I feel like when you leave University there is so much pressure on you to have everything figured out and to immediately start taking steps towards achieving your 'dream career.' No one ever prepares you for just how hard it is to get a graduate job (especially if you don't live in London!) and this is made even harder when you're also trying to battle chronic illness.

I've never made a secret of the fact that I really didn't enjoy my English and Creative Writing degree, and despite achieving a 2:1 I just haven't felt motivated or inspired to try and do anything with it. I'm going to be completely honest and say that I've spent a lot of my post-graduate years feeling like a failure, and even though I have a part time job which I really enjoy, I've felt like that spark and fire in my belly has been missing.

Having to leave my beauty therapy training course at the beginning of the year due to health problems was another real blow for me and I've found myself feeling super worried about what people must think of me. I have tried a few different things over the past couple of years and I'll be the first to put my hands up and admit that they mostly haven't worked out. I'm not trying to make excuses for myself, but when you're battling an invisible illness that leaves you feeling like an 80 year old cripple most of the time it's very, very hard to do the things that you want to do.

I always try to live by the idea that mistakes are very important for helping you to grow as a person and I try to feel proud of myself that despite my health difficulties, I still strive to make my life as happy and fulfilled as possible. For a while now I've been trying to think of something I could do from home alongside my part time job to make my life a little happier...

So it was a Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago when I was a little bored and restless and found myself browsing Pinterest for wedding inspiration that I came up with the idea for 'Handmade By Holly'. I started out with the idea of doing little hanging hearts as wedding favours, and then over that weekend I just got more and more excited as different ideas popped into my head for little hand sewn gifts and keepsakes I could make.

After spending the Sunday afternoon sketching some designs I went to bed completely buzzing at the thought of visiting a local fabric shop the next morning and after choosing some girly, cath kidston inspired fabric I spent the next couple of days experimenting with designs and falling completely head over heels in love with sewing.

I did Textiles at GCSE and absolutely loved it, but for one reason or another (a.k.a. my teacher totally crushed my confidence by telling me I couldn't hope to achieve above a C grade - I went on to achieve an A, the second highest grade in my class!) I didn't take it any further than that, so it did feel a little strange after all those years to suddenly start sewing again, but it all came flooding back to me after a little bit of practice, and my oh my, I just love it!

It's strange how something can suddenly come back into your life and you have no idea how you managed without it before; I now spend pretty much every spare second that I have sewing and I've been waking up each morning so excited about what I'm going to make that day and actually wanting to get out of bed early to start working, which is something that I've never experienced before.

I set up an Instagram page (handmade_byholly) as a little gift shop for my designs after being inspired and encouraged by one of my friends who has done something similar, and I've been extremely lucky to receive a few orders over the past couple of weeks. I get the most excited feeling in my tummy when an order comes through, and I just can't describe how happy it makes me to work on designs for people and then pop them in the post.

Now I'm not going to pretend that it's all been plain sailing because it hasn't; trying to set up your own business is really difficult and I forgot just how daunting it is starting an Instagram account from scratch. I get really nervous sharing my designs and the finished items with people, and I have had doubts about whether anyone is even interested/if I'm going to get any orders etc, but I know this is completely normal when first starting out and I'm so determined to make a success of this that instead of worrying about it I spend my time trying to think of new designs, or different products that I want to try, or new networking ideas, or how I want to style my photos...and I'm just so excited by it all - I feel like I'm going to pop!

I've been putting pretty much all my time and energy into Handmade by Holly over the past couple of weeks, and although I've hit another really rocky patch with my illness, for the first time in my life I care about it so much that I really want to put all of my time and energy into it. And what I love about sewing is that it's something that I can do at home, snuggled on my sofa, without making myself really ill, and it's given me hope again that despite being ill I can create something that I'm really proud of.

