Life Lately (According to Instagram)

More fun and games.  And cats, of course! Here's a selection of my recent instagram adventures.

The cats discovered just how warm the spare room gets on sunny days....

...happy kits!

I love when I catch them being sweet to one another!

I've had some fun post, including these awesome post-its from Emily!

The #ootd posts continue poorly (I forget *so* often), but the silly pose game is improving.

This is what Fry thinks of Saturday night marking!

To celebrate 30 years of the Junior League of London, we had a 'Party Like It's 1985' gala.  So I went as Supergirl (1984), clearly.  So fun to party with these ladies, Matthew, and the JLL crew!

A new season always inspires me to try some new recipes.

We celebrated 3 years in our lovely home. Such a joy to live here.

Poppet got very cross at the whole 'back to school hours' thing.  And napped lots.

Before the 80s party I broke out the ice bowl we were given as a wedding gift - so fun to fill it with individual bottles of wine, as well as beer and fun canned cocktails rather than sticking to bigger ones.

I always watch a movie while catching up with ironing.  This week it was Josie and the Pussycats.  Such a brilliant, silly movie.  The soundtrack is awesome.

I love devising cocktails - our pre-80s drink was a 'Pretty In Pink'.  A French Martini base, extra Chambord for colour, a dash of orange liquer and cherries to adorn.  Yum!

We feasted on chicken and chorizo sliders, salmon and cream cheese pitas, and cous cous with roasted squash and feta, as well as all the usual buffet suspects.  And a cheese and pineapple on sticks hedgehog, because eighties. Love cooking!

The photo booth at the party did a roaring trade!  Loved dancing to 80s pop, admiring costumes and celebrating a charity of which I am so fond.

Such a fun, busy fortnight.  London in springtime is brilliant.
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Monopodolla bills!

Last month, an intruiging invitation pinged into my inbox from the lovely team at Joe Blogs Network.  I've been to a few of their events and have always been impressed at both the way they are run and the brands and activities involved, so of course I opened it to see what might unfold.

Beer and bargaining = weeknight winning

I was cordially invited to a games night, hosted by Legal and General to promote their investments strand.  Thise of you who know me will be aware that I am a) a board games nut, and b) fond of maths, savings, budgets and spreadsheets (seriously.  Numbers make me happy).   So I quickly shot back a reply and looked forward to some board games based fun.

On arrival at Joes Bloggers HQ (sidenote: their office is awesome.  More offices should have vintage style jukeboxes), we were greeted with prosecco and the game du jour was revealed - MONOPOLY. This is where I should out myself as a little bit of a Monopoly fan.  I love it - the strategy, the bargaining, the strange obsessions we all seem to have with particular properties (I am all about the stations).  So as you can imagine I was thrilled!

My lovely table - some great girls and hardheaded bargain-drivers to boot!

We split into tables of six or seven (I was with the lovely Catherine from Perfectly Polished, Natasha from Dance Flow Lift, Stephanie from Nerd About Town, Hollie from Pretty Big Butterflies, Babs from Working Girl London and  Katie from Toodalookatie) and after some rules chat we were off.  The game was fairly level for a fair time, but just as the pizza arrived (the lovely Charlie from Charlie, Distracted and I had been tweeting all day about the impending CARBAGEDDON!) the tide was starting to turn...

Babs striking a deal.  Hollie doesn't look convinced...

Getting all the stations is my joy.

Properties were bought, deals were struck, at at 9 p.m. it was time to add everything up.... I (somehow) managed to come second overall, and won Matthew a remote control car.  Wife points to the max!

It wouldn't be a blog event without a selfie!  Here with the lovely Katie.

Thank you so much to both Joes Bloggers and Legal and General for a fun evening, which was both entertaining and tied in well to the whole idea of saving and investing.  Thank you also to all the bloggers who made it such a fun event to attend.
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Giveaway: Because Books Make Me Happy (Especially These Ones). And so Does Blogging. And Apparently, Long Titles.

I have been reading Gretchen Rubin's blog and her books for a long time.  Her take on happiness and habits really chimes with a lot of my own ideas, while still offerng challenge and inspiration aplenty. I devoured The Happiness Project when it was first published (I'm a project fiend!), loved Happier At Home, and was delighted when Better Than Before was released earlier this year.  I always enjoy reading Gretchen's take on things, and in a year where I'm aiming to change so many of my habits and ways of doing things this book arrived at the ideal time!

