Finding a good place to work can be a struggle. Traipsing busy, crowded streets looking for anywhere that serves good coffee, with a quiet vibe and plenty of plugs for chargers. When you finally find somewhere that works, you spend 90% of your time plucking up the courage to ask for the wifi password, trying to decipher the complicated coffee menu and struggling to focus with the array of new sounds and smells assaulting your senses. You decide that perhaps this place just doesn’t work for you, and the whole cycle repeats itself again.

This is why co-working spaces work. An important addition to the freelancing, blogging and self-employed community, co-working spaces have become increasingly popular over the past few years. The ability to work, collaborate and create in a shared working environment can make a huge difference to your productivity levels, motivation and general sense of connection to the freelancing community.

For one, freelancing can be an isolating career path. Spending days inside your home with no one else to talk about your projects can make you feel constricted and unimaginative, so it’s always good to have a colleague-equivalent to keep you company. This could be someone to bounce ideas off, check through your work, offer inspiration for your next move. They could even provide networking opportunities, invites to press events and meetups for others in your industry – leading to further potential work for you. The notion of a co-working space plays into these ideals, helping independent workers to establish themselves within a network of people with similar professions and mentalities, whilst retaining the free will working environment they enjoy.

Co-working spaces also provide a unique and modern solution to the declining surface of retail. With the physical act of shopping and experiencing retail heading cautiously down hill this year, more and more hybrid spaces are opening up in an attempt to bring new life into cities and towns for shoppers. Where the coffee shop itself is a relatively sturdy high street icon, innovations in home technologies are steadily battling to take precedence with portable coffee machines, pod kits and pocket-sized barista stations making it even easier for people to stay at home for their favourite coffee.

The concept of the workplace, too, is shifting. Modern offices are becoming increasingly flexible and diverse in their approach to the ‘work space’, encouraging employees to work from coffee shops, cafes and home studies in an attempt to increase productivity. The slow fading of 9-5 grind on the second floor means that co-working spaces are in even more demand than ever, offering up alternate meeting spaces, networking spots and casual conference centres away from the central office.

Plus, it’s not as if the demand wouldn’t be high. City workers, students, bloggers, freelancers, creators, artists, self-employed and modern working citizens would all benefit from the opportunity to co-create in a friendly space. Even the host coffee shops and cafes would reap the rewards from encouraging co-working in their properties; additional marketing opportunities, an increase in customers, higher profits, higher demand and a much stronger connection with your regulars. As an ex-customer service worker, I can promise you that you’ll grow to love the blogger that stays in one seat for the whole day over the busy group that bustles in and out in 10 minutes flat.

Yes, there are drawbacks. Co-working and creating in coffee shops doesn’t necessarily equate to high spending in coffee shops, and can clog up valuable table space with laptops, notebooks and sketch pads – unsettling non-co-working customers. It can also be a big pull on resources such as wifi, charging ports and electricity. But the potential to come out of it is enormous. Taking the concept right down to it’s essentials – look what JK Rowling did for The Elephant House. 7 books later and that cafe is as busy as it’s ever been, proving that those kind enough and savvy enough to invest in something as simple and fundamental as a co-working space are destined for good.

When bloggers have talked about ‘falling off the grid’, I never really understood what that meant. I always thought ‘how could you not want to blog?’, and ‘it’s not that hard to Tweet once in a while, right? Your phone is right there!’. But having been near-silent on nearly all of my passion projects recently, I now understand it all too well. PB024249.jpgBlogging is a lot of work. Hard work, and it’s more than just writing the posts. It’s taking, and editing photos, maintaining social channels, updating themes, planning Instagram posts, scheduling content, interacting with other bloggers, going to events, buying new props…it’s a full time job in itself, and one I’m really struggling to keep up with right now.

Over the past few months, with a full time freelance contract keeping me busy, my blog has taken a major step back and I’ve barely found the energy to even check on it recently. Balancing a full time job and a blog is more difficult that I can even explain, and  I’ve felt that balance shifting more and more towards my job and further away from my blog than I’ve ever been before. Several times, I’ve even considered giving it all up, and just accepting that I’ll never find the time to write it again.

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Other elements of my life have also contributed to this sudden wave of unethusiasm, the biggest one being my anxiety. I had, what I feel, was close to a breakdown, and I was really really struggling to keep it in check. I felt like I was in a bubble, and all my brain wanted to do was feel normal, and unstressed. So I clung to my cosy evenings in front of the telly, spending time with my boyfriend and my family, and trying to keep my mind as inactive as possible to keep me sane, rather than doing anything productive. This worked for a while, but it all came to a head one day, and I decided to start taking anti-anxiety medication. PB024250.jpgThis was a huge decision for me to make, and something I’ve avoided for many years due to the stigma around medication, but I guess I always thought that my anxiety would just improve by itself as I got older too, and I was wrong on both counts. So I started a course of Citalopram, and although quite rough at first, has settled me now into a much more mellow and relaxed mind frame. Unfortunately, this means that my external productivity levels are still unhelpfully low. I didn’t realise how much of my dedication to work and blogging was down to the anxiety of never being successful with it, but once the medication made that prospect seem ok, I guess I lost that drive.

