Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mirror, Mirror

I saw someone post a photo of their most recent beauty purchase on Twitter this morning. It was a "pore minimiser", which prompted me to tweet this. Having tiny pores on your face is an aspiration that has baffled me for some time now. Every time I see or hear an ad for facial cream/cleanser/toner/industrial sander that claims to minimise your pores I stop and wonder why the hell should I bother? Are pores really that aesthetically offensive that we should be taking every measure possible to hide them from view for fear of traumatising small children?

I mean, if you find your own pores offensive to your own eyes, by all means, go ahead and use whatever you want to make them smaller or invisible. Just don't tell me I should do the same because you have an adverse reaction to visible pores. Same goes for pretty much anything to do with beauty "standards" set predominantly by companies who make money on your insecurities. Set by companies and repeated by a chorus of converts who seem to be in a hurry to convince themselves and others that you really do need that serum(*) which makes your earlobes appear more attractive.

My problem is not with the beauty products or even most of the advertising of said products. My problem is the homogenisation of the people targeted by the advertising. The assumption that everyone cares about the size of their pores, the frizz in their hair, the odd spot on their skin or the fact that they're going grey. I'm only talking about my own personal experience and am not for one second suggesting any of what I have said or am about to say applies to any other person on this planet. Just wanted to make that clear before I go on.

I don't give a shit if you can see my pores. I don't give a shit if I can see my pores. Mostly I can't because I wear glasses and can't see myself that clearly in the mirror after my shower. I slap on moisturiser, put on my glasses and head off blissfully ignorant of the size and shape of my pores. Yes, moisturiser. I did say I don't have a problem with beauty products, but the unnecessary "goals" the companies selling them are setting us. To be honest, without my collection of moisturisers I probably would've shrivelled up a long time ago. I have very dry skin, especially in the winter when the central heating is enough to make matters worse by a multiple of ten at least.

I also get highlights in my hair. I use make up. I like to do my nails in pretty colours. I sometimes despair about my frizzy, flyaway hair but I live in a country with high humidity 95% of the time, so there isn't much I can do about that other than pull my hair back in a ponytail, spray it with hair spray and carry on. I have stuff that's great for keeping my hair from looking like I just stuck a fork in my toaster but I could not be bothered using that on a daily basis.

I guess what I'm trying to get across here is how annoyed I get when I picture a brainstorming session in one of these companies.
- Right, we need to think of something new.
- Which body part has gone unnoticed until now?
- Back of the knee?
- Knuckles?
- Little toe?
- Toes! We could launch a cream that makes your toes all the exact same colour. Because having slightly different skin tone in your toes is unsightly.
- And hair removal cream for that bit of hair that grows on your big toe.
- We'll call it "BeautiFoot" and make sure everyone knows they can't wear open toed shoes without having put this on first because it's just wrong

Or something equally ridiculous to peddle a product that is entirely unnecessary and the sales of which are based on an idea put forth by the company manufacturing the product that there is something about your appearance that needs to be fixed.

Some of these companies are trying to pretend they're all for positive body image and that they're in the business of making people feel beautiful. Yes, feel beautiful not as you are but as you are after using our product. Most recently the beauty giant Dove started a campaign on Twitter, #SpeakBeautiful. It really didn't take off as planned . This is only one company and there are many more out there guilty of exactly the same thing.

I'm worried now that I may sound like a hypocrite. I do use beauty products as mentioned earlier. But I can tell you also of the things I don't bother doing which seemingly are deemed in the mainstream media as necessities. For example, right now my legs are sporting quite a healthy growth of hair. I'll get around to waxing at some stage but in the meantime I'm really ok with a bit of fuzz. It's still winter, you know. My face hasn't any make up on it. My pores stand proud and there is a spot under my nose. There are a couple of stray hairs on my eyebrows that I will pluck as soon as I remember where I left my tweezers. Speaking of tweezers, I need them to get rid of the two stubborn stray hairs that grow on my right nipple. Yes, really. My hair has met shampoo and conditioner this morning but I think I'll leave it at that.

I cannot stress enough how annoyed I get when I hear of some new inane, insane, outrageously ludicrous beauty fad, usually endorsed by a celebrity. Just google "vaginal steaming", "bull semen facial" or any combination of random words and you're likely to find something you're supposed to be doing to your body to deem you fit to face the society's collective gaze. It is as if we're supposed to be aiming for a plastic look. Invisible pores, invisible grey hairs, invisible wrinkles, invisible panty line. Let's erase everything that makes us individuals.

