Saturday, 25 April 2015

I'M ON PINTEREST!

A note from Joelle... 

Hi there!
Just a quick post letting you know that I'm back on Pinterest. I've neglected this cool space for almost two years and that's naaaaat cool!
Here's a sample of a few of my boards. My 'Foodie Heaven', 'Elegance' and 'Travel' boards are really worth checking out (if I do say so myself!).

www.pinterest.com/februarygirlldn
Febgirl Pinterest

Follow me HERE
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Thursday, 23 April 2015

Thursday Thoughts: Self(ie) Esteem

A note from Joelle... 
What's interesting about this image?
What's interesting, to me, is that when you remove the phone, the woman is posing for male attention. The sculpture was carved by a man for other men to gaze at back in the day. With her shape and pose, she's a mysterious work of art that men would stare at, praise and lust after. She's a thing of beauty and intrigue.
However, now that an iPhone has been placed in her hand, it's all about the woman. And now the woman's appeal and personality are under scrutiny of everyone, as the fact that she is appreciating herself  makes them uncomfortable.
She is now seen as "vain","narcissistic" or even "slutty". 
Interesting, right?

There are currently 261 million photographs posted under "#selfie" in Instagram right now. 
And people see that in two ways:
It's narcissistic
It's somewhat empowering

I see it as the latter. Why? Because from a young age, everyone is told to hate themselves and play down their appearance because it could make others uncomfortable... Yup, that's right. Of course we are taught to be humble, but it usually goes a dangerous step further, to the point where we find it hard to accept compliments, and constantly compare our looks to others.
Think about it. How do you react when someone compliments you on your appearance. Do you cringe and downplay their comment? Do you smile and say "thank you", but think they don't actually mean it? Do you hit back with a negative comment about yourself?

As soon as we start to develop into teens, we are bashed with stereotypes and ignorance that seemed to just arrive from nowhere, settle into our brains and ruin us from the inside-out:
Black girls shouldn't wear red lipstick, plus size women shouldn't wear white or clothes that show their arms/back. Pale white girls need a tan. Pouting in pictures means you're a bitch. Wearing glasses makes you look too serious/nerdy. Never smile with your teeth (especially if you wear braces or have a gap tooth). 
Lads, don't wear tank tops if you don't have toned arms. And don't even think about wearing skinny jeans, unless you want people to question your sexuality.
Women, don't wear low-cut tops because it either offends other women, or gives men the wrong idea. Blah, blah, blaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

We then turn to magazines, forums, advice columns and YouTube tutorials in attempt to fix something that isn't (and was never) broken, instead of having the confidence to take a mere picture and like what we see. We are too blinded and confused to realise that we are enough. Our faces are enough.

For me, selfie culture is about acceptance, self-expression and documentation. 
Despite all the bullshit that's fed to us on a constant basis about how we should look/behave live, for that one moment we accept how we look. We express ourselves in a way that no generation before us could. And we can someday look back at how we used to look and laugh/cry/smile/cringe. It's like a little virtual photo album.

Today, many people of the older generation dismiss selfie culture and call the younger generation "vain" and "vacuous" for posting them. 
But I have a question for them... 
Who raised this current generation?
Why are 64% of UK 11-14 year olds saying they are "lacking in body confidence?"*
Why are 47% of UK teens saying that their negative body image stopped them from taking part in everyday activities like sports, or even raising their hand in class?
Answer me that, please.

I was the same. I didn't like the way I looked one bit as a  young teenager. My hair wasn't straight enough, my skin wasn't clear enough and my makeup attempts never looked as good as the model's in the mags.
 I wouldn't have ever dreamed about taking a photo of myself and posting it online (not for the sole purpose of a new display pic). That would have been too stressful, having just me in a photograph. I rejected compliments because I honestly didn't believe them and thought people were taking the piss.
So I have to hand it to this new team of shameless selfie-takers. They are embracing how they look and sharing it with the world. That is amazing, seeing as we are constantly told to downplay our views about ourselves.

