19 December, 2013

Positive Quotes

With the Christmas holidays almost upon us, today's positive quote is to remind us that there is no place like home. With hundreds of us travelling from all corners to be with our nearest and dearest, its important to enjoy the time spent with family, friends and loved ones. It really is the most wonderful time of year and often it's easy to get caught up in a dizzy spell of present buying, finding the perfect gift, spending too much money and then worrying how you'll get through January until payday.

This year, I'm flying home for Christmas and even though it's only a short 1 hour flight to Dublin from Manchester followed by another hour on a train, it's still exciting to 'go home for Christmas'. It nice to know that family are looking forward to having me home and I'm truly lucky to have over two weeks holidays off work this year. I'm pretty sure this is the longest Christmas break I've ever had. (Except when I was a student perhaps!)

So, no matter where you are for the festivities, enjoy every moment, the big and small ones and I look forward to hearing and reading all about your plans. Do share them in the comment space below!

17 December, 2013

Manchester Craft and Design Centre - Northern Quarter

As part of our weekend of Christmas shopping and Christmas fun, the boy and I paid a visit to the Manchester Craft and Design Centre. It was part of our Christmas shopping quest to source some unique gifts for family. I paid a brief visit there before but was in a bit of a rush the first time I visited and so I swore I would return for a longer, more in depth tour.

Anyone with a crafty, artistic bone in their body cannot but fall in love with this place. As someone who considers herself an artist and a maker I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time in each precious shop. MCDC is located in the heart of the Northern Quarter and contains 18 studio boutiques, a cafe bar, and hosts a number of workshops, exhibitions and events each year. It is described as "the place to make, see and buy contemporary craft and design in the North West".

The building itself is a Victorian former fish and poultry market, steeped in history and it has been in operation as a craft venue since 1982! Manchester, clearly were ahead of their time. As their website goes on to say "in part leading the vanuard of regeneration in the Norther Quarter to its place today as a creative, lifestyle quarter of the city. In fact the very phrase 'The Norther Quarter' was coined in this building at a meeting of local inventive minds!" 

There is a huge array of jewellery, ceramics, paper creations, interior accessories, bags, furniture and more on display and the best part (for me!) is that you can view the artists at work. The layout of MCDC is such that within each studio boutique is in fact a studio! Some studio spaces are small, some are larger, but in each space, the artist takes the time to present their work beautifully. Many of them are experts in the field of visual display and as someone who always wanted to work in this area, I loved the creative ideas they employed when displaying their work. I wanted to buy everything. Not for others, just for me. As our visit was about buying for others, I earmarked a few potential presents for myself.

I fell in love with this display of this shop (below) and their pretty brooches. I will return to buy one and if anything I'd love to learn the process behind making one of these. I perused their website and discovered their next workshop (not on brooch making) will take place in February. The 'Make with the Makers' Workshop is competitively priced at £55 and from 10am to 5pm you learn about the art of mosaic and how to salvage the beautiful. Suitable for all levels, tools, materials as well as a cuppa and a piece of cake are included on the day. I can see myself enjoying a February Saturday afternoon with some good, crafty company, creating a piece which I can then take home.

I took a multitude of images on my visit. I'll leave you to wander through them and enjoy the art on display

16 December, 2013

Teacup Kitchen - Manchester Eats #1

The boy and I have always enjoyed eating out and spoiling ourselves with delicious food. One of the wonderful perks about living in Manchester, is the huge and vast array of exciting cafes and restaurants on offer to tourists or dwellers of the city. We are close to reaching our three month anniversary of living here and we've enjoyed tasting our way through Manchester so much, that I thought I'd share and review some of our new food haunts.

Most weekends, we take a stroll through the vibrant, creative Northern Quarter were all the artists and hipsters live and hang out. Each weekend, we pass the Teacup Kitchen and each weekend there are queues out the door as eager locals wait for a table. We reckoned they knew something we didn't and this weekend we made a plan. A plan that would get us up early and out of the apartment on a Saturday morning and enjoying a table in Teacup Kitchen for breakfast.

I did a Google search and discovered they didn't open until 10am. Result! We could still have a mini lie-in of sorts as we only live 15 minutes away. Saturday morning arrived and armed with our plans we found ourselves outside Teacup at 09:55. We were clearly eager. When we arrived, the front door was open but the 'closed' sign was still on the door. We began to experience one of those 'Well, are they open or are they closed?' moments. Robert peeked his head through the door only to be abruptly told "We're not open, we'll open around 10". He felt like a pleb. Other potential customers started to arrive and experience the same 'Are they open or closed' moment. They looked to us for guidance and we politely let them know they weren't open yet.

A short time after 10am, a member of staff flicked around the sign from closed to open. They then walked away. Given there was a queue outside, you would have thought they would have opened the door and signaled to the small, hungry group gathering that they were now officially open. No such luck. If there is one thing I dislike, it's poor customer service. I hadn't seen a menu yet and already I was feeling anger building.

