Goodbye 2016

I just don't know about this year.  I wouldn't pick it out, you know, if all of the years were spread in front of me and I could choose them, relive them, one by one.  I would go back further, before I chose this one.  But then, wouldn't everyone? Being 17 was always going to be better than being 32.  Most people are wistful for their early 20s long into their 30s and 40s.  The endless stretching years of abdication of responsibility laying out in front of you like a lifetime of indifference - interrupted briefly by wild nights, lost memories, fleeting loves and long lie-ins.

I know that it is 'de rigeuer' to hate 2016 anyway, but I never cried any tears for Bowie or Prince (sorry).  I cried salty, ugly tears for rainy holidays and suffocating overwhelm and torn muscles and missing people and injuring innocent things but I did not weep for fallen heroes (I'm far too self-centred, I think).  So if my year wasn't punctuated by their losses, then why am I watching the last dying embers of 2016 with a cautious eye ensuring they fully extinguish, rather than a feeling of fleeting loss?

Every year for the last few years has had a milestone moment.  Buying a house, getting engaged, moving workplaces and changing jobs, getting married, and this year another house move and another new job.  Changechangechangechange.  I'm kind of longing for a nothing year now, you know? I need some time to decompress.  I need some time to sleep.  This year we went to Mexico, France and New York.  I got a promotion and a job I have real passion for.  We bought a house with a roll top bath, tiled hallway and a brass door-knocker.  I love Bodhi dog more than I thought it was possible to love another thing.  I am so, so lucky that sometimes I just walk around my house and worry it will be taken away from me.  But.  But.  (Always with the but).

But 2016 has been filled with lots of days (and nights) when I have felt sad or lost.  It has been a year when I haven't felt truly myself and it's made me feel confused and stressed.  I've filled this year with either seeking out experiences and engagements to try and find what fits, or seeking out total solitude and looking inward.  I feel either exhausted, or bored.  I find myself constantly looking at other people's lives and wondering, is that what I should be doing? Is that the life I should have? I haven't written the novel yet, started the podcast, lived in a foreign country or run a half-marathon.  I haven't got a Master's Degree, learnt reflexology or seen the Northern Lights.  I've got a great job that's stable, flexible and uncomplicated but should I be doing something creative, pushing myself out of my comfort zone? I can't help but feel like 2016 wasn't the greatest because I fell a little behind. Got a little more lost. Spent too much time on the go, or mindlessly scrolling through Twitter and shopping for trainers.  Not enough time 'chasing my dreams'. (Or maybe that only exists on instagram, and why are they running away from me anyway?)

Ugh, instagram.  Okay, here is a thing.  Everyone's photos of babies in reindeer outfits and toddlers unwrapping presents is making me wonder if I want tiny people in my life.  But I don't know for sure about that either.  There's just so much I don't know, and that's been a theme for 2016.  I sought out some advice recently to help with this, and one of the things I took away is that sometimes I need to be more at peace with the 'not knowing'.  To get comfortable and sit in the indecision of not having the answers as to what I should be doing with my life - whether I should be I travelling, whether we should be starting a family, whether I should write the novel, keep the blog, join the football team, get the management qualification (etc).  I realised that some periods are about just 'being' rather than feeling the pressure of making decisions.  And I think that's my plan for 2017.  Not to beat myself up about knowing what the next steps are for me, but just to take my hands off the wheel a little and just 'be'.  I incite my own stress by telling myself to make more decisions, but maybe it's enough for now just to take more baths, get more sleep, smell more flowers and read more books.  Maybe 2017 will be a nothing year, and that is what I need.  Or maybe it will be a something year.  But for now, I'm just going to sit.  Bath running, fire roaring, an overflowing to-read pile and a snoozing dog.  Life is hidden in the small things.


Christmas Day Brunch

This year, for the first time ever, we will be hosting Christmas at our house rather than going to one of our parents’ houses. Ever since I moved out of my parents house I’ve always tried to go there every Christmas with the exception of years when we’ve visited Tom’s parents. I absolutely love being at home (I probably shouldn’t still call my parents’ house home still after 14 years of living elsewhere!) as it just feels so cosy and happy, but it does always feel like a shame to pack up our things a few days before Christmas and not come back until New Year’s.

So this year my parents and brother will be coming to us (our tiny, two-bedroom cottage will never have been so full!) and we will be cooking Christmas dinner. I actually don’t love roast dinners but of course there will always be a special place in my heart for a Christmas lunch (eaten at 5pm of course). However, the one meal I do love at Christmas, is breakfast (or brunch by the time you’ve opened presents and stuffed yourself full of chocolate). We’ve had a tradition since I was young of having croissants, pastries and Bucks Fizz for brunch on Christmas Day and this year will be no exception. Tom is off work this week and is in charge of the Christmas food shop (eek!) so I’ve already asked him to stock up on Brioche Pasquiercroissants au buerre’ as they are my absolute favourite.

For our Christmas brunch we’ll be having croissants (we also often have croissants with bacon and cheese – yum yum!), pain au chocolat, toast piled high with jam, steaming cups of coffee (green tea for me!) and plenty of glasses of Bucks Fizz! This is always enjoyed with Christmas songs playing in the background and usually the dogs running around and frantically tearing up wrapping paper. I love that moment when I can smell the croissants baking in the oven and I know I can just relax and get into the Christmas spirit.

We usually save a few presents until after breakfast too so we can make the present-opening last a little longer (though the temptation is to tear open everything immediately, I always feel a little sad when everything is opened by 9am!) What are your Christmas Day breakfast routines?

*Post in collaboration with Brioche Pasquier

Festive mocktail making

Today's blog post was planned to be about some winter cocktails you could make if you're planning on having any guests over during the Christmas period.  But after spending my Friday night out at my Christmas party, drinking somewhat too many jägerbombs and feeling slightly sensitive yesterday, I thought I'd switch it up a bit and instead share some 'mocktails'.  These mocktails still look fab served to friends but have the advantage of not meaning that Christmas morning is ruined with a sore head! (Of course, if you're feeling devilish you could still add something alcoholic - I've added my recommendations next to the recipes).

