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Hunting For That Silver Lining

19.1.17

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It's a frosty Wednesday morning just past 11am, and I'm sat at my desk at work. I get an email from two directors asking to have a quick meeting in 15 minutes. I shrug it off, assuming it would be another moan about the train strikes and me having to work from home. Twenty minutes later, I've been made redundant.

It wasn't the way I planned to start my 2017, that's for sure. I had never considered I'd ever be made redundant, let alone at the peachy age of 24 years old and definitely not when I had been working my butt off.

That's the way life works, though. You could be the nicest, hardest working, most deserving person in the world, and life just plops a big ol' turd on you. 

People say that good fortune is self made, but I disagree. In the most extreme cases, I've known truly fantastic people to be taken away by tragedy and seen loved ones crumble under the pressure of bad news. Good fortune isn't made, no more than bad fortune is deserved. No one knows what's round the corner, and that's why you have to cling on to that silver lining.

If I'm honest, I wasn't too happy in my job, but I sure as hell gave it my all. The tears that followed that meeting, as I stood lurking around the corner of my office hiccuping on the phone to my boyfriend, were from shock. What was I going to do? How would I pay my bills? How am I going to find a job quickly? Will I be judged by employers for being kicked out with four weeks' notice?

Irrational, wild thinking is so bloody normal when lumped in a shocking situation, but once the emotion had buggered off, plans needed to be made. I need to pay rent, I need to put food on the table, but that's all I NEED. This is what I told myself to try and keep away the sleepless nights and anxiety attacks that have plagued my life before.

Unless you are very unfortunate (and I'm so, so sorry if you are one of those people), I'm a strong believer that a silver lining can be pulled from any situation. For me, I knew I wanted a job nearer to home, I wanted to be promoted and fairly paid in line with the effort and level of work I was producing, and I wanted to be respected - because I sure as hell deserve that! The silver lining was that being made redundant gave me that extra push to pursue these career goals.

Being made redundant, or even in broader terms, being made to feel not enough, is shit. There's no two ways about it. But you're not shit. You're fucking fabulous. If you don't believe in yourself and your abilities, then no one else will. Confidence and determination will come up trumps in the end. And guess what? I start my new job in three weeks. Their loss, eh?

*mic drop*

16 Happy Days In 2016

24.12.16

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Let's face it: 2016 has been a bit of a shitter for the world. We've become accustomed to the death, destruction and political meltdown that has plagued the news all year. But fear not my little smile makers - let's each look for the light in the dark and toast to the end of another year. Here is a run down of my 16 happy days in 2016, with links to my Instagram photos from each - I would love if you had a go at this too, be sure to tweet me @kirstiepicker if you do!

1. All of the lights
My other half and I joined what felt like a million other Londoners scrambling around the city on the hunt for a series of creative light displays as part of the Lumiere Festival. It was a fun little evening and we walked miles. It was crazy to see Oxford Street and Regent Street closed off to traffic, too!

2. Work perks
As a journalist, I get sent to a hell of a lot of unglamorous places to get a good story. That wasn't the case when I hopped on the tube to Bethnal Green to review Paradise Garage, a row of railways arches that have been transformed into restaurants and bars. They were all unique in their own little Pinteresty way, and the owners were blooming lovely too.

3. Windy Whitstable
A day at the seaside always get a big tick from me, and my first trip to Whitstable sticks in my mind. A blustery February day, we wandered around aimlessly with no need to clock watch and was just what we needed after a particularly stressful work period.

4. Holla to Helsinki
Rather than a specific day, this four day trip is a huge highlight of my year. The first trip away with my boyfriend, it couldn't have been better as we ambled around the city on foot wearing five layers and darting into coffee shops every hour to defrost. The sea even froze over!

5. Afternoon tea for two
After developing a bit of an unhealthy love for miniature cakes and sandwiches, I took my mum for her first afternoon tea and it's safe to say we blooming loved it. It was a lovely little afternoon, just us two and gallons of tea!

6. Hello Your Highness
I (casually) popped to Windsor Castle for work to cover an event the Queen was attending. I'm not embarrassed to say I love the Royals, and it was surreal seeing the Queen and Prince Phillip roll up in their huge armoured car just metres from where I was stood. She's so cute and tiny!

