30 Song Challenge

Hello friends! How are you doing?

I hope you’re all keeping safe, well and taking care of yourselves and your loved ones as much as you can during these difficult times.

I’ve been on social media the past few weeks probably more than I have in the last few months put together. It’s such a convenient way to keep up to date with my friends, family, read news ( unbiased accounts of that especially!) and catch up and check in with people too.

Unlike the rest of Instagram at the moment I feel like one of the very few who hasn’t made banana bread, attempted to whip up a dalgona coffee or posted a snippet of music each day for 30 days on my story.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging! You do you! I wanted to partake in the 30 song challenge on my Insta stories but I love music so much and have so much to say about each song I’d choose too. I didn’t want to bore everyone to death with about 100 posts a day.

So I’m going to be giving it a go as one long post on here instead! For all your music lovers and nosy Nancy’s I hope you approve of my musical choices…

Song 1 – A song you like with a colour in the title:

Back To Black by Amy Winehouse.

I’ve forever been a fan of Amy’s music, her songs and her unique vocals. I really wish that I’d had the chance to see her perform live before she sadly died in 2011.

Song 2 – A song you like with a number in the title:

1234 by Feist.

This song is one of my favourite, go to, easy listening songs. It reminds me of the summer. Being woken up by the sunlight coming through the blinds and waking me from my slumber. It reminds me of having slow Sunday mornings making coffee and breakfast but it also reminds me of a chick flick film I’ve seen and I can’t remember which one.

Song 3 – A song that reminds you of summertime:

Dancing in the Moonlight by Toploader.

Surely this song had to be mentioned on here somewhere at least once no???? This song reminds me of so many summers evenings out with my friends, late nights at the pub as the sun goes down orrrrr that moment when you hear the first few bars of this tune and just know you and all your mates are gonna be howling along to it like a pack of drunken wolves.

Song 4 – A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget:

Wicked Game – James Vincent McMorrow.

Song 5 – A song that needs to be played out loud:

Sex on Fire by Kings Of Leon.

I swear to god I could be a secret member of the band when this comes on. I know all the words and is the best song to play at the absolute loudest volume. Does it make me want to learn the electric guitar? Hell yes. Will I be good and actually stick with it so I learn? Hell no.

Song 6 – A song that makes you want to dance:

Treasure by Bruno Mars.

Such a lovely song. Bruno wrote it alllllllll about me dontcha know! It’s one of my fav dance-around-the-kitchen-in-my-pjs-as-I-make-breakfast songs.

Song 7 – A song to drive to:

Everybody talks by Neon Trees.

I don’t know what it is but this song makes me happy. Great when played up high, it’s warm outside and you’ve got the windows down in the car with a breeze flowing through your hair.

Song 8 – A song about drugs or alcohol:

Fairytale of New York by The Pogues.

Does that count?

It sounds and feels like it’s being recorded by a drunk guy warbling to it in the pub and makes enough references so I think that it does.

When I was younger I used to think it was such a lovely song… until I actually paid attention to the lyrics.

Song 9 – A song that makes you happy:

If It Makes You Happy by Sheryl Crow.

Much like Britney Spears in the film Crossroads it makes me want to scream it from the top of my lungs whilst travelling across America. Such a happy song. Also great film too if you haven’t seen it check it out.

Song 10 – A song that makes you sad:

Supermarket Flowers by Ed Sheeran is very sad and makes me a bit weepy. I know he’s not a lot of people’s favourite singer/songwriter but you can’t deny the fact that this guy is mega talented and can write some lovely words to a nice melodic tune.

In a close second is Jealous by Labrinth.

Song 11 – A song you never get tired of:

The whole of the Les Miserables soundtrack specifically One Day More.

Song 12 – A song from your preteen years:

Umbrella by Rihanna.

I chose this one because it really sticks in my mind when it came out I wouldn’t say it’s one of my all time favs and I could listen to it again and again and again aaaaand one more time on top of that.

I must have been about 11 or 12 when this song was released and I just remember it rained and rained and rained non stop for what felt like weeks. We’d have school trips and it would be raining, catch the bus to school, and it’d be raining, go out at the weekend and it’d be raining. The one common denominator was that this song was often on or on the radio in the background… If it ever comes about that Rihanna performs witchcraft low-key I wouldn’t be shocked…

Song 13 – A song you like from the 70s:

Love Goes (Where my Rosemary Grows) by Edison Lighthouse.

LOVVVEEEEE IT.

Even if it was in the terrible film Shallow Hal.

It’s such a cheerful song and the video is fab too.

Song 14 – A song you’d love to be played at your wedding:

Ill Be by Edwin McCain

But if it’s the wedding party we’re talking about then I’d definitely want cheesy party favourites that everyone can dance to like How Will I Know by Whitney Houston. But please I beg no Don’t Stop Believing. I can’t stand that song.

Song 15 -A song you like that’s a cover by another artist:

Feeling Good by Muse.

Absolutely nothing wrong with the original the vocals on that are astounding but I really like the rockier edge this cover has.

Song 16 – A song that’s a classic favourite:

Mr Brightside by The Killers.

Swear I’ll be 52 driving my future kids on a school run and still lose my mind when this comes on the radio. I’ll probably be firmly listening to Radio 2 at that point too.

Song 17 – A song you’d sing a duet with someone on karaoke:

So my obvious answer might be something like Islands In The Stream or Don’t Go Breaking My Heart but right now I’d either want American Boy by Kanye West and Estelle or Heartbreaker by Mariah Carey.

Either way I’ll be taking on the rap verses.

Song 18 – A song from the year you were born:

Boom Boom Boom by The Outhere Brothers.

Song 19 – A song that makes you think about life:

What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong.

Song 20 – A song that has many meanings to you:

Despacito.

I bet you were thinking I’d say something deep and meaningful but nope. C’mon now how long have you been reading on here for?!?!

This song reminds me of drunken nights out with my best friends in 2017. I had just quit the worst job ever and spent any money I had on going out to eat, drink and be very merry.

The song gives me wonderful flashbacks to being in clubs, pubs and bars. There’s a couple fuzzy flashback moments too where there a few pieces missing from our night out puzzle.

It makes me feel a bit queasy when I remember the hangover.

It makes me feel sad because I fell out with one of those very special friends for too much of a long time and we were too stubborn to sort it out (it’s all ok now and dare I say it better than ever).

It also makes me feel a bit mad because it got overplayed so much I have to turn it off almost instantly now.

Song 21 – A song you like with a persons name in the title:

Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond.

Reminds me of my mum.

Song 22 – A song that moves you forward:

With Every Heartbeat by Robyn.

I listen to it a lot when I’m walking….so defo moves me somewhere.

How is it possible I say so many dad jokes for a 25 year old female?!

Song 23 – A song you think everyone should listen to:

Brimful of Asha.

This song forever puts me in a great mood. If I was drunk enough and had that sheer, blind confidence you only get after a couple glasses of vino I’d petition to Apple and every other phone and alarm clock maker to have this as the official wake up alarm noise.

Song 24 – A song by a band you wish were still together:

Lyla by Oasis.

Song 25 – A song you like by an artist no longer living:

Love is a Losing Game by Amy Winehouse.

It’s lovely. Heartfelt. Raw. Makes me sad she’s still not around creating beautiful music.

Song 26 – A song that makes you want to fall in love:

Everybody Loves Somebody by Dean Martin

Don’t worry Baby by The Beach Boys.

When I’m 64 by The Beatles.

Song 27 – A song that breaks your heart:

Can’t help Falling in Love by Elvis Presley.

The version from Crazy, Rich, Asians is also quite beautiful.

Song 28 – A song by an artist whose voice you love:

I can’t put Amy Winehouse again even though I’d love to. I’ll dedicate this spot to Lana Del Rey and Video Games instead.

Song 29 – A song you remember from your childhood:

Bring It All Back by S Club 7.

Song 30 – A song that reminds you of yourself:

Hmmmmmm?

So I couldn’t immediately decide so chose to ask my three best friends which song reminds them of me. Wanna know what they thought best summed me up?

Agadoo by Black Lace. Both the original and the Jeremy Corbyn version.

Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes. Which tbf is an absolute tune but also used to play allllllllllllll the time at the place of work where me and best friend met.

Heartbreaker by Mariah Carey. I’m super happy with that one!

But now I think about it properly…I think the song I like that reminds me of me is Whistle For The Choir by The Fratellis.

Tell me yours too! What’s your favourite song? Your favourite shower time sing songs?

Signing out! Much love 💚

25 Things I’ve Learnt In 25 Years.

Hello reader, as you’re reading this it’ll be the 27th of January and that is my big fat birthday. So I am now 25. Twenty five. toooooooooooweeeeeeenttttyyyyyyyyy fiiiiive. Quarter of a century. Twen tee five. I’m lowkey freaking out about this as you might be able to tell as that is an actual, proper age. It sounds older than 23 or 24 did and I feel like I’m not mentally prepared for the responsibility of being a grown up. Not now or ever to be honest. 

Society says I should have my life together by now. Hollywood films say I should be living in a cute apartment with an exposed brick wall with all my besties by now, or about to meet the love of my life in some sort of random meet cute scenario but none of that actually happened sooooooo HOORAY for me! Turns out life isn’t exactly word for word like the fairytale teen blockbuster with the pop-punk soundtrack and that’s okay. Life isn’t all sunshine, rainbows and fighting dragons to get to the princess who’s actually a part time ogre and that’s also okay. I feel like in your twenties there’s a lot of pressure to succeed and exceed and I’m not here for it. I just want to be happy. SO happy in fact it makes others a little bit nausous. I want to be so happy being me that other people look at me like ffs can’t she just give someone else a chance?! 

So I’m writing this very cliche list of 25 things I’ve learnt on this awesome planet to remind myself and you lovely readers on some wonderful things I’ve learnt, adapted to and am trying to live by. 

  • It’s okay not to be okay.

Everyone has great days, everyone has good days and everyone also has bad days too. Sometimes those bad days happen more and more and all of a sudden it’s become a bad week, bad month or become a bad year but please try to not let it define you. It’s taken me a long time to learn to accept that sometimes not everything goes the way I want it to but you’ve got to try and make the best out of every situation. I’m definitely the type of person that could very easily wallow in my own little pity puddle and it can be incredibly hard to lift yourself out of that frame of mine. Just know that however you’re feeling, whatever you’re going through; you’re loved and you’re never alone. ❤

  • It’s more than okay to be on your own. 

Do you have any idea how freeing it is to be alone. Not lonely but alone. Go on a solo movie trip, grab a bite to eat on your own, travel solo? It’s honestly one of the most liberating feelings and I wish I had the confidence to adopt this mentality sooner. 

  • Say Yes.

I’ve tried so hard to push myself out of my comfort zone and say yes or do things I wouldn’t normally just to see or just to try it once. I’ve become so much more confident in myself and my abilities and every single time I’ve had a blast and have been so pleased I said that little Y word. 

  • Don’t believe all you see online.

What you see on social media is not real life. It is simply the highlight reel, no one is going to be posting about their boring dead end job, the fact they spent 2 hours deep cleaning their oven to no avail and the fact that age 23 they found their first grey hair. I found that the way I perceived my own life compared to the lives I saw on Instagram was really affecting me last year and I came off of it for a few months. I came back again later on in the year and changed my focus. I unfollowed a lot of accounts and changed the way I used the platform, sharing my love of photography instead, and I love it again! 

  • Take compliments.

I honestly find this so difficult when someone says something nice to me to not go bright red, flash a dorky smile and bash their kind compliment down with a generous helping of self depreciation. Next time someone says something nice, believe them and say thank you. Manners cost nothing y’know!

  • Have faith in the universe. 

