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Dementia Awareness Week


Dementia Awareness Week #DAW2016

Writing this post is actually pretty difficult for me, I’m not going to lie.

On one hand, I want to help raise awareness for Dementia Awareness Week, the awareness-raising brain-child of The Alzheimer’s Society UKan organisation which pledges to help lead the fight against Dementia. And I don’t want to do that in a somber way. I want to give you free art and ask you to help me raise money for them by auctioning off some beautiful books. This requires excitement and happiness and general celebration of life and the lives we are trying to help make better; not sobering facts and statistics, or in my case heavy personal experiences.

But, on the other hand, there are those heavy personal experiences which make it difficult for me to talk about Dementia without wanting to punch that disease* square in the face! (*Technically Dementia is a series of brain damaging symptoms of other diseases, including Alzheimers, or brought on by a series of strokes, or any number of other factors which you can learn more about here. But for the purpose of this narrative, let’s pretend it is a disease and that diseases have faces).


I’ve tried about three times to write something about my experiences with Dementia in this post, each time I have deleted them and started from scratch. In all honesty, it’s really difficult to write about. I lost my Nan a few years ago to the disease (technically, she was lost to other things physically, but we lost her to dementia a little while before she passed) and it was a very hard time with some not very pleasant experiences. Maybe I will talk more freely about them throughout the week.

But for now I am going to concentrate on the pleasant experiences. Her nurses. Her nurses were amazing. She was in a Catholic care home run by the Church and there were several Nuns on the staff , but one of the nurses who stood out was the most accepting and caring of people. On the night my Nan passed, despite never having known her without the disease (so only knowing the frustrated woman who would lash out and didn’t speak much sense), she stayed after her shift had ended and sat with her all night, praying with her and holding her hand.

The nurses also allowed me and my younger brother, my cousins, auntie and uncle, mum and dad, my Nan’s sister and so many others to sleep at the nursing home in the conservatory and on sofas in the hall, or in Nan’s room with her, for the whole week when we had been told she was going to pass soon. At one point there were so many of us in her little room that there was no room for us to sit. We were sat on the floor eating sandwiches from the 24 hour Tesco down the road, just talking all through the night and day. It was a little like the family parties that Nan would have loved.

And singing. Despite everything, Nan still sang, right up until she started to get very ill. She couldn’t always remember our names, or got our faces mixed up, but she probably still knew the words to every song she ever loved. We always knew that no matter how horrible it got, if we started humming something, she would most likely pick it up and begin to sing along.


Dementia is horrible.  It steals a person away and leaves behind some one who is so frustrated with their own mind. They still know us. They still love us. It just takes so much time for them to find us in their disease ravaged brains that they sometimes lose their way. And that is so hard to watch.

But thanks to charities like The Alzheimer’s Society there are new treatments being researched every day. New wonderful nurses and carers and support systems being trained to help us to give them a map and find their way back to us. Even if only briefly. Because, honestly, those brief moments mean the world.

So… I’m going to stop writing now. If anything because just writing this has taken me far too long as I keep on having to go back over it and re-write things. I tried very hard to keep to the happy stuff. The celebration. The stuff that we should all remember about a person’s final days rather than the bad stuff… And even that made me cry a bit which is why I think I’m going to stop now.


If you would like to help The Alzheimer’s Society spread awareness of Dementia and #DAW2016, please consider checking out my current eBay Auction (Link here) for three copies of ‘Draw Your Way To A Younger Brain’, or visit The Alzheimer’s Society and donate to a brilliant cause. You can also tweet your message about Dementia using the hashtag #DAW2016.

Here is a little giveaway for an original page of artwork from ‘Draw Your Way To A Younger Brain’ to help you spread the word about the cause and the auction. The blog comment is only a way for me to track the entries, please check the other options available once you have commented, in the RaffleCopter widget. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tangled Up In Blue…


In early 2015 I was asked by Orion Publishing if I would be interested in illustrating not one, but THREE 51 page colouring books for adults, entitled ‘Colour Me Mindful: Birds’, ‘Tropical’ and ‘Underwater’. I had literally just moved out of my parents’ house and finished up two huge sketchcard projects for DC and IDW within the same week. The first thing I had moved into my new home was my drawing desk and computer and I spent the first few days surrounded by boxes begging to be unpacked while I furiously scribbled away. I had mistakenly thought that moving house ‘only down the road’ would be simple and of course I could take on two sketchcard projects in the middle of it – I mean, who turns down jobs from DC and IDW when they come knocking? My Kickstarter backers were more than understanding and so many of them wished me luck with the projects. I was just so proud to be working for two of my favourite comic publishers that I didn’t mind the sleepless nights.

I had been living at home with my parents for the last few years while I worked on getting my art career off the ground. It had been amazingly beneficial of course and I cannot thank my parents enough for giving me that chance to work on my portfolio, travel around the country easily and of course being there for me. But nothing prepared me for the incentive and drive having ‘the fear’ of living in a rented house again (especially when you are a self-employed freelance artist) would give me. So of course when Orion contacted me with their brief for three colouring books I jumped at the chance. This was not only an opportunity to work on a project which meant a lot to me (having studied mindfulness and art therapy in the past) but also get my name into bookstores (and of course pay my rent!).

