Taking a Breather


Luke and I are set to move this Friday morning! I am so excited, but also very stressed with everything going on. As such (and feeling a bit unmotivated trying to do my job for work, PhD, side jobs and produce regular content on my blog in addition to moving), I feel like I need just a bit of a break. No, not a break for good, so don't think this blog is going offline, despite my frustrated feelings recently.

I think that's normal, however, I think I also need a break to focus on settling in (and putting together all of the new IKEA furniture!). I also want to emphasize that blogging is not my full-time profession, so letting it take a backseat for a minute is not a crime.

Love you and see you in a week or two!



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iPad Mini and Kate Spade Giveaway!

iPad Min + Kate Spade Giveaway Hello wonderful readers! It's time for another massive giveaway brought to you by Angie from My So-Called Chaos, myself, and a few other fabulous bloggers who've joined us this month. For the prize this month, She's chosen to give one lucky winner an iPad Mini and a Kate Spade Cedar Street Keyboard Folio. iPad + Kate Spade Giveaway Brought to You By These Bloggers

Enter the Giveaway

One lucky winner will take home an iPad Mini and a Kate Spade Cedar Street Keyboard Folio!* Giveaway is open Worldwide**. Entering below agrees to all terms and conditions within the rafflecopter. Entries will be verified.
a Rafflecopter giveaway *Prize is subject to change based on availability-but if it does change (which would be a rare occurrence) it will be an equally awesome case/etc. ** International winners will receive $400 in cash instead of the prizes listed due to shipping restrictions and costs.


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Britain vs America Who Does It Better?



So I've lived as an American in the UK for a little over *gulp* three years now. Of all of the countries I've lived in, the US and the UK seem to have this crazy mutual obsession with one another.

Let me explain. There are perhaps multiple people of the American variety on my Facebook feed who exalt the virtues of the UK to an almost fetishized place. They love British food, British celebrities and the British way of life. British men are extra dreamy and they are convinced that life in Britain is far better than that of the US.

Similarly, when I tell people here in the UK where I'm from, the question is always, "Why would you come to the UK?" They then proceed to excitedly tell me about their trip to Orlando, their favorite American TV show or the best American dish they've had. Sometimes they ask questions about life in the US, which is usually highly romanticized by TV and films.

Aside from that, it is incredibly trendy in liberal politics to look to Europe as a beacon of socialist and liberal hope. Apparently, Europe is the promised land, full of leftists and free thinkers--and they've got socialized medicine, maternity leave, the army, etc. totally covered. And if America just took a page from their book, then we could solve all of America's woes.

So I've decided to compare the two countries with several categories to see just how they stack up.

WARNING: This is just my opinion. I know there will be people here who will say that I'm incorrect or that their experience trumps mine. However, this is just what I know of the three and a half years on this little island.

The Accent

Yes, to an American person, the British accent sounds dreamy and melodic. That is, if you're talking about Sloanies or people from Kent (gross generalization). However, what Americans fail to realize is that there are a myriad of accents, and not all of them so pleasant or easy to understand. And once you've lived here for a few years, its really not all that dreamy, exotic or sexy.

The Winner: Neither

The Food

Eschewing London, there really isn't much food diversity in the UK--or at least as much as there is in the US. It depends largely on where you live, I think. When I lived in Leicester, because of the large Indian population, I was spoiled for choice for a good curry. But aside from that, there really isn't much choice aside from chain Italian, kebabs, pub food and the occasional Indian and Chinese. And maybe a Yo! Sushi. Living in London is very different, I'll emphasize, because you can find almost anything your heart desires there. Except Mexican food. You just can't find good Mexican food.

In the US, you've got pretty much everything at your fingertips, thanks to our immigrant culture which the UK is just starting to benefit from. Even in smaller towns, you've still got a wide variety of cuisines. And in most places (except the northeast), you have genuinely good Mexican food.

I get that there's this trendy thing to say that American food is, like, the worst for you on the planet and other country's food is somehow superior. The UK has plenty of junk, and plenty of really fat people. Maybe not to the degree some places in the US do, but they're there. And it's easy to put on weight fast here, regardless.

The Winner: The United States

The Weather

The UK pretty much has one season that varies slightly by being a few degrees colder in the winter and a few degrees warmer in the summer. They'll be about three days per year that are bitterly cold, and a further 3-7 that are so hot you'll think your whole body is melting. This is mostly due to the fact that the country is ill-prepared for weather extremes, so when they hit, they are genuinely the most miserable days of the year.

