Saturday, 31 December 2016

December life lately

I've been really enjoying doing these posts and I hope they're something I can keep up in the future! There are often so many things I want to talk about that I don't need a whole post for and I've got so much going on that it's much easier to write a long post like this instead of lots of little ones!

What I've been doing
While December was much less hectic than November, it's still been a busy month! I absolutely love Christmas and love the build up more than the actual day, so I had a great time this month.
I went to see Riot Jazz, spent lots  of time with my family and cousins, organised a bake sale at work that raised over £150 and I even made some of my Christmas presents (although I uttered the phrase "NEVER AGAIN!" far too many times!). I took Phil for his first blood donation (and my 9th!) and I realised how much I love codewords.
I dipped my toe into yoga at the start of the month with Yoga with Adriene's 30 days of yoga, but I admit I fell off the wagon later in the month when I returned to running. My fitness routine has been all over the place of late, but I've been enjoying running again, and I've just signed up for my first race of 2017 - the Great Manchester Run half marathon in May. I'm excited to get training again and back to full fitness - I've got my eye on another half marathon PB! 
I also found out today I've ran 813 miles in 2016, so that's pretty good!
Where I've been
Nowhere near as much travel this month as in November, but I did have a trip down to Luton/London for my friend Emily's birthday and it was so great to catch up with my uni friends!
Other than that I've spent quite a bit of the Christmas break back home at my parents' which has been a really nice change!  It's nice to have a bit of a break from routine over Christmas - I've been to see family, went to see Bolton Wanderers with Phil's family on Boxing Day, watched a lot of football, played Scrabble and spent a lot of time in my pyjamas/new Liverpool shirt!

What I've been loving
December 2016 will be forever known as the month that Phil and I got into Hamilton. Hard. As in, listening to the soundtrack all day long at work, walking through the door and Phil's already got it on. It's no exaggeration to say we've been listening to it almost constantly for three weeks. We have it on at home almost all the time, then we have the CD in the car (first CD I've bought in about 10 years!). We sing all the time as it is, and now I've been perfecting my rap. Yep I know we're about a year too late, but I think we've more than made up for it with how obsessed we are.

What I've been eating
Two Christmas dinners, true to mine and Phil's tradition (early Christmas dinner at his parents', then off to mine in the evening for round two - we've totally got this down!). Crispy baked tofu (my favourite dinner when Phil is out!), Buddha bowls, homemade brownies and cheese.
I got 7 new recipe books for Christmas (oh god I counted the other day that I've obtained 22 new recipe books this year...), so I'm excited to work through those! We had a recipe from Jamie's Super food Family Classics last night, and we have guests over on Friday so I'm going to make some dishes from The Greek Vegetarian.
What I've been watching
After the new series of Gilmore Girls came out I decided to start it all from the beginning - I've always dipped in and out of Gilmore Girls - and it's so nice to have my own thing to watch when Phil is out! 
We've also had two mystery films this month - Groundhog Day and The Artist, both of which I loved, and trips to the cinema to see Moana (which we also can't stop singing songs from!) and Rogue One.
Oh and lots of Christmas films.

What I've been working on
I'm a bit rubbish with makeup and one of my unofficial goals for 2017 is to be a bit better at putting stuff on my face. So this month my friend, Laura, recommended L'oreal Infalliable foundation as the best foundation she'd ever tried, so I bought that and the primer and it's fab. I also treated myself to a new contour brush and the Golden Sugar palette by Makeup Revolution on the recommendation of Vix Meldrew and omg I can contour! I love it!
I also got two new MAC lipsticks for Christmas - Mehr and Flat out Fabulous.
I've done absolutely loads of work on my course over Christmas (3+ hours a day when you're off work is not fun) but just found out all the work I thought was due on the 3rd isn't due until the 16th so at least I'm well ahead!

What I got for Christmas
I was spoiled, as usual, this year! From my family I got recipe books, perfume, a tagine pot, and a new watch. 
From Phil's family I got lots of things from our house, and from Phil I got a new Liverpool shirt, a mogwai, a book on Pawnee and an egg slice!
I also spent some of my Christmas money on some bargains in Boux Avenue, two Makeup Revolution palettes and Zootropolis!
What I'm excited for
I kind of hate January and I'm so glad we went away last year to Dublin as the cold and the ice without the promise of Christmas really gets me down! But this is our last month in our flat before the chaos of moving into my parents and then into our house, so I'm excited for a quiet month (hopefully!) and hopefully more news on when we can move into our house!

What I've written
How to be a great present buyer
How I curl my hair in 5 minutes [video]
Everything I've learned from moving in with my boyfriend
Hat with a heart
Lessons from 7 years of blogging
10 things in 2016
You can do anything but not everything
How to live with a meat eater (or how to live with a veggie!)

