Badoo App: Navigating singledom at 33

I can't say that being single at the slightly less ripe age of 33 was entirely the plan.  In my early 20s I might have imagined that by now I would have secured a life of married, countrified bliss - two children running around my feet as I potter around my immaculate kitchen and take a warm apple pie from the oven with an Emma Bridgewater teatowel. The problem is that I am now single, I live in a busy city and I have no idea how to make an apple pie.  The plans have not exactly come to fruition (is that an apple pie pun?) but honestly, it's fine.  What ever actually goes to plan anyway?

So, when Badoo asked me to write about being single, and using their app - I must admit I didn't know where to start.  Some of their features include the 'lookalikes function' which means you can upload a photo of your favourite celebrity (or the guy three years' above you in school that you had a massive crush on, if you so wish).  You literally could end up dating Tom Hardy's doppelganger - imagine.  You can also use Badoo to video chat, and you can call people using the app without giving them your number.  It's fair to say that this was seriously blowing my mind.

From the age of 25 I was in a relationship for around seven years, almost two years' of that being married.  There was a lot of love and good times but in time we realised it wasn't quite right and things came to a close at the beginning of this year.  He has since found a new relationship which is making him really happy and I hand-on-heart wish him all the best - and that's a nice feeling.  We are still good friends and co-parents of Bodhi dog and I'm glad we've managed to make something work out of what was a difficult time.  Since our break-up I did meet someone else, and being able to smile again and be someone's 'girlfriend' was something I didn't expect to fall into so soon, but it felt natural and helped me through a very dark time.  Sadly that relationship has now come to an end and so with a heavy heart I find myself single again, and wondering how to navigate single-dom in my early-30s.  (Since I'm 34 next year I probably can't get away with calling myself 'early 30's' much longer, so I'm pretty much milking it.)

The reason I included my relationship history there is not to bore you or spin a tale of woe, but because the mathematician's amongst you will realise that I haven't been single for almost eight years, and even before that it was only a few months between relationships before I met my previous significant other.  In fact, I've really not ever spent more than around six months' being single since I was about 23.  Ten years ago.  Ten years ago there was no dating apps, no swiping - in fact whatsapp wasn't even invented.  So 'the dating world' (I'm assuming that starting any sentence with the phrase 'the dating world was different in my day' is an instant mood-killer, right?) was very, very different.

I think though, that all of the swiping, the whatsapping, the Facebook stalking and the instagram following doesn't necessarily change the world of dating, it just makes it a lot easier and quicker.  It means that instead of trawling bars and nightclubs for 'the one', you can get to know people purely at the click of a button, and find out immediately if they're the type of horror that puts pineapple on a pizza without waiting for the fifth date.  Although some people might say that it's taken the romance out of dating, I just like to think of it as being more efficient.  And I like efficient.  I'm busy.

The thing I've realised now is that finding another person is not what makes you 'whole' - despite the fact that we're often motivated to seek out our other half.  And so what I plan to do with all of this new found free time is to also fall in love with myself a little bit more.  I want to find my independence, my wildness, and really get to know the Rosie that doesn't need to rely on someone else for her happiness anymore.  I will be taking myself for coffee dates, making myself yummy meals, taking long baths and tucking myself into bed with a good book.  I will be going on adventures, for weekends away, sitting around in my PJs and chatting to friends, and just generally dating the hell out of myself alongside any swiping I might do.  I'm very much of the opinion that you need to learn to love yourself before you can give someone else the job, and that being happy on your own is a really key step before, or whilst being in a relationship.

I'll soon be taking another step out of my eight-year comfort zone and living on my own.  Well - I have Bodhi dog to keep me company 50% of the time, and of course there's Netflix.  And if I do decide I want a bit of a chat or a date, I can of course embrace the 2017 digital world and do a little swiping.  I'll certainly have a little dabble in Badoo, where you can also see people nearby or even people you've bumped into - which could be handy when moving to a new city.  Of course it also has the swiping feature we all know and love (I might need to learn how to use that, such a novice right here).

What are your tips for being single in your 30's?

Friday inspiration and wanderlust

Some of you may know that I currently only work Monday - Thursday, and whilst Friday is supposed to be a blogging day, it often ends up being a day of pinning inspirational quotes, drinking lots of peppermint tea and planning my next holiday destination.

Where I'm at a real crossroads in my life at the moment - leaving another house, single again (at 33), still feeling like I'm searching for my 'calling' in life and having only Bodhi dog and my parents to tie me to this area, it's incredibly tempting to want to up sticks and go away for a few weeks, or months and have a bit of a break.  I must admit that my Google history is currently featuring a lot of searches for flights, on Jet2Holidays and for yoga teacher training in Ibiza.  It probably doesn't help that we watched the movie Wild last night, and now I'm wondering whether I can walk 1000 miles and carry 20 lbs on my back in hiking boots (no, and no - but imagine).

I must admit that Jet2.com rather fuelled my wanderlust recently when they sent me a little care package of items to pack on a yoga holiday (as well as to have some relaxing time whilst planning one).  Yoga is actually a pretty good hobby to take to other countries as all you really need is a mat (which are incredibly light) and lots of other items can be swapped for other things you might already be taking (a stack of books works well as an alternative for blocks, belts can be used as straps, and all hotels have blankets you can use for savasana).  Having witnessed how difficult it is to bring surfboards home from Bali I can honestly say that packing for a yoga retreat seems much more stress free - which of course is exactly what a yoga retreat should be.

I've been reading through Yoga For Travellers by Jennifer J Ellinghaus and it's a great resource for anyone wanting to keep to a yoga practice whilst on a trip.  Not only does it have great advice for yoga sequences and postures, there's also a really interesting section on using yoga to create space and time for reflection on a trip and to help you through tough times.  It has reassured me that should I take a solo trip, you can combat the loneliness by befriending other travellers, with positive self-talk and of course with the discipline to get on your mat every day.

