Thursday, December 01, 2016

My November Challenge Was a MASSIVE Fail so What's In Store For December?

Firstly I'd like to apologise for the lateness in this post, my computer was being a poo and wouldn't work so I couldn't get it out till now. Apologies aside, it's time to move on to the actual post. For the month of November I set myself the challenge to learn at least one song a week on the guitar and piano. This was after my October Challenge where I was to read at least 3 books and learn a song a week on the guitar and piano. I completed the book part of the challenge but  struggled with the musical side. You can check out the full story of the challenge here, the books I read and also what I though of them.

 Not wanting to just give up, I decided to push the musical part of the Challenge into the limelight for November inn hopes that by focusing on that alone I would be able to complete it. So how many songs did I learn on the guitar? None, zero, nil. And the same applies to the piano. And I know 'I was busy' is such a lame half-arsed excuse but really, I was busy! I did pick up the guitar and have a couple minutes here and there, played old songs I knew and just tried to enjoy the fact that even though I wasn't learning anything new, I was still playing. The same cannot be same for the piano though.

 But being the stubborn mule I am, I refuse to give up. Don't worry, I will not be pushing it ahead as my December challenge, I'm not that bad. I recently took up the challenge to write a song ( something else I haven't been doing too well at keeping up) as a Christmas present and I'm going to use it as a chance to push myself to play and write more. Actually I'm thinking of doing a couple of songs actually, short stuff, nothing too fancy or anything. Who knows, I may even write an album, pfft..imagine.

So I'm guessing at this stage you're probably wondering what the heck I'm planning on doing for December then if it's not to do with music and the answer is *drumroll* JOURNALING. I started journaling at the age of about 12 more or less like any other teenager out there because I wanted somewhere to keep all my angst, petty rage, crushes, ups and downs of friendships etc.. I burned most of my journals about two years ago in an all too dramatic flair with a lighter to the bottom edge of the pages and held in my hand until the flames began licking at my finger tips. Mad theatrical stuff. 

I've kept about two journals since then, currently on my second one now. Considering how long it's been, I should be in more than two notebook journals but I'm not. The reason for this is the fact that I only really write in my journal when I've let things boil up so much in my head that at 3am I can't sleep and I'm writing my 5th page back to front in my second hour. These overwhelming moments also spill over into the blog and I'm writing blog posts about past relationships, my fears etc. because I'm still looking for an outlet for all these emotions I let build up.

So for the month of December I will set the challenge to write in my journal once a day. I was thinking of perhaps bringing my journal around with me but as I went to type this sentence I realized how silly an idea that would be. Imagine losing my bag and a stranger reading through my uncensored, un-proofread thoughts *shiver*.
I'm really excited for this challenge because there are things, Feelings, thoughts I'd like to talk about that I can't bring myself to say out loud, whether it's because I feel it betrays the kind of person I want to be or like to think I am, see it as a weakness and then the times where it's hard to meet up with people because there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done.

I want this challenge to further help me to stop over-analysing and over thinking everything. I look forward it and it'd be pretty cool if someone did it with me.

 Are you big into journaling? I'd love to hear some of the things its helped you with and how you feel about it.

Till next time my pretties xxx

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

My Winter Wardrobe and Where to Shop It

With the amount of clothes I own, its hard to believe that I seldom ever actually go shopping. Most of my clothes have accumulated over the years with much thanks to my mother who up until the age of about 16, still bought all my clothes for me. However after having her kit me out in an office appropriate dress, heels included, the whole shabang, for an interview to be a retail Christmas temp, I thought to myself perhaps it was time for me to take the reigns.

With that said, even now the majority of my clothes are either unashamedly stolen from her wardrobe, things from years ago I didn't have the heart to give to charity or things stolen from my sister's wardrobe. It's a cost effective way to save money without breaking the bank.

 In addition to this, I've worked in retail for the last three years where every new season, so every three months, I received an allowance for new uniform and thus new clothes to my wardrobe. However more often than not, the clothes would be so worn out that I almost always donate it to charity or throw it away if it's in really bad condition.

