12 Books to Blog by: Books #3 and #4

As promised here, chronologically, are the 3rd and 4th books to blog by in my year of the size15stylist blog.
3. A Room of One's Own: Virginia Woolf
       
August 2013 (Creation of Size15Stylist blog)  

Virginia Woolf is one of those authors that had been on my To Read list for so many years, you know, a serious writer to name drop.  I even had a few of her novels on my bookshelf, that I’d snapped up at charity shops over the years, to show my earnest intentions.  

On one work commute I downloaded A Room of One's Own as it was a practical book about writing, instead of a novel.  It was so absorbing I just read it in a day or so (no mean feat when you're a Mum and an employee).  I was intrigued by her world, a very male-oriented environment, and the history she conveys (the book was based on a talk she was asked to give in 1928, a time when women had only had the right to vote for 10 years). 

I also liked the idea that a woman only needed a room of one’s own and a yearly income of £500 in order to write.  

Thanks to an online inflation calculator I reckoned that meant, last August, I needed a room of my own and a yearly income of £22,000. 

Well, I don’t earn anywhere near that (yet), and will barely pull in £500 a year from my first year of writing, but it was a pivotal moment to make me think beyond the nonsense of needing a bunch of 'stuff'...although I adore stationery shopping - Paperchase in September! – it is a bit of a distraction from writing at times.  

After reading this book I took time to work out financially what I needed to do to be happy in the room of my own, and that became my saving goal. 

It also turns out that I write better on the sofa in front of a muted TV than I do in a spare room with all the writing implements I’ve gathered over the years! 

 
4. Christine Rice: Freelance Writing Guide


In my downloading frenzy last August, during one lunchbreak I downloaded a sample of Christine Rice's Freelance Writing Guide simply because Amazon directed me to it when I fired up the Kindle.  

After  reading I liked the author's style and her practical tips on what to expect in your first year as a freelance writer - this book hit the magical Venn diagram position of 'desirable content' and 'affordable' so I bought the full version.  

Incidentally, the Kindle adverts have often directed me to a good read, so don’t let them put you off buying an e-reader with the option for adverts.  

Now I think about it I had probably been the kind of customer that kindle publishing author Steve Scott writes about in his book Is $.99 the New Free?  - I am more likely to part with my money if the book is a) one that I want and b) as close to £2 as possible, and ideally under £3. Although Rice's book is currently selling at £3.28.

Thankfully, I'm not a rule-follower.  

Join me towards the end of next week for details of books 5 and 6, and my post about the debate surrounding Britain's real second city: Manchester or Birmingham.  Which do you prefer to shop in? 

I'm off to prepare the house for Bank Holiday visitors and then pack for next weekend's double-city shopping break, do let me know any 'finds' you have to share about either city! 

Tarrah. 

12 Books to Blog By: #1 & #2

Hello, Dear Readers.  Twelve months ago I was about to embark on a fabulous but life-altering adventure, though I did not know that; all I was concerned with was how I was going to leave a poorly toddler-daughter for 10 days while I was in Chicago presenting a writing paper at the Qualitative Inquiry conference.  But my little girl was staying with her Dad and Grandparents and I couldn’t lose the £1000 I’d already invested in the trip. 

I had absolutely no idea what lay around the corner. 

So, I would love to share with you the 12 key books I blog by, beginning with the first two, Be a Free Range Human and Problogger.

May 2013

Last May I picked up a magazine and read about a woman’s life, where she basically just kept the hours she wanted, in amazing locations. My first thought was, bet she doesn’t have children. But she was doing what she loved, and I took a photo of her website and book, so I could download it later – I’d just invested in a Kindle Fire HD and needed something to read on the flight.

 


This book has literally changed my life, and it really goes to show that you shouldn’t do that tired old thing of judging a book before you read it. My jealous initial reaction was because her lifestyle struck my chords. I really wanted to live a life I loved, but as a mature Mum with a toddler I believed this working life was beyond me; I used to get up, rush toddler-daughter out of the house, shout at MrS15S and sit at my desk by around 8.30am, repeating the stress in reverse at around 4.30pm.

However, Marianne’s introductory words, ‘More and more people are saying no thanks to the conventional job and are busting out of their beige office to create remarkable lives, on their own terms. The mission? Freedom and fulfilment: not in retirement, not in their annual vacation, but every single day, starting now. These people are the new Free Range Humans’, became my anchor for the next few months.

I steadily worked through the advice and the exercises, for the first time finding a possible structure to my dreams of living the life I want (where I write, on my terms, and yet am not financially scuppered).

I did not want to wait until retirement to start enjoying my days.

Marianne advises us to think about what we want to spend all our days doing, first implementing a play project, where we just ‘do’ something in a week. I came up with a few options, one of them shopping. The other writing.

I returned to my part-time job, but I couldn’t put Marianne’s book down.  I joined in with her weekly insights on the Free Range Human website and signed up for her free Friday Love Letter.


