Category Archives: Lifestyle

How to hibernate

While dragging myself out of bed this morning, I thought: wouldn’t it be nice to just hibernate for the rest of winter? I’d be like a little hedgehog under a pile of leaves, emerging only when spring has sprung. 

I’d woken up with my umpteenth cold of the season and felt more than a little cross and prickly. People who jet off somewhere warm in January aren’t just lucky, they’re clever too. If my kids weren’t in school I’d be sorely tempted to have a week’s holiday somewhere hot too. Sadly though, I’m stuck in the grey UK for the foreseeable and I’m guessing most of you are too. What can we do about it?

Don’t fight the urge to hibernate – embrace it! 

Your home is your nest. Hedgehogs like to find a pile of leaves or a warm compost heap to hibernate in. It’s even easier for us. Make your own four walls as cosy as possible with blankets, cushions and fairy lights. Retire to bed in the middle of the day with a hot water bottle or (my personal favourite) an electric blanket.

Cocoon yourself. When you do have to leave the house, cocoon yourself in soft, comforting layers. I’m currently very attached to my knitted headband which is insanely warm. And, because it’s not technically a hat, it’s completely acceptable to wear it indoors all day long. Also very useful for greasy hair days.

Eat all the good stuff. Whatever that means to you. For me, it’s simple and satisfying food that’ll warm your heart. Sausage and mash, toast and marmalade, tomato soup and crackers…apple crumble, banana bread and leftover Christmas cake. For you it might be salads and smoothies or fish and chips. A little bit of what you fancy never did anyone any harm.

Be sociable on your own terms.Hibernating doesn’t have to mean being antisocial. Share your warm cosy nest with friends and family! Cook a Sunday roast and spend the afternoon playing board games, or invite friends over for a simple dinner.If you want to venture out, cloak yourself in the comforting darkness of the cinema or seek out cosy pubs with real fires.

Fill up your reserves of happiness. Just like a hibernating mouse, it’s OK to hunker down and keep things simple during the winter months. You don’t have to put your life and ambitions on hold just because it’s cold outside, but it’s also important to give yourself time to recharge and relax. Make time for the things that matter to you and bring you pleasure. Fill up your reserves of happiness now and you’ll have something to draw on all winter.

Call it what you like: hibernating, hygge or nesting. It’s basically all about nurturing yourself. Go on, embrace your inner hedgehog.  

Three things I’m loving this week

This first full week of January is always a struggle. It’s hard returning to early starts, routines and clock-watching after the lazy days of Christmas. It’s been a bit of slog, but not as bad as I thought it would be. Being busy again has really made me appreciate the simple pleasures of my day. They’re the little moments that sparkle and glow.

Bould Brothers coffee

Going out for coffee… I missed grown-up coffee shops during the school holidays. A little ambition I have for 2019 is to visit as many new coffee places as I can. This week I went to Bould Brothers on Round Church Street in Cambridge. It’s a really pretty little place that’s perfect for cold winter days. I took my flat white and sticky bun upstairs and enjoyed the view from the window.

View from Bould Brothers Coffee

Fresh blooms… Spring might be a long way off, but luckily there are plenty of pretty flowers in the shops. I bought a big bunch of tulips and hyacinths for my front room this week. They’re filling the gap left by the Christmas tree and feel so fresh and light.

Spring flowers

Losing myself in a good box set… I’m now incapable of watching normal live TV. If I find something I like I just watch it every night until I’ve devoured it all. This week I tried You on Netflix. It’s quite compulsive in a love/hate kind of way. It certainly provided good escapism on gloomy January nights!

What have you been loving this week?

My month in books

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

No matter what’s happening in your life, or the world, you can always turn to a good book for comfort or inspiration. 

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

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor. This was a wonderful read. Once upon a time, genteel old people used to go and live in hotels when they lacked the enthusiasm or funds for their own home. Mrs Palfrey finds herself in this situation, and chooses the Claremont Hotel in London. What follows is a beautifully written story of the petty politics and curiosity of the hotel’s fellow residents, her relationship with her disappointing family and the unexpected friendship she makes with Ludo, a young writer. Taylor’s writing is so effortlessly good. The words glide across the page while still packing a smart punch that really sticks with you. Read it, you won’t regret it.