For the first time ever, we are taking back our own faces that were once automatically owned by other people we had never met and will never meet. 

Finally, we are taking our beauty (doesn't matter if it's natural or not) into our own hands, literally. That should never stop being celebrated. 

If you want to pull a goofy face, fine. If you want to show off your on-fleek brows that took you an hour to perfect, super! Life's way too short to sit around wondering if people will think any less of you for being happy with how you look. It's none of their business.
So, switch on that front-facing camera and look at how fucking awesome you are.
The female sculpture may not be alive, but if she was, she'd be rooting for you.

* stats from www.selfesteemteam.org
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Saturday, 18 April 2015

Theatre: Carmen Disruption, Almeida Theatre

A note from Joelle... 
source
Who?
Creative team:
Michael Longhurst  Director
Simon Stephens - Writer
Lizzie Clachan - Design
Jack Knowles - Lighting

Cast:
Sharon Small - The Singer
Noma Dumezweni - Don Jose (now a female cab driver)
Jack Farthing - Carmen (yes, Carmen's a bloke in this play)
Katie West - Micaëla
Viktoria Vizin - Chorus
John Light - Escamillo

Where? Almeida Theatre, North London
What?
So I'm that guy who mainly goes to see glossy West End musicals, with great dance numbers and jazz hands. But last Friday, I took myself up to North London's Almeida Theatre for an experience like no other. There was so much buzz around Stephen Simon's Carmen Disruption in the weeks leading up to the opening night of previews, so I needed to see what all the fuss is about.
I like going to shows that I know nothing about. I don't research anything, because I want to see it fresh and live, without anyone else's opinions already in my brain.

Upon arrival, I thought it would be a modern take on Bizet's 'Carmen', which I've been a fan of for years and years. If you're unfamiliar with the opera, let me break it down for you real quick:
Carmen is a set in Seville, Spain and tells the story of a Gypsy woman who works in a cigarette factory. She likes an Officer called Don Jose, but he pies her off at the beginning, but then falls in love with her (even though his mum wants him to marry some girl named Micaëla. Don Jose ends up in prison for letting Carmen escape after she attacks a co-worker in the factory. Don Jose is released a few months later and gets back together with Carmen, but she then pies him off.
She then falls in love with bullfighter, Escamillo and things get a bit awks from then on. In the end Don Jose stabs her and she slowly dies. Lovely. 
There are some great  arias that you've probably already heard, like this one and this one.

So I took my seat and watched the rest of the audience pile into the theatre below me (I was in a rather nice red velvet box with a plug to charge my dying phone**). I quickly noticed two things: 
The audience come through the stage entrance of the theatre and walk over the debris-filled stage to get to their seats. On the way, they pass the actors getting ready for the performance (pretty cool).
The a bloody massive animatronic bull on the stage. And if you look closely, it's actually breathing. (*applauds the creative team who made that*)

Anyway, onto the play...
It's a series of interwoven monologues and each character takes it in turn to talk. At the beginning of the play the monologues are long and full of questions. I noticed as the drama builds up (I'm not going to reveal the plot, sorry), the monologues get shorter, louder and more snappy.
Basically Simon Stephens has taken Bizet's Carmen, disrupted the shit out of it... and it's brilliant.
The characters have the same names in the play and some of their traits are similar also (e.g. Carmen is still flirtatious and at times, violent). But now, Escamillo is a stockbroker in some deep water. Don Jose is a taxi driver with family issues. Micaëla is a suicidal student who is going through heartbreak and making some pretty bad decisions. The Chorus is just one Mezzo-soprano, with an incredible voice. She sings, mostly in French but then hints at a little English in an adapted version of the HabaneraThe Singer is a woman who mirrors The Chorus in a way, but fights jet lag and loneliness. She doesn't actually sing in this play, but I think she is an opera singer about to take on the role of Carmen at the opera house.
They all cross paths near an opera theatre, but ultimately conduct their own personal downfalls.
source
Carmen is cocky and confident, but ultimately lost in his world of sex work. He tells us about his life as prostitute, his relationship with his mother and even does a slightly awkward stipper dance.
Farthing is brilliant in this role, and seeing as he's done a lot of period stuff, it's great to see him in a modern role (with a great silk shirt).
Dumezweni is great as Don Jose - a cab driver who also does some dodgy odd-jobs. It took me a bit longer to fully appreciate West and Light's characters and to this day, I'm not sure why. They are both desperate - one for love and the other for money.
Not forgetting the two talented cellists who really helped carry the play along. They were excellent too. It's interesting that two cellists were used, in my opinion. Cellos were usually the background instruments in music from the Romantic era, never really carrying the main tunes and getting time in the limelight.
But they can create amazingly eerie distorted sounds that other instruments cannot do, so they were a good fit in this play.

