Lifestyle and fashion. Posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5pm.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Saying no to gender norms

I can't bite my tongue anymore. I'm saying no to gender. It has gone on for too long and it's just another unnecessary social construction that is really not needed. Why do I disagree with it so much? Because it's damaging. Gender has existed for as long as I can remember and it does more harm than good. To be clear I'm not talking about sex, the biology that defines if we are man or woman. I'm talking about gender the social construction that defines what a man or woman should be.

Pink avocado socks with hearts all over. Yes, worn by me a man.
The problem with gender is that it tries to force people into a category and who really wants that? To be categorised as the same as everyone else, what a boring world that would be. We should be celebrating our differences and enjoy the diversity between each man and each woman. Gender says we should look, act and be a certain way to fit the social construction of man or woman, but if we don't fit into it what does that make us? Where do we belong? Gender in this way is more reclusive than inclusive. Is this not damaging by making people feel less than what they are?

As a man myself I like to think I am no different to my male peers, but according to gender norms I am. I am not fit or muscly. I am not butch. But I am into health and beauty and gardening. So what does this make me? Well obviously not female, but sure as not masculine. But I reject this. I will not allow gender to limit who I am or make me feel any less masculine. This is where I draw the line because labels and categories don't help people, instead they make them feel lost and unsure of how they fit into this world. We're all trying to find our feet in this big'ol place, we don't need gender making things even harder and confusing for us.

But who's to blame? I say the media. As good as this industry can be, it's a money making machine and gender generates profit. Credit to the media, this social construction has made them a very wealthy sector as it's a genius idea, but ethical? No. It preys on our fears of feeling less of a man or woman if we don't buy that 'pen for females' or 'bedding for men'. Silly really, but we all have our pride of owning who we are so we submit to this construction in the hope of finding some gratification. Pink for women, blue for men, perfume for women, cars for men, we've heard it all before. But what if we went against these norms, well, we'd find equality. We would buy things we actually want to buy. We'd do things we actually want to do. We'd forget our pride and enjoy life a little bit more because does fitting into gender really make us happy?

Let me paint you a picture. I once saw a mother tell off her son for picking up 'girly' looking glasses and he cried. I also saw another woman tell off her daughter for buying a blue book instead of a pink book, again the child cried. What if we let children and adults do what they want? They would be happier because those things they want they could have instead of listening to gender which limits them. And surely they'd be more confident as they wouldn't be thinking is this appropriate for my sex to buy, they would just do it and not feel less of themself for going against the norm. Sort of nice, isn't it? Doing what you want, not being tied down and owning who you are.

We can change this. We just need to reject it. Allow your boy to buy a pink pen, allow your girl to buy an army doll, treat yourself to those 'manly' looking shoes if you're a woman and treat yourself to that girly looking sweater if you're a man. Forget the terms masculine and feminine because you are you and nobody can define you. Sure if we were all the same it would be easy to use these terms but none of us are so let's stop being anchored down and pushed about. Own who you are.

What do you think of gender?

Liam
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Top 5 tips to bring back your calm

This life thing isn't always the easiest, sometimes it can get you feeling down, anxious or just not feeling right. When that happens you need to know ways to cope with it and make yourself feel a little better. I've put together some coping strategies that have helped me that can help you too.



1. The 7 - 5 - 6 rules

This is one of the best tools I have found to calm down the body and slow down thoughts. To start, breathe in deeply and slowly for 7 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, then breathe out slowly for 6 seconds and hold for a further 5 seconds. Whilst doing this, focus on how inhaling fills up and expands the chest and how exhaling does the opposite and expands up the stomach. Really focus on what it's doing to your upper body and mind. Repeat as many times as necessary, it usually works best after two minutes.

Best for: anxiety

2. Body scan and sense awareness

This technique is especially great for grounding. It works best when eye's are closed. Start by noticing how you feel in yourself, that is emotionally and mentally - not questioning it, just noticing it. Then work from head to toe on how you physically feel e.g. sore, restless etc. Notice every part, from eyes to ears, mouth to toes. After this focus on your senses to bring yourself back into the present. Work on each sense besides vision for around 30 seconds to a minute and focus on what you can hear, taste, feel and smell.

Best for: anxiety, low mood, sleep problems and grounding

3. Rationalise - Irrationalise

For this one, you need to personify your rational and irrational mind. Don't tell yourself how you're feeling is silly, instead listen to what your irrational mind is thinking and feeling. Allow it to speak. Then put this into perspective using your rational mind and question things e.g. will that realistically happen?

It will almost feel like having a productive conversation with yourself.

