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?


THE STATIONERY SECTION


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?

THE RUNNING SECTION


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.


THE MINI REVIEW AND RECOMMENDATION SECTION


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]

THE EXTENDED VIDEO OF THE MONTH SECTION


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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Handwritten

I remember my first school books having the top two thirds of the page blank for a picture and the bottom third of the page printed with two or three lines for our handwritten story. I much preferred writing to drawing and went through about ten different styles of handwriting before settling into the one I naturally use now.

National Handwriting Day
(see in full on Instagram)
I had a pang of nostalgia recently when I became the proud owner of a couple of Sylvine red exercise books. Once upon a time they were my go-to notebook when writing short stories or drawing pictures or playing paper-and-pen games with my sister on long car journeys. The cover of their books has changed (it's no longer shiny) and the pages are perforated but that shade of red hasn't changed... *be still my beating heart*

Anyway... this isn't about me and my memories.  It's National Handwriting Day and handwriting is something that always fascinates and amazes me, especially when a comparison of two different (adult) samples shows so very many dissimilarities. We all have the same basics and the same tools, yet so much variety. I do hold my pen slightly differently (apparently) as I rest it on my third (ring) finger rather than my middle finger.  I mentioned this in a #StationeryLovers video last year where I talked about all my favourite writing implements (I'll embed the video at the end of this blog post for you to watch).

So what is the point in National Handwriting Day?  Well, for me, it encourages you to put pen to paper and practice your handwriting. It's also proven that the act of writing something out can help to order your thoughts and is good for mindfulness. The whole process of writing helps with grammar, punctuation, spelling rather than txtspk and those processes also translate to my online communication - I'm a stickler for writing the longest ever texts and Facebook messages and then taking just as long to decipher the speedy reply that my friends send - it's almost like code!

I know that my bullet journal is a great way for me to empty my head of my continuous to-do list and seeing it on paper (and physically crossing the items off) helps me to Get Things Done. I did have a bit of a giggle when reading this blog post about pen behaviour from Pen Heaven as I'm sure it tells me that when I consistently click my pen, I'm creatively frustrated... story of my life.  Pen Heaven also send me some general handwriting analysis which I'll leave at the end of this blog post for you to read - it's so interesting!

Just to finish off, I also asked around the interwebs for some handwriting questions and I've picked a few of my favourites with my own answers.  Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments too.

"Will left-handers always be messy writers" (from Emma) and "How can I help my left-handed daughter with her writing skills?" (from Amy)

Gone are the times where we force our children to favour one hand over the other although it is very noticeable that languages that are written on the paper from left to right, right-handedness is more popular. I found this great blog post from Stabilo which gives great advice about pen position, arm and wrist position and how to angle the writing paper, all of which will help lefties to control their writing technique.

"Why do all doctors have ineligible handwriting?" (from Lucy)

I laughed when I read this question from Lucy because I am almost certain that the reason is the same as my own messy handwriting. A work colleague commented recently that I write very quickly; I have my own version of shorthand which helps me to take speedy notes. I'm convinced that doctors are so concentrated on listening to their patient, making notes to refer back to later that, in their haste, their writing takes a back seat.

"Are there any helpful ideas for children who struggle because they have fine motor skills?" (from Ann)

I'd personally suggest that practice makes perfect but this could be achieved with fun activities that are going to assist in the development of the fingers and the wrist. There are also fabulous angled writing implements and pencil grippers available that I found useful when my own children were younger.  This blog post from OT Mum which might have some tips to help.


"What are the best pens for calligraphy in my Bullet Journal that don't cost the earth?" (from Kate)

As calligraphy is ink based, I'm sure you're already using a notebook that has heavy paper so looking for fountain pens or traditional calligraphy sets on recommended pen sites would be a good start. I found this selection on Pen Heaven and more here on Bureau Direct (Lamy seems to be the top recommendation on both sites) - both of which I'd fully recommend.  As an aside, I'm so envious of your calligraphy skills. It's something I've always wanted to learn.

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Here's the video I mentioned further up the blog post - also, keep reading for that research from Pen Heaven which looks at what your handwriting says about you.




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What Your Handwriting Says About You


National Handwriting Day - What Your Handwriting Says About You
Have you ever wondered what is in the written word? Stimulated by brain impulses, the act of writing is both a science and an art, with the state of the brain at the time of writing having a direct influence over what appears on the page.

As unique as a fingerprint, with no regard for age, gender or race, handwriting, with all its subtleties, has long been used to determine ones’ personality. An excellent reflection of a person’s psyche, doctors through to matchmakers have been known to examine cursive to reveal everything from lingering ailments to compatibility.

Delving deeper and looking at the finer detail, Pen Heaven have pooled together their best resources, experience and knowledge to help you ascertain what your writing style reveals about you.

From sharp pointed letters to large looped ‘y’s’ and how one dots an ‘I’, Pen Heaven present their handwritten rules to ascertain if your cursive is giving off the right impression!

Size, Pressure & Speed

Small lettering shows academic qualities, often found in scientists, lawyers and technicians – those who need to be precise. It represents a good ability to focus and concentrate on the job at hand.

Large script comes from the hand of a true creative, showcasing the writer’s wide perspective on the world and one who rarely gets bored.

When it comes to the amount of pressure applied when writing, this is directly related to a person’s mood and emotions - the harder the pressure, the deeper the emotion. Very indented font can signify tension, stress and moments of anger.

Those who have patience when they write exude a methodical and organised hand, the complete opposite to a hasty writer who scribbles down quickly and often has a dislike for any delay.

Angles & Spacing

Wide spacing between letters shows a free spirit, one who is relaxed and open. The same hand will more than likely use large loops for y, g, p and l. The more artistic the individual is, the more curvaceous and rounded all letters become.

Words that overcrowd and offer limited space between each other, very much reflect a person of the same nature – one who is intrusive and oversteps personal space. If the author is of a sceptical mind, they may also express their mindset with narrow loops on all letters that hoop and curl.

Sharp and pointed lettering is an immediate giveaway for a curious, intelligent and intense character, one who is likely to cross their ‘t’ with a long stroke to show just how determined they are.

Crosses, Dots & Slants

When it comes to self-esteem, how one crosses off the letter ‘T’ will say it all. A writer who crosses with a short line allows all to see their lazy streak, whilst one using a longer strike oozes determination. The forever optimist will also cross the T at the very top, with the most comfortable and secure souls crossing around midway.

Representing the writer’s ego, the positioning of the dot that completes a lowercase ‘I’ can either show a precise and exacting nature (a high dot), allow the inner procrastinator to shine through (to the left) or unearth a deluded personality (to the right)! Equally, a circle will uncover an eccentric, a childish one if the circle is large, whereas a slash represents a self-critical being.

Words and letters that slant are a direct indicator of a person’s emotional response. The further the text leans forward or to the right, the more outgoing the author is. Those with handwriting that leans back tend to be more independent and aloof, whilst the hand that writes exactly vertical on the page emanates control of their emotions, using their head rather than their heart to lead.

Quality & Clarity

The author who always writes in cursive likes to display their logical mindset – one who is headstrong and examines all options before taking any decision.

Clear and disconnected writing shows great intuition, with the author tending to act on impulse.

Even a signature can offer an insight into your personality traits, with a legible mark letting others know you are strong and confident. Those who sign in ineligible text keep their cards close to their chest, making them hard to read and often seeking privacy. The bigger the size of the signature, the more important the person thinks they are, whereas a small (normal size as text) signature is an expression of modesty and sincerity.

Reproduced with kind permission - thanks to Pen Heaven



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Productive Habits

Productive Habits


We live in a hyperactive world. People are either busy or stressed about not being busy enough. Almost every hour of every day is scheduled with activity, most of that involving work and communication, thanks to technology, is immediate and constant. Yet despite all the apps and software that's now available to supposedly make our lives easier (and some of it definitely does), we're still battling with the issue of productivity. Our demands have increased, but time hasn't. People are working longer hours, losing more and more of their social existence, with very little to show for their efforts. The way to really boost your productivity isn't to try and do more, but to change your habits. Here's how to start:

Delegate

It's not a weakness to ask for help. All the best leaders understand the importance of delegation to lighten their workload, introduce new perspectives to their work and allow them space to think. It's about understanding your priorities and your skills so that you can make the most effective use of your time. If you're battling with mundane tasks that are consuming hours of your day and giving you little satisfaction, you should delegate to a colleague or personal assistant so that you can concentrate on actively working towards your vision.

Communicate

Over my career, the most important thing I've learnt is the power of communicating and sharing ideas. First of all, it's a release. When your mind is constantly turning over ideas or problems, it can get confused and frustrated, speaking your thoughts aloud allows you to verbally organise and encourages a response from someone else, which could introduce an interesting new perspective or solution. Secondly, it gets you excited. Discussing a vision or plan with a colleague or employee is a great way of building enthusiasm and a sense of unity.

Focus

Whilst multitasking creates the illusion of increased productivity, it creates chaos with our concentration, making it more difficult to organise thoughts and filter out irrelevant information. To maximise your productivity, it's important to learn focus your concentration on one task at a time. That means turning off notifications on your apps, closing down tabs on your desktop, putting your phone on silence and hanging a do not disturb sign on your door. I use blocking to assign specific time slots to each task so that I don't waste any time on deciding what to do and never agonise over one task for too long.

Exercise

Make exercise part of your daily schedule, even if it's just a lunchtime walk. It will give you a break from staring at your screen, elevate your mood and refresh your enthusiasm. Throughout the day our productivity naturally dips as we become tired and restless, exercise gives your mind a break and actually enables you to soak up more information.

Relax

Most of us think that resting is an indulgence. In fact, it's crucial to productivity. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we override the signals with caffeine and sugar in a desperate attempt to get more done. Eventually, we end up burning out. Relaxing, reading a book, spending time with friends, meditating, taking naps are all ways of allowing your body and mind to recover and refocus. It means that when you work, the work you do is actually productive.

Richard Walton is the Founder of AVirtual a company that provides virtual PAs to small business, entrepreneurs and start-ups. He is regularly featured in the press talking about topics such as work life balance and productivity.


This is a featured post. For more information please view my disclosure policy.


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What Are Your Rights In Rented Accommodation?

If you're looking at renting your home it's a good idea to know your rights whether your are a tenant or a landlord.  

As a tenant you have the right to live in a property that's in a decent state of repair, to live in the accommodation undisturbed and to be protected from unfair rent and/or eviction - all of which (and more) will be covered in your tenancy agreement which should be signed by you and your landlord before you move in.

Landlords need to ensure that they are protected from non-payment of rent and expenses incurred by damage to the property but there's no legal requirement for landlords to have insurance (however, the mortgage lender may insist on it and there are some great deals on landlord insurance to be found).

Here's a fabulous infographic from HomeLet which may help answer some of your questions.


What Are Your Rights In Rented Accommodation? [infographic]


This is a featured post. To find out more, please read my disclosure policy.



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Fitbitches - The January Run Down

Fitbitches - The January Run Down


I struggled so much in 2016 to find my headspace when running after coming back from a three month break due to injury and a diagnosis of arthritis in my knees. In March I rejoined our local community Couch to 5k programme, revisited my volunteer role as Group Leader for a few months and then took the personal decision to spend the winter running for me to try and find my sweet spot again in our Progression group (5-10k).  I ended up with a couple of personal best times - just shaving a few seconds off here and there - and started to fall back in love with running again.

For 2017 I have three goals and they are not 'time' related.  I need to take that particular pressure off myself but I'm sure that if I stay injury free, the better times will come in the long run (no pun intended but you can have that as a bonus).  So my goals are manageable and achievable and which, I hope, will keep me motivated month after month. They are:

  • A medal a month
  • To run 1000k in total before the end of the year
  • To create a small but meaningful online running community


A Medal A Month

Official races can be expensive and I only really enter local ones. I have no desire to run anything further than 10k - my half marathon dream is over - so finding appropriate races that are close by and that aren't going to break the bank can be difficult. Toward the end of last year I stumbled across the Virtual Runner community which provides real medals for challenges that can be completed within an allotted time on your own doorstep or even a treadmill. All you have to do is enter and pay for your chosen challenge, capture your run data (easy peasy when you have running watches or fitness apps), submit your evidence before the cut-off date and, a few days later, a nice shiny medal appears through your letterbox!

Fitbitches - The January Run Down
So for January, I chose an easy-to-achieve virtual race of running 10k within the month of January but my own mini-challenge was to do it in the first week of January.  This was for the Unicorn medal and it's beautiful - very girlie and a bit of fun.  I easily did the 10k in two parts with my running group but it got me hooked!! So I've now got a virtual race/challenge booked for March and I had already registered for the 1000k in 2017 (more on that in a minute).

Then I remembered I had registered for the East Lancs Hospice 10k. I marshalled this last year, it was freezing cold and in the middle of nowhere! I'm still not sure what compelled me to sign up for it but I'm sure it was something to do with the euphoria of those aforementioned personal best times...

Anyway, this one was today (Sunday 15th January) and it was, once again, freezing cold and raining (but not extreme weather like we've been having) and the course was muddy and 'undulating' (sidenote: in the running world the word 'undulating' usually means 'fucking great big hills').  I laced up my trainers and prepared for the worst.


Fitbitches - The January Run Down
It was definitely as bad as I thought it was going to be but after the first couple of miles, instead of mincing around the puddles and slipping on the mud, I decided to go headlong through most of them. The hill was a tough nut to crack and it formed part of the loop back, so you had to run up the hill, round the park then down the hill but the best thing about it was all the support shown for everyone and by everyone on that section of the run. The front runners coming down were shouting encouragement to those of us going up and those of us going up were calling out the same to those on their way down.  It was also the place where I saw friends who were not running the race, half way up that hill, giving out cheerleading chants, hugs, jelly babies and taking photos.  It was the exact point I needed to see them and really spurred me on.


I ran all of the race with a friend from my running group. She's much faster than me and had only registered for the race last week but stuck with me through it all, providing that 'push' when I needed it, chatting about mundane things like work and our past (when we could catch our breath).  She's now sick of hearing me thank her for doing that but after my lonely run at Lytham, it was a game-changer for the whole event for me.





As an aside - a huge thanks to all the organisers of the East Lancs Hospice 10k - it's lovely to support a local charity - plus all the marshals today were smiley and enthusiastic which means an awful lot when you're soaked to the skin, can see that you're not really near the end yet and feel a bit rubbish. Also, because I've marshalled that course, I know it's a long and cold day for those standing around. You may think it's hard to be happy and encouraging but when you see the effort the runners are putting in you just want to give them a yell and a cheer and it gives you a positive experience in a totally different way.

To Run 1000k In Total In 2017

So what am I going to do with all these medals? Why push myself to do something each month when I can just go out and run with my crew three times a week? 

Well, one of the other virtual challenges I have registered for is to run 1000 kilometres before the end of the year.  A simple task for many endurance athletes or those marathon training but this focus means that I have to stick to an average of 20k per week and use additional races to soak up the gaps.  The 'medal a month' plan will help me focus on this goal and I know I will want to push myself slightly to ensure that I'm generating enough distance each week.  Again, it's not about times or training for a half-marathon, but about giving myself a goal which feels attainable over this period of time.  Fingers crossed that I don't come a cropper and end up with a twatish injury that will stop me in my tracks (ho, ho, another pun for you there - I'm on a roll now).

To Create A Small But Meaningful Online Running Community

Hello Fitbitches!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, and again, and again. The running community we have here in Blackburn is unique. It's run solely by volunteers, it's altruistic, it has many arms, there are countless opportunities which lie within and beyond and it brings together people whose paths would never normally cross in real life. I've never seen anything like it before and I'm so proud to be a part of it as one of their volunteers.  I've seen the way that the people within the community (and beyond) support each other - that proved itself today - and I've seen people achieve goals they thought were way beyond their reach just a few short months ago.  A lot of this support takes place within Facebook groups as well as out on the roads.

Fitbitches - The January Run Down
I want to take some of that positivity that I've been experiencing for the past two-and-a-half years and share it with some friends that find following Couch to 5K on their own difficult, or struggle to get motivated to power-walk for half an hour a day, or feel as though there's no-one cheering them on when they come back from a run to a house of chaos. So Fitbitches has been re-born.

Fitbitches started out as a podcast a while back but, once again, time constraints put it on the back burner for a bit (you can hear some old podcasts on YouTube).  I'd like to restart the podcast again. I'd like to support a charity. I'd like to organise my own virtual race and let my friends-inside-the-computer feel the elation of achieving a goal and having some bling to show for it. The plan is half-written and I have the support of two brilliant people who are my sounding board. It will be a while before it becomes what I want it to become but, in the meantime, you'll see me hashtagging every running update and photo with #Fitbitches and there are people benefiting from the idea in a small (but perfectly formed) Facebook group.  If you want in, just let me know, but I'm accepting active members only - people who can really invest in providing support and encouragement to each other, regardless of the differing goals and fitness levels. As soon as it starts growing bigger, you'll definitely be hearing about it anyway!

I'm going to publish a Fitbitches-style blog post like this every month to help me re-cap the previous few weeks and to focus on the upcoming month.  Yes, the January one is early but there will be nothing much else to write about as I'll just be running my usual three times a week for the rest of the month.  In February, I've entered the punishing Winter Warmer 10k organised by Blackburn Road Runners which includes my nemesis, Buncer Lane (read more about that hill here) so I'll be working towards that for my February medal.

And now I'm off for a well-earned lie down and maybe a glass of wine!  By the way... did you spot the third free running pun? Have another look at the title.  I'm done now... promise... 



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Soundtrack To My Life - Motivational Songs For The New Year

Soundtrack To My Life  - Motivational Songs For The New Year
Soundtrack To My Life has taken on many forms over the years. It's a place for me to write mini-listicals about my favourite types of music and it's also a place where friends can share their own favourite songs that take them back to a specific moment in their life. Anyway, I'm always wanting to keep ideas fresh so this year I'm going to publish twelve personal Soundtracks To My Life (one a month), each with a different theme.

I'm not one for new year resolutions but I do think it's good to start a new year with positive affirmations and goals that feel achievable.  I've pulled together five songs that currently inspire me -they are from all different eras and their lyrics spring to mind for different reasons. I wanted my choices to be spontaneous rather than over-think this because, otherwise, I would have ended up just linking you to the music section of YouTube and being done with it...

So here are my motivational songs for the new year. Let me know what songs motivate you.


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Rag'n'Bone Man - Human

"Take a look in the mirror and what do you see
Do you see it clearer or are you deceived in what you believe
Cos I'm only human after all, you're only human after all
Don't put the blame on me"



Colbie Caillat - Try

"Wait a second, Why should you care, what they think of you
When you're all alone, by yourself
Do you like you? Do you like you?
You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing"



La Roux - Bulletproof

"Tick, tick, tick, tick on the watch
And life's too short for me to stop
Oh, baby, your time is running out"



Daft Punk - Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

"Harder
Better
Faster
Stronger"



Queen - The Show Must Go On

"The show must go on
I'll face it with a grin
I'm never giving in
On - with the show -
I'll top the bill, I'll overkill
I have to find the will to carry on"



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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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Luxury Holidays And Latest Tech Are The Top Big Ticket Shopping List of 2017

A tumultuous 2016 has not put Brits off spending big in 2017, according to credit score and report site ClearScore. 82% plan to splurge on ‘big ticket’ items next year, with holidays abroad topping the wish list for nearly half of UK adults (45%). “Staycations” follow close behind for 38% and high-end tech, such as MacBooks and SLR cameras will be snapped up by 20% of shoppers.

In an ideal world, 69% of Brits would prefer to save up to afford big purchases, such as jet-setting holidays next year. However, the average cost of a British family holiday is almost £5000 and nearly a third (30%) will use credit to foot the bill. 47% say they will use credit to fund at least one of their big ticket purchases in 2017; the most common reason being to spread the cost over a number of months.

Luxury Holidays And Latest Tech Are The Top Big Ticket Shopping List of 2017
ClearScore found that credit cards and personal loans are the most popular forms of credit used to pay for big ticket purchases, accounting for 51% and 28% of purchases respectively. While holidays topped the list of popular big purchases, people were most likely to reach for their credit card if they were planning an home extension (56%) or buying a car (52%) in 2017. As many as five and a half million Brits (10%) have turned to pay day loans and the rent-to-own sector, which charge much higher interest rates than other forms of credit, to cover the cost of big ticket purchases in the past.
All consumers planning to make big purchases on credit could save significant amounts of money by improving their credit score. A top credit score could save an average Brit £20,452 over a lifetime on the interest repayments for credit card debt alone.
  • 5 most popular big ticket purchases for 2017
  • A holiday abroad
  • A holiday in the UK
  • Consumer electronics, such as a laptop, TV or digital camera
  • White goods
  • New large furniture, such as a sofa

Justin Basini, founder and CEO of ClearScore, said, "When it comes to making expensive purchases; both luxuries and those things we just can’t do without, many of us turn to credit to help with the cost. That’s why it’s vital to manage and build your credit score so that you can get the best deal on your borrowing. Big ticket items cost enough, without saddling yourself with needlessly expensive interest repayments on top.” 

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Photo credit : Clearscore


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Life Hack : Easy-To-Make Origami Box

Life Hack : Easy-To-Make Origami Box
I get bored easily so was hunting around for new skills to learn and stumbled across origami boxes. It's a brilliant way to recycle magazines or brochures (I'm using my Woodland Trust seasonal magazines at the moment) and the boxes are really handy for collecting up vegetable peelings or tea bags or as temporary holders for your latest craft project. I've even stored some unopened boxes in a box so they are ready to use!


I've uploaded a handy YouTube tutorial for you to follow and have written the instructions below - just five steps to follow!!

  1. Fold your piece of paper into half and then half again
  2. Fold down the corners to form a triangle on both sides
  3. Open the flat sides and fold the corners in to the middle fold on both sides
  4. Fold up the edge twice on both sides
  5. Open out and push the bottom down to create your box.



Let me know if you give it a go and tell me what you use your origami boxes for.





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