Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Pinned in January





























  1. The perfect 60's inspired look
  2. Not sure if I've mentioned it but I recently booked a holiday to Florida ;) cue a whole new board dedicated to Florida stuff
  3. Another lovely fireplace
  4. Pretty much my dream sofa
  5. True
  6. Back to Florida! I can't wait to visit the Harry Potter bit at Univeral
  7. I love this quirky clock
  8. Because a smiling chihuahua in a sombrero is the cure for January blues
 You can keep up to date with what I'm pinning by following my Pinterest boards here.


Monday, 26 January 2015

BOOKS: Spies

...Or the book that got me back into reading. That was rather a long title though! So this is less of a review more of a chat about the book Spies. Let me take you back to 2009 I was 18 I'd enrolled back at college for a third year due to deciding not to go to uni and not knowing what else to do, I was doing an English literature AS level partly because I'd already done the English language A Level and I'd been pretty good at literature at school. One of the texts we were given to study was Spies (alongside the poetry book The World's Wife, which I can also recommend and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit which I wasn't really a fan of). Before each lesson we had to have read up to a certain point in the book and although the book really isn't long at all, I did wonder how I'd get on with it. See up until that point I couldn't remember the last time I'd read for pleasure, probably way back as a child. I'd loved books as a kid and I still had shelves full of books however they were unread and a little unloved.

Then I picked Spies up for the first time and everything changed. I settled down to read the first part of the novel we'd been told to read and found myself flying past that point in no time, completely immersed in this book that had opened up a world which I'd shunned for such a long time. I loved that book and it's safe to say I flew through the whole thing in no time (and then flicked back through it again numerous times through out my time studying it). It showed me just how powerful books can be and opened up a whole new world of reading as an adult. I spent my time professing my love of the book to anyone who would listen and felt like it was something personal when my mum didn't share my enthusiasm of the novel, that's how much I'd connected with it.

Since that day I've not stopped reading for pleasure. I may not be the worlds quickest reader but nothing beats the pleasure of a good story and I love getting lost in a whole new world.

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin. I couldn't have put it better myself!

What book holds a special place in your heart? Let me know below. Oh and if you're after a new read I really can't recommend Spies enough, you should check it out!


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Harry Potter Tag


 After re-reading all the Harry Potter books I thought it was only fitting that I did the Harry Potter tag!
 1. Which book is your favourite?
Deathly Hallows

2. Which film is your favourite?
Probably the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2

3. Which book is your least favourite?
Order of the Phoenix, not sure why I just seemed to read that one much slower.

4. Which film is your least favourite?
I don't really dislike any of them but maybe Philosopher's Stone if I had to choose

 5.Which part of the books or films made you cry?
Dobby dying, Snape dying (once you know about him) and the biggy is the 'always' scene

6.If you could hook up with any character who would it be?
Haha what an odd question! Either of the Weasley twins though and I'm not sure why, Lupin also has a certain charm about him.

7. Who is your favourite character?
Hermione definitely though I quite like Snape, I think he's written well and played well in the films. Oh and Luna!

8. Who is your least favourite character?
Hmm, Cho Chang annoys me in the books and of course I dislike Umbridge

9. What is your favourite line?
'After all this time?' 'Always' is my favourite ever quote but I also really like 'Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?'

10. What would your patronus be?
Definitely a cat

11. If you could have the Resurrection Stone, Invisibility Cloak or Elder Wand, which would you choose?
Invisibility cloak. Imagine what you could do with that!

12. Which house would you be in?
Hufflepuff. I was placed in Hufflepuff on Pottermore (yep I'm that nerdy) but I'd have said Hufflepuff anyway

13.If you could meet any member of the cast who would it be?
I've got to go with the obvious and say Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson but Alan Rickman would be a good choice too

14. If you were on the Quidditch team, which position would you play?
First off I wouldn't be zipping around on a broom, I have a fear of heights but if I had to pick then it would be seeker.

