"I Like Natural Looking Girls"

It's no secret that I love makeup. It was a crutch as a teenager with terribly bad acne and it has blossomed into a hobby, a pastime, and an enjoyable routine as an adult. Back in August last year, I shared a wee post all about why I like to wear makeup and it was just a genuine ramble and explanation of my relationship and history with the broad label "makeup" and what it all means to me. I shared how I was feeling towards my change into a foundation-free way of life and how I was becoming comfortable with my imperfections and believe it or not - it's almost a year since I stopped wearing foundation and boy oh boy, I still feel incredibly good for it. However my evolution with makeup and beauty in general got me thinking... I started to think about the opinions people seem to have on makeup, the opinions individuals have had on what I choose to wear and how I choose to wear it and how damaging those opinions can be. All that:

"you look better without all that makeup"
"I like natural girls" *sees picture of woman with body hair, acne, greasy hair etc.* "Girls should make an effort with their appearance and groom themselves"
"take a girl swimming on your first date because those bitches lie"

Yeah... all that bullshit? I want to challenge it and explain why that sort of shit needs to stop. I've spoken before about the damage in shaming bodies of all shapes and sizes and I think shaming those who do or don't wear makeup in varying degrees is just as harmful. In a world when it seems to be becoming more and more prevalent and weirdly accepted to have an opinion on people's appearances, I believe we should be aiming to try and stamp it out not see it as a norm and some odd shift in culture that we just accept. I'm a very firm advocate of makeup being an art form and something people can revel and excel in, so why is it always criticised, questioned and outright blacklisted at times?

Although there has always been a part of me who has worn makeup because I've been insecure, it's also been something I've enjoyed the process of. However I feel from a really young age, it is almost instilled in girls that makeup can "enhance your features" and is something you're expected to wear (I mean come on, I can remember my monthly subscription to Sabrina the Teenage Witch mag when I was little and it was 90% fashion and makeup and 10% Sabrina). But on the other hand, do a lot young girls just have a natural interest in it? I can remember watching my mam do face masks, watching my youngest Aunty getting ready for her weekend nights out with her friends and spending hours perfecting her makeup and hair - is it just something we're so surrounded by it nutures us to take part in it one day?

Who knows but I think it is something that should be seen as an art form that anyone can be involved in if they want to be - no matter their gender and no matter their "talent" or natural flair for it. I wouldn't say I am amazing at it, but it's something I like to think I've perfected - at least to my own standards and talents - over the years and I love to recognise that journey I have made. What I don't like to see is that a lot of people seem to think they have the right to bring down those who do enjoy using and wearing makeup and also those who don't. It will always stick with me the first time my first serious boyfriend saw me without makeup on and he responded with "Oh god, don't you look really different?" with zero attempt to hide his disappointment/horror/disapproval. Because of this, I'm still nervous for people to see me without any makeup on at all - I'm over my teenage fear of "oh no, people will see my gross acne, eye bags, freckles etc." but that fear that he created still lingers in me with a lot of people whether that be strangers, friends or even some family members.

What I hate to see is this seems to be coming the norm for a lot of young girls in particular. With the growth of social media and more and more of our lives published for the world to scrutinise, we see some celebrities being praised for posting their no makeup selfies yet the young girls those people may influence are bullied and torn down. People make assumptions that if you spend all of your money on makeup or show an interest in it, that somehow reflects a lack of intelligence and depth. Dammit, if I want to spend money on makeup every month, that doesn't mean I'm not also going to spend some money of books, art, and music. People seem to see makeup first and the individual wearing it after and that's just such a shame. But in the same measure, I've seen plenty of people try to "encourage" more natural aficionados wear makeup to hide imperfections or because they apparently "look prettier" and that's so disappointing to see too.

There's so many reasons individuals choose to wear or not wear makeup and those reasons shouldn't be anyone else's damn business unless the individual voluntarily wishes to share. We need to stop saying negative things about people who choose to express themselves and their individuality through this medium as again - it's art, it's their style, it's them. Everyone wants to be themselves and hopefully, happy and content with that and makeup certainly seems to please a lot of us and give us another outlet for that unique expression. Next time you see someone who's foundation is a little too dark or maybe they're not the best at perfecting the strong bold brow, just step back and think "they're doing them and that's just fine. In fact, that's just great" because negative thoughts and opinions are not needed and surprise surprise they do nothing but harm. Also think about how to tackle others who express this negatively freely - challenge them if you're comfortable with that - if you see someone being vile about a man wearing makeup, speak up! Defend their right to do whatever they want because makeup doesn't have a gender. It doesn't *need* a gender. The more of us who stand up to the bullies, the men who think they have a valid say in what women choose to do with their faces (I mean honestly), and the women who are catty about something so personal and subjective, the nicer the world - especially the worldwide web one we all so know and love - would be.

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Creating a Realistic Capsule(ish) Wardrobe

Hello, my name is Amyleigh and I have been a compulsive over-shopper and hoarder for as long as I can remember. When it comes to clothes I've always had a loving relationship and been quite a big consumer, often having many items in my possession that still have their tags attached for months and sometimes years after they were originally purchased because I simply haven't had the opportunity to wear said items. I'm changing this lifestyle I've became so comfortable in though as I've realised I don't actually feel fulfilled, it's a huge waste of money, and there's a lot of bad effects that go along with the fast fashion industry that our society seems to find itself in recently.

I published a lengthy post about why I'm leaving the fast fashion life behind a couple of weeks ago and since then I've been taking active steps to a more minimalist way of living when it comes to my wardrobe. Now, I know what you're all thinking - yuck everyone's a minimalist now and it's just a trend. I absolutely agree. It has quickly become "a thing" to be a minimalist and own little to few items or to streamline aspects of your life but I will only ever view this movement and popularity as a positive thing. If we can make changes like this that ultimately benefit not only ourselves but also the world around us, that can surely never be a bad thing, can it?

