A very festive adventure.

I hope you are all enjoying the last few days of 2012 - wherever you are, whoever you are with, and whatever religion you may be. I had a lovely Christmas day with my boyfriend and his family. They absolutely spoiled me, which was so kind and extremely overwhelming! I really didn't expect it. We had spent Christmas Eve at his parents hotel too with all our friends having dinner and drinks, and it was made extra special with it being our year anniversary ♥ John and I nipped out to my Mums on Christmas day before dinner, then I saw my Dad's side of the family today. Lots of good food, banter and lovely gifts were had. Feel blessed to have such generous and generally quite hilarious people in my life :)

A new year for me always starts with a new diary. This time I have opted for the Frankie Magazine journal, which I bought online and it is like a gorgeous, bound book. Quite different in look and layout to Moleskines which I have been used to using every single year. One of the very first things I will be writing in this journal is where we will have spent New Year...

Iceland! :) I've had this planned for months so it feels amazing being able to finally tell people! For Johns Christmas I am flying us out to Reykjavik for a week, and you should have seen the look on his face when I told him yesterday. It was priceless ♥ We fly out from Glasgow tomorrow and return on the 3rd of January. He has one more surprise waiting for him at the airport, but I will keep that final thing under wraps for now. Neeearly there! Had to come home quite sharpish from my dads today so we could get organised. I've had about three months but John only had a day! I can't thank his friends and family enough for keeping it quiet and helping me sneak around getting his passport details and making sure he got some warm clothes for Christmas. It has been crazy with work and trying to get it all organised on my own, including getting John booked off work too etc - but it was all so worth it and it was SUCH a relief telling him yesterday. Have you ever had to keep a big surprise like this from a loved one? It was harder than I thought it would be! If you have been before and have any last minute advice or recommendations for me then please do share.

I started looking out my clothes a couple of weeks ago but finally got them all ironed and packed tonight. The major thing I was missing was a jacket, but luckily I had hinted to John about a parka from Drop Dead Clothing which I had my eyes on, and then I got this faux fur coat from Motel last week too. Will get better pictures when I'm in Iceland but it is so thick and cosy - I love it! Jumpers seem to be taking up most of the space in my case, so I'm wearing my fur lined docs on the plane and only taking one more pair of boots with me. I have also done myself proud by just taking one handbag. This black satchel from Brand Village is sturdy (more so than my trusty Mulberry, sowwy) water resistant and has plenty of space. Will be perfect for day and night too. Alas, it is the chosen one...

Such a happy end to 2012. Words can't explain how I feel having my year anniversary with John. I got a bit mushy about it on my facebook to family and friends, but all I'll say here is that he was a shining light out of the darkness of what was one of the worst years of my entire life. Restoring my faith in people, learning to build trust again, and realising my own worth and that I deserve to be loved. We all do, right? Don't let anyone tell you (or make you feel) any different.

I won't be around to do my usual new year post, so I'll leave now with saying I hope that the symbolism of a new year and a new start gives you the faith and confidence to look fondly on the past but be ready to move forward with no emotional baggage - no matter how many regrets you feel you may have. I think it's good to be excited and ready for what lies ahead, but never dwell on it too much. Focus on the now and make the most of every minute in this present moment. Once I consciously started making an effort to do that, I really felt like I was living rather than just constantly waiting for my life to 'begin' (like, I'll be happy once I have X, Y and Z. And once I reach THIS point I will stop worrying about THAT) I really do believe the quote that happiness is the journey, not the destination. If anything, it's something short and sweet to live by. Anyway, that's all the soul searching you're getting out of me for this year... I've got a bloody plane to catch! See you on the other side :)

Ayden x

Raves & Ballets

 At the grand old age of 23, I must admit that sometimes it would be a no brainer choice if it came to a crazy weekend rave versus a chilled night at the ballet (perhaps with some vino) Luckily that's not the sort of rave I'm talking about. Here is my current rundown of all things awesome:

ghd Style & Protect

I got a nice anon comment on tumblr asking me if I had any haircare tips. Apart from having a mum as a hairdresser (who makes sure I'm on my best behavior and treating my locks well) I switch my shampoo and conditioner quite regularly. At the moment I am using Aussie Colour Mate, which I like as it makes my hair feel 'clean' rather than full of product and yucky residue. I am very naughty and wash, blowdry and straighten my hair every day (which I know you really should not do) - so have recently been using products from the ghd Style & Protect range.

