Monday, 27 July 2015

The Battle of the Face Washes

I was asked by a friend of mine about what face wash she should buy as she had a limit of £5 but badly wanted/needed some face tlc. I am a fan of more expensive face washes as I think that skincare is something you should spend a lot of money on (only if you can!). However that is not to say that you have to blow all of your budget to get a good face wash. Here are the three face washes that I have used or I am using. 

Ah Simple. This is a brilliant brand, one that I have been using since I was around 10 and although not all their products work for me you can guarantee that there will be at least one Simple product in my cupboard. This face wash retails for £3.75 in Boots and I think it is sold in pretty much every major supermarket.  This face wash has very little perfume so it is perfect for sensitive skin and it does leave your skin very soft; however if you suffer with pretty bad acne I would say that this face wash is not the one for you. It has never broken me out but it does not do much for me when preventing spots. It worked wonders when I was between the age of 10-13 (so when I first began getting spots) and it is working very well for my 12 year old brother but it is not one that I go and buy anymore. 

This is the face wash that I am using at the moment and I love it. I do like using tea-tree products as they feel like they are working and they are good at reducing the appearance of scars; however before now a lot of other tea tree products have caused me to have a breakout - not this one! This is the type of face wash that feels like it is working on your skin and there was a noticeable difference in how many spots that I was having in about a week. The issue I have is the bottle, it is quite hard to measure the amount of face wash you pour onto your hand so it lasts less time than other face washes. I still love it though and I plan on buy more of the range. This face wash is £5 in The Body Shop.  

If you go way back on my blog you will see that I was Clean & Clear's biggest fan, especially for their Daily Scrub; however I have changed my mind. I do like Clean & Clear but I have decided to never use mirco-beads on my skin again. Not only do they irritate skin and cause breakouts, they are also very bad for the environment (I will leave some links at the bottom if you want to read more into this). Why are they bad for your skin? Well they are plastic and rubbing them into pours may remove some dead skin but it ill also tear up your healthy skin. This means that there can be a build up in oil at this site and cause spots. Imagine rubbing plastic sand on your face and that will give you some idea on the extent of the damage they cause. This problem has got so bad that some states have begun banning the use of them. 

If you want a scrub try and use a natural salt of sugar one but try and avoid daily washes with them in. It is unnecessary to put your skin under so much stress and damage it by repeated usage. So I am not going to recommend this product but I encourage you to look at Clean & Clear products that do not contain these beads. 


Thursday, 9 July 2015

Book Review: All the Bright Places

I love to read but I never write any reviews about the books that I read so this summer I intend to write at least one a month. This months book is one suitable for young adults and adults but I think that it may tackle issues that may be difficult to understand fully if you are below the age of 14 or 15. 

This book is All the Bright Places and it is by the author Jennifer Niven. It is the story about two teenagers, Finch and Violet, who meet on the school bell tower after heading up there with the intention of jumping off. It is unclear who saves who but they both make it off the bell tower alive and this encounter starts a friendship like no other. It also delves into the reasons why both characters were on the bell tower and explores the effects of mental illness on friends and individuals. Finch is fascinated with suicide and it is clear from the beginning of the novel that he is battling with an illness. Niven uses him to show how factors such as childhood trauma can lead to depression or bipolar disorder and the daily struggles of living with a mental illness. The character of Violet is struggling after her sisters death and blames herself for the crash that killed her sister but left her pretty much uninjured. With the help of a school project  friendship blooms between Violet and Finch and they both use it to help them through their sadness and issues with the world. Their relationship takes many unexpected twists and turns throughout the novel as both characters struggle to live with themselves and the others around them. Can they save each other and what do they need saving from?

Now if you don't want anymore spoilers because you are reading or you intend on reading this fantastic novel stop reading now because I am going to start giving a lot away.

I loved this book. It was an emotional roller-coaster that took you up and down before crashing at the end. One moment I was on the verge of crying the next laughing (until the end which ended in gut wrenching sobs and plenty of tears). I would give it a rating of four and a half stars because I did have a few issues with the novel that I shall expand on later.

I love books that explore mental illness because it interests me so much and also it brings awareness to them. What I really liked about this book was that it did not glamourise the bipolar disorder that Finch suffers with. It clearly showed that, despite him being in a relationship with someone he loved dearly, you can not be saved from your mind by just a bit of cuddling. Niven showed how complex mental disorders are and how they can easily ruin someones life and for that I applaud her. I also am pleased that she decided to have a character with bipolar disorder instead of depression as it is an illness that is often very misunderstood and overlooked (if you want to see a more personal account of bipolar disorder read THIS book). 

I also liked how Niven showed how a mental illness can affect relationships and used Violet to show the strain of how mental illness can damage and change a relationship, either because the person doesn't want their friend/partner to see them at their worst (at fear of upsetting or becoming a 'burden' to them) or their mood swings cause upset or arguments between people (aspects of bipolar can lead to radical behaviour and mood changes shown just after Finch is expelled from school). Niven showed the sadness it caused 
Violet to be submerged in and also showed how a character with bipolar can think through a situation and (when at their worst) how their mental illness can alter a certain scenario. Overall Niven's tackling of this topic was beautifully executed whilst showing the harsh realities of depression/bipolar disorder.