But last week I looked into my wardrobe and realised that I was missing some general wardrobe essentials and needed to update my winter gear too.Taking advantage of the Annual Shop & Rock night a.k.a discounts galore night, at a nearby shopping centre, I took to remedy this problem and now you too can shop my winter wardrobe.

I think it'll soon become obvious that I only really went to two shops, H&M, Mint Velvet and Primark in this post. This is purely because of how much I love these brands and also the fact that Primark's knitwear is literally the cosiest thing ever...when it's not being itchy. This post is not endorsed by either company in any way.

First up is the €18 Roll Neck Jumper I got in Primark. I couldn't find the exact color online despite it being available in shops but I found it in a different colour. I'm a very cold person and not easily warmed but this jumper alone is enough to make me leave the house without a jacket these days and THAT is some feat. And also seeing as Winter is just about here in Ireland I seriously needed something to help get me through.

Astonishingly up until August, I had manged to survive with only one pair of black jeans for a year and a half. But then disaster struck and they split right up my thigh and since then I had been wearing my much loved Mint Velvet Leather Leggings everywhere. It wasn't that I was too lazy to go look for new jeans, believe me, I tried. Jeans are some of the hardest clothes I find, there is to shop for and I wanted to get a pair that didn't fall down half my bum when I sat down or needed to be held up in bunches of material and belts.

I found the jeans I've been looking for all this time in H&M, the same place I found my last pair. And this time I bought two of them, Black and Blue €19.99 each. These High Waist Skinny Jeggings both look and feel good. 

I love dresses and just because it's Winter doesn't mean I can't still rock out some flattering frocks. I came across this dress on the sale rack in H&M and thinking it to be the last one, I bought it. I have no regrets. It is so warm and comfortable! Here's a similar one here, although sadly not on sale.

I like to be minimal when I have an outfit  with as much character about it as this dress, so pair up with some white trainers and minimal jewelry and you're good to go for a winter-proof casual chic day.

I own three hoodies before buying this and the reason I bought this hoodie was really quite simple. I needed something I could wear under my jacket t keep me warmer for journeys t and from work. I also needed something I wouldn't have to pull over my head so I wouldn't mess up my air before work. Don't judge me, presentation is important too. Anywho, I bought this €16 Hoodie in Primark and I've practically worn it everyday since. I couldn't find the one I have online but I found a similar one for guys. I'd recommend going for the bigger sizes because they're so cosy.

Now footwear. Admittedly I like to wear heels wherever I can, preferably chunky and thick soled. But it's winter and I have to get to work and there's something about sprinting for buses in heels that doesn't quite fill me with enthusiasm. I bought these white trainers in Zara back in July and received my Adidas Stan Smith shoes as a generous birthday present from a special friend of mine. These two pairs of shoes are my end all and be all when it comes to putting together a casual, chic and yet comfortable look  for work or going out and about.

And last but not least,my scarves. I own a few but these two are definitely my most worn ones. The orange one from Pull & Bear was bought back in April when I visited Krákow with my school. It's since served as a blanket on nights out, a picnic blanket to soak in the sun and my own shield when the weather is bitterly cold.

The second scarf from Mint Velvet is perfect for travelling short distances and particularly if I'm getting lifts and don't have to go too far. It also adds character to any outfit.

And that my pretties is my Winter Wardrobe. What are your Winter essentials? Is there anything I should be adding to mine? Let me know below in the comments.

Till next time my pretties xxx
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I Get Scared Writing About Myself, My Thoughts And Feelings For Others To Read

So lets get one thing clear, I haven't posted on here in a while ( two weeks) , not because I've been busy ( which I have), not because I've ran out of things to talk about ( because I haven't) and not because I don't care who's reading my posts ( because I do. I thank my regular readers, some I hope consider me as much a friend as I do them).

I haven't written anything in the last while because I haven't wanted to. No matter how often I say that I want to write for me and me only and whoever connects with it I always find myself circling back to one thing. Is there really no blogger out there who doesn't care about their numbers, even a little? I find that hard to believe.

