Monday, 12 December 2011

Graduation Day

November 2010, after three years of hard work, perseverance and sacrifices, I walked across a stage in front of my fellow classmates and a couple of hundred strangers to shake an old man wearing a funny hat’s hand while another lady read out my name. That’s right, I graduated. 

Months of hard preparation built up to the big day; deliberating over what to wear, deciding on the kitten high or towering platform, and lastly, the big one, whether to top for a tousled curl or poker-straight locks. University was definitely a fantastic journey and I loved every minute of it. From the drunken nights and hungover mornings, to the evenings spent holed up in the library and struggling to prop my eyelids up in lectures. I certainly miss the days when all my brain had to contend with was what to wear for that night on the tiles, and whether to have beans or tuna on my jacket potato. University taught me life lessons, gave me great experiences, lots of highs and a few lows, piled on the pressure and armed me with valuable tools to face the working world with. 

A couple of weeks ago, Tom had his graduation. He made no secret of the fact that it was his second one and wasn’t modest about the fact that being in the limelight in front of hundreds was a walk in the park. Unfortunately there weren’t enough tickets for me to go into the actual ceremony, so after a few family snaps outside I had to buy myself a new skirt to cheer up following a goodbye at the doors. 

I met back up with the Dickson clan after the festivities and actually found myself a tad emotional looking at Tom all grown up! All in all it was a brilliant day, and I was a very proud girlfriend. In two years we’ll be doing it all again when Tom finishes his Masters, after which he now informs me he might fancy doing a PhD, which could take 20 years, so it looks like I’ll be approximately 45 years old before I settle down! 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Two Years Later...

So this post may be slightly overdue (my anniversary was 19th November) but after surviving two years with Mr Dickson, I think it deserves a pat on the back and a blog post.

To celebrate our second anniversary, I managed to bag a free hotel stay in Banbury after writing a gushing review of the hotel for work. So after being delayed on the morning of our departure because Tom still had to buy me a card and have a sunbed (my concerns over my boyfriends sexuality continue to grow) we hopped on the train destined for the Oxfordshire town.  

We checked in after being driven to the hotel by a bumbling Asian taxi driver, who I’m convinced, had a wooden leg, and were delighted with our surroundings. Picturesque countryside, windy lanes and thatched roofed houses wrapped round the hotel in the quiet village of Wroxton. 

We were even lucky enough to be given a suite, so after setting out bags down and jumping on the bed, Tom made himself a cup of tea and told me not to look while he scribbled in my card. Who said romance was dead? Before the sun went down, I dragged Tom on a nice country walk to explore, and found a quaint little duck pond and a huge University that resembled Hogwarts complete with a dramatic mist that floated over the hills. Despite my wrong choice of footwear (wedges and muddy paths don’t mix) and sporadic moaning, we had a lovely time. 

Once back at the hotel, a quick nap and a dose of Come Dine with Me followed, and then we went down for dinner, which consisted of a meaty rump steak and a little tipple or five.

The food theme continued the next morning with a full English breakfast, so it was safe to say that the diet went out the window for the weekend. When it came to checking out, we were given a little surprise, not only was our room for the night free, the meal we had was on the house as well! For bargain-hunter Tom, I don’t think the weekend could’ve got any better.

We had a lovely weekend – here’s to the next two years, may the laughter and fun continue! 

Monday, 5 December 2011

The Clothes Show Live

This December, thousands of style-hungry youngters ventured to the NEC in Birmingham to get a taste of the style stakes at the Clothes Show Live. Dressed up to the nines and rocking the pouty I'm-too-cool-for-school look, young girls lapped up the bargains and strutted their stuff round the numerous clothing stalls on the hunt for the latest fashion must-haves.

I was lucky enough to go to the Show for work purposes and witness the event all expenses paid, so with the promise of Z-list celebs and more shopping than you can shake a stick at, I jumped at the chance to go. So after sharing my train with excitable teens chatting loudly about their shopping ideas and gossiping about what 'that boy text me last night', I made my way to the NEC ready to brave the crowds.

