All posts by Amy Kingsley-Hughes

Send In The Clown! Review: IT (2017) *NO SPOILERS*

 

The scene was set, tucked away in the quaint and beautiful Cottage Road Cinema in Leeds, popcorn in hand and boyfriend dutifully ready for me to curl against him in fear, like a puppy on bonfire night. I had expected the coming experience to be a jump-scare riddled gore-fest, but Andy Muschietti’s take on Stephen Kings ‘IT’ delivered so much more.

For a start, the promotional campaign for this film was on point. My social media is congested with imaged of red balloons, spray-painted drains and, not to mention, the “killer clown” trend that went around over the last year. Working in a customer facing role, part of my job is discussing the latest in current events, local gossip and entertainment and, while not everyone has a positive opinion on the film, everyone from kids to grannies with no wifi know about IT, and that is a huge feat in publicity.

Now, back to the growing tension of the cinema… The cinema was a beautiful, immersive environment with a wonderful screen and sound system to suck the audience into the film. The perfect setting for the experience that laid ahead of us.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’m not going to go discuss each and every moment of the film and spoil everything, but one question people have is whether the film is loyal to the books. In the important ways it does stay true… But, in a number of ways, NO. WAY. No ritual of Chud, no turtle, no pre-teen orgy, and a few other minor details were omitted, but those aren’t regrettable losses to the story. The film holds onto the core parts that give depth and quality to the story, while discarding the aspects that perhaps detracted from the quality or elements that, even King himself admits, are not necessary and seem, in this day and age, perhaps insensitily handled in the original works.

The film has the odd jumpscare sprinkled throughout, some less telegraphed than others, and there are moments of extreme gore, but the film focuses more on the psychological fear and building of the characters, making it take on the feel of a dark fantasy film, as opposed to an out and out horror.
One thing that caught me off guard was how funny the film was, with hilarious moments to lull the audience into a sense of security and get viewers invested in the friendship of the kids driving the plot forward.

The young cast portraying the protagonist central characters, only ranging between the ages of 8 and 15, are phenomenal talents, handling their roles with the professionalism of seasoned adults and the playful enthusiam of children. Their dramatic and comedic timing and handling are that of season actors twice their age and I hope to see all of them continue down long and successful career paths.
As well as holding ther own within their own roles, the chemistry between each other and Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise is rock solid and completely enthralling. That brings us to the frightening and endlessly fun character of Pennywise and his portrayal by the incredible Bill Skarsgard.
Cleary inspired by the performance of Tim Curry in the same role, Bill has taken the character of Pennywise the Dancing Clown and run with it, taking it down a wholey more sinister route and creating a portrayal that won’t soon be forgotten. With every detail, from the voice, to the way he holds his bottom lip, Bill has played with the role and learnt every inch of the character to bring together a performance that utilises his whole physicality – even down to odd little chokes and splutters during line deliveries and his ability to move his eyes independantly of each other. The hipnotically creepy performance can even keep my coulrophibic eyes locked on, thrilled and unable to turn away. Even if I were not interested in the actual story itself, I would still have been glad about seeing the film based purely off of the acting quality shown by the cast.

The behind the camera work on this film left little While so many aspects of the film deserve recognition, the main department I want to draw attention to is the costuming for It. Subtle story references hidden in items of costume, Pennywise’s terrifying and detailed getup, every element of costume design hits the nail on the head and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it recieve a lot of love come awards season!

So, all in all, It is a film well worth seeing for a variety of reasons – it was much better than i had anticipated and brought a lot more to the table than most horror films can deliver. This isn’t a really in-depth, piece-by-piece dissection of the film, just the humble opinion of a passionate movie-goer.
What did you think of IT? Leave your experience in the comments below, or join the conversation over on Facebook and Twitter!

Living To Save: Good Habits For Saving The Pennies

 

 So at the beginning of this month I moved out of my parent’s house into my own place in the town nearby, not a huge distance, but a big change! I was stressed out for weeks running up to the day, convincing myself it was an impossible task that I was stupid to take on – despite all the love and support from those around me. The stress made the whole process an ordeal and really tainted my last few weeks at home – I self-sabotaged the last weeks in the house I grew up in by making the move a way bigger scarier deal than it turned out to be.
Now I’ve been here just about a month and I love it, and living independently hasn’t been all that terrifying so far, just a bit more to keep on my mind day-to-day. The biggest of all these “grown up” issues is, as expected, money!
Making sure the finances are healthy is a big part of my day, making sure I have enough shifts, online and offline income to keep myself comfortable! Of course, my day job sorts out as much as I need, but in this age we need to save for the future, so I work hard to make sure I’m making and saving enough to stay afloat and keep some back for when I may need it!
Being raised by a family good at navigating the turbulent waters of life, who always made sure I had all I needed growing up, I’ve learnt a lot already, and I’m figuring out more and more as I go along!

1. Become a smart consumer!
Since moving around, I have started brushing up on my quick mental maths so I can easily calculate what I get for my money, and being more thoughtful with what I invest in, taking the time to consider each item and decide whether it is worth it.
Things like Ready meals seem like such a good idea at the time, but actually are bad for your wallet. When a microwave lasagne is only £1-2 from the shops, that may seem like a great way to put food on the table, but it’s a marketing trick. It is banking on the fact that it is quick to grab off the shelf, and they just hope that the consumer buying it doesn’t stop to work out that it would be a much better deal to cook a pan of lasagne that they could then reheat for the next day or two (or freeze) and have over a longer period of time. If I want something, I always quickly do an estimate of how much the ingredients would cost. The individual componets of the meal may work out as more expensive, but it is usually in quantities big enough that they will last for multiple recipes, rather than just 1 meal.
2. Plan Ahead
 My housemate and I have started doing big shops together in order to save money, because we find we spend less by doing our shopping in bulk. As we all know, when you go shopping you always end up getting some stuff you didn’t plan for, or you got hungry when you saw a treat, and there are always those little things you put in the cart that you forget about.
Planning ahead and doing one big shop every week or two actually really helps to organise yourself and save buying unnecessary junk.
Also before I go do a big shop, I make a list of the meals I plan to make and their ingredients and browse online supermarket prices, to compare where is cheaper. I tend to go to multiple shops to get the things that are cheaper from each one – it is a fair bit more effort, but you save a lot of money in the process, and after a while you start to learn where certain things are cheaper and naturally remember without the research!

