How Waking Up Earlier Helped Me Feel Less Tired!

I’ve always needed LOTS of sleep. Since I was a kid my bed time was always way earlier than anyone else I knew (or know now) but now I’m an adult I’ll happily go to bed at half 8 without complaint.

They used to say you need at least 8 hours sleep in order to fully recharge, but I think that’s been changed to 6 hours now. I feel like a good 6.5 hours is all I really need, and a few years back I realised that I will actually feel worse if I have too much sleep.

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There’s a lot of research about different types of sleep, you can get apps and trackers that will tell you how much ‘useful’ sleep you’ve had and such.

But a while back I decided that I’d just wake up a little bit earlier in the normal working week and see how that affected my tiredness. After a little trial and error I found that waking up around 45 minutes earlier than I had been (and I usually go to sleep around the same sort of time every night) lead me to feeling more awake and refreshed than I had when I’d slept a little longer.

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I was sold! I’ve also tried a few other things to help with getting a good night’s sleep. I’ll put my phone down as soon as I go to bed, and watch tv for a bit before falling asleep. I don’t like to use my phone after around 9:30 if I’m honest, just because it’ll give my brain a little rest. iPhone recently added a feature that takes the blue out of the screen backlight after a time set by you, which is supposed to help your brain switch off and be less active ahead of sleepy time.

I was also sent a few sample products by the brand Kiss the Moon to try out. A couple of balms and face oils.

 

One was a temple balm and one was a face scrub and since my skin is so picky and changeable I didn’t really want to try the scrub. But I do love a nice face oil. I’ve given them all a go and though I didn’t find them to aid my sleep at all, they did have lovely calming scents. There’s three types and each one is aimed towards a different skin type. I decided to take one on holiday to Rome with me.

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The calm oil is my favourite scent of the bunch, but I’ll be honest they’re very ‘herbal’ scented and not really my cup of tea. I did find them to be calming, as I mentioned before, but they didn’t do anything for my skin. I have face oils which when I wake up I can feel they’ve made a difference to the softness of my skin, and with these oils they didn’t seem to make a difference, so I can’t say I’d reach for them. That being said, that’s not the primary point of these. They’re designed to relax you in an essential oil kind of way, and in that this succeeded.

Of all the things I’ve tried out, to help me wake up feeling more refreshed, I’d say setting my alarm to an earlier time was the most successful. It took a couple of attempts to know when was best, but now I’ve done it I’m so pleased I did. My brain has enough time to wake up, I’m not rushing to leave the house, and I’m calm and relaxed. I’m so pleased I did it!

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Kiss The Moon sent me a few samples of their products free of charge to give a go. You’ll be able to tell my opinions are my own and I have recieved no financial benefits for posting this article.

Blogging Tools I Can’t Live Without

Since I’ve been blogging for quite some time now, I thought I’d share some of the tools that have come to be invaluable to me.

Technically, you just need your brain and a platform and you’re all set, but there are a few things I’ve come to appreciate as tools I just can’t live without when blogging.

First of all, my laptops. I have a Microsoft HP and a MacBook Pro. I don’t have a word processing package on my Mac so tend to do most of my writing on the HP laptop, unless I’m writing straight into my blogging platform.

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WordPress is my platform of choice, having used a few different ones over the years. I like that even on a free package you can produce a customisable and professional looking blog. It’s flexible and you rarely see two blogs looking the same. It has its glitches, but what website don’t? I feel like at some point in the future I’ll need to move to self-hosted or a paid account, but until then it works just fine, thank you very much. As well as the web-based platform, I have the WordPress app. It’s not without its limitations, but is handy for replying to comments, checking stats and uploading images on the go. You can write posts on there too but I prefer to do that on a computer, mainly because I’m rubbish and slow at word processing on my phone!

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For cameras, I switch between my Canon EOS 400D, Sony a5000 and my iPhone 7 Plus. I’ve been using my SLR less of late for the reasons you’ll read in a moment, but even though it’s kind of old now I love the quality of photos I get from it. My Sony a5000 has earned its cost times over. I love how small it is, the quality of photo and video and it’s light. But other than that, the Wifi function comes in so so handy. I can take a photo, send it to my phone and then edit it, upload and publish it, all within 5 minutes of capturing the shot. The iPhone 7 Plus is pretty awesome for taking photos too, and though I haven’t had it long, I can already see the difference in lens quality with the shots I’ve taken.