At first things developed at a nice easy pace. The books were due in June and I was communicating back and forth as I drew up sample pages and covers, taking time to make sure they were what the publishers wanted and working up roughs and pencils before moving onto inks. As I was going to have to wait until the pages were all complete and sent in to get paid, I obviously had to take on other work at the same time, including several new sketchcard sets, private commissions and of course travelling around to conventions. On top of all of this I was determined to get ‘Cirque Du Mort’ ready for London MCM in May. I had already made my backers wait for so long due to being offered the DC and IDW work (as well as working on everything alone) and I was obviously getting worried about them becoming discouraged. So essentially, I was working on four books – the ‘Cirque Du Mort‘ and the colouring books.

It was only 10 days to go until London MCM and the final launch of the ‘Cirque Du Mort’ that I had the phone-call that boosted everything into overdrive. There had been an issue with the printers and Orion now needed the final pages for all three books by the 29th May instead of late June – giving me 16 days (not including the 4 that I would have to take out for London MCM) to completely finish the books – that’s 140 pages in 12 days. 11 pages a day. In those 16 days I think I slept for about 4 of them. My rubbish bin was full to the brim with energy drinks’ cans and when I did go to bed it was usually when my partner’s alarm went off for him to get up for work.

I suppose I can appreciate the irony that creating books to alleviate stress would be the most stressful experience of my life.

I did not have much time to celebrate getting the pages for the books in as I had to start sending out ‘Cirque Du Mort’ backer packages (now that the books had been printed and most merchandise ordered). Of the 268 amazing backers, I managed to pack up and send off 207 rewards before I got another message from Orion. They had liked the books so much that they wanted me to do another three. As I had not taken on any new work during the creation of the last books, I had nothing lined up for the coming months and of course I wanted to keep my working relationship with Orion going. They were a wonderful team to work with and they were giving me my own book series with my name on the cover – this is what artists dream of. So before I even had chance to breathe after the first Colour Me Mindful books were done and dusted, I was working on ‘Colour Me Mindful: Butterflies’, ‘Enchanted Creatures’ and ‘Seasons’.

I felt like I was ready for this series. That I knew what to expect. That I wouldn’t let any unforeseen circumstances creep up on me and force me to panic again. That was when someone very close to me, who had been in and out of hospital most of the year, became very ill. I was in and out of hospital visiting them and driving back and forth from Newport to Penarth, on top of which the emotional stress began to take its toll. I started turning down sketchcard work or having to finish projects early. I started coming home prematurely from conventions and getting my partner to post on social media for me when I was actually just zoning out and struggling to hold a pencil.

I knew the signs that my mental illness was rearing its ugly head. I had learned to spot them from a young age. So I called up my doctor for a pre-emptive strike and booked myself in for counselling. I was put on a three month waiting list. I called up MIND. Their waiting list was two months. I became even more reclusive and started cancelling social occasions with my friends (if I organised them at all). When I wasn’t traveling back and forth to the hospital, I was staring at a blank page trying to will my pencil to actually move. The publishers were amazingly understanding and I ended up getting the next books in a little late, but to a standard I was incredibly proud of considering the circumstances… You’d think it would end there, right?

Well. That was when I was asked to do three more books… Part of me of course wanted to say no, if only due to my mental health. But I didn’t want to stop working with Orion. It’s not often that an artist and a publisher work so well together. By this point I also needed the organisation of drawing every day, I felt like that was what was keeping me together. I needed a job to keep me structured. I needed to pay rent and bills of course. But mostly I had met so many people during the publication of ‘Colour Me Mindful’ who had messaged me saying that my books had helped them through tough times. I had emails upon emails from other people who had depression and felt that my work was helping them. That was probably the most inspiring thing that has ever happened to me.

Despite everything I was going through myself, there were people out there who found the fruits of my labour calming. One person even told me how they helped him stave off a massive panic attack when he was on the train. Another told me how they helped her forget her chronic pain – if only for a moment.

It was during drawing the last three books, the ‘Draw Your Way To A Younger Brain’ series, that the someone very close to me passed away. I had to take time away from working obviously, and stepped away from everything for a while. I phoned up my doctor and tried to push them to let me see a counsellor sooner and they booked me in with some local student counsellors after the books were done. I tried my best to keep on top of my mental health but everything just felt hazy. The stress, grieving, sleep deprivation, poor physical health (mostly from ‘deadline diet’ and reliance on energy drinks  *see sleep deprivation), guilt from the other projects I had allowed to fall to the wayside and those that just overwhelmed me; all hit me at once and it just seemed like everything was just too much.

I had a bit of a breakdown in front of my partner (I’m sure it was more than one of course, but one really stood out) and he just said “What can we do to fix it?” I suddenly realised that all the advice I had been giving people with mental issues, all the mindfulness I had been preaching, the #endthestigma conversations I had been encouraging – I finally needed to practice what I preached.

