Wednesday, 7 February 2018

I'm off to Oz

It finally hit me that I'm off to Oz!

Australia has been a dream for so long. It's somewhere I can't explain, but I've always wanted to go. It could be seeing kangaroos and koalas; it could be the active lifestyle or the lovely weather. I actually can't remember why it started to appeal, but I have always had this feeling that it's something I just need to do. I am honestly so nervous that I will somehow not get to Sydney to start my tour. I'm also terrified that I will get homesick or not enjoy it. That's why it's probably best that I've only opted to do it for a month, instead of the year I couldn't frankly afford to do.

I know I will miss my dogs, other people's dogs, my friends and family. I know I will eat something I don't like and I know I will sleep while travelling somewhere. However I know this will probably be the biggest adventure of my life. I'm beyond excited. Here is just a quick list of activities I am most excited for:

  • Hot air balloon
  • Helicopter ride
  • Zoo
  • Great barrier reef
  • Kangaroo island
  • Aboriginal cultural centre visit
  • Alice spring park
  • Sydney opera house

Lots of people have asked where exactly in Australia, so here it is!

My tour begins in Sydney, where I will meet the rest of my tour group (and hopefully make new friends). In Sydney I'm looking forward to just walking around, visiting the Sydney Opera House and Taronga Zoo.

From there, I am looking forward to going to Hunter Valley for wine tasting and continuing onto Tamworth for country living. 

Then it will off to the beautiful Byron Bay for surfing lessons, brilliant Brisbane and Noosa Everglades. I'm even excited to visit the world's largest sand island A.K.A.Fraser Island.

I will also go to Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands, Cairns, Alice Springs, Uluru, Port Campbell and end in the marvellous Melbourne. If you have any tips while I visit these places, please let me know.

I'm not sure how to end this, I type this the eve before my last working day in the UK. I'm off to a wonderful place. I hope there aren't any Jodie-shaped disasters, get lots of pictures and it's everything I dreamt of.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Taking a break!

It fills me with a bit of regret, but think I might be taking a long break from blogging. I thought about leaving it at my last blog post, but hate leaving things unfinished.

Basically I don't have the same passion for writing the blog. I have lots of ideas but no real interest/idea in adding to it. I've been feeling hugely overwhelmed. 

I write as I think, but then I need to check over grammar, find suitable pictures, upload, then promote on 4 different facebook groups, promote on twitter and facebook. Then I might need to communicate with bloggers (which I love doing), but sometimes it is a bit much for something that is just a hobby.

Before I leave, I thought I'd finish with some updates:
1. As part of my Popsugar Challenge, this month I've read 3 books - Lee Evans, Red Dust Road and I am Malala. I'm currently reading the Colour Purple and keen to finish it before the month is up.

2. I found out this week that I've got a job in  my chosen field - finally a year after continuous trying. I'm overjoyed! 
4. I got my hair done. New colour and an inch off! I also love when she puts waves in my hair because I can never do it the same...

5. I visited Woodbridge with the family this week - having lunch and having a little drive around

Pulled pork is a favourite at the moment!

6. I went to Norwich and explored a little this week
My favourite picture from the visit. Hopefully go inside one day...

7. I ordered more DVDs and already started watching them day before yesterday.
8. Purchased 3 books at bargain of £1.50 (great for even a charity shop)

9. Got stuck into exercise - aiming to do at least 30 minutes of walking 5-6 days a week, and then 3 x 30 minute yoga a week and 3-5 times of doing tummy exercises. I'm noticing a real difference and it has even improved my energy levels.
10. Continuing on with driving lessons. I've learnt that through trying 3 other instructors none have taught me the basics. After about 2 and half years of learning (with 8 month break - and yes, I could have had a baby in that time), I still had never been shown a parallel park until last week. I'm still nervous, but feel I'm learning to do things on my own more instead of continuously waiting for my instructor to confirm what I should do.

