Save Your Pennies With These Car Maintenance Do’s and Don’ts* || Budgeting

Hands up those of you who have named your car? I certainly have: Matilda the Mini. My partners is Penelope Polo. Our cars become such a big part of our life, that they’re almost part of the family. Those of you that know me will know that because of my job, I spend half of my life in my car. I drive around from place to place all day, and therefore I’ve managed to pick up some tips and tricks along the way of how to look after my car, whilst also saving money (keeping a car is expensive enough as it is!). So when Iverson Tyres Ltd. reached out to me to share some of my tips with you all, I started brainstorming some do’s and don’ts that I think could really help people to look after both their cars, and their wallets.

This is the first in a new series of posts that I’m starting all around budgeting and saving money in different areas, so keep your eyes peeled, and follow me on social media’s (@likesallybee on Insta and Twitter) for updates of new posts.

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Do:Get your car serviced regularly.

This one is really important, although one that I often try and put off. Regular servicing of your car, although it seems like a car service is expensive, it really does save you money in the long run, as spending £100 on a service will be less than the £300 you spend to fix something that’s broken as a result of not having a service. Some car dealers or garages will let you set up a payment plan, where you pay a small amount each month towards your service once a year, and if all else fails, there are always Groupon Deals going at local garages.

Do: Check your Tyre pressure. 

Not having enough air in your tyres can cause them to lose ‘tread’ (aka, they’ll get bald quicker). Some petrol stations (although few and far between nowadays) will offer “free air”, or if not, it’s generally around 50p to pump up all tyres, which is considerably less than shelling out £50 plus for new tyres to replace the bald ones. Whilst I’m on the topic, make sure you check your tyre tread regularly (instructions on how to do this here), and if they’re too low, get new tyres before you get pulled over by the police. Again, £50 is cheaper than the fine and points  you’ll get for driving with bald tyres.

Don’t: Drive like a prat.

“But Sally” I hear you cry “how will this save me money?”. Well… for one, if you are driving too close to the car in front, you’ll be harsher on your breaks, meaning they wear down quicker and you’ll have to pay for new brake pads. Secondly, if you’re ragging it around in the wrong gear or coasting with your foot on the clutch, then you’re likely to burn out your gear box quicker, which costs a bucket tonne. Thirdly, you could crash and you wouldn’t have a car at all, and bus fare is expensive.

Don’t: Ignore your engine light

OK this one might not necessarily save you money, but it’s an important one, and you never know, it could be something really small and inexpensive, but if not then you don’t want to risk breaking down.

Do: Check your fluids

Be sure to check your water levels, oil, washer fluid etc regularly. A lot of newer cars nowadays will flash up on the dash when something is running low, but not all cars will. Having said this, you don’t want to be caught short when your car flags up that it’s low on oil and you have no oil available, and its not payday yet. Be prepared on this one.

Do: Find a decent garage

I’ve been to a lot of garages over the years, and have heard many horror stories about car garages ripping you off. Quite often, you’ll take your car in for something as simple as an MOT and you’ll find that they ‘advise’ you fix a number of things that they can just so happen to squeeze you in for now to do. OK sometimes, this might be genuine, but be careful as sometimes it’s a money making scam. It’s really important to find a decent garage that will be honest about what does and doesn’t need doing on your car.

If you’re on the look out for a  great deal in a decent garage and you’re in the London, Middlesex or Farnham Common area, then be sure to check out Iversion Tyres for car servicing and much more.

Leave me a comment if you have any other tips of ways to keep your car maintained on a budget.

* this post has kindly been sponsored by Iversion tyres

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Is Age “Just a Number”?

I don’t think I’ve ever addressed this on my blog before, but my boyfriend is 18 years older than me.

I’ve heard a lot of judgemental comments over the time we’ve been together, such as “he’s holding you back”, “don’t you struggle to find conversation” or “it’s not right”. Partnered with judgemental looks when we walk down the street hand in hand or that little laugh or gasp people let out subconsciously when I tell people how old he is. People often follow this up with “I suppose age is just a number”, and it got me thinking. Is it?

Don’t get me wrong, my partners age has absolutely never been an issue to me, but let me clear up a couple of things that I’m sure some people are thinking. We used to work together, became friends and saw each other through some rubbish times in life, and then our love just naturally blossomed over time (and by time, I mean like 4 years). We used to earn the exact same wage, so I’m absolutely NOT a gold digger, and I completely believe I’m not just his ‘young bit of stuff’ (as much as he did take great pride in telling his brothers he has a girlfriend in her twenties). Nobody ‘pursued’ the other, and neither of us expected anything more than a great friendship. We just work. We have everything that you need in a relationship and age has never been something that has been an issue.

However, I do think that, in some circumstances, a large age gap has the potential to be a big issue. But personally, I think it’s more about mental age, maturity and where you are in life.

