How blogging can change your life

How blogging can change your life

I’ve been blogging for four years. It’s no exaggeration to say that it has changed my life for the better. 

When I clicked publish on my first post I had just turned 30. I’d spent the last five years being a stay-at-home mum, and my boys had just started at school and nursery. Back then, I was a little wobbly and short on confidence. I was unsure of my role beyond motherhood, and with no firm dreams for the future.

How blogging can change your life

Four years on, life feels good. I have more confidence, a new career and a happy family. Writing this blog has played a big part in getting me there. Here’s why…

Finding my voice. The years I spent at home with my boys while they were babies and toddlers were some of the best of my life. I loved it and wouldn’t change a thing, but I did come to be frustrated by how it defined me. By 2014, I felt a little bored and frustrated. I’d lost my voice and felt shy and inadequate when I met people who weren’t in the same situation. Writing this blog was the first step towards rediscovering who I was a person. Knowing that people wanted to read my words was empowering and exciting.

How blogging can change your life

Discovering a new career. When I started out, I never dreamt that blogging would lead to a job. I didn’t have a big game plan. It has happened organically. Writing this blog has been like a four-year apprenticeship in the creative industries. I’ve learnt to take photos, to write compelling copy and to manage social media. It gave me the confidence to become a freelance writer and it helped me find my first clients.

New horizons. I’ve met so many people through my blog. Some I’ve met in person, and others via emails and messages. My world used to feel very quiet and closed. Now I feel like I connect with so many different people. And it’s all thanks to blogging.

How blogging can change your life

Exciting opportunities. Staying in a shepherd’s hut on the Isle of Sheppey. Interviewing Davina McCall. All thanks to blogging. I don’t go on endless press trips or make a fortune from collaborations, but I relish the interesting and varied opportunities that pop up on a regular basis. It’s not a reason to blog, but it’s certainly a nice highlight.

What does the future hold for my blog? The growth of social media platforms like Instagram has led many to question whether there’s still space in people’s lives for blogs. I don’t agree. Blogs are special because they are so personal. My posts are shorter than they were four years ago as people seem to have less time to read and comment. However, I want the content to stay good. I want to keep writing about the things I love and care about. That might be fashion or it might be a cause that I’m passionate about.

A big thank you to all my readers, old and new. I couldn’t do it without you!

How blogging can change your life

I wear: Coat, £39.99, TK Maxx / Jeans, £32, ASOS / Boots, £35, Marks and Spencer  Bag, £90, Modalu England (see previous photo) / Scarf, old New Look, similar here Hat: old H&M, similar here

Think twice about fast fashion

Think twice about fast fashion

Have you seen Stacey Dooley’s documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets? It’s an important reminder of the human and environmental costs of our obsession with cheap clothes.

Before I go on, I want to make one thing clear. This post isn’t designed to preach to you, or to patronise you. It’s actually more of an admission of my own guilt: I get a buzz from buying cheap clothes and I don’t think hard enough about the true costs.

Here’s the problem: we produce too many new clothes. Most of them are made of cotton. Growing cotton uses a lot of water, and processing it uses huge quantities of pesticides and toxic dyes. In the UK we’re physically removed from this brutal and damaging process. Out of sight, out of mind. But the countries that produce our clothes pay the price. Watch Stacey’s documentary footage of the heavily polluted Citarum River in Indonesia and you won’t be able to bury your head in the sand any longer. Add to this the horrible working conditions and things are looking very dark

Think twice about fast fashion

What’s the solution?

The problem is overwhelming. How do you turn back the tide of cheap fashion? The answer is you can’t. Not on your own. But if we all make some small changes together, then change is possible.

For now, for me, the answer is simple: THINK TWICE.

Think twice before I indulging the LIKE, WANT, BUY impulse. I’m addicted to the buzz of buying new clothes. A decade ago, I’d think long and hard before buying a couple of new pieces each season, like a wool coat or an expensive cardigan from Boden. Now, my inbox and Instagram feed is full of cheap must-haves screaming buy me now. Before I buy anything new I’m going to check in with conscience and ask myself who really wants the new dress. Is it me, or is the clothing addiction?

