The Emerald Dove


Saturday, 19 August 2017

Surviving Maternity Leave Boredom

Before I got pregnant, I had quite an active lifestyle. I worked nights in a takeaway shop so I was used to being on my feet for hours on end. I loved going for long walks and hitting the gym for a workout. One thing I have struggled with in this pregnancy is having to make changes to my lifestyle. The many mile walks I used to do without even thinking about it now make me tired and achy. I've had to ditch the workouts because it is frustrating not being able to push myself as much as I'd like to. I'm sure I am not the first pregnant woman itching to get back on her feet. Maternity leave is great and I realise that I am very lucky that I live in a country that will pay for me to rest up towards the end of my pregnancy but it gets very boring very quickly if you are used to constantly running about doing thing. There is only so much Netflix a girl can watch. So, I decided to write up a little list of things that I have been doing to occupy my time whilst on maternity leave.

Spa Day
I can almost feel the bubbles of the jacuzzi at the finish line of this pregnancy. Hot tubs and saunas are calling my name. There's nothing quite as luxurious as a spa day. Unfortunately, pregnancy means that I have to avoid hot tubs and steam rooms and everything that is good and pure in the world. So, an at-home spa day is the next best thing. I like to rope in my little sister (or my husband) when they're around and spend the day painting each other's nails, trying out new facemasks, and then relaxing in a bubble bath with a Lush bath bomb.

One thing I have really gotten into lately is cooking - especially baking. As it starts to get a bit colder, I love trying my hand at some typical autumn dishes. Nothing beats a bubbling dish of macaroni cheese straight from the oven or a pot of sausage casserole. Baking is even better because it ends with a big cake. I have recently made chocolate orange muffins which were delicious and I am going to attempt a ginger loaf cake today.

When I was younger, I was crazy about books. I'd be get my dad to drive me to the local town to pick up the latest Jacqueline Wilson book on its release date and I had finished it by that evening. My passion for reading led me to do an English Literature degree. However, my three years as a student were filled with reading books I was assigned rather than books I was actually interested in. So, now that I am an aged graduate with a lot of free time, I am able to read whatever I choose. I'm currently on Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

Full time blogging
Maternity leave is a great time to pretend you're a full time blogger and focus on upping your blog and social media game. I have been putting a lot more effort into my Instagram lately and you can't get me off of Twitter. I also plan to schedule a lot of posts for the last month of my pregnancy and into the first few weeks after my due date as I can assume that I will be slightly busy bringing new life into the world at that time.

Although I now can't walk as far as I'd like, I am using this large amount of free time to try to do some exploring of my local area that I haven't managed to do before now. The fact that we are currently staying with my parents in Devon and thus have access to a car is a bonus as well. But I would highly recommend trying to get out for a small walk everyday to get some air and get some cute nature pics for the insta (maybe even an outfit pic if I'm feeling super productive). My husband and I recently spent the day travelling all around Devon on an Explorer ticket which allows unlimited travel all day to anywhere in Devon. There's something quite exciting about jumping onto a bus to a random location.

Plan a 'babymoon'
I didn't know this was even a thing before I saw someone use the term in a tweet so it must be. Apparently, it is a trip you take with your partner (or your squad) to enjoy your last few months of freedom before the baby arrives. This sounds like a perfect excuse to bully my husband into taking me away for a long weekend to a new city and spend the whole time ordering room service from the comfort of a huge marshmallow of a hotel bed.

Organise a baby shower
I'm not exactly sure at what point of the pregnancy you're meant to have a baby shower but maybe, if you've already had one, you could get away with organising another under the guise of calling it a gender reveal party. Either way, organise a fun get together for friends and family where you get a lot of presents and cake. I mean, you're pregnant, you deserve all the presents and cake that money can buy.

What are your top tips for fighting maternity leave boredom?

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Killerton House

I am a huge fan of stately homes and castles. There is something wonderful about wandering around these houses looking at the luxurious interiors and imagining all the people who lived there before. There is always so much thought that has gone into each room and so many different things to look at. Everything from the ceiling to the floor has been so planned out in terms of colours and textures. My favourite room is always the library though. There is something so appealing to me about a whole room in a house designated to books. And all the books look so nice lined up with glistening, gold titles engraved into the spines. I know that if I was an old worldly woman, I would have passed all my time reading book after book. You can always rely on a National Trust property to supply you with this opportunity to escape from the real world for a little while.

