Book Review: Days of Blood and Starlight

A brief warning before we start, especially for those who haven't read Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Here be spoilers. Because unfortunately there really is no way to write about this book without doing that.

I have probably gone about this the wrong way because what I should have done is blogged about Daughter of Smoke and Bone first, but I just love this series so much that I couldn't wait to tell you all about it. Basically the premise is that it follows Karou, a 17-year-old art student living in Prague who occasionally has to run some dubious-sounding errands for her adoptive father Brimstone, which involve crossing into the world of Brimstone's shop through portals dotted around the world. Karou falls in love with an angel, Akiva, who eventually reveals to her who she truly is: a chimaera named Madrigal, who was Akiva's lover in a previous life. Together they dreamed of ending the war between the angels and the chimaera, but were discovered and Madrigal was executed as a traitor. Brimstone captured Madrigal's soul as it left her body and resurrected her as Karou. At the end of the first novel, the angels have destroyed all the portals to Brimstone's world and killed the chimaera, so Karou sets off to find the one way back to her home and her people.

The first thing that struck me about Days was that it is much, much darker than Daughter - partly because it's set in the aftermath of the war between the angels and the chimaera, partly because of Karou's new role, and partly because there's a lot more emphasis on the battles and much more sinister characters coming to the fore. And yet the familiar elements are still there - beautifully drawn characters both old and new (I defy anyone not to love Karou's best friend Zuzana just a little bit), the beautiful writing - Laini Taylor has a gorgeous turn of phrase - and, at its heart, the love story between Karou and Akiva. It is laced with the betrayal of the ending of the first book but at the same time that longing for someone that goes right to the core even after they've hurt you so deeply, and it's so brilliantly realised that, despite having been lucky enough to never suffer a heartbreak like that myself, I was completely swept up in the conflict between Karou's pain and her yearning. It ends on a cliffhanger, but one coupled with a note of hope, and I couldn't have wished for better.

I really can't say much more than if you like your fantasy well paced, stylish and completely immersive, then I'd highly recommend this series. The third in the trilogy, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, is due out in April next year according to Goodreads, and frankly I cannot wait.

Days of Blood and Starlight is yours for the princely sum of £7.99 on Kindle; if you prefer a physical copy the hardback is £9.59 on Amazon though currently showing as out of stock. Or if you can wait long enough the paperback comes out on 15th August, and if I didn't already have it I'd be rushing down to Waterstones to buy it (other bookshops are available).

Coming up next in What I Read: George Eliot's Middlemarch. Which, I'll be honest, I'm a bit scared of, but I'll keep you posted.

Beauty Review: China Glaze Ahoy!

One of the advantages of job hunting is that, after you've applied for as many jobs as possible, you have time to do other things. For me, that's mostly been sorting out all the junk in our flat - at the weekend I took two bags of clothes to the charity shop and sent a huge box of toiletries to Give and Make Up, and am halfway through putting my CDs on my laptop and watching various DVDs before selling them on - and experimenting with the contents of my make-up boxes (yes, that's boxes, plural). That has of course included working my way through my stash of nail polish, and in honour of the fact that the weather actually seems to be turning, by which I mean it's warm outside, I cracked out Ahoy!, one of China Glaze's summer polishes from a couple of years back.

As you can see from the photo it's a raspberry pink polish with a slight golden shimmer. This is with three coats, plus Nails Inc base coat and Seche Vite top coat.

One of the main things I like about this polish, as I do with most China Glaze polishes and particuarly their slightly darker ones, is that it has really good coverage. As mentioned above this is three coats but I genuinely think I could have got away with one. It also applied really nicely and had a particularly nice brush - not as good as Essie's admittedly but still pretty decent. Plus unlike the similar Barry M Raspberry it doesn't mark papers, as well as having more depth.

However its main issue it that it chipped really quickly. I did this on Saturday morning and took the photo on Monday morning - it's now Tuesday and already at least five fingers have varying degrees of chips on them. To be fair I suspect this is partly due to my Seche Vite. I am fully aware that the cheese stands alone on this but I just do not like it. I don't feel it dries that quickly in comparison to other polishes and the shrinkage annoys me, so I'm giving up on it. I am currently on a 'no unncessary spending' month but as soon as it gets to July I'm throwing it away and buying a new one - have heard good things about Essie and Sally Hansen so will check those two out.

