Crystal Rocks Cafe, Croydon

We’ve moved out of our Addiscombe flat and into a new part of town. Places we have looked at before and thought “that might be nice to visit” are suddenly right on our doorstep to walk to, try out and (hopefully) admire. We’re without internet so the following post, pictures and all, come from my phone so if the quality isn’t perfect then I can only apologise for not doing this place the justice it deserves.

The first on our list, a week after moving in, was to go and get brunch in a cafe somewhere. After the man left that was installing a new window and changing the locks we popped our shoes and coats on and started a walk to an unknown spot.

We decided to stop in Crystal Rocks Cafe. A clean, presentable and well loved looking spot situated in Croydon’s South End.

The finishing touches to the place, from the choice of wood for the furniture to the rope with light bulbs on, really gave it a comforting and enjoyable vibe. It had well considered and carefully placed photo frames on the wall and the bar for payment presented a delightful looking array of sweet treats.

The welcome we received was warm and friendly by a couple of stylish workers and they provided an additional menu to allow us both to look with ease. It’s great to cone across a cafe that only has a single menu on the table instead of adding clutter with a number of them wedged between items.

Service was swift and continued to be done in a way that gave a good aura. There was no rushing going on and it felt like they were welcoming you into the establishment to truly enjoy. Both staff members seemed to work seamlessly as a team which always helps to bring that comfort to those visiting.

The drink, a strawberry fruit smoothie, was refreshing and a good balance of flavours. It coming in a mason jar wasn’t necessarily the biggest of surprises but it worked well with the aesthetic and didn’t do the drink any harm. It did mean it came with a plastic straw though, which given the whole straw debate of 2018, and this is something that they could perhaps look into.

Crystal Rocks is a halal cafe, something that doesn’t bother us after buying from a halal butcher on the daily in our North London days, but that obviously means the bacon isn’t pork and a few other things might be turkey or beef instead. The bacon on my American pancakes with egg and a side of syrup was cooked to perfection, not at all greasy and cut through the other flavours on the plate well. In fact the whole dish was just delicious, full of flavour as well as being light and airy.

My partner went for the Turkish Breakfast. We’ve gone to a few cafes that serve these and every place seems to have its own take on it and this was no exception. It looked absolutely incredible and, unsurprisingly, I loved the plate it was served on. The egg was well cooked with a great runny yolk, the bread tasted fresh and full of flavour, there was a great variety of foods with decent separation to stop all the tastes merging together and they weren’t stingy with the portion size. If my own wasn’t so delicious I would have been jealous!

Two drinks and two dishes came to just under £19 which isn’t the cheapest, when there is a Wetherspoons over the road, but for a scrummy brunch in a friendly atmosphere with a wonderful sense of design around you it is totally worthwhile.

Very pleased to have this as my nearest cafe and will be returning again in the future.

Goodbye 2018 Project Pan

Goodbye 2018. Goodbye clutter. Out with the old and in with the new yadda yadda.

Literally. The flat is filled with boxes. It’s time to face a new adventure and move into a bigger place. And with that I need to say goodbye to my small collection of empties that were sitting gathering dust.

I’ve not really done a huge amount of makeup in the last few months though there are aims in 2019 to get back on the tackling my brows and whacking on some mascara bandwagon. Even doing my nails has sort of fallen by the wayside.

A lot of baths have happened though. We are talking to the point where for a while I had to use some shower gel as bubble bath (my stock of which is now replenished)! It’s pretty much all I’ve had the energy for after a day at work and especially in the last couple of weeks where my weekends have involved packing aches and pains too.

I do have some product aims for 2019 and hope to share that soon inside a post that talks about my general aims for the year. A new home almost certainly means no internet for a while but that also means less distractions so I can get the posts written, the photos taken and use a close eye to check it all looks okay via my phone app before publishing via a desktop at work in my lunch break (cheeky!).

Empty bottles of nail varnish, makeup and bath products for a final 2018 product empties round up.

My product empties seem to show one thing; if it stops me being stinky and helps make my bath that little bit nicer then I’m interested but anything else is fairly mreh.

I went to use the mascara and after having it on for the day realised that the drying out I spotted on application in the morning was a bit of a sign that it was beyond its best. It’s a similar story for some of the nail varnish where the texture changed either as a result of so much being gone from the bottle or it just not getting used for a number of years.

The eyebrow pencil by Model Co, that I got in the 2017 Look Fantastic advent calendar, was something that I used up to the very end. This pencil had a smooth application and the universal shade actually worked for me because of the light brunette shade of my brows. It was easy to apply lightly or with a fairly hefty amount but it never ended up allowing for me to go overboard which is a real lifesaver! It was a lot better than some of the really cheap high street brand ones that I have received and it is something I would consider buying again if I wanted that type of brow product (currently feeling liquid ink style ones a bit more though).

Finishing another perfume in 2018 was something I’m calling a small miracle as at points this Hugo Boss For Her scent just seemed to hit a bit of a standstill and no matter how much I used it there felt like the product amount stayed the same. That’s not a bad thing with this perfume as the scent was one that I enjoyed and it managed to linger on the skin for a good couple of hours which is more than a lot of my mid-price range perfumes can manage. It was a fairly gentle fruity scent rather than teenage girl fruity and it made it really wearable for everyday at work and kept me feeling sophisticated (ha).

