Soundtrack To My Life - The First Songs I Remember

Soundtrack To My Life - The First Songs I Remember
For the third Soundtrack To My Life of the year, I thought I'd write about the first songs I remember. I've touched upon this in previous Listography themes but I haven't got as far back as where my music memories started.

I'm going to make no apologies for the era I was born in - that is sort of beyond my control - and my introduction to music stems from that era and the music that was played by the people around me.

Soundtrack To My Life - The First Songs I Remember - Bush Bakelite 1950s radio Weirdly, most of my music memories have connections to my Nana. She had a huge old 1950's Bush Bakalite radio on the dresser in the kitchen (Photo Credit : and whilst I have no knowledge of which radio station it was tuned into, it was always something she could sing along to, and encouraged me to do the same.

This selection is in no particular order but I must have loved the Brotherhood of Man song above all others because my Nana wrote the lyrics out for me to learn. She did this by recording the song from the radio or the television on a cassette recorder and then did that stop/start/rewind thing to work out all the words. The rest...? They just all remind me of a time before I started primary school - so pre-1977 - definitely before I started watching Top of the Pops and before I delved into my own parent's record collection. My appreciation of their music came at a much later date but I think that is because it always felt a bit more contemporary.

I've included five of my earliest song memories.  You can tell me yours in the comments too. 

Brotherhood of Man - Kisses For Me

John Denver - Annie's Song

Glen Campbell - Rhinestone Cowboy

Showaddywaddy - Under The Moon Of Love

Leo Sayer - You Make Me Feel Like Dancing


Soundtrack To My Life - The First Songs I Remember
Thanks for joining me on another musical meander.Soundtrack To My Life is an occasional series on this blog where I talk about music that's influenced my life or I invite people to talk about the same. Read/Listen to all the previous Soundtrack To My Life entries here or follow the dedicated Pinterest board. Find out more about participating by >> clicking here <<


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Things I Learnt In February (with a little bit of March included)

February was such a short month - as it always is - so this update has spilled into March to make it a bit more interesting.

Resharing old blog posts is sometimes worthwhile. I'm very adverse to having my photo taken as I never ever like the way I look in photographs. I tweeted the link to a blog post from last year which asked, "Why Am I Not Photogenic?" My friend Claire read the article and found me an answer from Smart Photography which explains the science behind the perception. I was very intrigued with the theory behind having less photos of yourself (guilty as charged, m'lud) means that the only image you see of yourself is that one in the mirror.  Have a read of the article and see what you think.

(NB: I'm still adverse to the oversharing of old blog posts and the use of ICYMI and Halloween posts in March or Christmas posts in June... just saying)

Things I Learnt In February and March - my three grandchildrenGetting a photo of your grandchildren all together is nigh on impossible. Especially when one of them will do anything to sabotage the process (she only let me take our family Christmas photo because I said it was OK to pull a funny face)!  I did end up with a nice one eventually but the other seventeen made this hilarious gif.

The message for this year's International Women's Day was #BeBoldForChange and in our local area a poster campaign was launched to highlight five inspirational women who have made a difference to people's lives in Blackburn and Darwen. The reason I've mentioned this is because the Chair of Blackburn Road Runners is one of those women and her face and message can be seen on bus shelters across the town. Of course, this makes for great photo opportunities when out on runs - some of the pictures that have been shared in our Facebook groups have been quite funny! It did give me food for thought though. I would love to be able to give more time and effort to make a change but other parts of my life take priority. Maybe one day, eh?

The pursuit of happiness isn't a modern day concept but can be brought into play for modern times. My running friend, Cathy, talked me through a bad run a while back and mentioned the four levels of happiness, originally identified by Aristole (he wasn't on the run with us - he died in 322 BC). The levels are thus:

  • Level 1 : happiness obtained through material objects and external stimuli.  This could be something as small as a bar of chocolate or as large as a new car.
  • Level 2 : happiness related to happiness through comparison with others. This could be being able to run further and faster (you see how the conversation started now), to earn more money or even to have more followers on your social media channels. 
  • Level 3 : happiness comes from doing good deeds. This could be helping others through volunteering and finding ways to make the world a better place
  • Level 4 : happiness takes the form of enlightenment or some form of 'perfect' happiness.

I mentioned that I feel very much at Level 3 most of the time yet I haven't touched upon Level 2 so wondered how that could be. But I think I was getting mixed up with Maslow's Triangle which is where you have to have achieved one level before you can move onto the next. This tier of happiness means that you can jump around depending upon your mood and/or your circumstances on any given day.  Which level are you at?

