There’s not a lot to say about 2016 except that it’s been a funny old year. I spent the first half of the year very much trying to live life to the full – attending music festivals, partying in Ibiza and going on random drives and weekends away – whereas the second half has been the complete opposite. Instead, I’ve turned into a social hermit, choosing to buckle down with freelance work and push myself for every opportunity going. Some of it has paid off but it has meant I’ve spent a severe lack of time with my friends. This is understandable, however, with my contract at work ending in September, leaving me to pick up part time and freelance work and spending more time on earning/saving money than spending it. 

I hope next year I try to find a decent balance between the two! Still, I’m just going to jump straight into it – my 2016 in review!

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | My 2016 In review | Year in Review
1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
I passed my driving test! And I was a little more forward with travel – I definitely took advantage of having my own car by having a couple of little weekends away to places like Sunderland and Blackpool. Blackpool I went to alone and that was scary, but it was ever so rewarding to. And I also went to EDC which was way out of my comfort zone – but was tons of fun! As was Lost Village Festival – something else that was entirely out of my comfort zone but one of the best experiences of my life.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I can’t even remember if I made resolutions this year! But I have made some resolutions for next year, and, as always, I also plan to travel more.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My sister gave birth! I can’t tell you the feeling of being an aunt – it’s so lovely and my niece is an absolute beauty. I can’t believe I never used to like children…!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, but we seemed to have lost bloody everyone in the celebrity world this year..

5. What places did you visit?
Ibiza, Blackpool, Sunderland.
6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Still a rockstar boyfriend!

7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched in your memory, and why?
I really don’t know. I’ve spent most of the year feeling quite numb if I’m honest, not much has really stood out for me. Maybe after seeing twenty one pilots live in London, sitting on the hill outside of Alexandra Palace and overlooking London, listening to emotional songs and talking about how lucky we are with Briony – that was a nice moment. And the gig itself will forever remain etched in my memory too I think! And, Lost Village of course.

8. What was your biggest achievement this year?
Passing my driving test! I cannot begin to tell you how desperate I was for this to happen.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I wish I’d travelled more but there’s still time for that.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nope!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Umm gig tickets?

12. Who’s behaviour merited celebration?
My brother and my sister – they’ve been so supportive this year and I cannot thank you enough.

13. Who’s behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
One or two people, but again, nothing worth mentioning on my blog.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Gig tickets and my car.

15. What did you get really excited about?
Reading! Lost Village Festival and gigs.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
Umm probably Lane Boy by twenty one pilots because, bless it, it is overplayed massively, but I still love it.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you :
a. happier or sadder? Sadder probably – it’s been a tough year too.
b. thinner or fatter? Fatter! I think I’ve put on a bit of weight over Christmas!
c. richer or poorer? Poorer! So much for saving this year…

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I’d travelled more or at least stopped talking myself out of taking chances to travel.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Nothing!

20. How did you spend Christmas?
We didn’t, really. We spent it the same as last year, a quiet one at home, but to be honest, it feels less and less like Christmas each year.

21. Did you fall in love in 2016?
Nope, not unless you count rockstars, or music.

22. What was your favourite TV program?
Scream probably.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate at this time last year?
Yes, ha.

24. What was the best book you read?
I haven’t done much reading this year!

25. What music did you get excited about?
Busted! Haha. And twenty one pilots.

26. What did you want and get?
I didn’t want anything, but I got some real thoughtful gifts for Christmas.

27. What did you want and not get?
N/A

28. What was your favourite film of this year?
Umm probably either one of the Star Wars movies or Deadpool. Yes, sorry, I’ve gone with the predictable ones.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 27 and had some friends round before a night out at our local rock club. It was fun.

30. What one thing would have made your year more satisfying?
Getting further with trying to break into music journalism, but I’ve still made a lot of progress.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Lazy. Terribly lazy still.