What other people have written
I loved Rosie's Goodbye 2016 post, especially the parts on ignoring everyone's perfect life on Instagram and doing more of what makes us happy.
I adore Vix Meldrew and her post on making her... ahem, things not to care about in 2017 budget resonated with me a lot. It's partially because of my anxiety, but I care way too much about, well, almost everything. I need this advice for 2017!
And one more from Vix, a post from today about why we shouldn't believe we need to change just because it's a new year.
I already wrote about Amy's post in The Pool on trying to do everything, but if you missed it, definitely give it a read.
I'm not a fan of resolutions, but I adored this piece from Buzzfeed on 21 ways to make your life better in 2017 which focuses on self-care, letting go of stuff that doesn't matter (like not finishing books you don't enjoy) and finding things you love. I really need to remember this!

Hope you have a lovely end of 2o16! I'll be posting my goals for 2017 this week!

Charlotte x

Friday, 30 December 2016

How to live with a meat-eater (or how to live with a veggie!)

One vegan pizza, one not-so-vegan pizza

Phil and I have been living together for nearly two years now (and I wrote recently about how we've managed to not drive each other too crazy!) and if there's one question I get asked the most, it's "does Phil not eat meat either?"

And of course, I laugh. And anyone who knows Phil will undoubtedly laugh. Phil definitely, definitely, definitely eats meat.

Then the next question is -
"Do you do all the cooking at home?"

Yep - food is one of my biggest passions and cooking is my biggest love, and even if Phil wans to cook - which, in fairness, he does do occasionally - I'm way too much of a control freak to let him do it too regularly.

"So do you cook meat?"

Ah, there's the kicker. Remember two years ago when one of my resolutions was to learn to cook meat? Yeah, that didn't happen. The reality is I not only don't like touching meat, I also have no idea how to cook it. And if I did start cooking meat it would mean having to make two things for dinner every night.

So what do we do?

Well, I cook and Phil eats.

Phil is very, very good. He never complains, aside from the once-in-a-blue-moon "this would be better with some chicken in it", and whenever he's around when this question comes up, he is the first to jump in and tell people that he think I'm a brilliant cook.

(Full disclosure, I'm pescatarian so I do eat fish, but we very rarely eat it at home, maybe once a month.)

When we first started dating he told me all the vegetables he didn't like - courgettes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower - but these days, if cooked well, he'll happily eat all of those (although I'm still trying to get him around to liking veggie's best friend, aubergine).

But the reality is I cook every night, and Phil loves me and respects me, so of course he isn't going to turn his nose up at something I've been slaving over.

Does he wish I cooked meat? Well, I'm sure he does. But I always really try to make tasty and exciting and interesting food every night (although I'm not sure he always loves that I make something different almost every single time I cook, and even when we love something I say "I'll add that onto my list of meals to make again", and then never make it again), and I always try to choose things I know we both would enjoy.

Phil cooks meat if I'm not home, has meat on his sandwiches and when we're out, and I'll occasionally make something and tell him he might want to cook some meat to go alongside it. If I make a roast on  Sunday he'll usually do a piece of meat and I'll make a veggie sausage casserole or a stew for myself. Sometimes we just have completely different things for dinner, or, like in the pizza example above, different versions of the same thing.

Because I do all the cooking and planning, I always make sure I run the week's food past Phil to see what he thinks and adjust if there's something he really doesn't fancy, but I tend to have a good idea of what he likes and what he doesn't. I always ask for feedback during dinner - sometimes I'll love something and Phil might think it's okay, and sometimes it's vice versa.

There are certain things I enjoy that I know Phil won't love too much. He doesn't like seitan, and I only treat myself to a block of tofu if he's out. We also very rarely eat meat substitutes, except the occasionally veggie sausage, but that's mostly because I prefer to cook with vegetables and pulses. I make a lot of one-pot meals - chillies and curries and stews, and often serve Phil extra carbs, as I often forget other people don't always love a dinner of vegetables with vegetables!

To be honest I think Phil finds it harder that I don't really like pasta than that I don't eat meat! 

I don't want Phil to ever think he's getting a bad deal out of me not eating meat, and I'd hate anyone to think "oh poor Phil living with a vegetarian", because I work really hard to make sure we both eat meals that we both enjoy and are good for us. 

It's not always the easiest thing in the world, and I often feel guilty that I can't make Phil a meat pie just like his Mum does, or when he reminds me lentils "aren't his favourite", and I'm sure life would be much easier if we both had the same dietary interests, but we definitely make it work. Phil told me recently that someone said "they don't know how couples can live together if one of them is a vegetarian/gluten-free/vegan" and he quickly jumped in and explained that it's really not that bad! 