I feel like I've become the queen of rambly posts recently haha, but I just really wanted to share my love for my new baby and kind of explain why I've started it, so *hopefully* people won't eye roll and think it's just another thing that I'm going to fail at. This means so much to me, and I've got lots of other product ideas to come, I can't wait to share them all with you :)

I've also set up a Facebook page if anyone fancies being super lovely and giving it a little like, and if you do want to order anything or have any requests please just pop me a tweet @hollycrouch or email me: holly-crouch@hotmail.com <3

Love Holly xo



God it feels like so long since I sat down and actually wrote anything. You know how sometimes life just gets in the way and all that?

And as much as I love blogging, and I really really do love it, I have to admit I find it really hard work sometimes. Trying to stick to a posting schedule, constantly coming up with new content, trying to get page views/engagement/comments, engaging with other people's blogs, making sure the lighting in my photos is ok, trying to string coherent sentences together, trying to keep up with things on social media...yeah, sometimes it just gets too much, and this usually tends to coincide with when I'm having a bad Fibro flare. Yup, another one of those has come out of nowhere and completely knocked me for six.

Oh Fibro you little bugger, you really do ruin everything.

I was having quite a bad flare anyway, but then things took a turn for the worse last Wednesday when just completely out of the blue my right knee started trying to dislocate. I have had trouble with this in the past, but never really to this extent and ever since then I've kept thinking 'oh it's nothing really, it's going to get better soon', but unfortunately that just isn't happening. After limping around for two days and ending up in tears a couple of times, I did something which I never, ever do with my chronic illnesses and I went to the doctors about it.

I have had a really negative time with doctors over the years because, I'm just going to put it out there, I really don't feel like they have a clue about the illnesses I'm fighting. I find them hugely unsympathetic and the majority of appointments I've attended have just felt like a complete waste of time and energy. I haven't seen a doctor about anything chronic illness based for a good year and a half, so it was a pretty big thing for me to make an appointment, and, oh man, it was just awful.

He was horrible from the moment I walked in and the best he could suggest was taking paracetomel, which to be quite frank doesn't do a thing for my level of pain, and I also tried to explain how I am unable to take any other medication because I am extremely sensitive to it (which would be on my notes considering all of the quite severe reactions I've had to various different types of medication over the years, but he didn't even look at my notes once so obviously he wouldn't have a hope of knowing that!) and he actually laughed when I said this before shrugging his shoulders and saying 'well there's nothing else I can suggest'.

I then started to cry hysterically in front of him and tried to explain that after 6 years of virtually no help I'm finding it all too much to cope with and have been really scared about my knee, and all he did was stare at me, tell me to calm down and take a tissue. Yep, massively fucking helpful.

So I've hit this new level with my health where it's deteriorated once again, and I just do not know what I'm meant to do anymore. There is clearly no medical support available and fighting to live a 'normal' life is completely exhausting me. I learnt a very long time ago that the only way to deal with these kinds of illnesses (because I'm sorry but there really is a horrendous lack of help available from the NHS) is to adapt your life to enable you to manage the pain as well as possible and avoid doing things that are going to trigger bad flares, but it's really really bloody hard.

I feel so frustrated by it all that I end up feeling like I'm going to explode sometimes. All I want is to live like a normal twenty four year old, but I can't. And how do you accept that?

After my appointment I just couldn't stop myself from crying and I was walking towards a bench to try and calm down and a random woman came and gave me a hug and asked if I needed a cocktail, and to be honest that just made me cry harder because I can't drink alcohol, I haven't been able to for a good couple of years now because it makes me super poorly and it really is frustrating as hell. Not that I'm an alchy or anything (lols) but you know, a glass of wine sometimes would be pretty nice.

Of course to look at me you still wouldn't know there was anything wrong, apart from the knee strap I've been having to wear the past couple of days. I had a lovely day out with my sister today, but you wouldn't realise looking at me just how much pain my knees were in from walking, or that my IBS has been through the roof recently, or that going to the cinema is extremely painful and uncomfortable for me, but it's one of my favourite things to do so there is no way that I'm going to stop doing it.

Le sigh.

This has ended up being a bit of a rambly post, but I guess what I'm trying to get across is that I'm finding things really hard at the moment, and sometimes it helps to just write it all down and get it off your chest, you know?

