New Stationery For The New Term

As many of us start to return to school, college or university over the next few weeks, I thought you'd like my top stationery picks to ease you into the new term.

New Stationery For The New Term - back to school stationery picks

Notebooks and Diaries

Depending on what your preference is, there are many great diaries that will see you through the academic year and beyond and I have a few favourites.  The first is from Moleskine and is an 18-month diary with a week to view - you can purchase this in either pocket size or large size.  The second is the Acad-Pad from Dodopad which is available in a variety of sizes and formats. For a luxury leather journal or personalised diary then take a look at Hope House Press (it's my friend's business and you can read about it here) .  Finally, I love to stuff a small notebook into the back of my Filofax or the bottom of my bag so that I've always got paper to hand. The best place to buy pocket notebooks is... er... Pocket Notebooks as they've got tons in their range.

New Stationery For The New Term - back to school stationery picks from Moleskine, Dodopad, Hope House Press and Pocket Notebooks

Pens And Pencils

A good pen is important whether you're taking notes, writing notes or essays or just doodling. I love the Cross Tech3+ which is a multi-function pen, negating the need to carry loads of pens around with you (review coming soon on this).  If you're after a fountain pen, I can highly recommend a Lamy (the Safari is my favourite) or a Kaweko Sport (I was recently bought this in the mint green as a present) and I love to use different coloured ink such as green or purple!  Finally, I've recently had the pleasure of becoming the proud owner of a Monteverde Prima Rollerball (video here) which is a thick barrelled, heavy pen and suits my needs perfectly.  If you're after a multi function pencil then you'll not go far wrong with the Worther Pencil as a nice little twist on your traditional mechanical pencil. The different coloured leads write on different surfaces plus there is a refill to make the pencil into a ballpoint pen. 

New Stationery For The New Term - back to school stationery picks from Pen Heaven


Last, but not least, you're going to want some accessories.  If you like brightly coloured fun items in your bag or pencil case then check out the full range from Smiggle who have the best ever pencil cases and all your other stuff like erasers, sharpeners and calculators. For post-it notes or washi-tape have a look at Ohh Deer and if you're after the more traditional equipment you could try the retro-styled Oxford Maths set from MapedHelix.

New Stationery For The New Term - back to school stationery picks from Smiggle, MapedHelix and OhhDeer

I'd love to hear if you have stationery favourites for Back To School time. For me, I love treating the grandchildren to a few bits for their pencil case and it warms the cockles of my heart when they come back from spending their pocket money with new notebooks, colouring pencils and highlighters (as they did this weekend).

Note: I'm working with Pen Heaven at the moment therefore a few links in this blog post point to their website. I have a review of their Cross Tech3+ pen and a set up of my new personal size Malden Filofax coming very soon. 

Any images have been taken directly from the website that sell each items. 


Three People Who Do Britney Better Than Britney

Three People Who Do Britney Better Than Britney
Britney gives good shade! Kudos points if you can name the video/song this still is from?!

You watch Carpool Karaoke, right? Simple but genius - and I imagine singers are queued up to appear on it to show that (a) they can actually sing and (b) they have a sense of humour.  Anyway, I just watched the most awkward episode. It was the one where Britney Spears forgets the words to all her own songs and mimes quite a bit. I feel it had been worked into her recent PR campaign with the producers of the show having to edit it heavily and it shows.

But I'm not here to analyse the video (that happened on Facebook) but I literally laughed out loud when Ruth mentioned that James Corden sings Britney songs better that Britney does, which led to people sharing videos of famous people doing impressions of Britney.

So, ever the public service, I decided that you needed to see these too and here are my top three. You're welcome. Feel free to share more in the comments. The world needs to see these! 

1.  Nicole Scherzinger

2. Christina Aguilera

3.  Ariana Grande

Side note : I wrote this blog post on Saturday morning before Nicole Shirtslinger was on X-Factor and Xtra-Factor doing all the bloody Britney impressions.  I have a feeling she's following me on Facebook and gets all her ideas from me... 

Bonus : Jedward

Not an impression but who can forget Jedward's X-Factor performance? 
Oh, you had...? Sorry (not sorry)!


