WIN A 12-month Xbox Game Pass

We are a family of gamers and it's normally fairly easy to find a gift at Christmas or on a birthday because there's always a new game release available.  But buying games throughout the year can become expensive so, thanks to a fantastic collaboration with Smyths Toys here's the ultimate present... the XBox Game Pass and I've got one for you to win in time for Christmas!

WIN A 12-month Xbox Game Pass


First I've got the lowdown and some FAQs on the XBox Game Pass. Have a read through and then enter the competition below.



What is Xbox Game Pass library?


The Xbox Game Pass can be described as a 'Netflix for video games'.  It is a subscription service available to customers to purchase a multitude of games at a set cost each month. The Game Pass library includes over 100 great Xbox One and Xbox 360 backward compatible titles including Forza Motorsport 7, Disneyland Adventures, Sea of Thieves and Halo. A Game Pass allows you access to the library to download and play all games. This continues until your subscription is cancelled or expires, or a game leaves the Game Pass catalogue. You can buy a pass as a gift for one person or the whole family!

How does Game Pass work?

  • Visit www.microsoft.com/redeem where you sign in to or create your profile 
  • Redeem your 25-character prepaid Game Pass code
  • Browse the Xbox Game Pass catalogue or visit your Xbox dashboard.
  • Install your choice of games.
  • Play as much as you want, whenever you want.

Why buy the Game Pass?

  • You can play new Xbox exclusives the day they launch.
  • You have access 100+ Xbox One and Xbox 360 backward compatible games on your Xbox One.
  • You can play Xbox Play Anywhere games on your Windows PC and Xbox One.
  • You can buy subscriptions one month, six months or twelve months and play as much as you want 


What happens if your game leaves the library?

If your game leaves the library you will need a physical or digital copy of your game to continue playing. As a Game Pass member, you can save up to 20% off the purchase price of Game Pass games and 10% off downloadable content.

What is the difference between Live Gold and Game Pass?

Xbox Game Pass gives you unlimited access to over 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 backward compatible games.  The important thing is that  you don't need Xbox Live Gold to be able to use Xbox Game Pass but you can use XBox Live gold to play with your friends online.

So that's all the important stuff out of the way.  Do you still want the chance to win a 12-month XBox Game Pass worth £55? Of course you do!

There is one compulsory entry to this giveaway where you must tell me your best or worst Christmas cracker joke.  This must be typed into the comments section on the blog.  You can then check off hat entry in the Rafflecopter widget below. Additional entries are available which include social media activity.  Entries will be checked and verified and incorrect entries will be disqualified.  Full terms and conditions can be found below and in the Rafflecopter widget.




TERMS AND CONDITIONS * This giveaway will begin at 21:00 on 6th December 2018 and finish at 23:59 on 15th December 2018 * This giveaway is open to any of my blog readers aged 18 or above who reside in the UK. * There is no cash alternative to the giveaway * There is one (1) prize in total which is a 12-month subscription to XBox Game Pass * There is one compulsory entry which asks the entrant to comment on this blog providing their best/worst Christmas cracker joke * Additional entries will be available once the compulsory entry has been completed * Entries will only be accepted as instructed and any entrant that does not complete the qualifying requirements will be disqualified * The prize has been provided in conjunction with Smyths Toys * The winner will be chosen by using a random number generator built into the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted direct * The prize winner will be asked to provide their email address so that contact can be made to arrange prize delivery * Please contact me for further clarification on any of these T&C *


A huge thanks to Smyths Toys for providing the prize for this special giveaway.  Smyths Toys Superstores has 116 store locations throughout the UK and Ireland and you can check here for your nearest one. This leading toy retailer carries all the top brands and prides themselves on offering the most competitive prices on the best possible selection of products including toys, baby, outdoor and software games. Give them a quick follow on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.


Smyths Toys logo


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You Don't Bring Me Flowers...

Bloom Magic was founded in Dublin and focused initially on the Irish market but they've recently launched their services in the UK.  Their website is broken down in to "collections","occasions" and "price", making it really easy to navigate and find that special arrangement for your loved one. They also have seasonal offerings and the bouquets come with a flower care guide that provides you with plenty of tips to help your flowers last as long as possible (the bouquet in the pictures was one that I received from Bloom Magic and it lasted over two weeks!).

I was having a discussion with a friend this week about my first Saturday job in our local village greengrocers and florist (small family business). In any given week could be lugging sacks of potatoes about, bagging up carrots, serving customers on the till but my most favourite part was working in the florists section making up bouquets for passing customers.

I became pretty adept at throwing a few flowers, a bit of foliage and some gypsophela together into a presentable arrangement, wrapping it in plastic and adding some trimmings. I had no idea which flowers were which but had a good eye for colour. I was also fascinated the first time I saw ribbon scored with the edge of the scissors to create the decorative curls!

Bloom Magic was founded in Dublin and focused initially on the Irish market but they've recently launched their services in the UK.  Their website is broken down in to "collections","occasions" and "price", making it really easy to navigate and find that special arrangement for your loved one. They also have seasonal offerings and the bouquets come with a flower care guide that provides you with plenty of tips to help your flowers last as long as possible (the bouquet in the pictures was one that I received from Bloom Magic and it lasted over two weeks!).


One of the best parts of working in the florists though was putting together a gorgeous arrangement for a special birthday gift or watching the men (it was always the men... *sigh*) run in either very, very early or very, very late to pick up a forgotten anniversary or birthday gift. It sounds stereotypical but it's so true. I sometimes wish we got extra payment for speed arrangements.

