Category Archives: Day-To-Day Stuff

Random musing about all the little things

Australia claims my Starbucks drinking buddy…

I got some really happy/sad news, in just over a week my lovely friend CB is emigrating to Australia. We’ve been friends for a relatively short period but every time we meet up at Starbucks, our chats literally go on for hours!

I admire her so much because she is brave enough to move thousands of miles away to start another chapter of her life. She is doing something I think I might want to do, but will probably never know if I have the guts to do it…

Lifestyle is a huge happiness factor; the sparkle in CB’s eyes when she talks about the last time she worked in Oz explains exactly why she’s going back. Of course it will be really difficult to move away from family and friends but with facebook, twitter, email and skype, it’s a long way from the days of keeping in touch with postcards and letters.

As a great fan of everything American, Other Half and I think we would like to move there and try out the work and lifestyle, at least for a year or two. It’s easy to think that now, knowing how difficult it is to actually get it (our chances are virtually nill) but in reality, could we really live so far away from the families we are so close to?

Back in the 60’s, my mam and dad both travelled to the bright lights of London from their homes in Sunderland and Devon, excited about who they would meet and what they would find. Their fearless nature led to a good few years of working hard and playing hard. Today’s version of London are places like America, Australia and even Dubai; you just need to work in the right kind of global company. There are opportunities out there, it’s often just a case of right time, right place… Maybe one day?

The power of Twitter to get a wiggle on…

Twitter iconWow, what a great day to be a customer! The power of Twitter shone through for me this week when I bought some bike shorts from Wiggle. I ordered them late on Tuesday night, chose free first class delivery, and the goods arrived Thursday morning. I tweeted Wiggle that day to convey my joy at their speedy delivery (because I always think you should tell someone if you are happy with their service!)

As I tried the shorts on that night, the padded liner was missing from one pair so, I packaged them up to send back the next day. I tweeted the following that night: 

@wigglebikeshop quick delivery but missing liner in shorts! 😦 testing out your customer services now – reserving judgement on first order!

At 8.45am the next day, I got a tweet from them:

@ThatCopyGirl Sorry to hear that, could you tweet me your order number and I will make sure this issue is dealt with ASAP! Have a nice day!

I retweeted this and added #impressivecustomerservice tag.

Two hours later, I also had an email from them apologising again and offering a £5 voucher for the inconvenience. Well done Wiggle for excellent customer service! 

Long gone are the days of writing letters or ringing customer services – this is the age of social media and instant responses. Tweeting = consumer power!

Service with a smile… American style!

I’ve been lucky enough to holiday in the wonderful USA and was reminded once again, that somethings are just done best American stylie! The Yanks are well-known for their friendly and welcoming attitude and, while we British may laugh at some of their OTT mannerisms, they have a lot to teach us about great customer service.

I was putting my credit card limit to the test in a Florida outlet shopping mall and wandered into a shop called ‘Dressbarn’. There were a myriad of dresses that I just had to try on and within 10 minutes, I had 6 different styles in my arms, and had only looked round half the shop. The Assistant came over and asked, “Can I set a dressing room up for you Ma’am?” She then unloaded the dresses from me and whisked them into a changing cubicle while I picked up another couple of styles.

As I entered my dressing room, the Assistant noticed my current t-shirt / shorts / trainer combo, and offered to bring me shoes to try on with the dresses. It was service like I have never experienced before and this wasn’t an isolated case. It seems to be the norm that Shop Assistants ask if anyone helped you while you shopped and, if you found everything you were looking for.

American Shop Assistants are on basic wage, the same as many of their British counterparts, yet their attitude is so different. They seem to care that you have a good shopping experience and are always offering to help. Shopping in Blighty often makes you feel like you are a ‘nusiance customer’ when you interrupt the staff in mid-conversation to ask for another size or, enquire about a particular style and get the blanket answer “If it’s not out, we haven’t got anymore”. 

As work takes up so much of our life, surely a friendly smile and a dose of American can-do attitude would make all of our lives just that little bit sunnier..?

My life in bite-sized pieces…

Got the January blues? I’m starting to feel them creep in (I’ve been back at work 4 days – there may be a connection!) so I thought the best way to counteract them is divide up my life into bite-sized pieces to see how things really are. Let’s sort the chocolate chip cookies (good stuff) from the coffee creams (bad stuff).

