Friday Favourites: The Mslexia Writer's Diary

As I explained in How a Messy Creative Learned to Love Advanced Planning, my journey towards a more organised life began with a diary.

This year's diary
To be exact, it began with the Mslexia Writer's Diary, which I have been buying and using for eight years now. Here's why it fits my needs so perfectly and why I keep coming back to it year after year.

1. It's got the basics down.

Week to view on the right, space for notes on the left. There's enough room for me to record appointments and plans for every day, and if I need to I can expand on the opposite page. It also has pages for 2017 and 2018 at a glance, a menstrual calendar, and the traditional weights and measures section, which is surprisingly useful! I also love that it's spiral bound, meaning that it's easy to open and keep open, and there's an elastic band to hold it closed.

Week one always looks so tidy!
2. It's a writer's diary.

Each year there is a different theme (this year it's 'The Human Mind') and there are several pages at the start of the diary exploring this theme in-depth. There are also monthly passages from books and exercises on the theme, and each week, quotes from authors alternate with book recommendations. At the back of the diary there are 28 blank pages for notes, and I have been known to scribble over the contact section as well.

Other useful features for writers include a manuscript layout guide, a submissions diary, a key to editing marks, a resources list, and 'The Writing Year', which has details of upcoming competitions and festivals. I'm really excited about the 'Plan Your Pitch' section in this year's diary, it's not especially relevant to my creative writing practice but the list of anniversaries and notable dates will come in handy for planning my blogging!

Last year's diary - surprisingly unbattered considering how long it spent squished in my satchel!
A testament to how well-designed these are.
3. The 'Books Lent and Borrowed' section

I love that this is a feature - so much so I decided it deserved its own tribute. This is extremely useful for keeping track of books I've lent family and friends, and making sure I don't forget what I've borrowed! It's a brilliant bookish bonus.

Waiting to be filled with titles and names!
Do you use a paper diary? Do you stick to the same one every year or do you change it up each time? Let me know in the comments or tweet me!

You can buy the Mslexia Writer's Diary directly from Mslexia. 


Charity Shop Wednesday: New Year's Eve, Part 1

This week my Charity Shop Tuesday post is on Wednesday because I had to retake some photos! Oh, the blogger's life. Anyway, on with your irregularly scheduled content:

I love my boyfriend, but, if there's one thing I miss about being single, it's spending New Year's Eve with my friend Barinder. We lived together at uni and even afterwards we made a tradition of always celebrating NYE together. We went to the most random bunch of places:
  • We tried to go to see the central London fireworks, but were too late to get a good spot, so instead we said Happy New Year on the street. After a failed attempt to find somewhere in central London, we ended up in a pub in New Cross,where the music was terrible and the people worse. We left about 4 am, we would have left sooner except that we were waiting for a man who wouldn't leave us alone to go to the toilet and give us the chance to get away clear!
  • A cocktail club that had just opened - we got a Groupon for two drinks, but the first drink was the least alcoholic punch of all time (they may have let it sniff some vodka, that was all). Thankfully, my second drink was a very rumtastic mojito. We left when they started playing Shania Twain, and moved onto Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes, where some backpackers tried to chat us up and I taught Barinder my 'dance' to 'Telephone' by Beyonce and Lady Gaga, which basically involves acting out the lyrics.
  • Beach Blanket Babylon - a couple of years before it was on Made in Chelsea. They didn't have a cloakroom so we had to leave our coats with the guest-list woman. It was very pretty but men kept squeezing my waist as they moved past me. I counted, it happened 11 times.
Despite all the random stuff that happened and the high price of everything on New Year's Eve, I always had loads of fun. We'd always end up giggling and taking silly pictures, fending off weird men, and finding our way home in the small hours.

Another one of my NYE traditions - and one that endures, even now, is wearing something new-to-me for New Year's Eve. It would be far too expensive to buy a new party dress every year, so I hit the charity shops. Check out last week's post for all my tips for thrifting party dresses.

At Beach Blanket Babylon. Also I am a ghost.
In fact, in the picture above I am wearing no less than four items from charity shops: a black dress that you'll see in next week's post, the purple shrug that I'm going to write about today, some clear plastic bangles that I bought after a bunch of bloggers got obsessed with them, and a muffler. The latter will also feature in a future post, it's at my parents' house so I need to rescue it first!

