Self care, skin care, & nurturing Mother Nature.

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Trying to live a more minimal and conscious life in search of pure happiness and joy

November 15, 2017

Real Talk: Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

Mam, dad, wider family - I'm sorry if you're about to read this and think it's all a little bit TMI, but today's post is about the hot-topic of sex. Sex is something I believe people should be happy and confident to talk about, not shy away from, and generally be open about. I'm not saying that everyone should and would want to share every last detail about their sexual experiences or their sex lives, but I think feeling free to discuss it with friends, relatives, or partners should be something that is advocated and practiced much more in our society rather that us all being typically British and having a stiff upper lip about it all. Really for today's post I not only wanted to talk about sex generally and how it should be treated as normally as any other topic of discussion, but how sex can be liberating for women, how women shouldn't be treated or received negatively for enjoying it or being open and honest about it, and how we also need to educate ourselves and younger generations so much more than we do currently.

Something I've always found a little bizarre is that women are treated so oddly for enjoying sex and god forbid they talk about it too?! I've started to believe this is rooted in upbringing and the unfortunate way everything is black/white, pink/blue, girl/boy categorised. I caught a conversation a colleague was having with some students a while ago and heard: "Boys do that. But if a girl is sleeping around like that then she clearly is missing something in her life and trying to fill the void". I was stunned. I couldn't believe that someone with so much life experience and influence would say something so damaging - what was worse was that I saw young impressionable female heads nodding along with such a statement whilst the one male-identifying student squirmed in his seat. Sex shouldn't be something people feel shame over and it certainly shouldn't be something that is only a readily accepted topic depending on what gender you identify as. Your sexuality also seems to dictate whether or not it is acceptable for you to dicuss such a topic. Last year I posted a very tongue-in-cheek but painfully true post covering some of the things that have been said or things I've experienced once people learned I am bisexual. In that post, I talked about how identifying as bi means you're often also given the label of being incredibly promiscuous and "greedy" with sexual partners and the negative connotations that go along with those often inaccurate claims.

Sexuality - not just for women but for all - should be something that can be openly discussed that people feel no shame over. What you get up to in the bedroom and out of it is your business, but if you're embarrassed by that business, and you don't feel you want to lie about your sexual partner count etc. then you shouldn't feel you need to. I guess I'll never fully understand why it's accepted and just assumed that a heterosexual male can and does, sleep with 1Oo+ women and that's absolutely fine but if a heterosexual woman was to do the same, she's slut shamed to no end. Which brings me on to my next wee rant: slut shaming.

Slut shaming is fervently still a big problem in our society and whilst I know we can't wave a magic wand and just make it stop, I wish I bloody could do just that. There's still a lot of stigma around what women choose to wear and how they conduct themselves that leads individuals to say "she's asking for it" or "well what did she expect? Dressing/Acting like that?" and there's many many reasons those sort of opinions need to be educated and stamped out. Unfortunately, there's no specific group who are to blame for this shaming and unfortunately for many individuals who identify as a woman, the group responsible can be sometimes be other women. I touched on this a little bit when I talked about internal misogyny and it's always a shame to see it happen. Call me an idealist, but I think all women should support other women, not drag each other down or berate them about their life choices and lifestyles. I know not every woman will be friends and of course, not every woman is going to like each other, but slut shaming is a real issue and it does not need additional support from fellow women who may actually be victims of such a horrible thing themselves.

It seems so acceptable for a man to have a one night stand and wander home the next day in broad daylight. See a woman doing the same and there's tuts, stares, comments... Where it all stems from, I'm not quite sure. One thing I am sure of though is that no one should be made to feel guilty about what they enjoy, how they spend their time, and how they dictate their own sex life. It's yours first and foremost and no one should influence it in any which way except you.

