Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Time to eat my words..

And that's something I don't often do!

You may have read a post I did a couple of months ago about how Kindles and other e-readers measure up to paperbacks. You may also remember that I concluded that they weren't for me, and I'd take a battered, old paperback over a shiny, sleek piece of gadgetry any day. Well how wrong was I?

My Dad gave me the new Kindle Fire HD exactly a month ago for my 20th birthday, and truth be told, I've hardly put it down since! So much so, that I've worked my way through three books in that time, and have just begun my fourth this very evening.

I can't remember the last three books I read before getting my Kindle, which is probably testament to how much reading I was actually doing. I've always regarded myself as a keen book worm, but I don't think that description's very fitting if you only read once or twice a year on your holidays (this is the type of person I'd become pre-Kindle!). But now it would seem I am never without a book in hand - albeit a virtual one!

I think I can put my sharp increase in reading time down to two things: the price and availability of e-books. Whilst perusing the shelves of Smiths and 'Stones can be interesting and intriguing, there's something about being able to purchase (and start) a book without ever having to leave my bed, let alone get out my pyjamas. The price of the books is a cheeky bonus too, and of my three recently read books, they all cost me less than a pound! How often can you say you picked up a paperback for that price?!

My Kindle Fire is frequently used to surf the web and listen to music too, but, already having an iPad, it's main use is being glued to my left hand as I flick through the on screen pages.

I think in a way I sort of didn't want to believe the ebook hype, as there's something so romantic and old fashioned about a traditional book. After all, that's what I've grown up with; being read bed time stories from them, learning to read myself, and swapping them between my friends and family. Fortunately - and despite my previous post on the matter - you can still do all of those things using an e-reader, but so much more as well!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Ode to blog

Okay so this is me (once again) promising to reignite my blog and get typing again. I don't really know why I've been absent for such a long time, but I suspect it's because I've been such a busy bee. Between working at the DoubleTree - which I love - I've been hammering essays and journals out left right and centre at uni, as Christmas deadlines begin to loom, and in between all of that, trying to hit the gym and maintain some sort of social life! Woe is me, eh?

 But this time's going to be different - hey, who hasn't heard that before? - I'm going to actually make time to write, because, as I've been  realising increasingly of late, I adore writing.

So watch this space. No - actually do this time!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Another year older

Okay so my blog has laid dormant for quite some months now - sorry people! Life has sort of gotten in the way a bit, as it has a habit of doing!

Anyway, October has come around again, which - for me - means one thing. My birthday. Now for every birthday for the past 20 years this has meant numerous birthday lists, plans, celebrations and general excitedness usually lasting the entire month. I've always looked forward to being a year older, and having a tiny bit more freedom, whether that be learning to drive at 17 or learning to drink at 18, birthdays have also been greatly anticipated for me. But this year feels very different.

Truth be told I'm actually dreading it this year. I can't stand the thought of being 20. Halfway to 40 in other words. For most of my teenage life people have told me how much older I look for my years, and how mature I am. but just recently at work people have been commenting on how young I look, and how they can't believe the fact I'm shortly to be 20, when in their opinion I look about 12.

This year I literally just feel a year closer to death. As morbid and pessimistic as that sounds, it's true. I feel all the good ages have come and gone, and now I'm just counting down the years unwillingly.

It's not all bad though, I'm jet-setting off to Portugal in 2 weeks to spend my birthday in the sun, so really I don't have that much to complain about! Anyway, I just thought it was interesting how you get a different perspective on things like birthdays as you get older. As a kid I never thought I'd NOT be excited for a birthday. But then again, I suppose a change is as good as a rest - or whatever the phrase is!

Friday, 29 June 2012

Top trending: #favouritechildhoodbook

I've been transported back to my childhood years this afternoon scrolling through the thousands of tweets in response to the hashtag 'favourite childhood book'.

Amongst the tweets a few of my favourites jumped out at me: James & the Giant Peach, The Hungry Caterpillar and Bear Hunt to name a few. However, no one seemed to mention my absolute favourite which was of course the Milly-Molly-Mandy series by Joyce Lankester Brisley. Perhaps this is because the original books date back to 1928, even though these were being read to me by my Dad in the late 90s.

Looking back the stories were beautifully simple, as most children's books are. The Milly-Molly-Mandy series described the everyday adventures of a little girl named Millicent Margaret Amanda, nicknamed Milly-Molly-Mandy as her full name was thought to be too long. The character's most memorable features had to be her pink and white striped dress, and the fact that she lived in "the nice white cottage with the thatched roof", and these features were always described just so, with no need for any more detail.

Another characteristic of the books which kept me begging my Dad to read to me every night was the illustrations. Only every few pages as to not ruin the magic; I always looked forward to my Dad reading a page to me that had an accompanying picture.

I couldn't have described these wonderful stories better myself when Lucy Mangan wrote in The Guardian: "each story is a miniature masterpiece, as clear, warm and precise as the illustrations by the author that accompanied them."

Au revoir June...

It'd appear that I'm waving goodbye to June just as quickly as I said hello to it. I don't know where the time is going, but it's certainly going quickly!

Maybe it's the anticipation of moving in with my other half (you know what I mean!) Aimee in August, or the excitement of my best friend's hen weekend in Marbella. Or maybe it's starting my 2nd year at Uni? Or the several camping trips planned over the course of the summer.. Whatever it is, I wish it'd bloody slow down!

So anyway. June has been an eventful one, as always. As you know, I snapped myself a job up just a day after moving back home officially from uni, which is going really well and providing me with the pennies needed to supplement my dwindling student loan (hey, I did get it way back in APRIL!)

Things are going great on the fitness front as well, and I've dropped to my lowest weight for ages this month. I surprised myself with all the class I have managed to try out at the gym. From Pump FX to Step and Tone, LBT to Fitball. I'm loving them all. And it'd appear so is my shrinking waistline.

Perhaps the highlight of my month was spending some much needed quality time with my Daddy as we took a roadtrip to Versailles, Paris. Despite the drizzle and severe lack of Wifi, we had a blast, and walking some 15 miles around Paris had to be the best bit of it all. 

If you follow me on Instagram (graciebabesxo) you'll know that I acquired a slightly better memento than a fridge magnet on this holiday, and I came home with a brand new vintage Gitane. After months of pestering for a cute, vintage bike (I love my mountain bikes no end, but I really wanted something a bit more girly) I rode one away from a bike shop on Rue Royal. It's beautiful.

Anyway, more Paris talk to follow avec photos.

The Kindle vs Paperbacks: Is there any contest?

In the techno-mad 21st century we live in, it would seem there is a gadget to replace just about anything. Even books and magazines have been given a new lease of life from the development of e-readers, such as the Amazon Kindle. But will these sleek gadgets ever truly replace the humble paperback?

Of course one of the obvious beauties of owning a Kindle is the advantage of having all your books in one place, together. Great for saving on space, especially when you're off on holiday with an unforgiving baggage allowance. But then again, how often do you get through the 2 books you pack for your hols?

A major part of the joy of reading for me is the careful selection of your next read. Whether you browse the shelves in Waterstones or check out the charts on Amazon, purchasing and holding that brand new, clean book in your own hands is when the excitement starts to build.

The price of Kindle books is another thing attracting me to this smart little device. For example, the Number 1 book in the Kindle chart at the minute is (hardly surprising) Fifty Shades of Grey, priced at £2.69. In the shops you can expect to pay an RRP of £7.99; a fair price as far as paperbacks go, but somewhat extortionate compared to the e-reader edition.

There is a lot to be said for physically owning something you thoroughly enjoy. I feel the same about music, for example. Like many others nowadays I'm a serial music downloader; it's quick and easy, and can be on my iPod within 10 minutes. But on the rare occasion that I do decide to buy a record, it has to be something special. I think the last CD I purchased was Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto, and unlike many of the other albums that frequent my iTunes, that record doesn't have a single bad song.

Perhaps my favourite part of finishing a great book is telling people how much I've enjoyed it, and forcing my copy on them, like it or not. Nevertheless, the book is usually returned within a week or so, more thumbed and loved than it was before. After that it is either passed on to the next person or displayed proudly on one of my bookshelves; ready for me to return to it in six months, a year, and become lost in it's tatty pages once again.

Clearly the Kindle is a take-anywhere, do-anything kind of gadget, but I'm not sure how I'd feel about laying in the bath with it. And would it be the same to throw it down on the sand next to your beach towel? I think not.

Maybe the Kindle is the perfect gadget for those people to whom a book is simply a story for them to digest, but for me books will always have a much higher value.

Friday, 1 June 2012

June, I've got a really great feeling about you..

Yesterday saw me not only wave goodbye to a disgusting, inconsiderate housemate (by moving out, and FYI, I didn't wave - I didn't say anything; just rejoiced at never having to see her again!) but to the month of May.

