2018 | Typecast

To Work From Home, Your Home Must Work For You

To Work From Home, Your Home Must Work For You
Image Credit

It is of little surprise that so many people are making the move to working from home today. However, while there are many benefits associated with working from home, there are also a number of unique challenges too. Motivation can be a real problem for a lot of people, and finding a good work/home balance becomes a challenge too, as your place of work and your home are now the same. So, how do you making working from home a success? It is all about making your home work for you, and here’s how…

Make sure you have a separate place to work – A lot of people think that the main benefit of working from home is that they can work from their bed or the sofa. While this may be the case, it is not advised. If you work from bed, you are more likely to fall asleep than complete your tasks. If you work from the sofa, you will end up watching television. Although your home is now your place of work, you need to do everything in your power to make sure the lines between home life and work life do not get blurred. This is why having a separate work area, i.e. an office, is a necessity. If you don’t have a spare room in your house, why not look into a garden office?

Get rid of clutter – Clutter is bad news because it stops you from thinking clearly, and it causes irritation and stress. If you have too many things in your home that you do not want to get rid of, look online to find storage near me. Keeping your house in good condition is important because it enables you to focus on your work, rather than worrying about when you are going to be able to clean and organise your home.

Consider colours with care – Another thing you will soon learn when working from home is how your environment affects your ability to think and be productive. This does not only relate to clutter, but it relates to the way in which your office is decorated. The colours you choose will have a big impact on how you feel. It is a good idea to go for something neutral that allows your mind to be free and clear. Blue has always been a good choice for a professional environment. Nevertheless, if you have a creative job, a colour like yellow can be helpful.

Invest in ergonomic furniture – Last but not least, ergonomic furniture is a necessity. This is furniture that has been especially designed to ensure that you maintain the correct posture throughout the day. These desks and chairs have been designed while considering the interaction with you – the user. This ensures you can work productively and that your health and well being are cared for.

So there you have it: some useful tips on making your home work for you. If you follow the advice that has been provided, you can create an environment that helps you to work effectively. You can ensure that your mind is clear, your motivation levels are high, and that you can distinguish your work life from your home life effectively.

The March Run Down

I write about running on a regular basis. I talk about it on Facebook A LOT and I even have a podcast which is all about running. I have gone through every emotion you can think of before, during and after a run but I still find it hard to believe that I now actually run distance for pleasure and fitness rather than to win races as I used to when I was a sprinter in my teens. And whilst I have some blog posts specifically dedicated to certain points in my running journey, I also like to do an occasional round-up style piece dedicated to general musings and running or fitness links I find on my travels around the interwebs. So here is one of those... this is The March Run Down!

First and foremost... just in case you didn't know... I ran a half marathon. There's a whole long story behind it but the premise is that I was pissed off after being snowed in on the day of the 10 mile race that I'd be training for so, on a whim, I booked one of the final 19 places in the Darwen Heritage Half Marathon (official promo video above) - probably the toughest in the local area. You can read all about it here.

Leading on from this, a huge boost for me at the end of March was being named as Runner of the Month by members our running club. All club members are invited to email their nominations in and then these are shared publicly at the end of each month. I was totally overwhelmed reading what people had to say about my recent improvements and gave me a bit of a kick up the arse with regards to just Getting On With It. Oh, and I got a trophy to add to my collection of bling!

Next, I want to address something that I see talked about on a number of occasions; runners who are all shapes and sizes and different paces. There are a whole load of reasons that I'm passionate about this but mainly because I've been lots of shapes and sizes and because I've seen people progress from our local 'couch to 5k' group running plan to achieve amazing things.

Because here's the thing: There are no pace requirements for toeing a start line—or crossing a finish line. You are not too slow to chug water from a tiny paper cup and press on. Or to stop your RunKeeper or Strava or Garmin or whatever tracking toy you prefer and look at your effort and say, "I'm proud of what I did today."

This extract is from an open letter to any runner who thinks she's too slowwritten by Kara Cutruzzula.  I struggled for a long time with my pace and feeling that I wasn't good enough to be a runner even though I was volunteering and mentoring people to run up to, and beyond, 10k.  But changing my own focus and joining a running club made a massive difference. I always tell my newbie runners to take each run as it comes and every step is an achievement - this article helped me to take my own advice.

People often said they were surprised I could run so well for being "bigger." Or they'd note that I was "strong," a notoriously condescending word in running culture.

After getting my own head around my pace, I started to think about my weight and I'm now working on controlling that too.  I've not been talking about it too much as I'm doing it for personal reasons but I have noticed that my running is improving now that my weight is coming down.  I'll never have the same physique that I did when I was a sprinter - I mean, I'm 30 years older and have had three children - but it would be nice to shed a fair few pounds, tone up and generally be healthier.  This second quote is from an article by Allie Kieffer where she says that her weight has nothing to do with how good a runner she is and she talks about the criticism she received from peers and coaches which lead to what could be considered a possible eating disorder and some directly related injuries.

Off the track, I didn’t feel "big." Actually, I felt beautiful. I filled out the curves in a dress and cups in a bra. I knew, intellectually, that to people outside of the running community I was on the smaller side—and that in all other areas of life I benefited from the privileges that society bestows upon people who fit into straight-size clothing. But on the track, I felt different—uncomfortable and inadequate.

And this is the important take-away from the article.  A runner's body is completely different to a non-runner's body and it's all about how see ourselves.  We need to see the strong, confident person we are when we are smashing those miles and celebrate our achievements. In fact, Mirna says it best in this video that I found on Facebook...

