It’s always better on holiday…

On Friday, I grudgingly came back from Cornwall, smashing back into the real world. I’m not entirely sure how to write a post about this without it being the 2013 equivalent of showing you my holiday slide show (‘how did THAT get in there?!’) so I’ll do what I can to keep it lively.

I spent two weeks with the fam in St Ives in Cornwall, mainly just eating, reading, walking and cooking, and very occasionally thinking. It was my first holiday in a year, and I desperately needed to take a bit of time out from pressures at home, and come back with a fresh perspective. For me, that’s what a holiday should be for – in a way, a break from yourself and a break from your routines.

I was stagnating a bit before I went away. It was a stressful start to the year, and I went from knowing exactly what I wanted to do to being more or less completely lost in a matter of weeks. Circumstances around me changed and I found it hard to change with them. I’ve been freelance for nearly two years now, and I hit a wall. Projects wrapped up and I suddenly couldn’t bear the thought of having to come up with a slew of new ideas to get going on.

Nearly two years of pressured deadlines, answering emails at 11pm, constantly seeking new clients, projects not coming off…and more than anything, the ALL-ENERGY-ALL-THE-TIME aspect of freelancing. I was exhausted. I was fed up. I lost all motivation and found myself questioning what I wanted to do. I hated writing, didn’t want to do, couldn’t do it, most terrifyingly of all. I couldn’t pick up a pen, couldn’t open an empty Word doc. I’ve been craving photocopiers and office gossip and leaving work at 6 and drawing a line under it. No messy overspill. Defined days. Measured time.

Two weeks away gave me time to reflect on all of those ragged, half-formed thoughts. I was so cross and frustrated with myself. While I was away, I put down my phone(s), zipped up my laptop bag, and just tried to ‘be’ for the two weeks. I read a lot, went for long walks, cooked meals over a period of several hours with a glass of wine in hand. I’ve come back ready to address things properly instead of running away from them. This Monday, I’ve been excited again, keen to work hard, wanting to get things done. I feel a million miles away from the way I did before the holiday, and it’s a relief.

If you’ve been feeling a bit lost or a bit confused, try and take some time away if your circumstances permit it. Get away from social media and the relentless tide of everyday communications. Try and remember who you are and what you’re doing. Step back before you jump in again. What a sappy post – I’m sorry for the fortune cookie wisdom I appear to be spouting, so I’ll wrap up right here. If you’re anything like me and you tend to run away from things, then try running a little further then coming back more prepared.

And if you found that the most saccharine pile of old rubbish, then here are some pretty pictures and photos of food wot I ate to cheer you up. Coming up soon: more recipes, and watch a shirt magically transform into a skirt.

TO SORT 147 TO SORT 121 TO SORT 122 TO SORT 126 TO SORT 127 TO SORT 141 TO SORT 181 TO SORT 161 TO SORT 166 TO SORT 167 TO SORT 179 TO SORT 361 TO SORT 261 TO SORT 274 TO SORT 281 TO SORT 288 TO SORT 295 TO SORT 314 TO SORT 348 TO SORT 353

Happy New Year!

A little late, what what?

I’ve been ghastly about posting for the past few months, because when things get busy the blog is the first thing to go. I started blogging regularly when I was working in a call centre as a form of escape, and now that I’m lucky enough to write for a living, it’s not the lovely indulgence it used to be.

That said, I’m going to try and post once a week, and most likely just a bunch of pictures. Lazy? NEVER. I had a whole post prepped about what I got up to in November and December, including the British Fashion Awards, gigs by Foals and Patrick Wolf, the publication of the first Sussex Style magazine and a trip to Antoni + Alison’s tea room, which I’m still sitting on. The post that is, not the tea room.

But anyway – this is a vow to post more often. For now, I’m going to leave you with my New Year’s resolutions, and wish you an awfully lovely start to 2013.

