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2019, hiya

2019, hiya




Internet,

2018 was undoubtedly my best year to date.

Not because I received a promotion, moved country, married the love of my life, or had a baby. Heck, I didn't even go abroad. 2018 was my best year because it was the year where important internal feelings finally clicked into place, and I became the person I've wanted to be for so long.

The end of 2017 was a shitshow for me, even if it was a shitshow because I was finally flushing shitty people and their shitty opinions down the toilet. I cleared some toxic people out my life, which in turn led to shaking off my social awkwardness and finally coming out the closet as bisexual after 10 years (aforementioned toxic people and hiding my sexuality are interrelated). These things were liberating - and took a massive weight off my shoulders - but they were scary, especially since I wasn't convinced the toxic people would go away quietly (they did in the end, sort of) or that my true sexual orientation would be readily accepted (it was).

2018 was the year where I pleasantly discovered that the scary decisions I made in 2017 were 100% for the best. My birthday is in November, and for my 27th birthday (2017) I tagged onto to back of someone else's party because I literally didn't have the social or emotional energy to organise my own. Just two weeks after that birthday I would find out some news that would shake me and really wondered if I'd be happy again. (one of the toxic people? Let's just say their past caught up with them and they're now doing jail time if you want a measure of just how toxic we're talking).

Fast forward a year, and the night before my 28th birthday I'm crying my eyes out with happy tears. I did claw myself out and was going to be spending my birthday weekend doing cute dates with cute people who I love, who I don't doubt for a second if they love me.

And it made me realise that my former life as a incessant goal-chaser and Really Busy Person With No Energy had been caused by looking for happiness in external places. Not to sound like a Instagram caption (but I'm going to do so anyway): happiness really is an inside job.

So, this year my goals are pretty boring if I'm honest. I'm very happy with where I am right now, with only some tweaking here and there required. Okay, there is one big thing I'm planning to do this year but it's a decision I've been growing towards for about two years, and it's time to bite the bullet.

Domestic and Home Life

I've loved cooking since I was a little girl, but 2018 was the year where I finally began meal-prepping (thanks to a new fitness-friendly flatmate joining me in March). This is something I want to work on as I still can't get the portion sizes right and usually end up with five small boxes of food, which don't always fill me up. I know I don't need to actively improve at meal prepping, as this is the sort of thing that will become second nature as I cook every weekend.

On top of this, I also want to continue pushing my culinary skills in general. I'm very confident in my cooking abilities, and 2018 was a year where I attempted some complicated recipes (vegan meringues anyone?) and I want to continue investing my time in practising show-stopping dishes.

Also in the world of becoming a domesticated goddess, I want to actively work on getting on top of my cleaning routine. I'm a naturally messy person who had many fights with her parents as a teenager. Thankfully, I've become naturally tidier and hygienic as the years have ticked on, but I'm still a little negligent. In 2019, I'm looking to identify cleaning products to swear by, invest in cleaning equipment, pay attention to the details, and not be left in a position where I'm forced to go on a mad cleaning spree whenever I have a guest (or landlord) coming round.

Finally, I'm still serious about purchasing my own place. Will I do it this year? Who knows. I'm waiting to make a big decision like this in my own time. But I've identified that a key area where I can save money is by not buying gig tickets for bands I'm only a half fan of.

Style and Beauty

One of my main goals for 2018 was to invest in beauty treatments that cost a bomb, but are worth it in the long term. So far I've invested in laser hair removal along my bikini line, my first tattoo, my first professional hair cut in years, whitened my teeth every so slightly with an at-home kit, and re-vamped my wardrobe at the Blogger Clothes Swap. In 2019 I want to continue this, with more tattoos, one or two piercings, professional teeth whitening, zap every inch of unwanted hair off my body, and add new elements to my make-up routine. I want to look like a physically different person.

Social Justice and Activism

This is one area of my life where I am constantly evolving and growing - and 2019 won't be an exception. One of my goals for 2018 was to delve properly into allyship and read up on issues that don't directly affect me. I think I've done a decent job, but I know the job of an ally is keep being better every single day. I want to continue reading up on trans, class, body image, and race issues. I also want to donate more money to causes that don't directly impact me, especially charities and pressure groups that fight systematic issues.

One new goal I do have in relation to activism is to delve into the academic and radical stuff. Fluffy social justice that dominates the media has its place (as it does get people thinking) but I find a lot of mainstream content repeats what I already know, and doesn't initiate radical change. And I want to work on moving society (or at least my own social circle) past the baby stuff.