Think twice about fast fashion

Think twice about whether it’s needed. Is it offering something new, or is just a repeat? Or is it a one-off piece you won’t wear again? Remember those old-fashioned ‘fashion maths’ posts you used to get in magazines? You need to think like that about every purchase – will it be versatile, good value and have a life beyond one season?

Think twice about the ethics behind your favourite brands. Do some research. What’s their position on the dark side of fashion? And how does that make you feel?

Think twice about fast fashion

Think twice about quality. Buy cheap, buy twice. That’s what your granny probably said. And she was right. I know that there are certain shops that produce clothes which last for years, and others that don’t. If a company’s clothes always go baggy or shrink after one wash then don’t buy them any more. No matter how cute they look.

Think twice about how you invest your money. Ethical clothing is relatively expensive. My purse is limited, and find it painful to spend too much on one item. However, now is the time to be 100% honest with myself. If I add up all the money I spent on fast fashion in a year, then I could  buy myself a nice capsule wardrobe of ethical clothes. It’s about spending my money more wisely.

Think twice about fast fashion

Think twice about buying new. Before fashion got so damn cheap, I used to buy a lot of things off ebay. I’d choose a trend, or my favourite brand, and search for second-hand bargains. I took pride in it. I want to show you more of this. I’m also giving away more of my good quality clothes to charity shops for others to enjoy wearing, rather than hoarding them under my bed.

We can’t cure our addiction to cheap clothes overnight. It’s going to take time. I will almost certainly slip up and appear intensely hypocritical at times. I want to keep writing about this, but I also want to keep writing about nice clothes. The key is acknowledge that things need to change.

This post is my first step in a better direction, will you join me? And if you’re still not convinced this is relevant to you, then watch Stacey’s documentary.

Easy ways make your home calm and cosy this autumn

How to create a calm and cosy home this autumn

Every new season makes me look at my home through new eyes. My home style changes according to the time of year. In summer, I love to create a sense of space and light, keeping the garden and house as connected as possible. Come autumn, I like to retreat indoors and turn my home into a cosy retreat.

I want things to feel warm and welcoming, but also calm and tidy. Now is the perfect time to make some small changes before the really cold weather arrives. As well as doing the obvious things like servicing your boiler, there’s are lots of simple little ideas we can all try…

First up, have a good clean and de-clutter. Do this now and it’ll last you till Christmas. Hoover the sofas, clean out the space under the stairs, sort out your clothes…you know the drill. The kind of jobs that don’t need doing very often, but really make a difference.

Eliminate draughts. Unless you live in a brand-new house, it’s likely you’ll have a few draughts in your home. The worst offenders in our house are the letter box in the front door, the bay window and the gaps under the doors. We’ve resorted to stuffing socks in the letterbox when it’s really cold, but a more sensible solution is a letterbox draught strip. You can get the same thing to fit on the bottom of your doors too – or try creating your own DIY excluder by stuffing an old pair of tights with newspaper.

How to create a calm and cosy home this autumn

Plenty of blankets. I’m a big fan of wool blankets and fleecy faux-sheepskins. We try not to switch on our central heating until the end of October when the weather really changes. Cuddling up on the sofa with a blanket is so much more economical than heating your entire house for the occasional chilly evening. Add a hot water bottle for an extra boost.

Order logs and get your chimney swept. If you have a wood burner, or an open fire, then now is a great time to check everything is in good working order. It’s important for safety, but it’s also a nice little ritual that’ll get you in the mood for the cosy evenings ahead. If you don’t have a wood burner or open fire already, then now is definitely a great time to think about having one installed. Even a small solid fuel stove pumps out an impressive amount of heat!

Think about pests. As the weather gets colder outside and we switch on our central heating, you’re more likely to get unwelcome visitors like mice and clothes moths in the house. We don’t want them spoiling our cosy evenings, do we? Hang some lavender bags in your wardrobe to deter clothes moths, and stock up on a few mousetraps in case you need them later.

Organise your hats and scarves. Keep your collection of gloves and winter woolies organised with some new hooks. I love to hang little baskets from our hooks to keep all the odd pairs of gloves and mitten organised. If you’re short on space, then try hanging simple hat and coat hooks on the back of doors. Under the stairs is a great spot!

