Self Care For When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed With The Current Pandemic

Hi, loves. I hope you’re all well and enjoying your weekend despite the current world problems! I thought it was really important to change up my blogging schedule a little and write today’s post, and hopefully spread a little positivity which is so needed right now. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world at the moment with the pandemic happening; coronavirus is something completely new to all of us and we’re all trying to navigate it the best way we can, so looking after ourselves is more important than ever.

People all over the world are experiencing a lot of stress, heartache and worry which unfortunately there isn’t much we can do to change right now. I am obviously not a healthcare professional but I would advise following all instructions given (which, in the UK is don’t be in large crowds, practice social distancing and wash/sanitize your hands more often than usual). We’re all praying for a miracle guys! Any regular readers will know I’m a pretty anxious person normally, however in the midst of a worldwide pandemic I’m actually not in the big panic I expected I would be. I do find some comfort in the fact we’re being told the virus seems to be similar to the common cold or maybe an extremely mild flu for most people. It does however make me worried for the people who will not experience it to be ‘like a cold’, but you have to take the positives where you can, right?

I am feeling a little anxious which I think is only normal, but I’m also feeling hopeful and I’m praying for everyone to stay safe and healthy. For me personally I’m most concerned about mine or Matt’s grandparents falling ill (as the elderly are more susceptible to COVID19 and potential further issues), Matt’s upcoming trip to Budapest which looks like it will be cancelled and kinda selfishly that I’m starting my new job in one week. Not the best timing in light of what’s going on so I have everything crossed I start next Monday and things go well with that. Obviously I’m generally worried about any of my family/friends – or really, anyone I know – getting the virus, but I cannot physically carry all of the worries on my shoulders so I’m just trying to take it one day at a time like everyone else. That is very hard for someone as Type A as me, but we’re all in this together. It’s funny because writing down my worries somehow makes me feel a little bit more at ease. How are you holding up? What are your worries specifically centred around the pandemic?

As I’m writing this schools are not closed here and for the most part England is very much ‘business as usual’, but large gatherings are going to be banned in the next week. There’s a lot of tension and uncertainty lingering because nobody knows what will happen, and many people feel like their lives are a little bit on hold. To be honest, personally I think if that has to happen for a few weeks to stop the spread of the virus we should all be adhering to it! I know the reality and the preventative measures taking place are different for every country and we’re all suffering in some way. In England, shelves of supermarkets nationwide are bare, people are working from home where possible and almost all of our sports have been postponed/cancelled – which has very much upset my sport-loving boyfriend! However in the midst of the panic communities are coming together, people are being kinder and we’re learning as we go. The scaremongering is NOT helping anyone and it’s more important than ever to look after ourselves and each other, and I hope this post brings you a little self care inspiration over the coming weeks. Looking after yourself is the best form of self care!

Spend quality time with your loved ones and enjoying being home
There is a slight possibility we’re all going to be actually stuck indoors for a little while with government imposed bans, but even if that doesn’t happen we’re more than likely going to be spending more time indoors than usual. Disney+ can’t arrive in the UK soon enough. Take this extra time to enjoy family movie nights, do puzzles, get cosy in your most comfortable clothes, bake and/or cook new foods, play board games, take long baths, read books, catch up on your favourite shows and just enjoy being around your partner and/or your family! Matt and I are prepared with all the extra snacks (I may have stocked up on Doritos and Haribo… just incase) and I’m excited for an excuse to watch all the movies! It’s also a fun time to be creative; Matt will be working a little more on his venture NUFC Vintage and I’m going to be spending more time creating blog content. Our hobbies are really important to us so I’m definitely feeling grateful for those right now!

Drink lots of water
It’s something we’re told to do for one hundred and one reasons, but there really is so many benefits to drinking water! As a self-confessed Diet Coke addict, I really need to up my daily intake of water ASAP. Water is good for your skin, your joints (I have arthritis so this alone should be enough of a reason for me to drink more!), helps you feel less bloated, regulates body temperature, delivers oxygen to your body and can prevent headaches, and there’s tons more benefits on top of that. I love my Chilly’s bottle so much, having a cute water bottle is a really good way to encourage drinking more water and remember to take it with you on the go!

Stick to your exercise routine (or create one!)
Exercise is so important for us to look and feel our best. Personally I couldn’t think of anything worse than spending an hour at the gym, but I love easy at home workouts and there are so many great free options. Yoga is my favourite and I can’t recommend Yoga with Adrienne or Alo Yoga videos enough if you’re looking for somewhere to start! If you’re looking for a HIIT workout or something a little more strenuous I love The Body Coach and Blogilates. For most of these workouts you don’t need any props or even weights, and they’re all super easy to do from the comfort of your lounge! Also there’s no bans on being outside and we should all be going for walks as much as possible, fresh air is SO GOOD for us. Matt and I bloody love a beach walk, and we’ll for sure be making the most of those like always!

Clean, declutter and re-organise
I am happiest when our bedroom is clean, tidy and organised. I really love decluttering and I find an excuse to do it pretty often, just because it helps me to a) not have too much stuff, b) use what I have and c) sell things I no longer need or use. Annoyingly, I just fully cleared out and re-organised my wardrobe this past weekend, or I would have for sure been doing that this weekend when I’ve spent pretty much the whole time at home. Clear out your beauty products, find things to donate, clean out your car (I do this every week or so anyway and it feels SO good to drive a clean car!), list a few items you’ve been meaning to on eBay, wash your makeup brushes and maybe even re-organise your space. Could the couch be placed differently? Should you put your bed under the window for a change? Can you switch up your shelves or vanity table? Also, if you’ve avoided all Marie Kondo hype until now… this could be the best time to get invested in her Netflix show and book!

Carry out your full skincare routine morning and night
It wouldn’t be self care tips from me without a little mention of skincare now, would it? Seriously though, during times that we’re a little more stressed out than usual it’s extra important to be consistent with your skincare! My skin reacts very quickly to changes with my diet or a lack of routine, so I’m for sure going to be keeping on top of that. Remember to clean your hands thoroughly prior to removing your makeup, and for the love of God stop touching your face. Has anyone noticed over the past few weeks just how much you touch your face?! ME TOO. That’s a huge way the virus can be transmitted so please be cautious of this! Encourage your partner and family to stick to their skincare routine too, and hey getting everyone involved in a little multi-masking party sounds like a fun way to pass the time!