After a wild goose chase and walking what seemed like miles, I eventually found the press office and got my pass for the day. Rubbing shoulders with George Lamb was an early highlight and after tearing myself away from his luscious streaky-grey mane, I headed straight for the Sknitch area – a section dedicated to handmade clothes and sewing demonstrations – and got my crafty hat on ready to indulge. As expected the area wasn't overflowing with budding fashionistas, but there was a big enough crowd to realise that this is a worthwhile market to dip into. Various stalls had sewing machines with young people showing off their skills, and there was even a section devoted to knitting called Knitting Rocks, which certainly gave the pastime a quirky, modernised image. Oxfam had their own stand, which also promoted the idea of make-do-and-mend, as well as other University stalls that were encouraging passers-by to get involved and tap into their creative side. 

After a quick stop-over at the Diet Coke catwalk in association with Company magazine, which urged me not to opt for that extra chocolate treat, I heard a flutter of female screams and saw that Lucien guy from BB wondering around trying desperately to catch people's attention with his low cut top that provocatively showed off his well-toned man pecks. My brief celeb encounter made me secretly want more, so I kept my eyes peeled for the rest of the day. It paid off as well, as I came across Kieron Richardson who plays Ste in Hollyoaks and Zoe Birkett of Pop Idol fame, not exactly Barack Obama and Britney Spears (now that would've been good) but still a little slice of celebrity.

Next, I was escorted through the back door into the theatre to sit back and enjoy the big show of the day, The Fashion Show. The theme was A Night at the Department Store and included a performance from Alexandra Burke and Kimberley Wyatt, previously part of the Pussycat Dolls. I sat in the press area with other journalists and gave my best, not-impressed-by-minor-popstars impression, while I secretly tapped my toe to the catchy beat of Bad Boys.

Overall the catwalk show was brilliant; beautiful outfits, lively music, quirky backdrops and funky lighting, not to mention the hot dancers who liked to flash a bit of flesh, and obviously was met with no objection from me. The clothes were the perfect balance between high-street and high-end and showcased a fantastic combination of all the latest trends. So stick me in a room with a few hundred fanatical trendy teens, half naked eye candy and clothing to make even an anti-shopper make a purchase, and I’m a very happy bunny.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Dear Santa...

Usually my mum asks me to write my Christmas list when we are still basking in the heat of the summer to avoid seeing my awkward face when I unwrap some major fashion faux-pas on the big day. So this year was no different and as usual I could write a list as long as Santa’s beard. So here is my wishful-thinking list and if Father Christmas is a bit late coming down your chimney this year, it’s because his bag is overflowing with gifts for me! 

1. h&m £24.99
2. h&m £5.99
3. Aldo £20
4. Zara £59.99
5. hmv £9.97
6. River Island £30
7. h&m £12.99
8. h&m £9.99
9. Miss Selfridge £35
10. Aldo £23.98
11. Topshop £40
12. Michael Kors £110
13. Barry M set ASOS £10
14. ASOS £12
15. hmv £7.99
16. Miss Selfridge £85
17. £32

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Ho ho hot Christmas party trends

If you, like me, have ducked out of every shop when you’ve heard an inkling of Wham’s Last Christmas, or been a complete scrooge at the mention of any festive cheer, then there really is no hiding away from it any longer; Christmas is coming. I was ready to admit defeat when I caught a glimpse of the John Lewis advert and scoffed my first mince pie, and now the chunky knitwear and fur coats are in full swing, I’m ready to embrace the new Christmas party-wear fashion trends.

Throughout the year, we’ve seen the return of animal print slipping back into the style stakes. So this Christmas, a jumper emblazoned with a quirky picture of Rudolph or a festive tree, is perfectly acceptable and you’ll see the shops awash with cute Christmas designs.

