Friday, 28 November 2014

Stressed? Give thanks!

So for some reason, the vast majority of my readers are from America. It's a bit odd 'cos I'm a New Zealander by birth and living (and writing about) in England but I really appreciate you guys!

Anyway, as you probably realise, we don't have Thanksgiving here. This is just an ordinary week in late Autumn.

For me, this has been a really tough week. Lots of angst at work, lots of people getting heated, lots of difficulties to negotiate and unmanageably huge amounts of work to do. So, as well as sweating it out at the gym every day (impressive, eh?), I thought it would be a good idea to practise gratitude.

What are the benefits of gratitude?
"More than any other personality trait, gratitude is strongly linked to mental health and life satisfaction...

Not only is gratitude a warm and uplifting way to feel, it benefits the body as well. People who experience gratitude cope better with stress, recover more quickly from illness, and enjoy more robust physical health, including lower blood pressure and better immune function."

Good enough for me! So, to get on with the gratitude, I am thankful for:
The beauty of Bristol, of England, of autumn, of the wildlife. 

I still appreciate walking through the park with the streetlights shining through the mist, large plane-tree leaves on the ground, golden leaves on the branches above, quaint cobbled streets and the amazingly beautiful St Mary Redcliffe church lit up to show off its sculptures.

We have adorable blue tits in the tree outside our kitchen window. I regularly see red kites, buzzards and other raptors on my way to work.

 My lovely husband
Not to get too soppy on you, but we've been married nearly 14 years and together for over half our lives. He is (to coin a cliche) my rock, my best friend and is generally a good person to have around.

How much I have managed to learn about doing my job
I did a short project management course this week and I found it rather affirming. It was really nice to see that I did actually know how to use all the tools and also some of the traps that you can fall into.

We've also had a bunch of new people at work and again, it has shown up how much I have actually managed to learn. I've still got the rest of my career to keep learning, but it's comforting to see that after about 15 years of work, I have managed to gain some skills.

Food and drink!
As much as I'd like not to be the size of a house, I do love my food. I'm grateful for good coffee in the morning (using our aeropress - it's delicious, try it!) and nice wine at night. I'm grateful for the cafe down the road from work which makes good quality food for reasonable prices. I nipped out for a very late lunch today and got a mix of Greek salad and pasta salad and a chocolate brownie for under £5.

So, happy Thanksgiving one and all and remember to regularly practise gratitude. You can start by telling me one thing you're grateful for, if you like.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Column dressing and working with what you've got

Column dressing

Column dressing by eleanorbirdy 

 I came across the concept of 'column dressing' in Bridgette Rae's blog recently. The idea is that you create a 'column' of a single neutral colour then add a pop of complimentary or contrasting colour over the top. 

I really quite liked this idea as a way of rethinking my options in combining separates. What with Christmas coming up, I shouldn't be shopping. So, I had to have a think about how I might do this column thing with clothes I already own. 

I have more or less matching sets in dark jade green, warm navy blue and black. I have cardigans in a range of colours (here I picked navy, burgundy and fuchsia). I added some shoes and jewellery to tone in with the 'pop' colour of the cardigan. In the case of the green and blue set, I thought it was similar enough to be able to get away with introducing grey/silver as a third colour in the mix. 

What do you think about this column dressing idea? Helpful, interesting or too dull?

Thursday, 20 November 2014

A concealer that's as good as a night's sleep!

So tomorrow morning I have to get up around 5:30am. Not looking forward it!

As well as occasional lack of sleep, I also inherited a propesity to dark circles under my eyes. So, I've been a keen fan of concealer since my teens. I've tried various brands and styles from the cheap but effective Rimmel Wake Me Up Concealer toYves Saint Laurent and  Estee Lauder's Double Wear.

On our recent trip to Budapest, we ended up with a fair bit of the local currency to get rid of. Lovely husband suggested a trip to Duty Free. I deliberated for ages and eventually snapped up Clinique's Airbrush Concealer. Gosh, I'm glad I did! Somehow a few light brush strokes magically make my black circles vanish into a soft radiant skin colour.

I was a bit worried that it wouldn't provide enough coverage and stay on all day, but it's fine on blemish scars and it lasts well on my sometimes oily skin. 

Clinique isn't infallible (some of their skin care is useless) but I have found some absolute treats in the make-up. 

Sadly the Airbrush Concealer only comes in a few very light shades, but if it'll suit your skin, I say get your mitts on some!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Dos and Don'ts of Budapest

So we popped off to Budapest for a long weekend recently. My thoughts about the place can be filed under 'Do' and 'Don't'. I'll start with the 'Don'ts' to get them out of the way.

Go to the Cave Church. It's (as the name suggests) a Catholic church founded by Pauline monks in 1926, set in a small network of caves. Unfortunately it's totally devoid of atmosphere as all the caves have been sprayed with concrete, had floors put in and decorated with flowers and statues.

