Wednesday, 26 October 2016

BRITISH HYGGE

I only heard about Hygge for the first time less than a month ago. It was mentioned on Twitter, I didn't know what it was, so I did a quick google and learnt that's it's basically the Danish word for cosy. I moved on, or started to move on but very quickly I noticed more and more references to it, from books promising to teach the 'art' of Hygge, retailers trying to flog blankets and candles promising they would make your home more 'hygge', to Danes proclaiming that it definitely DOES NOT just mean cosy (whoops).

So I googled again and read further this time and learnt that no it doesn't just mean cosy but also it has nothing to with buying a certain candle or a blanket and even less to do with buying a book which tells you which kind of candle or blanket to buy. Hygge doesn't have a direct translation but it's said to be a feeling of well-being and contentment created by creating intimacy. It comes into its own when the nights draw in and it's something the Danish have nailed and according to everyone with something to sell these days, it's something you can only get from trying to be more like them.

Well here's the thing, while living in Australia for the last four years there was something I missed about Winter in England. Not the grey skies or the frosty mornings but the quintessential way we deal with it and the warm fuzzy glow of contentment it creates. We go back to our parents for Christmas where the temperature is continuously set to Barbados in high summer levels, we start nights out with X Factor/Strictly pre-drinks and Sunday hangovers with the results, we knock back mulled wine like the ingredients aren't available all year round and as soon as someone mentions snow, we all get very concerned about our commute home and leave work early 'just in case' we get snowed in which is just code for going to the pub. And when we get to the pub the tables are sticky, the windows are steamed up, it's boiling, you can't sit down for  piles of coats but despite never being able to organise all of your mates into one place EVER, somehow everyone is there. It's not pretty, it's not pinterestable and you certainly wouldn't write a book about it, but it's distinctly British and that'll do for me.


Monday, 24 October 2016

BEING A MINIMIMALIST IN FASHION

I started thinking about minimalism when I was in Australia having had the tiresome task of downsizing all my belongings in the London flat I'd lived in for 5 years, the thought of which still makes me shudder. I started downsizing around 2 months before I left but days before I moved I still had to do nine (count them. NINE) trips to the charity shop with black sacks full of nearly new clothes, accessories and shoes. I decided in that moment that I would never let that happen again.

The transient nature of living in Sydney meant that it was common for people like me to sub-let from someone who had taken out a lease on a whole flat or house and therefore furnished the whole place already so I acquired very little in terms of household goods, namely a bed, shelf, chest of drawers and frying pan. Clothes-wise, the climate meant that I was shopping a lot less and the awesome market and garage sale scene meant that it was as easy as sitting outside my flat with a rail of clothes and a sign saying "for sale" to offload a few things I no longer needed or wanted if my wardrobe was getting out of hand. That being said I still moved back with about 4 suitcases of stuff when I arrived in March this year, which felt like 2 suitcases too many.


I stumbled on The Minimalists podcast when I was looking for new things to listen to while working from home and it reinforced what I already knew - I wanted to have fewer things. Less stuff, less clutter and a clearer head. Fewer clothes, fewer choices and a simpler life. Right? Not to mention a better bank balance or at least more money to spend on experiences rather than 'things'. But working in fashion and especially being back in London with its inspirational retail environments, competitive pricing, mega fast shipping when you buy online and most importantly a consistent stream of creative people with amazing individual personal style, it's taken some time to find a balance and a version of 'minimalism' or at least reduced consumerism that works for me.

1. One in one out
This has worked out far better than I'd hope as Macmillan drop these handy bags through our door around once a month. You just fill them up, put them out in front of your house the night before your allocated collection day and Macmillan come and collect them by 2pm the following day.



2. Make money, to spend money
As well as giving clothes to charity, I've made a commitment to selling newer or (embarrassingly) unworn pieces in order to fund things I want or need. I've made enough money in the last week to buy these shoes I've had my eye on, although now I've become so good at questioning whether I need every purchase, I'm not convinced I really need them anymore! Putting some distance between the thought that you want something and the action of buying it gives you some space to work out whether you really want it or whether you're just caught up in the initial flush of excitement you get from owning something new.