I'm trying not to get too sucked into mid-week drinking or going completely crazy with food and drink in December, so to make things a bit more interesting I've been drinking these Feel Good drinks, which are either still and blended with water or a bit bubbly.  They're also really good to keep in the cupboard for friends who don't drink.  I've been adding fruit or other drinks to them to make evenings drinks a bit more interesting, or serve to friends when they visit.  (They're also 100% natural so you don't have to worry about added sugar or any other nasties).

I love making warm drinks during the winter - it's so fun to whip something up when friends pop over and come in from the cold.  The 'hand warmer' is the perfect mocktail to hand to friends as they're taking off their gloves! If you want to make it even more 'warming' you could add spiced rum or amaretto.

It's really easy to make non-alcoholic mojitos as they're so tasty anyway - the cranberry and lime Feel Good drinks are perfect to adding with mint, lime and crushed ice for a really refreshing drink.  To make it a little more devilish you can of course also add brown sugar and white rum.

What are your favourite winter cocktails or mocktails?

*Post is a collaboration with Feel Good Drinks

On hiding

It feels like so long since I sat at the computer and drafted a blog post.  Actually it seems like a long time since I wrote with any sense of intention or impunity.  Oh god, it seems like a long time since I did anything with any sense of intention or impunity.  That's the truth of it I think.  For someone who is 'known' for flying from one plan to another, for being that person that says 'sure, I'm free in, say, two months time?', I've sure had a lot of 8pm bedtimes recently.  And not so many plans.  At the moment I go to work, come home, slope around in my pyjamas and then make an excuse to go to bed early, only to scroll through my phone or try and read a book but get distracted and fall asleep (and then wake a few hours later and stare at the ceiling).

I am known for being that person who loves Christmas.  Most years I am begging Tom to put the tree up in the last weekend of November, playing the Michael Bublé Christmas album weeks in advance of the big day and having all of my shopping done, wrapped and under the tree in a sickeningly keen timescale.  This year I have zero interest in Christmas.  I'm sort of hoping it's something that just goes away, something I can maybe just opt out of.  I'm trying to brush it under the carpet, but it's ubiquitous at this time of year.  I have no enthusiasm for really anything, except for early nights, long soaks in the bath, burning candles and lolling around in my PJs.  I keep coming back to that fantasy I mentioned before, of living in the woods in a log cabin, with fires burning and nothing to do but wrap up in a blanket and read (or maybe mull some cider and make stews).  When I feel like this, I long for total solitude.  I don't really like to talk all that much, I like to go inward and fix (fix with baths and candles, fix with large glasses of wine, fix with sleep).

I've been keeping away from social media a little lately.  There's something about seeing decorated Christmas trees, happy families baking gingerbread, perfectly adorned mantelpieces, winter holidays and couples hugging mulled cider at Christmas Markets that is making me feel very sad.  I know there is that saying 'never compare your outtakes to someone else's highlights reel', but it just feels like another world to me at the moment.  Like everyone else is nailing stuff I cannot seem to get right.       And then I think, is the window closing to have the children huddled around the Christmas tree, to learn how to style the mantelpiece, to want to buy the practical shoes instead of the comfy joggers? Hide under the duvet, pretend that time isn't whooshing by like a train (a train I don't have a ticket for - fumble in my pockets, root through my wallet, check down the back of the sofa - definitely no ticket).

Please know I am not ungrateful.  I accept that I have no reason to be sad or feel bored or listless.
I have all of the ingredients that should mix and bake and make a person full of joy and vigour, all warm and toasty from the oven.  I am endlessly grateful for my beautiful house, amazing friends, wonderful family, loving dog, engaging job - etc etc.  I write in my gratitude journal and sit in the quiet and am thankful for every cup of tea and every hot bath and every nuzzle from the dog.  And I am hopeful that this feeling will pass.  It doesn't always feel right to share the down days on here (and I have been criticised for doing so in the past) but I feel like it's important to mix a little mopey pajama days in with the perfect mantelpieces now and then.  It's all about balance.

In the meantime I have become a little obsessed with this poem from Rilke.  There's something about that line "I want to be with those who know secret things, or else alone" that is just everything for me right now.  Onto brighter days soon...


Casual Sunday and new Nikes

Just a casual little outfit post today for a rather Autumnal Sunday.  I've had the lovely Katy and Sarah staying this weekend and except for instagramming our desserts at Sprinkles in Southampton yesterday I didn't take any other photos (which is clearly how you now you're 'real-life' friends, not just blogger friends).

I did want to quickly share a few snaps from a little stroll this afternoon however, mainly as I wanted to show off my rather beautiful new Nike trainers (which, whilst all-white are still definitely totally appropriate for a walk around the neighbourhood).  Though perhaps not a walk in the forest.  It was actually quite mild today so I could get away with a scarf and my much-loved and pinned (as in, a lapel of enamel pins, not that it's big on Pinterest) leather jacket.  The scarf is a recent purchase from Zara (I think it might actually be from their kids' section) due to a rather chilly lunchbreak when my neck was so cold I had to go and impulse-purchase some winter accessories.


jacket: great plains, £66* {outfit post} // scarf: zara, £12.99 
shirt: uniqlo {sold out} // shoes: nike, from asos via octer £80*

The trainers are from Octer which is actually a really genius app and website.  Basically it aggregates hundreds of different shops and thousands of different brands so you can search for items all on one website.  This is massively helpful if you know what you're searching for but not where to buy it - for example, I know I want an off the shoulder dress for my work Christmas do but I haven't found the perfect one; so you can just search for that style and scroll through lots of different items. SO much easier than having about a hundred different tabs open and slogging through loads of websites.

