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How To Get Really Creative With Gifting!

Since the Christmas holidays are coming up and I’ve been super creative these past few months, I thought I would share two projects that I worked on and indeed, gifted. This isn’t an ideas post per se although I do hope you get somewhat inspired by it. It’s more about how original you can be with present-giving although yes – you will need a lot of time and effort and some creative skills which might sound really daunting to some but I hope to prove otherwise!

This Christmas will inevitably be very different. There is already a lot of talk about how Christmas will be skimmed back whether it’s buying less from commercial giants and supporting more local businesses; or skimming back on the Christmas food basket overall. Or perhaps not doing Christmas gifting at all except for the children. (I know a friend or two doing this).

If you want to be even more original, the present can be entirely digital (see below) or completely handmade so that the person you’re gifting it to, is the only person in the world to have it (also see below). That’s a really cool thought, isn’t it?

I cannot tell you enough of how much I love gifting and writing cards. I can be quite a detailed person so I like the gift to be almost completely customised for the person involved. How? Read on!

I learned some BSL, filmed it and shared it on Instagram to surprise my best friend

Context: My best friend had just successfully secured a new job where she would be using BSL (British Sign Language). I had asked her how to say a few things in sign such as Congratulations. Prior to that, she had taught me how to say My name is… and Good morning. I spent one week learning some sign before releasing a video to surprise her. It took a lot of takes (see bloopers) but I had so much fun learning! I also developed a huge amount of appreciation for sign language so it was a win-win situation.

This was my gift to my friend!
Making a gift for someone really doesn’t have to be all serious. Remember to have fun – here are some bloopers!

This might be my most innovative gift…because really, who makes a video (as a present)? Presents definitely don’t have to be flashy, splashy or tangible for that matter. Sometimes my favourite part of a present can be a heartfelt card so what better way than to combine your message and present into one? (FYI – I didn’t purchase a Congratulations card, this was that).

Side note: Does anyone remember when e-cards were a thing??

I painted and framed a 6-piece art collection for my brother’s birthday

Context: My brother’s 40th birthday was coming up. Having started my art journey around the initial lockdown period (March/April), he had seen some of my work in the summer and subtly hinted at painting something for his upcoming birthday which was in October. I therefore challenged myself to paint a range of artworks that would eventually be framed. This was a huge challenge that I set myself in order to push my art making skills.

To make memories last longer, I took plenty of photos and filmed a timelapse video to commemorate the challenge! Swipe to also see my brother’s response via WhatsApp

Stroll further to see the details of my art challenge/project. In total, this took just under a week to complete. You will need to consider how much time you will have to dedicate a gift to someone. I went completely ham because I had the time – however if one evening is all you have, that’s already good enough!

The 6-piece art collection I created for my brother’s birthday
A card always comes in handy as a present-topper!
The first piece I completed out of the whole collection, titled ‘2020: I Am Finally Feeling Peaceful’
This was painted the following day, titled, ‘2020: Don’t Dampen My Spirit, I’m Shining and Reflecting’

The larger paintings above are about 8×6″ sizes whereas the smaller paintings are 6×4″. This was a challenge in itself as it was my first time painting that small – at least in oil pastels. I think the results were successful though – what do you think?

Personally for me, giving a present to someone is really about effort and meaning behind the gift rather than the money you spend. I think there comes a point in life where everyone has a lot of material goods which is why gift ideas like the above examples come in handy. If you’re not particularly artsy, you can edit some photos and put them into a scrapbook or photo frame – they can be just as effective! These are the type of gifts you simply cannot buy.

Is there a silly memory or inside joke that you and someone else always laugh at that no one else would understand? Do they have a particular taste that’s hard to actually come by? Do you have a creative talent that you can use and customise for that person? Only you will know these answers but when you do, chances are, you know the person rather well. Have a little think, don’t force it and make sure to have fun!

I don’t think I have ever written a gifting post but that was fun to write! Hopefully it gives you some ideas for how you can make gifting this year special for someone. Of course, you won’t have the time to do this for everyone (I definitely don’t) however the feeling you get once you gift something customised for someone is second to none. So please, try it sometime!

