Monday, 28 August 2017

Support Other Women And Their Choices

Being 21 years old is an odd time. Half of the people you know are just graduating and have big plans to travel the world or are starting internships in some swanky London office. The other half are coupled up and already have a kid or two. I always associated myself with the first group of people. I have to admit, I was one of those women who would say they never want to have kids and that things like having a career and travel are far more important. Looking back, it is kind of sad how I felt, as a woman, I had to choose between a career and family life. Like it is impossible to have both and that motherhood would hold me back. But what is worse is how I felt that I had a right to criticise how other women chose to spend their lives. Fired up on the problematic line of thought that motherhood is giving in to the expectations of the patriarchy, I began to see everything from running a home to raising a child as being somehow less valuable use of time than having a high-flying career. I would tell people that I never wanted to have kids but what I really meant was that I didn't want to close myself off to opportunities. I didn't want to miss out on living my life. Then I got pregnant and I had to re-evaluate everything. But I came to realise that motherhood isn't a death sentence for your career. It doesn't mean that you will never make it to your dream travel destinations. I opened my eyes and I saw countless mothers who were hugely successful in their careers and had a passport full of stamps. Granted, it is not easy having a child and a career but the fact that it is possible makes me feel optimistic.

After realising how problematic my internal criticism of motherhood was, it made me more aware of just how much women who want children are pitted against those who don't. Women who don't want children are characterised as being stern child haters or whimsical nomads not fulfilling their reproductive duty. Women who do want children are characterised as simpering 50s housewives who have fallen victim to a patriarchal system that prevents them from excelling. Needless to say, neither of these characterisations are true. We need to stop judging women on what they choose to do with their bodies. A woman has the right to make their own choices over their reproductive system. This is what makes me so angry when I see comments on Twitter about the amount of bloggers who have fallen pregnant lately. It is buying into this divide that has been put in place to shame women on either side. Yes, you may not be ready to have children yourself but you should celebrate alongside these women. As women, we need to learn to build each other up rather than distance ourselves just because our reproductive decisions don't match someone else's.

Feminism has brought us a long way and I am thankful that, in the UK, women have reproductive rights but there is still a great deal of pressure placed on women in terms of their reproductive decisions. So, instead of judging each other and distancing ourselves from each other based on our decisions, we need to support other women. We need to bridge this divide rather than reinforcing it. We need to support and fight for women who don't have the same reproductive freedoms that we have. We need to protect these rights that we have in this country and fight for things to continue progressing rather than allowing our individual opinions on motherhood stop us from fighting for fairness and justice. Women without children, support the mothers you know and stand with them in battles against discrimination in the workplace. Mothers, stand with women without children in fights against social pressure to have children. Together we can make a difference rather than allowing our small differences to divide us.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Fossil Hunting In Charmouth

As a kid, I had a huge obsession with gemstones and shells. I would scour the beaches looking for the prettiest, most colourful little seashells to add to my collection. During our holidays to Cornwall, I would always spend my money buying those little baskets full of all different exotic shells and maybe even a starfish if I was lucky. My room was a treasure trove of sparkly gems. My love for gems and shells never really wore off so when my parents suggested we go on a day out to Charmouth to look for fossils, I was rather excited.

My little sister had recently been to the Jurassic Coast on a school trip so she was super excited about explaining to us how fossils are formed and the different types of fossils that are common to the area - she was basically our nine year old tour guide. In true British form, half the country had flocked to the beach at the slightest hint of sunshine so we had to trek along the pebbles for quite a while before we found a spot that wasn't too busy. The first thing that we noticed, apart from the blazing heat and the fact that we only had a tiny bottle of sun-cream that I had found in the bottom of my handbag, was a bullet. Yep, a bullet. Which I had pretty much sat on. It was an old one and it had apparently never been fired. We all got pretty excited imagining that it had washed up from some naval ship or something. My sister then suggested that we start digging around for some fossils and we actually managed to find a fair few interesting rocks and even a couple of pieces of fossil.

