Monday, 3 August 2015

Radical Self Improvement August

There's something about Monday's that make you feel ready for change. The start of a new week. Mondays, and new months. Although today is actually the 3rd of August now, it's my first August blog post so we're going to roll with this theme.

If we chat on Twitter, you might have picked up on the fact that I've not been that happy with a lot of things for a while. The past few months have been quite testing and I'm just felt constantly a bit shaken up and anxious. I'm just not in a good place. I've felt like this for periods in my life before but never for this long. It's almost like I'm feeling restless with my life and I'm craving change, but at the same time, I feel exhausted and new things terrify me. It's hard to explain, but I need change and while I can come up with every excuse under the sun as to why I can't do anything about the way I'm feeling, truth is, I probably can. Or at least if I can't, nobody can. I've read that it take 25 days for a change to become a routine so I've decided that August is going to be Radical Self-Improvement Month! (Setting a time limit makes it seem more achievable, okay?!)

I've written quite a sizable list of things I want to do, change and work on. It includes small things like...
  • Drinking less caffeine and eating less chocolate. During Lent, I have up my two biggest diet addictions for 6 and a half weeks and it actually wasn't as hard as I expected - you can read more about that here. When Easter came though, I let myself slip right back into my old bad habits without even trying to maintain my new healthier diet. Now though, I know that I've done it (and succeeded at it) before so I can again. My new rule? I can only have caffeine and chocolate on my days off. 2 days per week is better than 7, right?
  • Walking more, even if it's just getting off the bus home from work a stop or two early. At the start of 2015, my boss and I made a mutual New Years' Resolution to walk either to or home from work at least once a week. We live in completely opposite directions, but we just thought it'd be a fun thing to challenge each other with. Needless to say, whenever either of us do it, it's a huge deal and we talk about it as if we've just won the lottery. Simply not good enough, I need to walk more. It's free exercise and if I can't do it in Summer (yes, even this rainy season that's trying to pass off as Summer!) when can I?
  • Going to bed by 11pm every night, midnight if I'm off the next day. Admittedly as I've gotten older, my sleep routine has gotten better. I'm kind of over that whole staying up til 4am watching Netflix stage of my life, but sometimes I just faff about so much that without me even realising it, it's suddenly 1am and I need to be up for work at 7am. I'm setting myself the challenge of going to bed by 11pm on days that I'm working the next day, midnight when I'm not. Of course there'll be exceptions, nights out etc. but I think that's a reasonable goal for every day.

To bigger things like...
  • Get back into writing a 'journal' - until earlier this year, I was an avid journal writer since my mid teens. Everything that happened in my life, good or bad, was written down. I find it theraputic to have a record of my feelings but I've let that fall by the wayside and I want to get back in to it. On a similar note, my lifelong struggle to not me a closed book is once again reeking havoc on my life, and I find that writing stuff down not only helps me feel better about it, but it helps me be more honest with other people too, so it's a two birds, one stone deal.
  • Kick start my physical health. My gym's been closed for the past 10 months for renovation and it's finally back open with lots of shiny new equipment and personal trainers (not sure if they're shiny too, we'll see!) This month, I'm rejoining and more importantly, I'm going to use my membership. I recently found some old pictures of me and while I know I've gained weight over the past few years, I'm truly shocked at how much my body has changed and I am so jealous of 4-years-ago Sophie. Once I get in the habit of going to the gym regularly, I actually really do enjoy the actual activity of going as well as the results I get but it's the motivation to get going that I lack. It is however, quite literally, a 30 second walk from my front door so I have no excuse. Plus, you know, new trainers, so what's not to love?
  • Go back to my doctor about my mental health. I try not to go too much into my mental health on my blog cause I don't want people I know in real life seeing but I think I need to go back to the doctors and talk some stuff through as things just aren't going the way I need them to go and it's time to at least try and sort that out. I'm tired of feeling 'stuck' in this place.