For the US, it depends on where you live and what kind of weather you prefer. Though, you do have a summer in the US no matter what. People in the UK keep going on about how they "like summer" and "hot weather" and I'm just like, "When the hell do you even have that?"

The Winner: That comes down to personal preference 

Television

Everyone has an opinion on this one, and people get pretty heated. However, I've yet to really get into a British series (aside from that one dark time I got sucked into a season of Celebrity Big Brother). But that doesn't mean they don't have excellent documentaries, which they show on "basic" channels here. Think TLC on steroids. Then, if you have Sky, you also get TLC. So win, win. Plus, they can get away with a lot more taboo topics, language and exposing of skin here.

However, the series I tend to watch all of the time are almost exclusively American. Most British people seem to be addicted to at least one American show as well.

The Winner: Tie 

The People

From my experience, there are awesome people and deplorable garbage humans everywhere. Racists and idiots abound in both countries and are free to spout out their nonsense. But, there are generous and caring people who exist in both places as well.

The Winner: Tie

Healthcare

This one seems to be a no-brainer to Americans. Even to Americans who have lived abroad in the UK. They'll say stuff like, "Oh gosh, the NHS is amazing. I had a cold, I went to the doctor and I got a prescription, paid £7 for it and was on my way."

In that regard, yes, the NHS is amazing. But try dealing with the NHS when you've got a chronic, painful condition. Waiting lists are off the chart and older people are often fobbed off because they don't want to spend the money. I had to pay for private care for my endometriosis because of the debilitating pain, as I was facing a 4 month waiting list just to be assessed.

I also don't think the care you receive in the hospitals is always that great, which I know is like a sacrilege to say, considering the "at least its free" bit Americans will answer with.

Yes it may be free, but you're also free to sit in pain for months and months whilst you wait for an appointment.

The Winner: UK for access to healthcare (everyone gets it in some form), the US for the quality of care. The care I've received in the US is definitely superior, but it's totally inaccessible to many.

Social Programs

Hands down, the UK is better at supporting its people when they have a kid or have fallen on hard times. The US just doesn't have the same government programs. Additionally, in the UK, you get a lot more time off work, shorter work weeks and you get a generous maternity leave. There is also great care for Holocaust survivors, which is my big area.

The Winner: UK


OVERALL:

I would say that overall, there are pluses and minuses to each country. The two are so similar in nature because of our allied past and common language that there isn't a huge cultural barrier. Are there things I miss about the US? Yes. Are there things I would miss if I moved back to the US? Absolutely.

So, I say to both of the countries I love: there is no real winner. I love you both.



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Unmotivated Blogger


I have to confess. Lately, I have been feeling particularly unmotivated with my blog, which is a bit troublesome since I've always really loved writing in it. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but sometimes it just feels like a chore to get up and take photos, etc. This probably partly due to my endometriosis medication and adjusting to it, as other people have reported feeling unmotivated as well when it comes to anything and everything...which could also be a symptom of mild depression due to the meds. If this blah feeling continues in a month's time, I will switch to something else, but it could just be growing pains.

I feel quite badly because I did promise two YouTube videos a week in January, but I just can't get myself in the mood to do them, even though I've got them all planned out. I know my YouTube audience isn't huge, but it does make me feel particularly guilty for those that do watch, especially since I was too ill to finish Vlogmas. I guess that's the trouble with trying to balance blogging with everything else. When it's your main source of income, I guess it is a bit different, but to get to that point, you have to motivate yourself more!

Don't worry about me, content is still coming, but for you other bloggers--do you struggle with this as well? How do you overcome it?



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Budget Friendly Decor Inspiration-Bedroom Edition


The move in date is nigh! In fact, in just over one week today we'll be in our brand new flat, just the three of us (Luke, myself and the dog). It has been a VERY long time coming, and we are over the moon excited. I am more excited about the decorations, I think than Luke is. That's a guy thing though. 

Anyway, our flat is still pretty small, so I've been using some design inspirations from H&M and Ikea, my two literal favorite places for home design and decor. H&M's items can actually be on the pricey side for what they are, but purchasing them in moderation isn't always a bad thing. 

As far as these photographs, we actually already have the duvet cover in the bottom right picture at the top and a pink blanket to go with it (I love pink and grey together). We also already have the headboard on the bottom left of the picture below, which has been a life saver for me and all of my books (though we'll have to get a bookshelf for the new place to accommodate all of my books). 

