Trying something new.

Hello,

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you may have seen me post a link to a video I created on YouTube.  I know this is far from a big deal but it is something I have wanted to do for a while.

I love watching snippets of film from peoples lives, seeing what others enjoy and sharing a little positivity. Of course, I am fully aware that life is not positive all of the time, but non the less for those five, ten or even twenty minutes it is.

I have decided to create a YouTube channel and share with you a little more of my journey. As I said this is something I have been thinking about for a while and attempted many times before but it would seem my perfectionism has held me back. Technology and media do not come naturally to me and I tend to overthink the smallest of details, especially the wrong details. However, putting all that aside, I want to be able to create something, more so than blog posts and Instagram photographs to look back on, to share positivity and who knows a little mindfulness to or wherever my journey takes me next.

I admit I am not the most confident in this but I can try. I always tell others to try something new, that things take time and we continue to learn each and every day. So, a reminder to myself, take your own advice.

Let me know if you have any suggestions or tips and also if you to have a YouTube channel. This is a whole new experience to me and one I am excited to share with you.

I hope you enjoy.

Nicole 

A few days in December.

The last couple of weeks have been much busier than expected and I do apologise for the lack of festive posts, and to think I was going to attempt blogmas! Although busy and at times quite hectic I have managed to say somewhat calm and mindful to. My business has been filled with plans for the new year, all very exciting and hard work to but with balance in mind I have found time to enjoy with my loved ones and for me that’s what this time of year is all about.

Here are a few December photographs I would like to share with you, of course, if you follow my Instagram you will have seen my adorable Syd and Archie all wrapped up and looking cosy. This day was filled with putting the Christmas decorations up, listening to festive songs, wrapping presents and my mother and I even enjoyed some roasted chestnuts (my favourite).

Another lovely day was spent visiting my Aunty (kind of like my great grandmother), I feel like I have spoken about her many times before and well, she is a truly inspiring woman. The fact that she has lost her sight and is still baking Christmas cakes from scratch just shows you how wonderful she is. I always enjoy visiting her and leave feeling not only grateful but also inspired, she reminds me never to give up. On returning home my family and I all watched Hairspray live and it was just a lovely evening, nothing special but all together.

Throughout December I have also enjoyed some beautiful winter walks, although too cold to take my gloves of to take any photographs, each walk has been filled with bright, colourful skies and twinkly lights. One of my favourite things about dark, winter walks is walking past homes, seeing the warm glow from the windows, I imagine families to be all cosy, winding down for the evening and I know it probably sounds silly but it gives me a feeling of peace.

This month I finally met up with my friend Jessica, we ‘met’ over four years ago, and have not only been on very similar journeys but we are also kind of scarily similar. Meeting up in London was truly wonderful and we did so much, catching the tube here there and everywhere, seeing all the hustle and bustle of London life and enjoying a much different kind of beauty, the high buildings, the different smells (not all beautiful I must admit) and of course the sparkly Christmas lights.

I also got to visit The Mae Deli (sorry Liv), it was not what I expected at all, like a touch of home amongst the city business, it gave me a similar feeling to my winter walks, only I was the one escaping into a warm, cosy home. I enjoyed one of the Mae bowls, filled with four festive dishes, now I realise none of my attempts and Deliciously Ella’s recipes will ever be as good as the real thing. It was very strange to have more vegan, gluten free dishes than not, I guess either I will have to visit London again or hope for another deli opening up North.

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For more on my time in London please read my ‘More than a training day’ post, also it never fails to surprise me in how easy it is to be vegan and gluten-free in cities. Whilst in Pret a Manger, enjoying my breakfast of their new five grain porridge (I highly recommend, does anybody know how to make this at home?), I noticed the amount of people ordering soy coffees, compared to when in coffee shops up North. Also, how easy it seemed to have an allergen friendly lunch, instead of the usual ‘ooo that must be so hard’ response.