The gift set above (which was kindly gifted to me for my consideration and ruthless honesty ) contained a lovely paddle brush and clips for sectioning your hair. I normally just 'blast' my hair with the hairdryer, then rely on straightners to bring my fuzz back down to earth! But this brush has been giving me much more control over blow drying and I have found there is less straightening to do when I take my time and make use of this nice big brush. All the better for my hair too. I use the Style & Smooth spray after towel drying my hair slightly (which contains the ghd heat protection system) then finish off with the Final Shine spray once I have straightened it.

I don't like my hair to be poker straight, so I tend to ruffle up some bits afterwards for a little volume. A skoosh of hairspray and that's pretty much it! I love the smell of these products, and again they don't feel heavy on your hair at all. I also feel slightly less guilty knowing that I am using some sort of heat protection against the hairdryer and straightners every day. This is the first time since I was 16 that my hair is all the one colour, and it is getting so long too. Do you use much in the way of hair care products? Or are you one of http://www.ghdhair.com/hair-products people that come home from the hairdressers and need to wash it straight away?

My simple silver skull necklace

You will probably know by now how much I really don't get away with wearing fussy necklaces due to the swallow tattoos on my chest. I feel like it all ends up looking a bit cluttered and silly. So when I stumble across little gems like this necklace from the Ortak Charming collection, I end up wearing it for weeks on end. My favourites were the skull, wishbone and anchor, but I ended up channeling my inner goth by choosing this one. Mind you I've recently swapped my nose ring for a sparkly stud, which does feel much more girly and will hopefully keep the family happy for christmas photographs haha.

Changing my room around

Because having a good old clear out and rearranging the furniture never fails to make me feel better! I had a big swapsie of my furniture and frames etc on the walls, and have ended up with a lot of floor space which I wish I had utilised before now (for hyper bedroom dancing and the 30 day shred) I also got this belter of a mirror from Ikea, which I am enjoying very much. Not because I am vain, promise! It's just so much easier when it comes to getting ready in the morning. Plus every time Dexter catches his reflections in it he does that funny fluffed up sideways run that cats do when they're hyper/scared. I do that too when I catch a glimpse of myself in the morning en route to the bathroom. NOT A PRETTY SIGHT!

Afternoon tea

Because you know why :) I booked an afternoon tea down at the lovely Aston Hotel in Dumfries, with the remainder of the voucher I had left from my bungee jump challenge with Ladbrokes. This was a much calmer experience than the previous post I did for them, but still just as lovely! I was still quite nervous on the journey down, because after tea we headed along to Greig's house and I met my Grandpa (Greig and my Dad's Dad) for the first time in my life. I have been thrown some tricky situations and emotional challenges over the last couple of years, but that day will stick in my head forever and has certainly been worth the 23 years wait ♥


Shamelessly trawling the internet for winter outfit inspiration (I will be able to tell you IN FULL, why, in the next couple of posts) because it really does seem like my winter wardrobe is just my summer wardrobe with tights and a jacket added. Stylefruits, which recently launched in the UK has been like an online mood board for me. It has an exciting edge to the usual window shopping, as you can then click through to buy your outfits through the partnered sites. I've explored similar built webpages in the past, which often have great ranges of brands but you'll find most of the clothing are on sale with limited sizes or completely sold out when you click through to their original source. I haven't experienced this problem with Stylefruits, so all thumbs up from me and so far so good :)