The collaboration between SORTEDfood and Co-op is drawing on the cooking skills gap in the 16 to 35 year old age group (you can read more about their research here and here - honestly, it's very eye opening). My youngest child (now almost 18 years old) really enjoyed and was very successful in his catering course at high school and still enjoys cooking a meal for us all from time to time. Co-op and SORTEDfood sent us a box of ingredients and the recipe to make roasted vegetable couscous which was so simple and tasty that we've been working our way through their recipes on the Now Cook It website. It's also worth checking out the SORTEDfood YouTube channel too!

I have short hair envy again. Over the years I've lusted after the styles of Pink, Rhianna and Kris Jenner. This time it's Jennifer Hudson and Emma Willis. I have short, undercut hair but it's very fine and doesn't hold its style very well, regardless of the cut. I've yet to find hair happiness (I'm seeing this month's theme now... are you?) but I'm almost there - it just needs to be a bit longer.

Things I Learnt In February and March - Stroke Association Resolution Run - stripy sock shot - from Instagram (Nickie O'Hara)
Some companies absolutely understand how social media works and one of those companies is the Stroke Association. I participated in one of their charity runs earlier this month (it was the Resolution Run at Heaton Park in Manchester but I'll talk more about that in my next Fitbitches update) and shared photos and updates on social media throughout the day. I was really surprised to see responses from their online team on Twitter and Instagram in real time at the weekend and I was also chuffed when they used one of my photos in their live Instagram Story from the day. They have continued to engage and I know a number of companies that could learn some lessons from them!

The Mini Review Section

Always look to support local businesses. I had been raving about Renton's updated 'Choose Life' monologue from the new Trainspotting T2 film and a friend tagged me in a picture of a mug with it printed on but at £10 I thought it was priced a bit high. After seeing the update, a friend got in touch to say that the company she worked for was moving into the printed mug business and would I like to see a sample of their work with this monologue printed on. Um... let me think about that... HELL, YES!  So she sourced copies of the monologue and the film banners and created two mugs for me - one with the monologue from the first film and one with the monologue from the second film. Don't they look cool? Anyway, take a look at the Printed Cup Company's offerings, especially if you needed bespoke cups for gifts or for an event (also on Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / YouTube).

Things I Learnt In February and March - Printed Cup Company - Trainspotting Choose Life monologue on a mug

The Video Of The Month Section

Normally I select just one video that has really captured my attention however there are three that I just can't choose between for completely different reasons.

The first is a short film (bear with the editing - it's a bit amateurish) about raves in the North of England. I'm convinced I attended one of the raves in Blackburn in the video (in 1990) but can't be sure as I was always completely oblivious as to where we were going in the car!

The next is from Walk Off The Earth and is a celebration of their rise to popularity after they filmed themselves playing one guitar, singing their version of Goyte's "Somebody That I Used To Know" - it went viral and has introduced them to a much wider audience. I still think they are hugely underrated and have so much talent between them - and some of their music-making methods are unbelievably wacky but innovative.

The last one is (in my opinion) another underrated group - Pentatonix - and their collaboration with Dolly Parton for a reboot of the song, Jolene. You may have seen/heard them sing it on an episode of The Voice USA with Miley Cyrus but this is a much purer edit. As an aside, this song will be being mentioned in an upcoming Soundtrack To My Life but more on that at another time...

And to finish... let's look at how the Motorway police have a great sense of humour. This tweet proves it!

Things I Learnt In February and March - NorthWest Motorway Police twitter

Don't forget to share your new found wisdom with me in the comments. 

What can you teach me this month?


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The Write Angle : My February Finds

It's a well known fact that I'm a stationery addict and I've wanted to write a regular stationery series for a while. So, for now, I'm going to be sharing my latest finds, providing inspiration and reviewing my favourite products on a regular basis.

The Write Angle : My February Finds - Parker Pens Urban collection from Pen Heaven
Since the trend for bullet journaling has taken off (where HAVE you been for the past three years or so?) lots of people are reverting back to tradition and writing out their to-do lists.  For National Handwriting Day I wrote about putting pen to paper and practising your handwriting plus I held a bit of an open Q&A - if you missed it, it's really worth a read as there's also a guest post in there from Pen Heaven all about the individuality of your handwriting style. I've also recently been using my Parker Urban pen which is chunky and heavy which is perfect for my grip - and it's personalised so no-one can steal it!!

The Write Angle : My February Finds - Spotlight Stationery December subscription boxYou may have noticed that I'd not sampled any new stationery subscription boxes recently, although I'm still a huge fan of them. I love how they give you the chance to try out stationery products that you probably wouldn't normally buy or didn't even know existed.  Anyway, I've been given the chance to take a look at the offerings from Spotlight Stationery. Ever a fan of a good flatlay, you can see their December and January boxes on my Instagram however their February box is a little bit different as the theme is "Letterpress".  The boxes have just been sent out to the subscribers so I'll be reviewing this live on my Facebook page on Tuesday evening. Just "like" my page to receive a notification when the video is starting.
The Write Angle : My February Finds - Spotlight Stationery January subscription box
At the beginning of the year I was using my Filofax refillable notebook as my bullet journal but it was just not working. I had too many pages crammed in there because of the way that I like to style my bullet journal and I was probably over-thinking the whole system. This is also probably why I didn't settle into just one journal last year.  In one of the Spotlight Stationery subscription boxes was a beautiful notebook from Paper Oh. It's the red and black one in this picture and it's an A5 Cahier Circulo with 80 gridded pages. If this works out I may... just may... use the absolutely amazing black and gold Castelli notebook (seen above) which has the most unusual 3D effect on the cover.

