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My guide to cycling, with Joanie clothing

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

A year ago I made a dream come true and bought a Pashley cycle. It’s bright, shiny and beautiful. Its bell makes the perfect ding-a-ling – and the wicker basket would be big enough for Toto, should he ever need a lift.

It’s my pride and joy, but it didn’t have a name – until now. I’ve decided to christen it Joanie, in honour of Joanie Clothing, who sent me some absolutely beautiful clothes to style this post. The Joanie Gals are full of light-hearted fun with a vintage twist – their clothes were made for cycling like strawberries were made for cream!

What have I learnt after a year with my bike?

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Cycling gets me from A to B, but it also makes me feel happy in a way that walking or driving never does.

There’s something uniquely wonderful about gliding along under your own steam. Cycling is very democratic – you don’t have to be particularly fit to do it and it’s great low-impact exercise. With minimal effort, you can push those pedals around and feel the wind in your face. The sound of the wheels swishing, that blissful feeling when you free-wheel for a few seconds: it’s good for the body and good for the mind.

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Yes, you can wear a dress while cycling!

I’m never going to be a lycra-clad gal. It’s just not going to happen. Cycling in loose skirts and dresses is much more me – and it’s surprisingly comfortable and practical. Of course, windy days can be a bit challenging – sometimes a bit of knicker flashing is inevitable! Try wearing cycling shorts under your dress, or if the fabric is loose enough, hold the two halves together with a peg to turn your skirt into culottes.

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Worried about safety? 

The best advice I’ve ever had is to remember that you have every much as right to be on the road as a motorist. In return, you need to behave like a motorist too. Remember those hand signals you learnt in cycling proficiency at school? You need to use them. Always be aware of what’s going on around you and never forget to check over your shoulder before you pull out or move across the roads. I basically assume that drivers won’t see me, unless I make it absolutely clear what I’m doing.

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Maintaining your bike

Cycling is much more fun when it doesn’t feel like hard work. A bike with flabby tyres and a rusty chain is never going to bring you as much joy as one that glides effortlessly along the road — so use some simple maintenance tips to help your bike work with you instead of against you. Even if you don’t want to DIY, knowing what to look for means you know when to ask for help from a bike shop.

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Keep your tyres properly pumped

Firmer tyres help prevent punctures — but more importantly, they make cycling much easier, and you can go faster for the same effort. Spend £15-30 on an upright track pump with a pressure gauge: it makes it really easy to get this right. Look on the side of the tyre for the maximum pressure, then aim to get them that hard. You’ll probably need to pump them up once every week or two.

Firm tyres go hand in hand with a smooth-running chain

If yours is rusty and stiff, get it replaced, then treat it to a weekly dose of chain lube. Not too much, though… if you use something like this Finish Line product then you want no more than one drop for each link of the chain. Turn the pedals backwards whilst you drip it on — and put something underneath so the stray drips don’t end up on the floor!

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Check your brakes

If they don’t work properly, don’t ride the bike. Pull them on and try to push your bike along; the wheels shouldn’t go round if you’re squeezing the lever hard.

Hate punctures?

Try a different tyre. Puncture-resistant brands like Schwalbe Marathon are really tough — they’re great for city cycling because they’re very hard to damage. A bike shop will help you choose (and fit) the right ones for your bike.

If you haven’t ridden your bike for a while, or if you’re not sure it’s properly set up, then get it serviced by your local bike shop. It’s much easier to keep everything running properly once it’s in good order: just follow the tips above and you can’t go far wrong. You shouldn’t have to put up with problems that stop your bike bringing you pleasure. Fixing bikes is much, much cheaper and easier than fixing a car!

Joanie Honor Bicycle Print Collar Top

What I’m wearing:

Maurice chambray shirt dress, £40 / Carly striped Dress, £30 

Bicycle print blouse, £28 / Rattan handbag, £28

 All c/o Joanie

My bike is a Pashley Sonnet Ladies Hybrid Bike

Thank you to Joanie for sending me such beautiful and comfortable cycling clothes! 

