Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Outfit of the Day - Versatility

     I really like this dress, as I think it's very versatile. Here, I'm wearing it as a casual everyday thing, with the cosy cardigan and another pair of patterned tights. However, as you can see from the lace sleeves and low back, it could also be worn to something more formal, combined with plain tights and high heels. I like being able to wear the same things for different occasions, as I feel I get more use out of something that doesn't always have to be formal. A lot of my other casual dresses are quite summery, so it's also good to have something to wear at this time of year.





















Dress - LaRedoute, Cardigan - LaRedoute, Tights - Pamela Mann, Boots - New Look, 
Necklace - Primark, Ring - Market stall, 
Nail Polish - 'Moonstruck' by Seventeen and 'Vant to Bite My Neck?' by Opi

Monday, 24 February 2014

Review - We Are The In Crowd: Weird Kids


     Weird Kids (Amazon link), We Are The In Crowd’s second musical outing, is a record infused with youth, rebellion and attitude in spades, that speaks to all those who feel lost or like misfits – which is most people really, because after all “we’re all just weird kids in the end”.  This record has built on the foundations of their debut album, maintaining the fun, energetic, pop-punk sound, but bringing a bit more experience and maturity to the table this time around. The slow build of “Long Live the Kids” provides a great dramatic opening track, while “Windows Down” is the most stripped-back and emotionally bare the band has been.  Mixed in with tracks like “The Best Thing (That Never Happened)”, which has more of a pop vibe and is dripping with attitude, things can be a little disjointed, but it does show off the band’s range. These are also the two poles of the album, with much of the rest falling in a comfortable middle ground to help blend things together more cohesively. Lyrically, the record talks of embracing who you are and chasing your dreams no matter what, with songs like “Dreaming Out Loud” and “Reflections”, which is exactly the sorts of things that young people need to hear, especially those who feel like they’re a little different. With an anthem-like style on many tracks, it’s easy to pictures venues full of fans singing back these words, and the dual male/female vocals give tracks more depth in tone and add something unique to the record, as there are few other bands doing the same thing. This is a record entirely upfront and unapologetic about what it is and who the band are, and fans should be inspired to feel the same way about themselves.


The Amazon link is part of their affiliate programme and I will receive commission on any purchases.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Of Bagpipes and Burns: Scottish Stereotypes

     Every country and culture has stereotypes that go alongside it, some truer than others. Scotland of course, is no different. However, what I have noticed is that while Scotland is part of the U.K., British stereotypes tend to be more closely associated with the English portion of the country. It is a common mistake to think of the U.K. and England synonymously, when this is not true. As a Scot, I have no objection to being called British, but I am certainly not English.

     Personally, I feel we have some stereotypes shared with the rest of the nation, which I will mention first. For starters, there is the dry, witty British sense of humour, dripping with sarcasm, which I adore and absolutely partake in whenever I can. I'm not a fan of blatant, crude comedy, but if made clever then it can be hilarious. There’s also the British politeness and awkwardness, which is most definitely shared across the country. I'm forever going out of my way to avoid causing hassle to others or making a scene, and I tend to bite my lip rather than speak up. This is also a personality trait, and there are plenty of Brits who will make a fuss, but as stereotypes go, this one is truer than most.  We also, as a nation, love to complain. Sounds contradictory, when we’re always trying to be polite, but we’ll certainly have a good whine when we can. Scots often come with the label of being “miserable bastards” and I think we are at times, but no more than the rest of the U.K, I’d say. We can very friendly and welcoming when we want.

     Following on from that last point, into the uniquely Scottish stereotypes, one of the things the Scots are thought to complain about most is the English. This is, by and large, untrue. We dislike being mistaken for English, and we can get pretty riled up during sports and competitions – just look at the Calcutta Cup matches. However, none of this should be taken seriously and there is no real animosity between the countries. I have plenty of family and friends who are English, and their nationality in no way affects our relationship. The main difference, I feel, is in the fact that Scots are a very patriotic nation, in a way that I don’t think the English are, and I’ve had this confirmed by people I know. Scotland has a rich culture and heritage, and we take immense pride in that fact, so sometimes this can come across as being anti-English, though this is rarely the case. Our pride can change at the drop of a hat though, and we can be quite cynical about our own nation – although again, this differs between individuals. However, we are quick to the defence when anyone else tries to criticise us.