Secret Santa

I took part in the Money Supermarket Secret Santa Challenge, and was so excited when a mystery parcel arrived through the door a couple of days ago. I was paired with Helen from The Love Cats Inc, and as you can see above she has pretty much hit the nail on the head with these presents! Along with some yummy chocolates from M&S, she got me black and sparkly Rimmel nail varnish, red Kate Moss lipstick, an initial tote bag, the One Good Atom tshirt I mentioned a few posts back, and a Lazy Oaf notebook. Helen must have been doing her homework, as all these pressies are very me, and I'm super impressed how well she did with the budget of £25. She also left a lovely wee message inside the notebook for me :) Thank you so much Helen! I hope you liked your present (which I thiiink you have opened by now) so be sure to head on over to her blog to see what I bought her. Do you have any particularly funny/great/terrible secret santa stories to share?

Now that I have stopped raving (with glow sticks and all) here is the Ballet:

I went to see the Nutcracker by Scottish Ballet at the Theatre Royal on the opening night, and it was absolutely breathtaking. I have always been so impressed with the previous Ballet performances I have seen there, but there was something about this one that just took it to the next level for me. The dancing and the music were impeccable as they always are, with some particular moves that made my jaw drop. More like acrobatics than anything else! But what particularly stood out for me this time was the set and costumes. More so than any I have seen previously! My favourite pieces were the giant pocket watch and glittering landscape backdrop, they were just beautiful. Coming from a theatre background as a scenic painter, I feel like I could melt over production designs like this, which are so original with their own stylistic attention to detail which helps your imagination explore and get ever more immersed in the story.

Greig didn't think the ballet would be for him (which I initially thought too, as I'm sure a lot of people do) but he really enjoyed it and was glad I brought him along. If you're looking for a last minute christmas present to buy (I know we often tend to stick to socks and gadgets from the likes of Gizoo and I want one of those when it comes to gifts for men) then the Nutcracker is about to go on tour if you want to buy tickets! It's okay, we can all just blame Greig if the guys hate it ;) And I bet you the only reason would be the envy over the male ballet dancers rock solid bodies and insane strength! The Nutcracker is in Glasgow until the 29th of December, then heads on to Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Belfast and Newcastle. So let me know if you book up and what you think of it.

It's beginning to look a lot like... ♥ :)

Ayden x

Misty mornings featuring Intel Four Stories

There's something really nice about cold mornings in bed, with the radio on and Dexter cuddled into my side or watching the world go by at his favorite spot by the window. I'm so pleased to tell you that he has won the Pets Win Praises competition I mentioned in my last post! Completely thrilled that the judges were impressed with his fetch playing. So thank you for keeping your fingers crossed for him and lovely compliments - Dexter is very grateful :)

Despite finishing work last friday, every day since then has been absolutely jam packed with errands I've had to run and other bits and bobs to get organised. I really don't go easy on myself and my personal lists have just been ridiculous. I like to be optimistic and organised but 99% of the time I think I just expect too much from myself. This is the only morning I've allowed myself to sleep in for longer than usual, and I'll still guilt myself for it. Anyone else like that? I am bad for rushing out the house without even having a bowl of cereal, but the Jordans Fruity Granola is so yummy and feels like the first 'grown up' breakfast I have ever had apart from oatmeal porridge. I know that it will keep me going for longer than Coco pops (yes, I am a big child) plus the berries make it lovely and sweet! Feeling a bit peckish this afternoon however so I think I'm going to have one of the nut bars before dinner with a cuppa. Going to Leah's tonight for a wee christmas evening and I think she'd kill me if I ruined my appetite before then.

