Monday, 29 February 2016

February Favourites

Wow, the end of February already? Already two months in to 2016 - you just know it's going to be another flyer. But it's Favourites time again, yay! Here's the likes, loves, drools, and general happy list from the month of February. 

The 90s
I think I've stepped back in time. It certainly feels that way. Binge watching my way through more of the ever fabulous Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I swear it is better this time around!) was interrupted to pick up the new series of The X-Files! Mulder! Scully! Aliens! Ahh, it's like I've been transported back to living in university halls, when we'd turn off all the lights and masking tape an 'X' to the window. We took our fandom very seriously back then. As if that wasn't enough, I got a music voucher for my birthday and apparently decided that I needed to have Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette back in my life. As you do. All together now, "isn't it ironic..."

It's entirely possible that returning to libraryland has reinforced the book loving, but these days whenever I have any down time I'm moving away from the screen and picking up my current read. Even the soggy fish ones are not getting me down. Onwards, upwards, there's a whole library to get through!

Peak (app)
When I remind myself that I studied the power of advertising and how it sucks everyone in, I have a chuckle when I too am totally sucked in. That happened with Peak I can't even remember what programme I was watching when I saw the advert for the app and thought, ooh I love a bit of brain training, let's go and get that right away! I LOVE it! So many games, so much fun, feel how powerful your brain is... maybe... but I am a firm believer in doing anything that can help to improve my frankly shocking mental arithmetic skills (truly, they are atrocious! So bad that I had to ask the bar manager at theatre to round up the prices to multiples of 50 pence to avoid me having a nervous breakdown when people order 3 gin and tonics and a bottle of beer). If you too want to train your brain, go get the app, it's free!

Colouring In
One of my fab birthday presents was a Harry Potter colouring in book. I'm a big fan of this adult colouring in craze, it's always been a favourite thing to do and over the many years of babysitting/nephew and niece time, I would always join in when the crayons came out. To have my own has been all kinds of fun. I love getting my pencils out, putting on some music, and picking a picture to colour in. Don't mock it til you've tried it!

Hermione. With blue hair. Inspired by Zoe London - a blue haired blogger
Can food be a favourite? I think it can be. It's the energy of life, but it's also oh so good. I'm pleased to report that I have eaten my way through the majority of the Christmas chocolate. Mostly by myself. I have a serious addiction to biscuits, and will eat cake at the drop of a hat. I have a fear that if I don't stop soon I'll be eating my way into a diabetic coma...seriously, need to stop. Libraryland is full of biscuits and sweets and cakes too, and lately I feel like it's a legal requirement to try anything peanut flavoured as I stroll the supermarkets. Food, food, glorious food - I want it all. Nom nom.

Other February greatness that wouldn't technically fall into the favourites category but has still provided joy is as follows:

  • my little red car, the mighty Zippy, passed his MOT! Can I hear a woop woop! 13 years old and counting! 
  • We booked a holiday for May in the beautiful land of Northumberland. I can't wait and am already counting down the days. Bob the Dog is coming with us on his first holiday adventure! 
  • It snowed! It only lasted one day but it was a whole heap of fun when it was here. If Bob could speak, he would have been shouting WHAT IS THIS WHITE STUFF as he rolled about in it with total puppy delight
  • My sister came to visit with my beautiful nephew and niece. My nephew is now taller than me, his voice has broken, and he has size 10 feet. My niece has better make-up than me and rocks her skinny jeans with her long, long legs. I love them both to bits and will always adore my Aunty Claire times
How about you? Any February favourites I need to try? Go ahead, enable me, I'm easily persuaded...

Friday, 26 February 2016

In the wars

We used to have a saying when I was little, that if you'd had a bad week of lots of falls and scrapes and bruises that you were 'in the wars'. I'm bringing that phrase back as I have most definitely been fighting. Mainly with inanimate objects like doors and lampshades, and I have the bruises to show for it. 

