Mad about books, and generally Mad.

IMG_6513Well hello there dearest Internet peoples! I hope you’re all having a lovely day. As I type, I am downing pints of blackcurrant squash and listening to the not-so-soothing tones of an impatient, barking Alfie. I’m slowly getting less dehydrated, but more stir crazy.

SPEAKING of crazy, let’s talk about mental health- yay! (Smooth transition there, eh? 😉 ) But yes folks, once again, I want to talk about the interior noggin, because it’s important to know that you’re not alone when you’re experiencing problems. And maybe you know another person personally who has faced similar problems to you, or maybe you are a bit too scared to open up and talk about what’s happening.

I have always been a huge bookworm, but books were a massive part of my recovery from OCD, and a great source of information and comfort when I felt confused or alone. And as such, I wanted to share some of the books which I found to be the most helpful during my own sickness. Before I continue, it’s important to note that of these five books,

  • two are (primarily) about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • the other three are about Depression
  • one deals primarily with grief
  • all of them touch on Depression at stages
  • two deal with eating disorders (both anorexia and bulimia are mentioned)
  • and there are elements of anxiety in all of them too

Sounds like light reading, eh?

Seriously though, I cannot begin to tell you how useful these books were when I was unwell. They reassured me that I wasn’t a total freak; that other people had dealt with the same stupid stuff I had been through. They helped me to understand the complexities of mental illness, and how one can lead to another oh so easily. One of the biggest shocks to my system was when a doctor told me that my OCD was the cause of my anxiety, and that whilst suffering with anxiety I also had depression. I thought she was the one who was crazy at that point- surely you can’t be anxious AND depressed at the same time?!

But it turns out, you can. And that’s one of the reasons these books are so good- they demonstrate how one leads to the other.

Perhaps you’re a perfectly mentally healthy little dude at this moment; to that, I say wow!! Amazing! It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read these books however; experiencing is understanding, and these authors are so fantastic, they’ll take you on their journey with them. It’ll help you to better understand friends or loved ones who might be experiencing these problems!

So without further ado, here is the list of books. Enjoy!

  1. Mad Girl, Bryony Gordon
  2. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
  3. Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig
  4. Because We Are Bad, Lily Bailey
  5. The Trick is to Keep Breathing, Janice Galloway

Mad Girl is Bryony Gordon’s fantastically honest autobiography, in which she describes her experiences with OCD; how is first surfaced, and how it grew and grew as she got older, causing a whole variety of problems when left ineffectively treated (drug abuse, eating disorders etc). For me, it was great to read such an honest account of another person’s experience- she makes fun of herself, as many of us with OCD do when we’ve come out the other side, and I think it’s incredible that she’s written such an honest story. The web of problems grows bigger and bigger as she leaves her disorder untreated, and proves that for OCD to be effectively cured, it needs to be dealt with properly.

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Plath’s The Bell Jar isn’t exactly as much a barrel of laughs, however. I read this after my first year at university, and had to put the book down at several intervals, as it was all a little bit too real. The gritty way in which Plath details the treatment of mental illness in the 1950’s is shocking, and makes me so appreciative of how society and psychology have progressed. Still, it is a fantastic book, whether you’ve been through a bout of depression or not, and overall just one of those books you HAVE to read. Plath is a genius, lads.

In Reasons to Stay Alive (I know, the title sounds scary. But it’s not scary, I promise!), Matt Haig discusses how his anxiety brought him to the point where life didn’t feel worth living any longer, and he brings us on his journey from a near-suicide attempt, to recovery. The way he describes how much he relied on his parents and partner was so bittersweet- it reminded me of how much I needed my mama and papa, and Chris, during my own ordeals. His journey is inspiring, and made me feel like less of a weirdo for the things I was going through.

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Possibly my favourite book on the list, however, is Because We Are Bad. Now, you might read all of these books and think, what is so special about this one?! This will always have a place in my heart, because it was the first book I read about OCD, and all I could think was ‘this is so me. She’s describing me here, right?!’ I cannot tell you the flood of relief which whooshed through my body when I read certain chapters- for the smallest millisecond, I knew that at least one other person in the world “got it”; if she was standing here in front of me now, I’d give her the BIGGEST hug, because guys I wept while reading that book, tears of JOY, that I was not so alone. (Mad props to Chris by the way, for finding and buying me this book. Recovery has been sweeter with you, my friend.)

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Finally, The Trick is to Keep Breathing, aka probably my least favourite, but the one I read the most recently. I’m including this book because I massively appreciate the deep, psychoanalytical nature of the text- Galloway is AMAZING at demonstrating how not dealing with a trauma leads to a much more destructive, all-consuming problem, and can spark several smaller problems. It’s a really fascinating journey through the psyche, and well-worth reading, too.