Why?
My take on it is that it's a play about alienation, a sense of loneliness without actually being alone and also our relationship with technology. The characters may all lead different lives, but they all have iPhones. Narcissism, dependency, disconnection from real life, but connected virtually.
Some people feel more themselves online than in real life, and I think that's what Stephens was trying to explore with this project.
Everything is fractured and distorted - even the music and set design (there's a lot of brick/rubble on the stage).
So much stuff happens in this play, and I guess every audience member will come away with a unique take on it. I did  see some shocked faces from mature members of the audience during Carmen's opening monologue. Perhaps, like me, they expected this just to be a modern adaptation of the original opera?
At first I found it weird that there was no interval, but then again, why should there be? It's an intense experience for the characters and the actors playing them, so it should be the same for the audience.

I give Carmen Disruption a strong 4/5 - because it was stunning. It's like nothing I've seen before and that's refreshing. The actors are on point, the cellists are wonderful. It was like a out-of-body experience without the dodgy psychedelics.
At first, it looks and sounds like it's going to be a mess, with too many themes/ideas crammed into 1 1/2 hours. But it works.
If you're in the North London area, I recommend you go see it before the tickets sell out. I'm going for the second time, (#keen) because I don't think I took it all in in just one viewing. I and am hoping to get more out of it next time.
source
Carmen Disruption runs until 23th May 2025 and you can get tickets HERE.

*In a play about our obsession with technology, I'm happy that I can charge my iPhone whilst watching this play. I'm an awful human being.

UPDATE: So I took a pal and saw it again last Monday. We had glad seats and the stalls and this time, I saw all the fluid movements and just a lot more than last time in the box. I really really got more out of it the second-time-round.
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The Music Tag

A note from Joelle...
The Music Tag

What is your favourite type of music?
Pop and musicals were what got me into music at the age of 4. Mum would play her ABBA GOLD album and my sisters and I learnt all the songs. We also had a video of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 50th Birthday concert and played that on a loop for about 10 years. So we know every single song. 
It's tough because I listen to everything and like a really wide range. Romantic music (a form of orchestral from the 1820s to 1900s) plays a big part of my life, with the likes of Ravel, Tchaikovsky, Puccini and Bizet.
I'm getting more into Indie, as I used to like it as a teen, but then all those bands disappeared or barely got any airplay. 
I'm also a big fan of EDM and Hip Hop, as there are so many talented artists coming out of the UK right now in both genres. It used to feel like an American-dominated thing, but the Brits seem to be killing it right now.
Modern-day Country music and also old-school Punk are up there in my favourites as well.
See, I told you I listened to everything!

What is your least favourite type of music?
Heavy Metal - I just don't think I'll ever understand it.

What's the best gig you've been to?
McFly always put on great gigs and I'll be seeing them live tomorrow! Ahhhhh! This will be my first McBusted show and TENTH McFly show!
I saw Angel Haze and Kanye West last year and they were pretty awesome and got great reactions from the crowd.  Angle Hazel jumped into the crowd and started running about, which was really hectic but so so cool!
I also remember seeing the Black Eyed Peas a few years back, but in 2013, I saw Rudimental with Ella Eyre and that was on another level!
I guess my all-time fave was seeing Vampire Weekend, Mumford & Sons and The Vaccines at the Lewes Stopover in Summer 2013. We camped for three days and at night, the crowd was electric - it might as well had been Glastonbury!