     Our rich culture is full of the most well-known stereotypes however – bagpipes and kilts and haggis and the like. These are all things that still exist in our culture, just not on a regular basis. We eat haggis at Burns suppers, not every day. Kilts are only worn to weddings, ceilidhs and other special occasions or ceremonies. Some people choose to learn the bagpipes, but certainly not all. We learn Burns at school, but most of us can’t recite any at the drop of a hat. Ginger hair is more common here than any other country, but it’s still the minority hair colour. We learn ceilidh dancing at school too, but only use it a few times a year at most (though it’s the most fantastic fun). We are a pretty boozy nation, but we drink more than just whisky – wine, rum or vodka would be my poison of choice. However, while it can be pretty annoying to have people think these things about us all the time, they are the things that make Scottish culture unique and memorable to other nations. There’s also the accent, marking us out as different to our English neighbours. I’m often frustrated at my own, as it only sounds strong when I’m around other Scots, meaning I have been mistaken for English before. However, it does make it easier for me to be understood, whereas a thick accent can be unintelligible to non-Scots.

     So, as you may have gathered I’m very proud of my national identity, and I hope this clears up some of the stereotypes and misconceptions about us. Any other Scots who agree or disagree with what I've said? What do other people think about their nationality and how it is perceived?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Outfit of the Day - Feeling Patriotic

     I'm a huge fan of colourful, patterned tights (though not leggings for some reason, no idea why!) and I've picked up most of mine in little independent boutique type places, so they're pretty unique - unfortunately that means I don't remember the names of most of them! I love these ones, as they give a sort of sense of my Scottish pride. Usually I pair such bright tights with plain skirts and shoes, as I have here. I often stick with plain tops too, but as this one is neutrally coloured in black and white, I felt it worked in this case. As usual, my jewellery is a mix of delicate pieces, like these earrings, and simpler styles, like the arrow-head necklace.


























Cardigan - LaRedoute, Top - Forever21, Skirt - New Look, Tights - Gift/unknown,
Boots - New Look, Necklace - Primark, Wristband - Twin Atlantic merchandise,
Ring - Market stall, Earrings - George at Asda,
Nail Polish - 'Amande Défilé' (Almond Parade?) by Bourjois Paris

Monday, 17 February 2014

Getting Fit



So this post is a little different from my usual topics, but it has become a larger part of my life recently: exercise. I have always, always hated exercise, especially doing P.E. at school. It was easily my worst subject and left me feeling embarrassed and exhausted every time. My siblings are both quite active, particularly my brother who plays rugby, and my parents have also encouraged/nagged me to do more. When I was little I did dance classes, but the teacher moved away and we live in such a small town there was no one else to go to. We did Scottish country dancing every year at school, which is so much fun you forget it's exercise, but I only get to do it a few times a year now at ceilidh and suchlike. I also took swimming lessons, as I'd imagine most people did, and I did quite enjoy it, but since stopping lessons I rarely go now, partly laziness and partly the hassle of changing and showering etc. In recent years, walking has really been the only form of exercise I have undertaken. I try to walk as much as possible, especially when it's a longer distance that I could cheat and take a bus for. 


(Source)
(Source)
     So, one of my resolutions this year was to get fit. I get tired just climbing the stairs, and I'm becoming increasingly aware of the future negative effects on my health. I spent the first few weeks of the year experimenting with what works best for me. I'm far too shy and nervous to join a gym, as I know I'd feel awkward and embarrassed all the time, so I wanted something I could do at home. I also didn't want to start with anything too intense, as my fitness level is pretty low and too much too fast would have put me off sticking with it. Eventually, I've found two apps which I use; Nike Training Club and Yoga Studio. I do each one three times a week, the cardio to get me really active and burn calories, and the yoga for something more gentle and toning. It's a nice balance, as I'm active six days a week, but don't feel like I'm overexerting myself, which makes it easier to stick with it. I highly recommend both these apps, as they are easy to follow, highly customisable to your needs and ability level and inexpensive! And once you download routines, there's no need for an internet connection to use them, which is great for where I live, with it's dodgy connection.

