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Monday, 21 May 2018

So I've started a podcast...

A few months ago I was round at my friend Kat's house and we were drinking a lot of prosecco. We wanted to film a video for her youtube channel all about internet dating so we sat down in front of the camera to have a bit of a chin wag about our individual experiences. A few hours later after we'd finished (talking, giggling and drinking) we drunkenly decided that it would be a really good idea to turn the audio from this video in to a podcast! After all...what was the worst that could happen? We loved the way that our three different experiences and opinions worked well together on the recording, and thought that it would be good to move forward discussing a whole host of subjects. It seems that when you've had a couple of bottles of prosecco and lots of sweets and snacks, the impossible seems a hell of a lot more possible. Well I'm so grateful that our intoxicated conversation turned in to a reality, because eight episodes later and it looks like this is a proper thing now! The Prosecco Sessions was born. 

We now share weekly podcast episodes (started fortnightly) on a Sunday morning on subjects that interest us and record whenever we can whilst drinking a glass of fizz or two during recording. The hosts consist of me, Laura from LovedByLaura and Kat from ShesAGentry, and we're a pretty good team if I don't say so myself! We all live in different places, are all different ages, and all do completely different job roles - which makes for a really interesting conversation from three women with different lives. We each have different family situations, different relationship histories, and different likes and dislikes, and it means that we can add perspectives that maybe one of us hadn't thought about before. We pick a subject for each episode and spend a few days beforehand thinking about it and looking in to anything in particular that we want to bring up. Then we come together and get chatting for a couple of hours and pick the best bits for you to listen to! 

I'd like to believe that each podcast episode sounds like a conversation with three friends. Maybe you're sat in your bedroom cleaning your room, or moving around in your kitchen making some food - well The Prosecco Sessions aims to be the perfect podcast to have on in the background. We will hopefully make you laugh as we giggle our way through the recording (we have to edit a lot of that out) and we'll hopefully make you think. The topics we have selected haven't been especially ground breaking in terms of news or politics, but instead we've selected subjects that we want to talk about as three modern day women. Some of our episodes so far have focused on things like burnout, body image, making friends as adults, the power of makeup...the list goes on. We aim to give you around 40 minutes of enjoyable listening, and want to leave you with some interesting information and opinions. 

We're going to go up to ten episodes in each series, and then have a few weeks off to come up with new ideas and take a little rest from recording and editing. If you have any specific subjects that you'd be interested in us discussing then please do let us know! We are constantly coming up with new ideas and we each get far too excited in the run up to actually talking about it, so we'd love your involvement. 

Subscribe and listen to The Prosecco Sessions on iTunes and SoundCloud

Hope you like it! CTx

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Let's talk about stress and mental health

Unless you've been living under a rock then you'll know that it has been #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek between the 14th-19th May. Started by the Mental Health Foundation in 2001, this week aims to raise awareness of mental health and the problems associated with mental health in order to inspire action and promote the message of good mental health for all. Not an easy challenge, i'm sure you can agree! This year they are focussing on the subject of stress as their research has shown that it is a key factor in many peoples struggles. Although it isn't a mental health problem in itself, it can lead to depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide - so if we don't talk about stress then we are in danger of people developing much more severe issues. Whether it is stress in your personal life, stress caused by work, worrying about money, health concerns...whatever, it is crucial that we highlight the epidemic which is happening amongst many people in the UK at the moment. 

"Three quarters (74%) of people have at some point felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope" (Mental Health Foundation Survey of 4169 UK adults)

So in the spirit of opening up the conversation and encouraging people I know to delve in to discussions about it, I went to Twitter to get some information on how different people handle stress and cope with their own mental health. I hope this helps!

1. "I have what I call my 'Basic Humanity Checklist' which I run through whenever I'm feeling low/stressed. 1. Have I eaten food in the past 24 hours? 2. Have I drunk water in the past 12 hours? 3. Have I had enough sleep in the past 48 hours? 4. Have I moved/washed my body in the last week? 5. Have I had any meaningful human interaction in the last week? If I get through all that without feeling better, it's time to talk..." @Becki_Bush, Book Editor, London

2. "I find when I'm suffering, every night before I go to sleep, I think back through my day & write down anything good that's happened, even if it's as small as someone smiling at me in a coffee shop. Looking at the good rather than the bad really helps me in day to day life." @CaraWood, Manager, London

3. "When you ask someone if they're okay and they say 'yeah I'm fine', probe a bit deeper and ask them again. We're often just keeping up appearances so if you feel like someone is hiding the truth, it's worth showing more interest in someone and helping them feel listened to." @KellyAnneRist, Social Media Executive, Hertfordshire

