Monday, 25 November 2013

Things to Do: Make Drinks + Indulge in Beauty Treatments + Cook Braciole

There's so many things I want to do, see and achieve. One thing I wanted to try was making my own, home-made drinks. Please check out the Dalston Cola Company for my initial inspiration, however there are more detailed recipes all over the place.
I don't particularly enjoy fizzy pop. It makes me bloated; it sorta clings to the teeth and we all know that the diet versions are practically posion. (P.S. Coke-Cola is also an evil company!) so I wanted something different.
Basically, you make a syrup (like the sort that goes into your Soda Stream) out of fruit, herbs/spices and some form of sugar - agave nectar or xylitol doesn't affect blood sugar levels as much - by cooking everything in a pan for five to ten minutes, leaving to cool, then putting into a food processor and straining through a sieve. Add chilled soda water and your done! (Mine is pink grapefruit and orange. I've also done a Lime Surprise and a pomegranite/mint combo. Yummy!)
I've also managed to cook braciole (but gone and forgotten to get a photo! D'oh!)
It's a lot easier than I thought, and - although braciole is Italian -  there are lots of other European recipes that pretty much do the same thing. I've wanted to make it since Deborah in Everybody Loves Raymond made it (and because I love Italian!)
What you do: get some stewing steak. Flatten between two sheets of cling film using a mallet/rolling pin. Cover one side of the beef with breadcrumbs and chopped fresh basil/oregano. Roll tightly (to stop the filling coming out) and tie to hold it together. In a pan, fry off onion, garlic, chopped pepper, and add some chopped tomatoes, raisins and orange zest. Season the meat and fry off in a pan. Once browned, pour the sauce over the meat and cook for twenty mins [or bake in a medium oven]. Serve with rocket salad.
And finally, FINALLY...I've had my nails done in fuschia Shellac from the lovely team at Liberties hair/nails/beauty salon. Finally! (See why I should indulge in beauty treatments more often?)
What would you like to do, see or achieve this year?

Friday, 22 November 2013

Stop Blogging Addiction. Now!

Hey there! name's Lucy Milne.
And I'm a blog post-a-holic. I used to write more posts than drink cups of tea (and that's saying something!)
I suppose it started when I watched 'Julie and Julia' and thought that if I posted every day - like Julie does in the film - I too would magically get famous, have phone calls from the New York Times and have an understanding husband called Eric.
(N.B. Julie cooks a new recipe every day from Julia Child's cookbook and writes about each for a whole year. She lives in New York and already had an understanding husband called Eric. I, on the other hand, do not).
Posting every day did very little to attract new readers. Because my posts were a) boring and b) only on my blog. Posting every day, although improving my researching and writing, did also make me very grumpy and a little psychotic. I was getting quite unhappy and having very little readership for the extra work.
It was only when I started sharing my blog that things started getting busier around here. I told my real-life friends, tweeting, creating a FB page etc and having more interesting content. I realise now that I don't have to post every damn day and that it's often better that I don't. I deleted/modified plenty of posts, or stopped myself publishing a lot of my ideas - damn, that's hard!
However, when I see my stats page light up from my (probably spamming) viewers in the Phillipines...or when my pageviews graph leaps up unexpectantly...or when a friend mentions something I've written - well, it's a pretty amazing thing. I have readers!
There is a downside.
If you too are sat staring at a screen, if you also spend ages agonising over the "perfect" post, if you feel down/unmotivated/bored you'd better STOP RIGHT THERE.
You know how rubbish it feels to have very little to do and no inspiration? Go tidy up, walk your dog, book an appointment, make love, look for a new job, have a bath, cook something, look for a car, find a class/scheme/degree you'd like to do, book a holiday, find jobs to do around the house.
You know how bored you are when actually you just want to MAKE A DIFFERENCE? Ask questions on social media, tell your real friends and family about your blog, find ways other than writing to express your views, talk to strangers, get a business card, send emails to long-lost relatives and connect with real people rather than an audience.
You know how you think about marketing/advertising and spend time looking at 'how-tos' and insider secrets? Don't bother. Get a move on with writing blog posts, talk and collaborate with other bloggers, share links and images on certain sites and be flexible on what/how much advertising you can do.
That's all your blog is, in the end - a big, sexy, ongoing advertising tool for you, your brand and your products. Stop the posting slavery and blogging addiction!

