31 Jan 2015

January was...colourful!

Yay! Photo grid!

It's funny, I always think of January as grey, cold and lasting forever, and, to be fair, it has been all those things, but this year it's also been full of change. I've met more new people and been to more new places in the last month than I have in ages. As well as being incredibly social, January's been highly productive, not only in terms of job searching and interviews but in my efforts to exercise regularly and set aside time to get on with creative bits and bobs.

However, before I get too carried away with how amazing I am, I must confess that the little list of things I set myself to do January didn't go so well...

1. Finish all three books that I'm currently in the middle of. Nope this didn't happen. I only finished one.
2. Send out remaining wedding 'Thank You' cards. I actually finished writing all the cards on my list but Mitch still has all his to do. Hopefully we'll get a load of them written tomorrow.
3. Complete my auntie and uncle's Christmas present. I still haven't finished it. I ran out of one of the colours and lost the number so, ordering more is going to be impossible, there are SO many different shades. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about this other than taking the half finished picture into the wool shop and holding it up to the tapestry threads to find a match...
4. Look into ISA rates as my one with Halifax is crap. Although I've not moved our savings, I have identified which bank I'll be switching to.
5. Go through un-opened post and file away anything important, bin the rest. Yup!
6. Make full use of Orange Wednesday codes every week in January as it's coming to an end and there's quite a few films I want to see (Birdman, Fox Catcher, Wild). I have now seen Birdman and Whiplash but without the Orange Wednesday code. Thankfully it's not coming to end until Feb 25th so I've got a bit of time left.
7. Get a game of badmington once a week. 3 out of 4 weeks isn't too bad.
8. Try one new veggie recipe every week. Massive fail. I only tried one but it is a goodie which I'll definitely be making again.
9. Buy black tights. Yup but I could always do with a couple more pairs.
10. Oh, and, decent ones permitting, apply for jobs, two a day at least. I've been proper on it in terms of applying for jobs and I've even had a few interviews. I've got some freelance work to be getting on with as well as my shifts in the charity shop but the search for a job continues.

Hope you've had a colourful January too!

29 Jan 2015

things to consider when unemployed & job searching

1. Do not sit around in your pyjamas all day (it's only OK at weekends, if you're sick or on "holiday").

2. Do not eat biscuits all day. It has no effect on your success rate.

3. Do not watch day-time television (it will rot your mind and possibly remind you of care-free university days when you would watch the same episode of neighbours twice in one day - once after doctors and secondly before the simpsons. That was cool then, not now. All you're missing are endless "antiques-in-the-attic-let's-sell-some-old-shit" programs and a constant stream of adverts for really "caring and nice" (read: evil and will bleed you dry) money-lending sites).

4. Do have a shower, get dressed, brush your teeth and be "ready for work" at a reasonable hour (9:30 am seems fair).

5. Make a plan or a to-do list for the day to give yourself some structure. The plan can include job-search related things (such as applying for jobs *duh* & preping for interviews) but also life admin ('do some washing' is a nice easy one to tick off your list).

6. Identify your most productive time of day (before midday for me) and assign the more taxing things (such as writing a cover letter) to that time of day. 

7. Remember to do some fun stuff too. Give yourself little rewards (e.g half an hour of reading or knitting) for when you complete an application. 

8. Go outside everyday, even if it's just to the corner shop and it's pissing with rain. It's important to change your scenery and you need the fresh air.

9. Take regular breaks from your screen – eat lunch, call your grandad – time-outs are important.

10. Exercise. For me, jogging allows me to have a good think, things to include in cover letters for example.

11. If you can, go to the free exhibitions that you've been meaning to visit. As a Londoner weekend museum and gallery visits are a no-no so it's a good idea to use this rare weekday free-time.

12. See people. Make (cheap) dates - dinner at friend's house, a walk around the park, tea at your nan's.

13. Volunteer somewhere, even if it's only one day a week. It gets you out of the house, makes you meet new (and talk to) new people and looks good on your CV.

14. Stay positive. This unemployment thing ain't going to last forever.

It's not been that long (about 4-5 weeks) and I don't in anyway think I'm an expert, but these 14 things are keeping me from going mad. Any other tips are most certainly welcome :)

26 Jan 2015

at the moment

★ Eating: waaaaay too many biscuits.

★ Drinking: waaaaay too much tea.

★ Reading: The Miniaturist for next week's blookclub.

★ Watching: The Newsroom (season 3), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (season 2), Twin Peaks (season 2).

★ Wearing: mostly my new shoes bought in the Office sale (pictured above. I love them).

★ Writing: so many applications and cover letters. Bleuuuurgh.

★ Looking forward to: a trip to Essex on Wednesday to see my friend and her gorgeous bubba.

★ Listening to: Brownlow by Lapsley (I am obsessed).

★ Volunteering: in one of the charity shops down my high street. Oh man, it's been an eye-opener.

★ Making: a really conscious effort to stick to the 5k running coach on my Nike app. So far so good.

What are you up to?