What albums are you listening to at the moment?
George Ezra's 'Wanted On Voyage' has been blasting from my speakers for almost a year now. Surprisingly, I really like Meghan Trainor's debut album and well as I
I really can't wait for Years & Years' debut album called 'Communion'.

What/who is your favourite band/artists and favourite album?
My favourite bands are: Years & Years, Paramore, McFly, Green Day, Vampire Weekend, Simon & Garfunkel, ABBA.
Artists: Beyonce, George Ezra, Amy Winehouse, Lorde, Kate Nash.

My all-time favourite album is "Modern Vampires Of The City" by Vampire Weekend. Every single song is a hit and that's really uncommon. The lyrics are at times intense, but make you think. Plus I saw them live in 2013 and it changed my life.

If you could instantly know how to play any instrument, what would it be?
I can already pick up a flute, recorder or piccolo and play it, but I'd love to be able to do it with a piano. That would be so handy.


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Thursday, 16 April 2015

'Me Time'

A note from Joelle... 

♫♪ 'Therapy' - All Time Low ♫♪

Lots of people are so afraid of being alone these days, even though most won't admit it. 
Some find it really hard to disconnect from Instagram, Twitter, Whatsapp and Facebook and just be alone with themselves without distractions.
We feel like we need to know what everyone's up to and update people on our own lives even if it's not really a reflection of how our day has actually been.
We automatically feel that we have to post countless pictures to prove that our lives are interesting and, dare I say it, relevant...
I used to be like that. But I guess I have parted ways with that way of thinking and it was the best decision everrrrrr!
The truth is, I have just been having more 'me' time and I am loving it! Why? Because there's no shame in wanting time off from people. It's a time to take stock, get creative and just chill.
Here's what I do:

Light candles - I didn't believe the scented candle hype this time last year, but after getting loads for my birthday, I finally get it. 
This one is from Flamingo Gifts* and it noiiiiiice. What's fab about this Oriental Lotus and Rose Otto is that it does have that sickly, overpowering scent. It burns really well and the aroma is so dreamy! 

Reading - I do this thing where I pass on a book to someone after I've finished reading it. I add a little note telling them what I liked about it too. Books you enjoyed aren't meant to just gather dust on a shelf for the rest of it's life. They are meant to be passed on and shared.
Right now, I've just started 'The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting' by Holly Bourne and am still gripped by 'Only Every Yours' by Louise O'Neil, even though I finished it a month ago.
Calm.com - if you remember my '5 Ways To Relax' post, you'll know that this app/website is my place! Free natural sounds and calming images really help my to unwind.

Writing - It's what I do all-day, everyday, but I've rediscovered the art of actually putting pen-to-paper and jotting things down by hand. 
 I don't always write plays and stories though. Most of the time, it's ridiculous lists about anything and everything.

Lavender - I keep a pouch of dried lavender on my bedside table. It's soothing and is scientifically proven to help you get a good night's sleep. Plus it smells bloomin' lovely. 

Tea - I'm all for herbal and fruit teas. It's been over a year since I went caffeine-free and it's opened my eyes to so many
Golden Tips* tea is a new favourite. They kindly sent my 10 blends to try and the quality and taste is really something. Loose leaf teas bring out a whole new drinking experience.

Pamper - Facemasks aren't just for prepubescent girls at a sleepover! Spending time pampering yourself with a fresh manicure and an ugly-looking facemask can really lift your mood. I try to do this at least once a month, usually on a Sunday night.
Little tip: remember to peel off your gel face mask before the leave the house and try to get on a bus..................

Independence - I like to go to bookshop and sit in the cafe bit with a book for a few hours. I barely take my eyes off the pages and just read and read until it's dark.
Going to the cinema, theatre and restaurants alone is also really, really scary at first, but I'm so glad I am now comfortable with it. No one stares at you or even takes pity on you. In fact, people are too involved in their own like that they barely notice you, so there really is nothing to worry about!
Life is meant to be enjoyed, even when you choose to do things alone, for once!