Phil definitely eats way less meat now than he used to, but he definitely gets a lot more variety in his diet now! He eats things he'd probably never heard of three years ago, and for me, I'm constantly pushing myself to make new things and try new dishes and new ingredients, and always trying to find new things that we'll enjoy. I'm very lucky that he is an adventurous eater and is always happy to try new things. We've surprised each other a few times! Who knew cheese-free houmous pizza or falafel tacos or miso sweet potatoes would be such a success?

It's definitely a compromise sometimes, but aren't all relationships about making things work? 

And of course, sometimes it's terrible. I've made some disasters. We've had things we couldn't eat. I've made mistakes. I've finished off Phil's dinners way more times than I like to admit. There have been times he's pushed his plate up and had toast for tea.

If you're considering living with someone with different dietary needs to you, my biggest advice is talk, compromise, always be open and honest with each other and respect each other's choices! I've never, ever pushed my lifestyle onto Phil and he has never once tried to encourage me to go back to eating meat. Sometimes you eat the same thing, sometimes you have to have different things. Sometimes it sucks that you can't share tapas, other times it's great that you don't have to share!

I admit for us it's easy as I'm the one who cooks, and I'm the one that doesn't eat meat, but there are millions of blogs, thousands of recipe books and so much inspiration out there that really contradicts this old, dated idea that vegetarian food is all broccoli and tofu and lentils! And the same goes for gluten-free/vegan/paleo etc. 

And finally, it's not a deal breaker, promise! Cook together, learn what you like and don't like and be honest with each other!

Charlotte x

Thursday, 29 December 2016

You can do anything, but not everything


Do you ever read something and you are absolutely flabbergasted that someone could feel the exact same way that you do?
I read Amy's newsletter every week, and this week she linked to a piece she wrote for The Pool on how she tried to do everything in 2016, and how she just couldn't do it.
I have never related more.

I am always trying to do everything.
I'm always trying to do more.
I'm always trying to be better.
I always feel I could be using my time more productively, could take on another hobby, need to stop being lazy, should be doing something new, should be improving, always, always, always comparing myself to other people.
I love to list all the things that I do, the commitments and hobbies I have.
The biggest compliment you can give me is, "I don't know how you do it."
I want to be an inspiration.

But I can't and I'm not.

I haven't talked about it on here because in a lot of ways I'm not quite ready to admit it, but last month I decided to take a break from my choir.
A break, I promised myself. This isn't for good.
This was the result of a miserable November where, while my social and travelling life was thriving, I was finding myself burning the candle at both ends trying to catch up with my commitments, I was exhausted, constantly overwhelmed, snappy and grumpy. My mental health was in tatters. And I knew something had to give. But I didn't want to.

I love my choir. I love the people, I love the concerts, I love to sing.
I love listing the things I do - marathon running, blogging, choir.
Was I just going to have running and blogging left? That didn't feel like much at all.
I felt like such a failure. I was giving up.
I was supposed to be the girl that did everything, and here I was, quitting.

But I was falling apart.
I was constantly ill and exhausted, I had no time to myself at all. I was trying to do everything and I was miserable.

My Diploma in Professional Marketing is the equivalent of a degree and it needs at least 4 hours of work every week, some weeks it's more like 6 or 8. 
I thought it would be easy enough to slip into my Sundays to replace my marathon training runs, but the reality was it needs much more time than that, and I was really struggling to find the time to fit in this work.
So I had to put my career first.
Mondays, as well as weekends, have become evenings for study. And I had to say goodbye to choir for a while. 

There are so many things I want to do.
I want to start a newsletter like Amy and Michelle.
I want to start playing piano again.
I want to blog more.
I want to learn a language.
I want to practice more photography.
I want to create more.

But Amy puts this perfectly in her post -

"I had somehow absorbed the notion that, unless I was doing everything, I might as well be doing nothing – but each of the things I was doing was good on its own. I had tied my self-worth to the amount of things I could do, rather than my personality or the value of the things I was doing, and worked myself ragged trying to feel worthwhile because of it."

I do have goals for 2017, of course, and I'll be posting them soon. But my goals this year are more about doing more of what makes me happy, not doing more for the sake of doing more. 

We can do anything, but not everything.

Charlotte x

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

10 things in 2016

I know 2016 has been a pretty terrible year in terms of, well, most things, but personally I've had a really great year!

I expected 2016 to be a pretty nothing year. We moved in together in early 2015, and I knew we wouldn't be buying a house until 2017, and I don't think I would have expected to be 8 months into a new job by the end of the year! I think it's only at the end of the year when you look back you realise a year is a really long time! 

For me, 2016 has been great. I've achieved some great things and I'm really proud to be looking back on this year. Here's what I've done in 2016...

