Sunday, 30 March 2014

102. Lifestyle // Sunday Summary

I'm hoping to introduce a weekly summary to my blog which will be posted each Sunday, providing you with a quick look through what I've been up to. I hope that you'll all enjoy it as I really love to have a nosy at peoples lifestyle posts. So what's my week been like?

I was off work on Monday as I've been quite unwell recently (I did a post about this earlier in the week, which you can find here) and my medication had left my feeling very lightheaded and drowsy, so I had a lazy day at Shane's, mainly consisting of sleep, cuddles and Breaking Bad (we're now into season three and absolutely loving it!) 

On Tuesday, I was back to work and had a super busy day as we were reaching deadline for three different projects. I took a really healthy pasta salad to work with me, as I'm trying to eat healthier due to my recent illness, and I've been using MyFitnessPal to keep track of my intake - it's such a fantastic app and I use it everyday now.

I also had my Nexplanon implant removed on Tuesday as I was nearing the end of my 3 years. I had been dreading the procedure as I've heard some real horror stories (plus I'm extremely squeamish!) but it went smoothly and didn't hurt at all, although it's now quite tender. 

Wednesday was a brilliant day as we beat target on all three of our projects (YAY! *fist pump*) and I also had plans to meet one of my best-friends, Becca, for a drink (non-alcoholic of course, pesky antibiotics!) and to see The Book Thief at our local cinema. We both really enjoyed the film (you can read my review of the book here) and I had such a laugh. My anxiety often prevents me from socialising as much as I'd like to, but whenever I do manage to go out and see friends, I really love it and it spurs me on to do it again. We're planning on a few drinks at a swanky cocktail bar nearby soon. 

On Thursday, I had a last minute look around the shops to choose presents for Mothers Day as my mum was visiting that evening. In the end, I opted for two books from Waterstones (which I'm desperate to borrow once she's finished reading them!), a bar of chocolate, a lovely little bathbomb and some eye-cream. I'm hoping she'll treat herself to a pamper night, using her gifts. We had a lovely catch-up whilst she was home and she's left Grace, our golden retriever who lives with her, for 10 days whilst she has a break in the Cotswolds with her partner, so that's an extra added bonus (apart from now being covered in dog hairs!) My Birchbox also arrived on Thursday which was a nice little treat. I've not tried the products yet but I'm looking forwards to as I got a really good mix. 

Friday was payday AT LAST so I treat myself to getting BioSculpt Gel Nails done at a brilliant local salon as it was on special offer for just £12 (usual price £30) and I'm really impressed with the results. I opted for a dark burgundy shade and I'm hoping it'll last at least a fortnight, and give me a chance to grow my nails out as I have very soft nails, so they normally snap but the BioSculpt makes them so much tougher whilst it's on, that they shouldn't break or tear at all. I also treated myself to a huge box of beauty goodies that I found on my local selling page, for just £20. I can't wait to try them all out and get a few reviews up.

I had a really long lie in on Saturday and, when I eventually surfaced, I had a brief wander down the street as I wasn't feeling particularly good (perhaps because I had a couple of glasses of wine to celebrate finishing my run of antibiotics the night before!). I spent the afternoon blogging, watching crappy television and, in the evening, Shane and I had a cheeky takeaway (I opted for chicken chow mein with crispy seaweed, which I finished off this morning - a treat once in a while can't hurt, righht? Right?! *looks hopeful*) and caught up on Breaking Bad (again).

Today has been spent mainly blogging and chilling with Shane, which has been perfect considering the weather. We nipped down the street briefly and I picked up L'Oreal's Miss Manga mascara and their new Super Liner 'Blackbuster' which I hope to review within the next few weeks. I also managed to finish reading Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which is amazing (review coming soon). I'm now looking forwards to tonights #lbloggers chat, some tasty lemon & herb fish for dinner, a long soak and yet another Breaking Bad marathon.

I'm back to work tomorrow but I've got lots of posts planned for next week (and I'm also hoping that my USB cable will arrive so I can get some of my own photographs uploaded) including My Month in Movies, a beauty review, another book review and - of course - another Sunday Summary, so keep your eyes peeled. 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

101. Reading // The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

* A word of warning before I begin - I've lost my USB cable for my camera, so I'm currently unable to upload my own photographs onto the blog - hence me using photographs sourced from elsewhere on this post. I've ordered a new cable, so I should be back to using my own photographs again next week. *

Today's post is a review of my most recent read: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

The story is set in Germany just before, and throughout, the second world war. The main protagonist is a young girl called Liesel Meminger who has been sent to live with a foster family on the (not so) aptly named Himmel Street (Heaven Street), an impoverished area of the fictional town Molching.

One of the main 'selling points' of this book, for me, was the unique narrative style - which I won't ruin for you! - but it is a fantastic idea, and very effective.

