National Stationery Week 2017 : Seven Days Of Stationery

As a blogger, National Stationery Week may very well be my most favourite week in the year. 

It's at this time of year that I get free rein on talking about stationery (not that it's ever stopped me before...) and it's the perfect opportunity for me to recommend my favourite stationery items.  I'll be updating this blog post each evening this week in line with the themes from National Stationery Week (I've included them below so you can join in too if you like) and talking about how and why I love stationery so much.

Monday : Pen & Pencil Day
Tuesday : Get Crafty
Wednesday : World Stationery Day
Thursday : Thank You Thursday
Friday : Fountain Pen Friday
Saturday : Signature Saturday
Sunday : Write A Letter Day

Pen and Pencil Day

Writing implements are always a tough one for me. I mean, I'm a sucker for a nice pen - even one engraved with my name - but the pen has to be heavy and I prefer a thick barrel due to the way in which I hold my pen (resting on my ring finger, rather than my middle finger).  I like a 'wet' ink rather than basic biro ink so any notebooks I use have to be able to accommodate that without bleed though.

Pencils are another ball game all together. I used to only write in pencil, especially in my diary, so that the perfectionist in me could erase any errors and keep a tidy planner. Since I discovered Frixion pens I've rarely used pencil unless it's a mechanical pencil (yes, I'm aware I've just evicted myself from the pencil community but needs must).

I've chosen to share my three favourite pens with you here. They are (from L to R) a Monteverde Prima Rollerball from Pen Chalet - perfection as described above and the design on the barrel is absolutely unique due to the marbling effect used when making the pen. Next is a Parker Urban Rollerball from Pen Heaven which has a narrower barrel but is weighted well - a great every day pen to keep in my handbag. Finally I have the Cross Tech3+ Multifunction Pen from Pen Heaven which is for use in my daily planner or Filofax as it has three refils which can be accessed by a twist of the barrel; a blue biro ink, a red biro ink and a mechanical pencil.  

National Stationery Week 2017 : Seven Days Of Stationery - Pen and Pencil Day - Monteverde Prima Rollerball, Parker Urban Rollerball, Cross Tech3+ Multifunction

Get Crafty

I used to be very crafty (no... not in that sense of the word - well, yes I am was but now isn't the time or the place) but I find that there's not enough hours in the day.  All I do these days is crochet.

Recently, however, I did teach myself how to make an origami box. I have the written instructions available here with images and a video tutorial. It's really simple so you can learn how to do this right now - it'll take five minutes, I promise - plus it's a great way to use up old magazines and scraps of paper!  Have some fun with it, be experimental and let me know how you get on!

World Stationery Day

I really wasn't sure what I was going to write about for World Stationery Day but I thought I'd share my 9 current favourite stationery-themed Instagram accounts. I've tried to steer clear of brands but there's a couple in there who really do great Instagram.  Give them all a follow and find other new accounts through the recommendations too.  I'd also love to hear which stationery Instagram accounts you follow too.

(PS... don't forget to follow my new Instagram account too - Bullet Journal Fans... natch)

Thank You Thursday

Come back tomorrow for Thursday's entry but, for the time being, you can enjoy these pictures which are a teaser of things to come:

A post shared by Nickie (@nickieohara) on

A post shared by Nickie (@nickieohara) on

A post shared by Nickie (@nickieohara) on


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Summer Holiday Essentials

Later this year my husband and I are jetting off to Corfu to celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary. Yes, I know I don't look old enough... it's very kind of you to say so.  Anyway, over the next few weeks I'm trying to prepare properly for our break by ensuring that I travel light, yet functional, as I have a tendency to over-pack.

Summer holiday essentials... what would you add to the list? [click to tweet]

I'm loving looking at ideas for beach, day and evening wear and need to make sure I've got a good mix-and-match wardrobe. I've noticed a lot of blue and white on offer for this season.  Styles that I'm loving are longer length shorts, tunic tops and light, floaty summer maxi-dresses that don't cling in all the wrong places.
Summer Holiday Essentials - summer fashion

You can't go wrong with tan shoes so I'll be packing my Roxanne wedges from Hotter Shoes which are so comfy that I could wear them all day but I spotted their matching 'Resort Sandals' too which I'll definitely be investing in. I'll also be popping in a couple of pairs of flip-flops for the beach and a pair of trainers for long walks.

Summer Holiday Essentials - summer footwear

I've been collecting up a whole range of products and accessories over the past few weeks.  I already own a Mia Tui Emma bag which is awesome as hand luggage (full review here and 'What's In My Travel Bag' video here) but they now do smaller bags which can be used as make-up bags or wash-bags for travelling (see more information here).