Meal plan and eat lots of fruits and veggies
I’m so grateful Matt and I meal plan because it takes away all of the ‘what are we having for dinner?’ conversations and also saves us a heck of a lot of time! We grocery shop once per week – usually on a Sunday – then we may pop into one or two stores during the week to grab a few extras, usually more fresh fruit or veggies. As panic buying is going a little crazy right now I’d really encourage to write down your meal plan; literally each day what are you having for breakfast, lunch and dinner? What do you currently have in your cupboards/fridge/freezer and what else do you need to buy? Then make your shopping list from there and keep your fingers crossed you can grab everything you need! The government are telling us there are plenty of plans in place to keep supermarkets stocked no matter what happens over the next few weeks so just don’t go too crazy and please leave things for others. Opt for a few more frozen and tinned items than you usually would and try to buy products with long use by dates. Also be prepared to switch up your shopping list/meal plan whilst you’re actually in the supermarket! You can read all about how we meal plan (in normal circumstances) for some extra tips.

Be mindful of how others are feeling
People are feeling very mixed emotions right now; some are not at all fussed by what is happening, and some are beside themselves with worry. There’s no right or wrong way to feel, and honestly I think we just have to let everything run it’s course (which is the only thing we can do) and try to stay calm for ourselves and each other. Check in on elderly relatives or neighbours who may not be able or willing to go shopping, avoid overexposure to news, don’t buy into the scaremongering and try to live your life as normal, whilst still adhering to government advice!

Listen to podcasts/music instead of the radio whilst driving
I started doing this a long long long time ago and I can’t recommend it enough. There’s something to be said for being in your own little world whilst driving, especially as most of us are in the car for a long time each day! Whether I’m singing my heart out to Disney songs or having a giggle at my fave duo (Rosie and Chris Ramsey, obviously) I can’t tell you how much happier I feel not listening to the radio. The songs are repeated hundreds of times and the news bulletins every five minutes are filled with doom and gloom, especially at the moment. You’re mostly in control of what you consume, so open up Spotify and choose something that makes you happy! In addition I’d really recommend not watching or reading the news 24/7, and instead point you in the direction of this Reddit thread for all the happy feels.

Ensure you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep per night
It is SO very important for our health that we sleep as we well as we can. I’m going to be posting in a few weeks about things I’m doing to enjoy Matt and I’s evening routine more and sleep better! I really do love pillow sprays because they help me to relax and feel calm – Matt loves them too! – and I’m a huge fan of a cosy bubble bath before bed. Try to turn Netflix off a little earlier the next few weeks, keep bedding clean by washing your sheets regularly, and make your bedroom as comfortable as possible. Sleep is also great if you’re feeling under the weather or run down – which is extremely common this time of year without the ongoing world issues – as your body fights infection even harder when you’re sleeping and rested.

Read, read and read some more
Oh you mean we may have to stay in the house for an unknown amount of time? You’ll find me snuggled under a blanket, drinking a cup of tea and reading my Kindle for the foreseeable! #suchagrandma Matt has never understood how I can love reading so much but I swear since he bought me my Kindle Paperwhite my love has got even deeper. I downloaded a few new books this weekend; including two I’m very excited about; The Two Lives Of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver and In Five Years by Rebecca Serle; and I’m so excited to get stuck in! If you don’t have a Kindle or Amazon Prime, you get free delivery on any orders over £10, or you could pick up some books when you’re next grocery shopping! There are great deals in places like Asda and Tesco for books, sometimes even cheaper than Amazon. Be sure to shop your stash too, I bet you’ve got a few books stashed away for a rainy day… today is that rainy day! Reading is good for the soul, and I’d personally recommend fiction books for an escape.

Stay healthy, spend more time indoors, eat good foods, look after yourself and your family/friends/neighbours, don’t panic and hopefully the pandemic will blow over as quickly as it arrived! This post will be my one and only post regarding the COVID 19 outbreak as I really want to post happy and positive content going forward. I already mentioned this on Twitter, but I’m only going to be posting once per week over the next few weeks/months as life is super busy right now (nothing to do with the outbreak, more with preparing to start a new job!)

-G x

Four Things I Do Every Week To Be Productive

Hi, loves! There’s a few things I do each and every week that helps make me feel like I’m being the best version of me. I often feel like I’m trying to do too many things at once because running a blog whilst having a full time job, still making time for my social life and being able to run errands and other mundane things can sometimes feel like a lot. If I need to take time out to just relax and recharge, I’m (slowly) becoming okay with not completing my to-do list if I’m just not in the headspace to do it.

My default downtime/self care regime is often just a night in with Matthew bugging him to do a face mask with me, eat pick n mix and watch a few episodes of The Office, but I really wanted to share a few little things I do throughout each week to help me feel more productive, fulfilled and happy. Being able to do these things (among others, of course) really allows me to be productive when I have to be; downtime is so important and honestly being ‘busy’ all the time is not something I want to aim for.

Enjoy downtime in the mornings and evenings
I adore having a chilled morning or evening, especially when I can take my time over the mundane everyday things too. I try to wake up at least twenty to thirty minutes before I actually need to every day, whether it’s a work day or not, and this means I’m able to take my time a little more. Matt and I try to take an extra five minutes in bed together once our alarms have gone off, then we have a cup of tea every morning. I sometimes will a candle on my vanity table whilst I get ready, and I try to take my time doing my hair and makeup. One of my favourite parts of a weekend morning is picking my outfit for the day; I love to be able to pick clothing based on my mood that day! Is that weird?! I much prefer evenings where I have time to take a bath as showering just isn’t as relaxing to me, and I also take time to blog or read as much as I can too. I also LOVE to cook in the evenings it’s one of my favourite times of day.

