Monday, 29 December 2014

Reflections on 2014


It's hard to know where to start with 2014. I feel like so, so much has happened this year, both good and bad. It's been a real roller coaster year. There was a point in the summer where Phil and I hit a real low - I'd just been made redundant from a job I loved, his best friend had had some terrible health news, he'd just been in a car accident and written his car off. It was the lowest point of the year and the lowest point we had gone through in our relationship. We reflected then on a terrible year.
But now, 6 months later, things have changed. I have a new job that I love, after some ups and downs, Phil's friend has had good news, Phil has a new car and we're about to move in together. It's easy at this point in the year to forget about those dark days when I would spend whole days crying and Phil would be pained and silent. But maybe we'd rather just 
forget them and focus on the positives.
No year is solely good or solely bad, but over the years I had an annoying habit of labelling years "good" and "bad" and I would wrongly decided that good years and bad years would alternate - deciding the fate of the year ahead on January 1st.
2014 is a year I will never forget, for the terrible bad and the joyous good. It's the first full year I've spent with Phil, which means everything I've experienced has been shared, and I'm forever thankful for that. I'm realised this year exactly what I'm made of, what I'm capable of, and how much more I can do. I ran a half marathon, struggled through my first fitness injury which put me out for months, I finished the Insanity programme, I got a new job weeks after being made redundant and was successful at every interview I had. I've learned how to look after another person in their times of need. I've learned that nothing is insurmountable with the help of the people I love.

Here are the things I will remember 2014 for:

- I stopped biting my nails - finally! - after a lifelong habit. Thanks to 3 months of acrylics I never went back to biting them and now have beautiful nails for the first time in my life!
- I trained for, and ran, my first (and definitely not my last!) half marathon. It was tough and painful and training took over my life, but I can't wait for my next one.
- I also ran the Great Manchester Run and the Race for Life, taking my total to 5 races now.
- I celebrated a year with Phil! The longest I've ever spent with anyone. I cannot wait to move in with him! Which leads to...
- Phil and I signed for a flat! We move in February and I am giddy with excitement
- I was made redundant in June. If you remember last November I handed in my notice at a job I hated and last January I started a new job. I enjoyed what I did, but when the opportunity came up to move into the social media team it was my dream. Unfortunately, only 3 months after I moved department I was made redundant. The day my redundancy was announced was one of the worst days of my life.
- But, after a few weeks of redundancy, I found a job that I really love. I'm so much happier at Axonn than I was at my previous jobs. Everything happens for a reason!
- In August, I completed the Insanity programme! I absolutely loved it and cannot wait to do it again!
- But as I was finishing the programme, I suffered my first proper fitness injury. I sprained my foot and was out from exercise for over a month and didn't run for two months. I also had to pull out of the Stockport 10K - my favourite race.
- However, I developed a new workout system for myself and started to seriously strength train which I absolutely love
- Which led to better running! In November, I got my first park run PB in over a year, and in December I ran my fastest ever mile, and my first mile under 10 minutes!
- I ran over 325 miles in 2014, even with a four month break from running over the summer
- I had some great holidays this year - Amsterdam for a hen weekend in April, my first holiday with Phil to Prague in June, Whitby with Phil's family in August and Spain with my parents in October
- I didn't quite hit my goal of reading 30 books this year, because it took me 3 months to read The Stand, but I did read 22 books!
- This year I completed my TEFL course! I'm not sure if I'll ever use it, but it's great to have a new qualification to add to the list!
- I got my first solo in my choir this year and we had two big concerts in 2014! 
- With two races for charity this year, I raised £800. £550 from my half marathon to the Alzheimer's Society and £250 for Cancer Research 
- We also had a new member of the Crowley family in 2014 - baby Leo, my cousin's little boy, who was born in November

So what's ahead for 2015? For a person who likes to push myself, I actually really hate making goals. Goals stress me out. I'm a pretty motivated person anyway and don't need the threat of goals to encourage me to do things - I'm probably just going to do them anyway! Most of my goals for 2015 are to just keep on keeping on - keep running (I do want to run my first 5K in under 30 minutes next year, and run my first 10K in under 60 minutes), keep strength training, keep exercising 5-6 times a week, keep working hard, keep enjoying what I'm doing, keep trying new things, keep being happy and never be bored!

