A Delightful December

2014 marks the first December I’ve been able to spend in my own home, and I’ve really enjoyed it. T and I splashed out and bought our first real Christmas tree from Berkshire Christmas Trees, which cost us £50 including delivery and the metal stand. As we can’t drive, this was the most affordable option for us. The service was excellent; I rung up on the Friday and Sue was able to deliver on Sunday. She kept in touch via text, which was a really nice touch. We weren’t able to pick out our tree, which was a shame - our specimen was a bit bottom heavy – but the foliage was lush and dense. Overall, it was a really convenient, hassle-free experience.
It arrived on the 1st December (yes, I know, we were VERY early) and it’s still looking good today. I’ve not been particularly religious about watering the poor thing and it’s definitely gone thirsty a few times, so I’m really impressed with its hardiness.

I’ve never had a real tree and the needles were a bit of a shock – I’ve never hovered so much in my life! On the flip side, I was able to cut off some of the lower branches to make natural garlands for my door frames and walls. We’re lacking a mantel piece so we made do with a home-made wreath over the fireplace!
I was reluctant to spend a fortune on decorations this year. It’s been an expensive annum and I didn’t have the funds to splash out on expensive bits and bobs, so I decided to make as much of my decorations as I could. I bought some cheap twine and ribbon, and painted some keys and some pine cones white. The fox and robin were a gift from T’s parents; they’re both from John Lewis.
A Christmas dinner has become a bit of a ‘Friend-mas’ tradition, so I dutifully cooked a full roast with ALL the trimmings on Sunday 21st and had some of the gang over. I decided to cook a gammon and a rump of pork, as I find they’re the best value options when you’re trying to feed four hungry boys!

I always buy a Sainsbury’s Basics, unsmoked joint – as long as you put effort into your seasoning (cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, gloves, celery, onion and carrot) it tastes like the premium range.

Cooking Christmas dinner took me about three hours in total, but it was well worth it to see everyone’s smiling faces when it was served up. I also enjoyed the aftermath, when we were all groaning and cursing our own greed.

I'm off to Winchester tonight to celebrate Christmas with my family. Best wishes to you all!


Getting out of that rut: positive changes to make in 2015

Despite my apparently cheerful demeanour, I’ve been in somewhat of a rut during the last few weeks, so I haven’t been writing.
Now, bear with me: I didn’t plan for this blog to be a personal diary. I’ve already spilt plenty of ink over petty sorrows in my time. In the past, I’ve wasted pages upon pages whining and griping about some perceived partisanship or another. That stage in my life is over now (thank god) but I have been feeling miserable – and I think I need to own up!
I’ve been working incredibly hard since I finished University, and it feels like the adult I envisioned myself to be – a creative, fascinating, enviable girl - couldn’t be further from reality. I’m too lazy to cook dinner, let alone paint a stirring triptych or write that ground breaking novel. I sleep-walk to work and sit numbly at a desk for nine hours. At home, I slump on the sofa until it hits 11pm and it’s socially acceptable for me to be unconscious. It’s not much of a life!
It is really difficult to diagnose the source of this great malaise. By many benchmarks, I am ‘successful’. I have a mortgage and a permanent job, which is UNHEARD OF according to the daily mail. I am also university educated, in a long-term relationship and a size ten. I tick a lot of boxes. There’s nothing wrong with my life but I don’t feel ‘fulfilled’. Now, how on earth does a 24-year-old go about achieving that?
If you’re to believe social media, there are two strategies:
  1. Get rich & buy Dom P (impossible, really: you don’t become a CEO overnight)
  2. Go travelling (also impossible: see mortgage, above)
As neither of these solutions are within my realm of possibility, I thought I’d write my own battle plan.
1. Fix your job.

I found a new opportunity through CV Library
You only live once, and most of us have to work to live. That’s why it’s so important to get it right. My weekdays are spent in an office environment which is so, so toxic; it’s stressful, aggressive, competitive and lonely. Anyone that says they ‘flourish in a high pressure environment’ is a lying toad. That potted plant I water once a month is positively thriving in comparison to me at the moment.
So, I quit. I found myself a new job and handed in my notice straight away. Obviously, work isn’t easy to come by, but putting your CV online and reaching out to recruiters can work wonders.
January 2015, I will be working for a charity. Yippee! It means a pay-cut but I also get more time off, nicer working hours, and hopefully a smug sense of satisfaction…
2. Tell people you’re feeling down