As for this week, I shall be hopefully spending more time with my loved ones and enjoy a couple of days to relax before the beginning of all the exciting adventures this new year will bring. Just in case I do not write before, I wish you all a truly wonderful Christmas, be kind to yourself and others.

Nicole

The 1st of December.

The magic of December is finally upon us and with a gentle reminder that this month is not a month for pressure nor stress, I have come up with an idea for advent, to reflect on each day with: an act of kindness for myself and another, something I am proud of and something I am grateful for. No matter how small, looking at these four things at the end of my day, as a way to be reminded that there is more to Christmas than the hustle and bustle that can often overwhelm us.

First, my act of self kindness, this has to be my breakfast, okay I know, I might be cheating slightly as I have a good bowl of porridge every morning however, today I took a little more time than I usually would and allowed myself time to enjoy it. Also the addition of a cup of Christmas coffee along with my  moo-free advent calendar chocolate gave it that extra bit of kindness. There is just something about advent calendars and breakfasts in pyjamas that make me feel all cosy.

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My act of kindness has been harder than I thought it would be, which being completely honest saddens me a little. Maybe I am unsure what an ‘act of kindness’ really means, or how small it can be. I mean, does taking my dogs walking count? Or making my father a cup of tea? Perhaps the raffle tickets I sold? I think this one needs some work.

Something  I am proud of, after a few months without running, this week I have got back to it. I have only been on two very short runs/walks but I am very proud of myself for allowing myself time for me and I am so happy I have. I am not only proud of myself for starting again but also for not pushing myself too far too soon, small steps. Ps, I did not start that fire, I simply stumbled upon it and stood there for a little warmth.

As always I am grateful for the sky and I apologise these photographs were taken last week and yesterday, I was in the woods whilst the sun set this evening but of course I feel very grateful I have been able to see such beautiful skies and grateful I am surrounded by such beauty. I could go on with a whole list of what I feel grateful for but today I choose the sky, the colours and the beauty that surrounds me (that counts as one, right?)

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I hope you have had a lovely day,

Nicole 

Three weeks driving.

Last month I (finally) took and past my driving test! I have never really seen myself as an anxious learner but driving solo is completely different to having lessons and even being with someone else in the car. When I past my test the examiner said to me ‘now you start to learn to drive’, this couldn’t have been more true, in the last few weeks I have learnt so much and here is just a few of them..

  • This might just be me but the louder I sing the faster I go, scarily without even realising! Note to self; do not get too into that song, not even Adele or Demi.
  • Do not wear a jumper on a long drive, it gets hot and you will have no choice but to sweat it out, lesson learnt.
  • Flashing lights are very distracting, do not look into the lights.
  • Do not drink too much coffee or anything for that matter but especially coffee before a long drive, you will need a wee and there will be no toilets, story of my life.
  • The motorway is kind of wavy and if you go too fast you will feel sea sick.
  • North wales does not always mean home, confusing I know but signs don’t always make sense.
  • Your back will hurt, always stretch after driving, another reason to do more yoga.
  • Do not let the sky distract you, not even the sunset, not even if it is as beautiful as the lion king sky, no.
  • Always have sunglasses at the ready, especially my fellow Brits, you really never know when the sun will make an appearance and oh gosh it burns.
  • Sneezing whilst driving is scary, keep your cool, hands always on the wheel and always stay alert.
  • My parents always had a no swearing rule, I grew up never swearing, I still don’t, until that is I am driving. Road rage happens and no amount of breathing can help, it is okay to fdh**j@dh it out.

