Saturday, 29 July 2017

a story about love, self and fear

It felt strange to me, leaving the house at night in order to do what really was a very three p.m. activity. It was early summer, and the sky was still bright, like a glass of water the moment someone foolishly pours milk in on top of it. The flowers along the path seemed different, less beautiful than usual, less garden-show. They didn't remind me of flowers at all, more like figures coming out for air. A fairy with a white skirt and a princess freshly dressed in purple caught my eye as I walked towards the bus stop.

The bus carried me away into somebody else's world. People wore hours old work clothes and talked to each other or their phones, always too busy to be alone. I did too, looked at my blank screen, through some empty old pictures like I was someone with something very important to live for.

Each day I lived with a feeling of trepidation. I never knew who I might see, or where I might see them, or what small talk I'd have to make. I worried we'd get off at the same stop and have to walk some of the same direction, and that we'd both hate it completely. This day was fine, I was all alone with my thoughts. I'd given up on my old pictures and begun to write contentedly. Inspiration came to me from a book I was reading, and the sky I could no longer feel. I was about to say 'thank you' to the driver. I glided into reality.

In the cinema I thought about the two characters on screen, a bad fit for each other, one much older than the other, and mean in purport. Yet he was so happy with his evil woman, and I thought about the fact that I would one day fall in love, and have the chance to simmer happily in our set of imperfections. Later, when it turned out that she really was a murderer coated in greed, I had forgotten about my mini monologue- 'look at those misfits, they have found love. you deserve that too, one day.'

After the film we all walked back to the bus stop. The others were bubbling with laughter and comments about strange moments and our immature responses in the movie. I joined in too, reservedly as I was tired. Once there I didn't have much profound left to say, so instead I talked about things I've now forgotten and danced on the tarmac because that's what I like to do best. There was no music, only me, and movements that I had locked up inside of me for a long time.

We got the same bus back, and bundled and bounced as we chatted and giggled. I sometimes caught their eyes, which glistened in the pleasure of the company of friends. Sometimes I think I was born to make people smile. It fills me with such relief and gratitude that I can hardly contain myself. I want to be loved, but more than that, I want to show love to others. I want to give it to them, in their own lives, make them happier. The way I do it is very simple, but very, very hard; I take the ribbons out of my hair and look straight at the sun. I wear a broad grin and say the silly things that occur to me, about animals in the wild, their free fur stuck eternally on a willow tree. I twirl and jump when I want to. I tell people what I like about them, and radiate what I like about me. I listen when I'm needed. I trust myself. I find it a challenge, a toll, but I'm learning. I trust myself not to drown, not to dither, not to fluster. And in a rare moment of peace, I know who I am. I do not sink like I normally do. I do not trip on the mountain, or slip on that freshly polished floor.

One foot after the other, and I am free.

I am alive. Beyond that, I float.

Anna x

Thursday, 27 July 2017

50 Achievable Bucket List Ideas

A long time ago, when I was about 14 years old, I started to compile a yearly list of things I wanted to complete within that year. Sort of like a New Years' Goals list, or a miniature bucket list. I called them 'fifteen by fifteen', 'sixteen by sixteen', etc. As I got older, the lists grew longer, and eventually I stopped because there were so many things that I simply couldn't complete. They were either too unrealistic, or uninteresting. After much trial and error, I've decided to add my own ideas into the mix. This list is ideal for teenagers, and I've kept things that cost too much money off the list.

So, without further ado, here are 50 things you can add to your to-do list!

1. Fill up a Notebook

2. Climb a Tree
This is something I haven't done since I was little- it's nice to feel like a kid sometimes!

3. Make Pasta from Scratch

4. Read X Books
If you're doing a yearly list, choose the amount that corresponds to the next age you'll turn.

5. Take up a new sport
Examples: yoga, running, soccer, crossfit

6. Make a New Friend

7. Find Your Personal Style
Look on Pinterest and YouTube for inspiration and look books

8. Use Up an Entire Perfume Bottle or Body Lotion
Maybe it's just me, but I can never seem to use these up, and they usually end up going to waste.

9. Do an Exam
Examples: music exam, drama exam or driver's license

10. Give up chocolate/ice cream/sweets for a month

11.Start a Creative Journal
Examples: wreck this journal, bullet journal, art journal

12. Go Geocaching

13. Bake a Loaf of Bread

14. Write X Letters
Example: write a letter to a different person every week for the summer months

15. Tidy Out Your Attic
You'll be surprised at what you find!

16. Do a Photo Shoot with your Friends

17. Take Up a New Instrument
The ukulele is very easy and very fun for a first instrument, but you could also consider instruments like the banjo, piano, or even the didgeridoo! 

