What did last year teach me?

I’ve been thinking about last year and what it taught me. Its already the end of February and the year is racing by, full of opportunities and unknowns.

So what did I learn in 2019? I learnt a lot but if I had to condense it down to 10 points I’d say…

Downs always lead to ups

In March 2019 I was made redundant (again) unexpectedly. The company involved treated me pretty shabbily and I limped away very low and anxious. I found a new role a few months later – one that pays a lot more and is a much bigger and better job and its a real reminder that theres ALWAYS light at the end of the tunnel.

Travelling is great but home is where the heart is

Last year I took some great trips with my favourite travelling companion – my fiancé Russ. Portugal, Turkey, London and some fab day outs too. But nothing beats getting home – it really is our calm from the storm and I love that this year we’ve also made our home even better (with more to come in 2020). Spending money on trips is nice but I truly believe improving your home and surrounding yourself with lovely things is the thing that gets you through the mundane day to day slog…

My body, my rules

I ran a lot in 2019. I dieted hard this year. I lost some weight and I toned up. I ran almost 950km. Its funny how lots of people have strong views on how we should look, what we should eat and opinions on other peoples bodies. I actually stopped posting my Strava runs on Facebook due to some snarky comments (and even an unfollow!) and made a rule for myself that no-one gets to tell you how to look and feel. The only person that matters in this is you. In 2020 I am relaxing this as I am finally starting to feel happy with myself – a lifelong battle for me.

Growing up is hard to do

So my son turned 13 in 2019. We’ve always been really close but I can feel it beginning. The gap forming. Theres a strange feeling, like experiencing a slow motion break up with a really loved boyfriend but you know it has to happen.

I look at him each day and can see him changing, growing, transforming into the adult he will someday become. Teenagers aren’t meant to be easy, and I’m sure it will get harder but for now I’m hanging on to all the cuddles and kisses I can get…

Know your worth

During my period of having no job in the Spring last year I suffered from a deep feeling of inadequacy. I have always been very hard on myself and when I was offered a job with a very (pretty much insulting) salary it hurt me deep in my soul. I suffer from low self esteem so any knock-back often makes me feel extremely agitated and critical about myself. I wondered if I should take it, try and make the best of it, almost thinking that was all I was worth but my ever supportive fiancé reminded me of who I was and what I offer. And you know what? A month or so later I was offered by current role on nearly double that salary!!!

Mental health matters

Exercise, self care, getting toxic people out your life and learning to recognise the behaviours that lead to repeated problems. Pretty standard but very hard to actually do. In 2019 I exercised a lot but also gave myself permission to relax which is something I find very hard to do. For me, little things really make a difference – having a good beauty routine, eating something yummy, reading a great book or just taking some time for myself away from the kids. I have started to learn I must always protect what is precious and my own wellbeing is key. It is not selfish to regular check-in with yourself and make sure you are feeling ok.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot to look great

I shopped a lot at Poundland in 2019…in fact I was borderline obsessed! This something that definitely wont change in 2020 – its an amazing shop! A zebra vase for £1 instead of £55 via Quail Ceramics? I’m in!!! Seriously though I’ve learnt that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to create a great look…

…which leads me to :

Creativity feeds the soul

In 2019 I let myself be creative again. I created craft projects, undertook DIY projects, made things for the children, watched documentaries and arts programmes and visited museums and art galleries. I didn’t always get it right, but I did have a jolly good go! The more I found outlets for my creativity the better I felt. It took my time and energy but I really did enjoy what I achieved.

Work hard, then work a bit harder

I had to really push myself in 2019 and worked very hard. I had to step up in to the biggest job I had taken since I had stepped back from my career to be with my son after my marriage ended. To be honest I always have been a hard worker and find it hard to rest but this year showed me to get what you want you have to work your ass off! I read a quote somewhere that said ‘theres is no such thing as luck, only hard work and perseverance’ and I have to agree… I have a lot of plans for 2020 so it looks like theres no relaxing for me yet!!!

Social media is a lie

One of the things that has caused me the most anxiety and ups and downs in 2019 is social media. As a marketer with a specialism in digital, I should know better but seeing peoples highlight reels constantly filled me with feelings of inadequacy, low self esteem and jealousy. I know much of this is photoshopped (often obviously) or faked but it still has a huge effect on me, especially when its via people I know. I know – stupid right? This year I started to manage this once and for all by unfollowing a lot of accounts on Instagram and blocking accounts I had a tendency to obsess on (exes, ex-friends, companies I used to work for, ones where the girls Facetune/Photoshop a lot etc). It hasnt been plain sailing, I’ve had some relaspes but I feel a lot better and am following professional advice I found on the internet about how to deal with unhealthy use of social media. Since I started talking about this, so many people have told me they feel the same/have been suffering from this too and I feel a lot less alone.

