Tag Archives: Lifestyle

We’re back!

Well, we’re on our way back. As it turns out, when you don’t check on your blog for awhile, there’s a fair amount of housekeeping and maintenance to do before you can get up and running again properly (1,500 unapproved comments binned, 19,963 to go – I’m not even exaggerating).

So, where have we been? We’ve been pretty busy between one thing and another: working hard, not really playing hard but at least picking up some new hobbies, which you’ll hear more about soon, namely the wonderful game of curling and a more advanced level of gardening. For some reason, there never seems to be enough time to do everything we want to while keeping a clean and tidy house and trying to get enough sleep. It can’t be just us, right? Who actually has time to watch Love Island or any other TV show that’s on every day?! Especially when you have an awesome little black labrador who needs feeding and walking twice a day.

Inspiration struck and we’re going to have another go at this here blog. I seem to spend an hour and a half a day cooking anyway!

Cards on the table, I forgot my password. Charles, tech guru that he is, managed to break me back in and we’ve got a bit of boring stuff to do before we can come back full guns blazing, but are at least planning a re-design, which should make things a bit more visually appealing.

We’ll see you soon for more recipes and random ramblings about things we like, maybe some books, interior design (we’re starting to look at paint and flooring for our new house), what we’ve learned from our vegetable patch and maybe even some photography from the very talented husband. Keep an eye on our Instagram in the meantime. AB out.

 Sunday Chat

I just wanted to have a little catch up with all you lovely people to touch base about life in general and to say thank you to everyone who has supported me so far. 

  
If you’ve read my “After my Exams”post, you’ll know that studying for professional qualifications after work has taken up a lot of my free time. But now I’m finished, and I’m taking a well-earned break, and that leaves me free to dedicate more time and energy to a lot of things, but particularly my blog. Just this morning I’ve decided to sort out my Twitter account and start using it again, as well as trying really hard to get better at scheduling my posts, although I’m not entirely sure sticking to the same upload days is necessary (I’m not a YouTube sensation after all). 

I’m also going to take some time to consider hosting outside of Word Press, as well as thinking about how to make the leap to YouTube eventually. 

  
On Saturday, I’ll be taking part in my very first collaborative post, which I’m really excited about. It was spearheaded by a lovely lady, Siobhan, who has a fantastic beauty blog, Beautyandthelook and who basically out herself out there with a shout out to anyone who fancied joining in. So on Saturday, Siobhan, myself, Jennifer, Becca-Louise, Karen and BunniesBlanketsandBandanas will each be blogging about our top 5 Christmas party essentials – it’s really exciting for me to be part of, if for no other reason that it’s put me in touch with some lovely bloggers who have great blogs. That will be dropping at 6pm on Saturday 28th November if you’re interested. 

  
I’ve had a bit of a mixed bag this week after having an amazing long weekend with Mr Brooker, seeing two great bands (Truckstop Honeymoon and Beans on Toast) at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh after last Friday night, and then  Will Varley, Skinny Lister and Frank Turner at Newcastle uni on Saturday night before having some quality time being spoiled rotten by my wonderful husband-to-be.

  
Then it was back to work with a heavy heart and a scratch throat, only for that to develop into a horrid cold, then a cough, meaning I’ve been off work Thursday afternoon and Friday. I’m starting to feel a bit better now thankfully, however that’s been replaced by my right eye having a horrific allergic reaction to my parents’ central heating. All of that and a dozen lectures from my Mum about being “too thin”. 

This is something I want to take some time to address because it’s an issue that affects a lot of people, throughout the ages. I’ve always been chubby, curvy, whatever you want to call it. A UK size 12 on the bottom and a 14 on top, which might seem great to plenty of you until you add in the fact that I’m under 5′ 2″. I love food, you know that, of course, and yet I’ve never quite been 100% happy with my body. I loved having a decent cleavage, but I hated the cellulite on my thighs, my seemingly immovable muffin top and bingo wings, and I have been making numerous attempts with varying degrees of effort over the years to get into better shape.

