Wednesday, 30 April 2014

115. Lifestyle // Last of the Big Spenders

Today I'm going to talk about something that, I'm sure, is a problem a big for many people: MONEY.

I live my life from payday to payday, having to keep track of every penny that I spend, and every month - without fail - dipping into my savings and maxing out my credit card. My spendaholic ways have led to me having around £4,000 worth of debt (including the student debt that mounted up during my six month stint with the Open University) at the tender age of 21. This fact makes me feel physically sick.

So how have I got myself into such a mess?! 1) I live well beyond my means - I earn a very modest amount, working a full-time admin/sales job, yet I spend as if I'm earning double the amount, 2) I love clothes, make-up, nice food and all of life's other little (but expensive) luxuries, 3) When I don't have money, I simply find another way to buy something... by which I mean taking out a credit card (hello £1,300 of instant debt) or a store-card (oh hi Littlewood's, Argos and Dorothy Perkins...) and, therefore, in the long-run spending about 20% as much on each purchase as I would have if I'd just saved up for it, or gone without (something that I can't seem to ever do).

For the last few months, I have been paying off my store-cards in chunks; just under £200 each month and therefore my debt is much smaller than it was this time last year, which is a start. I've also not used any of them in over 3 months. Success. 

But on the other hand, my credit card is consistently maxed out and my savings never manage to last as, by the end of the month (or, in all honesty, by half way through the month...) I'm having to dip into them just to buy basics such as food, bus tickets or a cup of tea with a friend. 

I'm now in a position where I understand that I can't continue this way if I want to be able to own my own home, have a family or save up for anything as substantial as a holiday or a car and with a big career change coming up it really is time to sort my sh*t out.

I'm setting myself some rules, a budget and a new mind-set and I'm hoping that I can stick rigidly to this. I'm not saying that I'll not be able to treat myself - sure I can, I placed a £65 ASOS order yesterday and picked up a bottle of wine on the way home from work tonight, that's fine. But I need to differentiate between treats and 'everyday' purchases; wine isn't a necessity so limiting it to a bottle or two a week is okay, I don't need to pop into Superdrug on every lunch break, and I definitely don't need to spend £3 on a sandwich everyday simply because I couldn't be bothered to make one at home for a fraction of the price.

Here are my rules:

1. Credit card and store cards are not to be touched. I read a tip somewhere (sorry, I can't remember where?!) that said you should put your credit cards in a plastic container, fill it with water and then stick it in the freezer - that way, when you're tempted to whap out the plastic, you can't. Well, you can, but you'd be waiting a while - and by the time it melted, the impulse to buy would have probably passed!

2. I'm setting myself a budget for food, drinks and cigarettes (also known as: the basics) each week and I am not going over this. I stay at home about 2/3 nights a week, and with S around 4/5 nights a week therefore I only need to buy my dinner 2 times a week (if S and I split it down the middle). I've got plenty of recipes for cheap, healthy and easy meals (such as the yummy chilli that I blogged about here) and I reckon £20 (to include food for breakfast as well as pasta, bread, etc, for lunches and the odd bottle of wine or bar of chocolate as a treat) is an ample allowance per week. I'm trying to cut down on smoking so I'll limit myself to 5 cigarettes per day, or about two packs of 20 per week (£15).

3.  I'll only buy a fashion or beauty item if it's a replacement, and it's wholly necessary. I've recently stocked up on primer, foundation and powder and I have a huge selection of mascaras, eyeliners, lipsticks, nail polishes and all the rest of it in my collection, so I really don't need anything. The amount of face washes, moisturisers and body lotions that I have stored away is unreal, so in reality - the only thing that I can see myself needing to buy is a new concealer (which I can pick up for under a fiver) and deodorant and razors, when I run out. In terms of clothing, I'm saving my pennies for a big Primark haul a couple of days before S and I head off to Portugal in June, so I'll have to make do until then.

