Friday, 31 March 2017

March favourites

I'm taking comfort in company that a lot of people feel like 2017 is flying by! A friend recently told me that someone had informed them of how many days it is until Christmas *splutters* I mean, what?! 

It's the end of another month which means it's time for what's been floating my boat for the last four weeks. Take it away...

I have to start with long weekends. Even though it was only a few days ago, that glorious, four day weekend was exactly what was needed. It was relaxing, we spent loads of time together, no-one had to go away, there wasn't any work to be done - the only requirement was to just be, and it was, quite simply, wonderful! I'm happy to report that the chance to do the same again is coming up very soon as Easter falls in April...come on, you long weekends! Woop! 

Next up, let's talk books. Specifically books by Emily St. John Mandel. So far, I've only read two (Station Eleven and Last Night in Montreal) but I have absolutely loved both of them. Montreal particularly has been an absolute delight. As we all definitely know by now, I'm not too good at the whole book review thing, but I would describe her writing as wistful with a side of melancholy. Which is actually my perfect book. There's additional love as the books have very simple white covers with a small illustration on them - also my perfect kind of book. I have no idea why I am so drawn to white book covers, but I can spot them a mile away in a book shop/library and inevitably found myself drawn to them even though I might have heard/read nothing about them before. Interesting fact: Barack Obama follows her on I'm assuming he must be a fan too...clearly a man of taste. I would absolutely recommend picking one up to try, and if you're going to start somewhere I'd start with Last Night in Montreal - part mystery, part melancholy, I have loved every single page. 

This is Us. Yep, it was my favourite last month and it's still my favourite for this month. Every episode I watch both delights and breaks me all at the same time and I have no idea what I'm going to do when it's over...although I recently started following Mandy Moore on Instagram, as you do, and there was mention about a second series so *heart sings* there's that...if I didn't convince you last month, there's still time for you to play catch up. Pack some tissues though, you will definitely need them! 

Spring is springing up all over the place and all around my garden and I am absolutely thrilled! Bursts of yellow, purple, pinks, and green shoots and leaves, oh it makes me so happy! I'm sure it's been helped along by glorious blue skies and sunshine days. The weather is definitely making me feel so much brighter and lighter and like yep, I've totally got this! 

See you next month! April = Easter, so it's likely that chocolate will feature somewhere in there. Have a great month! 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Weekend status: still not over!

I'm declaring it: four day weekends are officially the best! THE BEST! There's something extra specially wonderful about finishing work for the week on a Thursday and then it rolls round to Sunday and you've still got one day off - ahhhh bliss. We certainly couldn't have timed it better either. Someone has very definitely switched the Spring clock to on and it's been blue skies and glorious sunshine every single day. The clocks have also moved that hour forward which means longer evenings too - double bonus! 

So what's made the weekend so lush then? Well, lots of not having to get up with the alarm is always a winner. We've also been outside for pretty much most of it - it was even warm enough to eat our lunch outside yesterday - yasssss! Roll on BBQ season, I can almost sniff your smoke charred wonderfulness! We've been to new places, bought new plants, started all the exciting plans for the garden, strolled around markets and bought yummy bread and tasty cheese, caught up with both sets of parental units and taken flowers and pretty biscuit gifts for Mother's Day today...the best thing is, it's 4pm, it's still beautiful sunshine outside and we don't have to think about alarms tomorrow. Oh happy day, oh happy shiny day. 

Highlights definitely include the discovery of Fairy Dell - a really rather delightful woodland/lake/stream combo that has potential to be up there for my new favourite outdoor place. We strolled around, the dog charged around as he does, threw himself into the pond and then into the stream, and basically all had the loveliest Friday morning in quite a long while. 

I've also really enjoyed having a chance to 'catch up'. This is probably going to sound really lame, but catching up with housework and jobs that I've been meaning to get around to for ages and never quite had the's ever so boring adulting stuff but it feels fab to have actually got around to those things! One step at a time, you never know, by Christmas we should be almost caught up...ha! 

And that's that. There's still plenty of evening for some more weekend enjoyment and then who knows what we'll do tomorrow. There are no plans, the day is wide open, let's just see where it takes us! 

Friday, 24 March 2017

Soggy hair

Curly haired friends: I want to share a new discovery with you today! I think the official term is 'plopping' but that sounds way too much like bodily functions for my liking so I'm going with 'the soggy hair trick'. 

