Friday, 15 January 2021

My Personal & Business Goals For 2021

 A little later than usual, it's finally time to share my goals for 2021. Usually I set myself personal goals and blogging goals but to be honest I'm not really aiming for anything in particular with my blog this year. I'm firmly back in the 'blogging as a hobby' camp so it felt pointless doing a separate post for it. 2020 taught us that we never know what's around the corner so when we are allowed to live our lives properly again, that's exactly what I intend to do. Because of that I'm not putting myself under massive pressure with any of these though I do always find if I set myself goals, I'm always far more motivated!

Reach 150 Etsy Sales
In October 2020 I launched my own baking business Bear's Brownies and More and honestly, it's the best thing I've ever done. I am beyond proud of what I've achieved in a short space of time and so excited for where it could take me. I reached 55 sales just before closing for Christmas and my goal was 50 so I was thrilled with that and I've just had my 68th sale. I'm hoping to reach 70 by the end of January. The buzz I feel every time I get a sale notification is like no other. I don't want to get too ahead of myself so this year I'm aiming to reach 150 sales. It would be amazing to get more than that but I'm a new small business and I'm aware some months might be quieter than others. 

Reach 1000 Followers on the Bear's Brownies & More Instagram
I gave up trying to grow my following on my personal/blog Instagram a long time ago, it just seemed to stop one day and never really moved much afterwards and I'm okay with that. I'm really happy with how the Bear's Brownies and More account is going though and this year I'd love to reach 1000 followers on there. I feel so much more passionate about posting on that account and it doesn't feel like a chore which with my own account, it sometimes used to. I'm always posting photos of our delicious brownies so why not come on over and see?

Exercise Regularly
Last Summer I got into such a good routine with exercising regularly and I felt so much better in myself for it. I HATE the whole New Year diet crap that STILL comes out without fail just after Christmas from newspapers/magazines/Love Island influencers and this for me wouldn't be about that. I noticed a big improvement on my mental health and I just liked feeling a bit fitter than usual. When we went into a second lockdown and then the tier system, it hit me quite hard and I just didn't have the motivation for it like I had before. This year I really just want to get back to where I was last Summer because I felt so good.

Buy A House
This is really my/our main goal this year. I don't want to jinx anything and I think sometimes with big things like this it's better to keep as much to yourself as possible but we've started the process, we're looking and I'm hopeful. I mentioned in my 2020 goals update that I was hopeful that by Christmas 2021 I'd be writing a similar post from our new home and I still stand by that so fingers crossed.

Read 80 Books
In both 2019 and 2020 I set myself a good of reading 100 books and both years I managed it. This year I've decided to aim for 80 which is still a LOT. As always, last year I had months where I read a huge amount and months where I didn't even think of picking up a book and then when I had busy weeks baking for Bear's Brownies and More, I just didn't have the time to read one book after the other. I'm really hoping regardless of what happens with Covid (though let's hope we get some normality back soon) that 2021 will be a busy year work wise and personally in which case I don't want to aim too high with my reading goal. I might reach it, I might not but we'll see.

Have you set yourself any goals for 2021? What are you hoping to achieve?

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Monday, 11 January 2021

My Top 5 Books Of 2020

Now we are officially in a new year, it's time for me to look back on all the books I read in 2020 and pick my top 5 of the year. I set myself a goal of reading 100 books last year, just like the year before and whilst I did reach it, it took me right up until the end of December which is why I didn't end up sharing this as early as I'd have liked. I read such a variety last year from thrillers to romance, LGBT books to Young Adult, crime fiction to autobiographies, there was a LOT so it's definitely been a challenge to choose just 5 that came out on top. I've just about managed it though, these are the 5 books that stand out to me every time I think back to 2020 and ones I've felt really passionate about for a number of reasons.
collage - book covers, Normal People, The Longest Holiday, The Silent Patient, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, In Case You Missed It

1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I massively struggled to pick between the The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Normal People for the top spot this year but every time I see this book on my bookshelf, I want to re-read it. I actually won my copy of this in a giveaway at the start of the year and it sat on my shelf for months. I really did judge a book by its cover despite all of the amazing reviews I kept seeing on Instagram. I'm SO glad I eventually read it though because it's just BRILLIANT. 

