Personal: 2017 Goals, Month by Month

A bit belated perhaps, but after my month off I need a good ole kick up the ass and motivation boost. You see, I didn’t just give myself a month off from blogging. I had two weeks off work, a good chunk of time away from studying, and even took a fitness break. In fact, pretty much the only thing I didn’t take a break from was eating excessive amounts of chocolate.

 photo 2017 Goals_zps78affijh.jpgNormally my New Year’s Day looks like this – I’ll take the dog out for a good walk to clear my head, and I’ll sit with a bucket full of tea and think about my resolutions. This year had other plans for me, and the day wasn’t spent thinking about myself, but spending time with my family, being there for each other and reminiscing. And I kinda carried on in that vein for a few weeks. Nothing wrong with it, but when I started to get behind on study, when I returned to work and struggled to get anything in the evenings, I knew I had to set some goals. And fast.

This year I’ve done it a little differently. I’ve not set resolutions for the whole year. I’ve set a few fun year-long goals, but mostly I’ve worked month-by-month. Concentrating on some more specific goals for just 30 days seems a whole lot more achievable, and who knows – the habit might stick by the end of month!

 photo 2017-01-22 22.00.57_zpsrwokriis.jpgJanuary – Plan all my meals in advance at the weekend. Drink at least 5 glasses of water throughout the work day. Only eat canteen lunches once a week. And get my shit together and get organised!

Update (5 Feb) – I can kill two birds with one stone in this post, and review how I got on over January. As Will was away I had to be doubly organised with meals and so I did plan every meal – and only ate in the canteen twice overall. I think most days I drank 5 glass of water, never less than 4 plus fruit tea anyway. And I feel a little more organised, so I’ll count last month as a success!

February – Post on Instagram at least twice a day. Learn to make marshmallows. Only eat pasta once a fortnight.

March – Do at least two hours of study every day (you can tell my exams are in April!). Eat two vegetarian dinners a week.

 photo 2017-01-22 11.08.24_zps7oebi6tc.jpgApril – Do all possible prep for dinner the night before. Go out for fresh air every lunchtime. “No spend” month, with no purchases of makeup, skincare, clothes or shoes.

May – Do a workout everyday (maybe start the C25K again…). Visit somewhere new every weekend. Leave my phone in my bag whilst at work.

June – Wash my makeup brushes every week. Push myself at work (June is a big month for presentations, which is my worst fear, so this is a big one!).

 photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 2_zps8s9qgfnh.jpgJuly – Eat something ‘raw’ at least once a day (July will be the month of the salad!). Bulk take blog photos at the weekends. Look into learning how to row.

August – Get off the tube early at least 3 days a week and walk. Don’t buy in ice-cream, only eat it at home if I’ve made it. Don’t touch my phone after 9pm.

September – Do at least two hours of study every day (more exams at the end of September). Leave my Kindle untouched until my exam is over.

October – Cook a new recipe at least twice a week. Do some serious wedding planning (I’ll be hitting the 1 year countdown, how scary is that?!). Only drink one cup of tea a day.

 photo Report Done_zpsevlcr5tk.jpgNovember – Up my social media game. Prep at least one blog post an evening (3 nights a week). Learn something new (maybe knitting – because I’ve not been saying that for years!). Cut down from having sugar in my tea.

December – Volunteer my time over Christmas. Take some time away from social media to concentrate on my family. Keep up a fitness regime over the festive period.

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And my year-long goals? I want to try each month’s flavours of Cronut at Dominique Ansel (though November’s is still my favourite so far!). I want to get more organised, both in and out of work. I want to meet up with more blog friends, see my uni friends more, socialise a little more with people from work. Here’s to 2017 being better than it started!

What goals are you working on this year?

Lifestyle: Feeling 23 (+25 before 25)

Cliched I know, but I genuinely feel like my life is flashing by before my eyes!