  
I’m asthmatic, so exercise has always been a difficult concept for me, but I got into regular workouts when I moved into my own place last February. Davina’s workout DVDs were hard, but ultimately fruitless, although I suppose I shifted a few pounds by lightening my lunches a little and making breakfast bars for work. It was Jillian Michaels‘ 30 Day Shred which finally got my muscles to take shape and burned off some of that fat. After repeating that for a few months I was starting to get a lot happier about how I looked but also about how I felt. So I stepped up the healthy eating. 

I’m not going to call it a diet, because it’s not. It’s just a better way of eating. It’s not  even that super-healthy. I’ve swapped white rice and pasta for whole grain, stopped snacking on biscuits at work although they still sometimes sneak in, cut down on bread and increased the number of fruits and vegetables I eat. It’s not Paleo or clean eating or anything like that. It’s just being a bit more careful about what I stuff in my pie hole. I have a full fat yoghurt for breakfast every weekday, fruit to snack, then a homemade soup or salad for lunch, followed by more fruit. When I get home at night, I work out (I’m now doing Blogilates, which has kept up and built upon Jillian’s hard work, without there being too much off-putting cardio) and spend some time making a healthy supper of the type you see on my blog. I eat good portions. At bed time, I have a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits. If I bake, I’ll eat cake. If I’m eating out, as long as it’s not too often, I’ll eat pizza, pasta, bread, pudding and I’ll have wine.

 
I’m not hungry all the time and I’m not too thin. I’ve dropped down to a 10 on the bottom and a 12 on the top and people keep telling me how great I look. And I feel a whole lot better about the idea of prancing about in a wedding dress next May. I’m not trying to show-off here, I’m just trying to work-out when it became ok to tell someone they’re too thin, but still it’s rude to tell someone they’re too fat. I mean, it’s not like I’m Cheryl Cole.
  
Anyway, I’m off to put my glasses on and cook until I feel a whole lot better, before tucking into some fresh fruit and then a cup of coffee and one of my Nana’s cupcakes. Hope I didn’t bore you too much!

When My Exams Are Over….

This time next week, I’ll have finished my dreaded, life stealing CII Personal Finance exams, trying to forget about the impending results as I attempt to become a Chartered Financial Planner (funnily enough the results are due on the day of the firm’s Christmas party). I’ve been working on these exams for 5 years now, alongside my full-time job, though I’ve been qualified as a Financial Adviser for 3 of those. Now it’s time to try to secure the holy grail “Chartered” title by completing the Advanced Diploma, even though I’m going to stay well and truly behind my desk in the back office, there’s more and more pressure on us technical kids to be as qualified as we possibly can. And if you want to get anywhere, you have to work at it, right?

  
It’s boring. It’s unexciting. And it’s not easy. The course materials are dry. The text is quite literally grey. And they make it as difficult as they can for you to pass because the materials and exam sittings go for over £100 a pop for each module. Because it’s so dry and so difficult, the process has been stealing a lot of my free time. And, finally, after two 3-hour exams next week, I should be free. Unless I fail.

When I struggle to concentrate, I find my mind drifting to all the things I could be doing with my time, so I thought I’d share some of my autumn/winter plans with you, even if it’s just to stop them swimming around my mind! It’s quite therapeutic to think about all the things you’re looking forward to!

  
1. Cook more! At the beginning of the year, I started this blog to give me the motivation to keep trying new recipes. And it was going really really well, until my evenings became too squashed up to really let me think about my grocery list and take the time to approach things in a chilled and creative way. So back to the kitchen! 

2. Have a clear out. I’ve been trying to systematically tidy my flat every few months or so, this drawer one evening, that cupboard on a Sunday afternoon, and so on, but I just haven’t had the time over the last few months, so I’ve really just been keeping the place clean and tidy in plain sight. If I pass these exams, my study materials are hitting the recycling, my clothes are going to be thinned out and my junk is going in the bin. It’s going to take some work, but I’m really looking forward to the calmness of the results.