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Epiphanies, Thoughts and Expression

A Work in Progress picture of ‘Sometimes You Have To Stop and Get Ready Before You Can Go Again’

If there is one way to see 2020, then see it as a life lesson. Irrespective of Covid, a lot of other crises has occurred this year since it has come into existence; and being one of those people who always think everything happens for a reason, I feel that this year is the greatest life lesson in itself. How can we be more present? How can we enjoy this moment when it’s hard? How can we be more productive with our time, especially when finding so much of it free right now?

I got rather anxious at some points of the Covid lockdown…and it was not nice. But sometimes it’s about falling into a pit of bad before you can appreciate the good and finally see the light (even in Covid circumstances). Things get worse before they get better is a phrase I have heard often during this time period…and with Biden having won the American election recently, I think that may be right.

Over the past few months, I had a tonne of epiphanies. I am definitely not the same person as I was 6/7 months ago. I remember typing in my WhatsApp group chat: I think this year is all about change and reflection and being actionable. I still stand by this and whilst it’s been a long time of recluse, I found myself being reminded of how fragile life really is as cliché as that sounds.

It’s hard to retrace my thought process now but eventually, it came to a big what if? thought. What if…tomorrow happens to come to an end, what would I like to do the most today? What would I like to contribute to the earth? The only clear answer that I had is that I want to make art and show it to the world. For once I had a really clear vision, one solid response which actually, almost never happens. I remember wondering years ago what my contribution would be to society. I didn’t know necessarily what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. But this is something that I am so sure about, perhaps more than any other conscious decision that I’ve made before.

Is it a depressing thought? Maybe.

But actually, I wouldn’t see it that way. I honestly think it’s because of this very thought that has ultimately propelled me to continue on my art journey and is therefore, optimistic.

There are a lot of opinions and thoughts and messages I want to send out and express which I haven’t expressed yet. Too many in fact. I started thinking what a shame if people didn’t get to hear them, read them, see them. I’ve had the odd comment here and there of people never knowing what I’m thinking at any given moment. (Shamefully and unintentionally, I think this frustrates people).

I then quickly realised that the way I communicate best is actually through my art – even if I do use a tonne of Pinterest references. Art is my language, what I use to self-express and so I’m using it. I’ve finally found my voice in the world.

As always, thanks for reading.

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I Became an Artist During the Pandemic

This is my latest big project that I’ve completed with my art – a custom art collection for my brother’s birthday present 2 weeks ago

I haven’t blogged in months and now I’m back writing in a completely different light. For those who follow me on my Instagram anyway, you’re up-to-date. For those who may have discovered that I was missing in action or simply didn’t know that I existed until now, the main title is the update in a nutshell: I became an artist!

Firstly, I hope everyone is okay in what’s been a turbulent 2020 to say the least. I know certainly for me, all the good came with all the bad both emotionally and mentally during the pandemic lockdown.

For the first time in a long time, I had time to make art – time I always said I didn’t have (in order to make art). Suddenly with a lot of it, I thought I’d make do and before long, I realised that it was healing my mind and soul especially during the days when I was feeling rough. That’s how I know now that art therapy is totally a thing. As cliché as it might sound, art has transformative powers.

Initially I dedicated a day or 2 a week to paint using acrylic which was what I used the most of when doing art in school. But somehow, I couldn’t get back into it and there would always be paint that I’d waste which – since I’m trying to be more sustainable – made me sad. (Water pollution is another issue but we’ll touch on that in another post).

It wasn’t until I discovered oil pastel art on YouTube that made me really get back into making art. The results came out so stunning – the colours were rich and vibrant, the finish was ultra-smooth; and most of all, there was this ethereal feeling which I enjoyed. I found myself thinking that I wanted to paint like that one day. Before long, I treated myself to the Mungyo Gallery Oil Pastels (48) and the rest was history.