1. Go surfing – something I didn’t manage last year and am DETERMINED to do

2. Get some fresh air every day

3. Go back to keeping a journal and this blog

4. Cook more! – I have so many recipe books to work through. Look out for more recipe posts this year

5. Celebrate more – I fancy celebrating all sorts of festivals and various whatnottery. Burns Night supper? Why not.

6. Travel – mostly I’d like to explore the UK a little more. I fell in love with Oxford last year, and I find weekend breaks in the UK extremely invigorating. I’m off to Scotland next month, fingers crossed. Brrrr.

7. Always have a book on the go – my English degree was the death knell for my enjoyment of reading and I’ve mostly been digesting the most ghastly chick lit ever since as a remedy. NO MORE.

8. Do the splits – self explanatory.

I tend to stick more to challenges rather than things like ‘lose weight, exercise more’ because those are boring, don’t you think? Last year I did rather well on my New Year’s challenges and was still completing them by the end of the year, so much better than begrudgingly joining a gym and giving it up in January.

Ta ra for now my lovelies!

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TOMS x Movember Launch Party

Movember is about to begin: the month when chaps grow moustaches to promote awareness and raise funds for men’s health, in particular testicular cancer and prostate cancer. For a moustache-fancier like me, it’s a bit like Christmas. TOMS, the shoes and glasses brand, have partnered with Movember, and I attended the official launch party at The Hospital Club last night with Christie of From The Heart 90

The concept of M0vember started in Melbourne, and has grown into a global campaign, raising money and awareness for men’s health. The charity encourages men to begin November clean-shaven, and then to grow a moustache for the entire month, providing a constant visual cue to promote awareness of the cause. Since 2003, Movember has raised £184 million. In 2011 alone, £79.3 million was raised, with 1.9 million entrants. We can all work together to make 2012 the most successful Movember so far, and you can do that by donating, holding an awareness party, attending Mo events, or by getting the conversation started with some moustache covered clothing.

I didn’t know much about TOMS until yesterday, when I started reading up a little on them ahead of the launch. I knew they produced adorable shoes and had just introduced a range of glasses and sunglasses, but I didn’t realise the brand had such an altruistic philosophy. TOMS have devised a concept called ‘One for One‘, whereby for every pair of shoes you buy, TOMS will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. Since the concept was devised, over a million pairs of shoes have already been given away. Likewise, for every pair of glasses bought, TOMS donate a pair to someone in need. To further support Movember, TOMS have produced some limited edition styles of shoe, with a portion of profits going to the charity. It’s exactly the kind of approach that more brands need to start adopting – using their klout to benefit those in need, and I think TOMS are hugely admirable. You can find out more about them on their site.

We trotted along to The Hospital Club to get into the swing of things – quite literally in the case of our dancing. The night was 1920s themed, and as we stepped in we spotted men in waistcoats, bow ties, and hats, and women in flapper dresses and headbands. We also spied a wooden record player, crates of TOMS shoes, and some rather magnificent moustachioed barrels. After swiping some champagne cocktails from the bar, we were whisked aside by a photographer, which entailed dressing up like loons and posing. We then explored the venue a little and listened to the amazing Franky and the Jacks – a very talented AND handsome band. We also caught up with the gorgeous, charming and statuesque Sammy Aki, aka The Groom Style Consultant, who runs an innovative service that aims to raise the style stakes for grooms on their big day. As the band played on, we decided to shake a tail feather on the dancefloor, busting out some prime 1920s moves including a sneaky Charleston, before screen-printing moustaches on t-shirts and finally heading home.

So, what can you do? To get involved with Movember, visit their website, make a donation, grow a moustache if you’re a chap, or get your boyfriend to grow one. If you’re of the female persuasion, how about buying some merch? Or hosting a mo party?  TOMS will continue their charity projects through Movember and beyond, so purchase any item to participate in their ‘One for One’ programme. Above all, be inspired, get involved.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

I’ve entered a few blog competitions in my time, and I’ve never won. Not once. Well, maybe a few tickets or something, but nothing….tangible. Oh, I know! Break out those tiny violins. Well, don’t actually, because I’ve only gone and won TWO competitions in a week! I feel very lucky, and perhaps like I should go and buy a lottery ticket.