Last year it was reported that British women spent a total of £3.5 billion in December on clothes, shoes and accessories to make certain they were party-perfect. That's the equivalent of £206 for the average woman to update her festive wardrobe. This year with purse strings tight since the economy took a nose dive, everyone will be on the hunt for a bargain. With high street stores, big department chains and even supermarkets all revealing their Christmas party selection even earlier this year, you’ll be spoilt for choice when you decide to hit the shops. Fashion staple Coast, has released a range of limited edition part dresses that consists of Grecian style gowns and short statement LBDs. Family favourite Asda has claimed to have found the perfect solution to saggy bums and stuffed tums, by bringing out a £20 range of cocktail dresses to suit any body shape.  According to research by the supermarket chain, 85 per cent of women worry most about the size and shape of their backsides than any other part of your body. The store has worked with bottom expert Dr David Holmes and claim that the traditional 'peach' is no longer; us girls have a tomato, potato, pear or nectarine. So they've come up with affordable dresses for each of them, solving wardrobe dilemmas in one easy purchase.

If you want to splash out a little bit extra and be the belle of the ball for the annual office Christmas party, it’s all about sequins, beads and feathers this year. Shades of bronze, silver and gold dominate what will only trickle down to the high streets in time for you to make your choice on the crucial outfit to unveil to your workmates.
Earlier this month, X Factor’s feisty new glamour girl Tulisa, hit the red carpet adorned in a black leather dress with a feathered end and was praised by all the fashion bibles for being bang on trend. The newest look is the dropped waist 20s style dresses which have feathers or fabric appliqués around the hem to create movement and make your dancing look even more energetic.

River Island has hit the party trend right on the head by launching a range that is affordable, stylish and really diverse. The focus sways towards bright hues and vibrant splashes of colour, but there is something for everyone with dresses, jumpsuits, tops and skirts. Playing it safe with a little black dress shouldn’t be frowned upon, as this year sees the return of bold, strong shoulders and a flash of sequins to ooze that wow factor. After all the LBD is a tried and tested favourite.

Bring a little tinsel to your wardrobe by contrasting one high-shimmer piece, perhaps a sequinned skirt, or blazer, with a casual t-shirts. High street store Oasis do a fab range of sparkly numbers to add a twinkle to any deserted dancefloor. Why not up the fashion ante with some edgy accessories? Like sky-high shoe-boots or a retro evening bag, like a velvet clutch. Crown the look with a statement necklace in a coordinating metallic hue.

If you’re not partial to a figure-hugging dress, then don’t be afraid of the challenge to find two separates. Why not opt for a pleated skirt in a bold hue or pattern and team with a classic, tailored shirt? For an added bit of sparkle, go for a shirt with a sheen or shimmer to really get into the party spirit. Head down to Next to check out its range of fitted, below-the-knee skirts.  
Have fun shopping for your outfit for the festive season this year. After all, when you and your colleagues have actually patched together what happened at the office Christmas party, it’ll be time to start planning all over again.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Summer Winter Chicken

I have to dedicate another blog post to my new favourite dish of the week... Summer Winter Chicken. I was introduced to the recipe by Suzi Knight and decided to give it ago last week. Well to my surprise it was a dreamy dish. I added a couple of extras and teamed it with rice, but I even made enough to take it to work the next day. So thanks Suze for the meal tip!

More Birthday celebrations

So I’m a big fan of milking my birthday and this year I managed to drag out the festivities for a whole two weeks. So after celebrating with Tom, my mum and dad and my work pals, it was time to see my best friends.
Once again I made my way down to Brighton to spend my weekend with the gals. Friday night I arrived about 7.45pm and was treated to Donna Dartnell’s homemade mushroom risotto which went down a treat. Then we snuggled down in front of the box for an evening of trash TV before heading to bed about 11pm, how hardcore.

Saturday, we went to visit baby Harry who is gorgeous and very lively – his mummy Kirstie is doing fab too. After stopping off at Sainsbury’s to bag some food options for our continental breakfast, I sat back and watched while the Dartnell family got ready for a wedding. Holly in her undies being smothered in fake tan in the garden, and Brent spilling coke all down his favourite white skirt, I witnessed it all.

