Wednesday, 30 December 2015

MASTER PLAN 2015: To Be Happy

I set myself four goals over the past year:

1. To stop relying on the pill
2. To read 52 books
3. To eat healthily
4. To improve my home

I think I got a 70% hit rate with those. I took my last contraceptive pill last year and haven't looked back since. I've definately gone all out in trying to make my house a home filled with things that make us want to spend time here. I'm currently on my forty eighth book this year - disappointed not to have hit the fifty two target, but still pleased overall with reading more than ten times the amount of books I've read overall in the past five years! 

Eating healthily is probably the only one we've not really pushed ourselves at. 

We've taken a different tac towards this than I intended at the beginning of the year - instead of eating at home, we've explored our home town more culinarily than I ever thought we would and it's been super enjoyable. Though, admittedly, not too healthy. We haven't been going all out eating takeaways or ordering a burger every night, but we've spent a lot more time finding new, different restaurants to eat at instead of trying to refine our home cooking which is what I aimed for. I was hoping that by planning our meals more thoroughly we'd reduce the amount of waste we produce and I've failed at that part too.

Overall though, I think that an almost 3/4 hit rate is pretty good and I'll be rolling over the 'eat healthily' goal for next year.

In the meantime though, here's some of the most popular posts from this year:

For those looking for a new shampoo.

For those looking for an affordable eyeshadow palette.

For those of you wanting to become a little bit crafty.

For those who like a bit of denim.

For those wanting to take makeup off.

For those interested in money.

For those wanting a perfect cat eye flick.

For those wanting to know me.

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Sunday, 27 December 2015


December has been the perfect ending to this year.  I finished my secondment at the different store. We hosted a lovely Christmas Day for my family. And everyone in our town pulled together for the flooding. I'm currently on two weeks holiday. Awesome.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

LIFE: Christmas in Retail

I have always worked in retail, I have always worked in shops. I mostly love it - though I do not enjoy customers walking in at five to closing time. And I've never enjoyed working over Christmas. 

Last year I had Christmas Day and Boxing Day off and it was a whirlwind of trying to wash uniform whilst cramming in as many people as possible. Not great. Then I had New Years Day and two days holiday to give me three days straight at the beginning of the year - my 'Christmas Holiday'.

This year I have TWO WEEKS off. This has never happened before. Not since I began working.

If you're one of the many who will be going shopping on Boxing Day or New Years Day at the crack of dawn, just be nice to the cashier. Just say thank you. Just ask them easy questions.

For some people, most people, working in retail isn't a choice - its a means to an end - and as much as you really need a new TV in the sale, it's still holiday season for those people behind the till too.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

WEAR: The New Years Party Dress

I bought this dress on Black Friday. It was still way more than I would ever want to pay for a single dress - cos I'm tight like that - but I'd been into several stores and been drawn to it and touched it and cooed over it and almost, almost bought it full price (before coming to my senses) so when I saw it at half price I bought it immediately.

My sole purchase that day.

Best purchase for myself I've made in a long time.

I absolutely adore French Connection. I would wear pretty much anything from their collections and feel good whilst doing so. Their sizing caters for my weird shape - I have no boobs, but have pretty large hips for my body - a size six fits like a dream.

NOTE: I'm not a size six anywhere else.

Anyway, I wore this to a Christmas party and loved it. It's cut in a smock-like fashion so although it's heavily embroidered on the front with a bit on the back, there's an absolute ton of material and it swishes about and thankfully hides a food baby without going too far and looking bag-like.

I love the sleeves, it's a sheer material so if you're like me and you like a bit of cover on your arms, it's perfect. And the length is just right - not too high, not too low.

To be honest, I have so many French Connection dresses and could easily rave about each one just like this, but for this season this is my Must Have dress.

Just need to get myself the burgundy version now...

Sunday, 20 December 2015

MASTER PLAN A: Twelve months after taking the contraceptive pill

It's now almost a year since I took my last contraceptive pill. It's been an eye opener - mainly in a positive way -  I thought it would be really tough to get used to, or that I'd be completely unprepared for my 'natural' body, or that it would be a 'transition'.

Well, in a way, I suppose all of those things have happened at one point or another, but overall I'm extremely happy with my decision to stop taking the pill.