This shrug is a classic example of one of those items that seems like a good idea at the time but turns out to be slightly rubbish. It's purple! It's glittery! It's...itchy. Oh, metallic thread. I assumed that after New Year's Eve I'd mostly wear it in the summer, but because of the itchiness I don't want to wear it next to my skin. And it's not warm enough for winter with those short sleeves.

I should make more of an effort to work it into outfits, because it's so purple I can't bear the idea of redonating it. I suppose I could have a go at lining the sleeves. What do you think?


Charity Shop Tuesday: How to Buy Party Dresses from Charity Shops

'Tis the season to be sparkly, so today I thought I'd share some of my tips for thrifting party dresses!

How To Buy Party Dresses from Charity Shops
  • Start looking at the start of December, when charity shops put out the dresses they've been saving all year. It's also good to check in May/June, which is when they get them out for school prom/university ball/wedding season.
  • If you're shopping outside of these times, do ask the staff if they've got anything in the back that you might be interested in. When I volunteered at a charity shop we used to keep all the nice stuff that wouldn't sell in the current season in bins/hanging up in the back.
  • Most charity shops will put all their formal and party dresses on the same rail, but it's worth checking the casual rails in case something's been misplaced.
  • Check carefully for stains. Dry cleaning is expensive so people often donate stuff that's got a few marks on it.
  • That said, take 'dry clean only' instructions with a pinch of salt - google the fabric to see if it really has to be dry cleaned. I've bought lots of 'dry clean only' clothes in charity shops that have washed just fine by hand or on a low spin cycle in cool water.
  • Plain dresses can easily be dressed up with accessories, or embellished - add beading, sequins, ribbons - do whatever you want to make it your own.
  • Many fabrics can be dyed - so if the dress isn't quite the right colour for you, check the label.
  • A looser-styled dress can easily be altered if it's too big. If you need to, you can even get someone to sew you into it once you've got it on!
  • If you're like me and are too small in the bust to hold up a strapless dress, you can add straps to strapless dresses, and/or sew a strapless bra inside the dress to help it stay up (here's an example from Skunkboy).
  • If you buy a dress with a full skirt that's got a bit deflated, you can wear a tulle petticoat underneath - or, if you don't want to buy a petticoat, another skirt or two.
Let me know in the comments if you have any more tips! If it's workwear you're after, I share all my tips for shopping, both in charity shops and for new clothes, in my course Planning Your Work Wardrobe.


Why Being a 'Mood Dresser' Doesn't Work

As I explained in How a Messy Creative Learned to Love Advanced Planning, I am not a natural planner. I enjoy being creative and following my whims - especially when it comes to getting dressed in the morning! In an ideal world, I would be a mood-dresser. I would choose every outfit each morning so that it fit my mood perfectly.

But as fun as being a mood-dresser can be, I decided to become a planner instead. Mood dressing is just too stressful, and here's three reasons why:

1. If I don't know exactly what mood I'm in, I panic

Often, I wake up with an outfit idea in my head, or put one together when I'm in the shower. Often, but not always. Most days of the week, I just want to look and feel good and I don't really care what colours are involved and what silhouette I'll end up with. It's those mornings that would lead me to stare at my wardrobe, trying to decide what I wanted to wear and how to put together an outfit. After five or more minutes of staring, I'd panic and put on whatever combination first sprang to mind.

Once I was dressed, I'd start feeling uncomfortable and unhappy with the outfit. A glance in the mirror would confirm my suspicions were correct. Something about it didn't work. The colours weren't coordinated, the silhouette was wrong, I looked too casual. So I'd decide to change skirt or swap cardigan - only to make the outfit worse! Inevitably, I'd glance at the clock, panic again, change back into the first outfit, then go to work feeling self-conscious and dissatisfied.

2. It's time consuming

All that staring and panicking and changing takes up an enormous amount of time. Mornings are rushed enough without wasting time worrying about something as superficial as clothing.

I believe that it's better to get this small detail taken care of in advance so that getting dressed can be as quick and pleasant as possible. Once the outfit planning is out of the way, mental energy is freed up for other purposes.

