Category Archives: Lifestyle

A full month of dieting: Done.

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As I’ve said before i’m not keen for my blog to become a homage to dieting but, for my own benefit, I’m intending to do a monthly update to spur myself along.

Monthly markers make sense to me so I’m here to boast that I’ve managed a full 31 days of dieting with absolutely NO chocolate or crisps and so few units of alcohol that I can count them on my fingers. At the three week mark I had lost a marvellous 13.5bls but unfortunately Mother Nature came calling last week and regardless of me sticking to plan 100% I put on 1.5lbs at this weeks weigh in. At slimming clubs, your period is (rather patronisingly) referred to as your “Star Week” and it’s normal to stay the same or gain due to hormones flying around everywhere and water retention. If you stick to plan you should see a greater-than-average loss the following week and, as I’ve kept all of the record cards from every slimming club I’ve ever been a member of, I’m expecting to at least hit my 1 stone award at Tuesdays weigh in.

I have to admit it has been a tougher than average week, maybe because I’m experiencing cravings for Galaxy Ripples so badly that I’d swap my husband for one. My weekly menu has still been satisfying and I’ve noticed that my appetite is reducing, particularly during the day when I’ve caught myself missing lunch (something I would never have done before!).

We tried out a new recipe this week that I stumbled upon at Slimming Eats, a blog started by a hardcore Slimming World follower with a wonderful arsenal of exciting, low fat food. The Butternut Squash Stuffed With Spicy Chicken & Rice was lovely, although admittedly required a lot of faff to cook. We tweaked the chicken & rice recipe to our own tastes and added some chorizo (100g of chorizo is about 9 syns) but we seemed to have the most defiant squash known to man which took 2 hours to cook and even then was a bit hard!

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The best part about this recipe was the leftovers. Having been left to stew in it’s own goo for a bit, the remnants of butternut squash were just the right consistency and created a thick saucy finish to the rice. Next time I cook this, I’ll simply be adding chunks of squash to the rice recipe rather than bothering to stuff one!

To finish off my month of good behaviour, hubby and I decided to order our first takeaway of 2013! Slimming World allows for some naughty gastronomy so I managed a lovely meal of beef in oyster sauce, boiled rice and a single spring roll which only cost me 12 syns.

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It was full of stir-fry veg and I left the majority of the rice (see, smaller appetite) so I’m sure it was also 1/3 superfree ūüėÄ

Here is to another week of good behaviour and hopefully a full stone lost come Tuesday night!

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A Diet update: 13.5lbs lighter in 3 weeks :)

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I announced a few weeks ago my intentions to watch my diet in an attempt to get a beach ready body for my Thailand trip in May. As usual, I had decided to do Slimming World as I know the diet well and feel comfortable doing it but also because I’m a bit if a heifer and SW allows for a lot of food intake. I really struggle with hunger on diets and it’s at those moments that I end up having a bar of chocolate or fast food that isn’t good for me!

For those of you who don’t know, Slimming World is essentially a calorie controlled diet but I like it because large parts of your menu can be eaten without having to be weighed or counted. There are lists of “Superfree” and “Free” foods that can be eaten without limit and then you top up your daily diet with “Healthy Extras” (fibre and calcium) and Syns. Syns, as they sound, are foods which have to be measured and controlled as you only get 105 syns per week. To give you a general idea:

  • Superfree foods include most fruits and vegetables.
  • Free foods include most meat without fat, fish, eggs, quorn, beans and lentils and some vegetables such as potatoes and parsnips.
  • Syns include stuff you’d expect to have to keep an eye on like sweets, crisps, cheese, bread, alcohol, fat.
  • Healthy Extra A’s provide you with your daily calcium intake: 250ml of semi-skimmed milk or 30g of cheese…
  • Healthy Extra B’s provide you with your daily fibre intake: 30g of cereal, 2 small slices of bread….

These lists aren’t exhaustive! Just a little way of explaining SW to you without getting technical.

