Tuesday, December 29

2016 Blogging Goals

As 2016 looms ever closer its time to start thinking about what we want to achieve. I have already covered what I would like to achieve personally but its time to cast an eye towards how I want to grow my blog and how I will achieve my goals. After all one of the points of blogging is to meet like minded foke who enjoy reading as much as you love writing. So below are my top goals for 2016.

Attend a Blogging Event
Aberdeen isn't the greatest area to live when it comes to blogging events. So hopefully by the end of 2016 ill have attended at least two even if it means I have to travel a little bit. I have attended some in the past and really enjoyed myself so it would be nice to get back in that social scene.

Feature and be Featured
Id love this year to feature some amazing bloggers on here in the hopes that we will all find new hidden gems and explore new blogs. There are so many fantastic talents out there if you know where to look so Id love to offer my blog space as a platform. In the same light id love to be featured myself and hopefully meet some new faces.

Grow My Social Media
Iv set myself a goal of having 2k twitter followers by the end of 2016 and continue to grow my other platforms like Instagram and Facebook page. Iv only recently started up with twitter and only just getting the hang of it. Though I hope by this time next year I will have adopted it into my blogging plans and hopefully take part in lots of twitter chats and #hash-tag until my little hearts content. 

On the same stream as growing my other social media's I would love to get the hang of Bloglovin' and hopefully grow there as well as follow (and keep reading) other blogs. Iv set a goal of 200 followers there.

Domain Authority
Its only since coming across amazing Facebook groups like 'UK Bloggers', that I have really came to terms that blogging is so much more than writing down words and hoping for the best. The one thing popping up more and more was DA (domain Authority) and how important it is. So iv set myself a mission to reach DA 20, even higher would be better but 20 will do for now.

I think this can be a goal of pretty much anyone in any hobby/job. Who wouldn't want to see a little return on there hard work? I know I would. I would love the chance to turn my blog into something that makes me a little money – just so I can keep affording to buy items to review. So hopefully this time next year ill have a few blogging penny's.

If you blog, what's your blogging goals? Or do you have any other goals for 2016? Let me know down below. 

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Wednesday, December 23

Yoga Changed My Mind

I couldn't tell you pose names or the history of it, but I can tell you what yoga has done for me.

Back in August I started a 30 day challenge with the lovely Donna Noble who runs Curvesomeyoga. I had always wanted to try yoga, but afraid that my size might stop me. So when I came across Curvesomeyoga It was a much needed boost to take my life in hand and do something I always had wanted to. I was already in process of a cleaner lifestyle but I really believe that starting yoga helped to clear my head as well as helping my body.

So August 1st came and I started for 30 days carrying on with the routines, following the same video day in day out. I thought it might get repetitive and dull but I started to really look forward to that 'me' time when my little toddler finally went down for a nap. The same range of motions helped me know what was coming next and not panic about if I couldnt do something.
I enjoyed 'yoga time' and had my partner join in on a few occasions too, and even the little one started to copy me finding it hilarious that I was in weird and wonderful positions.

Whilst my body became a little bit more toned and flexible, it was my mind who had the biggest dent. There were poses I never thought I would be able to achieve, and by the time the 30 days where up I could do them with ease. The act of seeing myself change opened up my head to the possibility of being able to conquer what I set out to.

I'm quite open with the fact I suffer from depression and anxiety. I really struggle some days to get out of bed and spend hours flicking through Facebook hiding from the world I'm too scared to step out into. I let opportunity slip through my fingers, make up excuses and hide myself away. I land up needing my fiancé far more than I would like for the little things and let my daughter miss out on opportunity to mix with others her own age; which I know is not right. However Yoga really did help me see a flicker of light at the end of the dark long tunnel.

As the challenge grew to an end I was able to mentally prepare myself for going outside on my own to walk my daughter, something that did not seem possible previously. The hours I spent stretching let me grow able to control my breathing and stay focused. This breathing helped me to overcome panic attacks that would stop me leaving my own front door. I could now stand outside and walk to my partners work with the buggy. I even landed up managing to go running on my own around my area through forests and muddy paths which I would never ever have done.

I'm speaking in past tense because unfortunately I did start going back into the shadow as I started to become to tired to do anything and spent most days sleeping. Finally diagnosed with Anaemia plus a Calcium and vitamin D deficient, I can get back on track.

Curvysomeyoga recently announced holding two online classes in January for 5 weeks. So this means you can try it out from your own home. They will be interactive so if you cant manage a pose Donna will be there to offer assistance and provide help into making a pose easier for yourself. I'm really looking forward to this as will be the much needed boast to getting back into my yoga and self help journey.