I’ve had a rocky couple of years and it’s affected the way I outwardly look at things. I’m lucky I’ve got a wonderful fam that support me through thick and thin but I don’t think I could have coped either if it wasn’t for my kooky sense of trusting the powers of the universe (pls don’t click off I promise I’m not crazy). I know that everything will work out okay in the end because it just HAS to. 

  • Trust your gut.

I’m not just talking about those gurgly feels I get after I eat brioche…do you know how linked your stomach and your brain are? When something feels off, trust that vibe and run with it. 

  • Have a cheat day and/or a treat day.

Life is far too short to not eat the cake. I am a huge advocate of any form of therapy whether it’s seeking professional help, self care, journalling, retail therapy whatever you do to make yourself feel better. I’m a big believer in self care and self love and I wish more people were head over heels in love with themselves as much as they love other people. Treat yourself to that item you’ve been lusting after for ages, take yourself to the cinema or to a spa on a date day. Do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel like the centre of your own universe. 

  • You don’t need to wash your hair everyday.

Honestly….I don’t know how I have been conditioned (soz for the pun) to believe that was normal. My hair feels so much better and shinier since I stopped with this madness.

  • Some relationships don’t last forever and that’s just the way it was meant to be.

I am strong believer in full time people and part time people. I think everyone who comes into your life is there for a reason, sometimes good, sometimes bad (sometimes ugly too) but the important thing is to remember to cherish those who you love and tell them as often as you can. Learn from those who treat you how you don’t wish to be treated and don’t give them a second more of your time. Life is a journey but most importantly it’s your journey; who you want to bring along with you is down to you.

  • Dairy Milk Caramel tastes infinitely better after it’s been in the freezer.

I don’t have anything else to add to that statement. Just try it and let me know your thoughts alright.

  • Pursue what makes you happy

Life is the longest thing we’ll ever do so you might as well do something you love. 

  • You’re responsible for your own happiness.

Genuinely i’m starting to sound like a motivational canvas you’d see on pinterest and I’m not sure I’m alright with that. But this is something that flickers through my mind everytime I’m having a whinge about how sucky something in my life is. The only person that can change it is me. 

  • Find your cheerleaders. 

Find the people that’ll be constantly in your corner, boosting you up and treating you like the gift you are. No one wants a negative nancy. 

  • A job isn’t the be all and end all.

I cannot stress this enough. It reeks of privilege but I’ve been in a position where I had my mental health wrecked because of a terrible employer and it’s one of my biggest regrets that I stuck it out for so long. I wish I quit sooner, I wish I had a cool quitting story, where I told my boss to stick it in a boardroom meeting and made history as I high fived with every other scorned worker but alas that was not the case. Working as an early morning cleaner has taught me more about my character than any other role has. 

  • Try to save where you can.

I’m obsessed with getting a good bargain, who isn’t though, amirite?! Financially challenged is the legit story of my life but one day I’d quite like to move out of my parents house and live in my own little home and I’ve been saving the pennies where I can. I’m not being too hard on myself and if I want a treat or to go out socially I do but it’s surprising how a few coins here and there in another bank account soon adds up. 

  • Be more present. 

I am the absolute worst for being on my phone all the time. Whether I’m chatting with friends, surfing the socials or taking happy snaps of what I’m doing, embarassingly, I find it difficult to not put my phone away and live in the moment. My thought is that if I take a picture or a video of that moment then it’s saved in time and I can come back and look at it again and again. Unless it’s for a special occasion (or just pretty food…) I try to leave my phone in my bag when I’m out with family and friends and spend the most time enjoying their company.   

  • Try new things.

Oooooh look at me, my name’s Abbie and I tried an olive the other day and didn’t gag so I think I know everything about trying new stuff. But srsly try everything once (except bad, super illegal stuff, like don’t be stupid) and if you don’t like it at least you gave it your best shot. 

  • Don’t save things for best/a rainy day.

I’ve been thinking about death a lot recently. Morbid start to any sentence I know. But that might be a potential late night blog post I touch on soon…Not to bring down the mood or anything but when you die, everything that’s important to you or special to you probably isn’t going to be that special to anyone else so you might as well wear that bouji outfit that cost you a tonne of money whilst you still can; you never know what’s around the corner. 

  • Get to know yourself and your body.

Get to know who you are, everything about you, your mind, your soul, your spirit and your body. It sounds silly but you’re more likely to notice little changes once you know what’s normal for you and what’s not. 

  • Never underestimate having a good hairdresser. 

A good hairdresser is one to be cherished. Finding one that is good, reliable and not too expenny is like finding the bermuda triangle. 

  • Find a hobby.

Even though blogging and reading are my hobbies I sometimes find them a bit on the stressful side if I put pressure on myself through it. If I’ve set myself a goal of how many books i’d like to read in a year I feel guilty if I don’t get anywhere close or if I haven’t written online in awhile I feel guilty that I’m not applying myself enough to write more. In my spare time I actually really enjoy photography, crossword puzzles and antiques. I know it makes me sound like an 80 year old off on another bus trip but I loooove it.

  • Be curious.

Never stop being curious, asking questions, learning more about different people, places and cultures. Travel to new places far and wide and come up with your own narrative on something rather than adopting something you’ve heard from an unreliable source. 

  • Develop your own skincare routine.

Doing me face is the technical term of applying all of my lotions and potions, creams and oils on to my facial region when I arise from my slumber and just before I go to bed. It’s fast become one of my favourite things to do because I feel quite at peace when I’m doing it, it’s relaxing and I feel like I’m doing something quite positive to my life. 

  • Celebrate; always.

Celebrate the good things and the bad things and even the really boring, mundane things. Life is as good as you make it and I for one would like to be remembered as someone who loved hard, laughed a lot and was a pretty terrible dancer even Theresa May would grimace. 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Reader, I Married Me!*

*This post contains a gifted item*

Hello, hello! It’s been a little while since I properly shared a book review on here, I posted all the books I read in 2019 in a long old blog post (here) but it wasn’t hugely in depth on each read, so I thought I’d share with you a little write up on the book; Reader, I Married Me! that I read at the very end of 2019. I’m not sure how to best go about reviewing this as I’m cautious I’m going to just end up giving every little detail along the way. So I’m hoping I’ll say enough to entice you to pick it up but leave enough mystery and surprise to leave you all happily hooked on what happens!

I was kindly sent this by Sophie, the author and my new second sister! We got chatting and emailing back and forth and soon realised that we actually have SO much in common. Not only do we share similar outlooks on life BUT also happen to share the same surname and her Mum lives not too far from where I live too! I’m not sure I believe in fate and all things like that but what a weird coincidence all of this has turned out to be?! Between our natterings, Soph, told me all about how the idea of this book came about. It’s ever so slightly based around her own true life events, she decided to pen this book after going through a particularly bad break up. As many people can sympathise with, it genuinely can feel like the worst thing in the world had just happened. But looking back and reflecting on it she discovered it was one of the best things to have ever happened to her! She chose to stop chasing the ‘happily ever after’ and start living for herself and for the ‘happily ever now!’. What a babe!

Sophie discovered she really didn’t need someone else to ‘complete’ her or for someone to be her ‘better half’ so decided to take vows of self-commitment and married herself in sunny Brighton in 2015.

Some people reading this might now be thinking that sounds a liiiiiiiiiittle bit mad! But Sophie wanted to be able to use this and her platform to be able to start conversations about self love and why on earth shouldn’t you see yourself as just as important (if not more) than a significant other or why self love isn’t deemed as important as romantic love?

From an early age we are taught about, and raised on, the different types of love we will feel. From the love you have for your family members, to the love you have for friends, the love you have for food and the wonderful/sometimes less than wonderful romantic love you’ll share with someone special. 

But for some reason, self love, is still seen as a bit controversial or like a taboo subject. As if it’s a bit weird that someone actually likes themselves and wants to celebrate who they are as a person! Shouldn’t that be the love that we focus on and encourage from a young age, to inspire generations to have confidence in themselves and to be able to stand strong on their own no matter what life may throw at them? It’s certainly something to think about isn’t it.

Her novel, Reader, I Married Me, is very loosely based on Sophie’s own life experiences and her experience of sologamy (aka marrying yourself!). We follow the story of Chloe Usher, the loveable 35 year old lady, who’s happily sailing her way through life when she finds out the heart shattering news that her longterm boyf has cheated on her. She battles her way through modern day dating and using different dating apps. Then after one particularly bad date she heads straight over to her best friends house, trying to forget all about her rubbish evening with alcohol and karaoke! Booze fuelled she half jokingly suggests that she’s just going to marry herself and drunkenly shares her news with her loyal followers on her blog. Waking up the next morning with a fuzzy hangover head she’s greeted with the news that her and her solo wedding has become an overnight sensation; getting both positive and negative feedback from all around the globe. 

We join Chloe on her fabulous journey as she plans her solo wedding, juggling her own emotions as well as from the people nearest and dearest to her as they try and get their heads around her upcoming nuptials as a single woman. It’s not just Chloe we witness going on a personal journey either, she realised that we society might have conditioned us to be wishing our lives away waiting for the fairytale happy ending or waiting for ‘the one’ when, in fact, YOU are the one you should be soul searching for all along.

This romcom (without the typical rom) is a perfect read if you’re looking for something a little bit different or want to challenge ways in which we come to think about ourselves and the labels we put on ourselves and on love. 

So…you want to know my thoughts on it?

I read this within the space of about three days so if that doesn’t tell you something I don’t know what will! I really enjoyed this book actually, it’s a little bit different to the usual chick lit novel I’d normally read or you might normally see on the shelf which I actually really liked. Most of them have the usual element of ‘aaaaaaaaand the woman fell in love with the man, the man fell in love with the woman and they all lived happily ever after theeeeeeee end’ which is nice but those fairy tale stories never really happen in real life do they?

This felt a lot more relatable. As nice as it is to read lovey-dovey romcoms with princesses, princes and prince charming riding in on a white stallion at the end and saving the day  they’re not as thought provoking because to me, that isn’t normal or reality.  With this, I felt like I really empathised with Chloe and I felt like I understood her character as someone I could relate with or someone I could imagine myself being friends with. I liked that this book really has stuck with me and has made me think about the different ways I view myself and the outlook I can have on love and relationships.

It struck a chord especially as quite often, self love, self worth and loving yourself can be placed further down the pecking order, or you can be seen as big headed or with an ego the size of the moon if you actually really quite like yourself. Which is quite bizarre when you think about it really? In the UK, at least, if you aren’t self depreciating there must be something wrong with you!

It’s made me want to challenge myself and how I view doing things on my own. I think being content in your own company is one of the most liberating things a person can do. From small things like going for a coffee, a lunch or to the cinema on your own to a holiday or living by yourself. Once you’re at that stage over no longer caring about whether people are looking at that poor love sitting and eating on their own or being financially independent enough to be able live on your means and not have to argue over what to watch on telly it’s like the next shift change in your life begins.

This is something I’ve been trying to get better at and a solo cinema date really is on my agenda for 2020.

This book, will definitely be the type that I’ll recommend to a lot of my friends and readers on here to read. It’s something that has really challenged the way I think and view things, which is really the type of books I long to read anyway! It’s not written in a preachy sense it’s still got the elements of the rom com without the typical ‘rom’ bit!

Life is one of the longest things we’ll ever do but it’s also one of the shortest, try to spend that time being kind to yourself, kind and loving to others and being able to stand tall amongst the crowd, adjust your own fabulous crown and fall truly, madly, deeply in love with yourself; as beautifully, strongly and eternally as you’d love someone else too.

Six Ways To Simplify Your 2020.

*This is a collaborative post*

Life can be busy.

Life can be cluttered.

Life can be difficult.

And sometimes life can just be really really sucky….technical term there. 

I don’t remember signing up for some of this stress y’know? Agreeing to sign my life away and working full time I don’t think so?? I don’t know why I was never crowned Princess of Genovia at sixteen years old or just get to live my life as a Persian Goddess laying in the sun eating a golden platter of baklava everyday and not putting on an ounce of weight? *patiently waiting*. 