 

And that’s it! I think that a lot of television and movies represent mental illness in a bad way; they have us written off as “crazy” people, who rock back and forth in a padded cell with no hope of a future, or as depressed teens who aren’t even trying to help themselves. But these books prove that we are more than that- they show us the dark times, yes, but they also prove that recovery is possible when we reach out for help. Be encouraged!

 

Much love to you all,

 

A bientôt,

 

Amber xx

 

 

Planking > Panic Attacks: Why exercise doesn’t totally suck

Hellllloooooo Internet Peoples! I hope you’re all well this wonderful Thursday afternoon. As I write this, I’m feeling oh so smug because I’m actually sticking to my word and blogging once again. Mwah ha ha!

Really though, none of us thought I’d stick to it. I’m as surprised as you probably are.

But alas! Here I am, and today, I wanted to talk about my new-found love of exercise. Now, if you know me at all well, you will know I am incredibly lazy. I am the definition of the French paresseuse. I love activities such as sitting down, eating, drinking cups of tea, and I especially love naps and sleeping through my morning alarms. I am certainly not the type of gal you’d expect to see donning trainers and a sports bra, downing a protein shake after a hard day’s gymming.

However, the reality is that last year, my mental health took a dip. Note that by a dip, I mean it took a nose dive with flames and explosions and mad-ass crashes. But the one thing I kept being told by every doctor, every councillor, every Internet forum, every friend and family member, was that exercise was the magical cure.

Now, upon hearing this for the fiftieth time, I was quite possibly ready to shank someone. I mean, when you’re having the worst bout of anxiety of your entire life, with a touch of depression thrown in for good measure, the LAST THING you want is to run or dance or do yoga. I was getting seriously fed up hearing “get some fresh air!” or “take the dog for a walk!”. HOW is that meant to help my muggy, messed up brain?!!

After what felt like an ETERNITY of appointments and medications and meetings and the likes, I was starting to feel a little bit better. And to reward myself for feeling better, I decided that, as it was Christmas, I was going to treat myself to ALL THE THINGS. And I very quickly gained like, the generous side of more than a stone. In three weeks.

IN THREE WEEKS, LADS. THREE. WEEKS.

Who does that?!

I didn’t really notice until I was getting ready for brunch with my friends, and whilst getting dressed, I noticed my jeans did not want to go over my hips. The struggle to button those bad boys was real. And I hopped on the scales, and got the shock of me life.

That was my motivation to start exercising. The moment when I realised I’d literally broken a sweat, ripping my Topshop Jamie jeans over my swelling, meaty thighs.

(That was a grim picture I painted there, yikes! Sorry pals.)

So what did I do exactly? Well, it was a combination of 4 things:

  • Trying to hit 10,000 steps every day
  • Using MyFitnessPal to track my food and exercise
  • Drinking more water
  • Starting workouts

These three things helped me to lose a stone in a month, and then some. Magical, right?

Anyhow, I thought I’d talk a little bit more about each of them, in terms of both their physical and mental benefits. Yay!

The 10,000 steps thing

A lot of people say that the 10,000 steps a day thing is a lot of nonsense *cough*Chris*cough*. And maybe they’re right. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a goal to achieve every day. After seeing in the New Year, my daddy and I started walking every night while I was still on study leave- a good, long, one hour+ walk. And you know what? I felt great after it. It seriously filled me with dem endorphins, and I just love being out and about at night when the sky is clear, the town is peaceful and you can see the stars. It’s truly wonderful. Walking gives you that much needed time to clear your head, and having my daddy with me meant that we chatted out all the feels I was having. It was fabulous for both my physical and mental health.

Here’s a totally cool pic of me and my adorable pupper, Alfie. If anyone is benefitting from our health kick, it’s this little guy- he’s getting daily walks and we play football with him in the garden. This is one happy dawg.

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(also, 10/10 would recommend my daddy for deep life chats. Or my mammy. They’re wile nice.)

The MyFitnessPal Thing

Oh, MyFitnessPal. You sweet little darling, you. MyFitnessPal is the real “secret” of my success*. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically an app you can download, where you enter your age, weight and height, your general activity level, and your weight goal, and it tells you how many calories you should eat in a day to achieve that goal. I know people complain about counting calories, but hear me out. It is not as much of a chore as you might think!

Almost every food you can imagine has been “logged” onto the app. Even things like “potato bread” and “champ”- yes, you can still have your delicious, Norn-Irish favourites! So all you have to do is type in what you eat, and it tells you how many calories you have left after that meal.