32. What kept you sane?
Music, friends and family.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Probably either one of the twenty one pilots boys #SorryNotSorry

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Again, probably just all the terrorism going on around the world right now. It just seems to be neverending and every week we’re hearing something new.

35. Whom did you miss?
My beautiful mum.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
No one I can think of. I buried the hatchet with an old ‘friend’ so to speak though, and I’m really glad I did. It’s nice to have them back in my life.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
I haven’t learned anything new, other than just the same thing I put last year: life is unfair but you can’t change it.
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Peace will win and fear will lose’

How would you sum up your 2016? Let me know!

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You may remember that this time last year I was preparing to take part in Veganuary 2016, which involved me going vegan for the entire month of January.

Only, I didn’t actually prepare all that much. I printed off some recipes, I looked up what foods were accidentally vegan and that’s about it – which made the whole transition pretty damn hard, if I’m honest.
Unsurprisingly, I’m choosing to take on the challenge again this January. But, unlike last year, I’m going to be a lot more prepared. Now that I’ve done it the one time, I know how important it is to put together meal plans and do big shops in advance.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Vegan | Veganuary | Veganuary 2017 | Vegan Starter Kit | Vegan Basics

I’ll likely put together quite a few posts related to both Veganuary and preparing for Veganuary, but for now I’m sharing something I wish I knew when I first chose to go vegan: a vegan starter kit.
And even though we’re still a few days away from 2017, now is about the time to start thinking about what basic go-to products you should be getting in. I’ve already put together an online shop and if you’re choosing to try Veganuary or go vegan entirely, this is something you should be doing too.

It might sound silly, but it’s well worth doing a shop now or putting in an online shop. Last year I left it really last minute, so by the time I went to order my food, no delivery slots were left until around the 3rd. Not many shops were open on New Year’s Day, I was hungover, hadn’t really thought about anything in advance and certainly had no vegan products in my house. I tried to buy some basics from the local shop (and failed, I accidentally bought things that weren’t vegan) and eventually succumbed to a bowl full of rice, which was okay in the end as I was hungover and not starving, but it still wasn’t ideal.

You don’t want your first day of being vegan to be stressful and you don’t want to leave your shopping until really late, resulting in having nothing to eat at all on your first day – trust me!

Therefore, here is my vegan starter kit; aka basic products you should have in your kitchen for the moment you turn vegan.

Please note, I am not an expert, but these are the types of products I wish I had in my kitchen ready in advance and are also the kind of products I used over and over again during my month of being vegan.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Vegan | Veganuary | Veganuary 2017 | Vegan Starter Kit | Vegan Basics
Also please note that, for ease, all these products are from Tesco, totalling to £13.36.
THE BASICS
The basics are, of course, the Vitalite dairy free butter, Tesco Wholemeal bread, Violife cheese and Alpro almond original milk. Technically, you could do a whole month of being vegan with just these four products (though it would be terribly boring), making things like cheese sandwiches and using the milk for cups of tea. The butter and the milk is a massive staple, so these are things I’d stock up on. The cheese is about as good as a vegan alternative gets – it’s still not amazing and isn’t ideal for cooking but it’s tasty with other products and has been the best I’ve found so far. It’s notoriously hard to find a nice vegan cheese in the UK, especially if you’re looking for mozzarella or something. Finally, the bread is just what I’m ordering and can be substituted. I’ve chosen wholemeal as it’s just that bit more healthy, although I prefer white bread overall, this bread is used in a recipe I’ll be trying. A lot of bread is actually vegan, but it helps to check Tesco’s vegan friendly food list here just to be sure.
FOR RECIPES
These are just a few staples that come up a lot in vegan recipes, depending on what you’re cooking. Butterbeans are used loads and are a good source of protein – something you’ll want to be stocking up from, as you’ll be losing protein by not eating meat. They’re especially good for curries, chili and soups. Organic plain flour is another must-have if you’ll be doing a lot of baking and Tesco free-from milk yogurt is another staple for breakfast items like smoothies, fruit filled yogurts etc. It’s also useful to thicken up sauces in recipes too.
TREATS
Nakd bars were my savour when I went vegan last time so there’s no doubt I’ll be stocking up on these again. The Bakewell Tart flavour is the best (although they’re all nice) – but be warned! For some reason in my local Tesco, this flavour isn’t stocked with the rest of the Nakd bars and is instead stocked alongside a couple of other flavours in the baking aisle. I have no idea why but, alas, if you have the same problem as me, it’s worth asking a member of staff where this particular flavour is kept because it’s so yummy. Avocados aren’t really a necessity either, but they go with so much and I actually relied on these a lot towards the end of last January. I’d often have a filling lunch or tea of avocado on toast and found this was my perfect go-to meal if I was in a rush or couldn’t be bothered to cook – it’s super tasty but can also be really filling too.
So, there you have it. A vegan starter kit including necessities, a few baking products and a couple of treats too for under £15. As a whole, most of these items should be on your shopping list week-in-week-out, except for things like the flour which last longer or anything you buy in bulk.
Other items include lots of fruit and vegetables, and I personally like to still buy some crisps, like salted tortilla chips (delicious with guacamole) and a lot of Walkers crisps which are surprisingly vegan and good for home comforts and junk food.
Are there any basics I’ve missed out? Let me know with a comment!
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I’ve never been big on new year’s resolutions, instead usually choosing to set myself general goals like being more happy and healthy.

