Travel plans for 2017

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

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

Agia Pelagia, Crete |  thehotel.gr

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

Palma, Mallorca | inlist.com

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

Avenue B Grocery, Austin, Texas | countryliving.com

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

The Dairy, Suffolk Secrets

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

Blue Dog Quarters, Suffolk Secrets

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

*post contains a collaborative link

This is my life now

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

img credit unknown ;; contact for removal

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

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


Reading, listening to, watching

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

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

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

img credit: career girl daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My first experience of acupuncture and cupping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever tried acupuncture? 


Morning pages, and realisations

I've been doing three things religiously over the last couple of weeks - writing in my gratitude journal in the morning and evening, writing in my 'one line a day' journal, and writing 'morning pages' (there is a good article about what morning pages are here).  It might seem an odd time to be dedicated to documenting my days but I think it's important to notice the happier times, be grateful for the many wonderful things I do still have in my life and to just get things out of my brain and onto the page. Morning pages really helps with this as it involves just writing longhand, freehand, stream of consciousness, preferably for about three pages (though I don't force it if it isn't coming).  It acts as a 'brain dump', a way to get things out of your mind and onto paper.  Apparently you're not supposed to look back on your morning pages, but I often do, especially lately.  It makes me realise that deep inside, the words that come out onto the page are very positive and hopeful even if I don't always necessarily feel like that.  I often find myself writing intentions or plans for the future and I find them incredibly helpful to look back on and realise that my intuition is trying to guide me forward.  Looking back a few days ago I can see that I wrote:

'Walk more. Be outside more. Be 'tov' - imperfect, messy {link to podcast here}. Take time out for you. Take time to listen to birds.  Take your hands off the wheel and let the universe decide.  Roll  your yoga mat out.  Read more, learn more, nourish and find joy.  Do not try to fill space - learn to love the space.  Be someone known as being relentlessly positive.  Make quick decisions and move things forward.  Embrace uncertainty and learn to love the questions.  Trust the process.  Enjoy the simple pleasures and invite and celebrate joy.'

I wasn't really thinking as I was writing these things, they were just spilling out onto the page.  They seem like useful things to pay attention to.

This weekend I was with friends in their beautiful house in Wiltshire, where they have a teeny baby, chickens clucking around and a dog that bounds out to their front gate to greet you.  In many ways they have everything that I want, and though I could have been green with envy, I just felt full of love and happiness for them and their situation.  As I was stood in their stunning bathroom looking at their antique tiled floor, luscious green plants and huge rain shower, I realised that being on my own now isn't a barrier to me having these things (well, okay, maybe the baby).  In my head I had equated being married, or being in a relationship with being able to have the happy, comfortable life, but for now I just need to focus on being kind to myself and enjoying being a Rosie.  I can still have a lovely home and a happy life even if I'm not sharing it with someone else just now.


Health and Fitness Update + Protein Powder

Since moving back to my parents' house I've tried not to change too many of my routines to keep a bit of normality in my life amidst all the changes.  One thing I've been determined to do is keep my health and fitness regime ongoing as I know how much better it makes me feel when I go to the gym, and how much worse it makes me feel when I get into bad eating habits (daily packets of Daim Cadbury Eggs I'm looking at you).  Even though most mornings I'd rather be staying cocooned in my quilt than getting up and going to the gym, I've kept up my personal training appointments and also tried to fit in a few runs as the post-exercise endorphins really give me a boost.  Here is a totally narcissistic blurry phone photo in my gym socks from before I went to the gym a couple of weeks ago, because why not?

I've actually got out of some of my better habits and put on a few lbs since after Christmas so I'm determined to up my training and nail my eating habits to get to where I want to be.  I was away with work last week and found myself ordering room service and drinking more wine than I usually do but I've accepted that things aren't always easy to control and to be kind to myself and just go with the flow.

Although I've got out of the habit of tracking on MyFitnessPal, one thing I always fell down on is not eating enough protein.  I'm not naturally a great meat eater and most of the foods I'm naturally drawn to (hi there bread and potatoes) are not very protein dense.  Because I've been focussing on building muscle in training, protein is important for building lean body mass and so it's not really ideal to be lifting weights and surviving on toast (more's the pity).  For that reason I tend to have a protein shake after the gym or with a meal if it's one without much protein in it.

