Wednesday, 25 September 2013

HOLIDAYS: THE GOOD AND THE BAD . . .

So I'm off to Majorca on Saturday. This mostly has good points but let's face it, we all have to take the rough with the smooth. For every amazing thing about this, there is a not so great thing to balance it out. Let me elaborate.


THE GOOD: I will be off work after Friday until the 8th October.
THE BAD: I always end up stressed the last couple of days trying to make sure I have all my loose ends tied up admin wise and have handed off all my outstanding work to everyone else. And I only do an admin job... how does someone in an actual high-power career cope with going on holiday???


THE GOOD: I get to buy loads of new stuff for going on holiday (or mainly second hand in my case) using the "I need to buy loads of new stuff for going on holiday" excuse. (That's a thing, right?)
THE BAD: I got paid less than two weeks ago and I'm now pretty skint. And that was despite having about 200 pounds extra in overtime in my last wage. Also, this "new stuff" that I need to buy isn't always enjoyable. Do I REALLY want to spend money on adaptors, padlocks, beach towels etc that I only use once, twice (or on that one year - 2008 - FIVE) times a year? Not particularly.


THE GOOD: Going on holiday after summer is good because, since my last holiday was in April, I have been envious of everyone going on holiday over the summer and now I get to have my revenge and rub it in.
THE BAD: I'm going to Majorca, where the weather can be unpredictable out of season. (The weather forecasts are at the moment looking surprisingly fab, but I trust the weather about as much as I trust men, so that doesn't say much.) And trying to buy summer stuff out of season is actually virtually impossible. Boots didn't even HAVE suncream in earlier when I went in. When I followed the overhead sign that said "Holiday shop" I ended up in aisles full of  (you guessed it) Christmas presents!


THE GOOD: The airport is pretty much the only place (apart from maybe the ferry to Belfast) where it's socially acceptable to drink booze at any time of the day.
THE BAD: Long check-in queues, the trauma of going through security, and the stress of getting your luggage at the other end nearly cancel out the good part of the airport. Wait... I said NEARLY!


THE GOOD: I was using the holiday as a motivation to get a bikini body.
THE BAD: It hasn't worked. I have actually been pretty good diet-wise, and even went off all booze for the first 11 days of September, but then I had a busy week last week and all my good work was undone in one fell swoop of nights out.


THE GOOD: I won't need to worry about making my own food for a week as I'm with my mum and I think we're going half-board.
THE BAD: My intentions are always to stick to low-carb options at mealtimes - after all, there's always loads of meat in these buffet type half board deals. Then I see chips (at dinner) and churros (at breakfast) and I fall to bits. And THEN we usually end up having some sort of snack at lunchtime which usually involves chunks of bread and some sort of cheese and pate, usually accompanied by sangria so . . . well the good intentions that fell by the wayside by this point have been well and truly left behind in the distance.


So you see? That being said.... the good points FAR outweigh the bad points and I don't want anyone to think I'm an ungrateful fucker because there are so many good things to celebrate other than the aforementioned...

  • The weather, while unpredictable, will undoubtedly be nicer than it is here.
  • I get to spend loads of quality time with my fabulous mum.
  • I'll get to laze around and read loads, whether the weather is nice or not.
  • I get to be in a different setting for a week, when the last time I was out of the country was for work in London which was over three months ago now. The change of scenery will do me good.
  • I'll be near the sea.
And, most importantly of all . . .

  • THE ALCOHOL IS CHEAPER!!!


What are your favourite/least favourite things about going on holiday???

Monday, 23 September 2013

FAVOURITE BOOKS OF 2013 . . . SO FAR!

(Disclaimer: these books might not necessarily have been published in 2013, but they're books I read then. So... there!)

So I read a lot. But it's been slow-going this year. In part, as I mentioned yesterday, this has probably been down to get used to reading off a kindle. Also, it's just been a bit of a MAD year what with moving flat. But I've managed to read some great books all the same. So let's get down to it . . .

