Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Minty Fresh

Today is the first day so far this week that I haven't had a job interview. So I'm celebrating by... not washing my hair. Okay I washed my fringe. Does anyone else do that? I'd pinned it back for my workout and it was a bit messy so I just washed and styled that. Anyway, job hunting has gotten a little better. I'm starting to finally feel more positive. I've also been told by a lot of people to try to enjoy my time off, which feels a little contradictory, but I am trying to relax and enjoy having time to watch Parks and Recreation while I have lunch. Phil is off next week so I'm hoping to get at least a couple of days with him, but it is hard to get out of the mindset that I should be applying for jobs and researching interviews every hour of the day. Today however I had coffee with an old friend I hadn't seen for years, so that was nice to get me out of the house, and tonight Phil and I are going to Nandos and to see How to Train Your Dragon 2. It might not be super fancy, but that's pretty much my favourite date night with Phil.
jeans- Topshop
top- Boohoo
jacket- Topshop  (this one!)
flats- Dorothy Perkins
necklace- Zalando
I'm struggling with this jacket at the moment. Don't get me wrong, I love it, but I'm struggling for ways to wear it. Except for with trousers and a blouse for job interviews. I'm not sure if it's age or laziness, but I like to keep things simple nowadays. Jeans, tops, ballet flats. I actually need about 25 more tops because except for blouses and graphic tshirts, I don't really have any and I'm really into jeans right now. Anyway, I want to push myself to wear this jacket in new ways, but for now, here it is with jeans and a top. The annoying thing is that I actually bought it with a gorgeous matching skirt, but holy hell is it short. As in, if I sat down in it...well put it this way I wouldn't sit down in it. It looked gorgeous as a suit, but unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be. I love the idea of it with a dress or a pencil skirt but I think I need some inspiration and some time playing with it to find some new ways to wear it. Any ideas?
Hope you're having a great day!

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Race for Life with Scottish Power

You've seen The Godfather right? The Godfather is my second all-time favourite film (my favourite film is Fight Club, if you're wondering). You know that bit when Johnny comes to Don Corleone and tells him about the big film producer who is trying to screw him over and won't give him the part he wants. And Don Corleone says "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse"? Well, this is kind of like that. But with less blood, guns and cannolis.
Basically, I'd been having a tough time with running (in fact, I've been having a tough time with life recently!) and was all set to focus on Insanity for the summer and then get ready to train in September for the Stockport 10K until an email popped up in my inbox from Scottish Power. The email asked me if I would run the 5K Race for Life for them in Heaton Park, and in return they would donate £250 to Cancer Research.
Don Corleone would have been proud. How could I turn down an opportunity like that?
Over the last few weeks, my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have been awash with pink. I know dozens of people who signed up to run, jog, or walk the Race for Life. The Race for Life is quite often the first 5K people sign up for, and it has a fantastic reputation as being a fun, accessible experience and not a big, scary, competitive run. After a break from running I was sure this would be a great race to help me to fall in love with the joy of running again.
Phil and I arrived to an ocean of pink. 
Women of all shapes, sizes and ages. Children. Dogs. Babies. Everyone was there to take part in the fight against cancer. The atmosphere was super-charged, electric and exciting. But of course, there was a strong sense of why we were there. Because everybody there had been touched by cancer in some way. Some people had signs on their backs with the names of the people they were running for, some survivors, some not so lucky. During the minute's silence at the start of the race, I found myself close to tears reading some people's messages, but also proud that everyone was coming together and doing something amazing.
With Race for Life, you have the option to run, jog or walk the race, so I signed up with the runners. As we lined up, I set my Garmin to find my location, only to find that it wouldn't start. This ended up being incredibly freeing and allowed me to enjoy running, instead of staring at my pace all the time.
Now just for the record, this isn't a race you're going to get a PB for. A lot of the people in front of me decided to walk and as many people were in groups, you did a lot of weaving around and over taking. It's also a pretty hilly course (my second 10K was here and you might remember that it was not fun!) but it's not timed. You don't get a chip and as my Garmin didn't work I don't know my time except for the time at the which only counts from the gun, not from your time crossing the start line. It certainly wasn't my best and I think I came in at about 38 minutes. But it wasn't what the race was about. It was about raising money, raising awareness and doing something in memory of people we have lost. And for a lot of people, it was about walking, jogging or running their first ever 5K. I remember how excited I was when I completed mine!
It was a really, truly humbling experience and I'm so glad Scottish Power asked me to take part. I know it was worth it for that £250 for Cancer Research, which I know will be put to good use.
Thanks Scottish Power and thanks for having me, Race for Life. Oh and also thank you to my lovely boyfriend Phil who took all these hilarious pictures of me, and for coming with me to the event. With over £500 raised from my half marathon for the Alzheimer's Society and £250 here for Cancer Research, I've raised over £750 this year for charity. And that is something to be proud of.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Show me my Silver Lining