*and breathe*

Anyway, back to Ahoy!. I think it's a great polish - applies really nicely, great coverage and feels particularly appropriate to the current weather by being summery enough to add a bit of colour to the drab days. It'd make a particularly fab colour for toes on holiday teamed with a nice pair of sandals as it's one of those shades that would go with lots of stuff but still has enough impact.

You can get Ahoy! from where it's currently on sale at £5.56 for a 14ml bottle.

Company Blogging Forum

I love my blog. I like that it lets me write about things I enjoy doing, that it's somewhere that I can keep my hand in writing-wise - I'm a firm believer in Neil Gaiman's principle that to be a good writer you have to write something as often as possible - and that it gives me somewhere to express myself. I've always been someone who did my blog for me and I've never really had the desire to had advertising or sponsored posts or anything like that (though if anyone out there is reading it those wouldn't necessarily be bad things!), but as I'm hoping to build a career that somehow involves writing I'm aware that upping that online presence can't hurt. So, with that in mind, last night I went along to the Company magazine blogging forum at King's College London.

I'm a big fan of Company and really admire that they do decent, relevant journalism for young women - so many other magazines just seem to recycle the same three stories but there always seems to be something different with every issue of Company I pick up - as well as that they have really lovely, affordable fashion that I genuinely want to buy unlike some publications where I'll look at a fashion spread and all I can afford is a hairband. In the past eighteen months or so the magazine has made a big push to embrace blogging and as such there are lots of cool new ideas coming out of it, and the forum is designed to bring bloggers together as a networking tool as well as allowing key industry players to share their knowledge and tips.

I have to say I was incredibly nervous at first because I was there on my own and most people seemed to know everyone else so there was a little bit of standing around looking awkward and trying not to neck the free champagne. Plus I made the foolish mistake of thinking that as it was cold a jumper, jeans and Converse was a perfectly acceptable outfit for an event full of fashion bloggers - by the time I got there I was kicking myself for not wearing a dress. But as the evening wore on people were lovely and friendly and quite happy to talk to me, which was something I really liked; it was nice to feel included despite not having taken many steps into the blogging community before this event.

Once we got into the actual forum the format was questions from Company editor Vic to Susie Lau (aka the blogging legend that is Susie Bubble), Rhiannon at Fashion Rocks My Socks, Krista from Handpicked Media (a company that represents bloggers and other digitial content producers), Roxanne from Boohoo and Sally at Oh My Love about anything and everything to do with blogging, as well as questions from the audience. It was actually really good in that it was very much aimed at people who were starting out in the blogging world, or certainly those who hadn't got to the stage where their blogs were full-blown commercial entities, which is what I was worried it was going to be. But from the questions it seemed to be that most people were very much new to the blogging game or certainly weren't making serious money for them, so it was nice to know we were all in the same boat.

I was lucky enough to get a question answered in the Q&A, about how to keep your blog current if you're not blessed with deep pockets or companies giving you stuff for free, as that is something I have always worried puts people off about my blog in that I write about stuff that's been around for years or that you can't get any more, and I have to say the advice from the whole panel was fantastically helpful. The big takeaway for me was that it is all about content and making sure that your voice comes through, which I like to think is something I manage to do quite well (though of course please feel free to tell me differently, I'm always looking out for ways to improve!). I also got some ideas for how I might develop the blog, including a possible migration to Wordpress and a possible 'niche' for me to keep the mix of stuff I have going and turn one of the things I thought was a drawback into an asset, as well as maximising my online presence but not being too full-on. I do have an Instagram account but am now not sure how much it's worth it, as I did agree with Krista's point that it is quite annoying when people's Twitter feeds are just full of their Instagram posts (and I know I've been guilty of that with other apps in the past). Maybe Tumblr might be a better option, or indeed just sticking with Twitter as I'm not much of a picture person - the majority of my posts tend to be text-based anyway, and I actually prefer using Twitter for pictures as it means not having to open a separate link.

I should also add that we got the most amazing goody bags - I haven't fully been through it yet but there's dry shampoo (oh Batiste, how I love you), a couple of snacky treats including an amazing-looking chocolate soya milk dessert, stickers, ginger beer, leave-in conditioner, make-up remover pads, the most beautiful Temperley for Filofax organiser and a copy of the magazine. No doubt I missed something but it was so incredibly generous and there is definitely stuff in there I shall be blogging about in the future.