Asking for help has never been my strong suit. I’m an arrogant individual and I hate people to think I’m not doing well. I think it’s a terrible combination of a British ‘stiff upper lip’ and the #hashtag #filter #selfie generation we’ve found ourselves in. I don’t mean in a facebook status, either: I mean have a cup of tea with a real friend, or your mother, or your boyfriend, and say – ‘hey man, things suck’. They can’t help you, but admitting it will motivate you to change. It also means you’re accountable. If you tell your friend you hate your job and you’re miserable, then they’ll give you sympathy (unless they’re a dick). If you’re still whining about it in six months’ time, though, they’ll probably be bored stiff and won’t actually give a damn.  
In this blog post, I owned up to the ENTIRE internet. Take that, insecurities!
If you can’t tell anybody, please speak a charity or drop me an email. I’m a great agony aunt.

3. Make a lifestyle change

Stop Eating Poison!
I make a lot of very bad decisions. Not major life decisions, mind (we already covered that – I’m okay at those) but small, every day choices which seem insignificant but mount up to a lot of misery. For example, eating a chocolate bar at 9:30am is not a horrendous choice – let’s say you’re having a bad day so far (…all 45 minutes of it) and anyway, you’re having a salad for lunch! THEN, you choose to eat another at 2pm because you’ve had a sugar crash, and that salad was balls, and then you have another at 4pm because the day is going REALLY slowly and you’ve already fallen off the wagon once today. You know what, substitute the pronoun ‘you’ for ‘I’ – no one deserves to be tarred with those crimes against a waistline.
Therefore, I have decided to give up sugar. Yup, sugar. That beautiful, evil substance. I’ve decided to quit it, because I use it as an emotional crutch, an energy boost, an excuse, a treat… I’m rather dependent on it.
…I’ll start in January

4. Make time for hobbies

I always tell people I love to write, paint and draw – but I’m a fraud! I haven’t really done any art since last Christmas, when I did some cards for family and friends. I only doodle at work, but it’s all the same rehashed stuff. My writing has been reduced to these blogs – and it’s not enough, really. Not enough to call myself a ‘creative’ person.
Therefore, I am going to spend four hours a week doing something creative. If I can spend four hours in the gym, I can spend four hours making art
5. Work on your social life

Go Mammoth is a company that organises sport for adults
The problem with living in your University town is that it’s incredibly transient. My friends have been coming and going for the last two years and although everyone plans on ‘sticking around’, I’ve lost too many friends – to London, mostly, but also to Paris and Madrid. My bestest-bestie-4ever now lives in Athens, GA. Although the magical wonderful internet has made keeping in touch easier, I still miss hanging out. Therefore, I’m on a quest to extend my social sphere in 2015. You can’t just wish for friends – you have to seek them out.
I plan to go to life-drawing classes and join a sports team or club - there are loads about. These activities are expensive but they should be worth it
6. Turn off your Phone

I spend too much time on Instagram. I’m going to hold up my hand and admit it. I waste hours flicking and scrolling and double-tapping. I am a very passive user – I rarely take photos – yet for some reason, I’m hooked. I use the site as a point of comparison, so I can weigh up my meagre life against the carefully orchestrated and impeccably staged photographs of an insta-sleb. Gah!
Facebook is more of the same – a thumb flick reassures me that yes, my acquaintances ARE enjoying their Tuesday lunch time more than me.
Then, there’s the constant waiting. Too frequently, my eyes linger and languish on the top of my HTC, waiting for that little LED to light up and proclaim, ‘yes! Somebody loves you!’
I am going to turn my phone off during my working day, and for a portion of my evening. It’s not healthy and it’s not helping!

What do you think? Sensible changes or a hare-brained scheme?
I would love to hear how you deal with a down period in your lives.


Christmas Party: What I Wore

I came in like a wrecking bauble
The Christmas party is a BIG deal where I work. They spend an absolute fortune on it, and everything is included; transport to London, dinner, dancing, photo booths, bottomless drinks, a hotel room for the night, and a hellish, never-ending coach home in the morning.

On the coach to the venue. Great duck-face, Sian.
In the run-up, your outfit plan for the night is carefully discussed, scrutinised and analysed. You discuss hair, makeup, nails, shoes: all aspects are examined, all angles are explored, nothing is left to chance. It's all our desk has talked about for three weeks...
Unless you're me, of course, and you end up running into Reading before the party because you need shoes and you've realised your dress is silver, not gold....
I was on a serious budget this year. I have so many more things to fund (like a bathroom renovation!) and clothing and fashion has fallen by the way-side. However, I did need something new. Thank god for River Island.
Overall, the last-minute outfit cost me less than £60. I love the dress and its' already done double duty at my Mum's birthday meal. I can see it lasting the whole party season; it looks good with black tights and boots for a more casual night out. Plus, there is something oh-so-flattering about a Bardot neckline...

