10 February 2016

Valentine's night in with Rakuten

Well, what a long day today has been! There's a lot going on at work at the moment which it's probably not appropriate to talk about here, but let's just say that there have been job interviews today, a lot of being assessed, and that I have come home a very tired Rosie tonight!

As such, I have dug out a little Valentine's kit that was kindly sent to me by Rakuten last week to help me celebrate.  Usually I'm not a big one for celebrating Valentine's (I'm the least slushy person ever) but this week has been quite a tough one - we also got some bad news about our house sale last week which I mentioned on instagram - so Valentine's Day is good timing for Tom and I to kick back, forget our current stresses and focus on spending some quality time together.

Valentines Rakuten Blogger campaign Valentines Rakuten Blogger campaign

My little Valentine's kit contained lots of sweets, candles, and beauty products and skincare bits for the perfect Valentine's night in.  Whilst I do love going out to restaurants for meals, or for other date nights to places like the cinema, or for a drink, my true love will always be a cosy night in with a takeaway and a DVD.

I was also given a £50 voucher to spend on Rakuten, so I chose some films I'd either been recommended, or just looked up our street, to spend my voucher on.  Here's what I chose...

Valentines Rakuten Blogger campaign

As you can see, we chose Dallas Buyers Club, Prisoners, Paddington, Kingsman: The Secret Service and Now You See Me.  A good mix of lighthearted fun and more thriller style flicks - I always like to watch something light after I've watched anything particularly intense or dark (I get nightmares otherwise - what a wuss!) Have you seen any of these? After a long day today I'll be trying to convince Tom to pop Paddington in the DVD player, it seems like a good bit of escapism and not too much to concentrate on.  I used to love Paddington as a child, I had a little set of cardboard cut outs that you could stand up and I'd always position Paddington on the shelf in my bedroom with his suitcase and jar of marmalade by his side!

Valentines Rakuten Blogger campaign

I'm actually away this weekend for the lovely Sarah's birthday - so Valentine's day itself will be spent with lots of lovely ladies, and probably a lot of cake! I decided I was giving cake and chocolate up for lent, but I've given myself a free pass for this weekend, it just wouldn't be fair on the birthday girl to go without cake - and never let it be said that I am not a kind and dedicated friend.

Will you be celebrating Valentine's Day this year? Are you a dinner date out or a cosy night in kind of person?

3 February 2016

I am not a failure

When I was a child, I loved to write (and read). I wrote short stories, poems, invented magazines, sent out newsletters I built on AOL when we first got the internet – you name it, I wrote it. As I got a bit older I wrote angsty teenage poetry and then I learned to play guitar and wrote angsty teenage songs. For my dissertation at University I had to write a short novel – which I then eagerly submitted to various publishers, to which I received a resounding no (or a resounding nothing, which is the same thing). I applied for jobs in publishing, thinking that that would tide me over whilst I continued to pursue a writing career. Or that that would satisfy my love of writing and reading to such an extent that I would fall asleep happy in my quirky London flat, surrounded by books and manuscripts and half-filled notebooks and beautiful fountain pens.

img credit: anxietys.tumblr.com

Hi, my name is Rosie, I’m 31 years old, I live in Dorset and I work in HR. I do not have a quirky London flat, I am not a published author, people don’t pay me to write stuff, and after a second interview at a famous publishing house in 2005, I did not get the job, and I did not try again. I read a book recently that said to imagine describing your job to your 15-year-old-self. My 15-year-old-self furrows her brow and says “What on earth is an Assistant HR Business Partner?” – a question that, frankly, I cannot answer.

My 15-year-old-self probably put the headphones to her Minidisc Player back in and went back to listening to Tool and writing her Xanga blog. Ugh, my 15-year-old-self is so much cooler than me.

I berate myself constantly for this. I scroll through Pinterest and feel like I haven’t hustled enough, or made enough mood boards, or set the right goals, or pinned enough inspirational quotes. I feel like I have let my 15-year-old self down. I feel like I’ve sold out, wasted my talent, taken the easy route – settled. Which is weird, because working in HR can be bloody hard work, and doesn’t feel like settling at all. I drive to work and over and over I tell myself that I am a failure, and that I’ve squandered my dreams and I’ll never be a writer. And then, last week – and I remember that I was driving down a stretch of country road, in the rain, and I remember what section of the A35 I was driving down, and I remember the arc of the windscreen wipers and the song that was playing on the radio because so clearly, so audibly, as if another person had spoken, a voice said. You get paid to write (sometimes).  And, you are a writer.

I don’t know where it came from. Maybe my inner critic went rogue and decided to switch teams for a moment (to be fair, it has been playing on that side for a really long time, it deserves a break). 