Take time out to plan healthy meals
Cooking is a huge part of my night routine; whether Matt’s working late or he’s home before me it’s always a priority that we eat something hearty and healthy! I’m that weirdo that really enjoys meal planning and grocery shopping (genuinely, it’s my favourite errand to run… hahaha) and I find it really helps how I feel mentally to eat good foods. I’ve always ate lots of fruit and veggies but now more than ever Matt and I are trying to pack as many as we can into our daily meals, and cut out some of the rubbish. This year I was determined to take lunch to work with me everyday (and for Matt to do this, too!) because we were constantly eating food that made us feel crap and cost a fortune. I know we’re only two weeks into the work year but we’ve both really enjoyed eating a healthy lunch during the day, it just helps you to feel more energetic and productive. I also try to drink water as often as possible, but I’ll forever be obsessed with Diet Coke!

Read
I have no idea how people can not read books, honestly! Reading a good book is something I intentionally make time for each day, and I can’t tell you how much I love to get lost in a fictional world. I recently started to read during my lunch breaks at work which has quickly become one of my favourite times to read, I just find it the best way to escape the work environment for half an hour. In the evenings I take a bath I read in there, and I try to take at least twenty minutes before bed if I can too. Of course every day is so different; sometimes Matt and I watch TV (we’re currently obsessed with Jack Ryan!) right up until we go to sleep, and others we have a little more time to do our own thing. I’m sharing my current reading list on Wednesday, there’s so many good books in there!

Listen to motivational podcasts whilst driving
Driving is something that makes me so happy, and funnily enough I get so many blogging ideas whilst driving too. I really enjoy my alone time (I’m sure my regular readers will be quite surprised to hear that, actually) but being alone is how I re-charge. I’m an introvert and I really feel rested and relaxed after spending a little time alone each day; the only constant in this alone time during the week is my drives to and from work. I love to listen to podcasts and I find that this a perfect time to really indulge in the stories and conversations. My ultimate favourite podcast is Shagged, Married, Annoyed by my most favourite couple, Rosie & Chris Ramsey. BUT, when I want to feel inspired, motivated or just enjoy a chilled conversation, my go-to’s are How To Fail by Elizabeth Day, Happy Place by Fearne Cotton and The Estee Lalonde Show. It’s so interesting especially when I’m feeling a little bit unmotivated to hear another perspective (even on completely different situations) and it always helps me to count my blessings a little more.

Thank you so much for reading, I appreciate it more than you know. If you’re struggling with feeling unproductive or unmotivated right now, please know you have all my love and support, you’ve got this! What do you do day-to-day that makes you feel productive and prepared for your to-do list? Do you do any of the things I do, too? I’d love to know of other things I should incorporate into my life to make being productive feel that little bit easier!

-G x

Quick & Easy Weeknight Dinner Recipes

Hey loves! Today’s post is a much requested and anticipated post as I share SO many of Matt and I’s meals with you over on my Instagram stories and am always asked what the heck we’re cooking. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to do this, cooking is something I’ve talked about several times on my blog but I don’t often share recipes because photographing food is so difficult. I know it’s a trick of the trade with cookbooks etc that cold food photographs so much better, but obviously we want to eat out food whilst it’s hot. Please bare with me for the photos in this post – I know they’re so bad – and I’ll figure out the photos for future posts, somehow! I really want to share recipes with you on a more regular basis as we rarely make anything difficul and we just love hearty meals that fill us up and help us unwind from our busy work days. Also, at this time of year a hot meal is the best to come home to; it’s something we look forward to from the moment we get out of our warm cosy bed each morning, ha!

On weekends Matt and I experiment a lot more with dinner recipes, and you may have seen I’m planning to make at least one new recipe per week this October. However, on weeknights we generally like to make quick and easy dinners that we know and love! We rotate between around twenty ‘standard’ meals, but the odd time we’ll throw in a curve ball to change things up a little. Every time we try a new recipe we love we just add them into our rotation of weeknight meals, and this has been the best way to learn and enjoy cooking. I shared how we meal plan and where we often get our ideas from in this post a few months ago, so be sure to check that out if you’re unsure where to start.

All three of the recipes are based on dinner for two people so if you want to make more just double or triple accordingly!

Cod With Roasted Veggies & Mash

This is probably the most popular recipe for us of the three, and one we kinda cheat on. Snapple fact: mash potato is my favourite food. Ever. When we first started dating, Matt wasn’t a huge fan of mash potato but now he loves it just as much as I do, and I hate to say it but the store-bought pre-made options are so much better than homemade. I’m sorry! We also serve with baby potatoes (as above) but if you want to make your own mash potato go right ahead. This is perfect for nights Matt is home late and I’m preparing dinner for him coming home, because timings are SO easy to get right on this and it’s minimum effort for maximum reward.

Ingredients:
2 x cod fillets
(approx) 4 x large carrots
(approx) 160g x broccoli
(approx) half a courgette
400g x mash potato / baby potatoes
(approx) two tablespoons of chilli olive oil
Salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to taste

Method:
1. Pre-heat oven to (approx) 200 degrees.
2. Place cod on tin foil lined baking tray, and cover with a light dusting of salt and pepper. Place a second sheet of tin foil over the fish, tucking in any corners so the juices don’t spill out, and place in oven.
3. Whilst the fish begins to cook, chop the ends off carrots, roughly peel and cut into batons. Cut courgette into small pieces.
4. Cut broccoli stems down and peel off any remaining leaves.
5. Place carrot batons, courgette and broccoli onto another baking tray, separating out vegetables so they’re not overlapping too much. Take a pinch of salt and pepper over vegetables, sprinkle Italian seasoning over then drizzle chilli olive oil, mostly distributing through the centre as it will run during cooking. You could just switch out to regular olive oil if you don’t like heat!
6. Place into the oven approx five to ten minutes after you’ve put in your fish (ideally underneath the fish) and cook for approx 20 – 25 minutes. This really depends on how soft you like your fish/veggies to be.
7. Microwave potato side of choice, or make your own during the time that your fish and veggies cooking!

Seriously, how quick and simple is that?! Roasted veggies are our favourite, they taste great with any meat or as a side dish to a vegetable tagine!

Matt’s pepper in the background looks a little drunk… hahaha!