Life lessons from Blogtacular 2017

Life lessons I learnt at Blogtacular 2017

Last month I went to my first ever blog conference. What took me so long? I like to describe myself as a confident introvert. I like meeting people, but big group activities make me want to run for the hills.

What changed? It’s simple – I found a blogging conference that appealed to me. Blogtacular was set up in 2013 by the ever-inspiring Kat Molesworth. It’s a passionate, creative conference – and everything about it felt welcoming and friendly.

In their own words:

“Blogtacular is a celebration of the talent which grows wild on the internet. Many of us feel like outsiders who have somehow broken into an off-limits space, when the truth is we are the trailblazers of new paths of expression, business and advertising.”

Yes, yes and yes! That’s exactly how I feel about blogging. I know you aren’t all bloggers, so I won’t bore you will all the techy details we like to talk about when we get together. However, attending such an amazing conference taught me some really valuable life lessons that I feel we can all learn from, whether we’re bloggers or not.

Online friendships are real

How many of us used to roll our eyes about online friendships? Or feel a little shame-faced. You know, it’s not the real thing, is it? But times change. The online world is here to stay, and why shouldn’t friendships forged through blogs and social media be just as real?

At Blogtacular I finally got to meet lots of people I’ve meet online. I think there’s an assumption that our online selves are inauthentic. But that’s not always true. Every person I met was exactly as I thought they’d be. Which rather suggests that the little parts of ourselves we reveal online are sometimes as authentic and true as it gets. I certainly feel more real in the spaces I’ve curated online than I do in the school playground.

Blogtacular 2017 © Amber-Rose Photography (314)

Everyone gets jealous, and that’s ok

Everyone agrees that social media can create impossible images of perfection, that will (in our darker moments) cause feelings of jealousy. But it’s not the done thing to admit the jealousy you feel.

One message that kept cropping up again and again in the talks I attended at Blogtacular, is that it’s totally ok to admit to feelings of jealousy. You may even be able to learn something from it. Don’t be ashamed of your jealous feelings. Own them and make them work for you.

I can’t tell you what a relief it was to hear successful women like Emma Gannon admit that they get jealous, and that people get jealous of them. I’m working on accepting my own jealousy of others – but crucially, making it work for me. I waste far too much energy feeling bad about things, and I bet you do too.

Life lessons I learnt from Blogtacular

You’re never too old to learn new tricks

My last session of the day was Xanthe Berkley’s video workshop. I’m quite afraid of video, so this was a big leap out of my comfort zone. It was a bit like being at school again and spent most of the workshop feeling rather out of my depth.

However, the tools we were taught to use in workshop was actually very simple. Back in the comfort of my own home I’ve been experimenting with taking little videos and using a simple app on my phone to edit them. I’m surprised by how much I love it. This is just the start of a new skill which I’m planning on learning a lot more about.

Which all goes to show that we’re never too old to learn new tricks. The intensity of the conference gave me that little creative kick I needed.  So, why not sign up for that course you think you’re not good enough for? I guarantee it you’ll surprise yourself.

Blogtacular 2017 © Amber-Rose Photography (275)

Thanks Blogtacular, see you in 2018! 

 

 

Instagram: finding joy in perfection + the accounts I love!

English garden flowers

Instagram is all about perfection. Which sounds a bit unrealistic. Surely, sharing only the perfect version of our lives is bad for us? Maybe. But I think worrying about it is missing the point. Most of us relish the perfection presented by Instagram – it’s a little raft of beauty floating on choppy waters. We go there precisely because we want to see perfection. 

I spend a lot of time on Instagram. Too much. But I just can’t help myself. It’s such an inspiring treasury of design, fashion, creativity and friendship. Sometimes I feel envious of the beautiful things I see (we’re only human, after all), but usually these feelings are quickly quashed by the positive sense of community.

I lose count of how many accounts I follow, but one thing I do know is that it’s an eclectic mix. What catches my eye?