     I'm also trying to eat healthier this year, mostly by reducing the amount of chocolate and sugar I eat, as I have quite a sweet tooth! As well as limiting sugary snacks (and snacks in general) I've also switched to non-sugared cereal, natural yoghurt and low-fat alternatives where available, and am trying to eat more fruit and less starchy carbs. I'm not following a specific diet or counting calories, just trying to be more aware of what I put in my body and not eat for the sake of eating. So far, I haven't noticed any major changes to my health or mood, but I'm not going to deterred, as I think the benefits of all this will be more long term. Losing weight is not the main goal of this, but I wouldn't mind dropping a little. However, I don't have scales so I don't know if I'm making any progress on this front or not. Some days I look in the mirror and think I've lost a bit, then I see a different angle and think maybe not. Regardless of this though, I know my lifestyle is improved somewhat through these changes, so I'm sticking with it for as long as possible!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Review - Afternoon Delight

  So, this may turn out to be less of a review, and more my thoughts on the film’s themes and characters (spoilers ahead!). First of all though, I will say that I really enjoyed Afternoon Delight, perhaps more than I expected too. It was well acted and directed, but most of all, it was original. So many films nowadays start to become similar, or at the very least, predictable. But this one managed to surprise me, and I couldn’t quite decide what the ending would be; it wasn’t a shock or a surprise per say, just difficult to decide which route the story would take.

     I want to discuss the characters and their issues, so I’ll start with the protagonist, Rachel, a wife and mother who is entirely unhappy with her life. She has become stuck in a monotonous routine, feeling trapped and unable to communicate with anyone, least of all her husband. Although I cannot relate to her experience, I can fully understand where she is coming from, and why she turns to someone like McKenna. Although she claims to want to help her, McKenna is really a way of bringing excitement and change into her life, someone daring and scandalous, the things that Rachel cannot be with her life the way it is now. While ultimately she fails in helping McKenna, she does help herself. McKenna shows her a different lifestyle, one which Rachel is shocked by. Adopting a stripper may seem like an open-minded thing to do, but it becomes apparent that Rachel is just as old-fashioned about sexuality as the rest of her suburban community, when she witnesses the full extent of McKenna’s work. Rachel is trying to find out who she wants to be, and realises that this is not the sort of change she wants.

     McKenna is a fascinating character herself. As stated, Rachel cannot bring herself to accept her lifestyle, and the majority of society views strippers as whores using their bodies instead of their brains, their sole function being to pleasure men. But what we find in McKenna is not someone who lets society shame her in this way. McKenna enjoys what she does, getting as much pleasure from it as her clients. Even when in receipt of Rachel’s help, she continues to visit her clients, claiming it’s for the money. She doesn’t want to be saved from her lifestyle, because she sees nothing wrong with it. And this is true in many ways. Women like McKenna are not forced to take up this profession; she has willingly chosen to make her living this way, and this is almost a form of female empowerment. She is taking control of her sexuality, not letting society dictate to her what is proper and what is not, and in this way her character works as a critique of society’s old-fashioned, misogynistic expectations. When Rachel becomes repulsed by her actions, McKenna starts to feel abandoned, and so retreats to what she knows – sex. She openly and unapologetically admits to being what she is, and this is so refreshing to see. And although her actions were wrong, and result in a broken marriage, the fault lies just as much with the man she sleeps with as it does her, and it is wrong to throw blame around in any other way.

     I’d also like to briefly mention some other characters. I liked Jeff’s role in the film, as he was clearly just as stuck and unable to communicate as Rachel, although didn’t go to her extremes to counteract these emotions. However, while they were having marriage problems, he stuck by her for a long time, including the entirety of McKenna’s staying with them, and never once cheated on Rachel. It would have been all too easy, and McKenna perfectly willing, but he remains faithful. And even after their climactic fight, this marriage does not end in divorce. I loved seeing them struggle and fight to make things work, and not just take the easy option, which is all too common nowadays. I also found Lenore, the therapist, very interesting, in her constant desire to discuss her own life during therapy sessions, culminating in the admittance of her own relationship breaking down. It was somewhat reassuring I thought, to see that even those who seem entirely put together with their lives on track, can still be struggling and face enormous setbacks. Even the therapists need therapy.