I can't wait to get in there and get started. 





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NuSkin Galacial Mask Review


A NuSkin distributor very kindly asked me if I wanted to try any of their products, and I accepted with the Glacial Marine Mud mask. I've always been kind of curious about this product, so since she was offering, I decided to give it a go.

Firstly, unfortunately, it did arrive looking very dirty and like it had been through the wringer already. However, it was a totally new bottle, so I decided to judge it by the contents of its character.

Evidently, this product is great for people with oily skin, as it helps get all the oil off and kind of sucks it all up into the mask.

I gave it a try after a long day of work, when all I wanted to do was shower and then curl up with a new episode of some trashy TV, dinner and put on a face mask, so it was a great way to relax.

So here I am with the mask on. After it dries, it does leave your face feeling a bit stiff and it is hard to move it....kind of like a real housewife who has had too much collagen.



Here is what it looks like on your skin close up. NuSkin distributors claim that the mask gets in your pores, but I'm not 100% convinced that's the case. Is it just drying around your pores or really going in them? I don't know a ton about the science of skin care, so maybe someone can enlighten me. Either way, you get to see how big and offensive your pores are, which is, you know, fun.



Then I washed it off.

Honestly, I can't see a huge change in my skin from it, though it is always nice to do a little mask every now and then. But, to be completely honest, I wouldn't say that it is totally worth the £25 price tag. It will last a while, so if you see benefits from it, I guess that's a good aspect of it...a little bit goes a long way and you can't really do it more than once a week as it feels a bit harsh on your skin after that. But...well, I dunno.

I'm left not feeling overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Just whelmed.



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Dinner in the Air


Last week, Luke and I had the lovely fortune of participating in the Travelex blogger campaign, where they gave expat bloggers a cash passport to enjoy a day out in London. Having already had tickets for the Book of Mormon that afternoon, we decided on an experience we've never done: lunch at Oblix in The Shard.

Although it may be a cliche experience, definitely something to tick off the bucket list!

The restaurant itself is 32 feet in the air, with the view being one of its main selling points--although the food was amazing as well. As you can see above, I got the duck with mango chutney (I did explain in my plant based diet video that I would be eating meat and dairy every now and then, and this was definitely a special occasion!), which was absolutely extraordinary. Luke settled for the lamb chops, which were definitely extraordinary.

We also treated ourselves to some very yummy cocktails as little apertifs.



I finished off my meal with this fantastic brownie sundae, which I definitely didn't finish, but LOOK AT IT. SO GOOD. 



This was the view from our table. Unbeatable.



As far as the Travelex cash passport goes, it was really simple and convenient, however you really have to use it in the currency of the country you're in. Being an American, I was given American currency to use in the UK and we ended up getting whacked with a £5, which evidently applies every time you use the card. That adds up quick, so only use the card in the currency you've purchased it in!

I did manage to vlog the day out, though be warned, Luke looks like he's would be having more fun getting a root canal. He is very embarrassed about vlogging in a public place! So no, he doesn't hate me, no, he's not having a bad time, he's just super embarrassed!






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Budget Friendly Small Apartment Home Decor Wishlist Dining Area Edition


Luke and I are moving into our own little apartment in the next couple of weeks, and I've been going crazy ordering bits and bobs for the house. Luke's a bit better at saving than I am, so he's not as into the whole idea of decorating the house from top to bottom. However, I'll share with you guys a few inspirations I am taking from at the moment. And, of course, you'll see it as it becomes closer to being finished.

This post could easily contain a wishlist of items I'd never be able to afford, but instead, I'm showing you things that I can afford but may not necessarily be purchasing from, only taking inspiration. Not sure if it'll turn out as great as these photos, but one can always dream!

Dining Room Area 
Our new kitchen and dining room is going to be tiny, but that doesn't mean we can't make it look absolutely adorable. Here's where I'm taking inspiration:



We'll see if it turns out anything like this!

Expect lots of hauls as well!

(All of these pictures are from H&M's Homeware section except the first picture top right, which is Ikea.)




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How Far in Advance Should You Schedule Blog Posts?


I'm the type of blogger who always has posts scheduled for a week in advance. This is great, in case you're ever sick or get really busy with things, but it also limits your ability to really keep up with current events and trends. With blogging, it isn't as much of an issue, as you can always move things around. However, with other mediums like YouTube, for example it can be much more difficult to stay current if you've preplanned a lot of your content.