I also follow Gretchen on twitter, so when I realised she would be in town and giving talks, I immediately booked a ticket.  And so it was that on Tuesday last I moseyed down to central London for a 7.30am breakfast and an 'improve your life before lunch' session with the author herself.  It was such a nice morning - I met lots of other reading fans and Gretchen herself was charm personified.  She's clearly whip-smart, but also well-spoken and thoroughly warm.  Such a pleasure to meet her!

The event was hosted by Red magazine, and they really ran everything beautifully.  The conversation was conducted by their Health Editor, Brigid Moss. She was a great interviewer, inquisitive and intelligent.

After the talk there was a book signing - I got a 'gold star' as I've been reading the books and blog for so long!  My inner overachieving schoolgirl (you know I was that kid, right?) was thrilled.

I was also the goofball who asked for a picture.  Yes, I'm a fangirl.

I've enjoyed Gretchen's books so much, I felt like I wanted to share them with others.  I've also been thinking I should do a giveaway, as it's been a while and I wanted to celebrate a recent milestone for this little blog (half a million pageviews...on the one hand, small potatoes, on the other, wow!).

So I am going to do a giveaway, and the winner will receive a copy of each of Gretchen's books: The Happiness Project, Happier At Home, and Better Than Before.  They are all great reads and full of wit and wisdom.  I'm thrilled to be able to share them with one of you!

These are my copies - the giveaway winner will receive paperback copies of The Happiness Project and Happier At Home, and a hardback copy of Better Than Before.

There are various ways to secure an entry - all bids will be added to a spreadsheet and then someone selected at random (using  The ways to enter are:

Leave a comment on this post: 1 entry

Follow me on twitter: 1 entry

Follow me on instagram: 1 entry

Follow me on pinterest: 1 entry

Follow my blog on facebook: 1 entry

(This is probably a good time to mention that while there is some crossover between these four channels, I try to share different things on my profiles in different places too.  Four identikit experiences would not be fun!)

Follow my blog on bloglovin' (I'm starting to get into it!): 1 entry

Tweet about this giveaway: 1 entry

Mention this giveaway on instagram: 1 entry

Pin this giveaway: 1 entry

Facebook about this giveaway: 1 entry

Mention this giveaway on your blog: 1 entry

Leave me a comment below (just one is fine!) and tell me which of the above you've done, and I'll add your entries to the spreadsheet of joy.  This giveaway is combining so many of my favourite things.

If you already follow me on the five sites (twitter/insta/pinterest/fb/bloglovin) please let me know in your comment, and that'll be an entry too for this giveaway - one for each channel.  Loyalty as well as novelty, right?

The maximum amount of entries per person is 11 (one of each), but as it's a random selection, do feel free to do as many or as few as you like.  Huzzah!

Good Luck!  I'm super excited to share these books.  This giveaway will close at 11.59 p.m., BST on Thursday April 30th, and the winner will be announced in my post on Monday May 4th.

Note: This giveaway is all me - the books have been purchased by me, and I paid to go to the breakfast talk.  I just really like positive, interesting reads! :) 
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Life lately, according to instagram

Life lately has been fun and surprising and loaded with goodness (like an awesome plate of nachos, to coin a silly simile).  The Easter break is always a replenishing one and it's been lovely to recharge with sleep and time spent with loved ones and books and myriad other lovely things.  Here are a few things from my lately; some of these items will spawn their own posts too, but I thought I'd do a little post on what's been keeping me busy.

This past weekend was a jaunt to the north to see family.  I was also able to catch up with two lovely friends who are setting up shop in the glorious north-east too!  

Doesn't Hexham Abbey look gorgeous in the spring sunshine?

I've also loved having time to get to various blogger events and goings on.  The Debenhams Beauty Press Day was great fun (I love all things beauty so was a little like a kid in a candy store!) and I loved their lift full of blue skies.

While we were north we spent lots of time with Matthew's family and the niecelets.  This is niecelet two - isn't she precious?  I had oh so many cuddles with this ray of sunshine!

Newcastle from the train.

