Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Today I'm grateful for...

  • A much needed lie in and getting up at nearly 10:00 am
  • Cosy cardigans and stylish yet comfortable boots
  • A random conversation with a stranger which brightened up a boring wait in a slow moving queue
  • A free mince pie to go with my Christmas coffee
  • Good news from my friends and family
  • Twinkling lights and beautifully decorated houses
  • The fact that my pesky cold seems to be on the way out (fingers crossed!)
  • A three day working week (I've been on holiday yesterday and today), then a full weekend off! :-) To say I'm excited may be a little understatement!!
What are you grateful for today? Drop me a line and let me know...can't wait to hear from you!

'Til next time...

Monday, 5 December 2011

Christmas is coming...

and I've definitely been in a festive mood over the last couple of days. Maybe it's down to the fact that we've started putting our Christmas decorations up or that I watched a local theatre company's pantomime yesterday afternoon. And it definitely could also be a result of the present wrapping, Christmas card writing and festive music listening I've been doing today. It might even be because of the chilly direction the weather has finally taken; there may have been the teensiest bit of snow last night which would mark the first of the winter here in Manchester. But whatever the cause of this Christmassy feeling, the result is still the same: a sense of contentment and good cheer that not even a pesky cold can dampen :-)

So in honour of my new found Christmas spirit, I thought I'd share a few of my favourite Christmas themed craft and decoration ideas from Pinterest...hope you enjoy!! Oh,and if you're a pinner too, let me know. Or follow me. Or better still, both!!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

My Christmas To-Do List

Today is November 30th. And that, my friends, means 2 things. Firstly, it's December tomorrow! Can you believe it? I certainly can't; this year has gone by faster than any I've ever known. And secondly, Christmas is only 25 days away!! I'm so excited...even if I am working up to Christmas Eve :-( However, that doesn't mean I'm going to miss out on any of the Christmas spirit. I've already bought most of my Christmas presents, sampled the festive offerings at Starbucks and visited Manchester's Christmas Markets and I've got much more planned besides. And inspired by Amy over at Just a Titch who posted her Holiday To-Do List a couple of weeks back and Elizabeth at E Tells Tales who wrote about her Christmas traditions in her most recent post, I've decided to create my own Christmas To-Do List. And here it is:
  • Help decorate my house this weekend...we always do this on the first full weekend in December, it's tradition!
  • Enjoy more festive food and drink at Starbucks...I'm especially excited by their "12 days of gifting" promotion :-)
  • Make more solo and group trips to the Manchester Christmas Markets and indulge in hot chocolate with whipped cream, delicious freshly made Belgian waffles and maybe even a cheeky mulled wine ;-)
  • Bake Christmas goodies...I'll be breaking out my old favourites like gingerbread and chocolate Christmas pudding truffles,as well as trying some new recipes too...so watch this space!
  • Wrapping all of my Christmas presents and writing some Christmas cards, preferably with a soundtrack of Christmas favourites or with a Christmas film playing in the background.
  • And on the topic of Christmas films, I'll definitely be watching the following this festive season: Elf, Love Actually and The Holiday. I'll also make sure I slip in a little Kiss Kiss Bang Bang...my favourite non-traditional Christmas film bar none :-)
  • Attending the candlelight carol service at my family church
  • Hopefully spending Christmas Eve with my closest friends, chatting, maybe listening to Christmas tunes and sharing in the Christmas spirit
And there we have it! So all that remains is for me to ask you, what are your Christmas traditions? Have you made a to-do list? Let me know...it'd be great to hear from you!

'Til next time,

Sunday, 13 November 2011

A weekly round up

And what a week it's been! With full time work, a lovely but busy day off midweek and a particularly hectic weekend all on the agenda, it's certainly been jampacked with both the good and bad (although I'm pleased to report that the good most definitely won out!). I could write a whole series of posts about what I've been up to, although for the sake of time, convenience and your boredom thresholds, I think I'll limit it to just one :-). And so, without any more waffling, here are the highlights (and low points) of the week that was:


  • A bumper birthday weekend: This weekend has been full of birthday celebrations for some of my nearest and dearest, and I've had a simply fantastic time! On Friday night, I went to Pacifica Cantonese to celebrate my friend, The Performer's, 28th. I ate some of the best Chinese food I've ever tasted (the ribs were to die for), caught up with good friends and enjoyed cocktails and karaoke in the restaurant's upstairs bar. I was having such a good time that I certainly didn't want to go home and have an early night in preparation for work the next day ;-) (more on that later)! Then last night, I headed over to Felicini's, for another friend's surprise 30th. It was another night filled with fun, laughter, singing, dancing, food and alcohol, and it was made all the sweeter by the knowledge that I could have a lie in this morning! :-) Finally, this morning, my family and I visited my Grandad to celebrate his 92nd birthday with him. He's such a caring and generous person and a true gentleman, and I'm so glad that I still have a grandparent around to share their special day with. We ate cake, took photos and had a lovely time all round...pretty much a perfect Sunday morning.
  • A new Christmas favourite: Yes, I know it's not Christmas yet but today my 2 sisters and I watched Arthur Christmas at the cinema. After hearing good things about the film prior to watching it, it would have been very easy to be disappointed with the reality of it, but it more than lived up to my expectations. It was both funny and moving in turn (I'm not ashamed to say that I welled up on more than one occasion, all I can say is thank goodness for my 3D glasses), and it's definitely an addition to my list of must watch festive films.
  • Primark goodies: Regular readers of my blog will know of my love for Primark, and there's nothing I like better than going on a shopping spree there. And it felt even better as I was able to pay for all my purchases using money given to me by my Grandad (I told you he was generous!) I picked up some fantastic pieces, and I can't wait to share them all with you in a "What's in my Wardrobe Wednesday" post :-)
  • Catching up with friends: Due to my work schedule of the last few weeks,I've had very little time to socialise so it's been great to really reconnect with good friends over the past few days. I know a few weeks doesn't sound like very long, but when I've previously been used to seeing some of these people two or three times a week, it really feels like it!
  • Exciting events ahead: Last night I received an invitation to the wedding reception of two of my friends (the Comedian and the Enigma). They're planning an Easter wedding in Florida, but are throwing a big party for all their friends and family at the start of June. Even though it's months away,I'm already excited as I think about the good times that lie ahead.