A nice, friendly girl approached us and gave us a number of menus. If I'm honest, I found their menus confusing. They was too many of them. I was expecting a breakfast menu only, but instead there was a lunch, dessert and tea menu. We didn't have the breakfast menu to hand but sourced it a short time later. The cafe had just opened and from a customer point of view, it all seemed a tad (just a tad) disorganized. I've worked in many customer facing roles at management level within the catering / restaurant industry and one of my personal pet peeves is being on the receiving end of poor service. 
We glanced through the menu and there was a tempting array of breakfasts on offer. I chose the Dippy Duck eggs with sourdough soldiers and a mocha. Robert chose the Eggs Benedict with York ham, capers and meaux hollandise mustard. As an extra, he also selected the Purple Haze Milkshake which contained blueberry ice-cream, strawberries and milk. An unusual start to the day, but Robert fancied it.
Our food arrived in good time and it was presented beautifully. I loved the dainty blue, long plate my eggs and soldiers were placed on. I wanted to take it home. Roberts food looked delicious and I loved the colour of his purple shake. I tapped my eggs and was delighted to find a runny, gooey yolk. Just how I love my eggs to be cooked. The sourdough soldiers tasted delicious and it was the nicest bread I had tasted in a long time. It wasn't long before Robert nicked a few of them from my plate. Dipped into the eggs, they tasted like a piece of heaven. 

Robert also enjoyed the Eggs Benedict. I snuck as taste and loved how sweet the ham tasted. I initially decided against ordering this as I'm not a huge hollandise and capers fan. He felt the milkshake was a little on the bland side and I found it to have an aftertaste of love heart sweets. It wasn't unpleasant by any means, but probably not the best of breakfast choices. My mocha, made with organic chocolate flakes was sweet and well made. I was sad when I realized I let it go cold with half a cup to go.
As a follow up we ordered some cake. Teacup Kitchen have some stunning cakes on display and it seemed a shame not to give some a whirl. I ordered coconut and carrot cake, while Robert selected the lemon-licious cake. We received two large, generous slices. Mine was sweet, full of flavour and the cream icing was particularly scrummy! Roberts also tasted beautiful and while enjoying our dessert, I chatted to Robert about how I'll have to take my mum and friends here for some cake tasting.
We spent close to an hour in the Teacup Kitchen and the total cost was just over £30. A little on the pricey side, however the portions were generous and the surrounding aesthetics of the venue made it an enjoyable morning. We finished our cake, paid our bill and gathered our things. We passed the large queue forming as we walked out the door. Our bellies were full and we left well fulled for the big Christmas shopping spree.

If you find yourself in lovely Manchester, you can find the Teacup Kitchen here.

13 December, 2013

Getting so know you; Manchester local bloggers #1

A short while ago, I threw a tweet out in the world. I asked if any local bloggers would be interested in appearing in a feature post on my blog. A little get to know if you will. Alot of lovely bloggers responded and I reached out to them again via email with some questions in the hope they would dish the dirt on their blogging process. Don't ya just love Twitter for connecting you to a world of awesomeness?

First up, let me introduce to you Jane from the lovely blog Hodge Podge Days. A personal blog, with the tag line 'Reviews, Rants and Occasional Decadence'. Only occasional Jane? We'll have to change that!

I really enjoy Jane's style of writing. After reading post, after post, I felt like a began to know her alot better. Her posts are frank, honest with some personality thrown in for good measure. Before, we dig in, here are some posts from Hodge Podge Days which I've enjoyed reading of late.

A Bloggers Spa Day / I am ridiculously jealous! // A breathtakingly honest post, it brought a tear to my eye // On Role Models - a sweet post // Finally, give her a job!

Tell us a little about yourself?
Hello, I'm Jane. I'm a wife and a mum of one. I love spending time with my son, watching him grow and develop and going on little adventures with him. I've been married for approximately 300 years, we still love the bones of each other and we know we're lucky to have actually met and married our soul-mate.

As for me, inside I am a big daft kid with an active social life, a fondness for a 90's disco and a bottle of prosecco.

Tell the world some information on your blog, its purpose and how you came to the world of blogging?
I started my blog in June 2013. I'd had a tough year health-wise and been quite lonely in my thoughts. I started blogging for myself, to get things out of my head. My writing was well received, people like the often stark honesty of it and although I still write a great deal about myself, I've now started writing reviews and other standard blogger fodder. I love it, I love writing and I love the blogging community. I hope I'm here to stay. 

I've always enjoyed writing but never found an outlet for it which suited me. I'm probably late to the blogging party, but I still blog for myself and hope I always will do. Part of it forms a diary of our lives we can look back on as family. Part of it yes, is the business of blogging. I hold my hands up to that. But I don't write about what doesn't fit with me and my blog and I'm always honest and truthful even if someone has sent me something dodgy to review or I've gone out for a meal I didn't like.

The joys of blogging, perhaps you'd like to share some tips?
What I really didn't expect was to make friends. Despite being a sociable person I'm not actually any good at putting myself out there and making friends. Since I've been blogging I've made tonnes of new friends, people who I would've never met otherwise. Pretty much everyone has been massively supportive and helpful, offering me advice and encouragement or just making me laugh when I needed a giggle.