I moved away eventually but returned to the very same florists when we were planning mum's funeral. We had said "no flowers" and wanted donations to go towards a much-needed machine at the hospital that treated mum but my sister and I also wanted our children (five in total) to find special gifts for her so we let them loose and asked them to pick their favourite flower. The age range of the children was between 2 and 13 and each flower that they picked represented them perfectly; a great big sunflower, a perfect white lily, others that I still didn't know the name of... but each one was matched with plastic and ribbon and the children wrote their own cards. Personal, pretty, perfect.

Flowers are such an intimate gift - so many ways to get it right, so easy to arrange and something that brightens up the room immediately. So when you can send or receive a beautiful bouquet direct to the door with minimum fuss and at reasonable prices, it's a gift that is very special. And that's why I loved working with Bloom Magic recently.


Bloom Magic was founded in Dublin and focused initially on the Irish market but they've recently launched their services in the UK.  Their website is broken down in to "collections","occasions" and "price", making it really easy to navigate and find that special arrangement for your loved one. They also have seasonal offerings and the bouquets come with a flower care guide that provides you with plenty of tips to help your flowers last as long as possible (the bouquet in the pictures was one that I received from Bloom Magic and it lasted over two weeks!).

The company was founded in Dublin and focused initially on the Irish market but they've recently launched their services in the UK.  Their website is broken down in to "collections","occasions" and "price", making it really easy to navigate and find that special arrangement for your loved one. They also have seasonal offerings and the bouquets come with a flower care guide that provides you with plenty of tips to help your flowers last as long as possible (the bouquet in the pictures was one that I received from Bloom Magic and it lasted over two weeks!).

Typically, I can count on one hand the amount of times that my husband has bought me flowers... FIVE!! When he first met me, after the birth of each child and then after a big operation. So I'm leaving this blog post open on my laptop as a HUGE hint and also, every time this song (the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain version is my absolute favourite) comes on the radio, I sing it at him. Loud!



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The Queen’s fashion secrets

With the Queen having an extremely busy schedule, it really is astonishing how she manages to look flawless at every occasion, whether it was during her sapphire jubilee celebrations or giving her annual Christmas day speech; her impeccable fashion constantly grabs the attention of everyone in the room.



Photo by Lea Fabienne on Unsplash - Buckingham Palace - the Queen's fashion secrets
Photo by Lea Fabienne on Unsplash


So, just how does The Queen continue to look elegant at every royal engagement she attends? Join us as we explore some of the style secrets that help to keep Her Majesty looking so effortlessly sophisticated…


Facing the British Weather


We all know how the British weather can be. What starts as a bright day can easily end in downpour. During her many royal appointments, which often take place outside, it’s important that the Queen’s wardrobe is up to the job.

Before she wears any dress or coat, her team tests their fabric using electrical fans. Helping to establish how the material would move in a breeze, small curtain weights are then sewn into the hem to give the fabric more weight where required.

Of course, the chance of a sudden downpour is not uncommon in the UK. The Queen’s umbrella of choice is a birdcage umbrella created by Royal Warrant holders, Fulton Umbrellas. The umbrellas have to be transparent, so crowds can see her.

Each of the bespoke umbrellas are perfectly matched to the colours the queen will be wearing. Ahead of an event, her majesty’s senior dresser will send a colour swatch, which Fulton Umbrellas then use to create an umbrella with a perfectly colour-matched trim.

The Queen’s choice of colour


Did you know each colour that The Queen has worn has been carefully chosen, considering the event it’s for? The colours are chosen to reflect the nature of the event — for example, for her Diamond Jubilee concert, she wore gold influenced by the Queen Victoria Memorial statue the stage was built around.

Likewise, colours will also be chosen to avoid blending in. For example, if an appointment is taking place in a park, the queen will very rarely wear green, as she won’t be as visible to the crowds. In general, bright colours are usually chosen to help her stand out.

The colours the Queen wears are monitored to ensure the same shades aren’t worn too closely together. For example, if she was to wear a lemon yellow dress early in the year, it would be avoided again for several months.

Practicality


Practicality is at the centre of each of her majesty’s outfits as she needs to stay flawless throughout often lengthy royal visits.

Visits can often involve car journeys and extended periods of sitting, it’s important that each outfit remains pristinely pressed. A stipulation given to each designer is that the Queen’s outfits must be made from wrinkle-proof material, designed to withstand every royal appointment.

The Queen’s footwear and accessories are similarly practical — her heel height is kept at 2.25 inches to ensure her comfort, while added insoles are often included too. When it comes to handbags, the Queen’s prefers Launer’s Royale and Traviata bags. They are designed with a longer handle so as to not interfere with handshaking or catch on the cuff of her preferred three-quarter length sleeves.

What is inside the handbag is also well thought-out. Weight is carefully considered depending on how long she will be holding it for. Although nobody really knows what’s inside her majesty’s handbag, it’s rumoured to contain reading glasses, mints, a compact mirror, lipstick and a fountain pen. She also only carries cash on a Sunday — and it’s always either a £5 or £10 note that is precisely folded.

Hats are no exception either. Designed by her milliner of choice, Rachel Trevor-Morgan, each hat is designed to not obscure her face. As such, the Queen avoids wide-brimmed hats. Height is also considered to ensure her majesty can easily get out of a vehicle.

With so many royal appointments to attend, it’s difficult to keep track of the outfits the Queen wears. As such, all of the Queen’s dressers keep their own handwritten wardrobe diaries, which keep track of what was worn and for what. While the queen will occasionally wear the same outfit again, it’s on a strict rotational basis to ensure it isn’t worn too closely together.

