Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Goodbye 2019!

As I look back over 2019, I have to say it’s been a pretty great year. Sure, I’ve had some hard times and challenges to overcome, but with the help of my loved ones I’ve beaten them all. My year has been pretty full, and I’ve got lots of fond memories to look back on…

Mike and I brought our first house together and moved in late December 2018. This meant that the start of 2019 was spent decorating, buying furniture and turning our new house into a home. Having sold Mike’s flat which was getting too small for us, and mine which was bigger but in a terrible area it’s been lovely to just enjoy being at home in our own space. We have plenty of room, and the area is nice and quiet.

February marked Mike’s birthday, in which we threw a surprise get together for him, which he loved – even if he is a massive pain to plan a surprise for! My friend Katie was a great help with decorating our garage (which we’ve converted into a bar) even if she did get accidently locked in and have to hide in the dark for 45 minutes by herself..

It was lovely to see his surprise at the amount of his friends I managed to sneak into the garage without him noticing, and we all had a great night out together.

March was pretty exciting as it’s the month we started to plan our wedding or 2020. We managed to find a venue we love and get it secured for June. As we are getting married in America this meant our friends and family have had plenty of time to save pennies for our big trip together. Although I still need to get my wedding dress.... eek!

In April I took my friend Katie to the Norwich Vegan and Yoga festival as a present for her birthday. We’d been getting into Yoga together, and being Vegan she has the constant struggle of label checking when it comes to food. We had a great day out, managed to get spaces on a couple of yoga classes and ate tonnes of food. I got to try vegan burgers, hot dogs, curries, hot drinks and lots of cake – all of which were great! More importantly it was lovely to spend some quality time together.

Now that we only lived up the road from each other, and right next to a woodland at that, Katie and I also started going on little walks together in late April / early May. We’ve managed to keep it up to a semi-regular thing, and I’ve really enjoyed getting out for fresh air. We’ve discovered a lot of things by accident on our walks, such as a little pond, horses, and we even stumbled across Urban Jungle on our travels.  

My birthday was in July, and Mike and my friends planned a surprise trip away to Lincoln. It was a great weekend away, and we all had a great time in Bierkella. Even if my friend Josh did screw me over by telling the band it was my birthday, which resulted in me being dragged up in front of everyone in the bar, and made to down my drink – which was a full pint of horrible cocktail! At least I managed to finish it and didn't embarrass myself too much..

As a present for my birthday my friends all clubbed together to pay for me to take my CBT. It was the height of the warm weather, so not ideal to be wearing a helmet all day. Even so, I passed, and my younger brother has even given me his old 125cc Honda to use until I take my full test and can get my own. I’ll admit, going out solo on a motorbike for the first time ever was kind of scary, but I’m really looking forward to the summer when I can get back on it again. Although the poor thing does still need a fair bit doing to it I did at least manage to get it mechanically sound before tucking it away for the winter.

We had great weather through the summer, and Mike and I had a very well timed week off together to spend enjoying the sunshine. Many BBQs were had and the paddling pool my friend and I got on a whim went down a treat and was probably the best purchase I made all summer!   

During the summer Mike and I travelled to Redding to become god parents to the beautiful Kara. It felt kind of scary to be honest, even at 28 I still don’t really feel like a proper ‘grown up’ so it felt a little weird to be doing something that felt so adult.

At the very end of summer we decided to soak up the last of the good weather by going on a camping trip together. We didn’t want a campsite with the regular amenities so we managed to get permission to stay in a woodland owned by our friends boss. We built a fire which we used to cook our food and keep us warm through the evening while we chatted away.

Mike’s nephew turned 18 this year so he came to stay with us for a weekend so we could take him out and about in Norwich. He lives in a fairly small town in Essex, so he was thrilled to see what the City of Norwich had to offer. A lot of the bars and clubs in our city are situated in more or less the same place so it made it really easy to move from one place to the other in a bit of a pub crawl. He had a great time, even if he did feel a little delicate the next day. At least he has the young person trait of hangovers only lasting a few hours… I wish I could say the same for myself!

I had a pretty busy October and got to do many things I’ve wanted to for a while but not got to. Me and the girls went to a pumpkin patch to pick out our perfect pumpkins (which took a lot longer than we thought it would) and we also all went to PrimeEvil together. I’ve been wanting to go for years but for one reason or another just haven’t managed it. It was wonderful to be able to go this year, even if most of us don’t scare very easily, which makes us not all that fun to chase. Other than Fran who was scared of everything, I even had to hold her hand through one of the attractions.  