(Beer) Chilli Stuffed Peppers

This was a take on one of our already favourite meals (just regular chilli – with or without beer) but we loved this variation so much it’s become a staple. We usually pair with homemade salt and pepper chilli chips – super easy, too! – and it’s such a hearty dinner. Stuffed peppers are another of my favourite foods and again Matt has kinda learned to love them. LOL, I promise he really enjoys these meals too! We have an ongoing private joke because I throw peppers into pretty much anything we cook. He’s like “can you please make me porridge for breakfast? Oh wait do you want to put peppers in that too?!” Hahaha. They’re just delicious, okay?! There’s also an option to add a little beer in here if you fancy it. Don’t worry, it’s totally safe for kids as the alcohol burns off! Also, yes I made this festive for #spookyszn. Because why not?!

Ingredients:
250g x lean beef mince
1 x large onion
2 x stalks of celery
2 x cloves of garlic
2 x chilli peppers
1 x large pepper
(to dice)
2 x large peppers (I’d recommend orange for Halloween dinners!)
400g x chopped tomatoes
(approx) 200ml x light beer (optional)
(approx) 100g x tomato puree
(approx) 200g x mixed beans
(approx) 100g x light mozzarella cheese

Tilda peri peri rice
Salt, pepper, paprika to taste

Method:
1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees.
2. Chop all veggies into small diced shapes, except for two peppers. You only want to cut off the tops, take out the core and de-seed. I recommend going over the inner surface with a tablespoon to make sure you’ve got plenty of room for your mixture! If you don’t like a lot of spice make sure to de-seed your chillis.
3. Brown mince in pan with onion and garlic cloves. Drain any excess fat. If you’re adding beer to your recipe, this is where you’d add it! It adds a great depth to your chilli, although we don’t do this too often as Matt generally prefers the recipe without it. Give it a go, what’s the worst that can happen?!
4. Add in all of your diced vegetables and tomato puree, and brown.
5. If you’re serving with chips, put them in the oven now!
6. After around seven minutes, add in mixed beans and chopped tomatoes. Allow to simmer for approx ten minutes. Place large de-seeded peppers on a lined baking tray.
7. Pour chilli mixture into large peppers, add as much grated cheese as you’d like on top and pop in the oven for approx fifteen minutes (just keep checking to see how the cheese is melting/peppers are softening).
8. Just before you take out your peppers, microwave rice. You can use this as a ‘bed’ for your peppers or serve it on the side!

I mean seriously… could this be any more simple? How freaking cute do our Jack-O-Lantern stuffed peppers look?! They’re perfect for this time of year, and I know if you have littles they’ll appreciate this too. Matt and I always add a little extra cheese once cooked too which makes them a little less healthy, sshhh!

Hunter’s Chicken

This is a recipe we just LOVE to make, and it’s so crazy easy; you literally prepare everything in five minutes or less, throw it in the oven and leave it for half an hour to cook. It’s kind of become a go-to for us because of how quick and easy it is, and it’s a meal we really enjoy each time. You could serve with rice, veggies, chips, mash potato, the possiblities are endless! We switch our side up pretty much every time we have this meal, it’s super versatile which makes it feel like something new each time. I also made BBQ chicken baked tacos for the first time last week which Matt LOVED – I’d be happy to share that recipe soon?!

Ingredients:
2 x chicken breasts

4 x rashers of unsmoked bacon
(approx) 200g x French’s BBQ sauce
(approx) 100g x light mozzarella cheese

Salt, pepper and peri peri seasoning to taste

Method:
1. Wrap chicken breasts in bacon; add a little salt and pepper (and peri peri seasoning if you like a little heat) and place in the oven for thirty five minutes.
2. After the time is up, take out your dish and add BBQ sauce; we really roughly use around 200g, but basically just make sure all of your bacon and chicken is covered. Add grated cheese and put back in the oven for seven minutes.

…Yep, that’s IT! I really love eating this with mash potato because it’s filling and hearty, but not TOO filling and means we have an excuse for a McFlurry run later 🙂 hahaha we’ve definitely got our priorities right!

I hope this post was somewhat helpful and gave you a little inspiration for what you and your partner or family can cook this week! I would love to share more, maybe every month I’ll share three of our favourite dinner recipes with you? We LOVE our Crockpot and make so many meals in there that are super easy! We also cook vegetarian dinners now and then (we’re trying to partake in #MeatlessMondays much more often than we do) but we have so many options of things to share. Please let me know what kind of meals you’d like to see! Are you planning on making any of these dinners this week? What is your favourite easy (and kinda healthy) dinner recipe?!

-G x

My May Goals

Happy first day of May, loves!

I am so excited to share my first monthly goals post on my blog, and I hope (if you enjoy it) it can become a semi-regular feature. I love to set goals for myself and it’s something that encourages me and motivates me like nothing else. I generally keep my goals private, and only would share my current goals with Matt, but I think it’s good to hold myself accountable by writing them for the world to see. I wrote this post towards the end of 2018, to set myself some goals before the new year rolled around. I’m still working on some of those right now, and I also wrote a post about the goals I want to achieve in 2019.

May is going to be a good month, I can feel it! Matt and I had so much fun in April, but it wasn’t the best month for me as I struggled a lot with my anxiety and felt a bit rubbish. April did however see a huge increase in traffic for my blog which was unexpected, and I can’t tell you how excited and grateful I am for that. I’m enjoying blogging more and more as the months roll on, and seeing the rise in people reading posts, liking and commenting makes it feel that little bit extra special. It’s also my birthday month – I turn 25 on May 17th – to celebrate Matt and I are heading for a little spa break and we’re so excited! There’s two bank holidays this month, hopefully the warm weather from April bank holiday weekend will return, and we’re going to have so many fun date days/nights. So, what are my goals for this month, and what steps am I taking to achieve them?

Worry less
I’m pretty sure from now until the day I die, my daily goal will be to worry less. I’m a perfectionist, I care too much what other people think, and I’m always striving to please everyone around me, even those that don’t really matter. I really want to work on this, although I find it’s much harder than it sounds when I attempt to put it into practice. I’m starting with giving myself that extra little bit of self love, believing in all of the wonderful things Matt says to/about me, and trying to live in the moment more. I know life is so short, and we should focus on ourselves way more than we do, it’s just hard to find that perspective when I need it. It goes without saying that my anxiety does not help with this and, as mentioned above, I’ve been feeling very anxious recently, although I’ve been unable to pin down exactly why. I’m hoping my head will feel a little clearer this month, and I can enjoy each day without feeling that little cloud hovering over me.