She makes looking impeccable easy. As her reign continues, we can expect to see more of the looks we love — although now we know the secrets behind them!

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How should you approach chatting with your daughter regarding her period?

How should you approach chatting with your daughter regarding her period? - Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
 
Do you remember when you started your period? Of course you do! It can be a very confusing yet anxious time for many. Luckily, Lil-Lets have a variety of products available that will help your daughter as she begins the changes to develop into adult life.

Alongside Lil-Lets, we’ve came up with a few steps of how you can tackle the challenging experience of having ‘the talk’ with your daughter.

Make sure your daughter is prepared in advance


More often than not, your daughters biggest worry is probably starting her period when she’s away from home or in school. To help prevent this fear, it’s a good idea to give her some pads to keep in her school bag just in case. Teen ranges specifically for this moment are sold in a variety of cosmetic stores across the UK – containing a variety of all products so that your daughter can try each and every one of them out to see which works better for her. These packages also come in a discreet cosmetic bag so that it can’t easily be identified by others. Wearing a pant liner on a daily basis can build her confidence as it alleviates any fear that she’ll be caught unaware.

The science…


What just are the basics behind a period? Although it may seem obvious, talking this through with your daughter may make her aware of how a period works so that she’s well informed of everything she needs to know about the whole process. Talking through all aspects of her body and periods will really help, and information displaying this can be accessed via a large number of sites.

Run through the products available


Although you’ll be used to each product yourself, you may forget that your daughter isn’t used to products similar to this. Once you've bought a pack, show her a pad, how she should position it and how to dispose of it afterwards.

This should give her the confidence to do it herself next time. If you’d both rather not have this conversation directly, our ‘Becoming a Teen’ YouTube channel features animated videos on how to use pads so she can have a look in her own time.

The same applies to tampons as they can be really confusing, especially as they come in both an applicator and non-applicator formats.
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Achieving My Running Goals in 2018

It's been just over a year since I joined Blackburn Road Runners. It's a decision that took me a long time to make but during the past twelve months I've come to realise that there's a time and a place for everything.  After my first race wearing a BRR vest (the Windmill 10k in Lytham) I decided to take a year for myself, attempt some challenges, say "YES" more than saying "no" and see if I could push myself beyond what I thought were my boundaries.

  • Challenge 1 : Lose weight
  • Challenge 2 : Run 1000 km in a year
  • Challenge 3 : Run a long distance race
  • Challenge 4 : Break 1h 10m in a 10k race

Achieving My Running Goals in 2018
Photo Credit : Gemma McAuley Photography

Losing Weight

The losing weight bit was separate to the running but was always going to compliment it.  I joined Slimming World and have lost almost 2.5 stone over the course of the year.  It's not as much as I hoped but its been steady progress. I could have stayed right on plan and possibly lost more weight but I like wine and gin and holidays...

Run 1000km In A Year

1000 kilometres, broken down into weekly chunks becomes just over 19km (or 12 miles) per week.  That sounds manageable, right?  I began the year with a plan to run a 10 mile race in March and started training with my original running gang from the C25K days who were seasoned pros, having run plenty of 10ks, half marathons and full marathons between them.  The mileage needed for training was just over 12 miles per week, and on the increase, so this challenge felt completely possible.

Over the year, I've been fairly on track and apart from a couple of weeks out for holidays and a week off due to a recurring knee injury, I'm absolutely on track to complete this.  If I'm being totally honest, I'd forgotten about this because Claire made me change my Garmin/Strava into miles and it was only recently that I noticed the annual total clocking up.  My current distance is 581.4 miles and I need to get to 621.5 in the final weeks of the year.  Forty miles in four weeks... BRING IT ON!

Achieving My Running Goals in 2018
Photo Credit : Lancashire Telegraph


Run A Long Distance Race


I'd been training for a 10 mile race in March.  Slowly but surely my mileage was increasing. I had no faith in myself, was plodding and 'jeffing' each training run but the date was looming and, weirdy, I was looking forward to it.  But fate took over, there was a huge snowfall the night before the race and we never made it to the start line.  Out of sheer determination I signed up for the most local long distance race - the Darwen Half Marathon - and completed challenge number three.  

It wasn't pretty and it took three hours. I knew I was better than that so signed up for another - very very flat - half marathon for three months down the line and carried on with the Friday long runs.  Again, I enjoyed the training but fate struck again and my second half marathon was on one of the hottest days of the year.  Again, it took almost three hours but I ran it on my own and I wanted to do better but there was plenty of time to revisit this distance. 

I already have my sights on the Freckleton Half Marathon for 2019 and my aim is to complete it in 2h 30m.

Breaking 1h 10m in a 10k race

It's no secret that I'm a slow runner but, for me, the holy grail of running was to run faster than 1h 10m in a 10k, however it felt impossible.  At the beginning of the year, my fastest ever 10k was around 1h 12m but I ran the East Lancs Hospice 10k in 1h 21m. The first time I felt that my goal was attainable was at the Wesham Summer 10k in May.  My official time was 1h 11m so I concentrated on finding a steady-ish pace during my long runs, mixing it up with some summer trail running (such fun!) and pushing it at parkrun.  Over the year, the longer runs made the shorter runs feel easier (naturally) and as I've lost weight, another few seconds have been chipped off regular routes here and there. My parkrun time has come down to 32 minutes and I came third in our club handicap race (5k) with a time of 31m 52s

But the ultimate goal was this elusive 1h 10m and I was determined to achieve it at the Windmill 10k - one year after my first race as a Blackburn Road Runner. I had completed a 5 mile race a few weeks before in a shade  under 56 minutes and I had enjoyed every step of the way. I even finished thinking I could have pushed a little bit more.  I was averaging 11-minute to 11.30-minute miles so I had to believe that my sub-1h 10m was going to happen, as long as I stayed positive. 

