In the month of May, accompanied by Berkshire blogger Eugenia from runyourmindfree I will be taking on the challenge to Try20 every day to raise awareness of the health benefits of regular walks and to support Living Streets in their campaign to make cities around People, not cars.

For national walking month, We will be rising to the challenge to get outside and walk 20 minutes everyday to see how adding just a short walk into your routine can improve your health and boost your mood. We’ll both be blogging and I’m going to be weekly vlogging the good days and the bad ones, come rain or shine, and taking you along with us on the journey.

But it doesn’t stop there. Each week in May we’re going to be setting ourselves a surprise twist on the challenge so be sure to check back in every Sunday to find out how we got on and what the next challenge is we have to face.

Just a 20 minute walk every day can not only increase the health of your heart, blood pressure and improve metabolism, but it can boost your mood, increase happiness, reduce stress, and give you a rare opportunity to explore you local area in a way you might not ever experience.

Sound good? Well if you’d like to join in and pledge to #Try20 you can! You can find all the details on the LivingStreets website and pledge to Try20 with us, so come on!




There’s no obligation to do the whole month, Living Streets have plenty of ideas and inspiration to get you moving.

If you pledge let us know – tweet us both at @runyourmindfree and @theasthinkingswith updates, and tag us in your photos on Instagram, we’d love to share this adventure with you!

So with the countdown to May well on it’s way we better share with you our first challenge! In week one I’m going to be taking on the challenge to “Try20 commute”. Make sure you head over to Eugenia’s blog to follow her taking on Try20 and find out challenge she’s taking on for week 1!


I’m really excited (if a little nervous) to get started, but I hope you’ll come along for the ride, and I’ll see you with an update here and on Youtube on 7th May!
The following post I wrote over two years ago - it's amazing how time flies! It was written in a time of struggle and never feeling ready to publish, it got left by the way side. But considering how much time has moved on and how remarkably little has changed, I've decided it's time. My writing style has changed but the message it still so very relevant. So here it is... let me take you back to March, 2015...



Have you ever been in love?

I'm sure we've all felt love in our lives - family, friends, lovers, partners, pets...

Yet when things come to an end we have a bazaar way of placing an expiry date on love - a time after a relationship ends that we should be able to get over it.

Have you ever overheard someone saying "she should be moving on" - "it's been a year, you'd think he'd be over it by now...". Have you ever heard yourself say it?

I have.

Love comes in many forms, in the unequivocal love of a parent and child, in the protective arms of a friend or the passionate arms of romance, in the adoring eyes of a son or daughter, in dreams...

The time is 5:47am.

The time is 5:47 am. It's been two years, four months, and three weeks to the day that she left, and I find myself waking from nightmares thinking "how is it not OK?"

Love has no end date. We think a prescription of work to keep ourselves busy, holidays to take out mind of the work, and a small amount of time should be enough to stop the grieving process.

From my experience, grief is not something that just goes away. You don't wake up one day, fresh faced and ready to face your next adventure.
Grief is an on going struggle (now: almost 5 years on I can still say that's true).

Grief like many emotions comes in waves. Some are little niggles, reminders of better times, others come at you head on with no choice but to ride the current and hope you keep your head above water.

It's been more than two years, and today the weather forecast is for stormy clouds, with bouts of heavy rains, choppy waters, and high tides.

When someone around you loses a loved one, it can be quite easy to assume all will be fine in the long run. From an outsiders perspective, these two years and something months have been such a long time ago, but to me, to the person who lost someone, each one of those months feels like only a minute.

I don't think true love can ever leave you.

While I sit here glancing at the sun peaking over the hills, that statement could not be any more real. I am thankful, that despite the heartache of her loss, and the pains that visit me in my sleep, I've experienced that love. It was and is the most precious possession I will ever have.
It is every emotion wrapped up in one incredibly intense feeling that has pushed me through every one of life's trials, including her leaving and my staying.

Love is such an incredible thing, don't let it go cold, feel it in you everyday and let it power you on.

I know I had love - have love.
National Tea Day has to be one of the most magical national celebrations for lovers of a cuppa wrapped in a blanket on a cool autumn night, first thing on the porch on a crisp Spring morning (well come on we all would if we had one), or tucked up in bed on a lazy Sunday.

Well today is Friday but that means tomorrow's the weekend so all the more reason for festivities. Tea themes festivities, with digestives, and cake, and scones with cream and... I'm getting carried away.