I would describe Liesel as a quiet but headstrong character, she's also incredibly intuitive and very curious about just about everything, with an amazing sense of humanity. Liesel's foster parents, Hans and Rosa, are both colourful characters too. My initial impression of Rosa Hubermann was not a positive one; she comes across as strict, slightly vulgar and, generally, not a particularly nice lady whereas Hans Hubermann is immediately portrayed as a kind, considerate and young-at-heart new father figure for Liesel.

Inquisitive Liesel soon develops a passion for books and, in particular, words and the magic that they can contain and express. The title of the book, as you may have guessed, comes from the fact that Liesel loves to steal books - from wherever she can find them, including the mayors wifes extensive library. 

Throughout the novel, a relationship with the young Ruby Steiner also develops. It begins as a friendship based around football, stealing and fist fights, but - as the two characters grow up - it develops into something more, a teenage romance, which is truly beautiful to read. 

There is also the arrival of Max Vandenburg 'the Jewish fist fighter' who seeks refuge with the Hubermann family, as the result of an unbroken promise made by Hans decades earlier. For anybody who knows the history of Germany, in particular whilst it was under the rule of Hitler and the Nazi party, as soon as Max arrives on the Hubermann's doorstep, you instantly feel tension and fear for the family - or at least I did.

During Max's stay, he forms a friendship with Liesel which, in turn, increases her love for the written and spoken word and he inspires her to write her thoughts, feelings and experiences down which, I feel, helps Liesel to truly become herself. 

As I really recommend this book to everyone, I don't want to give away too much - apart from an insight into the characters and the story line - but it truly is an incredibly moving, at times incredibly humorous, and overall incredibly well written novel which will make you not want to put it down. 

I'd also thoroughly recommend the film - also named The Book Thief - which is in cinemas now. The book is available from most good book stores, or on Amazon.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

100. Lifestyle // Payday Wishlist

As I'm trying to pay off my debts this year, I'm toning down my spending and I think that this months payday wishlist reflects that with just a few small yet luxurious dream buys. 

1. First of all, I spotted this gorgeous lion print dress whilst browswing ASOS Curve (one of my favourite pastimes) and, although it's so different to my usual floral dress or patterned skirts with a plain vest style, I really like it. I think it'd look great with a nice waist belt and could be worn with bare legs for a summer feel, or with opaque tights and chunky boots in winter. (£28)

2. I've long been lusting after a soy candle from Northumbrian Candleworks, which is situated less than twenty minutes away from me, but for some reason I've just never got round to purchasing one! I came across this delicious sounding Honeysuckle Jasmine candle on their website and the scent sounds incredible; so fresh, clean and perfect for Spring, plus the candle lasts 30 hours and costs less than a tenner! Bargain. (£9.50 large tin, £5.50 small tin)

3. Heeled boots have also been on my 'must have' list for quite some time too, but I've never found a pair that really stand out. I thought I'd have a look at New Look's wide fit selection as I've got the widest feet imaginable, and I stumbled across these beauties. I feel they'd be perfect for work, with thick, black tights and a skater dress, or even for a night, with some jeans and a nice top - at least they'd be more comfortable than a pair of stilettos, and they're in the sale from £59.99 down to just £30!

4. Lush is so popular with beauty bloggers, yet I haven't purchased anything in years! After reading a couple of reviews about their lip scrubs, I thought I'd have a look for myself and I fell in love with the sound of Mint Julips. Mint, chocolate and vanilla?! What's not to love. I've been suffering from really dry lips recently due to the weather and my poor health, so this would be a lovely - and practical - treat for me. (£5.50/25g)

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

99. Lifestyle // Wake Up Call

Today's post is fairly personal and, for me, a pretty serious subject. If you're fed up of 'oh I need to lose weight and get fit' style posts then, yeah, this one isn't for you. But I really want/need (for my own sake) to share this with somebody. 

Over the last few months, I have suffered from a number of health problems; from just achy legs when walking, to breathlessness and some other not-so-nice issues, but on Thursday afternoon I was sent to A&E - in absolute agony and with a fever - with suspected gallstones. 

For those of you who aren't aware of what gallstones are, they're stones that form in your gallbladder and are made up of cholesterol. If they get trapped, they cause intense abdominal pain, particularly in the upper right-hand side of your abdomen. It can also lead to inflammation of the gallbladder, which is also very painful. 

Gallstones and, in general, gallbladder problems are caused by chemical imbalances of bile and cholesterol, but are more likely if you're overweight (guilty as charged) and eat a very fatty diet (once again, guilty...)

