Friday, 24 June 2011

Cairo Bound with British Midland International!

It was just another Wednesday morning. The rain was falling. (I'm trying to paint a picture!)......I was glued to my online work. My phone broke my concentration..


"Hi! I know it's short notice, but would you like to go on a press trip to Cairo with British Midlands International?"


"This weekend!"

" that where the pyramids are?"


"Okay then. I'll just check I can get the time off work!"

And that's the conversation summed up quite neatly, and there was the added bonus that I could bring someone with me!

When the phone call ended, I was racking my brains. Could I really go? What was in my dairy for the weekend? Could I get the time off work?

Luckily I hadn't committed to any work, and had given myself not only Sunday off (as is usual) but Saturday off too. So far so good.

Hmmm, who to bring with me?! I thought of my friend and colleague Nicky Getgood. I thought she would love this!

"Hi Nicky. I've got something exciting to ask you! Do you want to come to Cairo this weekend?!"

"Errr (digesting out of the blue request), Yes!"

We got the time booked off work (Thank you Will!), and now we are almost all set to go!

Here's what we know so far....It's going to be a pretty amazing trip to a very exciting city!!

On Saturday morning (5am!!) Nicky and I will be coach ward bound to Heathrow Airport.

We are flying with British Midland International, and having already checked in online, we will be welcomed to the business lounge.

Our flight leaves at around 9am (I had better double check that!), and we are flying Business Class! Surprisingly, this will be a first for me, and I am really looking forward to the experience. Of course, there will be photos taken en route to Cairo!

Not only are we flying business class, we will then be collected from the airport by limousine by the Four Seasons Cairo which will be our accommodation for the next three nights.

That's the way to do it!

Then, we throw ourselves into the city and all it has to offer!

The Four Seasons will have wifi so myself and Nicky will be tweeting when we are in our rooms, probably early morning/late night, and using the hashtag #bmicairo. And of course, I'll be blogging about it here upon my return and I will also be writing a piece for BMI's website too.

Right now I have a whole lotta packing to do! Today I bought the biggest sun hat ever! And new shades too. I hear it's pretty hot in Cairo! :)

You can follow our Cairo adventures on twitter @karenstrunks @getgood #bmicairo

Book flights to Cairo at

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

My new and old necklaces..

Just wanted to share with you a couple of new and old necklaces that have come into my possession of late!

First up is this gorgeous red, semi precious stone necklace that I won in The People Shop raffle.

I hardly ever win when I enter raffles and so not only was I delighted to score a prize, I was over the moon that it was red too!

The People Shop say they are Officially Birmingham's Nicest Shop. Quite a claim, but (and not just because I wont this necklace!), I agree. I've met Alison and Christian who own the shop, and not only is it a treasure trove of gorgeous items such as clothing, accessories and gifts, they really will give you such a warm welcome you won't want to leave!

My other necklace is a bit of a strange one!

I'm never going to get the chance to actually wear this necklace.

I saw that Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery were running an Adopt An Object scheme. Curiosity got the better of me and I went to have a browse around the items online.

This necklace immediately grabbed my attention. It is a late 19th century/early 20th century currency necklace from the Pacific island of Kiribati. It's made out of plates of pearl shell. I started to imagine how many people used to own the necklace, how it was used for bartering, what type of things were bought with the necklace. I bet it has quite an interesting story!

Why adopt an object.

As BMAG says on their website:
"Adopt an Object and help care for your favourite collections at Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery. By making a donation and adopting an object, you will help us care for our collection, preserve local and national heritage, and inspire thousands of people every year. Whether your passion is for Pre-Raphaelite art or ancient civilisations, we hope you will get involved and Adopt an Object for yourself or as a unique gift for your friends and family."

When you adopt an item you receive a lovely pack containing a Certificate of Adoption, a fact sheet about the item and a fridge magnet!

Both quite different necklaces with very different stories behind them and I shall treasure them both equally :)

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Weight loss update: balanced diet & portion sizes

The good news is I'm still maintaining my 50lb weight loss. In fact, I've lost a few more lbs in the last few weeks and I'm now 4lbs under my original goal of getting to 138.8lbs (9stone 12.8lbs).

I'm happier to be a few lbs under my goal than over it.

As I mentioned before, I'm trying to figure out the balance between eating more. Having lost another 4lbs I have more of a buffer zone. And if I'm still losing weight, albeit at a much slower weight, I could eat more, but (and I NEVER thought I would have this problem!) sometimes I just feel I can't eat any more! I feel full with what I'm eating, and satisfied. Since I've changed my eating habits to much healthier ones, there seems to be a limit on my appetite.

I'm putting this down to the types of food I'm fuelling my body with now. Pre weight loss I ate a lot more processed foods and my body was probably craving nutrients and thus my appetite was saying 'Feed Me' in the hope that I would eat something healthy and nutrient packed. Instead I would just grab whatever I fancied and it was usually the wrong choice.

NOW I'm eating a much more balanced diet that consists of TONS of fruit and vegetables. I reckon that because I'm giving my body what it needs to do it's work, it's more satisfied and happy and thus my appetite doesn't scream at me anymore.