In 2018, I also worked on becoming more vulnerable. This was a weird step to take as I grew up a closed book who regarded telling her friends who she was a crushing on As A Big Deal. So to share my coming out story (and call out former friends and partners in the process) and write publicly about a sexual assault was something I never would have thought possible a year ago. But I've learned the importance of sharing your story (if you're safe to do so) and even sent a soppy message to an online friend whose openness about coming out in her late 20s made me realise that it wasn't too late to date who I wanted to. I want to remain open in 2019, and continue being vulnerable.

I also want to become more involved in the Scottish Green Party again. I've been a member since 2014, but never really found my 'place' in the party. Most members I'm friends with have a particular wing or committee that they are a dedicated member of, while I'm still only attending the yearly conferences. Like most other areas of my life, it will take trial and error to find that place.

Geek and Pop Culture

I read some of the best books of my life in 2018, and even began to develop a passive interest in poetry. I also watched several entertaining films and tv shows. And - most importantly, clearly - added to that Batgirl comic book collection. Morag still intends to be a geek in 2019, with the same geek goals as the past two years.

Career and Blogging

My career took an exciting twist in December, with restructuring at work that has worked in my favour. I'm now a well-rounded digital marketer, rather than a marketer who concentrates on social media with a bit of content on the side (which, tbh, was never my dream). I'm now looking after the buying journey across social, content, and Google AdWords for one of my employer's (high-end) sub-brands. I'm looking really forward to this, as it fits in so much better with my larger career goals than what I was doing previously.

However - and this is the big goal I mentioned earlier - 2019 is the year where I plan to make a return to (part-time) education. I'm not planning to say publicly what exactly I'm applying for as 1) I've not fully decided on which course and what institution and 2) I'm not keen on the idea of current/potential employers knowing until the course is completed. So you'll all find out in 2020 (or even 2021) what I was doing secretly behind the scenes.

As for blogging, I'm happy with where things are: my blog is somewhere I can update when I want with longform pieces, but I don't punish myself if I can't fit it in. Instagram gets the bulk of my attention, and that's where I plan to keep my focus in 2019. The only thing I want to refine is my brand/how I come across as a person.

Social Life and Relationships

It feels silly to say this now, as it really should have been obvious: but my refusal to be honest about what genders I am attracted to (and in what ways) was the same reason why I could never commit myself to someone romantically (even a man!) in a serious capacity. Since dating a girl (briefly) last spring and having been on other dates with people of multiple genders, I felt a shift happen in me: my commitment phobia was finally gone.

It feels weird to list "find a partner" as a resolution because we all know we should take time finding someone who complements us and not just pick the first suitor who shows up. But I suppose I can make a genuine effort by taking dating apps seriously and having the confidence to speak to someone who catches my eye. We'll see.

I also want to work on my platonic relationships, and make new ones. In the past 12 months I've discovered who truly cares about me and have whittled my close friends down to the people who nourish me. But I've always been one of those people who enjoys having a large social circle, and have always rejected the idea of a best friend as I don't expect one person to be able to fulfil all my social and emotional needs. I want to make an effort in 2019 to strengthen my current friendships, and maybe turn a few acquaintances/platonic crushes into actual friendships - but also, like romantic relationships, never settle and accept a half-friendship because it's easy.

Let me know what your goals are for this year. Do you have anything big planned or are you only planning a few tweaks as well?

Morag x
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My favourite books of 2018

My favourite books of 2018




Maybe it's a sign of getting older, or maybe its a sign of embracing my authentic introverted self: but 2018 was the year that I read more books than any other. And while I didn't love every single one I read, I certainly didn't read any that I considered to be truly awful (okay, perhaps my opinion on Hot Feminist is less than favourable).

However, I certainly enjoyed some books more than others. And because I want to share the gift of feminist non-fiction (aka, the only thing I ever read) with the rest of the world, here are my top rated books of 2018 that I really recommend everyone adds to their pile. 

The Anxiety Solution

The Anxiety Solution is a fabulous book anyway, but for me is came into my life at a time when I really needed some kind but powerful words. I was coming up to some painful anniversaries and was doubting my own judgment on some decisions I made a year ago. What made the Anxiety Solution to poignant though, was that it was more than just inspirational words. Chloe Brotheridge is a trained psychotherapist and nutritionist, and offers practical advice for beating negative emotions. If I had to list my top self-help books of all time, Anxiety Solution would certainly be in it.