After waving them off, and Emily set for the occasion with a mini bottle of vino smuggled in her bag for the day, I made my way to Harriets salon for my treatment. Not one to be shy, I’ve always been open about the fact that I get my tash waxed – after all, I don’t want to end up with a bigger beard than my boyfriend. So once the hairs had been ripped out, we decided on an impromptu night out on the tiles. We had a mad dash into town before the shops shut at 6pm to bag a last minute outfit, and then picked up some wine to start the evening off properly. Once back at Harriets, I gave into her nagging and let her loose on my face to do my make-up. I’ve never been one to slap on the war-paint, so as Harriet smoothed on each layer I felt myself cringing under her beady eye. But she assured me that it would be tasteful and true to her word, she didn’t make me look like a hooker or a drag queen. 

 The night that followed involved a lot of dancing, drinking, singing and I hate to say it, but a bit of spewing as well. It was the taxi ride back that tipped me over the edge, as Harriet tried and failed to get the taxi man involved in a bit of banter and singing a line from a Chris Brown song. He clearly wasn’t a fan.

 Sunday at 2.30pm, us girls were reunited for an afternoon of posh tea and scones at The Grand Hotel in Brighton. To say we weren’t too used to such elegant surroundings was an understatement, sitting around a table eating finger food to the dulcet tones of a piano, is a world away from dancing round the pole at Yates on a Friday night. But as always, I had a brilliant time; there really isn’t anything better than laughing and reminiscing with your best friends! 

Monday, 14 November 2011

Long Distance Love

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Whoever penned the phrase 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' clearly had never had the delight of being in a long term relationship themselves. The heart feels a lot of things being separated from its soulmate, but fondness is not top of the list. Being away from your boyfriend sucks. End of.

First let me set the scene, before I delve into the logistics of it all. I'm 24 and work in Colchester, Essex which is approximately 154.5 miles away from my 25 year old boyfriend, who lives in sunny Southampton. 

Like most good relationships, a drunken snog and half-hearted grope in a sweaty club was where our romance first blossomed. A week later and he had wormed his way into my life and I’d subjected him to his first viewing of The Notebook.

Now almost two years later, we daily face the trials and tribulations of maintaining a long distance relationship. With half our time spent organising where to see each other next, the rest spent relying on digital media to keep the spark alive; it’s not all dirty weekends away and long romantic phone calls.

We’ve both got used to our routine now, and of course I miss him, everyday in fact, but nothing beats the dizzy butterflies and heart-felt excitement that builds up in the hours before we are reunited.

When an argument brews, and inevitably it does, it takes a lot more patience and understanding to smooth things over; a cheeky cuddle to stop him banging on isn’t an option. Unfortunately my monthly treat doesn’t take pity on my situation, especially when I turn into a psycho girlfriend and start accusing him of every cardinal sin under the sun.
We get to have a good half hour convo every night (I insist, I’m sure he would happily leave it longer) but it does give us the chance to really listen to each other. For that time we enjoy the conversation and each other’s company without any distractions. Live-in couples often complain that they never get the time to really talk, and when blokes hit the sofa at the end of a long day, all women want to do is have a deep meaningful chinwag.

I’ve learnt a lot of things along the way – men are like children, they get stressed if they’re tired or hungry, and need a whole heap of attention when they’ve done something good. And we get painted as the ones with all the emotional baggage.

But since having long spells apart we’ve found other ways to spend time together – while other couples might be picking out curtains, or decorating the nursery, we like to embrace our inner geek and play online scrabble together.

I get the best of both worlds; I’m an independent businesswomen in the week, and a doting, sensitive girlfriend at the weekend and until I’m ready to settle down and get knocked up, I’m very happy with it.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Happy Birthday to me!