That last photo quite nicely shows off my new hair colour too (total accident, promise) - on Friday I finally went to the hairdresser's to get my roots done and got loads more highlights put through.  I've always missed having really light, ashy blonde hair ever since I dyed it back to my natural colour last year so I'm excited that it's getting back to being really light again.  The salon I go to uses Olaplex which is a total miracle worker, I can't believe how shiny and soft my hair is after getting it coloured, it feels in such good condition!

Hope you're all having lovely Sundays whatever you're doing (and hopefully whatever you're doing involves slippers, a good book and lots of cosiness - that's certainly what lies ahead for my evening...)


The story of the huge bathroom picture

One of the things my friends often say to me is ‘with you, there’s always a story’. It’s true that I do somehow find myself getting into dramatic little pickles that, whilst frustrating at the time, do make for vaguely amusing dinner chatter. I also have quite the habit of involving as many people as possible in these dramas, ensuring that not only does everyone have to hear the whole story of how I got lost somewhere, or misplaced an important item, but I also have to drag everyone into helping me get out of it.

One of these such dramas led to me in our office car park a few weeks ago, on my knees on the pavement, with bubblewrap wafting around in the wind, trying to press a humongous piece of glass into a picture frame whilst not damaging the print of a picturesque beach scene. It’s fair to say that when I chose the picture that now graces my bathroom wall from Junique, I did not realise quite how large it was, and consequently did not consider a) where to get it delivered to, b) how to get it home from work should that be chosen as the solution, c) how to get it up the stairs and d) how to get it onto the bathroom wall. Some facts that I now know that I didn’t before are that a picture sized 1 metre x 1.5 metres will not fit in the boot of a Volvo C30, or indeed a large Subaru Legacy Estate, even if you take it apart into all of its component parts on your lunch break at work. Another thing I now know is that a picture sized 1 metre x 1.5 metres will not fit up the stairs in our house unless you take at least one door off its hinges. I also now know that a picture that heavy cannot be held on the wall by just two picture nails. (Never let it be said that this blog is not educational).

Art print and frame: Junique, from £45* (unframed)

Onto the topic in hand though, I need to tell you just how amazing Junique is – I implore you to look on their website if you like absolutely beautiful art/homewares/accessories and THINGS. It’s one of those websites where you immediately generate a lengthy wishlist of things you want, particularly if you like stylish interiors (it’s basically all of my home-related Pinterest boards in one place, for sale). Despite all the drama, I am totally in love with the picture in our bathroom, and I’m glad I chose such a statement piece as it just brings together everything in the room. Anyone who visits always comments on it, and asks where it’s from.

We also have a big blank wall in our lounge above the sofa and I’ll definitely be picking something up from Junique to go in that space (I’ve already got my eye on several prints). That will mean the lounge is finished – I can’t wait to share it with you, it’s definitely my favourite room in the house now! Have you got any new home plans? (PS – just LOOK at Junique’s instagram, I swear that website is TOO MUCH).

A jewellery wishlist

It's payday today, and true to almost every month, I have a long list of things I've been lusting for over the last couple of weeks that are now likely to hop into the shopping baskets of various websites.  One such website is TJC, which is a TV Shopping Network you might have spotted when scrolling through your TV channels.  You can also shop online via their site as well as buy from their channel, and I've been really impressed with the range on there (not to mention the prices).  Up until tonight they also have 50% off, which makes some of these items an absolute steal...  (You can tell from my wishlist I'm still totally obsessed with rose gold...) I'm particularly in love with that arrow bracelet - I think it's so pretty and dainty.  And that first ring is rather lovely, but might have to save up a little more first...

1. 9k gold rose gold pink diamond ring, £799.99
2. 14k gold coral reef bracelet, £24.99 {out of stock - similar item}
3. Strada rose gold bangle watch, £9.99
4. Rose gold bangle, £99.99
5. Button drop earrings, £19.99
6. Arrow bracelet, £37.99
7. Strada rose gold watch, £9.99

I never used to wear much jewellery but as I get older I'm much more into adding classic pieces and pretty additions into my 'wardrobe' - I love stacking bracelets and wearing lots of rings, I think it really adds to an outfit.

Do you have your eye on any jewellery at the moment?

* this is a collaborative post with the jewellery channel


I check my watch as I'm lacing up my trainers; one knee on the floor and an awkward upturn of the clock face tells me it's 07.27.  My stomach knots with angst, a flutter of angry butterflies that tell me I'm running late and I need to hurry.  Downstairs my bag is packed and I know the only thing left to do is sling it over my shoulder and grab my coat on the way out of the door.  I consider a last minute glug of tea but leave it emitting steam on the chest of drawers - no time for tea.  I had told myself I would leave the house at 07.30 and I literally haven't a minute to spare.

I climb into the car and the dashboard clock says 07.32.  As I turn on the windscreen de-misters my stomach churns again and I take deep breaths to stop the wave of angst from knocking me over.  I break the speed limit driving to the station, angrily tailgating a Nissan Micra in my efforts to get to the train station on time.  I arrive before quarter to 8 and finally allow myself to relax a little.  My train isn't until 8.15 and I have more than enough time to do everything I need to.  In my head I make the calculations - five minutes to get the parking ticket, five minutes to check my ticket with the guard, five minutes to find the platform - plus I'll want to be on the platform at least five minutes early.  I allow myself five minutes to sit in the car and wait, watching the rain make trails across the windscreen and keeping my eye on the clock.  I know I won't be able to relax until I'm safely settled in on the train.  I don't allow myself to retrieve my Kindle from my backpack - I know it will be too stressful to then have to re-pack my bag a few minutes later, and I've strategically arranged my belongings in the order that I'll need them; wallet at the top so I don't have to fumble around at the ticket office.