I dont expect you to agree with all of these, or even any of them, but these are some of the things I have come to realise over the last year. I personally don’t subscribe to the whole ‘new year, new start’ rubbish. No resolutions or a ridiculous idea to change my life because its January for me – I continue as I always do – pushing forward.

Ever forward. What an adventure…

Heres to 2020, the new roaring 20’s, a completely new decade… whatever it may bring!

Finding my body confidence with Playtex

So, anyone here truly love their body? Its a real challenge, right?

When Playtex contacted me to ask if I would like to pick an underwear set from their collection to try, I must admit I was a little torn. Their ranges were lovely but I knew to review it properly I really needed to show it on. And knowing that, was I ready for that level of blog…erm, openess? I thought about it and then realised I was being silly – I am very proud of everything I have achieved in the last few years and the changes to my body and fitness levels is one of the things I am proudest of (and have been the hardest to achieve).

So here I am, mum-tum, stretchmarks and all!!! Taa Daa!!!

I have been a fan of Playtex for a long time now, in fact my first bra was Playtex so its definitely a brand I have a warm affection for. These days however, fit is key for me with any lingerie I buy as smooth lines and a great silhouette can make all the difference as your body changes as you get older.

Playtex have some beautiful styles of lingerie currently and with that in mind I went for a set from the Perfect Silhouette range. I chose my normal sizes and went for the 34D in the bra and the small (UK10) in the knickers. This set came with high waisted shaping briefs which is perfect for me as I hate a low knicker that cuts across my tummy.

As you can see the fit is quite functional but with a sexy look to it still. The set is made from an innovative, dense, stretchy microfibre with detailing of transparent tulle panelling. The bra is underwired with dense microfibre cups that shape and lift your bust, creating a defined silhouette and the high-waisted briefs feature invisible stomach support for a flattening effect.

I found the fit really good – the bra was a perfect fit for me, offering the right amount of coverage and support and was smooth under my clothing. For a high-waisted pant briefs were a tiny bit low for me, but to be fair I like a really high pant in this kind of set. They still fitted me well, definitely smoothed my tummy (the area of my body I am most self conscious of) and were comfortable to wear all day.

I really liked this set, it fitted well and made me feel good. It looked great but was still the type of set you could wear for everyday use. Playtex have definitely lived up to my expectations but more than that I love the fact they want to feature real women wearing their products. As a woman over 40, its sometimes really hard to visualise yourself in products you see online and generally you don’t get to see real bodies with all their perceived imperfections. Beautiful lingerie is for everybody and its lovely Playtex recognise that. Taking these photos have really made me question why we are so frightened to show ourselves. My body is strong and healthy, has given me a beautiful son, is loved madly by my partner (his words), ran almost 1000km last year and lets be honest – is the only one I’ve got, so loving it is the only real choice there is. So, did I find my confidence? Well, if this blog is anything to go by I’d say YES!!!

Do you like this set too? Find the bra I am wearing here and find the briefs here. Not sure of your size? Find everything you need here.

*I was gifted this product but all views stated are my own. For more information please see my disclaimer section.

Creating Peace of Mind with Smart-Will

Did you know in England and Wales, when you die without a will, the law decides who gets your assets and how your possessions are distributed. Pretty scary, huh?

Having a will, even a simple one, can help ensure that your partner can continue to live in your shared home, your children are looked after by the people you desire, sentimental possessions are passed on to those you wish to have them and your assets and finances are distributed according to your wishes. Recently I’ve been thinking about the past, the future and the responsibilities of being a mum. Its a lot to think about, so anything that can make life a bit easier definitely has to be a good thing.

We have quite a complicated family set up being a very loving and close, but blended family. We have four children between us, three who are still dependent on us and will be for some time, so getting ‘our house in order’ was extremely important. I have a will but it is very out of date and lists people in it I would definitely now not want to benefit from my estate and my partner has never had a will. I kept meaning to do something, wrote notes for myself, wrote down some ideas but never seemed to find the time to actually do it.

But where do you start?

