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..?

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

So, as the countdown to my holidays is getting ever closer, hitting my weight loss target looms further away…

I’m at that really rubbish stage where I only have 4lbs left to meet my goal, and it has stubbornly eluded me for the past few weeks. I decided to go bikini shopping to celebrate the weight loss I’ve achieved up until now, and feel I must make a complaint on behalf of all ladies out there:

Lighting and mirrors in shops are NOT flattering!

Despite being a fairly slim size 10/12, the harsh lighting and mirrors made me look as though I hadn’t even bothered to give up muffins, orange kitkats and the odd piece of cheesecake for the past 2 months! Every bump and dimple I own (plus many more I didn’t know I had) were highlighted under the vicious strip lighting in the tiny changing room.

This was in a huge department store (who you would assume had money and consumer flattering sense at their disposal), and I felt like diving straight into a Starbuck’s skinny latte and a full fat cinnamon swirl!

Fortunately, after 1 hour 20 minutes of intense trying on (because bikini shopping is a serious business!), I settled on two lovely bikinis and a matching bag. Doing a quick fashion show back at home for Other Half in   
softer lighting, made me look and feel a million times better in my new purchases.

If Mary Portas needs a new cause, changing rooms and strip lighting is top of my list – JUSTICE FOR NORMAL WOMEN’S THIGHS!!!

There’s ‘more to life than shoes’ apparently!

As my work life is about to experience a big upheaval, I thought it was time to look out for new potential opportunities. Several months ago, I saw a flyer in my local Starbucks for a women’s group called ‘More To Life Than Shoes‘. I went along to my first meeting a few weeks ago and it was a real mix of women from various backgrounds, at different stages of their lives and careers. 

About 15 of us mingled in small groups, introducing ourselves by name and supplying the small crowd with a quick snapshot of our lives to date.

The main discussion topic was ‘decisions’ – it couldn’t have been more apt for me if I believed in luck / horoscopes / karma etc! We split up into different groups to discuss what influences our decision-making processes, how we prioritise our thinking and the speed involved. Later, we moved into ‘sliding door moments’ when decisions we had or had not made, had shaped our lives in a particular way. This was an easy one for me as I have two:

Randomly choosing Other Half to send an IM to while in an online chatroom
3 1/2 years later, accepting a job that meant moving from the North to the South to be with him.

I can report my life is very happily shaped due to both of those decisions!

There was  also a section called ‘The Buzz’ where you bring along any interesting articles, gadgets, tweets etc to share with the group. Finally, we buddied up and each decided one action we would definitely do over the next month, then made a firm decision to contact your buddy during that time to update them on your progress i.e. this means you actually have to do it!

It was a worthwhile way to spend almost 3 hours on a Tuesday night, and I was really inspired by the amount of women who were taking a risk and making changes to their lives. I felt like I was in good company and plan to have some business cards ready for the next meeting…

Coffee and a slice of advice please…

Girls think too much – fact! However, when two girls get together, all those extra words and thoughts mean you can tackle the biggest problems and come up with amazing solutions!

Last weekend, good friend CB and I met up for Starbucks and a girly chat. Amongst delicious sips of skinny latte, we talked about my current work dilemma – how the ideal job I thought I’d got is anything but – and together, we figured out what the next stage should be in my work/life plan. It’s so good to have someone to talk about it who is removed from my personal situation, but at the same time, has similar experiences herself. CB reiterated many thoughts that had run round my head for the past few weeks and as we parted a couple of hours later, I was buzzing as a result of our chat, rather than the espresso (I’m a one shot wimp!)  

Buoyed by the thought of a light at the end of this work tunnel, a phone call later that night from my parents (who knew nothing of my new plan), simply reconfirmed the decisions I had made earlier that day. You know in your heart and mind when something feels right,  but it doesn’t mean you don’t feel nervous at the same time! Breaking news of the plan to my wonderful Other Half at breakfast the next day was scary – not because I didn’t think he would support me – but because I didn’t want him to think that I had failed. He didn’t, of course, and this attitude is one of hundreds of reasons I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have found him. He simply gave me more words of advice and encouragement and, offered to help me progress the plan using his own area of expertise.

