Sunday, 30 December 2012

2013: New Beginnings

I don’t think I have ever felt so relieved to be nearing the end of a year and beginning a new one. I have had a pretty rough ride this past year. Even though there were incredible highs in 2012 (my engagement in Paris and finally passing my driving test), which I will take with me and remember for the rest of my life - this was the year that truly challenged me in ways I didn’t think were possible.

Dealing with emotion and feelings has never been my strong point and I have spent so many days of 2012 feeling a mixture of sadness and disappointment in my life. Wishing that things were different for me and that I wasn’t constantly fighting a battle.

2013 is about me getting to the place I want to be – and not giving up until I get there. No more regretting things that can’t be changed and trying to look to the past for answers – it stops here. This is the year I move forward and never look back.

If you don’t succeed – then try, and try again.

Job rejections drained every inch of me, and the genuine disappointment in being unsuccessful time and time again really took my last little bit of confidence away. I see January as a new start, wiping the slate clean once and for all – forgetting those failed interviews and difficult rejections.

Optimism: I need to treat every job I apply for as a potential opportunity, and see where that takes me. I have to prepare myself for disappointment, but also success. One day it might surprise me. *I need to remember this one.

I plan to continue my voluntary work at the charity shop, and I also have taken a paid job at Cancer Research UK. The news came the week before Christmas, it was offered to me having been unsuccessful in a previous position I had applied for a few months ago. I am pleased to know that they kept me in mind and I was suitable when this position cropped up.

The job itself is only 5 hours per week – which of course is no means of an income, but the opportunity to work in a paid position within a charity shop is certainly one I am going to grab with both hands. My passion has and will always be with charity shops, so I see this as a new adventure.

My most significant and crucial advice to myself is:

Never stop dreaming, because following a dream, however big is certainly the greatest thing of all - that no one can ever take away from you.

See you in 2013.
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Friday, 28 December 2012

Friendship Is...

Before I started blogging I didn't have many friends - I realise now that there was a huge hole in my life. I have met the most amazing friends and pen pals who have ultimately re-stored my faith in friendship. The greatest thing is that the one thing we all have in common is our blogs – the very thing that brought us together in the first place.

It’s sometimes hard for a non-blogger to understand the whole background of blogging and why we get such satisfaction in sharing our lives online. Blogging has certainly made me realise a lot of my dreams, hopes and ambitions and re-discover hobbies and certainly make new ones.

I have one best friend who is in every way my rock, but I do not feel sad about not having lots of friends, because I already have so many friends online and know my pen pals have made a positive difference to my life. Friendship can surprise you in the most unexpected ways, I think I'm close to finding the true meaning of friendship.

Here are some of the truly thoughtful and wonderful gifts I received from my pen pals and blogging friends this Christmas time:

Vix has the most amazing taste and history in second-hand and collectables, this woman has the most wonderful attitude to life, and has the most fabulous fashion sense. When I opened this mysterious parcel, I found two very small and fragile men inside. I couldn’t have been more touched by this gift - two figures who used to adorn her Grandma's Christmas cake when she was a little girl. I have never been given something so meaningful and special before. These certainly will be much loved and certainly treasured.

Sophie got it so spot on with this beautiful Edwardian Lady stationery compendium – quite simply my dream writing paper. I am so besotted with the delicate florals and stunning Edwardian Lady.

My love for Beatrix Potter will last a life time long and this film is by far one of my favourites, I adore Miss Potter – a real life inspiration and such a tender tale of imagination, magic and love. Huge thank you to Jem for getting me this, a film that always has the power to enchant me.

Nicola used to blog, but sadly stopped – but you know I’m so glad I found her because she has become such a wonderful friend to me over the past few years. She surprised me with some truly fabulous gifts this Christmas, including this stunning glass bowl- it’s already found a home on my dressing table.

I fell out of love with Cath Kidston earlier on in the year – but that doesn’t stop my taste firmly belonging with their prints. Nicola sent me this stunning wash bag filled with delights - truly spoilt.