One question that I get asked a lot in regards to our age difference is about having kids. I’m at that age where my biological clock is now ticking, and he already has a 10 year old daughter. Whilst I’m obviously happy to step in to the role of ‘step mum’, and have a great relationship with his daughter, I would still ideally one day like to have children of my own. Luckily, my man has always wanted more kids, and so this is something we’re definitely on the same page about, and it’s something we talk about a lot. However, this is purely based on luck. I think some others in my position would struggle in this area, which could potentially cause conflict or even be a deal breaker. I think if he’d have said to me that he didn’t want anymore kids, then this would have been a big deal and in all honestly I’m not entirely sure what the outcome would be. So in this case, yes, age is just a number if you’re in the same mindset about your future.

Another thing that I think is really important to consider when you look at age gaps is your personality. I’ve always been quite mature for my age (aka I’m an old woman stuck in a 27 year old body). I’d like to say that I’ve got my head screwed on, and I’ve always been able to build good friendships with people that are older than me (hence our initial, great friendship). Also, there are silly little things, like I love a lot of older music, including music that he grew up listening to, or even that his parents enjoyed. He’s also got absolutely the right balance of being mature enough to plan a life with, and immature enough to sit and laugh at something silly together. I think that if you have a genuine connection and things in common then, just like any relationship, this could be the person for you.  Age shouldn’t matter. However, this isn’t always the case, I feel that if there was as large gap in maturity as there was in physical years, then there would categorically be an issue and would probably be the basis of a lot of arguments down the line.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that, physical age is just a number, but mental age is important. If you find someone who is on your wavelength, makes you laugh and wants the same things in life as you then snap the bugger up before someone else does. Don’t let something as menial as their age leave you thinking “what if?”. On the flip side, as attractive; loyal and funny as that older person may be, if you’re not on the same page on a deeper level (as twatty as that sounds) then they’re not for you. Regardless of their age.

You can’t help who you fall in love with. People may judge, but if you can get past the odd judgemental comment and both your head and your heart are telling you that this is the person for you, then bloody go for it!

Like my mum says “it’s better to be an older man’s sweetheart than a younger man’s play thing”.

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10 Tips for Keeping Motivated Working From Home

So I’ve been in my new job for a little while now, and it’s a job with no set office, which means that if I’m not out and about, I’m working from home or in a coffee shop. Every Monday morning is allotted time to work from home and get admin bits done, and i’m not gonna lie, I STRUGGLED to get myself going at the start.

The trouble working from home is that there’s always something interesting recorded on the TV, or that YouTube video that’s just popped up that you’ll “just spend 5 minutes watching”, before getting sucked in to the black hole of YouTube. There’s always something more interesting than doing real work, and with nobody there to give you a kick up the arse, it’s literally your job to kick yourself up the proverbial hiney.

I think I’ve cracked it now, and I’ve had some really productive ‘work from home’ days, so here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.

Working From Home!

1. Lists upon lists upon lists.

This is an old favourite of mine, and I can’t stress enough how much of a list maker I am. But I’ve found that having this trait already deeply embedded into my personality has actually really helped me. Obviously, a ‘to do’ list is an essential to keep you on track with what you need to do. When I first came into this industry, I was told that I’d be like a hamster on a wheel and constantly have something that I need to do, and boy were they right! This therefore means that my ‘to do list’ is a rolling list, and never actually gets completed, because for every item I tick off, another 2 get added to the bottom. To overcome this, I just rewrite my list every so often once a lot of things are crossed off, because it motivates me that the list that was 3 pages long, is now only 1 and a half.

I also make lists for other things. For example, as I said, I’m easily distracted, so, every so often, I notice something around the house that needs doing. Instead of closing down my laptop and whipping the hoover round, I’ll remind myself that I’m working and pop whatever I’ve noticed down on a separate list. That way, I’ll reassure myself that it will get done, but not until I’ve finished work for the day.

I then have another notebook full of blogging ideas, and this stays with me because when I’m having a really productive 5 minutes, that’s when I tend to come up with blog ideas, so again, instead of buggering off and whipping up a blog post, it gets written on the list, and waits for a free evening or weekend.

(P.S. It’s not until I write all this down that I realise how many lists I have, and that I might have a problem….)

2. Create a space

Now, whilst I understand that not everyone has space for a desk in their house (admittedly, I don’t really, mine stands where the Christmas tree lives, so I lost it for a while over the festive season because, priorities!), but it’s actually really helped me. It’s really good to have an allotted space in the house that you associate with work, to get your head in the right place before you start. My desk is in my lounge, but it doesn’t face the telly,  so I don’t get too tempted to pop last nights Corrie on. Sitting at a desk means that I can kind of convince myself that I’m in an office. It also means that everything I could possibly need is within reaching distance, so no jobs get put off because I can’t be bothered to get up and find something (it’s a legit problem). I’d love to say that my desk is Pinterest worthy and beautiful, but in all honestly, it’s generally covered in bits of paper and notebooks. But it works for me, for now.

3. Work as if I’m in an office.

It’s always good to remind myself that I’m at work, I’m on the clock and getting paid for what work I’m doing. Reminding myself of this has made me change my whole mindset when I’m at home and I work as though my house is an office, and I need to crack on from 9 to 5. I allow myself a lunch hour and regular breaks to make tea, but essentially, I am knuckling down and watching the clock, just like everyone in an office. Some days I’ll stay at the “office” late, but generally, once I’ve put my laptop down, it stays down and  I’ve clocked off for the day.