Change is a scary thing; it’s much easier to carry on with the familiar each day, bemoaning the life you feel you are missing out on, but doing nothing about it. Taking a risk takes courage; I’m at a point in my life now where I’m prepared to go all out for what I want to do because YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE! I’m scared and excited and nervous and happy – a combination that keeps adding spice to life…

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…

    Is the grass any greener on the new job side?

    I’m 5 weeks in to my new job/career as Website Content Exec for 6 fashion brands, so it’s time for the first analysis!

    The Good…
    Proper salary for the first time in 14 months
    People in my department are lovely and friendly
    My manager has so much knowledge, she will be a great Yoda to me
    We are based near lots of great town centre shops
    Sample sales are amazing – any 15 items for £10 (includes all clothing, shoes, accessories, hats, jewellery etc)
    Lost 5lbs in a month from new job stress!

    The Bad…
    Parking costs £4.40 a day
    Two lunch breaks a week is the norm
    Working alongside 6 different brand teams is a constant ‘challenge’
    We ‘finish’ at 5.30pm but that’s just a dream…
    Every night I go to bed thinking about what needs to be done the next day
    I wake up on a Saturday and Sunday morning thinking about what needs to be done on Monday
    I miss my workmates from the exhibition company I temped at 

    The Ugly…

    The car park has a strange old toothless bloke who takes your money and leers at you, while trying to engage you in pointless conversation 
    I have visited the gym 4 times in 4 weeks – it used to be 4 times per week!
    I always thought being conscientious was a good thing, until I had a hundred things to think about! Now I don’t know how to turn off at the end of the day…  

    I’m no maths whizz, but at this point I’m feeling about 60/40 in favour of the job. Just goes to show, the grass might look greener on the other side but when you get there, it’s actually just a different shade…

    Not just a job but an actual career…

    It’s happened at last… I’m in the middle of my first week in my new job as a Website Content Co-ordinator for a range of fashion brands!!! See how I learned from the last time when I was offered a job but never got the contract? This time, I thought I’d work there for a few days before I shout it from the rooftops… The wait is over, I’ve found the job I’ve been searching for, for 14 long months.

    Don’t get me wrong, when my savings disappeared because I needed to pay the bills and there was no temping work, I felt like crumbling and just applying for any job going. It’s rubbish when everyone else is going on holiday, but because I didn’t have a secure salary coming in, we couldn’t afford to go. BUT, I always knew that if I was patient, believed in my skills and applied for jobs that really interested me, my day would come. I have worked with so many people who hate their jobs, who want to make a change, but 10 years down the line are standing still in the same old job. I made a conscious decision over a year ago not to be that person. 

    If you need a little nudge, read my cheesy American magnet quote;

    Risk more than others think is safe.
    Care more than others think is wise.
    Dream more than others think is practical.
    Expect more than others think is possible.

    I bought it a year ago on holiday in Palm Springs because it inspired me, and I just needed a little something to reinforce my own self belief at that time of change. I hope it sparks a little bit of something for you too…

    Job patience is my virtue…

    After a short blogging break to deal with some important family stuff, I’m back!

    Since my last post, I have struck lucky and returned (for the fourth time!) to my favourite temping haunt at the Exhibition Company. Even luckier than that, I’m there ’til Christmas (which means the family is guaranteed a pressie under the tree) AND I’m doing interesting marketing work for a lovely boss too!

    On top of all that, I have an interview for a full-time, permanent post as a Content Co-ordinator for a fashion brand – yes I know, excitingly, I have a shot at a genuinely-interesting-job-with-a-future! In the past, people have laughed or thrown me a pitying look when I tell them I’m temping until a job I really want to do comes along. Why is it so naive to believe that your work life can be as enjoyable as your home life?!?

    If this year has taught me one thing in particular, it’s to seize opportunities as they come along. That way, you have no regrets and can cherish every brilliant moment you experience. Which was exactly my line of thinking when a small lump sum unexpectedly came my way. It has been sensibly sitting in my savings account as emergency bill money should the temping dry up. Now I’m employed ’til Christmas, it has transformed itself into a wonderful down payment for a Florida villa, for two weeks over my birthday in March… 😮