I ran a bloody marathon!
I know, I know, I've gone out about this a lot, but I honestly believe training for, and running, that marathon is my greatest achievement. I already can't wait to do another (although with moving into our house next year I think this is going to be a 2018 goal) and have conveniently forgotten the pain of training.
Every now and again I still go, "remember when I ran a marathon? A MARATHON?". Yeah, pretty proud of that one.

We both got new jobs
At the end of 2016, Phil was interviewing for a new job but we were a bit in limbo not being sure whether he was going to get the job or not, but in January this year we found out he'd been successful! Phil started at EY in February, and in April I left Axonn for my current role at Stagecoach. I definitely didn't think at the start of 2016 we'd both be in new jobs, but we are definitely much happier as a result!

We had an offer accepted on a house
Things aren't moving quite as fast as we would like when it comes to our house but we're hoping to have more of an idea of when we'll be moving in in the new year, but we're really excited to own our own home! I absolutely love our flat and living in the city centre, but it will be so great to have our own place!

I started my Diploma in Professional Marketing
I've wanted to study for a marketing qualification for quite a few years so I jumped at the chance to start in October. It's the equivalent of a degree so it's hard work, and finding time for 4-6 hours of study a week when working full time and running a home (on top of everything else!) is a struggle, but I know it'll be worth it when I'm qualified! 

I ran a sub-2 hour half marathon
While it might not seem as big of a deal as running a marathon, this was really up there in my achievements this year. I trained so hard, and I did not enjoy any part of those 119 minutes, but I was so unbelievably proud to see that time on my watch when I crossed the finish line!

I ran my 50th parkrun
This year I finally got my 50 parkruns tshirt! I'm hoping to get my 100 one in 2017.

I've had trips away to Dublin, Birmingham, Liverpool (twice!), Spain (twice!), Budapest and Berlin
When you put it like that I've done pretty well, haven't I? Phil and I had a few days away in Dublin in January and it was the best holiday we've ever had the two of us (not bad for £20 return flights!). Then for my birthday, Phil took me away to Birmingham for a spa day, escape room and to see Hans Zimmer. I've been away to Liverpool with Phil and also with my friends, been to Spain twice and had trips to Budapest and Berlin in November. Phew!

Read some great books
In my 2016 goals I wanted to read 40 books, but in March I decided to read all of the Game of Thrones books, so I lowered my goal to 30 (I read 32 in the end). Some of my favourites this year were Olive Kitteridge, It, The Shipping News, The Possibilities, Eileen, Wolf Hollow, Rebecca, The Collector and Needful Things.

Celebrated 3 years with Phil
In November Phil and I celebrated 3 years together with a Dominos and a cancelled dinner reservation because Phil was poorly! And you know what, it was perfect. Can't wait to see what year 4 has in store for us!

Refocused my blog
I've loved blogging this year. I think I lost my way a bit last year and I accepted this year that this just isn't a fashion blog anymore and that really gave me freedom to write all the things I'd been wanting to write! I think I've written some of my best content this year and I've been feeling so inspired the last few months - I have so many ideas I can't wait to write about!
My favourite blog posts this year -
Duluth, Minnesota
Runners - stop calling yourself slow
On going with your gut
On uni mates
Life is too short to read books you don't enjoy
Real talk: I have generalised anxiety disorder
This is not a fashion blog
Lessons from three years of running
What it's really like to train for a marathon
How to be a morning exerciser - update
Everything I've learned from moving in with my boyfriend
Lessons from 7 years of blogging

Stay tuned this week for my 2017 goals!

Charlotte x

Monday, 19 December 2016

Lessons from 7 years of blogging

So this week my blog will be seven years old. Seven years! It took Lin-Manuel Miranda that long to write Hamilton!

Anyway, blogging has changed a LOT in seven years. And, God, I've changed a lot in seven years! When I first starting blogging in 2009, blogging was just becoming a "thing". I knew maybe one person in real life who had a blog, now I feel like I know a few dozen people who do!

And in 7 years I've learned a lot. I've been afforded a lot of amazing opportunities because of this blog. I honestly believe blogging helped me to realise I wanted to work in marketing, and I have referenced my blog in every job interview I've had since university.

And I've made a lot of mistakes. Of course I have! 

I am in no way a "top blogger", and nor have I ever wanted to be, but I love my blog, I'm happy with what I've achieved and I'm proud that I've kept it going for seven years!