I worry so much all the time that people think I'm just a big fat failure with blogging because no matter how hard I try I really can't stick to a posting schedule, I just don't have the spoons (chronic illness term for energy) and I'm not able to engage with other blogs and things online as much as I'd like to. I just wanted to give an explanation as to why I'm a bit absent and inconsistent sometimes and I have also been thinking about changing the direction of my blog a little bit to include more lifestyle, chronic illness themed bits and bobs like these diary style posts, so please let me know what you think about that :)

Love Holly xo
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Finding a wedding dress has always felt like one of the most daunting parts of a wedding to me. Not to sound like a right old tight arse, but they really are ridiculously priced considering you're only going to wear them for one day of your life and I've just always felt like I wouldn't be able to justify that amount of money as I'd end up thinking 'but we could spend that money on the honeymoon.' I always knew I'd get my dress from the high-street as my budget was really quite low (I'll never forget a conversation I had with a customer at work where we were discussing how expensive weddings are and she commented on how they'd had to find "a real budget option" for her daughters wedding dress and it turned out to have cost £5000!!! I nearly fainted when she said it) Me and James have been engaged for nearly 2 years now, so even though we only booked our wedding a few months ago I've had quite a lot of time to browse around and get an idea of the kind of dress I'd like. I really can't recommend Pinterest and wedding magazines (as you can probably tell from the above picture my favourite is Perfect Wedding) enough; although most of the dresses featured were totally out of my price range, it really helped me to decide what length/style/colour/detail etc I wanted.

To begin with I was quite set on having a knee length, prom style dress and I completely fell in love with one from Phase Eight. I sent a photo of it to my sister and we were both pretty sure it was the one, but after a couple of weeks I kept getting a niggling feeling that it wasn't *quite* right. I'm really pale and the thought of having my legs on show was starting to make me feel a bit nervous as I'd have to decide whether to attempt fake tan and all that jazz, and then I started looking around for some shoes to go with it and I just knew it wasn't going to work for me at all. Being a chronically ill gal, I really don't get on well with high heels and James is only a smidge taller than me so I hated the thought of being taller than him in heels. A prom-style dress means there would be a lot of focus on the shoes, so I just completely went off this idea and I felt a little bit disheartened and lost with what I was going to go for.

I was then browsing at dresses online one day I promise this isn't what I've been doing with 99% of my time since getting engaged #oops and I ended up on a website I hadn't even considered before (I'm going to be a right old tease and not share where I bought it from until after the big day) and the minute I spotted it I just knew. I sent the link to my sister straight away and she really loved it too; I just couldn't stop thinking about it and *may* have ended up revisiting the website every day to swoon at it. We'd planned to go to Westfield in London so that I could try it on in real life along with a few others as I was determined not to pin all my hopes on this one just incase I didn't love it as much in real life or it didn't suit me or whatever. But then I was making my daily visit to the website one evening and I noticed that it had gone out of stock in every size apart from an 8 and I swear my heart literally dropped out of butt; I was devastated. I'd always thought I'd need a size 10 as I tend to be somewhere between the two, but with a little convincing from my sister and one of my friends at work I decided to scurry off to the local store on my lunch break to order the size 8 *just* to try it so I could at least rule it out if it didn't fit, rather than always wondering (it was certainly the most exciting Monday lunch break I've ever had!! *insert monkey covering his mouth emoji*)

After a *slight* drama with finding a tiny mark on it (cue heart falling out of my butt again and me having to seriously control myself not to cry and be a right old drama queen) and me having to hastily reorder it and pay next day delivery to have it arrive today, I have finally got my dream wedding dress, and oh my goodness me, it is perfect and it fits me like a glove; I honestly can't believe my luck :) I swear it's going to kill me not being able to talk about it and I almost give something away about 1794378742980 million times a day because I'm just so in love with it and want to talk about it all the time pinky promise I'm not turning into a bridezilla I've already got an idea of the kind of shoes I'm going to wear with it and I've seen a couple of options that I really love and it was luckily a really amazing price too, so I basically haven't stopped grinning since I tried it on :) :) :) :)