3. It doesn't take practical considerations into account

My moody, creative mind didn't have the slightest clue what clothes are clean. I'd frequently decide that my heart was absolutely set on wearing one particular item, for example, a pink top. Then the real trouble would begin, as I'd discover that none of the clothes I usually wore with that pink top were clean and would have to come up with a new combination on the spot.

Even if I was having one of those glorious mornings where I woke up with an outfit idea in my head, I'd usually find that I couldn't wear exactly what I had imagined because the tights in my mental picture were in the wash. So I'd have to swap them for another pair, which would mean that the matching cardigan would also need to be replaced and more and more time would be wasted.

Mood dressing would only be a practical choice if I had an extra half hour every single day for choosing outfits - and if that half hour could not be used for any other task!

In the real world, there are better things I could do with that time, ways to spend it that leave me feeling satisfied instead of frustrated. That's what lead me to create my system for wardrobe planning, and develop it into a course that can help you too.

My favourite thing about my Planning Your Work Wardrobe system is that you can adapt it to give yourself just enough flexibility to keep your inner mood-dresser happy, while still having a functional plan that will see you through morning after morning. So - are you a mood-dresser, a planner. or something in-between?


Charity Shop Tuesday: Party Skirt

This is the first in a series of three Charity Shop Tuesday posts about party wear. We're kicking it off with perhaps my favourite find of the three, the ultimate party skirt.

One day I saw a big bright blue skirt in a British Red Cross shop and thought it was beautiful. I looked at the label, but it was at least two sizes two big for me. I started to walk away, but then the neurons started firing.

Shiny polyester? Check.

Layer of tulle beneath? Check.

Unfamiliar Next logo? Check.

Is it Eighties? I hoped, desperately. Please let it be Eighties! I picked it up, took it to the changing room, my heart all a flutter. Let it be so. Please, let it be so.

It fit perfectly. Thank god for my familiarity with Eighties sizing. It always pays off. I felt like I could twirl around in it for hours. I bought it, filled with glee.

What I love about this skirt is everything, except for the fact that the label tells me it can't be washed (it probably can, but I haven't yet dared try it). I love that it's so big and sticks out - it begs to be danced in. I love the colour. I love that it's so dressy - I can pretty much wear any kind of top with it. It's glamorous enough that I can wear a t-shirt and it'll look fantastic. Jumpers look full-on festive. In fact, I almost prefer to dress down with it, as it makes the skirt look even more fabulous.

The only problem is that as it hangs in the smaller wardrobe, away from the dresses, I sometimes forget it's there. Maybe I should make this post my home page so that I'm constantly reminded.

What's your favourite party outfit? How do you feel about full skirts? Yay or nay?


Friday Favourites: Google Keep

I didn't plan for my Friday Favourites to be exclusively about apps, but as it seems to have gone in that direction, I decided to talk about an app that I find really helpful for organisation and productivity

I first downloaded Google Keep as an alternative to the default note-taking app, Memo, on my old Samsung Galaxy SII, as I wanted something a bit more flexible, that would allow me to make lists to check off. Since then, they've added one useful update after another.

One of my favourite things about it is that you can save notes in several different formats. As well as straightforward text and lists, you can also draw, add photos, and record voice/sound notes. You can pin notes so that they always appear at the top. It has the Archive function, like Gmail, so you can remove old notes from the main view without deleting them, just in case you need them later.

Google Keep can be opened in-browser as well as in-app, so I frequently use it to make notes when I'm out-and-about that I will then look at and make use of on my PC.

Here are three of my most frequent uses for Google Keep:

1. To-buy lists

I tend not to use it for to-do lists, as I prefer paper systems for those. But it is really useful for quickly making a shopping list or keeping track of things I need to buy.

2. Transferring a single photo from my phone to my computer to put in a blog post

I add a photo note, hit sync, open up Google Keep in my browser, and there it is.

3. Notes on writing projects

I've been using Google Keep to write scenes for novels and short stories for years. If inspiration strikes at an awkward moment, I can quickly type up the scene on my phone, and then later copy paste it from Keep into the main document I'm using for that project.