This time last year I was battling my way through the final year of my degree, sobbing my heart out with each final-stage job rejection and confused as to why W was acting secretly and my mum was hardly talking to me. Fast forward to now. I graduated with a First (and by a good margin too!), got offered two graduate jobs, am working in a job I love, and I’m living in London with my fiancé. Because a secretive long-term boyfriend and a shift mum meant a proposal was in motion, of course! I look back to last November/December and I just can’t believe how much my life has changed. I’m pretty much a full blown adult!

 photo 2016-11-12 14.00.47_zpsr1nyghen.jpg(I say that wearing my PJs, whilst drinking a hot chocolate that’s more marshmallows than drink…)

I turned 23 yesterday and it got me thinking – I have so much I want to do, several different bucket lists, and I really should start getting them ticked off. It also made me realise that life is passing me by quickly. In under two years I’ll be married and, whilst that in itself is the start of something very exciting, I equally want to make the most of these next two years, of being engaged and of having slightly less of those big scary responsibilities!

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  1. Get married. At least I know I’ll tick something off!
  2. Get a dog. Or at least set up a doggy share…
  3. Be at least a little bit closer to buying a house.
  4. Visit America.
  5. Paint a painting.
  6. Make good progress with my professional exams – finishing them is looking very unlikely unfortunately!
  7. Go on a tour of the Scottish Highlands.
  8. Visit Bruges.
  9. Host a proper, grown-up dinner party.
  10. Learn to row.
  11. Learn to knit.
  12. Cook an Eggs Benedict for myself.
  13. Make my own sausages.
  14. Grow (and maintain) some plants. With no accidental murders…
  15. Start running. And get past a few miles without injuring myself.
  16. Cook Pork Pilbil – my favourite Wahaca dish.
  17. Create a tomato-free BBQ sauce.
  18. Make all my bread from scratch.
  19. Revisit Switzerland.
  20. Go to Disneyland.
  21. Find my ‘ultimate’ burger.
  22. See a Highland Cow in the flesh (fur?).
  23. Host Christmas dinner.
  24. Volunteer. I’m planning on helping out at a ‘Supper Circle’ in the new year, cooking meals for families in need.
  25. Go glamping. I’m not into tents, but something a bit more glamorous might be more my cup of tea…

A bit of a varied list! Who knows if I’ll be able to afford some of the bigger items, and right now I cannot imagine hosting Christmas dinner in our little flat (where would everyone go?!). But I’m going to try my damn hardest to tick as many of these off as I can before I turn 25. Note that finding a grey hair is not on the list!
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Being 22 turned out to be the best year of my life, and I’m hoping the rest of my twenties continue along in the same vein! What do you want to tick off in the next few years?

Lifestyle: September Goals

My last month of ‘freedom’ before returning to university for final year, I want t make the most of September. With that in mind I’ve set myself up with a couple of little challenges. Mini resolutions if you will. There’s lots more bits I want to do. I want to bake more, I want to get out for a few runs (though this involves buying some more running tights and Sports Direct is not somewhere I wish to visit!), I want to throw myself into final year and go to all lectures. But here’s my realistic September goals;
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Shrink my Wardrobe

I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of clothes I have, and it’s also fair to say that very few of them actually fit me properly! My plan over the next few weeks is to work out what I have, what fits, what should be taken to university and what I can get rid of. It’s not going to be an easy task!

Read Over Second Year Notes

I took a particularly nasty module in Second Year, of which I have Part II to do in my final year. A 13-month placement means I can’t remember a word of it, so my plan is to definitely go over the content. Ideally I’d like to do an hour a day to make sure I understand the first part thoroughly and get a bit of a headstart on the new bits. What can I say, I’m a mathlete!
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Go for Brunch

I’ve lived in London for nearly two months and I still haven’t been to brunch. I keep making my own pancakes instead, good for my purse, not so much my brunch craving. It’s my goal to have one lazy breakfast before we leave, so recommendations people!

Set up a Budgeting Spreadsheet

Whilst I’ve never been bad at budgeting, I’ve never ran out of money, I’ve not really been spectacular at it! I get by, I manage, but I’m sure I could work better with a decent spreadsheet. It’s strange, I used Excel so much at work, I have an Excel tool that bulk renames blog photos, but do I build spreadsheets for anything else?! Nada. Oops…
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Kick my Phone Internet Addiction

I’m finally admitting it, I have a problem. My phone is constantly glued to my hand, I’m always checking my emails, my Bloglovin feed, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook…I don’t even regularly use my own accounts, but I love snooping on others. Well enough is enough, it’s got to stop. I’ve made good headway already by banning my phone apart from dedicated hours whilst in Devon, and I’m turning WiFi off as much as possible when I’m in the flat.