That's my theory!

Goodbye Food Pyramid, hello Food Plate!

Somewhere browsing around online this week I saw an announcement that the USA has done away with the food pyramid.....

..and introduced the food Plate. They have called it Choose My Plate. Now, doesn't the plate make for much easier understanding about portions and food groups. I never had a clue how to interpret the food pyramid really. I love this new graphic. So clear and simple!

And our UK NHS has the Eat Well Plate. It's still better than the food pyramid, but I prefer the simplicity of the USA plate in design.

But what all the graphics show is that WE NEED A BALANCED DIET. It's the best thing we can do for ourselves. None of this cutting out fruit or carbs, or any other food group. As much as fad diets might produce fast results, they aren't the way to go in the long term, and you have your whole life ahead of you. Think about how you want to eat for life! I would much rather include as many food groups as possible, that's for sure!

A few of the changes that I've made to my diet since I started losing weight:

  • I pack my diet with LOTS of fruit and veg. I don't place any restrictions on the amount I consume. They fill me up and they provide nutritional goodness.
  • I cook my own meals instead of grabbing a microwave meal or a take away. Yes, this is a little more time consuming but I counter this by cooking once-eating twice or thrice! That saves time. And I decide what goes into my food and what I leave out: e-numbers, additives, preservatives, fat, salt, sugar.
If the notion strikes, I snap I pic on my phone. Here's small selection of examples of what I'm eating. Please note the amazingly organised fridge!

Train picnic

Mini choc bar

Fresh cream with banana and mango

Picnic (shared with my Mum)


Suffice to say, I'm loving how I feel now I've lost weight. More energy, more vibrant, (even) more confident! It's all good! One of the best decisions I have made for myself.

Say hello on Twitter: @karenstrunks

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Sunday Film Club: Mean Streets

I rent films from Lovefilm and receive two each week. Sunday, my official day off, is usually Film Day in my house.

I sent a tweet out saying that this week's films were Mommie Dearest and Mean Streets.

My friend @Najmc suggested that we watch Mean Streets together, but in our respective homes, using twitter to chat about it as we watched. What a great idea!

So this afternoon, that just what we did. I thought I'd experiment with Storify again and decided upon the hash tag of #sundayfilm club.

I really enjoyed the experience of having a virtual film watching companion. Of course, we were tweeting so there were little interuptions, but it was kinda cool sharing the film across the miles! Another Yay for Twitter!

Say Hello on twitter: @karenstrunks

Sunday, 5 June 2011

My first Pecha Kucha talk!

I have known about Pecha Kucha for some time and it's been on my to-do list since last year.

I finally booked myself book onto the Birmingham Pecha Kucha night (volume 4) which was held upstairs at The Victoria pub in the city centre.

What is Pecha Kucha? It's a night of presentations that consist of 20 slides/images where you have 20 seconds (if you time it right!) to talk about each one.

Initially I was going to do my presentation on Heartache. Unfortunately I ran out of time to prepare it, so I based my talk on the 4am Project and made it a shorter version of the presentation I gave at the Redeye Photography Network event in Liverpool I gave earlier in the month (that one was about 20 minutes long)

So with a bit of (very) tight editing and highlight selecting I managed to pare it down to about 7 minutes, and I also made some notes on a piece of paper.

It was a really well attended event! Normally when I go to events in Birmingham I already know a lot of faces, but PK night was different. I only knew about half a dozen people or so. A whole new crowd!

I had asked the organisers if I could give my presentation earlier in the evening (then I could sit back and relax).

A weird thing happened though. I suddenly got really nervous! Like butterflies in the tummy kind of nerves. It was a really weird and new feeling and I'm not sure why it happened. I've give presentations in front of strangers and I normally feel really confident. So strange!

The 3 speakers before me did really good presentations. They didn't have any notes with them, so at the last minute I ditched mine and just hoped for the best!

Despite the rare onset of nerves, it all went well and I got a great response, the audience were interested and asked questions afterwards.

I hope you enjoy my first Pecha Kucha presentation.

I'd really recommend Pecha Kucha as a night out. You'll hear interesting talks and meet new people too! And if you are up for the Pecha Kucha challenge, the next Birmingham date is the 20th July! You can also follow PK Birmingham on Twitter.

Say hello on twitter: @karenstrunks

Thursday, 2 June 2011

My weekend with my Best Friend Forever!

Last weekend - SO BRILLIANT! And long overdue.

My best friend (ever in the whole wide world!) came to stay!!

We haven't seen each other since last summer.

Her name is Faith. We met 20 years ago when we were in the Royal Navy.

We didn't hit it off on first sight, but then Faith moved into my Mess in the bed opposite mine. "I suppose we had better be friends then", I said. And from that moment on we were!

We shared our secrets, had adventures, and laughed and laughed and laughed.

And we are still laughing now.

I don't think there is anything we don't know about one another. Or that we couldn't tell each other.

Since then, we went through the novelty of getting our first mobile phones (I'm not sure who was first), and getting hooked up to the internet (she beat me to that), there's been hardly a day when we are not in touch by text or email. We are constantly updating each other with snippets from our lives, big or small.

