Weekly round up #60

I feel like I haven’t done a weekly round up in absolutely ages. I think blogging has fallen by the wayside in general a bit recently, sorry about that. I’ve been a bit crazy at work and it’s taken up a lot of my time.

One of the reasons why I’ve been so busy is that I’ve been planning a work trip to Africa and I’m flying off there tomorrow! I’m going on a challenge trip to Zambia which involves canoeing down the Zambezi River for three days and then volunteering at a lion conservation project for another three days. It’s going to be amazing but it does mean I’m going to be away from all civilisation for nearly two weeks, digitally anyway. So there’ll be nothing on the blog (sorry I haven’t had any time to schedule anything) or on social media from me during that time unfortunately.

Zambia equipment

I’m going to be documenting the trip on behalf of Cats Protection if you want to see what I’m up to though. The photo above shows a fraction of the equipment I’m taking. Keep an eye on the Instagram account at and the Twitter account at

Back to my personal life, I’ve been trying to be positive about the changing of the seasons by focusing on the things I do like about it. But to do that, I first need to look at the things I don’t like. Stay with me here. I don’t cope with the cold terribly well. I’m just not built for it, I really feel the cold. Maybe it’s the Caribbean blood. I think I have bad circulation too, as in any season other than summer, my hands and feet are often ice cold and it takes a lot to warm them up. This means that the slightest knock to my fingers or toes kills too. It makes doing anything really uncomfortable and it also means I struggle to want to do anything socially outside of work. I get home, it’s dark and I don’t want to go outside again. Ok rant over.

So. Back to the positive things. I’m focusing on comfort. Comfort and warmth and things that make me feel happy. Admittedly it’s not that cold yet, but when I am home I’ve been enjoying lighting a nice scented candle, putting on comfy clothes and snuggling under a blanket. I’ll have a hot cup of tea, read a book (ahem, Kindle), watch some good TV (autumn is brilliant for TV!) or write in a journal (I started doing morning pages recently but I treat it as a bit of a journal and write in it occasionally). These are the nice things that I look forward to. And as it does get colder, I’ll ramp up the heat with a hot water bottle (yes, I might be an old lady but I’m a cold old lady!) and start knitting again (I’m really not helping myself here am I?!) and surround myself with all the things that bring me joy.

And these are the things I’ll look forward to doing when I get back from Zambia too. I have a few days off work when I get back to recover and I think I’ll be getting into my pyjamas and not moving!

Hope you, all my lovely readers are well!

If the girl in the mirror could speak

Speaking to the girl in the mirror

If the girl in the mirror could speak, she would tell you to stop giving yourself such a hard time.

The girl looking back at you would say that actually, you don’t look so bad without make up. Just a little tired.

She’d say that although hormones have been making your skin terrible recently, making you act erratically and feel teary, this too shall pass. Just be patient. Picking at your skin is not helping. That will only leave scars behind. Crying, however, is ok sometimes. Just pick your moments.

She’d tell you not to wear clothes you don’t feel brilliant in. (Apart from on lazy Sundays when you want to lol about in trackies, that’s fine lovely. There’s a time and place to choose comfort over style). Otherwise, wear things that make you look and feel pretty good. You have a good idea now of what colours and styles suit you so don’t settle for less.

Talking to the girl in the mirror

The girl in the mirror would be so proud of you for looking after your hair and your nails, you’ve come so far. At age 13 you started getting your hair chemically straightened every three months and didn’t stop until you were about 21. And every day you were using GHDs till you were about 25. Needless to say your hair was pretty frazzled. Some of it was literally breaking off. You’ve resisted the straighteners and kept your hair naturally curly and used treatments to put the moisture back in and it’s never looked better. Well done.

Likewise, you’ve bitten your nails FOREVER. For as long as I can remember, your new year’s resolution has been to stop biting your nails. In the summer, you decided enough was enough and overnight you stopped biting them. And now they look lovely.

The girl in the mirror would say to stop beating yourself up about the lumps, bumps and wobbly bits. Your body will never be perfect. And what the hell is perfect? Your body has done a pretty astounding job of getting you through life unscathed. Everything is working and it’s about time you started appreciating it. You’re not half bad!

The girl in the mirror CAN.

The girl in the mirror sees a girl done good.

(Sorry for the cheese).

20 minute cleaning hacks

Do you ever arrange for someone to visit you in about 20 minutes’ time and then look around your bomb site of a home in sheer panic? These moments are often when I do my most frantic of tidying and cleaning and it’s sometimes difficult to know which areas to focus on.

Do you start with the living room or the kitchen? The toilet or the coffee table?

You obviously can’t do everything, there just isn’t the time so you need a strategy!

Pink rubber gloves

I’ve teamed up with the guys at cleaning company – who have just launched in Brighton – to get some top tips on how to use your limited time to the best effect.

Cleaners Duane and Megan say the first thing to do is de-clutter. “First things first, make your way around the home clearing away any unnecessary clutter,” they explain. “This will make the actual clean up much easier. Even if you just throw everything into a box or basket and hide it away until after your guests leave, your home will appear much tidier for it!”

This is where storage comes in handy. Storage baskets are great, ottomans at the bottom of the bed or even shoving things in the bottom of your wardrobe or under your bed will do. Just get it out of sight for now and you can put it into its proper home later.

Cleaning products

Next up, focus on your guests’ first impressions. Megan and Duane say: “The hall or entry way is the first thing your guests will see, so it’s worth putting a bit of extra effort into this area. Give the floor a quick sweep or a once over with the vacuum cleaner. Dust and wipe down visible surfaces and make sure any shoes are stored in the shoe rack and coats are hung up. You can even light incense or a scented candle so your guests are immediately hit with a pleasant and refreshing scent when they enter.”

We have a cupboard under the stairs where we keep our shoes so luckily our hallways is pretty clutter free. Don’t forget your skirting boards – they can really pick up dust if left for too long and will be a giveaway if you don’t give them attention. I think incense or a scented candle is a really nice touch too, if you don’t have somewhere like a shelf or ledge for it to properly live in your hallway, you can always put it out on the floor while you’re cleaning and move it before your guest arrives so a nice scent is still left behind.

Prioritise rooms. “Think about which rooms your guests are going to see the most of; probably the living room and bathroom, or maybe the dining room if you’re having a dinner party,” they suggest. “Focus more on these rooms. Wipe down any surfaces in the living room and dust ledges and appliances. In the bathroom, work on the most visible places, mainly the mirror, sink and toilet. Wet wipes are a really quick and easy way to clean these spots down when you’re in a rush.”

I think the key areas are the main surfaces (tables or sideboards/sink or toilet in the bathroom) and the floors. Those are the areas that will be used the most and that your eyes are drawn to.

Wet wipes are a really good shout too. There’s nothing that annoys me more (in cleaning terms, anyway) then when you’re trying to clean a dusty surface and rather than collecting the dust your cloth is just kind of moving it all around. Pointless! Antibacterial wet wipes are good at actually picking up the dust as you go, so make sure you’ve always got some wet wipes in the house for emergency cleaning situations like this!

Rubber gloves and sponge scourer

Always try to have a quick whizz round in the kitchen too. “Even though your guests might not be spending much time in your kitchen, you should take care that your kitchen at least looks presentable! Empty the bins, put out fresh towels and wipe all the visible surfaces. This won’t take long at all, but can make all the difference!”

Finally, if you have any time left you can add the finishing touches. “Once you’ve covered all the essentials and if there’s still time, you can go back and pay a little more attention to detail,” explain Megan and Duane. “Vacuum the living room, wipe door handles with a wet wipe, fluff the pillows and make the bed (just in case!).”

It can be done – don’t panic – just make sure you’ve got the cleaning, scented props (candle or incense) and storage essentials you need beforehand and prioritise. Then sit down with your guest, relax and enjoy their company!

This is a collaboration with

A rainy weekend in Winchester

It always rains in Winchester.

Doesn’t it? Oh, maybe it’s just while we were there.

Rob and I booked a long weekend off work to get away to celebrate our anniversary a few weeks ago and it rained more or less the whole time. That’s irony with a splattering of British weather for you. Despite the bitter-as-a-sodding-lemon tone, we still managed to have a lovely time, so I thought I’d share it with you!

We stayed in a hamlet just outside Winchester – I found a gorgeous little one-bed cottage on Owners Direct that had its own kitchen and living room, meaning we could eat in or eat out depending on our budget and energy levels. And of course the weather 😉

Winchester cottage living room

Winchester cottage kitchen

Winchester cottage garden

Relaxing in the Winchester cottage

Luckily there was a lovely pub right next door that I’d booked a table for us at on the first night (although it was nice and sunny on that first evening – and for that evening only – so we made the most of it and ended up forgoing our indoor table in favour of an outdoor one).

Enjoying the beer garden

Rob in the beer garden

When we went into Winchester itself the next day, we weren’t quite as lucky and got a bit wet in the rain so sought shelter inside the cathedral (no photos allowed inside, I’m afraid). It did mean we didn’t get to see a huge amount of the town centre itself unfortunately, but what we did see was very pretty. And although we weren’t able to do much countryside walking in the surrounding area, we did a lot of countryside driving instead which we still enjoy doing.

Winchester Cathedral

Pretty green house in Winchester

Winchester city centre

Winchester gardens

A pretty Winchester monument

One huuuuge positive about the weekend is how lucky we were with food. There’s nothing more disappointing than a crappy meal on holiday is there?

On the first night, which I mentioned earlier, we had proper pub grub – ham, egg and chips type food, really good and hearty.

On our anniversary itself we went to The Shoe in a little village called Exton who were probably the most accommodating of my diet of any place I’ve ever eaten. I was able to eat a meal that was both lactose free AND gluten free. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever been able to do that while eating out. Just the main meal, mind, but still. We didn’t have starters but while we were waiting for our mains, we were given a basket of bread and I was given my own gluten free roll which was actually warm, soft and doughy (not dry like many gluten free bread rolls are) and for my main I had a vegan falafel burger which should have come in a normal roll but which they also gave to me in a gluten free roll. And for pudding I had a gluten free chocolate brownie (ok so the chocolate wasn’t lactose free but it was my choice to have the brownie) which came with ice cream but they let me swap it for one of the many sorbets on the dessert menu. I was so happy!

Gluten free falafel burger

Gluten free brownie with sorbet

And on our last morning we went to a gorgeous little breakfast place called Josie’s in Bishops Waltham for brunch. Rob had a whopping stack of American pancakes with bacon and maple syrup and I had sourdough muffins topped with bacon, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. Come to mumma.

Poached eggs and bacon on sourdough

American pancakes with bacon and maple syrup

All in all, despite the weather, the company, cottage, food and company more than made up for it. What a top trip away.

Six books on my Kindle wishlist

Books currently on my Kindle wishlist

Regular readers of my blog will know that I recently bought a second hand Kindle and I am in love with it. I’m looking for any opportunity to sneak off and get stuck into a good book. And it’s not just the books themselves, it’s the experience of using the Kindle itself which I’m loving.

All this from someone who was once dead against the technology, favouring holding a physical book.

I regularly scan through the Kindle shop too, seeing what bargains I can snap up. That’s another thing that’s changed since making the move from book to Kindle: I’ve become more stingy with my money. When before I wouldn’t have thought twice about parting with £12.99 for printed fiction, I now choke on my tea when a Kindle edition asks me for for a fiver. It goes into my wishlist for a future occasion when I feel like throwing caution to the wind.

That doesn’t mean all the books in my wishlist are ‘pricey’, they’re just lined up ready and waiting for me to get stuck in.

1. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

I’ve heard so many good things about Elizabeth Gilbert and since hearing her interview with Emma Gannon on her Ctrl Alt Delete podcast, I can see why. She seems such a positive and wise person, ever-optimistic that I’m really curious about the advice this book contains. It’s about altering our attitudes, approaches and habits to live our most creative lives and applying them to everything that we do. It seems like the kind of book that you’d be able to refer back to time and time again, too.

2. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

This sounds like a harrowing tale – about four friends in New York who have remained close friends since childhood, but as you learn more about them you discover one was physically, emotionally and sexually abused and is struggling with the consequences of that. Obviously this isn’t a cheery read but it has brilliant reviews on Amazon so I’m keen to see what all the fuss is about.

3. Letters to my Fanny by Cherry Healey

I think Cherry Healey is really funny and down to earth so I’m sure this book will be too. Each chapter is said to open with a letter to a different body part and talks about her experiences of growing up, hating her body (the point is we should love every part of ourselves!).

4. The Method by Shannon Kirk

I love a good thriller – a real page turner that you can get really absorbed into. They’re my favourite kind of read really, proper escapism that help you to switch off or unwind before bed. This one is about a pregnant teenager who is kidnapped by people who want to sell her baby and then kill her. Problem is, she’s a genius and a sociopath who turns the tables…

5. #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

This has got to be on every cliched blogger’s wishlist/book shelf, right?

6. Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

A colleague at work mentioned that Drew Barrymore had a biography and she was going to buy it and I thought ‘Hmm that’d be a really interesting read, I’ll have to add it to my wishlist’, only to find it was already bloody well there! Memory of a goldfish, this one. I love Drew Barrymore, I can imagine this will be quite heartbreaking with lots of ups and downs but I’d love to find out a bit more about her beyond what we see in Heat magazine.