And it happened!  On a totally flat route, and in perfect running conditions (after horrendously cold rain earlier in the morning) I ran in line with my 5-mile pace and finished the 2018 Windmill 10k in 1h 7m 58s - a full 15 minutes faster than the year before and completely shocking myself! Achievement Unlocked!

Achieving My Running Goals in 2018


So the last race of the year was the Wesham 10k.  It's not quite as flat as the Lytham route but it's a race that I enjoy.  I wasn't going for a specific time but I did want to run maybe a little bit faster than our usual training speed and test myself for consistency.  Conditions were perfect again, I was feeling confident and I've been training myself not to look at my watch to check pace or distance.  I started with Pat and Chez (I ran with them at the Winter Warmer earlier this year) for the first three or four kilometres and then caught up with them again around 7k.  I hit the last 500 meters and decided to give it everything I had left. I built up my "sprint" finish carefully, managed to overtake five people on the run up to the finish line and ended with an official time of 1h 4m 55s!! Another Personal Best!!

What a way to end the year! I'm so grateful too every single person who has run with me this year, offered advice, put up with my moaning, believed in me and given me the confidence to keep going! 



I've finished 'racing' in 2018 now.  I'm planning on doing our local Santa Dash with the grandchildren in a couple of weeks and there's a couple of parkruns I'd like to do but nothing major. And my next goal?  A sub-30 minute 5k or parkrun.  I have no idea when it will happen but I can't wait to find out! 


~ follow me on Strava ~


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Choosing A Diary For Next Year

It's round about now that I start wading through the bajillion choices that I have available for next year's diary.  


Last year I was all over the leather diary from Hope House Press and this year I was about to update my Filofax/Bullet Journal set up but then I received an email from Jofelo asking me if I wanted to have a look at some of their leather journals.

Leather journals can always seem like an expensive option when choosing a diary but you are paying for quality and for the leather to patina and become even more unique with use.  It's one of the reasons that I love my Malden Filofax and my Fossil Sydney Satchel handbag - they are both getting better with age. Also, journals are to be used for creativity and to hold your thoughts, plans and dreams. You want to own something that's going to 'grow' with you.

Choosing A Diary For Next Year - the Trekker travellers notebook from Jofelo


I've decided that the Jofelo journal that I'm going to use as my diary for next year is the "Trekker". It's a travellers notebook style journal which is a very portable at 4.75 inches x 8.5 inches and comes with four notebooks.  Three are bound into the journal (one unlined, one lined and one kraft paper - all 80gsm) with a spare unlined white refill. 

The Trekker takes on the form of a traditional travellers notebook with one elastic and one extender, hence being able to hold three notebooks.  There is also a slim leather bookmark with a circular metal token on the end.  The whole journal held closed by a single elastic strap with a protective leather tab attached.

Also, I will be ordering a diary system from The Journal Shop this year and I'm currently browsing the choices.  I'm torn between the weekly vertical system and the week + notes system, especially as I plan to have a notebook in my journal anyway!  


Choosing A Diary For Next Year - the Unwritten Journal leather notebook from Jofelo


As soon as I visited the Jofelo website I spotted their "Unwritten Journey" journal.  It's a hefty journal measuring 5.5 inches x 7.5 inches and it comes with five blank notebook (a total of 300 pages of white, unlined, 120gsm paper) but I thought that each notebook could be used for a different purpose.  The journal cover itself is made from a dark brown, full grain, horse leather that is 2mm thick giving it extra durability.

Now, the notebooks come already bound into the cover using an intricate criss-cross bounding technique.  I haven't attempted to remove any of the notebooks to replace them but I'm sure it's pretty logical to be able to bind them back in again.  The journal also incorporates a pen loop inside the cover and a single strap of leather as a bookmark and a double-lock strap fastening for added security.

What are you going to use for next year's diary? Are you still using a paper system or have you completely converted to digital calendars?  I do mix the two but, as I've said on a number of occasions, if it's not written down, it's probably not going to happen.




Disclaimer : I was provided with the two journals mentioned in this review however my views and ideas are my own.  Thank you to Jofelo for approaching me and working with me.
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How social media is mixing up our eating and drinking habits

Eating, drinking and being active on social media plays a part in the majority of everyone’s daily lives these days. There’s no doubt that technology is changing the way we go about our everyday lives. At the beginning of the year, research found that 83% of the UK’s adult population are active on social media. While we are using this platform to stay in contact with each other, we are also posting snaps of our days in a way to ‘boast’ about our activities, whether this is regarding our latest adventure, or most recent choice of food.

Here, with plastic glasses suppliers, Inn Supplies, we discuss how social media is indeed changing our eating and drinking habits.


Meal portions


A study has shown that highly active social media users are actually eating smaller portions. This is due to the fact they aren’t willing to part with enough time to eat a large meal. Whether this is the case or not, it’s concerning to think that people are putting their social media addiction ahead of gaining the nutrients needed to fulfil a balanced diet. 