After we had fully excavated where we had chosen to sit, we decided to head down to the water as the tide was just going out and we thought that'd be the prime location to find something. We sat down on the pebbles by the sea and delved our hands into the water upturning rocks. Alongside a fair few crabs and shrimp, we managed to find some real fossils - and no one fell in the water which is another win if you ask me.

After all that geology, we decided it was time to indulge in some relaxing beach activities. We paddled our toes in the (freezing) sea and got ice-creams. We did want to also pick up some chips but the queue stretched for miles and all that science had really made us tired. Our final port of call was the gift shop which was full of every type of gemstone you could imagine. I could have spent all my money in there. I eventually chose a slice of bright pink agate because who could say no to a bright pink gemstone.

Have you ever visited the Jurassic Coast?

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

An Open Letter To My Pregnancy Body

Dear Pregnancy Body,

Society has tried to pit us against each other. They have made me feel self-conscious of the stretch marks that meander like rivers across my hips and imbed themselves in the soft skin between my armpits and breasts. I catch myself pressing my thumbs into my doughy thighs as I look at pictures of my pre-pregnancy body. I stand in the mirror and jiggle the loose skin at the top of my arms and sometimes I lose sight of how special you are. Society simultaneously exults and shames you. Everyone has an opinion on you. Apparently I am carrying well. My bump is neat. I don't know what makes this body neat - what makes it acceptable. They want me to be big but not too big. They want me to glow and be a picture of idealised womanhood.

Pregnancy Body, you aren't this ideal. You are a messy, crazy, hormone-filled miracle. You are the home to my first born child and you are beautiful. You are the painful spots on my chin and the swelling of my ankles. You are bigger than the boxes they try to put you in. Pregnancy Body, you are the hairs that stand like whiskers on my stomach and the biggest middle finger to society that tries to call you unattractive. You are sexy and you are strong.

When we have to part ways, they will expect me to quickly cut all ties with you. As my bump deflates like a party balloon slowly losing its air at the end of the night, they expect me to shrink. They want me to return to how I was before I met you. Brush you under the carpet. They have creams to hide the scars, surgery to plump my breasts and to remodel my stomach. The souvenirs of this journey have to be stored away. I need to be attractive again. Pregnancy Body, they don't really find you attractive. You serve a purpose. Once your work is done, they expect you to vanish.

Pregnancy Body, you are the ship that carries my child to my arms. Your timbers creak and your sails are starting to fray at the edges. But I am proud of you. I will jiggle you in defiance and learn that someone commenting on how much the baby is growing is not the same as calling me fat. Pregnancy Body, you are a constellation of beauty and strength. You are a map of my baby's growth and a map of my own growth.

You found me a woman and you will leave me a mother.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Small Changes I'm Making To Become A More Ethical Consumer

For the longest time, I bought everything blindly. I would buy makeup based on what had the cutest packaging and whichever body lotion had a recognisable brand name. It was only when I started following more vegan and cruelty free bloggers that I started to consider the impact my weekly shop could be having on the environment, animals, the local economy, and even my own body. So, I decided that I wanted to start making a few small changes with the intention of eventually using exclusively cruelty free products and to be living a more 'green' life.

Although it has been difficult trying to strike a balance between living affordably and consuming ethically, I have made some small changes so far which I think are a good basis to work from.

Read the label
This is a very simple one but it is more difficult than you'd think to remember to check the label when you're used to just chucking whatever has the shiniest packaging into the basket. A good place to start is checking the label for the bunny logo which shows the product wasn't tested on animals. It is also good to look at the ingredients. I tend to steer clear of products with a huge list of chemicals because I worry about the effect these chemicals could be having on my body. Although, obviously, in things like soap you can't avoid chemicals but I live by the idea that the less chemicals the product includes, the better.