Best for: conflicting thoughts and anxiety

4. Ecotherapy

It's time to embrace the hippie within you by being one with nature. The green outdoors are perfect for when you're feeling down. Not only is the colour green said to enhance creativity, but can also calm and lift moods so go ahead and find a patch of green to have some down time in.

Best for: low mood

5. Journal

For when all you need is to vent out how your feel know that a journal will always be there to listen. You can say anything you want and nobody will see it unless you want them to. Sometimes all you need is a safe place to say how you feel.

Best for: low mood

What tips do you have for bringing back your calm?

Liam
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Monday, 27 March 2017

// Stripes //

Yesterday was the perfect day to go outside and shoot some outfit photos in the sun so I decided to work a black based stripe outfit for the special occasion. New to stripes, I was excited to work them as soon as possible as I never seem to wear this design, but yesterday I lost my stripe cherry.
Stripey giraffe socks well coordinated with my striper t shirt.
I love wearing stripes because they're so daring and eye catching. They standout as the centrepiece of any outfit by making a great focal point which is a great thing for all fashionistas. A new addition to my wardrope and possibly my favourite t shirt design.


This grunge look was fun to wear.
Even though I was aiming to wear a casual outfit yesterday the stripes seemed to smarten up the whole outfit which I was quite impressed by. Having said that, I think black and white alone can smarten up any outfit too. I could have smartened up even more by wearing chelsea boots or Doc Martens but as I said I was aiming to go casual.

If you look closely, there is a pocket on the left side of the t shirt which is an added bonus. 
This combination of clothing made a great look. Although not key spring colours, the choice of a long stipe t-shirt with black skinny jeans teamed up with all black old school Vans worked really well. It was a comfortable look perfect for a stroll in the park and any other casual event from a drink in the pub to casual restaurant wear.


 What I wore:
  • Long t shirt - H&M, £20
  • Jeans - Primark, £10 
  • Shoes - Vans, £40
Total cost: £70

Are you a fan of stripes?

Liam
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Sunday, 26 March 2017

Growing up Gay: My Story Part 2

Coming out of the closet: the task every gay man and woman has to go through at some point in their lives. I am no exception to this rule, but it sure took me a long time to do it. As you read in Part 1 here, I bottled up my feelings about my sexuality for a long time so you can probably guess I didn't find coming out an easy task to do. Here's how it went down.



So throughout secondary school I bottled everything up and tried to forget I was a gay man, but it was in college when this changed. Being surrounded by other likeminded gay men and women opened me up to a new world and gave me a sort of comfort. It reminded me of who I was and I couldn't pretend anymore. Sure it took me a few weeks, even months before I was comfortable enough to say to myself "I'm Liam Havard and I'm gay" but I got there in the end. If it wasn't for going to college I don't think I would have found the confidence to admit this to myself. Being around new open minded and unique people with similar sexualities changed me for the better. I was more comfortable with who I was which goes to show I needed was to be around other LGBT people to make me feel more like myself. But it's not all black and white; yes I felt a lot better, heck even normal but I can't say for 100% that I loved myself like I should have. I still pondered upon the idea that I was different and not the norm and that didn't sit well with me. I've never enjoyed being different but it's who I was and am, but being around like-minded people made me feel that little bit better. I think I'll always feel different but time heals all.

But back to how I came out. It all started from hearing the college gossip every few weeks about how other people came out of the closet when I thought to myself, that could be me one day. I listened to all of the stories specifically focusing on how these people did it and how good they felt after coming out, it was like I was taking notes for when I did my huge show stopper. I didn't plan when I was going to do it, but hearing these stories gave me some confidence. I knew I wanted to come out to friends first though. My thought process was friends come and go so if they didn't like who I was I could make new friends, but family - well you've only got one lot of them. It still would have sucked to lose friends though.

So it was at the end of college over 6 years ago when I plucked up the courage to tell my friends or at least my best friend, Lisa. I called her over one day at one of the common rooms. I was panicking with my heart racing and my hands getting clammy. After a few deep breaths...I hesitated and kept saying to her "Oh nothing. It's nothing" trying to distract myself from the topic. That was until she just said, "Tell me" and then I blurted it out. The pause before she said anything after what I told her was the longest pause in the world, but it turned out she was happy and couldn't have been prouder. Nor could I. I finally did it, I told someone my deep dark secret and it was like a weight instantly dropped off my shoulders. All that fear I had was let go of because my friend was there for me. It was a surreal moment, who would have thought I would ever have the confidence to not only admit this sexuality to myself but to my friends? It was the scariest and most empowering thing I have ever done. Lisa was there for me and it was the greatest feeling and as for everyone else, I told them individually in a similar way over coming days and weeks and they were just as accepting. But this was just a stepping stone, a rehearsal perhaps for when I came out to my family.