4. "Speak out! Do not be ashamed and fall victim to the silly stigmas society has made us believer. Nobody has good mental health 24/7 and anyone that says they do is a liar. It's like saying you've never had a cold. Everyone has their ups and downs and it's normal!" @ShesAGentry, Dental Technician, Peterborough
5. "If you feel like there is no one in your personal life you can reach out to then there are organisations who can help, listen and support you. You are never alone, but you may have to be the one to ask for help." @LovedByLauraC, Developer, Peterborough

 6. "Find the right person to talk to who you can trust (maybe someone you have confided in before or someone who has been through a similar situation). Unfortunately i've seen too man people open up to people who have either given dreadful advice, or made them feel worse. Talk to those who you know have your best interests at heart. Then find what works for you. We all deal with things in different ways." @Lizaboo_Ponders, Life and Wellbeing Writer, Stamford

7. "Try and reach out to talk to someone about what is happening. Remember, this is an illness, you are not to blame for this, and you should not feel guilty for it. If you can, try and identify any triggers and then the best way to work through them. Also, when it comes to recovery it's not always going to be an upwards journey, some times things get bad for a bit, and that's okay." @EssaysAndWine, Digital Marketing, High Wycombe

8. "When talking to someone at work about how you're doing, speak to them factually (difficult when feeling stressed or overwhelmed). Start with "I feel" rather than wording in a blame way. It's not about "I've got too much to do" (which may sound whiney), it's "I feel overwhelmed/stressed/under pressure" and then "it's making me feel x, y z". Also we all need to know that often the worries about what they will think, don't come true." @EmLangtonCoach, Coach, York

I personally have become very open about my mental health, and do a number of things to help myself - I write in a line a day diary to note down how i'm feeling and get them on to paper. I go to a counsellor and have found that speaking to someone impartial has been very beneficial. I call my family a lot, as they know me best and can often tell when things aren't quite right. Then finally, I lean on my friends. I like to believe that I am able to return the favour in one way or another, but I don't think I could ever put in to words how grateful I am for the people in my life. Call on them - what's the worst that could happen?

I really enjoyed finding out how different people cope with their own mental health. We can't always be completely happy, or not stressed, but the main thing to remember is that when you are feeling unlike your self then there are people out there who care, and people who can help. I added in where people are from and what they do for a living next to their quotes for a reason. I wanted to demonstrate that you could be from anywhere, or do any job, and still suffer with the same issues as anyone else. We are all different, but that doesn't mean we can't be humble and understanding for friends who aren't doing so well; and we can also still feel the same sort of pain and suffering as someone else. Just be patient, and check how someone is doing, even if they don't seem like they want to be asked. It will take two seconds out of your day and could make a huge difference! CTx

Saturday, 28 April 2018

10 reasons we should talk about periods more...

Yes, I'm doing it, I'm talking about periods. Why am I talking about periods? Well this week I'm on my period and I am I need to talk about it. I don't necessarily mean all the time, but we sure as hell should feel more comfortable having the odd conversation about it when the time is right.  Today, my friends, is that day. I am going to give you 10 reasons why we should all be talking about periods more. 

1. Well the first reason is just obvious...we should talk about it because they suck. Why suffer in silence if you're feeling anything less than okay? If you had a bad foot and someone asked you why you were limping then you'd have no problems telling them that you've hurt your foot. So why on earth do we feel the need to be so shy about discussing what's going on inside us? Yes it can be a bit gross from time to time, but it's bloody life (see what I did there), so we should feel good about discussing the things that are causing us pain - periods or not! 

2. Because it's natural. It's a thing that comes about every month and we literally have no control over it. Once you hit puberty, it will come around once a month and at first it will be a real surprise. Your body is going through some huge changes, and adding your period in to the mix is possibly the worst thing ever. BUT it is natural, and you're not the only there's no point making a massive deal in out of it as we can't change it. If conversations started younger then we wouldn't all be so afraid as we grow up. 

3. Because it's important to recognise that there is no 'normal' period. None of us look the same, none of us feel the same, none of us are the same, so why would there be one set way to have a period? Some people have short periods and some long, some people have heavy periods and some light, some feel pain and some barely feel a thing...every person has a completely different combination of all of them. It's important for us to be open about what we go through because it helps other people to understand that each of our experiences are 'normal' - but it's normal for us, not for every woman on the planet.

4. Because some people are scared of the word vagina (even though we came out of one). Why is it that people/the media only want to share positive things about a woman's 'lady parts' when it's relating to sex. It's a body part that we need for so many reasons - not only to enjoy sex, but to have babies and also have periods. All vagina's are different, and like periods, there is no normal type of vagina. So can people stop making out as if one is better than the other? Or if it's only 'desirable' when you're not on your period? Your lady business goes through so much all month long and it's pretty much doing it all on it's own. A vagina is no more unusual than a penis, even if it does have blood coming out of it for a week a month. It's awesome, so let's recognise that more please. 

