Saturday, 30 August 2014

August Book Read

How is it the end of August? How has my summer ended already? *insert sad face emoticon here*

Well regardless of how much faster time passes with the older you get, the end of the month spells my monthly Book Review.

The Popular Novel:

The Fault In Our Stars, John Green

You know the plot. Either you've read it already, seen the film, or at least been subject to the hype that surrounds both. Even my mother said 'I saw an ad for that' when I described the book for her.

Basic Plot: Teenage girl (Hazel) has cancer. Teenage girl meets teenage boy (Augustus) in recovery from cancer. They fall in love. But they're kids with cancer, it was never going to end 'Happily Ever After'.

I knew all of this. I didn't start reading the book blindly, in fact I knew exactly how it ended thanks to a spoiler from my loving younger sister. It also wasn't the first John Green novel I read, so I knew to expect his emotional telling of teenage love.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

My Top 5 Helpful Websites

Today I wanted to share with you some of my favourite mental health related websites.

While these websites aren’t only to do with mental health, or even marketed around mental health, I have found them to be inspiring, encouraging and helpful over the past few years.

Here Is Today

Sometimes you just need to put things into context. There are times when I've had a problem, a small problem, but it becomes all consuming; it's all I think about, I obsess over it. When I notice I'm doing this I like to visit Here Is Today and remind myself that 'the little things', the things we often worry most about are insignificant in the wider context of things. Give it a go, it's pretty awesome.

Do Nothing For 2 Minutes

Do Nothing For 2 Minutes reminds us to be mindful. No matter what type of day you've had, no matter how busy you are, we need to remember to take time out every now and again. This site gives you a 2 minute countdown for you to 'Just relax and listen to the waves'. And if you risk breaking those two minutes and move your mouse, the countdown starts from the beginning again.

The Thoughts Room

The Thoughts Room is one of a number of projects by The Quiet Place. The site allows users to visit a room and share their thoughts, their worries and watch them disappear. It's all about getting rid of anonymous thoughts. The music is sweet and calming too (it's called One Day In August). It really is as beautiful as it sounds.

The Dawn Room

Another site from The Quiet Place Project. The Dawn Room offers hope. Yes, it's okay to feel sad, but this site reminds users that sometimes we are too harsh on ourselves. What would you say to a friend who was feeling down? Why can't we say those same things to ourselves?
All of the positive messages have been submitted by other people who have visited the site when feeling down, which gives the page a real sense of community. bedtime calculator

This website does exactly what it says in the url. I have to have 8 hours sleep every night or I just can't function. BUT there is a glitch in the matrix; sleep cycles. 
Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle leaves you feeling tired and groggy, but waking up in between cycles lets you wake up feeling refreshed and alert. takes into account what time you have to wake up at in the morning, how long it takes the average person to fall asleep, and sleep cycles when calculating what time you should be falling asleep at. AND having used it (which I understand is not an actual scientific experiment) I've found it works. 

I hope you've found this post useful and do visit the sites, or even just bookmark them. You never know when you or a friend will need a pick-me-up.

Mobile Gaming Apps

Are we all addicted to online gaming?

I’ve been rather unlucky with my apps in the past couple of weeks.

Having played The Simpsons: Tapped Out somewhat religiously since September 2013, I was quite the fan of the game. But back in July the app deleted all of my progress and informed me I must start again, from the very beginning. If you don’t/haven’t played it you should know this; it is a highly addictive game where players are asked to rebuild Springfield after Homer causes a nuclear disaster (not a totally unrealistic plot). Regular updates kept the game fresh and exciting. And I played pretty much daily. Alas, since July my account no longer works.
It’s a common enough error in the app (it’s since happened to my sister and a host of others I've found online) but for all the time I spent on it over a 10 month period it is pretty infuriating.

The Kim Kardashian Hollywood Game has to be the biggest gaming app of the summer. Released in early July, the app allows users to become Hollywood A-listers, date other celebs, make nightclub appearances and participate in other banal celebrity activities. Even people who aren't Kardashian fans have found themselves downloading the app. Being out of work and pretty much bed bound with shingles in July, what I needed to pass the two weeks was a time consuming app that involved very little thinking.
The different paths your ‘career’ could go down depending on your in-game choices really appealed to me. Completing tasks was the first thing I did in the morning, and the last thing before I fell asleep for a full two weeks. It was gloriously addictive – exactly what the doctor ordered. 

