What's In Your Dream Kitchen?

How do you like your toast in the morning?
I like mine with a hug.
Dark or light,
The world's all right,
As long as I get my hug.
How Do You Like Your Eggs In The Morning : Dean Martin feat. Helen O'Connell

My name is Nickie and I suffer from toast anxiety. There, I said it.

I shared this picture of the fifteen stages of toast a while back (ranging from warmed up bread to total cremation) and it caused all sorts of debate. I'm personally a 15 kinda girl (8 at a push) and cannot really deviate from that.

My toast has to be perfect.  Hot, buttery and crunchy. And cut into triangles (because you can get a better bite out of it and there's only one corner to eat, just in case you were wondering).

But... do you know what the worst thing is? It's when you make a couple slices of toast and by the time you get to the final triangle, it's lukewarm *shudder*  I never, ever order toast in a café when having a fry-up because you can guarantee that the toast will be stone cold by the time it comes to the table. Oh and toast racks just give me the absolute jitters.

All my life I have been trying to come up with solutions to this dilemma. I've lost count of the amount of times that I have stood up in the kitchen, eating the first slice of toast, hovering over the toaster as the second slice cooks only I can never time it right. Sometimes the toast cooks too soon so has popped up before you're ready to butter it or it pops up too late and you're left with toast-cravings. I have been waiting for the day that Jon Tickle (yes, he of Big Brother Series 4) got past the prototype stage for his Toaster delay idea but it's never yet materialised. 

Now, I was browsing the Kitchen Warehouse website, looking for inspiration for a kitchen  make-over and got sidetracked by appliances. I  know I'm WAAAAAAY behind the times here but imagine my delight when I found the toaster of my dreams. A DeLonghi Argento 4-slice toaster. LOOK... you don't have to cook four slices in one go - you can utilise both sides and cook at separate times and there's even a 'reheat' setting for if the toast you've made does go cold. It's like all my prayers have been answered. And it looks bloody gorgeous sitting on the kitchen units

Delonghi Argento 4-slice toaster from House of Fraser

So, whilst I munch on my multiple perfect slices of toast, tell me how you eat yours and if there's a kitchen appliance you have (or dream of having) that makes your life easier. 


Soundtrack To My Life : Spotify Shuffle!

Soundtrack To My Life : Spotify Shuffle - This music tag reminded me of a couple of posts that I'd done WAA-AAA-AAAY back in the day where you put your music library on "shuffle" and see what comes up. Here is my 2018 version, via my Spotify account...

I'm seriously loving seeing a few of the old school blogging 'tags' doing the rounds again so I jumped on the opportunity to join in a music one as it really fits in with my irregular Soundtrack To My Life series. This prompt comes from Samantha who blogs at Hampshire Mama and it reminded me of a couple of posts that I'd done WAA-AAA-AAAY back in the day (see here and here) where you put your music library on "shuffle" and see what comes up. I'm pretty mainstream "pop" with my music choices So here is my 2018 version, via my Spotify account...

FYI, I have a playlist on Spotify which is linked to my Shazam account - it's my favourite playlist because it's so random, so I'm using that today.


1. Outta Love - Anastasia

A good song to start - and it has a pretty decent video to go with it.  And I can't be the only person who wishes they looked like Anastacia in that little red outfit, surely?  When I was a teenager I was obsessed with copying dances in videos and, I have to admit, that I've tried to copy a few moves from this video in my time (well, back in the early 2000s when I was younger and could move better). 

2. Bulletproof - La Roux

The first time I heard this song I thought it was one I'd missed from the 80s so I fell in love with it straight away.  Random fact though that gives it a connection to that era - the singer is the daughter of the actress who played Sergeant June Ackland in The Bill!! 

3. Mr Bad Guy - Freddie Mercury

Ahhhh Freddie... the most amazing Freddie Mercury.  The album, Mr Bad Guy was Freddie's solo venture whilst Queen were on a recording hiatus and my aunt owned the vinyl which I played over and over every time I babysat my cousins.  I can still remember every word to every song, and I sing at the top of my voice when any track comes on. 

4. Don't Stop - Fleetwood Mac

I probably don't need to do any explaining about Fleetwood Mac, especially not the Rumours album.  But my discover of them went in reverse really.  Dad was a huge fan but I only really "understood" the music when the song "Everywhere" came out.  This sent me delving into Dad's record collection to find gems such as this! 

5. Shotgun - George Ezra

I started out LOVING this song - it was this year's "Shape Of You" which seemed to be played everywhere but it always felt fresh... well, that was until the commercial radio stations started playing it three or four times during office hours. It doesn't matter which radio station we have on at work (we tend to have music stations rather than talky-talky stations), it feels like every other song is this one. It hasn't quite forced me to delete it from my Spotify playlist but I'm on the verge... 

6. A Thousand Miles - Vanessa Carlton

I'm glad this one came up because it's the one song that makes me remember happy office times from an old job and a great work buddy.  We both loved the film "White Chicks" and this song is used twice in that film with great comedic effect.