5. Because even though it only occurs one week a month, we have to think about it all year long.  No, I'm not saying that i'm fretting about my period every waking moment of the day, and yes, we can live care free the majority of the time. However, I can't be the only one who plans her life around her period? I often feel lethargic, dizzy and bloated during my period, and am less likely to want to attend certain social things during this time. I use Clue (the best hormone/period tracker) to find out when I will be 'on' and then i'll work my way round it. Whether it's a day out, a certain meeting, or a holiday - I have to think about when would be the best time to do these things without my period getting in the way. 

6. Because men should be more knowledgeable. Please note, I am not saying that all men don't know anything about periods. I know a lot of guys who are very aware of the ins and outs of what goes on - however, there are a lot of men who either a) don't want to know anything about it, b) know incorrect information about it, or c) (possibly the worst) know a bit about it but make jokes about it/are just generally immature. Picture this, you're going to the toilet and you need to change your sanitary pad when Barry from accounts walks past you and asks you if you're leaving work early. No you fucktard, i'm having to take my bag to the toilet because I don't want to wave my sanitary pad throughout the office. Come on buddy, open your eyes and realise what's going on here. Anyway, enough talking about Barry. In general a lot of men need to be more aware of the possible side affects from your period, and the fact that all women suffer differently. It's no laughing matter, it's not gross, and it really takes its toll on a considerable number of women every month. If one man took the time to be a little more educated, and then decided to speak to their friends, or not laugh when their moron friend makes a joke about their moody girlfriend, then maybe we'd be one step closer to fewer women feeling ashamed and a generally more open-minded world. 

7. The more we talk about it, the better your work life will be. As mentioned, during my period I often get dizzy spells due to an iron deficiency, which means i'm clearly not going to be performing at optimum capacity. I often don't get a fantastic nights sleep due to period pains - again, meaning I might not be on top form in that team meeting or client presentation. I could keep going on for a long time, but the main thing I want to emphasise is that these aren't excuses, these are legitimate reasons for why your work should acknowledge every so often that a woman might be a little 'off their game' at certain times of the month, and the worst bit? I can't do anything about it. I've tried taking iron supplements, drinking more water, going to bed earlier - and although it has some benefits, I am still not feeling my best and could do with being given a little slack. Just like someone would expect if they had a bad cold.

8. Because it will help a lot of people's sex lives. I don't want to generalise, but I know a lot of girls and guys who don't want to be 'active' during their period. I totally get it - you might not feel your sexiest during this time, so why would you want to get down to it? BUT...people need to realise that there is literally no problems whatsoever with having sex on your period. If we talk more openly about periods then we will normalise it, and it will allow more open conversations about how it isn't gross or 'bad' to have sex all year round. It's also a personal choice, and if someone makes a decision that it is something they like doing then they shouldn't be made to feel like it's not 'normal' by other people who don't like the idea of it. What you get up to in the bedroom is your choice and your period should not get in the way of that.

9. Because sanitary products are expensive. Every month women have to go out and buy a couple of boxes of sanitary products. Times that by 12 months in a year, and then times that by the number of years you've been having your period. It's a pretty outrageous figure when you think about it. And to top it all off, in the UK we currently being taxed 5 percent on tampons and pads. We need to talk more openly about periods so that people understand the insane amount of money women are having to put away every month to ensure they aren't left in an uncomfortable situation.

10. Because we need to recognise how difficult periods can be for some women and girls. Having your period for a high number of women is just an inconvenience. We don't want to have to think about what we wear or how bloated we're going to feel during the time of the month. Realistically, this is a pretty minor thing to have to worry about in the grand scheme of things. However, for a lot of women all over the world having your period can be seen as a weakness, it can be seen as 'wrong', or is incredibly misunderstood and therefore women and girls are not supported. I could go on and on and on about this, but the main thing i'm going to discuss is period poverty. Forty million women and girls around the world are affected by period poverty (Borgen Project) meaning that they are unable to afford sanitary products, and they often suffer in silence. Most people would tend to assume that this is something happening in certain places in the world, but unbelievably there is a huge number of people who are struggling with this in western society. One in ten young women in the UK struggle to buy these products (Hey girls) and we definitely take it for granted. The more open we are about discussing periods could mean that the issue of period poverty becomes more widely known, and we have a better chance of solving the problem. We need to support our fellow women and there are a number of ways that we can do this (check out HuffPost's article and also HeyGirls).

So there we go, here are my 10 reasons why we should be discussing periods more. There are way more that I could note down, but these are the most important ones to me. In general, if we begin conversations earlier, and are more open about periods then we have a better chance of 'normalising' it, and we will be able to move away from women and girls globally feeling ashamed, embarrassed or like something is wrong with them. Let's all make a pact to talk about it when we normally wouldn't, make silly people feel uncomfortable, and be more courageous about a subject that is still taboo, even in 2018. 

Sunday, 22 April 2018

It's the little things that get me excited when changing jobs...