For the last few weeks I've been trying out the Herbalife Formula 1 Sport which is a protein shake which can also be used as a meal replacement shake.  I'm not an advocate of meal replacement shakes or anything that suggests swapping out meals, but as it has 18g of protein it's an easy way to get a hit of protein after a workout without having to eat a load of chicken!

Herbalife Formula 1 Sport*
I have it with almond milk or cashew milk (cashew milk is SO nice) and the vanilla flavour is really yummy, I'd definitely recommend it.  I don't think you can actually buy Herbalife 'off the shelf' but if you go on their website you can fill in a form and get one of their reps to contact you who can help you select the products that are right for you.  I also tried out their protein bars which are absolutely lush.  They're another product that are perfect for after the gym or as a mid-morning snack - they're only 140 calories per bar and have 10g of protein.  I'm definitely going to find a way to re-buy them as I finished the box really quickly and I'm going to miss them in my gym bag over the coming weeks!

I'm really focussed on keeping to my plans over the next few weeks (whilst allowing a bit of balance too of course).  I've found a yoga class near me that I really like, I want to run a couple of times a week and also carry on with my personal training.  I went swimming last week which I really enjoyed  and I'd like to find a nice pool near me that I can swim at before work but I'm quite particular about the cleanliness of the changing rooms - what a snob!

Do you have any health and fitness plans at the moment? Is it just me that's totally seduced by all the Easter chocolate in the shops...

On being not okay

I'm at the dinner table in a hotel and the people I'm with are chatting about their husbands and families; reflecting on how things might be going back home whilst they are away.  My workmate is describing how her husband will hang washing out, but refuse to put it away, and so piles of clean clothes amass around the house.  Another colleague is laughing at her husband's inability to properly load the dishwasher, and how often she ends up re-loading it after he has cleared away after dinner.  I smile and laugh along, but under the table I am digging my nails in my hands and trying not to cry; biting my lip and glancing around the restaurant to wait for the emotion to pass.  For someone who used to cry maybe once or twice a year, I have perfected the art of only 'just about' avoiding crying in public over the last few weeks (as well as several very much failed attempts at avoiding it).  The thing is - I want so badly to have my own, current tales of domestic monotony to share at dinner but I have none.  In the end, the things you miss are not the big things, they are the small things.  Chatting about your day in the kitchen whilst you wash up, going through your list in the supermarket and discussing what you might have for dinner, rifling through the washing basket and washing the things you know they'll want to wear the following day.  I took all of these things for granted and now all I want is normality, to fit in with what I feel most 32-year-old's lives look like, and what I always wanted mine to look like at this age.  I imagine a parallel universe where I will be leaving the hotel and going back to cook dinner, put children to bed and go to sleep in a home in a leafy suburb, instead of going back to unpack my bag in the back bedroom of my parents' house.  How can I have messed up so significantly that this is my life now, instead of that one?  I always thought that I was ambitious; a dreamer, someone who shot for the stars, but what I long for now is just normality and familiarity.  I don't want a six figure salary or a wardrobe full of designer handbags or a round the world plane ticket (well, maybe that one), I just want Netflix and a takeaway pizza under a blanket with someone I love.

Over the last few weeks I have been trying to 'get on with things' - work hard, see friends, carry on living even though I feel broken inside.  But in the last few days the wheels have stopped turning and the cracks have made their way to the outside.  I just can't do it any more.  I can't hold back the tears, the tide of emotion, the feelings of sadness that sit like a permanent lump in my throat.  I have had to wave the white flag and admit that, put simply, I am not okay.  I have been struck by how many people haven't asked how I am; friends who haven't been in contact; people who don't seem to express much concern at someone explaining that they no longer live in the house that they owned with the person they were married to.  But I realise now that if you look like you're okay on the outside, people assume you are okay on the inside (and I get that people are nervous to ask and think you might not want to talk about it, which is sometimes true).  It has taken a lot (for someone who prides themselves on being rational, measured and strong) to admit that I need help and support.  I lay in bed yesterday morning and messaged friends to explain how I was feeling, and not one person made me feel unreasonable, or weak or as if I shouldn't be feeling like this.  I messaged my boss and she has helped me find space in my work life to allow me to heal and recover.  I allowed people to help me and to offer advice and send love.  All of a sudden, bottling it all up doesn't seem that sensible any more.
img credit: Ijeoma Umebinyuo via instagram