As well as continual changes, there's a few things I want to do, like redesign my blog, redo my media kit, have a massive wardrobe clear out and get my hair cut (we all know I avoid the hairdressers like the plague).

I'm a firm believer that it's the things you don't do which you regret most, so I'm taking charge of my life and properly trying to change it. Wish me luck and watch this space...

Monday, 27 July 2015

5 Amazing Things The Internet Has Given Me

I am a self confessed internet addict. As I rapidly approach the 20k tweets mark, I hang my head in shame, thinking "what have I possibly been saying?!" I have quite literally two tweets for every WORD of my entire university graduate dissertation. HOW?! Barely a day goes by that my iPhone doesn't run out of battery cause I've drained it down using my unlimited free wifi. To my parents and people of their generation, the Internet mostly serves the purpose of finding a particular phone number or perhaps the opening hours of a shop, but to me and most of my generation, the Internet is everything. It sounds really sad, but I can't imagine how different all our lives would be without it. 

Here's 5 amazing things that the Internet has given me.

My blog is nearly 4 years old now. Can you believe that? I've never been someone who sticks to hobbies very easily. I'm not very good at sport, I can't play any musical instruments and I'm far too introverted for anything like drama or dance. With blogging though, I've finally found my hobby. 

It combines my life long love of writing, my passion for expressing myself though fashion and beauty and my enjoyment of creative pursuits like photography. It also helps me to nurture important life skills like setting yourself deadlines, doing things alone (like going to blogging events) and forcing yourself out of your comfort zone.

By its truest definition, I guess you could say I've been a feminist since my early teens but it wasn't til I discovered Tumblr (and subsequently a number of other feminist resources online) that I really became actively involved and began to openly identify as a feminist. I obviously knew about gender inequality my whole life but like so many, I was wary of the word 'feminism'. 

The Internet has taught me that it's something to embrace rather than shy away from and I've learned so much about feminist issues (those that directly affect me and that don't) that I'd never have known about via mainstream media. 10 years ago, I didn't know what intersectionality is, about rape culture, about FGM or body positivity and sadly, a lot of my peers still don't. The feminist pages I visit, follow and subscribe to keep my mind questioning and open to a huge range of issues that I now can't imagine not knowing and being passionate about. 

As well as my blog, the Internet provides me with loads of opportunities. Don't get me wrong, I work hard but I've gotten jobs, internships and freelance writing and styling work via the Internet which I'd never have even known about without it. God bless you LinkedIn and Gumtree!

A Wealth Of Knowledge & Entertainment
It seems obscene to me that in past years before the Internet, there was no Shazam to identify that song from that advert, no Netflix for endless TV & film entertainment, no Wikipedia to find out pointless facts and no IMDB to scratch that "what else have I seen him in?" itch. On top of that, any university work I ever did or piece I've ever written would've been massively different without the Internet. I know my generation is very spoiled for choice and often we face an information overload but the thought of finding out about anything without the use of the World Wide Web seems insane to me!

Thanks to the Internet, I have made, and kept up with a whole host of amazing people. 
From my blogging friends that I speak to every day are always just a tweet away to provide advice and support or just a chat or a laugh, to old friends who I've reconnected with on Facebook, or co-workers from jobs from my teens which I still keep up with and see regularly thanks to our Facebook group chats. A lot of older generations would say the Internet and technology devalues genuine relationships and takes away from real social experiences but that couldn't be further from my experience.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

My 'Is It Autumn Yet?' Wishlist

It's July, yes, but with the rain situation in Glasgow at the moment, it feels like Summer has been and gone and Autumn is well on it's way. I've always been much of an Autumn Winter kind of girl when it comes to fashion - boots, coats and knitwear over sandals, shorts and swimwear any day! With the high street starting to stock their new season collections, here's some of the pieces I'd love to add to my A/W 2015 wardrobe!

