Thursday, 31 December 2015

15 Things about 2015

I wanted to do a round up of the year for the blog but couldn't think of the best way to do it, until suddenly I was struck by the 15 Things idea I had before. Which fits in quite well as it's 2015. And so here we are, 15 things about 2015, a kind of summary if you will. It's a bit of a long'un so you might want to grab a cuppa...

We finally got to move into our house in February, Friday 13th February to be precise. We couldn't have cared less about superstition by that point as we were just desperate to be in! We waited for 5 whole months to get this house, but it was so worth it. I love it and I still smile when I walk in the front door. We have lots of plans and ideas but no real hurry for completing anything. Taking it slowly and enjoying the moment is the motto for this house. It's definitely love...

2. Bob the Dog
After many months of this way and that way, in August we finally made the decision to get a dog. We always knew it would be a golden retriever, a boy, and that he would be called Bob. Once the decision was made it all happened pretty quickly. We went to meet a huge litter of adorable fluffy puppies (how to choose!) and the future Bob made his way over to me and put his paws up on my knees. That was it really. They do say that dogs choose their owners and he chose us it would seem. He is all kinds of barmy but mostly he is absolutely brilliant (don't mention the hole digging) and very loving, and most of all a big old heap of fun.

3. Jury duty
Well it couldn't all be fun and jolly. I came home from holidays (more on that further down) to a summons to be a juror. I was not happy about this at all. It's something I've never wanted to do and I absolutely dreaded it. Mercifully my duty was short but definitely not sweet. Endless hours of waiting around, ridiculous out of date systems with people wearing wigs and gowns and calling each other 'my learn-ed friend' I did get to serve on a jury and I hated every minute of it. I did not enjoy the idea that a man's future rested in my hands and I was beyond relieved after that case ended to be told we were no longer needed. You couldn't get me out of there quick enough. Ugh.

4. Giving up Facebook
Endless scrolling, irritation, and general grumpiness - these were my feelings about Facebook this year. Having had enough of it I decided to just give it up for a month and see how I got on. I deleted it from my phone and went about my merry way. In the end I was off it for about 3 months. It was marvellous! I did miss out on all sorts of things but it meant that people had to tell me the old fashioned way, by calling me or meeting me. It was a bit of a revelation and I stopped being so wrapped up in it all. I'm thinking of doing it again in 2016 as it's so easy to get sucked down the endless scrolling hole. Again with the ugh.

For our jolly-bobs this year we did a roadtrip round England! It was all kinds of awesome and we had the BEST week camping at a crazy campsite on the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall. Glorious blue skies, sunny days, and all kinds of adventures. Please can we go back?

6. Jobs
A real mixed bag of a year. I started off the year in a bad job, spent the middle to end part of the year having a brilliant time working on a project that I love (and hope to continue with, cross everything for funding!) and ended the year going back to the land of libraries!

7. Best book(s)
I can't decide between two so I'm going with both. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey was all kinds of enchanting and I fell hard. So hard that I basically wanted to start it all over again as soon as I was finished. The second was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I laughed, I cried, and basically adored this book. I would have happily passed it on to people but Bob decided to eat it so the first 30 pages are mangled and the rest is kind of chewed...

8. Best TV show
I think it has to go to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The original 90s version. I didn't really watch much of the normal teevee this year, I have a bit of a love-hate thing with it anyway, but I LOVED watching Buffy all over again on Netflix. So good!

9. Best film
My cinema attendance this year was shoddy to say the least. Time was rarely free and so I missed out on all the good ones. I did absolutely love Spy with Melissa McCarthy. I laughed until I nearly stopped breathing which qualifies it for a good cinema experience. Note to self: see more films at the cinema in 2016.

10. Best Music
Always so much good music, it's hard to choose. I had all sorts of weird moments and even found myself enjoying some serious pop moments (Swifty anyone?) but I think my rediscovery of The Vaccines would be up there, as would be the discovery of Richard Hawley. His beautiful deep, deep voice and his gorgeous albums were just the right side of melancholy for me. Definitely more music for 2016. Always the music!