15. Were you happy with the ending?
Yes though I really wish J.K. Rowling would write another book. I know she writes lots of things on Pottermore but I want an actual book!

16. How much does Harry Potter mean to you?
So much! More so as an adult. I remember getting the first 3 books as a child but my love of Harry Potter definitely formed later on

Monday, 19 January 2015

Tips on booking a holiday to America


If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen over the weekend that Josh and I booked a holiday to Florida for in August. I learned a lot of things over the 8 hours of searching and actual booking so I thought I'd share some of my tips. Josh has been to Florida before but never booked it himself and I've never been so we didn't have too much knowledge to start with. As this is the first time either of us has booked such a big holiday I don't have every tip in the world but this is just some advice I picked up on the way. 
  1.  Forget everything you think you know about booking a holiday - if you've never booked a big holiday like this forget everything you know about booking European holidays because it's just not in the same league
  2. Arm yourself with a notebook and pen - you're going to need to take notes and organise your thoughts. It's not quick and simple and you need to remember prices, websites and dates so you really need to write stuff down
  3. Get comfy - you're in this for the long haul. It took us 8 hours to find and book the perfect holiday for us so your going to want to be comfy
  4. Know what you want before you start looking - have a decent idea of your budget, the area you want to stay and other things such as places you want to visit so you can see how easy it is to travel to other places from your hotel location
  5. Go it alone - booking through lets say Virgin or Thomas Cook is much quicker and simpler than finding things yourself, however it is so much more expensive as well. For example our exact holiday (same dates, same hotel) costs £867 more by booking with Virgin
  6. Look, look and look some more - it's not a cheap holiday so you really want to be getting the most for your money. Check on every website you can think of and weigh up all the options. This is where the notebook will come in handy as you'll be looking at lots of different dates, hotels and prices and you need to keep note of where you find the most suitable deals
  7. Get quotes with a reference number - if you're phoning or emailing travel companies for quotes be sure to get the name of the person you have spoken to and a reference number, that way your quotes and holiday details can easily be traced if you phone them back to book
  8. Factor in extra costs - when you've got a price for the flights and hotel be sure to factor in things such as baggage (a lot of airlines now charge extra for luggage), return transfers and resort fees to make sure the holiday you've found is still within your price range
  9. When you think you've find the one just double check - when you think you've found the perfect holiday just double check everything to make sure you really have got the best deal you can find
  10. When it's all done get excited - congratulations you've booked your holiday! After hours and hours of searching it's all done and now the fun can begin. It's time to get excited!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The IBS Series: What is IBS?

Following on from the indroduction and disclaimer to this series that I posted last week (which you can read here) I thought I'd kick start the series with a brief bit of info on IBS and a sort of fact file on my IBS just so we all know where we're starting from! This may get linked in future posts too if the info in here is relevant to what I'm discussing. I struggled with how best to get down all the relevant info and I think this is probably the simplest.

What is IBS

 Taken from the NHS website: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation. The symptoms vary between individuals and affect some people more severely than others. They tend to come and go in periods lasting a few days to a few months at a time, often during times of stress or after eating certain foods. The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but most experts think that it's related to increased sensitivity of the gut and problems digesting food. There is no cure for IBS, but the symptoms can often be managed by making changes to your diet and lifestyle.

