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Heroes & Villains Fan Fest – 27/05/2017

I hadn’t heard of Heroes & Villains before, and it was quite by accident that I saw an advertisement for it. I was on Facebook and an ad came up saying that Robin Lord Taylor was attending London’s Heroes & Villains! For those who don’t know, he plays Oswald ‘Penguin’ Cobblepot in the TV show Gotham. It’s one of my favourite shows, and he’s one of my favourite people in it. I immediately booked a general admission ticket to get in. I decided I simply had to meet him! Imagine how thrilled I was when four other cast members were announced! Originally, it was: David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Drew Powell and Cory Michael Smith. Unfortunately, Cory had to cancel because he’s shooting a new movie! He was replaced by the lovely Jessica Lucas.

I booked a room at the Premier Kensington, a hotel a stone’s throw from Earl’s Court Tube station (read my tips for navigating the Tube here). It was exactly what I needed – not far from the Heroes & Villains venue, small but practical and clean. The staff were really friendly and helpful, too. I only needed it to sleep and shower, so it was a perfect, reasonably-priced base camp.

Then it was simply a case of waiting for six months for May 2017 to come!

heroes & villains banner

On the day, I left the hotel at about 07:30, and walked to the Olympia; it really wasn’t far, about a 15-minute walk. On the way though, I seriously felt faint and sick. I don’t know if it was nerves or tiredness (maybe both?) but it was so unpleasant and a bit worrying.

Will Call (which is where you change your tickets for a wristband/lanyard) was relatively painless, as I got there pretty much bang on time. I got my wristband that said ‘HERO’ on it, and met a nice kid and her mum – we hung out together while waiting to be let into the con. I’m so grateful for them; it would have been really boring if I had to wait on my own.

will call

There was an older guy who appeared on the balcony above us to announce that us peasants (general admission) were to be allowed in half an hour early! Everyone cheered really loudly and he was loving the fame. He had a power trip by making us do a Mexican wave before we were let in.

I legged it straight to Robin’s table and was right near the front of the queue. Robin took ages to show up but seeing him in real life was amazing. He’s so tiny and gorgeous. He was waving and blowing kisses as he got himself situated at the table. Meeting him was in doubt for a horrible while because they were letting so many VIPs through and NO general admission people. I really resent that having more money = guaranteed to meet/chat to the guests. It’s like if you can’t afford it you’re not ‘as good a fan’. It really bugged me because it made the queues horrible at the con. More power to you if you can afford a VIP ticket, but I still feel like it’s not fair on other people who have also paid.

Luckily the guy in front of me (if by some miracle you’re reading this Adam, THANK YOU SO MUCH!) told me to pretend we were there as a group so we could both go at the same time. It’s probably thanks to him that I got to meet Robin at all. His line was crazy long all day – if I hadn’t gone straight to him I doubt it would’ve happened.

So, yeah. I GOT TO MEET ROBIN. I dropped £55 on an autograph/selfie combo but it was so worth it! Instead of a wall of writing about it, I’m gonna bullet point what happened:

  • He shook my hand and asked for my name, then signed my season 2 DVD sleeve. I didn’t really think that one through – there wasn’t much space to write on, so his autograph is really cramped! I said “Yeah good luck writing on that.”
  • He kept calling me ‘darling’ and ‘love’. I usually hate pet names. He got away with it.
  • I gave him this small pride flag pin that I bought for him and he got really excited. “Thank you! Aww, that’s amazing!” He then pinned it onto his shirt.
  • He came around the table to hug me/take selfies and said, “I love your hair!” which threw me off a bit (I’m still not over it, by the way). I showed him my Oswald necklace (“Oh WOW!”) and gave him the biggest hug. He apologised for being ‘so sweaty, it’s SO warm in here!’. He was sort of damp.
  • We took a cute selfie then I said “Be ugly!” and he did an ugly photo with me! Top lad! I then said, “Be nice again.” and got a cheeky third photo. He had his arm tight around me the whole time and was just so lovely.

robin lord taylor 1robin lord taylor 2

  • I said thanks and he said, “Thank you, I love you!” Then I had to go (totally didn’t want to!).

I didn’t say anything that I wanted to tell him – how wonderful and brave and positive he is, and how he makes me feel hopeful despite my depression. I just kind of clammed up (which isn’t like me) and I’m gutted that I didn’t say more/have more time with him. He’s so sweet and so incredibly beautiful as a person.

Straight after I was done with Robin I had to go and pick up my photo op with him (although nothing would top the Hideous Selfie). I got chatting to two girls behind me, Holly and Ali, who were dressed as the Riddler’s henchgirls, Query and Echo. They’d decided on the costumes when Cory was announced and were gutted that he’d cancelled. They laughed when I called him a ‘stupid giraffe man’ (with all the love in the world, of course). We had a great chat about Gotham, our ‘ships’, and how there are always Harley Quinns and Deadpools at cons. They said to wait for them after my photo op and basically adopted me for the rest of the day ♥

As soon as I walked into the op, Robin was like “Hello again!” He held his hand out for me to shake. I was like ‘lol no’ and hugged him again. His pin was gone so I asked after it – he told me it kept getting knocked off so he put it away safely at the table. Then we took our picture and he said, “Bye darling!” Holly and Ali were soon done and we went to pick up our photos together. I look so ugly in mine, I was really upset. Robin, of course, looks adorable. So that was a bit disappointing. I really ought to have known, I always look terrible when other people take my photo.

After we’d collected our photos, Holly and Ali invited me to Costa with them. We hadn’t eaten so we were all feeling a bit rough. While we had cold drinks in the sun, we tweeted Cory about how much he was missing. We got back to Olympia for the Gotham panel. We didn’t manage to get seats so a bunch of us sat on the floor. At one point, Drew Powell pointed his phone at us shouting, “THIS IS FOR THE CHEAP SEATS!” so we’d all cheer on his video.

pre gotham panel
gotham panel
The panel was fun. It was so strange to see them in the flesh. My legs were aching by the end but I’m glad I got to see it. Some highlights:

  • Drew: David has pyjamas with pictures of Christian Bale on. Not as Batman, just photos of Christian Bale.
    David: … I told you that in private, Drew.
  • Jessica: I have the ‘Butch look’ that Tabitha always gives him. I also give Drew the ‘Butch look’.
    Robin: Is it the Butch look or the BITCH look?
  • Robin saying his inspiration was his mum (and finding out his mum was there!).
  • Drew: My first job was a commercial when I was ten. I used the money to by a Pacman watch, which was FREAKIN’ AWESOME.
  • All of them being so astonished that they have so many UK fans, and how much they seemed to enjoy themselves!

After the panel I went straight to Sean’s table. The queue was looooong. I spent my time chatting to two hilarious girls from Dover and a girl with an awesome guy dressed as male Poison Ivy. It took over an hour to get to Sean but his manager thanked me for my patience – he was sweet. I told Sean that I had orders from my mum to give him a big hug and he came around the table and gave me one. I think he thought I was only there because of my mum, which I feel stupid about. I totally forgot to tell him how I also love him. He was such a gent, even though he was pressed for time. He’s so handsome and tanned in real life, with the brightest blue eyes. I took some photos and he told me to give mum his best. So sweet, and he smelled nice!

sean pertwee

Holly, Ali and I wandered around the stalls, browsing for a bit, and went to Pizza Express for dinner. We had a laugh while we ate, especially when I referred to Jack the Ripper as ‘Mr The Ripper’. After dinner we went to their hotel room and watched Doctor Who, then talked about Gotham for ages. I had such a great day!

holly and ali

Overall, Heroes & Villains was a lot of fun and I’m so glad I went. My main objective (to meet Robin) was met, so I was happy. I like that the con is more focused on getting people the chance to meet their favourites, rather than having tonnes of stalls and things like, say, MCM does. The stalls they did have were cute and interesting, and there were other things (like some kind of live-action horror thing) that I didn’t have time to see because of all the queueing. If I were to go again, I think I’ll actually take the plunge and buy a “VIP” ticket, so I can avoid having to stand around for hours. By the end of the day, my bad knee was in agony (and actually collapsed the next day, something that hadn’t happened for a year) so I think it’d be better for both my health and patience to have a shorter wait time for guests. And I’d like to experience more of the con next time, too!

Have you been to a convention or a festival this year? Tell me about it!

Kayleigh x

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Packing For A Weekend In The City (& My Next Adventure!)

