I've Been Watching #9

Monday, 29 September 2014

Hello all! I'm back with another I've Been Watching, to fill you all in on what I've been enjoying on my telly-box/Netflix account over the past couple of weeks!

The X-Factor 2014

Top row, L-R: Ben Haenow, Kerrianne Covell, Andrea Faustini
Right: Jake Quickenden, Emily Middlemas

First up we have The X-Factor. Ever single year I tell myself I'm not going to watch it, and every single year I fail. They've said on a few occasions that this will be the last season (although I'm not sure that is actually the case any more!), and so I've decided to just completely embrace it and watch it all from the get go. There's something about The UK X-Factor that just signals summer is over - the weeks fly by and before you know it, Christmas is upon us. Scary stuff.

This year sees a mix of old and new on the judging panel. I won't lie, I've always liked Cheryl, so I'm enjoying having her and Simon back, and Louis is just such an integral part of the show that I honestly don't think it would work without him. I didn't think I was going to like Mel B (I haven't been her biggest fan in the past, if I'm honest), but so far I've actually quite liked her. She and Cheryl balance each other out quite nicely. I think we'll all miss the Gary-Nicole-Sharon-Louis panel of 2013 a wee bit, a time when everyone adored each other and they were all pals, but realistically, that's not what the X-Factor is about. It isn't a talent show, it's an entertainment show, however they dress it up. Judges hugging and being BFFs isn't really what they're looking for. Drama is the name of the game.

Speaking of, bootcamp was actually quite unpleasant to watch, but also impossible to look away from. The six seat system is so cruel, offering a place at judges houses to a desperate contestant, only to take it away from them when someone better comes along. It's ridiculous, because I know exactly why they are doing this. It's difficult to watch, and dramatic, so it makes for good reality TV, yet I still get worked up over it. My biggest disappointment was Simon sending Janet home - I thought she was brilliant. Loved her voice, loved her look, and I kept looking forward to her performances. Alas, he ditched her in favour of Lizzy Pattinson, sister of Rob (but all credit to her, the internet is making a much bigger deal of that than she is). I was delighted, but admittedly stunned, when Simon sent Raign home! Much like Cheryl who could barely look at her, Raign's attitude put me off from the start, but I thought because she was that antagonistic sort of figure she was bound to get through.

Next week is judges houses and I'm looking forward to it already. I've included some photos of a few of my favourites at the moment above (I've linked their auditions on their names!), and I'll talk you through them very quickly. First, we've got Ben Haenow, one of Simon's over-25s. I've loved this guy from his first audition. He has a cheeky-chappy sort of attitude and a great, gravelly rock voice. If he doesn't get to the live shows I'll be gutted, but Simon's been a fan of his from his room audition, so I'm crossing my fingers. I also like Jay James, another one of the overs. Everyone talks about what a brilliant singer he is, but I'd maybe disagree slightly with that. I don't think he sings perfectly, but there's so much emotion in his voice every time he sings that it does get to you, and he also seems like such a genuinely lovely guy.

Next there's Kerrianne Covell, one of Cheryl's girls. She's so bubbly and I really love her voice. She sang a Carrie Underwood song in her arena audition and knocked it out of the park, which is a huge ask, so I hope she does well.

Andrea Faustini ♥ I can't describe how much I adore this guy. He brought Cheryl and Mel to tears at bootcamp, and has the most amazing voice. He is also an absolute sweetheart. He's Italian, super cute and sort of goofy, but with such an incredible voice. It'll be absolutely ludicrous if he doesn't make the live shows.

Jake Quickenden, former judges houses contestant who Nicole sent home in favour of Rylan a couple of years ago. Deary me. Suffice to say, I think half of the audience of the show is in love with Jake... I'll refrain from telling you if that includes me. I suspect my twitter will give me away next weekend on that one though.

And lastly, I've included Emily Middlemas, a fifteen (although possibly by now sixteen) year old girl from Glasgow, with an Ellie Goulding-ish style and incredible confidence for someone her age. Honestly, her bootcamp performance was brilliant to watch because she just didn't let nerves get on top of her (something Lola will definitely have to watch), and genuinely seemed to be having a ball on stage.

A final mention has to go to this eight piece boy band they've put together... I honestly don't know if that will work, however, some of the boys in that group have absolutely fantastic voices. Listen out for the boy 39 seconds in (who I think is only 14, bless him - too young for X-Factor if ye ask me, but he sounds like he has amazing potential #justcallmesimoncowell), and particularly the guy at 1.42 - he is a great singer. I guess we'll just have to wait and see, but I think it's HIGHLY unlikely they won't make it to the lives.