Friday, 15 November 2013

What Would You Do With £20K?

What would you do with twenty thousand pounds if you had to invest in your blog, niche or business?
What if you were given two thousand? Two hundred?
In fact, what could you do with twenty quid?

I don't believe you need to spend a fortune (although it probably helps)
I know what I would do with twenty grand, but I know I personally only have the budget of a spare twenty here and there.
I budget money as I want to spend on creative things. Eventually, I'm going to set up my business proper but I'm currently a one-woman (all singing, all dancing) band.

It isn't always all about how much money you've got. A lot of the biggest/most famous/successful [insert preferred expression] companies started with a few friends and a good idea. Need an extra pair of hands? Want to advertise, market and grab customer attention? Trying to get training, collaborators and tutorials?

Find a friend, ask around and (hopefully!) get volunteers.
I'm blagging my way with a camera, a sewing machine and a borrowed laptop and surprisingly, it's kind-of working! I'm getting by with a little help from my friends and I'm also going to try a few new things (keep your eyes peeled!) to generate some more interest.

There's no need to go hungry, homeless or be unhappy over your business, goals and dreams. It should be fun. It should be kept simple and - although you shouldn't worry TOO much about money - it should be kept to a reasonable budget, plan and timescale.

Now, how are you going to use a twenty to turn it into two hundred? What are you going to do when you make you first 20K?

Saturday, 9 November 2013

In Which I'm Completely Honest About My Blog Views

Friends! I don't like blowing my own trumpet. But I just wanted to show you something exciting:

That's over five thousand hits on my blog!

So I wanted to say a huge-a-roony massive thank you to everyone who ever checked out my blog. THANKS!
So guys and gals, can you do me a favour and give me some feedback?
What have you enjoyed reading so far?
What don't you like or think needs improvement?
And, what would you like to see more of?
You can get in touch on Facebook or Twitter or leave comments below. I'll reply to any/all comments as soon as I'm able.
Thank you again and I can't wait for your thoughts!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Rainbows and Butterflies

Goodbye Kiss by Maike Plenzke

Hello! How are you? Probably much busier than me (I'm having a Halloween party later and I'm STILL wondering what to dress up as). Anyway, it's Friday: give up working, cheer up in time for the weekend and take a gander at some nice pics and lovely links. Enjoy!

Have you ever noticed though that anything that's supposedly new and creative always has an immensely complicated description? You don't need to worry about that here - I show you things that I think are ace, whether you might call it art or a waste of money/space/time. (Just so we've got that clear!)

Firstly, if you've not eaten much today, look away now: the London Review of Sandwiches is now available as a book too. And if you're having sandwiches at work, you're going to need a lunchbox...

This is a bit late but if you haven't seen it, watch the Day of the Girl summit webcast (make sure you watch every video!) Also, this musical representation of the solar system by Luke Twyman was something else I found a while back (it sounds lovely!) 

Breakfast in Bed by Temyongsky
 Grandmas' know best and no-one cooks like granny does. Right? Talking of grandparents, my Granddad would LOVE the Yobosayo in his front room (he wishes he could give the government a piece of his mind almost every day...)

I've had a letter through the post box with a sticker for this site on the bottom. Weird. Remember these other advertising campaigns that we all saw and loved?

These photos by Timothy Archibald are of his autistic son, Eli, to make him (and the world) see his quirks as an asset. On a similar note, Art as Therapy by Alain De Bottom and John Armstrong is available now (but we already know art can be therapy. Obviously, as I wouldn't be writing this post otherwise...)

Perttu Saska has sufficiently freaked me out in time for Halloween, while this wallet is a fab idea in the run up to Christmas!