I don't wear much make-up on holiday but I do like to have a bit of a touch-up in the evenings. I keep my tones fairly nude with a slash of colour on my lips so I've also invested in some QVS Beauty make-up brushes which are the perfect size for popping in my make-up bag.

I'm having a break from acrylic nails at the moment but may have a gel manicure before I leave. In the meantime,  Orly breathable nail polish is perfect for covering up the damage I have to my nails at the moment and I'll probably take a bottle with me in case any touch-ups are needed to keep my mani/pedi topped up.

The final thing I always ensure that I take with me is a few products to help prevent my skin from drying out in the heat. I'm a huge fan of the Vaseline Intensive Care moisturisers and their ever-faithful cocoa butter lip therapy.

Summer Holiday Essentials - summer beauty products

I'd love to hear if you have any summer holiday essentials recommendations. We also need some new luggage after a baggage mishap last year so I'm currently shopping around for something a little more sturdy to transport all my holiday essentials. Any ideas?

Summer holiday essentials... what would you add to the list?  [click to tweet]


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Personalising Your Bullet Journal - 5 Top Tips

Recently I wrote my top three tips for starting a bullet journal and here I'll expand on how I have adapted the bullet journal system to suit my own planning needs.

I was bullet journalling before Buzzfeed et al discovered the phenomenon and will continue to do so when everyone has moved onto The Next Best Thing because bullet journaling really helps me to be productive. I've been through the notebook-of-doubt phase and I've used all the washi-tape and stickers and I've come out the other side.

Here are my next five tips for making your bullet journal work for you.

5 top tips to help you personalise your bullet journal and keep it simple [click to tweet]

1. Find the notebook that suits you

This may be a pocket notebook, a Leuchtturm 1917 or Moleskine, a Filofax or standard notebook with a motivational quote on the front of it. My preference varies as I've had a bullet journal in a travellers notebook system and have found a way to merge my bullet journal and my Filofax

I always go back to using a simple notebook and my preference is dot-grid paper or squared but you may prefer lined paper or even plain paper.

2. Use your own key.

The original bullet journal method uses three main notifiers. They are a dot (.) to indicate a task, a circle (o) to indicate an event and a dash (-) to indicate notes. Anything urgent has an asterisk (*) placed next to it and, at the end of the month, migration arrows (> and <) come into play.

My key is slightly different.  I still use the original idea of an open box as my "task to do" notifier and the rest are listed below. You will soon find out which symbols work for you.

Task to do
Task done
Blog ideas
?Thinking about
Moved to another task list

3. Start with the basic bullet journal ethos and then make it your own

Your bullet journal is your way to keep track of your life and it is designed to be a way to ensure that you complete all your tasks and eliminate those bits of papers floating around with notes on. Now is the time to start building your own collections into your system and create trackers if you need to monitor certain aspects of your life. You can get inspiration from Pinterest, Instagram or YouTube. 

Whilst I use my bullet journal as part of my planning system I'm not in the slightest bit creative or artistic so I am still very basic with my layout as you'll read below

4. How I use my own bullet journal

I'm a one-book girl and this is my B.O.A.T. - my Book Of All Things - so whilst it is a continuing list of things to do (or a book of Done That's) I also need to use a future planning system. The layout of a Hobonichi planner is perfect (annual planner, monthly planner, daily planner) but so expensive and the pages are a little bit small for my handwriting. I've taken to investing in a notebook that I'll like using, dividing the book into sections and drawing out my pages (you can see an old example here). It's not perfect but it works for me.

I'm very minimalist these days. I found that using a long list of indicators, stickers and washi tape distracted me as I was spending more time creating the to-do lists than actually getting anything done.

5. Start your bullet journal now

It will take around 10 minutes for you to set up your first bullet journal. You don't have to start a bullet journal in January... hell, you don't even have to start it on the first of the month but it makes more sense. You can use any notebook and pen and when your current notebook runs out, simply start a new one.

You don't have to photograph your journal and share it on Instagram. You many notice that I'm reluctant to share images of the inside of my own current notebook (although I have in the past) because, like me, it's not very photogenic.

Whilst these are tips to help you get started with your bullet journal, there really are no rules.  Grab your pen and notebook and go for it!

5 top tips to help you personalise your bullet journal and keep it simple [click to tweet]

Here's some additional reading to help you out
Kate has collated 50 List Ideas to help with your collections
Complete bullet journal guide from the Lazy Genius Collective


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Blogging Isn't Just A Hobby

Today saw the announcement of the closure of Standard Issue - an online magazine fronted by Sarah Millican, written by women, for women and covering every single topic you can imagine. I've followed from the beginning (I even applied to write for them on a couple of occasions but was turned down) and there have been some stonking articles on there. So to hear that the main focus of the website is being wound down is a surprise and saddening. 