How social media is mixing up our eating and drinking habits


Food envy


With cameras often snapping meals all over the world, it’s a phenomenon we simply can’t avoid. Stats found that in America, half of the population take pictures of their food, with food they’ve cooked being the most photographed meal. As well as this, over one in five US residents share images of the food they’ve received at a party or wedding.

Often, this can provide us (the viewer) with a sense of food envy. We appreciate a good thing when we see it, and often, due to social media, we can get cravings for certain food and drink. After all, nowadays it’s seen as an art form, with dinners being specifically laid out to wow the recipient. 

Food choices


Believe it or not, with so many food choices, social media is actually helping us eat healthier. While we keep sharing images of our delicious dishes, we are also sharing recipes, education, tips and a whole lot more.

Kathy Smart, CEO of Live the Smart Way says: “You are more apt to try a recipe or a new food when you see a picture of it and have a friend or person you trust recommend trying it or how to use it.”

The key fact is that a lot of recipes being shared are quick and easy to make, which is appealing to the majority. Putting an image alongside them is quickly grabbing our attention as healthy foods are often the most photogenic due to their vibrant colours.

How social media is mixing up our eating and drinking habits


Launching careers from it?


With the advances in technology, being a social media influencer is now classified as a job for some. This role, coupled with the fact that they have generated a dedicated online following, allows the user to establish credibility and persuade a large audience to purchase goods. Some influencers, including Shisodelicious, have an estimated salary of over £20,000.

To be a social media influencer, you must share your life transparently in order for companies to recognise your ‘importance’. Although lately this craze has been slammed by Twitter for creating an unrealistic expectation of reality

With more of us using social media daily, it’ll be interesting to see how our future diets are affected because of technology.



Sources
https://www.avocadosocial.com/the-latest-uk-social-media-statistics-for-2018/
http://switch.us/blog/social-media-changed-way-eat-drink/
https://www.statista.com/chart/12776/half-of-americans-take-pictures-of-their-food/
https://blog.influencerdb.com/top-10-uk-food-influencers-creating-the-biggest-buzz-on-instagram/
http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/how-social-media-influences-the-foodnutrition-message
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Soundtrack To My Life : Songs You Should Never Play At A Funeral

For new(er) readers, or those not in the know, Soundtrack To My Life is an irregular music series that appears on my blog from time to time.  Over the years, I've had guest posts from people who documented songs that transport them back to a specific moment in their life and I've generated playlists for a variety of reasons (click here to scroll through the 100+ entries). 

Soundtrack To My Life : Songs You Should Never Play At A Funeral



So, moving on from an entry earlier this year of Songs You Should Never Play On Hospital Radio, there was only one way to go... Songs You Should Never Play At A Funeral.  I've collated a few here but please feel free to hit me up on any of my social media channels and suggest your own.


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Your loved one has just passed away and the family are gathered around paying their last respects.  The last song you want to hear is Another One Bites The Dust softly playing in the background on the kitchen radio.




It's now time to decide whether you want a burial or a cremation. I've always wanted to be buried but my husband has always expressed a preference for cremation and it's important to discuss these things.  Maybe listening to  Ashes to Ashes and Going Underground on repeat will help you make up your mind?





I've always enjoyed the scene in Beetlejuice that makes you believe the choice for your afterlife destiny is determined by taking your number and waiting in line for your judgement.  Maybe the decision can be influenced by playing Knocking on Heaven's Door and Highway to Hell on a loop?





And now it's time for the mourning period to start properly.  Everybody needs a bit of time to come to terms with their loss and that amount of time is different for everybody.  It is probably best to try and avoid songs like Somebody That I Used To Know and Since U Been Gone for a good few weeks, at least!





But everybody is different.  The reprise in your mourning period might be helped by listening to Live And Let Die.
  



But then again, it might be 'good riddance' and that person is Better Off Dead!!




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Soundtrack To My Life : Songs You Should Never Play At A Funeral

Soundtrack To My Life is an occasional series where I talk about music that has influenced my life in some way. Read/Listen to all the previous Soundtrack To My Life entries here or follow the dedicated Pinterest board.


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There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday...

#BEDN : There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday... - sunset in Roda, Corfu


I'm not a great photographer.  Most of my images are taken on whatever mobile phone I have at the time and I've recently bought a Nikon D3300 camera, on which I am (unsuccessfully) attempting to move from auto to manual.

But I've notice a pattern in my holiday snaps over the years.  Yes, there's the usual scenery shots that mean nothing to anyone else (or have been seen a hundred times before in other people's holiday photos) and then there's the pictures of your fellow holidaymakers, all smiling away at the camera whilst squinting into the sun. 

But my preferred shot is either the sunset or the planescape. Here's a few favourites I've taken from over the years... 


This sunset shot was taken from a hotel balcony in Albuferia, Portugal and it now hangs on my landing at home on canvas.  Coincidentally, we are going back to the same hotel at Christmas this year and I'm looking forward to seeing what winter sunsets are like! 

#BEDN : There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday... - sunset in Albuferia, Portugal
Albuferia, Portugal


This sunset was taken in Roda, Corfu.  We celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary here last year and I would go back to this area in a heartbeat.  Roda is so chilled and the weather was just perfect.  I can't actually decide whether here or Ibiza is the place I'd like to move to if I had the opportunity. (note: I love Roda that much I wrote about it here)

#BEDN : There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday... - sunset in Roda, Corfu
Roda, Corfu

And finally, Ibiza.  We were back on the island for the third time earlier this year.  Our hotel in San Antonio Bay was facing the exact same direction as, but across the bay from, Cafe Mambo where everyone goes to watch the sunset each evening. Watching the sun disappear never got boring and each sunset was totally different. 