When all is said and done and you've scraped together time to draft and perfect a post, the graphics, schedule it, publish it and promote is across the MANY various social media channels we all use, can you really say that you don't care who reads it? I don't mean to come across as though I'm looking for attention but answer me this:

Do you not feel a little downtrodden when something you put so much effort into just doesn't to quite reap the results you wanted?

BUT if I am being completely honest the thing that frustrates is not my numbers but the fact that I cared so much about something so trivial. Yes I'd love for people to come across my work, connect with it and keep coming back and I KNOW I have people out there who do ( and I love you all for it ) so why  how do I keep falling into the numbers' prey, comparing myself to other bloggers and their success. Why do I not focus on producing great content that people will want to come back to, making this space I've put so much into my space?

I've whittled these down to these reasons:

1) The People Who Read My Blogs Vs. The People I Think Read My Blog

When you start out blogging, no matter what category you intend to write for, the first fears always run around who will read your blog. Most specifically the people you know who will read it because let's face it, it is easy to open up on a computer screen to someone on the other side of the world when you know there's no chance of running into them at the supermarket or the bus stop the next day. 

But what about your friends and family? And the people that don't know you so well? I've had a couple blogs before where practically nobody in my life knew of it's existence. Then came Albatroz & Co. where I made the conscious decision to open up a lot about the blogging part of my life to those in my life and if I'm being completely honest, I don't think I ever addressed the fear that came with the exposure and as such I never really overcame it. It rears it's ugly head every time I write something remotely personal whether it be a part of my life I find hard to discuss, feelings of stress, anxiety, depression I may be experiencing at tough times etc. As such I don't write about many, if any of these things here. I don't need to bear all my dirty laundry in public but if I wanted to I'd like to not give a toss who saw.

Of course they say the people close to you are the ones least likely to read your blog because they already know what is going on in your life but just as I don't always talk about my personal life on the blog and the people in it, I can be just as closed off in real life too. It's a complex I have been working on the last while. I don't want to be a stranger to the people in my life.

Ironically it's not even the people that know me whom I worry most about but those fleeting acquaintances who knew me in a different time in my life, be it a younger me, a more religious me or a more childishly naive me who spoke to everyone, hugged everyone and didn't seem to have any other emotional settings other than happy.

 And I know 'who cares what these people think?'. I shouldn't but some part of me does and sometimes that's the part of me that grips with fear when I try to imagine the people who read my blog and what they are thinking of it. Put it this way, imagine buying a packet of condoms for a friend at your local pharmacy and not caring what the sales assistant would think. I know some of you won't think twice about it but some of you may run of of the store when finished.

I guess what I'm really hoping from saying this now is to have these thoughts and emotions out in the open and out of my head so that I can start working on them. Acceptance is the first step isn't it? If this were some sort of Anonymous group for writers, publishers and bloggers my opening sentence would be 'My  name is Ama and I get scared writing about myself, thoughts and feelings for other people to read.' 

2) Social Media

I am a member of a lot of Facebook blogger groups, partly for the promotion I receive in them but also for the help and networking that they enable. However there are also a few groups where it seems everyone wants to share their successes and then sell you an e-book on how you too can achieve the same thing. In short, I am a part of some really self-demotivating groups on Facebook. But before I go any further let me just say, not all Facebook blogger groups are like this. I am a art of some simply FANTASTIC groups with lovely people who all support and encourage each other without trying to up-sell on every ounce of success.

I only truly grasped how much of a hold such groups like these can have on you as a person and a writer when I found myself jumping at the chance to sign up for free e-guides on writing, promoting blogs, the right graphic style for me etc. Yes there is a fair bit of work needed to get your work out there not only so that your current readers get easy access to your posts but also to gain new readers and that is to be expected in any line of work that involves people however I had long passed the line of reason.

 Within a few months of becoming a member of such groups I started looking more at the number of reads, shares and comments I recieved on each post as opposed to the quality of what I was writing. I stopped focusing on what I wanted the reader to get from the posts and more on how I could bring them in.