Here's to a great 2015!

Friday, 26 December 2014

Christmas on Instagram

You know how magical Christmas is as a kid? How you're giddy all day and it seems to last forever? That's exactly how Christmas was this year. Both Phil and I have said that it's been the best Christmas we've had since we were both kids.
Christmas for me started on Christmas Eve at 12pm when I finished work. We have family round on Christmas Eve so I was straight on it making an enchilada quinoa bake for the evening (I've made it before for family parties and it's gone down a treat) and then I put together the hamper I'd made for Phil's family with my Mum. I bought all the cheeses, chutney, wine, chocolates and biscuits and my Mum helped me wrap it up in cellophane and a bow. I was so chuffed with it I kept making all my family come in and look at it!
Christmas Eve is always fun. We have some of our family over and Phil, and we just have drinks and snacks and chat. It's been family tradition for as long as I can remember.
I slept terribly on Christmas Eve night. Yep, I'm that much of a child. I actually managed to stay in bed til 7.30 but as soon as I heard talking downstairs I was out like a shot! Now I'm older, I'm more excited about the presents I've bought for people than the ones I've got for myself, so I let everyone else open their presents first. I got my Mum some microwavable slippers and a yellow Ted Baker bag off ebay - yellow is her favourite colour and she LOVES Ted Baker bags, and I helped my Dad with presents for my Mum by picking up another Ted Baker bag she wanted and ordering an iPhone dock for him to pick up for her. My Dad is the hardest person to buy for in the world, but he loved the canvas print of a photo I took of him with all his brothers and sisters last year and he even took it to my Auntie's for breakfast to show it off! 
I did embarrassingly well with presents this year! I had asked for mostly kitchen appliances for our flat but my Mum and I both tend to go a bit mad at Christmas so I ended up with a lot of presents!
All my presents!
Biscuit cushions! 
New lipsticks 
Galaxy-print running leggings
After presents we got ready and headed to my Auntie's for breakfast. I normally have some eggs, beans and hashbrowns but with Phil and I having two Christmas dinners this year, I just had a crumpet and an ill-advised early glass of mulled wine! Phil popped round to pick me up and we watched some old family videos (another tradition!) before heading to his parents'.
I was buzzing to give his family their hamper and they absolutely loved it! Phil's Mum has even requested one every year! We had our first Christmas dinner at Phil's parents' which was delicious -  I stuck to just veg and potatoes to save room for our second Christmas dinner later on, but I did have a bit of homemade chocolate log! After dinner we did presents!
Phil's Mum and Dad got me some body stuff and a lovely pink scarf, and his Gran got me a Lindt gift set. His sister got me an amazing Mean Girls tshirt and then I got to open my presents from Phil! He got me a Rubix Cube tissue box, How to Train Your Dragon 1 and 2, Frozen, the Jim'll Paint it Book and Cranium! 
After presents we played Scattergories, which is always a good laugh and then got ready to go to my parents' for our second Christmas dinner! I had an amazing butternut squash nut roast with my Christmas dinner at home and of course, plenty of veggies, gravy and cranberry sauce! I also gave Phil his presents - which I've been so excited about! I got him Lego Movie, Cards Against Humanity expansion pack (which he almost got me!), travel Battleships and Connect 4, Liverpool FC pajama pants and a Suarez Barcelona shirt! He loved them and I was so chuffed!
After dinner my parents and Nan had Christmas TV to watch so Phil and I curled up and watched Lego Movie and ate cheese! It was such a perfect day - I felt like I had a grin on my face the whole day. I couldn't have asked for a better day with better people.
But the fun didn't end there! Boxing Day has also been amazing! We ordered our bedding for the flat yesterday (black and white chevron with a yellow comforter - if you're interested) so we decided to get our joint account set up today for the flat (eek!) and Phil suggested hitting John Lewis to have a look at the TVs in the sale. So we got dressed up and ready to go, and on our way to John Lewis we thought it seemed a bit quiet on the drive up. The penny didn't even drove when we got to the car park. John Lewis wasn't open! Instead, we went to Sainsburys and had a look at some kitchen stuff in the sale and as we were paying, Phil saw a 40"  TV he quite fancied. We clocked the name and went to the car to check it out online, and yep, we bought a TV today! 
After a turkey butty for Phil and some leftover enchilada bake for me, we started to watch Frozen with my family while waiting for the football to come on, but halfway through my Auntie and Uncle turned up with baby Leo (he's my cousin's new baby) so we had a play with him in his little elf suit (I wish I'd taken a photo!). I got a bit bored during the football so I decided to go for a run. After being ill last weekend I missed both my planned runs, so I hadn't run for two weeks and hadn't exercised for a week, but I wanted to take my new leggings out for a spin. I was going to go gentle but I started out at a good pace, so after half a mile I decided to go for 2 miles instead of 3. After two-thirds of a mile I decided to keep pushing and see if I could break a 10 minute mile for the first time. Well I was dying at the end and had to gently jog home, but for the first time I ran a mile under 10 minutes!
Between the two football matches we had leftover Christmas dinner and then after the game we finished off Frozen. Can you believe I hadn't seen it before? I loved it!
Tomorrow we're having our annual Les Mis night - my Dad goes out with his mates, Phil comes over, we have dinner and then Phil looks after us while we cry. Then if we're lucky my Dad comes home drunk with a calzone and everyone's a winner!
I hope your Christmas has been wonderful too!

