At the end of last year I set myself some goals. Little did I know I would get to doing so many!

I never blogged about it, but here's how my goals looked for 2016:



Find a new career πŸ‘
Move to London πŸ‘
Get my hip movement back πŸ‘
Take an acting course πŸ‘
Give my first performance
Try out for my first audition

After moving to London, fixing a place to live and a job to earn some money the next thing on my list was drama classes.

Acting is something I’ve wanted to do for along time now. It wasn't like most of the stories you hear, I hadn't wanted to do this since I was a child, but after turning maybe... 21 it really became a real interest of mine and over the years that desire has just grown and grown.

At first I didn’t know what options were available to me I lived in a small town, with a small community of actors but really no opportunity for adult beginners. Slowly though, by starting online I found recommended books and began reading what I could. I bought DVDs, watched interviews and classes and started to build an understanding of some of the methods, practices and skills needed to act. But still I’d never said a line to an audience.

In 2013, I made my first big step. On my travels across America (I’ll leave links to my travel diaries below), I spent a few weeks in LA and being one who likes to do as the locals do, I got myself an acting coach for a month.

Travel Diaries


(There are more of these I've not uploaded yet. Let me know if you'd like to see them!)

That was a great experience. I don’t think I was great, but I wasn’t terrible, and I came away having picked up a script, memorised some lines, and most importantly I’d pushed myself.

When I came back to the UK however everything came to a bit of a halt, with no classes available in my local area I was back to my books for another few years. Skipping back to today, a career change, a health change (after my big surgery!) and I’m now living in the heart of London with opportunities galore.

I took my first class in my first few weeks, and although I was absolutely terrified (I was so close to not showing up!) I went back to class every weekend for a month and now...well I’m hooked. I’m loving every part of the experience. It’s pushing my comfort zone, my boundaries and my confidence. I’ve done things in the last few months I never thought I’d do. There are times I’ve gone home deflated because frankly I sucked! But that’s ok because everyday I went right on back and I’m working harder all the time. The whole point about doing these classes isn't about finding out that you're already good at something, it's about improving yourself every time you try.



Since my first course a few months ago, I've lost count of the number I've attended since, and in just a few days I'll be giving my first showcase performance. It's going to be such an exciting milestone for me I can't wait.

Who knows where this adventure will go but I can’t emphasise more how important it is to embrace your fears and reach for your goals. If you’re in it for the right reasons the end goal won’t matter, its all in the journey and I’m loving every step of the way.

When I wrote my goals for 2016 I was bed ridden, living alone in a small town with not all that much going on. The likelihood of hitting those goals was pretty slim. But look at me now. I'm hitting goal after goal and I can’t wait to hit the next one – auditions!

If you’d like to know more about my classes, my experiences and advice on finding the right teacher for you let me know. I have a few idea up my sleeve for a blog series and possibly a matching youtube series and I’d love to share more with you. I’ll keep you posted on how it all goes and especially those up coming auditions, but do leave a comment if you're interested!


So have you had any goals this year you’ve been knocking out the park, or anything you’re trying to pluck up the courage to do?
Winter is the best time of year for a cup of something hot and a big ol' slice of something yummy. My all time favourite cake (to bake) has always been a coffee cake. A family favorite, and the first cake I ever mastered when I was a kid I know the recipe off by heart.

But seeing as its Winter and spice is everywhere, I thought I'd try changing up my usual recipe and throwing in some extra treats to make is extra soft and give the coffee a warmer wintery flavour.

After a few attempts, here's my Sticky Spiced Coffee Cake


This cake is one of the easiest fail safe cakes I know. An All-in-One recipe that will hopefully still impress your friends and family.

Ingredients

175g caster sugar
175g self-raising flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
175g room temperature salted butter
50g soft chewy toffee chopped into very small pieces.
3 Large eggs
3 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tbsp instant coffee
2 tbsp boiling water

Icing
225g icing sugar
125g room temperature butter
2 tbsp instant coffee
2 tbsp hot water
1 tsp cinnamon for dusting

Loaf tin
Loaf cake case or butter for greasing
Icing bag

Instructions

Pre-heat your oven to 170°.