 My IBS

IBS Type: IBS with constipation. Typically this type of IBS comes with stomach pain and discomfort, bloating and obviously constipation.
Timeline of diagnosis: In early 2011 after suffering with a complication that I now was caused by IBS (though it is a little to personal even for me to go into details) and making numerous trips to the doctors since December 2010 I was finally diagnosed with IBS. After being diagnosed I eventually ended up being referred to a colorectal specialist (getting glamorous here now aren't we!) for surgery for the afore mentioned complication. This happened in July 2011, I was then referred back to the specialist in October 2011 for a colonoscopy to check for Crohn's disease. This was all in my university town. In between the surgery and the colonoscopy I also had blood tests at my doctors in my home town.
Triggers: The main ones I've found so far are large amounts of greasy food and alcohol.
Symptoms: Bloating, cramps, nausea, fatigue, constipation and stomach gurgles. Of course I don't get all of these at the same time and I don't have all of these all the time. They come and go and some days are worse than others. The main symptom for me is the constipation though over recent months the cramps, bloating and nausea have become a little more prominent than they were.
 Medication: Movicol drinks - 1 or 2 a day depending on how I'm feeling. I have had around 3 or 4 other types of medication both over the counter and prescription that weren't working for me though previous to trying the things I'm on now. I've being taken the Movicol/Laxido drinks for over 3 and a half years.

So as you can see it wasn't a particularly quick diagnosis and it took a while to find the right medication that worked for me. In my case I had to make numerous trips to the doctors to be diagnosed and I often felt like I wasn't receiving much help or information, I had to find out a lot of things for myself. The doctor who finally prescribed the drinks was extremely helpful and gave me lots of information as well as ordering the blood tests which is something no other doctor had even suggested. My advice is if you find a good and helpful doctor, stick with them for future appointments.

From here on in I'm probably going to post a little less often in this series but the info will always be here if any one should ever need it. I'll be covering a whole host of topics within IBS and living with a chronic illness. If there is anything in particular you would like to see in this series or you have any question then please leave a comment or email me (my email can be found in the side bar near the top).

Monday, 12 January 2015

Haul - January 2015

 Lush Big shampoo - £12.25
Soap and Glory One Heck of a Blot powder - £12

I'm not one for sales shopping, I can't really be bothered trailing through rubbish in the hopes of finding a bargain. I did pick up a couple of things in the sales though after Christmas (and a couple of things not in the sales!). The Lush shampoo and the Soap and Glory powder are two products I've wanted to try out for a while and I have to say I'm pretty impressed with both of them so far.
I actually bough two of the candles as they were half price, making them only £10 for the largest jar. I'm burning one now and I've put one away for Christmas. Unfortunately they don't smell that strong though.
 New Look boots - £14
 New Look Scarf - £9

I needed a new pair of calf length boots as my current ones are dropping to pieces and when I spotted these in the sale I just had to pick them up. The scarf was also in the sale and I bought it to go with a coat I ordered, the coat was huge though so had to go back but the scarf is sooo soft I just had to keep it.
ELF Makeup Brushes - £1.95-£3.95

I needed some new makeup brushes and ELF ones have always been my favourites. I've used the Complexion Brush before so I know it's good, the other three are new purchases though.


Friday, 9 January 2015

SAVING MONEY: Goals for 2015


These money saving posts always used to be some of my favourites to write so I'm hoping to write more this year. With that in mind I'm going to share my saving goals for this year. That way it will keep me focused and I can revisit this post throughout the year and see how I'm getting on. It might also give you lovely lot some money saving ideas too. 

This year is going to be the year of serious saving, I honestly wish I'd started taking saving money from a younger age but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I've being a little frivolous with my money since getting a job after uni and it's got to the point where I don't really have anything to show for my spending so that needs to change.

This year:
  • I plan to pay the majority of my monthly wage into our joint savings account, I will pay some in as soon as I get paid then some more in the day before I get paid again. I have a certain figure I like to keep my bank account out so what ever is left before I get to that number will go into the savings at the end of the month. 
  • I will try and fill my pound coin jar up twice. I have a tin that holds 60 pound coins, last year I told myself I'd fill that jar three times, I only managed to do it once. Oopps. This year I hope to fill it twice.
  • I will stop spending my wages on clothes, shoes and bags. As I've mentioned, having a decent wage for the first time excited me a bit and I got a little click happy each month on clothing websites. This year a plan to shop a whole lot less and wear what I already have a whole lot more. 
  • I will cut out unnecessary spending. Much like the clothing thing I'm going to stop spending on things I don't need all the time such as a Costa Coffee every week, makeup, beauty products etc. I'm going to use up what I have and not give into the hype of products. I have enough makeup, hair stuff, bath stuff etc to last me a long time so I'm not going to buy things until they've run out. 
  • I hope to have enough money saved for Josh and I to look at getting our own place. It looks as though we'll just be renting but I'm coming around to the idea. Anyway this summer we will have been back from uni for 2 years and I really want to get cracking with looking for our own little home.
Do you have any money saving goals for this year or tips on how you plan to save money? Let me know in the comments.