And that’s it, my main goals for the month. It goes without saying that I want to enjoy the time I have left with W before we head off back to our respective universities, I don’t even need to say that I want to kick off the final year living with my girls with a blast. All in all, I’m pretty buzzing for a fab September!

What do you want to achieve in the next month? Do you set yourself mini goals throughout the year, or just continue working towards year’s resolutions?

Lifestyle: 30 Before 30

At the age of 21, turning 30 seems a long way away – until I realise that I’ve been with W for five years and it’s gone in the blink of an eye. Scary stuff. I saw this post on the lovely Libby’s blog and decided to use it to inspire my own ’30 before 30′ bucket list.
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  1. Graduate – I certainly hope I’ll have graduated this time next year! I’d like to set myself classification goals here, but in reality I’m trying hard not to pile the pressure on myself and just do as well as possible.
  2. Establish my Career – again one I hope to achieve in the next year. I’m set on my career path, but now it is just a case of getting that first job!
  3. Qualify as an Actuary – so, my career path! I’m setting myself up for another few years of exams (plus three years of work-based skills) but fingers crossed I’ll qualify whilst still in my twenties. The pass rate can get as low as 30% so these aren’t exactly easy ones…
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  5. Get Married – definitely a big goal for my twenties, I’m hoping to squeeze it in before 25!
  6. Set up Home – in all honesty I’m not 100% fussed about buying a house before I’m 30, especially if I’ll be living/working in London. But it would be nice to be somewhere for longer than a year, to start setting down some more roots.
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  8. Get a Dog – it’s my strong opinion that a house isn’t a home before there’s a dog in it. I’m not too fussy on what type of dog, I love terriers and french bulldogs, but it will probably be from a rescue centre.
  9. Start A Family – starting a family before I’m 30 is something I’m really keen to do, and is the main reason I’m determined to qualify before then (I’ll quit trying the exams for a few years if not!)
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  11. Return to Switzerland – W’s family took me to Switzerland after our A-Levels, and both of us are desperate to go back. It’s such a beautiful country, and as its quite important to his family I doubt that I will fail to tick this one off!
  12. Go on a Safari – this, for me, would be a perfect honeymoon. A mix of safari and then a few days relaxing on a beach sounds perfect!
  13. See the Northern Lights – something I’ve always wanted to see, and whilst I’d love to go all out on a fancy break to do so, I’d be equally happy with a budget break as long as they were there
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  15. Persuade W on a Lazy Beach Holiday – he isn’t one for sitting and doing nothing, so this one will be tough I think! I’d love to hire a villa somewhere and just hole up, just the two of us, for some complete R&R. Somewhere with enough for a day or two exploring, I’d love to visit Mallorca again!
  16. Learn to Drive – despite being 21 I am yet to have a single driving lesson, and in fact only got my provisional months ago. I was involved in a car accident when I was a lot younger and I think this has made me put off learning, it took a few years before I stopped feeling panicky as a passenger on motorways. We’ll see how this one goes…
  17. Spend lots in New York – I would so love to go to New York on a shopping break for a few days.
  18. Take a Road Trip around Scotland – Scotland is one of my favourite places, and I’d love to take a driving holiday around the Highlands. It looks so beautiful!
  19. Watch an International Rugby Match – I love rugby, and I’ve been to quite a few Premiership matches, but I’d love to go and see England play. I entered the ballot for the World Cup but unfortunately didn’t get any tickets; gutted!
  20. Fly a Plane – bet you didn’t expect to see this one?! Despite being a nervous flyer it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, that or fly a glider.
  21. Learn to Snowboard – me and W have done a trial snowboarding lesson and it was really fun, I’d love to take it up properly, learn to a decent level and maybe even go on a holiday to the slopes.
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  23. Ride a Horse – my sister is very horsey, and up until a few years ago I was terrified of the things. I’ll now happily go and stroke one for a while, even hold onto the reins, so the next step is getting into the saddle!
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  25. Knit my Scarf  – I’ve been attempting to learn to knit for a while now, and it’s just not going well. Do let me know if you have any tips!
  26. Continue Blogging – probably a cheat’s one, but I’d really love to still be blogging once I hit 30. I can imagine the site name changing though!
  27. Start Painting Again – I used to paint/draw quite a lot, my favourites were either watercolours or pencil drawings. I’ve not had time in recent years but it would be lovely to pick up a paintbrush again!
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  29. Go on a Spa Day – a typically girly wish!
  30. Have a Second Attempt at Camping – We tried camping for two nights just before university, and whilst the first night was fun, the last was cold, wet and I thought I had hypothermia. It’s put us off, but I’d be tempted to try again. In the South of France perhaps…
  31. Keep a Plant Alive – I’ve actually never managed to keep a plant alive for more than a couple of weeks, so this is definitely a big goal for me.
  32. Try Lobster – hopefully I’ll tick this one off this summer!
  33. Go Without Tea for a Month – this would be extremely difficult, but I’d really love to sift my tea addiction. It would definitely help with my liking of sugar too!
  34. Get a Perm – I’ve always loved permed hair, and its something I’m seriously considering getting done. Any advice for me?
  35. Earn Enough to Pay Someone to do my Ironing – Confession time! I don’t iron a thing, and can only iron basic t-shirts. I buy baggier blouses precisely so I don’t have to iron, and anything that does W deals with. I’d love to be able to pay someone to do it for us!
  36. Eat at a Michelin-Starred Restaurant – I love food and eating out, and I really don’t see a probably with spending a fortune on a meal. This is definitely a goal I’d love to achieve!
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  38. Spend All Day in Bed – the ultimate in laziness, but something I’ve never come close to. I don’t think I’ve ever staying in bed later than midday (other than when recovering from my nose operation) so I’m not even sure I’d manage this without getting bored!