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Monday, 13 April 2015

Why We Should Vote

A note from Joelle... 

♫♪ 'My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark' - Fall Out Boy ♫♪

With exactly a week until voting registration closes, I'd like to share with you why I think we should all register to vote before the next General Election.

x Because Emily Davidson didn't throw herself under a horse for banter - she dreamed of a world where British women were equal citizens and gave her life to the cause. Sadly, she died just before women got the vote. Less than 40% of young women voted in the last GE - and that's simply not good enough.
x Because your vote can make a difference, even if you don't think it will - lot's of people say 'my vote doesn't matter, it won't change anything.' But it does and it will.

x Because it's a right that women and non-whites had to fight and die for back in the day - Voting in the UK was once only for White males, so of course the Government represents white males. But time have changed and we cannot let it go back to how it used to be. When we vote, more MPs get shuffled around and more representation in the House of Commons occurs, regardless of the majority party.

x Because policies are made for the people who vote - If a lot of people choose not to vote, the Government isn't as legitimate and even runs the risk of misrepresenting/over representing a large chunk of the country.

x Because it's our future after all - we are so fortunate to live in a democracy, not run by a dictatorship or ruling dynasty with immense political power. We can hold our politicians accountable, but we only have a right to do that if we vote. We all want a better future for ourselves and our loved ones. Voting goes hand-in-hand, as we have a right to choose who we think will help us reach a better future.

x Because the youth (18-25) vote can determine who's in power - We know this too well with the Lib Dems when they became the Kingmakers. If more 18-25s voted, we can't be ignored.

x Because it's soooooo easy - If you can't make it to a polling station, you can just register for a postal vote or apply for a proxy vote (someone can vote on your behalf).

Don't be that guy who's opinion is ignored because they didn't partake in the General Election. It's true what they say, 'no vote, no voice!'.
Even if you don't know who to vote for right now, you should still register so that when the time comes in May, you can make your decision then. And you can even leave the ballot paper blank at the polling station.
Taking a few minutes to read all the party's manifestoes will help when the time comes.
You still have time to register here: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
The deadline is the 20th April!!!!!
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Sunday, 12 April 2015

#SLBloggerBash

A note from Joelle... 

♫♪ 'Style' - Taylor Swift ♫♪

SLBloggerBash
Scarlett has a real talent for creating and hosting blogger events. I've been to two of her's in the past and they are so much fun! 
A few days ago, she held an event at 1 Alfred Place, a really cool techy building. 
A part of me was a wee bit nervous because I hadn't been to a blogger event in ages and I was worried that I'd be 'out-of-the-loop'. Living so far away from the blogging hub, that is London seems like a drawback, but I had nothing to worry about!
Before I headed in, I met up with Emma, Viola and Eloise. I am so fortunate to have met and spent the day with them as they are all babes! It's great when you instantly get along with people you've only known for a few hours, right?
On arrival at the venue, we sipped on wine and floated around the different brand tables. At no point did I expect to be taking selfies in a prom queen sash (plus a tiara, obvs), do some Italian wine tasting and lawn rug bowls! 
#SLBloggerBash
 The Bon Prix table offered a cool range of Spring clothing that we could win. I've worked with them before, and I can vouch that they have the best-fitting clothes on the high street.
We played rub bowls with Modern Rugs. I lost epically, but got a nice floral headband for taking part.
#SLBloggerBash
 What's a blogger bash without cupcakes and CHOCOLATE PIZZA?
 Next up was wine tasting with Tuscany Now. I'd like to say I did well, but it was actually quite hard!
 Viola and Eloise taking their #QuizProm selfie

Later on in the afternoon, we headed to my new favourite Thai restaurant, Busaba Eathai. I went last week before seeing McBusted at the O2 and have such a good time, that I convinced my bloggers pals that it was nice. I'm so glad they weren't disappointed!
The vibe of a restaurant changed depending on the time of the day. In Greenwich around 7pm, it's super busy and you sit at communal tables and get chatting to knew people as you dine.
Busaba Eathai
I'll probably do a whole blog post on it, before this post gets too long!

