Women's Equality Party Conference

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As soon as I signed up to go to the Women's Equality Party Conference earlier this year, I knew I would want to write a blog post about my experience. I also knew it was likely to be a hectic and intense weekend so I decided I would blog as I go and see what happens as when I write about an event after the fact I always end up missing out vital bits.

Friday 25 November

05:30 - It's my day off and somehow I'm getting up earlier than I normally would. When I booked my tickets I really didn't consider the fact that if the coach is leaving Victoria Coach Station at 9am then I have to be at Victoria Rail Station by 8:30am at the latest. Luckily I had the sense to pack last night so all I have to do this morning is brush my teeth, shower, dress and put some make-up on.

09:00 - And we're off! I made it to London in plenty of time so I popped into WHSmith to pick up a magazine for the journey and stopped off at McDonald's for a spot of breakfast. I've got just over five hours on here, but I've brought plenty to keep me busy. I decided to get the coach instead of a train because it was £11 for a return ticket instead of around £80. It takes quite a bit longer, but I think you'll agree it's worth it. 

15:00 - Made it to the hotel. I do love a Premier Inn. The beds are so huge and comfortable. And I've got it all to myself! I've got about an hour before I need to leave for the venue so I think I'll have a little lie down. I may have taken lots to do on the coach, but I ended up feeling travel sick so books and magazines were not my friends. 

17:00 - I've registered and picked up my conference pass and programme so I'm good to go. I'm volunteering with the registration team at 6pm so I'm going to miss the start of the evening, but it's a good way for me to meet to some of the other people attending the weekend. Right now though I'm off to grab some dinner from one of the many food stalls that are available.
19:00 - The amount of people coming to register has started to slow down so Celia has let us finish our shift early and go to watch the speeches. First up is Sophie Walker, Leader of the Women's Equality Party. Next we have Justina Kehinde, a spoken word artist. Finally we hear from Catherine Mayer and Sandi Toksvig, co-founders of the party. Their speeches are inspiring and informative and I don't feel like I'm at a political party conference. I feel like I'm a Girlguiding event like so many I've been to before, surrounded by guiding sisters who want to change the world.

23:00 - I've just got back to my room. I had no intention of staying for the Open Mic Night as I knew I was going to be tired from the journey and wanted an early night so I would be raring to go on Saturday morning. It was Sandi Toksvig's fault. She made me! At the end of her speech she said, "Dare to this weekend do something you haven't done before." So what did I do? I decided I was going to go up on stage in front 1,500 people and talk about my passion for Girlguiding and the work we do to give girls and young women a voice. I don't know what possessed me, but I did it and it was amazing! While I was waiting for my name to be called and I was shaking more and more, I just kept thinking back to sixth form where we had to do an assembly to the whole school. I planned and prepared it with my partner, but I bottled out of actually going on stage and reading it out. I've always regretted not seeing it through and now I feel I've redeemed myself. I can't even remember what I said. I like to think it was really profound and inspiring, but I probably just rambled.
Saturday 26 November 

- I set my alarm early so that I could have breakfast at the hotel before leaving. Pancakes and crumpets, plus I wrapped up some pain au chocolat to take for lunch. Slimming World would not approve, but I'm away for the weekend so it's time to treat myself. It's really, really cold out so I wrapped up warm for the walk to the Metrolink. There are so many steps in Manchester! I've already been to the to the bar and asked for the random request of a cup of hot water so I could make my lemon and ginger tea with honey. It turns out I was not the first to do it so I don't feel as strange now. Sitting here picking my workshops for this afternoon while waiting for the day to kick off. There's so much to choose from and I wish I had a time-turner so that I could go to all of them.

09:45It's great to see Girlguiding represented as Liddy Buswell, one of our Advocates, sits on the panel of the breakout debate 'Building a man's world: how WE can shift the balance.' I am always so in awe of our younger members who have the confidence and knowledge base to do something like this. I wouldn't have been able to at their age. 

