Our first Christmas tree in our first home

Baubles on our First Christmas tree

I’m not one to usually get excited about Christmas.  I’ve been called a grinch, a scrooge, but it’s not that I don’t enjoy Christmas.  I just have a limit to Christmas.

I’m all for staying in from the cold, seeing family and of course eating plenty of food.  I even like a good Christmas jumper!  But I draw the line at Michael Bublé on repeat (sorry to anyone who’s a fan) and Christmas decorations before December 1st.

But despite being a reserved Christmas fan (a reserved Christmas fan?), I’ve always liked Christmas trees.  Christmas trees have never made me cringe, unlike people referring to Micheal Bublé as ‘the Boobs’.  (Sorry, I just really don’t like Bublé.)  Christmas trees make Christmas, in my opinion.  They warm my heart.  Micheal Bubleé doesn’t.

Feeling festive

David and I made our biggest purchase in our lives so far earlier this year; we bought our first home together.  With moving out into our own place, I realised we’ll be in complete control of our own Christmas decorations. But when the Christmas period began creeping up on us it made me groan somewhat… (more expense!).

Getting out first Christmas tree

We’re definitely feeling the pull on our purse strings and Christmas decorations – like a tree, baubles, tinsel, wreath and, who knows, even one of those a random reindeer ornaments and a wooden carving that spells out ‘NOEL’ – all adds up.  We haven’t even bought blinds/curtains for our living room yet, how are we going to afford Christmas decorations?!

But I was in for a bit of luck as I was gifted a Debenhams Gift Voucher (from work, what a Christmas bonus).  So David went out to buy the Christmas tree (it had to be a real one, not fake) and I shopped the website for our first Christmas tree decorations!

Christmas tree colour theme

I understand a strict colour theme for a wedding, an Instagram grid but for a Christmas tree?  No, I don’t believe in such madness – another thing I simply draw the line at, in terms of Christmas do’s and don’ts!

Silver Reindeer Christmas tree decoration
Silver glitter stag Christmas decorations from Debenhams

I prefer an assortment of decorations, with different colours and varied levels of sparkle.  (Although, admittedly I do like an overall ‘warm’ theme over a ‘cold’ one, so I went easy on the silver decorations.)  A robin is a must-have for me, too.  (I very nearly ordered a walrus bauble out of sheer enjoyment to have something completely odd on the tree as well.  But I held back – maybe next year.)

The finishing touches included a massive gold and glittery star to top off our tree (although it’s a bit wonky – does anyone ever get theirs straight?) with multi-coloured LED lights that have 8 different settings – not to be messed with.

Robin Bauble
I love this podgy robin bauble from Debenhams!

Our first Christmas tree

So after a busy day at work on Friday, the stresses soon swept away when I walked into our living room that night.  David had not only bought in the Christmas tree – but he decorated it too!  (It’s okay, I told him to do so.)

And for someone who’s not that Christmassy, I was quite pleased and excited to see it.  (So much so that I instagrammed it straight away.)

Our first Christmas tree
Gold pine cone bauble from pack of 62 Christmas set

And although I now can’t spend my Debenhams voucher on more Mac lipsticks or another Urban Decay eyeshadow palette (like I did last year) I feel a little, dare I say it, Christmas cheer.  The thought of these being our first Christmas decorations that will build up into a collection was quite a warming thought.  Now to wrap up our presents!

Have you bought any of your own Christmas decorations yet?  Which ones are your favourite?  Let me know in comments below – I still regret not buying the walrus.

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Finding out I didn’t get a place in the London Marathon (again!)

London marathon

In the past few weeks I’ve been stopping in my tracks and thinking; why, oh why did I apply for the London Marathon?

A number of reasons why I thought it was a stupid time for me to apply bubbled up in my mind whenever I was reminded of receiving the result soon.  I’ve just bought a house with my partner, meaning all of my spare money and time will be invested in that, do I even have time and money to invest in training for a marathon?  Training in those dark, cold nights will be hard.  Really hard, I thought.  Despite the fact I haven’t ran for a fair few months now, not properly, and I’ve definitely never ran anything over 10K.

And so my doubtful mind went on… and I thought, I bet this is the year I get in on a ballot entry. I could actually feel the dread growing as I visualised seeing an acceptance into the ballot letter.  “SHIT” would probably be my first reaction.  Or something stronger.

When the time came and I saw that packaged fleece and magazine near to my door, I was nervous.  It was facing down, as it always seems to be, and my heart was beating when I started to peel it over to reveal to myself either the ‘Sorry’ or ‘You’re In!’ message plastered over the magazine.  I felt very tense.