But for 2017 I’ve decided to set a few more specific ones, although I’m choosing to make them more realistic. 
Here are some of my 2017 new years resolutions!

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | New Year | 2017 | New Year's Resolutions

LEARN HOW TO PLAY THE DRUMS
This is one that’s been on my mind for a while now and I hope I’ll stick with it. I once tried to learn the guitar to no avail (well, I can play two songs acoustically), but I’ve always been drawn to the drums, too. I think I’m pretty good at following a beat (and by that I mean I tap along with my hands when listening to a song – I’m a born drummer, aren’t I?!) and, years and years ago when my sister ventured into learning and brought her own drum kit, I had a go on it and thought I was quite good. So I’d like to explore this option!

ATTEND MORE ICE HOCKEY GAMES
This one is self explanatory really. My sister and I used to attend ice hockey games a lot back in the day and over the past few years, I’ve been itching to get back into it. It’s a fun and alternative night out with good music and an amazing atmosphere. They do games in Milton Keynes which is just down the road from me, so there’s no excuse not to really.

BROADEN MY MUSIC TASTE
Over the past few years I’ve shamelessly stuck to what I know, bar a few songs I really like. In 2017, I’d love to get into more bands and rather than saving just one song I hear and really like, I’d like to listen to the said artist’s other music too.

SAVE MONEY
I’m not being specific about this, but I’d just like to save money.

BEGIN POUND FITNESS CLASSES
I found details about this awesome fitness class which is inspired by drumming. It looks amazing and like a really good work out, and I’ll be starting this class in the new year – I’m already booked in for a class on the 3rd.

GO SWIMMING MORE
Another self explanatory one – I just like swimming but make so many excuses not to go. The local swimming pool is pretty much just around the corner from me, so I’ll be aiming to go swimming at least once a fortnight (and maybe then once a week).

CLEAR MY SHAZAM LIST
I always Shazam songs then never actually listen to them again. I’ve made a slow start on this already, having created ‘The Shazam Playlist’ on Spotify, and I’ll also use this to discover new music too.

START WATCHING BLACK MIRROR
There’s tons of series I want to watch next year but I really think it’s about time I get into Black Mirror. It’s right up my street and everybody always talks about it as it raises so many interesting issues, so this will be my first and foremost binge-watching session in 2017.

MORE BAND INTERVIEWS
I’ve had some really good feedback on the interviews I’ve already done, so I’d like to take this a step further and conduct some of these interviews on camera, or, perhaps, on radio.

