Finding My Stride

This weekend I took part in the Wesham 10k (organised by Wesham Road Runners). Its an important run for me to participate in as it's one where our running community come together to raise awareness and funds for Theo's Journey against Neuroblastoma.  As I'm sure you know, my own daughter was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma when she was 14 months old so it's a cause that is close to my heart.  As a team, we painted Lea Town and Salwick purple with our #TheosWarriors t-shirts!

Finding My Stride - Theo's Journey Against Neuroblastoma #TheosWarriors


Last year I finished this course in 1:15.21 and, after my new 10k personal best time in the Windmill 10k a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't really planning on anything spectacular - just to finish the course and enjoy the run.  I was almost looking forward to it, especially as the route had changed slightly - a revert back to an original course from a few years back.

The day was clear and sunny but cold and it was very frosty.  This course is a rural one so it was definitely going to be slippy underfoot in places. Apart from the icy bits, I'm finding that I am better suited to winter running as I suffer badly from hayfever in the summer so I'm usually streaming from my eyes and my nose and my chest is very tight.  Maybe this is another reason that I'm really getting into my groove with running again at the moment?

Finding My Stride - Wesham 10k - photo credit : David Wood & Wesham Road Runners
The one where the pensioner overtook me just after this photo was taken... then I overtook him during the 9th kilometer, then he sprint-finished past me during the final 50 meters.  THE SHAME! 


Finding My Stride - four photos to describe my run
So, the new course... many would describe it as 'undulating' but after pounding the streets of Blackburn, the hills in this area are like speed bumps.  There was a bit of a long uphill drag around halfway into the course and then another towards the end which is a bit of a killer but I felt good all the way around.  I hit my usual wall between 7k and 8k and really struggled with the 9th kilometer but I did feel very positive about the whole thing. 


And the finishing time... 

Gun Time : 1:12.31
Watch Time : 1:12.18
Actual 10k Time : 1:11.58
Another Personal Best!! YES REALLY!!  *faints*.  I'm really pleased with my time splits too and where I thought I struggled, I definitely slowed but nowhere near as much as I thought I had. 

Finding My Stride - Wesham 10k - photo credit : David Wood & Wesham Road RunnersI hardly ever share photos of me running as I'm usually captured with a frown on my face and hunched shoulders, battling against the world in the least flattering way but here's one of me actually smiling (still unflattering but, hey ho) - this was at around 5k. I truly believe that my run at Lytham and the support I'm receiving from my running community have everything to do with that - it's been a huge confidence boost.  The training routine is different, and the pressure is taken off me as I'm not leading any running groups at the moment. I made a promise to myself to make this winter all about me and it's definitely paying off.  

There were many personal bests achieved during this race and some demons that took over however everyone completed and I'm dead proud of my GroupRun community and the impact they make both with running and with supporting each other in so many ways.

A final mention to Wesham Road Runners and all their marshals for a brilliantly supported event - same time next year, guys?

photo credit : David Wood & Wesham Road Runners


The Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide 2016

One of our neighbours put up her Christmas lights last week (yes, really) so I thought it was time to start pulling my annual Christmas wishlist Gift Guide together. I've got everything from the unusual to the Secret Santa so let's make a start... 



Useful Gifts You Never Thought Of

The Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide 2016 - Useful Gifts You Never Thought Of


I've been working with The Woodland Trust for over a year now and their family membership package is a  great family gift. You receive a a whole host of interactive information, a tree dedication for the family and children get their own activity pack each season. Find out more here.

If you know someone who is a fan of scented candles then an aromatherapy kit from Essence of Arcadia would be an great gift package.  I reviewed them earlier this year and still love experimenting with recipes and using recommendations to help create the right mood.  Buy here.

If you've got a Snapchat addict in the house, you'll make their life so much easier with an Adonit Snap stylus. You pair it with your phone or tablet via bluetooth, can use it to take selfies then add stylised text with the 1.9mm Pixelpoint tip - you can even write messages in iMessenger or use it to play games. There's also a magnetic strip which you can attach to your phone to carry the stylus.  Buy on Amazon here [RRP £34.99]

When purchasing my Malden earlier this year, I noticed that Filofax sell so much more than leather organisers now. Their tablet case range is full of surprises and I'm sure you can find a style to suit your recipient. Buy here.