Milk & Honey

I feel a little late to the party with this one but, if like me, you didn't read this book of poetry when it first came out - I highly recommend it. If, like me, you've ever been in an abusive, controlling, or downright unhealthy relationship - this will speak volumes to you (I ended up crying). It's been close to a decade since the experiences this book reminded me of happened; and in some ways it was bittersweet to remember how far I've come and that healing is possible. Be ready for some strong emotions.

Eat Up!

Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh is, in a nut shell, a love letter to food. And if - in a world full of diets, an 'obesity epidemic', and fatphobia - you don't think a book that celebrates food is fucking important, then get the fuck out my club.

To add to its depth, Ruby also explores the intersection of food and gender, cultural appropriation, food ethics, fatphobia, queerness, and class issues/access to food. While still remaining accessible af. 100% recommend, especially if you're new to food politics.

Why I'm no Longer Talking to White People About Race

Fellows whites! If you're looking to understand race issues in the UK and become a better ally, then here is your beginner's guide. Articulate, easy to follow, and honest. Must read.

Inferior

Confession: I might be a social science nerd, but chemistry/biology/physics hurts my brain and I knew STEM wasn't for me after one week of high school. So Inferior was a breath of fresh air; taking me on a journey through science in a way that was accessible, and explained the way in which it has failed women. I actually won this as a Patreon prize from my favourite YouTuber Rowan Ellis - who is the queen of everything feminism.

Poverty Safari

Last but not least: it is Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey, which I am naming as my book of the year. Darren's writing is refreshing, accessible, and sharp; leaving me feeling woken, uncomfortable, and more conscious about checking my middle-class privilege. He grew up in a deprived area of Glasgow and doesn't hold back on explaining why Britain's underclass feel the way the feel - including giving it to us straight as to why so many working-class people voted for Brexit. I was called out multiple times in his book, and that's what makes it my book of the year, because if you're social justice work doesn't make you feel uncomfortable - then you're not doing it right.

What were your favourite books of 2018 that I should definitely put on this year's reading list? 


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It's my turn to lay into Hot Feminist by Polly Vernon (and I've including an anecdote on assault, because I like to entertain)

It's my turn to lay into Hot Feminist by Polly Vernon (and I've including an anecdote on assault, because I like to entertain)





Despite my status as a bookworm, I've never written a full review of a book on my blog. I post them often on my Instagram and on my GoodReads account. But my blog? Nah. I usually only require two paragraphs to say what I need to say and to provide other bookworms an indication on whether that book is something they need in their life or not.

Then along came Hot Feminist by Polly Vernon. Boy, do I have some opinions that won't fit into a Instagram caption.

If you're not familiar with the title: it caused a big stir when it was released. The premise of the book is that women can give a shit about their appearance while still fighting the patriarchy (fair enough). Polly was accused of being a middle-class, white women who had her head in the clouds with no understanding of 'real' feminist issues (also: fair enough, but we'll get to that). She was then subjected to quite a bit of hate on Twitter (never ever fair enough, respected debate is welcome but vilifying someone for a book is not something I can get behind).

I was drawn to this book because I am a firm believer that feminine and feminist are not mutually exclusive. I for one will definitely be at the revolution, and I will be bringing my winged eyeliner and lipgloss with me. Saying that, feminine women do sit in a privileged position above, say, butches or tomboys. More masculine women challenge the status quo simply by existing. Femme women? Yeah, not as much. While we do face some unique problems (street harassment and, if you're a queer femme-woman like myself, erasure of an important part of your identity) liking make-up is hardly revolutionary act within itself (but women who like make-up can still be revolutionary in other ways).

I hoped Polly's book would expand on the ideas I briefly introduced above with research and anecdotes. Maybe interview a feminist scholar? Or a handful of femme women? Maybe even a femme women who identifies as queer? Or a trans woman?

Perhaps an analysis of marketing techniques wielded by the global beauty industry? Or a history of how lipstick came to be?

No, it was pretty much just a personal rant about not wanting her own personal experiences and definition of feminism challenged.

Here's the thing about social justice: it's not just about you. That's not how it works. Yes, you'll have your pet issues that are probably fuelled by personal hardship (like me banging on about bisexual issues, or how awful men are on Tinder). But in order to actually fucking change the world, you need to think bigger picture and actually give a shit about issues that have fuck all affect on you. Otherwise, your fight is for nothing. Or we only end up fixing issues that impact middle-class, white, feminine women.

I was once a feminist who couldn't see past her own experiences. I think most of us probably were at some point. It took me ages to get around the whole white-people-not-being-allowed-to-have-dreads thing. There are probably still a lot of other things I say and do that are oppressive as shit, but these days I do stop to listen to the experiences of others. And if I was going to write a book about feminism I'd sure as hell have some other people from different backgrounds look over it before I sent it off to bookshops. Or maybe I wouldn't write it; as we already have enough books written about the struggle of middle-class, white women.