It feels good to finally be honest with you about my current situation. It's a relief. I feel like I've been hiding some kind of dark and horrible secret from you the last few weeks and if there's anything you know about me at all it's that I have a really tough time not being honest. 
My self confidence at the moment is at an all-time low, which isn't great when you've got job interviews and meetings with recruiters left right and centre. It's also affecting my other relationships because I just feel so low all the time. Yesterday I cried because it took me longer than expected to complete the Race for Life. Even though the race is about raising money and awareness and celebrating the lives and memories of amazing people. Even though I hate Heaton Park and its stupid hills. Even though it was warm. Even though I hadn't run for over a month. I was just hoping for something to make me feel good about myself and it didn't. 
Even though you know, and are repeatedly told, that redundancy is not personal, that it's nothing to be ashamed of, it's hard not to take it to heart. It's hard not to question yourself and your abilities. It's hard not to feel completely and utterly let down.
Anyway, let's go back to talking about clothes.
This used to be one of my favourite outfits to wear to work, and it's instead become one of my favourite job interview outfits (with a pair of nude heels of course). I also alternate between this jacket and my new mint boucle jacket. Boucle jackets are my new favourite thing. Oh and I also need about 5 more shirts like this. I'm really messy and always spill down myself, but this is the perfect silky white shirt. Not too school uniform. 
jacket- River Island
shirt- c/o Glamorous
trousers- New Look
flats- Dorothy Perkins
Aside from the slow-running-induced meltdown, I've actually had a really nice weekend. Despite my running, Race For Life was an amazing, humbling experience and I'll be posting about it later this week. I spent all weekend with Phil. Saturday we skyped his family who are on holiday in Australia, watched How to Train Your Dragon (HOW GOOD IS IT?!) and went for a curry in Rusholme. Sunday we went to my race, came home and made lots of cheese on toast, watched Prisoners and the World Cup Final and had tuna and feta pasta bake for tea. I've got a busy week of interviews this week which is good. It's good to keep busy and just keep going. I think that's all I need to remember right now. Just to keep going and that I only need one job. Maybe things aren't moving as quickly as I expected but these things take time. And hopefully, soon, I'll get something that was worth waiting for.

Charlotte x

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Black Cloud

To say the last few weeks have been tough would be the understatement of the year.
As I mentioned in this post, I've been in the difficult position of not really being able to talk about what has happened, but also not feeling comfortable talking about my life as though everything was fine.
Those of you who have been reading my blog for the last few months know how much I loved my job.
Today I officially get made redundant.
The last few weeks have been absolutely awful, but I have to just hope that it was meant to be and that everything happens for a reason.
It's not been easy, but I just have to hope that things will get better.
Now I'm able to talk about it I'm hoping to be able to get back to regular posting again.
Thanks in advance for being awesome.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

A Trip to Prague

After a manic few weeks (which still aren't over), Phil and I decided we really, really needed a break. We'd been trying to decide on a place to go for a city break and were struggling to find somewhere neither of us had been (I wanted to do Barcelona, Phil went last year. Amsterdam? I just came back. Bruges? Phil wrote his dissertation on it and went a few years ago. Paris? Too expensive) and somewhere we could do in a couple of days. We also only had a couple of dates we could do, and found flights to our first choice, Budapest, had gotten too dear, so we decided upon Prague. Phil had actually been before years ago, but for a lads holiday, so we decided seeing as this trip was going to be a world away from booze and bars, we'd take a trip there.