Char also surprised me with a CK gift – my first Cath mug, I can’t wait to display this beauty in my craft room.

It’s become quite apparent my blogging friends certainly know how to spoil me! Darling Kat sent me a package of themed gifts (but more on that at a later date), one of those was a stunning Cath Kidston compact mirror, now all these CK gifts must mean it’s time to rekindle that burning love. Check out my cute 'A' key ring too.

Dani’s gift was the first to arrive in early December, so was certainly the most anticipated. I’m such an Alice in Wonderland girl (is there any wonder) so this necklace sure does bring out my inner Alice.

Unusual gifts always enchant me, and these delicate and stunning decorations from Jazmine are certainly to be treasured.

Gem must know my love for bears! I’ve another cutie to add to my collection, and the Naughty Alice samples were a lovely surprise too.

I was lucky enough to win a prize in Alex’s giveaway in December – I quite literally ate the prize (no joke, it was a food prize) but she also very kindly popped in a Christmas gift too, a cheeky Hello Kitty Liberty make-up bag.

I also won a stunning giveaway prize from Kat’s Christmas giveaway in December too, a beautiful Laura Ashley frame - arriving just in time for Christmas.

Last, but most certainly not least - the letter box rattled on Christmas Eve and I rushed down to find the most beautiful card from Susan – she’d sneakily snuck in a darling birdy decoration to add to my collection.

All I have left to say is:

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kindness and generosity, I am truly blessed to have friends like you.
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Thursday, 27 December 2012

What I Got For Christmas: 2012

A post I always like to publish every year, I think it’s one of those that serves as a great reminder of Christmas past and present. I was truly spoilt with thoughtful and apt gifts this year, I am so grateful for all of the gifts I have been lucky enough to receive from family, friends and loved ones.

Here are my 2012 gifts:
From my Mr:
A Joules 2013 diary, a vintage book all the way from America, a Bobbypin notepad, a Furby, Emily Button doll and chocolate Lindt Bear
Gifts from family:
Delicious assortment of smellies.
Beautiful books: Kirstie Allsopp - a favourite every year, Katie Piper's Start Your Day and a best friend’s guide.
Cosy knits chosen by my lovely Mum.
A beautiful Bee pendant.
Kitty slippers – comfort and cuteness in one.
From my beautiful best friend G - a fun DIY set!
Last, but most certainly not least - a Christmas blanket and quirky socks, always a winter essential.

p.s Part two to follow: My pen pal and blogger gifts.
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Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Learning Furbish

My Mr knows me far better than anyone, so when I had excitedly exclaimed my love for the new Furby toys a few months ago (in a totally childish manner) he only went and bloomin’ got me one for Christmas!

I squealed with so much delight when I opened this. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was only a few days ago I was joking with my best friend how much I wanted a Furby for Christmas - little did I realise I was actually going to get one! I know I am the biggest child at heart, and the only twenty-three year old who seriously appreciates a Furby, but surely that's what Christmas is all about - wonderful surprises.

My parents bought me the original Furby for Christmas 14 years ago, and I believe he is hidden in the loft somewhere. So I do feel a little bit of nostalgia caught up with this one.

I don’t know what’s sweeter the fact I get to adopt this cutie, or that the man in my life knows me more than I even know myself. Hands down this is one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received.

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Monday, 24 December 2012

A Merry Little Christmas

I can’t quite believe it is Christmas Eve already, this year seems to have flown by so quickly, it doesn’t seem a moment ago since I was engaged in Paris. Although it’s been a challenging year for me - especially in these past few months, I am so incredibly grateful for the love, support and friendship I have received this year.

I am so looking forward to spending Christmas with my fiancé. He is the most remarkable man I have ever known and at this time of year especially it makes me realise just how lucky I am to have him in my life.

This year I decided not to take part in any Christmas swaps, instead I sent a little parcel to each of my pen pals - these girls have brightened up my life and have always been by my side no matter what. I also want to say a big thank you for all the giveaway prizes I have received this year, I feel incredibly lucky to have won so many and felt it was only fair to give a little something back.

