Working 9-3: my freelance style

Joanie Peggy checked trouser

It’s a myth that all freelancers work in their pyjamas. Ok, sometimes we do – but mostly we just want clothes that are flexible. I fit my work in around the school run – so my working hours are 9-3. During that time I need an outfit that’ll take me from the school run to my home office – via client meetings and a bit of coffee shop hot-desking.

Joanie Peggy checked trouser

Right now I have a nice little formula going on: smart trousers, a simple knit and a camel coat. It’s a look that can take me everywhere, whilst also passing the school-run test. This basically means: can you wear it while balancing a combination of lunchboxes and papier-mache lighthouses in your arms? If the answer’s yes, then it’s a winner.

Joanie Peggy checked trouser

One of my favourite brands, Joanie, have recently launched a new workwear collection – and it’s gorgeous. It’s a wardrobe fit for Mad Men’s Joan Holloway in all her gorgeousness – full of cute dresses, trousers and tops. Now, I’m clearly no Joan – but I couldn’t wait to try a bit of this retro-inspired collection.

Joanie Peggy checked trouser

I chose these checked trousers because I knew they’d fit perfectly into my 9-3 freelance style. Why? Well, they’re low-key – but they’ve got that subtle style and sass that I just love. The fabric is soft and stretchy so they’re comfortable and practical at home – but they also looked pulled-together and smart for work meetings. Perfection!

Joanie Peggy checked trouser

I wear: Peggy checked trousers, £32, c/o Joanie / Loafers, £22.99, New Look

Bag, £19.99, New Look / Sunglasses, £2.50, Peacocks  / Coat (old), ASOS

 

5 low-key ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day

Letterbox flowers by Interflora

Love it or hate it, it’s Valentine’s Day this week. I’m somewhere in the middle. We don’t push the boat out with a fanfare of trumpets and confetti – but I do like to do a bit of low-key celebrating.

Here are my five favourite ways to have a super relaxed Valentine’s Day…

Buy yourself some flowers. Chances are, he’ll forget – so why not treat yourself? And while you’re at it, buy some for a friend too. I’ve recently tried letterbox flowers for the first time. Such a cool idea and I still can’t believe it’s possible. This sweet letterbox-friendly bouquet by Interflora will brighten someone’s day.

Go for a bracing walk on the beach, followed by fish and chips. After ten years of marriage, my husband and I don’t tend to gush sweet nothings. When we get time together on our own, we usually spend time thrashing out the big things happening in our lives. Talking’s easier when you’re walking – and a problem shared is a problem halved. And few things are more romantic than sharing a bag of chips by the sea.

Search for some snowdrops. They’re at the their best around Valentine’s Day. I always think they’re a really romantic flower – so pretty and elegant. Finding a patch is like finding treasure. Warm up afterwards with tea and cake.

Enjoy a yummy meal at home. And feel smug that you haven’t forked out for a romantic dinner in a restaurant. According to a survey by HelloFresh, 70% of us are planning to do just that this Valentine’s Day. Steak and chips is the nation’s favourite. It’s a favourite in this house too – always cooked by my husband and always accompanied by a romantic cloud of smoke.

Watch something you’ll both enjoy. Ok, maybe that’s easier said than done. Rom coms are probably out – although, surprisingly, I did manage to persuade my husband to watch When Harry Met Sally recently and he actually admitted to enjoying it. Mostly though, the only things we’ll agree to watch together are Game of Thrones, Stranger Things or Father Ted.

What are your low-key Valentine’s Day favourites?

This post was a sponsored post in association with HelloFresh

Let’s celebrate February

Big bunch of daffodils

Ever since the start of February I’ve been feeling a bit meh. And that’s because it’s a bit of a drab month, isn’t it? Not so long ago, frost and snow thrilled us – now we just want to be done with it. We’re all on permanent spring-watch. The seasons, however, can’t keep up with our impatience.

It’s tempting to wish February away. The shop shelves – and our hearts – may be full of spring blooms and floaty dresses but we have to accept that it’s still winter. No amount of wishful thinking is going to change that. And by focusing all out attention on spring, we’re forgetting to notice the little things that make February a great month.

Let’s celebrate February for what it is.