A friend sent me this. Thanks?

 News just in: spoof news story on the crapness of working in retail is funny and true to life. Also, these tips on embracing conflict are a good read for managers and team leaders - if your manager and team leader is the type to take advice...

Click here if you're a lemon (you heard me!) and visit this wonderful place if you like to eat lemon...or orange, chocolate, hazelnut, salted caramel or  strawberry - those are just a few of their ice-cream flavours!

This is what happens when craft and activists come together - pretty good, huh?

I've just discovered Buffer and found 'the origin of the eight hour workday (and why we should rethink it)' and 'If you commit to nothing, you'll be distracted by everything' both of which are pretty interesteing reads.

art for children. By Jill McDonald

"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated" - Confucius

"Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guranteed" - Eminem

If you like Ted Talks, try watching Innocent Inspires. Here's an intro:

Random - but cute! Animals getting their yearly weigh-in at London Zoo. (I like the anteater):

What wonderful things have you seen this week? What would you like to share?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

P.S. I Made This!

I've named this little guy 'Abe'.

Abe lost an eye in 1895 and has been looking for it ever since. His favourite food is toffee apples and his favourite film is Alien. He apologises in advance if he scares you on Halloween if you fall over him in the dark. (It happens.)

He's made from a scrap of black cotton and his face is yellow zig-zag thread, plus a big button eye. (If you'd like to make one yourself, sew the face on first and let everything be nice and messy if you can).

What do you think? Fancy having your own little monster for Halloween?

Friday, 25 October 2013

How Baking Saved My Life + Other Stories

Let's start with a question.

Have you ever had depression?

You have? Oh, no...
You haven't? You lucky thing.

Well, if you haven't had it, I can't really explain the debilitating bad moods. I can't explain how I think that everything is pointless, or that I'm useless, or that however hard I try I can't 'snap out of it'. I don't want to burden anyone by telling them how down I get, and I'm scared to admit how badly - physically and mentally - it affects me.

I wouldn't say I needed to see my doctor, as I can generally force myself to get up and go to work but it is hard. And struggling to get up in the mornings when only working part-time isn't a recipe for success. I have no other medical issues: crying, lethargy, negativity and apathy for more than two weeks is categorised as depression, my dears.

The first time I took action, things were...bad. Think: two dead-end, low pay jobs, painful break-up (don't ask) and friends away at uni. I remember being alone a lot of the time as I didn't want to go out, and not feeling very well as I was stressed and not eating or sleeping properly.

Luckily for me, my mum had been at a baking class and had left flour and yeast in the cupboard. I turned to harmless bread-making which - by the way, kneading is great for when you want to smack someone in the face - gave me something to focus on. You can't mess around with baking bread: flour, yeast, salt, fat and warm (not hot!) water has to be mixed just right, kneaded for a good time and left to do its magic in the oven.

I'm not suggesting you have to turn to carb-creation if you suffer consistently from bad moods. (Although you could try it if you wanted). I'm saying that it helped me as finding a recipe, buying ingredients, getting the oven mitts on and eating something scrummy was the first slightly-creative thing I'd done in ages. Nearly six months (and about twenty loaves of bread) later, I was getting a new job, making new friends and dating again, and feeling a bit more 'normal'.

Sometimes the distraction is all you need. With me, I have to be busy (preferable making things) and be surrounded by nice friends. You must go out and see people, spend time with your family, call a helpline or see a GP. All of these WILL help your mood, although sometimes people need more intense counselling or slight medication, because everyone has different needs and reactions to each method.

For the past few weeks, I've been pretty miserable. I'm sorry I haven't told you, but I've not been able to write anything (or anything I thought was worth putting out there). I've been frustrated, and unable to concentrate on sewing. Even distractions, like those I've mentioned above, haven't made getting myself up and out to work any easier.

