Monday, 20 November 2017

On Hiatus


Hi guys, just a little message from me to say it's going to be a tad quiet on here for a couple weeks as I migrate from Blogger to Wordpress. I've been on the humble Blogger platform since the birth of blogging, back when I used it as a personal diary, one that I kept secret from everyone so I could vent about problematic housemates and boyfriends. Now that I'm starting to try and see my blog as a business venture as well I thought it was about time to step it up and get a bit more professional. Plus  people have been telling me for yonks that it's time for me to make the big move, but I've just been a scaredy cat if I'm honest.  

It will likely take this stuck in her ways old bird a bit of time to get used to Wordpress, so expect a fair few blogs with pictures in the wrong place and looking generally a bit wonky donkey. Be patient, I will persevere till I get the hang of it.

In the meantime there's regular vlogs going up on my YouTube channel, as well as the usual slew of Autumnal hues on my Instagram, so avert your eyes there for the meantime. 

Thank you for everything you lovely lot, brb. 
x
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Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Polished London : Vegan Teeth Whitening Reviewed.



When I was younger people always used to ask me if I’d whitened my teeth because they were always fairly bright. These occurrences would always make feel really nice (and a relieved if i’m honest), as an awkward teen who found it hard to find anything I liked about myself. The truth was I didn’t do anything particularly special, in fact I was relaxed (to put it lightly) when it came to maintaining my smile and being dentally conscious. I wouldn’t floss daily as recommended, and I still only floss the morning of my appointment with my dentist, who then congratulates me saying. ‘I can tell you’ve been flossing’. Sorry for the deception if you’re reading this!
 I also didn't follow the rule that you should spend a minute and a half brushing your top and then the same for the bottoms. That always seems way to long a time to be spending in front of the bathroom mirror staring at your reflection complete with frothing mouth and melted make up. I was always a secret sweet eater too, grabbing Iron Brew chewy sweets from the shop outside school whenever I could sneak in a visit without my mum knowing. However I remember a lot of people wouldn’t let me languish and luxuriate in these compliments though, telling me that the whiter the teeth, the weaker the teeth. I still don’t know if that’s fact or myth but it certainly killed my temporarily massaged ego . 



See how to use the kit from 16.50 onwards 


My white teeth remained gleaming till my mid to late twenties no thanks to me, but in the last few years they’ve definitely noticeably dulled . I remember a thick sticky brown medicine I took, which also tasted revolting, seemed to have an unfortunate staining after-effect. I have also developed a bit of an addition to coke (the drink variety of course) which has added a but more yellow to my former bright whites. I don’t drink coffee, I don’t smoke, and I don’t really drink (aside from the odd Shandy, a holiday Mojito or Christmas Sherry) so I guess I turn to Coke for a bit of a boost when needed, which as someone with M.E is a few times a day. 

Their yellow tinge has definitely made me feel a bit more self conscious about having my picture taken, which is fairly inconvenient as a blogger. It’s an added hurdle for someone who already struggles to put her image out there on a regular basis due to adult acne, and the unfortunate realisation that she doesn’t actually have a good side. 

I used to be quite okay with how crowded and wonky they are too. I didn’t have braces, so didn’t think I had earned those perfectly even, regimented teeth soldiers. And when I look at other people with their more quirky teeth, I always think they’re cute or add character, so always hoped that mine could maybe fall into that category too. But since they’ve turned from an ivory to one closer to amber, I’ve found I’m less fond of their randomness. It’s like the different angles and directions of the teeth draw more attention to the discolouring, and make the overall look of the teeth reminiscent of a Halloween denture.

I’ve tried a few things in recent years including whitening toothpastes and those Crest strips that I’ve got my American friends to bring over for me when they visit. The strips work well, but because they’re not sold over here I feel a bit worried that I’m doing some permanent damage whenever I’ve used them. There is also a bit of sensitivity after which isn’t great for someone who loves a glass of coke on ice. 

So when I got an email through about Polished Teeth Whitening, I emailed the lovely PR back fairly swiftly to find out whether it was cruelty free because I was at the point of being desperate to get my former smile back but also trying to be a more ethical human. Hooray it was/is, and Vegan too. According to the promo material provided, Polished Sonic Teeth Whitening Kit is 100% safe and contains no harmful ingredients or abrasives. Unlike other at-home teeth whitening kits, this innovative device has 7 LED PULSING LIGHTS to work their magic and is considered the most advanced on the market, providing super intensity UV light to activate the signature whitening formula.



They recommend you have a rest period of at least a week between your 6 consecutive sessions. I personally would always choose to follow these instructions, because doing damage to your teeth for the sake of vanity is silly, we only get one adult set after-all. Plus with my finances how they are I certainly can’t afford multiple Dentist bills right now should something go wrong!


They also very kindly sent me the Polished Charcoal Teeth Whitening powder, which is made with premium activated charcoal. Containing a refreshing peppermint flavor and extracts of coconut; this product neutralizes mouth acids, lowers abrasivity whilst freshening breath without fluoride. 