I also used it when I was working on my Planning Your Work Wardrobe ecourse - both for preliminary notes and for longer pieces of text. One day I was on the bus when suddenly I knew exactly what I wanted to write on the course landing page. I opened up Google Keep so that I could save that perfect copy before I forgot it, and then I could easily refine and polish it later on my PC.

Above you can see a pinned photo that I used for the cover photo on a Facebook event for #drinkYA (a YA fiction social/networking event I co-host), a note to remind me about a short story I want to write, and two to-do lists. One of the lists is for today - I can check everything off now and archive it - and the other is a note of things to do to promote my ecourse. There's also a reminder to look for a 'bad lip reading' Star Wars YouTube video my colleague told me about!

I've tried quite a few of the different note-taking apps out there, but the reliability and features of Google Keep have made it my favourite. Do you use Google Keep, or do you prefer a different app? Let me know! I'm pretty attached to it, but if there's something better out there, I'm open to giving it a try!


Charity Shop Tuesday: Buying the Same Thing Twice

About nine years ago, I bought the shirt in the photo below, new. It's jewel-purple, comfortable, and flattering. I loved this shirt so much I wore it for my BA graduation.

I did not love it as much as that pink bag, but both were to meet a sad fate:
  • The pink bag, being made out of cheapy fake leather, eventually disintegrated. The only part of it that's still intact is the pocket, which I cut out of the lining with a view to reusing it elsewhere.
  • The purple shirt, being made out of polyester, melted one day as my mum was ironing it for me. The collar was left with a weird blackened and twisted patch. My mum suggested we remove the collar off. I suggested I cover it up with something. Cue literal years of procrastination.
In the meantime, when I found a bright pink version of the same shirt in an Oxfam shop, I had to pick it up.

They are identical, except that I still have the belt that came with the purple shirt, and the pink shirt's belt is missing.

You'll note that the purple shirt now has a sequinned collar - that's how, after the years of procrastination, I decided to cover up the melted bit. I finished sewing on the last of the sequins a couple of days ago and I'm very happy with the result. It's not perfect, but it's wearable once more.

The sequins are also recycled - they're from an old top of my mum's that was unwearable after the elastic stopped working.

This isn't the only item I've bought in two different colours, but it is the only one where I bought the first new and the second from a charity shop. In every other case, I bought both items from a charity shop, but never at the same time.

Have you ever bought the same thing twice? I love that I can find items I loved again in charity shops!


How a Messy Creative Learned to Love Advanced Planning

I have always thought of myself as a creative person.

I was a kid who was very proud of the fact that she could write acrostic poems that rhymed. Whenever my parents dragged me to a DIY store I would go around collecting samples of wallpaper and paint chips to use in collages. As I grew up I discovered other crafts, and started writing more and more, and my idea of myself as a creative person solidified.

For a long time I believed that creative = messy and disorganised. Creative people don't do routines, I thought. Creative people love things to be spontaneous and unpredictable! I didn't challenge these beliefs, even when my responsibilities threatened to overwhelm me. I love being busy, so I said yes to everything. My life got chaotic and I frequently forgot social events and meetings at university.  Once I double-booked myself and then slept in and didn't go to either meeting! It was embarrassing, but more than that, I hated that I'd been so unreliable - having prided myself on being resolutely reliable. I always turned up and got things done when I said I would - until I didn't.

There was no way I could remember everything I was supposed to do, when I'd decided to do so much! I didn't want to cut back on my commitments, so I got a diary, and everything changed forever.

I'm still a massive fan of the Mslexia Writer's Diary after seven years!
Being organised was wonderful. I knew exactly where I was supposed to be when. I put all my events and activities in my diary, and I never double-booked myself again. My brain was suddenly free to devote itself to a higher purpose - I found that I was more creative now I wasn't struggling to remember dates and times. I could see upcoming deadlines, and I started to plan for them, rather than letting them catch me by surprise.

Over the years, I've gone from just having a diary to having a range of systems I use for different purposes. I have routines to make everyday life simpler, and processes for planning elements of my life to make them easier.

Sometimes people comment that the way I live seems very rigid and controlled - but it's exactly the opposite! With routines and scheduling and careful planning, I have actually set myself free to do more of all the things I want to do! I can think critically about how I use my time and make adjustments so that I can focus on particular projects or spend more time with loved ones.