Satchel     |     Skirt     |     Shirt Dress     |     Boots     |     Ring     |     Coat     |     Hat

Since I finally took the backpack plunge recently, I've been eying up so many. I only have one and it's quite slouchy but I'm thinking my next investment is going to have to be something a little more structured - channeling my inner WWII evacuee perhaps? Paired with the skirt of the moment, the bottom up and some statement boots. I'm still not 100% how I can make the 1970's trend work for me but I think owning this whole outfit would be a good start!

Monday, 20 July 2015

How I Plan My Blog via Sketches & Mind Maps

Hey all! Last Sunday's #lbloggers chat was about blog planning and when I mentioned that a fair amount of my blog planning involves drawings, sketches, doodles and mind maps, everybody seems very intrigued. I didn't know that was so unusual, but I've always been a creative person so perhaps it just seems normal as its how I've always planned things, whether that be studying when I was at school or uni or now for work, blogging or any freelance stuff I do. 

I asked on Twitter if anyone would be interested in seeing a post about it and loads of people said they would so your wish is my command, enjoy my crazy little doodles and illegible handwriting - the life and times of a fashion graduate, eh? I've tried to include stuff that is fairly easy to explain. In my little blogging note book of wonders lies some really odd doodles so I've selected some examples that seem to actually, you know, make sense!

So it might seem odd to plan something that is primarily written via. drawing, right? Well I don't often actually plan the written content in drawings, it's usually things like how I envision a new banner to look or how I'd like a particular photo to look. Obviously when it comes to actually making the banner on Photoshop or laying the products out to photograph, the reality and my sketches don't always match.

Here's a few sketches for a banner idea I had. I've always struggled with banners and graphic stuff for my blog as I'm not very good at working with non-photographic imagery on Photoshop so often the illustrations I create by hand aren't able to translated to the computer very easily and I'm left feeling quite limited by both my skills and my computer software. 

This is an idea I had whereby I wanted to have some sort of drawing or illustration of myself in my banner - after all, simplistic text is all very well and good but it's not very personal, is it? I messed around with styles (I actually quite like this one <----) and tried to scan and edit it on the computer but unfortunately it didn't turn out quite how I'd hoped and that banner idea didn't really come to much.

Last month I blogged about my top tips to save on beauty - you can read that here if you want. I knew before I started to actually write it that I had loads of tips but that putting them down in a list might be a bit hard to do and I didn't know if there'd be a flow to it. You see, most people use lists to organise things but I don't find lists helpful or particularly easy to come up with. I worry about the order that the list comes in and about how to prioritise the things on it. Me, I'm much more of a mind map person. You can see here that was started out neat(ish) soon deteriorated in to a half-capitals, half-lowercase mess that barely even makes sense to me never mind any of you lot I'm sure. Mind maps help me to get all my ideas down in one place then I can edit them and filter out the useful stuff with it all laid out clearly in front of me.

I hope you've enjoyed this little insight into my creative mind and how I use it to help plan my blog. I love writing and am forever taking notes, jotting stuff down and scribbling things on out of date receipts and old train tickets but my mind mostly works using images rather than words so often it helps me to draw something out. Hopefully these examples weren't too boring. As I said, I've got s ton of stuff which is just too difficult to explain even to myself never mind to the Internet, but I might do another post like this at some point, maybe just a ton of drawings with no explanations at all? We'll see...

Friday, 17 July 2015

Make-up Shaming, Policing Peoples' Faces & 'Embracing Your Natural Beauty'

Like so many things in our society, women are so often shamed for their interest in make-up. Women who choose to wear make-up are seen to be insecure and shallow and generally there's thought to be a direct corolation between how much makeup one wears and just how insecure that person is. The more make-up, the more insecure and they more they want to hide. But what happens when women regroup, rebel and go make-up free? The same result, essentially. Their choices are again ridiculed. Women who wear make-up and insecure and shallow, women who do not are lazy and don't care about their appearance. 

