Monday, 28 June 2021

A Mid Year Look At My 2021 Goals For The Year

 At the start of 2021, I set myself a few personal goals and a few business goals and like every year, in the Summer, I like to take a look at where I'm at and see if I'm sort of 'on track' to achieve everything I hoped. I definitely didn't set myself as many goals this year as I have in the past just because the last year has been hard for so many of us and who wants all that that extra pressure to achieve loads of stuff? That being said, I do find setting myself little goals really keeps me motivated so I always have a few things in mind. So, here's a mid year look at my 2021 goals for the year. I'd love to know how you're getting on with any goals you set too!

Reach 150 Etsy Sales
I went into 2021 on about 55 sales after opening my shop Bear's Brownies & More in October and I was SO proud of myself for reaching that in just a few months. When I decided to take the plunge and start up my own baking business, I had absolutely no idea how it was going to go. I fully expected I might get a few sales and then it would quickly stop but luckily that didn't happen and that's mainly due to the support I've had from the blogging community. It overwhelms me how kind people can be online who I hardly even know so if that's you and you've contributed in any way, thank you so much! As I didn't know how the shop might go this year, I decided I would aim for reaching 150 sales by the end of the year. I hit that in March! That just makes me so happy and the buzz of getting a sale never goes away. I'm hoping to reach 200 sales now but I might up it at some point if I'm feeling confident! I've definitely noticed sales slowing down a little since lockdown lifted which is understandable, I think so many small businesses are feeling it right now but I'm sure it will pick up again soon.

Reach 1000 Followers on the Bear's Brownies & More Instagram
Another business goal this year is to hit 1000 followers on the Bear's Brownies & More instagram. I'm now on about 730 followers which I'm really pleased with and I'm hopeful I'll reach my goal later in the year. Instagram can be such a pain though so I won't be too disappointed if not, sometimes it seems like you can be doing all the 'right' things and it still won't matter. If you'd like to follow us & see all of our delicious bakes, this is the link to our Insta!

Exercise Regularly
Ahh I can't say this has gone brilliantly so far this year! Last Spring/Summer I got into such a good routine with exercising and eating healthier and I felt brilliant for it when lockdown properly lifted so I really just want to get back to that. I notice a massive difference in my mental health aswell as physical health when I exercise, even if it's just something small so I'm determined to get back into something I enjoy this Summer. To be fair, we did buy a treadmill recently so I have no excuse anymore. Moving house and all of the stress leading upto that this year just got in the way of this goal and I seem to have lost all inspiration for cooking recently but there's still time.

Buy A House
That follows on nicely from my last point, we bought a house! I was very brief about this in my goals post in January as by that point we'd already had an offer accepted and knew we were in the process of buying but I didn't want to jinx anything! I knew buying a house would be stressful but I don't think I quite anticipated just how bad it would be at times. We had SO many delays, we should have been in far earlier than we were but by May we got the keys and I can't quite explain how good it felt to finally step into the house knowing it was ours. I genuinely think this is the happiest we've ever been. Bear absolutely loves it, the living room is my happy place as it's decorated how I always wanted and we have so many exciting plans for it over the next few years. So so proud of us for achieving this.

Read 80 Books
I'm not doing so well with my reading challenge for 2021 I've gotta say. I knew I wasn't likely to read as many books as I have over the last few years due to moving and also because of the shop but I've seriously slacked with it this year. I think I'm about 20 books behind schedule according to goodreads and I can't remember the last time I properly picked up a book and read for a while. I'd still love to read 80 books by the end of the year but if I don't, it really doesn't matter. I want to make sure I'm not just reading for the sake of it and rushing through everything.

So that's a little mid year look at my 2021 goals. Apart from one or two, they're going pretty well I think! I'm really excited to see where I'm at with my business by the end of the year and I also can't wait to keep making this house a home and making little changes in the coming months.

Did you set yourself any goals this year?

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Monday, 7 June 2021

What I Read In April & May

 I've ended up combining April & May's monthly reading roundups as there just wasn't enough to say for April alone, I seriously slacked with reading and for the most part I just couldn't be bothered to pick up a book. There has been a LOT going on recently and to be honest the majority of this year has been quite stressful which has definitely played a part in the lack of reading I've been doing but there was a good reason for it. We moved house! In May we FINALLY got the keys to our new home after first having our offer accepted just before Christmas so it's felt like a lifetime waiting to complete. We had so many delays so week after week I just felt stressed & of course lockdown didn't help but as soon as we got the keys, all of that just went away. I'm hoping I'll get the reading bug back now that stress has gone & Summer is on the way so I just know I'm going to be sat in the garden loads with a book while Bear plays, something I've wanted to do for so long. Anyway, now that's out of the way and hopefully explains a little why things have been a bit all over the place here, let's talk about the books I did manage to read in April and May.

