Self care, skin care, & nurturing Mother Nature.

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Trying to live a more minimal and conscious life in search of pure happiness and joy

November 21, 2017

Searching for a Good Nights Sleep

The older I get, the more I seem to either be talking about sleep or crying into my pillow over the lack of it. As a teen, I could quite happily survive on an average of around 4 hours a night and go to college full time, work 2O hour weeks at my part time job, and socialise in all of my free time. Now? Now I get incredibly anxious if I'm not in bed, ready to sleep by 1Opm (11pm if it's not a school night. Rock and roll is not dead in my household). As I've gotten older, I've grew to truly appreciate a good night's sleep and how a good bedtime routine can be invaluable to not only making sure I get some solid hours each night, but also how good it can be for my mental health and overall health in general. Since moving house and moving from a very quiet area to living on an extremely busy main road that is also near a train station and an airport (I fucking know), I have tried and tested what feels like everything to try and ensure I get some good sleep that is not disrupted and is a healthy amount.

Sleep is so important and I feel we all start to truly understand that in our twenties. It's as if our bodies play catch up and tell us to calm down a bit and suddenly PJs and a snuggle in bed at 8pm on a Saturday night can become more desirable than queuing up outside a bar to buy shots. It can reduce your stress levels, it can make you feel less anxious, and it can certainly improve my mood. Good sleep stops me being short tempered, helps me retain information better and not be so scatter-brained (although I think that's my default setting no matter what), and having a better sleeping pattern has dramatically decreased how often I become sick or ill. It can be healing both physically and mentally but it can also be incredibly hard to grasp and maintain. I don't think anyone has the answer for how to have the perfect night's sleep night after night, but there's definitely a few things to try to see what works for you.

One of the first things I had to get over was the fact that I hated sleeping for a long time. Why I hear you ask? I felt like I was missing out. I had this odd obsession when I was teen with the fact that I felt like I wasn't living my life to the fullest if I "wasted" time sleeping. Obviously my logic was flawed as I was always running on minimum energy and probably would have benefited in many situations if I'd have clocked more hours in the night before, but I just couldn't do it. My essentially 4 hour cat naps every night sustained my needs so I thought that was just fine. Now I realise I need so much more than that and always make sure I'm in bed at a good time. If I'm not in bed by 1Opm on weekdays I feel antsy and start worrying that I won't get enough sleep and boom: suddenly I can't sleep because I've woken up my brain and fired off these worried thoughts. I find I still apologise to friends constantly for going to bed "early" but actually? I'm not sorry. It helps me keep my shit together so I work well at work and can function properly. No apologies needed.

Get rid of any and all screens
So besides worrying myself, there's a few other things I try to avoid to ensure I'm actually ready for bed when that 1Opm rolls around. Firstly staring at screens will without a doubt make it harder for you to switch off and slumber. I got into a bad habit of just endlessly scrolling through Twitter, Instagram etc. in bed and a) it wasn't actually stimulating or interesting and b) it made it *so* difficult to switch off and go to sleep. I now try to avoid my phone and if I do need to use it, I will always put it into night mode so the screen is dimmer. I also turn the brightness right down on my laptop if I'm using it past 9pm and never do any blogging/admin work in bed before I plan to sleep anymore. If you're a restless sleeper and often wake up at intervals during the night, I can't stress enough how much you should not use your phone. I fully understand the utter frustration when you just can't sleep and that the temptation to tweet "can't fucking sleep *insert all the sad face emojis*" is there, but just don't do it. It makes the brain too active and you've got no chance of drifting off to dreamland.

Bed is for sleep - not hanging out
Another "rule of thumb" I've adopted is that bed is for sleep - not hanging out. This was difficult when I used to live in a studio flat as my bed unfortunately also doubled up as my sofa and my dining table because I just didn't have any other space to utilise but, if you have the luxury of your bedroom being a separate room, only use your bed when needed for sleep (or sex you know, whatever). Now that I live in a house, I don't have lazy mornings in bed. Sure, I might wake up early and lie there for half an hour at the weekends because I can, but I always get up as quick as possible, make the bed, then don't return to it until I'm going to bed the next night. This helps me trick my brain so that it only associates bed with rest and sleep rather than snacks and back to back binge watching of my favourite TV shows.

