2015: The Review

I've done this review at the close of each year since 2007.  Back then it was very much the era of quizzes and myspace surveys and email around doodads.  My writing and blogging has moved on a fair way since then but nonetheless I love taking a chance at the end of the year to look back in the past twelve months...I couldn't resist doing it again!


This review is becoming something of a yearly tradition....you can find the reviews for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 , 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 by clicking through. It's always nice to take stock at the end of a year and see what's happened over the last 12 months.

1. What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?

I went on honeymoon.  I walked away from a career.  I saw the Pacific Ocean.

 2. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions and will you make more for next year?

I tried to lose weight.


I failed.


Next year I'm not resolving *anything* along those lines....can't really do any worse!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

So many people!  Our life is full of beautiful little ones, we are very lucky!

4. Did anyone close to you die?


5. What countries did you visit?

Scotland, Spain (twice) and the USA.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?

A fabulous new job which really inspires me and works alongside blogging & writing would be brilliant!

7. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Sitting in one of the front two seats in first class on the 19th of July, toasting Matthew with a glass of champagne as we set off on our dream of a honeymoon.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Probably resigning from my job, and taking a leap of faith.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Probably letting self-doubt and worry get the better of me too often.  I beat myself up a lot, and it's such a waste of time and energy.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing of consequence.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Books I've enjoyed, tickets to events, gifts for my loved ones.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

My beloved friends, husband and family.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

I don't think I get to make that call.  We're all walking a hard road at times, right?

14. Where did most of your money go?

Fun, books, travel, savings.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Blogging, exploring, books.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?

There are several, including but not limited to:

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: Happier or sadder? Thinner or fatter? Richer or poorer?

Happier about some things, sadder about others.  The same size.  And poorer, for sure.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Reading, time with friends.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?


20. How did you spend Christmas?

Quietly at home with Matthew and the cats.  It was lovely.

21. Did you meet anyone special in 2015?

I made some really lovely blogger friends - I'd been reading a lot of their blogs for a while, but this is the year I really got to know some of them well.

22. What was your favourite TV program?

Nashville, Gogglebox, Empire, Have I Got News For You, Parks & Recreation, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, House of Cards.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?


24. What was the best book you read?

'Best' is always hard to quantify!  My favorite reads this year have probably been Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling, The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam and Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I really got into Drake and The Weeknd towards the end of the year.

26. What did you want and get?

Health, happiness, fun.

27. What did you want and not get?


28. What was your favourite film of this year?

I've seen some great movies this year (thank you, Unlimited card!).  For sheer joy it's hard to top Star Wars: The Force Awakens; but I'd give honourable mentions to Joy, The Dressmaker and Spectre as well.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I hit thirty-five and celebrated with lunch with Eileen and Krang, and dinner with Matthew, Shona and Kaz.  I had nachos for dinner.  Because grown up.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Less worry.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?

A little more ambitious than usual at times....and a lot more sweatpantsy at others.

32. What kept you sane?

Good coffee, good books and good friends.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?


34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Too many to list.

35. Who was the best new person you met?

Some of the afforementioned bloggers.  They crack me up, in an awesome, awesome way.

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.

To quote Frozen...let it go.  Whatever 'it' may be.

37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I honestly can't think of one that sums up the year, it's been a real rollercoaster.

I can, however, sign off with some pics from the year!  Once again I utterly fail to whittle down to a few...so here's a slideshow from a big, fun, silly year:

Happy New Year, everyone!

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What to blog about in January

I've been blogging for a long time.

One of the things I rarely run out of is things to write about, but I also know how tricky it can be when you're under the gun and looking for inspiration.  When time is short and themes are elusive, it can be difficult to come up with just the thing to write about, which people would like to read about!  To this end I thought that throughout this year to come at the end of each month I'd compile a post full of ideas on themes and things to write about in the month to come.  As I researched this the remit widened a little as I found more and more things to cover.  I hope you find it useful!

After the busy-ness of the last few months, there are fewer feast or festival days in the winter chill of January.  That being said, both Epiphany (6th January) and Burns Night (25th) could garner lovely posts - I know I'll be making some chicken and haggis pie to commemorate the latter.

January sweeps a new mood into proceedings, and the following themes always prove popular at this time of year:

  • New Year's Resolutions (or lack thereof!)