When Smart-Will approached me and asked if I would be interesting in trying their app based will writing service, after checking them out online and looking at their reviews I could see this could be an easy and simple way to get wills in place for myself and my fiancé.

The aim at Smart-Will is to take the stress out of writing a Will and enable you to take control of the process, allowing you to easily produce a legally sound Will that accurately reflects your wishes on what will happen when you die.

The app itself is really easy to use. Once you register you go through a series of questions and choices to create the Will you need. You can create a single Will or a Mirror Will (these are virtually identical Wills where one person in a couple leaves their estate to the other in the event of their passing away. The most common type are when one spouse leaves everything to their spouse and then to their children). This was the type of Will my fiancé and I decided on.

The app has simple drop downs and tabs to select to make each step very simple. For a Mirror Will you go through the process twice, once for yourself and once for your partner.

The app itself is easy to use and free of jargon. The Will you create can be tailored to suit your exact circumstances, giving you the freedom to appoint the executors of your choice and divide your estate between your chosen beneficiaries as you wish. Leaving gifts of money, specific possessions or gifts of money to charity, is made easy using the menus within each step.

Some of the questions might make you feel a little uncomfortable, as its not easy thinking about death and dying but all all know we need to think about them. As well as the financial details of the Wills themselves, you will also need to think about some big questions such as choosing a guardian for your children and if you want to be buried or cremated.

If your funeral is something you want to sort out at the same time, Smart-Will is able to offer assistance with funeral arrangements, and even offers clients the choice to indicate they’d like to have their ashes scattered high above the earth, at the edge of space!

Once all the steps are completed you view a summary and check you are happy with all your answers and choices. Their online app means once you’ve created your Will on your phone or tablet you can choose to utilise their free secure storage so that you can be assured that your Will is in safe hands.

As well as all this, the help they offer extends beyond simply helping you create a Will; when you appoint them as professional executors, they will obtain fixed fee probate quotes from local solicitors, to ensure your family and loved ones benefit from the best value services available at no extra cost. Within the process they explain how to choose an executor and why you may want to have a professional executor which is the choice I made.

With this being a modern solution for both creating and managing your Will, Smart-Will offer free updates to your Will for life. This was important to me as we all know that our circumstances change over the course of our lives, and I wanted a Will that was flexible and could grow and change as my life did. However if you need something bespoke or more complicated they can do that too – find all the fees here.

All in all I found the process simple and stress free. The Wills we have chosen are quite simple but work for us right now. Plus the peace of mind I now have knowing we have something legally binding in place protecting our family is a great feeling. I am waiting to receive my copy of our Wills but in the meantime I know they exist and are stored safely as part of the Will writing service. So that just leaves the question – are you looking for some peace of mind too?

The Smart-Will app is available for IOS here and Android here.

*I was gifted this product but all views stated are my own. For more information please see my disclaimer section

Skin Chemists Pure Collagen 5% Biphase Serum

Pure Collagen 5% Biphase Serum – not the catchiest name but Skin Chemists create products that aren’t created to just be pretty on the surface, they are products that work…and they work really well.

I use a lot of Skin Chemists products and picked this one as it is aimed at more mature skin…plus its pink – and who doesn’t want more pink in their lives? Collagen is a big deal in skincare and I wanted to see if it could make a difference to my 40 plus skin which is now starting to show its age.

The product itself is contained in a 30ml size glass bottle with pipette top for easy dispensing. It is pink in colour, almost glittery when you mix it and has no smell. A water based product I found it was easier to dispense it on a pad to apply it to my skin. You shake the serum for a few seconds to activate it and then apply 2-3 drops to cleansed skin before using any other creams or moisturisers. Its absorbs really quickly, doesn’t feel greasy and a little goes a long way.

This version of Skin Chemists Biphase serum comprises of two layers (the Bi, in the Biphase) which work in unison – the anti-ageing powerhouse that is Collagen with the freshness and versatility of water.

According to Skin Chemists, with its ability to promote skin cell renewal, Collagen is able to give a smooth effect on the skin’s surface to reveal a glowing complexion. Retaining a healthy skin barrier is essential in achieving a supple complexion, and Collagen has a high capacity for water retention, so helps to protect and maintain this for more youthful looking skin.