12:30 - For the first time at a party conference, a panel of senior representatives from the Lib Dems, the Conservative and the Green Party have taken part in a cross-party debate on collaborative working. And I missed it! I've heard it was refreshing to see and provided a glimpse of what could be possible for the future. I'm trying to see if it's online anywhere. I made sure I wasn't going to miss this though. Sophie has taken to the stage once again for her debut conference leadership speech and by the end there's not a dry eye in the house. "Equality is better for everyone, only when it makes space for everyone." Sophie has also asked us to call, email or tweet our local MP to ask them to vote to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and domestic violence on Friday 16th December. I'd like to ask now that you do the same. If you don't know who your local MP is, you can find out here.
13:30 - Change of plan for this afternoon. I had planned out the six workshops that I wanted to attend, but I went into the first one and it was so crowded that I couldn't actively take part as much as I would have liked in the half an hour we had. I decided to go for a wander and have found myself on the mezzanine overlooking the main hall where there are talks going on all afternoon. I doubt I'll stay here until 4pm, but at the moment I'm learning a lot. 
16:00 - I decided come back to my room for a couple for hours. The conference is closing at 5pm to prepare for tonight's comedy fundraiser and if I'd waited until then to leave, I would have had about ten minutes to chill out before needing to leave again. At least this way I can get some bits done. I've made the rookie mistake of getting under the covers to warm up. I won't want to go back out at this rate.

00:00 - Just got back after an amazing night at the Comedy FUNdraiser. Hosted by Sandi Toksvig with stand-up from Jenny Collier, Ada Campe, Cally Beaton, Yuriko Kotani and Sara Pascoe, I think I can attribute the pain in my side to laughing so much. It's either that or the dire buffet that the venue put on. The comedy line-up was followed by music and dancing until late, but me being the sleepy, bed-loving type that I am decided to quit while I was ahead and come back to the hotel.

Sunday 27 November

09:30 - So glad I was able to sleep in later today. I arrived at the conference a little late this morning, but I don't think I missed too much. Today is all the party business and discussions. This is the part where I feel I have a lot to learn about politics and the processes and procedures.
12:30 - Business, business and more business. We've already voted on the motions relating to our Constitution and now we're debating and voting on our core policies. We're also welcoming the new members of our Steering and Policy Committees who we voted for yesterday. It's not as varied as yesterday's programme, but it certainly isn't dull. We're helping to shape the future of the party and even when we are disagreeing, there is nothing but respect for others in the room. 

16:30 - I can't believe it's over. As everyone was leaving I decided to go and thank Sandi for the little push she unknowingly gave me on Friday night. I told her that her words had given me the courage I needed to get up on stage and she said, "You see, you can do it! And next year I want a motion from you." I'm not sure I want to commit to that Sandi.
18:00 - On my way home after a fantastic weekend. I'm not due to get back to London until gone 10pm and then I have to get the train to Swanley and walk home. Don't tell anyone, but I'm wearing my PJs under my coat (it's no worse than the time I went to Guides with my PJs on under my Leader uniform) so I can just brush my teeth and climb straight into my bed when I get in. I didn't even bother with make-up today as it would've have been just something else to do when I get in. Starting to wish I'd booked tomorrow off work, but I'm going to try and have a nap on the way home. My brain has so much it needs to process. I've been a member of the Women's Equality Party for over a year, but this weekend has felt like it was just the beginning.

Countdown to Christmas: Five Weeks to Go

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35 SLEEPS UNTIL CHRISTMAS! It's been a crazy busy weekend, but I've loved every moment of it.

Earlier this year Mum and I received free tickets to go to Simply Christmas at ExCeL in London. I’ve been to a few ICHF (International Craft & Hobby Fair) events in the past, but never a Christmas themed one so I was really looking forward to it. I got up and put on my red skirt, a black top and tights with my Uggs and completed the look with my Christmas pudding hat. It may look a tad ridiculous, but it is so warm!
I knew the show was going to be busy and crowded, but sometimes you've just got to step out of your comfort zone. Last time I went I made a mental note to get some steel cap boots to protect my toes from all the people who took wheely suitcases for their purchases (I am being 100% serious!), but I still don't have any so I had to keep my fingers crossed and my eyes open.