How To Make A Matinee Jacket From Granny Squares

How To Make A Matinee Jacket From Granny Squares

A few weeks ago I shared a picture of a matinee jacket I'd created out of 12 crocheted granny squares and lots of people asked for the pattern.  I made this after viewing a few variations I'd seen on Pinterest and on crafting blogs.

How To Make A Matinee Jacket From Granny Squares
I hope you enjoy this and scroll down for some mini hints and tips plus a one minute video tutorial if you prefer that type of thing.

I have used double knit yarn in two contrasting colours

  • Crochet 12 granny squares 
  • Sew six granny squares together to make the back
  • Sew three granny squares together to make the right hand front side
  • Sew three granny squares together to make the left hand front side
  • Sew the three sections together.  Start at the second group of stitches to create a collar opening
  • Add a border by crocheting two rows of double crochet around all the open edges
  • Create a button loop by chaining 7 and attaching to the border
  • Add a button

Hints And Tips

  • If you are a complete beginner with crochet then see here for a video tutorial from Bella Coco which shows you how to make a granny square
  • Each time you create a new 'round' on your granny square, flip it over and work the 'reverse'. This helps to stop the edges from curling up
  • Attach a new colour of yarn in the opposite corner from where you finished the previous colour. This helps to prevent any 'weak' corners

Please do let me know if you make one of these and share your pictures in the comments section. I'd also like to hear about or see any other variations on this pattern you may have created.  Happy crocheting! 


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Soundtrack To My Life - My Top 5 Duran Duran Tracks

Soundtrack To My Life - My Top 5 Duran Duran Tracks
Hello Soundtrack To My Life... it's been a while, hasn't it? Anyway... before you proceed, please bear in mind that this is (a) not a definitive list - every girl has a right to change her mind and (b) I started with a list of twelve tracks and had to whittle it down, so the second I hit the 'publish' button, I'll probably want to put point 'a' into action.

But it all stems from this article I read the other day which made me realise that even the most loyal of fans have different 'favourite' tracks, and they aren't necessarily the most popular or the ones that made it to the top of the charts.

I'm not going to give a potted history of Duran Duran because, if you are reading this you are probaby a bit of a fan yourself, however many of their songs are fairly timeless and it's interesting to see that, even though they have been together (in various formats) for almost 40 years, they are still performing live and releasing albums today, with very little variation in their style. So, as promised before all the waffle here are my top 5 Duran Duran tracks.


Their debut single from 1981 and, even though I was only 9 years old at the time, I can absolutely remember the first time I heard this. It quickly became a style of music that I felt really comfortable with (electro coupled with decent bass and a clever drum rhythm) and within a couple of years, my bedroom walls were adorned with posters of the band, torn carefully from pop magazines.

This is on the 1982 album, Rio, but I never owned a copy so the first time I encountered this song was from the album, Arena, recorded on their 'Sing Blue Silver' tour.  I don't know what it is about this song, but the atmosphere it creates inside my head when I listen to it just makes me totally relax. Also, if you listen to the studio version right to the end, there's a subtle jangle of keys just after the fade.

The video to this song always reminds me of the film Girl, Interrupted and this song is the only release from the album, Red Carpet Massacre. When compiling this list, I realised that I'd chosen mainly slow songs (see the note at the end for the omission of the more obvious tracks) - I'm not sure if that's because they invoke memories of how I felt when listening to this band as a teenager or whether it's a reflection of the way I appreciate music now.

Interestingly, this song only peaked at #52 in the British music charts, even though some big and current names were included in the production of this track but I think that was down to confusion about the future of the band (Andy Taylor had left and the whole album had been rewritten and rerecorded) and also maybe because it was the time we were moving through the transition from physical sales to downloads; a really weird time for a traditional 'pop' band to move into a new way of making music available to listeners.

Seven And The Ragged Tiger was the first Duran Duran album I properly owned (i.e. a physical copy, not a bootleg or borrowed copy) and every time I hear NMOM I feel that it's one of those types of songs that I can completely lose myself in and dance to on my own with not a care in the world.

I could have probably counted the number of cover versions (that I know of) that Duran Duran have done on two fingers, then I discovered that they did a whole album of them in the mid-1990's - but it feels like no-one really wants to mention it... apart from the track, White Lines.  The style of this cover and the production of the video are far removed from what I was used to but, for some reason, it works. And I love it. 