4. Music.

Now although I’ve mentioned that I stay away from TV, I do like to pop the music channels on in the background. I just find that a bit of background music really keeps me going and stops me from getting tired and demotivated. Personally, I’m a fan of the channel Magic, so some old bangers will pop up and I can sing along while whipping up an email, and I feel happy and ready to keep working.

5. Have a cuppa!

The biggest benefit to me of working from home as opposed to in a coffee shop is that tea and coffee are free!! Also, you can make yourself a cuppa and not have to make one for every person that hears the kettle going, which is brilliant! Even the act of stopping to make tea can help motivate me because it gives me just that couple of minutes away from my screen to catch my breath. But mainly caffeine keeps me awake and makes me feel like superwoman. It also means that if the dishwasher needs emptying, I can do this really quickly whilst the kettle is boiling, so it’s not playing on my mind that it needs doing the whole time I’m sat doing work.

Working From Home!

6. Rewards & Punishments

I’m a firm believer in rewarding good behaviour. As much as that sounds as though I’m raising a child or training a dog, I do keep the same principles for myself. If I’ve had a super productive day and managed to get more achieved than I expected, then I’ll ‘clock off’ early, or I’ll treat myself to a quick episode of Corrie before getting back to it (not Netflix though, NEVER Netflix. That’s a hole I can’t come back from!). On the other hand though, if I’ve been really rubbish and easily distracted that day, then I’ll force myself to work late to get some more bits done, or, even worse, I’ll make up for it on the weekend, when I should be relaxing (or writing blog posts!). Remember, there’s nobody there to keep you in check, so you have to be strict with yourself.

7. Get dressed.

The fact that you can literally work  in your dressing gown and nobody will ever know, is probably one of the best things about working from home, and some days, it makes absolutely no difference to my performance. However, on days when my productivity is lacking and I’m feeling a bit sluggish and unproductive, I go and get myself dressed, brush my hair and maybe even whip a touch of mascara on. This then stops my brain from thinking it’s in “Sunday night watching a film” mode and more in “Monday morning at work” mode. I don’t go over the top though, just a T-Shirt and leggings combo will do, something comfy but you could leave the house in it should you have to.

8. Take time to do the little jobs.

Going back a few points to my plethora of lists, I do find myself adding items on to the list that are super quick and unimportant jobs, that I think of whilst I’m not at home, to do when I get a spare minute. Things like printing something off, or sending a low importance email. The issue is, I never find that “spare minute”, and these quick, unimportant jobs pile up and up until it won’t be quick anymore. Everyone has a different preference of how to schedule their day, but take a little bit of time every couple of days just to get those quick jobs done. I spent half a day recently doing this as my list had piled up and I was beginning to get overwhelmed, and just sitting by the printer for a while and sending a couple of emails made me feel 100x better.

9. Set small goals.

This one is a pretty obvious one, but setting goals for the day really does help. I tend to have one or two big tasks that I tell myself at the beginning of the day “if I get xyz done today, then I’ll be happy”. This then breaks your work in to more seemingly manageable chunks, and you can feel like a boss if you exceed your expectations for the day.

10. Remember: It doesn’t happen overnight.

When I mention to people that I don’t have an office and do a lot of work from home, so many people say to me that they wouldn’t be able to get anything done, or motivate themselves. To be honest, when I first started, the idea of working in my dressing gown did get me a bit excited, but deep down, I was anxious because I thought the exact same thing. I didn’t think I’d be able to get anything done, but over time, I’ve got better. I think if you get a job where you work from home, don’t expect to just adjust straight away. It takes time, so don’t be disheartened if you have a really rubbish first couple of weeks. Your brain is used to your home being your chill out space, so of course it’s not going to change straight away. But you’ll get there, keep at it!

 

 

If anyone else has any tips and tricks then I’d love to hear them! Anything that can help that underlying urge to move myself to the sofa and pop Netflix on (which is still there, no matter how good I’m getting at fighting it) is something I feel I need to hear!

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My Smear Test Experience. 

January is cervical health month, and, on reading up on the matter, I’ve read that cervical screening (aka smear test) appointment attendance is at a 20 year low. What I don’t understand, is why? In a world where health is at the forefront of our minds. Where veganism is at an all time high, not just to save the animals, but in a bid to eat healthier; where people finally feel as though they can talk about their mental ill health and get the help they need, and where smoking rates are lower than ever. People are becoming growingly concerned about getting healthy, and there is so much focus on loving yourself and not being afraid to show who you are, but everyone is too scared to whip their fanny out for less than 5 minutes. 5 minutes could save your life.

I had my first smear test a couple of months before my 25th birthday. I had remembered getting so caught up in the Jade Goody campaign to lower the smear test age and to raise attendance rates, that I had, at points been so convinced that I’d have cervical cancer, but nobody would know until it was too late because I was ‘underage’, that when the letter arrived, I booked my appointment immediately.