The thing about MyFitnessPal is, it teaches you to be food conscious. So where I might have gorged half a box of quality street without batting an eyelid, I soon realised that that was my calorie intake for the day finito. Kaput. You might not start off healthily, but once you realise a measly can of coke has the same number of calories as a literal flipping BUCKET of strawberries, you might reconsider.

I love MFP so much, I’ve even got Chris doing it. And it really helps to have someone doing it with you, to keep you on the right track.

Just trust me on this one- it’s worth a shot!

(It also scolds you if you eat too little, so it’s sensible!)

[*Has anyone else seen that Michael J. Fox film? Classic.]

🍂🌿 just bloom 🌿🍁

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The “Drinking More Water” Thing

I AM THE WORST PERSON EVER. I complain about feeling tired and dizzy and light-headed, google my symptoms and convince myself I am dying, when in reality, I’m dehydrated. I never, ever drink enough. But something I’ve found in the past few months is that drinking water is as magical as people would have you believe.

Every time I feel hungry in between meals, I go and have a glass of water. And nine times out of ten, I wasn’t actually hungry- I was thirsty, or bored. And that way, I’ve saved myself a lot of snackcidents in the past wee while.

When I make a conscious effort to drink more water, life seems better. REALLY! I have more energy, my skin looks great, I’m less cranky, my mood lifts, I sleep better; it’s literally wonderful. Plus, I have this truly adorable water bottle which I found in Paperchase. Most days I’d rather fill it with gin tbh, but I can live with water for now.

And finally,

The “Start Working Out” Thing

Okay, this is the biggest turn-around for me. I feel like everyone says this, but for me it’s 100% true; I was the worst in P.E. at school. I loathed it. It made me feel awkward and embarrassed and I knew I sucked at everything. I regularly got picked last, and remember a handful of occasions where P.E. teachers literally laughed in my face because I was that bad.

Physical education had a special place in the hate folder in my brain, marked with the label “NEVER AGAIN”. I was tiny, and therefore, that meant i didn’t have to worry about exercise, right? But tiny doesn’t mean healthy, and I came to realise that once I started losing what I now refer to as my Christmas-celebration-post-OCD-breakdown pudge. I would run for the bus, and after two steps, feel like I was dying. Walking up the stairs to go to class felt like death. So, I made the change. And started working out.

I’ve been following HIIT workouts* on YouTube- I tried the Kayla thing once before (that’s definitely staying in the “NEVER AGAIN” folder- I felt like I was going to chuck up a lung), but that didn’t really work for me. I’d watched the SacconeJoly’s for years, and Anna had been working out with a personal trainer with whom she’d uploaded several exercise videos. I think that seeing the results of someone who’d stuck to working out for a while convinced me that I wanted to give it a go. So, I did!

Now guys, to explain these particular workouts a bit more, you do various High-Intensity workouts for about ten minutes, then take a rest, and repeat the circuit two more times. It looked easy, but rest assured it was not. The first time I tried, I only (barely) made it through two sets. I had never sweated like that in my entire life- I genuinely looked like I’d been in the sea, and the dog was visibly frightened when he saw the state of me crawling into the living room afterwards. My legs ached for days, but I knew the only way to ease the pain was to fight through it. And I did. And I made it!

I followed the same workout for about a month, and noticed I was getting faster every time. It was suddenly not as physically demanding as it had once been. Then, when I felt my body was getting too used to the exercises, I found Anna’s trainer, Lucy, on YouTube, and attempted some of her other workout videos. These videos are AMAZING because she always shows you a low-impact version of the exercises, so if you’re a beginner or you get tired, you can take it easier without totally stopping. I love Lucy’s videos, and recommend them highly to anyone who wants to start HIIT training.

Click here to have a wee look at Lucy’s channel!

More recently however, I’ve been following FitnessBlender workouts, too. Again, like Lucy, they love a good HIIT routine, but they’re generally longer, and much more challenging. Whereas Lucy is so like “you go girl! Don’t hurt yourself though, you is fabulous”, FitnessBlender is more “GOGOGOGOGOGO BURN THE FAT PAIN IS GAIN YAAAAS”. And while I end up loathing them halfway through a round of burpees, I know there are days when I need that tough love instead of Lucy’s gentle guidance.

While I’ve loved noticing my fitness levels improve, the main thing for me has been the benefits for my mental health. I have OCD, and as much as I don’t want to admit to the doctors being right, they were- my OCD is so much more manageable when I exercise. When I look after my body, and feed it good things and exercise it well, I take more pride in myself. It’s basically another form of self-care, except you become physically stronger as well as mentally stronger. I recall days when I felt like I was drowning in negative thoughts, and my anxiety was through the roof, and by the time I was half-way through a workout, I would have the sudden realisation that my OCD thoughts had vanished. Honestly, it’s been the biggest relief for me- to find an outlet for all that tension and stress, it’s been the biggest blessing.

