When someone tells me my shorts are too short, or I exercise too much, or my look is to fake… I go MORE, BIGGER, BETTER! Because there is just too much female judgment in this world- we are so critical of the women around us that we fail to look at ourselves. And I know because I was like that myself- such a big tangle of envy inside me that ate away and made me judgmental and bitchy. And I decided to stop casting my own doubts on other people but to cast them back on myself.

When I wore this outfit, I had a concerned comment from a lady: "just to let you know, you can see your bum. I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be like that..." Errrr... HELL YEAH!!!

When I wore this outfit, I had a concerned comment from a lady: “just to let you know, you can see your bum. I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be like that…” Errrr… HELL YEAH!!!

And you know what I found? Not a girl who was better than everyone else, but a girl who didn’t think she was good enough. And so I made the decision to not take what I was given but to get what I wanted- whatever that was! I started exercising, I changed my wardrobe, changed my makeup, and I started pole dance. Who knew how big the changes would be after I started this big old wheel in motion… and the journey is only just beginning… I still have a long way to go but my God have I come a long way already!

My inspirational Pole teacher Bea and I The love, support, encouragement, community, and all round girl power that comes from Pole dance overwhelms me!

My inspirational Pole teacher Bea and I The love, support, encouragement, community, and all round girl power that comes from Pole dance overwhelms me!

And if I can do it, anyone can do it, no matter where you come from physically or mentally, no matter what your personal journey is, the biggest and most important decision you’ll ever make is simply to commit to yourself and show up to your own life! Go find your light- find your own sparkle! Who’s with me?! GGIIRRRLLLLLL! POWWWWERRRRR!!!

This is way harder than it looks! But give it a go, work hard, try, fail, try again, succeed!

This is way harder than it looks! But give it a go, work hard… try… fail… try again… and eventually succeed! The things in life that are hardest to come by are definitely the most worthwhile.

With Love, Girl Power, and absolutely No Judgement whatsover!

Gem xxx 🙂 <3

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A Big Change!

Last time I was here, I lived in Manchester and worked in Afflecks Palace … BUT… For the last five months and counting, I’ve been living in Berlin! Yup! A different country, with different people, a different language, different climate, a different way of life!

My second day here!! Mit Mama auf dem Reichstag <3

My second day here!! Mit Mama auf dem Reichstag <3

It’s been a bit of a crazy time, I could hardly keep up with my own brain, (in fact some days concentrating so hard on learning German actually makes my head hurt), there has been such a headache of  bureaucracy to wade through, (just spelling that word makes my head hurt!), and when you combine the two: trying to figure it all out in a language of which you know a handful of words, well, you can imagine!

But… here we are now, in a pretty apartment in a vibrant neighbourhood, starting to feel a part of our local community, and less intimidated by this vast, overwhelming, creative, and fun city!

 A bit of Berlin Wall

A bit of Berlin Wall

I can’t begin to describe 5 months in one little blog post- of course I said I would, and I should have, blogged about the experience from the moment we got here- but the writing and the sharing got neglected while I struggled to find my new feet…

It took me a while to realise though, that the future is now, and that I will never find my feet, I will never know it all! And I decided not to let my life’s story write itself, or even be written by someone else. And I decided to write, to share, even to write something dumb that I would regret just so I could make a mistake. And I decided to give myself the opportunity to do, to try, to fail, to learn!

The View from my Kitchen (My old view in Manchester was of a carpark!!)

The View from my Kitchen (My old view in Manchester was of a carpark!!)

I have no idea what the next few months will bring, but I managed to deal with the last few months, and I feel proud of myself for getting to where am I now. Berlin holds so many secrets and opportunities that are yet to be discovered, enjoyed, and shared!

So here’s to a happy and successful Autumn for everyone… and may life be as vibrant and transformative as the colours of the season!

With love and strength 🙂

Gem xx

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What Not to Wear?

I often hear the following argument about women who wear revealing clothing. That those women are purely advertising themselves to the opposite sex, “showing off the goods”, “putting it out there”. Whilst those who wear more discreet clothing, who cover up their bodies, are “keeping men wanting more”, or adding an “air of mystery”. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to work on the basis that the argument is being made about the former, by the latter.

Whilst we can start out by calling up this argument on being judgemental, accusatory, and hateful, and for assuming heterosexuality (why always just to appeal to the opposite sex?) there are two big problems that I have with this sentiment that rarely seem to be called out.