As high hopes as I may have had for May, it was largely made up of compromising my social life for day after day of revision. But nevertheless, it seemed to pay off and I finished my exams earlier this week feeling quietly confident of the outcome.

I can tell already June is going to be an amazing month; I mean, not even 12 hours into it did I find myself a part-time job! After a few hours spent this morning trawling the Internet for jobs, and emailing my CV to numerous prospective employers, I received a phone call asking me to come in for an interview an hour later.

Having worked since I was 13, the last 6 months being unemployed have been hard. Well, technically I've not been unemployed; I've been a student, like all my other friends. But still, not having some spare cash to splash out in Primark or organise an impromptu cinema visit, has left me feeling a bit down.

Anyway, they offered me the job and asked me to start tonight! I'm so excited to be working again - there's only so many lie ins and lazy days that a girl can take! Now, it's only a bar job, but that is my favourite type of work. I just love everything about it; it's something that I feel comes naturally to me, just chatting away to people - probably a good thing considering I'm studying for a degree in journalism!

Aside from saying au revoir to unemployment and the life of a lazy student, June holds many other gems for me to look forward to. Namely a camping trip to Paris with mon pere (see what I did there?!) which I can't wait for! Paris has to be one of my favourite places on Earth.

I'm also looking forward to many more BBQs and nights out, now that I don't have to shun my friends and family for revision purposes! Oh, and I'll be working away at that challenge I set myself in my previous post.. I've already done 3 classes which I need to post about!

Ciao for now.. Or should that be à bientôt!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The best thing I ever did...

Was choosing to go to university.

That's it.. Sat my final (and most tedious) exam this morning, and I have waved goodbye to my first year of uni! Literally cannot believe how quick it's gone; it doesn't feel like 5 minutes since I was enrolling on my first day and having a terrible photo taken for my student card.

To say I've loved every minute of this year would be a lie, but I've enjoyed it all a hell of a lot more than I thought I would. Of course it's had it's ups and downs, but thankfully the positives have massively outweighed the negatives. Some of my favourite moments have been:

  • Achieving two 1:1s in assignments; one for a magazine feature on mountain biking for women, and one for a speed writing feature test on Adele. It would seem my future may well lie in the magazine industry!

  • Meeting some awesome people and making friends for life, especially Aimee, and I've come to believe we may well have been separated at birth.

  • Reminiscing about various random nights out the following morning.. "We sat on the toilet floor for HOW long?!"

It seems so weird that this time last year I was so anxious about going to uni.. Will I make friends? Will the work be too hard? How am I going to look after myself?! Thankfully, I've made loads of friends, I've managed the workload just fine, and as it happens I am actually quite the domestic goddess. Turns out I had nothing to worry about after all.

Now I'm looking forward to moving into my new flat in August, and getting my head down and working hard when I go back in September. Well, that is between all the Shed Thursdays and Superbulls. Oh to be a student, eh?

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

What's the point of...

Exams? I don't understand them.

I know it's something that we just have to get on with, and no one particularly likes them, but I just don't see the point behind them?

When in my future career in journalism am I ever going to need to be able to recite every section of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, without being able to refer to it in some way? I'm not disputing the fact that I will need to know the general gist of it (which I actually already do, I'm pleased to say) but when am I going to need to know each section inside out, off-by-heart? When will I ever NOT be able to refer to the Internet or textbook?

No. Never. Exams are simply a memory test.

Nevertheless, I have started preparing for them anyway (I'm not that much of a rebel, haha!) and I think it's safe to say the information is being absorbed pretty well. I suppose we'll find out just how well on July 4th, when I get my results.

<---But now it's back to this

Even though I'd rather be doing something like this --->

How did we ever live without...


Last weekend was one of the best I've had in ages, as my Dad and I went camping to Ilam, Derbyshire. It was a weekend of walking, eating, bike riding and getting to grips with Dad's new T5 California camper. All in all, a great weekend, and it provided me with a well-deserved break from (seemingly) never-ending revision.

However, we couldn't help feeling cut off from the rest of the world. Don't get me wrong, I love the countryside, and I'd probably choose it over a noisy, bustling city any day, but what I don't love is the sense of isolation. And guess what this was all down to? That little message in the top left corner of your phone display.. 'No Service'.

Sad, I know. But this weekend has proved that technology and Internet have quite literally become a necessity in our lives. And it wasn't just the inability to send a text that was frustrating us, there were so many things we couldn't do! Most of which we probably take for granted on a daily basis.

For example, my Dad had planned to sit and sift through his emails when we arrived at the campsite, having left the office early in order to pick me up. But an hour into the journey and complete lack of signal or data connection meant this looked unlikely.

Next, finding a pub for tea. Instead of looking on Google maps, we had to actually ASK the people running the site of the nearest place to eat. Preposterous, I know. Nevertheless we found one, but I can safely say Google maps would've provided us with one more suited to us - but I'll save that for another post.

Filling out my food diary on MyFitnessPal after dinner wasn't happening either, with absolutely zilch date connection. Much to my surprise, the pub/hotel we ate at didn't even have WiFi. I mean, I thought that'd pretty much be a certainty in this day and age. But then again, maybe that reflects my own personal reliance on the Internet and such like.

Upon leaving the pub we were tipped off by the barman that we'd be able to get a few bars of signal in the car park. We literally rushed outside and started waving our iPhones in the air for dear life. YES. 2 bars of signal, it wasn't perfect but it was good enough for us! Beaming, we picked up emails, checked Facebook and Twitter, and I updated my food diary. Along with sending fraught texts to people along the lines of "Shit signal everywhere, don't panic we're not dead!" Excessive? Maybe. Necessary? Definitely.

After standing in the car park clutching our devices for a good 10 minutes or so, we decided to head back to the campsite, watching as the little white bar dropped and dropped, before eventually going completely.

Setting off on our bike ride the next morning, I slid my phone into it's carrier attached to the centre of my handlebars (too far?) and watched it literally come alive as we rode through areas of good signal; texts, emails, notifications, tweets. I'd never felt so popular.

We stopped at various places for breaks (even though I think they were more phone breaks than refuelling, etc) and eventually reached a lovely little pub, where we sat outside in the sun and had dinner. To our delight, it was a signal hotspot, and so ensued about an hour and a half of fairly silent web-browsing, putting our phones down only to eat.

This weekend really has made me realise that I am probably far too reliant on my phone and iPad. But then again, isn't everyone? On the journey home I started to think of ways I could wean myself off them, but as you can probably guess from this post, I never finished that dialogue with myself.

Friday, 4 May 2012

The (new) holiday of a lifetime!

Camping has always been close to my heart, ever since I was a little girl and it was the only holiday we could afford.

I've been on my fair share of holidays in my lifetime, some truly amazing ones; Florida, Italy, France, Switzerland, Mallorca, Turkey, and many many more. But now I'm happy to say I'd gladly choose camping over any 5* luxury getaway.

Having left things to the very last minute in terms of booking a foreign getaway, last year my boyfriend and I decided to embark on a rather different holiday. Transit van packed full of stuff and 3 hours later we arrived at our destination - Keswick, in the Lake District. A quaint little town with much to offer us as happy campers.

We arrived on one of the rainiest days in August, and after battling with our brand new 5 man tent and awning (yes, there were only 2 of us!) we checked into our accommodation for the next 7 nights. I was disappointed to find I had to make my own bed, and a chocolate on the pillow was often missing, but all in all I had an amazing time.

Being away from many of the distractions of everyday life meant Robbie and I actually had to socialise and spend time together. With none of the usual forms of entertainment available to us, we found ourselves going rather old school, and playing endless hours of Monopoly and Yahtzee. Embarrassingly, we also developed a bit of an addiction to puzzle books - rock and roll I know!! - snuggling up in our sleeping bags most nights with a crossword.

Another thing which became a central thesis to our day was mealtimes. Robbie donned his apron and turned all Gordon Ramsey on me, making me a beautiful cooked breakfast every morning - no cold baked beans or Pot Noodles for me thank you!

Even though it was the first time we'd both camped in a good few years, we were much better prepared than I thought we'd be. Robbie had a hole kitchen unit, shelves and everything. We had 3 gas rings to cook on and a grill to do toast, I didn't feel like we were 'slumming it' at all! We had a couple of tables, some comfy chairs, plenty of lanterns and loads of blankets and throws to snuggle up in.

All in all, I had a great week. One of the best holidays I can remember in fact; we left feeling like we'd actually spent some real quality time together, and were completely chilled out. Best of all, I didn't go home with 3rd degree sunburns and a hole where my bank account used to be.

This year we've planned to go away with our friends Aimee and Adam, to introduce them to the wonder that is the good old camping holiday! I couldn't be more excited for beers, BBQs and banter! It's gonna be a top laugh :-)

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Show me what you got, May!

I'm happy to have said goodbye to April this week, as it was a bit of a boring month, but I have high hopes for this month. It's only the 3rd and I've already been out celebrating two of my favourite people's birthdays; my boyfriend Robbie and best friend/partner in crime Aimee.