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Happy List #111 The 2014 Edition

 Center Parcs / York for Josh's birthday / Spring walks / Let It Be / Enjoying the evening sunshine / The little furry one joining in with our evening conversations / At the Cavern in Liverpool / Pretty summer sunsets / The best thing I think I've ever bakes / We take prettty pictures / York and Christmas / Gingerbread bull at Birmingham

 So that's another year gone. Where do I even begin with looking back over 2014?!

January to March: The year started off extremely relaxing with a trip to Center Parcs with Josh and his family, a week spent reading, walking and swimming was just what I needed before starting my first job since leaving university. With finally having a job the year also started very happy. The following months were very quiet as I found my feet at work and struggled with how to juggle working, spending time with Josh and blogging. We celebrated Josh's 25th birthday and finally having a job meant I could really spoil him.

 April to June: In April we spent a few days away in York which we loved. The weather also started warming up which meant we spent a lot of evenings and weekends sat outside enjoying the sunshine.  We went to see Let It Be at the theatre which was amazing. However amongst all the good things these months brought I also found out my contract would not be getting renewed when it ended in July, it wasn't a huge surprise as it was only a temporary job but I felt like I'd just got settled when everything was disrupted again. So began the job search.

July to September: After several failed interviews I found myself without a job when the six weeks holidays started, I was sad to leave my job but I really did have a lovely 7 months there. However the good news was that Josh got a job so we still had reason to celebrate. I began volunteering in a day nursery working with babies and toddlers and surprised myself by how much I enjoyed it. I also turned 23 in July and Josh surprised me with a trip to Liverpool, don't think I'll ever get bored of that city! We continued to enjoy the sunshine that the back end of summer gave us which meant lots of days outside reading. This little blog had a name change and I'm still really happy that I finally took the plunge and ditched the name Bits and Bobs in place of Calico Skies. Things began looking up at the end of September when I began doing supply work in schools.

October to December: I finally got a permenant job in November, I'd been doing some long term supply work in a secondary school and interviewed for a proper job there and got it! The final three months of the year are also my favourites when the weather starts getting colder and Christmas creeps in. We squeezed in one final weekend away at the end of December and went back to our old university city, Coventry then onto Birmingham's Christmas market. It was strange going back as it felt like we'd not been away really. It made me miss it even more though! We also got to spend our first ever Christmas Day together which was pretty amazing.

I'm pleased to say 2014 was a pretty good year with a lot more ups than downs. I ended the year in a job I never saw myself been able to do let alone enjoy as much as I do and for that I feel really proud of myself. I feel happier and more secure than I've felt since I left uni and I've I really good feeling that 2015 is going to be an amazing year full of great memories.

My favourite posts of 2014: Job searching as a graduate // Quiet Contemplation // 1 year on - is going to university worth it? // White chocolate and blackberry cheesecake // Why single father's deserve more exposure // 10 pros and cons of supply work in schools // 10 inexpensive date ideas for autumn/winter



Monday, 5 January 2015

The IBS Series: An Introduction and A Disclaimer



Disclaimer

The information is these posts are not me offering medical advice. If you are unwell, think you have IBS or your IBS symptoms get worse or change you should see a doctor straight away. What is discussed in these posts with regards to symptoms, medication, triggers, what works/doesn't work are all personal to me. IBS is completely different for everyone and our bodies all react differently to things. I'm not here to tell you what you should or shouldn't be doing nor can I offer any medical advice. These posts are designed to help people, provide information and help people realise they are not alone.
Please seek medical advice before taking any form of medication or if you have concerns over your health.

