lifestyle
I recently read that there are three keys to happiness; something to look forward to, something to be proud of, and something to do. Now happiness has not been my strong point lately but I am really really trying. I'm trying to work on myself, my career, and just generally create the Grace I want to be. 

Since hearing about these three keys I've become obsessed, they just make so much sense. So in my quest to be the best, I thought I could round up my own three keys every month and remind myself that I do actually have a lot to be happy about.


So here they are...

Something to look forward to 

I've actually got a lot to look forward to in September. From meeting up with old friends to making new ones, I've been very very social. I used to be a social butterfly in my late teens but I got comfortable with having a few close friends and stopped seeing people regularly. I've made more of an effort these last few months to see my girls and make time for my family, I also have lots of little catchups planned over the coming weeks.

I also have a solo day trip planned which was pretty spontaneous. Anyone who reads my blog will know that travelling is my first love and soulmate, and I won't give up on it now that I'm single. I did plan on going on a short city break by myself this month but I fannied out last minute. I did however book a solo day trip to Leeds which I am very excited/ nervous about.

Something to be proud of 

I started a new job last month and although it was very scary I can honestly say that I'm enjoying it and I'm starting to be pretty good at it too. I was stuck in a rut at my old place as I had no confidence and my anxiety took over my life once again. I wasn't in a great place and I needed to get out.

I started my new adult job a few weeks ago now and I am proud. I am proud of myself for going to an interview, proud for actually getting the job, and proud for taking myself every day on the bus. If you told me this time last year that I would be working a 9-5 office job, getting myself there, and actually enjoying it too, I wouldn't have believed you. 

Something to do

Now between spending most of my time at work/ with my friends and family I don't really have a lot of space to do things. Blogging has taken a massive backseat lately and I've really missed it to be honest. I won't be able to get back into my usual routine anytime soon but I do want to start setting aside more time for my favourite hobby.

I also was to travel more. I want to travel more and on my own. It's a scary thought but what choice do I have? There's places I want to see so I just have to go for it. I'm hoping to go on my first solo city break before Christmas if possible!

My last thing to do is actually probably the most important. I've applied for a marketing course which is due to start on Monday(!!!). I've wanted to get into marketing for a while now and I finally plucked up the courage to apply for a course last month. I am ready to be successful and for me that will start here.


Now that I've actually written it all down I can see just how far I have come in the last few months. It sounds strange but I've always been kind of scared to progress. I was always terrified of failure which meant I didn't actually try anything new. Well now I have nothing to lose anymore. I've been at the bottom and I am slowly but surely getting to the top.

What are your three keys for September? Let me know in the comments!


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MY KEYS TO HAPPINESS - SEPTEMBER

Moms. We don’t give them half the credit they deserve do we? I know I don’t but I’d really like to change that. My mom is such a gem, she has helped me get through so much over the years and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to thank her really. Of course we have our fall outs but as I’m getting older I’m realising just how important she is to me and my sister.


I’ve not had the best time lately. The last couple of months have been quite hard but my mom has always been there to help me pick up the pieces and stay up with me whilst I cry myself to sleep. There have been a lot of nights like that recently but she doesn’t get bored or tell me to just get on with things, she sticks around and tells me what I need to hear.

One night a few weeks back I was having a terrible time. Everything was getting in top of me and I just didn’t know if I could be bothered anymore. she stayed up with me well into the early hours to help me look for a new job and apply for some new courses. I needed something to live for again and she knew this. We were honestly looking for hours but she didn’t get annoyed with me at all. I hope I will always remember that night, especially whenever I feel my patience wearing thin with her. 


As a teenager I did go to my mom for some things but for the most part I didn’t think I needed parents. I guess most teens are like that, we think we know better, we tell them we hate them and can’t wait to move out. But for most of us our parents, moms especially, will always be waiting with open arms to make things right again. 

My mom has been an angel my whole life but I’m finding more and more that adult Grace needs her a whole lot more than baby Grace ever did. She has always got my best interests at heart and even when we argue I know that no one could ever come close to replacing her. 

Thank you mom, for everything.



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MY MOM, MY THERAPIST, MY FRIEND

Am I a food critic yet? Some days it feels like it, but nope, I just know what I like and I can talk about it for days. Maybe that's why Miller & Carter invited me down to dine in one of their newer restaurants last week. I can't be sure, all I know is that I went, ordered whatever I fancied, and I enjoyed every last bite.
The recently opened Marlbrook restaurant is located just outside of Birmingham in neighbouring Bromsgrove. It's situated in a very easy to get to spot and has a large carpark at the front which makes a nice change from over crowed, multi-story parking in the city. 

We arrived pretty much bang on time for our reservation last Thursday night and were promptly greeted and seated. We were offered the choice to sit and have drinks before being shown to our table but our stomachs were empty and we were ready to eat. 