So anyway, rather than go to a Slimming World group, which costs about ¬£5 per week and a start up fee of ¬£15, I decided to contact all of my friends and family and have a weekly weigh-in group for 12 of us. As a joke, we named it F.A.R.T (Fight Against Restrictive Trousers) and we have Ferocious F.A.R.Ter of the week, Inspirational F.A.R.Ter of the Month, 1/2 stone stickers and 1 stone stickers. We all pay a weekly fee of ¬£1 and at the end of the year, when we all look like extras from a Destiny’s Child video, we will be using out ¬£50 savings to go on a club night out. So it’s healthy and good fun!!

SW is a the best diet in my opinion for people who really enjoy cooking and food prep. It doesn’t lend itself well to pre-prepared food as all fats, oils etc are counted as syns. As an example, a homemade chicken Kiev will set you back about 8 syns (and believe me it’s really tasty), whereas a shop bought fresh or frozen Kiev will set you back about 18 syns. It’s not really worth it, is it?

I love cooking, nothing difficult, but one pot wonders and 20 minute meals are really my thing. I’ve found that almost every recipe in my recipe books can be adapted to SW, recent ventures include a Jamie Oliver Beef Tagine and a Delia Jambalaya that worked out only 3-4 syns per portion and where absolutely DIVINE!!!! Meat, fish, Quorn, Lentils and tofu are all free on SW so it doesn’t matter if you are a veggie or a hardened carnivore, there is always something for you.

So I’ve been sticking to it for three weeks and seen some pretty impressive results:

  • In week one I stuffed myself and lost 4lbs.
  • In week two I went on a pretty rowdy night out where I ate/drank 110 syns on one night and still lost 1.5lbs
  • In week three I tried to control the aftermath of the heavy night out so only had 49 syns all week, but still stuffed myself with low-carb meals and lost a whopping 8lbs!!

In the 23 days I’ve been dieting I haven’t eaten a single bar of chocolate, packet of crisps or bag of sweets (a personal best), so all of my syns have come from “luxury” ingredients like cream cheese and breadcrumbs. My meals, although all home made, have been super tasty and because of that I honestly don’t feel like I’m on any sort of diet!

My favourite meals so far have been:

  1. Greek meatballs, salad, cous cous and hummus (4 syns in tbsp of hummus, rest free).
  2. Luxury fish pie with a carrot & swede topping (8 syns in entire pie: serves 2-4)
  3. Home-made chicken kiev, jacket potato and veg (6 syns in kiev, 1.5 syns for splodge of extra light spread on potato).
  4. Sausage & Super Mash (sweet potato, carrot & swede, turnip, parsnip & spring onion) with gravy. (2.5 syns per sausage, 1.5 syns in 100mls gravy)
  5. Any traditional roast meat with roast potatoes, roast parsnips, root mash, veg selection and gravy, cauliflower cheese. (1.5 syns per 100mls of gravy, 3.5 syns in cauliflower cheese, the rest is free!)
  6. Fat-free Big Breakfast (toast, bacon, egg & mushrooms) (1.5 syns for a bit of extra light spread on the toast).
  7. Beef Tagine (6 syns in entire batch).
  8. Jambalaya (12 syns in entire batch- serves 4-6!)

So as you can see I’ve been eating very well and still the weight has fallen off me. Add to this the other two meals a day I’m having plus snacks and I’ve felt very satisfied from start to end!

I don’t want to bore anyone with the details of my diet but will post the occasional update for no better purpose than keeping myself on track. If anyone is interested in any of these SW friendly recipes please let me know and I will post them!

 

New Years Resolutions.

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New-Years-resolutions

So it’s that time of year, where we promise things to ourselves that inevitably never quite work out. Hell, it’s still work a go!

1. I really need to lose weight. I’ve never been thin, but since putting on my wedding dress I haven’t stopped putting food in my mouth. I’m not detirmined to be a size 8 or anything, but it would be nice to be not quite as fat.

2. I will take care my nails. That means no more acrylics. I’ve just spent 2 hours taking the last set off and my nails are buggered. I got 2 lovely OPI sets for Xmas, Nail envy included, so I’m going to start looking after my own and for those very special occasions I’ll buy in those custom falsies I was talking about the other day.

