- Sunday, 24 July 2016 -

My Tattoos and Me

Hello my lovelies! Before I see my body shape, the acne on my face or the countless other trivial imperfections that eat away at my self esteem, I see my tattoos. I stand in front of the mirror as I notice the intricate detail in some and the vibrant colour in others, a smile stretching across my face as I recount each and every time I sat in the tattooists chair, with laughter filling my head as I recall the pain I endured for this piece of artwork that will forever be etched on my skin. 

Sometimes, during the colder months I tend to forget that I have this secret armour on beneath the layers of coats and cardigans that cocoon me. That is until I find myself at a coffee shop, reaching over the counter to collect my order when my sleeve slips back and I catch a glimpse of some lines and shading peeking out from underneath. 

I currently only have my arms and legs tattooed (hands and feet included) - my legs are multicoloured whereas my arms are done just in blackwork, because in my head, it feels somewhat balanced. I remember a few years ago going to a counsellor and having to go through my entire history of suicidal thoughts and self harm, informing her that I used to suffer from both. Concerned, she asked me whether I’d ever consider harming myself again and in that moment, I remember looking down at my arms and imagined all that beautiful artwork distorted and destroyed. I shook the idea from my head and told her “no”.

When I’m out, I see the widest variety of emotions flash across a persons face when they first notice I have tattoos. Not as tabooed as they used to be, the reactions generally range from positive to quizzical as people probe into why I went for a full arm sleeve when something daintier and more feminine would have suited me better. As a woman who intends to one day be fully covered, I just usually dismiss their ignorance and bask in the knowledge that everyone has the choice to do what they want with their bodies, dainty butterfly tattoo or not.

It’s true, tattoos aren’t for everyone, but neither is shellfish or skydiving. As a designer, I suppose it was always written in the stars that I’d eventually end up with a tattoo or two (or twenty at this stage, oops!), as usually the more creative the individual, the more likely they are to be inked, and because of this, I’ve thankfully never had to face any discrimination in the workplace. Having even worked as a carer with my tattoos occasionally on show, I’m happy to see a greater level of acceptance from employers, seeing my personality first and not the half naked pin up lady on my leg.

When I’ve got a tattoo to look forward to, I develop tunnel vision and focus on nothing else. The gloom and darkness that would usually cloud my thoughts dissolves as I look forward to the colour that is soon to be injected into my life (and quite literally at that!). So, if you’re mulling over your first tattoo and find yourself on the fence, take the plunge and live your life in colour, paint that blank canvas and don’t worry, there’s always laser removal ;)

- Friday, 22 July 2016 -

A Little Life Update!

Hello you lovely lot! I honestly thought I'd struggle to string these first few words together when I've been gone for so long. It feels soothing to dip my toes back into the warm pool of blogging, I missed the creativity, the interaction and nothing beats that rush of pressing publish on a post, right? I knew I'd always come back to blogging and that it was just a matter of timing, with the final months of my degree looming over my head, I knew I had to give it priority - all or nothing.

It absolutely broke my heart to close down the tabs of Blogger that I'd opened up without even thinking, it killed me to see my social media accounts go quiet when they'd always been so vocal and vibrant in the past. So, I distanced myself as best I could from blogging to focus on what I'd been working so hard towards for the past 4 years, and on the 11th of July, I graduated with a First Class Honours in Interactive Media Design. 

I say 4 years because during the start of my 2nd year my mental health took a turn for the worst and I had no choice but to take a year out. It felt like those dreams you have where you're trying to run away from something or towards something but your muscles are made of tar and the tar is about to harden, and you become slower and slower until the tiredness and frustration defeat you. But you can't let it beat you.

So, I await my next adventure. At the end of August, Martin and I move to Manchester to start our lives together. I'm currently applying for jobs left, right and centre and feel uncharacteristically optimistic about it. Right now it feels kinda weird not worrying about anything, as I'm stuck in that limbo between graduate life and employment, I'm learning to savour every last drop of freedom whilst repeating to myself "you've earned a break." I'm excited for a lot of things these days, and can't wait to share it all here on my little blog.

