Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Moving in and The Blogger's Guide to Manchester

And... I'm back online! Phew it's been a tough two weeks with no internet. Saying that it's been a tough two weeks in general! Yes we are fully moved in now and just about settled in. It's not been an easy two weeks, with endless boxes of stuff and limited storage space, realising that our Ikea sofabed came without screws, feet or instructions, discovering that we couldn't get Sky TV when it was one of the few things we didn't think we had to worry about, spending two weeks wondering why we couldn't get in the post room before realising we were trying to get into the wrong room... but it's not all been bad. Living with Phil is the actual best thing ever and I get excited to come home to him every single night. Plus my commute from my from door to my desk takes exactly 6 minutes. 
I know, I really am living the dream.
I know lots of you have been asking for a flat tour, and I absolutely promise I will do one, but at the moment while we're finally getting there with flatpack furniture and cupboard space, it doesn't really look "ours" yet. We haven't got our posters on the walls or any framed photos and we still need a few bits here and there to personalise it, so I want to wait until we're fully finished before I show it to you. There are a few photos of our flat on my instagram, but already I feel a lot of it looks totally different (and by that I mean the kitchen is nowhere near that bare!).

But it's not all been packing up boxes and trips to Ikea, it has actually been really nice to live in the city centre, and not just for my commute. I can't explain how much I love Manchester and living in the city centre is such a dream. Every day when I walk to work I'm so appreciative that I live and work in such a beautiful city, with so much going on. So many great restaurants, bars, museums, galleries, shops... Manchester really does have everything. I've been trying to discover all the little nooks and crannies recently that I've always been meaning to go to - my friend Natalie and I went to Chinatown last week to explore the Chinese supermarkets, and then a few days later took a trip to 8th Day Cafe, which is basically my spiritual mecca - full of health foods and big bags of lentils and all kinds of nut butters and treats. I also have been visiting a few old favourites too, in particular in the Northern Quarter.

The week we moved in was incredibly stressful. The flat was a mess - the floor covered in boxes and books and DVDs. Nothing seemed to fit in the cupboards but there seemed to be an endless amount of stuff we needed to buy. Everything from cooking dinner to going to the supermarket was weird and foreign and confusing. I was desperate for some normality.
Luckily, a few weeks previous I was asked to be a part of Millenium and Copthorne's Blogger's Guide to Manchester and was asked to choose one of my favourite places in Manchester and to write a review. I choose Common, the bar in the Northern Quarter where Phil and I had our first date, and I arranged to visit on the Friday after we moved in. When I received a call from the Ikea delivery guy an hour before we were supposed to leave I was starting to regret my decision to go out for a nice meal in the middle of the day, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed.
Props to Phil, Common is a great place for a first date. I remember the night before our first date looking it up online and thinking the food looked great but it looked a little bit too cool for me. I kind of still feel like that. If you've ever been to Manchester's Northern Quarter, I think Common is pretty much the epitome of that. It's definitely a bar that serves food rather than a restaurant that serves drinks - the bar is stuffed with pumps of local ales and the menu above the bar covers dozens of cocktails. The walls are covered in unusual art and entire walls are dedicated to beer mats from around the world.
Phil and I started a little tradition last year of coming here on the anniversary of our first date, but this was the first time I'd been on a day other than the 4th October! I remember last time I came eyeing up the veggie chilli in a taco bowl(!) but we had nachos to start and I thought I could be down for Mexican food overload (impossible). This time, however, I knew exactly what I wanted to order! 
Veggie chilli is one of my faves - it's up there with fishcakes and veggie burgers for the thing on the menu I will always, always order, and this one did not disappoint! I also love that it comes with guacamole, salsa and sour cream. Yum. Phil went for the Maple Bacon burger, which I have to admit, looked amazing:
(I got to eat his gherkin - how are their people who don't like gherkins?!)
Common is definitely one of the places I would recommend in Manchester - it's cool, fun and the food is great. It's also very reasonable and they always have deals on. However it does get very busy at weekends so get there early!
I'm really excited to see the finished article of the Blogger's Guide to Manchester - I'll let you know when it's available!
Unfortunately, my little blogging return was short-lived as I'm back off again now for a couple of days. I'm in London tomorrow for a work event, back in Manchester in the evening and then back down again to London for the weekend as Phil and I are going to see Les Miserables and then it's Phil's birthday on Sunday! I'm hoping to be properly back next week with plenty of blog posts - Phil's sister Suzie spotted a white wall in our living room I can use for outfit photos. Fingers crossed I'll be back in a blogging routine soon!