Whenever I'm feeling stressed and a little lost (as I definitely am now), I make it my mission to step up the self-care rather than letting it fall by the wayside.  Jet2.com sent me that gorgeous Tranquility candle from St. Eval Candles (£9.46*) in the first photo and tonight my plan is to give that a burn - it has lavender, orange and ylang ylang which are three of my favourite scents - put a face mask on, run myself a long bubble bath and do some serious holiday planning.  I don't have any more trips booked this year but I really fancy a city break, especially with the weather being like it is at the moment (I'm not at all a fan of storm Brian).  I've never been to Italy, and Tuscany and Rome in particular look utterly stunning and are top of the 'to visit list'.  (Of course the Vogue Weekend Guide to Florence is a frequently visited page in my bookmarks - though I'm not sure I could afford to hire a Ferrari to drive around in).  I have a feeling my travel Pinterest board is going to have a lot more pins by the end of the evening!

Where would be your top spots for a city break or a sunny escape from this gloomy weather?

*yoga themed hamper gifted by jet2.com, all opinions my own


My life now - an update

I've realised that I've spent a few posts talking about some of the smaller details of my life like my health and wellbeing, and trips and holidays I've taken, but I haven't really spoken about some of the larger details of my life since it changed hugely in January of this year.

Long-time readers of the blog have probably gathered that Tom and I separated in January.  It was an incredibly painful and heartbreaking time and obviously I will keep the details private, however I will state that we are still good friends and I still have a lot of respect and care for him.  We are sharing Bodhi the dog and we have him around 3-4 weeks each before he then goes to his other home.  He is a hugely loved little doggy and he now has double the amount of cuddles, walks and people around him who love his little face.  I should have him again within the next week or so and I can't wait to give him a big squeeze.  It's tough but it's been the logical thing to do since we both love him very much.

We sold the lovely house in Lymington (goodbye roll-top bath - a sad day) and I moved to Southsea in August.  I had been living at my parents for the first seven months of the year so it was amazing to finally have my own space again rather than trying to keep a houseful of things in one room. I will, however say that the time with my parents was wonderful and they looked after me so well - it was actually such good fun to be around them again and to wake up in the morning and have long chats with my Mum over breakfast.  I grew up in this area so it really felt like coming home again, and though it was obviously an incredibly tough time, it was also a time when I focussed on healing and finding myself again - I even ended up having to take time off work but it was exactly what I needed to find my way out of that depression.  I went for lots of walks on the beach with Bodhi, saw friends, read lots of books and watched lots of Netflix. (And caught up on lots of sleep).

I've been living in Southsea for two months now.  It's very different to living in Lymington (as I write this I can hear police sirens in the distance) - in good ways and bad ways, like any situation.  Southsea has lots of lovely coffee shops, independent bars and restaurants, the beautiful seafront and it's easy to get the train into work.  The area is quite different to anywhere I've lived before and there have been some issues with the neighbours and noise, but nothing you wouldn't expect from living in a fairly student-y area just outside a city.  

I've been spending my spare time in Southsea finding the best coffee shops, going for drinks and trying to get back into running and yoga.  I've found a yoga class but though I've booked in twice I haven't actually made it along yet for various reasons.  I'm hoping to get back into a regular practice soon as I find it really makes a difference to my mental and physical health.  It's funny how you can know that something is really good for you and yet be useless at making time for it (monkey covering face emoji).

At home I've been powering through my to-read list on my Kindle (I've been updating my Good Reads) - favouring trashy crime novels, self-help books, the picks from my work book club and anything else that takes my fancy! I'm going to write a blog post soon about some of the best ones I've read this year as I've come across some really life-changing non-fiction and some gripping fiction novels.  I'm also still completely addicted to podcasts, particularly true crime podcasts.  My current favourites are In Sight, Beyond Reasonable Doubt, The Trail Went Cold and Up and Vanished.

Not much else is new - the last month or so has flown by in a flurry of hen do's, weddings, trips to London, festivals and settling in to a new home.  I can't deny that my life looks very different to what I thought it would be at 33 but I'm healthy, have amazing friends and family and I'm working on finding happiness again.  The last few months have given me the opportunity to start to get to know myself again and start a bit of a love affair with aromatherapy, crystals, Law of Attraction, shamanic healing and acupuncture (which I'm long overdue another appointment for!).

I don't know if I've shared too much in this update but I just wanted to write a little bit about where I am and what I'm doing.  It's been a funny old year so far, but it's Autumn now, and how could you not be happy about that?


Five nights in Palma

At the beginning of September, on one rainy Wednesday I jetted off with a group of friends to sunny Palma in Mallorca for a hen do.  In total there were 17 of us (I know right, I don't have 17 friends myself!) and it was such an amazing time.  Having never been to Palma before I didn't know what to expect, but I quickly fell in love with it, with its winding back streets, beautiful old buildings and array of tapas and wine bars.

We actually stayed just outside of Palma in a small town called Portals Nous.  The hotel we stayed in was the Salles Hotels Marina Portals, around £80 a night for a deluxe double.  The hotel itself was perfect, with several pools, lovely rooms and a great breakfast (breakfast is very important!)  We spent a lot of our time lazing by the pool, chatting, reading books and drinking prosecco.  Pretty bloody perfect if I do say so myself.

We made a few trips down to the marina at Portals Nous where we were staying.  We had delicious pizzas and cocktails at Diabilito, a lovely bar and restaurant overlooking the marina.  Some of the restaurants on the front are quite expensive but this was really reasonably priced.  