I started seeing the student counsellor every week. I went off my hormonal pill medication (which had been changed by my doctor earlier in the year and had been causing me a lot of distress). I started meditating every morning using mindfulness tapes. I improved my diet and stopped drinking energy drinks as much. I slept. I slept so much.

When I handed in the final three books it wasn’t to huge fanfare and congratulations, but the largest sigh of relief I have ever felt. And I couldn’t even feel it due to my anhedonia (emotional numbness) flaring up so badly. I have not taken on any new work since and have saved up enough that I can work on personal projects like ‘Cirque Du Mort’ and commissions over the Christmas, in-between looking after myself and trying to get back on a more healthy and personally productive schedule.

I look back over the things I have done this year: Self publishing my first creator owned book, ‘Cirque Du Mort’. Becoming a recognised colouring book artist. Being published in Germany, Australia, Canada, America and Korea. Publishing 10 books in one year. Working for DC, IDW, Dynamite and Marvel as a sketchcard artist. And it is still hard for me to feel proud. My depression robs me of that and that is just a sad fact. I see the loved one I lost. I see how disappointed some of my backers are that I didn’t get my books out to them in good time. I see the little things I could have done better. Those are the things my depression shows me.

But I also know that I will not let it win. I know that I got help. I know that I told those closest to me what was going on and let them help me. I know that I can get through this just like I have got through this before. I know how proud of me that lost loved one is. I know how proud of me my parents and friends are. And even though I can’t feel that pride myself yet, I know I will. It will just take time. Time, rest, help and heck – maybe even some mindful colouring in. Why not?


Kawaii Club – Back 2 School Special!


 

Yet another month has gone by and it is time to review my August Ookii Parcel from Kawaii Club Ookii Box, a Keep It Secret UK Subscription service.

As always, in the interest of honesty I will say that I am the Social Media & Support Manager over at Keep It Secret so I am sent these for an honest review as part of working for the company. All opinions of the items are my own though and I mostly just love showing you guys the super secret surprises that we ship off every month.


This month’s box theme was ‘Back 2 School’ and I have to say that this was my favourite box from Kawaii Club so far. I have always been a sucker for cute stationery and Keep It Secret have really out done themselves with the range of gorgeous treats on offer this month. With the launch of Kamio Stationery products over on their website, now is a great time to fill your pencil case with some cute erasers, sharpeners, pens and pencils, just in time for the start of the new school term (or, if you’re like me, for every day use and to just make you smile).

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The items in this month’s box are both adorable and incredibly useful, with a mix of washi tape, stickers, stamps and pencils.

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This cute masking tape measure 1.6m in all and features this adorable little bear. Needless to say some of my Etsy packages being sent out over the next few weeks will have a little kawaii love keeping them together.

 

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This transparent wallet is A4 in size and shows a chibi picture of No-Face from Spirited Away, one of my favourite Studio Ghibli films. This wallet is ideal to keep your artwork (or homework protected) and I’m sure that little soot mote won’t get dirt on your work.

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I haven’t had a secret diary in a very long time, but this Okitoki padlocked notebook might just convince me to start one again (pretty sure I’ve grown out of the AC 4 KR ((Keanu Reeves FYI)) stage, but hey he’s still a hottie).

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What do you get the girl who draws colouring books for a living? Why a set of coloured pencils of course. These cute pocket size pencils are ideal for taking on long road trips, holiday or just out in the garden while you colour in your copy of Colour Me Mindful (shameless plug – not even ashamed).

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I LOVED these pens when I was a kid so I am super stoked to have one again. They are just so wonderfully comfortable to use and incredibly practical, I mean, who wants to carry around 8 biro pens when you can just have one?

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I only recently became acquainted with Sumikkogurashi while I was visiting London and I have to say, I am very much in love with these tiny little mochi animals. So, the fact that I can now stick them anywhere makes me very happy.

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What Kawaii stationery set would be complete without the wonder that is Hello Kitty? This bento box of tiny rubber stamps is lovely and the stamps are clear and press well. A lovely way to decorate your diary so those school days don’t seem so boring.

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I love Sentimental Circus and actually have a few notebooks and stickers from their brand from visiting various Japanese stores over the years, so this giant paperclip/bookmark is a perfect way to round of my collection.

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Just to give you a quick sneak peek of the stamps and biro pen in action (not to mention a final little plug for Kawaii Club and Keep It Secret UKDon’t forget to sign up for next month to see what they have in store for you. I’m going to go and use these lovely gifts to help re-organise my week. 


I Failed Art

by Anastasia Catris in Personal Comments: 8 tags: a level, art, art college, artist, gcse, results

A huge GOOD LUCK to all of those getting their A Level results this week and congratulations to those of you who got into your University of choice.

Just remember that your choices today (and the grades you get) don’t have to shape who you are forever – only you can do that. Either through the University experience; going straight into a job/career; or taking time out, you’re an adult now and it’s finally your decision as to what sort of adult you want to be. Not your parents’, not your teachers’ – YOURS!