Have a great week!

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 10 February 2015


Well the day is (almost!) here - Phil and I are moving in together tomorrow. I'm almost completely packed and the conservatory is full of boxes and bin bags and piles. 

I'm nervous, excited, stressed, panicky, relieved and everything inbetween. In some respects it feels like this big, scary, life-changing thing but more than anything else it doesn't feel scary at all - it just feels natural and exciting. I cannot wait to see Phil every day. For us to live together and really start our lives together.

The next few days are going to be stressful beyond belief. All the list-writing and box-packing and research I've done isn't going to prepare me for the days ahead. Things are going to go wrong. I'm going to get stressed and panicky and things aren't going to go according to plan. But at the end of it I'll be settled into our gorgeous flat that we've been giddy about since we saw it in December. With the bedding we chose together, pans and plates and cutlery that we picked the two of us, and the daft quirky bits we've bought each other in preparation for moving in together.

It's going to be a bit quiet over here for the next few weeks. We're sorting out our TV and internet this week but even then it'll probably be a few weeks before we have our internet set up.

Then I promise, promise a flat tour. And after that I'll hopefully find somewhere to take outfit photos!

Until then I can guarantee I'll be posting a bazillion photos on Instagram so make sure you follow me - @girlnextdoorfashion .

See you on the other side!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Everything you should know before you move in with me

Dear Phil,
We move in together in less than three days! I'm so excited! We've found our perfect little flat, bought a TV, picked bedding together and even set up a joint account. We've started packing, starting correlating our DVDs and everything is starting to get very real and exciting.
However, there are a few things I need to tell you. I might not be the easiest person to live with.
So to save you any initial shock I decided to put together a list of things you need to know before you come over on Wednesday...

  • There will be hair grips everywhere. In the shower. On the floor. In cupboards. In bags. In pockets. Everywhere. Except when I need one and I'll tear the place down trying to find one.
  • I'm kind of messy. In an organised-chaos kind of way. Everything will be in piles, but god knows what's in the piles.
  • I pick off my nail polish as soon as it starts to chip. I leave a trail of pink and red wherever I go.
  • I eat things way past their sell-by. If it looks alright and smells alright, it's probably fine (weirdly, I was the completely opposite before I went to uni, but that's what paying for your own food will do to you).
  • The shower will contain at least three bottles of conditioner. Two will be almost empty, but I won't quite be ready to commit to throwing them out.
  • I food shop like it's the end of the world. If I have two sweet potatoes left I'll be buying another bag. Only three tins of tomatoes left? Better get two more. And I can't go shopping without buying a tin of chickpeas. Heaven forbid.
  • I'm incredibly tight. I'll resent an extra £1 here or 50p there. As a result though I'm reallllly good with money. I just need some help loosening up a bit sometimes.
  • I won't buy chocolate and then complain that we don't have any chocolate.
  • I have no idea how often grown ups are supposed to change the bed.
  • I'm usually in bed by 9.30, and sleepy by 9. Staying up after 10 in the week gets me quite stressed out.
  • But I do get up at 5am to do my workouts. I'll try to be quiet.
  • I can't sleep in at the weekend. 9am on a Sunday is quite indulgent for me.
  • I have some pretty awful workout leggings that I wear for my morning workouts that nobody but my family has ever seen. They never leave the house.
  • I meal plan like a maniac. I can tell you on Monday what's for dinner on Friday.
  • Sundays are for long runs and food prep. 
  • My iPod is basically just emo from 2005. Let's listen to yours.
  • I am a hoodie and socks thief.
  • I will need you to be in charge of spider catching, dress zipping and necklace untangling. And also fixing anything that I break.
  • Our bed needs to have the decorative cushions added every day. Even though I swore as a teenager I would never have decorative cushions on my bed.
  • I'm always tired.
  • I carry a water bottle round the house at all times. I drink an insane amount of water. And every time you stand up I'll ask you to fill my bottle up.
  • I cry at everything.
  • I start clearing up after dinner before I've finished chewing. I can't leave plates and pans out overnight unwashed.
  • I sleep in my workout clothes for morning efficiency.
  • The freezer will be full of "emergency leftovers" but I'll find it really hard to resort to them even in case of a dinner emergency, in case a worse dinner emergency comes up. 
  • But seeing as I usually cook multiple portions of everything the freezer will fill up with little orange-coloured, indistinguishable bags. But they'll all be nicely labelled (at uni I got sick of defrosting a chilli only to find it was a curry).
  • I can't eat a meal without spilling something down myself. This is why I can't have nice things.
  • I'm obsessed with my sleep app and can only sleep to the sound of "sizzling rain".
  • I have really, really hot showers.
  • I wear things for as long as possible before washing them.
  • If I'm in the house, I'm probably wearing my dressing gown.
  • I will always be worrying about something.
Sure you still want to live with me?