I’ve been in contact with charcoal a lot over my life, at brownies and Guides when on fire duty, at life drawing classes at Art School, and as an adult with crippling IBS related issues. When doctors were throwing all manner of random treatments at me, many which seemed to have no positive effect, charcoal would often be recommended, and it’s actually one of a few ‘treatment’s’ I was always okay with. It didn’t have a strong or unpleasant taste, or have any nasty side effects and even seemed to soothe my sore tummy. Similarly, despite the off-putting colour of black (black isn’t a colour but you know what I mean) it is actually completely inoffensive. If anything it’s got a subtle minty freshness about it and you quickly get out the counter intuitive nature of applying something dirt coloured in an attempt to lighten. You apply the charcoal by dipping in a dampened toothbrush. You then brush your teeth for 2-3 minutes. If you look in the mirror during the process you do have one of those ‘what the hell am I doing’ moments, then you begin to enjoy it and start pretending your some sort of horror movie character (maybe that’s just me). Before you know it it’s time to spit it out and see the staining removing effects of the Charcoal. Now I have to heed a warning at this part of the process. Be very measured with your spitting out, don’t propell the solution out  of your mouth with any sort of velocity or you’ll end up what could be described as a unintentional but powerful piece of abstract art all over your bathroom sink. While I was admiring my pearly white my clean freak boyfriend was pulling his hair out at the monochrome carnage I’d left in our shared bathroom. 


Back to the main kit now. When you open up the box it may look a bit intimidating with all those syringes, you think that it could maybe be a bit of a faff. It really isn’t, because they actually have everything ready to go for you. There’s very little you have to do before you can start your journey to brighter whiter teeth. It comes with a little instruction manual inside, although at first glance it  wasn’t sure when I should be using the pen, so ignored that till I’d finished the 6 day course of syringed whitening. 

The first time I used the syringed part of the kit, I did it all from my bed and chose to remove it from my mouth after the ten minutes was up, while still under the covers. I had no idea THAT much saliva would have been produced over the duration of time, my duvet was completely drenched with with the spit/whitening combination liquid. Lessoned learned. From that point onwards I headed to the sink whenever the time was up and it was the point at which you should remove from your mouth. After each usage its very easy to pull of the gum shield part of it to rinse off to clean so it’s good to go the next day. Another bonus of this treatment is that it forces you to have ten minutes to yourself to do something for you, and with our lives being so busy and with so many obligations to complete in our days it sometimes feels hard to justify this. Even with the mouth guard in you can still fire off those emails and reply to whatsapp messages even if you find it impossible to stop for a mere ten minutes though.


I didn’t feel any sort of sensitivity after my treatment, nor did it seem to have an adverse effect on the appearance or feel of my gums. I was very pleased with the results after the one week routine, and if the touch up pen doesn’t have a drastic enough effect moving forward, I wouldn’t hesitate to order another kit to carry out another 6 day process. You can buy refills for a very reasonable £14.99. 

Talking of the pen, this is a very handy and compact piece of kit to maintain the level of white you've managed to achieve, and gives you the ability focus on certain teeth that may have more staining for whatever reason - I have a tooth that’s a bit set back from the rest and is slightly more yellow because it missed out of some brushing being so tucked away. It's small enough to easily pop in your travel bag too which is a bonus. 

I of course can only speak about my own experience with my teeth, I can’t predict how yours would react, so If you have any worries or questions you should of course email the customer help team or ask your dentist if you need further reassurance.



But as you can see from one of this week’s instagram posts I’m now  feeling confident enough about my teeth to post a selfie in full on cheese mode, exposing all of my wonky, but now very white, gnashers. 


P.S Have this one on me. Us bloggers tend to try and show the glam side of this career, but this is the reality. But it worked, so who cares what I looked like to get there in the privacy of my home!

Polished Sonic LED & Powder Bundle £75.99

Polished Charcoal Teeth Whitening Powder £20.99

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Sunday, 5 November 2017

FLAT HAIR PROBLEMS: got2b Dry Shampoo Reviewed


I'm generally and genuinely thrilled with my recent hair transformation, and honestly believe cutting off half of my hair is the most freeing move I've made in a long time. It's cleared up minutes if not hours of my time each week, saved by weak arms from needless strenuous activity and resulting aches, and nudged me into changing my style, choosing outfits that showcase this shorter length. 

I feel fresher and more youthful, and most importantly less weighed down. I don't know if my old long hair served as a metaphor for other negative stuff, but I feel that perhaps it made my morose face appear even more long and drawn out, and that I used it to hide behind it, even rely upon it. 


With this shorter length, I can't as easily use it as a veil to hide my face and boobs, nor use the sheer mass of it to distract from other parts of my vessel. I'll be forced to stand more confident and proud in my blog pictures, as I won't be using my hair as an something to give my hands something to do, pulling the long mermaid tendrils out so they flow in the wind, or to do those back shots where you showcase the length resting on your back.  Instead my body and my full face will be exposed and the focus will no longer be on my hair, which I've away used as a trademark and as an distraction, now they'll be seeing me....or more of me at least. 