The first thing I saw was yellow.  ‘Sorry’.  A glum looking female runner.  Typical, I huffed and threw down the magazine back on the table.

Nike Womens Pegasus Running Shoes
Back in more motivating times (when I was running)

Bloody Ballot…

This year was the third year I’d applied for the London Marathon, and the third year I’d failed to get in.  In previous years I hyped myself up with ideas of vlogging my marathon progress, seeing myself going out on long scenic runs in the countryside and racking up the miles on the Nike Running app.

Although I felt this year didn’t feel like a good time, I thought I’d feel relief if I saw that ‘Sorry’ magazine again.  I was wrong, what I actually felt was the same as I did the previous two years when I saw that five lettered word; determination.

London marathon fleece and magazine

Applying for the London Marathon (again)

I’m determined to apply for the London Marathon once again again (when the ballot opens next year).  My determinations was/is mixed in with the images of me training, talking about training, researching about training, buying a whole new running wardrobe, figuring out which foods to eat, when to run, where to run.  But most of all, seeing images flash into my mind of marathon day, feeling like I’m bricking it before starting the race, the tears I might cry when I felt I couldn’t go on, to the visualisation of running that last mile with Buckingham Palace in my sights.

Because that’s really why I apply for the London Marathon, not because I’m fanatical about running – I’m not a great runner!  I hated it in school and I’ve only really taken it up in the past 3/4 years.  But there’s something about the London marathon which would feel like a great achievement I’d want to complete in my life, even if it’s just once.  Why London?  I’m British and it’s my capital, I’ve also lived within it and loved it dearly (and still do).  And it’s supposed to be the best.

So well done to all the lucky ballot entrants who got themselves a place.  I hope you laugh, cry, love and hate every minute of training to make getting past that finishing line a memory you’ll certainly never forget.

This year, I’ll have to lump for a 10k race instead.

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My Reading Challenge 2017: 9-month update!

My Reading Challenge 2017

After suffering a reading dip over the summer (busy work schedule, multiple weddings, oh and a Glastonbury to remember), I think I’m finally back on track with my Reading Challenge 2017.  (Although I’m still quite far behind reaching my target.)

Looking back on my Reading Challenge 2017: 6-month update post, I’m quite embarrassed that I only managed to cover 3 books.  (3! )  Since then, I’ve manage to read 6.  Nearly 7, but I haven’t quite finished that one yet, so it’s officially 6 – this is me trying to make myself sound better.

It’s going to be a steep reading hill for me to try and hit my target of 25 books, having only read 16 so far.  I hit 21 last year, which makes me feel both hopeful, and a bit panicky.

My Reading Challenge 2017 (what I’ve read so far…)

11. How to Be Both by Ali Smith
One magazine article somewhere gave the lowdown on the books to read as a woman.  How to Be Both was cited as seriously important, so I immediately saved it in my Goodread’s ‘Want to Read’ list.  A few years later and I find the book in the Kindle store, reduced, so I bought it.  I wasn’t expecting the opening poetic verses (if you read a particular part of the book first), but I soon settled into it.  There are two sequences in the book which are not to read in a set order.  So, whichever sequence you read first, you’ll soon be engaged in two stories cleverly interwoven with one another, between a child of recent times and a child of the renaissance. There was something quite spiritual about it.

12. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
Having read Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, again I couldn’t resist another Kindle bargain when I saw The Psychopath Test.  It’s hard for me to really put my finger on which book I preferred out of the two.  Regardless, this was such a fascinating read.  Jon goes on a journey in discovering the history, the psychology, traits and treatment of Psychopaths and even interviews a few too.  It was an addictive read.  I thought twice before sending a single tweet when I’d finished reading So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.  With The Psychopath Test, I’ve began to assess people I know who might be a psychopath.  (Sidenote: I think I’ve known at least one! )

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson review

13. Face (Compact,): Tools, Skin, Finishes by Sam Chapman, Nic Chapman, Pixiwoo
I was hesitant to include this in my reading challenge 2017 at first, however I’d be the first to defend beauty books and their place in literature and so I’ve chucked it in.  It was a quick read, not just from the picture-heavy pages, but because of the basic language too.  Face (Compact) would be quite useful for beginners in beauty, as I didn’t find anything I hadn’t already known.  (Although I’m not a beauty expert by any means!)

14. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A book I’ve always been intrigued to read and a book that was again on offer in the Kindle store.  The Nadsat language, which was created by Anthony Burgess, is why I wanted to read this.  Mostly to see if I could actually understand it.  Admittedly, it was confusing at first, but I was soon able to translate the words the more I saw them and from the context of the sentences they were in.  What I didn’t know was the hidden meanings behind them, many taken from Russian words, as discussed in the introduction by Blake Morrison.  It’s not all about the ultra-violence that the Stanley Kubrick film was later banned for.  It’s the interesting belief surrounding youth and law that propels the book in its entirety into a read to remember.