The interiors of the Marlbrook branch were similar to other Miller & Carter restaurants. It had a very familiar feel but with a warm homely touch. This welcoming feeling was one that would not leave us all night, but was especially prominent whilst we were being served by our waitress Kat.

Once we were given our menus there was no rush to order. We were given plenty of time to pick and choose what we wanted and I noticed the same patience was shown to other guests, even the less friendly ones.
After a good few minutes of debating what to order I opted for a bowl of Mediterranean olives as a starter, and a bacon and smoked cheddar burger with more olives as my main (don't judge me). I also decided to push the boat out and ordered myself a little Mojito. 

I took my partner in crime to help me sample the delicious menu, such a tough job I know, but I have to repay him for the hours he spends taking photographs of myself for the gram, am I right? Sean is a huge steak fan so I doubt he even looked at the burgers or any other section of the menu whilst ordering. In fact he opted to order from the Steaks & Dates menu (obviously) in which you can order a 3 course meal for £25.95 per person on Thursday nights after 5pm. 
Sean's not one to stick to budgets when eating out and so he ordered the cluck and duck wings for a starter, the 8oz 30 day aged fillet, which incurred a £5 supplement, and a glass of red wine. I have since been told the supplement was 100% worth it. Our drinks soon arrived and the photoshoot began (sorry Sean).

After a very short wait our starters were brought over to the table. Sean's looked absolutely incredible and I was told the hoisin glazed chicken and duck wings tasted as good as they looked. As I was saving my main tummy space for my burger, I didn't want a large starter and so my mixed olives were the perfect thing to nibble on while I sipped on my Mojito feeling all fancy.
My tasty little cocktail was soon gone and it was time to order another. This time I opted for something a little bit more boozy, a long island ice tea. I had one back in December when we visited another branch of Miller & Carter and it was the perfect drink to accompany my main meal. The designated driver had a coke, poor Sean. 

After another short wait our mains were placed in front of us - cue another unbearably long photoshoot for Sean. He knows the drill by now, I'm sure all 'Instagram boyfriends' do and to be honest it wasn't all that hard to take cracking photos when the food is as well presented as ours was.
We were soon tucking into our meaty meals which were every bit as delicious as we anticipated they were going to be. My bacon and smoked cheddar burger really was something else, it was juicy and full of flavour without being greasy like burgers sometimes can be.

My favourite touch was the cheddar topped bacon which is more like a slab of gammon in my opinion and really does take the burger to the next level. I also think it's priced very reasonably for a steak house, costing just £11.95 including a large side of chips and tasty coleslaw. I know Sean also enjoyed his meal by just how quickly it had found itself into his belly. 
After munching down on our mains we were pretty stuffed. I couldn't even finish my second helping of olives, can you imagine? We asked to take a short break before ordering our desserts and weren't felt rushed at all. 

When we were eventually ready for our sweet treats Sean knew exactly what he wanted and ordered the rich chocolate brownie. It sounded amazing, and was even available on the regular dessert menu however I fancied something much smaller. Although the desserts on offer looked delicious I knew I wouldn't be able to finish an adult sized portion, but I didn't have to fear as Kat was here and ready to recommend a child's ice cream which came with two scoops and a cookie on the side, perfect.
Some restaurants wont let adults order from the child's menu as it's company policy. In my eyes this translates to 'we just want you to spend more money' but this wasn't a problem here at all and my dessert was the perfect size to finish off my delicious meal. 

Sean and I both had such a nice date night, in a lovely setting, served by the friendliest waitress. Miller & Carter is a treat for me as some of the dishes can be on the pricier side but I can honestly say it has left me pining for more. The quality of the food really is worth every penny and I can't wait for my next visit. 

Want a fancy date night of your own? Enter my competition HERE to win a £50 Miller & Carter voucher!

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* Our meal was complimentary however all thoughts and opinions are my own. I would never promote anything I didn't believe in.

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POSH BURGERS AND COCKTAILS - A TASTE OF MILLER & CARTER


As a kid I always loved sport. I could power through a football match, beat many of my peers at the 100 meters race, and I even have medals for both trampolining and horse riding. So why is my body so big? Well the teen years hit, my confidence dropped, and I quickly left anything sporty in the past. 

P.E. at school was mortifying for me. Once puberty hit I started to gain weight, mix that in with my love of quavers and you've got an obese child in the making. Now I don't personally think I've ever been obese, and I think that word in general has such nasty connotations around it, but I was told by a doctor at the impressionable age of 14 that I was just that. According to my BMI I was obese. How do you even begin to get your kit off and go play around on the sports field when you feel like a disgusting fat blob, and the doctor has just confirmed it for you? Looking back I was a very normal weight, slightly over maybe, but I had muscle and I was healthy. 