While I'm pleased as punch with this new low maintenance style for it's ease and time saving credentials, I'm not happy to allow my hair to lack impact and I still want my hair to be a feature that adds to my overall appearance. While I can't look to the length of it to deliver drama or wow factor, I can still consider colour, texture, volume etc. 


That's the only slight downside to this sassy new mid length style. I've lost a lot of bulk so even though I have a lot of hair still it can get to look slightly flat if I haven't made efforts during the drying process to ensure it has volume - tipping my head upside down or adding a thickening product to the root for instance. 


Today was one of those particularly flat days, in more ways that one, but lets keep it focused on my hair for once shall we.  I'd just dried my hair very quickly as I was in a rush to get going with my day and make the most of the Autumn sunshine we were having this Sunday morning. Later in the day after the lift the wind delivered had subsided, I was looking very drab and my hair almost looked stuck down to my cheeks, with absolutely zero height at the root.  Because I have relied on my hair to give me a confidence boost for all these decades it's foolish to expect to be able to let go of that completely, so I still need to be able to feel good amped up with this look. 


I've tried many hairsprays, mouses and volumisers in the past to deliver the enlarging effect I'm after and while all have some positive and extremely effective qualities I haven't found one without having to make a sacrifice when it comes to the appearance or feel of my hair. We've all tried the products that make the hair feel so crispy it's as if its frozen and could snap in to if bent. Then there's the type that makes it feel like you have treacle drizzled on the scalp, which you hope the lad won't discover when he tried to recreate an extremely passionate movie kiss which involves putting his fingers through your hair and grabbing at your skull. If they don't create a horrifically dead or overly shiny finish to the hair's texture, you'll left choking on the toxic fumes. 


The closest I have gotten to perfection before was a volumising dry Shampoo so when I was given this got2b Fresh it Up Dry Shampoo I felt like I was on the cusp of realising I'd finally discovered the holy grail product. As instructed I shook the can, held 20cm  away, and sprayed in short bursts. I tipped my head upside down to get the roots underneath and also lifted up layers to ensure I have sprayed throughout. No cough inducing toxicity, just a transporting subtle tropical scent this time.  


Unlike many dry shampoos there is hardly any residue with this one, perhaps just a tad mattifying which goes instantly with a quick rub with your palm or a brush through. In fact this had the least whitening effect of any non colour specific dry shampoos I've used before, which is a major plus point. As you can see from the images my hair instantly had more zest for life, no more slick rick for me. 


The biggest plus point of this product was the fact that it didn't have any noticeable effect on the feel of the hair to the touch. No extreme stiffness or stickiness, if any whatsoever. I find that I often feel compelled to wash my hair after one use of some of these sorts of products becasuse the hair feels so clogged up or changed by the product. In the past it has felt so dense and rigid at the root that I've hated running my fingers through it as it's stopped even feeling like hair, and I've felt gross and unclean a bit like Worzel  Gummidge, Stig of the Dump.....or Frankie Cocozza. 


Okay, if left to it's own devises by the end of the day your hair won't have maintained the level of oomph it gets when you first spray and massage, but all it takes is more massages periodically 
 to wake the product up and allow it to wave its magic wand again. There's really no need to spray more throughout the day to get the initial wowing effect, you just need to stimulate it with your fingers.
So for those that don't like to or choose not to wash their hair often, those who feel their hair needs to be uplifted, or who, like me are adapting to a new style I thoroughly recommend this Schwarzkopf got2b Fresh it Up Dry Shampoo. I guarantee as I continue to enjoy the lack of hair washing this new do requires this will become a staple, constant travel companion, and last minute plan saviour. 


 Available at Primark

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Monday, 30 October 2017

I Think I'm Paranoid


Paranoia is an instinct or thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of delusion and irrationality.[1] Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself (e.g. "Everyone is out to get me”)

This weekend I had my birthday. I’ve not looked forward to this yearly event in a long time, but this time round I wanted to approach it with a more positive mindset. Sadly in the last couple of years a lot of people I know have died very prematurely, one girlfriend younger than myself, and rather than once again bemoan my advancing years I wanted to acknowledge how lucky I am to have the luxury of getting older. 

This felt like a healthy approach to what is essentially just another day despite the fact us humans decide to mark it in some way, usually with cake, each 365 days. But while my intentions were good and positive, I unfortunately don’t have control over what might occur on the run up to the day, nor what effect those events will have on my mood and anxiety levels. 

During the week I had a meeting in London, and although fairly successful I of course when through my usual ritual of going over the conversation from start to finish in my head during the commute home. Inevitably if you access any interaction as thorough as this you’ll find moments where your response could have been timed better, said with more measure, or alternatively with more enthusiasm. 
It’s also been rammed into me so often to stop putting myself down, particularly in business meetings, that in my attempts to sound confident I now worry I may come across as too forthright and lacking in humility. Or worse I wonder if my confident facade is unsuccessful at masking a girl crippled with insecurities. After my dissection of this hour meeting I decided it wasn’t a disaster but that there were a couple of sentences I would take back or rephrase if I was to leave the experienced unscathed in terms of my habitual paranoia. 