Things I've learnt about myself since taking my last pill:

1. Periods are horrible.
When I was younger, I used to have heavy periods. Then when I started taking the pill they became a lot lighter. I didn't realise just how much lighter until these past couple of months when I'm sure I lose half my body weight in blood in one day. TMI maybe, but if this is something you used to experience then, be prepared, it will happen again. On those days, I feel like I'm part of the walking dead and am almost crippled over with pain. But, it's only one day and the other days I feel fine.

I just keep thinking that if/when I ever have a baby, it's going to have the comfiest ride of it's life.

2. I am never completely unprepared.
I make use of my diary a lot more now I can't plan when I'm going to have a period. I know that on those weeks I'm due, it's better if I don't plan anything or if I do, I have a little pouch in my bag that has essentials in for when I'm out and about.

The things I keep in this pouch are: tissues, wet wipes, sanitary products and a spare pair of pants (in case I'm caught out - though thankfully this has never happened, I have used the pants when I stayed over unexpectedly at at a friends house - see, multiple uses!)

3. Being off the pill isn't THAT scary.
How would I know when I'd come on? How long would they last? Would I need to upgrade to 'nighttime' sanitary products? What if I'm at work when I have bad cramps?

All of these things were questions that honestly put me off stopping the pill. The control I had over myself was ultimately a comfort blanket and it was a security I'd had for so long that I was super reluctant. However, by giving up that control and giving my body a bit of freedom it's like instead of constantly pushing my little woman-demon down and out of sight, me and the demon have just become a woman instead. Acceptance of my body has made me much happier with myself on the whole.

I'm calmer, have more patience, I like myself more. Vain much? No, just happy.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

WEAR: The Winter Jumper

Love me a good jumper.

I'm in winter mode - aka cosy mode - aka hibernate mode. It's cold!

Recently I've been on the hunt for some new knitwear. I'm loving a jean/big jumper combo at the moment and all of the above are regulars on my wear list. The stripey one is the newest addition and only comes second to the big mustard one - absolutely love the mustard! If I can't find anything else to wear, or only have a few minutes to get ready (happens more often than not) then jeans and a jumper just wins.

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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

SAVE: Christmas Cutlery #4

As we're hosting Christmas this year, I'm trying to think of ways to save time and space throughout the day - we're thinking one tray for our turkey and roast veg in the oven and getting people to bring the desserts/cheeseboard. 

One of things that has been worrying me quite a lot is the washing up. 

Sad, but true. I don't want our kitchen to look mucky whilst we eat or be the only one in the kitchen late on Christmas night washing up the mountain of pots.

So I thought: paper plates! 

By using paper plates I'll more than half the washing up. And if we manage to get everything to roast in one tray, then happy days! The washing up will take approximately the time it takes to boil the kettle for after dinner coffee.

I looked around and there's a few places that have specialised Christmas paper plates and napkins - Sainsbury's, Wilko's, Tesco - but in the end I found some pretty red scalloped plates in Paperchase and some super cheap ones in Home Bargains.

(And yes, I haven't unwrapped them yet because I know that if I do, I'll lose half of them.)

I'm still wondering whether we'll need some more/different ones for Boxing day when we're hosting a sort of buffet thing, but for now, this is a good start.

If you see any, let me know!

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Sunday, 13 December 2015

SAVE: The Stocking Fillers

I usually go all out with present giving. You want a DSLR for Christmas? okay! You fancy a personalised number plate? okay! You've had your eye on that Urban Decay mega palette? okay!

You get the gist.

But this year is different. I'm on a tight budget and there's not much room for massively expensive presents. Sorry. Also, not sorry - it's just how it is.

All of the above are under £10. Even if I give two of these to the same person, it's still well within my budget for each person and  I reckon it looks as though I've still spent a lot of time finding the right product for the right person. 

Alongside my handmade presents, I'm doing pretty well so far financially.

So if you're on a budget like me, start thinking small but impressive, and if you're not on a budget these would be super for popping in a stocking.

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Friday, 11 December 2015

REVIEW: Intuos Drawing Tablet

This has been on my 'want' list for years.

I've always wanted to be able to add writing to pictures. Simple, sad maybe, but true.

The Bamboo seemed to be the perfect choice, but after a lot (and I mean a lot) of research, it didn't seem the right one for me. So the Wacom Intuos Photo Tablet won and I was so stoked to get this from the Lad for my birthday.

It has a reasonably large writing surface, the pen is comfortable to use and although I've not found any need for them personally, there are four buttons to preset to different functions on the tablet and two more on the pen.