The State We’re In, by Adele Parks. Jo and Dean meet on a transatlantic flight and it’s love at first sight. Well, sort of. This is a girl meets boy tale with a difference. They’ve got a surprising connection, they just don’t know it yet. We watch Jo and Dean make their way through the tangled web of their lives, finding both joy and tragedy along the way. This well-written and clever read is perfect January escapism.

Wise Children, by Angela Carter. A sharp and witty read. It reminds me a little of Mary Wesley, but with more surrealism. It’s the story of the Chance Sisters, the illegitimate children of one of England’s finest thespian actors. We’re taken on a wonderful romp through the theatres and film studios of the twentieth century. The story hops backwards and forward through time as nimbly as Dora and Nora dancing their way across the stage. I couldn’t put this down.

Almost English, by Charlotte Mendleson. Marina lives with her English mother Laura and her elderly Hungarian relations in a little flat in London. Like most sixteen year olds, she feels like an outsider. These feelings are only compounded by her eccentric home life. She makes the bold, and ultimately, misguided decision to apply to a stuffy English boarding school. Her mother is too distracted by her own worries to notice the slow unraveling of her daughter’s life. I really wanted to love this book, but there was always something missing for me. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but it’s probably because I felt no affection for any of the characters. I finished it, but grudgingly.

This Year It Will Be Different, by Maeve Binchey. I picked up this book of short stories in the charity shop because I liked the festive snowy picture on the front cover. I normally love Maeve Binchey, and thought these stories would see me though the busy run up to Christmas. I’m sorry to say that they were very dated, and not in a good way. Some things age well and I’m afraid these stories really haven’t. Sorry, Maeve – I’ll always love your other books, but not this one.

My Thoughts Exactly, Lily Allen. I read this on a whim on my kindle. Mostly out of curiosity. Lily is about the same age as me, but our lives couldn’t be more different. I’ve read all the articles about her over the years, and wanted to hear her side. Lily is a self-confessed narcissist. And it really shows. She writes well, but the whole thing is horribly self-absorbed. It made my skin crawl at times. I made it though to the end with gritted teeth.

What have you enjoyed reading this month?

Wise Children by Angela Carter

 

 

Utility style: the boiler suit

Nobody's Child women's Boiler Suit

Looking for an outfit that is both practical and stylish? Step forward the humble boiler suit. The favourite garment of mechanics, old men in sheds and now you!

Nobody's Child women's Boiler Suit

What’s so great about them?

Easy. Pulling on an all-in-one outfit is great for dark January mornings. And pretty warm too when you wear a fine-knit polo neck underneath.

Practical. Whether you’re changing a tyre or sipping a flat white, the boiler suit is your friend. Big pockets too. Let’s just not talk about going to the toilet, ok?

Feminine. Yes, really. There’s something about the nipped in waist and tapered ankles that’s just very flattering, especially when you’re curvy. Pair with some low heeled ankle boots to accentuate this.

Vintage. The neat, smart silhouette of the 2019 boiler suit reminds me of siren suits from the 1940s. So called because you’d put them on during an air raid to wear to the shelter. Very popular with stylish gals and Winston Churchill.

Nobody's Child women's Boiler Suit

My boiler suit is from Nobody’s Child and costs £28. I’m 5″4 and I’m wearing a size 12 (I sized up and I’m glad I did). Boots are £35 by Marks and Spencer.

Here are three more I love:

From left: Marks and Spencer, £45 / ASOS, £34.99 / Nobody’s Child, £35

Baby stepping my way into January

January always feels like one very long Monday morning. I’m never quite ready for it. Christmas softens me up with its late nights and lazy days. Work, routine and school runs are easily forgotten. The first days of the new year are always a shock to the system. I always feel like I’ve been shut out in the cold, the warm lie-ins and twinkly lights now just a distant memory. 