18. Write a Book
examples: a YA novel, picture book, recipe book

19. Travel Alone
Be it going to the shops alone for the first time, or going on a solo day trip, learn to love spending time in the company of yourself

20. Volunteer at a Charity Event
Examples: charity disco, charity shop, money collection

21. Write a Letter to Your Future Self
Examples: create a time capsule and bury it in your garden, film yourself and don't watch the clip until a specified future date, write it with a friend and promise to keep each other's letters safe until sometime in the future

22. Go Swimming at Night

23. Invent a Recipe

24. Do X Good Deeds
Examples: mow your neighbour's lawn, offer to babysit for your aunt, pick up the groceries for your parents

25. Try a New Water Sport 
Examples: learn how to swim, windsurf, dive

26. Have a Sleepover in your Garden
Alternative title: Camp Out in Your Back Yard

27. Go Out in an Outfit You'd Normally be too Afraid to Show
We all have fashion ideas and makeup ideas that we'd love to wear, but are too afraid to. For one day, forget about potential judgement of others and go out in the craziest, most out there outfit you can muster!

28. Public Speak
most of us are terrified of this, but it's such an amazing thing to feel that you've done your best at it

29. Join your Local Library

30. Get Rid of Clothes You Never Wear

31. Start a Blog or YouTube Channel

32. Read an Entire Series of Books
Examples: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, CHERUB

33. Tell your Friends and Family that you Love Them

34. Save Money
example: save €2 every week, save €100 in a year, save half of your pocket money

35. Learn How to Cycle

36. Reach Out to an Old Friend

37. Watch the Sunrise
Or the sunset

38. Explore Your Town
It can be so easy to wish you were abroad, seeing everything new for the first time. Make it your mission to find a new coffee shop in your own town, try to imagine you're a tourist, look up at buildings, and see your environment with fresh eyes

39. Get Some Photos Printed
So much of my own portfolio is purely digital. Getting photos printed is a lot of fun, whether you're a photographer or just want to have tangible copies of memories you've made with those you love.

40. Face a Fear
I'm not asking you to overcome anything - I know how hard that can be. But, if you're afraid of spiders, for example, walk up a little closer to one than you usually would, or try not to freak out as much when you see one. The feeling of pride you'll get when you manage a mini victory will be a confidence boost.

41. Bake Cupcakes for A Group of People
who doesn't love surprise baked goods? Bake a batch for your close friends, your class or your church to add a bit more fun to their days

42. Go to a Botanic Gardens or a Nursery

43. Check if your Local Park has Exercise Equipment... And Use it
Joining a gym can be expensive, a lot of public parks provide exercise equipment such as bars and cycling machines for free. exercising outdoors is a great feeling.

44. Watch X Movies

45. Host a Dinner Party

46. Treat a Friend to a Day Out
Suggestion: tell your friend that you're going to take them on a day out filled with surprises. Bring them to their favourite place, take them out for lunch, or take them to somewhere you two have never been before. It's a sweet way to show them that you love them!

47. Register to Vote
Check your rights and responsibilities as a citizen of your country. You might be of age to vote, or close to. Make sure your opinion will be heard!

48. Go to an Art Gallery
in many countries these are free, in some a modest fee is asked. Get out there, it's so interesting to be aware of culture and art, especially local work :)

49. Master a Flexibility Skill
Either you do dance or gymnastics and are looking to improve a difficult skill, or are totally inflexible like me! examples: master a back-bend, learn how to cartwheel, master a press handstand

50. DIY an Item of Clothing

click here for a printable, check-list version of this list!

What's on your bucket list?

Anna x

Sunday, 23 July 2017

5 Ways to Curb a Panic Attack

A lot of us have been there. You're not quite panicking yet, but you can feel your airways narrow, tears gather in your eyes and your eyes widen with fear. You might break out in a sweat, your mind begin to race, and your whole body shudder with the feeling of impending doom. So, when you're aware that you're about to descend into panic, why let it continue? A lot of blog posts I've seen tell you how to deal with a panic attack, how to recover. Today, I'm going to impart wisdom on how to stop it escalating before it has kicked off properly.

1. cold drink

A little story; I had a not so nice experience with a member of the public a few weeks ago. I felt so distressed that I was worried that I might have a panic attack. I felt my heartbeat quicken, and my throat tighten. I wanted to cry. I decided to treat myself with a drink and get home ASAP. I selected a thick coconut milk smoothie by Innocent, and weirdly, drinking it helped me a lot. The coolness of the drink helped me de-tense, and the overall taste experience was really good, and gave me a small thing to be happy about. It felt comforting somehow. Water will do, anything really. But I did like the fact that the smoothie was so thick!