I turn 25 in just under three weeks and according to social pressures I should probably have settled into my own home, a career, a long term relationship and maybe even thought about children and the future by this time too. I can safely tell you aged 24 and 11 months I have achieved a grand total of ZERO of those things. I can easily get myself worked up over these things and whether I’m behind schedule on a schedule I didn’t even know I had. When it dawned on me recently that the only person who would actually be bothered about what I do, whether I’m happy or unhappy, in a career I love and want to work 24/7, mother of the year or childless is only ever going to be me. I need to let this weird, mental idea that I must complete all of these life changing milestones by my 30th birthday or otherwise that’ll be game over. 

Sometimes, it’s very easy to think life is taking over and there is simply not enough time for anything. There are always things to do, places to go, things to buy, things to consume and generally things to think about before you know it life itself can easily become unorganized, cluttered and super stressful. In 2020, I’m going to be making a promise to myself to help simplify my life? Removing what I don’t need, freeing up my own time, clearing my head and being able to set time for just pure conscious relaxation. Before I know it, it will be Christmas and the whole year will have flown by without you realizing what just happened.  

Here are 6 ways to simplify little life things and decisions in 2020 so that you can make the time for yourself, new experiences, self-improvement and give yourself a break in general. 

  1. Switch Off the electronics!

That’s right! I hate to admit it but I probably spend a lot of time watching boxsets on Netflix, endless videos on Youtube and procrastinating on yet another silly Buzzfeed quiz. We have become a nation of Netflix bingers, staying up until 2 am because we simply can’t wait to see what will happen in our latest favorite TV show. I’m guilty of binge watching new series in a matter of hours or days; time is irrelevant when it came to watching You Series Two. I spent a lot of my spare time in 2019 to settling into good books and managed to smash through my target of 30+! Rather than pressurizing myself into not watching the telly or gorging on my favourite Youtubers new video when it became live I tried to dedicate my time carefully. I learnt to select my TV shows carefully, watch them slowly (you don’t have to complete a series in one night) and use TV as a treat rather than your default evening plan. I’m going to try to use my time a bit more constructively for creative projects like reading and writing. If you don’t fancy being creative, work on a skill that could push your career further or reach some personal goals like getting fit by working out or hitting the gym. 

  1. Pay Off Your Debt

If you make any financial decision this year it should include paying off your debt first and foremost. Debt lingers in our subconscious, it affects us even when we don’t realize it and it makes us feel trapped. This year, put all your extra earnings into paying your debt off and by all means stop buying things you can’t afford. Whether you have credit card debt, student loan debt or car debt this year is the year you should proactively try and remove that debt. Clearing debt feels incredible, liberating and can clear your mind. Being debt-free simplifies your life allowing you to start planning how you will create wealth which is positive and exciting. 

  1. Go Minimal

I’ve taken a lot of advice from Marie Kondo and learnt how to part with things that I don’t actually want, need or just don’t spark joy. I can apply this to anything not just home things but my clothes, makeup and accessories too. Clearing your house of any old junk you don’t need is a great start but also think about things that don’t serve you. If your home is full of small trinkets and useless items, try to get rid of them and minimalize your home. We’re not saying you should get rid of everything you own or your fancy hotel quality tablecloths from Richard Haworth but you can get rid of that old yoga mat that is collecting dust in the corner. This year, try buying less, using less and hoarding less. Decluttering your home and limiting your consumerism can actually relieve a lot of stress in your life, plus your bank balance will also thank you.  I don’t know about you but I find decluttering so therapeutic, sure when you’re surrounded by all of your possessions and clothes you regret deciding to sort your wardrobe out more than anything but once it’s done you feel so much better, clearer and relaxed. 

  1. Be Positive

Okaaaaay, so I know this is SO much easier said than done but being in a continuous state of negativity is not serving you or your loved ones. 2020 is a new decade, a fresh start and you will be amazed at what you can achieve in 10 years if you put your mind to it. However, negativity can consume us and our time as we spend hours thinking about what people said to us or what we said to other people. The constant drama in our lives drains us of energy and time. This year, consciously try not to dwell on the negatives. Objectively look at the issue and decide whether it’s really worth the time thinking about and becoming negative over. Nine times out of ten you will find yourself forgetting all about it and refocusing on the important things like your relaxing, your career, love life, social life, and self-improvement. As cut throat as it may sound maybe see this fresh start as a good chance to cut out those negative entities that are weighing you down. If work is constantly leaving you stressed, you deserve SO much more than that, maybe it’s high time to invest in yourself and your mental state and find a role that makes you feel good. If your friends leave you feeling unhappy and a bit rubbish, as much as you like them and regard them as a friend, you also deserve SO much more than that too. Friends are supposed to be your support network, to build each other up when you’re feeling down not to make you feel like you’re in a constant whirlpool of sadness. Find your tribe that make life worth living and you’ll soon notice your lust for life reappearing.  

  1. Plan Your Year

So many people blindly walk through life allowing their environment to determine where they end up. This is a huge issue because if you don’t know where you are going how will you know if you will be happy where you end up? You won’t!  Instead, this year, make a plan. Spend the afternoon figuring out what you want to achieve this year, why you want to achieve it and what you need to do to get there. You can cover all of life’s categories including love, social life, family, parenting, health, career, education, money, spirituality and so on. Once you have your plan, create all the mini-tasks and goals that lead up to your plan becoming a success. Having these goals keeps you focused throughout your year, removes silly doubts about yourself and where you are going. At the end of the year, if you have stayed focused on your plan, it’s likely you will be far happier where you are in life. 

I’m not going to stand here and preach to you about planning every second of your life and nor am I planner for that matter either. Whether they’re big or small having things to look forward to certainly changes your outlook. I’ve started to plan one thing per month, something that’s a bit different or I haven’t done before, to look forward to. I can quite easily get myself into a sad little pity puddle and anyone else who knows what they’re like know that they can be difficult to get out of! So by having all these things lined up is giving me hope and a little light for each month that I’ve already got something to look forward to say six months down the line.

  1. Say “NO’

Remember when Elton John said ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’? Well sorry Elton, you’re very wrong. No, can actually be, one of the hardest words to muster. It’s little and probably super simple for many but being able to stand up for yourself, stand up for your beliefs and put yourself first is one of the most gratifying feelings. So many of us are always so eager to please everyone around us and we find ourselves saying “yes” to lots of things we don’t need or want. Saying “No” is liberating as it stops us from cluttering our lives with jobs, events, and tasks we don’t want to do. You don’t have to go out every weekend and drink yourself silly only to wake up to a hangover during your precious weekend off work. You don’t always have to stay at the office late trying so hard to impress your boss which is never recognized or appreciated. Start saying “no” more often and you will find your life becoming slightly less cluttered and more focused on doing things that positively add to your life.

Books I’ve Read In 2019.

I set myself a goal of reading thirty books in 2019. I started out with high hopes that it would be an achievable task, I’m an avid reader anyway and when I get stuck into a good read I practically devour it within a matter of hours and days. So how hard could it be? It would roughly translate to about two or three books a month, I used to take three books away with me on a week long holiday so I thought i’d be through the numbers in no time surely?! With this, I thought what a great way to use this as a perfect chance to switch off from technology, using my time more wisely in the evenings or before going to bed; hopefully giving me a more restful sleep with that too!

I must admit that sometimes my reading list can be a bit samey. I’m a regular reader of chick lit, so as well as giving myself a chance for a good ol’ social media detox I also thought this would be a great opportunity to get my teeth into a new genre; figure out what I do or don’t like and get to grips with some new authors. Some of these books aren’t new releases, I’ve been scouring the shelves of my local charity shops and my library, going against the usual trope of not judging a book by it’s cover and picking up something I liked the look of based on face value. So here goes!

1. The Tattooist Of Auschwitz – Heather Morris 4/5

It is a powerful, heartbreaking, true love story based on the real life events of two young people who meet and fall in love in the hellish compounds of Auschwitz concentration camp. I can’t imagine the pain, the suffering, the horrors that were felt and seen by those poor souls that suffered here. I think because of this, I struggled connecting with this book and I feel like a horrible person admitting that. I just couldn’t comprehend

2. If You Were Me – Sam Hepburn 3/5

This is a young teen / crime mystery story all about Aliya and her family escaping Afghanistan for Britain. Shortly after they arrive in the UK her brother is accused of a bomb attack. Aliya is sure her brother is innocent so sets out to solve this mystery. This book is told from two different points of view and flits between Aliya and Dan. I think this is a great piece of youth fiction that should be read by all ages. It covers quite big topics like terrorism and corruption. It’s an interesting read, one of which I’d recommend to all ages.

3. This Is Going To Hurt – Dr Adam Kay 5/5

I picked this up, purely on the basis of all the brilliant reviews I’d seen about it and I wasn’t disappointed. I won’t lie, it did take a little while for me to fully get into it but when I did; I stayed up late one night until it was finished. This Is Going To Hurt is a compilation of diary entries written by Adam Kay as he worked as an NHS Doctor. I’ve never read a book quite like this that was so raw and honest that it made me both laugh and cry. Given the current state of the NHS in the United Kingdom I would urge that everyone reads this and takes umbridge on the current state of our National Health Service or what’s left of it.

4. I Owe You One – Sophie Kinsella 3/5

I love Sophie Kinsella’s books. I think I’ve read every single one, even the ones she’s written under her actual name Madeleine Wickham. I love her cosy style of writing and the way in which she makes you feel like you know the protagonist. They are perfect holiday reads. I enjoyed I Owe You One, it was a little bit predictable in parts but still just as lovely as all of her books. In this one, we meet Fixie Far, an all round good egg and fixer upper. She is running the family shop (The shop is based around a local family run shop near me called Harts. Which made me love this novel even more!) with little actual help from her siblings. One day, as she’s in a coffee shop a stranger asks her to watch his laptop and saves it from meeting it’s dramatic end. Thus, a tennis match of IOU’s between the pair follows. It wasn’t my favourite of her books but it was still very cheery and lighthearted.

5. Still Me – Jojo Moyes 3/5

I started reading this book series as soon as it came out a few years ago and fell in love with it. Me Before You was the first Ebook I purchased and I distinctly remember ugly crying on my lunch break in a staff room as I reached the final pages. Still Me, is the third installment of this series (so I’d definitely recommend reading those two first, before starting this) and we see loveable main character Lou, working as a personal assistant for a new family in New York, struggling with a long distance relationship and still figuring out who she is and what she wants from her life. It’s such an enjoyable read and this was probably my favourite out of this series.

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6. 365 Days Of Happiness – Jacqueline Pirtle*

You may remember, if you’re a regular reader of my site, I actually got sent this book to review. If you’d like to read my review, you can find it by clicking the link here! I’d never read a book like this before and was pleasantly surprised by it. It made me definitely think about things in a different way. I like to think of myself as quite a positive person most of the time but I hadn’t realised how sometimes, subconsciously I’d be pre-empting something negative happen. This has really changed my outlook and even the way I look at day to day things to find something positive out of every situation.

7. The Circle – Dave Eggers 4/5

In this book, we see Mae, a relatively normal, working class woman in her early twenties from the US. She wants to get on and build a career despite still living at home with her parents in her little hometown. Her uni friend, Annie, gets in touch and helps her out with a job at The Circle (which is their Google/FaceBook/Twitter etc hybrid platform). The Circle wants all their employees to achieve high customer & fellow colleagues satisfaction levels as well as to be a social integrator and innovator. In return The Circle provides an incredible workplace and plenty or work perks like brilliant health care packages extending to the employees family. Which really benefits Mae as her Father has MS. One of the new ideas being tested is transparency by having miniature cameras placed on the person with the information accessible to anyone at anytime – forever. Other characters in the book, Mercer (a male childhood friend of Mae’s) and Mae’s parents are fighting against this intrusion of The Circle into their lives which results in dire consequences for them. This book, is interesting in this modern age and it did get me thinking about the impact of Facebook, Google, Apple etc and how they use our information.