It’s about time I wrote about my next adventure – well, mini-adventure. I’ve previously alluded to it, but didn’t want to give too much away. Travel nerves really get to me before a trip – not fear of the travelling itself, but fear of plans falling through and things going wrong. So I tend to stay quiet-ish about it, until it’s pretty much time to go. I’m going to London this Friday for the weekend. London is my favourite place in the world and I haven’t been for ages, so I’m really excited to go back. Here’s a very brief breakdown of my rough plans for the weekend:

Friday

Apart from actually travelling to the city, I plan to spend the first day of my weekend in Camden. It’s my favourite place in London and where I feel most at home.

Saturday

My weekend continues with attending the Heroes & Villains con! I originally bought a ticket because Robin Lord Taylor (who plays the Penguin in one of my favourite shows, Gotham) is going to be there. Imagine how thrilled I was when it was announced that four other cast members were going to be there too. I’m really excited to meet them! Most of the Saturday will probably be spent at the con. On Saturday night, I may or may not go out to some interesting bars I’ve looked up.

Sunday

I want to try to have a chilled out day to round off the weekend. I’m just going to leisurely explore areas of London that I don’t tend to frequent. I booked a ticket for the Sky Garden because I’ve never been and it looks amazing, but apart from that it’ll be a pretty spontaneous day. I plan to just wander and see where my feet take me.

I’m pretty much ready for the weekend. All the tickets I need are booked; my itinerary is more or less written; outfits have been planned. The only thing left for me to do is pack efficiently for my weekend in the city! Obviously in this post ‘the City’ specifically refers to London, but this post can probably relate to most western cities.

packing for a weekend in the city

I find people are pretty much split into two groups when packing for the weekend:

1) Very very Spartan. “I WILL ONLY TAKE THE BARE NECESSITIES. THERE IS NO ROOM FOR FOLLY.” This can be really good because you’re packing super light and won’t have a tonne of luggage. BUT it can also mean you get caught short if you end up wanting to go somewhere fancy, or to the bar, or something else you didn’t plan for. You haven’t packed some fabulous evening wear because you didn’t think you’d need it and now you’re stuck!

2) I tend towards this category and it takes a lot of discipline to stop myself from becoming a full-on Category 2 packer. These people pack every single thing they could possibly, maybe, conceivably need on their weekend away and as such end up lugging around a tonne of stuff. Most of which they probably won’t even look at while they’re on their trip.

I’m trying to strike for a happy medium here. Not unprepared, but not over-prepared to the point of madness. Here are a few ideas and tips for packing for a lovely weekend in the city.

Decide on your luggage and resolve to only use that bag/case and nothing else. If it doesn’t all fit, condense. It’s so much better to just have the one bag, instead of faffing around with tonnes of luggage. You’re going away for one weekend, not a month on safari (something I often have to tell my Mum)!

Make a list! I’m very Type A, in the sense that I make thousands of lists. Unfortunately, this only creates an illusion of organisation. Mostly I am all over the place. But a list is so useful. You at least have a guide of what you want and need to take with you. I often write general ‘categories’ (e.g. essentials, hygiene/beauty, clothes, accessories, electricals, etc), and then write more specific things under each category (for example, under essentials, I would put: purse, phone, tickets, etc). Lists are also useful in showing you that you’re planning to take way too much with you, and you can adjust accordingly.

Remember to consider what you’re doing on your trip. Refer to your itinerary and pack accordingly. For example, if you’re going to be walking a lot (which I always do in London, regardless of my plans), pack some appropriate footwear. After getting Nightmare Blisters on my feet in New York, I cannot stress this enough. I learned the painful way so you don’t have to!

– This is somewhat related to the last point. For goodness’ sake, check the weather forecast! If you have a rough idea of how the weather will be, it will help you with your packing. If it’s going to rain, pack your brolly and a waterproof jacket. If it’ll be sunny, don’t take your knitted jumper. Sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised. I alluded to this on my post about travelling alone too, because there’s nothing worse than not being prepared for crap weather.

Plan your outfits. This sounds a bit silly, but it’s really useful. Obviously, this wouldn’t really be practical for a longer holiday. But if you’re only going away for a few days, you might as well decide what to wear beforehand. If you know exactly what clothing, shoes, and accessories you’re going to wear, you won’t end up packing loads of unnecessary gear. And that will make your life a whole lot easier.

Invest in mini toiletries (or those travel-sized bottles to decant your toiletries into) to save space and make your bag less heavy. I know travel-sized things can be ridiculous when it comes to price vs size, but I would rather carry them around than my huge Tresemmé shampoo bottles!

Think about your check-in and kick-out times. You might have to leave early-ish on your last day – my hotel will kick out at 10am on Sunday, which is sort of horrifying to me. You might end up having to carry your bags around on the last day. Obviously you want to be able to do this without getting stressed or tired. You also want to be able to do stuff on your last day, so my first point comes back in to play again. Having one reasonably sized bag will make your life a lot easier if you have to leave your hotel early. Similarly, you want to be able to carry your stuff around as you waste time before checking in, if you arrive in the city earlier than your hotel is ready for you.

What are your must-haves for staying in the city? Personally, my most important thing to have with me is my portable charger (from Paperchase, naturally). It’s so handy because I take all of my photos on my phone, not having a fancy camera. The worst thing is having your phone die when there’s still so many photos to be taken. I also, obviously, use my phone to consult Google Maps when I’m roaming around, so it’s really important to have enough charge. That’s where the portable charger comes in. At its fullest, it can recharge your phone from nothing to basically 100% again. And it’s easy to carry around, even when it’s attached to your phone.

Do you have any packing tips or hacks? Tell me in the comments!

Kayleigh x

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My Bucket List

Have you got a bucket list?

I find having one is a really great way to document all the cool things you want to experience in life. It gives you a starting point, so you can work towards the things that will fulfill you. I only started seriously thinking about creating a bucket list when I turned 18 (i.e. when I became a Proper Adult), but of course I’d always had idle dreams about the sorts of things I wanted to achieve. There is SO much I want to do and see before I die, and keeping them all in one list allows me to keep track of them.

I have a travel bucket list in the form of my ridiculously extensive Wanderlust page on this blog. To put it shortly (I forgive you if you don’t want to wade through all of that), I want to go everywhere up to and including Mars. I also have what’s called a ‘reverse bucket list’, which is stuff that used to be here on the bucket list, that I’ve now already achieved. Maybe I’ll post that some time – it’s not as extensive though. Keeping track of the things you’ve done is also a really good thing, because you can remind yourself of all the great things you’ve experienced and achieved.

Of course, this list will forever expand as I think of new things I’d like to do. It will also (very rarely) get smaller, as I hopefully tick off the things I experience.

bucket list

The List:

See the Aurora Borealis
Write a book
Buy a house
Study criminal psychology
Shoot a firearm
Learn to play the piano
Kiss Oscar Wilde’s tombstone
Gamble in Las Vegas
Look through a NASA telescope
Be fluent in German
Attend a film premiere
Go to midnight Mass
Stay overnight in a haunted building
View an autopsy
Climb a mountain
Ride a camel in the desert
Visit a ghost town
Act in the theatre
Go in a submarine
Go in a shark cage
Swim with Great White sharks
Go in a hot air balloon
Learn to drive
Go to a festival
See crop circles
Take part in a seance
Go to the circus
Learn to dance
See a volcanic eruption
Go stargazing
Explore an abandoned building
Be on a jury in court
Go to a fashion show
Audition for a TV show or film
Work in a funeral home
Stay in an ice hotel
See a performance at Shakespeare’s Globe
Own an instant camera
Ride an elephant
Sit outside Whitby Abbey at night
See the Turin shroud
Learn to ice-skate properly
Float on the Dead Sea
Have a bonfire on the beach
Go deep-sea diving
Learn to ride a motorcycle
Roast marshmallows on an active volcano
Have my portrait painted
Eat in an underwater restaurant
Chase a tornado
Have a wine cellar
Ride a ferris wheel
Participate in a Zombie Walk
Go in a helicopter
Learn Astronomy
Go wine-tasting at a vineyard
Watch turtles hatching
Attend a masquerade ball
Study Thanatology

What’s On Your List?

Has my bucket list given you any new ideas? Are any of your must-do things on this list? Tell me what’s on your bucket list in the comments – you might even give me some more ideas!

Kayleigh x

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What’s In My Bag?