Public transport timetables aren't the only thing that make my heart race and my gut clench like some kind of awful stitch.  Sometimes it's even my own self-enforced timetables.  A few weeks ago I played a football match in the evening, and planned to go for a quick drink with teammates after the match.  It makes me feel stressed if I'm in bed much later than 11 as I know I'll be tired the next day, but on this occasion we were still in the pub at last orders, and the pub is 45 minutes from my house. Again, I couldn't relax and enjoy the time with my friends as I spent every minute watching the clock tick further towards certain tiredness.  I raced home and walked through the front door just before midnight, and then could barely sleep due this impending feeling of lateness; keeping a constant calculation as to how many hours it was until my alarm chimed the following morning.  I do this any time I'm out in the evening before work - constantly looking at the time, checking the traffic and calculating the time I need to leave to be home at a reasonable hour.  Even on a day when you might imagine I could relax - a lazy Sunday or a Saturday with no plans - I still have a countdown running of what I need to do that day, and how many hours I think it will take.  As my timer depletes, my stress levels increase, running through my to-do list in my head and feeling time run away with me.  It feels like a total loss of control, like something I can't put my hands around and hold close to my chest.

I wish I knew an easy way to counteract my 'timexiety' - a way to switch off the twist and turn of the metaphorical knife in my stomach, to stop my heartbeat speeding and my adrenaline rushing with every glance at the clock.  I try and tell myself that there's really no consequences to not meeting my allotted timetable - if I miss my train there's plenty more, if I have to go to work on six hours' sleep I'll probably survive, if I'm late for an appointment it's not a big deal.  But it doesn't make any difference.  I try and slow down my breathing, take deep inhalations, but I can't seem to stop it in its tracks.  My anxiety about time slipping away, about lateness, missed trains, long to-do lists, late bedtimes - like time itself, seems to be something I just can't control.


Giveaway and review: SAD Light Therapy Box worth £158

It's around this time of year that my mood starts to flag a little.  Waking up and gazing out of the window into the unending darkness feels uninspiring and gloomy; driving to work in lashing rain with the windscreen wipers on overdrive, watching grey clouds darken the skies mid-afternoon and feeling too tired to leave the house in the evening.  At the moment it's nice to still drive home in the light, but next weekend the clocks will go back and that will change.

I think that most people are aware of the term Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Personally I have never been diagnosed with it or sought any kind of medical advice, I just know that during Autumn and Winter (especially during the darker months), I often feel very down, lethargic and find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning.  I find myself avoiding making plans as I know I'll feel so tired in the evenings and simply want to crawl into bed.  I also often find myself feeling more anxious and having my brain go into overdrive - probably because I'm spending more time at home so I have more time to overthink things and worry.  It's estimated that 1 in 3 people suffer from SAD, with women 40% more likely to experience symptoms of the condition.

There are a few things that can be done to minimise the symptoms of SAD, including exercising, spending time outdoors, or cognitive behavioural therapy or light therapy.  Over the last couple of weeks I've been trialling the Innolux Aurora SAD Light Box from Pure Lifestyle Wonders to try and minimise the gloomy feeling I get as the mornings and evenings get darker (and you can win one for yourself if you scroll to the bottom of this post!)  You can use the Light Box by sitting 2-3 feet away from the light box and having it at eye level, and then just carrying on your normal activities such as eating, working or reading in front of it.  This Light Box is 10,000 LUX meaning that just 30-45 minutes a day is usually sufficient - and the great thing about this lamp is that it can be dimmed as mood lighting for the rest of the day so it looks pretty lovely just sat on a shelf or coffee table.

I've found that the lamp makes a huge difference to how I'm feeling - just the other day I had it on quite brightly in the morning and it made me feel as if it was light and summer-y outside even though it was still dark.  Just gazing at it whilst getting ready in the morning instantly lifted my mood.  I've really found that using it every morning has meant that I don't get the overwhelming feeling of gloominess in the mornings.

The good news is that the lovely people at Pure Lifestyle Wonders have given me a lamp to give away to a reader so that they can also feel the benefit of this amazing lamp (RRP £158.99).  I am really excited to be able to give away something that will really be able to make a difference to someone's life during these darker months (not to mention the fact that it looks lovely at home too!).  There's lots of opportunities to win - you can enter using the Rafflecopter widget below, and the giveaway ends at midnight on Monday 31 October.  It's open to UK entrants only (sorry international readers but the lamp is too large to post overseas).

Good luck!

Styling up sportswear: Fila baseball t-shirt and leggings

When I was about 13 I was a total Fila devotee.  It was the cool brand to be seen in, and I eschewed the Adidas popper trousers that the other kids wore at the weekends in favour of some ultra cool Fila tracksuit bottoms. Even cooler were some Fila hi-top basketball shoes I wore religiously (I even joined the basketball team so I would have more opportunities to wear them).  So it was of great disappointment when Fila seemed to disappear some years later, not to be spotted on the racks of the local sports shops or packed in my PE bag.

Imagine my excitement then, when I spotted some seriously awesome Fila products on the JD Sports website.  Especially with a line that includes ultra cool baseball t-shirts and slouchy sweatshirts (my favourite).  Sportswear can be a tricky thing to style up, and whilst my lazy temptation is always to go full 'gym outfit' and team it with other sportswear, I prefer an outfit that still gives me an excuse to not immediately go for a run (ha).

top: fila baseball t-shirt, jd sports, £35* / jeans: new look {similar £24.99}
adidas gazelles, asos, £75 / bag: kate spade {similar £140}
coat: poppy lux, £48

Of course I wore my new Fila top with jeans (what else), my favourite duster coat and my new Adidas Gazelles.  I don't know why I resisted adding Gazelles to my trainer collection for so long; they are ridiculously comfy and go with anything (particularly jeans, which is lucky for me).