Shop local
As much as Tesco are really doing an amazing job lately with scrapping the tampon tax on their sanitary products and highlighting that not all disabilities are visible on their disabled toilets, I like to shop local when I can. My favourite thing is buy fresh fruit and veg from a market stall and picking up local, free range eggs. Also butchers shops are great for getting meat that you know was bread and killed locally. Even just buying your cappuccino from an independent coffee shop rather than from Starbucks can be a great way to invest into your local economy and get a tasty treat whilst you're at it.

Support cruelty free shops
As much as this may go against what I just said about shopping local, there are some amazing chain shops that are all about that cruelty free life. Shops like Superdrug, Lush, and Body Shop are great spots to start your ethical consumer journey. Also, in terms of drinks, I always recommend buying from Innocent due to the lack of added chemicals and the fact they give 10% of all profits to charity.

Shop second hand
If you can't afford to fully ditch fast fashion, try shopping second hand. Scout charity shops, eBay, Depop, and other places to find some cute new clothes. I fully understand the pull of Primark when money is tight but even if you only buy a couple of things second hand, this small change is still hugely positive. If second hand isn't your cup of tea then try H&M Conscious and ASOS's Made in Kenya range.

Fair Trade
When you're buying things like coffee and chocolate, try to opt for ones with the fairtrade logo. This means the manufacturer was paid a sustainable, living wage for creating your chocolatey goodies. Also it is a great excuse to buy more chocolate.

Read cruelty free bloggers
There are so many amazing bloggers out there with helpful tips and tricks to live a cruelty free life. If you type 'cruelty free blogger' into Twitter or Instagram, all their cheerful faces will pop up and they will be able to help you along your ethical consumer journey.

Have you considered becoming a more ethical consumer? What are your best tips and tricks?

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Surviving Maternity Leave Boredom

Before I got pregnant, I had quite an active lifestyle. I worked nights in a takeaway shop so I was used to being on my feet for hours on end. I loved going for long walks and hitting the gym for a workout. One thing I have struggled with in this pregnancy is having to make changes to my lifestyle. The many mile walks I used to do without even thinking about it now make me tired and achy. I've had to ditch the workouts because it is frustrating not being able to push myself as much as I'd like to. I'm sure I am not the first pregnant woman itching to get back on her feet. Maternity leave is great and I realise that I am very lucky that I live in a country that will pay for me to rest up towards the end of my pregnancy but it gets very boring very quickly if you are used to constantly running about doing thing. There is only so much Netflix a girl can watch. So, I decided to write up a little list of things that I have been doing to occupy my time whilst on maternity leave.

Spa Day
I can almost feel the bubbles of the jacuzzi at the finish line of this pregnancy. Hot tubs and saunas are calling my name. There's nothing quite as luxurious as a spa day. Unfortunately, pregnancy means that I have to avoid hot tubs and steam rooms and everything that is good and pure in the world. So, an at-home spa day is the next best thing. I like to rope in my little sister (or my husband) when they're around and spend the day painting each other's nails, trying out new facemasks, and then relaxing in a bubble bath with a Lush bath bomb.

One thing I have really gotten into lately is cooking - especially baking. As it starts to get a bit colder, I love trying my hand at some typical autumn dishes. Nothing beats a bubbling dish of macaroni cheese straight from the oven or a pot of sausage casserole. Baking is even better because it ends with a big cake. I have recently made chocolate orange muffins which were delicious and I am going to attempt a ginger loaf cake today.

When I was younger, I was crazy about books. I'd be get my dad to drive me to the local town to pick up the latest Jacqueline Wilson book on its release date and I had finished it by that evening. My passion for reading led me to do an English Literature degree. However, my three years as a student were filled with reading books I was assigned rather than books I was actually interested in. So, now that I am an aged graduate with a lot of free time, I am able to read whatever I choose. I'm currently on Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

Full time blogging
Maternity leave is a great time to pretend you're a full time blogger and focus on upping your blog and social media game. I have been putting a lot more effort into my Instagram lately and you can't get me off of Twitter. I also plan to schedule a lot of posts for the last month of my pregnancy and into the first few weeks after my due date as I can assume that I will be slightly busy bringing new life into the world at that time.