I'm sure this isn't news to any woman, particularly those who are interested in make-up. It even happens between women themselves, not just from men. I'm forever seeing females - online, on blogs, in real life and on social media - commenting on how another female has badly filled in eyebrows or that their foundation doesn't match their skin tone. It's everywhere and while this whole mindset has sadly became so common that it no longer shocks me when I see it happening, I read this article the other day that really triggered something with me.

The article discusses how the contouring trend (the 'Kardashian look' as they called it - news flash, Kim Kardashian did not invent contouring) is causing women to have an 'unhealthy' perception of how their bone structure ought to look in order to feel beautiful. Call me niave, but just like any other make-up trend, contouring exists to enhance the wearers feature, highlight the areas they wish to draw attention to and mask those which they aren't perhaps as keen on. That's the basic formula for so much in life, is it not? You would never go for a job interview and point out all the things you do badly. You would never have your most beautiful possessions hidden away in a cupboard while boring and ugly but essential household items grace your mantlepiece. This formula applies just as strongly to ones appearance and to present your best areas is no bad thing. While wouldn't you want to present your best self?

Here's an extract from that article...

"We shouldn't have to paint a pie chart of browns and whites on our faces to feel beautiful - or worse yet, to feel like someone else. There's a time and place for transformative makeup and it's not in our daily routine. And while I love the "woke up like this" makeup trend, I'm not saying we should all go bare-faced. I'm for a bold lip and dramatic winged liner. Ultimately, I would just love to see more women embrace their own beauty: their freckles and bushy brows and quirky lips. These things are, after all, what makes each of us individually beautiful."

I hope you'll agree with me that there is so much wrong with this quote. It tries to sound accepting and inclusive but in actual fact, isolates women who don't fit a certain mould. 

Firstly, as somebody who wears make-up every day, I personally do not care for statements like "we shouldn't have to paint our faces to feel beautiful". Telling people what they should or shouldn't do in order to feel beautiful spreads more insecurity and judgement than makeup wearing ever does. I'm happy with how I look, my personality, my body and my life for the most part but if there are ways that I can feel even better about those things, why wouldn't I do them? Make-up helps me feel more confident with how my face looks. I don't like my skin tone without foundation, my nearly-invisible brows without pencil or my T-zone without mattifying powder and that's fine because it's my face, and if I want to put these things on my face every day to feel like I look attractive, I damn well will.

Secondly - "There's a time and place for transformative makeup and it's not your daily routine." No, it's not YOUR daily routine, but if other people want it to be part of theirs, why the heck not? My bare face and my made up face are very different, so I guess in some respects you could say I wear 'transformative' makeup every day, but why is that anybodies business but my own?
Policing when and where somebody else should be wearing something, anything, is problematic, whether that be makeup, clothing, whatever. Why shouldn't you contour the heck out of your face every morning, give me one good reason why not. Following on, I cannot quite get my head around the writer being so against contouring in an everyday capacity but then follows up with statements like 'I'm for a bold lip and dramatic winged liner.' as if to say THIS is the type of look you SHOULD wear day to day.

Lastly, women should embrace their individual beautiful, but only if they have natural freckles or have been graced with the eyebrows of Cara Delevingne. As a pale, plus size woman with frizzy hair and red, uneven skin, stretch marks and who isn't entirely bald from the neck down, the world doesn't want to see my natural beauty, or at least without trying to sugarcoat it by calling my body 'volumptious' and referring to my stretch marks as 'tiger stripes'. God forbid I were a woman of colour or a redhead or disabled as sadly my natural beautiful would be celebrated even less. 

It's only when ones natural beauty is slim, clear skinned, silky haired and blemish free that it is celebrated by the media and it perhaps for this reason that I first got into beauty and why I love make-up. 

