Sunday, 25 June 2017

What I Learnt From Giving Up Sugar

I had two and a half chocolate chip cookies after tea today, so it's safe to say that I haven't exactly made a radical lifestyle change. I intended to give up sugar for all of May, but then I remembered that I had a holiday to France booked and there was no way I was going to say no to ice cream or pastries. So, I gave up all processed sugar for twenty days and that was tricky enough.

I pretty much stuck to everything I set out to do, not even dipping into my emergency punnet of plums, although a small part of me wept whenever my boyfriend would forget and offer me a biscuit. Those plums were the worst thing I've bought in a long time; several weeks later they STILL HADN'T BLOODY RIPENED. I left them next to a banana and everything! Come June and I'd binned them in a fit of rage. If anyone can explain this PLEASE let me know.

I did successfully give up processed sugar and a lot of natural sugars as well. Fruit was out (damn plums), obviously along with all biscuits, cakes and everything that makes life good. I also cut out a lot of bread and ready meals were way out, so I basically ate lots of fish and vegetables for most of the twenty days. I will admit to drinking a few sneaky diet cokes, but generally, I stuck to it pretty well! As to the actual effects, well, contrary to what everything online says, there weren't many...

I was grumpy AF 
For the first few days, I was pretty much a terror to be around. If I wasn't staring longingly as my boyfriend ate a biscuit, I was overreacting to every tiny thing. I was argumentative and unreasonable (no change there) and was generally a bit of mopey mess for a few days. However, this actually passed pretty quickly, and aside from the odd biscuit craving, I was fine. I mostly found myself fancying an apple or some orange juice, rather than chocolate or sweets. 

My skin got a little better
I have a whole host of skin conditions that just cutting out sugar isn't going to make any difference to, but I did find that in those twenty days there was a noticeable absence of any new spots, no doubt aided by the amount of vegetables and unprocessed food I was eating.  

Afterwards, things taste too sweet 
As it turned out, I didn't eat much sweet stuff in France, apart from an incredible peanut butter cake that tasted like a snickers; it was more of a cheese and wine holiday. However, when I did finally dive back into the sweets, they were actually too sweet, which is something I never thought would happen. It took me a good while to ease back into eating sugary foods, and I kind of regret letting it happen. I've now fallen back into my old, bad ways and I don't really like it. Despite the restrictions, I enjoyed the extra control it gave myself over my life and diet.

That's about it...
There were no magical changes to my sleeping patterns, no changes to my mood once I got past my cravings and no sudden increases in energy; all the things promised online didn't materialise. I wasn't exactly holding out hope for all these things as it sounded a bit too good to be true. Perhaps if I'd kept at it longer I would have felt a bigger change, but honestly, I enjoyed the experience as it was.

I go through phases of eating way too much sugar, in which I feel like my skin and mood get a bit worse, and this is a good way of getting out of that cycle. As a long term life change though? I'm good thanks. Reducing my sugar intake is something I think I would really benefit from long-term, but cutting out processed sugar is the road to madness. I enjoy sweet foods far too much, and refusing to eat it entirely doesn't just affect me, it affects those around me. 

I think I'm going to do another "no-sugar" phase from Monday, simply because I'm now eating way too much sugar again, and it's a good way to kick-start the process of eating a little more healthily. Let me know if you've ever given up sugar and how you got on!

Stalk me!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

When You Want To Run Away

Regular readers will have noticed my general absence from the airwaves for the last few weeks; it's already the 22nd of June and I've only published ONE blog post. I normally average two or three a week, so this is unusual, to say the least. That's not to say that I haven't written any, I've actually written several, but have ended up scrapping them in frustration, unhappy with the content, with the topic and with myself. That's really the crux of it; I've had a few weeks of tumultuous mental health and have generally felt really crappy about my blog. There's no real reason why, as there frequently isn't with these sort of things. My life is pretty decent; I'm content with where I am and what I'm doing, and the people I surround myself with. It could be better, but it could be an awful lot worse. 