I also wanted to find a way to bring my new Fila leggings into my weekend casual wear.  Again, I'm always tempted to team leggings with a slouchy crew neck or something else ultra casual, but this time I thought I'd try them with my new favourite H&M knitwear and my much loved camel coat.

fila leggings: jd sports, £28* / bag: primark {old} / jumper: h&m, £14.99
shoes: converse chuck taylors, asos, £45 / necklace: anthropologie {old}
coat: zara {similar: £149}

Not sure I've quite nailed the sports luxe trend - but I'm in favour of any attempt to wear gym wear at the weekends.  Are you a lover of sports wear, or do you keep it just for your gym bag?


Sunday Reads and Favourite Things

I can't believe it's Sunday evening already - hope you're all having fab weekends whatever you're doing.  I've spent most of today with a hot water bottle strapped to my stomach, a stack of magazines and a constantly supply of Paramol due to 'shark week' which is not an ideal Sunday, but it was nice to have some lazy time at least.  Here's a round-up of what else I've been reading and enjoying this week:

001. 'Why self-help guru James Altucher only owns 15 things' - I really enjoyed this article and have added his book to my 'to read' list.  I'd like to establish my own daily practice - he has some great advice in there which encapsulate his four tenets of happiness, which are the physical (eat well, try to go to sleep by 9 p.m. and rise by 5 a.m., break a sweat for at least 10 minutes a day), emotional (be around people you love, who love you), mental (write a list of 10 ideas each day to exercise the “idea muscle” before it atrophies) and spiritual (feel gratitude every day).  This is great for a little dose of inspiration.

002. I've made these Raw Vegan Donut Holes twice now and they are so yummy and perfect for a post-work snack.  They really do taste like cake! (I promise).

003. I always love Kristabel's blog but her post on mistakes she made when she started blogging full time was super interesting - there are some real lessons about marketing yourself and working with Agencies.  It's not my plan to blog full-time but there's some great lessons in there for all bloggers who want to maximise their blogging impact.

004. Another blog I'm totally obsessed with is One Pleasant Day by Carrie (not to mention her totally stunning instagram account).  I've bookmarked her cinnamon butterfly cakes as a must-make this Autumn.  (Isn't her photography to die for?)

img credit: onepleasantday.com

005. I've been doing lots of pinning of pretty pictures on my Autumn Pinterest board and on my tumblr.  The Grace Upon Grace tumblr is just like diving into a perfect Autumnal scene, I could lose days just scrolling through all of the loveliness!

img credit: ajoyfuljourney

006. I've been thinking a lot about 'mantras' recently and how I can stop some of the negative self-talk in my head by repeating some more positive statements to myself.  I also listened to McKel Hill (of Nutrition Stripped) on the One Part Podcast and she spoke about using mantras whilst running or at the gym and I thought that was a great idea - I really enjoyed this article on Sonima with some suggested mantras to use depending on whether you need confidence, gratitude, love or happiness.

007. I love Carly Rowena's YouTube channel and tonight's video on meal prepping your breakfasts is so helpful - I'm definitely trying all three but that Superfuel Granola in particular looks so yummy!

008. The instagram eyebrow, and beauty in the age of social media. "As we spend more and more time online, the person you appear to be on Instagram or Facebook could soon be more relevant to you, and more real to other people, than whomever you are offline—if indeed you are ever really offline."

009. I got a lovely little package from Penguin Random House this week - some cosy socks, a face mask, peppermint tea and a book about Hygge! Hygge - The Danish Art Of Happiness is a beautiful book with lots of tips and ideas for how to bring hygge into your life.  Marie says that hygge is 'a Danish word for finding happiness in the little things in life... and finding magic in the ordinary'.  Sounds pretty perfect, right? 

010. Really enjoyed this article on Seasons in Colour on 'the best flat-lay tips ever' - so many awesome tips and major instagram inspiration! I'm really trying to improve my instagram and flat-lays is something I've never managed to make look good so I'm definitely going to use all of these tips (starting with the marble contact paper, much cheaper than a marble coffee table!)

What have you been reading and enjoying this week?


Health and Fitness Update and plans for October

It's been a few months since I shared a health and fitness update on here - and since then I've had a summer which was a mix of both really disciplined eating and exercising, and then much more relaxed periods on holiday and since I've been back.

I managed to get into fairly good shape before my trip through a mix of personal training sessions and gym visits coupled with really strict eating and avoiding of treats.  Needless to say, by the time I got to Mexico I was ready to nose dive into a bucket of prosecco and all you can eat tacos.  Since I've been back I've been much more balanced with my eating and fitness, and things have been so busy that I haven't been going to the gym as much as I would like.

I'm a member of a gym near my work and pay about £15 for my membership, which means I can afford to pay for personal trainer appointments.  This works out best for me as it gets me into the gym at least once a week and it also means I have a routine to stick to when I'm in the gym rather than floundering around wondering what exercise to do next.  But it truly is a cheap and cheerful option (I have to wear flip flops in the shower as I don't trust bare feet in the changing rooms!) and I've been longing for something a bit more upmarket - with a pool so that I can swim, and preferably a jacuzzi to relax in! I had a quick nose on Pay As U Gym and I can get a membership that gives access to a local spa near me as well as the pool down the road from my work (and over 1000 other gyms) for £54 a month.  I think I'm definitely going to go for this, it would be so nice to be able to relax in the sauna or steam room after a hard day at work (was really surprised to see my local Macdonald spa hotel on there too; I think the membership for the spa alone is £50 a month so it's definitely worth it.)

img credit: barrandwray.com

As well as wanting to get back into swimming I also really want to get back into running this month. For some reason I seem to be able to get back into a routine with running in the colder, darker months - there's something I really like about getting up early and pounding the pavements when everyone else is still tucked up in bed! My plan is to go to the gym 2-3 times a week, and run at least once.  That should really help me get rid of the holiday (and post-holiday - oops!) weight and keep my fitness levels up.

