Hello 2012, Year of Financial Freedom and Travel

Being the imaginative individual that I am, I feel it necessary to write a post on my goals for 2012; just the same as most other bloggers out there have done or will do. I’m not so much calling these resolutions as goals because there is still a degree of flexibility in what I am about to set out, these are not hard and fast targets. This year I’ve spent more time than ever thinking about what I want out of next year, mainly because a lot has changed this year and I want to continue along that path next year. What I’ve really contemplated is what makes me happy. I’ve always been led to believe that money and material possessions make me happy; this is what others around me have noticed. Whilst I agree, I have also now worked out that to a certain extent this is incorrect or by now I would be starting to feel pretty darned happy when actually I’ve been feeling like something is still missing. Until now!

I’ve worked out that with me, material possessions do make me happy, but only the ones I really enjoy, not the ones I feel I should have to be happy. My case in point here is my car; I started 2011 driving my beloved 2004 Mini Cooper, or Reggie as he was affectionately known. Unfortunately, Reggie was getting on a bit and needed more and more expensive BMW repairs so we had to part ways and Frank joined me. Frank was a 2002 Fiat Punto, (orange no less!) who filled the time when I wasn’t sure which car to buy next. He was basic but reliable and I appreciated him every day apart from the one when he melted the Easter Egg I had spent days making for my bf before he even saw it. However, he was a temporary measure and soon came Stanley, (or Seamus as the bf calls him) my 2008 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Now Stanley is a ball to drive, his acceleration is immense and he’s so small I always nip into those tiny gaps everyone else is too scared to fill. BUT… I haven’t warmed to him. I want my Mini back. I rarely get to use Stanley to his full acceleration capacity and whilst he has more knobs and dials than Reggie, I haven’t even bothered to look up in the book what these knobs and dials are or how to use them; I’ve had this car for 5 months now!

The Beloved Reggie

You may be wondering where this is going and questioning if you really care that much about my car to continue reading but here comes my point. I bought a faster, more expensive, generally flashier car and it didn’t make me happy. A year ago I would never have imagined this could be the case but I have lived and learned and now know myself a little better. So this year one of the things I plan to do is sell Stanley and find myself a new Reggie – the replacement may or may not be a Mini but it will definitely be cheaper than Stanley. Then, I will use the money I save to start paying off my credit card – yes, I seem to have matured in the last year and I can’t quite believe it.

Here are my goals for 2012 in full:

  • Weight 9st7 (or less) by March – somehow have managed to reach 10st…oops!
  • Weigh no more than 9st at the end of the year
  • End the year with £3,500 credit card debt or less (fair chunk to pay off to reach that!)
  • Read 10 new books
  • Star in at least 1 theatre show
  • See 12 theatre shows
  • Spend 3 weekends away with the bf
  • Eat in 6 new restaurants
  • Leave the country 3 times
  • Exercise for at least 1.5 hours per week (up from 0 hours)
  • Make my eBay store self sufficient by June (i.e. have enough profit to buy next lot of stock)
  • Have a trip to NY booked in (actually have at least deposit paid)
  • Make and try 3 home made beauty products

Some of my goals are fairly ambitious but they are considered and I think they will lead to increased happiness so here’s hoping I’m right! Anybody got any suggestions or links they’d like to share to their own goals for 2012??? BIG LOVE, I’m super excited about 2012, it’s going to be a good one! x

My Winter Sale Haul!

I was going to call this post “My January Sale Haul” and then promptly realised that if you go sale shopping in January these days you have missed most of the good bargains so chose “Winter” instead. As I’m sure you would expect of me, I have been shopping in the sales but I am not a complete loser and haven’t queued for a shop or missed out on time with my family or friends to do so; I have in fact spent time with friends and family whilst shopping :-)

This year I approached the sales in a different way to most years and was much more scrupulous in my choices, deciding to only pick items I know I will wear on a regular basis, rather than stocking up on frivolous items I would never normally touch with a barge pole! I’ve still overspent but I am super happy with my purchases and I succeeded in finding some more knitwear which is what I really set out to do. Check out my bargains:

Office

I actually bought these bad boys just before Christmas as the sales had already started by then. These are to be my new staple black heels after a number of false starts with other purchases over the last few months!  These were originally £65, I paid just £39.

Dorothy Perkins

These were my online victories; dress was £42, I paid £25 (even better as I have loved this dress for ages in a different colourway and spotted this version only in the sale!) and shoes are actually from Barratts, were £36, I paid £20.