3. Think about replacing rather than doubling up
Last week I decided I simply had to have an orange jumper in &OtherStories so I forced myself to sell the orange jumper I already had in my wardrobe which I love but admittedly hardly wear (it's this one if you're interested!). I've already worn the &OtherStories jumper at least 5 times so price per wear it has worked out to be a good investment.
I do have exceptions to this rule: I have 3 black bomber jackets - two are everyday jackets that I wear to death (one lightweight, one heavy), the other is slightly dressier. The key if you are doubling up in your wardrobe, is making sure each piece has a different end use.

4. Invest in good quality/designer pieces
For the most part I now tend to spend a bit more on clothes not only because they last longer but also because if your style moves on, better brand names have a higher resale value! I rarely buy costume jewellery anymore, I tend to wear the same signature silver pieces and I invested in a quality leather handbag that I love and it's just the right size for day and night so no need for a separate selection of 'evening' bags (why why why try and put the same amount of stuff in a bag half the size just because the sun has gone down anyway?).

5. Make everyday a special occasion
I can remember my Mum asking me what I wanted to wear to school, I must have been about 8 and I chose the newest thing in my wardrobe (it was a pink sweater dress) and she told me I should save it to wear somewhere special the first time. I picked it out every morning until she eventually let me wear it to school. I've obviously never been the type to save things to wear on a special occasion! As long as I'm leaving the house, that's good enough for me. If I haven't found somewhere to wear something new within a week or two of buying it, it's going back to the shop.

5. Love everything you own
No more 'just in case' or 'might wear again one day' pieces that stay in a dark corner of your wardrobe. First of all, this means having a big clear out and then it might mean lots of trips to return things when you buy something you thought you loved but turns out it was just lust. Eventually it will become second nature to only leave the store with something you love or leave with nothing at all. In the last 8 months, I've found that I've become more tuned in to my own personal style, I can tell the difference between something that's really me (black bomber jackets) and something that I feel like tagging onto in the moment but probably will go off at a later date (anything with a heel).

I know to a hardcore minimalist this still sounds like I own and buy a lot of stuff and I do in comparison to them but as a fashion creative, I needed to find a way of reducing my consumption whilst also staying inspired and continuing to express myself through the way that I dress. These small steps have helped me cut my wardrobe in half and curbed my continuous need to shop. Unfortunately I went a little too far earlier in the month and gave away all my Winter coats not thinking that the temperature would drop so quickly, however a notification just told me that I've got another eBay sale, so at least I can feel good about buying a new one (somewhat), guilt free!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

ENGLISH WEATHER

When I moved back to England from Australia one of the things I heard the most was “but what about the weather?!” People seemed utterly aghast that I would trade the almost year round sunshine and blue skies for grey skies, cold and rain.
Firstly, let’s address a few myths about Australian weather or Sydney weather in particular, since that’s my point of reference.

1.       It’s not hot and sunny all year round and even in Summer it’s not hot all day and all night.
I’m the kind of person who loves a hot and sunny vacation, the hotter the better. I love nothing more than getting hot and sweaty all day by the pool or the ocean, alternating reading my book with a dip in the water to cool off, followed by a humid evening of local food, lots of cocktails, my face shiny face, my hair frizzy and no need for even the lightest silk kimono. The weather is great in Sydney but those balmy days and nights happen for a few weeks of the year. What they don’t tell you (or maybe I didn’t do my research) is that the sun goes down at the latest 8pm so you don’t get those long drawn out summer nights that we’re used to in Europe. And when the sun goes down it can be surprisingly chilly. I’ve walked home more than a few times with my beach towel and sarong made into a make shift outfit. We’ve not talking cold here, but it’s no Jamaica either.

