The penultimate time I will come here

When you buy a house you imagine filling the roll top bath with sumptuous, scented bubbles, and conjure up images of blades of grass bending under your bare feet in the garden as you hang out the washing.  You imagine wine glasses clinking and smiling eyes around the dinner table; the fire crackling away and having logs tenderly placed upon it in the winter.  Everything has a warm hue of golden light and hopefulness, and placing the key in the front door for the first time you really feel you might burst with joy.  It is the joy of a new chapter, a new beginning.  Something that can be built and created and captured and lived in.  You do not realise, at the time, that chapters can be short and joy is fleeting.

You do not imagine your father placing his hand on your shoulder as you cry in the hallway and gaze around at the scattered boxes that contain your belongings.  You do not imagine separating seven years' worth of belongings, or forcing your brain to thumb through old memories to remember who bought that vaguely ugly green glass owl (me, of course).  I take the 'Captain' mug and leave him the 'First Mate' mug because I'm trying to retain a sense of humour through it all, but then I tear up again seeing his birthday cards and thinking how many birthdays we celebrated, how many anniversaries, Christmases, dog's birthdays (though we often forgot - sorry Bodhi).

img credit unknown > contact for removal

Everyone says, "but this was your decision, but you have created all of this" and I know they mean this kindly, to ease the pain and drag me from this sense of 'victim-ness', this wounded animal.  It is my actions that mean that I am packing books into boxes, that mean that I stood in the pouring rain in January pushing blue Ikea bags into my boot and waving goodbye to everything I thought I wanted. The animal wounded itself and now wishes to mourn the sight of the arrow.  And I wish that it were true, that having pushed the ball that started things rolling somehow numbs the pain, but it doesn't. It still hurts to grieve for all of the things that were planned that didn't arrive, for all of that hope that didn't metamorphosise into forever.

So what is the good in this, what can this hope be melded into that feels warm and gives off light? It is that hope can live on and that the light can hang in the distance and give you something to walk towards.  It is knowing of a love that transcends a need to be together and accepts that kindness can sometimes look like letting go.  It is visualising those books on another bookshelf in another house and having faith that this is not the end and there are so many chapters to come.  And of course, it is knowing that rolled up in newspaper in the loft of my parents' house, I have the ugly glass owl.


Malin + Goetz - amazing natural skincare

One of the things I'm hugely interested in at the moment is essential oils and botanicals, and how they can be used for healing, skincare and self-care.  I've been gradually weeding out any of my skincare and beauty products that aren't made from predominantly natural ingredients and have harsh chemicals or a list of things inside the jar that I don't recognise or can't pronounce.

I first became aware of Malin + Goetz as a brand when I spotted their simple and stylish packaging in Space NK.  When I found out that they are inspired by traditional apothecaries and use mainly natural ingredients I was really eager to try some of their amazing sounding products, and so I felt extremely lucky when some arrived on my doorstep around a month ago.  I decided to give them a thorough try before I blogged about them, but they've quickly become one of my new favourite brands.

malin and goetz jojoba face scrub, £29* | recovery treatment oil £62* | repleneshing face serum £56*
The Recovery Treatment Oil is the product of theirs that I've had my eye on for some time.  It has nine natural oils like evening primrose oil, jojoba and argan oils which are incredibly moisturising and soothing.  As soon as you start smoothing it on to your face it smells and feels absolutely beautiful and instantly makes your skin feel softer.  The other ingredients like rosehip oil and grapeseed oil help restore your complexion and protect against free radical damage.  I use this morning and night before my moisturiser and I've definitely noticed a huge difference in my skin.  It feels more supple and moisturised and I really notice the effects if I use it before bedtime.

I recently bought the Hangsun Sonic Cleaning Facial Brush which I use every day to cleanse my face and remove my make up (probably the best £29.99 I've ever spent).  For this reason I've been desperate to find the perfect facial scrub to use a few times a week with my brush to exfoliate my face.  Their Jojoba Facial Scrub is a great combination of the beads to help remove dead skin and then the jojoba meal which is again, really soothing.  (It also smells lovely which is a winner in my book).

The final product and one I absolutely adore (I'm never buying another serum again) is their Replenishing Face Serum.  I took this away on holiday knowing that my skin would be subject to hot sun and swimming pools and I wanted to make sure my skin stayed in good condition.  It contains Sodium Hyaluronate which is intensely hydrating and moisturising (perfect for sun-burned holiday skin!) and chamomile, lavender and geranium which are really soothing.  It's amazingly moisturising on its own, but followed by a moisturiser gives a double-hit of hydration.

I'm definitely going to pick up a few more of their products online as I really like them as a brand and - of course - it helps that their products are incredible.  Have you tried any of their products?


Mindful walking + Mother Earth

Okay so, this is your five second warning that things are about to get a little bit woo-woo.  Or hippy dippy.  Or 'out there'.  Or whatever you call things that sound a little bit spiritual (no skincare reviews or photos of burgers today, soz).

I want to talk today about mindful walking, and connecting with nature (you all have your boundaries for what counts as woo-woo, for some that's already a little odd-sounding and for some you'll need to journey to Peru and drink hallucinogenic tea whilst dancing around naked and connecting with your past lives to even summon a slight feeling of 'wow, weird'.  PS - if this is you, holla at me, let's go together pls).

A couple of months ago, I went on a 'well-rested woman retreat' led by Karen Stanberry which focussed on relaxation, calm, self-care and slowing down.  One of the things we did was to go on a 'mindful walk', sometimes known as a walking meditation.  A small group of us on the retreat slowly ambled through a beautiful wooded glade on a footpath up to the cliffs overlooking Studland Bay.  The idea of the mindful walk is that you are conscious, present and mindful of everything around you - noticing your breath as it flows in and out, the way your steps feel on the ground, the sights, smells and sounds that occur around you.  No headphones, no walking and texting, no chatting to a friend, just complete immersion in all that is.