August 2013
2. Problogger: Secrets to Blogging your Way to a Six-Figure Income

2. Problogger: Secrets for Blogging your Way to a Six-Figure Income - Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett 

Still very much unsatisfied with my part-time job, I had begun to save, for the first time in my life.   

I actually thought about how much coffee I was paying for (and the cakes that went with the tall vanilla lattes) and seriously considered every purchase I made. I began putting money away, a few pounds at a time, in an old purse, and would periodically peek into it to see how my ‘savings’ were growing.  I also negotiated a week off work and toddler-daughter spent my normal working days with her grandparents.  I wanted to get to grips with what blogging was all about, so settled down to read this second, influential, book.

I’d experimented with a Wordpress blog in 2009, and had been quite prolific for a good few years, until academic commitments and motherhood took over my blogging time.   

But I was curious about the Blogspot platform and so, from the comfort of my sofa, these two books by my side (and Broadband) and a red notebook and pen, I spent my usual working hours turning myself into a blogger, resulting in Size15Stylist, my devotion to shopping and writing. 

Let me qualify, I am no where near earning a regular paid income from blogging, never mind the six-figures that no doubt some bloggers do.   

No, tbe Problogger book offered an understanding on what a blog is, and how it can be monetized, and is just a fabulous, great big How To Blog guide, offering insight into everything I need to know about blogging.  The approachable writing, from experienced bloggers, offered confidence to this newbie and taught me how to take this blogging business professionally.  The Problogger community reminds me to keep blogging.

From reading of this book, and my own action, I returned to work a blogger, uploading posts about shopping on a daily basis, which meant I had to go shopping as often as I could....win!  But instead of handing over my money, which was destined for my savings purse, I began to use a critical eye in the shops, editing collections as I browsed, and researching for my readers.

The days were no longer as long; I had begun to change my life.

Join me later this week for details of the next two books to blog by, and by all means share any thoughts on these books or others that you have read on your adventures in the blogosphere. 

Toodlepip.

Fancy some half-price fun in the sun?

No, not nattering about a bargain break to Barbados, but another lovely offer that's popped my way (I receive no money for this post, only the warmth from sharing with fellow coffee fiends).

Picture a late afternoon stroll with your Sunnies and your OH/DC/BFF/Your fave music, between 3-5pm today, and any day up until 25th May...

Frapps.
Half-Price.
Starbucks.

I can't wait to get me a mocha coconut frapp this afternoon on the nursery run!

Discount or Loyalty?

And like any wedding guest who wants to look their best in a room full of dresses, House of Fraser have drawn our attention to a Recognition event from today, Wed 14th May (Happy Birthday, NKOTB Danny Wood) until Sunday 18th May (the day after NKOTB Jordan Knight's birthday)...perhaps to try to cajole customer's away from the Debenhams Summer Spectacular event?  Who knows what John Lewis or Selfridges are up to?

I'm a fan of the direct percentage off back in my purse, however, and do not own a store card.  House of Fraser's event seems to reward bonus points to customers who shop using their Recognition Mastercard, although if you have the standard Recognition loyalty card these may be applied to you, too.  I haven't yet cottoned on to this loyalty scheme, as, frankly, you can't beat Boots Advantage card or Tesco Clubcard for their rewards (This morning I actually started looking forward to Autumn's Boots madness when I realised my Clarins exfoliator is only a third full!).  Terms and conditions of the Recognition event are there and on the House of Fraser website. I am not a financial whiz and have no authority on financial matters.

So, dear shoppers, please shop responsibly this week (and beyond, obviously), whether you prefer a discount as I do, or offer your own loyalty.  But, again, do let me know if you spot a bargain!

My Bank Holiday Morrisons Shop

Last week I was one of the lucky BritMums bloggers chosen to receive £80 Morrisons vouchers for a bank holiday shopping (and social media) spree; not my usual supermarket as it's a bit of a drive from home. But as you know, dear readers, I am prepared to travel to shop. 

We normally weekly-shop sporadically,  buying enough for a few meals and then whatever takes our fancy. At the end of a busy week we have little time for thinking about meals too far in advance; the sofa calls us both.  So we took advantage of a quiet Friday night and hit the (teeny) aisles with inspiration from their online Recipes and Ranges section, while Grandparents looked after toddler-daughter.  I tweeted a few thoughts about mojitos, steak and cake and was pretty flexible about what other goodies went in the trolley, as long as they offered value for money. 

Turned out Morrisons offered a lot of value (and I love the cute bags):
 
Size15Stylist 2014


We bought enough Morrisons fresh produce and goodies for a luxurious long weekend (think brunches, posh dinners and a relaxing beverage) and a bit more, starting with gorgeous M Bistro Pizza Calabrese, babyleaf and rocket salad and Size15Stylist's special spicy spuds (recipe at the bottom of the post).