It's a real community and it's worth getting involved in and networking with your fellow bloggers. They'll be your biggest supporters. Get on Twitter, learn how it works, chat to people. Say hello, tweet and retweet. If you want to grow your blog then write well, write often, join linkys, share on the social networks, chat to people online, share what you enjoy and the favour will be returned. It's not rocket science, but if you're nice and not bitchy then you'll get along just fine.

Links to all her social media of choice!

11 December, 2013

'100 things to do in 2014' courtesy of The Fabulous Times

'100 things to do in 2014' is quite a list. I mean, 100 things, really Rebecca, really? Yes really and why not? After the Manchester Blogger meet up that the lovely Christine from The Fabulous Times organised, I sat at home and began to read through everyone's blogs. I was inspired by so many, many great posts. Some of which I'll refer to in future posts, but one of the most interesting reads, and especially after Christine shared her story at the meet up, was how she literally turned her life around in the space of a year. She found herself unhappy in her busy job in London, having to leave her apartment and more and all in the space of week.

If you read through her posts from 2012 to present day, you will see the amazing personal adventure she undertook. From travelling across America with her sister to running a marathon, she changed her circumstances, changed her attitude and ultimately changed her life for the better. I was engrossed in her story and loved how she shared the 'hows' and 'whys' behind her decision making on her blog. Her positive attitude towards growing old, wellbeing and living a positive life shines through every post and I left her blog wanting more and looking forward to the next great post. I just love it when I find a blog that matches 'me'.

Way back in 2012, she created a post called '100 things to do in 2012'. Initially, I thought 'Woah, that's ambitious', but when I found her post at the end of 2012 outlining how well she did, I thought about how awesome she was for meeting many of those intentions. Some of her things were to 'be more creative', 'eat healthily' or simply put, 'love' - and such a list motivated me to make my own while also causing me to stop and think about own positive attitude of late and the attitude I should (and will) be adopting for 2014.

So, 100 things to do in 2014. I've broken it down into some sub categories as there are a couple areas of my life that need...ahem...tackling! Here it goes.

Education or as I like to call it - Fun stuff I want to learn
1.Take Spanish classes -  I know where these classes are taught. All I need to do it sign up and pay my fee.
2.Take a DSLR photography class
3.Take a craft class at the Ministry of Craft - crochet anyone?

Blog / Lucky Rainbow
4.Invest in getting an awesome designer to update my blog design - this is badly needed
5.Get better at blog post scheduling
6.Find some new blogs to follow and get commenting
7.Rename & Re-brand - There's a slight name change on the way
8.Meet more inspiring bloggers
9.Reach out and connect
10.Create some tutorials for the blog
11.Update and continue to improve the Facebook page

Fitness / Health & Wellbeing
12.Clean eating - begin some research and adopt
13.Try meditation
14.Find a weekly gym class that I'll enjoy
15.Start running again
16.Enter a 5k
17.Get out of my comfort zone and try something I'd never usually try
18.Find a great massage therapist
19.Listen to more music
20.Be more thankful
21.Express gratitude often
22.Make some D.I.Y beauty treatments
23.Try herbal teas
24.Worry less about those fine lines
25.Try a detox
26.Make a green smoothie, you know, of the vegetable kind

27.Cook more healthy meals
28.Learn the art of preparing amazing packed lunches the night before work
29.Get a cute lunch box
30.Make chutney, pasta and bread from scratch

31.Make a more conscious effort to craft
32.Visit galleries in Manchester
33.Watch some arty films
34.Stay up to date with local artists and exhibitions
35.Draw more, even if you think you're bad at it
36.Reopen my Etsy shop
37.Open a Folksy shop

38.Send teaching qualifications to relevant UK offices for approval (Been on the long finger for an age)
39.Visit a life coach - figure out what area you really want to work in
40.Get some volunteer work in an area you'd one day like to work in
41.Be somewhere towards sorting it by the end of 2014

For fun-sies
42.Visit a psychic
43.Go to a music festival
44.Write more letters and send more cards
45.Set up an Irish blogger meet up (Claire Ann & Aoife Blake, I'm looking at you!)
46.Volunteer in a charity shop
47.Commit some random acts of kindness
48.Get a pen pal

49.Visit Scotland
50.Take a holiday with the boy - somewhere hot
51.Take a solo trip
52.Sit down and plan a once in a lifetime trip
53.Have a spa day away

54.Save money for a video camera so I can vlog (with Claire Ann if you're reading)
55.Maybe a tablet or iPad too?
56.Save, save, save

Personal Development
57.Take UK driving theory test
58.Learn to drive (This has been on countless lists since 2006)
59.Be more organised in as many aspects of my life as possible
60.Read more books
61.Watch less TV
63.Be happy