Make better food choices
Throughout April, Matt and I were trying so hard to eat better. We’ve always generally ate well for breakfast and dinner, but it was the bit in the middle of the day (and sometimes the evening) that was the struggle. We’re self-confessed snackers, and we’re prone to snuggling up to watch our TV shows in the evening with a bag of popcorn or a pack of Haribo. We’re not cutting out everything bad for us and we’re definitely still eating the things we love in moderation, we’re just trying to be a little more aware of what we put into our bodies. I’d love to lose a little weight before our holiday next month, too! Our four main goals are; more vegetables, more fruit, less sugar and less red meat. I talked about this in lots of detail in a previous post last month, but we really love to experiment and cook different dishes for dinner, and we’re trying to make at least two new recipes a week throughout May so we can expand our ‘go-to dinner options’ even more. I’m excited for the challenge of another month of making healthier choices, and I’m hoping that after another four weeks it may become second nature. Let’s just forget about the fact there’s two bank holidays and my birthday weekend where we’ll 100% be consuming alcohol. And cake.

Read at least four books
Throughout 2019, I’ve been reading like a machine, and this one is probably going to be the easiest goal for me. I love nothing more than getting lost in a fictional world; it’s a great way for me to de-stress from everyday life, and it makes me feel so relaxed, especially when I’m feeling a little bit lost with myself. I feel like I have to actively make time for reading, as my default *thing to do* when I’ve got a little downtime is to work on my blog. I’m trying to be a little more selfish, and allow myself time to read as a self-care activity, instead of thinking I constantly need to be doing something. I am forever buying new books, and when I love one I tend to fly through it at lightening speed. I’ve read 12 books so far this year, which works out at three per month, but I’m setting myself the goal of reading (at least) one more. My favourite place to read books is in a Lush bath, as I feel like I’m completely in my own little bubble and it’s glorious!

Create new in-front-of-the-camera blog content
I find having my photo taken the cringiest thing in the world, and I just don’t know how to re-train my thinking on this. I think the fact I feel uncomfortable with my body is the driving force behind this, but that’s a slow process to change. I began the process to change up my hair last month and I do feel so much better already, so maybe this will be more achievable as the months roll on! The only photos I feel comfortable taking are ugly Snapchat selfies (my boyfriend is so lucky) or the occasional couple photo when we’re dressed up for a night out, and even those I rarely like when the morning rolls around. I really want to branch out more with my blog, especially by showing Spring/Summer fashion ideas and taking the kind of photos I’d love to feature on my blog, but it’s hard when I don’t feel too comfortable in front of the camera. Matt is fortunately a great (and very patient) photographer, so hopefully we can work together to get some good shots! He took the photos of me in this post during a day out at Alnwick Garden during the April bank holiday Monday – we had the best day enjoying the beautiful cherry blossoms – and he made me feel so much more comfortable in front of the camera.

Use cash as much as possible throughout the month
As I mentioned in this post, I was getting much better at taking money out at the ATM for the week, and then using that money for groceries, shopping days or heading out for an impromptu dinner date with Matt. Throughout April I didn’t do so well with this, and went back to tapping my contactless card or using Face ID to activate my Apple Pay like it was my job. As a result, I spent over my budget in a few too many categories, and I want to save a little more money this month than I did in April. Matt and I are starting our Spring/Summer clothes shopping too – I love shopping date days, we pretty much always go for a Wagamama too! – and I want to make sure I’m not overspending. You can see some of the things I’m planning on picking up in my Spring style wishlist post, and there’s a few other bits and pieces I need to start picking up for our holiday next month!

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed a little peek into what my goals are for the month. Do you set monthly goals? How well do you do at achieving them? If you have any tips or tricks to help me achieve mine I’d be eternally grateful!

-G x

April Favourites

Hi, loves!

Once again, I literally can’t believe we’re already at the end of another month. It seems like 2019 has been put on fast forward, and the days and weeks are flying by at a pace I’m not quite sure I like. It honestly seems five minutes since Matt and I were seeing in midnight of New Year’s Eve with our friends! April was another great month, and despite having a little bit of a hard time with my anxiety I’ve loved it for the most part. Matt and I have been eating tons healthier, and we’re absolutely loving how well meal planning works for us. We’re on countdown to our holiday (57 days to go! WHAT?!), we’ve had tons of fun date nights and date days this month, and we also had some great weekends with our friends and family. I changed up my hair length/colour and I love it, Matt and I celebrated the first bank holiday of 2019 and enjoyed the warmer weather. I was literally so excited about the sunglasses-as-a-hair-style-and-no-jacket weather… but where’s it gone?!

During April, I also did a Beauty No Buy, which literally is what it sounds like; I couldn’t purchase any new beauty items, unless it was to replace something that ran out (with one exception, oops). It sounds simple enough, but jeez it’s so hard not being ‘allowed’ to purchase things as and when you please! I did however stick to it for the most part and I want to be more aware of what I’m purchasing throughout the rest of the year. As a result of my Beauty No Buy, I’ve really had to use and love what I have, and that’s something I need to make more of a priority.

*All products mentioned are linked at the bottom of this post*

St Tropez Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion
This product is an oldie but a goodie, and after first using it throughout last Summer to top up my barely-there-real-tan, I loved it. I re-discovered it this month, and I’m really enjoying using it again to give my super pale skin a little colour. It’s a very subtle tan, will not make you Geordie Shore-esque orange (thank the Lord) and it also doesn’t smell or stain your sheets! I use the Medium shade, leave it on around three to five minutes – three minutes is recommended but I find a little longer gives better results – rinse off, then apply lots of Lush sleepy body lotion when I get out of the shower. Matt and I are such cuddly sleepers (cute, HA!), I could never go back to using a regular fake tan you leave on overnight, so this is a great option for me. It’s also fab to not have to worry about orange bed sheets!

