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Do you remember when you were a child? How many best friends did you have? 

I seemed to have a lot of them and I liked them all for different reasons but I always had a “best best” friend who was over and above the most important. From adamantly declaring your best friends as a child to romantic/sexual relationships as an adult - I don’t know about you but I’ve always been of the mindset that you HAVE to make these things work. Because well… You just do!

But what if you don’t?

What if you’re just supposed to have certain people in your life, until you take the next step on your “journey”? 

So many of us try to strain the life out of relationships and to what end? As I get older, I realise that perhaps some relationships are just stepping stones - that support you until the next step of your journey?

Sometimes this support lasts a few months, other times a couple of years and then it’s gone. 

During that time you can be two peas in a pod but then things change and that person, or perhaps you, aren’t the support anymore. 

It’s sad when any relationship ends, but it’s probably healthy. The difference between a romantic relationship (that so often seem to end badly) and a friendship, is that most friendships just seem to fizzle out.

The texts are less frequent, you can’t quite remember the last time you met up, you (and they) haven’t a clue about the terrible date you went on or even your latest work news. And if you do catch up, it’s awkward and it makes you not want to see them again any time soon.

So you find new people to fill the gaps, you begin a new journey or a deeper friendship and then you don’t even miss the other person - they don’t really even pop into your mind anymore. And then you’re not even sad about it, it’s just “one of those things”.

But it’s not a bad thing. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it. 

Not everything is supposed to last a lifetime. 

But it does make me appreciate the people who stick around no matter what. Like my best friend who loves over 100 miles away and who I can go without speaking to for weeks and then spend 3 hours on the phone to her laughing so hard that I cry.

For every “stepping stone” relationship/friendship I’ve had, I’m so happy to have people like her, who are not my stepping stones but are my rocks. I couldn’t be without these people. 

They’re the relationships you want to last a lifetime. 

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I tend to find that the biggest catalyst for change is when the status quo becomes stale and old & you realise that maybe a change wouldn’t be so bad?

It happens in politics, all of the time but what about when it happens to your every day life?

My Catalyst

A year ago, I decided enough was enough. I decided that whilst I had a great job, great friends and an exciting life - something was missing, I needed to do more so I could live properly. That change was to lose weight.

I was never a skinny child, teenager or indeed adult. Part of this was down to the culture I grew up in; part Irish, part Caribbean - food is a celebration, a tasty treat, central to so many family gatherings and ultimately bloody brilliant!  

The other part was that I just didn’t love exercise. I played netball during secondary school but P.E. lessons were the ones I hated the most. In all honesty, my attitude to exercise is much the same now - I’d rather do anything else. 

By the time I got to uni I did very, very little exercise. My alcohol intake increased, as did my consumption of “bad foods”. 

I spent much of early 20s jumping from diet to diet, Atkins to Dukan, living on liquids, taking fat burners, not eating, then bingeing, eating according to my blood type, my astrological sign, how my caveman ancestors ate, cabbage soup… There’s not one fad plan I haven’t given a go because I read that *insert celebrity name* used it and it worked wonders. I even tried that awful baby food one. Grim. 

Changing It Up

At 27, I decided to make a change. It was simple - I wanted to be healthier, I wanted to sleep better and I wanted to feel better.

I’ve never been a “bad eater” I prefer fresh home-cooked meals to takeaways and will pretty much stick to  main meals BUT I do have a sweet tooth. If I had sweets in my house, I will eat them - same goes for chocolate and crisps. 

It sounds simple but I just chose low calorie/low fat versions of what I like to eat - I was still getting pleasure from food but rather than being covered in butter or whatever else, I was just eating well and most importantly going to the gym.

There is not one piece of equipment I enjoy in the gym. Not one. But what I did come to love is that I can compete with myself on the bike/treadmill/cross trainer. If I can go harder, for longer than I did the day before, then I win. I essentially tricked my brain into thinking the gym was a competition.

This mentality helped me to lose 28lbs in about 4/5 months and eventually my busy life in events took over and my travelling for work increased. And I admit it, the gym was the last thing on my mind and the frequency that I went reduced significantly. But this time something was different.

I didn’t go back to my bad eating patterns, I carried on eating healthily and trying to exercise when I could. By simply maintaining a health diet I was able to maintain my weight loss and moreover, I hadn’t lost weight in a dramatic or stupid way so there was no suddenly gain.