That is, until the July 24th update took up the last ounce of space on my phone. In fact, I could no longer play the game as there wasn’t enough memory left to save my progress. (My most-hated aspect of the app was that you didn’t sign up for it or start an account; meaning that if you lost the app on your device, you could never return to your game) I tried deleting other apps to make room but to no avail. In the end I made the (somewhat) difficult decision to delete the Kim game, and all of my progress in the process. Except, that didn’t quite work either. Neither my phone, nor Google Play would let me. At the point I have tried to delete the app 7 times, but the icon is still there. So I thought ‘hey, maybe I’ll try to play it again then’. But of course I can’t do that either as the game ‘no longer exists’. Great.  So long Kim Kardashian Hollywood.

And now I can only reflect on all of the time I’ve wasted on both of these Apps (not to mention the others I tried in the past year too – Candy Crush, Family Guy: The Quest For Stuff etc.). Considering I played them both almost daily for as long as I had them I can only estimate that it was A LOT of hours. But what was the point? I have absolutely nothing to show for it.

Sure, I was an A-lister for a week (with a key to my boyfriend’s apartment might I add), but surely I could have (and should have?) spent my time doing something more productive.

So why do we give up so much of my time to mindless online games?

I no longer have any gaming apps on my android. It is my new mission not to get zapped into fake lives, or addictive measures to pass the time. And I think this is not only good for me in a ‘more time’ way, but also for my mental health. It has always been important for me to feel like I’ve achieved something with my spare time, and online gaming obviously wasn't helping that.

So, here it goes. To a life away from gaming apps. Or just to tweeting more...

Monday, 11 August 2014

Mod Podge Crafting - Here it Goes!

This is the first in a series of Mod Podge crafts I’m going to present on my blog.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Mod Podge is a crafters essential. Basically, it’s an American dream come true; a decoupage glue that dries clear and is the perfect companion to many a craft.
I got my Modge Podge – Glossy Finish, for €6.95 in Arts and Hobby.

This was my first time using Mod Podge, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Looking at crafts on Pinterest cannot prepare you for how strong Mod Podge is (everything sticks instantly), or how much fun it is! Within a week I was addicted – I keep looking for anything lying around the house that I can apply it to!

So for my first decoupage trick I decided to do an upcycle.

For weeks now I have been urging my mum to get new coasters for the house (you know, to stop our cups staining the coffee table).  Eventually she did, so instead of throwing the old ones out, I decided to claim some of them for myself but give them a makeover.

I’ve had these old pictures sitting around in my room since I worked at a History Conference back at the beginning of June. They are so pretty, and have just been waiting for a useful craft to bring them to life.
My Post-Cut Pictures

So I have 4 Historical (I am former History student afterall) pictures to transform into Coasters:
- Ancient Portrait of Eoin O’Neill
- Depiction of Cathleen Ni Houlihan
- Two Old Maps of Dublin City

First up, I cleaned the coasters and took off any peeling plastic coating.

To get my pictures into shape I placed the photo over the coaster, and then turned it upside down so I could cut around the coaster using my craft knife.

For the thin layers of paper – My Old Maps and the Portrait of Cathleen Ni Houlihan – I picked up a little tip from Pinterest. I put some Mod Podge on the back of these pictures to prevent any bubbles forming when I stuck them to the coasters. Leaving this to dry, it strengthens the paper for future gluing!  

Once they were dried I applied a layer of Mod Podge to the coasters and placed the pictures on top. Lining them perfectly with the edge of the coasters was difficult. I did the Eoin O’Neill picture first, not realising how quickly the picture would get stuck to the Mod Podge, so unfortunately it’s not perfectly in place. There are gaps on the left hand side where I missed lining that edge, but I learned my lesson for the next three!

With the pictures in place, I applied three layers of Mod Podge over the top, allowing each coat to dry in between. This protects the pictures (future coasters), and gives them a wonderful gloss!

And Voila!

I have never been so proud of a craft before. I picked such wonderfully vivid pictures, that they look incredible now that they’re finished. They look so good that I’m not sure I will actually use them as coasters...

I literally want to Mod Podge everything in my life now!

So if you have any Mod Podge suggestions please send them my way. And if you do try it yourself, I’d love to know!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Music is what feelings sound like...

Source: Pinterest
'Music is what Feelings sound like'.
I read that online the other day, and I thought it was beautiful.
We’ve all been there; had songs that we can relate to more than we can relate to half of the people we meet. A song that describes perfectly how you’ve been feeling even though you couldn’t describe it yourself.

Music brings people together. People who have never met. People who will never meet. But they both relate to that one line in that one song by that one band. And it unites them in a powerful way.

Well, back to me.

I have always loved music. Well, kinda. I had my ‘rocker’ phase as did many a teen during secondary school. Today, I listen to a bit of everything. Tegan and Sara, Arctic Monkeys, Emeli Sandé, Joy Division and Paramore are a few of my favourites.