Twelve years ago I failed Art.

I ended up studying English in University because I loved it. I made great friends who encouraged me to draw again after losing a lot of confidence. My A Level art teacher had told me comics weren’t a ‘valid medium‘. I met lecturers who taught me about comics that had won Pulitzers. I was introduced to the work of Spiegelman, Gaiman and McCloud. I ended up working on an art portfolio in my final year instead of my dissertation and applying to one of the best comic art schools in the world. And I got in.

I met my heroes, lived in the US and met some of the finest artists and friends I will ever know.

Today I am a paid artist and I get to travel all over the world going to conventions. I have worked for one of the biggest publishers in the world and one of my favourite magazines. I have worked for DC, Marvel, IDW and Dynamite on some of the most kickass characters I know; from Red Sonja to Harley Quinn; Vampirella to Peter Venkman!

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I get e-mails almost daily from beautiful, wonderful people who tell me that my newest series of colouring books for adults has helped them cope with their anxiety, depression or just the stress of day to day. As of this year I can officially say that my art is actually helping people!

I have people cosplay as characters I dreamed up. I have my own book which has been a number one best seller in its genre that I self published, wrote, illustrated, edited and lettered myself. There are characters and stories out there in the world now that wouldn’t have existed without me!

I get paid to draw, colour and create things on a daily basis (not much – I’m not going to lie – but it’s worth it to do what you love). People buy my art because they like it and it makes them happy – that is probably my proudest achievement.

Twelve years ago I failed Art and now I can proudly tell people, when they ask me what I do, that I am an Artist.

So no matter the outcome this week – Good Luck. You have an amazing journey ahead of you.


Stock photo used for title image – nanagirl_stock


Loving my Locks

by Anastasia Catris in Personal Comments: 9 tags: blue hair, Dreadlocks, lifestyle, self love

The last time I shared updates regarding my choice to style my hair into locks was back in April having had them crocheted by the very talented Rosielocksa loctician’ based in Bristol in February. This was the last picture I shared with you…

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These were my locks after having been freshly dyed and crocheted. How cute were they! Well, that was 6 months ago now and they have since began to mature beautifully. The bottom ones thickened and tightened very quickly, probably because they saw the most friction being closest to my neck. The top ones took a little longer and some are still finding their feet as my hair used to be layered, so the top ones were much thinner.

For my birthday, I decided I really wanted to add some length (as of July they were reaching my shoulders and at that annoying ‘in-between’ stage where they weren’t quite short and weren’t quite long), so went back to Rosielocks and asked her if she would make me some real hair extensions. I provided the hair (dyed blue of course) and she set to work. Here is my hair before I went back for my extensions and a little bit of (much needed) maintenance…

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As you can see the locks had started to tighten and produce some nice loops and kinks due to the hair shrinking up (excuse the roots!). The whole process of adding in the extensions took about 4 hours, which flew by as Rosielocks is a lovely host and we had some good chats and played with her cats while plodding along. The locks weren’t noticeably heavier straight away, but added such wonderful volume to the whole style I was very happy. I waited about a week before I actually dyed my whole head again to give them a chance to settle down and here is the final result…

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One of the first things I did as soon as I had the length was start playing around with different styles. I haven’t had long hair since I was 21, so it was so nice to be able to play with it again (with the added bonus of finally having my dream hairstyle). I think one of the best things about long locks for me personally, is the fact you don’t need any accessories or hair ties to play around with them, you can pretty much just knot them into place (an added bonus when you need to quickly get your hair out of your face when you are drawing!)

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The gorgeous beads you can see in some of these photos are from The Dread Bead Shop on Etsy and the lovely lady who runs it is probably the best for customer service that you are going to find. Her beads are all polymer clay and highly detailed. The clay is nice and light so it doesn’t weight locks down and the holes are generous so you can always find a bead that will suit your hair. Here are a couple of closer shots of the beads themselves. I love how they compliment the colour of my hair…

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The gorgeous purple bead on the far left in the above photo was actually a birthday gift from my good friend Lisa (AStarFellOnHer) and by far one of my favourite beads. It was the first bead that anyone had ever got me as a gift and I love it.

The wonderful thing about this new hairstyle is that it has already given me so much more confidence in myself. I love having blue hair and have now had it for six years, but growing up I always wanted long blue hair. When my hair was straight I would always get to the shoulder length stage and end up chopping it all off through frustration but now, thanks to these extensions, I have gone straight into my dream length. I have finally got the hair that I have always wanted and I couldn’t be happier about it.


Kawaii Club – Anime x Lifestyle Crossover!


Another month has gone by and it is time to review my July Ookii Parcel from Kawaii Club Ookii Box, a Keep It Secret UK Subscription service. As you might have noticed on my Twitter, things have been a little crazy lately what with the launch of my first three colouring books for adults published through Orion, so it has taken me a little while to get around to reviewing last month’s parcel. In fact – you now only have one more week until the August parcels are sent out, so sign up if you would like to grab one of these awesome Kawaii Club boxes this month.