Do you partake in yoga? Or do you like to meditate? Let me know down below.

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Saturday, December 19

5 Minute Fudge

 Christmas time is treat time. Today I bring to you a very simple recipe that only has 2 basic, easy to get ingredients. The best bit is it can be made as complicated or easy as you like and takes only 5 minutes to make. So get stuck in and tuck in to any amazing tasty bit of soft fudge.

What you will need:
1 can (400g approx) of Condensed Milk
400g of chocolate (any)

Heat-proof bowl
Non Stick or Silicone Setting dish OR paper cases

Cooking and prep time 5 minutes. Approx Total time 1hour 30minutes.

  1. Into your heat-proof bowl pour all the condensed milk and crumble through all the chocolate.
  2. Give it a stir then pop into the microwave for 2minutes.
  3. Stopping every 30 seconds, give the liquidly goodness a stir. This is just to make sure it is all warmed through and the chocolates melted.
  4. Once the mixture has cooked for the 2 minutes, make sure it is all melted through and uniform in colour. 

  5. Transfer the mixture carefully as it will be very hot into either paper cases or a setting dish.
  6. Refrigerate the fudge and let it cool down for about an hour before tucking in, if you have used a setting dish leave for 2 hours minimum to make sure it can be cut with ease.

The fudge can be left in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks. Ours however are always gone within a few days because they are just so additively yummy. Make sure to always keep it inside the fridge so it holds its shape – which is due to the solidness of chocolate. 

The best bit about this recipe is how you can experiment with lots of different chocolates and flavours. Pictured above is Milk Chocolate Toblerone, White Chocolate Toblerone and hazelnut chocolate. The limit really is your imagination.

Will you be making some fudge?
Let me know down below and with what flavours.

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Wednesday, December 16

Fashion with a Purpose with Sue Ryder


I was very kindly invited along to take part in a Sue Ryder fashion show they were holding in Aberdeen. Instantly I knew I wanted to take part. The show combined together some of my favourite things: Modelling and Charity. So it was a no brainier to jump on the chance.

Sue Ryder provide incredible hospice and neurological care for people facing a frightening, life changing diagnosis. They do whatever they can to be a safety net for patients and their loved ones at the most difficult time of their lives. They see the person, not the condition.

Told to arrive at 11.30 to the Hilton Treetops in Aberdeen, I arrived to greeted by girls looking through rails of clothing preping for the catwalk ahead. I picked an elegant dress as I was deterimed to wear my pagent crown. Of course it was in black, which is my staple colour, with a lovely pale gold trim.
It was great to see such a great turn out, all looking excited to take part in this great cause. From tiny toots to yummy mummy's in all shapes and sizes. This really was a catwalk free from restrictions, which I strongly believe should be how all catwalks should be. If you know me you will know that I believe in a world free from discrimination, so was really nice to be part of a catwalk with this in mind.

Standing on stage with little electronic candles we practised our opening routine. It was very simple which was perfect for everybody. I'm glad to say, bar the song not being stopped in time, it went without a hitch when it mattered. From 1.30-4.30 we were free to do what ever we wanted to do. I took this time to get to know the lovely Cathy who was hosting the event. We had met twice before at the previous Wobia Entertainment Pageants. However learning more about Cathy it was great to see what an inspiring, strong, confident individual she is. The perfect face for opening such an event.
Having previously picked my dress it was just a waiting game for the show to start. Unfortunately what was missing in crowd was more than made up by the enthusiasm of the models. The show began with announcing of the amazing charity we were there to raise funds for, followed by the candle opening then on with the show.

One by one models strutted there stuff up and down. A smile, pose, hair flip here and there went down a treat with the audience seeming to really get into the event. A quick break with three talented dancers then back to the catwalk. It was finally my turn to go up and down. I always feel so alive on the catwalk, its such a rush and I honestly could do it all day if I could. The experience was over far to quick as I made my way back to the changing room to settle back into my normal clothes and then off home I popped.

I really enjoyed myself being with such a fantastic bunch of models who were all there to support Sue Ryder. Over all we raised an amazing £650. If you would like to make a donation to them please do. The link to do so is here.

Have you ever taken part in a catwalk or taken part in a charity fund raiser? Let me know down below.