Family: I have a brilliant, loving, gorgeous boyfriend to live with, adore his parents, have the rest of my wonderful family ‘Up North’ who welcome me every time I turn up for the weekend – I’m chocolate chip cookie lucky! 😀

Home: We rent a lovely house, in a nice area, not too far from work, the gym and good shopping! – a definite big hunk of white tobelerone! 🙂

Friends: I’ve 2 extra special friends ‘Up North’ that I’ve known for 30 years, who never fail to entertain me with their lives and loves each time we meet. Since moving ‘Down South’ over 2 years ago, I’ve made some great friends and acquaintances during my various jobs, and a few have really made a positive impact on my life in different ways LO, JM, CS, CB, MD (I hope you recognise your initials!) – it’s a Hotel Chocolate moment! 😀 

Work: Is a constantly stressful place to be, whether in the office or at home; it buzzes around my head 24/7 so weekends offer little relief from the nagging reminders of what still needs to be started/finished/chased – coffee creams, coconut ice and turkish delight all round 😦

Future: Other Half and I both have birthdays coming up and after 18 long months, we have a holiday on the horizon – Vanilla bean cheesecake sums this up well! 😀 

So, putting these delightful treats into perspective, as the saying goes, it seems that my life is sweet, apart from the melted, dark chocolate coffee cream that is work…  do I carry on, nibbling around the edges in case it starts to taste better, or spit it out and take my chances with a completely new, mystery flavour?

Only time, (or a win on the lottery) will tell…

My resolution to beat the failure fairy…

I’ve pondered for a day about my non resolutions (because making actual resolutions just sets you up for failure!) and decided on a theme – holidays! We are off to sunny Florida at the end of March so I think even I have the stamina to keep up my good intentions for 3 months..! 

So, I pledge to myself and anyone else reading this, that I will:

  • Bodybrush my cellulite away (so the magazines tell me!) at least 3 times a week before I shower
  • Stop being so lazy when I get out of the shower and do a full body moisturise with my gorgeous Sanctuary Creme Souffle
  • Follow the online WeightWatchers eating plan to get rid of that final stone that every year, keeps me breathing in when wearing a bikini and hiding from the camera. I WANT A PROUD BIKINI PHOTO!

Ok, so it’s only 3 things for 3 months BUT SURELY, the best chance of success is to set yourself little challenges for a short amount of time? It will stop the failure fairy from visiting so soon…

Fancy joining me in my short ‘n’ sweet (non) resolutions? Let me know!

January resolutions – one year on…

How on earth can it be January 2011 already?!?

How have I managed to not write a single blog post in December?!?

Something has to change… and January is the month to do it! I had a sneaky look back at the resolutions I made (only to myself) last January, and am pleasantly surprised with what I found:

  • I’m going to get so fit I don’t have to breathe in when wearing a bikini on holiday – hmm, well I had a late surge in the last 10 weeks of the year when new job stress curbed my appetite and stripped off 10lbs…  this one is on the list every year for a reason I suppose…
  • I’m going to eat a more varied diet (we literally eat about the same 10 meals for the whole of last year) We did add some new meals to our diet and then ate those new same 10 meals for the whole of the year..!  
  • I’m only going to apply for jobs that really interest me so that I have a fulfilling career for the rest of my days Well, I did apply for that job in fashion that really interested me and now I’m in my-job-has-taken-over-my-life hell. Be careful what you wish for I guess!
  • I’m going to find a dentist and brave myself for the injections for my fillings in waiting I went to the dentist on numerous occasions last year and had many needles stuck in me with the aid of the stuff they rub on children’s gums – the Dentist said I was very brave 😮
  • I’m going toget ‘brave’ glasses (rimless is heading out, tortoise shell frames in!) Didn’t go the full tortoiseshell, but did choose lovely brown half frames that stand out and I love them!
  • See, this is why I only tell people about resolutions AFTER the event – you can just celebrate the victories and ignore the ones that didn’t work out so well! There is no point shouting your good intentions from the rooftops; everyone simply lies in wait, looking for the moment they can catch you out and any hard work you had put in, gets dismissed in an instant! 

    Time to get my thinking cap on for more (quiet) resolutions over the next 12 months…

    A night with Derren Brown…

    Other Half had given me an amazing surprise Christmas present of tickets to see Derren Brown, and it had been a long six months waiting to see the show. Derren has been touring with his Enigma show for two years and was near to the end of his run when he was playing Milton Keynes. We arrived an hour before doors opened and, were greeted by one of Derren’s assistants who asked to take a photo of each of us for involvement in the show later on. Nervously we both agreed and proceeded to let our imaginations run wild about what it might involve!

    We were in our seats just after seven and it never ceases to amaze me how many people turn up last-minute – personally, I like to soak in the pre-show atmosphere as it builds!

    Derren Brown's stage set

    Derren's stage set - it's designed that way for a special reason..!

    Just before Derren arrived, 60 members of the audience were invited to the side of the stage to list their 3 favourite things – I would have gladly joined in but we were in the upper circle so there was never a chance of beating the stampede below!

    An invitation to participate in Derren's show

    An invitation to participate...

    Derren came on stage at 7.35pm and proceeded to entertain and wow us all in equal measures – he has an amazing gift of interacting easily with the audience, making on stage volunteers feel at ease while sometimes making gentle fun at their expense. Frisbees were randomly thrown out to the audience throughout the night to pick volunteers (though Derren says that there is nothing truly random!)

    Our moment of fame arrived in the form of human ‘Guess Who’. Much like the children’s original board game, 30 of us had had a close up photo taken and we were paraded on the big screen on stage. Volunteers mentally picked a face and put one hand on Derren’s shoulder. He asked them questions which they answered in their head, and then used ‘the force’ to identify the face and name they were thinking of. The last volunteer chose a lady and all girls photographed had to stand up in the audience. Derren slowly swung his arm round and we each had to shout our name out when he pointed to the area we were standing in. Just from this, he was able to work out which one of us she had picked (sadly, not me!)

    There was a 20 minute interval and Derren came back to entertain until 10.30pm – it was a truly amazing show. As an avid follower on Twitter, I knew he regularly comes to the stage door for a meet ‘n’ greet after the show, so we went straight there after exiting the theatre. We waited for an hour and at last, with many apologies for keeping us so long, we got to meet Derren in the flesh.

    Me and Derren

    "Derren, you were brilliant tonight..."

    I hung around ’til most of the crowd had dispersed and he signed my ticket and programme. I reminded him I was in ‘Guess Who’ and also mentioned the telephone/sausage/monkey list (to anyone that doesn’t understand, read Derren’s brilliant book Tricks of the Mind). He said every time he manages to forget about that list, someone always reminds him! 

    Me and Derren hanging out!

    "No Charlotte, I thought you were brilliant in Guess Who..."

    With lots of photos under our belt, we left for home having had a thoroughly fantastic night!

    Two hermit crabs need new shell to rent..

    Having lived with Other Half in his bedroom at his parents house for a year and then, after finally finding our own flat, 6 months down the line we are on the move again! Our landlord decided to invoke the 4 month clause in our 12 month contract and tell us he was selling up. Not ideal, we thought but, it might take a while to sell so no moving hurry – 1 week later it was sold to the little old lady who got the first viewing! Oh well we mused, 2 months is plenty of time to find a place to live that has parking for 2 cars…

    With 16 days left before we were living on the streets, we finally found a newly renovated house in a small village (very countryside!), with car parking for 2. It was a close thing; all 3 couples who first viewed it put in rental offers but, we snatched victory with our eagerness and availability to start paying rent the very next weekend.

    So now we face the joy of packing up all our belongings once again, and making ourselves at home, in someone elses house…

    Dancing on Ice at The O2…

    I have been lucky enough to experience the best (after the event) birthday present ever (so far!) My wonderful Other Half bought 2 tickets to the Dancing on Ice tour and, with much self-sacrifice, gifted one to me and one to his Mum (turns out the male equivalent to this fantastic night out is a bucket of KFC and night on the Xbox!) 

    Outside of The O2

    Outside of The O2

    We had both looked forward to this night since February and arrived at The O2 with much excitement. A quick look round and a pizza at Zizzi’s started us off nicely and, after some confusion about what words to text, we gained entry into The O2 lounge for pre-show chill out and cocktails. If I was a drinker, then my chill out would have ended there and then as despite cocktails being 2-for-1, at £8 each, I would have expected a sandy beach and gentle massage thrown in at that price. (No matter how long I continue to live down South, it’s times (and prices) like these when my northern roots spring up and push my “How much?!? buttons). At least my alcohol intolerance came in handy when I was able to order 2 non-alcoholic cocktails at a mere £2.50 each – obviously not included in the 2-for-1 deal! After continuing the chilling for a while, I was warmed to hear the women next to me have a mini rant about the price of 2 glasses of wine and a coke – £18.50! 

    View from our seats

    View from our seats

    We left the lounge and headed into the arena and, were delighted to find our seats were in a great spot, halfway up the row, just right of centre of the rink. We took some early photos which I uploaded to Facebook and whilst checking Twitter, I was excited to see that Hayley Tamadon had tweeted me directly! I had asked if there was any chance of a signing or pic with her and Dan Whiston (swoon!) after the show but she told me there were no signings at The O2.

    The opening sequence

    The opening sequence

    The lights went down, the music started and the show burst into a colourful yet sinister array of circus folk, the dancers were all hidden behind masks and your eyes darted everywhere trying to spot your favourite skaters. The energy kept building along with the music and, the atmosphere was overwhelming as you try to take in all that is going on around you. Afterwards, as each of the pairs skate out to introduce themselves, huge cheers went up for everyone including Chris Fountain, Ray Quinn, Gary Lucy, Gaynor Faye and Mikey Graham, but I became one of those loud, annoying people who cheered liked crazy every time Hayley and Dan came onto the ice!