Well, enough wallowing in self-pity. There’s no rule to say that you have to face January as your best self with all guns blazing. If reading everyone else’s social media updates full of inspiring goals for the new year just make you roll your eyes, then that’s OK. It’s perfectly alright to do things your own way.

Take baby steps though January. Move instinctively into the new year in a way that feels as comfortable and unthreatening as possible. No pressure and no hang-ups. Some of us just aren’t wired to love winter. Don’t feel bad about it and remember to take things one day at a time.

No big goals. If you’ve read my 2019 manifesto you’ll already know that I’m not planning any massive life changes right now. January feels like the worst possible time to choose. It’s dark, we’re all skint and almost certainly have a cold. Why not make your goals more short-term? Call a friend, write a thank you letter, or just empty the dishwasher before you leave the house in the morning.

A little of what you fancy. I’m not going to give up the things I enjoy just because it’s January. It’s bleak enough already. So, I’ll be drinking and eating a little bit of what I fancy. That might be a giant winter salad one day, or the dregs of the Quality Street the next – and there’s absolutely no way I’m giving up alcohol.

Wearing your cosiest clothes. Don’t be deceived by all the frothy bits of spring fashion you’ll start seeing soon. It is still winter and it’s flipping freezing. I’m digging out the clothes that keep me warm and make me happy. My snow leopard coat, a new Boden scarf and fur-lined boots will do for starters. Plus, my second-hand giant duvet coat filled with feather down.

Avert your gaze. If the holier than thou social media updates about clean living make you roll your eyes, then stop looking at them. If it’s not your thing then unfollow, or switch off. Personally, I don’t want evangelical crap right now. I just want to hunker down with season two of Mrs Maisel and a large glass of red.

Who’s with me? Let’s put our best foot forward and baby step our way into the new year!

I wear: leopard coat, LOTD (old) / scarf, Boden 

jeans, Boden (old) / boots, Marks and Spencer

Men’s winter fashion: it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3

I love clothes. The more the better. However, it’s a different story for the man (and boys in my life). They hate shopping and they hate choices. When faced with multiple options in their wardrobes, they panic like rabbits caught in the headlights and choose the same outfit again and again. So, guess who ends up doing their shopping for them? 

When online men’s fashion store, Jacamo asked me if I’d like to write a piece on men’s winter fashion I immediately knew I’d need to keep things simple. With this in mind, I’ve compiled a simple guide for winter wardrobes for the sartorially challenged men in our lives. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Light layers. Ever bought a man a thick jumper only for it to be rejected as too hot or too itchy? Lightweight layers are your friend. Pair a soft shirt with a button down collar with a loosely woven jumper for a smart look. Swap the shirt for a light jersey tee for casual days.

Jacamo Men's Clothes

Shirt, £28 / Jumper, £31.50 – both from Jacamo

Hardworking basics. A great pair of jeans or chinos are the foundation of any man’s wardrobe. They’ll match everything, no matter how smart or causal. Steer them towards dark denim, it’s so much more flattering (also pretty practical for muddy winter days).

Chinos, £22 / Jeans, £42.25 – both from Jacamo

Function over style. Clever clothes designed with a bit of technical know-how always go down well in our house. Down filled coats that keep you warm, but feel as light as a feather. Or a smart waterproof jacket that keeps you dry but not too hot while cycling. And large pockets will always be valued more highly than anything else. Don’t buy anything without them.

Jacamo Men's Clothes

Down Jacket, £100 / Coated jacket, £95 – both Jacamo

Add bright colour. Men’s fashion does have a tendency to come in a range of dull, sludge-like colours. Combat this by sneaking a few bright hero pieces into your man’s wardrobe. I personally love a red jumper and, if all else fails, a collection of super jolly socks.

Jacamo Men's Clothes

Red jumper, £30 / Socks, £15 both Jacamo

I hope you enjoyed this brief sojourn into men’s fashion! Normal service will resume shortly.