Before you start I recommend sifting all your sugar, cinnamon, flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl, then throw in your butter and eggs and mix with an electric mixer until smooth, light and creamy. Dissolve your coffee in your hot water and add to your mixture slowly while you mix making sure its blended through all your mixture, finally add your toffee pieces and distribute evenly through mixture with a spoon.

The toffee will completed melt and dissolve into your mixture inside the oven making it extra moist and rich. If you want to have little chunks of toffee sprinkle them on top of your icing as a finishing decoration.

Spoon your mixture into a greased or lined loaf baking tin and place in the middle of the oven for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean. While you set it aside to cool you can get started on your icing.

First dissolving your remaining coffee into your hot water again combine all your ingredients into a clean mixing bowl until light and smooth. You want to make sure you have no lumps from the butter or icing sugar.



To finish off remove your cake from the tin and cake case (if you've used one) and place on a kitchen towel to remove any excess oil from the toffee. Then when completely cooled place ice and dust with cinnamon.

This cake has just a subtle spice but add cinnamon to your hears content for an even warmer wintery flavour.

I hope you enjoy trying this recipe yourself and as always if you try it be sure to send me photos on twitter I love to see them.
It's the middle of the week and if you're anything like me between work and play you've got a gazillion blog posts to publish and for more reasons that you can count half of them are no where near ready to go! 

When I blogged a few weeks ago about struggling to blog and trying to find my blogging identity I heard from quite a few of you through twitter offering your words of encouragement and support. 

I really want to thank all of you for being such a wonderful and uplifting community, I'm so thankful to be a part of it! 

Well more to the point though, you inspired me to take action so on a search for shared experience I took to twitter to ask all of you 5 questions about blogging motivation. What stops those posts going up and what you do to keep yourself on track (or get back on it!). 

Here's what you had to say:
32% of you said the hardest part of getting those blog posts published was writing them! I found that really comforting. So often do I find myself struggling for the words, or re-writing posts I'd already completed. Finding the angle you're looking for, writing in an engaging way and keeping to who you are can be quite a challenge!

And for some people just mustering that energy to sit down at the screen and start can be the hardest part of blogging.


For me the hardest thing is getting my photos done. I always have so many ideas for posts, and plenty of drafts written but getting the oomph to plan, set up and shoot photos is always the thing that takes the longest. Like Jamie said finding the right lighting in winter is hard too! I know some bloggers invest in lighting so I'm definitely considering it. Do you have any tips for getting your photos done? Do you write your posts first, or take photos first?
It was really interesting to see what motivates people to get proactive with their blog, and responses were really mixed, but it looks like most bloggers swear by a good routine.

I must admit in the past I've been really on top of TheasThinkings when I've had a good fixed routine in place but I find I have to be in the right frame of mind when starting a new one. You don't want to put pressure on yourself when your not ready. It's important to read the signs and trust yourself.

Coming back to photos again! Stocking up on images and ideas it on almost everyone's list! I can't go anywhere without a trusty notebook, plus its a great excuse to fuel my stationary addiction!!!

I was surprised how few people are using spreadsheets though, I admit I'm way behind these days but in my blogging heyday (I'm on the way back!) spreadsheets were my bible. I planned out all my posts, what categories they fell into, I set deadlines and kept a track of what had been done (writing, photos, etc) and what was still to do - It was brilliant!


Does anyone else use spreadsheets, or if you don't would you like to see how I've been using them?


It looks like a lot of people are going digital now too, I'm terrible at using apps, I don't take advantage of half the capabilities of my phone, but you've inspired me to try more. I do keep notes on my phone when inspirations hits on the tube, but that's my lot! I need to get on this!

Well that I found unsurprising, I definitely love to find a cosy nook to write in, but I also love writing in public spaces. The change of scenery and buzz of activity definitely make a refreshing change and kick starts my brain into action!

Well thank you so much to everyone who voted and left comments. We had almost 200 responses in the end which came as a complete surprise! I think I might start doing a regular weekend Q&A about blogging. If you'd enjoy taking part leave some suggestions for a great #hashtag and I'll announce the new hashtag next time!