It gives me a tool to paint my face in any way I choose to. Some days it's concealer and brows and I'm out the door, while others I spend ages faffing around with primers, colour correcters and serums before the make-up itself has even begun. It gives me the control to present my face how I see fit and I for one am thoroughly sick of being shamed and policed for what *I* do with *my* face.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

London Haul ft. Lush Oxford Street, &OtherStories and Topshop

Hi all! If you caught Monday's post (catch up here if not!) you'll have seen I was recently in London. Now as much as I love galleries, museums, sightseeing and just generally soaking up the vibes of being in such a busy and diverse city, there's no denying that that shopping in London is not half bad too. I wasn't there to shop, but I did pick up a few things so thought I'd share.

I knew when I booked this trip that a visit to Lush's new store on Oxford Street was a must. I've seen loads of beauty bloggers posting and tweeting about it and I needed to experience this for myself. Truth me told, I was pretty underwhelmed by the whole experience, I found the shop to be poorly laid out and the products that were exclusive to that store weren't clearly marked. Great if you're a Lush junkie and have endless time to smell, touch and prod but a little daunting if you're more of a occasional and somewhat clueless Lush dabbler like myself. 

I only picked up two things, both shower creams, both Oxford Street exclusive - which I know thanks extensive Googling, would've been much easier if they just specified in store?! Comforter is the shower cream version of the Lush classic, the Comforter bubble bar. The smell is very sweet, I'd describe the smell as a cocktail of the Snow a Fairy scent (who doesn't love Snow Fairy?), blackcurrant Ribena and maybe a little touch of honey or maple syrup. It's super sweet but in quite a fruity, berryish way. Lord of Misrule was recommended to be my the rather fantastic Georgina from She Might Be Loved. This one is a much more natural scent, containing patchouli and black pepper. You know that wonderful wet garden smell after its really poured down with rain? This is what the smell of Lord of Misrule reminds me of. It's fresh, clean and natural but with a little touch of sweetness too. 

Each come in 4 sizes and I bought the 250g (second smallest) for £9.50 each. I've not used either yet but I've never had a Lush shower cream before so am excited to try them.

Next, Topshop Oxford Street. Again, compared to the fairly small Topshop's of Glasgow, the Oxford Street store is insanely huge and I could've easier spend hours wandering around in awe. I only bought a few things in Topshop as I love their accessories but generally don't much care for the fit of their clothing. I bought this amazing glass necklace (£16.50), blue semi-precious stone ring (£8.50) and a little mini cosmetics bag (£10) as I just loved the colour and the chunky matte black zip.

Finally for high street shops, I went to &OtherStores. I do believe that the Regent Street store is the only one in the UK, so I definitely knew I wanted to have a good look. Owned by the same company as H&M and Cos, their style is quite daring but with a minimal Scandi vibes. 

While I didn't buy any clothes this time, I bought 3 rings, all with matte black hardware (can you sense my love of matte black at the moment?) a pair of earrings and a set of hair pins from their accessories department, and an amazing smelling Frozen Verbena body scrub and a contour cream from their beauty range. Being such a pale skinned individual, I struggle to find contour products that suit me, especially cream ones. This looks super dark and brown-toned in the pan but when I tested the sample in store, it's actually much of a softer colour with grey undertones. 

I love this style of earring at the moment - these were £17 and I just love how they look on!

I used to have a set similar to these but I lost one. When I saw these reduced from £5 to £1.50, I thought it'd replace them.

Left (£17 reduced to £5.10) Middle (£7 reduced to £2.10) Right (£12)

Face Contour Cream (£10)                            Frozen Verbena Body Scrub (£7)

Finally, for the tourist portion of this post, a few souvenirs. When I saw Les Miserables on the West End (nope, I'm still not over it!) I wasn't planning on buying anything, but I was pleasantly surprised at how cheap their merchandise was. Years of concerts, festivals and gigs have taught me to expect to pay £30+ for a t-shirt, but theirs were only £10, so I opted for classic Cosette image. I'll probably only wear it for the gym or to bed, but I still love it.

