White Christmas

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Yesterday it snowed! I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am about it! The last few winters here have been pretty mild, which has really made me miss the fluffy white stuff. I spent most of the day bundled up, consuming warm beverages and yummy food, while walking around the Leeds Christmas Market with friends. I really hope we get one more good snow before Christmas. It makes the season all the more special. 

To get you feeling a bit more Christmasy, here is one of my favorite poems:

 

[little tree]


By E.E. Cummings

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see       i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

look       the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold and the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

Battling Cold Symptoms at Home

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It's that time of year; you're tired and been burning the candle at both ends when you feel it, that little tickle on the back of your throat. UGH! That scratchy feeling is the first indicator that you need to slow down because if you don't a cold is inevitable. So what to do when you need something to soothe the symptoms before they get worse? 

Here are a few things you can whip up at home. Pair them with a hot bath and plenty of rest and you'll be feeling better in no time!

Lemon & Honey
This one is super easy and you can have it as often as you need. Simply add the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon (or 2) of honey to a mug of hot water and you're set! While you sip, the lemon juice soothes your throat, while the honey combats any inflammation you may have.

Chicken Soup
This isn't just an option for tasty, old-school comfort. Chicken soup has been proven to reduce postnasal drip, which contributes to sore throats. Everyone has at least one can around right? So turn on the hob and get cookin'! 

Herbal Tea
We all have some somewhere in the back of our pantries and there is a variety that can help you build your immune system and combat cold symptoms: 

  • Tumeric tea has anti-inflammatory properties, along with many other great health benefits.
  • Camomile tea is calming, relaxing and will help you sleep. 
  • Chai is said to boost the immune system.

Now obviously, these aren't miracle cures but they can help your symptoms improve. Please keep in mind that a visit to your doctor is a good idea if your sore throat is accompanied by a fever or if the pain is severe and makes it difficult to swallow. Better safe than sorry!

 

Gifting Goodwill

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Christmas is the season of giving and there are plenty of ways to give this time of year. If you're really feeling the holiday spirit and want to give to more than just family, there are plenty of ways to help those in need. 

"As you grow older, you will discover you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others."

ACTRESS & PHILANTHROPIST || AUDREY HEPBURN


Be Kind:
Give unwanted clothes and toys to families who may appreciate some extra help this year. There are plenty of ways to do so. The Salvation Army offers the Christmas Present Appeal which collects toys for children ranging from newborns to teenagers. You can reserve a place at Crisis, a shelter for homeless men and women, to ensure a warm meal and so much more for as little as £26. You can also visit and give goods to your local food bank! 

Donate:
Luke and I always choose a local charity to help out on Christmas. Last year we donated to our local food bank towards ensuring that every family got a turkey for Christmas dinner. I also put together 50+ linen bags filled with necessities that women don't think or have the time to take with them when fleeing a violent situation. I delivered them all to our local women's shelter the week before Christmas. 

This year I'm donating to my favorite dog charity, The French Bulldog Rescue Network, who rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home French Bulldogs in need of better forever homes in the USA and Canada. Their volunteers foster these lucky dogs taking care to provide education, training, and a safe loving environment to rehabilitate until they are ready to be rehomed in well-suited loving forever homes. You can make a general donation or send money to a particular pup whos story touches your heart here

Another organization I've decided to contribute to is End The Backlog, a charity that focuses on shining a light on the massive rape kit backlog in the United States. Due to lack of policies, protocol, and resources, a staggering number of rape kits have yet to be analyzed. Which potentially leaves serial offenders unpunished. Donations help to advocate for policy reforms, working with communities to uncover and address their backlogs, and conduct groundbreaking research. 

If you don't have a cause that's close to your heart or you are a bit overwhelmed by all the choices there are, Give Well is a website that showcases top-rated charities, allowing you to discover great giving opportunities! 

Spend Time:
The Do It Trust offers plenty of volunteer opportunities via a national database based on a simple postcode search. And Age UK offers be-friending, or ‘visiting’ services, where a volunteer can visit or talk to an older person once a week in their own home; a great cause considering many elderly folks regularly go weeks without speaking to anyone. 

