[Recipe] Vegetable Soup

How To Make Vegetable Soup

I'm very much a ''throw it all in and hope for the best" type of cook. I sort of follow recipes but always experiment and attempt to try out adaptations.  I recently had a whole load of vegetables that were about to become past their best and needed to use them up so I had a glance at a recipe online, took note of what I had, threw it all in a pot and kept my fingers crossed.  It was one of the best things I've ever made and has become much-requested in this house.

If you have ever followed any of my other recipes, you'll know that I don't do much measuring so everything is adaptable.  This recipe makes six to eight large portions and is ideal for lunch with a crusty loaf or as a starter for a main meal. 


  • 4-6 carrots
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 2 peppers (any colour)
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 large leek
  • 6 smallish potatoes
  • 2 small onions (I used red onion)
  • ¼ celeriac
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • turmeric
  • thyme
  • a big squirt of tomato puree
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes


  1. Peel and chop the carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes and celeriac into small cubes
  2. Cut the (de-seeded) peppers, celery, leek and onions into small pieces
  3. Add to a large pan with the vegetable stock, turmeric, thyme, tomato puree and can of chopped tomatoes
  4. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about an hour or until all the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally
  5. Pour into a blender and blend until smooth
  6. Serve and enjoy!

This recipe is Slimming World friendly and stores in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for three months. Do let me know how you get on and if you have any top tips for making soup.


Things I Learnt In January

Keeping up a monthly series is Hard Work.  With all the good intentions of doing this monthly round-up (which I love pulling together) I didn't bother in November or December so you didn't get the promised learning experiences including:
  • My disappointment when my doppleganger didn't contact me (see October's 'Things I Learnt In...') but she was probably too freaked out at the message she received via Facebook.
  • The full rundown (no pun intended) of the two 10k races and a 5k Santa Dash I participated in.
  • A mention for 'Girls Against' - a group of young women who are campaigning against groping at gigs.
  • The time I learnt that your quiz book won't fend for itself on Amazon.
  • That you can make a London Undergroup map from Quality Street chocolates.
  • Grandchildren will say the best part of Christmas dinner is sitting at the big table and not a separate 'children's table'
  • Getting Danny Boyle and Quentin Tarintino in an interview together is genius.
  • Injury sucks (more of that in a minute).
  • Peter Kay's Car Share is returning and a whole nation cheered in unison.

Anyway... new year, new intentions, new "What I Learnt In..." series enthusiasm so here is January.

Telling Casey Neistat about the Boyle/Tarintino interview gains you a "heart" on Twitter and a total #fangirl moment. This one should really have been in December but it warrants more than a quick mention. Point of note: if you are looking for an inspirational role model / engaging vlogger / beautiful time lapse shots of gorgeous scenery / enthusiasm about life in general then you should be following Casey Neistat. I spent most of 2015 tuned into his daily vlogs and watched his subscriber count grow rapidly - and it's so easy to see why once you start watching.  He is a film maker by trade and has been commissioned to create online campaigns for big brand names but he has an inquisitive mind by nature so everything is an adventure. So, I don't normally tweet links to 'famous people' but thought that he'd enjoy the aforementioned Boyle/Tarintino interview. And this happened.

Things I Learnt In January, Casey Neistat, Twitter

Netflix is addictive. Yes, I know I'm a late adopter but there's always something else going on in my life and I rarely watch television unless it's something I can interact with, i.e. a reality TV programme that people are tweeting along with. My husband signed up for the free month and I now have my own section on his log-in with more shows queued up that I can watch in six month. Bye bye normal television. Here Netflix, just take my £6 per month and let me get on with it.

Oh yes, it's time for the running section again... 

Living with a running injury is Very Frustrating. I started getting twinges in my knee last November and I probably shouldn't have participated in a couple of events (namely our 'end of plan' 10k Celebration Run and the Liverpool Santa Dash) but I'd been waiting for these runs for ages and couldn't resist.  As a result, I was in too much pain to run and had to rest.  Two months later and I'm still not running properly and I'm awaiting the results of a knee scan. One thing I have learnt from all this is that running is now a positive make up of my emotional and physical well-being and I crave that euphoria.

Things I Learnt In January, Run Like A Girl, medal rack,

If you want a 'Run Like A Girl' medal rack, just buy it yourself. I hinted hard for this medal rack for Christmas but it never arrived (to be fair, they were out of stock) so I ordered it myself on Boxing Day and it arrived a few days later. It now has pride of place in my home office

This whole video just makes me want to go for [another] run. And when the girl says "I'm knackered" - that's soooooooo the best feeling in the world!

Finally a motivation video without fitness models, but with ordinary girls!
Posted by Gym Bitch on Wednesday, 11 February 2015

If you weren't here for the running stuff, you can stop scrolling now!