Anyway, that is me. I'm done. Goodbye for now, but I think boredom will bring me back to entertain you with more positive, funny and interesting posts. I just know I need a break. I hope you've enjoyed reading! 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

All about chocolate

Recently I've struggled for ideas for blog posts. In honesty it's not because I don't have actual ideas, but more about what I actually want to write about. I've been reviewing books and films monthly and being enjoyed that, but have been struggling to come up with ideas as feel some post ideas might be too personal. I've considered writing songs to get you through a break-up, about my mother for mother's day or even more about my love for fundraising. I'm really unsure though. I've also felt a bit overwhelmed to respond to comments as I try to every time, but feel not everyone reads the replies... I was considering taking a big break but thought no - I feel if I take a substantial break I might not come back!

Anyway, this brings me to my idea for my next post. After recently the following post: 50 blog post ideas when you have writer's blog; it seemed fitting. That is why I'm discussing chocolate. It also seems fitting as I'm sort of eating chocolate as I write this...

To me, chocolate is like diamonds; it can be a girl's best friend although men love it too. Not trying to be sexist there! I feel it can be eaten during moments of sadness, happiness or even as a "F**k you" to the diet. My love with chocolate can be far too emotional. I have a tiring day, I will buy chocolate. I feel crappy, I will buy chocolate. I am due on my period, I will buy chocolate or sweets. Something great happens and I want to reward myself, I will buy chocolate.

I am not completely against eating chocolate. Who am I kidding? I love it! I don't however like the fat belly (all my weight seems to go there, to my thighs and to my hips). I also don't like the cravings and how irritable I get if I don't have it when crave it.

How about the facts of chocolate?

  • Chocolate was used as money - it used to be considered worth more than gold!
  • White chocolate isn't real chocolate because it uses cocoa butter, as opposed to cocpa which classifies it as chocolate. Mind blown!
  • Europeans account for almost half the world's chocolate consumption
  • One to put you off chocolate for a bit - on average, one chocolate bar contains 8 insect parts
  • Cacao which chocolate is made from is quite good for you. It is a powerful antioxidant. Dark chocolate is seen as the most healthy as it has lots of antioxidants that help the cardiovascular system by reducing blood pressure
  • Eating dark chocolate widens arteries and helps healthy blood flow to stop the build-up of plaque that block arteries
  • Eating dark chocolate every day is said to reduce the risk of heart disease by 1/3
  • It can help reduce the risk of diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity
  • The world's largest chocolate bar weighed 5,792kg
  • There are potato chips dipped in chocolate. Check out Lays wavy crisps!
  • Don't give chocolate to cats or dogs as it can sicken or even kill them. That's why our dogs get their own chocolate buttons from the pet shop
  • 100 pounds of chocolate is eaten every second in America
  • Chocolate is more effective than codeine for coughs
  • The smell can relax you because it increases theta brain waves
  • Chocolate contains high doses of caffeine and sugar, and is viewed as largely to blame for ADHD in children
  • Chocolate can cause headaches and this is why those who suffer from migraines shouldn't eat a lot of it

Credits: TelegraphFacts about chocolateDo something and Fact Slides

I feel I've learnt so much about chocolate from finding out these 16 facts and realise that it's not all bad. Eat chocolate and don't feel quite so guilty. Let me know what you think - did you know any of these?

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Comfortable in my skin

I always find reading other blog posts about confidence and improving yourself hugely motivating. That's why I thought I'd try to share a few tips for boosting confidence. Although this list is not exhaustive, it does help me massively.

1. Wear things that suit you

Don't follow just trends. If you don't suit a certain colour, just don't wear it. Wear things you like and feel comfortable in. I have plenty of clothes but tend to stick to dresses or colours I love most. I also find dressing nicer, making effort with hair, makeup and nails helps when in stressful situations like a first day at a new job, an interview or meeting someone new.

2. Find hobbies that suit you

So many people keep up pastimes they feel they should like such as doing sports, gym or cinema, but the list is exhaustive. If you wish  to be more creative, the internet is a perfect place  to find something you might like. I want to do more creative things like scrapbooking, but also enjoy going to events like fundraisers, music gigs and seeing live comedian (although  don't do the last two as often as I'd like) and enjoy watching films (new and old), writing, reading and doing yoga.