Recently I decided to take the plunge and apply for an opportunity that appeared in my inbox. After a year and a half in my current role I thought I would take a chance on a new job that sounded terrifying but exciting all at the same time. I really like the place i'm at at the moment, but sometimes a new offer turns up that is just too good to turn down - and I'm so grateful that this new offer was given to me. I hope to do quite a bit of content about getting a new job and how it all goes when I start, but I thought i'd start with mentioning the nerdiest thing that's making me excited about moving jobs. STATIONERY. Yes I know what you're thinking, 'is she really saying that a few new notebooks and some fancy pens are all that exciting?' And my answer is yes, they make me just as excited now as they did each summer when mum would take me to WHSmith in an attempt to get me to be enthusiastic about going back to school after a long holiday off. 

One of my favourite places to shop for new bits and pieces is the Old English Company. They are a stationery and homeware brand that make really beautiful, hand lettered products that I am obsessed with. Their stuff is so simple and stylish, and they use cute calligraphy-style writing across all their designs. I was introduced to them a few years ago and have been building a collection of items from them ever since (I can't help myself). When I found out about my new job they were naturally the first place I headed to when I decided that I wanted to treat myself to new work stationery, but I hadn't quite realised that all but one of my favourite items were 'millennial pink' themed! Who can resist it when they all look so nice together? My main priority had to be planners and notepads, because although I like to think of myself as quite a naturally organised person, often this is down to the help of a good planner. An A5 notebook is so handy for keeping in your bag in between meetings when you're out and about, and it's even better when it's got some rose gold foil lettering on the front. Then when you're at your desk, prioritising tasks is essential for me if I want to tackle not only the big jobs, but also the boring ones too. A weekly agenda helps me to take a look at the week ahead and assess what things I need to make sure I tick off; and then a note pad and memo pad are super handy for making notes throughout the day when new tasks are added to your (never ending) list. 
Although it might not last long, I find that buying new stationery bits really help to get me in an organised and productive mood. To some it may mean nothing, but for me I think it helps me to feel like i've got my life in gear and I can tackle anything that life throws at me. If i'm going to enjoy my job then I might as well start with the basics to set me off in the right direction! Take a look at my top Old English Company picks:

Did you know that it is World Stationery Day on the 25th April? To celebrate, Old English Company are offering one lucky person the chance to win all 4 of their best-selling planners in a variety of colours! If you want to win then head over to their website to check out the details (Winner being announced on the 25th).

Monday, 16 April 2018

Why I'm Doing #WalkInHerShoes

10,000 steps a day does not sound like a lot to most people. However if you're like one of the many people like me who use public transport and then sit on their bums all day in an office, then it is embarrassing how few steps you're able to achieve on a day-to-day basis. Until recently I had never even thought about how far I was walking each day, or how much time I spent sitting versus walking. I always thought that if I was eating good (enough) food and doing my yoga once or twice a week then I was surely living a healthy lifestyle. Well I was wrong! Sitting around for more than eight hours a day can be associated with diabetes, heart disease, issues with blood pressure...the list goes on. However if you're able to swap your habits and walk around a little bit more during your day then you can counter all those problems and more! 

A few months ago I heard about Care International, a charity working to fight poverty in 94 countries, after seeing their signs at International Women's Day in London. I discovered that they do a number of fundraising projects throughout the year which focus on helping women and girls who are affected by poverty and discrimination - and they have been doing some incredible things so far. I think it is very easy to go about your normal life and not think about women in other countries who are exactly the same age as you, but living their life in a very different way. I wake up in my comfortable bed, go to work using my oyster card on the tube, and then sit in my nice warm office all day long earning money to pay my bills. I don't have issues with buying myself lunch, or accessing clean water. I don't have issues with putting clothes on my back or makeup on my face. I am fortunate in the sense that I do not have to face any extreme discrimination because I am a woman. Yet I'm sure you'll all aware that this is not the case for a lot of women and girls in other countries.

So I thought I would try and do my bit. Care International run a project called Walk In Her Shoes, a fundraising opportunity that asks you to walk 10,000 steps every day for one week (16-22nd April).
Why? Well every day thousands of women and girls, all over the world, have no choice but to walk many miles to fetch water for their families, and that water that is often dirty. Their daily routine deprives them of the chance to have an education, a job, and traps them in a cycle of poverty. Isn't it crazy to think that by purely not having water available to them, so much of their life could be affected?

By getting involved in Walk In Her Shoes, I'm helping to raise money that will be put towards building wells and water pumps closer to rural communities so that women and girls don’t have to spend their days walking for water, and can plan for a better future. And it's so simple! All I had to do to be involved was pay 5 pounds to enter, and then speak to my friends and family about sponsoring me. You're asked to try and raise at least 100 pounds before the 22nd April as Care are working with the government who have said that they will match any donations submitted before then. But I'm hoping I'll be able to get some more money in before the end of the week!