11. My new blog
This new blog in fact! After years of writing a shared blog I decided to branch out and start up this one and I am loving it (I hope you are too!). It's nice to be my own voice and I like to be able to talk about all kinds of everything and feel that it just fits me better. More snugly if you will.

12. Working from home
I spent the majority of this year working from home. It was all kinds of weird and wonderful and good and bad. It's great for kettle access and general all round tea drinking, but not so great if you're feeling kind of sad and just want a chat. The best thing about it was that I was home when Bob was teeny tiny and could work on the training. I think it's paid off...kind of...can't get him to stop digging holes...

13. Skint
Truth. Since leaving libraryland phase 1, I have been skint. I'm used to it now. But it's not much fun. What is funny is that when I was in libraryland phase 1 I used to think, I'm going to leave here and earn loads more actual fact I left there, became the skintest I have been in years, and actually dream about earning that much money once again. It will come, I know it will. In the meantime I shall carry on regardless, skintier than skint, but wealthy in so many other ways.

14. Overcoming...
...all kinds of things, but my mortal fear of presentations was the biggie. This was the year I conquered the fear. Don't get me wrong, I'm still nervous, but my legs don't shake anymore and I rarely look at my notes. This is progress, people, of the biggest kind. Let's have a woop!

15. Summing up...
...2015 was all kinds of everything. Highs, lows, births, deaths, the circle of life. I've stopped believing in bigger and better and am happy to just go with being. One day at a time. No doubt 2016 will be much of the muchness, but let's have some fun times along the way. See you there soon...

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

REVISIT: The beauty advent calendar

I'm interrupting my normal twice weekly schedule to write a requested post. Requested! From an actual reader! It fills my heart with joy to know that people are reading my little corner of the world - thanks you guys! 

The comment appeared on my post about the Marks and Spencer beauty advent calendar and asked me to do a quick update on my favourite products, so here we go! 

First up I will say the calendar was all kinds of joyous. It was like Christmas started early and carried on every single day throughout December. Opening the box each day, followed by the text to my sister telling her what was inside, was quite simply fab. The products were all wrapped up in either black or purple tissue paper, a bit like pass the parcel, and the majority of them were mighty fine indeed. The stand out products for me were as follows:

  • 100ml Cowshed Grumpy Cow Uplifting Body Lotion
  • 2.5 fl.oz. L'Occitane Verbena Shower Gel
  • 15ml REN Flash Rinse 1 Minute Facial
  • 100ml Pixi Glow Tonic*
Out of all of them the Pixi Glow Tonic was the most coveted of all. I'd heard so many amazing things about it and was desperate to try it, but at nearly £20 a bottle it was out of my price range for a toner. The 100ml is half the size of the full price product so for a tenner worth of product to be featured in a £25 calendar...a really rather good deal, and I would imagine was a big attraction for many people who bought the calendar. 

The majority of the products were brilliant. The lipstick shades were mainly of the nude/rose variety, and to get 100ml of many of the products is a pretty decent size for you to really get to try something out and see if you like it for future repurchase. The only disappointment for me was that all of the hair products were focused on creating volume and zero offerings for frizz taming. I think a bit of balance here would have been much more desirable. Then again, my sister lucked out as she received a little goodie bag of the volume control products. Share the love. 

The big question: will I repurchase the calendar next year? If the price is the same I definitely would**, but I think it won't take Marks and Spencer long to realise that they can put it in a much higher price bracket and still move the same amount of stock. That will be a real shame for me as I think the £25 price label was certainly the biggest appeal for me.

*it won't come as much of a surprise to read that I love the glow tonic! I was worried about how my skin would react to the exfoliation but so far so good!

**as before, and to be entirely honest, the calendar was available at £25 for a spend of £25 on beauty products. To qualify I bought the most expensive body lotion I have ever used: REN Rose Otto Body Lotion (£26). I can see why people spend that much money on body lotion. It is quite simply lush. It sinks into the skin in mere seconds, smells divine, and leaves your skin feeling silky smooth. Even if the calendar had been utterly rubbish, the body lotion would have been an enjoyable splurge! 

If you'd like to know anything else about the calendar, comment below. Go on, make my day all over again! 