The Write Angle : My February Finds - Paper Oh Cahier Circulo from Spotlight StationeryI'm still using the Filofax notebook but I've taken inspiration from Kara at Innocent Charms Chat who is using hers as a blog planner. I'm taking a more focused approach to my writing this year so this notebook is now sectioned out to help with the planning of my blog posts, my vidoes and my new not-so-secret community project. 

The Write Angle : My February Finds - Filofax Refillable NotebookI'm always a bit of a dither about the book I'm going to use as my bullet journal because it's the one that goes everywhere with me but I also always need a planner/diary too (I've mentioned this before on numerous occasions). The Hobonichi system works perfectly for me but - don't hate me - I'm not a huge fan of the Tomeo River paper and the diaries are just so expensive. Mark's (available at Bureau Direct) are another compromise - I used their Color's Storage.It for 2015 - but, to be honest, I'd forgotten about their diaries this year. What I am going to do is present a live video, again through my Facebook page, which will be a walk-through of my bullet journal system. It's very plain and practical as I'm not in the least bit arty - but at least you'll be able to see how I manage my planning system and why it absolutely works for me.

The Write Angle : My February Finds - Chalkola Chalk Pens
I've been trying out a new-to-me arts and craft product called Chalkola this month. I have been fascinated by these chalkboard markers because they are odour free and environmentally friendly and they seem to have limitless uses for both children and adults. I have an office whiteboard for reminders and the neon colours are fab for organising my notes on there,  On non-porous surfaces (windows, glass jars, chalkboards) they simply wipe off with a wet cloth but they can be used on any surface.  You do have to "pump" the nib for a while to get the ink to flow on the first use but the various sizes of pen/nib available do mean that you can create a variety of effects - I can't wait to use them more!  I've been trying out the Jumbo Chalk Pens and the Bullet Tip Chalk Pens but all their products are available from Amazon.

And finally, I've always been a huge fan of the Pocket Notebooks website. It was recently taken over by Stuart and he's been working really hard to introduce some new lines in the shop. I want to buy it all! If you're a fan of the smaller notebook or are looking for pocket-sized notebooks for your travellers notebook system then this is a great place to start.

Let me know what you think of this new stationery series. I'm planning (haha... what a pun!) on writing this bi-monthly - or maybe a little bit more often if I have lots to share. One suggestion from a friend was to suggest a 'stationery bundle' for you to try out and that's an idea I'm definitely open to presenting. Alos, Steve from Philofaxy has recently mentioned that there seems to be less blog posts from the Filofax community with one theory being that content creators are now turning more to YouTube and Instagram to share their update.  I may do a couple of updated posts about my beautiful Malden if there's a gap in the market and update my 'merged Filofax and Bullet Journal' system.



Pen Heaven had sent me a personalised pen from their Urban range to try out as Parker are rebranding all of their ranges. They also do the most amazing gift wrapping service so you can have a pen sent direct to a friend or family member with a personal note attached too. More details on their website.

Spotlight Stationery have many of the individual items from the subscription boxes available in their shop. You can use the code NICKIE15 for a very generous 15% discount on any purchase from the shop and/or a monthly or bi-monthly subscription.  NB: this code is not valid on the 3 and 6 month subscription as that has already been reduced in price.

Chalkola had sent me two boxes of pens from their range on Amazon, I will be revisiting this product as I've only tried it out on my whiteboard but have lots of craft ideas to try out with the grandchildren over the next few weeks.


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The Scariest Fictional Characters That We'd Hate To Meet On A Dark Night

The Scariest Fictional Characters That We'd Hate To Meet On A Dark Night
Reading can be a wonderful thing. It can take us to magical places and introduce us to the most amazing people. Alongside that of course, there’s also the potential to meet some not-so-amazing people. The potential to meet someone pretty creepy, really. To prove our point, here are five of the scariest people you might ever encounter between the covers of a book.

Pennywise (It by Stephen King)

Brought to life in Stephen King’s “It”, Pennywise is more than just a scary clown. The character is actually a child-murdering creature whose real form is unknown. Contrary to what you might expect, the idea that Pennywise comes from beyond the dawn of the universe is really this monster’s only saving grace, allowing us to shut the book safe in the knowledge that the character comes from a time far removed from ours.