What are your top tips for getting organised for the colder weather? Let me know in the comments! 

This was a collaboration with C&W Berry.

 

 

 

Windswept island romance

Morris & Co x H&M dress

Do you ever dream of being by the sea? I do. My everyday life is land-locked, but every now and again the lure of the coast becomes strong. Blowing away the cobwebs. Such a trite expression, but it’s true. Being by the sea fills me with clean, clear feelings.

Morris & Co x H&M dress

Last weekend we flew to the Isle of Man, a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea. It’s always the windiest place on the earth, but sometimes that’s just what you need. I felt worn out, and a bit worn down. The air here is energising and intense. A few hours spent walking the coast here makes you feel like you’ve been blown inside out. There’s no place for stagnant feelings to hide – and my mind felt fresh and unburdened.

Morris & Co x H&M dress

I packed light with jeans and jumpers, but squeezed in one pretty, romantic dress to wear on the island. Because who says you can’t dress like a Pre-Raphaelite on the beach if you want to? The purply-red rocks and bright blue sea at Langness Peninsula were the perfect match for this dress from the Morris & Co x H&M collaboration. I was lucky enough to nab one in the Cambridge store on the day they came out and fell in love with its ridiculous floaty beauty. Be warned, when on the island it’s best accessorised with some thermals.

Morris & Co x H&M dress

The William Morris x H&M collection is mostly sold out online. Which is irritating, because I wanted to show you exactly where to find this dress. You may still find it in store though, as it was actually already sold out online when I bought it on the day it came out! Ridiculous, right? I’d rather brands just made more of these collections rather than making people rush to buy them – or miss out altogether. That’s the point though, I suppose. You can see the full collection here.

Morris & Co x H&M dress

If you fancy an island getaway of your own, then we flew from London City. We stayed at the George in Castletown – a friendly hotel not far from the airport. The rooms were gorgeous and not at all expensive (unlike the British Airway fights, sadly). Castletown is a great place to base yourself and there are beautiful coastal walks within easy reach – plus a lovely beach in the town.

Morris & Co x H&M dress

These photos were shot at the Langness Peninsula, which is a short drive from Castletown. You could also cycle or walk out here. 

My month in books

My month in books

No matter what’s happening in your life, or the world, you can always turn to a good book for comfort or inspiration. I always find time in my day to read. It’s the last thing I do before bed, and it’s no exaggeration to say I’d be lost without it.

Here’s everything I’ve read over the last month:

Living the Dream by Lauren Barry. A witty little book about reaching the end of your twenties and realising you’re still not living the dream. Will Emma and Clem take the leap to pursue the careers they dream of? Will they escape the world of flat-shares, crap offices and grotty bar work? Their adventures kept me amused and entertained for a few days.

A Friend of the Family by Titia Sutherland. This was an interesting one. I bought it in a charity shop and the premise is that slightly dated concept where middle-class people talk about families and marriages. However, It surprised me. None of the characters were at all likeable, and there was compelling physiological drama running through it.  A good page-turner, although my main criticism is that the characters were all very dated and posh, circa 1995. Out of print, but you’ll pick up a second-hand copy on Abebooks or Amazon.

Hidden Lives, a family memoir by Margaret Forster. This is a truly excellent read. It’s the autobiographical story of Margaret, her mother and her grandmother. Three generations of women – one born in the nineteenth century, one in the early twentieth and one in the thirties. It’s a beautifully written examination of how women’s lives and expectations have changed dramatically during that period. The book takes us from giving up work when you married and back-breaking housework to the scandal of children born out-of-wedlock – and then onto Margaret’s liberating coming of age at university in the 50s.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I loved this story about a classic American community called Shaker Heights, with a deliberately stereotypical family at its heart. The arrival of photographer Mia, and her daughter Pearl, kicks off subtle ripples through the town with far-reaching consequences. Very, very readable and perfect for autumn evenings. The characters are all well-rounded and very human – Ng managed to make me empathise with each of them in turn, no matter how unlikeable they were. Definitely one for your book group, if you have one.