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As well as using my iPhone for images, I have a tonne of apps I use for blogging. Here are a few of them.

I’ve mentioned the WordPress app so I won’t go into that again. I use Buffer to scheduling tweets, which I don’t do all that much, but it’s good to have an easy app to do it when I want to. Twitter (of course), Facebook and Instagram – I don’t really have to tell you what those do, right?

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Lightroom app for iOS is awesome for photo editing. The auto presets are a great place to start, and then you can tweak until your heart’s content.

As an amateur photographer, I’ve been uploading to Flickr for over 10 years now, so it’s almost as though I have my own iStock of photos on there. It’s awesome because I pretty much have a photo already taken for a lot of posts I might want to write. So, if I ever don’t have the time to take photos, I can usually pull from there. The Flickr app allows me to save my own photos and then I can upload them to WordPress. Job done!

As I begin to venture into the world of YouTube, the YouTube app has come in very handy, as has the YouTube Creator Studio app. It shows me views, stats, trends and comments all from one place. It also allows me to push videos live, share and copy links right from the app.

For planning I like to use the notes section on my phone, when out at about, and for proper planning I’ll use my Ultimate Blog Planner from Dot Creates. This planner allows me to make in depth notes, or even start writing the blog there and then. There are sections where I can write prompts for photo ideas I’ve had too. It’s really invaluable.

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Photo lighting comes in the form of either the Earth’s sun or, because this is England, I have a pair of softbox lights which I use for both photography and video. They’re pretty new to me so I’m still getting the hang of them, but I love the natural light they throw out. You can find the set I bought from Amazon here!

Other than on my phone, for photo editing on my laptop I use a really old version of Paint Shop Pro. I could upgrade but I know this software like the back of my hand, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I also use this software to make any graphics I need for my blog or elsewhere.

So, those are my ‘can’t do without’ blogging tools. I hope this helps you with your blog planning and editing, and please let me know if you use something you love that I haven’t mentioned!

Planning Your Trip to Walt Disney World: part 1

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So you’ve decided to go to Disney World! Good choice 😀

But before you can go and have all the fun, you need to make some decisions. You want this to be the trip of a lifetime, and for that to happen you need to have made all the right choices at booking stage.

Here’s what me and my husband did to plan and book our trip, based on a two-week stay for two adults.

There’s so much information to take in and so many factors to consider, so the first thing you need to do is:

Research!

Gary became a member of thedibb.co.uk – a forum and user based website for Brits planning Disney vacations. It’s got so much information including a vacation planner, tips, calendars on peak times, which parks to go on which days, special events…. And that’s not mentioning the wealth of information provided on the forums by the members.

Budget

You’ll already know this isn’t going to be a cheap holiday, but you’ll still be able to make some choices based on what you’re able to afford or save up for. Keep an eye out for the UK Disney Dining Plan offers which usually come out in April. We managed to get a great deal by doing this (but more of that later)

Hotel

Based on your budget you’ll need to decide whether you want to stay on property or off. There are schools of thought for both options and benefits to both, but we decided we wanted to stay on property and the option of the dining plan helped cement this for us.

Let me tell you a little about the dining plan offer. It’s basically offers you meals for free based on the type of hotel you choose, and means you won’t likely need to pay for much (or any) food when on Disney property. For two weeks in the parks this can make a massive impact on the amount of cash you need to budget for once you’re actually there.

There are 3 types of resort at Disney World – basic, moderate and deluxe. If you choose a basic hotel, you don’t get the option of the dining plan. However, if you choose a moderate hotel you get the option of a Quick Service dining plan, and if you choose Deluxe you get the option of the Table Service dining plan. These mean that for each day, and each person, in your party you receive 2 meals (either quick service or table depending on your plan) and 1 snack each. You can upgrade to the Table Service plan if you’re staying at the moderate resorts, however ideally we would have wanted to stay at a Deluxe resort and get the Quick Service plan – this wasn’t an option though.

Quick service dining locations are places where you go to the counter and order, then take a tray to the table yourself and sit. Table Service are exactly what you think; you’re waited on. But these kinds of restaurants require bookings more often than not, and serve heavier food. Gary and I knew we didn’t want to be restricted to eating times, or heavy food when we were hot and bothered, so knew that we wanted the quick service option.