If you've been watching, let me know in the comments who you're supporting at the moment!

The Originals - Season One

I planned to talk about the X-Factor and The Originals in this post, but there just isn't enough room - I need sufficient space to talk about this, and I don't want the post to be too long! So I'll simply say that watching this (why, when I'm such a massive fan of The Vampire Diaries, it took me so long to watch this first season I'll never know) was an experience. Realising it was on Netflix was a moment of joy (yeah, I know, how sad!). But it really is so, so, so good, and was actually slightly exhausting, the tension did not let up for a second. I cannot recommend it enough, look out for a post soon explaining why in much more detail!!

That's it for this edition of I've Been Watching - what shows have you been enjoying lately?

Thanks for reading!

Positive Vibes Only

Thursday, 25 September 2014


The past few weeks have been somewhat turbulent, not necessarily for me, but on a global scale. Scratch that - things always seem turbulent across the globe these days. Every time we turn on the news we are faced with stories of crises affecting millions of people - wars and conflict, diseases like Ebola, and even on a more local scale, the unsettled feeling here in the UK caused by the recent Referendum. It's sometimes hard to get your head around.

Moving to a more personal level, I'm still job hunting, and that is, as I've discussed before, a horrible process. So many of us know how difficult it is to feel so stuck in limbo, sitting at home applying for jobs you are more than qualified for and being able to do nothing but apply, wait and hope for the best. You start worrying about money and getting left behind (and, if you're me, yearning for life at university). Being out of a routine, especially after an unbelievably hectic year doing my Masters, is giving me itchy feet and making me feel antsy.

The point is, it's ever so easy to start feeling negative. When things around you seem unstable and uncertain, the temptation to give in to that niggling thought of "what if things don't work out" can be overwhelming. I've always had a tricky relationship with time - I've panicked that time is passing too quickly since I was a teenager, and focused far too much of my energy on a sort of involuntary countdown at every birthday (my birthday is conveniently placed exactly six months before Christmas, breaking the year exactly in two) and Christmas; a countdown to what, I'm not sure. It's a fear that the years are going past too fast and I'm not where I thought I wanted to be. I'm not in a relationship, not settled in a career, not able to afford to move out and fully pay my own way, and start feeling like a "proper grown-up". I know for a fact I'm not alone in this fear!


Recently though, in the first few weeks of job hunting, I had a sort of epiphany during my endless trawling through Pinterest quotes. I don't know how many times I've read quotes along the lines of "A negative mind will never give you a positive life" before, and while I've read it, and pinned it and preached it, I don't think I've ever really practiced it. I've agreed with it, blogged about it and encouraged my friends and family to live their lives by it. But I don't think I've ever really tried to do it myself. That's not to say I've been a negative person - I think, though, there's a difference between believing that being positive is for the best, and actively seeking the positives.

This all snowballed from my thoughts on gender equality. Being as passionate as I am about feminist issues and gender equality can make it difficult sometimes to stay positive, when every huge step forward (like Emma Watson's inspiring speech announcing the He for She UN campaign this weekend), seems to be followed by an equally huge step back (the vile internet trolls threatening to leak nude photos of her - which ultimately turned out to be a hoax - to "put her back in her place"). However, if things really were hopeless, and unable to change, I wouldn't keep trying to raise awareness or post links to these articles in the hope that they will spark an interest in someone who has never really paid much attention before. Trying to see the good in every situation, no matter how hard that might sometimes be, is the only way to live a really positive life. If we focus on the negative, it becomes really hard to believe that things will ever change. And if you don't believe there is a possibility for change, why on earth would you bother trying?

At the moment I am aware that I am being relentlessly, possibly annoyingly positive, and that will probably fade a little bit over time. For now though, I'm feeling really good, and I think that speaks volumes. Earlier this week I received an email letting me know that I hadn't been successful in my application for something I really, really wanted. I didn't even realise how much I wanted it until I applied. Before, I would probably have been utterly devastated by that news and would have definitely cried and possibly wallowed for a couple of days. But really, what is the use in that? That's a waste of a couple of days of my life. Instead, I put on Lady Gaga "Fashion of his Love" (the ultimate cheer-up/dance-around-in-your-chair song), drank a cup of tea and decided that there will be another opportunity (much like the one I missed out on this time) in the future. That time I will be even more ready for it. So I spent the evening at Emma's, watched an episode of The Originals when I got home (couldn't be more in love with Elijah if I tried), and had a good sleep. The next day I was rewarded with an email to let me know I had been successful in landing a really exciting part time job for the next few months, tied closely to my degree. Putting positive vibes out in to the world definitely works wonders.