Please note that when I say "minimalist" I'm not talking about true minimalism - I mean I'm downsizing, streamlining, and just generally starting from fresh to make my life less fussy and more focused on the things that really matter. As much as I love fashion, I mentioned a few reasons why I'm falling out of love with industry, particularly in the blogging world, as it's just a fast-pace, no thought process that we all go through as consumers that isn't benefitting anyone - especially not ourselves! I always want what I don't have and envy what others do have and I realised that actually? I should be striving to be happy and content with what I have. So that's why I've been going through the wardrobe and cutting out the unnecessary.

As someone who loves clothes and compulsively shops, trying minimise my wardrobe has been tough. I used to occasionally go through my clothes every few months and donate a few things here and there but I still seemed to be accumulating more and more despite trying to forever downsize. So in my quest to get a bit more of a capsule(ish) wardrobe on the go, I've came up with some pretty fail-safe starting points that I'd recommend as pieces of advice for anyone attempting to go on the same journey:

- Know your own style. First off this isn't me saying you need to have a set style (lord knows I don't) but it's great to be aware of what sort of things you like to wear. I like to push myself out of my comfort zone sometimes but for the most part, I like denim whether it's jeans or denim shirts, Breton stripe tops, pointed cowboy ankle boots and wooden clogs. So I try to bear this all in mind before I even consider tackling my wardrobe so I have a general outline of what I should be keeping and chucking out. A lot of bloggers and YouTubers doing capsule wardrobes act like we've all got money coming out of our ears and can just buy a whole new wardrobe but for the majority of us that's not just possible so you need to work out what kind of things and styles you'd like to keep. Do you prefer minimal classic colours? Do you want loud clashing prints and patterns? Do you only wear dresses and skirts but seem to have a lot of unworn jeans? These are all things you should make sure you're aware of prior to sorting your wardrobe.

- Take everything out of your wardrobe. When you do begin to tackle your wardrobe, having a blank canvas when you are selecting what you keep and what you get rid of is so so effective. When I did this it made me actually feel slightly disgusted *just* how much stuff I had crammed in there so it motivated me to declutter even more. I also found this to be visually helpful - it made me see common patterns, colours, prints, materials etc. that were frequent, helping me instantly pick out what sort of thing I *must* usually buy for whatever reasons.

- Make three to four distinct piles. So you've got your huge mound of clothes in front of you now and what I suggest you do now is make three or four distinct piles as you sort through the items. I went with:
Items to keep
Items to donate
Items to sell
Items out of season/want to hold onto*
I know this won't apply to everyone but I rotate my wardrobe. I have a spring/summer wardrobe and an autumn/winter one and depending on the time of year, the out of season "set" gets put in storage. So of course, there's some items that I might not want to wear any time soon but I also don't want to get rid of so those need to be put away in storage to await appropriate weather. I also tossed clothes I wanted to keep in this pile. These items were different to my "to keep" pile because these were the odd few items I really loved but don't seem to wear. I didn't want to part with them so I made a rule with myself to keep them for now, try to make them work, and then if I still haven't worn them next time I rotate my items, they're a-gonner!

- Do not try anything on. Okay so as much as there were some things I just *needed* to keep, I honestly believe the worst thing you can do when going through this process is to try anything on. As soon as you try something on you'll think "oh this is so cute!" and uh-oh who'd have predicted it - suddenly the "to keep" pile keeps growing and growing. I understand that many of us will need to try certain things on as, if you're a hoarder like me, there's bound to be items in your wardrobe that no longer fit, however save it for another time. Sort out visually and emotionally what you want to keep first then try it all on later.

- Always be mindful of the six month rule. I probably don't need to mention this one as it seems to be a standard unspoken law, but if you haven't worn something for six months (not including out of season items), it needs to go! I cheated a little and *did* throw a couple of things in my "to keep" pile that I haven't worn a lot if at all but again, if I can't make them work or if I don't reach for them before my next rotation - they're going out the door.

- Try to keep it interchangeable. This is definitely I'm more mindful of going into this new lifestyle choice. I tend to play it safe with a lot of things I buy but I do tend to pick the odd wacky thing up that's totally out of my comfort zone or usual style and I realised this is a big downfall of mine. I had a lot of items that could only been worn a certain way or with other specific items and that seemed kind of wasteful to me. So now I'm making sure what I keep and what I purchase in future goes with more things in my wardrobe. A great thing to do is if you see something you like when you're shopping is to think "can I make this work with five other outfits and/or items in my current wardrobe?" and if the answer is yes, run straight to the check out with that sucker. This isn't me saying you need to do that whole minimal capsule wardrobe style because I know for fact I couldn't stick to that simple colour palette etc., but just be mindful of what you're keeping and make it work for you.

- Be strict but just. Again, this is a difficult one when you're emotionally attached to some items, but being strict with yourself really pays off. I purposefully went with my gut instincts as soon as I started sorting my stuff like some sort of crazed fashion-conscious sorting hat. I picked items up and made super quick, split-second decisions about each one as I knew if I hesitated, I'd end up keeping almost everything. And you know what? It actually paid off because all of the clothes I've gotten rid of have either been completely forgotten in the last few weeks without them or I haven't once thought "ah, I wish I had kept that".

- One in, one out. Something I'm definitely taking forward shopping in the future is having a one in one out system. I'll be honest - I might not have this as a strict rule for every purchase but I think it's a great way to keep the wardrobe from getting out of control once more.

- Make a list of what is needed. One of the best things about this declutter other than simply getting rid of unneeded material possessions that can benefit others is now I am aware of what I'm lacking in my wardrobe. I realised I somehow skipped on most basics in my wardrobe and therefore I now know I need to get a couple of basic tees added to my collection. Making a list of what you need or a particular item you *really* want also means you will be less likely to go buying things willy nilly. Now if I'm online shopping or browsing a store, I know exactly what I'm looking for and (hopefully) won't get too sidetracked by other items I don't need.

