Friday, 1 December 2017

November Favourites

I was going to start this post off by declaring that I have no idea when I last did a monthly favourites post, but then I got interested in actually finding out this information, turns out it was March. It's fair to say that any kind of structure and schedule went out the window long ago when it comes to my blog, gone are the days of collecting favourites in a basket to talk about on the last day of each month. Throughout November though I genuinely have found some real gems that I'm itching to talk about! I'm so used to doing favourites posts full of only beauty products but a few weeks back a little light bulb went off in my head, favourites posts don't have to be exclusively about beauty products, it's just whatever you're loving at the time!


I don't think I've ever discussed this on my blog but I'm a bit of a space nerd. Not in the sense that I ever wanted to go to the space, the risk of death never sat well with me but the idea of space, of something bigger and unknown has always fascinated me. I've spent way too many evenings reading the Wikipedia pages of previous NASA missions. So, when I spotted British astronaut Tim Peake's book in Waterstones, something I'd briefly seen on Twitter, I snapped it up. Due to chronic pain and fatigue I've found reading books really difficult in these past few years, concentrating and remembering a narrative has become trickier and trickier. However, this book managed to capture my attention in such a way that I finished it within a week of starting it, I think it's the first book I've finished in about a year.

The book was full of questions that Tim had been asked about everything from his astronaut training to flying back to earth, with his personal story intertwined. I found myself being unable to put it down, fascinated by learning the in's and out's of space travel and life on the International Space Station. I've spent many evenings standing in my garden watching it whizz across the sky, rendered speechless by the idea that humans are living on it. I'd thoroughly recommend this book to anyone interested in space and life as an astronaut, it's the best insight I've read so far! - buy here


In September I attended the Bloggers Blog Awards in Leeds and I was very lucky to win a gorgeous set of Spectrum Brushes! They were a brand that I've been aware of for a while thanks to Twitter and they'd been on my wishlist for just as long, I intended to treat myself to a set eventually so when I won these I was over the moon! I've been using them since and favouring them over my usual staples, not something that happens often. The eye brushes have been a particular favourite of mine, they are so soft and make blending eyeshadow a dream! I'm definitely considering investing in some more in the future, some of their sets would make lovely Christmas presents! - buy here


A little while ago I jumped on the bandwagon, with the rest of the beauty community, and made a little Glossier order! I had intentions of treating myself to some makeup but it ended up being the skincare that I was drawn to more, with the priming moisturiser intriguing me the most. I have really dry and flaky skin that only regular exfoliating helps, it means my base products often go on patchy and it's something that really gets on my nerves. After reading some reviews online it seemed that this product might just be the answer to my problems, and they were right! My foundation and concealer have been sitting so much better on my skin since using this and I have since swapped out my regular moisturiser in favour of it, I often apply it in the morning and then once more just before I do my makeup. It's quickly become one of my staple products! - buy here


When it comes to lipstick I tend to go for the same kind of colour each time, usually muted pinks, so when Bourjois brought out a new range of lipsticks I was surprised when I found myself interested in the darker and brighter shades. I'd heard about them on Twitter and through other bloggers, everyone raving about the long lasting formula and this was around the same time that I broke up with my partner and wanted to overhaul my style and therefore the perfect time to get some more colour into my life. Brique-a-brac is a orangey brick red shade, bright but not too in your face and unlike any shade I've worn before. The formula is as long lasting as everyone says and it's not drying either, it wasn't too long before I was choosing outfits based purely on what would go with the lipstick as I was loving it so much! Since then I've bought a couple more shades and am equally as happy with them but this particular one has been the standout for me! - buy here


A few weeks back an email popped into my inbox from a photo printing service, something I'm always glad to see as I'm just as guilty as everyone else for not printing off photos. It just so happened that the opportunity to try out the brand, Printiki, came along at just the right time though as my little nephew Harry turned 1 just a few days ago so I thought it would be a lovely opportunity to print some photos off from his first year here on earth! My Mum bought me some photo holders for my birthday as well that I hadn't filled yet so everything lined up perfectly! I went for the square prints with white borders and uploaded my photos to their website, a really easy process, and just 3 days later my prints arrived. All of the photos were taken on iPhones so I wasn't expecting the quality to be anything to shout about but I was pleasantly surprised and will proudly be displaying these in my bedroom! I've used a couple of photo printing services before but this was by far the quickest and easiest experience I've so far. If you're stuck for Christmas present ideas then why not print off some photos and put together a photo album for one of your loved ones? - buy here