The Sweets of Pimlico by A. N. Wilson. I’m not sure where to start with this one. It was published in 1977 and won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. It’s about the complex relationship between Evelyn and the men in her life. It’s weird. Very weird. I read it all, but I can’t say I enjoyed it. It’s out of print (not surprised). If confusing tales of ageing German aristocrats, incest and IRA bombings are your thing, then go for it.

The Perfectly Imperfect Woman by Milly Johnson. After some disastrous events in her personal life Marnie retreats to a small village in Yorkshire. There she encounters a cast of amusing characters – from the eccentric lady of the manor and the vicar to the brooding Scandinavian gardener. Ok, this book does have a cake on the front cover, but it was a good read than wasn’t too saccharine. A bit Katie Fforde-like with a very likeable heroine. Great if you need a well-written and comforting book that’s not too deep.

The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald. I downloaded this onto my kindle after seeing episode one of the new TV adaptation. After watching it, I felt compelled to find out what happens without having to commit to weeks of tense viewing. The book is a quick, tightly paced read that had me gripped from page one. The plot plays out in a more satisfying direction that the adaptation (you actually find out the biggest revelation early on). You’ll read it in a day – although maybe avoid it if you’ve just had a baby as it’s quite upsetting.

A good variety, although all but one was by a female writer. Perhaps I have a bit of a gender bias going on? I’ve discovered I’m not an A. N. Wilson fan, but tell me about some other male writers I should try, please. I shall try to include more next month. 

And finally, if you only read one of my recommendations, make it Margaret Forster’s Hidden Lives – it’s a gem.

 

The TK Maxx £50 challenge

TK Maxx dress

I love fashion and I love bargains. So, naturally, I was delighted when TK Maxx gave me a challenge. The brief was simple: visit their Cambridge store and choose a show-stopping dress for £50 or less. 

If you haven’t been to TK Maxx before, let me explain how it works. It’s a discount store – everything you find will be up to 60% less than the RRP. There are rails and rails of clothes and accessories. There’s everything from Stella McCartney and Jaeger to high street favourites like Dune and French Connection – plus great brands you won’t have heard of before. You never know what you’ll find.

When bargain hunting, the thrill is in the chase. The Cambridge store is spacious and uncluttered so it’s easy to start your search. Everything is divided into simple sections: coats, dresses, handbags and so on. I headed straight to the dress section and quickly found a huge armful of dresses to try on.

TK Maxx dress

I quickly found ‘the one’. A floaty autumnal number with a sparkly elasticated waist and cuffs. Perfect for early autumn, and great for later with polo necks underneath. Like all my favourite dresses, it’s easy to dress up and down. It’s by Love Is, a brand I’ve not come across before and it was only £29.99. No brainer.

TK Maxx dress

What to spend with my remaining £20? The ideal choice would’ve been this gorgeous clutch from Jaeger for £19.99 which I stood stroking for ages. HOWEVER, at the last minute I was tempted by a glimpse of a bottle green winter coat. At £39.99, it meant spending an extra £20, but I think it was worth it and it’s lovely.

TK Maxx coat and dress

You can shop online at TK Maxx too and there are lots of gorgeous dresses to be found. My exact dress isn’t online, but I did find it in a different colour. You can find my coat here. I’d always recommend visiting in person though so you have a good rummage and try lots of things on.

TK Maxx coat and dress

TK Maxx coat and dress

I wear: Green Coat, £39.99, TK Maxx

 Dress, £29.99, TK Maxx (available online in a different colour)

I was sent a £50 gift card for the purposes of this post. Thanks, TK Maxx for giving me such a fun challenge! 

 

Three things I’m loving this week

Vintage silk scarves

It’s the first official week of autumn! Cue much excitement from me. That seasonal magic gets me every time. This week I’ve been loving all the little signs that autumn has arrived: colder evenings, gorgeous produce and getting a spider’s web stuck to my face every time I get my bike out in the morning.   

Here’s what else I’ve been loving this week…

Vintage scarves. Those beige and brown silky little scarves from the 1970s are finally having their moment again. Ten a penny in the charity shop and so useful for adding a little autumnal hint to your jeans and tees. Mine was £1.99 from Oxfam, and there were loads to choose from. They go pretty well with a teddy coat too, mine is by New Look.