Whenever I'm having a bad mental health day (or week, in this case), my immediate reaction is to want to do a runner. I'm an optimist in many ways, and this is never more evident than when my mood nosedives; rather than dwelling on the doom and gloom that it feels like I'm drowning in, I automatically want to get out of it. Unfortunately, the way out for me always seems to be to up-sticks and move away from everything I know. My mind tells me that the answer is to quit my job, leave everyone and everything and just move away. Literally run away and start again. Disappear and open a kayak rental shop in Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand. Or train as a scuba diver and explore the ocean floor doing retrieval for shipping companies. Or take a video camera and travel the world, hopefully eventually getting paid to be a news reporter in some far-flung place. 

I can't really afford any of these grand ideas, but at my lowest moments I reassure myself that it's doable, and I could find a way. This sort of thinking isn't healthy, particularly when the only things I'm unhappy with in my life are to do with myself, rather than anyone or anything around me. Were I to follow my feet and run away to open a café in Stockholm, those things would still be with me. Removing the people I love, the places I know and everything I've worked for wouldn't solve my problems; at best it would force me to face up to them, at worst it would send me into a disastrous spiral of depression. Every time I emerge from that negative headspace I'm so glad that I didn't give into my urge to flee; it really wouldn't be a good idea.

Whenever I get like this, there's still a rational little part of me that knows I need to snap out of it. There's no real way to do it, but there are a few things that I find help me when I'm seriously considering booking a one-way ticket out of here. I figure that if anyone else has a similar urge when their mental health deteriorates, these might be of some help. 

Bathtime and chill

Sometimes all you need is an evening off. An evening where you choose to forget about the washing you've got piling up, the essay you've been putting off for weeks or that family member that will not stop nagging you. If you get an opportunity to have an evening to yourself, take it and run with it. If you live with family that can be tricky, but sometimes all you need to do is ask to be left alone for an evening. If you're living with friends it can be even harder, in which case a trip back to the 'rents might be in order (they're also more likely to have a bath, which is a bonus). 

An evening of clichéd luxury: a face mask in the bath, surrounded by candles (keep the towels away from them folks, learnt that the hard way), and some chilled out music can work wonders. Start that book you've been meaning to read for months and generally wind down. Write a huge master to do list before you go to sleep, including what needs to be done by when, so that in the morning you know what you need to do that day and don't get too bogged down by everything. For real though, figuring out what can wait and what actually needs to be done soon makes such a difference to your to-do lists; all of sudden there are twenty-three things you don't need to worry about right now - hurray! Get an early night in clean pyjamas and hopefully, you'll wake up refreshed and feeling like you can tackle those things that have been piling up.

Take a day trip

Get on a train. Drive for a few hours away from where you live. Hell, even a walk to an area you don't know can be amazing. Getting out of the little bubble I live in helps me to breathe and get a little perspective on my problems. Even if I don't know what's wrong, getting some fresh air and seeing some new places makes me forget about things for a little while, and somehow, when I come home I feel a little lighter. There's more out there than just my confused headspace. 

I actually spend very little time in the area where I live; I live right next to Aldi and the tram stop I take to work, and I spend all of my free time out of my flat in the city centre. It's a bit odd, as it means a five-minute walk and I'm in a totally new area. Walks in the park across the road, playing with other people's dogs and generally getting outside have helped me so much in the last two weeks. I discovered a cool Asian market a mile or so away (that sells watermelons bigger than my thighs), a very nice housing estate that has many, many cats and a much quicker route to the post office, which is always handy. 

Book a holiday

I booked a trip to Japan, and my mood skyrocketed. This holiday has been in the works for a while; my brother is moving there in September so I'm going with him ahead of time to get to know the area and help him settle in. We're great friends and neither of us speaks the language, so it should be fairly hilarious. 

Just knowing that I have something to look forward to, a chance to get out of the country and see new things feels like a weight has been lifted. I realise that this is not a realistic option for a lot of people, but if you've got the money and have been thinking about doing it anyway, then just book it! Even if it's a night in a B&B or a hostel in Glasgow, if you've never been to Glasgow it's pretty exciting. Even if the trip isn't for months, just knowing that there's light at the end of the tunnel can help.  

As much as I hope that none of you feel like I have been over the last two weeks, if you are, perhaps one of these things will help you to gain a little control over your mental state and the world around you before you leave the continent to become a professional cage diver. 

Hopefully, there will be a serious increase in content for the rest of June (I feel seriously bad about it because the wonderful Gwennan has, once again, been propping up my blog). I'll try not to leave such a big gap before the next post!