Final thoughts - If you have any thoughts on blogger struggles and how to keep yourself motivated to keep posting leave your comments in the box below, it would be great to share ideas!

Well hey there, welcome back!

So…did you spot the new logo? Yep, there is it. Quite pleased with it really!


It’s taken a while but over the last year I made quite a few edits to the look and feel of the blog and I really like how it’s shaping up. It’s very much a representation of who I am, but something I’ve always wanted to do was dabble with creating my own logo, or branding I suppose, and I’m really pleased with the way it’s turned out. It’s a nice new look to kick things off again.

I put a grab button together too which is now a permanent feature in the side bar over…there.

But getting back on top of things has been more challenging that I thought it would be.

I’ve taken breaks from blogging many times over the last few years but this is really the first time I’ve ever not known how to start again.

It’s not a writer’s block. Luckily I’ve never really felt unable to think of ideas or create content but I feel like I’ve hit quite a turning point in my journey as a blogger and defining myself, my brand and how I do all of this is something I really don’t want to leap into without a more confident picture or what I’m doing and where I’m going.

What I’d really like to know right now is how many other bloggers have felt this way at some point? If you’ve been through a similar thing let me know did you move passed it? What action did you take, or what decisions did you come to? Did you experience a change in thinking, or branding, or take a new angle with your content?

Let me know. It would be very reassuring to know others are or have gone through this.

For the time being I have lots of content I’ve already written that I’d like to upload so there are posts on the way, but you may (or may not!) start to see some changes around here. Once I figure that out I know it’ll be a great new adventure for the blog.

In the meantime I’m also getting active on the Youtube channel so be sure to go check that out! I’ve started vlogging more regularly which has been a lot of fun, and all the bits and bobs you find here are going to be making there way over there very soon too!

So yes, I’d love to hear about any blogger struggles you’ve had in the comments, and any suggestions you might have to really get my head back in the right place again!

Hi Guys,

We're just going to cut to the chase today because I've lost count of the times I've said "I'm guna start blogging again" and not got back to it, so I wanted to chat with you and explain everything that's going on right now.

It sounds quite ironic following the video update I shared in my last blog post, but I'm hoping you guys will stick around. I know a lot of you are just incredibly supportive so I know you won't go anywhere (thank you), but that wants me to fill you in even more.

The best way for me to do that was to really sit down and chat with you. For a real explanation you can head over to my Youtube channel and watch the full video. 

I've also spoken a little about Mental Health and why I feel so passionate about being open and honest with you guys because - mini announcement - at the end of the year I'll be hosting one of the #TalkMH twitter chats, and I'm really excited. Make sure you're following me on twitter, and for more information all the details are in the video.


A chat - Why I'm struggling to blog




But in short? To be completely honest I'm just not on top of life as much as I usually like to be. Moving to London has been filled with some really exciting new changes to my life but also some tough reminders about myself, and its had an impact on my emotional well-being. So I took a step back.

I want you to know though, I miss blogging like nothing else, and I really want to get back to it. I already have posts written, videos made, and i'm always coming up with new ideas but I'm giving myself a break.

I'm always telling others to not be so hard on themselves and take time to step back and look after yourself. Your mental health is incredibly important, and if you can look after that, the rest will flow naturally.

I hope you all understand and if you've ever gone through a slump, let me know. Leave a comment in the box, tell us your story, or let me know how you get yourself through times of struggle and low self-esteem.

Thank you all for always being so supportive. I'll see you soon, I'm not sure just when, but soon.

A few weeks ago now I let you all know I'd made the big move to London city.

You can find that here, but for those of you who prefer to watch your updates I've done a quick vlog explaining a few things too!



If you'd like to see more vlogs please let me know in the comments as I'd love to start using my channel a lot more to offer you some behind the scenes on Theas Thinkings.

But for now that's all! I have some new blog posts in the pipe line and some videos on the way soon so if you're not following yet make sure to find me on:

and

Lots of love to you all and I'll see you very soon!
OK let's have a catch up shall we? Quick catch up, quick catch up...

Right, well. I plan to let you know in much greater detail very soon just what on earth I've been up to during this magical vanishing act, but for now fear not the blog's not going anywhere, I'm just all scatter brained, please forgive me!