So there you have it. This method obviously won't work for everyone and of course, not everyone wants to even have a capsule wardrobe but I want to downside greatly so I can focus on items and styles I truly love and it is helping me cut out a lot of fast fashion in the process. As I mentioned in that fast fashion post, I'm not completely saying goodbye to on trend pieces and what is available on the high street, but I will be making a conscious effort to try and buy from more small businesses who are ethical, sustainable, and I will be shopping secondhand wherever possible to minimise my contribution to the fast fashion world. If you're creating or using a capsule wardrobe yourself, let me know how you're finding it and if you still enjoy what you wear despite the minimised options and variety.

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Book Club No.8

Happy Friday you lot! I have been reading so so much on my commute to and from work lately and during my Easter break from work, so there's a lot of back-dated book review posts coming your way, but I'm trying to keep them in order of when I read them so I can keep track! So here's some books I read and finished back in March:

Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak
Okay so this first one was something I won in a Twitter giveaway and to be perfectly honest, I had never heard of the author or the book but the cover sold me instantly because I mean *look* at it - it's beautiful! When the book landed through my letterboz, I did a little bit of research and discovered that this is in fact Elif Shafak's tenth novel and she is heavily involved in the World Economic forum and has been prosecuted by the Turkish government. This made me realise this lady needed my attention. She's a vastly celebrated author and woman in general for acts such as defending gay rights and arguing about why feminism is important to write about - and not just from a Muslim woman perspective. If you want to know more about this inspiring lady, definitely check out her TED talk where she discusses the freedom writing gives her. But for now, let's talk about the book itself.

The book follows the life of Peri, a wife, mother, and inquisitive woman living her life Istanbul but during an altercation with a homeless man, she has flashbacks to her younger years and questions start to rise again. The book flits between different periods of Peri's life: the present day as an adult woman with multiple responsibilities, to being a child in a household torn apart by religious differences, to her teen years and early adulthood where she explored herself and her beliefs in a western cultural setting whilst attending Oxford University. The whole book is about soul-searching and deals with some many cultural, societal, and religious aspects that I really admire Shafak for tackling in this novel. For a fan of learning about religion, this book has it all and displays it all in such an honest, down to earth way that you can't help but feel engaged throughout the book. It's not the sort of novel I would naturally reach for but I did enjoy reading it nevertheless. If you want to read something that feels incredibly current, that can educate you as well as entertain you, and that will make you question your own beliefs and standpoints on certain topics as you read it, then this is the book for you. You can pick up a copy in various formats here.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
This next book is something I received as a birthday present from Matt. As soon as I opened it I recognised the name and realised it was because it has recently been made into a movie and I can remember seeing the trailer and thinking it looked great. Patrick Ness is an author I've been intrigued by but for some reason hadn't read any of his work until I got this novel. His work can often be found in the young adult fiction area of your local Waterstones and has won many awards for various works he has written. A Monster Calls is no exception to the awards and guys, this is possibly one of the best things I've ever read.

A Monster Calls is about a little boy called Conor. He is in secondary school, he's a young teen, and he's your typical stroppy teenager to boot. However he's got a lot going on at home - his mum's extremely ill, his dad lives with his new family in America and doesn't really spend any time with him, he's got a bad case of bullies at school mocking and beating him up daily, and his grandmother sticks her oar into his and his mum's life and let's just say he doesn't like it. He keeps having a recurring nightmare that he is terrified of and the novel opens with a development in the nightmares - a monster. Not a big hairy or beady eyed beast, but a gigantic tree that keeps visiting Conor and wants to tell him stories. Conor develops a relationship with this monster based on folk lore, morals of stories, questions and honesty. The way the story develops really pulls on the heartstrings and I genuinely struggled to put this book down. It's not a long read and I got through it in 2 commutes to and from work and I genuinely wanted to sit and cry relentlessly on the train reading the ending. It's such a fantastic book for being such a short read but playing on the emotions so well; it's a work of genius. Although it is young adult fiction, it deals with some dark dark stuff that many people come in contact with in reality and can definitely upset the reader. That's in no way a criticism of it - it's actually the thing I loved most about it - but it's something to bear in mind if you're going to pick it up. The wriitng style of Ness is so quick pace and makes you stay engaged and desperate to keep turning the pages whilst also creating such vivid images in your imagination that I honestly felt like the movie version of this was playing in my head as I read. I can't wait to watch the film now. If you fancy giving this amazing book a read, grab a cheap copy of it here.

American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell
My last review is a collection of short stories by award-winning writer, Bonnie Jo Campbell. This book is something I wanted to read after reading my favourite blogger, The Dainty Squid, review it on her blog and she sang it's praises. I usually steer clear of short stories as I find I start to really get into the story and then it's over and I'm left wanting more but having not previously read any of Campbell's stuff before, I thought this would be a good entry route to get a taste of her work. My wonderful American Twitter friend, Akeen, got this book from my Amazon Wishlist and it arrived on my birthday and I was so overjoyed (thanks again dude!). The internet is a wonderful place, don't let anyone say any different.

So, American Salvage is a collection of short stories and those stories all centre around small-town life in the Michigan area. If you ever enjoy that small-town American stereotype, then you will definitely enjoy these stories. Campbell has a great ability to tell stories about characters that are experiencing incredible hardships from domestic violence, to poverty, to alcohol and drug abuse. All of the stories are so very different but all share a great thread of misery, hopelessness, and unfortunately, realism running throughout all of them and tying them all together as a seamless collection. I obviously enjoyed some of the stories more than others and my favourites are The Burn, The Solutions to Brian's Problem, and The Inventor, 1972 (which has won awards). As I said earlier, all of the stories seem so true and real-life for working class suburban America and therefore create a window of insight for the reader, but despite their usually dark tone, there's a weird sense of beauty in how Campbell writes which makes these short stories a quick, easy and great read. Make sure you pick up a copy of American Salvage here.