I actually chose to kill 2 birds with one stone and I had the contraceptive coil inserted at the same time, so my GP advised me to go to my local family planning clinic (that’s another story for another day). The thought of whipping out my lady bits to a complete stranger under those bright bloody lights they have, did fill me with a certain amount of dread (tell me you haven’t ever wondered ‘is mine…normal?’ and may your nose grow so long and your pants spontaneously combust). But nevertheless, I made sure I washed my bits (twice), put nice underwear on (not sexy nice, but like, no holes) and wore leggings so they were easy to “pop off” and “pop back on”.

When it was my turn to go in, I saw two lady doctors in the room, and to my dismay, the one that was going to be performing my smear test (and the coil, again different story for a different day) was a trainee! Now I know everyone has got to start somewhere but the one thing pulling me through was “the doctor will have seen a million fannies in her career” – maybe not.

So they spoke me through the procedure, held up the terrifying torture device that in approximately 3 minutes time would be shoved up and cranked open, and before I knew it, I was half naked, laying on my back with my knees in the air.

Ok, so the torture device going in felt cold, but it didn’t hurt, and yes you can feel it cranking open, but it’s more of a strange feeling rather than a painful one. And then before I knew it, we were talking about Breaking bad and she was sticking a giant ear bud up my floof. I actually didn’t feel a thing. The next thing I felt was the weird feeling of an overly lubed up plastic shoe horn leaving my moo moo. And that was it. I felt ridiculous for being so nervous.

Within 2 weeks (remember I’d convinced myself that I had cervical cancer?) the results came back and it was all clear. And that was it for another 3 years. Brilliant!

What I’m trying to say is, it’s normal to be nervous, wash your bits multiple times and pray to Mother Nature that she doesn’t rear her ugly head on the day of the appointment. But is that really worse than finding out that you have cervical cancer that could have been caught early and treated or even prevented?

Half of the worlds population have a fanny. Get it out and save yourself. (Obviously in the appropriate circumstances. Don’t flash the postman, that won’t help.)

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Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018 || Resolutions

So for the last couple of years on my blog, I’ve set myself 10 small, doable resolutions that I’m always determined to stick to. I’d love to be sat here right now telling you that in 2017, I smashed the lot, but as always this is not the case. I did however manage to stick to some, so before I make this years list, lets have a little recap, focusing on the positives.

My first resolution last year was to go self hosted on my blog, and I did this quite near to the beginning of January, so got that one out of the way quickly. I can’t say that I’ve really taken full advantage of this, as I’ve been posting quite sporadically throughout 2017, but it does feel nice to have a little website that is all mine.

I had a resolution to read more, and this definitely happened. Although I haven’t been glued to books all year, I’ve probably averaged at about 1 per month, which is a lot more than I was reading so I’m proud of that.

Number 7 was to get a new job, which, as I mentioned in my last post (here), I did in April. I went from working as a Team Leader in a care home, to being an assessor for Apprenticeships in Health and Social Care, and I haven’t looked back since. I wasn’t sure if I’d actually achieve this resolution as it was something that I’d said to myself for a long time, but never really knew how I could progress my career with the bulk of my qualifications and experience being health/care related, so when I stumbled upon this job, I knew that it was the right move.

Last year, I was a walking (typing?) stereotype and resolved to go to the gym more. I’m counting this as a success story, because although I’m not an avid gym goer by any means, I have been to the gym more times in 2017 than ever before, so that’s a win from me.

And finally, I made a resolution to travel. I went to Rome and Spain for proper breaks in 2017, and popped to various corners of the country for one reason or another in the mean time.

If you want to check out the resolutions I didn’t quite manage, you can see last years post here. But for now, as I’m all about focusing on the positives, lets talk 2018 resolutions.

1. Write.

I’ve been rubbish with my blog this year, and I always make excuse after excuse, and yes I have been busy, but a lot of the time, I’ve procrastinated. I’ve missed being a bit creative and having an outlet for that, and I’d really like to see my blog take off in 2018. I’ve been thinking long and hard about the type of content that I’d like to feature on my blog next year, and the direction I’d like it to go. I’m still figuring it out, but hopefully I can make some positive changes and put more effort into the content I’m producing.

2. Read.

I mentioned in my previous post (here) that I’ve really enjoyed reading this year, and it’s something I want to continue into the new year. I’ve been going back and fourth with the idea of doing the ’52 books in 52 weeks’ challenge, inspired by my friend Kerrie (you can check out her blog here), but I don’t think I’ll manage that, so I’m just going to privately document each book I read (or listen to – that counts!) and then see how close to 52 I get by the end of the year. You might even see a couple of review style posts on here, I haven’t decided yet.

3. Learn.

Again, if you read my last post you’ll see that I’ve done a lot of formal learning in 2017, and I want that to continue into 2018. I’m part way through a qualification in Dementia care as CPD (continued professional development) for work, and will be completing some other work related qualifications this year, but I’m greedy and that’s not enough for me. I was ever so kindly gifted a DSLR camera by my lovely boyfriend for Christmas, and I’d really like to do some form of photography course in 2018. I also just generally want to broaden my horizons and learn about things I don’t know enough about. I already have a list of different courses that I want to complete, and intend on ticking off everything from the list by the end of 2018. (My work has a benefit scheme, and one of the things it offers is free or discounted distance learning courses, so don’t worry, it won’t cost me the world!)