Don't go to bed in a bad mood
Something I've noticed more recently too is making sure I don't go to bed in a bad mood. If I've had an argument with someone or a stressful day, I can always guarantee that my night's sleep that night will be broken and I won't really feel rested the next morning. Therefore, I always try to go to bed in at least an "okay" mood. I know this is obviously easier said than done as sometimes bad moods and vibes just can't be avoided, but if you can do something to either distract yourself or improve your mood - do it. Yoga can always help me feel either energised when I need a boost or calm when I need to rest so I rely on that. Others might find meditation helpful, masturbation, listening to calm music, podcasts, or reading. Whatever it is, include it in your bedtime routine and I would be willing to bet money that you will see an overall improvement.

Calming the mind like this helps create that routine and expectation for bed that will work towards tricking the brain and preparing it the same way each evening. Having a routine can sometimes mean you can cruise along on auto-pilot and what better way to go to bed? Cruising through your bedtime routine means you don't need to think too much and you're not swarmed with thoughts or concerns. Make sure your bag is packed for the next morning, check your weather app and plan your work outfit... All these little prep things that can make your mornings more smooth sailing can also improve your sleep.

Temperature, Lighting and Scent
A couple of other things that I've noticed can help improve my sleep are little environmental things that can make a huge difference. Temperature, lighting, and scent can all effect your sleep and although they might seem subtle, they can influence how deep and well you sleep. Make sure your bedroom and the bed itself is a comfortable temperature for you. This can be tricky when it's hot and sticky in the summer and freezing cold in winter, but use a fan and a hot water bottle if and when needed and you might reap the benefits. I used to *always* read in bed for an hour or so before going to sleep and this used to see me have a pretty well rested night so it's something I'm trying to get back into. Something worth noting here though is making sure you've got suitable lighting. At the moment, I only have the bright "big" main light in my bedroom and it's too harsh - it leaves me feeling wide awake as soon as I shut it off. Soft lighting that doesn't make you strain your eyes but keeps you in a comfortable lazy state can be a big help for prepping you for sleep time. And lastly - scent? Again, it can impact you big time. Strong smells, particularly those you don't find pleasant or even those you find too pleasant can be distracting and keep your brain active. Pillow sprays and scents like lavender and chamomile are popular for getting a good night's sleep so test and try what subtle scents you could have active in your bedroom that will help your brain think "I can smell sleep".

Be mindful of your diet
Lastly, one area I struggle with constantly but I'm trying to actively change is my diet. We all know eating healthy in general is good for you and that's a no-brainer, but being wary of your diet or eating/drinking habits before bed is really important too. I love me a good cup of tea or seven throughout the day but I make sure I never drink a cup of regular, caffeinated tea after 8pm. That's still probably too late in the day and probably still effects my sleep, but it makes me feel in control of that aspect of my bedtime routine and makes me feel like I'm making a conscious effort to better it. I'm a serial snacker too and try my best to keep sugary snacks to a minimum and again, to a curfew. I can demolish a whole share bar of chocolate as quick as the next person, but those quick sugary releases of energy are going to happen right before bed if you're eating late and that'll ruin your hard work before you've even tried to get settled into a comfy position. Steering clear of caffeine and sugar particularly right before bed can be a big help. If you seek a hot drink because its comforting for going to bed, try things like hot milk, Ovaltine, or a herbal tea as there's many brands out there that have bedtime/nighttime ranges or simple chamomile can help.

Making positive small changes to your bedtime routine can really help you get your head down and feel rejuvenated the next day but there certainly isn't a one size fits all approach to it. What might work for some people might do absolutely nothing for others and not to mention that many of us have mental health, physical ailments, and sleeping disorders which can all greatly impact sleep too. I'm still battling through this mindfield of restless broken sleep and sometimes rely on herbal sleeping remedies and tablets to help me when I really need it. Having a solid routine and sticking to it no matter what is definitely improving my sleeping and how awake and alert I am the next day which is great to see, but if you're on this journey and search for good sleep yourself, keep note of your sleeping pattern - when it's good and bad - or use a sleeping tracker app to see if there's anything in particular influencing you.