The long and short of things is I've moved! Just a few short weeks ago I was a Welsh tranquil seaside blogger, but in the speedy passing of just a few weeks I've become a trendy (scoff) big city gal, living and loving in London town.

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It's been a whirl wind adventure with much back and forth, plenty of chaos but mostly bundles of excitement.

For many a year I've had life ambitions left untouched but 2016 has become a year of target hitting and list ticking. I feel like I'm whizzing through all my goals and I'm pretty darn proud of my adult life skills at the moment!

I've lived in something of a bubble since...well 2012, four years...far too long and the blog has lived in the bubble with me. It's going to be an exciting new chapter of my life here in the big smoke and I'm excited to see where that takes my blogging and Youtube channel.

I've really missed blogging over the past few weeks and as things settle down into more of a steady rythmn I really look forward to getting back to it, but please bear with my while I iron out the bumps.

I hope I can stick to my usual Monday and Friday blogging routine, and fingers crossed I'll be back to weekly Youtube uploads in no time too, but just in case I'm sending love to everyone out there, and especially to all the lovely ladies and gents on the blogger snail mail list. I haven't forgotten you I'm just navigating new foreign lands. I know you'll understand.

Until we speak very very soon, bye for now!
(or drop by and say hello on twitter!)
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If you read my last post - Does it pay to be kind? - you'll probably know that I've been feeling a little vulnerable for the past few days. Well I'm very much ready to move on from the whole experience so I've spent the weekend focussing a little more on myself and taken time off from all I can for a few days.

Having trial and error-ed some tricks for picking up my mood over the past few days (and years) I thought I'd share a few of the more effective ones that really work for me.

Stepping back from it all.
Sometimes when your in the middle of an emotionally turbulent environment it can't be hard to see the wood for the trees, and its easy to get caught up in it all.
My first and foremost go-to strategy is to take a step back. No need for re-evaluation just yet, simply take yourself out of the situation and try to focus on things that are in your control. (Sadly I know this isn't always possible so that's why we have a few more tricks up our sleeves).
What's currently going on in your life (or not) that you find stress-free, enjoyable, or takes your mind of things?

On this occasion for me the trouble made me feel quite vulnerable around other people and strangers, so I've taken myself away from the social and public environments that are messing with my happiness levels and put more time into my work. Work might not seem like the most appealing option to everyone, and if it's not for you that's OK! Find something else that you can dedicate some time to, but for me it was perfect. Having something I can get invested in and temporarily distract my mind from my worries really helps and also give my brain some time to evaluate and assimilate what has happened subconsciously.

Think of something that would bring you joy and make it happen!
Knowing that there's a light at the end of the tunnel is a great motivator to get the best out of me at work and in life. It's encourages me to get involved in more positive activities, and the more I find myself doing, the more fulfilled I start to feel (and I'm worrying less about my troubles)!

Working to get things done has meant I've hit quite a few deadlines way before they're due, so not only am I feeling more positive but I've also suddenly gained some extra time to fit in some of my hobbies that have been long neglected. With all the extra preparations I'm doing I'm really going to be set up to spend sometime concentrating on my music interests and get some videos recorded for the new Youtube channel.

Your goal doesn't have to be a big one to be motivating. It could be knowing that if you get some work done now, you'll have a work free weekend to decorate the kitchen, or soak in the tub!

Relax your muscles & your mind.
When I get stressed, busy, or I'm generally not feeling myself I forget to take time to myself. It's only when things perk up again that I take a bath and think 'wow it's been so long'. Since I noticed this happening I've made a conscious effort to throw myself in the tub if even I don't feel like I'm in the mood. To me, every drip of that tap it likes a warm, soothing drop from heaven. Feeling the aches and pains sap from by body and my mind is one of the most calming experiences. The only thing that can make the experiences even better the is company of a good book.

Get lost in a book.
When stepping away from it isn't an easy option there are other ways you can distract yourself from the stresses of the situation.
My current problem is going on inside my head so I can't so easily step back from it but I can bury my head in a good book for a few few hours or minutes and forget. A great story can really alleviate those worries.