Monday, 28 December 2015

How do you spell Christmas?

C is for the Christmas cake decorating party that we have every Christmas Eve now. It's turned into a tradition the last four or five years, where we have a couple of friends over, drink some kind of vino/bubbles, and let our imaginations go wild. This year was no exception. What do you mean Frankenstein in a Santa hat and a blue octopus don't speak of Christmas to you?! 

H is for heaps of food. All the food. There's been a lot and it just keeps on coming. I may be rolling back to work in January at this rate. 

R is for roast potatoes. This year we tried (look away now any veggies!) goose fat. Total game changer. Will never go back again. They were roast potatoes of epic proportions. 

I is for insane amounts of chocolate. Seriously, we have like a chocolate mountain. Refer to 'H' and the rolling back to work. We may roll everywhere if we eat it all. If we come to your house just know we'll be bringing some with us. 

S is for squeak. As in every single toy that Bob the Dog received had some kind of squeaker in it. He is SUCH a clever boy to make everything squeak. Constantly. SQUUUUUEEEEEEAAAAAKKKKK. Please someone, make it stop with a capital S. 

T is for Tee. Tee being home for Christmas is a present in itself. All the feels for that girl *hugs*

M is for music. As in my BEST present was a green record player that lives in a suitcase. A record player! That lives in a suitcase! I cannot even. It's brilliant. I've already made Dave listen to all the 45s that I have cherished since uni: limited edition Super Furry Animals, anyone?!

A is for apples. Ha! Just kidding. As if any fruit has passed my lips since last week, other than the dried stuff in mince pies...

S is for super dooper times. It was a really lovely, chilled out time, spent with loved ones, eating all the food, drinking all the drinks, and enjoying all the sofa times. Happy happy days. 

I hope you had a good one too! 

The Christmas Cake, 2015

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Lots of festive love and greetings to every single one of you, from my little family to yours. May you enjoy peaceful and joyful times, however you choose to spend it!


Monday, 21 December 2015

December Favourites

Favourites are coming in a bit early this month, which is all fine! December as per every other month just flew by. Poof! Gone! I can hardly believe that it's almost 2016! Whaaaaaat?! Here's a few loved things from December.

Lotions and potions galore!

It's not going to come as too much of a surprise that opening the beauty advent calendar has been up there as a real highlight. It was like Christmas every single day! All the yummy delights are currently living in the lid of the box, some I've decided to keep until after Christmas and some I've had a little play with, including a very delightful yoga bath that was all kinds of nice smelling and relaxing. Lotions and potions-tastic!

Free time!
After several very busy weeks being a production assistant for the Christmas show at my theatre group, I finally got my life back on the 15th December. Only to start work - ha! But I cannot even begin to describe how I savoured my free evenings and early nights once it was over again. Never again. If you even hear me mention it, just slap me down, immediately, I won't hold it against you. It was made even better when I started work and they told me I wouldn't have to work between Christmas and New Year due to my awkward start date mid-month. Result!

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
I absolutely adored this book, and it's not often that I say that. Ove was truly a delightful grump and it was all kinds of touching and heart-warming with laugh out loud moments and some eye leakage at the end. I don't know if it took on extra specialness due to being eaten by the dog, he did kindly only eat the front cover and the first 30 pages which left me the rest of the book to finish off (such a generous pup) but taking the extremely battered and chewed copy out in a couple of coffee shops made me chuckle quietly to myself. I would definitely recommend this book. It was absolutely my joint first book of the year. 

I've really lucked out at work and as I wasn't on the rota and had some holiday owing, my new boss said why not just have all of Christmas off. Oh go on then, you twisted my arm! I can't wait for the holidays and seeing Tee and loads of quality sofa time. Whoop woop! Favourites will be back next year, see ya in 2016! 

Friday, 18 December 2015

Hello old friend...

Ahhhhhh, what sweet bliss is this? I have nowhere to be and nothing to do. Hello life, old friend, it's good to see you back.

From here on in, I fully intend to do nothing but curl up in a snuggly ball every evening, watch some crappy TV, listen to some Christmas music, eat all the food, and drink all the red wine.