I'm not perfect - I cannot keep my desk tidy and have to clear it out and rearrange everything every few weeks - but I am more productive and happy than I've ever been. I frequently find myself advising other people on organisation, and I'm happy to share my tips. I've found that advanced planning brings advanced peace of mind, and isn't that something everyone could benefit from?

I've decided to write more about organisation, as it's benefited me so much. This post is the first step, and my second is my first ever ecourse: https://www.udemy.com/planning-your-work-wardrobe/?couponCode=1010JAN16, which goes in-depth into the system I use to plan my outfits for work when I'm going through a busy time or just want to give myself more brain-space in the morning. I'm using it right now, because the temperature in London is below zero and planning all those layers first thing in the morning is too much!

Let me know in the comments how you feel about being organised - is it something you've embraced already, or do you feel like you need more guidance?


Charity Shop Tuesday: The Unicorndress

If you thought I'd reached peak twee with the Catdress, you were wrong. Oh, so wrong.

On the same day I found the Catdress in a local branch of Cancer Research, I also found the Unicorndress. Oh yeah. That was a good day. Especially as the Unicorndress was £2.

They're not even just unicorns. They're winged unicorns. There are also little cupid's arrows. And there's this slightly revealing button arrangement on the back.

No, I don't understand why either. But, like the Catdress, it have pockets! The downside is that it is a very casual, summer-weight dress. It's made of thin floppy fabric. It's a dress to wear over jeans or shorts to hang out with friends or run to the shops in. It's cute, but it can never own my heart like the Catdress.

The Catdress is more formal, and it's made of thicker material - I can wear the Catdress to work. I generally prefer all my clothes to be work-appropriate, it's easier that way, and I like looking slightly dressed-up at all times. So although I enjoy the Unicorndress, and don't regret buying it, it's not quite as good a purchase as it could have been. Cats just seem to have more gravitas!

Do you like to make a sharp distinction between work clothes, and casual/weekend clothes? Or would you, like me, be quite happy if almost all your clothes were work-appropriate?


Charity Shop Tuesday: When Things Aren't As Practical As They Appear

I thought this jumper dress thing would be totally practical when I found it at the charity shop I used to volunteer at. I tried it on and instantly discovered how fun it is to wear. The beads! The asymmetrical hem!

But I much prefer wearing skirts and dresses to trousers, and wearing this with skirts or dress would risk Hem Clash, and probably Neckline Clash too.

When I am wearing trousers, it's still a jumper dress without any sleeves. I have to wear either another jumper on top of it, or a cardigan, and because it's long I have to keep it hung up. Because it's not with all the other jumpers, I often forget it's there! I definitely like it though, and enjoy wearing it when I do, so hopefully writing this post will help me remember, and reach for it more often.

Do you own any items of clothing that seemed practical on the way to the till, but turned out to be less easy to wear than you'd like?


Charity Shop Tuesday: Or Is It?

I definitely bought this dress secondhand, but it may have been from a dress agency rather than from a charity shop. If it was from a dress agency, it was definitely from The Anerley Frock Exchange, a shop that I only managed to visit one time before it closed, on a day when I decided I was going to do All The Charity Shops.

Better photo, with me actually wearing it, down below!
I started by Beckenham Junction station, then went through all the many charity shops, and one dress agency, of Beckenham. RIP Frock Follies, and a) is it a law for dress agencies to have 'Frock' in the name and b) why are they all closed, oh wait, I know - eBay. Then I got the bus up the road to Penge and Anerley and finally Crystal Palace.

I believe that dress agencies are extremely underrated - like charity shops, they sell clothes much more cheaply than they were new, but unlike charity shops, they're more curated. You're unlikely to find Primark in a dress agency - they will only stock higher-end high street and designer. And unlike eBay, you can actually try things on, which is a must if you're in anyway awkwardly proportioned.

This dress, for example, was originally from Zara, something that endlessly surprises me because to be honest I find most of Zara's stuff to be a bit crap.

But it's made of linen, fully lined, full-skirted, and has-



It's not perfect. I love the rolled halterneck but it sits just a little too close to the neck to hide bra straps. I go back on forth on the colour - it's probably destined to be dyed either a darker shade of blue or purple. It's a little too close to denim blue, a colour I do not do, for my liking. Being linen, it creases so easily I can't be bothered to even try ironing it.