A new film is coming out this year starring Bill Skarsgård as the evil clown, but we personally don’t think anything will top the sheer, unbridled horror of the Tim Curry version.

Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling)

Did you think we were going to put Voldemort on here? Sorry, no such luck. After all, you don’t get to be one of the scariest villains in history by getting defeated by a baby early on in your fictional career. If you want to experience proper evil in the Harry Potter world, look no further than Dolores Umbridge.

Real evil doesn’t reveal itself, wearing a black cloak and casting spells on passers-by in Diagon Alley. Instead, the thing you should be most scared of is the person in charge. Far from leading Hogwarts towards a brighter future, Umbridge demonstrated the kind of evil that nothing in Ollivander’s wand shop can protect you from.

Mr Teatime (The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett)

Let’s face it, you can’t get much more evil than murdering Santa Claus (or “The Hogfather”, as he is known in this case). Pratchett describes the villainous Mr Teatime as someone who had a truly brilliant mind, but ultimately showed himself to be broken and greatly unhinged.

The worst thing about Mr Teatime’s plot, however, is that it makes such perfect sense. And when you think about it, that’s really something for a plan that involves breaking into the Tooth Fairy’s Castle to kill Santa Claus.

The Grand High Witch (The Witches by Roald Dahl)

The Witches in Roald Dahl’s story have one goal and one goal only – to destroy all children. It makes the Grand High Witch only the third child murderer we’ve mentioned in this list, leading us to believe that villains trying to kill children in children’s stories are no rare thing. What makes the Grand High Witch particularly evil and terrifying are the horrendous ways she actually goes about her devious plot. A few of the most fearsome tactics include trapping children in paintings, stamping them out like slugs and even turning them into hot dogs so that their own parents can be fooled into eating them.

The Scariest Fictional Characters That We'd Hate To Meet On A Dark Night

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Fitbitches - The February Run Down

Fitbitches - The February Run Down

So I'll start with the negative from this month. I had the worst run (mentally) around three weeks ago. It was a normal Monday 3-mile run with my usual running group and some of the route was to be torchlit (it mixes things up a bit - here's the stats from Strava).  I don't suffer from panic attacks however I struggled with pace and I had a bit of a moment half way round where I struggled to breathe, felt physically sick and got a bit tearful. My running pals talked me through it and got me to a point where I felt as though I could carry on.

After getting home, I had a bit of a think about what had happened and felt as though I had been building up to this for a long time. The decision to run further and faster over the winter was a tough one to make. I was leaving my Couch To 5k community group comfort blanket behind, running with new people - many of whom were already great friends with each other - and pushing myself to do something that still feels so unnatural to me. The runs with this group are tough but I can already feel the difference in my stamina and pace in general and that's the positive I'm taking from this.

Moving forward, we are on week 7 of the latest 5-10k Progression Plan and this is the third time I've been on this plan. As mentioned earlier, it's a challenge for me to be out of my comfort zone but I do organise the weekly optional extra run on a Saturday which is anything between 3 and 5 miles. I've also got the Stroke Association Resolution Run (10k) booked for the beginning of March and there's a few of my running mates taking part. I have also registered for another virtual 10k during March.

Blackburn Road Runners Winter Warmer 10k

I had been mentally preparing for the Blackburn Road Runners 10k Winter Warmer for a while. It's our only local 10k and includes my nemesis hill - Buncer Lane.  The route is tough in general, with the first 3k being totally uphill however the views are spectacular. The organisation of the event is second to none with BRR members as pacers and marshals - and this is what helped me have such a good run as I know most of them personally as part of my extended running community. My run was full of shouts of encouragement, high fives and hugs.

Fitbitches - The February Run Down - the BRR Winter Warmer elevation chartFitbitches - The February Run Down - BRR Winter Warmer at around 7k - photo credit : Claire Young

At around the halfway point I fell into a matching stride with another runner and we ran the second half of the route together, giving each other little pep-talks, chatting about our running achievements and goals for the year and generally helping each other along for the last part of the race. Because of this, I totally ran through my usual wall at 7-8k but definitely hit it for the last kilometre when I was back in the park and could see the finish line. My new-found running buddy stretched out for the final leg and we finished around a minute apart. Photo credit : Claire Young

Fitbitches - The February Run Down - BRR Winter Warmer overview, route, medal, running number
I'd set myself a goal of completing the course in 1hr 20min as I knew how long it would take me to run that first section but my chip time was 1:17:22 - yes it's slow but it's the first time I've not felt like I was running for well over an hour and that was simply down to my own personal experience with this race and the people involved.


The last few weeks have been spent thinking a lot about the Fitbitches ethos and how I can grow this into the meaningful, altruistic community that I want it to be. The Facebook group has doubled in size but I'm still determined to ensure that there are only proactive members who are focused on encouraging each other, regardless of fitness level, exercise discipline or personal goal, and all with no sales pitch as I'm looking more at the community atmosphere. As individuals, these goals are always so different but we all need that little high five or pat on the back to keep us going, don't we?