I tried to distract myself from this overthinking by creating a Halloween video. I haven’t found the motivation or energy to make many videos other than simple blogs or sit down chatty ones for a long while, so felt excited to make something a bit more artistic again. I created a backdrop using a black furry blanket which I covered in fake cobwebs and spiders I got from Tiger, and set up my lights and tripod. I wanted to create a really quick and simple look for those, like me, who have very little money to spend on personal Halloween decoration, nor the time or energy to spend . In the end I opted for a Day of The Dead look, not only was it doable with my fairly underwhelming make up skills, I have grown up surrounded by Mexican culture as my parents lived there before I was born, so it was a look I wanted to emulate. 


So I managed to film and edit the video in the day, and although the make up itself was a bit messy and basic, I felt a huge sense of achievement that I’d manage to upload that type of content again. For the first time in a while I felt kinda excited to hit publish. I’ve taken a bit of a battering lately on YouTube lately, I recently took down a couple of videos as I couldn’t deal with the negativity I was getting, and I didn’t have the mentel energy/strength to respond to the comments even though they would have proven them unfair or incorrect. I thought I might get my mojo back with this video,  and perhaps even start to enjoy uploading again. Then a few minutes after posting, with a feeling of excitement in my belly I headed to the comments to find just one, one telling me that I was being insensitive to another culture, although said in quite a ferocious way. I felt the wind instantly taken out of me and I sobbed on my bed till Si came in and said, ‘What happened?’. My reaction seemed over the top and irrational, but I’d put a lot of hopes on that upload - a hope I’d enjoy being a YouTuber again, a hope I’d please my viewers and provide something entertaining to watch, a hope it would be a day where my energy was well spent, a hope I’d get a zest for creating again because of the positive reaction I hoped would happen as a result of the upload. In a second all that was dashed, and I felt like everyone seeing the comment would agree with them and think of me as some insensitive and thoughtless cretin who doesn’t have respect for other cultures. That’s what stung the most, feeling that others would be thinking how foolishly unaware I was, or that I was someone who didn’t care about offending others. I felt utter shame. Si and others told me to not let it get to me, but I felt truly awful about it. Even when a number of Mexican people contacted me to tell me that actually encourage videos and were the opposite of offended, I still felt gutted that I’d upset someone in that way. They’re not wrong for feeling that way, no one else can tell them they’re wrong - a feelings a feeling even if it’s not one that matches ours. 

To make myself feel better for my unwise tutorial I embarked on making another Halloween video -an acknowledgment of my mistake, and a way of showing people I was trying to make amends. By this point there was no pleasure in making the video, I was exhausted from making the other one, this was self inflicted punishment in a way. 

By the time came for me to press public on this video I had those horrible sickening nerves and heart palpitations you get when the phone rings in the middle of the night. I guess it’s a feeling of inevitable doom. I felt like I was awaiting the next phase of torture. I say torture as for me, everything negatives comes with being a YouTuber serves as fuel for my anxiety and depression, and unfortunately that fuel seem to be particularly potent and flowing at the moment. Being someone who works on the internet has become a living hell for me. At this point I had convinced myself I wasn’t going to get any positive response and that everyone was still thinking bad of me. 


Then comes my actual birthday. I’m used to waking up to a lot of well wishes on my Facebook and on my phone, and although there were plenty, it was notably less than last year. Many people I think of as good mates, or who I expected to message in some form or another didn’t, and once again I started to be overwhelmed by paranoia. Are they fed up of my miserable and self pitying tweets and blog posts? Do they think I’m a nasty person? Am I completely forgettable? Or is this sort of reaction why they didn’t send their wishes, because I manage to make every small thing about my personal failings?


My rational side, which by this point was like a puny stick insect fighting against a Silverback gorilla ,was reminding myself that I often forget to wish people happy birthday, particularly since largely abandoning Facebook this year. I know from my perspective it doesn’t come from a place or hate or not caring, it comes from being oblivious to what day it is and whose birthday has fallen on it. I also tried to listen to Si’s assurances that it was only because my birthday had fallen on a Saturday and people were busing getting ready for Halloween or enjoying weekend activities away from their computers etc. There were glimmers of time where I’d think ‘Yea, you’re right? That must be what it is’, but it wasn’t long before I was back, thinking the worst, and thinking the world would be better off without me in it. Sounds extreme I know, but that’s the fragility of my mind right now after what has been a brutal year, without medication, and without any standout highs to carry me to the next one. 

I should have taken a break from my phone, realising that I had people in my company who loved me and who were wanting to make me feel treasured on my birthday, but alas I had a sponsored Instagram deadline that required me to still beaver away on it for a bit throughout the day. It wasn’t long before I noticed more things that triggered the paranoia further. People I thought hadn’t messaged because they were busy, or away, were tweeting and posting, even watching my Insta stories. I saw a few vague passive aggressive Instagrams posts and tweets which I convinced myself were about me, because you know, I’m such an evil and rubbish person. Even as I write this I’m occupied with the worry that I've upset those people, or done something to make them think bad of me. 