  • Organisation posts (here are a couple from last year)

  • Health based pieces - exercise tips, healthy eating ideas, great resources

  • Goal setting - whether it's to save £1000 in a year, lose 15 pounds, or read 50 books, the start of the journey and how people are hoping to achieve their goal is always inspiring (and often helpful)

  • Financial posts - how to save money, tips on running budgets

  • Recipe posts - January is often a time of year where people try new things, so sharing recipes is a great way to provide some interesting content

  • Home posts - after all the Christmas decorations are done the home can look a little spartan, so I like to add some little brightnesses to the place, which are fun to share about.  It's often when we work out what decorating/home improvements we'd like to do over the year, which I love researching and writing about

  • Travel posts - dreaming of sunshine in the wintertime can be good for the soul!

Special days can be fun to commemorate if they fit with your likes, passions, causes or hobbies.  As well as being National Blood Donor Month it's also National Slow Cooking Month and National Soup Month, as well as: National Sci-Fi Day (2nd), National Bubble Bath Day (8th), Cheese Lover's/Lovers' Day (20th), National Compliment Day (24th), and National Puzzle Day (29th)!  If none of those suit your tastes, there are many websites like the National Day Calendar which are full of ideas.  Most of these celebrations originated in the US, but I find with social media they are getting more and more international. It's always fun to join in.

Here in London there are lots of excitements to look forward to as well.  From January 8th - 17th it's the London Boat Show (which always makes me think of this, in a good way), and the London Short Film Festival runs over the same dates.  January 14th - 17th sees Lumiere, which should look amazing, and also for the art crowd there is the London Art Fair (Jan 20th-24th).  Lastly, if running is more your style, there are still places available for the London Winter Run (with polar bear hugs!), which takes place January 31st.

I'll blog later about some of the cultural elements I'm looking forward to in January (here), but I hope you've found some inspiration here for your January blogging.  Have fun!  

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Merry Christmas!

I hope it's a fabulous one.  Merry Christmas!
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Our Christmas Decorations

For the past few years I've faithfully done our decorations tour mid-December, but this year finds me doing so much later than usual.  I still wanted to share though, because I *love* decorating for Christmas, and now the busy season of planning and posting and partying has passed, I'm so happy with our festive little home. Three trees, tinsel aplenty, even festive handtowels.  I love it. I hope you enjoy, and you can see previous years by clicking through on the relevant year (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009).  I'm off to enjoy my favourite day of the year!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
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Glam Clam Meat Slam*

*I find the title of today's post is even more fun if you sing it along to this.

I am very lucky to have some great friends who are bloggers too.  I'm even luckier that some of these friends are bloggers in London, which is great - at most events I go to there's at least a friendly face or two, and I'm so grateful to be part of a community that's so supportive and fun.  Imagine my delight, then, when earlier this month the gorgeous crew at Talented Talkers reached out to me to see if I'd be interested in attending a blogger night out with a difference.  An evening of silliness, food and fun, and the chance to try out a new financial product to boot.

As many of us will know from group events, a kitty is often the way to sort funds.  Everyone puts in their share, and then a lucky soul gets nominated to be in charge of the cash (for some mystical reason, this cash almost always ends up being stashed in a pint glass).  It's a great wee system, but you can end up with coins aplenty by about 11pm.  Those clever folk at Santander had clearly been left with a pocket full of coppers at the end of the night before, because they've designed an app called KiTTi - just like the old method, but done electronically via the app, and the money then loaded onto a prepaid card.  We used the card for booking, and paying for meals and drinks.

Now the science part is over, on to the fun!  We were a merry group of ten for our Saturday night on the town, and it was such fun to catch up with Charlie, Ashleigh, Katy, Erica, Milly, Charley & Angela and to meet Natasha and Emsy.  We decided that as we were partying the weekend before Christmas we wanted to a) wear glittery outfits, and b) do something festive, if not madly Christmassy.  After dozens of emails and hundreds of WhatsApp messages we finally decided on a venue for our meal and our entertainment.  

We enjoyed a meal of meats and veggies and cocktails at Q Grill in Camden before heading up to The Glam Clam in Tufnell Park to party with some cabaret and drag queens.  We did consider eating at The Glam Clam, where Gizzi Erskine had put together a lovely five-course fish heavy menu, but a couple of the group don't like fish and I get reactions to scallops and some shellfish, so we thought we'd steer clear!

These Plum and Lychee SMASH cocktails were delicious, and dangerous.  Definitely teh kind of cocktail where your brain gets convinced you are sipping juice!

Erica providing some lighting for our foodie shots - what a gem!

Butternut squash hummus with feta, and chargrilled flatbreads served in a cute little toast rack.

So fun to hang out with gorgeous girls like Katy and Ashleigh and get all excited about the festive season to come!