I've never been sure whether to share these things on here, for fear of looking like a 'whinger', or an 'oversharer'.  Blogging (and particularly social media) often feels as if it should be about the best bits, and all I seem to share lately are the worst bits.  But it feels important at this time to open up about the darker days in the hope that others feel less alone when days like these arrive for you also.  I have been angry with myself for not being able to cope - for days when my brain won't seem to work and I forget things, for days when even just driving home from work seems complicated and tiring, for days when my brain just replays images over and over until I cannot bear it any more and have to numb it with sleep/wine/giant bars of chocolate and other vices.  What I have learned is to show myself kindness and allow these days to happen, knowing that there are brighter days around the corner.  As my friend said, 'these days, or weeks, or months are just a dropped stitch in the tapestry of life'.  Here's to just the hope of more colourful, well rooted stitches that are a little further along the pattern.  When glimpses of hope arrive, they must be clung to.


Review: Showcase Cinema de Lux Southampton

Going to the cinema is one of those activities that I always really, really enjoy when I do it, but I often don't think to do.  This year I definitely want to make more time to see the films that come out that I decide I want to see (rather than seeing a trailer, promising myself I'll go and see it, and then only realising I didn't when it comes out on DVD).  One of the things I love about the cinema is the whole experience of going - the warm popcorn, the tray of nachos (okay, okay, I tend to fixate on the food...), the atmosphere and the excitement as the lights go down - it's just not the same as watching something at home on Netflix.

So when I was invited to take a look at the new Showcase Cinema De Lux in Southampton, I jumped at the chance to tick off one of my aspirations for the year.  My friend and I popped along on a Tuesday night with two tickets to Fifty Shades Darker (I know, I know, but we wanted to switch our brains off for a bit!) and an appetite for a bucked of popcorn.

I was not prepared for just how amazing the new cinema is.  There's ten screens, with laser projection and incredible sound (the wall to wall screens are just humongous!)

There's a VIP bar especially for Gallery customers (as well as a Lounge Bar for everyone else) so you can grab a glass of wine on the way into the movie.  It felt very civilised sitting watching a film with a cold glass of wine in hand! Gallery tickets are around £15 but you get to sit in reclining leather chairs and they also bring you a 'bento box' which had popcorn, chocolate sauce and marshmallows, sweets and all sorts of other treats in it! The reclining seats are just incredible, I can't think of much better than lying back in a chair and watching a film in ultimate comfort.

Now I know how amazing this cinema is I'll definitely be making more trips to see all the films on my list.  Lolling back in a comfy chair with a glass of vino and a tray of nachos is a pretty amazing way to spend an evening and one I intend to do as often as possible...

PS - Fifty Shades Darker was exactly as I expected - total trash, completely ridiculous and a good way to give your brain a rest for a couple of hours!

Have you been to the cinema recently?

Getting back into running

There was a time a couple of years ago when I used to run every day before work.  Running was the first real exercise I got into after about 12 years of doing almost no physical activity whatsoever, and so it will always have a special place in my heart (I even wrote about how I ran to Nottingham - well, kind of).

An awful lot has changed since my days of running 5k most mornings before work, not least the fact that my commute is currently around an hour rather than the 10 minutes it was back then. Nowadays I tend to eschew cardio in favour of lifting weights, and whilst running kick-started my weight loss and fitness journey, I'm more focussed on building muscle and toning my body.


Whilst seeing my shoulders and biceps grow and watching the fat on my legs slowly (so slowly) turn into muscle is pretty exciting, there really is nothing quite like a run along a windy seafront, the breeze swishing your ponytail, your trainers pounding along the promenade.

And so it was that a new pair of rather jazzy new Asics running shoes* came into my life, and my old, battered but much-loved Asics runners were sidelined to the back of the cupboard (one cannot simply just throw out running shoes, you understand).  After not running since November, I took them on a trial run (okay, jog - it's been four months) along the seafront on Tuesday morning.

Asics Gel Kayano Running Shoes, £145*, John Lewis

Now, if there is one thing I have learned since running, it is that you should try and at least vaguely plan some sort of route or distance before you set off.  And always remember the golden rule - if you run a certain distance away from home, you have to then come that same distance back (I know, it's a complex one).  I did not really pay attention to either of these rules, which is how I found myself merrily jogging along 2.6 miles from my house and then realising that five miles is a little distance to run when you haven't actually pulled your running shoes on since before Christmas.

