November 2017 Highlights

Things have been awfully quiet around here this year.  Instagram, which links to my blog, suddenly started suggesting I follow everyone I’ve ever been friends with on Facebook.  I had intentionally kept the two separate, using different email addresses etc, and when real-life acquaintances started popping up in my online world, I got a bit of stage fright.  Then I increased my hours at work (to 4 days a week in April and 5 days in August) and it became harder to find the time to blog, and the backlog of overdue and half-written posts became overwhelming.

I thought a good way of getting myself back into the swing of things would be to start doing regular highlights posts.  I really enjoy these on other blogs (Sophie’s weekly ’10 Favourites’ and Alex’s monthly ‘Great Escape’ round-ups to name but a couple) and I hope that committing to posting at least once a month is both feasible and will let me feel a bit more on top of things!

Paris, France - Emma's Picture Postcards


The first and best highlight of November happened the first weekend, which was my 30th birthday.  James and I went to Paris for just over 24 hours, and it was a magical autumnal trip.  On the Saturday evening we visited Sacre Coeur and had a delicious dinner of beef bourguignon nearby, and then on the Sunday we visited the Musee de l’Orangerie and walked along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower and then back to the Louvre and the Palais Royal.


It’s been a good month for my friendships.  We went for dinner at new favourite Byron with my best uni friends Andy, Emma and Pete.  Laura and I went for drinks and to support my colleague at an ice hockey match.  Doro and I caught up via a Whatsapp video call.  I booked a trip to Alicante in February with my year-abroad friends.  And I received exciting baby news which is not mine to share but made November feel extra special!

Autumn - Emma's Picture Postcards

Last of the Autumn Leaves

I’m very much a spring/summer kind of person, and autumn usually fills me with dread as the sun sets earlier and earlier.  This autumn has been quite mild though and the leaves have been absolutely spectacular – October was a blaze of orange and November was a vibrant red.


I quit the gym in March after they messed around with the timetable one too many times, and although I do miss the routine, company and fun of group exercise classes, I definitely don’t miss the monthly hit to my bank account, and I’m proud of myself for keeping a good exercise routine going on my own – particularly in November as the weather took a turn for the wintery.  I’ve been for a run almost every weekend, and when the weather really is too bad (snow, ice, very strong winds or an actual storm) then I’ve been using Les Mills On Demand, which lets me do the same classes I used to do at the gym, but to my own schedule, in my own home, and for £15/month rather than almost £40.  I was just doing Body Balance and Barre at first, but James got me the weights I’d been saving for for my birthday so I’ve now added Body Pump back into the mix too.

London Grammar

I adored London Grammar’s first album and was delighted when they snuck out a new song on 1st January.  I decided to wait for the deluxe edition before I bought the second album, but forgot to actually do so until I got an Amazon voucher for my birthday, so I’ve spent the month immersed.  I do feel it’s missing a more upbeat track the likes of ‘When We Were Young’, but ‘Here’s to the Liars’ is so beautiful it made me shed a little tear the first time I heard the Kolsch remix on the radio, and then again when I heard the original on the album!

Mental Health Progress

Another huge highlight of this month was realising how far I’ve come in improving my mental health.  I might go into this in more depth at some point, but for now I’ll just say that I started counselling in September, and if you feel like it would be in any way helpful to you I 100% recommend just going for it.  The biggest thing I’ve gotten out of it has actually been to give myself credit for the progress I’d already made on my own in trying to think rationally about my feelings and experiences and develop strategies to deal with them.  When I first started, the thought of there only being ten sessions made me feel really panicked, but I have two left now and feel pretty calm.

How was your November?


2017 Bucket List

2017 (Diary from Asda) - Emma's Picture Postcards

I wrote a wordy review last week of my general experiences of 2016 and intentions for 2017, but here’s more of a precise look back at what I fancied doing last year and forward to my plans for this year.  I’ve never really been a New Year’s Resolutions kind of girl, but I couldn’t function without my daily to-do list and I enjoy expanding that to a longer term, no pressure list of fun things I’d like to do.

The 2016 Bucket List (full post here)

What I did that was on the list:

– Went to Skye and Eilean Donan Castle.  These were everything I’d dreamed, and a lovely long-weekend trip.

– Trained for and ran Race for Life in June.  Not only that, but I actually kept it up and then ran the Dandara 5k in September, too.  A bit more on this below, but I really enjoyed running more frequently.  I must admit, I’m a fair weather runner, but I did get out there as soon as spring started to show its face in 2016 and am keen to get back to it soon.

– Did some decorating.  I did take pictures as promised, but I think I was having camera troubles at the time and they’re all fuzzy except for this one, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that we did a good job 🙂  We each have our own little home office in this house and each one is suited to our own tastes now so we’re contented little bees!

