10 Achievable Tasks for 2016

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New Year’s resolutions are rarely kept. Well, based on personal experience anyway! So when fellow blogger and YouTuber Leah suggested an alternative for 2016 I jumped right on board. 10 Achievable Tasks is exactly how it sounds. Set yourself 10 goals for 2016. I’m not talking deep and meaningful here, but 10 simple tasks that are achievable, yet would still make you feel good about yourself if you were able to tick them all (or most of them) off by the end of the year. Leah will be revealing hers on her YouTube channel (linked here) where she will also link everyone else who is getting involved. As for mine? Read on…

1. Contact friends and family every day

I don’t mean all of them, but at least one per day. I’m pretty good at staying in touch but when you are busy with work and home life it can be easy for a few days to pass before you realise you haven’t spoken to anyone apart from work colleagues and the person/people you live with. A quick catch up with someone you love can sometimes be the best medicine.

2. Reach 200 followers on bloglovin

I’m not in the blogging game for the numbers. If I was, I’d be much better at social media networking and I would have a ‘one subject blog’ (if you read any articles about how to be successful at blogging they almost always tell you that you need to find a niche). Still, it’s nice to see numbers grow, receive more comments and interact with readers and other bloggers. 200 may be a modest number, but one that would make me smile 🙂

3. Start a weekly make up rotation

I don’t think my make up collection is too excessive, but I probably have more than your ‘average Joe’. I am also guilty of using the same products for months at a time when I have so many other gems in my collection. By having a drawer/box/basket of make up to use every day, and rotating this every week I hope to start using products up and discovering old favourites.

4. Renovate our bedroom

When we moved into our first home together we chose a bedroom and planned to renovate the ‘spare’ room, giving it a complete overhaul to make it into our dream bedroom. That was 8 years ago! 2016 will be the year we finally get around to it.

5. Make time for Headspace

I started using the Headspace app during Vlogmas, after it was recommended to me. It’s a guided meditation app, and it’s absolutely brilliant. It only takes 10 minutes and is a great way to get some ‘me time’. I want to make sure I make time for it at least 4 days per week.

6. Visit a different UK city

There are so many interesting cities in the UK and I feel like I have barely visited any. Suggestions in the comments please!

7. Re-start social media free nights

During the summer in 2015, we (my husband and me) got into the habit of having one evening after work where social media and smart devices were banned. I’m no social media hater, I  enjoy it, definitely see the benefit of it and without it I wouldn’t be writing this post! But one evening a week taking it old school was so refreshing and I want to start doing it again.

8. Listen to 5 albums

Talking of taking it old school I miss the days of buying an album (on CD of course!) and sitting listening to it from start to finish. I just don’t do it now and I have no idea why.

9. Eat less takeaways

I could pretend that I plan to eat clean and totally overhaul my diet in 2016 but I know it would never happen – I just love my food too much! I eat plenty of healthy food and despite loving my chocolate and other junk too I do feel I achieve a reasonable balance overall. But, I do need to cut down on the takeaways. Long work days, laziness and a dislike of cooking means I eat too many and that needs to stop this year.

10. Try a new class at the gym

I had a little lapse in the latter part of 2015 but before that I had been exercising regularly and consistently for a couple of years. So now is definitely time to mix it up. There are so many classes at my Gym and I have only tried a couple of different ones (Spinning and Boxing Circuits) and I want to find one that makes me want to keep going back.

I’d love to know if you have set yourself your own 10 achievable tasks, let me know in the comments.

 

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Kurt Geiger Leather Zip Around Purse

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If you had said Kurt Geiger to me six months ago I would have thought of shoes, and shoes only. I had no idea they sold beautiful accessories, including purses. However, I was lucky enough to receive the ‘Leather Zip Around Purse’ in brown for my birthday and I have fallen so in love that I decided it needed it’s own dedicated blog post.