8. You Were Gone – Tim Weaver 5/5

I loved this SO MUCH. I started it on a Friday night and had finished it by the following evening; I practically consumed the book whole. I had never read any of Tim Weaver’s David Raker Thriller series nor any of his books for that matter and just picked this up from the library by chance and was blown away. It focuses on David Raker a widowed ex missing persons investigator. David’s beloved wife, Derryn, had passed away from cancer some years previously so when a woman walks into a Police station, looking identical to her,claiming to be called Derryn Raker and asking for her husband, David, the Police begin to question whether Derryn had actually died and that this woman is who she says she is. This leads to David himself then beginning to question whether he nursed her through her last days and if the funeral actually took place. This was gripping and full of so many twists and turns. Perfect if you’re into something along the lines of a sinister thriller you won’t be able to put down until you’ve finished it.

9. Wags At The World Cup – Alison Kervin 0/5

I was hoping for a perfect new, girly read, something which you could imagine yourself reading on a sunbed with a cocktail in hand in sunnier climes but was left massively disappointed with this, to the point where I had to almost chivvy myself along into reading it and finishing it. I don’t want to be harsh and I’m totally aware that books can be personal and subjective but this was really quite bad. The book is focused on Tracie Martin and her husband Dean when he’s asked to be a part of the England coaching team as they’re about to play in the World Cup in South Africa. Tracie is told not to tell anyone immediately nor to do any telly appearances or interviews either but obvs she does both of these things. Having made a fool of herself she’s subsequently sent off to South Africa prior to everyone else to help smooth troubled waters.

10. The School Gate Survival Guide – Kerry Fisher 3/5

I picked this up at the library too and wasn’t really sure on it but just thought why not just give it a go! I picked up a crime novel and wanted something more lighthearted to read afterwards, or in between depending how spooky the true crime story was! I actually really liked this I liked that the main character wasn’t perfect like some chick lit novels. The main character, Maia is a very normal mum, working tirelessly as a cleaner living on a council estate, raising her two children with her lazy, layabout, long term boyfriend. One of her long term clients, an elderly lady whom she was close to, dies and leaves something to Maia in her will. She leaves some money for her to send her two children to go to a very good, posh school. We read Maia plod through the trials and tribulations of being a regular, normal family amongst all the rich, posh families that go to that school. This was a really heart warming, easy to read story and I’ve never felt like I was rooting for the main character to come out on top more than I have with this read.

11. Then She Was Gone – Lisa Jewell – 2/5

This was gripping but I felt like I knew how it was going to end a little while into the book. Nevertheless there was a big ol’ twist I really didn’t see coming! Laurel Mack is the grieving Mother of a missing child and we see her try to move on with a new relationship with a man she met in a coffee shop. The book features quite a lot of jutting between present and past tense from the point of view of Laurel and her missing daughter Ellie. Just like any other kind of psychological thriller this was full of red herrings and various different plot twists. I really like this style of genre where you are literally on the very edge of your seat but for some reason I just couldn’t gel with this particular book.

12.  No Big Deal – Bethany Rutter 3/5

This was the second book that I’d read this year that had a fat female teenager as the protagonist. Which was so wonderfully refreshing as someone also who was a fat teenager. I’m so used to the fat one being the uncool best friend, the funny one or just the fat one so it was so nice to actually have the readers have their undivided attention on them for only positive reasons. In No Big Deal, we see heroine Emily, be unapologetically herself as a fat, feisty college student. When leaving a house party she meets cool guy Joe and everything she felt about herself gets flipped upside down. This was a brilliant read, one I’d recommend to every teenage girl (and teenage boy).

13. War Girls: A Collection Of First World War Stories Through The Eyes Of Young Women. 2/5

This is a collection of short stories about a whole host of different women and their experiences during the First World War. It’s quite an insight into what life would have been like for the normal women, the ones nursing on the front line and those widowed by the war as well.

14. Things A Bright Girl Can Do – Sally Nicholls 3/5

Through rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for the vote.We meet Evelyn who’s seventeen, and though she is rich and clever, she may never be allowed to follow her older brother to university. Enraged that she is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart rather than be educated, she joins the Suffragettes, and vows to pay the ultimate price for women’s freedom. May is fifteen, and already sworn to the cause, though she and her fellow Suffragists refuse violence. When she meets Nell, a girl who’s grown up in hardship, she sees a kindred spirit. Together and in love, the two girls start to dream of a world where all kinds of women have their place.

15. The House On Cold Hill – Peter James 1/5

This spooky novel is about the Harcourt family, moving from the heart of the city of Brighton and Hove to the Sussex countryside. Ollie Harcourt, his wife, Caro, and their twelve-year-old daughter, Jade view Cold Hill House – a huge, dilapidated, Georgian mansion – and are filled with excitement. Despite the financial strain of the move, Ollie has dreamed of living in the country since he was a child, and with its acres of land, he sees Cold Hill House as a paradise for his animal-loving daughter, a base for his web-design business and a terrific long-term investment. Caro is less certain, and Jade is grumpy about being removed from all her friends. Within days of moving in, it soon becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren’t the only residents in the house. At first it is only a friend of Jade, talking to her on Facetime, who sees a spectral woman standing behind her. Then there are more sightings of her, as well as increasingly disturbing occurrences in the house. Two weeks after moving in, Caro, out in the garden, is startled to see faces staring out of an upstairs window of the house. The window of a room which holds the secret to the house’s dark history . . . a room which does not appear to exist . . .

Initially, I was really excited to read this book, it sounded like something of interest to me and something I’d really enjoy. The plot sounded really enthralling and like the type of ghostly horror film I’d watch on a dark evening. I just couldn’t get into this book for some reason.

16. Politically Correct Bedtime Stories – James Finn Garner 0/5

I picked this up in the short stories section in my library hoping it would provide some light relief and humour. It was only a little, pocket sized one so I figured I’d be able to power through it. I ‘got’ what the author of this book was trying to achieve but I just really didn’t like it at all. I felt like this book would go down a storm with an older generation who call everyone under the age of 35 a fussy snowflake.

17. Oscar And The Lady In Pink – Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt 4/5

Oscar is ill and no one, especially not his parents, will tell him what he already knows; that he is dying. Granny Rose, the oldest of the ‘ladies in pink’ who visit Oscar and his fellow patients, makes friends with him. She suggests that he play a game: to pretend that each of the following twelve days is a decade of his imagined future. One day equals ten years, and every night Oscar writes a letter to God telling him about his life. This was a particularly moving story not only because it speaks about death in a way which isn’t usually talked about but also as it’s from the point of view of a child making it particularly more heartbreaking.

18. Holding Up The Universe – Jennifer Niven 2/5

First we meet Libby Strout, a young girl once nicknamed America’s Fattest Teen. She’s struggling to keep everything together following her mum’s death. She’s looking forward to starting at high school and being able to be a typical teenager, finding new friends, new hobbies and maybe even dabble a little with lurrrrve. Then we meet, Jack Masselin, the resident cool guy, who has a hidden secret; he can’t recognise faces. The two of them get tangled up in a cruel high school game and end up in counselling where their lives and friendships get brought together.

19. The Little Coffee Shop Of Kabul – Deborah Rodriguez 3/5

What I loved about this book is that it gave me a totally different narrative to somewhere I’d consistently only ever heard bad things about in the news and mainstream media. In a little coffee shop in one of the most dangerous places on earth, five very different women, from very different walks of life all come together. Sunny is the proud proprietor, who needs a plan or an idea to keep her cafe and customers safe, Yazmina is a young pregnant woman stolen from her remote village and now abandoned on Kabul’s violent streets, Candace is a wealthy American who has finally left her husband for her Afghan lover, the enigmatic Wakil, Isabel is a determined journalist with a secret that might keep her from the biggest story of her life and Halajan, the sixty-year-old den mother, whose long-hidden love affair breaks all the rules. As these five discover there’s more to one another than meets the eye, they form a unique bond that changes their lives and the lives of many others.

20. Find Her – Lisa Gardner 1/5

This story sounded like it was going to be right up my street. I’ve discovered this year that, weirdly, I do really like a psychological thriller?! They’re gripping, keep you on edge and full of suspense until you’ve run out of pages to keep reading. I was hoping this would be no different but for some reason I really just couldn’t get to grips with the style of writing. I found it quite jumpy and I kept getting confused with the story and what was going on. In this, an escaped kidnapping victim works alongside a cop, using her personal know how, in an effort to find another missing woman.

21. The Charmed Life Of Alex Moore – Molly Flatt 3/5

I got sent this book in a reading subscription box my sister got me for Christmas called, Reading In Heels. This story is about a girl called Alex Moore. She was stuck in a dead-end job, feeling her potential quietly slip away. One day she decides to launch her dream start-up and became one of London’s fastest rising tech stars practically overnight. At thirty-one, her life has just started to begin. But such is life; Alex’s transformation isn’t particularly easy for those around her. Her friends are struggling to accept her rapid success, her parents worry she’s burning out and her fiancé is getting second thoughts and cold feet. Then all of a sudden, out of the ordinary, weird things start to happen. Muggings, stalkers even an incredibly bizarre claim that she murdered a stranger?! When Alex visits the Orkney Islands to recharge, weird turns into even bigger, weirder things. Because there she discovers the world’s oldest secret; the secret that Alex’s stratospheric rise has royally messed up.

22. Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager 1/5

I didn’t really enjoy this book very much. Alongside an unreliable narrator I noticed quite a lot of spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, which probably sounds dumb but actually put me off. I felt like I had to focus doubly hard if that makes sense? This story is about Emma and her friends playing games and having fun out in the woods during the summer holidays. Three of those friends venture into the woods and never return. Years later Emma is invited back to Camp Nightingale and those woods but is she actually returning to a scene of a crime?

23. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy 2/5

I thought I’d give a classic a go. I’ve read a few different classic pieces of literature and given that I live in Dorset and a lot of the places Thomas Hardy based his novels on are nearby to where I live, you’d have thought I’d have read more of his work. I think this story is quite telling of the treatment of women in it’s time.

Tess Durbeyfield’s family discover she is part of a noble lineage so send her to the D’Uberville family home to make an appeal to live with them. They take her in and Alec D’Urberville ‘seduces’ (whether she was seduced or raped has created a lot of debate but I lean towards the latter) her and she bears his child, Sorrow, who sadly died in infancy. She leaves and finds work as a dairymaid and meets a nice gentleman called Angel Clare. On their wedding night she confides in him about her troubled past and he cannot take what he’s hearing and leaves for a boat to Brazil. Heartbroken she is reduced to returning to the D’Urbervilles and into the arms of Alec.

24. In Flanders Fields: And Other Poems Of The First World War. – Brian Busby 3/5

I hadn’t really read a book of poetry before or at least off of my own accord and not something for school work. I chose this because I thought this would be quite interesting and more emotive. There’s something about war poetry that gets to me, I don’t know whether you can feel the pain and suffering in each and every written word or whether it’s because with everything going on around these men they found the time to jot down their thoughts and are still highly regarded today.

25. Big Bones – Laura Dockrill 3/5

BB or bluebell is the main character in this book. She’s a cool, down to earth teenager who is also overweight. She is being taken to a doctors appointment alongside her Mother when the doctor urges her that she needs to lose weight. BB sticking to her guns doesn’t want to but they eventually reach a compromise with her mum where she promises to keep a food diary over the summer holidays if her mum will let her get a job/apprenticeship instead of going back to college/sixth form. So each chapter of this book is lovingly titled with some sort of delicious food that BB is eating and reading this made me super hungry throughout. I loved the ways in which she’d describe food and herself for that matter too.