Slowly, I’m hoping to get it back, and to work on my blog and my other projects just as much as my actual job – no matter how tough it might be. I want to a be a person entirely dedicated to success, and achieving her goals, but unfortunately life always seems to get in the way. Today’s been good, and I’ve written more today than I have in months. So get me a month of Sunday’s, and we might just be back on track.

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I can’t promise my content will suddenly straighten out, and that I’ll be fine forever now. But I’m trying my best to keep it regular, and to open up more – because if all I can think about right now is anxiey and stress, I might as well share it on my favorite platform, right?

Thanks for sticking with me,

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If you don’t love autumn, are you really even a blogger? Short answer: yes. Of course you are, but it’s clear to see that the blogging community really does love it’s autumnal seasons. Snuggling up with a large PSL, a mustard yellow bobble hat and a cosy knitted jumper is the perfect aesthetic for the seasonal blogger, and for these colourful months, our blogs and Instagram feeds will see nothing but brown, orange, yellow and red.

Having blogged my way through four autumn seasons now, I’d like to think of myself as an old hat at this by now, and thought I would share today a helpful blogger’s guide to the season of change.

Getting Started

Firstly, you will need to pick up the essentials:

  • A thick, cosy knitted jumper in one of the following shades: mustard yellow, fallen leaf brown, crab apple red, or pumpkin orange.
  • A pair of ripped skinny jeans in dark blue or black.
  • Some chunky brown boots – heeled or flats will do.
  • A tweed, checked or camel duster coat.
  • A knitted bobble or beanie hat.

Photography

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To really nail that seasonal photography, the best thing to do is to head out with your trusty tri-pod or Instagram boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/wife/best friend, etc…and pick up a coffee of some kind. Generally shots down appealing streets of leafy trees, pretty white houses or rural forests tend to work as attractive settings.

For perpsective shots, paint your nails a pretty autumn colour, and highlight that up-close commitment to the PSL with an Instagrammable hand shot! Wrap those silver-ringed fingers around your warm cup of coffee, and get posing.

For product shots, your autumnal props are key. A rainbow of fallen autumn leaves, a couple of conkers and acorns, a rich pumpkin scented candle and the most miniature pumpkin you can find – and you’re good to go! Flatlays are a great way to showcase your autumn collections at this time of year, and very popular with blog photographers, so it’s time to perfect that birds eye view!

Socials

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As autumn arrives in late August, the standard blogger procedure is to change your social profiles and names to seasonal themes – an orange Twitter profile, a spooky Halloween themed name, a cover photo of a collection of conkers. This also applies to your Instagram feed, stories, Facebook and Pinterest profiles.

To help you adapt your name or blog name to the Halloween themes, try to get creative with your use of emojis. Add a cute pumpkin, candle, autumn leaf or chesnut at the end of your name to help relate it back to the season! If I were to ‘autumn-ify’ my name, for example, I could go for ‘Trikki or Treat McCaig’. I’m aware it’s terrible, but my name is surprisingly hard to adapt.

Blog Content

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We’ve all spent that cosy evening in, with a mug of hot chocolate and our favourite red berry candle burning, catching up on the latest autumnal blogging posts in our feeds. Usually we tuck into these as the season approaches, to help us get into the spirit of autumn, but they’re always great to catch up with as the months go on.
So it’s time to set up your backlog of autumn-themed blog content.

Suggested Ideas:

  • Halloween Make Up
  • Autumn Everyday Make Up
  • Scented Candle Haul
  • Favourite Retailers for Autumn Jumpers
  • Autumn Fashion Look Books
  • Easy Autumn Home Decor Crafts
  • Small Touches To Make Your Home Feel Autumnal
  • Fun Community Activites This Autumn
  • Pumpkin Spice Cookie Recipe

Some dedicated bloggers even upgrade the headers on their blog, and their widgets to reflect the shades of the season – adding a pumpkin into their title to replace a letter, or a swirl of leaves underneath their font. This is a really special touch for the season, so if you’ve got that creative urge, then definitely give it a go.

Your Blogging Space

If you haven’t already brought in some autumn decor into your blogging space, now is the perfect time to get started. Get yourself some leaf-y fairy lights, a stash of large spicy scented candles, and some themed stationary, and set up your blogging station like the autumnal haven it’s dying to be.

Not only will this make you feel autumnal as you write, it will also help make any implusive photography sessions or Instagram story snaps fit to your online theme as well.

