Here’s a confession for you: I suffer from winter blues! Ok, so it’s not much of a confession if you’ve ever met me through winter. But for those online folk/people who only know me in the summer, winter is a tough time for me. I get lethargic, I need more sugars, I sleep more, I hibernate. To be fair, moving to Canada helped a little bit, there’s something to be said about winters that are filled with sunshine, even if it is cold. Anything is better than the gloomy, cloudy winters of England!

Although my issues with winter may not be a surprise to those that know me, it’s still something that I don’t really talk about with many. It’s been a real struggle for me to post on here lately. I felt bad about this, but then I received a beautiful letter from a friend in the UK. I had never expressed my struggles to her, so I was surprised when she mentioned that she was writing because she knew that I tend to get sad at this time of year and letters seem to make me happy. I got a little teary eyed because, ya know…winter, and then I thought about it. Everyone knows that I struggle in the gloomy end of winter and yet I never speak about it. Having dealt with this for years, I, perhaps, have some knowledge on the experience that I could actually share, so, share I shall.

 

1. Be kind

Being kind to yourself is the best way of dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or, in fact, any sadness. Sadness happens, don’t be tough on yourself. Allow it to be there, cut back where you need to and take time to be kind to yourself.

If you’re hard on yourself, it’s just going to make it worse. Criticizing yourself for being lazy or feeling ‘that way’ isn’t going to lift your mood or change the situation.

 

2. Get outside, in the daylight

It’s so tough to leave the house in winter because it’s cold and, lets face it, you don’t want to. Seriously, leaving the house in the winter is the best thing you can do! Get some sunlight on your face, or at least feel fresh air airing out your head. Even if the sun is hiding, there are still benefits to being outside in winter.

 

3. Dress up

Do something for you. I have a bit of a love for cocktail dresses and high heels but I rarely have anywhere to wear those clothes. I don’t dress up often but when I do, I feel awesome. It’s not unheard of for me to just dress up for no reason, or for very little reason. It makes me feel good and I enjoy myself. Find something that makes you feel good, preferably something you don’t do very often and then just do it. Even if I don’t go anywhere and just spend the evening dressed to the nines, watching the TV with a nice big portion of ice cream, it lifts my mood.

4. Eat healthy

I’m not talking about eating 10 fruits and vegetables a day. I really struggle with healthy eating during the winter. I just want to eat junk food (such as the ice cream that made up my breakfast this morning), and I do (I try to be kind to myself about this slip up), but I find it better to eat junk food that I’m making at home, so I stop pretending that I will make pasta sauce from scratch, like I would in the summer, and I’ll buy the pre-made jars of tomato-y goodness, the frozen pizzas and gross frozen lasagne. I hate them all but they’re better than eating out every night and they mean that on those days that I really can’t face chopping vegetables, I have something to eat that isn’t as bad for me as a burger from a fatty take away.

5. Friends, showing love, connecting with people

If hibernation were an Olympic sport, I would be champion. It’s a seriously great talent of mine, however, we all need a level of social interaction and ignoring that just won’t help any gloominess. I spoke here about how I want to make more effort to connect with people and this is partly because I need that social interaction to stay positive. It’s an effort to leave the house and make myself look decent but I always feel so much better afterwards. As an introvert, it’s really easy for me to get overwhelmed and then hide again, so I set limits during winter. I try to fill 2-3 evenings a week with social interaction, whether that be skyping with friends around the world or driving to spend time with my pregnant friend who wants someone to sit with while she organises her nursery.

These work for me and help me feel more sane. What about you? Do you relish winter and snow? What do you do to keep sane during the chilly months?

I love writing cards and letters but knowing where to start can be really difficult, even for those who love words.

Embarrassingly, it took 6 months to post out our thank you letters following our wedding. Dreadful etiquette, I know. Really bad. Some of that guilt lifted when I realised many people don’t even send a thank you tweet let alone a card after their big day, but I digress.

Thank you notes are important. Whether they are sent verbally, through Facebook or through the mail, saying thank you is what makes the world a nicer place to live in and it makes you feel better.

Verbal Gratitude

This is, hands down, the best way to say thanks. It is fraught with awkwardness and the necessity of showing sincerity, two things that are not easy to do.