If I haven't said it enough already, I honestly believe sex needs to be openly talked about much more. When we shy away from it, not only does it open up this option for individuals to shame others about it, but it also leads to a lack of education. A big thing for many teens especially is pornography. As a teenager when your hormones are running rampant, porn is commonly something that is explored during that time. So many young people - including myself - are lead to believe that pornography is a true representation of sex and that needs to be challenged not only for safety and consent, but also for self love and your own expectations of yourself. I'm not insulting anyone's intelligence here and suggesting that every teen thinks if the pizza guy turns up and brings the pizza into the kitchen he's going to have a gang bang with all of your family, but what I am saying is that porn can open up a lot of questions for young people and if no one is willing to answer them because it's a topic that shouldn't be discussed, that's when we have a problem. I myself was lead to believe that sex is always rough, involves a lot of saliva, moaning for the sake of moaning if someone so much as brushes past one of your nipples, and pouting. Of course, this may be reality for some individuals, but for the majority? The set up of pornography does not reflect real life. Being comfortable with someone so you might both have a laughing fit during foreplay, the fact that our bodies can make embarrassing noises that are only embarrassing because we didn't know they'd do that until it actually happens... Those sorts of things need to be mentioned and normalised so there isn't this unattainable expectation to strive for.

I think shows which are often on Channel 4 which explore the body, sex, and our reproductive organs etc. are absolute gold not for any entertainment value, but for the sheer fact that at least it's normalising our bodies and desires and making it accessible for people to educate themselves and feel comfortable about it. In the light of so many recent sexual allegations in the media, it's very clear that issues such as consent and what is and isn't acceptable are still huge issues we need to tackle as a society. Not only do we see these issues cropping up time and time again, but we have also had an incredibly large increase in the amount of sexual diseases that are spreading and affecting each younger generation, too. If we treat sex as a common topic, maybe we'd see more individuals who are comfortable with getting treated and speaking to a doctor. Maybe we'd see more people enforce safe sex on their sexual partners because you guys, bare back isn't the only way, that's just what porn makes you believe. Maybe we'd see less teen or unwanted pregnancy if we talked more about contraception openly. And maybe, just maybe, we'd see a society who accepts that if you want to sleep with no one or you want to sleep with 3 different people every day of your life, either or is fine and so is everything in between as long as those involved are safe, consenting, and happy.

I know, I'm getting *all idealist* again.

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November 14, 2017

Who's That Girl

That's right guys, I'm finally back. What was planned to be a super short and sweet break from blogging in order to move into my new home quickly snowballed into some extended time off from it all and planning behind the scenes. So despite the lack of posting over the last few weeks, there's been a lot going on as I've collated, written, and created content for Northern Blood that is refreshed, full of energy, passion, and love and just generally makes me feel great to have been part of. The problem with blogging sometimes is that the spark and life can fade from it a little and that's what started to happen to me. I was comparing myself to others, feeling down about my own creative abilities, and just felt stuck in a rut with it all. I was desperate to not take a break because I worried once I stopped posting that I'd never come back to it but alas, here I am, confidently coming out of the other side of it feeling more enthused to blog than I ever have before.

If you're an old reader then you will know I'm all about that "don't compare yourself to others as it's damaging" lifestyle however, I've found I flipped the whole comparing myself on its ugly head and saw it in a positive light - I tried to view it as a "friendly competition" thing. Blogging is so saturated but saturated with so many fantastically talented and dedicated writers, creators, and photographers that I realised being part of that community and realm is a sure-fire way to keep myself motivated to feel deserving of that position of place. Seeing people owning and killing it on a weekly and even daily basis gave me the kick up the backside I so desperately needed and I'm hoping it's impact on me will shine through in my new content.