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Monday, December 14

Easy Bake - Snowmen Cupcakes

With Christmas fast approaching iv started to get into the baking mood. However I'm not great at baking or decorating at all so I'm all about the simple quick recipes. 
This really is a kid friendly recipe and the charm of the cakes is the messiness of it. No snowman is perfect so why should the cakes be, well that's my excuse anyway. These make the perfect little gifts for a lunch box treat or to give to loved ones (if they look much nicer than mine!).

This recipe is enough for 24 cupcakes or 12 cupcakes and one big snowman cake. What you will need:

Cake Mixture
250g self raising Flower
250g of unsalted Butter
250g of caster sugar
4 Eggs
4 table spoons of Milk
TSB of Vanilla Extract

I have left the amounts up to yourself, make as little or as much butter icing as you want. Make sure to use 1:1 for the butter and sugar.
Icing Sugar
Red Food colouring 2/3 drops
Chocolate Cones for eyes and mouth

Cupcake cases (12 or 24)
Cake Tin (optional)
Electric Whisk
Mixing Bowl
Icing Bowl
Teaspoon x2
Piping bag (optional)

Pre-heat your oven to about 180.

Start by putting all the cake mixture into a large bowl and whisk with an electric whisk for speed. If you find the mixture is to thick for your liking add a little bit of milk drop by drop so you get your correct consistency. If you like doing it the traditional way cream your butter first and slowly introduce the ingredients with milk being last.

Using your teaspoon place the mixture into the cupcake cases then pop into your heated oven for 15-20 minutes. When the cakes are golden at the top pierce with a cocktail stick. Come out clean? Your cupcakes are done, if not return to the oven for a few more minutes keeping a close eye.
To make a large cake follow the same instructions however cooking times will vary on the size of tin you have used. Keep checking in 5 minute intervals using the cocktail stick trick, you don't want to overcook the cake.

Let the cooked cakes cool for 20-30 minutes before decorating. Warm cakes make the butter icing melt which makes the decorating a harder process. Once they are cooled the fun bit can begin.

Whipping up the uncoloured butter icing begin covering the top of the cakes. Using the inside of the spoon to smooth the icing makes it easier. Rotate the cake around the spoon to get an even layer. Try not to use all of the icing, otherwise you will have to whip up a new bath for the nose. With what's left add a few drops of the red colouring to turn it a pinky orange for the carrot nose. Place to one side.

Place two chocolate cones for the eyes at the top of the cupcake, then one down the bottom to make a triangle which will form the start of the mouth. Place the outer smile cones and fill in the gaps with the rest. Using the pre-coloured icing use your teaspoon to gently place it in the centre of the cupcake. The best way to do this without a piping bag is to use another teaspoon and scrap the icing off the first.

Set aside to harden and then your done. Super simple fun cupcakes are now ready to eat.

Will you be making festive treats this year? Let me know down below. Make Sure to tag me if you have a go at these (@umber_phoenix on IG and Twitter) as i would love to see what your turned out like, they cant be any worse than mine. 

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Friday, December 11

Arc customisable notebook

 One thing I always struggle with is organising my life. I write to do's about my to-do lists and have random notes jotted down everywhere. I guess you could say I have a bit of organised chaos. It often gets to the point I just ignore what's piling up hoping it will go away. However not anymore.

For the longest time I have wanted a filofax. I remember being in collage going to WHSmiths for some new pens and having a look at them. With there sleek leather exteriors and the options to customise what's inside; I couldn't afford it then and I cant afford them now. After all it is a lot of money for a fancy notebook. So when popping into staples a few days ago to actually see if a 'to-do' notebook existed I came across there Arc range. A budget friendly planner but still in same idea as a filofax.

After weighing up my options I landed up walking out with the basic a5 notebook, to-do pages and side index dividers. So hopefully now I will have no excuse not to keep myself in line. The price was above what you would pay for a notebook, but not extortionate.

The basic package is an a5 notebook costing £6.49 and is the cheapest available. With a plastic cover complete with thick 60 pages of lined paper I honestly would pay this again for another notebook if I needed too. Each page is double sided, and with being 100gsm paper ink is not visible from the other side. There is an option of a leather cover and lots of colours to choose from too. 

The 'to-do' pages come in a pack of 50 sheets for £2.80, also thick paper. This is fantastic value as the paper, verging on card, really does feel like its worth more than that. Each page comes with a handy tick box so its clear what still has to be done. 

I wasn't sure whether or not to get the side index dividers, but I'm glad I did. At £2.80 it was not a huge loss if I didn't like them. I'm finding that I'm using them more than I thought I would, and my folder is already becoming a neatly divided book with organised thoughts. These come with 5 in a pack, with random colours. You are able to get tabs that are seen from the top for the same cost.