I think the exhilaration got me a little bit - that feeling of being totally powerful, in tune with your body; like you could achieve anything.  However my body did not feel like quite the same slick, well oiled machine yesterday when it could barely achieve walking down stairs or getting into the bath the following day.  Lesson learned - running is bloody amazing, but don't overdo it!  One thing I do know is that the one thing that held up throughout the run even when other parts of me were trying to gently give me a nudge that I might have slightly overdone it, was my trainers.  I massively recommend Asics trainers, and John Lewis have a fab range of running shoes whether you're a total beginner or a seasoned running pro.  Running is such a great sport to get into and now it's coming into Spring, which brings with it lighter mornings and lighter evenings, it's the perfect time to dig out (or seek out) your trainers and rack up a few miles.  I'm going to start fitting one or two runs a week into my routine - partly to add in some cardio and partly because I really do find that the fresh air and the act of running outside really clears my head and makes me feel absolutely great afterwards.

Are you a fan of running or do you prefer other activities?

*Post in collaboration with John Lewis, all opinions are my own


Making waves with the ghd Curve Creative Curl Wand

My hair is naturally slightly wavy, and lately I've been leaning towards wearing it in loose curls rather than straightening it all over.  I might have mentioned it before, but my hair is quite broken due to over-straightening it and I've been trying to re-condition it and build it back up again with deep conditioners, supplements and only straightening it every couple of days.  I find that curling it means that (with a lot of hairspray), it stays in for a couple of days (even if they are more like dropped waves the next day) which negates the need to straighten it daily.

I've been trying out the ghd Curve Creative Curl Wand (£120*) over the last week or so to create different styles, such as curls or waves, beachy hair or big curls. 

I've had to really get used to how to use the wand as I've previously used stylers with a clip that you clip the hair in with and then wind up to the root.  However, using the creative curl wand you wrap the hair around the barrel of the wand and then hold the wand vertically.  I did find it a bit fiddly at first but I quickly got the hang of it.  It turns on via the button on the wand (and makes a really satisfying noise!) and has an in-built stand for when you're not using it.  

Like with most curling wands or stylers, you can create waves or curls by simply sectioning your hair, wrapping 1" sections around the wand and holding it in place for 5-8 seconds, and then alternating curling the sections away from or towards your face.

I still need a lot more practice and where my hair has layers or broken bits it doesn't look quite as neat as some of the vloggers who do YouTube tutorials who have long, luscious locks, but I'll get there! I've been watching this video to get the hang of using the wand, can I have hair like her thanks please?

Do you use a curling wand to create waves or curls? Have you tried the ghd Curve wand?

*ghd Curve Wand was a gift but all opinions are my own


Spring wishlist

After what has seemed like frankly an endless, dark, unforgiving winter, I am so ready to turn my back on thick jumpers and boots and embrace lighter fabrics and brighter tones.  Over the last few months I've found myself getting somewhat lazy with my outfits (not helped of course by having only a small proportion of my clothes at my parents' house), relying on skinny jeans, plaid shirts or black t-shirts and ankle boots for the majority of my evening and weekend outfits.  Whilst I'll never turn my back on my beloved ripped black skinny jeans (hey, I didn't get my knee tattooed for nothin'), just daydreaming about swishy midi skirts, floaty tops and pretty bows has given me a renewed excitement for the new season.

I've been in a bit of a funk lately with, well, pretty much everything - but Spring is so symbolic to me, all about bringing light, growth, newness and the opportunity to switch things up a bit.  I'm determined to clear out some old things and invest in a few Spring-like pieces that will bring me joy, and what could bring more joy than sequins or a blush pink tulle skirt? All of these are from the new SS17 Collection from Coast, it's more than a little bit pretty...

1. Bridesmaid's cami, £70 | 2. Bourbon knit top, £69 3. Delph top, £69  |  4. Waist tie top, £79
5.Chambray jumpsuit (coming in April) | 6. Rhian skirt, £139 
7. Bourbon knit top, as before | 8. Ivi sequin top, £95

Whilst I don't think I could risk an entirely white outfit (I still have nightmares of wearing a white vest and a white denim skirt to a school disco in about 1997 and being asked by a boy in my year if I was off to a cricket match) I love the white tailored trousers and nude heels, and that chambray jumpsuit was made for cocktails by a pool or swishing around a garden party.  (Yes I get invited to tons of garden parties, certainly enough to justify the purchasing of that jumpsuit...).

What's on your Spring wishlist this year?

