Friday, 6 May 2016

Why I'm No Longer Sharing Monthly Goal Posts

I make no apology for my blogger (or life) cliche. I genuinely cannot believe it is May! Partly due to the fact if I look out the window in the house we're staying at in South Wales it is pouring with rain but also because I can't quite figure out where the months have gone. Somehow we've already been married 4 months!!

Why I'm no longer sharing monthly goal posts

But I digress. In March I sat down to write my "monthly goals" post and realised I didn't want to.. in part, I don't think I felt much like blogging anyway but equally I just didn't want to write another monthly goals post. April came around and so did the same feeling, so I decided to explore that a bit more and from there realised I actually find them unhelpful and I don't enjoy writing them.

So here's why I won't be writing monthly goals posts anymore :

1. They make me feel guilty - I totally believe in being honest with you as my friends & readers but when I don't hit my goals I feel like a failure and I beat myself up. To be honest, I'm trying to eliminate opportunities to beat myself up as much as possible.

2. It wasn't keeping me accountable - I didn't feel like by writing my list each month I was staying anymore accountable to my goals and the whole reason I started to write them was to keep accountable. 

2. They're not unique - Pretty much every blogger does them, right? Of course their goals are unique but the post itself isn't - and aren't we trying to be unique?

3. It feels lazy  - I absolutely believe in having regular content and sometimes you need something that is easy to write. But to be analysing one list and then creating a new list was beginning to feel like lazy, boring writing. 

4. It was added pressure - I guess this comes under the guilt thing. Having a regular monthly piece meant when I didn't write a monthly goals post I felt even worse about not blogging. Blogger guilt is real. 

4. I want to focus on long term goals - I shared my New Year's Resolutions at the start of the year and I want to focus on them as well as some blog specific goals which I'm hoping to share very soon. Yes, breaking some goals down month by month is helpful but other times it's better to set a longer time frame. You know what they say: Rome wasn't built in a day!

Do you read monthly goals posts?

Monday, 2 May 2016

Lean In 15 : The Start

Lean in 15 - Joe Wicks

As you will know, I have been following Slimming World for a little over a year now and I did see some huge success early on. But I've gotten a bit lax with it over the past few months and have gained a lot of the weight back. 

With lots of weddings this year I'm aiming to loss about 1lb a week to be at my target by July. However, having read some really great things about Joe Wick's Body Coach: Lean in 15 I have decided to mix Slimming World up a bit with some of the ideas from Lean in 15.

I will still be attending weekly weigh ins at Slimming World (because despite Joe Wick's advice I just can't give up on the "sad step") and i'll still be focusing on mostly syn free/ low syn versions of the meals from the Lean in 15 book. 

So my meals and snacks for the week are planned and here's the plan of action, starting tomorrow: 

Follow the Lean in 15 plan - (3 low carb meals & 2 snacks on non-workout days, 2 low carb and 1 higher carb meal and 2 snacks on workout days). These will mostly be low syn/syn free or healthy but I won't be counting syns. Since I won't be having as many snacks as syns I feel like it'll balance out. Sorry Slimming World purists.

Upping my water intake - Joe Wick's recommends between 3-4l of water a day. I'm currently aiming for 1l a day but hoping to up this as part of the plan.

Cutting out alcohol - not completely, but aiming for a mostly "dry May" with perhaps 1 or 2 days where I have a drink or two. 

Cutting down fizzy drinks - I am a complete diet coke addict. But I don't think it helps with bloating so I'm going to try and cut down my fizzy drinks consumption probably to 1 or 2 a week. 

Introduce HIIT Workouts - I've been going to the gym for the last few weeks and enjoying it. I'm hoping introducing HIT workouts with guidance from the Lean in 15 book will see me tone up and burn fat easier. 

I'm hoping to share regular updates over the next few weeks and months - potentially a monthly progress update. 

Here are my starting stats:

Weight above target  : 1 stone 2lbs (approx I'm going to weigh in at Slimming World on Tuesday which will be more accurate)

Bust: 31"
Waist: 32"
Hips: 38"
Thigh: 23"
Bicep: 11.5" 

I do have some "before pics" but I'm a bit embarrassed by them so I might wait and share them when I've got an after pic I'm proud of!!

Have you tried Lean in 15? 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Why I Stopped Apologising for my House

The other day a good friend text me to ask if I was free that afternoon because she was vising Chester. At the time I was trying to get our dinner in the slow cooker as well as prepping food for some friends who recently lost their dad but I was free to see her later. But then my mind went in to overdrive: 

".. the house is a mess .. 
the kitchen needs a good clean.. 
and the bathroom.. 
ohh the living room is untidy..
I better not let her come here..
Unless I don't go for a walk with Andy and just spent the afternoon cleaning"

What is up with that ? 