My favourite sets of autumnal deskware are listed below:

I hope this guide has helped any budding autumnal bloggers – it made me feel a little more seasonal just writing it! Have a fantastic week, and make sure to catch up with my Instatober over at https://www.instagram.com/nikkismccaig/!

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Hello September, you mischevious month. You’ve snuck up on the blogging community before any of us were ready. You’ve brought with you the renewed excitement for the autumnal season that we were entirely unprepared for. Our boots were sitting dusty in the cupboard, our bobble hats were un-bought and honestly, I’m not sure anyone was ready for the release of the PSL so early.

In terms of beauty releases, the heavy drop of the Fenty line has shocked the world, and September can now truly proclaim its title as the ‘season of many shades’. And personally, there’s a large hole in my bank account where a Deciem delivery now proudly sits. But what else is big news in September? The students go back to school? Summer ends and autumn begins? Winter is coming, Jon Snow? For me, September no longer embodies the feeling of new beginnings and change that I used to love so much when I was younger. Now it’s simply a continuation of what already was, and there’s nothing to look forward to (apart from Bake Off, of course).So this year, I’m setting myself some goals, and I’m planning ahead. I picked up some gorgeous TK Maxx stationary, whipped out my favourite monthly planner, and got to work. But what exactly do I want my goals to be?

I N S T O B E R

P9132997.jpgAs strange as it may seem, but I really do struggle with Instagram. With the crazy algorithm letting me down and knocking my confidence, I’ve been really battling to find my passion for the platform this summer. So I want to revive the Insta-love by fully committing myself to it this October, and uploading one post every single day. I’m used to using my Instagram Stories to document my life, but finding new beautiful shots to post daily? Let’s just say it’s good that I enjoy a challenge. Luckily I’ve been keeping a couple of handy little apps in my pocket just for this occasion – UNUM, the Instagram planner app which helps you to schedule your profile and organise your themes well ahead of time, and FaceTune, the Connor-Franta-recommened app which is great for editing even the trickiest of photographs. So to keep an eye out for my Instober, head over to ‘nikkismccaig’ for a cheeky follow!

B L O G  E V E R Y T H I N G

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecently my blog went through a massive rebrand. I changed my aesthetic, my branding, my look and my theme all in one day, and it’s taken a lot of adjustments to get used to it. I feel like I’ve spent the entirety of August figuring out just what I want my blog to look like, and now I have to actually create the content for it. So with autumn around the corner, I’m determined to make my rebrand count and am going to posting whenever and whatever I possibly can. I never wanted to restrict myself to only posting content with a certain ‘look’ or ‘category’ and that seems to be what I’ve fallen into, and I’m really missing the diversity. Whilst I do want to establish myself as a beauty blogger, I still want to be able to pop a few baking or lifestyle posts in here and there every so often too!

T A K E  M O R E  V I D E O S

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI want to start a Youtube channel. I know that the critics out there are adamant that Youtube is a dying art (isn’t everything?), but I want to join in whilst it lasts. I pour so much of myself into my blog, but financially, it gets little return, and I love the idea of creating something so beautiful, but it does get lost in the sea of blog posts shared on social media. I want to create beautiful things that move, that have my voice as well as my words, and for this I need Youtube. I don’t have the funds for a decent camera quite yet, but I am working on it, so for now I just want to get used to talking to a camera again. Though I’m not sure anyone ever gets used to the sound of their own voice, I’m certainly determined to try.

P L A N  S O M E  F U N

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhilst right now I’m almost drowing in the amount of work deadlines filling up my calendar, I want to spend this autumn planning fun things to do instead. I want to schedule in family walks, and baking days. I want to pencil-in coffee dates and actually stick to them with the friends from uni I need to catch up with. I want to have more fun whilst the season allows it, and I want to spend more of my days laughing than frowning.  On my shoestring budget, this might be a little easier said than done, but let’s see what the season will bring.

E N G A G E

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd no, I don’t mean planning a dramatic proposal for my boyfriend in a big pile of leaves. I want to engage with you, my readers. I want to comment on your blog posts, reply to your tweets, say more on every form of social media, and connect with the people who connect with me. I want to stop being afraid of my own voice, and to use it to make some really amazing connections online. Every day I see new people interacting with each other and bonding online, and I’m tired of feeling left out in the cold. So here we go: prepare for some engagement, guys.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my September goals! As mentioned earlier, there is set to be a lot more content appearing up on my blog in the next few months, and on my Instagram, so make sure you keep up with the uploads!

Have a great week, and welcome to September!

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The season of baking is officially here. With the return of our beloved Bake Off, and the cosy autumnal evenings drawing in, there’s no better time to huddle up in the kitchen wih a cup of tea and a piping hot pie to warm your bones.