  
3. Take up Yoga. I used to take yoga classes when I was but a girl, but it fizzled out fairly quickly when my auntie got bored of taking me and I’ve had a mild inclination to start again ever since. I’ve never really been one for exercise, so yoga suited me down to the ground, but now I’m a bit fitter and into regularly pushing myself, I think it might be time to start again, especially as my Blogilates routines and leaving me a little stiff in the late evenings and mornings. I’ve been doing Blogilates for about 2 months now and I really think it’s doing wonders for my strength…we’ll see if it survives the long-term! Anyway, I’ve discovered Yoga with Adriene, a YouTuber who offers free Yoga “practice” (as she calls it). There are beginners tutorials, foundations to the trickier moves and also a 30 day series which I think I might try. She also has a couple of early morning routines as well as a bedtime routine, which is where I might start. I think there are other classes you can pay for, but you can’t really go wrong with this taster, which looks to require about 30 minutes a day. 

   
4. Read. I love reading. Adore it. Especially in the autumn and winter when it’s so cold outside, but so snug and cosy inside. Sadly, there just isn’t the time when you have two tricky exams to cram for. I actually got so excited about the prospect of the pile of books waiting for me that I came vey close to a Busted style jump looking in the window of WH Smith the other day when I remembered I’d get my hobby back. Bliss, bliss, bliss.

  
5. Plan my wedding. Yeah, I should probably get on to that.

  
6. Crafting and Sewing. My sewing machine is feeling neglected. And who doesn’t love a Christmas craft?!

7. Give more time to friends and family. While the positive result of frantic studying is that I really don’t have time to watch Strictly with my Nan, I really need to be less miserable about giving up my time… It’s just so precious when you work full-time and have lots of other things going on. 

8. Go on holiday! Hopefully with a blog to follow. Don’t worry; I plan to schedule a few to fill the gap!

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

Sundays seem like a day for blogging. Sundays are for getting lunches and clothes ready for work, yes, but they’re also about snatching those last precious free weekend hours for yourself. Sundays are for reading, for baking for cooking. And soon, Sundays will be for watching a film, with a cup of tea and a blanket. Bliss. 

My Sunday started with a ridiculously long lie-in which I’m both ashamed of and at peace with. If you don’t have to set an alarm, it’s healthy to sleep for as long as your mind and body will you to. Every now and again. I felt guilty about it at first, but I still managed to have my grocery shopping done and packed away by 12.30 so it’s not all bad. 

  
Today’s food haul involved replenishing some bakery supplies, stocking up on fruit and veg for the week ahead, and finding some protein-rich goodies to base some weekday meals around. Mr Brooker will be very cross indeed when he realises I’ve strayed from prudently choosing recipes and shopping for them, but I just didn’t have the time or inclination I had last weekend, so I’ll be making it up as I go along this week. That said, I do know I have the ingredients for pad thai, which is no longer new to me but is infinitely satisfying. I do have some recipes from last week to share though so worry not. 

My day went a bit off course from there, however, as my aunt texted me to invite me for an impromptu lunch. So I shoved the rest of my shopping on the fridge, ran my straighteners through my hair, changed my top and hit the street for a wonderful warm duck salad, wine and coffee. I know, I know, that isn’t the way to whittle your waist into a wedding dress, but I’ve made my peace with it today. After all, I could have had a pizza! I grabbed some water as soon as I got back and have resolved to replace my planned ribeye steak and corn supper with something leaner. Besides, it means I’ll skip my Sunday coffee and small chocolate biscuit later on. 

Pushing back my workout until my food has digested, I’ve been hitting the books ever since. I’m now two exam passes and an application away from becoming a Chartered Financial Planner, and that means a lot of time spend looking at words, numbers and charts. 

  
Not to worry, eight more pages then I can get back to this lovely piece of ice cream and jelly (that’s what my English teacher used to call chick lit – there’s a time and a place for it as long as you finish your meat and two veg).

  
Then workout, Nashville and who knows. 