Stalk me!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Four Days in La Roque-Gageac

I was in a very angry and upset place when I wrote my last post and it turned out pretty negative and emotional. This blog is an outlet for all of my emotions and thoughts, but I do try and keep it a generally positive place. On that note, I'm sharing some of the photos from the four amazing days I spent in the Dordogne in France, primarily in the tiny village of La Roque-Gageac.
La Roque-Gageac
Wandering around La Roque-Gageac
Some of my extended family has a little property business in the area, and since it was off-season they offered us a house to stay in for free. It was just my brother, Aunt, Uncle and I, but we get along like a house on fire and always have. I've been meaning to go to France to see the family there for years, but somehow never found the time. As it turns out, I really should have gone sooner as the Dordogne is stunning. 

Nigella in La Roque-Gageac
I came across these Nigella in La Roque; my cousin sent me some seeds from her garden which I'm currently growing on my window sill in Manchester. I can't wait until they bloom and I can have a little piece of France with me.

View of La Roque-Gageac from the cliff path
View of La Roque-Gageac from the cliff path

The cliff in La Roque-Gageac
View when leaning out of my bedroom window, looking up at the cliff

La Roque-Gageac
View of the valley on a foggy morning from my bedroom window

La Roque-Gageac harbour and chateau
View of the chateau and harbour in La Roque

La Roque-Gageac Cliff Path

The villages of La Roque-Gageac, Beynac and Domme are all built on, around and into the cliffs by the river, with castles and chateaus abounding. The flat land around is pretty much just farmland, never densely populated as people found the cliffs far safer during the Hundred Years War when these villages first sprang up. It all makes for spectacular scenery and beautiful houses; many of the houses in La Roque only have three walls, where the fourth wall is just the cliff.

One day we went for a wander through some caves on a walk from Vezac to Beynac. Beynac is a village built around a castle on the cliff which has an excellent ice cream shop and is full of cats. Sarlat, where we went on the final day was full of dogs, so clearly there's something for everyone in the Dordogne.

Beynac Caves
Beynac Caves

Hot air balloon in La Roque-Gageac landing on the Dordogne
The hot air balloonists seem to be competing as to who can get closest to landing on the river. We did see one manage to do it but I didn't have a camera with me.

View of the Dordogne Valley from Domme
View of the valley from the village of Domme

View of the Dordogne from Beynac
View from the woods on the cliff, while walking up to Beynac Castle. It was a sheer drop below when I took this and I was rather nervous, as anyone who knows me IRL can attest to my clumsiness.

Beynac Lantern
Literally everything about Beynac was stunning, even this lantern almost surrounded by greenery

Roses in Beynac
Roses are everywhere in France and were blooming just as we arrived. The air in Beynac was perfumed with them and I've actually come round to liking the scent a lot more.

Beynac Castle
Beynac Castle

My cousin lives not far from La Roque, in the woods in a cabin she built herself. She lives the ultimate hippy lifestyle and is ridiculously cool. I've included a few snaps from near her house, including the nicest composting toilet I've ever seen (which didn't smell at all) and a hilarious picture of me on the amazing swing she has set up. You end up about seven feet in the air, and that's not an exaggeration as I was far above my six foot two brother's head. My brother and I spent a day with her chilling in the woods and (literally) in the river. We drank a lot of vodka and wine, and generally were irresponsible and un-adultlike. It was the first time the three of us had hung out without adults, and I say that bearing in mind the fact that I'm 24 and my cousin is 30. I hope you enjoy the ridiculous photo of me in the Dordogne in my bikini with vodka.

The most fun I've had in years!

Into the woods to visit my cousin

Certainly the nicest composting toilet I've ever seen
My new favourite place to swim is the Dordogne

Tipsy and in hysterics!
On the last day we hopped overt to Sarlat, where I raided a pharmacy for some French skincare, saw a ridiculously big door a slightly creepy statue of someone that I can't find a wikipedia article for, so I'm stumped! It was a bit more touristy than La Roque or Domme, and a town rather than a village. Sarlat was also where Ever After: A Cinderella Story was filmed, which was a film I absolutely adored as child. I fell in love with this jewellery shop floor that was studded with geodes, and I fell in love with the Dordogne valley in general. The very last photo in this post was taken by my brother who surprised me and I ended up with this distinctly derpy face. I think Sarlat would be a good place to have as your base to explore the valley as it's a bit more central and accessible than the villages. If you like foie gras this is the place for you as it seems to be the local cuisine of choice; if you're not a fan there's still great cheese, although this isn't really a great area to be vegan in.

