Wednesday, 24 April 2013

I'm building bonfires of my vanities and doubts to get warm, just like everybody else.

You know how about once every two weeks I have a favourite work outfit? Yeah, that happened. I've been on the hunt for the perfect black work dress for about 5 months. I wanted something smart but not too fitted (I'm allergic to bodycon), long enough for meetings but short enough so that I didn't feel frumpy. I stumbled over this dress on the Clothing at Tesco website of all places and hoped it was exactly what I was looking for. When it arrived however, it was a bit too big and a bit too long, but fortunately, Tesco had the dress in a petite length so I just ordered it in a size down and it was perfect. I was originally planning on wearing it alone, but when I came across this white shirt on an accidental mooch in New Look (in my defence, it was £10!) I got incredibly excited about pairing them and I absolutely love the effect. I think this is the perfect way to wear the pinafore trend for work (I actually bought a pinafore for work but I haven't had a chance to wear it yet) and I can't wait to wear it with different shirts underneath, with one of my brightly coloured blazers or with skin coloured tights for the summer.
dress- Clothing at Tesco
white shirt- New Look
heels- Marks and Spencers
necklace- Topshop
I know it sounds silly, but I feel like I have a better day at work when I like my outfit. It just makes me feel more confident, and confidence is a big part of my job. When Kris came into work today she said "you're outfit is exactly like one you pinned on pinterest a few days ago!". Probably true! This week has been pretty good so far but I'm still knackered from the weekend! I've had a quiet week so far with my new photography class (which I'm absolutely loving-I'm even excited to do my homework project!), watching Extras with my Dad (I know I'm about 7 years too late to the party) and reading (I've just finished Revolutionary Road and I've just started Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood). Sometimes you need a few quiet days to catch up (I might have gone to bed at 9.30pm last night...). I've got lots of plans over the next few weeks though which is exciting- I've also just booked tickets for my Mum and I to go to the Lowry Outlet Food Festival and see Paul Hollywood next weekend. My Mum is so excited!

Have a lovely evening!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 21 April 2013

I started out clean but I'm jaded

dress- Topshop via ebay
leather jacket- H&M
necklace- Topshop
boots- London Rebel via New Look
bracelets- ASOS
God I have had such a good weekend! It's been the perfect mix of busy and chilled. After work on Friday I got the train down to Wolverhampton to meet Steph and go see Matchbox Twenty. When we first talked about going neither of us were sure if the other was joking but we were both completely serious. And they were absolutely incredible. Probably one of the best gigs I've been to in a long time. Why are they not more popular seriously? I've spent the last 3 days listening to them non-stop, especially "Bent" which I have been listening to on repeat! Rob Thomas' voice is just gorgeous (fun fact- remember when I did karaoke in Nashville? I sung Smooth by Santana and Rob Thomas). Anyway, after the gig we headed back to Birmingham to meet our friends for a night out, bought cans of cocktails from Tesco and drank them on a park bench in Birmingham city centre (classy, right?!) and had an awesome night out at Snobs. Then the best part of going out on a Friday instead of a Saturday was it was like getting two Sundays! Saturday was spent back in Selly Oak saying goodbye to our favourite university pub which is being knocked down in a few months, getting excited about  going back onto the University of Birmingham campus and catching up over coffee. I can't express how much I love my uni friends and it's so hard not seeing each other as much as we did when we were at uni together (aka, every day!) but it's so great when we get a chance to meet up. I really appreciate how amazing they are.
Sunday has been spent doing normal Sunday stuff- food shopping, going seeing family (I bought these boots with a gift card my auntie gave me so I co-ordinated my outfit around them so I could show her them!), prepping for food the week and bingeing on Netflix. We also had the added treat of a meal out tonight as our family friends were up here before their flight from Manchester airport tomorrow. It's felt like I've had an extra long weekend with going out on Friday, which is always a plus. 
Now back to my Arrested Development bender! Hope your weekend has been great!