❤︎

When we do good things for others, incidentally we do good for ourselves. Doing genuinely good deeds can reduce stress and build endorphin levels. Who doesn't want to feel warm and fuzzy during Christmas?! So bake some cookies for a local charity drive or opt for a coffee at home and give those few saved pounds to a bell ringing Santa Claus. Invest a little time in others and invest in your wellbeing too! Lets all make some meaningful connections this year! 

 

 

 

 

Pie for the Holidays

When the holidays roll around, baking pies is something that makes me feel at home. Their tastes and smells transport me back to all of those lovely moments growing up baking in the kitchen with my grandparents and my dad. 

One of my favorite pies is Pecan! I think its flavor suits the harvest and holiday season so well. Pecan pie is made with a butter-sugar-egg custard and it is said that the French invented the dessert soon after settling in New Orleans, being introduced to the pecan nut by the local Native American tribes. I'm not sure how accurate that story is but Native Americans did disperse these lovely nuts up and down the Mississippi River and used them long before Settlers ever stepped foot in America. 

When I was back in the States visiting family, I had some great Pecan Pie at this lovely little cafe in Boerne, TX. So upon returning home, I had to make some more! If you've never tried it or are interested in baking this yummy pie at home, try this recipe!** 

Not crazy about nuts? Try my other seasonal favorite, Pumpkin Pie. Be sure to top both with whipped cream!

**Since England is a no go on Corn Syrup, replace that ingredient with your lovely Golden Syrup. I find it the best substitute.

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Time To Focus on Festive

The smell of Bonfire Night/Weekend was definitely still present in the air this morning; and although we're not enormous fans of fireworks (Lincoln gets pretty scared), the after aromas embody everything about autumn. Someone honestly needs to bottle that up and make a soy candle!  The smells, sights, and sounds of this season never get old. 

I am finally recovered from all the jet lag that came with two weeks of bouncing around the States. It was good to be home and visit with all my loved ones. Tailgating with my best friend for Penn State's victory over Michigan, seeing my sister and brother, and eating all the BBQ Austin has to offer were definitely the highlights! I am full up -- which means its time to get back into the swing of things here at Blonde & Bounder!

With Halloween and Bonfire night behind us, England's next hoorah is Christmas. So lets, get festive and try our best to focus on what the embodiment of the season represents -- gratitude, joy, understanding, love, and comfort. In the next few weeks, thats what we'll be focusing on. I'll also be sharing some ideas to keep waste to a minimum. Because in a season of parcels and wrapping paper, keeping that waste in check is important. 

Happy Monday folks! Wishing you all an excellent week!

 

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Writer's Block: How To Deal

It happens to everyone. No matter how long we brainstorm, meditate, or just stare at our keyboard; at some point, we all suffer from writer's block. These extremely frustrating periods of zero productivity can be caused by any number of things -- lack of motivation, anxiety, analysis paralysis, stress, fatigue; the list goes on. When you're in the throes of a creative funk, getting out of it seems impossible. But there are some simple things I have found that help get your brain cogs spinning again.

Rest up but not too much
Sleeping too much or too little can cause a block. Too much sleep can lead to hazy thinking and too little can lead to the exact same problem. It's no surprise weird sleeping habits have a major effect on your cognition and ability to write. So aim for the average 7 to 8 hours a night.

Change your environment
Whether you need noise to stay focussed or complete silence, things going on around you could be interfering with your concentration. Any element that you identify as a distraction needs to be dealt with or avoided completely. 

Avoid perfection
When you're experiencing writer's block, your initial drafts may suck -- but its fine because it's a draft. Your goal is to write anything. Don't over analyse or critique, just write! If the outcome isn't great you can always edit again later.

Cut out distractions
A majority of us now have more than just background noise as distractions that keep us from creating. Yes, I'm talking social media! All those alerts and constant "blips" can make writing less efficient and interrupt workflow. So turn all that shit on silent and focus!