Pour conclure, a few pieces of food for thought/advice for those of you considering kick-starting a healthier lifestyle/who I haven’t convinced with my silly ramblings yet:

  • You might be stubborn like me, but exercise is one of the best ways to improve your mental health. BUT I AM NOT SAYING IT IS A SUBSTITUTE FOR MEDICATION AND MEDICAL HELP. It is great when used alongside these things.
  • A great way to get yourself excited about working out is investing in some new workout clothes! ASOS have an amazing selection of things, and there’s nothing better than feeling fabulous in a new, colourful pair of gym leggings and a fancy new sports bra.
  • I HAVE LITERALLY SPENT NO MONEY INVESTING IN THIS “JOURNEY”. Kinda want to vomit having called it a journey, but seriously- people think it’s necessary to go out and join a gym, and pay lots of money for equipment and fancy apps. While that’s fantastic for some people, it’s not for everyone. Personally, I feel more self-conscious in the gym; I would much rather exercise in the comfort of my own room (with the door locked and the curtains drawn, and my family under the threat that if they dare look at me mid-workout, I will have to have their toes stomped upon). MFP was free to download, and YouTube has thousands of free videos. It’s so easy!
  • Investing in yourself is worth it. When you feel good, you radiate positivity. I remember in church recently, the minister was talking about that well-known verse “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”. But I think a lot of us, especially those with mental health issues, are terrible at loving ourselves, so how does that mean we’re going to treat others then? You gotta do YOU, friend. Be nice to yourself.
  • Feeling the burn is a good thing. You never regret a workout (unless you get eaten by a shark halfway through, idk, but I feel that is unlikely to happen in suburban Ballymoney…)

you gotta love yourself first 💖

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Anyway, if you’ve made it this far, WELL DONE! And thank you for reading this, it makes my wee heart ever so happy 😀

Let me know in the comments if any of you have any advice to add to this, or if there’s anything you’ve found which really helps with your mental health!

I’ll be back super soon with a post on my different workout gear I’ve treated myself to in the past few months since starting my regular work outs.

I love you all lots and lots,

A bientôt!

Amber xx

 

[*If you’re wondering what I mean by “HIIT” workouts, it’s very simply High Intensity Interval Training. It burns lots and lots of delicious calories, and you can read more about it here!]

 

Current Favourites- April 2017

I’M BACK, BABY!

Hello Internet Peoples! What a loooooong time it’s been since I’ve last taken to the keyboard of bloggery. I’M SO SORRY! I literally thought that it had been 1 month, maybe 2 months max since I’d last written something for you to enjoy*.  But it turns out that it was actually 1st September when I last wrote something on here… It didn’t really dawn on me that I hadn’t blogged in a while until I had an influx of people asking me “WHERE ARE THE BLOGS MAKE WITH THE BLOGS! YOU’RE A HUMANITIES STUDENT WHAT ELSE COULD YOU BE DOING WITH YOUR TIME?!”

(*enjoy is a strong word. Tolerate? Waste time reading?)

So, here I am. Apologising and typing in equal measure! I thought to ease me back into the blogging world, I’d tell you what I’m enjoying in life, just incase yeno, you missed me and you like to be nosy. ENJOY AND WELCOME BACK!

WHAT’S ON MY FACE

So, I’ve been using the MAC Studio Fix fluid for a while now (like, well over a year), and when I popped into Debenhams the other day to get my eyebrows done I rocked up to the MAC counter to buy a new bottle. However, a few minutes of chatting with the very lovely (and STUNNING) make up artist, I was informed that I had it ALL WRONG. WRONG WRONG WRONG!! Appaz tis not a good foundation for dry skin at ALL, and so she introduced me to this bad boy*…

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I honestly didn’t realise I was using the wrong thing until I started using this. It makes my skin look so much healthier and dewy, without going overboard on the shine factor. It just makes my complexion look so… nice? And it doesn’t gather round my nose anymore? And it’s just generally super-dee-dooper, so, I’ve been enjoying that, so I have.

[*She also introduced me to a new lipstick, but let’s just pretend I was well behaved and restrained sshhhhh…]

In addition to my wonderful new foundation, and on the other end of the scale completely, is THIS wee rascal- the Rimmel lip liner in 063 Eastend Snob (it’s poking out of the picture above, what a scamp!). I had heard people talking about this liner before as a dupe for Velvet Teddy, and while I think it works well with Velvet Teddy, I wouldn’t say they’re twins…

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(Rimmel on the left; Velvet Teddy on the right)

As you can see, the Rimmel liner is a lot pinkier, with even a purple undertone, whereas the lipstick is a tad more on the nude side. Being perfectly honest, I personally prefer the Rimmel- the colour looks waaaay better on me (like my lips but better!) and it’s so much nicer to apply.