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Pink, Polka Dots and Photography

I'm mentioned before that I'm not really a bag girl. I have about three bags, and 9 times out of 10 you'll find me carrying my big, black, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Mulberry Roxanne. It fits everything in it and goes with everything so I rarely swap around. However, when this beautiful pink Knomo bag arrived I was in love. It might just be the most beautiful bag I've ever owned. Plus it's perfect for work- I can even fit my Macbook and a notebook in it for meetings! I decided to pair it with my new pink heels (even though they don't quite match perfectly) that I bought to go with my birthday dress. They're a little bit high for work but I thought they were a great way to brighten up my favourite spotty dress.
polka dot dress- Next
blazer- Zara
heels- SoYouShoes via Amazon
necklace- Forever 21
bag- c/o Knomo bags
I started my second photography course last night! I'm so excited because it definitely seems a step up from my last one. I'm going to start trying to spend two hours every Sunday working on my photography and practicing what I'm learning in class. I just don't spend enough time working on it- perfectly demonstrated in these photos which were taken in five minutes before work. I'm also considering taking a qualification in photography if I enjoy my next class. God there's just so much I want to do. Does that every stress you out? I started writing my 23 before 24 list the other day and I found it so exciting but so stressful at the same time. I mean realistically, can I really take more photography classes, take French classes, and start singing and dancing again? While also maintaining friendships, planning to move out in a year or so and progressing at work? Does anyone else get stressed out about this? I've done all these things in various parts of my life and I miss them. I miss dancing at uni, I miss singing in bands when I was 17 but I've always wanted to learn a language and I want to progress with photography. Maybe it's a one step at a time thing.
Well I'm off to do Jillian Michaels and have an early night. I'm off to see Frank Turner for the seventh time tomorrow, yay! I'm also going to see Matchbox 20 on Friday and I'm so excited. Partying like it's 1999 right?

Have a lovely evening!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 14 April 2013

For the Love of Reading

Kindle case c/o Not on the High Street
I'm lucky that even working full time I still get a chance to read. I read on the train in the morning on the way to work, I read at the station and then I read on the train home. It's one of those little things that I really take pleasure in. An escape. And lately, I've been reading more than ever. Around Christmas I took up the challenge of reading War and Peace, which took me almost three months (!) and since finishing it last month I've been eating up every book I can get my hands on. I've recently read Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Froer, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick.
I'm currently reading The Descendents by Kaui Hart Hemmings. (I promise I don't always read books that have recently been made into films!) I would also recommend each and every one of these books- I've been on a good book streak lately!
I've mentioned before how much I love my kindle. I love carrying it in my bag all the time and with the speed I've been getting through books lately (I've read almost 4 books in 2 weeks), I love that I can just download a new book when I need to. I also love my new kindle case from Not on the High Street. Dracula is one of my favourite books so I knew this was the perfect case for me (plus I like a kindle case that offers protection). It also came with a light which is great as I have the Kindle 4. All the cases are handmade by Manor Binery and you get a little note telling you who made your case! They're a book binding company who have embraced new technology by making Kindle cases. How cool is that?
I'm always looking for new books to read and I get incredibly excited when I'm reading a book that I enjoy. After studying English at university I read a lot of books I didn't enjoy in four years of literature so it's so exciting and liberating to be able to read whatever I want. I've always looking for new book recommendations and exploring classic books that I've always wanted to read. I'm very active on Goodreads and you can find all my favourite books on there.
So tell me, what should I read next? I've recently been enjoying contemporary novels about troubled characters and family relationships in the modern day society (I read Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections before Christmas and just loved it). I also love American fiction from the 80s and 90s (I wrote my American Studies dissertation on American Psycho and my favourite book is Chuck Palahniuk's Invisible Monsters) and Victorian classics (my other favourite book, and topic of my English dissertation is The Picture of Dorian Gray). I also have a shelf on Goodreads of my favourite books.
So what are your favourite books? (If they're available on Kindle. even better! I'm currently trying to scout out ebook versions of Bonfire of the Vanities and Mysterious Skin to no avail. If you know where I might find them, let me know!)