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Some Current Favourites

Hello you lovely lot! I hope you're all having a great hump day and happy that we're half way through the week (I know I am). Today I thought I'd share a few of my current favourite beauty-related things because I'm in the process of trying new things but also trying to use up a lot of my current products as I'm going cruelty free with my beauty products (post all about why coming soon). But for now, let me tell you about some of my current favourite products (sadly some of which I won't be able to repurchase in future) and why I've been enjoying them so much.

L'Oréal Magic Retouch Spray in 'Black' 75ml | £8.99: This product was something I saw on offer in Boots for months and months before I finally caved and picked it up and I'm kind of pleased I did. I'm quite lucky with my hair and despite dying it black when my natural colour is almost a dirty blonde shade, I don't get roots growing through too bad in between dye jobs but I've been trying to cut back on how often I dye it so I needed something to disguise the dreaded roots if they did surface. So I picked up this spray which is designed for just that - it disguises your roots coming through if you have dyed hair. L'Oréal have a range of shades in this line including redhead shades which I thought was great to see. The cannister is quite small and compact but you do get a lot of product for the price. It has a very precise long nozzle which you need to hold 1Ocm away from the hair. You spray it into dry styled hair and the can promises 3O uses (but I think you could get a lot more if you use it sparingly). It's a really lightweight product and doesn't feel like you have anything at all in your hair. If you don't wash your hair often, this stuff is great as it doesn't transfer and will stay in your hair until you wash it out. My one warning with this stuff is to make sure if you're using a shade like black to make sure you're not wearing a white top when you use it like this muppet was as it can fall just like any spray does...

Barry M Gelly High Shine Nail Paint in 'Black Cherry' | £3.99: I've mentioned a gazillion times how much I love the Barry M Gelly Nail Paints but there's always shades I haven't tried in the range and recently I realised I was severely lacking a nice deep wine red or burgundy in my collection. After a scout around a few different makeup counters, I of course ended up relying on Barry M to fill the void and they didn't disappoint. I picked up this shade Black Cherry which is the most accurate shade name possible. I love that this colour looks almost black both in the pot and on the nail but it has a muddy brown red warmth to it that makes it a bit more interesting than a simple black. The quality of the Gelly Nail Paints is so good too so this one lasts at least a week and stays shiny and chip free. Excellent.

Beauty Bakerie Lip Whip in 'Ginger Snap' | £16.OO: This is the first product I've tried from Beauty Bakerie and it certainly won't be the last. I saw this particular shade on Instagram many moons ago and finally remembered to pick it up in an Asos order. It's a lovely deep warm terracotta brown shade (pretty much cinnamon or ginger in a liquid lipstick formula so the name is fitting!) which suits my pale skin really well. The reason I love this lipstick so much isn't just because of the colour, but also because the formula is insane. I ate greasy food, drank lots of hot tea, and then tried to remove it with micellar water at the end of the day and it just would not budge. Now, I know some people won't like that but I was so impressed. It took effort to completely remove the lipstick and that's what I want from a liquid lipstick. Despite it's longevity, it's not remotely overly drying on the lips and it doesn't flake or settle into lines I've found. Although I love Lime Crime Velvetines and The Balm's Meet Matt(e) Hughes liquid lipsticks, I'll definitely be getting some more of these Lip Whips because the formula is an absolute winner.

Oh K! Sleep Mask 2Oml | £4.OO: Lastly is this product which surprised me the most. I bought this sleep mask just out of sheer curiosity as I wanted to try out more Korean Beauty products and didn't really know where to start. So when I saw that this mask was only 4 quid, I thought that I couldn't go wrong. Oh K! are becoming quite a popular Korean brand here in the UK and this mask is a sheer delight to use. It comes in a little sachet with a screw top lid was was a nice surprise as I initially thought it was a one-use product but as the packaging states, you can aim to get 5-6 uses out of it (I still have about 1/4 of the sachet left and I've used it around 8 or 9 times). So not only is this mask great for its price point but it also genuinely works. It's a really gentle cream rather than a mask as you apply it as the last step in your evening routine before bed. I cleanse and moisturise like normal then use a pea-size amount of the mask on top. The idea is that when you wake up the next morning, your skin will feel more soft and gentle to the touch and be full of moisture. I honestly notice the difference the next morning after using this as my skin feels much healthier and plump so I tend to reserve using this mask for when my skin is feeling dry, tired, or tight. The mask doesn't really have a scent and just looks like a regular uncoloured moisturiser so it's great for sensitive skin too!

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Wrap Dress, 2 Ways

Happy Monday everyone - I hope you all have happy clappy weeks and you're not too distressed with going back to the grind today (I know I pretend to not be heartbroken every week when this dreaded day rolls around). Back in September I published a blog post where I styled up a dress in two different ways because I'm all about that "get as much use out of your clothing as possible" life. I thought I'd share the same sort of post again with yet another dress just because I'm trying to be more versatile with the items I have now. Since downsizing my wardrobe to semi-capsule wardrobe rules, it has meant I now pay closer attention to the items I have or those I consider purchasing and really try to work out how I can style them up differently to truly utilise the pieces and get the most cost-per-wear out of them that I can squeeze. So that's where this wrap dress steps in. Wrap dresses are such a classic cut that people have loved for years and years and that's because they suit every figure, they look well presented and put together, and I don't know about you, but they just make me feel a bit sassy. So after I picked up this one for a mere £3 in Primark, I was excited as so many ideas for how to wear it were firing off in my mind.

The first way I style this dress up is the way it's intended to be worn - as a classic, fuss-free dress. This cut of this with the v-neck wrap neckline and the tie up waist with the flare skirt makes it such a flattering piece and looks lovely for both day or night wear. It's casual enough to wear during the day with some flats or you can dress it up for an evening and it can look almost glamorous. When it comes to dresses I'm usually more into the floaty boho numbers but this one still ticks those boxes for me a little with the print and the cut of the skirt. I also love the fact that it has long sleeves as I don't like having my arms on show all that much and the colours in the print match my new favourite little tassel box bag and my favourite summer clogs perfectly.