After bills, board, driving lessons and savings, I have £300 'disposable income' to play with this month. That's £75 a week, or £10 a day. Initially this sounds like a lot, but once I take out my basics (worked out to be £140 for the month) and travel (probably around £40), I'm left with £120 for any shopping and socialising that comes along... Baring in mind that it's the Bloggers Teaspoon next weekend, one of my best-friends and two of my siblings' birthdays this month, and several smaller meet-ups with friends, as well as days out with S, it's going to be tough. Really tough. But it needs to be done.

Do you think I can do it?
Do you have any tips or advice to help me?

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

114. Reading // Reconstructing Amelia

Set in Brooklyn, New York, Reconstructing Amelia is Kimberly McCreight’s debut novel  and it tells the story of Kate, a hot-shot lawyer and single mother, in her quest to find out the cause of her daughters death after Amelia is found dead, having jumped (or so we are lead to believe) from the roof of her exclusive school, Grace Hall.

After receiving an anonymous text: “Amelia didn’t jump.” head-strong Kate, a character who I really warmed to as I progressed through the novel, takes it upon herself to find out what really happened to her daughter.  

The novel is written in a number of formats, different tenses and from the point of view of the two central characters – Kate and Amelia. I really enjoyed this different perspective as it added an extra depth to the story, and provides the reader with intimate details and thoughts from the characters lives, without seeming forced or unnatural.

Kate explores Amelia’s life through her texts, emails and social media and finds out some shocking information about her daughters life that she hadn't been aware of, reiterating the posing questions on the novels front cover: do you really know whats going on inside your daughters head?
As well as the obvious drama and suspense throughout the novel, it covers a number of important topics from bullying, love, homophobia and betrayal – I really wish, despite how graphic and dark it gets, that I’d read this novel when I was at high-school as it would have taught me a few (extra) lessons. Pardon the pun.

I read a couple of reviews on my GoodReads app, after finishing the novel, that said that they didn’t warm to Amelia’s character as knowing that she was dead from the off-start made them not really want to learn more about her or get attached, but I didn’t feel like this at all – as a large proportion of the book is written in past tense you’re transported back to a time when Amelia is alive and, therefore, it doesn’t feel as though you’re reading about “a dead person,” you’re simply discovering more about the events and emotions that lead up to Amelia’s final minutes.

The ending to Amelia and Kate’s story is unexpected, emotive and honest. I found myself unable to put the book down because every page was so enchanting and (I’ve got to admit that on several occasions my curiosity almost got the better of me as I was seriously tempted to pay Google a visit and find out the ending) I’m so glad that I read this book and I’d urge anybody who loves a bit of a drama, suspense and plenty of emotion, to read it too. 

Do you think you would read this novel?
What's your favourite genre?

Sunday, 27 April 2014

113. Lifestyle // Sunday Summary

Another week has passed and the weekend is almost over *massive sigh*... I hope you've all had a great week and an even better weekend. It's time for me to share what's made me happy this week...

1. Spending a lovely evening swimming and chilling (or overheating) in the sauna.
2. Looking into new and exciting courses - post coming soon!
3. Quality time at home with my family, including a delicious Sunday roast.
4. Receiving so much wonderful feedback and support about my anxiety blog post
5. Finishing another book - review coming soon - and receiving two new ones courtesy of World Book Night.
6. Meeting S's mums gorgeous new pup, Kealey.
7. Taking a big risk and having faith that it will pay off.
8. Taking time out to think about what I enjoy and want to do with my life.
9. A chilled out weekend in the countryside with S's family.


How has your week been?
What are you grateful for?

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

112. Recipes // Speedy Chilli

If you're anything like me, the last week or so before payday is an absolute financial nightmare. Sound familiar? Despite promising I'll be sensible, track my spending and not go overboard each payday, within two weeks I'm scraping the barrel for pennies

Today's post is inspired by that feeling. All too often when we're skint we'll neglect our basic nutritional needs and instead of cooking up a dish containing veggies, carbohydrates and protein (because we all know how expensive meat is these days!) we'll opt for beans on toast or a frozen £1 pizza from Iceland, because it's cheap and cooking something more nutritious would be too expensive.