We visited Palma itself twice - on the first occasion we visited we went to a stunning bar with amazing rooftop views and great cocktails.  This bar was called Es Baluard Bar Palma - it's next to the Contemporary Museum of Art and in a great location.  They also serve food but we only had drinks - we actually visited twice as it was such a nice bar with a good drinks menu.  After drinks we had tapas/pintxos at a place called Tast Union in the centre of Palma, which again I hugely recommend.  They have a huge selection of really reasonably priced tapas and well priced, good wine (around 2-3 euros a glass).  It's advisable to make a reservation as it was absolutely rammed and we had to book quite far in advance.  The best thing we had was the mini burgers (2.80 euros) and the melted brie was also very yummy (2 euros).

After tapas we went onto Bar Cuba - a bar, cafe and nightclub in the centre of Cuba.   There is a Sky Bar with rooftop views but the queue for this was huge and as there was a large group of us they advised that there would be a long wait.  The nightclub downstairs doesn't open until midnight so we hung around until that was open and had drinks and a dance there.  It was really good fun and the music was great - my only complaint was the drinks prices were quite steep (10 euros for a disaronno and coke, cocktails are about 15 euros).

The second time we went into Palma we had an amazing Italian meal at Bianco e Rosso.  Main meals were about 13-15 euros but the portion sizes were big.  I had a gnocchi and it was delicious.  House wine was 10 euros a bottle, service was good and everyone enjoyed their food - another great choice by the hen party organisers!

After the Italian restaurant we went to a bar called Abaco, which was a real highlight of the trip.  Hidden behind huge wooden doors it has a stunning courtyard with a water fountain, birdcages and beautiful flowers.  You can walk around the house, which is also a sight to behold and very plush.  It doesn't open until 8pm and then it fills up quite quickly so I think it was wise of us not to arrive too late.  Worthwhile also noting that drinks are around 16 euros, so it's very much a stop to take in the sights and tick it off the 'to see' list rather than somewhere to buy a few rounds!

All in all we had an absolutely amazing trip to Palma and I adored every second of it.  It was fab to be away with a big group of ladies, lying by the pool and gossiping and drinking lots of fizz! The ladies who organised the hen do did an amazing job picking brilliant restaurants and bars and booking things for such a large group.

I'd love to go back to Palma again as it's such a stunning city with so many great restaurants and bars.  It was a great choice for a hen do as there's so much to see and do.  We flew from Bournemouth and flights were about £100 but you can get good deals depending on when you fly.

Have you visited Palma before?


Anxiety, jiggy leg and what helps me

Hello anxiety, my old friend.  I've blogged a little about anxiety before, and whilst for some time now I hadn't really suffered any symptoms, I've found myself becoming more and more anxious recently and some of the issues I've had previously have started to rear their ugly head.  I thought sharing them here (and how I'm trying to tackle them) might be a little cathartic, and might help others suffering with the same struggles.

I guess I may as well start with the worst of it.  A couple of weeks ago I had a panic attack, or anxiety episode as my Doctor referred to it the following day when I phoned for advice.  I won't go into what triggered it but it was one of the most frightening experiences of my life - I couldn't breathe properly or catch my breath, I was sobbing uncontrollably and gasping for air.  My fingers tingled and I was almost rooted to the spot on the end of the bed.  I was taking my inhaler but it didn't make it any better - in fact it just made my heart race which exacerbated the problem.  One of the issues was that because I mistakenly thought it was an asthma attack I treated it as such, and I kept puffing away at my inhaler trying to calm down.  The attack lasted about ten minutes but kept recurring throughout the evening.

I actually phoned my Doctor the following day to ask for a different inhaler, but when I explained what had happened he described it as a panic attack, not an asthma attack.  He told me not to use my inhaler in future as although it will open up you airwaves it can also cause the heart palpitations and shakiness I described which obviously is counter-productive.  Instead he increased the medication I take for stress and anxiety (anti-depressants by any other name) and gave me some coping mechanisms to try and help - things like managing my breathing (which was very difficult at the time) by breathing in for four, holding for seven, and breathing out for eight seconds.  This shifts your nervous system out of the fight or flight mode and into a para-sympathetic response.

credit: gemma correll

I mentioned 'jiggy leg' in the title.  I also call this disco leg, or I believe it's also known as 'restless leg syndrome' (RLS).  I've had this for as long as I can remember, but never really linked it to anxiety before - apparently whilst it isn't commonly caused by anxiety, being anxious can make it much worse.  At night my legs will shake in bed, and when I'm sitting at my desk at work I'm always jiggling my legs or tensing and un-tensing the muscles and flexing my toes.  I've noticed this has been increasing and increasing recently and I've also started other habits like grinding my teeth and fidgeting with my hands.

In order to combat this I've been trying a few things that were suggested to me by friends or on Twitter.  Firstly I've been taking the Solgar Magnesium Tablets on a daily basis as they are recommended for things like cramps, restless legs and heart palpitations.   Knowing how good magnesium is supposed to be for RLS, I also picked up a magnesium spray in Holland and Barrett (the Better You Goodnight Magnesium Spray) which I use before bedtime.  It claims to promote relaxation and be really good for muscles and joints.  I must admit that the first few times I used it I really didn't like it as it causes a sort of tingling effect and it made my skin feel itchy and uncomfortable.  On the packaging it does say however that this is a sign that your body is absorbing the magnesium.  Now instead of spritzing and leaving it I actually massage it into my legs and I find I don't get the itching and tingling and it definitely helps.  The final thing I use is another Better You product, the Magnesium Flakes that you can put in your bath.  I used these last night and I slept like an absolute dream immediately afterwards.  It's really good for aching joints and it even makes your skin feel soft - I massively recommend these.

Along with these symptoms I've just found my general anxiety levels increasing.  I'm not sleeping very well, I find myself worrying about small things (worrying about saying the wrong thing, what someone thinks of me, looking back at things I've done or said and how they might have been interpreted) and finding it difficult to slow my busy brain down and stay present.  I've found myself feeling incredibly tired and energy-less almost all of the time, feeling a little like I just want to hide from the world in my comfy bed and cancel any plans that I make.  This of course exacerbates the problem as I then convince myself that the friends I've cancelled on all hate me and I'll be barred from the yoga class I had to un-book and everyone is talking about the day I had to leave work early with a stress headache.  Oh it's lots of fun being in my head!

The only thing I find helps is self-care, self-care, self-care.  Just allowing myself to slow down and just indulge in whatever I fancy with no guilt or shame.  It's taken a long time to just let myself lie in bed for hours reading, have two baths in one day or sit and eat a whole packet of digestives in bed (okay, not in bed - I've not completely gone wrong, crumbs and bedsheets are a horrendous mix).  I think the bottom line is to forgive and love yourself and go at your own pace.  There are also lots of other things that make me feel better, like journalling in the morning, listening to relaxing music, using the Calm and Headspace apps, going for a walk and spending time in nature and using essential oils, such as lavender.

Overall though I'm just trying to be kind to myself and accept that these things will come and go, and not try and fight them.  Would love to hear if you have any other tips or recommendations for things to try, or even if you're going through something similar and just wanted to say 'hey panic attacks suck, yo?'


September intentions

Whilst I was away in Palma last week I took the opportunity to take some time out to write in my journal and give myself the headspace to make plans for September and the coming months. Things have been incredibly busy over the last couple of months and I've got out of a lot of the habits that I know help my happiness, health and general wellbeing.  I really want to focus now on being happy, healthy and forming positive routines - this year has been a difficult one and whilst it's tempting to hide in my bed as much as possible, I know that there are several things that keep me on track and I'm determined to stick with them.

Yoga yoga yoga

I have barely done any yoga lately, and I really notice the difference in both my flexibility and sense of calm.  I've found a yoga studio that's a relatively short walk from the house and I'm going to try and go to classes a couple of times a week.  I also really want to get back to doing yoga at home - I started the day with a Yoga With Adriene video yesterday and I felt so much better for it all day.  I think it's such a good habit to get into just to take some time for you on the mat.

Go to the gym

Oops.  This is another thing I haven't done for around two months and I'm massively noticing the difference.  I've joined a gym near the new house and I must, must, must force my bum there and get myself into shape.  I've lost a lot of confidence about my body recently and I need to stop whinging and do something about it.

Meditation every day

I've just downloaded the Calm app as well as using the Headspace app - the one thing I really like about Calm is that you get a new audio every day which is part meditation and part reflection on life. I feel like I've been more anxious and worrying lately and I know that meditation is one thing that really helps me from letting my busy brain get out of control.

Listen to hypnotherapy audio

About three weeks ago I visited a hypnotherapist after hearing about Rapid Transformational Therapy on the Jess Lively Podcast.  I wanted to overcome some of my confidence issues and limiting beliefs and it was a really interesting session that I think I'll blog about separately.  The hypnotherapist gave me a recording to listen to every day to talk me through some of the work we did in the session and I need to be dedicated in listening to it so it can make an impact.

Reduce alcohol

I spent a week in Palma last week for a hen do, and whilst I had the most amazing time (take me back immediately pls), I did notice how the daily prosecco by the pool made me feel pretty terrible the next day; both health and mental health-wise.  Does anyone else suffer with 'hangxiety' or 'the hungover blues'? I know alcohol is a depressant and since I'm trying to work on getting into a more positive headspace and being more in control of my emotions, it makes sense to try and avoid the things that make this more difficult.

Use mantras and affirmations

When I find my busy brain racing out of control (usually in the middle of the night) I get a lot out of using mantras and affirmations to repeat to myself to calm me down.  I also write these in my journal so that I can remember them and look back on the ones that helped.  The most simple one I go to when I really need to slow my brain down is 'om'.  It's an ancient Sanskrit word traditionally used in meditation (you can read more about the meaning of the word here).  If I am getting too wrapped up in the past I repeat to myself 'I choose to enjoy my life now' (I borrowed this from Jen Sincero's book, You Are A Badass).  I also enjoy anything that teaches me to let go and relax, and allow things to be as they are and trust what is coming.

Eat more plants

Where things have been busy lately, my diet has been really poor and I've almost entirely stopped eating vegetables and green things, favouring convenience over nutrition.  I know I feel better when I eat lots of veggies (and less sugar - sorry Milkybar Buttons, we've become a bit too close recently) and so I want to whip up some batches of yummy foods to take for lunch so I feel more prepared and don't end up buying sandwiches and crisps from the Co-Op.

Finish online courses

I signed up for about five online courses with qualifications from Centre of Excellence recently but I've been a bit slack with actually completing them.  I want to start gaining some extra skills and knowledge to set me up for the future so I need to knuckle down and get them done.  I'm only 40% of the way through my Diploma in Wicca, it's so interesting!

Read more books

I say this all the time, but reading is a habit I know I love that I'm so bad at keeping up with.  Instead of reading I lie in bed, scroll through Twitter and instagram and then go to sleep.  I worked out before my holiday that I had 41 books on my Kindle that I'm desperate to read, so I really need to knuckle down and start ticking them off.

Run more

I really miss running, I think my last run must have been about two months ago too.  I need to be more disciplined with it and force myself out on a couple of mornings a week, I have no excuses not to, especially in the periods I have Bodhi as I can run with him as I'm out anyway (except for when he wants to stop and sniff everything!)

Use airplane mode or Forest app

I hate the amount that I use my phone and I really want to distance myself from it and focus on all of the things above over the coming weeks and months.  I've discovered this brilliant app called Forest where you set a period of time you don't want to use your phone for, and it starts growing a virtual plant for you.  If you use your phone during that period the plant dies, if you don't it adds it to your virtual forest! It's a fun way to get more disciplined about having some space from your phone.