Images From Staples.co.uk
The book is a little different from what I was used too. Each page is able to be slipped in and out of the book around plastic disks that make up spine. Unlike a ring binder, the spine in this is solid. This means that any poly pockets will not be able to fit, and if you already have a system in place everything will need to be converted. The pages can be a little tricky to add into the binder, with it being far easier to add in a small amount at a time. Once they're in however the pages glide nicely and stay secure.

I'm already noticing that with these two add-ons, that I will have to purchase the extender rings. The cover bows very slightly already with the standard disks. I wish there was something on the shelf at the time to help with putting together a perfect planner. Information like which size of disks are needed to hold so many pages would have been welcome information on how the planners work, plus saved a trip back to there shop. This has not put me off however and I look forward to adding further things into the binder such as a diary so everything will be in one place.

Some other options Include Diary, Zip Pockets and page flags.
Over all my note book cost £12.09 and its a price I would very happily pay again. I plan on very soon enlarging it to hold everything I need to keep my life, blogging, modelling and mum stuff together. It is avalible on there website or instore Staples.

How do you organise your thoughts? Let me know down below what you use.
Plus don't forget to subscribe so you wont miss out on any further organisation posts.

PS You can find out what I did next with my planner by clicking here. 

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Wednesday, December 9

Aqualert - Water App

 Water is such a key part of life, but quite often we are just not getting enough of it. I came across Aqualert when I was looking into ways to help me loose weight and improve my skin. Again and again I was hitting the information about making sure my water intake was high enough. Now i'm the sorta girl who could be told something a thousand times but then forget. So setting myself a mission on chugging back the water this app has been my must have.

From the get go this has proved a very easy to use tool that's easily adaptable to any life style. Most people have a phone on them at all times so having something to track water is fantastic. No more remembering or jotting down on paper.

What I especially like about it is the fact it has such a simple display. A customisable colour display at that, but I have kept with its original blue. At a glance you can tell how much is left of the daily target. With easy to use scroll buttons to select how much you are drinking, there is no reason not to use it. I hate when an app is overcomplicated with so many options that never get used. The simplicity of it makes using the app such a smooth process.

When you first download Aqualert you are prompted to enter your details so a more accurate amount can be calculated for you. I really like that there is a 'pregnant' option, because I know when I was pregnant I really didn't drink as much as I should have – even if I was going through peach diluting juice like it was going out of fashion. There is also the options of inputting your activity level – a handy thing depending on your job. There is even a grid so you can look back and compare if your hitting your water targets so you can notice any patterns.

My only downfall to this app is that it can not be synced up to 'My Fitness Pal' which would have made things a little easier across the weight loss bored; MFP has the option of adding a cup at a time. I couldn't tell you how much ml is in a cup, but I can read a bottle and input it in Aqualert. This doesnt effect the app at all if you dont use MFP, but with everything becoming connected app wise it would have been a nice added bonus.

However the best bit of the app: The reminders.
I have it set to buzz me every hour to tell me to drink something. When im running after my toddler a drink is often the last thing im thinking about, but the prompt makes sure im staying on target throughout the day. Its always better to sip than chug a large quantity at a time. There is only so much your kidneys can process an hour.

Overall I really enjoy having this app on my phone. Its a functional app that was the first thing to be downloaded onto my new phone.

Actually want to know the best part about this app? Its free. Yep that's right, it doesn't cost a dime. It is available on both Apple and Android so there's no excuse to not have it.

How do you make sure you drink enough? Will you be downloading this?
Let me know down below in the comments.

PS If you are intrested in green tea or weightloss check out my review on Twinings Green Tea. 

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Monday, December 7

The Scenter Haul: Incense cones & Simmering Granules

 I love my candles and scents for the house. When I was tidying up my candle box I came across my little incense cone holder so went on a hunt for more cones for it. A quick eBay search threw up the company 'The Scenter' and from there this mini haul was born.

I got my paws on a few different scents to try, and with it being on a buy 3 get one free deal I knew I just has to get my moneys worth. So I picked up 8 different scents in 2 different formats: Incense cones and Simmering Granules.

The package came with the boxes flat and cones in there own bag. I was actually surprised when I saw this as I thought they would be in there boxes, but can completely understand why they were not as the boxes would have been crushed. Its nice however that they did give you the box with them, they can easily be wrapped as a nice gift to fragrance lovers then. My favourite thing about the cones are how they come with a little metal disk for burning them on. Saves on having to buy your own stand for them so they don't mark any wood or leave there ash everywhere. 

