Lifestyle: Happy (Fortnightly) Things #25

Unfortunately just a really quickly penned post from me today – exam day is Wednesday and I really shouldn’t be blogging right now. But so many LOVELY things have happened over the past few weeks that I can’t help but share…

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  1. Watching one of my lovely friends marry her soulmate. It was such a lovely day and so perfect for them.
  2. Realising it’s only just over a year until I get married myself! Eeekkkkk!
  3. Getting my groove on with blogging again. After a break from it all, and months feeling a bit disconnected I’ve pretty much finalised where I’m taking this space in the long-term. Stay tuned…
  4. Finding a decent deep conditioner. This one has been great for my locks, just a shame L’Oreal aren’t a company I’m desperate to support!
  5. Discovering my local Sainsbury’s sell products from The Polish Bakery. The bakery gifted me some goodies a while back and their bread is all kinds of awesome. Just gutted I’ve not found the Rye bread yet…
  6. Eating chocolate.* Cadbury sent me over some goodies to celebrate the launch of their partnership with the Premier League. I have to say that chocolate plus potential prizes is a winner in my book – simply enter the code from a promotional bar and you can win one of hundreds of football themed prizes.
  7. Gorgeous sunsets from the top floor of my office. Admittedly I’ve spent lots of late evenings (and even weekends!) there but it’s such a lovely view I can almost forgive exams for robbing me of a work-life balance!
  8. Fruit crumble and fresh cream. Perfect Sunday night treat!
  9. Almossstttttt having a dining table. The legs are here, the top was delivered on Saturday. Just a shame the top arrived completely snapped in half…
  10. Receiving a yogurt pot with my name on. It’s the little things that put a smile on this face!

What’s been putting a smile on your face?

Lifestyle: Happy (Fortnightly) Things #24

I’m now entering what is perhaps one of my busiest times of the year. September is pretty manic at work (not that I’ve experienced it yet, as my graduate programme scheduled a 3-week training conference last year), plus it’s also exam season. It’s meant working late, either on my job or at my notes, revising on weekends and generally just keeping myself busy.

Weirdly, I’m FAR less stressed about this exam than I was in April; possibly because the content is actually enjoyable so it wouldn’t be a total hardship to have to resit. Plus, yano, it’s not two exam papers over two days, it involves maths and all of the notes fit into one lever arch file (plus another two for questions and exam papers). Far nicer! Enough of exams, here’s what’s made me smile recently…

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  1. Coming home to fresh flowers. W bought me a treat after I was *really* grumpy one morning, and he even arranged them nicely in a vase. I know, I don’t deserve him!
  2. Using our dishwasher. I’ve always been against them, but our new flat has one so we’re using it as a treat on weekends. It makes a roast dinner on a Sunday evening so much better.
  3. Date night at Mother London. The pizza was fab, weirdly different to anything I’ve eaten before. Review to follow…
  4. Bedside tables. W followed a couple of online tutorials and produced some pretty cool looking furniture. I’m a lucky girl!
  5. Finally buying a step-ladder. Because I can’t reach the windows in this flat without one…
  6. A weekend to myself. I spent all of it revising and watching back-to-back Harry Potter and it was GOOD.
  7. Winning Emma’s giveaway. So exciting!
  8. Sunday night pampers. The novelty of having a bath is yet to wear off. Please send suggestions for bath products, I try to avoid Lush (my skin isn’t a fan!) but am stuck for what new to try.
  9. Quite possibly the best Cauliflower Cheese I’ve ever eaten. And it was a ‘healthier’ version too. So, so, sooooo tasty…
  10. Finding the dress I’d been lusting after on Oliver Bonas at around 70% off. I’m hoping it fits!

What’s made you happy recently?

Lifestyle: Happy (Fortnightly) Things #23

So, obviously I’ve been a bit absent lately – and if I’m honest the break has done me the world of good. Weirdly it was only when I stopped to take a breather that I noticed how exhausted I was making myself. Oops! I have to say it’s been a blessing to have this long weekend. Just what I needed!