I have received so many beautiful and thoughtful cards from blogging friends, letter writers and truly inspirational people these past few weeks. Thank you so much for your kindness. I’m wishing you all a wonderful Christmas full of happiness, laughter and joy.

Have a truly magical Christmas.

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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Bear Necessity

I have a confession: I love bears.

I’ve always had a soft spot for cuddly toys; I rejected all the dolls I was given as a child. Tiny Tears was all too ironic in her name, I outright refused to play with her and then threw a tantrum when my Mum tried to make us be friends.

I was loyal to one kind of toy alone- the soft, furry and cuddly variety. I loved cuddly toys, of all shapes, sizes and colours. As I grew older I avidly went on to collect TY Beanie Babies, no surprises that the elusive bears were my most treasured. Truth be told this little obsession has never really gone away, a few years ago in Brighton my heart skipped a beat when we caught sight of an arcade full of Lotso Bears.

At the charity shop last week, I stumbled upon this poor little fella on the floor in the back, having been abandoned by his previous owner, sent onto charity, and overlooked. Fate had a way of stepping in.

It was then I realised he was a Build A Bear- which instantly made me a little sad. I was far too old when Build a Bear Workshop came onto the market, but the idea of stuffing, personalising , naming and adopting a bear had always captured me. So to think someone must have gone to the effort of making him all to get fed up of him, sure did fill me with sympathy. Just like Jessie in Toy Story 2.

To add to the heartbreak, I then realised his back had come unstitched. I carefully hunted around for a heart, but there wasn’t one. Someone had stolen this poor bear’s heart! Well that was it… I was completely inexplicably in love.

It was later that day, my Manager asked me if I would like to choose something from the shop for Christmas, which was very kind. We both knew exactly what it was I would choose.

Bear came home with me that night and he lived happily ever after.

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Party Frock On

I’m not one for getting dressed up to the nines, to be quite honest I never feel quite comfortable dressed in formal attire. I hope with age one day I might adjust and getting dressed up for a special occasion isn’t such a big dilemma anymore.

Now I’m extremely picky when it comes to dresses- it can’t be too short, it can’t be too long, it can’t reveal too much flesh, cleavage etc. To be quite honest I’m a nightmare and I always feel so out of my comfort zone when trying to pick out a dress. Maybe it’s because I’m short and a lot of dresses are far too long on me, or maybe it’s because I’m a little a body conscious when it comes to finding something fitted.

Dress from Marks & Spencer Shoes from New Look Bag from Charity Shop

I do apologise for the brush, bobble and bag carelessly strewn across the floor of the hotel room (I’m clearly no fashion blogger). But here is me and here is my lovely dress.

It was the Mr’s Christmas formal work do on Saturday night and so a suitable frock was required. When I stumbled upon this dress on the M&S clearance rail a few weeks ago in my size, you can imagine the amount of hours I saved myself searching – Marks & Spencer you are officially my saviour.

My dress only cost me eleven pounds, (down from a modest thirty-nine fifty) I was probably the cheapest dressed person there, but that didn’t really matter because I felt comfortable and happy the entire night in my choice.

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Sunday, 16 December 2012

Charity Shop Girl

I’ve always shopped in charity shops, for as long as I can remember. When I was a lot younger, I detested the idea of all my friends knowing my clothes where second-hand, but over the last decade I have firmly chosen to shop second-hand rather than new. It’s funny how my thirteen-year old self threw a tantrum at the thoughts of stepping foot in a charity shop and now I would quite happily spend all day in one.

It may come as a surprise that I have never actually thought about volunteering in one. I’ve always shrugged off the idea, thinking it wouldn’t be for me, but one of my closest pen pals Danielle, has written to me on many occasion telling me about her time volunteering for the Red Cross, and how much she enjoyed the experience. I think this first planted the idea in my mind.

