Saturday, 30 August 2014

LET'S TALK: Autumn

It's beginning to feel a lot like Autumn...

After our lovely walk around Sywell, it got me thinking - I am actually really looking forward to the cooler weather - so why not share the reasons I love Autumn! I'm sure many of you will agree that it's always hard to say goodbye to Summer but the changes in fashion, foods and weather are all exciting ones.

Here's why I love Autumn:

1. Soup making - I love making soup and spend a good chunk of time throughout Autumn and Winter doing so...and Spring and Summer too actually. The exciting thing about Autumnal soup is the fact I can have Pumpkin soup every single day. Hooray!

2. The colours - reds, oranges, yellows. Love love love! One of my favourite places during this season is the Peak District. The colours are incredible.

3. Hot chocolate - specifically soya hazelnut; yes, I'm a fussy one (and with good reason). If you haven't tried this, get down to your nearest Costa - they have it spot on!

4. Crisp but sunny mornings - Opening your curtains to bright sunshine, those colours and knowing it'll be a little cool out so you can layer up - PERFECT 

5. Boots - There's something lovely about waking up in the morning, putting on a lovely outfit and heading out into the cool, crisp mornings with a thick pair of socks and some boots on. I've been on the quest for the perfect pair of brown or tan knee highs for around 5 years now and the search still continues. This Autumn I am determined. 

6. Layers - Layering up is my favourite. It can make an outfit look so much better than throwing on a summer dress with bare legs and sandels! 

7. Blankets - there is nothing better than wrapping up with a big mug of tea, a bar of chocolate, throwing over a blanket and snuggling up to watch a film. Autumn is the perfect excuse for this.

8. Crunchy leaves and long walks - I love going for walks but team that with the crunchy leaves under foot, the crisp mornings, the colours and a little bit of sunshine...absolute perfection.

9. Scented candles - berries, cinnamon - Oh, stop it! Yankee always have the best range of candles, for any time of year, but their Autumnal candles are amazing. A little pricey but they last a very long time and are worth the cost!

10. Mulled drinks - typically not coming into pubs and bars until December time, who says you can't get your mulled drinks on the go at home?! 

What are you favourite things about Autumn?


Friday, 29 August 2014

VISITED: Sywell Park

I cannot believe the weather already - it really feels like it's turning to Autumn much earlier than normal. I can't say I'm completely disappointed though; I love the Autumnal weather.

This week I had a lovely walk around Sywell. As it's mid week, it was virtually deserted so it was peaceful and a much needed visit. I must say, it was great being all wrapped up in my Barbour again - after 12 months of summer, it will be a big shock to my system to have the colder British weather but it'll make a nice change!


Thursday, 28 August 2014

COOKED: Dip & Share Chorizo Eggs

You all know by now if you read UC or if you follow me on Instagram, I love food. I especially love food served as a platter or as a sharing option (Note: tapas is my FAVOURITE as are Italian meat boards)

You will also know - breakfast/brunch are my absolute favourite meals. So you can imagine my overexcitement when I sometimes make a breakfast/brunch-esque dish and serve it up at dinner time.

Let me introduce you to dip & share eggs, something I've seen many times before and is now a go-to dish of mine if I fancy something tasty, filling and quick!

This dish is similar to Ottolenghi's Shakshuka and based on the Londoner's own Dip & Share Eggs

To serve four I used;
4 eggs
1 garlic clove
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 chorizo sausage (or Tesco do some really good four packs you can cook in the oven or grill)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon of runny honey
4 or 5 tomatoes, halved
A handful of fresh Parlsey, or mixed herbs if you don't have any
A sprinkling of crumbled feta
I served with a delicious loaf of M&S San Francisco Sourdough to dip (my Mum is yeast intolerant so Sourdough is a staple in our house)

Let's get cooking...

1. Chop your onion and throw it into the frying pan or skillet pan you will be serving the dish from. Fry on low in a little bit of oil until the onion starts to soften. 

2. Throw in your diced garlic, halved tomatoes and chopped chorizo (if uncooked) - if you're using the chorizo I suggested, pop it under the grill/in the oven and throw in towards the end

3. Add your chopped plum tomatoes and tinned tomatoes as well as your paprika, chilli flakes and honey. Make sure to add a pinch of salt and pepper too

4. You now need to reduce the heat down low and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes so the liquid can reduce down. Make sure you stir it a couple of times so nothing sticks.