2. focus on something 

So there has been a craze lately, which I'm sure you've all heard of; fidget spinners. I personally have never used one, and I believe they can be quite distracting. Usually, I'd consider this to be a bad thing, but when your breathing is all over the place and your mind is racing, distraction is key. Focusing on a fidget spinner, optical illusion (like one of those pictures that isn't moving but looks like it is) or this gif will most likely be very helpful to you in having something to occupy your mind, and help you get a sense of calm back.

3. air. air. air.

The obvious thing to do when you're about to panic is to slow down, breathe into a paper bag, and pretend there's nothing wrong. That isn't always so easy because of how dramatic it seems and how you probably don't have a brown paper bag handy. The easiest thing of all to do is go outside. The fresh air always feels better than staying inside. It can also feel kind of symbolic - like you're going outdoors, getting away from whatever made you stress.

4. sing something, or try to recite a poem

I'm aware that this may sound completely bizarre. However, if you're one who tends to get stuck in a loop in a panic attack, repeating "I'm sorryI'm sorryI'm sorryI'm sorry" over and over, this might help you. Naturally, repetition is something we all enjoy to some extent, so instead of allowing it to escalate into unknown territory, try to focus on something you like instead. Recite the poem you learned in secondary school, or lyrics to your favourite song to change the course of the inevitable loop.

5. get somewhere comfy

provided you're not feeling too warm or uncomfortable, or even once you've completed the 'air' step, get comfy. Your mind is either going through a lot, will go through a lot, or has gone through a lot. Either way, know that you deserve a break. Get out of your work clothes and put on some sweats, snuggle up with netflix in bed, wear fluffy socks in school, draw a bath- the options are endless. YOU deserve to be comfortable and happy. Treating yourself in any way- big or small should help you to feel more at ease.

Let's help each other out! Please share your advice in the comments below.

disclaimer: I'm not a medical professional. These methods have worked for me, or have occurred to me as things which would help with anxiety and anxiety attacks.

Rabbit photos taken with Nikon Coolpix L110, gif from here, other photos taken with Nikon D3200 as usual

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Journal Inspiration

Journaling is such a great personal tool. I've been keeping a creative journal for about two and a half years. It's tiny, from MUJI, with dotted pages. My mum got it for me when she was in Taiwan, so I wanted to find a special use for it, and I think I did. Using a journal is great because it can be whatever I want it to be. It's an ideal place to stick memories like tickets and photos in, when you don't know where else to keep them. I like to write down my thoughts in a poetic way too. Sometimes I'll find something I've jotted down in the margin of a school book and transfer it to my journal to immortalise it. I stick in pieces of art I've made- I let the journal speak of me.

Something that I did not necessarily expect going in was how it would display to me the differences in my interests as I got older. The early pages have song lyrics and happy thoughts about music artists I used to love, and names of friends I used to be closer to. In this way it can map out a journey, an emotional and physical one as plane and train tickets line the pages in between.

The cover has a kind of zip lock mechanism, where I've put a decorative piece of paper, but I also like to hide pages that I haven't yet included in the notebook, but would one day like to. Sticking lots of things into such a notebook does take up a lot of room, so you can either go for the chunky look, or use the other pages for shopping lists and the like. I'm happy to rip out pages when I'm not happy with how they look- I really want this paper space to reflect my innermost thoughts, as well as to be aesthetically pleasing.

As you can see above, I also stick in pretty things that others have made. Les Parapluies by Renoir is one of my favourite paintings ever, so I wanted to include it. It's fun to coordinate pages side by side, even when the themes don't always have much to do with each other. In a way, what this is is a cross between journaling and scrapbooking. Either way, it's lots of fun, and I'm happy with how it's coming along.

1. the cover // 2. the opening pages (though not everything in the journal is happy!) // 3. a taylor swift lyric & a dog i found in a magazine // 4. a poem i wrote & a madeiran cable car ticket // 5. a croissant i painted // 6. les parapluies by renoir & more poetry

Do you journal or scrapbook?

Anna x

Friday, 14 July 2017

when i felt most beautiful

He asked me to dance,
And with every twirl,
And every shoulder glance,
A small piece of glitter
Stuck to his big navy sleeve.

And then, when I saw him
Later, with another girl,
His arm a new glittery limb,
That was the evening 
I felt most beautiful.

Because, when, in the morning,
I would be clean (and gone),
His big navy sleeve would forever hold
The sparkle that had shone.

Anna O

Taken with the iPhone 4

Monday, 10 July 2017

thoughts on being nineteen

Yesterday, I turned nineteen, and it just doesn't feel like a year since I turned eighteen. I felt so nervous about being an adult, I didn't want that year to begin because I had a horrendous torrent of State Exams to come. And to be honest, it definitely was not the best year of my life. Much of the year, especially the second half, was taken up by either studying or feeling guilty about not studying. It was tiring, emotionally draining, and tore me away from casual enjoyment of life. That sounds quite intense and melodramatic, but really, by the end of it, I had barely spoken to my friends in a weeks, and hadn't spent any time with my wider family.