3. Be healthy!

Walking my dogs is my perfect excuse to get active!

I can't stress this enough. If you struggle to walk basic distances due  to lack of fitness, you won't feel too great about  yourself. You are also what you eat! Being healthy can be a huge confidence boost. I've noticed a big difference from cutting portion sizes, trying not to feel guilty if tempted by chocolate or snacks and keeping up regular exercise that I actually like.

4. Taking care of your skin

For almost a year, I changed my skin routine and noticed a huge difference. I have very spot-prone skin that can pop with acne or spots when stressed. I need to be careful to avoid fizzy drinks and limit sugar (although difficult). I have found things along the way that help such as Liz Earle products as discussed in previous post here. I didn't want to scare readers in that post, but here is my skin transformation:



Granted my after picture has me with eye makeup and eyebrow pencil, it is without any skin makeup. It shows my spot-prone skin with just one spot and minimum scarring from spots. My skin feels much healthier and never could imagine it looking like this - naturally. Now I just need to find a cheap acne scarring treatment...

5. Improve

I think everyday is a learning curve. It's nice to take time to learn and improve yourself. For example, at the moment I've started volunteering at a local charity to improve skills for better  employment. I'm also continuing my battle to pass my driving, which will increase my independence and open more  job opportunities

6. Take time for you

I try to dedicate Sunday to pampering. This means no makeup, exfoliating face, painting nails and anything else I want to do to ease stress.

7. Positivity

Surround yourself with positive people, positive things and take positive steps. I'm not saying you'll be positive 100% of the time, but good to try. It will definitely make you feel better.

8. Make yourself proud

Setting goals really helps me. I set lots of goals every year that you'll notice from reading my new  year posts. I like to feel I've achieved something.

I hope you like your tips. If there is anything else you do that helps with your confidence, I'd love to hear it. Being an anxious person I always look to improve my  confidence as it helps makes me happier.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Liz Earle Review

I feel like I've been telling anyone who will listen how fab Liz Earle is, so thought it was time I wrote about it in more of a review-form.

My favourite items to use so far are the hot cloth cleanser and toner - it has done wonders for my skin. I started using it April of last year (still can't get used to describing 2016 as last year!), when my skin was stressed and had lots of breakouts, yet was very dry. I had no idea what to do with it. I knew wipes were bad for my skin, so didn't use them. I started using the miscellanea water cleansers which seemed to be popular, and felt they were soothing to my skin, but did little else for me. I learnt they weren't actually taking all the makeup off no matter how long I took taking it off!

Here is a picture of my skin when I first started using it:

Here is a recent picture of me:

It's a real benefit, and has changed my life! I know that sounds dramatic, cheesy and even silly, but it has. My confidence has increased and I can talk without my skin actually hurting. The appearance of acne scars have also softened. My skin has more of a glow, and best of all it feels like I'm having a treatment.

Tips for using:
1. Make sure you softly cleanse first, and then double cleanse. I soon realised other cleansers hadn't been taking all my makeup off before now! That double cleanse makes all the difference, and other brands are encouraging this.
2. When washing your cloths, don't use conditioner as it means they stop being abrasive.
3. My Mum sometimes uses cheaper alternatives to the cloth, and truth be told when you want to buy new ones, I notice little difference
4. It's better to cleanse when using hot water with it. I find it more therapeutic and that it lifts everything
5. Always use with the amazing toner!

Before I wouldn't spend more than £10 on a cleanser, but this is worth it. It gives you confidence and makes you feel like you're getting the care you need. If you save in any area, I would always go for makeup as without the good skin, it makes it so much harder anyway!

Superdrug offer a budget range, which my mum did like. I didn't like it. I like their exfoliator  and still use it. However the cleanser felt like I was putting butter on my skin and it just turned me off it.