5. Once the liquid has reduced, throw a handful of your chopped parsley, or a pinch of your mixed herbs. Give it a stir

6. Crack in the eggs and allow them to cook on top - they shouldn't take too long so make sure your sourdough is being toasted if you aren't serving it fresh

7. When the eggs are pretty much cooked, if you haven't added your cooked chorizo, do it now.

8. Crumble over your feta, sprinkle over the remaining parsley, sprinkle over a little cracked black pepper

DON'T forget to pop this on the table with a chopping board underneath - it will save your table.

These are pretty much my favourite thing other than avocado on sourdough (with black pepper, salt and chilli flakes, obv...)

This dish will soon become a staple in your house too. Thank me later!


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

LET'S TALK: Job Hunting and Interviews

This may seem like an odd post for UC but a very relevant one for a lot of people in a similar position.

Right now, I'm job hunting. I can't sugarcoat it - it's an effort. I don't mean to sound lazy...but it really is. Job hunting is a job within itself - I'm sure you've heard a million times. So I wanted to share a few little ways I'm going about it all. So know, I feel your pain but we all know, a little effort put in now will help us reap the benefits when we find that job.

So, lets get to it...

1. CV - 2 pages? Well mines 2 and a half already so I probably fall at the first hurdle in terms of do's and don't's. The problem is, I've done such a variety of jobs that it really is tricky to condense it. The way I have done this, however, is to have two CV's - one standard CV that has everything and one that is targeting the specific area of jobs I am search (which is marketing). My first CV, the long one, is the one I don't really send, it's more for my reference and one I can create a more condensed, more specific CV from. My 'marketing' one, we'll say to avoid confusion, is the one that has all of the relevant responsibilities and skills on it that are relevant, whilst either deleting or shortening the ones that aren't so relevant.

Head with your name, address, telephone number, email address, follow with a little opener to catch attention, jobs (most recent to first), education, other mentionable skills or achievements, hobbies (I always do this - you would be surprised how many interviews this has been brought up in over the years) and then references (if you would rather not include actual names/details, I just put 'References available upon request)

2. Cover Letter - again, I probably fall at another hurdle with this - mine is LONG. However, it includes every example of experience/skills relevant to marketing. I've also included all of my administrative experience as that is always worth a mention - every job includes some form of admin in some way. A covering letter is there to sell yourself to the potential employer or even to encourage a recruitment agency to pass forward your CV for a job role. I would say aim for a page to a page and a half or it will seem a bit of a waffle!

For mine I include these headers - qualifications and experience (which is about uni, jobs I've had with relevant responsibilities for the role I'm applying for), customer service, project management, personal experience (including blogging and freelance work) and a little summary at the end. 

3. Recruitment Agencies - I used to be very skeptical about agencies - my only other dealings with them have shown me pushy staff putting people forward for any roles just so they can get commission. Thankfully, I haven't had that experience but, if you are using agencies, make sure you stand your ground and tell them exactly what roles you want and don't be afraid to say no to anything you do not want to be put forward for. It is there job to find you suitable roles, don't feel pushed into something you know isn't or won't be right for you! Make sure you have a minimum salary in mind and also how far you are willing to commute to a potential job. I've signed up with at least 5 agencies as all of them will have different contacts, some smaller companies, some larger, so I have found it is a really good idea to help widen your job search. 

4. Reed/CV Library/Total Jobs/Prospects - sign up to all of the bigger job sites. I find Reed is probably the best one and you will probably come across the same roles posted across several of the other job sites as well. I have used all of the ones mentioned but have found I get more responses from Reed.

5. Be organised - my dad suggested this, which I initially grumbled at but it was definitely the best idea - use excel to whip up a simple spreadsheet to keep track of roles you've applied for - I used these headers: 


I have found it makes life much easier as when somebody calls me about a job, I have a slight clue what job role it could be. However, maybe marketing jobs just say 'assistant, executive, planning manager' etc. so it may not always be helpful but at least you can keep track of responses.

6. Be honest (almost!) - Recruitment agencies and employers aren't silly - they know some people will exaggerate their skills and CVS to an extent - BUT don't lie about something - ie. an internship for 12 months - they will ask for references and if they don't, they will more than likely realise when you are asked about it that it didn't happen. Same with qualifications - a lot of employers ask for certificates. Extend the truth if you must - ie. that website design you did once in school for a company as project, you actually had dealings with them further from it etc. - but never 'I designed their whole website which they still use now and want me to do it in the future'.

7. Dressing for an interview - make sure you're smart - this may seem like common sense but it's better to be a little overdressed than underdressed. I usually wear a below the knee pencil dress with smart, small heeled black wedges. I have seen some girls interview in the shortest, tightest outfits and, in my eyes, that won't come across well to whoever is interviewing you!