My mum was the person I was most scared of telling. I guess that's common for every LGBT person, after all it's your parent you don't want to lose them. I'm especially close to my mum, yes a momma's boy you could say which is why it was more intimidating. I wanted her support and blessing, but all I thought was am I going to get it? So here's how it went.

It was very spontaneous. I used to say everyday I would tell her until one day I FINALLY meant it and did it. I just woke up one day and felt ready. It was around 4-5 years ago when I told her. It may not be a surprise to know I was on Google all day searching for how to do it though. Literally all day. So after gathering my information from online, I got myself ready for the big evening whilst she was in work. I did this two years after telling my friends as I needed to find a whole lot of courage. Two years of preparation done I heard my mum's car pull up outside as she arrived back home as I laid in my bedroom. That's when my heart started pumping and yes, the clammy hands returned with vengeance. I went downstairs from my bedroom where I was prepping to make her a cup of tea. As she walked into the house she knew something was up because I never make her cups of tea (bad child) so her first sentence was "What's wrong?" and I replied with "Nothing". So we went to sit in the living room together to watch the soaps, her favourite pastime and sat in complete silence. Yes that's right, I said nothing for a t-total of three hours even though she tried speaking to me at times. I had zero courage to tell her and I didn't know what to do. I prepped myself for this I should have known how to do it, but the words just wouldn't come out. She knew something was up because normally I would be moaning about her shit choice of TV.

During these torturous three hours I was texting my friend Lisa who I mentioned earlier in this post, asking her for advice on how to do it and she helped out. She gave me some confidence but it wasn't enough so in the end I asked her to pick me up in her car. This was for two reasons: 1. I was stressed and needed to get out of the house, and 2. She was my getaway car ride in case I told my mum the truth and she didn't like it. Lisa was happy to pick me up, so when she arrived I knew I had to go straight away because the silence between my mum and I was killing me, but as I left my mum to go to the car I hesitated. Why? Because I really wanted to tell her. Heart pumping I finally opened my mouth and said "I needed to speak to you Mum but I've got to go. I really had something to say but don't worry". She immediately got up from the sofa and ran to me as I walked to the front door and said "What? What is it? You're worrying me, tell me". I kept hesitating and could only get the word "I'm" out of my mouth. Thankfully she worked out what I was going to say so outright asked if I was gay crying her eyes out I replied with, yes. I finally admitted it, I went into a state of shock. At this point I probably should have stayed with my mother and talked everything out but Lisa was already outside my house with her car. So instead I ditched my mother so I didn't have to deal with the awkwardness. Awkward why? Well she was crying out of shock for what I told her, not because she didn't love me even though that's what I originally thought. Even though I left my mum, we were both happy we got that out in the open.

All the top questions Google told me my mum would ask were spot on. It's quite funny thinking back how accurate this was:
  • Did I do something wrong?
  • Are you sure this isn't a phase?
  • Are you sure you're gay?
  • Why didn't you tell me sooner?
As for the rest of my family, my mum told my brother who was happy to know and my sister told me that she already knew. Everyone was loving and accepting of me especially my brother who hugged me and said "You can love anyone you want and I wouldn't mind. You could even love an animal and I wouldn't care...oh wait that's weird" but that goes to show he loves me! As for my non immediate family, I've only told my cousin who I live with but I wouldn't lie to my other family if they asked me or if it came up in conversation.

After all of these shenanigans, uni came and I wasn't afraid anymore. I was gay and I was there to stay. If people asked me about my sexuality I would open up about it or if they asked me the kind of girl I liked, I would tell them the truth that I was attracted to men. I had such great support from everybody including some of my friends like Reen, Emma, Saskia and Josie. I was no longer afraid and I was happier with who I was.

So coming out really changed me for the better and gave me the confidence to own who I am. Sure it took me a while to get there, but I did it and it's probably the proudest moment of my life. Cringe? In all honesty I'm quite surprised nobody worked it out when I was a kid since all I did was choreographed dances of Britney Spears music videos #werk. I've come a long way from that insecure unhappy boy to now a very open man who owns his sexuality. I can't lie and say I'm 100% comfortable with it just yet but now I accept it and that's a start to being more comfortable. I strongly believe that anyone who is thinking of coming out should do it because you'll be surprised at the amount of support you'll get, but do it when you feel 100% ready. I'm so grateful for all the love and support I've had from my family and friends and wish the LGBT community had the same.