I’ve seen other people make this post and I always enjoy them because I’m super nosy. It’s interesting to see what people’s must-haves are when it comes to what they carry in their bag. I decided to write my own because I like the idea, and also because (I’ll be honest) I’m having some pretty terrible writer’s block lately. I want to post something but haven’t really got any idea what. Life is quiet at the moment, so opportunities to write about things are sparse. So here’s my total-filler post – What’s In My Bag?

what's in my bag

The Bag

I have many bags, but the one I use the most is this tiny satchel-like thing. I bought it from New Look about 3-4 years ago, to replace a bag that was similar. It’s surprising how much actually fits into this bag, considering how small it is.

Keys

One of the most important things to have in a bag. Have you ever forgotten your keys? It’s horrifying! I especially like my keyrings. The one with theatre-themed charms and a small replica of the Sydney Opera House was bought for me by my Mum at – you guessed it!! – the Sydney Opera House. The tiny plush shark is from SeaLife in Berlin, and the London bus was bought at Paperchase because I love London. I have more keyrings, but it seems a bit over the top to add all of them when I only have four keys!

Purse

Arguably the second most important bag item. The place where all the money happens (or lack of money in my case). Mine is by Banned Apparel, and I bought it in 2012, during my second year of university. It’s held up pretty well in the last five years, though it is starting to fall apart a bit. You can’t really tell unless you see the inside. The bones on the outside glow in the dark, which has startled me more times than I care to admit.

iPod

Essential when, like me, you spend your life on public transport and the sound of people being loud and horrid annoys you to no end.

Pass Case

Another Paperchase item (there are a lot in my bag). I needed a cute case to contain my bus pass and Oyster card, because I have no room left in my purse to hold them. This one was perfect. It’s also easier to pull out of my bag and use on public transport without having to get out my purse and faff around for an age.

Chewing Gum

I always carry gum, even though I don’t often chew it.

Hand Sanitiser

Not just ANY hand sanitiser. This is ‘Hand Maid‘ by Soap & Glory i.e. the BEST hand sanitiser ever. It smells really nice, unlike most. The particular variety currently in my bag is the ‘Sugar Crush’ scent, though I do have a backup bottle in the original scent. I got into the habit of carrying hand sanitiser back in uni because I spent a lot of time in London and, no matter what you do, you always end up being filthy from the Tube.

Lipbalm

It’s a Jelly Belly cherry-flavoured lipbalm. I think I got it for £1 in Primark, but it’s delicious and good in a pinch. I keep my ‘real’ lipbalm, with SPF protection and all the rest of it, at home.

Hand Cream

Another beautiful Soap & Glory product – ‘Hand Food‘. My hands get really dry, especially at work, so I like having some moisturiser in my bag.

Mini Tin

‘BAM!’ PAINKILLERS. That’s what this little Paperchase mini tin contains. Because of my bad knees and general achiness if I overdo things, I’m quite often in pain. I’m very prone to headaches too, so it’s useful to have painkillers on me. I try not to take pills unless I absolutely have to, but there’s nothing worse than needing them when you’re out. I also like to have them in case other people need them – rescuing people from imminent pain feels great! I put the painkillers in a little tin because it looks a bit nicer than having a blister pack just sat in your bag for people to judge.

Pens

I keep two pens in my bag. One fancy Paperchase one, which I use when I’m showing off. The other is a trusty Bic biro (always the best quality biro in my opinion), just in case the Paperchase one runs out suddenly.

Shopping Bag

These have been so useful since England implemented the 5p charge for plastic bags (gasp). Again, this is from Paperchase (and it matches my little pass case!). I have a few of these shopping bags, but this is the one that happened to be in my bag when I took the photo for this post.


Well, don’t you feel enlightened? Just a note: My bag usually contains a bunch of rubbish, but I tidied it up before I took the photo for this post. Or, you know, the entire photo would have been overtaken by piles of screwed up paper.

What’s in your bag? What can’t you leave the house without? Let me know!

Kayleigh x

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25 Things I’ve Learned In 25 Years

On April 7th (last Friday), I turned 25. A whole quarter-century! Celebrations were pretty tame and standard this year. On the Thursday, Caz and I went to see Ghost in the Shell because I have the biggest crush on Michael Pitt, and wanted to see his face on a huge screen. I know it’s been panned by a lot of people, but I personally really enjoyed it. It was visually stunning, and good at telling the story to people who haven’t experienced the manga.

For my actual birthday, I just went to lunch with my mum, brother, nephew, and Caz, which was nice! I didn’t really do anything huge because I’m saving money for when I go to London in May, which will remain cloaked in mystery for now. I got a bunch of money for my birthday too, so that’s gone towards the savings. I’m really excited! I’m also excited because my Nan bought me tickets to the Harry Potter studio tour in July. I’ve never been, and have wanted to go ever since it opened. It’s going to be awesome!

This post won’t be full of whimsy and positivity and yes, it’s mostly opinions formed by me in my years of life, but I’m trying to be as realistic as I can. Life is rich with positive and negative experiences, and I wanted to try to reflect that when I was thinking about things for this list. I’m also ashamed to admit how long it actually took me to come up with 25 things that I’ve learned. I drew from advice I give people younger than me when they ask for my opinion, and also things that I’ve learned about myself as I’ve grown.

25 things I've learned in 25 years

1. Don’t be afraid to cut negative people out of your life.

For years, I let people treat me terribly because I was too afraid of being alone, or ruining friendships. But eventually, I got too old to pander to people and let them walk all over me. You’re not a terrible person for cutting off people who just drag you down and make you feel miserable. Sometimes, you have to be selfish and ask yourself what this friendship/relationship is doing for you, and if it’s doing nothing but causing pain, you have every right to end it and walk away. It took me so long to learn this, and to accept it as something I could and should do.

2. Study hard, and never stop learning.

I am naturally intelligent, but my problem is that I was complacent and lazy in school/uni. I never had to study so I never learned how to discipline myself when it came to coursework and exam revision. I could have done so much better if I’d applied myself, but because I never had to try, by the time it mattered I didn’t have the skills to excel. I don’t have bad grades, I just never reached my full potential. And I’ll regret that every day. So I tell everybody younger than me to work hard at school/university and be the best they possibly can.

The other part of this one is to never, ever stop learning. I cannot understand or abide people who finish school and then go out of their way to not learn. There is so much wonder in the world, so many different things to know. I’m constantly trying to learn things, evidenced by how I’m a font of useless trivia, and did-you-knows. I’ve been told that makes me interesting to speak to, because I like to pass on things that I’ve learned to other people. I can’t imagine not seeking out new things to learn and understand. I want to know everything.

3. Life never, ever turns out how you expect it to.

I thought (rather naively) that by 25, I would have a decent job, my own place, and know what I was doing in life. It hasn’t gone that way at all. No matter what you want or expect for life, I can almost guarantee that it won’t turn out that way. Priorities also change, so what you wanted at 18 might not be what you want when you’re in your twenties. I’m disappointed that I haven’t been ‘successful’ yet in life, but on the flip side, I never thought I would have spent 2 months in the USA when I was 22. Life is full of surprises!

4. It’s ok to not be ok.

There’s so much pressure to always be positive and not ‘bring down’ other people’s moods, and I feel like that’s a really unhealthy way to think. There’s such a culture of holding back and not allowing ourselves to feel bad about something. It’s completely ok to not be happy all of the time. The people who actually care about you would rather you were honest about how you’re feeling, believe me. I’m not saying to bare your soul to every single person, but don’t hide away from the people who know and love you the most. Additionally (and I’m still working on this one), try not to beat yourself up if you have a bad day. When I’m feeling exhausted and unproductive, I have a bad habit of tormenting myself over it, and it’s really unhelpful. I’m trying hard to be nicer to myself.

5. Instagram life vs real life.

Think about the work that goes into your Instagram posts. I’ll bet you take several photos, get the lighting sorted, filter/edit it so it looks just right, and then post it! We tend to forget that basically everybody goes through this process of selection and editing, and it leads to feelings of jealousy and inadequacy. You must remember that social media is where people show the polished, thought-out version of themselves, and that you are also guilty of doing the same. I’m forever feeling envious of the people that I follow (especially those that get to travel a lot), and I could do with remembering this one myself a lot of the time.

