The winter thief

stormy-winter-landscape

I’m sitting here writing this while Olly is at the gym, and I’ve just finished watching two back to back episodes of Silent Witness. I’m a lard arse. A lazy moose. I’ve lost my get-up-and-go. I reluctantly get out of bed in the mornings, as late as possible, go to work, come back from work, and then sit down. And once I’m sat, why oh why is it so damn hard to get back up? If I have no real, pressing reason to leave the flat, then I won’t leave it. And if I don’t leave, it’s too easy to be unproductive. I haven’t always been like this, I think to myself. So why the unfortunate current state of self? The winter thief. That is my answer. The winter thief, that is winter itself.

I find the cold displeasing. If that cold is compounded by darkness I am further displeased. Add rain, or heaven forbid rain and wind together, and you can bet your last Rolo that I will be tucked up somewhere warm and dry with snacks. Winter. Dark mornings. Dark evenings. Miserable, beautiful, but miserable weather. You steal my motivation, my enthusiasm, my inspiration to do ANYTHING. You with your frost and hail, sleet and thunder. Do one.

I have to face facts. Winter isn’t going anywhere just yet. And, at this rate, neither is my spare tyre. I said to Olly the other day that people are going to start mistaking me for a garage. As much as we laughed, it’s a serious thing. I wrote a post a while back about lifestyle changes and although I’ve achieved some I have a long way to go. And I’m not doing it for anyone except myself.

So, watch yourself winter, I’m stealing my shit back.

I’m going to join a gym (yawn). A gym which I know I will hate going to, but be glad when I’ve been. I’m going to make even more healthy fruit and vegetable smoothies with my gadget pal the NutriBullet. Put a pile of kale on my plate and I’ll tell you where to stick it, but blend it with other bits and pieces and you will never know how bad it could have tasted. I’m also going to try and continue getting up earlier (I only manage this on occasion at the moment). I know how good I can feel after a morning workout so why can’t I just do it more often.

I saw this earlier. It might inspire you in the same way it has inspired me. I want to be a girl that can too. I can sit down and be pathetic watching Mad Men (it’s about advertising though and therefore counts as work, right?) with one two pots of strawberry and banana flavoured Munch Bunch beside me, but I can also sweat like a pig while kicking some ass and let my endorphins spread their rusty wings.

From now on, POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE. That’s all I really need. And no winter thief should be able to take that.

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Why I love lists

Why I love lists full

I may have mentioned before that my mother has forever described me as someone who starts things but never finishes them. It pains me to admit this is often true, except when it comes to my dinner. I pretty much always finish that. Sometimes my lack of staying power is down to boredom, or losing patience. Sometimes I just can’t be arsed. Instead of ploughing through, I procrastinate BIG-TIME, and things just don’t get done. For example, I have a pile of things to put on ebay which have been sitting in my utility room for a number of months. All I need to do is take some photographs and upload them and hey presto. But that just sounds like too much effort. So in the utility room they will stay. Probably until I reach the bottom of my list. Which is actually one of many lists.

The main reason I love making lists is because they make me feel so flipping organised. The joy comes not only from writing a list, with equal line spacing and in exactly the same colour pen, but from ticking things off. Oh the rush. The only problem is, I never tick everything off. Unless it’s about six months later. But even then it’s unlikely. Occasionally I will keep adding to the same list so it looks as if I’ve been super-productive. And there have definitely been times when I have already completed a task, but add it to my list anyway just so I can tick it off.

My brain – the simple matter that it is – likes things in easy-to-absorb chunks. They are better to read and better to digest. If I have more than one important point to make in an email then I whip out the bullet points. I have a constantly-growing to do list at work. At the weekends I often list all the chores which need doing at home. Pinned to the notice board is a 2014 bucket list which is 100% not going to be complete by the end of December. I have already written this year’s Christmas list. Lists are quite simply excellent companions to everyday life.

Clearly there is something to this list-making business which makes me feel good. It’s a therapeutic activity which my mild OCD takes a fancy to (hence the line spacing and same coloured pen). Only I am allowed to add to the list. If anyone else scribbles on it I may as well start it again. And if the pen runs out part way through, we’ve got serious issues. A perfectly formed and perfectly neat list makes me feel fuzzy inside. Spoil it at your peril. I tried Wunderlist on the internet but, for me, it doesn’t produce the same satisfaction as a writing utensil and a piece of lined paper.

The conclusion of this thought-provoking piece? Nike have a cracking logo.