That's not to say that my blog posts now will be drastically different - my content will still very much reflect me, my interests, and what I've always wanted Northern Blood to be. However I've scrapped the schedule and switching everything up a little. I still love personal style, beauty and skincare, and general lifestyle/miscellaneous rambles, but working to a strict weekly schedule for each of those topics was sucking the fun out of the writing for me and began to feel more like a chore than an enjoyable pastime and outlet in my spare time. So from now on, we can all expect to see Northern Blood feeling and reading a little more freely, covering even more mental health and body positivity topics, lots of DIY and interior posts as I've recently moved house (you guys I have been preparing *so* many posts for you!), many more books and comics, and of course I'll still be blogging about cruelty free beauty. The difference now? It won't be forced. It won't be strict. It will be written as life is intended to be lived: with focus, a little bit of unpredictability now and again, honesty, and (hopefully) a great deal of humour and reliability.

So if you're an old familiar face - welcome back, it's nice to see you again. And if you're new to all that NB will hopefully have to offer? Hi, I'm Amyleigh, and hopefully we'll get to know each other a little better as time progresses. If you want to know a little more, pay this wee page a visit.

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September 11, 2017

Colder Weather Transitioning

When that chill in the air starts becoming palpable and the mornings and evenings start to get increasingly darker, one of my favourite things to do is throw items of clothing together that totally juxtapose the weather but also kind of compliment it. A big movement on the high street this past year has involved playing with proportions of the body/figure and thus wearing dresses or extremely long line tops over jeans has become the norm. I personally love doing this when it starts to get colder as it means I can still get some use out of my more summery pieces but also I can't lie - I think the whole look can be pulled off really well by anyone. I like to go for shorter dress or a one with a dip hem and that way it doesn't swap my petite height and frame, but still shows off whatever jeans I'm sporting. I tend to go for my vintage mom jeans most of the time as again, this lets me play with proportion a little as they're not figure hugging and add a slightly androgynous aspect to an outfit.

Can you believe that this time next week I'll be moving into my very own house?! If you'd have spoken to me even a year ago and suggested such a grown up thing I would have scoffed yet here we are - packing boxes in all of my free time and frantically making sure broadband is booked in and furniture is on the "to desperately purchase" list. I've mentioned it a few times now here on NB and on my various social media accounts that once I'm settled into the new place, I want to shake up the content here on NB a little. I'm not saying I'm giving the blog a complete overhaul because that would just be silly - I still very much enjoy fashion, beauty and miscellaneous lifestyle posts - but I want to add in more variety. I've always struggled with labelling this blog and it's content and up until now I've tried to minimise too much variety. But now? Now I enjoy writing about mental health. I like talking about feminism and body positivity for women. I want to share my progress of making my future house a home and all the DIY struggles that are bound to go along with it and more. I think the current schedule might go out of the window just so I can get back to truly *enjoying* blogging. I wouldn't say I've fallen out of love with it at all, but it has certainly been feeling like a chore at times so for the benefit of my motivation and love for this pastime, I need to give myself and it a major revamp so watch this space.

Miss Selfridge Dress (similar) | Oh Lover Vintage Jeans | Bohemia Design Circle Bag | Matalan Sandals (similar)

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September 08, 2017

Book Club No. 11

Another Friday, another book review post! My last Book Club post was back in July so I haven't actually posted any reviews for a wee while, but I'm back today with some pretty perfect books - all of which I thoroughly enjoyed (for once). So if you're into fantasy fiction with a good dose of macabre or twisted magic, then you've come to the right place for some recommendations.

Anno Dracula by Mr Kim Newman
Okay so we need to start off with the most brilliantly British-feeling book but it's also easily one of the most bonkers plots I've ever had the pleasure to dive into. Anno Dracula first came onto my radar when Matt told me all about it - think Penny Dreadful but even better. The plot centres around Victorian London and follows a variety of characters from an ancient vampire from an prestigious bloodline, to Dorian Gray, to Jack the Ripper. Queen Victoria has wed Vlad Tepes - the very much fictional over-the-top version of Vlad we see tourist traps talk of today which paints him out to be Count Dracula. Dracula has killed the famous Van Helsing and is slowly dominating England as more and more vampires are swooping into the country's capital and are seen as a pest by many. He has the Prime Minister under his thumb, has his own ancient vampire soldiers roaming the streets, and impales folk in his delightful true-historical fashion if they so much as do something he's not quite happy with. The story mainly centres around a senior vampire called Geneviéve Dieudonné who helps out at what is a make shift hospital/hostel for vampire orphans and sick vampires with the aid of a peculiar doctor and a man called Charles Beauregard who is a member of the Diogenes Club and is essentially a spy trying to discover the true identity of Jack the Ripper.

