My Biggest Influence

I think most people have a huge influencer in their lives, someone they look up to, admire, gives them inspiration. Mine is my Mum.

When I was in my teenage years, my Mum and I didn't get on. Chances are we were fighting, bickering, disagreeing, never seeing eye to eye, never understanding each other. I desperately wanted to move out, I had a better relationship with my Dad and I just couldn't seem to improve the way things were when I went back to my Mums after a couple of days at my Dad's. I feel like I tried to get on with my Mum more and I feel like I tried to explain to my Mum that me moving out would make things so much better for us, but it broke her heart that I wanted to leave home at what is considered to be a very early age. I left at 19 and unfortunately had to move back to my Mum's after 4 short months due to a nasty breakup, but another 12 months went by and I saved up again before finding a new place to rent on my own. I haven't lived at home since and I'm now nearly 26.

Things did improve for us which is the gut feeling I had all along. I suspected we may be way too alike but at the same time such independent and stubborn characters and being surrounded by each other's energies 24/7 sometimes isn't good for people. We still see each other on a very regular basis, at least once or twice a week and sometimes more, but in these past few years I've learnt that my Mum is my best friend, not my enemy.

Mum is a graphic designer by trade; she can code, build websites, is very nifty with Adobe programmes and is my go to for any computer or printer related problems. But it doesn't stop there, she is a keen photographer, painter, portrait artist, crafter of anything and everything, new blogger and a recently qualified garden landscaper. She just doesn't stop and what makes her even more incredible is just 3 months ago she had a major, life changing ileostomy operation. Just three months after this operation, she treated herself to a new bike and that same week, rode the 7 miles from her house to mine and came whizzing down my road, pinging the bell and looking very chuffed with herself. Mum has since attached a basket to the front of her bike and upon closer inspection, I could see it has a cute strawberry design on the paint work and is the cutest bike I've ever seen. I wouldn't expect any less from her.

Earlier this year, the tables were turned and I was the one showering my Mum, trying to comfort her when she was so poorly and doing anything I could think of to make her more comfortable. I knew the operation she was going to have would make her better, but I didn't think she'd come back anywhere near as strong as she currently is, especially since her Dr's told her she wouldn't be doing very much at all within the first 6 months of recovery. She is incredible, defying gravity and refusing to back down. She completed her gardening course and can now add the gardening to her list of many skills. And for those of you who may have been thinking about going back to college or uni and think you've missed the chance, my Mum is in her early 50's and she only went and did it.

One of the most inspiring things about my Mum is she has never let anything or anyone stop her. Growing up, not many people appreciated her love for design and weren't keen on her taking it seriously as a career choice. When I was at school, I understood how this felt and it was only my Mum who backed my decision to take my art and design work further and try my damned hardest to make a career out of it. This also doesn't mean my Mum held back when she didn't like something I had created...this was one of the many causes for arguments we used to have! My Dad on the other hand always appreciated my work and praised me, but he also wanted me to have chosen something a bit more academic. I think because of what I saw in my Mum, I too didn't let anyones comments or lack of faith stop me and if anything, used this to spur me on. Sometimes people want you to fail; prove them wrong.

A piece of my Mum's art - 'The Kingfisher'
On top of being a crazy creative lady, Mum is also a machine when it comes to the gym. She's strong, in great shape and you would never have thought she was in her early 50's. She eats well, cooks a lot from scratch and is also very receptive to me whittling on about animal rights and cutting out meat. She's very close to becoming a close. Her passion for design is reflected in what she wears, never a dull outfit to be seen and she's possibly Irregular Choice's biggest fan. She inspires me everyday, her strength baffles me and I hope I end up being just as wonderful as she is. 

If you want to pop over and say hello, her blog is Looby Hancock and I'm sure she'd love to make some blogger friends :)

Thanks for reading,

Things I've Learnt From Three Months Self Employed

Back in May, I made the decision to finally quit my day job and pursue my dream of being a full time illustrator. In that time, I have become a much happier, healthier and nicer person. My old job was pumping poison into me, I had no patience anymore, I was a demon to live with, I was sarcastic, short fused and extremely unpredictable. The worst thing was, I knew it was mainly down to my job that I was behaving this way, not that there was any excuse, but I think it made it even more unbearable knowing I wasn't happy with where my life was going.