In other news, I'm currently back home in Northern Ireland where it feels pretty surreal to think that this'll probably be my last summer free from any real responsibility. In my final few weeks at home I have plenty of blog posts planned to get me back into the swing of things, including a cheeky giveaway as a way of thanking this little community for their endless support and unwavering friendship.

- Saturday, 2 April 2016 -

Apps I'm Currently Loving

Hello my lovelies! It's the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I look to at night - no, I'm actually not speaking romantically about my significant other but instead refer to the other love of my life; my phone. It's essentially become an extension of my arm and as pathetically materialistic as it sounds, I would be totally lost without it, no seriously, I would literally be LOST the amount of times Google Maps has saved my ass in a new and unfamiliar area. Gone are the days were a mobile phone's sole purpose was to text and make calls (and grow an unhealthy obsession for the game Snake) - it's now become a means of keeping organised and keeping entertained, all from the palm of your hand. So, without further ado, I'm excited to share with you a few of my most recent favourites that have kept me glued to my phone!

Neko Atsume - This little gem of an app has been gaining a lot of popularity recently, because let's face it, what could be better than a cat-themed app? Basically a tamagotchi with cats, you're bestowed the honour of caring for a lot of cute furry felines that come visit your garden, and if you feed and interact with them enough, they may just bring you some adorable tokens and treasures! With each cat possessing their own unique name and personality, it quickly becomes a collecting game that'll have you spinning new phrases like "one sec. just checking on my cats" or "look at how cuteeee their little bums are!" as your friends look on in wonder and confusion.

Gratitude Journal - As a person that finds it difficult viewing the glass as half full sometimes, this app is amazing at boosting your positivity. So, every day the app prompts you to write 5 happy things that happened to you, so that in time you'll be able to look back and relive those little moments that brought you happiness. Normally one to turn off an app's notifications, the friendly reminders that pop up for this one encourage you with positive phrases like "Today you are an eagle and your wings are made of awesome. Write about it!" If you want to get your mind in a better place and practice positivity, this is an app you should seriously invest in!

A Color Story - This is a relatively new app addition for me as sometimes I find editing apps to be quite repetitive however, with an array of cool effects, features and filters to choose from, this app has it all. In the past I would have probably applied a filter through the Afterlight app and then incorporated a cute bokeh effect from another, but A Color Story does it all for you without you going through the trouble of switching apps. The app is easy to use and beautifully executed, I swear you'll find yourself taking numerous photos just as an excuse to use it!

Relax Melodies - I'm the kind of person that loves nothing more than listening to the sound of the rain battering down on my roof as I drift off to sleep. In the absence of such soothing ambient sounds, I use this app to listen to calming imitations, from heavy rainfall to cats purring, this app has an amazing amalgamation of melodies to choose from. You can even mix and match your sounds to suit your mood, like combining the soft chirping of birds with wind chimes to create your own personal tranquil experience.

Plant Nanny - I'd be the first to put my hands up and admit that I don't drink enough water during the day, instead opting for juice or a fizzy drink. I've seen a lot of apps floating about that merely prompt you to record your daily water intake, without any means of motivation. However, of course when you bring a cute virtual pet plant into the mix, obviously I'm going to mother that thing better that my own house plants. With your daily goal being to drink 2 litres of water a day, the more you drink, the stronger your plant gets and the bigger it grows. This app comes with loads of cute customisable features from changing the breed of your plant to decorating its pot, it becomes much more than just a mundane monitoring device.

What apps have you been loving?

- Monday, 7 March 2016 -

Kitsch, Springtime Nails

Hello you lovely lot! As soon as I get even the slightest whiff of Spring in the air, I'm cracking out the lighter hues and pastel tones like there's no tomorrow. With adorable bunny and baby chick products in abundance and softer colours like lilacs and mints making a comeback, Spring is without a doubt one of my favourite seasons. Be it the lighter evenings or the prospect of eating your own body weight in chocolate eggs, this time of year definitely lifts moods as we break out of that dreary and sluggish cocoon we found ourselves wrapped up in these past winter months. 