There are a few reasons this purse is perfect for me. Firstly, it’s leather. I can be unintentionally heavy handed so as much as I try and take care of all my possessions, they can get a bit ‘bashed about’, especially bags and purses. In the couple of months I’ve had the purse it has worn really well and I find the advantage of leather is even when it gets marked this can simply add to the character of it rather than make it appear ruined (like faux leather can). I also love the zip (there’s a sentence I thought I’d never write!) The reason being that as the name suggests it wraps all the way around the purse keeping everything really secure, but the ‘chunky-ness” of it adds to the overall look. I personally don’t like the look of a designer name plastered in huge letters across a product, and prefer a more subtle nod to the designer. I find the Kurt Geiger lettering to smart and understated. Finally, I am a receipt and loyalty card hoarder and there is plenty of room for these plus enough space for coins, notes and debit/credit cards too without having to cram everything in.

You can find the purse sold in various places including, of course, Kurt Geiger and department stores such as House of Fraser. Different stores seem to stock different colours but in addition to brown I’ve seen the purse in black, grey, pink, white and deep red. It retails for £85. For me, a great investment piece and a great alternative to the very popular Michael Kors purse which will set you back around £125.

Muscle Food – Lean Meat Bundles

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I’m a total carb-aholic so when I started to pay more attention to my diet in a bid to get healthy for my 30th birthday (you can read more about this here) I made a vow to up my protein intake for a more balanced diet. I’ve tried protein bars and shakes but just can’t stomach them so decided to stick to the old fashioned method of eating more lean meat. My husband introduced me to the website ‘Muscle Food’ and now that we have made a couple of large orders I wanted to share my thoughts with you…

Muscle Food is an online store selling, in their words, premium nutrition for healthy living. This means you can find lean meat, protein bars/snacks/shakes, fresh fruit and vegetables, supplements and even protein rich ready meals and pizzas on the site. For both of our orders we took advantage of a special ‘Groupon’ deal – a 70 piece meat hamper for only £49. This deal on Groupon, and others, pop up regularly but the Muscle Food site itself is still good value, especially if you buy in bulk. They promise all their meat is trimmed of excess fat, free from preservatives and has no added salt or water. They also seem pretty proud of their reputation – the website is plastered with endorsements from professional athletes and organisations such as the Organic Soil Association and the British Butcher Association.

Once placing an order, you choose a delivery date to suit you. The main issue for us here is the company does not deliver on the weekends, which is worth knowing before you place an order. Especially as this is not the kind of order you want left with a neighbour if you are at work when they attempt to deliver (you don’t want 100’s of pounds worth of ruined meat to return home to!) We just planned our orders around annual leave days. Handily, the company sends you a text in the morning with delivery slot (which as far as I remember was a few hours) so at least you don’t have to wait in all day.

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I was dubious about having meat delivered by a courier. I had concerns about the meat being kept refrigerated well enough especially as we made our orders in the height of English summer. When I answered the door to a standard cardboard box, my doubts weren’t initially eased! However, when we opened the box, the contents was super chilled. This had been achieved by a combination of cool bags and a thick layer of insulation. In hindsight this probably would have kept the meat adequately chilled for a few further hours, but I was glad to be home to receive the delivery just to be on the safe side.

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All the meat was vacuum packed. I was pleased to find a variety of expiry dates on the products. All the meat had at least a few days to go, and some had up to a week. It’s just us two in our household so clearly we needed to freeze a lot of the meat but if you are a larger family or eat a lot of protein on a daily basis there is time to spare without having to freeze anything. Our hamper contained a mixture of chicken, steaks, pork, turkey, sausages and bacon. Most of this was packaged in portions suitable for one or two people. However, there were two packs of chicken breasts containing 2.5 kg each. We learned the hard way, but if you get a hamper containing this I would recommend separating the chicken into manageable portions before freezing – we had a hard time defrosting 2.5 kg of chicken in one packet and then eating it all within the next 24 hours!!

The biggest surprise for me was the quality of the meat. Honestly, most of it tasted better than any supermarket or butcher bought meat I have tried before. The stand outs for me were the bacon and the beef steaks. I track my nutrition on My Fitness Pal and was amazed but pleased to see how low fat and calorie these were for the taste! The only disappointment was the sausages, which compared to the other pieces were just average and not much lower fat than standard sausages. But for a 70 piece hamper to only be let down by one of the items, you can see why we made a second order!