Looking at this from a blogger's point of view, I find it incredibly interesting that a project which has so much potential has found it impossible to turn a profit in a world that now needs online content to be fed to it pretty much consistently.  

What do I mean by this?  I'll backtrack a little.

A couple of weeks ago I read in the Popbitch newsletter that the Mail Online uploaded over 2000 stories to it's pages in one day. ONE. DAY.  This is the most popular news website in the world. And the reason they do it is for advertising revenue. They sell their white space in the form of interactive background adverts, sponsored articles and product placement "buy her dress" type inserts within articles; all "pay per view" or "pay per click" advertising.  For everything that the Daily Mail and the Mail Online is, they have to be admired (for want of a better word) for addressing the fact that online attention spans are short and needy.  You spend two minutes reading an article and then you're gone unless there is something else to hold your attention - another article in the same vein that comes recommended.  You click... another set of adverts pop up, and so the cycle continues. They know that the articles can be flimsy and weak, with content that is syndicated from other sources or just a narrative of a zelebrity Instagram picture or Snapchat video because there is a world of content consumers out there who believe they need to know this stuff.  There are a zillion other media outlets that follow this blueprint successfully too.

I have no knowledge of how or why Standard Issue failed to make a profit but they didn't - and that is the reason they provide for the termination of their offerings. Their content is meaningful and their readership may not be the type that feel the need to click on adverts that invite you to purchase something based on your recent internet history (it's Google magic, trust me) but maybe their lack of a comments section drove readers off-site? Maybe their content was shared via social media and the continuing discussion happened on Facebook or Twitter or on other blogs. Whatever the reason, I saw their tweet and shared it, adding my own thoughts to it as my right to reply.  You can see their response in the image I've shared.

Which brings us back to the point in hand.

The conversation continued with me expressing that I'm an unfunded blogger, I have been writing here since 2002 and have yet to throw the towel in. I also mentioned that whilst I understood they were hurting or angry that their response to me was harsh. 

I feel that bloggers get a rough end of the deal when it comes to content creation.  The word "blog" and the title "blogger" has sometimes been mentioned with disdain. Even all those years back when my blog was a Yahoo Geocities 'website' with family anecdotes and musings, some members of a parenting forum asked me why I bothered and 'what was the point?'  

I'm not sure there is a point to anything on the internet; why do we share these snippets of our lives via Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat? Why do we pin images of things we want or can't have to our Pinterest boards? Why do we strike up conversations on Twitter with various strangers? Why do we try to change the world with words on our blog?  

Maybe we do it because we know it might be useful to just one person out there.  Or maybe more than one. Or even a whole bunch of people.  I know that some of the articles I've written on here have been read by tens of thousands of people (*cough* David Beckham's Tattoos *cough* not shallow at all *cough*) and the occasional think-piece about my own personal experience with cancer, ADHD, and mental health has provided me with the opportunity to stand up and talk in front of hundreds of people to hopefully provide them with a different outlook on living in these situations.

I've ended up having a couple of brief conversations with people today about online businesses and influence. I'm very lucky to have a wide network of opinionated friends who know how to have a discussion, often where our opinions will clash but who are intelligent enough not to resort to insults. Three of them have agreed to give me quotes related to my musings today.

Firstly Cath Janes, who was a regular contributor to Standard Issue
I wrote for Standard Issue for over a year and was never paid because they don't pay writers (at least they didn't pay me and many other writers that I know. I'd like to think that, as a mag that supports equality and women's voices that it at least paid one woman). That partly why I was so surprised at it going under. If writers were not paid, there was no print involved and there was plenty of celebrity endorsement, not to mention that it routinely asked for donations and subscribers, where did it all go wrong?
Cath won't mind me saying that her final piece for Standard Issue ended up as a very controversial topic which was pulled after publication and edited in favour of soothing another journalist. You can read about that here.