At Savage Beauty, the Alexander McQueen Exhibition at the V&A, I treated myself to the accompanying book. It was £25 which it steep, but it's exclusive to the exhibition so I wanted to add it to my collection. I've yet to have a proper flick through my copy but the sample one in the V&A store looked like it was full of so many beautiful images of his work. I also bought one of the badges (£1) and also the pocket mirror too (£5). Who doesn't love a McQueen skull?

Hope you enjoyed seeing what I picked up on my recent trip - even if it is just high street stuff and souvenirs! 

Monday, 13 July 2015

London Photo Diary, Savage Beauty and Les Miserables

Hi blogsville! You might've noticed I didn't publish a post on Friday as usual. It's not because I don't love you any more, but rather because I was away in London for a few days. Although this was my 5th trip, London has endless things to see, do, explore, discover, eat, drink, shop and absorb so I hope you understand that time doing that was more important and precious than time spending blogging! As I don't travel very often (yey for being scared of flying!) I thought it'd be fun to share some photos and highlights from my trip - enjoy!

My first time on the East coast line didn't disappoint - beautiful scenery and sunshine definitely make long journeys less boring.

The most flowery pub in London. I kind of want to do this to the front of my house now but it's never last in Scottish weather!

London is pretty much an entire city of endless branches of Pret A Manger. If you're in a public place (shop, restaurant, train station etc,) there legally needs to be a viable fire exit sign from anywhere you could be standing - I'm pretty sure London has adapted this rule in regards to Pret A Manger! 

Just your classic tourist photo - Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the London eye and the Thames. Unfortunately the House of Commons isn't sitting at the moment due to Summer holidays or we'd have popped into the public gallery for a listen it, it's something I've always wanted to do. 

Hyde Park, what can I say? Beautiful on a beautiful day and plenty to see - The Serpant Gallery, The Princess Diana memorial foundation, The Albert Memorial, the Italian gardens, pedal boats to hire - but very big and flat compared to the parks of Scotland, where's the landscaping? Where are the flowers? 

Libertys of London - my favourite shop in the world. One day, I will work here. One day...


As well as just wondering around absorbing London vibes, there were two definitely highlights of my trip - seeing the 'Alexander McQueen : Savage Beauty' exhibition at the Victoria & Albert and my first experience of the West End in the form of Les Mis no less!

I love visiting exhibitions but most of those in Glasgow are of local artists or watered down versions of touring ones. On a previous trip to London, I visited the Tim Walker exhibition in Somerset House and in February I saw the works of Andy Worhol in Liverpool's Tate Gallery, so when I first heard about Alexander McQueen's Savage Beauty exhibiton at the Victoria & Albert in London, I know I had to go. The original works of McQueen are some of my favourite pieces in fashion history and he has always been a source of inspiration and creativity to my own work, especially when I was studying fashion at university. His visions and beautifully conflicting themes are always so clear in his collection and his attention to detail and appreciation for finely tuned craftsmanship is something that any sewer, designer or dressmaker can only dream of.

The exhibition features pieces from a number of his collections from his St. Martin's work to his final collection before his passing in 2010 and loads in between, both RTW and couture or custom made one off pieces. I loved how it was presented in clear 'look's rather than in collections - although often those two overlapped. I'd really recommend the exhibition to anyone who has an interest in fashion, design or art or just wanted to be a part of the more successful exhibition in V&A history.

Secondly, my first ever West End experience. I've loved muscials, both stage shows and films since I was a kid and it's always been a huge dream of mine to see something, anything, on the West End. Les Miserables as my first show? Oh why not? As the longest running West End show and a completely iconic show, I've loved it ever since I saw the film and the show didn't disappoint at all. The amazing music, the incredible staging, the laughs, the cries, all so amazing!

Every time I visit London, I find new and exciting things to do. Any recommendations? Let me know below!