Maybe I lost concentration for so long that I didn’t have the energy to battle myself, and that tiny voice that’s been trying to break through the overwhelming tide of self-criticism, found a crack and shone a little stream of light in. You do get paid to write, though, it said. You sort of are a writer. This time it was a bit quieter – like when you shout something out in class, and then the teacher asks you to repeat it and you doubt yourself a little. I mulled this over for a second. Okay – so my day job is that I work in HR. Between the hours of 9 and 5, I definitely work in HR. But during some of those other hours, I write stuff. Sometimes I write things and other people tell me that they enjoyed reading them, or they pass them on to friends and tell them to read it too. Sometimes people pay me to write things. And they tell me what they’d like me to write about, and I get to put my own unique spin on it, and I share it on my blog, and people read it. And then those people who asked me to write things give me money, and though it doesn’t pay my bills, sometimes it pays for things I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford, like trips away, or things for the house. And because I work in HR I earn enough to own a fairly nice house, and in that house are all my books and half-filled notebooks and a few pretty nice fountain pens. And because I work a job that allows me to work flexibly, I’m usually home by about half past 6, and I can sit down with a cup of tea and write things on my blog that sometimes people read. Or sometimes I write things in my notebook that no-one will ever read, and hey, that’s cool too.

As I mulled over it a bit more, I realised that my inner cheerleader (I’m calling her my inner cheerleader now– I might even give her a cool cheerleader type name, like Brooke) was right. I think my 15-year-old-self would be pretty impressed that I write stuff that people read, and enjoy, and that sometimes people pay me to write stuff too. Working all day and then coming home and writing and sharing things, and having people read those things, is actually pretty awesome. I’m not a failure, I’m actually kicking a little bit of ass at my dreams.

Also, I immediately think of what Shonda Rhimes says about dreams in her Dartmouth Commencement Address: "I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing."

Here are some more things that I’ve realised:

1. If you are achieving your dreams in some tiny, scaled down, not quite what I expected but having a go anyway kind of way - you are not a failure.

2. If you are achieving your dreams but you got there in a totally different, roundabout, A to Z via K kind of way - you are not a failure.

3. If you are achieving your dreams but they aren't the dreams you thought you had, or more importantly the ones you were always told you had - you are not a failure.

4. If you aren’t earning money from your dream but you’re earning enough money to follow your dreams on the side and to have the odd weekend day to do the things that make your heart soar - you are not a failure.

Perhaps most importantly I learned to try and make a little more space for that tiny voice inside of me that's on my side.  I know that I need to quieten my inner critic in order to allow my inner cheerleader to shake her pom poms and remind me that I'm not making half as much of a mess of things as I tell myself that I am.  (Thanks Brooke, you rule).

2 February 2016

Cheltenham Festival Ladies Day Wishlist

Cheltenham Ladies Day is an event I've always wanted to go to.  I imagine it would be prime outfit spotting territory, from the stylish to the garish (the latter of which always gets more coverage in the Daily Mail!)  Ladies Day hosts one of the most famous races of the week, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, a steeplechase over two miles.  I can think of nothing better than donning a swish new dress, drinking some fizz and having a little flutter (saying that, I think I'd rather do it in the sunshine, and being in March, it always looks rather chilly!)

Of course when eyeing up a new event on the calendar I can't help but consider what I would wear - especially when there's a prize for the best dressed.  Though this year I will be watching the races from the comfort of my sofa, and doing my Cheltenham Festival Ladies Day betting online, I can't help but imagine but I would wear if I were trotting up there (see what I did there?)  Here's my Ladies Day wishlist...

Cheltenham Ladies Day falls on March 11th this year - so due to the wintry temperatures I'd definitely be wearing a light jacket to keep the wind and rain off.  The ultimate in smart macs is obviously the classic Burberry trench in my wishlist, but if you haven't got a cool £1300 knocking about in your bank account then this ASOS trench coat with contrasting cuffs (£75) is an absolute beauty.  I think a trench coat would be perfect over a brightly coloured shift dress like the green ASOS number in my wishlist.  I absolutely love a cute wiggle dress paired with some strappy heels; I think it would be the perfect stylish combo for Ladies Day.  Of course a cute clutch is also a must for carrying around your camera (for snapping the best hats) and your betting funds! Sadly I'd have really depleted my betting funds if I bought that beautiful Chloe shoulder bag in my wishlist - I might snap up this replica from eBay instead and save my pennies for the horses.

Last year the Best Dressed Prize went to Jennifer Wrynne, a milliner and fashion blogger from Ireland.  It's easy to see why - that dress is a beauty.

img credit: rsvpmagazine.ie

Jennifer's hat she made herself (what a talented lady), her stole is vintage, her shoes are Jimmy Choo and her clutch is Louis Vuitton.  Emerald is such a fab colour and really pops in this outfit; I'm not surprised she bagged the prize (which is worth around £20,000!)

Have you been to Cheltenham Festival Ladies Day?

*post contains a collaborative link