Fitbitches - The February Run Down - Fitbitches is not about being better than someone else, its about being better than you used to be
Along with the original members of Fitbitches, I organised a February Virtual Event. We were all looking to move more in 2017 but I always find having an actual target is the best way to get to the next level.  I saw that Virtual Runner UK were offering a medal in February where you could run or walk either 5k or 10k to achieve that medal.  It was the ideal goal where we could all be involved, so we signed up for it, agreed a day when we could all do the activity near our own homes and kept in touch via social media for mutual support. It was such a good feeling to actually see my friends achieving what they'd set out to do and enjoying the time they were spending doing it! Huge congratulations to Tanya, Kirsty & Clara and Penny (links to their Instagram so you can follow their updates).  If you want to follow our progress then we are using the #Fitbitches hashtag on Instagram - that hashtag isn't exclusive though so I might have to create a unique one moving forward... EDIT - THE HASHTAG IS #FitbitchesMOVEment - see all the posts here.  Leading on from this, Tanya has absolutely SMASHED another personal goal by power-walking 21k in a week - you can read her update here.

We are all now contemplating what we can do in March and we are slowly introducing more people to the group who can help mould this unique community in the way that I want. This is more than completing just one 5k or chatting on a Facebook group or selling fitness advice in the form of e-books that isn't tailored to the individual. It's not blogging, it's not tweeting... it's doing. It's a MOVEment.

Stories That Have Captured My Interest This Month

Fitbitches - The February Run Down - Ron Hill
Most distance runners will have heard of Ron Hill and many other runners will know of him through his sport clothing range as he was a pioneer of various products, but mainly the reflective strips that are now found on most sports outerwear.  I knew of him long ago as he was the first winner of the Freckleton Half Marathon (my home village - and, if it ever came to it, the only half marathon I'd ever run) and he still holds the course record after 50-odd years!

Born in Accrington, Lancashire, he was a multi-gold medalist marathon runner and recently ended the longest recorded running streak in history, finishing at 19,032 days where he ran at least one mile for every single one of those days. I honestly can't imagine how that feels as he has said that he mentally wants/wanted to continue but, due to illness, his body just couldn't do it any more.  The Guardian shared a video of his achievements which I've embedded here for you to watch.

Fell running is so far off my radar that I cannot even contemplate the dedication it takes to train for such events. This article about Ricky Lightfoot appeared on my Strava feed a couple of weeks ago and is a must-read. He talks about the Bob Graham Round, which is the Lake District's most historic fell running challenge and the input that is needed for this endurance feat. As an aside, the photography accompanying this article is too DIE for!!

And I'll finish with yet another excuse to embed a Casey Neistat video where he examines his addiction to running. The mini-film is under 3 minutes long so well worth a watch.

What I'm wearing this month 

Adidas Duramo 55 - discounted at Sports Direct (although their staff are worse than useless) - bought a half size bigger which is recommended and laced for high arches. This has completely eradicated the pins-and-needles feeling I regularly have in my foot and I've had fewer calf twinges this month too.

Wild Bangarang - I wore my Anne Stokes Gothic Skull leggings when running the Winter Warmer  which are definitely my favourite pair from all the ones I own. If you're ever ordering from their site you can use the discount code TYPECAST15 for 15% off your order.

Blackburn Road Runners buff - I joked that I'd only entered their Winter Warmer so I could receive the logo'd running buff in the goodie bag... but they didn't include one this year!! My friend, and BRR member, Lisa kindly bought me one as a gift and I've worn it every time I've been running since - it was brilliant as an 80s style sweatband on this weekend's 8k run (pic here)!! 

Total distance for 2017 so far

123 kilometres
I should be up to 140 km this week to be on track for my goal of 1000 km this year. I'm not too worried about being a little bit behind but I really can't let it slip much more as it will become too challenging later in the year

My focus for March is to catch up on the missing mileage and to be more positive about my runs. One day, I'll nail this.  (PS... read January's Fitbitches Run Down here)


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How Can I Get A Good Night's Sleep?

Sleep... it's a sore subject in this house

The cause? My husband's snoring! One pillow, two pillows, on his back, on his side, using an anti-snore pillow, whatever. And he sleeps so deeply that he has no idea that he's doing it either. He protests by saying that I snore too but I know I don't...  I'm too ladylike to snore. Cute little piggy grunts, maybe, but not loud enough to wake someone from their slumber and prevent them from nodding back off again.

You would think I would be used surviving with no sleep. When my youngest child was born (and before was diagnosed with ADHD) he used to sleep for anything between half an hour and two hours then stay away for the next eight hours. This went on for approximately two-and-a-half years. In fact, I was so adept at surviving of little or no sleep that I laughed at the idea of the reality TV Show, "Shattered" which involved a number of contestants going without sleep for a week (I'm sure I am the only person who remembers this. Dermot O'Leary presented the nightly updates).

