Sunday, 21 September 2014

Top 10 Inspiring Books

You might have seen this being done over at The Life of Bon or all over Facebook recently, so when I got tagged I thought I might as well put it on here as well as my Facebook page.

The tag is: 10 Books Which Have Stayed With Me Throughout My Lifetime.

Princess Diaries Bookshelf

10. [Last Chance - Sarah Dessen] I got this book for free with a magazine one summer, but loved it and still re-read now. It shows that as long as you are happy, screw what other people think. The characters are so vivid and perfectly flawed that they stay with you for a lifetime.

9. [A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini] A fairly recent one, but a book which made me exceptionally proud of Rich being away, and showed me a part of why the war in Afghanistan was necessary.

8. [Gossip Girl series - Cecily Von Ziegesar] A million times better than the TV series, Vanessa is bald and cool, and Dan is an outcast poet. Don't even get me started on the other differences. It introduced me to New York and is, along with Sex and the City, the main reason why I am so desperate to visit there one day.

7. [The Aquariums of Pyongyang - Kang Chol-Hwan and Pierre Rigoulot] An eye opening book about a North Korean concentration camp escapee. I had no idea that things like what happen in the book were still going on in this day and age, so it made me very passionate about the North Koreans plight, and very interested in any news articles about the secretive country.

6. [The Illustrated Mum - Jacqueline Wilson] My primary school headteacher knew Jacqueline Wilson, so as one of the most passionate readers in the school, I was allowed to write to her and she wrote back! We were pen-pals for a while, and at one point she sent me a copy of this book with a message in it, before it was even out in the shops. I have treasured it ever since.

5. [Outpost - Adam Baker] The most terrifying book I have ever read. It was one of the first end of the world type books that I read, and has made me very interested in life survival skills, just in case. Thank you to my Dad for lending me this book and then for making me scared to sleep for a week!

4. [Remember Me - Lesley Pearse] I love all the books by Lesley Pearse, and have reviewed one of them here, but this one is the book which stays with me most. My favourite way to learn about history is through the eyes of a normal person, and this book tells the tale of the first Australians, the prisoners from the UK. It also makes me cry every time, as I get so involved with Mary Bryant, the protagonist in the book.

3. [The Princess Diaries series - Meg Cabot] Being weird and tall with poofy hair doesn't necessarily mean you aren't a princess. Also, everyone has their place in the world, it can just take a while sometimes for you to stop being invisible and step up to the plate and become who you are supposed to be.

2. [Enid Blyton books] In particular the Magic Faraway Tree, Mallory Towers and The Wishing Chair. These were my favourite books as a child, and I would ask for new ones every chance I got. I had quite a huge collection at one point, before selling most of them at car boot sales. I regret this now, but I am clinging on to the last few I have, which I want to pass down to my children one day.

1. [Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling] Obviously. No other books have had such a profound affect on my life as these books have. I got the first one as a present when I was about 8 years old, and it took me over a year to actually read it because it had a train on the cover. It is true that you should never judge a book by its cover! I could go on for ages about these books, and I wrote about the top 10 reasons why I am the Ultimate Harry Potter Fan in my last post, if you would like to take a look.

So that's my list, what is yours? I tag anyone and everyone who is reading this to take part, and please let me know what yours are as I love finding new books to read. You never know, one of your top 10 might find its way into my top 10!

Rachel xx

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Ultimate Harry Potter Fan

As soon as I saw the tweet saying that Florida4Less were running a competition to find the Ultimate Harry Potter Fan (thanks goes to Kel from Adventures in Tea and Cake for giving me the heads up about it!) I was all over it before you could say "Hufflepuff".

I've been wanting to write a post for a very long time professing my love for Harry Potter, but have struggled to figure out a way to put it into words without me getting so excited that I cease to make sense, as this is what usually happens when I try to talk about something I'm passionate about. So here is my attempt to tell you all why I am such a ridiculous Potter fan, in the best format of all, a list!

Girl reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  1. I am basically Hermione. When I first read Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, I was 9 years old, and a complete know-it-all clever clogs with brown bushy hair who was top of the class and struggling to make friends. The Hermione of the first few books basically. I had never identified with a book character so strongly as I did with her, and I longed to have the friendship she has with Harry and Ron. As she grew up, so did I, and began to acknowledge that there may be more important things in life than grades (sorry Mum).
  2. I have dreamed several times about using a pensive. Including the exact hook behind the naval jerk that JK Rowling describes in the books. Admittedly I don't usually go anywhere as cool as Harry goes in the books, but they have been some of my favourite, and most random, dreams.

  3. I had a Harry Potter Birthday Party last year. All organised by myself, because I wanted a chance to dress up with all of my friends and pretend to be Hermione for the night, and decorate my house to be like Hogwarts. It was amazing, and one of my best birthdays ever.
  4. When I was in my initial throes of fandom, I would sit inside the library at school, devouring the books over and over again, never getting remotely bored or fed up of the story. One of my best friends at the time said that Harry Potter was crap, and we didn't speak again for 2 years. Yes, really. We did make up after that time though, when she conceded that Harry Potter wasn't so crap after all. You don't like Harry Potter? You are no friend of mine!