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November 19, 2017

Bullet Journal: October Review

Hey folks! Today I thought I'd share with you a review of October's bullet journal entries. If you've been a reader for a while, you will know that at the start of each month, I used to write a review post covering the previous month's activities, favourite new discoveries and what music/tv/video games I had enjoyed etc. Whilst I did enjoying compiling these posts so I could look back on them and remind myself of things I might have otherwise forgotten about, I did grow tired of the style of them and realised that writing them became forced and they were just no longer something I was enjoying putting together.

So at the end of September, I decided to finally give bullet journaling a go. I was100% one of *those* people who didn't see the point in bullet journals as to me, they just seemed like an excuse to put a lot of effort into list making without any pay off. Like, why would you draw lovely detailed and pretty daily to-do lists to then just discard them at the end of each day? I didn't understand but as someone who enjoys drawing/painting/keeping the creative juices flowing but also as someone who was finding it increasingly difficult to explore those joys, I realised bujos might be the answer. So, I started a bujo. I watched some videos to get an idea of what other people were including and then set about making my own. If you're someone who enjoyed my review-style posts then don't you worry, I'm going to drop review bits and pieces in here and there as I take you through my October set up and those of you who are here to see what I documented, what worked, and what I might be changing for November's layout, sit back and enjoy:

I knew starting out my bullet journal that I wanted it to have a very hand-drawn feel. I didn't want it to be too minimal and I certainly didn't want it to look editorial - for me, the idea of keeping such a journal is that it *should* look well used, well loved, and show creativity and thus that's what "aesthetic" I went for in this first month. The main theme I wanted to go with was of course, leaves and nature in general as that's instantly what comes to mind for the month of October. I knew from the get-go that I also wanted to include lots of quotes about autumn and other doodles resembling the month and the fact that the season is growing colder. A nod to Halloween also needed to be in there too! I started out with watercolour painting each and every page but by time I got to my weekly layout pages, I realised how time consuming it was to do the more background images (for lack of a better name for them) as watercolours and switched to pencils instead. I wanted the colours to be quite muted so both watercolours and pencils worked well here with a light hand.

October wasn't a particularly busy month for me, but I did do some nice things. Firstly, it was the month I got my shit together for work. I've become the primary/main tutor at a new centre for my job and whilst it's been daunting and hard work, I feel pretty damn grateful that I've only been in this role for around 9 months and have already been given this amount of responsibility. As a result though, a lot of my time in October was seen rushing to and from meetings and trying to make the new office and teaching room look and feel like my new "work home". I also decided to buy a new ukulele this month and I'm so pleased I did - whilst I haven't been steady with playing it regularly, when I do make sure I sit down to play it, I'm often losing myself in it for a few hours at a time and I'm quite pleased with my progression with it - not to mention I'm loving learning to play all my classic teen-emo songs on it! Speaking of ukulele playing, I also saw Itch from The King Blues play at one of my old haunts, The Railway in Winchester in October too. It was an intimate small gig and very much had a "this is just an open mic night" sort of vibe. He played some fave The King Blues classics acoustically and was also promoting his new poetry haiku book, too. Although there's a lot of controversy around the guy (particularly earlier this year), he's lived such a wild life that I like to listen to what he has to say as a result of such experiences and as someone who has grown up listening to The King Blues, it was nice to see a more calm show by their lead man.

Monthly Calendar Overview
So the first thing I felt needed to follow the month's title page was of course a monthly calendar. I wanted to include one of these because it means it gives you a quick and easy way to overview any special dates or events coming up for the month. I'm one of the few people who doesn't use the calendar on their phone, so this paper copy was greatly appreciated for my busy and forgetful mind. I decided to just add a little symbol for days of my period too which, although I use the Eve app religiously each month, was nice to have as another visual que to go back to if need be to track any irregularities etc.

One thing I was determined to include was this idea of tracking the weather. Now, it may seem a bit pointless or a bit of a nerdy thing to do but I actually really enjoyed it! I had seen Lunestelle do this in her bujo and knew I had to steal the idea. It gives me another little creative doodle minute every evening and it was also nice to look at it alongside my mood/habit trackers to see if there was any correlation between the weather and my mood and productivity.