As more of the story unfolds, Geneviéve and Charles meet more and more frequently as what they're both trying to investigate seems to be leading them down the same path and to the same culprit. It's a fantastic murder mystery style book but with a great nod to actual historical events, historical people, and of course many characters from popular fiction. At first, I was reading the book and really struggling with it - I don't know if it was the language or the pace of the story, but I just couldn't keep up. I found myself flipping backwards time and time again because a character's name would come up and I'd think "eh? Who?" and need to re-read parts to try and make sense of it all. However there's a distinctive part of the plot - when Geneviéve gets into essentially a street brawl with an ancient Asian being - that hooked me in for the rest of the story and everything seemed to fall into place. The focus around this ancient oriental aspect of the book really sparked my interest as there was just something about Newman's description of certain elements that ignited my imagination and my imagination took a very Studio Ghibli route visually. I found this book incredibly good for not giving you *too* much description, but just the right amount to help you form a clear picture in your mind of what *you* think is going on. It does dive straight into things so if you sometimes struggle with following storylines that don't over explain and describe, you might find you flick back and forth like I did at first but hang in there - this book is without a doubt worth the read. It is part of a series so I will 1Oo% be picking up the next book in the line up sometime soon, but if you think it sounds up your street, you can pick up a copy in various formats here.

A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan
Now onto the show stopper. This book has been hyped up so much during the last month or so and it's clear to see why. A Place Called Perfect is the debut novel from Helena Duggan and it is just the perfect (see what I did there) fantasy book for children and adults alike. First up we need to address the gorgeous cover - if that doesn't draw you in and make you want to at least read the blurb then I don't know what will. The book centres around a young girl called Violet who has recently moved to a place called Perfect with her Dad and Mam - you guys have no idea how happy I was to see that Mam was called Mam and that her family often affectionately call each other "pet" throughout the book as it made me think of home and my own family. Okay waffling aside - back to the story. So they move to Perfect at the request of two brothers who run the town as they're interested in Violet's Dad's expertise when it comes to eyes and everything optical. Everyone in Perfect need to wear glasses otherwise they have incredibly impaired blurry vision and it seems that no one knows why. So in steps Violet's Dad to try and solve the conundrum. As you might have guessed, Violet soon discovers that Perfect is actually far from Perfect and that there's actually a lot of strange and suspicious things going on in the town once you remove those rose tinted glasses.