Along with my regular gym sessions I've also taken up playing football regularly.  I've been playing five-aside on and off since about June but I enjoy it so much that I decided to try training with a local ladies football team.  I went to training the week before last and last Sunday I played my first match for them which was so nerve-racking! I also played for my work team in another match on Wednesday and I'm feeling more confident the more I play.  I'm really trying to get over this feeling of being 'rubbish' and worrying I'm going to let the team down as I know it will take time to get better.  

If I can carry on going to training on Wednesdays and then playing on Sundays I feel like it will really help my fitness improve, as well as helping me learn to get better at football.  I'm really enjoying having a new hobby to get stuck into.  It makes such a difference doing something that's active and that you enjoy - I don't think of football as 'fitness' but just as something I do for fun.

Of course, with Autumn here now I also don't want to overdo it - October will definitely have an equal dose of relaxing and getting cosy as well as the fitness and football.  Fitting in 2-3 gym sessions, a run and some football is aspirational but I'm not going to be hard on myself if I decide to skip a morning run for an extra half an hour in bed now and then - sometimes your body needs it!  What are your health and fitness plans for October?

*post contains a collaborative link


October Payday Wishlist

Now October has rolled around, all I can think about is cosy jumpers, long coats and ankle boots.  I've always struggled with wanting to be the pretty girl in the dress, but deep down I do love my Nike trainers and varsity jackets, especially when the temperature gets chillier.  Now it's definitely time to pack away my vests and embrace the knitwear, here's a few things I've got my eye on that might well be hopping into my basket this payday...

The Acne jumper is definitely a bit aspirational (much as I'd love to splash out on that bundle of cosiness) so I'm now on the hunt for a grey cowl neck that's a little more in my price range.  I need to stock up on my gym gear (well, I don't, but I want to!), and that Salt Gypsy striped pair are a bit of a bargain for £34 (and come in a load of different colours).  I'm a huge fan of pretty much everything Pull and Bear sell but I particularly have my eye on that varsity jacket - I'd wear it with ripped black jeans and ankle boots for a bit of a change from my trusty leather jacket.

What will you be picking up this payday?


On loneliness

On Thursday I drove to the gym before work and left just as the sun was coming up. When I got into my car the sky was dark navy, like a school pullover. The street was still asleep – no orange glows from windows, no barking dogs nor the hum of car engines starting. I don’t say this to boast about my motivation to go for early morning workouts by the way; just that there was this moment of total stillness before I started my journey.

When this happens I often find myself taking a moment to stand in the street and take it all in. There’s something about being still in the middle of a road that feels almost rebellious to me (we always hurry across a road don’t we? So stopping feels somehow dangerous). There is a chill in the air that signifies the onset of Autumn, and a sheen of condensation lines my windscreen. I throw my gym bag onto the front seat and zip my hoody closer to my neck. This morning I’m not leaving a sleeping husband in bed – Tom is away with work for the week, which adds somehow to the stillness of it all. I know that Bodhi dog will have climbed back into his bed and the house will fall once again silent, with only my leftover green tea cup and the strewn bedcovers to signify my presence this morning.

In the car it feels like the day should start with music in keeping with the quietness of the morning; and so I choose a Calexico/Iron and Wine joint album I’ve been listening to a lot lately. By the time I’m driving through Lyndhurst (a pretty town in the forest with bunting strung across the street) it reaches my favourite track, '16, Maybe Less'.  This song always reaches deep down into something buried deep inside of me.  It’s about being an adult and remembering a teenage relationship (“Time has bridled us both but I remember you too”). There’s something so poignant about it; about longing for the wildness and intensity of youth, and it’s a song I have to be in a certain mood to listen to. As I rounded the corner to a section of the journey where fields and moorland open up to the right I could see that the sun was rising, and the sky was the most amazing deep, vast orange. The warmth of the rising sun against the coolness of the low-lying land had created a mist, and horses lazily navigated the haze, silhouetted against the skyline. There was something indescribably ‘too much’ about it all. It was truly overwhelming. The song, the sunshine, the stillness, that feeling of being completely on your own in the world. At times like this there’s always this odd, primitive yearning that I feel stirring in my gut – a desire to abandon my car and just walk deep into the forest and ensconce myself with nature. I imagine myself calmly parking at the side of the road and just walking; into that dappled sunshine, the near-frost on the undergrowth softening beneath my feet. To walk, and walk and walk until all is trees and horses and dirt and you.

And that’s how it all started, this feeling of loneliness that started at the back of my throat and forced me to breathe deeply and bite my lip.  Because I realised I hadn’t really spoken to anyone in almost 12 hours – which isn’t really a big deal, in the grand scheme of things.  But last night had been a different evening, something I had been building up to for some time.  I’d been to a football training event to discuss playing for a ladies football team – the sort of thing that people do all the time, but that I never do because my overactive brain tells me that I won’t be able to do it, that I’m too old, not good enough, that no one will talk to me, that it’s easier not to go.  For this reason, I’ve been knocking around the idea of going to a training session for months, until it was the point that I had to either go, or abandon the idea forever.  I chose to go, which is a big enough deal for me – to drive to practice, butterflies in my stomach, a bag of nerves and anxiousness.  And it was FINE – of course, and when I arrived back to my car afterwards I felt this whole mix of emotions I couldn’t translate into words. But there were no messages on my phone, no missed calls.  I drove home to an empty house, made dinner for myself and wandered through rooms feeling somewhat lost.  I endured a brief crackly phonecall from Tom, who was out for dinner with colleagues, and went to bed feeling empty. My phone remained silent as I drove to the gym that morning.  And somehow this expanse of sky, this sight that rendered me speechless and opened me up – it galvanised this sense of loneliness. It was just another thing, at that moment, that wasn’t to be shared.  Something that would be internalised and buried deep inside of me; another secret, another stone dug into the dirt.  I longed for the closeness of a teenage friendship, a person who would know the absolute minutiae of your life and be constantly rooting for you.  To have that person, or those people, who hold you in their thoughts and who think of you in times of difficulty, or challenge – in times when you are on your own.