8. Be confident, be yourself but be smart - it really is true - the more you relax, the better you come across. In interviews, obviously be yourself in a composed and polite way but don't try and be somebody you aren't. An interview isn't just to see about your skills and experience, it is also to see what type of person you are and whether you will fit into the business. AND the same goes for you seeing what time of business and people you would be working for.

9. Prepare - IMPORTANT - when get offered an interview make sure you read up on the company, go through the job specification and pin point your experience/skills to their required ones but also think of some examples you could give them of scenarios you've had relating to what they're after. Think of around 5 questions to ask at the end - you could relate them to something you've seen on their website or social media, ask if there's travel involved with the job (if they have other sites etc) imaginative. I would suggest avoiding asking about the wage, holidays etc. 

10. Don't be disheartened if you don't hear back from applications and also, if you don't get the job - there is a lot of competition in the job market BUT you will get your chance - look at JK Rowling, she didn't get published straight away and now look at her!

11. Don't frown at temp jobs - I was adamant when I returned home from travelling I wanted to get back a find 'the job'. That's not always as easy as it sounds and it's not always a quick route. I did a 7 week temping job, which I actually really enjoyed. Recruitment agencies can usually find a temping job for those signed up with them literally within a few days. It's also a really good way to get your foot in the door to finding a permanent job, should you enjoy the company you work for. Give it a go - it's a temporary solution, regular money, another thing to add to your CV and the saying is true, it's always easier to find a job when you're in one!

This may all seem really obvious (AND really rambled), you may not take any of this on board but for those moments of panic -we al have been through this tedious job hunt BUT WE WILL GET THERE! It sometimes may not feel like it but we will. So if you get those knock backs, pick yourself up because the things you want are achieveable.

Something I always bear in mind - even if I don't get offered a job I interview for - the experience and feedback will get me closer the next time!

If any of you have any tips or are going through a similar thing at the moment let me know on here or on Twitter. I would love to hear from you!


Sunday, 24 August 2014

52 Lists // Week 34 - Child Dreams

1. To have my own riding stables
2. When I was really young, I wanted to be Fireman Sam
3. To live in Disneyland Florida
4. To swim with Dolphins (which I have since done)
5. To write books - this has been something I've wanted to do since I started Primary school
6. To be able to bake cakes all the time
7. To be artistic
8. To be able to play the piano well


Friday, 22 August 2014

LOVING: My Latest Unhealthy Obsession

I cannot stop listening to this song and I think I just needed to make a confession about it. I'm not normally one for this kind of music but seriously, there is something about Taylor Swift.

I've had a bit of a struggle today to get myself up and moving - I've had this song on repeat for about 40 minutes now and it's really kickstarted my day and totally turned my mood around (okay.. I should say afternoon rather than day, I realise it's past 3pm now)

So thanks Taylor, not only have you got me up, dressed and showered today but the message behind this song is pretty motivational in itself.

The haters gonna hate!


Sunday, 17 August 2014

52 Lists // Week 33 - See

1. A parsley plant
2. Squirrels playing in the trees outside the kitchen window
3. Millie's cookies
4. A wedding invitation
5. Kitchen utensils 
6. A beautiful picture from Italy
7. A picture board made by me for my parents with holiday photos on 


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

LET'S TALK: Mental Health - Depression and Anxiety

Today I was going to talk about CVs, job hunting, interviews – all the monotonous stuff many of us often go through - myself especially at the moment, I’m a couple of weeks off relocating and a few days off finishing my temporary position. But…talking about this today didn't feel quite right.

The last few days have been a bit strange really. I had a long weekend in Northampton, saw a load of agencies and had an interview on Monday then returned home to some terrible news.

Theodore had passed away while I had been gone. Yes, a hamster. A hamster I am very upset about losing. Any pet lovers, I’m sure, can sympathise with this. And despite his lack of cuddling and him simply being a hamster, he was my little pal. Let me explain…sometimes we find light in the darkest of places – for me, that light was found in the form of a little fluffy rodent.

Yesterday, we all heard of the terrible news of a man we had grown up laughing along with...And a man that the world had lost for one of the most upsetting reasons.

Now, it may seem like everybody is talking about this and jumping on the bandwagon at the moment with the topic – but talking about mental illness can only be a good thing.

Many think that everybody writing, tweeting, Instagram-ing yesterday’s events, even blogging about them is just because somebody famous has passed away – my point is, it shouldn't take somebody in the limelight ending their life to bring to everybody’s attention the severity and realisation that mental illness is a big deal – it affects 1 in 4, cancer affects 1 in 3 – that’s very close odds, don’t you think?