Place Jacques Boissarie Sarlat

Place Jacques Boissarie Sarlat Doors Covered Market
Through these ridiculous double doors was a covered market. For real though, who designed these?! They fantastic!

What you can't see because of the poor picture quality is how muddy those loafers are, as I made the mistake of walking to Beynac up cliffs and through a damn forest in them.

It's a beautiful part of the world and my amateur photographs don't do it justice; I will definitely be going back.

Stalk me!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

What It's Like In Manchester Right Now

Any regular readers will have noticed the radio silence over the last week. There have been no new blog posts, very little in the way of social media action and just generally not a lot going on. The reason is simple: I'm from Manchester. 

I was in France when I got the news. A frantic text from my boyfriend "Have you seen the news??". We managed to get BBC1 working and watched in horror as the details spilled into the living room. My boyfriend lives right by Victoria Station and the Arena, so I was very grateful for the confirmation that he was alive and well. Even so, that was my city on the news. This sort of thing doesn't happen in Manchester, not in my lifetime. It seemed reserved for big Southern cities full of bankers and important people, not this city of artists, crumbling red brick and chilled out pubs. This doesn't happen here. I burst into tears there and then, not sure how to process the news. 

Despite my family's attempts to cheer me up and enjoy the last day of our holiday, I was a bit glum all day. The truth was I was desperate to get back, although I think I hid it well. They didn't quite get it; it was the Scottish clan I was with and they don't have the same connection to the city and its people. For me, Victoria Station was what I passed through every weekend as a teenager, on my way to Manchester with a friend to hang out and giggle at the strange things in Affecks, it's the place where I discovered the McDonalds breakfast menu (an important part of my life, unfortunately) and the Arena is where I went for my very first gig (S Club 7, of course). Just that tiny pocket of Manchester is chock-full of memories for me, and hearing how it had been torn apart by someone with a grudge is horrifying. 

There's the personal aspect, destruction in the city I love and call home, and then there's the true horror of the situation, which hit me first. This man chose to attack a concert that was primarily attended by young girls. He chose the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society, children, and decided they were the ones he would lash out against. I've had many discussions with friends and colleagues over the last few days; we feel like we can't talk about anything else, as if it would be disrespectful to try and forget about it for half an hour. We've talked about his motivations, with discussions going round and round getting no closer to an answer. I have mad respect for Ariana Grande and her reaction to these events; I liked her before, her music isn't to my taste but damn, she can sing, and she seems to work hard at what she loves. Anyone who inspires young girls to be themselves and work hard for what they want is alright in my books. 

What's happened here in Manchester is tragic, and the mood in the city is strange. It's defiant, but scarred. Everyone has been to St Ann's Square where thousands of flowers and tributes are laid out, and you frequently see people heading in that direction to add to it. Bee tattoos abound, graffiti declaring Manchester's sorrow and spirit is cropping up everywhere, and there's a real sense of quiet defiance. The city isn't angry; it's sad and hurt, but there's a definite knowledge that we will be alright. The families of the victims are the worst hurt, and you've no doubt seen that, at the time of writing, more than £5 million has been raised to help. I don't know what the money will even do or be for, but people are simply giving because they know there's nothing else that can be done. Even if all we can do is financially help the families, it will be done. 

The investigation is still very much ongoing. Arrests and raids on properties are happening on a daily basis, and the police are moving incredibly quickly. It's as if the identity of the bomber was the single piece required to crack open an entire network, and the police are closing in fast. A friend of mine actually lives in the building where the bomb is believed to have been made, my Nan witnessed an arrest in Wigan, a man was arrested on a bus on the road where I work, and there was an arrest only last night just up the road from where my boyfriend lives. There's no real sense of fear around the investigation or even the presence of the armed police that line the streets. We wake up each morning and exclaim to each other "Look! They got another one!". Even as I write this there's a bomb squad evacuating an area of Moss Side. These raids have become so commonplace in the last few days that it's a little unsettling. We keep an eye on each event as it pops up, but where only a week ago it would have been all we talked about all day "A bomb squad! In Manchester! God, I hope no one was hurt" it now seems like daily life. 