A great place to visit here in Devon is Killerton House. They have a beautiful house which they decorate for different seasons - I have already planned to go back there to see their decorations for Christmas. They also have extensive gardens which is another thing that I really enjoy. Nothing beats a warm summer day spent surrounded by flowers in the garden of a stately home snacking on picnic food or feasting on cakes from the multiple on site cafes (they had 3 cafes - even I'm impressed by that!). On our trip there, we had a very long walk around the grounds and my 5 month pregnant self almost slipped down a muddy hill but the less said about that the better. There is always something so fun about heading out into the wilderness not quite knowing where you're heading to. I'm like a pregnant Bear Grylls. We rounded the visit off with hot chocolates with a mountain of cream and jacket potatoes with beans and cheese. Just typing that is making me feel hungry.

The best thing about National Trust - other than knowing that the place you're visiting is bound to be good as it has been well funded and the promise of cake - is the gift shop. Surely it's not just me who is mad for National Trust gift shops. They always seem to have the cutest trinkets and thick, knitted blankets, and a very wide selection of jams and biscuits. Yes, I am getting old. Jam excites me. I am a 70 year old woman named Doris who loves jam. But, in all seriousness, if any companies want to send me jam, please hit up my email address.

The most interesting thing about Killerton House for me was this small hut which is called the Bear Hut. They called it this because, in 1860, it was home to a black bear that one of the house's residents brought back from Canada. I kid you not. A real life bear actually lived in this little hut. I mean, I can't vouch for his block stacking skills from the mess of the windowsill but it's still pretty impressive. There was also an ice house where the family stored their 40 tonnes of ice - y'know, in case they wanted to some ice in their lemonade or something. It was basically a little passage in a mound that led to an iron gate and a massive drop. The massive expanse of space used to be full of ice but now is just full of bats and could be used as a dungeon or other spooky activities (maybe that's their plans for Halloween?).

I would definitely return to Killerton for another visit - there's another big cup of hot chocolate there that I can hear calling me. It would be interesting to see how they decorate the house differently at another time of year and maybe I could learn more about this bear. I think he was called Tom.

Have you got a favourite National Trust property? Where would you recommend I visit next?

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Why Have Big Bloggers Gone So Quiet?

Blogging and YouTube are incredible platforms that allow us to share everything from our holiday plans to our favourite perfume with hundreds (sometimes thousands, maybe even millions) of people. But, as much I love to read a good monthly favourites post, I sometimes wish more 'bigger bloggers' would address important issues. It is understandable when your livelihood is based on the amount of people you have accessing your sites and investing in your merchandise but this palatable flavour of vanilla most bigger bloggers are selling us is starting to leave a funny taste in my mouth. I am not asking that everyone starts posting their political views every time there is unrest in the world but silence is not the answer. If your whole Twitter page is full of links to your merchandise or you plugging your new book but you refuse to engage with anything that is happening in the real world then I start to wonder whether you are really making the most of the influence you have. Through a single retweet, you can give a platform to someone who is fighting to be heard.

Big bloggers and YouTubers are often role models to young people across the globe. I would go as far as saying some young people idolise such figures and sometimes a little haul video is one of their only escapes. But they are doing these kids a disservice by not engaging with real world problems. How many young people of colour, Muslims, Jews, members of the LGBT community, and many more would feel reassured if their plights were supported by their favourite bloggers and YouTubers at times when they are being attacked? Although these problems may not affect them directly, these things are very real for much of their audience.

We, as bloggers, have power because we have a platform that isn't restricted or censored. We can say what we want and we can give a platform to the voices of others. But my influence as someone with 400 followers is a lot less than someone with a million followers. What I write can start a dialogue but it won't reach as many people. Those with a large following have the power to bring about change and, almost as importantly, to support and reassure their followers in difficult times.