3. Free Transportation

Being a somewhat lazy person, I never showed much appreciation for the fast and free mode of transportation available to me, that is walking. I always got the bus, caught a lift or, in dire circumstances, got a cab, but recently I adopted a zero-tolerance policy on transport and decided to always walk into work if time, weather and health are suitable to do so.
I live a half hour walk from where I work and the amount of effort the walk feels beforehand always fills me with dread, but it’s never so bad as I think it will be and I save upwards of £10 a week and get fitter as I go!

3. Go reusable

Integrating reusable items into your life can be such a great way of saving money. It reduces the need to re-buy (in some cases for life) items which you would have once used only up to a couple of times before discarding.
Reusable items are not only better for your bank balance, but often the environment too, reducing the amount of waste that to landfill dramatically

My favourite items online
Laundry Eggs
These are plastic balls filled with pellets that slowly dissolve over hundreds of washes, cutting out other detergents and saving money! They are usually refillable and eco-friendly to boot! They can be purchased plain, but there are also scented alternatives to give your laundry a fresh smell!

While they appear extremely expensive, a quick breakdown of the price divided by the number of washes shows that even some of the more expensive brands work out at only about £0.03p per wash, so saving you money as well as time and protecting the environment!
Here is a list of available brands online!

 

Dryer Balls
Dryer balls are a super helpful little gadget! You throw them in the tumble dryer with your washing and set it going, the dryer balls aerate the laundry, helping the laundry dry a lot faster, saving time, money and energy!
There are also brands that scent your laundry, to make it smell nice while they’re at it!

 

Reusable Straws
A bizarre item to think of buying a reusable alternative to, but if you have a tendency to get through a lot of straws, investing in a set of silicone or stainless steel straws could be a great idea!
While cool, they are also easy to clean, reduce plastic wastage, and save that little bit of money if you find yourself getting through too many.


Microfiber Kitchen Cloths
Microfiber cleaning cloths are a great reusable investment that make cleaning a lot easier and I would recommend anyone to start using them in place of disposable surface wipes!
I use them for most cleaning jobs- they even leave windows and mirror streak-free and clean!

Unexpectedly reusable
I would never have guessed it was a legitimate idea before seeing it in action, but I have met a lot of people recently who reuse kitchen sponges, throwing them in the hot wash with their tea towels to freshen them up every couple days! I am not sure whether this practice is recommended with them, but I have being doing it ever since and seen no issue from it!

4. Save The Pennies
Literally. Put those pennies into a jar and keep them safe, then get them swapped out for cash when it gets full! It’s a really good idea whe you stick to it, as pennies are hard to carry around and use, but do add up quickly! I currently have about £14 in pennies in a jar on my desk and am waiting a bit longer before lugging it all to the bank for the precious payout!
Getting a container that isn’t necessarily easy to raid is a good call, as it helps to prevent dipping in unnecessarily and slowing your progress.
I’m fond of the huge novelty banks that can hold hundreds of pounds as, while they take longer to fill up, the payout is so satisfying when you finish it up!
Here are some I can recommend, if you don’t want to go down the “coffee jar” route.

5. Side Projects

Finding easy sources of side income, even if it’s only a little amount, is a great way of taking some of the stress off finances. While this may seem obvious, it’s a step worth thinking really hard about – you would not believe some of the weird things I’ve made money from in my time!
Think hard about what you can do to bring in that extra bit of cash:
Cleaning
Drawing
Knitting
Freelance assistant work
Email editor
TV extra
Affiliate advertiser
The above are all little side things I have made money from personally so, trust me, I’ve been there and done that!

6. Get A Routine

Come up with a routine of saving, some small rules to follow that are feesible with your lifestyle. Decide what limitations you need, what percentage of your income you can set aside, and any goals you want to reach and in what time.
Make sure to be realistic with your goals, rather than pushing to have to stretch yourself too far to meet your goals- It will increase the chances of success and keep you motivated. Don’t trouble yourself too much by trying to set goals too ambitious, because you can always set a lower goal and exceed it, while overestimating and missing the mark will leave you disappointed and possibly result in actually saving less.
How much do you believe, with being careful, you could save a week? Or month?
What things could you cut down, without damaging your quality of life, to save that little bit extra on?

I hope these tips help you to improve your savings and reach a greater level of prosperity! Remember, having money is great, but do not make your whole life centred around it – Do what you can to make sure you have what you need, but remember to take that little bit of time to enjoy your life – don’t make every moment a scrabble for more, and make sure there are things in you life that really make you feel good, that makes all your hard work worth it.
Want to join the conversation? Join us on the Learn With Amy Facebook and Twitter!
Any questions or requests? Drop me a message using the contact form below.

My Story: The Mirena Coil Implant

 

There are many different reasons for and against the use of hormonal contraceptives and, given the opportunity, many will throw their opinions at you until you’re left reeling and unable to tell left from right. I think, aside from personal accounts, people should refrain from bashing others with their medical opinions and leave a lot of the talk to doctors, but when it comes to personal experience, the testimony of others can be incredibly useful.
I decided last year, for a combination of reasons, to get the Mirena hormone coil implant as it seemed the best suited to my needs after thorough research online and talking at length with my doctors. I knew the process of getting used to a piece of plastic in my lady parts wouldn’t be easy, but it seemed worth it for the peace of mind and freedom it could offer.
Here is my experience!

My Reasons

For a number of health reasons, me and my reproductive system aren’t the closest of friends. I have always suffered from Dysmenorrhoea (the fancy medical word for “Extremely F***ing painful periods”) and so decided after many years to take steps to naturally stop my periods, without completely writing off the possibility of children someday down the line.
I researched the many kinds of hormonal contraceptives available to me and tried a couple, sadly to no avail. The Mirena turned out to the be the one most likely to give me the relief I needed to lead a happy life.