So what have I learned from seven years of blogging? It turns out, a LOT...
  • There's no good time to start
When I started blogging I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I didn't have a "niche" (more on this later), I didn't have a plan, I didn't even have a good camera. But I started. And for weeks and weeks the only person who read my blog was my Dad (seriously, I remember sitting looking at my stats back in 2010 and wondering why I had two hits and who the other person was!). Like anything in life, it's easy to think, "I'll start when I've done this, or when I've bought this, or I've got a better idea about that" but the best thing you can do is just get started. I find even now once you start it's hard to stop!
  • You don't have to look a certain way
I admit, back in 2009 there weren't a lot of bloggers who weren't tall and skinny and blonde, but that ship has definitely, definitely sailed. And thank god!
  • You don't have to "find your niche"
"Finding your niche" used to be this big thing circa 2010 - that your blog had to be original and unique and different, but as I'll go onto discuss more throughout this post, blogging has changed a LOT since 2010, and I don't think there's such a thing as a "niche" anymore - there are thousands of bloggers doing exactly the same thing as you, I'm afraid, so my best advice when it comes to "finding your niche" is...
  • Be yourself!
This is the biggest piece of advice I can give. The beautiful but personality-devoid blogger used to be a common theme in 2009 but I think it is becoming less common now. For me personally, I much prefer a blogger who isn't primed and polished and perfect. I love bloggers that are honest, open and more than anything else, and are just...themselves. Of course, not everyone will like you, and that's okay! 

  • It doesn't have to be perfect... and it might be better if it isn't
Following on from my last point. We all know those people on social media who only show their best bits - their perfect makeup, perfect relationship, perfect food, perfect home, perfect friends, perfect job... I just don't think this works in blogging anymore! We need some honesty and reality, and we need to know that we're not alone if we feel like we have no idea what we're doing! I would much rather read a blog where someone is honest about their mistakes, their failures and their struggles rather than a magazine-perfect fake reality. 
  • Be honest, be open
One of the hardest posts I've ever written was my post back in July when I opened up about my struggles with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Pressing Publish was terrifying. But in the few days after I posted it, I received dozens of emails, messages, tweets and comments from other people who were so grateful that I'd been honest about my struggles and were so glad they weren't alone. And I'm so so glad I wrote that post. We connect with honesty, we connect with vulnerability. Be open, share your stories, connect with your audience.
  • Be careful, but not too careful
And speaking of honesty, be careful but not too careful when you write. When I published that post, I could have panicked thinking about putting that into the public domain. I could have thought about my boss reading it, or my family or Phil's family, or people I went to school with, or people who might use my anxiety against me. But I didn't. And if I let myself think about all the people who might be reading my blog it would drive me insane. On the flip side, don't blog anything with your name on it you wouldn't feel comfortable talking about publicly. Levels of comfort vary for everyone, but there's a difference between being nervous about publishing because you're opening yourself up, and being nervous because you know what you're writing may come back to haunt you. I've made this mistake loads of times and it's just a lesson that only experience can teach you.
  • Write the blog you would read
This is one I've really learned this year. I was finding myself increasingly frustrated with my blog because I was feeling really disconnected with "fashion bloggers" - I didn't identify with them anymore, I didn't even read fashion blogs anymore, yet I was still writing a blog which focused on outfit posts. So I stopped. I started writing posts more like the posts I liked to read, not just writing a certain kind of post because that's what I'd been doing for 6 years. And I've been so much happier with my blog since then.
  • Diversify
For a long time this blog was a "fashion blog", hence the name. But then it became a fashion blog with some fitness thrown in. Then a fashion blog with fitness and food thrown in. And now it's a bit of everything. I write whatever I want to write and hope that if I want to write something my readers would like to read it too. And I'm so much happier now I'm not pigeonholed and don't have a so-called niche. Write what you know, write what you're interested in and your passion will shine through.
  • Blog for you
I work in marketing as a content marketer, so this is the exact opposite of what I do all day at work, but when it comes to my personal blog, I write what I want to write. I don't pore over my stats to determine the kind of content that does best, I just write what I want to write. Of course, that might be why I'll never "make it big" but that's never been my goal anyway. edit: This is probably terrible advice if you actually want to blog professionally, but in terms of things I've personally learned, this is my lesson.
  • You probably won't "make it big"
I honestly think the blogging bubble has burst. Six, seven years ago there was every chance you could "make it big" bit now I think the market is just too saturated. But "making it big" or "free stuff" should never be your goal. 
  • Full-time isn't everyone's goal
I have never wanted to be a full-time blogger. Okay maybe for a brief period when I was about 20. But full-time isn't everyone's goal, despite the hundreds of articles on how to get there. I love my career, I love my job and my blog is just fun. And that's okay! But if you want to blog full time, that's fine too, but it's not everyone's goal.
  • Write well
Ah this might just be a me-thing, but I always feel that if you want to blog you should be able to write well. I'll read anything if it's well-written. There are a lot of blogs out there that aren't well-written, and I personally use blogging as a chance to write because I love to write. But saying that there are loads of successful blogs that I think are terribly written, so what do I know, hey?
  • Quality over quantity
I have softened on this slightly in the last few years and written a lot more short blog posts, whereas I used to only write blog posts if I really had something to say, but I would still rather write, and read, a blog updated infrequently with great content that all the time with fluff.
  • You get out what you put in
Like anything in life, if you work hard you'll do well. If you don't, you won't. Easy.
  • Someone will always be better
In blogging and if life. Someone, hell, loads of people, are going to be better than you. Just do your thing and focus on you (see: be yourself) and please try not to compare! 
  • You won't always feel inspired
I've had breaks from this blog for weeks at time, and other times I've not been able to get the ideas out of my head fast enough! I find creativity comes and goes, but I always have a notebook with me to jot any ideas down on the go (or they go in my phone in an emergency!). Everyone gets writers' block. Take a break and come back later - don't force it.
  • Don't take every sponsored post
Forced sponsored posts are a real pet hate of mine. It's one of the reasons I don't really do paid sponsored content now and only accept a few product reviews. It gets too easy for your blog to feel like one big ad, for everything to feel forced and for you to lose authenticity. Sponsored posts can be great, but ensure they fit with your style, audience and tone.
  • It's not just shopping
In a lot of blogging genres, it can be easy to just buy "stuff" to create content - fashion, makeup, interiors etc. But that really isn't what blogging is! Michelle wrote a brilliant post on this which puts it much better than I can!
  • You'll learn so many skills
When I started this blog I could just about work a point-and-shoot and I could make livejournal icons in Photoshop, and that was about it. Now I know a bit of photography (I took night courses a few years ago), some HTML, some Photoshop. Not lots, but way more than I did. A lot of blogging is about figuring things out as you go, which is a great way to learn new skills!
  • Communicate with other bloggers
I don't comment on blogs anywhere near as much as I used to (I don't really comment on blogs at all now!) but I have lots of friends I've made throughout blogging and I'm in constant communication with them on Twitter and Instagram. Tweet bloggers if you loved their post, join in the conversation, find new blogs and engage with bloggers. There's a great little community out there!
  • Utilise your social media channels
I've lost count of the number of times I've run into someone from school/uni/an old job, or got a random Facebook message from an old friend and they tell me they read my blog! Often people I haven't spoken to for years! I've always, always shared my blog on Facebook and Twitter and these are the places I get most of my traffic from. So share your posts - don't be shy!
  • People will laugh at you
Like anything you're passionate about, people will laugh at you. But blogging is an amazing thing to do in your spare time. Like I've detailed here, it teaches you so many skills, helps you develop your writing and creativity skills plus you're actually building something new, and that's an awesome thing to do! Haters gonna hate!
  • It might get you a job
When I first started this blog I wanted to be a journalist. I'd started writing for the student newspaper at uni (University of Birmingham Redbrick represent!) and met a girl who was a blogger and realised that woah, I could just start a blog. And a few years later, instead of going into journalism, I realised that I'd already made a pretty good start at being a marketer. I was writing content, I was promoting it, I was engaging with an audience, I was using social media, I was understanding analytics, I was creating graphics. It was a no-brainer. I have my blog on my CV and on my LinkedIn, and I've talked about it in every single job interview I've had and it's never failed to impress. Who would have known that back in 2009 eh?