3. I will spend less on makeup and save more. I dread to think what I spend on beauty in a year, I imagine that could get me and hubby on a decent holiday every year! Time to try a frugal february I think.

I think that will do for now! Don’t want to overwhelm myself.

QVC- I know I go on about it a lot, here’s why.

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OK, so I’ve noticed that all of my beauty posts so far have mentioned QVC at some point. Basically, I love the place and the whole concept of shopping without having to leave my house. You see, I work A LOT and it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever get a day off to actually go shopping; if something isn’t available from my local shopping centre, I do not have time to venture into Liverpool to buy it. But there are a lot of other reasons why I love QVC- here they are.

  1. Great Product Selection. A lot of the time when watching QVC, you won’t have heard of the brand names of the beauty products being sold. This isn’t because they are crap, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Most QVC beauty brands are exclusive to high-end markets. This means that you won’t find them on the high street and more often than not the only other place to stock the brand, if anywhere at all, will be Harrods, Selfridges or Harvey Nicholls. A lot of brands now widely available on the UK market were originally introduced by QVC- Philosophy, Smashbox, L’Occitane, Elemis (to name a few) were all at one point totally exclusive to QVC in the UK. On top of that, brand and product selection is huge. There is something for everyone.
  2. International Brand.¬†We all think of QVC as being an American phenomena, which it is in a way, but QVC now has channels in Japan, Germany and Italy. This means that not only does QVC keep an eye on British and American beauty trends, it also knows what their is demand for in other major consumer districts and introduces them to the market here. It’s a very clever way of road-testing a product and ensuring it’s quality and it also makes a lot of the products very ahead of their time.
  3. Price. QVC showcases big brands every so often by introducing them as TSV (Todays Special Value) or a OTO (One Time Only). I’ve got some fab beauty bargains by ordering TSV sets where you get the one product you really want with 4 or 5 “extras” for the same price. Even if an item isn’t on special offer, chances are you will be able to get a great deal on it- for example, the Elemis Tan Accelerator I previously reviewed is ¬£19.60 on the Elemis website but on QVC you can get two for ¬£30!
  4. Customer Service/Returns. Ok, so every now and then there will be a product you utterly hate. How many high-street stores will allow you to return a used beauty item? Not many, whereas QVC offer a 30 day money back guarantee on all purchases whether you have tried them or not. Plus they are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so if you really need to speak to someone about your order it doesn’t matter what your working hours are.
  5. No compulsive purchasing. When I’m shopping in a department store, I’m much more inclined to start purchasing compulsively. For a start, I’m totally overwhelmed by the amount of products and more often than not I’ll forget what I’m there for and buy something I neither want nor need. The last time this happened to me, I ended up with a Bobbi Brown foundation that having tried before I already knew I didn’t like, yet I bought it anyway. At QVC, they demonstrate a product for at least 5 minutes, which gives you time to look it up on the internet and see what reviews are like. Hell, QVC even publishes customer reviews on it’s website and doesn’t discriminate between good reviews and poor ones. If a product is awful, chances are there will be hundreds of previous customers telling you not to buy it.
  6. No pushy sales people. If you don’t want the item, just turn it off.
  7. You get to see your product in action. If it’s a beauty product, you’ll see it on a variety of skin tones, ages etc and you get to see it being demonstrated by an expert- not just a sales person. I know it’s a pretty bitchy thing to say but the orange faced, white necked ladies who work on concession stands are just sales people. You don’t need a qualification to do that job and they are passing on advice third or fourth hand that often bears no relevance to the product they are selling. Their job is to sell, and they’ll do this by telling you what you want to hear- just ask my Mum about the time she tried to buy a Clinique foundation and she left the stall looking like Coco the Clown.
  8. It’s great for lazy people. I can buy things without getting off my couch. Woohoo!
  9. Sometimes, it’s pretty entertaining to watch. See above photograph of John Barrowman in bed with QVC presenters trying to sell a duvet.