Leela loves nothing more than to gallop up for some early morning snuggles every day.  Our cats are so sweet!

Always lovely to spot Durham on a journey.

Over on instagram I'm doing outfit of the day (#ootd) posts.  I was just feeling a bit bummed out and frumpy and tired of feeling ashamed of my looks.  Yes, I want to lose weight and get healthier, but I also want to celebrate the now and all the things I wear and love at the moment.  Hence the #ootd posts!  I did note that my 'go to' poses were a little tired, so I'm trying to inject a little more silliness (here, jazz hands, baby!).

Love my cute new shoes.  I love a stripe, me.

Fry is an incredibly beautiful cat, but he's so tricky to photograph well.  He's very shy and his gorgeous black fur can sometimes be hard to capture, but on this occasion boy-cat was ready to work it for the camera!

With a lobster car.  In Hexham.  As you do.

His name was Claude, by the way.

Yesterday I got to try aquaspinning.  It was both a brilliant workout and a unique experience.  More on this soon!

This morning I went to a lovely breakfast talk put on by Red Magazine featuring one of my favourite bloggers and non-fiction authors, Gretchen Rubin.  I'll blog more fully about the morning and her latest book, Better Than Before, soon, but I thought this shot of the two of us was cute, so it got instagrammed.  Such a pleasure to meet her!

After the talk it was off for a walk (all about those steps.....), so I'll sign off with this glimpse of the London skyline, from the top of Primrose Hill.  I'm usually too lazy to climb to the very top, but today in the sunshine felt like the time to do so.

Happy Tuesday, all!
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Spring Cleaning

The sun is shining.

The skies are blue.

Like animals crawling out of hibernation, we all seem to be waking up and feeling ready for a brand new season.

And with the season of spirng, comes the requisite need to spring clean. Hence pictures like the above, where I feel a little like I'm being attacked by a metric tonne of clothing.  Great for the charity shop...not so great for my sanity whilst sifting through gigantic piles of clothing.

The older I get, the better I feel I'm getting at the day to day, week to week keeping tidy of a home, but there's still always time for some spring cleaning.  So when I was asked to write a post for the #CurrysSpringHacks I was more than happy to join in.  Currys wrote their own post, as did lots of other bloggers you can find through the hashtag. Here are a few of my tips - I'd love to hear any you may have!

1. First things first, embrace the to-do list.  Make time to have a good look round and list all the things you'd like to do.  Be realistic with your expectations - some people tend to be a little messier, some are more Martha-Stewart esque.  Find your level and make a list of everything you'd like to achieve.

2. Block out some time to do your spring cleaning.  Ideally a day or two or three is perfect, but in our busy lives this can often be a stretch.  If that's your case, find a few pockets of time to spring clean.  The big-ish tasks you'll be doing require more than a quick fifteen minutes, but will buy you a lot of free time later if you get them right!

3. Purge, and be brutal.  There's nothing quite as frustrating as keeping items beyond their usefulness, and then transporting them through move after move!  Decide what things you're passionate about keeping (for me, that's books and photographs), what things you could probably trim down a little (for me, old letters and cards, and homewares) and the items you want to target for getting rid of the most.

This year the two things I've popped into the latter group are clothes and DVDs.  I've donated a boatload of clothes to charity so far this spring (there are bundles of great charities you can support in this way, and some will even come and collect the items from you); there were several items I'd kept for years and years until I slimmed down/wanted to wear that colour/because I bought it and was sure I'd like it one day and I was decisive about what I would and would not keep.  Next up are our DVDs.  We tend to watch a lot of things on Netflix but have loads of DVDs taking up shelf space.  We're going through them and keeping a few faves (movies like Pitch Perfect & Pretty Woman, which trot out for girls' nights; series like Father Ted and 30 Rock); the others we will donate or ebay.

4. Top to bottom. Fairly common sense, this.  When cleaning go from the top of the house to the bottom - that way any dust you may unsettle will be scooped up as you progress downwards.  That tips comes to you from my lovely mum!

