Saturday, 30 August 2014

A Blast from the Past

I used to love to love photography and from 2010-12 it was my main hobby. I hid the family camera and spent a fortune on the memory card for it. As this camera was given to us as a present in 2004 you can guess that it was not the best of cameras. The focus rarely worked, the zoom was appalling and none of the settings worked. It was not high-tech (although it might have been when it was purchased.) and was quite an embarrassing thing to lug around as it really did single me out as an amateur.

These two years were my ‘alternative’ phase and that period that you want to forget. So I put packed that camera away and buried it under the junk in my room. I forgot about it. I still enjoyed taking photos but I mainly relied on my phone to take these. This is something that I regret as they aren’t the best quality despite it being a very good phone. So this camera was looking like it was going to slowly succumb to dust until it was unearthed by my brother two weeks ago.  I told him that he could have it as I had no interest in photography anymore.

Until today.

My brother has spent a lot of his summer inside on his iPod so it has become my family’s mission to get him outside as much as we can. Taking away electronic devices doesn’t work anymore. As I had decided against going to the gym I told him to charge the wreck of the camera and to follow me. My brother is not the most creative of people – he despises anything remotely arty but had always fancied having his own ‘proper’ camera. He is not amazing but as it was his first time using it I think that can be excused. We trekked through the local woods and spent a while with the goats that live by our house (they aren’t wild). It was a bit dull as I have exhausted that area in the past few years but it was good for my brother. He spent an hour taking photos but the adventure ended when he got covered in tree sap.

When we were later going through the photos he had taken we found some of my old photos on the camera and I was impressed. I am not amazing but I obviously loved taking them. I know I stopped because that camera really was annoying me but I could have saved up for a new one and continued. Instead I just stopped which is not a good thing to do. However, today's little blast in the past has inspired me to try again and I am planning on buying a new camera ready for autumn.

Until then here are some pictures from the past and some more recent ones (taken on my phone).

I do not know when or where this photo was taken. Probably Bonfire night '12.
I do like it though but this was taken with an even worse camera than the one described above.
It was a birthday present and was £15.

I have a version of this photo in black and white but I wanted to upload the original.
This was the photo that inspired me to start taking photos. 
This was also taken with the £15 camera.

I love this photo. It's very generic but this is taken in one of my favourite places. 
Living in Berkshire means that there are many lovely places to walk and they are often very beautiful.
We have spent many a  winter afternoon strolling was wonderful sights like this around us.

Believe it or not this as taken on a lake and hasn't been edited. If it is called edited even you hover over it that is merely me trying to change the size so it's not too big for the screen! I love this photo as well as I was surprised that I managed to take it.

I don't actually remember taking this and I just found it whilst going through my folders. Unfortunately this is edited but I can't find the original version anywhere. Still, I think that it is a nice photo.

This is my all time favourite photo. 

I used to have my own special spot to sit in and read out in the woods. No one ever seemed to go there as it was always remained little free and the grass wild. This meant that it was teeming with butterflies of all sorts of different kinds. I like the detail in this photo but it's a bit too zoomed in for my liking.

 In February I went on a school trip to Iceland and lost my heart to it. Everywhere was beautiful. Everywhere. This is the Blue Lagoon. A place so wonderful and beautiful it makes me want to go again. As you can see there are some swimmers in the shot but I love this photo as it was the sun setting on my first night there. I thought it showed just some of the beauty of the wonderful Blue Lagoon. 

Geysers are spectacular to watch and to take photos of. We'd wait for five minutes for them to erupt and we were all taken aback by the sight. There were bigger ones that this but the ground was so icey (as you can see) so I wasn't brave enough to cross over to them.

Iceland. The most beautiful place that I have ever been to. All three of the Iceland photos haven't been edited and were taken with my Samsung. No matter how good the camera, the beauty of this wonderful country can not be truly portrayed unless you go there yourself.

And there you have it. A select few of my photos. I do not mean to post these to show off. I posted them to share and maybe to inspire someone else. I know I've inspired myself to give it another go!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Monthly Music

Like so many other teenagers – I love my music. I have been through all the phases possible. I’ve survived the emo ITSNOTAPHASE phase, I have lived through the ‘I heard it first – you’re all fake’ stage and I cruised through the ‘IHATEMAINSTREAMMUSICIT’SALLTERRIBLE’ time. So the type of music that I have listened to is quite a range. But now, thankfully, I am in the ‘I will listen to whatever takes my fancy’ and I think that I have a good music taste as I don’t restrict what I listen to. This also means that my favourite songs change quite a lot. Obviously I like a lot more songs than the ones that I am going to talk about but these ones have stood out to me over the last four weeks or so.