For The Stationery Lover

The Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide 2016 - For The Stationery Lover


This year, I've spent a lot of time trying to find a diary that fits my needs. I've switch out from a Travellers Notebook to a bullet journal to a Filofax and into a leather notebook but I wrote an article that made me realise I was probably overthinking the whole planning process and I just need a date-book. Hope House Press personalise all their diaries and leather notebooks and have recently introduced a horizontal layout in their personal size. Perfect! Buy here [RRP from £52]

If you love bullet journalling then take a look at the themed Moleskine notebooks this year. I am In LOVE with the Beatles ones and using the elastic as a 'straw' for the Coca Cola images is pure genius! You could team it with the Derwent Line Maker set from pencils.co.uk. Buy the notebooks here and buy the pens here

Whoever I get as my Secret Santa this year will be the lucky recipient of the unbelievably awesome 'Shit Happens' colouring book by James Alexander and a set of Profanity Pencils from the East London Pencil Co.  Buy the book here [RRP £6.99] (and subscribe for free printables) and buy the pencils here [RRP £7.99].





Practical Gifts For Hard To Buy People

The Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide 2016 - Practical Gifts For Hart To Buy For People


There is nothing better than finding a handbag that perfectly suits your needs and I've championed Mia Tui bags for a long time. They've recently launched a brand new make-up bag which organises all your cosmetics. Buy here - 2 for £20 code is MU20

Know someone who loves nail varnish? How about matching their polish to their birthstone? Avon have brought out a range called Birthstone Pro+ and I've tried this out - it's a really hard-wearing polish that has a strong colour. Buy online here or see your Avon Representative [RRP £6.00].

The Derwent Carry All is marketed as the ultimate pencil storage solution however with the easy access and removable leaves. mesh pocket and additional space I thought it would be ideal for storing craft items - especially crochet hooks, patterns and even a couple of balls of yarn for that WIP (work in progress). Great for travelling too! Buy here [RRP £22.50].


What do you think of my suggestions? 

Have I helped tick off something on your To-Buy list?



Using Fotor To Create Great Images

Just recently, I've discovered Fotor - a suite of editing tools for your photographs with an option to create your own images for use on your social media channels.  


You can use the Fotor tools either via the website for online photo editing or off-line using their desktop app. With just a few clicks you can tidy up a favourite photograph by simply adjusting the exposure, brightness and contrast, you can add a filter or two, crop the image, remove red-eye and so much more, all with simple steps, all of which come with full instructions and hints and tips. There are over 50 preset edits you can use or layer them up to create even more effects.

Here's a simple edit I did with one of the photos I took outside Salford Lads Club a couple of years ago. I adjusted the tilt shift (two layers of blur to create the effect), used one of the black & white effects and cropped the image. It took about two minutes all together.

BEFORE




AFTER




As also mentioned, you can use the 'Design' section to create Facebook cover photos, Pinterest-friendly images or a photo collage for your blog posts or even up your Instagram game with the Instagram template.

Here is a banner I made which is suitable for use on Pinterest. For this one I took a free image I already had saved (although there are a huge number of templates to use on Fotor), added a rectangle with the transparancy lowered, inserted the text and voila!  This one took around five minutes to make but I'm sure you could be even more creative!



I've used similar apps such as Picmonkey and Picasa and this stands right up there alongside them. Fotor isn't pretending to be Photoshop but does provide a simple, effective way to tweak your photos. 


Fotor is a free app with over 200 million users worldwide although there is the option to upgrade to a pro account (additional filters and tools) for $39.99 per year. 


We Had A Tree Dedicated Through The Woodland Trust

Being Nature Detectives with The Woodland Trust


For the past year I've enjoyed a Woodland Trust family membership for myself and my grandchildren.  We're enjoying another year of exciting adventures too!


We are enormously lucky to live within a short distance of a number of Woodland Trust woods but also to have our very own tree dedicated to us at Polyphemus in Darwen, Lancashire where, in 2007, two thousand trees were planted on the 40 hectare site

Being Nature Detectives with The Woodland Trust - tree dedication certificate
The Woodland Trust is the country's largest conservation charity who protect and campaign on behalf of woodland areas, plant more trees, restore ancient woodland - all for the benefit of wildlife and people.

Having this membership is a great opportunity for us to get out and explore nature.  Every few weeks, the grandchildren get their own pack through the post which is packed full of seasonal activities, puzzles and information.

There's an endless amount of information and ideas on the Woodland Trust website - and a family membership makes an ideal gift for the whole family, especially if you're already an outdoorsy type - and if not, what a great way to start! 


Find out more about how you can support The Woodland Trust with a membership, a donation or a dedication. 


You can also follow The Woodland Trust here:


Being Nature Detectives with The Woodland Trust - Woodland Trust logo

For more information about my partnership with The Woodland Trust please see my disclosure policy. I have received a year's family membership to help promote their cause and have also gifted four family memberships to friends to help continue the campaign. You can read more of our adventures here.  Look out for regular updates on my Facebook page and Instagram.

5 Top Tips To Make Black Friday And Cyber Monday Work For You

A week before the main event and the emails have already started to drop into my inbox. Black Friday (26 November 2016) or Cyber Monday is a perfect opportunity to grab some pre-Christmas bargains.  Here are my top five tips for surviving the online shopping mall rush and a little video to help out.

5 Top Tips To Make Black Friday And Cyber Monday Work For You


Remember, Remember

Make a list of what you would like to buy, check the website and find out exactly when that sale is starting. Set an alarm on your phone or your email.

Follow The Band

Find your favourite stores on Twitter and Facebook and watch out for alerts and social media special deals.

Check It Out

Compare the price on other websites by using Google Shopping or PriceRunner to ensure you are getting the best deal. Just because one store says it's a bargain, it might not necessarily be the best bargain.

Get Even More Discounts

See if there are more savings to be had by checking out websites such as myvouchercodes.co.uk or to see if there is local collection or free delivery offers.

Set A Budget

Just because there's a sale on, make sure you are sticking to your budget. Also, ask yourself if you really need that item; would you have bought it if it hadn't have been on offer?



Please feel free to share your top tips for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the comments



WIN Two Mia Tui Make-Up Bags From The Brand New Collection



Many a time I have championed the Mia Tui bags (see here, here and here for starters) so when Charlotte announced that she had been 'messing around with some scraps of material' I knew we were in for a treat. I didn't realise that it would be this kind of wonderful... and just in time for Christmas too!

My make-up bag is the worst mess ever. I tidy it out once a month, give it a bit of a wipe over inside and then throw everything back in. I can never find that eyeliner or the lippy that I need without digging around for a few minutes or tipping everything back out.

As you can see, these make-up bags have been given then Mia-Tui treatment and will organise your cosmetics - and provide you with precious extra minutes when you're getting ready. There are two pockets on one side for larger items (powder, bronzer) and five small elasticated pocket for items such as eye pencils, lipstick, mascara or brushes. The space in the middle is perfect for your foundation or eyelash curlers. The dimensions are 20cm wide x 17cm high x 6cm deep.


The bags are currently available on pre-order for 28th November at £12 each 
or grab 2 for £20 using the code MU20
(I would use one for my make-up and one as a wash bag)

I have three pairs of Mia Tui Make-Up Bags to give away. 

Two sets will be given away here and the other set on my Facebook page.


To enter you have to tell me which is the one and only beauty tip you have that you swear by, whether it has been passed down from your great-grandma or something you've discovered recently.  


There are other entries available to increase your chance of winning and all entries must be verified in the Rafflecopter widget below. Once you have entered, head on over to the pinned post on my Facebook page for another chance to win a pair of make-up bags - one for you and one for a friend.

The winner will be able to choose any two designs from the collection and the prize will be shipped straight away to the winners. Perfect timing for a treat for yourself or a handy little stocking stuffer!

Good luck!






TERMS AND CONDITIONS * This giveaway will begin at 00:01 on 17th November 2016 and will close at 23:59 on 27th November 2016 * This giveaway is open to any of my readers aged 18 or above who reside in the UK. * There is no cash alternative to the giveaway * There is one compulsory entry which asks the entrant to answer a question. You can gain additional entries using the options in the Rafflecopter widget * There are two (2) prize in total * The prize has been provided by Mia Tui * The prize winner will be asked to provide their email address so that contact can be made to arrange prize delivery * Entries will only be accepted as instructed and any entrant that does not complete the qualifying requirements will be disqualified * The winner will be chosen by using a random number generator built into the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted direct on the email address provided within five (5) days of the draw. Entrants/readers are invited to visit my Facebook page for another opportunity to win another set of make-up bags.

Please see my disclosure policy for further information

My Personal Battle With Running

Grannys Bay, Fairhaven, Lytham, Ansdell, St Annes, Lancashire


Bear with me.  This will start on a downer and we'll work our way up from there. 

When running alone, I hate every single step I take. Most probably because, for the past two years, I've been embedded into the most wonderful community running group - GroupRun Blackburn - which has taken me from being a non-runner to someone who can choose (that's the key word there) to run 10 kilometres. The GroupRun ethos is a hard one to explain to anyone who hasn't experienced it but you make friends, you see personal goals smashed out of the park and you celebrate each other's achievements, all whilst being coached and encouraged to do better and better each week, clocking up mile after mile along the streets of Blackburn. 

This time last year I ran my first ever 10k - the Windmill 10k, organised by Fylde Coast Runners. I ran it in a time of 1.13:18 at a distance just short of the full 10 kilometres. After that I was plagued with a series of knee issues and in December 2015, was advised to stop running completely for a while as I had a Baker's cyst and was diagnosed with arthritis in the knee joints.  I returned to running with GroupRun Blackburn in March of this year have have since taken another three groups through the 'Couch to 5K' programme. I also ran another 10k in July, finishing with a time of 1.18:29 - and I was disappointed with myself because I'd had to walk some of the way too.

I have beaten myself up constantly about personal achievements - I know it's pathetic but I'm always conscious of wanting to be a better version of me. Therefore, I've made a decision to make this winter all about how I can do that with my running. I've joined one of our community progression groups and I know I'll be pushed, especially when it comes to pace.

Which brings me to today. It was tough taking the plunge, especially when I have felt so under-confident, but I needed a challenge.  And that challenge was going to be the Windmill 10k again.  A year had passed, so much had happened physically and emotionally, but I knew the route and, as I've spoken about many times, the Fylde coast is my happy place - it's where I grew up, it's where my roots are, it's where I feel grounded. 

I knew a group of runners were being paced to complete the run in 1 hour and 10 minutes. Something completely out of my grasp but I made the decision to set off with them to see what the pace was actually like. To my surprise, I kept up with them for about 2.5k but then I knew I couldn't maintain it so I slowed a little... but I'd found a comfortable stride - something faster than I normally run but completely manageable. 

It was a bloody lonely run. It's always hard to move from a community atmosphere which is encouraging and heart-warming to being the only person responsible for what happens.  I looked out for little landmarks to help myself along the way and refused to look at my watch until the halfway point. The saving grace is that it was absolutely perfect running conditions.  Granny's Bay and the Ribble Estuary was as smooth as glass and there was no sun, no wind and no rain (such a change from last year when *that* altercation with dog walker happened during the race, the rain came down sideways, I was chilled to the bone and it took me two whole days to feel warm again)

My 'personal best' face
So now the best bit. Last year's Windmill 10k measured a little short at 9.94km - I know it's just a few metres but it matters.  This year the route had a slight change and measured at 10.11km.  I've done the maths and this happened:

10k = 1.12:37  (full run 10.11k = 1.13:22)

That's a PERSONAL BEST!! 

You have no idea what this means to me - it's more than a huge confidence boost! It proves to me that I should take things at my own pace and maybe just push myself a little bit more than I think I can.  

Fylde Coast Runners - Windmill 10k


Listography : Five Favourite Posts

Listography : Five Favourite Posts


Over the years, in this little corner of the internet, I've written almost 2000 blog posts.  That's a lot of words, and ideas, and random thoughts, and lots and lots of waffle... I have no clue how many different directions I've taken with my ramblings.  So when Kate resurects Listography and asks contributors to pick their five favourite posts written by themselves, I start to panic.  As I'm writing this opening paragraph I have twenty-seven tabs open with blog posts that I (a) enjoyed writing and (b) are still relevant now.  How on EARTH do I narrow that down to just five?

OH, I DID... HERE GOES...


Mothers Day

100 Words was a series inspired by Mr London Street (blog no longer public) and endorsed by Her Melness (now blogging at What Mel Did) and I dabbled a bit to practice my creative writing. None of the attempts are noteworthy but the emotions in this post still ring true today.

Being A Grandmother

I've written so much about the dynamics of my family that it's really hard to choose just one that I think is a stand-out contribution however, since we welcomed another addition to the family just last week, it feels appropriate that I pick this one above the others

Caution : Men At Work  

I find writing monologue style really suits the way I tell a story. I want you, the reader, to be there with me, experiencing the situation in the same way I have. This minute-by-minute update of our new boiler being fitted was the first time I attempted this style of writing.

Tattoos : Wearing My Identity On My Sleeve 

Just some thoughts about my own tattoos, other people's tattoos, the reasons for inking your skin, the permanence (or not) of it all and everything else in between.

The Morning After Cybermummy

There's no way I could curate this post and leave this one out. Another self-depreciating write-up but it still remains one of the most stupidest things I have EVER done.


If you've been here for a while I'd like to know if you'd have picked any of these as your favourite? If not, which one would you have chosen for me to share?  If you're a new reader of the blog, which post did you read first? What made you stay?

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If you're new here, you can follow me on social media - it's where I overshare empty my head of all random thoughts before I order them into the occasional blog post. I apologise in advance because my profanity filter is broken...

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Things I Learnt In October

This month has been a hectic one but there's always something to learn and I'm passing it all on to you too! (aside: there may be a little bit of September's learning curve in here too as I didn't get chance to write it all up in time last month)


When you think you don't have any more room in your heart, along pops another little human being to disprove that fact. My newest grandchild - Freddie - was born on 29th October and is just flipping perfect.  

It's always lovely to write for another website as it helps you focus more on your thoughts.  I wrote this guest post for Hope House Press which is all about choosing a diary for 2017. I'm still a little undecided and really think that there should be less choice to make it a little easier.

140 characters goes even further on Twitter now because (direct uploaded) image links are not included in the character count. It gives you a little more freedom with your tweet and also makes commercial tweeting a little easier. The one drawback is now that Twitter does feel a bit flooded with 'promotional' tweets as people are using pictures to highlight their updates and there is even less conversation.

Donald Trump was a nominee for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.  Yes really!!

It took me 39 days to complete the 30-day squat challenge. There were days I really couldn't be arsed doing it, even though there are 'rest days' included but I was determined to see it through to the bitter end. 175 squats on the final day though... that hurt!!  What I did notice is that my squats are deeper now than they were at the beginning of the challenge and it feels easier on the second time around.

I find 30-day challenges hard to stick to. It's only a month out of my life - and only a few minutes each day - but I've never completed NaNoWriMo (a writing challenge in November) and I even find blogging challenges difficult to carry through. I wrote my first blog post for one and then found that I had lost focus. It's always there to pick back up again though, I suppose?

Here's the 'Conversations At Work' section


People can be really stupid without realising it - or maybe they are just trying to work around company regulations and do a good deed for the day - and this is an actual conversation that I had on the phone at work:

ME: Hi can you put me through to your marketing department
THEM: Do you know who you want to speak to
ME: Sorry, I don't have a name
THEM: Sorry, we can't put you through if you don't have a name. You can send an email though
ME: OK, what's the email address please *waits for generic marketing@ email address*
THEM: [name] @ [company] - she's head of marketing
ME: Oh. thanks - can you not put me through to her now?
THEM: No. sorry as you didn't as for her by name
ME: OK. Thanks. Bye
  • *two minutes later I ring back*
ME: Hi, can I speak to [name]
THEM: sure *puts me straight through*

I also experienced a H-U-G-E- generation gap in another phone conversation with this little gem. I actually have no idea how these things happen to me. 
THEM: "Yes, her name is Kylie" 
ME: "As in the singer Kylie Minogue?" 
THEM: "Who? No, as in Kylie Jenner"

Here's where the 'Conversations At Work' section ends.



Rainbows are unique to the person looking at it. I heard this mentioned on a radio show whilst driving to work so researched a bit deeper.  Apparently, it's because of the position of your eyes and how they are seeing the sunlight through the droplets of rain. Read more about it here.


These two pictures made me laugh lots this month. The first, for obvious reasons - it's just so witty. The second because this is exactly me and my husband - he's the one with the full tank of fuel all the time and I'm the one that knows exactly how many miles I can probably do when the fuel light comes on.


Want to solve the Rubik Cube? Apparently - according to Mark Mason in this tweet - there is no arrangement of the puzzle that will require more than 20 turns to solve it... SO WHY IS IT STILL SO FLIPPING DIFFICULT!?

This snapchat story of a man walking home from the pub is one of the funniest things I've seen in a LONG time. Especially the running bit. And his mum.  Just genius!!




I've been sharing a few old blog posts, including the one about my bikini body which always strikes a chord however it's lovely to receive a tweet which expresses how it has changed the way in which someone sees themselves.  Read here and here for the response.

Here is my video of the month. It's not a meaningful message this time but I know I used to have problems with my Domino Rally game as a kid! I watched this and was in awe at the patience that it must have taken to set this up, only to knock it all down again.



And finally... Channel 4 speaks for us all with this tweet...



Don't forget to let me know what you've learnt this month.



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If you're new here, you can follow me on social media - it's where I overshare empty my head of all random thoughts before I order them into the occasional blog post. I apologise in advance because my profanity filter is broken...

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4 Reasons To Love Wearing Glasses

Last year I wrote a blog post that definitely touched a nerve with many people. It was my 10 reasons why I hate wearing glasses. But since finding a couple of styles of frames that really suit me, and using my contact lenses only when really necessary, I've started to learn to enjoy wearing glasses. I asked a few spectacle-wearing friends what they enjoyed about their 'bins' and there was a few agreed points.
I CAN ACTUALLY SEE
As already mentioned, it's brilliant to be able to actually see! When you put on your glasses everything is crisp and no longer blurred around the edges. It's also quite handy to be able to see other vehicles on the road and not play a real life game of bumper cars along the main road.

YOU CAN HAVE FUN ACCESSORISING
If you collect a few pairs of glasses or even prescription sunglasses in different colours and shapes they make great additions to your outfit - and we all know that some people even use glasses with clear lenses for this purpose too! Glasses make great safety goggles for times when you're frying bacon or using an angle grinder (I definitely don't recommend this one) and there's less chance of getting a fly in your eye when cycling.

BE A DIFFERENT PERSON
We all know that Superman hid behind a pair of thick rimmed spectacles so he could go about his day-to-day business as Clark Kent but glasses definitely make you look more intelligent (stop laughing over there...) and you can peer over them to become saucy secretary or evil teacher. 

THE EYES HAVE IT
If you're a contact lens wearer, there's nothing better than taking your lenses out and giving your eyes a good rub (it's the equivalent to taking your bra off at the end of the day, isn't it?) before putting your glasses on.  And finally, even though you don't notice your specs getting dirty, when you give them a good clean it's like having new eyes!


As I've got older I'm definitely relying on my glasses more for every-day use, especially driving, screen time, seeing anything at all in the distance... in fact, anything past my phone or a book then I've got little chance of seeing it (just ask my running crew what happened the day my glasses frames broke just before we set off on a community run...). My eyesight isn't all that bad - even if I did marvel at the fact that Vera Duckworth had patterned wallpaper the first time I watched Coronation Street on television in my glasses as a child - but it's nice to feel comfortable with the extra face furniture hooked over my ears



This post is supported by GlassesShop.com and they have provided a 50% discount code for my readers - GSHOT50 - which can be used on eyeglasses and sunglasses with free lenses (sale frames are excluded in this offer)



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If you're new here, you can follow me on social media - it's where I overshare empty my head of all random thoughts before I order them into the occasional blog post. I apologise in advance because my profanity filter is broken...

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