How I have been dealing with the more serious kind of driving anxieties:

  • When I’m unsure of my route or panicking about being in the wrong lane I look for a car that someone I know has, I then imagine it’s them driving and I know it sounds silly but it helps, imagining someone I know on the same road.
  • A few times I have been a little paranoid and anxious over something being wrong with my car, the brakes, gears or wheels, when this happens I take a few deep breaths and look for somewhere I can safely pull over if needed, reminding myself that I am in control, just planning what to do in my mind makes me feel more at ease.
  • If those anxieties do come true (touch wood), be prepared, I have all my breakdown information stored in my phone, if anything were to happen I know exactly who to call and what information I would need.
  • Something that always triggers anxiety for me is rushing, having to be somewhere on time, to avoid this when driving I have been putting more than enough time in the parking ticket machine and making sure I leave home earlier than needed.
  • I have found listening to chilled music so helpful with taking my mind away from the anxieties, I don’t think I could listen to anything too fast or loud but chilled music has definitely been helping me feel more calm.
  • Going the wrong way, it happens to most of us, my dad being the exception, when this happens I always think to myself ‘what is the worst that can happen’ of course stopping my mind from over thinking the answer. The worst that can happen is I end up somewhere else, I automatically take a different route or I stop somewhere  safe and plan another route, all non life or death situations and all completely manageable.
  • With independence comes responsibility, I don’t know who said that but it could not be more true, for me anyway. Not being able to drive has meant or at least had been an excuse to rely on my parents for quite a bit, more than I would like to admit. Since driving I have felt that independence I needed however, with that I have also felt the responsibility. Feeling (almost) fully responsible for myself, if I need something I have to go and get it, if I am going somewhere I have to go, I don’t have to wait anymore and I can’t make excuses either. Don’t get me wrong, I am very much enjoying it but the fear of not enjoying it is there, the fear of anxiety, feeling anxious over feeling anxious. I am choosing to embrace this, regardless of anxiety, I choose to embrace the change and the feeling of growing up, finally feeling twenty three. Wow that got deep.

Is this all just me? What have you learnt since learning to drive?

 

A few favourites.

 

Here is a mixture of things I have been enjoying the last few months from cruelty free beauty products to board games and all things in between, enjoy!

First starting with the beauty products, I am still new at finding cruelty free and vegan products and tend to stick to the same brands but this month my parents bought me a bottle of L’occitane Verveine shower gel. To my surprise L’occitane are completely cruelty free- in the UK at least, please check to be sure. I am very fussy when it comes to shower gels and although I was very grateful they bought it for me I did doubt if I would like it. Again, to my surprise I love it and not just in the shower either, this makes the freshest, bubbliest, bubble bath and you only need a little to. The scent is lemony, fresh and leaves me feeling relaxed, calm and of course sparkling clean. This would make a perfect gift for somebody or a treat for yourself; I am looking forward to trying more of L’occitane’s products.

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I am far from a beauty blogger but I do love sharing cruelty free, vegan make up finds with you, especially the good ones! I recently bought the Barry M ‘Brow Kit‘ in the medium to dark colour. I have tried all kinds of eyebrow applicators, pencils, brushes, powders, creams, you name it I have tried it and none have been as good as this one. It includes a brown cream, a darker powder, a highlight powder, a double-sided brush and a small pair of tweezers. I love how it includes both shades so you can choose to go lighter or darker. It stays really well (even in my bald parts) and doesn’t feel too heavy, the only thing I find wrong with it is there isn’t a little bristled brush but for the price it is great. I also love the handy small, thin size of it and the added mirror on the inside of the palate, it’s just right for taking out with you.

As I mentioned in my last favourites post, I am currently, kind of, a little obsessed with the M&S Rosie for Autograph lipstick range and although I love the Silk Rose shade I felt I needed a more of a casual, day time colour. This time I chose Nude Blush and of course I completely love it, at first I thought it might be far too pale for my skin tone but with a little bronzer it looks great and was just what I wanted. I cannot recommend these lipsticks enough and if I haven’t tempted you yet, they smell just like mini eggs!