64.Keep a journal
65.Write a five year plan
66.Wear something you wouldn't normally wear - step outside the comfort zone
67.Try a new hair colour
68.Give up alcohol for a month (not that I drink alot anyways!)
69.Learn some HTML
70.Buy a vintage dress
71.Lists, lists and more lists - keep writing lists
72.Organise all my clothes and stream line back
73.Learn some songs
74.Budget, budget, budget
75.Go to the dentist
76.Do a course that pushes you - not a fun course, but something you can learn lots from
77.Say yes more
78.Lear about another religion
79.Walk, walk, walk
80.Discover new areas of Manchester
81.Climb a mountain
82.Have an internet free weekend
83.More painting of nails and less chipped nails
84.Be less critical
85.Get my ears pierced
86.More meal planning, less takeaways
87.Try red wine
88.Be part of at least one craft fair in 2014
93.Listen to an audio book
94.Conquer my sewing machine
95.Make gifts for friends
96.Just be
97.More positive thinking and less worrying
98.Trust that it will all work out
99.Take some risks
100.Make more time for all of the above

Phew! A long list, I know. I'm not sure if I'm now daunted, scared or excited. Perhaps a mixture of it all. For some reason, I've very excited by the prospect of 2014. I want it to be a defining year, a year of big changes, exciting adventures and new friends.

Share some of your 2014 plans below, I'd love to hear

09 December, 2013

Manchester Festive Blogger Meet Up

On Saturday, I nervously made my way to the Sugar Junction, a quirky tea rooms located in the Northern Quarter in Manchester city centre. There I was so meet a number of lovely Manchester Bloggers as arranged via Twitter by Christine's of The Fabulous Times. I heard about the meet up, from the equally fabulous Claire Ann who sent Christine tweet my way. It was super sweet of her to think of me, and as someone who reads my blog, she was all too aware that I was on the look out for groups / projects / crafty things to get involved in. 

For those of you who haven't visited, the Sugar Junction is something straight out of the 40's. Tables are covered with beautiful table cloths and you feel like you're having a cup of tea and piece of sweet cake in your granny's house. The basement floor, where we were located is particularly quaint. With comfy arm chairs and warm lighting, it's the perfect place to curl up with a good book or meet a friend for a long, interrupted chat. I tried the cookies and cream milkshake and it was divine. My waist won't thank me for it, but my taste buds most certainly did.

My nerves soon disappeared, as one by one, lovely and (new to me) Manchester bloggers started to arrive. Within minutes we were in full chat about our blogging lives, the perks it has brought and the connections we have made. I felt at ease chatting with everyone and really enjoyed everyone's company. It was fascinating to hear about everyone's blogging routine, their day jobs outside of blogging and how they find inspiration. It also wasn't long before the cameras started to come out and the documenting began. I giggled a little when I saw this, I had predicted it would happen and I loved watching how comfortable people were with their digital cameras. I still feel a little awkward carrying my DSLR around, something I'll need to work on! Less of the iPhone, more of the DSLR.

I came away, having met a bunch of great people, some new connections and even better, more wonderful and inspiring blogs to read. I'm looking forward to the next meet up already. My blogroll has increased tenfold and I recommend checking out some of these gifted folk below.

G.M Norton, who was sporting the most spiffing of mustaches writes the unique blog Norton of Morton. Here you'll find tips about how to grow and maintain a rather dapper mustache, as well as film reviews and living an English gentleman existence. Its a blog I've never come across before and I've enjoyed sifting through past posts.

I was sat next to Jessica from Oh So Gawjass. A really lovely girl, I enjoyed my company with her as we chatted about a multitude of things and she made me green with envy telling me all about her PR blogging adventures, but also sharing some tips about how I might get a few of my own. Her beauty blog has a cult following and covers a variety of beauty hints, tips, and reviews.

Adele who writes 'My last Dollar Dress' is a quintessential vintage gal. She wore the most festive of jumpers and awesome cat eye glasses to match. I was little jealous of them and I loved her overall style.

The stylish Susan (with the funky woolly reindeer hat) from Susan styles you was also lovely company. She is a personal stylist and I wouldn't mind hiring her services one day. I'm in need of a makeover, but hey, that's a whole other blog post!

I was also sat next Clare from I Like Tweet - we chatted about her job and the difficulty of finding arts jobs. She directed me towards a site to assist with my arts jobs search, which was awesome. (Thanks Clare!) I love the clean cut layout and design of her blog. Sometimes, blogs are just too cluttered but Clare gets it just right.

I also met Charlie from Gin Fulled Blue Stocking. With amazing, striking red hair, Charlie and I discovered we both work in the University of Manchester. She's also training for a marathon! (I'm totally in awe of those who chose to train for marathons!) Charlie writes about her marathon running and plenty of yummy food reviews. I've earmarked a number of restaurants to try after back reading though her blog. Excited to check them out in 2014.

Finally, we have Helen of Mancunian Vintage. Helen has such a lovely, warm personality and was very easy to chat to and get along with. Helen spends alot of time sourcing vintage treasures from here, there and everywhere as well as writing about and making crafts. She's a pretty talented lady.