River Island shimmer bardot dress, £28

New Look Double Ankle Strap Heels, £24.99
  As always, I was flying the flag for Marketers everywhere and partied 'til 6am....
Who's bright idea was that photo booth??

Hope everyone has a great Christmas party too!


Living Room Furniture gets a Reshuffle!

So I finally decided to put my plans into action, and rearranged the furniture in my front room!

I think this is going to work for us, as it won't obstruct the route to the kitchen.

What do you think?


My First Christmas

So 2014 is my first Christmas in my new home. Not ever, obviously - I wasn't born yesterday. However, celebrating Christmas in your own space is a stark contrast to celebrating Christmas in your student digs, or at your folks', because I get to decorate! (and there are no underpants on the living room floor, ruining the effect)

This year, I want to channel Scandinavian rustic simplicity (like everyone else and their grandma too). It's my favourite aesthetic; wood, foliage and an almost monochrome palette really floats my boat and would match my minimalist home*.

source here

I have actually ordered a REAL Christmas tree this year, which isn't something I've ever had growing up (my parents have dogs - enough said). T, in contrast, usually has TWO real McCoys in his home and I felt like the atmosphere they create are just that little bit extra-special.

As an environmentally-friendly individual, I did a bit of research. Turns out a real tree isn't as bad for the world as you would expect and it's actually more responsible to get a real one, as long as it's locally sourced. We bought our tree from Berkshire Christmas Trees; delivery for a 5ft tree was an incredible £35!

However, there isn't a great deal of a market out there for natural decorations (although here is some great DIY tips and ideas from Wyvale Garden Centre) and I'm not able to drive about to collect material. Looks like I'm going artificial on the garland/wreath front....

Here are some items I've spotted in Marks and Spencer which I utterly adore.

available here
Available here
Available here

Available here

The other issue I have is the lack of surfaces - I don't have a mantel piece, or a coffee table, or a side table - so everything needs to hang on the tree or the walls.

What look are you channelling this Christmas? Where are you shopping? I'd love to hear from you.

Sarah Jess
The YUP Blog

*let's not mention that it's minimalist due to lack of funds rather than conscious choice.

None of the images in this post are mine and a property of the retailer or blogger credited.


Bathroom Renovation becomes Bedroom Upgrade

current bathroom; I love the velux!
What do all good houses need? Plenty of LSD.
According to Chris from Skins, anyway.

What they ACTUALLY need is storage, and I haven't got much of that. I suppose that's the down side to buying an adorable Victorian terrace which has been chopped and changed to add plumbing and an attic room.

Current floorplan.
As you may or may not know, we're planning to knock our super-weird twin toilets (see picture, right) into one SUPER bathroom. When I say super bathroom, it is of course quite a normal-sized bathroom to most normal-sized people. In this house, however, it's going to feel gargantum.

We spent a long time discussing what we could do with 3.1 x 1.9m of space. We toyed with an amazing walk-in shower. We toyed with turning the bath into a bath-shower combo and installing storage where the bath is. Then, a friend came around.
She took one look and went, 'well, why don't you have a built-in wardrobe?'

Makes perfect sense.

Here's what I hope it will look like:

CAD from here
 We'll build a small closet into some of the space where the shower is currently, just deep enough for a hanger, and as wide as the current wall. However, this is a supporting wall and therefore we'll require a lintel and potentially planning permission to knock it through. It's going to be expensive.

If it goes ahead, however, our master bedroom will have a compact yet functional built in wardrobe. The floor of the extension is also 30cm lower than the landing and bedroom so we will have space for a rail of clothes, plus a 'trap door' like compartment for shoes. It'll be tucked away behind the bedroom door.

This is a huge job and rather daunting, but I hope it'll pay off...!

The Yup Blog


Bathroom Renovation: Tile Crush

I'm still lacking in inspiration for most of the aesthetics for our home. Although I know the kind of 'ethos' and 'personality' I'd like our home to have, I'm drawing a blank when it comes to exact aspects.
I decided to pin down how I'd like the bathroom - which is the first room I want to change, based on 'need' rather than 'want' - to look (seriously, it's gross)

Pinterest Inspiration
source here
source here

source here

source here
  Floor Tiles
As our house is Victorian, I'd love to nod - in a subtle way - at the house's heritage. The house predates indoor plumbing (for the average Joe - Queen Vic had an indoor shower in the 1890s!) so the bathroom and kitchen are situated in a new extension, so I'm not worried about staying too canon.