So from now on I'll be trying to take the stairs instead of the lift, I'll be walking up the escalator instead of standing to one side and looking at my phone, I'll be taking a quick 5 minute break to walk to the shops over lunch instead of ordering in. And if I'm able to help even a little bit then it will have been totally worthwhile! Care International's projects have led to an increase in girls’ school enrolment, improved school performance and reduced incidences of violence against girls collecting water. So I definitely think this is a good project to get involved with. If you want to help me change the lives of women around the world then please feel free to sponsor me here.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Wrapping up

I don't know about you, but i'm bloody freezing pretty much all the time. I'm that person who wears socks to bed (and sometimes a jumper). I'm that person who has gloves in their bag for most of the year as I always feel like my fingers are going to fall off. I'm that person who can't sit on the sofa without a blanket cascaded all over me. In short, I get cold A LOT. When you're inside, you can wrap yourself up in all the cosy things you can find in your room, but when you're forced to leave the house for annoying things like work or social occasions, then you're a bit stuck when it comes to being warm AND looking nice. I know that when it gets to September, us Brits all have the same predicament where we don't want to give up entirely on the chance of some final summer sunshine, but we are also very realistic about the fact that within a few days, the temperature will drop, it starts bucketing it down with rain, and all public transport will be ruined for ridiculous reasons like too many leaves or frozen tracks. So despite us now being on the other side of winter and *supposedly* one step closer to some sunshine, I thought i'd share one of my favourite looks that i'm wearing at the moment, one that has helped me stay wrapped up and looking nice over the last few months. 
The cream knitted jumper. Is there anything better? You can have slim fitting ones, or slouchy over-sized ones, and yet they still look really awesome. The thing I love about my H&M knit is that it goes with pretty much anything. It's long enough to fall down below my bum (meaning it's hiding my really stylish under clothes situation of a top tucked in to my jeans) and also has nicely fitted sleeves which aren't too long and aren't too short. It has some slight detailing to it, but it isn't so over the top that it is a statement jumper. And finally, it is super cosy. It's the perfect jumper for chucking on under a big coat or a light jacket, and has been my go-to item for the last few years. I got this baby in a charity shop for £4 and I would definitely say that it has been one of my best finds. If you're ever looking for great jumpers then please do check out your local charity shops (especially if you don't mind a bigger fit), there are so many great places selling amazing big knits for everyone, but with a tiny price tag which means you can't say no. 
I have so many scarfs (probably too many), and as someone who is always cold, I wear them with pretty much every outfit. A monochrome one is an obvious key item to have because it can be worn with pretty much any coloured coat or big jumper. This big scarf is an old one from Peacocks, but i've found a really similar one from H&M here. This scarf has been through a lot with me - been a hair protector in the wind and rain, has been a blanket on cold trains and flights, and has done a great job of keeping my neck warm through all weathers. I'm a big believer in getting a big scarf for all occasions, as you never knew when it's going to be needed for multi-purpose use! This little Chloe dupe bag is an eBay bargain after seeing it on Believer it or not, it was only about £11 and has lasted me so well. Get yours here!
I've been living in my black high-wasited jeans as they work with pretty much any look i'm going for, but when it's chilly outside, i've been pairing them with some over the knee black boots (with huge fluffy socks underneath), and i've been good to go. Get yourself a comfortable pair of over the knee boots and you'll be wearing them for years to come. Whether you get heeled ones or flat ones, black boots add a new element to a very simple outfit of a cream jumper and jeans. This whole look works perfectly for weekend brunches, a visit to see a friend, or a quick trip out of the city. As much as i'm looking forward to feeling the sun on my face, i'm also sad to be putting away my big knits for a few months! What has been your go-to cosy outfit this winter? Let me know in the comments below! CTx