So there you go, just a few of the reasons why I buy a lot of stuff from QVC ūüėÄ

The post in which my entire skin care routine potentially falls to pieces.

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I should start off by saying that at 27, I’ve already wasted dedicated fourteen years of my life to finding the perfect skin care routine. I have no idea what this has cost me, but if I work off the estimate that I’ve bought a 3-step skin care programme about every 3 months that’s cost me roughly ¬£50 it turns out I’ve already spent ¬£2800 on skin care products; And let’s just say that’s a conservative estimate.¬†Just yesterday, I¬†blogged¬†about the ¬£180 worth of Elemis products I “invested” in for my wedding.

Not long after purchasing, I stumbled upon an Asian blogger who had heavily quoted a thesis from a dermatologist which basically debunked the entire beauty industry. Infuriatingly, I can no longer find that blog post, but having spent a few hours looking though other blogs on the subject and listening to the thoughts of a few Youtube guru’s, it seems that a lot of what I read is more than just a concept. The thesis basically argued that the skin care regimes sold to us for a lot of money are useless and this can be proven by comparing the skin of “First World” ¬†women to those in poorer societies where the only skin care routine is a twice daily wash. Apparently, if all we used was a good cleanser and an SPF we’d look a lot better.

Now, this troubles me. Not only have I spent a small fortune in search of flawless skin but I actually like¬†buying skin products. I get as excited buying a new moisturiser as I do buying an eyeshadow and I love the feeling of cleanliness you experience after an at-home facial. So after all this time trying new and increasingly more expensive product is my skin great? Well, no. I still, at 27, suffer from breakouts on my cheeks and I permanantly suffer with blemishes on my chin and jawline. Nothing ever budges these- it’s something I’ve learned to live with. A good skin product for me is one which reduces the chance of a breakout eveywhere else.

To make matters worse, my best friend washes her face with the first thing that comes to hand- soap, witch hazel, Lynx shower gel- and her skin is absolutely flawless. My Mum is the same- I’ve caught her washing her face with Fairy washing up liquid in the past because she’d forgot to buy Palmolive block soap (that’s the most she has ever splashed out on skin care) and for a woman of 54 her skin is great! Neither of them use moisturiser, cleanser, not even a baby wipe and they both have skin to be envious of.

This thesis argued that other than an SPF, we don’t need to put anything else in our skin: collagen in cream form won’t increase collagen production, AHA’s/BHA’s have to stay on the skin for a lot longer to do anything, anti-oxidents dissolve into nothing as soon as the product sees sunlight or air. They benefit our skin in no way whatsoever and more often than not this is what us, the consumer, gets hyped up about. On top of that, the thesis argues that oily skin DOES NOT NEED a moisturiser, applying any more moisture will never reduce the production of sebum in the skin as the beauty industry would have us oilies believe, this was just a myth created to sell more product.

I’m now feeling the need to write into Mythbusters about this. It’s like I need someone, anyone, to tell me that I’ve been doing the right thing all along and that skin care is not a waste of time or money.

If you would like to see one Youtube Guru’s thoughts on skincare, watch the video that made me start panicking here¬†at the Goss channel. This video pretty much agrees with all of what was written in the aforementioned blog post, In fact I’m wondering if Goss has read the same article. (Might I add how much I love this guy! I’ve learnt more from his YouTube vids than I ever did on my makeup course!!).

Either way- are you ever going to give up your routine and see if your skin improves? I don’t know if I can bring myself to do it. It’s like giving up smoking- maybe after this batch….

Another Youtube Tag thing…..

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Makeup!
Blush or Bronzer?¬†Bronzer. I’m pale but freckly and I really rely on something to balance out my colour.
Lipgloss or Lipstick?¬†Lipstick, gloss bores me!! I’m definitely a statement kind of person.
Eyeliner or Mascara? Ooooh, hard! Probably Mascara- there are lazy days when I’ll apply mascara but no liner but never the other way around.
Foundation or Concealer?¬†Foundation. I don’t struggle too much with blemishes and I find that my foundation hides that all anyway. I guess I’m pretty lucky.
Neutral or Coloured Eyeshadow? Coloured! Like I said, statement kind of person,
Pressed or Loose Eyeshadow? Pressed. I love loose shadow for many reasons but I find storage and movement a bit of an issue with crappy screw top packaging. Plus, loose ends up everywhere- on your face and in your handbag.
Brushes or Sponges?¬†Brushes- I just can’t get on with a sponge unless I’ve got hours to spare. I’ve never got hours to spare!