An interesting mix here, some big goals (somehow I can’t imagine affording a house, wedding, baby, New York, Switzerland AND a safari in during the next 8 years, both time and money wise). But there’s also some little goals. There’s some I have little doubt I will accomplish (I will get married!), I know I’ll graduate next year, and in all honesty I’m pretty sure I’ll have a perm for my wedding (I’m so eighties).

The travel ones I found particularly hard to write. In some ways there is so much I want to see. I’d love to go to Japan, I’d love to try proper Thai food, I want to walk over Sydney Harbour Bridge. But equally I wanted my goals to be achievable, and as much as I’d like to do these things I just can’t see them happening. I’m too career focussed, too involved in my relationship, and I don’t think I’m built to be a long-haul traveler. Maybe one day, but right now I don’t think it’s for me – though I’m still envious of those who go! In all honesty these next few years will probably be limited to budget breaks, but we shall see!

What are your goals to achieve before your next ‘big’ birthday?

Lifestyle: 2015 Resolutions Update

We’re now past the middle of the year, I can’t quite believe it. On a separate note, it really annoys me when people talking about the beginning of June being the middle of the year – nope, it’s a month off! I think it only bugs me as one of my university interview questions was to choose the exact time and date of the middle of a non-leap year…

ResolutionsAnyway, it’s time to go back and look at the resolutions I made way back in January and see what kind of progress I’m making;

Blogging

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted 5 times a week religiously for the past few months, and I hope nothing has ever come across as forced or rushed out. I certainly haven’t felt too stressed about posting, though the next few months will be a stretch!

I would like to think that my photography has drastically improved, especially from this time last year! There’s still so much I want to learn, I still feel too reliant on auto-mode, and my editing skills aren’t up to scratch – but that’s why I love blogging, always something new to develop.

In relation to blogging, I’ve also picked up a new blog design and learnt a little bit of coding too. I’m working on developing a new feature currently, a few tweaks still to go. I’ve also used Excel knowledge to build a tool which batch renames photographs before uploading – it’s saving an awful lot of time and slowly improving my SEO. I’m thinking of sharing this tool at some point if it’s something you’d be interested in?