Thursday, 22 March 2018

#OriginsInBloom in Cambridge

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend an event in Cambridge with some of my other lovely Camb Meet Up ladies at Origins in Rose Crescent. Sally from planned an incredible Saturday evening event after the store had closed and I felt so fortunate to not only be with a group of really nice people for a couple of hours, but also in the Origins store finding out about the amazing products they sell. I've always been a bit useless with my skincare (e.g used to be rubbish at taking my makeup off/bad at washing my face or using face scrubs), and then a few years ago I was introduced to Origins and i've been in love ever since. Attending an event in their store was like an evening of heavenly treatment. We learnt about the correct type of products we should use for our different skin types, the order that we should apply the products in, and how we can look after our skin better moving forward. A couple of girls were used as models to demonstrate the effect of the cleansers, toners, serums and moisturisers, and it was relaxing even watching this! I had a full face of makeup on so I didn't put myself forward, but I made sure to go and feel how soft their skin was when they had finished (I got permission first!). Instead, I jumped at the chance of having a hand and arm massage. I could feel the tension being released from my hands with each movement, it's crazy how much you can de-stress from something so simple. It just shows how easy it is to make yourself feel that tiniest bit better with a little bit of self-care with some good products. 
I have quite dry and sensitive skin, but Origins use all natural and certified organic ingredients, which means that your skin is left feeling nourished and refreshed after using their products. I am especially a fan of the Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask which is used to 'quench skin's thirst'. As I basically live with dry skin every day of my life, having something that you can put on before bed and then not worry about it until the morning is such a nice thing. At £26.50, I tend to use it quite sparingly - but the great thing is that you don't need to use a lot to make a huge difference. It hydrates your skin almost immediately, and if you ask anyone who uses it then you'll know that they RAVE about the apricot smell. There are so many other products that I am desperate to try, and I know that I will be popping back to treat myself whenever I can. 
The event was a really great reminder of how nicely bloggers and brands can work together. Everyone walked away genuinely enthusiastic about Origins, and I don't think there was one person who didn't buy something special for themselves. We were all kindly given a sheet mask in our goodie bags and I am making sure that I save it for a relaxing evening in to myself. I can't wait to be able to light some candles, read a book and recharge my batteries whilst sorting my skin out. Origins aims to provide products that have a unique blend of mood-enhancing essential oils that are a pleasure to use, and I genuinely do feel that that is the case. When I use their products I feel like I am looking after myself, and it was lovely to hear that this was the consensus from all the other girls at the event too. We spoke in detail about what our favourite items are and how they benefit us each differently - which just shows how vital skincare is to each and every one of us.
Thank you so much to the lovely Sally and the team at Origins! It was a great evening, surrounded by inspirational friends and new people too. Sally made sure that everyone was looked after, and her husband even made some cakes for us to enjoy. It didn't take much convincing for me to want to shop with Origins, but it was great to find out more about some of the goodies that I didn't know anything about. I'm really looking forward to trying more out soon! CTx

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

London Gin Festival

Last month I had an email pop in to my inbox that could possibly be seen as every gin lovers dream. 'I'm currently on the hunt for bloggers to attend the London Gin Festival'...erm say no more, yes please! After giving up vodka and a couple of other spirits a few years ago, gin became my go-to drink for all occasions. Looking for an after work drink... how about a gin, tonic and grapefruit? A relaxing evening drink...i'm sure gin, elderflower tonic and cucumber would work! There's so many different ways you can add an exciting twist to a classic G&T and I knew that the London Gin Festival would be the place to find some new ideas. Based in the amazing Tobacco Docks, a Grade 1 listed warehouse in the East End of London, this couldn't have been a more perfect venue for the festival. It's uniquely authentic design helped to add another element to the experience as everywhere you looked there was a new interesting area filled with music, food and gin. You could tell that other people agreed as even though the queue to get in was quite long, everyone was commenting on how fascinating the venue was and how excited they were to get in and have a drink. (Pro tip: get there as early as you can to avoid waiting in line). 
When we got through to the event we were greeted by festival helpers who gave us an little pack for the evening with a huge amount of information in it about the gins on offer, the gin companies there, the food and the shop. We moved out of the way of the eager ginthusiasts to examine the guide and I have to say that I was blown away. I've never claimed to be a proper gin aficionado, instead I'm much more of an appreciator, but I was still amazed by the variety of gins that were being presented to us. Herbal gin, citrusy gin, sweet gin, smokey gin, spicy gin, dry gin...the list goes on, they had it all and I couldn't wait to find out more! We picked up our Gin Festival glass to use for the evening and decided to head straight to the bar as the cocktails were calling our names. Everyone was walking round with glasses with beautifully coloured drinks swirling around inside and as soon as I spotted someone with an pink coloured gin I decided that it would be the perfect cocktail to get me started. The bartender put together a combination of fruity Pinkster Gin, a whole heap of ice and some schweppes tonic - it was heaven! After a long week at work the taste of cold raspberry gin on my lips was such a satisfying feeling. Everyone around us seemed to be laughing as they clinked their glasses and sung along to the music and it was clear to me that they were all having a really good time. 
 After we had done a recce of the building and sussed out all the places we wanted to visit, we headed to the gin tasting room. We went from stand to stand learning about the history of each company, the types of tonic or mixers you should drink with each flavour, and what garnish would suit the drink. We tested samples of straight gin from PJ Gin, Piucinque, KokoroWhitley Neill Rhubarb and ginger, and Tinker and we couldn't get enough. We learnt which gins worked with amazing schweppes tonics (like grapefruit, lemon, cucumber etc), which gins you should eat a sansho berry with (Kokoro team - you're killers), or which flavours are accentuated by a shaving of a citrus fruit skin. We felt like we were walking round the sample section not only having a huge amount of fun, but also gaining a heap of information and building our gin knowledge. By the time we left the room we knew that our next step needed to be a trip to the bar to select our new found favourite drinks. Mine had to be a Tinker gin with grapefruit tonic - a fresh drink with a natural sweetness, but balanced by the sharp elderberry. I think it might have to be my go-to drink going forward as it has such a soft flavour, but the ice in the big glass and a little bit of mint help to release the fruitiness (I've already looked at where I can get it in London bars and pubs!) 
One of the best things about the event definitely had to be the atmosphere. Everyone seemed like they were genuinely having a really good time! There were couples, groups of friends, and it even looked like there were a few family outings happening. Despite it being a Friday night there was lots of room to mingle and look around without it feeling too spacious, and the queues for drinks were just the right length when you're eagerly waiting to try a new gin delight. A few gins in and we had visited pretty much all of the stands that we wanted to go to and decided that the stage was the next place for us. Northern Epidemic, a two man band from Yorkshire, was playing and they were literally amazing. They managed to get the whole crowd singing and dancing along to a collection of classic tunes from through the ages and they helped to finish off our evening at Tobacco Docks with a bang. 
The tickets start at 10 pounds (depending on the date/time you go) and there are numerous events round the UK so make sure you check out their website to see if there is one coming to your city soon! The next London Gin Festival is 24th-26th August and I will definitely be rallying the troops to go along for a summer drinking experience. I hope to see you there! CTx