  • Work worries: By nature, I'm a bit of a worrier and I seem to worry about work more than most.I worry that I'm not good enough at my job, and in areas where I know there is room for improvement,I worry that I'm never going to get better. It doesn't matter that there are areas of my work that I've been praised for, or the fact that I've only been out of training for 4 weeks and am still learning the ropes, I just seem to dwell on the negative. Here's hoping that I can have a more positive attitude next week!
  • Rude customers: I appreciate that not every customer I deal with during a shift is going to be happy and upbeat, and I can understand people being upset or angry if they are not happy with a situation they've found themselves in. That's only natural. But what I can't abide is customers who are rude or shout at me from the word go. It is not my fault they're experiencing the issues they are, so to talk down to me and blame me for their problems is not on. At the end of the day, I'm doing my utmost to help them, so to have that kind of attitude makes me seethe.
  • Hangovers and bumpy rides: So Friday night, I went out and maybe drank a little more and got home a little later than I should have done. And on Saturday morning, I might have just gone back to sleep after my alarm had gone off and had to rush to catch my bus. And there is just the teensiest possibility that I felt a little queasy and the bus jolting up and down didn't really help. But all of that's just speculation of course...! ;-)
  • Darker mornings and nights: I really wish it wasn't still dark when I got up in the mornings and dark when I leave at night, even if I'm only working 'til 5. That is all.
And there you have it...another week summarised! 'Til next time...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Baking with Julie: Spiced fruit cookies

As long time readers of my blog may know, one of my favourite ways to spend my leisure time is to bake and on my day off on Thursday, I was delighted to get the time to do just that. Inspired by the falling leaves and cooler temperatures of the last couple of weeks, I was feeling decidedly autumnal, so when it came to choosing a recipe,it seemed only natural to plump for one of my autumn favourites; these spiced fruit cookies that feature in The Australian Women's Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking. I've tried and failed to find a link to this book online, but if you're based in the UK, it's available from WH Smith and it comes highly recommended!

Spiced Fruit Cookies (or Crunchy Muesli Cookies if you prefer the book's name for them!)

Source: Slightly adapted from The Australian Women's Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking.


  • 90g rolled oats
  • 150g plain flour (I used self raising instead)
  • 220g caster sugar ( I used granulated sugar)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon ( I always use mixed spice; it's just a personal preference)
  • 35g dried cranberries (I replaced these with 40g of glacé cherries, finely chopped )
  • 55g finely chopped dried apricots (I replaced these with 50g raisins)
  • 70g slivered almonds (Didn't use or substitute anything in their place)
  • 125g butter
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (Omitted as I used self raising flour)
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water
  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C (I preheated mine to 160/ Gas Mark 3 as I find that extra 10 degrees really does make a difference!) and grease and line baking trays.
  2. Combine the oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, dried fruit and nuts (if using) in a large bowl.
  3. Melt the butter with the golden syrup in a small saucepan over a low heat; add the bicarbonate of soda (if using) and boiling water. Stir the warm butter mixture into the dry ingredients.
  4. Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls, place on trays 5cm/2 inches apart and flatten with hand. Bake for about 20 minutes (I baked mine for nearer to 30), then cool cookies on trays before transferring to wire racks.
  5. Eat and enjoy!!
Makes: 36 (I usually make 22-24 as I generally make mine them than the suggested size).

So there you have it: a really tasty and easy recipe that makes you think of autumn with every bite (it does with me, anyway!) If you're interested in more recipes, stay tuned as I'm planning to bake on at least one of my days off every week and I'm definitely going to share the results with you all.

'Til next time...

PS: I can only apologise for the lack of photos in this post. I was fully intending to take them as I went along, but forgot. I then decided to take a picture of the finished product but by the time I got round to it, they'd all been eaten!! At least I know the recipe works, I suppose!

Friday, 21 October 2011

10 Things...my new job has taught me.

I'm back! Even if it has taken me 6 weeks longer than I promised (but I'm going to choose to ignore that!). Seriously, this new job has taken over my life in a way that I really hadn't considered before I started it; I've even had dreams about it for goodness' sake!! But in the midst of all this craziness, I've been learning. Not just about the policies, systems and procedures that come as part and parcel of my role, but also about what working full time is really like (I've not done it for ages, don't judge!) and even more about myself as an individual. And as a little gentle intro into blogging again, I'd thought I'd share a few of these discoveries with you. Some are serious, others a little more tongue in cheek, but valid all the same.

  1. It seems that whatever job I take on, I will always be a worrier. I'm always going to get stressed and think that I'm terrible at what I'm doing. I have my fingers crossed that this will subside with time, and take at least a little comfort from the fact that the customers I'm dealing with can't see me panicking!
  2. It is possible to be completely exhausted by doing seemingly no more than sitting staring at a screen all day. And in the same vein, it is not beyond the realms of possibility to be falling asleep before 9:00 PM.
  3. A full time job can render a person seemingly incapable of blogging and checking emails for a very long time. Well, in my case anyway!
  4. Payday is the best day of the month, bar none. And if it should happen to fall on your last day of work before some time off, then all the better!!
  5. Never have your lunch outside on a beautifully warm and sunny day; you won't want to go back inside to work. Ever.
  6. The days you get off work are so much more precious when you don't have that many off them.
  7. The people who work in call centres are so much more diverse than I ever would have thought. From teenagers fresh out of college to middle aged men and women seeking a career change plus young graduates in the fields of architecture, American studies and law, to name just 3. A random mix of people, with one thing in common.
  8. My wardrobe is even larger than I would have given it credit for. Over the last (almost) 7 weeks, I have been able to wear something different practically every day. Despite this, however, shopping is definitely still the first thing on my mind come payday.
  9. And whilst we're on the subject of clothes; picking an outfit for a "normal" work day: generally pretty straightforward. Selecting something to wear for "dress down" day: so much harder!!
  10. The job of the communications manager seems to be nothing more than sitting around and sending emails. This may or may not be one of the reasons why I want her post for myself!!  ;-)
And there it is. Keep your eyes peeled for another blog post soon (ish!) It may be 2 days, it could be 2 months (but hopefully not the latter!!)
'Til next time...

Friday, 2 September 2011

My September Issue...