The first I won was a giveaway by the adorable Caitlin of From the Heart who reminds me of Leighton Meester, which is filling the Gossip Girl shaped hole in my life. Along with her gorgeous sister Christie, she’s created a very sweet new blog, so it would be lovely if you could go and check it out. They’re just getting started but it’s already shaping up to be a lovely blog; a great mix of beauty, fashion, OOTD posts, DIY tutorials – my kind of blog, really! So do go and check them out. I won a gorgeous bracelet which you can see below:

The second thing I won was actually something I’d had my eye on for ages. I’d clocked (aha! Puns a gogo!) Larsson & Jennings a little while ago on Twitter, and was very taken with them. I’d spied them on Helen Glover and Heather Stanning during the Olympics and thought they were adorable, so when I saw that L&J were holding a Twitter competition and giving away a watch every day for a week, I thought I’d enter.

And guess what?? I won! I won the beautiful Windsor watch with white & gold face, and I’ve been wearing it every day since. It’s fab quality, has garnered heaps of compliments, and is really sorting out my life (I seem to have recently developed a rotten habit of being late a lot). If you like them as much as I do, the lovely people at L&J have kindly given my friends 20% off the watches. All you have to do is enter ‘LONDON’ at the checkout. Happy clock-watching!

Just Do It

I’m sorry for being quiet on here of late – there was LFW, and then a crazily busy week, and then a couple of really exciting things happened which I’ll tell you about soon. But in the meantime, I felt like writing a post on something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. For those of you hoping the title means this post is about sex, you’ll be tragically mistaken. What I’m actually going to discuss is the extraordinary amount of people I know who aren’t happy with their lives, or who want to do something else, but just don’t do anything about it. They talk endlessly about their dreams, how much they hate their job/boss/colleagues,  constantly use the phrase ‘when I get my new job/my new place to live/some money/some free time’ etc but they never seem to move on.

Look, I’m not going to get all dewy-eyed and ‘Climb Every Mountain!’ about this, but really, now. Young people today, eh?! Obviously the job climate isn’t conducive to just leaving your job and pursuing your dreams, I understand that. But what’s wrong with putting a little bit of hard graft in during your spare time? We live in 2012, so much can be done remotely. I’m a bit sick of people telling me how ‘busy’ they are, when they actually clock off work before 6 and have whole weekends free.  See, right there! That’s heaps of time!

I suppose what I’m trying to get at here is the people who constantly blame circumstance or other people for not being able to do the things they want. I’m not being idealistic: of course, you’ll come up against problems. But you also need to look to yourself. I often have quite a few nice opportunities I like to pass on to friends or Twitter chums, purely because I think that if you can help someone get some valuable experience, you can get them to meet some potential contacts, and ultimately they can actually try out the thing they’re always saying they want to do. I had someone actually ask me to be involved with one of the days of London Fashion Week, only to cancel on me the very morning we were supposed to be working together, due to ‘busyness’. Look around. We’re ALL busy.

Maybe the reason I’m coming down so hard on all of this is because I used to be a dreamer. I’m still frequently quite shocked and proud of myself that I’ve done the things I said I was going to do. When I was younger, I was very much of the ‘talk about it LOADS then actually probably don’t do it’ school. I was full of ideas, some insane, and some which I actually could have done if I’d worked through it. These days, I’ve worked really hard to be reliable, trustworthy, and to actually finish the ideas I’ve started.

I’m not saying ‘go and quit your job this very morning and live your dreams! Sparkles and rainbows!’ No no no. I’m saying, hang on to your job, do things in your spare time. Yes, you do have spare time, by the way. If you keep saying you want to be a writer, start a blog. If you want to be a photographer…take some photos! Too many people think that there is a dream job that they’ll walk into and everything will be fine, and then they grow despondent when it doesn’t come along. You’ve got to work hard first, put in the extra effort and hours, and ultimately don’t turn down opportunities. Think about what you can do RIGHT NOW to start making your dreams happen. I bet you there are lots of things.