Please don't get me wrong. I am very house proud. But perhaps not in the traditional sense: I am proud of what our flat represents. It represents our first home, Andy's hard work and saving. Of course I'm proud of that. But occasionally the housework slips.

Also, I make no excuses. I don't have kids or animals. I obviously have a husband, but apart from his hesitant to wipe down the kitchen sides after baking, he's tidier than me. But, occasionally things get busy and again the housework slips. and sometimes, I'm lazy or busy. 

But those feelings from Saturday: I've named them house anxiety. The feeling that my house isn't "good enough" that I have to apologise to a good friend who's known me for years, and even lived with me, for the mess. The feeling that I can't get on and enjoy my day in the sunshine because I *need* to clean. Because I know what I'm like, I'll start just giving the bathroom a quick clean and I wind up scrubbing the floors on my hands and knees or deciding now is the time to polish the skirting boards. 

So that's why I stopped apologising. I deleted the message that said "I'm sorry for the mess", I offered to meet her elsewhere but explained how I was feeling, I spent a bit of time tidying up for my peace of mind and then I went out. But I stopped apologising, and I vowed to continue to stop apologising.

Because, people aren't coming to see my flat. They're coming to see me and Andy. They're being welcomed into our home and actually, I'm going to be more welcoming if I haven't just snapped at Andy for daring to use the toilet I'd just scrubbed (sorry, darling). So I've taken a stand against sending the apology text and to be proud of all our flat, chaos and all, stands for. 

The truth is, if they're a good friend, they won't care and besides who ever walked into a house and said "Oh wow, don't your skirting board look clean?"

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Wedding Wednesday: White Wedding The Evening

I'm back for another White wedding update. We were also featured on Bellissimo's blog this week.

If you've missed any of our updates you can read them here:
The Morning
The Ceremony

Matt and Esther Photography

After the ceremony we served mulled cider (recipe here) and canapes (which unfortunately I only got about 2 of which I'm gutted about because the food was all amazing). Then the formal photos begun - grateful as I am to have some brilliant photos of all the people we love I found this bit tedious!! Our driver was waiting outside ready to whisk us off for a few minutes just me & Andy. But with the photos on we took our chance and went for a quick drive around Bournemouth. It was brief but lovely to get a quick breather and spend some time just us two (and our lovely, patient driver who waited for ages to take us for a drive) 

Matt and Esther Photography

Matt and Esther Photography

Matt and Esther Photography

Then after some more shoots just us two it was time to eat. Did any other bride lose their appetite on the day? Again, gutted because we had the most amazing afternoon tea: fancy sandwiches, scones. cakes, little pastries and loads of tea. But I just didn't feel that hungry at all and poor Andy was super nervous about his speech.

Matt and Esther Photography

Matt and Esther Photography

Matt and Esther Photography

We took some time during the meal to walk round the tables and *try* and talk to everyone- my advice to future brides? Don't feel pressured to talk to everyone, it's nearly impossible!!

Matt and Esther Photography

Matt and Esther Photography

Crumbs cleared up and it was time for the speeches. Led by our Master of Ceremonies, my Uncle Nigel who took to his role a bit too well. My wonderful, proud, emotional dad took the first speech and for the first time all day I got a bit teary, Andy followed and did such a wonderful job and finally my beautiful sisters spoke (Andy's grandpa was best man but at 99 he wasn't in prime speech making position) they gave a 5 things you might not know about Laura and 5 things you might not know about Andy which had everyone in fits of laughter as well as tears. Thank goodness for video cameras, it's been amazing to watch them all back again.  

Matt and Esther Photography

Matt and Esther Photography

Matt and Esther Photography

On to the cake cutting. Ok, another tip for brides.. practice cake cutting!! Noone tells you what to do or how to do it and it's harder than it looks. At least it gave people a few laughs.

Matt and Esther Photography

Matt and Esther Photography

With the room cleared we took to the floor for our thoroughly unchoregraphed first dance to John Legend's All of Me. It wasn't styled and neither of us have much rhythm but it was lovely to have a bit of time to whisper to eachother and giggle before we were joined by our nearest and dearest on the dance floor. 

Matt and Esther Photography

We followed the first dance up with a Daddy/Daughter dance where I got my (emotional) sisters on the floor with us again for a bit of an impromptu dance together - a very precious moment which I'm so glad it got caught on camera. 