     The entire film seemed to be a message of positivity, reassuring us that facing difficulties in life, even when things appear to be fine on the surface, is entirely normal. And, although it may be the more difficult option, it encourages us to keep fighting through the hard times, and not give up easily. I found the film very refreshing, in its shaking up of our pre-conceived notions regarding sexuality; in its depiction of realistic modern life with all its trials and problems; and in its ability to give us a happy ending without turning into a soppy cliché. It was a film that made me stop and think about life, and those are always the best kinds.


The Amazon link included is part of their affiliate programme and I will receive commission on any purchases.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Outfit of the Day - Patterns & Prints

     Some days I go for fairly simple clothing designs, but other days I like to be bolder, and mix up patterns and colours like in this outfit. I'm also a big fan of rock music, but this isn't generally obvious from my clothing style (although I greatly resent such stereotypes anyway!). However, every now and then, I do like to add something edgier into my ensemble, like pairing this skirt with my biker-style boots, and wearing some of the various items of band merchandise I own.





















Cardigan - LaRedoute, Top - Desigual, Skirt - H&M, Tights - New Look, 
Boots - New Look, Necklace - TopShop, Rings - Market,
Wristbands - Twin Atlantic, Young Guns & Deaf Havana merch stores
Nail Polish - "Sea Green" by Rimmel London

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Musically Inspired - Embracing Individuality

     This world is home to millions of human beings. And the truly amazing thing is that not one of us is exactly like any other. Every single one of us is unique in our own ways, and this is something that should always be celebrated. Our individuality should not just be accepted, but embraced. If the world were full of people all exactly alike, it would be a far less interesting place. We all have different tastes, different opinions, and different personality traits, and these are the things that make us unique.
     Sadly, the world is not always such an open-minded place. Countless numbers of people are victims of persecution, over trivial matters most of the time. Bullying is one of the most awful things one person can do to another. Children are ridiculed for their tastes in music and fashion, and made to feel like they are outsiders in their peer group. And this is fundamentally wrong. It is truly saddening to witness someone change who they are and pretend to be someone they are not in an effort to make others like them. To see them lose the quirks which make them unique, and morph into a carbon clone of everyone else. And no one will ever be truly happy this way, forever lying and disguising and pretending.
     I know it can be difficult to stand up for what you believe in, when you fear that doing so will only lead to further exclusion. From personal experience, this seems to be the case in particular for those in their early teens – the years of formation and discovery, of slowly trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be. It’s not made easier when others try to force their opinions on you. But I strongly encourage everyone to not give in to them.
     Eventually, you will realise that these people don’t matter. If people cannot accept you for who you are, then you don’t need them in your life. It may take time, but you will find those people who love you for you, and even share your tastes. These are the people to surround yourself with, the ones who will allow you to feel comfortable and happy in your own skin. And in turn, be accepting of them. People who are a little bit quirky, a little bit weird, make by far the most interesting and exciting friends.
     So embrace what makes you unique. Passion is a great quality in a person, so don’t hide the things you enjoy, the things you are passionate about. Dye your hair an unusual colour. Get that tattoo. Go see your favourite band live. Take up that hobby you’ve been curious about. Act like a freak. Don’t be afraid to do the things you enjoy, even if you’re doing it alone, as it won’t be forever. It’s your life, so enjoy it. Just be you.