I’ve made a list of ideas that you can start with. Don’t expect things to happen overnight. Just over a year ago, I left my job in advertising with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do next. I’ve worked hard, put my heart into what I’ve done, and now things are really paying off (touch wood). More than anything, I’m very happy. I’ll be telling you more about what I’m up to very soon, but for now, here are some tips on pursuing your dreams, even if you’re currently working in a job you don’t want to be in:

1. Start with a list. Write down any abstract ideas about what you want to do, who you want to be, and any ideas you might have had. Don’t worry about making them too grounded in reality at this stage, the important point is to let your mind be a bit creative. Jot down any ideas that come into your head at first. Wait a day or two, then start to shape them into workable plans. Lists are your friends.

2. Don’t be afraid of hard work. This is a biggie. Not to get all ‘in my day!’ about it, but I see far too many other young people who just expect things to magically come to them, without any effort. This will not, I repeat, NOT happen. So best get cracking, ok?

3. Take every opportunity you think might help. As with the point above, you’ve got to put in the hard graft before things start happening for you. If you’re really serious about following your dreams, then yes, take every opportunity possible.

4. Engage with people. This is a huge one. Get to know as many people as possible – you never know who might be able to help you out. Be friendly, be interested, and be professional. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of people you admire and who might be doing the kind of job you want to do.

5. Be reliable. This is a huge one. I’m self-employed, so if I don’t get my work done on time for my clients, they can just walk away. Or walk away, refuse to work with me ever again, and I’ll start to get a reputation for being rubbish. But it’s not just with clients – learn to be reliable in every part of your life.

6. Keep positive. Things will go wrong on this journey. There have been times in the past year that I’ve been exhausted, stressed and unsure of where I’m going. I’ve kept going, and things have often sorted themselves out. Have faith. If it really isn’t working, you can always step away from it.

7. Manage expectations. In other words, don’t make promises you can’t fulfil, just to keep someone happy. Many times, I’ve been tempted to just say something I know I can’t do, just to avoid disappointing someone. Well, you’re only going to disappoint them more if you promise something and don’t come through. Be honest about what you can achieve and in what kind of time frame, and trust me, it’ll be much better than empty promises.

8. Be grateful, be gracious. Nobody owes you anything just for being you, ok? I am so thankful for all the amazing opportunities I’ve been given, and all the chances people have taken on me. I will never stop being grateful for that, no matter if I’m a multi-millionaire one day. Thank people for those opportunities and for having faith in you.  

9. Ultimately, just go for it. What have you got to lose? 

Ten Things That Made My Life Better Last Week

Not the catchiest of titles, really, is it? But I thought because I’d spent the whole week being a complete and utter whingebag, feeling sorry for myself, and weeping in the corner because I felt too exhausted to move (still found the energy to cry though! Sweet as a nut!) I should get back to my cheery self with this post. Combined, all the below things made me feel about a million times better, so if you find yourself in a sticky spot, these are the things you need:

WARNING: Some of the below are a bit embarrassing.