Lots of love,

Charlotte x

Monday, 22 December 2014

Five Years

My first outfit post (January 2010) to my most recent blog post (December 2014)
5 years is a really, really long time.
As long as I was at high school.
Even longer than I was at university.
Longer in fact than I've known some of my best friends.

When I started this blog I was 19. (You can read my first blog post here)
I'd just started my second year of uni and had just started to explore my interest in fashion by writing for the lifestyle section of the student newspaper.
I started reading fashion blogs and decided that if these ordinary girls could start a blog, I could too.

I never expected to still be doing this 5 years later. 
In the last 5 years I've lived abroad (twice!), finished my degree, started working full time, met my wonderful boyfriend, had multiple jobs, had relationships and bereavements and car crashes and illnesses.
But it's all been documented here.

I'm so proud of myself for sticking at this for 5 years.
I can't imagine not having my blog in my life. It's like an old friend who has been there for me through the good and the bad.

Finally, thank you to all of you! Some of you have been here since the start, and some of you have just started reading this year, but thank you thank you thank you for all your support!

Here's to 5 more!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Skirt of Sparkles

This might be my favourite skirt. I've had it for over 3 years now and it's kind of inappropriately short but IT'S MADE OF SPARKLES. I even wore this to work on Friday. I was planning to wear it with my mustard jumper as I've worn before, but I couldn't find it so I went for a cropped black one, which I think I prefer. I had so many compliments on this skirt and it just makes me really happy. I'm not going out-out for New Year (I really, really hate New Year) - just to one of Phil's friends' - but I think with a nice black top this would be perfect.
skirt- Lavish Alice
jumper- H&M
boots- c/o Debenhams
necklace- Topshop
lipstick - Russian Red
I'm having a pretty quiet weekend cause I was actually ill all day yesterday. I went out after work on Friday with some of my team for dinner and drinks but made sure I was home by 10pm because it was the annual Santa run at Parkrun yesterday, which is basically my favourite run of the year. I love it and I've been looking forward to it all year. However when I woke up I didn't feel great and it took a lot of strength for me to accept that I just wasn't well enough to run. I was absolutely gutted, especially as I won't be living at home to go next year. In the end it was definitely the right decision though as I felt absolutely terrible all day and spent most of the day in bed. It felt like the start of flu. Luckily I managed to be well enough for the evening because my parents and I were going over to Phil's house for dinner with his family. Our families really get on which is such a big deal to me, and we had a really lovely night. I had a run planned this morning but even though I'm feeling completely better I thought it would be best to have a rest today - but I'm hoping to be back on it tomorrow! This afternoon we have our last choir performance of the year at the local garden centre where we'll be singing our Christmas selection and potentially our Les Miserables medley, and then I'm going to watch the football with Phil this afternoon. It's been a very quiet, but much-needed, weekend.
Tomorrow is my 5 year (!!) blog anniversary so I'm going to get a post ready for that, and I found out today that I am only three blog posts away from 1000 posts on this blog so I definitely want to hit that target by the end of the year so stay tuned!