#BEDN : There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday... - sunset in San Antonio Bay, Ibiza
San Antonio Bay, Ibiza

The first planescape photo I ever took was whilst flying over Spain about 11 or 12 years ago. I'm not even sure the word "planescape" even existed back then but I just knew that I liked what I saw and it fascinated me!

#BEDN : There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday... In a plane, over Spain somewhere
Somewhere over Spain

This next one is from when we were flying back from Turkey a few years ago.  It was about 30 minutes until we were due to land at Manchester, Jake looked out of the window and exclaimed, "Mum, LOOK! It's Eastenders!"  And he was right... if you tilt your head to the left, you can make out the bend of the River Thames as it winds it's way through London and the circular roof of the Millennium Dome O2 Stadium. 

#BEDN : There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday... In a plane, over London, England
London, England

The final one (for now) was taken as we were leaving Tunisia.  This country became one of our favoured destinations and we were heartbroken when travel was halted due to acts of terrorism in 2015 - mostly for the people who lived there as it brought many businesses to a complete standstill.  Even though it has recently been declared safe to travel again, it may be a couple more years until we venture back that way.

#BEDN : There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday... - in a plane leaving Tunisia
Leaving Tunisia
I've just realised that both of these types of photographs include the sky in some way but what really stirs the geek in me is the enormity of the lack of control I have over what I am seeing in these photos.  You can't argue with nature; no matter what happens, the sun will always rise in the morning and set in the evening, even if you can't actually see it. Similarly, having the ability to travel to the furthest corners of the Earth and being able to see, from your plane window, the land beneath, exactly as it appears on a map or a globe, just fascinates me.


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Who Is She?

#BEDN : Who Is She?  One of my favourite photos of me! Taking a selfie at parkrun, looking slighty bedraggled!
One of my favourite photos of me - credit : Gemma McAuley


Why do I always feel a bit lost when I need to write something about myself? I started writing a list of "I am..." type lines but it was veering into Steve Miller Band, The Joker territory and I'm definitely no 'gangster of love'!! So what I usually do is to direct people to one of my two mini biographies that I tout about on social media because they are short and snappy and, hopefully, a little bit witty.  Plus they can be conversation starters...

This is my Twitter bio which stems from a lifetime of living with a car trader!
1972 model, good condition (large scratch on bodywork), one careful owner since 1990. Genuine mileage. Full history available.

And this is my blog bio which gives you an overview of who I am, what I write about and some of my hobbies!
Teenage mum | "granny at 36" | social media addict | stationery lover | blogger | podcaster | slow runner

Anyway, the reason for this dilemma is that I'm going to be "Blogging Every Day in November" (or at least when I remember) and joining in with prompts from Elizabeth Dhokia. The first task is to introduce myself which feels a bit weird on my own blog but I'm hoping for new readers too

Prompts used to happen a lot when I first started blogging. Someone would write a blog post with a specific theme (for writing or photography) and whole blogging communities would join in.  It's how I met most of the OB's (original parent bloggers) from the 2009-2010 era, many of which I am lucky enough to still have as friends today, especially when ten years is a fucking long time in internet land! 

I was going to do a bit of a list of "10 things you didn't need to know about me" but I've had a sneak peek of the upcoming themes that Elizabeth has created for this #BEDN and there's some really good ones that I can definitely get stuck into. You surely will know a lot more about me by the end of November and hopefully I'll dig myself out of this writing funk that I've been in for a while.  I hope you're going to like what's coming up and, if you're a new reader please do let's connect on social media.

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


Oh, and the reason for choosing the lead photo for this blog post... it's how a lot of people know me these days; phone in hand, taking a selfie (or groupie), usually after a run, micro-blogging my life over on Instagram! 

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Winter Boots From Hotter Shoes

I'm a huge fan of Hotter Shoes, especially their winter boots collections.  Each year I head over to their knee high selection but this year I fancied a change so I picked a couple of styles and colours and handed the decision over to my Instagram followers to decide for me in the form of a poll.  The final result narrowed it down to the Whisper ankle boots in dark tan

#HotterWakies : The Whisper Boot Is Perfect For Winter Dog Walks! Autumn leaves on a dog walk


I cover many miles when walking the dog and in the Autumn and Winter I want my feet to be toasty and comfy and the Whisper boot doesn't let me down. The upper and the inner 'sock' is made from leather whilst the sole is polyurethane which prevents slipping. The zips on both the sizes of the boot open which makes it easy for anyone to pull on quickly. 

What I was really interested in, though, was the construction of the boot itself. Hotter are well known for their comfort and this breakdown of the Whisper boot is fascinating.  A total of 32 separate components are used to create the boot itself. 

#HotterWakies : The Whisper Boot Is Perfect For Winter Dog Walks! The 32 components of the Whisper boot

These slouchy boots have hardly left my feet since I got them. I've styled them up with skirts for work and styled them down with leggings at the weekend but my uniform of skinny jeans and these Whisper boots has become part of my staple 'wardrobe'. 

The Whisper boots are available on the Hotter website, come in nine colours and three width fittings.  They are priced at £85.



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... And I Would Run 500 Miles

At the beginning of this year I set myself a goal to run 1000km by the 31st of December.  I had just joined Blackburn Road Runners and was wanting to get some serious training done to tackle my 10k personal best time.  Little did I know that I would end up training for a 10 mile race by the end of the month and then training for, and completing, two half marathons (Darwen and Southport).  Because of the way races and club runs are structured, I changed my Garmin into miles and promptly forgot about my challenge.