Going to a pumpkin patch meant I had far more choice on the pumpkin front, so I got to be a little creative and make a floral arrangement to decorate my living room, and even managed to save the innards for pumpkin soup, which I’m excited to make again next year.

Toward the end of October I started my new job, which so far I’m loving. It’s similar to my old role, although I’m being given far more freedom and being allowed to run most of my client account. It’s been nice to get everything in order, and have total control of my work flow. It’s going well and after some hard graft I’ve now got myself almost a month ahead of where I need to be. This is probably one of the best things I’ve done all year, and it’s been wonderful to have a fresh start in a lovely company with a really people focused approach.   

In November Mike had a load of school friends come visit us. He hasn’t seen most of them in about 15 years, so it was great to meet people from his childhood. One of them is even a minor celebratory now, Ben, who holds the title for Wales strongest man. Being me, naturally I challenged him to an arm wrestle. Although it should come as no surprise that I didn’t when, even when I used two hands.

Lastly is December which was a pretty relaxed month. I was determined not to let Christmas be in any way stressful. We had a fair few Christmas parties, but our main focus was to recharge after a long and tiring year. Christmas day was perfect.

I spent the day in my new dressing gown, which was one of my wonderful Christmas gifts, Mike and I played games together and eventually cooked a Christmas dinner together.

It’s been a pretty packed year, but I can’t wait for 2020. It’s the year Mike and I finally get married, and I’m sure there are many more exciting things in store for us. I’ve ended this year feeling positive and I want to carry those feel-good vibes with me into 2020 and beyond.


Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Some tips for self-care at Christmas

There is no doubt that self-care is important all through the year, but with the hectic nature of Christmas it’s ever so crucial at the moment. Looking after ourselves first tends to go on the back burner anyway, but around Christmas you have so many more obligations thrown at you that it’s easy to forget about yourself.

You can’t pour from an empty cup, so it’s important you remember to try and maintain at least a little balance over the festive period. Here’s just a few things you can do to take care of yourself this Christmas.

Banish guilt
You know that guilt you feel when you eat a little too much chocolate? Or let loose with a massive meal full of naughty food? There is no place for it at Christmas. There is absolute nothing wrong with treating yourself to ‘cheat meals’ every now and then, but even more so over the Christmas break. Indulge yourself without feeling guilty, you’ll enjoy it so much more.

Move a little
You don’t need to spend hours in the gym over the holiday period burning off your Christmas dinner, but a little stroll outside in the fresh air will make you feel so much better. Both physically and mentally. That said if you do want to use t time off work to get a head start on the gym good for you! 

Stay hydrated
With the holidays comes a lot of eating and drinking, but remember to keep yourself topped up on water too. For a start it’ll help reduce potential hangovers, but it’ll also make you feel better. Dehydration causes headaches, dry skin and all in all won’t leave you feeling great. Sadly wine doesn’t help with hydration so make sure you drink something that does.

Say no
This time of year brings many social obligations. Whilst it’s understandable (and flattering) that family and friends want to see you, that doesn’t need to be at the expense of yourself. 
The end of the year is the idea time to get yourself rested and recharged for 2020, and you can’t do that if you are travelling all over the place because you feel you have to. 

Take breaks from social media 
Regular breaks from social media can be beneficial at any point in the year, but especially at Christmas. It’s true that social media is a highlight reel, and it can make us feel as though our lives aren’t as great as what we are seeing. Social media hides the negative and doesn’t give a true reflection of someone’s life, so it’s good to disengage and spend some time in the ‘real’ world. 

Plus, there’s nothing worse than spending time with people for them to sit in their phone. It’s rude, and makes spending time together a little pointless. Put the phone away, and enjoy yours time with your loved ones.

What are you doing to look after yourself this Christmas?

Friday, 13 December 2019

Removing the stress | Prepping for Christmas

Christmas can be stressful. Despite it coming at the same time each year it still seems to manage to sneak up on us. You think you’ve got plenty of time to get everything sorted and then BAM it’s here, and you have a mad last minute rush to get the rest of your gifts purchased and wrapped. 

Sound familiar? It’s a problem a lot of us face year after year, myself included. This year is slightly different as my friends and I aren’t doing Christmas presents for each other, to save for us all to go to America. This gives the perfect opportunity for me to start laying the foundations to ensure that a stressful Christmas is a thing of the past.