A big thank you to Christine from The Fabulous Times for organising the event. It really was nice to meet so many like minded people who were warm and welcoming. It ain't always easy settling into a new city, but with people like that around, it certainly makes it easier. I also highly recommend you check out Christine's blog. Well written, full of fantastic travel write ups and bursting with positivity,you'l find yourself returning day after day for more inspiration and good reads.

Also, a thank you to the perfect service from the Sugar Junction. I can't wait to return with friends and visiting family!

07 December, 2013

Christmas Wishlist!

Every year, we're all asked the dreaded question. "What do you want for Christmas?". Normally, I don't have a solid answer and in all honestly, I personally think I'm very, very easy to buy for. Really, I am! Give me crafty stuff, I'll be happy out making and creating for weeks into January. Gift me with funky eye make up and I'll be scaring you all with intense eye make up for most of 2014. Buy me stationary and I'll act like it's the first day of school and get into list-making mode. I'm that easy to buy for. (FYI, if you want to buy me any of the above, then a voucher for a craft shop, the new Naked palette and some Paperchase notebooks will do the trick, ta very much!)

Funnily enough, no one has asked me this particular question this year and this is the one year that I have a few potential Christmas gifts on my mind. This is probably more of a dream list as opposed to a wishlist as some of items are more on the pricey side, but hey a gal can dream right?

First up, I realllllly wouldn't mind a new DSLR camera that also shoots video. I've been harping on for a while now about vlogging and without the necessary equipment, it will be an unrealized goal. However, with the assistance of this Canon EOS 7D beauty, my vlogging ideas could become a reality and then and only then, can I become the YouTube supa-star I keep telling everyone I will become.

To back up my vlogging empire dream, I also require a little bit more in the equipment department. However, I genuinely do require one of these for my current camera (EOS 1000D) as I lost the thingy-ma-jiggy that attaches the camera to the tripod and vice versa. Introducing....a tripod! This doesn't cost the earth. It's under £30 and from Argos. If santa doesn't bring it, I'll be purchasing it for myself. Happy Christmas to me!

Another gadget-y gift I would just love, is a tablet. An i-pad would be all kinds of amazing but I believe the Samsung tablets are just as good. I'd probably spend most of the day playing Candy Crush, but who cares, I'd have a tablet!

Moving away from gadgets (I do love a good gadget!). Our apartment still looks on the bare side. Making it a home is a slow project and everytime I take a trip into Manchester city centre, I spot something I think will look just perfect in one of the four rooms in our apartment. Today it was an A3 sized framed poster for the movie 'One flew over the cuckoos nest'. I've made a mental note to purchase it next weekend. (Payday weekend!)

So, some items to make our home more cosy would be fabulous da'lings. Perhaps some lush Jo Malone candles, such as this one (£39). It'll make the apartment smell amazing and make it all cosy.

A beautiful, handmade throw which will not only keep me warm (I'm always cold), but will add a burst of zesty colour in an otherwise plain living room. I can picture myself, wrapped up in this throw supping a hot cup of tea and perhaps a few chocolate biscuits on the side.

Continuing with the 'I'm always cold' theme, a chunky infinity wool scarf to keep those breezes at bay. Best worn with matching gloves and a cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows to go.

So folks, what's on your Christmas dream / wish list?

01 December, 2013

Unexpected: Inspirational Words and me at 100!

Yesterday, as many of you were enjoying your Saturday off. I was in work, where an event (for some student volunteers) I had been working on for a number of weeks was taking place. There was lunch, workshops, teas and coffees and to end a lovely speech from a lovely person I met for the first time. 

Essentially, she was recommended to me as someone who has lots of experience in the volunteering sector and who could possibly provide an inspirational and motivational speech on the value and importance of volunteering. A speech that would inform the student volunteers that I work with of how valuable they are and of the vital contribution they make to others by giving up their time. And so, with a strong recommendation, I emailed her and hired her services.

For someone so young (23!), she had bags of volunteerism under her belt and listening to her, I truly felt like one of those adults who doesn't do enough in terms of volunteering. Her speech struck a chord with me, particularly when she said the following words "We all have the same amount of time in a day. The same amount of time as Mozart, Steve Jobs, Einstein....whoever it is you look up to. We all have the same amount of time in a day as them." For the first time, I was like 'Whoa, she's got a point!'. I keep telling myself'I don't have time for this, I don't have time for that!' - When the reality is, I don't make time in my day / week / month for all the things I keep telling myself I want to do and all the ba-zillion of goals I want to reach. Be they big, small, huge or teeny-tiny. Is it any wonder I feel deflated when things don't get done, goals are left un-reached and my other half sighing at me and my moany self.

The other piece of wise words she imparted were "What if you swapped your Friday feeling for a Monday feeling? What if we greeted the start of the week with the same enthusiasm that we give Friday." - In fairness, she had a point, how much better would our working day or week be if we woke up on a Monday morning and shouted "Yeah!! Monday!" Perhaps, swapping the Monday blues for Monday gratitude is the best attitude of all. To be grateful for having a job to get up, two working legs to get you to work and some money at the end of the working month to a) pay the bills and b) do a few nice things. Tonight, instead of Monday blues, I have Monday gratitude. 