Andy called my blog a "hobby" today. I wasn't too keen on accepting that as a description of what is essentially an extension of my own thoughts and something that has, as previously mentioned, brought great opportunities into my life. He explained himself as follows: 
Your blog is a hobby as it has negligible overheads. Standard Issue likely has a big budget, staff, hosting and design fees. It's not your job. It's what you create in your spare time.
He went on to say
What I mean is that Typecast isn't renting a swanky office, employing an editor, advised to run everything past a lawyer and you're not paying some twatty hipster with a Mac to design website buttons for £180 an hour. You're just getting it done yourself. It's sustainable because of the time you're prepared to devote to it and because you're efficient.
He finishes with a reminder of his own business that he used to run from his attic
When I ran FannyBatter (an online adult toy store) my business was essentially just a couple of boxes of dildos and a few envelopes. I'd talk to other businesses who were burning cash at a silly rate when I bought e-commerce software for around £150 and was paying £20 a year on hosting.  I now see that LoveHoney had the same idea as me but built on it to make it a success,
Knowing Andy, he's expressing the same thoughts that I have on a regular basis about being in the right place at the right time with the right idea and having the drive to see it through. If nothing else, it's made me think more about all the hats I wear for this blog.

Fellow blogger and freelance journalist, Violet Fenn tells me
'I’m genuinely sad to see Standard Issue close, because it was a breath of fresh air amongst an awful lot of dross. Yet it still wasn’t viable, which says a lot about an over-saturated industry. 
She goes on to say
Maybe such lifestyle sites would benefit from bringing in bloggers and other content creators (properly paid of course, because all contributors have genuine worth) as these people already have an audience of their own. An audience that will come with them and spread the word.

I could make this into a much longer conversation about influence (is there a 'Part Two' to come?) and link to plenty of research and discussion about how online content creators are actually KILLING it when it comes to sharing a message.  I also wrote about the value of bloggers a while back - you can read about paying bloggers what they are worth here - and how they were there, right at the beginning of internet time, tapping away on their geeky keyboards, creating content for other people to enjoy and discuss, and building up a reputation that is now revered but very much misunderstood especially someone needs to use that reputation/audience/platform to share their news.

This is probably all a jumbled mess of words and thoughts - and probably the reason why Standard Issue didn't employ me as writer - so well done if you got this far.  I'd be honoured if you shared your thoughts about this in the comments section or with me on Twitter or Facebook (no ads here - you're safe from that type of influence for the time being).  Are you a blogger? Do you feel the same or have you had a different experience?  If you're not a blogger then how do you feel when reading blog posts versus other web content?


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Soundtrack To My Life : 30 Day Music Challenge

Soundtrack To My Life : 30 Day Music Challenge
Over the past couple of weeks I've noticed a couple of friends updating their Facebook profile with the 30 Day Music Challenge (cheers for the inspo, Alex and Lizzie). They've chosen some interesting tracks and I thought it would be a good idea to publish my selection throughout April on here as part of my own personal Soundtrack To My Life for 2017.

All the prompts are listed below so feel free to join in if you like - tag me on Facebook, share a link to your blog post(s) or update your choices in the comments section here each day. Come back every day in April to see the next tune that I've picked.

Soundtrack To My Life meets the 30 Day Music Challenge [click to tweet]


DAY 1 : A song you like with a colour in the title

New Order - Blue Monday : This may be predictable but I never get tired of hearing it. Whilst it's very 80s electro in its sound, it also feels very timeless.

DAY 2 : A song you like with a number in the title

The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army : There are three reasons for this choice - the drum beat, the bass riff and the seemingly never-ending trippy feel to the video.  And... don't hate on me too much... I even like the Marcus Collins remake of this song.

DAY 3 : A song that reminds you of the summertime

OMD - Talking Loud And Clear : I think I'm probably influenced by the video to this song but the lyric, "...lying in the grass with the sun on our backs..." just makes me think of teenage summer holidays gone by with not much to do other than lounge about and think about teenage holiday romances.

DAY 4 : A song that reminds you of someone you would rather forget about

Black Eyed Peas - Shut Up : Weirdly, I've found this a difficult choice. There's no-one I would really want to forget about as everyone who has been part of my life has shaped it in some way. There are, however, times that I've really wanted to facepalm people and have definitely done the one- or two-fingered salute the second they've turned their back.

DAY 5 : A song that needs to be played LOUD

Meat Loaf - You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth : I want to choose the whole of the Bat out of Hell album because there's no way that any of those songs are being played quietly. If pushed, I'd have to choose this song - it's not my favourite but as soon as it comes on in the car, that dial is going up to 11! 

DAY 6 : A song that makes you want to dance

Madonna - Hung Up ; I grew up copying the dance moves to pop vidoes and choreographing my own little dances to my favourite songs so it seems unnatural to *not* want to dance to anything that has a decent beat behind it. I could have picked any number of Madonna songs here but I'll start with this one before I get carried away.