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz in Medium Brown
I go through phases with which eyebrow pencil I currently love, but lately this one has blown anything else out of the water. I used the Charlotte Tilbury Brow Lift in Brooke S exclusively for a few months, then I re-discovered my Brow Wiz after my Spring clean, and forgot why I ever stopped using it. It had very little pencil left in the tube (after I fell back in love with it, of course) so I re-purchased right before it ran out. I think my brows look much fuller, more polished and generally just better at the moment, and it’s definitely as a result of changing my pencil. I love the spoolie in this one too, it’s very good at combing the product through and my eyebrows don’t look overly done.

OGX Argan Oil of Moracco Shampoo & Conditioner
These two products were my exception in my Beauty No Buy! I know, I know, I literally just talked about how much I love the Soap and Glory shampoos in this monthly favourites post, but I started getting super dry yet somehow greasy hair, and it seems those were causing the problem. I passed the S&G products on to my mum who loves them, so they’ve got a lovely new home. Both of the OGX products are both sulphate free, as recommended by my hairdresser, and I really have noticed a difference to the quality of my hair. It’s a little hard to know if these products are the sole reason for that, as I also had my hair cut and dyed this month (I love it! I’m going lighter again in May and I’m very excited about it. I think my ‘end goal’ is Lauren-Conrad-in-the-early-Hills-days Californian blonde. Very specific, I know) and I had an Olaplex treatment when I was at the salon which made my hair feel amazing. These products smell glorious, and I can wait until the third day to wash my hair when needed, which I’ve never been comfortable doing before.

After Life
Matt and I have watched a lot of good shows recently – a post will be up on our favourites next month – but this one has to be the top of our recommendations list. I briefly talked about this show in this post, but I just had to include it in my monthly favourites post too as it made such an impact on us. I actually said when we finished I wish we could unwatch it, to watch again! The show is written, produced and directed by Ricky Gervais, who also plays the main character, Tony. Tony’s wife unfortunately passed away from breast cancer, and as a result he finds himself in a pit of depression, and has to navigate a ‘new normal’ in his life. It’s heartbreakingly sad, and I cried so many times throughout the six episode series, but it’s also filled with joyous moments, humour and laughter. It depicts depression in a way I’ve never personally seen on TV before, and I hope it brings awareness to the fact that you really don’t know what somone else is going through, and that everyone is fighting their own battles.

Bank Holiday Weekend Fun
I love bank holiday weekends so much – I’m a Brit after all – and our first of the year was glorious, and also super busy! I changed up my hair, Matt and I ate fish and chips, I had a lunch and shopping date with my dearest friend Jessy and Matt enjoyed a few beers watching the match with the boys. We cooked delicious meals and ate outside in the garden because it was finally HOT, enjoyed showing off our home city to Matt’s cousin and his girlfriend, visited with family, spent a lot of time outdoors in the sun and swung through the beautiful cherry blossom trees at Alnwick Garden. I felt so content and happy as Matt and I snuggled up in bed on the Monday evening, and very excited for two more bank holidays to come in May! I also took the photo of the blossom at the top of this post at Alnwick Garden, I’m (very sadly) proud of it – I love Portrait Mode so much.

Shagged, Married, Annoyed by Chris & Rosie Ramsey
I love listening to podcasts and I think this might be my ultimate top pick from every one I’ve ever listened to. Chris is a very well known comedian, and his wife Rosie could easily get him out of a job – she is hilarious. Fellow Northerners they already had my hearts, and as soon as I heard their banter together I really loved them, and I’m so happy it gets better with each episode. They talk about so many relatable things – including the ‘beef’ they have with each other which makes me cry laugh every episode. Chris’ beef with Rosie in one episode was that she’s always asking what he fancies for dinner, even when they’re eating breakfast, and I couldn’t stop laughing because that’s me! Every single day, poor Matthew. (If you need any evidence this post sums it up nicely). Their stories and constant taking the p*ss out of each other is just briliant, and I can’t get enough! Especially when Rosie called Robin (their son) a little prick. Fantastic. There’s only eleven episodes so far, with a new one launching every Friday, and I’ve binged my way through seven so far, I’m very excited for the rest!

Scrunchies
Guys. I love scrunchies!!! They are just so fun to wear, and a brilliant way to make a boring pony tail look cute. I wear them very often during cosy evenings in the house, but I feel like they’re also an adorable accessory to an oufit. A simple white tee with mom jeans can look way more chic and put together with a little pop of colour in your hair. When I was younger I used to wear scrunchies pretty much every day, they’re one of the few 90’s trends I’m still on board with. (These kind of bags are everywhere and it genuinely baffles me – they’re very Sex and The City and I’m not here for it!) Topshop and H&M have some amazing styles for pretty good prices – the velvet feel ones are my absolute favourite!

Strong Roots Spinach Bites
These are one of the best ‘healthy junk foods’ I think I’ve ever tried, and I actually really like everything I’ve tried from the Strong Roots brand. Matt and I are a little obsessed with these bites; we put them with meals as often as we can, and we’ve recommended them to pretty much everyone we know. They crisp up on the outside and stay soft on the inside, and thankfully they’re always included in deals at Tesco to make them a little more affordable. On a lazy evening or when we don’t much have time to cook, we love these with Quorn nuggets and Tilda peri peri rice!

Shop my favourites:

St Tropez Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion / Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz in Medium Brown / OGX Argan Oil of Morrocco Shampoo / OGX Argan Oil of Morrocco Conditioner / After Life / Shagged, Married, Annoyed by Chris & Rosie Ramsey / Leopard Print Scrunchie (similar) / Yellow Scrunchie (similar) / Strong Roots Spinach Bites

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed this post, and maybe got a few ideas of things you might like to try? What have you been loving this month? I’m looking forward to May so much, and I’ll be sharing my goals for the month on the blog on Wednesday!

-G x

Meal Planning: The How’s And Why’s

Hi, loves!