We arrived on Monday night, to a gorgeous sunset over Prague castle, to our perfectly-located hotel just a minute's walk from the Charles bridge, and had an explore. We grabbed a quick meal (ahem, a kebab and a "fried cheese" burger- I had to try it!) before heading to bed for a busy day Tuesday.
Day One
Whenever I go to a new city, I insist on doing a New Europe walking tour on the first day. The tours are always excellent, they're free (except for a tip of course!) and I always find them to be a great way to experience a new city. So of course, bright and early on Tuesday morning (after our hotel continental breakfast) we headed into Old Town Square to meet the tour.
Old Town Square
The tour was 3 hours and took us through most of the main sights of Prague- the Old Town, New Town, and Jewish Quarters. Prague is a fascinating city, particularly for architecture and history and it's just incredible beautiful. At the lunch break of the tour (where I had lentil soup in a bread bowl and Phil had goulash), we bought tickets for the afternoon tour of Prague castle.
The architecture in Prague is incredible. This is the world's only cubist cafe.
Statue of Kafka in the Jewish Quarter
After our first tour we stopped for an ice cream and people watched until our tour of the castle at 2.30pm. This tour was a paid tour, but was again 3 hours. By the end of both tours and a stroll across the Charles Bridge (after a dinner of cocktails and mexican food) we felt as though we had done all of Prague in one day!
Day Two
Day two was quite drizzly, so we spent the morning exploring the city before the heavens opened and even our Primark pack-a-macs couldn't help us, so we spent most of the day mooching around Prague's retail delights. We also took a trip across the bridge so Phil could make a pilgrimage to the hotel he'd stayed at with his mates, and the restuarant where they had dinner every. single. night. In the evening though, we had booked to do the Prague Ghost Tour, so at 9.30pm we headed back to Old Town Square to meet Peter, our guide, who was dressed up in Victorian clothes and a Phantom-of-the-Opera-esque mask. As it turned out the other couple Peter was expecting didn't show up, so we got our own private tour! The Ghost Tour was awesome. It was so different seeing the city at night, and Peter was an incredible story teller. I was actually really scared a couple of times! If you're ever in Prague, I couldn't recommend this tour more. It's both fascinating and fun, and was a great addition to the New Prague tour we had done the day before.

Day Three
Thursday was our last day as we were heading home early Friday morning and initially we weren't sure what we wanted to do. However, on our ghost tour, Peter told us about an Alchemy Museum that was worth a visit. Prague flooded in 2002 and afterwards they found a tunnel going under the river leading from the castle to the basement a small building on the other side. It turned out that it was an underground laboratory where alchemists tried to create the philosopher's stone, and potions for love, eternal youth and the elixir of life. We were definitely intrigued! Again, we somehow ended up with our own personal tour again, and exploring the underground rooms was fascinating. They even had a bottle that they estimated to contain the original elixir of life which had been made in those laboratories, and it was hundreds of years old. The tour was excellent, with a great history of alchemy in the city.
Sorry for the blurry photo- it was really dark!
Afterwards our plan was to take a boat trip, but after an hour walking along the river without seeing anywhere advertising boat trips, we decided to give it a miss. We headed back to Old Town Square and had lunch and some drinks right in the centre of the square and had some time to relax and really appreciate the beauty of the city. After we packed up to come home, watched some football, ate a delicious meal and said goodbye to Prague.

We found Prague to be a beautiful city with lots to see and do (there are so many museums we didn't make it to!), and found it to be fairly reasonable, although not as cheap as we were led to believe (we found the average meal price was similar to a meal in Manchester). The weather is fairly similar to England, so it's not the place to go for a tan, but perfect for a few days away. We found 3 days to be just right to see everything we wanted to see, and we stayed at Attractive Penzion which could not have been better located and was really reasonable. I highly recommend it. I also recommend the Trip Advisor Prague City Guide (I never go anywhere without downloading one of these first) and I also had a Top Ten Prague guidebook too.

We had a lovely time and importantly, survived our first holiday together! I can't wait for our next trip.