Friday, 12 January 2018

Unexplained Unfulfillment

Despite being friends with people because of common interests or circumstances, you will never view a situation in the same way as the person next to you. You can feel as if you know someone because they portray themselves in a certain way, but it's important to remember that behind closed doors they might be someone completely different. It's so easy to make assumptions about people based on what you know or see about them, but how often do you stop to look deeper? We are all so busy, so we choose to accept people as what we think we know, and that is completely fine! Who can be bothered to question it? Modern day life takes over and we are all time poor, so viewing things in the simplest way is normally the easiest to come to terms with. Every so often though, we should take a moment to realise that only a few individuals are truly themselves on the inside and out, and that some people use all of their energy on 'appearing' okay, whilst also suffering with anxieties, fears and battles of their own. 
I've titled this post unexplained unfulfillment because this is what I suffer from. I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and a steady income, yet I live with a constant feeling of unfulfillment. It's absolutely insane when I try to explain it to people (so apologies if it doesn't make much sense), but I guess the only way I can articulate what I mean is by saying that my life feels like a never ending battle to achieve what is just out of reach. My brain tells me on a daily basis that i'm incapable of achieving the salary I want, the body I want, the motivation I want, the types of friendships I want...and there is absolutely no explanation as to why. I just can't. I realise that this is a stereotypical post written by a modern day 'millennial' - someone who is supposedly completely unsatisfied with life and unappreciative of what I have (can you tell I hate generational prejudice?). However, I think it is important to explain that this is how I feel, and not hold back because I'm worried about what people will think. 
I've spent most of my life suffering with anxiety and have had real issues with comparison, but I think that more recently it has dawned on me quite how much I struggle with it. We live in a world of instagram models and social media accounts which display the success of our peers, and it makes it really difficult for each of us to not compare our lives to theirs. Don't get me wrong, there's so many amazing things that come from the world we live in, but it's also not healthy to see these aspirational bloggers and celebrities who live lives that are so out of reach. It makes it almost impossible for me to realise my value or work out where I belong when I'm pretty much being told that I should be someone completely different to who I am. It's not surprising in the slightest that I am feeling these crazy feelings of unfulfillment when I am getting so much exposure to an unattainable lifestyle. I know deep down that all the things I think I want wouldn't necessarily make me happy or fulfilled in any way, but because it is in front of me all the time my brain plays tricks on me. 
This year I want to spend more time following and being inspired by girls and guys who I feel like I could go for a coffee with. Make friends with people who live in the moment and are real, those who write posts about real life subjects that I can relate to and don't make me feel bad about myself. Every time I look at a picture and get that horrible sensation of FOMO (from a friend or blogger), I need to pinch myself and bring myself back to reality and realise that the person in the picture might be struggling with the same imposter syndrome that I am - but they are just better at hiding it. I know that not every relationship is perfect, every girl suffers from body image issues, and I know that I can't afford a Gucci handbag or go to expensive restaurants on a daily basis, so why am I spending my time trying to convince myself that that way of life would make me feel more satisfied?
I know that mental health is discussed all over the place, as this is 2018, but it always amazes me that it is still so frowned upon by some people to openly discuss the struggles that you're going through. We all seem scared to be honest about the thoughts in our heads due to the fear of being called a drama queen, an over-sharer, or worse be categorised as the dreaded label of 'mentally unwell' (which unfortunately has more negative connotations than it should). I don't know about you, but I think I have very few friends who feel secure enough to discuss the extent of what is going on with them because we live in such a world of judgement. People are worried, even with their own friends to talk about their insecurities and the things they are battling at the time. So I say to hell with all that. I want to encourage everyone in my life to be more open - in fact I challenge you. If someone makes you feel bad about thoughts you're having that aren't 100% happy all the time then they aren't people you should be spending time with. I don't want anyone else to have a horrible feeling of unfulfillment  - explained or unexplained - so how about we support each other a little bit more instead of feeling envy or rivalry? I've never been a big fan of 'new year, new you', but if you are going to change anything for the year ahead, then why not try to be content with what you already have? Stop feeling like you've failed because you're not the same as everyone else. We are all special, and the sooner we start believing that, the better off we will all be. 