Charlotte x

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Finally February

No Sunday catch up today because I actually have outfit photos! Plus my week wasn't quite as exciting as last week!
It's February! Finally! I don't know about anyone else but I absolutely hate January. It's cold, it's miserable and you're thrown right into winter with no excitement for Christmas to get you through. February, this time around at least, is an exciting one. Phil and I move in together in just over a week, we'll be celebrating our second Valentine's Day in our own home (and by celebrating I mean cards and an M&S Dine in for Two), we've got Power Ballads night with our friends in a few weeks, and we're heading down to London at the end of the month to go and see Les Miserables on the West End and to celebrate Phil's birthday. And then it will be March, aka the best month, aka birthday month and not just mine - Phil's too, and four of my other close friends!
shirt - c/o Glamorous
skirt- Warehouse
boots- c/o Debenhams
necklace - Zalando
leather jacket - Boohoo
lipstick - MAC Rebel
I know, two blog posts in two days is rare for me, and I even photographed today's outfit too. I'm on a roll! As much as I moan about the winter, as it starts to edge towards Spring I suddenly get nostalgic for cold weather clothes and have to throw together as many outfits as possible before it gets too warm to wear them. Not that there's much risk of that at the moment - we've had so much snow here! 
I wore this outfit yesterday to go to John Lewis with my Mum. I've started to get really, really sad about moving out and leaving my parents which has completely overtaken my excitement about moving in with Phil at the moment. Don't get me wrong, I am absolutely so excited to move in with Phil, but I'm an only child and I'm incredibly close to my parents and even though I know it's definitely time for me to go, I am sad. So Mum and I had a lovely girly day in John Lewis yesterday. She treated me to a few things and we had a coffee and it was such a lovely day. I know I'll be home all the time but I am going to miss our Saturday brunch and shopping days!
Today I went out for a 5 mile run which was good. Parkrun was cancelled yesterday so I wasn't sure if I would be able to run but all the snow seems to have melted now so it was fine to go out. My pace wasn't quite as fast as last week, but it was still my fastest 5 miles! Then other than that it's been my usual lazy Sunday - I made soup for my weekday lunches yesterday, cut up all my veggies and apples for snacks, made some oatmeal raisin energy balls and houmous, and went to see family. I hope Phil is ready for my crazy-organised Sundays!
I hope you've all had a lovely weekend! I'm off to Phil's house for dinner and then I get a bit of a lie-in tomorrow cause we're moving offices at work so I'm working from home!