As always, in the interest of honesty I will say that I am the Social Media & Support Manager over at Keep It Secret so I am sent these for an honest review as part of working for the company. All opinions of the items are my own though and I mostly just love showing you guys the super secret surprises that we ship off every month.

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The theme of this month’s Ookii Parcel was ‘Anime x Lifestyle Crossover’ and this was definitely a must have for anyone looking for some cute and kawaii fashion essentials. Personally I found this to be the weakest parcel for me so far, just simply because I don’t wear jewelry (so the earrings and choker were sadly wasted on me) and I have locks (so the hair clips are a little too tight and have teeth which would sadly damage them – I do wear hair clips some times, but tend to look for looser fitting friendlier ones). That being said, it is still a lovely selection of items and my loss is your gain as I will be giving away the hair clips, choker and earrings to one lucky commenter! (Keep reading for more info!)

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One pair of ‘Harajuku’ knee high socks – I am a HUGE knee high sock fan! I go to a lot of festivals and just love wearing knee high socks under my wellies. These would also look adorable with a Lolita skirt or if you were going for a fairy kei pastel goth look. The material is lovely and sturdy and stretchy meaning the sizing is quite flexible.

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One pair of cherry hair clips – I do wish I could wear these as they are very cute and good enough to eat. The clips are plastic but nice and strong so would do as a cute accessory, or practical hair clip to pull back a nice amount of hair. Perfect if you want to look sugar and spice with a cherry on top (literally).

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One No Face (Spirited Away) brooch clip – This is my favourite item in this month’s box, a gorgeous little Spirited Away brooch. I love this film and everything Studio Ghibli, so this is a lovely addition to my growing collection of pins and badges.

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One pink love heart faux leather choker necklace – As I said earlier, sadly I don’t actually wear jewelry (and on the very rare occasion that I do, it tends to be wood, plastic or leather and always without metal – I know – a metal head without the metal – weird) but this is a lovely little choker again adding to the pastel goth look of the socks. There is also something kind of Sailor Moon about the style…

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One pair of silhouette Sailor Moon Dangle Earrings – …Speaking of Sailor Moon. These dangle earrings are perfect for any Sailor Moon fan, but also have a lovely design to them which works well even if you don’t watch the series as it’s quite a nice little art nouveau style figure – I mean, they don’t have to know it’s , right?


Well, I promised you goodies and that is what I shall give you. If you would like a chance to win the Sailor Moon Dangle Earrings, pink love heart faux leather choker necklace and pair of cherry hair clips, courtesy of the awesome guys at Keep It Secret, all you have to do is visit their website and tell me one of your favourite items in their store and why in the comments below!

I will draw a random winner on Monday 10th August (any comments after 9am on that day will not be counted). Comments will count at the time you posted them, not the time they are moderated so don’t worry about missing out.

So, get visiting Keep It Secret and keep it kawaii!


Kawaii Time! Anime Special


In June I received my second ever Kawaii Club Ookii Box, a Keep It Secret UK Subscription service. I have now been working with Keep It Secret for a little over two months and am enjoying every second. As I am their new Social Media Manager I should probably take this moment to share with you the AWESOME Kawaii Picnic SALE going on over at KeepItSecret.co.uk  where all Lifestyle items are up  to 25% OFF. Perfect for your Kawaii Kitchens!

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Anyway, enough shameless advertising, let’s get back to what you all came here to see… CUTE THINGS! 


The theme of this June’s Ookii Parcel was ‘Anime Special’ and on that point it most definitely delivered! the Oookii customers also had the added extras of some ULTRA RARE figurines which is always exciting. If you want to take part in next month’s subscription, simply click here  to be directed to their website.

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The first thing that struck me about this month’s box was that there were much larger gifts than last months, including a few very substantial plushies!

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Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z and Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac… plus a surprise Summer Gift of Totoro! You can’t get much more anime than that.

We will start with the ULTRA RARE Chibi Style Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac anime figurine. This surprise box could have been a number of different characters…

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… and here is the one that I got!

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This Dragon Ball Z Kai figurine is very classic with it’s own little stand.

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Moving on to Sailor Moon we have this super cute Sailor Moon plushie doll.

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And large Luna Cat plush doll…

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…And finally Artemis white cat plush key chain.

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And, ironically my favourite little addition to this box (as it is also the smallest), this gorgeous little Totoro figurine which was a Summer Surprise gift! What did you get in yours?


Overall I LOVED this month’s box. The gifts for June were a lot more substantial than normal with some lovely rare pieces as well as larger plushies. Considering that a monthly subscription box from Kawaii Club only costs £19.99 and the Luna Cat Plush alone would probably go for about £10 in the shops, this is a brilliant investment. Having the mix of different animes is always a plus too.

I missed getting Pocky this month I will admit, but as Keep It Secret UK are currently adding a whole bunch of new flavours to their store, I can understand that they’re not giving away stock quite yet. Maybe next month. Speaking of next month – what would you like to see? Any theories as to the next theme? 