The Run Up

After multiple appointments with my doctor to settle upon the Mirena, I was booked in for the routine sexual health check up required before getting a coil.
As I had never had any appointments regarding my nether regions before, this was a rather awkward and eye-opening experience for me. I almost chickened out repeatedly, not wanting the embarrassment of a doctor going anywhere near my “hoo ha”, but I realised the only one making a fuss out of it was myself – these doctors spend almost all day every day just inches from a vagina, so mine wasn’t anything new to them.
The screening itself wasn’t really a problem when I calmed myself down. The only scary part was when they said they would text me with the results, and only to worry if I didn’t hear back… And guess who was left for 6 weeks thinking she had an STI because the hospital forgot to text her…. Yup.
You can imagine my relief when they finally told me I was fine after that little doosy!

The Big Day

So, I was told to go about my day as usual before the appointment l and just to take a painkiller a short while before going in and was warned that during and after the appointment I would experience “mild discomfort” and may want to rest for the day.
In reality, the appointment was genuinely the most painful experience of my 22 years, and that includes a head injury I sustained only 2 months before my Mirena insertion. As it turns out, I have an “abnormally small” cervix which meant that it was a whole new level of pain for little ol’ me, especially as the Mirena is mostly recommended for women that have had children.
Just the word “Speculum” makes me unconsciously cross my legs and gives me shudders, but nothing can sum up the bizarre feeling of the little T shaped device popping into place. Six months down the line and I still recall every detail of the fascinating and sickening sensation.
The insertion is kind of like an injection without a needle. The Mirena is on the end of a long stick with a syringe style plunger on the end that pushes the coil into place and then cuts the threads to length as it releases the device.
For all the discomfort, the procedure itself only lasted about 10-15 minutes, plus a 5-10 minute lie down to ensure I didn’t faint from standing up too fast.
The nurses were all incredibly sweet and helpful, ensuring I was safe and as at ease as possible during the whole ordeal.
Pain scale: 8 1/2 out of 10

The First Week

So I left my appointment with my friends, feeling pretty fragile and very queasy. After almost throwing up in my friend’s car from the pain and my body’s shock to the sudden change, I got home and things went from bad to worse.
Keeping in mind that I already suffer from Dysmennorhoea and the strain period pain puts on my daily life, the pain that flooded over me was 100 times worse than any cramps I had suffered in my life.
My boyfriend bundled me inside and wrapped me up as I fought the urge to black out from the sheer agony I was in. I felt as though someone was beating my uterus with a whisk made of fire and scrambling my insides. It was intense and I kept waking up, tossing and turning all night long.
The next day, I could hardly walk. I had to call my work and explain the amount of pain I was in and they kindly let me stay home. It was so rough.
Pain Scale 9 1/2 out of 10

The First Month

I remained in consistent pain for the whole of the first month after the appointment. I had to keep a chair at work to sit on when I wasn’t doing anything and practically lived constantly hopped up on cocodamol just to make it through the day.
It was intense, but I knew what I was in for given my health and my tiny frame. I survived through work, Christmas, travelling and just focussed on staying active and living life as normally as possible until the pain eased off.
When you get the coil, your body may react to the device and try to expel it, due to it being a foreign object inside your body, so pain is normal.
Pain Scale: Constant 6-7 out of 10

6 Months Later

It is 6 months to the day since I got the Mirena coil put in and, while I cannot say the process has been easy, it has been worth it.
In the 6 months I have had the coil, I have had a total of 6 accumulated weeks off my period. No joke. Due to the hormone release, your body has to figure out what to do and get used to the chemicals rushing around in your system and that takes time. The upside is that, while the bleeding is definitely an inconvenience, the pain I get from my periods has lessened significantly and my body is already starting to adjust and I am noticing my periods seem to be wearing off and getting a little shorter in between the growing breaks off.
occasionally I still get the odd twinge from it and pains here and there, but nothing as bad as what I was feeling every month before I got the coil.

Advice and Heads Up

  • When you get the coil inserted, you must return for a check-up 6 weeks later to ensure the device is in the correct position to work, so you will need to use other forms of contraception until that point, such as condoms, patches or the pill.
  • Obvious, I know, but important: The coil doesn’t protect you from any STIs, so be safe!
  • Try not to be too reliant on painkillers as you can build up a tolerance to them and, in some cases, get addicted or damage your organs. I know they seem like an easier option, but I felt a lot worse in the times I was using them too much.
  • Don’t let the pain scare you out of it if you really need it. I have decided to be honest about my experience because I wished I had been told, but the impact this device has had on my life in incredible and I feel a lot better knowing I could be on my way to getting rid of painful periods for up to 5 years and the knowledge that I am almost completely safe from accidental pregnancy.
  • Your boobs may get noticeably bigger. Thank you, Mirena!
  • BOOK TIME OFF WORK FOR AFTER. I was very lucky I had such understanding bosses who let me take a couple days to feel better, but do yourself a favour and make sure you get yourself at least a day or two to rest before going back, even if you are fine after, just so you don’t over exhaust yourself.
  • Make sure you talk to your doctors about the options you have available to you, to find the contraceptives that suit your needs best, as we are all very different.
  • Carry your Mirena patient card with you at all times. I didn’t know this until recently myself, but I was informed that the reason you are given the card isn’t just to remind you 5 years down the line to replace it, but also for medical reasons. Say you get into an accident and are rushed to hospital, if you have the card the medics will know that you have the Mirena instantly, as the device can show up looking like shrapnel in an X-Ray and it could get removed or cause issue with treatment.
  • If, like me, the Mirena causes heavily prolonged periods, make sure you talk to your doctor about the risk of Anemia and possibly invest in some iron supplements, as you don’t want to have to deal with an iron deficiency from bleeding on top of getting used to a coil!

I will be updating this post the further along I get into my experience with the coil and hopefully adding some testimonies from other people about their Mirena stories!
Thank you very much and I hope this has been useful for you!
Please join in the conversation in the comments below and over on Facebook! Xx

Learning With Amy To Be Amy

10432552_1013181298695894_8304708746044163524_n2016, often held up in media as “The Worst Year Ever”, was a fantastic but, more importantly, an educational year for me. Many lessons I began during that year have carried forward to the present – Nobody can say I’m not a work in progress, to say the least!

