps draw out impurities such as acne so your pores appear cleaner, clearer, and smoother. This is a great one to reach for if you know you have an important date or event in a week's time but your skin is causing issues as it will hurry things along so your skin has longer to heal.

Glowing and Radiance for Tired or Lack-lustre Skin
The Body Shop Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask | 75ml | £17.0o - Although this mask is another great option for purifying the skin and getting rid of the grime of everyday life, I personally love this one for getting my glow on. 10O% vegan with great ingredients such as bamboo charcoal, tea tree oil, and green tea leaves, this mask really helps give the skin a healthy, well-looked-after look but honestly, gang, it's the glow this creates that's the show stopper for me. This mask tingles on the skin and is a quite a traditional clay mask in the fact that it can feel quite tightening on the skin and can be a bit of a nightmare to wash off but it is *so* worth it. If I use this mask even just once a week or every 2 weeks, I can see a considerable difference in how fresh-faced and radiant my skin looks. It exfoliates, it doesn't dry out the skin yet also doesn't over hydrate, and it works some sort of witchcraft on minimising the pores.

Superdrug Vitamin C Orange Peel Jam Mask | 50ml | £4.99 - If you want something that's more gentle on the skin but that can give you some exfoliation and noticeable glow, I highly recommend the Vitamin C Jam mask from Superdrug. I remember picking this mask up on a whim months ago and it's been a repurchase item for me ever since. This super sticky but very effective mask is something I tend to pop on every Saturday morning whilst I have my morning cuppa. It's a very zesty and fruity mask so it's very uplifting for the scent senses but it also really works wonders on the skin. With orange peel, kakadu plum extract, and goji berry extract as some of its main ingredients, this mask gets you looking like you've spent some healthy hours in the sun and gives you a glow from within. As it is a sticky jam-like consistency, it doesn't dry down and I find that to be very nourishing if my skin is feeling slightly dehydrated too. The mask also includes simple sugar for gentle but effective exfoliation and it melts away as soon as you wash your face.

Clear and Happy Skin for Acne and Blemishes
The Body Shop Tea Tree Anti-Imperfection Night Mask | 75ml | £12.0o - Nowadays I don't worry too much about my acne and trying to control it, but if I'm having a particularly bad break out that just needs to be soothed and reduced, I will always choose this mask. Packed full of tea tree oil and salicylic acid, this mask is a great leave-on option that will reduce redness, soreness, and bumps overnight but if oil is something that is a struggle for you too, this will help control excess sebum too. I obviously pop this on before bed whenever I feel I need it instead of my usual evening skincare and apply a generous amount. The mask is a very cooling gel which feels so good on the skin- especially when you have angry spots! This mask always helps to get the ball rolling when I need to sort out my acne and I will always have it at hand for emergencies.

Lush Brazened Honey Fresh Face Mask | 75g | £7.50 - When people think of Lush face masks that will help with acne-prone skin, most folk would suggest Cosmetic Warrior to tackle the problem and whilst I do like that mask, I think Brazened Honey is the true winner for this skin need. This mask has so many great products in it from ginger root, to fennel, to lime juice and cloves, to honey - all products which help to do a number of good things from cleansing, to being anti-septic, to moisturising! I find this mask is great all-round for any sort of skin pick-me-up but I find it particularly effective on any blemishes I have. If I'm having a hormonal break out, I like to smooth this mask over my face and let it gently warm the skin. It dulls inflammation with just one use and spot size always appears reduced in size and pain whenever I use Brazened Honey.

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July 08, 2018

Sustainable Sundays: Thrifting & Slow Fashion Online

It's been a few months now since pledging to spend a lot less on fast fashion, and in that time I've purchased some of my absolute favourite items in my wardrobe currently and also - at risk of tooting my own horn - gotten pretty good at sourcing stuff I like. Charity shops and vintage stores in the UK will *always* be where I point anyone to if they want to buy more slow fashion pieces and help recycle old items (as well as you know, help charities by spending your money in their stores - check out this post all about it), but sometimes it's not feasible to visit an actual store or if like me, you really enjoy online shopping and not so much in-store because ugh, people.

Therefore I thought I'd put together this post, detailing what apps, stores, and tips I use when shopping online that help me keep to my ethic of only purchasing slow or sustainable fashion, and hopefully you can pick up some ideas or feel inspired to make the same pledge!

Have a list of things you're looking for
Just like any old online shopping, it can overwhelming and daunting having so much choice out there so having a curated list of items you're looking for is the best way to go about finding a gem. If I'm looking out for a particular item and I know it might be difficult to pinpoint in a charity shop, I always turn to certain websites that I know will have a selection at my fingertips. Just as I said in my last fashion-related Sustainable Sundays post, having this list not only makes it easier for you to find what you're looking for, but it also stops you from potentially getting side-tracked and purchasing things you don't need.