Available here

These are the Camden Blue Floral Lys from Topps Tiles and I love 'em for their bright, crisp colours. They're £46.12 m2

available here

Best Tile do a great tile for £48 per square metre, and the company sends out free samples... grand! I feel like this design is a bit busier than I'd ideally like but I really like the pattern.

available here

Another great option is this Hammersmith Feature Tile from the Bath Store. The great thing about this tile is that the neutral palette would allow me to rock a dark grout, which would save me cleaning.... and I hate cleaning. Just ask my mother.

These are £39.02 per m2.

available here

There's also these absolute beauties from Fired Earth but, for £224.70 per m2, I would actually have to win the lottery. Tiling the floor would take up half my budget. Alas, a girl can dream. 

Wall Tiles 

White Subway tiles. That's what I'm thinking. It's rather boring but they should hopefully make the room look large, and reflect light from the velux window. I think we all know what they look like* so I shan't bother with pictures. 

I think I see a clear winner in the Bath Store, which surprised me. I did visit the Bath Store in Reading and found the staff incredibly helpful and they were very happy to throw together a CAD of the bathroom for me. I'd recommend a visit.

Is there anywhere important I'm missing? Please do leave a comment.
I did try Victoria Plumb and Homebase but there was too much beige for my liking. Beige is the colour of student houses and the diet of 14-year old boys. Yick**. 

Thanks for reading,

Sarah x
The YUP Blog

*clue: a subway. However, I have only ridden a 'subway' a few times in my life, and because I was 17 and in New York for the first time without my parents, I was not particularly interested in the walls. Too busy being indignant about the drinking age

*sorry if you like beige.


I love the sofa.... but is it right for us?

The living room is THE most important room in the house, lest we forget, and therefore the furniture needs to be on point. In case you missed my post about choosing a sofa (and if you missed it, you should go read it: it's a good'un) we picked a 'Ritchie' from Made.com. We stared at it online, visited the show room, checked the measurements over and over again.... I am 100% sure this is the sofa I want.

The sofa is beautiful. The fabric looks luxurious yet feels really durable. It's got a sturdy weight to it and the seams, stitching and buttons appear to be well finished. It really says everything I wanted to say with my living room.
 However, I'm very concerned about the space.

Sofa against the wall; view from the hallway door

On paper, the sofa fits. There's more than enough space. It's great. In reality though, it feels cumbersome. I bought a 3-seater and I just can't find a place for it.
Our living room is small and quite awkward, as all sides of it requires access. We have a vital cupboard in the top-right corner, a door to our garden in the top-left, kitchen access in the bottom left and access to the dining room in the bottom right. Therefore, we have no corners, and no full walls.

At the moment, we've placed the sofa opposite the fireplace but it just doesn't feel right.

Here are a few options I'm considoring.
(awesome 3D CADS generated here)

How have you dealt with a piece of furniture that doesn't quite fit but is just too perfect??


Cycling: why everyone should get on their bike

My Dawes Duchess

I am obsessed with cycling. Absolutely obsessed. If you follow me on instagram or twitter, you'll know that I take photos of my bike like most people photograph their dog/child/partner. Yes, I take a lot photos of an inanimate object.

Why am I so obsessed? Well, here are some of the reasons why I love cycling.

1. Keeps you fit

Cycling is an amazing kill-two-birds-with-one-stone activity. It gets you where you need to be, and burns calories too. Don’t have time to go to the gym? Cycle to the pub/workplace/shops instead.

As a mode of transport, a bike is incredibly efficient, so a 30 minute cycle burns only around 200 calories. That’s just a little more than a small glass of wine, or a little less than a chocolate bar. However, if you cycle to your dinner date, it’s like you never ate that pasta bake. Monitor your expenditure with an app like Fitness Tracker, so you don’t over-compensate.
Cycling to work is my personal favourite: it’s really hard to fit a workout into a 9 hour day, but I can always cycle to work. I live five miles away and it’s an excellent distance for a ride that raises your heart rate but doesn’t exhaust you. If you’re much further away, have you tried substituting some of your ride with a train journey?

How do I cope without a shower at work? Baby wipes and body spray, darlings. It’s like year 10 P.E all over again.