Forgive the awful lighting - I thought this pic of Charlie and I was fun - she's such a cutie and soooo clever!

On one side of me Charlie had beef hash....

....while Erica went for ribs.  So much deliciousness!

Butterfish, and cornbread waffles with maple butter.

After eating a large amount of food, we paid up (thanks, KiTTi) and headed off to Tufnell Park.  We decided to walk, but Charlie, Ashleigh and I jumped onto a bus halfway there - heels, man.

Charley wins by taking a clam shaped purse to a venue named The Glam Clam.  We had so much fun at the show!  The wine flowed, many moves were busted, Shirley Bassey was bae and the drag queens were fabulous and too much fun!

Ashleigh (above) and Milly (below) making friends.

The cabaret and the performers were something else - this version of 'The Lady Is A Tramp' was like nothing I'd seen or heard before!

Thank you so much to Q Grill and The Glam Clam for a hilarious get-together, and to KiTTi for helping it to happen.

Disclaimer, because tranparency suits me:  This evening was paid for by KiTTi/Santander, with a nominal amount from my own pocket.  All opinions, dancing, and drag queen leg envy are my own.

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Beauty: Oils of Life

As I've grown up, a few things have stayed the same.  I'm still a bookworm.  I still love teen movies, from Clueless to Mean Girls to Bring It On.  I'd still rather chill out in my PJs than do many things.

Some things, however, have changed.  I'm more outgoing and confident (I was always talkative, but scared as heck of most things in my youth). I'm a better cook.  And I'm a lot more interested in make up, beauty products and skincare.  Turns out this is a very good thing as there are tonnes of great products to explore and enjoy, to help make the best of the skin you have.  My skin is a true combo - a little dry, a little oily, a lot sensitive, but I'm always willing to try new products and techniques to see if they work and make me feel and look good.  I'm thirty-five, and perfectly happy to look my age...but I'd like to look a good thirty-five, you know?

To this end I'm trying out a couple of anti-aging regimens that I've been sent, to see if I like the effects of the products.  The first of these I'll be writing on is the Oils of Life range from The Body Shop, which arrived late last week, and which I'm writing about as part of their fun advent calendar.

I was sent the Intensely Revitalising Facial Oil,  the Intensely Revitalising Bi-Phase Essence Lotion and the Intensely Revitalising Cream.  All of the products look very luxe, with shiny gold labels and high-end feeling containers.  The oils smell great - the combination of black cumin, rosehip and camellia is spicy, but not overpowering - and feel silky and smooth.  I'm looking forward to trying out the regimen for the recommended four weeks in the new year to see if oil based products work for me.

Thank you to The Body Shop for gifting me these items to try - I've heard some great things about facial oils so I'm excited to see if they work for my skin. These products seem like they'd make a lovely gift for a skincare maven!
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I Love Your Blog: Hello The Mushroom

One of my favourite things to do here on the blog is share some of my favourite bloggers with you.  The I Love Your Blog series gives me a chance to do this and to celebrate some of the people whose writing I go back to again and again.  There are so many wonderful writers and bloggers out there - I love being able to feature them here.

This week I'll be sharing an interview with the lovely Sara of Hello The Mushroom.  Sara is a stylish and intelligent blogger who's also a total sweetie - I love bumping into her at blog events here in town.  It was great to be able to feature her and to hear a little more of her take on blogging, writing, and life here in town. All pictures included are taken by the very talented Sara.

How long have you been blogging?

I have been blogging since Livejournal times, around 2003. Back then blogging was a lot different and so was what I was doing. I did that for a few years and stopped. After a couple of years hiatus and moving to the UK, I started my current blog, Hello The Mushroom in 2010 or so. It has evolved a lot and hopefully it will continue to do so!

What do you blog about?  Do you have a specific goal with your blog (i.e. reviewing products, promoting a business, transitioning into a writing / media / digital career), or is it more a record of your life?

I blog about lifestyle in general, as I like so many different things and it would be hard to choose just one to focus on. At the moment I planning a large overhaul of my content, as I enjoy what I am doing at the moment, but can't seem to find the time to blog about other themes I am really passionate about - art, tattoos, and some other less mainstream subjects. 

What is your favourite thing about blogging?

The opportunity to have a voice, a creative outlet where you can do whatever you want and of course, meeting some amazing, cool people such as yourself*! Also the opportunity to work with brands should not be forgotten. 

* thank you, Sara! - Claire :)

What is your least favourite thing about blogging?