Nowadays, I sometimes manage a lie-in at the weekend but I am usually awake before it is absolutely necessary to get up and can never settle back down again. That's a sign of old-age, isn't it?

Sleep isn't something that you can store in reserve for a time when you need the extra push, so what can you do to ensure a better night's sleep? Hopefully this video below from Adjustamatic will provide some advice about sleep position, pillows and how the position of your spine is all important.

And feel free to share your top tips about sleeping well - I need all the help I can get!!

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7 New Hobbies to Kickstart 2017

It’s a new year, a fresh start. Resolutions have been made, goals have been set. Things are looking up. You feel energised, revitalised and somewhat uplifted. The thought of starting afresh gives you a spring in your step. Or does it? Isn’t that what a new year is supposed to make you feel like?

7 New Hobbies to Kickstart 2017For many of us, as the new year rolls around, we find ourselves stuck in the same old rut, wondering what all the fuss is about. We’re stuck with the same pile of credit to pay off, in the same boring job, with the same responsibilities as we had last year. For some of us, the new year brings about barely any excitement.

So how can we work to make 2017 the year of change? What exactly does a new year’s resolution entail? Is there a fun way to turn our routine from being a total snooze-fest to an exciting and inspiring routine that will help invigorate our lifestyle? The answer is a firm yes.

By taking on any of these 7 exciting hobbies, we’re confident that you’ll kickstart 2017 into a whole new gear.

Arts and Crafts

What better way to express yourself than to take up a hobby working with a glue gun and some paint? Let your creativity soar as you create watercolour works-of-art, or as you decoupage more tissue boxes than you could possibly ever need. Now is the perfect time to take on a project that will help you get in touch with your creative side.


This project requires a little more dedication and vision. Visit your local mosaic shop to browse the tile selection as you draw inspiration for a colour-scheme and picture you’d like to run with. After working on your mosaic masterpiece, we’re sure you’ll never look at a cracked tile the same way again.


Our all-time-favourite past time, BINGO! Who can resist playing this classic game? Why not make bingo a new hobby this year? This is one of our favourite hobbies because there are endless rounds of bingo games to play, so you’ll never find an excuse to be bored again.


Yes, boxing is more than a competing sport. It’s a fun form of exercise. (Yes, we used the word fun and exercise in the same sentence). This is a great way to let off some steam, get your adrenaline pumping and build on your strength.


While the idea of taking part in a dance class can be a little intimidating to some people, we swear by it! It’s time to lose your inhibitions and let loose! Sign up with friends, a family member or your partner and get your body moving and grooving to the beat. We’re sure that you’ll find yourself having a giggle or two as you dance your socks off. Our recommendation? Try out a salsa class!

Cooking club

Who doesn’t wish they could whip up a slap-up meal without breaking a sweat? Book yourself in for a cooking class or join a weekly cooking club to share ideas, recipes and to tuck-in to some tantalizing tasters.


Start a DIY project that you can work on whenever you have a bit of free time. Build your dream coffee table or start on that bookshelf you always wanted. Look for inspiration, by surfing the net, watching tutorials online or by visiting your local DIY stores.

Whatever hobby you decide to take on, make sure to make 2017 the best year yet.

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Soundtrack To My Life - Songs That Sound Alike

As mentioned last month, I'm taking Soundtrack To My Life on a different journey this year. Each month is going to have a different theme and this month is an train of thought that has been almost 12 months in the making but I was unsure how to approach it.

I have a mixture of theories about music (to be expanded on in another blog post in the very near future)... bear with me and I'll try and explain *deep breath*

There are eight notes in an octave and the human voice has a specific range, only reaching to extremes in very few people, Therefore, there must be a finite amount of ways in which those eight notes (and the higher/lower scales) can be arranged into a song. There also seems to be a 20-year recycle point for popular songs - this is when they will be released as a cover version or 'sampled' within a new arrangement. I totally believe that this is because of influence in our younger years - our first experiences of listening to music will probably have been the collection of tunes that our parents owned. This will then lead onto creators wanting to try and emulate those first glorious, nostalgic emotions, and will insert those memories into their next mix.

Over the past year or so I've been hearing more and more songs that sound alike so I'm attempting to see if they fit into my theory. Come with me on this aural journey; maybe I'm using a little bit of poetic licence here and there but there's definitely some influence (and blatant copying in at least one case) but let me know what you think. I can't be this weird all by myself!


Bruno Mars versus The Whole Back Catalogue Of Music Ever (slight exaggeration)

I suppose you could say that this digging around started when comparisons to Bruno Mars' songs were flying around. You can hear from these cleverly mixed examples that he was probably influenced by my aforementioned theory. 