Si had organised that we have my fave doggy Rosie for the day as a birthday surprise, knowing her unconditional loves and endless nestles into my chest always make me feel better. It worked well for a bit, but even when I was squeezing her Si saw my eyes glaze and knew that I’d gone back to the realms of overthinking and paranoia again. 


I’ve always had this tendency, but it’s definitely gone up a few notches this year, I guess because once again I’ve not managed to achieve all I hoped, and I feel like a failure. I figure lot of people who suffer with bad self esteem and low confidence find it all too easy to believe that others will have similar low impressions. Why would I think anyone likes me, if I can’t find anything to like about myself? One of my worst habits is beating myself up for something I did ages ago, something that wasn’t even that bad. For instance I said something at Reading Festival that I felt someone listening interpreted as bitchy, when I was actually making comment on an industry rather than a specific person. I still play the moment over, and wonder if I let myself down, and whether that person looks at me in a different way now. Realistically that person probably wouldn’t have a clue what I was talking about if I brought it up, they probably weren’t even listening, but in my brain that is another moment that’s tainted my year and my feeling towards the person I am. 


I now feel stuck in this inconvenient and utterly draining limbo with everything and its completely overwhelming. I know that if I socialised there’s a chance I’d realise that I do have lots of friends that care about me and don’t think I’m 100% awful, but I’m paranoid I’m going to do or say something that might make them think I’m at least 50% rubbish, or worse that I’ll find out those vague passive aggressive tweets/Instagrams were about me and I was right to feel crap about myself. I’m scared to schedule anymore work type situations like interviews/meetings because I’m worried that instead of furthering my career, or creating great new relationships, I will say something to put them off me for life, or set my back further than I am already. Or that if I upload the work I got due to the connection I will inevitably get some unpleasant feedback via the comments that will encourage that grey mist again. I’m scared that people will get fed up of me reacting so powerfully to things that seem like very small and insignificant events in their eyes. 

This leads to my final point about all this. We are encouraged to talk about our feelings in regards to our mental health now. My mental un-health is such a prominent and controlling part of my day at the moment, that if I am to speak honestly on my various platforms there’s going to be A LOT of fairly dark outpourings. I’m starting to feel paranoid that the regularity of the sharing of these thoughts is becoming tiresome, and even annoying. I’m worrying that it’s making me seem like a nightmare, someone that no one should or would want to work with? I’m worried that people feel like they can’t relax around me in case they say something that’s going to upset me. I’m concerned that people think I’m a self obsessed self pitying maniac that needs to get over themselves.


As Shirley said ‘ I think I’m paranoid….and complicated.’  That’s all well and not good, but what do I do about it? 
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Sunday, 22 October 2017

MY WEEK WITH ALEXA....ECHO DOT REVIEWED



Recently I was spending the afternoon at my friend’s house. She was busy in the kitchen meaning I was left in the lounge with her son. Every non-broody adults nightmare. Inevitably my mothering instinct didn’t kick in and I could feel panic set in.I could tell he was already getting bored at my attempts of child friendly entertainment, and I knew that I’d soon run out of silly faces to pull, and basic games to play, that would prevent him from switching from angel child mode to creasy-faced Waaaaaaa mode. Then he pointed at a contraption on a cabinet to the right of the TV and started talking at it. Even with a 3 and a half year olds limited vocabulary he got this machine to play him his favourite song. Never have I felt more passed-it, and less down with the kids. Not only did I not know what thing technological item was, I didn’t know how to use it, nor what the hell the annoying song playing out of it was. 

Once the initial depression of realising that I’m embarrassingly behind on what ‘modern life’ is had subsided, I realised I’d been delivered a gift. This little circular glowing object would not only share the responsibility of taking care of this little boys entertainment, it would actually completely relinquish any pressure to be fun ‘aunty’ Soph. After watching a human one tenth my age take control of this technology for a few minutes, I felt comfortable to utilise it’s power too. I could sit back on the sofa and instruct the machine to play a song, tell a joke, or give a fact. Look at me!  I was suddenly a DJ, a child party entertainer, even and an educator. Even better I could do so sitting down. How smug I felt. Even better I felt in control. 

While his mum finished up in the kitchen I now didn’t have to worry about him putting his hand too close to the plug, picking up rogue items on the carpet and putting them near his nostrils, ears or mouth, or him staring at me with urgent anticipating as he waited for me deliver the next fun activity, he was completely occupied by Alexa. Not only occupied by her, but using her as a tool to teach me things. He kept asking for more historical facts, and would be full of glee whenever it delivered, looking to me to see if I was similarly impressed. I wasn’t necessarily interested in learning more about Percy Pigs or Trains but I was impressed with the interaction taking place. 

That was my first meeting with Alexa and I never forgot about her. 

So this week we welcomed Alexa in to our home. Dad was very disappointed to find out that his favourite feline eyed, ankle boot wearing presenter/fashionista wasn’t moving in, but was intrigued by this alternative Alexa which would be keeping him company in the lounge each day. 