Well, here I am with my first post of the new month and I can't honestly believe that we're in September already. I know I'm probably guilty of saying the same thing every year but this one is absolutely flying by; why, it only seems like last week that I was on my way home from my New Year's getaway! However,I'm not altogether sad that August is over,simply because I'm really looking forward to September. As a child and young adult, the month was one for making fresh starts. One of excitement for seeing friends and learning new things and anticipation of what the year ahead would bring. It was a time that I looked forward to and (generally) welcomed with open arms. But sometime over the last few years, my perception shifted. Whilst working as a supply teacher, September brought with it a fear of the unknown as I faced the reality that I could be pitched into an unfamiliar environment with a potentially challenging class, at very short notice. The month made me feel edgy, yet ultimately frustrated as I spent morning after morning working myself into a state of anxiety and tension, only to find that I had been worrying for no need as the call from my agency simply didn't come. Even when working as a full time teacher, I didn't have an easy time of it over those first few weeks. I was stressed, tired and doubted my ability to be good at my job. From being a time I welcomed, September became a month I largely endured and even my attempts to be motivated, upbeat and in control generally failed. To be frank, I longed for September to come and go and October to arrive, bringing with it the promise of more supply work and also the promise of a welcome week away from the stresses of my situation, in the form of the autumn half term.

This year, however, things were different and I was once again filled with a sense of delicious anticipation at September's arrival. Whilst for the most part this was due to my new job, which I start in a few days, there are also several other reasons why I'm savouring the thought of September. And here they are:
  • Putting on a show with my drama group: After a few months of rehearsals, my drama group's new show "Movie and Musical Magic" will take place later on this month. It's been a somewhat bumpy road to get to this point, with directorial tensions, choreography disasters and some lyrics learning issues, but we've come through them stronger as a group and I can't wait to get on stage and perform!
  • Murder and Mystery: It's my friend "The Actor's"annual murder mystery night in just over a week and I'm really looking forward to it. Not only do we all get a chance to adopt a different persona and engage in some acting, which I obviously love, but there's also mystery and secrets galore, and as a real fan of detective fiction and crime dramas on TV, the atmosphere at this type of event is right up my street. And then of course there's the fact that I get to socialise with my friends...well, what more can I say?! I'm in love! <3 
  • Cake, Candles and Celebration: With an extended group of friends, it's no surprise that we seem to be celebrating birthdays almost every month and September is no exception. A quick flick through my mental calendar tells me that this month I've been invited to the 70th birthday party of a friend from my drama group and that it's also my uncle's birthday, which we'll probably celebrate with a special family lunch. Added to that there's my friend The Enigma's 30th, another friend's 20th and the birthday of one the sweetest friends I've ever known fast approaching, so I think it's a fair bet to say there'll be some celebrating going on!
  • Money, Money, Money: With a new job obviously comes some new income and as someone who's been either off work or working part time for the majority of the year, I'm majorly excited to be earning  a "proper" wage once again. And as my start date at work has been moved forward from 19th September to 5th (it's Monday people!!), it means that I'll get paid much sooner than I was anticipating. What can I say other than I'm drafting my wishlist already! :-)
And just before I sign off, I thought I'd share this lovely from Pinterest which just about sums up the meaning of September to me:
Source: zazzle.com via Julie on Pinterest

Till next time...

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A work in progress...

Just a quick post tonight which will hopefully explain two things. Firstly, the current state of my blog and secondly, as well as most excitingly,my plans for its future. With regards to the former, despite the fact that I have had a great deal of free time on my hands over the last few weeks as a result of being forced to leave my former job earlier than expected and then being offered a new one in quick succession, I have found that I have had very little to blog about. Whilst having a few weeks of unexpected holiday sounds lovely, the reality is that I have often been bored and done very little worth writing about. And as much as I enjoy blogging (which I truly do), it's hard to find the motivation to write a post when you're not in the right frame of mind yourself. Not to mention the fact that any post I did write in such a mood wouldn't probably be worth sharing with anyone!

But that's enough of the past and present; now let's look to the future. Over the past few days I've done some thinking and have realised that I really want to keep my blog going over the next few months and beyond. However, given my recent track record, I've realised that the only way to do this is to get organised and I know that this will be especially important when I'm working full time. My plan is to draft each week's posts (3 or 4 minimum) a little in advance and then I won't be faced with staring blankly at the computer screen when it's time to blog. I'm not, however, intending to schedule my posts as, for me, one of the main attractions of blogging is the fact that I can share my thoughts and feelings on current issues to a potentially worldwide audience. If something moves me on a particular day, I want the freedom to write about it there and then, not when my posting schedule dictates. And as for content...well that's been something else that I've been giving some thought to. I'm intending to keep some old favourites going... my "Highs and Lows" will still be a regular feature and "What's in my Wardrobe Wednesday" and baking posts will also be making a re-appearance. I also have plans for new features...I'm thinking about reviews, beauty posts and even more fashion as well as general randomness, memes and discussion of much deeper issues too!

So please bear with me just a little bit longer...the new and improved Julie's Jottings will be with you very soon :-)

Till next time...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

August so far...my highs and lows

Once again, it's been a couple of weeks since my last post...I really don't know where the time goes! I haven't just been sat there doing nothing though, there's been plenty, both bad and good, to keep me busy and those things are exactly what I'm going to share with you today.