If you're looking to start blogging or want to know how to develop your own blog, I really cannot recommend the blogging forum highly enough. I have to admit I did initially balk a little at the price - it's £25 a pop - but for the sheer amount of advice you got, the panellists' willingness to answer even the dumbest of questions (mine, I should hasten to add), the opportunity to meet so many great bloggers and the extras, it was definitely worth it. This was their third but unfortunately I'm not sure if it's annual or twice a year; however, I shall keep a weather eye out for news of the next one and keep you posted.

Book Review: Daniel Deronda

Whilst I was travelling the thing I was most grateful for was my Kindle. Being able to take an entire library with me was a huge advantage - I read a lot of books, normally about three to four a month, and as we didn't stay in that many hostels there weren't a huge amount of book swaps available, so it was great to be able to have lots of different stuff to read and keep myself occupied on long journeys. I also wanted to use the trip to do something productive by reading lots of classic literature, especially all the things I should have read as a student *ahem* but didn't, and thankfully as a lot of those types of books are out of copyright they're now free for Kindle. Towards the end of my trip I went on a bit of a George Eliot kick, and the novel I brought home with me (and have shamefully only just finished) was Daniel Deronda.

I appreciate that it is quite an obscure book - though there was a BBC adaptation of it in 2002 which was a bit of a 'before they were famous' moment, as it was directed by Tom Hooper (yes, 'The King's Speech' Tom Hooper) and stars Hugh Dancy and Romola Garai in two of their earliest roles - so I'll give a bit of background on the plot. The titular Daniel is the ward of Sir Hugo Mallinger, a wealthy gentleman whose heir is his nephew, Henleigh Grandcourt. Gwendolen Harleth is a spirited and beautiful young woman who lives near one of the properties owned by Sir Hugo and whose path first crosses Daniel's when he buys back a necklace she had pawned to gain money for gambling due to her family's poverty. Meanwhile, upon Deronda's return to London, he saves a young Jewish woman from drowning, and despite their very different backgrounds, finds himself slowly falling for her, as Gwendolen - by now trapped in an unhappy marriage to Grandcourt - holds a candle for him.

That's my attempt to streamline what, for the first half of the book at least, is a very disjointed structure - it begins with Daniel and Gwendolen meeting in Germany, then almost goes into flashback to Gwendolen's life and the run-up to her marriage, and we don't see Daniel again until around a third of the way in. I think this was one of the things that made me initially quite impatient with the book, because it felt like it didn't really get going for a while and consequently I never really felt like I connected with any of the characters, especially Gwendolen. I'm not entirely sure whether Eliot's intention was for you to have any sympathy for her but although she does suffer in her marriage I can't help feeling that she brings it on herself, and despite her promises to Daniel to be good I never truly believed it. But then again, maybe I'm just a heartless witch. It's also not the most satisfying ending; without plot spoiling it, it seems to cut off surprisingly quickly and there also seems to be a bit of a rush towards finishing in the last quarter or so of the book, as well as a slight feeling of predictability in terms of the plot.

But I will say this: for all its disjointedness, once the book gets going, it is actually very, very involving, and I was almost disappointed when the ending came as quickly as it did. Of the two George Eliot novels I've read so far, I'll admit this is the weakest (I still have Middlemarch, Adam Bede and Silas Marner on my to-read list) but at the same time I should have known what I was getting; if you haven't read it, hopefully it's not too much of a spoiler to say The Mill on the Floss has a very similar cut-off ending. That's not to say it's bad, but more that Eliot has written better novels. I think it partly helps if you can at least partly read it as a treatise on the treatment of Jews in Victorian England rather than as a straight-up novel, but overall it's worth a read, if only to round out your Eliot knowledge if nothing else - it's the last book she wrote and I can't help feeling it ends her career on a bit of a bum note. I'm also now quite keen to dig up the TV adaptation (a quick search has revealed you can get it on DVD via Lovefilm or for £7.50 on Amazon) to see how it compares to the book.

If you fancy reading it, Daniel Deronda is free on Kindle (hurray!), or of the many paperback versions out there the cheapest is the Wordsworth Classics edition at £1.99.

Next up for What I Read: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor, the sequel to last year's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I'm already a third of the way in after a day and a half, and I absolutely adore it already. Can't wait to share my thoughts on it with you!