I try to avoid this as much as possible and I think I've found a quick, easy, nutritious and cheap dish that can be used for either lunch or dinner; it will go perfectly with pasta or in a salad as a packed lunch, or served with rice or even a jacket potato for your evening meal.

Ingredients (for 2)

1 x packet of Tesco's Meat Free Bolognese Mix (£1.75)
200g of Iceland sliced cooked chicken breast (£1.25 - sold as £2.50/400g)
2 x jalapeno peppers (sliced, £1 for large jar - only need 1/10)
1 tsp hot tobasco sauce
1 tbsp cajun spices
1/2 tbsp olive oil
Coriander (to serve)


1. Heat your oil and add the bag of frozen meat free bolognese mix
2. When the bolognese mix has melted slightly, add the sliced chicken
3. Stir in the spices, jalapenos and tobasco sauce
4. Continue to stir on a low heat for 5-10 minutes
5. Serve with your side-dish of choice, sprinkle with coriander if desired.

If you're a veggie, simply leave out the chicken and you could enjoy this spicy dish too. 

As you can see, so long as you already had the spices and 'cupboard essentials' such as oil, this dish could cost you as little as £1.75 each (CHEAPER THAN A GREGGS SANDWICH!) if served with rice.

Are you going to try this recipe? 
Do you have any cheap and easy, healthy recipes?

Monday, 21 April 2014

111. The Anxiety Diaries - My Relationship with Anxiety

Today's post is somewhat more personal than usual, but it's something that I've been wanting needing to share for a long time, I just couldn't quite think of the words. 

For the last 5 years, or perhaps even longer, I've struggled with anxiety and - as I know that anxiety affects so many of us, especially in the blogging community - I wanted to share my experience with you lovely readers to help raise awareness and, potentially, help someone out there (even if it ends up just helping me, by expressing myself, surely that still counts?)

Anxiety is feeling nervous, worrying and/or panicking; it can affect your sleep, concentration and - in the long run - your whole life can suffer as a result. Although everybody suffers from anxiety from time to time, in some people it can be more extreme, affecting certain people each day and, on occasions, resulting in panic attacks.

Although I've only suffered from a handful of panic attacks in my lifetime, anxiety is something that affects me almost every day. For me, anxiety can be defined as an overwhelming fear and intense feelings of panic. A lot of the time I can't work out why I'm anxious or what's triggered it but, some recurring causes are arguments, where I'm left feeling vulnerable and upset, and social situations.

Anxiety is at it's worst for me when I'm faced with a social situation; this can be anything from going to a party with new people, meeting a close friend for coffee somewhere familiar or joining a new a club or course. I begin to worry that people won't like me, that I'm boring, that the other person doesn't really want to come... and then, boom, I've locked myself away in 'anxiety-land' where nobody can do anything to coax me out of it.

On days where my anxiety is at it's worst, I feel it coming on the night before - I'll be having a normal night; watching tele, cooking with Shane, texting, whatever, and then I begin to think about tomorrow, or the day after, or the week after, and gradually I shut myself down until it becomes obvious that none of the plans I've made are going to happen: because I won't let them. By the time the next morning rolls around, I'm bed or, at least, house-bound and unable to do anything.

I've lost so, so many friends as a result of my anxiety. Mainly because people don't understand - or rather that I don't want to tell people - about anxiety; when I text someone cancelling our plans for that day, week or month, it's met with 'oh that's okay, don't worry about it' until it starts to happen every time and then, after a while, people stop making plans with you because they know that they'll never actually happen. They think that I'm just unreliable, or that I can't be bothered, or that I've found something better to do... when, in reality, I feel as if I'm living in some sort of sh*t bubble where I so desperately want to go ahead with our plans for meeting for a coffee, catching a film or heading out for drinks, but only if it involves not leaving the house, not having to speak to anyone and nobody seeing me.