Although I now can't walk as far as I'd like, I am using this large amount of free time to try to do some exploring of my local area that I haven't managed to do before now. The fact that we are currently staying with my parents in Devon and thus have access to a car is a bonus as well. But I would highly recommend trying to get out for a small walk everyday to get some air and get some cute nature pics for the insta (maybe even an outfit pic if I'm feeling super productive). My husband and I recently spent the day travelling all around Devon on an Explorer ticket which allows unlimited travel all day to anywhere in Devon. There's something quite exciting about jumping onto a bus to a random location.

Plan a 'babymoon'
I didn't know this was even a thing before I saw someone use the term in a tweet so it must be. Apparently, it is a trip you take with your partner (or your squad) to enjoy your last few months of freedom before the baby arrives. This sounds like a perfect excuse to bully my husband into taking me away for a long weekend to a new city and spend the whole time ordering room service from the comfort of a huge marshmallow of a hotel bed.

Organise a baby shower
I'm not exactly sure at what point of the pregnancy you're meant to have a baby shower but maybe, if you've already had one, you could get away with organising another under the guise of calling it a gender reveal party. Either way, organise a fun get together for friends and family where you get a lot of presents and cake. I mean, you're pregnant, you deserve all the presents and cake that money can buy.

What are your top tips for fighting maternity leave boredom?

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Killerton House

I am a huge fan of stately homes and castles. There is something wonderful about wandering around these houses looking at the luxurious interiors and imagining all the people who lived there before. There is always so much thought that has gone into each room and so many different things to look at. Everything from the ceiling to the floor has been so planned out in terms of colours and textures. My favourite room is always the library though. There is something so appealing to me about a whole room in a house designated to books. And all the books look so nice lined up with glistening, gold titles engraved into the spines. I know that if I was an old worldly woman, I would have passed all my time reading book after book. You can always rely on a National Trust property to supply you with this opportunity to escape from the real world for a little while.

A great place to visit here in Devon is Killerton House. They have a beautiful house which they decorate for different seasons - I have already planned to go back there to see their decorations for Christmas. They also have extensive gardens which is another thing that I really enjoy. Nothing beats a warm summer day spent surrounded by flowers in the garden of a stately home snacking on picnic food or feasting on cakes from the multiple on site cafes (they had 3 cafes - even I'm impressed by that!). On our trip there, we had a very long walk around the grounds and my 5 month pregnant self almost slipped down a muddy hill but the less said about that the better. There is always something so fun about heading out into the wilderness not quite knowing where you're heading to. I'm like a pregnant Bear Grylls. We rounded the visit off with hot chocolates with a mountain of cream and jacket potatoes with beans and cheese. Just typing that is making me feel hungry.

The best thing about National Trust - other than knowing that the place you're visiting is bound to be good as it has been well funded and the promise of cake - is the gift shop. Surely it's not just me who is mad for National Trust gift shops. They always seem to have the cutest trinkets and thick, knitted blankets, and a very wide selection of jams and biscuits. Yes, I am getting old. Jam excites me. I am a 70 year old woman named Doris who loves jam. But, in all seriousness, if any companies want to send me jam, please hit up my email address.

The most interesting thing about Killerton House for me was this small hut which is called the Bear Hut. They called it this because, in 1860, it was home to a black bear that one of the house's residents brought back from Canada. I kid you not. A real life bear actually lived in this little hut. I mean, I can't vouch for his block stacking skills from the mess of the windowsill but it's still pretty impressive. There was also an ice house where the family stored their 40 tonnes of ice - y'know, in case they wanted to some ice in their lemonade or something. It was basically a little passage in a mound that led to an iron gate and a massive drop. The massive expanse of space used to be full of ice but now is just full of bats and could be used as a dungeon or other spooky activities (maybe that's their plans for Halloween?).

