When only tea and a biscuit will do – Bake it Easy review

 

bake it easy fabuliciousfifty

I am not quite sure how all the science behind tea works, but what I do know is that by this stage in my life I probably have more tea in my veins than blood.

I just love the stuff.  It is neither sweet nor savoury but this hot drink is what I reach for … well for almost any occasion.

I drink tea throughout the day at it simply makes me feel better.  It gives me a boost of energy (that would be the caffeine), but at the same time it relaxes me.  I think it might be the sitting down and taking 10 to 15  minutes to drink the tea that helps.

I also associate tea with friends.  Nothing quite like a sitting on the sofa with a pot of tea and a plate of biscuits and doing what woman do best – setting the world right with a cup of tea and a chat.

I love homemade biscuits but rarely get myself together to make them.  I was delighted to discover Bake it Easy on twitter one night.  (Yes, the world has changed to that degree that I find new things on twitter!)

Maria was kind enough to send me some samples to try.  The chocolate ones disappeared magically!

It is simply wonderful and every so slightly indulgent.  The jar of cookie mix can be ordered online and stashed in the grocery cupboard.  Tip out the mixture, add an egg and butter and randomly spoon out onto a baking sheet.  It is that easy.

Tea is now just a little bit more fabulous, the only problem is limiting yourself to two, or three.  They taste yummy with absolutely no artificial after taste.

bake it easy mixes blogI think I might just pop the oven on – I have a Bake it Easy smartie cookie mix in the cupboard and could quite happily down another cup of tea.

Thanks for reading!

Kerry

Social Isolation – the curse of the self-employed

Social Isolation is a phenomenon that is often associated with the elderly.  I do believe that it effects many other people too and can be a curse of those working from home.  This is a long post, but I really hope you read it through to the end.

Social Isolation

I had a visit from a very wise friend recently.  We were chatting about my new circumstances.  A quick update for anyone who may not know I had to give up work in December due to ill health.  I am now ‘pottering about’ doing a bit of writing, working on my blog and exploring opportunities for the future where I can create an new career where I can work part time, but also on my own timetable to fit it with when I feel well enough.

My friend listened to what I had to say and then asked me about social isolation.  I laughed and said oh don’t worry about me I am very outgoing and I am always out and about.  This isn’t entirely true as sometimes I am physically too sore to do too much.

Working from home is becoming more and more commonplace both for the self-employed and for people who have the option offered by their employers.  There are great perks.  You can put a wash on between calls, nip out to collect the kids from school or even to buy a bottle of milk.

There are downsides too and social isolation is one of these.  Social isolation is defined as the complete or near-complete lack of contact between an individual and society. It differs from loneliness, which reflects a temporary lack of contact with other humans.

Social isolation isn’t a choice, it is something that creeps up on you while you are busy.

I strongly believe that there are degrees of social isolation.  An ‘at home’ worker can spend hours a day alone.  I am quite happy with my own company for much of the time, however the value of social interaction is huge.

Spending time with colleagues and friends is one of the best forms of communication.  Conversation sparks ideas and thoughts and generally gets us out of ourselves.

Social isolation can lead to depression, social anxiety and a loss of self-esteem.  This can result in the ultimate vicious circle where you might become more reluctant to interact socially and withdraw even more.

Since I have been ‘home alone’ for the last six months I have been very conscious of the fact that I no longer need to get up in the morning, do my hair and make-up and go off to work.  Although I have not missed all the office politics, I have missed the chats around the kettle, lunches with colleagues and meetings. I have also missed getting dressed up.

I just love meetings.  I love the interaction and flow of ideas.  I enjoy deadlines and the challenges of working as a team to beat them.

So how to ensure that we don’t suffer from  social isolation?

  1. Go to an opening of an envelope

My partner says this what I do.  Seriously though if there is any opportunity to interact I take it.  I have attended coffee mornings, focus groups, blogger events and meet-ups.

Martha Fraser who recently organised the Shine Adventure an event for online businesses facilitates free meet-ups in different areas.  A couple of hours and a cup of coffee with online colleagues – a great idea.

The Women’s Inspire Network started by Samantha Kelly (aka Tweeting Goddess) also holds great networking and inspirational events.

 

  1. Become a lady who lunches (or a gentleman)

Lunch or even a morning coffee (or tea and a scone if you are me) is a great way to break up the day and to have a good natter.  I have been very brave and grown my network by simply asking.  If I have been following someone online that is very interesting, I will call up and ask them to meet me for lunch.  What is the worst that can happen?  They could say no or perhaps they will say yes and you will have made a new friend and contact.

  1. Beware social media it is a joy and a curse

I really enjoy social media and see a huge value in it both in terms of keeping up with friends and family and making new connections.  I have a wonderful group that I created with a friend called Fabulous Woman – it inspires me every day.

The key with social media is to know how much is enough?  I aim to spend enough time to be inspired and connected without spending so long that I start suffering from FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out) and a feeling of isolation – where I start to imagine the whole world is having a better time with more friends and more cocktails than I ever will.

 

I love linking point 2 and point 3.  Meet someone on Social media and take it off-line – invite them to tea!

 

  1. Keep a diary and keep it full enough

A diary has been my constant companion in all the years I worked.  It still is.  It is a great way of not only organising yourself, but also creating balance in your life.  I try to schedule at least one – out of the home office – activity a week.  Keeping a diary also helps to track what I do work on, so at the end of the week I can sit back and reflect on what I have achieved and what did and didn’t work.

  1. Keeping up with friends and family – thank you Skype

I also use my diary to remind myself (I suffer from the odd bit of brain fog) to set up calls with my family and friends far and wide.  We are lucky to live in an age of technology where you can have a chat with an old school friend as though they were in your living room.  I have even carried the iPad around the house showing off my cooking prowess.

  1. Walking and exercise

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am an avid convert to the daily walk.   I try to get out every day dodging the showers if necessary.  I was walking a couple of days ago, enjoying the sunshine in my bright blue coat.  I smile and say hi to anyone I pass on the road.  I was walking along in the town and a gentleman looked at me and said – my you have a happy face.  I wished him happy Monday and moved on.

 

These are some tips and ideas that I have used and would suggest.  There is a way to prevent social isolation when you are working from home, and I do believe it needs to be a conscious choice.

May is mental health month and as someone that has suffered with depression over many years I think it is important that we raise awareness for mental health.

Thank you for reading

 

Kerry x

 

Tired all the Time – dealing with Fatigue is important

Fatigue is the common enemy of all of us - so slow down, rest up and refill

 

Sometimes I feel tired all the time.  I know that this has to do with some of my health issues, but I am sure that we all feel that way sometimes.

I came across this quote on Pinterest and just knew I had to blog about it.

Fatigue is the common enemy of all of us – so slow down, rest up and refill.

The fuzzy purple in the background is my favourite blanket.  I am not sure whether it was joking or not, but it was said that I could be found with my feet on the footstool and my purple blanket wrapped around me quite often.

What I have learnt is simply this, if we are tired we need to rest.  For some people especially those suffering from fibromyalgia or other illnesses that make you very tired, this will quite possibly be every day. For others it might be on the weekend, but no matter what we need to rest and refill.

I remember years ago being at a youth camp and the pastor saying that we had to imagine that we were a car.  If we drove and drove and never filled up with fuel or checked the water the car would break down.  It would also break down if we didn’t service it.

There is all sorts of research coming out which shows that everyone is more productive when they are rested.  They are more creative and more able to handle what life has for them.  When I can’t sleep, which does seems to happen quite a bit, the next day I am cranky and tired and certainly a lot less productive.  Fatigue wears you out.

Fatigue – breaking it down.

I think this quote is full of lots of wisdom – especially if you break it down.  First slow down – realise that moving fast doesn’t necessarily get you there quicker.  We were driving back from a trip this weekend and there was a car that was in the control of a very dangerous driver.  He was travelling too close to the car in front of him.  Overtaking when it wasn’t safe and obviously in a huge hurry somewhere.  When we reached the turnoff he was still only 2 cars in front of us.    Slow down.

Rest up.  We live in a world where there are so many demands on us and even if we sit down we grab our phone and check emails.  (I am guilty of this for sure).  I am going to try to rest up – and simply take time to breath and know that my body needs it.

Finally we need to refill.  This is such an important part of the quote.  I certainly forget that rest is not enough.  So how am I going to refill.  I am going to read – I am committing to read an uplifting/inspirational book for an hour a day.  You can also refill by spending time in nature.  A good walk in the forest always leaves me feeling better.  A great chat with a friend, and if coffee is included is also a good way of refilling.

Thanks for reading my ramblings and please feel free to leave a comment if you have any suggestions for slowing down, resting and refilling.

Kerry x

Blog marketing – a plan to follow

 

Fabuliciousfifty blog marketing planI recently had the opportunity to talk to a group of bloggers and as part of that presentation I discussed marketing a blog.  Thank you everyone for the great feedback!

I have worked in marketing most of my adult life, so when I decided to start my blog I thought about marketing it too. The obvious route was to see how other people marketed their blogs, but then I started thinking back to what I did as my day job.

My area of expertise is in strategic marketing.  I did a little marketing strategy for my blog, which has been reviewed and re-evaluated at regular intervals. It was only on a scrap of paper mind, but I would really recommend doing this as it helps to clarify my thinking, both in terms of content and my reader.

Marketing a blog – a mini plan

When you are putting together a marketing plan there are a few essentials that are normally included.  There are various models and methods for planning a marketing strategy, but for this post I am going to focus on my favourite method.

  • Research
  • Target audience
  • Message
  • Establish objectives – set goals.
  • Actions

Research

Research is the first stop for anything.  You might have an idea of starting a blog, but unconsciously or consciously we all research.  I would advise doing more of this.  Read blogs, talk to your friends, ask questions.  Do some research on the techy side – find out which platforms work for you, which channels work for you.  (Although I have snapchat it really doesn’t work for me – it doesn’t fit in with my message).

Your research and your initial idea you give you a very clear idea of what you want to blog about, but who is going to read it?

Target Audience

Defining your target audience is I think one of the most important steps in marketing.  My blog is called Fabuliciousfifty – so there is a bit of clue in the title.  My audience is primarly woman who are a little older.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t get readers across the board.  Google analytics tells me that my readers range between 30 and 60 and do include some men!

I think that it is important to have an ideal reader in your mind.  Marketers even go as far as describing their ideal customers.

This might be a description for a product like healthy convenience foods – or a blog for busy working mums.

This is Mary, she is a working mother who has two kids and is short on time.  Convenience is key in her life.  Healthy eating is a priority, as is exercise.  She is 35 and living in Ireland.  The more detail and description you give to your ideal customer the better.

Knowing who you want to reach will help not only with coming up with content, but also with promotion and how you go about reaching your ideal reader.  It is also important for approaching brands as they will want to know who your target audience is.

Message

Knowing what you are and who you are talking to is really important and is quickly followed by your message, or elevator pitch.

My message is…

Fabuliciousfifty is a health, wellness and positivity blog which is all about being fabulous despite the curve balls life throws at us.  I have survived a very hard marriage and am constantly dealing with a good handful of auto-immune diseases, but I am determined to be fabulous.  There are days that I feel awful, but every day I try to be fabulous – inside and out.  I want to inspire anyone who is battling with health – especially those invisible diseases to find the fabulous no matter how they are feeling.

I also have a real passion for body confidence – and believe that we should all feel fabulous no matter what size and shape we are.

Goals and objectives

Your message links directly into your goals and objectives.  If we are following a traditional marketing plan the next step is to establish some objectives.  Objectives and goals are really important in all aspects of life.

I think it is important to go back to why you are blogging when setting objectives.  Some of my own objectives are to get meaningful comments on blog posts – I don’t get them every post but when I do – wow that really makes me feel good.  When I get personal emails telling me that a blog post really touched someone that means loads.

Many bloggers set statistics as goals.   Examples of reasonable goals might be 200 Facebook followers on your blog page, or 50 blog followers.  These are good goals, but, I honestly believe that we shouldn’t get too caught up with numbers.

Yes numbers are important – they are important for collaborations, and they are important for us too.  I just try and not get bogged down with them.

Other great objectives are to set a blogging calender – and stick to it.  Make a plan to post weekly/ bi-weekly or whatever, but most importantly try to stick with it.  I generally post on a Wednesday – sometimes more often but lately I haven’t been that well and have fallen a bit behind.  Within a space of a week I had skype messages, personal calls and texts saying how much readers look forward to Wednesday and that they were glad I was back.

Set objective such as an interview once a month, following and reading 4 other blogs per month – and of course leaving a meaningful comment.  Blog love is the best!

I also make research one of my objectives – this might involve a subject or a product range but I do believe that if you write with knowledge it does make a difference.

Actions

Finally the actions.  These actions are not really blogging itself, but more actions that promote and organise your blog.

  • Set up a blogging calender
  • Start a blogging idea bank
  • Put together your media kit
  • Set up a blog page on FB
  • Join in Twitter Hours -examples are #womaninspire and  #galway hour – there are many more for specific subjects
  • Join Facebook groups (I will be doing a post on these very soon)
  • Attend a blogging event such as ITWBN birthday or Bloggerconf
  • Join a blogger agency – just launched in Ireland the Irish Blogger Agency

I also set myself mini time goals and action plans for social media.  I do some social media coaching and always tell my clients to limit their time on social media.  It can be a real time suck – so my advice is to set yourself times for social media and then work hard at social media during that time.  At the moment I am working on my Instagram and have committed to uploading something every day, inputting 1 hashtag and finding new people to follow.

Thank you so much for reading this long post.  I would love your feedback and any ideas you have for marketing blogs.

 

Kerry x

 

 

Bellissimo – Everyone has a right to feel lovely

Bellissimo translated into English means lovely.  I strongly believe that no matter where we are in our lives we all should feel lovely.  Sometimes that comes about due to some kind words but sometimes it rests on us to make ourselves feel lovely no matter what is going on in our lives.

Bellisimo pretty mermaid nailsI know for me having my nails done is a big treat.  Due to some of the auto-immune diseases I have and some of the drugs I need to take, my nails are brittle, ridged and dented.  One has a fault and it cannot grow.  Every little millimetre it grows just causes a vertical split.

One of the few things that helps is having a manicure and if I go all out and have a Shellac (two-week manicure) it kind of holds my nails together.  And of course makes me feel lovely.

I was treated to a beautiful ‘mermaid’ themed shellac manicure at a blogger pamper evening held at the very aptly named Bellissimo salon in Galway.  My comment – these nails look so good I might have to scratch someone just to show them off.  Of course there might be other ways of showing them off too.

It was such a fun evening, hanging out with ITWBN bloggers having manicures and pedicures while eating delicious food supplied by the g Counter.  Honestly it was a bit like a grown-up slumber party with lots of giggling and laughing as we had the run of the salon for the night.

Trying on a long glamours dark wig!The biggest laughs of the evening came about when we started trying on wigs.  There were shrieks of laughter as we transformed ourselves into different characters by simply changing our hair.  Loads of giggles.  Wigs however are a medical necessity for many women.

A couple of years ago when I started on Methotrexate to treat arthritis a lot of my hair fell out!  I have always been quite proud of my hair and I can tell you I panicked.  Hair wash day became worry day as the plug hole filled and each stroke of the brush meant less hair on my head.

Thankfully I didn’t loose all my hair, and by using vitamins and other tricks and techniques (which you can read about here), I was able to get back on track.  I regularly trimmed my hair and waited hoping it would grow back.

Many many woman are not as lucky.  Various conditions and drug programmes result in thinning hair leaving woman feeling less lovely than they should be.

As we clowned around in the wig room at Bellissimo I couldn’t help thinking how important wigs are to so many people.  Many of the wigs available look so good, you wouldn’t realise that they were exactly that.  These wigs are well made and although synthetic would make anyone look fabulous – even if they were simply having a bad hair day.

I spoke to  Mike and Dympna our Bellissimo hosts who explained that because the salon was registered with the HSE (Ireland’s health service), there was a contribution that could be claimed against the purchase of a wig if hair loss was medically related.  The staff is fully informed and are happy to help anyone in a confidential way.   You can also have a look at the info on the website. I can promise you that anyone leaving the salon would feel fabulous!

Bellissimo in Galway is a simply gorgeous venue.  I really couldn’t think of a better name for a salon that makes woman feel lovely!

Thanks to the staff and the lovely ITWBN bloggers for having a pretend slumber party with me.  I felt Bellissimo going home.

Thanks for reading.

Kerry x

 

Celebrating Fat and Fabulous with Ashley Tipton of Project Runway

 

Ashley Tipton Fabuliciousfifty

Project Runway has always been one of my guilty secrets.  Of all the reality shows this is the one where I sit quietly with a cup of tea and absorb.  Warning – don’t talk to me or interrupt – this is my program.

Season 14 kicked off and I was even more excited to meet Ashley Nell Tipton, a big beautiful woman who wanted to win to launch her own plus sized range.  This was a woman living my dream.

Ashley is all about self acceptance and loving you.

Her mission: to represent for full-figured women and to enable them to have options to express their style and individuality through fashion just like women who wear “standard” size.

Project Runway Season 14

Throughout the challenges on Project Runway, Ashley designed for the standard models and early on she began to shine. It wasn’t about designing plus sized fashion, it was about designing beautiful garments. I loved her quirky taste and very wearable fashion sense.  I wanted to buy her clothes already.

Early on in the season during a team challenge some of the other very trendy girl competitors tried to ‘throw her under the bus’.  It was ugly and quite obviously planned.  I was delighted when Kelly Osbourne called them on it!  Bullying is never ok in my book, and despite showing vulnerability, Ashley showed them by winning challenge after challenge.

Fabuliciousfifty Project Runway winnerAshley Nell Tipton’s finale show stole my heart.  I was metaphorically ordering everything that came down the runway, other than the shorts, because I am beyond wearing shorts really!  I didn’t love this fashion because it was for plus sized woman and was being modelled by plus size models.  I loved it because it was fresh and wearable.  It had style and was simply fabulous.

The finale show was themed around Mexico City in the 50s and featured the most wonderful head pieces full of flowers.  If I get invited to Ladies Day at the Galway Races this year, I will make myself one of these!

All the fabrics were hand dyed in unique shades of my perennial favourites of pink, aqua and violet.

I have to admit that I created my own spoiler.  About ten minutes before the Project Runway winner  was announced I picked up my iPad and started googling to see if I could buy something from Ashely’s collection.  I immediately found out that she had won, but to be honest it didn’t take away from the joy of watching the results.

Clothes and confidence

When it comes to clothes and fashion I believe that it is all about how you feel wearing the clothes.  If you feel fabulous you will exude confidence and that will make your inner beauty shine.

On the other hand if you are uncomfortable or conscious of a bad fit you will feel awkward and this will filter through to the rest of your demeanour.

I am so excited that Ashley has secured a deal with JC Penney to produce a line of clothing for them. The clothes are expected in Autumn and Winter this year.

This way all the fabulous girls will get to wear gorgeous clothes!

Fun, funky and fat.  Why not just say it like Ashley does and not be apologetic about it.

Thanks for reading and celebrating a truly fabulous woman.

Kerry x

Human Kindness – the Story of the Yellow Handbag

The Yellow Handbag and a story of kindness

 

This is a little story about a yellow handbag, but really it is a story about human kindness.

I was visiting London just after Christmas and was delighted to receive a beautiful yellow handbag as a gift from my sister. I was excited, and immediately changed everything over.

The next day I packed up my things to catch a train to Birmingham where I was attending a craft exhibition at the NEC.  I felt really smart heading off with my new handbag and a borrowed backpack.

I need to stop here and draw a little picture of where I was in my life at the time.  I was suffering from severe depression and had made a decision (on my own) to come off the anti-depressants.  While I was over in London my Dad was diagnosed with prostrate cancer, and I was trying to process this.  Life was a little hard, to be honest but I was still determined that all would be well.

On the second day of the exhibition I packed up early and had a quick breakfast in my hotel in the centre of Birmingham before catching the rush hour train from Birmingham Central to Birmingham International.  I boarded the train with my backpack, my yellow handbag and my bag of goodies from the exhibition.

What I didn’t realise was that my body was going into withdrawal from the anti-depressants and that quite honestly I was cracking up.

It is a short distance from the station to the exhibiton.  Considering the day ahead, I walked along and then  I stopped and stumbled and nearly fell over in shock.  I didn’t have my handbag with me.

Passport, money, phone,  train ticket, air ticket, house and car keys, everything.  I felt physically sick.

I stumbled along to the organiser’s office where I told them what had happened.  They offered me a seat and the use of the phone.  By this stage everything had closed in on me.  I was crying uncontrollably.  The shock added to everything else that was going on in my life, the worry about my Dad and the loss of my handbag had flattened me.

I had no idea how I could even get back to London, never mind Ireland.

I walked back to the station and asked about my ticket.  “You need to purchase another ticket to London”, I was told.  I walked back to the NEC – I didn’t know what to do.

Human Kindness from a friend

On returning to the exhibition I tried to focus and realised that I needed money of some sort to at least get back to London and to my sister.  Thankfully Sara from Crafters Companion, who was exhibiting, knew me didn’t even hesitate – she loaned me 50 Pounds.

I tried to enjoy the exhibition but by this stage my heart was not in it.  I felt broken.

Walking back to the station, yet again I really didn’t know what to do.  Something led me back to the enquiries office where I had been turned away earlier.  The man on duty clearly saw my distress and told me to go down to Platform 7.

Human Kindness from a stranger

There I met the kindest man who took my missing handbag seriously.  He called everyone he knew.  He traced the train down to London where it was on a siding being cleaned.  He spoke to the cleaners.  He left no stone un-turned.  He checked every station along the way.  He checked lost property.  I just sat there with my crumpled tissue feeling lost and desperate.

Eventually he had exhausted all his options and we called the police.  There had been a number of incidents where handbags had been stolen they told me.  They took down the report.

Just as I sat down the phone rang.  ‘Stay here,” he said.  Minutes later he walked in with my handbag.  My beautiful handbag.  ‘Check it please,” he said.  I did and nothing at all was missing.

Human Kindness from a woman I never met

The story was that one of the staff members on Virgin Trains had seen me get on the train at Birmingham Central with the yellow handbag and seen me get off at Birmingham International without it.  She was near the area where I was sitting, and rescued my handbag and brought it back to Birmingham International where she knew I would be stranded.

This was quite a few years ago, but I have never forgotten the kindness of the man who helped me search for the bag and the woman who had cared enough to bring it back to me.  I don’t know if it is possible, but perhaps through social media I might find this angel and be able to thank her properly.

If you have a kindness story, I would love to hear it.

Thanks for reading

Kerry x

 

 

 

 

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