You can give a neglected project a much needed boost. I have a collaborative stationery blog with Sian that started out with good intentions but busy lives get in the way so easily. Stationery Lovers is now reborn with additional contributors in the form of Kirsty (Blog | Twitter | YouTube) and Kara (Blog | Twitter | YouTube) so watch out for videos and blog posts from us all with additional input on the Stationery Lovers outlets (Twitter | Facebook) starting in February. You can see a sneak peek Periscope on my Facebook page. EXCITING TIMES!

I can make soup! I've always been a bit of a chuck-it-all-in type of cook but I've never attempted soup. We had a load of vegetables to use up and I've been cooking more from scratch recently so I had a glance at a couple of recipes online, cobbled something together, blended it, crossed my fingers and gave it to my husband to test. It was declared a great success and I'll be writing the whole recipe up at some point in the near future.  [edited to add... the recipe and video is here]

Things I Learnt In January, raw vegetables, vegetable soupThings I Learnt In January, raw vegetables, vegetable soup,

Luke Marsden from Big Brother 9 is a bloody nice bloke! I met him whilst marshalling a race one weekend (a company he works with sponsored the race t-shirts) and he had a right long chat with myself and a friend about what he's doing now. I might have also done a bit of schmoozing which will hopefully lead to some sponsorship for our running group.

Not enough people are raving about Walk Off The Earth. You may not think you know who I'm on about but you've probably seen their version of Gotye's 'Somebody That I Used To Know' with five people playing one guitar and, if you like that, you'll love loads of their other covers including this version of Adele's 'Hello' which I've nominated as my video of the month. It's so clever - I'm in awe!!

Recommendations Of The Month  

I wrote a HUGE post which is full of top tips for new runners when they are buying clothes, trainers or accessories. It's proving to be a really popular article so if you know someone who has stuck to their New Year's resolution and is out pounding the streets then show them this.

I have been reviewing aromatherapy oils and a diffuser from Essence of Arcadia. There are some gorgeous smells wafting around my lounge now and I alternate the diffuser with wax melts or scented candles.  Read the full review here.

I love a good geek review and one of my favourite brands, Omaker, sent me a couple of their premium USB cables to try out. They are perfect for data transfer or charging mobile devices and their nylon braided cable is so much more durable than your usual rubber coated cables. Definitely handy to keep around and I've now got one in my bag attached to my portable charger. Buy direct from Amazon here

We were trying to work out how long we'd had our mattress, especially after the recent 'change your mattress every eight years' campaign and it's definitely time for a new one (we've had our feather mattress topper on for a couple of years now and I wouldn't be without it). We've decided to check out the January sale at Mattresses Online and sort ourselves out. 

Soundtrack To My Life is enjoying a bit of a reboot so if you fancy sharing the five tracks that always transport you back to a specific time and place then come and share that music. Read all about it and fill in the form.

Now it's your turn. Tell me what you have learnt this month.


The UK Floods : What Next?

As I sit and type this, I can hear the rain battering the lounge window. All day at work I have been facing the window, watching the heavens open and deliver yet more water onto an already sodden ground. I don't remember a winter like this in recent years; it's just so... wet!

The UK Floods : What Next?
In some respects we are very lucky where we live - at the top of a road that leads downhill. We aren't really at risk of flooding however, two streets in each direction were on red warnings over the Christmas period for flooding because of the way the rivers flow through the town. I'm so used to watching news reports of flood victims further down the country that to have severe warnings so close to home made us rethink a number of things such as our contingency plan for living arrangements, what we would have to move upstairs in order to save precious items and what our insurance would cover!

It's not just us that have been thinking about the long-term effects though. Simpson Millar Solicitors looked into the effect of each recent storm and then surveyed 500 people to see the effects as a whole. The results make for very interesting reading but there's an awful lot of people who believe that it wasn't possible to avoid the flooding this year (with or without local council or Government intervention) simply because of climate change. And that's something that is considered in this Huffington Post article.

I'm not sure what the answer is. There has always been talk about protecting this planet that we borrow to survive on for a short space of time; protect it and nurture it - but are our actions making things worse or does the only habitable planet in the solar system have a 'use by date' that we are hurtling towards?

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

New Runners : Here's What You Need To Wear When Running

What Do I Wear When I Go Running - Run Like A Girl medal rack

When you start any new hobby it's important to have the right tools for the job. Last year I filmed a little video which showed you what I wear when I go running (you can watch it at the end of this blog post) and whilst the basic tools and rules are the same, I'm a little bit more serious about the whole running thing now, having upped my distance and having set a few long term goals.

I have winter and summer variations but the basics are the same, so here are my top tips for clothing and accessories for when you are running or jogging.

1.  High Visibility Outerwear

running outfit, high visibility jacket, neon running top, sports/running leggings, Asics trainers,
There is a reason that a lot of running clothes are available in garish neon colours - it's so you can be easily seen day and night by other road and footpath users. I really recommend wearing something with reflective strips too if running in the dark (or early morning/late night). My jacket is bright yellow and is from Ron Hill (via SportsShoes.com).

