Kaelah has some great tree decorating tips.
Stephanie's photos from her wedding party are beautiful!
Kirsty's photos from Croatia are stunning!
How delicious does Claire's white hot chocolate recipe look?!
Andini's post about the Woman Fashion Power exhibition is awesome.
Danny's post about finding your inner confidence is fantastic!
This is the sweetest pregnancy announcement.
How well do you know the words to A Whole New World? I knew them all. Whoop!
Ok, I cannot wait to ride the world's tallest rollercoaster in Orlando!
Want to find out what my worst Christmas present was?
There is no author attributed to this book although, judging by the horrendously inaccurate use of commas, I assume it's Mel Plehov, the writer behind the Harold Shipman book. Somehow they manage to spell Hindley in three completely different ways within the space of 3 pages and repeatedly give Ian Brady the middle name Thomas instead of his actual name Duncan. As well as the erratic use of commas, misspellings and inaccuracies, there is also the problem with completely incoherent sentence structure. Here is a genuine quote for you, copied out word for word:
The way that so much pain, which doesn't diminish over time, could in a vile way provide a continuation of the sadistic pleasure, and reminder of his actions to the one living person who knows where the remains of the victims are.
That's not even a sentence! How did that get published? Did anybody proofread the book?
Luckily, the rest of the book is of slightly better quality. There are still basic errors but the majority of the facts are accurate and it's not appallingly written for the most part. The chronology is bizarrely inconsistent, jumping from the pair's imprisonment, to their trial and then to Myra's death back to her time in prison.
However, my main problem with the writing is that, although we can all agree the crimes were horrific and abhorrent, the author loses sight of professional distance and ends up becoming far too emotionally involved. Phrases such as "both these people personify the word EVIL" (capitals included) and "women around the world still hate her, hate what she represents, and hate what she allowed to occur" reveal a sensationalist bias which makes it difficult to find any credibility.
For anyone who is interested in finding out more about the Moors Murders, especially Myra Hindley, I'd recommend steering well clear of this sensationalist account, seemingly published only with the motive of easy money-spinning, and instead try the far superior One of Your Own by Carol Ann Lee.
Nicola, the blogger behind Pink Confetti, is incredible. She is both a teacher and a police officer (and is very open about her career dilemmas) but has also recently undergone jaw surgery, documenting the process to help others who are going through it. It's not all hard-hitting posts on Pink Confetti, though. You can also expect lots of book reviews, beauty, fashion and trips to amazing places like Iceland. Oh, and Nicola's blog design is really cute!
Beth may be becoming a regular on my sidebar but I don't think I could ever run out of lovely things to say about her! Recently she's posted photos of herself in her (adorable) Olaf pyjamas as part of a Children In Need Bloggers' PJs campaign and made her own Lush gift set for £10. If recipes (especially veggie gluten-free ones), beauty and books are your thing, check out Beth Tinkerbell. I count her as a friend too, so that's a good reason!
Lipsticks and Lashes
Gemma, of Lipsticks and Lashes, is a superwoman! As well as juggling two jobs, she is a carer for her mum, runs a small jewellery business (Pearl Divine) and still found time to blog every day in October! Whether it's an honest post about her life as a carer and the realities of every day blogging, or beauty reviews and motivational messages, Gemma always writes from the heart. I also love the cute garden-effect she gives her photos!
I am so excited to share this with you! A couple of weeks ago, the lovely people at Simply Be contacted me to ask if I would like to be involved in their #SimplyBeReal campaign, reflecting the fact that fashion doesn't always go to plan. Rather than moping in our embarrassment, the campaign is a way to use those real moments as a funny anecdote to share with others and Simply Be have teamed up with a number of talented illustrators to depict these moments.
Straight away, I knew the moment that I wanted to share because it is still something that makes me laugh whenever I think about it. As you may know, I am a primary school teacher and I work very hard to develop a supportive environment in my classroom where every member- children and staff- are almost part of a family unit. We are loyal to every member of the class but also share jokes and tease each other.
One day, when I was wearing an outfit much like this one, I was working with a group on a reading activity. Most of the class were quietly reading while I listened to my group read The Enormous Crocodile. I was encouraging the children to think of words to describe the crocodile and gave them an example: "Big, fat tummy!"
From across the classroom, the most mischievous of my boys shouted "Miss! Are you talking about yourself?" After that, "chubby" became a class injoke, and when the children left my class in July, I even got cards thanking me for "being a lovely chubby teacher"!
After sharing my real moment, Simply Be told me that they were asking Anke Weckman to illustrate it as she has a childlike quality to her drawings. I checked out her website, loved her style and couldn't wait to see the illustration. However, nothing prepared me for the most adorable illustration that was sent over. Are you ready?