When you read (particularly fiction novels) you can take yourself away from this world and enter another, but you'll also find it gives your mind the time to do it's own wandering. When I read an engrossing book I find myself really connecting with the characters, I almost feel as if they are my friends, people I know, and though I'm not telling them my troubles it's almost as if we are confiding in each other - the characters with there tales of love and strife, and I with my personal battles to tell. You might also find yourself reflecting on your issues, or finding similarities between your struggles and theirs which can be very therapeutic.

Sleep.
If all else fails Sleep can do you wonders. When you sleep not only are you able to leave this world for the land of dreams for a short while, but it's also that essential time your body takes to re-calibrate, ridding the body (and the brain) of waste and toxins, and finding more of a balance.
You may find that your dreams are not always pleasant, but while your bodies is trying to find balance and remove any unwanted toxins so is your mind. If you experience bad dreams, you are likely going over events of emotions in your thoughts that are not yet resolved, and in processing them you will find that over time dealing with them will become easier and your mind will find ways to resolve those issues and rid your thoughts of those toxins.

Be Thankful.
Though I don't consider myself a religious person (although that's another journey I have been finding myself on of late), I have been purposefully putting aside time each today to be mindful. Mindful of the things I am thankful for, and consciously voicing (even in my mind) the positive way in which I hope to continue.

To some this might be prayer, to others just a gentle reminder to yourself, or maybe even through meditation and positive affirmations. For me I find the most effective way of being thankful is to project my thoughts out into the ether. I'm not talking to anyone or anything specifically, but by offering thanks to something other than myself, I find myself more grateful and appreciative of the things I 'do' have, and am more inclined to keep doing so.
This is something I like to do as often as I can. You don't have to take time out of your day to try, you can even do it on the move, while you're waiting for the kettle to boil, while your walking to your next meeting, while you're sitting on the tube or just before your fall asleep.

At first this process might seem foolish or uncomfortable but the more that I apply it to my everyday I've been finding that my outlook has become more and more positive, for the day ahead, the week ahead, and my future.

These tips may not solve life's problems but they are certainly the ways in which I find it easier to cope with them, and approach life from a healthy perspective.

I hope you find this useful, and in the comments below let me know the tips and tricks you use to cope with tough days.
This afternoon I decided to enjoy my time exploring the park on my new London doorstep. The weather was glorious and people from all walks of life were mingling in the sun, enjoying each others company, playing with their children and taking in the fresh air.

I met some of these lovely people. A well dressed, friendly couple strolling with their precious three year old in the pram. As I walked by, headphones in my ears, they stopped me and asked if I might have change for £20. Being the person that I am, I instinctively sought to help them out. They were a nice looking pair and there was the £20 in his hand I had nothing to worry about. But as money exchanged hands I felt a strong urge to change my mind, but realising the reality of the situation I thought it best not to put myself in a dangerous situation and avoiding confrontation, the money swapped hands, we both said nice things and were on our way.

Of course the £20 was counterfeit. Angry with myself for being so ingenuous, I walked away sat down with my new battered £20 and shed a tear. Through my want to be kind to others I had allowed someone to take advantage of me. I felt incredibly embarrassed.

My walk in the park had certainly come to a very unhappy end. I spent some time feeling incredibly foolish, but I pulled myself together and decided to take action. I went back and without aggression confronted the couple and explained that I knew it was a fake, that it is possible they made a mistake but i wanted my money back. Of course they claimed to have spent it and wouldn't return it. Not wanting to put myself in danger again I did my best to communicate, and I'm proud of my courage to stand up for myself but I was not going to get my money back.

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I find humanity really tests us as times. Despite the confrontation, and my giving them the opportunity to do the right thing, they stood their ground and feigned ignorance with out a bead of sweat or a shred of guilt. I was angry with myself for being too trusting but more so with them for intentionally targeting someone with a kind appearance, and having no remorse for openly robbing someone.

Times like this make me question how much of myself I give in trust and kindness. In all honesty I'm not sure kindness really gets you all that far in life. It won't guarantee success, a good career, fame, money, love or children. In fact I have no doubt you can achieve all those things without kindness.