The software that the tablet comes with baffles me. It's way to complicated for what I need, however if you're after something that comes with sophisticated options then this is your guy! I use it alongside a basic App called Sketchbook that I can open a photo in and use the tablet to write on it with - exactly what I wanted.

Once I get more competent with the App, I'll move onto the software, but for now I'm over the moon with this little beasty.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

SAVE: Christmas Baking #3

Since our Uni days, it's become a tradition in our household to bake gingerbread men to scoff straight away hang on our tree. It's a nice way to spend an afternoon together (or with the kids if you have any) and it brings in the Christmas spirit with the smell of cinnamon and cloves permeating our home. We always follow the same recipe - it's failsafe, it's Delia - and seeing as we put the tree up this weekend, it's definately time.

What you will need:

75g light brown sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp treacle
1 tbsp water
1 tsp cinnamon and ground ginger each
pinch of cloves
95g butter
1/2 tsp bicarb
225g plain flour

Boil the sugar, syrup, treacle, water and spices all together in a saucepan. Stir it continually. Once it's boiling, remove from the heat and melt the butter into it with the bicarbonate of soda. Then, gradually stir in the flour. You can use more if your dough looks a bit sticky. Then let it cool.

Preheat the oven to 180C and start rolling your dough out. I like mine to be pretty thick so the shapes  cut out are softer, but you could go thinner for a more crunchy finish. make sure each batch you do though are roughly the same so they all cook at the same rate. I use a skewer to create a hole in the top of each shape. This means that once it's cooked and cooled I can thread some ribbon through and hang it on the tree.

Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until they feel firm and scoff them there and then let them cool before either decorating or hanging up plain.

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Sunday, 6 December 2015

READ: #43 Monsters, #44 Daughter Of Smoke and Bone, #45 Her Fearful Symmetry, #46 Beauty

I loved the first few pages of this book when I saw it in Waterstone's. It's hilarious. So funny in fact, that the Lad and I read a chapter each aloud to each other because we both wanted to read it at once. I'm fairly certain that the narratives name isn't revealed at any point. She's a twelve year old girl with an obsession with gore and murders - which is good because there's a streak of murders happening in her summer hometown. Alongside Miles, they make an unlikely couple trying to solve the mystery of who the murderer is. It's a super read, if not a little bizarre towards the end.

I got given this for my birthday and I'm excited to receive the next in the series for Christmas as this book is SO GOOD. I'm dying to find out what happens next. Karou appears to be a normal teenage girl going to art school. She has a wild imagination as the pictures in the sketch book prove with images of half human, half creature beings which tell stories that keep her art teacher and best friend entertained. She always has a wry smile on her smile, keeps her blue hair long and carries teeth in her pockets. I love, love, love the twists and turns this story takes although some of them are obvious and the story falls into place in a very matter of fact way.

This has sat on my bookshelf for years and I've never got past the first few chapters before. I had to force myself to continue this time too, however towards the middle it starts getting interesting and gripped me until the end - which was good, but a tad disappointing. Elspeth dies of cancer on a hospital bed and become a spirit trapped in her old flat. In her Will she outlined that her nieces (who currently live with their mother, her twin, in America) should come and live in her flat in London for a whole year before selling it, should they want to. She watches developments and becomes a stronger and stronger spirit before one of the twins begins to see her and converse with her. It's a very odd story, but well written and it's shame that I didn't enjoy it as much as I think I should have.

This is, by far, my favourite book ever. I've read it so many times and I love it every single time.

Beauty's real name is Honour. Her sisters Grace and Hope are both beautiful and take after their deceased mother, but Beauty hasn't got that gene and falls short of her nickname. When her fathers shipyard business goes bust and with nothing else left to lose, they set off with Ger, Hope's bethrothed, into the wilderness of the North with the hopes of Ger setting up a blacksmith's and her father becoming a carpenter. The story of Beauty and the Beast continues along the premise of the Disney version, however in this one Beauty is a bookworm and spends a lot of time in the (futuristic) library before going down to dine with the Beast. The Beast also has the ability to send her father dreams about what Beauty has been doing and vice versa. It's a lovely tale, well written and a pleasure to read.

This is a poem. I'm not a great poem lover, however this one melts my heart. I don't want to say much about it because it will ruin the overwhelming emotions it brings up (I cry every time I read this) but it surrounds a child and a dog and the relationship between them.

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