7. I Can't Stand It - Twenty 4 Seven

There's a whole blog post about my 18th birthday trip to London where I first heard and saw this band at the Hippodrome. It's probably because of that connection that this song has stayed with me over the years but it's not bad, really, if you like that sort of thing... 

8. Try - Colbie Caillat

I first discovered this song via a clickbait article on Facebook (and mentioned it in a blog post about body image) but the lyrics resonated with me immediately - the video is very cleverly done too.  Have a listen...

9. New Sensation - INXS

Michael Hutchence just oozed sex and I was fascinated, firstly, by his relationship with Kylie and, secondly, his relationship with Paula Yates. And I'll never forget when I heard that he'd died (it was on the car radio when I was taking my kids to their swimming lesson) because I think it was the first "famous person" - bar Diana - that I remember being genuinely shocked about.  But the music was, and still is, as sexy as he was. 

10. Back To Black - Amy Winehouse

I just LOVE this song; I can listen to it on repeat. Even without the lyrics, the sound has such a guttural feel to it. I think this song just brushes the surface of Amy's talent and it's such a pity that she decided to fuck about with her own mortality.

11. Anymore - Melanie C

I think that Mel C has the most amazing voice, proven when she took on the role of Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar a few years ago. I've loved all of her song releases from her solo career and the first time I heard this on the radio a couple of years back, even without hearing the introduction, I knew it was Mel C singing.

12. Smalltown Boy - Bronski Beat

One of my all time favourite 80s tracks. I know the song addresses key issues surounding homosexuality and homophobia but it's got that synth-pop vibe that I fell in love with in my teens.

13. Invisible Touch - Genesis

Genesis... another of my dad's music influences for which I am grateful. I mean, I discovered them around the Invisible Touch era and didn't go back too much over their back catalogue.  I did, however, love me a bit of Phil Collins as time went on.

14. Jolene - Dolly Parton

Who doesn't love a bit of Dolly? But this was a random song on my Spotify that came on in the car one day when I was driving the grandchildren to the park.  They cottoned on to the chorus really quickly and we sang it together, with all the windows wound down, starting softly, rising to an almighty crescendo which I'm sure sounded wonderful to all the people we drove past! It's now a staple song for the car.

15. Scared Of The Dark - Steps

As mentioned previously, I love a good pop tune and one that has a dance to go with it is a bonus! Yes, at the grand old age of 46 I still try to copy dances from music videos and often get caught in the kitchen by my husband or my grown up sons!! I love this 'come back' track from Steps for both of those reasons *does all the Steps arm movements


So there you have it. Probably the oddest collection of pop music you'll ever find.  If you want to listen to any of this Spotify Playlist you can subscribe to it here.  I was surprised that there was no Duran Duran, Madonna or 5 Star in there but then I realised that I have dedicated playlists to those artists *embarrassed face

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.

Soundtrack To My Life : Spotify Shuffle

If you would like to join in with this music tag there here's how! 

Give a nod to the person who nominated you and link to their blog.
Open your music library and put it on "shuffle"
Talk about the first 15 songs that appear in the playlist
Tag more people to join in

Here's who will be joining in next - please do go and visit their blog! 


7 Ways You Can Help A Loved One With Cancer

I’ve known so many people with a cancer diagnosis. Some have made it through, some haven’t. In fact, three out of four of us will see a close friend or family member diagnosed with cancer - and you need to be prepared to know what to do to support a loved one, and those around them. Here are a few things you can put in place for your family member or friend if they are diagnosed with cancer.

Complementary therapy

We have the best care available here in the UK but complementary therapies can be rewarding for the mind, body and soul which is just as important when trying to stay strong to fight the battle.

Therapies such as acupuncture, massage therapy, nutritional counseling, yoga, fitness programs, self-hypnosis, guided imagery and meditation can help patients cope with the symptoms of cancer, cancer treatment and its side effects. Many cancer treatment programmes now offer complementary therapies but it has to be understand that these therapies do not cure cancer and it may be inadvisable to exclusively attempt to treat cancer with an alternative method.

Be Truly Present

Friends have told me that when they receive the initial diagnosis of a serious or terminal illness, they have no idea what to say.

Sometimes there are no words - you don’t have to worry about what to say but you can be there to listen and care. Trying too hard to say or do the right things or to feel like you have to fix everything can create added pressure so understand that as much as you want to fix everything… you can’t!

Be there with emotional, social and spiritual support to facilitate their treatment journey and be strong for them because there will be times that you all just want to break down and no-one should feel bad about doing that. Sometimes all someone with cancer needs is to sit beside a loved one — someone to listen and talk to her if she can’t stand the quiet, hold her hand while she cries, or pray while she prays… whatever works for each individual person.

Offer Practical Help

It can help to focus on practical, everyday tasks that you can do to make things a little easier for your loved one. You can help to prepare meals, do the housework, assist with childcare and/or running errands. Everyone will offer help, so grab that offer with both hands and draw up a rota.