First. Let’s look at the woman who’s showing off her body. Why is it assumed that a woman wears small clothing in order to tempt someone into sex? Why do we prefer to believe that a woman can’t think for herself enough to make a decision on what she wears without simply wanting to appeal to other people? As a woman who once hated her body, and as a woman who has previously believed and worried about all of the archaic bullsh*t that exists around what a woman “should” look like, I can tell you straight. I dress for nobody but myself. I worked hard to get to a place where I actually like the way I feel. I exercise and I eat healthy- it’s good for my mind and my body. I personally like the look of a toned torso, I aimed for it, and now I believe I have a right to exhibit it, because it makes me feel good, and not because it makes anyone else feel good, or bad, or indifferent. Please do not assume that I did all of this in the insecure hope that a man would like me and want to have sex with me.

Second. Let’s look at the woman who isn’t showing off her body. The claim here, is that by covering up some of the more “provocative” areas of the torso, this woman is adding that air of mystery that begs the looker to want to see more. Tell me if I’m way off here, but is this not the very thing that she’s accusing Ms. Skimpy of? Dressing purely in order to attract? Be it through obvious or subtle means, we’re talking about the same side of the coin here.

Personally, I choose not to judge. If you want to wear overalls or a bikini, I have no problem with either, and why on Earth would I? I don’t mind if you choose to dress in order to attract, though I do happen to believe that dressing for yourself is far more important, and if you’re really bothered, it’s also more attractive in any case.

Wear whatever you want to wear, with pride, and confidence, and respect, and for yourself. And let the vague, hypocritical, opinions of others wash over you!

With Love💟, Peace✌, and Strength💪 Gem

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The Wonderful World of Afflecks Palace

17 years ago, I turned up at the surfwear shop round the corner from my house in my pretty little home town to start my first day at work. As a teenager, I was thrilled to be working my first independently won Saturday job, and one that I considered pretty cool at that, in a ski and surfwear shop. Now, 17 years and 30 jobs later, I find myself not exactly catapulted up the career ladder, scooping ice cream for a living. This sounds like the start of a rather miserable story… and yes, it has had it lows… but I’m pretty damn happy with things as they are, right now.

I have had almost as many jobs as I’ve had years of life. I’ve worked with bewildering beaurocracy. I’ve worked with mind-numbing middle-management. I’ve worked with enough bitchiness and back-stabbing to turn a person into a paranoid, emotional, nervous wreck. I’ve worked through such intense tedium and so little mental stimulation that I have actually spent days counting domestic aircraft travelling along their flight path on the horizon from the view from my desk. I’ve been paid to complete tasks that are so menial that my very soul was constantly teetering on the verge of destruction. I’ve worked through the night sustaining myself on alcohol and chocolate to get to my 5am home time. I’ve been the scapegoat, the complaint-absorber, the odd job girl, the office bitch, the newbie, time and time again and I have the World’s largest collection of “Sorry you’re leaving!” cards.

And I even spared you the detail… you got it summed up in a paragraph, whereas I actually lived this for years and years. I was there! And time after time, I’ve become so disillusioned with horrible job after horrible job that I’ve lasted a couple of weeks, a couple of months… half a year if I was doing well. But the rent had to get paid, right? So every time I quit, I had to scrape myself back up, and get back out there with my pile of vastly-condensed CV’s ready to go onto the next awful place of work. After a while I really lost hope, both in myself and in humanity. Were all jobs, and all employers, just awful?

One miserable job-hunting day, as a complete one-off, I took my CV into an ice-cream bar in Afflecks Palace in Manchester’s “newly trendy” Northern Quarter. I didn’t think much of it, other than “this seems like a pretty fun place to work…!” 15 months down the line (and my longest period in one job!) and I’m now running the Ice cream bar Ginger’s Comfort Emporium nestled in amongst the wonder that is Afflecks Palace.

Our Sunny Corner

Our Sunny Corner

Afflecks is a wonderful, quirky maze of independent, individual shops, all owned and run by creative and inspirational people who want to do anything but be normal. I consider myself pretty lucky to be situated as we are, on the first floor in a lovely bright and sunny corner and surrounded by the most wonderful and friendly colleagues a person could ever hope to see on a daily basis. My job is as rewarding as it is calorific, I take immense pride in providing my customers with whatever they seek- be it comfort, reward, rest, or just a delicious treat to brighten a dull rainy day! I chat to people about the World, about food, about Manchester… I listen to their stories and their problems, I make friends, and I have so many people now who come back time and again for a coffee and a chat! I like to think that people leave my little corner a little lighter of mind, if a little heavier of buttock.

