29 November 2016

Catching Yourself

I feel like I have just woken up.  Not from sleep, but a state of mind.  

Have you ever been in a rut without realising it or a downward spiral that you did not know you were on?  This has been me for the past few months.  Except that I did not know, until I was sat in the dentist's chair last Thursday.

Now the dentist's chair is of course not the normal place for self reflection and realization.  But there I was, petrified and shaking as usual when I happened to look down at my legs. They were hairy.  I'm not talking about forgot to shave for a couple of days hairy, I'm talking not shaved for weeks and weeks hairy.

(By the by, nothing wrong whatsoever whether you choose to shave or not; it's just my own personal preference for myself).

I had no idea whatsoever why I had hairy legs. I was so confused.  It was quite a good distraction from what was going on in my mouth to be honest, as I racked my brains for an answer as to how I could have forgotten to shave for so many weeks.  I wear a dress every single day.  How did I not notice for all this time?

When I got home, I looked in the mirror.  Again, I felt like I was looking at myself properly for the first time in months.  My makeup looked like a five year old had put it on and my hair?  It looked like it had not had anything but my fingers running through it since I washed it.  Being honest, I could not even remember last time I brushed it.

I felt and looked like an old house that was previously well kept but was now in a state of disrepair. The only way I can describe it is that I felt that my mind and who I am had a vacation away from myself, but not bothered to tell me.  Like I had just been on autopilot for a while. Does this make sense to anyone else or just me?

Looking back over the past few months, I see nothing that would have triggered this apathy.  Because that is what this was.  It was not laziness or a change in my routine.  The thoughts of shaving my legs, brushing my hair; applying my make up; did not ever factor or occur to me.

I have still been going to work, having a normal home life; writing blog posts but I really do think that the essence of what is me disappeared for a while.  Hell, I did not even blog about the debacle of the UK referendum or the catastrophic screw up that is Donald Trump.

I feel like I have been on safe mode, like you do with your computer.  My screen flashed back on in the dentist chair.  Maybe I needed a jolt.  Something to get part of me going again that I did not realise was not working anymore.  I don't know.

What I do know that I feel more alive than I have for the past few months, more alert.  More ready to make plans, do things; live my life and plan for it.  My legs are returned to their shaved selves.  My hair has been brushed.

I do not know where I went, but I am glad that I am back.

22 November 2016

Styling the Opposite Sex

The way that we dress and the things that we choose to wear are a reflection on our personalities.  These days, this is as true for men's fashion as it is for women.  

Geek, goth, emo, classic, hipster, sports fanatic, punk; they are all represented and are clearly definable. 

I remember a few years ago now when a male friend of mine challenged me to go shopping with him and few up some new outfits for him to wear.  I felt like I was entering into a foreign land.  I am so used to choosing outfits based on what will enhance and suit a woman's body; the concept of choosing men's clothing, more personality orientated that body aware was something new for me.

I did not do too badly however, although he might disagree as he had spent £500 by the end of it!

But men of course, like women, have their challenges too.  Maintaining their style with a fuller figure, sourcing clothes that will fit taller than average bodies.

With that in mind, my friend recently challenged me to come up with an outfit for a larger man.  So here in my idea of an outfit for a winter's day.

Men's Parkas £100.00

Joe Brown's Funnel Neck Jumper £45.00

Lambretta Recharge Jeans £55.00

Trustyle Chelsea Boots £30.00 - perfect match with the Joe Brown's jumper!

So fellas, how did I do?

Pro Tips for Creating Video for Social Media

When it comes to putting your voice out there on social media, there are so many platforms to choose from.  

Everything from concise 140 characters tweets to an hour long video on Youtube.  Depending on what you want to say and the audience you want to appeal to; this may affect what platform you decide to use, although many use a combination.

Although I have been blogging for a few years now and have been active on Twitter, there is one social media platform that I have both eyed from a distance and toyed with from time to time.  Video.  It both intrigues and scares me at the same time.

Whilst your words on a page have an impact and can engage a reader, there is nothing like speaking directly to your audience through a video format.  This is the perfect platform for people who speak about beauty products as you can see in front of you how the product looks and how it was applied. 

Video is also a great format for anyone who likes to do opinion pieces or has a specific subject that they wish to talk about regularly.  It can be a great insight into someone's life and teach you things that you did not know before.

I particularly love Pamper & Curves Youtube channel featuring the fabulous Betty who talks about family life and her journey into all things vegan, including cruelty free makeup.

Toast TV have created a handy infographic which they have allowed me to share here today.  There are some fantastic tips such as what to do in the first few seconds of your video, the part where the viewer quickly makes up their mind as to whether they wish to continue viewing.

Check it out below!

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14 November 2016

Oxfam - Stories of Hope

Every month we all have the same kind of withdrawals from our bank accounts.  Everything from our mortgage to the food we eat.  

We make our budgets, we live according to what we can afford and we know that every month, the money that we earn is going to home us, feed us, clothe us.  

As someone living in the UK I have many privileges.  I know that I am safe; both in the house I live in and the country I reside in.  Neither will be taken away from me.  I have food, water, sanitation.  Something as simple as turning on a tap or flushing a toilet is something that I will never need to worry about.

This is why, the most important withdrawals from my account each month are my charity donations.  For people who do not have those basic things such as a safe roof over their head, food, water, sanitation.  I cannot give a lot, but every penny really does count.

I was recently contacted by Oxfam and asked if I would help with their campaign to share stories of hope.  Stories of people who do not have the things that we take for granted every day.  People that have faced adversity every day of their lives, yet still have managed to make a life and provide for their families.