Cue cheesy relaxation music.

Life is back *kicks feet up on the sofa and sinks into a sleepy pre-Christmas coma*

Monday, 14 December 2015

Working Girl

Tomorrow is the big day - I'm going back to work! Not that I haven't been working for the past few months, but this going to work actually involves putting my face on, attempting to tame the rats nest hair, planning some decent clothes, a car journey, and an actual place of work. Wow! Do you think I'll remember what to do?

It's amazing how quickly your norm becomes your, erm, norm. When I first started working from home I was all weirded out about it, and now I feel the same about going back out to work. What will Bob get up to when I'm out? (don't even answer that question/HIDE EVERYTHING!) Who will our lovely postman wave to when he rocks up to our door with all the post? Will the neighbours even notice I've gone as they pop out for their daily newspaper? All the daily comings and goings that I'm so accustomed to seeing won't be there anymore. I'll miss them...but I'm also looking forward to being back in the world of work. People! Real people, who talk back to you! I hope they're nice!

Wish me luck...

Friday, 11 December 2015

Listen Up! - She and Him Christmas

This album is now on constant rotation in the house of Claire and Dave.

Best Christmas album ever, hands down. But not best single, as that is clearly 'Fairytale of New York' by Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues.  

You're welcome.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Revisit: BUSY! and a shameless plug

Yeah yeah, yada yada, you've been busy, we've heard it all before. Like on repeat for the whole month of November...well this, my friends, is the reason why:

I have had the pleasure (and pain of many endless hours at the theatre) of being the production assistant for this play. I've never ever seen it from this perspective before. Generally I'm backstage crew or serving up beer in the bar, but this time I've seen it from day one. And I can tell you, it's a good'un! It's funny, and sparkly, and action packed. It's a witty whodunit with gun shots and screams a-plenty, as well as a stunning set that has taken us many, many hours to paint, dress, and titivate.

If you're in the area and up for some theatre fun, come along and see it. It will very merrily fill a dreary December evening. But remember to pack your winter woollies, it's chilly willy in our little theatre!

Friday, 4 December 2015

A Thing of Beauty

My name is Claire and I love lotions and potions. I am very easily 'enabled' as the saying goes by the bloggers and YouTube people that I watch who all have access to some delicious lotions and potions that I covet on an almost daily basis. Just ask Tee and Debs about when we were in Brighton and the only thing that I wanted to buy was a Mac 217 brush that cost £18. Yep, I totally did spend that much money on a makeup brush and it is a delight to use every single day. So soft and dreamy...

Let's talk enabling. In this instance it was a couple of YouTubers who put me on to the beauty advent calendar craze. In the opposite sense of this blog tale, I am generally a cheap as chips, 99p advent calendar kind of girl - somehow that cheap chocolate just tastes so good at this time of year. But this year, I decided to add in a beauty calendar to the mix. In terms of expensive, it's really not that up there compared to some of them that come in at hundreds of pounds. Girl ain't got that kind of spare cash. But girl does have a spare £25, well, okay not really but we're talking small change here people!

Step up the Marks and Spencer Beauty Calendar. For a mere £25 there is a box to open up every single day in the lead up to Christmas that contains some form of lotion or potion - oh me, oh my. The whole thing has the value of £200. £200! For a mere £25*. I mean come on, it's almost rude not to! As you can imagine, to say that I am excited is a bit of an understatement. It's basically going to be like Christmas every single day! With a cheapo advent calendar chocolate thrown in too - does life get any better?!

As I in no way consider myself to be a beauty blogger, I won't go to the trouble of listing all the contents. Instead just picture the excited face of this lotions and potions lover as a pretty box is opened each day. And just think of all the goodies I will have to begin the new year - I won't need to go shopping for ages!

My Christmas countdown is on! And I'm pretty sure this will turn up in my monthly favourites because, like, durrrrrr.

*for the record, to get the beauty advent calendar for £25 you had to spend £25. Which was very easily done by purchasing the most expensive body lotion I will ever use at £26. I don't feel the need to defend my purchasing choice, but even at a £51 spend that is still £149 of savings (quickly checks rubbish mental arithmetic skills)