The First Last Kiss - Ali Harris
I LOVED Ali Harris' first book, and so when I was heading to Lanzarote earlier this year (and wanted to take a couple of ACTUAL books so that my sister had something to read too - she doesn't have a kindle), I picked this one up. I LOVED it, although, be warned, it is a REAL tear jerker. Me and my sister both cried A LOT when we read it.

The Tsunami Countdown - Boyd Morrison
This is SOOO not my normal kind of book, but I have a weird obsession with tsunamis, and one Saturday night I bought this online, got pissed on cava and spent the ENTIRE NIGHT reading it. Just utterly gripped. It's a thriller about a tsunami striking in Hawaii, and it is a rollercoaster of a read.

SUNLOUNGER - the Ultimate Beach Read - Belinda Jones and others
This is a compilation of short stories set in various locations over the world and would have been the perfect beach read.... however I couldn't WAIT to read it and mostly read it in my bath in Glasgow. It took me a good month or so to get through because there are a LOT of stories in there, and from most of my favourite authors!

Brooklyn Girls: Pia - Gemma Burgess
I love Gemma's books and she's now released a series about a group of twenty something girls living in New York. This Brooklyn Girls novel features Pia, a girl who doesn't really know what she's doing with her life... so she ends up starting a food truck business. As expected, I loved this book and can't wait for her next one.

About a Girl - Lindsay Kelk
Another author I love, a standalone (well, technically it has a sequel but it isn't part of the "I Heart" series) novel about Tess, who after losing her job and sleeping with her best male friend, decides on a whim to pretend to be her bitchy flatmate and pose as her on a photoshoot in Hawaii... with hilarious results!

The Debt & the Doormat - Laura Barnard
I got this book for either ridiculously cheap, or free, on my Kindle, and I have to say I loved it. It had a sexy hero, sexual tension that jumped off the "page", and many laugh-out-loud moments. It was great, I was sad when it was over, and the only bit I'm confused about was why there were a couple of lines taken completely out of the dialogue of "Friends" (as a massive fan I recognised that straight away!). Otherwise an ace book.

Kept - Elle Field
Elle is a friend of mine who blogs here - we originally met through blogging/twitter but are now real life friends although she lives in London so I don't get to see her very often. But I've obviously been following her progress for YEARS and she now has a book out - Kept! It's fab and you should read it.

If You Lived Here, You'd Be Perfect By Now: The Unofficial Guide to Sweet Valley High - Robyn Hardwick
If you, like me, liked the Sweet Valley High books when you were younger, you will love this unofficial guide to the books. I think it's absolutely brilliant and you'll look at the characters in a whole new light.... especially the Wakefield Twins. (I also actually get a thank you in this book as I helped to fund it. But I'm in no way biased.... and get no royalties from recommending it!)


As I am off to Majorca in less than a week, I am already filling my Kindle up with new books (and will probably take a couple of physical books too just in case something happens to my precious e-reader...) so if you have any recommendations please let me know. And if you have read any of the above books, I'd love to know your opinion on them! ;-)

Sunday, 22 September 2013

KINDLES . . . FRIEND OR FOE???

About a year ago, I gave in and finally bought a Kindle, . It was one of those things that I didn't really want to do.... I love love LOVE real books. I used to order a box of books off one of those book clubs pretty much every month and the delight I got when opening the box and looking at the covers and reading the blurbs etc was actually a TEENY bit pathetic. But hey-ho!

So the Kindle. Yes. It has taken me a while but I've finally came around to liking it. Considering I can easily read 10 books on holiday, it's a space-saver, - it is also easier to handle while sunbathing than a book. You can still read it in the bath - if you're careful obviously! And, while I resent having to pay a fiver for a book that isn't physically a book for some of the more popular authors I enjoy, the flipside is you get tons of cheap, and even occasionally FREE books from authors you would never hear about otherwise.