2.  A Hat

I favour a lightweight peaked baseball cap because the visor keeps the rain off my face in the winter and the sun out of my eyes in the summer. My favourite is one I bought in Tunisia a few years back but I also have one adorned with lights (making myself more visible again) which was available from Aldi in the Autumn of 2015.

3.  Sports Tops

Depending on the changeable British weather, the amount of layers I wear will vary but I generally wear a thin, long sleeved breathable running top with a polyester t-shirt over the top (I love my #runlikeyoustolesomething GroupRun Blackburn t-shirt).  In the warmer months I will scale this down to a short sleeved running top or sleeveless vest. I have bought mine from a variety of places but I always return to the Primark sports section or Ron Hill. I love my long sleeved tops that have thumb holes in the sleeves too - I got these from Up and Running in Clitheroe.

4.  Sports Bottoms

I favour running trousers that are form-fitting. I find the ones that have lycra in them are best and prefer cuffed bottoms or zipped at the ankle. Again, my favourite purchases have been from Primark, Aldi and SportsShoes.com but I've recently discovered Wild Bangarang who sell the most amazing running tights which take me right back to my roller disco days.  My recommendation is to find a pair that fit snugly and that stay up when running. You may snigger at this but the waist elastic in some leggings or joggers doesn't do the job it was intended for and can make for an uncomfortable and embarrassing run.

5.  Socks

There are two types of socks: proper running/trainer socks and compression socks and I alternate between the two. Running socks are double layered which means that the layers rub against each other rather than the material rubbing against your skin inside your trainers which almost eliminates the risk of blisters (as long as you have correctly fitted trainers - more on that in a minute). Compression socks fit tightly up the lower half of the leg and 'massage' the calf muscle which help prevent cramp.  Some friends of mine recommend wearing compression socks when you return from your run, i.e. when the muscles are starting to relax.

6.  Trainers

The most important part of your kit so get professionally fitted for your running footwear. Find out where you can have gait analysed and go and have it done. Gait analysis is usually free (locally, we have three places that offer it); you need to wear comfy clothing and take your normal running shoes with you. You will be filmed jogging for a short distance on a treadmill and you will be shown the video which displays how your place your feet when running. Advice will then be given about the type of trainers you need to wear to make your run comfortable and injury-free. What you do with the advice is up to you and please don't feel pressured into purchasing an expensive pair of trainers. I had my gait analysis done, listened to the advice, came home, researched trainers online and went back to the shop with a clear head.

The first time I joined the local community Couch To 5K programme I threw on my old Reeboks and thought that would be OK.  It didn't work out quite like that.  My comfy old trainers didn't support my feet properly and weren't built for pounding round the local Country Park so I invested in my first pair of proper trainers in almost thirty years and these Nikes carried me for around nine months.  My next pair were Asics (with gel cushioning) and they have since become my favourite brand.

7. Extras

Underwear is important (especially for 'the girls' *wink*) and there are two items that I'd hugely recommend. First, get fitted for a good sports bra which supports and comfortably straps you in. There's no room in the running world for unnecessary jiggling. I'd recommend M&S or (again) Primark for sports bras. Secondly, comfy knickers are a godsend. I was wearing huge cotton ones until I found Chaffree - I use the knickerbocker style (aside: these also great under dresses for getting rid of VPL) which feel great under running leggings and they don't ride up.

A fleece and a waterproof jacket is a good addition to your wardrobe for specific weather conditions. I have purchased a fleece direct from my running group and wear this to all events as it acts as part of the 'uniform' but it's great to have available during a cold winter run or to wear after a race when you're cooling down.  Also, most hi-viz jackets (mentioned earlier) are less than waterproof so this may affect your choice when looking at jackets because we all know how heavy the good old British rain can be! It's also worth considering thin gloves for winter day runs.

Think about how you are going to carry your house/car keys, your mobile phone and even water for longer runs. Karrimor at Sports Direct produce some very inexpensive and lightweight bags that you can wear round your waist or as a rucksack. I actually prefer using The Fit Belt (available from Amazon) which perfectly holds my mobile phone, my keys and has loops for gels (for distance running).

If you want to monitor your progress then you might want to invest in a runner's watch. There are many out there on the market (take a look at the Garmin or TomTom range) but my preference is the Fitbit Surge. I've worked my way up through the ranks of Fitbit activity trackers and the Surge does everything I need it to including monitoring my steps and activity throughout the day, it tracks my sleep patterns and includes silent alarms (totally the way forward - it's like a little electric shock on your wrist each morning), multi-sports tracking with mapping for runs and call/text notifications. I'm a bit obsessed with it.