Red Door Cafe, Greenwich

At the risk of sounding like I'm bragging, I feel so lucky to live virtually on the doorstep of Greenwich Park and the maritime end of the borough. Getting up every morning at 6 AM to go for my morning run in the park (yes, I'm that person - more on the running another time. Let's just Zombies. Run! is awesome) is one of the highlights of my day, as are the walks along the river by the Royal Naval College or simply pottering around the awesome mix of well-stocked chain stores, quirky market stalls and fantastic independents, of which Red Door Cafe is one of the latter. I first discovered it a few weeks ago when out with a friend and we were looking for somewhere that wasn't a chain, and it drew us in with its quirky chalkboard and the promise of Monmouth coffee.

Admittedly the vintage mismatched thing is very popular right now, and it can feel incredibly contrived. Not here - just the charm of being presented with teapots perfectly sized for three cups and china that feels like it's been picked out because it's so lovely and individual rather than been bought in a job lot. I haven't had the coffee in there yet but it's Monmouth, which I'm informed is a very good blend, but the Earl Grey was fantastic. Ditto the lovely, lovely cake; I have never had a lemon drizzle cake with edible glitter in the icing before but it was an absolutely brilliant touch, as well as the amazing flavour of the cake. I am a huge fan of lemony things but it often falls into the territory of tasting too artificial, so I'm always a little wary of it. However, here it was perfect - lovely moist light sponge and the lemon was sharp without being overwhelming, offsetting the bergamot flavours in my tea wonderfully. Plus it has lovely comfy chairs and feels incredibly spacious, as well as friendly staff which is always the thing that makes me want to return to a place.

I really can't sing the praises of the Red Door highly enough - just the most wonderful, quirky little place and excellent for whiling away a Sunday afternoon. It is an absolute little gem and I'm eternally grateful to my friend for suggesting we go in there - if it wasn't for her I never would have bothered with it, but now I've found a definite favourite for my jaunts into Greenwich.

You can find Red Door Cafe, and its attached gallery and shop, at 10 Turpin Lane, SE10 9JA, squirreled away in the side entrance to Greenwich market behind Joy.

Beauty Review: Essie Tea & Crumpets

In order to mark the first nail post since coming back, I thought I'd write about the polish I wore pretty much constantly for the last half of my trip (mainly because it was the only one I actually had!), but also because it has sentimental value - it was a Christmas present from my eldest sister. The polish in question is Essie Tea & Crumpets, which the website describes as 'Impeccably proper. Quintessentially English. Get suitably attired in this subtle and frosted beige for a manicure that’s the perfect cup of tea'. I couldn't have put it better myself, other than that I think in the right light it looks more like an oyster pink.

I've blogged about Essie polishes before but once again I have to sing their praises. First off, the brushes are the best nail polish brushes I have ever come across - lovely rounded bristles that fan out beautifully at the base of the nail rather than the horrible squareness you so often get, and they hold just the right amount of polish so it's not too gloopy but equally doesn't go thin and streaky. Secondly, the polish itself has a really lovely consistency, very light and yet with fantastic coverage. I've used two coats in this picture, though I could quite easily have got away with one, and although there are some slight brush marks in the polish I'm pretty sure that's to do with the fact it's a paler colour rather than anything to do with the polish. And finally, the colour. It is a true girly classic and one of those colours that will go with everything - smart outfits for work, a pretty dress on an evening out, whatever you want, because it's such a beautiful polish. I think it's also a fantastic one if you've got a penchant for flashy rings or bracelets as it won't fight with them. Heck, I know it's not for months yet but *whispers* I'm even thinking about wearing it for my wedding.

Overall, a brilliant polish that I absolutely love - multifunctional, great texture and consistency, fantastic brush and lovely colour. I can't recommend it highly enough. Thanks, sis!

You can buy Tea & Crumpets at Boots and Superdrug for £7.99 a bottle, along with the rest of the Essie range.

TV Review: Being Human

From a TV show nobody has heard of (see my post on Criminal Minds) to one pretty much everybody has heard of: Being Human. I know, I know, I am vastly out of the loop - you've been here before right? But in between my kick of wanting to clear out my DVDs and my lack of gainful employment, I've spent the past couple of weeks working my way through the first three series of Being Human. Partly because that was the box set I had, and partly because of an issue with whether or not to carry on which will become apparent later.