A typical day at the office!

A typical day at the office!

And then beyond my corner, there’s Afflecks. Afflecks the people, Afflecks the community, Afflecks the creativity, Afflecks the rebellion, Afflecks the open-minded non-judgmental anarchic expression of humanity, things that are mostly associated with the ballsiness of youth, but here in Afflecks, embraced by all. Bold and honest as the Afflecks spirit is, it does not shout its beliefs at other people, or enforce agreement or support. Afflecks is happy just being Afflecks, regardless of other peoples opinions. It takes time to get to know this place and the people in it. And the longer I spend there, the richer each moment becomes, my learning grows exponentially, and I feel more and more capacity for love and acceptance.

Spreading the Love...

Spreading the Love…

In the past, I struggled with other peoples judgment of me. Even people whose opinions I really trusted criticised me to the point that I didn’t allow myself to just be… me. It was easier to avoid the controversy that came with being myself by staying quiet, as I hated causing trouble and constantly sought peace. I am a poledancer, I love looking trashy, I love pink glittery hotpants, I am smiley and happy: and yet these integral elements of being Gem cause people to criticise and abuse. But in Afflecks, I get the opposite reaction, I’m positively rewarded for being myself, and I face ciriticism on days when I haven’t made as much effort to be bold! And it carries on outside… Afflecks fills us up with enough confidence and encouragement to carry on being ourselves even when we face abuse outside of its protective walls. I never got that when I did data entry for the City Council.

Bit of splits practice on a rainy Monday! Obviously.

Bit of splits practice on a rainy Monday! Obviously.

So while my bank balance and my CV aren’t improving vastly right now, my soul certainly is. Screw the corporate world, screw feeling indifferent day in day out, and screw conforming to what makes other people comfortable. In Afflecks you don’t merely exist: you experience. You don’t watch the clock waiting for life to resume at 5pm, life happens contantly: both when you’re there and when you’re not.

Afflecks is peace, power, passion. Afflecks is all of us. Afflecks is me.

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Walkin’ for charity

My Nanny Barbara was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about 10 years ago, which slowly claimed her physical health, her mental health, and finally her life back in March this year. So in May, our family walking team completed the mammoth 26 mile Clun Valley Challenge to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research.

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And we had the best weather, almost too good considering the physical exertion, but it was sunny and dry all day!

The walk was just gorgeous, the most beautiful route, and yes, it was very very challenging. Our ascent totalled more than 4500 feet, those last hills are hard work when you’ve already walked 20 miles, let me tell you. Though I think the downhill towards the end was the most difficult… Ooh those knees!

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I was so impressed with our team, a 26 mile hill walk is no mean feat. My parents are so freakin’ fit, it’s astounding, not only are they both, well, old enough to be my parents 😋 but last year my dad had full-on serious-times open heart surgery. And would you believe that his only problem on this walk was his knee??!

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I'M NOT TIRED!!

Even lil’ Stimpy took part, and completed 21 miles, he was still full of beans after my uncle picked him up and I’m sure he could have done the full marathon distance.

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Gem & Stimpy

Our Clun Valley Factoids!

Distance walked: 26 miles
Total Ascent: 4800 feet
Time taken to complete: 11 hours
Money raised for Alzheimer’s Research: £1079.98
Number of blisters: 3 approx (amazingly!)
Sandwiches eaten: 23

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Choo choooo! 🚂

We had a great day, we raised some serious money for a really worthy cause, and Nanny Barbara would have absolutely loved that we did this and had a super fun time!

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The final leg

Big walkin’ love 💟 Gem 💟

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Holidaze!

Last week we were in Ericeira, in Portugal, in the sun… Ahh, happy times…

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This sea got WILD!

This place had the BEST sunsets…

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Sunset over the Atlantic

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Misty sunsets

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Ericeira's favourite tree

And such a chilled vibe (yeah I used the phrase chilled vibe. What of it.)

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Ericeira nightlife

Many cobbles, many places to eat fish, much vinho verde, and many little dogs (Stimpy, FYI, stayed with my folks, and by all accounts had a totally awesome time)

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Socks being knocked off, hairs being put on chest

And aguadente! WOW. This stuff is strong (they made it here as the Italians make their grappa)… but of course they didn’t make it (Nudge nudge wink wink etc)

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Mmm... Wine juice

Think I’ll just stick with sangria, ta.