Here is a picture of me posing in front of my newly tidied bookcase in this dress, so you can see exactly how creased it gets!

But all in all, it was a good purchase, and one I can wear in summer, with sandals and a cardigan, or in winter, with a long sleeved top underneath and very thick tights.

Have you ever shopped at a dress agency?


Friday Favourites: Yummly

Last week, I wrote about why I love Pinterest. But for one particular area of interest, there's an app/website I love more.

Yummly is a recipe app/website and I think anyone who cooks and wants to try different recipes should try it. The search is just fantastic. It trumps Pinterest, in my view, because not only does it let you search for ingredients, but it also lets you exclude them. It will also filter for tastes (sweet, savoury, spicy, etc), diets (eg. vegetarian, vegan), nutritional preferences (low carb, low fat, etc), allergies, cuisines, and time.

If, for instance, I fancy salmon for dinner, I can search for only recipes that don't have onion (which gives me cramps), or mayonnaise (which my partner hates). I love spicy food, so I can set my taste preference to spicy. I try to only eat meat a couple of times a week, so I frequently use it to search for only vegetarian recipes.

If I don't want to make a recipe right now, but would like to save it for later, I can just click the 'Yum' button to add it to My Yums - which can be organised into different collections. I only wish you could search within your Yums - I've only saved 62, but it's already a pain to scroll through, and if you use the main search, it doesn't show Yums first, or let you filter for them which would be helpful.

I've just discovered that you can set disliked ingredients in the preferences, too, so I've banned brussels sprouts, avocado, and mayonnaise from darkening my results ever again! I've left in onion, as it's easy to just leave out, or switch for sweet peppers. You can also set dietary preferences and allergies. You can also pick favourite cuisines, or it can guess them from your Yums - it's definitely got me pegged with its suggestions of Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, and Thai.

It also learns my tastes, so it frequently suggests recipes without my having to start a search.

But the best part is that although you need to click through to the website the recipe is hosted on in order to read the directions, the ingredients list is listed on Yummly, and if you use the metric system, it's already done the conversion for you! You can switch from US to Metric at the click/tap of a button. It also shows how many people have Yummed the recipe, nutritional info, and reviews.

Now, so that this isn't just a Yummly love-in, here are some of my favourite recipes found using it:

Lentil & sweet potato curry - this makes a LOT of food! I make it once for dinner and then use the leftovers for lunch on three days!
Spicy Pan-Fried Salmon - this is gorgeous, even if you use a quarter of the amount of sugar as I do!

How do you find recipes? Any favourites to share?


Charity Shop Tuesday: A Dress I'm Considering Giving Back to a Charity Shop

I'm going to begin this post with an apology for the fact that I had to turn up the brightness in some of these images so you could see the dress properly. It's black. It happens.

This dress has appeared on this blog before, when I referred to it as my 'goth nurse' dress. If you go read that post, from five years ago, you'll note that I complained that it doesn't entirely fit. At the time, I didn't have very many clothes, so this didn't bother me all that much. I was just excited to have another dress! Please excuse the terrible watermarking in this reposted image:

My expression is kind of doubtful. Maybe I was in two minds then, I just didn't record it?
Now my wardrobe is well-stocked and I'm wondering if I should hang on to this. It's too short to actually wear as a dress, I have to wear it with jeggings. I don't like the pockets on the front. Compared to the clothes I wear most often, it's boring. And yet...

It's really comfortable, and it does have big side pockets. Also, I hate giving things to uncertain homes - I wonder, would anyone want this oddly-fitting, quite dull black dress? Maybe I should try altering it. Do something to jazz it up. Take off the boob pockets, perhaps.

Don't know why I said 'perhaps', I think those pockets are entirely useless and ugly. They've got to go.

I'm giving it six months, readers. Hold me to this. If I don't love it by then - if I haven't made it loveable by then - it's going. In a world with catdresses and drunk pixie creations, there's no point holding on to something that doesn't make me feel good.


Friday Favourites: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Getting Addicted and Just Enjoy Pinterest

When you first heard about Pinterest, did you immediately think 'That sounds like something I should definitely avoid or it will take over my life?'