A number of things happened that have tested me, helped me grow and, in some cases, hardened me. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – even if they aren’t particularly as I expected.
For a start, I am learning how to function as an early 20s woman, dealing with many issues a lot of women face: Birth control, self-confidence, safety, health, trust, love are just a few of the broad subjects.
For years I have had to deal with fainting spells and blood pressure problems, but last October saw me have to deal with a very dangerous consequence of fainting when I collapsed walking home at night and cracked my head open and gained a severe concussion and a night in A&E with all manner of neckbraces, wheelchairs and wrap-around stretchers that I never wanted to experience (trust me, nobody is going to let you get up from all of that stuff with a broken head to go and pee, so that was a true moment of “Mind over matter”)
Last year, I was assaulted in public in a way that shook me for months and I am still getting to terms with, though that is as much as I can say on that matter.
After years of living with monthly agony, an experience that is nothing more than a minor inconvenience for the majority of women, I started on a path to seek help through birth control (posts to follow about that soon).
I experienced a breakup with someone who is still an incredible friend of mine, which later lead me to a mutually loving and supportive relationship which has changed my life and helped me grow to a happier and braver person.
Those are just a very few experience that made 2016 both an educational and eventful year. And what I have learnt has set me on course for a 2017 well spent, because I am learning to BE Amy again.
A few years ago, my entire world was shaken by some drastic changes that flipped everything I knew about life and people upside my head. That was also during a time that I was at the lowest lows of my, now knocking on 11-year, depression. Those, and numerous other, circumstances combined have meant a spiralling nose-dive of depression, anxiety, illness and stress that I am finally seeing the light out of. I have invested in the wrong causes, battled hopelessness, struggled with self-harm and tried to find solace in work, knitting, let’s playing and even this blog as a way to feel validated by doing. While those things have been all well and good, I realised at the end of 2015 that before I could really feel validated by doing, I had to learn how to be satisfied by BEING. When you have gone through patches of not caring about waking up the next day, you really can’t just hop into a career to fix what is broken. As every builder knows, you need a strong foundation before you can build a sturdy house.
Over the last year, I decided to put a number of things on hold and, whilst the lack of progress with them made me stressed out of guilt, I waited to see which things I was doing I was actually passionate enough to come back to. I have taken time, spoken to many helpful people, researched, spent time with myself and fully invested in learning what makes Amy a happy person, because for years I have been convinced that I am not happy, it is just a sensation that comes over me sometimes.
I feel now energised enough in my mind to pursue more goals, and that is from taking a step back to actually think “Hey, what do I want?”
I have tried so many times to pour all of myself into potential professions and just not found deep satisfaction, at the very least in my methods of execution. I have pursued so many things, such as: YouTube, Jewellery making, Hospitality, Academia, Counselling, Languages, even Acting – which has been my life goal for as long as I can remember. All of these things are interesting and enjoyable to me, but before they can make me satisfied, I have to know how to just be happy.
Here are some of the things that I have rediscovered my love for that have helped me rediscover myself:

Reading

After a lot of stress during my A Levels, I really fell out of the habit of reading. I would often reread things I already knew, or pick up a phone when I couldn’t be bothered choosing which book to pick up.
Over the summer I decided to take up my long neglected habit and start reading again. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 was my first of about 10 books I read last year (not a huge number for some, but not bad for someone slow like myself) and it relit my passion for books that really make you think.
Many books I had attempted and gave up on previously offered no more depth than the words on the page, so reading something of Slaughterhouse’s calibre really struck a spark under the powder keg of my passion.
I am currently reading To Kill A Mockingbird during quiet times at work and I feel so fulfilled getting at least a few pages a day of progress.

Watching films

Okay, we all watch a fair few films but, much like with reading, I fell into a habit of watching what I already knew or just looking at films as opposed to letting them absorb me in the story. I became all about making a bullet point list in my head of pros and cons and examining the work behind it, as opposed to really appreciating the hard work of the makers by just genuinely experiencing it.
Films still spark this little flutter in my stomach that makes me go “Aaah, I want to do that too!” but finally I feel in a place where I actually can – and I am, as I am currently working on 4 separate films with collaborators I really trust.

Adventure

Summer this year was long and I had a job somewhere near my hometown which I didn’t fit in too well with, so the savior of those few months was going on adventures with my friends (Particularly the almost daily adventures with my friend Tom). I climbed waterfalls, swam wearing jeans and a bra, followed sheep up a mountain, upped sticks and went to Birmingham for a weekend for no reason but that I wanted to see my boyfriend, explored Nottingham for a day, went to the Edinburgh Fringe festival for a week, trekked mountains, stood in empty lakes, chased countless sunsets and saw dozens of sunrises – And I loved it!
There is nothing like the feeling of getting a phonecall and being told “Bring a torch and wear boots, I’ll be outside in 10.” and knowing that by the time you return, you will have done something incredible.

Laughing

There is nothing like the feeling of being surrounded by the people who know you the most and all of you being in tears from the pain of laughing so hard your abs ache. For so long, I spent those moments looking on and wondering why I couldn’t feel the same way and enjoy that beautiful bonding moment as much – Now I can and I will never let that slip away.
I have embraced a number of people who know when I am sad in a heartbeat and who will do all they can to make me happy and they have provided me with so many wonderful times, from improvising me a solo D&D quest in the middle of a pub, to dancing around in sunglasses, to holding my hand in hospital and joking about being the worst doctor in the world, to tagging me in thousands of funny videos to brighten my day. I have learnt that even if I am lying in a hospital bed with a massive crack in my head, my funny bone can never be broken.