Do you have any coming out stories? Let me know in the comments below!

Liam

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Saturday, 25 March 2017

Growing up Gay: My Story Part 1

Girls, the species I know a lot about and also know nothing about. I've spent my entire life around them but they've never been anything more than just friends and that's because I identify as gay. I've learned to become more comfortable with this sexuality of mine but it's not always been that way as most of my life I've been confused and conflicted. But I've now come to accept who I am which is massive progress compared to where I was before. Here I share my story with you.


The first question I'm assuming you've got is if I've always known. But there's not a straightforward answer for that because on one hand yes I've always been gay, however I haven't always known it as I was confused about this sexuality for a long time. It was foreign and strange to me. It was in my childhood years when I first felt different (around 6/7 years old) like something about me didn't fit in with the norm; like my behaviour and thoughts were odd. I was seeing and thinking about boys in a new way that I didn't really understand. But it wasn't that I was attracted to them in a lustful way, instead it was that something about them interested me. Their behaviour and the way they acted; the way they looked and their facial expressions; the way they spoke. Every little thing they did intrigued me in ways girls couldn't. And this is how it began. I started to just watch them, study them, work them out. I saw them on TV, in school, in the street. I didn't know why they interested me, in fact I assumed I had an illness because this 'interest' wasn't normal, or so I thought. Boys were everywhere and I couldn't get enough of them but as these feelings and thoughts got more intense, I got more confused.

As I grew from a young boy and went into full time primary education I saw things a little differently. Why did I think this way? Did other boys think like this? Was this just a phase? I asked myself these questions daily whilst in primary education (around 8 - 12 years old) from the moment I woke up. Being gay turned me into quite a serious child because it drove my anxiety about who I was insane and I didn't know what to do, I felt helpless. I was going through an identity crisis. These were intense thoughts for a young child to have so in a way it took my childhood from me as I forgot to have fun. This went on for more than a little while though as these thoughts travelled with me all the way throughout primary school and into secondary school.

It was in secondary school around the age of 14 when I first realised that these thoughts and feelings weren't planning on going anywhere soon, so it was time to do some research. I got a lot of use out of Google during this time as I searched for what I was, who I was and how I could change. Google allowed me to discover that I was in fact homosexual but that didn't mean I accepted it. Yes the it taught me who I was but it was so conflicting as it's not who I wanted to be. I pictured myself having a family and growing old with a woman next to my side and not a man, I wanted a traditional family and because I couldn't have one I self sabotaged. I cried quite a lot as I came to accept who I was because I didn't feel like I should be gay - like God picked the wrong person to make gay. I asked myself why me, why would God do such a mean thing? I asked myself through the entirety of secondary school.

As the panic set in, I knew I needed to seek help and answers - no, not from a counsellor or family or friends, but again Google. My most common searches were "Gay to straight conversion" and "Am I going to hell?". I was really concerned that there was no way out of this feeling of being lesser than everyone else and that I was some sort of abomination. I hated it. I searched for stories online of people being converted to straight and luckily there was, so it gave me hope. I thought, I, Liam Havard could be straight - what a wonderful feeling that was to know I could be like everybody else. Sadly for me the conversion cost a lot of money though and as nobody knew I was gay I couldn't ask for money so of course the depressed thoughts kicked in. I didn't know what to do; the cure was so close but so far. I couldn't live like this.

The religious side of things sure made things even worse though. Everything I read online about gay people read "Faggots are disgusting", "Gays are abominations" and "Gay people are going to hell" all written by religious activists. How could I feel good about myself after reading this? The internet was the worst place for a depressed insecure homosexual boy because these religious statements were taunting. Of course not all religions did this, it was mainly Christianity which was a shame because I saw myself as Christian. Reading these statements haunted me; in the nights I prayed to God to save my soul and begged him not to send me to the fiery pits of hell. I asked for repentance and for God to make me straight. I did this most nights all the way from 14 up until 18 and you know what I still do it sometimes now. All I can say is screw the internet for making me feel that way.

So what could I do, like really what could I do? Absolutely nothing. God wouldn't help me, the school kids mocked gay people, I hated myself and there was no one to help because I wouldn't talk to anyone. I didn't want to accept it and I didn't want to be made fun of, so what was the answer? Ask for help? Gosh no. End the pain? Yes. So one night during secondary school I ran a bath, dunked my head and body under and tried to drown myself. Sure I only ended up staying under water for about 10 seconds but to me this was a very real way to end the pain and although it didn't work, you get an idea of how difficult I was finding things. The disappointment I felt after not going through with it was indescribable and so I self sabotaged by making myself feel bad about it. "You're weak Liam".