Last night saw me get myself into a rather drunken state with some good friends. We pre-drank - a little too much - at Aimee's flat, before heading to the beach party at Engine Shed, scantily-clad in flip flops and flower garlands. After a jug of cocktail I was yanked into the hot tub by Aimee and Tash, sporting my bra and watermelon pants borrowed off Aims, might I add! Several drinks and a few hours of dancing later, we headed home. Can't wait for more nights out once revision/exams are over; I forgot just how much alcohol induces ridiculous amounts of laughing!

As for May, I've got quite a bit going on. This weekend I'm getting my hair done, then next weekend my Dad and I are heading to Wetton for a weekend of camping and biking. Haven't been on my bike for a few weeks so I'm looking forward to getting back out there and getting muddy! Camping, biking and my Daddy are three of my most favourite things so that should be an ace weekend.

The end of May marks the end of my first - and very eventful - year at uni, with 2 exams. And then I'm freeee! I'll be moving out of my uni house shortly after, and looking ahead to August 1st when Aimee and I get the keys to our gorgeous little flat. That will probably be the most anticipated day of the year, after all the hours we've spent sitting in The Shed planning every last detail of our kitsch new home!

So that's it, May in a nutshell. Already considerably more exciting than April proved to be!

Monday, 30 April 2012

Oh hey social life.. I've missed you!

So last Tuesday I promised an abundance of interesting blog posts coming your way. But let's face it; I failed miserably. However, this week I actually have some plans! Yes, plans! My social life seems to have made a reappearance, even if it is just for a few days.

This past week has been pretty boring on all accounts. I've been looking after my mother-in-law's plant stall most days, which has meant sitting in an office and running down to the stall whenever I see a customer (which have been few and far between might I add!). I've been doing this for about 3 or 4 hours each morning, depending on the weather. But it's not been a total waste of time, as I've managed to make a start on my public admin revision - for my followers who aren't on my course, this is possibly the most boring, mind-numbingly dull subject you can imagine, and revising for it literally makes me contemplate suicide! But like many things it's just something you have to crack on with, and I've certainly done that.

I've managed to get to the gym every day, except yesterday, when the weather was so horrific I just couldn't face leaving the house. I also started my 30 Day Shred DVD last Wednesday, which I've been doing daily. For those of you who don't know who Jillian Michaels is; Google her. She is by her own admission "TV's toughest trainer". And she has been training me in my front from for the past 5 days. It's pretty tough going, as she promises, but it is only 20 minutes a day, and I'm actually starting to enjoy it! I haven't done it yet today, as I'm currently in the office minding the stall, but I plan to do it when I get back to this house before lunch.

On the weight loss front I dropped 1lb on Thursday, but managed to regain it over the weekend - I blame the impromptu cinema trip on Friday (to see Avengers - AMAZING!) Pretty gutted about this as I had worked hard to get it off, and it took me down into the next stone bracket! But anyway, this week is a brand new week, and depsite dveouring half an easter egg between me and Rob in bed last night, I am determined to lose 2lbs this week! I'm making a few changes in the hope of achieving this too: I've upped my calories to 1540 from 1290, according to my BMR, and I'm NOT going to eat back my exercise which I have been doing for the last few weeks. Hoping these small changes might kickstart my weight loss again, since I seem to have been gaining and losing the same 1 or 2lbs for the last few months. I'm also trying to cut back on my carbs and upping my protein intake! Let's do this ;-)

Anywayyyyy.. As for this week, tomorrow I'm heading back to Lincoln for law revision and a long-needed catch up with the best one Aimee. Soo looking forward to this, feel like I haven't seen her for months! Then tomorrow night we're off to Damon's for Rob's birthday, about 10 us all together I think. I'm so excited! I haven't been in ages, and I ADORE their ribs!! It's Aimee's first time too, can't wait to introduce her to one of my fave restaurants.

Wednesday will be a pretty lazy day until the evening, when we're going out for Aimee's belated birthday. Literally not had a drink in months so I will probably be pissed as a fart within approximately 3 minutes of starting predrinks. Massive bottle of raspberry vodka at the ready!Thursday will see more law revision - possibly nursing a dire hangover - then home and gymming with Rob.

So excited to actually have plans this week other than gym sessions and food shopping. YAYYY!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Blog block: why my home town isn't coming up trumps

As I've been a bit lacking with the old blog posts recently, it got me thinking why I suddenly feel as though I have nothing to write about. Blog block, as I like to call it.

I recently finished uni for the summer (aside from 2 exams at the end of May which I'm supposed to be revising for) and thus have moved back to my home town of Retford. Being an unemployed student, I've found myself at a loss most days, aside from helping out around the house or my daily trip to the gym I've done absolutely nothing. And I think that's the problem.

Being back in Retford and away from Lincoln is much less awe-inspiring, and therefore I have found myself with much less to say than usual. I did think about posting about the seemingly never-ending rain, but then again I think the less said about that the better.

So doing nothing much most days, coupled with the fairly lacking farming town that I call my home, I've been rather uninspired. Having not seen the best friend Aimee Nash in a few weeks doesn't help either, seen as most of my blog posts stem from our rather strange conversations.

As of today though I am determined to seek the good within the bad and find something (every day if at all possible) that interests me and therefore may in fact be of some sort of interest to my followers. Starting tomorrow. Or maybe even tonight?

Watch this space.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Who would've thought the gym could be so entertaining?

Another great place to people watch is the gym. I've just joined my boyfriend's gym for 6 months since I found myself going with him most weeks and paying a tenner anyway. The gym is great for people watching. You get a whole variety of people in there. 

First and foremost (and also the most frequent) are the posers. The big, muscly guys (whose physique must be down to steroids since they don't do a damn thing in the gym!) who saunter in, perm-tanned and clad in the likes of Ralph Lauren jersey shorts and Toms. Not suitable gym attire. But then again, they haven't come in to work out, so I suppose it doesn't really matter what they're wearing! They tend to hang about in packs, leaning against bits of equipment and machinery, making it awkward for those of us who actually come to the gym to EXERCISE to make full use of everything. They'll occasionally do a bicep curl or two, before glugging down a totally unnecessary protein shake, to replace the energy they've lost during their hardcore sesh of chatting and pouting in the mirror.

Unlike the posers, next there's the meatheads. A group of middle aged men who are slaves to free weights and baby oil. They're normally instantly recognisable in their string vests (often nipples on show) and ginormous biceps. Triangular shaped springs to mind - spend all their time training their upper body, and thus have 2 tiny chicken legs. You can usually hear them grunting from across the gym floor.

Next you get the Madges. These are a group of 60+ year old women whose abs could rival the likes of Nicole Sherzinger, named the 'Madges' on account of their uncanny resemblance to Madge off Benidorm. They wander around the gym in inappropriately tight leggings and crop tops, usually sporting a camel toe. There is usually at least 1 or 2 Madges in the gym at any one time, and you do have to wonder, do they ever go home? 

Pre-pubescent boys can be found sheepishly wandering around the gym too. Recognisable by their football strips and inability to keep their mouths shut when they see a hot blonde trotting away on the treadmill. Like the posers, they don't tend to do much real exercise, and use the gym as a bit of a social occasion.

As far as I'm concerned, I'm not really sure which category I fall into, certainly none of the above. I guess there's another group too, but because they're nothing out of the ordinary, I don't tend to notice them. They're the people who come in, work out, then leave. The 'normals'.

And although I may take the piss out of these beauties who grace the gym floor, I certainly wouldn't wish they were elsewhere; what else would get me through my workout if it wasn't for laughing at all these unfortunates?!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Muddy shoes, sore calves and an aching bum

Drove down to my Dad's last Thursday for Easter. After battling with numerous inconsiderate arse hole lorry drivers on the A1, I managed to arrive in one piece.

Did a 16 mile ride on Saturday round Milton Keynes with my Dad and two of his friends. Lagged a bit to begin with and hung around at the back (as I usually do) but as we got going I had a second wind of energy and sort of ended up setting the pace.

Really enjoying my getting out on my bike lately, whether it be a quick pre-breakfast 5 miler round the local lake, or a more all-terrain, technical 20 miles round the woods.

Biking has been a big part of my life since I was a babba; wearing a helmet two sizes too big for me and sitting in my baby seat on the back of my papa's bike.

I love it more now than I ever have. I thoroughly look forward to being able to get my gear on (sufficiently girly in pink and white, may I add) and get out on my beloved two wheels. Has to be the cliche of the century, but feeling the wind rushing through my hair really is one of the best feelings.

Getting out in the fresh air, burning a fuck load of calories, and giving both my legs and lungs a really good workout aren't the only benefits I reap from my favourite hobby. A nice long bike ride is one of the best ways to clear my head and give me time to think. You may not think hurtling down a sandy track at 20mph, avoiding muddy puddles and tree stumps, could be a nice relaxing activity, but it really is.