  1. Friends: No, definitely not the TV show, which I hate with an intensity that almost scares me. My actual proper friends. People have been AMAZING this week, and I think you know who you are. People have gone out of their way to try and make me feel chirpier, and I really appreciate it. I didn’t need reminding about how brilliant my friends are, but I’ve been reminded anyway. Thank you all ever so much for picking up the pieces and seeing me through.
  2. Ukulele: Whenever life gets a bit rubs, I get my ukulele out. I find it very calming. Even though the one song I uploaded to Soundcloud was super duper depressing, I’ve secretly been playing Human League, Bellowhead, Ween, and also ‘Call Me Maybe’, which has its very own entry.
  3. Biscuits: Obviously. Don’t think I really need to explain this one too much, but biscuits and cakes were definitely a big saviour of the week.
  4. Adam & Joe: Should be prescribed on the NHS. Download their radio shows – I get them orft the interweb, which means I get full shows, so three hours of hilarious goodness. Their voices are weirdly reassuring, the content of the shows is absolutely top notch, and the music is 6Music brilliance. Definitely listen. It really does make things right with the world.
  5. Horrible Histories: Balm for the soul. Well, if it’s your kind of thing. I used to love the books as a child, and now that I’m a bit more grown up, I very much like the array of hot men in the show. Hot men who occasionally dress up as highwaymen and stuff. But let’s keep it clean! Great show, don’t let the CBBC aspect put you off. Yes, the comedy can be a little…elemental, but regular sketches include Historical Apprentice, Historical Masterchef, a movie pitch sketch featuring the League of Gentlemen chaps, and absolutely corking songs parodying all sorts of genres. Give it a try!
  6. Call Me Maybe: When life is sitting heavily on your shoulders, I strongly recommend meaningless pop songs. Shallow can be so good.
  7. Justin Timberlake’s ‘Justified’: It’s pretty obvious by now that music has played a big part in cheering me up. Justified came out when I was about 13/14, so perfect for that early teen phase where music just sticks in your head and means a huge amount. Such a great album, and it really made me happy to hear again the other day.
  8. Country walks: I live in the countryside, but I often don’t really notice it. I was lucky that some friends decided to sort me out this weekend. Saturday morning, I went for a lovely wander around the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells, and to an antiques fair in a church hall. I can’t begin to describe how reassuring I find that sort of thing. The musty smell, the dust particles swirling about in the light coming through the latticed windows, those particular blue cups and saucers than every church or town hall has. Sunday I went for a long walk across the fields in my home town with chums, children and dogs. You can see in the above photos the pair of lambs who decided to come over and say hi. When I got back from the walk, it felt like the weight of the world had lifted from my shoulders (please excuse the cliché.)
  9. Exercise: When I was feeling weak and pathetic, doing Pilates really helped me feel stronger and a bit more in charge of my poor, sad body. I attempted Tracy Anderson, but she’s the queen of the following aerobic sequences: jumpy jumpy turn turn twist star jump twist pirouette leap. Not marv when you’re a bit dizzy anyway. So I did Cassey Ho’s pilates sessions – look for ‘Blogilates’ on YouTube. And I lost 4lbs in a week! *Air punch*
  10. Pets: Finally, I recommend that you find a pet and spend some time with it. I have none, so I managed to chill with a cat on Saturday, two lovely dogs on Sunday, and also the lambs. It’s very soothing, and really helps to take your mind off things.

Kind, decent and thoughtful

Morning lovely readers!

So guess what? I’ve got my voice back! It’s very exciting. I’ve never lost it before, and let me tell you that it was absolutely horrible. I felt like I was trapped in my own body. I LOVE talking. I talk loads. My energy also completely sapped away, so I was just lying pathetically on the sofa like some sort of Victorian invalid maiden thing, wimping about the house and feeling sorry for myself. Suddenly everything seemed like a huge effort, and I actually ended up feeling so miserable and maudlin that I began to question everything in my life. Which was, you know…heaps of fun.

I’ve blogged a little lately about looking for a job, and it really hit home this weekend. I was trapped in the house for about 4 days, and I felt unbelievably lonely. Working from home is amazing in so many respects, but nothing measures up to actually being with other people; not for me, anyway. I love interacting with people. I miss having girly chats while making cups of coffee, and I miss flirting over the photocopier. I even miss the blooming photocopier, for goodness sake! So I started thinking about that, then I got all lonely and sad, and then I missed my friends and the fact I was too ill to see anyone, and THEN I got all sad about being single, because I really wanted someone to hold my hand.

It’s not really typical of me to feel down about things. Usually if something bad happens I bounce back extremely quickly – like the job rejection I got last week, I’d almost completely forgotten about it an hour later. I don’t have a great capacity for sadness (or maybe just a bad memory?!), but when I do get down, I get really quite blue. As a twenty something, things seem to be in flux. Career trajectory, relationships, friendships, appearance…nothing seems settled, as I’m sure is the case for many people. Usually I like it, but at the moment, I’ve had enough, and I’d like some stability please.

The fates conspired this week to remind me of a past relationship. I actually blogged about it before, around Christmas-time, which was when it ended. Suddenly I’ve been reminded of it lately, and it’s knocked me for six. I’ve been so lucky with relationships. Every boyfriend I’ve had has been interesting, kind, and cared about me. I’ve learnt something from each and every one, and I’m pleased to say that I’m a better person today because of them. All apart from one, that is. The last one. Gosh, that was a silly relationship. I’m writing this because I want to try and impart some wisdom about the whole thing, and I hope it might mean something to one of you.

I’ll tell you this now: if a relationship is hard work, then get out. Seriously. We’re in our twenties, there’s no need to enter into a difficult, troublesome relationship. Every other relationship I’d had before this had been so easy – just a matter of liking each other, then being together. The one thing that rang true for me in Caitlin Moran’s book was about a relationship which she said was a kind of ‘penance’. This was mine, my ‘punishment’ for years of easy, lovely romances. It wasn’t abusive, it wasn’t out and out horrible, it just messed me around so badly that my self confidence was completely shattered, and my nerves exhausted.

Around Christmas, about a week or so before I finally took steps to end it, I had a chat with my Uncle Chris – he of the ruby rings in chocolate puddings – and he gave me advice. He said: ‘Millie, it shouldn’t be difficult. It should be easy. If he cared about you he would just show it. He’d do things like bringing you your favourite sandwich, because he knew you liked it’. I listened, because Uncle Chris is a wise chap. I’d like to give you all that bit of wisdom. What’s the point in putting up with something that’s making you unhappy? Don’t be scared of being single. There is no reward for working hard at a relationship. Don’t settle for crumbs of affection when you should have…well, a whole sandwich, to go back to Uncle Chris’s advice.

It makes me sad to realise that I’m still suffering a bit from that relationship. After it ended, I didn’t cry once. I felt amazing. Maybe I should have cried – I’ve been holding on to a lot of pain, and I hadn’t even realised until the last week or so. I think it’s about time for me to let go, and to start caring for myself again. If you feel like me, I want you to do the same. Trust in your instinct; don’t stick with something you know isn’t right. As I’ve found, you can work unbelievably hard at something, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right thing to work at. Have courage.

All I’ve ever hoped for is someone decent, kind and thoughtful. And I’ve been lucky enough to experience that in large amounts, so I know it exists. I hope you all do too, even if you’ve had a bad experience or two. I look to my family, and I see so much love, so much respect. I blogged the other weekend about how moving I found it seeing my aunt and uncle so in love and supportive of each other after 40 years of marriage. Don’t be cynical, and don’t let anyone treat you in a way that you know isn’t right. ‘Respect’ sounds like an old fashioned concept, but it’s absolutely essential for any relationship to work, in my opinion.

Be decent, and people will treat you decently. And if they don’t, they’re definitely not worthy of your time. Keep your chin up, feel happy in yourself, and never let anyone bring you down. I did, but I refuse to let it happen for a minute longer. I’ve learnt enough about myself to know my own value, and I know that I deserve to be treated very well, and so do you, I promise. Don’t be afraid of change or the unknown, and don’t be afraid of being on your own. Let go of baggage, because what good is it clinging to bad memories? Only you can change the way you feel. Be proud of yourself and get to know your own worth, because it’ll make it a lot easier in future.

So there we go, a bit of an odd post for me, but I wanted to say it. I know I might have fairly old fashioned values, but I’m proud of that. Please, women – and men, too – care for yourself, and care for others. Ditch the bad eggs. Life is much too short to be with someone who doesn’t bring you your favourite sandwich, just because.