Introduction

Now the important bit is out of the way lets get on with things.

So what is the IBS series going to be? Well quite quickly and simply it's going to be a bunch of posts about Irritable Bowel Syndrome. 

The more detailed answer is that I'm hoping this will become a series of posts people can come to if they suffer with IBS, know someone who does or simply just want some information. It's going to a no-holds-barred, frank series that some people may find a bit TMI, to those people I'll say please feel free to click off these posts, no one is making you read them. I want this to be an open place where people feel like they're not alone in suffering with IBS and can be free to leave comments. I'm aware it is a very sensitive and personal topic and if anyone wishes to email me then please do so and I will do my best to help you/chat with you. 

This is something I've wanted to do for a long time but given the whole personal nature of the topic I've put it off for a very long time. Just posting this introduction has took me long enough, I'm not one for getting nervous over publishing posts but I've put off this whole thing for about a year now. Partly because I wanted to get it right and partly because I was  so scared to hit the publish button. I hope this series works out the way I imagined it to and if it helps just one person I'll know I've done a good job. These posts won't be taking over my blog, I may drop by every couple of months to add something to the series (though I will be posting something else soon just to get the whole thing going) but it will always be there for people to find and I'm happy to respond to emails and comments at any time. 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Happy List #110 The December 2014 Edition

Christmas outfits / Birmingham / Festive drinks / Christmas tree / Seeing in the new year with some fizz / Selfie stick! / Cat cuddles / Mulled wine / Cat napping

My favourite month of the year is over and done with and the January blues are kicking in. I'm not a huge fan of January, it's such a let down after the fun of Christmas and I'm not one for making resolutions or anything so it's all a little boring. 
Aside from Christmas of course (which you can read about here) December was a pretty amazing month. We finally got around to booking the Harry Potter studio tour for next February and I'm so excited already! We also went away for the weekend just before Christmas, we went back to Coventry, our old university city. It was strange but nice to go back but it reminded me of how much I enjoyed my time there and made me miss it all over again. We also went to Birmingham Christmas market during our little trip and it was the perfect way to get right into the festive spirit. Finally we also celebrated 7 years together towards the end of the month which was pretty great!

Things that made me happy in December...
  1. Booking Harry Potter tour - this is something I've wanted to do ever since it opened and I'll finally get to in February. I was ridiculously excited just booking it so who knows what I'll be like when I get there!
  2. Finishing work for 2 weeks - there are definite perks to working in a school and the holidays is one of them. I was extremely ready for a rest and a break but that first morning back was a killer.
  3. A festive weekend away - we both work in schools so purposely booked it for the weekend we broke up. It was so nice to relax and it meant we could feel properly festive.
  4. Christmas - how can Christmas not be one of the things to make me happy this month and this years was a particularly good 'un! Josh and I finally got to spend Christmas Day together which is something we've never done and the whole day was pretty much perfect. I overindulged as usual and was kind of sick of the sight of food by the 27th though!
  5. Candles galore - I love candles and apparently people cottoned on to this for Christmas as I received a handmade candle from my friend, a Yankee Candle votive set and a large Yankee Candle jar.
  6. A quiet New Year - we're not ones for going out on New Years Eve, neither of us are big drinkers and we just can't be bothered with being crammed in and queuing forever for a drink. We stayed at Josh's and enjoyed a few drinks, party food, cat cuddles and some films.
In December I...
Listened to: Christmas songs all the time
Read: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Watched: Lots of Christmas films
Ate: Pretty much everything in sight. Christmas dinner, chocolate, cake...