Ow and Wilko Fruits bath soak is still my favourite and I made the most of an order of towels and other bathroom bits to get a few bottles of them delivered to me recently. The Mermazing one by Imperial Leather wasn’t too bad but not wholly my jam.

Finally, I want to chat about the I Love Juicy shampoo by Lush. It worked well, had a lovely aroma that lingered in the hair afterwards and felt nourishing but for the price it didn’t win over The Body Shop banana products which are very frequently half price to allow for purchasing of both the shampoo and the conditioner for the same price as one of these bottles. If The Body Shop were to disappear then I would give this or other Lush shampoos a try however.

Financial Goals And Getting There

Figuring out what we want can be really tough sometimes. We become torn between our immediate wants and our long term desires. Should we rent a nicer flat or save those couple of hundred pounds to crawl towards a deposit of a place to properly call our own? Should we get that replica dress or wait an extra couple of weeks for that little bit more luxurious thing? Are ten weekend breaks better than one epic blowout cruise? Does oven cooked pizza really satisfy the tummy as much as takeaway pizza? And after we stop and think about all of those questions is there really a correct answer or a way that we should be doing things? In fact does anybody other than ourselves really care about whether we take a year or ten to save for something that we want? Probably not.

For so long money was at the front of everything I did. We either didn’t have it or we did and I was so worried about being in a bad place again that I would attempt to save and refuse to treat myself to things because it still seemed frivolous. And there were the other times when I knew that there was money and I would just buy things that didn’t necessarily make me happy but I bought them simply because I could. I’ve bought a lot of sh*t over the years but I don’t regret a single moment of it; each item has brought me to where I am now in terms of understanding what I want and how saving can work for me. Finances are extremely personal not just to each household but even down to each individual and whilst this can cause clashes there are usually ways of working everything into a sensible compromise.

But with a new job it all feels a bit of a new year, new me or like I’ve just gone back to university and have great ideas as to how I can save money to get from one payment to the next. Sort of. Apart from the fact that there’s actually enough money in the piggy bank to get from one day to the next without worrying or having to cut back. In fact our total household income will be at the highest it has even reached so saving without restricting our wants will be more than possible and that really really gets me excited. my post-tax wage will be the same as my previous pre-tax wage and I was managing to, in theory though often squandering it away just as quickly, save a couple of hundred pounds a month in my previous job. God I might even be able to have avocado on toast and still save towards getting a mortgage before I retire. A millennial miracle.

Establishing what it was I actually wanted to save for was the first important step and something I haven’t really done in the past. Usually it is just an attempt to save without a goal and that’s probably one of the key things that makes it fall off the bandwagon so quickly. One of the things is to be able to move into a bigger flat, maybe even rent a house, so I calculated the amount for a deposit, moving van, new bits of furniture we might want and so on and put down realistic dates for achieving those targets; Things like new bits of furniture coming later in date because we could move and make do with things like our current wardrobes for a bit longer. Realising the goal and that not every single thing needs to be ready for buying at once is a pretty huge step.

Despite there being lots of things that I want to save for and purchase I took the time to differentiate between the big goals and the little goals. The bigger goals I have broken up, as I have just mentioned, but the smaller items are things that I would just like to be able to look at my bank balance and buy without guilt or feeling like I need to particularly ‘save’ towards them. Things like having a meal out or buying some new clothes or shoes are things that I want to budget for on a monthly basis rather than be saving towards (though if it was a very fancy restaurant or something like a £1000 bag then it might switch over). With this thinking I have five big goals with some of them coming in at still being saved for in four or five years time; moving to a larger rental property before starting to save towards a mortgage, learning to drive and getting a car, going on a big holiday like a cruise (weekend getaways should be possible under the budgeting for category), saving for the wedding and wanting to get a certain amount of pounds saved up before we have a baby. Despite putting time aims on the goals and the mini goals within them I wont be putting huge amounts of pressure on myself or beating myself up if things don’t go quite to plan. Managing to save some money is better than nothing.

Because of being the only person in the world to love spreadsheets it will be no surprise for you to learn that I’ve put my aims and tracker system onto a spreadsheet. It’s super simple and easy to update with a few columns for my goal, what I’ve saved so far towards it and how much something actually came to; I’ve budgeted an amount for new wardrobes that is over any of the wardrobes I’ve seen and like but would rather go too high than too low. For example: I’ve gone £500 for the wardrobe but most of them are coming in around the £350 mark. I want to track all these things so that then I can put the remaining £150 I’ve saved somewhere else but be able to see where that money has actually come from. It sounds incredibly basic but personally if I can see the way that money has shifted from one place to another I feel it holds me more to account as I’m less likely to be all “wahey I saved £150 on this wardrobe so now I can buy a litre of melted chocolate” or something equally bizarre. If I make a saving somewhere or something comes in over budget I still want to be able to acknowledge the amount I have saved and that there are other places the money can go to as well.