I remember reading about a published author who claimed that e-books would mean the end of paper books, and the end of "the writer" as a profession. I don't really agree with this. Sure, paper books are obviously going to become less popular and sadly they probably WILL die out eventually. And that is unbearably sad . . . and I feel bad that I'm contributing to this but I quite simply can't spare the space for many real books anymore.

But I disagree with the second point. He argued that any old person could basically write a book now. That's true to an extent - after all it is claimed that every person has a book in them, and there is no guarantee that this book would be worth reading. However, think of the personalities who get book deals simply by virtue of being famous in a different field. And how some of them don't even WRITE these books themselves! AND, even then, they're a load of rubbish. (Do you know who I'm talking about here?) Most wannabe authors don't have a chance of getting a book published. I should know.... when I was younger I submitted a couple of books to publishers and/or agents. (I was obviously rejected.) E-readers and e-books make the playing field a bit easier for people who have genuine talent or a genuine book idea in them that can't otherwise get published. And so I think this is an amazing thing really.

So I guess I'm a convert now. I haven't read as many books since I got mine - I think it just took me a while to get used to it - but now it's revving up again, and I love heading onto amazon to see what book bargains I can pick up! I also love the instant gratification of getting the book straight away and not having to wait for it.

(Post on my favourite books this year, so far, coming up tomorrow...)



What do you think about Kindles/e-readers?? Love them, hate them, reluctant convert to them? Please share . . .

Saturday, 21 September 2013

ON LACKING THE TIDY GENE . . .

When it comes to tidying up after myself, I've always been a bit shite. Everywhere I sit, I seem to acquire a pile of clutter around me, as if I've just given birth to it in that position. Even my desk at work is always piled with paperwork, although I like to say that's just because I am such a hard worker. Which is technically true, but other people who are hard workers maintain a far clearer desk...

I think a lot of people get their tendencies to be fanatical cleaners from their families. I didn't. My family all seem a bit lacking when it comes to being houseproud. I DID, however, think that once I got my own place, it would happen. Suddenly I'd grow up overnight and want the place to be spotless, and everything to be in the place that it was meant to be in and just generally want a home out of an interiors magazine. And I DO want that. I just can't put the effort in!

In the past few weeks, I've visited three beautiful homes and, okay, all these people OWN their places rather than renting, but still. It's made me feel ridiculously inferior and a bit useless.

I am in equal parts impressed and scared of those people who NEED to clean, who want to keep everything tidy and who actually DO it. I WANT that gene. Can it be learned?

I really DON'T want a basin in the sink full of dishes that I will reluctantly clean every few days only for it to fill up again. I also don't want to HAVE to wash a dish just because I have no clean ones left. I don't want my clothes to be all over my bedroom (and certainly not in my living room or bathroom - the only place I seem to have NOT developed a habit of undressing in and leaving the clothes lying around is the kitchen - thank god! Although that's probably because I don't want to have to face the dirty dishes...) I also don't want to be using my yoga mat as a rug (it currently IS spread out rug-like on my living room floor... and I haven't actually used it for exercise since about Tuesday!) or boxes of crap that I still haven't unpacked and put away.

I'm pretty useless really.

Can anyone help me???

Monday, 16 September 2013

P DOES SECOND-HAND . . .

My mum has always been a big charity shop visitor. This isn't because our family is poor by any means; my parents have always been good with their money and even now the main thing they spend money on is holidays. We just like a bargain! When I was younger, she would come home with little gems for me. One day when I was about 10, she came back with a lemon puffball skirt. It was the late eighties; it was allowed. I fell in love with it.

And I was so PROUD of it. We had a school dance coming up, so OF COURSE I wore the skirt. And the other girls were jealous of it. I told them happily that my mum had bought me it from Oxfam. Which of course, is when the mocking started. It was nearly as bad as the time I invited a friend home for dinner and she told everyone I was a weirdo because I put dessicated coconut on top of my spaghetti hoops. (Okay, that WAS weird.)