So today, I wanted to tell you about Buchumi.  Buchumi was born in Burundi.  Due to fighting and unrest in Burundi, Buchumi and people like him have been forced to seek refuge in Tanzania.  Buchumi has been living in refugee camps since 1999.  Think about that.  That is 17 years of not having a proper home.

After moving into his first refugee camp, he met his wife a few years later.  In 2010 they moved into a new camp and went on to have four children.  Due to a lack of food and small portions, Buchumi needed to support his family and find a way of making an income.

Previously a teacher, but with the schools closed down, he decided to take up tailoring lessons to learn how to sew. 

Photo credit: Amy Christian/Oxfam
With the income that he makes from being a tailor, he is now able to provide food for his family.  He is making the best out of a horrible situation and is providing a future for his family.  

 “I love tailoring, that’s why I am still doing it. For now, I would love to keep tailoring.”

Due to the influx of people coming into camps in places that were only sparsely populated before, this has meant the Nyarugusu refugee camp, that was originally set up for Congolese refugees, has quickly run out of space. Three new camps have been set up but each need sanitation improvements and emergency supplies.

Oxfam is working in Nyarugusu and Nduta, one of the new camps, to provide water and sanitation facilities, emergency food, and support to access work. Providing a safe and sanitary environment is a major priority in the work Oxfam has carried out, but helping people improve camp infrastructure and gain new skills is also a high priority. These programmes help refugees like Buchumi create an income and gain stability in their lives.

Photo credit: Amy Christian/Oxfam
This is why it is so important that we make a donation  A single donation of £25 could provide safe water for 25 people.  A monthly donation of just £5 could pay for a goat for a family.  £20 could pay for two toilets.

In just 15 years extreme poverty has been halved.  Imagine what the next 15 years could achieve.  With every donation, that time frame will lesson.  We won't live with poverty.

*In collaboration with Oxfam 

8 November 2016

Dear America

Dear America,

I write to you as someone "over the pond" watching in interest, trepidation and ever increasing horror at the presidential election.

As someone not from the US, you may well say that my voice doesn't matter, my words mean nothing; that I do not have the right to an opinion about things that do not concern me.  But they do.  Because if Donald Trump wins, the whole world is affected.

I do not talk to the die hard Trump fans, or Clinton fans.  Your decision is already made.  There is no changing that at this late stage.

I speak to the undecided.  Those thinking that their voice and their vote do not matter.  Those who are tired of the same elite establishment being in control (although, if you do want to send Obama over here, we would welcome him).

I get it.  I understand.  Here in the UK as you will have seen, we had a referendum to stay or remain in the EU.  The left versus the right.  As the KKK endorses Donald Trump in the US, we had neo nazis, the English Defence League, Britain First; white supremacists; all firmly on the leave campaign side.

We were lied to.  Given inaccurate information.  Practically no information to be fair.  We were given no indication of what may happen if we left.  You could find some of this information if you researched, but many didn't.

The result?  a 51.9/48.1 split and a country that is more divided every day since.  The Pound is shot to pieces.  Racist attacks rose 300% in the week after the vote.  

Since the vote, research tells us that 1.2 million people regretted their leave vote after the referendum.  A tiny  proportion that would have made all the difference.  People who didn't understand fully what they had voted for.  People who thought that their vote "did not count" and they had purely voted as screw you to the establishment.  Then there are all the people who did not vote at all.

Your vote in the election today may well be the most important vote of your entire life.  Please do not squander it.  Please do not think that your vote does not matter.  That a vote for Trump as a joke to yourself may not affect anything.

Your vote matters.  Do not do what we did.  Make it count.  If I lived in the US right now, I would walk through fire to vote for Hillary Clinton.

4 November 2016

Christmas Traditions

When it comes to Christmas, I am big on traditions.

Over the years I have built up a set of traditions and things to do which all combined, make Christmas, well, Christmas!

Some have evolved over the years.  The Christmas Eve cookie and milk have evolved into a glass of wine and a mince pie, sometimes opening one present each if we are feeling naughty!

The Snowman must be watched (the original one, not the one with the dog).  The Doctor Who Christmas special.  Home Alone (although this is more a New Year tradition, stolen from my friend who insists we all watch).

Mum's sherry trifle, which every year we joke is full of more sherry than trifle.  Enough Quality Street to sink a ship.  Turkey dinners and yes, even brussel sprouts.  They can be delicious, I promise.  Check out this recipe on my post

When it comes to Christmas presents, the Terrys chocolate orange is the one present that we know that we will always receive.

I love giving presents,   It is the best part about Christmas.  I spend months picking out the perfect gifts, whether large or small.  Sometimes the ones that give the most joy are the inexpensive ones where you encapsulate someone perfectly in a gift.

When it comes to more expensive gifts, I love to have a little play.  The present of many layers that takes forever to unwrap.  Strangely shaped boxes.  Presents that have little gifts to find as you unwrap to find the main one.

For these little additional gifts I try to find things that are small and inexpensive or preferably free.  I do not after all want to compromise the amount I can spend on a main present by spending all my money on the extras!

For the free stuff I tend to look for free samples of beauty products, trial perfumes and miniature skincare samples.  Trying new products in sample sizes is a great way of finding things that you grow to love, without spending a fortune and this is where sites like Gratisfaction UK come in handy.

In the end, making someone else happy at Christmas is what it should all be about!

So those are my Christmas traditions, what are yours?

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