4. Document.

Moving on from wanting to improve my photography, I generally just want to take more photos and document my memories. I really want to start printing out pictures and making photo albums or scrap books so that in years to come, many iPhones later, I can look back and remember all of the happy times I had. I think with the improvement of technology, more photos are being taken but they are being lost in the world of cyberspace as soon as you get a new phone. Need I remind anyone of the time that Bebo disappeared and the millions of photo’s from back in the day just vanished. It was a hard time for all of us…

5. Drink.

Water, that is. I’m an absolute bugger for not drinking enough water. If there’s a tea or coffee going, that will be my choice any day. I’ve found that if I have a bottle of water in my bag with a ‘sucky top’ (like an Evian bottle), then I’ll reach for it and drink out of habit rather than thirst, so I intend to have one in my work bag at all times (don’t worry – I’ll refill it with tap water!). I’ve always struggled with both my skin and my energy levels and I know that drinking more water will really help with both of these, so I’m willing to give it my best shot.

6. Productive Procrastination.

I’m a serial procrastinator and I don’t think that will ever be a part of my personality that I can change – no matter how hard I try. So this year, I’m going to try productive procrastination. Procrastinating from one thing I need to do, with doing another. For example, if I get bored of writing an essay, I’ll clean the kitchen or take photos for a blog post. That way, my to do list will always be being worked on, just not necessarily in the order I’d originally planned.

7. Complete

2017 has been a year of me having random ideas about things I’d like to do, spending hours researching but never seeing anything through. In 2018, I’d like just one of my mad ideas to come to fruition.

8. Pamper.

Self care has gone a little out of the window lately, and things like washing are purely to get clean, rather than soaking in the bath for an hour with a face mask, bubbles and a book to absolutely chill out (I did this the other day and I’d forgotten how good it felt). So in 2018 I will be spending all of my money on bath bombs and face masks and having regular self care evenings.

9. Eat.

Not in general, I have absolutely no problem with that. And I’m not saying that I want to go on a massive diet and lose a bunch of weight because that is too much pressure and it always results in the complete opposite result than I want. But  this year I want to make small, positive changes to my eating habits that will stick. For example, my job entails me being out and about on the road for most of the day, and I rarely take food with me, which ends up in multiple McAccidents, or Tesco Meal Deals. Not only is it costing me a small fortune, along with the multiple trips to Starbucks, but it also isn’t very healthy. In 2018, I vow to start taking a packed lunch to work with me, and to buy a huge flask that keeps my coffee hot so that I don’t have to keep nipping to Starbucks (and the water, obviously). I also want to get out of the habit of cooking for the 5,000 each time I’m in the kitchen – there’s only 2/2.5 of us.

10. Save.

I want to buy a house. I know full well that I’ll probably never be able to save for a deposit, but if I don’t try, I’ll never know. 2018 is the year of me being a stingy mofo and putting money into savings, with a hope of ONE DAY finally owning at least a piece of grass with a shed on it.

Let me know what your resolutions are, and if you managed to do any better than me at sticking at last years. If you wrote a post about it, pop a link in the comments, as I’m a nosy bugger and would love to have a read!

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Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018 || Round Up & Favourites

2017, I knew you’d be good. This year has been full of amazing experiences and changes in my life that, when I look back on it, it’s actually amazing what a difference a year makes. So to round off an amazing year (but a terrible year for blogging), I thought I’d write a little bit about what my 2017 has consisted of, and some things I’ve been loving.

January

January saw me take the plunge and go self hosted on my blog, and later have an overnight stay in London where I went to see Jersey Boys, and developed an absolute obsession with the music of Frankie Valli. We also started buying new furniture etc to spruce up the house.

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February

February was when I had a ‘fuck it’ moment and started searching for a new job, and making plans for a special surprise for my boyfriends birthday. Also more house sprucing.

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March

The special surprise. My man woke up on his Birthday expecting a surprise ‘day out’, and ending up on a flight to Rome. Without a doubt my new favourite place in the whole wide world. The month ended with my final day at work, in a place I spent 5 years of my life.

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April

The new job. A considerable career change. One that culminated in most of my April being spent travelling to and from Bristol/Birmingham, meeting new people and learning a new set of skills.

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May

More trips to Birmingham, involving passing Maths, English and ICT qualifications. Also, my best friends hen weekend to a Butlin’s 00’s weekend, featuring B*Witched, Atomic Kitten, S Club 7 (well, 3 of them), Gareth Gates and Goldie Lookin’ Chain. The absolute dream!

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June

Training with work finished and I was forced to go out into the real world and put what I learned into practice. Gained a qualification in Employer Engagement, and voted!

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July

The big day. I was lucky enough to be Maid of Honour at my Best Friends wedding. She looked absolutely beautiful and the wedding was amazing. Very proud! The end of July, my boyfriend, step daughter and I flew off to Spain for a week and had the best time chilling in the sunshine.

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August

In August, I gave blood for the first time (can’t believe it took me so long). I also got a bug for doing little DIY’s with my furniture, so if I wasn’t spending hours on YouTube or Pinterest getting inspired, I was putting contact paper on drawers and making them look fancy. August did come with some lows however, with my partner losing his job. It all worked out for the best though, don’t worry. Everything happens for a reason!