  • Exciting baby news: One of my closest friends (I'll call her the "Animal Lover")announced last week that she was expecting her first baby, who's due in late February/early March. It was a lovely surprise and I'm overjoyed for both her and her boyfriend ("The Biker"). I just can't wait until there's another baby in the group to spoil!
  • Housewarming fun: In keeping with the major life changes theme, two of my friends (The Comedian and The Enigma) have recently bought their first home together and a couple of Saturdays ago, I spent the evening at their housewarming barbecue. It was just a wonderful night filled with fabulous food (including more crisps on one table than I'd ever seen before!), random conversations and Kinect fun and I hope that we'll be able to do it all over again very soon.
  • Adding another recipe to my tried and tested favourites: Unsure of what to give the friends mentioned above as a housewarming present (they'd already been living together previously and I had no idea of what they wanted/needed), I decided to bake something and buy a pretty tin to put it in. My flavour of choice was chocolate...I didn't actually know what the couple liked, but reasoned that everyone loves chocolate! My first thought was brownies, but having never made them before, I decided not to risk an untested recipe. Then I remembered the chocolate cake recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking (I've tried and failed to find a link to this book on the net...if you want this recipe, let me know and I'll post it on here/email you) and I was pretty sure I was on to a winner. First off, my sister had made it before for a friend who had said it was gorgeous and secondly, all the recipes in the book are triple tested, so are pretty much guaranteed to work :-). And work it did...I divided the mixture into bun cases so I would have some cakes for my friends and some for home, and they were enjoyed by all! My mum said they were one of the best things I'd ever made, a friend of a friend said they were fantastic and I received a lovely text off the Enigma the next day saying how much she and her fiancé the Comedian had enjoyed them. I just love baking and it makes me even happier when people close to me can enjoy it too :-)
  • Fantastic friends on Facebook: Last week I received some very good news of my own and when I shared it on Facebook, I was overwhelmed with the support and good wishes I received from my friends. From people of my own age, but also of my parents' generation. From friends who I had seen just the day before, to those who I hadn't seen for years. From old school friends to people I've met much more recently. The congratulations flooded in from all directions, and to say I was touched was an understatement. Sometimes when I'm feeling low I tell myself that no-one cares about me or takes notice of what I have to say, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that that's not true. I am loved and cared about more than I've ever realised and that makes me feel incredibly thankful.
And now on to my big news of the last couple of weeks:
I have a new job!! Remember my last post where I alluded to some big changes that might be happening in my work life? Well, it turns out that it was more relevant than I ever thought possible. The day after publishing that post, I received a text from a major banking group that I had previously done an online application for asking me to call their recruitment centre for a telephone interview. I did so and answered 3 mental arithmetic questions and a couple of competency based questions, as well as discussing my recent work history with a very nice man, and was pleased when he announced that I had made it through to the next stage aka the face to face interview, which I booked for last Wednesday. I spent quite a bit of time preparing for the interview and felt I did OK. I wasn't, however, overly confident, partly because I've stumbled at this stage so many times before and partly because I kept analysing my responses to the questions over and over and came up with more and more things I felt I could have done better. I'd been told that it could take up to 10 working days to be informed of the outcome and so I settled down to a long wait for the seemingly inevitable. Imagine my surprise then when I received a phone call from the company explaining that they had managed to get things fast tracked through HR and they were pleased to tell me that I'd been successful!! I won't go into too many details here, as I really feel that the job deserves a post of its own, but I can tell you I'm going to be starting on 19th September, and am really looking forward to this new challenge!! :-)

  • Riots in Greater Manchester (as well as nationwide): Last week there was some of the worst rioting and looting that has ever been seen in England and whilst it was mainly centred around London, on Tuesday last week it also hit Salford and Manchester city centre, only a matter of miles from where I live. The pictures on the TV and news feeds on the internet didn't seem quite real and I was shocked at some of the stories I was reading. An Oxfam shop being looted. A Miss Selfridge shop and a housing office being set on fire. People smashing windows and forcing shutters. None of it really hit home until the next day when I was walking in the centre of town and saw the damage with my own eyes. I just couldn't believe that people could do that to their own city. But as in all of the other places affected by last week's unrest, the community has pulled together and become stronger as a result. On Wednesday morning, for example, as I walked through town after my interview I saw groups of young people wearing protective gloves and armed with rubbish bags all ready to part in the clear up. And today, whilst my sister Amy and I were shopping in Manchester we saw this:
Image taken from here
It's the Manchester Peace Wall, and in the few days since this photo was taken, it's become absolutely filled with post-it notes expressing people's love for the city as well as disgust at the looters and their actions. Amy and I both wrote our own notes and stuck them on the wall, and I just feel really privileged to contribute to such a powerful representation of Manchester's spirit.

  • Unexpected work developments and lack of money: News of my new job couldn't have come at a better time as, due to lack of funding, I had to finish my previous job a few weeks earlier than anticipated. I'm going to really have to tighten my belt over the next couple of months or so, and when I consider the number of friends' birthdays that are coming up, it's going to be easier said than done! I'm trying to look on the bright side though...at least I'm still living at home so there are no major bills to pay  and I can also have fun finding low-cost ways to enjoy myself! :-)
And that's all for now. Till next time...

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

From dreams to reality...

In my most vivid dream last night I was pregnant. And I was absolutely overjoyed. There was a constant stream of happiness bubbling up inside me which threatened to spill out if someone so much as congratulated me on my fantastic news. Hell, I didn't even care when I felt nauseous, so ecstatic was I about the new life growing inside of me. And then I woke up...no baby, no happiness or excitement. Instead I felt bereft, empty. Despite the fact that I'm not actually in any position to have children at this point in my life and I enjoy the sense of freedom and lack of responsibility that being single with no dependants gives me, there it was. A feeling of loneliness and emptiness that, truth be told, is to a certain degree still lingering over 12 hours on.

But this post isn't really about my dream, it's more about my reality...my life today. You see, as someone who is quite into dream meanings and interpretations, one of my first instincts was to try to decipher what my pregnancy dream meant; how it translated into my real life. Now, the night before I had read the happy news that one of my Facebook friends was expecting and I had spent some time looking at some photos of my friend's gorgeous boys, so there's no doubt that these events may have had an influence on the content of my dream. However, I've done these things before and have never dreamed so vividly about pregnancy. I also see news of friends getting engaged and/or married on a regular basis these days and I could probably count on one hand the number of wedding dreams I've had. To put it simply, I was convinced there was some deeper meaning so off I set to look it up. And this is what I found:
To dream that you are pregnant, symbolizes an aspect of yourself or some aspect of your personal life that is growing and developing. You may not be ready to talk about it or act on it. Being pregnant in your dream may also represent the birth of a new idea, direction, project or goal. 

It's safe to say that this interpretation definitely resonates with me. My life seems like it's at a crossroads right now and I may well head in a direction that I never would have expected. I've been actively searching for a new job and have come to the conclusion that it may not be in education. And most of the time, I'm ok with that. In fact, there are times when I'm more than ok, as I relish the prospect of new challenges and the opportunity to explore skills and interests that have been put aside in my current job. There are also a number of projects that I'm making a start on. Yesterday and today, I made the first steps in decluttering, organising and tidying my room and I intend for this to be a major and long lasting change. I've updated the photos on my online dating profile and as soon I get time in between working, tidying and job hunting, I'll hopefully start dating again. And after a pair of jeans failed to fit me the other night, it's also my goal to eat more healthily and do more exercise!!