To sincerely thank someone in person, or, by stretching it, over Skype or Face Time, just remember these simple rules:

  1. Make eye contact.
  2. Be sincere. Don’t make jokes or diminish the gratitude. If you must joke, save it until the end.
  3. Start by saying that you’re grateful/thankful/incredibly happy for XY and Z. Express how it made a difference, why you enjoyed the act and how much the gift meant to you.

For example:

“I am really grateful that you spent last night talking with me after my break up with So-and-So, it meant a lot to me knowing that I still had a great friend.”

“I love you for cleaning the house on your day off, it means so much that you cleaned the areas I hate and that you did this for me! Thank you.”

“Thank you very much for the wonderful wedding gift. It is the perfect, as Husband and I had decided to become healthier before the wedding. Your juicer will definitely make it easier to consume all those exotic fruits that we’re not sure what to do with”

Hand Written Gratitude

Writing a thank you card or letter is really awesome. Especially if it has to go through good old fashioned snail mail. There’s something delightful about receiving mail thats only purpose is to iterate how fabulous you are.

I have a tendency to be incredibly flowery when I write thank you cards, ask any one of my friends anywhere and it is likely they will have received note cards with both inside pages filled with squished writing and gushing words of love. Sometimes, there are drawings. When I feel particularly creative, I will limit words and just make little people express my intention through stick figure dance.

There’s no right or wrong way to write a thank you card, although I would leave the more wordy and elaborate ones for close friends and family.

As a general rule, follow the formula below.

Thank you for + specific action / item + what impact it has on your life / how you will use it

A written card has more impact if its sole purpose is to convey thanks, so leave out the updates, further requests for money and gossip. Just write thank you.

If you want your card to be a little fuller and more ‘robust’, you could elaborate in my detail, focusing on feeling and expressing sincerity.

“Thank you for your friendship over these past years. It is amazing to me that even though we are literally thousands of miles away, you and I have maintained a strong relationship. I know that often we go weeks, and sometimes months, without talking to each other but it always feels as though no time passed at all. You are truly wonderful etc. etc.”

Electronic Gratitude

Ok, so I debated putting this one in. Does saying thank you electronically even count as anything?

I’d like to think it does. Although it’s definitely not conventional and doesn’t have the impact of a handwritten note or verbal expression of thanks, it’s still good for reconnecting, reaffirming gratefulness and connecting with those who you are close with to those who you’ve just met.

Sending a thank you message through any electronic medium is really very easy and should be used as a minimum.

Choose your format properly. E-mail is a safe bet generally, but you could use Facebook/Twitter etc.

E-mail allows you take anything from an informal to formal approach, whereas Facebook and Twitter do mean that some informality is expected. Don’t send anything important via social media, saying thank you for your job interview through FB just sends a bad message. Don’t do it. Just send the physical thank you note card and skip electronic altogether.

What are your go to thank you guidelines? Which way do you prefer to express thanks?

Ok, it’s not a secret. I love chocolate.

Peanut butter, chocolate rice krispie snacks, close up.

And, guess what, the Christmas season is fast approaching and that means one thing: sugar! It also means that people will drop by unannounced or that you’ll feel so depressed about the weather that you will seek solace in that big tin of quality street under the tree (or is that just me?).

My friend in Edmonton gave me this fabulous recipe. Well, it was fabulous, except it involved dark chocolate. No thank you! Don’t get me wrong, I actually really enjoyed her dessert when I had the pleasure of being in the same area of the country, but I do not keep dark chocolate in the house! It’s just one of those things. So, I decided to change it up a bit. I got rid of the dark chocolate, then discovered that I needed less butter and less sugar, therefore entirely changing her recipe. Still, “Thank you, friend in Edmonton”! Without her, I wouldn’t have found my perfect snack for gloomy days.