Throwing myself into unemployment and teaching myself and others around me that it is in fact self-employment has been a little bit strange, especially when people ask what it is that I do. I was so used to replying 'dog handler' and always in the back of my mind longed for the day I could say 'illustrator' instead. I also appreciate 110% that I wouldn't have been able to do this without James supporting me; if I lived alone this wouldn't be happening right now. That doesn't mean it's impossible though and I wanted to collect together what I have learnt from the past three months of becoming full time self-employed.

1. Save Up A Safety Net
This to me made things a little easier, knowing I wasn't plunging head first into the land of no money but still having bills and a mortgage to pay. Save up as much money as possible, whatever you can scrape together. If you can, reassess what you really need and what is in fact just a luxury. I've cut back on so much since leaving my regular income behind and you know what? I've since realised I never even needed that stuff and I'm so much happier for it. Have a clear out, sell on clothes you never wear, get on eBay, get on Depop and have a total revamp. Reinvent yourself, go wild, start getting creative over how you can redesign your life on a tight budget. It sounds scary but it's doable and fun! I have started selling some dresses that I never wore and have found a lot of fun in buying clothes from eBay myself. I have managed to swipe a couple of skirts recently, one being £1.20 and the other being £1.04...bargain! Cancel those monthly subscription boxes, anything like Netflix (you can recycle films at places like CEX and buy new ones for 50p). Get creative!

2. Some Days Are Going To Suck
Some days, I get the most overwhelming feeling of failure and usually it revolves around money and I get terrorised by thoughts of having to get a new job and go through some terrible interviews. I've had one of those days/weeks recently when my printer died but in order to realise this, I had already bought a whole new set of ink which set me back £50 and then I spent a further £40 on a new printer. I also spent a fair amount on new stock for my shop and also a lot of time on people on Etsy who wanted specific bulk orders arranging but then dropped out at the last minute. It can be really disheartening but the best way I deal with this, is to understand that moments like this will come and go. It makes it so much easier to cope with knowing that it'll pass and the freelancer life in particular is very much peaks and troughs. 

3. Equally, Some Days Will Be Amazing!
As Horace Slughorn once said, there is no light without a dark and there are equally as many brilliant days as there are bad ones. More good days in fact! Some days, I'm that busy with packing orders that I have to carry on working after my dinner or well past the usual time I hit the sack. Sometimes the motivation just hits me and I can spring out of bed at 6am and start drawing, working throughout the entire day and well into the evening. 

4. Get Out Of The House
I always thought this was something I would never struggle with but after three months of my own company, a quiet house and the same old surroundings, you start to notice a bit of a dull block in front of you and it's really important to get out of the house for a bit and regularly too. Today I got invited out for a cup of tea in town with a friend I haven't seen in ages and I nearly didn't go, simply because I suffer quite badly with anxiety and going out, plus I'm a huge introvert and sometimes just don't feel like being around people. But I slapped myself and realised getting out and spending an hour or two with one of my creative friends would do me the world of good and I'd probably return home feeling really fresh and inspired.

5. Remember To Have Proper Breaks
Another one that I didn't realise the importance of, but I used to be a bugger for working whilst eating or skipping lunch altogether. After a month or so of this bad habit, I started to train myself that between the hours of 12 and 2, I could choose an hours slot for lunch where I could fully immerse myself in a film, some music or even read. I like to visit other people's blogs during this time and especially get a change of scenery so I don't always stay in my studio for lunch, although it is really cosy and smells amazing so I do like to stay put after retrieving a sandwich or some salad. I do get myself unlimited cups of tea as well throughout the day because I'm English and that's what we do.