Size15Stylist 2014

 
Mr S15S was very pleased with the 1.5 kg baking potatoes for 69p, the eggs and the thin cut sirloin steaks,  at £3.22 each.  The steak was beautiful and we'll definitely be returning to Morrisons at those cheaper prices.
Size15Stylist 2014
     

The weekend's mojitos (my recipe at bottom of post), inspired by the Strawberry Mojito Morrisons recipe went down a storm (and finally gave us a use for the mint in the garden).  The fresh limes (25p each) and strawberries (99p a punet) were excellent value (and future shopping list staples).  The Morrisons white rum was a almost half the price (£9.99) of the leading rum brand (£17.99) so we definitely had room for cake ingredients.
 Size15Stylist 2014

However, MrS15S isn't a big fan of squashy lime-frosting, triple-layered cakes, and it wouldn't have been fair to eat my planned recipe of Pistachio and Lime cake all to myself: so I made lime cupcakes and cappucino cupcakes instead (around 43p each):
Size15Stylist 2014

Oh, and we also had a plan B in case the mojito recipe didn't work out:
Size15Stylist 2014
At £4 for a 70cl bottle it would have been rude not to.


We also picked up some stir fry beef, for the gingered steak and pepper recipe I mentioned in an earlier post, which I found online in the Morrisons Magazine. Ridiculously easy to put together (Fry ginger in a little oil, add steak for five minutes, then add peppers. Cook dried egg noodles, or treat yourself to some fresh produce) and only cost around £2.50 a portion; yes, including the steak.. 



With the money we saved we also had room for a few treats - a velcro catch set for MrS15S and Toddler-Daughter, which at only £2 is cheaper than some shops on the high street and better quality than some other shops.


And a little #MorrisonsMum treat of Elle magazine (free Benefit cosmetic, too!) and a lovely Nutmeg necklace. Oh and cute carrier for out-and-about (especially for Welsh trips!)



Would you'd like some recipes?

Mummy's Morrisons Mojito

(I have a feeling Justanormalmummy would approve, although she may favour a Dirty Martini) 

You will need:
  • White rum
  • Lots of crushed ice 
  • Sugar (1 tbsp)
  • Mint (8-10 leaves per person)
  • Lime (1 per person)
  • few Strawberries, if you like 
  • Lemonade or Soda water 
  • A straw (for swirling/mixing drink and supping from)
You should:
  • Blend ice until you have a Slush Puppy consistency (or until you can't wait for Mojito) - bash with a wooden spoon if you have no time for electricity
  • Tip ice into glass, squeeze lime juice over ice and add few quarters of lime (tidy bits; style counts). 
  • Add sugar.
  • Rip mint in half and put in glass, add 60ml (ish) of rum to glass, swirl with straw, taste and add lemonade if you like (or want to stand to make another Mojito)
  • Add any remaining tidy lime slices and straw for supping. 
  • Enjoy! 



Size15Stylist's Special Spicy Spuds 


You will need: 

  • 1 spud per person; half a spud for little ones 
  • Selection of spices: Mixed herbs (for indecisive moments), Paprika, Cajun Spices, Salt, Pepper
  • Little oil (think 1 tbsp, or a drizzle, as opposed to a cup: we're baking, not frying)
  • Large flat surface to cook wedges on
  • Oven. Although I've never tried the microwave. 

You should:  
  • Heat the oil on the surface (I use the lid of a large casserole dish so spuds don't crowd each other) in oven at 220 degrees (ie, v hot)
  • Wash and quarter the spuds 
  • Tip spuds onto the casserole lid, sprinkle spices to taste (make sure all spuds get coated and you haven't mixed cajun (hot) with paprika (colour) 
  • Put in the oven for 35-40 minutes, taking out to shift around once or twice (sticky spuds take aaaaages to remove from the casserole lid)
  • Enjoy!
PS - if you're really in a hurry for wedges, you could part-boil spuds for 10 minutes, then bake for 15-20 mins, BUT make sure you release all steam from spuds and they are as dry as you can get.  However, I find it much easier to just accept they take 35-40 minutes instead of faffing with a part-boil.




And how were your Bank Holiday shopping and eating experiences?

Blog: Morrisons 1

All my dreams came true - I finally won a shopping spree! 

 

This Bank Holiday weekend I'll be pottering around Morrisons loading up my trolley with goodies that Mr S15 normally wouldn't approve of (basically anything with a very near sell-by date and lots of bread). 

 

Yes, I'm a #MorrisonsMum, one of the lucky bloggers who won £80 of gift vouchers this weekend.  Blogging does pay, then!

 

So, to the recipe finder on the Morrison's website (I'm still in work as I plan) –

 

Strawberry Mojitos. (Yay for a three-day weekend)

 

Gingered steak stirfry

 

Lime and pistachio cake.