Vintage silk scarves and teddy bear coat

English rose cleansing balm by Marks and Spencer. I’ve been using cleansing balms for most of 2018 and I much prefer them to cream cleansers. Massaging a balm into your skin feels like such a nourishing way to cleanse your skin, leaving it feeling soft and plump. This cleansing balm from the Marks and Spencer Pure range has a very pleasing consistency, a little like lemon curd. It’s a pleasure to use. I have combination skin and this seems to keep my dry skin at bay, whilst not causing any unnecessary sheen on my nose and chin. Plus it smells amazing.

Marks and Spencer Pure English rose cleansing balm

Pumpkins. Forget conkers, I really know it’s autumn when I buy my first mini pumpkins from our local veg stall. I feel stupidly excited when I see them and buy lots  – mainly just so I can stroke them and put them on various windowsills.

Mini pumpkin

Wear bright pink and stop blending in

Wear pink and stop blending in

You can’t disappear in a crowd when you’re wearing bright fuchsia pink. It’s impossible. 

I’ve shied away from pink for years. Too girly, not me, attention seeking… I like to blend in, it makes me feel safe.

But here I am having a pink-coloured epiphany. I’ve worn it twice this week.

Pink jumper and grey trousers

What’s changed? Probably not my personality, but definitely my capacity for caring what others think. I’ll probably be the only one wearing bright pink at school pick-up time, but actually there are more important things to worry about in life. Plus, four years of blogging and taking photographs of myself has beaten down a lot of my natural awkwardness. If someone thinks I look stupid, then let them – at least they noticed me.

Wear pink and stop blending in

How am I wearing bright pink?

I don’t want to look like Delores Umbridge, so I’m avoiding any pink-on-pink action. I’m combining bright fuchsia pink with classic neutrals.  By which I mean denim, a soft grey or camel coat, an oatmeal jumper and some black boots. There’s nothing twee about that.

Feeling shy? Dip your toe in the water with a jumper

I bought this super-soft jumper from Marks and Spencer for £12.50. Such a nice flattering shade – perfect for autumn when the cold weather starts to bite and your tan is fading!

Marks and Spencer fuchsia pink jumper

Feeling brave? Wear a pink coat

A smart, structured pink coat is a useful thing. It’ll brighten up, or smarten up, most outfits. I’m still not brave enough invest lots of money on a pink coat, so I bought this Dorothy Perkins coat second-hand. A shy leopard can’t entirely change her spots, after all. I felt pretty empowered wearing it though and I shall make myself wear it as much as possible. It’s like pink body armour!

Wear pink and stop blending in

That’s why I’ll be wearing pink. Will you join me? 

Here’s the details of my looks, plus some other pieces currently available on the High Street:

Pink coat and jeans

I wear: Pink coat, Dorothy Perkins (second-hand) – similar here / Jeans, £60, Boden

 Jumper, £17.99, H&M (online only) / Black boots, £35, Marks and Spencer

Pink jumper and grey trousers

Pink jumper, £12.50, Marks and Spencer / Grey coat, H&M, similar here

 Black boots, £35, Marks and Spencer 

Checked trousers, Joanie Clothing, similar here

Lisa Snowdon Necklace, £60, QVC (gifted to me) / Ophia Ring, £35, QVC (gifted to me)

 

 

New season trends you already own or can buy second-hand

Fashion goes in cycles. You might not realise it, but you probably already have most of this autumn’s must-have items lurking at the back of your wardrobe. And if you don’t, you’ll be able to find most of them in the charity shop.

The key to being stylish is to wear these key pieces in new ways. It’ll bring a subtle originality to your wardrobe, without costing you a fortune. It’s also a far more thoughtful and sustainable way to shop – meaning you have more money for coffee and cake (or whatever).

I’ve taken some of my favourite looks from the new season which can all be created with things you already own or which can be easily found in a charity shop. I’ve also included good quality, but affordable new alternatives. 