15. The Aquariums of Pyongyang by Kang Chol-Hwan
I started my Reading Challenge 2017 by reading Yeonmi Park’s In Order to Live.  As I begun to read Kang Chol-Hwan’s account, North Korea was back in the headlines.  Having already read a North Korean defector’s tale, it was insightful to see another perspective in the country, although still as shocking.  Kang lived in Japan, before returning to North Korea, to then be sent to a concentration camp.  This is an incredible story and journey, through the horrors seen at the camp, the malnutrition he suffered, to his eventual escape and voyage to safety.  Another eye-opener from a survivor of the secret state.

The Girls by Emma Cline
Based on a review by Estée Lalonde, I’d like this book if cults and the Manson Family has ever been something I’ve found interesting.  That sentence alone sold it for me and she was right.  It’s a fictional tale told from a girl who is drawn into a cult, or rather the story of the Manson family just with name changes, according to reviews on Goodreads.  I feel a bit uneasy about Emma Cline sticking, or even copying, the Manson family story.  Although that doesn’t take away my enjoyment of the book.  It’s dark and absorbing.

My Reading Challenge 2017

16/25 books read

At the start of the year I calculated that I need to read at least 2 books a month to hit my 25 book target.  With only 3 months to go until the year is out, I now need to read 3 books a month to successfully reach my Reading Challenge 2017!  I’ve got some catching up to do…

Coming up (to-read): Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, An Illustrated History of Slavic Misery by John Bills and Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think of them?  Share your thoughts, reviews or gripes in the comment section below.

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All front cover images on this post are embedded from Goodreads.com, please contact me if any image that appears here should be removed.

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The 3 Best Hangover Cures

Flat_lay_of_my_hangover_cures

I’ve had my fair share of devastating hangovers.  The kind where I daren’t crawl out of the bed, the ones where I do and I feel fine, before it hits my later, much harder, usually on public transport.

I’m 28 now, which means I’ve had plenty of experience drinking and facing the day after.  Prevention is better than cure they say, but we all make mistakes.

Hair of the dog, downing your weight in water – everyone has their own hangover cures to get them moving again.  So, here’s mine.

1. A Fizzy Drink

Hangover_Cures

Last Christmas, my sister got a book of foreign words that weren’t translatable into English.  Such as ‘hygge’, the Danish word that translates roughly to ‘cosiness’, ‘warmth’ and being round friends and family.

There should be a word for that incurable thirst you suffer with when you wake up with a hangover.  No matter how hard you hunt for it, there’s no drink that quite hits the spot for quenching your thirst.  Yet we still dream of that one remedy drink that gently cools away your hangover like some magical potion.

Well, fizzy drinks can come damn close to that, in my opinion, (and they pump sugar back into you too).  Plus, if you drink a Sprite it’s been proven to speed up your hangover by processing aldehyde dehydrogenase sooner, which is the stuff that makes you feel hungover.  (I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know that last bit until I read this article on the Guardian.)

2. Fast Food

McDonalds Double Cheeseburger

Who the hell craves a salad after a heavy night out?  Seriously, if you do then who the hell even are you?  I truly can’t put into words just how right it feels to eat fatty, greasy and, above all, unhealthy food when you’re putting all of your concentration into picking what to eat when you’re hangover.

I’m holding up a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger above, a personal favourite of mine.  But you really don’t have to feel limited in your choice for this part of my hangover cure.  The world really is your oyster.

McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, a greasy kebab or even Dominoes pizza.  Listen to what your body is telling you, usually it’s good at telling you what it craves.  Or, what it doesn’t want inside it anymore (ie chucking up in the toilet).

3. Ice Cream

Twister Ice Cream Best Hangover cures

Depending how gut-wrenchingly bad I feel when I wake up, sometimes I skip right to this hangover cure; ice cream.  In the same way a fizzy drink is the elixir of life, ice cream is like reaching nirvana.

I feel like it settles my body down, whilst weirdly cooling it down too.  If I had to pick a favourite, it really wouldn’t take me that long to choose.  A pack of “funsize” Twister lollies were always replenished stock at my house whilst at uni.  When I discovered them it was like  a revelation, and led me call out ‘get me a Twister lolly – STAT!’ whenever I woke up after a alcohol fuelled party.

Too Hungover to Read?  Watch the Video below!

I’ve told you mine, what are yours?

