Monday, 28 September 2015

September Favourites

It's monthly favourites time again! Here's all the things I've been liking, loving, and downright obsessed with in September.

Can we talk trainers? These pink Converse trainers specifically. I bought these ages ago and wore them a few times but then it got hot and as per usual I lived in sandals or pumps. The seasons are starting to shift now and Autumn is rolling in which means time to put some socks back on. Most days I've been reaching for these for a pop of colour and a bit of fun. Make your feet smile and wear happy shoes.

Next up is an essential beauty product for September. We've had Bob the Dog now for a whole month and in that month we have learned that puppies wake up very early. Well, early for us. Like 6.30 in the AM early. This is now my getting up time, which is probably a good half hour earlier than previously for weekdays and about 4 hours earlier for weekends. (You can get so much done when you're up and about so early - who knew?!) But all this getting up so early is taking its toll on my sleepy eyes. Come on down the Pixi Eye Bright Liner. Genius product! Quick swipe of this beauty on your eyes and you instantly look wide awake. Ta-dah!

Speaking of Bob the Dog. Of course he is still my favourite! He's funny and adorable and so soft and I just want to squeeze him up! I've never had a dog before so everyday is a learning curve but when it's this much fun, bring on the education! I took this photo last night and I can't help but think it looks like some kind of still life painting - Dog on Fireplace. Don't be fooled by that forlorn look, he was probably just wondering where his next bacon and cheese twizzler snack was coming from...

Out there in the big wide world, it's been all the fashion weeks and I've become slightly obsessed with following all the vloggers and bloggers to every catwalk show and then going to the Vogue Youtube channel to watch their 1 minute snippets of the final runways. Since going to the Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent exhibitions this year I have a new found interest in all things couture and I'm loving what is being shown - I can already see the high street versions now. Exciting!

BB: Before Bob, we would quite regularly catch up on a few of our favourite shows of an evening, but now our evenings are filled with playing tug of war or hoovering up his entire coat (seriously, how does he have any left?!) so the old TV watching has been a bit sparse. We did catch up with a crazy Grand Designs that featured a very weird man who seemed totally averse to any sort of body hair and built himself a HUGE art gallery/house/shopping centre type space that cost 2 million quid. He owned his own cleaning company so I'm thinking that this is clearly the business to be in - it certainly seems a lot more lucrative than project management...

Another TV series worth mentioning is Not Safe for Work. This was on Channel 4 earlier in the year so will probably be available on the 4OD or whatever it's called now. I was initially drawn to it as stars Vod from Fresh Meat, who is one of my all time favourite characters. She is nothing like that at all in this, and it's actually pretty dark, but it is bloody good. We only have the last one to watch but I've been really impressed by it.

My final favourite of the month is scented candles. Any smell, any size, any range. Anything to disguise the odious farts that emerge out of Bob the Dog's bum. Seriously, I have had to leave the room waving my arms in desperation several times this month. Perhaps a gas mask is in order...

Friday, 25 September 2015

So long, Summer

I know I say this every single year but seriously, how is it September already? The whole year just seems to have flown by in a swooshy whizzy kind of way and it's time for a new season already.

Summer is just magical. It's holidays and sunshine, walking barefoot and wearing minimal clothing, delicious ripe fruit and salads eaten outside in the last of the evening, long days and light nights, lazy weekends and BBQs with friends, rose wine and Pimms, ice cold lager with wedges of lime...I'm missing it already!

But there's all sorts of fab things to look forward to in Autumn as well. Soup season and one-pot casseroles, deep and mellow red wine, curling up in an armchair with a good book and a snuggly jumper, thick socks and scarves, pulling the boots out of the cupboard ready for another year, crispy leaves and crunchy mornings, weekend strolls in the park...I'm already excited.

What's your favourite thing about Autumn?

Monday, 21 September 2015

Healthy Heart

I turned 40 this year and so far, so not too bad at all. To be honest it just feels like 39. The same way that the previous year felt like 38 and so on. I've never really moved on in my head from being about 24 so that's the age I plan to stick at, even when I'm old and wrinkly and crinkly I'll be 24 forever!

Someone did however tell me I was getting close to the menopause, which I thought was very kind of them...

And I got a letter from the doctor telling me to go for a healthy heart check. I think there was an option to opt out but it wasn't really to be encouraged and seemed to be more hassle than just going for the blood tests and then making the appointment. Yesterday was the big day. I was quite nervous actually, mainly about getting weighed and being told that I needed to lose like 4 stone in order to fall into the healthy BMI category (or become a supermodel, which if I lost 4 stone I could of course totally be...) but it all went ok.