Phew... something a bit more lighthearted now.  Do you parkrun? I love joining in when I can and we have a few great local courses. I've recently knocked 10 minutes off my course record at Hyndburn (my favourite course round here) but I only ever treat it as a personal challenge.  If I ever do a bit of parkrun tourism, I like to know how 'lumpy' it's going to be in advance so this parkrun Elevation website is a huge help. Just type in the name of the parkrun you're looking for and the elevation (according to data from GPS devices operating with barometric altimeters) is laid out for you. 

And finally... the main Marathon season is creeping up on us.  I have many runner friends across the country participating in various marathons this year - some for charity, some for personal achievement - all way more committed to the cause than I am.  Putting the extra hours in to train for a 10 miler and a half marathon alongside my volunteering commitments almost broke me so I can't even begin to understand how time is allocated to train for a marathon - it completely takes over your life!  But if you ever wondered what it was like to run the London Marathon then spend the next five minutes watching this video which take you round the course from start to finish.

Please do let me know what your running achievements have been recently. I'd love to hear about them! 


I Invited Friends To Buy Me A Drink Via The Wetherspoon App And Here's What Happened

Pub chain Wetherspoon have an app where you can order food and drink without leaving your table.  It's really easy to use and you can pay using your debit card or Paypal and it would be a godsend in a busy bar.  But there's an extra layer of fun to be had because ANY person with the app can order ANY food or drink item to be presented at ANY pub.  I've seen it in action a couple of times and thought it was time to give it a try myself.  

What could possibly go wrong?

Picture the scene... it's Easter Sunday, I'm already a little bit tipsy and I find myself in the Postal Order pub in Blackburn. I share my table number and a fun picture to my friends on Facebook and Twitter and ask them to buy me a drink.  I honestly don't expect many people to respond but HOLY HELL they did me proud.

After I shared our table number we waited.  Friends were commenting on the Facebook post advising me to "sit tight" and letting me know what they'd ordered. About half an hour passed but no drinks or random bowls of peas arrived.

I nipped to the bar and explained that there had been some orders placed via the app for Table 55 but nothing had arrived. A member of staff explained that they'd received a huge amount of orders so they'd checked with the people sat at "table 55" and they'd denied all knowledge of ordering anything.  It was at this point that the staff realised that they'd visited the wrong table and jumped into action to rectify the situation.

This is what arrived.

I Invited Friends To Buy Me A Drink Via The Wetherspoon App And Here's What Happened

There were a couple of items that couldn't be delivered - I'm not sure what they were - and the staff were very wary that, even though it was their fault, closing time was fast approaching.  They promised that the undelivered items would be refunded and we promised that we would try and drink up quickly. 

The gins were gorgeous and everything else got us extremely pissed, extremely quickly. It was a novel idea and kept us highly amused.  It also proves that my friends are up for a laugh but I owe so many drinks out now!! 

I might try this again sometime!


Things I Learnt In March

I can't believe we're at the end of another month already! Anyway, because I have nothing better to do with my evenings, I've been capturing some of my journey around the interwebs and collated it all here to give you something to do.  Here are some of my favourite links and things I learnt in March.


YouTube recently took the decision to demonetise channels that had less than 1000 subscribers and less than 4000 hours of watch time. Now it's no biggie to me because even though I have a few videos on YouTube that do very well for views, I don't have the time to invest in 'growing my channel' but I did have some funds in my adsense pot that I felt I was entitled to claim.  There was, however, no information about how to do this - all links lead to dead ends... Six long weeks later, I managed to verify my adsense account again (I'm convinced it had been done before) and discovered that the threshold for withdrawal was £60. After converting from $$ to ££, I had £61 in 'earnings' so withdrew it before they change their rules again! IN YOUR FACE, YOUTUBE.

"Evergreen content" is always valuable.  There's a shit-ton of content on this blog but some of it is pretty timeless and one thing that proves that is the inclusion of this post from eight years ago on the latest BritMums "Kids Say The Funniest Things" round-up.

Super-excited to be one of only five people selected to be part of the pre-read team for @claremackwrites' new thriller, Let Me Lie!! I'll be devouring this over Christmas (OK... let's be honest - I'll have it finished by the end of the weekend) and then I have to come up with questions for Clare that may be included as part of an exclusive extra on the audio version of #LetMeLie I've fan-girled over Clare for a LONG time but we go back years to the time when 'mummy blogging' was in its infancy and we wrote about the perils of parenthood. I love seeing how a massive decision to change career and follow a dream has become a reality - and a hugely successful one at that. It's very inspirational... even if you do wonder what goes on in a psychological thriller writer's mind on a day to day basis. Out March 2018 - pre-order on Amazon now #followyourdreams #writeforpleasureanditsneverachore #needtogetreadingNOW
A post shared by Nickie (@nickieohara) on

I know I've mentioned Clare Mackintosh's new book, Let Me Lie (now a #1 Sunday Times Best Seller), a couple of times before but I was invited to be part of a pre-read team and was asked to submit some book club style questions for an audio book exclusive interview.  I've had a listen to the interview and Clare's answers are really interesting.  If you're a fan of Clare's writing, do go and visit her website as she's currently writing a series called "Building A Book" which gives you a brilliant insight into what happens behind the scenes.

This article - Teen brothers on sex, tech and what their parents don't get - is a fascinating read. Whilst much of the conversation between the brothers could be from any era (my teen years in the 1980s or even my own grown up children's teen years in the 2000's) it shows that social media has created so many more facets to 'growing up'.  Here's a snippet...

Carlos: I love feminism — it’s important. But I hate the super-reactionary, “all men are bad” third-wave feminism that was rampant on the internet when I was 13. It ruins the idea of feminism, which addresses serious issues around gender equality. But they’re right about toxic masculinity. It changes the way that you act. You’re trying to be manly and impress people, and you don’t even realize it until you are called out for being a total asshole.  
Liam: It’s disgusting. Men thinking that they are the strongest and the biggest and the best is why we see so much sexual abuse.

