Monday, 31 December 2012

In 2012...

I'm not really one for New Years Eve (I was snuggled up in my leopard print dressing gown, fresh off my flight home from Paris, by 8pm tonight), but I am one for looking back on the year and looking forward to the one ahead. I'm noticing a lot of people talking about how 2012 has flown by, but I feel very differently. When I look back on how much has changed in 2012, I can't help but think it's felt like a very long year indeed. This year has definitely been the year of changes; some of them anticipated, some of them not. It's definitely not been an easy year, but there have been some wonderful moments that it is important not to forget. 
Here are just some of the things that happened this year...
- 2012 was the first year without my grandad, who we lost last year just before Christmas. We also lost my beloved grandma in 2012, just 4 months later. It's definitely not been the easiest year for my family, but it has undoubtedly brought us closer together.
- this year I finally finished my undergraduate degree, wrote two dissertations, gained a first in my reading and popular culture class, and graduated from university. Writing this down brings such a sense of relief (I couldn't believe it on graduation day!) because finishing my final year was not easy. There were a LOT of tears, long long days in the library, and some days when I thought I was going to have some kind of break down, but I did it! 
- while finishing my degree, I also managed to read 21 books this year (16 for pleasure!)
- I spent summer 2012 working as a lifeguard in New Jersey, my second time living in America. I can now say I am a deep-certified lifeguard, and I saved two lives. My summer is even more poignant now as the seaside town I worked in has been almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. It's funny looking back on how devastated I was when I didn't get the job I wanted in San Francisco, but I had an amazing time in New Jersey.
- 2012 has definitely been a year of travel! I went to Edinburgh for my birthday, took various trips to London, and I've just come back from Paris (pictures to come!). I also went to New York City six times while living in New Jersey, and travelled across America after I finished working in the summer. I visited 18 States this summer, visited the Grand Canyon, line-danced in Nashville, partied in Vegas, travelled on my own to Boston, visited friends back in Minnesota, and had an amazing time travelling across the USA.
-In April 2012 I dyed my hair from blonde to chocolate brown. This was a big change! While I'm naturally mousey brown, I've been blonde in various forms since I was 11, so this is the first time I've been brunette in over 10 years!
- After finishing my degree in May, I went over to America for 4 months and got back in October. I applied for jobs online and was scouted by a recruitment agency. Within a few weeks of being back in the UK, I'd started my first big-girl job. I absolutely love my job and I'm so excited to see what the future holds.
- After taking dance classes all through university, as well as my long walks to and from classes every day, I was desperate for a new work-out routine after moving back in with my parents. In 2012 I started the 30 day Shred and I'm very proud to say that I completed it! I'm starting Ripped in 30 in the New Year and I'm so happy to have found a work out system that I enjoy and find effective.

With the good and the bad this year, I can definitely say I have grown and evolved as a person and I'm excited to see what 2013 will bring. 2013 is the first year when I haven't known what to expect- no university classes to take, no summer adventures planned- which in a lot of ways stresses me out, but it does mean that ultimately the shape of the year is entirely up to me. I don't know what 2013 is going to bring, but I am going to post some goals for the next year tomorrow.
I hope your new years is fabulous. I'm going to curl up and watch the fireworks on TV and recover from a busy few days in Paris!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Festive Week in Photos