School was hard. I couldn't speak to anybody and I couldn't accept who I was. It was a very lonely time for me. The only thing I could think to do was burying it all deep inside, acting like I fancied girls and playing straight. Honestly thinking back I didn't play the straight role very well, but it was the only thing I could try to do. I had girlfriends and tried to convince myself I could be straight, of course it didn't work but I kept going. With it all buried inside, I came to forget about who I was

So who's to blame for me feeling so low; my anxiety and low self esteem or is the culprit, SOCIETY for making me feel this way? I write about my coming out story in part 2, keep your eyes peeled!

Liam
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Part 2: here.
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Friday, 24 March 2017

Amsterdam: Top 5 things to do there

As a recent venturer to Amsterdam, I thought it would be great for me to share a few fun things to do out there if you're going for a city break. I spent four days there and I highly recommended it, you won't get bored! Here's what I recommend.

1. VondelPark

A city break is not a city break without visiting some local greenery so it would be a shame to miss a walk through VondelPark. Not only is it a really pretty park, but it is also quite a big one so it's perfect for late night strolls. Lakes, grass and trees everywhere, perfect for an Instagram selfie!



2. A Coffeeshop

For a serious culture shock, visit a coffeeshop. If you're weed friendly or 420 friendly as you cool kids say, then I highly recommended taking a pitstop to one because it's an experience like no other. Be sure to look for a "coffeeshop" and not a "coffee shop" though because they're two completely different things! If you're brave enough, you will find one every 15 seconds or so you walk through the city. No exaggeration, they are everywhere.


3. The Anne Frank Museum

This one is certainly a tear jerker and probably the activity that I recommend the most. The Anne Frank House will feel surreal as you get to see see where her and her family and some others hid for three months.

You'll see the markings that Anne's father, Otto, made on walls when he measured his children. You'll see the secret bookcase that hid the families. You'll see Anne's diary entries where she wrote about her experience. There will be a lot to see and it will really hit home what Amsterdam went through during WWII. An unforgettable experience.


4. Sex Museum

You knew I'd say this one; it's Amsterdam, of course I was going to! Maybe not the most educational experience, but it's certainly a funny one. Saying that, they have some pretty extraordinary art work in them too. Protect yourself though, there's penises everywhere. See what I did there?


5. Wander the canals

For some down time, wander the many, many, many canals that this city has to offer and take in the beauty of Amsterdam. You'll come across a lot of cool stuff like wonky buildings, house boats and incredible architecture, on top of the already beautiful sites of the canals.


What would you do in Amsterdam?

Liam
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Monday, 20 March 2017

What makes me happy on #InternationalDayOfHappiness

Since today is #InternationalDayOfHappiness I couldn't miss the opportunity to share what makes Liam happy.

Source: here.

1. Good vegan food
Harry Potter thought the horcruxes were difficult to find, but I promise you finding good vegan food is 100x harder. It's not easy to come by so whenever I manage to find some I jump for joy, sometimes literally because it can be pretty challenging. However, it's usually worth the task. I'm thankful that there is good vegan food out there because when I find it there is a whole lot of smiling and just a dash of drool.                          

2. Plants
Also known as my second family, I spend a lot of time with my plants. We've been together for about 5 years and we've had a whole lot of fun. From giving them water and shelter each day I find that I'm a little happier. We're a big family, with over 10 cacti; 3 succulents; 1 money plant; 1 bamboo plant; and a bonsai tree. They're all so pretty and they keep me alive. I'm happy to wake up with them every morning and go to bed with them each night.

3. Netflix & chill
To me, Netflix & chill is just that. It is when I can be at home snuggled in duvetland watching the best and worst shows out there and doing nothing else. I am obsessed with binge watching TV because it makes me so bloody happy. It's the perfect form of voyeurism and vicarious pleasure. I lust over Netflix, anyone else?

4. Baths
I love baths with all my heart. They relax me and help me find my zen and that's all I ever want to do. Sure baths may not be 'manly' but here's to screwing gender norms and having bubble baths with bath oils everyday!

5. Friends and family
Cliche I know, everyone says this one but isn't it good to be thankful for friends and family? Cheddar cheesiness aside I am extremely grateful for the people in my life to the point that they don't even realise. They have all taken me from really low lows to really high highs. If you haven't got friends and family, nothing else matters. I'm thankful for them putting up with me and putting a smile on my face everyday. Oh gosh we've gone into blue cheese territory, apologies... But really the people in my life make me super happy, probably more than food does.

And that's what makes me real happy. So onto you; what makes you happy?