I'm always adding programmes to my watch list on Netflix but I never get round to watching many of them unless I veg out in front of the TV at the weekend and have a massive binge session.  My favourite show at the moment is Nailed It which is basically for all the shit cooks who would never get on Great British Bake Off.

The most popular link in last months round-up was my article discovery about Blackpool so here's another. This time, it's a year in the life of the seaside town in 'picture essay' format with images taken throughout 2017 by Christopher Thomond.

It did the rounds a few weeks back but this 'Day In The Life' from Tom Baker - originally printed in the Sunday Times in 1978 - was published on The Poke.  It's absolutely fascinating!

I have two favourite songs this month.  The first is I Hate Love Songs by Kelsea Ballerini which I heard on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2 a couple of weeks back. I'm not a huge lover of country music (apart from the odd bit of Dolly Parton) but this is brilliant!  I'm also IN LOVE with Janelle Monáe's Make Me Feel. When I first heard this I was convinced it was a cover of a Prince song but couldn't work out which one. It was, therefore, no surprise to find out that he had worked with her on this track and her album before he died.

Do you know what colour a tennis ball is? Without having a photograph in front of us, we'd automatically say "yellow" wouldn't we? However, this article, stemming from a Twitter poll, suggests otherwise.  It reminded me of a photograph I shared years ago asking what colour two highlighter pens were.  I saw one as yellow and one as green whereas my colleague saw them both as green but she wasn't colour blind! Furthermore, it reminded me of a tweet from Alex (@numerisphere) that noted the new style LED green traffic lights (in the UK) were now actually blue. I completely dismissed the notion until I was actually stood underneath one a few weeks ago whilst on a run and noticed the unlit light was actually blue! Try and take a look yourself at some point.

Were you hooked on the podcast, S-Town?  There's another facet to John B McLemore that has just come to light. Did you know that in the last few years of his life he spent time composing and remixing music.  Some were recordings of his own and some was the reworking of a music artist he'd never met.  He exchanged emails with the musician and you can read about some of it in this article - The Secret Music Of S-Town's John B McLemore.  I'm just astounded by the connections this guy made and how his mind worked.  (P.S. if you have no clue what S-Town is then have a look/listen here)

And finally... I like to think of myself as a bit of a grammar/punctuation pedant but I'm old school and still use two spaces after a full stop. Apparently that's not 'the done thing' any more and the Daily Mash published this (joke) article - Last Human To Use Two Spaces After A Full Stop Dies.  I shared it on Facebook and I'm not the only one to do this.  That makes me feel a whole lot better.


I'm going to stop here.  This has been one of the longest "Things I Learnt In..." for a while but I'd love for you to watch out for my new Friday Favourites on Twitter. It's a bit like this but favourite tweets from the previous week all wrapped up in a "Moment".  Here's an example if you still haven't had enough of the random shit that amuses me.  Until next month... 

The "hashtag not sponsored" section : Just a quick reminder that any links I've used above are NOT, NO WAY NEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCS sponsored links unless clearly marked. I want to share these little articles because it's what keeps the internet turning and I like to think that this is a fun and interesting way of doing that. If you DO want to chat with me about any of the above - or indeed to find out how to bribe me to include a sponsored link in any of my blog posts then please feel free to contact me. You can find out how to do that on my ABOUT ME page. Ciao for now!

Today I Ran My First Half Marathon

Today I Ran My First Half Marathon : Any idiot can run but it takes a special kind of idiot to run a half marathon.

Today I ran my first half marathon - the Darwen Heritage Half organised by Darwen Dashers.  I was gently poked fun at for choosing this 'undulating' roller-coaster style course as my first half but there was a story behind it (isn't there always?).  Let me explain...

Today I ran My First Half Marathon : Jumping for joy... GroupRun Blackburn Celebration Run (Winter Plan)
photo credit : Marianne Rintoul

I shared this picture a couple of weeks ago. It was taken at the GroupRun Blackburn Celebration Run (Winter Plan). The caption explained that this is how I feel about running at the moment - totally loving it, feeling accomplished, sticking to a training plan that was helping me run further and stronger, and running back with my old crew again.  Everything felt just right.  I shared the photo the day before a 10 mile race that I'd been training for and explained that my running buddy turned Sergeant Major, Claire, had been pushing me to my limits but was also giving me confidence in my abilities. 

But we never got to the race.

Overnight about 6 inches of snow fell making it near impossible to consider driving. Further out, the roads weren't too bad but, even though the race hadn't been cancelled, the snow was still falling here and we had no idea what the true forecast was going to be for the remainder of the day, so we decided not to go. My come-down was awful.  I'd built myself up to complete this part of my running journey with a view to doing a half marathon later in the year. I felt fucked off with the whole situation even though it was out of my control.

I mulled things over for a few days and searched for local half marathons. The main ones (Liverpool and Freckleton) were a couple of months away and I'm an impatient bitch.  I've found my mojo and I sure wasn't letting it fuck off anywhere again. I saw someone mention the Darwen Heritage Half Marathon but had been told that it was a challenging course and most of my friends had only done it the once because it was so tough. The final arm-twist came in the form of our Club Chairperson and some gentle encouragement from fellow club runners. 

I bought my place (one of the last 20 places and only 4 days before the event), took a screenshot of the confirmation page and sent it to Claire. 

She messaged me back a LOT of swear words and then her own screenshot of the confirmation page.  To be honest, I thought she'd take a lot more convincing than that but after talking to her, she said she wanted to be part of my first half marathon, no matter what it took. I owe her big time for that alone.