This isn’t a complaint, or a whinge – I think that as you get older, the nature of relationships change so much. And I am guilty myself of living in a bubble and not thinking of others as often as I should. I also pride myself on being a very independent person and so I don't always share when things are tough for me, or when my internal monologue is building something up to be a 'big deal' to the extent that it's all I can think about.  So it's certainly not a criticism of my friends, so many of whom are incredibly thoughtful.  It's just that, I noticed that in that moment I felt incredibly alone in a way that I haven't for some time.  I watched the marmalade tinged sky grow smaller in my rear view mirror and turned up the heaters in my car.  Sometimes you don't even know how you feel until nature shows it to you.  Against the hugeness of that sky and the world turning even when everything else is still, I felt very small.


My Autumn Resolutions

I always find that a change in the seasons prompts me to reflect on the last few months and think about any changes, new routines or habits that I want to kick-start.  This happens particularly when Autumn rolls around, as it makes me think about making the home cosy and maximising all of the time spent indoors whilst it's raining!

R e a d i n g

I really want to spend more time reading, and ticking off some of the books in my to-read pile over the next few months.  I've been spending far too much time lying in bed on my phone when I could be reading a couple of chapters of a book (something that would enrich my life far more than scrolling through Twitter or Facebook).  I downloaded lots of books onto my Kindle before my holiday but for some reason I'm really itching to find the perfect paperback to lie awake at night thumbing through and throw in my bag to read on my lunch break.  I definitely go through phases where I prefer my Kindle and where I find myself reaching for the comfort of a real book! I'm really into crime novels at the moment - I'm just about to start Like This, For Ever, which my Dad read on holiday and said was a total page-turner.

S k i n c a r e

When I went away to France, because we were in the van and usually spent the evenings just relaxing and watching films on the laptop I found myself getting into the groove of a really good skincare routine.  There's something about not having to worry about my morning alarm that makes me take much more time to pamper myself! I found myself spending lots of time on using my favourite exfoliators, cleansers, toners and masks and I really saw a huge difference in my skin.  My skin gets so much drier and more sensitive in the chillier months so I want to take more time to give myself a bit of a pre-bedtime pamper and try and keep my skin feeling soothed even as the temperature starts to drop.  I've been reading on the Nuriss blog about their tips for tired skin and I've been wondering about adding one of their Fibroblast Facials to my to-do list in Autumn or Winter to help pep up my skin! I love to go for treatments or spa days to treat myself when I feel like I need a bit of self-care, and that sounds like it could be the perfect option.

W a r d r o b e

I really love packing away my shorts and vests at the end of summer and bringing out all of my cosy jumpers and coats.  I'm always on the lookout for some new autumnal items however - I feel that this A/W is going to consist of lots of chunky cardigans, ankle boots, midi skirts and thick jumpers.  Here's a few things I have my eye on...

F i t n e s s

Strangely, Autumn and Winter are actually the times when I tend to step up my fitness efforts rather than feeling like I want to hibernate (well, I do that too).  I love going running in the mornings when it's still dark outside and the air feels really crisp and chilly.  I have barely been running at all this year so I really want to pick that back up again, as well as playing more football, as I do really enjoy that (and I'm trying to push myself to try different sports to keep fitness fun!).  I'm still getting a lot out of going to the gym and seeing my personal trainer and I really want to keep that up to keep seeing results.

H o m e

It goes without saying that Autumn is a time when most people want to fill their homes with candles, fairy lights and comfy cushions to make the house feel ultra cosy for those lazy Autumnal Sundays.  I'm still head over heels for our new home and even though it's much smaller than our old house (the lounge is so small it was called a 'snug' in the details from the estate agent) I know it's going to be so perfect during Autumn and Winter - as soon as it starts to get chillier we'll be lighting the wood burning stove and spending evenings under a blanket watching movies! We have a lot of decluttering to do though before I can treat myself to any new homewares, so I really want to have a good clearout and welcome some pretty new bits and bobs in.  I'm loving anything mid-century or retro looking at the moment, my Pinterest boards are bursting at the seams! (PS La Redoute's Homewares section has so many lovely things, and they currently have a 40% off code - most of the below finds are from their site!)

What are you planning on focussing on or changing up for Autumn?

post contains a collaborative link

Tattoo aftercare, and two new tattoos

A few months ago I decided I wanted to build up the tattoos I already have on my legs by getting my calf and thigh tattooed on my left leg.  I already have my right thigh tattooed with quite an abstract design of a woman surrounded by wolves in a forest, but I wanted to keep my left leg in line with the more colourful, traditional style of my other tattoos.

We are lucky enough to have lots of great tattoo artists down on the south coast, as well as several renowned studios that offer guest spots to other artists, so I've never had to travel far to get tattooed.  This time I had decided on two local artists that I wanted to get tattooed by - so I booked appointments with both, one for my calf, and one for my thigh.

// custom propaganda tattoo, southampton

Unfortunately I failed to notice that I had booked one for this Thursday, and one for this Saturday - and it wasn't until the dates started to creep closer that I realised I would be getting two tattoos on the same leg within three days of each other - oops! Luckily I was working from home on Friday and I have the rest of the weekend to relax, and in the end it actually wasn't too bad having them close together (and now I have two awesome tattoos to be excited about, it's such a novelty having two new pieces of artwork to ogle at).

So, on Thursday I arrived at Pauly's Tattoo in Southampton with a bag full of Lucozade and Haribo (important pre-and-during tattoo fuel), ready to get my calf tattooed by Aaron.  I think it's actually the first time I've gone alone to a tattoo appointment, but it was actually much nicer to be able to chat to the tattoo artist and relax rather than worry about a friend getting bored or listening to them chat whilst I winced in pain! As soon as he got the stencil out and we put it on my leg I started to get so excited as I knew it was going to look great.  We started about 11am and I was done about half past 3 - we did have a couple of breaks though so it was probably only around 3.5 hours of actual tattooing.  Several people had told me that your calf is a particularly painful place to get tattooed, but I didn't find it too bad - it was only near the end that I started to get fidget-y and feel like I couldn't sit (or lie!) for much longer.