My relationship with Shane has been put under a lot of strain through my disorder too. Along with my anxiety comes paranoia too. If he goes to the pub, I convince myself he'll meet somebody else within 5 minutes and leave me... If he doesn't answer his phone, I think there's been a terrible accident... I'm not as bad with this as I used to be at the beginning of our relationship and I think that's because we've built up trust and I now feel secure in our relationship, but it doesn't mean that these illogical and irrational thoughts don't happen anymore - of course they do. I'm just more aware of them now which helps me to control them.

I'm a planner, organiser and list-maker by nature; I always have been, and this can both help and hinder my anxiety. I'm one of those people who very rarely 'lives in the moment.' I have a one month plan, a one year plan, a five year plan, a life plan. And when even just one thing slips out of place and doesn't go the way that I had meticulously planned it to, it shakes everything up for me and I'm back to square one.

But, on the other hand, I've found that simple and manageable to-do lists can really help to ease my anxiety. If I set myself achievable goals such as 1) Tidy bedroom, 2) Buy ingredients for dinner, 3) Text Penny to catch up, etc, each day I don't feel overwhelmed by 'all this stuff that I need to get done!' and, instead, I feel a great sense of achievement when I've ticked them off.

This is a little self-help trick that I'm going to try and incorporate more into my daily life, as well as breathing techniques (such as meditation before bed each night) and reducing the levels of stress that I'm exposed to each day through work, family life, etc. Unfortunately, at the stage I'm currently at with my anxiety, I don't feel that I am in a position to give out advice on how to cope with anxiety as, despite being in a better place with it than I was a year or two ago, I'm still not 'there' yet.

I'm not sure how helpful this post has been for readers, to be honest, but it feels good for me to have got it off my chest and even if one person can read this and say 'hey, that's exactly how I feel too... at least I'm not the only one... I thought I was crazy!' then, as far as I'm concerned, that's another goal achieved and ticked off the list.

I'm always here to talk if you're going through something similar.

Do you have any advice for anxiety sufferers?
Have you found this post helpful or insightful at all?

Sunday, 20 April 2014

110. Lifestyle // Sunday Summary

I hope you've all had a wonderful week and are making the most of this sunny bank holiday weekend. It looks like summer is almost here and, personally, I can't wait

This week I'm grateful for a lot of stuff as it's been a really lovely week and I'm feeling fantastic and very hopeful for the future.

1. Standing my ground and deciding that it's time to do what I want
2. Visiting the amazing Farfield Mill - read my post about it here
3. Watching a brilliant drag show with Becca - so much fun!
4. Managing not to gain weight despite eating lots of yummy (but unhealthy) grub.
5. Getting a gorgeous Green & Black's Easter egg from Shane. 
6. Catching up with my mum again today in a sunny beer garden.
7. An extra 2 days off work (thank God for Bank Holiday weekends!)
8. Making fun plans for the future with friends. 
9. Beginning, and so far enjoying, a great new book: Reconstructing Amelia.
10. Discovering the awesome Rhett & Link's YouTube channel - their raps & songs are amazing!
11. Having a hilarious Saturday night with Shane; watching YouTube videos, drinking wine & eating takeaways.
13. Finding adorable old photos in my mums photograph collection.
14. Chip shop chips in the garden on Friday afternoon with family.

My lovely friend Becca with the fabulous Dusty Heels ladies.
If you haven't already, please check out Rhett & Link's YouTube videos. They are awesome! My personal favourites are 'I am a thoughtful guy' and 'Epic Rap Battle: Nerd vs Geek' - hilarious!
Mmm, our Easter morning consisted of eating chocolate (as well as M&S chocolate hot cross buns - just wow) in bed.
The original hipster...