Isn't it amazing! It actually looks like me and I love all the little details, like the crocodile book cover. The way she has captured the friendly, fun environment of my classroom is incredible. I absolutely love it! (And wouldn't a personalised illustration be a fantastic gift for a teacher!)
I'd love to hear all about your real moment, and don't forget to use the #SimplyBeReal hashtag to share it on social media!
I wrote this post in collaboration with Simply Be in exchange for the personalised illustration.
For November, the theme of the Ask Her Friends Bloggers' Pick was "experiences". As well as picking two experience days, I also chose three gifts to get your creativity flowing.1) A relaxing spa day to chill out and let your mind wander.
2) Create your own perfume with a fragrance-making workshop.
3) I've always wanted to learn calligraphy so this kit is perfect!
4) Scribble down creative ideas in an initialled notebook.
5) Who doesn't want to bake some yummy cookies?
As well as all the great experience gifts, which also include afternoon tea, meet the meerkats and sushi making, the Ask Her Friends blog has some great suggestions on how to package these gifts. I love the idea of a favour jar.
As always, you can win a £50 Ask Her Friends voucher by voting for your favourite selection on the Ask Her Friends panel page but there are also two extra vouchers up for grabs, worth £60 each.
If that wasn't enough, Ask Her Friends are offering two discounts: £10 off each £30 spend with bedbug10 and £20 off a spend of £50 with bedbug20. There are only 20 vouchers for each code so get in quick! Vouchers cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer, and only one voucher is available per household/email address. Perfect for starting your Christmas shopping!
This post has been written in collaboration with Ask Her Friends.
Monty the Penguin flew onto my laptop screen about 20 minutes ago and Twitter is alight with photos of him. However, I'm choosing to publish this about 2 weeks after the premiere of the advert as I don't want to spoil it for anyone. By now, everybody in the English-speaking world (and then some) must have seen it so let's talk about Why the John Lewis Christmas advert made me cry.
Let me start by saying I have a long history with John Lewis adverts, beginning with 2011's The Long Wait. That video touched me so much that I still watch it on YouTube and it still makes me cry every single time. I even downloaded that version of the song for my Christmas playlist. 2012's The Journey also made me cry, but only the first couple of times. It was a sweet advert but had nothing on its predecessor. Then came The Bear and the Hare in 2013, which I could not stand. It felt contrived and formulaic: I could imagine business people in a meeting room with a Powerpoint titled "How can we make them cry? Tears= Sales". Needless to say, I wasn't expecting great things this year.
And then came Monty the Penguin. Since I have the above mentioned history with John Lewis ads, I thought it would be funny to record my reaction Gogglebox-style for my weekly vlog. I was certainly not anticipating reacting the way I did.
The advert opens with a little boy and his pet penguin, Monty. Monty goes everywhere with him and helps the boy out. Cute! It kind of reminded me of Fluffy, who is my pet, only not actually real. Fluffy is a cuddly toy but he's real to me. This opening to the advert was sweet because, although I've never had a real pet (unless you count Nibbles the hamster who I never saw and then died on Christmas Eve when I was 12), I could kind of relate to it in terms of Fluffy. Then it felt like the advert sidetracked a little. Monty was looking for love and there was no longer that cute boy-and-pet dynamic going on. Of course, the boy, being a fantastic pet-owner, bought a lady penguin for Monty, at which point it is revealed that Monty and his girlfriend are not real penguins at all: They're stuffed toys. Cue heaving sobs.
Ok, so the particularly astute will pretty much have worked out why this affected me so much but I want to go into greater detail about Fluffy and why he's so important to me.
I received Fluffy as a Christmas present from my Auntie Sylvia when I was 8 (Oh look, a Christmas present. Notice the parallels). As a child, I had a pretty rough time. Don't worry, I won't be going all X Factor on you, but I was an anxious, socially awkward child who found it difficult to communicate with other children. This continued into my teens and beyond. Throughout my school years, I rarely went out with other children and would instead spend my free time holed up in my room. I found it impossible to share my problems and gained a reputation for being perpetually bright and cheerful when, actually, that couldn't have been farther from the truth. With nobody to turn to, I spoke to Fluffy. He listened to my problems without judgement and gave me advice. Of course, being a stuffed toy, the advice wasn't really from him, but from a part of my subconscious that I couldn't access alone. It needed the distance of coming from "someone else" for me to pick up on it. Fluffy was the personification of my limbic system- providing me with measured emotions, behaviour and motivation. I needed an outlet for these as I didn't trust them from myself.
When my life turned upside down at 16, I retreated further into my solitude. Fluffy soaked up my tears, he was an indestructible stress ball I could squeeze, he was always at my side. By this point, I was more than old enough to have lost the belief that may, just maybe, he does come alive when I'm asleep, but I could appreciate that he was symbolic of a constant in my life. Everything was changing but Fluffy was there. He was the sounding board for my troubles. There was so much inside me that I couldn't tell anybody, so many destructive emotions bottling up inside, but letting them out with Fluffy as my counsellor minimised their impact.