7. A Wight Wedding
In May, my boyfriend and I travelled to the Isle of Wight for my Dad's wedding. It was the first time my other half had met any of my family (poor guy) and it was lovely having everyone together. Naturally, the night ended with trays (yes, really) of Jagerbombs because how else do you finish a day of formalities?

8. Run rabbit run
Attempts to get back into running saw me sign up for two 5ks - a Race for Life and a Santa Run! The first was earlier in the year and I ran it on my own. It felt so good to run my first race and raise a bit of money along the way. I ran the Santa Run with the boyf just a few weeks ago and it was just as fun - have you ever tried running in a felt Santa suit?! Yeah, don't...

9. Mucky pups
My friend Bex, her boyfriend and I did a very muddy 10k walk to raise money for charity Look Good Feel Better. What I had envisioned as a sunny wander in the Surrey Hills turned into a soggy affair as it poured down for much of the afternoon. We were a state! Thanks to the walk and a cake sale though, I raised over £100!

10. Sister sister
I met up with my two younger sisters (one of which is at the very energetic age of 7) for a sunny day in the park featuring a picnic, space hopper and park acrobatics. It's not often we all get to spend time together given that we live all over the country, and it was a blooming lovely day.

11. Birthday bonanza
I hate to be that cringing gal, but I really do have the best boyfriend. Day one of birthday celebrations saw us have seats at Wimbledon's Centre Court to see the likes of Federer, Murray and Serena Williams play. I love tennis and going to Wimbledon was a dream come true, let alone sitting at Centre Court! The next day we went to West Wittering beach, a beautiful sandy shore a few hours away. As it was a weekday we had the beach to ourselves, and it was one of the first warm days of the summer. Perfect!

12. Wandering west
We took a week off work in July and headed to Somerset for a few days. We stayed in a beautiful barn conversion near Frome that was all of my AirBnb dreams wrapped up into one (minus the bat, but that's another story). We took a day trip to nearby Bath, somewhere I had never been but had always wanted to, and it was just as pretty as the pictures.

13. An Irish wedding
Another family wedding took us to Ireland, where my boyfriend's cousin got married. I'd never been to Ireland and got to experience Dublin, as well as the greener side of the country. It's a wonderful place filled with wonderful people - everyone wants to talk to you and hear your stories, and you can guarantee they will tell you one or two themselves. A stark contrast to the misery guts I face everyday on my commute to London!

14. You're a wizard, Kirstie
I finally got to visit the Harry Potter Studios near Watford and it was bloody fantastic. Hours walking around the set and props that I grew up with obsessing over was the dream!

15. Week off wandering
Again, not just one day, but an impulsive week off in October saw up don our day trip hats. Brighton, Rye, Camber Sands and playing tourists for the day in London made for a great few days of freedom. Camber Sands, a huge stretch of sandy beach in East Sussex, is one to visit in the colder months - although windy as hell, it's completely desolate and a sight to be seen. We even sought shelter in the dunes with a picnic! In October! Nutters.

16. Cycling success
I get serious present paranoia and when I bought tickets for the bf to a little-known cycling event at the Velodrome, I was nervous! My worries were in vain, because it was a brilliant evening. I had never watched track cycling live, nor been to the Velodrome, and the atmosphere was fantastic. I'd recommend anyone to grab tickets for Six Day London - Wiggins and Cavendish were there this year, so it's a pretty big deal but under the radar.

Here's to an even better 2017! I've got a good feeling about this one..!


Glittery Beauty Buys for Festive Feels

23.12.16

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There are only two occasions in a year when it's socially acceptable to don glitter; when you're five days into a festival and all normal life rules have gone out of the window, and Christmas time.

Although my festival days are long gone due to my OAP tendencies, 'tis the season to be sparkly and I love a hint of glitter incorporated into my beauty bits. I've picked out four of my favourite twinkly products to help you achieve that 'is that a piece of tinsel?' look.

My polish of choice has to go to Essie's Tassel Shaker. A bottle of copper glitter goodness, I had to nab myself one last year after enviously watching my housemate layer this on to her nails. I wear it painted over a dark red nail for full festive impact. Let's savour the prettiness and forget the arse ache of removal, shall we...