Next week I've got a very personal post coming, as well as a review of a couple of products I've been trying lately, and a tasty African recipe. I hope you all have a great week and I'll see you again soon.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

109. Lifestyle // Farfield Mill, Sedbergh

I spent three wonderful days in Sedbergh, Cumbria, last weekend with my mum and sisters. My mum moved to Sedbergh, which borders the Lake District and the Western Yorkshire Dales, last year as her parents both live there and now - every time I get the chance! - I head over to see her. 

After travelling across on the Saturday afternoon, picking up my sister Fi who is home from university for the Easter break, we settled in for a tasty, home-cooked meal before a cheeky trip to the nearby Dalesman pub for a couple of drinks with family.

On the Sunday, we headed to The Bull Hotel for a meal with my grandma, aunt and uncle, before a trip to Lancaster to visit my granddad who has been very unwell recently. The evening was spent relaxing, watching television and drinking wine. 

Monday was our last day together so Mum decided that we should visit Farfield Mill, an arts and heritage centre, just a short drive from Sedbergh, England's 'Book town' (due to the numerous amount of bookshops there!) We had such a lovely time looking around all the exhibitions, so I thought I'd share some of my favourite photographs that I snapped during the day, along with some information about the artists. 

Farfield Mill is situated in a Victorian woollen mill and prides itself on being 'the leading venue for textile arts in the North West,' housing beautiful exhibitions, craft demonstrations and even a lovely cafe serving cakes, scones and hot drinks (as well as Sunday roasts where you can bring your own bottle of wine! This is definitely on my to-do list for next time I visit). 

The mill is split into four levels. The top floor features demonstrations and some beautiful pieces of art; the mill is open plan with exposed beams and lots of light. 

A sneak peek into one of the resident artists pottery workshops. Many of the artists have their own working studios within the mill. 

I loved this beautiful ceramic collection, created by Joan Hardie of Bitter Beck Pottery

These gorgeous paper cut lamps by Hannah Nunn really intrigued me. The intricate design was incredible and they were so atmospheric. 

The main exhibition running at Farfield Mill until April 21st is 'Felt through Contact' by Viltkontaktgroep, a group of Dutch feltmakers. There were some truly breath-taking pieces in the exhibition, which you can see below. 

I loved this colourful piece! It reminded me of The Woolly Pedlar's vibrant, upcycled garments.

This quirky statement piece, made from an old car tyre, really wowed my sisters and I. Such an inventive way to recycle old, 'useless' products. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Farfield Mill. There is something for everyone; whether you're interested in the art, the beautiful setting, the history of the mill or just fancy a tasty cake (we had the caramel shortbread - delicious!), I'd definitely recommend giving it a visit if you're ever lucky enough to be in the area.

Have you visited Farfield Mill?
Which of the above pieces is your favourite?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

108. Beauty // Bourjois Beauties

I'm a sucker for a bargain so when I saw that Superdrug had a special offer on Bourjois products, I couldn't resist.

Since my Sleek FaceForm palette ran out last month, I've been on the look out for a gorgeous, rose coloured blusher and Bourjois' 'Jasper Rose' blush really caught my eye. For starters, the packaging is adorable - the little pot is so cute and handy! It's got a beautiful pigment, so much so that it looks more like a blusher and a highlighter blended together. 

I find that I have to apply a fair bit - which I do with my Real Techniques blush brush, rather than the small, flat brush provided - to get my desired look, but it is also fantastic at contouring and I feel that it makes my cheekbones stand out more, without looking over the top. 

I also picked up a new powder, in the form of Bourjois' Healthy Balance in Vanilla. It claims to provide a 10 hour matte finish and a healthy glow but I have to admit, I haven't been bowled over. The packaging is lovely and the sleek design means that you can take it just about anywhere with you, but I don't think that it is suited to my skin at all.