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Trams + graffiti = Lisbon

And a little stop in Lisbon before our flight back. Man that city has some serious nightlife!

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That lopsided horizon is doing my head in

The viewpoint is one of our favourite places in Lisbon… Coffee and a view / beer and a view – me please!

Now it’s time to enjoy the autumn in the UK, I love this time of year! Orange leaves, enjoying snuggly warmth, and currently looking forward to Halloween! Oh no, of course I don’t wish I was still in Portugal….

Big love xxxx

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My year so far in pictures…

PEEK-A-BOW!

PEEK-A-BOW!

I got new bow tattoos!

18 miles down, 8 to go...

18 miles down, 8 to go…

We walked 26 miles for Alzheimer’s Research, in memory of my Nanny Barbara who died in March this year. Even Stimpy walked 21 miles, and could have done the whole thing if I’d let him! I was especially proud of Dad, who walked the whole thing not 2 years after his heart surgery.

The best bit of the walk!

The best bit of the walk!

We truly earned that pint…

Bye Bye Buddies

Bye Bye Buddies

Our friends Alex and Rob left the UK to move to Australia…

"Say chee... Ahhh, fuck it."

“Say chee… Ahhh, fuck it.”

Joe and Jamie came up with the same pose they use for every picture they are in together…

WHAT IS IT?

WHAT IS IT?

Stimpy was confused.

LADDDZZZZZZ

LADDDZZZZZZ

Joe went on a mental stag do in Ibiza for Ed…

Night before the wedding drinkies

Night before the wedding drinkies

Which thankfully still resulted in a wedding…

Don't even ask.

Don’t even ask.

But also resulted in this.

Gay face

Gay face

Gay pride happened in Manchester…

Gay dog

Gay dog

Even Stimpy got dressed up for the occasion…

No, for the last time, you can't eat the knitted one.

No, for the last time, you can’t eat the knitted one.

I got a job scooping ice cream at Ginger’s Comfort Emporium in Affleck’s Palace!

Princess Gem

Princess Gem

My fab creative pal Omani painted my face for my Birthday…

Would Sir like to taste his Hooch?

Would Sir like to taste his Hooch?

This happened…

Action pup

Action pup

We went to the beach…

It better bloody be...

It better bloody be…

There was BIG NEWS…

Doggy Dancin'

Doggy Dancin’

Stimpy danced with Beryl…

GHOST DOG

GHOST DOG

And for a brief period became GHOST DOG

And that about brings us up to date!!

I’ll be posting soon after my holiday in Portugal, I LEAVE IN 3 FREAKIN’ DAYS!!

BOOM.

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Weightloss Wednesday!

I forgot my camera, so I don’t have recent adventures to post today… so I thought, what do I have already? And more importantly, what word can I put with Wednesday to give me the thrilling satisfaction of an alliterative title?

So, I’m feeling brave, I’m gonna go there, I’m gonna post weightloss. I have some horrible pictures of myself back in my archives, pictures that I hate to revisit, but they do provide a good record of my journey so far!

Ewww, not a fan of this picture AT ALL!!! Thank god for pic 3...

Ewww, not a fan of this picture AT ALL!!! Thank god for pic 3…

Oooh, I’m not sure how brave I’m feeling now, this is a NOT NICE picture!! At least it’s not current, and actually looking at it reminds me of how far I’ve come, and why I’m working so hard at keeping fit and healthy!

There is a danger, I think, that you will get carried away with looking at pictures as motivation for weightloss. This method doesn’t work permanently. Trust me, I’ve been there. Vanity helps, but can only go so far.

If I could provide charts and diagrams that tell you about the difference in my body, it would be much more useful for long term, solid motivation – my reduced risk of heart problems, diabetes, my clearer skin, my improved fitness levels… etc etc! This is the motivation you really need – to want to be living, not existing!

Oh hello second chin! Been a while since we last got together!

Oh hello second chin! Been a while since we last got together!

I never gave a thought about my body, I never even realised why sometimes I’d look in the mirror whilst getting ready and think to myself “Hmmm, something ain’t quite right here!” I’d always put a double chin down to an unflattering angle, bad lighting, or poor make-up application! I have always been absolutely expert at lying to myself, and believing the lies!

And so, no, I wasn’t drastically overweight, I probably only pushed a UK size 12 – but I wear my weight on my face before anywhere else!! And let’s be realistic, my face in these pictures is definitely trying to tell me that I’m eating too much, and not exercising enough! Well, the picture below says it all really…

Phew, happier, healthier, and with the correct number of chins!

Phew, happier, healthier, and with the correct number of chins!

This was taken a few months ago- and I think is approximately representative of my current weight. (Being honest now!) I did put on a bit before and during Christmas- I certainly haven’t conquered this yet you know! But I’ve been working hard over the last month to get back to a good place!

Ok, that sounds like cheating- here’s a make-up free pic from last week!

That hair needs a bit of comb through!

That hair needs a bit of comb through!

As almost anyone who is healthy will tell you, I still enjoy good food! To be healthy is not to live an abstinent and boring life without the pleasures of good food, rather it is to get so much more enjoyment from life and, to strive to be mindful of this one moment that you are living, right now!

So go chase your health goals! My advice? Do it for health, longevity, happiness, enjoyment, and fun – not for vanity! Looking better is just a lovely, rewarding bonus! Knowing that I’m fit and healthy now and doing 50 plus year old me a massive favour is the real reward.

Lots of healthy love!

Gem xxxxxxxxx

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I’m Peakin’!

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Just a little breeze!

We went for a massive walk this week with our buddy Alex! Check us out at the top of Mam Tor in the Peak District… On the whole we were very lucky with the weather, but boy was it windy up there!

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Please hold onto my lead tightly!

It was a 6 1/2 mile walk which is not that far, but there was a lot of climbing!

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Sun times!

And a little sun too! Lucky us!

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And the obligatory farm bath of course.

And no walk would be complete without a bath sighting!

Lots of hiking love!

Gem xxx

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Cookin’ up a Birthday!

First of all, here’s the thigh bruise from my bike fall as promised…

It never looks as good in a picture though does it?!

It never looks as good in a picture though does it?!

I’m healing nicely, and am about ready to test out my front tooth, still a tiny bit numb, on an apple! Please please stay in my mouth tooth!!

For Joe’s Birthday over the weekend I got my pinny on and cooked, constructed, and baked up some treats…

Creamless, buttterless, flourless, and refined-sugarless! But not tasteless!

Creamless, buttterless, flourless, and refined-sugarless! But not tasteless!

Ok, so I know it looks like it’s not so fun without all of the usual cake stuff, but it was super tasty, and the cooked breakfast of hash browns, sausages, egg n beanz made up for the healthiness of the cake!

FYI I used a pineapple for the cake “base” (part-prepared with sides sliced off, I kept the top and re-attached it because it looks awesome!) Then I used chunks of kiwis, pineapple, and strawberries to build up the sides, and blueberries and pomegranate seeds to decorate!

Here's the bakin'!

Here’s the bakin’!

And I baked up these delightful biscotti, I’ve made these quite a few times as they are easy and delicious! This time I used Delia’s recipe for the first time and I really liked it- I was worried it was going to be dry, but they came out perfect! I also subbed in some pistachios for some of the almonds. I love that these biccies are super tasty, but they don’t have as much of the bad stuff that normal biccies have (less sugar, less flour, and NO butter!)

Rockin' and Rollin' the homemade pasta!

Rockin’ and Rollin’ the homemade pasta!

Homemade pasta is easy peasy! Usually 100g typo 00 flour per person (but 200g for 3 of us was plenty!) and one egg per 100g flour (you do the math). Bring together, knead away and there you go… and I so love kneading dough. I was sooo pleased with the texture of this one, it was beautiful!

Oh I'm feeling hungry just looking at these!

Oh I’m feeling hungry just looking at these!

This meal fed 2 hungry and slightly tiddly boys after they returned from the Manchester Beer Festival.

My bolognese sauce is based on advice from a waiter in Bologna, and a scene from The Godfather. I keep it simple and keep it cooking- this was going for about 5 hours! I start with the Italian holy trinity (carrot, celery, onion) fried up in a little olive oil, then half beef / half pork mince fried up, then tomato, red wine, a little milk, and a little sugar and seasoning, 5 hours, and there you go!

So as is often the case with this blog, if it’s not a puppy taking centre-stage, it’s food!

Lots of yummy love!

gem xxxx

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