Playing Nice by J.P. Delaney - ⭐⭐⭐
This is the first book I've ever read by J.P. Delaney which is surprising as his books have been recommended so many times! Playing Nice starts when Pete Riley answers his door one morning, not knowing a parent's worst nightmare is about to come true. There stands Miles Lambert, a stranger, who says that Pete's son Theo isn't actually is his son, he is the Lambert's little boy who was switched at birth. Their real son went home with Miles and his wife Lucy. For Pete and Maddie, their life is about to change forever. This was really tense just from the first chapter and I knew that no matter how nice everyone seemed, Pete and Maddie were going to end up with a fight on their hands. I didn't trust Miles from the start but I found all the characters quite complex and like they could be the one hiding something big from everyone else. For the most part I really enjoyed this but towards the end it just lost me a little. The ending was really drawn out and unrealistic.

The Stopover by T.L. Swan - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The first five star book of the month! I know books like Fifty Shades of Grey can divide opinion and I would say this is definitely along those lines so I'll keep try and keep this short and sweet but I clearly really enjoyed it! I'd seen this recommended quite a few times recently on Instagram and I was too intrigued to leave it any longer. This starts out with Emily Foster getting bumped up to first class for her flight to New York, something that never happens to a girl like her and that's where she meets Jameson. Sitting next to one another during the flight, they enjoy drinks and find they actually get on really well. Due to bad weather during the flight, they are rerouted to Boston and have the chance to spend the night together. After the best night, they go their separate ways, thinking that was all it was ever meant to be. A year later, Emily now has a job interview in New York and it turns out it's at Jameson's company. He wants to pick up where they left off but Emily has a boyfriend now. Can they resist? I'm so excited to read more from this author in future now.

The Spark by Jules Wake - ⭐⭐⭐
This is a really tricky one to rate, at times it felt like a five star, especially at the beginning but as the book went on, something changed and to be honest I don't know what. Insightful I know. The Spark is about Jess and Sam. As soon as their eyes lock at a party, there's a spark, genuine love at first sight. The issue is Sam is just out of a relationship and his ex Victoria won't back off making the honeymoon period hell. Is love at first sight enough to make this work? There was an obvious connection between Jess and Sam & I loved both characters despite their flaws & the messy way they get together because it just felt very believable. Life isn't always straightforward. At times though it was very predictable & I wish Sam had been a bit more outspoken as it often felt like Jess had to take the brunt of Victoria's pain which was a little unfair. I think if you're after something lighthearted to read this Spring, this is probably something you'd enjoy.

No One Can Change Your Life Except For You by Laura Whitmore - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I rarely read non-fiction books but Laura Whitmore's brand new book stood out to me for a few reasons. Not gonna lie the gorgeous cover sucked me in and the title but it also seemed like such a positive, uplifting read and that was something I really needed at the time. In this, Laura talks about how we can become our own heroes and create our own dreams after sharing her struggles and experiences with heartbreak, self-doubt, insecurity and more. There's lots of chat around positive affirmations, self-belief and optimism and how all of those things can benefit our lives if we let them. I'm really into manifestation and speaking positive affirmations and I truly believe it's why some things have worked out how they have over the last 6 months so this was kind of just reinforcing a lot of what I've been trying to do anyway. I loved finding out more about Laura and some of the people she looks upto and I think there was a nice balance throughout of chapters about her life aswell as tips on controlling your perspective, trying to have a more optimistic outlook and positive affirmations to use going forward. It left me really empowered to be honest and I can see myself going back to this again and again for several little snippets.

The Doctor by Nikki Sloane - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Okay I'm going to have to keep my reviews short for the next few because I don't really know what to say other than they're pure smut. Books by Nikki Sloane make Fifty Shades seem tame so that's saying something. The Doctor is the first book in a 3 part series by Nikki and it was definitely my favourite of the three. Cassidy is just home from college for the Summer when she realises her relationship with Preston is going nowhere. After deciding to end things, she realises the connection she has with his father...There's a 20 year age gap but the chemistry is real & can either of them resist? Of course not. I can see why this wouldn't be for everyone but I really enjoyed it. I read it all in about an hour!