It has been a pleasant end to the year finishing up with work on a childrens programme for Cbeebies. The studio we were in was so cold, despite how warm the colours and lighting on the set make it look. A lot of you have asked how I got into film and TV from working in theatre. One of the main ways I started to gain experience was by working on short films with local students or production companies. They are always a fun thing to get involved in and were a real learning curve for me. So if you are looking to work your way into the industry I'd suggest starting off with offering your help on short films being made by local film students etc. If you get your feelers out, you'll find that they really are everywhere! Here's one I came across this afternoon which is a part of the Four Stories short film series, with Roman Coppola and the Directors Bureau.

After viewing a little preview I settled on watching Eugene first - and now I'm desperate to see the rest! Lovely production values and a heartwarming story about a traveller, Eugene, who gets a mysterious gift in the form of an Ultrabook, containing a genie who grants all his wishes. Some parts are so bloody cute I could have cried - but you do need to be careful what you wish for...

I actually almost did cry seeing Aaron and Tyler perform in their christmas show at school yesterday. Extremely proud big sister moment. I know I say it all the time but they are growing up so fast, it scares me! It was also quite odd being back in my old primary school and talking to the handful of teachers who taught me that are still there. He said my Christmas present is over 100 years old... so I'm intrigued and kinda nervous to see what that might be!

On another happy note, I am still enjoying making up for 23 years of lost time with my Uncle Greig :) My family portrait has always been a strange one, with surprises along the way but I wouldn't change it for the world. Took this picture of him in House Of Frasers in Glasgow, where all the Christmas lights are so twinkly and pretty. Having wrapped all my pressies, and sent all my cards I am finally beginning to feel festive.

I'll leave you with a special christmas present which came early this year. One of my best friends Gemma gave birth to her little boy Harris last week. Me and John went to the hospital to see them on saturday, and well, he is just lovely ♥ Blair is going to be a brilliant big brother to Harris, and I'm so proud of Gemma and Chris for creating this second little (perfect) bundle of joy.

Ayden x

Pets Win Praises

You will all know by now, if you've been reading my blog for the past few months, that a furry little addition to my family has brought so much joy and fun to our household. My (second) favourite boy. You guessed it...

Dexter! It is crazy to look back on these pictures of the day I brought him home. He is so teeny tiny and almost completely white.

Dexter is a blue bi colour ragdoll, a very laid back breed of pedigree cat. I got him from a lovely breeder down in Greenock.

He is such a little poser! And very, very naughty at the moment. But I can never stay angry at him for long, he ends up making me giggle by being silly or coming up for a cuddle (and going right under the covers) I might be a bit under the thumb. He is quite a character and has developed his own wee sparky personality. Here are some of his favourite things (which he asked me to share with you all, of course)

The 'official' girlfriend Hello Kitty (I think they could be twins mind you)

His best pals are baby giraffe and baby elephant. Dexter loves to pull them in for a cuddle. MY. HEART. MELTS.

Exploring. Can't open my wardrobe or a drawer, or bring any bags into the house without Dexter automatically jumping inside. Same goes for this castle I was assembling for work. Goodness knows what he is going to be like when I wrap my christmas shopping next week.

Dexter's ever expanding wardrobe. Okay I lie, he has a jumper and a bandana and nothing else. Please don't judge me, he loves it!

Drinking out of cups. Water bowl? Nah. Any cup of water you take into your room and place within his reach? Head straight in...

Posing for pictures like his Mammy :) What a great big beautiful boy he is.

Despite how fluffy Dexter is, he really doesn't shed at all, and keeps himself very clean although he does need groomed regularly and even the odd bath. Have only gave him one so far and he was very well behaved. I think him and the guinea pigs will all be due for one in time for christmas. Anyone who would like to volunteer to assist me with this task is welcomed with open arms. I normally end up more soaked than they do. Insert comedy montage music here.

The main point of this post is that I am entering Dexter into the Money Supermarket Pets Win Praises competition. It is open to cats and dogs, and a winner will be chosen from each. For the cats, the prizes include £250 Pets at Home Vouchers, a treat hamper tailored to your bed, and a luxury bed! They are looking for the cat and dog who do the most remarkable things, whether it be dressing up, doing tricks, or carrying funny props. I have shared Dexters day to day behavior above, but the main thing he does which I think should be prize winning is his love for playing fetch!