In all seriousness, this even was great fun and it was great meeting so many new bloggers.
I'd just like to take this time to say a big 'thank you' to Scarlett and Search Labs for having me and for the generous goody bags. May they continue to engage with bloggers and thrive as business forevermore! They really are awesome.
I've had too much fun these past few weeks. Back to studying rocks! (I love it really!)
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Monday, 6 April 2015

Review: Slimming Solutions Teatox

A note from Joelle... 

♫♪'Cool Kids' - Ecosmith ♫♪

I am back with another 'teatox' review!  After the last one left me in limbo, I wasn't convinced that these kinds of teas really did anything apart from give you the runs every other day.
But I'm not one for giving up, so when a company got in touch about their tea detox range, I decided to give it another shot. New Year, new tea and all that... 

Introducing Slimming Solutions, a company passionate about helping people achieve their body goals.

I have tried some in the past and although I felt refreshed, I didn't recommend it for slimming. We all know that eating well, drinking water, getting enough sleep and more exercise is the main way to achieve weight loss.
I was kindly gifted the Teatox pack, which consists of 14 day and 14 evening blends.
I knew that if I wanted these teas to have a better effect on me, I knew I had to do more than a few stretches on my yoga mat every morning/night. Alongside the teas, I hit the gym for two hours 4 days a week. I've never been this disciplined! 
To be honest with you, I am very sceptical of using tea to aid weight loss. I just don't buy that a tea can make you lose weight and 'burn fat' like this tea package claims to do. 
Sure, it's better than alcohol and fizzy drinks, but lots of exercise, lots of water and a balanced diet is the foolproof way to burn fat. Everything else is secondary. 
The taste: The daytime tea is such a joy to drink. I leave the teabag to brew in the mug of hot water and then top it up with more hot water when I want more. I can usually get two cups out of the teabag and the flavour never diminishes! 
Once again, I had issues with the evening blend. It tastes very similar to the Bootea evening tea, perhaps because they both has senna leaves and licorice in them. I honestly can't stand either of those ingredients and have to hold my breath.
What's interesting though, is that I didn't have to go to the toilet (if you know what I mean) that much with this tea. I felt fuller for longer and that was what I was hoping for.

The packaging: I'm a sucker for neat, clear packaging and this one is on point! Everything you need to know is on the back of the packet and the colours are bright and cheerful.
So did Slimming Solutions work?
Yes, yes it did. Although I was pretty sure it wouldn't really do anything. Not only is my skin spotless for the first time in months, I am also less bloated.
I still don't believe that tea can burn fat, I think that's nonsense. Howeverrrrr, I do think it has played a bit role in my 4 pounds of weight-loss in two weeks. 
I don't know what it is about this tea, but waking up and having the daytime blend was a real joy. It put me in a really good mood, which made me want to eat well and do more exercise.

The verdict: A solid 4/5. Taste, results and packaging-wise, it beats Bootea hands down. 
There's an April promotion of BOGOF, which is pretty cool.
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Thursday, 2 April 2015

Pearly Whites

A note from Joelle... 

♫♪ 'Mykonos' - Fleet Foxes ♫♪

So a blogger posted a gorgeous picture of herself showing off this amazing, intricate faux pearl open ring. After I sent her a message asking where it was from, I was on a mission to find it.
Can you believe I actually spent a good 30 minutes in a store on my birthday searching for a single pearl ring? Madness!
I've got some real pearl bracelets/necklaces that I bought on my China trip, but they rarely make it out of the jewellery box.
But there's something about them that just screams "elegance!", when  it's worn well.


Here are some rings I picked up from ASOS last week.
Pearly Whites - pearl fashion trend

Here are some more high street finds:

pearl fashion trend
1 - Boohoo
2 - Topshop
4 - Topshop
5 - Zara
6 - H&M
7 - New Look
8 - Topshop
10 - Topshop

What do you think about faux pearls coming back in style. Are they chic, or still tacky?
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