The Pool Boy by Nikki Sloane - ⭐⭐⭐
The second in the series by Nikki Sloane and just as risque as The Doctor. Erika has just discovered her husband has been cheating on her for years with his boss and she's decides she's wasted too many years doing what is best for everyone else. She's putting herself first from now on and that means saying yes when she finds herself in a compromising situation with the twenty something pool boy. Whilst I did enjoy this and again found myself reading the whole thing super quickly, I definitely didn't find it quite as intriguing as Nikki's previous book.

The Architect by Nikki Sloane - ⭐⭐
The final book in the series and this was definitely my least favourite. I don't even know how to go about explaining the plot because it's just so crazy. It had moments which I enjoyed and it was nice that characters from previous books turned up at points but overall it was a bit too much for me.

So that's everything I've read over the last two months. I would still love to reach my reading goal of 80 books this year but I'm very behind right now so I have my doubts! I've really missed just sitting and getting properly stuck into a book these last few weeks whilst everything has been a bit mad so I'm looking forward to a bit of calm now.

What books have you read recently?

By the way, after taking much longer than I expected away from my small business to move house, I've finally re-opened the shop today! We still have 7 gorgeous brownies to choose from and we have 15% off all week too so would love it if you felt like treating yourself to a box or spreading the word!

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Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Create Your Own Signature Style With These Accessories

 This article is published in collaboration with Media Buzzer

We all know just how important accessories are when it comes to what we wear. Rather than following trends seen on social media, you can create your very own style, one that suits you down to the ground. Here is a list of must-have accessories if you want to forge your way into the fashion stakes.

Image Source: Pixabay

Range of Bangles
If you shop for silver jewellery online, you get top quality pieces at affordable prices; someone has to pay for the plush retail premises and shopping online is 15-20% cheaper. Bangles can be mixed and that could be one of your trademarks, with superb sterling silver hand-crafted bangles in a range of combinations.

Bags

Your choice of bag says a lot about you and whether a chic laptop case for business, or the backpack for hiking, choose your bags wisely. Have at least 1 designer bag for those formal events and then add to your collection whenever you are in need of a suitable bag. Search online for bag inspiration and you won't be disappointed.

Layered Necklaces

Why not be the girl that always wears an interesting selection on necklaces? Check out the many fashion websites online where you can see many stacked necklaces and chunky silver necklaces for women. There are no hard and fast rules regarding wearing multiple necklaces. It won't take you long to amass a collection of varying length necklaces if you shop for sterling silver jewellery online, and make sure the pieces are hand-crafted and carry the 92.5 stamp.

Image Source: Unsplash

Shoes
You could go sporty and wear some bright Nike or Adidas, wearing neon-coloured shoelaces of odd colours, which is guaranteed to get you noticed. Many women make a strong fashion statement with their footwear and the great thing about online shopping is the variety, which means you can easily find a pair of shoes that turn the eye.

Device Holder
Every woman of today should have their digital device at hand, with a leather smartphone and a sleek iPad case, for those occasions when you need to work. These valuable devices demand good protection. They are also great fashion accessories and with online solutions, you can order suitable device carriers.

Scarves

Image Source: Unsplash

These are ideal when the temperature is still on the low side, plus they can be worn in many ways. You could have a range of printed scarves in various colours and that would quickly become an item that people identified with you. Search online for an amazing selection of fashion scarves and shawls, which are great in the Spring and Autumn.

Once you have a firm idea of the look you are trying to create, spend some time thinking about all of the above. Slowly but surely, you can set your own signature style that will identify with you. Don't be afraid to experiment when doing this and with some feedback from a good friend, you can set your own trends.

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Monday, 5 April 2021

What I Read In March

 Anyone else think the months are flying by?! I can't quite believe we're already in April and it's time to talk about the books I read in March. It genuinely feels like a few days ago when I was talking about books from February. I can't say I'm sad that the days seem to be going by quite quickly at the moment though. I mentioned last month how much I struggled with the latest lockdown and now we're officially out of it (I think?) and better times are coming, it feels like a weight has been lifted. I'm definitely not reading at the speed I was last year just because I've been so busy with Bear's Brownies and More and generally life has been a little stressful so it just hasn't been on my radar but there's still loads of time to reach my goal for the year. In March I managed to read 5 books so here's what I thought of them!collage of book covers

My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon - ⭐⭐⭐
It had been quite a while since I'd last read a Jane Fallon book and after becoming really picky with thrillers which is one of my fave genres, I thought I'd go for something completely different and also from an author I always enjoy. My Sweet Revenge follows Paula who wants to make her husband fall back in love with her. She's discovered he's been having an affair so goes on a mission to revamp herself, so when she confronts him, he'll realise what he's lost. While this wasn't my fave book by Jane, it did give me the reading bug back a little. It was such an easy read and I loved how snappy the chapters were, nothing felt like it was dragging and there was a good twist towards the end which I didn't expect! I didn't initially like that she set out to lose weight and change herself for a man but I do think as the book goes on and she gains confidence that it does become more about her finding herself which I liked.