And to finish, a return to being visible at all times. When I'm out with my running group, I wear my GroupRun 'TEAM' hi-viz bib over however many layers I am wearing. I have also invested in flashing wrist/ankle bracelets and a head torch for occasional runs through unlit areas (although these are always pre-planned and well organised in a 'social run' situation).

I would love for you to share your top tips and best buys for run-wear.   What advice do you have for new runners?

Running outfit, GroupRun Blackburn, Wild Bangarang, Fitbit Surge, Fit Belt,

 I am not an expert and this is not professional advice. 
This is just my take-away from what I have tried 
and tested over the past couple of years.
Please stay safe, stay visible and have fun! 


Essence Of Arcadia - Aromatherapy Made Beautiful

I have always been a fan of having scents wafting gently around the house to get rid of all the boy smells. My husband likes to burn incense/joss sticks and I've always been a fan of scented candles, wax melts and diluted essential oils. 

First a little background. What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy, also referred to as Essential Oil Therapy, can be defined as the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonise and promote the health of the mind, body and soul. It seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance your innate healing process.

Prior to Christmas I was trying out some new essential oils that had been sent to me by Becky at Essence of Arcadia along with a 'recipe book' which explained what each oil was to be used for and how to mix different oils to create different moods.

Essence of Arcadia - aromatherapy / essential oils to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual well-being. Made in Britain.

First of all, Essence of Arcadia is a British company - and you know how I feel about the importance of supporting home-grown businesses. They manufacture their own products (cutting out the middle man) and concentrate on producing great quality items at affordable prices. Also, all the essential oils are 100% pure and have the relevant certification so you know you're in safe hands.

What I love about the Essence of Arcadia shop is that they not only sell the oils but also the diffusers to atomise the diluted oils.  For me, this was a new experience as the diffusers plug into a power point and come with a built-in timer which negates the need for tea-light candles and the possibility of your water/oil mix running dry. I have been trying out the Luxury Diamond shaped glass diffuser but also have my eye on the wooden style Pebble diffuser.

Two of of my favourite scents are vanilla and ylang ylang. One of the first perfumes that was ever bought for me (thanks, Mum) was a Oscar de la Renta copy with a ylang ylang base from one of those perfume parties that were so popular in the 1980's and, reading up on it here, I now know that it balances emotions and hormones. Maybe there was some deeper thinking going on with Mum there...

This lead to the ylang ylang oil being one of the first that I tried out and now I'm all calm and mellow which makes a lovely change.  Other recipes that I'm going to be trying out is one for 'confidence, concentration and memory' which mixes grapefruit, basil, bergamot and lavender (I can use this in the shower) and a 'liquid sunshine' one which incorporates peppermint, frankencense and bergamot which boosts energy.

All products are beautifully packaged so come fully protected when delivered or will make fantastic gifts. You can find all current prices in the Essence of Arcadia online store so here are some discount codes to get you started:
  • 15% off - Essential Oils 6 Set - ESSENCECODE1
  • 15% off  - Essential Oils 14 Set - ESSENCECODE2
  • 15% off  - Pebble Diffuser - ESSENCECODE3
  • 15% off  - Diamond Diffuser - ESSENCECODE4 
(enter the code when prompted at checkout) and do go and say 'hello' to them on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Do you have any aromatherapy / essential oil recipes that you'd like to share with me. I'd love to try some new ones out!


Soundtrack To My Life - Pippa

Soundtrack To My Life - Pippa's story.

Pippa is one of the old crew... one of the 2009 squad of bloggers that I'm privileged to call my friends. I love that I know I can tune into her blog and be treated to positive reading material that will encourage me to eat healthily, give me great ideas for fun with the grandchildren and inspirational updates to make me re-engage with life with a more positive outlook.  I adore every single one of the songs that she chose for her Soundtrack To My Life (and even the ones she didn't choose - you'll see what I mean when you reach her final choice) and the memories she shares.  I know you'll enjoy them too... 


Always a A Woman - Billy Joel

I love this song. I first heard it when I was working in a Children's Boutique when I was about 17. I sold suits to babies. Anyway. There were maybe four CD's that the owner allowed to be played and a Billy Joel album was one of them. I knew a few of his songs, but it was this song, Always a Woman, that rang out to me. I felt it described me, plus Billy Joel sounds fantastic singing this song!

I was delighted when John Lewis used it for their advert a few years back because it was a great fit to the story they told and again it was ME!

In my Room - The Beach Boys

Actually it could be any song by the Beach Boys. Their harmonies are just so tight and wonderful and they were true talents.

As a moody teenager I would put this on repeat and look broodily out of the window.

You know how in Friends when Ross gets a song played for Rachel on the radio and then she phones up the Radio station and tells them what Ross did (he wrote a pros and cons list - series 2 episode 8 - ROFL) and they stop playing his song and start playing In My Room?

Well, before they did that. I was the moody teenager looking out the window at rain and being all depressed over nothing.