As I walked in silence, I noticed so much that normally would have totally escaped me.  We took the time to watch the way the trees moved in the breeze, the smell of the wild garlic as it wafted along the path.  We all stopped for a few seconds to observe a meadow full of wildflowers - the way they danced and moved, drifting in time with the wind.  A glade full of bluebells that extended as far as the eye could see (and probably beyond).  The crunch of branches and softness of the earth underfoot.  The sound of the sea in the distance.  The creak of the gate as we moved out of the woods and up to the clifftop.  Opening our senses and clearing our minds made it almost overwhelming; the way your eyes adjust and see more details when it's slightly darker, the way you can intently listen to a piece of music and notice all of the individual sounds when listening through headphones.

Before Karen introduced me to mindful walking, my morning dog walks would be set to the sound of the music in my headphones, idly strolling around the same route, one eye on my watch as my mind raced, worrying and planning the day ahead.  The saddest thing, for me, is that I would walk along the shoreline and have music, or a podcast playing in my ears.  Considering the sound of waves rolling onto the shore is one of the most beautiful sounds to me, I feel sad that I've spent so many years blocking it out.  I don't deny that there is definitely a place for listening to audiobooks, or podcasts, or music whilst walking, but I've also made a mental note to spend as much time as I can with my headphones around my neck - listening to birdsong, the sound of dogs barking in the distance, the crunch of stones and sand underfoot, the wind whistling through the halyards in the sailing club.

Yesterday morning I took Bodhi for a walk in an area of woodland we hadn't really explored before.
As we wandered into the woods I felt this wave of complete calm flow over me. For a long time I didn’t see another person, and it felt as if the whole word was just Bodhi and I, wandering along the path. For some of the route, the plants and trees grew close to the trail and I had to move them aside, gently brushing branches and leaves and wending through the undergrowth. Just down the path I could see a robin bobbing along, picking at sticks and other things that had fallen from the huge trees towering overhead.  I wandered away from the path and into a clearing where there were tree stumps and ferns growing and just sat for a while, with Bodhi at my feet.  I closed my eyes and took some time to just breathe and soak up the sense of being immersed in nature.  And then I thought - 'I am nature'.  As the breeze moved around me I felt as much a part of the woodland as the trees and plants.  It reminded me of a quote I heard recently - "You think of yourselves as humans searching for a spiritual awakening, when in fact you are spiritual beings attempting to cope with a human awakening.  Seeing yourselves from the perspective of the spirit within will help you to remember why you came here and what you came here to do".  We think of ourselves as humans needing to be in nature, but in that moment it occurred to me we are nature - and if we are quiet and humble and connect ourselves to the earth we are the same as all of the other things we consider a natural part of the woodland.  (Is this too much? I'm going to keep going).

One of the concepts or beliefs I really love is that of 'Mother Earth' - the idea of the earth as a living entity (or Gaia).  The belief is that Mother Earth is a personification of the entire ecosystem of the planet, and that she is always working to maintain and achieve harmony and balance.  Mother Earth is to be greatly honoured and respected.  Rebecca Campbell - who wrote Rise Sister Rise, which I totally adore - says, "Mother Earth is talking to us. If you listen closely you can hear her whispers. She doesn't need us. But we certainly need her. It's easy to get overwhelmed with the whole save the planet stuff because it is so mind glowingly huge and we are one of you know, billions. But the consciousness of everyone on this page helps the planet. Choosing to mediate every day, helps raise the consciousness of you and thus the world. What is mother earth calling you to do? It doesn't need to be huge."

As days go by I feel more and more connected to Mother Earth, and the more time I take to invest in being present and immersed in nature, the more I feel it changing me in a transcendental and deeply affecting way.  These walks in the woods or along the beach are intensely important to me now - and I love this quote from Thich Nhac Hanh -

"We do not have to wait for others to help Mother Earth - we can already do it at every step. When we walk, we can pay attention to each step that we make, aware that we are walking, aware that we are alive. We can demonstrate to ourselves that we can be peace right here and now. This can be liberating. We can generate peace at every step. This is our most precious gift to the Earth and to one another."

What do you think? Stoked on nature or feeling like I've lost my marbles? :)


Getting woo woo - my journey into spirituality

I posted on Twitter recently (and I wasn't joking) that I was after a girl gang I could infiltrate where I could talk about tarot, crystals, burning sage, aromatherapy, yoga, Law of Attraction and all things a little bit woo woo (which I'm reclaiming as a term meaning awesome).  I wanted to post today to share my experiences of all of these areas and how I'm embracing and learning more about each of them.

Over the last few months I've been on a real journey of self and spiritual exploration, reading as many books as I can get my hands on about things I'm interested in, buying a rather ridiculous amount of aromatherapy oils and steaming them away in my diffuser, and researching yoga training, shamanic healing weekends and ayahuasca healing retreats in Peru (okay - maybe I won't do the last one).  The deeper I get into this world, the more it gets my juices flowing.  I've always been interested in spirituality and self-development and I've often banged on about books like Spirit Junkie and The Desire Map; I'm a long-time devotee of yoga and meditation and I bought my tarot cards about a year ago with the intention of learning more.  But now I just want to get even deeper.

img credit | atellpsychictarot.com

It's only in the last few months that I've really, authentically opened myself up to any and all spiritual opportunities - dismissing nothing and leaving judgement at the door.  Whereas I previously handpicked the things I was interested in - staying away from anything a bit too 'out there', now I'm embracing anything that comes my way.  And to be honest - meeting anything that 'comes my way' with open arms is also something I have been learning an enormous amount about and am totally on board with.  I read The Secret on a trip away some months ago and it really resonated with me.  The Secret describes the 'law of attraction' - which is essentially that your thoughts manifest your reality, and that  the energy you are manifesting is what you attract.  If you are interested in Law Of Attraction I massively recommend Jess Lively's podcast series on it - she is really living the journey by 'flowing' from one place to the next, travelling the world and listening to messages from the universe (which is totally inspiring to me).