Fast forward to almost 10 years later and here I am. I'm definitely bigger but still healthy, and actually happy for once. It has taken me years of reversing all the damage done by self hate and vile comments from others for me to be where I am today and I'm quite proud. That being said I could be a lot healthier and I know that.



So now is the time to fix the damage that all those bags of quavers have done over the years. But now I have another challenge to face, I am actually quite large. Sports wear is very difficult to buy, not just because the sizing usually caters to slimmer people but because actually going to buy gym clothes is embarrassing. I know the fitting room assistant is thinking I'm too fat for leggings and I know the cashier is wondering if I've ever been to the gym in my life. I just know it, except I don't. I have no way of knowing what they are actually thinking about. More than likely they are too busy counting down the hours until they can clock off to even look at my body. I have to remember that next time I try to pick up some snazzy sports wear. 

For me, the thought of doing exercise now is still as mortifying as it was back when I was at school. 'Will my legs jiggle?', 'Will I be able to do it without getting sweaty and gross?', 'Will everyone judge me because I'm fat?' Those are just some of the hundreds of unhelpful, unwanted, intrusive thoughts that push themselves into my mind whenever I think about trying something new.

The hard truth is that yeah, maybe people will think nasty thoughts about me, and chances are my legs are going to jiggle, my tummy will too, but that's just life. I can't keep letting other people's thoughts effect me especially when 1. I'm trying to better myself and 2. I will never truly know what they are thinking.



Over the last few months I've been making more of an effort to get back into fitness. I've bought a bike which I occasionally ride to work, gone swimming with my friends, tried my hand at rock climbing, and even managed to get myself to the top of the Malvern Hills. It's not been easy, getting into a swimming costume was especially hard, but I did it.

For me half the challenge with fitness is getting into the right mindset to do it, and once I've overcome that, chances are I'll be able to to the activity I've chosen. I'm not as much of a blob as I sometimes think and I always feel so much better after a good workout. You can get back into fitness no matter your size, but it's always better to start sooner than later. 


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GETTING BACK INTO FITNESS WHEN YOU'RE FAT


Dads are so so hard to buy for! It's literally a fact! Okay it's not but really, what do you buy your Dad? They never want new clothes, you've already bought them socks for Christmas (and every birthday since you were born) and they're not into perfume like Mom is...

Well I've got a rough idea of what I'm going to get my dad this year so I thought I could help the rest of you out by putting together a gift guide of pretty reasonable items! Every item featured in this guide can be bought for £25 or under, so there's something for everyones budget. 


Items featured:
- 50 places to camp before you die book £15.99 - http://shopstyle.it/l/LSKb - Bird and Wild Coffee £4.99* - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bird-Wild-Fa... - Lapasa Polo Shirt £11.90* - https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B... - Asos Watch £25 - http://shopstyle.it/l/LSJ1 - Lapasa Boxers £19.99* - https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B079P1MRF7 - Star Wars Mug £8.99 - http://shopstyle.it/l/LSKf Items marked with an * have been gifted to me.

I really hope this has given some of you a few present ideas for this Fathers Day! If you're still stuck Asos has a small selection of cards and gifts just for dads, and if worst comes to worst, I'm sure he could do with another pair of socks? Right?!

What are you getting your Dad this Fathers Day?


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FATHERS DAY GIFTS ON A BUDGET


When was the last time you made yourself something really nice to eat? Not for your partner or the kids, for just you. Can't remember? Neither could I. Now I cook a lot. Most nights a make some yummy meals for Sean and myself, but I don't if I'm just feeding me. If Sean's out I'll make a sandwich or some Supernoodles, who wants to go through all the effort of creating a fantastic meal just for themselves, am I right? But I've thought about that a lot lately and I don't think its a good way of thinking.

It makes me really happy to cook for Sean. I want him to eat well and I want him to enjoy his food. Maybe its a female thing? A motherly instinct? I can't be sure but one thing I do know is that I don't take that same care for myself when I'm eating alone. Its silly when I think about it because if I was single I couldn't live on a diet of crisp sandwiches and sausage rolls (although wouldn't that be fab). So why don't I treat myself to good food?



Well I want that to stop. I'm on a mission to take care of myself this year, in all sorts or ways. I want to eat healthier, do more exercise and keep working on my metal health. I'm in a good place right now but its very easy for all that to slip away. So how am I going to practise this self care? There are so many ways of showing yourself love, from physically pampering yourself to recognising and dismissing bad thoughts when they appear. One of the ways I'm going to start working on self love is by making myself, and just myself nice food. The meals don't always have to be healthy, the afternoon tea I made myself was far from it but my god it felt good to indulge. It felt good to make something delicious, something a bit special, something I've always viewed as a treat, just for me. 

