July Favourites

I feel like this might as well be a November Favourites post because honestly? What a wash-out July has been!  I wore my wellies more this month than any other so far this year, have cwtched up on the sofa under blankets with candles burning, and have had some seriously miserable morning walks with Bungle.  I suppose we shouldn’t really be surprised, the good old British Summertime is has well and truly lived up to its reputation this year, and now that we’re into August, it doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of getting better.  So I’ve decided that I’m moving on to Autumn and have started to get well and truly stuck into browsing AW17 fashion – scarves, boots, coats – which I guarantee will spark a heatwave.  😉

FOOD

I ate some seriously great food in July, not limited to Aloo Parantha, Bubble Waffles and these Breaded Halloumi Sticks at Bill’s in Cardiff Bay.  Yum!

BOOKS

This month I picked up Kerry Egan’s ‘On Living’, which not only has the most beautiful cover but was a lovely read during those dismal July evenings (honestly, what the hell happened to summer?!).  On Living is a book about death.  Kerry Egan – for many years – worked as a Hospice Chaplain, working with patients who were close to or about to die.  The book is basically all the lessons, stories and truths Egan learned from her patients – lessons about “Dancing more, working less and other last thoughts”.  A beautiful book.

CARDIFF

Unfortunately I didn’t get around much this month because the weather’s been so rubbish!  But I’ve got a couple of favourite spots this month.  Number one involves some of the best Indian (and Vegetarian) Food I’ve eaten in a while – The Vegetarian Food Studio in Grangetown (watch out for my blog post on Monday), and number two is K9 Plus 1 in Barry – a cafe for dogs and their owners.


FASHION

The summer sales trump the January ones in my opinion; I always seem to pick up so many great bargains this time of year including these spotted, wide leg trousers from Marks and Spencer which were a total bargain at £5.50 (similar ones here).  I’m going to be wearing them all through Autumn and Winter with t shirts and jumpers.  Another fashion fave this month were these tassle earrings from H&M.  I’ve been after a pair for a while but didn’t want the same red and white ones everyone seems to be wearing.  I spotted these ones and fell in love – even if Sunny called them dodgy and said they looked like they belonged on the end of a curtain tie.

TV

“The North remembers…”  When I heard that the new Season of Game of Thrones had been pushed back until July, to say I was miffed is a bit of an understatement.  But day-am, so far it’s been worth the extra wait.  In our house we wait for Game of Thrones all year and then when it arrives we end up whinging that not enough happens quickly enough and the middle of season drags – but so far it’s been my favourite season yet.  🙂

Also, Poldark.  Always stunning to look at, but… this year it feels like every episode has just been a hour of simpering gazes and soft sighs (I’m looking at you Morwenna).  And now that  *SPOILER* Agatha’s gone, I’m a bit… meh about it all.

ONLINE

We bought my Mum an Amazon Echo Dot for her birthday because she’s gadget mad and constantly wondering what’s happening with the news/weather/traffic.  Anyway, it arrived and Sunny and I were so impressed with it when we set it up for her that when Amazon Prime Day swung around and we picked one up for ourselves.  You can do so much more with it than just check out the latest headlines and whether you’ll need an umbrella (It’s Wales, it’s July – the answer as it turns out is; is yes, yes you do).  You can tune into any Radio Station, check out Trump’s latest Tweet, get a random Blackadder Quote, and we’ve synced our Spotify with it so we can play our favourite music through it’s – pretty decent – speaker.  My favourite addition though has to be the game ‘Yes Sire’ – which you basically have to keep balance in your kingdom by answering simple yes or no questions which increase/decrease your wealth and power (it’s a bit Game of Thrones).  If either goes too high or too low then the King either has you exiled or executed.  Great fun while you’re cooking or doing the washing up 🙂

Hello August!  What have you been loving this July?  Obviously not the weather…  😉

Dear Graduate

Last week my brother’s girlfriend graduated from Cardiff University after three years of placements, practicals and poring over ol’ Grey’s Anatomy (…I meant the book, but I know she’s a fan of the show too! 🙂 ). I promised to take some pictures of her once she’d emerged from the ceremony in St David’s Hall, and as she posed in her gown and we snapped a boomerang of her throwing her cap up into the air I couldn’t help think back to my own graduation a whopping 10 whole years ago and the difficult year that followed it.

Because for me, what was supposed to be the happy climax and payoff of four years of hard work turned into one of the worst years of my life. Unfortunately, the timing of my graduation couldn’t have been worse; that year, thousands of graduates threw up their caps and then watched them fall synchronously with the world’s markets. It was the year that Lehman Brothers went bust and sparked the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

No one was hiring.