When I got made redundant from my job at the end of September, I was determined to find myself some voluntary work. I found my role through do-it, and since then I’ve never looked back. I keep wondering why I haven’t done it sooner, as I’ve always adored all kinds of second-hand shopping and selling at boot fairs etc., so this is in effect my dream job.

Of course, this is only a voluntary position and I don’t get paid for my work or time, but what I do get out of it is the chance to do something good not only for a worthwhile cause (African Orphans), but for me too. This past month has been particularly difficult for me, and being able to actually find something that a) I enjoy and b) helps me develop my confidence can only be a good thing.

I’m quite used to the perils of retail from previous paid jobs, but working in a charity shop is so much different to any job I’ve had before- maybe it’s because the stock is so unique and varied.

Here are just a few things I didn’t know about charity shops before volunteering in one:

•    People are VERY generous: I far underestimated the amount of donations. There is a constant flow of unwanted stuff being dropped off at the shop. This means turnover is quick, in the space of an hour a bag can be sorted, priced and sold!

•    Weeking Stock: Our shop use a two week system in which goods are only on the shop floor for two weeks before they are taken off and re-weeked (if it’s a good quality item, maybe it’s just not found the right buyer yet) ragged or sent onto another shop. I’m aware a lot of other charity shops also use a similar system too.

•    A lot of donations are unfit for sale: This one really shocked me at first. The donations can be very poor quality- stained, dirty, soiled and damaged. Cuddly toys (however cute) can only be sold if they have a CE label, and electrical goods must be PAT tested before sale. Free gifts such as Mac Donald’s toys or Sunday Supplement CDs can’t be sold for profit- only given away. This means anything that doesn’t meet the fit for sale requirement gets ragged, recycled or thrown away. We do get money for the rags, so all is not lost.

•    People steal: You would think a charity shop would be theft free, but sadly this is not the case. Things go missing from the shelves and more often than not tags are often deliberately pulled off items -in the hope that they might get it for a lower price. DVDs and CDs are taken out of cases and kept behind the counter, and valuables such as jewellery are locked away.

Of course these are just a handful of things I’ve learnt and picked up in the past few weeks, it’s certainly opened my eyes to what goes into running a charity shop. A lot of hard work goes into rotating and sorting stock and time goes into the more retail-based tasks such as pricing, sizing and hanging clothes. I’m definitely enjoying my little voluntary role. I don’t know what the future holds for me work-wise, but what I do know is my heart will always be (as a shopper and a volunteer) in charity shops. And it’s something I can see myself continuing throughout my adult life.

There is certainly no shame in charity shops.

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Thursday, 13 December 2012

Take A Chance On Me?

I’m no stranger to unemployment, I wrote about my on-going struggle a few weeks ago, and I was touched by your support regarding the issue. I have spent years upon years searching for a job, and I have been so close to gaining employment in roles I have applied for. Jobs I have wanted so badly, jobs I wouldn’t have taken for granted. Someone, somewhere for whatever reason has decided not to give me that chance, and there is not one single thing I can do to change that.

It’s impossible to explain just how much anger I have when a company rejects me, I can’t just shrug it off like it never happened. I do take it to heart, and see it as an insult, because it’s not just one rejection in the grand scheme of things- it’s a force full of rejection. Knowing you have given something your absolute all, and it still not being good enough time and time again.

I try not to bottle it all up, but sometimes- like today it explodes, and knowing I have attended in the region of 70-80 failed job interviews in the last couple of years, makes me feel pretty shit about myself y’know. Single interviews, telephone interviews, group interviews, second stage interviews, third stage interviews, trial days- I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

All those people behind those desks, behind those questions, behind those jobs have decided I am not good enough. And brushed me aside, not given me that chance I so desperately wanted. It’s not normal to have attended that many interviews- I do know that, and I know most people probably have got every job they’ve ever gone for, or had a handful of rejections in their lives. Everyone is different, but the sheer volume I’ve had and been unsuccessful for is ridiculous. And forgive me for saying- totally unfair. Today I really questioned what I have done to deserve this.