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Having been a complete pastry-virgin until Bake Off inspired me to bake, this was actually the first so pie I’d ever baked in my life, and I’m so happy it turned out so cute! Though there was a slight disaster towards the end of the bake *read until the end to find out more* but I can whole-heartedly recommend this as one of the easiest, and perfectly autumnal pies to bake this season.

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A mix of braeburn apple, blackberries and fresh garden mint, it’s the classic English Country Garden pie, and when baked right, fills any kitchen with a mouthwatering smell to keep you coming back for more.

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You will need:

1 pre-made roll of shortcrust pastry

1 pre-made roll of puff pastry

10 medium braeburn apples

150g caster or granulated sugar

Two handfuls of blackberries

A handful of mint leaves

1 egg (for washing)

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  • A deep pie dish
  • Rolling pin
  • Flour shaker
  • Strainer or colander
  • Pastry brush

Unknown.jpgThe Recipe

  1. Start by peeling and chopping your apples into small chunks, before putting on the hob with once boiled water to simmer.
  2. In parts, add in your sugar and stir continuously until the apple cubes begin to soften, and the sugar takens on syrup-like consistency.
  3. Finely chop your mint, and stir into your filling mix. Add a few handfuls of blackberries and allow to simmer for a short time before removing filling to a cold bowl to cool.
  4. Unroll your pastry (or make it yourself if you’re a lot more flour-fingered than I am!) and knead into a ball until soft and pliable. Sprinkle some flour onto a clean surface and roll into to a large circle of no more than 0.5cm thickness.
  5. Lay your pastry into your pie dish, using your fingers to lightly press it into the corners and bottom of the dish. Your pastry needs to be evenly reaching or folding over the rim of your pastry dish, before taking a sharp knife and cutting off the excess edges.
  6. Once cooled, drain your filling in a colander or sieve, and pat loosely with a paper cloth or tea towel to remove some of the excess moisture.
  7. Pour the filling into your dish, making sure to keep everything within the pastry rim, without spilling down the edges. Spread evenly with a spatula.
  8. Unroll and knead your puff pastry, before rolling out again to a rough circle. Try to make the pastry a little thinner this time, as puff pastry can rise and be difficult to work with if rolled too thick.
  9. Using a sharp knife cut your puff pastry into 1.5cm strips, making sure that the length of them can reach from one side of the pastry dish to the other.
  10. Lay your strips across the top of the pie filling in a lattice pattern, making sure the horizontal and vertical strips cross over each other and are evenly spread apart. It’s important to keep the gaps between the pastry reasonably small to avoid the filling from bubbling out during baking.
  11. Use a fork to crimp down and stick the ends of the strips to the pastry in the dish, forming a lid, before using an egg wash to help achieve a glossy, shiny finish.
  12. Bake at 180° for 40 minutes, checking throughout and testing with a cocktail stick or metal rod to make sure the base of the pie is cooked and that the filling is piping hot before bringing out of the oven.
  13. Leave to cool, and serve!

P9112877.jpgNow for the sad news. After trying just one small slither of my pie, I was desperate to take some photos of it’s majestic pie-ness for my blog, so rushed upstairs to my mini-studio. Mid-way through the shoot, my poorly-balanced photography light suddenly shook and crashed it’s way down onto a nearby table, it’s glass shattering everywhere. Whilst I was miraculously un-hurt, my poor pie suffered the consequences, and we ended up finding small shards of glass snuggled up next to the rosy blackberry and apple filling inside. After a rather miserably mourning period, I had to admit defeat, and it was ‘bye bye pie’ for me.

Key Tips:

Make sure your hands are well floured and cool for lacing up the lattice strips, as I found this incredibly difficult to do with soft, sticky dough.

The pie-dish I’m using in these photos was a gorgeously deep and matte finish from Wilkos, and I highly recommend their baking session for your seasonal bakes!

Adding your blackberries too soon will turn your mixture pink, and can overpower the crisp white of the apple, so wait until around 2 minutes to cooling before popping them in the pan.

Stewed apples are a great desert for cold wintery evenings, so make a little extra and freeze for an emergency comfort food after dinner.

ALWAYS BALANCE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY LIGHTS PROPERLY BEFORE SHOOTING FOOD!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this bake, and this post, and I look forward to seeing your autumnal bakes this coming season!

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I’m not, what you’d call a ‘caffeine addict’. I can wake up, get up, go to work and come home without a single cup and not feel that shaking, desperate need for a strong cup of coffee. Much like the motives of women who purchase small dogs to fit inside their handbags, to me, coffee is an accessory. A cute Instagram shot of an almond milk latte here, a gif of a steaming mug there, a quirky mug for those blog photos I’ve been meaning to shoot. It becomes a symbolic liquid, instagating the time of work and focus over the calm and relaxation of tea. And I thought I was fine with acknowledging this.