I knew I would have to have a "very adult" page in there somewhere and yep, it had to be this. This might come across as very snobbish, but money hasn't been a worry or concern for me for a few years now but I completely realise this comfort has brought with it some slapdash spending on things I don't need. The idea of the expenses tracker was to document how much money I need to spend - e.g. on travel for work - and also how much more I seem to spend each month of stuff I definitely don't need - hey there miscellaneous section! This well and truly proved my point this month as a lot of money was spent on takeaways that were ordered when I was too lazy to cook. I want to try and make it more visually impactful in November and I also want to make it more functional for my trends in spending, but it will undoubtedly be a page I replicate in future months.

My Mood and Habits Trackers
These two pages are my absolute favourite pages for sure. These are heavily influenced by Amanda Rach Lee who is the goddess of bujo design if you need some inspiration, but they've not only been aesthetically pleasing for me, they've also been very functional and influential. I really wanted to make sure I tracked my mood in my bullet journal because I usually feel quite down as a person yet give off the vibe that I'm always fun and giggly so I wanted to see how I'm *truly* feeling day to day. Thankfully, this mood tracker has made me realise that actually? I'm not the negative raincloud I always thought I was and I am in fact usually in a pretty damn good mood. The odd occasion when I had a negative colour creeping in, it's nice for me to try and think back to that specific day and work out what it was that made me feel so down. So surprise surprise, I'll be keeping this page for sure in November but just switching up the design (although I can't lie, the circle layout was mega cute to complete).

Ah, and now for the habits tracker. Again, I wanted to track a few things in my day to day life that I often overlook and think is just part of mundane life. For this tracker, I included everything from healthy eating and exercise to practicing ukulele and how many cups of tea I'm drinking. What this month showed me is that I am a wee lazy bitch. I didn't do half as much working out or blogging as I wanted to, but it means I can hope for a more positive layout the next month! I'm hoping the more I do this whole bujo thing, the more and more positive colours will appear on each habits tracker page as I have become a firm believer that the phrase "I don't have time" is the cop out line to wriggle out of doing productive things for me and I want to rectify that.

Instagram Tracker
One page I'm having a love hate relationship with but I'm going to persevere with for the time being is without a doubt the IG tracker. Again, I stole this idea from Lunestelle as I thought it would be interesting to see if there were any patterns in what content was most popular and to see if my IG growth really was as bad as I thought. Turns out my growth is indeed as bad as I thought and it was actually a bit disheartening each day to open to this page and fill in my decline of followers etc. I'm not someone who gets hung up on follower counts or likes, but IG is my favourite platform as it can so visually pleasing, so it was disappointing to see how much the algorithm has ruined the way it functions. One good thing I took away from it though is that I enjoy the mix of media I publicise on there and I like that it made me actively want to post - I've always been quite consistent with posting on that platform, but having a written account of how often I'm posting and seeing whether or not I've posted every day really helped motivate me further.

Brain Dump
Ah, the lesser used brain dump page. I still like the idea of this page but the problem is, I like everything to have a place and be somewhat neat and tidy so a brain dump page was never really going to work for me. I still like the idea, but for me I've realised I need it to have a bit more structure like some categories or titles or maybe just to be a collage page of pretty pictures or tickets etc. collated that month. I need to figure it all out for November's layout.

Weekly Layouts
My weekly layouts were nice. I like that they had a handwritten and hand-drawn feel and weren't too structured. They made me realise how monotonous my day to day life is though so I definitely need to mix it up a little and try to be more spontaneous! But ultimately, it gave me a chance to fill in any gaps with little quick doodles or quotes (which I *loved* peppering throughout October's pages) and also gave me a chance to be a little creative in general. I liked that to begin with, each day was very uniform and laid out exactly the same as the previous and next but with each doodle and framing, it became less and less uniform. I'm still debating whether or not to try this layout again for November or whether or not I should shake it up further.

So there you have it - that was our lovely mild but cloudy and bloody humid (?!) October. How was yours?

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November 15, 2017

Real Talk: Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

Mam, dad, wider family - I'm sorry if you're about to read this and think it's all a little bit TMI, but today's post is about the hot-topic of sex. Sex is something I believe people should be happy and confident to talk about, not shy away from, and generally be open about. I'm not saying that everyone should and would want to share every last detail about their sexual experiences or their sex lives, but I think feeling free to discuss it with friends, relatives, or partners should be something that is advocated and practiced much more in our society rather that us all being typically British and having a stiff upper lip about it all. Really for today's post I not only wanted to talk about sex generally and how it should be treated as normally as any other topic of discussion, but how sex can be liberating for women, how women shouldn't be treated or received negatively for enjoying it or being open and honest about it, and how we also need to educate ourselves and younger generations so much more than we do currently.