Personally I can’t wait for the guys to do a stationery month! With all of their beautiful new stationery stock including stickers, washi tape and cutesie erasers, it would be really fun to see a small selestion of those in the next box.


My First Ookii Parcel Review – May Box


I have tried out a couple subscription parcels over the years. When I was working in an office ‘Graze‘ was a gods’ send as it allowed me to eat healthy snacks instead of the lovely food readily available in a central London office (SO many temptations!). Last year I tried out both ‘Loot Crate‘ and ‘My Geek Box‘ which were both amazing and VERY dangerous to my bank account and now I am trying out my first ever kawaii themed box – the ‘Ookii box’ by Kawaii Club, a Keep It Secret UK Subscription service.

I was actually lucky enough to get a job with Keep It Secret last month as their new Social Media Manager, so I think that in light of that I should definitely share my Oookii parcel opening with you guys! (And you should, y’know, share it with everyone…) So, here is my box opening of my first ever Ookii Parcel, or as I like to call it – the Squishiest parcel in the world!

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Can you feel the cute yet?

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Obligatory shot of Keep It Secret UK’s social media sites. You can also find them here! (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube)

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Starting with the edibles, we have Milk flavoured Pocky. Milk is a good choice! And this is also available on their website for a really good price (it’s on SALE now)

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I actually already have a Mickey Mouse TSUMTSUM so I was pretty happy to get this little cute Tigger. He is adorable!

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A VERY squishy ice cream cone, just in time for the Summer.

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I actually had no idea where I recognized this guy from then realized he was from an animation my partner shared with me. He’s just so worried!

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One of the less squishy additions to this box, a lovely little Sanrio addition in the form of a Keroppi pin badge.

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I will admit this was a little bit difficult to open, but once I did it was a happy surprise to see that this squishy Oreo cookie was in fact a compact mirror.

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This little phone charm is very cute, but it is also a little bit sticky so I probably won’t be adding it to my phone any time soon because of pocket lint.

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What could this possibly be…?

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Well you three are just adorable!

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Overall I am really happy with my first ever Ookii parcel and really looking forward to seeing what the theme will be next month (or in only a couple of days according to the website – 4 days till processing apparently – how exciting). Keep It Secret have recently announced some new Pocky flavours including cookies and cream (which sound delicious!), so here is hoping we get to try some of those soon! They have also recently added some beautiful stationery including Rilakkuma, Hello Kitty, Pandas and Mindwave, so I am really hoping to get some of those in the future.

Did you get an Ookii parcel last month? What did you think of it? And what are you hoping for in the next package?


Wednesday Wish List


Wednesday Wish List – Dread Central


As some of you may know, I recently took the plunge and finally got myself locks. I have wanted locks since I was very young. Not particularly sure what initially ignited my love for them beyond the awesome Celtic Warrior look, I just know that the idea of having dreads was always something that interested me (blue dreads – even better). As I grew older, I learned more about the link locks have with Celtic Paganism and how Celtic warriors used to wear them to strike fear into their enemies (Spartans and Greek warriors also did the same). When I was in university a friend of mine had beautiful dreadlocks which she had done when she was traveling around India, and I always wanted to try them for myself, but was put off by the stereotype that so many people put forward of them being unwashed or the idea that you had to cut them off to get rid of them (both completely untrue might I add! I wash mine almost as regularly as my straight hair and you can brush them out if you want to).

So on February 2nd I went along to a lovely lady in Bristol named Rosielocks, and 4 hours later, I was the proud owner of 42 brand new baby dreads. I had been growing my hair out for a few months prior to this, but as Rosie used the crochet method, luckily the length of my hair remained pretty much the same.

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As you can see from the above photo, they turned out amazingly! And I cannot thank Rosie enough for all of her hard work. I will be writing up a post about my ‘Dreadlock Journey’ in the future, but as I am only a couple of months in there hasn’t been a great change in them just yet beyond them falling a little better and having a LOT of dark roots!

So, for my first Wednesday Wish List of this year, I decided to go along a dreadlock theme and share with you some of my favourite adornments and products that I have found online for these knotty new friends.


Dreaded Storm… Handmade Lampwork Glass Bead

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This gorgeous hand made glass bead by Beatle Baby Glassworks on Etsy is £12.62 and it looks like it is worth every penny. As I don’t wear jewelry, dread beads are a brilliant way to accessorize; especially if it means wearing what looks like a beautiful tiny galaxy! The colours are beautifully vivid with purples, blues, greens and pinks, and the good thing about it being glass is that there is no danger of paint peeling or wood denting over time if you didn’t happen to take these beauties out for a bit.