So if your curls are anything like mine, they're tricky to control and require a careful balance of products, not too much drying and staying far away from brushes. Like 20+ years away from brushes - I kid you not, I think it was 1997 when I last brushed my hair. However I digress. 

Until very recently I used to wash my hair and then fling it up in a towel, wrapped turban style, walk around with it for a bit, eat my breakfast, take the towel down and then add the products etc. The end result was a massive amount of frizz and none too brilliant curls. My new magical technique is amazing and my curls have truly never looked better! Here's what you need to be doing:

1. wash hair and rinse out shampoo, conditioner, whatever else you use
2. squeeze your hair very gently to get rid of the excess water BUT keep it on the soggy side
3. take both ends of your towel and gently push together around the bottom part of your hair to take out more water, but once again the aim here is to keep it pretty soggy/wet but not dripping all over the place
4. add in products and then leave to air dry
5. the end result is magical, bouncy curls! 

Honestly, it's changed my life! 

I'm pretty lucky as I only need to wash my hair once a week, maybe twice if I've used any hairspray, so heading out to work with still wet hair is not such a big deal to me. I haven't tried to dry it with a diffuser but maybe the soggy hair technique will still work, even with a hairdryer? If you try it out let me know in the comments! 

As if you ever needed an excuse not to slave over a hairdryer! You're welcome! 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Lessons from a bad photograph

I learned pretty early on that when you have big, mad hair and a large head to go with it, there's not much point getting upset about how you look in photographs. Your hair is invariably going to be bigger and messier than everyone else's and if you're standing next to a person with a normal sized head, your's will look pretty massive. Tis just the way of life. Accept, move on, learn to embrace both of those things as being totally you and get on with it. 

That philosophy was all going really well until last night. I am quick to add at this point that I am in no way assigning blame to the person who shared this photograph, but my reaction really took me by surprise. Mainly because I was upset. Like properly upset. I looked at that photograph and felt enormous in comparison to everyone else. I fat-shamed myself, which made me feel even worse. 

Let me tell you a bit more. Throughout all of my 40-something years I have learned to accept (and most importantly, love!) how I look to the point where 99% of the time I reckon I look pretty kick-ass and I have the sass to go with that attitude. I will freely admit to strutting about in front of my full length mirror and sharing a photo to my social media feeds when I am really feeling my outfit of the day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with some good, solid self-love. I totally own my double chin and size 16 body, the hair that is generally out of control and the style I have chosen along the way. Until life throws you that curveball...

The particular night in question I thought I looked pretty good. I was wearing a fake leather mini skirt, a floaty blue blouse with ruffle cuffs and I'd made my hair extra specially large because that is what I do. Turns out, when you put that next to some gorgeous friends who are all thinner with smaller heads and shinier hair, and you trust a photographer from the bar to take a photo, you're kind of putting your feelings into someone else's hands. This is most definitely why selfies have become so popular in my humble opinion! 

Let's talk about the feelings. Feeling fat is a pretty crappy way to feel. I completely, 100% admit that I could do with losing some weight and doing more exercise, but when it's staring you right in the eyes it is very definitely jarring to say the least. As it happens (and there's a very distinct possibility that it has led to this reaction), Dave and I are currently at the very beginning of a 4 week healthier eating plan. We had both admitted that it was time to take control once and for all and made a pact to work on it together, and then the photo happened. 

A day has passed now and I'm starting to get a little bit of perspective, although it still makes me cringe when I see the photograph. I'm day 4 into the healthier eating plan and I'm feeling positive...and hungry, but that's because it's nearly tea-time. It's not about losing a massive amount of weight or suddenly going to the gym every night; it's about being a better me, for health and wellbeing.

All of that being said, I think it will be a while before I'm happy to smile for any more photographs on nights out. I think the biggest thing that has shaken me the most is how crap it made me feel about myself. I don't enjoy that feeling, it's not kick-ass or sassy, it's mainly sad, and not at all me. 

Life can be so weird sometimes...

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Coat of dreams *heart eyes emoji*

It's reached that really funny time of year when it becomes almost impossible to know what to wear. Sometimes it's still super chilly and I need the scarf and the big winter coat, but on other days it's mild and sunny and the winter coat is too big and heavy and by the time I get to where I'm going I just want to tear it off my back and fling it on the floor! Drama queen moment aside, changing weather is tricky. 