WHY MY BANK BALANCE IS SAD

Ohhhhh boy. This is a biggie.

Basically, student loans came in, and…

Well…

…you know the score. I am now, once again, impoverished, after a day of living like a rich  Baroness. It was fun while it lasted!

But nonetheless, my baroness days have left me with some laaaaavely things to present to you willing few who read my rambles. Like THIS!

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Chris and I went into town on Saturday and I PROMISED myself that I wasn’t going to buy anything. Three hours later, I was straining under the weight of bags thinking, that went well…

But I did find this top in Zara, and it’s undeniably adorable, right? So colourful and Spring-y!

Additionally, I did some damage in The Body Shop. Now, that’s somewhere I generally don’t go too often, but I’ve been obsessively moisturising my body recently, and was just about to run out of my Shea Butter Body Butter (which is fabulous, by the way). But my eyes just lit up when I saw they had a 50% off sale, and I got these wee rascals to try out…

The smell of both of these is STUNNING– I really love the Gardenia, though. If you’re near a Body Shop in the next things, just call in to sniff this body moisturiser. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

HOW I’M SMELLING

Among the lovely things I got for my birthday was an old favourite of mine- Britney Spears Midnight Fantasy. I used to LOVE this stuff so much when I was in Lower Sixth- I basically smelled like Britney had exploded on me. But it’s been so nice to wear it again; I’ve felt really nostalgic and happy (and young!).

So in short, I’m smelling good. Come and sniff me!

WHAT I’M SIPPING

I can’t stop drinking water, guys. Like, it has become an area of concern for me. I decided this year that I was going to start taking better care of myself, because when you feel good about YOU, then that positive energy bounces off and onto everyone else. So I’ve been exercising, and making a conscious effort to drink more water. And let me tell you, I feel a heck of a lot better when I do. Seriously, my mood, my skin, my sleeping pattern- EVERYTHING gets better when I drink more water.

I also can’t stop peeing, though. You win some, you lose some, eh?

MY TUMMY IS FULL OF

Porridge. Lots and lots of porridge.

I have a scary amount of porridge in my cupboard, and so to minimise money I spend on food, therefore maximising money I spend on clothes, I’ve been eating porridge round the clock. I do love it, though- breakfast for dinner is one of my favourite things!

I usually pair my porridge with syrup, cinnamon, peanut butter, and some kind of fruit. What about you guys and dolls?

THE BOOK WORM IN ME IS SALIVATING OVER

THIS! Jefferson Bethke’s It’s Not What You Think. A really interesting, easily-read little number for those curious about Christianity. It was so good I had to lend it to my friend (who informs me she is also loving it so THERE! Doubly recommended).

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THE LAST PHOTO I TOOK WAS

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This is the path just beside my church. I cannot WAIT for those cherry blossom trees to fully spring into life!

BUT MY FAVOURITE PHOTO I’VE TAKEN RECENTLY, IS

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Guys, I’m a sucker for cherry blossoms. If you follow me on Instagram, you’re going to see a LOT of cherry blossoms in the next few weeks!

MY EYES ARE SQUARE BECAUSE OF…

Like I mentioned in my last favourites post, I’m not really much of a TV watcher, but recently, Chris and I have been bingeing on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. “Anything with Danny DeVito is worth watching” is just our couple motto, to be honest.

Additionally, I’ve been really loving the SacconeJolys vlogs, recently. Their new baby is just TOO CUTE!

MY TUMMY IS RUMBLING AT THE THOUGHT OF

Cinnamon buns. Specifically, the ones you can only find hot and toasty in Scandi countries, like this.

Hot chocolate and cinnamon buns in Oslo ☕️🇳🇴

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(Additionally, that was a flipping good hot chocolate)

THE LAST BOOK I READ, WAS

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling. I lol’d hard at it, and if you enjoy The Office or female comedians at all, it’s worth giving a read.

SOMETHING I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO

My exams being over. YUCK.

Also, getting the new books I ordered in the post. There is nothing like getting post, am I right?!

SOMETHING I’M MISSING

More like someONE, but my sweet friend, Bekah. If you’ve stuck with these blog posts for a while, you’ll know Bekah and I met during our year abroad in France last year, and spent a good portion of our time travelling through Europe (if you didn’t know that already… you do now!). I miss her like a limb. She’s a wee dote, and she even came to visit me in January. We had the BEST time venturing around my neck of the woods.