New Year, New Kick Up The Bum

After a Christmas where Quality Street was my new favourite breakfast, I decided to step it up a gear. I joined a local Fitness First (on my road, no excuses!) and decided to really focus on my goal of being healthier. By chance, on the day I signed up to this gym I met my personal trainer. As part of my membership I received 2 free PT sessions and thought I’d see what I’d get out of it.

Two months on I’m still seeing my trainer twice a week. She’s incredible. She understands my goals and my body. She knows how to motivate me and make me work harder. And having her in the back of my mind makes me train harder when I’m on my own. 

Personal training is a luxury, of course, but it has transformed my attitude towards to gym - either way I look at it I have to train 2 times in addition to my PT sessions. The weeks when I don’t train on my own are the weeks when I lose nothing or very little. If I don’t put the work in too, I won’t get what I want out of it.

What’s Next?

I probably still have another 50-60lbs I’d like to lose (in addition to the 14lbs I’ve already lost in 2014, go me!) - at that point it will be about maintenance which is probably the hardest part of losing any significant weight.

I suppose I’ve written this blog because there are so many stupid diets around, people who are overweight are judged unfairly and it’s hard to know what to do or how to do it. 

So I’m going to try and update this from time to time with tasty recipes and breakdowns of my gym sessions just in case you want to try and incorporate them into your lives.

Hopefully this all makes sense.

Kira

Before and After of me over the past year

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As I sat on the tube home today, trying not to get annoyed at the girl eating Burger King in an enclosed space, it occurred to me that the people near me hadn’t even heard the news.

They didn’t know that this monumental moment in history had happened.

They didn’t know that we were all equal.

They didn’t know that it didn’t matter who you loved, just that you loved them.

But I knew.

It made me smile all the way home.

We are all equal.

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I do not bake. Measuring things is dry and so I don’t enjoy the precision of baking. So I challenged myself to bake today and here is the result. Modified from a recipe I found on the Guardian website.

Enjoy!

250g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg 

100g light soft brown sugar 

100g dark brown sugar 

250ml sunflower oil 

2 large eggs 

100g ground almonds 

1 large mango, diced 

Preheat the oven to 180C (fan-assisted 160C)/350F/gas mark 4, and grease a 20cm round sponge. Peel and dice the mango, keeping it to one side in bowl.

Sift the flour into a bowl then add the baking powder and spices in a bowl then stir through. In a large mixing bowl, crack the 2 eggs add the oil and whisk. Mix in the sugar and stir until smooth. Add the dry mix in quarters and fold until fully mixed in, then add the ground almonds and mango, fold until combined.

Put the mixture into the cake tin and sprinkle flaked almonds on top. Cook for approx 30mins or until browned.

Leave to cool in the tin then serve.

BOSH!

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This is my moment. This is my perfect moment with youuuuuuuu

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What could have been…

What could have been…

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Courtney Stodden. 17. Madness.

Courtney Stodden. 17. Madness.

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I am not a Blairite. Or a Brownite. Or a Bevanite. I am Labour.

I do not care for any internal factions. But I do care about this Party and more importantly, this country.

I supported Ed Balls for the leadership. And my second vote went to Diane Abbott.

I went to Labour Conference for the experience, not for my career.

I am Labour.

I grew up in Ladywood, a Birmingham constituency where half of the the population are from an ethnic minority and where for YEARS we have had the highest levels of unemployment and JSA claims in the UK.

I am from a family of mixed heritage, I went to University and I now work in marketing and PR for the biggest hotel group in the world.

The reason why my life didn’t take the route of so many of my neighbourhood friends? A life of teenage pregnancy and benefits? Aside from good parenting? Labour.

It’s been a long time since I watched Tony Blair on my TV when Labour won in 1997. Tony and I…. well we had a quite a relationship. Had I been on Twitter or Facebook between 2001 and and 2005, I’m sure I would have been very vocal about Tony. I still am. For much of what Tony did, he made the life of my family better. National Minimum Wage, Tax Credits, building new schools and hospitals - as a girl from a council estate - Labour made things better. But he also made some shitty decisions, decisions that still piss me off now. But this blog isn’t about Tony.

Gordon was a bit different. I really wanted him to succeed. There were times when Gordon really shone, but he is an overthinker - too concerned with the Daily Mail to say what he really wants, slightly removed from reality which led us to the 10p tax debacle. But this blog isn’t about Gordon.

Ed Miliband was never a choice for me during the leadership election. I didn’t really get him, and to an extent I still don’t. I didn’t vote for David for the simple reason that I thought he would win anyway. I was pretty shocked when Ed M won, and a little bit worried. I didn’t really know how he was going to connect with the wider public, how many people even knew who he was before the leadership election.