Charlotte x

Friday, 12 April 2013

Goldie Girl

Would you judge me if I told you I'd worn this outfit four times in the past two weeks? It's become the perfect outfit to throw on at the weekends and feel comfortable, warm but still stylish. When I was given the opportunity to pick an item from Fuse Fashion I knew straight away it had to be this dress. I'm really into floral print at the moment (which reminds me of when I first started my blog) and I knew this dress would be perfect come Spring. Of course, given the way the weather has been lately I was definitely not going to wait until the sun came out to wear it, so I grabbed a couple of jumpers to try it with, and this one was a clear winner. I also love the fact it has a cute little collar to peek out over the top. 
Goldie Studded Collar Dress-c/o Fuse Fashion
mustard jumperNew Look
bootsNew Look
necklaceForever 21
So what else is new? Not much really! Amsterdam feels like a distant memory already and I am fully back in the swing of work! I've been doing lots of fun things after work though which I always find breaks up the working week. Eve came round for a bit on Wednesday and we spent the evening watching funny YouTube videos and last night Shaunagh came round and we cooked dinner and made plan for some weekends away! I told her I was going to take French classes in September and she said she wanted to take them with me so we're going to book a trip to the South of France over Christmas, and we're also going to book a weekend in Berlin over the Summer. I'm already excited! I love having things to look forward to. Tonight I went out for dinner with Jenny and Eve which was absolutely lovely and tomorrow Eve and I are going to have a Godfather Trilogy weekend! My favourite is the first one, hers is the second and we're trying to decide if we can bring ourselves to watch the third one! I've also been working on Killer Buns and Thighs and doing lots of reading (I've read 4 books in the last 3 weeks and I'm going to be writing about that soon) and I start my next photography class on Monday so I'm really looking forward to that. Oh and I also finished House of Cards! Has anyone else been watching it? I've been pacing myself but I rattled through the last few episodes and now I'm dreading having to wait til the autumn for the new series. I'm going to seriously get back into Breaking Bad now. I'm about halfway through season two but I'm gonna seriously commit haha. Oh Netflix, how I love you.
TGI Friday!

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Going Dutch

Finally! My photos from Amsterdam (I've been back a week now...). I had an absolutely brilliant time (despite it being freezing) and there was just so much to see and do! I've been loving the city breaks this year after my trip to Paris at Christmas and I'd so much rather have a few days away in a fun, cultural city than a two week beach holiday (I get bored easily and I hate the heat!) . Here's hoping for another couple of city breaks this year!
This trip was pretty last minute and done on the super cheap. Ellen text me on New Year's Day asking if I wanted to go away for a few days over Easter (she's a teacher so she can only go away during school holidays) and within a few days the trip was planned! Flights were always going to be cheap, but we had some struggles initially with accommodation. The hostels we looked at seemed a little overpriced but a lot of the hotels were further out of town. However after asking for advice on Twitter, Siel pointed us in the direction of Air Bnb where we found CityHub, our home for four days. Here's what it looks like...
My boss said it looked like "a rabbit hutch for humans" but it totally did the job! We had a massive bed with a headphone jack for playing music and mood lighting, space to get ready and we had a communal living area, kitchen and bathroom. It was exactly what we needed for a few days away and it was a bargain at £20 a night each- half the price of some of the hotels we looked at. It also had cute little Dutch features, like windmills and clogs on the bathroom tiles. There was also an amazing bookshelf shaped like windmills, central station and a few other sites of Amsterdam that I'm kicking myself for not photographing.
We arrived on Saturday evening and before we went to dinner met another hub-dweller who told us she'd heard everything would be closed on Sunday with it being Easter Sunday. We had our entire few days completely planned out, so losing a whole day Sunday would certainly be problematic. After going out for a late Birthday dinner, we decided to go into town in the morning and try to find the walking tour we had planned on doing anyway, just in case. Plan B was to go find an open Starbucks, or last resort, read in the hub all day! Fortunately, upon approaching the meeting spot for our walking tour we saw hundreds of tourists so knew we'd come to the right place! Our tour was with Sandeman and Ellen had done walking tours with them in Berlin and Madrid so we knew they would be good quality. They're free tours and you just give a tip at the end, and they have lots of tour guides who all speak different languages. I'm a big fan of tours, especially in new cities, and a walking tour was a great way to see Amsterdam.