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OTHER THINGS PUTTING A SMILE ON MY FACE

  • Chris’ cooking, especially the stew he made last night (HOT DAYUM, it was tasty!)
  • The sunnier weather! It’s actually not -5 here right now!
  • The longer evenings
  • “Girls Night” at the Bible Study I go to

AT THE TOP OF MY WISHLIST

I really just want Victoria’s Secret workout clothing, yeno? I understand that that is basically the most basic thing I ever could say ever, but it’s SO PRETTY.

And I believe that’s it! Thank you so much for reading this post, my lovelies- it really does mean the world to me that you’re all so sweet and supportive.

And there’s more coming reaaaaally soon, I promise!

Tell me what you guys have been loving this month, too!!

A bientôt,

Amber xx

 

 

Aout, 2016

Oh hey there gorgeous Internet People! Happy September!

Today’s post is my monthly update of life i.e. what nonsense have I been up to in the past four weeks. August was the month where I can FINALLY say I felt totally settled from France. Nothing hugely exciting happened, but it was relaxing and perfect because I spent a lot of time with my family.

(Really this first thing happened in July, but oh well. Through the power of editing, I’ll make you believe it was August. Yay!)

The month started off with an exciting trip to the Lough Eske to celebrate Chris’ mum and dad’s wedding anniversary. “What a lovely, August-y day to celebrate our anniversary, which is totally in August” exclaimed Chris’ father, augustly (see what I did there?). We popped down for afternoon tea, which was incredibly fancy and lovely. The Lough Eske, if you’re curious, is a castle-turned-hotel, and it’s superrrrrr faaaaaancy. We spent a lovely afternoon sipping hot toddy tea, and eating delicious scones. I’m all about dem scones, lads.

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That evening, we had a barbecue. Now, admittedly, I am not a barbecue kinda gal- I always have a fear that I’m going to spend ten years in the toilet afterwards. However, I’m happy to report that it was delicious, and that did not happen (it was more like 9, in the end. KIDDING.)

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Speaking of barbecues, Chris and his family came to pick me up from work one day by surprise, later that week, for another delightful feast. It was such a gorgeous day, and cooking in the sunshine with bae made it even nicer. I have seen the light- I FLIPPING LOVE BARBECUES.

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The first weekend of August was where I had the epiphany about being settled at home. Chris and I had nothing planned, and so we just spent our days relaxing, watching films and eating our bodyweight in fudge. It hit me then and there that we didnt have to be anywhere, we weren’t obliged to do everything or rush, because I wasn’t going anywhere, and I’d see him again next weekend. I had a real sense of clam, which was lovely.

PS, I’m leaving that as “clam” on purpose, because it made me chuckle. “Sense of clam” lol.

One of the bestest parts of August though, was seeing my old partner in crime, Rebekah! She was over in Donegal seeing her family, and so we met in the middle (Derry) for a little catch up. Seeing her made me realise how much I missed her, and to a certain extent, France as well (but I am so glad I am home, as we’ve established). We spent a wonderful Friday afternoon eating Pyke n Pommes, strolling around the city, and sipping hot chocolate under the mist and gloom of the tumbling clouds.

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(PS, I’m aware how bad I look in the above photo, but I feel like I’m going to love this picture when I’m ninety. ❤ )

Also during that weekend, Chris and I had a SUPER CUTE picnic, where I discovered my new found appreciation of Lea and Perrins. That stuff is flipping lovely! As were the ten tonnes of salt and vinegar chip stix we ate- so worth it though.

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August was also the month where Chris and I took a little trip to the Galgorm, but you can read more about that here, if you want all the deets!

Apart from adorable weekends and reunions, August was a month of work (work work work work). But I did get lots of lovely reviews from visitors, which made me smile. I think it’s all down to my newest tour joke:

“…if you want to leave a comment, that’s cool. If you liked the tour, my name is Amber. If you did not like the tour, then my name is Sarah”.

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There have also been some gorgeous, sunny days, soaking the distillery in beautiful light…

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…and great nights out with the fellow tour guides.

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I also read this amazing book, “Because We Are Bad”, which I would 100 percent recommend to any of you OCD peeps out there/people trying to better understand the condition. It has helped me a LOT, and I’m so grateful I found it.

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So, August is over. It’s been full of essay writing, French tours, hygge, new bags, and love, but I’m ready for September. I have some extremely exciting plans for this month, before going into my final year of uni, and I can’t wait to share them with you!

A Bientôt,

 

Amber xo

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(I leave you with this picture of me pretending to be candid and working. The only thing I learn from this picture is that I need to get my hair done soon.)

Cam-Bam, thank you, Ma’am: A weekend in Cambridge!

Hello gaaaaaarjus Internet Peoples! I hope you’re Monday mornings weren’t too Monday-ish. I’ve spent the entire day tucked under my duvet (but wait, it’s not as good as it sounds) writing my disgusting Year Abroad essay (see?), so all I can say is ROLL ON TUESDAY (even though I’m working, my essay still isn’t done, and I cannot be bothered to shower- welp!)