What are your plans and intentions for September?


What couldn’t you live without?

I want to talk about something a little different today, something I might not usually blog about - and something that isn't aesthetic, or stylish or desirable, but something I have learned that needs to be shared.

When I think about the things I couldn't live without, I think about my duck down duvet, my morning green tea, my comfiest jogging bottoms and a bubble bath before bedtime.  Of course I could live without these things, but I'd definitely be a lot grumpier and craving the things that help me wake up in the morning and wind down after a long day.  I probably don't show gratitude often enough for the fact that I have access to all of the things I would describe as my home comforts - my sofa scattered with plumped cushions and soft throws, Bodhi dog snoozing at my feet, my king-size bed, my sheepskin rug.  But the concept of home comforts is definitely relative.  What I often take for granted are things I have in my home to make it comfortable, which for others would be unimaginable luxury.  This week I discovered via a campaign between Andrex and WaterAid that across the globe, 1 in 3 people live without a decent toilet.  This makes me feel ashamed that what I think I couldn't live without is a comfortable bed, when 2.4 billion people don't have access to a toilet, and simply have to go out in the open.  Again - this may not be something you might think I would usually blog about, but I think it's important to realise just how severe this crisis is.  (And not only severe, but deadly - disease spreads fast when people don't have clean water and sanitation).

When I think about my worries at school, they were about not having the right shoes, wondering why I was left out of certain friendship groups, or what would happen if I didn't get the right GCSEs. I learned that across the world, girls are dropping out of school because they don’t have access to private toilets, meaning their opportunities for a better future and an education, are lost.  Furthermore, women going to the toilet outside face harassment, or even attack.  It just utterly breaks my heart to think of young girls, struggling with how difficult it can be growing up anyway, but who are also faced with the prospect of needing the toilet or dealing with periods when proper sanitation and facilities are not available.  Being able to have your health, dignity and wellbeing should be a basic human right, so I was shocked to learn just how many people are robbed of this.

I fully support this new campaign - which at the heart of it lies the belief that everyone, everywhere should have a decent place to go to the toilet.  I was shocked to discover that 1 in 3 people live without a decent toilet, and almost a billion have no choice but to go out in the open.  I have been reflecting on this a lot, and it's really made some of the things I've been worrying about this week (having several as yet unpacked boxes in the new house, a cracked phone screen, noisy neighbours and nothing to wear on holiday) pale into insignificance.  I really had no idea that so many people were living without such a basic human right, and the number of deaths due to dirty water and poor sanitation shocked me to the core.  In 2017, you just don't imagine this could be happening.

I've been working on a campaign to highlight the partnership between Andrex and WaterAid – Andrex have committed to donating at least £100k to WaterAid this year, which will make possible up to 100,000 visits to community toilets.  If you want to help with this campaign you can choose to purchase the special Andrex packs in Tesco.  For every pack bought, Andrex will donate a penny for every pound spent, which will go directly to WaterAid.

You can also make donations directly to WaterAid.

*This post was written in collaboration with Andrex, however I have made a donation to WaterAid as part of this campaign

Health and Fitness Update - August

I'm holding my hands up and admitting that over the last few months my health and fitness efforts have majorly dropped off the radar.  In between selling a house, renting another, a holiday, one hen do and another I'm about to set off for, I've been more focused on easy, convenient food than whipping up salads, and gym trips have been swapped for festivals, nights out and sofa time.  It's fair to say it's been a rather busy Summer.

Although I have totally stopped logging my food on MyFitnessPal (who wants the shame of having to enter every Deliveroo delivery that comes to their doorstep?), the two things I have been tracking are my steps via my Fitbit Blaze, and my weight and body fat % via my iHealth Core Scales.

I'm a bit of an obsessive tracker, so having a set of scales that gives me a range of data such as BMI, body water, lean mass and muscle mass and uploads it all to an app on my phone.  Everyone is a bit blown away when I show them that my scales connect to the wifi and upload all the stats so I have them on hand and can look back over my past results (and send them to my personal trainer - eek!) The scales themselves are brilliant and I've found them incredibly easy and motivating to use - you can set goals and then the tracker will tell you how far you are from your goals and give you trends so you can really keep on top of your tracking.  It integrates with the Health app on the iPhone so you really can feed it into everything else you're monitoring as part of your health and fitness.  You can also add different users and it logs their weight so you don't even need to say who it is that's using it.  (It also helps that they're a lovely looking set of scales - they look so swish in my bathroom!)

Unfortunately using my scales I've seen a steady increase in my weight in the last few months and I've put back on all of the weight and body fat that I previously lost through running, personal training, tracking my food and increasing my protein.  As I mentioned, I'm off on a hen do in Mallorca later today, so I won't be watching my weight whilst I'm there, but when I'm back I'm determined to get focused.

Matching running shoes with my friend Charlie

I'm intending to go to at least two yoga classes a week, and there are some great yoga studios within walking distance of the house.  I'll also be joining a gym that's only a few minutes' walk away, so I'm hoping the convenience of these options will spur me on to get my trainers on and yoga mat out.  I'm also going to get back on to tracking my food and being more disciplined with my meals and preparation so that I'm not grabbing take-aways or sandwiches at work.  I also want to get back into running again and get out a couple of times a week before work (for some reason I'm more of an autumn/winter runner, I hate getting hot and sticky and running when it's boiling outside!)

How are you doing with your health and fitness goals?


Turning 33

On Monday it was my 33rd birthday. Of course any major date in the calender elicits a certain amount of reflection; particularly if you are an introspective type like me who often gazes at markers in the sand and imagines where they thought they might be at that time.