What the product claims to do:

  • Promotes glowing, vibrant skin to keep youthful appearance
  • Smooths fine lines and wrinkles to restore skin’s elasticity
  • Minimises and eliminates scarring

What Skin Chemists say are its key benefits:

  • Collagen in the skin is the key to building block to regain the structural integrity of a young face
  • Protecting and maintaining the skin’s natural oil barrier to achieve a supple, moisturised complexion

If you are concerned about fine lines or dryness, or want to improve the appearance of your skin’s texture, elasticity and firmness then this might be a product you want to add in to your skin care routine. I think this is definitely a product that works best for slightly more mature skins – on a more mature skin (I am 46) you can feel the difference within days.

The lightweight formulation means that is easily absorbed into clean skin and makes it feel smooth to the touch straight away. I could feel the wider effects quite quickly and after a week or so of using it, started to look forward to applying it each night!

So, is Collagen the miracle ingredient we have been led to believe it is?

I’d say its not far off – and this serum is an affordable way to start discovering its benefits. After using it for a week or so, the difference in my skins texture was clearly visible and made my face feel more supple and dare I say, slightly more youthful! I love the simple and effective vibe of this product – it doesn’t need gimmicks, flash packaging or advertising, it just works!!!

This clever little product costs £29.90 and is available here.

Find the full Biphase range here – I’m interested to see if the other two products in the range, Caviar and Hyaluronic Acid work as well as this one does.

I’m going to bet they do…

*I was gifted this product but all views stated are my own. For more information please see my disclaimer section.

Dinner Date: The Pearsons Arms, Whitstable, Kent

Last Friday I was very lucky to be asked to try the Pearsons Arms in Whitstable for dinner.

Located just off the beach in beautiful Whitstable in Kent, this cosy pub serves wholesome food with a seafood bias using locally sourced ingredients (the oysters are literally caught 100m away!), speciality ales and seasonal specials. They also have a great vegetarian and vegan menu.

We chose to visit on a sunny evening in late June for a rare parental event…a date night! Whitstable is always lovely to visit and the Pearsons Arms is perfectly located for a romantic evening meal…

So the important bit – what did we eat and how did it taste?

The Starters

To start we picked a selection of ‘small plate’ starters to share. The Pearsons Arms recommend two plates per person so we went for the mini chorizo sausages with a Worcestershire glaze, Baked Camembert and toasted baguette, Minted lamb meatballs in tomato sauce and mini fishcakes with Gribiche sauce. They all came out together on wooden platters and were utterly delicious! The servings were generous and we adored it all. If you are visiting and fancy just a drink and a snack I would definitely recommend these – there’s lots more to choose from including ribs, olives, squid, scotch eggs, oysters and prawns.

The Mains

Being so close to the sea, and seafood clearly being a speciality, we both decided to go for a seafood main course. I went for the half Lobster (my first time eating Lobster – exciting!) and Russ went for the Dover Sole.

Both were delicious – the Lobster was served either in a garlic or chilli butter (I went for garlic) and Russ’ Dover sole was served with new potatoes and buttered Kentish greens. Both arrived piping hot and tasted great.

And finally (of course) dessert!

For once we both went for the same option – Eton Mess. One of my all time favourites it was served with Chantilly cream, vanilla ice cream and a generous sprinkling of fresh mint – I ate mine so fast I forget to take a decent photo of it!!!

The inside of the Pearsons Arms is just as good as the food….think shabby chic, with a slightly nautical vibe and a cosy atmosphere.

And the view as the sun goes down is just perfect…

The Pearsons Arms also has some great live music on Tuesdays and Sundays, a Fish & Chip night on Tuesdays and a Steak Night on Thursdays so its worth checking the website to see whats on.

We loved our visit and will definitely be returning soon – I think it would be a great place to bring our boys too as the children’s menu looked great so maybe our next visit will be as a group of five!

*This meal was provided at no charge in return for this review but all views are my own. For more information please see my disclaimer section

Craft Project: Create an Easter Centrepiece

I love Easter. Whether or not you celebrate it from a religious perspective (I don’t) or as the start of Spring ( Easter with its eggs, flowers and rabbits has its roots from Pagan celebrations—particularly the pagan goddess Eostre – the ancient Germanic goddess of spring, just saying), just enjoy the bank holidays and love it as some special extra family time or just use it as an excuse to have a few chocolate treats, there is so much to enjoy about it.

This year I decided to make an Easter decoration display which I could place on our Easter dinner table and have displayed throughout Easter holding chocolate eggs.