So that rather ruined the glow of charity shops for me. After that, I used to linger outside when my mum insisted on going into Oxfam or the Sue Ryder shop or whatever other charity shop had sprung up in Hamilton that month. And it was only when I got into probably my twenties that suddenly charity shops were cool to be seen in. Probably with the rise in popularity of "vintage".



 
Now, living in the west end of Glasgow, there are charity (and vintage and secondhand shops) all over the place! A few weeks ago, my mum came over and, as I just live off Dumbarton Road now, a breeding ground for charity shops. we did a charity shop crawl. Much to my disappointment, I came back with nothing. Now that shopping second-hand is socially acceptable, it's virtually impossible to find anything decent.

But I still LOVE finding secondhand clothes. So I turned to ebay. It's amazing the things you can find on there, and for cheap too. I managed to get the Warehouse playsuit on the left for a tenner. Silk. Only worn once. The girl selling it said with the facebook "tagging" generation, she couldn't wear it again. So Paula got a fabulous bargain!

I don't have much embarrassment in buying secondhand clothes either anymore. I don't really care if I'm mocked about it. It's nice to get a bargain and also, when I go into a clothes shops or onto a website like asos, half the time I don't see anything I like. I'm often more likely to find someone ELSE'S dress that I wish I had, than find something new. So ebay is a blessing.


And now there's asos marketplace. I'm actually a bit reluctant to even endorse it in case someone has the same style and is the same size as me and ends up buying all the clothes I want before I can, because I am quickly becoming a wee bit addicted to the marketplace section of the site.

I got the dress , a on the right, a wee River Island number, for a fiver. I also picked up a Love Label dress for a tenner for my holiday. I browsed through all the cheap size 10 dresses the other night and bagged a couple more . . . and a denim jacket to replace the one I somehow lost the night I pulled the 22 year old boy!

It's actually better than ebay in a way because you don't have as much stuff to sift through. I've got very ebay-savvy over the years when it comes to searching for clothes, but when someone describes their listing as something like "Boho Lady Gaga baroque dress top skirt size 10 14 18" then you still end up with a lot of junk when you're looking for a size 10 dress!

In short, there's generally less crap on asos marketplace!

And I really do seem more likely to find things I like second-hand than I do brand new! What are the chances???


How do you feel about buying second-hand? And, if you do it, where are your favourite places to shop???



Thursday, 12 September 2013

"SURFING THE CRIMSON WAVE . . ."

I know we all like to rag (pun intended) on our time of the month. Let's face it, it doesn't have many nice side effects. And mine turned up today (I would say like clockwork, but mine tends to just generally turn up whenever the fuck it wants) so of course I can feel the cramps beginning to form low in my stomach because I get my pains AFTER it starts, not before . . . but then I started to think "there's good points to my period too".

You wondering what I mean? Let me elaborate . . .

***You have an excuse for being in a bad mood. Or for crying uncontrollably because someone beat you to the last bottle of £5 supermarket brand cava and you have to buy the £10 bottle of prosecco instead. (This didn't happen to me. Honest. I swear.)

***You can eat WHATEVER you want and blame your period for it. Want a curry with the full works? You got it. Two for Tuesday Domino's pizza even though you live alone? Go for it. IT'S YOUR TIME OF THE MONTH ergo it's allowed!

***You're allowed to lie around and do nothing, but moan about cramps, hold a hot water bottle against you and snuggle while eating chocolate, and watching bad romcoms. You can do this FOR A WEEK OF EVERY MONTH!!!

***It's a good excuse not to have sex, if you can't really be bothered. This is probably only a good thing if you do get sex regularly. Not so much if you're me and, well.... DON'T. But I'm trying to look at it from all angles here . . .

***You can blame any weight gain and/or bloating on it. It's not the curry. Or the Domino's pizza. It's your period! (Technically it is, since it WAS your period that caused the craving for the junk food in the first place...)