Nickie, I'm sorry I know my Mum isn't reading your blog and for that I apologise but if she were I'd take this moment to apologise to her for being such a moody child with nothing to be moody over!

The Sound of Silence - Simon and Garfunkel

My Dad introduced me to Simon and Garfunkel and Abba and a whole host of other music that at the time didn't really mean anything, they sang well and I enjoyed singing along.

I remember being nine years old and my Music Teacher at the time asked me what music I liked. This was the late 80's and she was expecting me to say people who were popular at the time, just like the rest of my classmates. I said Simon and Garfunkel and Leonard Cohen. You know what she said?

"See me after class."

See me after class?! Was I being punished?!

Turns out she had heard me singing in class, had heard my answer and thought that I should borrow a couple of her CD's because she thought they'd appeal to me. Then she told me I should join the Choir and the Band and so I did.

I've never looked back with regards to singing. It's something I love to do, something that I want to do more of and something that one day I'm going to again properly. I just have to clear my schedule a bit.

Oh and I'm pretty sure that the words describe now, with everyone reading things on their mobile phones... yeah, y'all think I'm crazy.

Love Is All Around - Wet Wet Wet

Now, don't get me wrong. The Troggs version is epic and is the version I knew first thanks to music loving parents. However...

The summer that Wet Wet Wet had their hit with their cover version my parents would take drives out to the country side, open all the windows on the car (and the sunroof), turn the radio up to full blast and play this song on repeat.

My parents were weird.

In my head we did this all the time, although I think now that maybe it only happened a handful of times.

This song just sticks with me along with the image of yellow fields of Rapeseed and of course every Christmas I sing the Billy Mack/Bill Nighy version. "Oh fuck wank bugger shitting arse head in the hooooole!"

Everybody's Free To Wear Sunscreen - Baz Luhrmann

I can't believe I'm at my last song already. I thought maybe Dear Jessie by Madonna (or Ray Of Light or anything by Madonna pre 2000), or Erikah Karst and Joshua Kadison singing Dragonfly Wings (or anything by Joshua Kadison actually) or Beach Baby by First Class, Ernie by Benny Hill, Funky Moped by Jasper Carrott, Rabbit by Chas N Dave... but in the end I decided to go with Baz Luhrmann - Everybody's Free To Wear Sunscreen.

When I met my now husband, this was one of the first songs we heard together. You see my now husband and I were quite different. At that point in my life I didn't really listen to "modern" pop music and he listened to it ALL THE TIME. He introduced me to Dance music, Acid Jazz (by accident he hates it I love it) and I introduced him to Chinese Takeaways, Nightclubs and home made Szechuan Chicken.

It's a balanced relationship.

Hearing that song now, takes me back to sitting in his red fiesta snuggled in to the crook of his shoulder and talking about our future together. I think it was our third date...

Anyway, the song reminds me that life is precious, we need to make the most of it and we need to remember to wear our sunscreen.


Soundtrack To My Life - Pippa - Soundtrack To My Life is an occasional series where people share five music tracks that transport them back to a memorable time in their life.
You can find Pippa on her blog - A Mother's Ramblings - or on Twitter and Facebook or follow her #socksoftheday on Instagram

Find out more about Soundtrack To My Life here the read and listen to all previous Soundtrack To My Life entries or follow the Pinterest board. If you want to participate please complete this form and I'll be in touch very soon.


Win A Recipe Box From Riverford Organic Farms

I am in a really fortunate position to be able to come home from work and have a freshly cooked meal waiting on the table most evenings, as my husband is at home. We have recently been trying out a recipe box from Riverford which has been a convenient and enjoyable experience.

Riverford Organic Farms deliver a box to your door each week which contains three meals for two people and includes all the ingredients and three easy-to-follow recipe cards to create these meals.

Using a subscription service, Riverford deliver a box to your door each week which contains three meals for two people and includes all (yes, ALL) the ingredients and three easy-to-follow recipe cards to create these meals. The only store cupboard additions you'll have to supply are salt and pepper for seasoning and oil for cooking. 

These boxes are great for a few reasons. All the products are fresh, organic and locally produced or sourced and they come with full unpacking and storage instructions (i.e. a bag of products for the fridge, measured ingredients for the store cupboard, fresh produce either insulated or wrapped in a cool pack). But what impressed me the most was the way in which the recipe cards were written with literally every single step explained in full detail.  I have a lot of respect for this because there is no risk of you messing anything up and it's a great way for people to learn to cook completely from scratch using fresh food. And  you keep the recipe cards so you can cook your favourite meals over and over again.

Riverford Organic Farms deliver a box to your door each week which contains three meals for two people and includes all the ingredients and three easy-to-follow recipe cards to create these meals.