Are you surprised that The Reflex or Wild Boys isn't mentioned?  Me too... but they always feel like the tunes that would be the go-to track for an 'Ultimate 80s' playlist and I didn't want this to be like that. I also had to remove Save A Prayer and Reach Up For The Sunrise from the list because I'd limited myself to just five.  SEE... I'M DOING IT ALREADY... AARRGGHH.

What would you have included?

Soundtrack To My Life - My Top 5 Duran Duran Tracks - Duran Duran through the years


Soundtrack To My Life
Congratulations if you got 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 <<<


Twitter - It Ain't What It Used To Be

Twitter - It Ain't What It Used To Be
I'll preface this by saying I've been using Twitter since November 2008. I've seen it develop and grow and it will always be the first place I turn to find peer conversations, to promote my blog posts and to find snippets of information or news that I can go and research. It has also developed into a place where I can live-stream my view on television programmes and interact with other viewers without leaving the comfort of my own couch. 

The beauty of Twitter is that you can choose who to follow and, to some extent, you can choose who follows you. You can be educated, you can befriend a celebrity, you can watch the world go by through the eyes/tweets of others.

But the whole concept of Twitter has changed.  It now feels like a boring broadcast channel with not very many conversations happening.  Of course, my crew - the old school bloggers - are very much feeling this at the moment and I truly believe that it is because social media 'experts' have ensured that they offer the best possible advice to be 'seen' on social media
  • schedule tweets so you are always 'there'
  • create evergreen content so that you always have something relevant to share
  • use images to stand out from the crowd
  • use gif images to stand out even more
and so on, and so on, especially now that blogging and social media is very much seen as a career and a possible lucrative income stream.

But just hold the fuck up here for a minute.  It's OK to send all this information out with hashtags galore and the ICYMI preface (In Case You Missed It - I had to look that up a few weeks ago) and a 'From the archive' teaser but if you're not there to interact once someone has clicked on that link, what is the point in sharing it?

If you're in it for the numbers (and some of those numbers are bought impressive) then I don't think we can be friends any more. I tweeted this out not so long ago and I've already started a slow unfollow spree (and, I'm not precious about who follows or unfollows me - I never actually check). 

But before you spam the comments with reasons why I'm looking at this in the wrong way - maybe it IS me and not you. Maybe I do yearn for the old, quiet days of Twitter where it was easy to find new people to talk to in an open timeline and where everyone wasn't vying for my attention to try and sell me something or to get me to click on a link so it could be reported in as a statistic.

I've tried the commercial social media route which didn't succeed for reasons that aren't up for discussion in the blog post. I've got another couple of blogs on which I have shared (and still share) commercial content from time to time but there's no reason for me to try and artificially elevate the numbers on there any more.  People don't need my content forced down their throat but I do know that if someone reads it and enjoys it, they may share it with a few friends and create those ripples rather than throwing a huge great rock into small pond and expecting there not to be a splash that soaks everyone and pisses them off.

But anyway - I'm always up for a bit of a chat on Twitter. It's where I find some sanity in an otherwise hectic day and I always ALWAYS reply to people. There's definitely a dark side to Twitter (something which is touched upon here by The Guyliner in GQ Magazine) and it's something I am looking to write about too but I don't want to clog up these thoughts at the moment.

I'd love to know what you think about this at the moment.

Things I Learnt In July

I thought July was a bit of a quiet month but when I looked back I realised that I'd been up to more than I thought.  

Things I Learnt In July - bloggingMy blog (in it's current format) has been in existence for 7 years.  In that time I've written 1269 blog posts (and then some, as I've deleted the odd one here and there) and have had almost 1.5 million visitors to the blog. It's nowhere near as much as many of my blogging peers but I'm pretty proud of my little corner of t'internet because: 

Deep stuff... Do you have any favourites or is there a particular blog post that sticks out in your memory? I'd love to know about it. 

If you start counting at one and spell out the numbers as you go, you won't use the letter "A" until you reach 1,000      *I see you trying random numbers in your head*

If you phone Specsavers they provide an option for their hearing aid provision before their glasses or contact lens department.

Every time I type (which is quite a lot in my job) I end up typing Gove. It's rather annoying and I'm convinced I've been brainwashed by the media over the past few months.