Have a rough limit to your spending per item
Another point I made in my last post covering thrifting/second-hand shopping but of course transfers over to online shopping in knowing your budget. Of course shopping second hand/thrifting clothing can be much cheaper than shopping items brand new, but it can also occasionally be drastically overpriced. Keeping in mind a limit to what you want to spend on each item can be a good habit to get into to avoid over spending. Typically speaking, I think anything over £30 is a lot for new clothes so it is certainly my limit for second hand. There have only been a couple of times when I've went over this price and that has been to buy coats or originally very expensive footwear. If you see something you really have fallen in love with but it's out of your price range, try justifying it to yourself but always look elsewhere. As lots of items such as Levis and Harley Davidson tees have become hugely popular, these are often sold for extortionate prices and were probably picked up charity shops a bargain price to begin with.

Don't overlook certain sites
When people think shopping second-hand fashion, they instantly think of eBay and Depop. I like using both of these sites/apps but they're not the only options out there. I typically search eBay first then a plethora of other sites/apps if I can't find what I'm looking for. If I'm looking for straight up just second-hand pieces, I will typically check Depop, Vinted (an app similar to Depop and one I used to prefer & use regularly! You can swap items on this one too rather than buy), and Oxfam's online shop. If I'm looking for vintage items though or want a selection of more curated, possibly more suited to my taste or what I'm looking for items, my next stops are Etsy, Asos Marketplace, Rebelle (for second-hand designer items), Rokit, and Beyond Retro.

Here's some more shops I'd recommend checking out:
- Loot: great for second-hand items that are reworked to fit current trends, styles, and cuts
- Brag Vintage: a reasonably priced store that always has a good range of items in (particularly coats!)
- True Vintage: a go-to for sportswear or more casual items
- The Stellar Boutique: vintage gems with a more bohemian feel
- It's Vintage Darling: if vintage handbags are your thing or you need a vintage wedding dress, this is the store for you
- Waiste Vintage: the only store you need for those 70s vibes

Know your measurements
One of the biggest downsides to buying secondhand online is obviously not having the opportunity to try things on. Therefore, it's worth knowing what your exact measurements are so you have every possible chance of only making good purchases. Of course, depending on what kind of items you're buying, you can be a little lenient with sizing (e.g. if you're after an oversized shirt), but knowing your measurements just makes shopping so much easier. Most secondhand sellers and sites will list the exact measurements of items because vintage clothing in particular is often very different to contemporary clothing - for example, a ladies vintage size 10 is often much smaller fitting than a modern-day size 10 - so always check these and if a seller has stated that a sizing is off, believe them! Items such as vintage Levis are usually not accurate and the waist size can be much smaller than what is listed on the tag. As I mentioned in my last sustainable/slow fashion shopping post, you always have the option of having items altered, but you play a bigger risk with buying items you've not physically seen "in the flesh".

Don't be afraid to haggle
Although some folk can be extremely cheeky on Depop/eBay etc. and want to purchase items for essentially negative money, don't shy away from offering lower prices to sellers for items you're interested in. As vintage and second hand clothing has gained so much popularity over the past few years, it does unfortunately mean that many sellers and stores have inflated their prices to make ridiculous profit so don't shy away from asking them to reduce their asking prices where possible. You know your spending limit but you also may know which items are worth what so don't be afraid to make a seller aware of that and politely offer a lower amount. Many times I've offered lower prices on eBay/Depop and been pleasantly surprised to see the seller accept because they simply want to get rid of the item in question because let's face it - you won't get if you won't ask!

Buy with certainty and confidence in your purchase
The last point might be common sense to some, but make sure you really want the item you're buying because secondhand shopping online can become a slippery slope of wasted money if you take the same consumerist mentality as you might with hauling clothing on fast fashion sites but you can't return vintage/secondhand items so easily the majority of the time. If you're certain you want an item, double check with the seller the condition of the item too. Of course items might not be in perfect condition, but asking sellers to be completely transparent about the condition of items isn't rude or unjust. I've made a couple of regrettable purchases in the past from reputable secondhand stores via Asos Marketplace or Depop purely because they've not mentioned all of the defects or shown them clearly in the photography. They will have mentioned in a wishy-washy way that the item isn't perfect due to age and use, but won't have stated that big stripe of paint on the back of it - you see where I'm going with this? By asking you might get a more straight-forward clear answer and if you're really unhappy with an item and feel the seller hasn't told you enough about the condition before your purchase, you will have conversation evidence which can help you claim a refund as the condition wasn't declared/wasn't truly stated. Cover yourself and your purchases always!