Because I love this concept so much I asked Riverford if they would like to let one of my readers try out their recipe box and they loved the idea! You can win a Riverford recipe box of your choice by entering my really easy competition. Answer the question provided in the Rafflecopter widget below and then keep your fingers crossed. You can gain additional entries by taking part in some social sharing or by signing up to receive blog updates.  GOOD LUCK! 

TERMS AND CONDITIONS * This giveaway will begin at 12:00 on 17th January 2016 and will close at 23:59 on 25th January 2016 * This giveaway is open to any of my readers aged 18 or above who reside in the UK. * The winner must live in a Riverford delivery area * There is no cash alternative to the giveaway * There is one compulsory entry which asks the entrant to answer a question. You can gain additional entries using the options in the Rafflecopter widget * There is one (1) prize in total * The prize has been provided by Riverford Organic Farms * The prize winner will be asked to provide their email address so that contact can be made to arrange prize delivery * Entries will only be accepted as instructed and any entrant that does not complete the qualifying requirements will be disqualified * The winner will be chosen by using a random number generator built into the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted direct on the email address provided within five (5) days of the draw.

Please see my disclosure policy for further details.


Soundtrack To My Life : Where Are Tomorrow's Legends?

Soundtrack To My Life,  David Bowie, music,
Image Credit : Rolling Stone
Today I was going to publish another edition of Soundtrack To My Life but that was put on hold as soon as I woke up and I saw that all my social media timelines were full of the news that David Bowie had died.

I don't normally get upset when I read of a 'celebrity' death (but I do usually check the Deadpool forum to see if anyone has scored points *waves to the people judging me right now*). Of course I lament a little as it's sad when someone's life comes to an end, however life goes on in so many more ways.

Musicians leave a legacy. Music, to some extent, is timeless. Yes, certain styles of music will fit into a certain era, but that doesn't create a reason for it not to be heard. And, just as I say to potential contributors to Soundtrack To My Life, music will transport you back to a time or a place in your life even by just hearing a the opening bars or a line from the middle of a verse.

Or it used to...

Louise was one of many to update her Facebook status today, commenting on the premature passing of David Bowie but she added a comment that made me stop and think. She asked, "Does anyone else think that we're losing all our legends, and their shoes are not being filled?"

She is so right. The music of today is digital and very disposable. New(er) artists will be paraded in front of us as 'exciting' or 'a new sound' or because they 'look the part' but where is their longevity? I'm guilty of watching - and enjoying - programmes such as X-Factor and The Voice however I can't see myself feeling like a small part of musical history will have been lost when any of the recent participants shuffle off this mortal coil. There are very few people writing and performing music which has meaning or has been written because of a personal experience and even less with a distinguishable voice when they start singing... or at least it feels like that. I also can't see the likes of Bowie et al fairing well in a 'talent show' competition these days.

Why don't you share some of your modern-day legends with me? Who do you think has got the staying power to still be celebrated in 30+ years or even for our grandchildren to know their music when played on the radio (or whatever the futuristic equivalent will be)?

Maybe there's too much choice out there or it's easier to be seen and heard because of the way in which our media allows this to happen. Does our fast-paced world demand that we need to be given more choice and less time to appreciate it?

And just because it marries two amazing artists, and because I recently mentioned in a Listography post that it was one of the first records ever gifted to me, I will share just one song with you today. It's Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie - but it is the a-capella / no music version. Just purity at its best. Enjoy!


My Extra Planning Systems For Home And Beyond

Recently I shared my own planning system for 2016 - you can read the blog post here and watch the video here on Facebook - and I mentioned that I also have another two planners for different uses which help keep me and the rest of the family organised in different ways. Both of these planners use a week-on-two-pages style of layout however they do differ slightly.


Stick To Stigu

Stick To Stigu Planner

The Stigu planner is slightly bigger than A5 size and spiral-bound so it lies flat on your desk.  It is marketed as a 'rest and zest handbook', incorporating a desk calendar, a notebook and a to-do pad. It opens with an explanation of how the planner can be used and introduces the monthly themes. Next is a full year planner over a double page spread and then we move straight into the weekly spread.

As previously noted, each month follows a theme; for example, Restore, Meditate, Breathe, Let Go - with each weekly spread having a note to help you achieve this theme.  The weekly spread then has a lot of blank space on the left hand side for you to write your notes and to-do lists or to just doodle on and the right hand page is split into 35 boxes - seven days of the week, five columns - so you can have different columns for different sections of your plans. Each page has a perforated corner that you tear off at the end of each week - this acts as your page marker throughout the year which is a lovely attention to detail.

I am using this planner to try and keep a schedule for my blog, YouTube channel and, to some extent, my promotional social media. Last year I took a step back from it all and blogged less to try and find out what worked and what didn't work. I've now got a fairly clear idea of what I want to do in 2016 so have already planned out some ideas for the month of January which include certain blog posts, video ideas for my YouTube channel, how to grow my Instagram followers and some quiz themes for the Friday Twiz.  At the end of each month I am going to look back and see what was successful then see how I can move forward with it.  