So here it is Merry Christmas! I can't believe it's Christmas Day already. I hope you've had a lovely day! My day has been filled with family and food and I've been thoroughly spoiled! I love Christmas because I love traditions. Christmas for us always starts early with present opening, which always goes on way longer than we expect and we end up rushing to get to church, especially because we always think it's at 10am and then remember it's always at 9.30am! Then after church we go to my auntie's for breakfast. Now, when you realise my family has 30+ people and nearly all of us go for christmas breakfast my auntie kind of has her work cut out (I believe they cooked 46 hash browns today!). Then, in a change from tradition we came home and watched Toy Story for a little bit before my Dad took my auntie and I down to the cemetery to see my grandparents. This is our first year without either of them (my grandad died a week before Christmas last year, and my Nana died in May) so it was pretty hard, especially as they always used to come for Christmas dinner at our house. But this year we had my Auntie Linda and Uncle Mick round and two of my cousins, and we had a lovely Christmas dinner (I had lots of vegetables and nut roast!), played the logo quiz game and told lots of jokes after dinner. I'm now wrapped up in my new leopard print dressing gown and new leopard pajamas all full and sleepy and ready for bed! I'm a little sad that Christmas is over because I've been OHMYGODSOEXCITED the last few days, but it's been a lovely day and we're off to Paris on Thursday so I can't really complain! 
Here are my (festive!) photos from this week:
1. Festive stamp on my train ticket
2. Work Christmas card!
3. Writing Christmas cards in Starbucks before work
4. Tiny pineapple...
Or giant hands?
5. Mandatory Christmas film watching
I hadn't seen Elf since I saw it at the cinema with school (I believe I was 13?) but I went out on a limb and bought it a few weeks ago and convinced my parents to watch it with me on Sunday. It's such a feel-good festive film!
6. Festive fun
My friend Kayleigh was home from London for Christmas at the weekend so Eve and I went round for a night of catching up, wine, dancing around the kitchen to Christmas songs and tear 'n' share garlic bread. Awesome.
7. Presents under the tree!
8. Bailey's and burger PJs on Christmas Eve
I knew I had to wear my reindeer jumper for one last time on Christmas Eve and I felt very festive wearing it out for lunch. I also spotted a reindeer-jumper-wearing twin!
10. Christmas Face
I was following a Youtube tutorial for gold eyes and red lips but I ended up not having half the products the tutorial required so I just kinda winged it. My eyes are gold, promise.
11. Christmas Outfit
My favourite Jones and Jones red dress (which I have in two other colours), faux fur jacket and my glittery impossibly-high heels (not pictured).
12. Christmas PRESENTS
I did very well this year! Mophie Juice charging iPhone case, Paul's Boutique bag, leopard print pajamas (and dressing gown from my nan!), Jamie's 15 Minute Meals, Sigma Eye brushes, the Dark Knight Rises DVD, a mini herb garden and Jillian Michaels Collection Box Set. Oh and an apron from my Dad!
13. MAC goodies from my auntie!
14. Favourite Christmas chocolates
Every year I always hope that someone buys my parents a box of these because they hate them and I love them. Ergo, chocolates all for me!
15. Festive Christmas table
Another Crowley-house tradition is my Mum's table. Sure, we have to move nearly everything to make room for the food, but hey, it looks festive!
16. Pimp-tastic leopard print dressing gown
17. And finally, why you don't leave your beer outside
My Dad gave my uncle a bottle of beer and didn't notice the tiny little slug friends on the top. It was only when my uncle was thinking of taking a drink that he noticed them! Luckily I really like slugs so I happily slipped them onto a piece of paper and popped them back outside. I think they just wanted to join in the festivities!

Now, I've shared my Christmas traditions. I'd love to hear about yours!
I hope your Christmas was wonderful.

Charlotte xxx

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Furry Hat

girl next door fashion outfit
girl next door fashion outfit
Disclaimer: No, I don't have a dead sheep on my head. Yes I know I am wearing a big furry hat that probably makes me look ridiculous. No, I don't care. I absolutely love this hat. It arrived last week and I've been SO EXCITED to wear it all week (not really appropriate for work...) so even though it's been super warm this weekend and definitely not furry hat weather, I couldn't resist.
girl next door fashion outfit
girl next door fashion outfit
This is my Christmas dress. It's pretty much exactly what I wore last year. I actually added the hat just so it didn't look like the exact same outfit! I absolutely adore this dress. It was one of the first things I bought as part of my tartan obsession last year. I was on a hunt for the perfect tartan dress and I thought I'd looked everywhere. Then, when I least expected it, I stumbled upon this vintage beauty in Fancy Treehouses' online store. It was exactly what I was looking for. As I mentioned last week, I love the pairing of leather and tartan. Oh, and fur again. 
girl next door fashion outfit
girl next door fashion outfit girl next door fashion outfit
dress-vintage via Fancy Treehouse
furry hat-asos
leather jacket-H&M
girl next door fashion outfit
I'm off to my friend Kayleigh's tonight for a festive catch up and tomorrow I'll be back with a festive week in photos!
Have a lovely eve-of-Christmas-Eve!