In 2019 I’m thinking about doing something that I’ve seen a few people do on Youtube but am not sure if I will be able to stick to it so to find out I am going to do a test run at the end of 2018 once my first new job wage comes in. Every time they finish a beauty product or a book they look at the value of the product or the amount that they know they spent on it and put that amount towards their savings fund. Some people use this fund to replenish foundation when they completely run out or to buy new books that they see getting released and I think I might do something similar. It wont be exactly the same though as I am going to tally up that amount of money and write a list of the things that I might like, but don’t see and want to grab off the shelves immediately, and come the end of 2019 decide whether I really want those items and get them from this list. I’m thinking a new piece of jewellery or a type of shoe I already have several of or an eyeshadow palette that I don’t really need but everybody manages to rave about. It’s a good way to reward myself for my book no buy and my attempts to use up products (like this one here).

There is also the part of me that would love to see me making some additional money from this blog or from my social media accounts but given it hasn’t happened in the last eight years of blogging, though I have received PR in that time, it seems like an unlikely thing. If this was to happen though the money would go back into the blog with an improved layout, new artwork and getting new products to try out but all these financial dreams and blog ideas haven’t even made it onto the spreadsheet yet as I feel getting my life sorted out with the five big things will naturally help me to create better content. But I aren’t really too fussed about this either way, it’s just a bit of a pipeline dream… maybe by 2020.

And of course to make it less of a distraction I’m putting the money into a separate bank account, away from my regular account, so that I can’t physically see the money without going and scrolling through apps for it. Out of sight out of mind right? Is this what reaching 24 is like? You start to think of yourself as mid-twenties and go into a quarter-life crisis about your future? Yes? I thought as much.

If you want to see what sort of things I buy then be sure to check out my twitter and instagram stories! How do you manage your finances and saving goals? I’d love to find out in the comments below.

‘Healthy’ Eating Update

Back at the end of summer, or the start of autumn depending on your perspective, I discussed how Eat Up! was helping me to think about food in a different way. How it made me want to savour each bit of food, take in all the aromas whilst cooking and to not feel guilt around wanting something traditionally deemed ‘bad’ by the food industry. As you might realise it all sounds a lot easier said than done so I thought I’d share a bit of an update as to how I’m actually getting along with it and sharing other things that I have figured out along the way.

Before we begin I just want to put a reminder out there that ‘healthy’ eating is simply about being happy with the food you eat, listening to what your body wants and needs and finding ways to cook and eat that you enjoy so you’re getting the really good for you nutrients into your system. It isn’t about eating greens three meals a day or denying yourself anything. This is about listening to your brain and body and coming up with a way of thinking that provides happiness with food and doesn’t give any room to shame or guilt. This is one of those cases where you can have your cake and eat it.

The first time I found myself craving pizza, I immediately found myself feeling shame. This was several weeks into trying to not feel such thoughts and until then it had been going pretty well. I guess no real challenges had come along until then. And for the first day of desiring pizza I let the feelings of guilt and disgust win out but on the second day, a cold but sunny Sunday afternoon, I ventured out to Sainsbury’s solo and picked up a four cheese pizza without a care in the world. As I stood at the freezer section, with a mum and her two girls next to me debating over ice cream, I didn’t feel any shame about reaching in there and making it obvious that “yes, this is my dinner”. In that moment the only guilt I felt was not following my cravings sooner. Of course that wasn’t the only time that I felt the shame of a craving creeping in but this occasion of getting the pizza served as a reminder to consider why I want the item and that if it will bring some sort of comforting happiness maybe I should just go with it.

There were also the moments when I was just in a bit of a mental slump and cooking hit the back-burner. It reached that point of me just not wanting to go anywhere near the kitchen let along look at an ingredient or whip a meal together. When moments like this happen I used to just sort of come to accept it even though it doesn’t make my food part of my brain or my tummy sing with joy. But with my new attempts of trying to enjoy everything I managed to at least appreciate the delights of the tinned soup that I was heating up or the cube of cheese that I munched on as a snack. It might not sound delicious to you but they are the simple foods that make me happy and feel a sense of comfort. In doing so I found myself able to creep out of the food slump a little bit quicker than normal and I did it by building up slowly.

On the day I bought that four cheese pizza I also bought some avocado to just get a bit of the nutrition into my diet that my body was starting to cry out for and from there I felt excited to add other things into my food routine. Again there was guilt that tried to sneak in though and at times it felt like I couldn’t win. I wasn’t trying to force myself to eat certain foods and that itself made me feel guilty and then when I did start to eat them I felt guilty for not starting again sooner. But overall I managed to tell myself to not have regret over anything and to instead appreciate the simple moments of joy I got from the foods that I did eat which really takes a lot of brain training to do.

There have certainly been times when I have thought it to be completely impossible and like I might need to seek out some serious professional help to shake these feelings but that idea only led me to feel horrible about myself. I’m very clearly not at that stage just yet and need to continue to move in the right direction myself first before being able to talk one to one in a small plain room about it all to some random person pretending not to judge me with all their mmm mmmm’s.

Attempting to essentially retrain my brain over the last month or so has proved to be really extremely difficult and takes a huge amount of willpower and self-desire. This is something that I have needed to do for a long time but only recently found the internal strength to attempt and it very much feels like a better late than never sort of moment (though really it isn’t late at all it’s just the right time for me) and there is still a huge way to go. I’m not sure I’ll ever really be able to eat food without guilt or having some sort of shameful thoughts occasionally pinging around my head but being able to make some sort of progress on it and acknowledging when those feelings exist is still a start.