Hangover’s are a bitch.  Let’s not suffer alone, come together and share your favourite hangover cures below!  For example, these aren’t the only things I think make the best hangover cure.  If the opportunity presents itself (and I’m feeling up to it) I think swimming, or more like light paddling, can make me feel once again at peace.

If you know just the the thing in how to get over a hangover, or have a practised banging hangover remedy – please, please, share below!

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4 Podcasts I’m Listening to Right Now

Which Podcast to listen to

I’m late to the podcast party. I didn’t start listening to podcasts until I started my job last year, when the long commutes to work began too.  Then, when I had dipped into a few and loved it, I immediately jumped on board the podcast fan ship!  (Figuratively speaking…)

So, I’ve decided to share a few podcasts I’m enjoying right now, rather than a ‘which podcasts to listen to‘ kinda post. I’ve not been listening to podcasts for a year yet and I’m dead certain there’s plenty more out there I’m yet to discover and love.

So this is more of a ‘podcasts I’m listening to now’ post, because I don’t want to rule out writing similar posts in the future!

1. Buffer – The Science of Social Media

Buffer the Science of Social Media podcast

After seizing every moment of the the weekend and making the most of it, when it comes to Monday mornings I feel a bit fuzzy, to say the least.  I want to get my mind back to being refocused for work, so I listen to Buffer’s the Science of Social Media podcast.  (I work as a Social Media & Content Executive).

Buffer of course provides many insights on social media and not just in podcast form.  However, the topics and discussions in these podcasts aren’t exactly groundbreaking, plus the hosts use the word “interesting” far too often for my liking.

But, in despite of feeling that they’re telling you how to suck eggs at times (“use hashtags”), little gems of information still reveal themselves, every now and then.  Mostly though, I listen because it gets me back into that social media frame of mind for the week ahead.

2.  Emma Gannon – Ctrl Alt Delete

Emma Gannon Ctrl Alt Delete podcast

I never thought I’d be the kind of person to binge-listen a podcast series (is that a saying?), but Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete had me at hello.

Yes, it’s one of the most popular podcasts out there, but for good reason.  At first, I was pulled in by listening to all of the episodes featuring my favourite YouTubers.  But the way Emma talks about our generation, growing up online and how it’s changed our world, careers and life, I just have SO MUCH time for.

It’s so refreshing to hear about technology, blogging and social media in a positive light, rather than just doom and gloom.  Ctrl Alt Delete tops my podcast list for podcasts to listen to on most days.  Every Ctrl Alt Delete podcast inspires me in one way or another.

3.  At Home With…

Podcast to listen to

Lily and Anna’s rather new podcast series At Home With is a combination of Ctrl Alt Delete and Changing Rooms.  In a good way.

This is the first array into podcasting for the duo and I’ve got to say, they’ve not done too badly.  Similar to Emma’s Ctrl Alt Delete, they interview guest that have a background in digital brands, but also make up gurus and magazine editors too.  (Jo Elvin, Zoe Sugg and Liz Earle have all been guests so far.)

The twist is the interview actually takes place in the guest’s house.  So in between conversations about careers, fashion and the like, we’re taken around the guest’s home.  If you download a certain podcast app I can’t remember the name of now (blast!), you get to see pictures of the guest’s home too.  As I listen on my drive to work I obviously keep it to audio only…

4.  The Rough Guide to Everywhere

Rough_Guide_to_Everywhere

The Rough Guide to Everywhere is the first travel podcast I’ve seen and listened to out there.  (There’s a gap in the market people!)

I’m more of a Lonely Planet fan myself (I adore the writing style).  However, I do have a soft spot for Rough Guide.  (I owned a Rough Guide for Moscow, the first destination I travelled to in my gap year.)

Ultra-experienced and hard grafted travellers are interviewed on the podcasts about their most wild travelling experiences.  (Like when Ruby Wax hitchhiked somewhere and somewhere fell into jail.)  But the host Greg Dickinson also goes on his own experiences, like hiking his way out into the British countryside (far from any public transport station).  It’s definitely inspired me to take on more mini-adventures, between the big ones.

Other Notable Mentions…

Lily and Anna aren’t the only YouTuber stepping into the audioworld.  Estée Lalonde will soon release The Heart of It, a series where she’ll dicuss topics close to her, well, heart.

I was a big listener of My Dad Wrote A Porno for a while, which is hilarious, the title is exactly as it sounds.  I also occasionally dip into Women’s Hour and Desert Island Discs too (I loved Tom Hanks’!).

And there’s the four podcasts I’m listening to right now.  Once I’ve caught up with all of the above I’ll definitely have more time to listen to others.  So another post may be in the pipeline…

Do you love podcasts?  Tell me which ones you listen to in the comment section below!

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