2.       It’s bloody freezing in Winter because there is no central heating.
I know, crazy right? Whilst temperatures in the day might only reach as low as 12 degrees, temperatures at night can reach as low as 2 and there is no cosy warm house to come home to. You and your flatmates will pass like ships in the night, as you all retreat to your rooms to spend the evening watching Netflix in bed with two hot water bottles and one of those uneconomical, skin-drying blow heaters. (The sensible ones among us had electric blankets but I never got that far. What is this, the fifites??). Don’t even think about going out for dinner or drinks, because I can name at least 10 restaurants and bars within a mile radius of my old flat which are predominantly outdoor and if not have completely OPEN FRONTS, if you’re lucky you can huddle under a blanket next to the outdoor heater for warmth. Starting to appreciate the London routine of too hot on the tube, too hot at work, too close to the fire in the pub? I know I was.

3.       Christmas is crap when it’s not cold.
This is a personal one of course, but Sydney NEVER felt festive for me without the nights’ drawing in and the weather getting colder. It’s oddly distracting to look forward to festivals in December and start buying swimwear and shorts. I made mulled wine one Christmas Day and the alcohol combined with the heat put everyone to sleep. That being said Christmas Day on the beach is a novelty and I say this because it rained 4 years in a row on Christmas Day and only once (and just before moved home) did I achieve the Holy Grail photo of me in a swimsuit on Christmas Day.


So how does this compare to England? Well, I’ve had a fantastic summer. Mid-week trips to the Lido, temperatures still soaring to the late 20s and early 30s in September! Plenty of al fresco drinks, waking up to blue skies and sunshine and working in the garden. I mean right now, I’m sat in a cafĂ© awash with sunlight in early October. There’s a chill in the air but my commute is only 3 minutes home. You see there’s the thing, I think I’ve cracked it, the reason why people think English weather is bad. If like the majority of Londoners you’re up and out of the house before 7.30am, have lunch at your desk, perhaps stop at the gym after work and get home by 7 or 8pm you probably judge the weather by the number of times you got to wear a t-shirt and shorts at the weekend and honestly, if we’re counting that was probably about 5 or 6 weekends this year. Whilst if you’re fortunate enough to work from home, freelance (or be on maternity leave!) you will have had the opportunity to appreciate the good weather any day of the week. So there you have it, English weather is great! (as long as you don’t have to be in an office 9 – 5).



All joking aside, the weather in England is never going to live up to weather in Sydney which was bloody brilliant most of the time and one of the reasons I stayed so long, but I what I’ve actually learnt from this Summer is that you will always see the positives in a place when you’re exactly where you’re meant to be. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

TIPS FOR BETTER MENTAL HEALTH

Since today is World Mental Health Day I felt inspired to write a bit of a personal post. I’ve dealt with anxiety and bouts of depression since my early 20s and speaking to family and friends over the years I’ve come to realise it’s not as uncommon as I once thought. Mental Health isn’t something I discuss very much with anyone let alone on the internet but I’m aware that if more people were open about it, it would help to reduce the stigma. Having dealt with it for so long, I am now fairly equipped to recognise the signs that the black cloud is looming and do something about it before it engulfs me. I was always a real cynic about many of the things doctors and self-help books told me, but some of them really work if you just give them a go. These are the things that work for me.
 1. Ask for help
This is by far the most difficult step to take but by far the most important. Whether it’s with a friend, colleague, family member or your GP you will feel better in having shared your problem. If you can’t bear to speak to someone face-to-face there are helplines you can call or online forums you can use to seek support and advice. Talking helps.

2. Exercise
It’s an obvious one and the one I least like hearing to be honest because when I’m feeling low it’s really hard to motivate myself. The trick is to find something you really like doing, it doesn’t have to be anything high impact like running or crossfit, it could be walking the dog. Anything to get out of the house and get your body moving helps to boost serotonin levels. When I first moved back to London I randomly bought a hula hoop on a whim. I was hula hooping to Meghan Trainor every day in the garden when I realised I was enjoying it so much I wasn’t even thinking about it as exercise. Now I look forward to my weekly Hulafit class (most of the time).
3. Appreciate the small things
My favourite time in London is golden hour when the sun is starting to go down and everything is awash with a golden glow. Whenever I’m outside at this time I pause to appreciate it even if it makes me late. I buy fresh flowers every week and tend to my plants each day (with varying degrees of success, I am not green fingered!) and at least a couple of nights a week I light my favourite candle and go to bed early with a book. I also really enjoy cooking so buying fresh produce and cooking something from scratch makes me feel really happy and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