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Until one day a colleague pointed out to me that, after three coffees in relatively fast succession through various work meetings and outings, I was a blur. I was talking faster, I was more excitable, I was darting from room to room, I was trying to do so many things at once that my hands never stopped moving across my keyboard. I hadn’t noticed a thing. P8292121.jpg So, slightly surprised that I gave off so many visible symptoms, but still resolute that coffee never made an impact on me, I ignored her observations. I then went to the GP, for a relatively un-related health problem, and their recommendation? Cut down on the caffeine. Taking into consideration that, on the average day, my caffeine consumption can be between 4-9 cups a day, it didn’t feel like a big problem, but even so I was motivated into action.

So now it’s time for a Detox. A Caffeine Detox. But how do you detox from your favourite drink?

Time to ditch the coffee.

Unlike a lot of people who drink coffee, I actually enjoy the taste more than the caffeine rush. A stronger flavour than tea, I always veer towards nutty, toasted roasts with a light sweet syrup – a fact so well known that my friends at uni actually memorised my coffee order by heart. But this makes it even harder to give it up.

P8292093.jpgSo I made things simple. I swapped caf for de-caf. In my office, my home, even my Starbucks order, every coffee made was decaffeinated. The coffee tasted the same, but the buzz never arrived. And honestly, I’m ashamed to say that I missed it. The first few days of my detox were strangely disconnected, as going abruptly cold-turkey had suddenly flatlined my energy levels to zero. I remembering feeling numb and flat for about a week after I stopped my intake.

P8292180.jpgIn terms of my skin and general health, my head, that used to buzz and vibrate after two strong cups, was steady and focussed, which definitely helped my productivity levels at work. For my skin, somehow it got a lot worse before clearing up and brightening at the end of that long first week.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut I was tired. Without any form of chemical boosts keeping me awake, I would be falling asleep on the sofa at 9pm in the middle of my favourite show, without any memory of drifting off. I woke up at 6am without any real reason why, and then sunk straight back into a deep sleep that I could barely be woken up from. I’m still feeling that early night tiredness now, but my morning routine has begun to adjust to a decaf consumption to start my day. P8292110.jpg

But, unsurpisingly, that un-related health problem has cleared itself up, and is barely a problem any more. So perhaps that detox is doing some good after all!

If you want to know any more about my detox, I detailed my first fews days over on Twitter, so check that out, click here! Or to read last week’s post, click here! 