6. Money can go a long way towards buying happiness.

I’m tired of the ‘money can’t buy happiness’ thing. To an extent, it totally can. Money pays for shelter, security, food and drink, health, travel, and nice things. It makes it so that you don’t have to worry about where your next meal is coming from, or whether you can afford to go to the dentist this month. I don’t know, I feel like I’d be a lot happier if I could afford to live alone and travel more. I might be wrong.

7. Water is so important – stay hydrated!!

I’m sorry, I’m a Water Bore. As a kid, I never drank water (and by kid, I mean all the way up until age 20), and wondered why I felt so crummy a lot of the time – I’d get terrible, swimming headaches, and feel lethargic by the end of the day. Since I made a concerted effort to drink at least 1 litre of water a day (2 is my daily goal), my body has felt so much cleaner and refreshed. I no longer get swimming headaches because I don’t let myself get that dehydrated any more.

8. Always be open to other people’s opinions and experiences. Be open minded full stop.

This also ties in with the learning thing. Other people and other cultures are so interesting to hear about. I’m not a religious person, but I love reading about religious belief on an academic level. I like to hear perspectives from people of different race, sexuality, and culture to myself. It makes life so much more interesting and exciting. A lot of the world’s problems are caused by intolerance, and I feel like if people were less narrow-minded, everybody would get on a whole lot better. Don’t belittle others for what they think, feel, or believe in. And don’t let others make you feel like crap for your beliefs.

9. Travel is absolutely worth it.

Ok, I may be biased on this one. I’m at my happiest when I’m exploring somewhere new. I love to travel, the whole process of it is exciting. Planning a trip, the physical travelling, and being in a whole new place with so much to see and experience. I feel like it’s so good for you, body and soul. It also can be linked back to the last point on this list – travelling allows you to learn more about other people and cultures different to yours. It opens your mind and expands your tolerance and understanding. I wish more than anything that I had the resources to travel so much more than I’m able to right now. I feel like there’s a whole world I’m missing out on.

10. Mental health is just as important as physical health.

This one took me forever to learn, because society as a whole still doesn’t hold mental illness up to the same sympathetic standards as physical illnesses. It’s unfortunate. But if you do suffer from a mental illness, the most important thing you have to learn is that it is just as valid as any physical illness. Taking care of your mental health is so, so important – not doing so can actually end up having a physical toll on you, and you stop enjoying life as you should. Take care of your brain as well as your body!

11. You don’t get stuff just because you hope for it.

Life is not easy. Apart from very, very few exceptions, everyone works their ass off to get the things they want. You may scoff at the Instagram model who gets thousands of pounds for ‘just taking selfies’, but you haven’t seen her hustle for years, perfect taking portraits of her outfits, reach out to influencers and brands to get the word out, and all the rest of it. It’s easy to deride somebody who seems to ‘do nothing’ and make a living from it, but more often than not, they’ve put in work every day for years before getting any results. It’s like anything you want in life – a career, experiences, or even just material things. You don’t just get given stuff, you have to work for it and earn it.

12. Be honest, but not brutal.

I despise the phrase ‘brutally honest’. More often than not, people use it as a pass to be a dick, and then as a defence when someone reacts badly. “You obviously can’t deal with the truth!” No, there are ways to be truthful and tactful. There’s no need to be hurtful just for the sake of it. I do think that honesty is very important, though. I find that people appreciate a painful truth so much more than a lie. It’s just more constructive, and I don’t see why people feel the need to lie to others, especially people close to them. Linked to this is to be true to yourself. Be open about what you enjoy, what you hate, and what is important to you. There’s nothing worse than someone who changes their personality to benefit those they’re around at the time.

13. Don’t be afraid to be enthusiastic about what you love.

Have you ever been talking excitedly about something and someone says “Calm down!” to you? Yeah, I despise that. I don’t know when it became ‘cool’ to never be excited or express any interest in life, but it’s really rude to shoot down someone who is talking about something they enjoy. I love it when people are passionate. Even if I haven’t got the slightest interest in the subject, I still listen and learn from them because of how infectious someone’s excitement can be. Apathy is so overrated, and I don’t know why people think it’s a good trait to have. I’m only apathetic when I’m extremely depressed so, for me, it’s a ridiculously negative feeling.

14. I think exercise is horrible and only do it out of necessity.

I will never, ever understand people that talk and talk about exercising and going to the gym and calories and all the rest of it. This is a personal preference – I fully understand that some people have an interest in exercise and sports, and that it’s exciting to them. I just.. Don’t get it. I exercise only to lose weight and try to get into shape again. I’m not interested in it at all, and I don’t enjoy it. I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as well as having problems with the cartilage in my knees, so exercise actually causes me a lot of pain and misery if I overdo it. Maybe if it weren’t for that, I’d like it a lot more. Who knows?

15. A lot of what your mother told you was right.

Occasionally, I’ll experience something in life and think ‘oh shit, Mum told me this’. It’s so hard to admit that all of your Mum’s annoying sayings and experienced advice was right. But it usually is. If you’re still a young ‘un, I would suggest taking a lot more stock in what your mother tells you. Even if it’s annoying and a drag right now, you’ll eventually realise that she’s speaking from experience and is trying her best to forewarn and forearm you.

16. I never want children, but I love being an aunt.

I’m not maternal. I hear a baby crying in a shop and it just makes me want to get out of there. Small kids annoy me because they’re always sticky and they have really loud voices. I’m not even slightly interested in having children, because all I seem to hear from parents is how tiring and annoying and disgusting it can be. I know that’s not what all parents feel like all the time, but it’s not really encouraging to hear more complaints than you hear good things.

I do, however, love being an aunt. I get to have the kids when they’re fun. As soon as they make a smell, or start whingeing, I can just.. Give them back. And that suits me fine. It’s ok to not want children, even though (especially if you’re female) everyone still seems to think that’s something you HAVE to do in life. There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t want to be a parent, and it’s gross that people try to make you feel that way.

17. University isn’t a key to the door any more.

This is probably the hardest lesson I’ve learned in my life, the most bitter pill I’ve had to swallow. As recently as the 90s, degrees were a pretty sure-fire way to kickstart a career, or at least get a foot in the door of the industry you wanted to be in. Because so many people now have access to university, degrees are a dime a dozen and the already-strained job market cannot accommodate so many graduates. It’s a sad reality of the current economic climate. I graduated from university in 2014, and I haven’t used my degree yet. I thought it would be helpful, and the beginning to a great career. It’s been pretty crushing to realise that it’s not the ‘key to the door’ any more. It’s also hard to feel like you’ve wasted so much money and time on something that is essentially useless.

18. It’s really hard to make (non-online) friends as an adult.

Unless you’re naturally a very confident, friendly person, you will struggle to make friends as an adult. It’s easier in school or university, because you kind of have to make friends, and there are so many people around you that it’s easier to just strike up conversations. As an adult, especially one who isn’t very confident or doesn’t go out much, it’s really hard. Things are a bit different now, in that it’s so easy to meet like-minded people online and make friends that way. But it’s very easy to get lonely when you just have ‘virtual’ friends. Whether we like it or not, humans are social creatures, and it’s difficult to feel good when you’re alone most of the time.

19. You’re allowed to feel sad about inadequacies in your life, without it being ‘unfair’ to someone worse off.

It really, really pisses me off when people are quick to point out how ‘other people have it worse than you’. Somebody else’s suffering does not negate the way you feel right now. It’s like turning to someone who’s just won the lottery and saying, “Yeah, well Bill Gates is a billionaire – he’s way better off than you.” It’s just a shitty thing to do. If you’re unhappy with aspects of your life, you are valid and you are allowed to feel that way. For example, I’ve been really depressed lately for fully circumstantial reasons. I’m unhappy in my job because I don’t make enough money to move out, be independent, or do anything I’m interested in. Somebody telling me there are people worse off than me is not helpful to me; it just makes me feel ungrateful when really.. Why shouldn’t I strive for more in my life than just scraping by, living in the box-room in my mother’s house? Why shouldn’t I work to better myself and feel happier in my life? My situation isn’t the worst in the world, but it’s the worst to me. How is reminding me of people worse off helpful or constructive? It isn’t. It’s just making me feel worse.

20. Everybody’s just winging it.

Do you ever look around and think that everybody else has all their shit together, and are doing so well and being so successful in life? Honestly, they’re probably just as scared and confused as you are. Most people I’ve met and spoken to, from all walks of life, from all sorts of careers, aren’t quite sure how they got there. Of course, they worked hard and made choices, but most of the time they were flying blind. Nobody knows what they’re doing in life, we’re all just trying to make it somehow. And I find that incredibly comforting.