Charlotte x

Saturday, 31 January 2015

A Guide to Working out at Home - and What I Wear to do it

There has only been one period of my life when I was a member of a gym. When I was studying abroad in Minnesota my university fees included gym membership, and the gym was literally across the road from my apartment.
I kind of had no choice.
I loved going to the gym, but I always felt a little misguided. It was during this period that I first tried, and failed, Couch to 5K, and instead spent 40 minutes at a time on the elliptical, reading a magazine and not really being too sure what I was doing.
When I returned to uni I never had to worry about finding time to exercise. I was a member of the Dance Society and took five dance classes a week, often back-to-back. I was exercising, accidentally, five hours a week.
However, after university I spent a summer working in New Jersey as a lifeguard. The portions were big, the food was exciting and I was spending 11 hours a day sat in a chair. I came home a few pounds heavier and knew I needed to do something.
Up until that point I exercised for necessity, never for fun.
Oh how things have changed. I'm not sure if two-years-ago me would recognise a me that exercises six times a week, gets up at 5am for mornings workouts and has ran a half marathon.
I digress. It was when I came home from New Jersey that I decided to buy the 30 Day Shred. The nearest gym was about a mile's walk away and just wasn't convenient for me and I'd heard great things about the 30 Day Shred.
And thus began my love affair with working out at home.
Since then, I've completed six Jillian Michaels DVDs, started running and then moved onto Beach Body, completing Insanity last year, and currently doing a combination of Chalean Extreme, Insanity Max 30 and Focus T25. I can't imagine going back to going to a gym.
I admit, working out at home isn't for everyone. It requires a lot of motivation and willpower and you have to be prepared for some repetition. Oh and it involves a little more money up-front. But it's absolutely perfect for me.
Here's why I love it:
  • I don't have to go anywhere. Except downstairs. This is especially perfect for me as I work out at 5am and then need to get ready for work. There is no time driving or walking to a gym. I can literally roll out of bed.
  • It's quick. I come downstairs, do my workout and I can hop straight in the shower.
  • I can wear whatever I want and there's nobody there to judge (more on that later).
  • There's an endless variety depending on what DVDs I have.
  • It's cheap! Of course, there are some investments - I have 4 different sets of weights, resistance bands and a yoga mat, and of course the DVDs, but it's just one-off purchases and I have something to show for my money!
  • You never have to wait for equipment.
  • I'm on my own. I get this blissful, quiet hour to myself every day. And I love it.
  • There are no excuses! All you need to do is put on a DVD! Bad weather or no time is not an excuse!
So how can you get started?
  • Buy a workout DVD! This is the best place to start. The 30 Day Shred is one of the best and I will always recommend it to start with. 
  • Find the best time of day for you to workout. For me, it's early early in the morning, but for you it could be straight after work or right before bed.
  • Make sure you have enough space. Some workouts require more space than others, so have a look online before you commit.
  • Buy the equipment you need - but don't go mad if you're not sure if you can stick to it! You can do the 30 Day Shred with just a couple of cans of beans if you don't want to buy weights.
  • Have a calendar and stick to it! Working out at home requires some motivation, but it's totally do-able if you hold yourself accountable.
  • Get yourself some nice workout gear you'll feel proud to workout in!
So what do I wear? Up until recently, I wore a short pair of black leggings that didn't even fit properly and whatever vest top was clean. My logic was "nobody sees me so it doesn't matter", but I am about to move in with Phil and I'd rather my workout gear wasn't quite so grim! I am always buying new running clothes, but I realised the other day that I only actually run twice a week and I really should be investing in workout clothes for my four morning workouts a week.
Two things happened this week to push me to get nicer workout gear. One was an email from House of Fraser asking me if I wanted to review something from their fitness collection, and another was some unexpected Christmas money from my Auntie and Uncle. So I got myself two new workout tops and two new pairs of leggings.

When it comes to workout gear for my morning workouts, here are my priorities:
  • It has to be cool. Working out at home gets warm as you can imagine, so the material has to be breathable. I always wear short leggings and a vest top
  • I have to be able to sleep in it. Yeah, I sleep in my workout clothes. So I need to be comfortable. I absolutely love my Zaggora stuff but they don't recommend sleeping in them, so I don't wear them as much as getting dressed in the morning is just one more effort I don't need at 5am!
  • Shoes. I wear some old flat Nike trainers for my morning workouts after injuring my foot last year doing Insanity without shoes. They're not the best but do not wear running shoes for indoor workouts. They're the completely wrong fit and you can injure yourself. Edit: I've had a few questions about this. I read this in an article by Shaun T that you can read here on the best shoes for Insanity. This might not be the case for everyone but he advises against cushioned running shoes. 
So when I was choosing something from House of Fraser I had both these things in mind. Originally I wanted some pink leggings, but they were out of stock in my size, so I went for this vest top. I loved the colour but most of all I loved the slogan. It reminds me of the This Girl Can campaign, which I absolutely love.
But the proof was of course, in the workout. I was a little concerned that the material wasn't breathable enough cause it wasn't as "slippery" as my other workout vests, but when Parkrun was cancelled this morning I did Insanity Max:30 Friday Fight and had no problems at all. Plus I actually loved my outfit!
leggings - Nike
sports bra - Nike

Here's a selection of my morning workout kit that I mix and match. As you can see, it fits in perfectly!