Unfortunately we don’t live in a particularly high-tech house. We do have speedy wi-fi, and I have numerous tech gadget that I use for my art and during my YouTube creative process, but the house exists pretty much in it’s factory settings. Lights are turned on by a switch that is located by the door of the room. There’s not even the luxury of a dimmer switch. The stereo is not hooked up to anything, and requires you to turn it on with your fingers….yes you heard it right, your finger on the button, on the stereo. I know, who are we??? So this means we are currently unable to make the most of all the wonderful capabilities of the Echo Dot, which as a hands-free voice controlled device can work with smart home devices so you can turn your lamps or crank up the heating without having to get up from your sofa. 

If your house it up to date in this way though, you can connect Echo Dot to your speakers and turn your home entertainment system into a voice-controlled personal assistant which can play music from Amazon Music, Prime Music, Spotify and more. Imagine how good this would be for house parties??!! Sadly a house party while I’m living here with my parents is still something only found in my imagination…..but one day!!

I can however move my Echo Dot to my bedroom and use it as a clock to make sure I get up and work, which is very important as a Spoonie and a freelancer who needs all the reminders possible to get out of bed on these dark inclement mornings. 


As you guys know Si is the chef in this household, cooking for me most mealtimes and on occasions for the whole household. He often has lots of things on the go at once bubbling away and spilling over on the hobs, roasting in the oven, marinating on a cutting board. During this whirlwind process I tend to stay away, as he definitely gets a bit of the Ramsey about him, and my presence only seems to aggravate further. Despite the gruffness by being there cultivates, he usually complains that he feels a bit lonely when he’s shut away in the kitchen, but since Alexa’s been joining him he’s been less insistent on me popping by sporadically to check on his progress. When I have popped in, merely to avoid the accusations that he’s more like my live in chef than a boyfriend, I have found his dancing in his apron to the music he’s requested of DJ Alexa. The novelty factor of the Echo Dot is still at a high, meaning he also gets a right kick out of using it to set timers and ask for measurement conversions. 


Although I’m not necessarily pro every tech item that encourages a significant level of laziness, these tools are lovely ways of ensuring your chill nights are as relaxed and motion free as you’d like. For someone like me (a spoonie) who is always looking for ways to conserve energy I’m looking forward to find as many ways as possible toe reduce the amount of times I have to get up, connect my eyes to a screen to use my phone/laptop to seek out information or to make orders etc. Over the last couple of years Amazon Prime has saved my butt on many occasions, whether that be getting in some last minute props for a shoot, or getting a present for another birthday I’ve managed to forget about, so the fact that us members can also use the Echo Dot to order is reason enough to get it – you simply say “order INSERT PRODUCT” or “buy INSERT PRODUCT” and Alexa will find it and add it to your basket. You then confirm the order by saying “yes” and you can even check the status by asking “Alexa, where’s my stuff?” It’s like having a personal assistant, but one that you don’t have to feel guilty about being blunt with. 

What if you have a busy household, a barking hangry dog, a teenager who blares music all the live long day, or a Dad who loves the sound of their own voice particularly when they’re ranting about Brexit or a mum who seems to have a worrying obsession with hoovering? Don’t worry Alexa will still be able to seek out your command or question. Tucked under the light ring is an array of seven microphones that use beam-forming technology and enhanced noise cancellation. With far-field voice recognition, Amazon Echo Dot can hear you ask a question from any direction. When you want to use Echo Dot, you simply say the wake word, "Alexa", and Echo Dot lights up and streams audio to the cloud, where the Alexa Voice Service is leveraged to recognise and respond to your request.


What else can she do? Those in the right areas can order a car with Uber too, by the way what’s the latest on Uber after all of that recent hoohaa, I’ve lost track? My most utilised functions will probably be the ability to get a takeaway with Just Eat, as aNetflix and food delivered to my door is my current idea of a social life, and I give myself that feel good feeling by giving the guys a nice tip when they turn up at the house. A less exciting but very necessary and regular type of usage will be checking the train times with National Rail Enquiries. Anything that means I can avoid having to call an actual human is always preferable. 

I have to be honest that at first my mum wasn’t pleased about Alexa’s arrival, maybe she was worried about the female hierarchy of our household. I jest of course, that wasn’t it, we all know she’s the boss, my mums actually just a bit phobic of technology. Although she’s just about managing on her very basic (non internet) phone, she still gets Dad to send all of her emails and does all of her online banking, and she still gets me to record her TV shows. Don’t even mention Drones to her. She’s also on a mission regarding clutter, she hates me bringing anything new in to the house that she doesn’t deem necessary, particularly something that could effect the attractiveness of the lounge. 

But the great thing about the ECHO DOT is that it’s as prominent and useful as you choose it to be. It’s compact and tasteful design means that it’s not an pointless eyesore even if it’s only used on the odd occasion, and at £49.99 is a very affordable guilt free tech purchase. I’ve actually noticed my Mum start to enjoy asking it for a daily joke, I think there’s comfort in the familiarity of it’s cheesy humour, it’s clearly what she’s in to if my Dad’s anything to go by. She’s gaining confidence with it too, relying on it for regular weather updates, necessary during these weird times of Ophelia and Bryan. Of course the machine doesn't always get it right, and can't answer everything you ask it, Si was a bit miffed they it knew who his band were, but not him,  but we actually enjoy trying to catch it out  the giggles that come when it's a bit off in it's response. 