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The world is a busy one. Deadlines must be met, social occasions must be enjoyed, and most of the time we’re too busy throwing ourselves into every aspect of life to slow down and appreciate it. With the pressures on millenials being higher than ever, we’re encouraged to work ourselves half to death, without the promise of any pension-based reward in sight. And even our supposedly relaxed activites can be interrupted by the internal need to capture such a rare sight on social media – just to prove to other people that ‘hey look, I can totally relax!’.p60502614.jpgI feel like I had my scary moment of realisation when I tried to read a book last week. That was my only plan for the day – to read this book I’d been waiting to get stuck into. But almost in a strange attempt to spite those plans, I ended up filling that day with so much activity I nearly broke down in tears. I was meeting friends, shopping, drinking too much coffee, making lists, tidying the living room, tidying the already clean kitchen. I couldn’t sit down to read my book without making myself two drinks, a snack, plumping the cushions, taking all of the reciepts out of my bag, texting three different people and making a phone call first. It felt like I was afraid of relaxing, and was determined to find any excuse not to do it.P6050134.jpgUnfortunately, this chronically bad habit can sometimes have another name – High Functioning Anxiety. Although this can have different symptoms for different people, for me, this means having the constant drive to be busy. Most of the time, I’m never actually getting anything done, but I always need to be doing something productive, even when I’m supposed to be relaxing. Whether it’s watching a Youtube video whilst doing the washing up, having the TV on whilst I’m blow drying my hair, or listening to an audiobook whilst cooking. This might just sound like a common habit, but I physically cannot do these productive activites without the noise of something else happening. I crave multi-tasking, as if the more things I check off my to-do list, the happier I’ll be. Right now, even writing this, I have my laptop open on one side of me, a bowl of veggies in front of me, and a book in one hand. I can’t seem to stop. P6050128.jpgAnd, though my anxiety is manifesting itself in many more ways than one, until I can get the psychological help I need for this, I’m turning to something else. Painting. I’ve loved painting since I was tiny, and even though I wasn’t particularly good at it, I couldn’t ever bring myself to give it up. But after a particularly low mark in my GCSE art project, I decided that it was time to call it quits – meaning that between the ages of 16 and 20, I didn’t pick up a paintbrush. Until now. Now, with my anxiety driving me insane, my depression threatening to overwhelm me, and my fingers desperate for a productive activity to do that involved relaxing, I took up painting again. P6050187.jpgSo far my personal gallery consists of assorted Disney characters, one abstract landscape, a very frightening imitation of Link, and various plant life portaits. I think my favourite paintings have to be the trio of succulents I painted whilst feeling particularly stressed one day – I can remember the feeling of losing myself entirely into the picture, the paints, the murky water and the dirty paintbrushes. So much time passed whilst I painted those three that when I finally came up for air, the anxiety had long since faded and I was ready to face the world again. P6050244.jpgFor me, the whole process of painting holds a certain vibe, a feeling of creativity, but traditional, ancient creativity. We live so much of our lives online, and as a blogger, 99% of my creativity is reserved to on-screen colour charts, digital photographs and long complicated lines of coding. So, even just for a few hours, painting provides a welcome break to step out of the screen and use my hands for something other than typing. There’s nothing technological about painting. It’s the simple transition of paint to brush to paper, and it’s a hobby that has been pursued throughout history – how can it not be calming? On the best days, where painting is the only goal I set myself, I have a certain shop in which I pick up all of my supplies from called Soestrene Grene. This Scandi shop is my favourite shop in the whole city, as it’s full of so many beautiful things; thick, clay mugs, slim minimalistic wall shelves, pastel pop art prints, and smooth wooden dining sets. It’s a haven of calm that I can’t resist drifting through on anxious days – hunting for their craft section and finding pretty much anything I could ever want to paint on, paint with, and paint for. It’s my artistic hideaway for calm creative days. P6050147.jpgWhen it comes to the painting itself, my paint choices tend to vary depending on the subject. The Disney portraits, and textured, realistic plant paintings are typically created using acryllics, whereas the flower compositions are more of a watercolour feature. I was once given the advice to sketch out every painting in a pale blue pencil first, rather than a dark graphic sketching pencil, to avoid the dark colour bleeding into the watery paint surfaces, meaning that every line and every edge is nothing but paint. P6050162.jpgIf you feel like you’ve been experincing any of the issues I’ve described, I recommend that you speak to someone as soon as possible. Because, from first hand experience, these feelings won’t go away without external changes – this can mean talking to a counsellor, a therapist or even just chatting to your GP about it. If you’re worrying about everything but getting nothing done – speak to someone. If you’re feeling worthless because you’re not being productive, but you can’t actually stop being productive – speak to someone. It’s not worth waiting for your breaking point, and it’s not much fun suffering alone. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut in the meantime, I can recommend nothing more than finding your own dirty paintbrushes to help keep you calm in this busy old world. P6050143 (1).jpgI hope this blog post has helped anyone out there struggling with their mental health right now, who need a little helping relaxing. If you want to find out some more about Art Therapy to give your busy mind a break, I recommend this link as a great source of information! To check out my last blog post, on using Pinterest to boost your blog, click here, or to read another article I wrote on mental health and university, click here.

Thank you for reading, and have a great week.

X

Reading is a tool every woman should posses. And I don’t mean the physical skill of being able to understand words and follow sentences across a page. I mean being able to truly read, feel and connect to a book, a story, a chapter of something that so many would not. Reading can make you cry. It can make you feel strong. It can make you weak, and sick, and misled and confused and it can give you back the emotions that society seems determine to compress.

A woman is not lesser because she feels. She is more because she understands what it means to feel. And a woman who reads feels everything. DSCF0018.jpgThe women in JP Delaney’s ‘The Girl Before’ are feelings and strength combined. They are clever, and unintelligent, and underpaid and over appreciated. The story within the book follows two time streams of women – the girl from now, and the girl before. Emma, who moves in 1 Fulgate Street after a burglary in her flat, and Jane, who moves in after a traumatising still born birth two years later. And whilst this review won’t definitively spoil the ending of the story – it might just filter how you read it.

There is a particular aura around the women of books at the moment. With guidance from celeb book ninjas like Emma Watson, and the virtual support of guru Zoella’s Book Club, reading is slowly coming back into fashion for the women of 2017. But having recently fallen back into the world of books, I couldn’t help but notice something different about The Girl Before. The plot was original, the prose was enjoyable, and although I consumed it via audiobook rather than hardback, I was still able to escape entirely into the twists and turns of the story. DSCF0013But the girls…unfortunately, they let me down. Let’s begin with Emma. Having listened intently to every single, beautifully articulated lexim of this novel, here are the facts I have learnt about Emma: she is attractive, she cheats on her partners, she likes to be dominated sexually, she lies, and she has no power nor potential in her professional life. She is two dimensional in the worst way. I don’t know whether Delaney felt adding depth to Emma’ character would make her too likeable and human, or he genuinely believes women are nothing but what they look like, what they want, and the mistakes they make. Either way, it made for slightly outdated reading. I’ll never know which books Emma likes to read. What her favourite coffee chain is. Whether she enjoys fashion, art, music, old films, model trains or sport. Forever, she is entombed as a bad character in literature, whose only motivation was sexual submission and adultery. DSCF0004And even worse – Jane, read by the beautiful Emilia Fox, although slightly softer than the bluntly bad Emma, is defined by characteristics even more outdated than her predecessors. She looks…exactly like Emma. Her professional life is even more pitiful than Emma’s. Her entire emotional state is dependant on motherhood and men. And although she fights back in a *spoiler* climactic scene of life and death, her will to live is still not self-contained. Instead she is driven by a second chance of motherhood, using Tom and Jerry tactics to end the life of her attacker. Much like Emma, the second tenant of 1 Fulgate Street is only described to us by her appearance and her motivations. She is sketched by a man, but we have no idea if she herself enjoys sketching. She is cooked for by a man, but does she like cooking? Her laptop is controlled by the technological interfaces of the house, but would she browse for anything other than plot devices? Online bingo? Antique auctions? Football scores? DSCF0026 (1)To write a fully formed female character, the author must remember that the sum of a woman’s parts is more than her biggest asset. It is all of the fragments that piece her together that will bring to her life from the page. Her favourite foods, her least favourite wines, her experiences, her hobbies, her passions, her mistakes and successes.  Delaney fails here, which makes such a gripping and addictive story fall flat.