Buy the Stick To Stigu Planner from the Stigu website.

Parent Planner

Parent Planner from Jump! Mag

The Parent Planner has been produced by Jump! Mag with the intention to help you be more organised as a family. This planner is A5 size and also spiral-bound. The usage notes at the front of the book encourage you to 'dream big and plan small' and have spaces for you to write down your long term and short term goals along with hints to help create new habits and routines. Next in the planner is a space for recurring family appointments and then a 'small business social media calender' which would help with advance scheduling or keeping a track of followers.

The main body of the planner provides a monthly spread across two pages with more planning prompts such as bills to be paid, school appointments, a monthly goal and an inspirational quote. Following on from this, each week is spread across a double page and each day is split into five sections providing space to plan for morning, afternoon, kids, meals and your top three things to do on that day.  Again, there are boxes available for notes to drive you towards your goals and achievements, to jot down your shopping list and more inspirational quotes to keep you focused, with the recommendation being that you carry this one planner with you for all aspects of your life. One thing that is missing from this planner is a page marker - I prefer to be able to flip straight to the page that I'm working on rather than scrabble through the book. 

Now that my youngest is at college, there's little need for me to have a full scale 'family' planner but there are still aspects of family life that we all need to have as a central communication point. Therefore this planner is going to take the place of the kitchen calender and all the notes that are left around the house reminding people to do things.  I will jot down college days, my running schedule, meal plans and medical appointments that we all need to be aware of and leave it in a prominent place in the kitchen where we can add notes to it. 

Buy the Parent Planner from the Jump! Books website.


Do have a look at the full planning blog post I wrote last week however I am interested to hear how you schedule your life. Do you use a planner to write in or do you use something more digital like your phone or Google calender? Let me know. 


Soundtrack To My Life - Karen

Karen is a rare blogger breed - she's a fellow Northerner who writes about family time, days out and general adventures. She is also admin on a great Facebook group for bloggers in the North of England. Here's Karen's Soundtrack To My Life with the story behind each tune.


Jimmy Sommerville: Read My Lips

This song reminds me of my lovely mum. I remember sitting in the lounge, aged 8 or 9, listening to my mums records and tapes. This was always one of my favourite and I loved singing along. I think she has pretty good taste in music, my mum!

The Carpenters: Top Of The World

My parents split up when I was very young and my dad lived quite far away, so The Carpenters remind me of those long car journeys to and from his house. Top of The World remains one of my favourite sing-a-long songs to this day.

Bon Jovi: Bad Medicine

Through those angsty teenage years I developed a deep love for Bon Jovi's music. Bad Medicine from the New Jersey album was, and will always be, a song that provides an instant lift from a bad mood!

Metallica: Nothing Else Matters

Getting heavier song by song here aren't I?! Although this is a song from a heavy metal band, it is actually a ballad. Metallica are one of my husband's favourite bands and it was the song we had the first dance to at our wedding almost six years ago.

Metallica: Wish Monkey (More commonly known as One)

I know, two songs by the same artist is a bit naff! I couldn't leave this out though because it's for my boys. Our love of rock music has definitely rubbed off on our children (let's face it, it was never going to be any other way) and One is definitely a contender for their favourite song. There's a line in the song that says 'Hold my breath as I wish for death' which I thought was a bit morbid for a three year old to be singing, but fortunately my eldest misheard it anyway and has always sung the line as 'Hold my breath as I wish monkey'. It'll do for me!


Soundtrack To My Life
You can find Karen on her blog - That Lancashire Lass - or on Twitter.  If you're a blogger in the North of England then also have a look at the NW Bloggers Facebook group.

Read and listen to all previous Soundtrack To My Life entries here or follow the Pinterest board. If you want to participate please complete this form and I'll be in touch very soon.

Interesting Online Activities

Interesting Online Activities
I’m always looking for new activities to keep me occupied, especially now that I have the evenings to myself. There’s nothing wrong with following your favourite series on the TV or getting hooked on the latest boxset on Netflix however I try not to sit and watch television all night and I’m also trying to use my laptop time more effectively. In the new year I’m planning on picking up my Open University degree again but I found these three online activities which I’ll be trying out in 2016.


Online shopping is always a winner. You can find some great deals online - especially on Amazon or Ebay and with walmart ca coupons, you don’t have to battle against the post-Christmas sale crowds in the town centre and all your goodies get delivered straight to your door!. Apparently around 50% of people shop online so the theory that retail therapy is good for you must be true!