I've felt bad, really bad again and been crying quite a lot. Then, some spices fell out of the kitchen wall cupboards - I'm so sick and tired of that happening!!! - so I took out all the flour, sugar and old cake decorating bits that're stashed in there and started baking again. And now at least I've got up this morning and wrote this thing. Anyone wanting to help motivate me and cheer me on, please get in touch.

Now, I just have to ask: cupcakes, anyone? 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

How to Pimp Your Wardrobe

Guys and girlies, how are you? My Virgo nature has taken over so tidying, organising and throwing things out (to the charity shop!) are the order of the day.

In an ideal world, we'd all only buy what we truly need: things that flatter us and are approriate for any occasion. Our thingummybobs would be well-stored, clean and go with everything. (Also, I would like heels that are comfortable all day and designer undies that are ninety-nine percent off RRP. Thank you).

Until then, we need to make the best of our space, purchases and pence. Some simple tips for you:

1. Edit

Buy what you need. Take out anything that doesn't fit (when was the last time it did?) and put aside anything that needs altering/tailoring. Things that you know you won't wear again (e.g. maternity, old work uniforms etc) need to go to the charity shop.

2. Take Stock

List or photograph the things you own so you don't make repeat purchases. Keep your outfits/seasons/colours or types together so you can find them and stay on top of organising. (It takes five minutes when you put your washing away).

3. Pretty-fy

You deserve nice things, so you need somewhere nice to put them. Think of shop displays - have matching hangers (no thin metal ones or flimsy plastic dry-cleaner ones as they don't keep clothes in good shape). Consider lighting in and around your wardrobe. Would you like painted or wall-papering the doors and shelves? etc.

4. Care

Treat items as though high end. Everything must be clean and fresh, as dirt and sweat is hard to remove the longer garments are left unwashed. Avoid moths with cedar blocks and lavender bags. Dry clean clothes (where needed) and polish shoes regularly.

5. Dye

Colours fade. If you can't bear to part with something that's fading, or for a change while you look for replacements, block/tie/dip-dying it gives a new lease of life. (And you can show off your creative crafty skills)

6. Scrimp and Splurge

Decide where you could save money and spend it on other things. Example: cheap pjs and expensive interview suits? A cheap fabric handbag to save for an expensive holiday? Remember that sometimes things are cheap for a reason and certain items (shoes, undies and winter coats) are worth paying for good quality.

7. Rotate

Not only do I mean buying a few items in bulk and rotating (say, t-shirts) but after a wash, putting clean clothes at the bottom of the pile or at the back of the wardrobe. This way, your favourites don't wear out quicker than anything else.

8. Be Loyal

It's good to experiment but also good to find a particular brand you like. That way, you can easily mix and match your outfits (and avoid that nasty I've-nothing-to-wear feeling), plus you'll know the brands sizing; returns policies etc.

9. Buy Two

Something fits perfectly? Try and get it in another colour. Items like gloves always go walkabouts so always get spares and the minute your umbrella breaks is when the rain starts. Buy another just in case.

10. Go Unisex

Honest! Ladies, steal your boyfriend's jeans, shirts (size small) and brogues. Fellas: you need leggings under your jeans in winter. Save space by sharing.

11. Decorate

You could keep jewellery and accessories outside your bedroom if it makes them easier to find and remember. Hang handbags by the door; keep rings and beads in pretty bowls or hang necklaces on wall hooks and old mannequins. Pretty, eh?

12. Space

Shelf dividers, slimline hangers and clear plastic storage boxes are amazing! Put multiple garments together as outfits on one hanger or use wall shelves and hooks to store vertically. Mind zips and other fastenings don't catch on sheer fabrics and tidy regularly to stay organised.

So after that we should all be saving time from searching, keeping clothes in good nick and always looking decently dressed. Any more hints and tips? Comments please!   

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

You Fit Right In

Hello there! How are you? 

Long time, no see - I don't suppose you've heard much from me as I've not come online particularly in the past few days. But here I am! What have you been up to?

I've been struggling somewhat with motivation (it happens far too regularly) and getting back into the groove after my holiday. It's been especially difficult at work: remembering how I'd manage my time, reminding myself on procedures and having to meet and train new staff.