I also love the eye cream, as I've used it on my eyes and forehead (as it suggest using on forehead and around the lines by your mouth). The lines on my forehead were minimal but can not even notice them anymore. It has lessened at the edges and recommend this. I also use it on my eyes and find it to be cooling, relaxing and help a little with the appearance of dark circles. I think you should start early with eye creams, but I often forget to use them. With this, I like using it so much I don't forget it. A little goes a long way! I get a small squirt, rub it again my fingers and dab with ring finger around my eyes in a circular motion. Sadly I've lost this...

I like the moisturisers too, but have switched between ones. You put the tinest amount and spread across your face. I use less than even a pea size amount for my skin, which is normal, but can sometimes be dry.

I always feel it is important to cleanse, tone and moisturise, and then at least once a week to exfoliate. I can't say I've exfoliated with Liz Earle before, but have tried two of their treatments, which are nice. My Gran got me an exfoliator for Christmas. I can't say a huge amount as not had it long, but I like how gentle it is.

My mum had been using Liz Earle for her skin for a fair few months (maybe over a year), and found it was the only thing she could use after finding she was allergic to a chemical. She had already converted my Gran to using it. If saying, 3 generations of women are using the same product and liking it is not enough...My Gran has reached 70, and her skin looks better than I've seen it. My mum has always had good skin, but it also helps women who notice a change in their skin due to hormonal imbalance which results in dry or oily skin. I find my skin has more of a glow, and the few wrinkles I had on my forehead are unnoticed to me now.

Don't just take my word for it! Liz Earle uses natural ingredients, and is made in the Isle of Wight. It is one of the few beauty items not tested on animals, and which is completely vegan. The majority of the products are non-perfumed and alcohol-free, which is perfect for anyone with sensitive skin. They occasionally bring out special-edition cleansers like the one pictured below, which are nice and have a different scent, but other than that you don't see many perfumed products.

Have you ever tried anything from Liz Earle? I'd love to hear what you think, and any difference it might have made to your skin. I've started trying other skincare items and will tell you what I think of them.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

February Films

One of my big goals for the year is to watch more films; more specifically films off my list. For details of other goals, and clues of other posts you can see the post here. I love hearing about films - new and old, so thought it would be fun to go through the films I watched this month like I did last month. See here to read about the 13 films I managed to watch last month.

This month has seen me watch a further 15 films. This time it had all the films on my elusive list of films I wish to see before I die. So here goes, I will stop babbling on...

1. Young and Innocent (1937) 

This film taught me that not all Hitchcock films are good! I have seen one film of Hitchcock's before which sent me to sleep, and again it happened. I tried twice to watch this, and on the final time I fell asleep through it (during the day may I add?). All I could really gather was a man claiming to be "innocent" and a lady wanting to help him find his coat to prove it.
Rating: 3/10 - It has that Hollywood style film to it, but I'd probably enjoy watching paint dry more than this!

2. The Wrong Man (1956)

Described as a docudrama, this film is much more the Hitchcock I was used to. This was a gripping story beginning with Hitchcock himself saying this was stranger than most films he's made despite being a true story. From there, I was intrigued.
Rating: 8/10 - I'd recommend to anyone who wants to hear of an interesting tale of mistaken identity.

3. Hairspray (1988)

Having seen the most recent film about two or three years ago, I felt I needed to see the original. I really enjoyed it, which is strange as I hate musicals on the most part. It was a big shock to enjoy it, but it didn't only have a fun plot of a girl's love for dance, interest in boys and friendship, but it also covered that of racism.
Rating: 7/10 - Great film, but think the newer version was just as good. I liked seeing a younger Ricki Lake (didn't know about her pre-talk-show host).

4. Days of Heaven (1978)

I did find the film interesting, but it ended with me thinking: "Is that it?" I always thought there would be a point to it. I didn't feel like there was a proper beginning, middle and end to it all.
Rating: 5/10 - It follows the story of a couple, who pretend to be brother and sister, and their journey to get richer. It is an intriguing tale and can be seen on Netflix, but didn't seem to be a real climax to the film.