Head up north (to your face) and I'm still embracing those disco ball vibes. The Marc Jacobs gel eyeliner in the shade Ro(cocoa) is my back up eyeliner all year round for when I can't be doing with the ole brush and gel liner jobby. Bronze in tone with just a hint of glitter, this looks especially pretty on the upper lash line of green and brown eyes (if I say so myself, ya know).

Lids, we ain't forgetting about you either. Mac's All That Glitters eyeshadow is an absolute classic blogger favourite that I always keep in my makeup bag (and I have to say, you can really bloody tell from these photos, grim.) Gold and buildable in formula, I like this for a subtle sparkle day to day or layered up with the help of a primer - I love Urban Decay's Primer Potion

How long has it been since I raved about Maybelline's Color Tattoo eye cream in the shade On and On Bronze? This paired with winged liner and loads of mascara is the ultimate New Year's Eve look and one I've donned the past few years. If it ain't broken, don't fix it galz!

What is your go-to makeup product for festive feels?

The Foolproof Mince Pie Recipe

16.12.16

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Revealing my chubby gal tendencies and telling you I had my first mince pie of the season back in October might show just how much I love those bad boys. Contrary to my adamant younger self's belief that these were filled with old chewy meat, I love me a mince pie, but I'd never tackled them in the kitchen before this year. 

I tried out a few different recipes lurking on the internet with many failures, so I embraced the learning curve and came up with these bad boys. Patience is the key to making shortcrust pastry from scratch - my top tip is to not add the water until you absolutely need it, if at all! 

You will need:
350g plain flour
230g cold butter (I use the foiled blocks of butter that are sometimes named 'baking fat' - yum)
100g icing sugar
Three-quarters of a tablespoon of water (specific!)
410g jar of mincemeat (I used the one from Tesco's Finest range and it's SO good)
An Options hot chocolate lid and a Sun-Pat peanut butter lid (or, you know, a large and smaller cutter)

1. Sieve the flour and icing sugar together. 
2. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the mixture. Get your hands in there and rub the mixture together with your fingertips until it forms a breadcrumb-like consistency.
3. Knead briefly until it forms a structured ball of dough - add the water here if the mixture isn't sticking together.
4. Flour a clean surface and roll the mixture out to the thickness of a £1 coin. Flour the rolling pin too so it doesn't stick!
5. Grease a 12-hole cake tin. Using the larger cutter/lid, cut 12 circles and push them into the bottom of the tray holes. Make sure you grease thoroughly or the mince pies will stick!
6. Give your jar of mincemeat a stir and spoon a generous teaspoon into each of the pastry bottoms.
7. Cut 12 circles with the smaller cutter and pop on the top of the mincemeat, pushing around the edges to ensure it's sealed with the bottom circle of pastry. Prod a fork twice in each lid.
8. Pop in the oven on 200C for around 25 minutes, or until the edges start to go brown. Don't be fooled into thinking they're not cooked because they don't completely brown like other bakes - cook too long and the pastry will be dry.
9. Leave to cool for around ten minutes before using a knife to gently ping them out, and transfer to a cooling rack. These are best served hot with custard, cream or ice cream, but also taste great cold with a cup of tea!


Tweet me a photo @kirstiepicker if you give these a go!

The Sparkly Chocolate & Cranberry Slab

9.12.16

kirstie pickering baking recipe chocolate and cranberry slab christmas festive glitter bauble blog blogger bloggers inspo gift guide inspiration instagram wilko sweet treat

When struggling to think of the perfect gift for a loved one, the safe fallback is always something to fill their tum! While you may be a good egg and want to opt for a bag of satsumas with a bow on top, be a good sport and try out this easy peasy sweet treat recipe - a chocolate and cranberry slab.

My friends have compared this sugar-hit to Hotel Chocolat products (thanks guys!) but costs a fraction of the price. Quick, simple and a treat for the eye, you will need:

200g dark chocolate - 70% or higher
75g white chocolate
50g finely chopped dried cranberries
25g finely chopped mixed nuts (optional)
Edible glitter (because Christmas)
A cocktail stick or skewer

1. Break up the dark chocolate and melt it in a bowl (preferably over a saucepan of boiling water, but you can do it in the microwave - just add a little lump of butter to stop it burning). Leave to cool for ten minutes.
2. While the dark chocolate is cooling, melt the white chocolate and put to one side.
3. Finely chop your chosen toppings - I went for dried cranberries and a few cashews, but this would work with almost anything (within reason - not sausages, etc).
4. Line a tray with baking paper and pour the dark chocolate into an oval shape.
5. Slowly pour the white chocolate all over the dark. Grab your cocktail stick and lightly drags it over the surface of the chocolate to create a marbled effect.
6. Sprinkle your toppings on and pop in the freezer for an hour. Voila! Keep it in the fridge until you want to be a piggy.