Polly even ends up in cultural appropriation territory twice, and mis-uses the term OCD. Not encouraging people to view other cultures as fashion inspiration and not being a dick about mental health is Social Justice 101.

She also doesn't use trigger warnings.

But I do. So here is one big trigger warning for sexual assault and emotional abuse.

[TRIGGER WARNING]

Polly Vernon speaks openly about an assault made on her when she was a teenager and the way it impacted her. She also touches upon an emotionally abusive relationship. She doesn't go into detail about the second one, but that's okay because people shouldn't be forced to share their stories if they're not comfortable (or safe) doing so.

This chapter was fabulous and was one of the best discussions around sexual assault that I've read (even if it didn't start with a trigger warning).

The reason it was one of the best chapters in the book and entire fucking world was that it included all assault. No assault is worse than another. It hit me hard because it's one of the few times where I feel as though my experience of assault is included and accepted.

I've never spoken openly about my experience of sexual assault. But I'm a women, so you had probably guessed I must have had a story tucked away somewhere.

I've been subjected to the usual groping in nightclubs, been called a whore for not accepting a drink, and even had a male 'friend' make up rumours that we were getting close so other men would stay away from me (that was a fun time). I mean, if I won't love him then I'm not allowed to love anyone.

But I came out unscathed and had no lasting emotional wounds.

However, I do have an experience that still makes me skin crawl and has made me permanently more cautious on the dating market.

I'm not going to publish a moment-by-moment recount. Maybe I will one day, if I feel brave enough. But I'm going to touch upon it enough so that you understand why I normally don't feel included in the discussion or why pop culture doesn't ever portray sexual assault in a way that brings about flashbacks.

  • It wasn't violent
  • It was someone I was actively dating
  • It was someone I had been friends with first, and trusted
  • It wasn't an arrogant jock, but a nerd
  • He wasn't tall or muscular, I could have put up a physical fight
  • It was in my flat, I had the territorial control
  • I wasn't drunk or under the influence
  • I was conscious
  • I explicitly said no
  • But that explicit no was to an act within sex
  • Not only did we have an active sexual relationship, but we were having sex at the time
  • A sex act that is mainstream, and one that men get praised for when they do (you know what I'm talking about, surely). 
  • I just froze and my mind went blank
  • I even continued dating him
I spent the next year of my life living in skin that was constantly crawling. I was frustrated. Angry. I had negative emotions that I didn't know how to deal with. But I internalised it. I still thought that I should have repeated my no. Or punched him. Or not had sex at all that night. It took me a year to have my moment where I realised none of what happened had been my fault. That I froze up and couldn't make sense of what was happening (never mind muster up a comeback). All the blame lies with him. He ignored a verbal no. That is not grey area. That is not 'could have read between the lines better' or 'be less creepy in a nightclub'. That is assault.

But despite that, I still feel like my story doesn't count. That some people have it worse. That some people never heal. That some people never have sex again. That some people got asked what they were wearing or why they drank so much. That they were violently attacked by a man jumping out an alleyway.

It's probably because I've never watched a sexual assault story line that depicts what I experienced. I even ignore content and trigger warnings because I'm never impacted by assault on the telly. My assault was quite mundane, and probably wouldn't make good telly.

But Polly's writing did hit hard. Because it included my story. Okay, not my actual story because this is the first time I've publicly shared it, but it felt like if she was going to curate a book with sexual assault stories from various women, she would allow mine to be included.

[End Trigger Warning]

She also says intelligent things about how we end sexual assault and rape. It's not about tougher sentencing, or changing the law. It's hard to win a sexual assault case because it comes down to one person's experience versus another. Some people who have committed sexual assault don't even realise they've done so because society still can't make up its collective mind about what consent actually is.

Personally, I think consent should be this. Communicate with your partner, even if it's a super casual thing. Don't act like some sex acts are better than others, or even that some sex acts are 'feminist'. Respect that sexual pleasure is a very personal thing, and that your new partner might not like getting fucked exactly the same way your ex did. Learn to read between the lines and recognise when someone isn't moaning or screaming in pleasure. Check in with them. Know the difference between someone who has had one or two drinks, and someone who has had an entire bottle of wine. Don't bring anything new into the bedroom without having a discussion about it first, while fully clothed. Understand that women have been programmed socially to be people-pleasers and struggle with the word no, and that shit is hard to unlearn. Realise that sleeping people can't give consent. And that consent can be withdrawn at anytime. Don't coerce either, that is also bad.