*This is a  PR collaboration, all opinions are  my own

We are made of starstuff

During my English A Level, I remember a lesson about abstract nouns.  Our teacher explained to us that they are things you cannot touch or sense, they have no physical existence.  "Like democracy, bravery or sadness," she said.

She was wrong though, I think.  This sadness is not abstract, it is concrete.  You can put your hands around it or feel it sitting in the pit of your stomach, as if you swallowed a rock.  It is as physical as a punch in the stomach; it possesses a sting like biting through your tongue.  I would dispute with my English teacher that you cannot sense sadness, or that it is somehow intangible.  It is a clear and present thing that can wake you by pressing on your chest, or be lurking unexpectedly around a corner.  It is an ache that painkillers cannot soothe.  It is the feeling of being dug out with a spoon, hollowed somehow.  I press my fingers into my belly where it hurts.  Itisreal itisreal itisreal.

At my parents' house I sleep with the blind pulled up.  When I lie prone, with my head tilted to the side, I can see trees against the night sky.  I watch the trees flounder and grow wild in the wind (especially last night; thrashing and twisting in the storm that grew and grew throughout the night).  I am reminded that through wind and rain and as time passes, trees grow roots for stability.  The roots push through the dirt and rocks and hold the tree fast, through still or storm.  I imagine myself pushing my fingers into the mud and grasping, holding tight; clenching pebbles and dust and worms and hidden things.  If I stand steadfast and root myself to the ground, will I weather this storm? Will the rock in my stomach subside? (Everything in life is a metaphor for everything else).

When I lie prone, with my head tilted to the side, I can see lights on in the bedrooms of the people who live opposite.  I watch their silhouettes move around their room; dancing and laughing and sitting and living, just living on and on and on.  I am reminded that through darkness there is lightness and that life goes on.  There are periods in life when you dance in the kitchen, and periods in life when you do not leave your bed, but still time passes.  I imagine that in another lifetime I will be living in a different house and I will be the silhouette and someone else, ensconced in sadness will stare at me through their blinds and realise that life goes on regardless.

When I lie prone, with my head tilted to the side, I can see the stars, like tiny pinpricks in the sky that the light is leaking through.  A friend told me today that using the Hubble telescope we can see the light from the Eagle Nebula, which takes 7000 years to reach the earth.  What would I do with 7000 years, I think.  Would this still hurt as much? Would I still love as hard, ball my fists, clench my teeth and hold on to things not meant for me? Would I still feel as scared? Carl Sagan said,  “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” I cannot believe it right now, but one day I will.  The universe is so vast, and we are so small and we are all made of stars.

When I lie prone, with my head tilted to the side, I tell myself that I will grow roots, that one day I will dance in the kitchen again, and that I am made of stars.  Sleep finds me, and I do not wake until the morning.  The storm has subsided now.  There is a silence and stillness that feels, somehow, concrete.


Savouring Dinnertime

I’m one of those people truly plagued with an overactive mind – someone who constantly worries about anything and everything, and over-analyses the day’s events in slow motion and HD quality (particularly if I said a stupid comment, did something I regret, or there’s a chance to convince myself that someone doesn’t like me). For this reason, I’ve long been searching for a hobby or activity that takes up so much of my energy and brainpower that I switch off from replaying the faux-pas I made in the meeting and just absorb myself in what I’m doing.

Unfortunately I’m far too messy for sewing or knitting, get completely distracted when trying to read a book or watch a film, and the last time I went to a yoga class I spent the entire time worrying I’d ripped my leggings (I had). One thing I have rediscovered lately is the absolute joy I find in cooking. At the moment, I’m currently living at my parents’ house which has been a bit unexpected and just as odd an experience as you might think (I haven’t lived at home since I was 18!) With the weather being pretty horrendous lately and the winter darkness setting in around 4pm, sometimes the evenings stretch out ahead of me and I find myself getting far too introspective (and sometimes a little bored). 

A few weeks ago I decided to start cooking for my parents once or twice a week, and trying to cook a meal that I could take my time over preparing (not just fishfingers, chips and peas!) I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it. There’s something so cathartic about chopping vegetables, preparing sauces and watching things bubbling away in a saucepan. After a long day at work (and a long drive home thanks to a much lengthier commute) I can feel all of the worries of the day ebbing away as I prepare a meal. Over the last few weeks I’ve been trialling the HelloFresh boxes, and it’s been a total joy making (and eating) the meals they’ve sent. For those of you that don’t know, Hello Fresh is a delivery service that delivers the ingredients for three or five meals a week. They deliver the entire ingredients for a meal, right down to seasonings, stocks and even small things like garlic cloves or butter. They also send out recipe cards with step-by-step instructions for each meal. You can swap the meals if you don’t fancy the menu that week, and there’s also veggie options for people who don’t eat meat. We actually often order Hello Fresh boxes, usually for the first week of the month when we’re feeling a bit lazy and want to treat ourselves to some easy dinners!