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September

Everything started looking up in September when boyfriend started work at his new job. It was my birthday month, so my best friend took me to see Hairspray in the theatre  (which was amazing), my boyfriend and I had a lovely (windy) day out in Margate and on my actual birthday, we went for a mooch around the shops, had a meal and then found a fancy new cocktail bar. I also went for a day out to the races for a ‘team building’ day out with work.

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October

Not a great deal happened in October, I just enjoyed the start of Autumn with pumpkin picking, pumpkin spiced latte’s and digging out the cozy jumpers! Also, after months of submitting written work, being observed and waiting for others to complete paperwork, I was FINALLY a qualified QCF (NVQ) assessor in Health and Social Care.

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November

November saw me passing my probation at work, therefore getting a cheeky little pay rise. Also, my parents moved house. Without going into too much detail, their housing situation has been something of a stress causer since the beginning of the year, so I, quite happily spent the majority of my month popping to and fro at every spare minute to help them in any way that I could to get them settled.

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December

And finally, December. This year, I wasn’t quite as organised for Christmas as I’d have liked to be, so December was mainly me flitting around to various shops every time I had a spare half hour. But I pulled it off, and we’ll be eating the leftovers and boxes of biscuits probably until next December. This was the first Christmas in 6 years that I’ve not worked, so I was able to spend Christmas Eve with my partner and his little girl, celebrating a day early, and then Christmas day with my parents. I had the absolute best time.

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All in all, this year has been an eventful, yet amazing, life changing year. When I look back at this time last year, I never would have thought the year would have panned out like it did.

So with all that went on, there wasn’t a massive amount of space for new products, but i have got a few Holy Grail products that I thought I’d give a quick mention to as my favourites from 2017.

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The Body Shop Vitamin E Moisturiser

If I remember rightly, I think that this moisturiser featured in my 2016 favourites, and I quite literally haven’t used a different product. I’ve not even tried anything else because this bad boy works wonders, and as much as I’ve browsed, I can’t quite bring myself to take the risk. Maybe in 2018…

Younique Epic Mascara

Like with my moisturiser, mascara is something that I rarely change. I’ve loved the Maybelline Lash Sensational for as long as it’s been in the shops. I have actualyl ventured out and tried a lot of other mascaras, but nothing came close to taking the top spot, until I tried the Epic Mascara from Younique. If you’ve tried the Lash Sensational, this one gives a similar effect but the lashes are more seperated. (Cheeky plug: If you want to try this mascara for yourself, hit up my best friend on Twitter – @laurenhcole. Tell her I sent you..)

Naked Ultimate Basics

I purchased this beauty back in March and it’s been an absolute godsend to me this year. I love matte shades, especially as I have hooded eyes, and I put improving with eye looks solely down to this pallette. I’ve really loved playing around with it this year.

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Reading

I’ve really gotten back into reading this year, and have got through a fair few books. I’ve even joined the world of the ‘audio books’. I’ve not read as much as I’d have liked in recent years so I’m so happy I’ve gotten back into the habit.

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Learning

I know I keep harping on about my new job, but one thing that it has brought me is the opportunity to learn new things. I’m learning every day and I’ve managed to complete different qualifications that are going to benefit my career, and I’m still doing more. I’m half way through a qualification in Dementia care, and in the early part of the new year, I’ll be doing a proper teaching qualification, and I love it.

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‘Tis the season… | The Tree is up!

Short and sweet today for Blogmas. My tree is now up and my house is fully Christmassed, so I can get into the festive spirit properly.

Yesterday, we had a lovely couple of hours, my partner, step daughter and I making the house look festive. We went for a copper & gold theme again this year. We haven’t really been out and bought any new decorations this year but it was nice to find some little accents to pop around the house that I’d forgotten existed.

The only bugger is, as you can just about see in the picture, I now have a desk where the Christmas tree lives. So my desk is now out of action until the new year, and I’ve been forced to work from the sofa or my bed (shame!).

Last year, we let my step daughter decorate her own small tree outside her bedroom on the landing, and she loved doing it, so it’s a little tradition now. I like everything to match on the main tree, but this one, she has free reign to be as creative as she likes and this was the end result.

Today, we’re continuing the festive activities and baking gingerbread men, so hopefully there’ll be a post up at some point on how well (or not so) that went, and any other baking I manage to get done between now & Christmas.

One last thing, before I go… hands up who agrees that the act of putting the lights on the tree has the potential to ruin Christmas?! I can’t have a tree without lights but putting them on is so flipping stressful!

What are your favourite and least favourite parts of putting the tree up?

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Christmas Shopping Tips & Tricks

Welcome to day 2 of Blogmas, and, if all goes well (I’m pre-writing this post) – I should be putting the tree up today!! Along with POSSIBLY venturing into town this weekend to continue with my Christmas shopping.