Have you ever tried to retrain your brain around how you think about food? If so what helped you or what was the biggest hurdle?

Lyons Coffee Bags*

Cafetieres are beautiful to look at, therapeutic to put into action and produce great flavoured coffee but sometimes we just don’t have the time to get involved with one; the time it takes to prepare, to empty and clean up afterwards can take away some of the joy especially if you’re rushing around in the middle of the day or in a cramped makeshift kitchen in the office. Or we have dreams of one of those fancy coffee machines that equally take a lot of time to clean up but at least elevate the kitchen to another level but for most people finding worktop room for such an item is something that will remain a dream for many years to come. Unless it’s a day off I can think of so many other ways to spend my time than scooping wet coffee from a cafetiere or coffee machine into a food waste box for composting (a cafetiere cuppa on a Sunday morning is a real treat).

Then there are those amongst us that want a good brew but don’t want to take a diversion to the nearest coffee shop, to carry around a travel mug or to hand over several of our hard earned pounds a day. Everywhere we look there are people rushing around trying to find a perfect cup of coffee to get their day going because the freeze-dried office granules have gone all lumpy from somebody with poor wet spoon etiquette. Without a fancy coffee machine that is well maintained, somebody that has the job to just use the cafetiere all day or free coffee from a local cafe on tap then there was little choice to hand over those pounds for that much needed caffeine boost or simply go without.

On the go coffee bags

Lyons coffee have finally provided us with a much needed solution that allows us to make a cuppa as quickly as we could with the freeze-dried stuff, with as little mess as the frozen stuff but with all the flavour and freshness as a freshly ground brew. At last you can get freshly ground coffee in an oversized teabag, dunk it for a couple of minutes, add your extra syrups or milk and sugar and be on your way without any of the mess or having to step out into the cold rain to search down a coffee.

And not only do they provide a convenient and no mess solution they also allow you to get that freshly ground coffee aroma and whack of flavour without draining your bank balance as a box of 18 bags comes in at £2.60 (that’s basically the cost of your Monday drink alone). It’s an absolutely fantastic concept and I’m pleased to see them at a range of supermarkets including Sainsbury’s and Waitrose as well as Amazon (to bulk buy) as it allows for quick purchasing as part of the weekly shop or with a few quick clicks if you have a few other items that you need to purchase as well (but I always recommend buying direct from the company when possible).

I’m currently loving the No3 blend which is rich and full bodied, providing a smoothness of texture and gentle flavour that builds in the mouth over time. There’s absolutely no bitterness to it either so I don’t find myself needing to lean towards the milk or sugar to balance it out. It’s perfect just as it is. They also do a couple of other blends that are gentler on the flavour and pack more of a punch to ensure that whatever your coffee preferences are, whether they stay the same all day or you start strong and then go milder, there is something available for you. In fact, this coffee is pretty much the reason that I drink coffee at all right now as nothing else has quite managed to live up to it.

These are really delightful little bags of joy that have enhanced my love of coffee. Are you a lover of coffee? Do you tend to add milk or sugar to yours? I’d love to find out in the comments below.

*Whilst these products were sent to me to try out and with the hope of my sharing my thoughts all views and words are completely my own.

Book No Buy

Going on a no buy is always something that sounds a little terrifying. People say they intend to buy no makeup products, no clothes, books or anything unless they completely run out and it is part of their routine. I could never take it to that level, at least not right now and especially with Christmas and a new pay cheque slowly creeping closer, but there are certain things that I am attempting to not purchase.

Back in September there was a tag on Instagram that focused on reading what you own instead of buying new books or leaning towards new releases. This came at a much needed moment for me as I had gathered quite a few new books during August and already had an extremely overwhelming to be read stack. After September ended though I decided to carry on going with it and, though I might ask for some new books for Christmas, hope to take it all the way through to the end of 2018. There are so many good and fascinating fiction and non-fiction books sitting on the shelves that they deserve to be pulled off and have the spines bent and the pages pawed through.

There is one book that I have already pre-ordered and will be arriving this month but, given I never get excited enough to pre-order things, I don’t want to take that bit of joy away. Browsing in a charity shop I also found the second installment of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, Hollow City, and as it was already on my list to get at some point it seemed like a missed opportunity to grab it for £1.

If you want a bit of perspective I’m on track to read 1.5 books a week over the course of this year and I have more books on my to be read stack than I started the year with.

There are so many books in the flat that I haven’t read that I could probably go through to 2022 without needing to buy another book but that would be a rather sad thing to try and force myself to do but going forward I do hope to become a bit more aware of the books and number of books that are entering my collection. And before you look at the photos of the bookcases and think surely not, I’ll let you into a little secret; the short bookcase is double rowed and we have three huge boxes of books just sitting around equalling about 200 more books and then there are the books we don’t even have in the flat yet but in storage elsewhere… Not only will it give me a chance to work through my current collection and see if there are any books I am desperately trying to shy away from that it becomes so glaringly obvious that they need to be removed from my shelves but it will also give me a chance to save some money (all those £1 books add up quite quickly!) towards a holiday or something else that I enjoy as well (in fact I have a blog post about financial goals coming in the next couple of weeks and I hope that will help hold myself accountable for the amount that I spend on books in the short to medium term).