Are you still relying on old-fashioned bookmarks to keep lists of sites you might maybe, someday revisit, if, in the meantime, you don't forget what they are and why you wanted to look at them?

This was me. For far too long. Then eventually I gave in, and you know what? I haven't regretted it. I love Pinterest, and it doesn't take up masses of my time. Here's why:

1. There are only so many pins

When I first joined Pinterest, I was really wary. I set up my first board, DIY Fashion, thinking that would be the only board I would ever allow myself to make. I already had loads of stuff ready that I wanted to pin - the reason I was resorting to Pinterest was because my browser bookmarks just weren't working. I wanted to be able to scroll through and find the tutorial I was looking for by looking at images. Far faster and easier than reading titles.

I pinned everything I started with, and then spent about an hour a day for the next week adding more pins as suggested by the app. But then, something unexpected (but with hindsight, totally predictable) happened.

I ran out of stuff to pin.

There are only so many pins! And this is true of every subject! I now have boards about hair and vintage dresses and embroidery and organisation amongst others (for the full list, see my page here). My feed is now mostly repeats of things I've already pinned, so the upkeep, checking my feed for new pins and pinning them to the relevant boards, only takes about ten minutes every couple of days.

2. Most of the notifications can be ignored

Sometimes I get over 100 notifications a day from the Pinterest app, but I ignore them. Why?
They're mostly just other people liking and repinning my pins. I don't even have the app set to push notify me of these, so I only see them when I look at the app itself. Then all I need to do is tap the 'You' tab and they're all cleared.

3. If I don't look at it for a few days, 'News' will let me know what I've missed

The Pinterest app sends me push notifications with suggestions of new boards to follow or top pins that match my keywords, so if something's popular and I haven't checked Pinterest for a while, I'll still find out about it eventually. It's like having a virtual assistant for my hobbies.

4. I've gotten followers without even trying

I don't have hundreds and hundreds, but just by keeping my boards updated and pinning great content I've acquired a small following - hence all those notifications!

5. It's a really lovely way to store lists

Ultimately, Pinterest is a visually-appealing, user-friendly, interface for storing lists of links. It's much easier to use for anything visual, like DIY tutorials, recipes, hairstyles, make-up, etc, than traditional bookmarks.

With that in mind...

I would love it if there was a way to import some of my old bookmarks. I have masses of old make-up tutorials and inspiration photo posts bookmarked but pinning them one by one would be extremely time-consuming. If there was a mass-uploader that would let me import them and then just pick an image for each one that would be perfect!

Do you use Pinterest? Do you have any tips, or favourite boards? Let me know! You can follow my boards here.


How I Stopped Biting My Fingernails and Chewing the Skin Around My Fingers

I used to be a compulsive nail-biter. For years I chewed my fingernails and gnawed at the skin around them. When I was a child my mum tried everything to stop me doing it:
  • Telling me off when she saw me doing it, which didn't work when she wasn't there.
  • Painting my nails with that stuff that makes them taste bad - I only used it one time, I very much DO NOT recommend this. It is completely impractical as it means you can't eat anything with your fingers. Unless you want to give up all chocolate/sweets/candy and finger food in addition to biting your nails, don't waste your money.
  • Telling me horror stories about how terrible my nails would look - I was obsessed with getting them short and removing any flappy bits of skin, so this had no effect on me.
I thought I was going to be a nail biter for life. But then, in my late teens and early twenties, I got really into nail polish, and I discovered something:

I would not bite my nails if they were painted.

I couldn't stand the thought of bits of nail polish in my mouth, let alone the reality. UGH! I accidentally bit them when they had nail polish on maybe twice and that was it!

So I kept them constantly painted. The only problem was that I was still picking and and chewing off the skin around my nails. For a couple more years I had painted, but still bumpy nails, because I was tearing off my cuticles, which always leads to dents in the surface of my nails.

I solved this problem almost by accident. I was dedicated to avoiding biting off nail polish, because it was disgusting. And then, one day, it occurred to me that fingers are just generally disgusting. They pick up germs, everywhere. Putting them in my mouth when they weren't clean was a terrible idea. There was no way that I could pick at the skin without putting them in my mouth - eventually when you pull and pull at a piece of skin it gets so long you have to bite it off or it will annoy you to distraction.