As I already mentioned, we have been impressed enough with Muscle Food to make a second order and I am now tempted to try out some of their other offers including the protein snacks and pizza!

Have you tried anything from Muscle Food? Let me know your thoughts in the comments…

4 Motivation Tips – to get you to the gym!

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Whether you are going to the gym for weight loss/gain/maintenance, fitness, strength or any other reason the chances are (if you are anything like me) there are times when you really can’t be bothered. For me, on those days I seem to be able to think of 100’s of reasons (or actually excuses) not to get myself to the gym. Having said that I’m pretty impressed with myself as in the past couple of years I have been going consistently so I thought I’d share my motivation tips with you today. I’m not saying a gym membership is the only way to exercise (you can read my post about my favourite at home workouts here) but if you already have a gym membership you are bound to want to get your money’s worth!

1. Timing is everything

I have a 9-5 job (what a way to make a living!) and I find the best way to ensure I get to the gym is to go straight from work. Do not pass go, do not collect £200! I pack a gym bag in the morning (or the night before) and throw it in my car so that I have no need to go home first. If I do, once I’ve kicked off my shoes and sat down that’s it – not much is going to get me off my bum and out the door after that! When I worked shifts, I made sure to go after early shifts or first thing in the morning on days off. Obviously when is best for you will depend on your personal circumstances, but I recommend you find a time that means you are less likely to slack off, and make it part of your routine.

2. Plan meals

I’m one of those people who always seems to be hungry and for me working out when I feel that way is never effective. I know some people like the ‘starved cardio’ technique and to be honest I don’t know much about it but I do know it’s not appealing to me! So as I go to the gym straight from work I now make sure I have a proper breakfast and a more substantial lunch than I used to, or have a healthy snack at work part way through the afternoon. If I leave work without a rumbling tummy I’m definitely more inclined to get in my car and drive to the gym instead of to the nearest shop for food! You can read about my healthier breakfast choices here.

3. Wear ‘feel good’ outfits

I used to wear any old thing to they gym. Usually leggings and baggy t-shirts that I’d had for ages and weren’t ‘good enough’ to wear for anything else any more. I’d heard people say this was a bad idea and you should wear work out clothes that made you feel as good as your other clothes. I dismissed it thinking I’d rather spend money on other things but then I finally realised the error of my ways! I find workout clothes made by proper sports brands not only fit better, feel more comfortable and last longer but actually make me look forward to working out (yes really!). I now put the same effort into selecting my outfits for the gym as I do into any other outfit and I can honestly say this is one of the things that gets me to the gym regularly.

4. Attend classes

Most gyms have a range of classes to chose from. I find taking the plunge and going to my first one is a bit nerve-racking but I have always ended up enjoying them. I find there are a few reasons why going to a class improves my motivation. First of all trying something new and therefore mixing things up at bit definitely spurs me on. The fact that you have to be there at a certain time also means I’m less likely to make excuses or put off going. Finally, once I get to know a few of the regular faces and the instructor I feel guilty for not going so tend to turn up!

If you have any motivation tips to share please comment below 🙂

What’s On My Dressing Table?

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When we bought our house and I finally had space for one, I couldn’t wait to get a dressing table. About four years later I got around to buying one! I wish I’d got one sooner; it makes so much difference when you are a make up lover. It’s great to have all your most reached for make up items close to hand and I love displaying items on the dressing table to add a personal touch. I’m not claiming my set up is Pintrest-worthy, but if you are as nosy as I am a little tour around my dressing table might be of interest to you! The table itself is from good old Ikea. It’s from the ‘Hemnes’ range and costs a mega reasonable £135. For the price, it’s really sturdy and was surprisingly easy to put together (it took two people, 20 minutes and only one minor disagreement!)

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On the left side of the mirror I keep my lipsticks. Most other make up items including other types of lip products (glosses, lip crayons etc) are either hidden away in drawers or in a separate storage unit beneath the dressing table, but this is my favourite way to store lipsticks. As you can see, I have a modest collection, almost all from high street brands but with a few from Mac (which I love). Acrylic storage can be really expensive but I found this in TK Maxx for around £8 and I’ve got a couple of back ups for when my lipstick collection expands (which it inevitably will!)

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I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for statement necklaces and as I wear them really often I keep them hanging over each side of the dresser, bright colours on the left and more neutral on the right. They are mostly from Miss Selfridge, Primark and Make A Statement (you can find this company on facebook linked here – I highly recommend it!)

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As I use make up brushes almost every day, I definitely want these in easy reach. I find you really don’t have to spend much on containers if you are willing to be creative and shop around. I personally like the mis-matched looked as you can see! The little blue container is actually a tealight holder from Wilko’s costing £2. The middle container is a treasured gift from a friend from one of her trips to India and the Paris glass was another bargain from the TK Maxx kitchen section (I think it’s supposed to be a Latte glass!). I keep all my lip liners and eye liners in the final glass, which was a Next sale purchase.

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I love jewellery holders and want to get more, in all different shapes, sizes and finishes to continue with my mis-matched look! They are also a must for people prone to losing their jewellery, when you have items you wear every day but take off at night (speaking from experience!) I happened to get these both for Christmas last year. The Eiffel Tower one is from Next and was a gift from my husband. Here is were you will find my engagement and wedding rings (unless I’m wearing them). I keep all my ‘costume’ rings and stud earrings on the stag holder, a present from my sister-in-law and from Urban Outfitters.

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Finally; my perfumes. I’ve explained in a video on my You Tube channel that I’ve never been one to have a large perfume collection. I often only have one on the go and rarely have more than two. I’m also a bit of a fragrance floozy as I flit between many different scents and brands. On the go at the moment are Black Orchid from Tom Ford and Si from Giorgio Armani. The Tom Ford fragrance is a rare repurchase so that speaks volumes. It’s a very heavy scent so I tend to reserve this for nights out in the Autumn/Winter but it’s so sophisticated and one spritz lasts a long time. It contains black truffle, ylang, bergamot and blackcurrant so is not at all floral (as the name suggests) and a really luxurious smelling fragrance (although this is definitely reflected in the price). Si is my more ‘every day’ scent at the moment. Fresh, girly and a little floral it has ingredients including blackcurrant, musk and rose.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a tour of my dressing table. I plan to do a full make up collection video on my You Tube channel in the future so keep your eyes peeled!

5 Tips – for a better night’s sleep

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I love a good night’s sleep (who doesn’t!) Years of shift work messed up my sleeping habits big time, and when I started a ‘9 to 5’ a few years ago, I struggled even more when I had to force my body back into a ‘normal’ sleep pattern. Now, I’m no scientist (unless being addicted to The Big Bang Theory counts!), so these tips are just based on my own experience but with these in place I rarely have difficulty sleeping nowadays.

1. Pamper yourself

I don’t mean a full on head to toe pamper session (but if you have the time and inclination to do this every night go for it!) but I find taking time over my skincare routine, using products I really enjoy, helps me wind down for the day. I start by literally washing the day off my face; micellar water, eye make up remover and cleanser. I follow this up with skin tonic, serum, facial oil, eye cream and night cream. I have a little acrylic storage unit on my bedside table and here is where I keep the products I use once I get into bed; cuticle cream, foot cream and hand cream. This mini pamper routine has become a bedtime ritual and I find it helps me physically and mentally relax ready for sleep.

If you would like to know more about the skincare products I use please let me know in the comments – I can do a seperate blog post or You Tube video.

2. Invest in you bedroom

In my opinion, your bedroom should be your sanctuary and by feeling completely and utterly relaxed by your surroundings, it can only help you sleep better. By invest, I don’t necessarily mean spending loads of money, it depends what you find comfortable and appealing. For me I want a soft mattress, calming colours and lots of ‘homely’ touches. For others it might mean a wall full of photos, or as many scatter cushions as humanly possible to fit on a bed, or very minimal decor – whatever floats your boat!