For one Quick Service credit, you receive an Entrée (main course), desert and a drink – all for free!

We ended up choosing Port Orleans French Quarter (a New Orleans mardis gras themed hotel resort) for our stay, and were over the moon with our choice.

By staying on-site, we also received a free refillable mug each. This was a plastic cup with a chip in the bottom which allows free drinks refills at all Disney World resorts, from Coke Freestyle machines (also included Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate and Milk)

The offer we booked under also gave us a free $200 gift card which could be spent in most of the shops and resorts on site, and a free Memory Maker (worth $160) which meant all ride photos, videos and official photos taken in the parks and resorts were free and linked to our account for download. Awesome!

Another major pro of staying on-site is the free transportation to and from Orlando International Airport via the Disney Magical Express. Car parking at the parks is also free of charge for guests staying at Disney resorts but are otherwise charged at $20 a day for those staying off-site.

If we had decided to stay off-site we wouldn’t have gotten any of these offers.

Once you’ve chosen your hotel, you need to decide:

When to go

Again, The Dibb is brilliant for choosing what time of year to go. Obviously, I don’t have children so don’t have to consider holidays. We decided to go at the end of September because the temperatures usually cool down a little, it was Halloween season and also Epcot Food and Wine Festival time – all things we wanted to experience. It was also coming off-peak season so we knew it would be less crowded for the most part.

With all these things considered, you can now either go to a travel agent or book it yourself. We decided to book it ourselves without flights, and hold on a little while to see if we could get a better price on flights nearer the time. It really depends on what you’re comfy with – it worked out well for us doing it ourselves.

So now all you need to do is book (when the time and offers are right of course!)

But you might think that’s all the planning done…. You’re wrong! It’s just beginning! Head straight part two on how to plan the perfect Disney World holiday!

O’ Captain! My Captain!

The whole world, it seems, is aching with sadness at the loss of Robin Williams today. It was the first thing I learned today and will probably be the last thing I think about tonight. His comedy, acting and his kind and good spirit will always be remembered and help to make his death that much harder to come to terms with, despite not knowing him personally. However these facts aren’t the main reason for my resounding feeling of heartbreak. It’s because depression has once again taken a wonderful person into its grip and not let it go.

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Depression lies. This is something everyone must remember, whether you understand it or not. Explaining a mental condition is the same as trying to describe the colour blue to a blind person – you can’t do it. And even describing your condition to someone else who suffers with it can be hard because they’re not the same. Each case as individual as a fingerprint.

You can be as popular, successful, wealthy, kind, privileged as you could imagine but still suffer with depression. And it doesn’t have to be because of guilt due to having too much, or strain due to fame or any of those things. It can be for no reason or for a reason you don’t yet know about. It just exists, and manifests. It feeds on you and will often try to persuade you that the world would be better without you in it. Depression lies.

As soon as I found out the news, this morning on Twitter, I was immediately comforted by The Bloggess, as I often am.

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This girl knows what she’s talking about, felt her Motherly instinct take over and tweeted to protect her droves of fans who suffer, some in silence. And I was comforted. I was also proud of her because she saw the need to say what she had to say and then remove herself from the situation.

The amazing thing about today is that depression has been headline news. It’s been thrust into the conscious of the whole world and in a time when so many people are trying to cut out the stigma attached to mental illness, it’s amazing to have so much discussion and education happen in one day. If you can take a positive away from something so tragic, this is it. Of course not all people get it:

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But these people would never listen if you tried to educate them.

If you take one thing away from all this it has to be that depression can effect anyone. The most important thing is to talk about it. Find a friend, a partner, a kind twitter friend and tell them. The bottom line is depression lies….. but it can be pretty convincing sometimes.

If you feel like you need to talk to someone, please follow this link for helplines that the NHS have provided. There’s always someone who will listen. If you don’t suffer but you know someone who does, give them a call, meet them for a coffee – see how they are.

This Week and TMI

I shall prepare you now, that parts of this post are going to be a bit grim. I’ll refrain from posting pictures but I had an injury that wasn’t pretty. You have been warned!