I have to say I wasn't that impressed. It wasn't nearly as Christmassy as I was expecting it to be and I'm sure that there weren't as many exhibitors as last time. It wasn't a total waste of time though as we did get a few bits. While Mum was loitering at a dress making stand, I went to investigate the nail art and ended up buying a glitter tattoo kit. I may have to take it to our work's Christmas do and attack everyone with it.
As well as the tattoo kit, I got a thimble so hopefully I can sew some of my guiding badges on to my camp blanket without pushing the needle through my finger, a Cinnamon and Orange candle which smells just like Christmas and a Magic Clip which means I can keep my hair out of my face with a little more style that a boring hair tie.

I was also drawn to a stand full of snow globes. I've always wanted a one and these were made even more beautiful by the fact that they were musical. Mum and I saw one that we both liked and the base had a snowy Alps like scene on the base which reminded us of Switzerland so Mum got it for us. It's now sitting on our mantlepiece and I just keep wanting to shake it and wind it up.
Just to break up the Christmassiness (it is a word, trust me) a little, last night Mum and I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I was a little worried that it wouldn't have the same magic as the Harry Potter films, but it was A-MAZ-ING! From the moment I heard that familiar intro music to the very end. I won't say anything more about it as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who may be going to see it, but I will say it takes the phrase "living out of your suitcase" to a new level. The magic truly lives on! I have now developed a crush of Eddie Redmayne and I can't wait for the next one to come out. When is the next one coming out?!
The Christmas theme continued today. Today is exactly five weeks until Christmas which means it’s Love Actually day. For anyone who hasn’t seen this Christmas classic, the film starts five weeks before Christmas and it’s kind of become a thing that I sit and write my Christmas cards while watching it. After spending the morning book folding, I grabbed some snacks, my Christmas planners and box full of cards, address labels, stamps and gold and silver pens and settled down in the living room in front of the fire.
I won't be sending them out until December, but at least they are all done and ready to go for when the times comes. My next Countdown to Christmas post will be in two weeks time when we will be putting up the rest of the decorations to join our new snow globe and the Christmas tree book fold which I did as a demonstration at Girlguiding Croydon's Crafty Gifts Day last weekend.

Becoming Gloriously Graceful

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So I’ve become a Younique Presenter. I’d been thinking about it for quite a while and I finally took the plunge at the end of September.

Having moved home back in January, I’d had a major declutter and thrown away most of my cosmetics. I desperately needed some new make-up, but I dreaded trawling around the shops trying to find what shades suited me best. It’s like shopping for jeans. I hate it! Or I should say I used to hate it.

They say that people come into your life for a reason and that’s certainly the case with Lou, one of my best friend's sister-in-law and a Younique Presenter. I sent her a message on Facebook back in April and told her that I really needed to start from scratch and she was so helpful. She suggested starting with the mascara (us Y-Sisters love our 3D Fiber Lashes), but what I really wanted was a foundation that didn’t feel like it was sliding off my face after a couple of hours. She told me about her favourite, the Touch Mineral Liquid Foundation. “You only need 3-5 drops and it develops like a powder,” she told me. Sounded good to me!

We chatted about make-up for a while and I mentioned I’d love to have a party, but it would be difficult because my friends live all other the place. Lou said that wouldn’t be a problem as we could hold an online party over ten days and my friends would be able to join in from the comfort of their sofas. Perfect!

The online party was so much fun and I loved finding out about all the products and the tips and tricks that Lou had learnt during her time as a Presenter. At the end of the week I didn’t buy the foundation. I bought a collection that contained a variety of products (including the much anticipated foundation) and a cosmetic bag. I now had a basic range of products to get me started.
It didn’t end there though. Lou had gotten me hooked big time. When she came into my life, she became my make-up dealer! Over the following months I bought more products including a brush set so that I could really experiment with some different looks.