Acting & Directing

Acting, while in question about how I want to pursue it and whether as a career or a personal passion, is still something that makes me so happy to do. It is that moment of being someone else for a few hours and getting to look at the world from a different perspective and learn from their mistakes. What I have learnt, however, is that to be a happy actor, you HAVE to lay your foundation well in order to feel whole as yourself. I have spent many years wanting to pursue acting and wondering why I felt so hollow at times after doing it. But I have learnt that I am someone who has other needs to be met as well for acting to make me truly happy – needs such as a healthy diet, love (from myself and others), security in my life (because we all know for most actors money isn’t always the best subject), time to be myself as opposed to living as other people all the time, and variety.
While I have learnt that acting makes me happy, it doesn’t when my entire mind is focused on it and my entire mind is “CAREER! CARE ABOUT NOTHING AND NOBODY ELSE, JUST CAREER” – it may work for some, but not me.
I have also expanded to embrace the role of puppet master by taking on the job of directing a play as well as starting a bunch of film projects of my own invention. Directing gives me much the same dose of thrill and passion as acting, and I get to flex my practical problem solving muscles at the same time. It’s a win-win situation, as I get to be involved with the process of building a performance, while also doing those satisfying nitty gritty bits in between!

Blogging

I came back to this, didn’t I? This site really fell by the wayside after a very bad breakup that left me pretty damaged for a long time, much because a lot of the topics I discussed were Korea related and my ex was Korean and he encouraged me to start this site. Well, I have decided to take back what is mine again and remind myself that Learn With Amy is something I am passionate about. Over the time I have been gone, this site has received a crazy number of hits and I have received comments and messages about my previous posts and concern about my absence – I heard you all loud and clear, and I have rediscovered my love for blogging, so expect to hear more from me from now on!

Creating my own acting opportunities

I have realized that, because I am still in the process of building my “Happiness foundations”, I am more passionate about creating my own opportunities in acting than I am about seeking out other work. The rejection and stress of the seeking out work, matched with the crippling fear of letting someone down on a project they care about and the risk of tarnishing my name if I screw up still haunts me. I still get those unhappy “This is awful” feeling when I scroll through casting sites and, while some large opportunities have come my way” I get a shocking wave of melancholy and actual grumpiness when faced with pursuing a project. At the moment I am easing myself back into the acting pool by working on my own projects that I can share with the people I trust most. Some say that this “Director actor” tactic is cowardly or not really pursuing anything, but it really is helping me to rediscover my love of acting by just enjoying the process of creating (though screenwriting still makes me want to put a brick through my laptop)

Cooking

Cooking, as you can tell from all the recipes I shared on this site, was a huge passion of mine which became really neglected when depression really was fighting hard. I am in no way an emotional eater, I have always been someone who can’t handle food when I get down. It’s weird and backwards and actually makes things way worse, but it’s how it is.
Since realizing how wrong I was going with nutrition, I have gotten back into using my passion for cooking to keep myself fueled and fit. I feel healthier, I feel happier and I get to go into the kitchen and play around with something I am passionate about.

Life for a long time seemed so empty and hopeless and there have been times where I wondered if this was just how life felt and I had to embrace it. I am nowhere near the end of my journey facing depression, anxiety and I still need a lot of work on my foundation and my building, but I am now in a place where I can enjoy the journey, as opposed to just wanting to be at my destination a different person with a different mind. I am satisfied with my progress and I will keep working to be happy and love who I am.
You are learning with Amy… And so am I!
I really hope you have enjoyed this. Please feel free to comment or send me a message using the message window below. Thank you for reading and I wish you luck with building your foundation! See you soon. X

How To Blast A Job Interview

Photo 25-01-2015 10 08 53Job interviews are one of those frustrating facts of life that, unless we’re either really lucky or really unlucky, will experience a number of times in life. They’re stressful, judgy and generally a (useful) nuisance. They CAN be fun sometimes, but I think both the interviewees and the interviewers out there can agree that there are probably hundreds of other things they’d rather be doing.

I’m lucky in a way that, at 21, that I have seen interviews from both sides and know both what it’s like to go to a job interview and also what I have in the past looked for in people I have interviewed. Now, I have just done a couple of job interviews and have another one coming up in a couple of days, so I figured now is as good a time as any to share with you my tips for job interviews (or, if you really want to bomb your interview, do the opposite of what I say next).

Presentation

Now, it is important in life that you never change yourself for something else, whether is be a job, relationship or… well, anything really! That still applies, but in some circumstances a kind of blending in technique can help you.
If I have a job interview at a chill looking pub, I’m not going to go in stressed like I want to work on Wall Street. If I want to work at a top class restaurant, I don’t want to rock up in jeans and a tshirt. It’s important to a degree to look at what role you’re aiming to fit into and doing what subtle things you can to look like exactly the jigsaw piece they need to fit the puzzle – make yourself the picture of the candidate they need.
I recently went for an interview at a pub and, knowing it’s a nice place with a good opinion of itself, I aimed to look clean and respectable. However, I also knew the manager to be somewhat of a big personality who likes to test people a little, so I aimed for a slightly less cutesy feminine look. And I also heard that the place could be one to get rough at times, so I made sure to ensure I looked capable of taking care of myself and tried to get across a “takes no shit” attitude.
At the interview coming up I know that it’s a very fancy place, therefore I will want to look clean and respectable, but also take into account it’s a busy place that requires an athletic and energetic nature to keep up.

Fun

11696527_850932034991471_1306743554_nI know job interviews can be a bit of a drag and, trust me, the person interviewing you is having even less fun than you most of the time! Interviewing person after person is beyond boring – it is frustrating! So, for your sake and theirs, you want to make sure you bring something fresh and new to the table and that will not only make the interview more fun, but it will set you apart from all the uninteresting interviews the other person has had to sit through that day.
Try your best to let your personality show, ask questions, try to have a laugh where you can. Don’t go overboard and start going off like a hyena and punching them in the arm, but show that you can have a sensible good time and could be nice to work with.
Being someone who the other person looks at and thinks “I could like working with you” is going to score way more points than “I could tolerate you”
Try to make the interview more relaxed and enjoyable by trying to keep your body language polite but relaxed, try to look at them as if you were looking at a respected friend rather than someone to fear and just try to genuinely connect with them. As someone who has worked in management, there is not much worse than that feeling of being treated like a monster as opposed to a human being just because of your job.