Charlotte x

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Insanity- Week One

I've wanted to do Insanity for a really, really long time, and finally received it for my birthday back in March. The problem was, I just didn't have time to do it. I had the Great Manchester Run a few weeks after my birthday, and then we were going to Prague and with one thing and another, I knew I couldn't dedicate 2 months to the programme. We're off to Whitby in 8 weeks, so when we got back from Prague (my post is coming this week I promise) I knew I could just about squeeze it in before then.
The honest truth is that I've been a bit frustrated with running lately. I've been stuck in a rut, struggling with increasing my speed and not really enjoying it. I knew this was a good time to take a break, as I want to do the Stockport 10K in September, and will probably do a couple of other 10Ks before the end of the year, and maybe (probably) another half marathon next year. I was also hoping 2 months of high-intensity Insanity would be a great push for my stamina and fitness, which would hopefully help my speed and endurance.

Those of you who don't know, Insanity is a 60 day workout programme by Beachbody and it's based on high-intensity cardio and interval training. Month One is based around a rotation of five different workouts, then you take a recovery week before starting the harder workouts of Month Two.

Because Insanity is meant to offer incredible results, you are supposed to take photos every 2 weeks of the programme, in a variety of different positions (I followed this list), to compare results. Similarly, Day One starts with a Fit Test, which you do every 2 weeks to monitor your progress. It involves having to do 8 different moves as many times as you can for one minute, and then writing your results down. The hope is that your fitness will continue to increase over the course of the programme.

The other four workouts are all slightly different, but with the exception of Cardio Recovery, they all have a similar theme of high intensity intervals. Each workout lasts between 30 and 45 minutes, starting with a warm up and stretching and ending with a cool down.

I won't go through each different circuit, as you can find loads of Insanity reviews online, but I will say that so far I am loving it. Like running, I get up early to do it so it's the first thing I do in the morning (read my tips on becoming a morning exerciser here), and sleep in my workout clothes (I have a spare set so I can rotate!). Unlike running, I don't eat anything before the workout as people online said it could make you sick! I do down a banana Nesquik or a protein shake straight after though before jumping in the shower and having a proper breakfast.

Shaun T makes a lot of references to checking your heart rate so I would definitely recommend getting one if you don't have one (I have the Polar FT4) as it's good to keep your eye on. I also use it to monitor my calories to make sure I don't eat too little after the workout.

My goal really is for fitness and toning, I'm not really using it to lose weight (though I hear it's great for that and I definitely won't be complaining if it happens!). My biggest worry is that I won't commit to the full 60 days. It's been okay this week but I don't know how I'm going to feel on day 10, 20, 30 or 40!

Also, I will warn you, it's hard! I consider myself average fitness, and I've run a half marathon and done numerous Jillian Michaels DVDs but this is something else. I've never had to totally stop and have a breather in between sets! Shaun T always encourages you to take breaks though, and he is just so likeable. As much as I love Jillian her shouting is grating, and her dancers are just so good. What I love about Insanity is that the cast members are clearly exhausted too and Shaun is always telling them to take breaks. You also have regular prescribed water breaks throughout each workout.

As an additional point, I also found out this week that I'm suffering from anaemia, which makes me very tired, but I'm trying to get lots of sleep and just push through my workouts and I'm feeling okay. I've been to the doctors and I've been prescribed iron tablets so hopefully I'll have my energy back soon. I'm also trying to increase my protein intake to rebuild after the tough Insanity workouts, and back to drinking protein shakes after my workouts which I hope will help too.

Today was my rest day but tomorrow I'm back on it for week 2 and I'm excited!

Have you done Insanity? How were your results? Any tips?

Charlotte x

Saturday, 21 June 2014

A bit of a break

You've probably noticed it's been a bit quiet around here lately, and I just wanted to say it might be like this for a little longer.
I'm having a bit of a bad time at the moment and unfortunately, I can't talk about it yet. But at the same time I feel I can't not talk about it. I can't post about my day and my clothes and pretend life is all butterflies and cupcakes. You know that's not my style. 
So I'll be back when I'm ready. And as soon as I can share this with you I will.
Phil and I are going to Prague on Monday for a much-needed few days away, so hopefully I'll at least have some nice photos and a travel post to share with you when I get back.
And also please don't worry about me. Nobody has died and I'm going to be just fine. I just need some space right now.
Thank you for all your continued support. I'm going to need you when I'm ready to share.