Getting back on track today is National Tea Day and there's no excuse not to get on board. 

Did you know #NationalTeaDay was the top trending hashtag on Social Media in the UK in 2016? Think we can make it the world this year?!

In celebration of National Tea day I've partnered with Hoogly Tea* to bring you a Tea Lover's giveaway!

Founded on the Danish way of life 'Hygge'.

"Hygge is an experience; a year-round feeling of warmth, wellbeing and cosiness."

The motivation behind the Danish ethos of Hygge, Denmark is voted one of the happiest nation year arfter year, and with Hoogly Tea to soothe the body and calm the mind. Hoogly Tea combines Tina, the founder's, love of tea with this mindful Danish concept to create a unique and healthy range of blends, made with luxury natural ingredients.
Blended and Packaged in the UK, they are ethically sourced fairly traded, and soil association certified.

If you just can't wait to win the Giveaway to try that taste of Hygge, you can see the whole range on the hooglytea website.


In celebration of National Tea Day we want to bring you the most luxurious of tea drinking experiences. 

Not only will you win a great selection of hoogly tea's most beautiful and hand picked teas, but you'll also be able to enjoy your organically sources loose tea in the sweetest Manatee tea diffuser.

To enter all you have to do is follow the steps below to get up to 11 entries today! You can also come back every day for extra entries by Tweeting about the Giveaway.

The Giveaway starts on National Tea Day (21 April) and ends at midnight on 19 May.

The lucky winner will be announced on 21 May on theasthinkings twitter account. Be sure to follow so you don't miss it! (Did I say following theasthinkings on twitter gets you an entry? All the more reason to do so!).



a Rafflecopter giveaway



Good luck everyone! Winners will be announced on 21 May on Twitter be sure to watch out for it and a Happy National Tea Day to everyone, have a brew on me!

*This Giveaway was sponsored by hoogly tea. The Diffuser was however purchased personally by Thea from theasthinkings.
Not everyone may know, but as well as Blogging I also manage social media accounts for quite a few bloggers now, and with my services growing I've been curious to see if what management can offer, matches up with the wants and priorities of Bloggers. So with that in mind just a few days ago I ran a Twitter Poll to see just how Bloggers are using Social Media and what they thought about it.

Are we using it to it's full potential?What do bloggers really want from Social Media?What are bloggers using as milestones for successful social media management?

I had amazing feedback with over 400 responses, so I thought I'd share the outcomes with you!

Here's the questions I put out last week:


That seems to fit with my expectations. Lately it's rare for anyone to use just one social media platform but it's clear Twitter and Instagram as still in the lead with Pinterest not far behind, and a few people commenting to say they're now getting a lot of traffic from LinkedIn. It really depends on your genre.


But even though we know the power of social media we still find ourselves not using it as much as we'd like to.




It's also clear to see that while some blogger aren't sure what they're doing on social media a lot really do and they want to engage with their audience which is luckily great.


Blogging in itself can be incredibly rewarding but it's when you engage with your audience and the community that you really find the value in blogging.


Time and knowledge play big factors though, and like the majority of bloggers I too understand the challenge of balancing life, work and blogging. Without management or scheduling systems it can be really hard to keep on top of it, and promote your hard work for people to find and enjoy.


It was also great to see engagement as top priority for bloggers. It can sometimes seem that following is everything online, but the reality is you can have a lot of followers and no one reading your tweets. 


It's far better to grow your audience through truthful and honest interactions and effective promotion of your content through effective photography and clearly linked content, which will have far more impact on your blog traffic and create a far more rewarding experience. 


Time and money are the classic things to keep us from getting the most out of social media and are blogging as a whole, but it's so important to growing your blog.

When I started blogging I really had no idea how important social media was, and in the past few years it's just grown and grown.

The reality is most bloggers simply don't have the time to really utilise social media to it's full effect, I know I didn't when I started! Unfortunately social media services also aren't that available to bloggers so unless you're already a blog with a strong reach you probably wouldn't be able to access any support.

That's really why I started to help fellow bloggers. I decided to take what I'd learnt from the last several years and do something to give back to bloggers who might not know how to utilise social media, might not have the time because of work, family and life commitments, and more than likely don't have the funds because let's face it most of us aren't making enough money to survive from blogging alone!