Finally, I can't talk about November without mentioning the amazing fact that we reached 50% on my powerchair fundraiser! Now we've reached the halfway point I can actually order the powerchair, something that I can't delay due to rules about how much savings I can have (and yes, this money does unfortunately count as savings) whilst on the ESA benefit. So, within the next few weeks I'll be ordering the powerchair which is super exciting but also nerve-wracking because once the powerchair is ordered I'll only have about 2 months to raise the rest of the funds, they can't deliver the chair until I've made the full payment and whilst we can delay delivery for a little while, it can't be forever.

As my powerchair rep said as well, we all want me to have the powerchair as soon as possible as we can all see how much it will benefit me. I really am becoming increasingly more housebound every month, trips out the house becoming few and far between and the actual trips becoming shorter. We raised the first half of the funds in 2 months so I know it's possible but it's daunting as well, you've all been so supportive though so I'm certain if we all keep sharing the link, then it will happen!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

6 years of blogging

Let's go back 6 years to 14 year old Shona. I was tall, slim, ginger and a bit of a teacher's pet; the perfect target for bullies in other words. I was lost and struggled to find my place within my friendship group. I pretended to be someone I wasn't as an attempt to fit in but as we all know, putting on an act cannot last forever. And then, at just the right time in my life I stumbled upon a community that would guide me to discover myself, my likes and dislikes, my hopes and dreams. It sounds cliche but I started my blog at just 14, and now I'm 20, so I truly have grown up with my blog and evolved alongside it.

Never did I believe that 6 years later I'd still be doing something that at first, I felt so much shame about. I hid my secret hobby from my friends, petrified that they would find out and tease me for it. And now? Those same people think it's pretty damn cool.

At first my blog was simply an escape from life, a place where I could be myself without judgement (most of the time) and a space where I could connect with a variety of people from the comfort of my familiar bedroom. I clung on to the beauty community at first, discovering a love for makeup, watching makeup collection videos on Youtube until the early hours of the morning. And then life changed for me, my genetic condition became a bigger part of my life and once again I felt lost. I blogged about my scoliosis diagnosis and then in the same heartbeat I deleted the posts, fearful that the beauty community wouldn't be interested in my personal life, they only came to my blog for beauty reviews, or so I thought.

I was surprised when I was getting tweets asking about my physical health, supportive messages filling my emails from fellow sufferers. I think that was the point at which I felt at home, like I'd started blogging not to talk about lipsticks, but to find the people who would support me through the most difficult time of my life. I remember giving my phone to my Mum before my surgeries, asking her to tweet about how I was post-op until I was well enough to do so myself because people truly cared.

When my health forced me to leave school fellow bloggers were there for me, they become my friends and support network. When I started using a wheelchair and nervously posted selfies of myself in my wheelchair, people encouraged me to share such pictures proudly. I went from using the label 'spoonie' to proudly declaring myself disabled, embracing my identity. And that's when I embraced the disabled community on Twitter, another family who would constantly be there to joke with me or be a shoulder to cry on. People are quick to judge young people who have their heads in their phones these days but if you knew how much blogging and twitter has saved me over the years then you'd begin to think differently about the virtual world so many of us exist in.

My blog has evolved over that time, whilst I still love makeup and sharing my outfits I find my passion sits within disability related topics, issues that affect me on a daily basis. I feel lucky to have built up a readership that has been so open to discussions on such topics, coming back time and time again. My blog has also guided me to opportunities that I never thought would come my way. I work with The British Heart Foundation, I've been on local and national radio, worked with The Guardian and raised awareness of Marfan Syndrome in the media more times than I could count. Those are the things that drive my passion these days and I have my blog to thank for all of that. I might not post regularly anymore but my blog is still one of the most important things in my life. If I write for other websites more often than not my words will be edited, when it comes to my blog I don't have to censor companies names for fear of legal issues, I don't have to tip toe around subjects that might not pull in views. It's my space, my unedited space, where I can speak my mind.