As you might guess by the title, this tells the story of Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo. Evelyn recruits magazine reporter Monique to help her write her biography and in doing so she reveals the truth about the glamorous yet scandalous life she's had, even revealing one of her deepest secrets. As Evelyn's story catches up with the present, Monique realises their lives may be connected in a tragic way she could never have predicted.

This completely took me by surprise and whilst there were shocking moments throughout, it never felt like there were too many twists. It genuinely felt like this could be a real celebrity in Hollywood right now living this life. Evelyn felt so believable and real and I only liked her more and more as the book went on. It's hard to properly explain why I loved this book so much but I know it's one I'll recommend to people again and again. It's utterly captivating. I will 100% be re-reading this one day and it would make the most incredible film.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid held up in front of bookshelf

2. Normal People by Sally Rooney 

Normal People pretty much took over my life in the first lockdown. That feels so long ago now. I first read this after I'd just seen the trailer for the TV adaptation and the only thing that stopped this getting top place in this list is because I loved the show more than the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the book but the TV show, god I still think about it. And I'd be more inclined to watch the show again than to read the book so it felt fair to put this in second place.

Normal People follows Connell and Marianne in high school. He's popular, she's not. But there's an attraction there. Unable to control their feelings for one another, they get together but keep it a secret from everyone around them. Throughout the book we follow them through the highs and lows. The breakups, the makeups and everything in between. The book spans over a number of years but no matter what, their love for one another always remains, even if being together isn't as straightforward as it should be.

Sally Rooney's writing style is very different to that of any other authors that I know of so it did take some getting used to at first but I felt the chemistry between Connell and Marianne from the moment they met. It's electric and I don't know how she's managed to do that with words. It's not even like a great deal happens throughout but I fell in love with the story and the characters and by the end I just wanted to start it all over again. These characters will stick with me for a long time.
Normal People by Sally Rooney on bookshelf

3. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Surprisingly the only thriller that's made it to my top 5 books of the year. I read a LOT of thrillers in 2020 and I found myself getting really picky towards the end of the year. The Silent Patient is one I would recommend to anyone and I was on at George for months telling him he should read it!

In The Silent Patient, we meet Alicia who until 6 years ago, lived a seemingly perfect life. For reasons unknown to us, she one day shoots her husband in the head five times. Since then she hasn't said a single word. Criminal psychotherapist Theo is determined to be the one who can make her talk.

This to me just had everything you want in a psychological thriller. It was tense, had an intricate plot that never felt confusing, fascinating characters and the ending is amazing. It's a really quick read too so I got through this in a matter of hours. I wish I could re-read it not knowing what was going to happen!
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides held up in front of bookshelf

4. The Longest Holiday by Paige Toon

There had to be a book by Paige Toon on this list didn't there? My favourite author and the queen of romance. I read a few Paige Toon books in 2020 meaning I've read everything she's published so far and The Longest Holiday stands out as one of her best.

The Longest Holiday is about Laura, a character from one of Paige's older books, who has just got married. Not long afterwards, she finds out her husband Matthew has been keeping a big secret. Unable to forgive him, she is whisked off to Florida by her friends and there she meets Leo. She's not looking for a man but she can't help herself, there's an instant connection. It's not long before she's head over heels and has to decide if she takes a chance and stays with Leo or heads home to Matthew who would do anything to get her back.