Red Thai Prawn Curry - Recipe here
I think it’s common these days to end up coming home from work in a state of total exhaustion, foraging for something quick and easy to cook in the kitchen (or grabbing a ready meal or a takeaway) and then eating it in silence in front of the TV. I know many of my evenings often end up looking like that. One of the real pleasures of Hello Fresh is not only that it takes time to prepare the food in a mindful and slow way, but also that making that effort forces you to savour the meal too. After the meal is cooked I always take time to sit at the table and really take time to enjoy the fruits of my labour; chatting about the day and usually enjoying it with a glass of wine and some candles burning. My Mum has a rule that we’re not allowed phones at the dinner table (I still can’t get over how pathetic I feel saying that I’m back living at my parents’ house!) and whilst I initially found it annoying, I must admit I do actually really enjoy just sharing news and catching up rather than scrolling through Twitter. Sadly enough I’ve realised that cooking and eating is probably the only time when I just do nothing but focus on the meal (or the eating!) without having my mind on what’s going on on social media, or what I’m going to do next.

I think one of the reasons I love Hello Fresh so much is not only because the food is frankly delicious (I can’t even explain just how many ‘mmm’ noises have occurred from all around the table since I started cooking them), or that all of the ingredients are fresh and good quality, but just for the sheer experience of preparing the food and enjoying it around the dinner table. This is definitely a habit I’ll be keeping up (as well as the Hello Fresh subscription – there’s no way I can live without dinners like Sweet Potato Cottage Pie, Mexican Spiced Tostadas or Cajun Pork (I’m getting hungry now…)

If you want to try Hello Fresh you can get £25 off your first box here.

*This is a PR collaboration but all opinions are my own

Self-Care on Valentine's Day

It's generally acknowledged that Christmas can be a difficult time for people who are on their own, but once the festivities are over and the New Year is upon us, I also think that Valentine's Day is another day that people often dread.  I have to admit that I am not exactly looking forward to Valentine's Day this year, and know several people who are in the similar position of seeing that date on the calendar and hoping it whizzes by as quickly as possible.

Personally whilst I obviously have no plans on Valentine's Day, I've decided to keep this Tuesday as an evening dedicated purely to self-care and chilling in at home (just like every other evening, I hear you say, and you would be right).  Kraken Rum kindly sent me a little Valentine's kit to share with a special someone (this year, that being me, myself and I) complete with black roses, black candles and the ingredients to make an 'Any Port In a Storm' cocktail.  Kraken has long been my favourite rum, and whilst I'm usually found ordering it with Diet Coke in a bar, I'm excited to settle down on Tuesday evening with a glass full of my favourite spirit and a different recipe to whip up.  I somehow feel like staying in with a bottle of wine and a boxset on my own paints a different picture to staying in with a glass full of rum and some black candles burning away in the background - I'm pretty sure that's what badass people do on their own on V-Day. 

Aside from sipping rum, there's several other things I have planned for my Valentine's Day evening.  At the moment with the weather how it is, it's absolutely imperative to come home from work, put the fire on and get snuggly underneath a blanket.  I'm pretty sure that when it reaches 2 degrees or under it makes it absolutely legitimate to get straight into your pyjamas and slippers even if it is only 6pm.  On Valentine's Day I'll be making sure my favourite PJs are freshly washed (I may even put my dressing gown on the radiator to warm it up - never let it be said that I don't know how to celebrate special occasions...)  

 Of course if I'm ensuring I'm treating myself to all of my favourite self-care activities, it wouldn't be a Rosie night in without a long, languid bath with some kind of Lush bath bomb.  I treated myself to a few things from their Valentine's range, and my favourite is the Unicorn Horn bubble bar.  Can you think of anything more perfect than settling into fairytale, fragrant bubbles on Valentine's Day? I'll definitely be lighting candles and making sure there's a rum-filled glass within easy reach.  I've also been bringing in a little speaker to the bathroom and listening to podcasts or audiobooks whilst I'm soaking in the tub - it's the perfect relaxing evening activity (or it would be if I didn't mostly listen to podcasts or audiobooks about serial killers).