I’m really pleased with how it turned out…

What you’ll need –

All these items were from Poundland and cost me £5.

Artificial grass runner/nest set/ceramic bunnies – all Poundland

The flowers cost me £2 a stem and the Easter decorations £1 each so in total I spent £12 on this project – plus the cost of some chocolate of course!

Large daisy stem – Wilkinsons/Wooden Easter plaques – Asda/Chick decoration – Tescos/Small daisy stem / eBay

Once you have all your parts (feel free to tweak to your own taste) you will also need a glue gun and scissors.

How to make your centrepiece-

Detach all the flowers from their stems and discard the green parts. Trim them tight to the flower part so they lay completely flat. Remove the pre-stuck polystyrene eggs from the small nest from the Poundland nest set and also discard – something much cuter is going in that!

Stick the two nests down in the centre of the artificial grass runner in a slight staggered design then add a mixture of cut artificial daisies to your grass runner and secure using a glue gun (you could use super glue if you don’t have a glue gun). I mixed the sizes to create a stylised effect and concentrated on the corners of the ‘grass’.

Once everything is dry, place your other decorations. With the nests in the centre, I added the larger wooden plaques with a ceramic bunny to one end and the 2 other ceramic bunnies to the other end.

Then place the chick decoration in the smaller nest. How cute is he?!?

To finish it all off, fill the large nest with chocolate eggs. I chose Cadburys Mini eggs but any easter treats will work! I also added a couple more daisies to the centrepiece.

And your Easter centrepiece is complete! Including the chocolate this project cost less than £15 and can be packed away and used next year. I love the idea of making traditions for our children and they love it and I’m sure will want to use it year after year!

All you have to do now is not eat all of the eggs at once! Happy Easter and enjoy!!!

What happened to Valentines Day?

Ok, lets get this out the way…I HATE the modern day version of Valentines Day.

I bet you’re thinking – well I guess she’s some super grumpy, unromantic person who hates all this love and fuss stuff? Ironically that couldn’t be further from the truth. Let me explain…

In an age before the internet, social media, Tinder, non stop advertising and the media trying to convince us we should all live/look/spend like the rich and famous whatever our income; a pretty paper card sent anonymously to a loved one was an adorable way to show that you loved/liked/wanted to court them. It was personal and coy and sweet and seemingly now something of a time gone by…Let me tell you a bit about me – I would describe myself as a very romantic person. I tell my fiancé lots of times through the day I love him (as he does to me), send romantic messages and notes, go on date nights, take time to look after myself and look nice/wear pretty lingerie etc (because it makes me feel good – making my boyfriend smile is an added bonus), spend time cuddled upon the sofa in the evenings and generally make time to do things that will make him feel loved, appreciated and wanted. I love being in love and couldn’t imagine living any other way. I don’t dislike the idea of Valentines Day…I hate what marketing and the media has made the day become.

I think because I am a romantic person who loves to make a fuss of the people I care for, it makes me hate the whole concept of the modern day Valentines Day even more. Let me tell you why…

Its fake – So who was St Valentine? The saint of Beekeepers and Epilepsy amongst other things. Why do we celebrate Valentines Day? Well that one is full of debate. One thing is for sure – the whole thing is a mix of other celebrations and twisted to fit in with a modern day event created to sell stuff.

It encourages people to spend money have on things they don’t need – Valentines Day is a marketing dream (I should know, its what I do!). Adverts begin weeks ahead, stores replace their Christmas stock with Valentines stock, magazines tell us instead of a £5 box of chocolates and a card, we should buy the person we love a £200 designer watch because bigger is better and we start to get brainwashed by it all.

A whole industry has emerged created fun ‘novelty’ gifts no-one in their right mind would want – Everyone loves a teddy with a heart on, pair of fluffy handcuffs or fabric rose don’t they? Oh right, they don’t. And don’t get me started on things like chocolate body paint…

There’s some women who use it to make other women feel like lesser beings – There’s always those people who want to show you their huge bouquet of roses, heart shaped balloons, diamond earrings etc. Good for them…but show offs are never fun to be around and there’s a competitive, nasty side to it that I just don’t like. Ladies we don’t need to be like this!

Men generally don’t like it – You know when another ‘special’ day exactly a month later is created (it involves steak and other things men love – see the cheeky details here) by men for men, that Valentines Day is not a thing men on the whole want to be forced to do. There is of course, lots of romantic men out there but who wants to be told when and how you should be romantic?