It feels super surreal to think I actually have my wedding dress hanging in my wardrobe now (in a protective garment bag of course so James can't have a snoop hehe!) after many many months of searching and dreaming about what it would be like. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a tiny panic about whether it's definitely the right one, especially considering it's the only wedding dress I've ever actually tried on. But finding the mark on it made me realise even more how much I absolutely love it and that it is 100% the dress for me; I swear to god I felt like I was holding my breath the whole time waiting for the new one to be delivered today!! So my biggest piece of advice to anyone looking for their wedding dress is just go with your gut instinct; you know when it's the one and it doesn't matter where you get it from, whether you try it on in a shop or in the comfort of your own home or how much it is (obviously as long as you're happy with the price and it's within your budget) - when you know, you know.

I'm definitely not off to spend the evening staring at the photo my sister took of me wearing it #sorrynotsorry

Love Holly xo
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Simple Illuminating Radiance Cream - I spoke about my love for this in a recent skincare post, but it's honestly become such a game changer in my daily makeup routine. I'd been wanting to try the MAC Strobe Cream for a while but just couldn't justify it's hefty price tag (#heartbreak) so I decided to give this a try instead and I have to admit to begin with I wasn't completely convinced as it does look a little shimmery when you first apply it, but once I've popped some of the Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream on top they just make the most amazing combination and give a really healthy, glowy, 'lit from within' kind of look to the skin. I forgot to use this one day last week and I noticed such a difference in my skin which made me realise even more just how amazing this actually is; it's definitely worth it's £8.99 price tag and I can't see myself ever not using this now.

Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream - I've been a fan of this for a couple of years now and every time I come back to it I remember just how much I love it. I like to apply it with a damp Real Techniques Sponge as I find this gives the best finish and whilst I do need to apply quite a large blob to cover my whole face, it's such a bargain at just £7.99 that I don't mind having to repurchase it every couple of months. Obviously being a BB cream it is a quite a light coverage, but I find this does a really good job of covering redness and evening out my skintone, plus it gives such a lovely dewy finish to the skin - a customer at work actually asked me what I use on my skin and commented on (in her words!) how beautiful it looked, which absolutely made my day as I always feel like my natural skin is a little more on show when I use this rather than a foundation! It's a perfect match for my pale skin too which is a blooming miracle considering every other BB cream I've swatched seems to come out completely orange on me! #casperwoes

Rimmel Wake Me Up Concealer - I find this the perfect companion for the BB cream as this gives a little extra coverage where I need it (mainly on my dark under eye circles and slight spot scarring around my chin). This is a very creamy consistency which blends like a dream and doesn't go cakey throughout the day, and I raved about it so much in my Budget Concealers On Trial Post I'm sure you already know how much love I have for this little baby! #rimmelwakemeupconcealerfangirlandproud

Soap & Glory One Heck Of A Blot Powder - I then like to dust this over my t-zone, under my eyes and around my nose as these are the places I can be a *tad* prone to creasing and shininess. I love love love this powder as it keeps everything shine free and in place all day, but it doesn't look cakey or visible on the skin and also manages to still allow the dewy finish and radiant look of the Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream and Simple Illuminating Radiance Cream to show through - top points S&G, top points.

Soap & Glory Love At First Blush 'Instant Rosy Glow' Cheek Stick & Maybelline 'Peach' Dream Touch Blusher - In the spring/summer months I definitely prefer a cream blusher to continue the whole 'natural and dewy' look and these two are all kinds of awesome. The Soap & Glory Cheek Stick has a hint of shimmer so it acts a little bit like a highlighter too and it's seriously creamy so blends out like a dream. It's quite a delicate, rosy pink which I love on my pale complexion and it has amazing staying power too *major swoon* The Maybelline Dream Touch Blusher is quite an old favourite of mine; it's a really subtle peach which works with pretty much every lip colour and it's a perfect everyday choice for giving a hint of colour to the cheeks to make everything look more healthy and glowy.

What are your favourite spring base products? I'd love to hear what you think of any of these :)

Love Holly xo
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