This last few weeks has been a whirlwind, that’s for sure! I’ve rushed study (due to a slightly mis-timing of tutorial bookings), been on holiday, moved flats and spent an obscene amount on new furniture. I have to say I’m looking forward to a quiet weekend, although it looks like my next one will be in October… So, highlights recently!

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  1. Switzerland. We spent a lovely six days in Switzerland – lots of hiking and fresh air, a bit of swimming, lots of wine and just generally relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. It’s the first time in two years we’ve been abroad (minus my hop to Zurich for a job interview) and it was SO nice to get away.
  2. Cheese. Well, we did go to Switzerland…
  3. Chocolate. Ditto!
  4. Fireworks. Whilst we were in Switzerland we celebrated Swiss National Day – we went for a celebratory banquet dinner at the hotel W’s family have stayed in for generations (unfortunately out of our budget for the actual holiday!), ate lots, drank lots and had a blast.
  5. Washing my engagement ring in a Swiss river. W’s grandmother (and later his mum) always used to wash her rings whilst hiking her favourite route – and it’s a walk I love too. Her eternity ring provided the three larger diamonds in my engagement ring, so I honored the memory and gave mine a clean.
  6. New flat! We started packing about a month ahead (seeing as we moved around 9 hours after landing back from the holiday!) and managed to unpack in double quick time. It feels so much more spacious than the old place!
  7. Gorgeous new cushions*. I’m very honoured to be part of the bloggers programme from Rooi, which just happens to be one of my favourite online shopping sites. I picked out two lovely cushions (one with geese on, one with bees – things both me and W are individually terrified of!), now I just need the rest of my new furniture to arrive so I can take half-decent photos!
  8. Meat from the butchers. With the nice not-so-little payrise that passing my exam gave me, we’ve decided to splurge a little each month on some decent meat. Our joint of pork from the local butchers was THE nicest I’ve ever eaten, and it made wonderful sandwiches, stir-fry and nachos too. Well worth it.
  9. Catch up with friends. We had a very sociable week, with meals out most days and the weekend packed full too. It was so nice to catch up with so many people!
  10. Playing tourist. When my besties came to visit I snapped up some free Tower of London tickets (a corporate deal through my company). Whilst I think £28 for an adult ticket is slightly (ahem!) overpriced we definitely enjoyed it, the Crown Jewels were stunning and I’d love to visit again when the Torture Tower is open.
  11. Wedding Cake tasting. Definitely a highlight of the planning process, and I’m already dreaming about one of the flavours we picked…
  12. The bedside tables W’s designed, and is currently in the process of building. They are going to look AMAZING!
  13. Picking up a dress I’d been lusting after in H&M. For £7 in the sale. #winning
  14. The BEST gelato I’ve eaten outside of Italy (and only because I went to a local’s ‘best in Rome’ recommendation). A new place has opened up in Putney and words can’t explain how good it is. I genuinely have a list of flavours and combos I’m wanting to try…

What’s made you happy recently?

Personal: Radio Silence

So, I’ve been a little absent lately. It’s the first unplanned blog break I’ve had in a while and if I’m honest I’ve not been remotely happy about it. I feel gutted that I just wasn’t able to balance everything last month and blogging was the thing that got the cut.

And that’s the reality of blogging, particularly with a demanding full-time career as well.

 photo 2016-12-27 16.21.14_zpslp8ekdep.jpgIt’s not all free “blogger mail” and cocktail-making press trips. It’s not receiving meal vouchers and theatre tickets. Of course, those things do happen (though not as often as soon might think!) but the vast majority of blogging is just bloody hard work.

Right now I have 34 emails in my inbox I have to reply to, after deleting another 27 that are spammy, generic or just don’t warrant a response. I have a list of 89 posts I want to pen up at some point. I have 10 posts I want to go live this month, all of which have photographs that need editing (because I luckily have a backlog of photos taken, otherwise I’d have to do that too). I have God knows how many old posts I need to go back and edit. And that’s before I even think about social media.