23 Jan 2015

A long weekend in Dorset

Our weekend of pure luxury began on Thursday night. Our friend Tom picked us up in the most fancy range rover I've ever seen (with a roof which was basically one giant window - Jurassic Park cars!), plied us with champagne and good conversation whilst driving us down to Dorset. Hetty, (the other mastermind behind our fabulous weekend) was waiting for us at her parents lovely cottage. And what followed was the most chilled weekend EVER, full of delicious food and seriously stunning scenery. You'll have to excuse the picture overload.

Friday started with a huge fry-up made using lots of local indregients - eggs, bacon, (goose and plum!) sausages. Then we headed out to West Bay (where Broadchurch is filmed) to walk it all off. West Bay has some amazing cliffs made of very soft rock indeed (it's known to collapse, so walking along the top near the edge is not advised). We took to the beach, before walking along the pier and around the harbour. By this point we all fancied some fish'n'chips but, as it was out of season, West Bay was a bit of a ghost town. Instead we went to a chippy outside of Yeovil (which had a massive queue outside it - always a good sign in my opinion), took our spoils home, drank beer and watched the best shit film I know.

On Saturday we drove to Lyme Regis - walked along the cob, mooched about the town, ate an icecream, discovered an excellent "antique and craft" shop along the sea-front and an awesome bookshop which contained, along with an incredibly electic book selection, a self playing piano! The evening was spent in The Masons Arms in Lower Odcombe eating A LOT of v.good food including amazing muscles.

Sunday was my favourite day. We drove to the stretch of coast just east of West Bay and dropped in on Hive Beach Cafe. If you ever find yourself Burton Bradstock way you need to visit. The food was seriously lush (I had haddock benedict which I can deffo reccomend), both savoury and sweet (SUCH good cakes). They also make their own cider and beer. Bellies full, we walked further east along the cliff tops before wandering down to the beach and heading back to the car. Our last port of call in Dorset before the journey back to London was Eggardon Hill. It's a National Trust site which bears the remains of an iron-age hill fort, oh and the views from it are freaking insane. We reached the hill just before sunset so the shadows and lighting made it even more beautiful. The pictures I took do not do it justice.

So there you have it, the most amazing wedding gift from two very awesome friends (I can not thank them enough).

Go, go to Dorset, it's ace.

20 Jan 2015

made: needlepoint stegosaurus

Whilst I was am still making my auntie and uncle's christmas present, I fancied doing a bit of experimenting with patterns (their needlepoint picture is pretty much just three colours which gets a little boring after a while). This is what materialised.
Looking at it now I wish I'd stitched the whole of the background in colour, leaving the stegosaurus all white instead of the half and half thing (which, incidentally was one of my favourite ways to colour-in as a child, I thought it was v.cool). But oh well, I'll find a home for this little guy somewhere. Now the dinosaur distraction is finished I really should crack on with the christmas present!

15 Jan 2015

the illustrated packing list: a long weekend in Dorest

This evening Mitch and I are cashing in on one of our wedding gifts. Two of our fabulous friends have not only invited us down to one their parents' cottages in Dorset but are also driving us there! The weather's not looking too great this weekend but I'm sure we'll get to go for a walk or two, even if it's just to the nearest country pub. I still need to finish packing so I'll wish you a bon weekend now. 

11 Jan 2015

fun breakfast #7

The internet is awesome isn't it? Stupid question but I'm particularly chuffed with it this weekend, Instagram especially, because this happened...

Yesterday I instagramed a picture of my fun breakfast (scrambled egg, avocado and tomato on toast - one of my go-to breakfast combos).

Five hours later I'm checking Instagram and see this!

One of my all time favourite people, Alex, who moved back to his native Michigan in August last year and who I miss tonnes, took a picture of his eggy-avo-tomato combo breakfast :)

I realise this isn't amazing news but it felt really cool. Even though he's hundreds of miles away, for just a little bit, all those miles didn't exist.

Thanks internet.

8 Jan 2015

TOFT bear

As a little Christmas present to myself I ordered Toft's polar bear kit (opting for chestnut wool rather than the suggested cream) and spent the evenings between Christmas and new year cosied up in front of the fire crocheting away.

After a couple of fasle starts (and all I needed to do was watch all the v.helpful tutorials on the Toft website) the pattern was actually super simple to follow. Although the original white polar bear is cute, I'm really pleased with how my little brown bear turned out. Also, he's the first 3D thing I've crocheted successfully!
I reckon he'd make a lovely gift for a little one. I'm quite tempted to make a charcoal one, or possibly try one of the other animals in Edward's Menagerie - I especially love the wolf, tiger and highland cow (but that last one looks a but tricky). I wouldn't mind a visit to the alpaca farm too...

Oh yeah, I also knitted my bear a little moss stitch scarf, just because.

5 Jan 2015

2015 - let's plan :)

I've been living in a bit of a bubble for the last four days. A bubble which consisted of pyjama-wearing, movie watching, mario kart playing and biscuit eating - Mitch hadn't been well, you see, and I was keeping him company. You'll notice that 'thinking about goals for the year' didn't feature in that bubble which is why I'm writing this today.

So, there really is only one ultimate goal for 2015:

To move out of my parents' house, preferably (and fingers crossed) into our very first home.