After several hours in A&E and a few tests, I was informed that I had a blood infection which was - most likely - due to an inflamed gallbladder, however I won't get my full blood results back until later this week, and will have to see where to go from there. I was prescribed antibiotics and strong painkillers, advised to book an ultrasound scan of my gallbladder and told - very bluntly - to change my lifestyle

Alcohol, fatty, oily and processed foods, dairy and cigarettes are now off the menu, if I want to be able to control my symptoms and stop this from returning. 

I guess this was the shock that I needed to scare me into making some big changes. For far too long, my diet has been atrocious - takeaways, red wine, huge amounts of refined carbohydrates and very little exercise - so it's no wonder I've got myself into this mess. 

After a couple of chats with two friends who have also suffered from gallstones and/or gallbladder problems in the past, I came away feeling positive and motivated. They advised me to simply watch what I eat, to eat little and often, to cut out the crap and to take better care of myself - and wait for the rewards to come rolling in (or dropping off, in the form of lbs). 

Since Thursday, I had been practically bed-bound and lost my appetite completely, unintentionally. However, from Saturday afternoon on wards I began to feel myself again and was able to eat a couple of meals and get my energy levels up, as the antibiotics began to kick in. 

I now feel OK. I'm not going to lie and say that I feel fantastic because I don't. I'm still in pain, my sleep is disturbed and I have bouts of dizziness, but I know that I'm getting better, and if I want to keep heading in the right direction I need to make a few a lot of changes...

No more comfort eating and quick, easy junk food. No more sitting on my backside all day and then wondering why I don't have a six-pack. No more 'oh go on then' when I'm offered biscuits, sweets or a cup of sugary tea in the office. 

It's time to take responsibility for my health. 

Starting BMI (going by my home scales): 36.8 - morbidly obese
Starting waist measurement: 37"

I plan to do a post every week or so, to let you know how I'm getting on both weight-wise and health-wise, and whether there have been any updates. There is no end date for this journey and there are no specific goals other than to feel better both physically and emotionally. 

Wish me luck.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

98. Recipes // Honey, Apple, Chai & Oat Muffins

Yesterday, after getting a little sick of being practically bed bound for three days, I decided to try and cheer myself (and my tummy) up by doing one of my favourite activities: baking

Although I'm trying to avoid fatty, processed and oily foods at the moment, I thought I'd try a recipe which involves lots of good stuff (and quite a bit of naughty stuff too) to balance it out, and from that brainwave Honey, Apple, Chai & Oat Muffins were born.

Unfortunately, I can't find my cable for my camera so you'll have to make do with the one photograph that I took on my phone (sorry) for this post. Next time I'll make sure I'm more prepared, so here goes...

300g porridge oats
200g plain flour (I used wholemeal)
200g brown sugar
250ml semi-skimmed (or skimmed) milk
2 medium eggs
3tbsp honey
1 x apple (finely diced)
4 Chai tea bags (rip open and pour the contents into a bowl)
3tbsp baking power
1tsp vanilla extract

1. Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 5
2. Mix together the sugar and eggs until well mixed
3. Add the oats and flour and mix until a nice, thick consistency (don't over mix)
4. Add everything else and mix until even
5. Spoon into muffin cases (fill them about 3/4 full)
6. Bake in the oven for between 15-20 minutes
7. Serve warm

As you can see, this is a lovely, simple and quick recipe. These muffins are ideal for a tasty pick me up in the afternoon, or even as a yummy breakfast, served with natural yogurt and fruit (which is exactly what I'm about to do...)

Saturday, 22 March 2014

97. Lifestyle // Welcome Back

You may have realised that I've not been around much (well, at all) for quite some time. The decision to take a break from my blog was sudden and unplanned, it sort of just happened

To be honest, I've not had the best time lately and I felt that I needed to concentrate on getting my act together before I could devote time to blogging. Now that I look back, that decision made no sense - if I wanted to make myself happier, why did I give up something that I enjoy and that makes me feel like part of such a wonderful community, provides amazing opportunities and motivates me? Silly, I know.

So, I'm back, for good. I've spent a lot of time recently reading blogs, chatting with fellow bloggers and generally thinking about where I'd like to see my blog go, and how big a part of my life I'd like it to be. I really want to see my blog grow and develop, to create friendships through the bloggers community and to continue using my blog as a creative outlet. 

I've got so many ideas for posts and series that I'd like to introduce to my blog over time, and I'm so excited to get back into the swing of things. I plan on writing about a whole mix of things - just like before! - such as beauty reviews, recipes (which, due to a health issue - that I will blog about at some point - will now be low-fat, low cholesterol and, generally, healthier than usual), book and film reviews, etc. I'd also like to introduce fashion posts and, in time, lingerie reviews too as this is such a huge part of my life.

Basically, there's so much to come and I hope that you are happy to bare with me whilst I sort things out. You can expect a new post up tomorrow and I'd love to hear your feedback on it.