3. Ban smart phones and tablets

This is one tip that I really should do more often! I’m vaguely aware of actual research with scientific reasoning as to why using smart phones or tablets before trying to sleep is detrimental (something to do with the blue back light I think – I’m sure Google will enlighten you if you want to know more!) and I’ve definitely noticed that if I don’t look at mine for an hour before going to bed, I get to sleep much quicker. In our household we even ban them for the whole evening on occasions and it really makes a difference.

4. Talk to someone

I’m a big believer in ‘de-briefing’ at the end of the day, no matter how mundane, stressful or exciting it may have been. Live with a partner or your family? Chat about your day over dinner. Live alone? Call a friend or family member each evening to talk about how your day was. Not really a talker? Why not write it down or keep a diary. I find just talking about my day, and listening to others talk about theirs, helps me ‘put the day to bed’ and clears my mind ready for a good night’s sleep.

5. Meditate

Meditation is a word that used to make me feel sceptical. And it’s because I didn’t understand it. I joined a Pilates class over a year ago, and the last five minutes is always meditation. For me, it’s about controlled deep breathing and clearing your mind (not necessarily chanting mantras or sitting in the lotus position like I had imagined!) I don’t do this every night but after a really stressful day, or when something is making me feel anxious, just doing controlled breathing as I’m trying to get to sleep helps me relax. I won’t try and explain how to do it, as I don’t want to give out any misinformation! However, there are plenty of You Tube channels available with methods and advice if you are interested.

If you have any sleeping tips, let me know! If you also find the above tips helpful, I’d love your feedback too 🙂

3 Healthier Breakfasts – for busy people

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I can’t pretend to be a nutrition expert. I just love my food – both the healthy stuff and the less nutritious, but I haven’t always paid much attention to ‘eating well’. However, as I mentioned in my recent post about You Tube workouts (linked here) I started to pay more attention to nutrition leading up to my 30th birthday. I still can’t claim to be an angel when it comes to eating healthily but I am definitely more knowledgeable about what I’m putting into my body and have some better habits. One of these habits is making sure I always eat breakfast. I like as much time in bed as possible in the morning, so on a work day I tend to leave myself only 30 minutes to get ready, hence my previous habit of skipping breakfast! If that sounds like a familiar story to you, here are three breakfasts that I regularly eat ‘on the go’ that in my opinion are a much healthier option than either skipping breakfast completely or resorting to a sugar packed cereal bar (which used to be what I ate if I did actually have breakfast).

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Overnight Oats

Overnight oats are probably not a new concept to a lot of people reading this, but if you haven’t jumped on this band-wagon I strongly encourage you to! Prepared the night before and ready to eat in the next day, there is no need to faff about in the morning with chopping, measuring and mixing – just eat! There are hundreds of recipes out there but I stick to one I found on the You Tube channel ‘Notes from the City‘ – the recipe is linked here and includes dried cranberries and flaked almonds. Admittedly, this doesn’t look hugely appetising when made (which is the reason it took me so long to jump on the bandwagon & why I haven’t included a photo of the finished product!) but trust me when I say it tastes a lot better than it looks! Packed with protein and with a decent amount of calories for a breakfast this keeps me full well into lunchtime.

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Soreen

I have to admit I was a bit skeptical when my husband suggested trying this. Malt loaf just didn’t sound appealing to me. I expected it to be dry with a powdery aftertaste. I was wrong! This loaf is described as ‘squidgy’ and that’s exactly what it is. Moist and really tasty, this has become a real favourite for me. You can buy it pre-sliced which is even more convenient in terms of saving time and portion control. It’s very low fat and pretty low calorie. If you want a calorie and fibre boost, add in a banana and you’re set!

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Nakd Bars

I eat these on days I’ve hit the snooze bar too many times and I really do need to eat on the run! They may not be as filling as the other two options but in my opinion these are a healthier version of all the high sugar breakfast bars out there. Fruit and nuts packed together, gluten free with no added sugar these are definitely a guilt free breakfast. There are many flavours and you can read more on their website linked here, but to be honest the Cocoa Orange and Cocoa Mint are the only ones worth mentioning (in my opinion!)

I’m always looking for more quick and healthy breakfast ideas so let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions!