5 Things I Love About Myself

Five Things I Love About Myself - Nickie O'Hara - www.iamtypecast - 30 day blogging challenge - Day 1Way back in July I was slowly getting hooked on yet another series of Celebrity Big Brother. It was *adopts a Marcus Bentley accent* 'Day 2 in the Big Brother House' and the housemates were still finding their feet and each other. Frankie Grande was told to celebrate his huge ego so he rapped about the ten things he loved about himself [watch here]

It inspired me. It really got me thinking about the way in which I've changed over the years and how I've become more confident and sure of who I am. There are many reasons for me having blossomed late in life and now is not the time nor the place to go into the whys and the wherefores, but my 40th birthday was the turning point.

So I thought I'd describe five things I love about me (let's not go far as ten... my head might get a bit big) and how I use these for business and life in general.


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Leader

I am part of a community running group which aims to coach people through the 'couch to 5k' programme in a fun and supportive atmosphere. I fell into the role two years ago by way of a happy accident and, in that time, I've been part of a team that has got hundreds of people up off their arses and running for the sheer joy of it all. I have met some awesome people along the way who are now smashing personal goals and running miles and miles just because they can.

Feisty

I'm always wary of this word because it can have both positive and negative connotations. In this instance I like to believe that I am someone who is determined and who will stand up for her beliefs without being aggressive or disrespectful as that is a fine line that doesn't need crossing!


Grounded 

Five years ago I wouldn't have accepted this as a valid description of myself but, as mentioned further up the page, I worked out who I was, where I was going in life and what I needed to do to get there. I'm not sure I could have done this without any of the life experiences I'd already had or without the people I have around me.

Interested

I like to think I have my ear to the ground, especially when it comes to trending topics. That may be knowing which celebrity is using tit tape (or not) this week or whether it is learning about how to approach a business audience using the latest Snapchat filter. As Ferris Bueller said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while you could miss it".  I take that quote fairly literally and try to soak up everything. The world is changing around us all the time and to succeed, you have to understand those changes and know how to implement them.

Committed

I'll see a task through to the bitter end and to the best of my ability. I am also a loyal person who, in the right situation, can be totally relied on. Whilst friendships aren't always encouraged in the business world, I don't necessarily pander to the expression "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" because everyone has strengths that can be utilised and if you are only seeking negatives then you'll never find the positives.

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I started this self-evaluation with the best will in the world however I stalled a little. It's always hard to be positive about yourself, even if you are the most confident person in the world, isn't it?  In business you should be listening to your (potential) customers so I asked people that know me very well to describe me in one word (crowd-sourcing is always a fab way to get inspired). Their feedback and honesty has helped me to be more positive about me - and I hope it encourages you to be more positive about you too.  By all means, feel free to take this idea and run with it - you can also link to your own '5 Things I Love About Myself' in the comments so I can come and read it!

This is the first post in a 30-day blogging challenge that will help me re-engage and help me find a focus. I have no idea what that focus yet is going to be but we're going on this journey together and we are going to find out.  If you fancy joining in, you can sign up here - it's FREE and it's run by Sarah and Kevin Arrow. I'm already enthused by their positivity and encouragement.

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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#DangerousDrives Statistics And Choosing Insurance For A Young Driver

Once upon a time, I worked for an insurance brokers and managed to get a fabulous staff discount on my car insurance – very handy when you are a seventeen year old who has just passed their test. Over the next few years always remember my father encouraging me to stay with my existing insurance provider so that I could earn rewards along the lines of long-term policy discounts, no claims discounts and more.

Fast forward a few more years and our middle child passed his driving test and needed to purchase young driver's insurance. To keep the cost down (we started at a premium of just over £2000 per year... yes really!!) he agreed to a mileage cap and to be part of a telematics programme which is essentially like having a 'black box' attached to the car that monitors your driving style and good driving is rewarded.

Has this brought us full circle, encouraging new drivers to stick with their existing insurance company for more than one year?  And, as long as the renewal price is favourable, the driver and the company can start to build a long-lasting customer/provider relationship.  If one company is prepared to make car insurance purchase easier and cheaper then that's definitely the option we are all going to head for! 

With this in mind, it's a great opportunity for me to share this infographic from Chill Insurance which shares some of the most dangerous drives in Ireland and some interesting driving statistics.

dangerous drives infographic


This is a collaborative post with Chill Insurance. 
Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Back In A Filofax | Personal Malden In Ochre

2016 is fast becoming the year where I try and use as many diaries systems as possible... or so it seems - however I didn't think that I'd be returning to a Filofax but it definitely feels like the right move for the time being.


I'm starting to believe that there is literally no notebook or diary out there that can fully accommodate my needs.  The two that come close are the Marks Colours Diary (I used one of these in 2015) and the Hobonichi Techo (I started with this at the beginning of this year) but for various reasons, I've switched in and out of them.

I need a way to have a diary and a bullet journal working in conjunction with each other. Most of the time, a traditional diary layout doesn't provide the space for bullet journalling without it being too large or too bulky and, from the other end of the scale, the bullet journal system doesn't really have the flexibility for true forward planning without a lot of counting of pages, drawing grids and fashioning your own layout which sort of detracts from the simplicity of it all.  This is why the travelers notebook system was working really well for me but I was struggling to find an actual pocket sized diary that I liked to be part of this set-up.

So I've returned to the Filofax.  The one I'm using is the Personal sized Malden which has been on my wishlist for a long time. It has the perfect amount of pockets and card slots and the traditional size 23mm rings, which makes it functional without it being too large.  It's also a really classic colour - ochre - which definitely isn't going to go out of fashion any time soon. Plus, all my personal items seem to be in this shade of brown at the moment... What has really helped me to settle back into this ring binder is that I have been able to take some of my original inserts and use them straight away and I've used the first part of an academic diary from Dodo Pad which will see me through to the end of the year, at least. 

You can see the full set-up in this video. It's all very new and neat at the moment - and it's definitely not over-stuffed, which feels productive and useful. I'm also using a Cross Tech3+ pen which is a 3-in-1 - a black ballpoint, a red ballpoint and a pencil - and this negates the need to carry different pens to highlight specific points in my diary.

Shall we take bets on how long this will last? It's interesting to see that I always return to the Filofax system at some point but I think I'll have to find a better way to incorporate my bullet journal. I have a couple of ideas - let me know if you'd like to hear about them or see me trying them out! 



(P.S. huge thanks to Philofaxy for featuring this video in their round-up recently)

The Filofax and Cross pen were provided by Pen Heaven.  Both items were eligible for embossing and personalisation and you can see the effect of that more clearly in the video. For more details about review items and collaborations please see my disclosure policy.


My Unused Notebooks

Who doesn't love a brand new, unused notebook? The pristine cover, the unblemished pages, the journey that your handwriting is going to take along the paper with plans or memories.


My Unused Notebooks
But it appears that I have a bit of a problem when it comes to notebooks. I start them with all good intentions; projects, bullet journals, diaries, scribble pads - however I never get round to finishing them unless they are specifically for work or an ongoing project. 

So I  have notebook fear... I don't want to start a new notebook just so that I can get bored of it a few pages in.  Therefore, I'm starting to get a bit of a stash of them and they are threatening to take over my office. 

Recently, when I delved back into the world of Filofax after acquiring a Malden, I was sorting through my paper stash and became rather embarrassed by the amount of unused notebooks that I had collected.  Don't get me wrong... I love receiving them to review, however I want them to be used for the right purpose then there is less 'wastage' and not as many half-finished journals in the desk drawer.

So here is a little video of the 30-something notebooks I found immediately to hand. I'm sure there's more somewhere and occasionally members of my family will take one to use (official requests are submitted and the best fit for use provided - it's a proper service and I'm thinking of charging for my expertise...). If you can think of any use for them all I'd be happy to hear your suggestions! 




Gadgets Galore!

As you've probably seen from various articles on this blog, I love a good bit of tech and really like trying out new gadgets.  Over the past couple of months I've been lucky enough to try a few new additions to the market so I've put them through their paces and I'm reporting in!