Something I've always found a little bizarre is that women are treated so oddly for enjoying sex and god forbid they talk about it too?! I've started to believe this is rooted in upbringing and the unfortunate way everything is black/white, pink/blue, girl/boy categorised. I caught a conversation a colleague was having with some students a while ago and heard: "Boys do that. But if a girl is sleeping around like that then she clearly is missing something in her life and trying to fill the void". I was stunned. I couldn't believe that someone with so much life experience and influence would say something so damaging - what was worse was that I saw young impressionable female heads nodding along with such a statement whilst the one male-identifying student squirmed in his seat. Sex shouldn't be something people feel shame over and it certainly shouldn't be something that is only a readily accepted topic depending on what gender you identify as. Your sexuality also seems to dictate whether or not it is acceptable for you to dicuss such a topic. Last year I posted a very tongue-in-cheek but painfully true post covering some of the things that have been said or things I've experienced once people learned I am bisexual. In that post, I talked about how identifying as bi means you're often also given the label of being incredibly promiscuous and "greedy" with sexual partners and the negative connotations that go along with those often inaccurate claims.

Sexuality - not just for women but for all - should be something that can be openly discussed that people feel no shame over. What you get up to in the bedroom and out of it is your business, but if you're embarrassed by that business, and you don't feel you want to lie about your sexual partner count etc. then you shouldn't feel you need to. I guess I'll never fully understand why it's accepted and just assumed that a heterosexual male can and does, sleep with 1Oo+ women and that's absolutely fine but if a heterosexual woman was to do the same, she's slut shamed to no end. Which brings me on to my next wee rant: slut shaming.

Slut shaming is fervently still a big problem in our society and whilst I know we can't wave a magic wand and just make it stop, I wish I bloody could do just that. There's still a lot of stigma around what women choose to wear and how they conduct themselves that leads individuals to say "she's asking for it" or "well what did she expect? Dressing/Acting like that?" and there's many many reasons those sort of opinions need to be educated and stamped out. Unfortunately, there's no specific group who are to blame for this shaming and unfortunately for many individuals who identify as a woman, the group responsible can be sometimes be other women. I touched on this a little bit when I talked about internal misogyny and it's always a shame to see it happen. Call me an idealist, but I think all women should support other women, not drag each other down or berate them about their life choices and lifestyles. I know not every woman will be friends and of course, not every woman is going to like each other, but slut shaming is a real issue and it does not need additional support from fellow women who may actually be victims of such a horrible thing themselves.

It seems so acceptable for a man to have a one night stand and wander home the next day in broad daylight. See a woman doing the same and there's tuts, stares, comments... Where it all stems from, I'm not quite sure. One thing I am sure of though is that no one should be made to feel guilty about what they enjoy, how they spend their time, and how they dictate their own sex life. It's yours first and foremost and no one should influence it in any which way except you.

If I haven't said it enough already, I honestly believe sex needs to be openly talked about much more. When we shy away from it, not only does it open up this option for individuals to shame others about it, but it also leads to a lack of education. A big thing for many teens especially is pornography. As a teenager when your hormones are running rampant, porn is commonly something that is explored during that time. So many young people - including myself - are lead to believe that pornography is a true representation of sex and that needs to be challenged not only for safety and consent, but also for self love and your own expectations of yourself. I'm not insulting anyone's intelligence here and suggesting that every teen thinks if the pizza guy turns up and brings the pizza into the kitchen he's going to have a gang bang with all of your family, but what I am saying is that porn can open up a lot of questions for young people and if no one is willing to answer them because it's a topic that shouldn't be discussed, that's when we have a problem. I myself was lead to believe that sex is always rough, involves a lot of saliva, moaning for the sake of moaning if someone so much as brushes past one of your nipples, and pouting. Of course, this may be reality for some individuals, but for the majority? The set up of pornography does not reflect real life. Being comfortable with someone so you might both have a laughing fit during foreplay, the fact that our bodies can make embarrassing noises that are only embarrassing because we didn't know they'd do that until it actually happens... Those sorts of things need to be mentioned and normalised so there isn't this unattainable expectation to strive for.