And I think this is something that is important for me to do now as I know I can get obsessed with things and have found myself gathering up a huge amount of books before, which is why I have so many still to read, and getting more into bookstagram there is a risk of falling into the habit of seeking things out for nothing more than a haul photo. I have enough books that I can do good looking stacks, such as colour piles, without having to buy more to feel part of the community. Besides bookstagram would not approve of me buying any more books until I can get another bookcase for them and unless I can purchase an actual library I don’t think that’s viable right now!

Despite having spent so much money, having loads of books unread and not always reading as frequently as I want to I’m not going to let any guilt creep in. I do not regret the books that I have purchased over the years, or this year more specifically, and I do not regret the time I have spent soaking specific books up or between books before diving into the next one. Books are something to go through at a personal pace so that you can absorb all the words, it isn’t a race, and this is why I don’t generally get involved with that many book challenges because whilst I find them fun they can also add to a little stress and prevent me from being fully able to take the contents of a book in. In fact I am looking forward to sharing books that aren’t spoken about that much in the book community over here in reviews, on instagram snaps and with my monthly roundups on instagram TV and I am pretty sure that should any guilt or bad feelings start to creep in reminding myself of this aim will snap me out of it!

Have you found yourself overwhelmed by the number of books you have? Do you have to stop yourself going into charity shops or you come out with ten books? Perhaps you give yourself a book budget and if so do you do it by financial amount or by number of books? I’d love to find out more about how you manage your collection in the comments below. If you want to find out what I’m reading right now you can also find me on Goodreads.

Products I Want To Use Up In 2018 #7

As my mental approach to a lot of things, such as food and happiness, has changed over the last couple of months I have found myself thinking differently about using products up. It wasn’t an intentional transition in thought process but on sitting down to share my empties with you I realised that a change had occurred.

In reality the change in attitude probably isn’t as big as I am imagining it to be in my head but all these changes add up to feeling like a completely different person. For a while I felt a huge amount of guilt for having so many products and backups of certain items and just wanted to absolutely rid my drawers and cupboards of it all but, apart from the very odd item going in a declutter, I wanted to make sure I used all the products up and never let my collection get so out of hand again. Quick disclaimer: I am not wanting to suddenly have a collection of products.

Like my change in thoughts with food, I really want to make sure that I cherish each item and appreciate the purpose of using it. I want to soak up the smell of the product, find the perfect amount of product to use rather than getting a splob and hoping for the best and to take a second to acknowledge the impact of it on my body. I found that I was getting into the habit of using products up but just using them without taking any sort of thought or consideration and that lack of care for a product felt, even though I was using the product up, like a huge waste because I was missing the experience that I had bought into in the first place.

Beauty product empties flatlay

I’d usually just talk about a handful of the items that have come to an end since my last post but I’ve not exactly done a lot of dousing myself in body lotions and such recently, plus a lot of products are on the fuller side, so the stack of empties is really rather sad. I think the lack of use of product is certainly linked to spending quite some time away from the flat over the last couple of months and only taking minimum products with me when I was on the go.

  • Avon forest green nail varnish. This is a product that I could no longer enjoy, despite liking how the shade looks on my nails. I probably shouldn’t admit this but this bottle of polish is probably about 8 years old and as a result it just doesn’t have quite the same qualities that it did before and within an hour of me applying a couple of layers of this, which held up colour wise well, it was chipping due to the thin consistency of it.
  • Rimmel French manicure nail varnish. I remember getting this product for subscribing to a teen magazine when I still lived back home. In fact not just when I still lived at home but I remember my dad being the one to deal with the subscription people at one point so we’re talking this is even older than the Avon polish. *gulp*. It’s not something I ever really leaned towards much but I picked it up the other day and whilst the consistency of the product is perfectly okay the colour of the product against my skin and on my own tone of nails just did not look good at all. It has quite a peachy tone and that just doesn’t personally work for me so it’s time to call this one quits and take it out of my collection.
  • Wilko rhubarb and vanilla bath foam. Back at the start of August I mentioned how bath bombs and me were no longer the best of friends and this super cheap bath foam is one of the reasons why. The scent throw of all these products and the way that they foam up is absolutely amazing and really works for me and where I am at right now. I have one of these individual bottles left and then I’ll have nothing left in the supply and need to get on a bus to Bromley to top up on these delights (and if you know me you’ll know I love a Wilko shopping trip).
  • The Body Shop pink grapefruit body butter. I’m not that big a fan of this particular scent of the body butters and that did certainly play a role in how long it took me to work through this tub. I could have finished it at least a month ago if I could pull myself to use it on an almost daily basis but with the scent it just wasn’t possible. This is certainly a note to self to only get the big tubs of the stuff if it’s in a scent that I already know I enjoy having on my skin. There’s still what feels like a never-ending supply of body butter in my drawer of spares so it looks like I’ll be all set to not need to worry about stocking up on any until, at the very earliest, the January sales.
  • Makeup Revolution setting spray. I do need a setting spray in my life but this is not the one I want to reach for in the future. The sprayer was just a little too harsh and after it reached the halfway point it became increasingly random in terms of how much product was dispersed onto each bit of the face. It had a really strong chemical smell as well and certainly did nothing for the dry patches on my skin. This was super cheap and I bought it at a point when I needed a setting spray but couldn’t really afford one but it did last a long time, though given I don’t apply makeup that often that means very little, and for that I was impressed. I’ve got a different high street brand setting spray ready to go that they sent me back last year to review and then once that’s used up I’ll certainly be looking to invest in one that is of better quality.