It all started last Saturday. I woke up and couldn't move. My whole neck felt as if I was wearing some kind of upright brace and all across my shoulders, top of my back, and down to my shoulder blades was just one big massive ouch-y ache. I have no idea how I did this, could have been helping an old dear as she struggled to walk in a room, could have been from pushing a really heavy trolley at work, could have been from walking the horse dog who weighs quite a lot and likes to pull on his lead, or maybe I just slept funny - who knows? However it might have happened, can we just say ouch and have done with it. Cue many tablets and creams and hot baths and shoulder rubs to try to alleviate it. It still hurts now. Boo! 

The next thing I did was to trap my finger in a door. It started turning blue and I feared I had broken it, but I could move it okay and wasn't crying too much so I just soldiered on manfully. Said door was in a changing room to try on a couple of tops. In the process of trying the first top on I bashed the very same finger against the light fitting above my head. Owwwww, ouch, couple of sweary words, and a blooming heck for good measure. Oh, I bought the top by the way - finger nearly be broken be damned, there was some good vintage shopping to be done! The bruise is developing quite nicely and is now an attractive shade of brown/black/blue. I can still move it though so it can't be that serious...

I had high hopes that by the time I was 41 I would have grown out of my clumsy habit. As the above clearly demonstrates that is not the case. Clumsy Claire strikes again. And again. And again. And repeat until I am 92. Someone pass the smelly old lady cream, my back needs another rubbing...

Monday, 22 February 2016

Helloooo tasty food!

A couple of Fridays ago, a couple of cutie boys knocked on the door to talk to me about Hello Fresh. I must have been living under a rock or something as hadn't really heard much about it. Since then I've talked to a few people about it and everyone has been like oh yep, heard of that, what's it like? 

Well, it's like really good! Basically it's a food delivery service that you sign up for, you select what type of box you would like - we went for the Classic Box that is designed to feed two people for three meals a week - and you can select which meals you would like to eat too. I think there were 5 options for the week. In the box you will get all the ingredients you need, a full set of recipe cards, and all sorts of other good stuff too, like free samples of tasty popcorn that is peanut and almond flavoured, but that's probably a whole other post for peanut-drooling flavoured food. Back to the box. 

The sign up process was easy peasy. The boys were very friendly and told me everything I needed to know. You can select your meals and make any changes either via the website I've linked above or via the app which you can download for free. And then you wait for the box! The arrival of the box is very definitely exciting. It's huge for one! And there's loads of things inside to open! And some very funky packaging/insulation/cooling down thingies that are all kinds of clever (and which can be recycled both at home or via the company themselves - they are all about reducing their carbon footprint which makes me all kinds of happy). When I say all the ingredients, I mean right down to the teaspoon of cinnamon in a teeny tiny container and a single bay leaf! You really don't need to have anything special in your stock cupboard to be able to make all the recipes. 

Our first recipe was crusted chorizo chicken with new potatoes and green beans. Dave has decided he needs to be more involved in the kitchen process so opted to be chief cook. Carefully following the recipe (tongue out and everything with the concentration) he made the tea! And very yummy it was too. 

Next up was the steamed salmon with jewelled couscous which was a joint cooking adventure. It's not the greatest photo (hello Snapchat) but once again it was super tasty and not at all hard to make.

For the final meal we had moussaka served with rocket and ciabatta bread. I don't want to be boring but again it was tasty and the recipe was easy to follow. The whole box provided variety, tasty dinners, easy recipes, and everything that was needed to do all of that.

A couple of things I think need to be taken into consideration though. I don't think I'm mean with my quantities but some of the portion sizes were much bigger than what we normally eat, especially the couscous - way too much for 2 people - that stuff grows as it fluffs! Also, we ended up pan frying the salmon as the cooking time that was suggested for steaming was not how we like it, but each to their own there I think. At the end of all of the meals we had extra stuff left over that could be carried over into other meals which made it even better value for money! 

The initial box was on offer with 30% off, at £27 that was a good price for 3 meals for 2 people with all fresh ingredients. We've decided to keep it on but to only get a box once a month - this is mainly because I make all our meals from scratch anyway, and we both love to try new things so I am always scouring the internet and recipe books for meals to make. Adding the Hello Fresh box into the mix is an added extra to all the tasty dinners! 