Thames Tow Path

2. Makes you HAPPY

‘Don’t ride to add days to your life. Ride to add life to your days.’
That’s one of my favourite sayings, and it’s true. Cycling allows me to appreciate things like a gorgeous sunset, the smell of rain and the exhilaration of beating my car-driving colleagues home. Plus, exercise is one of the best cures for stress and depression. Cycling home is like having a free counselling session – pedal out that office rage!
My favourite thing to do is plan a weekend cycle with T. This summer, we went to the New Forest and cycled over thirty miles in beautiful countryside. We regularly use the site Sustrans to plan a bike-friendly route.


 3. Saves you money
 I save £5 every day I ride to work. Not running a car has, over the last 5 years, might have saved me around £17,000 (a guesstimate based upon numbers from this Daily Mail article – pinch of salt though, y’all!) which is a staggering amount. I managed to put all that towards buying my house.

My bike requires very little maintenance – maybe £40 a year – and the only fuel it needs is FOOOOD. 
Plus, there are some AMAZING not-for-profit organisations around which will show you how to maintain your bike, like Reading Bicycle Kitchen! Prices start from just £4, which is great value. Teach a man to fish, and all that...

New Forest
4. Helps you to arrive on time

‘First Great Western is sorry to inform you that the 17:33 service to READING is delayed by 10 minutes.’
GOD I hate that announcement. I also hate queueing to get on the motorway, off the motorway, on the roundabout, past the school, and around the one way system. Most modes of transport suck. On a bike, however, I can normally overtake cars, take short cuts through parks... it’s AWESOME. The only thing to make me late is my terrible outfit-choosing ability.
Google Maps has a ‘bicycle’ mode which is really rather accurate, but I would always recommend doing a ‘test-ride’ before you take a new route to work.

Thames Tow Path at 7am (near Theale)

5. It’s really very safe

…if you wear a helmet, follow the rules of the road, and wear lots of lights at night.
There is a lot of press at the moment about cycling casualties and fatalities. These are inescapably tragic and really, every single individual should work to safeguard the cyclist. However, this starts with the rider. I am shocked by the number of cyclists I see jumping red lights, undertaking other vehicles and taking risks on roundabouts. If you behave in the same way a car would at give way signs, zebra crossings or traffic lights (I know, those are tempting to skip) other road users will respect you more. They’ll also be able to predict your behaviour. There will always be bad drivers on the road. Stick your middle finger up. They're idiots.

There is also a lot of debate surrounding helmets but I'm not one to believe the here say on the internet. I recently slipped on some wet leaves (when cycling - I'm okay at walking!). I was ‘only going over the road’ on a five-minute journey, but I lost control when braking. I was actually on the pavement, but I still could have been seriously hurt - get your lids on!

The bottom line is: I’ve been riding a bike in a busy town for five years and I have never had any accidents, but I do play it safe.
The only time you'll see me without a helmet is when these amazing invisible ones are a bit more affordable


Thames Tow Path (near Reading)
I hope this post inspires some cyclists! Do you ride, or have a favourite way to exercise? I'd love to hear it!


Ikea Buys That Caught my Eye!

So it feels like IKEA is the god of interior decor at the moment. It's cheap, it's cheerful, it's a little bit sassy. And, with some free time finally in sight, I'm ready to start some home improvements. Here are some things I'm hankering after.

Picture Rail, here


Ain't much to see here kids, just a rail, move along-
Oh, wait.

These guys are the hardest working pieces in interior design at the moment. Now, I'm not one for mindlessly chosen typography or kitshy, cutesy sayings, but they appeal to my fear of decisions. No commitment! I can change my pictures whenever I like, without smashing open my thumb! (I am very prone to thumb accidents...) Plus, the frames are great value too...

frames available here


available here
available here

I am sick of seeing the stained, rusted chrome light fitting on my low kitchen ceiling. It makes the room look depressingly dated. I'm leaning more towards the Centigrad as it's just so tidy and has very little footprint. Additionally, I might paint the ceiling - and white goes with everything.


available here
My living room is in desperate need of something to tie it all together. I love the colours in this rug and it's not too thick, either - it won't look 'chubby', which is another pet hate of mine.

I haven't bought any arm chairs yet but the colour scheme is playful and forgiving, so I could probably place any colour alongside it. It's a big splurge at £120, though.


available here

 I fancy a bench to go in the dining room. This is a really skinny, short bench that would fit perfectly under our dining table - or in the hall, if I wanted a change of pace. It's also got the added bonus of storage space - just a little cubby-hole, but I could certainly hide something away in there.

What are your top IKEA buys?
I'd love to hear!

the yup blog

None of the images in this post belong to me; click for a hyperlink to their original source!