This post is in collaboration with Jacamo 

My 2019 manifesto

My 2019 manifesto

Here we are on the cusp of another new year. I can’t believe it’s 2019. It doesn’t seen a minute since we celebrated a new millennium. Back then, I think we all thought life would be a little different by now. But instead of riding around on hover boards, we mostly just spend our time squabbling about Brexit. Anyway, here’s my ten-point manifesto for 2019…

To be more sociable. Since moving, it’s so much easier to entertain. Sunday lunches, dinner parties, cocktail parties – I want to do the lot.

I will remain strong and not give in to Brexit-induced despair. While there’s still a glimmer of hope that we can forget all about it, then I will remain optimistic. Delusional? Probably. But it’s the only way to keep things bearable.

To cut down on my catastrophising. A made up word, which basically means always thinking the worst in any situation. Closely linked to hypochondria, anxiety and, well, just being a bit bleak. I’ll probably never eliminate it completely, but I certainly want to curb these tendencies.

To knit more. So soothing, and it’ll probably help with the above. I haven’t picked up my needles in the last year, and I’ve missed it!

To read more non-fiction. I read stacks and stacks of fiction but hardly ever anything else. I’d love to kick things off with a biography of Mary Queen of Scots.

Back up my ambition with productivity. I do a lot of dreaming about what I can achieve work-wise, but get bogged down by my own lack of productivity. Once the kids are back at school I need to start prioritising and stop prevaricating.

To write shorter to-do lists. I never tick everything off mine. Which either means I’m chronically lazy or that they were too long in the first place. I’m hoping it’s the latter.

To lose a stone. It’s not cool to say this, but I would be thrilled to lose a stone. It’s got nothing to do with low self-love and everything to do with the fact that my trousers are too tight.

To consume less. Fast fashion, plastics, everything. 2019 is the year to be strong and really put it into practise. Not easy, especially when my inbox is currently bursting with tempting sales offers.

To eat less meat. This year I’d like the whole family to be about 80% vegetarian and only eat meat a couple of times a week. We already do this most of the time, but I’d like to make it more official. The challenge is finding vegetarian food that appeals to adults and children. Expect to hear more on this subject throughout the year!

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

Enjoy the simple things this Christmas

Homemade Christmas wreath

Christmas means different things to all of us, but I think we can agree on one thing: it’s the simple things that really matter. Meeting up with old friends and loved ones, a crisp and sunny walk, joining in with some carol singing or a delicious mince pie. So simple, yet so valuable.

Here are just of few of the simple festive pleasures that make me happy….

Make mince pies

Making mince pies… taking the time out to make your own is really rather special. Real pastry isn’t hard to make, although there’s no shame at all in buying a packet of ready made to roll out instead. There’s something very satisfying about cutting out all those little pastry cases and filling them with a spoonful of mincemeat. Turn up your favourite festive songs, and lose yourself in the moment. My favourite mince pie recipe is this one by Nigella.

Make mince pies

Gather some greenery… Even if you don’t have room for a big Christmas tree, you can still make a very good substitute with a few offcuts from your local market. It’ll smell amazing and looks so sweet and simple!

Gather greenery

Brown paper and ribbons… Swap printed wrapping paper for some simple brown packing paper and a selection of lovely ribbons. It’s better for the environment (lots of fancy papers can’t be recycled), plus there’s just something so pleasing about the simple style. I like to go to my local craft shop and choose lots of pretty ribbons. They’re just pennies per metre. My favourite combination is red velvet and brown paper. For an extra touch, add a little sprig of greenery.

Brown paper and ribbons

Go Christmas tree spotting… I love wandering round my town spotting all the pretty Christmas trees in windows. Head out at dusk and finish up at the pub for a glass of something nice, or a cafe for some hot chocolate. It’s a great way to blow away the cobwebs and tire out little people on Christmas Eve!

Christmas Tree

Do a jigsaw puzzle… A good old-fashioned puzzle is the perfect antidote to our modern lives. Put away your phone and concentrate on putting together the pieces of the jigsaw. Time will fly and you’ll get really absorbed. It’s a slow pleasure that’s a bit frustrating at times, but so satisfying then it’s done. Top tip – choose a 500 piece one, they’re much quicker and easier!