I would definitely return to Killerton for another visit - there's another big cup of hot chocolate there that I can hear calling me. It would be interesting to see how they decorate the house differently at another time of year and maybe I could learn more about this bear. I think he was called Tom.

Have you got a favourite National Trust property? Where would you recommend I visit next?

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Why Have Big Bloggers Gone So Quiet?

Blogging and YouTube are incredible platforms that allow us to share everything from our holiday plans to our favourite perfume with hundreds (sometimes thousands, maybe even millions) of people. But, as much I love to read a good monthly favourites post, I sometimes wish more 'bigger bloggers' would address important issues. It is understandable when your livelihood is based on the amount of people you have accessing your sites and investing in your merchandise but this palatable flavour of vanilla most bigger bloggers are selling us is starting to leave a funny taste in my mouth. I am not asking that everyone starts posting their political views every time there is unrest in the world but silence is not the answer. If your whole Twitter page is full of links to your merchandise or you plugging your new book but you refuse to engage with anything that is happening in the real world then I start to wonder whether you are really making the most of the influence you have. Through a single retweet, you can give a platform to someone who is fighting to be heard.

Big bloggers and YouTubers are often role models to young people across the globe. I would go as far as saying some young people idolise such figures and sometimes a little haul video is one of their only escapes. But they are doing these kids a disservice by not engaging with real world problems. How many young people of colour, Muslims, Jews, members of the LGBT community, and many more would feel reassured if their plights were supported by their favourite bloggers and YouTubers at times when they are being attacked? Although these problems may not affect them directly, these things are very real for much of their audience.

We, as bloggers, have power because we have a platform that isn't restricted or censored. We can say what we want and we can give a platform to the voices of others. But my influence as someone with 400 followers is a lot less than someone with a million followers. What I write can start a dialogue but it won't reach as many people. Those with a large following have the power to bring about change and, almost as importantly, to support and reassure their followers in difficult times.

In a world filled with so much hate, use your voice to try to challenge it. Apathy is what allows hatred to flourish. Don't be just another vanilla blogger who is too scared they may rock the boat. Live bravely and stand for what you believe in.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

5 Reasons To Visit Exmouth

I like to think of myself as Devon's biggest tourism advocate in the blogging world. In terms of beaches, Devon is often overshadowed by its neighbour Cornwall but I strongly believe that Devon has a lot of beautiful beaches to offer. So, here's 5 reasons to visit the little seaside town of Exmouth.

Ice cream
Like any good Devonshire seaside resort, there is a huge selection of ice cream shops and parlours. And one of the best things about getting ice cream in Devon is that they top it with clotted cream which is actually the most delicious thing ever. Calories don't exist in Devon, by the way.

The town
There's a small town full of local shops. Shops like these are definitely a dying breed which is a shame because wandering around little green grocers and cheese shops is one of my favourite things to do. And they have a Roley's Fudge Shop which, for anyone who hasn't experienced this Charlie's Chocolate Factory of a shop, is a chain of fudge shops where they make the most crumbly, creamy fudge ever in all different flavours.   

Sand is a rare sight on a beach in Devon. We have plenty of pebble beaches but not so many sandy beaches so Exmouth is definitely a good visit for anyone looking to make a sandcastle or sunbathe on a surface that is slightly less pebbly. But, in defence of pebble beaches, they are perfect for skimming stones and searching for fossils - especially on the Jurassic Coast.

The park
Exmouth has a lovely, big park full of insta worthy flower installations - I'm all about getting that perfect insta shot. They even have live music fairly regularly and different family fun days throughout the summer.

Probably the least exciting reason but one of the most important - this town is super accessible. It's only a 20 minutes car ride from Devon's capital city of Exeter and has a direct train straight from Exeter to Exmouth. It's the perfect locations for a little Sunday afternoon trip on a long weekend break in Exeter.

Have you ever visited Exmouth? Where is your favourite beach in the UK?