At the moment I'm really trying to focus on my self-development and staying inspired and creative even through what is quite a tough time.  So, on Valentine's Day I'll be giving a nod to awesome, independent ladies everywhere by dipping into Radical Self Love by Gala Darling (seems apt for Valentine's Day!), one of my favourite poetry books, and my Christmas present from Emma - Bad Girls Throughout History.  Of course these books will be enjoyed under some sort of blanket, with my cosy PJs on, and maybe with some sort of bowl of snacks to hand.  I feel like self-care and nachos are pretty inextricably linked, so I can imagine whipping up some sort of crisps and dip combo, and then maybe an indulgent dessert.  Nothing says radical self-love like a slab of New York Cheesecake all to yourself.

Will you be celebrating Valentine's Day with your significant other, or planning a night of self-care like me? Whatever you're planning, I highly encourage you to check out some of the awesome things that Kraken Rum have been doing throughout Valentine's Day by looking at the #Rumantics hashtag - which include matchmaking a couple for a date via the excellent blind date planning skills of Ken the Octopus (you can read how their date went here!

*Post in collaboration with Kraken Rum, all opinions my own

Minimalism in the kitchen: tips for not wasting food

The rising trend for 'simple living' and minimalism is ubiquitous at the moment, with people using Marie Kondo's guidance to clear out their wardrobes and live better with less.  It's true that we have an increasing culture of consumption where many people favour quantity rather than quality, and find ourselves owning more than we can cope with (and eventually throwing things out, or being stuck in a cycle of having a clearout but buying more things).

I can certainly relate to that - I found myself sickened some months ago when we moved house and the removals company had to send extra people in the afternoon to help us to pack the sheer amount of things we owned. Our three bedroom house was full to bursting, and there was only two of us.  I knew I had to make some changes to stop the stress I felt at the amount that we owned, and constantly wasted.

Whilst I've managed to clear-out a lot of clothes and unwanted belongings like books and DVDs, one area where I am guilty of waste is the kitchen.  Every week I find myself throwing things out from the fridge (especially fruit and vegetables or dairy products) and it makes me feel incredibly guilty to see that amount of food going into the bin.  Interestingly, Sainsbury's have kicked off their own initiative to save money and reduce food waste; recognising it as a huge environmental issue.  Their research shows that seven million tonnes of food are thrown away by UK households alone, and my generation are the worst culprits, with 17% saying that they throw away leftovers multiple times a week.

So how can we cut down on food waste and declutter our kitchen cupboards? Here are my tips for ways to waste less and save more...

001. Do your food shop online - I'm a big fan of shopping online for a lot of the things I buy, but there's another reason why I favour online food shopping rather than just sheer loneliness.  I find that I'm not tempted in by the 'end of the aisle' treats and new products, and instead can just work through my list and stick to buying exactly what I need.

002. Make more and freeze leftovers - For me, one of the best things I can do for both my health, minimising waste and my bank balance is making bigger portions of meals such as spaghetti bolognese, shepherd's pie or lasagne.  I'll then portion them out for lunches for the office or freeze them for meals for the following weeks.  It means I save money not running to the shop across the road to get a pre-packed sandwich, and it means I don't end up throwing things away that I've bought for lunches for the week and then not been bothered to make the night before!

003. 'Audit' the kitchen cupboards - One of the things I do try and do is to routinely go through the cupboards and work out what meals I could make with the ingredients I have.  I've found in the past that just by looking at what there is in the various kitchen cupboards I can then do a really small shop at the end of the week and make several more meals.  The Sainsbury's 'Waste less, Save more' site also includes a great 'Food Rescue' function where you can put in the ingredients in your cupboard and it will show you yummy recipes you can make with them (such a good idea!)

004. Plan your meals - Another good habit I find helps combat waste is to plan my meals every night and then only buy the ingredients required for those meals.  This means I don't find a leftover ball of mozzarella, bunch of leeks and packet of sausages in the fridge at the end of the week that I bought on a whim and are all past their sell by date! It also takes the stress out of coming home from work and wondering what to cook.