So, to ease myself smoothly into the seasonal transition, I decided to experiment with some nail art this weekend and create some subtle little springtime designs. Always eager to try new things, I bought myself some cute nail decals from Instagram shop Jinxie and Trixie, which up until now, have been a completely foreign art form to me. I also purchased a mixed set of nail art decorations from eBay, which includes the most adorable array of mini bows, hearts, stars and jewels!

For the decals to appear sharper on the nail, it's advised you use a light base colour before applying them. Essie is one of my all-time favourite nail polish brands, but of course it was a no brainer for me to opt for a soft pink! Once your base colour has successfully dried, you can then cut out your favourite decal (as close to the image as possible) and dunk it in a cup of water for 15-20 seconds. Just like when a sticker peels away from its backing, when you retrieve it from the water, the decal should peel away too, leaving you with the image on a transparent base. 

You may then proceed to press the image down on your nail of choice, smoothening it out from any bumps or bubbles. After you're well and truly sure that you decal has dried, you can then cover it in a top coat in order to secure the image. When this was done, I then decided to pick a cute little bow from my assorted decorations set and perch it prettily above my decal, just to complete the look! With the run up to Easter, I plan on experimenting more with the decals, maybe even implementing a bunny, chick or lamb design, just to make it appear that bit more seasonal! 

Have you ever tried nail decals before?

- Friday, 26 February 2016 -

Recipe: Panda Cookies

Hello my lovelies! Ever since Pancake Tuesday came and went, I seem to have been bitten by the baking bug as I find myself spending my spare time in the kitchen cooking up a storm and making a mess of the place. Having posted a few cake and cupcake tutorials in the past (see them here and here!) I wanted to try my hand at something new and decided to tread into uncharted territory and bake some biscuits! Not overly confidant on the whole biscuit making business, I decided to cheat a little bit and purchase some panda-shaped cookie cutters from eBay. Having already seen a few Miffy and Disney sugar cookie tutorials floating around on the Blogosphere, I thought it'd be fun to mix chocolate with vanilla and make something that's cute enough to eat!

You will need:

2 tablespoons of unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 and a half cups of all purpose flour
A pinch of salt
1 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
Three quarter cup of granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1 and a half teaspoons of vanilla extract
Panda-shaped cookie cutters

1/ Cream together the butter and the sugar until fluffy

2/ Crack the egg open in a separate jug or cup and mix well. Once done, add in the egg and vanilla extract into the mixture and blend well

3/ Slowly pour in the salt and the flour, mixing until a light but thick consistency is achieved - don't worry if dough appears sticky, because we'll be adding pinches of flour later when using the cookie cutters!

4/ Cut the dough in half, mixing 2 tablespoons of the Cocoa Powder into one half and mixing well

5/ Cover both the light dough and the dark dough in plastic (separately) and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour

6/ Using a rolling pin, roll out your cookie dough on a lightly floured surface

7/ Using the cookie cutters provided, cut out the shapes and outlines of your pandas, using the dark cookie cutters for the dark parts of dough and the white cookie cutters for the light parts and layer the pieces on top of each other

8/ Preheat your over to 350°F / 180°C / Gas Mark 4

9/ Once assembled, bake your cookies for approximately 10 - 12 minutes, always keeping an eye on them so they don't burn - you want the white dough to stay light!

10/ Once baked, allow them to cool for up to 20 minutes, and enjoy!