The October Run Down - running in Ibiza
Read more about my Ibiza run on Instagram


That was until I went for a quick run in Ibiza, refreshed my Strava profile and I noticed that I was within touching distance of 500 miles for the year.  I smashed through the 500 mile mark on a club run last week then I did a couple of calculations, realising that I was nearer to that 1000km goal that I thought I could be.

The October Run Down - hitting 500 miles
Read more about the run when I broke through 500 miles on Instagram


As it stands, there are 10 weeks to go until the end of the year and I'm 105 miles away from my goal (1000km = 621.3 miles).  I think I can manage 10.5 miles a week between now and the end of the year.  In fact, I know I'll be surpassing that most weeks!

I've only raced once since my 10k trail run in August and that was last weekend at the Green Drive Five, a five mile race through Lytham and Warton, organised by Lytham St Annes Road Runners.  I've wanted to participate in this race for a couple of years but I was injured in 2016 and on holiday in 2017.  I also missed out this year but managed to bag myself a transfer place at the 11th hour!

And I'm so glad I did... this race was going to be my test for pacing myself ready for the two 10k races I've got coming up next month.  I wanted to make sure that I found my "happy pace" again and this totally flat route would set me up in good stead for ensuring that I didn't need to slow down or walk any hilly parts.  Plus... bonus for me... this was the area that I went to school in during the 1980s.  Green Drive was where I used to sneak off for a fag had to run during cross country PE lessons and I knew that I could visualise mile markers before I'd even set off.

I had the best run ever, even managing negative splits (faster paced miles each time) for miles two through to five.  This is the first time I've ever experienced that and it felt brilliant.  I can't wait until the next couple of races where I'm aiming for a 10k personal best and to break through the 1h10m mark for that distance.

The October Run Down - the Green Drive Five
Read more about the Green Drive 5 on Instagram


What I'm Wearing

I invested in a skort via our club kit store.  I never ever envisaged myself wearing shorts or this skirt/shorts combination but since I've lost a bit of weight, I've become more confident and invested more in my I-don't-give-a-fuck-look-I'm-running attitude.  The skort is honestly one of the most comfiest items of running gear I've ever worn and even wore it for the aforementioned run in Ibiza and the race last weekend! By the way, if you ever buy one, let me tell you that the upside down pocket isn't a design fault.  It's where you keep your balls!! (tennis balls, of course)

Also, I get LOADS of questions about the leggings that I wear.  My capri-length leggings are ALWAYS from Sports Direct and are the USA Pro range and I buy them when they are on special offer although it's like the DFS sales - they always seem to be on offer.  I also still love my Anne Stokes Gothic Skulls leggings that I wore on the 10k trail run.  They are from Wild Bangarang and I have a few other pairs from them that have lasted really well.  You can read my review from a couple of years ago here).

What I'm Drinking And Eating

I'm seriously trying to knuckle back down with my Slimming World eating plan.  It's helped me in so many ways this year both with my mental and physical well-being but the recent holiday took its toll.  I've set myself a goal to reach a total loss of three stone before Christmas (I'm almost at two-and-a-half stone now) and, even though this week hasn't gone to plan, I'm going to keep chipping away at it.  Normally the numbers don't matter to me but the "loss numbers" are a way in which I can visualise actual results, if that makes sense?

I've recently been trying out the Athletic Line Isotec Race from Scitec Nutrition.  These are carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks and you can use them before or during a workout.  I've been adding these into my increased water intake regime and I'm enjoying the flavours (raspberry iced tea is my favourite flavour so far).

I've also been enjoying the occasional 'superfood' bar from NutreeLife (I took a couple with me to the race on Sunday).  I was really glad this company reached out to me as they are based locally in Preston, Lancashire  Now... the bars are quite dry in texture so I found I had to drink lots of water with them (no bad thing) but they are gluten, soya and animal product free.  NutreeLife is a family run business and, after working for some of the UK's largest food an nutrition companies, the directors decided to create a product that was nutritional, clean, healthy and accessible to all - and, a huge bonus, all product are manufactured in-house so a close eye is kept on what goes into these bars. This definitely ticks all the boxes for me.

Coming Up

My races in November will be the Windmill 10k on Sunday 11th November and the Wesham 10k on Saturday 24th November.  As previously mentioned, it would be a fantastic achievement to get a new personal best time for 10k at either one of these events so let me know if I'll see you there! 

Don't forget that I micro-blog over on Instagram so you can keep up with each run over there plus a whole load of random day-to-day stuff on my Instagram Stories. 




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The 'hashtag not sponsored' section : In this blog post there are some links that will lead to products and websites that I have reviewed.  I've not receive any payment for these collaborations but I may have been sent that particular product to try out.  I strive to bring honest opinions to you via this blog and will always provide my truthful opinion.  As you can see, favourite items - even from a couple of years back - will be mentioned again and often repurchased with my own hard-earned cash.  If you would like to work with me then please read my About Me page where you can find my contact details.  I also have a disclosure policy which is always worth a read if you're struggling to sleep!
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Learning About Diamonds With Peter Jackson

I don't own a lot of jewellery, but what I do wear are pieces that are fairly timeless and a bit unusual. I also have a couple of heirlooms that are safely stashed away (for what or when, I don't know but it's comforting to know that they are there). I've recently started to layer my jewellery and to try and get the most out of it by wearing it more, rather than saving it for a special occasion.  My current favourite collection of wrist wear is my Choose Life, Choose Love leather wrist wrap from Hope House Press teamed with my two Pandora bracelets and my new Thomas Sabo bracelet that has a uniquely engraved charm.