I think that sometimes it can make me feel like I have to do everything perfectly. It can be a little bit anxiety inducing, when you start thinking you're not doing enough on the blog. Also the pressure to be on social media all the time can be a little daunting. 

Do you have any favourite posts on your blog – pieces you’re really proud of, which document something special, or which seemed to strike a chord with your readers?

My favourite posts are the ones that I get to show what the world looks like through my eyes and these are usually mostly photo heavy. I like writing but creating imagery gives me a lot of pleasure. I think that one of my most commented/ shared posts was one I did on dating a few months ago. It seemed to have struck a chord with a lot of people, who were feeling the same frustrations. 

Whose blogs do you love?  I’m always looking for recommendations :) 

I am currently having some difficulty finding time to stay on top of other blogs, but when I do, I like looking at Brain Pickings, Messy Nessy Chic, Hecticophilia to just name a few I visit regularly. 

What has been the most surprising moment in your blogging career so far?

All of it, really. If you had told me back in 2003 that I'd be getting a new career in London on the back of the things I've learned because of blogging, I'd be telling you "get outta here!"

I love the images you take and select for your blog - how do you get such amazing shots and find such brilliant locations?

I carry my camera with me frequently and make sure my phone always has juice, as you never know what you might stumble upon. I have always loved taking photos, ever since I was a child, as my dad had a love of photography and gave me my first point and shoot film camera when I was 9 or something. Because I've always had a penchant for art and I had some formal art education (having sone a lot of drawing, painting and collage back in the day), I believe that with time and also looking at other people's work all the time has educated my eye and I can easily see an interesting shot. However, I mostly used point and shoot cameras all my life and I have only had a decent camera for around a year. Proper photography and a lot of the good photos you see are still a product of happy / lucky coincidences. I am learning more about controlling my camera (albeit slowly) and hopefully my images will get better and less of a product of chance!

Your city based posts are always a real treat - you have a real eye for outdoor shots.  Is there a particular city you'd like to visit and shoot?

Thank you! Those are the type of posts I really enjoy doing. I have sooo many places I'd love to go to... Stockholm, Rome, Tokyo, just to name a few! One day, one day...

What tips do you have for bloggers growing and nurturing their blogs?

Don't be afraid of making mistakes, just get your posts out there. Perfection is the enemy of action and it's very easy to overthink situations. you just have to remember that you learn from your mistakes. Also, pay attention to the details that will help your blog get more visible (check out the blog post I did on easy SEO tips for bloggers- shameless plug, I know). 

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Sara - I loved having the chance to feature you here!

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Happy birthday, little blog; we are into the double figures!

On this day ten years ago, I was sat in my bedroom about to travel up for Christmas at my parents' house, home for the holidays after my first term as a prep school teacher.  It had been a fun start to what would trun out to be a lovely career, but I had found living alone in a rural village hundreds of miles from close friends and family a challenge after years of having people close by.  The internet had become a real lifeline, a way to chat with people, keep up, and arrange meet ups.  As I spent more time online, I started reading blogs, and on the 20th December 2005, this blog was born.

It's been such a fun ride, and I've learned so much and met some truly amazing people through my blogging and writing here.  I consider myself very lucky to live in a generation where anyone can sit down and share their story, and I love being (a very small) part of the blog community.  This blog has been part of my life for a decade and I love having it as a record of the journey so far - some very big events (meeting my now-husband, buying our first home, changing careers) and lots of fun smaller ones (travels, parties, events) are documented and preserved on this little blog!  To celebrate this mini milestone I thought I'd share ten of my favourite posts - these are by no means the ten most popular, or even the ten best, but when I went a-wandering, these are ten posts which caught my eye and my imagination. I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane.

1. The List.  In 2007 I set myself a list of things to achieve.  I didn't finish them all but managed well over half and had some great adventures too.  I must review this in the new year and see what else I have left to do.

2. A Quiet Life.  Yep.

3. Literary Sisters.  Because I love me some book chat.

4. Project Life Tuesday: last week in November.  I used to love these weekly scrapbooking posts.  I'd love to get back into memory keeping like this.

5. A life of simple pleasures...a thought on boys....and some more shiny. I wrote this post in September 2008 after some pondering and included the fateful proclamation that I finally knew what I wanted in a relationship.  Three days later Matthew and I got together.  Foreshadowing win, blog.

6. Five Minute Friday: Real.  I used to love doing the five minute Friday prompts.  Such a fun, engaging way to write.

7. Ten years.  Sometimes things on the blog get deep, just as things do in life.  Writing on the loss of a dear friend was one of the hardest posts I've written, but if it helps just one person working through things, it was worth it.