Charlotte x

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Three Years

Three years ago today, I sat down in front of my laptop and wrote my first ever blog post. I had absolute no idea if I was going to write another one, no idea of the direction I wanted to go in, and absolutely no idea about photography. I just knew it was something I wanted to do. So I wrote. And I just kept on writing.

I had no idea I would still be writing this blog three years on. I had no idea that my blog would turn from something I did for fun into a huge part of my life. From taking photos in minus 20 degree weather when I lived in Minnesota, to documenting my travels across America, and being a source of release through car crashes and break ups and family bereavements, my blog has always been here for me. It has been an outlet of creativity, a source of inspiration, and a place to practise my writing and photography. I've also learned a lot about business; social media, advertising, working with companies, business conversations. I'm proud to say that my blog, the hard work I've done for it and skills I've gained from working on it really impressed my employers, and was one of the reasons why I got my current job. Something that for a long time has just been a hobby really came into its own this year as a demonstration of my dedication and commitment.

I am a complete different person from the person I was when I started this blog, and I'm not ashamed of that. I will never, ever delete old posts because I'm ashamed of them or who I was back then. If you go back a year, two years (and now three), into my blog, you can see the development into the person I am now. When I first started writing this blog I was just starting my second year of university and my blog was just one of a number of commitments 
-the dance society, the student newspaper, my writing work and my part time bar job to name but a few. In my third year I was finding my way in a year living and studying abroad, and my blog allowed me to share my experiences with my friends and family back home, and in my final year I was having a tough time at university and with my family bereavements, and I used my blog as a creative outlet as respite from the stress. 

Now I've just started working a job that I love, I've finished my degree and I've moved into the next stage of my life. My blog may not be updated quite as often, but it's also going through a new stage of evolution, into something I balance alongside my full-time job. 

When I first started my blog, I didn't really think anyone would read it. I definitely didn't think that after 3 years I would have over 600 followers, nearly 800 posts and hundreds of people reading my blog every day. I didn't think I'd be working with companies that I have loved and admired for years, or that I would have some of the experiences that blogging has afforded me. And I have you guys to thank for that. I like to think I'd still be writing even if nobody was reading, but the fact is I appreciate every single person who reads my blog or leaves me a comment or a tweet or an email, and it makes it all worthwhile. I've made so many amazing friends while blogging and it's been such a wonderful experience.
Here's to another three years.

Charlotte xxx

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Past Winter Favourites

I've seen quite a features like this on different blogs over the past few weeks and as I've been feeling a little bit stuck-in-a-rut with my winter inspiration this year (aka, living in leggings and big jumpers) I decided it would be a good way to kick-start my inspiration. Some of these are not strictly winter outfits, but I'm going to call them winter-inspired. After looking at these, I definitely feel more excited about the colder weather! 
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girl next door fashion outfit
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girl next door fashion outfit
girl next door fashion outfit