That's how I came up with my budget packages especially for bloggers and small business owners. With budget packages from £5 a month and bespoke packages from £1 a day I wanted to make something that could actually help bloggers take their social media to the next level.

Since then I've worked with tens of bloggers some on an on-and-off basis and more staying with me month after month. Some lovely bloggers have also written testimonials:

"Since Thea has been managing my Social Media, I have seen such a HUGE increase in engagement levels not only on my Social Media channels, but also on my Blog as well. I love working with Thea, and I hope we can continue to work together for the foreseeable future".@misssmiley32

"As someone who works full time having the time to organize content and promote my blog on Twitter regularly is something that can be quite a struggle to maintain. Because I work such long hours and work more than one job, having an organized individual like Thea schedule and promote my content on scheduled days each week is quite honestly a life saver. I run several projects outside of blogging and Twitter scheduling can take up so much time so this has given me the freedom to dedicate more time to other projects. Not only is Thea organized but she is understanding, dedicated and committed. I have seen my social media following grow and reach new accounts who might not have seen my profile otherwise@Faded_Spring

It's been such a rewarding experience for me and I'm so glad to be able to support bloggers build their social media and in turn watch their blogs grow.

I also offer advertising packages now!

If you'd like to work with me please feel free to read the page and contact me on theasthinkings@gmail.com.

What's been your experience of using Social Media? Do you take full advantage or wish you could be doing more? Let me know in the comments, and thanks to everyone who took part in the poll!

Gift giving - some people love it and some people loathe it. I am of the former category.

I just love giving gifts to my friends and family. I've been known to be working on a gift idea for years before finally finding what I'm looking for - but once you've found that perfect thing, the fun comes in the wrapping. Picking out some chic paper or maybe some fun washitape, getting your creative flare on can be the best part of gift giving.


But wouldn't it be great if you're gift wrapping was more than just paper to throw away?

What if you're gift wrapping could be a gift in and of itself?

Well over the years I've been experimenting with re-usable gift wrapping and I want to share one of my favourite DIYs with you. Not only are they re-usable, but they can be fun, beautiful and a great way to give old things new life.


Inspired by Furoshiki, the Japans art of cloth gift wrapping, here's my tutorial for making your very own cloth gift wrapping just in time for Easter!


For this DIY you're going to need:



  • Some unwanted white material
  • Fabric Dye
  • A Marker
  • A plate for a template
  • A metal sink or wash basin
  • Scissors
  • Ribbon (1cm thick)
  • Needle and thread (matching your dye)

How-to:
1. First make sure your material is clean. Then using your marker pen draw around you plate twice. Before drawing I'd recommend putting down a dust sheet to make surer you don't mark your surface through the material.


Tip 1: Don't go out and buy something new. Find something old lying around the house. I used an old bed sheet that had seen better days. Dying it will give it new life, and it won't cost you a penny.



2. Next simply cut out your circles and we're ready to get dying! I used a rotary cutter - a god send, but normal scissors work just fine. Make sure to cut inside the marker pen so there's no marks left on your circles.

Tip 2: Use assorted plates to create smaller and larger gift wraps. I made 10 out of one sheet!.




3. Now to give that material a new lease on life. To dye your cutouts make sure you read the instructions on your dye packet carefully. I want to use lots of colours so I'm measuring out just small batches of each of these Dylon fabric dyes*. I left them in to stain for about an hour to be safe, and after a rinse left them out to dry.


4. If you'd like, you can repeat this with your ribbon in your choice of colours. I chose a white ribbon which I think adds that Easter/Spring time look.  Next you want to iron your circles just to give them that finished clean look. Don't worry if they're frayed we'll be dealing with that next.




Tip 3: Be sure to make sure you're using cotton or silk. Some materials won't die. I learnt that the hard way when I cut up an old 100% polyester fitted sheet the first time round...gutted.


5. To make your Gift wrap, you want to take two circles the same size, and placing them face - to face you want to stitch around the top edge leaving about a half centimetre hem. Before you complete the circle you then want to reverse your material so the correct side is now showing and finally close up the whole.




6. Then below your stitch line you want to take your scissors and cut horizontal slits into your fabric roughly every 2cm being careful not to cut across any of your stitching.

7. And to finish of. Thread your ribbon through the slits weaving in and out to create a drawstring-like tie and an extra touch to your gift. Draw the ribbon and tie in a bow to cut to size.