I'm 34 years of age and really quite comfortable in my skin. Finally. It's taken a while. A long while. I've always struggled with my weight because I love food and until a few years ago I hadn't realised that exercise can be enjoyable. My skin is and always will be a little bit dry because I'm often rushing out the door and don't have time to moisturise. I remember the nurse at our local health centre feeling the back of my arms and saying to my mother that my skin there felt a bit rough. I think I was 5 or 6 years of age. I remember wondering why that was worth remarking. I'm still wondering.

It's taken me this long but I finally feel like my body is my own. It's built for purpose and I love it. Yes, there is that bit of belly fat I could probably live without but apparently that's where my tickles live. I can live with that. Yes, my dry skin feels uncomfortable. Which is why I moisturise. Not because I want my skin to look acceptable to someone else, measured by someone else's standards. Yes, I wax away any unwanted body hair. Because I like the way my skin feels afterwards. To have gotten to the stage where I can honestly say I do love my body, hasn't been easy. It takes daily encouragement and a reminder that my body has served me well and the fact that it's the only one I have. There are days when I need more than a gentle reminder. I know I'm lucky, I have someone who tells me I'm beautiful. Every day.

This is just me, though. I know this. You might be like me and not really bother with make up unless it's a special occasion. (I love doing my hair, getting dressed up and putting on make up but I really couldn't bother with it every single day). Or maybe you like to use every lotion and potion in your extensive collection before you head out and face the day because that's what makes you feel good. All I'm saying is that there is no right or wrong way as long as you're doing what you're doing because it's what feels right for you. Not because someone in an advertising agency decided you should cover up a part of your face because it doesn't look like the face of a photoshopped model.

Wow. That's a long rant. I'm off to find my tweezers now.


*Disclaimer: no such serum exists. Yet.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nothingness

I am in the middle of a lovely, lazy, loungy day off. I have spent majority of it in bed with a few magazines, coffee, cats and chats on my phone. Guilt free nothingness for hours. I can tell you, it feels good. My greatest achievements today include trips from the bed to the kitchen to refill my coffee, having a shower and getting dressed. Demanding, I know.

The fact that I need to more or less plan these kind of days is neither here nor there, but I tell you, I strongly recommend it. There seems to be too much pressure to be (seen to be) doing something all the bloody time. Or maybe it's just me. I feel a pang of guilt if I haven't done something worthwhile or productive every day. Guilty why, I have absolutely no idea. Nothingness is good for the soul. Nothingness is great for recharging you internal energy reservoir. And I for one feel the need to do that in the autumn more so than any other time of year.



Autumn is high-energy time. Autumn is new beginnings and planning ahead. Autumn is getting ready. And you need energy to achieve that. Hence the need to stock up on that all-important drive which will get you through the winter and well into the spring when the brighter days and sunshine are enough to see you motoring through pretty much everything.

So with that in mind, last week I spent two days in Dublin doing nothing. From the lazy start to the leisurely drive there, the "no deadlines, no stress" approach to the whole mini holiday, it was thoroughly, utterly, blissfully filled with nothing at all.

I spent hours walking around Dublin in exceedingly good company. Lunch took us three hours and burgers big enough to dislocate your jaw if you weren't careful. People watching, chatting, laughing. Connecting.

We went to see comedy, looked for a late pint and stumbled upon a guy with a fantastic voice and buckets of enthusiasm. We got to be leprechauns. We walked a bit more, talked a bit more and laughed some more. There's another thing good for the soul. Laughter and lots of it.

See, I went with a friend who is both old and new. Old in that we've known each other for years. New in that we've only recently gotten to know each other better. Yet another thing good for the soul. Friends. Not to mention old friends who happen to know where the good comedy is on the cheap and can also smuggle you into the Leprechaun museum for free. It's not what, but indeed who you know.

Back to the present. About four coffees into my "morning" I think I'm ready to leave the house. I do have plans, they're just very flexible and involve another friend having a lazy day.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Getting There

Let's talk about exercise for a while, shall we? Yes, really. Exercise and being healthy, to be more exact. I know, if we were to rewind back in time to about 2 years ago, even I would be laughing. Yes, me talking about exercise and healthy(ish) living.

I posted this photo on Twitter and Facebook recently. Just shows you where it started and where I am now. Actually, I may be a tiny bit further than the "after" photo since it's six months old now but you get the idea. On the left, I'm singing at my brother's wedding in September 2012. On the right, I'm posing for a mirror selfie at home in March 2014.