Meal planning is a huge part of Matt and I’s week, and it’s something we now do every week without fail. I love routine, I love organisation and I love being able to do things in a quick and effective way. Matt isn’t as fussed, but what we’re having for dinner each night is something I had always made the decisions on, because Matt is super indecisive! Now, through changing our habits and meal planning, this makes it a joint decision for both of us. I’ve mentioned meal planning many times on the blog, and been asked lots of times for recipe ideas and why we do it. I’d love to share a week’s worth of dinner recipe ideas, so that will definitely be up in the blog in the next month or so. Today I’m focusing on the how’s and why’s of meal planning for us, and asking some of the questions I see popping up over and over again. Is it actually beneficial to our lives? Should you be doing it? What does it even mean?

What is meal planning?
It’s pretty self explanatory, but meal planning is literally to plan – usually for the week ahead – the meals you (and your partner/family) will be eating. Some people do this for breakfast, lunch and dinner, however Matt and I only really focus on breakfast for Matt (I generally eat at work), dinner for both of us with leftovers for lunch the following day and healthy snacks/desserts. I’m not really a baker at all, but I made this banana bread last week before I picked Matt up from a night out with the boys and it was so good! Also, no bake desserts are great, and they’re super quick and easy when your evenings are busy.

How do you do it?
On a Sunday, Matt and I sit down for twenty minutes to talk about what we want to make the following week, and plan our shopping list(s). We look at Matt’s shifts as this has an impact on what we make; on the days he works until 9pm I make dinner ready for him coming home, so we tend to go for meals that go in the oven and can be timed perfectly (for example, cod and roasted vegetables or a good ol’ pasta bake). I make a list in the Notes app on my phone of what meal we’ll make each evening, writing underneath all of the ingredients required to make the meal. I don’t include items like sauces or spices which we use in every meal as we already have those, although if I had to re-purchase something during my shop that week then I’d write them down too. Miscellaneous items like almond milk, protein bars and bread are bought every week, so I keep a generic shopping list I buy from too. I love that I can tick off the lists as I go through my shop, and have even started writing in the order that I’d walk around the shop, that’s dedication LOL. I grocery shop twice per week, sometimes a third time if we’ve ran out of anything, and I can get round the store in fifteen minutes or less every time.

Does it save you money and/or time?
YES. As we plan ahead and have a shopping list, I literally buy to the shopping list. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a sneaky bag of Haribo or Cadbury’s buttons will find their way into the trolley – I’ve no idea how – but most of the time I stick to our list. I tend to do almost all of our grocery shopping as it just works easier that way, and I enjoy buying based on a list as it saves so much time. It also cuts out any extra deliberations in store where I ring Matt and say “is X okay for dinner tonight? What do you fancy for tomorrow?” I also have the flexibility to go to more than one supermarket when I can, as I know what I need to get and we prefer certain items from certain places. Aldi and Lidl are great for freshly baked bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, and they also have great deals on pasta, spices and yoghurts. When it comes to chicken and meat, we always buy from Asda as I feel you get more for your money there, and we buy specific branded things like rice, almond milk, frozen goodies, and sauces there too. To be honest, I generally do most of our shopping at Asda as it’s nearby work, but I should get better at buying from various stores. However if we’re ever having a cheat night and eating rubbish, we love the Taste The Difference flatbread pizzas from Sainsbury’s (with a tub of Halo Top or Alpro ice cream thrown in, obviously)!

How do you get your ideas for recipes?
This has built up over a long time of trial and error of trying out new foods, as we now have our own little (mental) portfolio of go-to meals we love. We don’t eat much red meat and it’s something we’re actively trying to cut down on, and we generally favour chicken or fish dishes if we’re not eating vegetarian. When we’re not cooking a tried and tested favourite and want to try something new, I firstly look through our three favourite cookbooks. Our go-to’s are Pinch Of Nom by Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone, A Year Of Beautiful Eating by Madeleine Shaw and Gino’s Italian Coastal Escape by Gino D’Acampo. Whether we follow the exact ingredients and method, or take inspiration to create something else I can almost always find something that looks good. If nothing was to take our fancy from those cookbooks we’d then look online at BBC Good Food, Pinterest, Tesco Real Food and of course, social media.

Do you find it easy?
I really do, and I would advise anyone who is thinking about giving it a go, to just try it. It took us a long time to start cooking with fresh ingredients, and we were regulars at M&S Food Hall for their dine in for two offer (we ate those almost every night!) for our first year of being together, but now that’s definitely a treat and something we do on the nights we really have no time. We didn’t know how to cook at all prior to last Summer, so we’re self taught (well, with the help of Matt’s lovely mum). I hear people say all the time “I don’t know how to cook” but honestly you just have to give it a whirl and practice lots, it gets easier and now we love every aspect of it. After we got the methods down, it took us a little time to tweak how we do things each week, but after a little trial and error it works perfectly for us. We’ve also been eating way healthier since we took meal planning seriously, as it’s developed a new interest in creating new meals, and we’re forever trying new things. I’m very interested in eating more vegetarian meals, and Matt’s on board to try whatever I want to try too, which is great! We’re thinking of eating vegetarian only for a week, pretty much just to see if we can do it, and if we do I’ll definitely share my thoughts on it with you on the blog.

Does it work every week?
Yes, for us it really does. We look at the week ahead, so if we’re heading out for date night on Friday we know we don’t need to buy anything for that night, or if we have plans with friends on the Saturday we’ll more than likely grab something when we’re out. If Matt’s out for the evening with the boys I also take great pleasure in having a kid’s tea before I go pick him up (Quorn crispy nuggets, Strong Roots spinach bites and a whole lot of this amazing BBQ sauce, if you’re interested) and those are the kinds of food we always make sure to have in the freezer, and I replace without fail on an almost weekly basis (especially those spinach bites, we literally eat them with almost every meal HA). The best part of meal planning is that it works around your life and your schedule, and it’s very flexible as a result. You could definitely just do one shop per week but we buy so many fresh vegetables and fruit it means by the end of the week items are out of date or just not as good as they should be, so I’d rather not waste food and just go to the supermarket two or three times per week.

I hope this post was informative and helped in some way! I love seeing what people eat for dinner, and what must-have recipe they recommend to others. I can’t wait to share with you a week’s worth of dinners for Matt and I. If you’re wanting to get a start on meal planning, I’d really recommend the three cookbooks photographed/linked in this post! Do you meal plan? Do you have any extra tips that may help me or my readers?!