I'm really proud of this blog, and while I think of 2011-2012 as my "blogging heyday", I think that was more from a fashion blogging perspective. Actually, I think I've written some of my best posts this year, and I'm really excited about the direction my blog is going in. I'm constantly grabbing a notebook to write down ideas and I have posts bubbling around in my head all the time. I'm excited to see what 2017 brings!

And who knows, maybe I've got another 7 years in me yet!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 18 December 2016

#hatwithaheart

It must have been this article that I read in April 2015 that made me realise the importance of food banks. I'd been a big fan of Jack Monroe for a couple of years, and the story of how she fell quickly into poverty is both upsetting and horrifying, and made me realise how easily and quickly we could all end up on the breadline, and most terrifyingly, how hard it can be to get back from that position.

And it was after reading that article, and through learning more about foodbanks, that when I decided to run my first marathon, I knew exactly which charity I wanted to run for.

And back in April, I ran 26.2 miles and raised £660 for Manchester Central Foodbank.

And I'm so proud of that, but I also know there is so, so, so much more to be done.

Phil and I always pick up a few tins to donate to the foodbank whenever we're in a large supermarket, and last month we were asked to collaborate with Tesco for their #hatwithaheart campaign, which is hoping to raise £200,000 for foodbank charities, in association with Fareshare and the Trussel Trust.

Tesco are donating £1 from every sale of their novelty hats to help break the cycle of poverty. Fareshare focuses on rescuing food that would otherwise go to waste and redistributes it to those in need, and the Trussell Trust has over 400 foodbanks, proving emergency food to those in need across the country.