So, what happened in between? I wish I could tell you. If I had a simple answer, something that set it all in motion, I'd bloody bottle it and make my millions faster than you can say "Run, fat bitch, run!". Something did click in my head, though. Some people might put it down to the fact that I turned 30 in 2011 and all that but I'd like to think that had only a little to do with it.

Anyway, that winter I made the most of my free time. I walked. Just walked because it didn't require anything more than the runners I already had and the comfy trackie bottoms I was wearing to arse about the house in. I also took full advantage of the miles of car-free paths at work. I can tell you there's nothing more frightening than walking down a country road around here when you know around the next corner there could well be a predatory car hurtling towards you, its next victim. In short; roads here are narrow and people drive like lunatics.

Food-wise I really got into 5:2 diet.5 days of eating normally, 2 days of restricting your calorie intake to 500kcal per day. Worked for me, since there were days at work when I'd only eat very little if anything at all and eat only once I got home. On the fasting days I never felt hungry, the day after I only ever felt lovely and light and full of energy. I must say I've talked to people who've had terrible experiences with the same diet so I am only speaking for myself when I say it actually works. It made me take a good look at my relationship with food and actually minding what I put into my body. Saying that, I still eat rubbish. Just in moderation.

Back to exercise. I never liked exercise unless it was for a purpose. I didn't see being healthy and fitter as a purpose until now. What started as walking soon progressed into jogging and running. And to my surprise I actually loved it! I loved the feeling of setting off on my lap knowing that with the music in my earphones and the steady beat of my feet on the road would help me clear my head of whatever might be floating about in there. It didn't always feel great, there were days when I would've rather been just about anywhere else but the knowledge of that floaty, happy, endorphin-induced bliss at the end of it was enough to keep me going.

There's one particular run I remember vividly and it's that one I conjure up in my head when I need motivation. It was a perfect setting. February this year, dusk. I was on the last quarter of my lap, I had just cleared the small incline and was on the terrace of a Victorian castle. The castle to my left, to my right a lake, its surface like a mirror. Beyond the lake mountains growing darker as the sun was setting. In front of me a wooded path and beyond that more mountains. Biffy Clyro's 'Biblical' was blasting through the earphones. I had found my stride.In that moment, I'm fairly certain I could've ran all the way home.


So, that's where I was and that's where I need to get to again. Sadly my joints have aged with me and my poor battered knee has decided to remind me that what happened when I was good 15 years younger than I am now, will come back and bite you if you don't look after yourself. Patellar dislocation or a wandering kneecap, as he's also known, has me off running and jogging for a while. So I'm walking. Walking and wishing I was running instead. Hopefully in another six months I'll be able to tell you I'm back on first name terms with my stride, but for now I'll remind myself that I was there once, I'll get there again. In time.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Never As Planned

It's been a while -again. History repeating and all that but I'm not going to go into detail, suffice to say it's been a busy six months on this side of the screen.

Work has kept me busy, for the main part. But fear not, It hasn't been all work and no play as the photo stream on my phone would put it. There's been some good and some excellent nights and days spent in the best possible company. Laughing until you're crying is by far my favoured form of ab exercise and there has been plenty of that.

The trip to Dublin in February was a hoot. All really quite well behaved, involving Disney Princess Mirror, an embassy that reminded us of a sauna and some camels in the roof of the hotel. Not to mention the tower room and some Finnish sweets. Also #TrainTales on the way up and down. Check Twitter for details.



Spring came and went in a blur of sunshine, increasingly busy times at work and some more than welcome visitors. Doing the tourist-y thing around where you live is always fun, this really is a beautiful corner of the world and showing people around serves as a perfect reminder of how lucky I really am to wake up to this every morning.



My long-awaited summer holiday came around very quickly at the end of June. Two glorious weeks to spend in Finland with My People. I got to snoop around my old haunts and catch up with people I really wish I could see more of. Those that remain in your life, not matter how long it's been since you've seen them last, who welcome you with open arms and in one hug the years that should've gotten in between suddenly disappear. Pardon my nostalgia here but I cannot stress enough how good it felt to see those who saw me through my teenage years. I love you and will be forever grateful that you are in my life.



I blogged little ode to Twitter over on my Finnish blog The people I've gotten to know through Twitter are, in a word, amazing. I got to meet one of the lovely ladies of Twitter in the flesh during my holiday. As with my namesake who accompanied me to Dublin in February, this lovely lady by the name of Marjo is one of those people who I feel I've known for years.