So even though my dream left me feeling sad, I'm aiming to take only positive things from it. I may not be pregnant yet, but I don't want to be right now. There's time enough for that ahead. Instead, I'll think about the new opportunities that are presenting themselves to me and the positive changes I'm making. For now, the growing and developing is about me and my babies are the projects, goals and ideas I'm making happen!! :-)

'Til next time...xx

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Last week's Highs and Lows

Yes, I know it's Wednesday and we're nearly half way through this week already, but I'm really aiming to make my "Highs and Lows" posts a regular series again, so I'm starting as I mean to go on! Better late than never, that's my motto!

And so on to last week...there were a few seemingly small, yet meaningful highs mixed with a couple of definite lows but, most importantly, it was a positive one overall and I ended it looking forward to the week ahead :-) . So without further ado, here's what had me beaming from ear to ear or down in the dumps last week:


  • Finding £60 I'd forgotten I had: I was looking for something,opened one of drawers and bam...there it was! A quick check with my mum later, and I established that it was definitely mine to keep spend. :-) Exactly what I needed in these tight financial times!
  • A couple of shorter (and quieter) afternoons at work: Last week, the 5 year old boy I act as support worker for had a couple of taster sessions at the school he'll be starting in September. And as his support worker, I accompanied him. The upshot of this was a happy little boy...he loved joining in with all the activities the school had to offer and was really keen to get on well with both his new classmates and the staff working there, as well as a very happy Julie! My afternoons were pretty much stress free due to his excellent behaviour (a radical departure from some days at the nursery) and the fact that I only worked half my usual hours for the two days, but was still paid for the full afternoon each time, made them even sweeter. A definite high in my book.
  • Midweek curry night and making winter plans with friends: Last Wednesday night, a few friends and I headed to our local pub for their curry night...curry with all the sides plus a free drink for a bargain price and I'm definitely in! We ate, we drank and also made tentative plans for the winter weekend away I discussed in this post. All in all, it was a lovely relaxing night, perfect for recharging our batteries midweek, and something that I hope we'll repeat sooner rather than later.
  • Baking for the first time in AGES: Over the last couple of months, my weekends have been so filled with job applications and other things to get done that any plans to bake have fallen right by the wayside. But last Saturday, with no job applications imminent, I decided to get my baking head on and made 2 batches of flapjacks; one with sultanas and cherries and the other with chocolate chips. Both were delicious (if I do say so myself!) although I don't think I added quite enough liquid to the choc chip batch as they ended up harder and more crunchy than the fruit ones; they kind of reminded of Nature Valley bars. Very tasty, but not so good for your teeth!
  • Spending time with the cutest class ever: Last Friday, I had a job interview and whilst I was at the school I had the opportunity to meet one of the classes. And oh my gosh, they were amongst the sweetest children I had ever met. Bright, friendly and full of fun, they had a knack of making me feel instantly at ease and I absolutely adored the time I spent with them. Plus I walked away with a number of pictures they'd made for me, which is always a reliable measure of a good day at school in my book!
  • A couple of long lie ins: Whilst I don't have to get up too early for work in the week, I do have to set my alarm so I really appreciated just being able to sleep until the time nature intended last weekend. After 9:30? Don't mind if I do!

  • Not getting the job: Before last Friday, I'd had 2 other job interviews this year. I was unsuccessful on both occasions, and whilst the rejection stung, I wasn't overly upset, probably because I wasn't 100% sure that the jobs or schools were right for me. Friday was different. I really wanted the job. Then I went to the school, met the children and wanted it even more. Everything just seemed to fit: the role I'd be taking on, the ethos of the school, the welcoming attitudes of everyone I met plus the fact that I thought my interview had gone reasonably well. And then I got the call (well, actually the answerphone message as I was working at the time the headteacher rang): I hadn't got it. And let me tell you, it hurt. It hurt like hell. I'd wanted it so badly and there was nothing I could do. Except cry and feel like a massive failure (which I did). And then I dusted myself down and waited for feedback (I'm still waiting now). And so the job hunting starts again...
  • My grandad going into hospital: My grandad has been in and out of the hospital over the past week and a half or so. Nothing major but after 3 hospital trips in 4 days, mainly due to minor falls, they decided to keep in him for a few days whilst they worked on his mobility. He finally came out of hospital today, and fingers crossed that, with his new mobility aids and a few adjustments that have been made at his home, he won't be making a return journey any time soon :-)
And that's pretty much it! Hope you're having a good week so far...I'm already thinking of things that can go on my next highs and lows list!!

'Til next time...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Thursday Thoughts Round 2

So, I was sat here facing a familiar predicament...I wanted to blog but I had NO idea what to write about. Then it hit me...It's Thursday! Now at this point you'll probably be thinking "Well, that's all well and good but what's that go to do with anything?" Well, I'll tell you. As it's Thursday, I can just have a complete ramble, call the resulting post "Thursday Thoughts" and feel absolutely legitimised in doing so :-). So, without further ado, here's what I'm thinking about this Thursday:

  • A Christmas or New Year getaway: Yes, you read that correctly! It may only be July but I'm already skipping forward to December! Why? Because my friends and I have decided that, instead of buying each other Christmas presents and going out for a meal as we usually do, we'll save that money and put it towards a short break together instead. We may not have even booked anything yet, but I'm still getting excited and am already dreaming of roaring log fires, meals gathered around an enormous dining table and maybe even crisp white snow.
  • A job interview: I have my third job interview of the school year tomorrow, and I'm really excited about the opportunity that this post would present me with, as well as really looking forward to meeting the children I'd be working with. If I was successful, I'd be working as a Higher Level Teaching Assistant rather than a teacher, but having enjoyed the 1 to1 and small group work I've done as a TA in the past, I think the HLTA role is one that would suit me really well :-). Wish me luck guys!!
  • All-you-can-eat ice cream and amazing live music: (Fingers crossed) this is where I'll be on July 24th: 

It's Ben and Jerry's Sundae in the Park, a fabulous sounding music festival run by Ben and Jerry's! Basically for under £20, you can go and watch some amazing bands and eat as much Ben and Jerry's ice cream as you can stomach! And if that wasn't enough, there'll also be fairground attractions and loads of other fun activities...I can't wait to ice my own cookies! :-) I won't even mind if it rains...I'll just rock my wellies and waterproofs like the best of them! :-)

  • The fact that it's Friday tomorrow: It's not as if I've had a hard working week or anything, but the thought of the weekend always makes everything feel a little better :-) I don't think I'm doing anything in particular, but that's beside the point...two days of freedom will hopefully be sheer bliss :-)
And they're my Thursday thoughts! :-) What are you thinking about today?