Applying for jobs – whilst exciting at first – became steadily more depressing. I must have sent out hundreds and hundreds of applications, cover letters and CVs proudly boasting my new qualifications, only to never hear back. I signed up to every job website I could find and scoured them for new listings every day (Annoyingly, I still get emails from some of them!). I went back and forth to the job centre, whose ‘sign this then sod off’ regime didn’t help either my job prospects or my confidence.

I felt completely alone. My carefree little University Life bubble had burst and all the people I’d spent 24 hours with every day for the past 4 years – my best friends, my boyfriend – had scattered across the country and life was suddenly very quiet and very lonely. Without the safety and structure of full time education and without any money, job prospects or friends, I quickly began to lose all that fresh, graduate optimism – you know – that world is your oyster sense of hope and excitement. Sure, I tried to take it all on the chin, but after months and months of no success I boiled everything down to the fact that there must be something wrong with me. I felt like all that hard work (and debt!) had been for nothing and quickly became very depressed.

I’m not trying to cast a cloud over those of you who’ve just graduated, believe me. The truth is that the majority of graduates will leave University and be lucky enough to stroll right into their dream job (or at the very least get their foot up on that first rung of the ladder that will get them their dream job in a couple of years time). But with more and more graduates leaving University than ever before, and a record number leaving with firsts, there will be some fresh graduates out there who have a tough year full of tough decisions ahead of them.

If that’s you, graduate, then believe me, I know it sucks and I’m sorry.  I’m sorry you feel like all that hard work was for nothing, and that all those doors that were supposed to open for you remain firmly shut – locking you in limbo.  It might take some time but believe me, things will get better and sooner or later you’ll find your place and purpose.  But until then, here are ten things to remember:

1. Rome wasn’t built in a day

These days, a University degree doesn’t automatically guarantee a dream graduate job or an entry level position in a chosen career. Perhaps it used to, but these days – with more graduates than ever before – competition is fierce. A real life Hunger Games. Nothing’s impossible though, it just means you’ll need to go that extra mile to tip those odds in your favour – and that can take time.

2. “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” – Don’t let the bastards grind you down!

Get ready for a whole load of rejection. Be prepared to spend hours and hours tweaking you CV, filling out endless application forms and writing hundreds of tailor-made cover letters only to never hear a single word back. And be prepared to be grilled by strangers during interviews. I had an interview with a Media Agency in London where the manager smirked and nodded along to all my carefully thought out answers to his questions only to shrug his lips at the end of the interview and tell me that I hadn’t believed a word I’d said and not to expect a call any time soon. Yeah, he was a total dick. Nowadays I laugh when I think about it, but back then I was mortified and it knocked my confidence at a time when it was pretty much as low as it could go.

3. Try everything and anything once

Keep and open mind as to which route you’re going to take next and don’t make the mistake of thinking that there’s only one way to go. Now’s the perfect time to try new things and put yourself out there in as many different ways as possible. Seriously, for your own sanity! Take up a new hobby or start a side hustle, intern, temp, volunteer. If your CV is looking a bit spare, now’s the time to bulk it out.

4. Nothing worth doing was ever easy

Job hunting is practically a full time job in itself. Each application or query – if done properly – takes a lot of time. It’s not easy, but put in the extra effort and eventually it’ll all pay off.

5. Keep your friends close

It’s tough moving back home after three years plus of living independently with your mates. There are going to be times when you’ll miss those Two for Tuesday Dominos Pizza nights and being able to just knock on the door of the bedroom next to yours and rant and laugh and spill your guts out to someone who gets you and gets what you’re going through. Don’t let the sudden distance stop you from making plans. You need your mates now more than ever.

6. Make the most out of being in limbo

Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making the most out of being unemployed! It’s probably the most time off with the least amount of responsibility that you’re going to get until you RETIRE. How scary is that? So if you can – go travelling, take a year off and enjoy your freedom for a little longer.

7. Learn when to compromise

So you can’t get the dream job right now. Eventually, you have to make the decision to move on and open up your options. Sometimes taking a job in a career or field you never considered can lead to amazing opportunities. A lot of graduates end up in jobs that are completely unrelated to their degrees. Don’t ever settle, but don’t be fussy either.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you’re struggling – whether that’s with the job hunting process or your mental health – don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Visit your local careers advisor (yep, that’s not just a school thing!), ask for feedback when you get rejected so you can learn from your mistakes, and tell your friends and family if you’re feeling low.