I mean, if there's one thing you learn in your 20s (or 30s, for those who dig their heels in and resist it - yes, me again), it's that life very rarely goes to plan. But the life that does arrive usually just has a way of working out, of sometimes even being a better fit. This takes time - to fit, to wear it long enough to grow accustomed to it. Right now I am at that stage where I'm still folding up the sleeves, tilting my head in the mirror and slowly but surely, making it my own.

I am learning to shed expectations - from others, from society, and most difficult of all - from myself. Society taught me that 33-year-olds have crisply ironed white shirts, own three-bedroom houses with a subway-tiled kitchen and original fireplace and have two or three angelic little children toddling around them and a rugged, bearded husband who can chop wood and soothe the children with equal aplomb. I do not have any of this, and worse - I could have done and I walked away. (Not just for me, but for both of us).

But life is not a recipe where subway tiles + swarthy husband + seaside semi-detached = happiness. And thank god for that, as it means that happiness can be cultivated by the many, not just the few who are lucky enough to have those in their life (though God knows instagram doesn't always make it feel like that). In previous years I've worked so hard to try and find happiness, in new houses, in new hobbies, in Lush bath bombs and cosy blankets - feeling like it was an unachievable quest, like pushing a huge rock uphill only to watch it roll back down again. Everything always felt heavy, and difficult and I would wake with this feeling of a huge, hard stone in my stomach and a dark cloud over my head.

I'm not looking back to that time any more, it was another life, another time. And in the last few weeks I've noticed a feeling of lightness, of ease. I'm no longer weighed down, I feel content, and calm. In April I was diagnosed with 'home related stress' and placed on anti-depressants (Citalopram) which I think have helped. When I look back now, it was stress I was suffering from and probably had been for some time - not sleeping, feeling exhausted all the time, constantly worrying and feeling anxious and on edge, being ratty and over-sensitive and over-thinking and over-analysing everything.

This weekend in particular I just woke with a big smile on my face. I'm now living in a beautiful light, airy house with all my books, crystals, millions of clothes and my comfy sofa. I live in a cool city with yoga classes, vegan cafes, a lovely beach and parks in which to walk Bodhi dog. I have people in my life making me happy, a job I enjoy and time for blogging and tackling my to-read pile. I've been on a journey of self-discovery and dabbled in aromatherapy, shamanism, tarot, astrology, crystals and law of attraction. But I learned that life is not about the ingredients, and none of this matters, really. What matters is giving myself the grace and kindness to grow and make mistakes, to let emotions come and go as they please and to know that whatever happens, I am enough.

So I guess, on my 33rd birthday I didn't wake up in a house I owned, with a baby cooing from a nearby bedroom, with a high-flying career under my belt and a bulging savings account but what I did wake up with was a sense of contentment, of ease, of love and light. And that matters more.

Body confidence in swimwear

It's mid-July, a beautiful balmy summer evening on the south coast of England.  My Mum and I are strolling along the seafront with Henry eagerly sniffing out cuttlefish and pulling on his lead when he spots other dogs.  We wander down to the shore with my camera slung over my shoulder and my Mum kindly offers to take a few snaps of my lovely new swimwear from Marks and Spencer.  After a few photographs of a comfy, loose navy playsuit, I yank it over my sandals, and giggling, ask her to take few photographs of the swimsuit.

Navy appliqué playsuit, Marks and Spencer, £19.50*
Straw Bucket Shopper, Marks and Spencer, £15*

Because it's an unusually warm evening, groups of people are ambling along the promenade with dogs, runners are sweating and puffing in the heat and couples are enjoying fish and chips on fading green benches.  There are many, many sets of eyes that could potentially judge my thicker than I'd like thighs, my bum that pokes out of the sides of my costume, my failed attempts to suck in my stomach and tense my upper arms - but I don't care.  This is a new feeling for me, a sense of abandon and a quietening of the inner voice that tells me that everyone is looking, laughing, averting their eyes.  I am that person that prefers loose-fitting clothing, that gets changed in the toilets at the gym, that wears a t-shirt to bed and that usually cringes at the idea of being seen in swimwear.  When I express my anxieties at being seen in my swimming costume my Mum points out a group of people splashing around in the sea and reassures me just how normal it is, and how really, no-one will notice.

And I feel good.  Let's be honest - a good swimming costume makes a lot of difference.  And as soon as I tried on this stunning Marks and Spencer's number I knew it was a keeper (and - read on for how you can win a hamper of Marks and Spencer goodies too!).  With 30F boobs I've never been able to wear 'off the peg' swimwear and have always been envious of those friends who could grab a size 10 bikini and not have to worry that the back would fit but their boobs would be spilling out - so to find this one is an absolute game-changer.  It nips in and slims in all the right places and - frankly, made me feel a million dollars.

Secret Slimming Foulard Print Swimsuit, Marks and Spencer, £35*

I heard a quote once - 'in your twenties you worry everyone is looking at you, in your thirties and forties you learn not to care about those people looking at you, and in your fifties and sixties you realise no-one was really even looking at all'.  It's a tough, and prolonged lesson to learn that no-one really is looking, or judging, or commenting on what you look like (most people are either too wrapped up in what they look like - or on their phones!) Another tricky lesson is how to calm that inner 'mean girl' - and trust me, mine is particularly vociferous - that tells you you're hideous, you shouldn't wear that, you look terrible, that everyone will laugh, that you can't wear something that short, or tight.  But no-one is as hard on yourself as you are, and you do really internalise all of those horrible things you say about yourself.  It's currently my life's work to be kinder to myself and talk to myself as I would a close friend or a child, with love and compassion.