Along with the onset of the pandemic and everything that came with it afterwards, it was a great way to beat the boredom and make productive use of my time. But also – I relieved myself of so much stress and anxiety on the days when I was feeling horrendous. The reward from this was making nice artwork which I shared casually on Instagram as you do. The ongoing kind and encouraging comments would sometimes be the only high points of my day, but it meant – and still means, everything. So what did I do? I channeled this energy into bettering my art skills and giving myself art goals.

It’s been over 6 months already and I can say I’ve improved a lot and have never felt better. It’s been a long road but 2020 might not be so bad after all despite a second lockdown. Of course, I am using the term ‘artist’ very loosely however I do hope to sell some art as I cannot keep everything. (I am currently working on the logistics of this – there’s so much to consider! You might also see some changes on this website in the coming months).

If you’ve come over from Instagram, thank you for reading. If you know me from this platform anyway – I’m back!

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#Selfcare Sunday Series | Navigating Friendships and Deciphering Toxic Negativity

Happy Sunday! Amidst everything crazy that is happening right now, I hope you are all keeping well and being kind to each other. I also need to keep my mind off it too so I’ll be attempting to write more.

Firstly, I’d like to say Thank You to everyone who commented on my post about Getting Over My Anxiety for Driving. It was a topic that I desperately needed to write, even if no one was going to read it (clearly I don’t trust page views). But reading some of your comments to confirm the similar struggles that you had, particularly for driving, was really heartfelt and helped open up a whole new avenue that I didn’t know existed. I no longer felt as stupid and actually, I would like to promote this sort of topical confession/discussion more in the future. #PositiveMentalHealth #Positivity 🙂

I’ve been keeping up with driving so much so that I’ve enjoyed it in the past few weeks. I’m hoping to tackle dual carriageways soon but only once the weather calms down.

Anyways. Enough random talk.

Today, I want to talk about friendship. Side note, I’ll be using some real examples but in no way do I hate anyone. Hating someone takes up a lot of energy and time which I do not have…I’ve got better things to do! Other side note, I’ll be using the term ‘friendship’ a lot, but this can be interchanged with relationship even if just platonic.

Some friendships have an expiry date…and that’s fine

I’m sure we have all dipped into a handful of friendships that just fizzled out. Some common reasons may be moving schools, moving away to university, moving away for a job or just life in general when it happens. Fortunately, social media has made it easy to locate past friends and get in touch with those we’ve lost connections with.

I’ll be the first to say that I’m bad at keeping in touch with friends. There’ll be friends that I’m good at keeping in touch with because they’re my best friends and the people that I can confide in. But I’ve also dabbled into my fair share of friendships where if not for school, dare I say it…I would only momentarily keep in touch with them. It was also the same in return but I’m not here to keep score or to get even.

I later learnt that if it takes too much effort to keep in touch with said friend, they are maybe not the friend for you. It sounds cruel but for me, this was a huge learning curve which I only found out later in life. The reason that I was not as present in some of those friendships was because they were not the friends that I could confide in with my problems. As much as I have a social media outlet now and a blog, I am actually a very private person. (Selective privacy?) I’m also not a great fan of small talk.

There were lots of things that I kept to myself and I never felt like I could share it with certain people which meant that the friendship ultimately plateaued. Perhaps this frustrated them (although this was never talked about). This meant that the friends would share their problems and teenage dilemmas with each other except with me. Sure, I felt a little excluded but I also knew this was in part my fault. Teenage friendships are a hard thing to locate and make sense of so well done if you’ve gone through it.

We’re all in different places now and I’m no longer part of that friendship circle due to life happening (and lack of contact), however I always wish people well. And this is the thing we have to grasp hold of when we become an adult…sometimes good things come to an end, and other times, good things outlast anything we could ever expect.

Friendship Circles change…and that’s fine

I’m going to use school as a perfect example of friendship circles and how they can either really work out or be a little trivial because of the environment and the need to be part of some sort of friendship group. It’s the first day of school and naturally you make friends with one, with another…and somehow form a group. Once you’re in that friendship group, it feels weird to opt out and be the black sheep.