Emma's Picture Postcards

Extra things I did:

– became self-employed and started two new jobs.  After a few fiascos and with the offshore industry looking less and less of a wise place to be, I was keen, verging on desperate, to get a job with either the NHS or one of the local universities or councils.  Meanwhile, I decided to see if I could turn my hand to transcription and started freelancing for a company based in London.  As it turns out, I absolutely love it!  I then did find a part-time job at one of the unis, so I’m now splitting my time between the two.  At risk of jinxing it, I’m finding it an absolutely perfect balance.  Both jobs are interesting but in different ways and have their own challenges and rewards.  I find three days in the office the perfect amount of social interaction, while the remaining four days I can set my own schedule of when I want to work, sleep or do other things.  The harder I work at the freelance work, the more I earn, and on the other hand, while of course I’m conscientious in my office job, I can rest easy knowing that I have that secure income each month.

– got into some decent routines.  I got myself a Fitbit in the Black Friday sales in 2015, and realised that the end of the year is a good time for me to establish myself in a routine and feel a little bit rebellious for not doing it in January 😉  It’s helped motivate me to walk a lot more and I upped that into running in the warmer months, plus I’ve kept up my habit of going to at least one or two gym classes a week.  It also helped me work out what sleep routine works best for me, and I’ve realised I’m a real early bird.  I feel best when I’m in bed by 10 and up at 6 – this doesn’t always happen, but it’s the aim, and the difference in how I feel is enough to make sure I keep vaguely to that schedule, even if it does end up being an hour or two later that my sleep starts and finishes.  I’ve learned that I absolutely have to stick to 6-8 hours of sleep though, because if I get more than that, I feel awful and sluggish all day, and if I consistently get less, it’s a one-way ticket to a migraine.  I’ve also been tracking (and upping) my water intake and feel so much better for that too.

– as well as those health-related routines, I’ve gotten into a good routine for keeping myself organised.  I’ve always been a big fan of lists, and for a while now I’ve been writing a daily to-do list with absolutely everything I have to remember on it.  Often this includes everything right down to showering and eating lunch, because it’s not unheard of for 3pm to come and I suddenly realise the reason I’m so light-headed is that I haven’t eaten!  It felt a little bit daft at first, but it really works for me.  It also helped me when I was job-hunting to be able to quickly and easily look back to see what jobs I’d applied for, and to be able to tell James what I’d been up to when he came home from work.  It’s so easy for a well-meant “What did you do today?” to be taken the wrong way when you’re feeling sensitive and dependent!

The 2017 Bucket List

Things I didn’t get to in 2016 but am carrying forward to 2017:

– a trip up Cairngorm mountain on the funicular railway.  A vague plan is already in the works for this, so watch this space!

– Blair Drummond Safari Park

– Edinburgh Zoo

– the Kelpies

New items:

– Footdee – it’s absolutely ridiculous that I’ve lived in Aberdeen for eleven years and never been to one of its most picturesque locations.  Thankfully I righted this wrong the other day and you will soon see the photo evidence!

Footdee, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

– introduce James to my Kiwi friends.  One of my favourite people in the world is a young lady named Erin.  Long story short, she’s from New Zealand, we met in Germany, and she currently lives in the UK.  I’ve seen quite a bit of her and her husband over the last few years, but it’s never worked out for them to meet James – either he’s been away for work, or I’ve visited them while on father-daughter trips to London, etc.  It’s reached the point that there’s a running joke that James doesn’t exist, so I’m hoping to get them up for another visit this year and make the myth a reality.  I may even take them to Loch Ness to look for Nessie too 😉

– explore a new European city (Prague / Venice) or rediscover one I visited in my youth (Paris / Amsterdam / Budapest).  These are the current suggestions but we’ll see.  Europe is our oyster 🙂

– send (and make???) Christmas cards!  This one is non-negotiable, even if I have to start preparing in January 😀

– Last but most random: go to Clatt.  When my gran was a young mum (I’m not sure, but I believe when my dad’s eldest sister was a toddler, so before my dad was even a twinkle in her eye) she lived in a tiny village in Aberdeenshire called Clatt.   She’s always asking me if I’ve been yet, and I haven’t because honestly I think it probably is the definition of a one-horse town, but I actually looked it up the other day and it’s not as far away as I thought, so I’m going to take a little road trip some time soon and take some photos, just because it would tickle her.

What are your dreams for this year?

Sanctuary Spa “Box of Delights”

Sanctuary Spa - Emma's Picture Postcards

It’s safe to say this is never going to be a beauty blog, because generally speaking I’m not one to get excited about beauty products. I barely ever wear make-up, and for anything else, if it does whatever it’s supposed to (cleanse, moisturise, whatever) and smells halfway decent, then I’m happy! Lately though I’ve been using some Sanctuary Spa products that I was given for Christmas and my birthday, and I’m honestly delighted with them. Most of them came in this beautiful limited edition “Box of Delights”, and I’m also going to review the “Daily Spa Escape” Salt Scrub, which didn’t come in the set, but I’m going to include anyway because I only realised that after I’d taken the photos 😉

Sanctuary Spa - Emma's Picture Postcards Sanctuary Spa - Emma's Picture Postcards Sanctuary Spa - Emma's Picture Postcards

Sanctuary Spa - Emma's Picture Postcards Sanctuary Spa - Emma's Picture Postcards

Sanctuary Spa Velvety Hand Cream - Emma's Picture Postcards

First of all I tried the Velvety Hand Cream, which is easily the best hand cream I’ve ever used. It smells amazing, and is very light so it’s absorbed really quickly. Perfect for quickly sorting out your hands if they’re feeling dry, without having to sit around waiting for that greasy feeling to go away. To start with I kept this on my desk at work, but I reached for it so many times at the weekend that I had to move it into my bag so I could use it at home too!