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Cheeky Makeup and Skincare Haul

There are a few different situations that call for investing in a whole new makeup bag and your graduation is definitely one of them. I mean, it almost makes all those years of studying worth it when you walk into Superdrug and tell yourself you can have anything, you deserve this. You can almost hear your debit card shriek as you scan through your basket of goodies but you get points on your Superdrug card for it, right? That basically makes it free.

But, as you guys can see, I didn't go too crazy. I was pretty controlled in there. The only thing I went a little wild with was the nail varnish. I saw so many colours that I loved - especially the sparkles. A girl can never have too many metallic nail varnishes.

Maybelline New York Super Stay 7 Days Gel Nail Colour in 'Rose Poudre' and 'Rose Veil'

And the award for the longest ever product name goes to this nail varnish right here! But I kinda don't mind writing out this tongue twister as you guys need to know how great these nail varnishes are. The pink one is a lovely nude colour but the real winner is this pink based metallic shade. I love a good nude (cheeky) as it goes with everything and I find light pink ones compliment my skin tone well. But the metallic shade has all the benefits of a nude but it is also shiny. I think the shininess makes it better suited to occasions (I wore this shade to graduation) but it can also be an office friendly shade because it is not too garish (I also wore it to an interview). Aside from the colour, this nail varnish applies easily and dries quite quickly. You could also get away with doing just one coat if you're in a rush. And it stays on for ages! They weren't lying when they called it 'super stay'.

Barry M Sunset Gel Nail Paint in 'Fuchsia Generation'

I loved this deep pink colour so much that I had no choice but to buy it. I thought it would be a perfect pop of colour on my toes during sandal season. The only trouble I had with this is that it came out more of a burgundy than a true pink when I applied it. I still love it and it is really long wearing but it is a little darker than I expected.

B. Micellar Water and Micellar Oil

I am definitely late on the whole micellar bandwagon but I caved when I saw these on offer and decided to give it a go. B. is a brand I had seen a couple of times online and I was intrigued by it since it is vegan and cruelty free. I am trying to be more conscious of the products I buy and how their components are sourced. I hope to become completely cruelty free in the future but I'm just taking baby steps for now. I have only used the micellar water so far and it seems quite effective in lifting dirt. I like to use it to clean my face on days when I haven't worn makeup - I use a cream face wash to remove my makeup - and when I wake up. I have sensitive, oily skin and I break out really easily when using new skincare products but I haven't had any issues with this. My only concern is that it is a little harsh to use close to your eyes so it is not great for removing eye makeup.

Freedom Eyebrow Kit in 'Auburn'

I had never heard of this brand before but I was really drawn in by the affordable prices. I liked their range of eyebrow kits and how they were catered to a lot of different hair colours. I chose the one for auburn hair as the red-based brown colour is truest to my hair colour. I liked that it is a powder but it could have done with coming with a little brush. Luckily, I have a lot of brushes but not everyone is a brush hoarder like myself.

Dior Forever Foundation in 012

This is the biggest investment piece of the post (and probably the year) but, I have to say, it was worth it. I got colour matched in store and they gave me two options to choose from. I chose this one because it has a more pink base colour which is truer to my skin tone than the cooler shade. Dior have a few different types of foundation on offer but I chose this one because it is medium coverage and matte. Since I have oily skin, I thought this would be the best option to go for a matte finish as more dewy formulas end up with me having to pile on the powder and then I get serious caking. This is a really nice matte finish and it covers my imperfections well without looking too heavy. I would really recommend this product but the only small downside is that Dior isn't a cruelty free brand - they opt against animal testing unless required but they still sell in China so they cannot be classified as cruelty free.

Freedom Contour Kit in 'Light'

I use my Seventeen powder contour kit daily but I decided to replace it with this instead of repurchasing the same one. I like the pink based contour shade and it is quite a light powder so you have to build the contour rather than it being really intense from the first brushstroke.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I'd love to hear if you want to see more beauty related posts.
What are your favourite products? Do you have any advice for going cruelty free?
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