8. All the leaves are brown.  A short and sweet thinking out loud post.  I've always got time for these!

9. Joinverne5s.  I was a joinee for six or seven lovely years, and writing up our Join Meets, where dozens of people converged on a city to catch up, do challenges, and do lots of random acts of kindness (RAoKs), was always fun.  This Inverness one was especially great as the lovely Naomi and my mummy came along!

10. London-Houston-Dallas-London.  Weddings have been a huge part of the last ten years.  Flying over to Texas to be part of Jenna & Chris's was brilliant, and was mine and Matthew's first big holiday together too.

Here's to the next ten years.
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My Christmas Playlists: Sacred & Choral Music

Can you believe how speedily Christmas is approaching?  One of my favourite jobs to do in advance is to mix up a few playlists of favourite Christmas tracks for entertaining, present wrapping, baking and decorating.  A couple of weeks ago I posted my 'pop' playlist, and last week I shared my 'entertaining' one. Now it's time to share my favourite music from the sacred and choral canon.  In the olden days (so, the 1990s and the noughties) I'd make these into mixtapes or mix CDs.  In our modern, digital world that's a little old school so instead please enjoy a youtube mix:

Or click through to enjoy this mix over on spotify! No Carrie on this mix due to availability and some of the versions are different....but it should still be a good listen.

I hope you enjoy the mix.

Will you be going to church or attending a carol concert this Christmas?

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A quick December catch up!

This time of year is always so fun - places to go, people to see, things to do.  That being said, at times it can feel like one's feet hardly touch the ground!  Since our return from Mogán (that holiday now feeling like a lifetime away) life has been a blur of fun, work, and Christmas prep.  It's lovely, but I must admit I'm starting to look forward to a little later in the month, when everything just calms down a few notches and curling up with a book, a cup of coffee, and a mince pie is the most strenuous thing on the agenda!  I love this season of Christmas busy-ness and fun with friends, but the pull of hibernation is strong.

Here are a few snippets from my December so far:

Last weekend Matthew and I flew up to Forres to see my parents.  It's always such fun to pop back to Scotland and we shared a fab weekend of food, fun, port and Uno.

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Penguin Platform Christmas party, and to hear from and meet with some spectacular authors!  I also departed with a gigantic pile of books to wade through....delightful.  I'm looking forward to reviewing these here on the blog soon.

The Junior League's Boutique de Noel was a huge success and a very fun evening.  I enjoyed catching upo with so many of my League lovelies, including the always gorgeous Eileen.  Eileen and I also headed out for a very fun birthday meal last week - we went to our favourite restaurant in her neighbourhood and set the world to rights over pie, duck, and wine.

The Christmas decorations are up!  Above is Delia, our new Christmas tree.  I'll do a proper tour of the decs next week, I love having Christmassy loveliness throughout the house.

Avocado toast is my breakfast of choice this month - really keeps me going!

On Monday of last week I went to my first experience of Gospeloke with the lovely Erica, Charlie and Ashleigh.  Singing in front of a gospel choir was brilliant; as a quartet we rocked out 'Uptown Funk'.  Later in the evening I was called up again to be part of 'Lady Marmalade', the version from Moulin Rouge.  Guess who had to be L'il Kim?  Too fun.

A little bit in love with our wreath, which is on our inner front door.  Smells soooooo Christmassy!

No visit to Forres is complete without a visit to Mackenzie and Cruickshanks garden centre.  Christmas stuff EVERYWHERE at this time of year, which has me as happy as a pig in poo.

I always love seeing the Christmas lights above Oxford Street.

As I posted about last week, I turned 35.  I had such a lovely day and was lucky to spend time with some favourite folk, and hear from many others.  I also got to have nachos for tea - score!  Such a fortunate lady.

I think the cats like their Christmas tree - the first time we've done one in 'their' room.  Slumbering cats are good for the soul.

On our travels north we traveled through St Pancras - how wonderful (and huge!) is this Disney tree?

This past weekend, Matthew headed to the north-east to see his family.  I went up to Leeds with my good friend Hannah (ROAD TRIP!) to visit the lovely Emily and Adam and their sweet doggies.  It was such fun to catch up with them and to see our other friends Matthew, Siobhán, Craig and Shelley.  We ate yummy food, played games, huggled with dogs, went to markets, and generally had a great time.  I also received a little birthday spoiling - including the awesome Taylor Swift colouring book that Emily got me.....

So that's  my December so far....how is your month going?

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