Telling you guys anything more than that would definitely ruin the story so I won't say much more about the actual plot, but I just loved this from start to finish. Although Violet as a character annoyed me sometimes, it is so fantastic to see a children's book that has a female main character who is a gutsy heroine with lots of sass and spunk. She doesn't take no for an answer and I think for young girls to read this would be really positively influential and uplifting for them. Despite being targeted at a much younger audience, A Place Called Perfect reads so well that I'd be very surprised if any adult reads it and doesn't enjoy it. It's incredibly quick and easy to read but it's got the right amount of description and a great pace to it to make it feel like you've really went on a journey with the characters. If you're a Neil Gaiman or Tim Burton fan and enjoy those slightly creepy/macabre twists they manage to put into children's fiction so cleverly, you'll absolutely love this book too as Duggan manages to add those slightly spooky elements expertly. I'm not going to lie, as an adult reading it, there were a couple of times I thought "hang on, that can't work because of xyz" so there are some loopholes in the story, but overall I am more than happy to overlook them as they don't ruin the story at all. If you couldn't tell already, I bloody loved this and I can't wait to see what else Duggan releases as this has easily crept it's way up to one of my favourite books this year without a doubt. Pick up a beautiful copy of A Place Called Perfect here.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The third and final book to mention in this post was also a big hit with me. The Night Circus did it's rounds in popularity a couple of years ago now, but I just never got around to reading it because I knew there was a romantic element to it and y'all - I'm straight up not interested in that nonsense when it comes to my reading material choices. But after some convincing from Matt, I decided to give it a try and I really truly rate it to anyone who wants to read what would make a spectacular film. The plot is exactly what the title suggests - it centres around a travelling circus which opens at dusk and closes at dawn. It is magical, mystifies those who visit it, and just generally becomes an eagerly awaited and anticipated event in every town it pops up in. The whole story behind the circus and it's creation is down to two gentleman who are magic. They like friendly competition and for years have had apprentices that they have feverishly taught their skills and talents to who then will "battle" the other apprentice in "a game". The Night Circus follows the latest apprentices and their upbringing, training, and encounter. Characters along the way create the Night Circus as a fun project and both apprentices have some involvement in it. I know I say this at least once in every book review post, but I genuinely don't want to say much more than that about the general plot as it will honestly spoil it for any of you who want to read this in the future.

This book is very descriptive so it plants a clear image in your mind and oddly enough, I quite liked it. I usually like books that aren't overly descriptive or packed with information as it sucks the fun out of reading for me, but this one had the perfect amount to accompany the very busy and character-packed story. The whole time reading this I got instant "I could see this on the big screen one day" vibes as everything about it screams Hollywood blockbuster done in the style of The Great Gatsby crossed with Water For Elephants. The imagery is great, the range of characters and all their intertwining lives is so easy to get lost in, and there's still an air of mystery about what will happen threaded throughout the book right to very end. If you like magical, fantasy, complete fairytale style stories but also like a little bit of romance dashed in there too, this is the one for you.

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September 06, 2017

My Current Favourite Natural Highlighters

When it comes to highlighters, I am *that lass* who wants to smother herself in them but also wants them to be subtle and not blinding. So yeah, the most awkward highlighter customer. Since going foundation free many moons ago, I've looked more and more towards natural-looking products that help me not look clownish as my red blotchy skin is parading out and about and this has increasingly applied to those genius products that give your skin an artificial glow.

So with that being said, although I have now accumulated some firm favourites I rely on 9O% of the time, I also like to try out others so I have *options* because that's the sort of desperately non-minimalist life I lead. I've recently tested out some new ones, reacquainted my love with some old amazingness, and I thought I'd give you the lowdown on them all (all cruelty free of course!).

W7 Hollywood Bronze & Glow | £5.95: W7 are a brand who I love dearly for their eyeshadows but after stumbling across this palette online, I just couldn't help myself. Charlotte Tilbury is a *great* brand but y'all, I hate spending a lot of money on one singular beauty product so they purchases from that brand are few and far between. So when I saw this Hollywood Bronze & Glow contour palette that is so obviously a CT Filmstar Bronze & Glow palette dupe (if you couldn't tell by the hilariously similar name then the indentation of the powders will be yet another dead giveaway!) I wanted to give it a shot. So as you can see, the two powder products look very very similar to the CT offering and guess what? They're just as good. As I've mentioned, I prefer the natural look nowadays and these powders aren't super pigmented so they're perfect for subtle looks but they're long lasting so for me they're the best of both worlds. The highlighter is a golden champagne shade which is a shade I tend to gravitate towards and it has no chunky glitter and only gives a subtle sheen to the skin. Perfect for "no makeup days".