Living my life as much as I do online I thought I would document our weekend via my tweets. I chose the hash tag of #ksbf (Karen Strunks Best Friend) and signed up to Storify imagining I would be tweeting all weekend long. However, I hardly tweet at all - that's a first!

I ended up taking quite a break from the internet and my iPhone, and simply enjoyed the company of my best friend.

We had 4 days together and it felt like the first time I had stopped properly this year. I've had a couple of breaks (or at least one that springs to mind) but they have been quite active. I'm so used to being on the go all the time (which I love), but I adjusted surprisingly quickly to a change of pace, and also to having constant company.

I live on my own, I work on my own (for the majority of the time), I enjoy my own company, I never get bored or feel lonely, but I don't think I would ever tire of Faith's company.

I moved to Moseley 7 years ago, but at at that time I very nearly came close to moving to Lincoln instead which was where Faith was living. I even viewed houses there, but I decided Lincoln wasn't quite big enough for me (as much as I love my best friend!). Faith is very much a country mouse (and has since moved to Cumbria) whereas I'm very much a big city mouse (ultimately aiming for NYC!).

I wonder if one day we will find a middle ground near to each other. But in the meantime, with all the communication, we hardly feel the miles.

So, what did we do last weekend?!

Faith arrived on Friday afternoon, and we met my Mum and step Dad for dinner. When we got back mine I gave Faith her belated birthday pressie. What better than one of my favourite toys - a HULA HOOP!

We played outside for an hour like a couple of kids. Faith soon picked up how to hula and we were choreographing hula routines in between laughing.

I've got lots of video footage, but even I'm too shy to put it on here, though I'm crying with laughter watching it!

Saturday was photo shoot day and we got dressed up far too inappropriately for a Saturday afternoon and headed out and about.



As you can tell, we are very shy in front of the camera! We took a ton of photos, we danced around, jumped up and down, pulled faces, and laughed (though I'm looking quite serious in these photos!).

Saturday evening saw us at a Spiritualist Church. Rock n Roll. We didn't get any messages from the medium!

Sunday was uber lazy, but productive in other ways. We talked BUSINESS.

Faith has started her own business in complimentary therapies this year. I run my photography business, the 4am Project, work with Talk About Local, run Birmingham social media cafe, and I'm always developing my skills in areas I am interested in.

Even though I have a bit of head start in running businesses and creative endeavors we still found we had a lot of common ground to cover.

We spent a good 4/5 hours discussing topics such as...

Time management
Where time is better spent
Diary organisation
'Hidden' time - ie not just doing the work, but the prep, paperwork etc that is also involved

We talked about what work to say NO to.

We even did some role playing in saying NO politely but firmly!

"Hello, can you work for me for free?" NO
"Hello, can you do XYZ for me and I'll put your name on my website"? NO
"Hello, can you do me a favour where there is no benefit to you, but lots for me?" NO

And what work to possibly say YES to.

Top of that list is paid work obviously. Then there are other things that may bring benefits in other ways. For example, I don't get paid for running the 4am Project (I'm working on it) but it brings me a lot of other benefits, experience and exposure.

We both agreed that running businesses requires a lot of constant decision making. Weighing up of pros and cons, and quite importantly, listening to our instincts.

And it's not just deciding on the type of work you do, but WHO you want to work with too! For example, just a few months ago I 'sacked' my first client (there will be a blog post on that at some point). Opportunities may arise, but are they the right ones with the right people?

As we are both running things single handedly, free time is not on our side and we don't have it to waste. Time, like money, has to be invested wisely and hopefully that investment will bring rewards of some kind.

We then got out our pens and paper and made plans! That's the exciting bit! What do we want to achieve this year, next year, even in 5 years. Where do we want to be? How are we going to get there? How many steps will it take? What do we need to do?

That was a good 4/5 hours well spent and we both benefited from it. It's not often I get to sit down and talk things through with someone and get another perspective and really chew things over. And Faith's gone away more inspired than ever and is already cracking on with her plans this week.

After exercising our minds, Faith managed to persuade me to go out for a walk (I was sooo comfy!). I let her lead the way, knowing we would get lost as she doesn't know the area, and I ended up seeing parts of my neighbourhood I hadn't been to before.

Faith left on Monday and I was SO sad to see her go! I'm so used to spending time on my own but I really missed her and felt a bit down on Sunday evening. I watched silly Sex & The City 2 to cheer myself up a bit!

It took me a while to get back into the work frame of mind on Tuesday. The pro's of Faiths visit are that I had a super, fab, inspiring time with my best friend plus I completely chilled out. But I'm back in the swing of things again and up to full speed.

This has been (and will be!) a pretty amazing week and I'm feeling very happy and grateful. I got to see my best friend, I got a new wedding photography booking, I have taken over the running of the Bham Social Media Cafe, I'm going out with for cocktails with friends tonight, I'm helping a community in Liverpool with hyperlocal blogging with Talk About Local and my friend and colleague Nicky tomorrow, and on Saturday I'm seeing my brilliant Mum!

And now I must get ready for cocktail night and put my best bling on! :)

Say hi on twitter @karenstrunks

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