5. Sense and Sensibility (1995)

It was a typical romantic story set in that era. Period dramas don't tend to be my thing. It was okay, but not for me. I think it's definitely an interesting story of contrasting sister as they look for love.
Rating: 6.5/10 - I think it's something that many people will enjoy watching.

6. The Verdict (1982)

Once the trial started, I was hooked. It follows an alcoholic lawyer determined to win a case that everyone thinks he should have settled out of court. Follow the journey of this case as he battles to win.
Rating: 8/10 - A gripping story and well-worth a watch!

7. What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993)

Simply wonderful! I dare you to watch this and not be touched in some way. It tells the story of Gilbert and his life with his family in a very small town. The film follows Gilbert and how his life changes once he meets free-spirited, Becky.
Rating: 9/10 - I loved this film and feel like it's the type of film you want to encourage everyone to watch

8. Very Bad Things (1998)

It rivals Cheap Thrills (from my last monthly review) for messed up, but not near as crazy. It could also be described as a bit like the Hangover saga but darker and like they're trying too hard to be funny. Similar to Hangover, it follows a stag night and how wrong it can really go. It has good actors, but it's just not that great. Cameron Diaz was the best part of the film!
Rating: 5/10 - It's okay, but it seems like a story played out before. I know Hangover same after this, but this wasn't near as good!

9. Mona Lisa (1986)

It's very rare to see a gripping British film, but this had it. Freshly released from prison, this follows George as he gets his first job driving a high-class call girl,Simone from client to client. It has action, drama and comedy; a great film if you want to watch something that is easy to follow, but not too predictable.
Rating: 7/10 - An interesting insight into a life of crime, and a journey as George tries to get on the straight and narrow.

10. Tootsie (1982)

Before my favourite childhood film, Mrs Doubtfire, there was Tootsie! It has a similar concept of a straight man dressing as a woman. When Michael can't get any acting work as a man, he auditions as a woman under the name "Dorothy Michaels". Follow the great comedy as he struggles to hide his identity from the actors, crew and of course his friends.
Rating: 10/10 - I loved it and would happily watch it again and again. A true comedy classic!

11. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

I just didn't take to the story. I thought it would be similar in comedy style as East is East, but was bored and couldn't tell you what happened.
Rating: 4/10 - Follows the story of an Asian briton who plans to make a success from his laundrette. The concept of film is interesting, but just didn't take to the plot.

12. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Watching this made me think - "Gosh 2012 was 5 years ago!" I know that wasn't the point, but it still feels like one or two years ago. Onto the film, I couldn't work out if I was too old to watch it. It followed kids, who reminded me a bit of the Addams family as they were strange. I enjoyed it and couldn't help, but watch.
Rating: 7/10 - Following a boy who goes missing while camping with rest of cubs (or scouts - called something else that I forget like ferrets?), and although it should be sad as the adults soon discover he's an orphan, it is only funny and slightly bizarre.

13. Wild hearts can't be broken (1991)

A simply inspiring true story of determination! A girl who rebels and is kicked out by her aunt, and then wishes to be a diving girl. Watch her as she works hard to achieve her dreams, and falls in love along the way.
Rating: 8/10 - February wasn't the best of months, but if you're looking for a pick-me-up this might be for you.

14. Valley of the Dolls (1967)

This film is an interesting look into how show business can affect different women. Sorry I don't have more to say...
Rating: 6/10 - Valley of the Dolls is very intriguing with it's coverage of illness, romance and drugs. I just wasn't that impressed. It was a good film, but nothing to rave about.

15. Beyond  the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

I've apparently seen this before, but I don't remember so watched it again. Despite the name it isn't a sequel to the Valley of the Dolls. However it does cover similar issues relating to show business. It had me hooked, and dare you to watch this and not have one of the songs stuck in your head. I was humming along the rest of the day!
Rating: 8/10 - I loved this film and was a great way to end the month. Without giving too much away, it was cheerful, sexy, unpredictable and gritty. I also loved the style and fashions of the era.

I thought about including TV programmes I have been watching too, but they can probably be covered in this paragraph alone. I've continued to watch episodes of That 70s Show, finished series gripping drama, River and started watching black (gory) comedy Santa Clarita Diet.