But this post isn’t meant to be a ‘woe is me’ pity grabber. My point is that blogging isn’t a walk in the park. And realistically, my career (my day job and the study that comes with it) have to come first. When I found out I passed the exam I took in April, despite that fact I was overjoyed, it also meant I wouldn’t be resitting in September. So I’ve had to pick up another exam instead – and with tutorials timed virtually straight away I had to throw myself into the deep end. Oh, and we moved flats too. And went on holiday (we picked up the keys to the new place about 10 hours after landing back at Gatwick!).

 photo 2016-12-27 17.01.57_zpssee0leme.jpgBasically it’s been busy. I stopped blogging. And I’m sorry. Fingers crossed I’ll carve out a bit of time over the next few weeks to get back into it.

There’s also some changes I want to make to this space. A bit of a rebrand, a bit of a redesign. I had planned to get that all done and THEN come back and start blogging. But I missed typing away and my to-do list just wasn’t getting any smaller. So keep an eye out for these changes, all will be revealed soon…

How have you been the past few weeks?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #22

I’m not going to lie, over the past few months these posts had become quite hard for me to write. Whilst I’d like to think I’m usually a reasonably positive person, I’ve found the events of this year to have got on top of me. I’ve been demotivated (for blogging, for study, even for going out and seeing friends), and spent far too many evenings just mindlessly scrolling down my Instagram feed. This last fortnight I’ve had some good news for what feels like the first time in a while (which I’m sure it isn’t, but when the sad things start rolling in it’s far too easy to concentrate on those). This is definitely the happiest I’ve felt whilst penning up this post in a while!

So, what’s made me so happy…

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  1. I passed my exam! I mentioned an exam pass last time, but if I’m *really* honest – that one doesn’t count. I have to do it to qualify but it’s not particularly difficult nor time consuming. However last Thursday the results came out for the exam I took way back in April and I passed! I wasn’t expecting to if I’m really honest, but it was a nasty exam I had no wish to sit again (5 lever arch files full of notes, 6 hours of exam time over 2 days – no ta!). I’m looking forward to sending the folders up to my parents garage asap!
  2. Possibly shouldn’t class as an additional one – but not only passing the exam, but getting pretty clear over the pass mark. It’s upped my confidence for sure!
  3. Oh, and all the emails I got from my team at work. I have actually had study days since the results came out so I’m looking forward to actually seeing people today!
  4. My current role at work. Being on graduate scheme I get the opportunity to rotate into different areas – and whilst some aren’t exactly for me, the role I’m in for July is SO interesting.
  5. Getting my hard around a particularly nasty mathematical proof. It’s been a while since I’ve done proper statistics, it took me a couple of hours, but fully understanding it was worth the stress. (Yep, studying again. September’s going to be here before I know it!)
  6. Fresh fish. I love fish but it’s pricey – I’ve discovered mackerel which is both super-healthy and super-purse friendly. Two whole ones (head removed because W got squeamish the first time I bought them!) cost us less than £2 and were perfect with an orange, chilli and watercress salad.
  7. Brighton. Perhaps one of my all-time favourite places. I met my girls for a catch-up in the beach, a spot of shopping and a flight on the i360.
  8. Ben & Jerry’s Topped Salted Caramel Brownie ice-cream. Perhaps my favorite flavour. Soooo tasty!
  9. Wedding chats with a fellow bride-to-be. Being a young bride I do worry about talking too much about it with most of my friends, so it’s good to spend a whole evening talking all things wedding.
  10. Buying a pack of sausages for 34p on yellow-sticker. Sausage, mash and veg for £1.50, with plenty of veg leftover was my idea of a bargain (tasty too!).
  11. Duck & Waffle. My mum bought us a giftcard for Christmas and we finally booked ourselves in for breakfast. Worth the wait! It also turned into a bit of a celebration as I’d coincidentally booked it for the Saturday after results day and after Will’s diss hand-in. Perfect!
  12. Buying a matching set of luggage. Am I a fully-fledged adult now?!