As I said earlier I do have issues with parts of this book. The main one is the relationship between Violet and Finch - the majority of the time it is a sweet relationship between two people who care very much about each other; however on occasion Finch comes across as controlling and manipulative. It is my personal opinion that it is mainly because of his bipolar disorder and the mood swings that accompany it; however I think that it may be taken the wrong way by readers who don't understand the gravity of the situation and romanticise it (something I can already be seen on Twitter and Tumblr). That is not to say that you can't see their relationship as a cute one but aspects of it do not make a healthy relationships (every now and then I felt like it was verging on abusive). For example at the start of their relationship when Violet told him to to come over to her house but he did anyway making it seem like she didn't have a choice whether to be his friend or not. Another example is when he asks her to have sex with him and Finch classes her 'maybe' are a bad response and only seems happy when she agrees to have sex with him. This wasn't a particularly big part of the novel; however it did not sit well with me.

Another issue that I have with the novel is how Finch's disappearance is handled at the end. Yes he was an 18 year old boy who sometimes left; however if people (for example his school counselor) knew how he was feeling why wasn't more done to help him. Also even if the phone messages were deleted if you were his counselor and no one got in touch back with you wouldn't you go around and speak with the family in person or follow it up? These are not major issues obviously but they were just some questions that I was left with after reading the novel. However it may have been intentional and could be a statement about society only really care when they have to. I am not sure.

At the end of the novel Finch kills himself and it is a horrific series of events.The one thing that I liked about this part was that Niven shows that suicide is seen as something to be ashamed off - families will quickly pass them off as accidents in fear of them being looked down upon and their actions as parents being questioned. Also as Niven says in her acknowledgments 'no one brings flowers to a funeral'. I was glad this was brought up as it is something that I have an issue with and believe that if suicide was not seen as such a shameful thing, more people would get help.

This part of the book is very triggering - there are other places in the novel that are; (when Finch takes an overdose of pills, when he discusses methods of killing yourself or when he visits a support group) however this was the most triggering section for me. I would encourage anyone to read this novel; however I feel like one should approach is with caution bearing in mind the main topic in this book.

Overall this is a brilliant novel that explores mental illness using complex characters that you WILL get attached to. It is an upsetting book and it makes you question a number of things about society and how mental illness is perceived. There are issues with it (in my opinion) that may lead to younger teenagers romanticising an unhealthy relationship; however I feel that Niven had to include these aspects as they are part of Finch's character. Read this and prepare to cry (a lot) and, despite it not being a lighthearted book, laugh at moments. All the Bright Places will make you stop and think about society and the world around you and will probably stay with you for a long time.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

It's a Big World: Durham

I want to go to more places. I love travelling but I never have enough money or time to go anywhere so I am hoping that this segment on my blog will encourage me to visit more places - I am not going abroad this year but I want to visit places within the UK and share my experiences there. So for the last six days I went to Durham to help my sister move into her University house. During this time we visited a few cafes and restaurants that are great for people on a tight budget.


Saddlers do drinks like milkshakes; however as we went for brunch and it was quite hot I wanted a lemonade. These lemonades, despite being in a can, are lovely and they also serve them ice cold. If you see these in a shop and you are debating whether to buy them or not just do it. I think it is my favourite brand of lemonade.

This was my pancake and it cost around £5. They have a large selection of different pancakes but I really wanted one with bacon. They did get a bit heavy after awhile and I didn't manage to finish it but they are so worth the price. If you aren't a fan of maple syrup do not get this one and it is covered in 'lashes' of syrup. My sister goes here regularly and says this is her least favourite pancake stack and it was amazing (so imagine what the others are like!).

My sister went for the Full English and this photo doesn't give justice to how big it is. This was more expensive than the pancakes for it cost over £6 but it was one of the biggest English breakfasts I have ever seen (it even comes with hash browns!). There is a large selection of breakfast items and they are served all day (things like poached eggs etc.) and I wish we had been able to go again to sample more of the pancake menu!

Waffley Good Company:

This place is small but so cute. It is upstairs and it doesn't even have a kitchen but everything is fresh and you can stand by the woman and watch her make your waffles. I am not a very waffley person so I wasn't really looking forward to going here but as soon as I began to eat my waffle everything changed. There are so many lovely touches to this place - the Cath Kidston table cloths, free water jugs and the menu printed on the wall. Also there is a lot of choice - breakfast, savoury, super sweet and so on. The price is around £5 per waffle but they are massive and you will almost burst after eating one. I think that, if you are on a tight budget - it is perfect for brunch. Be warned though: she only accepts cash - we saw many customers have to do a quick run to the cash point to get money out!

This was my sisters waffle and she claims it is ''her staple'. I find chocolate a bit heavy going for breakfast though but if you are a fan of all things sweet I would recommend this - after all is there a better combination that chocolate and strawberries?

And this was my one - covered in fresh fruit and yogurt. It was superb. I expected just some canned fruit or maybe a banana and some grapes or something but not a whole banana, plenty of strawberries and a large handful of blueberries. It was brilliant and so filling - I want to eat it again and again.

I think out of all the places we visited (many not mentioned on this post) this one was my favourite. It just had a great atmosphere and served great food - this is the place I would tell everyone to come to if visiting Durham.

Flat White:

This is a coffee shop, a very small coffee shop that is always packed full of people. It serves sandwiches and cake (that looked fantastic) but by this time I was very low on cash by this point so I could only by one drink. I wish I had more photos of the inside because it is Instagram heaven but it didn't feel like the place to take loads of photographs so you are limited to those two. 

This was my iced latte which was lovely; however a bit on the small side. It cost £2.65 and the first thing I noticed was the size of it and, as it had ice cubes in, I felt like it was a bit of a rip off. It was lovely and not too expensive as it would have been more in London or something; however I just felt a bit sad about spending that amount of money on less than a cup full of latte. However, my sister ordered a frappe and it was large and very nice, also the girl next to us ordered a hot chocolate and this was also massive and looked great. I just think that you end up paying more for the atmosphere and that the drink isn't actually worth that much money.