Ladybird things to look for in winter book

Chase the sparking frost. February is the end of winter – and there’s no denying it can be bleak at times. There’s mud everywhere and it’s still freezing most of the time. But why not stop and appreciate the beauty of winter for a little longer? When we get the first frosts in the autumn, I can’t get enough of it. For the rest of this month, I’m going to carry on appreciating their beauty. Make the most of crunching through silvery grass and run your fingers over a frost-glittered branch. This is seasonal magic and it’s fleeting – don’t forget to appreciate it before it vanishes again.

Daffodils in Emma Bridgewater jug

Listen to the birds. Have you noticed what’s changed over the last couple of weeks? It’s the birdsong. I can hear them in my garden and even when I’m walking along busy roads in the morning – it’s a uniquely optimistic sound on a bitterly cold day. Try taking your headphones out on your morning commute – or look out for chatty robins and blackbirds in your garden.

Seek out the winter blooms. February is the time for pearly-white snowdrops and bright yellow aconites – plus, you might even find some early daffodils. Go for a walk and seek out this winter treasure. It’ll lift your heart. And don’t just think of these blooms as a sign of the spring to come – think of them as a parting gift from the departing winter.

Snowdrops at Anglesey Abbey

That precious extra daylight. Another source of wonder in February is the gradual return of daylight. This week I could still see blue sky at 5pm, and it was a wondrous sight. Start gradually coming out of your evening hibernation – go out for an afternoon walk and relish this extra time.

Buds on branches. Look on bare branches right now and you’ll see some buds forming. It’s exciting to see this sign of things to come, and it’s a useful metaphor for life. It takes me a while to come out of my winter shell – and truth be told, I’m probably not quite ready for full-on spring yet. I like the idea of slowly unfurling over the next couple of months – gradually getting more active and optimistic as the days go by.

Winter Coffee

And finally, eat pancakes. Because how can you hate a month that has a whole day devoted to pancakes, lemon and sugar?

Writing this post has re-ignited my enthusiasm for February. I’m going to appreciate it for what it is – not as the start of spring, but as a month full of sweet parting gifts from winter. 

Can you wear mom jeans if you’re a mum?

Mom jeans by Nasty Gal

I’ve been pondering this question ever since ‘mom’ jeans started appearing in the shops a few years ago. Of course, mums come in all shapes, sizes and ages – but for me personally, being a mum means that my bum, legs and sticky-out tum will probably never be what they once were.

That’s ok most of the time, but I tend to avoid anything that might be a little, well, unflattering. And mom jeans have always fallen in that category. They’re short in the leg, high-waisted and slightly baggy on the thigh – and sometimes they’re even stonewashed. Weird combo, you might say. And, you’re right. They are exactly the kind of jeans my mum wore in the eighties and nineties.

Can a mum wear mom jeans?

For this reason (sorry, mum) I’ve always avoided them like the plague – oh, and the fact that they only seem to work on lithe 18 year-olds. But this spring, they’re still on-trend. People my age, who are actually mums, are wearing them. It’s been long enough now that even I can’t deny their existence any longer.

It’s time to see if this mum can pull off dressing like a 1980s mom.

Can a mum wear mom jeans?

I have chosen this pair from Nasty Gal (I know, my least likely place to shop, but they were on offer). First thoughts on trying them on: wow, I can do them up. Followed by: yay, my tummy doesn’t look too bad, although they make those child-bearing hips look quite solid… But on the whole, I like them – especially the dark colour and the unfinished hems. Plus, the tight, nipped-in waist feels feminine and flattering.

Mom jeans by Nasty Gal

As I have a sticky-out tummy, so there’s no way I’d wear these jeans with a short, tight top on it’s own. In coat weather, this is balanced out with a longer jacket – making me feel taller and leaner. A loose blazer also helps keep things looking balanced. In warmer weather, it’ll be loose shirts and tees.

So, the verdict is: yes, this mum can wear them. But she does have reservations. They’re not the easiest shape to wear and it’s taken me a while to find a pair I like. If they make you feel great, wear them – if not, don’t be ashamed to swerve this trend entirely. But they’re worth a try, if only for the nostalgia fest.

Can a mum wear mom jeans?

I wear: Jeans, £25, Nasty Gal – I’m wearing a medium / Striped tee, £11.99, New Look 

Black handbag (in first photo), £7 and Sunglasses, £2.50 are both recent buys in the Peacocks sale. 

Blazer (H&M), Checked Coat (New Look), Boots (New Look), Red bag (Mango) are all past seasons. 

 

4 simple life lessons we can all learn from Millennials

Fluffy teddy coat

I’m 34 this year. Which makes me a millennial. We’re the children of the baby boomers, born in the eighties and becoming young adults around the time of the new millennium.

It’s a term that’s often bandied about with a fair bit of eye-rolling and negativity. You probably know the cliches by now. We can’t afford to pay off our student debts because we spend all our money on avocados. We’re impatient and emotionally needy.

But let’s stop the eye-rolling for a moment. There are a lot of useful life lessons we can all learn from the cliches associated with my generation. And it’s not just how to find the perfectly ripe avocado.

Fluffy teddy coat

We can all learn from this mindset. And I include myself here, because I’ve always been a bit of a young fogey at heart.

Millennials like to live in the moment. We might be attached to our phones, but that doesn’t mean we’re stuck at home. My generation loves to embrace live events and festivals – rather than sitting at the sidelines. It’s FOMO, or fear of missing out – but it’s also that in a life lived through our screens, spontaneity is still prized. I’m trying to embrace this as much as I can because life’s too short to sit at home every night.

Be more millennial: buy tickets to a gig or event

Sobriety and moderation. Have you noticed the shift? Binge drinking has (mostly) had it’s day. Drinking is almost beginning to feel old-fashioned. The role models have changed – these days we’re valuing wellness and health more than ever. Moderation isn’t just socially acceptable, it’s encouraged.  You don’t have to give up any time soon, but how about taking a break every now and again?

Be more millennial: only drink at weekends

Location over property. For older generations, it was often the size your home that mattered more than it’s location. Square footage was prized, and moving out from a town to village, where you’d get more for your money, was the norm. Maybe it’s FOMO again, but millennials don’t always want the dream house if it means living in the middle of nowhere. We’d rather be somewhere busy and bustling – where things are happening and community is prized. It’s a shift – and it’s making city life more appealing than ever.

Be more millennial: go on a mini-break to the centre of busy, busting city. Experience having everything on your doorstep.

Freedom from the job for life. The demise of the stable job for life is often seen as a bad thing. And sometimes it is. But millennials are discovering that this social shift has many positives too. Once upon a time, you were expected to train for something in life – then stick to it. These days it’s increasingly common to keep on evolving and changing as we grow older. Millennials are often seen as flaky for their desire to switch careers and retrain – but let’s celebrate it. My generation will be working for longer than any other – so why not make it more interesting?

Be more millennial: sign up for that course you’ve always wanted to try. Be open to new ideas, it’s never too late to try something new.

So, it’s time to stop beating ourselves up for being millennial. There’s a lot to love: openness, exploration and moderation. Sure, we have our problems – but so does every generation. If you look closely, there’s a lot to be valued. What would you add to the list?

Making coffee in a duralex glass

Botanical Dreams: the best floral fashion

Thought clothing floral dress

We’re currently at a fashion crossroads. It’s still winter – but we long for new prints and lighter styles. The current crop of botanical-print fashion bridges this gap perfectly. The blooms are bold and painterly – yet muted enough to feel at home under our winter coats. It’s the grown-up way to wear florals.

I’m currently searching through my wardrobe for anything that fits the bill. Most of us will have something. I got this beautiful dress by Thought at the beginning of the autumn – and it still looks great now. Also, it’s now in the sale for £39.

Thought clothing floral dress

Or, if you fancy something new, here are some of the best winter florals available right now.

Dresses: A long-sleeved dress will see you right through to the spring. Layer under a simple grey coat – and add a lightweight polo on cold days.

S/S18 Botanical floral print dresses

From left: Abstract floral and butterfly print, £59.95, White Stuff / Kathleen Dress, £130, Boden / Carwinion Dress, £65, Sea Salt

Trousers: So perfect for adding a pop of colour to your winter knits and coats. I’m in. If you order the H&M trousers, you might want to size up – they’re super slim. 

S/S18 Floral trousers

From left: Floral trousers, £19.99, H&M / Hampshire 7/8 trouser, £80, Boden / Floral trousers, £19.99, H&M

The floral blouse: The bold and beautiful way to beat the winter blues. These three deserve to be your new hero pieces.

S/S18 Floral tops

From left: Short sleeved top, £8.99, H&M / Linen-blend jacket, £49.99, H&M / Floral blouse, £39.99, Mango

Do you love winter florals as much as me?