What’s made you happy recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #21

I have a feeling these next few months are going to be busy! I’m trying to catch up with the study I should have started a while back, we’ve got a little holiday planned – and now we’re moving. Around 8 hours after arriving back from our holiday. With no free weekends in which to pack. Impeccable timing!

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  1. 460 days to go until the wedding! I know it’s still ages away but the days seem to be flying by now.
  2. A new flat. We’ve found a lovely one, had an offer accepted, now we’ve just got to get through all of the referencing bits and bobs. They don’t make it easy, do they?
  3. Brunch at The Dynamo. I had the same as last time (with an extra slice of toast) and it was just as yummy as I remembered!
  4. Go Ape at Leed’s Castle. A beautiful location, a demanding high-ropes course (physically and mentally – with no upper body strength and a fear of heights/wobbling I found it tough) and my best girlies. I’m so proud I got all the way round with only a bit of sitting back in my harness and pulling myself along!
  5. A night in. W stayed at a friends so I watched girly films, had a bit of a pamper evening and…cleaning the kitchen. I know how to have a good time!
  6. Some good books. The Murderer’s Son was a highlight last weekend.
  7. Spending some time with my future in-laws. It was good to catch up and hear about their recent trip!
  8. Passing my first professional exam. It was a weird one – I had to take part in an online forum for two weeks, do a bit long workbook, and then finally a multiple-choice test a month later. It’s all done and dusted now and my name should be on the pass-list when it goes live later today. I also find out about the biggggg one I took in April next week so I’ve got my fingers crossed!
  9. An ice-cream shop has opened in Putney. I plan to make the most of it!
  10. My office summer party, in the grounds of the Tower of London. Such a gorgeous backdrop!

That’s it for now – hopefully next time I’ll be able to talk about a signed and sealed flat, packing, study and other dull things!

What’s made you happy lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #20

Eurrrghhhh, anyone else struggling with the heat in London right now?! I’m not a huge lover of hot weather at all and having to spend Saturday flat-hunting (our landlord has decided to sell up) meant it was pretty much unbearable. It’s been too hot to even consider properly cooking – I am missing a Sunday roast but this gal definitely isn’t having an oven on for close to two hours! Enough of the moaning, here’s my recent favourites…

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  1. Meeting with our potential wedding florist. I LOVE her work so fingers crossed the quote works out and we can get booked!
  2. A gorgeous dinner at Rocksalt in Market Harborough. My spiced haddock Scotch egg was absolute perfection.
  3. Mocha over ice…an ice-cold Pimms. Anything ice-cold basically.
  4. Excellent feedback on my first business report and presentation at work. It was a tough project but was made all worthwhile.
  5. Exploring areas of Putney we didn’t know existed. It’s shameful how little we’ve seen of the area!
  6. Waitrose Chocolate Ice-Cream with Blood Orange Sorbet. It’s like a frozen jaffa cake and sooooo good.
  7. A much-needed haircut. It swishes so much better now!
  8. Short denim dungarees. I only bought them last weekend and I’ve worn them most evenings/weekend days since. My favourite new bit of clothing in what feels like forever!
  9. Ticking off another Michelin Star off my list. We went on a work meal to La Chapelle in Spitalfields. My crab lasagna starter was so insanely yummy.
  10. Mars Bar ice-creams bars. Nuff said.

Fingers crossed next Happy Post will mention a shiny new flat! What’s made you smile recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #19

Another fortnight, and another one where I’ve found it really difficult to write this post. Last week we buried my Granddad and it was a very difficult day. I then came down with a virus-type illness (sore throat, cough, earache, bunged nose – the lot), and to top if off felt nauseous and anxious for a good week. All the more reason to concentrate on the little happy things I guess!