Corduroy. We’ve been here a few times already, haven’t we? And now it’s back for autumn 2018. All the cool girls are wearing cord trouser suits – preferably in pink – although a simple blazer is a good starting point. I had rather a lot of cord in the early noughties – including several blazers. Sadly, I got rid of them all, but I bet some of you hung on to yours. Corduroy happens to be on-trend right now, but it’s always been around in the background. Which means it’s easy to find in charity shops or on eBay. Just remember to factor in a bit of money for dry cleaning. Make it 2018, choose blush pink or brown. 

New season pieces you already own or can buy second hand

Pink cord jacket, £39.99, H&M (bottom right). All other images via Pinterest.

A classic camel coat. Another perennial favourite that is having a moment in 2018. This trend has been around for a few seasons now, so luckily I already own two. My favourite is actually one I bought in the charity shop last year and wore and wore. It’s gone a bit bobbly, but I’m hoping to give it some TLC. I’ve seen some beautiful new versions at &OtherStories, but before you spend your cash try looking for something second-hand. Good quality wool coats are a perennial charity shop staple – especially those long, beige belted ones. If that fails, then do try eBay and search for classic brands like Boden and Hobbs. Make it 2018: choose a belted coat.

New season pieces you already own or can buy second hand

Main image: belted coat, £169, &OtherStories

top right: my favourite £10 charity shop coat / bottom right: Pinterest

The beret. Back again for another season. Did you buy one last year, or do you (like me) have one you bought years ago? Dig it out and wear now for jaunty autumn style. It’s not an expensive piece, but do take a look in the charity shops for a cheap and cheerful vintage buy. Make it 2018: choose blush pink like this one by H&M. Or, if you hate berets then try a baker boy!

New season pieces you already own or can buy second hand

Main image and top right: both via Pinterest / Bottom right: me in my old beret

Knee boots. Almost all of us already own a pair of these. They’re a classic that never go out of style – although in recent years have been eclipsed by the ankle boot. They look great with all the camel coats and corduroy we’ve already mentioned. My favourite way I’ve seen them worn is with long midi and maxi dresses and skirts. Inspired by the 70s, but very now. If you’ve got an old pair that are a bit battered, give them a makeover. I’ve had a pair of brown leather Hobbs boots for 15 years which I recently had re-soled and it’s given them a whole new lease of life. I took them to a small local cobbler and he gave them an amazing polish at the same time and made them look like new! Make it 2018: wear your boots with a high neck midi dress.

Main image: classic 70s vibes via Pinterest / top left: Erica Davies looking fabulous at London Fashion Week 

Leather boots by Hobbs, £299 (expensive, but Hobbs really do know how to make boots that will last for years).

What are your top tips for find new season style at the back of your wardrobe?

Make a wax jacket your best friend – featuring John Partridge & Co

John Partridge ladies wax jacket

A well-made wax jacket is a great thing. It’ll keep you warm and dry in just about any storm life can throw at you. 

I was recently sent a lovely wax jacket by John Partridge & Co. All their wax jackets are handmade in Britain and if you look after them they should last you a lifetime. I love how even a brand new wax jacket feels somehow lived-in – like an old friend, almost.

John Partridge ladies wax jacket

Traditionally wax jackets are a bit of a country uniform, but I’ve always loved them in the city too. Like all classic wardrobe staples, they’re versatile and look good in a variety of settings. They’ll also see you right though the seasons – from summer dresses through to chunky knits.

To prove just how versatile the humble wax jacket is in the town and city I’ve tried it three ways…

John Partridge ladies wax jacket

Casual coffee date with added leopard print. Yes, you absolutely can wear your favourite animal print with your wax jacket. It’s a perfect example of how versatile this classic piece can be.

John Partridge ladies wax jacket

Client meeting in town. I wore this smart dress for an office meeting. It was a breezy day and it looked like rain, so I threw my trusty wax jacket on over the top. I love the smart/casual result.

John Partridge ladies wax jacket

A trip to the market on my bike. My John Partridge jacket felt so at home at Ely Market. I kept cosy with a thick knit underneath. The mid-length Landowner jacket is perfect for cycling.

John Partridge ladies wax jacket

I wear the Landowner wax jacket by John Partridge & Co, £185

I know I’ll be reaching for this jacket again and again. It’s a brilliant investment piece and even has the name of the person in Staffordshire who made it sewn into the label!

A big thank you to John Partridge for sending me this jacket as gift.