Today I Ran My First Half Marathon - half marathon = 5k with a 10 mile warm up!  Lightbox caption

I can't explain it, but I wasn't nervous about this half marathon and I didn't think it was worth getting worked up about it with only a few days to go.  There was lots of gentle ribbing from friends, plenty of  "ARE YOU FUCKING MAD, YOU DICKHEAD" type messages and a number of "I can't believe you've chosen this as your first half!" texts.  In my head it was going to be awful and anything better than that was a bonus! 

Sunday Morning 
Claire [via text]
Me [in reply]
I'm not doing it
I've broken both my legs 
On purpose

I was still joking about it all and getting more hyped up. I had a big shock coming, though...

Today I Ran My First Half Marathon - Strava overview -Darwen Heritage Half Marathon

We turned up at race HQ, collected our numbers, had a 'team photo' taken, wished each other good luck and set off for the start line.  The first two miles were uphill out of Darwen and then a gentle run for the next four miles.  My Strava shows that I was running at my average pace for those six miles. Mile 7 and 8 included a HUGE hill and the same again for mile 10 and 11.  There were a few times when I literally thought I couldn't carry on and this time it wasn't my head. My whole body was tired from the uphill - and we were walking a lot more than expected. I got my game face back on for the last two miles and made it to the finish in under three hours.

Official Finish Time : 2:58.29

It's a brutal course.  I understand it's the equivalent of a 16 mile flat route but I reckon someone else decided that after they'd run it for the first time.  However, I've learnt my lesson... listen to my peers!! But the route was incredibly well marshalled by Darwen Dashers and one superhero called Rob who ran the last three miles back with myself and Claire, giving encouragement all the way and collecting drinks for us from the drinks station at 10 miles. 

Today I Ran My First Half Marathon - Darwen Heritage Half Marathon
photo credits : Tracy Slater, David Haworth, Michelle Searby 

Also, Blackburn Road Runners really do know how to support each other. There were so many club members out on the course, cheering, clanking cow bells, shouting encouragement, blowing whistles, taking photographs and then jumping in their car to move to the next support point to do it all again.  Some ran at the side of us, encouraging us to just push it a little bit more.  Others leaned out of their car window screaming, "NICKIE, GET YOUR HEAD UP. PUSH IT UP THAT HILL. YOU CAN DO THIS. YOU'VE GOT THIS. COME ON!" And all the time, Claire was there, by my side, using her own special method of support - she pecked my head, bitched at me, made me play the Alphabet Game (I think I invented a new sweary version) and pushed me beyond the boundaries of my own limits. I honestly would never have got through today without her by my side. If she hadn't have been running/walking with me she could have easily smashed that route and taken another 30 minutes off her time.

There were also some amazing achievements from our running club as a whole.  "First in age category", personal bests, more first half marathons (see, I'm not the only idiot around here), comebacks from injury, taper runs for the London Marathon and just lots and lots of inspiring people who make turning up to Club Runs each week an enjoyable experience. I've always known that it wouldn't be easy but have a new found respect for people who knock out 13 miles - and more - on a regular basis. 

It's done.  And I'm bloody proud of me.  I've received some awesome messages from my friends and my running family - plus I have a nice shiny new medal for my wall and a nice shiny badge for my club jacket. 

Today I Ran My First Half Marathon - Darwen Heritage Half Marathon

Today I Ran My First Half Marathon : FitbitchesMOVEment


No More Grapes - A Social Enterprise For Families Dealing With Cancer

No More Grapes - A Social Enterprise For Families Dealing With Cancer

When my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, apart from the emotional strain, the hardest part of the process was not being able to keep in touch with our families as much as we would have liked.  It was the early 1990s so there was a constant queue for the public phone in the main hospital corridor, mobile phones were expensive, and it was years before social media and WhatsApp. We had to provide as much information as we could during short visits home and opportunities to just "pop in" from extended family were few and far between as the hospital was 40 miles away from home.

Because of this, I wrote a lot about cancer on this blog to try and break taboos and provide information. I'm always interested in new initiatives that help families who are supporting a cancer patient so I was excited to read about a social enterprise website called No More Grapes. The way I'd describe No More Grapes is like an online 'hub' for the family where you can reach out and share news, even with those far away.  You can also plan hospital visits and write out wish lists so that everyone can get involved without feeling awkward or overbearing. 

It's easy to set up. You create a nomoregrapes account and personalise your profile page.  You can then invite family and friends to create a 'circle'.   Your circle is where you will share all your updates such photos and messages and there's even a calendar so you can manage hospital visits or tell relatives when the best time is to call at home on the days you need support. Anyone in your circle can interact with your updates so you can keep all your sensitive messages off your main social media channels but still update lots of people in one fell swoop. No More Grapes is available on all devices so it's easy to keep in touch with each other and I'm assured that all information is private and secure.

As you delve further into the website there are some great sections that will provide tips, experiences and inspiration for supporting those with serious illnesses, There's also a fab shop onsite with a full catalogue of thoughtful gifts and necessities which include items such a Netflix gift card to luxury toiletries to incredible day experiences. 

This would have been ideal for our families - especially the ones that weren't up to making the long journey to the hospital in Manchester at the time - or when my daughter wasn't allowed visitors as she was high-risk for infection after a course of chemotherapy.  Just having a place to collate information and being able to choose who sees it and interacts with it is one less worry - and Great Aunt Sarah can't complain that she's been left out of the loop! Thinking about it now, it would have also been a godsend when when my mum was receiving treatment for Bronchiectasis in hospital and needed to communicate with my sister and myself who lived 70 miles apart.