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  1. A 7 hour round-trip drive in a pretty car. I had to go on a site visit for work, and the brand new Jaguar F-type made the 6.30am start a bit more bearable!
  2. Costa’s Peach Iced Tea. One of my guilty pleasures.
  3. My dad’s Caramel Swirl Brownies. He’s a great baker (check out his Malteser Blondies here) and these were great.
  4. Pink Prosecco on a Bank Holiday Monday afternoon. Bliss.
  5. Dying my hair a new colour. At first I thought it was a tad dark but I’m loving it.
  6. May’s Cronut – Blush Peach and Elderflower. The best of 2017 so far, just a shame that the outside area of Dominique Ansel clearly had a drain issue when we visited. The smell that followed each toilet-flush was NOT good….
  7. Pulling out light and floaty summer dresses for work. Generally I wear shift dresses (see here for my normal work wardrobe, minus my new favourite bits) but it’s just been too damn hot!
  8. Picnic in the park. Instead of cooking dinner I made a quinoa salad (recipe up soon!), whipped up some hummus and threw everything in a coolbag. It was bliss to sit outside and not have to worry about overheating our flat by using the oven.
  9. Flicking through recipe books. I’m trying to mix up our weekly meal-plan – let me know your go-to quick dinners please?!
  10. Doggy snuggles AND puppy cuddles. I went to my parents for the Bank Holiday weekend and caught up with my pooch – and snuck round to the neighbours to meet their 3-month old Westie. Nothing like squeezing a dog to make your troubles go away!
  11. The Good Widow. One of the best books I’ve read in a while!
  12. A long walk about the Thames Path. On Saturday we wandered towards London, only planning just a short walk as I am (still!) feeling rubbish. Nearly 4 miles later we caught a bus home! It was such lovely weather, I watched helicopters taking off/landing (I’m a bit of an aircraft nerd!), we ate a picnic in Battersea Park and pointed out our dream apartments and houseboats.
  13. Baking Cinnamon Rolls. In need of some cheering up yesterday (who didn’t?!) we spent the day lazy about, tissues in hand (I’ve kindly shared said illness) and baking some yummy things. Cinnamon Rolls are my ultimate comfort bake and these didn’t disappoint. I’ll have the recipe up in a couple of weeks.
  14. Homemade Chicken Satay. We both fancied my Asian Radish Salad (see here) for a light dinner, but felt like something different too. I whipped up an amazing satay sauce which we used to marinade chicken turkey (actually, as that’s all we had) before grilling. Yum yum!

What’s made you happy recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #18

This post was difficult for me to write, very difficult. I’ve mentioned it briefly on social media, but 2017 is proving to be an extremely hard year for me. In the space of just over four months, I’ve lost both of my granddads. Both matriarchs of the family. Both loved, admired and respected both within our family and their community. The 9 days have been a struggle for me, and trying to see the good bits in my day-to-day life has proved a little difficult. But I wanted to try, to write this post to remind myself just how much I still have in my life to be grateful about.

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  1. Gardening. My company arranged a Global Day of Giving, with offices worldwide closed to allow us to go and volunteer in the community. I went to Alexandra Palace to do some gardening – an activity I love (oh, how I wish I had a garden!). Despite the rain it was a great day, and we were allowed on a tour of the old theatre whilst it’s being renovated.
  2. A good catch up with my parents. The night before I got The Phonecall I’d spent over an hour chatting with them. After a busy time at work with only a few short conversations it was what I needed.
  3. Visiting Columbia Road Flower Market for the first time. It was scarily busy but I bought some succulents and now feel like a proper blogger…
  4. Cheese Toasties at Maltby Street Food Market. The Cheese Truck is now a permanent fixture in my foodie highlights – my fav was the Goat’s Cheese, W loved the Queso & Chorizo. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve dreamed about them since!
  5. Picking up the perfect Gingham Dress from Marks & Spencer. It fits well, is really good quality and the perfect length for wearing with thick black tights and boots, or bare legs and sandals. And I had to get a Size 6. #winning
  6. Starting to firm up our wedding cake arrangements. Though given her *amazing* chocolate chip cookies I’m tempted to just have a cookie tower instead…
  7. An evening at the pub, even if I was mistaken for being in my thirties. Note to self: wear makeup after crying!
  8. Beginning to plan our trip to Switzerland. I spent a good few hours trying to work out the cheapest train tickets
  9. Enjoying National Vegetarian Week. Other than some meat stock used in one of my freezer meals, I didn’t eat meat for the entirety. We had some amazing meals – a chickpea curry with tandoori roasted cauliflower was a particular highlight. Whilst I love meat too much to be veggie full-time I’m definitely going to up from one meat-free dinner a week to at least two and cut it out at lunchtimes.
  10. Playing with my new Kenwood Stand-Mixer*. They make baking so much easier, and I’ve always been a little bit scared of breaking W’s Kitchen Aid! Is two stand-mixers in a tiny flat excessive…?
  11. The BBC drama Three Girls. Not exactly a happy thing as it was based on the child sex trafficking in Rochdale, but it was such a gripping three-part series. Raw, emotional and it really got me thinking. Definitely recommend having a watch on iPlayer.
  12. A raspberry and blueberry crumble with peanut butter topping. As good as it sounds.
  13. Will. He’s been my rock these past few weeks despite being insanely busy. I don’t know what I’d do without him!