Hitting the spot: three ways to wear the new dotty trend

S/S18 spotty dotty trend

One of the best things about January is watching the new spring fashion trends appear. They’re as welcome as the first snowdrops or early daffodils.

Obviously, the weather doesn’t keep up with fashion’s expectations – we won’t be wearing summer dresses and sandals any time soon. But, there’s still ample opportunity to start exploring new trends that appear – a collar here, a pretty shoe there.

Right now, spotty prints are catching my eye. I keep spotting them everywhere – on dresses, t-shirts and shirts. When I was in Cambridge last week I picked up three new tops which all embrace this new dotty trend – and weave a bit of spring magic into your winter wardrobe.

First is this laid-back shirt by Primark (£10, in-store only). I love the earthy dark green, and the cheery spots. It’s great under a chunky cardigan – but will be equally good on a warm spring day.

S/S18 Primark spotty shirt

Next is this pretty shirt from H&M (£17.99) with soft, painterly spots. This is a great one to dress up or down – perfect for meetings, or wear with a thick jumper at the weekends.

S/S18 H&M spotty shirt

And I couldn’t resist this t-shirt in a dotty Dalmatian print, also by H&M (£8.99, in-store only). It’s very soft and is another great option to dress up or down.

S/S18 H&M Dalmatian spot spotty shirt

It also looks very sweet with another of this season’s new trends – ruffles. This ingenious little collar from ASOS (£12) creates the illusion of a ruffly shirt and is a great way to completely transform an outfit.

ASOS ruffle collar

You may also have noticed I’ve had a fringe cut back in again – another easy peasy way to lift your January look! I’m loving being back in the gang again.

Are you onboard with spots and dots yet? What other new trends are you coveting this spring? 

Sailing away from the safe harbour

This January the wind of change has been blowing through my life. For so many of us, the start of a new year is the time we take stock – to re-evaluate, to consider your options and to make new plans.

Sometimes the wind of change can feel scary, and sometimes it can feel exciting. I’m naturally cautious and my initial bubbles of excitement often get weighed down by niggling fears. While talking about this on social media, fellow blogger Gemma, sent me this quote by Mark Twain

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

This little gem of a quote couldn’t have come at a better time. I’d already earmarked Discover as my word of the year. And here was the invitation I needed to throw caution to the wind and sail away from my safe harbour.

You might be wondering where that wind of change is going to take me. Not very far in physical distance, but a long way in every other sense. Let me explain…

Firstly, we have decided to move house. Nothing is certain yet, but the time feels right. We’ve lived in our house for seven years. Not so long you might think, but a lot has happened in that time.

My children have turned from babies and toddlers into great strapping boys. My husband has changed career. I discovered blogging and began to find myself again after being a stay-at-home mother.

These walls have witnessed so many little milestones during this intense, busy period of our lives. But we’re outgrowing it. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, but I’m also excited for the new doors that will open along the way. I’ll keep you posted.

What else is changing? I’ve launched my new website for my freelance work. Some of you may already know that I do freelance writing and social media work in Ely and Cambridge – and this is something I want to grow even more in 2018. I feel like I’ve finally found the right job for me – and it sits so well alongside this blog, which I also love.

From now on I’m determined to take every opportunity to “throw off the bow lines.” And last week an opportunity popped up which gave me the opportunity to do just that.

It was an invitation to be interviewed about blogging life by Suzie Thorpe on her live radio show at Cambridge 105. My first reaction was panic – I’ve always been a poor public speaker and worried I’d be incapable of stringing a sentence together.  But to turn down such an exciting opportunity would have been so sad. Luckily for me, my blogger friend Sophie Kate was able to come too – and this gave me the courage I needed to say yes.

Last Friday, we went along to the studio in Cambridge and something of a miracle occurred. Not only did I mange to string a sentence together, I actually enjoyed it and was left wanting more. It helped, of course, that I was talking about blogging – a subject I love. It was such a confidence boost and I was surprised and delighted to discover how good it made me feel. You can listen to a podcast of our interview here.

So, January had very much been a month of discovery. Most of all, I’ve realised that the wind of change I’ve been feeling isn’t a storm I’ve accidently stumbled into, it’s one I’ve created. Deep down I know it’s time for change, and although the way ahead isn’t always clear, I just have to follow my heart.