If you can resist temptation and fancy giving this a go for a present, all you need is a piece of card and some cellophane - I got 3 metres for £1 in Wilko's Christmas section.

1. Cut a 12cm x 6cm rectangle of card.
2. Cut a much larger rectangle of cellophane, around 40cm x 30cm. Glue the card on to the centre of the cellophane to act as your base.
3. Pile up your chocolate on the card - you'll need to work quickly, as touching it too much will make it melt!
4. Pull the cellophane edges together (like tying up your hair) and secure with an elastic band just above the top of the chocolate pile. Add a ribbon for the icing on the cake/chocolate!


Tweet me a photo @kirstiepicker if you give this a go!

9 Ways To Cheer Yourself Up After A Crappy Day

8.12.16

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It's okay to admit when you've had a pretty pants day. It happens to us all - anything can happen to tip us over the edge and make us feel like there's a grey cloud following us around. The important thing to remember is it's just one day - these things happen! Here are 9 ways to snap out of a bad mood, ready for the rest of a better week!

1. Rant about it
Someone pissed you off at work? While you may have to bite your tongue for the sake of the office environment, you are free to unleash out of hours. Be it your mum, your boyfriend or your best friend, venting your frustration is like slowly deflating a (raging) balloon. Same goes for if you're feeling down. Let it go, let it gooooooo!

2. Get outside
Being cooped up inside can add to tension. Grab your coat and scarf and get pounding those pavements. It's a BEAUTIFUL time of year (seriously, you should see the amount of leafy photos on my phone) and I'm a strong believer that a bit of fresh air cures almost anything.

3. Treat yo'self
Retail therapy does work. Give yourself a small budget and set out to turn that frown upside down. A £10 limit means you won't regret an emotion-fuelled purchase, so head down to Primark and stock up on fluffy slippers and socks covered in elves, or binge buy some trashy magazines. That leads me on to...

4. Distractions
Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the bad part of our day that it's hard to think of anything else. Distractions are your friends when you get to this point - magazines, a good book or a binge-worthy series on Netflix are to the rescue. Get under that duvet and get switched off.

5. Sweat it out
Even if you hate exercise, it's hard to deny that sweating your nuts off isn't a tension release. Even if you feel like flopping on your bed never to rise again, that level of energy usage is therapy in the form of a smelly sports bra!

6. Get in the kitchen
Whether you get a kick out of a sweet treat or love rustling up something a little more nutritious, no one can deny that food brings a strange form of happiness to a day (other than my boyfriend, who simply eats to exist and famously once questioned 'why do bitches eat when they're sad?') 

I am a master baker (heh) and love getting my hands in a bowl of batter. There's something so satisfying about starting with a pile of ingredients and creating a (tasty) finished product... Just me?

7. Hug it out
It's okay to cry. Everyone's been there, and sometimes the only way you can feel better is to let it all out. Grab your other half or best friend for a shoulder to moisten.

8. Plan ahead
Having something to look forward to can change your perspective of the current moment. I don't know how many times I've had a crappy day at work and then think to myself 'just one more day til the weekend and that fun day out!' Get on Google, pull that diary out and get scheduling!

9. Look at the positives
I have a five-year memory diary called 'One Line A Day' (which you can read more about here) that encourages you to write a single positive sentence about your day. When you look past the negative parts, you often realise there were many more pluses - be it your colleague telling you you're doing a great job, your nan writing you a letter or a stranger being polite. Life is that little bit better when you look on the bright side!


What's your top tip for letting go of a gloomy day?

8 Things That Instantly Make You Feel Festive

6.12.16

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In case you didn't realise, iiiit's Chriiiiiiistmaaaaas! Well, almost. With just a fortnight and a bit to go we are well into the festive season, but it's hard to get into the spirit when you're still tied to your desk all week, pining after that sweet Christmas break when it's okay to eat chocolate coins for breakfast. Here are eight things that give you a instant hit of festive frivolity, no matter how hard you fight it!