If you've read any books by Paige before then you'll probably know how the story goes, all her books seem to have a similar theme, but that's why I love them so much. I know what I'm getting and sometimes you just need a cheesy romance. I loved so many of the characters in this and I thought every interaction between Laura and Leo was perfect.
The Longest Holiday by Paige Toon book cover

5. In Case You Missed It by Lindsey Kelk

This was the first book I've read by Lindsey Kelk but it won't be the last. It reminded me a lot of books by Paige Toon so within a few chapters, I knew I was going to like it. 

Ros is having a bit of a crisis. She's just moved back home after 4 years away and is in need of a job, a new flat and everything that she had in her old life. But things have moved on. She's nostalgic for the way things used to be so when her new phone begins to ping with messages from all of her old contacts, including her ex, she can't help but want to find out what she's been missing.

This just sums up what a romantic comedy is. It was so funny at times but had those heartwarming moments you want too and Ros was just a fantastic character. Every time I put it down, I wanted to pick it straight up again and that to me is a sign of a good book.
In Case You Missed It by Lindsey Kelk on bookshelf
So after much deliberation, these are my top 5 books of 2020! I honestly could have included so many more but these 5 just stand out to me as some of the best I've read over the past 12 months. I can easily see me re-reading all of them at some point and I'm sure I'll be recommending them for a long time yet.

What was your favourite book of 2020? Did you read any of these too?

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Monday, 4 January 2021

4 Self Care Tips For Winter*

AD - This post is in collaboration with Live Well Nationwide

 I don't know about you but I always feel a bit flat in January. I look forward to Christmas pretty much the whole year round so once it's over, I instantly find myself feeling a bit down. I fully expected this January to hit me hard and to be honest it has. I'm dreading more months of tiers and possible lockdowns and I just want my life back. It's hard to plan for anything right now meaning there's very little to look forward to and I'm someone who really does need that. After 2020 though, I'm determined to really ensure I'm taking care of myself this year though, physically and mentally, and I think in Winter that's even more important. Here are some of my self care tips for the colder months of the year which understandably may be more of a struggle right now.Vitamins scattered on pink background

Get Outside
As much as it's tempting to stay indoors all the time (don't worry I will be encouraging some cosy days in later) I often find regardless of the season, a long walk with Bear makes me feel so refreshed. Yes it's cold but it's a good excuse to layer up and wear your favourite cosy clothing! I find a brisk walk really clears my head which does me the world of good and while we can't do much else at the moment (like most of 2020) it almost feels like a bit of a day out. We like to head to the woods or to a park to give Bear a chance to get some energy out when we can and if there's a nice little cafe at the end to grab a hot chocolate, well it just tops the day off.

Take Your Vitamins
Vitamins can provide so many benefits all year round but it's so important in Winter to be making sure you're getting enough Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body and those nutrients are the ones we need to keep our bones, teeth and muscles healthy. There are several ways we can make sure we're getting enough Vitamin D from eating plenty of leafy green veg to getting out in the sunshine but the second option can be a bit tricky in Winter! Because of this, a handy way to ensure you're getting exactly what you need is to buy your vitamins online. Live Well Nationwide are a reliable and trusted online pharmacist who provide medication for a range of conditions and you can even get your NHS repeat prescription through them! Being able to order vitamins online is a big help for many, even more so now when people may be choosing to shield and still need vitamins and supplements that keep us feeling our best.

 There are several symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency you might recognise, from feeling unwell often (this is due to your immune system not being able to fight off bacterial and viral infections) to feeling tired more than usual and even feeling depressed. This can be due to the lack of sunlight which can also be linked to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Many people suffer with SAD in the Autumn and Winter months due to the shorter days and longer nights so it's only even more reason to really make sure we're all taking care of ourselves the best way we can. Oh, and drink lots of water! It's one simple thing that can make you feel completely rejuvenated. If you are worried you could be lacking in Vitamin D, please consult your doctor about any concerns.