Its creates ‘the pressure’ – The pressure to buy gifts, the pressure to book an expensive restaurant, the pressure to send flowers, the pressure to have sex that night whether you want to really or not, the pressure to out-do your friends. If you’re single there’s pressure to be in a relationship as that’s what society tells us will make us happy…well, I know quite a few people in relationships who seem utterly miserable. Anything to do with love should feel free, not forced.Whether you are single or in a relationship we all know the truth – we are being manipulated. Don’t be told when to be romantic – in fact if you’re anything like me make an effort of be romantic EVERY day…and don’t expect a present because of it. Do it because you want to. Do it because being in love compels you to do so. For me that’s what true love should do…and the rewards are much better than getting a gift you’ve guilted your other half into buying you.

Personally this Valentines Day, I will choose a card, write a heartfelt message and that night have dinner, watch TV, kiss and cuddle and then go to bed with the man I love just like I would any other night.And you know what? Life is about freedom of choice – if you truly love the whole idea of Valentines Day then go for it – the candlelit dinner, expensive gifts, rose petals on the bed, slow-mo sex; whatever says ‘love’ to you!

But do it because you want to…and don’t share it all over your social media for the attention and likes – the odd pic might be cute but your whole evening?  Intimate moments of love should be for 2 not 200. True love is the most precious thing we can have in our lives – lets not cheapen it – its worth far more than that.All photos via my Instagram – to follow me (its not all romance I promise!) click here.

Hello 2019 – pleased to meet you!

So you’ve probably noticed – it’s a new year! Now, I am not a believer in the whole ‘new year/new me’ stuff but I do like to have goals, I like to constantly try to do better and I thrive on the feeling of being proud of myself and my achievements.

So I decided to use the rolling over of ’18 to ’19 to come up with 10 manageable (and that’s the key word here) things to keep me on the right track for moving onwards and generally achieving my goals over the next 12 months.

Lets be clear though, these are NOT resolutions. I am not a believer in New Years Resolutions. Over many years I have set myself ridiculous goals – started strict diets, tried to force myself to do things I didn’t really want to do and unsurprisingly I failed. And then the excuses would start, the guilt would come, which was often followed by some self loathing. And then usually I would forget all about it all and not really achieve anything over the next 12 months!

But what are my 2019 aims?

Face the fear (and maybe do it anyway)

My biggest enemy is anxiety. For as long as I can remember I have been a worrier and at times I have suffered with panic attacks and illness due to anxiety. I have worked very hard to control my demons and during 2019 I want to make sure I am as self-aware as possible remember to always put my mental health first. One of the biggest challenges for me is telling people when I feel anxious but I know if I share my worries and seek support the easier it is. Part of this is also looking after myself physically, so I need to get enough sleep, keep away from alcohol, exercise regularly and not eat too much junk food as I find if my weight goes up so does my anxiety. I will not allow my worries steal my happiness.

Stay ‘present’

One of my worst traits is being easily distracted. I have a very busy mind and often find it hard to focus on just one task as I am always thinking ahead. This year I am going to work really hard to stay in the present particularly with my loved ones and put that phone away and keep my focus where it needs to be. I want my children to feel they are the centre of my world not Facebook or Instagram. Plus I am going to try ‘seize the day’ where I can (someone often harder for anxious people) and be more spontaneous and hopefully have more fun!

Be the star of my own story…

Family first

Start a new (mini) business

Last year I had the idea to launch a new Etsy business. I already have an Etsy shop selling vintage items (find it here) but I wanted another a business that was a bit more creative. I did quite a lot of work on it but life got in the way and I never got to launch it. This year I want to bring that business alive so watch this space!

Be real (aka don’t just ‘do it for the gram)

This year I am going to work hard to remember social media is definitely NOT real life. Working as a social media manager for a large retail company, I really should know to not judge myself against the 1000’s of curated, photoshopped or stylised images out there but I still do. This Christmas I realised I had hardly taken any photos but had a lovely time which was a real eye-opener for me. Everything doesn’t need to be recorded digitally and immediately shared…memories are really all you need.

This year I am going to work hard to not believe everything everyone else is doing/living/sharing is perfect and that sometimes an outtake photo is a better representation of the moment than a stylised Instagram worthy shot as seen below…

Silly faces – thought = I dont look pretty enough

New Years Eve – thought = laughing and bent over is unflattering

Bonfire night – thought = no make up and too dark

Re-do our lounge

Last year we made some real progress doing up our house. This year I want to tackle my favourite room – the lounge – and create a really lovely space to relax in. Theres a lot to do as everything needs changing but I can’t wait! Look out for updates as we progress…

Continue to run

I’ve now been running regularly for over 4 years and last year I ran 750km in total. I run every week, 2-3 times a week and it has really changed my life. I ran over Christmas, on holiday, in the cold and rain and when injured or unwell. I don’t always want to run but I always am glad I did. In 2019 I don’t want to run further or faster, I just want to keep making myself proud every week about the level of exercise I do because it is really hard to run every other day, EVERY SINGLE WEEK.

Thinking of adding regular exercise in your life? Why not have a read of the blogs I have written about it – find them here and here I cannot recommend it enough.

2-3 5km runs EVERY week

Karrimors on…

Read more

I buy a lot of books but they just mount up by the side of my bed! I read on holiday but that’s about it, so this year I am going to try to read a book a month. I am going to read them at night and allow myself the time to do so. I also think it will help me wind down before sleeping which can sometimes be hard for me.

Keep on exploring

I love to travel particularly with my fiancé Russ. Last year we visited Venice as a couple and Majorca as a family as well as taking some great days out in the UK and I want to make sure we achieve that again this year as it makes us so happy. I’d better start saving again as we all know sadly holidays aren’t cheap!

Venice

Copenhagen

Budapest

Be kinder to myself

Now this one is hard. I am my own biggest critic and this year I want to try to be kinder to myself. Self care will be key to this – I need to give myself permission to relax and spoil myself whether it is a pamper session, allowing myself some chocolate or just having a lazy Sunday.

Work hard, Play Hard, Love hard

I am very lucky. I have a partner I adore (and he feels the same thankfully), a beautiful family of loving, healthy, beautiful boys, a nice home and most recently, a job I love. In 2019 I am going to make sure I remember to be thankful for all these things and never take them for granted, as well as working hard to make sure things stays that way. I want to excel at work, be the best girlfriend and mum I can and have fun as I go along.

My soulmate xxx

My beautiful boys

What are your plans for 2019? Are you going to push yourself harder or just enjoy the ride? Whatever you choose enjoy and be part of 2019 – we are never going to get this year again!!!

10 ways to make your gift wrapping stand out this Christmas

So, who has bought all their Christmas presents? Not me obviously as I am always a last minute kinda gal, but I’m sure all my sensible followers have bought at least some, if not all, of their Christmas gifts. I do love a nicely wrapped present and think it really adds to the whole gift giving experience so always try and make my presents look nice.

I was actually taught to gift wrap at Harrods when I was a junior window dresser so know a few tricks too to make them stand out from the crowd. I’ve created 10 looks to make your wrapping look amazing this year…plus none of it requires much outlay and much of it you probably already have. Oh yes, we are going to be eco-friendly too and do a bit of recycling! Lets get inspired…

Idea 1:Use fresh foliage –

Theres always so much stuff to use for free – you just have to look for it. Head to your local park for Holly, Ivy, Fir and berries. You’ll only need a few small bits, which you can leave in a small amount of water or damp oasis and then add them a few days before you gift your presents so they don’t dry out.

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogPillow pack / Wilkinsons

Idea 2: Get personal with personalised paper* –

For paper that really grabs peoples attention why not create something truly unique? Pretty Gifted is a fantastic online seller of personalised gift wrap – you pick your paper colour, your print foil, your font and your message and they do the rest. For £7.95 you get a large sheet of fantastic quality wrap, a gift tag and a metallic pen. I went for a little message to my boyfriend to wrap one of his presents in – ‘gifts are nice, but our love is everything!’ Lets get this whole season of buying stuff in proportion, eh?!?

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogGift wrap sheet, tag & metallic pen / Pretty Gifted*
Curling ribbon / The Works
Wooden decoration / Demelza Hospice shop

Idea 3: Map it out –

Know a person who loves to travel? Maps are something of a blast from the past these days but whenever I see old ones I want to make use of them. Dig out your old ones from the back of the cupboard or source vintage maps from charity shops and second hand stores and you will have some ready-made and totally personal, wrap. Just add ribbon…

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogVintage maps / various charity shops
Ribbon / Tiger Stores

Idea 4: Make part of the present the wrapping –

Giving a gift of a scarf or similar? Why not use it as the gift wrap? Theres nothing like getting two presents for the price of one! If you can’t use the gift itself you could use a beautiful off-cut of fabric – just wrap it around the gift, add a satin ribbon to fasten, and you are done!