Side note, what I’ve loved about all the youth fiction books I’ve read this year centred around a fat female protagonist there hasn’t been a hint of self loathing! Where were these books when I was growing up!?

It was a bit problematic towards the end however, with a family member being taken to hospital and having to use a wheelchair, BB speaks as if that character has reached their demise because they are temporarily wheelchair bound.

26. Always With Love – Giovanna Fletcher 2.5/5

This is the sequel of Billy and Me and follows the love story between Billy, a famous movie star and his girlfriend Sophie as she meets his family in Los Angeles and navigates her way around the all american dream. From paparazzi to dealing with Billy’s mum when Sophie has to fly home and back to reality without Billy they have to decide whether their love will go the distance and whether it’s worth fighting for. This a lovely, chick lit, holiday read.

27. Some Kind Of Wonderful – Giovanna Fletcher 4/5

I actually really liked this. A lot of the books I’ve read this year have had a real theme of self acceptance, importance and self love and this has been no different. Well all those horror/suspense/thriller books aside too! This atypical love story is between Lizzy and Ian. They met at uni and have been together for 10 years and Lizzy was eagerly awaiting a proposal. During their romantic holiday to Dubai and what should have been that perfect moment, Ian ends it with Lizzy leaving her utterly desolate and heartbroken. Leaving her to reenter single life and to re-evaluate who she was Pre-Ian and who she is now and who she wants to be from now on. It’s a little different to Giovanna’s usual chick lit styles but I really enjoyed this.

28. First Man In: Leading From The Front – Ant Middleton 1/5

I picked this up in a charity shop in an effort to encourage myself to read about different things, broaden my mind and my vocabulary and all that jazz. Ant Middleton is someone who’s been on my telly screen a fair bit over the last few years and to be honest I always felt like he came across a little bit unlikeable? I don’t know much about the armed forces, having no friends or family who are involved so it was interesting to read about everything from the selection process, what he went through, what he saw and his life after the military. It was in parts, I didn’t realise he spent some time in prison after his service but moreover I found this a little bit tedious.

29. Single White Female – John Lutz 2/5

This creepy thriller starts with Allie Jones searching for a new roommate after a bad breakup leaves her living alone. Hedra Carlson appears to be the perfect person, she’s shy and quiet and seems like everything you’d want in a roommate. Soon enough though Allie starts to notice the facade slipping and Hedra grows obsessed with Allie’s looks and social life; so begins to emulate Allie by dressing and styling herself like her. I’ve seen the film and loved it and I hoped the book would live up to the film or be even better but I felt like it was missing something or that the film was more detailed than the book. Which is a rarity.

30. One Of Us Is Lying – Karen M.McManus 3/5

Is is impossible to read this title without humming ABBA’s One Of Us??? Nope just me then! This is like a modern day version of The Breakfast Club with a sinister twist. Five students are sitting in detention after school one evening. There’s Bronwyn, the brainy one, the one who’s off to Yale and has never put a foot wrong or been in detention before. Addy, the beautiful popular one. Nate, the criminal bad boy who’s already on probation for drug dealing. Cooper, the popular jock and all star athlete who’s the brilliant baseball pitcher. And finally Simon, the outcast, the creator of the notorious school gossip app and the only person to not leave the detention room alive. He had secrets on all of the remaining four people in that room and was due to reveal them all the following day so they’d all have their reasons to want him gone or had someone outside of the classroom gone to great lengths for Simon to meet his maker and for the blame to be pinned on someone else???

31. Christmas Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella 3/5

I’ve sung this tune multiple times but once more for good measure; Sophie Kinsella is 100% my favourite author. I’ve read every single one of her books, even the ones under her real name Madeleine Wickham and I just simply adore how I can read them with such ease. Each character has the warmth of catching up with an old friend and you can easily sink your teeth into each page. I’ve followed the Shopaholic series and watched the film plenty of times too and this Christmas hit had all the same Becky Bloomwood charm. In parts it was a little bit predictable but had a lovely little surprise twist right at the very end.

32. Reader, I Married Me! – Sophie Tanner * 4/5

Last but by absolutely no means not least is this little treasure! I kindly got sent this book in the post just before Christmas and I read it in the space of two days! In this, Chloe Usher gets her heartbroken by her longterm boyfriend and her friends encourage her to get herself back out there and try out some dating apps. After a particularly bad experience she heads straight to her besties house to drink copious amounts of booze and comes up with the brilliant idea, vowing to marry herself instead. We follow Chloe on her journey of self discovery and self love before her big day and the ways in which her family and friends react to the news as well. This is perfect for everyone wanting a fresh perspective on their life or love life; giving you a wonderful new outlook on the most important person you should be loving for the rest of your life.

I have LOVED this challenge I set myself for 2019 and can only hope I can do bigger and better for 2020. I can only but apologise to those reading this hefty post as it’s over 5000 words!!! If only I had this same energy when it came to doing school work or course work! I’m not sure what was the best way to post all these things so I’d love feedback whether this was way too long to read, would you think this would work better just as a thread on Instagram or as a reel of Instagram highlights??

All the love. Abbie X

Twelve Simple Self Care Steps To A Happier You!

*This is a collaborative post*

Nobody said that life was going to be easy; they just said that it was going to be worth it. And that’s generally how it seems to go. It’s a series of good and bad moments, and we need to have the wisdom to appreciate the good moments and how to handle the bad ones. It’s always important to remember that while you simply cannot avoid the negative parts of life, there are always, always, always things you can do to make them easier to bear and to overcome. Stress is something that is near on impossible to avoid these days even just watching the telly and flicking onto the news channel is enough to make you want to turn the thing off forever; with it’s constant stream of bad stuff happening every single day. 

As someone who gets anxious and stressed quite easily I’ve conjured up a little list here of simple, easy steps to help overcome a stressful, low period in your life. Obviously not everything here might be applicable to you, it may seem completely obvious but sometimes it’s enough to know that you’re not on your own, in this big ol’ world you are never on your own and a lot of people (even the ones you who laugh and joke all day long) are in the same position as you.

If you’d like to add anything, any other tips, tricks or pointers please start a conversation with me in the comments down below!

 

Treat Yourself Well

Life will give you plenty of knocks over the years, and if you’re not doing anything to protect yourself, then naturally it’s going to be hard to endure. The best, most recommended way to preserve yourself is to treat yourself well. We can get so wrapped up in the daily obligations and responsibilities of life that we forget to focus on ourselves and give our bodies and minds what we need. It’s fine — even dare I say it essential; to be selfish from time to time. Listen to what you need, and don’t feel bad about treating yourself. A person in tune with their physical and mental needs will be better equipped to handle the trials and tribulations of life better than someone that doesn’t listen.

That can mean anything from physically treating yourself to some retail therapy, you DO deserve that nice new top, that new edition book to read on the way home from work, go for a large hot chocolate with all the topping rather than just a small/medium. Run yourself a big, bubble bath with some gorgeous smelling treats in it, switch your phone off for the evening and soak away any troubles.

Get Exercising

Exercising to me used to be just one of those annoying things that we think we have to do just to “be healthy,”  or to stay fitting into my clothes but it’s about so much more than that. While you likely would feel a little better about yourself if you’re in shape, that’s not the only reason why you should hit the gym or pull on the running shoes. Joining a gym or fitness group is an excellent way to get out of the house, out of your comfort zone and to meet new friends. Exercising is great for the mind — it clears your head, and also releases plenty of mood-boosting chemicals, too. It’ll also give you more energy, so you’re able to handle everything that you need to do without feeling like a walking zombie.

A Good Night’s Rest

And talking of being a walking zombie: make sure that you’re getting enough sleep! It’s one of the fundamentals of life, and there’s a big difference between someone that is well-rested and someone that is running on empty. You probably know yourself how irritable and unlike yourself you are when you’re tired. If you’ve been struggling to get to sleep, then look at making some changes. The rise in people suffering from sleeping conditions has resulted in a lot of research into how we can improve our sleep. It’s all about creating a cozy bedroom, limiting distractions such as noise and light, and avoiding screen time in the two hours leading up to bedtime. Your mind needs time to switch off if it’s going to seep, and that can’t happen if it’s continually stimulated by the buzzing and flashing lights of smartphones and tablets. I’ve been trying not going on my laptop, ipad or phone too close to bedtime and actually dedicating half an hour to some reading time. It’s meant I’ve really made a dent in my TBR list and I think my sleeping has definitely improved because of this. 

Calming the Mind

We’re all prone to feeling stress from time to time. Working towards a promotion, owning a home, raising a family, day to life in this modern age…they can all induce stress. And while it’s relatively straightforward to handle a little bit of stress, if it becomes too much, then we’re liable to crumble before what life throws at us. There is a tried and tested method for handling stress, however, one that dates back thousands of years: meditation. It can do wonders for all areas of your life, indeed, it can push you in a generally positive direction. It’s super easy to get started by yourself, find a local class that offers meditation or yoga for beginners but if you want a little help, look at downloading an app that can guide you through the process. After a while of practice, you’ll find that you attain a sense of peace that makes all aspects of life easier to control.

Simple Tasks

People can become blindsided by the big things in life. They focus on the grand aspects of life, yet, while it’s always good to keep those things in mind, it’s much better to have a bottom-up approach. If you can take care of the essential aspects of life, then you’ll find that it’s much easier to get to grips with everything else you’ve got going on. The essentials can be classed as ensuring your home is tidy, you’re eating well, and that you’re looking after yourself. These things will be the foundations upon which you can grow. 

Handling the Finances

There are few things worse than enduring the stress associated with financial issues. We could be in good health, have good friends, an active social life, but if our money situation is in trouble, then we’ll always have stress hanging around our neck. This is especially problematic during the festive period or other cost-intensive times of the year. Once you’ve been in this position it’s like you’re staring at every aspect of your spending through a magnifying glass. I’ve been there and it’s absolutely horrific. It’s easy for me to sit behind a screen and say the usual tropes of ‘everything will be okay in the end’ because that doesn’t help at all and well… you don’t want to know that; you want to know about getting out of this is situation in the here and now. It’s important to remember that there are always things you can do to improve the money aspect of things. If you need money fast and have exhausted every other option feasible then you could look into whether you’d want to try a bad credit payday loans. Before you do anything hasty I would probably advise you really thinking hard about this decision, check the loan rate and how much you’d have to pay back overall in the end and how long it would take you as well. The upside to doing this is that you would have money in your account, and then you can simply pay the money back once you get paid. That’ll handle short-term problems. For longer-term issues, you can develop a financial strategy that’ll give you enough to live on and also put some money into your savings account. 

I know it’s super cliche and easy for me to say but money isn’t the be all and end all. One of the hardest things I found was being honest with myself and those the closest around me about my money/financial situation. Admitting I can’t go to certain things as I simply can’t afford it, I can’t buy something brand new and have to look second hand or in a charity shop to save money. As hard as the conversation might be it’ll feel like a massive weight has been lifted from your shoulders. 

Set Challenges 

It’s normal to fall into a rut from time to time. Life can begin to feel a little same-y, we’re stuck on autopilot mode, and we begin to think that our options are limited. It’s always important to remember, however, that there are always ways to step up and be more. Sometimes we just need a little bit of a push to get going. If you’re beginning to fall into a rut, look at setting yourself a challenge — it doesn’t really matter what it is, so long as you’re pushing yourself forward. You might just be surprised at how invigorating it can feel, and how it reminds you of your capabilities. If you’re beginning to feel in a funk, then get moving in any direction. It’ll be the spark you need to get back to your best. You’ll also be raising the bar when it comes to your standards. Find a new hobby is a great example of this, take up running or blogging for example! You’ll be able to look back and monitor how far you’ve come and it’ll give you a fresh new focus. 