Online Gaming

Online gaming for real money is hugely popular at the moment. As long as you follow the responsible gaming guidelines and set limits on your spending then there’s lots of fun to be had, especially on sites like http://www.slotsheaven.com/ which has a variety of games to play and a chance to win some cash for the new year! I also like playing a few games of bingo online as a change from playing at the local bingo hall

Learning A New Language

How about starting off 2016 with a bit of self-improvement? Have you got a holiday planned or have a business trip to attend? Why not set yourself the challenge of learning a new language and impressing the locals! There’s plenty of choice over on the BBC Languages website. It’s not being updated any more but all the information is still available. I fancy learning Spanish properly for when we head off later in the summer.

Do you have any other suggestions for me to fill my time? I also like doing online jigsaws (no little pieces to lose and I don’t use up all the space on the dining table) and browsing weird and wonderful pages I find using StumbleUpon. I’m also teaching myself origami so that I have an unusual activity to do with the grandchildren when they visit. What else would you add to keep me out of mischief?


Bend the truth

Christmas and the New Year always brings new gadgets and gizmos to our lives, most areuseless and simply a bad buy, while some can enhance your life. We discuss the fact that smartphones and the Apple Watch have made keeping up to date with our personal data far more achievable. Tablets are now far more powerful and transportable so we look at how gaming has moved on in these platforms. Despite this let’s present a cynical eye on this technology as it can also be a vacuum of our time of they don’t operate normally.

Bend the truthThere are many new apps and packages which allow the user to be aware of their personal footprint at all times. These apps include fitness apps as they provide real time updates to your exercise routine or activity you do outside of work - these apps incentivise you to do more and persevere. A big player in the market is FitBit and although it sounds like something a teenage lad would say it’s actually a useful piece of kit.

Tablet computers themselves have also segregated into two different sectors this year. The first one is the rise of the non iPad tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 - these have made tablet use more accessible every day due to the lower costs. It has also encouraged users to take their device out with them and actually take advantage of the apps that are often underused such as video editing and photos. The second sector that has developed is the higher end/hi
gher cost into be used by writers, editors and those within creative fields - there is also a stylus pen which is a new product for Apple.

Far more advanced games can be used on tablets now and 2016 should see the further rise of non console gaming as the games are often cheaper, simpler and more accessible. Many businesses now offer live game play such as LadyLucks, the Pots O Plenty slots jackpot is a great place to start. Such games would have struggled on earlier tablets so this is a clear indicator that the technological power has moved on. Despite all the advances, technology is getting smaller and thinner which creates a lot of risk to actual products themselves, risks included breakages and costly repairs such as the infamous bendy new iPhone. However if you take care of the latest tech it can prove to be a real life changer and give you far more opportunities for yourself in 2016.


What's In My Handbag (Part 7) - The 2016 Edition

What's In My Bag 2016 - Atmosphere from Primark

I adore watching 'What's In My Bag' videos on YouTube (I've filmed a couple of my own in the past too) however after receiving a lovely new bag for Christmas and treating myself to a new purse with a gift vouchers I thought I'd give you a sneaky peek into I carry around with me on a daily basis. It also gave me a really good excuse to have a tidy up and sort through all the Christmas present receipts that I needed to put away in a safe place that I'll instantly forget the moment I need them.

The bag is from Atmosphere at Primark. Not a hugely expensive brand but this shape, size and handle size is perfect for me for every day use at work. It has one large front pocket and inside the bag there are two small pockets and zipped pocket. It's in a gorgeous burgundy colour which I would probably never have bought for myself but I now love it!

If I'm going out at weekend I tend to move my purse, keys and phone into another, smaller bag (another Atmosphere at Primark bag - bowling bag style) and I always have a spare pen and a couple of business cards and a lip gloss in there too.

I've tried smaller bags but have found myself adding items each day and trying to squeeze extra items in. And without wanting to genderise the whole "bag thing", I have noticed that more guys are using 'man-bags' these days but there's much more style choice these days, isn't there? I used to wonder how people cope with just the stuff they can carry in their pockets but not many of my clothes have pockets in them (or they are too flimsy) and maybe that's the reason why.

Do you think that carrying around all this stuff is normal and similar to you or is this a bit excessive? What size bag do you use? Let me know!

What's in the bag...

car and house keys | Samsung J5 phone with a shockproof cover from Amazon | business card holder | Lumsing portable charger  | a mini Sharpie | Hobonichi Techo planner | Jasper Conran purse | Debenhams card holder | Ted Baker glasses case which holds my spare glasses, my cheap sunglasses and a contact lens case with some solution in it | a Tangle Tease brush | Perceive from Avon body spray | two spare pens - a fineliner and a 4-colour biro | make up bag with Bare Minerals lipgloss in Maverick, a pack of disposable nail files, a small mirror, a handbag size spray of Perceive from Avon, a No7 mascara, Smashbox black and white eyeliner, a mini lip brush, a glass nail file,plasters, a double-ended eye shadow sponge, Burts Bees lip balm | a Nutrigrain breakfast bar | tissues | headache tablets | a packet of Polos and a box of Tictacs | Nivea hydro care lip balm 

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