There are some products on the horizon of coming to an end. A lip balm, especially with the weather changing, that has lasted a good part of the year is finally reaching the stage of the end being in sight. There’s a small bottle of body spray and one of perfume that depending on how I split my uses of them could see at least one, if not both, completed by my next updated. I’ve got a translucent face powder which has some pretty hefty pan showing and it is at the stage of crumbling and being noticeably powdery whenever used so if it survives my heavy hand over the next month or so I will be shocked.

Fingers crossed for a more impressive month next month! What have you managed to use up this month? Let me know in the comments below.

Scrapbook Of An Unfound Songstress by Vicky Nolan*

A little while ago Vicky Nolan, the author of Scrapbook of an Unfound Songstress, reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in giving her book a read. She explained to me that the book is based on her real life experiences of trying to break into the music industry and how it all ended up going a little bit sour because of things completely out of her knowledge and control.

It sounded really interesting as I love memoir books and especially the ones that openly tell of the good, bad and explain the drama along the way but the writing style of them has to be very specific for me to properly get into it. Whilst memoirs are personal if it contains too many “I” sentences it becomes a little dreary and they tend to stifle the flow of the words and make it really difficult to just dive into the contents. And the first few pages contained a lot of seemingly short feeling and disjointed sentences that were very much “I” based with little real build up or description so it took me a little bit of determination to persevere with the book to see where it would lead me.

Book by Vicky Nolan

When I get sent a product to review or to try out in some way, like this book, I’m always desperate to love it and to be able to sing its praises but I’m also the sort of person that will share my honest thoughts on something because the blogging and reviewing world can’t just be all happy perfection. And despite my desires to adore this book I just can’t pretend that I did and it felt like somebody writing an angry diary of their life trying to make sense of everything; the book seemed to be more written for the personal satisfaction of the author to get something out of all the struggles in this chapter of her life rather than to provide a solid read with enjoyable structure for the reader. It’s harsh but true and this book reminds me of that sort of forced personal story we were all asked to write as part of creative writing during English GCSE lessons.

In fact I never finished the book as it really just wasn’t my style at all. I’m sure that the style is something that will work for some people and that perhaps if they grew up dreaming of being a Spice Girl this will help provide them of some comfort as to why the music industry can be bad and not at all as glamorous as people would like to belief. For me it is a story that would be better told in visual format, such as a short series or a film, rather than in the written form as the way it is written, based on such personal experiences and visuals, would come across much better on a screen than with all the “I” sentences throughout the entire book.

There is certainly an audience out there for this book but I don’t think that intended audience is really me as I’m into quite an intense style of writing with a much deeper and cemented view. I’m used to memoirs by older people and find their writing style to be a bit more in tune with the way that I think (I’m very much a granny at heart) and this is just something so very different. In fact there are a couple of people in my life that might be interested in reading this sort of book because it’s similar to their interests and the sort of books that they often read.

It just didn’t grip me, captivate me or grip me in the way that I wanted it to and it didn’t have the substance in style that I was expecting from it. The cover is super pretty though and is a great representation of all of the content and topics covered within the book but this is one of those sad moments of not judging a book by its cover because it only led to disappointment.

To be clear, I have nothing wrong with the author or her sharing of her experiences. In fact I think it’s an incredibly brave thing to do to open up about such a difficult part of her life. But for me it just isn’t written in a style that I can get behind and that really put me off from reading it. This isn’t a bad book in general it’s just a bad book for me and that says much more about me than it does about the book or Vicky in herself.

*This book was sent to me to review. All thoughts are my own and freely published here without consultation or editing from the author.

Revising My Goals And Life

Like so many people, I set myself some goals for 2018. We’re now ten months in and whilst I remember setting them as ‘smart’ targets that’s pretty far as my memory of them goes. Life has changed a lot since the goals were created. I had open heart surgery and have spent a separate chunk of time in hospital, I quit my last job and my entire mental attitude towards a number of things have shifted too. Naturally with so many unexpected curveballs thrown my way the goals need revisiting and tweaking a little but at this point in the year I’m not too fuss about whether I manage to full complete anything or just nudge in the right direction.