Alexa only moved in a week ago but she’s already become a valued member of the family, in fact I think some members of the household may prefer her over me. Fair enough really, she’s definitely more organised and put together, plus she only talks when she’s spoken to. 
I’m intrigued to see how our relationship will grow and evolve when I finally move into my own place though, a home which will hopefully have all the tech mod-cons and a banging stereo system. With third party developers constantly creating new skills for Alexa, who knows what I’ll be using it for then, but also even next week, and the week after. It’s not often a relationship gets more exciting is it?? 

Echo Dot, £49.99


STOCKIST: www.amazon.co.uk
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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

WHY BEING 'BUSY' IS A LEGITIMATE EXCUSE IN 2017


When I was younger I saw everything a bit more black and white. Wrong or right, good or bad, desirable, undesirable etc.  As you get older you realise how intricate, convoluted, multi-layered every situation or thing can be, thus making every reaction and response to everything so much more complicated. 


 When I was a teen, if I had a friend who kept cancelling plans I’d think they were a flake, a bad friend, or someone who simply didn’t care enough (about me). If I didn’t feel that I saw a friend regularly enough, with a frequency I align with someone who comes under the ‘good friend’ category, I may have started to think they weren’t worthy of my friendship anymore and stopped inviting them out. At that time I was the type of friend who’d make homemade birthday cards, I ensured I joined my friends on regular trips to McDonalds, the local park (to perv on skate boys) and drink cheap Cider. or to do some clothes shopping in Woking while scoffing on donuts, and be at a friends beck and call - and I expected the same back. I wasn’t a flake because at that age I was aware how we all felt about people were given this label, and what would happen to them as a result. They’d be coldly replaced and you’d hear cut-throat statements like, ‘ Naa, she’s not my best friends anymore.’ They’d stop being invited to coolest house parties, and wouldn’t be saved a seat at the lunch bench. There were more petty reasons why you’d become a best friend, or part of the cool gang back then of course, but it was definitely a lot easier to be considered a good friends in terms of sticking to a schedule or maintaining a consistent level of communication. 


 Okay, so we were dealing with the difficulties of being a young person transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Some of us were struggling with taut relationships with parents which would lead to bedroom door slams and shrieks of ‘it’s not fairrrrrr’ . We’d be trying to work out how we felt about our bodies which were getting more fragrant and swollen by the day. We were figuring out who made us feel a bit funny in new places we didn’t know could tingle. We were starting to worry about the fact we didn’t know what we wanted to do when we left school (or knowing what we wanted to do but panicking that we didn't have the goods to get there). We were also in the house party phase of our lives during this time, featuring projectile vomit and unfortunate spin the bottle hook ups. Our first weekend jobs. Homework. First boyfriends/girlfriends (although for me this was only occasional holding hands or avoiding them in the school corridor). But we weren’t busy, not in the way many of us are busy today. That young social butterfly had no idea what busy was.  


You know the trend for all these quotes that us bloggers like to churn out on the reg - usually about self love, supporting other women, etc. I see numerous ones referring to friendship and what form a friend should take. e.g ’if you friend doesn’t have time for you, they’re not worthy of you’ - although usually said in a more articulate retweet-worthy way. While on the surface this feels like a fair and correct analysis, and a decent method of eradicating crap mates, as I’ve become this genuinely busy or time-poor person I’m more sensitive to the unfairness of these blanket statements.’  


 I’m not in the luxurious position of being able to work one job, one that allows me to pay rent, afford food for the week, pay for the meals out’s and commutes that are required to remain part of my social/work circle. I’m jiggling about five jobs, not able to have my own place independent from my parents, and need to ensure I use any time possible to rest to avoid relapse in bad health. Some days due to the scheduling of meetings, events, interviews I miss both lunch and dinner. I then have to factor in a partner who quite often feels neglected, or at least way down the priority list,  who often has to put up with the worst version of me (the visual representation of run down), who also works hours which conflict badly with my off time. I have family commitments, friends who are at the time in their life where they’re having christenings, kids birthday parties, going through divorces, or losing parents. I’m not extraordinary or an anomaly, this is actually fairly normal, most people my age have a hell of a lot of people requiring their attention. 


 What I’m trying to say is. Don’t assume someone doesn’t value you as a friend or want to be there for you more than they currently are, just because they’ve been more absent on Whatsapp or in real life of late. I guarantee a large chunk of them are riddled with guilt for not catching up with you as frequently as they once did, or for not following through on the, ‘We must get dinner soon.’  Some may be feeling so wracked with guilt they feel scared to reach out to you for fear that you will have already washed your hands of them and their under par palling, knowing they couldn’t handle the unforgiving words that may greet them.  