Now my own examples aren't this well edited (I mean, how much time do you think I have on my hands?) but I hope you get the gist...

Phil Collins versus Amy Winehouse

It was my youngest son that highlighted this about six months ago. We were in the car and the intro to Phil Collins' version of You Can't Hurry Love came on the radio and he started to sing Valerie by Amy Winehouse, then looked at me in amazement when he realised that he was singing the wrong song. See what you think...


The Rolling Stones versus The Rocky Horror Picture Show

I heard Sympathy For The Devil on the radio a few weeks ago and actually had to stop myself from singing the lyrics to Sweet Transvestite. It is entirely possible that Richard O'Brien could have taken inspiration from The Rolling Stones as their song was released in 1968 whereas The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a 1975 production.


Elbow versus The Smiths

This recent match must have been something you've heard yourself? When I first heard Magnificent (She Says) on the radio, in the car, I felt as though I should know the words already. I was convinced it was a Smiths song that might have been a modern remix or a B-side, even though I knew it wasn't really possible. I can't pinpoint exactly which Smiths song it sounds like but I think the Dream Academy's cover of Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want is the closest.


Cornershop versus The View

This is one of my favourite 'matches' as it's probably not too obvious but once you've heard both Brimful of Asha and then Same Jeans one after the other (that's how they appeared on 'shuffle' on my mp3 player a few years back) you can't not hear the similarities!


Stevie Nicks versus Destiny's Child

I'm not even going to try and fight for this example. There is no way that you can deny that Edge Of Seventeen and Bootylicious have the same intro. Note for note, beat for beat.


I have loads more stashed but I wanted to test the water with this selection. I can bring you comparisons of Queen and Bananarama, or what about 10cc and Erasure? There's even a Cameo song that sounds like something Prince would have released so I'm wondering if he had a hand in the composing or the production? 

But, for now, I'll leave you with another interesting fact about music and how it can trigger your subconscious. Did you know that there is a method used in advertising campaigns to impact on certain people? Research has shown that we were probably at our most influential at sixteen years of age. If a specific age bracket is to be targeted in an advertising campaign, the background music will be of the era when the target audience would have been age 16 as it evokes and unlocks that weakness in us. Genius!


Soundtrack To My Life  - Motivational Songs For The New Year
Well done for reading down this far. Soundtrack To My Life is an occasional series on this blog where I talk about music that's influenced my life or I invite people to talk about the same. Read/Listen to all the previous Soundtrack To My Life entries here or follow the dedicated Pinterest board. Find out more about participating by >> clicking here <<


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Things I Learnt In January

Last year I promised myself that the best way to maintain sharing stuff-I-found-on-the-internet-that-was-too-important-to-be-passed-by-on-social-media-but-not-long-enough-for-a-blog-post was to keep up this series of "Things I Learnt In..."

I don't want to put out content that feels forced or boring and some months you think that you don't have enough material to create a meaningful article or you get to the second week of the next month and think, "Oh, shit. I didn't do my monthly series shizzle".  So, what I learnt in 2016 is that if I miss a month, then it's no biggie.  Here is a mixture of what t'internet and life taught me in November, December and January.

When you blog for yourself, writing for magazines is harder than it looks. I was asked to write the lead editorial for one of our annual industry publications at work.  Following on from that I have been given the opportunity to write another lead editorial for a brand new magazine and have landed the gig of writing a bi-monthly column for the first magazine and a quarterly column in the other. I know it's something that will stretch my writing limits but it's a challenge that I'm looking forward to. Note to self : request a byline...

Things I Learnt In January - Electrical Trade Magazine - Annual Buyers Guide - editorial
Electrical Trade Magazine, Annual Buyers Guide. Read in full here

Things I Learnt In January - Plumbing Trade Magazine - Issue 1 - lead editorial
Plumbing Trade Magazine, Issue 1. Read in full here

Things I Learnt In January - parcel collection meme
I'm definitely not the only person who takes their "Your parcel has been left at..." card with me to the neighbour's house.  In fact, all my friends do the same, usually marching over with it outstretched in their hand.

The 2nd February 2022 will fall on a Tuesday. 2/2/22. Think about it. TWOS-DAY. How bizarre is THAT?

You can count up to 59048 using just the 10 digits on your hands. I knew that if you used a binary system you could get up to 1023 but the Indy100 highlighted a few methods which gave you ways in which to count higher and higher using a base three positional system. One to show the kids, I think.

Conversations with my grandchildren are always unpredictable. For example, just before Christmas we were talking about television shows. Here's how our chat panned out:
Me: Amie, who do you like on XFactor?
Amie (8 years old): Sam. She's got a great voice. I wish I could sing like that.
Me: Megan, do you watch XFactor?
Megan (6 years old): No
Me: Do you watch Strictly Come Dancing?
Megan: No
Me: Well, what do you watch then?
Megan (looking at me, witheringly): Peppa Pig, of course, Nana. I'm six! What else do you think I'm allowed to watch?