The Thomas Sabo bracelet is the latest addition to my wrist and it's from Peter Jackson the Jeweller. I was recently invited to an exclusive evening in their Preston store to learn about diamonds. I took my daughter, Rachel, with me so we could both have a 'grown up' night off.


To me, Peter Jackson the Jeweller has always been a name that promotes luxury jewellery in a local setting.  Their first store was opened in Preston in the early 1980s with more stores following in Blackburn, Southport, Carlisle and Bury over the years. The business is family owned and run and has a reputation as one of the leading jewellers in the North West, winning jeweller, retailer and training awards.

The Peter Jackson store in Preston | Photo credit : Jenny Higgins 

The event was held after the store closed on a Wednesday evening and Peter Jackson and team were on hand to look after us and answer any questions. We were greeted with a cheeky glass of Prosecco and then took part in various activities which cleverly took us through the process of getting diamonds into store.  

We were first taught about how diamonds are mined, learning how difficult it it is to spot a real diamond.  We then had the chance to identify different diamonds - some of which was easy because of their colouring but did you know that a ruby and a sapphire are essentially the same stone as they have the same chemical composition and mineral structure but it's the impurities in the gem that determines if it will be a (red) ruby or a (blue) sapphire! This lead us on to the diamond display where we had to guess the value of the display (I over-estimated the value and Rachel under-estimated the value).  Then we had the opportunity to have our own jewellery professionally cleaned at the "Sparkle Station".

Finally, I was able to personalise my Thomas Sabo charm (a gift for attending the event) and I chose to have my initial on one side and a skull on the other - it's now totally unique and personal to me.


This small blogger event was a lovely way to spend an evening.  We were also treated to luxury food from Shannon Kuspira of Bite Club and had the opportunity to have a professional make-over by Sonara Parker (check these guys out on Instagram - they are really talented and gave me loads of tips about my foundation and some new inspiration for lipstick colours). Official photography was done by Jenny Higgins. I also met the Manager of my local Blackburn store, Sharon Bibby. It's exciting times for this branch as they are moving from their original base, where they have been for 30 years, into new premises in The Mall very soon. I can't wait to see what the new store looks like! 

Thank you to the whole Peter Jackson team - those front of house and those behind the scenes too - for a wonderful evening and for my bracelet which is a beautiful reminder of this event.


If you are looking to buy anything from the Peter Jackson website you can use my unique discount code for 15% off any purchase (except clearance items) which will come in really handy as we hurtle towards Christmas!!   Quote voucher code OHARA18 at the checkout.




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Live on Chorley FM : Wake Up To The Weekend

Ever since I was a panellist on Sally Naden's daytime chat show on BBC Radio Lancashire, and then took part in a blogger take-over on radio stations around the UK talking about healthy breakfasts, I fell in LOVE with notion of presenting my own radio show at some point in my life. Fast foward a couple of years and I found myself promoting an adult learners course on a local community radio station (Preston FM - sadly no longer in existence) and was encouraged by one of the presenters to join the next training course to become a presenter

I wrote a two hour show that was based around the spoken word (poems, short plays, monologues) and then ended up hosting my own quiz show on Preston FM - The Big Cheese - which ran for six episodes and a couple of one-off specials.  I also had the opportunity to be part of an actual radio play - Welcome To Our Village, Please Invade Carefully - which is very funny, you should have a listen! But volunteering takes up valuable time and sometimes real life and jobs that pay the bills has to take precedence. So I put the dream on the back burner for a bit. 

Until now... 

Live on Chorley FM : Wake Up To The Weekend - Chorley FM logo

Through a certain amount of circumstance, I found myself back in the studio today with my fabulous podcast co-host, Rowena.  We bagged ourselves an hour on Chorley FM (yes, THAT Chorley FM - it really does exist, and NO we are not allowed to say "coming in your ears" which is a bit of a challenge...) from 9am to 10am.  

Our show was hopefully mindful, motivational and a little bit mad (people may say, exactly like its presenters) and it was totally live.  There were a couple of hiccups and we had to get used to the workings of the studio but we were literally thrown in at the deep end with a quick "this is the desk and this is how it works" training session beforehand. Luckily, Rowena has worked that type of desk during her time on hospital radio but I'm definitely going to be learning and refreshing on the job.

I'm not going to lie, I was SO nervous.  I think it's the first time Rowena has seen me like that and she found it hilarious! Rather than calm me down, she just told me to get on with it and laughed at me - but that was probably the best course of action. It's no good pandering to me because I'll just carry on panicking. 

Live on Chorley FM : Wake Up To The Weekend - working the desk at the radio station
Trying not to break 'the desk'


We did advance warn our friends that we were going to be broadcasting to the nation local community and they very kindly joined in with our request to contact the studio for a "Saturday Shout Out" so it was lovely to see that we had support from the outset.  We were also broadcast live to the runners at Blackburn GroupRun's Saturday session (thanks John!) and lots of people outside of the area listened online and gave us some awesome feedback.  I wish I could share the show with you but that facility isn't available just yet. 

There's a few extra pictures on my Instagram account if you want to go and have a look.  I want to go back and do it all again RIGHT NOW! Hopefully, there will be that opportunity in the not too distant future.  Stay tuned!!


Live on Chorley FM : Wake Up To The Weekend - the girls take over the studio
WHO RUNS THE WORLD STUDIO? GIRLS!

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