Find Your Sore Points 

Everything could be going fine, but then, from nowhere, we begin to feel a little low about ourselves. Everyone has insecurities and things that make them feel bad about themselves; it’s completely normal. If you can identify what those things are however; then you can limit the impact that they have. If it’s something you can change and want to change; then change it. If it’s not, then be aware of how those triggers can make you feel, and accept them. Sometimes our biggest mistakes happen when we’re feeling low about ourselves because of insecurities. If we can recognize the things that make us feel this way, then we might just stop us from making those mistakes. 

Help Others 

One mistake that you could say people is that they focus too much on themselves. It’s not a selfish thing, it’s just normal — and to an extent, completely understandable. You have to focus on yourself first! But it’s also worthwhile focusing on other people from time to time, too. Studies have shown that helping people can give us a lot of good feelings! So as much as it is about you too, buuut it’s mostly for them. Life can be tough and it’s up to all of us to help each other get through it. Also, not to take it a selfish place, but the more people that you support when they have difficult moments, the more people you’ll have to support you when life kicks you around a little. It’s nice to be nice. Remember that. 

Accepting Help

Of course, having people around you who are willing to help is one thing. Accepting their help is another. One of the best gifts that you can give yourself is the ability to accept help when it’s offered. We all know people who want to handle every detail of every issue all on their own. While there will be times when you have to help yourself, there’ll be others when a helping hand from a friend or family member can do wonders. A problem shared is a problem halved like they say, your family, friends and loved ones care about you and would only want the best and wouldn’t like to think that you’re struggling in silence. 

If you feel like you couldn’t reach out to someone you know in real life, sometimes actually saying what’s worrying you is really hard. Write it down, send it as a text or even reach out to a charity like the Samaritans. You can email, ring or even text them with what’s worrying you and it’s nice to know that whatever it is, whatever time of the day it is too, someone will always be there to help you through.

Learn from your mistakes

Some people are guilty of beating themselves up far too much when they make a mistake. But you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t make mistakes! Indeed, it’s better to try things and make mistakes, rather than play things safe all the time and do nothing.

 

Positive Attitudes

Finally, don’t forget the power of a positive attitude. It really can make a big difference in your life. If you act like good things are happening, you’ll be more likely to take opportunities as and when they arrive. A pessimistic attitude can keep you stuck where you are. If everything is fine in your life, then choose to be positive — it really is that simple.

How To Throw The Perfect Christmas Or New Year’s Party!

*This is a collaborative post*

December really is the month for all the social butterflies out there. Amongst all the evenings spent frequenting pubs, bars and Christmassy market mulled wine tents, work christmas parties, all the other Christmas related festivities in-between and of course pre/post New Year’s celebrations it’s easy to see why it’s the most wooooooonderful time of the year.

You’ve probably been to plenty of parties in your life, for all sorts of occasions. Many will live on in your memories, while others were forgotten about merely days later. If you are throwing a soiree soon, perhaps for Christmas or the New Year, you know which camp you are going to want yours to fall into. However, throwing a party that is remembered for all the right reasons can be particularly tricky at this time of year; especially when the weather is so terrible outside! So whether you’re big on parties or prefer the quieter, chilled nights in, you’re the first to get the booze in or prefer guzzling all the soft drinks and if you are looking to add a bit of sparkle and something special to your party; hopefully there’ll be something for everyone to think about with these handy tips here! 

Location!

The first thing you are going to need to consider before you organise the big bash is where you’re going to host the partaaaay of the year. Are you going to throw it from the comfort of your own home? Or will it be somewhere you’ll need more space like hiring a room at a village hall or a conference room at a hotel? Or pushing the boat out and getting all your mates together for a night away at a bouji AirBnB. Personally, my favourite types of parties are the more lowkey types. The ones where you can comfortably settle in for the night on the sofa with all your friends, shoveling in a handful of crisps and not having to worry about moving onto the next bar or pub every hour!

If you’re going to throw the social occasion of the year at home you’ll need to consider:

  • If you live with other housemates or family members keep any other rooms locked to keep out stray party guests.
  • If you think you all might get a bit carried away whilst having fun, perhaps warn your neighbours beforehand just to stay in their good books!
  • Keep anything you don’t want to get broken out of the way especially if you’ve got clumsy drunken pals.

If you’re throwing a party in a public place like a hall or something similar you’ll need to consider:

  • You’ll have to pay. I feel like this one goes without saying and there may be a waiting list or might be all booked up by now for Christmas dates already.
  • You’ll be allocated a certain amount of time and will have to clean up fully at the end as well. I don’t know about you but in my opinion nothing quite kills my partying buzz like whipping round with a hoover at the end of the night.
  • There might be restrictions on what you can do and whether loud music is permitted.

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Perfect that guest list!

Now I don’t know about you but sometimes in life it’s nearly impossible to have completed blended friendships groups. You’ve got your family, your friends, your work friends, childhood friends, old family friends the list could go on and on. They’re all great and you adore them all equally but when it comes to hosting a shindig before you click send to all to all your FaceBook pals you might want to just double check who you actually want there, who’ll probably RSVP yes and not even bother to turn up at all and who’ll defo come through for ya and will bring a bucketload of snacks and a playlist to make Steve Aoki quake in his boots.

Have a theme!

When we think of a theme, the first thing that may come to mind is Halloween. In fact, Christmas and New Year particularly lend themselves well to themes – everyone is feeling a little more fun and more prepared to ‘let go’ and immerse themselves in the festivities. It doesn’t have to be anything too over the top (it’s your party you can do what you want to cry if you want to) Dress up to the nines for a Glitz and Glamour Hollywood theme. Have a purely Christmas themed shindig and everyone has to wear the most Christmassy jumper or go a bit wild with it. Or finally, set it to a particular decade or era and get some great pics to cherish forever (as long as everyone is game with a night of fancy dress!) or plan the night around an exciting Murder Mystery event.

Mix up the music!

Music is a must at any party, whether it subtly plays in the background or becomes more of a focal point with a dance floor. If your budget (and space!) can stretch to it, hire a professional DJ – they know exactly how to read a crowd and get them up and on the dance floor. Sometimes the really cheesy ones are the best too, there’s nothing quite like having a giggle with all your mates as you all get up singing and dancing to Living On A Prayer for the third time that night! Similarly, if you’re looking for a much cheaper alternative creating a playlist of all your favourites, cheesy classics are a must I’m afraid (soz I don’t make the rules but ABBA do) ask one of the party attendees to be officially in charge of the Spotify playlist or just simply put the radio/music channel on in the background!

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Consider the entertainment!

For many parties, music is the sole form of entertainment, but if you want your party to be a little bit different, consider other forms of entertainment. When you’re surrounded by all your friends or family sometimes it’s nice to have a little something extra to do as well  (aside from the annual tradition of the character assassination about my work life/ love life and repeat). Board games in recent years have had a real revival. Gone are the days of just spending hours cooped around a small table playing Cluedo and Trivial pursuit til the small hours with your great Aunt Ethel and there’s an ocean of the most hilarious games and activities for groups to do. Whether you want to organise the tradish style drinking games like beer pong or never have I ever? The App Head’s Up is a great way to integrate people and have a laugh. 

I’m really into silly games especially the types where you learn something brand new about innocent Sheila from accounts. I’ve seen a lot of hubbub about Big Potato Games a fun company from the UK who create some really entertaining games for big groups to small gatherings alike. Cards Against Humanity is always an absolute belter for getting everyone in the fun, partying spirit. Similarly you can find loads of fun different games to play if you have a quick search on Amazon.

Usually the idea of organised fun to me sounds as much fun as poking myself in the eye but if you’re after a really fun activity with all your pals this festive period check out what’s going on locally in your area. Pub quizzes are a great way to get together and sometimes (if you’re lucky) win some fun prizes. I’ve never won a pub quiz in my life but we’ve got free rounds for the best team name which is always fun. Or check out Fizz Box to see what exhilarating activities are on offer in your local area.

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Plan your food and drinks!

Food and drink are essential at any party, whether you are planning a fab finger buffet or a three-course formal dinner. However, the last thing you want to be doing is spending all night slaving away in the kitchen and missing out on all of the fun. Order in some pizzas for the group to share and feast on throughout the night. Crisps and dips are the best part about a social gathering if you ask a little piggy like me. Make something fun for everyone to get involved with like a tex-mex station with guests to make fajitas, tacos and overloaded macho nachos. Or if you fancy having a cocktail making and shaking sesh for the evening; grab all your alcoholic beverages, different spirits, soft drinks and fruit juices and make like you’re all fully trained bartenders and enjoy testing out each other’s creations.  

Fingers crossed that these tips will hopefully help you to plan and throw a party that no one will forget this Christmas time. 

The Devil Wears Primark…Once. (And Then Returns It)

If you go to a fast food restaurant you can get a meal of a burger, fries and a drink for about a fiver on average. Will that meal fill you up and curb those hunger pangs? Yes. Will it be delicious? Yeaaaaaah probably…I mean I’m 24 going on 25 and yet to have a bad McDonalds (other fast food chains are available but I’m a McDonalds gal thru and thru) Will it be nutritious? Debatable. If it what’s you can afford and what you fancy; having it every once in a while won’t do you any harm.

Now if you think about the flip side to this, if you were to dine out somewhere else, having a near identical meal (handmade burger, triple cooked chips, fancy soft drink… can ya picture the type of gastropub I mean), somewhere that sourced local produce, paid the farmers, the cleaners, the waiting staff, the chefs all properly and fairly. Somewhere that considered the food miles that occurred to make that single plate of food and the overall environmental impact of each dish. Would it taste the same as a fast food option? Absolutely not.  Would it cost as little as £5? Also a hard no.

When it comes to food and what we’re consuming, we’re all pretty much aware of where our food comes from or what things we should be eating.  We know that if we had the money and the budget, ideally, we should be purchasing fresh, organic produce. It’s easy for me to preach that behind a computer screen, knowing that not everyone can afford that lifestyle; I certainly can’t! We’re raised to think about our ethical footprint when it comes to the food we consume but why in this current climate is it taking us so long to consider our fashion footprint and how to become a conscious consumer of clothes?

Up until quite recently, I was really naive to what fast fashion and being a conscious consumer really meant. To me I’d hear the phrase ‘conscious consumer’ and think of someone dressed head to toe in hessian sacks and singing kumbaya. I had my head stuck in the sand when I’d shop ’til I dropped; , contently filling my basket with all the latest garms. Within the last 18 months, you see these phrases more frequently used in the press and in informative documentaries all about what goes on behind the scenes, teaching the audience to be more mindful; and how to put their most conscientious, ethical (but still bang on trend) foot forward.

If the term fast fashion is completely new to you, let me bring you up to speed a bit.  Within the last few decades, the way in which consumers shop for clothes has changed massively. With an influx of more and more fashion retailers adorning each and every high street and each corner of the internet; it’s easy to see why low cost, fast fashion retailers really took off. They take the styles and designs seen from top, high end fashion houses, reproducing them quickly for a lower cost (and quality) for the consumer. This then in turn gives the customer the ability to get on board with the identical trend for a fraction of the price.

So what does this have to do with being ethical and how does it negatively impact the planet? So these practices often rely on offshore manufacturing processes where labour is so much cheaper; paying low wages and not taking into account if there are adequate health and safety practices in place. Not only is it not ethical for humanitarian reasons. For other human beings to pay the price for some cheap garments but by the time your outfit gets to store it’s got more air miles on it than the average gap year student.

Becoming a conscious consumer isn’t dressing head to toe in hessian sacks and singing Kumbaya.

To maintain the cheap price of these fast fashion items, often the materials used are of a cheaper, lower quality so they don’t last as long and then get thrown away after a small handful of uses.

