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?


Victorious Festival Ticket Giveaway

So some of you may have noticed that over the last few months of living at home I've fallen head over heels for the pretty seaside town of Southsea, and I'll be moving there next month (which I'm incredibly excited about!)  This is perfect timing for me, as at the end of August, Southsea hosts the annual Victorious Festival, a metropolitan festival of music and family entertainment, taking place over the weekend of 25 – 27 August.  Read on for how you can win tickets to this year's awesome festival...

This year, the line-up includes Stereophonics, Elbow, Madness, Rita Ora, Olly Murs, Jake Bugg, Freeder, Palace, KT Tunstall, Franz Ferdinand, Slaves, Crows, The Charlatans, British Sea Power, Echobelly, Banfi, Toy, Leo Stannard and many more.  A truly family-orientated festival there is something for everybody to enjoy; from a kid's arena to a champagne bar, to a real ale village, an eclectic range of food stalls and an arts and craft marketplace.

I'm very excited that Victorious Festival has teamed up with A Rosie Outlook to give away a pair of tickets for each day (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) plus a weekend camping ticket to this year’s festival.

To enter, all you have to do is use the Rafflcopter below.  There's tons of ways to enter and this is such an awesome giveaway - I am counting down the days to the festival and I'm particularly excited about seeing Stereophonics, Frank Turner, Pulled Apart By Horses and Frightened Rabbit, all favourites of mine.

For more information and tickets, visit www.victoriousfestival.co.uk.

T&C’s: Prize includes one pair (two tickets) of adult day tickets for each day of the festival (Friday 25th August , Saturday 26th August and Sunday 27th August) plus a pair (two tickets) of weekend camping tickets. Each ticket admits one person. One person in the group must be aged over 18 (NB children under the age of 10 years do not require a ticket). Travel is not included. The prize is non-refundable and no cash alternative will be offered. The prize is non transferable and ID will be required at time of collecting the ticket wristband upon arrival. The prize includes all free events and activities at Victorious (subject to availability) but not food and drink from any stalls or bar. Winner chosen at random.

Denim and fresh white pumps

I must say I am absolutely loving the weather this weekend - it's been so warm and full of sunshine and I have spent most of it either in the garden with a good book (oh and there might have been a bit of prosecco) or wandering around nearby Southsea.

I spent most of yesterday at home soaking up the sunshine in the back garden, fussing Henry dog reading my book on Native American Healing (I know, I'm such a geek), having a little mid-afternoon snooze and catching up on Love Island.  It was such a relaxing day and exactly what I needed - but I knew this morning that I wanted to get out and about and go for a bit of a wander rather than lolling around in the garden all day.

superga canvas pumps: £49.99* - jake shoes | denim playsuit: £7.99 - ebay

I've had my eye on some white Superga pumps for what feels like years as I'm always seeing girls looking super stylish wearing skinnies and their classic white shoes.  I bought this denim playsuit from eBay a couple of weeks ago and I knew that my new Supergas would be the perfect comfy trainers to team my playsuit with whilst mooching about Southsea.

My bag was made by my clever Mum from an old grain sack, I wish I was as crafty as her! She's always making awesome things, and this bag is the perfect beach bag for slinging all your bits and bobs in and taking out for the day.

Today was my ideal summer day out - we went for lunch at Canteen in Portsmouth (which is such an awesome lunch spot and does the best salads, pastries and cakes).  Then we wandered along to Southsea and spent some time listening to jazz at the bandstand and having a bit of a picnic of crisps, iced buns and cider! Of course the day had to be finished off with an ice cream as big as my head - that then melted down my arm and dripped into my sandal.  Maybe it's just a little bit too hot...


Slow mornings

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a green tea obsessive.  In fact my friend said to me the other that I literally 'session' green tea, drinking one after another until lunchtime.  However, at the weekends (and on Fridays now that I work four days a week), I always try and have a slower morning where I really take the time to enjoy and savour my tea, and if it's lovely weather then to spend some time outside.

I'm really lucky that, where I'm living at my parents' house at the moment, they have an absolutely stunning garden which is the perfect place to relax with a steaming green tea and my journal.  I was recently sent a gorgeous little hamper of goodies from eteaket, who make the most beautiful teas, tea kits, candles and gifts, and I've been taking time to really savour my Blooming Marvellous Sencha Green Tea.  Watching the steam curl up towards the blue morning skies, hearing seagulls calling overhead and scribbling my thoughts in my journal is such a peaceful way to start the day.

I think that so often we rush around (particularly in the mornings, when there's always a hundred things to do before we leave the house) and it feels impossible to snatch even a few moments of calm.  I'm trying really hard recently to set my alarm just ten minutes earlier to make sure I have time to complete my Morning Pages exercise and enjoy my tea rather than what usually happens, which is that I put it on the side of my bed and usually knock it on the floor when I'm trying to do my makeup!

On my Fridays off, or at the weekends, I love to have a bit of a morning ritual and find a bit of peace. This usually involves lighting a candle (the eteaket Blooming Marvellous vanilla, rose and raspberry candle), popping on my diffuser with a DoTerra Peace essential oil blend (feel free to message me if you have any essential oil questions as I'm really getting into them now!) and either read my book for ten minutes or write in my journal.  I always try and ensure I 'stay present' - listening to the sounds of the birds, watching the flowers sway in the wind, feeling grass under my feet, savouring my tea and most importantly, taking time to breathe.  The morning is the perfect time to take lots of big, deep breaths - another thing I forget to do as the day goes on!

I do really adore loose leaf tea, and the Blooming Marvellous Loose Leaf Tea is totally delicious - with rose buds, tangy fruit and gorgeous bright mallow.  It's so flavourful (which I know is something that sometimes puts people off herbal or green tea) and has so many different tastes and aspects to it.  I find that there's something about straining loose leaf too that's somehow ritualistic too - especially when you brew a pot of it and enjoy every cup.

Are you a fan of a slow morning or is the evening the moment when you choose to slow down? What's your best tip for finding a bit of peace during a busy day?


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? :)