Meet Monty the penguin – nice one John Lewis

Monty 3

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time when people complain at those who mention Christmas is on its way, the time when you have to choose your menu for the work Christmas meal, the time when Secret Santa’s are organised, and the time when the Christmas adverts come out. For me, I really feel the Christmas spirit when I see the Coca Cola advert, but I haven’t yet. What I have seen however is John Lewis’ new gift to the nation. And it involves a penguin. Called Monty. A PENGUIN CALLED MONTY.

John Lewis always have a touch of magic about their Christmas adverts. I particularly enjoyed last year’s animation (which involved a bear and a hare – see a theme there?) because the concept was so clever. If you don’t recall, the bear always missed Christmas because he was hibernating, so the hare – being a wonderful friend – bought him an alarm clock to go off on Christmas Day, so he could spend it with the other animals. Touching, personal, SIMPLE.

I came in to work this morning and my boss played the new advert to a few of us – I work for an advertising agency, so it’s not unusual to do this. With a soundtrack by Tom Odell, it starts off featuring Pingu, so naturally I was hooked from the off. I used to love that show. But what I love most about the John Lewis adverts is the story which they tell, this time through the eyes of a young boy. He has a best friend, Monty the penguin, who he goes everywhere with. At the start I wondered where the advert was going – and what it had to do with John Lewis – but it all unfolds beautifully. By the end, my eyes were a little glassy. I am not ashamed to admit it. My boss took the piss, but was equally as complimentary about the advert as I was. And it only cost John Lewis £1 million to make!

Advertising which has an emotional effect is, in my opinion, the most powerful. Add to that humour, a cute kid, an even more cute animal, and you have a winning formula. Animals, or ‘cute looking things’ like Zingy are particular popular – look what Aleksandr the Compare the Market meercat did? Some clever advertising created a whole new business stream.

Having said that, some charities really play on emotional advertising and I often feel uncomfortable watching those. They are designed to make you feel bad, whereas I challenge anyone not to feel at least a little uplifted by John Lewis’ new offering. It’s just an advert, but it unlocks feelings in me. Perhaps I’m emotionally vulnerable, in a way, but I like that. I like being able to feel. And everyone loves a good story.

Other company adverts which have really impressed me of late are Marks & Spencer – serious food porn, nailed – and Lidl, which is doing an impressive job of changing perceptions. Lidl have just released their new Christmas advert which is in the link.

What kind of adverts get you engaged? What do you think of the Christmas offerings so far? And, most importantly, how much do you love Monty?

I heart X Factor and I’m not ashamed to admit it

X factor

Yesterday was pretty perfect.  A lie-in (always an absolute winner in my book), an afternoon surfing in the refreshing, but somewhat murky, waters of Porthcawl, a deliciously hot shower, cosy clothes, a take-away curry and the televised dramas of X Factor.  Just thinking about it makes me feel all fuzzy inside.

X Factor is one of those programmes people love to hate, but I just love it.  The changes on the judging panel have seen my love waver (ok, and the sob stories, and the decisions which bamboozle the entire country), but this year my love is well and truly MAXED OUT.  Why?  One word.  Cheryl.  She.  Is.  Back.  I cannot really describe how I feel about this woman.  She is, in my eyes (not Olly’s thank GOD), the most beautiful creature I have ever seen.  And I’m straight.

I have had a slight obsession with Mrs Fernandez-Versini since the days of Popstars: The Rivals (umm, see a theme here?) when she was, let’s be honest, a chav with a terrible singing voice.  But, I saw the potential.  And, sure enough, she blossomed.  It’s been over a decade and my love is still going strong.  To the point where, when X Factor shows a close up of her face, I move closer to the TV.  I’ve seen Girls Aloud twice, I own all her solo albums even though her singing hasn’t much improved, and when Olly is out I watch her tour DVD.  I could stare at the woman all day.  It’s a wonder I haven’t got a photo of her on my fridge.  Hang on…

10 reasons to be happy summer is over

Sunset through corn

The summer is special.  Being in the great warm outdoors is something I couldn’t live without.  Bright evening bike rides, golden hour strolls, or just sitting on a bench somewhere watching the world go by, summer makes me feel as if there is life to live once work has finished for the day.  And at the weekend, the world is your oyster.

But we have to be honest with ourselves.  The sun has set on summertime.  Soon the darkness will eat everything up before I even step foot out of the office in the evenings, and that is always a sad time of year.  It limits my options.  It also encourages me to simply go home and curl up in the warm comfort of home, which is not acceptable every day of the week; I am not a mouse.  But instead of feeling miserable that it’s almost ‘that time of year’ again, I have put together 10 reasons to be happy that summer is officially out, and autumn and winter are in.