Hope your weekend is going well!

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

You go Glen Coco!

christmas tshirts - c/o Lush tshirts
True story - Phil is too tall to fit in my usual photo-taking spot. It was absolutely chucking it down when we went to take these photos so I said " oh we'll do them in my room. You just stand there." Phil looked at me blankly. "I won't fit there." To which I replied "of course you will." Now, I wish I had taken a photo of Phil trying to duck to fit into the space. I guess I don't think about the fact that he's a foot taller than me. I also live in the loft room so it has a lot of slanty walls, hence my wardrobes above. But I like that they kind of look like normal-sized wardrobes so he looks like a giant. Anyway.
Apparently there are people who don't like Christmas jumpers. Not us obviously. But people. So Lush tshirts decided to let those jumper-haters get in on the Christmas apparel and created a line of festive tshirts, and they asked Phil and I to give them a try. OBVIOUSLY I picked this Mean Girls tshirt ("Four for you Glen Coco! You go Glen Coco!") and Phil went for Home Alone. We absolutely love our tshirts and they're a nice change from Christmas jumpers (although we do have three each now...). I also wore this tshirt for Ultimate Power on Friday night because it was their Christmas night. With a sparkly skirt, obviously.
I've had a pretty festive few days, which is good cause I've not really been in the mood yet (except for exclaiming, every now and again "oh my god it's Christmas NEXT WEEK!"). Every year my Mum and I have a bit of a "festive day" where we put up the tree, listen to Christmas music, watch Elf and drink Baileys, so we made mince pies and did all that on Sunday. I also wrapped my presents and wrote my cards so it feels very close now! Then yesterday my choir were singing Christmas songs at a nursing home. We did it last year too and it's so lovely to do and the old people there really seem to enjoy it. 
I'm really excited for Christmas this year. We always have family (and Phil!) round on Christmas Eve, but this year on Christmas Day we're doing a Vicar of Dibley and having two Christmas dinners! Last year we realised that with Phil's family having dinner at 12 and we having dinner at 6 it was totally possible for us to do both. Plus we both have all our traditions in the morning so we can spend the afternoon together. So the plan is Christmas dinner at Phil's family's first, then Christmas dinner at mine later on! It's gonna be lovely to spend Christmas together properly this year.

It's my 5 year blog anniversary next week so stay tuned for a post on that!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Best Weekend Ever

I know, that's a pretty hyerbolic title, but I'm feeling pretty hyperbolic. BEST WEEKEND EVER. It all started on Friday, when we got some absolutely incredible, and unexpected, news about one of Phil's friends who has been really poorly. Then Phil told me he got his payment through for the car crash he had back in the summer. Then we started to get excited about the flat viewing we had booked for Saturday morning. Good things come in threes, right? Friday night was Phil's work's Christmas do so we got all dressed up (I wore this) and had a really great night. Saturday morning we had a flat viewing. Now to put this into context, flat hunting has been the absolute bane of my life the last few weeks. We're not looking to move until after Christmas, and property in Manchester city centre moves faster than the speed of light. We've called up on the first day properties have been available and been told they've already gone. We've booked viewing for properties not available til January and then got a call an hour before we were supposed to go saying the flat has been let. We arranged about four viewings that we never even made it to. But we were excited about this one. I'd gotten the email alert in the middle of the night, and was on the phone with them at 8.01am Friday morning. We couldn't go that day, but we were told we could go Saturday and that we were first in line. Phil was excited because of all the good news but I wanted to try to be objective. We got to the flat, looked around the area, found the parking area and assessed how safe the area looked. Then we went inside. You know how they say when you know, you know? I knew in about 20 seconds. We'd found out flat. As Phil has said since, "it's just, us." It's perfect and it was love at first sight. However, as we told the estate agent we wanted to take it, she said a lady had seen it at 11am and was also keen. She told us it was basically a race against time on who could get to the office first to pay the agency fees. We ran to the cash machine and headed straight to the office. We debated the pros and cons along the way, but we were both giddy. When we arrived, the office was empty and the other estate agent was waiting for us. It turned out the other lady wasn't right for the property and it was ours. We had our flat! We spent the day in a bit of a giddy daze, stopping every now and again to look at the photos and gush over it. We move in in February which gives us a few months to get everything ready, but we're so, so excited. We also finished off the night by winning the quiz we went to with Phil's family, which was just the icing on the cake!
jeans- Topshop
tartan shirt- Forever 21
beige jumper- New Look
scarf- ASOS
boots- c/o Timberland
Anyway, back to clothes. I am completely and utterly smitten with this scarf at the moment. I just want to wear it all the time, and I was desperate for a way to build an outfit around this scarf and these boots. As much as I hate to admit it, my old brown boots have seen better days. I had them reheeled and resoled a few months ago but they are a bit worn out, but these Timberlands are the perfect replacement. I wore them all around town running about yesterday and they are so comfortable. In the winter I tend to just rotate between two or three pairs of boots - this year I'm all about the Chelsea boot.
I had a great run again this morning too. I wanted to have a long, slow run but now I've gotten used to getting up my speed I just want to keep pushing! I hit the wall the last mile or so because I hadn't eaten before I went, but I ended up running the last mile at my fastest time ever and nearly broke 10 minutes (it was 10:06). I finished 5 miles in 53:59 and I was absolutely over the moon. I've done some freelance work, made a Thai lentil chilli for tonight and I'm just about to go see the new Hunger Games.
Hope your weekend has also been great!