Till next time...xx

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Oh hi, July!!

If you'd asked me after my last post how long it'd be before I blogged again, I probably would have said a few days. Maybe even a week or two. But over two months...no way!! But there it is in black and white...my last post was in April and somehow I've resurfaced in July! Now at this point I'd normally apologise for being away for so long and say that it'll never happen again. But this time's going to be a little different. For one, I guess that endless apologies are probably pretty boring to read and two...well, my blogging history suggests that I will disappear again at some point! So this time I'm not apologising, but I am going to fill you in on what I've been up to...

  • I've booked and been on a wonderful holiday to Lanzarote with my friend E (aka "The Performer"). It was my first holiday for 2 years and I was really glad of the break. The weather was perfect and the island amazing. I spent my days lazing by the pool and mooching round the shops and my nights sipping cocktails at local bars or drinking wine on our apartment terrace. I returned home with lots of happy memories, probably the best tan I've ever got and possibly a few pounds heavier and I hope to be able to do it all over again, preferably sooner rather than later!!
  • Whilst on holiday, I also had some amazing experiences that were a little out of the ordinary. I visited the amazing Timanfaya National Park, rode a camel, tasted local wine and, best of all, went snorkelling! Now as for someone who professes not to like deep water, I suppose I was a little out of my comfort zone (about 5 metres to be exact!) but once I remembered to breathe, it was the most fantastic experience. The fish were beautiful and watching them was so calming...I felt really serene, almost like a mermaid and I definitely want to repeat the experience :-).
  • I've kept my job hunting up, albeit with limited success. I have had 2 interviews, both of which I found out about on the same day (seriously, they're like buses!) but unfortunately I failed to secure either post. To be honest, jobs are starting to really dry up now, so if I don't get one in the next couple of weeks, I doubt that I'll know where I'll be come September, but at least I have my nursery job to tide me over. I've still been working part time at the nursery where I started in February and, unlike schools, it's open pretty much year round meaning that at least I'll still be earning in the summer holidays which makes a very welcome change! Unfortunately, it looks like I'll be moving on at the start of the new school year as the child I'm employed to support is starting primary school, but a girl can't have everything I suppose! In other job related news, I finally got to say a proper goodbye to the staff at my last school...it was lovely catching up with everyone and I was surprised and very moved to discover that they'd bought me cards and all clubbed together to buy me a £30 giftcard for Next, which is one of my favourite clothing retailers (after Primark of course!)
  • I've had 2 driving tests, which I've failed, and I'm awaiting my third! I'm intermittently taking driving lessons in between times (they're just too expensive to have every week :-( ) and I'm hoping that it'll be third time lucky for me...my bank balance can't really take much more!!
  • I've performed in one musical revue with my drama group and I'm now well into rehearsals for our next. We start choreography for the first act tomorrow...it'll be nothing too complicated but, as I'm not a dancer, wish me luck anyway!
  • I've spent many more wonderful times with my family and friends. There's been a wedding, a christening, a royal wedding barbecue and drinks in the sunshine as well as multiple meals, nights in and out and general gatherings. Words really can't express how much these people mean to me, they make even the worst times seem not quite as awful and I really am blessed to have each and every one of them!! :-)
And that's pretty much it! I was going to finish up by posting a list of things I'm looking forward to this summer and/or my summer goals, but I'm already at the risk of turning this into a real essay, so they're just going to have to wait a little longer!!

Till next time...

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Now you know my ABCs, won't you play along with me??

 Sorry, I know I've been a terrible blogger over the past couple of weeks! Blame my exuberance at being allowed out into the outside world again (no more mumps, hooray!!) coupled with a new found addiction to the CSI Crime City game on Facebook and the time I've spent on the dreaded job applications. Anyway, now I've got my excuses explanation out of the way, I'll get on to the main reason I'm blogging today...the ABCs of me. I've wanted to take part in this meme ever since I first laid eyes on it, and being at a loss with what to blog about today, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to get it done! Here we go...:

Age: 27

Bed Size: Single

Chore You Dislike: Putting away clothes. Not when they're freshly washed and ironed, but if I've been wearing them for a short time, and they're still clean. I just let them pile up until the pile looks like it's about to fall at any time! I also disliked cleaning the oven when I lived away from home.

Dogs: I used to have a border terrier called Tess, but I'm currently dog free. While I loved Tess dearly, I've grown up with cats and think I'm more of a cat person than a dog one.

Essential Start to the Day: A cup of tea and something to eat...I can't go out on an empty stomach!

Favourite Color: Coral in the summer; red in the winter.

Gold or Silver: It completely depends on the outfit. If you'd asked me 10 or even 5 years ago, I would have definitely said silver, but now I'm much more open to gold. Plus, I mix and match them on pretty much a daily basis anyway, as the ring I always wear (my parents bought it me for my 21st) has a gold band and the dial on my watch has a silver toned casing!

Height: 5'5.5/5'6 - I'm average height and I love it! I can wear heels without feeling too tall and find it easy to buy clothes that fit me (lengthwise anyway!)

Instruments: I played recorder whilst I was at primary school and I could also play a few simple tunes on the keyboard. My dream instruments to play would be the drums, saxophone and maybe the piano.

Job Title: Supply Teacher/Nursery Support Worker

Kids: None of my own, but I do work with roughly 15 3-5 year olds five days a week! Those coupled with my friend "The Maternal One's" 2 little boys aged 2 and 6 months are the nearest I've got to having children so far, and to be honest, that suits me fine, for the moment at least. I'm far too selfish right now, that's definite, but I'd love them in the future.