BREAK INTO RADIO (SORT OF)
Which brings me to my next point – in the new year I’m going to consider volunteering for my own radio show for the local university. It’ll be super fun and I appeared on my friend’s show recently, which I really enjoyed. I don’t think I’m quite ready to jump straight into getting my own show just yet, but I’ll be taking part in my friend’s show a lot more in the new year hopefully to get a feel of things and then go from there.

I think these are pretty realistic and achievable! Do you have any new year’s resolutions? Let me know!

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Wow! How fast has this year gone? 

I can’t believe that Christmas is nearly here, it is such an exciting time of the year. But for many people, it can be an overwhelming and fast-paced period and you can get completely bombarded with your “to do” list and things that need doing. 

So I can imagine that for some people, spending a little time and effort into a DIY craft or gift could be far from your mind right now. 

However, there are still plenty of options and ideas you could consider doing that don’t need too much of your time to create. In fact, some of them may add a unique touch to your get-together, or even help you out with last minute gift ideas. Interested? Read on to find out more.

A CHRISTMAS EVE HAMPER
There has been a sudden trend occurred for families that get children something called a Christmas Eve box. However, there is no rule to say that it has to be children who get one. Why not create a Christmas eve hamper for you and your partner, or perhaps even just for you? It could include wonderful things like hot chocolate and sweets, perhaps some pamper bits and a new pair of pajamas. Whatever takes your fancy. Even including things like DVD’s to watch could be a great way to spend Christmas Eve and extend the festivities a little bit.

HOMEMADE WRAPPING PAPER
Of course, at this time of year, you might be sitting in a sea of wrapping paper. But if you were hoping to add a touch of craft to your Christmas festivities then why not create your own wrapping paper? Here are a few ideas to inspire you. 
USE PHOTOGRAPHS
Printing photographs onto large pieces of paper is a great way to ensure that your wrapping paper is personal. You could ensure the paper includes pictures of the person the gift is for, or just add a selection of your favourites so that the person receiving the gift knows it was from you. Do it in a theme of black and white or add a touch of colour, just get a little creative. People will appreciate the effort, even though it won’t take you much time at all.

PAINTED ITEMS LIKE LEAVES
A lovely therapeutic craft idea is to use the inspiration you have around you. Perhaps fallen leaves are in abundance in your garden or close to your home. Grab some of the driest leaves and use them as a way to decorate wrapping paper. All you have to do is dip the textured edge into the paint and then stamp your paper in a pattern. Use a mix of two or three colours for a marbled effect. It can make very pretty wrapping paper.

For more inspiration on homemade wrapping paper ideas then check out websites like Pinterest.com.

A DECORATED DINING TABLE
Sometimes the easiest ways to add a touch craft to your home and Christmas is the decoration of your dining room table. Traditionally, many people come together around the table to eat a full on festive feast, so what better way to make more of this special occasion than decorating accordingly. 

CANDLES 
Candles have such a way of adding atmosphere to any occasion. Add a decent festive scent like a Yankee candle, and you are onto a winner. There are some amazing tablescapes online that will fill your mind with endless possibilities. But simply adding a few candles to the mix will brighten up your dining space and make it feel like an occasion.

FOLIAGE

You could also decorate the dining table and room with flowers or green foliage to be a little more festive. Perhaps offcuts from a Christmas tree or sprinkles of holly dotted around here and there. You could even place a small token of foliage or a flower on the table setting for each guest.

Other things to consider would be handmade name place cards, homemade crackers and even create your own festive hat options. These would work very well if you have any children in attendance. 

HOMEMADE GIFTS FOR WHEN YOU FORGET
A great way to add some festivity DIY crafts and projects is to make some gifts. This works well if you have forgotten some of the all important gifts like work colleagues, for example. Here are some suggestions to consider.