Achieved Goals

  1. I put down to read at least one book a season, e.g. four books in the year, and it’s safe to say I have smashed that target with it looking like I’ll be managing over 10 times that amount.
  2. My nails are certainly bare a little bit of the time but, apart from when I have spent time in hospital, on the whole I have started to do my nails a lot more and work my way through which polishes work for me and are still worth keeping around. There’s still room for improvement on this but over the next couple of months I’m pretty sure I can keep it up to nail my target.
  3. My project pan is still going strong and I’ve managed to use a fair few products up over the year. Progress isn’t always as strong as I would like it to be but it has still got me to get into slightly better routines of using things up, though there is still room for improvement, and I’m viewing this as a successful target achieved this year but will be working on smashing it further next year.
  4. I’ve started to receive a few more things for reviewing purposes, mainly books, with a mixture of PR companies, smaller PRs and brands directly getting in touch with me. It’s certainly a start in the right direction and I’m hoping with more regular uploads, more focused social media presence and a constant develop in my style and ability that these opportunities will carry on developing through the rest of this year and into next year.

Goals I’m Progressing With

  1. I mentioned how it would be great to spend more time cooking or baking something a little bit more interesting and sharing the recipe(s) over on this blog. The blog part of it hasn’t really happened but I have turned my instagram more into a foodie haven and I do try to be a little more creative in the kitchen than before. It’s a goal I’ve half succeeded with and whilst I would like to manage the blogging side of it there are so many other great people doing that sort of thing it feels like mine would look very poor in comparison.
  2. Slowly, and I mean slowly, I am getting better at organising my property. I still struggle with getting clothes on hangers all of the time but I’m working towards it and acknowledge when it has crept back into that messy place. We need a new iron but when the opportunity has arisen somewhere along the lines with a better iron I have taken the time to get my clothes sorted out. If I at least manage to go into 2019 with an under control, and hopefully by then ironed, collection of clothes I’ll know that I am on the way to better happens and will be able to call this a success.

Wishful Thinking

  1. Another year, another failed attempt at saving money. I was actually doing fairly well with this before my surgery and quitting my job but taking time to switch jobs obviously means that the reserves a depleted a bit and it takes some time to start building them up. As I will be mentioning in a post later this month though I do now have a plan to tackle my finances to save for both a wedding and a holiday… they were only ever dream targets after all.

The aims, dreams, goals, targets whatever we prefer to call them these days aren’t exactly going badly but they could be going better as well. It disappoints me that I haven’t managed to tick off all the things listed as “100% achievable targets” yet when we are so near to the end of the year but it motivates me to push on and get them ticked off in the upcoming months.

As well as completing the Goals I’m Progressing With there are a few more small targets I want to work towards. These are likely going to come across as really basic things to most people but for me they are things that I want to work on to make me feel that little bit more fulfilled and happy with life. My entire aim with any life based goal is to make my life feel that bit more whole and well-rounded and it’s about abandoning my bad habits, adopting new good habits and just trying to appear a bit more as a normal functioning adult.

Additional Goals

  1. Since September 17th I’ve managed to wake up naturally, or set my alarm to wake up, between 06:00 and 06:30 and to then be out of bed itself by 07:00 on weekday. If it happens on a weekend that’s what I call an accident. I started this when I knew my new job was on the horizon with wanting to get into a new routine and found myself getting so much done. This is something that I want to keep up. Of course in many ways this is something that I need to keep up because of the job but I could technically get up later and spend less time getting ready in the morning but having breakfast, whacking on some mascara and maybe even reading a few pages of book before I step out the door is a much more preferable way to start my day than rushing around with minimum time to spare.
  2. In my previous job I got into a terrible habit of rushing out the door without breakfast, hence needing to adopt goal number one, and would often end up skipping lunch. My food before my evening meal would consist of some 15:00 biscuits and hot chocolate (doesn’t really count does it?) and naturally it was leaving me in a mental and physical slump. I’m hoping to be able to maintain, like I have done between jobs, having three meals a day as well as the odd snack. Doing so helps me to make better choices and not eat a huge plate in the evening which only serves to disrupt my sleeping habits. I’ve got tubs galore available to create a whole world of possibilities for what to take with me for lunch every day and I’m looking forward to making the most of my official lunch breaks to devour my food in joy away from my desk.
  3. This is something I have spent time working on since my surgery but with recovery, getting ill again and not working the progress has been super slow. Eating better food, by trying to manage goal two, has helped a bit but eating better doesn’t burn fat quite that well. I’m aiming to start going to the staff gym after work or walking home after my shift (not before because stinky!) and that those things combined with walking around a hospital and jigging about at my desk will help me to lose a little bit of weight. I’ve got a big goal overall but if I can lose a stone between now and the end of the year that will be an amazing start. There are plenty of clothes in my wardrobe that come under the ‘one day I will fit into you category’.

There are probably a huge number of other things that I am working towards or would like to achieve by the end of the year but these seem to be the most important to me right now as they get me into better habits for starting my day right, not going into a slump through the day or coming home too exhausted to eat well and will hopefully feel more confident about my figure too.

How are your 2018 goals going so far? Have you revisited them or perhaps added anything additional to them? I’d love to find out in the comments below.

The Food Wars by Walden Bello

When I was reading this book I read half the chapter focusing on agrofuels and the next morning there was one of the companies mentioned with a sponsored advert on my twitter feed. Was it there before or did I just notice it because of my awareness around the topic? Or is there some greater capitalist conspiracy of them getting into your mind? I’ll let you decide that answer but what I do know is that at 07:10 on a Tuesday morning it really narked me off.