And finally, she asked us all to imagine that today was your 100th birthday (Happy Birthday!). You are surrounded by family and the local media asks you 'How was your life?' and 'What were its highlights?' - What, if it were you, would you like to be able to say? Would you say, you lived well, you traveled the world, met the love of you life or would it be full of regrets? I haven't really thought about the answers to these questions yet, but they're there....floating in my mind, waiting to come out. I just need to figure out what I do, in fact, want to achieve before I reach that milestone of 100!

How about you? What would you say on your 100th birthday?

18 November, 2013

Weekend Update: Manchester Christmas Markets

How was your weekend lovely followers?

Mine was spent checking out the awesome Manchester Christmas Markets which opened on Friday night. I had the pleasure of strolling around in the cold, all wrapped up and drinking creamy, hot chocolate all at the same time. It was, without a doubt, the best hot chocolate I've ever had. I think being in the cold and drinking something so hot and delicious was soothing.

If you find yourself in Manchester between now and December 22nd, I can't recommend the markets highly enough. There is an array of food stalls, amazing handmade gifts on sale and German style pop up bars serving all kinds of mulled wine and hot apple cider. I reckon the markets will be a regular haunt for me over the next couple of weekends so do pop down to the city centre.

The boy and I also strolled over to the ice rink and laughed as we watched many a skater grip on to the edge of the rink for dear life. We also watched young children, who without a second thought, would jump and skip in the air and perform all kinds of tricks. I envy their lack of fear. I've never tried ice skating, but I will be soon! Some work colleagues have organised a mini Christmas party to the ice rink, so I'll have to start practicing my best Torvil and Dean impression pretty soon. 

I'm starting to feel a bit festive. I haven't a present bought for anyone and I've yet to start making Christmas cards for friends and family, but the opening of the markets and listening to Christmas song in work has me in fine festive form. I get I better get cracking on that Christmas present list.

Are you feeling the Christmas spirit yet?

11 November, 2013

The Grateful List #1

If I'm honest, I've been a bit of a 'Moaning Mary' of late. The nights are drawing in, it's much, much colder and the dark mornings are making me feel a bit meh! I should be stopping to smell the coffee a bit more and appreciate the lovely things I do have in my life. I think, sometimes we can all be a little guilty of not being grateful for what we do have rather than what we don't have. 

I'm also guilty of playing the comparison game. Looking at what others have, wishing I had it too and assuming their life is one, big, perfect story. It's not always that way and it's time to be grateful for the things I do have in my life and to appreciate the lovely little moments that life can sometimes offer up. Introducing, my first grateful list.

1. Our lovely rented apartment. It's modern, cosy and within walking distance to the city centre
2. All the lovely hot cups of tea my co-workers make me. (I do make some in return!)
3. Crunchy Autumn leaves and the colours that Autumn offers up
4. A gym membership. At £20 a month, I'm grateful that I can afford it. (I should go more!)
5. A full time job. Enough said
6. Hot, chocolaty and creamy mocha's - offered in work and a steal at £1.60
7. My health. 
8. Brightly coloured nail polish. It scares Winter away, or so I'm told.
9. Weekends off. Weekends off are just lovely - have a lie in, go away for the day, take a stroll - whatever!
10. Family - even if they are mad and we often drive each other nuts.

What would make your grateful list?

10 November, 2013

Making new friends as an adult

Aged four, you're popped into a school uniform, given a lunch box of ham sandwich goodies and brought to the school gates. This is your first day of school and so begins your educational career. Some love school, some hate it and some (like myself) fall somewhere in the middle of a love / hate school relationship. 

Where ever you fell on the love / hate spectrum, the one thing we all had in common were the friends we made during our school years. You and your classmates were the same age, were experiencing the same 'first day of school' angst and tears, but together you would overcome it, learn your ABC's and play kiss - catch in the school yard at break. Life was good, even if you didn't realise or understand it at the time.

I would hazzard a guess and say your current batch of friends are made up as follows:

- A small handful of friends who you attended primary and secondary school with.
- A small handful of friends who you attended secondary school with
- A small handful of friends who you attended college / university with
- Other friends you met via other friends, work, travelling, grew up with or are related to.

My group of close friends is primarily made up from the above categories but the total number comes about 10 to 15. Maybe less, maybe more. Before I left Ireland, I would see some friends once a year, others, because I worked with them, I would see daily. Either way we all enjoyed each others company, got on well, had the banter, enjoyed nights out together and generally were there for each other.

Making friends as a thirty something adult is a different ball game altogether. Your priorities and those of others your age have shifted. Perhaps some of the people you've met are married, perhaps they have children or perhaps they're in the process of buying a house and don't have the socializing funds they possessed as a go-getter 27 year old. I'm none of the above. I'm not married, have no plans for children and I am so far from buying a house, I'll probably be 50 by the time that's a possibility.

So, how, in a new city do you make friends, real friends? How do you meet like minded people that you would like to call a friend? A friend that you can call in an emergency, when you're having a bad day or perhaps you're feeling weepy and you just saw the John Lewis Christmas ad and you now need a good shoulder to cry on.