If you fancy giving it a try let me know in the comments as I can give you a code to get it at a discounted price. Winner, winner, Hello Fresh dinner! 

Friday, 19 February 2016

This life

I swear that the last time I looked it was Sunday, and now all of a sudden it's Friday and I have no idea how I've got here so fast. Where did five days go? Time just seems to be disappearing at the moment, swallowed up by all kinds of things and stuff, which seems like a good time for a work/life update. 

Starting with work, because as always there is some good and some bad, well not bad, just not so good would be more accurate. The good is that I am still very much enjoying my libraryland job. There are many differences between academic and public libraries, one of the most obvious being that when people use a public library it is generally for the pleasure of reading and not because they really need that reservation that 75 other people are also waiting for. When you pass on that kind of information in a public library you're more often met with a wry chuckle, a shrug of the shoulders, and a 'oh well I'll just wait my turn' type of comment, which is so much nicer than someone bursting into tears on you and running off to the toilets to have a nervous breakdown. The stress levels are much reduced which is a most pleasant change. And shelving is an absolute delight - I have a massive pile of books on my bedside table now as I just can't resist taking that one...oh and that's been on my list for ages...and look, that recipe book looks like it will be full of tasty delights...if books were dangerous I'd be in serious trouble right about now...

With good however, always seems to come bad. The bad in this instance is that we didn't get the funding for the project I have been working on these past few months. The day we found out that news was pretty glum all round. All my plans of working the two part time jobs side by side were chucked out of the window by one measly letter. Ho hum, such is the life of fund-raising. I have a few hours left on my contract, and with that I've been able to do some really brilliant stuff like visiting a social group for blind and visually impaired people and chatting to them about what we do; and today I helped to run an art class for people with visual impairment which was all kinds of inspiring and fun. To say that I will miss that job is a massive understatement - it's the first time I have ever loved my work, and it's been inspiring and humbling and a pleasure and fascinating all at the same time. I've met some wonderful people and discovered some amazing things on the journey. It's this I am choosing to take away with me, rather than dwelling on the bad. 

So in the meantime I am back to being a library assistant once again. 

Except the library service is undergoing a review so who knows what will happen?

It certainly keeps life interesting...

...and busy. I like to fill my hours in when I'm not at work meeting up with friends so there's been lots of park walks, and coffee catch-ups, and general chitty-chatty times at houses, doing things that don't cost much money. Other than that it's been family time, and Dave time, and Bob time, and dog walks, and beautiful sunrises, and theatre stuff, and just general busy-ness. Life is pretty full, but I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Monday, 15 February 2016

Use it or lose it

When I made my not a new years resolution at the beginning of the year my main purpose was to get my finances sorted out. It's not had the best start, I will admit, mainly due to a slight disagreement with the tax man over me having two part time jobs (come on, I can't be the only one with this situation in the crazy world of zero hour contracts, however I digress) and losing a big bulk of my salary to said tax man (see? He is not a nice man at all). Petty arguments aside however, one thing I decided in pursuit of financial happiness was to use up everything I already have before buying new. As luck would have it, I had quite the stash. Which might of course explain the financial unhappiness in the first place, ahem...anyway, moving swiftly on, here's my progress report so far.

The losers: I've not had to lose to many things so far - maybe two. The first one was a teeny tiny eye cream, which I tried, and my eyes started watering and feeling slightly burny which is never a good thing, so that one went straight into the bin. I think the other one had slightly gone off, it definitely felt off anyway, so that one hit the bin too. So far, all the rest are proving to be enjoyable discoveries, and there is something hugely satisfying about reaching the end of a product and feeling accomplished. Yes! Used that one right up!

Lotions and Potions: I'm still using up some of my miniature products from the Christmas beauty extravaganza. I only cracked open my first full size shower gel at the beginning of this month, so the way I'm going, I think it will be around May before I need to buy any new stuff. Especially with the current Lush one that I am using which never seems to go down - bonus. It is alarmingly bright yellow I got even more for my birthday and my Ma gave me some of her Christmas stash too. It's like an endless supply!