Have a Cosy Day
Whilst it's good to get out and get those endorphins going, it's also pretty good to have a cosy day in. I know that's pretty much all we can do right now but to be honest the shine of a cosy Winter day inside snuggled up hasn't gone away! Stick on one of your favourite films, get the duvet, grab a cup of tea and some snacks and just chill. If I'm feeling a bit fed up, mentally drained, low, any of those things, it helps me massively.

Talk to others
It's so important if you're struggling that you let people know. 2020 was ROUGH to say the least and it's very easy right now to worry about what's to come this year too. I get it because I feel the same. Don't keep it all in, there will always be people there to listen and help and I personally find getting something off my chest, no matter how big or small, instantly makes me feel a bit lighter. If you can't be with someone in person, give them a call, send them a text, do a Zoom quiz (if you're not sick of them yet), just reach out.

Do you have any other self care tips for Winter?

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Wednesday, 30 December 2020

My Top 5 of 2020 - The Things That Got Me Through A Tough Year

 I'm not going to lie, this post is totally inspired by the Zoella team's top 5 blog post which was shared just recently but as soon as I read it, I knew I had to do something similar. 2020 has been awful, or at the least the majority of it has but I think where we can, it's important to look for the positives. This was still a year of our life and whilst I'm sure it's not one a lot of us will want to look back on often, I still think it would be nice to pick a few things that got us through. I'm going to share my favourite tv show, book, memory, hobby and album of 2020 and I'd love to know what yours were too!Doughnuts on a plate on a pink fabric background

TV Show
It's got to be Normal People. This was released during the first lockdown and honestly it was the thing that got me through those first few weeks! I've read the book too and whilst I enjoyed that, there's just something special about the TV adaptation. The casting of Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal as Marianne and Connell was just perfect in every way and the chemistry was insane. They brought the story to life in a way I don't think anyone else could have and I still think about some of the scenes. To me, Normal People just sums up that first love feeling and I think Sally Rooney has got the intensity and all the feelings that come with that spot on. I've already re-watched this since Spring and I know I'll go back to it time and time again.Normal People TV show

I'll be sharing my top 5 books of 2020 next week so I'll keep this short but my favourite book of the year has to be The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It had sat on my bookshelf for months and months but after seeing it all over Instagram at one point, I finally started it and I pretty much read it in one go. It was like a movie playing out in my head. I could picture every single little thing and the characters felt so real to me. It genuinely felt like Evelyn Hugo could be in Hollywood right now living this life. Just incredible.The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid book held up in front of the Christmas tree

Despite how crap 2020 has been, I do have some really fond memories, some from before lockdown was even a thing and some from the months where we actually got our lives back a little. One of the main things from 2020 I think about often is when we went to London for my birthday in January. We saw Les Mis and it was incredible. I miss the theatre so much and will never take it for granted again. Another memory that stands out is when we went to Oxford in September. We seemed to have a few months over Summer and Autumn where things weren't too bad and we all started to get out there a little bit again. It was the most beautiful city and I can't wait to go back as soon as we can. I think as we hadn't done anything like that for so long, it felt even more special.Les Miserables at the Sondheim Theatre

I've kind of turned my hobby of baking into a job now with Bear's Brownies and More but it's something I did a lot of in the first lockdown and the months that followed. There was so little to do so I just found myself in the kitchen all the time baking or cooking and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Who knows if without that I'd have decided to start my own business? Also I don't know if it really counts as a hobby but I became a bit obsessed with TikTok earlier this year and it's actually not even funny the amount of time I can pass just scrolling through now.Mint Aero brownies

I saw & Juliet last September in Manchester and I LOVED it more than I can put into words so ever since I've endlessly played the cast recording. I listened to it a lot in Spring and Summer, meaning it was pretty much the only thing in my Spotify wrapped but I'm still not bored of it and don't think I ever could be. It makes me miss theatre even more when I listen to it but I know that first show back which I really hope to be there for in London is going to be electric. This has definitely got me through some down days.& Juliet cast recording

I'd love to know what makes your top 5 this year! Do you have a favourite memory from 2020 despite everything?

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