Primark Wrap Dress | Matalan Tassel Box Bag | Lotta From Stockholm Peep Toe Clogs

Although I think the first look can be worn both day and night, it's so easy to dress this baby down even more and make it as casual as possible instead of formal and fitted. Not every wrap dress hangs well when left unwrapped because obviously - it's not intended to be worn that way! But one of the things I loved about this when I tried it on is that it doubled up as a kimono. Sure, it has the middle band running under the empire line where you should tie it together, but left hanging loose mimics a belt tie on a jacket or kimono and no one would know any different. Pairing it with a light wash pair of jeans and a light coloured shirt brightens up the whole outfit and makes it more of a summery piece. As the dress is a light chiffon material, it is great as a kimono for summer as it's not heavy to wear over layers. Again, the print works really well with other items in my wardrobe such as blue denim, my blue & grey fedora and also come on now, try and tell me this dress teamed with my embroidered bucket bag isn't a match-made in heaven? This look is much more my comfort zone for every day wear and I can already tell this dress/kimono fib is going to be a staple outfit choice for me this summer.

H&M O-Ring Top (similar and similar) | Primark Wrap Dress (worn open) | Asos Crop Flare Jeans (similar) |
Asos Fedora (similar) | Matalan Embroidered Bucket Bag (similar) | Primark Western Booties (similar)

I may have only shown two ways to wear this dress in this post but there's so many others if you're willing to experiment and maximise the wear of your items in your wardrobe. I've also worn this dress as a kimono over other dresses like some sort of odd appreciative nod to Michael Jackson's double shirt combos back in the 8Os, I've worn it as a wrap dress like normal but over jeans to play with proportions of an outfit and it can definitely be worn in the colder months as an added layer under a jacket. I'm so pleased with this purchase as I feel I've definitely already got my £3's worth of wear out of it, but here's some more similar gorgeous wrap dresses that could be used in a multitude of ways:

Madam Rage Paisley Print Wrap Dress | £2O.OO
Goldie Polka Dot Button Up Waist Tie Maxi Dress | £32.OO
Warehouse Floral O-Ring Belt Wrap Dress | £65.OO
Mango Floral & Polka Dot Wrap Dress | £35.OO

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Mental Health Awareness Week: Living with Anxiety

Happy Friday world - I hope you have all got some exciting weekend plans ahead of you but for now, I want to take the end of my working weekdays to consider something that I've seen a lot of online pals talking about this week and certainly something that impacts me too and that is mental health. This week (8th - 14th May) it has been Mental Health Awareness Week which is a campaign ran by the Mental Health Foundation every year to do just as it suggests - make us all more aware of mental health - and this year's theme is "Surviving or Thriving?". On MHF's website, they state:

"Good mental health is fundamental to thriving in life. It is the essence of who we are and how we experience the world. Yet, compared to physical health, so little is commonly known about mental ill health and how to prevent it. That must change. Good mental health is more than the absence of a mental health problem. This year, rather than ask why so many people are living with mental health problems, we will seek to uncover why too few of us are thriving with good mental health."

I'm not one to keep my mental health to myself over here on NB and I've quite often mentioned my anxiety and social anxiety in particular but I've never really talked about it in a focused way and I certainly haven't questioned whether or not I'm surviving or thriving despite my mental health barriers. So, if Mental Health Awareness Week is all about awareness and just being open and honest and sharing our stories, then what better time to really get down to the nitty gritty of it right? Anxiety is an awful thing to deal with. Despite mental health becoming more openly discussed in media, online, and general day to day relationships, anxiety still seems to have a lot of stigma attached to it. It is something that often frustrates those who don't suffer with it or understand it but I can assure every one of you in that camp that it frustrates the hell out of those who live with it even more. My anxiety has been something growing like a dark storm off the coast since I was a teen and it's blowing closer and closer to the shore as the years go by. All poetic shite aside, I can see that my anxiety is getting worse as I get older but sometimes I don't know what do about that - do I tackle it? Do I let it consume me? Do I make up excuses in some odd attempt to normalise it? It seems like I tend to do a lot of the latter.

As a teen I wouldn't say I was confident but I was kind of comfortable. I was one of the quieter girls in my group of friends and for the most part, was relatively happy, incredibly social and didn't really spend any time alone unless I was sleeping, showering or shitting. If I look at myself now though, that extrovert lifestyle has completely disappeared and it's morphed into an introverted way of life that I definitely feel comfortable in but I also know has became a crutch for my crippling anxiety as it doesn't demand a lot from me. My biggest struggle is social stuff. If you had spoken to me only 4 or 5 years ago, you would deny me the chance to say the words "I'm a homebody and an introvert" because ha, I was out drinking, dancing, smoking - you name it, it was all the goddamn time. I wasn't happy though. That was the norm for me as a teen but heading into my twenties I just couldn't think of anything worse but it was still expected of me so I bullied myself into doing it all.

Doesn't sound so bad does it? Forcing yourself to go out and have a good time? But that was exactly the issue; it was forced. I was forcing myself to do things against my own interests and it impacted on me mentally a great deal. Panic attacks became frequent things. I had more in my first year of university than I'd ever had before or ever had since and it was because of the pressure I put on myself. I was terrified to say "no, not tonight" to people in fear of letting them down. Letting myself down. Putting myself in a situation of staying at home with Netflix and actually feeling pretty happy but then swamped with guilt because I was letting others down and actually *enjoying* the situation?! What a terrible person! It's so clear to see why this massively impacted my mental health now but at the time I just kept pushing myself. Sometimes it got too much and I would skip a lecture because that meant 2 more hours of just my own company but then the anxiety would flare up again and in my mind I'd cycle through all of the things people would be saying because I wasn't there. "I bet they're saying I slept in. I bet they're all saying I'm lazy. I bet someone has said 'Well it's nicer not having her here anyway' and everyone has laughed, nodded, and agreed." - this was a cycle I went through far too often and unfortunately, still do on a regular basis.