So this weekend was the first of two whole weekends I’m working and also my penultimate weekend working in retail. The weather meant that it was a heap quieter than normal but still busy as my shop had a sale on. Early on in the day I dropped a metal bar onto my left big toe and it made an amazing bruise immediately. Sunday was agony but it didn’t throb so much and Monday was less painful – I could almost walk on it. But I had to cancel two planned runs because I could barely put my foot down let alone put a trainer on. On Monday I went to the pharmacy and bought various different toe covers, convinced I would be able to run in a few days. Tuesday was my day off and I managed to stick on a pair of old loose trainers and mow the lawn. Thinking my toe was fine I was willing to just wait it out and prepared for the possibility of my nail coming off. Ick! After my stint in the garden I came inside and realised that the pressure in my toe was still increasing.

I was starting to worry hard by this point and decided I needed to do something about it. So I called my Mum and she was able to re-arrange her day and take me to the local NHS walk-in centre. I was seen really quickly. The nurse told me my toe wasn’t broken but that she would need to bore a hole into the nail and let the blood out. It took 45 minutes – she said she couldn’t believe the amount of blood that came out. The release of pressure was amazing and my toe became toe-shaped again! The procedure was totally painless which was great because I’m a total wimp! Thank heavens for the NHS! – and for Mum for taking me!

Home again and I could stand and walk on my toe – which was very bandaged up! That evening Mum took me to her Rock Choir class as they’d been told they could bring guests for their end of term session. I’d seen them sing once before and heard Mum practicing but didn’t have any idea of what it would be like to take part. I had a blast! We learned a new song and then sang some old ones, which I just had to pick up as they went along. It took me back to my school and Gospel choir days when I was younger. I’m so glad my Mum has a ‘club’ like this to take part in.

Back to work yesterday and I was able to walk properly on my toe (bandaged up a little of course) and today it’s still weepy but I’m hoping to run on it tonight.

Incidently, Gary has done 7 runs since he started training and last night he ran a full 5k without stopping – and felt great! I’m so proud of him! I wonder whether he’ll decide to sign up for the 5k Fun Run I’m doing in a week and a half. I think he should 🙂

I worked until 10pm last night doing a new season launch – my Visual Merchandising is ropy at best so I’m expecting changes to be made when the store manager comes back but it was planned and executed well and hopefully the decisions I made were okay….. I’ll find out next week!

I had an email this week from RedBubble letting me know that they have featured one of my photographs in their latest blog. Take a look! There’s some amazing art featured in there alongside my photograph.

Today I have another day off because I’m working the whole weekend again. Plans for today are rest and relaxation followed by a house viewing and then hopefully a successful run! Wish me luck!

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What’s Rocking my Socks #2

It was back to work this week but I’ve still had a lot to be thankful for and to be excited about!

Being back at work:

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Yes that’s certainly something to excited about. I like to work hard so when I’m off I can feel the benefits of that. I love my job and can’t think of a better way to be earning money. If I’ve gotta do it I might as well enjoy myself, right?

Running:

New Treads

If you’ve been living under a rock then you might not have heard about my new hobby. I’m trying not to go on about it, but it’s slowly taking over. It’s making my priorities shift and my take on things change. I want to eat things that will give me energy and I don’t want to sit on my bum all day on my day off. Go me!

Learning from others:

I’ve met some new people this week, and even though I struggle to adapt to change I’ve been forcing out the negative thoughts and letting in the positive ones. Even if I don’t like or agree with someone’s personality in its entirety I can still be tolerant and take from them what I feel might better me. Even if it’s only learning not to be like them!

My Friends:

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That picture is an oldie but a goodie!

Enjoying my friends being supportive and letting me support them. I’m getting so much support from friends for my running (one of them is even running the 5k with me!) but also through day-to-day crap that’s happening. And I know they’ll always be there!

Eating at our Favourite Diner:

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Me at Buddies!

Our favourite diner, Buddies USA, has opened a location way closer to our home and tonight we’re taking Mum and Dad to try it out. This new location doesn’t have as much of a range as the normal one we go to but we had to try it out just two days after its grand opening! This is the same place I had the poutine a while back, if you remember? They don’t have that special on the menu in the new diner though, so I’ll just have to make two of their restaurants my favourites! After the meal we’re watching the Eurovision Song Contest at Mum’s and having Swedish nibbles 😀

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A Post about Friendship

I have never been a girly girl. I’ve had girl friends but never really gone in for the braiding hair and sharing secrets type stuff. I was always the one people spoke to with their problems but I never really felt I could come up with good advice or solutions, so I was more a sounding board. And I never ever went to friends of family with my issues.