Dipped hem shirt dress, Marks and Spencer, £29.50
I think of all of the times I've been on holiday and not done things I would have loved to because I was self-conscious about my body.  Whilst in Thailand some years ago the group that I was with stripped to their underwear and dove into a waterfall for a cool off whilst trekking in the jungle.  I simply couldn't do it - and I regret it to this day.  From now I'm resolving to 'hang up my hang ups' and seize those opportunities with both hands.  (And it helps that I have a selection of stunning swimwear and cover-ups from M&S to help me on my journey).  I'm off to a hen do in Palma at the end of August and all of these beauties will be getting packed in my suitcase!

So - I promised earlier that you too can be part of this awesome campaign and win some gorgeous M&S swimwear goodies.

All you have to do is share your favourite holiday memories on social media using the hashtag #noholidayhangups.  I'd love to hear your stories of when you felt most confident or comfortable, and when you swept aside any hesitation and hung up your hang ups!  I'll announce a winner in a week's time and they'll receive their own holiday shop package.

Ts and Cs are.....
  • Runs for 7 days from 2 August
  • Entrants 18 and over, UK entries only 
  • Entrants must use #NoHolidayHangUps and tag me in their entry 
  • A winner will be chosen by me and announced on Twitter on 10 August
Can't wait to see all of your entries!

How do you try and feel more confident on the beach?


How to slow time

Yesterday I sorted through my old Filofax from 2015 – removing all of the pages so that I could put new ones in (since I’ve decided I’m going to revive it and start using it again, even if it does make me feel like a 1980’s businesswoman). Flicking through the pages, the one thing that struck me was just how busy I was. Every day had multiple entries – gym before work, meetings all day, an appointment after work and then driving across town to meet a friend for dinner. The saddest thing is that despite all of these exciting social plans, I barely remember any of it. Because I was totally exhausted, all of the time. If I look back on those hazy times, I know that I was taking sleeping pills or painkillers to sleep, and then caffeine tablets to perk me up in the morning before a gym class. I know I wasn’t a great friend, because by Thursday or Friday I was having to cancel evening plans to collapse into bed at 6pm. My Filofax is also full of frantic to-do lists; long reams of errands to remember that I had to write down or they would fall out of my head. In between my job, being out every night and trying to keep on top of blogging, a house, planning a wedding (for the beginning of 2015) and a honeymoon, I know now I was suffering from stress and burnout.

Swatch Skin Screen*

Fast-forward to 2017 and life is very different. I knew that I couldn’t have got through the last few months amidst the chaos of my life then, and so I forced myself to slow down. In April this year I was placed on anti-depressants for ‘home-related stress’ and had to take a month off from work. I cancelled weekend and evening plans and made friends with ‘slow’. I knew it was important to take a step back from everything that was causing this feeling of chaos and lack of control. My time, suddenly became very precious. I guarded it with my life.

Though I’m back on track now; back at work and about to move out of my parents’ house and into a new life, this concept of slowing down is still incredibly important to me. I try and keep things simple at all costs and make time for ‘me’. Here are ten ways I force myself to slow down: 

1. Keep relaxing time phone free – when I take long walks in the forest, a soak in the tub or a read before bedtime I always try and put my phone aside or on airplane mode so I’m not interrupted. 

2. Declutter, declutter, declutter – having lots of ‘things’ around me makes me feel stressed and out of kilter, so I try and keep my bedroom and other relaxing spaces clutter free. 

3. Spend time outdoors – I wrote recently about mindful walking and I try and spend time outdoors every day. There’s something about being in nature that forces me to slow down. 

4. Keep a journal – I’m trying not to rush through life without taking time to reflect or be grateful, and keeping a journal helps me take time every day to be present and get things out of my brain and onto paper. 

5. Stop multi-tasking – I try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to focus only on the task I’m doing – eating breakfast without checking my phone, watching a movie without my laptop on my lap, looking at one tab on my endless Safari windows at a time, and listening to albums all the way through. I’m such a ‘flitter’ so I’m trying to train my brain to slow down a bit (a lot!) 

6. Cook more – I also wrote recently about ‘mindful cooking’ and savouring dinner time, and I’m trying to keep up that ritual of cooking a lovely meal in the evening whilst winding down from the day. 

7. Keeping flowers in the house – I’m not sure if this is necessarily a tip for ‘slowing down’ but I do really enjoy bringing nature inside, having hand-cut flowers from the garden, or a few feathers and pine cones lying around. It reminds me to be grateful for nature and the beauty all around us. 

8. Burning candles – There’s something about watching a candle flickering away in the evening that really slows down my frantic brain and makes me feel calm. 

9. Essential oils – Lavender is perfect for calming the mind and encouraging sleep, frankincense is great for stilling the mind and slowing down breathing, and rose oil is great for relaxation. You can place essential oils on your wrists or the soles of your feet, or mix them with a carrier oil like jojoba to make a massage oil or bath oil. 

10. Take a nap – I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a big fan of an afternoon nap. I love the Pzizz app for helping me sleep and allowing me to take time out of a busy day when I need to.

How do you help yourself slow down?

*Post in collaboration with Swatch watches

Crete Girls' Holiday

So - I've just realised that I haven't shared anything about my lush holiday to Crete with my awesome friend Carlie last month, what an oversight! At the moment we're just in the final stages of selling our house in Lymington and so I need to be gazing at photos of palm trees and beaches to bring a smile to my face, and I'm excited to look back on that awesome week.

My friend and I decided we needed a girl's holiday in June to lift our spirits and get away from it all for a week and by the time I was packing my suitcase I was very ready for a week of cocktails, lazing by the pool and getting stuck into my to-read pile.  We scoured various holiday websites and eventually chose the Blue Bay Resort and Spa in Agia Pelagia.  Agia Pelagia is a small village on the north coast of Crete, about half an hour from the airport in Heraklion.  We chose the hotel because it had a spa there where we were hoping to get massages and enjoy the sauna and steam room, and also because the restaurants and pools looked perfect for a relaxing, easy stay.