21. Reach out for help when you’re struggling.

Don’t be a martyr. No matter what you’re going through, there is someone, somewhere that can help you. Even just talking something through with another person can be helpful. This can apply to any situation be it work, social, school, physical/mental health, or home life. If you’re sinking on your own, it’s not a bad thing to reach out for someone to help buoy you up, or give you the resources to help yourself. It’s uncomfortable to ask for help, and difficult to make the leap. But in the end, you’ll be glad you did.

22. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.

Don’t let people treat you like shit because you’re too polite. Be polite and civil up until the point that they’re not. As soon as somebody starts being abusive towards you, even if it’s just something they’re saying that’s upsetting you, stand your ground. Tell them that it’s not kind and not acceptable for them to be treating you like that. Of course, I’m not saying get into fights and altercations all the time, but if somebody (especially if they’re meant to be a friend/family member) is treating you awfully, you ought to speak up. If you don’t feel safe doing so, remember the last point on this list – reach out to somebody and tell them what’s happening.

23. Not everyone is going to like you.

It’s a sad fact, I know. You’re so brilliant! Unfortunately, not everybody you meet will see that. This one takes a long time to accept, but sometimes people just don’t ‘click’. Unless they’re openly and ridiculously hateful from the off, the best thing is to try not to take it personally. You’re just incompatible (or they have a stick up their ass). There’s nothing you can do about that. If it’s somebody you absolutely cannot avoid, always be polite and cordial with them. It’s not being two-faced, it’s being an adult. It’s making things more comfortable for everybody – no one wants to be in a room with snarky comments and a hateful atmosphere.

24. Don’t take your metabolism for granted!

I was a skinny kid. I was a skinny teenager. Pretty much as soon as I hit 21, I piled weight on. My amazing metabolism deserted me, probably when I needed it most (in university, when takeaways and alcohol were my diet). Now I’m finding it nigh impossible to shift the excess weight and it’s making me absolutely miserable. Please, please don’t take your speedy metabolism for granted, if you’re lucky enough to be born with one. Start getting into the habit of exercising and eating right, even though you don’t ‘need’ to yet. Because one day, it will fail you and you won’t have the discipline to stop getting bigger. It happened to me.

25. There is no time limit on life events

Get a job/career, save up money to buy a house, get married, travel the world, have a family, etc. We still seem to put a time limit on big life events. Like you have to be married by x age, or you’re a useless spinster. Unfortunately, all of these things take more time now, thanks to the recession and subsequent crap job market. Most people in my generation can’t afford to move into their own house; they’re either still at home, or they live with a bunch of other people. Similarly, most people I know aren’t in a long-term relationship because they don’t meet people (I also find Tinder etc are NOT a fix for this). Society is changing a lot in recent years, and I think people need to remember that instead of expecting people to move out at 18 like they could when everyone had a job and the housing market was a doddle to get into.


It took me a long time to write this (I’ve been drafting it for weeks), firstly because it was hard to come up with 25 important things that I’ve learned in life. It was also hard to think of things that could apply to most people, to make this more relatable to read. But it was also difficult because some of these ‘lessons’ have been painful and hard to learn for me. Life isn’t always positive. Unfortunately, I often find it’s far more negative than positive. I’m hoping one day I can turn that around.

What are your important life lessons? Have you learned anything different from this list? What are the experiences that taught you what you know? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Kayleigh x

 

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Valentine’s Pink Velvet Cake!

pink velvet cake

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Now, I don’t actually have a Valentine this year (and haven’t had one since 2012), which is outrageous considering how amazing I am at baking. Instead, I just baked this for my family and friends to enjoy. A super-girly spin on the classic red velvet cake, I wanted to make a pink velvet because a) it’s so much brighter and cuter and b) unlike a red velvet cake, it doesn’t call for cocoa powder in the recipe. I’ve vowed off of chocolate this year, so I’m trying to make recipes that I can partake in. Something that cannot be said for the beautiful raspberry brownie cake I made my brother for his 20th birthday – I just had to watch everybody else enjoy that one. I’m still not over it.

pink velvet full cake

As you can see, I decorated according to the occasion using Love Hearts as well as freeze-dried strawberry, silver balls, and tiny marbled heart sprinkles. However, this is a great recipe that doesn’t have to be exclusive to Valentine’s Day! Do you have a friend who loves the colour pink? Make ’em a pink velvet for their birthday! Are you hosting an event for Breast Cancer Awareness? Pink velvet cake! Are you simply adorable and cooking up something tasty for a tea party with your cute friends? Pink. Velvet. Cake. It’s so versatile, and I daresay you could even go mad and change the colour. How about a blue velvet cake? A black velvet cake? Or a rainbow marbled velvet cake?? The possibilities are endless!

The reason velvet cake is so fab is because of its glorious texture, which I think is caused by the buttermilk in the recipe (although I could be wrong – I don’t claim to be an expert, just a really really good baker). It’s dense but not overly so, with a real melt in the mouth feel to it. ‘Velvet’ is a very apt description. This one was definitely a big success. I say this because it disappeared very quickly.

pink velvet slice

If you’re looking for a recipe for this pretty cake, I originally wrote it up on my baking blog, Sugar Induced Coma. I had made it for my sister-in-law’s birthday. As you can see in that post as well as this one, only the inside of the cake actually resembles the colour pink. This time I’d hoped it would be different as I used ‘professional’ paste food colouring rather than gel. It worked wonders when I made red velvet, but this fell really flat and I was totally disappointed. I don’t feel like the cake looks anywhere near as bright and cute as I wanted it to. Maybe I need a darker shade of pink. Either way, I’m hacked off because I paid out £3.50 for a small pot of that paste. You live and you learn, though. At least it tasted bloody delicious.

I hope everyone’s having as good of a day as they can, whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s or not. If you’ve made a sweet treat for today, please tell me about it! I want to see what cute stuff other people are coming up with. Don’t limit it to baking either – maybe you handmade a card, or crafted a cute gift, or cooked a lovely meal. In any case, I want to hear about it. Drop a comment and have a chat!

Kayleigh x

Do you know someone with a sweet tooth who’d lurve to see this cake? Are you going to try out this recipe sometime? Have my amazing baking skills captured your heart? Share this post, and I’ll love you forever!

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On Depression

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing this post for a few weeks now. I made an Evernote and dumped every thought and feeling on the subject of depression into it, and now I’m wading through it all to bring a coherent blog post into being. At times, I considered not doing it at all. This topic has probably been blogged about a lot, by all kinds of different people. I decided to go ahead because I think we need all the voices and narratives that we can get. Every person that writes a tweet, or a blog post, or speaks aloud about depression increases the awareness of people, and – hopefully – spreads knowledge and understanding. Mental illness is still woefully misunderstood and misrepresented, and if I can do my small bit to keep the conversation going, I will gladly.

First, I’ll start with some statistics. I promise depression is a very known and very personal subject to me, and this will be a personal post. I won’t just recycle facts that you can easily find for yourself. But I think it’s important to lay a foundation, and show how prevalent depression is becoming.

  • The 2013 Global Disease Study found that depression was the most predominant mental health problem experienced worldwide.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that between 35-50% of mental health sufferers in developed countries do not get treatment for their mental illness (this number is closer to 85% in developing countries).

The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (UK), last carried out in 2014 and published in 2016, found that:

  • “In 2014, 19.7% of people in the UK aged 16 and older showed symptoms of anxiety or depression – a 1.5% increase from 2013” (Mental Health Foundation, 2016*).
  • Between 2007 and 2014, the prevalence of depression has risen in the UK from 2.3% to 3.3% of the population (this doesn’t sound like much, but that’s over 650,000 people).

I know these stats are very UK-centric (because I live here), but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were similar in most other developed countries. The data for other countries is out there, and I would be interested if any of you researched your own countries to see the similarities and differences. Of course, I won’t go into the more triggering statistics and data (as I will not talk about self harm or suicide in this post), but they are out there if you want to find them.

There is so much information out there about the clinical side of depression – the common symptoms, treatment options, prognosis, etc. But the human side of it is just as important. I find it’s better to hear about a topic from somebody who knows it, and lives with it, as they often give a more ‘real’ image of what it’s actually like. Experts can know depression, know everything about it, and quote studies at you all day. But if they’ve never been depressed, it’s difficult to fully describe and understand.