Gadgets Galore - EC Technology, Lumsing, power bank, bluetooth headphones, bluetooth speaker


Battery life on phones or tablets doesn't last long, does it? This makes me a huge fan of portable power banks and I've been comparing two of my favourites. The EC Technology 5200mAh Power Bank is made of durable rubber (my eldest son immediately took ownership of this) and, because of it's small size, makes it the most portable of the two power banks.  It also has a built in torch which makes it great for camping! The Lumsing Glory Series P1 Plus 15000mAh Power Bank is slightly larger and heavier but provides the option of recharging up to three devices at once.

The best thing about these portable battery chargers are that they will give your phone or mobile device a bit of a power boost when you're on the move.  They are both USB chargers and smart technology detects the fastest intended charging speed to give you that much needed battery life in the speediest time.  Both power banks provide LED light indicators to show how much 'juice' the power bank has left in the tank.  I can't pick my favourite out of these two!!

If you're after some bluetooth headphones to wear when out running then give the EC Technology Bluetooth 4.1 headset a go.  Their steady bluetooth signal, independent in-line control and HD microphone will make sure that you have no difficulty listening to your music or making a call whilst on the go.  They also include a sports-kit which make sure the buds perfectly fit your ears whilst participating in sport and they are sweatproof.  A unique feature is that they also have 'magnetic attraction' built in so the two earplugs fit together when not in use.

Finally, the EC Technology Bluetooth Speaker was an absolutely brilliant piece of tech for when we were on holiday. It's as small as a travel clock but has a great 5W speaker that gives off great bass.  It's made of stainless steel which makes it feel luxurious and has a non-slip mat underneath to both stop it from moving around and will protect your surfaces.  The 1300mAh lithium battery provides up to 9 hours of music playing (we linked ours up to our tablet where we had all our music stored) but you can also pair it with a phone for up to 30 hours of conversation. 

Please do click through each link to check the current price, as there's always special offers on from Lumsing and EC Technology. These gadgets that I've featured are really affordable for what they do and make great presents for those hard-to-buy friends and family too.  


NB: the links I've provided are Amazon affiliate links which means that if you buy the product after clicking the link, I am paid a few pence.



What's In My Bag | Fossil Sydney Satchel

I can't remember exactly how I first discovered the Fossil Sydney Satchel but it was definitely featured on a YouTube video at the beginning of the year.  Since then, I've been lusting over it at every available opportunity because it showcased itself as my 'bag for life', if you will.


What's In My Bag | Fossil Sydney Satchel
It's a proper leather handbag and, from what I'd seen on the numerous videos I'd watched, was like a bottomless pit.  But £140 is a lot to pay for any single item and not one that I thought I could afford any time soon.  However, the lovely Tanya and her husband both had some similar advice which sealed the deal for me. They asked me if it would be a bag that I would use every day (the answer was 'yes') and to break down the price per day over a year (just over 38p per day). So I put it at the top of my wishlist.  Some opportunities came along at the right time and when I checked the website the price had been reduced (although the colour I originally wanted wasn't in stock at the time). The investment was made.

The bag turned up a few days later and I have no regrets whatsoever! I'm even glad that the colour I first wanted was out of stock because, as you'll see from this video, there's a theme running through my colour choices at the moment - the tan colour feels like such a classic.  It's also going to patina beautifully and just get better with age, just like it's owner *ahem*

Have a watch of the video and let me know what you think. I'm in L.O.V.E. and it hasn't left my side since it arrived!



Things I Learnt In August

Alrighty then... only two days late this month. There's been a great number of eyebrow raising discoveries in August so here they are all for you too because I'm good like that.


My son didn't believe he was actually called Jake. For a full 17 years he has thought that he was called 'Jacob' and we were using a shortened form of that name when talking to him. He demanded to see his birth certificate to determine the truth.

I've been pronoucing the brand name "Maped Helix" incorrectly since primary school. Because of a phone call I had to make for work purposes, I found out, from the source, that it is pronounced 'Map-Ed He-Licks' and not 'mapped hell icks'.  After a short survey with my Facebook friends, it transpires that I'm not the only one who thought the same.