***You can use it as a way to make boys uncomfortable. If you want a favour out of them. Or just for funsies if you're a bit sadistic that way. Everyone knows that when a period is mentioned in front of a man, their penis gets very VERY slightly smaller. It's scientific fact. Or I just made that up.  One of those options.


Can you think of any other advantages???

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

TWELVE YEARS ON . . .

I always say that time flies . . . whether you're having fun or not.

And that's very true when I realised today was September 11th. And that the atrocities suffered during 9/11 in the U.S. happened 12 years ago today. 12 years ago. How is that even possible???

12 years ago, on the morning of September 11th 2001, thousands of people woke up not knowing the horrific fate that was going to befall them, or their families. Or the memories or the guilt they may be left with knowing that they survived where others weren't. 12 years on, people are STILL affected by it.

In fact BILLIONS of us were affected by the events of this day, whether we were in the direct vicinity or not. And I think it stays with us all.

12 years ago.

Yet it feels like only yesterday.

Never forget. . . .

Friday, 6 September 2013

THE PRIMARK SURVIVAL GUIDE . . .

So I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the shop Primark. You may already known this about me. I've spoken about it before. There are many MANY things that annoys me about the place, but then when I need a pair of trusty old ballet pumps, a £5 skater dress which would cost three times the price in Top Shop, or a piece of unusual costume jewellery (helloooo rocking horse necklace which ACTUALLY ROCKS LIKE A ROCKING HORSE IF YOU BALANCE IT ON A TABLE!!!) then Primark is one of those shops that you NEED to visit, even if it seems like the biggest inconvenience in the world at the time.
 
 
I think that the below tweet, posted by me back in early April, sums up my feelings regarding Primark quite succinctly. . .

Pollypoptart
Why do I insist on going into Primark when it inevitably makes me stabby? I must be the world's biggest primarsochist.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

DEAR LITTLE BROTHER . . .

Today is your 30th birthday.

Or it would have been.

I nearly forgot about it; I'm sorry for being a bad sister. Then my sister - mine and yours - reminded me yesterday. Today the significance of the date has struck me a number of times and I've found myself welling up a wee bit.

I'm sorry we never got a chance to get to know you.  I'm sorry I was too young to appreciate you in the short time you were here. That the date is just another day in the calendar now. This would have been a special birthday for you. For all of us.

But then you never got to celebrate a birthday. You never even made it to your first birthday.  You never got to meet my little brother. YOUR little brother too.

I wish you were still here and we could have all gotten to know you. Miss you little Mark.

Happy 30th.xx

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

CHILI CON . . . TUNA???

As you know, my recipe posts are few and F    A    R between... and tend to be of the non-healthy variety on the rare occasion they DO appear. But of late I have been trying to eat more healthily and try and cook a bit more . . . and try to limit my carbs a bit also.

So last night I was browsing through recipes online (which is surprisingly fun and so soooo much easier than the cooking part), and it was only later as I was brushing my teeth that I suddenly thought . . . what about chili con carne? (Which is one of my favourite home made meals by the way.) But instead of the carne, how about replacing the meat with tuna???

It made sense to me. For one thing I LOVE tuna nearly as much as I love minced beef. But also - and this is more crucial - on any given day I am FAR more likely to have tuna in the flat than minced beef. With minced beef, I've either forgotten to buy it, forgotten to EAT it (and it's out of date) or sensibly put it in the freezer and then UNsensibly forgotten to defrost it on time. So I figured . . . if chili con tuna tasted good then I would be more likely to have the ingredients for it in the flat next time I had a chili craving.

So after I got into my bed last night, I did a google search on my phone . . . and sure enough I wasn't the first person to have thought of such an experiment. Recipes for tuna chilli were all over the place! So it wasn't as strange an idea as I thought. Although mentioning it on twitter got me weird reactions, from people threatening to unfollow me for insulting beef(?), to dirty "fish-smelling" jokes. But a couple of people also seemed interested in the results.

Tonight, I gave it a shot. Rather than following any of the recipes I found online, I decided to try and make it using my normal chili recipe. Obviously the difference being that I would cook most of the veg before the "meat" part of the dish.