In 2008, I met Rich and he made a surprise visit to my student accommodation in Winchester. I hurriedly stuffed Fluffy down the side of the bed, ashamed and embarrassed to be 19 years old and still sleeping next to a teddy. Rich found him, chuckled and said "Who have we got here then?". Like the perpetually patient, understanding man he is, he completely took Fluffy on board and never once judged me.
Mental health problems have reached out to both of us in our 6 years together and sometimes it was difficult to communicate with each other as a result of these. I didn't want to tell Rich I was angry with him, for example, so Fluffy would be. Or perhaps Rich was worried about me but didn't want to concern me, so he would say Fluffy is worried. Much like when I was a child, Fluffy became an invaluable tool to share those difficult feelings. Even today, sometimes Fluffy will suddenly become sulky with Rich because I haven't got my own way! (I'm a sulker)
Fluffy became our relationship mascot. Much like the boy in the advert, we'd buy him little token gifts. Sometimes Fluffy would buy a present for one or the other of us. Fluffy will occasionally leave notes out, since it's much nicer to come home to a note saying "Hello! Can you please clean the bath because my little paws won't reach? From Fluffy" than a passive-aggressive Post It Note! When we got married he, and his later-adopted little brother George, were ringbearers. Over the years- he will be 18 this Christmas- he has aged. His paws and ears are threadbare, he's turned grey and the insanely fluffy fur that gave him his name is now flat and matted. Just like Monty at the end of the advert, Fluffy is pretty bedraggled. But then my dad always said "If teddies get dirty, it shows they've been having fun".
For me, Fluffy is more than just a teddy. He was a beacon of hope in my childhood, a counsellor and supporter. As I moved into my difficult teen years, he provided a sense of security as a constant in my life and now, as a married 26 year old, he reminds me of what I went through to get here and reminds me that, together, we can take on anything. And that is why the John Lewis advert made me cry.
If you're interested in the psychology of adults with teddy bears, I really recommend reading up about Grayson Perry and his rather famous teddy, Alan Measles. When he began speaking publicly about his relationship with Alan Measles, I suddenly felt a little less weird! Here are two particulary clear examples, from The Radio Times and York Mix.
London is my favourite city in the whole world. Ok, I haven't been to all of them but it's definitely the best I've experienced. I feel so privileged to live near such a beautiful, magical city with so many photographical landmarks. So when Joe Blogs Blogger Network invited me to the #GiffGaffSnaps photography walk, I was super excited!
Over 60 bloggers met at Waterloo making up a herd of snappers led by the very lovely, very funny Charlotte of Best LDN Walks (who seriously do the most interesting London tours around!). GiffGaff, our hosts of the evening, were represented by Phil who was on hand to help us with any of our photography queries (you can read the GiffGaff blog post about the evening here) as we set off to snap some of London's most hashtagged locations.
On arrival, I met up with Katy and we soon found Erica, Laura and Emsy. After a little while, Sarah turned up too and it was lovely to see her again. There were so many bloggers that I follow that I didn't even get to meet all of them, but it felt amazing to be a part of such a huge blogging cloud drifting around Westminster!
Our tour started on Waterloo Bridge, the longest bridge in London, which was built by women during WWII and is coated in a special material so it cleans itself. We then moved down to Southbank and walked past Southbank Skatepark, through the Christmas market to the London Eye.
On arrival at the London Eye, we took a left and were led to Leake Street, the only place in London where you can graffiti legally. The history of street art in this tunnel started when Banksy created a piece on a billboard next to the opening declaring it as an authorised graffiti zone. People took this seriously and started contributing their own street art. In the end, Banksy bought the tunnel so that it could be used as a legal place to create street art.
Charlotte had brought along cans of spray paint so we could all have a go at contributing to the walls. This was my highlight of the walk, but it turns out I'm not destined to be a street artist! Just spraying the paint was much harder than I was anticipating! Nevertheless, I managed to create my Harry Potter-inspired masterpiece. (Thanks Emsy for the suggestion!)
Once everybody had daubed the walls, we set back off over Westminster Bridge and past the Houses of Parliament. On the corner of Whitehall, Sarah and I accepted a challenge to see how many bloggers could squeeze into a phone box. We managed four, although I probably took up the majority of the space!
We headed down Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square, which is where the tour ended. I learned that Nelson was pickled in rum after his death and we all got the opportunity to stand on a plaque that marks the exact centre of London before heading our separate ways.
I had such a fun evening. It was wonderful meeting so many people and I learned so much. Huge thanks to Joe Blogs, Best LDN Walks and GiffGaff for such a fantastic time!