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!