In high school, I never felt like I was part of a friendship group. I always felt a little lost and was floating in and out of the groups. I did have a best friend though who I spent the majority of my time with…and actually, we’re still good friends to this day! Don’t get me wrong – I had other friends too but none that I felt I connected with on a deeper level and who I could confide in outside of the school environment.

After high school, things got better. I made new friends whom, although I’ve lost connection with now [see first section], at that time as a confused teen, I found comfort in. For one, they were people who wanted to be in the school environment and therefore not idiots wasting others’ time. (That was a really important factor at the time and still somewhat is.)

Some people are lucky and have the same friendship circle for years since high school or college but don’t let that put you off if it isn’t the case for you! My own friendship circle has shuffled a few times. I actually didn’t find most of my friends for life until my late teens and early 20s. One of my best friends once told me that you may have a few hundred friends on Facebook, but the real ones are those who you can count on your fingers! 🙂

Deciphering Toxic Negativity…was that a passive-aggressive comment?

I wouldn’t say I’ve ever had a toxic friendship or relationship but I’ve definitely been in friendships where looking back, it wasn’t of mutual benefit. On the surface, certain situations heed outcomes that are black and white, wrong and right but when it really comes down to it, everyone’s morals are different. That’s when you may have to be a bit more strict with yourself – is the ‘friendship’ benefiting anyone?

I think sometimes, we forget about our own personal mental health just to satisfy another person. We’re all different and sometimes we should just embrace the individuality and decide it’s better to go separate ways than to force a friendship that could become unfulfilling and messy.

With one particular friend, I felt that we could never get to that deeper level of friendship because we were so different and especially since I was so quiet back then, her voice overshadowed mine. She was a lot more self-centred whereas I was complete opposite. She would comment on things that I wouldn’t necessarily agree with, but most of all, it didn’t align with my values as a person which were hugely important to me. Once I had fast-forwarded a few years and had grown up a little, I realised (and learnt), I didn’t lean on her friendship. I just didn’t need it and that without it, it was a relief. Point being? Don’t ever feel that you have to stay in a friendship. It doesn’t have to be a breakup either but just know that ongoing friendships for the sake of it is not healthy for anyone.

Friendships that are worth keeping is (slightly) different for everyone

If there is one thing that I’ve really learnt, it’s that just because someone is not your good friend, or a good friend to you, it doesn’t necessarily make them a bad person. There is always someone for everybody but not everybody is for someone – let that sink in.

There are a few things I really believe in. One, being timing for certain events to happen in your life whether by divine nature or spontaneous life choice. Two, that there are people meant for you and not meant for you.

One particular factor that’s prominent in all my good friends is that we’re very anti-drama and incredibly chill. I’ve never been one to be involved in drama or be part of a clique. I just don’t do it; and chances are, I wouldn’t be friends with those who regularly get themselves in that type of situation. To me, that is really toxic and time-consuming. Of course, I know in the ideal world, no one actively chooses to be in that environment but unfortunately, there are some people who can’t hold off saying bad things which can trigger bad emotions and reactions. Fire with fire.

I’ve never been one to be part of large girl groups simply because I find it overwhelming. I know how nasty girls can be so I tend to be most content with smaller groups. This isn’t ‘the rule’ but I think it’s important to note that what makes you comfortable will keep a friendship running smoother.

What are your own experiences with friendships, good or bad, that you have learnt from?

Big apologies for the lack of posts in the last month. I had problems with my laptop where the keyboard was not working at all so I had to get it into Apple Support. All fixed now! I’m behind on blogging but I’m hoping to use all of today to catch up and plan.

Tune into NEW posts every Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays with me.

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How I Edit My Photos

Living in the UK means that we don’t get a great deal of sunlight except in the summer but even that is difficult as our seasons have blurred drastically in the last couple of months. Today I’ll be showing you how I edit my photos – and yes, this includes those already featured on my blog!

Whilst every photo has its own characteristics dependent on things like lighting and shutter speed, I generally use the same steps for every photo that I edit.

