Best Fashion Purchase of 2022* (*So Far)

Check out this beautiful, hand-made, Japanese silk face covering I just purchased from KatyBeesDesignStudio, on Etsy.

Who needs makeup and filters when you can look this damn fine? (And/or have something covering half your face anyway.) PS – hair was doing its own thing that day, it could not be tamed for love nor a litre of hair-care products.

It’s so incredibly comfy to wear and comes fitted with a top metal strip and slot-in space for a removeable air filter, should you wish to have one. Even before I’d had chance to put it on, I felt like an utter princess from the packaging presentation.

As well as the face covering (delivered in a rainbow pager bag), she sent me an air filter in a drawstring bag and some cute trinkets in a little drawstring pouch. You know how I get over little trinket items. It really was the icing on the cake

Katy hasn’t sponsored me to write this post but it’s been a long two years and it’s been a while since I got excited over something as mundane as a face covering. I simply had to rave about it.

Link: KatyBeesDesignStudio on Etsy

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New Year, New Job

So, here’s news; I have a new job, in a new company (but still within the financial services sector – in case any of you were worried of me jumping the sector-ship).

Just a little bit smug/proud of myself. A little.

Nothing encapsulates this glorious news better (/brings me back down a peg) than this card sent to me by a dear friend. The message inside is wonderful, it’s all incredibly heartful, only, he didn’t realise it was one of those personalised cards you’re meant to edit beforehand.

(My family are now refusing to call me anything other than Stacey Peterson.)

Brilliant.

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I’ve Been “Cooking” Again

Recently got the kitchen done = no oven for two weeks = several takeouts and a trillion microwave meals.

Now, you guys all know how horrific my life choices can be when I set my mind to it? Well this, this shows one of those in action. Behold, me deomonstrating how to prepare one of my signature classics, “East Meets West”.

An absolute culinary pro from start to finish.

Next question, who’s coming over to mine for seconds?

(Ps, if you’re after more kitchen inspiration, here’s the link to my stodge dinner recipe.)

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Happy Christmas!

A quick one from me to wish all my readers a very merry Christmas and, if Christmas isn’t your thing, a relaxing few days with happiness and relaxation a plenty.

With love and hugs, Alice x

(Ps, if you’re after some fireside reading, you do know there’s a wealth of past blog posts on my Contents page? You’re welcome.)

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Letters, Books, Pigeons: Christmas 2021

Can I just start with the most middle-class, Cotswold drama to have occured this year at Christmas. Mumma B, setting her prized oven mits on fire, by accidentally placing them over a Yankee candle.

The best bit? Mumma B’s first reaction to my panic was to assume the vegetables were boiling over. I don’t think it quite trumps the time I dropped the Michael Buble Christmas CD in a tray of turkey fat, but it’s a close second.

Anyway…

Letters, Books, Pigeons: Christmas 2021

Music

I’m going to start as we mean to go on, with this:

You know what? The more times I watch it, the more times I think there is nothing in here the great George Michael and Andrew Ridgley of Wham! would take issue with.

From the soundtrack to the casual bit of inter breed dating, I only hope, and I truly mean this from the bottom of my heart, that George Michael was able to watch this before his death in 2016.

(And if you think any of this is tragic just remember, this wasn’t even the worst thing I came across. Nowhere near.)

I’m Dreaming of a White…Pigeon

When it comes to Christmas, everyone has a different interpretation for what festivities look like. Some people have robins in snow, in Swindon we’ve got pigeons bathing in overflowing waste drains.

Beggars can’t be choosers.

Interior Decorations

While I’m not one of those who puts up decorations super early, I am a fan of Christmas when it does come along. Anything to get me over the trauma of Halloween.

Genuinely can’t be trusted to watch a 12-rated spook film without freaking out at the slightest jump-scare. Years it took me to get over Disney’s The Haunted Mansion, years.

I put up my tree…

…and proceded to smash up my beloved retro starburst clock, by attempting to hang lights off it. The entire glass dial, smashed into a trillion bitty pieces.

Mazel Tov! (Oh, wait, that’s the wrong religion.)

Moving along…

Shopping

It’s always nice when Jesus graces you with his presence when you’re out and about shopping, even if his eyeless sockets are a little bit menacing.

We buy all these presents, yet not one of them is for him? So humble.

And I’m not going to lie, arguably the gifting has already peaked this year. That happened recently when my family teamed up to buy me a whole set of matching Next kitchenware.

My goodness, it’s so beautiful.

Huh? Sorry, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, presents.

I mean, at the same birthday I also got given this:

Honestly, the embarassment of opening this in front of my family, alongside Next kitchenware. Not just that, reading the blurb out! Trust me, it gets worse. Deary me, my cheeks were not ready for that leavel of red. (Thanks Matt, mission accomplished!)

Now this, this is the sort of tat I can get into.

(But not buy.)

Hang on a second, I’m sure I’ve seen something like this before.

My goodness, talk about nerve!

That was on sale for £2 less in 2019!

It set me up to be in a right unimpressed British emoji-type mood when my younger sister pointed this sign-board out to me.

No, just no.

Ignoring all of the random shop items, this year my best purchase has to be, without a shadow of a doubt, my new fountain pen.

I bought the pen, then proceeded to Google how to make it work.

There’s definetely something ironic in using the internet to lookup the basics of how to use a pen.

Letters

One of my favourite things I like to do every year is write Christmas cards. This year, with so many of my colleagues based overseas that meant a bit more spent on stamps but heck, they’re worth it.

For clarity, these aren’t the only cards I’ve written. I have more than five friends.

I’m still at the stage of life where I don’t have five million of them to write out, and/or pressing life matters that see every night booked up from 1st August, through to 15th January. I can treat myself to the odd night of pure card-writing, jotting out personalised notes to those nearest and dearest. It gives me a kind of buzz.

What can I say? Some people have alcohol, I have cards. We both have wrecked tounges.

Terrible Christmas Films (No, Really)

When I write cards, wrap presents etc, I tend to stick on one of those terribly wonderful Hallmark-type Christmas films on. Predictable and, I used to think, unoffensive. That was, until I saw this clip:

THEY DON’T EVEN EAT THE FOOD!!

What kind of dining-out date is this? Nu-huh, I’m sorry mate, you can stop juggling those oranges, because if I’m not getting a look-in on that Tupperware box, then you ain’t getting this.

(Close friends have also pointed out countless other things that make no sense in this montage, however I’m sticking firm on the lack-of-food being the absolute worst. Three words; girl, gotta, eat.)

On that note… *returns to phone to scroll through her tailored Facebook adverts*

Serves me right for being an insomniac. And, on the topic of sleep, a late night pop to the shops to buy some milk and I spot this:

“…Does it come with a receipt?”

Coffee

Oh, hey! Almost forgot. It’s December now, so that means my diet is even more whacky than other months* (*let’s be honest, my diet is hardly enviable). Did someone invite me to go around all the coffee shops, drink gingerbread lattes and not eat anything until evening, when I have a three course meal?

(Not that I ever want to have a three course meal, even two courses is an extreme for me, but because it’s December suddenly that’s a thing. Gonna get me a sweet, sweet latte, bigger than my tiny wrist can hold.)

Anyway, yes, yes that’s me. And I will read a book in there and no, you will not have a hope of kicking me out until at least two hours have passed, and not a minute before.

Unrelated note, does anyone else get life this after getting heavily involved with an emotional book?

“Walking through the dark and cold drizzel of town, after a 2+ hour coffee shop reading session. So full of mixed emotions right now, I genuinely don’t know whether to cry or feel inspired. Just me, or does anyone else have to take a lie down when the book feel get this intense?”

Turns out, it’s just me.

“Ink not coming out of fountain pen” is a niche search entry, I’ll give you that. Maybe not quite as popular as Ariana Grande but heck, you’ve gotta keep these traditions alive.

Conclusions

You know what? Stuff it! I’m just gonna book myself on a professionally accredited course to learn about unicorn magic…

…and go watch the Swindon Wildcats play down the local rink.

In fairness, it was such a good game.

Wait, There’s More!

Before you go, remember that video I included at the start of this post? Well, guess what? The creator only went and made an improved version and/or (to be honest I’m not entirely sure which) sequeal a few years later! Yeah, I know!

Better still, the soundtrack features the musical stylings of Cascada, covering Wham!

Yes Cascada!

Honestly, between these music videos and that pictre of pigeons washing themselves in waste water, I really don’t think Christmas could really peak much more than this.

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STILL Wishing You Were Here? Bruges Throwback

I was having a chat with someone at work the other day and it got me reminiscing about the first solo adventure I went on back in November 2018. Wow, three years has flown by! Since then I’ve been on three further solo trips and I can’t wait for normality to return once more so I can get back into exploring Europe without limitation.

Bruges (by boat)

I loved Bruges with all my heart, as much for what it did to me as much as its physical beauty.

One moment will forever stick in my mind. I’d taken it upon myself to visit a number of the churches in the North of the city, where very few tourists went. Alone in Sint-Walburgakerk church, an elderly volunteer, latching onto the excuse to perform, struck up the organ and began to play the most beautiful music. With every gentle note I started to reflect, thinking about all the things I’d accomplished in such a short space of time. I’d gone from being put down as the timid country mouse studying History and clearing wedding tables at 2am, to a smartly-dressed Financial Services professional, working in the City of London. And in a that I was there, in that church, travelling without anyone’s permission, approval or, indeed, moaning. I didn’t need to justify myself to anyone, not anymore. I was me.

In the same way I’d found myself silently weeping in Prague a year ago, over someone who’d rather sit in the hotel room 50 yards away than be with me, I was crying again. But this time something was different; the tears tracing down my hot flushed cheeks weren’t bitter, nor cold, they tasted sweet. In an empty church in Bruges, I was hit with a sudden burst of clarity. After all this time, I’d finally discovered what my heart had been missing all along. I was proud of myself.

Bruges was just incredible, second only to Arvon writing course (but then, to compare the two experiences would be like comparing chalk to cheese).

Most of you will have seen this already but hell, I’m sharing it again. Here is the Windows Movie Maker video I put together after I got back from my first solo city break to Bruges. Filmed on a (very) humble iPhone 5.

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A Very Happy Alice

I’ve just got back from my writing retreat and, newsflash, it was beyond amazing.

Full retreat cohort, including course tutor/professional author Caitlin Davies (in the red jumper)

I met 22 wonderful human beings (15 other participants + tutors/guest readers + Arvon staff), and there was so much to take in and reflect on, and every night I felt I like I could burst with creativity (which would have been awkward, as I don’t think anyone signed-up to being coated in chunks of Alice…at least not before dessert).

With so many thoughts, feelings and emotions running through my head, it’s hard to put into extacting words what the past week has meant to me. From 1-2-1s with critically acclaimed writers, to long walks, to sitting down at a desk (in front of a gorgeous view) and hitting word to paper, my time spent on an Arvon tutored retreat at The Hurst (deep in the Shropshire Hills) has been an incredible experience.

A group of us prepare for a mid-morning woodland hike. Photographed alongside course tutor/publishing editor Jacob Ross (second right)

I’ll get something more substanial down soon but for now know this; I’m a very, very happy Alice!

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Out of Office

Hi all,

I’m off this week on a super fancy writers’ retreat (very exciting stuff!) After what feels like a century of isolation, I’m very much looking forward to meeting and working alongside like-minded people at a blissfully rural location in the British countryside.

As per the rural comment, I’m going to mostly be off-grid during my time away but I’ll be back with a new blog post sometime next week.

Now, time to be all Natasha Bedingfield for a whole seven days.

I can see the similarities.

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Scrum Retrospective for Diwali

Seeing as most members of our Agile Scrum team are based in India, and with Diwali coming up on 4th November, I wanted to facilitate a Retrospective that incorporated this significant religious festival.

Below is a simple board I put together for our team. It got an amazing response, arguably the best since the team was formed in April this year. For anyone else currently doing similar with their teams I hope it proves to be a useful kick-start.

Diwali: A Retro for Good Over Evil

Credit to The Virtual Agile Coach, who’s Diwali board inspired me to create my own – https://www.thevirtualagilecoach.co.uk/post/7d83be43

And, for anyone wishing to brush up their knowledge on the Festival of Light, check out this short video which brings to life the story in an easy to understand way:

There are lots of fascinating elements and unique celebrations to the Festival of Diwali, so why not take up the chance to learn something new!

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Alice’s Signature “Three Ingredient” Cooking (Alias “Stodge Dinner”)

A couple of videos that showcase just the level of my culinary abilities. I’d caveat it with something like, “it had been a long day in the office and/or it was 23:00 in the evening”, but it wasn’t. It was 19:00 and it was me, being me.

Part One – Preparation and Cooking

Part Two – Finishing Touches and the Taste Test

Oh, and here is the pastry I mentioned in the video, the free one.

I think it was a citrus tart. It tasted of lemons. It was going out of date that day, so someone came up to me and asked if I wanted it. Five days after said expiry date, I ate it (because that’s the kind of classy girl I am).

So, who wants to hire me as their private chef?

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