I also made some pretty stupid mistakes in my first year of adulthood. I got sunburned twice, and felt guilty about it each time. Now I'm tanned and have new freckles on my face. I never really had freckles on my forehead before, so it's definitely taking some getting used to. I think I was under confident a lot of the time too, too afraid to ask for what I really want, and too afraid to show my 'true colours'. I think there are a lot of things I could have done better, but I don't suppose there's any use in dwelling on them.

Even though I don't have the results of my exams yet, I do feel proud of how I handled them, and how dedicated I was to my studies. I think that I had to grow up a bit this year, because of the commitment, and definitely feel far from defeated or sore now. I know that in that area, I tried my best, and am very happy with that.

I had some great opportunities, too, to do some really great things. I went on holidays with my best friend (twice), have been growing an instagram account for my dog. I got to do what I've always dreamed of in my internet career- I got sent things to review and promote, one on my instagram, and the other on my blog. That was a lot of fun, and again, something to be proud of. Hard work pays off!

I also became incredibly comfortable with my group of friends, which has diversified over the years. I feel sad now, to have graduated. I won't miss secondary school- I'm glad that I won't have to go back to a place that holds very strong good and bad memories. However, many of my friends now live in different countries across the world, and will do for college too. I'll miss having the security of the school walls, and the great friends I made there.

As I'm sure you can gather, I'm not sorry to be saying goodbye to this year. I can't deny that I had some amazing, fun times, but it's nice to leave this chapter as is.

So, in terms of this year, I will be starting college this autumn. I'm excited and nervous about it. I can't wait to study subjects which I love, forgetting about maths which I am hopeless at. I'll make new friends, I'll experience endless new things. My life looks like it's going to change a lot this coming year, which I'm sure I'll discuss with you a lot more as all those changes come over the next few months.

So, here we go.

Do you have any advice for a nineteen year old? Or any birthdays coming up yourselves?

Anna x

also- please follow me on my personal instagram! I've only made it recently, so would love to find some new people to follow! x

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

My *new* photo book ft. Saal Digitial. #AD

I have always loved the idea of photo books, ever since I was a young blog reader and heard all about them from Ashley Ann. It's been a thought in my head for a really long time, that I should get one. I've been really into photography for years now, and have amassed a collection of photos that I really like. So, when I saw that Saal Digital was looking for people to review their photo books, I jumped at the chance. Thankfully, they approved my application, and I was given a £40 voucher to use against a purchase of any of their photo books. The choice was all mine! In the end, I went with a 30-page, A4 book with an off-white linen cover. This currently retails for £44.45, though it was cheaper when I got it as these particular books were on promotion.

Saal Digital is German-owned, and based in Germany. Shipping was £4.95. After designing my photo book, it took a good number of days to produce (linen covers take longer than regular ones) and a few more days to ship out to me. I ended up waiting a week and a half for the product, which is not too bad, but I did hope it would get to me sooner!

Saal Digital has software which you can download and use to create your photo book. I found the controls quite confusing at first, and ultimately opted to have each photo take up a full spread. I'm still glad that I did this, because the overall effect is fantastic, but have since learned that there are numerous templates and styles which you can choose from. Alternatively, you can use your own software to design it. All prices are displayed within the Saal Digital program, so you always know how much you're going to end up spending.

Personally, I'm thrilled with it. The cover is really stunning, and definitely adds to the quality of the product. I chose to have "Zu Hause" along the spine, as this book would not have happened without this blog! I wrote my name on the cover, and chose 15 of my most favourite photos from the blog to be the spreads. I also opted for matte pages because I didn't want that extra shine. Each photo came out really, really well, stunning quality. Some of the photos that I thought I wouldn't like turned out to be my favourites.

I was worried when ordering that the pages might be too thick. The idea is that the company uses "lay flat binding" so that each page can be examined flat. The pages are definitely stiff, but they're amazingly thin, and I'm quite satisfied by them.

Overall, I would highly recommend this company. I would tell you if there was anything wrong with the product, but I seriously cannot fault it! I am delighted to have a physical copy of my work, which I can use as a miniature portfolio, or simply show to my friends and family. My parents are so impressed with it, that they've asked me to compile a family album. I couldn't be more happy with this book, and really wish to thank Saal Digital for allowing me to participate in this review.

There is also a £15 voucher against your first purchase of a photo book should you choose to go with this company.

Have you ever gotten a photo book, or any of your work printed?

Disclaimer: I was sent this product for review by Saal Digital. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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