In a world filled with so much hate, use your voice to try to challenge it. Apathy is what allows hatred to flourish. Don't be just another vanilla blogger who is too scared they may rock the boat. Live bravely and stand for what you believe in.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

5 Reasons To Visit Exmouth

I like to think of myself as Devon's biggest tourism advocate in the blogging world. In terms of beaches, Devon is often overshadowed by its neighbour Cornwall but I strongly believe that Devon has a lot of beautiful beaches to offer. So, here's 5 reasons to visit the little seaside town of Exmouth.

Ice cream
Like any good Devonshire seaside resort, there is a huge selection of ice cream shops and parlours. And one of the best things about getting ice cream in Devon is that they top it with clotted cream which is actually the most delicious thing ever. Calories don't exist in Devon, by the way.

The town
There's a small town full of local shops. Shops like these are definitely a dying breed which is a shame because wandering around little green grocers and cheese shops is one of my favourite things to do. And they have a Roley's Fudge Shop which, for anyone who hasn't experienced this Charlie's Chocolate Factory of a shop, is a chain of fudge shops where they make the most crumbly, creamy fudge ever in all different flavours.   

Sand is a rare sight on a beach in Devon. We have plenty of pebble beaches but not so many sandy beaches so Exmouth is definitely a good visit for anyone looking to make a sandcastle or sunbathe on a surface that is slightly less pebbly. But, in defence of pebble beaches, they are perfect for skimming stones and searching for fossils - especially on the Jurassic Coast.

The park
Exmouth has a lovely, big park full of insta worthy flower installations - I'm all about getting that perfect insta shot. They even have live music fairly regularly and different family fun days throughout the summer.

Probably the least exciting reason but one of the most important - this town is super accessible. It's only a 20 minutes car ride from Devon's capital city of Exeter and has a direct train straight from Exeter to Exmouth. It's the perfect locations for a little Sunday afternoon trip on a long weekend break in Exeter.

Have you ever visited Exmouth? Where is your favourite beach in the UK?

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Cheeky Makeup and Skincare Haul

There are a few different situations that call for investing in a whole new makeup bag and your graduation is definitely one of them. I mean, it almost makes all those years of studying worth it when you walk into Superdrug and tell yourself you can have anything, you deserve this. You can almost hear your debit card shriek as you scan through your basket of goodies but you get points on your Superdrug card for it, right? That basically makes it free.

But, as you guys can see, I didn't go too crazy. I was pretty controlled in there. The only thing I went a little wild with was the nail varnish. I saw so many colours that I loved - especially the sparkles. A girl can never have too many metallic nail varnishes.

Maybelline New York Super Stay 7 Days Gel Nail Colour in 'Rose Poudre' and 'Rose Veil'

And the award for the longest ever product name goes to this nail varnish right here! But I kinda don't mind writing out this tongue twister as you guys need to know how great these nail varnishes are. The pink one is a lovely nude colour but the real winner is this pink based metallic shade. I love a good nude (cheeky) as it goes with everything and I find light pink ones compliment my skin tone well. But the metallic shade has all the benefits of a nude but it is also shiny. I think the shininess makes it better suited to occasions (I wore this shade to graduation) but it can also be an office friendly shade because it is not too garish (I also wore it to an interview). Aside from the colour, this nail varnish applies easily and dries quite quickly. You could also get away with doing just one coat if you're in a rush. And it stays on for ages! They weren't lying when they called it 'super stay'.

Barry M Sunset Gel Nail Paint in 'Fuchsia Generation'

I loved this deep pink colour so much that I had no choice but to buy it. I thought it would be a perfect pop of colour on my toes during sandal season. The only trouble I had with this is that it came out more of a burgundy than a true pink when I applied it. I still love it and it is really long wearing but it is a little darker than I expected.

B. Micellar Water and Micellar Oil

I am definitely late on the whole micellar bandwagon but I caved when I saw these on offer and decided to give it a go. B. is a brand I had seen a couple of times online and I was intrigued by it since it is vegan and cruelty free. I am trying to be more conscious of the products I buy and how their components are sourced. I hope to become completely cruelty free in the future but I'm just taking baby steps for now. I have only used the micellar water so far and it seems quite effective in lifting dirt. I like to use it to clean my face on days when I haven't worn makeup - I use a cream face wash to remove my makeup - and when I wake up. I have sensitive, oily skin and I break out really easily when using new skincare products but I haven't had any issues with this. My only concern is that it is a little harsh to use close to your eyes so it is not great for removing eye makeup.