The only thing that comes close to the feeling of completing an exhausting ride, is the well-earned pint in the pub afterwards. And even though I may be a bit of a girly girl, I'd choose an andrenaline-fuelled ride over a candlelit bath any day.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Samantha Brick: Why I'm God's gift...

Logging onto Twitter this morning, I glanced at what was trending as usual, and - as I so often do - clicked on one of the random names that appeared in the side bar. This morning was Samantha Brick.

Twitter promptly informed me that it was taking too long to load the tweets about this woman, and clicking on the link to a Daily Mail article provided, I can see why. This is the article.

Reading the headline and studying the photo, I genuinely thought it was some sort of joke. But April Fools Day was yesterday. No, this is a genuine article. Ms Brick describes the generous gifts she has received over the years from men, including cab fares and bottles of champagne, putting them down to 'my pleasing appearance and pretty smile'.

Don't get me wrong, I know I'm no Kate Moss myself, but is this woman for real?! The photo heading up the article reveals a rather large looking forehead and a blatantly forced smile. She's not ugly, but she's certainly not as beautiful as she has made herself out to be in this article.

She admits to being "no Elle Macpherson" but adds:  "I’m tall, slim, blonde and, so I’m often told, a good-looking woman. I know how lucky I am." I don't get it. I am genuinely baffled.

As the article goes on, she talks about the problems of holding down female friends, having had to leave countless jobs, and never being asked to be a bridesmaid because of the "fear of being overshadowed by her looks". Excuse my french, but what a load of complete bullshit.

And it only takes one look at her rather awkward looking husband to see that she is clearly not as gorgeous as she thinks she is.

I mean, I know newspapers can be guilty of twisting things to form a shocking, hard-hitting article. But I don't think this it what has happened here. You only have to look at some of her quotes to realise that this woman clearly sees herself as some sort of goddess, above each and every other female out there: "Insecure female bosses have also barred me from promotions at work," "You’d think we women would applaud each other for taking pride in our appearances" and "I find that older women are the most hostile to beautiful women — perhaps because they feel their own bloom fading" are classic examples of her sheer big-headedness.

I'm still waiting for Twitter to load the tweets relating to this head-in-the-clouds woman, but I'd put money on the fact that they reflect what this post has had to say.

So lock up your husbands ladies, Samantha Brick is about.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Britain doing what it does best...


This past week has seen the British population doing what they have had so much practice at many a time before, panicing. Snow, swine flu, hose pipe ban, and now petrol.

Petrol is the touchy subject that has had the majority of people breaking out in sweats and rushing to their nearest BP quicker than you can say jerry can this week. With the prospect of a strike on the cards, everyone is worrying that their tank will magically run empty overnight and they'll be left broken down and battling the elements in the middle of nowhere.

But the most frustrating thing is that people don't seem to understand that if - and that's a MASSIVE if - the strike is to go ahead, the general public will be given 10 days notice, leaving us plenty of time to panic buy then. But instead, in true British fashion, we ignored the news and the advice not to panic, and have done the exact opposite.

Forecourts up and down the country have seen queues down the road, as people fill up their tanks and as many jerry cans as they can get away with, as if petrol is some sort of magic substance in short supply. Well, well done everyone - it is now. You have only gone and created your very own petrol shortage before a strike has even began!

Petrol sales shot up by 80% seemingly overnight, and now the price has gone up too. That's just what we need since it was announced we are now officially back in a recession.

Don't get me wrong, I filled my tank - which is extremely rare for me - to the tune of £53, just in case. But I shalln't be rushing out until there's only about a quarter left, which is usual practice for me anyway.

In a way I can see where people are coming from; at the minute it's the Easter break and I don't have uni or a job to rush off to everyday, nor do I really have that many social commitments - maybe that's why I'm feeling so chilled about the matter - but for those who do this can't have come as welcomed news.

I just wish, for once, that people would see the bigger picture. Trust what the newsreaders are telling you - don't panic, but equally don't let your tank run dry - instead of just choosing to hear what they want.

I doubt in a way that people have spared a thought for the government through all of this. Yes that very same government that we were all slagging off last week when the budget was announced! No, now we are quite happy to line their pockets with petrol money, permitting them to have an extra few pints - and maybe even a pack of pork scratchings - at the House of Commons bar.

This week we've already seen one case of a woman seriously injuring herself after storing fuel in her kitchen - yes, that would be the kitchen where naked flames are often found! - and all because as a country we seem to be unable to swallow that infamous 'chill pill'.

So please motorists, yes put some fuel in, but don't queue for hours blocking up the roads making it difficult for the calmer folk to get around. Oh, and newsreaders, in future please refrain from using the word 'crisis' unless absolutely necessary; you can see the adverse effect this has on the population!!

Update time..

Just a post to apologise for being a bit slack with the whole blogging lark this week, and a bit of an update as to what I've been up to..

So I came home from uni on Monday afternoon, seen as I only had about 2 lectures left and my partner in crime Aimee has gone away to America. Bit of a funny week really - done quite a lot but nothing much if that makes sense?!

Monday night Robbie's mum suggested I tackle her olympic size pile of ironing and clean the house this week to earn myself a bit of money. And with nothing planned but 3 essays and a dentist appointment, how could I say no? So I spent Tuesday wading through the ironing (I must've ironed around 100 shirts!) and Wednesday/Thursday cleaning the house from top to bottom.

Got paid yesterday and Rob took me to Chao Baby at Meadowhall as a treat. Devoured just about everything in site - including a summer berry smoothie and 4 cookies at the Millie's cookies stand on the way out: Needless to say yesterday was a write off diet-wise.

Despite going with the intention of just buying a couple of pairs of shorts, Rob spent in excess of two hundred quid, but managed to find a few bargains too.

Then last night as he hurried off to the gym, I went to a quiz night at Deli & Dine with his mum and friends. We didn't win but I surprised myself by how many answers I actually knew - and didn't!

Today has been pretty uneventful too. Slept in as Rob had been up at 4am every morning for work, before getting up and having a lazy breakfast - not as yummy as it sounds, fruit and yoghurt! Tidied up and headed to Morrisons to get some bits for tea. It was here where I discovered my new favourite yummy treat - YooMoo frozen yoghurt! Not cheap at £1.79 for a lickle pot - I didn't trust myself to buy the big one - but soo worth it! Bought a strawberry and a blueberry, and demolished one after my lunch.

Bit of a quiet week really, but I'm hoping next week may bring a little more excitement; kicking off on Monday with a trip to Meadowhall (and Chao Baby - again!!) with my lovely friend Rosie, who I have not seen since before Christmas. Looking forward to a well-needed catch up and shop! Then off to my Dad's on Thursday, but more about that next week..

Chao for now.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Loveliest day in ages

Despite snoozing my 8:30am alarm close to nine times this morning, this has been the most productive day I've had in ages. Woke up at Robbie's and got my stuff together, before heading off back to Lincoln to meet Aimee for a day of filming.

We trooped up Steep Hill with a hefty camera and tripod - obviously taking a few stops along the way - and made our way to the Castle. Today was the day of the 16th annual Lincoln 10k race, and the weather couldn't have been more perfect. That's easy to say as a shade-wearing, hydrated by-stander; I'm pretty sure the runners wouldn't have minded a cooler climate.

After a few rather rude exchanges with the race stewards, we set up the camera close to the finish line. After an hour or so - and plenty of tutting from the public around us (I swear people think all journalists are phone-hackers!) - we had the shots and interviews we came for.

We headed back down the hill, marvelling at the beauty of Lincoln in the sub-mediterranean temperature, before settling at Prezzo's on the waterfront. This was another one of those 'paradise' moments, where we could literally have been anywhere in the world.

The tropical sunshine-y music playing from Nando's next door truly made us feel like we were on holiday. The peaceful water, disturbed only by the occasional swan or boat, glistened in the suns beautiful rays.

The diet went out of the window (yet again!) today, in favour of a long, lazy 3-course Italian lunch, consisting of mozzarella in carrozza, spaghetti meatballs and a shared helping of both honeycomb cheesecake and milk chocolate fudge cake. Everything was exquisite, bar the tables around us blowing all their second hand smoke our way. Nevertheless, we relocated and continued to savour our meal. Two hours later, after a lovely session of people-watching and chatter, we headed back to Aimee's flat.

I spent an hour or so there before heading home to decipher what state the house would be in. After deciding not to tidy the mess I didn't make like I usually do, I began packing for home. Two whole precious weeks off uni, and some quality time with my Mum, Dad, sister, boyfriend and friends beckons. After a few hours and several loads of washing, I seem to have packed everything I need for the next few weeks, but no doubt I will arrive home tomorrow and discover I've forgotten some essential item or another.