Incorporate extra tasks with your own - pick up an extra basket of shopping at the supermarket or arrange playdates for the children, cook an extra meal to put in the freezer when you are making your own evening meal.. . just think about the things that seem like a natural fit with your loved one’s needs and see how you can fit that into your own routine.

Keep their chemo-schedule in your diary so you know when they, and their family, may need extra help. Next I’ve included some ideas that you can use to make this easier for you.

Shower Your Loved One With Gifts

Send a card or letter by snail mail to arrive at the end of each treatment session so that your loved on has something to read when they get home, especially when they are some way into their treatment and their new routine has become a “normal” part of everyone else’s lives.

Have a regular games day/night playing traditional board games - not too taxing but definitely keeping the brain active - plus a great opportunity for a few family or friends to gather with little pressure. This will alleviate isolation or loneliness and make them feel loved.

Whilst researching the post I was invited to take a look at the Live Better With website which provides practical gifts such that are going to make patients more comfortable I found fabulous suggestions on their website and picked out a few that I loved - take a look at their head wraps, pillows or even luxury socks. But, after reading in Marie Claire that pyjama wear for daytime use was an up and coming trend, I thought that gifting these bamboo pyjamas would be a great idea as they are cozy, yet chic and, even better, keep your temperature regulated

Live Better With is a UK-based website with a worthy mission: to “make everyday living a little better for people with cancer”. The website focuses on, and has succeeded in, being an easy-to-use shopping platform for the many available products that can improve the daily quality of life for patients with cancerAs I have mentioned previously, I do like to support UK-based and/or independent businesses where I can so I'm happy to fully recommend this company.

Be Flexible

Sometimes, what you think is best isn’t what the patient really wants or needs. Ask them what they need and be respectful of their wishes. Of course, your loved one may not know what they need or their needs may change so you may have to help them figure that out with careful questions.

When family members are able to talk to their loved one about how to help, it leaves more time, space and energy for their loved one with cancer to focus on her healing,

Take Care Of Yourself

For those in a supportive role, the most important thing is to be healthy, both physically and emotionally. The healthier you are, the better able you are to be fully present and helpful for your loved one help them through their journey.

That means getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising and taking part in activities that you enjoy. Maybe even join in some of the alternative therapies yourself - with the added bonus of being able to manage your own symptoms of depression and anxiety that often accompany a loved one’s diagnosis. Even better - most of the aforementioned activities can be done together — enhancing wellbeing on multiple levels.

Make Them Laugh

It’s a huge cliche but laughter really is the best medicine. Keeping things light, silly and normal allos the freedom to just let loose and experience normality. And the sound of laughter comes from deep within the soul, providing endorphines which can have an analgesic effect.

Also, you’re still creating positive and special memories for everyone to look back on with fondness. It’s very special to feel loved when everything else can feel so awful.

Disclaimer : As you know, I have personal experience of having a family member with cancer  This post was written in conjunction with Live Better With Cancer Care.   Image credits : sydney Rae | Fabian Møller

Can Leaders Work From Home?

Can Leaders Work From Home?
Image Credit

There is no denying that remote work has become exceptionally popular over the past few years. The benefits associated with this are obvious. It presents people with greater flexibility when it comes to their working life and more comfort too. However, there is no denying that some job roles simply cannot be conducted from within the comfort of your own property. After all, it’s not like you could ask your construction boss to work from your house, is it? But what about leadership roles? Can leaders work from home?

Yes, leadership roles can be performed remotely

As a leader, you are going to be working closely with a lot of people at the business you work for. This leads a lot of people to assume that you cannot work remotely. However, this is not the case. Yes, you do need to be face-to-face with people at times, so your job cannot be 100 per cent remote. Nevertheless, there are going to be plenty of times whereby using tech to communicate will be more than sufficient. You don’t need to be face-to-face with your team every hour of the day. It is all about communicating a clear purpose and then creating an environment of trust. Attaining a strategic leadership degree can assist you with this. If you have done this, and you have effective methods for all forms of communication in place, there is no reason why you can't work remotely at times.

Technology means you don’t have to have meetings in person today

Technology has progressed rapidly over the past few years, which is one of the main reasons why remote work has become so popular. Technology means that we no longer have to be in meetings, as we once used to. We can make the most of video conference calls instead. This is especially beneficial when communicating with clients that are based overseas, so why can’t it work when engaging remote workers?

Do you think you will have a socially disconnected workforce if you work from home?

This is what a lot of people think. This can happen but only if you let it. However, you will quickly learn that there are ways to ensure that this does not happen. It is all about generating processes and structures that support a team that is socially connected. This begins with the culture you create, and then it will flow into your communication constructs and methods, for example, using instant messenger applications or having daily meetings via Google Hangout.

So there you have it: leaders can most certainly work from home.
Nevertheless, there is no denying that you will need to go about this in the correct manner if you want to make working from home a success. You need to ensure that you have a good mixture of communicating remotely and meeting up whenever important matters are discussed. You should also make sure the right structures are in place for effective communication and collaboration. If you do this, there is no reason why leaders cannot make working from home work for them.
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