By the way, I noticed Vivianna blogged a week or so ago about how to get out of an exercise rut. I’ve dropped a dress size by combining Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred with No More Trouble Zones, and I’m considering jumping into Blogilates given we’re nearly at a new workout calendar month but I’m a little be scared since Jillian has been so good to me. I’ve switched over to Blogilates for two workouts this week and have found that I spend more time on it but that the time seems to go much more quickly when I’m doing it, if that makes sense. I’m just worried I won’t get enough cardio in. I’d love to hear about your experiences if anyone has anything they can recommend!

Anyway, I’m off to do my eight pages! Catch you later, lovely followers. 

June Lifestyle Favourites! 

I thought I’d take some time to let you all know about some of the other things I’ve enjoyed over the last month or so because sadly there are only so many times in a day you can put your make up on or cook a meal!

There are probably lots of things I’ve forgotten, but these are the ones that stick out most prominently in my mind!
I’ve already covered the make-up and skincare products in my June 2015 Favourites post, but I thought they added to the photo so I’ve left them in!

   
So, número uno: fruit and yoghurts. As you may know, I’ve been making a real effort this year to eat healthily. I used to be one of those naughty people who never ate breakfast. Partly because I’m not a morning person, and partly because I’d rather save the calories for a mid-morning chocolate biscuit. Nevertheless, I started off with homemade granola bars and moved on to yoghurts. Only these yoghurts by Yeo Valley though. They are nice and thick and come with lots of organic bio live bacteria so they’re good and healthy to help get your metabolism going to set you up for the day. The strawberry ones and lemon curd ones are the best though in my opinion! (The strawberry ones taste like petit filous). They are over 100 calories each, but much better for you than the chocolate biscuit you really want and they constitute pretty much the only dairy I have in the week. 

  
If I’m starting to get peckish at around 10.30 or so, it’s time for a nectarine or a peach. I’m still trying to discover whether they form separate pieces of your 5 a day, given they are the same species but not quite exactly the same, but whatever they are, they taste like summer.  Be careful though as apparently they are both diuretic and laxative!

  
Shoes! Lovely, lovely shoes! One of my best friends is getting married at the end of the month and it promises to be quite the society hoopla. I bought a pale green (described as “aqua”) dress a couple of months ago for the event, but didn’t think through how difficult it would be to find coordinating shoes, especially as the white underslip made anything nude or metallic look a bit odd when worn together. I’ve orders white (which turned out to be snake skin and were sent back) and also beautiful glittering towering peep toes with bejewelled heels, but they turned out to be a goldy bronze colour when champagne was promised, so back they went too. Finally, I found these bad boys, and for the princely sum of £15! They are Dorothy Perkins via Debenhams, and, although they are described as being pale blue got some reason, they are a lovely minty green colour that is just about right when worn a calf’s distance from the dress. Now I just need to find a bag…..

  
Despite buying a really nice TV and sound system and subscribing to Virgin Media, I spend a lot of time watching box sets on Netflix or LoveFilm (I know, I know, it’s called “Amazon Instant Video” these days but I just can’t handle that), mostly because I can watch on my iPad which will happily follow me around my flat and is great for when I’m cooking. Naturally, I gravitated to Orange is the New Black earlier this year, so was delighted to hear the third series was out. As billed, the first few episodes weren’t quite as compelling as the first two seasons, but by the end, in that typically Jenji Cohen way, I was hooked again. Now to wait another year…..

If you’ve seen it, let me know what you think!

  
Finally, paper roses! I learned how to make these by watching several YouTube tutorials and played around with different ways to do things. I’m now hooked and desperate to try to make them from other types of paper. These glossy ones were made using pages from an old Edinburgh Fringe festival brochure, but I have since made a couple of smaller ones from book pages which are completely adorable (if I do say so myself). 

Let me know if you’d like to see a tutorial on my method.

  
I have quite a few things going on in July so will try to do some more of these lifestyle blogs but would love to hear whether you find them interesting or if you’d rather have more food!