Liam


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My gym routine

Yes, yes I've turned into one of those gym bunnies. That whole 'new year, new me' thing actually stuck and now I go 4-5 times a week. To think I've gone from couch potato, well more like couch slob hating exercise to now loving it. Exercise has really been dare I say...fun? It's offered me so many benefits. It taken me a while to get this whole routine thing down but now I think I've finally done it. Check it out!

Source: here.
Monday/Thursday:

These days are big on working the guns (arms) and the babies (chest boobs). I like to work my biceps, triceps and chest twice a week simply because they're what I'm most self conscious of. Everyone has something!

  • Using the free weights machines, I do pec flys and chest press at 22.5lbs; arm curls at 37.5lbs; and tricep extension at 47.5lbs. I alternate between what equipment I use but generally make use of ropes, metal hand bars and grasps/clamps. I do 3 sets of 12 reps.
  • For extra resistance I use the weight machines afterwards doing pec fly at 40lbs; chest press at 55lbs; bicep curl at 70lbs; and tricep extension at 90lbs.
  • I end the session by doing dumbbells and keep going until I burnout the muscles. This one tests  my willpower, which I have very little of so I get to about 25/30 reps until I have to stop.

Tuesday/Friday:

  • This is legs day, my favourite HA NOT. I train legs once to twice a week because I figure legs are half your body so why wouldn't you want to train half your body twice a week? You want to look proportionate and not like Johny Bravo, right? Plus gotta werk that booty. Using the weight machines I do leg press and calf press at 85lbs; plus leg extension, seated leg curl, hip abduction, hip adduction and prone leg curl at 70lbs (yes all at the same weight, weird). I do 3 sets of 12 reps.

Wednesday:

This day is meant for shoulders and back, but cheekily I never train them. Naughty. However this has come to an end as I plan to give these muscles a little love from this week using the free weights machines and weight machines. This used to be my day off, but roider Liam won't allow missing shoulder/back day no more. He's strict.

Weekends:

I use this time for cardio, whether it's a brisk walk, hike or run. I think cardio is important in any workout plan no matter if you're trying to gain or lose weight. I generally go for a local run or a woodland hike.

* 30 - 45 second rest between all reps
* Routine meant for people wanting to gain muscle #Gainz

And that's that! That's my workout routine. It's not perfect, but it's certainly not bad and I'm proud of how far I'm going.

What's your workout routine?

Liam
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Sunday, 19 March 2017

What I miss about uni

2 years ago I was on the rollercoaster that is university. 3 years of hard work and play (mostly the latter) when I studied BA Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University. It was a great time and there's so much I miss about it (I'm not just talking the student discount).


Is it the revision? Probably not. Maybe the early classes? Um no. How about the really tight budget? Still no. Okay let's be real, what I miss is all the learning. University itself taught me invaluable things like how to budget; it gave me structure and routine; it taught me incredible information about the world of media and culture, and so much more. There is no doubt university is more than just class. Investing yourself into a new lifestyle; the student lifestyle is an experience like no other and I'm grateful for what I experienced and learnt. If it wasn't for university, I wouldn't know how to pay my bills right now. If it wasn't for university, I wouldn't have the social skills I do now. If it wasn't for university, I wouldn't know how to cook. If it wasn't for university, I wouldn't know what interests me. If it wasn't for university, I would have missed out on so much. What I'm getting at is university taught me so much and it shaped me and now I don't have anything to mould me like university did and that's what I miss.

But that's not all. Moving away to a foreign city all on my own like other students alike was terrifying but if I didn't do that I wouldn't have made the friends that I still have today. Sure, I was completely out  of my comfort zone but being on unfamiliar soil allowed me to make friends with an emo girl; a farmer; a whole lot of brummies; singers; bloggers; writers; dancers; English people; Indian people; African people; American people and so many others. It's rather exciting thinking how many different people I met, because that's something that doesn't happen for everyone. I was lucky and I'm grateful for the opportunity to have been immersed into student life also known as the 'meet hundreds of different people' life. I meet different people today but not to the extent university offers and that's what I miss.

Shout out to my course mates.
Shout out to my house mates Reen, Saskia and Emma.



Not only do I miss the learning and friends (yes he misses more), I miss knowing what I'm doing. I've always struggled to find my place in society as I'm so indecisive but university was my break; I could say I was a student and that was that. Now when people ask what I'm doing, I don't have such an exciting answer as I'm trying to figure that out. University was my distraction from figuring things out as it made me think I had things sorted...not so much. It gave me purpose and that's what I miss.