There are however, some rules I abide by first before editing anything.

My first rule of thumb is to make sure that the base of the photo is good enough to edit. This includes good lighting (or at the very least, average lighting), a considered composition and a decent quality all-around. If all these boxes are ticked, it will make the editing process a lot easier and more successful. To give you a bit of guidance, I never take photos in artificial (bedroom) lighting because I know from experience, editing will never make the photo(s) look good.

My other rule of thumb is to have a design eye. Whilst I have told you above that I generally use the same steps to edit every photo, there are some steps that I simply skip if it doesn’t add anything to the photo quality. There are some photos that require little-to-no editing whilst others require more so it’s up to you to make that decision and decide what looks good.

Remember – you can always play and preview before anything becomes final!

Let’s get started shall we?

What I use to take photos: iPhone 7 (since June 2018)

Editing software I use: Adobe Photoshop CS6

But you can also use: Other versions of Photoshop (most recent is Adobe Photoshop CC), Adobe Lightroom or Affinity Photo which is a much cheaper option. There are also some great mobile apps out there for editing photos!

Open the Image

Get your image ready in Photoshop by going to File>Open

Auto Functions

There are 3 different automatic functions within Photoshop. These functions don’t change the photo hugely but can help to set the overall tone of your image.

You can use one or two of the following:

Image>Auto Tone
Image>Auto Contrast
Image>Auto Color

TIP: Some photos don’t benefit from either of the functions so it’s important to play. If it’s not working because it’s giving the photo a strange yellow or blue tint (which tends to be the reason why it sometimes doesn’t work), click un-do (Edit>Undo) and move to next step.

Brightness & Contrast

An obvious step but it’s so easy to get too invested with upping the brightness and contrast without consideration for whether it looks good or whether it looks over-edited.

This is where your eye for design really has to come in. It’s sometimes good to click on auto however it doesn’t always work well so it’s best to adjust the toggles instead. I generally set the brightness anywhere from 0-24, and the contrast anywhere from 0-14.

Go to Image>Brightness & Contrast

TIP: If your image was taken in really good lighting, chances are, you require little-to-no adjustment on the brightness & contrast toggles. Over-editing will only ruin an image, not enhance it.


Admittedly, it takes some practice to understand the difference between each of these functions as they can appear to be so similar but are actually very different.

The Levels function works by adjusting and stretching the brightness levels of the image. As such, you are also adjusting the tone and contrast of the image.

Go to Image>Levels (I usually toggle the right arrow to 244 whenever I use this function.)

TIP: If you’re looking for some inspiration, you can always play around with the presets.


Curves is a very good all-round function that deals with the colour, tone, shadows and highlights of your image. More specifically, you are able to adjust the curve at different points in order to deal with the different tones of your image (for example, your mid-tones).

Go to Image>Curves

If you want to edit your photos in the least steps possible, I would recommend this function alone!


This is my favourite function for photos that are dark! It helps to truly brighten up the image by removing/lessening the shadows.

Go to Image>Shadows/Highlights (I have mine at 35 which seems to work for a lot of photos that I have edited but feel free to play around.)

Assess your Before & After

This is pretty self-explanatory. If your After is not looking better than your Before, you may perhaps want to start again? It’s therefore important to keep your base photo in this case until you’re 100% happy to save over it.

Don’t forget to save

Photoshop used to crash a lot on me back when I was using the CS3 version on my Windows PC so you can imagine my frustration whenever I lost the work that I spent a great deal of time doing.

Nowadays, it never crashes but it’s always important to save changes. Go to File>Save. You can either save over your image which is what I normally do or rename the image so that you have a before and after.

I hope this tutorial was helpful! I recently updated my Macbook to the new Catalina update which has meant Photoshop no longer works for me. I have since downloaded and purchased a new app called Affinity Photo and so far it seems to work just as well (keeping in mind that I have no used Photoshop to its full potential before).

I’d be happy to write more tutorials in the future if you enjoyed this one? Let me know.

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