So with Halloween done and dusted for another year and the X Factor live finals going strong with my new-found love for Gary Barlow growing each week, the start of November means one very important event, my birthday. Now I’m 24 and apparently one year away from a quarter life crisis. With quite a few life experiences under my belt already, hopefully as I’m getting older I’m getting wiser as well. Although I still have no clue about politics (right and left wing refer to an aeroplane as far as I’m concerned) and my awareness of geography is still shocking; I only just about know where France is.

Working on my birthday wasn’t exactly what I had planned but surprisingly it turned out to be a brilliant day. My desk was littered with presents from my workmates and we snacked all day on cakes and party food. Lunchtime we celebrated in style at the infamous riverside cafe, which is the only place to escape the stench of sewage that oozes from the water. The food is just delightful with rock-hard jacket potatoes and plastic chicken panini’s; it really was a treat. After work we went to Aceville’s favourite haunt, the Slug and Lettuce, had a burger and a few beverages and experienced my first night sober in the pub. 

Friday my alarm was set for 5am as the Craft Business team were off to the NEC in Birmingham for Cake International and Hobbycrafts, two thrilling craft shows. After a 3hour car ride up there, made slightly easier by an all expenses paid Little Chef brekkie, we were surrounded my old ladies eager to get their crafty mits on the latest knitting accessories, card-making tools and rubber stamps. If you are picturing lots of sweet cuddly ageing women, you couldn’t be more wrong – I was elbowed, barged into and pushed around like I was at a heavy mental gig as these grannies hustled for a bargain. The cakes were pretty impressive though, not that I got to sample any which was a shame!

 In the evening, I was reunited with Tom and he treated me to a romantic dinner where I decided to push the boat out and order monkfish, which at £18.95 I certainly made the most of not paying! Saturday, the festivities were in full swing and the eating theme continued as we met my parents for a birthday lunch. Gifts were exchanged and my bank balance given a boost, and we had a lovely time laughing and chatting. 

 Firework night proceeded, so Tom and I went to Wicksteed park, and for a bargain £3, got a good show of bangs, whizzes and sparklers set to a few tunes. Even though we were surrounded by chavvy families and young kids who made the most of being away from their parents by smoking and drinking a couple of Breezers, it was a lovely eve.

Sunday it was Tom’s great grandads 90th birthday so we ventured to his retirement village, which resembles something from the Truman show, for some more celebrations. He has made it to 90 and was a war hero, so I can’t hold too much of a grudge that he stole a bit of my birthday thunder. After stuffing my face with sausage rolls and cucumber sandwiches it was time to say goodbye to my lover boy for another 2 week stint apart.

All in all another great round of birthday celebrations!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Spooky, Spooky!

Halloween not only is a great reason to go out and get smashed, but it’s the only occasion when it’s acceptable to dress up like a lunatic. But with the joys of drinking into oblivion and dancing recklessly, the prospect of coming up with an original costume idea is one that fills me with dread every time. I wish I was a closet crafter and really creative when it comes to making outfits with colourful material, but I am really not. So when my friends Kayleigh and David invited me and Tom to their party for the weekend, I started racking my brain for the ultimate outfit. Eventually I came up with the idea of Little Dead Riding Hood with Tom dressing as a big bad wolf, so after battling the crowds in the one fancy dress shop in Southampton I came out £30 lighter with the chosen costume. Like a little boy in a sweet shop, as soon as Tom set his eyes on a Wolverine outfit he was sold, so the wolf idea went out the window.

All in all the costumes went down a treat and we had a great night, reliving the uni days partying the night away in Vodka Revs. 

The day after, I hopped on a train down to Brighton to finally meet baby Freddie who had been born the day before. The first little one for our group of girls, he is a beautiful porker and I can’t wait to watch him grow up, tell him my jokes and teach him about God, given my bible bashing past! Having a cuddle with Freddie, did make me wonder when I’d like a little Dickson running around, but after Tom told me he might want to do a PhD, I think I’ll be waiting about 20 years before settling down. So congrats Becky and James!