Nails!
Long or Short?¬†Long. I actually find they come in handy for all sorts especially if there is a hot glue gun involved and you don’t want to burn your finger.
Acrylic or Natural? Acrylics! My nails grow like shovels and I don’t have time to keep up with natural nail maintenance.
Brights or Darks? Brights- more fun.

Body!
Perfume or Body Splash?¬†Perfume. I’ve never owned a body splash though so maybe one day i’ll change my mind!
Lotion or Body Butter? Lotion- I have dry but sensitive skin and butter makes me feel all icky.
Body Wash or Soap? Wash! I hate the way soap melts all over the side of the bath.

Fashion!
Jeans or Sweat Pants? Jeans- I live in them!
Long Sleeve or Short? Can I be fussy and say 3/4?? I find it really flatters my arms.
Dresses or Skirts?¬†Dresses. I own a lot of them! It’s just so easy to throw one thing on rather than have to match to anything! ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†Stripes or Plaid?¬†Stripes! Defo.

Flip Flops or Sandals?I would consider these one and the same?

Scarves or Hats? Hats, although I only ever wear one at weddings because I have short hair.
Studs or Dangly Earrings? Dangly, otherwise I just get bored!
Cowboy Boots or Riding Boots? Neither.
Jacket or Hoodie?¬†Hoodie- once again it’s just too easy to throw a hoodie on. plus jackets never sit properly over my abnormally large breasticles.

Hair!
Curly or Straight? Depends on the day, I can pull off either but I do prefer a bit of volume.
Bun or Ponytail?¬†I don’t have enough hair for either- quiff for me!
Bobby Pins or Butterfly Clips?¬†Bobby Pins. I can’t really get a butterfly clip in mine!
Hair Spray or Gel? Hair Spray. Specifically Tresemme Firm Hold!
Long or Short?¬†Short- like I said, I’m lazy.
Light or Dark? Dark. But I have had it both and every colour in between!
Side-swept Bangs or Full Bangs? Side swept, I look daft with bangs.
Up or Down? Up for occasions, down for work.

Random!
Rain or Shine? SHINE!!! I’m British- there is too much rain.
Summer or Winter?¬†Summer. It’s warm and there is no better excuse to party.
Fall or Spring? Fall- it’s my birthday ūüôā
Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate, always. I am a bonafide chocaholic!

Well, that killed an hour.

A plea to the internet for help: where shall we go on our honeymoon?

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My hubby-to-be and I are having ¬†bit of a dilemma choosing a honeymoon destination. Having been together for quite some time (hitting 10 years with breaks in the middle) we’ve visited most of the European destinations we always aspired to see. Saying that, there are some European holidays that we’d like to try, I have a personal hankering for Greek island hopping and OH is keen to see some of the Baltic states.

But, being European ourselves, most of these destinations are a maximum 4 hour flight away and if we were savvy enough, we could visit them on a budget. With this being our honeymoon, we started wondering if maybe we should do someting a bit more out of the ordinary. We are quite well versed in European travel; should we push the boat out and see the Far East? Or try the legendary Route 66 adventure? But, the trouble is, when you start looking at these far flung places it’s just soooo hard to make a decision. So we come to you, the internet, for inspiration and recommendations.

The first thing we look for in a holiday is culture; we like experiencing new sights and sounds, smells and tastes. We enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city but would also appreciate some time relaxing on a beach- maybe a twin centre would be best for us? It has to be warm, there is only so much or the cold you can take being British! And, ideally, we’d like to spend at least part of the holiday in luxury, even if it’s just a couple of days. So if you have a suggestion for us please let us know so we can look into it! We are hoping to travel in September, time is ticking…..