Very ok in fact. I have a 0.93% chance of having a heart attack in the next ten years. Good to know! My blood pressure was fine, my cholesterol was well within the recommended thingy and she was quite impressed with my (honest!) diet. I might have neglected to mention the cakes and biscuits but that's just a given. Maybe not. Got away with that one then.

Time was ticking by and it was getting closer to that whole step on the scales situation. I considered taking all my clothes off to reduce the number but seeing as though she measured my waist around my t-shirt that might have freaked her out a bit...I closed my eyes and stepped on. It was in kilos anyway so could have just kept my eyes open. I'm not going to share the actual numbers but turns out I have lost 8 pounds since last year which I was pretty impressed by! Yay, go me!

The biggest factor for my healthy heart, other than my brilliant diet obviously, is the fact that I don't smoke and have never smoked. That immediately takes you up to 5% I was informed. We both agreed that I could use more exercise (mainly so she could write something in the free text box) and I was free to go. Easy peasy, and no need to be nervous after all.

So go get your hearts checked people. It's not as bad as you think it might be, and you get a funky little fold-out booklet with loads of quirky little facts on it. And then you can celebrate your healthy heart by eating a choccie biscuit and having a cuppa! Life is sweet.

Friday, 18 September 2015

10 Things...about working from home

I've been working from home since June now and I've learned a lot of things along the way. Here's my 10 tips for how to make working from home a success:

1. Get up in the morning as if you were going out to work. If you structure your day just like a normal 9-5 (or 8-4, or whatever 8 hour working pattern you prefer) and factor in a lunch break, it's so much easier to remain focused and make it through feeling accomplished and like you actually achieved a full day's work. 

2. Remove yourself physically from all the distractions. My initial working space was based in our living room and it was easy if things weren't going according to plan to just walk away from the computer and flop out on the sofa. Unless you work somewhere really cool, it's unlikely you could do that at work, so get out of the habit by removing yourself from temptation. 

3. Create an office space. It doesn't have to be a whole room, it could even be a tiny nook under the stairs, but have somewhere to go that feels like you're going to work. Once you're there, you're officially at work, even though you're at home. It really does help, trust me! 

4. Invest in some good office furniture. A nice desk (preferably with some storage) and a comfy office chair can make the world of difference to how you feel at the end of the day. When I started, I worked from the dining room table which is fine for brief stints of dinner but a full day on hard wooden chairs and a higher up table is not good for your posture or your body in general. And if you feel uncomfortable you're more likely to get up and wander about and be distracted. Ikea do some great office stuff in a whole range of sizes which will suit any space. 

5. Factor in breaks away from your computer. If you were at work you would be entitled to a lunch break and a quick coffee break and toilet breaks. It's just the same at home, you're just closer to the kettle. 

6. Accept that you will make many more cups of tea or coffee than you probably would at work. It's just too easy...

7. Consider making a packed lunch or line up your snacks for the day. When you're so close to the cupboards it's tempting to just binge eat, especially if you're bored or struggling with something, but it will never lead to good things. I've learned this the hard way, and it's still something I struggle with now. Although I'm sure it's just the same in a work place, particularly if you work near a vending machine or a coffee point. 

8. Go out for a walk at lunchtime. When you're sat inside all day it's very easy to become demotivated and frustrated. I find a nice stroll in the fresh air really refreshes me and helps me to come back in the afternoon feeling more positive (I used this tip when I worked in an office too, sometimes you just need to remove yourself from a place to get some perspective). 

9. Try to plan meetings in alternative locations. It does you good to get out into the world and helps you to return to 'the office' feeling refreshed and raring to go. 

10. Get dressed everyday. If I stayed in my pjs I would never get anything done. I don't get dressed up to go to the office, often in the summer I wore shorts and a vest top, but the ritual of getting showered and dressed ready to start the day is a big motivator. 

Overall, despite all those tips, I would say go easy on yourself. It's not the easiest option to work from home and it takes a while to adjust to lack of people, but there are a whole heap of perks - saving money particularly is a big one for me. It can take time to settle in and establish a routine, but once you're there, it's a great place to work! 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Mellow Yellow

The garden is winding down now as the season changes, but I've had so much joy from the yellow happiness that we've grown this year. Shiny sunny bursts! They make my heart sing and my smile wide. Until next year, Summer!