It couldn't be more simple, but makes for such a sweet gift wrapping! I've chosen colours especially for Spring and Easter, but you can choose whatever colours you like and maybe even experiment with some tie dye effects.




Just wrap your gift, tie it with a bow, and you've got a gift in a gift. Let your loved one keep it and use it for trinkets, let them re-use it and pass it on to someone else or maybe make it a special wrap you always use for that one person and make it a treasure with many fond memories to come.




I like nothing more than a gift that keeps on giving.


I hope you enjoyed this simple DIY and try it yourself, and let me know in the comments if you have any DIY's you'd like to see this season.

*This is not a sponsors post, all ideas are my own. Dylon dyes were kindly gifted to me by Dylon.
Release Date 6th April!


Blurb

The sequel to the bestselling YA debut from international phenomenon Cecilia Ahern...
When we embrace all our flaws, that's when we can finally become PERFECT.

"There's the person who you think you should be and there's the person who you really are. I've lost a sense of both"

I'm Flawed.
But I'm a survivor.
And I'm not about to give up..."

This sequel is the perfect follow on from Cecilia Ahern's bestselling YA Debut of 2016 - 'Flawed'. Following the life of the young Celestine, living in a dystopian society where ideals are strictly upheld and punishments are fierce. 

In 'Perfect', Celestine finds herself in hiding and on the run, but will she get caught? Filled with plot twists, adventure, action and a smidgen of romance, Cecilia tells a gripping tale of one young woman's fight for freedom. Will she escape this perfect world, or will she find perfection in her flaws?


With this new novel also comes the chance to take the test yourself! Are you perfect?
I tried the game to find out and...

Well innocent old me was convinced I'd come out on top but I got branded!
The Guild has judged me FLAWED with a morality score of 30% and a sentence of 4 brands...ouch.

If you'd like to take the test and find out how perfectly flawed you are you can give it a go yourself.

Would you rather be perfect or branded flawed? 
PLAY THE GAME


The Review


And so to the review...I'm not normally one to read Young Adult fiction. I consider myself a little bit passed it now...she says in her later 20s (early life crisis?!). But being a fan of Cecilia's other works, like P.S. I love you, when I was offered the chance to review the sequel to the best selling novel 'Flawed' I was more than happy to give it a try and I'm pleased to say it opened my eyes to the YA genre.

Celestine is a young, intelligent girl fighting for equality and against the branding society has put on her. Despite her kindness, determination and brilliant personality she still finds herself doubting her abilities and her place in the world. Regardless of your age as a reader she's a character that's immediately relatable to all of us.

From the off I found Perfect and incredibly smooth and easy read. The writing moves with a quick pace and keeps you gripped from start to finish, I couldn't put it down. In total honesty I was worried - I hadn't read 'Flawed' and I'm usually a stickler for starting at the beginning but I really didn't need to worry, the book is a great read in it's own right. Despite my limited knowledge I never felt lost or left behind, Cecilia has a way of writing that keeps you filled in without being overly indulgent by repeating too much from the previous book - Something I really appreciate as a serial series reader.

Broken into small bitesize chapters, Perfect makes for an easy 417 page read. If ever I had 5 minutes to spare I could pick it up, speed through 3 chapters and carry on with my day (although lets be honest I stormed through it in a matter of days, I didn't want to put it down).

I think we can all see how the standards of the morality court also reflect the lives we live as well. Perfect may be set in a dystopian world, and the punishment of branding may be more fierce, but I'm sure we've all felt unjustly judged at one point or another by our peers or society around us. And when the lines between good and bad aren't so simple as you might think, even you or I might be branded flawed in Celestine's world.

Well the game may have branded me four times for being Flawed, but now I've finished I'll keep my brands. I'd much rather be flawed than perfect.




Author bio

Cecilia Ahern resides in Ireland and is the award-winning and bestselling author of many novels, including P.S I Love You and Love, Rosie - both of which were major motion pictures. FLAWED, her Young Adult debut, was the bestselling new YA title of 2016, and this is the much anticipated sequel.

Release day is 6th April. If you'd like to purchase the book you can do so here.
And if you've already been lucky enough to get your hands on a copy let me know what you thought in the box below - but remember - no spoilers!

#Ad - This is a sponsored book review. All content, thoughts and opinions are my own.
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