Thankfully I managed to not do anything drastic and change my brand or publish any click-bait posts but I am ashamed to say that my list of post ideas quickly became more like the screenplay for a really crappy soap than something I'd be proud to put my name on. And even though you guys my not have had a clue I apologise for selling my authenticity to the devil of numbers, even if it was for a while. 

Also note to self, don't sign up for any Instagram guides to boost your follow-ship. Complete waste of time. I'll take my 350+ organic following over spending hours commenting and liking pictures on profiles I don't even like or follow. And no I'm not saying I considered even for a second of buying followers 1) I'd never stoop that low. If I did I'd have to throw in my blogging badge and never claim to be original again and 2) I don't have that type of money to waste and why people do it is beyond me. You can cheat an algorithm but I won't be paying you to do it.

3) General Competitiveness & Motivation

I want to do well. Damn it. I've said it. Yes I want to create something that's beautiful and inspire and motivate others. I would love to be great but that's going to take time, maybe a lot of it, who knows but since I am being uncharacteristically open today I'd just like to put it out there that I want to create something worth standing up and shouting out loud for, not just with Albatroz & Co but in life. I know that can only be defined by my perception of what I call success and I'm saying now that I don't think I'm there or even close to it but I'm gonna chase it and be happy doing it.

I'm going to cut myself off now because all the important stuff I wanted to get off my chest has been said and done and the rest will just have to be dumped on friends over hot cups of teas and late night chats. So what have I learned from writing this post and what I'm I going to do about them?

1)  I do get scared of what people will think of what I am writing and I don't know if I'll ever get completely over it buuut I'd like to get to the point where it doesn't restrain me from writing what I want, with reason. And I guess the only way I am going to do this is to keep opening up not just to you guys but in real life too.

2) I need to stop paying so much attention to social media and numbers. Instead I'll do my best to provide better content for my readers and potential readers and get that out there as best as I can without being constantly glued to a screen. 

3) I have ambition and I really don't want to lose it. I think I've spoken on here before about my fear of neutrality and nothing reeks of neutrality more than a loss of ambition. Without it what reason do you have to change?

I'm genuinely interested to know if any of you have ever experienced any of what you just read ( whether as a blogger or just in general ) or if I'm just crazy and living too much in my own head. I guess coming out of this haze of being focused on such a thing as numbers, kinda losing sight of what I want generally in life, I'm still apprehensive about whether or not I've returned back to Planet Earth from Planet Ama's Overthinking Brain.

You can also check out the posts I failed to promote while on blogging strike here, my last two adventures in Belgium: Bruges and Leuven.

Till next time my pretties xxx
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Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Belgium: Leuven

Leuven was a city I had not initially planned on visiting. In fact, I had not thought much of it at all. Having left my Monday clear for a day of spontaneity I had enlisted the help of those of you who follow me on Instagram to help me decide where to go and that's when Leuven was suggested to me. I had already been in Brussels, Ghent and Bruges and contemplating Antwerp and at one point Amsterdam buuut I was quickly running out of money so needed somewhere closer and there was a bus from Brussels to Leuven, no brainer really.

Having missed the bus for it the previous day, I decided to leave it till the Monday and spent the Sunday chilling in bed and recovering from the previous days excitements. Traveling is bloody darn tiring people. All those walking tours and buses and trains, like maaaaan. Definitely need to throw in a chill day especially since it was a week long trip. I also enjoyed my first kebab from this Turkish take away which was down the road from my hostel. The thing was bleeding massive and so delicious. Also only €4.50 so it was practically a blessing. I'm not ashamed to say I couldn't finish it that night and saved some for the morning after, sue me :P

I didn't do too much in Leuven because I didn't stay very long. I arrived off the bus in the early hours, about 10 am to find the city still very much asleep. As a student hub I really wasn't expecting it but there it was, peaceful and still. Shops were either closed with the days's groceries emptied outside its doorsteps or in the process of opening. After a relaxed walk exploring the surroundings I found myself settling in a lovely cafe for a nice cup of hot chocolate.