It wasn’t until about 4-5 years ago that I was able to go to my friends with problems. Of course I have Gary who I can go to, but sometimes you just want to winge to a girl.

Over the last year and half, as I have previously posted, I have seen my friends more and more socially and found it wonderful to be able to share problems and experiences. I think maybe before I thought I might be judged by those I was sharing with and so I just didn’t. But I never feel that way. I’m really blessed to have a circle of friends, who don’t necessarily know each other but they know me and know me well. And I have only known some of these friends for a couple of years.

I suppose it’s all part of moving on from child to adult – trusting that the people you share with are going to react in an adult way and also feel that you are adult enough to hear what they have to say. I’m blessed to be trusted with the information I’m told with by these wonderful people and I’m blessed that they want to listen to and support me.

I had some rather shocking news a week ago, and I have been really comforted by the support I’ve had from my friends. They have all been wonderful and in their own ways rallied support. I feel like a have a net underneath me and that they will be there whenever I need them. These friends are all very different people and able to offer support in many different ways, which is amazing. (I will also mention the support and kind words from people whom I would consider to be friends, but may not have ever met, via twitter. Thank you so much!)

I’m rambling now, so I’ll stop. I just feel blessed.

The Christmas Queen’s guide to Gift Buying

As my regular readers will know, I adore Christmas. And it’s come to the point in the year when a Christmas list needs to be made, and presents need to be bought. I have always loved buying presents for people and make it my goal to buy the perfect gift for each and every person. It requires thought and planning and knowing the person well, but in the end it’s so worth it.

I still find it strange when people buy the wrong present for friends and family, or simply can’t think of anything to get. So I thought I’d write a guide to finding the perfect present, and simple does and don’ts for those gift-buying challenged readers.

Firstly the simple rules of gift buying: The definition of a perfect present for someone, is something they’d love to have but wouldn’t buy for themselves. Stay away from the clichéd gifts. People say if you buy something for someone which you’d like yourself, it makes a good gift, but I’d say if you buy your Nan a set of iPod speakers because you’d like them, you’re doing it wrong.

When I say stay away from clichés I mean don’t get the standard tie, socks, perfume etc. unless you know they really want them.

Gifts for women are easier than for men, in my opinion. But stay away from the obvious. If the woman you’re buying for loves a certain perfume, don’t buy that for them, because they’ll already have a bottle and it’ll take them at least another year until they use it. Instead, think around that theme – buy them an atomiser for their handbag so they can carry a small amount of scent around with them. Or get a beautiful perfume bottle to decant into. Don’t buy make up because you’ll get the shade wrong no doubt. And never ever buy a woman electrical kitchen appliances UNLESS she’s asked for it specifically. No woman wants a hoover for Christmas.

Men are very tricky, but they love gadgets or kits or puzzles. Think around their hobbies. If they like to read, get them a book journal or a set of book ends. If they like gardening, buy them a bird feeder or set of binoculars. But no to ties, socks or slippers! Those driving experiences are the sort of thing he’ll love! I know all men are different but if you think around hobbies you’ll get it right. Music lovers might like a biography of their favourite artist, if there is one. Book lovers might like books like ‘Eats, Shoots and leaves’. TV lovers might like a boxed set of their favourite show or a book guide to it. Animal lovers might like a kit where you’ve adopted their favourite animal on their behalf.

Kids – remember when you were a kid? Think about how much you loved the little off the cuff gifts you got that you would never have dreamed to ask for? I got a Funfax when I was little which I loved to death. It’s easy to spoil kids and if they’re your own, go ahead – but it they’re not yours it’s not up to you to spoil them. Buy them a book, or a small toy or a little electronic diary and leave the spoiling to their parents. And don’t forget that 10 minutes after they’ve opened your gift, they’re looking for the next one. So don’t waste your time and money – spend it on one good gift that they’ll love. Puzzles, teddys and little electronic games can be bought cheaply and will be used eventually if not straight away.

So that’s my little basic guide to pressie buying. I hope it’s given you some ideas – but feel free to comment if you want help buying something for someone – it’s my pleasure to help!

From the Christmas Queen