I can sit here and promise that I'll make more of an effort with my blog in 2018, that I'll make more time for it and stick to a schedule but for me the beauty of my blog is that it's always there for whenever I get a spark of passion. When inspiration hits it's still the first place I go to and as hard as I've tried to write regularly and stick to a schedule, for me that sucks the passion out of it.

Me and my blog have changed so much in these past 6 years, there have been up's and down's, celebrations and hard decisions that have shaped me into who I am today and I can't wait to see where these next few years take me.

To those who are considering starting a blog, take my advice and just do it.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Discovering my love for photography w/ Black Rapid

For nearly 6 years I've been taking photos for my blog and in that time I've learnt a lot about photography, going from using a basic digital camera to more recently a DSLR. Photography has always interested me though and as much as I love taking blog photos, it doesn't quite quench my thirst to take things further. When I bought my DSLR I vowed that I would use it for more than my blog, finally investigating whether my love for taking photos went further than snapping beauty products in my bedroom.

I quickly realised though that the camera strap my DSLR came with didn't suit my needs at all, the weight of the camera was heavy on my neck and made my chronic back pain worse. So, I started researching different camera straps that would shift the weight and make things easier for me and that's when I came across Black Rapid on Kaye's blog. She was using a strap that shifted the weight of your camera to your shoulder, instead of all the pressure landing on your neck. She's a professional photographer and so wears her camera for hours at a time, I wouldn't be using mine for quite so long but if it was comfortable for her for hours then it would definitely work for me for an hour or so. This is the kind of product that I like to call 'accidentally accessible', it wasn't created with disabled people in mind but it ends up being a really accessible product.

Black Rapid got in touch with me and I told them about how accessible their Curve Breathe strap in particular appeared, just from photos on their website and Kaye's blog it appeared to be perfect for chronic back pain sufferers. Sometimes when I explain to brands that their products are accidentally accessible they shy away from the topic and aren't interested in pushing the product as ideal for some disabled people but Black Rapid embraced what I had to say and very kindly sent me over the strap to try out! I've been trying it out for quite a few months now and had planned to do this review earlier but as you might have seen, life got in the way and I took a unplanned break from blogging but I'm back now and ready to tell you how much I adore this product!

As said above, traditional camera straps that go round your neck really don't work for me, they put pressure on my back and in turn increase my chronic pain. I also found that the strap my camera came with was quite short and so I wasn't able to rest the camera on my lap and relieve the pressure, without taking the strap off and leaving my camera vulnerable to being stolen. The Black Rapid Curve Breathe strap rectifies both those problems though! The strap sits around your shoulder, with plenty of padding to make it comfortable and the camera sits on the opposite side of the your body, almost like an over the shoulder bag, and this helps to distribute the weight of your camera further. The strap is really adjustable and also longer than the traditional neck strap so I'm able to rest the camera on my lap when I'm not using it, or hang it to the side of my body, but having the option to completely take the weight off my body is nice.

Your camera attaches to this strap by the tripod screw on the base of your camera and the camera isn't restricted to one space on the strap either, you can move it up and down making taking photos a breeze. There's no getting caught up in straps, or having to adjust it every time you want to take a photo, you can just bring it up to your face and back down again in one movement. It took me a few attempts to put on the camera strap at first, with a little help from Kaye when we took these photos but once you've put it on a few times it's easy to get the hang of it!

This is definitely a practical product and whilst it isn't unattractive I wanted it to reflect me a little more and Kaye's use of pins on her camera strap inspired me to do the same. I'd been trying to figure out how to display my pins for months, not wanting to poke holes in my faux leather jacket, and putting them on my camera strap seemed like a genius idea, all credit to Kaye for that one.

This camera strap has allowed me to finally pursue my love of photography and I've had so much fun being able to take my camera around with me, whether it be to the local park to take photos of the changing autumnal leaves or into London to capture the busy city. It's made photography more accessible to me and if you're a chronic pain sufferer too, or just someone who finds traditional camera straps uncomfortable, then this is the style for you. Check out the Curve Breathe camera strap and other Black Rapid products on their website.

I'm currently fundraising for a vital new powerchair as I'm becoming increasingly housebound due to how basic and unsuitable my current chair is, can you spare a few pounds to help? Donate here.
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