So does that make me want to be less kind towards others? Well no. Sometimes I'll get caught out and I have no doubt more people with take advantage of that kindness in the future, but I wouldn't give it up. Because although it may not bring me success in any conventional sense, for every time I smile at a stranger, walk someone across the road, or help another person in true need, the kindness brings me the knowledge that for a moment I brought another person happiness. Today I was unlucky but if I can bring even an ounce of warmth to another persons being, I consider my life a success.

Does kindness pay? Not in coins, but in happiness...yes. Yes it does.

You probably know me by now. I love to craft but I like to keep it simple so we can all make a decent attempt of it regardless of previous experience of gadgets around the house. 

So yep you got it we're getting crafty again with this really easy gift bag DIY. Whenever you walk in the craft shop, or a gift shop do you look around and think "pff I could do that?!" well I always get that with gift bags. I mean that can't be that hard right? Well I've made it even simpler for you.


For these gift bags I've made templates for three difference sizes so you can make the perfect fist for your presents and gifts. You can print these out onto A4 or A3 its completely up to you, but make sure to blow them up if you're using A3.

Small 1 giftbag template PDF
Small 2 giftbag template PDF
Medium giftbag template PDF
Large giftbag template PDF

The PDFs are completely free for you to download but please do not distribute them or use them for commercial purposes. If you would like to use them for anything other than personal use and you're not sure please contact me.


So for this DIY you're going to need:


  • A print outs of the attached PDF templates
  • Brown parcel paper or card
  • cocktail stick
  • ruler
  • PVA or double sided tape
  • sticky tape
  • Hessian string in your choice of colours
  • Some tissue paper or straw for decorative filling
  • Your choice of embellishments (optional)
Everything I've used in this DIY was bought from the works and cost me less than £5 with enough supplies for 20+ bags!

When you print the templates you can either make them straight away from the printer paper, or to make gift bags like mine by tracing the templates onto your chosen decorative paper.. Here I'm using brown parcel paper for a rustic look.


Idea: These are totally biodegradable so that's a big thumbs up from me, but if you want to be even more environmentally friendly why not try making these by recycling your old and used gift wrapping? You could even use news paper!

To watch my easy to follow instructions watch the video below on TheasThinkings new Youtube channel!


Basic steps:

For each bag make sure you trace two templates. Cut-out your templates, then fold along all the dotted lines so they are on the inside of your bag. some of these lines will create clear lips for gluing the sides together, and others will create folds so the bags can all be folded flat when not in use.

Before glueing anything together take a needle or cocktail stick and carefully pierce through the circles at the top of the template. This is where we'll thread through the string to create handles.


Now taking your first template put a line of glue or double sided tape on the outer side of the folds and glue or secure onto the inside or your second template. This will keep all the seem tidy and hidden away on the inside of your bag.

Repeat on your second side and the bottom of your bag until all folds have been glued together and leave to dry.



Once your bags are dry you can then decorate them however you like, and string about 30cm of hessian string through the holes we made earlier at the top of the bag.


All you need to finish it off is to add some decorative filling and your present!




If you'd like to see more DIY's you can also try these:

DIY Headboard
Glass Tealight Baubles
Autumn Craft Pompom Pumpkins!

I hope you enjoy this really simple DIY and get creative making beautiful and affordable gift wrapping for your friends and family. Don't forget to tag me in your pictures on twitter using the handle @theasthinkings!


This month has been busy preparing for my travels to London, spending quality time with the family, working on my self, my health, my blog, and the boat! Oh and not to forget launching the big giveaway (there's 4 days left if you've not entered! end 06.05.16) and of course the YouTube channel which I'm really enjoying.


Some of my favourite posts in April were:


My fitness progress in

Fitness Diaries #1 and 
Fitness Diaries #2

Revisiting my Travels in the US with

Travel Diaries | LA Art-seeing

and of course that gorgeous

Lemon Drizzle Muffin recipe
which I'm really super proud of!

There's been so much more that happened behind the scenes though and I've been capturing it all with daily instas, so here's the best from my month in pictures:



If you use Instagram don't forget to follow me @theasthinkings and leave your links in the comments box I would love to see what you got up to last month too!


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