As well as discussing agrofuel The Food Wars also covers poverty, agrobusiness, imports, exports, the general food industry and the political groups that try to impact on food production and ‘stability’. Walden Bello sprung into action to write this book when the 2008 financial crisis hit and got supported by his employers, colleagues and those that are also in this area of expertise to power ahead and highlight how the food industry and food prices both partly led to the crisis but also how they would be impacted by that financial crisis and any others that would follow. If you haven’t read about these topics before this book is easy enough to get into and understand but if you feel daunted by the concept I’d certainly start with something like Food for Beginners as, whilst it focuses specifically on the issues on the African continent, it mentions several of the topics and policies included in more depth in Bello’s book.

The book is split up into seven chapters that all focus on different topics but are able to reference things and places mentioned in previous chapters as well to allow for integration and further understanding by the reader. Despite this, each chapter could easily be read as a standalone for extra information on a certain area of the food industry or a specific country. Personally, I find non-fiction books that find ways to weave and transition topics from one chapter to another to be the most enjoyable and understandable to read because it really helps for the arguments of certain sections to get into your head instead of you reading it and moving on to something completely different two lines later.

Book by Walden Bello

The first chapter acts as an introduction to the way Bello will be approaching the contents in his book and gives an explanation as to what he will be meaning when referring to peasants and different social and political groups in the food chain. The later chapters focus on different types of production in countries like Mexico, The Philippines and China before discussing agrofuel and concluding with what needs to be done going forward and what may happen if nothing is done to overturn the status quo. It’s a traditional style for a book but the flow from one to the next is beautiful and whilst it allows the reader to easily glide from one to the next the way it is written brings about a level of conscious stirring and challenges too.

Whilst each chapter tells a different story as to what happened to each country the results are the same; restructuring plans and financial plans put in place by external sources has caused them to go from net exporters with surplus food in storage to being overall importers of food and instead exporting things like cut flowers that the farmers and lowest income groups cannot survive on. The plans to make these changes, largely from the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the IMF, were done to ‘help’ the countries to bring down their debt, decrease public spending and agriculture initiatives and wait for the private sector to climb in but in all three cases it ignored the peasants need for food and a countries need for back up supplies. The only people that have benefited from these restructuring methods seems to be big business and multi-millionaires; it is another example of capitalists attacking the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable in society by bullying those that are meant to protect them.

All of this feeds into the sixth chapter, regarding agrofuel, and how countries that are now already starved of resources and reserves are being encouraged to grow things that can be used as a fuel replacement. These products are not food that is going to waste or already being produced where the conversion into fuel wont have an impact on the food consumer of the world; they are having to hack at rainforests, destroy land not usually used for agriculture and are using things like corn to make these ‘better’ fuel alternatives. It is clear that they are not better for the food consumer or for the environment but again to big business with the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson entering the agrofuel sector.

Throughout the book Bello also refers to a number of other academics and professionals that look in depth at certain regions and countries struggling with the food crisis and quotes them to increase the reputability of Bello’s claims and statements. At times though it can feel like he is over-quoting the same people but when you take a careful look at the citations and see where all his facts and statements are coming from you can see that this is far from the case (you need to be the sort of person that has the patience to flick from page to the back of the book to check every single citation though and when there’s a lot of them that involves some dedication).

The final chapter, whilst also looking to the future and figuring out what might happen next, provides three short case studies of people that did something specific for the movement; suicide, time in prison and the creators of powerful movements. It gives the reader a deeper understanding of the level of crisis that people are finding themselves in whilst providing additional information on some countries not mentioned that much throughout the book. by the time you get to the last chapter you feel slightly numb as a reader because of the realisation of just how awful everything is so the case studies don’t quite have the same punch that they might if you read them out of context but they do pump you up to want to read about the next steps in this almighty battle.

As Bello is based in the US and, like most markets, the US is overlord in the food market the book only touches upon the EU and the UK. It shows that there is mild resistance to things like agrofuel in the EU but that they still want to create targets, lease land and get involved in anything that gives them economic and political clout. This attitude has continued to prove to be dangerous and governments have pushed ahead with new initiatives that do little for the environment on a real level, benefit people inside or outside the EU or to help with the financial crisis of the late 2000’s or to prevent the one likely to happen in the upcoming months or years. At the end of the book there is a great sense of need to sit down and think about what the country you live in is doing in terms of food exports and imports, is it fuelling the agribusiness trade, is the energy it really wants to promote clean and what is happening to the workers? It doesn’t take you look to scratch the surface and realise that almost every country is to blame for this food war. But the real food war is the big business vs the rest and that’s exactly how they want it to be.

Whilst this book comes in at less than 200 pages it did take me some time to read, not helped by me being in hospital in the meantime, and it is one of those books where you do need some time to process each sub-section and chapter properly. I found it to be an accessible read, as somebody without a specialism in economics or the global food markets, and a great summary of the topics covered. It has given me enough confidence to pick up a book that goes into the food situation of one specific country more and know that I will have enough knowledge to be able to understand not only the content but some of the organisations, groups and reports that they are likely to refer to.

If you have read this book, I would love to hear your interpretation of it in the comments below. Otherwise you can follow me on Goodreads or Instagram to see what my current reads are.