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July 02, 2018

Embracing my Non-Existent Style & the Confidence that Comes with it

Ah, blogging. How I love and loathe thee for immersing me in the world of fashion; for making me find great styles and trends that I fall in love with, but for also changing overnight and making me feel self-conscious and like I'm always one step behind. Fashion has always been something I've been incredibly interested in since a young age. At secondary school going through my GCSEs, I was convinced I was going to study fashion design at university one day and the ultimate dream was to become as fantastically eclectic and grand as the queen Vivienne Westwood. I would create my own "collections" by drawing and painting various outfits, even detailing the material choices, and I even attended taster weekend courses at Northumbria University (and was pretty good at it too!). Somehow along the way I lost confidence with the idea of me pursuing a fashion-focused career and it became just something I was interested in. My mam has always been a big supporter in the "wear what you want and experiment with your style" mindset and although I think back on past outfits and cringe, I'm so pleased I was brought up with that openness and acceptance. That might sound very OTT when we're "just talking about clothes" but personal style and wearing what you want is so much more than that. It's a simple way of expressing yourself. It's an opportunity to feel the most confident in your own skin. For some, it's even the chance to pretend they're someone else. It can be a coping mechanism for many but by equal measure, it can be something people hate because of the pressures on presenting yourself well and fitting in with the status-quo. It can all be a bit of a mess to be honest.

Growing up for me was great because my mam was very open for me to wear what I wanted which was lucky for me really - I was a MySpace generation scene kid through and through so you can imagine how many pairs of stripey elbow-length gloves I owned that I would pair with clashing neon fish net tights and band tees. Back then I dressed like that because it was what was expected of my music taste - how else would someone know I listened to Alexisonfire and The Devil Wears Prada on repeat if I didn't literally wear it all on my sleeve?! As I got older, I realised that dressing to your music taste doesn't need to be a hard and fast rule and I started to dress more girly, more "boho", but also realised that actually? I don't have a set style. Not having a set style has honestly worried me for years. I, again, feel incredibly dramatic typing that but it's true - it seemed like as soon as everyone started moving into their 20s, they all knew exactly what clothes they liked, what suited them, and that was that. I was somehow steamrolling my way through Primark picking up a bit of everything then throwing it all on together like Joey when he wears all of Chandler's clothes in Friends.

(wearing: Asos Fedora Hat [old], Abercrombie & Fitch Dress via my local Hospice Charity Shop, Swedish Hasbeens Clogs)

Looking back on all those years of worry and experimentation, I don't regret any of the "stages" I went through but I do regret the pressure I put on myself to find a style and stick to it. Growing up in the peak of social media, it seems that many of us feel that we're under a watchful eye and therefore have an unreasonable and sometimes not even real expectation to live up to. I'm sure you've seen some of your favourite bloggers and YouTubers come under fire from people about this that will point out how their style has changed over the years as if it's some sort of crime and frankly, it's ridiculous. Fashion is there to enjoy and if you want to wear the same hoodie and jeans from the age of 15 until your 87, you do it. If you want to dress like a "girly girl" one day and then wear the whole Topman catalogue the next day and alternate from now until the end of time, do it. Your personal style might well be an outlet of expression, but it shouldn't define you and it certainly shouldn't pigeon-hole you and take the enjoyment out of getting dressed each day.

Now that I'm 27 (fuck me, I know) and now switched to slow fashion second-hand or sustainable shopping only for most of my wardrobe, it's given me a chance to step back and recognise a few things. It's okay that I don't have a set style. Even recently I've tried to narrow down my fashion choices and selections in an attempt to streamline my wardrobe but you know what? I just can't always do it. Sometimes I just reach for things that are out of my comfort zone. As I've already said, fashion and clothing in general is there for us to consume and enjoy and putting a label on myself takes the fun out of that for me. Don't get me wrong, I know fine well that if you saw me on most days I'd be wearing a Breton stripe top, a pair of high-rise blue skinny jeans and a pair of clogs, but I also know that some days I might be dressed in a maxi dress to rival those of Free People and then others I'll look like I've stepped straight out of a Tony Hawk's game. Fashion doesn't define you and finding the comfort in that can create so much confidence.

Thinking ahead to being 40, 60, even 80, I know that my personal style will evolve and change and maybe revert back to certain things then change once again but it's no use losing confidence over it. Think of it as a fun timeline to look back on. There's outfits on this blog that I wouldn't dare wear now and there will be countless in the future, but just being comfortable with yourself to experiment, make mistakes, and also good choices and finding what you love and feel your best in is the best thing about fashion. Live it, love it, and never let your confidence be knocked because of it.

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