DAY 7 : A song to drive to

Liza Minnelli - Cabaret : The problem with this is that for short journeys in the car I usually listen to the radio (for a mixture of talk and music) or I catch up on my podcasts. I very rarely drive long distances on my own but when I do, a 'mix tape' selection CD is usually the music of choice.  One thing I do love to listen to in the car, on my own, is songs from musicals where I can sing along and imagine myself in a certain role (stop laughing). I do a fabulous Liza Minnelli, very reminiscent of this performance...

DAY 8 : A song about drugs or alcohol

Chase & Status - Blind Faith : So the song probably isn't about drugs but the video interprets it as so. It's very cleverly been filmed and every single second of this video reminds me of the raves I went to in the early 90's - much more so that that mental 'Bounce by the Ounce' video that was doing the rounds a couple of years back.

DAY 9 : A song that makes you happy

Status Quo & The Beach Boys - Fun Fun Fun : For no other reason than this version makes me smile every single time I hear it. I've no idea why this collaboration happened but it's just awesome! 

DAY 10 : A song that makes you sad

Lou Reed - Perfect Day : The title of this song makes you believe that it's going to be a joyous song but the lyrics "you just keep me hanging on..." really gives it the opposite feeling.  I suppose the fact that it was used in an overdose scene in Trainspotting and was used as the official Children In Need single in 1997 gives it an even more melancholy feel.

DAY 11 : A song that you never get tired of

McBusted - Air Guitar : Probably an odd choice for me but this modern track is a very clever song from the two conjoined bands, McFly and Busted. The words just work and the tune is brilliant catchy - fabulous songwriting from three of the band members! And just in case you don't know how great these lads are at singing, have a listen to this warm-up a capella version from backstage somewhere.

DAY 12 : A song from your preteen years

Duran Duran - Union of the Snake : I'm going to have to go with this choice as I heard Union of the Snake when I was was about 11 years old and I always associate discovering Duran Duran with starting high school. Of course, after this song I went through their back catalogue and realised that I'd heard a couple of their other tracks but I was already hooked.

DAY 13 : One of your favouite 70s songs

Pretenders - Brass In Pocket : It would be wrong of me to pick a Queen number for this prompt as I didn't discover and appreciate them until the late 80s so this song is one that I specifically remember as a child of the 70s as not sounding very 1970s in its style and definitely part of the move from the 70s to the 80s music sound.

DAY 14 : A song that you would love played at your wedding

Beats International - Dub Be Good To Me : I'm already married and whilst my wedding was a fairly traditional registry office service, it wasn't exactly a conventional wedding situation and I never had a first dance - or even any dancing. If I was getting married today then I'd definitely be looking at choreographing one of those 'surprise' dance sequences that you often see on YouTube. Anyway... this song was in the charts when we first met and it sort of tells the story of the beginning of our relationship so, if there's ever a reason for us to have a song played anywhere, it would have to be this one.

DAY 15 : A song that is a cover by another artist

Soft Cell - Tainted Love : When you think about it, a lot of songs are covers - in fact, many of the above choices are covers or have been covered since their release. And a lot of the time you don't realise how good a song is (or was) until you hear it covered by an artist you are more in tune with (no pun intended). This is exactly what happened with Tainted Love.

DAY 16 : One of  your favourite classical song

Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini" : This should have been a difficult choice considering the amount of music I have danced to when I was younger but it wasn't.  This is the main theme music from one of my all time favourite films, Somewhere in Time.  I only have to hear the opening bars and I'm already in floods of tears just thinking of the connection to the film.

DAY 17 : A song that you would sing as a duet on karaoke

Human League - Don't You Want Me Baby : This is easy but corny. In fact, there's a few that my husband and I sing but every single one is just as cheesy - Paradise by the Dashboard Light, I Got You Babe, etc - mainly because I'm not very tuneful and we both have to be hammered to get up on karaoke.

DAY 18 : A song from the year that you were born

Rod Stewart - You Wear It Well : I could have chosen the #1 record on the day that I was born but that was Amazing Grace played by The Pipes and Drums of the Military Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (I know... five weeks at the top of the charts too!) so I decided on this songs as my husband loves Rod Stewart and it really stood out to me in the top 100 tracks of this year.

DAY 19 : A song that makes you think about life

DAY 20 : A song that has many meanings to you

DAY 21 : A favourite song with a person's name in the title

DAY 22 : A song that makes you move forward

DAY 23 : A song that you think everyone should listen to

DAY 24 : A song by a band you wish were still together

DAY 25 : A song by an artist no longer living

DAY 26 : A song that makes you want to fall in love

DAY 27 : A song that breaks your heart

DAY 28 : A song by an artist with a voice that you love

DAY 29 : A song that you remember from your childhood

DAY 30 : A song that reminds you of yourself

Soundtrack To My Life meets the 30 Day Music Challenge [click to tweet]


Soundtrack To My Life : 30 Day Music Challenge
A bit of a different slant for Soundtrack To My Life this month as part of the 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.


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Starting A Bullet Journal - 3 Top Tips

I've been keeping a bullet journal for years now. At first, I didn't even know it was called a bullet journal - it was just a list of tasks that I needed to do, usually noted in my diary or written on sticky notes and stuck to the front of my planner. But then I watched Ryder Carroll's video and realised that this all-in-one system would make my To-Do Lists become Done-That Lists.

After reading today that 65% of people want to take time away from the Internet and their phones (statistic from research by Cartridge Save), and after more people have asked me how I use my bullet journal, I thought I'd update my original thoughts and provide a bullet journal starter kit.

Bullet Journals make To Do lists become "done that" lists. 3 top tips to get started [click to tweet]

Starting A Bullet Journal - 3 Top Tips - the bullet journal starter kit

1.  You don't have to start a bullet journal on 1st January

A bullet journal is a way to be more productive and create order where there is chaos. It simplifies and organises your tasks and shows you what still needs to be done.  All you need is a notebook and a pen to start one today.

2.  You can use any notebook that takes your fancy

By all means, buy the official Bullet Journal Leuchtturm 1917 but this is your notebook and your planning system. Use plain, lined or dot grid paper. Use anything from an A4 to a pocket size notebook... hell, have two or three bullet journals for different projects. My recent favourite notebooks have been from Paper-Oh and Hahnemule and I'll swap between an A5 hard-backed notebook and a pocket notebook depending on what I know I have got coming up over the next few weeks. I even have a bullet journal system in my Filofax and have used a bullet journal set-up in a travelers notebook.

3.  Step away from Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube for the time being

A bullet journal is your notebook and should be fluid. Jottings, mind-maps, doodling, lists, meeting notes, trackers... they all have a place in your bullet journal but it doesn't have to be picture perfect. Start by watching the original bullet journal video (below) and see how simple the process can be. Create your index page and future log, have a monthly task list that suits your needs and introduce collections as and when needed.

Has this got you inspired to start your bullet journal? 

Grab your notebook and pen and get started. 

Bullet Journals make To Do lists become "done that" lists. 3 top tips to get started [click to tweet]

My next blog post is a much longer and more detailed article about how I incorporate bullet journaling in my BOAT (Book Of All Things) for everyday planning.

Here's some additional reading to get you in the mood
Why The Mum From Brum uses a bullet journal
How Kits & Vixens uses a bullet journal to organise her large family


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Please note that some links used in this article may be sponsored or affliate links. 
Please read my disclosure policy for more details.

Fitbitches - The March Run Down

I'm almost finished writing this blog post but I've jumped back to the top to warn you now that it's a long one. There's always so much to say when I sit down to write but there never seems to be enough to talk about weekly - or the weeks just roll into one another. So, apologies... grab a brew and put aside a few more minutes than usual as there are some great links I want you to read in here plus the usual self-centred, self-congratulatory, self-depreciating bollocks from me.  Ok? Let's go...


Fitbitches - The March Run Down

Right here, right now, I'm making myself accountable for the month of April. I have decided that I need to make small changes and break - or make - habits. I've been inspired by my fellow Fitbitches and want to do something (almost) every day to get fitter and stronger.  I'm not even sure how I'm going to achieve this yet but I'm open to ideas.

This all stemmed from a realisation I had a few weeks ago.  I was sat in my car one evening, waiting for my running group to turn up. I turned on Facebook Live and filmed an informal update of what I want from the #FitbitchesMOVEment ethos, how I want it to grow and where the idea came from. It was just a 9 minute chat about shite with some great comments and suggestions during the live feed. But during my run it hit me full in the face... I felt that leadership role again - exactly as i used to feel when motivating the runners on the community Couch To 5k programme. I was back in charge and that is exactly what had been missing. It was the piece of jigsaw that needed to fall into place.

Watch both my Fitbitches Facebook Live videos here

Live Video 1 | Live Video 2

Taking part in the Progression (5-10k) Plan again has started to show dividends. My speed has improved - even if it is not completely up to the pace of the group as a whole - and I definitely have my moments.  I'm usually at the back of the group and I use the downhill to try and push myself a bit and catch up with the rest of the gang. On one run I really opened up my stride and fell in with the runners in the middle of the group. At the bottom of the hill, the usual regrouping looping process took place and I'm used as a marker to ensure that we have rounded everyone up and not lost anyone. The following exchange took place...
Claire : "Where's Nickie?"
Me, bouncing up and down with delight near the front of the group : "I'M HERE!"
Claire : "I didn't see you fly past me!"
It's the small things that give us that boost of confidence, isn't it?