The greatest thing about visiting a student city definitely has to be 1) the student discounts that are available, there's actually so many and 2) all the different places to eat. Also plenty. My favorite was the soup bars that served big delicious bowls of soup and bread so cheaply. €6 if I recall correctly that served for a filling lunch on a cold day like that Monday.

 The sun peaked out behind the clouds unto the huge square in the middle lined on each side with benches. Sitting on one of these benches I alternated between reading my book and watching people  come and go.

Before heading back to Brussels, I visited the University Library & Bell Tower. Leuven itself had a lot to offer from the events that were available throughout the time I was there. Sadly the day I was there was not one with much to do. Note to self, don't go to Leuven on a Monday. I didn't have enough money left to visit the M Museum and there were no markets on that day. I also got lost trying to find the Botanical Gardens and it was all very messy but I was happy to leave having visited at least one place. It was only €2 for a talking tour of the Library and Tower which was quite lovely.

My last day in Belgium was the Tuesday and was spent entirely withing Brussels airport. I had ran out of money and only having British Pounds on me from my earlier visit to Birmingham, the airport was the only place I could really spend it. I didn't mind so much because it rained the entire day and looked pretty miserable outside, therefore sitting at the airport watching Suicide Squad, eating croissants and jellies didn't seem too bad. However I was definitely happy to return to Dublin where I could at least be broke in my own bed.

And that was my last adventure in Belgium. It was a lovely end to the trip and I certainly learned an awful lot about myself on it ( post to follow so keep an eye out!). 

Have you ever been to Leuven? What did you think of it? Or are currently in somewhere other than your hometown or maybe you're planning on going away? Let me know below in the comments, maybe you could inspire my next trip.

Till next time my pretties xxx

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Sunday, November 06, 2016

Belgium: In Bruges

I have to say, of my time spent in Belgium, Bruges was by far my favorite city. I was captivated by its charm and beauty throughout the entire day and there's no denying it.

For most of the trip I was looking forward to see how Bruges would compare to Ghent. Aside from the historic rivalry between the two cities, it has been said that once you've seen the one you've seen the other. Having now visited both, this is a remark that I deeply disagree with. I visited Ghent before visiting Bruges, you can check out the post here and see the differences for yourself. You can also check out my thoughts on Brussels where I stayed here.

Bruges was the city I was expecting the least from on all my visits, yeah I know, I'm a horrible person. I do not know why. I should've probably done a lot more reading on these cities beforehand but I like to let the places I visit make the impact and shape my opinions instead of comparing them to those of others. 

From stepping out of the train station and seeing the construction around, I almost felt smug that I had judged that it wouldn't really be anything that great. This was until I crossed the street and lying immediately in front of me was this city that would come to burrow its place in my heart. 

The fact that there was so much going on in the city that day probably had a lot to do with my completely biased opinion of Bruges. The atmosphere had been light and cheerful because of the Marathon / Race which was taking place that day. As such the streets were filled with plenty of people competing and supporting and even live music.

The weather was warm and beautiful, a lovely compliment to the mood of the day. I had a lovely boat tour where I bonded with an American Traveling group and simultaneously took on the role of their photographer. 

Then was the Sunday market along the canal. I didn't buy anything but it made for a nice way to pass the time. After that came the free walking tour where I met a guy from my time in Ghent and made some more new friends ( cause Facebook says we are ) who made my time in Bruges even more enjoyable.

I guess everything in Bruges that day was so qieutly beautiful, not in your face but still there that I'd have to be crazy not to fall for its charm. I guess I'm just going to have to go back again to see if a different day, a different mood can change my mind but it'll be hard. ;)

Have you ever been to Bruges and what did you think of it? Maybe I am wrong it is really is just an underwhelmingly old historic place where Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson once shot a funny movie. A movie which I am yet to see but it will be done.

 Or are you planning on going? I'd love to know!  

Till next time my pretties xxx
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