The tour was very informative and took us to places we might ordinarily have missed. Plus our tour guide was actually from Amsterdam which was nice. She had lots of interesting facts about the city. For example, did you know that cannabis actually is illegal in Amsterdam? Our tour took us along the canals and through the Red Light District and through many of the other little districts of the city. After the walking tour we grabbed a coffee and headed down to see the Van Gogh exhibit at the Hermitage museum. The actual Van Gogh museum was closed for refurbishment, but the exhibit we saw was really fantastic and interesting, with lots of information accompanying each painting and videos to watch. Some of his most famous paintings were there, including the Sunflowers. After the exhibition and a long day we grabbed a quick dinner of falafel and chips and headed back to the hub. We'd seen the line outside the Anne Frank house while on our walking tour and it was one of the main things we wanted to do on our trip, and as we hadn't been able to book tickets online we knew it was going to be an early start on Monday!
We left the hub at 8.15am to get to the Anne Frank house before it opened at 9, and even when we arrived at 8.45am there was a queue. Fortunately once the doors opened we were inside pretty fast but the staff were really helpful when stopping the queue and explained that the Anne Frank house is very small, so only a few people can go in at a time. Like most girls, I'd read the Diary of Anne Frank as a teenager and I was really interested to see the house and find out more. The museum and house were fantastic. It sounds wrong to say that I "enjoyed" the Anne Frank house, especially as I was close to tears at least a couple of times while inside, but Otto Frank had ensured the house was so full of information that it was fascinating and overwhelming. It's amazing to be up there in the house where they hid for two years and to hear the bells of the church ringing next door, which Anne talk about in her diary.
Now the original plan for the afternoon was to go to see the tulips at the Kukenhof, however on Saturday night we were checking out the train times and prices to go visit when we noticed some angry reviews on Trip Advisor. People were complaining that they had visited the Kukenhof only to find no tulips in bloom at all, despite the claims on the website. These reviews were from the 30th March. We were glad we didn't spend the 27 Euros on the trip, but I was very disappointed that we weren't going to see the tulips. With it being such a long, cold winter this year, none of the flowers have had a chance to bloom yet. This left us with a bit of a gap in our plans, so we decided to wander the city and see what piqued our interest. We visited the church in the Red Light District which Ellen had wanted to see, and we went to have a look at Rembrandt's house, although we didn't go inside, had a look in a cheese shop (when in Rome right?) and then we decided to try to get out of town a bit in the hopes of seeing a windmill, so we headed to Amstell Park.
Amstell Park is just a little out of the town on the tram, but it's a gorgeous and (as we later found out) huge park. We spent a good few hours walking around, although we didn't get to find the elusive windmill. After discovering the park was 9km wide and none of the signs indicated where the windmill was we decided it could be a redundant search! Instead we had a nice relax and some lovely views and had an opportunity to just chill out after a busy day. We ended up heading back pretty early on Monday night. We half-suggested going out for a drink in the evening, but once we were holed up with our books and some leftover birthday cake in our hub we really didn't fancy a night on the town!
Our flight wasn't until 4.30pm so we wanted to do something on Tuesday before we left. We'd both been talking about the zoo, but neither of us were really sure if the other was being serious (we both totally were). As it turns out, we both absolutely love the zoo (you might remember I went to Edinburgh Zoo for my birthday last year!), so it turned out to be a great way to end our trip. Plus Amsterdam zoo is pretty bloody good! We saw penguins, elephants, lions, giraffes, gorillas, zebras, sealions and meerkats (to name but a few!), plus there was also an aquarium...
And finally, I got to see my windmill. Okay, not really, but this was the closet I got. Oh and I also got to sit in a giant clog, which was another thing I wanted to do the whole trip.
All in all, a wonderful city and a fantastic weekend. I wish it hadn't been so absolutely flippin' freezing the whole time we were there (furry hat not pictured) but it was a great little city break with lots of things to see and do and if you haven't been I would definitely recommend it! The whole city is adorably cute and quaint, just try not to get run over by any of the 600,000 bikes!