    Stack of three Harry Potter Books
  5. My ultimate dream in life is to visit America, more specifically, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. Being able to see so much of the films and books in person and walk through Diagon Alley, go into Honeydukes and eat at the Three Broomsticks would be a dream come true for me. I don't think I'd ever want to leave. Hopefully as a part of our honeymoon I will get to visit, and if I do, I may explode from excitement!
  6. Harry Potter clothing is my new weakness in life. It all started with the Primark tshirts, but has now spread to other tshirts, an amazing bracelet which Rich got me for my birthday, and will hopefully stretch to a phone case for Christmas (hint hint Rich!).

    Stood in front of the Knight Bus
  7. My slightly ridiculous commute to work is made a million times more bearable by listening to Stephen Fry do all the voices on the Harry Potter audio books. Listening to the books has made me notice things I never have before when reading, and it has added a new depth to my knowledge of the world of Harry Potter. I have to be careful about listening to the second half of Deathly Hallows though because it always makes me cry when all of the teachers begin to protect Hogwarts. Without fail.
  8. When I was 16, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released during my school summer holidays. The day it was released I foolishly thought I wouldn't need suncream for lying about in the park with my friends all afternoon, because I wouldn't get burnt. I did. Badly. It was such a bad sunburn that it was throbbing by the time 11pm rolled around, and attempting to cover it made it feel as though I had set fire to myself. However, nothing was going to stop me from going to the midnight launch of the new Harry Potter, so I put clothes on and queued for the book which was going to be my every waking moment for the next 24 hours. If that doesn't show dedication I don't know what does!

    Homemade Gryffindor Notice Board
  9. One of my favourite pastimes is to watch the Harry Potter movies and pick them apart, bit by bit, comparing them to the books. This drives nearly everyone else I know bonkers, but it's the fun for me. Luckily my friend Emma enjoys it almost as much as I do, so we have recently watched all of the movies as a weekly dinner date, doing exactly this, with our wands in hand. Naturally.
  10. I am getting married next year, and there will most certainly be more than a few Harry Potter elements to the day. The castle we are getting married in may possibly have been chosen due to its Hogwarts-esque vibe, and as we are getting married in winter, it will help to add to the general feel of the day. I wonder if Rich will agree to having a Harry Potter reading, and a Hedwig flying our rings to us? Hmm...

So those are my top 10 reasons why I am the Ultimate Harry Potter Fan, and if those haven't convinced you, then just mention Harry Potter to me if you meet me and I will talk your ear off some more about why I love the best 7 books in the world!

Rachel xx

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Best Goody Bag Products

I am a very very lucky blogger and have been to a lot of meetups and events this summer where I was very fortunate to receive goody bags. After rummaging through them and trying lots of the products out, I finally feel like I can share with you my amazing finds from the depths of the bags - the things I am telling everyone about.


This stuff is amazing. If you can feel a spot coming, or if it has already peeked its head out to say hello, dab this on with a cotton wool ball twice a day for a few days and the spot will completely vanish without ever needing to be popped. Every spot treatment I have had in the past will accelerate the spot to the head stage, at which point I can pop it, but this gets rid of it without ever having to be naughty! Brilliant stuff.

Navy Spotted Sunglasses

These were found in my Country Attire goody bag from #BlogYorkshire and look at how cute they are! I was in desperate need for some new sunglasses the day I got these, as my last pair decided to pop a lens out of the frame as I tried to put them on, so these were well timed and  very cool. I have received a lot of compliments about them, and I just wish that I knew what the brand was so I could tell people!

ESPA Essentials Collection

ESPA stuff
The ESPA ladies were at both the #BlogYorkshire and the #LeedsMayMeet events, but I have only recently got around to using the skincare products they gave us. All I can say is that you can really tell the difference between expensive skincare products and cheap ones! I have been a steady user of whatever face wash and moisturiser is cheapest in the supermarkets, but these products have made me realise I may need to start looking at quality skincare. The ESPA products smell amazing, I have been complimented on smelling nice by a few people after using it, and my face has never had such a glow or been so well behaved. I am a convert!

Oriflame The One Volume Blast Mascara

Oriflame The One Mascara
I have already wittered on about this enough in my August Favourites post, so I will just refer you back to that one. It is a fantastic mascara though, so go buy it!

In a blog event goody bag you can get a lot of products, but not all of them are worth recommending. I am not the sort of blogger to rave about something just because I got it for free, so although I didn't part with my own money for any of these things, I hope you realise that I do genuinely like and use these products, which is why I'm sharing them with you.

Rachel xx

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Why is Wedding Planning So Scary?

Vintage Marquee Wedding Top Table

When Rich and I got engaged last summer (read our relationship story here) I was ecstatic, I had been hoping for it to happen for months, and there was nothing I wanted more. I was blissfully happy and was telling everyone I ran into about the story and showing off my new sparkly ring. It was only when I was asked about setting a date that reality dawned. I was going to have to plan a wedding.