The Internet moves quickly and moves on quickly, so responding to a viral video or blog post weeks later doesn't pack the same punch as if you responded to it immediately. I have found preplanning a lot of my content does create this problem, however I'm so high strung when it comes to work and getting things out of the way, that there's no way I could let things sit for too long. It's just too scary for me.

If you're a blogger, how do you feel about preplanned content vs. putting up content the day before? I read about someone recently who has 200+ posts scheduled already for the year! To me, I feel like that would be a huge deterrent in staying current as all of your content would need to be evergreen.

Thoughts?




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Madame Glam Lipsticks




Madam Glam generously sent me over a few lipsticks (in just my shade!) to review. Although not the most well-known brand in the world, Madam Glam is totally cruelty free and not tested on animals. Each one retails for $15.95, which may be steep, but totally worth it for cruelty free, long lasting make-up.


The colors I was sent (left to right): Sepia, Berrylicious, Posy and Amber (the last two don't seem to be available on the site).

So far, the lipsticks are rather moisturizing, even if they do have a little bit of a funny taste to them...however I imagine all lipsticks have their own taste and some is better than others...

At any rate, they have a full range of products, so if you're interested in cruelty free make-up, I'd give them a go.




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Easy Vegan Pancakes Recipe


Since I've decided to be more plant-based in my diet, I've been looking for easy vegan recipes. To be honest, I'm not a great cook at all, so the easier the better. And when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to give it a try.

Here's how to make these bad boys:

Combine:

1 cup of flour (any kind, though I used brown in this recipe)
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of baking powder (less can also work)
a pinch of salt
1 cup almond, coconut or soy milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix it up and then place them on your frying pan to fry them up. Drizzle with maple syrup and enjoy. Honestly, even non-vegans are going to enjoy this one!






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Establishing a Healthy Relationship with Food for 2016


Ever since I was a child, I have had an unhealthy relationship with food. I have never been medically overweight, though during lupus flares I've toed the line on the BMI scale just between ideal and "overweight." Having big breasts for my body also meant that sometimes I could look heavier than I was. When asked friends and family if I should lose weight in my more insecure days, I was always told, "It's up to you. You're okay where you are, but if you want to lose some then go for it." In my head, that translated to, "YES YOU'RE DISGUSTING LOSE WEIGHT!"

In my teens, I developed anorexia nervosa and was finally medically classified as underweight. Although it was Hallelujah moment for my disorder, when my mom tried to get me checked into a treatment center, they told me I actually wasn't thin enough for my frame. This meant I wasn't a good anorexic,  but rather a failure at starving myself.

Throughout my early 20s, I held fast to disordered eating habits, but wasn't eating disordered. I purged when my feelings were too intense for a situation, stopped eating for a few weeks after a break-up, but all in all, I was classified as "normal."

In my last year of college, my lupus symptoms began to rear their ugly head. A couple of years later, I felt so out of control of my body that I began to restrict and purge again, desperate to retain some kind of order. This time, I was hospitalized, but without actually being underweight. I caught it early, too exhausted to deal with being anorexic (which is a full-time job, by the way), adjusting to life with lupus and trying to live the life I was trying to design for myself in my early 20s.

Nowadays, you could say I'm recovered, or have been recovered for a while. But there are still things I hold fast to. For example, I try never to drink something with calories in it unless it is a special treat. I'm also estimating the calories in food before consuming it and beating myself up if I go over a certain limit.

Due to my past health issues, I've had a lot of trouble staying at my regular weight and often finding myself gaining and losing the same few pounds. It's worth it to say that my diet, despite my vaguely disordered thinking, hasn't really been very healthy. Even when I was anorexic, my diet consisted of only "empty" calories with very few nutritionally sound choices.

Dealing with lupus and now endometriosis has added a layer of shame onto my diet in that now it is trendy to purport that diet cures all. I was actually told by a former friend that I was perpetuating my own cycle of lupus because I refuse to try the paleo diet. I've been preached to in every form: paleo, vegan, clean eating, Mediterranean diet, anti-inflammatory diet, blood type diet, etc., etc., each with so-called "scientific evidence" to back up the fact that it has cured someone of lupus. And of course, with the bold statement that everyone who fails to follow it is a heathen who wants to wallow in their own disease. It's a modern day form of religion, where heresy and sin cause illness and instead, not adhering to an unscientific random diet causes doomsday.