It will be a very long time before life gets back to normal. Victoria Station is shut for the foreseeable future with structural damage and the trams are all being diverted around it. Arrests, armed police and raids on properties are already being normalised, to the point where I can't remember what life was like before this. 

It's a little strange here, but this is Manchester. We're a strong city full of weird and wonderful people. We never go down without a fight and we'll do everything possible to help everyone affected by this horrific attack. The man that did this and everyone who assisted him can fuck right off. He's no Muslim and he's certainly not a Manc.

Cohorted Beauty Box | Is it really worth the price tag?

I said not long ago that I wasn't planning to do many more beauty box blogposts, but this was my very first box from Cohorted and I actually have something to say, plus I don't see many Cohorted unboxings online. At £35 this is most expensive beauty box I've tried, and I was curious to see if it would be worth the fairly hefty price tag. I wasn't particularly impressed by the delivery of this box, as it was almost a week later than it should have been and didn't even ship until the day it was due to arrive. Since the sneak peak was a bronzer I was even less enthused, as I've literally never used bronzer in my life and never planned to. However, as disgruntled as I was by the time it finally arrived, upon opening the box I was actually pretty happy.

Cohorted Beauty Box May 2017 Unboxing and Contents

Vita Liberata Trystal Minerals Bronzer

RRP £35

This was the bronzer in the sneak peak, and already covers the cost of the box at £35. After swatching it briefly, it seems light but buildable, so who knows, I may actually give it a go! It comes with a beautifully soft kabuki brush, and it was nice to see a brand like Vita Liberata in a beauty box. 

Vita Liberata Trystal Minerals Bronzer
Lin & Lo Matte Lipstick in Real Red

Lin & Lo Matte Lipstick in Real Red

RRP £19

The first brand discovery item was this extremely red lipstick from Lin & Lo; it's very matte and a true pillar box red. The swatch on my arm was one very quick swipe so you can see just how pigmented it is. It's a little drying, but no more so than many matte lipsticks. The brand was created by two makeup artists, Alina and Laura, and from this lipstick, it seems like they did a good job! The packaging isn't very exciting, but the lipstick itself will definitely see some use in my collection.

Lin & Lo Matte Lipstick in Real Red
NARS Monoi Body Glow II

NARS Monoi Body Glow II

RRP £44

Your eyes do not deceive you, that is NARS in a beauty box. This was on of three options I could have received, the other two being either an Urban Decay or Clarins Lip Pencil. Price wise I seem to have got value for money, and while I didn't expect to be particularly excited about this, after one sniff I was in love. It's a dreamy scent; I'm not quite sure how to describe it. It's sweet but not cloying; there are hints of vanilla and coconut, something slightly floral, which I'm guessing is the tiare flower on the ingredients list, but overall it smells like a tropical spa. It's a multipurpose oil for giving skin a glow, but I think I'll be wearing this dabbed onto my pulse points as a perfume.

Betty Hula Body Moisturiser in Rum and Blackcurrant

Betty Hula Body Moisturiser in Rum & Blackcurrant

RRP £12.99

Another brand discovery was from Betty Hula with this body moisturiser. I was initially a little put out that there was another body product in here, but once again, the smell won me over. Blackcurrant is one of my favourite smells (Lush's The Comforter is a staple) and the hint of rum just takes it to another level. It's extremely moisturising, and I look forward to basically rolling in it after a shower.

Loewe Aura Body Moisturiser

Loewe Aura Moisturising Body Lotion 

RRP £15

Yes, that's another body moisturiser. It's a bit irritating to receive three body products in one box, but in fairness, this is quite different to the NARS oil and the Betty Hula cream. This is much lighter in texture and soaks in immediately; the scent is much lighter and more delicate, where the punch of blackcurrant and rum is almost overwhelming in the Betty Hula, this is a soft lingering floral scent that is almost a perfume. This will get used up, but I think I'm set for body lotion for a good while!

Cohorted Beauty Box May 2017 Unboxing and Contents

Although this box was pretty delayed, I still enjoyed the contents once it arrived. I do think I got good value for money, and I'm particularly happy with the NARS oil. However, the box was pretty unbalanced and weighted towards body products, so hopefully the next one will be better.

Stalk me!
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