Let me know if you have any questions about working out at home! I'm planning to update my How to become a Morning Exerciser post as it's been over a year since I wrote it and I've learned a few more tips!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Sunday Catch Up

It's the Sunday evening after a great weekend and I've just had a quesadilla and leftover mashed potato for dinner.
Life is good.

A few weeks ago I posted my Lazy Sunday post and was really surprised by the amount of lovely comments and responses I got just from a little post about my Sunday. No outfit photos, just a few little Instagram snaps. So I thought it would be nice to do a little catch up post on a Sunday when I've not got any nice pictures to blog about - a post about my week, the things I've been up to and all the little things that don't warrant a whole post.

What I saw this week: Whiplash
If you haven't seen Whiplash, get out of the house right now, drive to the cinema as fast as you can and go to see the next showing. Seriously. One of the best films I've seen in ages - and thanks to my Cineworld card I've seen almost all the Oscar-nominated films this year. Incredible film, sensational performances (if JK Simmons doesn't get Best Supporting Actor I'll eat my hat) and I've been listening to the soundtrack on repeat at work all week. It's short, it's slick and it's intense. As soon as the film finished, Phil leaned over to me and said "If that started again right now I'd go see it again." We're thinking of a second trip to see it pretty soon. We're off to see Wild on Wednesday so I'll update you on that next week.

What I learned this week: Sometimes you need a break
Last Sunday it was a bit icy outside when I was due for my run, so I decided to give Insanity Max: 30 a go instead of my run. Long story short - it's amazing! I've been enjoying T25 but it's just not Insanity, but Max:30 is amazing. I've not felt that complete, utter exhaustion since Insanity. Anyway, Monday I did abs as usual, and on Tuesday I started the last and final level of Chalean Extreme, the Lean month. Man oh man it was hard. Wednesday was cardio so I did Max: 30 again and I was feeling sore all over, but good. However on Thursday morning I woke up late (which for me is 5.20am haha) and I felt very tired, nauseated and my heart was pounding. I started my strength workout but could tell from the numbers on my HRM that something wasn't right. So I stopped. It takes a lot for me to stop, but if my body isn't happy I'm not going to push it. I push my body enough with one extra mile, one more rep, just a bit faster. Friday was my rest day and I felt much better by Saturday, but I think adding extra cardio and harder strength to my workout took some adjusting to.

How I ran this week
I still wasn't feeling 100% on Saturday but Phil and I went down to Parkrun and I decided just to see how I got on and wasn't expecting a great run. Instead I got a really, really good pace on, absolutely went for it, and crossed the line with my watch saying 32:07. Now I know my watch is a little bit out from their official time (usually about 10 seconds) and I'd stopped to tie my shoes about two miles in and my watch stops when I stop so I knew I hadn't quite beaten my PB of 32:09. My official time was 32:17, so I missed a PB by just 9 seconds, but considering I hadn't felt great I was chuffed. I think I can get a PB in the next few weeks!
Then today I really wasn't feeling it after a busy day yesterday (more on that in a second!) but I went out with the intention of running 4 miles with a goal of 44 minutes. Now that's not a bad time for me, but a bit of a push. When my first mile came in at 10:06 I knew I was doing well, and by the second mile at 10:20 I felt I could easily do 4 miles in 42 minutes. I did 3 miles in dead-on 31 minutes (over a minute faster than my Parkrun PB) so I decided to push for 41 minutes. I didn't think I was quite going to do it til my watch beeped at dead-on 41 minutes. I was absolutely over the moon! My fastest run ever! I've got the Great Manchester Run in May but I'm going to sign up for a 10K in March to keep my focus and I'm really excited to work on my speed over the next few months!