The hardest thing about having anxiety for me is the constant worrying and self-neglect/abuse. I genuinely wear myself out and can feel exhausted after specific anxious outbursts because my mind just can't shut off. I create scenarios in my head that I'm *convinced* are going to happen as if I'm some sort of crystal ball reading, premonition magician who can see how it's all going to play out and guess what? I'm always at the ugly root of it and it's always my fault/impacts me in the worst way. That's just the way it happens. It was only this week that I almost had a panic attack on the train to work because a young lad sat behind me, then got up, walked to somewhere else on the train, came back, then went away again. Maybe other passengers wondered what he was doing but me? I convinced myself he'd planted a bomb on the seat behind me. Maybe he had come back because he actually realised he could easily slide both of his arms around the seat and slit my throat. It all played out in my head and made me panic because there was nowhere I could go. I would also sound insane explaining it to a total stranger if they asked if I was okay. This is what my anxiety is like.

Other aspects I have to deal include: thinking everyone at work hates me and they all talk about me behind my back but say otherwise to my face, unrealistic concerns about family members' health deteriorating, being absolutely terrified to answer the phone - even if it's a family member or close friend who is calling, constantly checking social media (I know) because I'm worried that something I've said will be taken the wrong way or offend someone I like speaking to, worried to answer the door when I'm home even though I know it's the lovely friendly postman... There's so many small aspects to my anxiousness that all adds up and makes it something my mind is in constant battle with. It's not only a difficult thing for myself to deal with but those who care about me too. Luckily for the most part, I have understanding friends and family who are aware that I might cancel plans at short notice because I just can't face going outside or being social. However I've had my fair share of friendships break down and completely disappear because it's been a big ugly problem sat between the two of us and that's just something I have to deal with too.

I think being comfortable to talk about mental health - however big or small your barrier is - is incredibly important. Not only does it help make others aware, but through that process you can help educate others and just take some weight off your shoulders. I would never use my anxiety as an excuse for something but being able to clearly explain it so others know about it is a fantastic outlet to utilise. It helps you realise you're not the only one and it also introduces you to potential new techniques to tackle it that you can experiment with as we all have tried different approaches to overcome our various differences and similarities.

I'm never apologetic for my anxiety. I'm never sorry for it being part of me but I am apologetic for some of my actions as a result of it and mostly? I'm apologetic on behalf of those who say "oh stop being a baby and just do *insert one of the millions of things anxiety can sometimes hold you back from doing*" or "it can't be that bad" or (here comes the whopper) "don't be so boring". I've heard them all and I just feel disappointment and shame for those who are so dismissive instead of being actively curious as to how to aid the person in any which way they can and that goes for all mental health grievances, not just anxiety. It is also becoming commonplace for people to question the authenticity of individuals' mental health. As MH is more readily talked about, it unfortunately seems to be followed by people wanting validation of it being a genuine barrier and to those who do question it, please know you are never within those rights. You would never question someone with any sort of physical barrier so please don't do it and think it is acceptable just because you can't see it. Mental Health is a real issue for many worldwide, it is not some shitty paranormal show on daytime TV that needs a sceptic. So please use Mental Health Awareness Week as a means to learn. Use it to meet and converse with others who may feel similarly to you or who may suffer from MH you struggle to understand. I'm so pleased to see how openly discussed mental health has become in say the last 1O years but it still has a long way to go and as the much-needed help out there is forever facing further cutbacks, don't let ignorance and misunderstanding be something that fuels those cutbacks and secrecy further. Talk about it.

And as for the theme of MHAW this year - "Surviving or Thriving?" - where would I place myself on the scale? To me if you're surviving you've overcome something; you're fighting, you're hanging in there. If you're thriving you've taken that all one step further - you've moulded it to your advantage, you've figured out a way to live with it, you manage it. Whilst I think I've got some way to go to fully squish it and manage it completely, I have a job that involves being confident to speak in front of people. I travel alone. I no longer worry about speaking to strangers even if my heart feels like it's crawling up my throat and just about ready to do the leap of faith using my tongue as a springboard - I still manage for the most part. So I guess I'd say I'm thriving in my survival and I'll take that for the time being.

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L'Oréal Baby Roll Mascara

Happy Hump Day everyone! I know what you're thinking - Amyleigh, you literally blogged about mascara a couple of weeks ago - but if you went through the pleasure of reading that review you would have learned that I was pretty disappointed with the product to say the least. Fast forward to a different launch from a different brand though and oh jeez, this one is a winner.

That's it. You can all stop reading. I love this and that's all there is to say. Okay I should probably give you some more information than that like you know, tell you all what I'm actually talking about! So L'Oréal recently launched a new mascara called Miss Baby Roll. This is their latest drop in their sort of "Miss Manga" style colourful packaging and I was intrigued for a number of reasons. Firstly, and possibly the best thing about the new launch, is the fact that the mascara comes in a range of colours. You've got your classic black and waterproof versions, but it also comes in a teal, indigo, and lilac. I instantly got a little bit giddy at the counter and considered just grabbing them all but I ended up sticking with the simple black for the time being to check out the formula first. My second reason for picking it up is because L'Oréal's mascaras are usually a hit with me. I find the shape of their packaging really nice to handle when applying mascara and the likes of the Miss Hippie Mega Volume mascara from the same sort of range was huge hit with me in the past. And lastly of course was because it promised me perfect volumised lashes in a tube for just £7.99.

According to L'Oréal: "It's time to say bye-bye to boring lashes and hello to new Miss Baby Roll Mascara, for mega volume, curl and all-day hold. Our mega curl roller brush curls lashes from the root, for an instant lash lift! The Quick Mega Volume formula volumises lashes and holds them in a curl all day" so... high promises right?