Even if you don't need this type of support network right now, tell a friend about it or bookmark it just in case.  It could be a lifeline when you need it the most. 

No More Grapes - A Social Enterprise For Families Dealing With Cancer

Disclaimer: I was approached by No More Grapes to ask for their support. I'm working in collaboration with them to help spread the word about this social enterprise by sharing the information on my blog and social network.  I hope that you can also help by sharing this blog post or any of my Tweets or Facebook updates when you see them.  Thanks in advance. 


Did You Know This About Me?

Within a few minutes of being on Twitter last Tuesday I saw a couple of my old school blogger mates share an old school style meme post. Back in the day (2010 if you really want to know), these blog posts were all the rage and are currently seeing a welcome resurgence.  So, thanks to Kate and Molly for the inspiration - it's nice to stretch the fingers and the mind a little bit with something like this.  


When was the last time you cried?

I'm generally not a crying type of person but a few weeks ago I went on a run that took me above and beyond my comfort zone. I hadn't ever run more than 7 miles before so when my running watch buzzed at 8 miles and signalled the end of the run, I sobbed.  It wasn't a pretty sight but they were mainly tears of relief. 

If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself?

I hope so. I'm the type of friend that's loyal, trustworthy and funny. I've noticed that my friendship group has changed over the years. I've learnt to be more selective with my immediate tribe but also that my attitude and demeanour affects a wider circle which reflects back.  It's much easier to be nice to people and let the shit go. 

Do you use sarcasm a lot?

Me? Nope. Never.... *whistles nonchalantly* 

What’s the first thing you notice about people?

Hair and shoes.  I was accused once of looking someone up and down in a sneering way but that's probably just my resting bitch face, however you can tell a lot about people from their hair and their shoes. I have horrendous hair envy, simply because I never know what to do with the birds nest that sits atop of my head.  And shoes... ah, shoes... they always fit no matter what the rest of your body looks or feels like.

I was searching for a good shoe quote and came across this from Iris Apfel.  Just perfect! 

Scary movie or happy endings?

I usually fall asleep before the end of any film but I'm a sucker for a happy ending. 

Favourite smells?

I'm partial to a bit of vanilla or lilies when it comes to room scents or candles.  For perfumes, I have a love of Burberry (original, London and eau de toilette for different times of the day or occasions). For food, it's garlic - really strong garlic! 

What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?

Turkey. And I wasn't overly impressed as I got food poisoning! 

Do you have any special talents?

Not really. I'm a 'jack of all trades, master of none' type of person. I'm currently teaching myself how to pay a variety of songs on the ukulele though.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Firstly a PE teacher and then either Air Traffic Control or an administrator in the RAF.  I didn't accomplish either of my dreams. 

How many countries have you been to?

Not enough.  Just nine. 

What was your favourite / worst subject in school?

My favourite subject was PE and my worst subject was Geography. 

What is your favourite drink? 

I'm a bit of a water junkie at the moment due to being on a health kick but if my arm was twisted up my back and I was being made to have an alcoholic drink then I'd choose gin... a nice strong gin, with a carefully chosen, complimentary mixer.  It's weird, isn't it? Vodka and coke used to be my go-to drink but I'm struggling to remember the last time I had one.  My other partiality is Straw Hat red wine - cheap and cheerful.

What would you have named your children?

Rachel was going to be Siobhan or Rebecca but no-one really liked those names - and anyway, she just looked like a "Rachel" when she was born.  Michael was always going to be Michael after one of his grandfathers.  Jake's name was chosen by Rachel and Michael when we got a bit stuck for ideas. 

Gratuitous photo of my very grown up children! 

Who are some of your favourite YouTubers?

Ok... this is easy.  Casey Neistat, Jenna Marbles (she makes me HOWL with laughter), Lydia Elise Millen, The Slow Mo Guys, Dominique Sachse, Trisha Paytas (both channels, don't judge me), Channon Rose, Lost LeBlanc, Ladbaby (easier to find on YouTube because the vidoes don't show up in my Facebook feed any more), Pixiwoo, Chase Amie, Simply Nailogical, Geoff Marshall, JaackMate, Kelly Roberts... and so many more but these are channels that I will actively seek out. 

How many boyfriends have you had?

Two serious relationships.  One when I was sixteen and it lasted two years.  The next one, who I met at eighteen years old, became my husband.

Favourite memory from childhood?

There's plenty. It's always hard to pinpoint just one when you're put on the spot like this. There were lots of visits to my grandparent's houses and I was always in awe at the way my grandmother's provided for everyone (read more about how amazing they both were here) and I remember 'dancing on my dad's feet' at family parties. We had many caravan holidays where I seemed to be outside a lot, and there were loads of trips to interesting places. Looking back, I had a bloody great childhood! 

Tell us one of your bad habits…

I get bored very easily and I find it hard to concentrate.  I know it's not really a "bad habit" but I have so many unfinished projects and 'great ideas' that never come to fruition simply because I can't be arsed seeing them through. 


I hope you enjoyed reading that.  Did any of my answers surprise you?  Now, as is tradition with these vintage memes, I have to 'tag' a few people and hope that they join in. I'm really interested in reading/hearing the responses from the following people either on their blog or via their Instagram Stories because I luffs them all in different ways. 

Becky - English Mum 
Tanya - Mummy Barrow
Melinda - What Mel Did
Clare - Clare Mackintosh 
Susan - Susan K Mann

PS... if you want to join in with this meme then feel free to do so and tweet me a link to your blog so I can come and have a read! 


Things I Learnt In February

It's been a while since I added to my "Things I Learnt In..." series. Life feels a bit like a merry-go-round sometimes and you can be screaming "STOP... I WANT TO GET OFF".  Things, however, have slowed down a little bit and I'm maybe not quite as dizzy, I'm out running four times a week and I've been collecting little snippets again from around t'internet that have interested or amused me and hope that they entertain you too!