That’s a person

Following on from the last point, it’s so important to remember that the person interviewing you is a human being. They have hopes, dreams, fears, problems and have experienced some form of pain that you will never fully understand. We all have a life of our own completely separate from anyone else and they are just the same in that regard.
I don’t like using the “picture them naked” method as that just makes me uncomfortable looking at them – I personally like keeping seeing people naked fairly private! However, I do like to think about the fact that they aren’t always the person sat in front of you. Who are they when they are at home? Do they like to go play board games with their family? Do they sit in a onsie eating ice cream? What’s their favourite show on Netflix? Inside their head is a whole other universe and they are so much more than the role they are playing when they’re running your job interview.

Learning is okay

If you’re going in for an interview in a job you aren’t confidently practiced in, make sure you are clear that you are willing and ready to learn, but don’t make out that you know exactly what you are doing. I know people want to hire competent staff, but it’s better to say “I’m good at what I apply myself too, but I do need to learn more for you” than to tell them you know it all inside and out and to find yourself in over your head. TRUST me on that!
I was always way more likely to trust someone who went “I really want to do this, I will learn, will you help me be what you need?” than someone who was like “I can walk into this today and be exactly what you’re looking for”
Requiring training doesn’t make you any less able to do a job – if fact it can ensure that you are trained properly for the job you are going into! Working in a restaurant, I had a big issue with new staff thinking they could walk into the job, not really realising how a lot of places operate differently to each other. Yep, good work, you know where to keep the glasses in your old job! But we do kind of like them in the cupboard here.

Be yourself

I know, a fairly typical answer, but it’s important to remember that there’s no point being anything but who you are. However you behave when you get the job is how you’ll be expected to behave in the job, otherwise you have a lot of work ahead keeping up a facade that you’ll quickly get tired of!
Go in as yourself, offer the package that is your abilities, your work ethic and personality and then it’s genuinely you who has the job and you who has to continue it.
Of course, if you don’t really WANT the job but need the money, it probably isn’t a good idea to say that, but that’s in the realm of TOO honest!

Be on time and as they asked

Obvious again, I know, but you wouldn’t BELIEVE how many people I interviewed in my time who would roll in 5-20 minutes late for their interviews for no good reason, which really isn’t a way to make a good impression.
If you’re running late for whatever reason, call up and let them know and apologise and they will, more than likely, understand. If you’re going to be late, you may as well use it as an opportunity to show that you are courteous – could even add a couple points in your favour!
Also, if you have been asked to dress in a certain way for an interview or trial shift, then make sure you do! Obviously, if they have been inappropriate in their requests, then don’t bother with them, but do your absolute best to follow reasonable instructions.
I once gave a trial shift to someone and gave them very specific details of what to wear and also where to cheaply get anything to wear that they didn’t have as I really wanted them to have a good shot at the job and, as well as showing up late, they came wearing completely inappropriate clothes. I wish I could say it got better from there, but sadly that was just the start.

Listen, don’t panic

It’s very common, in my experience, for people to be focusing so much on how nervous they are and how much they want to impress that they forget to listen entirely. There’s a literal sinking feeling in your heart when you’re talking to an interviewee or new staff member and they are so panicky that they don’t hear a word you say, as much as you are trying to help them.
Take slow breaths, remember that you are going to do your best, everything will be okay and you don’t need to freak out. A little bit of nerves is great, letting it get out of hand can harm your chances. Take a moment to centre yourself and be in the moment and go at normal speed – no need to fly off at a hundred miles an hour!

I really hope this is of help to you and, if you’re going for jobs right now, good luck!
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Claddagh rings – The IRL relationship status!

Today, when we meet someone new that we’re romantically interested in, one of the first 12788431_971115229639817_884393266_othings we are likely to do is go on Facebook (or Twitter, Instagram – even Linked in, if we’re really desperate) and check their Relationship Status for the all clear that we want to see before we pursue a relationship. Facebook makes it so much easier to do that harmless snooping we need.

But what about BEFORE the invention of social media, where all we had to go off was the presence, or lack therof, of a wedding ring? There were no telltale signs short of just asking the person outright (which can get kind of embarrassing in some circumstances) or asking around with friends or family.
That’s why I love the Claddagh ring so much. Named after the Irish town of its origin, the claddagh ring is designed for the exact purpose of displaying a person’s “romantic status” for the world to see.
The design includes two hands holding a heart that is adorned with a crown. The hands symbolize friendship and support, the heart represents love and the crown means loyalty. These are great little details, but the really interesting part comes down to the WAY it is worn!

12776841_971115212973152_692921021_oJust by looking at the orientation on the hands, you can quickly tell if the wearer is single (or at least not currently exclusive with the person they are seeing).
When a claddagh ring is worn on the right hand, with the heart pointing out (away from the wearer’s palm) then they are essentially single. It means that their heart isn’t taken, so that could mean they are not dating anyone or aren’t yet exclusive with them.
Similarly, if it is worn on the right hand with the heart pointing IN, then their heart definitely isn’t up for grabs, as they’ve either given it to someone else or are keeping it to one side ready for them (i.e dating somebody already).
When the claddagh ring is worn on the left hand, it’s a whole lot more serious! If they wear it on their left hand with the heart pointing out, then they are engaged to be married (I always chuckle because it’s almost like the ring is going “Hey, try get me now before it’s too late!”) and if it is on the left hand and pointing inwards the wearer is married (or in a serious committed very long-term relationship – we don’t have to go by tradition here!).

Claddagh rings are an Irish tradition, but it is so common for people without Irish herritage to wear them too. I’m not aware of any Irish in my family, and I’ve worn my Claddagh ring for the last 7 years, with only a few short breaks when it’s accidentally gone through the wash or been misplaced for a couple weeks!
If you’re interested in getting your very own claddagh ring, here is the particular design I have worn for the last 7 years

And, if you are interested in some of the flashier rings, here are a few of my favorites:

I hope you have enjoyed this quick random piece! If you are interested, come and connect with us on the Learn With Amy Facebook and Twitter, join me on my own personal Twitter and also, check out my YouTube channels! Xx

Why Korean food should be on your menu

butternutWhether you are a student, living alone, living with others, bringing up a family or, y’know, just need to eat, we can all agree that eating well these days is more effort and expense than ever. We’ve become so used to being fed garbage food that claims to be good for us, while slowly poisoning us with colours, flavours, preservatives and other chemicals we need not ingest. It is alarming how we are becoming less and less aware of the contents of our food with every year and so many people don’t even beg the question of what they are putting in their bodies.