The obvious answers are to take up a class of sorts, join a team of something or other and just get out there and engage with people. But, for me that still falls short of the kind of friendships I'd like to make. So far (and I do realise it's very early days) I haven't really found obvious ways of meeting the kind of people that I know a) will like me and b) that I will like in return. My school / college / old work friends get me and my personality quirks. I can be myself around them and together we can recount random nights out, funny incidents and laugh until our sides hurt.

Starting afresh is different. Scary almost. Similar to a first date, you want to come across as a new potential great friend in waiting. You've lots to offer, are available for the middle of the night emergencies and you are willing to help stalk you new friends ex on Facebook. All standard friend tasks and duties, I'm sure you'll agree. You want your potential new friend to rave about you, tell his / her friends about you and invite you into their close circle. You want to be part of something bigger....or at least I do.

Or maybe there's an easier solution, to go out there, chat to everyone and anyone and generally not give a sh*t about what someone thinks of you. If it clicks, it clicks. If it doesn't, move on, and find a new potential friend to audition for and maybe, just maybe, by this time next year you'll be the one dishing out 'How to make friends' advice to some other poor soul.

For now, you'll find me at work, in random coffee shops and browsing every charity shop Manchester has to offer. Maybe I'll bump into you, my new B.F.F, there!

04 November, 2013

Dudes, It's November Already and Four Goals

Er, sorry, can somebody call 2013 and tell him / her / it to come back?

I, along with every other person in the blogging world (and probably, on the planet!) am sat here wondering, where has 2013 gone? We're a few days into November and already I'm having one of those 'I don't feel like I really accomplished' much this year moments.

Ok, ok, I moved to the UK and took up a new job, but I have other personal goals that I wanted to work on. Given that there is a little less than two months left of dear, sweet 2013, I'm wondering what goals (big or small) I can accomplish?

And so, with that, I've selected four goals. Two big(ish) goals and two mini goals. A little something if you wish to focus on over the next 8 weeks.

// Big(ish) goal number 1
Ah yes, that old chestnut. The good news is that I've joined a 24 hour gym, located right around the corner from my apartment. It's big, bright and for the first time in a long time, I really like this particular gym. My fitness goal, to go three times a week every week from now until Christmas. I have three sessions scheduled in for this week and time for a fourth two if it takes my fancy.

//Big(ish) goal number 2
Blog posting
The goal - to write 40 compelling and interesting blog posts between now and December 31st. Since moving from Ireland and changing jobs, I do have more time to blog which I'm happy about. I find myself planning more posts, writing in advance and generally giving more thought and consideration to the type of posts I want to publish and that I hope others find interesting.

//Mini goal number 3
Now that I'm being a big girl, paying rent and bills, I gotta watch those pennies alot better. The first mini goal is to simply download a simple budget and er...budget! I took a salary cut to move to the UK and this combined with all the bills is a little bit scary. I'm used to having more money to spend on spontaneous shopping trips and restaurants that take my fancy. While some of this is still possible, it's not possible on quite the grand scale I've become accustom to. It's time to become a thrifty diva who knows her finances inside out and back to front!

//Mini goal number 4
Healthy eating
No chocolate, no junk food, no takeaways and no excuses. I'm giving this goal a target date of Christmas. We both know I wouldn't outlive this goal past Christmas when all those yummy selection boxes are on offer, but as the old saying goes, "You can't out work a bad diet". My healthy eating combined with the gym regime should see me feeling alot better.

Have you guys got any Winter goals coming up?

29 October, 2013

Autumn / Winter and Rain Proof Boots!

The wet climate of Manchester combined with old, leaky converse (albeit fake converse) does not make for a happy commute to work five days a week. Three out of five days last week were spent in work with wet shoes, wet socks and wet feet. For.the.whole.day. It wasn't pleasant and this situation can be no more.

What's needed is an intervention. An intervention in the form of super, waterproof, fashionable and cute boots. Boots that will see me through the Autumn and Winter. Boots that will keep those tootsies warm and dry and look after them for many a year to come. What's also needed is some realization from me. If I want all of the above, then I have to step away from Primark, get the wallet out and make a prime investment in a decent pair.

We all love that feeling of spotting a nice pair of flats / heels / boots in Primark for the rock bottom price of five quid. That feeling is multiplied when you see  your size is available and you think "It's my lucky day, I'mmaa gona buy allll the shoes!". However, fast forward 5 weeks, 6 days and 3 hours later and those so called bargain flats / heels / boots from Primark are pinching you to death and falling apart. Your five quid wasted and you, shoe-less, once more.

It's time to part with a bit more than five quid folks. It's time to be a sensible adult and buy sensible (but cute, dooon't forget the cute) shoes and to date, these have caught my eye.