Makeup: I firmly believe that most makeup lasts forever. Seriously, have you ever used up an entire lipstick? It's a challenge I have yet to accomplish. I have been known to hit pan before with a face powder but my current one is yet another everlasting one, or so it seems. With the extra goodies that came in the beauty advent calendar I think it will be a long while before I have to buy anything new in this department.

Clothes: this is a bit of a tricky category as sadly things will inevitably become battered looking or break and will need to be replaced. The philosophy here is similar to the use it or lose it, or more like wear it or lose it. I've been doing a big sort out of my wardrobe and am gradually eliminating pieces that don't feel like me anymore - where I have won out is that I haven't rushed out to replace it with something shiny and new. Instead I am only allowing myself to buy clothes as and when needed.

Like socks. I needed new socks. Necessary purchase therefore allowed to buy. I also had to replace one pair of pyjama bottoms, and I treated myself to a funky jumper in the sale that cost £7. To have reached almost the end of two months and only bought those clothing items is like some kind of miracle for me. 

How am I feeling? Surprisingly chipper. I'm enjoying 'shopping my stash' as they call it on the internet, and I'm loving finding ways to wear the things I have in slightly different ways to introduce variety into my wardrobe. Don't get me wrong, it's not all plain sailing. I did some very drool-worthy moments whilst window shopping on Sunday and I can't help but sneak a few looks onto ASOS for my Style Inspo board on Pinterest, but the window shopping is where it's staying. I am super determined to make this right*, no matter what obstacles might be thrown in my way (I'm looking at you little brown booties with a hole in the sole!).

*unless I win the lottery**, in which case I'll be getting spendy, just because I can!  

**this is unlikely to happen. Not just because of the ridiculous odds, but also because I rarely remember to buy a ticket...

I might do another update in a couple of months. Just to let you know how it's all going. I might even have had to buy a shower gel by then, how rude!

Friday, 12 February 2016

Honest Food

Anyone else do that thing where you make a really good effort when you go to work to take some proper wholesome food, a good lunch, and then you work from home and all good intentions go out the window? Just me? I'm so organised when I'm at work - I set out my lunch and snacks ready to pick up the next morning and I'm good to go. I just can't seem to make the same thing happen at home. So much easier to just have a bagel. And maybe a banana. Oh and those fig roll biscuits are just perfect with that 7th cup of tea in the last hour...

I started thinking about this after I saw a blogger share her honest food diary for the week. Her honesty was like my best version of food eating. Three square meals and a couple of beers thrown in for good measure. I mainly wanted to ask how honest was honest. Did she really share all her snacks? If so, hats off to you m'lady, you eat pretty well for a work from home person. 

I would not even dare share a whole food week, mainly for my own eyes as I know if I actually wrote down every single item I would be completely and utterly appalled at myself. Take today for example:

I started out with a bowl of Cheerios and a cup of tea. Followed about an hour later by that one croissant that was leftover from yesterday, and another cup of tea. 

I headed to the opticians to have my wonky glasses straightened, passed by a Greggs and made the impromptu decision to get a coffee and a cookie, cos that £2 deal is just so sweet and the oat and raisin cookie is absolutely delicious. 

Came home and took Bob out for a walk before deciding on two toasted bagels with butter for lunch. Best have that banana to get some fruit in, share 3 pieces with Bob (anyone else's dog totally love bananas?!), and another cup of tea. Oh and a big glass of elderflower juice with my vitamin C, cod liver oil, and evening primrose tablet. 

Quick chat with my ma, followed by yet another cuppa and 2 fig roll biscuits (told you).

That is my honest food diary so far. And it's only 3pm. No matter what my plans for dinner might be, you should know there'll be more biscuits, and maybe even some chocolate as I just can't seem to stop! In this instance, we can clearly see, honesty is not the best policy!

How about you? How honest could you be? Go on, make a girl feel better and share your daily eats below. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Eff and Jeff

I'm on a bit of a book roll at the moment! After the soggy fish of J.D. Robb I decided I needed something with a bit of oomph and picked up "The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k" by Sarah Knight. This book appealed to me in so many ways. I'd first seen it via a blogger I follow and was intrigued, and also kind of amused as one of my good buddies was called this very name before she got married (she's not the actual author); but mainly I liked the attitude and the sass.