Have you seen any of these films? What films have you recently been watching. I'd love to hear all about it!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

February Books

February has been a dull month - ate a lot of comfort food and ended it filling my face with pancakes. I've heard of January blues, but February was tough for me with days of disappointment.

One thing I carried on was reading, and felt incredible about this month...

After deciding to take on the Popsugar reading challenge, I have realised I need to read 3 or 4 books each month. After reading 6 books last month as described here, I thought I might continue that success. However I picked slightly bigger books, so might be able to make it up in March.

1. A book that is a story within a story

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Cloud Atlas was utterly disappointing to me. 7 stories within a story and didn't take to one - I couldn't understand how they connected. There was one story with a slight take one flew over the cuckoo's nest. I'm impressed I finished the book, but I didn't understand it. It's probably not my kind of book. Anyone who has read it, can you please explain what happened?

2. A book set in two different time periods

The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Having watched the film and loved it, I was excited to give this a shot. I was not disappointed. I'm not usually one for love stories, but this wasn't a typical love story. It had magic, intrigue and drama. Clare and Henry meet in different time periods. She first meets him when she's 6 and he's 42, he first meets her when she's 20 and he's 28. There are some things that happen in the film that don't happen in the book and vice versa, but I still loved both in their different ways. I was a bit disappointed by the end. I don't want to give too much about what happens with the characters, but I will say I was disappointed that it went from 2008 to 2053. It would have been nice to know a bit about what happened in between that 45 odd years.

3. A book with career advice

The Zen of Fundraising: 9 Timeless Ideas to Strengthen and Develop your Donor Relationships by Ken Burnett
This one might be boring to many, but it is fascinating to me. I love fundraising - it is my one true love. Unfortunately on the way to the career path, it has broken my heart and rejected me more than once, but like any true love, you know you learn from it. Probably not the best analogy. I read a book telling you 89 principles of good fundraiser conduct, and advice to getting the best from donors. It describes the best things to do, and think every detail makes sense. I disagree that charities neglect donors like the author  makes out. My favourite passage is as follows:

"Learn twelve keys to world-class donor service.

  • Be committed. You and your donor service staff have to really like donors and to be really committed to offering them first-class service.
  • Be properly resourced. Customer service is something that shouldn't be done on the cheap. The service function needs proper planning and demands the allocation of sufficient resources. If you skimp you'll probably do more harm than good.
  • Be consistent. Good service raises expectations. People need to know they can depend on certain standards of performance at all times, whenever needed.
  • Be quick. Delayed responses irritate. Prompt responses please.
  • Be appropriate. Tailor your response to your donors. Avoid waste and overindulging customers.
  • Be personal. People like to be remembered and addressed by name.
  • Be recognised. That way you'll increase your chances of being liked. This is where, as I've said elsewhere, you should publicise your nonprofit's service personnel and show their pictures. Stress they are there only to serve donors.
  • Be meticulous. Keep first-class records, so you can act on these twelve keys and more.
  • Be there. You can't go home when your donors need you. If a twenty-four-hour service seems over the top, at least operate a facility for voice messages. It may be that your organisation's service department will be in most demand in evenings from 6.00 P.M. to 9.00 P.M. If so, pay staff a bit extra to cover those hours.
  • Be open and honest. Never cover up.. If your department or organisation have screwed up, say so quickly and explain it fully. Donors will love you for it.
  • Be cheerful and helpful. Never let donors feel that asking is a trouble. That's what you are there for - to help them.
  • Teach customer care to all your colleagues. I have never forgotten a simple piece of advice from the days when I sold advertising space over the telephone - smile and dial. When you smile while talking on the phone, what you are saying sounds much better at the other end. It really works. Try it. (Tell your colleagues first; otherwise they'll think you've gone mad)."

Now I can't decide which book to stick to, but reading the autobiographies: The Life of Lee by Lee Evans and I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb.

Let me know what you think. Have you read any of the books described? Are you doing a reading challenge this year?