Just like a dog, Dexter will initiate a game of fetch with you by bringing up his toy Ikea mouse to play. He will run back and forward wherever you throw it, until he gets tired. Which is normally never as I always get tired of throwing first. Dexter is always rewarded with some tasty Dreamies treats, which he goes crazy for. He is such a good boy, and is absolutely great with the guinea pigs two. I can let the three of them out to wander my room while I clean out the cage, and he will sit there happily amongst them being very well behaved :) Apart from being a cheeky wee fella at the moment who always wants to play and chase you, he is really good as gold and I would love to give him an extra special reward. So please keep your fingers and toes crossed for me that he impresses the judges. The competition closes tomorrow, so you still have time to enter too if you have a cat or dog who has a talent you would like to share ♥

Ayden x

Black Chandelier

For as long as I can remember, it was always a tradition between me and my mum to go shopping for a whole new outfit to wear on Christmas day. I'll admit I always spent most of the morning in my pj's (who doesn't?!) but there was always something really lovely about getting into a new dress before dinner, to then head off to visit my gran and the rest of the family later in the day. At the age of 23 this is something I still look forward to doing.

Me rocking more style at the age of 3 than I do now at 23.

  But of course the price of a full outfit for me costs considerably more than what it did for my mum when I was 6 years old. So when Money Supermarket set me the challenge for finding a whole christmas outfit, down to shoes and accessories, for under £100 I was excited to take part. (They posted a shorter version of this blog, over at their Festive Fashion Finds page) NOW: Pensions have also approached me asking for any thrifty tips I could share at this time of year. So I thought this was the perfect chance to show how I would put a whole outfit together on the cheap.

The accessories:

Belt - £12.00 @ Topshop
Bracelet - £5.00 @ Topshop
Shoes - £10.00 (reduced from £40.00) @ Republic
Bag - £16.99 @ New Look

For this outfit, my first find was actually the shoes - which I could not resist because they were such a bargain. I was nervous at the thought of then building the rest of the outfit around a pair of heels (but I was such a sucker for the gorgeous deep red and leopard print) Luckily when I headed along to Topshop, I found a beautiful playsuit to go with them. It looks quite plain from the front, but it was the back that I fell in love with...

Playsuit £48.00 @ Topshop

Off to a good start at the price of my shoes, I then felt a bit guilty at spending almost half my budget on the playsuit! I absolutely love it though, and have nothing else like this in my wardrobe at all.

Tights £3.50 @ Clothing at Tesco

On these cold winter nights there is no way I could brave my pale legs to the world! But neither did I want to look like I was wearing an all in one black bodysuit with my usual 120 denier black tights. So I thought these ones from Tesco were a nice delicate in between option.

I think the collar of the playsuit its self makes enough of a statement, so I didn't want to interfere with that using any unnecessary jewellery. This little band with my gold initial caught my eye, and I thought it was a nice way to tie in the gold on my belt and the bag also.

So there you have it! All in all, my outfit total came to £95.49

I am hardly the biggest fashionista when it comes to keeping up with the latest trends, but I think my playsuit find from Topshop is a great wee investment. Even though the cut is so simple - I think this style is a classic that doesn't age as quickly as a lot of other party dresses might. It's not a seasonal obsession or fad. I for one love studs, dip dye and disco pants but I have seen enough of them all to last me a life time. Even if this time next year, the accessories and shoes I bought for this outfit are no longer on trend, I will be able to swap in other options very easily.

You shouldn't be afraid to invest in a statement piece of clothing or shoes, because if you have found a piece that is adaptable and open to interchangable options for accessories then you're onto a winner! That in its self has much more value than buying something once and never wearing it again. I think my outfit is great value for money and perfect for the party season. But not only that, because even when christmas and new year are over and done with I will be able to wear each component of this outfit again. Dressed up or even dressed down.

As I mentioned at the very start of the post, NOW: Pensions are wanting to encourage bloggers to think more about saving money for the future, but especially at Christmas. I have been self employed for nearly 3 years now, and I really need to start thinking about starting my own pension (as I don't have an employer to do it for me!) But to be honest, at the moment as I go from job to job I am too busy thinking about the present moment and very very near future - where my next wage is coming from and if I have enough money in the bank to keep me going until it does. The joys of being freelance eh. I wouldn't change it for the world as I love what I do for a living, but it really has got me on top of my money and in control like a woman possessed. I have to think way ahead for anything, holidays, birthdays, and especially christmas. Here is a very simplified of how I keep on top of my pennies:

 Online Banking & multiple accounts: I have a current account, ISA and an online saver, which I can access online and transfer money between at the touch of a button. I don't have any 'savings' as such, but what I do is use each account for a different purpose. At the moment my online saver has my living expenses (rent & bills) saved up for a couple of months in advance, as a backup if work dries up. My ISA has some funds in it that I don't plan to move for the long term (in order to try earn some interest on them) So I normally keep money aside for my tax bill in this account. Being self employed I need to do my own tax return every year, so to avoid being stung come april I save up a little bit as I go along. The last 2 years I have saved up too much so ended up getting a nice wee amount in return. Better safe than sorry. And last but not least, my current account has what I class as 'my' money in it. Money for fun, spending, and day to day adventures and necessities. I know that sounds silly because it is all my money - but having a few accounts really does seem to help me maintain the mentality that only a certain amount of it is actually available to me. It is a lot harder to separate it all in your head when it sits in the one account.

Lists, lists and more lists:  Do not underestimate the simple task of keeping tabs of your money and where it is going, and when. Checking regularly what is going in and out will also help you identify any unauthorised transactions as quickly as possible (Despite how careful I am, I have been a victim of fraud and it is not nice) It is so easy to loose track of your money when you can pay by debit card for almost anything these days too. I'm not saying carry about a large amount of cash with you, because that would be plain silly, but if you know what you have planned for the week then lift yourself a reasonable budget in cash and try to stick to it. Cold hard cash can stretch further than you think. I have a list written out for what needs to exit my account every month. The serious things like rent, bills, food shopping, council tax, phone bill etc. Things that would see me in a bit of bother if I didn't have the funds to pay for them. Once I work out my average cost of living (which should be about the same each month) I can determine where the money coming in needs to go, and how much of it I can pop into my current account (as mentioned above) for personal spending. I write lists before I go shopping to make sure I don't go off the beaten track unnecessarily, and I write lists in my diary of events coming up where I know I will have a considerable amount of money going out for. Things like big nights out, peoples birthdays, holidays, events I need an outfit for etc. Things I don't want to forget about and realise a few days before that I am too skint to go. Obviously you cant predict every lunch date you will have for the rest of your life but that's not what I'm saying. If you have time to think ahead regarding a purchase you'd hoped to make, or social event you wanted to attend, then write it down so you have a note to keep some money by for it. Being organised with your money will make sure you pay all the grown up things on time, and still do all the things you enjoy in life. Win win situation :)

Do your research: Due to the nature of my job, I am used to sitting down and doing a bit of investigating before I make a purchase or source an item. I love Money Saving Expert for advice, vouchers, and information on everthing from car insurance to the best bank account to have. They also have fun sections and tools like a budget planner, student loan calculator, and the Demotivator (which as you can imagine, tries to stop you spending money when you don't need to) So yes, use the internet to your advantage!

This is just how I handle my money on a day to day basis, but I'm sure there are lots of christmas related articles and tips out there for this time of year when our bank balances get a bit more shook up than usual. Do you have any tips or websites you can share?

Ayden x