-G x

How I’m Changing The Way I Spend Money

Happy Sunday, loves!

Today I’m sharing with you a few of the little changes I’ve made to my spending habits, mostly since the beginning of 2019. We’re only halfway through the second month of the year, but I already feel so much better since implementing a few simple changes. I thought I’d share with you the changes I’ve made, in the hope it may help or inspire you if you’re looking to hold tighter on the reigns of your finances. Aren’t we all…

Matt and I are currently saving for our future home (we’re going to start looking by the end of the year and I’m SO excited at the prospect of this I can barely stand it)! As we’re buckling down on saving more and spending less, whilst still trying to have a life, we’ve been looking at all the things we can do to improve our ability to save.

Budget by category, and track your spending
In my opinion, it’s so important to know how much you get paid, and to categorise your spending in categories at the beginning of the month. I can’t believe some people don’t know their take home pay each month! If that is you, this is a no judgement zone. BUT, please make a budget! I’m begging you! I track my spending loosely on a spreadsheet I made a few years back (it’s colour coded and very pleasing to the eye LOL. I’m so Type A), but as a result I always know how much I have to set aside for bills and fixed monthly expenses. My fixed monthly expenses include things like my phone contract, house fund savings, my car payment and insurance, then my variable monthly expenses include things like holiday savings (to pay off our Summer holiday to Croatia and begin savings for a mini-break to Budapest, I’m so excited!), ‘fun money’, petrol and groceries. I split my money into twelve categories overall, but it’s all down to what works best for you. I personally think it’s really important to have a ‘fun money’ category; whatever amount works for you in your budget; for treating yourself to a few new beauty bits during the month or spending a little extra on date night.

Spending with cash only in shops/supermarkets
I literally never used cash. Ever. I tapped my contactless debit card or Apple pay like it was my job, and rarely carried a full sized purse as I just didn’t need it. My card holder is now strictly reserved for when I carry a small crossbody bag (usually just on the weekend), and day-to-day I now carry my purse with me. Using cash at first felt so strange, it was like being on holiday and trying to work out which coin was which. Yes, really. I felt so awkward the first few times I didn’t pay using just notes as I was scrabbling through my coins, mortified I was holding up the queue. How British of me. Spending with physical cash keeps me accountable in a whole different way, as I think when I use a debit card it often doesn’t feel like real money. I’m not sure if it’s mind over matter, but whenever Matt and I go out for date night and pay in cash rather than on our debit cards we always spend less. If you find yourself overspending on your budget, or just are generally confused where your money is going, I’d highly recommend trying to use just cash only, it puts things into a whole new perspective!

Meal planning
Matt and I started to do this during the last few months of 2018, and by now we nail it every week. Our evening routines vary due to Matt’s shift pattern, but we know what that will be at least a few weeks in advance. As a result, we plan which nights we’re going to cook with fresh ingredients, and which nights we might grab a Sainsbury’s flat bread pizza (the BEST – you need to try the chorizo one!) or an M&S ‘throw it in the oven and wait thirty minutes’ meal. This all depends on what time Matt finishes work, for example on the nights he comes home between 9pm and 9.30pm we quite honestly can’t be bothered to cook and we want something quick and easy so we can catch up on our days and fall into bed! I’d love to write a whole post, detailing our meals for a week – including recipes – if that’s something you’d like to see?

Limiting online shopping
I’m not completely opposed to online shopping, but I no longer feel the need to mindlessly scroll through websites and buy things just for the buzz of buying. Before re-training the way I think about money, I shopped online way more than I’d like to admit, and often once I’d opened the package, at least half of the novelty had already worn off. I prefer to shop in stores anyway; to feel, smell and look at things properly. I have a few online loves – such as Feel Unique – that I know I’ll purchase from for years to come, but I feel less of an obligation to purchase online. I’d also really recommend taking twenty minutes out of your day to unsubscribe from all of the mailing lists you’ve signed up to over the years, this will definitley ease any extra temptation! One thing I will never get tired of buying online is books; as much as I love browsing Waterstone’s, I can’t justify paying full price when I know (usually) Amazon will be way cheaper! My Amazon ‘Save For Later’ list is brimming with books to order over the coming months.

Opening separate savings accounts
This is one of the best things I’ve done to get into a better habit of saving money! I have a regular old ‘Emergency Fund’ then I also have a ‘House Fund’ and a ‘Holiday Fund’. Matt and I are so excited to buy our first home together and it’s something we talk about all the time, but it’s also something that we don’t need to put added pressure onto ourselves for. We are so blessed to spend every day/night together and we have two houses right now – so we feel very lucky and grateful for that. Having a holiday fund allows me to set aside money each money to pay off our upcoming holidays – I’m so excited! – then when that’s paid off, I can carry on adding money to it as we’re planning a city break to Budapest later in the year. My ‘Emergency Fund’ is a personal fund, which is to take money from as/when needed for genuine emergencies. Sadly, a Mulberry purse doesn’t count as an emergency. I have direct debits set up which automatically add money into these accounts throughout the month, then if I have anything left over at the end of the month I’ll add extra into a specific account (right now any extra pennies are reserved for our holiday fund).

Implement the thirty day rule on any splurge/impulse purchases
This is SUCH a great tip that I read/heard somewhere ages ago, and it works so well for me. I really struggled with this at the beginning of January, but I’m now set in a new habit and it’s begining to feel second nature. I use space in my planner, or sometimes in the Notes app on my phone, to write down any of the things I’m lusting over, whether it’s a new beauty product or a clothing item. In the past, if I saw something I’d quite like to buy, I’d open up my laptop and purchase without thinking about it. This is exactly what I was trying to avoid, so writing things down as a decoy to not buy them was a totally different concept to me. The whole point is to then wait (at least) thirty days before purchasing, as if after the thirty days you still want that item it’s not a silly purchase. I was making so many frivolous purchases in 2018, and I’m quite shocked that I haven’t bought one thing on my list that has passed the thirty day term. So, it really was something I lusted after in the moment, and I don’t regret not buying at all!

Thank you so much for reading! Did you find any of my points helpful, or did they reasonate with you as something you’d like to introduce into your life? What is your best tip for managing your money better?

-G x