Within a couple of hours of wearing the powder, my skin begins to look almost scale-y (y'know, like a lizard?) and my pores look huge. One thing that I've also noticed is that, by the time I get in from work, it looks so patchy and my skin can be, in parts, pale and, in others, very orange which is a look that I've managed to avoid even with the cheapest of powders, so to say I was disappointed is - unfortunately - an understatement. 

I've never been a particularly good sleeper and, since starting working for the company I'm with now, my sleep pattern has been more erratic than usual. I struggle to drop off in the evenings and find it even harder to get out of bed in the morning, so under-eye bags are somewhat of a problem for me. So when I spotted Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Eye Cream, I knew that I had to add it to my everyday make-up kit!

It's a liquid concealer which is quite thick in consistency. Unlike a lot of concealers that I've tried, it doesn't appear cakey or begin to crack after it's been on for a while; it just blends really nicely either under or over my foundation and lasts all day. 

I can honestly say that the skin beneath my eyes now looks the same colour as the rest of my face which - for me - is a success! I'd definitely recommend this concealer although I don't think it lives up to it's claim of being an 'illuminating' concealer. 

Have you tried any of these products?
Which of Bourjois' products would you recommend?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

107. Reading // Half of a Yellow Sun

I'm a big fan of charity shops for a few reasons, a) I'm constantly skint, b) it feels less materialistic to buy something when the money is going to a good cause and c) I'm always after a bargain. I find charity shops a fantastic place to scout out new (well, new to me) books and thats exactly where I found one of my most recent reads: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. 

I love history and, therefore, historically based novels are a huge point scorer for me! Although, prior to reading Half of a Yellow Sun I knew nothing of the Biafran War and, in general, very little about Nigeria's history, I was drawn in by the blurb of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's second novel.

Having never read any African literature before, I went into the novel with an open mind, wanting to learn and completely unaware of the emotions that I'd uncover during reading.

One of the novels characteristics that I really appreciated was the way in which the story is told, through the eyes of three of the main characters, rather than from just one characters point of view. The novel isn't written in first person at any point but the omniscient narrator (hello GCSE English Lit..) really helps you to understand what each character is going through, their thoughts, feelings and intentions.

The characters themselves are all so wonderfully different and, despite the narrator switching from character to character regularly, their different personalities and perspectives mean that you never feel confused or lost, or have to turn back a few pages and remind yourself of whats going on. I personally found  Ugwu, a teenage houseboy from the Nigerian bush, and the elegant, sophisticated Olanna to be my favourite characters. I found their stories compelling and true, and felt myself sucked into their world more so than I was with the 'revolutionary' Odenigbo or the oh-so-English Richard. 

There is - in my opinion, based on books I've read in the past - a fair bit of politics involved, namely as it's based on a civil war and historical events, but I don't feel that this is a negative or a reason to put the book down and not read it. The blend of politics and raw emotion make for a really gripping story, and the fact that it is based on true events makes it all the more powerful.

This month, the film version of the novel is being released in cinemas throughout the UK and, based on the trailer, I'd say it's going to be fantastic - I just hope that it doesn't stray too far from the story and stays as honest and brutal as it needs to be in order to portray the true story of the Biafran war and it's people. 

I'd strongly urge everybody and anybody to read this book. It's powerful, dramatic and incredibly emotive. I'm really looking forwards to the film and reading Chimamanda's first novel, Purple Hisbiscus.

Have you read any of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's books?
Will you be going to see the film?

Sunday, 13 April 2014

106. Lifestyle // Sunday Summary

I hope you've all had a wonderful week, enjoying the fleeting sunshine that we've been lucky enough to receive, and making the most of the Easter break. Although I don't get an Easter break as I'm not at school or university any more, I don't work Bank Holiday's so I have a couple of short weeks at work (yay!). I've also got tomorrow off work as I'm visiting family in the Lake District, so next week is just a three day week *dances to celebrate* Anyway, I digress...

This week I'm going to run through what I'm grateful for this week as I think it's a lovely idea and I've got quite a lot to be happy for this week...