The packaging is standard "Miss Manga" style and I like that they've used pastel colours on the lid that kind of link into the "Baby" name. Depending on which shade of mascara you pick up will determine the shade of the tube (e.g. the black mascara is in a black tube etc.) but the wand is the really interesting part. Unlike my fave Miss Hippie version this Miss Baby Roll wand looked *so* much better on first inspection. It has a spiral style to the bristles and the bristles themselves are quite short, sturdy, and rubbery/synthetic. They really grab the lashes well and if I'm completely honest, I thought they were almost scratchy when I first applied this. The wand grabs the lashes so well you can really feel it grabbing the lashes and pushing them upwards so the feeling of that took a little getting used to for me. The mascara is incredibly easy and fuss-free to apply though which is something I really look for in my mascara. The formula itself was also an instant hit. It's quite a thin formula, but it coats the lashes with ease. I tend to be a one-coat kind of gal and the results I get with the Miss Baby Roll in one coat are so so good. As it is such a thin formula though, you can build it up really easily and in a short amount of time too as the thin formula dries almost instantly.

Not only does it lift and curl the lashes, but it also gives a great amount of length to the tips and separates each lash really well. You can run the risk of getting a little clumpy at the tips of the lashes if you wear multiple coats, but this is easily avoidable and it doesn't clump at the base which is a rarity in mascaras I've tried. The formula is also incredibly opaque considering it is such a thin formula and I feel the style of the wand prevents you from ever having too much product on there which also minimises mistakes or mishaps (and also helps the product stretch that little bit further!). All in all I really like it. It holds a curl all day and considering I tend to have my mascara on for around 14-16 hours everyday for work, I can honestly say it lasts all day. I personally don't like waterproof mascara, but I found the standard non-waterproof version to not transfer at all even in rain/getting a sweaty face and that is pretty damn good as my hooded eyes almost always end up with some mascara transfer as the day wears on. If you have this stuff on for as long as I do day to day, it does flake a tiny tiny amount but I can live with that. The flaking and the quick drying formula does make me wonder how malleable the product will be once it starts to dry out in the tube more, but I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it!

All in all I really really love this mascara and can't sing it's praises enough. The one downside to it I've found is that it is quite stubborn to remove. I usually take the bulk of my makeup off with micellar water but this stuff still clings onto my lashes as if I never touched it with any makeup removing products whatsoever. I tend to cleanse with coconut oil on an evening and even that has a hard job breaking it down. I kind of like that about the product as it means it really doesn't budge, but at the same time, it's annoying and irritating for the eyes when you're tired and just need to get that shit off so you can go to sleep. It does break down eventually though, it just takes longer than other mascaras I have tried. So if you are going to try this stuff out, I would suggest picking up an eye makeup remover or oil-based cleanser to help get it all off the lashes at the end of the day. For £7.99, I think Miss Baby Roll is a brilliant mascara and I really want to try out the various colours and see if they're also as lovely on the lashes as the standard black.

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A Nod to Bowie

Ahh, jumpsuits. I'm always a sucker for a good jumpsuit whether it's relaxed fit or good office wear, I just love the silhouette of them and even the most loungewear of them all can still make you look like you've got your shit together and thought about what you chose to wear that day. This one though? This one blows all the others out of the water. As I've now vowed to be a conscious consumer when it comes to fashion, one of the things I need to ask myself if I'm purchasing something is whether or not I'm going to get a lot of wear out of it, is it something I can style up different ways to maximise my use of the item and of course, whether or not it is worth the money. The joy with this jumpsuit is it ticked so many boxes because it was something I had my eye on a while ago in Zara but it went out of stock pretty quickly. Fast forward to a couple of months ago and I managed to pick it up unworn, brand new, but second hand. I helped rehome an item and that's so much better than buying brand new. Not only that, I've worn it to death already. It looks lovely dressed up with heels for an effortless and super comfy nighttime option, but it also looks great with a leather jacket and converse during the day. I'm a huge fan of the colour and the cut of this and feel as sassy as Mr David Bowie himself no doubt felt in every one-piece number he threw on.

Zara Jumpsuit (similar) | Matalan Bag | Asos Lace Up Shoes (similar)

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April in Review

Happy Friday everyone! Can you believe it - it's May already?! That means we're almost half way into 2O17 and that's terrifying. April was a pretty good month for me as I got a lot done and feel like I've been making a few positive changes in my life which I'm looking forward to talking about a little bit more as the months go on.

The Personal
April was a bit of a busy month and it was a welcomed kind of busy. Work has been going really well so that's been great, but the best bit about April was the fact that I got to spend some down time with family. I went to Cirencester for the Easter weekend to see Matt's family and was treated to fair bit of chocolate which - of course - was glorious. I bought three new books whilst we were there and ploughed my way through them at lightning speed so expect a review post coming your way pretty soon. After that weekend away I came home, had a training event at work, then I was off to Newcastle to see my family for a few days. It was so nice to go back to the north east. I always miss it and I have to be straight up honest here. When I get off the plane at Newcastle airport and trudge my way down to the metro to set off home to my mam's house, I get this overwhelming feeling of just sheer content and it makes me almost want to cry? Don't ask because I don't know why it happens, but of course it happened this time again like clockwork. I spent a lot of time with family rather than friends during this visit because it was needed. My grandad is really ill at the moment and seeing old age catch up to a man who's always been pretty invincible in my eyes was quite heartbreaking for lack of a better word. I needed that family time and that time to just chill out alone so I'm pleased I got to do that for a wee while.

Shall I keep this short and sweet? Believe it or not, much like March, I royally sucked on the film watching front. I can only recall watching one film and I think it's because I've been reading a lot more in my free time (which is totally not a bad thing in fact, I'm super pleased about it... makes for shitty review posts though am I right?). So the one movie I watched was The Avengers: Age of Ultron and please don't ask me how, but this somehow slipped right by me until April. I knew it had came out, I can remember wanting to go and see it at the cinema, but it just never happened. Luckily it has recently been added to Netflix so one night Matt & I stuck it on with some pizza. I really enjoyed it and I think I enjoyed it more than the other Avengers film. I felt like Age of Ultron was a much darker film that the predecessor and for that reason it sucked me in more. I love that we see a development in Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner's relationship and the fact that Hawkeye is focused on more in this movie because come on, give that guy some screen time! Close to the ending, I did not expect what happened and I genuinely felt upset so that was all the confirmation I needed that this film is worth the watch.