Sunday, 16 December 2012

30 Day Shred: The End

Okay, it might have taken me more than 30 days (ahem, 52) but I battled through two bouts of illness, starting a new job, working around social commitments and days when I just didn't want to do it, but it's done. On Monday I completed the 30 Day Shred.
It hasn't been easy, and I'd be lying if I said I loved every minute. I've kicked, I've screamed, I've lay down and panted. I've cursed Jillian for making me go for another 10 seconds. I've ached, I've hurt and I've almost thrown up a couple of times (TMI?). 
But despite those things, it's been amazing.
I'm not one of those people who "loves" working out. I work out because it makes me feel better about myself. I don't enjoy it while I'm doing it! But it's something I feel is important to fit into my routine. While on my year abroad I went to the gym 5 times a week, and during my time at university I was in the dance society and danced 5 hours a week, alongside walking to and from campus every day. Working out always slotted into my routine while I was at university.
But whenever I came home, working out got more difficult. I didn't have a gym membership, there are no dance classes nearby and I don't like leaving the house when I don't have to. I needed a workout routine I could do without having to go out.
And that's where Jillian came in.
I'd had work out DVDs before but they never really inspired me, however I'd heard good things about Jillian Michaels. I needed something quick and intense, and easy to fit into my routine. The 30 Day Shred was perfect for this. Plus, at £5 from Amazon, it was much cheaper than £40 a month gym membership.
First thing's first, it's not easy. Not even a little bit. When you're used to dancing two hours at a time or pounding the gym machines for an hour at a time, it's easy to assume that a 25 minute work out will be easy peasy. But oh my god it's hard. Even level one is hard. Don't even get me started on level two. Every single night I would finish my work out drenched in sweat, beetroot red and absolutely knackered. But dear god, after a cool shower I slept like a baby.
For me, the biggest thing was finding the ideal time to do the workout. It is only 30 minutes but despite being a morning person, I did not want to get up at 6am to do it every day. And I was worried I wasn't going to fit it in after work. But once I had a set time every night to do the DVD, it was simple. Like I've said, I like routine, so once I had that figured out it was easy. Well, as easy as an exhausting work out can be.
Now I'm definitely a Jillian convert. Her DVDs are the perfect way to get a workout in when you have a busy schedule. I've already bought her Ripped in 30 DVD to do next and I've asked for the Jillian Michaels Collection for Christmas which has 3 new DVDs.
And the results? Well I really regret not taking before and after photos or taking measurements. I gave up on weighing myself early in the process too, but I think I've lost about 5 pounds in total. Not a massive amount, but thanks to the DVD I am now pretty much back to where I wanted to be physically and I'm feeling so much better about myself! Next time I will definitely be taking before and after pictures.
Now it's over I'm alternating levels of the shred on the nights when I get time (and when I'm not ill!) and planning to start Ripped in 30 when I get more time in the New Year.
Overall, I absolutely loved the 30 Day Shred. It is not easy. Not even a little bit. You will be absolutely exhausted and some days you really won't want to go on, but you will and you will feel so so good afterwards.
If you want a challenge, but something that can fit into your daily routine, buy this DVD. You won't regret it.

Saturday, 15 December 2012


Just to give you an idea of exactly how behind I am with blogging, this Scout bag was sent to me in September. Yes. That behind. BUT I'm going to tell you that it's all about getting a really good review and really testing the durability of the bag. Got it? Good.
Anyway, so I was sent this gorgeous Scout bag to review way back in September and to be completely honest, it ended up being a bit of a lifesaver! When I went to America I only really brought handbags, and it was only when I was getting ready to go travelling that I realised I didn't really have any bags with lots of space in them! This bag became my go to bag. And it's been travelling all across America. Don't believe me? Here it is at the Rocky steps in Philadelphia:
Well-traveled, right? Anyway, the reason this bag has traveled far and wide across the world is because it's so spacious. I am one of those big bag girls. You know the sort, right? Those girls who carry everything but the kitchen sink in their bags? Yep, I'm one of those. Don't even talk about clutch bags to me. How am I supposed to get my makeup, umbrella, cardigan and a pair of flat shoes in there?! This bag proved to be perfect while I was travelling- I could get my makeup, headphones, glasses case, contact lens solution, jacket and purse in there (to name put a few things that it housed during my trip!). I'm also super duper picky when it comes to bags- I'm not really a "bag girl" because I hate having to co-ordinate my outfits around my bag and move all my stuff around, so this was perfect because not only is it big, but I chose a neutral colour and a simple design so it will go with everything! I always love the look of fancy bags in purple snakeskin or polka dot or something like that, but the reality is I can usually be found toting my faithful black Mulberry or my Matalan brown satchel! 
If I was feeling adventurous though, these would be my top pick Scout bags...