Today reinforced just how much influence something as trivial as the weather has on one's mood. And I couldn't be in a better one to be honest. All in all, another lovely day in the gorgeous city of Lincoln, which I have the pleasure of calling my home. Even if it is a temporary one.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Take Me Out: To tune in, or tune out?

Having watched the legend that is Cilla Black on Blind Date for years, Take Me Out was naturally going to be right up my street. And it was, to begin with.I welcomed Paddy back onto my screen after his hilarious roles in Pheonix Nights and Max & Paddy's Road to Nowhere left my sides sore, but now - dare I say it?! - I just find him a bit annoying. Whether it's the increasingly tiring 'Let the X see the Y!' or the so clearly scripted cringe-worthy moments with the ladies - or potentially a combination of both! - Paddy is just not tickling my pickle anymore.
The girls are pretty much all the same: fake tan/hair/nails, figure-hugging Lycra numbers, and slutty white stilettos. Cleavage, legs, it's all on display - a 21st century mating call in all it's glory.

But despite the terrible outfits I can't help but feel the girls make a bit of a show of themselves when it comes to their behaviour too, and when the latest single lad comes hurtling down in the love lift they're like hungry dogs around a bit of scabby meat. Clawing, screaming, begging. "PICK MEE, PICK MEEEE... I'M THE MOST DESPERATE!!" Well, that's what their body language says anyway.
It gets worse when they actually get given the chance to speak, too. Christ almighty. Back in the day Cilla's Blind Date showcased cheese in the form of "If I was a fruit, I'd be an apple... because I'm golden and delicious!" whereas Paddy's Take Me Out offering is more along the lines of "Let me at him, I'm hungry for cock!!!"

It's also come to my attention how you have to have an utterly ridiculous name to get on the show too, as if a stupid name will grab the attention of any prospective dates. Tonight battling for a date are the likes of Nike (yes, like the sports brand), Merlisa, Sydney and Cony (?!). I can only assume the parents of girls on here burned the baby names book in favour of what they probably thought was exciting and 'exotic'.

Despite all these annoying little faux pas, I still find myself tuning in every Saturday night without fail. Maybe there's nothing wrong with a little bit of cringe... As Mr McGuiness himself would say "Let the cheddar, see the cheese!"

My Big Fat Change of View

This week I encountered a totally different perspective to a subject I thought I had already made my mind up on: as a very stubborn person, I thought my set-in-stone opinions were unchangeable. Of course, I am talking about gypsies.

Love it or hate it, Big Fat Gypsy Weddings is simply a work of genius. We may laugh and cringe at it in equal measures, but without a doubt it is one of the most eye-opening documentaries Channel 4 has ever aired.

I've been an avid fan since the show first aired as a one-off in February 2010. But past the dresses, fake tan and shire horses, it's the people that really draw me in. Travellers, gypos, pikies; whatever you want to call them, there's no doubt about it they're an extraordinary bunch of people. But now I've seen them in a totally different light. I'd poked fun and made jokes about them, like many others will have, but in this week's episode I actually saw them as real people. People that are no different to you or me.

It was the events of the Dale Farm evictions that made me rethink my perspective. The show followed various families at different stages in the run up to the eviction. It was real, honest, and rather humbling. The most sincere view was through the eyes of a young Irish traveller girl, named Mary. She wasn't aggressive or violent. She wasn't even that bitter. She just couldn't understand why someone in a big JCB wanted to bulldoze her whole community - and everything she'd ever known - to the ground.

The episode revealed the secrets that the news didn't care to cover, in the fear of being seen as anything less than impartial. The news portrayed the inhabitants of Dale Farm as evil criminals, Channel 4 showed them for the real human beings they are; distraught at the possibility of losing their homes and their livlihoods. Surprisingly, they surrended graciously. An older traveller woman proclaiming they didn't want any trouble; they wanted the eviction to be peaceful. And it completely was - on their part.
As a trainee journalist, I'm very aware of the content and agendas of news programs, but it doesn't mean that I am any less surprised at the angles they sometimes take. The coverage of Dale Farm, for example, ring true as showcasing a particular opinion of travellers and gypsies. Arguably the wrong one, but certainly not an impartial one.

In another part of the episode, a very elloquent young traveller described the situation in a way that we should all take note of. He told Channel 4 how gypsies are a community, and so they like to travel in groups, and as with all large groups of people there are going to be a few bad ones. "It's the bad ones people remember." I couldn't have put it better myself.

This has taught me that in future I shoudln't be as quick to judge, as there may be more than meets the eye.

Monday, 19 March 2012

My working life has taught me..

Customer service is EVERYTHING. (So much so that I even felt it appropriate to use bold, underline AND capital letters there!)

Yep, I have worked in the customer service industry since the young age of 13, where I began work at my godparent's farm shop. Various jobs later, I found myself spending 2 years at a large hotel, working my way from Waitress to Restaurant Supervisor.

The truth is, customer service can make or break someone's experience of your industry. Take the weekend for example. My Dad and I headed into town to see about getting my phone upgraded - I knew it was due in February, but kindly Vodafone hadn't bothered letting me know. Walking into the shop to see it packed with queues didn't fill us with much hope of being dealt with quickly. Nevertheless, a friendly 'Ashley' approached us pretty much upon crossing the threshold.

Greeted with a massive smile, and an informal but friendly "Are you alright there guys?" set the ball rolling. We told him what we wanted, and he promptly explained the options to me. After deciding upon the best plan, he directed us to one of the customer sales assistants towards the back of the shop. This is where the difference really was obvious.

A very chilled, cool Aziz invited us to take a seat, before getting our details up on the computer. Whilst tapping away he asked what we'd been up to, and what we had planned for the rest of the day. The conversation felt very natural and easy, like talking to an old friend.

That guy literally made our day. Probably unknowingly, but he did nonetheless.

Even after being on numerous training courses I still believe customer service is something that can't be taught. Sure, the company policy can be drilled into you, but no one can teach you how to conduct a friendly, free-flowing conversation with a customer. No one can teach you how to reassure someone and put them at ease. These are traits which come naturally. I mean, you can practice them, and as you grow with confidence they may improve, but ultimately it's something that comes from within.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

"You are here because you some Justin Beaver, Miley Cirus lookin' muthas."

Exclaimed Captain Dickson (the legendary Ice Cube) to his two newest Jump Street recruits. I howled with laughter.

After seeing the trailer for '21 Jump Street' at our last visit to the cinema (to see another Channing Tatum number, 'The Vow' may I add) we just knew we had to see it. I have to admit I was slightly skeptical that this could be one of those films where they show all the funny bits in the trailer - it seemed I was the only person in the cinema who deemed it appropriate to snort with laughter from the beginning to the end - but with two of my favourite actors with starring roles, I had to give it a go anyway.

Jonah Hill's roles in 'Superbad', 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' and 'Get Him To The Greek' to name just a few, have secured his position as one of our all-time favourite fat-boy funny men, and Channing Tatum has long-since been one of my most-loved Hollywood hunks, following his performance in the likes of 'Dear John' and 'Step Up'. In fact, it's not just me who holds a bit of a torch for him, after my boyfriend made a slightly worrying comment along the lines of "If I was gay..." Well, you can guess the rest - sorry Rob!

In a nutshell, these two slightly immature young-looking cops are given an undercover assignment to go back to high school and infiltrate a teenage drug ring. Now that may sound a bit serious, but believe me, there are plenty of laughs along the way.

Years ago at high school Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) couldn't be more opposite. Schmidt was a typical stuttering nerd, whilst Jenko was the stereotypical popular knobhead of the school. But upon graduating and joining the police force, they became best buds. However, the life of a cop was not quite all the car chases and firing-you-gun-whist-jumping-through-the-air action that the boys had hoped for. In fact, it was more riding geeky police bicycles through the park warning kids not to feed the ducks stylee.

Having never made an arrest before, the partners saw their opportunity when they spotted a group of thuggish motorcyclists smoking dope in the park. However, not knowing the miranda rights (You have the right to remain silent, etc) didn't do them any favours, and soon they were transferred to 21 Jump Street to take on an undercover assignment.

The pair were sent back to school with false identities posing as brothers. The roles were very much reversed as the assignment gave Schmidt to chance to have the high school experience he had always wanted; popularity and a prospective prom date. Whereas Jenko found he didn't fit in quite as well as he had hoped, hanging around the science labs with his geeky mates.

Anyway, to cut a long story short and avoid giving anything away, this movie is jam-packed full of awkward teenage moments, hilarious gags and laugh-out-loud comments.

I fully and whole-heartedly loved this movie, and it held my attention from the word go, whereas some action comedies tend to flesh it out with unnecessary plot points. I urge anyone who even remotely likes to laugh to go and see this while you can; don't do what I am so guilty of doing, by waiting for it to come out on DVD and then be reduced to about two quid in Morrisons.

All in all, 21 Jump Street is 109 minutes of side-splitting, snort-your-pop-down-your-nose moments.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


I absolutely love this photo.