Set a schedule
Writing on your own time means you can set any sort of schedule you want but if there's no real structure to your work process, you could be doing more harm than good. Set specific times for work and breaks to keep yourself on a good productive track.

Read something
Reading opens your brain up to new ideas and topics. What you read doesn't have to be profound but chances are the more you read the more you'll be able to think of something to write about.

Use your voice
If you're having trouble getting thoughts on paper, just think about how you would describe those ideas or thoughts in a conversation. Most people try to be a little more technical or verbose when writing, which doesn't exactly help with a block. Use your voice and your words.

How do you cope with writer's block? Let me know your tips and tricks in the comments below!

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Let's Get Real

I'm finding it hard this week to write something light-hearted or fun. As a woman who is no stranger to off-color remarks, cat-calling, uninvited advances and touching; I think it's time to get serious. If you're a man reading this, I want you to think of every woman dear to you. I guarantee you every one of them has experienced some sort of unwanted sexual advance in their life. Unfortunately, it's the norm and has been for far too long.

I have experienced things that I still think about, dream about, and that trigger anxiety. These experiences have altered my mental health, my approach to interaction and affection, the way I take care of myself, and much more. None of this I asked for.  

As a seventeen-year-old stopping for the restroom in a hoodie and jeans, I was not asking for it, at 27 out with my fiancé and friends I did not invite a stranger to grab my ass, and I certainly didn't ask to be threatened with rape when I thwarted a man from going further after he grabbed me from behind and put his hands on me and up my dress! After leaving a job when I graduated University, I was told outside of work by a manager, "It's a shame you aren't single, because you would get fucked." I've got more, but like so many I'm not comfortable talking about them.  

It's deplorable that people think that this sort of behavior is okay, or because of their position in society, it'll all just be swept under the rug with the threat of destroying an advancing career. I applaud every woman who chooses to speak about their experiences. In regards to Harvey Weinstein, I send an enormous amount of respect and love to Rose McGowan who was dismissed and victim blamed and stayed strong for not just herself but for every woman involved for two decades! Rose, you are a fucking hurricane! Thank you. 

All About That Mug Life

Tea and coffee are a pretty important element to my day. It's the first thing I make in the morning, when I come home from a brisk walk, and when I'm settling down on the sofa with the dogs for cuddles. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely more throughout the day -- I just don't keep count. The one thing that makes a good cup of tea or coffee better is a cute mug to drink it from and a sweet treat (obviously).

Take Care of your dog, take care of you

Walking a pet(s) daily doesn't just benefit their health. There are many reasons why getting outside with your dog greatly benefits you as well.  This can be a pretty obvious assumption. Taking a long, leisurely walk helps with circulation and energy levels (thanks to those happy endorphins). Whether you take one walk or multiples, your pet isn't the only one wracking up those extra steps. Exercise and fresh air are good for everyone!

Getting outside on your own is said to reduce stress, add a happy dog (or two) to the equation and you may benefit even more! Using walks as an opportunity to bond with your pet can calm you down and focus your mind away from your everyday worries. Focusing on your surroundings and your breathing is key. If you're not into breathing exercises, this can be a very good alternative. But try yoga too! 

Not only can walking your dog clear your mind of everyday stresses, it can also call forth new inspiration. Take in what's around you, notice the little things, and allow yourself to be removed from what normally ties you down or distracts you. You'll be surprised what ideas pop into your head!

I'm lucky enough to live in close proximity to great walking routes surrounded by beautiful countryside. No matter where you are located, you only need two things for a good walk: your dog and yourself. You'd be surprised how many times my surroundings on walks has inspired a photograph, blog post, or just a fantastic memory. Nevermind the weather, we've been caught in rain, wind, snow, covered in mud, and it's always fun! Leave your phone at home and get outside!

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ALL TRULY GREAT THOUGHTS ARE CONCEIVED WHILE WALKING. 

GERMAN PHILOSOPHER || FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE