The Next Chapter

Skydive, leap of faith,

Goodbye June, it was... well, there are no words to describe it.

A leap of faith
A fresh start
A new career
A moment of pride
A sense of achievement
A new me

It's been hard to find words to write on here so I've concentrated my energies on frivolous distractions which has taken me to a new online adventure and I've been focusing on the path for my new business and career. I believe the radio quiz will be making a second series appearance soon too.  

June has been the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.  Everything points towards me to dancing to the beat of my own drum, which has always worked for me in the past.  So, in the words of Chad Jackson:
Peace, unity, love and having fun
Let's groove on 'cause it's time to move on
Hear the drummer get wicked!


#VlogChallenge - The Introduction

You may have noticed that I've been spending a bit of time over on YouTube, talking rather than writing. If you're not subscribed to my channel you can easily solve that - just hit this button...

It's mainly about my Filofax and Bullet Journalling at the moment but that's what I feel comfortable talking about so it's helped me to gain front-of-camera confidence.

Vlog Challenge, #vlogchallenge
I've been chatting to a few other blogger-vloggers and I thought it would be a great idea to set some video challenges to get people up there in front of the camera.  This is open to anyone - even you! All you need is a webcam/camcorder/mobile phone, your YouTube (or other video) account and a bit of creative licence.

This will be run by myself and Kate from (here's her YouTube channel) and we will be setting one challenge/theme a week.  Each challenge will be set on Tuesdays and you are free to dip in and out whenever you like. No pressure at all.  There are no rules other than interpreting the theme in your own unique way and you can share your link with us on Twitter by using the hashtag #vlogchallenge. You'll also be able to find all the other videos from that week by following the hashtag too (and I might even host a link-up... we'll see...). 

SO... are you in?  If so, come back here on the Tuesday the 1st of July for your first vlogging challenge. In the meantime you can watch me answering some questions that were set by Kate earlier this week. She's also had to answer some questions that I set too which you can find here.


Merging My Filofax And Bullet Journal

You may have heard (after me mentioning it many many times) that I scored a bargain Filofax on Ebay recently.  A whole £11 for a beautiful, brand new, leather Kingston Personal Filofax that is perfect in every way.  I think I have found my lifetime planner.  However, much of that feeling comes from finding a way to incorporate my bullet journal in with the reason(s) I use a Filofax.  Have a little watch of this video to see why I feel like that.

You might also like this Google Hangout that I hosted on Thursday evening in which myself, +Elizabeth Locke+Sally Todd and +Kat Williamson talked about our own bullet journals, how they are working for us and a few hints and tips.

How are you getting on with your planning system?  Are you happy with what you have, forever changing (a bit like me) to keep things interesting or still looking for planner perfection?  Let me know.


Charcoal Is My Superpower

I have a theory about drawing and art. When we are children we just pick up a pencil or crayon and draw. We can, when prompted, explain our picture in full, glorious detail.

Then there comes a point in life where we become critical of our own work - whether that be through self-analysis, comparison or negative feedback - and some of us just stop drawing because we believe we aren't as good as our peers.

I am one of those people.

I have friends who arty types and their talent never ceases to amaze me. They use different mediums and have totally different styles however the finished article is always stunning.

Recently, through work (I am loving my new line of work!), I was invited to attend a life-drawing class. I was going to sit at the back and observe but I had a spare blank notebook and HB pencil at home so shoved them in my bag just in case.  The class was advertised as an alternative life-drawing class with entertainment, competitions and 'quick draw' sessions. It was during these 'quick draw' sessions that I thought I'd join in, especially after I heard some of the attending artists say that they couldn't achieve much in the allotted time. 

The result was a bit pathetic but then what can you achieve in 30 seconds, or without taking your pencil off the paper, or without looking at the paper at all.  And that was the clincher... it was all about becoming comfortable drawing the subject with your weapon of choice rather than perfecting a piece of work.

drink and draw, blackburn is open, rockit dance, charcoal, pencil
Then my friend Bev (who is a superb sculptor) gave me a bit of a nudge and told me to use some of her charcoal.  It was a revelation! Charcoal gave me confidence and whilst it hasn't made me any better it did give a bit more life (no pun intended) to my sketches.

Do you sketch or draw or sculpt or are you artistic in any way?  Let me know in the comments.  

PS. Bev, I will visit your studio one day but it was great to see you on Thursday. Lizzie, you owe me a picture, remember? Inspire me!

PPS. The models were from the RockIt Dance group in Manchester. Aren't they fabulous?

PPPS.  No, you're not getting to see the results of the 30-second challenges mentioned above but here's some other stuff that I drew... (pic above, pics below)

drink and draw, blackburn is open, rockit dance, charcoal, pencil


Soundtrack To My Life - John

Soundtrack To My Life
John has chosen some cracking tracks for his Soundtrack To My Life and this is the main reason I love this series; it reminds me of tracks I haven't heard in a long time and introduces me to artists I have never heard of. I'm definitely going to check out more of Lissie because of that Fleetwood Mac sound.  But now, here are all of John's Soundtrack To My Life tunes.


Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

My wife (then just my girlfriend) and I travelled by coach from Edinburgh to London, slummed it in Earl's Court Youth Hostel and had our minds blown away by the packed stadium all singing this, our favourite, song. Everyone there knew the words. Truly an amazing experience, one I'd love to share with my kids if only Gilmour, Waters and the rest could resolve their differences and tour again.

Status Quo - Rocking All Over the World

When I was 12, my dad had the opportunity to take me to see Queen playing live at Wembley Stadium. The support act was Status Quo. Because we'd have to miss a day of school, he said no. Fast-forward to 2012 and Status Quo come to Shetland for a one-off charity gig. I was the only one there with their kids - I'd checked the small print, no age restrictions! Other children on Shetland were cursing their parents for weeks after!

Fish - The Company

This is the song I fall back on for a bit of "me" time, when the world has wound me up to the point where I really just need a break. When all the banalities of "can you change this printer cartridge?" and "how do I centre text in Word?" built up to the point where it was either this song or going postal.

Lissie - Further Away

It's rare that my wife and I both hear a song on the radio for the first time and like it. Though I'd swear blind this was Fleetwood Mac if I didn't know any different!

Blackmore's Night - Dandelion Wine

This was the last song they played at the first proper family concert we went to. We were all singing along, all grinning like loons. Magic!


Soundtrack To My Life

You can find John (in his own words, Father of 5, cook, webmater, gamer, writer, general IT guru and all round geek) over on his blog - Files and Records - or tweeting as @dogbombs

Read and listen to all previous Soundtrack To My Life entries by clicking on the mix tape to the right.  If you want to participate please complete this form and I'll be in touch very soon.  

Holiday Fun Times: Top Tips for Packing a Teenage Girl’s Suitcase

sunshine, packing, holidays
Summer is upon us, and what do the summer months entail? Holidays! Whether it’s a quick break with your other half, or you plan to take the family abroad for a week or two, a holiday of any description helps to break up the humdrum of daily life and can be a welcome thing for many of us.

If you’re getting away with the kids this year, the hassle of travelling with them and their spontaneous tantrums can be a real nightmare when you have little ones - and when they get older, you have the troublesome teenage years to consider. But before you even start thinking of the actual journey, you need to consider what to pack for them. As they get older, they’ll probably want to have more of a say about what to put into their suitcases, but when they’re young, you have more control over what clothes to take on holiday with you. Boys are fairly easy – a selection of t shirts and shorts will do the trick, but girls can be a little more problematic. Here are some great tips to help you sort out your teenage daughter’s suitcase for your summer trip, if she lets you have a say in what she takes at all, that is!

  • Encourage her to wear her bulkiest items on the plane, so that they don’t take up loads of space in her suitcase. Teenagers love their hoodies!
  • Pack, or wear, a jacket because even if you’re going to a beautifully hot country for a holiday, you’ll likely come home to rain.
  • Shop for the holiday essentials at George at ASDA, so that you don’t overspend before you step onto the plane. She may have pocket money or saved cash to spend, but try and stop her from blowing it all on a couple of designer items and encourage her to buy more affordable gear.
  • Roll up what you can – you’ll be able to fit more stuff in to her case.
  • Pack things that don’t take up much room – bikinis, flip flops and sandals are beach holiday essentials and take up hardly any space.
  • Don’t forget accessories, such as hair bands, clips and jewellery. They can all be stored together in a make-up bag or purse, so that they don’t get lost in the stitching of the case.
  • Pack plenty of mix & match clothing – shorts, skater skirts, vest tops and summer dresses etc. Pack a couple of cardigans that go with everything, in case it’s chilly.
  • Don’t forget the sunglasses, sunhat and suncream! She may be a stubborn teenager but she till needs to be protected against the sun, even if you have to force her to slip, slop and slap!

Encourage her to pack minimally, so that you’re not lugging an overweight suitcase through the departure hall. It’s easier said than done with a teenager, but as long as she gets a say in what she does take, and some new threads out of it, she should be OK to compromise!

This is a featured post. For more details please see my disclosure policy.


How I Bought All Of The Washi Tape But Made A New Friend

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you may have seen me recently sharing pictures of washi tape.  For those not in the know, washi tape is pretty sticky paper, rolled like sellotape and can be used for many a craft project (check out Pinterest for ideas) and for decorating pages of my bullet journal or Filofax. It's pretty, it's inexpensive and it's unnecessary a must-have. Anyway, I'm going to waffle on for a minute but it's relevant to the story.

I was looking to replenish my stash and found a cheap and cheerful seller on Amazon, clicked to order and awaited the washi goodness.  When it arrived I was pretty chuffed with my order so I 'pinned' a picture of the tape from the order page to one of my Pinterest boards (a) so I wouldn't forget where I'd ordered from and (b) to share the washi love. I wanted to thank the seller for fast delivery and good service but I couldn't find the company on Twitter.

A couple of weeks later I saw there was a comment on the pin and it was from the seller. She'd spotted her product picture on Pinterest and loved that I'd complimented her. We exchanged a few words and she said she was going to sign up to Twitter.

Scroll forward another few weeks and I was enticed in by more washi tape. Anyone who buys washi tape will know the Pull Of The Washi, those who have no idea what washi tape is will probably have switched off by now. So I clicked straight to Carli's page and bought some more.  What happened next is the reason for this blog post (see, I got there in the end).

washi tape in a mason jar
Upon delivery, stuck to the inside of the lid of the box was a note:
"Hi Nickie, 
Thank you for being addicted to washi tape like me and ordering more. [..] 
Thanks also for prompting me to join twitter through your lovely pin and helping me to initiate me (not sure what she means there *innocent face*). I'm making a very slow start on there but I'm happy to follow just a few people I'm genuinely interested in, which tend to be followers of yours! 
Anyway, enjoy your tape. I'm always excited to see what people do with it so if you find the time I'd be happy to see your washi put to good use. 
Many thanks

And that, my friends, is how you become a good enabler a good online business relationship (and friendship) begins.

Find Whimsy Designs on Amazon here 
Find Carli on Twitter here 


Soundtrack To My Life - Steve

Soundtrack To My Life

Steve is the father of previous Soundtrack To My Life participant, Louise (you can read her STML here) although we do share a mutual interest of writing and music in general. I love the mellowness of Steve's choices so let's enjoy the mix of words and music that weave his Soundtrack To My Life choices.


The Kinks - Lola 

Back when I was at the tender age of 16/17 I used to go to a youth club a couple of evenings a week, happy days, carefree. The guys and girls were a good crowd, and we socialised all over the place outside of the youth club too, each other's houses, the park, and one or two of the local pubs (Yeah, I know, weren't we the rebels eh?) The most life changing event that happened at this youth club was that I met Debbie, my future wife to be, that was 43 years ago, we are still together now, and still in love to this day. Every time I hear this song, it just takes me straight back to those days we lived back then.

Simon and Garfunkel - Kathy's Song

1975 was a year of momentous happenings for me. I married my sweetheart Debbie, we had our first child, Louise, and I bought my first acoustic guitar, which I set about teaching myself to play. I was heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, and Simon & Garfunkel, and it was their songs that I first learned to play and sing. Louise, from the age of around eight months old seemed to need about 3 hours sleep per night, and I would take my guitar into her bedroom and play and sing to her, sometimes for several hours. This is one of the songs that Louise heard during so many early hours, and one of my personal favourites. It is a truly beautiful song.

Blondie - (I'm always touched by your) Presence Dear

In 1977 our second daughter was born, Tracey. The band Blondie appeared around that time too, they remain until this day one of my favourite all-time bands, I sometimes leave their “Complete Picture” album in my car CD player for weeks at a time, listening to it on the way to work and back each day. I just have to include a Blondie tune in this list, and although this particular tune wasn't released until 1978, I am going to dedicate it to my lovely daughter Tracey, who was also very blonde at the time.

Bachman Turner Overdrive - You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet

I liked this song from the very first time I heard it, it is a terrific song with a thumping good rock beat, an absolute classic. Many years ago I adopted the chorus from this song as part of a confidence building routine. I would play it in my mind when facing negativity, or in the face of being underestimated by others. It just fills me with positive vibes and feel-good factor. I often use the same technique to this day.

10,000 Maniacs - Don't Talk

A friend gave us one of their albums a few years ago, a live recording, this is another band that I can listen to for hours and hours. Natalie Merchant is the vocalist and I find her voice and the lyrics deep, touching, and full of the truths and the faults of life, much that I can understand, and relate to. I like all of the songs on the album, but “Don't Talk” is probably my favourite.


Soundtrack To My Life

Steve publishes a 'twist in the tale' style flash fiction story almost every Friday on his blog - The Twisted Quill. Have a read - they're probably not quite what you're expecting. 

Read and listen to all previous Soundtrack To My Life entries by clicking on the mix tape to the right.  If you want to participate please complete this form and I'll be in touch very soon.  

Silent Sunday

£2 coin, London Underground, Mind The Gap

For more Silent Sunday pictures click here


A Wander Round Blackburn Museum

I was in-between meetings today so I took the opportunity to have a wander round Blackburn Museum. I'm slightly ashamed to say that I've lived in this town for nine years now and have only stepped foot in the museum once before.

Respectfully, there is no flash photography allowed in many areas of the museum and in some sections there is very low lighting to preserve the displays even further so the following pictures aren't of the highest quality.

You need to visit if you're ever in the area. There are loads of different collections - not all related to industry and local history. I totally fell in love with the Japanese collection and the icons/scripture section.

map of Lancashire, Blackburn Museumearly camera, Blackburn Museum

social artefacts, Blackburn MuseumSpinning Jenny, Blackburn Museum

Japanese Art, Blackburn MuseumJapanese fashion, Blackburn Museum

Find out more on the Blackburn Museum website.  
Open Wednesday to Saturday, 12 noon - 4.45pm and entry is free.


A Look Inside My Bullet Journal (Part 1)

I think I managed to get a few people hooked on the Bullet Journalling idea after my recent post about it. I also promised to share a proper glimpse inside my Bullet Journal after I had been using it for a while. Rather than take loads of photographs that would probably have to be redacted because of personal/private information I thought I'd 'vlog' (video blog) my new system on my rather blurred webcam and here are the results.

(I've called this Part 1 because, as you can see/hear in the video, I'm going to be changing the way in which I use my Bullet Journal slightly over the next week or so in conjunction with my Filofax system. But that's what's so great about this - it's so organic and easy to make it work for you.)

(If you cant see the video, click here to go straight to YouTube)

As an aside, I've seen loads of people use the acronym "BJ" when chatting on Twitter/Facebook/Google+ which makes me snigger like a fourteen year old girl.  I also can't us "BuJo" without breaking into a classic song from a musical whilst holding my moleskine aloft like the Lion King and pretending I'm auditioning for Britain's Got Talent. I'm pathetic, aren't I?

Soundtrack To My Life - Steph

Soundtrack To My Life
It's a real pleasure to share this week's Soundtrack To My Life because it comes from one of my oldest friends, Steph.

We were at primary school together way way back in the 1970's (I know we don't look that old).  Our little gang was a force to be reckoned with when it came to skipping and elastics.

We lost tough for a while but social media and blogging brought us back together again with a bit of an emotional reunion at a bloggers conference a couple of years ago.  And even though we are like ships in the night, we will eventually get to see each other again soon.


Abba - Dancing Queen - Abba

A classic and just has to feature as first on my list. I don't think any party is complete without it, and I will never be able to stand still and not dance when this comes on. It was played at my wedding and I was 'slightly' disappointed that my Dad chose this time to want to dance with me whilst really I was dying to get in a gang with my friends and boogie (sorry Dad!). Have made up for it many times since though.

Billy Joel - Uptown Girl

An Innocent Man was the first album I ever owned - bought for me as a Christmas present by my parents. Was never quite sure why, and if it was their musical taste rather than mine, but I did grow to love it. It's meant even more to me since as Uptown Girl appears on the Loose Women CD (don't judge me, right?!) and after hearing it in the car, my youngest daughter insisted that I play it again. And again. And a lot more times. You'd think I'd be sick of it by now, but it actually quite tickles me that she loves it so much and can sing along!

Toni Basil - Mickey

This always reminds me of my bestest oldest school friend and our time in those 'early years' together. School discos - stonewashed denim, bad haircuts, and trying to copy crazy dance moves... aaahh, those were the days!

Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes - Time Of My Life (Dirty Dancing OST)

Dirty Dancing was, and always will be, the best film I have ever seen. I love it with all my heart and will never tire of watching it. I was extremely excited this summer when I got to go and watch it at an outdloor cinema in our local park! I love the whole soundtrack from the film, but this of course brings up visions of 'the' Lift. When I hear any of the music it makes me go a little weak-kneed and takes me back to those fantastic 80s again.

Bryan Adams - Run To You

My favourite song by my favourite singer (sorry Gary Barlow, but you do come a very close second). This was on one of the earliest albums I owned. The lyrics were not at all relevant to any situation I had found myself in at that point in life, but the song still stirred up feelings inside me somehow, and still does.
I imagine everyone thinks they know my music taste by now, but I do sway out of the 80s mainstream pop bracket every once in a while. Promise. Heart FM is definitely not my favourite radio station *ahem*.

Take That

I'm going to cheat and slip number 6 in here too, and even more cheating as I declare every song that Take That have ever done as my 6th choice. Did you know I've been to at least one concert on every one of their tours so far?! Mega fan.
(Editors note: I'll let you sneak "Shine" in because it's one of my favourites)


Soundtrack To My Life
You can find Steph's blog here. She writes about her family life which involves one of her children having a type of autism called PDA (Pathalogical Demand Avoidance). Also look out for her on  Facebook and find her on Twitter as @steph007.

Read and listen to all previous Soundtrack To My Life entries by clicking on the mix tape to the right.  If you want to participate please complete this form and I'll be in touch very soon.  
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