Also, the film about the place and the audio commentry were hilariously bad. The soundtrack was a group of monks singing 'Chasing Cars' by Snow Patrol (why?!), the commentary was read by someone who sounded like a bored student and written by someone who thought that to convert us to Catholicism, all we needed was loooooong explanations of topics such as 'the Sacred Heart of Jesus'.

Nice view from the Gellèrt Hills though.


Give yourself less than three days in Budapest. Five days would be ideal, to allow for side trips. There is so much to see and do. With the way our flights worked out, we only ended up with two days and it just wasn't enough.

 This one is a bit of a qualified suggestion... The baths at the Gellèrt Hotel are famous and on the recommended list for a visit to Budapest BUT... I found the experience before and after actually being in the hot water quite stressful. It was really quite expensive and hard to work out what kind of ticket we actually needed. We didn't notice until we were actually in there that we needed to buy a swimming cap to go in the inside pool. We snuck in without one and we got away with it.

The place is a labyrinth! So difficult to find your way around, it's not funny. I couldn't find a ladies loo for the life of me, and there were only two hairdryers (significant in a cold climate as you don't want to go out with wet hair).

The hotel looked a bit like it was leaning on its fading grandeur, with tacky stalls in the foyer. The main outdoor pool was closed for winter, which was a bit sad.

I'd suggest you try some of the other baths available and see if you get a better experience.

Bother with the main shopping street Váci utca and Central Market Hall. They are complete tourist traps, complete with acres of similar souveniers, people calling out to you to come and see their shops or eat at their overpriced restaurants. If you wanted to buy food i.e. fruit, vegetables, cheese, spirits including local liquers, meat including lots of sausages and salamis, then the Central Market Hall is probably a decent proposition, but we weren't there long enough to do any cooking.

Worry about not being able to speak any Hungarian. We looked at a phrase book and gave up on even being able to say hello. Not to worry, everyone kindly spoke English.

Right, now onto the positives...

Go to Budpest, especially in autumn. It's such a pretty city and it was made even prettier by the autumn leaves and mist. Evidently it gets crazy-hot and full of tourists in summer. The only slight suggestion would be to maybe go in September so that some things wouldn't be closed for winter and the days would be longer. It did get dark very early (like around 4:30pm).Or try going in spring as I'm sure that would be very pretty too.

Decide what you want to do and book early. We missed out on a evening river cruise and on a performance at the Opera House 'cos we hadn't worked out our itinerary for our visit and booked tickets.

Walk over as many of the bridges across the Danube as possible.  The views along the riverbanks are stunning, either by day or by night. The parliament buildings are particularly pretty.


Walk up Castle Hill (or take the funicular railway - sadly it was undergoing maintainance while we were there) and spend a day. The views are amazing, the architecture spectacular, Matthias Church is one of the prettiest churches I've ever seen. We also did a whistle-stop tour of the Hungarian National Gallery which had a lovely collection of art, from ancient elaborate church decorations to a spooky modern installation in the dome. Sadly we didn't have time for the other museum in the old Palace. We'll have to go back at some point as there's just so much to see!

Cute Neo-Gothic tower on Castle Hill
Spiral window inside Matthias Church

Castle Hill from the river bank
Eat like a pig! The traditional food is hearty, rich and filling to help keep out the winter cold (and also reasonably priced). We had delicious paprika spiced sausages, lots of mulled wine, goulash (of course), soups like the kosher pea soup in the picture, rich desserts with honey and cream... mmm... makes me hungry just thinking about it! We enjoyed the good service and amazing food at the Drum Cafe.

So, in summary, Budapest is awesome! I'm definitely planning to go back at some point and catch up with some of the things we missed. It's also handily close to other places I'd love to visit such as the Croatian coast and Austria. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Birthday treats 2014

 So it was my boofday again recently. (I know, again! It seems to come around quicker every year!). Unlike most years, I don't have a list of smaller bits to show you and make you jealous. My big treat this year is a new engagement ring.

A new engagement ring? But haven't you been married for years, you ask? Well, yes I have, but I very sadly lost the diamond from my engagement ring earlier this year. (Note to self: make sure settings are checked by a jeweller every year).

I debated for ages about whether to get a new ring or replace the diamond. Lots of research and searching led me decide on a new ring and eventually to find 'the one'. It's a lovely mid-blue round sapphire surrounded by diamonds to make a flower-like pattern. Lucky me!

I also feel really blessed in my friends and family. I had a lovely day beginning and ending with phone calls from family, punctuated by lunch with my lovely husband and dinner with a group of friends in the evening.

There's a Maori proverb which I really identify with:

He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

What is the most important thing in the world? 
It is people! It is people! It is people!

Jewels (and presents generally) are lovely, but the best thing is the feeling that people care and are thinking of me. I know that sounds a bit pious and trust me, I do love presents!