April seems to have been the month for stand up comedy on my TV and I've watched some good and some not so goods. So first up, one of my main men, Louis C.K.. His latest Netflix Original stand up performance, Louis C.K. 2O17, was honestly? Meh. It was meh and I feel so gross saying that about one of my favourite comedians but it just wasn't as great as his other shows. Compared to his Live at the Comedy Store and Hilarious shows (both on Netflix too) I just didn't laugh like I do watching those two and I've watched them both multiple times and still I laugh more than his latest show made me. It just seemed like it wasn't his usual material and weirdly, I found it just a bit to clean and not as "adult" so maybe that's why I didn't enjoy it? Who knows what that says about me - moving on! Now for two great stand ups I really enjoyed. First off can we talk about Vir Das? He's a Bollywood star and super proud Dehli-born and bred comedian who is great. I have never watched his stand up but his show Abroad Understanding was fab. He's not shy to take the piss out of his own culture and others and did a clever mash of a small intimate show in New York with a huge sell out show in India. He is definitely on my radar for future comedy shows and I can't lie, he's not too bad on the eyes either. My last Netflix Original comedy shout out has to go to Hannibal Buress' Comedy Camisado which was pretty darn good too. I find Hannibal Buress just funny in general - he's the kind of guy I could sit in a pub with all evening and love every minute of it. If just genuine, down to earth, real life comedy is your jam, check out Hannibal.

Ahh, my love for music feels like it has been reignited over the last couple of months. I mean sure, I *always* love music, but both during March and April, I feel like I've really found some gems and enjoyed listening to a whole range of old and new stuff. Although Twenty One Pilots are still getting regular airplay (can't stop won't stop), I have jigged around to so many new album drops this month that I need to tell you all all about.

So first of all - do you like Lana Del Rey? Yes? Do you listen to Alexandra Savior then? No? What on earth are you doing with your life?! She's new to my ears too but her album, Belladonna of Sadness, instantly grabbed my attention before I even listened to it because Belladonna of Sadness is one of my favourite animated movies (1973 Japanese handdrawn beautifull-ness). If an artist calls their album that, my interest is peaked. Within seconds into the first track, I was in love. Imagine Lana Del Rey has a moody little sister who is as sassy as Kate Nash and you get the idea. Mix that all with a little bit of The Horrors-style instrumentals and you've got this dreamy record. I'm really enjoying it and I'm excited to see what Savior drops next already. If you read my favourite music post a while ago then you will know all about my love for angry/melodramatic female singers so let me suggest another new but already wonderful female singer April introduced me to. Annie Hardy's album Rules has been a favourite of mine this month and she's another lady who I'm excited to watch her career develop. Hardy's sound reminds me a lot of a more gloomy version of Fleetwood Mac or a tame, non-goth version of Chelsea Wolfe so y'all know that's right up my alley.

An album that dropped from a firm favourite of mine was Future Island's The Far Field. Earlier in the year, they released the tracks Ran and Cave as teasers and I was kind of excited. But now that I've listened to the whole thing? I feel a bit indifferent about it. It's by no means a bad album, it's pretty good, I just still prefer their album before it, Singles. I find the majority of the tracks on The Far Field extremely similar to some of those on Singles to the point where I sometimes think it's going to be *that* song instead of this new one. Another band I love that kind of disappointed me this month was Incubus with their '8' album. After listening to the first track I was excited because it sounded like old old Incubus - punky weirdly almost psychedelic Incubus - but after each track played, it just got more and more "meh". Again, it's not a bad album by any means, but I'm just a bit underwhelmed by it. A good album this month from a good band though? Check out Ulver's latest, The Assassination of Julius Caesar, for all you synth, contemporary world's answer to Joy Division needs. Ulver have been a favourite of mine for years but this new album is *so* different to their usual, much darker/instrumental stuff but I love it regardless.

Some more "new to my ears" music now: Vancouver Sleep Clinic's Revival album is super good. If you like any kind of electro music, this is the band for you. They've been a round for a few years it seems but this is the first I've listened to them and Revival is an all-round good album. Andrew Combs - Canyons of My Mind is a great acoustic album by a very talented guy. It's a lovely easy listening album that kind of makes me think of Autumn for some reason and little touches of it make it a little gem of a find. I'm talking about the little touches like the fact that a lot of the songs seem to be written about various different women and that somehow makes it more real and personal? I really like it! And my last album recommendation from April is Sean Rowe's New Lore. I started listening to this acoustic album thinking "oh yeah I'm going to like this" but then the guy started singing and my god. Shook. I was shook. He's got such a unique almost old deep mo-town James Brown-esque voice but with lovely twinkling soft acoustic tunes. Such a great album I need to listen to more and more during May.

Okay - last little mention! Paramore dropped a new single and holy shit, the world seemed to go wild. Their single, HarD TiMEs, is so 8Os I instantly fell in love. It seems that loads of bands I loved for their emo tunes back in the day are coming back with a slight 8Os sound and I'm embracing it. I'm excited to see what else they drop and although I was never a mega-fan of Paramore, maybe I will be after this new gen of themselves (also I've never fancied Hayley Williams more than I do now with her slightly Debbie Harry haircut, wowzas).

Video Games
I've almost taken a step back into my recent old ways of not playing a lot of video games but I have been playing Mass Effect Andromeda a tonne. I'm still really enjoying it and I'm pleased to see they've ironed out some awful things (like the horrendous facial graphics) but the more I've played it, the more I've realised how many little niggling problems there are with it. I'm still very much enjoying it though and plan to get back into playing it every chance I get during May because I've missed being glued to the controller!

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