I love a good afternoon tea, like I said they are special, but I think special meals should be a more regular thing. I want to make myself feel special, I want to make myself feel loved. I can't just rely on those around me to show me love, I need to show myself some love. I want to love my body, my mind, I want to be a good person, and I want to be successful. I think all that needs to start by doing simple, kind things for myself. 



"There's nothing a good cuppa can't fix"

They say a cup of tea can make everything better and whilst I know deep down thats not true, I can't help but feel there's something behind the saying. Sipping away on a cup of tea allows you a few minutes to just stop, relax, and enjoy. It wont change anything but the act of creating your perfect cuppa and taking some time to unwind is one very small thing you can do to show yourself some kindness. 

A few months back I was kindly sent some tea to try by Adagio Tea*, a small artisan tea company. I was delighted to accept the bundle as I knew it meant I would have to make more time to sit, and drink, and chill whilst trying out the various flavours. Adagio Tea stock a rang of teas from Green to Oolnong to Matcha and more, they even sell decaffeinated teas for anyone wanting to lower their caffeine intake but not give up their daily tea fix. I've still not even put a dent in my box of goodies but the teas I have tried so far have been delicious. My favourite has to be the Earl Grey Lavender, but there's no surprise there.



Its taken me a long time to realise it, but it really is the little things in life that make us happy. Even the smallest of things like having 5 minutes to enjoy a tasty cuppa or creating a lovely meal for yourself are easy ways to practise self love and thats something I want to focus on a lot in the coming months. 

If you love tea like I do, head over to my Instagram now for a chance to win an IngenuiTEA Infuser, Glass Mug, and a range of sampler sets!

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* This post contains gifted items however all opinions are my own and I would never promote anything I didn't 100% believe in.

SELF LOVE & AFTERNOON TEA


Last week I popped down to the brand spanking new Dirty Martini in Birmingham City Centre. I wasn't able to make it to the opening night the previous week and so I was very excited to see what it was like - I wasn't disappointed. The decor was a combination of sleek city sophistication mixed in with fun pops of colour and the occasional neon light. But I wasn't there to ooh and ahh over the interiors, I was there to make some cocktails!

Throughout my years I have sampled my fair share of cocktails, mostly Mojito's, Sex On The Beach's, you know the usual. I'd also never really tried my hand at making my own other than throwing together a mix of spirits in the hope that it would get me drunk and not taste too horrendous at the same time. It's fair to say I'm a complete novice when it comes to cocktail making and so when I was asked to participate in a class I jumped at the chance.


The class started with popping us behind the bar and giving us a run down of what's what. I'd not been behind a bar before so I was actually quite surprised at just how much is going on over there. Between tiny sinks, ice, chopped fruits, and various utensils there was still enough room to make some fab drinks, and that's exactly what we would be doing next.

The first cocktail we made was called 'Grace's Secret' and no it's not named after me unfortunatly, it is one of three Peaky Blinders cocktails made especially for the Birmingham branch of Dirty Martini. You can't get these cocktails anywhere else, and they are only available until the 31st of May! Grace's Secret is a beautiful blend of Langley's Old Tom Gin, Briottet Creme De Fraise, and Lillet Blanc, these are mixed up with rose syrup, lemon juice, egg white, and delicious fresh strawberries. In between throwing various ingredients around and spilling most of the booze I actually managed to make a very tasty cocktail, one of the tastiest I've probably had in a long while. Although I'm no expert when it comes to drinks, I'd give it a firm 5/5!


The second cocktail we were to make was 'The Tommy Shelby' which is another exclusive Peaky Blinders cocktail. This snazzy little drink includes the staple Langley's Old Tom Gin, Courvoisier VS Cognac, Bold Aperitif, Belsazer Vermouth mixed in with peach syrup, lemon juice, egg white, and a dash of Dandelion and Burdock Bitters. I mostly avoided spilling the ingredients this time and I even managed to shake it up reasonable well too, although I could not do this for a living! It is bloody hard work mixing up cocktails and I take my hat off to the bartenders that do this night after night! So what did I think of The Tommy Shelby? Delicious! Really really tasty and a close second to the previous pink beauty.


We didn't get chance to try 'The Garrison' which is the last of the three Peaky Blinders drinks, but it has the same Langley's Old Tom Gin as a base so I have no doubt it tastes just a good as the others - as for the rest of the menu, well there are loads of other drinks, and even nibbles too, so I guess I'll just have to pop back and try them all another time!

What is your all time favourite cocktail?


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* The cocktail masterclass was complimentary however all opinions are my own.

COCKTAIL MASTERCLASS AT THE NEW BIRMINGHAM DIRTY MARTINI

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