Cooking

 I’m disappointed to say I might have failed a bit here. I’ve cooked no joints of meat as yet this year, although in my defense I live with a vegetarian landlady who goes green when I cook bacon. Me and W move into our flat next week so I’m sure we’ll cook a bit more meat then!

I’ve definitely improved my diet though. My reliance on carbs and sugar is a lot better, and whilst there’s still room for improvements I’m feeling a lot better. I still have the tummy troubles but it’s likely they’ll never disappear – but I have lost nearly two stone this year too.

Work/University

Whilst I’m disappointed in not gaining a life insurance internship (I actually was almost offered two, but my availability caused a problem), I’m super pleased that my contract at my current placement has been extended to the end of August. I’ll be able to see out various projects, and I’m hoping to widen my exposures a bit too as my replacement will also be working there for that month.

Personal

Ah, running. I went out for a couple of runs, promptly injured myself and then stopped. Whoops. I really enjoyed it though – I just need to make time again. I’ve kept up with an exercise routine at home though, following a few videos and doing some weights. Slowly but surely I may end up with the body of dreams (I jest).

I’ve pretty much kept my Line A Day diary up, though there’s a few weeks in March looking pretty empty – I am trawling back through Twitter currently to fill in the gaps!

Beauty

My skin is actually worse than it was at the start of the year, and I’m pretty gutted. I think I tired introducing too many new products, so I’ve stripped back my routine and it’s starting to improve. I’m now plagued with blackheads though, which I’ve never had a problem with before – help?!

So, all in all I’ve done okay. I’ve got areas still to work on, but I reckon I’m well on the way to meeting these goals by the end of the year. I just need the motivation to run a bit more!

What resolutions did you make this year? How are you doing towards achieving them?

Lifestyle: 2014 Resolutions Update

In one of my university interviews I was asked to give an immediate answer as to what the exact mid-point of the year is, and explain it. Not as easy as it sounds (and made harder by suffering from the flu at the time), but it means that, if I remember correctly, today is the right day to be posting this! Way back in January I wrote a post about my New Year’s Resolutions, and now here I am updating you all on my progress. Here goes…

Academic
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Take better notes.
Come up with a better revision plan.
Use my Filofax.
Self-teach Excel.

My notes definitely improved after setting myself the goal – especially ones in the subjects I was less enamoured with! In fact I was really proud of some of my notes, and I definitely found myself remembering more in my exams…maybe I am more of a visual learner than I thought.

I can’t say I came up with a brilliant revision plan, but I did find a few ways of revising that really worked for me. The first was keeping better notes throughout the year, so I just needed to read what was there instead of rewrite. Quite glad of this as even with reduced writing I somehow ended up with quite severe repetitive strain injury which I’m worried affect my exams (I actually find out my results today, so fingers crossed!). At home during my Easter break, I used to go to the local library for 9am. I’d have roughly an hour’s break for lunch at a nearby park, then I’d work until closing time (6pm) before doing another hour in Costa going over what I’d learnt. I stuck to a module a day rather than having to carry a ridiculous amount around, and found this really productive. On a general day I’d go through two or three more difficult topics, and do at least one exam paper, marking and making model solutions. As I say, soon we’ll be able to see whether it worked!

Using my Filofax more is a resolution that so far I have failed miserably at! Neither of my Filofaxes have received much use at all this year, but I’m determined that’s going to change. I’m currently sorting out the best combination of inserts etc for my Industrial Placement, so I shall be using it more in a few weeks.

Finally my last academic resolution was to self-teach Excel. I can’t say I feel I have done this as I’m not at all confident on it, but I have got better and did actually achieve 88% on the piece of coursework using it – so clearly I can do it! I’d like to polish up my skills a little more before starting work though…

Blogging
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Commenting daily.
Keeping to a schedule.
Improve photography.
Developing the blog.

I’m proud to say that commenting on other blogs daily is something I’ve managed to achieve and keep up! Apart from when I was on holiday or stuck revising for exams I know I’ve definitely left a couple of comments each day. As well as it benefitting my own page views, I’d discovered some amazing blogs through reading other’s comments, and also enjoyed getting to know more bloggers!