 

 

Living more thoughtfully: let’s bring back soap

Living more thoughtfully: use traditional soap

I still remember the soaps of my childhood – bars of creamy Imperial Leather, the spicy scent of Pear’s and the nostalgic fragrance of Yardley’s Lavender. 

But as I grew up, soaps lost their popularity – being replaced by liquid soaps in plastic bottles and shower gels. And you can see why. Plastic bottles are neat, convenient and hygienic. That was enough to let them win for a while.

I’ve been feeling guilty on a personal level about this plastic consumption for a while – especially all the pieces that go into making a pump bottle of liquid soap. And now it seems to be on the nation’s collective mind too.

We’re all thinking about how to use less plastic. In an ideal world they’d be a weigh and pay shop on every high street – the kind of place you could take your empty bottles to have them refilled. That doesn’t exist yet for most of us.

Living more thoughtfully: use traditional soap

So this year, take matters into your own hands and make one simple but effective change: start using blocks of soap again.

Not keen? I know, I understand. For every memory of sweetly scented lavender soap, there’s another memory of slimy soap sitting in a soggy soap dish. Or the cracked and grimy little specimen in the pub toilets. And it makes your sink messier, I can’t deny it.

But I can live with that. Because I don’t mind having to wipe the soap scum off the sink a bit more often if it means I’m doing the right thing. Sure, a lot of plastic soap containers can be recycled – but it takes a lot of effort and energy to do this. Wouldn’t it be better if the only waste you produced was the paper wrapper from a bar of soap?

Worried about slippery soap in the shower? Try one of these clever little soap bags which help you create a lather and exfoliate your skin at the same time.

I’ve always loved soap, and it truly deserves to stage a comeback. A bar of soap isn’t go to save the world, but it’s a start. 

Living more thoughtfully: use traditional soap

 

 

 

A Very British Hygge

What to look for in winter ladybird book

Hygge is the Danish concept of cosiness. It’s that feeling you get when you find warmth and shelter on a cold day. It’s about closing the curtains on a dreary evening, lighting your candles and burrowing into your favourite blanket. Or spending the afternoon curled by the fire with a new book.

Technically, you’re supposed to pronounce it ‘hue-guh’ – although I’m sure I’m not alone in stubbornly referring to it as ‘higgy’ in the comfort of my own head.

The wind in the willows

The concept of hygge has taken Britain by storm – but I have to confess that I’ve always felt a bit annoyed by it.  Since when do we need lessons from the Danes in how to be cosy? Surely the whole idea of an Englishman and his castle is the very epitome of hygge?

Yes and no

Retreating to your castle and pulling up the drawbridge behind you isn’t exactly a cheerful thought it is? Just look at Brexit. The Danes are the happiest nation on earth. The British are not. Hygge is a big part of that.

Hygge isn’t just about battening down the hatches against the storm, it’s about relishing the warmth and vitality to be found in our hearts – whatever the weather.

A Very British Hygge by Simon Sinclair

Which is where A Very British Hygge by Simon Sinclair fits in. It’s a little book published by Everest, full of clever little reminders that it’s easier than you think to be more hygge…

De-clutter. Let your home tell your story by giving it a chance to breathe. Ask yourself if that dusty pile of magazines or pile of odd socks brings you joy. If the answer’s no, then get rid of them. Your home will feel lighter, and so will you.

…but remember to be kind to yourself. The concept of hygge isn’t about creating a scandi-inspired show home.  Perfection doesn’t guarantee happiness. Accept your home’s limitations – and your own too while you’re at it. Hygge is all about making the best of things.

Make your home comfortable and warm. This isn’t just about cushions and fairy lights, it’s about looking after the practical things. Double-glazed windows, decently fitted doors and insulation – they’re the building blocks you need to create a cosy home.

Be sociable. Don’t shut yourself away just because the weather’s lousy. Our homes come to life when we invite others in. Have friends round for a simple supper, or gather all the family in the sitting room to play a board-game.

Plum & Ashby candle

Make the most of light. When we think about embracing hygge we tend to think imagine candles and lamp light – the epitome of cosiness. But don’t forget to make the most of the natural light you do have. Adding a conservatory or a skylight to your home is a great way to enjoy the sun all year round. Or try putting your favourite armchair next to a bright window. Find the time to sit down there with a cup of tea as often as you can.

How do you get a sense of hygge in your home? I’d love to know. For more information on all things Hygge and to download a free copy of Simon’s book click here. 

This post was a paid commission by Everest.