Write some Christmas cards to hand deliver. Even if it’s too late for Royal Mail, you can still send all your neighbours and local friends a card. I love doing a big delivery round down on my bike. Maybe knock on a few doors too and say hello – it’s a lovely spontaneous thing to do.

Writing Christmas Cards

And finally, I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! See you in 2019 x

Homemade Christmas wreath

Get the glow with Dermalogica

Get the glow with Dermalogica

Now I’m in my thirties my skin really appreciates an extra helping hand. Products aren’t just for fun anymore, I rely on them to keep my skin looking its best. For the last couple of months, I’ve been trying out some skincare products from Dermalogica. I’m impressed. Their products are straightforward, simple and designed to help your skin glow. 

Having a good skincare routine day and night is really important. Dermalogica have a product for every step: pre-cleanse, cleansing, toning, moisturising and more! Their website allows you to browse their products by skin concern – from dry skin and breakouts to tackling the signs of ages.

I have classic combination skin, with an oily t-zone and dryness everywhere else. What problems did I want to tackle?

I need a cleanser that’ll effectively remove make-up and dirt without drying out my skin. The Precleanse Cleasing Oil is perfect for me. This light and deliciously fragranced oil melts into your skin and turns into a milky cleanser when you add water. I massage it on to my skin in the evenings and remove with a hot flannel. You can follow up with the Special Cleansing Gel, but I find this dries out my skin a little too much. If I need something a little stronger with the oil, I also like to add in the Daily Microfoliant – a rice based exfoliant that’s brilliant for clogged pores.

A light daytime moisturiser that’ll keep my skin fresh and hydrated. I don’t like heavy creams during the day – they just feel too greasy under make up. The Skin Smoothing Cream is brilliant. It’s light and easily absorbed, and keeps my skin happy all day. I’ve been using it for about six weeks now and I’m impressed. I think my skin looks a little more smooth and even too.

An easy primer/tinted moisturiser for no make-up days. The Dermalogica SkinPerfect Primer is perfect for those days when you don’t have time for make up, but still want to look good. This tinted primer is designed to be worn over moisturiser and gives your skin a beautifully subtle glow. It also smells nice and has a SPF of 30!

12 days to glow Dermalogica advent calendar

If you’re new to Dermalogica, why not try out one of their festive gift sets? The Skin Smooth favourites contains some essential products to get you started. Or, if you’re looking for a treat, then the 12 Days to Glow advent calendar has got everything you need to pamper your skin this winter!

This post was written as part of my role as a Dermalogica Skinfluencer. I was gifted these products, but all thoughts and photos are my own.

All you need for Christmas is a midi skirt

Leopard pleated midi skirt

I like a midi skirt. And who can blame me? There’s so much to love about them. Why? Well, they’re cute and pretty. Especially with a sparkly Christmas jumper tucked in. And, crucially, they usually have an elasticated waistband. That’s all my festive boxes ticked.

Leopard pleated midi skirt

In this post I’m going to show you two ways to style your midi skirt this Christmas.

First, up is a laid-back party look. A lightweight knit tucked in to your skirt looks so simple and elegant. Make it a sparkly one, or just stick to classic black. This would be perfect for Christmas Day…

Skirt, £22.99, New Look / Jumper, £3.99, charity shop / Boots, £35, Marks and Spencer

The second look is for those casual days before and after Christmas. When you’re shopping at the market, or taking a stroll with friends. Your pleated skirt will look just beautiful with a chunky knit, wax jacket and a pair of stompy boots.

Leopard pleated midi skirt

Skirt, as before / Wax Jacket, £185, John Partridge / Boots, £29.50, Marks and Spencer 

Feeling inspired? Here are some of the best midi skirts available right now and how I’d style them…

Skirt, £55, White Stuff / Jumper, £15.99, New Look / Shoes, £75.95, Seasalt

Skirt, £24.99, H&M / Jacket, £89, FatFace / Boots, £39.50, Marks and Spencer