Have you been to Amsterdam?? Where should I go on my next city break (a girl can dream right?!) ?

Charlotte x

Sunday, 7 April 2013

6 Week Six Pack Review

As you might already know, I am a huge, HUGE Jillian Michaels fan. 6 week Six Pack was my third Jillian Michaels DVD, after the 30 Day Shred and Ripped in 30. I loved both those DVDs so I was excited to try something new. I got the Jillian Michaels Boxset for Christmas and 6 Week 6 Pack was the first DVD I tried from that set.

6 Week 6 Pack follows a slightly different format from the other Jillian DVDs I have tried- instead of the 3-2-1 system of 3 minutes strength, 2 minutes cardio, 1 minute abs, 6 week Six pack involves one circuit of moves (21 in level one and 19 in level two) followed by a repetition of the same moves for another circuit, only double time. The moves still involve a mix of strength and cardio, but this time they focus more specifically on ab-training moves (as the name suggests). There are two levels which Jillian suggests you do five time week for three weeks.

I have to be completely honest, at first I really didn't love this DVD. It just didn't push me and exhaust me in the same way 30 day Shred and Ripped in 30 did. I didn't come from the workout dripped in sweat and desperate for a shower. I didn't feel challenged. I found it too easy to cheat and not push hard enough. Which was when I realised that this DVD required me to push myself. Unlike Jillian's other DVDs, this isn't as hard and fast-paced and it's easy to slack, so you have to self-motivate much more. Many people recommend this DVD only after doing the 30 Day Shred and I definitely thing that is important in terms of self-motivation. Once I decided to really push myself I did come out of the workout exhausted and I did feel I had achieved something. There also isn't as much cardio (my favourite!) in this DVD so you have to make sure that the cardio you do really counts- upping the speed and the reps and the intensity and not letting yourself slack. Once I picked up the pace my abs were burning after this workout!

I enjoyed the different format of this DVD too. I love the 3-2-1 system but this was a nice change from what I was used to. That second circuit at double time though? OUCH. I think the only thing I didn't like as much was doing the same level for three weeks. I wish this DVD had three levels instead that you could do for two weeks- by the end of week two on each level I was really starting to get bored, but by the start of week 3 I could power through every move of every circuit without stopping, so Jillian obviously knows what she's doing!

I worked out to this DVD around 4 times a week (some weeks it was 5 times, some weeks 3) and I've mentioned before that although Jillian usually suggests her DVDs be done 5 or 6 times a week, I just don't have time for that every week and because these DVDs are part of my lifestyle not just a quick challenge, I do them whenever I can. I also didn't change my eating for the challenge- there were definitely a few meals out, glasses of wine and drunken trips to the chippy during the course of this DVD! My results weren't as dramatic as Ripped in 30 but I can definitely seen good definition in my abs (of course, I didn't get a full six pack in six weeks, but who seriously expects that?!), and I lost 0.25 inches from my waist, 1 inch from my hips, 0.5 inches from each arm and 2 pounds. If I'd really been watching what I was eating I would definitely have seen much more dramatic results but I'm happy with my achievements.

I've just started Killer Buns and Thighs so I'm excited to see how that DVD goes! Have you done any of Jillian Michaels' DVDs? Which is your favourite?

Charlotte x

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Twenty Three

With Saturday being my birthday and also the day I flew to Amsterdam, my family and I decided to go out for a little pre-birthday lunch on God Friday. I'd wanted to go to The Ash Tearoom for ages but we'd never been able to find a good time. It used to be a pub but now it's a gorgeous little tearoom with a cake shop and a chocolate shop inside. The cake shop is amazing. They make the most amazing cakes and we've had a couple over the years for birthdays and special occasions- I had a treble clef for my 18th birthday, a suitcase with an American flag on for my leaving party, my Mum had a makeup bag for her 50th and I had a converse shoe for my 16th. My Dad and I went for a wander after ordering our food and we mooched around the cake shop looking at the amazing cakes, and ended up chatting to the ladies about some of the cakes they had made for us in the past. They remembered all of them and said some of them might be in the portfolio. After some hunting we found a picture of my 16th birthday cake! 
For lunch we had creamy mushrooms (Mum), homemade quiche (me), a club sandwich (Nan) and baked potato (Dad), but of course, we were most excited about the cakes! With it still being lent, I had to avoid anything chocolately and went for my favourite non-chocolate pudding, lemon cake. My Mum got the carrot cake, and my Dad had the most gorgeous-looking strawberry tart.
I still have all my photos and stories from Amsterdam to show you, but I will share my presents with you. I did exceptionally well this year! A Tamron wide-angle lens, a Ted Baker purse, a Cath Kidson makeup bag, another Jones and Jones dress (yep, the same as my cream one, my red one and my black one but in yellow!), a MAC makeup brush, and a University of Birmingham teddy bear from my parents. I also got some nude boots from my Auntie and some Lush goodies from Ellen. My birthday was absolutely lovely and even better that I spent half of it in Amsterdam. I'm excited to be 23. I know it's a cliche, but I feel like 23 is going to be a good year. 22 was tough with finishing my degree, losing my nana, working abroad and searching for a job, but I love my job, love my friends and I'm excited to have a year of things just staying the same and focusing on myself. 23 feels like an age to start growing up and I definitely feel like I am growing up. It was also very weird to write the title of this post- there is an old post on this blog somewhere called Turning Twenty! I did actually write a "before 23" list last year but didn't seriously finishing writing it, however when I reviewed it around Christmastime I'd actually done alright on it! With the plan to keep things the same in a lot of ways in terms of my job and well, geography, I might write another one for before I'm 24.
I'm excited to tell you all about my trip to Amsterdam later in the week!

Charlotte x