I’ve also definitely kept to more of a schedule. My What’s Cooking Wednesday post carried on for a while, it did disappear during revision time though – I’ll definitely look to revive it when I’m out on placement but it may be in a slightly different form. In case you haven’t noticed, I try to blog on Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays, and my posts are almost always scheduled to go live first thing in the morning.

Photography is something of an ongoing improvement – though I can definitely see that my photos are getting better. I’m also really proud of a couple (yet to be published) so its getting there! I’m asking for a decent (possibly SLR) camera for my twenty-first, so I’d love any recommendations you have!

Developing the blog is something I can say I’ve done – I’m now the owner of ninegrandstudent.co.uk, and between me and my boyfriend we’re working on a custom design. No idea when that will be live, but I’m pleased with the tweaks I’ve made to this new theme at the moment – my blog definitely looks better than it did at the start of the year!

Cooking/Baking
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Save money.
Experiment with tomato-free recipes.
Buy joints of meat.
Expand baking knowledge.

I definitely saved a bit of money in my later weeks at university. I didn’t quite get my weekly budget down to what I wanted (including my start-of-term shops it averaged at £12.72, which was slightly above my £10 target!) but it definitely started going down significantly so I plan to continue this next year even though I’ll be earning. I’m hoping to save a significant amount over my Year in Industry – my rent/bills/travel is so far only working out at £25 a month more, I’ll be earning a monthly salary, have a small amount of student loan coming in and I’ll still be receiving my academic scholarship so fingers crossed!

My experimentation of tomato-free recipes has really kicked off this year, though admittedly only a few have made it to the blog. My Vegetarian Chilli went down very well, as did my Chicken Khari Curry. I want to experiment with a few more curry recipes, and also work on a meaty chilli. By biggest aim – a tomato free BBQ sauce!

The next two resolutions haven’t gone so well. I confess I haven’t bought any joints of meat – although I have been working with cheaper chicken thighs lately and have a fabulous recipe scheduled! I’ve also not done that much baking, certainly no bread making (check out my always crispy Pizza Dough though!). I’m freeing up a little money over my Industrial Placement to do more baking so fingers crossed this will be achieved by the end of the year!

Beauty
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Find the perfect foundation.
Clean makeup brushes.
Try Pixi Glow Tonic
Remove makeup every night.

I’m keeping silent on the foundation front – I’ve recently been trialling a couple of new foundations and there will be a post soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Makeup brushes are getting cleaned slightly more often, although not as often as they should. My main aim for the next few months is to clean my foundation brush every week – although I do wipe it with micellar water after ever use!

You may have noticed from my recent Holiday Makeup post that there is a (half empty) bottle of Pixi Glow Tonic in my possession. I’ve been using this since Valentine’s Day, so it seriously lasts for ages, and I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my skin. Blemishes heal quicker and don’t scar, my skin is brighter, and my moisturisers seem to work an awful lot better. Plus the smell is so relaxing at night!

As for removing makeup, generally this is done every night. Apart from the odd night where I was absolutely exhausted or ill (and then I’d hardly be wearing makeup anyway!) my face has been washed with these products. I’ve recently invested in the Camomile Oil from The Bodyshop to do a pre-cleanse with (I plan to be wearing makeup more often when working – air conditioned offices do not agree with my skin!) so I’ll update with my progress on that soon.

Personal

Exercise more.
Learn to knit.

Both of these I can’t say I’ve achieved. I’d like to think I’m slightly fitter than I was in January – I did manage to climb Arthur’s Seat two weeks ago! I’m planning on relearning how to ride a bike over the next month, and soon I will be a year post-op and so able to start swimming again. I can’t explain how excited I am to get back in the pool! As for knitting, I just can’t seem to get the hang of it – if anyone knows of any good books or teachers please do recommend them!

Before I wrote this post I was rather disappointed in myself, but having gone through things I’ve actually achieved quite a lot, considering I’m studying a demanding degree full-time, and travelling to see my boyfriend every other weekend. There’s still quite a bit I want to achieve before the end of the year, but I reckon I’ll get there!

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going?