Om nom nom nom- a night out in my favourite restaurant :)

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Me and Hubby had a very civilised night last night in our favourite restaurant, the Retsina in Liverpool. We were in great company and didn’t get too sloshed- although the 2 ouzo’s we had to open and close the meal had an affect on me at about midnigh *hiccup*.

We got engaged in this restaurant (totally by accident- hubby blames the Ouzo for that too) in 2010 so the staff are always great with us and the food is always superb.

From top right, that’s my best friend Katie with her Kleftico, to her left is Skordo Stoumbi (a lamb and garlic stew) served with rice and salad, my hubby’s Sea Bass in garlic sauce and a couple of my meze courses- Kalamari and Prawns Skaras. I also had Halloumi & Lountza and Keftedes but I was too hungry to take photos of them.

We washed everything down with Mythos and Keo (Keo always takes me back to a beach in Cyprus!). All in all, the food was lovely and the company was divine ūüôā

Disclaimer: I’m not Greek so I apologise if I’ve spelt the dishes wrong- I’m working from my ouzo-fuddled memory here ūüôā

Weddings: Is becoming a Bridezilla impossible to avoid?

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I like to think of myself as a non-bridey kind of bride. By non-bridey, I mean traditional wedding dresses aren’t my thing and the idea of getting hitched surrounded by an entourage fills me with dread. Spending a small fortune on table dressing, favours, invites and such isn’t up my street either. Talking about it bores me even more than implementing it.

So when my OH proposed in September 2010 we planned to get married in 6 weeks. Together, we drew up a guest list of 35 close friends and family and decided on a simple registry office affair with a meal afterwards in our favourite restaurant. We expected that people might have a few drinks, a bite to eat and after lots of merriment we’d be thrown out at closing time. To invite these 35 people, we found a simple blue template on Vistaprint and that was good enough for us.

I found the perfect dress online at ¬£150 (our greatest extravagance) and decided on 2 simple dresses for my flower girls. We picked out plain silver band rings from a local jeweler that didn’t cost the earth. I decided on a small bouquet of whatever flowers were available on the day, it would just die at the end of the day after all. All in all, our wedding was going to be low key, relaxed and all about our love for each other.

It seems I was a moron for thinking any of that was ever going to happen.

The first thing to go out of the window was our intimate guest list. My parents, both coming from large families, deemed it was imperative that we invited Aunt Edna’s uncles-brothers-sisters-aunts-cousins-niece and everyone inbetween. Our guest count went from 35 to 180 almost overnight,¬†blowing everything from our budget to our plans for a Greek mezze.

I somehow ended up with 7 (yes, S E V E N) bridesmaids, H2B ended up with 8 groomsmen all of whom we had to dress on the day. My Mum came up with grand ideas for favours, place cards, cakes, invites…really everything that I hate about weddings. I started getting phone calls from long-lost relatives wondering if they’d be invited; “…and don’t forget your Uncle Zebedee will only eat steak!” they’d add.

And thence began the barrage or criticism posing as intrigue- “You won’t be having your Jedward hair will you?”, “Are you covering up that tattoo?”, “I suppose you’ll be losing weight?”. On and on it went, worsened by the fact that in order to pay for this spectacle my parents needed and extra 2 years of saving. I pushed for the original plan, but they had mind up. Their one and only daughter would be getting married “properly” and it would take a family rift to dissuade them of that.

So, for all this time I have put up with wedding talk for the sake of my Mother, who (it seems) appears to think she is the one getting married, and now that we are nearly there and I’ve got so much to do, these people who offered their services in the first place are nowhere to be found and I find myself tying 7mm ribbon around 180 favours myself. Inevitably, someone always wades in the last moment and suggests something “much better” or “much more wedding appropriate” (I personally see nothing wrong with having the Kraken on your wedding cake) and it’s at that moment when the transformation occurs. So next time someone calls you a Bridezilla, direct them to this blog and point out that Bridezilla’s are made, not born.