Vital Goods – African Black Soap Shea Butter Shampoo – Grapefruit Lemongrass Dreadlock Shampoo

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Just how gorgeous and luxurious does this sound? I have been experimenting with a number of residue-free, cruelty free shampoos since getting my new dreads and this one just sounds gorgeous. The grapefruit and lemongrass combo just sounds lovely and refreshing, while the little bit of Shea Butter helps the tightening process and the Black Soap leaves you with a deep clean. Hoping to get a sample of this sometime in the future once I have finished my current bottle of Knotty Boy Shampoo (will be reviewing all the products I have tried in a future post).


Luving Your Locks – Dreadlock Hair Tie

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I love the winged detailing on this gorgeous dreadlock hair tie by LuvingYourLocks on Etsy. They have also created a series of beads which match this style in various colours. The good thing about this style of hair tie is that it’s not as strenuous on your locks as elastic can be (which can sometimes cut into the lock slightly). And is long enough to deal with much thicker hair. Personally I’ve fallen in love with this whole wings/leaves range and may have to invest in a collection in the future.


Dollylocks Travel Sized Variety Pack

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This is an extremely good deal, especially for people like me who are only just getting started with their hair and are eager to try out new products. I love the look of all of Dollylocks products, and this is a great way to sample some of the scents and different items including the tightening spray, powders and different shampoos. Also, it means you have a surplus of travel size items ideal for holidays (or in my case for convention weekends, festivals and LAN parties). Will definitely be treating myself to this some time in the future.


Custom Tentacle Bead from Southpaw Polymer

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One of the things I love about my hair so far is the fact it kind of makes me look like a mermaid. The beach and locks kid of go hand in had, so an aquatic themed lock bead like this seems ideal to me. The company makes them completely customized to your own specifications, from size to colours, and they have a wide range of colours including some lovely metallics. Even though they are made from polymer clay, they look so much more sturdy than you would think, but the clay makes them light enough to wear in your hair without feeling dragged down.


Magic Forest Bead by Knotfarfromhair

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If I was going to treat myself to any one of the beads I have favourited on Etsy, this would be a definite prize. It just looks like a miniature piece of art and has a beautiful, natural feel to it. Knotfarfromhair also do some wonderful tentacle style beads which wrap naturally around the lock and they come in a variety of fun, crazy colours.


Small Business Saturday


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So, today is Small Business Saturday here in the UK. Usually I would use this time to promote my Etsy Store for prints and artwork (incidentally if you join up to Etsy using this link you will get £5 off your first purchase on any store on Etsy – you can also get 20% off all my store purchases of £10+ using Promo Code ‘COOLYULE’ until December 12th), or refer you to my Society6 page for merch, tee shirts and tote bags; and in fact, that is pretty much what I will be doing on my Social Media pages. But, today, in the spirit of the Holidays, I will be using Small Business Saturday to promote my friends and their awesome small businesses. So, please take the time to check out these amazingly awesome people and their fantastic work. (I apologize in advance if I missed you out – I know so many independent creators the list would get a bit crazy).


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Jon Lock Comics

Jon Lock is the writer and creator of Afterlife Inc. as well as one half of the Heavenly Chord Series (in collaboration with Nich Angell – see below)  and co-founder of Big Punch Studios. This may all sound incredibly impressive (and don’t get me wrong, it really is), but Jon is still an independent creator who uses his day job to fund his awesome projects. He is an amazing writer and has created one of the best independent comics out there, in my humble opinion. His stories are both fun and interesting with a rich world of characters, philosophy and intrigue. His artistic collaborators are also incredibly well chosen and rival the work of mainstream professionals in the world of comics. You can check out Jon Lock’s Afterlife Inc. on his website here, or visit him on Facebook. You can also support Jon by buying his comic (and honestly, if you are looking out for one of the big up and comers in the world of comic writing, this is the guy!) on Comixology and Comicsy.


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7string

If you were one of the lovely people who followed my Kickstarter project, you probably heard me going on about Nich Angell and his amazing project 7String. 7String is one of those well honed, well crafted and beautifully drawn comics that simply leaps off the stands at conventions. It is beautifully coloured with a unique palette and fun, quirky style. The story is original and great for fans of music and comics alike. Not only that, the world is so full and rich it has leaked over into the world of Afterlife Inc. in the form of the Heavenly Chord. There are some very exciting things ahead for Big Punch Studios in the new year and all of you will definitely want to be in on the ground floor for this rise in indie comics. So be sure to add both Afterlife Inc. and 7String to your collection because these guys are set to take over the world of indie comics and I for one could not be more excited. You can check out 7String on Facebook or over on Nich Angell’s website.


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Subversive Comics

I have been lucky enough to sit by Subversive Comics for two conventions this year – Dublin MCM and Birmingham MCM – and I can safely say these guys are some of the most encouraging and inspiring professionals in Indie comics. Their brand is extremely well honed with a range of clothing, plushies and of course the amazing comics. The art is both fun and gory at the same time and I never get tired of hearing the pitch ‘think Care Bears meets Walking Dead’. These guys are what independent comics are all about – a niche you never thought you needed until you saw it! You can visit Subversive Comics on Facebook and buy their comics via Comicsy.