So, a while back, Chris (le boyf) and I spent a lovely weekend with his sister, Kathryn, and her fiancé, James, in Cambridge. Having only ever adventured in Newcastle and Durham, I was ready for my third English city. I thought I’d share our adventures with you guys!

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Cambridge is a very lovely little city. It’s got a really old-fashioned feel to it; the cobbled streets, the adorable and pony shops- it just feels like on some streets, you could be walking through Diagon Alley. We spent a lovely Friday afternoon munching, strolling hand-in-hand, avoiding angry cyclists and spending money we shouldn’t’ve. Ah, holidays!

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We visited a lot of bookshops, which made me so happy. I definitely want to have a library room when I’m older! I spent the weekend reading my “Paris Street Style” book, which was absolutely fantastic and made me want to toss out half my garish, Brit-esque wardrobe and swap my tatty rags for some Parisienne chic. Feeling inspired by the advice in the book, I marched to Topshop and bought myself this really cute plain white shirt. I would NEVER buy anything like this, yet it goes with everything. Officially my new fave.

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It wouldn’t have been a trip to Cambridge without a visit to the pub (apparently) so Chris and I found this lovely little bar to stop off in to grab a quick drink. I had some gin and tonic because I was feeling oh so English and classy- on a related note, Elderflower tonic is the best ever. Just sayin’.

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Similarly, with Kathryn and James, we had a pub lunch un a nearby village called Ely on the Saturday. Pub grub is unbeatable, and the ice cold cider was for sure the highlight of that hour- it was in the high 20’s, and sunglasses were necessary!

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Between pubs and food, we spent a lot of time relaxing and playing games. It was just the cutest little weekend, and it was so lovely to have some chill-time with Chris’ family. I do love a good relax-fest!

Baby Benefit Products

Hellllloooooo Internet Peoples!

I like sleeping. A lot. And unfortunately, my love of sleep often means that I don’t have enough time to do my make up before work. So I end up taking my make up with me, and skulking off to the corner of the staff room to make myself look tour guide-a-licious!

And that’s always fine and well. Until the Thursday evening you forget to bring your make up bag home, and you’ve got a long weekend off work. Oops.

So while I was visiting my boyfriend that weekend in Derry, we popped into Debenhams to pick up some mascara. It was the only thing I didn’t have an alternative for in my make up drawer at home, and I go through RollerLash much like the way the Germans guzzle up delicious bratwurst in Oktoberfest. However, I noticed they had a little kit of six mini products at the Benefit counter for the same price as one mascara, and I do love the chance to try out new things… (I also love miniature versions of things. So dinky!)

I got:

A “They’re Real!” Mascara

A High Beam Highlighter

A Stay Don’t Stray Concealer

A Posie Tint

A mini Hoola Bronzer

A “that gal” Primer

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I’ve had they’re real mascara before- while I definitely prefer RollerLash, this was my go-to Mascara for ages! I remember people genuinely asking me if those were “my real lashes” at work. My only problem with this is that it can hurt my eyes- maybe it’s the plastic applicator?

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I wanted to try the High Beam stuff for aaaaaaages, but could never justify spending £22 on a bottle of something I might not like. However, I totally would now. I love it! It adds perfect shimmer to the tops of my cheeks. I feel like some kind of magical fairy goddess thing.

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The concealer isn’t bad- I don’t think it’s as good as my trusty Wake Me Up, but it does help brighten under my eyes a little bit, which with all this manic essay-writing, I always appreciate! It’s a great colour match for me, and is especially good at covering spots.

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The cheek tint is not my fave. I have the most red cheeks EVER; I look as though I’m in a state of constant blush, and so I have to work very hard to cancel out all that redness. I’m not really a blusher gal in general, which is why this isn’t for me! But I think this is the most gorgeous colour, and I can see how normal-cheeked humans could definitely appreciate this!

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Hoola Bronzer is bae for pale plebs like me. It looks awesome when I put on tan, but it looks equally as good when I’m super pale, and just want some definition. I prefer using this on my eyes, actually- I remember Tanya Burr talking about using bronzers as shadows before, and this shade in particular makes my green eyes stand out. Always a winner (plus it looks SO CUTE as a little baby bronzer!

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This primer is soooooo good! I never really use primers, but of all the products, this is the one I’ll be rushing back to buy. It works so well with my skin, and my make up is still visible after 8 hours of touring. Properly impressed with that!

Overall, I think these products are amazing. Benefit are quite possibly my favourite make up brand- between super cute packaging, and wonderful products, there’s a lot to love! Plus, they have worked wonders with my eyebrows in recent years, and I will be forever grateful for that.