5. Help!  A big part of a deep clean is realising when you're bested.  If there's a particular chore or task you struggle with, consider outside help.  For example, I am useless on a ladder and pretty short to begin with, so cleaning our windows was a nightmare!  We now have a lovely guy who does our street facing windows for a fiver each fortnight, and in the spring we have him do the back windows as well.  Gorgeous streak free windows, fewer falls for me.  Whatever the task - whether it's windows, waste disposal, carpet cleaning - there are a few tasks where calling in the pros can save you a lot of time and angst!

6. Tools. Before a big clean, make sure you've got your cleaning house in order.  Stock up on fluids and sprays; bulk buy your sponges and cloths; double check your mop and hoover for any damage.  When it's go time for a spring clean you want to be bringing your 'A' game!

7. Google and Pinterest are a godsend! Whether you're looking for cleaning tips, ways to organise and declutter, or simply want to set up a cleaning schedule to help you keep things tidy, the internet has a wealth of wisdom to impart!

8. Storage.  Investing in some decent storage for items you want to keep safe and separate (seasonal clothes, decorations, toys) is really worthwhile. I love some of the options available at Asda, Ikea, and Lakeland right now.

9. Finishing touches! Once the grunt work is done, don't forget the finishing touches.  A pretty pillow, fresh flowers or a spritz of room fragrance can really lift a room!

10. Rewards.  After a long day of cleaning, don't forget to treat yourself - whether it's a cup of tea and an evening of TV, a glossy magazine or takeaway for dinner, be sure to put your feet up for a moment and revel in your splendidly tidy home.

I hope you've found this post helpful; here, I'd better get back to the cleaning!

Disclaimer: I was asked to write this as part of the Currys Spring Hacks series.  I will be receiving a goody bag (the contents of which I do not yet know - exciting!) in return. Any links are my own and I have not been compensated for them, nor are they affiliate links.
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Music: What I'm Listening To Now

A little pop, a little country, some older tunes.... Here's what I'm listening to right now.


1. Catch - Allie X

2. On To Something Good - Ashley Monroe

3. Pray To God - Calvin Harris ft. HAIM

4. Doing It - Charlie XCX ft. Rita Ora

5. Real Love - Clean Bandit & Jess Glynne

6. Biscuits - Kacey Musgraves

7. King - Years & Years

8. Up - Olly Murs ft. Demi Lovato (so help me, I love a good bit of cheesey pop!)

9. The Only Exception - Paramore (I will never tire of Hayley Williams' voice)

10. Pedestrian at Best - Courtney Barrett

11. Miss Me More - Striking Matches (so excited to see them again next month!)

12. No Shade In The Shadow of the Cross - Sufjan Stevens (gorgeous.  Heartbreaking)

13.  Out of the Woods - Taylor Swift (one of my favourite songs on 1989.  Big, big tune - I hope Taylor plays it at Hyde Park in a couple of months!)

14. Friday Night - The Shires

What are you enjoying listening to at the mo?
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Life Lately: According to Instagram

Life has been busy.  And changeable.  And exciting.  And has kept me on my toes.  It's Easter break now, however, and I'm looking forward to getting back to more of an even keel.  I have plans to walk and read and blog and generally get back into the swing of the things.  More posts to follow over the next few days and weeks, but for now here's a glimpse of life lately.

Shona and I went to a Silent Disco way up in Millbank Tower.  It wasn't my favourite one I've attended (with three channels of DJs I was expecting more variety and killer tunes, rather than songs being repeated - we heard 'Boogie Nights' three times within a couple of hours on one channel!), but the views were stupendous!

End of term means thank you cards - these are a few of my haul.  I love them - mispellings and me correcting dance moves caught in cartoon form and all!

End of term also meant time in town with these lovelies.  I'm so lucky to have colleagues who I like so much - there is such a lovely crowd at my work!

Human and Fitbit continue to motivate.

Poppet is very pleased it's holiday time, as she tends to get spoilt rotten! My 'go to' holiday lunch is chicken or tuna with salad.  The cats, of course 'help' me with any leftovers.

The Easter Bunny dropped off lots of treats for my boys - and some bunny ears for me!

We had a Junior League pub quiz last week....and our team won (I'm not strictly sure how - luck, I guess!).  Such fun, and my knowledge of 1990s pop and r'n'b totally came in handy!

Well, I must close now.  It's a lovely sunny day here in London and I have a trio of cats to hang out with while I read.  Life is good!
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