Now, I completely understand that the price of clothes is something of a sticking point. Not everyone can afford to buy high quality clothing. Not everyone can physically access shops that stock items like these. I realise there is an amount of privilege that comes with being able to afford to shop this way. I don’t want to offend or isolate anybody with what I’ve written here, I’d be deeply troubled with myself if that was the case. I just wanted to share some ways that even if you can’t quit your fast fashion habits, or you can’t find clothes to fit you from other stores, how you may benefit from some of these simple solutions.

  • Search on Depop/Ebay/Facebook Marketplace.

There are numerous different apps and sites like this. Whether you’re looking at it as a simple way to make some extra dosh or even peruse the shelves of other online wardrobes. It’s an ideal way to find a new outfit on the cheap, whether you’re looking for something from a high street brand, something a bit off the cuff or a designer label; apps like this have got you covered. It can be a bit of a hassle going through the to-ing and fro-ing with individual sellers but the good majority of the time the individual sellers are good. With most corners of the internet you’ll find those types of people trying their luck, to get a vintage, one of a kind item for about 34 pence with postage and packaging chucked in too as if you’re doing them the favour! Nah.

  • Shop Second Hand or in Charity Shops. 

One of my all time favourite pastimes is spending time browsing in different charity shops. Not only will you feel good for getting a top notch bargain but you’ll also get that warm, fuzzy feeling inside knowing the money you’ve spent in store is being put to a good use. Compared to buying in a high street, conventional shop, it might be harder to find the exact thing you’re after but you might come home with something even better or even something designer. Ask the staff if you’re looking for something in particular they might see something come in and keep it aside for you or let you know when they’re restocking days are. Some charity shops aren’t the most accessible to everyone from not stocking a wider range of sizes, being quite small and narrow which isn’t ideal if you’re wheelchair bound. I recently was invited to the Julia’s House new superstore in Poole, Dorset to have a nose around click the link here to have a read of what I thought (and what I purchased!)

  • Browse vintage stores. 

If I had all the money in the world I’d love to be able to spend a fortune in vintage or antique stores. Preferably with someone just a few paces behind me with a big bag picking up everything I scream ‘OMG WANT THIS’ at. I like that the clothes (books and home bits too) have more character to them and you definitely won’t see someone wearing the exact same outfit at an event. If shops like this are a bit few and far between near you online sites like eBay or Antiques Trails Maps are great to search for a particular piece.

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  • Host a Clothes Swap.

If you’re like me and have a wardrobe that’s pretty much busting at the seams, get all your friends together, invite them over for a night in of nibbles, drinks and tell them to bring all their unwanted clothes. One (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure and all that jazz? You never know, that top you’ve been eyeing up that your mate wore before, they might be planning to get rid of it and it’s your ideal time to swoop in. OR similarly, if you want to be tooootally extra and definitely end up in The Good Place; organise something like this on a much grander scale. Find somewhere locally, village hall, school hall or something and do it for charity. Inspire your local community to come along with all of their unwanted wears and feel like a mini Gok Wan with all the sustainable clothes swapping going on around you.

  • Make your own. 

To some, this might sound utterly AWFUL and the sheer thought of trying to make your own clothes is as tempting as heading out the door wearing a bin bag and empty cheese & onion crisp packets as shoes. If this sounds like something you’d be genuinely interested in doing or at least trying out there are hundreds and hundreds of of guides, templates and kits to get you started on these types of things. They’re available online on sites like Etsy, in haberdashery shops or places like Hobbycraft. Or just simply hang onto that mini sewing kit that comes in your cracker at Christmas, spend some time with your nan and learn how to re-sew on a button or how to make something that’s slightly worn look like you bought it that way.

  • Try to shop as trans-seasonably as you can.

It seems like fashion these days cover literally eventuality you could possibly imagine. Once upon a time people bought clothes to wear until they either physically grew out of them or to the point they were beyond repair. These items would be turned into handmedowns or sometimes even used as old cleaning rags. I know I’ve been in the position if I’ve got a party or an event coming up rather than raiding my own wardrobe and wearing that little black dress I’ve worn for the umpteenth time it is far more tempting to hop onto my laptop and check out what dress I can find online for a tenner with next day delivery thrown in you say??? Count me in! Rather than buying something that’ll be in style here and now, perhaps consider something that’ll last a lot longer over the years and you’ll be comfortable to wear it for a multitude of different occasions.

  • Shop smarter.

Emma Watson is endorsing the 30-wear promise which is the ethos that before purchasing an item you need to consider if you’ll wear it 30+ times. This is something that I’m trying to consider when I shop for clothes more often. My personality and style can be quite spontaneous and often I’d pick out items on a whim that I think looks cool at the time and then take it home and sit on my bed staring at this garish crop top covered in Furbies and I’ll catch myself and think ‘….What was I THINKING?!’. So next if you’re like me and considering trying this new shopping stance too, next time you buy something new, think about whether you genuinely will wear it more than just the once and then after that it’ll just sit in the back of your wardrobe until the dreaded annual wardrobe-clearing-out task.

 

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  • Create a capsule wardrobe.

I religiously watched Gok’s Fashion Fix when I was in my teens, not only because it seemed like it was the only thing on telly at the weekends when I was avoiding doing my homework but also because I found it fascinating watching this guy on tv completely transform a rather regular piece of clothing with such ease. His outfit would be pitted against the designer equivalent and nearly always his would win. Probably wouldn’t make ideal viewing really would it if everyone actually voted to say the Prada one was far, far nicer than his safety pin improved number though, would it? My point being is that not only would Gok teach regular folk from up and down the UK how to jazz up a plain outfit but he’d teach something also vitally important; body confidence and how to create the perfect capsule wardrobe. Learning how to create different, fabulous looks from the same few items of clothes, jazzing them up for some occasions, dressing them down for others.

  • Quality not quantity.

I know, that statement kinda stinks of privilege. Personally, I can’t afford to shop high end and often you can get several outfits for the same price as one singular fashion item in a pricier store. I’ve bought numerous items basic items from high street shops for just a couple of pounds and then I whinge and moan when they fall apart just a few wears later. Rather than buying five £5 basic t-shirts would it have been more cost effective if I bought one £25 t-shirt that didn’t fade and

  • Shop Sustainable Brands

A lot of high street retailers often seem to be cashing in on the whole sustainable. Call me a cynic, but if you want to make an impact and actually be an ethical trader don’t limit that to just a few shelves out of a bustling shop full. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a start, a step in the right direction but surely it’s no more or less ethical. I’ve noticed more lately that there is a real uprising of ethical traders and brands coming through with gorgeous pieces of clothing.

Know The Origin

Doc Cotton

House Of Sunny

Beulah London

Ninety Percent

Sometimes, what you need to consider is that if you’re paying a lower cost for an item, someone, somewhere else is picking up the rest of the tab for that. When you shop locally with an independent retailer. You are supporting a person, you’re supporting a family, a household with income. You might be helping a Mother pay her mortgage, a Father help to pay for his child to go for extra curricular lessons or just helping a person chase their dream and afford to actually live. When you buy from a big fast fashion retailer you are only lining the pockets of the fat cats at the top.

Why Visiting Stourhead Is A Must in the Autumn!

Stourhead House and Gardens is a picturesque National Trust property on the Wiltshire/Somerset border in England. It’s one of my favourite beauty spots near me, as it’s a wonderful place to go for a tranquil nature walk, take in the colours of the season or just to absorb yourself in some gorgeous architecture and local history.

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Image taken from regencyhistory.net. 

The estate was previously owned by various different wealthy families before being sold to the National Trust in 1946. The house had suffered a fire in the early 1900s but was rebuilt shortly afterwards near on identically. The gardens have been adapted over it’s time with architect, Henry Flitcroft, adding the Temple of Ceres in 1744, the Temple of Hercules in 1754 and the Temple of Apollo in 1765.

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The lake was artificially created with a path surrounding it which is meant to evoke the journey of Aeneas descent into the Underworld. Henry Hoare, a member of the Hoare family who owned this estate for many generations, was an renowned art lover and collector; basing the design and concept of the gardens on one of his favourite artists pieces, Aeneas At Delos.

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The five arched palladian bridge looks pretty against every seasonal backdrop and just like the setting of Pride and Prejudice.

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The Temple of Apollo.

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On the left is a view of the Grotto and on the right is the Temple of Flora.

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Inside of the Grotto looking out onto the lake.

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Inside of the Grotto.

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The Pantheon hidden amongst the Autumnal trees.

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As mentioned previously, this is a National Trust property and you have to pay on entry unless you have a membership. If you’re visiting the area and are interested in nature/ history and architecture I’d say Stourhead is well worth a visit. It’s a short drive away from the a303 and as far as I’m aware there aren’t any buses to get there so it’s only really accessible by car.

For those that are wheelchair reliant, or are taking pushchairs, the paths around the gardens and running adjacent to the lake are fairly flat but unfortunately there are steps to get inside a lot of the Temples and the Grotto. To get from the gravelled car park down to the house and gardens is a series of slopes. There are free, all-terrain wheelchairs to borrow and a six seat buggy to go around the gardens as well.

 

Visiting The New Julia’s House Charity Shop in Creekmoor, Poole, Dorset. *

Last Tuesday, I was kindly invited by Sarah from Julia’s House to attend an exclusive blogger’s evening at their newly refurbished store in Creekmoor, Poole. Not only was I excited because this was my first proper blogger event invite, one with other, actual bloggers present (yay!) but Julia’s House is a well known charity foundation in my area and naturally I was so thrilled to be personally invited by them. Oh and also because I am a massive charity shop fan. I’m always on the hunt for a good bargain. I’m like the personification of a magpie for these sorts of things.

Speaking of being a massive charity shop fan. I became a literal massive charity shop fan. The Creekmoor site is one of the biggest charity shops on the south coast. Facts on toast from here on out.

So when Mum and I arrived,  we were greeted by one of the staff members, taken through the store, eyeing up stuff as we went (on the evening we were lucky enough to be given 20% off of everything we purchased. So if you can hold on until the end to see all of my new goodies I promise it’ll be worth it!) and were lead out to a meeting room, waiting with all the other bloggers. Sarah, led a short talk explaining to us all about their story, what they do and showed us a video of one of their parents of a Julia’s House child and their experience.

For those of you reading this who aren’t based in the South West of England you might not be fully aware of what Julia’s House is, what they’re about and the work they do. Prior to Tuesday evening, my knowledge wasn’t hugely extensive on all the exact ins and outs either to be honest. I knew they were a children’s hospice and had a lot of charity shops in my local area but that was about it.

So, Julia’s House was created from an idea a paediatric nurse named Julia Perks had. As she worked in the healthcare industry and with very poorly children, she noticed there was something still missing. She dreamed of creating a space or support network for the families who are struggling with caring for a life-limited child. Somewhere, where the child can receive the care and support they need as well as it being a place where the whole family can go or can turn to and feel like they’ve also got a lifeline. In a devastating turn of events, Julia sadly died from cancer and never got to see her dream become a reality. Her friend, Mike Wise, and a small group of dedicated supporters to kindly took the reigns of her brilliant idea and through their tireless efforts and fundraising they got the charity off the ground, employing their first two community nurses; who’d offer families some respite by visiting directly at their homes. Now, one of the first community nurses is still working within Julia’s House and is the Director of Care!

They’ve got a hospice in Poole, Dorset and another one in Devizes, Wiltshire which provides either day or overnight care to the poorly little ones and gives the affected families a chance to have some time out for themselves, to catch up on day to day things or spend with their other children whilst knowing their child is in a safe, home away from home environment. That’s one of the brilliant things I took away from this evening is that Julia’s House don’t just care about the affected child they care for the entire family. Offering and providing experiences such as shopping or spa trips for tired Mums, motor racing day trips to Thruxton for weary Dads, week long residential trips for the siblings to get to know other children/teenagers in a very similar position and giving them a good chance to get away from it all and all their worries. They cover all grounds, making sure no one is left behind and have launched something called Great Mates. A social get together for all the aunties, uncles, nannys, grandads, grans, grandpas, family friends and basically anyone who’s closely involved with the care of a Julia’s House child.