9. Be kind to yourself

Give yourself a break once in a while, and remember that there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s hard applying for hundreds of jobs and getting nowhere, but keep your chin up and try to remember that you only need ONE person to see your potential and say yes.

10. Don’t give up hope

After months of getting nowhere it’s easy to suddenly feel like it’s just not worth the effort and throw in the towel. Don’t! You got this.

June Favourites

June’s been a funny month. Between the build up to the General Election and then all the heartbreak that’s been in the news, we’ve had heatwaves and cold snaps, and whilst June always feels like that gateway month – the doorway into the summer (with final exams, graduations, cup finals and festivals) – is it just me or has June 2017 felt a little under the weather? That being said, it hasn’t been all bad – and here are my monthly favourites for June.

TV

If you haven’t been watching The Handmaid’s Tale then what the hell have you been doing all month? I read the book in my early twenties and was blown away by Atwood’s dystopian vision of an America where fertility is prized and women are categorised based on their use within Gilead society. Then the TV show came along last month and I was blown away all over again. I’m HOOKED. Elisabeth Moss was absolutely perfect as sarcastic Offred and that riot scene soundtracked with Blondie’s Heart of Glass was stunning.

Also: Orange is the New Black (I said I wasn’t going to binge it over a weekend like last year, but whaddya know? Look what happened! Again. It’s just too good.)

FOOD

How ’bout these salted caramel crepes from Bay 5 Coffee in Barry Island?

BOOKS

I picked up Amy Schumer’s Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo at the beginning of the month because I fancied reading something new but didn’t fancy fiction or anything too serious. I spotted the paperback at the supermarket and – on a whim – plonked it in the trolley alongside my 100% essential cinnamon bun (I’m going to turn into one any day now…) and sausage baked beans. Easy to read, hilarious and inspiring, I devoured it from cover to cover (…along with the cinnamon bun). 😉

CARDIFF

In June I was lucky enough to be invited along to the launch party for rewards app Memberoo (watch out for my blog post on it later this week) at Cardiff’s worst-kept secret bar The Dead Canary. I’ve been dying to go for ages and when I finally got my chance to track it’s unassuming front door and infamous doorbell down on Barrack Lane, it didn’t disappoint. Their new cocktail menu is packed full of drinks inspired by the Mabinogion; full of black knights, cauldrons and lakes of bathtubbin’ virgins. That particular night I was driving and since I didn’t fancy skidding back home on the link road I had to stick to the mocktails. I was prepared to spend the evening swigging a boring lemonade but my Blackbird turned out to be absolutely gorgeous (and not just because it came served in a coup with a feather clipped to the side). But if you’re after something stronger I’d definitely recommend the Black Knight, which comes with a generous dollop of sorbet and a sword.

FASHION

I was pretty well-behaved this month where my wardrobe is concerned – but I did pick up another patterned shirt in the H&M sale for a ‘can’t go wrong’ £7. It’s blue with polka dots and I haven’t taken it off yet. I’ve also been wearing this silver horn pendant that I dug out of the bottom of my jewellery box, which is a dead ringer for that gold Missoma one everyone seems to be wearing.

ONLINE

I’ve been rewatching Sex and the City (…again.  I think I’m up to round 50 now) and one night when I was googling Carrie’s pink Chanel blouse from the end of Season 4 (did I mention I like patterned blouses?) I came across @everyoutfitonsatc over on Instagram. Exactly what I needed on my feed to break up the endless stream of food and flatlays.

What have you been loving this June, and what are you looking forward to in July?

*DIY Insta Heart Collage

I first got into photography back in University.  Only back then I didn’t call it “photography”, it was just something I did.  Taking photographs to capture moments was something that – for whatever reason – I felt was important. Long before I had a fancy DSLR and was obsessed with Instagram (it didn’t even exist back then!), I lugged around disposable cameras on drunken nights out, drunken nights in, adventures away and trips down the beach (Swansea University is literally right on the beach).  It was a point, click, fingers-crossed world where you never knew how the photographs were going to turn out until you popped down to Boots to get them developed, and then laughed at them with housemates as you stuck them up on the wall with all the others. Photographs really were – as Angela Carter once wrote – chunks of time you could hold in your hands.  Good times!  And that’s probably the last time I actually got a proper film of photographs developed.

Nowadays I’m taking more photographs than I ever have in my life – and yet they remain in digital suspense on Instagram, my blog and on Facebook.  They can be seen by the entire world and yet I only get to see them if I log in and scroll!  What happened to those walls covered in photographs? So when Printiki got in touch with me recently and asked if I’d like to try their photo printing service, I said, yes please!