I think shows which are often on Channel 4 which explore the body, sex, and our reproductive organs etc. are absolute gold not for any entertainment value, but for the sheer fact that at least it's normalising our bodies and desires and making it accessible for people to educate themselves and feel comfortable about it. In the light of so many recent sexual allegations in the media, it's very clear that issues such as consent and what is and isn't acceptable are still huge issues we need to tackle as a society. Not only do we see these issues cropping up time and time again, but we have also had an incredibly large increase in the amount of sexual diseases that are spreading and affecting each younger generation, too. If we treat sex as a common topic, maybe we'd see more individuals who are comfortable with getting treated and speaking to a doctor. Maybe we'd see more people enforce safe sex on their sexual partners because you guys, bare back isn't the only way, that's just what porn makes you believe. Maybe we'd see less teen or unwanted pregnancy if we talked more about contraception openly. And maybe, just maybe, we'd see a society who accepts that if you want to sleep with no one or you want to sleep with 3 different people every day of your life, either or is fine and so is everything in between as long as those involved are safe, consenting, and happy.

I know, I'm getting *all idealist* again.

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November 14, 2017

Who's That Girl

That's right guys, I'm finally back. What was planned to be a super short and sweet break from blogging in order to move into my new home quickly snowballed into some extended time off from it all and planning behind the scenes. So despite the lack of posting over the last few weeks, there's been a lot going on as I've collated, written, and created content for Northern Blood that is refreshed, full of energy, passion, and love and just generally makes me feel great to have been part of. The problem with blogging sometimes is that the spark and life can fade from it a little and that's what started to happen to me. I was comparing myself to others, feeling down about my own creative abilities, and just felt stuck in a rut with it all. I was desperate to not take a break because I worried once I stopped posting that I'd never come back to it but alas, here I am, confidently coming out of the other side of it feeling more enthused to blog than I ever have before.

If you're an old reader then you will know I'm all about that "don't compare yourself to others as it's damaging" lifestyle however, I've found I flipped the whole comparing myself on its ugly head and saw it in a positive light - I tried to view it as a "friendly competition" thing. Blogging is so saturated but saturated with so many fantastically talented and dedicated writers, creators, and photographers that I realised being part of that community and realm is a sure-fire way to keep myself motivated to feel deserving of that position of place. Seeing people owning and killing it on a weekly and even daily basis gave me the kick up the backside I so desperately needed and I'm hoping it's impact on me will shine through in my new content.

That's not to say that my blog posts now will be drastically different - my content will still very much reflect me, my interests, and what I've always wanted Northern Blood to be. However I've scrapped the schedule and switching everything up a little. I still love personal style, beauty and skincare, and general lifestyle/miscellaneous rambles, but working to a strict weekly schedule for each of those topics was sucking the fun out of the writing for me and began to feel more like a chore than an enjoyable pastime and outlet in my spare time. So from now on, we can all expect to see Northern Blood feeling and reading a little more freely, covering even more mental health and body positivity topics, lots of DIY and interior posts as I've recently moved house (you guys I have been preparing *so* many posts for you!), many more books and comics, and of course I'll still be blogging about cruelty free beauty. The difference now? It won't be forced. It won't be strict. It will be written as life is intended to be lived: with focus, a little bit of unpredictability now and again, honesty, and (hopefully) a great deal of humour and reliability.

So if you're an old familiar face - welcome back, it's nice to see you again. And if you're new to all that NB will hopefully have to offer? Hi, I'm Amyleigh, and hopefully we'll get to know each other a little better as time progresses. If you want to know a little more, pay this wee page a visit.

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September 11, 2017

Colder Weather Transitioning

When that chill in the air starts becoming palpable and the mornings and evenings start to get increasingly darker, one of my favourite things to do is throw items of clothing together that totally juxtapose the weather but also kind of compliment it. A big movement on the high street this past year has involved playing with proportions of the body/figure and thus wearing dresses or extremely long line tops over jeans has become the norm. I personally love doing this when it starts to get colder as it means I can still get some use out of my more summery pieces but also I can't lie - I think the whole look can be pulled off really well by anyone. I like to go for shorter dress or a one with a dip hem and that way it doesn't swap my petite height and frame, but still shows off whatever jeans I'm sporting. I tend to go for my vintage mom jeans most of the time as again, this lets me play with proportion a little as they're not figure hugging and add a slightly androgynous aspect to an outfit.