Number one: Lily Allen

Okay, I know it’s not a song but Lily Allen has always been a pretty big artist in England and my family have listened to a number of her songs (such as LDN) for years. But her new album is quite the alternative one. When I first saw/listened to ‘Hard Out Here’ I loved it and I loved the message that it portrayed. As this was released during the aftermath of the dreadful and offensive song ‘Blurred Lines’ it was obvious that women have had enough. Not only did Allen ‘drop’ this brilliant song but BeyoncĂ© also released her album that shows that women shouldn’t be shamed for enjoying sex (also a theme in Hard Out Here).

What stood out about Lily’s new album - Sheezus – was that this theme carried out throughout it whilst making statements about a lot of things. Songs like ‘Sheezus’ that mocks the embarrassment that occurs when talking about periods with males and also ‘URL Badman’ which shows the ‘Hardcore Gentlemen of the Internet’ that really they’re just a bit pathetic’. The song ‘L8 CMMR’ highlights the freedom of female’s sexuality and obviously ‘Hard Out Here’ talks about how the media portrays a negative image of women. Sheezus has been a highlight of the past month and I hope Lily Allen continues making music.

         2. - URL Badman
         3. - Sheezus

Number two: Hospital Food

I said in my last post that I love reading books that explore themes of mental health, so at the moment I am reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I decided to watch the film trailer on Youtube late one night and in the recommended section there was the song ‘Hospital Food’ by David Gray. David Gray is an artist my dad used to listen to all the time so, as I enjoy his music; I decided to click on the link. I do not regret it. David Gray has a very distinctive style which can become quite repetitive; however this song stood out to me because 1. It ties with the book I am reading and 2. Because the song is quite catchy in a strange way.

Number three: Marina and the Diamonds

Another artist I am afraid. I have loved Marina since early last year (late on the bandwagon, I know) and I had bought a number of single songs on her albums but as we were going up North for our holiday I decided to buy both over the albums. Together they were under £5 so even if I didn’t like songs on then I wouldn’t feel too guilty, but I needn’t have worried as there are a lot of songs that I enjoyed. Some of these songs are:
1.       Numb
2.       Obsessions
3.       I Am Not a Robot
4.        Homewrecker
5.       Girls
6.       State of Dreaming
7.       America

They are just a few off the top of my head so there are more!

Number Four: Chandelier

You must have heard this song and if you haven’t are you living under a rock? This song is sung by Sia and is a very powerful song; however the best part is the music video. The dance is performed by Maddie who is also on Dance Moms and, even though she’s only 11 her dancing tells a wonderful story (it also makes you feel like a bit of a failure as you are constantly comparing yourself to an 11 year old.) I like Sia but I didn’t enjoy her new album as the only standout song was Chandelier (in my opinion – you may think differently) so I was disappointed by that. I just wish I could dance, sadly that is never going to happen.

Number Five: Iron Sky (the live version)

Paolo’s combination of the speech from Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Dictator’ works so well in this song and there is real emotion in his voice. I prefer the live version as I think that Paolo’s rougher voice works better with the subject and the mood of this song – again you may completely disagree. I have not listened to the rest of his new album but if you haven’t listened to ‘Sunnyside Up’ you should as it has a number of happy/sad songs in and it really is a good purchase (plus it must be pretty cheap as it has been out for years.)

Great YA Mental Health Fiction

Mental health in novels

I am very interested in mental health and therefore I read a lot of novels that are based are around this subject. I prefer to read books that explore different mental health issues in adolescents as this is the career that I intend to go into. Obviously there are numerous non-fiction/self-help books that cover a range of topics but there is also some really interesting young adult fiction that also explores this.

Book number one: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

I got this book for my birthday last year and I bought it as I had just read The Silver Linings Playbook and I wanted to read another of Mathew Quick’s novels. I found this one far more interesting than Silver Linings because I really did like the complex character of Leonard and he was easy to emphasis with (about certain things). Without giving too much away this book is set over the span of a day (with a number of ‘flashbacks’ to explain situations and his relationships with people). On this day Leonard decides not just to kill himself but to kill his old best friend as well (for reasons we find out later – it’s not just the normal straight forward scenario). Leonard decides to give presents to all the people that have helped him or whom he classes as his friends and he goes into a lot of detail about how he met them and their relationship.

This book is written so that you understand Leonard’s depression and why he decides to kill himself. The language used is quite simple but the topics discussed are too challenging for younger readers to understand fully. There are only two things in this book that annoyed me and they are: this book is written so that it has a number of in-depth analyse of certain comments at the bottom of the page. This can be quite frustrating to read but without them I don’t think that this book would be the same. The other thing is the ending is rather disappointing but I understand why Quick wrote it this way (I do not want to give too much away).

Overall this is one of my favourite books out of all the ones that I have read. This book made me cry a lot and I wouldn’t be surprised if it made others cry as well.