And so I replaced my compulsion to pick at and chew off the skin around my nails with an obsession with hand hygiene. Whenever I get home or to someone's house or to work, the first thing I do (after taking my shoes off, if appropriate) is wash my hands. If my hands aren't clean, they aren't going near my face, let alone my mouth.

And after washing my hands, it's easy just to grab my scissors or nail clippers and cut off the offending bit of skin or nail, push back my cuticles, or file any rough patches of skin. Sometimes I even carry nail clippers and a nail file in my handbag so that I can do this when I'm out (after washing my hands, of course!).

I've also realised that idle hands really are the devil's playthings, if the devil is picking your skin. I try to keep my hands busy at all times. If I'm doing an activity that doesn't involve my hands, like watching TV or talking to friends, I try to have something else to do at the same time - knitting, sewing, colouring, playing games on my phone - even painting my nails!

Thanks to developing what I would consider to be a healthy level of disgust, and finding things for my hands to do while my mind is busy, I have cured myself of a bad habit and now have nails that I actually admire and don't mind taking photos of. They're not perfect, but they're getting better.

This post was largely inspired by How To Motivate Yourself To Be Motivated from GetBullish - the first time I read it I immediately thought of how I'd stopped biting my nails using the power of disgust!

Do you bite your nails, or have you stopped? Any advice?


Charity Shop Tuesday: The Catdress

This is my most recent charity shop purchase. I don't need to explain why I bought it, do I?

And, what's more, it has, oh yes, the holy grail, POCKETS. The only thing I don't like about it is this visible zip at the back. I was brought up to despise all visible zips. At least I can't see it when I'm wearing it. When I'm wearing it all I can see are caaaaats.

I wore it for the first time a couple of weeks ago with bright purple tights and red lipstick. Got compliments all day. I didn't want to take it off. At the end of the day I took a bunch of selfies because I was just so happy with it.

I wear your grandma's clothes. I look incredible.
I can't wait to wear it again. I will probably wear it this week, it is Halloween week after all.

This actually isn't my first catdress, I have another one, also bought in a charity shop, but for various reasons I don't like it as much. More on that to come in a future episode of Charity Shop Tuesday!

What's the last thing you wore that made you feel completely amazing?


Charity Shop Tuesday: Testing Out Checks

One of the things I love most about charity shopping is that as most of the stock is second-hand, charity shops don't follow fashion, and thus you can try on a wide range of styles all under one roof. Before I discovered the delights of charity shopping, I would often complain that I couldn't buy new clothes for years at a time, because everything in the shops didn't suit me or was in colours I didn't like.

As the clothes are usually cheaper (hint: look for higher-end high street brands to find the biggest bargains), I don't hesitate to try on anything that catches my eye, even if I have some doubts about it when I'm looking at it on the hanger, and if I like it, I usually don't hesitate to buy it either!

So it was with this dress, which was a donation to the charity shop I used to volunteer in - check out 6 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer in a Charity Shop and How to Donate to Charity Shops (an insider's guide) for more on my experience there.

I hadn't really worn a lot of either dark blue or checked fabric since I'd left school and the trauma of my hideous navy-and-cream-checked uniform behind, but this dress caught my eye for some reason. I decided to try it on, and I fell in love.

Dark blue, it turns out, looks really good with my brown hair and brown eyes, and wearing this dress also gives me an excuse to wear dark blue eye-makeup and nail polish.

I love the shape of it, it wraps around and the skirt sticks out a bit - I often emphasise this by wearing another skirt underneath!

Unfortunately, although I have worn it on some memorable occasions (an early date with my boyfriend, and to a couple of parties), it doesn't get that frequent an airing. It's one of those dresses that's a bit too fancy for everyday wear but not formal enough for really special occasions.

Also, with its low neckline it's strictly a summer dress - wearing a long-sleeved top underneath it doesn't work, though I have a black wraparound top I can wear on top to make it suitable for slightly cooler days.

If I'd owned this dress back in my student days I'm sure I would have worn it a lot, but now it tends to languish at the back of my wardrobe for most of the year. If only I'd discovered charity shopping sooner!

When did you start (assuming you have started!) charity shopping?
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