Considering only 5% of Julia’s House is government funded it really humbled me to think, firstly, just how lucky I am to be who I am. I’ve never struggled and I don’t know where the children, the families, the friends, the nurses and the staff get their strength and resilience from to wear a brave face, smile and carry on each day. How do people just learn to cope when they’re told the worst? Secondly it really brought it home to me, just how charities like this must really rely on their fundraisers, their donations, their sponsors, patrons and the customers in each of their charity shops.

So now you’re as clued up on everything Julia’s House as I am; let’s get onto the topic of the new Creekmoor store I visited. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to be expecting. I’d seen a few pictures on twitter and heard raving reviews about it but like all these things you always want to make your mind up for yourself. Upon arrival, I was instantly drawn in by their wicked Halloween display. After years of working in retail I know the pain and the pleasures of pulling off an A* dressed window and how it can entice someone into a store. I was told this wasn’t going to be like any other, ordinary charity shop. There was no dingy and damp smell and definitely no moth ball in sight! It truly lived up to the hype of being an Instagrammer’s dream.  From childrenswear, to designer garms, homeware, a cosy library nook and even an exclusive, bridal suite this definitely didn’t feel like any ordinary charity shop. Toto we defo aren’t in Kansas anymore!

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After Sarah had finished her talk with us all we were shown around the shop by the manager, Dave. In this day and age, not only is fashion sustainability something that is at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds but the importance of reusing and recycling is too. The team here made sure they put everything to good use that they could possibly and the surplus furniture they didn’t know where to place they fashioned into display cabinets. It’s super quirky and fabulous.

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This is the children’s section with this incredible Doctor Who style tardis changing room for children. This was handmade just for this store, and strangely enough, in a bizarre turn of events it’s not the only one they have in here either! Someone from Wiltshire heard about it and gave it to the store. It’s weird and wonderful and totally sums up this whole store. On the outside it looks like any other Julia’s House shop but once you’re inside it’s so much bigger and better than you’d have envisaged. Oh and not forgetting the fab lady stood in front. That’s Claire and she was on hand as our very own personal stylist for the evening.  She oozed, style, passion and charisma and was the perfect person to be championing the store and also me into buying loads. They were all so passionate about this place, the cause and you could tell they were all so proud of the newly refurbished store. After all, they were the ones that had literally put in all the hard work!

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Never have I seen so many Tardis’s in one place?! The attention to detail to every inch of this store is so inventive.

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To the left of the children’s area was the gorgeous Bridal room. To access it, you have to book an appointment in order to treat yourself to a proper Say Yes to The Dress style experience for a fraction of the cost. As we all gathered inside, I was taken aback by the glitz and glamour and was a little bit shocked to see such beautiful gowns! Not that I was expecting them to be horrible but they all looked lovely. All the gowns were either donated as secondhand or from bridal shops that had closed locally. All the dresses are priced under £300 and as wedding shopping / budgeting goes that’s still a massive bargain!

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It’s a lovely and big secluded area of the shop so you can try on and get a feel of what your style is.

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It just goes to show not everything you’d see in a charity shop looks like something your great Aunt Ethel would have worn in the early 1900s. These gowns are utterly fabulous and you wouldn’t believe you could get it for such a cheap price in a charity shop?!

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I love the extra little touches dotted around from the classy chandelier in this room and the big glass full of flowers.

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You can see even more dresses and wedding outfits available here too. Whether you’re looking for bridesmaids, or for little lads to look dapper on the big day there’s so much choice.

Similarly, they also did some nice prom style dresses. After speaking to Sarah at the end of the evening I found out that the team at Julia’s House went to one of the nearby schools with loads of Prom dresses and gowns, some drinks and nibbles and the school girls sorted their outfits out in style and for a good cause too. Prom can be such a big deal at school, well everything seems like a big deal at school at least! Everything from the outfit, the makeup, the hair, the vehicle you arrive in is seen by the rest of your year group and it feels like the biggest event in the world at the time. So to be able to get a decent dress much cheaper and much more ethically would have meant a great deal to those school children.

From the bridal room we then moved into my favourite place in any charity shop; the book section. I can’t help but raid the shelves and see what new read I can find and Creekmoor offered an even better alternative to the usual few shelves. A whole library room!

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Complete with this comfy leather sofa and a few chairs dotted about the room; this space just looks ridiculously cosy to settle in and sink your teeth into a new book. As mentioned previously (and I’m sure i’m going to mention it a few more times before this post is out) I love all the tiny details the team have used to tie each room together. The cowhide rug, the rustic makeshift table, the vintage typewriter (not for sale unfortunately for me) could confuse you for being in a vintage store, Urban Outfitters or somewhere similar to that! You could easily wile away your time in just this section alone before perusing the shelves and grabbing an armful of new books. They’re £1 each or two books for £1.50 unless marked otherwise and in my opinion you can never have too many books!

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I really love the ingeniousness of using these surplus to requirement snowboards as  bookshelves. It’s so clever, so good to reuse them for another purpose and it also looks SO cool.  Notice anything peculiar about the wall either??? Well, it’s wooden doors!? Seriously I’m astounded at the creativity that went into organising this site and into making it what it is. It’s beyond clever.

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The vintage typewriter. There were several items like this dotted around the store. It gives the place so much character, adds to the character and I’ve noticed in my local Julia’s House charity shop they have some donated items just for display purposes.

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Coming out of the library nook is the men’s section. The way Dave and the team spoke about it made me realise how some charity shops are actually quite poor when it comes to bits for men. It got me thinking whether it’s a just a slight difference between the shopping habits between men and women. Are men more likely to go into a shop knowing exactly what they want to purchase, buy that specific item and leave whereas women are perhaps more prone to enjoy the general shopping experience and like to browse as they go. Is the Great British high street and fashion retail in general primarily aimed at women more than men. There are endless shops just for women’s fashion compared to how many there are just for men; so is it inevitable that there are going to be more women’s clothes ending up in charity shops and as secondhand items compared to men’s? I feel like I’ve run away with myself on a real tangent there but it’s something you can think about, ponder on and get back to me with your thoughts!

Creekmoor, stocked a big range of men’s clothes, a huge wall of shelving of dvds and games as well as a super impressive, big vinyl record collection.

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Right by the front door is a large area of women’s clothes, shoes and bags. Ranging from designer labels like lovely Hobbs dresses to high street togs from the likes of Zara, Marks & Spencer and Topshop. Everything felt of good quality and

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As you can see, I was quite snap happy this evening. Rows of old fashioned Singer sewing machines adorned the top shelves of the shoes section.

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On the other side of the shop was all of the homewares. They laid it out like it was a proper department store. With a kitchenwares section with electronic items to plates, glasses and other little knick-knacks. A bathroom section almost with an array of different skincare and beauty products all unused and unopened, perfect if you’re on a budget. They used donated wallpaper or off cuts to create the look for each section and each room and I’m really impressed with the thought and attention to detail here. It’s something I’d have never thought of and probably wouldn’t have even realised had it not been brought to my attention. I sound like a broken record but I’m honestly so impressed with all this effort. It helps customers visualise each item when they draw it all together and lowkey makes you want to get more as it all looks so good altogether!!

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I love the quirky furnishings. I can’t wait to deck out my future home with funky little pieces like this. It’ll be like a storybook of random pieces and like Phoebe Buffay did my shopping.

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This section had real Cosy Club / Lounge vibes. It’s eclectic and fun. In my opinion vintage or vintage style pieces like this have so much more life and character about them compared to a simple (Read boring) frame.

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Opposite the till area are these two changing areas.

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five points if you can spot me.

Well done for making it this far! This is probably my personal record for the most pictures used in a blog post. So I do apologize if it’s quite laggy to open and load this blog post but trust me it’ll be so worth it! As I mentioned previously, we got given 20% off of everything we purchased on the night and I picked out some bargains I want to show off to you all.

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I picked up this faux succulent for my room. I redecorated my bedroom back in August going with a really neutral vibe with white walls, keeping the same furniture and generally having a bit of a clear out. I’m using soft furnishings and duvet covers to bring in splashes of colour here and there and also means I can change the theme as I wish. At the moment I’m alternating between a green leafy duvet cover and then a pink and grey floral design. This was only £2 as well?!

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I love little trinkets and quirky pieces and spotted this old fashioned, vintage atomizer nestled in amongst some other homewares. I just thought it was quite pretty and I can’t wait to feel like Sophia Loren spritzing myself with my fancy schmancy new atomiser.

As I was browsing the clothes I proudly proclaimed that I’ve got SOOOOO much black clothing and couldn’t possibly need anymore, that I was finally going to get something with a bit of colour. Flash forward to about 15 minutes later when I spotted this off the shoulder sheer blouse; it slipped right into my basket without even a second thought. I love items like this though, whether you want to dress it up with some skinny, cigarette trousers for a smart casual look or layer it with a mini skirt and tonnes of black kohl eyeliner and some silver jewellery for a cool going out out style.

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Lastly I picked up this hefty and totally random selection of books. I love reading as you may have already guessed by now! But something I’m really proud of is that my taste in the genre of books I read is fluid and always changing. I’m really keen to broaden my mind as and when I can. As much as I love reading a light hearted chick lit novel I also really enjoy reading social psychology books and things that make me really think. I picked up Single, White Female by John Lutz; the book the film is based on. I love books that you can’t put down until the very end and I definitely think this book will be just like that. I got The Circle by Dave Eggers which I picked up after a skim read of the blurb. The Circle is about a company (called The Circle obvs) that runs the internet and now basically runs everything. The main character starts working for them and slowly but surely notices a sinister truth about this place. Sounds interesting, right!

Next up is Big Bones by Laura Dockrill which is all about the day to day trials and tribulations of a young fat girl. It sounds fun and honest and as someone who was also the young fat girl I’m so glad to see she’s not the laughing stock, the cliche butt of the joke because she’s a larger person. I got Wilde Like Me by Louise Pentland. I know I’m a bit late the party with this one but it was £1 and I like nice to read chick lit which I’ve heard this is.

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Like I say, my reading history is eclectic and random as anything, my next purchase was Jon Ronson’s Them: Adventures With Extremists. Jon talks about his experiences of meeting different extremists around the world and discovered the one thing they all have in common. Probably not an ideal book to reading on the train or in Costa to avoid funny looks. I got Worth Dying For by Tim Marshall which is all about trying to understand the histories, the power and politics of the symbols that people rally around, the symbols that unite us and also divide us. Aaaaaand last but by no means not least; I got Tequila Mockingbird combining my two favourite things, alcohol and literary based puns. This book contains a glorious collection of all the best tipples and I can’t wait to put this book to good use. Y’know for research purposes obvs…I’m doing this for you guys.

I’m so glad I said yes to going along to this fabulous event I got loads of great new bits, learnt loads about this wonderful foundation and feel like the money I spent that evening will have inevitably helped even just a tiny bit. If you’re local to the area I’d really recommend popping in if you’re near to Poole or Bournemouth. This really isn’t like any old charity shop you’d find on your local high street.

Or simply, if you can take anything away from this blog post I implore you to have a root through your local charity shops. Not only will you be giving back to those who need it most, it’s more sustainable than buying brand new clothes or homewares and most of the time you really wouldn’t even know it’s from a charity shop! Plus it’s much cheaper way of shopping plus you never know what might take your fancy!

*I got invited to this blogger event in exchange for writing a blog post / review about it. Even though it was an invited experience all my thoughts, feelings and opinions remain authentic, true to me and genuine.