Is that really too much to ask for?

So, do I recommend Hot Feminist by Polly Vernon? No, not really. While I'm happy to photocopy that one chapter and plaster it around town until we all agree on what assault is and isn't, I won't recommend wasting your breath on the rest of the book. Save yourself a headache.
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Clothes swapping my way out of a style rut

Clothes swapping my way out of a style rut





If you've been following me and my wee blog for a few years, you might have noticed that outfit posts used to be a thing. And then they weren't. In fact, my last outfit post was back in 2015.

That's because after I finished university in 2012 I fell into a massive style rut. That lasted for years.

I started working in an office full-time so my wardrobe now required blazers and sensible shoes. My new desk job caused me to put on weight and, while the weight gain itself was something I accepted, I could no longer fit into half my clothes and even the clothes I could fit into now didn't sit the same way. Adult life was busy, and I began to desire clothes that were practical and easy to style - but still cute (is that too much to ask?). It didn't help that blogging was maturing as an industry and fashion blogs (which had once been my primary source of fashion inspiration) had changed from girls taking snaps in their bedrooms of casual outfits, to now being on par with glitzy fashion magazines full of outfits that were (maybe I'm wrong) not honest representations of what these girls wore in day-to-day life.



I've never considered myself a natural fashionista. Which is why the dilemma over my wardrobe carried on for years. I didn't grow up in a house where looking great everyday was considered a must. My dad only invested in a fitted suit when my parents booked their first cruise five years ago, and my mum only has five lipsticks to her name.

I did develop a 'style' when I was 15 (hello MySpace phase) and then later in my final two years of university, but both had been heavily influenced by what other girls wore on the internet and in magazines. None of it had been some natural flair for knowing what shoes went with what bag or what colours complimented each other.

It was only in the past two years that I began to define a look that suited my new adult life. Skinny jeans. Skirts with tights (fishnets on a night out). Playsuits. Skater dresses. Floaty tops and blouses. Admitting once and for all that fitted t-shirts don't suit me. Jumper dresses. Chockers and understated jewellery. White Converse in summer. Black ankle boots in winter. Muted tones, and much more black than before. I'd say it falls under the 'indie Cindy' umbrella and if I had to choose a celebrity to emulate it would be Alexa Chung.

But then another challenge came my way: the ethical lifestyle journey that I started in 2012 had now expanded to include clothes, and I wanted to get the fuck away from fast fashion. It's hard enough shopping for clothes when you refuse to step foot in a Primark, but when you actively hate your entire wardrobe and need a re-vamp? Eek.



My solution came very recently in the form of clothes swap hosted by Edinburgh ethical fashion blogger Ruth MacGilp. Not only did I have clothes I couldn't fit into anymore but the past twelve months had been a turning point point for me (hello coming out) and I had the strong urge to once and for all rid my physical space of things that no longer served me. It was the perfect way to clear out my wardrobe and pick up some new threads that did tick my boxes (all without damaging the environment or funding slave labour).

On the day it was myself and Ruth, plus Alice of Twenty-Something City and Lucie of Call Me Dumpling. Between us we managed to fill three rails of clothing with varying styles. The clothes ranged from bold and beautiful, right through to structured and muted. Aside from the clothes, there were also jackets, bags, and shoes. Oh, and photographer Ellie Morag was there to take photos of the looks we had styled from each other's unwanted clothing.

I  remained restrained on the day and refused to replace my unwanted clothes with other pieces that would end up sitting in my wardrobe untouched for three years. No joke: these girls are style mavens and the temptation to grab everything that fitted was highly tempting. But in the end I opted for 7 new items, some of which I've already worn:

  • Black high-heeled ankle boots
  • Tartan scarf
  • Pippa Lynn t-shirt dress
  • A dark blue t-shirt dress
  • Red belt
  • Black French Connection dress
  • JS Millennium dark blue shirt with a red ballet dancer pattern

The silver boots you see me wearing? I know they're fabulous but I also know they wouldn't get worn ever again. Same to the red pumps. I left them.



When I arrived home and hung up my new threads, I found even more clothes and accessories I wanted to get rid of (the clothes that we didn't swap were donated to a charity shop). There's something cathartic about bringing home clothes that you will wear that gives you the confidence to become even stricter about donating the clothes that you know you never will wear again.

So I'm game again. If there's anyone in the Central Belt of Scotland looking to get rid of new clothes and pick up some new clothes for free - give me a holla.

Love Morag x
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