No biggy.

As well as aiming to purchase the most expensive thing I've ever bought and enter the most adult and scary contract that exists (to my mind that's what a mortgage is), I have a few other things I what to focus on in 2015.

Career - as I am currently jobless, finding permanent work is high on my list of priorities. I'd also like to see if I can score some more craft commission work. Being paid to knit was cool.

Health - This time last year I was feeling pretty good, exercising regularly, drinking lots of water, eating healthy (or at least in moderation) and then I moved back home and it all went to shit. (I mostly blame the fact that there are no affordable gyms anywhere close to where I live but it's actually because I am lazy.) 2014 was definitely a year-long fall off the wagon. So, this year I've set myself a target: to be active (whether it be badmington, zumba, a run, swimming, anything that gets me off my butt) 3 times a week. That doesn't sound like much but it's going to be a challenge for me (NB: I am lazy) especially during the winter months. I also want to cut down on my bread and meat in-take. (I blame my lack of will-power and a kitchen full of food for the over-indulgence of both of these in 2014).

Travel - The plan is to visit a whole bunch of places that I've never been before - Scotland (Ben Nevis needs climbing afterall) and Ireland (the west coast beckons) for a start. Mitch and I booked our trip to Iceland whilst in our little bubble (gaaaad I'm so excited!) but there may be a couple more trips abroad before the year is out...we shall see!

Making - It's no secret, I love making stuff and this year I fully intend to continue my love affair with crafting. I plan to give screen-printing a go, make a baby quilt for my cousin's buba, attempt to knit another jumper and do a bit more dress-making, specifically tops which could be worn throughout the year, I really do lack these. My collection of craft materials has grown beyond my means to contain it, a 'use it or lose it' rule might need to be imposed in 2015. Failing that, a spending ban on new stuff until I've used up what I've got should probably help.

I realise that these goals are all quite broad and thus, likely to fail, but fear not! I'm also setting myself positive things to do each month, similar to Sarah's excellent idea. So here is my January to do list:

1. Finish all three books that I'm currently in the middle of.
2. Send out remaining wedding 'Thank You' cards (yes, my wedding was almost 5 months ago and yes, I am the worst bride ever).
3. Complete my auntie and uncle's Christmas present (yes, I'm also the worst gift-giver).
4. Look into ISA rates as my one with Halifax is crap.
5. Go through un-opened post and file away anything important, bin the rest.
6. Make full use of Orange Wednesday codes every week in January as it's coming to an end and there's quite a few films I want to see (Birdman, Fox Catcher, Wild).
7. Get a game of badmington once a week.
8. Try one new veggie recipe every week.
9. Buy black tights.
10. Oh, and, decent ones permitting, apply for jobs, two a day at least.

Doable I reckon :)

2 Jan 2015

the year that was 2014

There was never a dull moment in 2014 and so the rollercoaster metaphor has never felt more appropriate, not only in terms of speed but also that whole 'highs and lows' reference. Let's start with the best bits.

It goes without saying that the ultimate high of 2014 was getting married. I know I tend to get super soppy when I talk about Mitch, but he really is flipping ace and being husband and wife is bloody cool. Anyway, getting back to the day, our wedding was easily the best day of 2014.
It was a great year for travelling, particularly around this fair island. Thanks to the fact that my lovely friend Lauren is happy to drive for hours and hours, I enjoyed weekends in the Lake District, Pembrokeshire and Falmouth. Throw in the honeymoon in Cornwall and a couple of city day trips (York, Birmingham, Bath & Cambridge), I think I did rather well this year. I also had a super cheap and fun few days in Budapest wih my sis back in April.

2014 was a very productive year in terms of crafting. I knitted a scarf for Mitch (and another for me), finished my granny square blanket, tried my hand at needlepoint and felt, made my 4th quilt, completed three dresses and knitted my first ever bobble hat. Also, as a bonus, the wedding encouraged me to try a variety of crafty things (I might do a few posts on them at some point).

I got to see a lot of cool shiz last year, favourites included: Secret Cinema's screening of Back to the Future, Pixies at Victoria Park, a Spurs game at the Lane and a tour of East London's street art.

Now for the not so great bits. In November my nana died. She'd had dementia for a few years and it'd had a devastating effect on her day-to-day life. But, I have so many great memories of her from before the dementia took hold. Her funeral was tough but beautiful, a real celebration of her amazing 91 years.

There's been a lot of big life changes in 2014 - getting married, moving back home, being made redundant. Getting married, in some ways, felt progressive, a thought towards my future at the very least. The latter two changes have, at times, seemed like two steps backwards. Of course, moving in with the parents is a temporary thing and a means to an end but it's not all plain sailing. And although the transition to another job was almost seamless back in October, my short time at the charity was just that, a short-term contract and it finished before Christmas. Still, it could be worse, being unemployed whilst at living at my parents' means that at least I don't have to worry about paying rent!

I can't end this post on a bum-note as 2014 definitely didn't end that way. Yes, some aspects of my life are a little uncertain (aren't everybody's?) but, armed with a hella lot of positivity, I'm ready for all the opportunities and possibilites 2015 has in store for me.
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