Can you believe that this time next week I'll be moving into my very own house?! If you'd have spoken to me even a year ago and suggested such a grown up thing I would have scoffed yet here we are - packing boxes in all of my free time and frantically making sure broadband is booked in and furniture is on the "to desperately purchase" list. I've mentioned it a few times now here on NB and on my various social media accounts that once I'm settled into the new place, I want to shake up the content here on NB a little. I'm not saying I'm giving the blog a complete overhaul because that would just be silly - I still very much enjoy fashion, beauty and miscellaneous lifestyle posts - but I want to add in more variety. I've always struggled with labelling this blog and it's content and up until now I've tried to minimise too much variety. But now? Now I enjoy writing about mental health. I like talking about feminism and body positivity for women. I want to share my progress of making my future house a home and all the DIY struggles that are bound to go along with it and more. I think the current schedule might go out of the window just so I can get back to truly *enjoying* blogging. I wouldn't say I've fallen out of love with it at all, but it has certainly been feeling like a chore at times so for the benefit of my motivation and love for this pastime, I need to give myself and it a major revamp so watch this space.

Miss Selfridge Dress (similar) | Oh Lover Vintage Jeans | Bohemia Design Circle Bag | Matalan Sandals (similar)

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September 08, 2017

Book Club No. 11

Another Friday, another book review post! My last Book Club post was back in July so I haven't actually posted any reviews for a wee while, but I'm back today with some pretty perfect books - all of which I thoroughly enjoyed (for once). So if you're into fantasy fiction with a good dose of macabre or twisted magic, then you've come to the right place for some recommendations.

Anno Dracula by Mr Kim Newman
Okay so we need to start off with the most brilliantly British-feeling book but it's also easily one of the most bonkers plots I've ever had the pleasure to dive into. Anno Dracula first came onto my radar when Matt told me all about it - think Penny Dreadful but even better. The plot centres around Victorian London and follows a variety of characters from an ancient vampire from an prestigious bloodline, to Dorian Gray, to Jack the Ripper. Queen Victoria has wed Vlad Tepes - the very much fictional over-the-top version of Vlad we see tourist traps talk of today which paints him out to be Count Dracula. Dracula has killed the famous Van Helsing and is slowly dominating England as more and more vampires are swooping into the country's capital and are seen as a pest by many. He has the Prime Minister under his thumb, has his own ancient vampire soldiers roaming the streets, and impales folk in his delightful true-historical fashion if they so much as do something he's not quite happy with. The story mainly centres around a senior vampire called Geneviéve Dieudonné who helps out at what is a make shift hospital/hostel for vampire orphans and sick vampires with the aid of a peculiar doctor and a man called Charles Beauregard who is a member of the Diogenes Club and is essentially a spy trying to discover the true identity of Jack the Ripper.

As more of the story unfolds, Geneviéve and Charles meet more and more frequently as what they're both trying to investigate seems to be leading them down the same path and to the same culprit. It's a fantastic murder mystery style book but with a great nod to actual historical events, historical people, and of course many characters from popular fiction. At first, I was reading the book and really struggling with it - I don't know if it was the language or the pace of the story, but I just couldn't keep up. I found myself flipping backwards time and time again because a character's name would come up and I'd think "eh? Who?" and need to re-read parts to try and make sense of it all. However there's a distinctive part of the plot - when Geneviéve gets into essentially a street brawl with an ancient Asian being - that hooked me in for the rest of the story and everything seemed to fall into place. The focus around this ancient oriental aspect of the book really sparked my interest as there was just something about Newman's description of certain elements that ignited my imagination and my imagination took a very Studio Ghibli route visually. I found this book incredibly good for not giving you *too* much description, but just the right amount to help you form a clear picture in your mind of what *you* think is going on. It does dive straight into things so if you sometimes struggle with following storylines that don't over explain and describe, you might find you flick back and forth like I did at first but hang in there - this book is without a doubt worth the read. It is part of a series so I will 1Oo% be picking up the next book in the line up sometime soon, but if you think it sounds up your street, you can pick up a copy in various formats here.