I took it on Sunday, whilst out on a walk with my Dad. As we were walking to the lake, the chirping of this tiny little robin red breast caught our attention. Cue iPhone to capture this beautiful spring-like moment.

I love the contrast of the white against the perfect blue sky. Suffice to say, this picture has become my wallpaper on every device capable of setting a background image. It's so beautiful.

Just thought I'd share, that is all.

My knight in shining armour

So today I was (partly) rescued by a knight in shining armour. By knight I mean Halfords employee, and my armour I mean t shirt... but you get my drift.

My little car has been the cause of much unrest these last few years, due to the fact that it has a major oil leak. Ever since we bought it in October 2010, it's leaked. Leaked and leaked and leaked. So much so, that now I can't even park it on my mother's pristine driveway - not so pristine anymore may I add. Anyway, when my oil light flashed on today I decided to tackle this one by myself. Usually I'd rely on my boyfriend or my Mum to sort it out, but with neither of them present it was all down to me.

Again, I say tackle by myself, this independence did involve a quick text to my Dad:
Where can I get oil? Which oil do I need? How much does it cost? Where does it go?
He replied with all the answers I needed, so off to Halfords Aimee and I went. Despite many an hour spent wandering around this shop with my Dad as a child, I decided I wasn't quite ready to locate the necessary aisle just yet. I was quickly sprung upon by a fella working there (haha - he obviously worked there, I wasn't just approached by a random stranger!) who showed me to the oil section.

After answering all his questions "Yes it's a Corsa... Yes it's a 52 plate... Yes it's a 1.2... And yes it's an SXI..." He determined the type I needed, handing me a 5 litre bottle and setting me back twenty two quid. When asked if he could put it in for me, he laughed. Before replying that he could, but it'd cost me another two quid - may as well since I'm already giving my debit card a battering today, I thought.

He followed me out to my tired little motor, and without prompting him he flipped the bonnet and began fiddling away. He located my tremendous leak the second he set his eyes on the engine, explaining I needed a new oil pressure sensor and rocker gasket cover. At this point he may as well have been speaking Chinese. I noted these items down nonetheless.

He explained he was a trained mechanic, who had walked out of his job before Christmas, and took up the position at Halfords to support his wife and two kids. Although it was pain-stakingly obvious he didn't enjoy his work there as much as his previous job, and he'd rather be laying under a greasy motor fiddling around with spanners and allen keys, "a job is a job" he said. I really felt for the guy. After telling us he knew all about this common problem that my car and a wealth of other Corsas have, he mentioned that he was a fully trained Vauxhall specialist. Handy, I thought.

Cue desperate puppy dog eyes, and a sly "Will I be able to fit these parts myself sir?"comment, and he offered to do the work for me. I noted exactly what parts I needed, and where to get them from, before taking his name and number. Kristian, with a K. I left feeling pretty smug that I'd manage to go to a man-shop, buy oil, put it in and organise for the problem to be looked at too.

Wow, this was a very independent day.

So off we went to Allwood's, a parts shop near my house. Managed to get through telling the bloke what I needed and paying for it, without looking like too much of a clueless woman. However, walking out leaving my parts on the desk probably reaffirmed their initial view that this was well out of my comfort zone.

I called Kristian after 5pm as he asked, and arranged for him to come over on Friday to fit the parts.

Today really has felt like such an independent day for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm a very independent person, and the whole transition to uni - and having to do everything for myself - hasn't come as much of a shock to me. However, where my car is concerned I haven't previously had much to do with it's upkeep - apart from putting petrol in it and buying it a new air freshener every now and again - so today felt massive for me.

I also feel happy that instead of paying the usual garage a hefty fee for parts and labour, I have saved a few quid by going and getting the parts myself, and that I'll be putting a bit of extra cash in the pocket of a nice genuine bloke struggling to make end's meet for his family.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

This could well be paradise

Had such a lovely day today; welcoming spring and it's joys into our lives again. It was just glorious.

Been down at my Dad's in Milton Keynes this weekend, and despite getting my phone upgraded and having some Vans bought for me, I think our walk around Willen Lake was the highlight for me.

It was packed; the sun was beating down, not a cloud in the sky. Full of families, with bikes, toddlers, dogs. There were runners and cyclists, not to mention the more brave folk, wake boarding and jet skiing. We walked from the house and around the first lake, before stopping for lunch and a pint at the pub overlooking the beauty of the lake.

After we finished, we headed back out and walked the opposite way back round the lake, stopping off at the ice cream van on the way. First Flake 99 of the year, and it tasted perfectly of summer and anticipation.

As we set off again, ice cream dribbling down my hand, my Dad couldn't help but mention (again!) how much the setting reminded him of Hyde Park mid-summer. And the truth is, we could've been anywhere in the world; you never would've thought you were only a stone's throw away from the M1.

With the sun smiling down on us, and in perfect company, I thought to myself: this could well be paradise, and I'm looking forward to many more idyllic days like today.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

You won't get a beach body scoffing sausage and egg mcmuffins

Or will you?

A lovely, greasy McDonalds sausage, egg and cheese McMuffin (sometimes even a double!) has long been one of my favourite ways to start the day. Don't get me wrong, I don't eat them all the time - hardly ever in fact - but they are still one of my absolute favourite breakfasts. Along with a greasy hash brown and Tropicana, of course.

However, being on a diet in the hope of rediscovering my 'pre-uni body' for my holidays this summer, the dreaded McMuffin has not passed my lips in quite some time. Until now. Well, I say now, what I actually mean is I have attempted to recreate a healthy one, that wouldn't see me put on about half a stone upon eating it.

My very own sausage and cheese mcmuffin!
I'm not going to lie, it turned out to be a sausage and cheese muffin, as the egg went horribly wrong as I turned my back to stick the telly on. Serves me right I guess. Nevertheless, it was amazing!!

What you need: serves 1!
1 or 2 low fat sausages (I used 1 Skinny Lizzie sausage, as they are quite big!)
1 wholemeal muffin
1 slice low fat cheese
Ketchup (if you're not a red sauce lover, then brown sauce - the devil's condiment!!)

What to do:
1. Make a slit down the length of the sausage/s. Peel the skin off and bin
2. Roll the sausage meat up (it's a bit sticky) and shape into a burger shape
3. Cut the muffin in half and put on to toast
4. Get a frying pan nice and hot and spray with FryLite
5. Fry the sausage/burger, turning occasionally until cooked - about 4 or 5 minutes depending on thickness
6. Remover muffin from the toaster
7. Place the sausage/burger on one side of the muffin
8. Place the slice of cheese and a squirt of ketchup on the other side
9. Put the two halves together and DIG IN!!

But how healthy is it really??

  • Wholemeal muffin = 141 calories
  • Skinny Lizzie sausage = 87 calories
  • Kerry Low Low cheese slice = 36 calories
  • Ketchup = 20 calories

Just in case your maths isn't quite up to scratch that lot comes to a 284 calories saving you 146 calories, as the McDonald's version comes in at 430 calories. That may not sound like a lot, but trust me, when you're on a diet, EVERY CALORIE COUNTS! And that saving of 146 calories means I can have 6 squares of Galaxy Cookie Crumble whilst I'm watching telly later.


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

A motto to resonate with generations...

I'd happily put money on the fact that half of the population probably has some sort of 'Keep Calm and Carry On' decorative adorning their home or office. Yep, these posters have seemingly sprang up out of nowhere over the past 12 months. Posters, key-rings, mugs. You name it. You can't seem to avoid it recently.

But where did it come from? And whilst we're on the subject of putting bets on, I'd back the fact that most people wouldn't know the answer to that question either.

Truth is, it was initially produced by the Ministry of Information, at the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, with the aim of strengthening the public's morale in the event of a wartime disaster.

2.5m copies of the poster were printed, but unbeknown to many, it was the third in a series of three motivational posters issued by the British government. 800,000 copies of the first poster were printed, featuring the slogan 'Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us To Victory'. The second poster issued saw 400,000 copies circulate, and this one read 'Freedom Is In Peril. Defend With All Your Might'. The first 'Your Courage..' poster was  much more popular than the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' addition during the war, mainly because it was very large and the first to go up.

The posters were put up within 24 hours of the war breaking out, as the Ministry of Information assumed the events of the first few weeks of the war would demoralise the public. The writing was designed to be recognisable and associated with the MOI, and the crown at the head of each poster signified it was a message from the King.

The 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster was rediscovered in the year 2000, in a second-hand bookshop in Northumberland. Although the poster was created by the UK government and was copyrighted under Crown Copyright, this expired after 50 years, and so the image is now in the public domain.

Since it's rediscovery it's popularity has blown up, with many people feeling it relevant to the late-2000's recession. Other unlikely places that these posters have appeared include:

  • the prime minister's strategy unit at number 10 Downing Street
  • the Lord Chamberlain's office at Buckingham Palace
  • the United States embassy in Belgium
It's also been adopted by British nurses as their unofficial motto, appearing in staff rooms and wards up and down the country.