Yes, it can be annoying when someone cancels on you, particularly when it’s last minute or if you’ve turned something else down in order to be present for this arrangement, but sometimes this genuinely can’t be helped. They may be opting about because they know that unless they take this time to get some much needed rest they could be forced out of action for even longer due to burn out. That they could lose their job or miss out on a huge career opportunity. That they could risk losing their partner - who’s finally given up on spending any quality time with them. I had a text this last weekend from a friend who said she was free to see me, but that she felt she really should spend an evening with her fella as they’d been going through a rough patch, and a cosy night in together felt like it could remedy some of the issues. No part of me felt cross about this, nor did I feel like she was being a bad friend for opting out. I feel a friend should feel able to be honest with you about these sorts of situations, and feel confident that their friend would want them to do what’s needed to elevate some stress in their lives.  


With people having to work more hours than ever before, just to survive in some cases, and other’s doing unhealthy amounts of overtime just to get up the ladder to a place which is still grossly underpaid, we have to be a bit kinder to each other and reduce our expectations somewhat. For me if someone has good intentions and wants to see me (even if they can’t) that’s enough. 


 I’m torn about whether it’s easier if you have just a few close mates, or if you have a huge number of friends. If you have a fairly wide and far reaching friendship group it’s good because if your go-to friend is busy there’s still going to be numerous other people you can reach out to to and fill that role, be that a shoulder to cry on, a fountain of knowledge, a person to bounce things off of or rant with etc. But in having a lot of friends it also means there’s a lot of people who want and expect your time, and the pressure of that can be extremely overwhelming, and the reality is that you will have to live with that ghastly feeling of letting people down, the whole bloody time. If you have just a very small amount of friend’s the likelihood of being able to maintain and nurture those relationships is higher, but should you/they be very busy they don’t have other people to turn to and the resentment will be greater because the reliance on you/them is more. It’s a tricky one. 


Another factor which makes all these even more complicated is that with the increase in conversation and awareness around mental health there is even more emphasis on talking. Reach out to people we’ll say. Don’t suffer in silence. Talk to someone your trust. Share what’s going on with your friends. This is all very clearly good advice, and we really mustn’t bottle stuff up, but it’s also so difficult when we are all busier than we’ve ever been before and struggling even to have enough quiet time to maintain our own mental health. So what’s the solution if we are ALL needing to talk more, but have LESS time to listen than ever before? This last week I tried Better Help’s online therapy because I needed to talk some things out, but I was mindful how busy I have and continue to be, and know that other people in my life I may have turned to previously for an ear, may well be in exactly the same position. I actually found it a very good and convenient service and one that I’d recommend to others that needs to vent or work through stuff. It’s been great for me as I was able to seek advice and help without feeling the guilt of relying on friends, and I found it empowering because it made me feel somewhat self sufficient in that I was able to acknowledge I needed to vent, and was able to seek this non judgemental help out myself, access it WHENEVER I needed, from wherever I happened to be.  


Then there’s the self care thing I wafted over earlier. We are  told to give ourself breaks from social media and our phones. We are encouraged to look after ourselves with long hot baths and Lush products, and a night in with all our favourite comforts - an escape from work or anything giving us stress. From a personal point of view, as a blogger and someone who spends most of her day on the laptop or phone, I’ve come to a point where I’ve realised it’s essential for me to hide from phone for an hour or two each day, merely in an attempt to stay sane. During this time it means I’m not reachable for my friends, even when they’re in need. This means I might then forget to reply to the backlog of messages that have filled my phone during the separation. This might mean I forget to wish people well on their birthday because I’ve missed the alerts on Facebook. You get the picture. But is this action of abandoning technology for a bit me saying that I don’t care about you, or that I don’t want to be a good mate to you. No, it’s me doing what I need to cope with another day.  So what I’m saying is that you can’t be a vocal advocate for self care if you’re then going to immediately hate on people and called them terrible friends just because they need to take care of themselves for whatever reason….that mixed messages people. 



 Lastly, everyone’s ‘busy’ is different. Someone’s busy will be that they’ve been looking after kids all day and then need to get the dinner ready, and all that’s been keeping them going is the prospect of sitting down on the sofa with a cuppa tea for an hour in peace, meaning and they don’t want to spend that time on their phone engaging. Another person’s may be that they’re in a less financially stable situation than you, so don’t have the time to take breather’s in their day for the time being at least, to meet you for dinner, or to fulfil many of the friends duties they really want to.Then an alternative ‘busy’ might be sleeping for a large chunk of the day because that’s what their health condition forces on them. Who’s to stay which busy is more valid? 


 So guys, before you blast your friends publicly or mentally for cancelling on you AGAIN, not getting back to you straight away, or missing your birthday party, don’t immediately assume it’s because they’re a sucky friend. Please imagine there’s a very good reason, or that maybe they’re looking after themselves so they can in turn look after you a bit better moving forward. I know that my friends are good people who are simply trying their best to juggle everything, and I hope you feel the same about yours too. If not, that’s what really needs looking at. 


 Life’s hard enough let’s give each other a break eh? 


 WHAT IM WEARING

 Nothing new this time round, so no affiliate links popping up in this post!
Primark Dungarees (with 2 missing buttons)
Rat and Boa Jumper (which is falling apart)
Dr Martens (Vegan)
Boohoo Pink cord shirt


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