In the unlikely event you've been living under a rock for the past five years, Being Human is about George and Mitchell - a werewolf and a vampire respectively - who move into a house in Bristol that's haunted by the ghost of Annie, whose ex-fiance happens to be the boys' landlord. From there, it evolves into a hybrid of a brilliantly witty situation comedy as they attempt to navigate life and love, and various rumblings in the supernatural world that threaten to bring down the trio's cosy little world and end their attempts at being 'normal', including the reappearance of vampires Mitchell has known and loved (or not), more new werewolves - there are a lot of new werewolves, in various forms - and Annie's attempts to get out of the limbo she's in and either be seen or pass over. The second series ramps it up with the emergence of a mysterious religious organisation and a truly terrifying fate for Annie, whilst the third sees our heroes move to a B&B on Barry Island. It's smart, funny, full of heart and easily the best thing to come out of BBC Three.

Now I've come to the end of series three, and I'm debating what to do next without plot spoiling this for anyone. As two of the three main characters are no longer in the shows after the first episode of series four, and frankly I've felt that in comparison to the first two the third series is not as good - don't get me wrong, it's had some moments of brilliance and I've loved that there was more put into the George/Mitchell relationship, but I just haven't had as much of an 'ohmyGodImustwatchthenextepisoderightnowjobapplicationscanwaitthankGodforboxsets' feeling as I did with the first and particularly the second series, as well as feeling like it took a lot longer to get going and possibly putting a bit too much emphasis on the comedy, at least in the earlier episodes. But equally, I've enjoyed the first two series so much that I almost feel guilty abandoning it without seeing if it gets any better.

So I'm throwing this one open. Do I stick with it for the next two series? Points in favour of this are that one of the characters I like is still in it for a bit, and I do like one of the characters introduced in the third series who then gets bumped up to being a regular. On the other hand, it just hasn't been the same since they left Bristol, and the main character who is staying was one who I always found a bit annoying (again despite some absolutely cracking story arcs). Answers on a postcard or in a comment please...

Oh, and if like me you haven't seen it but want to, the first three series are available on Amazon for £15 (series 1 to 5 is £35 for comparison), or you can rent all five on DVD from Lovefilm.

TV Review: Criminal Minds

I feel ashamed to admit this, but when I was travelling my biggest discovery wasn't a foodstuff, or a place. It wasn't even local. It was a TV programme called Criminal Minds. Hey, let's be honest here - you're in a strange country, you mightn't speak the language that well, it's only natural you're going to head back to your hostel and trawl the TV for something you can understand and that lets your brain switch off for an hour or so. And in most cases, that was some kind of crime drama, and in a lot of cases it was Criminal Minds, Castle or a CSI. (Another thing I learnt whilst travelling: there are a lot of US crime dramas that start with a C.)

If you haven't seen it - and, as it's tucked away on Sky Living, I'm willing to bet you may not have - it's a police procedural drama following the profilers at the FBI's Behavioural Analysis Unit as they hunt down America's scariest criminals. So far, so typical. But what makes it different is that it's so unpredictable; whereas a lot of these shows signpost 'this is the murderer!' before the title sequence, often with Criminal Minds you will have no idea who the killer is until the episode's almost over. The early series also use lots of whizzy effects, like greenscreening characters into an unsub's life (for the unintiated, unsub - or unknown subject - is the FBI term for a criminal they haven't yet identified) and having evidence jump out from the board as the team piece the clues together, which is pretty groundbreaking for something in this genre.

The characters are also absolutely fantastic - really well written and, for once with this type of programme, not entirely cardboard cutouts. Normally with these shows I can pick a favourite character like that - usually the lead, because they're the ones who seem to get the most character development - but with Criminal Minds I have three favourites: team leader and dad figure Aaron 'Hotch' Hotchner, geeky genius Dr Spencer Reid (if you've got a thing about nerds I defy you not to fall a little bit in love with him), and tech analyst Penelope Garcia for her wonderfully flirtatious banter with Agent Morgan and her amazingly bright outfits. I'd only seen it in dribs and drabs so two of the characters in the first series weren't in many of the episodes I watched whilst I was away, and I've had mixed reactions to them - I love Mandy Patinkin as lead profiler Jason Gideon, but am not a huge fan of Elle Greenaway who just strikes me as a bit whiny and annoying. For me, the series definitely improves following the appearances of Prentiss in season two and Rossi (Joe Mantegna, best known as the voice of Fat Tony on The Simpsons) in season three. Plus they get the most amazing guest stars - Jane Lynch (aka Glee's Sue Sylvester) as Reid's schizophrenic mother, Nicholas Brendon (Xander from Buffy) as Garcia's boyfriend - as well as several 'before they were famous' moments for the likes of Elle Fanning and lots of 'is that [insert name of famous actor]?!', usually as a brilliantly creepy unsub (side note: Criminal Minds also seems to be where True Blood did a lot of their casting). I won't name names but there are certain characters you will never look at in the same way again.