Recipe for Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Krispie Bites

Perfect holiday treat

Chocolate chip close up

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of rice krispies
  • 1 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup of icing sugar
  • Enough milk chocolate chips to cover

Directions

  • Place the rice krispies, icing sugar and peanut butter in a bowl (if you keep your peanut butter in the fridge, try melting it a little first in the microwave or by just leaving it on the counter for a few hours)

  • Mix them all together.
  • Prepare a baking sheet with a layer of parchment or greaseproof paper covering it
  • Get your hands in that bowl and start making spheres of the mixture, approximately about an inch thick (bigger if you want them to taste more peanutty)
  • Place the balls on the baking sheet and pop them in the fridge to cool. You can also place them in the freezer if you’re short on time
  • While they’re hardening, melt the chocolate (and resist the temptation to eat it with a spoon! Why does melted chocolate appeal to me so much?)
  • Bring out the peanut creations, and drizzle them in chocolate, or dip them, roll them, just get that chocolate on there
  • Pop them back in the fridge (or freezer for up to 6 months) until your guests arrive

Last week, I decided to film my entire doings. Well, some of them. It turns out I’m not so good at remembering and I wasn’t quite at the stage to remember to film everything. BUT film it I did.

Here is my first video!

Tips for your video:

  • Video files are massive, upload regularly.
  • Make sure you have iMovie or another good editing software.
  • Samsung Galaxy 3 (I think that’s what I have) basic camera does not make it easy to edit from portrait to landscape. Choose an angle and stick to it.
  • iMovie takes a bit of getting used, as does figuring all the nuances out. Google is your friend, as are the Apple forums (surprisingly, because I don’t often use those).
  • Have some fun, it’s not serious, it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t work out, and it’s ok not to be perfect.

I remember when I first started using Photoshop. I was appallingly bad, I’m sure that right now I’m not all that much better, but over the last year I have improved from novice to beginner-intermediate and it was worth every effort. I’m sure once I get over the confusion of iMovie and get my head around filming video it’ll become easier for me. Until then, I hope you enjoyed it and didn’t get too nauseous flipping between portrait and landscape.

 

It’s Halloween! Nearly.

I am dressing up and touring the neighbourhood as Cruella D’Evil. Black and white cocktail dress, talcum powder in my hair and wicked make up. It’s going to be fabulous. Presuming the snow stays away and it’s not too cold. Otherwise, I will be going as a sleeping bag.

A few weekends ago, I went in search of a pumpkin to carve. I came back with 5. I thought it would be easy, it turns out that my mum really used to do most of the manual labour for this when I was younger and, therefore, gave me an unrealistic impression of how boring pumpkin carving is! Thanks mum!

Watermelons or pumpkins…you decide.

The Canadian and I spent a great part of last weekend carving 2 pumpkins. There was one large and one small. And both were equally tiresome to clean out and carve. We had 5 pumpkins and I was bored after two. I wasn’t really sure what to do to ensure that the other purchases had been worthwhile. I really wanted to use these for Halloween!

I was doing my daily exploration of blog posts when I came across the Boo pumpkin at Life Over Easy (fabulous blog by the way!). I loved the idea of sticking letters on a pumpkin but I was still a little stumped because I didn’t want to buy letters. In the end, it was going to the pet store, where an overzealous assistant had painted and branded a pumpkin to match the stores logo. I asked her what she’d used only to learn that acrylic paint does a really brilliant job of sticking to pumpkins. What’s better is that you’re not actually wasting pumpkin when you do this. So here’s the last minute idea for pumpkin decorating:

Last Minute DIY Pumpkin Decorating

Supplies:

A pumpkin

Pencil

Black and white acrylic paint

Paintbrush (quite a small one) 

Directions

I started off by searching the internet to get inspiration. Try looking for “Pumpkin Silhouettes”.

After I’d found one that struck my fancy, I outlined it with pencil on the pumpkin itself.

I then painted within the lines, embellishing as I went.

Tip: I found that having separate paintbrushes for each colour meant I could work faster, as there was no need for washing the brush in between colours.

Tip: I loved the dollar store paint because it dried really fast. Nothing worse than getting paint all over the counter!

These are the results, what do you think? Which is your favourite?


We’re going to be hosting a really awesome giveaway this Friday, so be sure to stay tuned!

When I was very little, my mum used to read Miss Poppy and the Honey Cake to me, which is the best book in the history of the world.

We often baked the cake and it was always a bit of a disappointment. It never really looked like the illustration and the taste never quite lived up to what I wanted it to be – not my mum’s fault at all, as she is a rather excellent baker, instead, I choose to blame the recipe in the storybook. Seeing as I’ve been obsessed with food recently , it seemed only right that I fully look up a way to make this bloomin’ honey cake.