I think this leopard print weekender would be perfect for spicing up a simple outfit or for a weekend away, and I love idea of taking the red and white striped pocket rocket bag for a summery picnic on the beach! For something a little more season-appropriate, I love this tweed-look bag or if you're going further afield, the fast getaway rolling bag would be perfect for nailing the military trend. My absolute favourite though? The cool clutch. I take my lunch to work everyday so this insulated bag would be much more stylish than the plastic Asda bag I usually take my lunch in!
Which bag is your favourite?

Charlotte x

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Winter Punk

girl next door fashion outfit
girl next door fashion outfit
girl next door fashion outfit
As soon as December hits, something weird happens to me: I become obsessed with tartan. I just want to wear it ALL.THE.TIME. My tartan collection is now made up of two skirts, a shirt, a scarf, a dress and a blazer. I think what I love about it is that it reminds me of being 16 when I used to wear tartan skirts with Fall Out Boy tshirts and striped knee socks. I feel like this look, with the tartan shirt, leather and studs is kinda reminiscent of that; kind of winter punk. With faux fur.
girl next door fashion outfit
tartan shirt-Motel via ebay
skirt- Topshop
faux fur stole- H&M
leather jacket- H&M
boots- Love Label
necklace- Forever 21

This skirt is what my wardrobe had been missing all its life. It's just a basic, simply jersey skirt from Topshop, but sometimes you don't want something fussy like a leather or printed skirt. I think having a good arsenal of basics is such a good foundation for a good wardrobe. I often find that I have a lot of printed and textured things but I'm lacking in a lot of basics and at the moment I'm craving simplicity! I've recently bought some simple jersey dresses from Topshop that are perfect for work and so good for dressing up or down. Ah basics!
girl next door fashion outfit
I have about a million and one blog posts planned to go up this week but I've ended up ill, (again!) so I'm a bit behind on getting them up. But hey, at least I'm blogging again! I'm full of ideas I just don't have any time to get them up! It's my work Christmas do tomorrow and then on Saturday I'm gong down to Luton for my friend Emily's birthday so I've got a busy weekend coming up. 
Have a lovely evening!

Charlotte x

Monday, 10 December 2012

Week in Photos

Little bit late this week because of my unusual Sunday post yesterday! 
1. Work Christmas Tree
We had our office decorated on Tuesday. Nothing like a bit of festive cheer in the workplace!
2. Graduation Breakfast
Never one to turn down a good veggie English
3. All ready for graduation!
Can't beat a good furry jacket!
4. Graduation Face
Soft curls and Urban Decay eyeshadow
5. UoB lapel pin
How adorable is this little pin?! We got it in our graduation packs and I used it to pin my hood.
6. University of Birmingham painting
This painting is absolutely beautiful. I've always had a big crush on my university so I'm so happy to have a picture of it for on my wall.
7. Christening my University of Birmingham mug
Favourite. Mug. Ever
8-9: Graduation Presents
I did very well with graduation presents- diamond earrings and a graduation cap Pandora charm.
10. Fur collar love
Perfect for making a black coat more exciting.
11. Festive biccie
With my M&S coffee!
12. Sunday
Sundays always mean a messy sock bun and glasses. Always.
13. My favourite part of Christmas...
Eating far, far too many of these.
14. Om nom
15. Veggie loaf
Last night's dinner- veggie loaf with tomato sauce and cheese, with lots of veggies!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

girl next door fashion outfit
girl next door fashion outfit
girl next door fashion outfit
girl next door fashion outfit
girl next door fashion outfit
girl next door fashion outfit
girl next door fashion outfit
girl next door fashion outfit
girl next door fashion outfit
Decorating the Christmas tree, making possibly THE BEST mince pies ever, listening to my Christmas playlist, drinking mulled wine and watching Love Actually.
All done in my Christmas jumper.
Good day.