The First 10 Minutes Are The Worst is my new podcast. For new runners, Couch To 5K has really taken off and there's loads of advice about using this distance for healthy exercise and then for progressing to half or full marathons but I get asked lots of questions when I'm leading one of the groups in our community running programme - GroupRun Blackburn.  I wanted there to be a place where people talked openly, honestly and humorously about running and answered some of the 'frequently asked questions' so I teamed up with my friend, Rowena, and we now produce a monthly podcast.  You can listen on iTunes, Podbean or search for "The First 10 Minutes Are The Worst" in any podcast app.  We also have a Facebook page and a newsletter to sign up to.  It's early days but we've already had in excess of 400 downloads of the first two episodes and lots of lovely feedback. 

This article includes two of my favourite things - underground railways and 1980s nostalgia. Swiss photographer, Willy Spiller (FABULOUS name, by the way) as living in New York and documented his subway travels by photographing his fellow travellers. He published the images in a book called "Hell On Wheels" which showed that there was some glamour amid the hustle and bustle - and often danger and crime - of city life.

Things I Learnt In February : Willy Spiller - Hell on Wheels

I was born and bred literally just down the road from Blackpool and tend to view it with child-sized rose-tinted glasses.  It was always a happy place for me - family days out, walks along the beach, visits to the Pleasure Beach once a year, a brilliant indoor market and a huge shopping centre.  I even lived a short way from the town centre in a bedsit when I first left home.  But, just a few streets away from the Golden Mile, there is a depravity not often seen by the tourists.  This article has it spot on.  It's a tough (and long) read but it leaves you understanding a bit more about why the town looks a little bit shabby and why people don't really want to leave... ever.

I've recently booked a holiday and arranged 'extra leg room' on the flights there and back so when I read the title of this article - "Who Owns The Space Between Reclining Airline Seats" - I was intrigued! Those four inches or so are probably the most argued about commodity on an aircraft. This article asks us to think about the monetary value on that space and if you would be willing to pay for the right to recline your seat compared to the amount you'd pay to stop it from happening, depending on where you are sitting.

Things I Learnt In February : George at Asda Union Jack Teapot

Have you seen the latest offerings from the Asda Homeware range?  I was shopping yesterday in store and fell IN LOVE with their Union Jack teapot. I took some sneaky pics of it and some more of their kitchenware for my Instagram Stories and then found all sorts of stuff on their website so now I'm just pleading with the universe for some extra cash so I can go and kit out my kitchen! 

Could you survive without your phone? Or at least, without a 100% charged phone, constantly accessing the internet morning, noon and night.  This blog post from Michael Legge made me laugh, especially at the bit where he talks about watching a film without a phone to look things up on IMDB or being distracted by social media alerts. Leading on from this I was watching a Jenna & Julien podcast video where they were reviewing bad phone apps.  One was called "Die With Me" [iTunes/Android] which is a chat style app that you can only use if you have 4% battery life or less.  The review was hilarious to watch but I can't ever imagine getting down to that level of battery life without hyperventilating!! 

Are you struggling to be angry at something but don't want to read the Daily Mail?  Here's an Outrage Calendar for 2018 which should keep you going.  (NB: I'm not sure of the origin of this image but I found it on Facebook)

Things I Learnt In February : Outrage Calendar for 2018

I recently got my hands on a "Selfie Bag" from The Cotton Bag Co. It's a custom designed tote bag (very handy, very durable) with a few additions for you to be able to take the perfect selfie whilst out and about.  There's a perfectly designed pocket for your phone - so no scrabbling around at the bottom of your bag, another pocket for a selfie stick, and a fold out reflective sheet to help you find that perfect glow.  It's all a bit random but a perfect present for that Instagram addict in your life, especially as it includes a brochure with tips from Queen of the Selfies, Kim Kardashian, on how to take the best selfie!
Things I Learnt In February : Selfie Bag from The Cotton Bag CoThings I Learnt In February : Rex London Tropical Palm Trinket Tray

If you're looking for cute gifts for family and friends, or even corporate reasons, then check out Rex London (it's a rebrand of the company DotComGiftShop who I've worked with a few times). They've got everything from classic toys to candles so it's really worth having a scout round their website.  I've got a couple of their tropical palm trinket trays adorning my bedside table now. 

My car is an old banger and it's a bit like Trigger's Broom.  It's probably had almost everything replaced on it bar the engine but it's still going strong (a Ford Focus from 2000 if you're interested). It a proper "run around" car with a huge boot for the dog and, if I'm being honest, I don't take very good care of it so I was challenged by Armor All to use their products to give it a good spring clean. I'll publish the before (eek!) and after pictures with some car care tips in a full blog post soon!

Things I Learnt In February : Slimline Wine - zero sugar, zero carbs
I'm not going to talk too much about running here as I waffle on about that way too much in other blog posts but I'm really watching what I eat and drink at the moment.  This gave me the perfect excuse to try a couple of bottles of SlimLine Wine which promises to be zero sugar and zero carbohydrates. Healthy wine... who knew?  I wonder if these means I can now actually count it as one of my "five a day"?  I'll probably do a full review on the wine soon as it's going to be our 'drink of the month' for the next podcast recording, so keep a watch out for that.

Here's is my video of the month. A guy called Ewan McClure taught himself a new technique for painting a self-portrait and filmed the three hour process from behind a two way mirror.  The timelapse is fascinating!


I think that's it for now!! I'll try not to leave these monthly updates so long from now on because I really do enjoy writing them so I hope you enjoy reading them too?  