    Hayley & Dan

    Hayley & Dan

    I have loved Dan ever since the first series for many reasons; he is an amazing skater, he bonds with and looks after every celebrity partner he gets on the show, he always comes across as a lovely person and he is sooooooooo cute! (I put that bit last in aid to not appear shallow and to appease Other Half when he reads this although it’s no secret in our house!) Many girls were screaming over the celebrity boys last night and, I know the manly charms of skaters Fred Palascak and Matt Evers do it for others, but the handsome, boyish charm of Dan gets me every time…

    The most difficult part of watching the show was trying not to watch it through the lense of a camera. I wanted to capture the magic and amazing tricks to look back on in years to come, but I also wanted to immerse myself in the whole spectacle. Rather cunningly, I decided to focus the camera on one part of the rink and then every time it seemed like the skaters came into shot, I clicked away and hoped for the best. The result was over 200 photos although many were blurred due to the low lighting or the amazing speed people were being whizzed around!

    The Ice Panel

    The Ice Panel

    The celebrities and their partners came out and performed a favourite routine from the series and were then judged by the panel. The second part of their mark was made up by text voting once we got to the intermission and, although they all did very well (including an unplanned fall from Gary from which he recovered with a big grin), my vote was always going to go to Hayley and Dan for Jai Ho.

    The start of Jai Ho...

    The start of Jai Ho...

    I got goose pimples as soon as the music started as this was always my favourite routine and they were every bit as brilliant as I remembered. The only downside was that it seemed to be over in no time at all, and I just wanted to press the rewind button to see it all over again! There were scores of 5.5 from all of the judges and then it was time for the break. We pondered whether we were brave enough to move seats a couple of rows closer, as they hadn’t been occupied for the first half, but the thought of people turning up and us having to make our way past people in our row once the show had started again was just a fear we couldn’t get over!

    The flying Bolero

    The flying Bolero

    The second half saw Jayne and Chris perform their 2010 version of the flying Bolero which was even more mesmorising in person. The celebrities skated out in their Bolero outfits and waited to hear which two had received the most votes. Although I really wanted Hayley to be in the final, I felt really sorry for the celebrities standing there, you just know that every night, the same ones will never get to perform their routine.

    Dan & Hayley's Bolero

    Dan & Hayley's Bolero

    It came down to Hayley and Chris for the final, so my wish was granted and I got to see her and Dan perform their version of this iconic dance. It was beautiful; they have an amazing knack of looking completely head over heels in love while gliding effortlessly over the ice. I could however, look totally gooey eyed (and probably a bit simple!) if I was ever to meet Dan face-to-face..! Chris and Brianne were also good and it came down to a 3-2 split amongst the judges – in Chris’ favour. Hayley and Dan were robbed (no bias from me at all!)

    The professionals doing their thing!

    The professionals doing their thing!

    The professionals came out and did their thing in between routines and, it just took your breath away how death-defying they were with their moves and speed. Although the celebrities were fantastic, it reminded you how absolutely skilled the real skaters are, they have all somehow managed to lose (or at least control) the very real fear and potential danger that accompanies them every time they get onto the ice. All too soon, the show was over and it was time to go home but it made us both certain of one thing; tickets to next years show are the ultimate must-have birthday present!

    Egg-tastic treats come early…

    Commercialisation of holidays in our society has gone mad! Christmas isles appear in September, Easter eggs and hot cross buns show up in January and, no sooner do the kids break up for 6 weeks holidays, then they advertise back-to-school uniform!

    My moaning is linked to the fact that I have fallen for this propaganda and have so far eaten half an Easter egg in January, 2 whole ones in February and 1 whole one in March! What is it about a Cadbury’s chocolate egg that is so alluring? I’m sure if I worked it out, I end up paying more money for less chocolate but when I’m eating it, I don’t care. Once I have given in and bought the egg, getting it straight into the fridge is a must – I like that warm, melting feeling to start in my mouth, not on the side table while it’s waiting to be eaten. The crisp shell breaking off piece by piece gives an instant ‘mmmmmm’ factor and as much as I kid myself I’m only going to eat 1 half, I always succumb to the second (unless it’s a large egg and the I-feel-really-sick feeling kicks in first!)

    Cadbury's Treasure Eggs

    Eco-friendly eggs!

    My weakness so far has been Cadbury’s Treasure eggs, a medium-sized, eco-friendly foil wrapped Easter treat that has no nasty plastic or cardboard to get rid of at the end. So, I manage to salve my environmental conscience yet, can’t shake off that potential waist expanding nagging in my head…

    My name is Biscotti and I’m an Easter egg-a-holic… Would you care to join me? 😮