Freedom Eyebrow Kit in 'Auburn'

I had never heard of this brand before but I was really drawn in by the affordable prices. I liked their range of eyebrow kits and how they were catered to a lot of different hair colours. I chose the one for auburn hair as the red-based brown colour is truest to my hair colour. I liked that it is a powder but it could have done with coming with a little brush. Luckily, I have a lot of brushes but not everyone is a brush hoarder like myself.

Dior Forever Foundation in 012

This is the biggest investment piece of the post (and probably the year) but, I have to say, it was worth it. I got colour matched in store and they gave me two options to choose from. I chose this one because it has a more pink base colour which is truer to my skin tone than the cooler shade. Dior have a few different types of foundation on offer but I chose this one because it is medium coverage and matte. Since I have oily skin, I thought this would be the best option to go for a matte finish as more dewy formulas end up with me having to pile on the powder and then I get serious caking. This is a really nice matte finish and it covers my imperfections well without looking too heavy. I would really recommend this product but the only small downside is that Dior isn't a cruelty free brand - they opt against animal testing unless required but they still sell in China so they cannot be classified as cruelty free.

Freedom Contour Kit in 'Light'

I use my Seventeen powder contour kit daily but I decided to replace it with this instead of repurchasing the same one. I like the pink based contour shade and it is quite a light powder so you have to build the contour rather than it being really intense from the first brushstroke.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I'd love to hear if you want to see more beauty related posts.
What are your favourite products? Do you have any advice for going cruelty free?

Sunday, 30 July 2017

25 Week Pregnancy Update

For someone who hasn't even written a pregnancy announcement post, jumping straight into a 25 week update seems a little strange. But I felt like I had left it a little late to do an announcement since I have announced it on social media months ago. But, in case you didn't hear, I am having a baby! As is probably quite clear to see.

Lately, I have been feeling very big. I felt big before but now I have ballooned and I feel like Aunt Marge in that infamous Harry Potter scene. Or Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - minus the purpleness. I can just about still fit into some of my old clothes but I have discovered maternity leggings and there is really no turning back now. If it isn't black and jersey, I won't be wearing it. But for the purposes of having some nice maternity pics to look back on, I occasionally wear floaty dresses and wander through the woods Wuthering Heights style.

In terms of the whole pregnancy thing, I am feeling normal. Worryingly normal. I thought I would be all achey and swollen by now but I am still really active. I love going for walks (I walked 5 miles the other evening to get a Big Mac). I am finding that I am getting tired quicker and I get sleepy a lot earlier but it really is nothing like how I imagined I would be feeling at this stage.

The Little One (yes, that's the official name) moves about a bit after I have eaten or when I am lying down. But she seems to be a little lazy. It is nice to see that she is taking after me already. She also seems to really like cheese and pickle. And I love cheese and pickle. So, that was a good choice of craving on her part. Other than cheese and pickle, I have been really drawn to fresh fruits. Any really juicy fruits like peaches or melon. And, strangely, I get cravings for microwave lasagne around 1am. My husband refuses to get up at 1am to make me lasagne - how unreasonable!

I feel like there isn't much to mention about this part of the pregnancy. The first trimester was exhausting and I felt sick almost all the time but that disappeared when I hit 12 weeks. The last 14 weeks have been a breeze, in all honesty. At one stage, I thought there must have been some mistake and that I wasn't actually pregnant after all. But the baby is definitely still in there and everything is normal - according to the scans and midwives who I keep calling when I am worried. I am pretty certain that I will be wishing to be back at this stage in a few weeks when I get closer to my due date. It feels like the calm before the storm.

For now, I am just relaxing with a block of cheese and looking at cringey baby grows on Etsy (I found one that said 'I just did 9 months inside' on it. I am going to buy it - I have no shame).