From the top we have;

1 - ASOS Apostle Ankle Boots - £58
2 - River Island Riding Boots - £60
3 - ASOS Absence - £55
4 - Clarks Mojita Crush - £140
5 - ASOS Camden Boots - £85
6 - ASOS Cooper Boots - £85

I have to say, those ASOS Apostle Ankle boots are really catching my eye. They're really outside my usual style but I love the colour and design and £58 is a pretty good price. At push, I also wouldn't mind investing in those Clarks boots (number 4), pricy at £140 but you'd be guaranteed to get the wear from them.

What are you Autumn / Winter needs? Which boots take your fancy?

*Boots 1,2,3,5,6 all available via asos.co.uk*

27 October, 2013

Charity Shop Haul : Oxfam

I'll say it once, I'll say it twice...I'll even say it thrice!

The charity shops in Manchester are fan-freaking-tastic. In fact, looking at other bloggers who regularly mooch through charity shops in the UK, I'd say charity shops, in comparison to Ireland, are all round brilliant. They're full of hidden treasure, bargains and everything is just plain amazing. From the layout of the shops, to the display of all the products, I literally cannot get over the difference.

I've taken three charity shop trips in the last four weeks and each and every time, I've found something marvelous and which makes my heart go a flutter. I've left with bags (yes bags!) of items big and small and spent no more than £7 - £20 on each trip. This my friends, is my new weekend pleasure.

My first such charity shop haul is from Oxfam on Oxford Road. This amazing thing about this shop is that it is very conveniently located next door to where I work. Everything I bought here, I bought on my lunch break. The staff were very helpful and only delighted in my excitement of finding such lovely things. They also told me about two other Oxfam shops located 15 minutes from my apartment, Oxfam Emporium and Oxfam originals. (They're next on my hit list!)

I loved the layout of this shop. The volunteers putting their time into this shop do it with pride. Clothing was arranged beautifully, books were categorized into relevant sections and items for the home proudly displayed. For the record, they have a fantastic book selection. Probably because the shop is situated in an area which receives a large flow of student traffic and donations, so if you're a book worm, go check it out! The inner Art Teacher in me squealed inside at all the art books on the shelves.

Which brings me to my actual haul. I had a big collection of art books which I sent back up to my mum's house for storage before moving to Manchester, but I like to add to them and will continue to do so. I picked up the following:

- Ways of Seeing - John Berger / £3.49
- Banksy - Wall and Piece / £4.99 (Originally £14.99)
- Blog Inc - Blogging for Passion, Profit and to Create Community / £3.49 (Originally £10.99)
- How to Write Like This - An introduction to the art of Calligraphy / 99p

A few books for the art book collection and another handy one (Blog Inc) which may help me pick up a few useful tips. All in all, delighted with those finds.

I then ventured over to the home wares and jewellery section located just by. This is usually my favourite section. I love to find bits and bobs to decorate my living quarters with and as I've just moved into a bare apartment, I'm itching to find some unique items to add some a bit of character to the space.

I've taken to buying glassware over the last year or two. You can pop some candles into them, buy them in different colours or use them for storage. Either way, they're usually very cheap and found in most charity shops. This trip was no exception. I picked up a clear and green glass piece, both priced at £1 and a larger Jasper Conran storage jar, complete with lid for £3.49. I most likely with use the glass pieces for candles or make up brushes and the storage jar for my craft room.

You'll also spot a rather bright neon yellow necklace. Most likely from Primark or somewhere similar, for a quid I could not resist. I have a a bit of a weakness for bright, large, overstated necklaces and have gathered quite the collection over the year.

So thanks Oxfam, I think you've found a new, happy friend in me! 

23 October, 2013

Apartment Wishlist

I love our two bed apartment, I do.....but what I'd love more would be the opportunity to decorate it. The chance to dig out some paints and brushes and give it a real makeover and remove the sickly green colour that currently occupies the walls of the kitchen and living area. I really envy renters in New York and other american cities where you have the opportunity to decorate your apartment if you so wish without worrying that the landlord might withhold your deposit.

While our apartment is adequately decorated, it lacks character and certainly has the potential to be something better and more welcoming than it already is. I want to create an apartment with a personality that differs from every other modern apartment you see out there. One with a quirky streak, taste, style and lots of odd bits and bobs carefully sourced.An apartment that says as much about me as it does about the boy (who by the way, prefers to live as if our apartment is a show house. Think nothing on display, everything hidden away!). An apartment that is photo ready and memorable to those that visit her. (Yea, my apartment is a she!)

For now, my decorating wishlist will just have to live vicariously through a Pinterest board. Until I get myself to the next vintage flea market or charity shop that is, and source an original bargain or two! For the moment, I'll concentrate on adding touches of colour, here, there and everywhere in order to add that personal, bright feeling I just adore.

My  new obsession? Cushions and textiles!. Watch as you see a theme unfold...geometric shapes people. I'm not sure where that inspiration is coming from, but recently I've become very inspired by clean lines and the simplicity of the beautiful shape a triangle or pentagon can make. When printed in multiples it makes me happy, along with these pretty images.


I freaking love these geometric wall paintings. Different from your usual shade of applying just one colour, this method turns your walls into actual, interesting pieces of art. Dear Landlord, please let me try this!

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