1. Hot bubble baths

Baths are one of my favourite things in the whole world, but they aren’t really acceptable in the summer.  Why would you want to make yourself hotter and sweatier when it’s 20+ degrees outside?  Ok, so that doesn’t happen a huge amount in the UK.  But when that temperature drops, so do my clothes.  An evening spent in a piping hot bath full of Radox bubbles and lavender oil is number 1 on my ‘How to Relax’ list.  It’s also the place where I do a lot of reading and make pretty much all of my phone calls.

2. Cuddles in bed

No longer will Olly be able to get away with the excuse ‘I’m too hot’ when I climb into bed and transform myself into a limpet or demand to be spooned.

3. Scented candles

Despite their energy saving abilities, lighting candles just isn’t the done during summertime.  But with dusk creeping up on us earlier and earlier, fire up those babies and fill your home with the scent of whatever takes your fancy.  I’m a fan of musky and floral (but not overly sweet) scents and I have just purchased this wild jasmine scented candle tin.  Has anyone tried it?

4. Considerably better TV

Common sense often escapes me.  I mentioned to Olly the other day that TV had been rubbish recently and I couldn’t understand why.  He kindly clarified that as most people are out enjoying the pleasant late evenings, a good gritty drama just wouldn’t get the audience.   It seems so obvious now…  So, I am looking forward to what the BBC and ITV have in store over the next few months.  I sincerely hope the second series of Broadchurch will be as good as the first.

5. Guilt-free lie-ins

The guilt which I experience from lying in and effectively ‘wasting away’ my mornings decreases during the colder months.  If there’s no sun to lap up outside, there’s no harm in rotting away under the duvet, right?

6. Soups and slow cooker meals

Thick soups and hearty stews are just plain wrong in hot weather.  The word ‘stew’ is practically defined as ‘something you eat when it is cold and miserable outside’.

7. Full length pyjamas

I am one of those people who changes out of normal clothes the moment I walk in the front door.  Off with you restrictive black chinos!  Get back in your drawer denim jeans!  In the earlier evening, I opt for joggers which are fluffy and cosy on the inside.  But later on, the full length pyjamas come out to play.  Ahh is there anything more comfortable?  I’ve dropped a hint to Olly that I want a new pair of luxury winter pyjamas, but he just laughs at the words ‘luxury’ and ‘pyjamas’ together.  Which leads me to believe that my current ones make me look like a pauper.

8. The chance of snow

The white stuff is pretty darn beautiful.  I don’t want to drive in it, and I would rather not be out in it for too long because my fingers and lips turn blue, but I could sure look at it all day long.

9. Colour changes

My favourite thing about Autumn is the colour of the leaves turning to a rusty, golden brown and peppering the ground.  And they are still a lot of fun to kick around.

10.  Countdown to Christmas

It’s ages off, and I can’t stand seeing all the paraphernalia in the shops when it’s only September, but Christmas has a habit of creeping up on you.  Now that I live quite far away from where I was brought up, and where my parents still live, the excitement of Christmas is all about family.  And food, obviously.

Is there anything you would add to the list?

I am a mouse potato

mouse potato edits

Mouse potato.  Yes.  This is a real word.  Well, two words, but who’s counting.  As it is an informal term I won’t put it in my word of the week series, but The Oxford Dictionary defines it as:

A person who spends large amounts of leisure or working time operating a computer.

I AM A MOUSE POTATO.  My eyes spend the majority of their working days staring at a small screen, gradually getting more and more sleepy.  Not only that, but it makes my head go thick and fuzzy.  Then, when I get home, I curl up with my ipad or laptop and mouse potato myself some more, whilst sat in front of another screen, the TV (he’s called Sammy).  This is not good.

I’m pretty sure that others will be feeling the effects of this problem too so, for my fellow rodent spuds out there, here are a few tips:

  1. Make sure you get fresh air on your lunch break – this makes my lungs happy and helps clear my head
  2. Keep hydrated – I have a bottle of water on my desk which I top up through-out the day
  3. Go for little strolls round the office every now and then – this gets the blood pumping again
  4. Set yourself some time when you get home to do anything except look at a screen
  5. Switch off a sufficient amount of time before bed – this applies to screens and brains

Give it a try and see if it helps you feel a bit less like a mouse potato.  I’m the worst one for following my own advice, but please excuse me while I enjoy some fresh air during my lunchtime stroll.