However, I've also felt at odds at home and catching up with friends and family. I'm doing the same things as usual - reading my ma-hoosive book pile (see above) and making things - but I feel a bit strange. As previously mentioned, I don't have all that much in common with my family but when that feeling starts to creep into work and social life, it's a difficult feeling to get rid of.

Imposter Syndrome (have you heard of it?) is the feeling that you don't fit in. It's feeling like there's been some sort of mistake, that you've been promoted by accidental luck or that your friends pretend to like you because they're kind. It's where you put yourself down when you achieve success and passing up opportunities when you start to believe you don't deserve them. 

I'm an adult. (Well, I'm supposed to be an adult. Sometimes I've eaten cake for breakfast; skipped down the street and I consistently forget to make the bed). I know that deep down things happen to us because we choose (or allow) them to happen. There's no point in putting yourself down, pretending things are okay when they aren't and trying to copy other people to feel better. It's up to us to motivate ourselves; big up our own success and keep on smiling.

Remember, while you can always improve, it is your unique skills that win over an interviewer. It's your quirks and personality that draw like-minded people to you. It's your special talents that you need to bring to the world. 

Some people feel the need to work really hard to make their point. Others are slow and steady but still win their race. Many might be brilliant big talkers but don't really listen, while a few good peeps are like the jam holding the sandwhich together.

There's a special nook for each of us in the world and I think it's important to remember that as well as what we want to achieve. We need to have confidence in ourselves and our abilities, and grab every opportunity by the cahones. Sometimes, it's important to ask ourselves what we need to do next, what we can do to improve (and how we could maybe borrow someone else's skills and knowledge too to help us out) and other times we just need to tell ourselves we're doing Just Fine As We Are.

Enough philosophising, eh? I've got cake to eat and a bed to go make. Who's helping?

What sort of person are you? How do you keep motivating yourself? And when you succeed, do you truly celebrate?      

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Things to Do: Wear SPF + Drink Water + Knit

Friends! There are so many things I want to do, see and achieve. Seeing as I was very health-oriented when I wrote my to-do list a few weeks ago, I was thinking of things that would make me look and feel better. All that stuff has totally gone out the window!

You probably can't tell from my photo, but I've got quite bad skin. It's never been full-on-acne-scarring bad but at twenty-three I'm still getting the odd 'imperfection'. I've got quite sensitive, fair skin and if I eat too much junk, or drink too much alcohol or put the wrong product near my face, it feels like my skin is exploding.

(P.S. For anyone in the same situation: I've found that Lush's Fresh Pharmacy and Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanse & Polish are the bees knees for keeping skin relatively clear, calm and soft. Just sayin')

Look, I know clear vs. spotty skin isn't the end of the world. But even after twelve years of teenage skin, I've not given up! I've been drinking water instead of tea! And more water. And some more water...and it hasn't made the slightest bit of difference.

Seriously! After a week or two of being bored and waterlogged, I'm not looking any different. I don't feel different. The only difference is I need to spend a penny more than usual and I wouldn't call that an improvement.

I also wanted to protect my skin with SPF. It seems like a good thing: I don't die of skin cancer and I get to stay pale and interesting, even in summer. I use Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser with SPF, which is pricey but a small-ish tube has lasted a year. Again, it's hard to find a good sunscreen that doesn't make me come out in spots.


I resent having to spend time and money on SPF all year round. You only really get sunburn in summer and once I've got wrinkles I hopefully won't give a damn what I look like anymore anyway! I think 'sun damage' is getting more likely with the holes in the ozone layer - and no SPF is going to be able to sort that one out!

On the plus side, I've picked up my needles again. So my insides may dry out from a lack of water; my skin may get too much sun exposure and I probably will have bad skin forever. But I will be toasty warm come winter in my bright blue hand-knitted scarf (aren't I CLEVER?).

(And if I can keep warm once the wind, rain and snow start I will do. And I'll be very smug indeed!)