It's been a crazy journey so far and sometimes I have to pinch myself to realise I'm not dreaming and I finally made it to this point, something I never thought would realistically happen. If working from home or working freelance is something you want too, don't give up hope. Carry on working hard and have faith. I'm a big believer in good things come to those who work their socks off for it!

Thanks for reading,

An Honest Chat

So things look a little different around here don't they?
Recently I've been feeling a huge urge to scrap a lot of things and start a fresh. There's so much I'd like to try and experience and I've never had a better time to do so. I've also been feeling an overwhelming amount of expectation within the social media world and it's disheartening over time to see your follower growth isn't really growth at all but rather a plummeting sensation along with plenty of feeling like 'what's the point?'. I'll tell you what the point is; it's you, enjoying what you love doing. 

I'm going to be completely honest now. The blogging world is starting to disappoint me a little. Well a lot. The blogging itself I absolutely adore and I love sharing my life with the people who enjoy visiting my blog. The cliques and bitching though, I can do without. It feels as though every move you make on the internet is judged these days and there have been moments where I have considered packing up altogether to get away from it all for good. I used to be weaker than I am now and let these feelings take hold for a long time, but I've self taught myself how to understand that these feelings are only temporary and will not last longer than that day. The next morning, I will wake up fresh faced and ready to face the challenge again. A few days ago, I was feeling a sense of hatred towards YouTube and that has since passed, but for a few weeks now I've been feeling very bitter towards the bloggosphere due to seeing a different side to some other influencers that have made me very sad.

What I have come to learn though, is I love the internet. Without it, I wouldn't currently be doing my dream job as an illustrator, or making awesome friends online (I'm talking about you Abbie & Hels!) and what a wonderful place it can be. I've realised, I need to detach myself from the blogging world and focus more on what really gets my juices flowing. I guess you could call it a rebrand, but since this place is already my name, it's staying the same but with a fresher, cleaner look and a new focus on creating entirely new, more enjoyable content. That means more art, craft projects, more vegan life and more animal loving so yes, Custard and Vespa will still be doing their occasional guest posts! 

Truth be told, I have fallen out of love with things like beauty products and was getting ever so bored of 'reviewing' them, collecting way too many of them and not enjoying how much space they were taking up in my house. I started to do an empties series on YouTube, to encourage me to use these things up but instead it just made me even more aware of things like the amount of plastic we as humans get through, how much of a problem recycling still is for our planet and also, do I seriously need this much makeup and cosmetics? I really don't. I have taken to collecting new things together and handing them to friends and family. I have bagged up a load of new tampons and pads that I will no longer be using and donating them to a homeless shelter. I have been having a clear out of clothes I have never worn and never will and taken to buying hidden gems on eBay instead. Pre-loved, character filled garments to recycle, bring back to life and change up my image. I was sick of buying the same style of clothes and not feeling confident wearing them. Sick of feeling like I had to wear a full face of makeup to feel pretty or authorised to run a blog. Obviously I'll still be sharing the odd beauty product, especially since I have fully dedicated myself now to the cruelty free, vegan life so I would love to share my finds and experiences with using them still, I just won't be focussing so much around this.

I noticed I was no longer enjoying content from beauty guru's, if I see one more marble effect item or perfectly clean flat lay I may loose my mind's just so same-y. Where's the inspiration? Where are the colours and the life in these photos and posts? To me, my most enjoyable content from others is their lives, their families, their days out, their friends, the not so great moments, accompanied by the celebrations and personal achievements. Are we all so busy trying to 'make it' in the social media world rather than enjoy life as we're living it? That's what it was starting to feel like. Too many nasty comments around other people's career choices, life choices...I even saw a girl being slated for having someone take a photo of her and her boyfriend have a picnic. It was staged was it? Aren't the majority of photos staged? People wouldn't bat an eyelid if it were a wedding photo. This petty, over-opinionated bickering is starting to get a little too much.

This isn't the end of my blog but rather a new lease of life. I'm excited to show you guys new things and involve more art work, more fun and be much more laid back. I hope you'll enjoy it.