Dress - H&M (here)
Sandals - New Look (similar)
Watch - Accurist (similar)

Let me know what kind of pregnancy related posts you'd like to see. I have a first trimester experience post coming up but I'd love to hear some feedback on what you'd like to see.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Life Lessons I Learnt At University

After 3 years of all-nighters in the library, bluffing my way through seminars, and a diet wholly consisting of Lidl bakery goodies, I can officially say that I have a BA in English Literature! I would like to thank my friends, my family, and - most importantly - Wikipedia for its constant support throughout my studies.

To mark the occasion, I wanted to compile a list of things that I learnt during my time at uni other than all the boring, educational stuff.

A sidesway step isn't a backwards step
This is pretty much my dad's mantra but my time at uni really proved the truth in this statement. I originally started my degree intending to do joint honours in English Literature and German with high hopes of going into literary translation. After a year, I dropped the German component to focus solely on English Literature. As much as I love German and especially translation, I struggled to split my time between two fairly different subjects. I have come to realise that despite not getting a degree in German, I really improved in the one year that I did study it and there's a wealth of opportunities to return to studying German (I am hoping to gain the Goethe qualification soon). Altering your path doesn't equate to giving up on your dreams. It may take you longer to get there but as long as you stay focused, nothing can stop you succeeding.  

What you do your degree in doesn't have to be what you do for the rest of your life
 There are so many opportunities out there if you have a degree (and, of course, if you don't!). Graduate schemes often take graduates of any subject onto their training courses and you could end up doing anything from sales to paralegal. My English teacher at college became an accountant after she graduated. My friend, who is currently doing a theology degree, is intending to go into studying medicine. Choosing a degree subject always feels quite final but these years are an opportunity to grow and understand better where your passions lie.

Life is expensive
I think university is the time that everyone comes to realise just how expensive it is just to stay alive. Student finance barely covers rent and leaves you in a situation where you're considering whether selling a kidney on the black market will cover the cost of textbooks. I don't even want to go into the cost of printing and how I had to pay £45 just to hire my graduation robes.

There's better things to come
At the start of my second year of university, I went through something unthinkable. For almost that whole year, I was a complete mess and ended up in counselling. I failed several modules and it put a huge strain on my relationship with my husband (who was then my boyfriend). If someone told me then that I would graduate and end up being this happy, I wouldn't have believed them. But there is light at the end of the tunnel and, if you keep trying to push forward, one day you will look back and feel proud of how far you have come.

Nights in are the absolute best
Nights out are good but I prefer activities that involve wearing PJs, eating takeaway pizza, and having a gossip with friends. I'd go as far as saying nights in top nights out. Or maybe I am just getting old. 

Asking for help doesn't make you weak
What we, as a society, believe makes someone 'strong' is problematic. Bottling up emotions doesn't make you a strong person. Asking for help when you are struggling doesn't make you weak. A strong person has bad days but gets up the next day and tries to make it better than the last. It takes strength to tell people that you need their help. Your loved ones are there to help and support you. Trust me, it helps to talk about things. It helps to have people around you who know what is going on. Whether it is emotional support, something you didn't understand in class, finance, boy troubles, or whatever else, talking to someone will help and it won't make them think less of you.

Lebanese food is the champion of all takeaways
OK, there is strong competition in the forms of curry and Chinese but nothing beats Lebanese food. The sheer amount of food you get for so little is amazing. I always get a lamb kofte with rice, salad, naan bread, and garlic dip. I pretty much lived off of this whilst at uni (which may explain my lack of funds). Also fattoush salad anyone? Yum.

Hospitality and retail workers aren't given enough credit
Whilst at uni, I worked in multiple part time jobs. These ranged from being an early morning cleaner to working night shifts in a fried chicken shop. These jobs taught me that workers in retail, hospitality, and housekeeping really don't get much respect. I mean, I have seen people throw food at one of my previous managers on several occasions just because he wouldn't change store rules for them. Also drunk people are the absolute worst.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I'd love to hear the best life lessons you have learnt in the last few years. Also my email and Twitter DMs are always open if anyone needs a chat.
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