A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan
Now onto the show stopper. This book has been hyped up so much during the last month or so and it's clear to see why. A Place Called Perfect is the debut novel from Helena Duggan and it is just the perfect (see what I did there) fantasy book for children and adults alike. First up we need to address the gorgeous cover - if that doesn't draw you in and make you want to at least read the blurb then I don't know what will. The book centres around a young girl called Violet who has recently moved to a place called Perfect with her Dad and Mam - you guys have no idea how happy I was to see that Mam was called Mam and that her family often affectionately call each other "pet" throughout the book as it made me think of home and my own family. Okay waffling aside - back to the story. So they move to Perfect at the request of two brothers who run the town as they're interested in Violet's Dad's expertise when it comes to eyes and everything optical. Everyone in Perfect need to wear glasses otherwise they have incredibly impaired blurry vision and it seems that no one knows why. So in steps Violet's Dad to try and solve the conundrum. As you might have guessed, Violet soon discovers that Perfect is actually far from Perfect and that there's actually a lot of strange and suspicious things going on in the town once you remove those rose tinted glasses.

Telling you guys anything more than that would definitely ruin the story so I won't say much more about the actual plot, but I just loved this from start to finish. Although Violet as a character annoyed me sometimes, it is so fantastic to see a children's book that has a female main character who is a gutsy heroine with lots of sass and spunk. She doesn't take no for an answer and I think for young girls to read this would be really positively influential and uplifting for them. Despite being targeted at a much younger audience, A Place Called Perfect reads so well that I'd be very surprised if any adult reads it and doesn't enjoy it. It's incredibly quick and easy to read but it's got the right amount of description and a great pace to it to make it feel like you've really went on a journey with the characters. If you're a Neil Gaiman or Tim Burton fan and enjoy those slightly creepy/macabre twists they manage to put into children's fiction so cleverly, you'll absolutely love this book too as Duggan manages to add those slightly spooky elements expertly. I'm not going to lie, as an adult reading it, there were a couple of times I thought "hang on, that can't work because of xyz" so there are some loopholes in the story, but overall I am more than happy to overlook them as they don't ruin the story at all. If you couldn't tell already, I bloody loved this and I can't wait to see what else Duggan releases as this has easily crept it's way up to one of my favourite books this year without a doubt. Pick up a beautiful copy of A Place Called Perfect here.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The third and final book to mention in this post was also a big hit with me. The Night Circus did it's rounds in popularity a couple of years ago now, but I just never got around to reading it because I knew there was a romantic element to it and y'all - I'm straight up not interested in that nonsense when it comes to my reading material choices. But after some convincing from Matt, I decided to give it a try and I really truly rate it to anyone who wants to read what would make a spectacular film. The plot is exactly what the title suggests - it centres around a travelling circus which opens at dusk and closes at dawn. It is magical, mystifies those who visit it, and just generally becomes an eagerly awaited and anticipated event in every town it pops up in. The whole story behind the circus and it's creation is down to two gentleman who are magic. They like friendly competition and for years have had apprentices that they have feverishly taught their skills and talents to who then will "battle" the other apprentice in "a game". The Night Circus follows the latest apprentices and their upbringing, training, and encounter. Characters along the way create the Night Circus as a fun project and both apprentices have some involvement in it. I know I say this at least once in every book review post, but I genuinely don't want to say much more than that about the general plot as it will honestly spoil it for any of you who want to read this in the future.

This book is very descriptive so it plants a clear image in your mind and oddly enough, I quite liked it. I usually like books that aren't overly descriptive or packed with information as it sucks the fun out of reading for me, but this one had the perfect amount to accompany the very busy and character-packed story. The whole time reading this I got instant "I could see this on the big screen one day" vibes as everything about it screams Hollywood blockbuster done in the style of The Great Gatsby crossed with Water For Elephants. The imagery is great, the range of characters and all their intertwining lives is so easy to get lost in, and there's still an air of mystery about what will happen threaded throughout the book right to very end. If you like magical, fantasy, complete fairytale style stories but also like a little bit of romance dashed in there too, this is the one for you.

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