Song: Halestorm - Freak Like Me

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Review - You Me At Six: Cavalier Youth

     Coming off the back off a sold out show at Wembley, there was understandably pressure to deliver something big on the next You Me At Six record. And deliver they did. Cavalier Youth is infused with a feeling of determination, from a band united and stronger than ever, fighting for what they want, no matter what.  They have taken the feelings of pain and anger found in their previous records, and turned it into resolve and rebellion. Their sound has grown bigger and bolder, producing stadium-ready tracks, such as “Lived A Lie”, “Room to Breathe” and “Hope For The Best”. They have found that wonderful balance of music that is radio-friendly, but still undeniably rock, and they are leading the way in the British resurgence of this genre (if the album's no.1 chart position is anything to go by). This record stays true to the band’s roots, but continues to explore and expand their range musically, as they better themselves with each new record. This album has tracks ranging in tone from the powerful determination of “Fresh Start Fever” to the quiet simplicity of “Be Who You Are”. Lyrically, these are tracks are honest and personal, with no disguising of emotions, but have such universality that there are songs that could be about lovers, friends, fans, cynics, the industry or the music itself. “Love Me Like You Used To” could easily be about an ex, or directed towards cynics who (very wrongly) lost faith in the band. This careful combination of the universal and the personal allows songs to resonate with people in any situation and from all walks of life. This is an album of change and maturity, of determination and fight, from a band who are entirely unapologetic about who they are and what they stand for. It is an album looking forward to the future, a future which can only hold bigger and better achievements for this band.


The Amazon link is part of their affiliate programme and I will receive commission on any purchases.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Outfit of the Day - A Touch of Magic

     So I'm a big fan of cardigans, as they add an extra layer of warmth but still let you show off whatever top you're wearing underneath. And this top definitely needs to be shown off! It's from Black Milk, a website I highly recommend; they make clothes with designs from the likes of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. As a massive Potterhead, I couldn't resist getting something (and I suspect I will be getting more from them in the future). It's very versatile, so here I've used it in a casual everyday outfit, but I'd happily wear it on a night out too. I'm also big on accessories and jewellery, so the "Once Upon a Time" bottle necklace give this an extra touch of magic.























Top - Black Milk Clothing, Cardigan - LaRedoute, Jeans - New Look, Boots - New Look, Necklace - Claire's, Bracelet - Gift, Earrings - Gift, Hat - H&M, Nail Polish - "Pretty in Peach" by Seventeen

Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Kids Need to Know

     I’m a big fan of the Kid President videos (as well as most of Soul Pancake’s), so when he encouraged people to talk about what we think “the kids need to know” I couldn’t resist.
     I think this is a great idea, as we are all still learning about the world, no matter what our age. So, if we manage to learn a few things along the way, it makes sense to pass them on to others. I will readily admit (as I do in my blog’s title) that I am still finding my way in the world, but here’s a few things I’ve picked up so far.

1) Be yourself. Above everything else, don’t change for other people. Everyone is unique, so embrace what makes you different.

2) Don’t judge others. This is the inverse of the first point. If you want people to accept you as you are, you have to be accepting of them in return.

3) Appreciate the little things. It’s easy to let life get you down, but the world is full of small miracles that happen every day, so try to take note of them.

4) Do what makes you happy. Sometimes you will have to do things you don’t want to, but make time to do the things you do enjoy as well. Life is short, so don’t waste it being miserable.

5) Stand up for your beliefs. An extension of being yourself; if something is important to you then don’t let anyone else belittle it or make you doubt it.

6) Appreciate the people in your life. Don’t take people for granted, because they might not always be there. Show them you care, because everyone needs a pick-me-up now and then.

7) Random acts of kindness. It’s not just people you know that might need a pick-me-up. Do something nice for a stranger; it could brighten up their whole day.

8) Take risks. You are more likely to regret the things you don’t do, so seize opportunities and try new things – they might be some of your best experiences.

9) Travel. The world is a huge place, and there are so many amazing things to see and do in it. Make the most of life and see as much of it as you can.

10) Work hard. Sometimes luck will be on your side, but you have to work for things you want. Put in the effort and one day it will pay off.

11) It gets better. Whatever hard times you may face, they won’t last forever. Stay strong and seek comfort from people who care about you, and eventually it will get better.

12) Dream. It’s your life, so don’t let anyone else tell you what to do with it. Go after things you want and don’t give up on your dreams. Keep trying and they might come true.

    The world can be a scary place, but it can also be amazing. There’s so much to learn, that I can’t possibly fit it all in one post. So, these are just a few of the things I think are most important to helping a kid figure some of it out.
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