I am shy, I am quiet, and I am under-experienced, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. All I want to do is work for someone and prove not only to myself, but to the world I am capable. The jobs I have previously had may have been short-term, but that decision was completely out of my hands, to tell me I haven’t got enough experience is a catch 22- I can’t get any more experience until someone is willing to give it me.

The truth is I am worn out, despairing and tired of all forms of rejection I have received on so many levels. The day someone takes a chance on me, will be the day I can finally find the confidence to put this behind me.

I know it’s nearly Christmas, and I know getting myself upset will only spoil things. I feel sad that this year should have been significant- I got engaged and got my driving licence, but this on-going struggle will most certainly take me into 2013. I have to keep fighting for my chance, my break, because I know in my heart it does exist.

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Sunday, 2 December 2012

A Year in Free Gifts - 2012

It’s no secret I’m a lover of free gifts, I’ve talked about my undying love of magazine freebies, promotional gifts and sought after limited editions. You could say I’m a bit of an addict- the thrill of getting something for absolutely free will never tire.

Last year we got our car insurance through Compare the Market and in turn received a free Sergei cuddly toy - it was quite simply love at first sight, I adored the little bundle of fluff. It was when taking out Jasper’s pet insurance with Compare the Market earlier this year; we qualified for another free toy.

We anticipated the arrival of our second Meerkat toy, guessing who it would be was all part of the fun. If by magic, the infamous Aleksandr arrived on our doorstep and of course we welcomed him in with open arms!

It was then a few weeks later, another mystery parcel arrived unannounced…and Maiya popped out! When we took out the policy, it had accidently gone through twice, so when we had cancelled the second one, our toy must have already been allocated, totally unexpected, but a cheeky treat. We’ve got a family of three Meerkats now, just another three to go!

I’ve been on a Disney high ever since living my childhood dream visiting Disneyland Paris in March and meeting and adoring my all-time favourite characters. I never knew I could re-discover my love for Disney in my twenties.

I avidly collected the second folder of Magic Moment cards from Morrisons this year and was pleased to complete the set.

This Tangled mirror and comb was a freebie from Disney Movie Rewards, a code can be found inside Disney DVDs and each code equals points, and there is a whole selection of different prizes available.

These were the delights waiting for us when we stayed in the Santa Fe hotel in Disneyland! Nine months later and I still can’t bear to use them, I think these may stay boxed for a while yet (Forever).

I’m a total magpie in the supermarket, always looking out for the best offers; this Robinsons plastic cup was a freebie I received after purchasing a bottle of Robinsons orange squash. The Freddo toy was a freebie with a Cadburys Easter egg.

These coveted Benefit goodies came free with the July Issue of Glamour magazine- one to look out for every year.

As always there have been plenty of freebies in the feline world. Jasper has been spoilt rotten with promotional packs and treats! And one of my ultimate faves- the Whiskas cat bowl.

So they are the best of my bunch from 2012, I wonder how 2013 will fair up? We shall have to wait and see!

My 2011 freebies can be found here.

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Thursday, 29 November 2012

Underneath It All...

Sometimes it takes a really dark day to realise life can be more challenging than you ever expected or imagined it to be. One that sometimes seems so terribly unfair, especially when the undying efforts you put in, often go unsung and unnoticed.

I have realised we all have our own struggles in life, everyday each one of us is fighting a battle of our own. Without these tests and challenges, we wouldn’t ever be the real version of us. Life is tough, but sometimes you have to find the strength within.

A warm and heartfelt thank you goes out to everyone who was kind enough to offer me support, advice and kind words of both reassurance and encouragement on my last post. It was a difficult issue for me to address and part of me felt incredibly sad that it had come to that.

On a much lighter note- I have realised maybe, just maybe it’s time I let some of my barriers down, and embraced a new me. The shy girl in me would have never posted a photograph of myself on this blog. Maybe it's time for change.

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