So I've been looking for the perfect coat/jacket/outer layer. Not too hot, not too cold, just like Goldilock's porridge - just right. I fleetingly decided that I would have a go at French chic and try a mac. Yep, nice try Claire. I basically ended up looking like some kind of detective parody in the much too formal black mac. Return to sender. 

I also tried a shorter, mac-like jacket/swing coat hybrid. Even though I liked the idea of it on the hanger it just felt really frumpy when I tried it on. It was a weird length and it deffo looked like I was trying too hard. Return to hanger. 

Today, I found the coat of dreams! Well, I call it a coat, it's probably another one of these hybrid thingies that I think is called a duster coat. It's light yet long. It's really lovely fabric and looks like it should be a big thick coat but in actual fact it's just the right side of perfect for these milder days. YES! And, it makes me feel all kinds of swishy. And it's grey. Which is kind of a no-brainer to be honest as I seem to have developed a real thing for grey over the last year or so. It's smart enough for work but cool enough to dress down with some shredded jeans at the weekend. I love it!

Check out those giant pockets too - I love pockets! 

Now, if only I could find those elusive trousers...

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Gardening: not just for grannies

When I was a much younger version of myself being forced to help out with the garden at my grandma's house, I was pretty sure that the whole gardening thing was sooooo boring and should strictly be left to the old forward to the present and a day of gardening fills my soul with complete happiness. Being outside in the sunshine, watching things grow, the first signs of Spring popping up all over the place - I love it! Does this make me a total granny? Very possibly, but you know what? I say pah! I say gardening can be cool too. This I know as when Gardener's World returned to the BBC this weekend, it started trending on Twitter. Yep, gardeners, trending. Need I say more? Gardening = hip. 

This year I have a whole heap of plans for the garden. It feels like this will be the year, the second in the house, when we finally put our stamp on the garden. At the moment it very much looks like the garden that belonged to the people who lived here before us, except the lawn is definitely not as lush and green looking and it might have one less fuschia bush/plant thingy as I may have chopped it all back today and sawed off the remaining branches ready to be dug up...

I want to add areas! And gravel, and a patio, and loads of pots with fabulous sunflowers! I want a big trough building where I will grow my own salad veggies and just pop out to the garden for a few lettuce leaves to go with dinner. I want to grow sweetpeas in as many locations as possible because they smell amazing and are the only pastel coloured flowers I will allow. I want to paint the benches a new colour and change the shed door from that awful dark brown to something way more interesting and pleasing to my eyes. I want more solar lights so that the whole garden is covered in coloured twinkly stars when we sit out on a summer evening and enjoy a glass of pink wine or two. I want, I want, I want so much! Watch this space to see if it actually happens...

But until it's time to start all my jobs, I'm delighting in watching the Spring bulbs burst to life - the clumps of tiny yellow daffodils, the chunky tulips that will make me smile every single day, the big hyacinths that we've never grown before so let's hope they work out okay, and the fragile crocuses with their hidden yellows. I love it all. Gardening is good for the soul, well, this soul anyway. 

Saturday, 11 March 2017

No excuses

I honestly have lost all concept of time. At work it's suddenly 4pm, on an evening it's 9.30pm and nearly time for bed, then the alarm goes off and it's time to get up to start the whole cycle all over again. I'm not even sure that the word busy even holds any meaning anymore as it seems to just be a permanent state of being. That and being tired; even the dog yawns as much as we do, like it's somehow contagious. I can't help but feel that I'm on a hamster wheel spinning round and round and it would be so nice to jump off and just be for a while...

Which we have made happen today. It's lunchtime and so far, the most taxing thing I've done is to finish the washing up from last night. Which incidentally was a brilliant Friday night and exactly what was needed - D came over, I cooked dinner, we ate all of the food - too much food - we watched Bad Moms and cackled and chuckled our way into falling asleep on the sofa. 