The "hashtag not sponsored" section : Now, I know I don't need to say this but none of the above links are sponsored. I occasionally get gifted items to try out or review but I'm not under any pressure to blog about them.  What I will do, is mention them if I feel that other people will enjoy them and I'll write a longer post if I believe they warrant it.  There's been a lot of talk in blogger communities recently about transparency and payment for articles or videos so I'd like to lay my cards on the table and say that after 16 years of blogging I'm not going to try and mislead any of my readers.  If you've got any feedback about that then please feel free to contact me. You can find ways to do that in my ABOUT ME section.

What Have Some of the Latest Health Studies Discovered?

What Have Some of the Latest Health Studies Discovered?

Every day it seems a new health study is published claiming one item of food or drink can cause cancer, while another could help prevent it. As technology has advanced, many of these studies are backed up by more substantial evidence than before, meaning it can be worthwhile to pay more attention to them. These are four of the latest health studies to come out in early 2018 that cover a variety of common health issues.

Positive Impacts of Vaping

Government health officials have ruled that e-cigarettes should be available on the NHS on the back of the Public Health England’s first ever review into the science of vaping. The report concludes that health professionals should go much further in encouraging smokers to vape as a healthy alternative to smoking. While it doesn’t go as far as claiming e-cigarettes should be prescribed, it did find that the likes of a VIP electronic cigarette or any other such model only offer five per cent of the harm of actual cigarettes.

Acidic Drinks are Bad for Teeth

Plenty of studies and basic science have pointed out how damaging sugar can be to our teeth. One of the latest investigations by scientists from King’s College London focused on acidic drinks such as fruit teas and flavoured water. Perhaps unsurprisingly it discovered that drinking these between meals and savouring them could increase the risk of tooth erosion from acid. Continuous sipping and holding such drinks in the mouth before swallowing was seen as the main cause.

Depression and Birth Control

Over 30 years of research was studied and compiled at the Ohio State University into the link between progestin-only birth control methods and depression. These birth control methods include the ‘mini’ birth control pill and an implant, for example. Led by Dr Brett Worly, it found that there was no correlation between the two, highlighting the safety of such methods and suggesting that any negative effects may be down to an individual basis.

Yogurt is Good for the Heart

Finally, for all you yogurt lovers out there, here’s some good news. A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension discovered that an increased consumption of yogurt could reduce high blood pressure and the chance of heart disease. Women who had two or more servings of yogurt a week were 30 per cent less likely to experience a heart attack. It’s not advising eating three tubs a day though, as that could possibly have the opposite effect.

New studies into our health are constantly going on, so it’s always worth checking the news for the latest health advice and information.

Grand National Sweepstake Kit - Printable Race Cards & Betting Slips

The Grand National will see forty horses line up in a bid to become the next winner of what is one of the UK’s most prestigious horse races. Taking place on Saturday 14th April, the National currently sees Blaklion as the favourite, although having been favourite last year and finishing fourth, he is far from a dead cert to win.

Total Recall is making his debut at Aintree and is the second favourite on Paddy Power Grand National odds. Cause of Causes will be hoping to go one better than last year, having finished in second place behind One For Arthur.

If you think you can predict who is going to win the National this year then why not print off this handy sweepstake kit and use it with your work colleagues or friend and family? Included are race-cards, rules and betting slips for you to print off to help you make this year’s Grand National a little more interesting.

Grand National Sweepstake Kit - Printable Race Cards & Betting Slips - RACE CARD 1Grand National Sweepstake Kit - Printable Race Cards & Betting Slips - RACE CARD 2

Grand National Sweepstake Kit - Printable Race Cards & Betting Slips - PRINTABLE BETTING SLIPS

The First Kiss

I sat alone, glancing furtively to the left, willing him to make the first move. I was shy; I always had been. He stood up and flicked his eyes in my direction. I quickly looked away but it had happened – our eyes had met for a split second.

He stood up and attempted to casually kick a stone away. He missed. He shoved his hands into his coat pocket and whirled around on his heel. He walked up to me, leaned over and pecked me on the cheek.

I felt that patch of skin burn and tingle. My face flushed and I coyly looked at the ground. I mustered up all my courage, rose from my seat, walked over to him, tiptoed up and gently brushed the corner of his mouth with my lips. I rushed back to my original seat.

My sister jumped off the adjoining swing and shouted, “YOU KISSED ANTONY SHIELDS! I’M GOING TO TELL MUM!” She jumped on her bike and peddled as quickly as her chubby little legs would carry her.

I focused on Antony’s face, feeling slightly sick, mumbled something about awful six-year old sisters, shrugged slightly and said, “See you at school tomorrow? Please don’t tell anyone?”

He stood there and said nothing in return. He just stared at me. I picked up my scooter and followed in the direction of my sister. I glanced over my shoulder just once and he was still stood there, watching me.

I caught up with my sister and, using the advanced knowledge that only a 10-year old older sister has, threatened to smash up her beloved her Sindy doll up and tear up her Twinkle comic if she didn’t keep her mouth shut.

To be fair, neither of them have mentioned it again. Ever! I have though... it formed part of my speech at my sister’s wedding. And mum never knew until then either!


I thought this as a fun way to introduce this Valentines-themed infographic from The Independent Pharmacy.  It's got some great facts and figures in it about Valentines Day. 

Sex, health, and romance on Valentine's Day.

Save Money On Your Energy Bills... Forever!

Save Money On Your Energy Bills... Forever!  - Look After My Bills helps to reduce your energy bills without you doing a thing.