Thanks for reading,

Period Survival Guide

As a teenager, periods were something I absolutely dreaded, which seems fair enough. I was afraid to talk about them with my friends, my Mum or anyone for that matter and it wasn't until I was in my very early 20's that I was 100% comfortable discussing even the most awkward conversations surrounding periods. Now at the age 25, periods don't phase me in the slightest. As I'm writing this, I'm due on and have had slight spotting all day and I have a wedding to go to tomorrow, which will most likely be when my period is in full swing. Am I bothered? Absolutely not.

This year I came off my contraceptive pill after seven years on and off (mostly on) and hadn't had a period for 3 damn years. Three! Is this healthy or wise? Personally I felt not, so I ditched them and these days I'm artificial hormone free and loving it. But that also meant the return of my periods and in all honesty, I felt so out of sinc and not at all in tune with my body. Over the past few months, I've picked up on certain behaviours and habits of mine which I have come to recognise as coping techniques, little ways to make the experience a little more comfortable and a total excuse to spoil myself rotten.

1. Eat the chocolate, the biscuits, the cake...
I've been trying to eat pretty healthily recently and I'm also trying to shift a few pounds, but I have come to understand that during and just before my period, I bloat and I'm sore and I just want to relax about it all. After all, it's only a few days and a couple of chocolate bars aren't going to instantly go to your hips. Allow yourself to have a little treat and enjoy it. And not just sweet treats; one evening I'd planned to have a salad and just felt my body was crying for something a bit more 'wholesome' so I made up some vegan spag bol instead. Don't deprive your body in it's time of need, nurture it.

2. Yoga
Leading on from No. 1, exercise is something I try to implement into my daily routine but as we all know, this can be a little uncomfortable, daunting and the last thing we're thinking about when we're suffering. What I discovered was yoga for periods and I especially love Adriene's videos on YouTube. This particular session leaves me so relaxed and comfortable, plus it involves fluffy pillows and blankets.

3. Movie Marathons
Allow yourself the time to properly relax, snuggle up on the sofa with a delicious coffee, tea or a hot chocolate, whack on your favourite pjams and even drift away if that's what you feel like doing. You can't go wrong with Disney movies especially or even a favourite childhood classic...Mrs. Doubtfire and Hook are some personal favourites of mine. Can you tell I adore Robin Williams? I also love to use my microwavable unicorn plush as it doesn't get as warm as a hot water bottle and is lovely and soft - perfect for cuddling around your tum.

4. Pamper Yourself
This month, I made sure I paid special attention to my face since I have been suffering with a bit of detox acne after switching to a vegan diet and I got out some essential oils, did a facial steam followed by a face mask and a thorough moisturise. And don't stop there, dig out the scrub, paint those nails, heck I even cut my own hair! It desperately needed a trim to get rid of loads of split ends so I followed a YouTube tutorial and it turned out really well. I also ask James to brush my hair which I'm sure most people will be able to relate to as one of the best feelings in the world, someone else brushing your hair. 

5. Try Different Menstrual Products & Donate
My July period was my worst one yet this year and I struggled a little bit in all honesty. Usually, my immediate go to is my Moon Cup but since I was feeling so sensitive, I decided my cloth pads were enough and let me tell you, they're so comfy! It feels like such a treat in your knickers - don't laugh I'm being deadly serious. I've also this month bagged up all of my new tampons and will be donating them to The Homeless Period since I will no longer be using them after switching to more environmentally friendly products. Rather than throw away perfectly good sanitary items, you can donate them to women who haven't got anything at all. Being on the streets is awful enough, without the dread of your period coming and nothing to handle it with. The Homeless Period have various collection points around the UK, just pop your location into a search and they'll tell you where your nearest one is.

I think the most important thing to remember is to cut yourself some slack during your period and not be too hard on yourself. After all, emotions are a little more sensitive during this time and your body needs just a little more loving. Even if that means eating Biscoff Cookie Spread straight out of the jar, I 100% back your decision! Popping one of those jars into your donation bundle is also bound to make someone's day a little brighter.

Thanks for reading,

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