Phil and I recently received a hat each from Tesco to help raise awareness about the campaign and they are awesome! I've had so many people compliment me on mine and I've been so proud to tell them about the story behind them and the great work these charities are doing. I wore mine the whole time I was in Berlin last month (and stood out like a sore thumb in everyone-dressed-in-black Berlin).
And Phil has been wearing his to visit the Christmas markets in Manchester-
You can buy the hats online or in your local Tesco store.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Everything I've learned from moving in with my boyfriend

Phil and I have been living together for nearly two years now and I think we're pretty bloody good at it (we have just bought a house together!).

I always say living together is the best decision I've ever made (it really is! Honestly, this is super cheesy, but I get so excited at the end of every single day when I know I'm going home to Phil), but it's not always easy.

If you're planning to move in with your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/husband/wife etc. here's everything you need to know...
  • Don't move in too quickly
We'd been together 14 months when we moved in together and that was perfect for us. Every couple is different, but definitely don't rush into it - it's a big decision!
  • Consider renting
I've talked before about how I don't regret renting for a couple of years at all. We've been together 3 years and even I'm a bit freaked out about signing a mortgage for thirty years, so I'd definitely recommend giving renting a go first before you buy somewhere together.
  • It will be hard at first
One thing to know about Phil and I is we never argue. Ever. I reckon there's perhaps a cross word between us once a month, max. But when we first moved in together, we bickered, A LOT. And it made me really worried that moving in together was going to break us. But it didn't, because bickering is totally normal when you first move in. There's a lot of stress, a lot of change and they're just the nearest person to vent your frustrations at, so don't worry about it if it's not a cake of rainbows and smiles from day one.
  • Learn to pick your battles
This one is a big one! When you live together, there's nowhere to go if you have a row, and in a small space, everything is amplified, so pick your battles! If it's not a big deal, let it go. It's rarely worth it. Obviously if there's a big thing getting you down, speak up, but if it saying something could make it worse, keep schtum.
  • Talk to your partner!
You will need to be really, really honest with each other. About money, about your relationship, about your goals, about your plans for the future. You need to have all these conversations before you move in.
  • Learn to compromise
You will have to compromise. A lot. I'm an only child, so I find this harder than most! But you need to work together all the time, and you won't always get your way. Of course, compromise is a healthy part of any relationship, but it's amplified a hundred times when you share a space.
  • Be honest about money
I know, nobody likes to talk about money, but you don't want to move in with someone then find out in three months that they don't have the money you thought they did and can't afford rent this month. You have to be honest about money, as much as it sucks. How much you earn, how much you save per month, how much you can contribute to the house per month? Do you split everything evenly or does someone pay more? Does one of you need help saving every month? Do you owe any money to your family or do you have any loans? Get this out on the table right away, and get that awkward conversation done.
  • Set your expectations for your future
We all remember in Friends when Phoebe and Mike are about to move in together and then Mike tells Phoebe he never wants to get married? Moving in together is a big deal and if you haven't already had the conversation already, this is where you need to talk about your future and ensure you both have the same expectations about your relationship.
  • Share your responsibilities
When we first moved, and when I was living around the corner from work, I thought I would have sooooo much free time. Yeah, no. There's always so so so much to do at home! We have certain tasks that are Phil's, and certain tasks that are mine, and the rest we split, and this works for us (obviously it's not set in stone, but 90% of the time that's our system). I cook, Phil washes up. I clean the kitchen, Phil cleans the bathroom. I do the washing, Phil hangs it up. 
  • Consider a joint bank account
We still get faced with a lot of confusion when we tell people we have a joint bank account, but it's one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give. We both have our own bank accounts, and then we have a joint account that we put into every month by standing order. This account covers our rent, bills, food shopping, petrol, meals out... anything we need to split. It makes life so much easier that we don't have to owe each other money all the time and keep track, but we have our own bank accounts so we have freedom over our own money too. I really, really recommend getting a joint bank account before you move in.
  • Still date
When you move in together it's easy to stop making an effort and spend all your evenings on the couch. But it's important that you still make time to "date". Go out for dinner, go to the cinema, treat each other, surprise each other, make an effort. 
  • Spend time alone and spend time apart
I admit this can be really, really hard, especially if, like us, you don't have an awful lot of space, but make sure you get some time alone. When you live together you see each other pretty much every day, and you can find yourself only hanging out with each other and it can get intense. Make plans with your own friends, do your own thing, go out for a walk if you need some space. It can be easy to slide into arguments when you've just been cooped up together for too long.
  • Levels of clean (and tidy) will be very different