Book number two: Impulse

I have this book on Kindle as I bought it when I was on holiday last year. This book is set in a psychiatric unit in America and the story is told by three characters: Connor, Tony and Vanessa. Each of these characters is in Aspen Springs for different reasons but this book shows how friendships can be formed even in dire situations and how each of them learn to live again. Not just this - it also shows that it is possible to be loved and to love again.

Connor is in Aspen Springs after trying to kill himself with a gun after his relationship with a teacher was discovered. His overbearing and ‘unloving’ parents put constant pressure on him and they care more about his GPA than his feelings. His story is a strange one as he refuses to believe that he actually should be in Aspen Springs. Connor is a complicated and angry character but his story is an interesting one.
Tony is from a troubled background and he had a very turbulent childhood. This caused him to mingle in the drug scene before he began to have depressive episodes and this ended to him attempting suicide by swallowing numerous pills and downing some alcohol. He is saved by a confused policeman who stumbled across him lying in a pool of his own sick. Tony’s story is not my favourite but he is the ‘roughest’ character and it is interesting to see the friendship that he develops with Connor and Vanessa.

Vanessa is the only main female lead (excluding the psychiatrist) and she self-harms. She was admitted after being discovered by her brother as she lay in her Grandma’s bath tub after attempting suicide by slitting her wrists. Vanessa is a boring character but her story is a sad one, especially her relationship with her mother. However tedious her narration is at points her character develops well towards the end despite being very annoying at the beginning.

This book has many twists and turns and, although it didn’t make me cry, it is an emotional roller-coaster. The only annoying thing is the formatting as it is written like a poem but this didn’t both me after a few pages (in fact I enjoyed the alternative formatting.) A tip with this is if there is a chapter that has certain words separate to the rest of the text read all the separate words as well as this will help you understand the rest of the chapter. I do like this book and I recently bought and read the sequel to Impulse (Perfect) and this was also very good. I haven’t read any other Ellen Hopkins books but mental health issues seem to be a theme in her writing so they’re probably good as well. There are a few spelling mistakes though throughout both of her novels but they are easy to ignore and they don't affect the book and what is being sense.

Book three: It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Ned Vizzini’s recent suicide made me pick up this book again and reread it and I do love this book. I don’t think I will go into much detail as it really will ruin this book for you but a rough outline is that Craig is an intelligent boy who goes to a very intellectual high school (Executive Pre-Professional) with his best friend Aaron and Aaron’s girlfriend Nia who Craig is ‘in love’ with. Craig has already been diagnosed with depression and already takes anti-depressants for it; however the book starts with Craig on Brooklyn Bridge deciding whether to jump off or not. He doesn’t. Instead he heads off to the nearest A&E and is admitted to the adult psychiatric ward where he remains for seven days. During these seven days he learns to live again, understand his illness and make new friends. Despite being such a difficult topic it is riddled with humour and has a surprising feel good feel. I love this book but the actual design of the paperback book annoys me as it is the type of book that flops open.

These are three of a lot of books that I could have talked about and I do intend to write another two blog posts: one about adult mental health and non-fiction works. I was going to write a summary of 13 Reasons Why, The Shock of the Fall, Zelah Green and Looking For Alaska but I can fit them all into another category so I will include them at a later date. Meanwhile I hope that some of you enjoy these three books and if you have any other suggestions please recommended them to me.

Friday, 1 August 2014

How To Win The War Against Spots

The Battle Against Spots

Everyone gets spots. There is no ifs nor buts, every single person in the world will have had a spot at some point regardless of fame or class. Spots are horrible little (or big) things that cause a lot of frustration throughout life. For me though, the hardest part about spots was when you start to go through puberty - one minute your skin is a soft as a baby's bottom and the next it is speckled with spots of all shapes and sizes. For the first few years, without the correct advice or products spots become a living nightmare and they we for me as well. Not only did I get lots of them but I did the WORST thing you can do. I picked at them.

Yes, the worst thing that you can do is to pick and squeeze at spots - which is exactly what I did. Very soon my skin was a collection of red sores and scars and, as I scar easily, these remain. My skin was so atrocious I would get double takes as I walked to school. Not only did it look terrible but it wasn't healthy and my skin was cracked, sore and dry. I never stuck to a face washing routine and I refused to go to a doctor and see what could  be done. Why? I was embarrassed which is stupid because GPs see so many cases like mine so they have all seen it before. 

If you are reading this and you still aren't convinced that picking at your spots is the worst thing you can do here is a picture of me (pulling a very unattractive face) on holiday two years ago.

Look at the horrific condition of my skin.

But now, after using and doing all the things I will soon mention, I rarely get spots and even then they are usually small and easy to disguise. This is one of the few (recent) photos of just me that you can sort of see how much clearer my skin is. I am sorry if it still isn't clear enough.