Endless amounts of parodies have been created since the original poster was rediscovered, and iPhone and iPad apps have even been created so you can spend hours designing your own.

So whilst most will have a 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster for purposes of jumping on a rather large, extremely popular bandwagon, but whenever I look at mine I'll be reminded of the stiff-upper-lip spirit of the population, and be truly proud to be British.

Monday, 5 March 2012

A 2000-calorie binge, a horrendous run and an epic camping trip...

So a pretty uneventful weekend on all counts. Mainly due to the fact that I'm pretty skint and my car tax is due at the end of this month. So it's all save, save, save!

Went to Rob's Thursday afternoon after uni, and we went out to eat. Well, I say we went out to eat, actually we got in the car, drove around for the best part of 15 minutes unable to decide where to eat, before opting for a night in instead. Ventured to Morrisons on the way back and filled our basket with pizza, garlic bread, cookies, sweets, milkshake and pop. Always embarrassing when you see people you know in the supermarket, and upon peering into your basket this is what they see. Mind you, suppose it wouldn't be as bad as a bottle of wine and a cucumber..

Stuffed our faces to the point of true gluttony, before totting up all the calories we had devoured on the My Fitness Pal app. God know why we did this but Jesus Christ almighty. Mine came to over 2000. That's more than I'm allowed in a whole day! Went to bed feeling slightly sick, but smug with our full bellies.

Up bright and early the next morning and off for an hour and a half's run. Again, I say run. Mine was more like a crawl, whilst my boyfriend bounded along like some sort of spring chicken on crack. One word; gruelling. After staggering up hills and through muddy puddles - much to the disgust of my new fluorescent pink Nike trainers - I had to be practically carried home to quickly devour a big slice of lasagne. Equilibrium was restored.

Spending the afternoon on the sofa resting my aching muscles seemed the best option after my morning from hell. Made a beaut chilli con carne for tea before going to my Mum's for a bit whilst Rob was at work.

Saturday we slept in before Rob fed me his signature scrambled egg. Another lazy day ensued before heading to the gym around 4pm. Spent a few hours there then went home to get tea on. Garlic chicken and vegetable rice. Nothing worth shouting about but was yum nonetheless.

Woke this morning to being mauled by the cat. Perfect. Spent a few hours with my Mum before heading back to Lincoln around 4pm. Out for a Chinese with Rob, Aimee and Adam; we definitely shouldn't be allowed near all-you-can-eat restaurants, the pigs that we are. Profits were sure to have taken a dip last night. Oops.

Attempted to plan our epic summer camping trip, but only managed to agree on a date, between Aimee and I snorting with laughter (much to the disgust of the other customers).

Overall a pretty good weekend, considering I didn't spend a penny!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Thin, rich AND clever?! Surely not.

I wish they sold willpower in bottles.

Think of all it's uses; it could make you rich, thin AND clever. It'd mean you could easily resist putting that gorgeous pair of Topshop heels on your card, maybe not making you rich, but making you SAVE. That craving for chocolate muffins and toast buttered on both sides would be a thing of the past, not even crossing your mind when your magical bottle of willpower is in tow. Revision and assignments would become a joy, when you'd usually be swapping them for the sticky carpet at Superbull.

Yes, willpower such an elusive trait as it is, seems to be in short supply at the minute. But is it really a trait? Something you're born with. Or is it more is a skill? Something which needs to be practiced and honed, much like your overarm serve or liquid eyeliner technique.

Nevertheless, whatever it is, I'm pretty sure bottling it and selling it on could make someone a small fortune. In fact, I could probably single-handedly keep that market afloat, as I'd be their number 1 customer, buying it in wheelbarrow loads.

So if anyone comes across any just lying around, please do get in touch. In the mean time, I shall overspend, overindulge and procrastinate to my hearts content.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Just another Hallmark holiday?

With Mother's Day fast approaching (Sunday 18th March for all those unaware!) it got me thinking about the so-called 'Hallmark holidays', and in particular Valentine's Day.

Now I know it's been and gone this year already, but I must say it annoys me more and more every year. Year after year you see angry tweets and Facebook statuses about it being "commercial," "a load of crap" and "a waste of money," to name a few. I have to say, the majority of these come from the bitter, single people out there, and can't help but think if they did actually have someone to spend it with, would they whine so much? The answer is no. 

What girl (or guy) could honestly say they wouldn't welcome a bouquet of red roses with open arms? Don't get me wrong, like many others I don't think it takes one day a year to tell your loved one how much they mean to you; you should do every day. But equally, I don't think there's anything wrong with a day to remind us that a little cuddle can mean more than you think.

I'm not saying me and my fella buy into it whole-heartedly, but we always get each other a card and organise some quality time together. Anything else is a bonus. I can't help but feel that all the negativity surrounding it is just down to jealousy. I know there are some terrible excuses for holidays out there - St Patrick's day for example, I mean, who wants to receive a 'Happy St Patrick's day card? A pint, maybe. A card, no.

Take Mother's Day. You could argue that this 'holiday' is as equally commercial, depressing and unnecessary as Valentine's Day, but who really wants to explain that's the reason why they haven't got their Mum a card? Exactly. 

Maybe we should be thankful to the likes of Clinton cards, for reminding us that sometimes expressing our gratitude and love to those closest to us isn't done often enough.

Pear Shaped

Browsing the book aisle at Tesco's on Tuesday, and one immediately caught my eye. Probably because it had the word 'dessert' on the front to be fair.
"Sophie Klein walks into a bar one Friday night and her life changes. She meets James Stephens: charismatic, elusive, and with a hosiery model ex who casts a long, thin shadow over their burgeoning relationship. He’s clever, funny and shares her greatest pleasure in life – to eat and drink slightly too much and then have a little lie down. Sophie’s instinct tells her James is too good to be true – and he is."
I was instantly drawn to this one, amongst the many other books competing for my attention. It's had some great reviews but one that particularly caught my eye was Heat magazine's:

 "If you are a girl with a passion for food, this modern city heartbreak is the book for you" 
That's me right there, in a nutshell.

Started this last night and was four chapters in before I even realised. Probably because I could draw so many similarities between myself and the main character. Literally felt like I was reading about myself. She loves to plan, hates leaving things to the last minute, but most of all, has the biggest passion for food, puddings in particular. In fact, she has what I could only describe as THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD, she is a pudding developer for a supermarket chain. That's right. She gets paid to EAT DESSERTS. Not jealous at all, I swear.

Anyway, pretty into it so far.. can see myself finishing it before the weekend is out to be fair.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Happy to say I'm not part of the 88%..

My old friend Wikipedia defines a New years resolutions as "a commitment that a person makes to one or more personal goals, projects, or the reforming of a habit." Numerous magazine features and newspaper articles state that most people have given up by the end of February. 'Most people' meaning a whopping 88%. So I thought that now would be as good a time as any to do a bit of a review of mine.

They were pretty wide and completely varied.

1. Lose my 'freshman fifteen'.
Well that one's still ongoing I guess, despite a few setbacks. This like many of the others wasn't going to happen overnight. And whilst I may not be as far with it as I may have liked, I'm still trying my best. There's got to be something to be said for that.

2. Watch less telly
Photo: Jeff Golden
Hmm. A hard one to gage really. If anything, I think I probably watch more now, as there have been so many interesting things on since new year; How to cook like Heston, The Fabulous Bake Brothers and One Born Every Minute, to name just a few. This resolution will probably come into play when spring makes an appearance, as the days will be longer and I'll not be home and snuggled up on the sofa so early.

3. Stop biting my nails
Achieved! I did do this for a good month or so. But then with my typical impatient nature, I couldn't be arsed to wait for them to grow any longer and I had acrylic nail extensions! Haha, oops. However, when I decide to give my nails a break in a month or so, I'm confident I won't revert back to my old biting ways.

4. Don't start arguments with my Rob
Think this has been achieved as well to be honest. Has to be said I can be a bugger for starting arguments, but I've found that a little bit of tongue-biting and self-control can really go a long way.

5. Read the modern classics
Admittedly, this was a bit of a late comer in terms of resolutions, and I only decided I wanted to do this around the end of January. Started out well, with me reading 'Of Mice and Men' by John Steinbeck. But I seem to have mislaid my copy of it now?! Not sure where the hell it is, so might have to postpone that for now and make a start on my next one.

Hmm, so that's 2 resolutions achieved indefinitely, and 2 more ongoing. Think I can probably permit myself to scrap 'watch less telly' as I am a self-confessed TV addict. Maybe I could tweak it to watch more relevant programs or write about what I watch? But then again, my beloved Emmerdale and Coronation Street seem to take up most of my time!

February 29th: The most romantic day of the year?

Leap years. Funny things, being that they only come round every now and again. Every 4 years I think? Don't quote me though.