I'm a sucker for a good tip that helps me save money so was over the moon when Look After My Bills approached me to help them spread the word about their free (YES, FREE) new service from energy switching site, The Big Deal

Some background, so you know they're not just a 'new kid on the block', The Big Deal has over 400,000 members, established over four years.  They use clever research tools and bargaining power to negotiate exclusive deals in energy and broadband.  Members save, on average, over £300 per year by switching to better, cheaper deals. 

Website  | Facebook |  Twitter

The new initiative, Look After My Bills, has been launched to help reduce your energy bills without you doing a thing - saving you even more time and money! You simply sign up to the Look After My Bills website, fill in the simple form and let them do all the hard work for you (this entails continuously assessing the best energy deals and switching you to another good deal when your current contract is about to come to an end). 

Save Money On Your Energy Bills... Forever!  - Look After My Bills helps to reduce your energy bills without you doing a thing.So...
✔ Free
✔ The best deal
✔ No effort from you, the customer
⇉ Win Win Win

I've already signed up and can totally recommend the service. With the best will in the world - and all the advice about swapping energy suppliers to save money - I always put off that research until "next weekend". I've been in my current house for 12 years and never changed energy supplier! I now know I've currently got the best deal for me and all the switch-over kerfuffle was handled by Look After My Bills with three short, informative emails so it's one less thing for me to worry about.

Now... what can I spend the savings on...?

Website  | Facebook |  Twitter

Save Money On Your Energy Bills... Forever!  - Look After My Bills helps to reduce your energy bills without you doing a thing.


Turning A Corner

FitbitchesMOVEment : Turning A Corner - I've turned a corner.  Feeling negative about running has been locked away and if it threatens to rear its ugly head again I'm going to look back over the past couple of weeks and remember exactly what it was that changed my attitude.

I've turned a corner.  Feeling negative about running has been locked away and if it threatens to rear its ugly head again I'm going to look back over the past couple of weeks and remember exactly what it was that changed my attitude. 

FitbitchesMOVEment : Turning A Corner - EIGHT MILES - I've turned a corner.  Feeling negative about running has been locked away and if it threatens to rear its ugly head again I'm going to look back over the past couple of weeks and remember exactly what it was that changed my attitude.
First and foremost, hard running - and running further - is paying off.  If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I ran my furthest ever distance last week... EIGHT MILES!  Claire - my training partner - arranged a Sunday run but initially wouldn't tell me how far we were going so I couldn't psyche myself out. It was Really Fucking Hard Work and I could feel my body having to push beyond any boundaries I had experienced before after six miles but I did it!  At the end I got overly emotional and sobbed in the street.  

FitbitchesMOVEment : Turning A Corner - 50 miles in January -  I've turned a corner.  Feeling negative about running has been locked away and if it threatens to rear its ugly head again I'm going to look back over the past couple of weeks and remember exactly what it was that changed my attitude.
I also hit my goal of running 50 miles in January.  It actually ended up as 63 miles in total, even with a run totally written off because of tight calves. This was a club challenge but I'd also signed up for a medal and compression top from Race At Your Pace to keep me focused. I've decided to keep the momentum going and aim for 60 miles in February. It's a shorter month but hopefully achievable. 

Next... born over the dregs of a bottle of gin and named in a flash of inspiration, The First 10 Minutes Are The Worst launched with its first episode in January.  It's basically just myself and my friend, Rowena, talking about running in a relaxed, truthful and humorous kind of way. The podcast will be monthly for now so make sure you're all tuned in ready for the next episode which will be published on 25th February. There were a couple of teething issues with the first episode but we know how to fix those, we have original theme music composed by Peter Clarke and you can find us by subscribing as follows:

iTunes | search for us in any podcast app | RSS 

Follow us on Facebook  |  Subscribe to the newsletter 

Listen to the first episode on Podbean 

The First 10 Minutes Are The Worst - the podcast

And finally, this month's race has already been run.  On Sunday morning I laced up my trainers and headed to Witton Park in Blackburn for the Blackburn Road Runners Winter Warmer 10k.  Club members aren't normally allowed to enter unless they have a charity place or have been given a place by a race sponsor.  My place was gifted last year but, after officially joining the club, I was given the option whether to run or not.  The route is a tough one with the first 3k totally uphill but, if I've learnt one thing over the past few weeks during my 10 mile training, it's that I HAVE to battle my demons.

Blackburn Road Runners members are THE BEST cheer team ever - even more so on home turf. The way in which they are situated around the course means that you only have to run for a couple of minutes before there is another team in place to give you a few words of encouragement or a 'high five'. 

FitbitchesMOVEment : Turning A Corner - Blackburn Road Runners Winter Warmer 10k 2018 - I've turned a corner.  Feeling negative about running has been locked away and if it threatens to rear its ugly head again I'm going to look back over the past couple of weeks and remember exactly what it was that changed my attitude.

Another great part of the day was finally meeting Pat.  She's a Fylde Coast Runner and we've been chatting and supporting each other on Twitter for ages.  We ran together for the whole race and it was like we'd been friends forever.  Her friend, Chez was running just a short way in front of us and was listening to my podcast for most of the race. Give them both a follow if you're on Twitter... @patsylou59 and @chezpete 

Turning A Corner - Strava personal best times
Apart from that first three kilometres, it was the best race I've run in a very long time. Friends noted that I looked happy as I ran (a rare occurrence for me) and Anna even said that she didn't recognise me coming over the brow of one hill because my running style has changed a bit - hopefully because I felt so confident. And... I somehow managed to get three 'personal best' times for specific distances (probably on the downhill bits but if Strava says it is so, then we're taking it as proof!) PLUS I knocked  a whole 6 minutes off last year's 10k time!

February is only four days old and already I'm loving it.  10 miles... I'm coming to get you! 

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