It seems like I was only back to work a few weeks ago rather than nearly two months. July and August are what we like to call Silly Season. So many people. So very many people. Work becomes all-consuming, and there seems to be very little time for anything else. For two months of the year I seem to be living, breathing, walking and talking work. It's good but tiring and while I love being busy, come the end of August I'm actually looking forward to the quieter days.

It's not all good new, I'm afraid. Our old, distinguished kitty gentleman Tom passed away last week. There is a kitty-shaped hole in the house and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still very sad about it. His final resting place is out in the garden, beside the rock he sat on to survey his lands. To quote a tweeting friend: "May his fields be full of mice".



On a more positive note, my free time seems to be actually free in the coming weeks. I'm itching to get back into the kitchen with time to spend over new recipes. Perhaps I'll even manage to squeeze in a blog post or two.

That's all for now. See you soon!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Fooled ya!

So, it turns out six months wasn't quite enough. I'm finding it very hard to get back into regular blogging despite having three days off per week at the moment. I'm spending very little time at my laptop and the Blogger mobile app just doesn't cut it for me. I need an actual keyboard to produce anything coherent.

However, all is not lost. I shall make an another attempt, just to see how I get on. It may not be every week but by gods if I can't manage a post every fortnight, I may as well toss this battered old laptop and all its contents into the raging Atlantic across the road.


I've spent my extra time off mainly by getting familiar with my walking/jogging route of choice. And obviously counteracting all that bouncing about by spending more time in the kitchen. Life is all about the balance, after all. There's nothing quite as nice as two normally busy creatures finding a cosy nook on the sofa by the fire and spending some quality time together doing nothing in particular. Come summertime all that will change as work commitments on both sides mean very little time spent at home at all.


In other news, my passport is up for renewal which is the perfect excuse for a trip up to Dublin for a night, accompanied by my namesake from Sligo. Being foreign we need to present our good selves at the Finnish embassy in Dublin in order to get our passports, I'm assuming this is just to verify that we are still sufficiently finnish-looking and sounding for us to be allowed back into Finland. I've had no less than three sets of passport photos taken as I'm not 100% certain of the requirements they need to meet but I can assure you, I look equally dreadful in each set of photos.

I booked a room in the Trinity Capital Hotel (it's one of our sister hotels) through work and I'm very much looking forward to having a good old nosey around. Few of my colleagues stayed there before Christmas and had nothing but nice things to say. I'll be sure to write up a detailed report and submit it to the appropriate authorities.

Now, I'm sure there are other things I should mention but having put my brain on the spot, it simply cannot come up with anything noteworthy. I'm sure it will all trickle down onto this keyboard sooner rather than later.

Chat to you soon!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Breathing Space

I was just wondering whether or not six months was long enough a break from blogging. I decided that it was. I've been busy in a good way, enjoying good company and making memories. My parents spent a week with us in April, my brother with my sister-in-law, niece and his friend's family were here earlier this month. One of them has stayed to experience the Irish summer. *insert rain here*

There's too much to put down in words, so here's some photos instead:

I've been walking here:







I've enjoyed the summery weather:



I've had a few lazy mornings:


I've had a few nights out featuring this:


And a few nights in featuring this:


I've had fun with these:


I've been reading these:



I've seen some amazing sunsets from our front porch:


And I've spent some quality time with these:


See you soon!







Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Eye Of The Storm

Hi there! Going to give this blogging lark another go after a few months of jotting down little ideas for posts, waiting for them to turn into bigger ideas and pour themselves onto the screen. We'll see how it goes.

In my absence I've done a little of everything and not much anything. Living a life, I suppose. Spent Christmas, New Year and my birthday in between home and work, in good company enjoying good food, some drinks and lots of laughs. Just what the doctor ordered.

I'm only working for four days a week now to use up my holidays from last year. The last few weeks I would've enjoyed my extra time off a bit more had it not been for the endless rain and gale force winds. Seems like the same rain I mentioned in the last post in October is still here.

Yesterday was meant to be spent in Galway, but after the city being hit by floods the day before, tackling road closures and even more torrential rain didn't sound too appealing. Opted for a quick run to the shops in Clifden and then curling up on the sofa by the fire with my Kindle and cat on my lap, sipping a cup of coffee. An infinitely better choice, if you ask me.



There isn't all that much to report, I basically just poked my head in here to say that I'm still here and planning on slowly increasing my blogging activity. Promise.

Hang in there.