"Chili Con Tuna" - Paula style . . . ;-)

So I started by heating up a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan. From there,  I reckon you can pretty much use whatever veg that you like to bulk this up. I went for red onion, white onion, a couple of chopped up cloves of garlic, a tiny bit of chopped up chili, and some frozen mixed peppers which I defrosted in the microwave before adding them. Oh, and then I threw in about half a carrot grated up because I usually put that in mince chilli and despite me not generally liking carrot that isn't raw, it always seems to just add a little something.

(I added a bit of water to the pan too early on just to stop too much sticking to the bottom of the pan or burning too quickly. My new flat has a gas cooker and I'm not used to it yet, so have a tendency to accidentally overcook everything!)

Then I threw in a can of tuna in brine (185g tin, drained first) and about half a carton of chopped tomatoes in basil (approx. 200g) .mixed it all together and then added dried hot chili powder (1tsp), cumin (half tsp) and paprika (half tsp). I gave it another stir, chucked on a bit extra chili powder for luck and then served it with cauliflower rice, a teeny bit of grated cheese (that's what I generally put on my chili as a reward for avoiding normal rice) and a little bit of sour cream and chive dip.

It was DELICIOUS. I had originally only served half of the tuna mixture onto my plate with the cauli rice (I'd planned to have the other half for lunch cold tomorrow with some red kidney beans to bulk it up) but I was enjoying it so much I ended up going back for seconds. So I guess we will have to say this particular recipe probably only serves one person if you're doing the low carb thing with it - so if you're cooking for two, you may want to double the tuna and chopped tomatoes quantities at least. And obviously you may want it spicier.

It's pretty healthy as well and one serving of my particular concoction contains less than 400 calories according to myfitnesspal (are you on myfitnesspal? If so, I'm pollypoptart79 - befriend me! Especially if your food diary is public because I'm nosy...) so if you ARE ditching the white rice and serving it with veg, it's not going to register too high on the old calorie counter.

I've got a long day at work tomorrow, topped off by pole fitness and then the gym (see? I'm taking this bikini body thing seriously!) so I'm fairly sure that this recipe is going to be repeated again when I get home tomorrow night . And I can't bloody wait!


What's your favourite go-to healthy recipe at the moment?

Monday, 2 September 2013

THE BIKINI BODY COUNTDOWN . . .

So I know I have been banging on about losing weight and getting fit and toning up on a semi regular basis on this blog . . . but yesterday I started back on it hard. I just was getting sick of getting nowhere, so I'm newly determined to just get on the health wagon and stay on it for more than a couple of days at a time.

And as of this evening . . . I have a new motivation to shape up.  Cos at the end of the month I'm heading to Majorca to spend my birthday abroad with my mum . . . this holiday abroad thing has became a bit of a tradition since I hit my thirties, and I love it. Being born in early October I rarely get a sunny birthday unless I'm outside the UK. Of course, Majorca isn't as reliable weatherwise as other sunshine destinations but I'm hoping that late September/early October will deliver some decent birthday sunshine for me all the same.

Last time I went to Majorca a couple of things went wrong. Like us getting into a minor car crash en route to the airport, or having an eight hour plane delay, and then there being a terrorist attack in our resort while we were there. I'm hoping none of that stuff happens this time... on top of hoping the weather is nicer than usual, it's probably a big ask though!

But anyway, I am now EXTRA determined to have a half-decent bikini bod. I have just under four weeks to try and make a difference and I'm sure I can shed half a stone in that time with a bit of dedication and hard-work . . . and self-restraint.

Either that, or I'll do my usual pre-holiday thing where about two weeks before I realise it's making fuck all difference, I'm going to feel fat in a bikini anyway so I might as well enjoy ALL THE FOOD AND ALL THE CAVA IN THE WORLD!

So wish me luck with staying on course - I'm gonna need it. And if you have any tips . . . please pass them along...