I admit, when hearing these things, I often become rather defensive about it. I don't like others judging my food choices because I do that enough myself. It is highly insulting, and frankly ridiculous for people to think they know how to cure a disease they're not familiar with, but I digress. Although quick anecdote on that vein: The former friend that said he could cure lupus with the paleo diet asked why someone with lupus would go on immunosuppressants, questioning why anyone would want to suppress their own immune system. Clearly, you should be taking advice from someone who doesn't even know the basics of the disease, but I digress....


Part of the reason I think I've had trouble gaining and losing the same few pounds is a lack of physical activity. When I'm not in pain, I'm actually one of those people who likes going to the gym. And when I lived in walkable cities, I really loved the time to myself to take the long way to work or school or from the bus/tram stop. It gives me ample time to think, and I've noticed that my anxiety is a lot worse when I'm not doing regular exercise. But, when pain gets in the way, it makes it a lot more difficult to stay physically fit.

So this year, I'm calling for a change. 

Would I like to lose those last few pounds for good? Yes, of course. But instead, I'm experimenting with something new.

This year, I'm not going to beat myself up for not being able to exercise yet. I'm going to listen to my body and start a regime again as I'm comfortable, building up slowly over time, until one day I'm back to normal.

As for my food choices, I'm doing something different to attempt to build up both a healthy diet and a healthy relationship with food: I'm trying plant-based intuitive eating.

Okay, okay, I know it already sounds like some sort of fad cure all mumbo jumbo. But hear me out.

Firstly, I hate 90% of meat. Beef and pork have always left me feeling slightly strange afterward. Turkey is okay, but cooked certain ways has a very funny taste to me. Chicken is, perhaps, the only meat (aside from salmon and prawns) that I'll willingly eat--and even then cutting it out of my diet would hardly cause a massive upheaval.

So why not just go vegetarian?

Well, I was basically vegetarian anyway, but not always making healthy choices. Cutting out dairy products (which I was allergic to as a child anyway) makes it a lot easier to pick healthier options. Simply trying for the past couple of days to be plant based, I've noticed myself snacking on healthier options like fruit and nuts instead of reaching for something that's probably not the best for me.

Keeping It Real

Though I am attempting to be plant-based, I am not calling myself vegan. Why? Because I'm not 100% cutting everything out, only drastically reducing it. This way, if I'm out and stuck for options, I can still order something on the menu that's as close to the diet as possible, even though it doesn't stick to it 100%. For example, recently, I chose to eat carrot soup instead of a panini for lunch. While carrot soup does contain milk, the milk in it is far less than the panini's dairy contents, and it's actually more nutritious.

Personally, I feel like going 100% all in in any diet (that isn't medically, as in actually medically, not some woo, or religiously based) can lead to massive mental issues for people. And for myself, I don't think going 100% vegan would ever be healthy for me. Over time, I can see how people start to beat themselves up for making "wrong" choices and how damaging it is to demonize certain foods. I don't believe that any one diet can cure lupus, so that notion is completely let go of. And if I've learned anything from eating disorder clinics, its that cutting out entire food groups completely if you have no medical or religious need for it can really impair your thinking. And it's time to change that.

I'm also giving up calorie counting, meaning instead of living on the MyFitnessPal app, I'm going to only eat when my body is hungry and reach for something fresh and nutritious.

Will I still have a "cheeky Nandos" (trolololol) every now and then? Certainly. Will I allow myself an occasional ice cream at the movies? Definitely.

But, now I'm simply changing my diet to a way that I know can help me meet my nutritional goals, instead of the goals of the numbers on the scale. And hopefully, the rest will fall into place.

After all, we're all so much more than a number on a scale.

This year, health comes before an unattainable and baseless (and frankly unrealistic) desire to be a stick thin.







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Camel Cape with BooHoo


I've always wanted to try a cape style, so I was thrilled when BooHoo sent one over for me to wear. To be totally candid, I'm not sure capes are the best style for women with big busts as if its not fitted extremely well it can make you look a lot bigger. But it was fun to play with this one, and to wrap up in it. It is a bit like wearing a blanket on a cold day, and who can so no to that?

This one makes me LOL. So mysterious!


Cozy cozy in my cape!


Enjoying some sunshine!

The best part about this cape? It's on sale! Grab it here. 



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New Year Resolutions for 2016



All about my resolutions for the new year!




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Feminism is Irrelevant? #NotAllMen



I'm doing two videos a week for the month of January to make up for the Vlogmas fail. What do you think about this issue?




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