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This has been a favourite of mine for a while now but I just needed to share, coconut oil, of course you have probably all heard of it before, it seems to be the in thing for just about everything and anything. I use The Groovy Food Companies and one thing in particular that I have been using it as is a make up remover, you must try it, I can not rave about it enough. I simply scoop a little on to my fingers and rub all over my face, eyes and brows included, you can even keep your eyes open whilst doing it! I then get a piece of cotton wool and remove the make up before washing the coconut oil off with soap and warm water. I use Lush’s Coal Face soap to do this to make sure I don’t leave any extra oil on my face. Both work very well together and although coconut oil can seem a little expensive in some stores it is extremely long lasting, you only need the tiniest amount for a full face of make up, it works out a lot cheaper than most make up removers to.

As well as the make up remover I have also been using coconut oil as a hair mask. I don’t like using too much of it and leaving it overnight as some suggest but I do like plaiting my hair and popping on a scoop for those ‘it doesn’t really matter if my hair looks greasy’ kind of days and when me hair is plaited you can’t really tell anyway. I have been doing this for around three weeks now and it already feels much healthier, thicker and shinier to. I highly recommend this especially for those of you with split ends like me.

This month Disney’s ‘Finding Dory’ was finally released and it did not disappoint my high expectations. I have read mixed reviews and I just don’t know why, people keep saying ‘it isn’t as good as ‘Finding Nemo’’ but I actually preferred it! I loved the new characters, hidden messages and of course the comical and heart warming side to it to. If you haven’t already been to see it please do, don’t let anything you read about it, or your age (..mum) put you off.

As September approaches the shops quickly fill with back to school supplies and no matter how old I get I still get rather excited to buy new stationary, unfortunately all I really need is a notebook and a pen (how boring, right?). Here are a couple of items I simply could not resist, I am sure there will be much more to follow, adding to my already overflowing box of folders, pens and notebooks. The watercolour floral ring binder is from Sainsbury’s and the two small notebooks are from Tesco. I shall have to stop myself from visiting Paperchase this month!

A new favourite scent this month is the Yankee Candle Salted Caramel wax melts, as recommended by my friend who shares my love and slight addiction to scented candles. This is the first time I have seen this shape and size wax melt, although I don’t think the actual wax has changed much the packaging is a lot easier to open than the usual cupcake plastic wrapped ones. I am not a huge fan of salted caramel but this smell is beautiful, it’s sweet and light yet cosy to! The perfect combination, I highly recommend. This set of six was £3 at Tesco and although slightly smaller it works out cheaper and I find they have the same strength as the cupcake style melts.

Last but not least, this month I bought a chess board with the hope I would learn how to play chess. I still haven’t got around to learning but I have mastered the art of playing draughts. Draughts always reminds me of childhood evenings at my grandmother’s house and boring rainy days, with the weather so up and down here in Wales I have found my family and I playing outside in the sunshine and in the conservatory listening to the rain. I don’t know if it’s another form of technology escape or if it’s because I keep winning but I have found it so very enjoyable.

That’s all for now, what cruelty free products have you been enjoying this month? What do you use coconut oil for? And what is your favourite board game? Please do share with me.

Find a penny.

This morning my mother and I took Syd and Archie- our two dogs, on their usual short walk, not this one here, sadly Syd can only walk for twenty minutes now. Whilst walking my mother found a penny on the floor which of course was followed by ‘find a penny pick it up and all day long you’ll have good luck‘, I put the penny into my pocket and carried on with the walk.

After our walk I decided to go for a little swim, I was the only one in the pool, it was so very peaceful and truly enjoyable. It sounds silly but I felt extremely grateful for what I could do, what my body and mind could do now that a few years ago seemed impossible.

Moving on with my day, my cousin and I took her three year old and six week old sons to the park, we played on the swings, the slide and the seesaw before calling for ice lollies on the way home. It is always so lovely to see them and I love nothing more than seeing them both (okay so maybe not the little one, although he did seem very happy) enjoying the outdoors.

I came home from the park and took Archie on his second walk (the above pictures). Whilst walking I thought to myself, I better make the most of walking in the sunshine but this walk is beautiful in rain or shine, no matter what month or season, I am so lucky to have such a beautiful place five minutes away from my home. It was clear to see that Archie enjoyed every moment, he didn’t stop running, in and out of trees, picking up sticks and walking in the river. Just like my cousins sons I love seeing him enjoy the outdoors, seeing how happy it all makes him.