The Stroke Association Resolution Run

Fitbitches - The March Run Down - The Stroke Association Resolution Run at Heaton Park in Manchester - photo credit : Nickie OHara
Sarah found this run and it turned into a bit of a road trip with fifteen of us travelling over to Heaton Park in Manchester to run the Stroke Association Resolution Run in either their 5k or 10k route. Everyone received a purple t-shirt to run in on the day so we decided to pimp out the whole purple theme with socks, tutus, wigs, hairnets and rollers!

There were a couple of personal best times busted and this is where I could definitely feel the improvement that I've made, albeit a small one. All in all, the course was marshaled well and the guys handling the social media accounts were totally on the ball with our photos reshared by the Stroke Association team throughout the day.  Our 'sock photo' was highlighted on the Stroke Association Instagram page and a few people on their Facebook page mentioned that they'd seen us all.

We definitely made a lasting impression in what was a very wet and rainy day but I found a quote online which really sums up the day for me :

The reason we race isn't so much to beat each other, but to be with each other
~ Christopher McDougall

It felt very fitting that runners from two running communities in Blackburn - GroupRun Blackburn and Blackburn Road Runners - have these crossover moments for friendship and support, especially at this event as Blackburn Road Runners' chosen charity this year is the Stroke Association. The photo below of us all is one of the official photos from the day.

Fitbitches - The March Run Down - Stroke Association Resolution Run at Heaton Park in Manchester - photo credit : Stroke Association

Photo Of The Week

I mentioned on Instagram a few weeks ago that there are so few running photos that I like of me that I can count them on three fingers. I read a great blog from Kelly Roberts (Run, Selfie, Repeat) about those running photos we all hate because they show us at our worst, at the time we are struggling to breathe, when we are sweaty and our wobbly bits are moving in the direction we don't want them to be moving in. But she celebrates the fact that these photos also show us at our most powerful; stepping out of our comfort zone and pushing for those personal best times.

Fitbitches - The March Run Down - Running, Not Drowing - Stroke Association Resolution Run at Heaton Park in Manchester - photo credit : Stroke Association
When it comes to photos of myself I am hugely under-confident and I've written about it before.  I've sort of mastered the art of the post-run selfie to a point where I am happy with the way I look on the photo but I've taken to being an arse in 'official' race photos to take the heat off myself looking awful in them and so that I can excuse the way I look when friends tag me in them on Facebook.  At the (above mentioned) Resolution Run there was an official photographer so when he started snapping pictures of me running up a water-logged section of the park I just flung out my arms and did my best impression of an aeroplane.

Best. Photo. EVER. of me running. That photographer is a genius!

I shared it as my Facebook profile picture and captioned it "Running, Not Drowning" for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the rain... the rain in Biblical proportions on the day. Secondly, I feel more like I'm not flailing around and gasping for breath with this running lark quite so much any more. But do you know what really sealed the deal for me? GroupRun founder, Rick, shared it on his own personal Facebook page as his "running photo of the week" on International Women's Day. That meant more to me than anyone will ever know.

The photo has been printed and gifted to me as part of a 'Thank You' present from Blackburn Road Runners for some assistance I gave them during the preparations for their Winter Warmer 10k.  It now has pride of place on the wall below my medal rack.

The Coffee Cup Medal

Fitbitches - The March Run Down - Virtual Runner Coffee Cup medal
I wanted to write about this Virtual Run medal in the February Run Down. I alluded to it when talking about the first Fitbitches 'virtual event' where five of us power walked or ran either 5k or 10k on the same day in different corners of the UK. I chose this medal because it seemed appropriate as we are all usually chatting to each other via social media with a brew close at hand. I wanted to show off my medal as part of that recap however it didn't arrive... it got lost in the mail. Luckily, and thankfully, Virtual Runner agreed to send another one out for me so we now each have our own medal to commemorate this special memory. It's also part of the 'medal a month' collection that is building nicely.

The Celebration Run

I was unsure how to approach writing about this because I have mixed feelings about it. As I've mentioned before, our GroupRun programmes always mark the end of a 9-week plan with a Celebration Run - a 5k route in the park for the power walkers and runners and a route just over 10k around the park for the Progression groups.  I knew the route - I've run it before. It has a few hills in it but that's Blackburn for you - nothing that I haven't tackled before.  We tend to run on the day in our groups so that no-one runs alone and it's presumed that everyone runs at a similar pace.  But that's not really how it worked out.