A word of warning however: it is very, very dark and there is a lot of stuff that is very much pushing the boundaries of what's acceptable to show on TV (which is probably why it's no longer on terrestrial - I think when it first started Channel 5 squirrelled it away in a late-night slot but dropped it quite early on), so if you're not someone who's OK with blood and gore then it's probably not for you. I've probably watched that many of these kind of programmes by now that I'm kind of immune to it on some level, but even I find parts of Criminal Mins seriously disturbing and definitely wouldn't watch it on my own late at night. I think that's partly why I'm a Garcia fan - she's that ray of sunshine and light relief that a show like this needs. But it is utterly brilliant, surprisingly intelligent and full of heart; you genuinely feel sympathy for these characters doing an incredibly difficult job, and by and large they're actually people you'd want to hang out with. I utterly love it and am alreay trying to eke out my box set, because I don't know what I'll do when it's all over!

The box set of Criminal Minds seasons 1 to 7 is currently available on for around £50 - previous seasons have come out in late November in the past so if you watch it over the summer and like it you can put season 8 on your Christmas list. I know I will be. You can also get all seven series on Lovefilm Instant at the moment but they're only up there until the end of July, so I'd recommend buying the box set as a backup. Or alternatively if you do have Sky Living season 8 is currently being broadcast on Tuesday nights at 9 PM (with previous episodes on Sky Go for two weeks afterwards) - they're up to episode 18 I think so it may be a little late to come to it, but from what I hear there's a pretty spectacular ending to this season...

I'm back!

I know. I am a rotten blogger - I promised you all exciting tales of my adventures going round the world and then was simply too busy to do it. But equally I missed having the blog; whilst I'm aware I'm hardly super-popular it's been nice having a place to put down my experiences and thoughts, and now I'm back on British soilI I'm hoping to yet again give it a kickstart. I wrote most days when I was away (either my journal, which has been great for recalling memories and kind of miss now, or my novel, more of which another time) and actually quite enjoyed getting into the habit, so am hoping that will give me the incentive to keep coming back to this place. I have also just booked myself a ticket to the Company magazine blogging forum to hopefully get some tips on how to improve; I expect I'll probably be the old fogey surrounded by scarily young bloggers who are far more adept at it than I, but hopefully it'll also be a great learning experience. And of course I'll do my best to blog afterwards.

I'll also be putting up a few posts from my travels under the tag of Where I Went - tips on packing, the best activities, food I loved etc - so you'll have those to look forward to, as well as trying to find ways to be productive when I'm not job-hunting. In an ideal world I'd like to do the following (and blog about it):

Get a job. Tallies so far - applications: around 15-20, interviews: 1. But it's progress, right?
Cook or bake one new thing every week
Try at least one new nail colour a week and one new beauty product a month (read: get through my stash because frankly it's ridiculous)
Watch at least one new TV show or movie a month - I can actually say I've got two blog posts on this coming up in the next week or so, so watch this space!
Read at least three books a month
Get into taking photos. I'd like to do Photo 365 if I can so will try and make a start on that this week
Complete Couch to 5K... well once my ankle has recovered (I went on my first run since coming home this morning and managed to twist it somehow, so it's pretty swollen at the moment... ouch)
Get rid of all the old clothes, CDs, DVDs, beauty products etc that are hanging around in my tiny flat and that I. Do. Not. Need. I have a huge box ready for Give and Make Up and two bags for the charity shop sitting by my front door, so by the end of this week they will hopefully be gone.

Oh, and because I have a horrible feeling I forgot to mention this at the time *oops* I've now been an engaged woman for almost a year :) Yep, the boyfriend - now fiance - of six years and I got engaged in June 2012 and I'm awaiting getting into full-on wedding planning mode from this autumn (we have a date of 1st November 2014 at a gorgeous old building in the city we met in). So there'll be the occasional post about my adventures in weddingland as well.

So... yeah. That's where I am right now, and hoping to be better. I'll check in here on the 11th of each month to let you know how I'm getting on, and will try and do weekly updates as well. Here goes nothing...