1. Spending time with Becca; catching up, having a giggle & making plans
2. Watching The Grand Hotel Budapest. One word to describe it? Quirky.
3. Catching up with family that I haven't seen in a while.
4. Getting started on season four of Breaking Bad & lots of nights in, snuggled up watching it with S.
5. Spending three days in the beautiful Lake District.
6. Feeling healthier & better than I have in a long time.
7. Realising the importance of family & their health.
8. Finishing the fantastic Looking for Alaska - review coming soon!
9. Going two weeks without biting my nails!
10. Long weekends off work.
11. Delicious cocktails at The Dalesman, Sedbergh, Cumbria.
12. Incredible support from my family, friends & followers.
13. Receiving positive news from work.
14. Getting my first taste of Ugandan cuisine

What have you been up to this week?

Thursday, 10 April 2014

105. Lifestyle // Health Update No. 1

I'd like to start off by apologising for my lack of posts in the last week; sometimes life just gets in the way, you know? I have a very stressful job (woe is me, I know) and, to be honest, when I get home all I want to do is cabbage on the sofa, stick on some Breaking Bad and relax. However, I can't do this forever as I miss blogging too much!

Today is the second installement of my new Health Update series, following on from my Wake Up Call post, which I published last month. I'm trying to keep these updates fortnightly as I love to read up on other peoples progress, failures and successes, and I'd hope that people would like to do the same with me. 

It is now three weeks since I was admitted to hospital with crippling abdominal pains and suspected gallstones. After blood tests, antibiotics and painkillers, I was told that I needed to change my diet drastically. No more dairy, fatty, oily or processed foods, to cut down on smoking and drinking and - basically - to live a healthier lifestyle in order to avoid my symptoms worsening.

So what I have I changed? For the last three weeks, I've been so much more cautious about what I've been eating. I haven't denied myself anything - if I want something, I'll have a small portion - but I've cooked a lot more food from scratch, cut out tea and coffee and (apart from a few treats) alcohol, increased my fibre intake and drank a hell of a lot more water (hello 15 loo breaks a day!)

I've also become an avid user of My Fitness Pal, which is seriously amazing when you're trying to track what you eat. It's not just about calories either, which is good - it tracks your fat, carbohydrate and protein intake as well as monitoring how much cholesterol, vitamins and saturated fats, etc, you're taking in.

Over the last three weeks, I've averaged 1,750 calories per day and - on the whole - I've stuck to my recommended fat, protein and carbohydrate intake. S and I have shared a few takeaways, several bottles of red wine and even a few cheeky bars of chocolate, but I've still managed to lose 9lbs (this was my weight one week ago, so it may be even more now!) 

As it's not all about weight, it's about health, I think that it's important to mention that I generally feel much better too. I haven't got any abdominal pains, I feel far less bloated and just so much happier in myself. I've still got a long way to go and I'm, by no means, out of the woods just yet but I'm getting there...

In my next post I'll be sharing my favourite recipes from my new cookbook Skinny Weeks & Weekend Feasts by Gizzi Erskine.

Are you on a health or weight loss journey?
Do you have any tips that you'd like to share?

Thursday, 3 April 2014

104. Beauty // My Top Moisturising Products

We all have our favourite moisturising products that we swear by, whether it's for our face, body, hair, or anywhere else, and today I'm going to share mine. Admittedly there are only two but, seriously, they are miracle workers.

About a month ago, I started to get really sore, cracked skin on my elbow (gross, I know, but oh-so-common) which - I figured - was a result of sitting at a desk all day, with my elbows rubbing against my clothes as they pressed against the desk. It got really painful so I went in search of something to help. In Superdrug I stumbled across a product by a brand that I really love, making all the claims that I needed to hear, so I thought I'd give it a go.