But I was prepared to support him. Many of my great and intelligent friends had voted for him. I knew there must be something about Ed that could make these great people vote for him and I knew I had to support him.

In the past year, supporting Ed has been a struggle. I find his messaging confusing - I don’t know what he stands for or what he wants to achieve. There are launches that go nowhere and statements that anger most members. He seems to want to destroy our record to win votes, something I will not stand for. 

The reason I find Ed’s messaging so confusing is that his communications strategy seems to be non-existent, or at best extremely poor. As a communications professional, I find this difficult to keep quiet about. We don’t need to write our policies right now, but we can take a stand on issues without creating own goals. 

I want Ed to be a success, but I don’t think his advisors or his team are doing him any favours. At a time when the Coalition are pissing all over the great work Labour did, how about we stop apologising and start criticising THEM, backed up with facts and figures. God knows Cameron hates facts!

I want Ed to be a success because if he is, then Labour are. But as members, we cannot bury our head in the sand. When people who voted for you think you’re doing a bad job, I think it’s time to assess what it is you stand for? Are you still the same man who they voted for? Are you sticking by what you said you’d do or just trying to be more palatable than the Tories? Are you making a difference, winning the hearts and minds to deliver a Labour majority?

We have a year to get our shit together, this country needs a strong and credible leader of the Labour Party, because this country is a better place with a Labour Government.

So, how do you solve a problem like Ed:

  1. Don’t be scared to take a position - sitting on the fence just gets you splinters in your arse. We are not Liberal Democrats.
  2. Remind the electorate of the good stuff we achieved - can you IMAGINE no minimum wage? We changed that, we made that happen. Let’s campaign for the Living Wage.
  3. Remember, the electorate consists of more than just families - hey Ed, the single and employed need love too. Concentrate on making messaging more inclusive.
  4. Show us some vision - show us Britain in a positive light, show Britain how we can achieve this under a Labour Government.
  5. Don’t try to please Daily Mail readers - they will never love you. We don’t need Tory-lite policies.
  6. Employ new comms strategists - they’re not working.
  7. Remember your members - these are your foot soldiers, they are the people who week in and out get our on that doorstep. Give them something to tell the residents in their local area, don’t piss them off.
  8. Hold as many ‘town hall’ style meetings as possible, leave the attendees feeling as though you’re a human who answers their questions properly, not a politician avoiding them.
  9. Test your messaging - A New Bargain is hard to sell, Labour can do better. Labour must do better.
  10. Win.
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Hair. There are very few women, save for the Nicole Scherzinger’s of the world who are happy with their hair.

I’ve never been truly happy with my. I am 26 and I have been chemically straightening my hair since I was 8 (not uncommon in the Caribbean community). When I initially had my hair straightened, it was luscious and long but after time, breakage happened and I could not really ever grow my hair past a chin length.

I have long been after the Holy Grail that is “good hair”. To understand the trials and tribulations black women are willing to go through, I would recommend you watch Good Hair, a documentary by comedian Chris Rock. Chris gives great insight into the madness of lacefronts and finger waves and demonstrates just how far black women in particular will go for “good hair”.

But it’s not just an issue for black women, in fact most women spend an awful lot of their income on their hair: highlight, cuts, blow dries and treatments - this all equates to billions and billions contributed to the UK hair industry. We are all on the hunt for “good hair” and it’s not likely to stop any time soon.

I buy lots and lots of hair products - I considered taking a picture of my bathroom but I didn’t want to come across a little crazy. I have tried most ranges from the cheap (heyyyyyyyy Revlon Flex) to the more expensive (Kerastase, TIGI, Philip Kingsley) , I’ve had bonded extensions, clip ins, short hair, curly hair, red hair, black hair, blonde highlights - I am a hair treatment addict.

I’ve recently stopped chemically relaxing my hair, it was a hard decision but I just could not cope with the chemical burns or weeping scalp any longer. If you’ve never had your hair relaxed, I probably wouldn’t ever bother doing it. It is a truly horrible process, no one enjoys it and it starts off a vicious circle that is hard to break free from. But despite all of this, my pain and suffering has always been worth it for straight hair.

I’ve now discovered Brazilian Blowout and am no longer dependent on what is known as “creamy crack”. Before having a Brazilian Blowout (which I do myself, at home) I would have been genuinely horrified to stop relaxing my hair, even with the burns and breakage - I could not even BEGIN to consider what a nightmare my own, natural hair would be to deal with.