Sanctuary Spa Salt Scrub - Emma's Picture Postcards

Sanctuary Spa Salt Scrub - Emma's Picture Postcards

Next I started using the Daily Spa Escape Salt Scrub. My one and only issue with this is that it’s quite a slippery product, making it quite difficult to get it out of the container, and also meaning I have to be careful not to slip in the shower after using it! I seem to have gotten the hang of scooping the scrub out of the container now, but to start with I kept getting it stuck under my nails, which gave me the heebie jeebies and detracted somewhat from the relaxing spa experience! Anyway, other than my weird discomfort issues, this is a gorgeous product and works really well. I’ve used a few scrubs before including Sanctuary’s orange-coloured ones as well as some by the Body Shop and St. Ives, and although they all cleanse very well, I find they’re a bit too harsh for regular use. This one leaves my skin feeling thoroughly cleansed but also very soft and smooth.

Sanctuary Spa Intensive Heel Balm - Emma's Picture Postcards

I also gave the Intensive Hell Balm a go, and was quite amazed by the results! My heels aren’t often an area that I think about, but I have put body lotion / body butter on them a few times when they’ve been particularly dry in the summer, only to realise I’ve sentenced myself to 10 minutes walking around on tiptoe, waiting for it to dry, all for very little effect. This stuff was absorbed pretty quickly, and it got rid of the hard and dry areas on my heels, without making them tender or too soft.

Sanctuary Spa Radiance Exfoliator - Emma's Picture Postcards

And last but not least, I tried the Brightening Facial Radiance Exfoliator a few times. It has a very fresh lemon scent, and is very gritty, so felt much less a luxurious experience than the other products, but combined with my usual moisturiser it left my skin feeling really refreshed and smooth.

A big thank you to James’s mum, gaining her second mention on the blog by treating me to these lovely products! I should mention as well that I have quite sensitive skin (I’m allergic to washing up liquid, bio detergent etc) and none of these caused my skin to flare up, so that makes them all the better!

Les Mills BodyBalance

Les Mills BodyBalance


This feels like an appropriate moment to say: none of my reviews (so far!) are sponsored or the result of freebies – if I’m lucky enough to do any sponsored posts in future, I will of course say so. But for now, if I gush about something, it’s because I genuinely love it. So with that said, on with the gushing 🙂


As a young’un, I was pretty active. I went horse-riding once a week and did a lot of walking. Then I came to uni, and discovered nights out and lie-ins, and got a part-time job in a call centre, which involved sitting down for hours. And suddenly the muscles in my right leg decided enough was enough. They hurt so much I couldn’t sit through a full lecture without having to randomly stand up, out of the blue, which was a little embarrassing. I went to the doctor and was referred for physiotherapy, and it turned out my hips were slightly out of alignment and my right leg was shorter than my left, meaning it had to work a lot harder to keep up. They’d probably always been that way, but without doing any exercise the muscles had gradually weakened. With hindsight I think the final straw was that I brought my car to Aberdeen in 2nd year, so my right leg was constantly working pressing the accelerator or brake, while my left sat there slacking and occasionally pushing the clutch. Anyway, the physio taught me some stretching exercises to do, for half an hour every day to start with, and then just as required, and I got better.


Fast forward to a few years later, now a proper grown-up with a full-time job, and my gym-loving colleague convinced me to join the nearby gym. I decided to try out the Les Mills BodyBalance class – a mixture of pilates, yoga and tai chi, set to music. I enjoyed it and started going pretty regularly. My colleague came along a few times, and to quote his Facebook status after his first class, “Don’t let the name fool you!” – it’s tough, especially on the abs and legs, but I came out of each class feeling amazing, and found it a little bit easier every time. Sure I ached for a couple of days, but it was a good ache.


And gradually I started to notice myself doing things that I hadn’t been able to do before. Like sitting at my desk for two hours without having to get up and do a little dance around because my back / neck / limbs had seized up. Or like reaching for something in the kitchen using just my arm and torso, rather than taking a couple of steps towards it. I started sleeping better. Basically, I started to feel like a person in her 20s, rather than an old lady!


So yes I would definitely recommend BodyBalance if you can find a class near you. It’s a great work out and quite fun, the music really keeps you going and the instructors know their stuff. I have also tried a Les Mills BodyAttack class, but honestly it was a bit much for me! As well as regular BodyBalance I now run and cycle and do an occasional Step class when I can, but my goal is to keep myself fit and supple rather than to lose weight, so I’m happy to keep it to a fairly moderate level. I’ve also tried a pure yoga class and it was ok, but I find I get bored quickly trying to do any exercise without music to push me on.


Has anybody else tried Balance, or have any other recommendations for me?