Matt and Esther Photography

Then we danced and danced and had some drinks and talked to everyone we could manage. Later on more food was served: mini fish and chips, fried halloumi and chips and bacon sandwiches.

Finally, it was time for us to go. Our friends and family crowded round to sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" (guess who Andy supports) before popping party poppers as we exited. 

Matt and Esther Photography

Matt and Esther Photography

A wonderful end to a wonderful day. 

Photo credit: Matt and Esther Photography 

Monday, 25 April 2016

7 Reasons Flexible Working is the Future

As well as reading lifestyle/fashion/beauty blogs I try and read business and marketing blogs every day. Two companies I follow very closely are Buffer and Arment Dietrich (Spin Sucks). Recently, flexible working has been on my mind a lot and it so happens both companies follow a flexible working mentality and blog about their experience.

7 reasons flexible working is the future

My understanding of flexible working is the opportunity to work contracted hours (if you do have specified contract hours) however and wherever you want. Rather than working a traditional 9-5 within an office.
  I really believe flexible working is the future and here's 7 reasons why:

1. It offers a break from living for the weekend 

Be honest, how often have you uttered the phrase "I'll do that at the weekend?" or "I don't have time but will put it on my to do list for the weekend?" I do it all the time: going to the post office, tidying the living room, giving the bathroom a good clean, paying in a cheque. 

The result? Filling our weekends with endless tasks so that by the time we get back to our desks at 9am on Monday morning we feel like we need another break. Last Monday I took a day's holiday just to catch up on things, I'd been away for the weekend and hadn't had time to tick bits off my to do list so I went to the post office, paid in a cheque, filled out some forms, did some food shopping. It was great! Everything was less busy, I felt accomplished and set up for the week ahead. But right now it's not feasible to take a day off every week to get stuff done. Hence, they get pushed to the weekends. 

Flexible working opens up opportunities within a "normal" work day to get things done.

2. It opens up opportunities 

What would you do if you had an extra hour in your day? Sleep? Exercise? Write? I like to think I'd go the gym or do some blogging. In reality I would probably sleep or watch another episode of Glee! 

Flexible working isn't some sort of magic formula that adds an extra hour to your day, but it does offer opportunities to fit extra things into your schedule. Start an hour later and begin your day with a spin class, if that's your thing. Or take a longer lunch break and write for half an hour or y'know take a nap. Naps are important. 

3. It opens up even BIGGER opportunities 

This might look like the last point but.. it's not. What happens when your job, like most jobs now, means you can work from anywhere with a wifi connection? It means you can work from ANYWHERE! We've entered the age of the digital nomad. If travelling is your thing then jump on a plane, find somewhere beautiful with an internet connection and get to work. For example, take my friend Louise who just returned from working in Egypt. Get a look at her "office". 

Digital Nomad
But it doesn't have to mean that. Being able to "work from home" has meant I can drive down to my sister's on a Thursday night and work from her house on the Friday giving me the opportunity to a) break up the drive to Bournemouth and b) spend more time with my sister and brother in law. 

4. It changes your work/life balance 

Which brings me to my next point, flexible working offers the opportunity to be where you need to be. I know of people who work from home so they can be with their child at the same time. They might work in the morning then take the afternoon off to be fully focussed on parenting and then in the evening they pick the hours back up. Or perhaps you have a relative who is sick? and it's beneficial for you to be near them in the hospital. 

5. It empowers people 

Let's be honest, it's going to become apparent quickly if you're taking advantage. if your version of working from home is not even checking emails, you're just watching Jeremy Kyle; or if you're lazing on the beach. You will get found out and there will be consequences. Flexible working puts trust into employees to be accountable for what they do, when they do it and where they do it.

6. It recognises people's strengths

Hands up if you're a morning person? You guys are amazing! I used to be one of you. But now, I benefit from a bit of extra sleep. I'm currently writing this at 8.30pm and I genuinely think that's one of my best times to work. My brain just gets in the zone. Flexible working doesn't put people in a 9-5 box, instead it asks "what's going to work for you? When will you be most productive and give the best of yourself?" 

7. It focusses on quality, not quantity 

Some people are very methodical and take their time over their work and they need the full 40 hours or more a week to get their work done. Some people don't need as much time, they work quickly and get it done. I know which one I am, and that's not to say that there's a right or wrong. But if you don't really need the full 40 hours, is that efficient? Flexible working focusses on the what you did and the quality of the work rather than how long it took to do it in. Again, if you're saying you did it and so now you're taking some "well earned time away from your screen" and it's not to a good enough quality? well, on your back be it!!

I'm not saying flexible working will be possible for all roles, my sisters work in healthcare and education, however, I really do believe as I we understand more about the effects work/life balance and sleep deprivation and everything else we're researching that flexible working will become more and more prominent. 

Friday, 22 April 2016

Botanist Chester New Menu Launch

The Botanist Chester

Go on, ask me to recommend a bar in Chester? I guarantee I'll say The Botanist within my top three (the other two you'll have to ask me for another time). So I was really excited to be invited to their new cocktail menu launch on Tuesday*. 

The Botanist Chester

The menu was quite literally hot off the press having only launched a few hours previously so I was super impressed to see how quickly all the bar staff picked up the new cocktails. 

The new menu focusses a lot more on botanicals (see what they're doing) and choosed fresh fruit and herbs over purees. It means the bar resembles a mini greengrocers and you know you're in for a super fresh cocktail. 

The Botanist Chester

The Botanist Chester

For you gin fans, and who isn't? They've got a whole new gin list based upon different Living Ventures locations. I'm pretty excited to try the Alderley Edge & Knutsford gin on my next visit. 

The Botanist Chester

Throughout the night we tried a total of ten drinks and I even got to have a go at shaking some up (I didn't mention I did a brief stint as a cocktail waitress- I'm not sure Andy really captured me at my best). 

The Botanist Chester

Luke, our bartender was unbelievably knowledgable about all things alcoholic and drinks flavours and I think he might be my new best friend. You can totally see the passion and training (2 solid weeks) that goes into working behind the bar at any Living Ventures location. 

The Botanist Chester

The Botanist Chester

We started the night with a homemade lemonade - available in a sweet or sour option and totally refreshing. Before moving on to the watering can cocktails - the perfect accompaniment to a girly catch up in the sunshine (The Botanist has a gorgeous sun terrace, perfect for the weather we're having at the moment). 

The Botanist Chester

The Botanist Chester

On the night we tried:

  • Homemade lemonade
  • Watering cans: Rum featuring cherry and thyme, vodka featuring raspberry and sage and gin featuring apricot and basil
  • Thai Chilli crush (my favourite)
  • Pear & kiwi crush
  • Blueberry and passion fruit martini
  • Blackberry and mint julep
  • Lemon balm tini
  • Cinnamon and Oregon old fashioned (Andy's favourite) 
  • Rosemary Negroni
  • English mojito 
The Botanist Chester

The Botanist Chester

The Botanist Chester

The full Cocktail menu can be viewed here

The night was rounded off with some canapes and a fab manicure by Sian from Nailista

With one final slurp of my Thai Chilli Crush (extra spicy, please) we ventured off home after a wonderful evening. 

The Botanist Chester

The Botanist Chester

A huge thank you to Tamara, Luke, Rachel, Sian and everyone at The Botanist for a great evening. We will be back again very soon. 

Have you visited The Botanist? What is your favourite cocktail?

*I was invited to the Botanist under no obligation to  write a review, all my opinions are totally honest. 

Friday, 15 April 2016

Review : The Floating Body

What was your favourite book as a child? I grew up with a love of reading and spent a lot of my school holidays curled up on the sofa at my Grandma and Grandpa's reading The Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. The adventure was captivating and exciting and I've loved mystery and adventure books ever since. 

So when I was offered the chance to review* "The Floating Body" by Kel Richards, I jumped at the chance. 

The Floating Body by Kel Richards  is a thrilling mystery filled with twists and turns. Set in 1935, it follows C. S. “Jack” Lewis as he finds himself embroiled in a police investigation after witnessing what seems to be an impossible murder, where the victim’s body falls from a rooftop … but doesn’t hit the ground until the next day! Although the third book Richards has written featuring C. S. Lewis, this enjoyable and exciting story is easily read as a stand-alone novel. 

I was captivated from the very beginning and the best bit was for the price of one novel there were two mysteries to solve- I totally figured one out one of the mysteries before C.S. Lewis and the police. (Might be worth noting I'm the worst person to watch crime shows with because I like to start solving it within the first 5 minutes!).

It was also a great homage to the amazing author C.S. Lewis and his incredibley clever mind. It made me want to read The Chronicles of Narnia again and some of his essays. Even more exciting, Kel Richards is clearly very clever himself and well read, throughout he references other authors and based his work on the school stories by Charles Hamilton- none of which I have read but now really want to!

If you love mysteries and loved Enid Blyton (or in my case still do) then i cannot recommend this book enough. Did I mention there are three books in the series? 

What was your favourite book as a child?

*Thank you to Marylebone House (SPCK) for sending me a free copy of The Well of the North Wind in exchange for an honest review
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