I was running at a much slower pace than normal and had Sarah and Andrea running with me. We were constantly at the back of the group - a good way behind but there were plenty of opportunities for us to catch up at certain regrouping points.  Claire (our group leader) lives about halfway along the route and very thoughtfully arranged for us to detour slightly past her house and provided water and jelly babies to keep us going - we then ploughed on around the course. However, in spectacular fashion, and at exactly the same moment, both Andrea and myself decided to have a mini-panic attack.

The one, single problem with group running is that the group can only really run as fast as its slowest runner. This is successfully combated by loop-the-loop regrouping where the front runner circles round and runs to the person at the back.  Normally this allows the faster, stronger runners to have a better stretch out and get in an extra half a kilometre or so on their run. During the Celebration Run, adrenalin takes over and the regrouping process tends to be exhausting on a longer run.

Fitbitches - The March Run Down - GroupRun Celebration Run - photo credit  - David & Marianne RintoulMyself and Andrea needed a break. We begged for one with about 1km to go - just to catch our breath and feel a bit stronger for that last push. Our fellow groupies stopped and waited for us on a corner but as soon as we almost caught up, they set off again and that's when we both cracked. Seeing both sides of what was going on, I pulled myself together quickly and helped Sarah to calm Andrea down.  We pushed on for the last stretch, ran through the park and across the finish line.

It had been hard work and not as enjoyable as I had hoped but we had completed it and at 11k, it's my longest run ever.

There is a photo of the three of us coming over the finish line and I've shared it here in the interest of what I talked about earlier about sharing photos of looking like shit. But seriously, I look like I'm on day release with my carers and they have provided me with an identification number and high-viz clothing on so they don't lose me.

This Girl Can : Phenomenal Women and International Women's Day

Did you see the launch of the new This Girl Can campaign. There are way too many videos and updates for me to link to but here's the official video and the words are from a poem called Phenomenal Women by Maya Angelou and... curveball... that's Dr Angelou reading her own words!

This year, International Women's Day fell on a Wednesday - usually my day to laze around at home doing sod all catch up with emails and blog admin but I thought about the theme - #BeBoldForChange - and decided to join Blackburn Road Runners on their all-inclusive open run with a 3.5 mile and a 5.5 mile option.  I chose the shorter distance because I wanted to be out with other like-minded people plus I had a 10k run the following Saturday.  I also had a think about the article written by Mel (What Mel Did) and her thoughts about the push for female empowerment versus gender equality through branded advertising. Definite food for thought about so-called positive messages being sent to females of all ages.

The Final Stretch

I'm going to finish with an essay entitled "I Hate Running" that I found on SemiRad. Please, spend two minutes subscribing to their website, and then read the article. It's one of those pieces that someone wrote before I had the chance to. Apart from the 'ultra long distance' bits, I could have written every word. It's like Brendan has been inside my head and taken out all my thoughts!

What I'm wearing this month 

Nike Revolution 3 trainers - £44.99 at Deichman

Another new pair of trainers as it's important not to wear the same trainers two days in a row and also to have the correct support for different terrains and/or activity.  I've found that these were perfect on shorter runs and for HIIT training activities but I prefer my Adidas Duramo 55's for longer distances.

Fitbitches - The March Run Down - Nike Revolution 3 - available from Deichman

Stripy socks! In a variety of colours. From Amazon

I had sock envy after my Progression Group leader, Claire, turned up to a few events wearing stripy socks. She encouraged us all to wear the purple socks for the Stroke Association event and it seems to have caught on somewhat. I have to say that the black/rainbow combination is my favourite but I'm going all out to have socks in every colour to match each one of my running t-shirts because... #StripySockSquad (note : my automated recommendations now include 'sexy witch' and 'Oompa Loompa' because of the stripy sock research *sigh*)

Fitbitches - The March Run Down - #StripySockSquad at (1) the Resolution Run (2) Celebration Run (3) Burnnley parkrun

Total distance for 2017 so far

209 kilometres
I should be up to 240 km this week to be on track for my goal of 1000 km this year. I've included my Strava stats below because I've enjoyed the variety of different runs over the past few weeks (which included one parkrun). Again, I'm not overly worried about being behind as I'm sure my April activity will help me catch up and maybe get in front a little bit.

My focus for April is to be active every single day. I will be measuring my body and maybe my weight to see if there is any change. 

Read previous Fitbitches Run Down posts here

January | February


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