One of the things that Sainsbury's found out is that our generation (18-34 year olds) tend to spend more on food, and waste more food (on average £460 worth of food a year).  They found that over 55s leave leftovers much less than 18-34 year olds, and tend to feel they know more about managing and cooking food.  My Mum definitely hates wasting food and will always be the first person telling you to finish your food in a restaurant (and then helping you finish your chips as she hates being leftovers!) I asked my Mum what her tips were for avoiding wasting food....

001. Check the sell by dates - Check the dates on the perishables in your trolley to make sure you have a variety of dates, rather than multiple things that run out within the next day or two.

002. Immediately put things in the freezer - Make sure anything that's refrigerated that you intend to freeze, you put in the freezer straight away, rather than leaving things in the back of the fridge until it's too late.

003. Have a few favourite recipes for over-ripe fruit and vegetables - Find recipes for fruit cakes or banana bread and whip them up to give over-ripe fruit a new lease of life.  Also make soups, roasted vegetables or pasta sauces with vegetables that are on the turn.  You can also freeze these to really extend their life!

What are your tips for combating food waste?
*This has been a PR collaboration


Here are some things that I know

The scent of woodsmoke fills the room as I sit here, in this place where I currently am. The sense of 'home' is transitory (confusing to everyone - including me - when people ask where I am). In these difficult times I have learned to grasp and hold tight to the small things; birdsong, the smell of a fire burning somewhere, the sound of traffic on a distant road. I anchor myself to these because they are familiar - because amidst chaos it is comforting somehow to know that there are still robins foraging for nuts and seeds, still people collecting discarded branches and trees, still people going about their daily lives and driving through the night.  I imagine the bonfire crackling in the distance, hot embers floating up to the stars.  Trees that have grown from dirt and roots, that have died and been broken, that will be burned and turned to ash.  Ash and particles that will bury themselves into the dirt to eventually house new seeds and regrow and be reborn.  Sometimes you're the seed and sometimes you're the dirt.  Everything is cyclical.

My Mum was sorting through some of my Gran's things last week and found a letter a friend had written to her that she had kept for some 40 years, until she died.  Her friend had written out a poem she had read, to send as comfort during a difficult time (this is the poem).  I read and re-read it, trying to grasp its meaning; trying to find a secret clue in its interwoven lines.

So we, 
Fall'n in the mire, 
Shall some day surely know 
Why life held blow 
On blow, and sacrificial fire and knife; 
Seeing one stand the firmer for our rout, 
Or some brave, laughing ship of youth sail out 
The braver for our pain.

I form my mouth around the words and hold onto them too; like the birdsong, like the fire.  I have this kind of... scrapbook in my head, of foraged things that will help me through.  I file this under 'words that help', for further dissection at a later date.  I have to start this metaphorical scrapbook because I have nothing to put in a real scrapbook - not anymore.  Scraps of a continued existence are not of note.  Receipts from petrol stations, first class stamps, scribbled notes from work to-do lists. The minutiae of 'getting by'.

I'm sat in bed at my parents' house as I try a second time to write this; my laptop perched on my knees, a mug of camomile tea sat precariously on the shelf of the wooden headboard.  This is my life now; a handful of my favourite books stacked on a shelf, two watches, three perfumes, six pairs of shoes.  It's amazing the amount you don't need when you're forced to live in a smaller space, to use only things hastily crammed into a bright blue Ikea sack.  I feel devoid of belongings, numb and exhausted.  Rain forms fluid avenues and streams in a downward arc against the window.  The wind turns the leaves of the trees in the front garden into awkward, flapping, flailing beings.  I don't feel ready to talk about the exactitudes of what has brought me here, to this bedroom, to this point in my life where I feel as if I have started moving backwards.  I can only talk in the abstract, it is somehow too odd and unexpected to say out loud (but one day I will, when I am ready).

img credit: tumblr

Here are some things that I know.  You can get through almost anything by just breathing in and breathing out.  You can get through almost anything by putting one foot in front of the other.  The best ones will support you no matter what, and check in daily just to ask how you are; to give you the opportunity to say when you are not okay.  When times are hard, rest and self-care will soothe the wounds.  The deeper the wounds, the more self-care.  Self-care can include but is not limited to - long, languid baths (+ bath bombs), hot chocolate with mountains of cream, the coldest, crispest prosecco you can find, dog cuddles, slippers, the snuggliest jumper, the glow of a candle, the songs that make you sing along in your car at the top of your voice.  This is what I know - sleep when you need it, eat the ice cream, look for the small things that make you feel the tiniest bit mended and hold on to them when you need to.

Everything is going to be okay.