Warehouse

I LOVE this little jumper, it was £32 and I paid £20 – got mine in House of Fraser so definitely worth a look in there.

River Island

The pink pair of peg legs you can see at the front of the picture were just £3 down from £20 but I can tell they have been through a couple of sales. I don’t really care how they fit, they are just comfy slouchy bottoms for lounging round the house. The terracotta pair feel so expensive and will be fab for work; they were just £15 down from £40.

Topshop

This little lot came from Oxford Street and I love it! I fell in love with the green dress when I was there a month or so ago but didn’t buy it as I had no occasion – hello NYE! It was originally £52 but I paid £20 – much better!!!! The yellow knit is a bit out of my comfort zone but I think I can pull it off and it was just £18, down from £38. The black, white and red cardie is so very me I can’t even put it into words and was just £20, down from £38. Finally from Toppers – my slightly “emo but I love it” jumper dress was £35, down from £55. Some of these items are from concessions so make sure you hit up the flagship!

Last but by no means least, I had to visit Boots to check out what they had on sale and here is the result:

Boots

I have totally run out of perfume and for day wear I do love the original Ed Hardy women’s fragrance. I picked up this gift set, including a 100ml bottle of perfume for just £29.99, down from £45 – great value when a 30ml bottle is £27! The St. Tropez gradual tan set was £10 instead of £20 and the Soap and Glory set was £17.50 instead of £35 – what a brilliant time to stock up on essentials, the gift sets are half price!

So you can see, I did spend a lot but I also got a lot of great items in return. My promise to myself is that I will clear out all of my old junk – a lot of it from Primark and replace it with this rather than just adding to the piles. Watch this space to see what I throw out, there should be a lot! My one tip to you when sale shopping is to check the price tags; lots of stores are marking down items by just a few pounds; if it didn’t have the sale sticker on it and was that price, would you still want it??? Anyone else got any great bargains or tips for where the best bargains can be found? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you! x

How Do I Set Realistic Resolutions for 2012?

Like most people, at the end of one year I start thinking about the next and what I want to achieve over the course of that year. In the Western world at least, this is programmed into us from birth. Personally, I think a good starting point is reflecting on the previous year and what you have achieved to work out how you can build on that for the next. So here are some of my highlights from 2011:

  • Jan – moved out from the parental home into a room in a shared house
  • Feb – promotion at work
  • Mar – completed run of Teechers at Progress Theatre
  • Spring – sold my beloved Mini Cooper which kept breaking and bought a rubbish old Punto for cost savings (moment of previously unseen maturity)
  • Spring – started my Candida blog
  • June – moved back home for a month, before…
  • July – moved into a house with the bf
  • July – went on my first girly holiday
  • July – sold rubbish old Punto and bought sexy Corsa VXR
  • September – further pay rise at work
  • October – took bf away for a holiday, (our first one) though just in the UK
  • November – made redundant
  • November – started eBay shop
  • December – secured new job at big global company!

All in all, it’s been a pretty busy year and my bf was not wrong a year ago when he said 2010 had built the foundations for 2011. This year has been insane, so much has changed! However, you’ll notice a few steps backward along the way, as is often the case in life and it seems to be these that I dwell on. Despite having made significant progress towards my goals overall, I still feel like I have wasted my year and like I’m way behind my peers in sorting out my life. Now, I confess this is partly because I happen to have especially successful friends but actually, I think it’s mainly down to me.

The bf and I had a conversation about what we had achieved this year and he could clearly check off 2 of his 3 goals and has set similarly achievable goals for next year…as has my sister. These are both people who I admire for being “sorted”. I however realised that I never break down my goals, I simply have huge ambitions which I can never achieve in a year so I am left feeling like a failure when I don’t get there. The problem is that I’m so impatient that short of achieving all of my goals in one hit, I’m not sure what success for me will look like in 2012. How do I set myself some resolutions or goals for 2012 that I can actually achieve and still feel like I’m moving fast enough? What if I set the bar lower and still fail?

Is anybody out there good at setting personal goals and can offer me some advice or do most of us live this way? It’s a vicious cycle I’d like to break some I’m on the hunt for some advice from those who are in the know…I’ll let you know what I find! x

Blingtastic! (AKA My Crimbo Party Outfit)

Last night was finally the night of the work Christmas party, (in my case, the ex-work party) and thus the time to dress up for no other reason that you can…it’s allowed at Christmas parties! As always, the party dress shopping was a stressful event which started with me buying 1 dress and then deciding it wasn’t right as I’m a bit on the chunky side ATM, which was followed by a hunt for a whole new outfit. However, I found my outfit – in fact I found loads of things I wanted to wear and I wore them all! Check this out:

Ignore my grumpy face – the bf took a great one with no flash and then caught me in this bizarre pose!