Let me make clear – this is not about page views – this is about awareness and increasing the support and help available to people. The only two people that have read this prior to posting on UC are my best friend Caitlin and my Mum; Caitlin is a newly qualified nurse (PROUD FRIEND!) and very supportive of what I’m about to share. My Mum, although very supportive, is afraid it is too personal for me to post on my blog. I fully agree with my Mum, it may be way too personal but it’s honest, it’s relevant and it’s nothing I am afraid to admit or to talk about.

As somebody that has suffered from depression and anxiety, it is an issue very close to my heart. And until recent years, was one I found very difficult to talk about. I’m very lucky in the lifestyle I have had, the upbringing I've received and the supportive nature of my parents. But, especially for my dad, depression was just something that initially could not be understood. And I really feel like that’s something a lot of people can relate to. People will ask ‘what have you got to be fed up about?’ – well actually, probably not a lot but I am but it’s not something I can just snap out of. It’s like trying to flick on a light switch that’s just got stuck somewhere between the dark and the light.

I don’t want people to misinterpret what I am saying – I don’t want people thinking ‘oh, look at her, publicly confessing’ – it isn't like that. But when I was feeling at my lowest, I felt like nobody would understand, nobody would help and I didn't really understand what was wrong with me. This feeling of detachment, I suppose, was something I had felt for many years. It wasn't until University that it really occurred to me that it could be something more. Detachment was something I felt, even in myself. I felt like an empty shell. My first year you would expect. But it wasn't until towards the end of my second year I actually acknowledged it – I had to cut down on my drinking and I went to visit my doctor. 

There are different levels of depression and all sorts of things can factor into it. I read an article on the Guardian online yesterday that I feel really outlines some of this and others opinions about mental illness. Please have a read, if you are one of the skeptical ones, give it a chance to help you see a little differently.

Each year there is a mental health awareness week – a fantastic idea, but it should not be brought to light just once a week for 7 days a year. I understand many organisations are in place to raise awareness, support sufferers etc. but I really believe these need to be brought to public attention in a much bigger way. This morning on BBC news, a spokeswoman from Time for a Change came in to talk about the organisation, in light of recent events and in an odd way, it felt quite comforting to hear it being spoken about on National News. I felt proud of this woman for being there, being honest (she had suffered 12 years ago) and taking action to help others.

I think one of the most realistic ways to start trying to take action, is to help the cynical start to understand the issue – that there isn't necessarily a solid reason for the way somebody feels, that it can affect anyone and the signs to help them see if somebody close to them is suffering. Now, everybody is different but often, there are some signs to show an inkling that something isn't quite right.

For me, it was my sleeping pattern and lack of interest in anything that used to make me happy. I barely slept, meaning I was tired all the time…all I would want to do is stay in bed all day, I didn't want to see my friends, I didn't want to speak to anybody. I just wanted to lay there, in silence, with my eyes shut and a numb mind. Unfortunately, my mind was never numb or logical – it was, and still sometimes is, irrational. It overthinks, it creates hypothetical situations. It’s sometimes not a very nice place to be.

Other things affected are appetite, lack of it usually, mood swings (I could go from calm, to emotional, to full of anger in a matter of minutes). It is a very lonely place to be. It was only really early last year that I took complete control over the situation.

At the time I was living with my ex, we were both unhappy. I sometimes think I didn't give him enough credit with the situation he had to put up with but also, I feel he was a person who didn't fully understand…but that’s a different story. I decided that, it was best to part ways, move home…and book a one way flight to Bangkok, apply for an Australian visa and completely come off anti-depressants. I’m not saying to do this, but it was the best thing I could have done for myself. It allowed me some time to heal, refocus and meet people that really opened my eye to the world and who understood things in a completely different way.

Sometimes it takes something big to make you seek help, unfortunately for people like Robin Williams, he tried and it just couldn't help him. Sometimes it takes something small, like one morning you wake up and just think ‘I can’t feel like this anymore’, somewhere inside some bravery peaks up and thinks, ‘let’s do this’. I suppose that’s what did it for me really, in my twenties, I didn't want to spend the next 60 years feeling this way. I didn't want to get old and think ‘I should have done that’ but didn't because I couldn't’ drag myself out of bed.

Several people helped me along the way – a work colleague, my parents, my friend Emily (who got me through final year!) and Theodore, my little fluffy friend who I've just lost. It’s strange in a sense, something so small can change something so big. On the bad days, I made sure he was fed, had water and, as he has a skin allergy, had to have ointment daily. Having that little thing to look after was enough to get me up and moving about. 