No wonder the modern world is plagued with cancer, obesity and other illnesses that would have been rarely seen once upon a time.
Now, I could go on about the evils of big corporations and how they manipulate their products in order to control their consumers, but I’m more interested in helping you find solutions.

Now, as you have probably come to realise from the blog, I am a massive lover of Korean food. While being generally quite enjoyable to make, it also has other benefits:

Flexible

I am yet to find a Korean recipe that has one fixed method of preparation. Everyone seems to have their own little tricks and variations on the recipes that I have not come across a single recipe that I haven’t enjoyed.
There is room to play with your ingredients and method that you have so many ways to make your recipe suit your needs.

Relaxing

IMG_0456.JPGI know in our “all go” age we rarely stop to enjoy the process of doing day-to-day tasks but, speaking as someone who is often in a rush and eager to finish the task at hand, I find Korean cooking incredibly relaxing.
There’s nothing quite like the meditative state I slip into while rolling Hobakjuk balls or the calm of chopping the vegetables for kimchi. I love it and I feel all the better for taking that little bit of time to enjoy the moment.

Delicious

Korean food is, in my opinion, the tastiest food there is. I have never been as satisfied as I am when I eat Korean food as it is the perfect balance of taste, texture and temperature.
The grilled meats are to die for and the vegetable dishes have given me a love for some vegetables that I had hated for 20 years!

Healthy

As well as tasting incredible, so many Korean dishes are actually really good for you. despite loving their salt, Korean food is some of the best you can have. Kimchi, a side dish that is eaten with almost every meal, has recently gained recognition around the world as a super food that is known to be insanely good for you.
Also, if you prepare your meals from scratch, you are also aware and in control of what goes into your food, such as salt and sugar.

Cheap

11696527_850932034991471_1306743554_nPossibly the biggest draw of all, Korean food is generally very cheap to make. I can make easily enough Hobakjuk (Butternut squash rice porridge) to last me a week for £5 or less, because the recipe is so simple. And £5 can easily keep you in supply of kimchi for weeks (or months, depending on how much you eat).
Korean food is such an easy hobby for me because it’s so fantastically cheap, which also makes it accessible for anyone. What money you could spend on instant noodles and burgers that offer little to no nutrition, can go an incredibly long way with the right recipes and storage.

So, there are just a few of the benefits of cooking and enjoying Korean food. If you have any questions on preparation, ingredients or storage of Korean food or want some recipe suggestions to suit you, I will be more than happy to help!
I will have more Korean recipes coming very soon! In the meantime, have an excellent day and take care! Xx

Think Like A Native – Using your thoughts to improve your language skills

 

11650593_850429428375065_1268473140_nIn learning languages like Japanese and Korean, I have found one of the best ways of privately encouraging my learning, especially when unable to communicate with others in that language, is to make effort to communicate with myself.
Over recent months, due to breaking up with my Korean ex-boyfriend and terribly missing my Japanese best friend, I have neglected my language studies and this site in favor of taking time out to heal – trust me, you guys didn’t want to be witness to that mess! While this has somewhat dulled my abilities, I have found that regular practice in the privacy of my own mind has helped to preserve my understanding a great deal.
IMG_0844.PNGIt can be hard to find opportunities to communicate in languages not used in the area you live, so I decided to do my level best to think in Japanese and Korean wherever possible.
Going about my day and trying to think of the Japanese or Korean words for items I see and trying to string together the correct sentences goes a long way to help keep me focused on retaining what I already know, while also encouraging me to learn more.
When I dial a phone number, I try my best to think it in Japanese or Korean as I dial and that not only helps to improve my abilities, but I find helps with my concentration. If I am not sure of the word for a letter, I’ll just go with English and ensure to look it up later so I’ll be able to recall it the next time.
Of course, if you aren’t fluent, this isn’t an incredibly easy task, but it does serve as a way of revising a language when you cannot practice in conversation with others.
Even if you only use the odd word here and there, it will still help to build that comfort and understanding that will make learning faster and smoother. It will also help to make you able to fluidly move between languages – an ability that will serve you well the further you improve in all your language studies!
This has been a very short piece, I know, but I wanted to make something quick and simple as a way of getting back into things. Thank you so much to everyone who has waited patiently for me to be ready to return – I really appreciate your patience and all the supportive messages I have received in my time away!
As always, please share any thoughts or comments in the section below, or come join us over on Facebook and Twitter! Xx

Do I have An Ugly Voice?!?!?! The truth about what you hear

"Is THAT my voice?!"
“Is THAT my voice?!”

As someone who, like many out there, hopes to thrive in creative industries as a professional, there is one major setback that looms over me anytime I set out to begin any task: I hate the sound of my voice. And not just on video! I hate my voice on the phone, when singing, but particularly badly when recording video, when my flaws can be replayed over and over, rather than just being a fleeting momentary embarrassment. But why is that?

Well, what affects me is the same thing that most people experience when they hear themselves recorded. I hate my voice because it isn’t the same voice that I hear in my head when I speak! it just isn’t! It is so far removed from the voice I have heard for as long as I can remember.
But can it really be the case that my voice sounds smooth, rich and buttery until the moment I’m placed in front of a microphone? Do my vocal chords decide to have a dance party in there? Nope!
I have done some research and it turns out that the voice that we hear isn’t actually the voice anyone else hears! We hear a very different and unique “version” of our own voices that no-one else in the world hears.
When we speak, a lot of what we are hearing isn’t actually the sound that comes out of our mouths and bounces around the room until it reaches our ears, but more the vibrations that come from our speech resonating in the bones of our skull. That’s why we often hear our own voice so profoundly different to our own.
BUT! It isn’t necessarily a case of your real voice sounding BAD, but more a case of you not being used to hearing it! Anytime that we speak without a microphone, we hear one voice that we have grown to accept as ours, and when something challenges that we are going to label it as “weird”.

Want to hear your own voice for real? Then get two large pieces of cardboard (about A4 size) and place them against your jaw, in front of your ears, then speak out loud. The voice you hear is your “true voice”, the voice everyone else knows and loves!

So, like me, you jump to the conclusion that your voice is ugly, horribly annoying and too “gruesome” to ever be heard on a microphone again! But, fear not, because it is not actually as bad as you imagine. Go easy on yourself because it isn’t all that bad. How many people do you know with really “ugly” voices? Not many, I’m guessing.

So accept that, while your voice doesn’t sound just like you imagine, it isn’t as bad as you think it is either.

Take a listen to the natural speech patterns and tones of a lot of professional voice actors for animations and commercials – many actually sound very nasal and (traditionally) “weird”, but that makes them valuable. Having a different voice makes you stand out. You can play with it and adapt it to embody an array of characters and situations and use it to express yourself or a character effectively.

I was once told by the popular voice actor Travis Willingham (know for Fullmetal Alchemist, Ouran Highschool Host Club, Avengers Assemble tv series, and more) saying the best advice for an actor he could give is to experiment with your voice and see how far you can really push your control.

Like they say “It’s not what you’ve got, it’s how you use it!”

If you feel motivated to work on developing  (rather than changing) your voice, there are so many options for strengthening and honing your vocal skills.

Training

As someone who has been to a vocal coach, I know that route can be incredibly expensive, a bit awkward, and very difficult to fit into your life if is not a move being made for your career- Coaches are a pricey pursuit if you are looking at improving your voice purely for your own peace of mind.

But there are a number of excellent books and courses available for reasonable prices that you can do from the comfort of your own home!

They often explain how the muscles involving speech work, offer advice and exercises for strengthening your vocal chords, improving control and doing so in a healthy manner that will not damage your voice further in the process.

 

Know Your Equipment

When you know at least the basics of how your voice works and how to use it right and keep it healthy, you can then turn your attention to the equipment you use day to day!

If you are interested in singing, voice-over, presentations, acting, conference calls, Youtube, etc, equipment is a major consideration. Depending on the environment in which you’re speaking, different tech suits different needs.

Consider the price range, reviews, specifications and software used. My go-to microphone is the Blue Snowball for it’s price, quality and the ability to switch between Directional and Omni-Directional pickup. Plus, it’s durable! The number of times it has survived being knocked off my desk is nothing short of legendary….
When it comes to audio software, the go to is Audacity because it is both free and excellent quality! Software is more often than not more expensive than the actual gear itself, so Audacity is a fantastic option that won’t break the bank.

There are many courses available online for learning how to effectively work the program and, with some trial and error, you can quickly yield excellent results!

So, what do you think of your voice? Is there anything you want to improve upon? I’ll be doing some research and asking some people for their advice on what to do to strengthen your voice and get you the pipes you really want to hear!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article! Make sure you join us over on Facebook and Twitter! Xx

Bye-bye Grease! Taking back my hair

10432552_1013181298695894_8304708746044163524_nEver since I hit that tender age where you suddenly feel super self conscious, I have had this strong aversion to having greasy hair. Even now, a more confident adult, I still feel this (literally) sickening upset whenever I have greasy hair. I feel dirty, ugly and ashamed of myself. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but it is a feeling that I have not managed to shed after 10 years of trying.

In recent years, I have found the problem worsening as my hair was becoming greasier even faster. I got pulled into a vicious cycle of my hair getting greasy and having to wash it as smaller and smaller intervals.
I read online and spoke to people about it and the only answer I could find seemed to be to wash my hair less regularly. WHAT?! NOT AN OPTION! I couldn’t just let my hair get greasy and embrace it. So, I did a little research and learnt why my hair was getting greasier faster and faster.
While stripping your scalp of grease can cause your hair to get greasy faster, it is also the fact that the chemicals in shampoos (even “natural” ones) can irritate your scalp, making your body think that it is being attacked and releases more grease to sooth your scalp.
Now, I can go about 3-7 days without my hair getting greasy, unless I’ve worked out a lot or have had particularly sweaty shifts at work. “How?!” You may ask.
The answer probably sits in the back of your pantry, waiting for you!
It’s Baking soda!
I began washing my hair with baking soda a month ago and I’m so much happier with my hair now. In addition to that, I started rinsing my hair with apple cider vinegar and that only made things better!
Photo 09-12-2014 16 12 06This simple, and REALLY CHEAP, switch has made a world of difference. My hair is soft, smooth, easy to style, and – best of all – not greasy! This change has only brought good things – the only thing I miss about shampoo is the nice choice of smells and also the bubbly lather that you don’t get (unless, you make a doosy and mix the baking soda and vinegar at the same time) with this method.

So, how do I wash my hair? It’s really simple!

In a plastic cup, put 1-2 teaspoons of baking soda in with about 1 teaspoon of water. Then, in another plastic cup, put about 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a cup. Then (this is a very useful trick) get a little bit of the vinegar on a finger or spoon and use it to stir the baking soda mix. Doing this will cause a chemical reaction and make the baking soda fizz up a little bit, just like the volcano projects kids do in school, this will make it a tad easier to work the baking soda through your hair, as it’s much easier to work with a foam than a liquid that’s more likely to wash out of your hands as you try to get it on your head.
So, thoroughly wet your hair and then work the foamy baking soda mix through all of your hair. Really make sure you get it well onto your scalp – just don’t rub it in so hard that you snap your hair!
Let is soak into your hair for a couple minutes and then thoroughly rinse out.
When you have rinsed out all of the baking soda, wet your hair again and then pour the vinegar through all of your hair. Then let it sit for a minute or two and then rinse it all out.
Your hair may smell a TINY bit like vinegar, but you can easily spray a little perfume on to cover it up – but, I happen to love the smell of vinegar, so I don’t mind!

Photo 24-03-2015 11 56 31
Result!

So, there you have it, a cheap and very effective way of washing and maintaining your clean and grease-free hair!
If you have tried this method or you want to share your comments, suggestions or questions, please share them with us in the comments, or join us on Facebook and Twitter! Xx

Remember that this is purely based off my own personal experience. If you find that this doesn’t work for you, don’t continue this method. We’re all different and our bodies respond differently to things. Always use your common sense and take care!