I do not, for one second, claim to be a professional or an authority on the topic. I just wanted to write about depression as, lately, I’ve had a big relapse and have been struggling. I feel like there’s still so much distance between people’s understanding and the actual reality of depression, and still so much stigma and ignorance.

on-depression

Unfortunately for those suffering with depression, treatment for it is often unhelpful, mostly due to underfunding. Governments fail to recognise the importance of researching mental illness and coming to a better understanding of why it happens, and how it can be treated. There is a still a lack of understanding, even in the medical field, with some doctors (one of which I encountered) refusing to medicate for depression as they didn’t believe in it. Understanding depression, and mental illness in general, has come so far in recent years, but is still a long way from fully explaining or treating it.

Treatment can be hit and miss as well, as different things work for different people. The process is slow and arduous, and many people become quickly frustrated with how long it takes to start feeling even slightly better. There is no magic pill that’s a cure-all for depression, no magic combo of meds and therapy that helps everybody in the same way. For example, I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety for the majority of my life and I still haven’t found the right treatment (since 2004, when I started getting treatment). It’s no wonder that many depressed people become cynical towards their treatment.

But what is depression like?

It’s impossible to understand how it feels if you’re somebody who has never experienced it. Sometimes it can be cured, sometimes it’s there forever. Quite often depression fluctuates, like any condition is wont to do. It is definitely affected by external circumstances (such as financial difficulties and bereavement), but is not always caused by them.

The biggest myth about depression is that you ‘feel sad all of the time’ – this is not true. Dictionary.com defines psychiatric depression as ‘a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason‘, and synonyms listed for depression are all words that can be translated as ‘sad’. But sadness is not the only word, or the most common word, that I would use to describe it.

Mostly, depression is a numbness. It’s a feeling of apathy toward everything and everyone. Occasionally, you become irritable or terribly, terribly melancholy, but mostly it feels hollow. Life feels empty, grey, and bland. It’s like trying to run when you’re waist-deep in treacle (tiring and slugging and slow-going, it feels like you’re going nowhere. It’s an exhaustion that no amount of sleep will fix. It’s like drowning when everyone around you can breathe easily.

On saying that, it’s also important to remember that depression doesn’t manifest the same way for everybody. There are, of course, common symptoms that can indicate to a doctor or psychologist that their patient is depressed. These are the most common symptoms to look out for:

  • Continuous low mood
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Low self esteem and confidence
  • Feeling tearful, guilty, irritable, and intolerant
  • Having no motivation or interest in things (even things you used to enjoy)
  • Feeling anxious or worried, often without reason
  • Persistent thoughts of harming or killing yourself
  • Changes in appetite and sleeping
  • Lack of energy
  • Avoiding socialising/contact with others

These are ‘common’ symptoms, but not everybody has all of them. The symptoms can also be contradictory from person to person. For example, a depressed person may overeat, or have no appetite at all. Some depressed people avoid life and stay on their own, others throw themselves into work or party all the time to avoid being alone with their thoughts. This can make it really difficult to diagnose depression as there are so many complex and often contradictory symptoms.

Why are people depressed?

As I said before, depression can be temporary and circumstantial. The death of a loved one or pet, a divorce, being laid off from a job, or even moving house can trigger depression. Others are affected simply because of their natural brain chemistry. Either way, it can be chronic.

Asking somebody what reason they have to be depressed isn’t productive. Because depression isn’t rational. It cannot be reasoned with. Depression doesn’t care who you are, or how much money you have in the bank. Depression doesn’t care about your race, sexuality, gender identity, or political leanings. Depression hits everybody without discrimination and without remorse.

Nowadays, it’s recognised as a legitimate condition, which is progress (and great progress). But a lot of people are still discriminatory toward people who either can’t work due to depression, or have to have special arrangements made with their employer about when and how they work. This is mostly due to the ignorance and stigma that still surrounds depression and mental illness. I have been told by people that, although they try to sympathise with a depressed colleague, they can’t help thinking ‘you’re just sad, you can be sad at work’. It simply does not work that way. At its worst, depression prevents people from even getting out of bed, showering or feeding themselves. It makes an entire day at work look like a figurative Everest – insurmountable and dangerous.

How can I help?

In my opinion, the best thing you can do if somebody you care about is depressed, is listen to them. Sometimes, just getting out some of the negative thoughts can make somebody feel – if not better – calmer. Allow them to talk to you with no distractions, and if you don’t know what to say, just offer comfort and sympathy. Remember, no matter how well-meaning you are, to a depressed person your advice is probably things that they’ve heard (and tried) before. If somebody wants to be alone, you mustn’t take it personally. However, always make sure that it’s safe to leave them alone – if you have concerns about leaving them, voice these concerns.

It doesn’t work to tell a depressed person to ‘do something that makes them happy’, because at the moment nothing does make them happy. Their usual hobbies don’t interest them, and they never feel like they’re enjoying themselves. It’s frustrating for the sufferer, but I definitely understand that it’s also frustrating for those that know and love them. Everybody involved knows that doing something will perhaps cheer them up, but in the throes of depression, you feel like nothing can cheer you up, and that nothing will ever change. Most people with depression want to be useful and productive, but cannot muster the energy or care enough to do so.

Personally, the only thing that makes me happy and that I enjoy even when I’m depressed is travelling and exploring. Because of depression and chronic fatigue, I only work part-time, so I cannot often afford to go anywhere. I’m lucky if I leave the country once every two years, after saving everything I don’t spend on bills. I logistically cannot do what makes me happy, and it does make me feel worse when people say “Just save up!” “Just go!”, like I have access to that kind of disposable income. I’m not saying this to make people feel sorry for me, but to illustrate that sometimes it’s not ‘laziness’ or ‘quitting before even trying’ – sometimes it’s not possible to do the things you know will make you feel better, and you must try to compromise.

Dealing with somebody who is depressed can be incredibly frustrating, as it may feel like they’re not listening to your advice, or just dismissing you. But it’s unhelpful to get angry, or tell them that they’re ‘not even trying’. I’m not saying you should treat them like glass – you don’t have to take abusive language or actions from somebody, even if they are depressed. Just try to cut them some slack if they come off as irritable or ungrateful. Remind yourself that it is a mental illness, and that their way of thinking is currently disordered. Have patience, and remember to remove yourself from the situation if it’s affecting your mental health negatively. As much as you want to be there for somebody, you shouldn’t do it at the expense of your own wellbeing.

This is just a personal pet peeve of mine, but please resolve to never add the word ‘just’ to your suggestions, if you make any. “You JUST need to make yourself get up.” “You JUST need to think positively.” – as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. It will make them feel worse, guaranteed. Rationally, they know that these are the things they should be doing, but it doesn’t mean that it’s easy or even possible for them at that moment. The word ‘just’ (and I speak from experience here) makes somebody feel like they’re useless for not being able to do this totally simple thing, and makes the speaker come across as impatient.


It’s very difficult to be somebody who suffers from depression now, despite increased understanding and awareness, because of all of the ‘positive vibes’ movements happening online and in the media. It’s so great that mindfulness and self-care are becoming huge; it’s an incredibly positive mindset to strive for. But it can also be a double-edged sword if you’re depressed. ‘Positive vibes ONLY’ sounds exclusionary, like there’s no place for you if you’re not continually happy and healthy. Social media becomes triggering when you’re constantly bombarded with feel good memes, and testimonials about how exercise makes you feel Totally Better. It’s unrealistic to expect someone suffering with depression to run 5k, when getting out of bed and into the shower is an achievement. Obviously I don’t speak for everyone with depression, but I know that I would love to do a kickass workout and loads of productive things, and feel positive and look forward to life. It’s just not an option at this moment in time. Sometimes the best self-care somebody can manage is remembering to brush their hair, or have a glass of water. And that’s also ok.

It happens in offline life too. When you’re depressed, people stop inviting you out. You understand why – you’re a bummer to be around – but that only makes you feel worse. It annoys people that you can’t ‘just enjoy yourself’. You become more isolated as people don’t want to deal with your negativity, and that feeds the depression more. I think it’s just important to try to remember that depressed people are always trying to be involved, trying to care and enjoy themselves, but their legitimate medical condition makes that very difficult to do.

