Cocktails, Alexander McQueen and Cheesecake

I started last week with the intention of blogging every day in an attempt to catch up with the online community. However, life sort of got in the way – it has a habit of doing that recently, and while I’m grateful for the opportunities and experiences, I have fallen behind yet again with everything I had planned…

It’s been a great week of yet more cocktails, reviews, shopping and cooking. I met up with my friend who moved to Spain a few years ago, and we spent hours catching up over a cocktail and lunch overlooking the canal. The Bloke has been a bit stressed, so I spent hours making a dinner of Mini Prawn Tostadas, Mexican Rice Casserole and that well-known Mexican dessert: No-Bake Nutella Cheesecake (yes, I will put up the recipes). I tested out the new menu at the Rose Villa Tavern in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, which was yummy (and a nice opportunity to catch up with some lovely foodie bloggers), and then went for a monster shopping session with a friend who is recovering from a long and debilitating illness. It’s been a joy to watch her get stronger every time I see her, and she completely out-shopped me! Ooh, and I won an Alexander McQueen wrap bracelet from Harvey Nichols too! Best raffle prize ever!

Yesterday, The Bloke went up north to spend the day with his family, so I had the house to myself. In the glorious sunshine the day before I had done loads of laundry, and still had more decluttering tasks to do, so I used my day productively… by sleeping all afternoon on the couch with the cats while Columbo was on the television.

Best way to spend a Saturday!!

How about you guys? What have you been up to?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and you can also find me on my Facebook page, my Pinterest page and my instagram page

15 Things That Don’t Require Qualifications or Talent

imageWith the impending GCSE results due out tomorrow, the topic was already trending in the early hours of this morning on Twitter with thousands of teenagers anxiously waiting to see how they had fared, many of them already dismayed at the fact that grade boundaries for certain subjects had been raised… again.

At school, I was a high achiever who enjoyed the process of learning. I worked hard with the belief that qualifications were the be all and end all to everything that would make my life successful and happy in the future, and even after doing my A levels and a degree, my GCSE exams still remain as one of the scariest and most stressful experiences I’ve ever had.

And yet, eighteen years of life after leaving school (and spending ten years working as a teacher) has made me realise that, while qualifications on paper are important, there is more to success than just being able to understand what the value of X is, or have a working knowledge of a meander, or knowing how many wives Henry VIII had.

Here are fifteen things that require no qualifications or talent:

1. Manners. There’s never an excuse not to use a basic ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ or wait until someone has finished speaking before you as a question. I’m still gobsmacked at the amount of adults who haven’t grasped this.

2. Being punctual. It’s not difficult to arrive somewhere on time.

3. A smile. Smile at someone and they’re more likely to smile back at you. A smile makes you appear more approachable and automatically creates a nicer atmosphere in a room.

4. Presenting yourself in a professional way. Keep yourself and your clothes clean, don’t be too garish with your make-up (yes, I’m including the boys in that too) and don’t litter your vocabulary with profanities.

5. A willingness to learn new things, even if you deem them unimportant or find it difficult. If I were given just a pound for every time I’ve had to battle with a student who has decided that they don’t want to learn something because they found it unnecessary for their future dream job I could have retired a long time ago. You never know where new information could lead you.

6. Self-respect. You’re the only person that you will spend the rest of your life with. Treat yourself with the respect you deserve – don’t put yourself down and proclaim that you are stupid if you don’t understand something first time round.

7. Self-motivation. It isn’t somebody else’s job to keep pushing you forward on a daily basis. If something needs doing then do it without being reminded or nagged.

8. An appreciation that the world does not exist just in your own little bubble. Empathy, sympathy and consideration for those around you will go a long way.

9. Doing your best. Nobody can ask more from you than that.

10. Accepting and learning from failure. I’ve failed many times. We all have, and every highly successful person can give a hundred examples of ways in which they’ve failed disastrously in their journey. Pick yourself back up, stop complaining and try again.

11. Being trustworthy. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Avoid gossip. Keep other people’s confidence.

12. Having a passion, even if it’s for a hobby. I write because I love it. Truly, it’s the one thing that I never get bored of doing. And because I love it, I’ve made a small success of it, which spurs me on to write even more. Being passionate about something will inspire you to learn more about it.

13. Working hard and putting in the hours. I have more traditional qualifications than both of my sisters, and both earn more money than I do, because they’ve put in the time and effort to deserve their salaries.

14. Being able to let go and move on. It took me thirty years to learn this, and I wish I had done it sooner – it would have saved me countless hours of anger and bitterness.

15. Understanding that money isn’t everything. Yes, lots of money makes life easier, but success is not defined by the size of your house or the name tags on your clothes. I’m happy to live on virtually nothing if I need to. For me, success is being surrounded by people who care for you and your well being. Success is being able to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of each day and know that you’re a good person. Success is a million memories of good times. Success is being truly happy.


What about you guys? Any ideas for being successful without needing qualifications?