A Brazilian Blowout is a branded hair smoothing treatment, there are lots on the market but none work like BBO. Firstly, with other treatments you have to leave your hair without washing, putting it up, even putting it behind your ear! The BBO is the original and have developed a technique that allows you to pretty much wash it straight after. 

So far I’m loving it, it’s a bit long-winded to do on your own hair - I can’t find a salon that uses this particular product but the results last for 6-8 weeks and make dealing with unmanageable hair much easier. 

I imagine that for the rest of my life, I will be in pursuit of “good hair”, a pursuit that will likely never be fulfilled - I don’t know if that makes me shallow but I feel much better when my hair looks good - it gives me confidence and makes me feel really great. 

Maybe one day I’ll be happy.

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I love tattoos. I love planning them, getting them, watching other people get them, seeing other people with and the artistry involved in creating them.

I like to think I am liberal when it comes to body modifications (although I can’t get my head around tongue splitting), everyone does it for different reasons - some to make a point about individuality, sometimes it’s a rite of passage or just sometimes you want to remember a loved one.

I got my first tattoo when I was 18, I could have had one before that but there was something special about waiting for me. I went into a tattoo shop, looked on the wall and chose a tattoo that I felt was pretty (but not too girly). It cost me £40, it’s on my right ankle and I loved it. Then a year later, I decided I wanted another one, this time an Om on my right wrist - £50.

After that I decided I wanted a lily on my foot. At this point I’d watched quite a bit of Miami Ink and was starting to understand how great custom work could be. My boss at the time designed my tattoo for me and I went back to the first shop to get it done. £60 and a whole lot of pain later - top of my left foot.

It was at this time I realised I wanted something bigger and better. I became a little bit obsessed with tattoos, in particular Japanese tattoos. I knew I wanted a Geisha girl, in a garden surrounded by tranquility including a cherry blossom tree and I knew I wanted it on my back. I found an artist who was based in Birmingham, who understood what I wanted and left him with my cuttings and print outs of the kinds of tattoos and imagery I liked.

I have my first 3 hour session then left it a year before I went back. My back tattoo is one of the most beautiful things I own and I am incredibly proud of it.

Finally, I have just added a new floral tribute to my mum on my inside left arm. It’s colourful and striking and even though it’s not healed yet, I think it’s the best one I have.

Very few people in my family have tattoos, very few of my friends have anything beyond a small tattoo - certainly not to the extent that I do. I don’t really know why I have the tattoo bug, why I regularly trawl through tattoo websites finding inspiration through others work. But every time someone sees my tattoos, I always seem to get asked the same series of questions - some bordering on rude, others are just hugely interested in why a “girl like me” has them. So here are my attempts at answering the most frequently asked questions:

What will you do when you get old?

Well, I will get saggy and wrinkly just like everyone else - just that my saggy and wrinkly bits will be a bit more colourful. None of us will look good at 80, why worry about it now.

What will you do when you get married? Your dress will be ruined by all those tattoos?

I don’t live my life wondering about how I will feel about my body on a day that I don’t even know will happen and I certainly couldn’t care less if my dress won’t match my tattoos. Hopefully they man I end up marrying will love me and my tattoos and our friends and family will care less about my tattoos and more about sharing an important moment in my life.

How much does it hurt? 

Hard to say really, it’s not comfortable but I don’t find it too painful. Certain areas are worse (spine. foot) but that could just be me. I know people who can relax to the point of napping during a tattoo. I am not one of those people. If anything, I hate sitting in the same position for a long time over the pain of the needle.

What does it feel like?

It’s a bit like scratching your skin when you’ve burnt yourself to me, shading in particular feels this ways. 

How long does it take to heal?

Depends on the person, I heal in about 4/5 days usuallt, some people take up to 2 weeks. Keeping your tattoo clean and moisturised speeds up the healing, I’ve used lots of different healing creams: savlon (no), vaseline (no), sudocrem (defo no), Preparation H (not great) and then I discovered Bepanthen, used sparingly it is the best remedy for a tattoo. It’s cheap too!

How much do tattoos cost? 

As much as it costs! I came across a quote years ago that sums up my feelings: "good tattoos aren’t cheap and cheap tattoos aren’t good" I pay £70 per hour for mine and I think that’s a great price to have people who are passionate about what they do, give you a piece of art that lasts a lifetime.

What tattoo should I get?

Get a tattoo that you want, that you’ve thought about for ages and are happy with - you’ll have it until you die so why not think it through and get something meaningful.

I’m sure there are more but these are the ones I always get asked. Let me know if you have any further questions.