Leaving Christmas shopping until December is stressful to say the least, especially if you work Mon-Fri, as this generally means heading to the town on a weekend (unless, of course, you do your Christmas shopping online, but I’m a bit old school and feel that takes the magic out of it). So today I wanted to pass on a few tips and tricks to get you through the dreaded Christmas shopping.

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Be Prepared

If you’ve read my blog before, then you’ll know that I’m the worlds biggest fan of a good old list, and this is no different at Christmas. I’ll generally have umpteen different lists on the go around Christmas, but I then consolidate the list into one big document that encompasses everything. It’s more of a workable table really. The headings that I incorporate onto this table include:

  • Name
  • Present ideas
  • Present bought (tick/cross)
  • Present wrapped (tick/cross)
  • Present given (tick/cross)
  • Card written (tick/cross)
  • Card sent or delivered (tick/cross)

This can then give you a better idea of everyone you need to buy for, everyone you’ve already bought for and what kind of things you’re looking for to get them.

Go Super Early or Super Late

As much as it pains me to do anything early, it is generally quite a good idea to get to town as it opens, to try to avoid the crowds. Especially on a weekend, especially in December. Failing this, then wait until about an hour before the shops close, because everyone generally has had enough by then. The only issue with the second option though is that you are restricted to the amount of time that you can spend having a mooch around the shops.

Go to the Shops Closest to the Car first

This will only apply if you have driven into town, of course, and if you have managed to get a parking space (they’re like gold dust in December!). Basically, my tactic is, you go to the shops closest to the car first and then pop back to the car for a quick carrier bag drop off, leaving your hands free for more shopping! Alternatively, this tip is also good when it comes to those people that you don’t have a clue what to buy for. If you see something in a shop close to the car, you can leave it there and after you’ve done all of your shopping and you haven’t found anything else to buy that person, it’s easier to pop back to that shop to get the item, rather than going out of your way.

Set a Spending Limit

I am not EXACTLY one to practice what I preach here, but I do to a certain extent. Generally, if I’m on a Christmas shopping spree, I’ll withdraw a certain amount of cash, and try to stick to that. But I do end up convincing myself “I bought a coffee with cash s I’d best put the next 3 presents on my card”. As much as it’s nice to spoil your loved ones at Christmas, I’m sure that they all want you to still have a roof over your head by the end of the festive season, so don’t go overboard.

Shop Alone

I’m that friend that convinces you to buy everything that you see for yourself that you like. I’m also very easily persuaded by that friend, so if I were to Christmas shop with others then it would end up a massive fail. For example, my partner is not only ‘that friend’, but he will physically take things to the till to ensure that I buy them. This is why the last time we attempted to go Christmas shopping together, I ended up with 2 pairs of trousers, a pair of boots and a new coat for myself. Oh, and a grand total of 2 Christmas presents, one of which was a stocking filler.

Dress Appropriately

There’s nothing worse than shopping in the winter. When you’re outside, just setting off for your shop, it’s cold so you put a hat, scarf, gloves and coat on. By the time you’ve finished in one jam packed shop, and queued for 15 minutes with the heating on full blast, you want to strip down to your underwear. My advice is, wear a coat, but not the big fluffy winter one. Prepare to be slightly chilly to start with, because believe me, you will warm up!

Let me know what your top tips are!

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Festive Bucket List

I’m back. I’d like to say that I’ve been saving up all of my ideas for blog posts so that I can take part in Blogmas, but actually I have had all of my blogmas ideas written down since September, when I was dabbling with the idea of doing Blogtober as well. Blogtober didn’t exactly happen, nor has any form of blog for a little while. Things got mental. Don’t get me wrong, I have umpteen half written blog posts in my drafts, but none of them ever came to fruition.

So I thought, hey! Let’s go from one extreme to the other and give Blogmas a crack. Last year I actually managed it, but I was in a less ‘all consuming’ job. I’ve also just signed up to complete a 16 week diploma in Dementia care, so adding another thing onto my ‘to do list’ just sounded like a brilliant idea at the time.. let’s see how I get on.

So to start off this ever so festive array of blog posts between now and Christmas, I thought I’d share my ‘festive bucket list’ for this year, aka things I want to do over the festive season.

1. Watch the Christmas Lights be switched on.

Ok, this one’s cheating slightly because as I write this, I’ve just got home from watching them. (Yes, I’m pre-writing posts, and yes, I’ve left it very late to decide to do so!). I’ve been saying for weeks that I wanted to go to the Christmas lights event. I pictured this proper ‘movie moment’ of the lights turning on as I get a cuddle and a kiss from my man and then have a hot chocolate or some mulled wine or something. In actual fact, it was so busy we couldn’t move, took us 20 minutes to make our way through the crowds and once the lights were on, we made a beeline for Burger King and then went home. Nevertheless, big tick.

2. Make gingerbread men & decorate them.

So Christmas, really, is all about the kids. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Christmas, and coming from a family of scrooges, I think that’s quite an achievement, but now that I have my partners little one in my life, the magic has returned to Christmas. This year, I’ve been glued to Pinterest trying to find festive activities to do with her, and the one thing that I’m absolutely determined to get done is baking gingerbread men, and getting her to decorate them. She’s with us for 4 out of 5 weekends in December, meaning that we have bags of time to get super Christmassy. She also absolutely loves baking, so this one will be a real treat for her.