Lou asked me a couple of times if I’d like to join her team and at first I wasn't sure. I’d been a Pampered Chef Consultant and a Phoenix Trader and wasn’t very successful at either. I wanted to do it, but I didn’t want to waste her time. I can tell you exactly when I changed my mind though.

Following my online party, my friend Emmi asked Lou if she would do one at her house. We had so much fun trying all the products and while we were acting like teenagers at a sleepover, Lou told us about the origins of Younique.

Derek Maxfield and Melanie Huscroft, a brother-and-sister team, founded Younique in September 2012 with a mission to uplift, empower and validate women across the globe. They wanted to help women who had been sexually abused as children or adolescents by hosting them at a special retreat and educate parents and empower them to protect their children from sexual abuse.

They had a mission finalised before they even knew what product was going to fund it. Eventually they came up with the Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes. That was their first product and Younique just grew and grew from there. The products are now available in ten countries and the UK celebrated its second anniversary last month.
I was lucky enough to attend one of the UK second anniversary events at the London Palladium with Lou and our other teammate, Sandra, and it was amazing! We heard from Melanie who told us what I’ve just told you, but with much so much more enthusiasm and passion than I could possibly portray with words on a screen. We also heard from Tori Poulter who presented a video with an update on The Haven Retreat. And we heard from Kizzy Harvey, an Exclusive Black Status Presenter, who overcame being cruelly bullied as a child to start her own successful Younique business. She made me laugh so much. If she ever gets tired of make-up, she should become a comedian. She’s an absolute legend! As at any birthday party, we received a goodie bag which contained a Splash Liquid Lipstick and Splurge Cream Shadow as well as some samples of the Detoxifying Face Mask. It was a truly inspiring afternoon and I left feeling excited about my own little venture.

I’ve been a Presenter for nearly seven weeks now and I love it. I’d had parcels from Younique before, but the excitement when I received my Presenter’s Kit was something else. It only cost me £69, but contains products totalling a value of £175. Shades included vary and contents are changed from time to time, but here’s what I received in my kit:
1. Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes+
2. Moodstruck Addiction Shadow Palette 4
3. Angled Shadow/Sponge Brush
4. Royalty Shine Cleansing Cloths
5. Splurge Cream Shadow in Extravagant
6. Cream Shadow Brush
7. Splash Liquid Lipstick in Sentimental
8. Lip Bonbons Tinted Lip Balm in Red Velvet Cake
9. Royalty Sampler
10. Foundation Sampler
11. Blush Sampler
12. Bronzer Sampler
13. Pigment Sampler
14. Lip Gloss Sampler (Set of 10)
15. Lip Stain Sampler (Set of 7)
16. White Status Charm
17. Black Oval Presenter Case
18. Presenter Guide
19. Catalogue

I chose the name Gloriously Graceful for my business as I wanted to relate it to this blog in some way. My confidence has soared in the second half of this year and I believe my little tiny corner of the internet has helped to do that. I don't think I would have been able to do it before this blog. It was only after I registered the domain and had a logo designed that I realised it was truly meant to be. One morning I was putting my make-up on and the name on the primer caught my eye. Glorious.
To find about more about the products visit me at on my Facebook page or at www.gloriouslygraceful.co.uk. You can also find out more about the amazing works that The Younique Foundation does here.

Countdown to Christmas: Seven Weeks to Go

It happens, I think, at the final firework on Fireworks Night when you have the finale and the smoke clears and you see all the women going "Christmas!"
The first time that we watched Michael McIntyre's Christmas Comedy Roadshow a few years back, he said this line and Mum just looked at me and said, "That's you!" I didn't even try to deny it because, you see, Christmas is my favourite time of the year. 

Last night was Fireworks Night which means I am officially allowed to start thinking about Christmas. I've been thinking about it for months, but now, NOW, I can start doing it openly. This blog is the first in a series of Christmas themed posts that you'll see over the coming weeks culminating in one post every day for the Twelve Days of Christmas. Not quite sure how I'm going to fill twelve days yet, but I'll think of a way.