Friday, 11 September 2015

New Season

My budget is barely there these days for new clothes so when I do buy, I choose wisely and with things that I know I will get heaps of wear out of. I've added a few items to my wardrobe ready for the new season ahead - can you believe it's nearly Autumn? Where has this year gone?! There's a bit of a theme - khaki/olive green, but it's one of my favourite colours and it suits me so...good investment.

Finally how could I enter into any new season without buying a new striped top. Or hoopy as Dave calls them. This one has the added bonus of an orange pocket for a burst of colour!

They all look a bit blah on the hangers but trust me, they look rockin' in real life and I'm very happy with all my purchases*. I will admit to a couple more splurges (hello Mr credit card debt) but as they are yet to arrive...

How will you be updating your wardrobe for the new season ahead?

*update: the first time I wore this top I was appalled to discover that it split at the arm seam. Huge hole. Not impressed and all out of stock so no opportunity to order a replacement. Big shame as I love how it looked but not impressed with the quality at all. 

Monday, 7 September 2015

My Kind of Girl

I love Lena Dunham. I loved Tiny Furniture and I am a huge fan of the TV series Girls. I am in complete awe that someone in their 20's has achieved so many amazing things. She writes, she directs, she stars...some days I can barely even achieve a couple of hours in front of the computer...but she's an all round whirlwind of massive talent and busy-ness and I admire her massively for it. I was desperate to read her book, Not That Kind of Girl, and finally picked it up a few weeks ago. 

And it's brilliant. 

It's honest, funny, witty, dirty, and raw - kind of like how I imagine she is in real life. Or would like to think so, because of course we would be friends if ever our paths should cross...

It's the kind of book you can dip in and out of, which comes in very handy when you're on jury duty, like I was last week. (On a side note, I kind of want to write about the experience (not the case obviously), but an overview of how it was but I'm not sure if a) I'm allowed to talk about it and b) if anyone is interested. If you would like to read about it leave a comment below).

I wish I'd had this book when I was 20. When you're floundering around and not sure of anyone or anything. But even at 40, when I've long gone past that giving a shit what people think stage of my life, there's such a lot to take from it. As I said in my previous post, I'm really not very good at doing book reviews so I won't even try. I will just say, this is definitely a book worth reading. 

I like it. 

A lot. 

Friday, 4 September 2015

A successful challenge

I set myself so many challenges this year that it's hardly too much of a surprise that now, nine months into the year, the majority of them have fallen way by the way side! Namely #yearofcraft (#epicfail) and 52 Photos in a Year, which considering the amount of photos I take shouldn't have presented too much of a problem, but the week by week thing just didn't grab me and eventually I just stopped logging in. But there is one challenge that I am keeping up, and actually making good progress, and that is the 50 Books in a Year challenge on Goodreads. 

This is a bit of a no-brainer really as I am always reading. If it's a really good book I'll grab any opportunity I can to put my feet up and immerse myself, but even if it's not so good I always read before I go to sleep every single night. Even if I can barely keep my eyes open I'll read a few pages, call it my night time ritual. 

Some books I race through in a couple of days, others, like The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins took over 3 weeks and set me back a bit, but a few days of jury duty soon sorted that out (many many hours of waiting...and waiting...and waiting...). I think I actually stand a good chance of completing this challenge, go me! 

I have learned something from this challenge, and the lesson is that I'm not very good at writing book reviews. This is a major reason that I have avoided book clubs over the years. I either like a book or I don't and I'm not interested in breaking it down and saying why or why not. I get genuine pleasure from reading and there's a part of my brain that equates book reviews to English Literature at school. Why did you like it, which bit did you like best, what do you think this character was! Was it good or was it bad? Would I read it again? Those are probably the only two questions I'm willing to answer. A fascinating book club member I definitely wouldn't be! I'm happy to leave a star rating, and I occasionally write a line or so if I'm so inspired, but I can't imagine anyone else finds my paltry reviews very inspiring at all. 

Having said all that I'm following a couple of people who are doing the same challenge or the double whammy of 100 books per year, and it's fascinating to see what people choose to read! My choices are mainly driven by charity shop purchases, library borrowing, or revisiting old favourites. I'm so intrigued to know what drives the decisions to pick up a book. Even though they say you never should, I am often drawn by the cover. The very first Murikami I read was for entirely this reason - the crisp white covers with the minimal black and red writing and a single image - gimme! 

If you'd like to follow along with my challenge and see my book choices you can do so here on Goodreads.

What do you think about a book challenge? Could you do it?