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogVintage scarf / my own
Satin ribbon / John Lewis
Gift tag / Clintons

Idea 5: When theres not much time but you still want to be individual –

We’ve all seen all the gift boxes you can get in the card shops – they are easy to use, but usually not that exciting. However, life gets busy so for a short cut use pre-made gift boxes, but do it your way. Change the ribbon and the tags and add some personal touches such a giant bows and christmas decorations – now your box is totally unique.

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogGift boxes / The Works (striped), Card Factory (glitter), Sainsburys (gift card)
Curling ribbon / The Works
Tree decoration / Demelza Hospice shop

Idea 6: Christmas decorations –

This time of year its easy to find a different decoration to suit every type of person, so why not add it your parcel as a personalised gift tag? The person can keep it afterwards and add it to their tree as a keepsake. For a special gift, look for collectable decorations and for a more budget friendly version check out the supermarkets, Wilkinsons or charity shops – many charity shops have ranges of new decorations for sale and you can help a worthy cause at the same time.

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogChristmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blog25th Dec wrapping paper / Clintons
Wood & raffia decoration / Demelza Hospice shops
Set of 3 porcelain decorations / Georg Jenson at John Lewis
Ribbon / Tiger Stores

Idea 7: Recycle that newspaper –

Boring old newspaper can look amazing as a present wrapping. Use an unfamiliar paper such as one from a foreign country or as I have here, the Financial Times. Look out for vintage newspapers and comics – for a really individual touch you could use one from the year that person was born.

Christmas gift wrap wrapping Newspaper style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogChristmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogFinancial Times / selected newsagents
Ribbon / The Works

Idea 8: Doilies –

Paper doilies have gone out of fashion in recent years but they are easy to track down in the party and disposable plates section of many stores. They make a fabulous addition to gift wrap particularly with a simple paper underneath. Want a truly unique gift wrap? Then this look is for you.

Christmas Paper Doilies gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blog

Brown paper / Poundland
Decorative string / The Works
Paper Doilies / Tesco

Idea 9: Tins –

Tins, both vintage and Christmas themed are really a gift in themselves for wrapping smaller presents. Look out for unusual ones throughout the year and then add your smaller gifts into them. Finally just add a bow and boom – done!

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blog

Tins / charity shops, Poundland, Ikea
Ribbon / Tiger Stores, M&S

Idea 10: Tinsel is not just for the tree –

For a fun look tinsel can work perfectly as an alternative to ribbon. Look for rolls of mini tinsel which is usually used as a garland or for smaller trees and wrap it around your wrapped gifts. Cut smaller sections and tie together to make a starburst bow and your gift will look amazing!

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogMini tinsel garland / John Lewis
Gift tag / John Lewis
Wrapping paper / Poundland

And finally, some tips to make your wrapping look great. Remember with gift wrapping, the basics matter –

  • Measure out how much paper to cut by rolling out your wrapping paper and then placing the item (ideally a box) in the centre of the paper, upside down, so the seams of the paper will end up on the bottom of the package. Bring the paper up one side and over the top of the box, all the way to the opposite edge estimating how much additional paper you’ll need to cover the side of the box that’s not yet covered and then cut the paper.
  • Bring one side of the paper up the side and halfway across the top, affixing it to the box with a piece of tape.
  • Before bringing the second side of paper up and over the first, create a clean seam by folding over the last half-inch or so of the paper, using your fingers to create a tight crease. Now bring this side up so it just overlaps the first one and affix with tape – double-sided tape can be used for an even neater look. Position the fold on an edge for a seamless look, making sure you line up any patterns.
  • Fold the paper on each side of the present and starting on one end, fold down the top flap onto the side of the box, creating two little wings at the side. Flatten those in against the box, then fold the remaining triangle of paper up against the box. Fasten it in place with a small piece of tape.
  • Add your bows and tags as required. Curl ribbon with the underside of a sharp pair of scissors and cut ribbon ends into forks or angles.

Enjoy getting ready for the holiday season! If you use any of these ideas I would love to see! Tag me on Instagram – @blueskygirlie.

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*items marked with an asterisk denotes a gifted item but all views stated are my own. For more information please see my disclaimer section.

All photos are my own and cannot be used without permission.