4. Use positive language
I was once given the advice to only speak in positive statements, for example instead of saying “I will not eat junk food” saying “I will eat healthy meals with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables”. Admittedly I dismissed this at first as being a bit airy fairy, but then I tried it and found it really worked. It especially applies to social media and the status updates we all easily write “ugh train is late again” “what miserable weather” etc. The more I’ve stopped doing this, the more I’ve noticed how much people complain and moan around me and how draining it is on me and them. It was hard at first to find the positive in everything but now it comes more naturally. Instead of cursing the colder weather, I look forward to buying a new coat, crunching golden leaves under foot, to my first Christmas back in England and our first family Christmas with my niece!
5. Read
There are so many forms of escapism these days but I find reading the best for my mental health as my mind can’t wander and I can’t get distracted my social media. Sometimes after a few chapters of a good novel, I forget what I was even thinking or worrying about in the first place. I’ve just read Wild by Cheryl Strayed and I couldn’t recommend it enough as a good book to get lost in with lots of positive motivation to take away.

6. Get (some) shit done
There is nothing like ticking off a few to-dos to make you feel productive and in control but it can be overwhelming when you’re feeling down and demotivated. I’ve started writing tasks in coloured pen on post-it notes and sticking them on my wall. I’ll pick 5 or 6 tasks, something like 3 personal tasks and 3 work related tasks and give myself a week to do them and peel the tasks off the wall as I complete them. Trying to do everything on your mental to do list in one week is unrealistic, focusing on a few key tasks makes it much more manageable and anything extra you complete will feel like a much bigger achievement.
7. Write it down
Putting my thoughts into writing helps me think more rationally as well as separate fact and fiction. It's also a good way to practice turning the negatives into positives.

8. Spend time with family and friends
I am a pretty independent soul so sometimes I have to remind myself to reach out to people rather doing everything on my own. 'Me' time is great, but connecting with positive people who love you is a great energy booster. A cuddle with my niece especially goes a long way.

Friday, 7 October 2016

BLOGTOBER

It's 7 days into October (October??) and I've decided to jump onto Blogtober. Apparently the rules are you have to blog every day but I've always been a rule breaker* so I'm going to aim for 4 times a week.

(*In all honesty I haven't always been a rule breaker, I was the kind of kid who got 100% attendance certificates at school. Yes that kid. Ahem).

October feels like a new beginning for me. As well as the distinct change in the season, the end of September marked 7 months back in London and a visit to the Australian High Commission this week cemented my status as a former resident of Australia with no plans to return. Thanks to my wonderful family, friends old and new and some fortunate opportunities over the Summer, the transition up until now has been fairly smooth, so reaching October with my work contract about to conclude and no real plan I felt a bit like a high speed train slamming the brakes on at an unfamiliar station.

Yesterday however a really good (and wise) friend said to me "when nothing is certain anything is possible". Clearly the universe is trying to tell me something as this morning I opened an email from an acquaintance in Sydney with the very same words:


So this month I'm going to do my best to go against my natural instinct (panic, over analyse, plan, re-plan, panic) and try and go with the flow, embracing whatever happens next.

Monday, 23 May 2016

MY HAIR JOURNEY

Living in Sydney for the last 4 years it’s safe to say my hair hasn’t been a priority. With no afro hair salons in my immediate vicinity, few places to buy afro hair products and few afro hair ladies around to take inspiration from, I’ve just been relaxing my hair and getting the occasional hair cut but generally leaving it to do its own thing. Back in London and away from the beach-side lifestyle where chucking your hair up in a top knot and throwing on some cut off shorts and a tank is enough effort for pretty much the whole weekend, I’ve been inspired to upgrade my look.