The incense cones are really fragrant and really do fill up the home with there wisps of perfumed smoke. Cones and sticks in general are not to everybody's taste and I always feel they are looked down on compared to the usual candle or room spray. However I find actually watching them burn is quite therapeutic as the smoke dances about. The smell lingers in the home unlike candles which I find vanishes quickly.

One thing im disappointed about is the Simmering Granules. Perhaps its my burner but there is just no fragrance from them when they burn. They smell heavenly when sniffed in there little bag but outside that there is nothing – quite disappointed as the black cherry smelt so good! All scents seem to be this way. I don't think I will be re-buying these kind.

All in all I'm actually away to make another purchase from them to try out the other smells.

Much Love,
Umber x

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Friday, December 4

Dolly Mixtures: perfect gifts

 With the Christmas season coming up money can be a little on the tight side. So much to my surprise I came across 'Dolly Mixtures' in Asda.

I'm instantly taken back to my childhood when I give these a sniff. I was half expecting a really chemically smell but they have not let me down. In fact im on my second bottle of the Parma Violets shower gel. The flat just smells amazing after using them for bubble bath. They also bubble up really nicely so its a lovely multi purpose product. One thing is that the scent doesn't last very long on your skin, which is a shame but for £1 im not expecting miracles.

The lip jelly's taste lovely as well as having the same beautiful scent. They are a little sticky but nothing like a cheap lip gloss and leave a lovely clear glossy sheen to your lips. I really like the fizzy cherry flavour and keep one in my bag, car and the others in the flat. Always great to have them on hand.

The body mists are really great too, may be not particularity 'adult' but for little ones it would be amazing to make them feel grown up. I do like them for room sprays though. I adore having a fruity smell in the house and my daughters room smells lovely.

I know if my little girl was a little older I would be giving these to her for birthday or Christmas as it really is such a cute fun little gift to give those younger.

The best part about these? They do not cost you an arm and a leg.
The body sprays and lip jelly's are £2 and the shower gels are £1.

Extremely affordable and fun for those stocking fillers and secret Santa. However make sure to pick up a few for yourself as one sniff will get you hooked.

Much Love,
Umber x

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Wednesday, December 2

'City in Ruins' by R.K. Ryals


A Time flys when your having fun right? Time for the last review of the 'Scribes of Merdesia' series. If you havent read the first two reviews here are the clickable links for 'Mark of the Mage', 'Tempest' and 'Fist of the Furor' by R.K Ryles. Lets get started:

After saving her people things are still not the way they are meant to be. Stone is still trapped inside a world of politics and gods. With Prince Cadeyrn at her side they venture to save much more than just Merdeisia. Dark times are coming for Sadeemia that could effect them all.

After the amazing first three books in the series this one just did not live up to them. It was quick paced, too quick. The poetic writing was still there but it had lost the sparkle the other three had. Parts of the novel felt like it was a filler. The story line was fantastic but the depth was lost and could have easily have went on for two if not more books. I did enjoy it, but felt like this book was an unneeded addition too what would have been a fantastic trilogy.

I do however thing i will be checking out this author to see what else has written. I really enjoyed her writing style and descriptive language. 

Have you ever read a book that didn't live up to expectation? Let me know down below.

Much Love,

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Tuesday, December 1

A New Year Promise

It wont be long before we will be seeing in bells and a quick smooch to seal the new year. So iv been turning my mind to what I would like to accomplish next year. Of course most people have the goal of shedding the Christmas weight, and well iv been shedding it since June, so its not something that's really on my "To Do" list. 

Its really hard, when you sit down and think about it, what really makes you happy. Its all well and good buying pretty things but when it comes down to it these things only make you happy on the surface for a little while. What makes me happy? I don't think I really know. I love my partner, and I adore my little girl more than the world. Stepping outside that little bubble there isn't much else that makes up my life.
I'm very lucky to have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, food in the cupboard and security in my life. I think we can all become somewhat comfortable and take for granted when the basic needs are met and its very easy to slip into a mundane existence. I know I have. 

So for this year I would like to turn around what makes me happy. Setting aside time to explore the world around me. A world outside of fear and the anxiety that grips me. I want to do silly little things like a picnic under the stars, go camping, see a band play.

I want to set this year right, and live life. I don't want to be held back by believing money is what makes me happy. After its all gone I want to be able to sit and know that when I close my eyes for the final time, memories of love, heartache, tears and sweat are with me. 

Here is to a living a 2016 and forever without fear.

Much Love,
Umber x

PS. What is your goal this year?

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