Hello Google and Hello Smitten Kitchen. I read her article in depth and realised that I wasn’t alone in bad honey cake experiences. Having finally completed SK recipe, I can also honestly say that it was the best cake I’ve ever made! Just don’t make the mistake I did, it says tsps of cinnamon NOT tbsp! Although, if you do use tbsp, it really doesn’t taste so bad.

We took it to my mother-in-law’s house for dinner and she insisted on keeping it, so I had few pictures to share. It’s really yummy though and a good recipe for some weekend baking.

 A few days ago, I spoke with a great friend in Edmonton who gave me a brilliant recipe for peanut chocolate crisps. They are super dooper easy to make and, if I get her permission, I’ll type it up here, but here’s a sneak preview at the results:

Are you a baker? Where do you get your cooking inspiration from? Are you a recipe follower or a throw things in a bowl and see where it goes person?

What’s a pin? How do I find a board? How do I …?

I love Pinterest and everyone should love it. It’s a mood board. An online mood board,  where I can make wish lists for my mum and The Canadian to look through, a place where I can put crafts I want to do and code I want to learn. all. in. one. place.

So, I put together a little bit of an introductory guide to Pinterest, in true Pinterest style. So, look over it and see the typed out information at the bottom!

Pinterest Navigation

Creating Content on Pinterest

Pinterest Profile Navigation

Finding Content, Boards and People on Pinterest

Exploring Other Peoples’ Pinterest Profiles and the Art of Repinning

My technical skills failed me when trying to upload the above image, Blogger and Photobucket kept resizing the image regardless of what size I uploaded. However, you can find the image in it’s entirety here.

Read on to answer more of your questions about Pinterest…mum, I’m talking to you…


What is a Pin?

A pin is an image that directly links to the source. You can ‘pin’ images to your boards from other people’s boards and, once you get more advanced, you can ‘pin’ images from the internet onto your boards.

How does this Pinterest stuff even work?

So, you know what a pin is, right?

When you pin something you have to immediately categorise it because Pinterest likes neat and tidy. When you first pin an image, Pinterest will prompt you to create a board for it. Pins go into boards. All boards can be viewed under your profile name, and you can view everyone else’s boards.

The idea is that you can then review topics and content of interest for you at the right time, there’s no point pinning your living room ideas with your weekend baking plans.

Pinterest does allow you to create secret boards, but don’t worry about this yet, it’s way advanced!

But, how do I pin things and how do I create boards?

This image shows you an example of boards (at the top) and below that an image of a blown up pin. To find an image you like, search for them and explore peoples’ profiles. Once you find a board of interest (see below) you can click on it, it will bring up all the pins on that board, look through them, find a pin that you like and click on it.

Pinterest will blow up the image for you, so you can see a close up and see where it comes from. You will see at the top of the image that you are able to ‘pin it’ (see the red there?). Once you click that you’re half way there…

A box will pop up asking you which board it needs to go into. If you scroll to the bottom of the drop down menu, you will also have the option of creating a new pin.

Once you’ve labelled it appropriately, press “Pin It” and you’re done!

Congrats, you’ve pinned your first pin.

How do I find your boards (someone’s boards specifically)?

You can find other peoples’ boards by searching for them. At the top of the pinterest page, you will see an option to search. You can type names, phrases and board names. Anything goes in that box.

As soon as you start typing, Pinterest suggests people based on who you are already following, if the person you’re looking for is not there, then keep typing and press enter.

Once the search results come up, you will see a bar that says ‘pins’, ‘boards’, ‘pinners’.

‘Pins’

The content under ‘pins’ will show you only content that is specific to the words you typed. They will be images and you will be able to repin them to your own boards (see above).

‘Boards’

All the boards that match the keywords you put in will appear in this window. This is where you can find some pretty cool boards to follow.

‘Pinners’

This is where you will find profiles. So, if you typed in my name “Hannah Teej”, you would find my profile under “pinners”, by clicking on my name you would be taken to a list of my boards, and therefore my pins.

 What’s the point in following people? And, how do I do it…?