I’m gonna get this one out of the way because it’s something that people have split views on. Some think it’s perfectly acceptable and others don't. Personally I feel that you should be grateful that someone went to the effort to get something for you, but if all you are going to do is put it in a draw never to be seen again, or throw it away on the sly, then it's a bit of a waste. 

Especially if you have a friend or loved one who would really love that gift. Rather than throwing things away, or leaving them to be forgotten about why not keep them back to be used as a future present to someone who would get far more joy out of it than you did?

Present box
Something that I used to do in the past was maintain a present box. It was a place that I would store various gifts and generic cards for future use. On the occasion that you've forgotten a birthday, or need a present last minute you can dive into your present box and (hopefully) find something suitable to use. 

It's not something I've kept up with for a little while now, but when I did it worked really well. Going forward I'll be bringing back the present box to get a good stock of gifts together and help reduce the stress in the lead up to Christmas. All being well, it should come in handy at other times of the year too.

Take advantage of the sales
Everyone loves a good sale, but you can make it really work for you, especially if you are looking to implement a present box like I just mentioned. When it comes to generic presents (or even something that you know a certain someone will love) you can stock up in the January sales and save them to be used through the following year, as well as the next Christmas. 

I know it may seem silly to some to essentially start present shopping a year in advance, but why the hell not? Why pay full price for something that you don't need to?

The year before
The second Christmas is over everything relating to it drops in price. This is the perfect time to buy cards, wrapping paper and even Christmas decorations. Last year I got a pack of Christmas cards for 20p, which would have cost me a couple of quid had I got them before Christmas. 

Plus by doing this you have the added benefit that your wrapping paper and cards are from the previous season, and so it won't be everywhere. 

Don't do presents 
I mentioned before that my close friends and I aren't doing presents in favor of saving the money for our trip next year. That doesn't mean that we are going to let Christmas come and go like it never happened though, we've decided to go for something slightly different.

We all agreed that spending time with each other and enjoying each others company was far more important than any present that could possibly be unwrapped. So instead of physical gifts we decided to each put a small amount of money into a pot, and use that pot to get food and various drinks for a Christmas get together. We'll have an entire evening of Christmas songs and spending time together, which to me is far more in the spirit of Christmas. 

What are your tips for a stress free Christmas?

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Another book review | Matt Shaw | Buried

Book reviews were not something I thought I'd ever branch into. I made an exception for The Nightmares Truth and Graveyard City partly because the author is an old friend, but also because I loved. However, I found that I really enjoyed writing about them, you guys seemed to like them, and it motivated to to start reading more which is something I've been trying to do.

It’s not really the time of year for horror - but I love all year round, so that’s what I ended up reading! Part of my monthly goals has been to read more, and my latest read was Buried, by a writer called Matt Shaw. Whilst there is a large element of horror  this is more on the side of suspense and mystery, and a little bit psychological too.

The day after his 21st birthday, the main protagonist, Todd wakes to find himself trapped in a box. With nothing but broken memories Todd tries desperately to piece together what happened, who buried him and why. All while trying to combat claustrophobia and increasing doubts that anyone is coming to rescue him.

Written totally from Todd's perspective multiple memories are thrown at you, some good, some bad, many are slightly jumbled, but all become clearer as you read on. The jumbled nature of the memories is clearly an intentional aspect, and helps to portray the panic and confusion that would clearly be present if anyone were in the same situation!

A million different thoughts and emotions pass through Todd's mind, his parents are rich, so will they pay the ransom? Is there even a ransom? He perceives himself as the least favorite child, falling second to his sister, so worries that they won't. There is a blurred line between his present situation and his memories and they intermingle quite a lot.

The story has a fast pace, and doesn't get stagnant - which I'd worried it might, as its literally set in a box! I won't spoil it, but the end absolutely blew me away. It wasn't something I'd even remotely seen coming, and yet with the build up and context behind it also made perfect sense.

I was totally sucked in with this book, and whilst I didn't read it in a single sitting, you certainly could if you had the time. If you are looking for a short psychological horror I'd recommend giving this one a read.

Do you have any suggestions for my next read? 

Thursday, 5 December 2019

December Goals 2019

Can you believe December is finally here!? It’s the last month of a year that’s absolutely flown by. It’s strange to think that this is my last set of goals for this year… last month was pretty productive, so I’m pleased with how I did in my November Goals;
Check in
In previous months I’ve done a great job at setting goals for myself and then totally forgetting about them. Then finding it was pot luck as to whether I achieved them or not. In November I wanted to make sure I checked in every now and then to see how things were going – and I managed it, which has probably helped with the progress with the rest of my goals this month.
Skincare routine
I am pleased to confirm that I didn’t go to bed with my make up on all month! I’ve managed to get myself back into my regular routine, which has really helped my skin.
Make time for masks
Another success! I managed to get in time for a mask at least once a week, sometimes two. With the cold weather my skin has really needed it as somehow it manages to be oily and dry at the same time… that extra little bit of care has been great to keep it as it should be.
Drink more water
I did this for all of about two days… and then toward the end of the month picked it up again by drinking a glass of water each morning before I left for work. So, I kind of did it, but not really.
I managed this once or twice, but that was about it. I’m constantly using my hands, so I find that my nails chip really quickly. I think I either need to invest in a much better nail polish, or maybe some stick on nails? 
More Candles
My little collection of Christmas scented candles is slowly growing... this one was a win!
Keep up the reading
I’ve managed to keep up with this one too! I have several books downloaded onto my kindle, and there are a few that I’m alternating between depending on my mood.
Catch up with Maria
I got to spend the entire day with Maria and her beautiful dog Otto! We sat around, chatted for hours, made bread to have with lunch, went out on a walk and chatted some more. I love catching up with her, and she always helps me get things in perspective. 
Be more positive
Another win! Since changing jobs I’ve been so much happier. I’ve felt far more myself, and got back into my regular hobbies. 
Now that I’ve talked about last month, let’s have a look at what I have in mind for the rest of December...

Do some craft
I really enjoy doing creative little craft projects, and really enjoyed doing the floral arrangement I did back at Halloween. I want to do something similar this month for Christmas.

Drink more water
I didn’t really do very well last month, so I’m going to carry it over for December. 

Drink less caffeine 
I get through a LOT of coffee in a day, and it pretty sure it’s a contributing factor to me not getting to sleep easily. My aim is to switch to decaf in the afternoons... or water I guess!

Get some decorations up
I haven’t put a single Christmas decoration up yet... not one. This is something I need to fix, or Christmas will have come and gone!!

Finish Christmas shopping
My friends and I aren’t doing Christmas presents this year, because we are all going away to America next year and are saving money. I do have family who I need to shop for though, and I want to get it all brought and wrapped within the next week or so... luckily I have some time off coming up!

Get a new planner
I love my planner. I rely on it quite heavily so I need to make sure I have one for 2020, otherwise I’ll be all over the place! 

Get a new credit card
As soon as I’m out of the interest free period I tend to change credit card. With us going to the states next year I’ll need one, so it makes sense to get one that won’t pile interest of top of things like our car hire. 

Get back in the gym
It’s not even been down to a lack of energy or motivation, life has just been busy and I’ve not gone a lot. I treated myself to some new gym gear in the Black Friday sales so hopefully that’ll help me get my arse in the gym. Especially with Christmas coming up... I plan to do a lot of eating, so I have a lot to burn off!! 

That’s my little round up of goals for the coming month. As before, it’s nothing majorly complicated or difficult, so should hopefully be fairly achievable.

Do you have any goals for December? What are they? 

Monday, 2 December 2019

November Lookback

I know I'm probably starting to sound like a broken record, but time is going by so fast! In fact, it won't be long until the year is over which is kind of scary. I also know this post is slightly late... I’d had intended to type everything up on and post on Sunday, but spent the day with a raging hangover instead... so, sorry it’s late! 


There’s been a fair bit going on this month, the biggest thing to note being that I changed job, which has had a massive impact on me in a positive way.  I talk a little more in depth over on a dedicated post. The summary is that I’m much happier, to the point that I actually look forward to going to work again.

With the new job came a pay rise, so I got to treat myself just a little bit in the Black Friday sales. I mainly stayed sensible and topped up on things I use daily, but I did treat myself to some other bits and pieces too, such as new gym leggings and some new make up bits.
Being happier at work has had a positive impact on my personal life too. I’m not feeling any where near as drained and I have the energy and motivation to get out and about. From collecting little slices of wood from my friends fire wood stock for a craft project later in the month, to going to see Frozen 2 (which was awesome by the way) to having nights out with friends.

The blog is also doing pretty well too. I’ve started to become a little more active on social media and it’s been great for getting more traffic and comments to my blog. In fact I’ve had more traffic this month than in the previous 3, so whatever I’m doing it seems to be working! 
All in all it’s been a pretty positive month. I’ve got plenty of time booked off throughout December, so I’ll get a lovely long rest before we launch into the New Year.
How was your November? 
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