Charlotte x

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Christmas Jumper Season

I'm sorry that I tried to make "before-work" photos happen. I don't know what I was thinking. Well, I do. I was thinking that I really liked my outfit and didn't want to wait til weekend to photograph it so I went for it. The funny thing was I didn't actually realise how awful the lighting was on these photos after I took them. It was only when I put them on my computer that I was like, oh god. But I really like this outfit. I actually stole it from a mannequin in Dorothy Perkins. I hadn't really considered trying to tuck a jumper into a skirt. It only really works with skater skirt (I tried with my pencil skirt. It made me look pregnant), and still makes you look pretty bulky. But now December is here I pretty much just want to wear Christmas jumpers (I've worn two this week so far) and I get bored of just wearing them with jeans. Wearing them with a skirt feels like a bit of a revelation.
jumper- Primark
leather skirt- Oasis
Chelsea boots- c/o Debenhams
shirt- Boohoo
necklace- Topshop
I hate not being able to photograph my outfits til the weekend. However it does give me an excuse to just wear boring outfits for work! I'm struggling a bit with how cold it is now. Don't ask me how I used to cope with -20 degree weather when I lived in Minnesota. I love that it's December now though. I'm such a big kid when it comes to Christmas. I love all the sparkly lights in Manchester. I don't, however, love the shoppers. I like to go out at lunch for a break from staring at a screen but after spending 40 minutes queuing for collection in House of Fraser on Monday lunchtime I've decided to stick to shopping online. Phil and I went to the markets on Sunday though. I always say I like the idea of the Christmas markets more than the reality, which is true, but it's one of our little traditions now so I like to go. I had some garlic bread with cheese and peppers and, my favourite, white chocolate-covered strawberries on a stick, while Phil had a hot dog, seafood paella and a chocolate-covered apple. I'm in full-on Christmas mood now. It's Phil's work's Christmas do on Friday which should be fun (I'm wearing this) and then I have my next few weekends booked up with Christmas parties, evenings out and all kinds of festive stuff. I wanted to put the tree up this weekend but my Dad says it's too early, so I think it's going to be the 14th. Things I'm looking forward to include: putting up the tree, watching Love Actually (my favourite Christmas film), watching Elf, making mince pies and the Parkrun Santa run. Speaking of Parkrun - I got my first PB in over a year last week. I'm down to 32:09 which isn't bad considering I'd only ran Parkrun under 35 minutes four times before and I usually run about 36 minutes. That 30 minute 5K isn't seeming too far off now! 
Well I hope if nothing else this post gives you some new ideas on how to wear your Christmas jumper, beyond the ol' jeans and boots combo.

Have a great week!

Charlotte x