Monday, 29 August 2016

Autumn/Winter To-Do List

That season comes. My body is ready. Yes, I'm completely basic, and yes, I love to have things written down so that I can tick them off.

  • Make a pie (pumpkin, blackberry or apple, I haven't decided yet).
  • Have a bonfire.
  • Snuggle up in blankets and write fanfiction.
  • Write a horror story.
  • Make gingerbread.
  • Stop off for hot chocolate on my way to work on frosty mornings.
  • Start going for more runs (I like to run at night).
  • Scrounge my other half's Netflix so I can watch Stranger Things.
  • Go for walks in the woods.
  • Get a pumpkin spice latte.
  • Try a nonalcoholic mead recipe (I love mead, but I'm cutting down on my drinking.)
  • Tell ghost stories.
  • Wear skirts more - it will be the boots-and-tights season.
  • Carve a pumpkin.
  • Go to a Christmas market.
  • Dig out my oversized jumpers for maximum snuggles.
  • Catch up on some Sherlock.
  • Prepare my Halloween costume (I'm thinking witchy this year, although I could still be swayed by Ghostbusters.)

Does anyone else have plans for autumn?

Thursday, 25 August 2016

TILT: End of Summer Edition

So it's coming up to the end of August. I love summer, but I love autumn and winter even more, so I have a tendency to get quite excited at this time of year as the evenings start to get longer and the blackberries begin to ripen. It's also my birthday next month, so I am beginning to quiver in anticipation of new books.

I haven't done a Things I Love Thursday in quite some time, so here are a few of the things making my world go round at the moment:

  • my partner and I have been spending time exploring abandoned buildings around the area where we live. There are a lot of disused farms down deserted backroads, a few empty factories and an awful lot of out-of-the-way houses standing empty, so it's prime suburban-Gothic creepsville real estate. Especially good in the evenings for watching sunsets and bats (but not at night, I don't want to be the first five minutes of a Supernatural episode, thanks).
  • naps! I just started back at work as a part-timer after eight months off to study and I am suddenly knackered all of the time, so naps have become a big part of my routine. Yeah, I know, I'm such an old lady but I don't care.
  • stargazing. My boyfriend and I happened to be walking home very late at night during a meteor shower, and there was the clearest sky I have ever seen. It was absolutely amazing, like looking into eternity. 
  • all things cryptozoology. It is very hard not to Google cryptids when I'm supposed to be studying. Also, I'm really excited about trolls. I love trolls.
  • truck stops and roadside cafes.
  • Subscription boxes! I had the unbelievable luck of scoring a complete secondhand Lootcrate from work (the Vs. box from March). I love the idea of a subscription box and am probably going to ask for one for Christmas but there are so many that appeal to me that I don't know which one to choose.
  • having rooftop access on my lunch breaks. Nothing like sitting on the flat roof with a book and a hot coffee, under the blue sky.
  • London at night.
  • getting 94% on my first psychology test. 
  • Seanan McGuire's October Daye series of books. Highly recommended for fellow urban fantasy fans and faerie obsessives.
Listening to: Down by the Water by PJ Harvey

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Book Review: Skin Cleanse by Adina Grigore

I'll admit, I was skeptical when I picked Skin Cleanse up. One of my biggest bugbears, for basically half my life, has been my skin. Okay, it's not the worst skin in the world - just bad enough to be embarrassing. I spent what feels like my entire teen years buying books, creams, gadgets, lotions, potions, special cloths, brushes, and even the odd DVD in the hope of sorting out my problem skin.

And then when I hit my twenties, I thought, thank goodness, perhaps I'll grow out of bad skin at last. Only, not so much. In fairness, without the deluge of delightful pubescent hormones, it did improve. A bit. But I hated having blemishes that were often red, sore and downright uncomfortable. And for some reason, this year, things started to get even worse. The skin on my back was already plagued by blemishes enough that I hadn't worn a bikini or a strappy top since I was about fourteen. But lately, no matter how much I exfoliated, moisturised or cleansed, the problem was spreading from my back and shoulders down to my arms as well. I tried everything, from spa treatments to prescription meds, and nothing helped.

So I bought Skin Cleanse hoping, but not really expecting much. Reviews on GoodReads were mixed. But it was Adina's author photo that really intrigued me. It was probably airbrushed, I know that. But her skin looked fantastic - plush and rosy and glowing. I have got, I thought, to get me some of that.

One of the first things Adina recommends is an elimination diet. I have struggled with disordered eating, so I'm very careful about committing to any eating plans (other than that well-known 'seafood diet' - you know the one, right?). I decided to try her non-judgemental food journalling technique to see if I could pinpoint anything that might be causing my breakouts. But then, I couldn't wait through a fortnight's food journalling to read the rest of the book. If there was something in there that could solve my skin issues, I wanted it now. So I read on.

I learned about the harmful, unregulated and potentially toxic ingredients lurking in the beauty products I had - ironically - bought in the hopes of helping my skin. I took the book into the bathroom and went through my entire array of products. I discovered that my face mask and body lotion contained formaldehyde. The scrub I was using on my back, and my daily facial moisturiser, both contained petroleum. No wonder my skin was upset.

I bagged up and chucked out a whole range of products (with the notable exceptions being everything I had from Lush, a handful of Body Shop products, my Pure Chimp cleanser and the Golden Silk oil I bought from a local independent health shop).