But feminism is not a concept constructed solely from the representations of women. The male characters of this book perform some crucially unnerving roles in their narratives – with none bar one actually behaving somewhat realistically. From the architect of the house, with etchings of Christian Grey scrawled across his characterisation – from his sexual dominance, to his violence, to his obsession with controlling the woman of his lives like cold plastic mannequins. Secondly, to the initially meek and gentle Simon, with a much more dangerous and pitiful attitude to control – blinded and criminalised by his need for possession. Saul, the workmate with a leering stare and an eagerness to betray. Should the men of this novel represent the men of reality, society should be absolutely terrified.

For my general thoughts on the book, I can summarise all other aspects of it into the rating of 9/10. I adored the writing style, and the intelligent use of imagery. I loved the world created through this book, and it reminded me entirely of why good books like this need to exist to remind us that our imaginations have a hell of a lot more power than we think. The story was unpredictable throughout, and although the ending felt a little unsteady to me, I still felt devastated as the final sentence ended. DSCF0012But for a modern book, telling the story of two modern women, in a world steeped in politics and political correctness and empowerment and an army of people campaigning for global equality…there’s no room for two dimensional storytelling in the library of 2017.

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Thank you so much for reading! To check out my last post, helping small businesses to up their Facebook Advertising game, click here. Or, if you’re looking for something a little chunkier to fill up your afternoon, then take a look at my recommended reading list below – for anyone wondering what good feminist prose should sound like.

Good Books with Girls Who Kick Butt 

  • Apple Tree Yard
  • Matilda
  • Divergent
  • Half The World Away
  • Holding Up The Universe
  • The Fault In Our Stars
  • Grit
  • Big Little Lies
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • The Good Girl

 

Ah the monthly visitor. That dreaded Aunt Flo, the ‘time of the month’, the PMS Monster…or as we grown ups call it: A Period. With over 50% of the population experiencing menstruation at a regular monthly rate, it’s about time the great marketing industries of the world started helping out some of their biggest consumers, making our monthly visitor that little bit easier to bear.

Over the last few years there has been an enormous rise in the menstrual marketing trends. We’ve been introduced to the Mooncup, the Flo Belt and the eco-friendly organic tampon – all of which are great, but not entirely discreet. Which is where the Fab Little Bag comes in.

P2040457 (1).jpgThe idea behind the Fab Little Bag Company is simple: a discreet, degradable and hygienic way to dispose of your used sanitary items – without shame, scent or stains. A pack of handbag-friendly sealable bags, designed for one handed usage, that can cleanly contain even the most awkward or sullied of products; stopping you from making a mess of your handbag.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ve all been in situations where our own, organised and period-happy bathroom is just too far out of reach. A camp site sadly lacking in sanitary bins, a crowded shopping centre toilet, an unfamiliar house, an overflowing office bathroom…I still remember the horrors of an unexpected underwear disaster in the middle of my first Festival Weekend. But unfortunately situations like these are no match for menstruation. So the purpose of the Fab Little Bag is essentially to be your replacement bin. When you can’t get to a bin, or don’t want to use one, the Little Bag is there to store away all the items you dread carrying around with you throughout the day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey’re really easy to use, the packaging is wonderfully environmentally friendly, and they bags themselves are just thick enough to disguise anything you don’t want the general public to spot. Personally, as a busy student, office worker and blogger, I’m usually found dashing about all over the city to get to my next appointment, so I loved how versatile they were for travelling. The branding, although bright and colourful, isn’t actually that easy to spot in your handbag, and there is absolutely nothing on the bags themselves to reveal what they’re designed for, which I found incredibly comforting.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlthough I firmly stand by the principle that nothing about menstruation should be shameful, hidden away or embarrassing – if, like me, you’re not entirely comfortable carrying around a collection of used tampons in your purse, then a solution like this one might just be right for you.