Do you even want to know why it's been such a mad week? I suppose the biggest things were Dave being away all week and not getting home until 2.30 in the morning from his business trip. Huge deadlines at work when we are already absolutely slammed to the wall with all the stuff that is going on. Having to deal with some tricky, 'dealing with difficult people at work' type stuff that even though you think you have a handle on, actually ends up affecting you in a bad way mentally (and yep, I totally chose to talk about that in the third person as I still need the distance from it - ongoing tricky shit, my favourite kind!). And I guess just all round challenging, adulting often sucks, life is hard sometimes and you just gotta get on with it type week. I'm definitely hoping for some improvements for next week...

I really want to get back on board with my Year in the Life. I had so many grand plans for the blog! Hopefully I'll get back on track soon...but until then I guess I just wanted to pop my head back up, hold my hands up and say hey. So hey! Hope you're all well. Hope to be back sooner than a week...

And finally I hope you all have a great weekend! Filled with fun and relaxing and laughter and all round happy, shiny times. Woop! 

Friday, 3 March 2017

Friday Find

Part book recommendation, part podcast recommendation, consider this Friday Find a bit of a mixed bag. I first came across Emma Gannon via someone's Instagram - I can't even remember who now. They were shouting out about her book, Ctrl Alt Delete, and it sounded kinda fun so I added it to my imaginary books to track down pile. This actually proved quite difficult as it was nowhere to be had in any library in my local authority (my first port of call always - such a librarian!) and I ended up buying it as an e-book. And I'm so glad I did as it has been a massively delightful read. 

Okay here we go. Rubbish description alert but you know the drill by now. She's 26, her whole life has been lived online, she's a massive social media nerd, blah blah blah, Claire says you should read this book! There we did it! In one sentence too *pats self on back* To add a couple more words, it's funny and sassy and has resonated with me over and over again, not because I'm 26, hell far from it, but because now that social media is my job everything that she talks about is so true! 

She also has a podcast of the same name, which I recently started listening to and am now totally hooked on. Thank god there are 61 episodes available - this means I have some way to go before I will ever catch up, and she does them weekly sooooo, podcasts for ever, YES! The people she has on her podcast are so interesting, the interview/chat/discussion - whatever you want to call it - is also funny and sassy and highly enjoyable. I've mainly veered towards the bloggers and vloggers so far, but there are loads and I'm excited to listen to more. 

I'm not ashamed to admit, I went a bit fan-girl and started following her on Twitter and Instagram too. She has a cool look, think big glasses, crazy hair and lots of clashing patterns, and (ultimate fan girl moment!) she replied to my tweet the other day! Yep, not ashamed to admit that deep down I am beyond thrilled when people like that (i.e. well-known!) actually respond - so. much. excitement! #geek 

Big thumbs up from me. 

Read the book

Listen to the podcast. 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

February Favourites

Oh February, all 28 days of you, I'm still not entirely sure how it's another new month already...but in the meantime here's a little rundown of some of my favourites from that short but oh so sweet month. 

TV: This is Us 
I finally started watching this series and instantly became hooked - oh my god, I love it! It's funny and heart-warming and sad and basically very, very good. I'm normally a bit confused when things switch from past to present, mainly because big concentration is required to keep up, but with this I don't even notice it. Love the cast, love the characters, love, love, love! If you haven't already, go and catch up on 4OD! 

Pink shoes
I have no idea what is happening right now. None at all. Me? Pink shoes? This is not a thing that has ever happened before but it's turned into a bit of a thing. First of all I bought this gorgeous pair of pink kicks, and then only a matter of days later I found myself trying on a pair of pink boots with a white sole...I know, right? They sound gross but trust me, they look all kinds of fabulous with jeans and I can't wait until it stops raining and it's safe to wear them outside. Pink shoes rule! Here's my oh so pretty kicks, yes, my feet are enormous...

Pancake Day! 
Basically the best day of the year so far! The pancake consumption started the weekend before the big Tuesday. We had to eat them for job is so hard...HA! Then on the day itself Dave and I basically ate way too many and ended up feeling a bit sick. We're so mature. This didn't stop us consuming further bad things in the form of donuts and biscuits on that very same night. What can I say? We are piggies 🐽 (pig nose emoji moment - yassss!) The pancakes and berries of dreams below are from our local tea house and were indeedy as yum-diddly-scrumptious as they look! 

February also meant a final and joyous farewell to the Cold of Doom. Can I have a yippee?!? 

The rest of the month flew by right before my eyes. I'm already worried that it's going to be Christmas in about five minutes...send help!