I galloped through it. It's quite a short read anyway but I think I finished it in 2 days. It was funny, definitely sassy and full of attitude, but also offered some genuine advice to people who worry too much about all kinds of things. You can think you're as cool as a cucumber but I'm sure that deep down, every one of us is a bit of a nervous nelly about some thing, usually of the social convention kind. Her advice, as the title suggests, is that you need to stop giving all the f**ks, whilst remaining polite and avoiding being an arsehole, or you'll end up with no friends. Tricky? Undoubtedly. Achievable? I think so.

Since I hit my 30s, I started not giving too much of an eff and jeff what people thought of me. I wear what I want and do what I want and don't worry much about what people might say about me behind my back - their problem, not mine. In the book, Sarah Knight (still weird), made a list of the things she doesn't give a f**k about, and I'm going to do that too.

10 things I don't give a f**k about:

1. What people think of me: I apply this to all walks of my life from work to home to anywhere else I might be. If you like me, great, if you don't like me, not bothered, your loss. I'm polite to people if I don't really like them that much but I won't accept your friend request on facebook and I won't go out of my way to be your buddy, no matter how hard you try. I will also wear what I like and do what I like, it's my business, and not for you to worry about.  

2. The age difference between me and Dave: it's 18 years in case you were wondering. It reads like a lot on paper but I know that it is simply numbers and means nothing. There's only been that one time when someone called him my dad... (we still chuckle). Love me, love my man.

3. How much I weigh: I haven't weighed in single figures since I was 13. In fact the number 13 is probably about what I weigh now, give or take a few pounds either way. Some people call this fat and do the horrified face. Whatever.

4. Exercising: I will never be a gym person. Or really any kind of exercise person. I dabble in and out occasionally and I do enjoy a good stretchy exercise like yoga or throwing some hand-weights around every once in a while, but mainly I am content to be. I do two dog walks a day, work in an active job, and go build stuff at a theatre twice a week - I'm not just sat eating cake and pastry, well not all the time...

5. Size 16: that's my clothes size. I have a big arse. The labels only exist in people's heads. How I present myself and my confidence in my clothes makes me feel good. I would always buy the bigger size than try to squeeze myself into smaller clothes as that just looks bad and feels hugely uncomfortable.

6. Going to the theatre: I hate it. I know, I know, I'm in a theatre group, what's that all about? I love going there - we build stuff, we paint stuff, we use power tools, and create beautiful things. But being cramped into those tiny seats with no leg room and watching the live stuff? Not my bag at all. I'd take the cinema any day - more leg room and better sweets.

7. Bob the Dog photos: there's loads. I know. I don't care. I love the big hairy mad dog/horse he's turned out to be. I've never had a dog before and had no idea you could ever feel like this about an animal. He makes me laugh every single day, even when he's nearly crushing us with all 34.95 kilos (and counting!) of him. The loyalty and the love is quite overwhelming and he's part of the family now. If you don't like the photos just unfollow me, I'll never know.

8. Getting married: Dave and I have been together for 8 years this year. A lot of people (mainly my sister) don't understand why we just don't get married. It's me. I have no interest in the marrying thing. I don't want to be a bride, I've never wanted to wear a giant dress that you can't have a wee in, I hate being the centre of attention, and most of all? There's absolutely no need. We're very happy as we are, thanks for asking.

9. Having kids: More than once, when I've admitted this, I've had judgement to deal with. I even found out once that a group of people had been talking about my not wanting kids at a night out, like it was their problem to solve (I mean, can you even?!) I don't judge you for having them, don't judge me back by being honest about not wanting them. My choice. Your choice. Each to their own.

10. How much screen time I enjoy: sometimes Dave and I just want to crash out on the sofa, be crushed by our giant dog, and chill with our iPads. Some of my favourite things to do are via the screen, catching up on blogs for one. I love it. Maybe it's not healthy but refer to point 4 about exercising and get over it.