The reality is that feeling down and negative is different for everyone - this post, I want to make one hundred percent clear, is in no way related to actual, clinical depression or anxiety disorders. This is just about dealing with the run of the mill negative thought patterns so many of us are guilty of developing! I know that my spells of feeling like that, though, are caused (99% of the time) by a fear that life isn't working out the way it should. What does that really mean though? That it isn't working out the way you pictured it as a child or a teenager? One of the biggest problems we face in life is dealing with our lives not panning out the way we, or those around us, imagined they would. So you imagined you would be married by your mid-twenties, with a baby on the way by thirty and a few years worth of a decent career already under your belt by then, and that doesn't work out. Think about all the things you've experienced along the way instead, that people who are in that position haven't. Whether that's travel, extended study or working a few different jobs and meeting a whole host of interesting people along the way. In so many of these situations there is a way of finding a silver lining, or looking for a positive. Especially in a time where the world seems to be falling apart, there are endless opportunities to try to do things to make the world a better place - whether that's raising thousands of pounds for charity, or just treating your pal to some lunch because they're feeling a bit down. I know that then opens the whole can of worms of "is there such a thing as a selfless good deed", but if you can help someone else and feel better yourself as a by-product, I don't think that's such a bad thing. Negative thought patterns are a habit, and breaking them isn't easy, but it's definitely possible if we try to focus on the good. It sounds daft, but I'd also recommend searching for lists online of "X number of photos which prove the world isn't such a bad place after all" - it sounds silly, but seeing random acts of kindness collected into one post like that really does help you feel a bit better. And if the only positive thing you do today is read a chapter of that book you've always wanted to read, that's great. It's a little tick in a box on the old list of things you want to do in your life. Some people are so busy working or worrying that they never take the time to do something they actually really want to do. And surely those are the moments we'll cherish later on in life?

Life is full of ups and downs, and there are always going to be times when we are sad or frustrated, or even just having a bad day, fuelled by an argument or tiredness or even just hormones. But life is short, and time is not something we have any control over. I'm reading "The Time Keeper" by Mitch Albom at the moment (which, so far, is excellent) and it is already examining our modern obsession with time, something that thousands of years ago meant something completely different to what it does now. We measure time down to the second, and millisecond - no wonder we are so aware of it passing. The point is, life is short, we only get one shot at it and so when negative thoughts start to plague my mind I'm going to turn to my Pinterest Quotes board, give myself a kick in the right direction and focus on the good. I can say, in all honesty, that it is already having a really big impact. Positive Vibes Only, from now on.


Thanks for reading!

I've Been Reading #2

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Hello all! I've managed to get a lot of reading done lately (one of the very few perks of job hunting), and thought I'd tell you a bit about some of my recent favourites in an I've Been Reading post! Some of these are books that EVERYONE is talking about at the moment, while others are ones I've had on my list for a while!

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

This book is the talk of the town in the booktube community at the moment. I finally caved and downloaded it on to my Kindle after hearing so many people discussing it - it's in the YA sort of genre that I'm a huge fan of, and I haven't read a bad review of it yet.

The book centres around the life of Cadence, a teenage girl from a wealthy American family, who have their own private island. Every year Cady, her mother, her aunts and cousins spend the summer on the island with their grandparents, and she has an incredibly close bond with two of her cousins and a family friend. The family is far from perfect, however idyllic life on the island may seem, and tension bubbles beneath the surface from the very start of this book. Things take a turn for the worse when one summer Cady is involved in an accident - she has lost her memories of the events leading up to the accident and the incident itself, and the book sees her try desperately to piece together what happened to her, two years after the event. It's the first time she has gone back to the island, and the carefree summers she spent with her friends are most definitely a thing of the past.

I'd heard before I read the book that once you find out what happened, you cannot believe you didn't see it coming. I think it clicked for me just minutes before it was revealed, not everything, but certain elements of the twist. I'm looking forward to reading it again to pick up on all the clues Lockhart leaves throughout the chapters leading up to the big reveal!