But that's enough of me being nostalgic. It's funny how 5 years flies by like that. From student with a vodka in his hand to now being on a career break. Who knows what will happen now?!

Tell me what you miss about university below.

Liam
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Saturday, 18 March 2017

Beauty and the Beast 2017

The beloved Beauty and the Beast (*BATB) film stormed into cinemas yesterday but as a remake of the original 1991 animated Disney classic. The original film captivated audiences from around the world with many favouring it as their favourite Disney film, but how does the new remake compare? Well I went to go watch it yesterday morning, here's what I thought.

I can't claim the 1991 classic as being my favourite Disney film, but it's certainly in my top 5 so I had some expectation on what I was going to watch. I was a bit nervous on how the remake was going to perform. I had dozens of questions, like would the cgi of talking kitchenware look childish and how would Emma Watson perform as Belle? That's the problem with a remake; you never know if it's going to turn out good because nothing beats a classic, right? Then again, there has been films that have been much more enjoyable than the original like The Jungle Book remake of 2016 which I think was much better than the original. Controversial? Probably. It just goes to show that you never know what you're letting yourself in for. Presumptions and questions aside, I was pretty excited to go watch the remake of BATB.

Source: here.
So at 11.15 I sat myself down in the cinema with my falafel wrap and smoothie (yes that was really my choice of cinema food) and got ready for the film to begin. It began with huge amounts of colour and shots of the local village before diving straight into song and propelling me and the audience straight into it. I wasn't expecting such an exciting opening. I thought it was going to be good, but not great to the point my eyes were popping out of their sockets. There's nothing I love more than a film that captures an audience's attention as soon as it begins because that's a clear sign that the director is dying to enthral his viewers. And Bill Condon certainly did that. My attention was his from the moment I saw Emma Watson singing with the local villagers. But if you're thinking it was just in the beginning BATB had my attention and not throughout, you'd be wrong. Sure there was once or twice when I got distracted and was off-focus for about 10 seconds, but as soon as that happened the film found other ways to capture my attention. From the loud articulate beautiful voice of the gorgeous Luke Evans (Gaston) to the magical dance in the ballroom scene between Beauty and the Beast (which had incredible birds-eye view angles). There were all sorts of ways the film got me to continue watching.

What I particularly enjoyed was the humour throughout the showing. It was nothing like in the original animation. It was witty jokes and sarcastic comments which is certainly my type of humour, but maybe not of the target children audience. Strange that there would be so much adult humour in such a childish film, but I'm not complaining. It made me want to watch. It was really funny, the whole audience was laughing. Of course the best humour was from that of Gaston with him being a smug self-absorbed character, but all his jokes emphasised the kind of care-free person he was. Disney really captured his character, but also that of LeFou's character who had a much larger role than in the original film. Different to the original, LeFou's humour was very camp and flirty which was hilarious to watch because it was unexpected considering he was not made camp in the original.

Disney really experimented in this remake by changing the characters, from presenting LoFou as gay (presumably) to making Gaston more evil.  They almost exaggerated their personalities which made an interesting watch. Although this was mostly good, I found Belle's character a little disappointing. Sure, Watson played her part well and her singing was okay, but the one characteristic that lacked was her enthusiasm and happiness. I was questioning this throughout the film and found myself becoming annoyed at why she wasn't cracking a smile like Belle was constantly doing in the original. Maybe this doesn't sound like a major thing, but to me Belle's smile is important. It's who she is.

As for the houseware characters (Cogsworth, Lumiere etc) I was impressed to see how the CGI created them. It didn't look how do I put it, terrible. In fact, I was rather impressed with how well the talking chinaware looked. I would go watch this film just to see the CGI alone because it was that good and certainly the team deserves an applause for it. I'm normally not a fan of huge amounts of CGI in films because I feel it distracts from the movie and areas like acting and script can fail, but not in this movie. Everything was up to scratch.

So is the film worth going to see? 100%. No matter if you're a Disney person or not you'll enjoy this one. I saw children, mothers, couples, mums and sons, a group of boys, a group of girls, I could go on. Everyone was seeing it because it was so suited to all age groups and people. I've only seen it the once and I already want to go for round two! Highly recommend.

Watch the full trailer here:


What do you think of the remake?

Liam
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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Top 2 places to eat vegan food in Amsterdam city

Food glorious food, the one thing that's guaranteed to make me happy. So much so that I like to regularly indulge myself in food at as many restaurants as I can go to and welcome home a food baby. Last week I had the pleasure of satisfying this 'hobby' in Amsterdam city. Here I point out two of my favourite places I ate at. Now go get a tissue to wipe your dribble as you salivate over the photos - oh, just me?