This is why I resolve to never pretend that everything’s 100% good, 100% of the time. I won’t always be positive and bouncy and smiley – that would be misleading, and false. I don’t want to lie to people, but if it gets to the point that it’s all misery, I will take a step back from blogging. I want this blog to be honest, but I don’t want it to be an entirely miserable snoozefest. I said it at the beginning of the post – I have been struggling lately. This blog has suffered because I haven’t been able to put the work into it (evidenced by a complete lack of a post last week). This post has actually taken two weeks to get out, simply because I’ve been so tired and uninterested. I wanted to write this post, but sitting in front of my laptop and staring at the cursor was overwhelming. When I’m feeling ok, I’m excited and enthusiastic about this blog. I love blogging and I love to write and come up with ideas. It’s a testament to how rubbish I’ve felt that I’m not feeling excited about blogging, or about anything really.

It’s not normal to read about JK Rowling’s Dementors and nog sagely at their effects, recognising them completely as your own depression.


IF YOU ARE DEPRESSED OR WORRIED ABOUT SOMEONE YOU KNOW, PLEASE REACH OUT. There are hotlines, charities and organisations that can help you if you can’t afford/can’t face seeing a doctor or psychologist. There’s a wealth of information and resources on the internet. You can even talk to me if you want, just please talk to somebody. Nobody should have to deal with depression on their own. Here are some of my favourite mental health organisations:

Mind – I used to donate monthly to them, but I can’t afford to anymore. They’re a UK-based charity, but the information on their website is incredibly extensive and helpful.

Mental Health Foundation – Another site packed full of information. The statistics at the beginning of this post were found in their paper, ‘Fundamental Facts About Mental Health 2016‘.

Time To Change – This is another UK charity, but their goal is to eliminate mental health discrimination. I made a pledge on this site in 2011, showing my support for them after I saw the wonderful Stephen Fry do the same. Pledges are short messages from people saying what they want to aim to do to help stop the stigma that still surrounds mental illnesses. Almost 100,000 people have made pledges – click here to make your own!

Bell Let’s Talk – This one’s Canada-based, but I heard about them through the hashtag they run on twitter. Bell Let’s Talk aims to break the silence around mental illness, and encourages people to use the hashtag and talk about their experiences.

Kayleigh x

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Internet Throwback

A few times in the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking about how the internet has evolved since I first started using it socially in 2003. I don’t count browsing websites about ghosts, something my bff Caroline and I used to do when we were, like, 10. Aside from total horror that I’ve been on the internet for at least 13 years, I’ve been reminiscing about the sites and services I used to use. I only started using my real name in 2005 or 2006 (online safety, y’all), and that surprises me. It seems everything and everyone is now online, and there are little to no qualms about publishing every thought and detail.
I’m not about to go into an Old Person Rant about how technology is evil. I condone using the internet for its intended purpose – connecting and sharing with people around the world. And I believe in sharing the cute puppy photos as well as eyewitness news from war-torn Syria. The internet is now a wonderful place where even the most censored and oppressed people can reach out to the rest of the world. Of course, this can and has been abused, but I personally think the positives far outweigh the negatives. I’ve met some of the best people I’ve ever known on the internet.
But, back in the infancy of social media and the internet itself, things were very different. A lot more anonymous, and people were more cautious than they are now. In this post, I’m revisiting that time, and listing my top 5 throwback places. These are the places I frequented a lot. Note that MySpace isn’t on here – I did use it a lot, but I feel that’s far too easy and obvious for a post like this.

MSN

Every evening after school, I’d log on to (now-defunct) MSN to chat with people I’d only seen hours before. Of course, there were people I’d met online as time went on, but at the beginning I just had people from school on my friend list. It was the go-to instant messenger, and I somehow spent hours on there talking about nothing. Your worst nightmare was being on a computer that didn’t have MSN installed. You were then forced to use one of the online messaging services that allowed an MSN login; these were nowhere near as good, because all of your custom emoticons (emoji for you young ‘uns) weren’t on there.

My favourite things about MSN

  • ‘Nudging’ people – this was a truly annoying and hilarious feature, in which your conversation box would pop up on the other person’s screen, wriggling all over the place. After a while they disabled being able to repeatedly click ‘Nudge’. It did get very annoying if you were trying to actually do something.
  • Appearing offline after being in a fight with someone, and explaining to the rest of your friends that you were still there.
  • The aforementioned custom emoticons. Back in the day, they were called emoticons, and I won’t preach about it. I much prefer the word ’emoji’ anyway. You could make an emoticon out of any picture, and some geniuses (genii?) made their own animated emoticons that could pass for official MSN ones. The day you acquired a new one that accurately portrayed how you felt was a good day. There was a limit, though. People who had emoticons for letters of the alphabet looked like they were typing a bloody ransom letter.
  • Emo song lyrics in everyone’s screen names. Also the ‘message’ under people’s screen names usually being “(Name) ❤️ (Name)”. Followed by a broken heart emoticon when they inevitably split up a week later. I think MSN messenger was also the origin of the ‘vaguebooking’ phenomenon – people would often put a sad lyric or a ‘subtweet’ to someone in the message, and then dramatically say they didn’t want to talk about it if you asked.

Piczo

Oh man, Piczo. You could make your Own Website! It was a very primitive version of a blogging site, complete with .piczo.com URL. It was discontinued in 2012, so here’s a link to the Wikipedia page about it. I made many, many ‘websites’ on there, each more awful than the last. I dearly wish I had screenshots or something to show you all, but having ‘receipts’ wasn’t really heard of in 2005. Two of my usernames were loathsomecarcass and dancingwithatrain, so you can imagine how crap they were. Imagine a black background with bright red and lime green text. Ouch.
It was really easy to make a Piczo site, with drag and drop features so you could put your photos and text and scrollboxes (and glitter gifs like the one at the top of this post – shudder) exactly where you wanted on the page. I remember I once made a whole page about a guy I fancied at the time, and I’m cringing so hard at the memory that I almost turned inside-out.

My favourite things about Piczo

  • How easy it was to make your page look exactly how you like. Since venturing into the world of coding, I realise how bloody difficult it is to make a page that resembles a website. Piczo cut out all of that work.
  • It was like having a Real Website, except without all of the costs and upkeep that comes attached to an actual domain. Which is something I’m learning a lot about lately, as you can imagine.

Habbo Hotel

Habbo still exists, though I haven’t played it for at least 9 years. Basically, you make a little person (a Habbo), and the titular hotel is filled with different themed rooms, where you can walk around and meet other Habbos. It’s a visual chatroom. I don’t know how much has changed since I was on there, so you should probably check it out yourself if you want a more modern understanding of it. It was lots of fun. You could set up your own little room in the hotel, and some people actually paid money to put awesome decor and furniture in their rooms. You could win furniture too, if I recall correctly. I never had a paid-for room, just a simple place where my friends and I could chat alone if we wanted. You always knew who was a member of the ‘Habbo Club’, because their avatar was kitted out with premium clothes and accessories.

My favourite things about Habbo Hotel

  • Being at Caroline’s house and using two separate computers to go around Habbo and freak people out by being really in-sync.
  • Customising my character to look totally goffick~
  • The fact that if you tried to swear, it would say ‘bobba’ instead. This filter was so stringent that you couldn’t even tell somebody you played the bass because it would say “I play bbobba”.

VampireFreaks

Another website that still exists today, VampireFreaks (or VF) was the go-to social media site for ‘alternative’ people. If you were goth, emo, punk, etc etc, this was the site to use. You could meet other like-minded people, and pour scorn on ‘normal’ people. It may sound like I’m hating on the place, but I have fond memories of VF. You could make your profile really fancy with basic HTML coding, and set up groups (known as ‘cults’), which were like mini-forums. I met some really cool people on there, some of whom I’m still friends with now.

My favourite things about VampireFreaks

  • Beauty cults, groups that required a ridiculously long application about why you should be accepted, along with 10+ photos so that your words could be ignored and your appearance could be thoroughly judged. It used to amuse me to apply to these to see how rude people would be about how ‘not goth’ or ‘ugly’ I was.
  • Fake-busting – calling out people who had stolen photos from the popular online personalities (mostly scene kids with gorgeous hair that I always envied), and were passing them off as their own. Now known as catfishing, it was so much fun to out these people. Especially as lots of them were so obviously fake (think a single, pixelated photo of Sonny Moore or someone similar), and yet some poor, naive people still fell for it. Putting things right made me feel good.
  • Having a community where I felt I belonged. This was so helpful as an angsty 13-year-old who was bullied at school because of the way I dressed, and the music I listened to.