Follow me on any of my social media pages: you can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page, my Pinterest page and my Instagram page

I’ve been particularly inspired by a graphic that I’ve seen floating around the Internet on a number of occasions titled ’10 Things That Require Zero Talent’ for this post, but I’d also like to thank Sacha for her input…

A Week of Colour!

It’s been another wonderful week in what is proving to be a truly fantastic summer!

I’ve been lazing around and watching the Olympics (I’m SO proud of all our athletes), meeting friends for lunch, getting items together for a car boot sale and doing some crafty things for the wedding. I also volunteered as a nail model for a local beauty school, and was treated to a manicure, paraffin treatment and hand massage by a student who is studying for her qualifications. Some of you will know how satisfying it is to dip your finger in hot candle wax and peel the hardened wax off afterwards – now just imagine having that on your whole hand, which is then wrapped in plastic and left to dry. Amazing. My nails were then beautifully painted in a colour that I would never normally go for, but I loved it! Continue reading

Playing with Prisma

Helen did a really interesting post about Prisma this month – with so many working towards and completing their own books this is a really useful tool for potential cover ideas!

Journey To Ambeth

Publishing independently costs money – there’s no getting around it. A professional edit, typesetting, a cover design – while you don’t have to pay for any of these things, they can make a difference to the look and feel of your finished book. However, independent publishing doesn’t, for the most part, make much money – the majority of authors these days, whether traditional or independently published, rely on secondary sources of income to keep going. So, if you can save money here and there, it’s a bonus.

I’ve written before about using photography, including the potential pitfalls of using images without permission, the different types of stock images available and the effects you can create using your own images. I still believe that, as independent authors, using our own photography wherever possible is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to promote our work. So, when I heard…

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World Photography Day

It’s World Photography day and I have spent some of the morning going through my Instagram pictures. I haven’t been on there for long, but I love taking pictures of everywhere and anywhere, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of my favourites.

Want to see more? You can find me on my Instagram page

The Color Run Birmingham 2016

The Color Run, 2016

The Color Run, 2016

It’s on my Bucket List to take part in a Color Run, and this year I’m lucky enough to be taking part in the NEC Color Run in Birmingham on 20th August 2016.

The Color Run, which is presented by Skittles, is a unique 5km run, celebrating health, happiness and having fun. The thousands of participants start the day in a white t-shirt and get covered in a whole rainbow of colours at each kilometer of the course, culminating in a huge ‘finish festival,’ complete with a mix of DJ’s and ‘Colour Throws.’

It looks like huge fun, and my friend and I will be participating just for the joy of running – I did the Birmingham Half-Marathon last year and raised hundreds of pounds for Dementia UK, but this year I am not specifically fundraising. However, there are a number of people who are taking the opportunity to raise money for worthy causes… Continue reading

If We Were Having Coffee #17

coffee and coversationIf we were having coffee, I would tell you that it is an absolutely glorious day here. The sun is shining, there isn’t a cloud in the sky and it’s beautifully hot – the start of what is predicted to be another heatwave. Good. I love the sun – we seem to spend months on end in the cold, rain and dark in the UK, so any change in the weather is always welcome (although I know that after a few days there will be a number of miserable people who have had enough – us Brits always like to complain about something!). I’ve taken the opportunity to appreciate it already this morning by going for a walk, the cats are indulging in a lazy snooze in the sun and The Bloke has taken himself off to one of the main parks in the city with his camera to go and bother some squirrels. I have given him the nickname of ‘Walker the Squirrel Stalker’ – he has some amazing pictures of them… in their hundreds…

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’ve had a fabulous week – one that I can look back on with a genuine smile. Continue reading

What I’ve Learned About Blogging


I’ve been spending some time revisiting, editing and deleting old blog posts and I discovered a number of articles that have been lost in the hundreds (about 750 at this present moment) that I have generated over the last three-and-a-half years.

I created this one about blogging regrets based on what I have learned and suggested ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ to consider after the first year and much of what I wrote then still remains the same. I’ve decided that it is worth sharing again, so I’ve updated it and added further information and links to useful posts.

What I would do differently

1. I would decide on a name that I was happy with at the very beginning. In my excitement about the prospect of starting the blog, I hastily chose the name ‘Suzie81’ – my name and the year that I was born. After a while I became really dissatisfied with my choice – it had no real reference to any of the content in the blog – but by this point my readers knew me by this name. When I later purchased my domain name, there were very few options that I could use and I ended up changing it to ‘Suzie Speaks’ to avoid as little confusion as possible. Continue reading

Suzie… Speaks!

Blog profile PicA little while ago, I told you about my terror when asked to participate in an interview for a podcast with my friend Tom and his co-host, Gemma (who is a published author in her own right).

Well, despite my initial reservations, I had an absolute blast, and now I’m pleased to announce that the podcast is available to listen to on There are two versions – the full, 50 minute interview, and a condensed 30 minute alternative.

It was a strange experience to hear my own voice talking back at me – in my own head I sound very different – but all I could think about was how much I sounded like my sister… That’s no bad thing, but I can understand what people mean when they say “ooh, you’re not from around here!” when they meet me for the first time. Continue reading