Apparently, the only time when a woman can actually propose to her man. And no doubt, tomorrow the papers - particularly the tabloids - will be full of stories of romantic proposals. But I won't be one of them.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to get married, and have nothing against women who might decide to pop the question on this day, but it's just not me. I'm more of a typical, chick-flick, Disney movie style romantic.

I want to be serenaded at the top of the Eiffel Tower. I'd be delighted if my fella got down on one knee mid-romantic meal. Having 'Will you marry me?' spelt out in the stars would be more than lovely. Any of those proposals would do. But not the other way round.

I'd hate to give up my lovey-dovey, mushy, romantic ideology in favor of giving my man a massive rock for his fourth finger. Largely because I know he wouldn't appreciate it. Not just him, but men in general: they're not massively romantic, fairytale-minded creatures like us females are. That stuff just doesn't bother them. Take it or leave it. Or run a mile in some guy's cases.

Thought it'd be funny to test the water anyway though.

To which he replied: "Someone asked me what I'd do if you did haha"

Hmmm.. didn't immediately say no, I thought. So I replied: "And what would you do?"

Phew. Thank god for that. Typical Robbie response, but actually a welcomed one this time. Glad I wouldn't have to rush out to buy ten dozen red roses and a million carat white gold ring.

Absolutely pukka: Jamie's Italian

Lemon meatball carbonara at Jamie's Italian
Looking through my photos on my phone to find some inspiration as to what to write about today, and I came across this one. It's a dish from the restaurant Jamie's Italian. A lemon meatball carbonara to be exact - I never forget a meal!

Went there shortly before Christmas with my Dad, whilst doing bit of last minute shopping. We were a bit skeptical at first - the stubborn mules that we both are sort of wanted it to be crap, as we're not the biggest fans of Jamie Oliver - but have to say, it was fab!

You can't see much from outside so we wandered in and were quickly seated at a lovely little table near the chef's pass - no going back from here. We ordered an antipasti platter to share to start with. It came served on a long, wooden plank, which the waiter balanced on two tins of Italian chopped tomatoes. Thought that was a nice touch. It was complete with salami, chorizo, baby mozzarella, parmesan thins, bread sticks, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It was a delight, and felt really authentic; just picking bits at bits of bread and meat with our hands - could well have been sitting in a bar in southern Italy, basking in sunshine. That is, if we hadn't been sat in a shopping centre in Milton Keynes.

Our mains arrived soon after, and I tucked into my lemon meatball carbonara. I could smell it from the pass; gorgeous aromas of lemon and thyme. I finished it in what seemed like record time, and savored every mouthful. It was really unusual, and the strong lemon flavour replaced that of the traditional smoky bacon. All washed down with a lovely bottle of Italian white. It was lush. Have yet to recreate this one at home.

Another bit we liked was the napkins. My Dad is a sucker for anywhere with cloth napkins. As am I really, I think it says a lot about the standard of the restaurant. Anyway, the napkins here were traditional blue tea towels with "Jamie's Italian" printed on them. Recalling them now they don't sound that impressive, but we spent quite a while working out how we could smuggle a couple out for home.

When it came to looking at the dessert menu, we saw a list of prices printed at the bottom. Obviously with it being a celebrity-endorsed restaurant they were going to try and flog the punters as much shit as they could, and this was no exception. Books, olive oil, recipe cards, napkins. TWELVE QUID though. Twelve of your finest English pounds. Decided not to carry out operation napkin smuggle, as we didn't fancy forking out twenty-four quid upon being caught.

Looking forward to our next trip, and will be sure to take my biggest bag in case I fancy myself a few souvenirs.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Could well be separated at birth

Sometimes I think how alike we are. Sometimes I think what freaks we are. And other times I just think what good friends we are.

Nevertheless, the conversations of myself and Aimee Nash don't seem to get any more random. And today was no exception. Going round to her flat after my workshop, and we quickly got onto the subject of food (as we so very often do!) After I gave her a rundown of each of my meals from as far back as Thursday - much to both her shock and amazement - we soon decided we'd go out for tea. It's great that eating, cooking and baking are passions we both share, but at the same time, it isn't doing my waistline any favours; as we know how easily we can persuade the other off the diet and out for tea!

The Shed was the obvious choice, as it so very often is and we headed there about half three. After ploughing through lasagne, smothered chicken, curly fries, onion rings and mozzarella sticks (and that was just what Aimee ordered ;-) we were left hugging our food baby bellies, disappointed that we had no room for pud - a rare moment for us, we have to admit. Also feel I must mention that we spent the time waiting for our food to arrive, discussing all the gorgeous meals we're going to have when we move in together in August, from paellas to pizzas, steaks to salads. That last one was a joke, by the way, as if we'd ever touch a salad ;-)

Then went off to the Masterchef demonstration, after having purchased two choc dips each from the uni shop to kill the sweet craving.

Remember those?!

Anyway, after further disappointment upon hearing the news that we could not sample Tim Anderson's culinary creations, we headed home. The strange conversation ensued.

After the demo only went on for an hour (the Facebook event had said three) we were unsure about whether it'd be acceptable to have tea or not. After all, we did only eat an hour or so ago at half four, but knew we'd be hungry again by gone nine. The Shed wasn't quite lunch, more wasn't quite dinner. More like 'linner'. A creation of our strange, food-obsessed minds.

Somehow we got on to timings of meals, and what they should be called. Just so you know, the new regime is:

  • Breakfast - 7:00am to 10:45am
  • Elevensies - 11:00am to 11:45am
  • Lunch - 12:00pm to 3:00pm
  • The new creation of 'Linner' - 3:00pm to 6:00pm (not quite lunch, not quite dinner!)
  • Dinner, the official one - 6:00pm to 9:00pm
  • Supper - 9:00pm to 11:45pm
  • 'Mignightsies' another new meal time, much like elevensies - 12:00am - 12:30am
Anything outside of these times is just classed as a snack (as if you'd need one!)

Can't wait for us to be living together in the summer, but can't help but feel we could be making appearances on the likes of The Biggest Loser, and Obese: A Year to Save My Life, before the year is out! Oh well, at least I can enjoy the ride with my foodie friend.

"Kebabs are like sex"

According to Masterchef 2011 winner, Tim Anderson.

This evening, the American chef gave a cooking demonstration to Lincoln students at Tower Bar, the SU hangout. He started out by doing a posh beans on toast, or rather 'toast on beans' as he called it. I couldn't help but think whoever had designed the posters advertising the event must be kicking themselves for using the tag-line: "Fed up of beans on toast?" Haha.

Photo: Aimee & I with
Masterchef winner, Tim Anderson
So he started with a few kitchen tips, nothing out of the ordinary really; make sure you have a sharp knife, yadda, yadda, yadda.. Nothing I didn't already know. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm not up there with the likes of Heston and Gordon, but I do like to think I have a bit of a clue when it comes to cooking, largely down to my - what I think is only appropriate to describe as - obsession, with food.

He moved onto chopping onions and garlic, before pan frying in a little olive oil. He added tinned butter and cannellni beans, and a tin of chickpeas too, frying them off for a little while before adding peeled plum tomatoes and heavy pinch of seasoning. As for the bread, he toasted a thick slice of granary, before dicing into 'croutons', and tossing in olive oil and salt. He topped the bean mixture with the 'croutons' and served with torn basil leaves.

I thought this was a pretty cheap, economical meal idea for students, although I'm not much of a fan of beans on toast at the best of times. Might try using the bean mixture as a basis for a pasta bake instead.
Photo: 2011 Masterchef winner
Tim Anderson in action

Next, he moved onto a lamb kebab. Hence, the "kebabs are like sex"; something people are a bit ashamed to talk about, indulge in usually whilst drunk, and often regret the next day. Thought that was a pretty good comparison, and particularly apt to the room full of students.

He started as before by chopping garlic and onion, this time red onion, frying them off in a little olive oil, before adding some cardamom pods and toasting until they were fragrant and aromatic. Next, he added some lamb meat. Tim used quite a good cut of shoulder, but advised that the cheaper cuts such as neck and breast would work well too, and are good for the old student budget.

As he allowed the mixture to reduce down, he whipped up a quick cucumber raita, but don't ask me how - my raita comes out of a Patak's jar.

Onto the "once in a lifetime competition" - the words of the Facebook event, not mine! The omelette challenge. Not Saturday kitchen style, but 'quality' style instead. BORING. Anyway, he declared one of the fairly lacklustre-looking omelettes the winner, and the lucky budding chef in question won a gorgeous wicker basket of store cupboard ingredients! The cheek! Especially seen as though they will probably just go back to the student dietary staples of Supernoodles and Dominoes' pizza anyway.

After a few questions and a couple of photos/autographs/etc, Aimee  and I left Tower Bar slightly less inspired than we had hoped. But then again, not everyone can be born culinary geniuses like ourselves!