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Another book getting a lot of media attention at the moment is If I Stay, thanks to the movie adaptation starring Chloe Grace Moretz which is in cinemas now. I picked this up after Kate from gh0stparties mentioned it in a "Top 5 Books" post a couple of months ago, and I'm really glad I did.

Another story featuring a teenaged girl, this novel explores what is a really complicated question. 17yr old Mia is a cello prodigy from Oregon, living with her eccentric, music loving parents and eight year old brother Teddy. She has a boyfriend named Adam, who is in a rock band, and is on the cusp of graduating high school. Her incredible talent pretty much guarantees she will have a future in the classical music industry, and life, overall, is pretty good. Within the first couple of chapters, however, Mia and her family are involved in a life-changing accident. The book takes place over the space of a couple of days, when Mia is unconscious in hospital, but her spirit seems to have escaped her body and she is left with a massive decision to make - does she want to live or does she want to die? If she stays, her life will be unrecognisable, but deciding to die will never be easy. The book really gets you thinking, and I will admit to having shed a few tears while reading it. I'd definitely recommend it - it's such an interesting concept.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Where She Went is the follow up to If I Stay, and, in the interests of not giving anything away, I'll say right off the bat that this book is narrated by a different character. Where She Went follows Adam, Mia's rock star boyfriend, a couple of years after the first book ends. It explores how his life has panned out as a result of the decision Mia made, and I'm so glad that Gayle Forman decided to write a book from another character's perspective. In a situation like this, it's fascinating to see how someone on the outside deals with such a massive, life altering incident. I won't say anything else about the plot since I'm writing it in the same post as I've talked about If I Stay, but I will say that if you read the first book, definitely go and read the second one - a lot of people preferred Where She Went, though for me, If I Stay pipped it to the post!

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

I've been keen to read The Sense of an Ending for a while, and I picked it up in my local library last week. It won the Man Booker Prize in 2011, and is a really quick read - it's only about 150 pages in total. It explores the life of a retired English man named Tony, and the book is split into two parts. What really drew me to it was the fact that this is a story that deals with how we remember things, and how our minds can play tricks on us when we try to remember things that happened in the past. We did some work on this in my higher drama class and it just always struck me as a really fascinating subject - those moments that you are sure you can remember from when you were a tiny child, but if you think really hard you might find that you can only picture it because people have told you the story so many times. The first half of the book sees Tony describe his relationship with his three best friends from high school, through the early years of university when they were then separated. In particular, it examines his friendship with a deeply philosophical and intelligent boy named Adrian. The second half sees some of the truths Tony has held on to all of these years begin to unravel. It looks at the complexities in friendships and relationships, and how easy it is to block out moments from your past you would rather forget. It's not exactly a cheery read, but for me, the subject matter was what counted. I don't think it will be everyones cup of tea, but I really enjoyed it.

How to Fall in Love by Cecelia Ahern

Ahhh Cecelia Ahern, how I love thee. I haven't had even indifferent feelings to one of her books yet - I've loved them all.

How to Fall in Love is the story of Christine Rose, a recently separated thirty-something who is at a bit of a cross-roads in her life when she meets Adam. She finds him set to jump off the Ha'penny Bridge, in Dublin, and in a split second decision she convinces him not to kill himself, and promises to show him how wonderful life can actually be. This puts an incredible amount of pressure on her, and those around her are not entirely convinced she has made a sensible decision.

We see her try every trick in the book (she has an obsession with self-help books) to help change the course of Adam's complicated life, from his attitude to his job, his family situation, love life and overall view of the world around him. As ever, with Cecelia Ahern, there is something sort of fantastical about this story - what I love about her books is that element of magic that flows through each of them, even though they tend to explore the lives of normal, every day people. It's warm, entertaining, romantic (as the title suggests) and philosophical, and it was an absolute joy to read.

Fractured by Dani Atkins

Last on the list is Fractured by Dani Atkins, an author I had never heard of before. I downloaded this in the Kindle sale for about 90p one night, and what a fantastic decision that was!