If you’ve followed the images above and managed to pin a few things then you’ll probably want to start thinking about following people.

Following people means that when you log in, you’ll see more of what you want to see.

Once you’ve logged in, Pinterest shows you a screen dedicated to all the people you follow and their recent pins. By following specific boards and people you will see images that are of more of an interest to you and discover more exciting web pages online.

Following people is easy.

Search for people and content (see the above question), when you find things you like, look at the person who pinned it, look over their boards and, if you like what you see, follow individual boards.

If you really like what you see when you’re navigating their profile, scroll to the top of their profile page and ‘follow all’.

Simple as that. Now whenever that person pins to a board that you follow, you will see the image in your newsfeed.

Exciting, right?

==============

That’s that. I am all worded out about Pinterest. But if you need a simplified version of this information, comment below and I’ll answer you questions. I love seeing people on Pinterest, it’s one of my greatest sources of inspiration.

P.S. Mum…get on this!

xoxo

I decided to join in A Beautiful Mess’ photo challenge, which involved 30 days of self portraits. Kind of awkward, I’ve never been a big fan of self-portraits or taking my own photo. There’s something incredibly…vain and self-absorbed involved in taking selfies. Especially every day and especially publishing them…or, so I thought.

Initially, I was a bit worried that I’d come across as weird and that my instagram friends would lose interest, but I persevered. The ladies at ABM had assured everyone that taking self-portraits was a great way to improve photography, and who am I to turn down a free photography lesson?!

I used my iPad and, eventually, my android phone to take the pictures and what was, initially, a really awkward challenge, eventually blossomed into a really exciting project. The Canadian even started asking if I’d ‘taken my photo’ for the day and whether he could see it (I think it’s because he was excited, but deep down I think it’s because it bemused him).

Here’s what I learnt:

1. Everyone has bad face/hair/body/[insert whatever thing you hate] days. 
The best thing about taking selfies was discovering that I had so much to share without having to really be in the picture. This is my favourite picture, taken the day I woke up, unwell and stayed in my pyjamas all day. It was an indulgent day but it was the first time I truly appreciated how great a knee would be for a photograph, and not just any knee but MY knee!

lessons from self portrait challenge

2. Selfies allow for camera play with a subject that’s always available
I love taking photographs. For me, it’s a pretty intense hobby. I take a lot of still life and landscape photographs, not because I hate people but because I don’t get to practice taking pictures of people all that often. The Canadian is not a reliable model and there’s only so many pictures you can take of a cat. Taking part in the self-portrait photo challenge allowed me to make mistakes, try new things and experiment with lighting. They didn’t all turn out great but it was fun.
3. Developing story telling
When I started the self-portrait challenge, I just took pictures of me. That’s it. As the time went on, I realised that just taking a picture of me wasn’t satisfying. My first pictures were taken during mini time outs during the day, but I wanted more. I didn’t want ‘time out’ pictures, I wanted pictures that encapsulated my day, and thus developing a way of telling a story started. Finding ways to include meaning, background and memory in the pictures became my main goal.
4.It doesn’t have to include just you
I tried to keep the photos limited. I wanted to be the only one in them. I mean, it’s called a selfie for a reason. But the more I tried this, the less I liked it. If anyone had to sum up my life in one photo it wouldn’t just be me, there would be others (at least one other) and many cats. So, I stopped trying to limit it and just accepted the presence of other people. Have you ever tried taking a selfie with you and a cat? Now that’s a challenge that would improve photography skills!
5. Be Brave
Take a picture of yourself after you just wake up. Or a picture of yourself with no make up. For me, these are the bravest photographs. Just do it! Two of my photographs are without make up and one involves some serious bed head. These are my favourite selfies from the entire project. I loved having the courage to take them and I loved how much they made me giggle trying to take them. I felt good and I wanted to capture that memory regardless of how I looked. It can be incredibly liberating to take pictures of yourself that under any other circumstances you wouldn’t take.
What are your tips for successful self portraits? What do you do to get over the embarrassment of holding a camera out in front of you?
If you would like to follow me on instagram, you can do so by following this link or searching for @lemonhive on instagram.
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5 ways to improve photography without a fancy camera without a DSLR