EMBELLISHED ITEMS THAT MAKE PERFECT GIFTS
Plain photo frames can be a blank canvas when it comes to gifts. But almost everyone would love printed pictures, so why not combine the two and frame a wonderful photograph for someone. You could even embellish the plain frame and make it more to that person’s taste. Perhaps adding a few gemstones or different coloured items. Thankfully, a glue gun with glue dots and dispensers will do an excellent job of sticking anything to the frame. This could also work for little gifts in mason jars, canvas prints or even embellishing greeting cards.

HOT CHOCOLATE IN A JAR
There are some great tutorials online that help you with quantities for making hot chocolate in a jar. Simply this is providing all the ingredients to make hot chocolate in a decorated festive jar. The perfect homemade gift. This also works well with cupcake and cookie mixes.

HOMEMADE BISCUITS OR CAKES 
If you enjoy the baking part yourself then why not make some homemade goodies like cookies and cakes to gift people. This will make you a favourite in the workplace by bringing a tin of freshly baked goods in there just before Christmas.

FOODIE CRAFTS EVERYONE WILL LOVE
Finally, there are some amazing foodie crafts you could do before the big day itself. Here is a little inspiration to get you going.

GINGERBREAD HOUSE  
These days in many stores you can buy a kit to help you create your very own gingerbread house. These make great decorations in the kitchen area. The DIY element, of course, is the assembling and decoration. 

CREATE A HOT CHOCOLATE STATION AND INVITE SOME FRIENDS ROUND
Create a hot chocolate station and invite some friends round

Hot chocolate stations are becoming popular especially as you can use your slow cooker or crockpot to create a creamy taste. This is perfect for when you have a group of friends or family coming round for a few festive drinks.

FESTIVE TIPPLES 
On the subject of drinks if you want something more alcoholic then why not make a batch of mulled wine or create your own festive cocktails. This could be an added element to your festivities.

 I hope this has inspired you to create a few more things before the big day arrives.

*Please note this post has been contributed.

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This year for my annual birthday surprise, my sister took me to Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter.

I love Harry Potter and have been wanting to visit the studio tour for years now. I’m not quite sure why I hadn’t been already, considering it’s just down the road from me, but going as part of my birthday plans was really fun, especially as it was all seasonal.
I loved all of our visit, but my favourite parts would have to be the beginning – the entry into the great hall and exploring the great hall, because this felt really magical and like we were stepping into another world. It looked so beautiful done up for Christmas and I loved seeing all the decorations.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | The Making of Harry Potter

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | The Making of Harry Potter

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | The Making of Harry Potter

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | The Making of Harry Potter

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | The Making of Harry Potter

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | The Making of Harry Potter
I also really enjoyed attempting to ride a broomstick (admittedly, my sister and myself weren’t very good at this!) and the part where we learned all about the special effects, studying the masks and ‘robots’ of all the creatures that were in the film. 
It’s amazing how much work goes into it all and all the attention to detail. We also didn’t realize quite how many different creatures appeared in all of the films until we visited this area and learned about it all in more detail.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | The Making of Harry Potter

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | The Making of Harry Potter

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | The Making of Harry Potter

And, of course, seeing the giant castle model at the end was a really special moment. I’ve seen photos from the tour before and knew something along those lines was coming up but had completely forgotten about it of course and didn’t expect it to be that breath taking.
We walked into the room – which oddly smelt of cinnamon and Christmas – to see the model basked in a stunning blue light and I can’t lie – it took my breath away and actually made me gasp out loud. It truly was amazing and was such a lovely moment.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | The Making of Harry Potter

At the very end, we entered a room praising all the thousands of people that had worked on the movies and that was pretty moving too. They were practically a family – I can’t imagine how it must have felt to work with someone day in and day out for ten years and to have to say goodbye to that.
All in all it was a lovely evening and I’m so glad I finally got to go. 
Also, the butterbeer is delicious – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! (So many people told me it was horrible).
Thank you so much to my lovely sister to yet another fun-filled birthday evening – she never fails to make it extra special for me!

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