To find out more information, or to pick one up yourself, check out the Fab Little Bag website. The product was designed by a group of fantastic people, who, when your own body tries to make like hard, are determined to make it easier. I really do recommend that everyone picks up their own Fab Little Bag, as you never know when you’ll need to dispose of a body. I mean…tampon. Hm.

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to indulge in my previous one: Budget Beauty Blenders, and I hope you have a fantastic week!

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As the decorations come down, at this most bleak and blue time of year, it can feel like the end of the world rather than the beginning. No more Christmas trees, no more tinsel, no more tinkling bells hanging off of the fireplace. There’s a communal sense of loss in the world, as the living rooms and lounges that once felt so warm and bright now feel cold and empty without their festive sparkle. Our attics and cupboards are fully stocked once again with the Christmas decs we can’t keep up.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut what do you do with the decorations that won’t survive the long months in the attic? The tiny Christmas trees we picked up from the garden centre, the bowl of nuts cluttering your dining table, the dried oranges that ultimately have an expiration date… No one wants to throw them away, as the post-festive household is already so down in the dumps.P1070090.jpgSo why not up-cycle them? Turn them into something seasonal yet entirely un-Christmassey? Give them a new destination in your household, one full of the joys of winter, rather than the merriment of Christmas. With the terrarium being listed as one of today’s most popular household trends, you can keep them looking stylish for a little longer too!

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To make this DIY Winter Terrarium, you will need:

  1. A clear glass container or terrarium
  2. Small pine branches and needles
  3. Pine cones
  4. Assorted long-lasting nuts e.g. hazelnuts, brazil nuts, etc…
  5. Dried oranges, lemons or limes
  6. Holly or mistletoe leaves
  7. Holly berries (plastic)
  8. Small twigs

Cinnamon sticksP1070143.jpgIt’s so easy to create this terrarium, I actually ended up making  three separate ones to sit on my coffee table! Each box had a different assortment inside but it created such a nice effect, and even looks pretty with a little tea light inside, drawing out those amazing winter scents of pine, cinnamon and orange.
(But obviously make sure to keep an eye on the tea lights…no one wants a toasted terrarium!)P1070191.jpg1. Find your terrarium. The boxes I’ve used for my Winter Terrarium were actually from Waitrose, coming in at £6 each. They also had them in a smaller size if you wanted to make mini-terrariums for different rooms or smaller spaces! But any clear container will do, whether it’s a vase, empty candle jar, potpourri bowl or even a drinking glass might work.P1070111.jpg2. Find your assortment. The items you can use will entirely depend on the size of your terrarium, and the look you want inside. For example. if you want a colourful, richly scented centrepiece, I would recommend sticking to the dried fruits, cinnamon and pine branches for your terrarium. However if you fancy a more rustic selection, then twigs, nuts, pine cones and even small pebbles can make for an interesting design.P1070147.jpg3. Decide on your layers. One of the trickiest parts of building up any terrarium is making sure each side of your container looks appealing. So make sure you’re certain of what’s going where, and how it looks from the outside as you start layering. My advice is to start heavy and dark, and work your way up to light and bright. This means bulkier, darker items such as pine cones and larger nuts work better as the base, as you build up to the smaller and lighter items like pine branches and holly berries. Dried oranges always look attractive slotted against the sides of your terrarium, as do those soft green mistletoe leaves.P1070118.jpg

P1070117.jpg4.Start your assembly. At this stage, it’s simply a matter of combining all the elements. If you plan to use these terrariums as a permanent feature in your home, then you could always attempt to glue your items to the container, holding them in firm position. However, as with mine, real pine branches and dried oranges do tend to run the risk of eventually going off, or changing colour over time, so I’ll simply leave them be for now.P1070133.jpg5. Pop them in pride of place. Once you’re happy with your terrarium, you can simply pop them in place, or perhaps finish them off with a tie of twine, raffata or rustic ribbon for added effect. These terrariums are designed to be displayed, so find a spot where your guests can enjoy them – windowsills, hallways and coffee tables make for great display surfaces!P1070168.jpgSo many of these winter items are found lying around our homes at Christmas time, you might just be overwhelmed by choices.P1070194.jpgBut if you fancy making the dried oranges yourself, it’s super easy to do. Simply slice up your orange, lemon or lime, gently pat them down with some kitchen towel to draw out a little moisture and then pop them in the oven on a low-medium heat for 2 to 3 hours. In my experience, lemons tend to dry faster than oranges, so if you’re mixing your fruits make sure to check them every half hour or so!P1070085.jpg

Thank you so much for reading, I hope this post has inspired you to get creative with your own left over Christmas decorations!

Have a fantastic week!

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