If I had a diary left over from 1989 I could reuse it this year. I was listening to "Homework Questions" on Simon Mayo's Drivetime show on BBC Radio 2 and someone had found a 2016 diary that they hadn't used and wanted to know when they could use it again, date for date, day for day, especially as 2016 had been a leap year. So when I got home I did some investigating and came across this nifty little website which tells you which year you could use your old diary from or when you could reuse a forgotten one.

New ideas for my bullet journal never go amiss.  If you are a regular reader you'll know that I'm a huge fan of the bullet journal system. I am always looking for ways to update my notebooks and make them more streamlined and keep a simple system effective.  I've found a new way to index my notebook using an A-Z plus page numbering method. I was also going to utilise this method of brainstorming the new year. There is a PDF for you to print out but it would be just as nice to write it out in your planner. [P.S. Bullet Journal Fan Page | Bullet Journal Fan Group - both on Facebook]

Richard Branson handwrites all his notes. I'm sure I've read about this somewhere before but I could have written his blog post for him. Everything he says about the physical act of writing out your thoughts and ideas helping you to digest the information is true. Maybe he needs to bring out his own line of notebooks. I'm free to help you with that thought process, Richard... Richard? No?


I've started a(nother) monthly series called Fitbitches and you can read the January instalment here. What my main aims with this are to collate my thoughts about running each month, to focus on my monthly and annual goals and to not end up with my head up my arse when it comes to the actual act of running. I also want to create an online community but... baby steps...

I have been trying to stop the pins and needles in my foot when I run.  I have read many online articles to try and find the solution to my problem. There are so many theories which include thick socks, trainers that are too small/tight or laces that are fastened incorrectly however I found a little piece from Runners World which mentions ensuring that calf muscles should be stretched before a run. This would explain the fact that I've been feeling a bit of tightness and aching in my calves recently when on longer runs so there's very possibly a correlation between the two. Or maybe I need to treat myself to a new pair of trainers...?

This Facebook conversation starter on The Fat Girls Guide To Running page ended up as a marketing exercise and 'research' (which was a bit disappointing) however, some of the comments from other slow runners are worth reading. As someone who has moved from the front of the pack (group leader) to the back of the pack (back runner, slowest in the group), I've battled with personal negativity - but definitely not from anyone in our community. A mile is a mile whether you run it in 8 minutes or 18 minutes or however long it takes you.


Things I Learnt In January - January mini reviews
I've received a couple of gadgets to review this month from EC Technology. I'll always give these guys a mention as their products are extremely useful and reasonably priced. The Bluetooth 4.0 Portable Speaker makes a great gift for that hard-to-buy person or you could throw it in your suitcase so you can pair it with your phone or mp3 player for holiday tunes. For your phone, you could try this Wireless Charging Pad which charges your device without cables - it's also a very portable unit so can be taken with you in a work bag or handbag (NB: check compatibility first).

I've also been taking time out from my new-found love of thriller stories and reading a bit of chick-lit. I was recommended The Lost and Found Life of Rosy Bennett by Jan Birley which is about a newly widowed woman finds out her husband and a secret life before his death so she is forced to leave London with her reluctant sons and set up a new life in the countryside. A great read on my Kindle! [Jan Birley : website | twitter | facebook]


I've been subscribed to Nadia Sawalha & Kaye Adams' YouTube channel for a while but hadn't been clicking on any of the videos because they were taking part in Vlogmas (vlogging every day in December) however, in between Christmas and New Year I saw that one of their new video's view count was climbing higher and higher. It was a raw cut of an conversation, led by Kaye, detailing Nadia's husband's battle with alcoholism and depression. It was an open and interesting, from the heart, truthful conversation. Moving into 2017, Nadia is daily vlogging but creating content that includes her husband asking him how he is coping with his demons on a daily basis (full playlist here). There are two facets to this - firstly, the actual content which is interesting to hear from a first-person perspective rather than an 'expert' but also it makes me wonder if him over-talking the situation makes him examine himself and the battle too much? Either way, as a wife to someone in a similar situation, I'm finding it compelling viewing.

If I lived in London I'd have to undertake every single one of Geoff's Tube Challenges.  His latest Tube Map Challenge looks the most interesting yet.  Do I know anyone that's prepared to give it a go?

I want this vase. Do I know anyone with a lathe, please and thank you? I can supply the pencils.

And to finish on a weird note (badum-tish) you can have this version of 'All Star' by Smashmouth where all the notes have been re-tuned to C. It's like a weird Friday night karaoke version that I love and hate in equal measures. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Don't forget to let me know what you've learnt in the past few weeks. Amaze me with your new found knowledge...


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