On Saturday morning I then went over to Custom Propaganda to get my thigh done by Dan.  I found my right thigh quite painful so I was a bit nervous about the pain, and it was definitely just as painful as I remembered! Just like any tattoo, some bits were totally fine, and some bits were really, really sore. We managed to get the linework and the black sections done and I have another two hours booked in in a few weeks' time to get the colour done - I can't wait to see it when it's finished.  I'm totally in love with both pieces and can't wait for them to be healed and looking great.

T a t t o o  a f t e r c a r e

I was recently told by several people (including the people at the tattoo shop) that the previously much recommended for aftercare product - Bepanthem - has changed its formula and is now no longer suitable for tattoo aftercare as it contains lanolin (many people are allergic to lanolin, and as it acts to moisturise the skin by trapping water in the pores of the skin, it may cause a 'soggy skin' side effect that can damage the tattoo).  I always hated using Bepanthem as it's so oily that it tends to stain clothes and bed-sheets so in a way I'm kind of glad that it's no longer being recommended as the best product for tattoo aftercare.

Any products that have lanolin, petroleum, or added colours, scents or parabens are not advised to be used on tattoos.  I've been recommended a couple of different products and have decided mainly to use Tattoo Goo this time - I have the lotion but there is also a salve (although I found the salve a bit more difficult to apply).  Tattoo Goo has olive oil, beeswax, cocoa butter, wheatgerm oil and vitamin E, so lots of natural products that aid in healing and moisturising your skin.  A couple of people also recommended to me Waitrose Baby Bottom Butter (that's a mouthful!) and as there's a Waitrose at the end of my road I thought I'd quickly grab a pot of that for when I run out of Tattoo Goo.  It also has several similar ingredients, including olive oil and other essential oils.  Finally, I'll also be alternating these with the Palmer's Fragrance Free Cocoa Butter, as recommended by the lovely Rachel at Illustrated Teacup.  After my second tattoo they recommended either the Cocoa Butter, or Lush Elbow Grease or Ultrabalm.  Again, both of these products have all natural ingredients and oils and butters that will keep the tattoo moisturised and soothed.  (Elbow Grease also has the added benefit of making any tattoos that you already have look great, it makes them look all shiny and new!)

Everyone has an opinion on the best way to heal tattoos and look after them immediately afterwards so it's definitely worth asking your tattoo artist what they recommend.  Personally I always take a day off after getting tattooed (or try and get tattooed on a Friday so they have the weekend to heal) so that I can rest whichever part of my body is feeling sore at the time! I usually take ibuprofen after being tattooed to help with any swelling and stop it being so sore - there are mixed opinions on whether you can take painkillers before being tattooed (particularly paracetamol, which has the side effect of thinning your blood, which can mean that you bleed more whilst being tattooed) but I see no harm in taking a painkiller afterwards (if you have any doubts however, please do ask your tattoo artist or a GP).

Do you have any tattoos planned?


Bali Travelogue: Balian Beach and Pondok Pitaya

Last year, Tom and I spent five weeks in Bali, staying in various locations on the island, as well as venturing out to the Gili islands near the coast of Lombok.  We flew out just a few days after getting married (the months preceding being probably the most stressful of my life) and so when we got back I was more focussed on getting back to normality than editing lots of photos and blogging about our trip.

However - I often look through my photos of Bali and have so many good memories of the trip, and I have since spent some time editing my photos and selecting some that I'd really like to share here.  Since we only went about 15 months ago it also makes sense to write about a few of the places that I'd recommend visiting for anyone else who is planning a trip to Bali.  So - if it's okay with you, I'm going to intersperse the odd Bali post in with my other content.  I'm also editing my photos from my recent trip to Mexico, so that should pop up in the next couple of weeks too.

One of the last places we visited before we flew home was Balian Beach.  We stayed here for about three nights just to chill, swim in the pool and generally relax before returning to normality (it's about two hours' north of the airport but you can get drivers for 2-3 hour trips for anything from about £15).  We stayed at Pondok Pitaya, which promised wooden bungalows, great surf on the beach outside the hotel, yoga classes and a swimming pool.  A room with air conditioning and breakfast included was about £45 a night.

Balian Beach wasn't as picturesque as some of the other beaches we visited in Bali, with a mix of pebbles and dark, almost black sand - but it certainly had a charm to it.  Every night brought us incredible sunsets which fringed the long coastline in burnt oranges that reflected over the rolling waves.  Tom was happy as the surf here was particularly good, and there were places to hire boards dotted along the beach.  Whilst Tom surfed, I lazed by the pool reading a book - the pool is practically right on the beach so I could watch the surfers (and the dogs trotting along the beach) whilst I sunbathed.  The people here were really friendly and laid-back - this isn't a beach where you'll be heckled to buy souvenirs; it has a really chilled, surf vibe.

One of the great things about this B&B was that they also have a huge yoga studio in the grounds of the hotel.  We went to two different classes whilst we were there and felt thoroughly chilled at the end of it! There isn't much in the immediate surrounding area of Balian so it was great that there was lots to do in the actual hotel area itself.  They also offer yoga retreats and massages, and their restaurant serves juices and organic food, so they really do cater for people who want to focus on their health and wellbeing (they also brew their own cider and make great pizzas, so you don't have to have an uber healthy time here if you don't want to!)  There were several other restaurants just up the road from Balian Beach, and there's also a night market every night that sells traditional street food like noodles, fried vegetables, noodle soup or pancakes ranging from about 5p (yes really) to about £1.

Overall I would massively recommend including Balian Beach as part of your itinerary if you're planning a trip to Bali - it's an ideal place to spend a relaxing few nights, eat some great food and take in the scenery.

Have you visited Bali?