This might be something you need to talk about, or it might not. But just bear it in mind if you're more clean/tidy than your partner not to give them a hard time if they've "cleaned" the bathroom and you still think it looks disgusting, and if you are less concerned with being clean and tidy, respect your partner's needs and do that little bit extra. They'll appreciate it, promise. Also, you're probably way, way messier than you thought...
  • Drop "do this for me"
This is a stereotypical female thing, and I've started scolding myself if I ever say it. Don't ask your partner to do something around the house and finish it with, "for me". You both share that space and you both share responsibility. They are not cleaning the kitchen for you, they're doing it for both of you.
  • Appreciate the little things
The unexpected cups of tea in bed, them doing the washing up when it's your turn. There are lots of tiny, lovely moments when you live together that you need to remember and cherish. 
  • Be prepared to show your worst self
About a month after we moved in together, I spend over an hour making dinner for us both, getting more and more stressed out in the process. When I finally pulled it out of the oven... I dropped it. Then burst into tears and stormed into the bathroom and sobbed. About 15 minutes later, Phil popped his head around the door to see how I was and I just bawled my eyes out. Because everything was new and scary and there was so much responsibility and I was so overwhelmed and tired and I just wanted to make a nice dinner. He gave me a hug, let me cry and looked after me, and then told me he'd picked dinner up off the floor (#fivesecondrule). And now we laugh about what a ridiculous mess I am.
  • And see your partner's worst self
They're gonna be grumpy and snap at you one day after a long day, you'll have to look after them when they're ill, and at some point you'll cry on each other, and that's okay. 
  • Understand each other's body clocks and routines
I'm an early bird, which you probably already know if you're a regular reader of this blog! In the week my alarm usually goes off about 5.30am so I can do a workout or go for a run, but as a result I'm basically useless after 9pm. Phil, on the other hand, can stay up much later than I can. So I do my best to be as quiet as possible when I'm up early, and he does the same when he's coming to bed when I've already been fast asleep for two hours.
  • You're a team now
You have to work together. You have to make decisions together. You have to compromise. But being a team is also wonderful and lovely and brilliant because you're in it together.
  • "Yours" and "mine" becomes "ours"
Don't even try to remember whose DVDs are whose, or who paid for that bookshelf, or who ate the last of the cheese. Everything is shared now.
  • Make joint decisions about your space
One of my favourite things about our flat is how our personalities are all over it - even though it was a furnished flat. Phil's signed Liverpool shirt hangs on the wall beside photos of my family, my candles sit next to Phil's DVDs. We chose cushions that look like biscuits and we have a tissue box that looks like a Rubix cube. But it's not easy to choose things when you have a shared space (and I know this is even hard when one person moves into the other person's place), and although it's been easy enough with the flat, we're already struggling with combining our tastes for our house! This goes back to "learn to compromise", especially if your tastes are polarised. Pick things together and put in some time and effort to find the things you both like.
  • You will learn so much about yourself
And about each other. You'll learn what makes you tick, what drives you crazy, how tidy you like everywhere to be. In my case you'll learn that at some point along the way you turned into your mother and unexpected guests will cause a complete meltdown and panicked cushion-fluffing.
  • Try not to nag
I am terrible for this and I know it. I'm a bit of a nagger. Not just at home, but always. And when you're a huge control freak like me it's hard not to be a nag. This kind of goes back to pick your battles, but it also relates to trust. If you trust your partner, you shouldn't need to nag them so much (though easier said that done...).
  • It's serious
As I said before with setting your expectations, living together is a big deal. It's a serious step! You need to be certain you're with the right person before you do this, because it's a big deal to go from seeing someone once or twice a week to waking up beside them every single day. Don't rush into it because it's a big decision.
  • It will make you or break you
Moving in with Phil was hands down the best decision I've ever made. The last few years he's gone from being my boyfriend to being my absolute best friend. At least once a week we turn round to each other and say "isn't living together THE BEST?!" (oh shush, I know it's cheesy). We absolutely love spending so much time together, making decisions between us, choosing stuff for in our flat (and soon for our house!), we laugh every single day and we work together as a team. But it's very, very intense, and at times it can be hard work, and we get through it by being a great team, and loving and respecting each other. There's a lot of difficult decisions, difficult conversations and a lot of planning involved, and you have to compromise a lot. And you have to work hard every day at your relationship because it's easy to get lazy and take your partner for granted. But we also get through it by having our own lives, taking time apart, doing things with our friends and doing things for ourselves. And that's what works for us. I can't tell you whether it will or won't work for you, but if it works, it really is the best thing ever.

I'm hoping to get Phil to write a response to this post on everything he's learned from living with me, but I'm pretty sure he can summarise it with "HAIR GRIPS EVERYWHERE."

Want any more advice on living together without going crazy? Drop me a Tweet!

Charlotte x