I’ve been relaxing my hair since I was 10 or 11 when my Mum finally gave in and said I was old enough to have it done. Before that I remember sitting impatiently while my Mum painstakingly cornrowed my hair (my favourite hair style) or occasionally blow dried it straight for a special occasion, anything to tame my natural frizz which I hated. In my early 20s, sick of wrestling with hair straighteners (this was pre GHD days) I wore my hair in plaited extensions for a few months. It gave my hair a much needed break but I didn’t feel 100% myself. A few years later I went for a full head weave of long hair past my shoulders but I felt paranoid about how different I looked and just concluded weaves weren’t for me.

Several years later and things have changed so much in the world of black haircare, weaves look increasingly natural and #naturalhair has its own movement. After googling the shit out of terms like “lace frontal” and “versatile weave” and spending way too much time on urbanbushbabes I’ve decided the first step is to get my natural hair back to health after all those hot Aussie summers, so I’m committing to a few months of protective styles to get it on its way. Yes I am embracing the weave again.


L: Initial length and croydon facelift M: Initial length a few weeks on R: after the nail scisssors incident, feeling a bit more 'me' with a long bob (and a bit of a tan after the *cough* heatwave)

My first style was a full head sew-in with a lace closure. I bought the hair (Brazilian 12”) from a local shop near the hairdresser which I’ve since found out is a total no-no unless you really know what you’re looking for. The hair and cut was great to begin with (once I got over the first day or two of aching scalp) but the longer it stayed in the more difficult it became to maintain. The hair was easily tangled and shedding, which I’ve since learned is a sign of poor quality hair. I also got bored of the cut and ended up (look away hairdressers) giving myself a trim with nail scissors (!) after about 4 weeks.

Despite the ups and downs, when I took the weave out and washed and deep conditioned my own hair I couldn’t believe the difference. My hair had already grown over an inch in just under 8 weeks and the texture is so much smoother. I very nearly decided not to try another weave but figured if the results are this good after 8 weeks there is so much more to be gained.


L: Back in London after Sydney summer and backpacking around Vietnam with major breakage R: Post 8 week weave(apologies, when I took these pics they were never supposed to see the internet!)

This time I researched a better quality hair supplier and also looked for a hairdresser closer to home. I came across Pretty Crownsthrough my Sister and Hair by Ola through Shope Delano. This time I ordered Peruvian Loose Wave hair (12”) as I found with the straight hair it sometimes looked a little too perfect and I was spending a lot of time straightening it and then styling it into waves to get a more natural look. I also went for a much shorter cut more similar to the way I would normally wear my own hair and I am BEYOND pleased with the results. I have to say this is the first time I’ve had a weave where I still feel totally myself. In fact it looks so natural, I can’t believe I’m giving the game away by writing about it on the internet. Watch this space for more updates about my hair journey. I'd love to hear your hair stories and tips!


It's still mine because I paid for it.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

BEGINNING

I am so happy to be back in the blogosphere again! (I've been away so long, it took me 3 tries to spell blogosphere and it still doesn't look right). A lot has happened since I last properly posted, not least of which was moving 10,000 miles across the world to settle back in London and becoming an Auntie! The first few months back home have been unsettling, surprising and amazing in equal parts and not necessarily in that order. I've learnt so much about myself over the last few years living away from home but I keep circling back to the same thing. There is one passion that I have terribly neglected - The Internet.

Obviously I spend a vast amount of time (don't we all) mindlessly swiping Instagram and Twitter, refreshing Facebook and pinning recipes I'll probably never cook on Pinterest, but what I've really missed is writing, sharing and interacting with people online.

Of course I've come up with countless reasons why not to start blogging again (will anyone read it? What if someone I don't want to read it, reads it?) but the main hurdle has been the thought of not having enough time to keep it up. Then I listened to a couple of inspiring podcasts and came to the conclusion that *newsflash* it doesn't really matter.

It doesn't really matter whether I post once a week or once a month, what matters is I'm giving it a go and indulging one of the things I enjoy doing most. So here I am, until next time, whenever that may be.

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