Where I went this week: Anfield!
Phil is a big Liverpool fan, so as a result I've been following them for about the past year or so and absolutely loved it (I had a season ticket at Stockport County growing up and I've missed watching football). We've talked about going to Anfield for ages, but the opportunity never really came up. Phil's family are all big Bolton fans, so when Liverpool were drawn against them in the FA cup we knew we had to go. Phil sorted tickets out with a guy from work, and at the last minute my Dad's friend John drove us because he has a season ticket and was going anyway. I've been ridiculously excited all week. The atmosphere was incredible and I absolutely loved it. We were sat right in the Kop where all the singing is so I loved joining in with that. Even though it was a 0-0 draw it was such an exciting game and I cannot wait to go again! 

What I've cooked this week...
I made soup at 11pm while watching Match of the Day last night (it's red lentil and kale), and I also made 10 spice vegetable soup last week. I've been prepared all my work snacks for the week on a Sunday which really helps me in the mornings. It was my turn to bake at work on Friday so I made these Red Lobster-style Cheddar Bay biscuits that went down a treat - three people asked me for the recipe! I also made my favourite salmon burgers on Tuesday and a yummy courgette noodle stir fry on Thursday. And quesadillas. Always quesadillas.

What else happened this week?
Well I've just got back from lunch and drinks for Phil's friend's birthday which has been a lot of fun - even though I was expecting to get home at about 4.30pm but we were having such a good time it was actually 8.30pm! It's 2 and a half weeks now til Phil and I move into our flat! We're just so desperate to move in now time seems to be slowing down, but I know once I started thinking about packing I'll want even more time! Our joint account is ready, standing orders have been sorted out and we've got everything we need to get started so it's just a waiting game now! February and March are looking really exciting now too - we're off to London the last weekend in February for Phil's birthday weekend to go see Les Miserables on the West End, and I've got a Hen Night, a theatre trip to see Blood Brothers, a 10K, Alton Towers and my birthday to look forward to in March. Exciting!

Let me know if you like this kind of post - it's nice just posting about what I've been up to this week when I haven't had time to take proper outfit photos. I promise these won't replace outfit photos, but it's nice to just be able to post when I want to catch up!

Hope your weekend has been lovely too!

Charlottte x

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Return of the Swan Trousers

How do you dress for a family meal, followed by a choir concert followed by an engagement party? Like this, I hope. I was planning to wear my houndstooth trousers but my Mum "accidentally" bought the exact same pair last week and absolutely had to wear them today so I was in a bit of a pickle. For choir we have to wear black trousers and a bright top, so I wanted to wear trousers so I could quickly change into plain black trousers for my concert and then get changed again, so I was really struggling to come up with something that didn't involve my beloved houndstooth trousers. I was digging through my wardrobe for something to grab when I fell over these swan trousers. Remember when everyone had them in 2012? Well I still love them, and I'd gotten this jacket out to go with my houndstooth trousers as a future outfit, but figured it actually kind of worked with these trousers and so this outfit was born!
swan trousers - Topshop
red shirt - New Look
red jacket - Next
ballet flats - Warehouse
necklace - Topshop
lipstick - MAC Russian Red
Last night was our work "Christmas party" (yep, I know it's mid-January!) and my team were responsible for planning it, so it's been a bit crazy the last few weeks. All three of our offices (Manchester, London and Leeds) were coming together for the party for the first time in years so we had a lot of pressure to make it awesome! I had a really, really good night and I think everybody else did too. We had a murder mystery company come in for the first few hours and we set the tables up so that everybody was mixed up and could socialise with new people, and then we had the Axonn Awards and speeches, and of course plenty of drinks and dancing. We also had a photobooth which was obviously where I spent 90% of my evening. The theme was 1920s so I wore a black dress from ASOS, black courts from Primark, my furry jacket, a 1920s-style headband from Amazon and lots of pearls. 
It was so so much fun despite all the stress my team have been under planning it over the last few weeks. I had to leave at 11.15pm to get my train home but by the time I actually walked in I was glad I did because I was exhausted! Plus I was a bit worried about shouting too much with having our choir concert tonight because I have a solo!
Hope you're all having a lovely weekend!

Charlotte x