When I want tips from a fashion insider I look to Erica Davies. Her sense of style (and her amazing home) inspire me every day. I’d like to be her when I grow up, please.

For a bit of interiors swooning, I turn to Rebecca at RKV_Loves. Her home renovation project is jaw-droppingly beautiful. It’s how I’d like my own home to look in that parallel universe when I had more money, time and inspiration (and no children to mess it up). It’s probably never going to happen, but a girl can dream.

When I want to see something a more down-to-earth, I love the colourful home of Georgia Coote. Her gorgeous and imaginative photos give us a peep into her creative life. It’s an easy, fun style, that’s a bit more attainable for us mere mortals!

For a hint of the rustic good-life, I follow Rebecca at @margotgoodlife. She’s just moved into a rambling old farmhouse and I’m really enjoying her glimpses into the simple, country life. This is Instagram at it’s best – following someone’s life story through photos.

Instagram is an amazing place for all the creative makers out there. Sunshine Jo’s combination of pin badges and cats has really made me smile lately. I also love the biscuit-themed fun of Nikki McWilliams’ account.

There are so many more accounts I love, but I can’t mention them all. We’d be here all week.

Which accounts do you love? I don’t think it’s ever possible to follow too many! 

Three things I’m loving this week

Sarah Raven Flowers

Have you been enjoying the heatwave? This week has been all about ice lollies, eating outside and long balmy evenings. Sure, it’s got a bit too hot at times, but I love the way it makes life feel so different – it’s like being transported to the tropics in the comfort of your own garden.

The days take on a completely different hue. There’s something so joyful and timeless about watching your children’s faces as they run through the sprinkler; or the chilled-out feeling of watching the sun go down on the longest day of the year.

So, what have I been loving during this most tropical of weeks?

Working from home

Summer is definitely one of the times that working from home comes into its own. My house is cool and I can have the windows open. My commute is whizzing back from the school-run on my bike, the breeze cooling my face. When I take my coffee break, I get to potter round my garden picking flowers. This week I’ve been feeling incredibly lucky that I have the opportunity to do this. Making freelance writing and blogging my job is a dream that’s been a long time coming.

Cats, flowers and window

Being a mermaid 

During a heatwave I love having a really cool bath – it’s so soothing and calming after a long hot day. This week I’ve been trying the lovely bath soak from Living Sea Therapy*. It’s made with Cornish seaweed and minerals and smells amazing thanks to twelve essential oils –  including mandarin, ginger and eucalyptus. It’s been perfect this week!

Living Sea Therapy

Living Sea Therapy

The cold shoulder top 

This is a new style for me, and every time I wear it I have that Adele song stuck in my head. Sales are a great way to try a
new trend and I picked up this lovely top  in Oliver Bonas – reduced from £45 to £15. I really love it – it’s laid-back but feels more special than a tee.

The cold shoulder top

This week I’ve also been…

Watching…. Girl Boss on Netflix. Loved it!

Reading… Harry Potter (the Half Blood Prince), perfect escapism for crazy times.

Drinking… Adnam’s Ghost Ship and Camden Hells Lager – both perfect for hot weather!

What have you been loving this week? Do you wilt in the heat, or lap it up?

* Living Sea Therapy kindly sent me this product to try 

Home Notes for March

Tea and cake

Can you believe we’re half way through March? Neither can I. We’re officially in springtime now and the days are getting longer, lighter and warmer. I’ve got lots going on in my home this month. Not much of it is very photogenic, but it’s all very exciting! 

Project hallway is well under way. The decorator is here right now painting the hall and landing a light blue-grey. You may remember that our hall is dark and narrow. The old paint was a very dingy cream – far too yellow for such a gloomy space. I can’t wait to share the finished results with you.

I’m particularly excited about hanging the pictures back up. We’ve had the same boring arrangement ever since we’ve moved in, and I’m looking forward to shaking things up with lots of colour. I want people to immediately see our family’s personality as soon as they come in the front door. I’ll be rearranging pictures from elsewhere in the house and framing some new things.