And there you have it, my list of f**ks that I do not give. Do you identify with any of them? Will you own up to it...? It's a cracking read if you're feeling like you need to be pleasing yourself rather than others. Read it, don't read it, right there is a f**k not to be given.  

Friday, 5 February 2016


It's kind of inevitable when you work in libraryland that at some point you will start talking about books. When I first started at my new place they asked me what I liked to read and I gave a few examples - to be honest I'll pretty much read anything. I have no bias towards one genre or another and embrace them all. Some are winners, the majority fall somewhere in the middle, and then there are the massive losers: step up J.D. Robb and the Eve Dallas series.

"Oh you have to read the Eve Dallas series - so good". This was the majority statement from most of my new work colleagues. Duly noted, I looked up the first in the series, Naked in Death, (hello, Fantastic Fiction, you rock!) and added it to my bedside reading pile.

What a load of hoo-ey old granny pants! Rubbish! Loser with a capital L. I properly took against it.

First of all, it's set in the future. Erm, what? No-one told me this in their recommendation so it was a huge surprise from the first page to find it set in a time when there are flying cars, coffee doesn't exist, and everything is controlled by machines that you speak in to when you want something to happen.

Second of all, the so-called hot romance between Dallas and Rourke is about as sexy as soggy fish. I am not a prude in any way shape or form, but the shagging scenes mainly made me feel uncomfortable. As did the swearing. So much swearing. But not really in context, almost just thrown in there to try to be edgy and all down with the kids. When you look at her other books, when she is Nora Roberts, they are all the colours of the pastel rainbow and sound a bit soppy/sappy. I don't get it at all.

The storyline was hardly page turning either. Basically the whole experience was like a soggy fish to me - unappetising and a bit stomach turning.

Lessons learned from this experience:

1. My new work colleagues like to read strange books...
2. ...and we probably don't share the same taste in books
3. J.D. Robb will not be featuring in any more of my book reading pile
4. Nor will Nora Roberts
5. Soggy fish are not sexy

Anyone else out there read this series? I'd love to know what you thought - do you stand with the fish or the libraryland peeps?

Monday, 1 February 2016


Do you have any little superstitions that you go along with at certain times or are you firmly in the camp of believing that it's a load of rubbish? I've always been somewhere in the middle, but today I'm calling it - this dress is officially my lucky dress!

Photo edited with #acolorstory
I bought it when I was a skinty-skint student and it cost £18 from Dorothy Perkins. I was doing an 'Expo' where I would be showcasing my final project work to prospective employers and we were advised to dress in 'business dress' (ugh how I hate that phrase). I'd been pretty much wearing skinny jeans and mini skirts all the time I was a student and had no clue about what might pass for the dreaded business dress, but I tried this on, I loved the cut of it, I loved the brightness, and most of all it felt like I could be myself whilst looking kinda smart. And it totally did me proud. I felt smart and confident and the Expo thing went really well. Bright patterned dress for the win!

I also wore it for my very first interview post-university. Got the job. The dress nailed it again!

I wore it almost every week the whole time I worked at that job. I'm sure my work colleagues were probably sick of the sight of it by the end of the year. I dressed it with a black cardigan, a black jacket with white cuffs, ankle boots, knee high boots, suede's a very versatile dress is this lucky dress.

Whenever I had to go to a big meeting or was feeling nervous about a day, I would rock this dress out and each and every time I made it through. You can kind of see why I started to call it my lucky dress.

Yet again, the dress came through just this last week. I was scheduled in to read a story to a school session at my new libraryland. I was feeling a little nervous about reading to 25 kiddos so I went with it. Thank god I did! Turned out I wasn't just reading a story but was running an hour long session...with no preparation...all about Spain. Thankfully I had an activity booklet that we had made up. The rest was me basically flying by the seat of my pants - thinking on my feet is a skill that I am continuously bringing to the fore these days. The session was a big success, both for the kiddos who seemed very happy with their little trip, and for me for successfully making it through and kicking ass all at the same time. Go bright patterned dress, go!

I am grateful that for the time being it seems to still be going strong. It's been washed and better washed this far down the line. And long may it live. What will I do without it?! I can't even think about will simply have to last forever!