I'm just going to say right away that I adored this book. I have a bit of a fascination with time travel and parallel universes, and this book definitely fits into those categories. Rachel is 23 and returning to her home town for the first time in 5 years, to attend her best friend's wedding. At 18, just before she was due to head off to university, Rachel and her friends were involved in an accident (why do so many of these books include accidents!?), which completely altered the course of her life and claimed the life of one of her friends. 5 years on, Rachel's life is pretty dark, and certainly didn't turn out the way she had hoped as a carefree teen. Her first night back at home sees an incident take place which, once again, seems to alter the course of her life - she wakes up to find that everything that she has known about her life and everything that has happened to her since the night of the accident appears to have been erased, and replaced with a totally different life. The book then sees Rachel struggle to cope with this new life, and try to explain to her loved ones why nothing makes sense. She has to try to figure out what's real and what isn't, and come to terms with a life she barely recognises, albeit a much better and happier life than the one she was living before. It was a really, really interesting concept and a lovely book, and I'd recommend it in a heartbeat!

That's it for this edition of I've Been Reading - it was a long one, so I apologise for that, in future I think I'll try to keep it to three or four books at a time!

Let me know what you've been reading lately in the comments below! Hope you enjoyed that and thanks for reading!

I've Been Watching... YouTube Edition!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Evening all! In this edition of I've Been Watching, I'm moving the focus from films and television to YouTube! Here are ten videos I've enjoyed over the past couple of weeks!

1. Laci Green - She Asked For It

If you know me, you'll know I love Laci Green, and really respect what she does with her YouTube channel. This video pretty much sums up a conversation I have had on several occasions lately. This video, which centres around the dangers of victim blaming, is well executed, to the point and informative as always. My favourite line - "You were mugged? What were you wearing?" - is something Emma and I talked about in depth a few weeks ago!

2. Shannon Saunders - All I Want (Kodaline Cover)

This is one of my very favourite songs of all time, and I think this is a lovely cover.

3. Meghan Trainor - All About that Bass

This song is number one in America right now, and I cannot get it out of my head. I love that a song like this, which is so body positive is sitting at the number one spot, and I love the video. The "tell them skinny bitches that..." line is, for obvious reasons, a little bit problematic, but if we're looking at the bigger picture I think this is a brilliant song.

4. Cassetteboy vs The Apprentice

This is one of my favourite videos of all time, and I rediscovered it this week. I cried laughing once again.

5. Sarah (Curious Cookie) - But I Don't Want to be a Real Person Yet

I miss Sarah's videos. This is particularly relevant for any recent graduates panicking about life in the real world.

6. Kate (DollyBowBow) - Archie Vlog

It feels like just yesterday Kate announced she was pregnant and now baby Archie is here! I thought this was such a lovely intro to baby vlog, and it was just amazing to see how much they both adore him!

7. Badgely-Mischka - SS15 at NY Fashion Week

I loved loved loved this stunning collection from Badgley-Mishka - I'm no fashion expert, but I know what I like, and the gorgeous pieces here really impressed me :)

8. Ella Henderson - Glow

Another young female singer I'm LOVING at the moment. I love her voice, and think both her singles so far have been amazing, but the feminist in me also loves that this is a different representation of a young woman. She isn't being overtly sexualised in her videos, isn't writhing around half naked or dancing in an attempt to capture the male gaze (can't escape the film and television student in me). We need a more varied range of women represented in terms of body image and sexuality in music, and I think the clear control Ella has over her sound, her image and her career so far, at such a young age, is hugely encouraging.

9. Melissa A. Fabello - How Can You Be a Feminist and Still Like Taylor Swift?

Melissa makes videos about body image, media literacy and gender equality, and I recently discovered her channel thanks to fellow Scottish blogger Morag! I've watched a lot of her videos now, but I particularly liked this one because it explores something that is important to me - that you can be "girly" or interested in what are widely referred to as "feminine" things, and still be a good feminist. It's all about educating yourself, folks.

10. Jimmy0010 feat. Ophelia Dagger - American Candy

I genuinely find any videos Jimmy and Chelsea film together hilarious, but this is still my favourite I think. I watched it again recently and it was still as funny as it was the first time I saw it. They've also started a joint channel (ChelsandJim) which you can check out if they entertain you as much as they entertain me.

That's all for today! Thanks for reading!

A Post-Dissertation Break in Aviemore

Monday, 8 September 2014

A photo heavy post from my trip to Aviemore last week! My mum and I headed up to my favourite place in the world for a couple of days after my dissertation was submitted, for a wee break for me to clear my head and chill out! It was, as always, just what I needed! The photos below are from Loch Morlich and the surrounding forest, the Highland Wildlife Park, breakfasts in the Mountain Café and dinners in Roo's Leap. As you can see, I didn't hold back when it came to the food, but you can't be counting the calories when you're on holiday, can you?!

Thanks for reading!