Live: Manchester, England

Mum's Name: Barbara

Nicknames: My friends often call me Jules or Ju, with the odd surname thrown in. My sister Amy also occasionally calls me Julio, which I hate!!

Overnight Hospital Stays: Just the one...1987, when I had my tonsils and adenoids removed, and grommets put in my ears.

Pet Peeves: Incorrect grammar and punctuation, particularly misplaced apostrophes. I once nearly chased a bus down the street so I could cross out some offending apostrophes which were featured on a poster on the bus's side! Fortunately for me, my friend was with me so I saw sense and resisted. :-)

Quote from a Movie: I'm terrible at this! I love so many different films, and I'm struggling to come up with a quote from any of them. This one will have to do:

"It's a matter of professional integrity. No girl wants to marry a doctor who can't tell if a man's dead or not!" (Bonus points if you can tell me the film!)

Righty or Lefty: Righty.

Siblings: I'm the oldest of 4 children and have a 25 year old brother, and 2 sisters who are 17 and 16. We're all still living at home...my poor mum and dad lol!

Time you wake up: If I'm working, any time between 6:45 and 7:30. At weekends, it's normally after 8:30, usually between 9 and 10.

University: Manchester University, for both my undergraduate degree and postgrad. I enjoyed my uni experience, but sometimes wish I'd made more of the student lifestyle!

Vegetables you don't like: Are gherkins a vegetable? If so, then those! And broad beans...I'm not a fan.

What makes you run late: Underestimating how long it takes me to get ready, messing around, public transport, having to wait around for other people...it can be any combination of things!!

X-Rays You've Had: Dental x-rays, one on my knee when I cut it badly at the age of 11 (clearly they don't pick up wood as I had a woodchip embedded in it for months after my original x ray!)...I think that's all.

Yummy Food You Make: Mainly sweet treats...flapjacks, rocky road, parkin, lemon loaf cake...the list could go on! I'd really like to branch out though, and add more savouries to this list.

Zoo Animal Favorite: Elephants, orang utans, giraffes, lions and fish/sea mammals in general. They're all wonderful in different ways.

And they're my ABCs. Now it's over to you! I'd love to see your ABC lists and find out a little bit more about you!  So don't be shy, come on over and feel free to share!!

Till next time...

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

otherwise known as the post where I don't know what to write, so I just have a bit of a ramble! We all write those kinds of posts from time to time, right?? Well, I hope so! :-) And before I ramble any more than is truly necessary, here's a list of my thoughts from today:

  • I'm so looking forward to coming out of 'quarantine' tomorrow. It'll have been 10 days since my symptoms became fully apparent and I was diagnosed with suspected mumps, and according to the information I've read, that means I'm no longer contagious!! I've been pain free for a few days, my face is pretty much back to normal and I'm raring to go :-). My plans so far include a driving lesson and a drama group rehearsal, and I may even pop into town for a Starbucks (I've not had one for ages!) and some window shopping.
  • Another thing I'm looking forward to doing again is baking. I've not rustled anything up for a while now, firstly because I was busy with work, and then because I was scared of infecting the food with my mumps germs but now I'm raring to go again and already thinking about what I can make. So far I'm thinking along the lines of a buttery Madeira cake, but I'm open to suggestion. Do you have any ideas?
  • And another baking related thought...I'm not quite sure how long I'm going to be able to resist buying this:

Yes, it's the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book which has recently been released. Now I know that I'm short of cash at the moment, and I've already got more than enough cookery books, but there's no getting through to me. To put it simply, I'm in love. In love with the beautiful photography featured on its pages. In love with some of the amazing sounding recipes that I've heard and read about. And when you add to this the fact that I've had some fabulous results from using the first book, and I know it's only going to be a matter of time. It's just a shame that it's nowhere near my birthday or Christmas!! :-(

  • I've realised that I'm in need of a haircut. It might not seem like an essential especially as I only had a trim a few weeks ago, but believe me it is!! If I have to wait another 6-8 weeks, it'll be practically unmanageable :-( And there's no way I'm going to my friends' N and M's wedding in just over 3 weeks with a bird's nest on my head, it's just not happening! And breathe...! :-)
  • I'm thinking of holidays and wondering if some friends and I will be able to get away for some sun, sea and sand for a few days at the end of May/beginning of June. I know I might not be in the best position financially, but I could really do with a holiday...it's been far too long.
  • Yet at the same time, I've also been thinking about work. After a kind text from the headteacher at the school where I worked until just over a week ago, I've been once again reminded of what a fantastic group of people the staff were and what a happy time I had working there. I'm going to miss them all, and hope I'll be lucky enough to find another school that's as welcoming.
  • I just love the nautical look (and have been rocking my own interpretation today). I think it's classic yet chic, sophisticated yet easy to put together and the colour palette is one of my favourites...I'm so glad it comes back every year :-)
And these are my Thursday thoughts. What have you been thinking about today?? Don't be shy...I'd love to hear from you!

Till next time...

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Highs and Lows of the Week

(Picture taken from weheartit.com)

As the picture says, Happy Sunday everyone! Hope everyone is having one as restful and enjoyable as mine has been so far! And as it's Sunday, there's really no better time to post a round up of the highs and lows of my week. Now long-time readers might remember that this was a feature of the blog back in the days when I did actually post with some regularity, and I'm really keen to make it a major part of it this time around too. Not only does this lazy blogger not have to think of anything original to blog about on Sunday nights (a bonus for me, especially if my brain's been mashed with school work!!), but I also feel it's a really good exercise in giving thanks for both the big and not-so-big things that contribute to making my life as good as it is (I am lucky, even if I forget that sometimes  a lot). So without further ado, here's what's been making me smile and cry this week:

  • Being diagnosed with suspected mumps: This has been my big all encompassing low of the week. Now, firstly this has meant that I've had a swollen face (mainly on the LHS) and chin, which was quite painful leading up to, and also in the first couple of days after, my diagnosis. Also, as mumps is a highly contagious disease, I've been sat at home since Tuesday afternoon for fear of infecting others which means I've missed out on watching "Ghost the Musical", rehearsal and the pub with my drama buddies on Friday night and my friend's hen do (bachelorette party) last night. And it's not just socialising that I've been barred from this week...mumps has also cheated me of the chance to say a proper goodbye to all the children I've taught and the staff I've worked with at the school I've been doing long term supply at since the start of November. The last point was by far the hardest to deal with...I'd been coming to terms with the end of my contract on Friday for a few weeks. I'd already started to plan a party for the children I'd worked with and was determined to go out on a high. And then on Tuesday afternoon I went to the doctors and never came back...now the school have made it quite clear that I'm more than welcome to drop in when I'm feeling better and believe me I'm going to (I have a mountain of resources to sort out besides anything else!!), but it still won't be quite the same :-(
  • Realising there really is no place like home: Now when you're ill, or even if you're just feeling sorry for yourself, there's nowhere you'd rather be than home, And no-one you'd rather have taking care of you than your mum! Seriously, I don't know what I'd have done if I hadn't been living at home this week. Mum made sure I had food that I was able to eat (even going so far as to cut the crusts off my bread when my jaw was at its most painful) so I didn't go hungry and I was just able to laze around all day, safe in the knowledge that I had no household jobs to be getting on with. And big thanks also go to my sisters for having the great idea for them, my mum and I to have a DVD night last night and to my dad for hugging me and just being there while I had a bit of a cry the other day. And whilst I'm thanking the others, I suppose I can't go without thanking my brother for not being quite as annoying as usual lol!! Seriously, I would have been lost without them this week, so I'm saying a BIG thank you to them all as well as Happy Mother's Day to my fabulous Mum!!
  • Having a rest (which really was needed): This time last week I was STRESSED. I had lots of work still to do for school, I had lots of busy evenings coming up in terms of social events and driving lessons and I really wanted a break. Then came my swollen face and the doctor's appointment and bam!! 3 weeks off. A few days of doing pretty much nothing and a few latish get ups and daytime naps later and I'm feeling pretty much back to normal. Just in time for the 2 week spring holidays...woohoo!! :-)
  • Fabulous friends: The kind who take time out of their day to text or fb you to see how you are. The kind who listen to you moan without a word except if it's to check if there's anyway they can make your situation better. I've been reminded of how many of those I have over the past few days, and it's lovely, let me tell you.
  • Losing weight: Over the past three or four weeks, I've been following a personal training programme on the "Biggest Loser" Wii game. Now, I won't pretend I've been being a saint by any means...I've not been exercising every day and I'm not being overly restrictive with what I've been eating, but I have been upping my activity levels (both in terms of doing the suggested workouts and some extra walking thanks to my afternoon job) so I was quite disappointed when my first couple of weigh ins showed that I hadn't lost any weight and my weight had, in fact, marginally increased. So it was with trepidation that I stepped onto the balance board today, having done no exercise for over a week and I was convinced that I'd be looking at no change at best. Imagine my disbelief when I saw that I had, in fact, lost 1.4 kg!! Considering my appetite hasn't been noticeably decreased by my illness, it came as quite a welcome surprise, but now the flip side is that I'm feeling the pressure not to put the weight back on as soon as I can eat crisps and the like!
And that was the week that was...and here's to the next one!! :-)

Till next time...

Thursday, 31 March 2011


I think this picture says it all...don't you?? It's been over 4 months since I've last posted, and that time has been simply filled with "hellos" and "goodbyes". I've met new people and experienced some things for the very first time, whilst saying farewell to others. But throughout all this I've been busy, and that's one of the reasons that my blog break has gone on for quite so long...I knew that before I started blogging again, I wanted to be in a position where I would have time to post regularly and catch up on all my favourite reads. And that time is now. But before I say "Hello" to this new chapter in my blogging adventures, I'd like to bid farewell to the past few months and all it's brought me. So without further ado, here goes:
  • Since the start of November, I've said "Hello" to 3 jobs and also "Goodbye" to two of them. One I was quite relieved to see the back of (although I do miss the fabulous staff discount!) but the thought of coming to the end of my contract at the other has filled me with sadness (especially as ill health made it seem even more unfinished...more on that later).
  • As a result of the increased demands on my time that my jobs brought me, I said goodbye to quite as much free time and hello to evening and weekend schoolwork.
  • Since my blog break began, I've said goodbye 2010 with a fantastic family Christmas and hello 2011 with a house party in Wales along with some of my closest friends.  I've also said goodbye to 26 and my mid-twenties and hello to 27 and my lates (eeeeeeeeeek!) and despite being older and technically wiser, I managed to accompany my first day as a 27 year old with a stinking hangover and churning stomach (which was especially irresponsible considering I was acting in my drama group's panto that day!) As well as my birthday, I've also helped several of my friends and family members welcome their new ages and I've had an absolute ball helping them celebrate :-)
  • I said "hello" and "goodbye" to my drama group's pantomime which took place in late January, and apart from the pre-show nerves, and terrible hangover on my first day, I loved every minute of it. And, a few weeks later, I said "hello" to a new show which we'll be putting on in May.
  • I said "goodbye" to one driving instructor and "hello" to another. I'll also hopefully be saying goodbye to my "L" plates for good in a few weeks...fingers crossed!!
  • My wardrobe has also said hello to a fair few items of clothing, as well as some gorgeous new shoes and accessories. As for goodbyes, there haven't been quite as many...well, what can I say?? I'm a hoarder!
And finally, I said goodbye to my 100% attendance record for this school year. At the back end of last week, the left hand side of my face started feeling painful. Fast forward to Tuesday morning at work, and my colleagues noticed it was swollen. One emergency doctor's appointment later, I've been diagnosed with suspected mumps (the doc was almost 100% sure) and I've been signed off work for up to 3 weeks! The most frustrating thing is that I was due to be finishing one of my jobs this Friday anyway...the spring holiday is coming up and the school I've been working at for 5 months can't afford to keep me on after that because of their limited budget :-( So bang've gone my visions of saying a proper goodbye to the staff, who I've loved working with, and throwing a party for all the children in my groups...and I've said hello to an aching face and hamster cheeks! Plus not to mention the fact that I'm most likely highly contagious , which means no "Ghost the Musical" tonight and probably no friend's hen do on Saturday :-( 

But, I'll stop moaning now, as I want to end the post on a high. Because I'm back, at the right time for me, and I can't wait to get back into blogging again :-)

Till next time...
Julie xx