Thank God for Google leading me to this restaurant because it would have been a shame to miss out going to this vegetarian and vegan slice of heaven. Stereotypically vegan, I walked into the cafe and was surrounded by plants EVERYWHERE and as someone who owns over 20, I can say I really enjoyed sitting in this mini rainforest. But as nice as the surroundings were, I'd have to say the service was even more delightful as I was served by a lady with charisma, enthusiasm and joy who explained the menu very well to me. She pointed out what was vegan and what each recipe included which was extremely helpful.

I started off with a peppermint tea which was filled with real fresh peppermint leaves before I moved on to the vegan ragout croissant.



The croissant itself was baked with seeds and filled with tofu wrapped in seaweed and leek. Marinaded in a mild curry spice, the dish was moist (sorry to use that word) and tasty and the curry spice was the perfect heat. As someone who has never had a stuffed croissant, I was excited by the originality of this dish. The side salad complementing the dish was equally as tasty but was no match to how flavourful the ragout croissant was. 

I ended the meal with an apple flop to satisfy my sweet tooth which was a vegan pastry filled with apple, raisins, sugar and spices. It was very sweet, but if you have a huge sweet tooth like me you would love it!



Unlike De Bolhoed, The Meatless District was an all vegan restaurant which got me very excited upon finding it. It was a little further away from the city centre than first thought, but was well was worth the tram ride and walk there in the end.



Sadly there was no cactis in sight with this restaurant, but luckily TMD made up for it with fancy decor which was dreamy. The staff were also very nice and polite so no complaints!


Here I ate a tempeh-tofu tomato burger which was served with aubergine, pickles, tomato and onion. I loved how original this burger was. I'm so used to having the same old beanie burger that a tofu burger seemed a little more adventurous (yes I know tofu is made from beans, but you know what I mean) and it tasted great. What I loved even more though was how the patty didn't fall apart. You know how vegan burgers are; they're not very well bound but THIS burger was which made it 100x easier to eat and made a very happy Liam. Thank God for tofu burgers! The burger wasn't marinaded in much spice so I relied on using the avocado cream that came with it for extra flavour and that worked well. Eating out with my cousin, she commented saying that this was the best burger she ever tasted and I must say it comes in the top 5 for me.

And of course I finished the meal of with dessert because how could I not? I indulged myself in a chocolate fudge torte and had a 'few' bites of my cousin's carrot-beetroot cake. Both of which gave me a foodgasm and I can't stop myself from saying how MOIST they both were.



I highly recommend both of these restaurants should you be in need of food in Amsterdam city which I'm assuming you will be if you go...

Comment below with some of your favourite vegan restaurants in Amsterdam. I'd love to know!

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Monday, 13 March 2017

Back to basics W/S Fashion

So this time I decided to go basic with what I wore *cough basic bitch cough*. It was an awkward day of being too cold not to wear layers and too hot to over layer, so I kept things minimal with only light overwear. I enjoy minimal effortless high street fashion so gave it a try and surprisingly liked it - not just because it kept me warm!


I rocked a knitwear feel green jumper with a knitwear grey long cardigan, finishing the look with some dark blue skinny jeans and black desert boots. I enjoyed how easy it was to pull this look together and it just proves fashion is as hard as you make it! This super basic look was perfect for the awkward period between winter and spring and was cheap, cheerful and easy to create.
When you put your leg up and suddenly look legless...
Some sort of vogue-esque pose?

I teamed up the jumper and cardigan together not because of warmth, but because they both had similar cotton materials so they meshed well together. Colour wise, I chose a green jumper since it was a murky day but also because I wanted some colour in this outfit. If the outfit had no colour I think it would be so basic that it was boring. I think the colour alongside the length of the cardigan makes the outfit pop ("outfit pop" - such a mum thing to say I know, guilty). Luckily the colours alongside the different materials and length of clothes jazzed up this basic outfit.

Sock game strong.
 What I wore:
  • Jumper - George (Asda), £10
  • Cardigan - Primark, £7
  • Jeans - Primark, £10 
  • Shoes - Primark, £16
Total cost: £43

What's your favourite basic outfit?

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Saturday, 11 March 2017

AmsterDAMN

I went to Amsterdam on holiday for a few days this week. It was one of the best experiences so of course I took lots of photographs, duh.
Typical tourist photo.

Truer words never spoken...

There was more bikes than people in cars over here. I almost got run over about 10 times, really.

House boat.
"Flowers can't solve all problems but it's a great start"

Vondel Park.

Have you ever been to Amsterdam?

 Liam
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