You can use emoji even when on a desktop or laptop computer.  Ok... so this isn't actually ground-breaking but it helps to add emotion to a tweet that could possibly be misconstrued. So, a hat-tip to Buffer with this step-by-step tutorial but it's simply part of the on-screen keyboard that you can access really easily. I now have mine pinned to my toolbar so just be thankful that I haven't been adding 💚💚💚 to all my blog posts...

I need to stop reading those 'things that happened x years ago' (even though I've written a couple myself - one here on this blog - 25 Things From 25 Years Ago and one for Buzzfeed - 30 Things That Happened 30 Years Ago) but facts and figures like Wikipedia was launched in the same year as the iPod (2001 - just 15 years ago) always fascinate me. Read more here.

George Formby's House - blue plaque
My friend's Nan used to live in George Formby's house.  It's well documented that George Formby lived on the main road between Fairhaven Lake and St Annes in Lancashire so when I saw my old school friend, Steph, share this photo of the blue plaque that hangs on the gatepost and then mention that she spent a lot of time in there as a young girl, I thought that sounded dodgy until she explained the house ownership details.  Fascinating claim to fame though! 

There is an actual rule for making a word ending in 'y' a plural. If the letter before the 'y' is a consonant then you add 'ies' (so 'lady' becomes 'ladies').  If the letter before the 'y' is a vowel then you just add 's' (so 'monkey' becomes 'monkeys'). WHY did I not know this before? 


You thought I'd forgotten about my usual running update, didn't you.  Never fear... (but it's short this month)


During an interval training session I had a bit of a realisation.  At my (now) fastest sprint, Mo Farah is faster than me at his average 5k and 10k pace.  Plus, in any 10 second countdown when changing speed (for anything : interval training, couch to 5k sessions, etc) Usain Bolt has more or less completed his 100m race.

As an aside, here's a (very) short story I wrote about a race that I won when I actually was a champion sprinter, many moons ago

I have two entries for 'Video Of The Month' for you


The first video is 80s related. As mentioned in the description of this video and written specifcally to make me feel old, Lionel Ritchie's song Dancing On The Ceiling was 30 years old in August so this compilation of dance scenes in movies has been set to that song. Doesn't it just make you want to go back and re-watch all of those films?  Did they miss out any of your favourites?


The second video is "Hugo Takes A Selfie" which feels very much like entering a time machine. It's a genius little project and goes to show that the next generation are very much growing up embedded into the digital world.  It was even featured and shared by YouTube themselves!



I think that's it for another month. Well done if you got this far. If you learnt anything or experienced anything unusual in the month of August then let me know in the comments!



New Stationery For The New Term

As many of us start to return to school, college or university over the next few weeks, I thought you'd like my top stationery picks to ease you into the new term.


New Stationery For The New Term - back to school stationery picks

Notebooks and Diaries

Depending on what your preference is, there are many great diaries that will see you through the academic year and beyond and I have a few favourites.  The first is from Moleskine and is an 18-month diary with a week to view - you can purchase this in either pocket size or large size.  The second is the Acad-Pad from Dodopad which is available in a variety of sizes and formats. For a luxury leather journal or personalised diary then take a look at Hope House Press (it's my friend's business and you can read about it here) .  Finally, I love to stuff a small notebook into the back of my Filofax or the bottom of my bag so that I've always got paper to hand. The best place to buy pocket notebooks is... er... Pocket Notebooks as they've got tons in their range.

New Stationery For The New Term - back to school stationery picks from Moleskine, Dodopad, Hope House Press and Pocket Notebooks


Pens And Pencils

A good pen is important whether you're taking notes, writing notes or essays or just doodling. I love the Cross Tech3+ which is a multi-function pen, negating the need to carry loads of pens around with you (review coming soon on this).  If you're after a fountain pen, I can highly recommend a Lamy (the Safari is my favourite) or a Kaweko Sport (I was recently bought this in the mint green as a present) and I love to use different coloured ink such as green or purple!  Finally, I've recently had the pleasure of becoming the proud owner of a Monteverde Prima Rollerball (video here) which is a thick barrelled, heavy pen and suits my needs perfectly.  If you're after a multi function pencil then you'll not go far wrong with the Worther Pencil as a nice little twist on your traditional mechanical pencil. The different coloured leads write on different surfaces plus there is a refill to make the pencil into a ballpoint pen. 

New Stationery For The New Term - back to school stationery picks from Pen Heaven


Accessories

Last, but not least, you're going to want some accessories.  If you like brightly coloured fun items in your bag or pencil case then check out the full range from Smiggle who have the best ever pencil cases and all your other stuff like erasers, sharpeners and calculators. For post-it notes or washi-tape have a look at Ohh Deer and if you're after the more traditional equipment you could try the retro-styled Oxford Maths set from MapedHelix.

New Stationery For The New Term - back to school stationery picks from Smiggle, MapedHelix and OhhDeer

I'd love to hear if you have stationery favourites for Back To School time. For me, I love treating the grandchildren to a few bits for their pencil case and it warms the cockles of my heart when they come back from spending their pocket money with new notebooks, colouring pencils and highlighters (as they did this weekend).



Note: I'm working with Pen Heaven at the moment therefore a few links in this blog post point to their website. I have a review of their Cross Tech3+ pen and a set up of my new personal size Malden Filofax coming very soon. 

Any images have been taken directly from the website that sell each items. 

Three People Who Do Britney Better Than Britney

Three People Who Do Britney Better Than Britney
Britney gives good shade! Kudos points if you can name the video/song this still is from?!


You watch Carpool Karaoke, right? Simple but genius - and I imagine singers are queued up to appear on it to show that (a) they can actually sing and (b) they have a sense of humour.  Anyway, I just watched the most awkward episode. It was the one where Britney Spears forgets the words to all her own songs and mimes quite a bit. I feel it had been worked into her recent PR campaign with the producers of the show having to edit it heavily and it shows.


But I'm not here to analyse the video (that happened on Facebook) but I literally laughed out loud when Ruth mentioned that James Corden sings Britney songs that Britney does, which led to people sharing videos of famous people doing impressions of Britney.

So, ever the public service, I decided that you needed to see these too and here are my top three. You're welcome. Feel free to share more in the comments. The world needs to see these! 

1.  Nicole Scherzinger



2. Christina Aguilera



3.  Ariana Grande






Side note : I wrote this blog post on Saturday morning before Nicole Shirtslinger was on X-Factor and Xtra-Factor doing all the bloody Britney impressions.  I have a feeling she's following me on Facebook and gets all her ideas from me... 


Bonus : Jedward


Not an impression but who can forget Jedward's X-Factor performance? 
Oh, you had...? Sorry (not sorry)!



How To Make A Matinee Jacket From Granny Squares

How To Make A Matinee Jacket From Granny Squares


A few weeks ago I shared a picture of a matinee jacket I'd created out of 12 crocheted granny squares and lots of people asked for the pattern.  I made this after viewing a few variations I'd seen on Pinterest and on crafting blogs.

How To Make A Matinee Jacket From Granny Squares
I hope you enjoy this and scroll down for some mini hints and tips plus a one minute video tutorial if you prefer that type of thing.

I have used double knit yarn in two contrasting colours

  • Crochet 12 granny squares 
  • Sew six granny squares together to make the back
  • Sew three granny squares together to make the right hand front side
  • Sew three granny squares together to make the left hand front side
  • Sew the three sections together.  Start at the second group of stitches to create a collar opening
  • Add a border by crocheting two rows of double crochet around all the open edges
  • Create a button loop by chaining 7 and attaching to the border
  • Add a button
  • TA-DAAAAAAA


Hints And Tips


  • If you are a complete beginner with crochet then see here for a video tutorial from Bella Coco which shows you how to make a granny square
  • Each time you create a new 'round' on your granny square, flip it over and work the 'reverse'. This helps to stop the edges from curling up
  • Attach a new colour of yarn in the opposite corner from where you finished the previous colour. This helps to prevent any 'weak' corners




Please do let me know if you make one of these and share your pictures in the comments section. I'd also like to hear about or see any other variations on this pattern you may have created.  Happy crocheting!