3. Go to a Christmas Market

Originally, I wanted to jet off to a real life German Christmas market this year. I’ve been before (twice) and absolutely loved them, but due to my partner changing jobs, it’s not really proved possible to do this, so my aim is to go and find one nearby that we can spend the day with big coats, hats and scarves on, wandering around the stalls, drinking mulled wine (aka buying the mulled wine, confirming to myself that I still don’t like mulled wine, throwing the mulled wine away and getting a hot chocolate instead).

4. Do a “Random Act of Kindness”

I’ve seen these things going around of random acts of kindness during the festive season, and I really like the idea. I’m not too sure what I want to do yet, but then it wouldn’t be random if I did. Maybe I’ll buy coffee for the next person in the queue in Starbucks or maybe I’ll buy a homeless person a hot meal. I haven’t decided yet, but Christmas is a time for giving, and I intend to give.

5. Make a DIY Christmas gift

I’ve mentioned already that I’ve been glued to Pinterest, but I’ve also been addicted to Christmas related YouTube videos this year, and there’s a couple of DIY Christmas gift idea’s that I’d quite like to attempt making, and I’d also like to bake a cake to take to my parents over the festive period that is diabetic friendly, for my dad.

6. Go Ice Skating

It’s been a while, and I always, ALWAYS get a blister from the skates, but it’s just ever so festive isn’t it? I’d like to go to an outdoor ring, but I’ll probably just end up going to out local ice skating rink and spending an hour or so there, followed by a tray of chips and a hot drink.

7. Play a board game

Is there such a thing more appropriate during the festive period than sitting indoors with the heating on and playing Monopoly? What more could you want at Christmas than a game that could, quite literally break a family?…. Maybe I’ll go out and invest in Kerplunk or something, it’s safer.

8. Enjoy having time off

This will be the first time in 6 years that I’ve not been working over Christmas. In fact, I’ve only had 1 year in the past 11 that I haven’t worked at some point over the “important” days of Christmas. This year, I finish work on the 22nd and I’m not back until January, and I quite literally couldn’t be more excited. I think I might actually cry. I fully intend on putting on about 20lb, watching Love Actually and Elf on repeat, and never leaving my PJ’s.

What are your plans over the festive season? I’d love to know if there’s anything else I should add to my list?

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I need to get this off my chest.

So I read something on Twitter last night, and it’s really wound me up. 

I’m not usually one to come over to my blog to rant about things I see on social media, I’ll either let out a typically British ‘tut’ and keep scrolling or I might have a bit of a moan to my other half (who usually doesn’t care). But this has been playing on my mind and I feel as though I want to talk about it. 

So last night, I saw a tweet that a few of the people I follow had either liked or retweeted. I now can’t find the tweet, so prepare for a lot of paraphrasing, but it said something along the lines of “Men need to realise that almost every woman has been sexually assaulted in some way”. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with this tweet, and that isn’t what I’m cross about. I liked the fact that so many people joined in the conversation to speak about little acts that happen a lot, that some women don’t even class as sexual assault, or unwanted sexual activity, because what they experienced may not have been rape. 

The tweet gained a fair bit of activity and I like to think that it raised awareness to some people that are the “offenders” as it were to realise that what they may have been doing is not ok. 

I then saw one tweet, from a guy, that said (and again, I’m paraphrasing) “don’t forget men can be sexually assaulted too”. This was then responded to (granted, not by the lady who posted the original tweet) with what I read as the most sarcastic and, for want of a better word, dickish replies. 

THIS IS WHY MEN DON’T SPEAK UP ABOUT THIS SHIT!!!!

This bloke may well have been sexually assaulted and want to join in on raising awareness and speaking about a pretty taboo topic, but he was completely shot down by closed minded women that laugh off the fact that men can be abused in a sexual way. 

Imagine if the tables had turned, and the man was being so sarcastic to those speaking up about their own experiences of sexual assault. How much would people kick off? The man would probably be hounded by women and probably reported to twitter. So why shoot down this poor bloke in such a way? 

Men can be sexually assaulted, and, whilst I’m on the topic, they can be the victim of domestic violence. But generally, they’re so scared to speak up about their experiences that they just keep it to themselves and suffer in silence. And people like this, that laugh off such a serious matter are probably the main reason they keep quiet. 

According to rapecrisis.org.uk, approximately 12,000 men are raped each year in the U.K. Alone. And only around 2,000 of these will be reported. That’s 10,000 men a YEAR that won’t report their rape. And that’s just rape, that’s not including other acts of sexual assault. 

Also (because quite clearly I’ve taken a lot from this one tweet), I think that this is why gender equality will never happen. For years, women have fought for equality, but now, women are being just as bad as men! Why are men told to ‘man up’ and deal with it, when women are praised for being strong and speaking out? Isn’t this just as sexist as a man slapping his “bird” on the arse and asking her to make him a sandwich? 
I think that’s all I have to say on this matter for now, and I apologise that this post is a little all over the place. I wish I’d spent more time to articulate better, and get my point across in a better manner, but I needed to get it off my chest. 

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