- Tuesday, 23 February 2016 -

10 Reasons Why I Suck at Adulting

Hello my lovelies! Sometimes I honestly can't believe that I'm twenty-four years old. When I was twelve and my friends used to talk about their older brothers and sisters who were in their twenties I used to just sit there gobsmacked thinking that they're on their way with their jobs and starting families and finally getting their lives (and shit) together. You would think that growing up as an only child would have imbued me with some sort of independence or established a kind of maturity, but if anything I'm actually worse because I was coddled and cocooned from any real-life challenges. I mean, to this day I don't even arrange appointments by myself - dentist, doctor, hairdresser? Yeah, they're all orchestrated by my mum because I'm too scared to talk to them on the phone for fear of them asking me a question I don't know the answer to and responding instead with, "Errmmm... OKIDON'TKNOWTHANKYOUFORYOURTIMEBYE" 

1/ I sleep ALL the time, like I'm practically a newborn. I nap every day because I honestly feel like I need a reprieve from real life, and whilst we're on the subject of sleeping, I also consider getting up between 9-10am as early.

2/ There's a designated space in my room for stuff, I call it "the chair". After a long and hard day at work or at university, who honestly has the time or effort to put away their clothes properly? Well, the chair's the answer to your prayers, dear readers! It's also fun because you can play chair jenga on it too to see how much clothes it'll take to topple it over.

3/ When I have to call up my parents and ask for help with the smallest of tasks. True story, I once had to call my mum up in an emergency because I didn't know how to boil an egg for a lady I was making lunch for - who knew that poached and boiled are two completely different things!?

4/ I like to live my life vicariously through the use of GIFs because sometimes it's just too difficult to portray your feelings through words. Animal GIFs in particular give me life because what could be better than video evidence of a corgi attacking a cabbage?

5/ I'm not yet an adult because I simply don't act or speak like one. I have toys and plushes and games all strewn around my apartment and descend into a panicked frenzy if I can't find one of them. I also like to put on weird voices and quote movies because talking proper formal English is for losers.

6/ Why does there always seem to be too much month at the end of my money? Try hard as I might to organise my spendings and plan my budgets, I'm forever in a state of mind where I should "treat myself" - oh, I finally managed to get out of bed and dress myself *logs onto Asos to reward self*

7/ I'm legit counting down the days until I can have a massive mansion to keep all the animals I'm going to have because I'm genuinely more excited about my potential future pets than potential future kids.

8/ No matter where I travel to around the world, nowhere will ever compare to Disneyland. Oh, you're going for a nice, relaxed city break to Bruges? WELL I'M AWAY TO THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH, BITCH.

9/ Sometimes I have all these good intentions to go out and buy vegetables and fruit and a juicer but actually just end up getting a takeaway because cooking and preparing food (with the added effort of cleaning up the dishes when you're done) = nope.

10/ I like to put off paying bills for as long as possible because who doesn't want to live on the edge? Usually I also have no idea what anyone's talking about when they mention mortgage bonds or financial investments or pension schemes so I just like to curl up in a little ball and ignore it for as long as possible.

- Saturday, 20 February 2016 -

Long Time, No Blog

Hello my lovelies! It's been quite a while, hasn't it? Firstly, I want to apologise for appearing like I've fallen off the face of the earth for a few months, I've had to shift my priorities elsewhere as university began to swallow me up, but here I am - 2 projects and a 6,000 word dissertation later and I'm ready to pick up where I left off! You've NO idea how much I've missed blogging and all it entails: the community, the chats, that rush of adrenaline you get when you hit "publish" on a post... It killed me to put my work before something I loved so dearly, but sometimes I guess that's just life. I felt so negligent, leaving my poor little blog to gather cobwebs in the dark catacombs of the internet, but this time away didn't go wasted. Notice anything different?

That's right, Fine and Dandy's had a facelift! I suppose this is my late response to the whole "new year, new me" hype, but it was desperately needed as I grew tired of seeing the same layout I've had for over a year now; I wanted to inject a bit of life back into my blog and yearned for something that better reflected my personality (and let's be honest, fits a bit better with this whole pink theme I've got goin' on!). Being so busy at university, I couldn't possibly take on such a monumental challenge by myself, so I decided to reach out for some help, and found the amazingly talented (and fellow North-Eastie) Rebekah Dale. Together, we began to build a new and improved Fine and Dandy, one with a fresher image yet still stayed true to my "brand" I guess you could call it! I couldn't be happier with the way it all turned out and for the first time in a long time I'm feeling so positive about the future of this little blog.