What little things have made you happy recently?

Lifestyle: Studying Whilst Working

I’ve moaned enough about it lately – the early-morning studying, the late-night revision, the spoiled Bank Holidays. I’ve had a lot of questions both on here and on social media about what I’m actually studying for (and even one memorable accusation of me lying about studying as I graduated last year – the dark-side of blogging cliques right there!). And I’ve had even more questions about how I’m balancing working, studying, blogging and (kind of) having a social life…

 photo Working Whilst Studying_zpshvfkalig.jpgWell my personal feeling is that I’m not balancing it. Most of the time I feel overwhelmed. I’ll sit down to study and think about all those unread emails in my blog inbox. I’ll be blogging and think about all the studying I need to do. I’ll feel guilty having some free time. I love my job, yet I’ll want to leave on time so I can do something in the evenings – either study or blog. I struggle to make time to exercise, there’s always something else that needs to be done.

The exams I’m doing are tough. I’m studying to qualify as an actuary – eventually I’ll be a Fellow of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries with some shiny new letters after my name. The exams intensive in terms of both time and content – and only around 45% of candidates tend to pass each exam. The exam I took in April has a recommended study time of 400 hours, with my notes filling 5 level-arch folders. Squeezing in 400 hours to a 6 month period, whilst working full-time, has actually turned out to be quite tough. I am lucky enough to get around a day off a week from work to study, though the response of many of my non-work friends is that I use them for lie-ins and lazy days – I wish! Most of them I’m at the kitchen table by 8am, and generally spend longer working than an average day. Though I guess doing all that in my PJs is rather nice…

Finding The Time

Whilst it is depressing, I find looking at my average day and seeing where I could fit in some study is the easiest way – doing a little bit as often as possible means (1) I’m in the habit of it and (2) I feel more productive and thus feel a lot more prepared and confident. My commute is generally spent reading material – or revising using a study card app nearer to exams. Lunch breaks I like using to do a couple of questions – I’ve found picking a particularly difficult topic and spending 20 minutes working through it is a great way to power through it (plus I’d put off the difficult bits otherwise!). I also like to spend an hour or two in the office after work. I’ll book a meeting room and put my head down – though obviously I tend to only do these for a couple of months before an exam. All year round would probably exhaust me!

If all else fails, I find physically slotting some study time, some blog time, even exercise will make me do it. If it’s in the diary, I’m committed.
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Little Hints to Keep Motivated

  • Focus on the end goal. Thinking about when I’m fully qualified, with those extra letters after my name, just helps keep me focused
  • Ignore the pass rates and stats – as they’re quite low for my exam, I find them quite demotivating.
  • Set days for certain things. I like to have Wednesdays as my study leave from work, I like to study Tuesday and Thursday evenings, on Mondays and Wednesday evenings I blog and exercise. And Friday night is fun night – until the fortnight before exams of course!
  • Make sure you have some down time. Treating myself to a magazine and face-mask, or a nice bar of chocolate will always boost my spirits.

And if all else fails, productive procrastination helps!

How do you balance everything in your life?