Things I Learnt In July  - Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go is a bloody genius game. I've seen teenagers in my running group wanting to run a full 5k so they can hatch an egg or run past a few Pokestops, it's made me take the dog out for extra walks and it's completely changed the life of my friend's autistic teenage son (BBC News link - read/watch now).

I love crochet and I made a really cute little matinee jacket out of 12 granny squares after seeing an image in a crafting Facebook group. I'm going to write it up on my blog so you can have a go yourself. Leading on from this, I fancied returning to knitting so a friend provided a pattern book for me. Knitting is. so. slow. and I had to rip it back a few times but I think I've found my rhythm again now.

The Running Section Makes A Welcome Return...

Things I Learnt In July - running a virtual 5k and running a 10k in BlackpoolI've made more of a concerted effort to 'enjoy' running again. I'm still co-leading our community 'couch to 5k' running group - 5k Group Run - and I've thrown myself into the organisation of our Wednesday Social Run.  I also entered the Fylde Coast Runners Blackpool 10k which was Bloody Hard Work.  I hadn't run that distance at all since I ended up having to take time out between December and March and had only worked my way back up to 8k.  I had to walk a little bit between 7k and 8k on the day but I finished the course in around the time I was expecting.  Since then I've also participated in a virtual 5k which you can find out about on the Fat Girls Guide To Running website and, as it's a monthly commitment, I'm going to encourage one runner per month to join me in doing this 

My video of the month is some drone footage. It was filmed during one of our Monday runs and shows runners of all abilities coming together to keep fit and motivated.  There's also a OH MY GOD, THAT'S ME blink and you miss me, I'm going that fast moment between 2m48s and 2m53s!

And finally, our running community lost one of it's members this week. Andrew was one of those guys who was passionate about inclusive running, always supporting the slower runners or pacing people to a specific time in a race. He died suddenly on Sunday 31st July after suffering a stroke on the Saturday morning on his way to joining one of our group runs. Two things have happened since then:

  1. A whole community of runners came together from at least four different running clubs/programmes the day after he died and ran 5k together in our local Country Park in his memory
  2. He continued to help people even after his death as he became an organ and tissue donor, helping at least five other people to continue their own lives. 

Organ donation is something that I'm totally passionate about for a variety of reasons and I urge everyone who is eligible to officially register as an organ and tissue donor so that you can help someone. Also, please let your nearest and dearest know of your wishes as it is ultimately them who make that decision for you at their most difficult and emotional time.

And that's it for another month. You'll be glad to know that I didn't bore you with details of my 24th wedding anniversary (we didn't do anything) because I'm saving all the words for next year when it is our Silver Wedding Anniversary.  Don't forget, I'd also love to hear what you've been up to or what you've learnt this month. 


[GIVEAWAY] Win Leggings From Wild Bangarang

When I'm out running I love to make sure that I'm wearing the comfortable clothing and that I'm easily noticed - and that's where Wild Bangarang hit the spot on both scores. 

You might have caught a few snaps of me on Instagram sporting fancy leggings such as my Anne Stokes Gothic Skulls or my WoW Felfire Infernal which I'm convinced make me run faster... 

Wild Bangarang specialise in creative lifestyle wear that is perfect for running, roller derby, ice skating, working out at the gym or just making an impact in every day life with their designs available on leggings, dresses and skirts .  They work with licensed partners to create designs based on World of Warcraft and Power Rangers and also with independent artists such as Anne Stokes.  

Having fallen in love with the unique styles - and loving all the comments I receive when wearing them - I asked Wild Bangarang if they wanted to partner with me on a giveaway and they agreed, providing two prizes for my readers.  Please follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below to secure your entry.

  • PRIZE 1 = 2 x leggings from any range at Wild Bangarang
  • PRIZE 2 = 1 x leggings from any range at Wild Bangarang 

As an additional bonus, the fab team at Wild Bangarang have provided a discount code for my readers to use in August.
Enter TYPECAST15 when ordering to receive a 15% discount.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS * This giveaway will begin at 00:01 on 1st August 2016 and will close at 23:59 on 14th August 2016 * This giveaway is open to any of my readers aged 18 or above who reside in the UK. * There is no cash alternative to the giveaway * There is one compulsory entry which asks the entrant to comment on this blog. You can gain additional entries using the options in the Rafflecopter widget * There are two (2) prize in total * The prizes have been provided by Wild Bangarang * The prize winners 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.
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