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ahh I really enjoyed this! I've read a few books by Mhairi McFarlane before, my favourite being You Had Me At Hello so I had just been waiting for this to be on offer on Kindle. If I Never Met You is about Laurie and Jamie, who to all of their work colleagues look madly in love. The reality is though that it's all staged. Laurie has just been dumped by Dan, her boyfriend of 18 years who she'll still have to work with & she wants revenge. Jamie is after a promotion and knows how much the bosses admire Laurie. Why not join forces? The rules are set via email, the photos are staged but over time do the feelings become real? I loved the tension between Laurie and Jamie almost instantly and whilst it might have been quite predictable how it would end, I still loved it. I felt Laurie's pain when Dan quickly moves on & she felt like a character I could really root for. I hope there's a short story follow up one day as I'd love to know what happens to Laurie and Jamie next.

The Perfect Nanny by Karen Clarke & Amanda Brittany* - ⭐⭐⭐
The first thriller of March and I really enjoyed it. The Perfect Nanny follows Sophy, a new mother whose struggling with looking after her nine month old, an overbearing mother in law and feeling like she's lost herself since becoming a mother. After bumping into Liv at a mother and baby group who offers her services as a nanny, Sophie is relieved. The thing is Liv has a secret. For years she has been convinced Sophy is responsible for her brother's death many years ago and now she's found her, she's going to make her pay. As Liv starts to work for Sophy though, has she actually got it all wrong? I have read books quite similar to this before so parts of it were quite predictable but overall it did keep me guessing throughout. I liked that we hear from both Sophy and Liv throughout and all of the characters were quite complex so I was never quite sure who to trust. I enjoyed the twists that are revealed towards the end too!

The Catch by T.M. Logan - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is the second book I've read by T.M. Logan. I read his previous book The Holiday a while ago and to be honest I wasn't that impressed so I wasn't sure if this would end up being similar. It was SO different though and for that reason so much better and it's become my second 5 star book of the year. I've been so picky with thrillers recently but this was genuinely tense, kept me guessing throughout and had some really interesting characters involved. The Catch is about Ed's quest to figure out who his daughter's fiance Ryan really is. From the moment he meets Ryan, he's suspicious and knows that something is not quite right. Everyone else thinks Ed is just being an overprotective dad so the more he digs into Ryan's past, the more he pushes everyone else away. Has Ed got it all wrong or is Ryan actually dangerous? and who will come out top in the end? This was just everything you want in a psychological thriller. As soon as you think you trust a character, the next minute something happens that completely changes your opinion. The setting of the Peak District was perfect too & I could picture everything so clearly and the writing itself just flowed perfectly. When I read The Holiday, I thought the writing was a bit clunky and I just couldn't comfortably sit and read a lot of it in one go but I could with this. A really brilliant book.

The Shape Of Us by Drew Davies - ⭐⭐
The Shape Of Us is about several different characters all going about their day in London whose lives end up colliding in ways they never expected. Daisy, rushing to work is almost knocked over by a cyclist who then asks for her number. Jojo, a woman in her sixties is desperately trying to win her husband back from his mistress. Adam lies to his housemate every day since losing his job. Dylan has an illness which means he can't leave his home, but it hasn't stopped him falling in love. These four strangers have one thing in common, they're looking for love and totally hopeless at it. But could that all change? This started off really well and I quite quickly became really invested in Daisy's story and her chapters were the ones I always ended up looking forward to. About a quarter of the way in though I felt like the pace really changed and I found it a bit of a slog to get through after that. There are so many characters throughout that it became a bit too complicated trying to keep track of who was who and how they were connected. I'm glad I finally read this as it's been on my list for a while but it didn't blow me away.

A bit of a disappointing end to the month but overall quite a good month for books! My first five star book in a while and a nice variety which kept things interesting. I'd love to know if you've read any of these books or if you have any recommendations?

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