Today though I thought I'd start with my Christmas Favourites which I promised last month. This could take a while so go and grab a hot beverage of your choice and a biscuit selection tin (that one you bought for your neighbour will do - plenty of time to buy another) and settle down for the long haul.

Busy B Christmas Planner
I do love a list and this beauty allows me to keep all my Christmas related lists in one place for FIVE WHOLE YEARS! There are four sections for cards that you have sent and received, gift ideas and a place to note what presents you get, menu planning and recipes and general planning. There's also a tear off notepad at the front ideal for Christmas shopping trips. I've added to it recipes that I've found on the internet and in magazines and it's also been a handy place to plan our work's Christmas do.
Christmas Playlist
I have a playlist on my phone that I add to each year. I could be watching a TV programme or film and there's a Christmas song in the background that I love so I Shazam it. It doesn't matter if it a different version of a song I already have; if I like it, it gets added! It mainly gets played in my car on the journey to and from work, but it's always to hand if I feel the need to hear the sound of sleigh bells and children's choirs.
Recipe Books
I've got a few Christmas specific recipe books that I absolutely love. Season's Best is an old one from when I was a Pampered Chef Consultant and my favourite recipe is the Turkey & Cranberry Ring. It's perfect for using up Christmas leftovers and so easy to make. The other two books I have are from Slimming World. One is A Slimming World Christmas and the other which came out last month is Slimming World's Festive Feasts. Mum and I are usually away for Christmas so we probably won't use them much, but they're always handy if we decide to entertain guests.
Festive Stockings Cutlery Holders
Months ago I saw these amazing stocking cutlery holders and fell in love. One of my friends gave me an Etsy voucher for my birthday so I used it towards buying several sets. I had visions of using them for a lovely Christmas meal with my Rangers, but since we don't have a kitchen at our hall, I doubt that will happen. Instead I will take them to my dad and stepmum's for Christmas Day dinner.
Phoenix Trading Christmas Box
During the year my Christmas box is a safe place for my Christmas Planner, recipe books, cutlery holders and whatever other Christmas treasures I can fit in. I also tend to keep a couple of Yankee Candles in there so that I'm hit with that Christmas scent when I open it. As the festive season approaches and everything starts going on display, I use it to store my Christmas cards, stamps, gold and silver pens, gift tags and twine. I like to keep my gift wrapping very simple by using brown paper and festive twine and sparkly tags.
Christmas Tree Decorations
You may think that I am the type of person whose tree would have coordinating baubles and tinsel, but my hanging decorations are actually an eclectic and mismatched ensemble. It started when I left home and took my Hogwarts decorations and an angel that my godmother gave me. They looked a bit odd with matching baubles from Wilkos so instead I set out to find as many different decorations as possible. I even painted some during a trip to the local pottery cafe. If I go somewhere and see a decoration I like then I get it and it reminds me of where I've been, like my Minnie Mouse shoe from Disneyland.
Harry Potter Decorations
I know, I know. These are also tree decorations too, but they are so lush that I thought they deserved a special mention. I bought these off eBay a few years back. they weren't cheap, but they come out every year and my love for Potter will never die so I saw it as a good investment. I need to go on a hunt to find them though as I believe they ended up in a box that went in my Dad's attic when I moved and not in a box that came home with me.
When I was younger Mum used to go Christmas markets in Germany and bring back the most wonderfully different things. This has always been my favourite. The heat from the candles spins the propellers allowing the pyramids to turn. Ours was damaged by Ben, our mischievous Cocker Spaniel, who we lost over ten years ago. At one time I wanted to try and get new propellers for it, but seeing the chew marks reminds me of him so as long as it works, I'm happy.
Disclaimer: This is not our one. Ours is in the
loft because it's not December yet. Humpf!

October Favourites

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Apple Store
Sometimes you just don’t want to take your laptop out with you to meetings or trainings because it’s too bulky, but you want a bigger screen than your phone to work with. Why am I trying to justify myself to you? I wanted an iPad so I bought an iPad. An iPad Pro 9.7in 32GB in Rose Gold to be precise. And a Smart Keyboard. Oops! But the keyboard does act as a cover too so it’s dual purpose. It was brilliant for watching Emmerdale and Once Upon a Time in bed when my mum was on holiday. I will of course mainly be using it for Younique and Girlguiding trainings though. Not entertainment. Nooooooo, not at all...
Blurt Foundation Print
I am still building up a lovely collection of things to go on my Happy Wall and the latest is a beautiful A4 print from their Winston’s Adventures collection called Playing in the Rain. The Blurt Foundation has an office dog called Winston who is the inspiration behind the prints and I was drawn to this one because of my love of the rain. Now I really need to get myself to IKEA to pick up some frames.
The Christmasaurus
Yes, I know it’s a children’s novel, but it’s written by one of my favourite people and it’s about Christmas so I had to buy it. I also had to go to the book signing and get it signed. I haven’t read it yet. I’m saving it for December when the Christmas vibe really hits, but it’s sitting on my Fletcher shelf (yes, I have a Fletcher shelf!) ready.
The discovery that I can once again fit into a size 12 has led to me going a little crazy with the clothing purchases of late. This month I have bought another set of pyjamas from George at Asda as well as a nightshirt, leggings, skirt (possibly my favourite purchase this month!), poncho and hairbands. I also got some more hairbands from Cath Kidston and a few basic tops, a head scarf and a beanie from New Look. I love wearing beanies in winter and at the moment they are doubling up to hide my fringe which I’m currently growing out.
Disney Store
Last weekend my friend and I went to London and we had a bit of time to kill so we had a quick wander down Oxford Street. I saw the Disney Store and my eyes lit up like a child at Christmas. Even more so when I went in because it was full of, well, Christmas stuff. I ended up purchasing a Christmas Mickey and Minnie, a Christmas jumper and a tree decoration. When I was at the till the cashier wrapped up my decoration to protect it and secured it with a BB8 sticker. I joked that I'd have to take it off really carefully as I love BB8 and so she put some extra in my bag.
Glasses Holder
I nearly bought one of these when I was in Barcelona in May, but I was so tight on luggage space that I didn't bother. When I saw it in Pylones in London at the weekend I knew I had to get it. It's an owl, it's pink and it's useful! What's not to love? He's going to live on my bedside table and look after my glasses at nighttime. 
Light Up Cinematic Message Board
I have wanted one of these for so long and then I saw someone post a pic of theirs on Facebook so I asked where she got it and she directed me to Very’s website. It was only £14.99 which is the cheapest I’ve seen one of these. In the short time I’ve had it, it has been used for inspirational quotes, Younique promotions and Christmas countdowns. I love it! I already need extra letters though so if you know where I can get some, please let me know in the comments.
Yankee Candle
I love a candle, particularly if it is of the Yankee variety. I’ve wanted a shade and tray for the medium and large candles for ages, but I wanted to wait until my room was finished so I could get one that worked with the decor. Ever the difficult person I also wanted one that was suitably Christmassy, but not so Christmassy that I couldn’t have it out all year round. I ended up choosing the Starry Night Large Shade & Tray Set and then proceeded to impulse buy a set of two Medium Jar Candles at the till.
I could not resist the Kudos for October as Younique decided to celebrate the release of their new Splash Liquid Lipsticks buy offering any three shades for £57 and chucking in a Lip Exfoliator for free. I chose the Sizzling, Soulful and Stoic to add to the Sentimental that came in my Presenter Kit. I also got the Opulence Lipstick in Conceited and the Royalty Detoxifying Mask as I’m trying to put time aside to pamper myself more often. Then at the UK 2nd Anniversary event last weekend, we got a goodie bag with Splash in Smashing and Splurge in Happy. 
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