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The Heart of Time

Sarah Millman, the artist and writer behind The Heart of Time, is both extremely talented and incredibly sweet. She is part of what I like to call the ‘Taffia’ of independent comics (i.e. the ‘Mafia’ from Wales) and I am proud to know this gal. She makes every con I appear with her at that little bit more fun and this fun, quirky edge is evident in her brilliant comic The Heart of Time. Time traveling pugs and motorcycle driving blue haired girls, what more could you want? You can visit the Heart of Time Comic on Facebook and she also has an official website here.


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Reaperfox

I fell in love with Reaperfox’s art when I first saw her stall at a convention what seems like an age ago. I am lucky to count this wonderful artist as a friend now after sharing many a con with her and getting to know her and her awesome art. She, like me, is a gamer and a fan artist  – and what a fan artist she is! From League of Legends to Team Fortress, Doctor Who to My Little Pony, this artist always has something which I will covet until I finally get it (I am the proud owner of the original ACEO of her LOL Poros and it is just adorable). You can find her website and blog here, she also has a RedBubble Store and an Etsy Store. If you do decide to grab something from her Etsy be sure to sign up to the site using this link for £5 off your first purchase (the money still goes to the artist!)


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Moon

If you have been to a comic convention this year, chances are you have met Steve Penfold, the fantastic artist behind Moon, a detective comic book series starring (you guessed it) the Moon! Yes, the Moon himself comes down from the sky to fight crime, because… well, why not! The humour in these comics is great and Steve’s style is brilliant and unique. Issue 3 was very excitingly released this year after much anticipation and Beyond The Bunker Comics have managed to create a loyal and large fan base of comic book aficionados and new comic readers alike, and with such an interesting and original story and style it is not surprising. Be sure to check out BTB and Moon on Facebook or their website. You can also buy Moon via Comicsy.


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Stiffs

Stiffs was one of my first ever experiences of online crowd funding, back in the day when Kickstarter was only for Americans and IndieGoGo was the only way to go…go. Set in South Wales, this zombie comedy follows members of a call centre as they (and their pot smoking alcoholoic talking monkey) decide to take on the undead for themselves. Reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead, this is a must have indie comic for fans of horror comedy. Most of the guys involved in this comic are moving along in the world of indie comics to great and exciting things from working with major publishers to creator owned material – so owning this book marks you down as owning a piece of indie comic history in the making – not to mention owning a brilliant indie book with some amazing art. You can find Stiffs on Facebook  and buy the book on BigCartel or Comixology.


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The Pride

Whether you are a member of the LGBTQ community or not, The Pride is a must have for any comic collector’s shelf. Putting the fun back into the superhero comic, with big bold colours and even bolder characters, The Pride is one of the most exciting comics in the world of indie publishing right now. Championing diversity in comics from LGBTQ, to race and body image, to the creators themselves, The Pride is a force to be reckoned with in the world of pro-active comics. I have been lucky enough to sit by these guys at several cons in the past and it is always so nice to hear the stories of the people who keep on getting inspired by these books, whether it is the young boy having just come out of the closet being bought the comic by his proud mum, or an older comic collector who is just happy to see his sexuality represented in the medium he loves.  You can find The Pride on Facebook and buy the book on Comixology.


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Lou Scannon

Lou Scannon… gettit? Loose..? Cannon? This is a comedy sci fi adventure which has become a staple comic of UK conventions with a team as funny and generally fun as the comic itself. The art is brilliant with a unique cartoon style that compliments the jokey atmosphere of the book and the world that is created has been very well established (we’re now on Issue 7!). The team behind this book are incredibly talented and all progressing amazingly in the world of comics, so again this book series is also a piece of comic history, so grab yours now! You can find Lou Scannon on Facebook or their website and you can buy their comic here


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In Ear Entertainment

Breaking away from the world of comics for a moment, but still solidly in the realm of publishing, In Ear Entertainment is a fantastic UK based publisher who creates original audiobooks and podcasts. The talent of the writers involved with this company is awe inspiring and In Ear manages to find brilliant VO Actors to create well read and atmospheric audiobooks that will keep you on the edge of your seat. With a wide range of publications from sci fi to horror, short stories and comedy, In Ear has something for everyone at extremely reasonable prices. A perfect stocking filler for any book lover this Christmas. With the popularity of Audible and electronic media, audiobooks are on the rise, and this is a company you definitely need to listen out for (see what I did there?) You can find In Ear Entertainment on Facebook or purchase their books direct for there website.


There are honestly so many other companies, comics and creators I would love to include on this list, but if I keep on going by the time I publish this post it will be Sunday! So please, if I have missed you, or if you would like to add yourself to this list, feel free to link to your business in the comments below so that the readers can check you out. If you have made it this far, thank you so much for checking out the list. Please take the time to check out these amazing creators. I am lucky enough to call each of them my friends and they have all been so supportive of me, so take a look at what they do.

Even if you can’t afford to support them by buying their comic or work, a like or a comment on their pages is enough to let them know that you appreciate what they do. Have a great #SmallBizSatUK and speak to you all soon!