One new purchase is this lovely little print by Jeff Josephine. I love the pop of yellow, which will go so well with the new paint.

Jeff Josephine print

I’ve also invested in these amazing bits of wrapping paper from Willow and Stone. They’re poster size and they’re going to look great in big frames.

Cavallini wrapping paper

I’m also on the hunt for a good mirror. I’m quite tempted to create a Trompe L’oiel effect with a window-frame style mirror like this one by OKA. What do you think?

And while we’re on the subject of windows, has anyone else noticed how filthy theirs are? Those lighter, brighter days are making me realise just how dirty everything is. Cleaning the front windows is on my list of things to do this week. I’m not much good at doing all my spring cleaning in one go. I’ll do things pretty slowly, and might get it done by Christmas (if I’m lucky!). It’s the thought that counts, right?

Tulips

And finally, my favourite flowers this month are tulips. They’re such a fun flower and are pretty affordable at the moment. They may not last for as long as other flowers but they evolve in a really interesting way – from prim little buds to big blowsy, droopy blooms. They even manage to look pretty good  when most of the petals have fallen over the table.

What’s happening in your house this month? Are you bust spring cleaning, or decorating?

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Three things I’m loving this week

Spring blooms

I think we can now say that spring has sprung, can’t we? I’m sitting here typing with the window open, birds singing outside. When the sun comes out it actually feels warm – it’s a tantalising glimpse of things to come. 

The prettiness of early spring has inspired me to shrug off my winter clothes and buy a few new things. Perky little purchases, that don’t cost much but make me feel really happy.

These rose gold trainers are a case in point. They’re shiny, bright and cheerful. Feeling unsure about the current gold trend? At £12, these trainers are a great way to dip your toe into the water.

Rose gold trainers by Peacocks

Spring is also a great time to try a new fragrance. As the days get lighter, I like my perfume to feel brighter and fresher. I’ve recently discovered Liz Earle’s botanical fragrances. I was given a set to try for Christmas and they’re great for layering over each other. I struggle to find perfumes which are light, but last all day. These do. My absolute favourite is Botanical Essence No9. It’s hard to explain a fragrance, but I’d recommend you go and try a sample in John Lewis.

Liz Earle fragrances

This week I’ve also been brightening up my brain with a bit of matcha from teapigs. Try swapping your normal latte with a matcha one and see the effects. Matcha powder is made from ground up green tea – so you’re getting all the intensity in one cup. Imagine the kick you get from coffee, times 10. It’s an acquired taste (better when sweetened with honey) and I find it’s best to make a small cup with milk and down it in one. You can find out more here.

Teapigs matcha

I’ve also enjoyed… 

Watching The Replacement on BBC1

Reading W Channel’s wonderful interviews for International Women’s. Including my own!

Drinking Adnam’s Mosaic pale ale – a great beer for spring.

Teapigs were kind enough to send me some matcha to try, but all photos and thoughts are my own. 

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Sweet peas and succulents

Our house is a total tip this week. Our fridge/freezer broke down last week and we had a new one delivered today. I can’t believe how much mess sorting it out has generated. We had to defrost the freezer, dispose of the ancient contents and deal with four year’s worth of dirt and dust. Maybe there are some virtuous people who clean behind their fridges every year – sadly, I’m not one of them. As soon as you start having to use all your time on extra chores, the rest of the house slips into complete squalor surprisingly quicky.

Oh well. I’m not on top of the mess yet, but I have been enjoying some pretty things amidst the chaos. The heady scent of freshly picked sweetpeas from my mum’s garden…

My sweetpeas aren’t quite ready yet, but they’re almost there…

These sweetpeas are waiting to be moved to a better spot when the new fence goes up. On which note, we finally recieved a special delivery today…

Weather permitting, fence-building should be happening this weekend. I’d like to get it painted at some point, but I think we’ll save this job for the Autumn when there’s less growing. I can’t wait to have a decent fence again without massive holes in it!

Heading back indoors, come and say hello to my first succulent…

Hopefully we’ll be ship-shape again soon!

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