But my all time favourite band are The Gaslight Anthem. They’re still not widely known among the general population (despite the fact that they sell out so quickly every time they come here)! But I discovered them while watching the BBC’s coverage of Glastonbury Festival in 2009 where they were joined on stage by Bruce Springsteen (Yes- They are that cool!) The next week they were on BBC Live Lounge covering 'I Do Not Hook Up' by Kelly Clarkson, and I had found my sound. Literally anything Brian Fallon touches is gold for me, and I also listen to his other bands; The Horrible Crowes, Molly and the Zombies etc. Their new album Get Hurt is out on August 12th, and I am very, very excited.

But then there are those lyrics that in one particular moment in time just get you through.
You might have listened to the song a gazillion times before, but at that instant you hear a line that you never noticed before, or a lyric that suddenly makes sense to you now.

This blog post is about those.

I can relate.

'I can’t explain how I feel, but I can find a song that can' – I couldn’t find a quote about how it feels to relate to a song, but funnily enough I could find a song.

Pull it out, turn it up, what's your favorite song?
That's mine, I've been crying to it since I was young
I know there's someone out there feeling just how I feel
I know they're waiting up, I know they're waiting to heal
            The Gaslight Anthem, Handwritten

For this post I'm only going to look at a couple of different lyrics. These are the songs that helped me through some tough times, or some low points, or just the songs that made me feel normal.

The Gaslight Anthem

They obviously feature heavily in the list of songs that have moved me. But I’m just going to pick a couple of lines that really got to me when I was at my lowest, gave me hope, and helped me through some tough times.

I always kinda sorta wished I was someone else.
High Lonesome

I been down, I been out,
Had my head and my heart kicked around.
She Loves You

Well Things Got Bad & Things Got Worse
Half like a Blessing, Half like a curse
These Blessings so hard to see sometimes
Got a little clearer ‘bout dusk last night.
Ain’t nobody got a blessing like mine.
Red At Night

With Red at Night I started to see my depression in conflicting ways - it could have positives and negatives; ‘Half like a blessing, half like a curse’.

And in my heart I’m the weary kind
I’m much too tired to cry
Though it’s sad enough for tears
It’s been try fail try for years
And when the next year comes along
I don’t know if I’ll be home
I don’t know if I’ll survive.

Drive is my one of my favourite songs. When these lines come on I always get chills because for a long time, this was me.

Last June I saw The Gaslight Anthem in the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, and it was the best gig I have ever been at and one of the best nights I’ve ever had in general. It was also a huge step for me, as it was the first event I think I’ve attended by myself. It was an incredible experience with such a chilled out feel to the whole gig.
The Gaslight Anthem, Olympia Theatre

Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara are another one of those bands that just GET me. Their songs take up the majority of my 25 Most Played tracks on iTunes, and I’ve been basing a lot of my past Blog Post titles on their song lyrics. One song that really sticks out for me though is ‘My Number’, and in particular this line:

It’s a silly time to learn to swim
When you start to drown.
It's a silly time to learn to swim 
On the way down.
My Number

Source: Pinterest

Charlie Simpson’s “Parachutes”

I don't need a parachute
You don't need to ask if I'm okay
I can look after myself
We've been walking for hours now
My feet are starting to itch
Blisters crack all over my skin
And my shoes don't even fit.

I'm so sorry for the pain,
sorry for the aches,
sorry for the moods I'm swinging.
But I don't need your hand,
I don't need your heart,
I don't need a parachute.

I have tried to carry you
As far as I could go but I'm not strong
Enough to do this on my own
I pack my bags and leave this town
Cause I'm not welcome back here any more
Upon these shores.

I'm so sorry for the greed,
sorry for the hate,
sorry for the mess I left you
But I don't want it back
I don't need it back
I don't need a parachute.

I replayed this song in Summer 2011 at least one hundred times. It’s still on my Most Played Songs list on iTunes. This is the song that described my Depression to me. I was so sick of everyone treating me differently because of my mental illness. I was so sick of being a burden on other people. I hated myself and this song go it.
Source: Pinterest

That October Charlie Simpson just so happened to be playing in UCD’s Student Bar (back when we had an amazing student bar where gigs were possible). And I will forever be thankful for the wonderful girl who came with me to see him, despite her not having an interest in his music!
Charlie Simpson, UCD Student Bar

Over to you.
I know I’m not alone in having songs help me through the tough times. I want to know what song, even if it’s not the lyrics but the upbeat tune that makes a difference or you!