I think having these baby products is the best way to try things out, and I’m definitely going to look into getting more tester kits like this! Plus, they’re super handy for travelling.

That’s all of got, lovely humans! What is you guys’ favourite Benefit product?

 

A Bientot (I promise I’ll be back properly once this stoopid essay is done!)

 

Amber xx

 

Treat Yo’self: A Night at the Galgorm

Hello Internet Peoples! I hope you’re feeling faaaaabulous today!

I am literally the most relaxed I’ve ever been in my entire life right now; in fact, I don’t even remember what the word “anxiety” means right now. My boyfriend and I are just back from one night’s adventuring to the Galgorm Resort and Spa in Ballymena; basically, a HUGE, amazing, wonderful, fabulous haven of awesomeness. So, I thought I’d fill you guys in on exactly what we got up to…

Chris and I arrived at about one o’clock on a sunny Thursday afternoon, where we were whisked away to the River Room for afternoon tea. There was a huge selection of tea available, and after much deliberating, I went with the “Hotel d’Amour”- a black tea with rose petals, which was incredible! Then came the good bit- the food! Man, it was amazing. We had lovely sandwiches, a teeny-weeny little mug of parsnip and celeriac soup, followed by the most gorgeous selection of cakes, scones and macarons. It was honestly the nicest afternoon tea I’ve ever had- the scones were still warm when we were munching them, smothered in jam and cream, of course. The staff kept coming over to check up on us and refresh our tea and coffee and were so attentive.

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Did I mention the complementary prosecco?

After two hours of foooooood heaven, we headed up to our room (our wonderful room, which was massive and complete with a complimentary mini fridge and a view of the gorgeous river), and we put on our swimwear to head down to the Thermal village.

This is the most amazing bit- we had full access to their amazing spa until 9pm, and boy, did we enjoy it. There were several saunas and steam rooms, hot tubs, pools, heated loungers, a relaxing room with a cafe, and a snow room, and we tried EVERY. SINGLE. THING. We spent a good three hours lazing around, making the most of not being at work. There is nothing more middle-class than reading Harry Potter on a sun lounger in a bikini whilst sipping champagne on Thursday afternoon. I’ll never be so fancy again.

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Just before our fingers shrivelled up and we accidentally got mistaken for octogenarians, we pulled ourselves away and headed back to our room to get dried off and changed. I availed of the free snacks in the minibar, before we stepped out for a gentle stroll around the grounds. This place is magical; the grounds are tucked in behind a stunning river, where you can walk along and cross dainty bridges and take pictures under secret archways. We also discovered this super adorable and totally not hipster swinging chair… I couldn’t resist!

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We returned to the hotel, and then we wandered into the gin library. Now, I am known to be a bit of a gin lover, and so this was right up my street. A lovely man named Larsen told us to head inside and have a smell of some of the bottles before we made a decision. They had a good 300 types of gin, and Larsen was more than happy to help us out with helpful recommendations. In the end, after a good twenty minutes of delicious gin sniffery, I settled on a little shot of Dingle gin, with some elderflower tonic. Chris ordered a Cuba Libre, and we settled down in the conservatory to enjoy our drinks and snacks as the sky dimmed and the guests started retiring to their rooms. So relaxing!

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That night, when we got back to our room, we had room service for dinner (pizza and a sandwich), and just had a lovely evening chilling out and watching netflix. It was the perfect end to the perfect day!

At 7am we went downstairs for our breakfast, which was a combination of buffet-style cured meats, yogurts and fruits, and a menu of delicious cooked foods too. Along with a cheeky wee cup of tea to get the day started, we really enjoyed munching before a last minute trip to finish off our stay in the spa. The Friday morning spa experience was very different to the sunny Thursday afternoon- instead of the blue skies and hoards of people, the clouds were grey and barely anyone was braving the cold, Norn’ Irish morning. I feel that this might one of the unusually awesome features of this spa; while the sky above you is dreary and grey, you feeling snuggly and toasty in the steamy hot tub. By check out at 12 we were sad to be leaving, but relaxed beyond belief.

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All in all, this was honestly one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time! Chris and I got a really good offer, and we’ve been searching their site for something similar ever since we got home. I seriously feel like #CoupleGoals with all the adorable selfies.

Big shout out to my lovely boyf for the bestest time!

I apologise for the infrequency of posts, recently- I am in the midst of essay-related crisis, and have not had time to do anything cutesy or creative. If I have to contemplate one more French pronoun…

ANYWAY! I hope you’re all well- what have you guys been doing to relax? Have you ever been here before?

I love you all lots, à bientôt!

 

Amber xo