The dress is black with silver sequins but these are cleverly toned down by having a layer of sheer black fabric over the top. Luckily for me, as it was my second dress, I picked this bad boy up for about £30 in Zara. The jacket with it’s blingin’ shoulders is last year’s H&M; the tights are Pretty Polly and totally take the outfit OTT but I LOVE THEM! They are plain black at the back as well. The boots are River Island, £95 (and a size smaller than my usual 7 which is awesome!); the bag is ancient River Island; the watch DKNY; the matching ring and necklace are from Azendi (necklace’s first outing as it was a b’day gift from the bf) and the other necklace was about £200 but I cannot remember where from and finally, the cuff is from H&M and is mega sparkly! Phew! A long list for a super OTT outfit but I loved it and had to share it.

Anyone else had any brilliant Crimbo outfits? And what’s the plan on the New Year’s outfits – no idea what mine will be!?!

HAPPY CHRISTMAS people! x

Where to Eat – Ice Cream

Now we all know that my favourite place for ice cream in Reading is Tutti Frutti in Reading station; in fact it still is the best ice cream I have ever tasted! They don’t have a website but you can find their details and a couple of reviews here. They’re open nice and late and serve coffee, etc. as well. The service is great, they do loyalty cards and the ice cream flavours vary and are home made – check it out.

However, on my recent birthday trip to London with the bf, we finally got around to visiting The Icecreamists in Covent Garden. You may remember this place for being in the press earlier this year when they sold breast milk ice cream! Since then I have been dying to go and see just how wild it is and am glad we finally got to it.

The ice cream was just as fresh as that at Tutti Frutti but the selection of flavours appealed to me a bit less. I ended up going for a salted caramel, a white chocolate and a Ferrero Rocher flavour combination whilst the bf went for fresh donuts with a chocolate orange ice cream. It was all delicious and the black decor added to the feeling of naughtiness but the thing that really topped it was the hot chocolate. I was brave and went for a chilli chocolate whilst the bf went for a marzipan flavour and they came in full pints!

The chilli chocolate has quite a kick to it and really hit the back of my throat so only order that if you’re up for a challenge; personally I had to wimp out about a third of the way through. I do think part of that may have been down to how much sugar was in my system though, we’d also been for afternoon tea at The Berkeley Hotel! (More to come on that one.)

So, my recommendation if you’re in Reading, or indeed Berkshire is to get yourself into Reading station and visit Tutti Frutti. However if you are in London, check out The Icecreamists, it’s a pretty good city version :-) x

Hard Work Well Rewarded

The last few weeks since I was made redundant have been some of the most stressful of my life; I’ve never before been in a situation of no income and in all honesty it threw me into a blind panic. Luckily for me, I have an incredibly understanding bf who has put up with loads of rubbish from me and kept me positive when it has felt like everything was collapsing around me. Now, as a result of that positive attitude, I have been offered and accepted a great role at a company I really want to work for and will start in the new year :-)

In the mean time, I have been working as a Christmas temp at Boots in my local shopping centre, where I worked part time when I was in school (and later, my sister did the same). I got the job pretty much on the strength of the reputation my sister and I created through several solid years of hard work on our weekends; proving that you should always give everything your all as you never know how significant it will prove to be later on. So, I have been working full time at Boots on the shop floor, helping customers find what they need and promoting the weekly star buys.

Well, I can’t remember the last time I was so well rewarded for my efforts, what a great company it is to work for. I’ve received lots of praise, even being called “a dream” and also some goodies as extra rewards for my effort. So far I have been given: a Nails Inc nail polish, a lip gloss, a Sanctuary foot cream and a Benefit moisturiser! These are not old products and are certainly not the cheapest either and they make such a difference  to the way I perform at work. Small gifts and good praise can often make the most difference to an employee and get the best out of them.

I thought I’d mention this as I had forgotten what this sort of regular recognition felt like and I think it’s important for all employees to be recognised when they perform exceptionally well. When was the last time your employer made you feel valued? I want everyone to know that there are employers that reward hard work well and push harder to find them and choose them as those deserving of your precious time and energy. Too many employers are still taking advantage of employees and it’s up to us to change this. Well done Boots – setting a great example in the retail sector! If you work or have worked for a great company, let us know :-) x

Can Machines Really Make Me Beautiful?

In this modern world we inhabit today, there are more beauty treatments than ever and thus the pressure to be beautiful is also greater than ever. Our celebrities don’t age and are bullied by every magazine across the globe if they even dare to leave the house sans make up, so where does the boundary lie for the rest of us?

There is of course, the traditional make up and hair dye we can use to beautify ourselves and for must of us, these constitute a staple part of our beauty diet. Then there’s the rather more extreme surgery options which many investigate, fewer actually go ahead with and luckily very few use on a regular basis. Finally, there are all the procedures in between. I’m not talking Botox or Macrolane or indeed anything that enters the system, but rather the surface things which are stronger than make up.

You may be thinking tattoos right now but I’m not talking about that much of a change and not that permanent, but definitely at least that expensive. I’m talking about laser hair removal, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, these sorts of treatments – they cost a small fortune for those of us on the average income, but do they really make that much difference to our “beauty” or are they entirely psychological?

Now I am a big fan of the laser hair removal – not in beauty salons, that stuff is rubbish but in proper cosmetic centres it really works. However, having just impulse bought a session of microdermabrasion for £75, I’m not sure what  effect I thought it would have. To get good results I would need at least 6 sessions in fairly quick succession which I could have had for £399 but I don’t have that kind of cash. So instead, I have had 1 session and I am sure I could have achieved the same effect with my exfoliating gloves from Boots which cost a few quid. Why did I do it? Answer – it makes me feel more attractive. Granted, my skin actually looks worse at the moment but I feel clean on the inside and like I have more money than I really do. A celebrity would have done it this way so the fact that I have done it the same way must mean I am 1 step closer to that ethereal beauty I so desire. Am I heck!?! I’m just £75 poorer and all of my spots are on show!

How many other people are falling into these traps? Have any of you tried this sort of thing? Is it worth the money? x

I’ve Fallen in Lust

Once again my magpie eyes have landed me in an expensive lust situation; I literally cannot walk past sparkly things! Last night a friend and I popped into House of Fraser on a Christmas shopping mission when something in the Fragrance section caught my eye:

This little beauty is La Prairie’s Midnight Rain and seems to cost around £75 but it smells so good! I can’t really explain the smell but it’s an expensively sweet smell which I absolutely love and almost want to go back to the store to get more of it; it really does smell as good as it looks. However, I have one teeny, tiny problem – lack of cash! At Christmas I really can’t justify spending that much on a fragrance for myself so for now, this will continue to be an unrequited love affair which I will hopefully take to the next level in the new year :-)

Go smell it! (And boys, buy it for your girls!) x

Best Gift for Her for Under a Fiver

As we all know, Christmas can be very challenging on the wallet and even more challenging when the wallet is further constricted by Secret Santa spending limits, etc. When friends are involved, you want to get them something worth having but also want it to look like a nice gift. Well, well, well – have I got the best gift for you!

At the moment the Soap & Glory range at Boots is on 3 for 2 (think Hand Food if you are struggling to place this). Not only that, but you also get a free gift bag. So, you can buy 3 miniature products for under £5 and have the bag included. Here’s a few examples of how broad the range is:

The most expensive product in this picture is £2.50 so get yourself down to Boots and treat yourself or a friend to some fab smelling pampering goodness. I challenge you to find a better present under £5! x

Jazzing up the Home – Again!

As I am working in a shop at the moment, I get 1 hour lunch breaks in the afternoon when the shops are quiet and I have nothing to do as I have eaten earlier on. What does this lead to? Shopping of course!

Yesterday’s mission was to Primark to pick up some more black skinny jeans after I broke my Zara ones – at the moment I’m finding Primark’s jeans fit best and with the new longer length they are perfect for £9.00. Whilst in there I decided to make the most of the quiet and have a mooch. It SO paid off! Check this out:

Yes, I know my sofa is sexy but look at the cushions! The red cushions are failed sewing attempts from last year which I have ended up buying red covers for from Primark earlier this year. However, what I am loving is my Union Jack cushions, they fit perfectly with the colour scheme I am trying to build in my living room. I bought these yesterday for just £3 each, reduced from £7. Get down there now and grab yourself a snuggly winter sofa cosy!

Just wanted to remind you all not to forget your homes in this Christmas shopping frenzy! x