Your focus just needs to shift a little. You need to have a rethink, do a bit of exercise – yoga has helped me massively, as has writing. I've said in posts before that my blog has changed shape over the two years of writing it – it’s become more honest, that’s the main difference. I’m not afraid to admit I have suffered with things, and still do. It is not something to shy away from, be embarrassed about – it’s not a matter of being down in the dumps, it’s serious but it’s also manageable, given the right support.

So I urge anybody suffering in silence, to help themselves by seeking some advice and some support.

And where I can, I’m going to contribute to helping. The best advice often comes from people that have been through the same or similar experiences.
Take comfort in knowing that it’s ‘a thing’ – you aren't alone, there are ways out.

For some reading this, who may have known me for years, this may come as a surprise. Or it may not.

But it’s often much easier to plaster on a fake smile and a ‘yeah, I’m great’ attitude to hide what’s going on. Thankfully I realised that admitting to myself I wasn't okay was not weak, it wasn't pathetic – it was brave and it was a good thing because now I suppose I’m finally starting to become somebody I’m happy to be. I still have a long way to go…but I’m going, and that’s the important thing.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

52 Lits // Week 32 - Teenager

Can you believe it's list 32 already?! Madness!

1. Some friendships just aren't worth clinging on to - I think that's something you really learn more and more in your 20's - sometimes you just have to cut your losses.

2. That what everybody posts online isn't always a true reflection of their happiness - unless somebody is a complete attention seeker then they aren't going to post about their bad days, are they? 

3. Similar to the above, but don't compare where you are to where somebody else is. Everybody's lives move at different stages, everybody does different things.

4. Trying to impress people really isn't worth it - you impress people more by being yourself, not trying to conform to the latest trends or to other people's expectations of you. Do what you want to do.

5. Relationships should not consume your life. As girls (and even boys) make mistakes - we think a new boyfriend/girlfriend is the best thing since sliced bread...until it isn't. Don't stress out too much over it, if it's not working, don't necessarily try and fix it - be young and enjoy yourself.

6. That the stresses as a teen are so minor in comparison to the stresses you face when you're older - obviously at that age I wouldn't have known any different, but I wish sometimes I hadn't been such a worrier

7. You have to ride out the bad times and take advantage of the good. Nobody's life is straight forward - things will always get better, even if it doesn't seem like it at the time!

8. You don't have to drink excessively to enjoy yourself - god I wish I had realised this as a teenager.

9. Nobody likes their body - eat healthily, exercise, get plenty of sleep and take your make up off at night - it will catch up on you if not. Embrace what you have!


Saturday, 2 August 2014

ATE AT: Les Olives Tapas Bar, Northampton

I haven't really said a great deal until now, purely because I don't like to jinx things BUT I am soon to be moving to Northampton. Me being me - I am already hunting for the best places to tickle my taste buds.

Thursday night was date night, so let me introduce you to Les Olives.
Source: Les Olives 

I LOVE Tapas. It's probably one of my favourite food related things.
Les Olives didn't disappoint.

We started off with a cheeky San Miguel - it was a very hot evening and this went down a treat.

Scouring the menu - sectioned into Starters, Meat, Fish, Vegetarian - we picked two from each main section.

Aoili and bread to start - delicious (not pictured as we ate it too quickly! I really need to stop being so greedy and take some proper pictures for you guys!)

From Top Left to Bottom Right;
Gambas Les Olives - Pan fried tiger prawns with hot paprika, garlic, rosemary & roasted cherry tomatoes
Salteado de Pez Espada con Tomantinos - Swordfish with roasted tomatoes, coriander, garlic & butter
Morcilla Les Olives - Chorizo with chargrilled red peppers, green beans and red onions
Parrillada de Calabazas -Courgette and butternut squash with oregano, goats cheese and garlic oil
Pato con Albaricoque - Duck breast marinated with sage & garlic, pan fried with plums, red currant and honey
Cuscus con Eneldo - Couscous with red onions, cucumber, olives, dill & feta cheese

Honest opinion? The meat and fish dishes were beautiful - especially the chorizo (always a favourite of mine) and the duck. The flavours of the duck with the plum, garlic and currant were perfect.

The couscous and the courgette/squash - disappointing. The couscous didn't have a good flavour and although the courgette and squash was fairly tasty, it was still a little bland and, in my opinion, a bit of a poor choice on an otherwise lovely tapas menu.

The service was fantastic and the atmosphere too - a singer and Spanish guitarist played throughout the duration of our meal providing a really authentic and relaxed vibe to the place.

I would definitely recommend the place and had it not been for the poor veggie choices, the meal would have been absolutely perfect. Next time, stick to the traditional tapas!

A little advise - we have been trying to get in for the past three or four weeks and had to resort to going on a Thursday evening - if you're going, make sure you book in advance!