Category Archives: Lifestyle

How honest should you be online?

Meet me on the street and ask me “how are you?” and I’ll always say: “I’m good, thank you. How are you?” 

Meet me online and ask me “how are you?” and I’ll still say: “I’m fine”

I’m mostly telling the truth. It’s an automatic answer and one that quickly deflects the attention away from me. I’m not trying to hide anything, it’s just common politeness and part of the British psyche. Like everyone, I have my issues and problems, but they’re rarely things I want to discuss in a blog post or on social media.

How honest should you be online?

People are more open about their feelings online than ever before

It started with the idea that “it’s OK to not be OK”. I’m all for that. It’s incredibly important to be open and honest about our feelings and to ask for help when you need it.  I wouldn’t want that to change.

Telling the truth is very empowering and it’s quickly become popular online

The world of blogs and Instagram is now awash with gorgeously styled photos complete with “real” and “authentic” captions. Increasingly, a photo of a pretty dress can’t just be a photo of pretty dress anymore. It’s often a exposé of the subject’s most intimate feelings. To paraphrase: “This dress is so pretty, but when I took this photo I felt like shit.” Sometimes  it feels like everyone is trying so hard to be real, they forget to be themselves.

How honest should you be online?

What if it’s no longer “OK to be OK”?

Everyone should be able to write what they truly feel online. Personally, I prefer to filter out the things I want to keep private, and to be honest and open about the rest on this blog. I’d hate to think that anyone felt pressurised into behaving a certain way. It would be terrible if someone felt they had to edit their own feelings online because they didn’t seem authentic enough.

Do what makes you feel comfortable and don’t try too hard

If pouring your heart out in a social media post makes you happy, then do it. And if you prefer to keep your private life offline, than that’s alright too. I’m never going to be the kind of person who wants to tell the whole world about what’s worrying me. Life doesn’t always have to be complicated. Sometimes we just want to post a picture of cup of coffee on Instagram because it’s pretty, not because it contains the meaning of life.

The only answer is to be who you want to be, not what you think someone else wants you to be.

How honest should you be online?

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

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. I shall be forever grateful to have stumbled across this book in the charity shop. It’s no understatement to say it’s a masterpiece. Absolutely the best thing I’ve read this month. First published in 1961, this is the story of Frank and April Wheeler. Tired of their life of suburban America, they embark on a new path with tragic consequences. Yates brings the emotions and dreams of the Wheelers into sharp focus, and it’s something we can all relate to. Can youthful dreams survive amidst the humdrum of family life? And, deep-down, would you really want them to? If you’re a fan of Mad Men, then you’ll love this – Revolutionary Road must have inspired the writers.

The Blue Bedroom and other stories by Rosamund Pilcher. I’m a big fan of Rosamund Pilcher’s big door-stop sizes novels like September and The Shell Seekers. This is one of her volumes of short stories. I picked my copy up for 20p in the charity shop, but I’m delighted to see it’s still in print. These stories won’t challenge you, they’ll soothe you. Perfect for times in your life when you’ve got a lot on your plate. It’d be easy to dismiss Rosamund Pilcher as dated and irrelevant. Think again. Yes, these stories are a little old-fashioned (mostly written in the sixties and seventies, I think) but their quality makes them timeless. Deft storytelling makes you care about characters you’ve only know for half an hour. Just what I needed, and I’ll be passing this back to the charity shop for someone else to enjoy.

My month in books

Summer in Tremarnock by Emma Burstall. This is the third book in a series about the lives and loves of Cornish fishing village. I read the second book, The Tremarnock Guest House, over the summer and absolutely loved it. Summer in Tremarnock was disappointing in comparison and lacked the well-paced plot of the last book in the series. The characters and their various plot-lines were never fully developed. Good ideas were weren’t brought to fruition and it was all rather half-hearted and lifeless. Only worth reading if you want to carry on with the series.

Green Grass by Raffaella Barker. One of my favourite writers. Raffaella’s novels are always so fresh, vibrant and funny. Green Grass tells the story of Laura, who finds herself in a late-30s crisis of sorts. Her family is completely self-absorbed and Laura has forgotten what makes her happy. The story is divided between London and rural Norfolk and although it’s fairly tongue in cheek, it’s also effortlessly sharp and wise . Expect lots of chaotic mayhem and an amusing set of characters – especially the children and animals, which she writes particularly well. I loved this book and really didn’t want it to end!

This month, all my books came from the charity shop – but they are all in print and available from good bookshops. 

What have you been reading this month? I’d love to hear your recommendations.

 

 

 

Three things I’m loving this week

Hello! Long time no see. We’re busy packing up our house, so posts will be a bit thin on the ground for the next few weeks. However, I wanted to pop over today to tell you about three things that are putting a smile on my face this week.

