Thursday, 31 December 2015

10 discoveries of 2015

Like, oh em gee, can you believe it's the last day of 2015? I can. Cause every damn blog I've read for days has asked me if I can believe it. End of year blog posts are funny, because they usually feature highlights or significant moments or memories from the year. 

My 2015 has been a bit underwhelming. Nothing bad as such happened, but nothing significant or life changing either. It's been a bit of a stuck-in-a-rut year. I could list all the amazing things I've done or what I've achieved, but that's probably be quite boring cause honestly, there's not much. 

Instead, here's 10 things I discovered in 2015...

1) Netflix. I know, I know, I'm super late to the party, but it wasn't til January of 2015 that I finally got Netflix. Many a sleepless night watching terrible documentaries followed, but also I discovered 'Unbreakbale Kimmy Scmidt' and rediscovered 'Suits' so all is well. Mike Ross = swoon! 

2) The Real Techniques foundation brush. Can we just discuss this for a moment? I featured it back in my September Favourites and it has completely changed how I feel about my skin and covering my acne scarring and hyper pigmentation. 

3) Backpacks. There's a running joke in my work about how much my boss loves a backpack and this year, she finally talked me into getting one. A real grown-up one too, quilted leather and Chanel-inspired chain straps. A step up from my band patch covered Eastpaks bags of my teens and having both hands free is my favourite thing ever!

4) Baths. I mean, obviously prior to 2015, I'd had had baths, but I was never really much of a bath person. His year though, especially in autumn and winter, I've really enjoyed having long relaxing baths. Special mention to Lush's Lord of Misrule shower cream, which is by far my favourite bath time treat.

5) The West End. This summer, I finally ticked a massive thing off my bucket list and saw my first show on the West End, none other than the amazing Les Miserables (full post here) I've always loved stage shows, musicals, theatre etc. but the West End was a whole other world. If I'm in London again in 2016, I'd love to go to another show. Or five.

6) Liverpool. I didn't manage to travel much in 2015, 2 trips to London which I've been to before (one of which was for work), a weekend in Manchester where I've been a million times and a few days in Liverpool for my birthday back I'm February. I love discovering new cities and although Liverpool wasn't at all how I pictured, it's such an interesting city with so much to see and do. 

7) Blog photo backgrounds. This year, I really worked hard to improve the quality of my photos and although there's still a few not-so-great ones from throughout 2015, I'm mostly really proud of them. Special thanks to my DIY marble effect board and my white living room floorboards.

8) Lush. Similar to the discovery of baths, I was obviously aware of the existence of Lush before this year, but I've only recently started branching out from baht bombs and Snow Fairy shower gel into skincare, haircare and makeup. I wrote in my post about my trip to London in July that I found Oxford Street, Lush to be a bit of a let down, but now, I wish I'd made more of it!

9) Pita chips. This doesn't really require much explanation. If you've not tried them, I strongly suggest you do. Like, now. Marks & Spencer, £1.49 for a giant bag. Thank me later.

10) 'Reasons To Stay Alive' by Mark Haig. This book has been all over the Internet in 2015 and for good reason. I bought it back in July when I was going through a bad patch and although its quite harrowing to read at times and I never read huge chunks at any one time, it's such a powerful and honest book.  I strongly recommend everyone reads it whether you or a loved one struggles with mental health issues or not. One of the loveliest bloggers ever Kayleigh did a whole post on it here if you want to read more. 

What have been your best discoveries of 2015?

Monday, 21 December 2015

Blogging at Christmas, Money & Mental Health

Christmas. They say it's the most wonderful time of the year. Maybe if you're the head of a retailer, rolling in money as the common folk scramble to prove their love for the families and friends via material possessions. Christmas in blogging means excessive materialism too. I mean, even more than the rest of the year. Those expensive makeup sets for gift guides, that limited edition eyeshadow palette, the latest sparkly party shoes for an OOTD, another bottle of Lush's Snow Fairy, those Instagram-perfect red Starbucks cup, a new Christmas tree theme every year made up of John Lewis baubles that cost £6 each, it all adds up.

Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas as much as the next person, but the pressure to spend money at Christmas, especially if you're a blogger, is all too real. On one hand, I'm university educated, have a full time job, have no debt and no dependants and I don't drive or smoke. I should be able to afford the Christmas I want. On the other hand though, I struggle to be able to afford everything I need to do Christmas how I'd like. Almost all of my gifts have been bought using some kind of discount or promotion, I hand delivery cards to save on the cost of stamps, I recycle gift bags, my wrapping paper is from Poundland and although I donate to Glasgow Womens' Aid every Christmas, it's not as much as I wish I could give. I'm by no means poor or financially hard done, but Christmas is a time for spending money and I, like many people, struggle. 

Blogging as a whole, especially beauty and fashion blogging, are full of falsehoods in regards to money. Whether that's someone saying in an OOTD post that a dress is from Topshop when it's actually from Tesco or pretending that a PR company sent you that Urban Decay palette when you actually just bought it yourself. It's kind of universally known but never discussed. 

In December though, it really goes into overdrive. I've never claimed to be super careful with my money, but I can honestly say I've never purchased something solely for my blog or made out as though I thought something was reasonably priced when it was actually expensive - ie. 'This skin serum is super affordable, it's only £55 a bottle!' I do love Christmas in blogging, it makes me happy to see people that I care about enjoying the festive season but sadly there are certain elements that I know for a fact are exaggerated to create the allure of the prefect Christmas. 

Working in retail, I see Christmas for what it really is, while I know people in other professions don't always. For instance, Black Friday. If you don't work in retail, you probably think of it as a shallow excuse to shop, for exploitative retailers to take advantages of shoppers and for people to make purchases they'd never intended to make just because it's a bargain. 

I love a good moan about work as much as everyone does, whether they work retail or not, but I will never, ever complain about my shop (or any other shop) being busy. Ever. I love being busy, I love people buying and enjoying shopping. What I don't like is rude, aggressive or impatient shoppers. I'm not going to pretend I like Black Friday because I don't, but I love the buzz of people getting a bargain and I do appreciate that in such a consumer obsessed world, it provides financially strapped people with an opportunity to give more at Christmas than they would otherwise be able to afford. Making fun of people who shop on Black Friday is a form is classism and I've seen a lot of bloggers doing just that.

Another thing I've noticed, what I like to think of a organisation shaming. Or rather lack of organisation shaming. If you've finished your Christmas shopping in mid November, good for you. If you're Christmas tree is up in the first week of December, that's fanatic. If everything is wrapped and under that tree three weeks before Santa comes, amazing. However, can we stop making a huge deal out of people who haven't? I can't afford to start my Christmas shopping in August and I simply don't have time to spend weeks watching Christmas films while sipping on hot chocolate. My Christmas is more of a stressed few weeks of running around like a headless chicken, and that's just as valid as your super organised festive season that starts as soon as Hallowe'en ends.

A final important thing worth mentioning I feel, which I'm very happy is mostly openly discussed in blogging, is mental health. I follow loads of bloggers who suffer from mental health issues but sadly I've only seen a few who are open and honest about how much harder the festive period can be. If you struggle with depression, anxiety or any other mental health condition, chances are, it's worst at this time of year. Everything is heightened, everyone is stressed and rushed, it's busy and loud and overwhelming, it's full of emotion and alcohol and spending time with people you don't often see. It can be lonely, it can be scary, it can be a lot to handle. 

But I don't see that in blogging. I see bloggers being super happy. I see people giggling and laughing with their friends and family. I see cheesy board games and snuggled up on the sofa in tacky festive jumpers watching Love Actually. And to an extent, I get it. We all show the best and most interesting elements of our lives on our blogs, but at a time of year that I know I'm the not the only one who really struggles, it's alienating. 

Last year I took on the ambitious challenge of Blogmas (and admittedly, kind of failed) and looking back, I was that blogger, my posts were cheesy and a very polished version of my Christmas reality. This year, I've posted twice in as many months, but that's a more accurate reflection of how this time really is to me - stressful, anxious, worrying, non-stop. Ultimately though, it will all comes together in the end, it always does and we'll get through this festive season like we do every year. And hey, I have a whole 42 hours of festive fun between finishing work on Christmas Eve and starting work on Boxing Day which is the most I've had in 8 years...!

If you're struggling at this time of year, or any time of year for that matter, here's some useful resources to keep handy should you need them...

0800 1111

116 123

0800 838587

0300 123 3393

0800 917 7650

0800 585858

0808 802 9999

0300 123 2523

08000 502020

0333 323 3880

The website Support Line also provides a huge directory of other helplines and websites for a whole range of issues and conditions