1. Feeeeeeed theeeeee worrrrrrrld (etc)
I'm an advocate of Heart Xmas in November (something I was keen to push in my office), but now is the perfect time to pull out that trusty festive CD. Yes, a CD, that round shiny disk with a hole in the middle. Remember? No matter how hard you fight it, as soon as a merry tune sneaks its way into your ears, it climbs into your brain and nestles comfortably for the month to come. 

2. The words 'let's open the Heroes'
Which tub of chocolates to buy is a hotly debated subject in all households. Heroes? Roses? Celebrations? Devastation ensues if your favourite doesn't make the big shop, but then along comes nan to save the day with yet another kilogram of sugary goodness.

3. When the first Christmas card arrives
Here was me thinking I was all organised writing my Christmas cards in November, but they remain on my chest of drawers still naked of stamps, bugger. My first card landed on my doormat on the 1st and that's when you know shit is getting real!

4. Wafts of festive baking
Sure, six dozen mince pies for a family of four is a little extreme, but who's to deny anyone a little Christmas baking fun? Mince pies, stollen, cheese twists, gingerbread, mmmmmm my jeans are feeling snug just thinking about it. Festive recipes coming soon!

5. You vs 100,000 Christmas shoppers
Nothing says Christmas like queueing for two hours to get your sister's name printed on a jar of Nutella. Pre-planning is crucial to stress free Christmas shopping success and good lord does it feel good when all those recipients are ticked off the list. That leads me to...

6. Wrapping presents with all body parts
Once the very important task of decided a colour scheme is complete, wrapping is about as festive as it gets. That is, if the gift is a perfect square. Anything else and you will find yourself holding the wrapping paper in perfect position with your toe while you try to find the end of the sellotape. 

7. Sweet cinnamon loving
Candles, biscuits, tea, incense, tree decorations, BREATH. Give me all of that sweet cinnamon goodness.

8. Planz planz planz
December is hands down the busiest month of the social calendar. After eleven months of lying low, suddenly everyone wants to see you and scheduling it all in feels like doing a puzzle with too many pieces. Moaning Mildred episodes aside, it feels really blooming lovely when you finally get to see all those ugly mugs. Ahhh, Christmas.



Wintery Apple and Raisin Cakes

5.12.16

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I'm a firm believer that you can chuck a load of cinnamon into anything and it can be called 'wintery'. These fruity treats are one of those bung-it-all-in-the-bowl recipes and go down a treat with a cuppa or warmed up with custard or ice cream for pudding! Yum. 

Ingredients
280g plain flour
280g caster sugar
100g butter
3 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 eggs
1 large apple, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
50g raisins
2 teaspoons of baking powder

Method
1. Line a rectangular tray with greased baking paper and set the oven at 180 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, sieve in the flour and add the baking powder and cinnamon.
3. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, eggs and butter until smooth.
4. Slowly fold in the dry ingredients and when fully mixed together, add the raisins and apple.
5. Once fully incorporated, pour the mixture into the tray and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown.


Easy peasy! If you give this recipe a go, be sure to tweet me a photo @kirstiepicker!


Relaunching my blog!

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'Relaunch' may be a little generous for my teeny tiny corner of the internet, but here we are! After almost four months without a single blog post and, let's face it, almost a year of neglect, I'm excited to reveal my new look site!

The design isn't the only new thing around these ends. When I started blogging almost four years ago, I was obsessed with all things beauty and I'd spend my last tenner on a bronzer given the chance. Ain't youngsters funny?

Needless to say I've grown up a bit now and while I still love me a good beauty read, I only have one face! I'm relaunching as a lifestyle blog, full to the rafters with posts about trips away, days out, fooooooood, lists and just about anything that's on my mind. I'll still have a sprinkling of beauty posts too, don't worry lipstick lovers!

After a flirt with YouTube, I'm not sure it's for me, not for now at least. Juggling blogging, filming and editing a weekly video, a full time job plus social commitments isn't fun and putting too much pressure on myself is one of the reasons I ended up neglecting most of my platforms this year. More on that soon!

For now I hope you enjoy exploring my new site, which will (of course) have a spattering of festive posts in the coming weeks. Let me know what you like and what you think could do with a little more work - I'm open to constructive criticism!

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