Marks and Spencer velvet shoes

Velvet party shoes. I’m not going to mention the C word like everyone else (seriously what’s going on? Did I sleep through November?), but I do want to introduce you to my beautiful new party shoes. They’re from Marks and Spencer and are supremely comfortable. Wear them with jeans and a simple polo  for a laid-back look that’ll see you through the party season.

Sequin star jumper

Sparkly starry jumpers. A few sequins are perfect for those Autumn days when the light is dull and sludge-like. I wore my favourite sparkly star jumper on Bonfire Night and you haven’t seem the last of it. My jumper is an old one from Peacocks. However, I think this one from Marks and Spencer is just as good!

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix. I was a BIG fan of Sabrina the Teenage Witch back in the 90s, so naturally I was curious about Netflix’s reboot. It’s very different, but equally as good. I wasn’t sure after the first episode, but have rapidly become hooked. It’s a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Riverdale and True Blood, if that makes sense. And, yes, it still has Salem the cat in it. Perfect viewing for dark autumn evenings.

 

What have you been loving this week?

 

Simple fashion: the cable knit jumper

Simple fashion: the cable knit jumper

Simple fashion makes you look better and feel better. It’s about finding timeless clothes that’ll keep working their magic year after year. It’s the opposite of fast fashion trends which come and go in the blink of an eye. 

This week, I’d like to talk about the cable knit jumper. There’s something magical about those intricate stitches. They conjure up everything I always dream of doing in autumn: rugged walks in the great outdoors, cliff-top walks and cosy afternoons in a country pub. Even if I don’t get any further than the supermarket or the school gates, wearing a cable knit still feels special. It’s the cosiness. Wearing one is like a big bear hug. They also go with everything.

Simple fashion: the cable knit jumper

One of my favourite ways to wear a cable-knit jumper is to layer it up with jeans, a denim shirt and ankle boots. I’m also loving mine with a teddy-bear jacket for extra warmth.

Simple fashion: the cable knit jumper

Cable knit jumpers are also the perfect partner for dresses and skirts. There’s something romantic and a bit whimsical about chunky wool and floaty fabric, isn’t there? Opposites attract and that combination of tough and pretty is captivating. Why shouldn’t you look like a windswept heroine while you do your weekly shop?

Simple fashion: the cable knit jumper

The buy it now jumper

Throughout this post, I’m wearing a H&M jumper which is no longer available. However, this one, also by H&M is almost identical. At £24.99 it’s affordable. Does that automatically mean it’s fast (and therefore bad) fashion? I don’t think so. In my experience, H&M make good quality clothes that last beyond one season. According to the Good Shipping Guide (an ethical clothing indexing site) they have good ethical credentials. I’ve already worn mine a lot since buying it, so it’s currently proving to be a good investment.

Investment jumpers

If you’d prefer to invest in a more expensive piece, then I’ve found this beautiful merino aran jumper (see below). It’s made in Ireland from organic and natural fibres, and it’s a beauty! I’ve also found this lovely, soft version by Boden. Again, at £80 it’s a bigger investment, but Boden knitwear is always very good quality. I often buy it second hand off eBay, which is a testament to its longevity!

Second-hand jumpers

If you prefer not to buy new, then it’s not going to be too difficult to find a cable-knit jumper in the charity shop. Try the men’s section for oversized, chunky knitwear. If you do buy anything made of pure wool or natural fibres, then just be careful about moths. Place your new jumper in a plastic bag in the freezer for a couple of days to kill off any unwanted pests!

Do you own a cable knit sweater already? I’d love to know how you’re wearing yours this autumn…

 

Life lately: pumpkins and packing

Undley Pumpkin Patch

Right now, my life is a game of two halves. One day, I’m prancing through a pumpkin patch looking for the most photogenic gourds. The next, I’m trying to pack up our chaotic family home into neat little boxes. 

That’s right, we’re moving house! It’s been a year in the making, but it’s finally happening. Very exciting, but also rather hectic. The house is strewn with possessions and we’ll never see it looking neat or pretty again. I’m sifting through seven years of memories and dust. Luckily, we’re all ready for a change so it doesn’t feel too sad – just a bit wistful. Trying to get on with all this, while trying to live, eat and work is challenging. But our excitement about the new house is keeping us all going.

Undley Pumpkin Patch

Last week was half-term for the boys. The highlight of the week for me was a trip to a local pumpkin patch. Was this American-style spectacle worth it? Yes, absolutely. I’ve never seen so many pumpkins in one place. It was a sea of orange on a splendidly warm autumn day.

Undley Pumpkin Patch

We grabbed a barrow and started the hunt for the perfect pumpkins. Which takes a surprisingly long time and there’s always the temptation to check just one more row. We only really needed one, but certain people (ok, me) decided to add in some pretty gourds too. We’ll carve the big one on Halloween, and the rest are sitting pretty on my doorstep.

So, that’s basically where my life is at right now. Pumpkins and packing. 

Undley Pumpkin Patch

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.