Neopets

The classic pre-teen game is still around, though unfortunately I’ve heard that it’s very buggy and full of ads now (I don’t know if there’s any truth in this, I’ve not used Neopets for years). That’s a shame, because it was such a great site. It was totally packed with different areas in the ‘world’, tonnes of fun games, and custom items for your pet. You could battle, or make friends. I had a red Aisha, who was customised with a steampunk-style outfit, and he was adorable.

My favourite things about Neopets

  • The giant omelette – you never had to worry about your pet starving, because every day you could go grab a slice from the giant omelette.
  • Brain tree – an angry tree in the Haunted Woods who gave you a question to answer. I just liked it because it was so angry all the time, and would yell at you if you got it wrong (which happened a lot – the questions were hard).
  • The money tree – Basically, free items. Most of the time it was rubbish that wasn’t useful, but occasionally you could bag a decent item if you clicked quickly enough!

Another BFF of mine, Lana, also reminded me about all of the ‘dollmaking’ websites that used to exist. Of course, these still exist, but they’re updated versions with better graphics, as well as being much easier to use (and easier on the eyes than the original ones – SO. MANY. PIXELS). One of the only original sites that I could find that still works is here, but the majority of that website just redirects to ads. But you get the idea. I even made some fabulous dolls on there to put into this post:

Talk to me!

What were your favourite places to inhabit ‘back in the day’? And if you weren’t around for the glory of these old sites, what do you think of them? Let me know!

Kayleigh x

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2017 – Goals For The Year

I’m really not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I have an innate guilt complex, so not achieving resolutions sends me into a spiral of self-deprecation. However, I like having a list of goals. Pretty contradictory, but the word ‘goals’ is less intimidating to me and if I didn’t write down things to work towards, I’d never get anything done. So here they are, realistic or not – the goals I want to work towards in 2017.

new year goals

The Goals…

  • Get this blog off the ground, with at least 500 subscribers, as well as continuing to update regularly (my goal is to make it three times a week this year) and connect with other blogs that I enjoy.
  • Lose 60 pounds. I lost a stone (14 pounds) in 2015 without really trying, but this year I’ve been too exhausted and depressed to make any real effort. I’m doing this one for me – I’m miserable at my current weight, and I feel like it’s negatively affecting me. It’s also going to be good for my health to get to a weight that’s normal for my height. I will lose weight by eating more responsibly, and taking up swimming and regular exercise again. I’m also going to utilise MyFitnessPal again because that was really helpful to me in 2015.
  • Save up money for trips and leisure, as well as towards moving out of my parental home.
  • Continue to track habits, mood/symptoms, and expenses. Try to stay organised and learn any patterns between the things that I track.
  • Keep up with the daily diary that I bought for this year. Write a few lines every day about what I did, how I feel, and daily stats.
  • Continue learning. I will continue studying hieroglyphs, but I’d like to start learning calligraphy and sign language.
  • Get at least one new tattoo – I have so many ideas that I’d like to get done, and I haven’t had a tattoo since 2011. I feel like 2017 should be the year to get a new one.
  • Read at least one book a month. I’m a self-confessed bookworm, I always have been, but I’ve been slacking. I used to read so much. I’d like to get back into the habit, and spend less time just dossing around.
  • Keep up with hydration and eating properly.
  • Hit 5000 followers on Twitter.
  • Hit at least 500 followers on Pinterest.
  • Bake regularly, and challenge myself with it. I need to do more awesome recipes, like the shattered glass cupcakes I made for Halloween 2016.
  • Move to London – this is a huge one, and it’s basically a pipe dream right now. But I’m determined to get a place in the city. I love London, and I feel like I’d be able to network and grow a lot more there. I’ve also been totally inspired by Helene at Helene In Between, who moved from the United States all the way to Germany.  She’s shown me that the time to save and chase my dreams is now.
  • Do yoga every evening. I’ve found it incredibly helpful for my joints and muscles (I have a lot of pain in them due to fibromyalgia), and I think it would be good for me to do it really regularly.
  • Look after my nails. I want to have lovely, tidy nails by the end of 2017. I’m tired of my hands being wrecked from dermatillomania – back in 2011, I managed to get it under control and had well-kept nails. If I can get back there by the end of the year, I’ll be happy!
  • Spend less frivolously. This ties in with saving money (as above), but I felt it needed its own bullet point. I’m guilty of impulse buying and spending on things that aren’t really essential. I need to do less of that.
  • Finally, I’m going to give up chocolate for the whole year. I’m not a huge chocoholic, but I do eat it fairly regularly, and I do sometimes get a real hankering for it. I feel like cutting it out will help tremendously with eating better and losing weight. I was inspired to do this by my brother Liam and sister-in-law Ashleigh, who cut chocolate out for the whole of 2016.

Talk to me!

What are your goals for 2017? Is there somewhere you’re dying to travel to? People you want to meet? Or do you simply want to better yourself and your life by losing weight, changing careers, or learning a new skill? Tell me what you hope to achieve – I’d love to hear from you!

Kayleigh x

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2016 – End of the Year Roundup

2016 has been a rollercoaster of a year, with lots of crazy things happening around the world. If I’m being completely honest, it’s not been the greatest. I spent almost all of 2015 unemployed and struggling with depression, so I personally hoped for better from this year. Objectively, I’m in a better place than I was last year. I’m employed (even though it’s part-time, so not a lot of money), I’m actively working on treating my depression and health, and I’ve been learning new things. However, I can’t deny that I expected more. I’m feeling quite optimistic for 2017, though, which isn’t like me. I know it’s standard practice to say every time that ‘this year will be different’, but I truly hope and believe that this one will be.

year roundup piccadilly circus

Highlights

  • I visited Berlin for the first time. I’ve been wanting to go to Germany, specifically Berlin, for years. And, finally, in February this year, I got to go! I had a blast exploring the city, and I was lucky enough to be there while the Berlinale film festival was on. While I was there, I also got to meet one of my online friends, Sou; we’d talked and talked about ‘when I finally get to Germany’ and it was a dream come true to finally get to hang out with her. I wrote about Berlin in full on my old Blogspot. Even if you don’t read it, I would highly highly recommend visiting Berlin some time. It’s a fantastic city, incredibly clean and safe. I also recommend the place that I stayed – The Circus Hostel. Below are two photos I took on my trip, of the Brandenburg Tor and the Reichstag.
    brandenburg tor
    reichstag berlin
  • My hamster and my nephew both turned 1.
  • I went to two weddings (my sister Paula, and my friend Leanne), and a graduation (my friend Susie’s).
  • I started to learn hieroglyphs, and become more organised. I wrote about taking inspiration from bullet journalling, which is the main way I’ve been trying to stay more organised. It seems to be working fairly well (I will always be a ridiculous procrastinator though). Learning hieroglyphs has been super fun, even though it is quite complicated and takes a while to sink in.
  • I created the coolest cupcakes I’ve ever made for Halloween. It was my first attempt at making ‘glass’ from sugar and glucose, and it came out so well! They also tasted fabulous, if I do say so myself.
  • I undertook the most insane baking endeavour for Christmas, and wrote about it in my previous post here.
  • Best of all, I started kayleighpuget.com! Of course, this blog is still in infancy, and it’ll be a lot of work before I start getting it to a standard that I can be proud of, but I’m excited about it and really enjoy working on it. I hope that 2017 will be a good time to develop and expand the site.

Films Seen in the Cinema 2016

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • The Hateful Eight
  • The Legend of Tarzan
  • Doctor Strange
  • The Light Between Oceans
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Books Read 2016

  • The Locked Ward – Dennis O’Donnell
  • The Profession of Violence – John Pearson
  • To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  • Go Set A Watchman – Harper Lee
  • Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account – Miklós Nyiszli
  • Open The Cage, Murphy – Paul O’Grady
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat – Oliver Sacks
  • Alone With The Devil – Ronald Markman & Dominick Bosco
  • Eyewitness Auschwitz – Filip Müller
  • Zoo – James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
  • Zoo 2 – James Patterson & Max DiLallo
  • Night – Elie Wiesel
  • Doctor Sleep – Stephen King
  • The Serial Killers – Colin Wilson & Donald Seaman

Now, tell me about your year! Was it great or sub-par? What made it that way? I’d love to hear from you!

Kayleigh x

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