Heading home and feeling a little tired after the last walk of the day I decided to check my emails, unwind and have a relaxing evening. Whilst checking my emails I found out something very exciting, I apologise I don’t want to say anything just yet but I am so very very excited.

I am ashamed and embarrassed to say that when my mother said ‘all day long you’ll have good luck’, I thought maybe I would win the lottery or a prize holiday somewhere. Looking back at my day I feel blessed and very lucky indeed, after all it’s the little things that count.

I hope you have also had a lovely day, Nicole 

Embrace your imperfections.

I am often asked, ‘if you could go back and tell your thirteen year old self one thing, what would it be?’, of course I have an awful lot of answers to this but one answer that stands out in particular is ‘embrace your imperfections’, or at least what others see as imperfect.

Growing up was hard, as I am sure it is for most, I very rarely find myself looking back at my teen years with happy memories, instead I get kind of filled with sadness; a big grey cloud of mental illness, worry and an awful lot of self-hate. Years of trying to be someone and something I wasn’t, always beating myself up for not being what I saw as perfect. I would be truly terrified of what others thought of me; what I looked like, how I acted, spoke and even how I walked.

Back in 2006, when I was just thirteen years old having bushy eyebrows was a no no, in fact if they weren’t pencil thin you were seen as ugly, or at least so I thought. I remember cursing my father for giving me his big eyebrows, (sorry dad!) now, ten years later I couldn’t be happier about them, not because they are ‘in trend’ but because they suit me and so I feel that I have managed to embrace a little part of me.

I was never bullied, please don’t get me wrong but I guess certain things, no matter how harmless they were meant, stick with you. I remember very specifically walking to class when one girl started pointing and laughing with her friends, shouting over ‘Nicole your hairs gone wavy and it’s going ginger.’ What’s wrong with wavy or ginger hair? -Nothing but at the time, everything. How dare I be a little different or not have perfectly straight, brown hair. This stuck with me and I remember feeling so self-conscious about it, until I actually decided to dye my hair ginger and wear it wavy, cowslick and all. Again, I started embracing a small part of me.

I would try and force myself to be into music, listening to songs and artists I didn’t really understand or enjoy because I felt it made me fit in more. I would say it has only been the last few years that I have accepted I don’t really like music. I enjoy the odd song and it’s kind of nice to listen to sometimes but I don’t have favourites, I don’t know the latest charts or what’s in and that’s just me. I don’t have a need to fit in anymore and that is so freeing I just wish I could have known sooner. Known there is no need to fit in, that being yourself and embracing you makes life not only more peaceful but more enjoyable to.

If I could go back and tell myself what I know now; how our imperfections make us who we are, how we are all wonderfully different and how important self-acceptance is I have no doubt I would be able to look back with more happy memories. I can’t go back but I can create memories now, continuing to accept myself and all that makes me, me.

Thank you for reading, Nicole

 

One year vegan and my eight top tips for going vegan.

In August 2015 I decided to go vegan, six months later still vegan and feeling wonderful, now one year later and of course still feeling great, besides a few non-vegan related health issues, I dread to think how bad they would be if I still ate animal products. For my one year vegan post I thought it would be a good idea to share some tips for those interested in making the change and becoming vegan, I promise you won’t regret it.

  1. Try new things! As children we often develop favourite go to meals and these soon become a staple in our daily routine, hard to break free from, even as adults. It is completely normal to go weeks eating the same meals day in day out or at least very similar. I mean how often do you eat some form of meat and potato? One of the things I love most about being vegan is how open I have become to trying new things, of course my recovery also plays a huge part in this but either way I love how experimental I now am. I remember when I first turned vegetarian I used to hate mushrooms even though I had never really tried them, now I could eat them with every meal, the same goes for so many things. Experiment with new recipes, ingredients and flavours- you never know unless you try. Break your food habits and be open minded- very open minded, especially when it comes to nutritional yeast, lentils and putting sweet potato into a brownie.