I also recently read 'Material Girl, Mystical World' by Ruby Warrington, and it's no stretch to say that it changed my life.  It documents her journey from Sunday Times Style Features Editor into total spiritual guru - founder of The Numinous and speaker on the 'now age' and the cosmic revolution.  It's an amazing introduction into tarot, astrology, birth charts, shamanism, crystals and rituals, and it came along at exactly the right time for me.  What it has taught me is that there are so many opportunities out there to tap into your intuition and harness the power of the universe (too much?)  It made me excited to pursue my own spiritual journey and dip my toe in areas that I have yet to explore.  For this reason I'm hoping to book onto a beginner's shamanic healing weekend in July (though I'm mega scared to go on my own!) and to be open to what this could offer me on my journey.

There are things I previously knew nothing about and now am enthusiastically soaking up everything I can via podcasts, books and audiobooks (I've spent a small fortune in The Works - it's so good for books on health and wellness!) I love the idea of using crystals for healing and rebalancing - it seems I need to rebalance pretty much all of my chakras (crown, throat, brow, heart, solar plexus and base) - so I've bought some rose quartz crystals - I even took them on holiday!

Acupuncture is also majorly helping me - my friend is an expert in acupuncture and Chinese medicine and via acupuncture, cupping (and lying in her hot tub talking about all things spiritual) she has been helping me move around my qi (flow energy) and release any stagnancy I have.  I am a water archetype in the Chinese five elements - this means I am generally a fearful person, and acupuncture has been helping me with stress and anxiety, as well as releasing energy.  I really find it gives me more emotional balance, especially since the developments this year in my personal life.

I of course also went to a tarot reading a few weeks ago and found it totally illuminating (you can read more about the reading itself in that post).  I've been learning more about tarot myself and doing 'one card pulls' - the app Labyrinthos is also amazing for learning about tarot.

I'm also majorly into natural remedies - learning more about essential oils and herbs.  I've made my own pillow spray from essential oils and been reading The Handmade Apothecary (the most beautiful book, and a total bargain) in my efforts to learn about the traditional use of herbs and how to make your own balms and tinctures (watch this space!)

img credit: thedecorista.com

Finally - whilst I'm on the subject of books, I also adore The Inner Beauty Bible; another stunning book that is as illuminating as it is perfect for the coffee table! Through this book I've been learning about rituals, crystals, essential oils - and I love the idea of creating my own sacred space (roll on getting my own place so I can fill it with all my 'now age' hippy bits and bobs!

Of course I am still in love with yoga - I want to expand my knowledge and understand of yoga and attend more kundalini and yin yoga as well as understanding more about the yoga sutras.  I would love to one day train as a yoga teacher but I want to start small first and deepen my practice before committing to something like that.

Wow - that really seems like a lot when I write it all down like that! I hope you can tell how passionate and excited I am to continue this journey and learn and expand more.  I would also love to share more of this with you but I know it is a little different from what I would usually post about, and for some it is a little too 'out there'.  Please do tell me if there is anything in particular I could blog about or anything you too are interested in <3


Getting ready and drinking fizz

Although I am currently in Crete I am reliably informed that the weather is pretty terrible back home and thus you will immediately be able to spot that these photographs were taken a couple of weeks ago when we still had wonderful sunshine in the UK.  One of the things I love about getting ready for a night out is when it's warm enough to have an aperitif in the garden (I like getting ready in a leisurely manner with lots of time for prosecco and a languid bath) - and a few Fridays ago that was exactly what I did.

It was a friend's leaving do in Southampton, and after donning my new denim Primark playsuit and some Marks and Spencer sandals I sat in the sunshine and enjoyed my new favourite fizz - an amazing prosecco from Spar - their SPAR Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco.  

Is there anything better than sitting in the garden in the sunshine enjoying a chilled glass of fizz? I was so impressed with how amazing this one tastes, it's the perfect prosecco for a summer barbecue or a girls' night in.  This one retails at £12, or there's a similarly delicious SPAR Extra Dry DOC Prosecco for £10.  I think we all have a Spar in our neighbourhood so it's easy to grab a bottle!

sandals: marks and spencer {old} | playsuit: primark {inshore now}
necklace: oliver bonas

Then I hopped onto a train to Southampton in my little playsuit and we had an amazing send-off for my friend, with lots more prosecco and cocktails on the roof terrace at Revolution - it was perfect.  Now, can the sun come back so I can drink fizz in the garden again please? 

PS - soz for phone outfit pictures but I currently have a vacancy for the role of outfit photographer and instagram boyfriend - ha! 


Woodside Bay Lodge Retreat: An Island Getaway

Two weeks ago on a sunny Friday morning I was lucky enough to be hauling my bag onto the Wightlink Ferry, with Bodhi trotting along behind me, headed for a beautiful lodge on the Isle of Wight.  Our home for a few days would be the rather idyllic Woodside Bay Lodge Retreat; a Hoseasons site nestled close to Fishbourne, at the end of a long, winding country road, surrounded by forests and coastline.  I took a friend with me and we couldn't wait for some forest-based relaxation on the Isle of Wight.

We arrived around lunchtime on the Friday, and whilst the lovely people on site fussed Bodhi and told us our room would soon be ready, we went and sat in the decking of their onsite bar enjoying a cold cider in the afternoon sunshine.  Lodges on the site are situated deep in the woodland right up to just beyond the shoreline, so it really feels as if you've found a little slice of British paradise - complete with artisan pizza, a country club restaurant and a stylish bar.

We stayed in one of their Nettlestone lodges, which come complete with a four poster bed, with French doors opening onto a balcony with a hot tub.  This is definitely not camping, or even glamping - this felt seriously indulgent.

Hoseasons had kindly filled up the fridge with goodies (even with dog treats for Bodhi!) so upon arrival, lazing in the hot tub with a glass of champagne was definitely in order (not that the journey was particularly stressful - the ferry only takes 45 minutes from Portsmouth and cost £21).  It was a huge advantage that I could take Bodhi - all of the lodges take up to two pets and Bodhi was more than happy lounging on the decking whilst we relaxed in the hot tub.

On the Friday evening we wandered up to their restaurant for dinner.  We had a three course meal including steak (cooked to perfection) and a delicious cheesecake.  Of course after all that eating, it had to be followed by a soak in the hot tub.  Lying under the stars, drinking fizz and staring up at the trees was an experience I'll remember for some time (I even downloaded an app to find out the names of all of the stars - geek for life!)

In the morning it was time for a brisk walk to burn off some of the onion rings and chips from the night before! There is a woodland walk right from the Hoseasons site, and it's an amazing way to blow away the cobwebs in the morning.  The beach at the bottom of the site was totally empty and it just felt like you were in the middle of nowhere.  It was totally relaxing to sit for some time and watch the boats go by.

We cooked a huge brunch in the lodge (the kitchen is incredibly modern and perfect for long leisurely breakfasts) and then it was time for a bit of pampering.  Onsite there is an Aromatherapy Associates spa, where you can get massages, facials, scrubs get your nails done and a wide variety of other beauty treatments.  I chose the Aromatherapy Massage - a one-hour treatment where we selected essential oils based on my needs and lifestyle, which were then included in a full body massage featuring the essential oils, body oils and other products.  It was totally blissful - I nearly fell asleep at one point! The therapist was incredible and I left feeling like I was on cloud nine (or - a cloud nine surrounded by stunning woodland, bathed in warm sunshine!)

After the treatments we went on a long walk with Bodhi, and since it was a beautiful, warm summer's day, we had to stop at the pub en route to keep ourselves hydrated.  The area around the site is very quiet, with boats bobbing on the shore and a few country pubs and restaurants.  We spent the afternoon and evening munching on yummy food from the shops, taking dips in the hot tub and watching films on the huge TV in the lounge.

Sadly on the Sunday morning it was time to wave our woodland lodge goodbye.  I was incredibly sad to be leaving our temporary home complete with swish interiors and huge hot tub! Why isn't drinking champagne in a hot tub a more frequent activity?

I am desperate to go back and visit Woodside Bay Lodge Retreat again soon - I found it gave me amazing headspace just to be away from civilisation and enjoying complete relaxation.  It was incredibly upmarket and felt like a chic, modern getaway rather than anything you might expect from staying in a lodge.  You can stay there for a week from £325, which I would call good value! I'll definitely be going back in the summer when they have their al fresco artisan pizza area open, as well as their South African Barbecue Restaurant which looks and sounded absolutely amazing.  I can't imagine anything more idyllic than sitting outside on a warm summer's evening and enjoying a 'food safari' of barbecue food.

Have you visited the Isle of Wight? If not - you must, it really is so pretty and the perfect UK getaway.  I would massively recommend a Hoseasons stay if you are thinking of hopping across the Solent.

Oh AND - we made a little video of out stay, flawlessly edited by the wonderful Rosie Lord.  I hope you enjoy it!


My first tarot reading

It was last year when I bought my first deck of tarot cards. I ordered them from Amazon, and when they arrived, dutifully wrapped them in a silk scarf and kept them in a pretty box that felt spiritually suitable. At that time, I felt utterly lost and in need of some direction in life. I felt sure that the answers I needed were within me, but I was finding it difficult to tap into my intuition, and was paralysed by fear and uncertainty. I was drawn to the idea of burning candles, unwrapping the colourful cards, sitting cross-legged on my bed and having all of my deepest questions answered.

I started with ‘one card pulls’ – asking a question of the cards and then pulling one out from the deck, journalling my initial reaction to the card and then looking up its meaning and making notes on what it meant to me. The cards I pulled ranged from downright spooky to totally meaningless (in my opinion), and some of the pictures on the Rider Waite cards didn’t really resonate with me. I considered it a learning journey and to this day, continue to pull cards on an almost weekly basis, journalling and trying to expand my knowledge and connection with the cards. I'm definitely getting better at trusting my intuition, and I've done a few readings for other people that have been even more successful than the ones I've done myself.

One of the things that I thought would be beneficial for both my learning and to receive some more spiritual direction was to go for my own tarot reading. Luckily, I found a a wonderful woman called Ruby (Ruby Tarot) who lived just around the corner from me and who offered one-hour readings for £25. Last Monday I found myself knocking on her door (and cowering under an umbrella to avoid the torrential rain), eager to find out what would take place during a tarot reading, and what the cards held in store for me.

Ruby was totally welcoming, and had a lovely house - with candles burning, relaxing music and the cards ready to go on the table.  She let me record the reading as well as take notes, which was really helpful as it's easy to forget things when you're reflecting on it afterwards.  I didn't tell her anything about my life (she said it was easier this way as then she could be led by the cards instead of my personal story) and she got straight on with starting off with a Celtic Cross Formation; an in-depth reading that shows the past, present, challenges, aspirations, subconscious, advice, hopes/fears and much more.  This part of the reading lasted about 40 minutes, and Ruby would ask me to place a card down, give an interpretation and either lay more cards or explain the relationship between the others. During this part of the reading she told me:

  • That I had previously been in a situation where I had started to turn into a negative person and come away from being 'me'.  That I had done my best to work through it but eventually had to get out of the situation.
  • That the dark part is over and my 'tree of life' is starting to blossom
  • That laughter, contentment and joy are in the future
  • That in the past I've had to be tough and forceful, and that I put on a brave face but it was part of an 'act'
  • That I need to focus on keeping balance and not trying to do 'everything' - and that soon I'll have to make a decision
  • That all of 'angels' are pushing me in the right direction and I have to allow them to take me in the right direction and towards the next stage of my life
  • That I need to let others help me and accept I can't 'do it all'
  • That friends and family have often felt that I could do more than I am, and that I need to start taking action
  • That there is a 'wild' side of me that I keep under wraps but that I need to start tapping into.  That I often focus on being the 'nice' or 'yes' person but I need to let it come out.
  • That there is a future for me in helping tired or stressed people
  • That my life is about to change significantly, and that I have to face the fear and 'do it anyway'
  • That I am really engaged in learning new things and I have a future in teaching some of the things I've learned

All in all it was a totally enlightening and spiritual experience and not only did it give me real excitement for what is to come, it also gave me even deeper a love of tarot and what it can offer. Everything that she said to me resonated in some way and there wasn't anything that she said that made me think 'what does that mean?' - it was all totally connected to my life now and hopefully what can and will happen in the future.  After the Celtic Cross Formation she also pulled a card for every month over the next six months and that was similarly exciting and enlightening - in fact, a lot of the same cards came out which was interesting as it really reinforced some of the messages.

Have you ever had a tarot reading, or are you interested in tarot?


Daniel and Chloe

I admit it, I have something of a weakness for watches and jewellery.  When I'm feeling a little more casual I think you can really jazz up an outfit just by layering on bracelets, a statement watch and some pretty rings.  (Well, that's how I justify wearing jeans and a jumper 90% of the time, anyway).

My watch collection is starting to get a little out of control, but my heart will always be true to Daniel Wellington watches - with their classic faces trimmed with gold paired with a chic leather strap, or their unique canvas striped straps (which somehow conjure images of picnics on a riverbank or cloudy lemonade at a cricket match) there's something a little bit special about their timepieces.

Daniel Wellington Classic Warwick Watch, watch.co.uk, £141*

The majority of the watches in my collection are men's watches (or suitably androgynous), simply because I love a chunky strap and a large watch face.  I think there's something quite chic about a white shirt with rolled up sleeves and a large, masculine watch.  This is their 'Warwick' watch, which I was drawn to because I am a long time devotee of rose gold (hashtag basic) and because the striped strap is really different to anything else I own.

I actually wear two watches which does make me feel like a complete idiot, but I wear my Garmin fitness/heart rate watch on my right wrist, and then something a little more stylish on my left.  If I want to check the time I automatically just look at my Garmin so any watches are really just decoration, is that ridiculous?

Because the Garmin watch is quite basic and unfashionable I like to layer on a few bracelets next to it to make that wrist look a bit more aesthetically pleasing! My go-to place for pretty jewellery is ChloBo, whose silver bracelets and necklaces (well - they do much more than this but these are my favourites) grace my jewellery collection and my wishlist.

Hamsa Hand Bracelet, ChloBo, £90*
Star Bracelet, ChloBo, similar : £60

I actually wore the bracelet with the star on my wedding day, as it's dainty and subtle enough to be worn as a standalone piece.  It's going to look lovely stacked with my new hamsa hand bracelet - I also sometimes wear the star one as an anklet as they're stretchy so they can be slipped over your foot and worn with some cute sandals.  They have so many pieces I love that my wishlist is starting to get a little out of control, especially since they have a rose gold section - these hamsa earrings make me wish I hadn't stretches my ears as a naive 17-year-old!

Are you a watch and jewellery fan? Do you think I'm a complete weirdo for wearing two watches? :)


How I found my way out

As I drove away, some months ago, from my old life and a house we had bought only a year before, I was certain of only one thing. I was going to look after myself. I was going to self-care the hell out of myself. In an Ikea bag in the back of my car I had - as well as the essentials - a pile of comfy clothes, my cosiest pajamas, a stack of Lush bath bombs and all my nicest skincare. I took anything from the house that brought me joy and comfort. These items were more important to me than anything else.

That approach (as well as time, friends, family and medication) has helped me out of the darkness and into the light. I have moved (mostly) from waking every morning feeling as if a dark cloud is hovering above me and a weight is pressing heavily on my chest, and into awakening with purpose, smiling at the sound of birdsong, and breathing in a sense of peace. I've been reading an amazing book called Living Your Yoga (all about finding the spiritual in the 'every day'), and in the book Judith explains a section of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra. She says: "When carving stone, the sculptor removes everything that is not the statue. She does not add anything to create it, except the willingness to do the work. The art of revealing beauty lies in removing what conceals it. So too Patanjali tells us that wholeness exists within us. Our work is to chisel away at everything that is not essence, not Self."

I have been focussing on this concept over the last few months - making space and looking inwardly to find the true Rosie. Instead of trying to create happiness and change myself into someone new, I have instead tried to let go of anything that wasn’t helping, and get really in touch with what brings me joy and what doesn’t. Having time off work and time to myself has really cleared my head and helped me get clearer on what I want from my day-to-day (and more long-term) life. I fill in my gratitude journal every morning and evening and take time to note the things I’m really grateful for that make me happy – and make more time for these. I’ve noticed that it’s the simple things that bring me joy – a long chat with my Mum, listening to the blackbirds outside my window, the first cup of green tea, a drive home at dusk through beautiful countryside, a few yoga stretches, a restful sleep. I’ve realised that these things are not difficult to make space for however busy I am or however many pennies I do or don’t have.

Recently as part of my morning pages exercise I wrote the words ‘When I do ….. I feel good’ and then wrote down as many things as I could think of that filled in the blank. I really thought about the things that made me feel fulfilled, comfortable and happy.

  1. Yoga 
  2. Running
  3. Going to the gym (personal training)
  4. Eating nourishing, good food
  5. Meditation and mindfulness
  6. Writing and blogging
  7. Learning new things
  8. Sleeping well
  9. Staying organised and on top of things 
  10. Pampering – having a long bath or a face mask etc.
  11. Washing my face with my facial brush
  12. Being in nature
  13. Getting fresh air 
  14. Being around animals (especially Bodhi dog)
  15. Being at home (in comfy clothes) 
  16. Drinking green tea
  17. Filling in my gratitude journal
  18. Writing my morning pages or filling in a journal
  19. Reading a good book
  20. Having an afternoon nap 

You might not believe this but a few months ago I couldn’t have written this list. I was totally out of touch with who I was and what I liked. I couldn’t make even simple decisions about things I wanted to do or how I wanted to spend my time. I felt overwhelmed and confused, constantly trying to keep busy and fill my diary, chasing fulfilment and contentment – but sadly leaving myself with almost no time to do the things on the list. The morning green tea would be rushed, I never had time for my gratitude journal, I had no time for running or yoga and I would scroll through my phone at the expense of a good book or a mindfulness practice. I was prioritising things that didn’t bring me fulfilment (shopping, going for drinks, eating rubbish food, going to events I didn’t really want to go to) over the things that did, and then wondering why I felt fried and frustrated.

img credit: elle luna

To help myself climb out of those feelings of hopelessness and depression I knew I had to focus on myself. It made me feel selfish at times but my boss coined a term – ‘Rosie first’. This meant cancelling weekends away, rearranging seeing friends or dipping out of events that I knew I wasn’t in the right headspace for, and instead doing the things on the list. Just walking along the beach with Bodhi, with my headphones off and taking time to listen to the waves was restorative in a way I couldn’t have imagined. I made sure I really soaked up this feeling and stayed present to the sounds, feelings, smells and sights around me. I wallowed in every bath, diffused aromatherapy oils, kept my favourite pajamas washed and pressed, allowed myself entire days of reading in bed and let go of any feelings of guilt about things that brought me happiness (that bath bomb is too expensive, I’ve slept for too long, that notebook is too nice to use, etc.). Even now that I feel much better than I did, I’m still trying to cultivate these feelings and prioritise my own wellbeing. Although clearly I try not to let friends down and I don’t put myself above others in a negative way, I do make sure that I don’t inhibit my ability to do the things I need to – and sometimes this is as simple as keeping a couple of nights a week free to do nothing.

I hope this doesn’t sound somehow boastful or self-righteous. I simply wanted to share the turning point that I’ve made in terms of my own wellbeing. From a very dark place I have found light and brightness – excitement for the future, motivation, creativity. I feel excited for the future and everything it may bring (and hey, as long as it has green tea and Bodhi dog I know it will be great).


How to sleep better - and banning phones from the bedroom

If sleep were a person I think she would be one of those people who drifts in and out of your life; bringing joy and fulfillment and then disappearing again without warning. A wily, elusive mistress – important and rewarding company and yet difficult to pin down at times. No sooner do you think she’s sticking around for good than you find yourself in a scenario where she has bolted again, seemingly without warning. Sleep has been eluding me for some weeks now and I can’t deny that it is wearing me down. I don’t know what’s worse – lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, willing sleep to arrive, or spending the following day like a zombie; distracted and exhausted, confused and completely worn out.

Since I’ve been endeavouring to welcome restful sleep back into my life again, I thought I would share some of the things I’ve been trying to tempt her back into my life (I’m dreaming of 10pm bedtimes and waking feeling refreshed at 7am – wouldn’t that be the life?) I’ve also been chatting to the lovely people at Time4Sleep to find out their suggestions for sleeping better – which include banishing phones from the bedroom, eek!

Bedroom in my last house - what a cosy space that was!

My bedroom at the moment is quite light and bright, with blinds that don’t entirely block out the daylight. On days when I’m up at 05.30 for personal training this isn’t an issue, however on days when I’d like to sleep beyond 6am it is not particularly ideal. I’ve been sleeping with an eye mask and spritzing it with Neom Perfect Night’s Sleep Pillow Mist to try and help me drift off to sleep as well as blocking out that pesky morning light. I’m a real fan of aromatherapy at the moment and I have an aromatherapy diffuser that I use to diffuse oils in before bedtime. I’m a big fan of the Tisserand Sweet Dreams Oil as it fills the room with such a dreamy, restful scent (there’s something about the steam puffing out that’s also really calming!) I also have a night-time magnesium spray I spritz all over my body before bed – magnesium is great for calming and relaxing tired muscles. 
The other thing I’ve been doing is using a sleep app before bed. I use the Pzizz app when I’m ready for bed and it guides you to sleep using ‘psychoacoustic’ principles – a mix of voiceovers and sounds. 

Despite all of my best efforts, none of these are really working for me, and my Garmin watch reliably informs me that I’m averaging about four hours’ sleep a night (yep, I’m basically hell to be around right now). So when Time4Sleep challenged me to try a tech detox before bed, it was definitely something I was willing to try. One of the ways I did this was to use the Moment app to enforce a scheduled screen-free time from 9pm every day. What happens then is that if you try and use it after 9pm it comes up with lots of notifications and sounds that make it almost impossible to use! I found using this app really helpful as it forced me to switch off at a certain time and made me more disciplined with it. I kept my bedtime routine the same as before, I just locked my phone at 9pm and then set the alarm and plugged it in outside my door. 

The only difficulty with this is that I’ve realised how many different ways I use my phone before bedtime. I found myself locking my phone at 9pm, but then I would get into the bath just before bed and want to listen to a podcast or an audiobook on Audible whilst I had a soak. I also had to go without my Pzizz app, which I was really enjoying using. Of course the eternal issue of the tech detox is… how do you set your alarm? I don’t have a bedside table in my current bedroom so I don’t have anywhere to put my alarm clock (I previously had a Lumie alarm clock, which I loved) so I rely on my phone to wake me up. Placing my phone outside my room just made me a bit anxious – would I hear my alarm? Had I even set it at all (cue having to get out of bed and check). This actually inhibited my sleep as I was so worried about my alarm all of the time! 

The other thing I realised is how many people I chat to on Whatsapp just before bed. Locking my phone at 9pm made me feel rude if I hadn’t finished a conversation with someone, or I woke up to a few messages from people who I’d normally be up chatting to in bed until much later. This also made me reflect on times when I’ve probably compromised my ability to sleep based on not wanting to finish a conversation abruptly, or appear unavailable. I’m sure people would understand if I didn’t reply right away or explained that I was having an early night, and this is something I’m definitely going to work on in future.

One of the huge benefits I have found from switching my phone off at 9pm is that I’ve been reading much more than I did before. I’ve noticed that pre-tech detox I would open up my book and then end up flitting back to Twitter or Whatsapp and scrolling for 45 minutes before realising it was bedtime and I’d barely read a single page (but I’d instead seen lots of puppy gifs and people outraged about politics). Forcing myself to put down my phone has meant I’ve been reading so much more as well as making more time for things like journaling, bedtime yoga and tarot cards that I often intended to do before bed and managed to miss out on due to my scrolling habits!

Overall I’ve decided I’ll definitely be keeping some of the habits from my tech detox. Whilst I probably won’t be putting my phone outside the room (due to alarm anxiety) I’m going to keep up with locking my phone via Moment or putting it on airplane mode to stop me doing the mindless scrolling. I can still use my Pzizz app on airplane mode but I can’t get 8 conversations deep on Twitter so I feel this could be a good solution!

What are your tips for sleeping better? Would you detox technology from the bedroom?

*Post in collaboration with Time4Sleep

Travel plans for 2017

It's probably no surprise that I have a serious case of wanderlust at the moment - in fact, it's taking all my strength not to buy a one-way ticket to some kind of tropical paradise and disappear there for the foreseeable future! As a close second I've settled for booking some trips so I have something to look forward to over the coming months.

My first holiday is with my good friend Carlie - we've booked to go to the Blue Bay Resort in Crete for a week's all inclusive holiday. I'm predicting lots of sunshine, cocktails, beach trips. lazing by the pool and girly catchups.  I've never been to Crete before but I have a feeling this holiday is going to be exactly what I need.  Carlie and I went to Rhodes about 8 years ago and we were the first in the queue for the buffet lunches and dinners, the first to the bar at cocktail hour and then in bed by about 10pm every night - the perfect holiday companion! I can't wait to go bikini shopping and pack all my shorts and summer dresses; I'm craving that warm sunshine on my skin.

Agia Pelagia, Crete |  thehotel.gr

At the end of August I'm also flying out to Palma in Mallorca with lots of other lovely ladies for a friend's hen do.  We're staying right by the marina and I'm sure there will be lots of wine in the evenings, relaxing by the pool and yummy Mediterranean food.  I've never been on a hen do abroad before and we're going for almost a week - I think it's going to be so much fun.  Something tells me I'll need another holiday to get over that holiday!

Palma, Mallorca | inlist.com

I'm also currently searching for flights to go and meet my friend Fleur in Austin, Texas in July.  Austin has been on my 'to visit' list for some time, mainly for the food, cute coffee shops and the hot weather (plus I mainly want to go and hang out with Adriene from Yoga With Adriene).  I just need to sort my flights and work out how to fit in a visit to Fleur's house in Ohio during the same trip, and I'll be all set! 

Avenue B Grocery, Austin, Texas | countryliving.com

In between all this overseas travel I really fancy a weekend in a cottage in the middle of nowhere somewhere, either with a few close friends or totally by myself.  I'm envisaging getting through my to-read pile, going on some long dog walks, taking long bubble baths in the evening and falling asleep in a huge, comfy bed in the evening (not to mention a few trips to local pubs for a ploughman's in between...) I've been trawling the Suffolk Secrets site and bookmarking lots of pretty cottages that would be perfect for a mini-break.  Plus, just look at those kitchen tiles....

The Dairy, Suffolk Secrets

Of course no fantasy cottage list would be complete without one with wood panelling and a log burner.  This looks like the perfect Autumnal escape, and with holidays in May, July and September, I think by November I'll be desperate for another getaway.  A cosy weekend away with blankets, a roaring fire, hot chocolate and a dog curled up in the corner is always what the Doctor ordered...

Blue Dog Quarters, Suffolk Secrets

What are your 2017 travel plans? Have you been to Crete, Mallorca, Austin or indeed beautiful Suffolk? Please tell me your tips!

*post contains a collaborative link

This is my life now

I'm driving home from a friend's house along dark, unlit country roads.  The darkness is like a thick blanket; enveloping, suffocating somehow.  It's a clear night and the stars are splayed out above like a scattered spread of pinpricks in the blackness.  I want to gaze up at them and take a moment to appreciate them and drink them in, but I keep my eyes on the road, knowing the sharp bends and unforgiving corners that lie ahead.  I realise I haven't seen the headlights of any other cars for some time, and there are no houses along this stretch of road; so there is no comfort to be found in the warm glow from a faraway window.  I catch movement in the hedge; the piercing, suspicious eyes of something wild that knows still the threat of a humming engine.  A badger or a fox maybe.  I think about my life now, and how different it looks; how nothing is the same as it was.  I could not have predicted some months ago that I would be driving along roads I previously knew so well, to live near a town I grew up in (it feels a step backwards, no matter what anyone says).  I finally reach the brighter lights that signal I'm driving back into a place more densely populated, and breathe a sigh of relief to have escaped the clutches of the forest at night - where people drive too fast, where deep potholes threaten to dislodge tyres and where animals dart out from adjoining fields.  My window is open an inch or so and I take a second to pull a portion of the cool night air into my lungs.  It smells like woodsmoke, grass and dirt. It is familiar to me, like an old blanket or a passage memorised from a favourite book.  In a few minutes I will have passed through this town and be arriving at my parents' house; a quiet road not far from the sea, where gulls circle overhead and the latch on the gate needs a slick of oil.  I have two keys on my keyring; one for a house I haven't lived in for three months and one for their house.  They had a new key cut on the day I arrived home, my belongings in Ikea sacks, a portion of my life left behind in an Edwardian cottage an hour to the west.  I placed it on my keys, solemnly, accepting this new fate.  Placing my keys in my coat pocket, where they felt heavier against my hip.

img credit unknown ;; contact for removal

I wonder if it will ever feel normal to have stepped out of one life and into another.  I feel often as if this is some kind of temporary period, as if things are on hold.  I exist in anticipation of the moment when I can start living again, start making plans (I cannot sleep at night because I do not allow myself to breathe, I am waiting). But life is happening now and it does not allow you to pause, to place your life in the 'pending tray', to be the space between the inhalation and exhalation.  I am a persona non grata; between lives, floating in the ether, waiting for direction.  I am the fox in the hedge, viewing the lights in the distance with suspicion and uncertainty.  When you cry the salt dries and becomes a part of you and you become hard and grow extra layers, like a rock.  There's no going back now.

There is so much love there, still.  Sometimes when you stop watering a plant it continues to grow, defiant and persistent.  It doesn't care that you are not nurturing it or that you have shut it in a cupboard because you thought it no longer belonged on the windowsill.  That's just the way life works - it finds a way regardless.  I let it all wash over me; love, sadness, loss, tiredness, worry.  The key slides into the lock without resistance.  This is my life now.


Reading, listening to, watching

As I've been off work recently I've been digesting media even more enthusiastically than usual and thought I would share my picks of what I've been reading, listening to and watching.  There's so many great podcasts, TV series', blogs and films at the moment that it makes me feel overwhelmed sometimes thinking of how many things are on my list (so I'm going to make you feel overwhelmed by telling you what you should add to yours!) Happy to help...

Clique is a BBC Three TV series about two girls that start university and find themselves instantly drawn into a circle of friends who have a glamorous lifestyle with a dark secret hidden underneath.  It's so gripping and I've binged on it until I'm up to the current episode now, I can't wait for the next one.

13 Reasons Why is a new Netflix Original series set in a US High School.  A teenage girl commits suicide and then releases cassette tapes to friends explaining why she did it.  I've only watched the first two episodes so far but I'm already finding it totally addictive; there's something about it that somehow makes you feel like you're back in school and experiencing all the emotions of being a teenager again.  I can sense this is another series I'm going to race through.

img credit: career girl daily

The Killing is a series I've been meaning to watch for ages but never got around to.  I'm up to Episode 8 now and though I'm finding it a little slow I'm determined to persevere as so many people have raved about it.  Let me know if it's worth sticking with?

Wild By Nature is a book by Sarah Marquis detailing her walks across Asia and Australia.  She walked 10,000 miles over three years and it's spellbinding, life-affirming account of what it's like to e a woman alone in the wild, to experience nature and to have long periods away from civilisation.  I can't describe to you how much this book has inspired me; it's just incredible.

Status Anxiety by Alain De Botton - this isn't really for this list as it's actually sat on my bedside table waiting to be read as soon as I finish my current book, however I can't wait to pick it up! It focusses on our anxieties around achieving status and fear of failure.  I've enjoyed several of his other books so I'm really looking forward to this one.

The High Low I'm a little bit obsessed with Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton (basically I want to be cool enough to hang out with them, drink prosecco and talk about books) so I'm very glad that they are back with another podcast (after retiring their PanDolly podcast) and it's every bit as good as their last one.  Discussing current affairs, style, books and culture with their typical witty, funny, intelligent style, it's a must-listen.

S-Town is the latest podcast by the makers of Serial and This American Life, and begins with an allegation of a murder in a town in Alabama.  Again, I'm only on the third episode and even though it features predominantly conversations between the person who originally contacted the producer, and the producer himself, it's strangely addictive.

Missing Richard Simmons is another podcast I binged on recently - I finished the series in only a few days.  It involves the podcast maker (Dan Taberski) and his search for the fitness guru Richard Simmons - who Dan himself got to know through attending his classes and striking up a friendship with before he 'disappeared'.

So that's what's been on my reading pile, Netflix and podcast app.  What have you been binging on recently?


My first experience of acupuncture and cupping

When I discovered that one of my oldest friends had recently qualified as an acupuncturist I was very interested in learning more about the practice.  For several months I've been meaning to go to her clinic to try and solve some of my issues such as lower back pain and low energy, but recently with the added stress and anxiety of my personal situation I knew it was the perfect time to try it.

Acupuncture is a component of Chinese Medicine that can help with a wide range of illnesses and conditions, from chronic pain, migraines, infertility and stress and anxiety.   I had no idea it was so deeply rooted in Chinese Medicine and thought it was just something had to target sore muscles or chronic pain, so I was fascinated to find out more and experience it myself.

When I arrived at the clinic we started off with a consultation where we talked at length about a variety of areas such as my sleep patterns, eating habits, medication, energy levels and how I feel on a day to day basis.  As my friend knows me well she was able to connect a lot of this to the five Chinese elements - mine being water - which indicates certain temperaments, moods and illnesses and helps an acupuncturist decide on treatment.  My 'water' type means I can sometimes be fearful and anxious, hard and detached.  Water types typically suffer from lower back pain, tiredness and kidney and bladder issues.

Acupuncture works by inserting tiny, thin needles into specific channels on the meridians of the body that are linked to our different organs.  My friend started by putting needles into my feet and ankles - I was actually quite nervous at first but I was quickly reassured when it didn't hurt at all.  It was actually an odd sensation - even though the needles were just placed into the surface of the skin, it was a very deep feeling of relaxation that felt as if something stirred from far below the surface.  She also then placed needles into my hands, forehead and ears.  Each needle she added intensified the feeling of release and relaxation.  For most of it I kept my eyes closed and it was almost a meditative experience - added to by the soft, calming music and the aromatherapy oils being gently steamed into the room.  

One of the things I wasn't expecting is that my friend then added something onto the end of the needle which could be lit, and set the needles on fire! (This is called Moxibustion). This produced a warm sensation that radiated all throughout my legs and felt even more relaxing.  It was like the warmth was flowing all through my body.

She then took the needles out and I rolled over onto my front for the next bit of the treatment.  I've been getting a lot of tension in my shoulders, with frequent neck pain and headaches over the last few weeks.  She advised that 'cupping' would be a good way to stimulate the blood flow, release toxins, increase circulation and improve my energy levels.  She placed cups with suction at the ends on the shoulders and upper back, and 'clicked' them to increase the suction.  The skin is then drawn into the cup - the ones on my shoulders were slightly sore but all the rest felt fine and it was a really odd experience! My neck has been clicking a lot and feeling very strained and sore and my friend advised that the cupping should completely eradicate that.

The whole session with the consultation included lasted around 1.5 hours and I left feeling very relaxed and a little tired, which is apparently very natural.  Since my session I've definitely noticed myself feeling less anxious and stressed and my whole body feels less tense and somehow 'looser'.  I also noticed that my mobility and flexibility in my yoga class and at the gym the next day were much improved.  Although I'm still struggling with my sleep (I've been waking in the night and finding it difficult to get back to sleep) I'm finding this is getting better every day.

I'm booked in for my next appointment on Tuesday and I'm hoping to have acupuncture and cupping at least every two weeks for the time being as I can see that it would yield a huge improvement in my stress levels and the tension, neck and back ache I've experienced.  I'm really looking forward to seeing the long-term results and am already excited for my next session.

Have you ever tried acupuncture?