Now don't get me wrong, I have always loved daydreaming about my wedding day, what I would wear, what I would have and who I would share it with, however the reality of having to actually choose things and book stuff was very scary. I didn't feel grown up enough to plan viewings, and book and pay for things which were going to cost so much money and affect so many people. Don't get me wrong, I wanted to be married, I still cannot wait to be a Mrs, and be permanently linked to Rich, I just didn't want to arrange it. I wish we could afford a planner, but that luxury is far out of our price range!

Wedding Name Place Holder Rachel

Planning an elopement ran through my head, but I have a really big immediate family, so when I started counting the people who I wouldn't want to get married without, and then adding the best friends who I want to party with afterwards, there was no choice but to have the big traditional white wedding I have always dreamed of.

As I had a grace period for the planning as Rich was away, it has given me a lot more time to get used to the idea, and seeing some of our best friends get married this year has spurred me on even more. Almost as soon as Rich got back I was showing him venues online, and we have actually now set our date, booked our venue and put a deposit down on a registrar. I am really happy with our choices, but I am still convinced I am doing it all wrong and I'm going to miss something vital. Surely others feel like this though, usually you only do it the once, so everyone starts out being a bit clueless at least?

The next thing we need to book is a photographer, and as that is one of the two things which last forever (the rings being the other one) I am finding it very difficult to decide!

Do you have any wedding planning tips for me? Or links to any other bloggers who have got married and talked about the planning process? All help is welcomed!

Rachel xx

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

5 Ways to Get Ready Quicker in the Morning

As it's the beginning of September (insert cliché year going quickly comment), most people are back to work, school or uni, and that means that people will be waking up early again ready to do a hard days work. Like most of you my alarm goes off very early every weekday morning, and I have to be out of the house pretty early as well. I don't know about you, but I am definitely not at my best pre-7am, so anything I can do to make my morning routine quicker and easier is fine by me! So here are my top 5 tips of how to speed up the getting ready process.

Pouring Milk into Porridge

1. Breakfast

I am a firm believer in breakfast being the most important meal of the day, personally I don't really function until I've got some food inside me, so this is not something I am willing to forfeit for an extra 15 minutes in bed. However, to streamline the process, whilst still being healthy and nutritious, I go for porridge. Porridge is cheap, easy, filling and very yummy. To save time, I mix up my porridge last thing at night, using the following recipe:
  • 45g porridge oats
  • 8 floz of liquid. I don't like my porridge too creamy so I mix water and milk together in mine.
I mix all of those together in the bowl I will eat out of in the morning and just stick it into fridge. In the morning, I can pull the bowl out of the fridge and put it into the microwave on high for 3 minutes. Easy yummy porridge with very little thought process needed. Perfect. I stir a spoon of golden syrup into mine, and I have not gotten bored with this breakfast in two years. Proof that it is amazing. Rich likes to stir peanut butter into his, and adds a banana and raisins, but you can top it with whatever you like.

2. Lunch

On the subject of food, I always take my own packed lunch with me to work. It is healthier and cheaper than buying my food at work, and who wants to spend 5 minutes of their precious break stood in a queue? Not me. 

To save time in a morning, I always prep my lunch the night before. For some easy packed lunch ideas, click here. At the moment I am having a lot of vegetable soup because I am on WeightWatchers, so to do this, I take the soup out of the freezer at night when I make my porridge, and stick it in the fridge to begin to defrost. I leave it in my bag at work until lunchtime when it is usually perfectly defrosted, ready to microwave into comforting healthy yumminess.

3. Showering

I am a night time shower person. If your room and your bed are at the correct temperature you don't sweat whilst you sleep, so there is no need to wait and have one in the morning, taking up valuable sleeping time. It is also far to easy to daydream in the shower, so it is where precious minutes can easily be lost. Do it at night people! I also wash my hair at night and wrap it in a t shirt, so when I wake up in the morning I can take the t shirt off my now dry hair, straighten my fringe and go. So simple, so quick, so easy. 

Dresses in Wardrobe

4. Create your own uniform

Although I work for the NHS I don't have to wear a uniform. This is both a blessing and a curse. I love being able to choose what sort of thing I want to wear for work, and being able to layer up when it's cold and strip down when it's hot, but deciding on outfits wastes precious time in bed. To get around this I have created a set number of work outfits, which I can wear and know I look work appropriate in. So I don't wear the same thing too often I have about 8 dresses which I know I can wear with black tights and a cardigan when it's cold, or with cut off leggings and sandals when it's hot. These are my staple work outfits, I have a few skirt and top combinations as well, but if I don't want to think about how I look, dresses are my key things. 

Bag and Coat hanging on door

5. No surprises

In the mornings I have a routine. My routine is so ingrained into me that I can do it without thinking, which is perfect for my zombie like state. If I had other little things to do in a morning, or if I switched up my order, so much more time would be wasted. Get your routine down pat, with your bag prepped and ready to go, and your shoes and coat in the same place. If you don't have to waste time looking for things, you can get out of the door so much quicker.

So those are my top 5 things which I do to speed up my getting ready for work process. I hope this might have helped a few of you, and do let me know if you are a fellow porridge addict, there has to be some of us out there!

Rachel xx
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