We flew with Easyjet from Gatwick (we got the train to the terminal and it was so easy) - in the end we arrived at the hotel about midnight and were slightly concerned when we checked in and our suitcases were then loaded into a car to be taken up a hill to a separate part of the hotel a few minutes' walk away (our room was also up about eight flights' of stairs so I felt confident I didn't need to go to the gym for a week...) Although it was a shame to be a little way away from the hotel it was nice and quiet and the views from our room were amazing.

We spent the majority of the holiday lying by the pool, gossiping over rosé spritzers and reading the stack of books we'd both brought with us.  I think I got through five books and I'm think I might do a little post reviewing the ones I read whilst away if that would be of interest? As usual for me I spent most of the day dreaming about food, and the all inclusive restaurant was really good, with tons of different options as well as ice creams, pizza and sausage rolls all day, and cake and tea in the afternoon!

We didn't do tons of exploring as our main objective was just to relax, but we did wander down into Agia Pelagia itself, which is a really pretty little town with restaurants, cocktail bars and souvenir shops.  We had drinks in a restaurant on the water and paddled in the sea (of course).

We went down into the town a couple of times for 'gyros', wine and kebabs and to raid the shops for soaps and herbs and other authentic Greek fare.  The walk down to the town was beautiful and watching the sun set over the stunning white buildings was a sight to behold.

The hotel wasn't exactly what we expected and it was a shame to be a little way from the main area, though there was a bar and pool in our section too so we could still fill up on pizza and spritzers during the day! The main disappointment was that the spa was actually closed the entire time we were there and there were a few issues with our room that needed to be resolved when we arrived.  I think if I went again I would probably go self-catering and stay in a villa - there are some beautiful home rentals with pools in Crete that look stunning (plus no getting splashed by kids in the pool!)

I really love Greece and would definitely go again, Crete was really pretty and it was nice and quiet and perfect for a girls' getaway.  Have you visited Crete?

*post contains a collaborative link

My favourite essential oils and natural remedies

As you may have seen from other blog posts, I've been on a real 'healing' journey in the last few months, exploring acupuncture, tarot, shamanism, crystal healing, making natural remedies, meditation, mindfulness and lots more.

One of the healing techniques I've been getting a lot out of is aromatherapy, and using products made with essential oils (especially making my own).  I've written before about using an aromatherapy diffuser (this is the one I have, the previous one I used broke after a few months) and having oils diffusing throughout the day - especially in the morning and before bed - is now an unmissable part of my routine.  I particularly like citrus-y scents to start the day with; oils like sweet orange, lemon or grapefruit, as well as scents like rosemary or eucalyptus.  Before bed I usually diffuse lavender, bergamot, sandalwood or cedarwood as it really calms me and gets me ready for snooze.  I also place lavender in the bath (both the oil, and sprigs of lavender from the garden) which really helps me wind down from a long day.

I've been trialling some of the Tisserand essential oil products lately and many of these are now a key part of my daily routine.  The Tisserand Happy rollerball (£5.99*) now has a permanent place in the make-up bag I keep in my handbag and is perfect to lift my spirits whenever I hit a low point during the day.  For £5.99 it's an absolute steal and contains a gorgeous blend of lemon, bergamot, lemon tea tree and nutmeg mixed with a base of jojoba oil.  I tend to use it on the inside of my wrists, temples and behind my ears and I find the scent really cheering.

It's no lie to say that the last few weeks (well - months) have been stressful, with a low point of course being signed off sick with stress back in April, and now selling our house and trying to make plans for the future has meant I can feel my stress levels rising again.  When I feel those sensations of tension and pressure and I don't think I can cope I make sure I do a breathing exercise and use the Tisserand De-Stress Mist (£8.95*) for some instant relief.  The de-stress mist contains orange, rose, geranium and nutmeg which work together to provide a sense of calm and comfort as well as an uplift and sereneness.  I spritz this all over me as well as all over the room if I'm at home and just soak it in.  I also love the Tisserand De-Stress Body Oil (£9.95) which has the double benefits of the essential oils as well as the skin soothing jojoba and moringa oil.  I'm a bit obsessed with jojoba oil at the moment and I'm using it in all of the homemade skin treats I've been making, so I was excited to see that it was the base oil for this yummy product.  It has the same essential oils as the de-stress mist and it's perfect for slathering on after a long soak in the bath to help you unwind.

Of course the first thing to suffer during a tough period is your sleep, and unfortunately this is one thing I still haven't been able to nail in the last few months.  Essential oils have greatly helped this however, and the Tisserand Sweet Dreams Pillow Mist (£12.95*) is one product I could not live without now.  I spritz it on my pillows, quilt cover and the outside of my eye mask and it truly is the most wonderful scent, it's my favourite pillow mist of the several that I've tried.  It contains lavender, sandalwood and jasmine which are three of my utter favourites so it's no surprise that I love this blend.  There's also a Sweet Dreams Bath Oil (£10.95*) which is another one that's an absolute dream to have before bed.  It contains coconut, sweet almond and jojoba which are my three favourite natural moisturisers and three that I love to add to my bath to pamper my skin.  I also owned the Sweet Dreams Essential Oil blend that I use in my diffuser prior to Tisserand kindly sending me some bits to try out and I also hugely recommend this, it's one of my favourites to diffuse before bedtime.

I would massively encourage anyone who is interested in essential oils and natural healing to explore aromatherapy further - they really are like little oils of joy and happiness and there are so many different ways to use them to complement your daily routine.  Some of the books I love for learning more about essential oils are the Neal's Yard Essential Oils book, Natural Remedies (Try It) and the Handmade Apothecary (one of my favourite books and probably the best £5.99 you'll ever spend.) I also massively recommend following Gemma Sands on instagram, she has taught me so much about essential oils!

What are your favourite essential oils or natural remedies?