Palmers Shea Butter Formula with Vitamin E Concentrated Cream for extra dry skin well and truly came to my rescue. It's a very thick, creamy texture which takes a while to soak in and has a really bizarre smell (to me it smells of bananas, but maybe I'm just imagining that?!) but it seriously works wonders. I noticed a difference in the space of a few days, and now my elbows are 100% dry-skin-and-pain-free. I keep a tube of it on my desk all the time, apply it once or twice a day, and would recommend it to anybody with very dry skin.

As tights and boots are a major factor in about 99.9% of my outfits, my feet are - all too often - cursed with dry, hard skin, particularly on my heels and the balls of my feet. Although this doesn't cause me any discomfort, it looks horrible and when the skin on my feet started to feel like sandpaper, I knew that I had to find a solution.

Welcome Soap and Glory's Heel Genius. Round of applause, please. This product is, literally, amazing. Every night - well, almost - I apply the creamy, fresh-smelling lotion to my feet, massage it in and slip on a pair of cotton socks before bed and during the night, the magic happens (oo-er). After only a few uses, my feet were 10x softer and smoother and now, as long as I remember to use it at least every other day, they stay that way. 

I bagged this product super cheap at a car boot sale but it's something that I'll definitely be repurchasing time and time again.

Have you tried any of these products?

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

103. Lifestyle // My Month in Movies - March

It's the start of April - SPRING, AT LAST! - so it's about time I posted My Month in Movie's for March. I didn't watch that many films last month but the ones that I did manage to watch, were some really top notch movies. Here's a lowdown of what I thought of a few of them...


Gravity received rave reviews from both critics and the general public so, although I have no (literally, none whatsoever) interest in space or science, I thought I'd best give it a watch. S and I rented it from our local video shop and settled in for the night.

I was absolutely blown away by this movie. Seriously, I couldn't look away from the screen. Not only are the graphics outstanding, the acting is brilliant and - although in some parts there's very little dialogue (as a large part of the film contains only one character, the fantastic Sandra Bullock, whose character is just so believable) - it never feels as though it's lacking anything.

There's a lot of drama, a lot of suspense and so many moments where you're wondering 'oh my god, what's going to happen?!' I don't want to spoil the film by giving away much of the story-line but, if you haven't already seen it, you really must. (9/10)

Catching Fire

I loved the first Hunger Games movie and fell, ever so slightly massively, in love with Jennifer Lawrence in her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen, so I was super excited to catch the second installment. Unfortunately, we missed it in the cinema, so when it came out on DVD we rented it at the first chance we had.

Although I haven't read the books and get kind of confused about the politics behind the districts and the actual Hunger Games themselves, I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was just the right amount of action and gore, but with so much sentiment and some really important messages on friendship, family and ethics. (7.5/10)

The Book Thief

My favourite film of March had to be The Book Thief. I'd just finished reading the book (you can read my review here) when I saw that the film was going to be released in my local cinema. As mentioned in my Sunday Summary this week, my friend Becca and I went to see it on Wednesday. She hadn't read it, but still loved it just as much - if not more! - than me.

For those of you who don't know the story, a young girl, Liesel (played by the incredibly talented Sophie Nélisse) is sent to live with foster parents in Germany during WW2. The film tells the story of her progression through her teenage years and all the tears, adventures and heartbreak that she experiences along the way.

I know that lots of people don't like to watch a film if they've already read the book but, for me, it's all part of the experience. You read it and visualise it using your own imagination, and then you sit down and watch someone else bring it to life. The film doesn't stray too far from the original story, but there are - of course - some "Hollywood moments" added in, and , unfortunately but understandably, some of the brilliant - but not crucial to the overall story - parts of the are book missed out. (9.5/10)

Apart from the above films, I also watched some other great movies; Filth which is a dark British comedy-drama (7.5/10), the ever-so-sh*t Bad Grandpa (3/10), the eery and gripping (and also starring the oh-so-beautiful Jake Gyllenhall and total DILF Hugh Jackman) Prisoners (8/10) and - at last - the cult-classic, smack-shooting Trainspotting (8/10).