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Let's be proud of what we've achieved

I'm sure you've seen a lot of people posting about the three things they are proud to have achieved in 2017 after Adam J Kurtz's tweet about personal achievements went viral. Every other post on my feed seems to be my blogger pals and favourite people stating what impressive things they have done and I think it's awesome to see people taking a moment to recognise how great they are. 365 days is a long time, and we are all capable of achieving a lot - so give yourself a big pat on the back for getting through it all. You did it! Whilst I say that, I do also think that it is important to not feel bad if you haven’t achieved life changing things in 2017. I wouldn’t say that anything I achieved was even in the slightest bit earth shattering, but to me, they meant a lot and I am proud of them from a personal point of view. 
So to end this (slightly chaotic and bizarre) year, I thought I would tell you the top three things that I am proud to have achieved in the last 12 months.
I survived over a year in my London job, and got a pay rise. Now saying that I survived a year in my job doesn’t sound like something to shout about, but this time two years ago I was settled in a nice job in Cambridge and was far too terrified to do a ‘big move’ to London. So I really am impressed with myself that I not only managed to quit one job that I quite liked back home, but also that I managed to get a new job in the big smoke, and didn’t get fired/bored. I know that the current job market isn’t amazing, so I think that if you can stick it out anywhere and still be happy to go to work each day - then you’re doing well! Then, because of the hard work of everyone in my team, we managed to all get a pay rise. It wasn’t much, and isn’t anything to shout from the rooftops about, but London life is pretty pricey, so every penny counts!This year has been an interesting one in terms of my health. I started the year feeling fit as a fiddle, without a care in the world. I was eating too much, drinking too much, and generally not taking care of my body. Then in the early summer I was hit with ongoing bouts of cystitis and kidney problems. Of course, it is very easy to assume that this was because of the normal reasons (google it if you’re unaware), but unfortunately that just wasn’t the case for me. I was getting more and more ill, and ended up crying in agony in front of doctors too many times to count. After a number of visits to A&E, NHS doctors and private consultants, I was told that I have an incurable hereditary kidney disorder which means that my body is susceptible to more infections than a normal person. Every time I get sick, it is more than likely to be because of something new, and the only cure for it is long term antibiotics. Only problem is, each infection needs different antibiotics, so it means that I am basically a human sample testing machine every time I am ill. So months after this debacle started I am now in a more stable position, and am feeling positive about my health moving forward. I have had to give up a lot (including two of my faves - wine and caffeine), I’ve had to switch up my lifestyle so I am not exhausting myself, I’ve had to change a lot of the products I used to avoid infections, and finally, I spend my life living with sample pots, antibiotics and water bottles in my bag everywhere I go - but I will take all of this if it means I’m not in pain, miserable, and missing out on life. I am so proud of myself for not giving up when times got tough, for persevering with tests and drugs and doctors appointments, and I am proud that I have managed to survive despite at one point feeling like there was no chance i’d ever get better.
My third achievement is something pretty general, but awesome all the same. In 2017 I met so many incredibly amazing new people and I am feeling very grateful. I met new friends, new bloggers, new colleagues and a new man, and it is very exciting to think back at all the awesome experiences I had with each and every one of these people. There’s no denying that a new romantic relationship makes a huge difference to your life, but I genuinely think the success of 2017 has been because of a combination of people who have all contributed to making the last 12 months incredible for me. I've met like-minded individuals who are not only interesting, but they are also interested, and that makes for an awesome time together. I'm learning from my boyfriend and friends all the time, and I feel like I am constantly developing as a person with the help of a fantastic support system around me. I am so thankful that I am able to meet new people on a daily basis, whether that is through work, at events, or through friends, and I hope that 2018 brings a lot more fascinating people in to my life.
The move into 2018 is literally just the clock moving from one minute to the next, so try not to put too much pressure on things. I didn’t ask for or plan for any of the points above, but I achieved them because I had an open mind and saw happiness as my number one priority. I’m not expecting miracles in 2018, but I am going to continue each day with as much positivity as I can muster up, and I am going to relish the opportunities that come my way. I’m not going to set goals, but I wish you all the luck in the world with whatever you want to achieve in the next 12 months, and I can’t wait to see how much we have all grown this time next year. 

Outfit - Polo neck, Jacket, Jeans, Shoes, Bag: all Primark
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