I am now four months into a stripped-back, natural skincare routine. The only 'products' I have used on my back are water, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and sea salt. I was nervous about using oil on my back in case it made the problem worse, but my skin is softer - almost velvety, if I do say so myself - and I have had no more breakouts. The skin is not so red and irritated. My face was visibly clearer and felt smoother after only three days. After a month, I no longer needed foundation or concealer.
Day 1
Day 14
As well as tweaking - or rather, overhauling - my skincare regimen, I have been adjusting my diet. I could see from my food journal that I don't drink enough water, I have far too much sugar, and despite being vegetarian, rarely get my five-a-day. (Mostly I live off crisps, cereal, ramen noodles and frozen pizza.) However, eliminating things entirely tends to make me miserable and stressed, so I decided to simply add in more of Adina's recipes and good food suggestions, and make swaps where I can. So I still have two sugars in my tea and eat an awful lot of ice cream. But I am also eating copious amounts of veggies, having fruit salad with almonds for breakfast, and pouring olive oil onto anything that stays still long enough.

Unfortunately, because I over-excitedly tweaked my diet and my product regime at the same time, I can't say which has made the greater difference. I think that many of the immediate, visible differences have been down to changing my approach to skincare. There's a nice mental effect too, I actually feel like I am caring for my skin now, not just covering it in more and more product. I'm also planning to implement more of Adina's suggestions, such as regular meditation and exercise (both of which I guess I should be doing anyway... oops).

So despite my initial misgivings, I have to give Skin Cleanse five out of five stars, because it has saved me money (and time in the mornings) and given my self-confidence a massive boost. I have even been seen out in a strappy top once or twice this summer! I can't promise that this book will help everyone, but it helped me, and if nothing else, you probably don't want to be putting petroleum on your face.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

I Made a Jacket Out of Apples & Other Gishwhes Stories

This past week, I took part in my first Gishwhes. I also managed to charm, bully and blackmail several friends, penpals and acquaintances into taking part in this enormous international scavenger hunt (created and overlord-ed by Misha Collins of Supernatural) with me. Some of them are even still speaking to me. My neighbours, however, are concerned.

It was a taxing week. Physically, emotionally (you'd be amazed what eighteen hours spent making a jacket out of baked apples can do to your feels) and most of all financially. But it was also epic. I made new friends in other countries, was complimented on my swashbuckling prowess (!), and my team - HMS MooseKnuckles being the name we eventually settled on - managed to complete over fifty tasks (of a possible 177) ranging from the simple to the semi-insane.

I got super-lucky with my team - I had cosplayers, mums and au pairs, members of theatre groups, musicians and delightful lady scientists, so we were all set to cover almost anything that was thrown at us (one of my teammates serenaded a barista on his ukulele. I remain delighted by this and would like random ukulele serenades to become more of a thing). My penpal Tessa absolutely pulled it out of the bag with some great cosplays, including turning up at her previous workplace dressed as a zombie and getting a milkshake at a 50s diner with a group of friends whilst dressed as sith lords and Jedi knights. My friends Jade, Rosie and Eve were also awesome, and did some very brave and weird things despite heatwaves, illness, work schedules and general life stuff.

Here are some of the things that happened to me during the past week (with a little help from family and friends):
  • got out of bed at eight a.m. on a Sunday to be sprayed in the face with a hose
  • made my dad talk a biker named Big Pete into being photographed in a jacket made out of fruit leather
  • made said fruit leather jacket. I know I keep going on about this dratted jacket but it took days to make, I can't get the smell of apples out of my hair, and, well... you may think you've done some weird shit in your life, son, but have you made a jacket out of apples? Because I. Fucking. Have.
  • adorned my toenails with a delighful drawing of the potential lovechild of Miley Cyrus and Donald Trump. Posting a pic of Diley Tryrus lost me seven followers on Instagram. Can't imagine why...
  • went for a public jog wearing shoes and a hat carved out of pineapple

  • made rainbow prosthetic teeth
  • learned how to swing an axe to devastating effect (don't worry, those records were not good records)

  • put up a tyre swing for neighbourhood children (and then snuck out in the middle of the night when there were no kids around to have a go myself)
  • defended the perimeter of the ladies' undergarments section in Asda with a shopping basket on my head, Sellotape gauntlets, and a pool noodle as my weapon

  • contacted a friend I hadn't spoken to in about eight years to ask if I could film her pet albino hedgehog in my My Little Pony spa (she said yes)
  • convinced my best friend to dress up as Dean Winchester and hold a pie in front of a Winchester Street sign
  • made a panda out of sanitary pads. His name is Charles. He is a bit saggy but he is doing his best
  • painted a bad portrait of Zachary Levi onto my butt
  • had red wine poured into my mouth out of an upstairs window whilst wearing a white dress
Honestly, I don't know if I will have the fortitude to sign up to Gishwhes for a second year. I may just buy something from the Gishwhes Shwag Shwop and cheerlead from the sidelines. But I'm glad I took part, not least because I definitely wouldn't have had the confidence to do so a year or so ago. To be fair, I would have done it just to receive emails from Misha Collins, but I am a bit of a nerd. If you're considering Gishing next year, please do give it a try. Being a bit weird is important. I have entirely lost the ability to be embarrassed, and have learned some important new skills, such as making snazzy headgear out of tropical fruit.

Listening to: The Root of All Evil by Abney Park
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