L.A. Girl Spice Beauty Brick Blush Palette | £8.Oo: Next up I need to mention another super natural offering but a one that is even more bargain-licious when you consider just how many products you're getting for a wee 8 quid. I fully reviewed this blush palette from L.A. Girl a few weeks ago now because it has quickly become my favourite thing to pack when I'm travelling due to the great blush shades, the easy to blend contour and surprise surprise, that subtle highlight. This palette is great all round, but the highlight is a fave for me right now because it's probably the most natural one I own in my collection. Despite it being a powder, it doesn't look heavy or chalky etc. on the skin and just gives the high points of your face a very natural shine - not greasy, wet or glittery looking like many other highlights offer, but more of a "this is where sunlight hits" look. If you are on the lookout for a great palette in general but also a highlight that makes you skin look naturally radiant without looking like highlight, this is a game changer.

theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer Gold Highlighter Powder | £16.Oo - £19.99: I know what you're thinking - Amy, this highlight is *poppin'* how can you call it a natural highlighter - well lemme tell you. theBalm's holy grail highlighter has become a cult classic amongst beauty bloggers and vloggers and that's simply because it's a brilliant product. It's finely milled, feels feather light on the skin, and my goodness does it pack a punch. So, it is a blinder of a highlight but only if you intend it to be. I used to pile this puppy on but now I use a delicate hand and only pop my brush into the powder once, tap off, then apply a light dusting to my cheeks and nose. It's my favourite option for an evening out or a special occasion as it's one of my most blinding highlights but again, it can be toned down pretty easily. It's that lovely champagne/gold shade that I seem to gravitate towards too so I think that's really why it has stolen my heart over the last couple of years.

From left to right: Colourpop Super Shock Highlighter in 'Lunch Money', theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer Highlighter Powder, L.A. Girl Spice Beauty Blush Brick Palette Highlighter, W7 Hollywood Bronze & Glow Highlighter

Colourpop Super Shock Highlighter in 'Lunch Money' | $8.Oo: It is no secret - I ruddy love Colourpop Cosmetics (particularly their lipsticks), but a product I've loved for an age now is their highlighter in the shade Lunch Money. Colourpop's classic Super Shock highlighters are a creme to powder formula that at first I absolutely hated because I prefer powder products, but the effect of this highlight made me persevere and I eventually fell in love. This shade is my favourite out of the few I own in this formula because it's that nice gold champagne shade I love but it's slightly lighter in shade so its more pearly/opal and it looks gorgeous on the skin. I like to use this alone when I'm having good skin days and therefore really do wear minimal base products as it sits really nicely on bare or just primed skin, but I also like to use this as an almost highlighter primer under some of my favourite powder ones to give more of a glow from within. This is a great trick for nights out or when you want to go a little bit more overboard with the glow and glimmer as it helps keep the powder products blinding through the day/night. Lunch Money blends out beautifully as it settles into the skin seamlessly and looks incredibly natural due to it's formulation despite also being pretty damn good at giving the cheeks that nice wet-look appearance in the sunlight.

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September 04, 2017


Happy Monday folks! If we could all ignore *just* how creased my jacket is in this post, that would be grand. This duster coat is something that I can't wait to wear more and more now that the weather seems to have totally cooled down, I will be cracking it out more often (despite how easily it creases).

I had a gorgeous weekend this weekend just gone ,celebrating weddings and trying my best to not cry at speeches because apparently that's the one thing that makes this black-hearted ice queen blub up. It was a lovely time but I'm certainly feeling it now as I'm absolutely exhausted and could do without a full week at work - which is unfortunately exactly what I have planned for the next five days! Having a little mini-break this weekend made me realise just how much more I want to get out and travel. It doesn't have to be to some far off exotic place each time, but materialistic things are taking more and more of a back burner position for me in life as I get older and actually making memories - as cheesy as the whole thing sounds - is what I seem to be seeking more frequently.

Bershka Duster Coat (similar) | Bershka Tee | Asos Jeans |
Pimkie Fedora (similar) | Primark Saddle Bag (similar) | Topshop Clogs (old)

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