  1. Don’t say goodbye to your favourites, make them vegan friendly. I maybe contradicting myself here but as well as trying new things it is important to include your favourites, even your childhood favourites, I guess it is all about balance; new favourites and old favourites. For me vegan ‘meats’ are great for this kind of thing, one of my childhood favourites was chicken nuggets and chips so now and again I like to have fry’s family nuggets. You can also have things like veggie sausage sandwiches, beans on toast- I believe there is now even beans with veggie sausages in them? There really is all sorts of things like this out there, quorn now do vegan options to, just be sure to check for gluten if your intolerant to as quite often they are made with wheat.

  1. Never restrict yourself, if you find yourself craving something, some milk chocolate, a hot chocolate, a buttery slice of toast, a milky bowl of coco-pops or maybe even a homemade cupcake; you can still have it! Just find a way and I promise you there is a way (pinterest is your friend) of creating a vegan friendly version. If you really don’t fancy getting creative in the kitchen then check out Accidentally Vegan UK or #accidentallyvegan there are so many things out there that you would never think are vegan.
  1. Don’t let eating out put you off, always have a handy snack and prepare to search for a vegan friendly restaurant or adapt a menu. There are so many options for eating out vegan, now more than ever, the Happy Cow app is great for this kind of thing, do your research, a quick Google search and you will probably find somewhere. This is often one of the reasons people doubt becoming vegan ‘the social side’; there is no need for it to be a reason, if I can eat out being vegan and gluten free I am pretty sure you can to.

    A few of my favourite UK vegan friendly chain restaurants: Las Iguanas, Wagamama, Pizza Express, Carluccios, YoSushi, Zizis and Pret A Manger.

  1. Remind yourself why. When your struggling to remember why you made the decision to change remind yourself by reconnecting with others, spend some time with your pets, your friends pets, go for a walk and meet some cows, sheep and horses, take a trip to your local animal shelter or petting farm, watch a documentary, research some facts or read a vegan book; do something to remind yourself and re-inspire yourself to make the decision over and over again.

  1. Research! If you are struggling to think of meal ideas, quick snacks, baking recipes, vegan friendly restaurants, shops, make up brands, maybe your bloods have dropped a little in something -they really shouldn’t, mine actually improved but if so do some research find solutions- don’t let what ever it is stop you, be pro-active and change it for the better, remember ‘knowledge is power’. Read books, blogs, websites, watch videos, social media and download apps! There is so much vegan help, support and information out there, fill yourself with it, let it help your journey and who knows you might even pick up some vegan friends on your way.12767750_10153244200871809_1681553039_n
  1. Explore, from exploring your local area, to near by cities and even whilst traveling, find vegan stores, cafes, restaurants, meet ups, fairs and festivals. Exploring is not only a great way of finding new foods but also meeting new friends, sharing information and of course in the long run helping those who need help. It is also a wonderful way to get out and find places you might not have even known were there. Check out Vegfest’s events Calendar for events in the UK and Meetup for vegan meet ups that might be in your area.
  1. You can only do your best and do your best for YOU. Remember we are all different, even as vegans. There is so many fads around these days, don’t allow yourself to be bombarded with them, especially when researching, be prepared to be faced with all of the labels and ‘diets’; raw till four, fully raw, high carb and so on. You have to find what works for you, if like me you don’t like labels or diets then just be vegan, eat what you like, when you like, be cruelty free and just do your best. Never put pressure on yourself, this will just steer you away from being vegan, slip-ups will happen, that’s life but each day we make a difference.

Thank you so much for reading; I hope my eight top tips help you on your vegan journey. Please let me know if they do, your thoughts on the post or if you have any tips yourself please comment and add them to the list.

Nicole