You can order prints, posters and albums of your favourite grams straight to your front door in varying sizes and shapes (matte or glossy), from retro Polaroid-style photographs to the square ones I chose.  You can even add text to them in their easy to use editor.  Choosing which photographs to print was the hardest part, and once I’d ordered them they dropped onto my doormat barely three days later! 🙂  I was really impressed with the colour and quality – and you guys know how much I love colourful things!

There’s a very boring bare wall above my sofa at the moment that Sunny and I have been having arguments over what to put up there, so I took a tip from my university days and decided to brighten it up with a heart shaped collage made with my new prints!


What do you think?  ♥  Do you ever print your photographs?  What do you do with them?

Why building self-esteem involves building up everyone else’s first

I’m standing in the queue at H&M.  I only popped in to “have a quick look” but whaddya know?  In the space of twenty minutes I’ve managed to rummage the rails, make not one but two trips to the fitting room, snap an awkward mirror selfie and ended up in the queue for the tills with half the shop draped over my arm.  And that’s when it happens.  There are a couple of girls at the head of the queue who are talking and laughing.  They’re looking my way, I’m sure of it.

Thirty seconds ago my full attention was on the pink off the shoulder top I picked up and whether it’s going to make me look like a bottle of Pepto Bismol, but now it’s 100% on the girls and the way they’re laughing.  At me?

Oh God.  It’s my hair isn’t it?  They’re laughing at my hair (who isn’t?), I think to myself, running a self-conscious hand through the back just in case it’s sticking up.  Nope.  Okay, well maybe there’s something on my face?  I did inhale a Lidl cinnamon bun earlier and what’s the betting the icing is all over my chin? I wonder, as my tongue takes a sneaky swipe at my lips.

I come up empty.  They could be laughing about last night’s episode of Love Island for all I know, but no, they were looking at me so immediately in my head I wage war.  I laugh inwardly at them, taking pot shots at their bad eyebrows, their clothes, the claw-like fake nails and even faker fake tan.  I’m throwing thought-daggers at them until they pay for their stuff and walk away, without even a glance in my direction; completely unaware of the poisonous thoughts I’ve been brewing.

For a long, long time, that’s what I did.  Throughout High School and my early twenties I was obsessed about what other people were thinking about me and I automatically assumed that whatever it was and without any evidence, it was bound to be bad.  I dealt with it by doing exactly what I thought they were doing; I thought bad thoughts about them.  It was a quick way of reassuring myself, of feeling better about my own “faults”.  I poked fun of badly blended foundation to feel a little bit better about my terrible acne.  I pulled faces at people’s clothes to feel a bit better about what I’d thrown on that morning.  I snorted at bad writing and sloppy grammar and assumed stupidity to make myself feel more confident about my own words and feel better about being a “swot”.  Of course, I never spoke those thoughts out loud, though.  Honest.  I was far too shy and uncertain of myself to do that.

I thought that in doing this I was building up my own self-esteem, but in fact all I was really doing was just making myself more and more insecure.  Distrustful of others and spewing negative thoughts – and negativity in general – all over the place like vomit.

Then, in my late twenties something clicked.  Call it Saturn’s Return or the impending approach of the big 3-0, but something changed.  It wasn’t so much that I stopped caring about what other people thought of me, I was just tired of going to war over it.  I was bored of wasting my time and energy in pursuit of something I’d never know, and wasn’t really any of my business anyway!  I wasn’t ever going to be able to root around in people’s minds and find out what they really thought of me.

So I gradually changed my mindset.  Instead of throwing mental daggers at someone when I thought they were talking about me, or thinking about me – I shook it off and countered with a compliment.  I thought something nice about them.  I complimented their smile, or their attitude, talents, clothes, makeup.  They were just thoughts to begin with, but soon enough I started to say them out loud too.

Soon, instead of assuming that everyone was thinking bad things about me, I started to realise that it was entirely possible they might be thinking nice things too.  If I was doing it, then other people must be too, right?  Suddenly, I wanted to know what those nice thoughts could be.  Maybe they thought my hair looked good, or that I’d killed it with my liquid eyeliner for once?  Maybe they liked what I was wearing or – who knows – maybe they thought that I was funny, pretty, smart… talented even?  Wow.  People are actually really nice!  (…Mostly.)  And maybe I am all those things.

By building up everyone else’s self-esteem, I’d somehow inadvertently built up a great big tower of self-esteem for myself.  The truth is, if you go shooting negative thoughts at others, you’ll be just as wounded by the kick-back.  So send out some positive ones instead and maybe you’ll get some positivity back 🙂

Have a good weekend everyone! ♥