But trust me when I say it - my skin is pretty much spot free. 

It's not scar free though, which is a tough reminder that you should always leave you spots be. It means that I am rarely confident enough to go outside without concealer (at least) on. 

So how did I improve my skin so drastically over such a short period of time. Well, there are three reasons.

Reason one: Duac cream (benzoyl peroxide)

So I ended up going to my local GP after all and it was fine and not embarrassing at all! I am really not kidding, as I already said: the GPs have seen it all before. They prescribed me this cream and it works wonders. You apply it once a day after washing your face - I would suggest using it in the morning or after you've had a shower. I wouldn't suggest putting makeup on straight after application as it will not work as well. Also I never put it on my nose as it does dry out your skin and your nose is particularly sensitive to becoming very dry. For that reason it is very important to moisturise or to use moisturising facewash everyday. But this cream works miracles. Seriously.

Reason two: Facewashing and routines

I have tried many face washing products and the two that you are going to see are just two of a number of excellent products; however these are the ones I keep using. 

As I shower at night I put my Duac cream on then as well, obviously this would change if I showered in the morning. 

The first thing that I do is run some warm-hot water in my skin and wet my face. Then I use my Clean and Clear Blackhead Clearing Daily Scrub to remove all the dead skin on my face.
This product does not foam a lot so don't waste it trying to make it do so.I love this stuff because it smells delicious and works a treat. Also it is very cheap at around £3.99 and it is available in the majority of drugstores and shops like Tesco. This facewash is a saviour and as it contains 150 ml, it lasts a while. I have use a lot of Clean and Clear products and I like the majority of them and they are all very good value for money but if you have to buy one I'd instantly recommend this one.

The second thing I do is use Amie Radiant Dawn Exfoliating Daily Wash. I normally use this every other day as my Clean and Clear one is also exfoliating and you don't want to over do the exfoliating. This facewash is very gentle and good for children of a younger age (13 and below) who are starting to get spots. This or the Simple range is excellent for that. It one foams quite a lot so only a little is needed. This fashwash isn't my favourite and I am most likely to switch this one up with other ones like: Garnier Skin Naturals Pure Active Intensive Charcoal Scrub or Garnier Pure Active Exfo-Brusher Wash.

The third thing I use is my Kiehl's Ultra Facial Oil-Free Lotion which is expensive but worth the money. This acts sort of like a moisturiser but it also reduces the oil on the surface of the skin. I do not use this everyday as it is quite an expensive product and I only have the travel size. Ignoring the price, this product is excellent and I normally give it 15-30 minutes to absorb into my skin before applying the Duac cream. This product is fairly new to me so I can not give an a great review; however what I have seen at the moment is that it is a great product and it could also be used in the morning to make your skin look more 'radiant'.

As I have put my Duac cream on there is nothing else I can do to my skin, so I tie my hair up and go to bed. As I sleep with and eye mask on the skin around my eyes can get quite greasy so I wash with my Amie facewash in the morning as well. In the morning I also moisturise and for this I only ever use one product and that is: Clean and Clear Morning Energy. This product is good value for money and smells very nice. The only downside is that as it is an 'energy' cream it has a little bit of glitter in which can take you by surprise if you aren't aware of it being in the product. The glitter is not enough to even notice when applying the product let alone cause irration.This product is my favourite moisturiser and I haven't used a different brand in over a year.

The last thing that I include in my 'routine' is more of a treat for my skin and I use it once a week (roughly). This is the Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask. This product is the type that you feel working - yes, it really is that good. This mask should be applied on clean but not too wet skin. Apply as much as you would like - I like to use a lot as I do not use it that often but it's all about preference.This product is not cheap as it is around £25 for the biggest size but it is worth it - Origins products are all natural and they make you feel fantastic after using them. When you first use this product it can be quite a shock when it begins to dry as it tightens on the skin which is a strange feeling. You should leave it to completely dry before washing it off but be warned: as it is charcoal it can be quite messy to wash off. It is best to do this topless to avoid mess. 

Reason three: Good old water (well not 'old' water)

Drink water. Lots of water. Just do it. I am serious. They say to drink 2 liters of water a day and that is hard and you may think quite boring. My tips to make sure that you do this is to carry a refillable water bottle with you where ever you go. You should also much sure to always have water by you as you work instead of soft drinks of coffee - yes that includes Diet drinks! Also try drinking water with a straw (as stupid as it sounds) it helps as well. To make the water a bit more interesting you may chose to slice up some fruit and add it to the water - I love to add lemon to it but berries are always a nice touch. You should also make sure that the water is fresh and as cold as possible otherwise you are unlikely to drink it.

These 3 reasons are why I now am able to love my skin and it is a good enough condition to (finally) get compliments by my ever jealous peers.