Redecoration: Fresh New Look, Purple and Grey Living room

Since moving into our first home last year, it’s been a process of continuous updating. When we moved in, we painted everything fairly neutral, a blank canvas so we could move into a fresh, clean house and put our own stamp on later. The living room is a weird room – as the stairs and front door lead straight into the living room, it’s hard to make the room feel like a cosy lounge instead of a corridor to the kitchen – so it’s been a room I’ve been trying to improve as the year has gone on.

Originally, the whole room was white. While it was light and fresh, it did look a bit stark and I’ve been feeling like it needed a pop of colour. My current favourite trend is grey – chalky hues, warm greys, cool greys and purple-greys…all the greys! So when it came to picking a new colour for the living room, I was inspired to mix a fresh, light silver grey with a chalky greyish purple for a feature wall. Under the stairs is a great place to add my purple feature¬†– it added depth where the alcove is, and tied the whole room together, balancing the under stairs half of the room with the purple sofa and armchair on the other side.

Choosing a light grey for the remaining walls was hard – with the living room being quite dark when we originally moved it, and having made it a light, fresh room once we got the keys, we were wary of loosing the light room we’d created. The light grey we chose was just off-white, a very cool grey with a hint of blue/purple. My dream shade of a warm grey was a little too dark for the living room, so that will be a paint colour for another room (watch this space!).

The new silver on the walls and the darker purple grey under the stairs both look amazing with the white gloss woodwork and has given our room a classic but modern update. It’s exactly what I wanted – a more stylish, grown up look, making the room more of a living room than a corridor. Teamed with fresh flowers and a some candles, I’m so happy with my spruced up room and fresh look…Onto the next room! ūüėČ

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Photography: Olympus Pen 7 Review, Part 1

I’ve been wanting to up my photography game for some time – improve my blogging, enjoy being creative with photos, and generally get back into photographing snippets of my life…nature, my home, the pups, etc. I have a DSLR which is currently being used by my sister, and I wanted something a little bit more portable and easier to use with social media and blogging. After looking at a few different cameras, I noticed a few of my favourite IG accounts were using the Olympus Pen 7 – instead of being totally focused on which cameras had the best specs, I decided that I should think about which cameras took photos I liked, so seriously started considering the Pen 7.

I’ve only had it a few days, but already I’m in love – the photos are crisp, clear and the colours are stunning. The wifi feature means I can grab any photo I’ve taken on my camera from the iPhone app, ready to add to social media, my website, or blog. While I won’t do a full review until I’ve had it a little longer, I know that it’ll be a constant companion. It’s small enough to pop in my bag (although even with the pancake lens, it’s not as small as some of the other cameras I was researching). I can’t wait to take it out with me on future trips and enjoy taking photos again!

The auto feature produces some stunning photos as soon as the camera is out of the box, but I’m looking forward to playing with the manual features and other settings. The touchscreen is amazing and the fact it’s tiltable is a real bonus that swayed me towards the Pen over other cameras – it’s so perfect for flat lays!

So far, I am thrilled with it – a full review to follow!

Run: The Race for Life 2016

Running is some kind of magical therapy to me – it’s hard, painful and I’m really not any good at it, but there’s something about being inside your own head, focused on the sound of your breath and each of your footsteps that make it so therapeutic. My mind wanders when I run and I find myself about to forget about the world outside myself and switch off for a bit. Like I said, I’m no good at running, but I like to do it, purely for the little bit of alone time I have for myself in my head. Having said that, I’d love to be good at running…I’d love to feel strong, powerful with every step, athletic, with the drive and motivation to run regularly. I truly admire runners of all distances – it’s a hard sport to be involved in, and I’m not sure I’ll ever have the physical fitness to run as gracefully as I dream to.

I’m trying to do things out of my comfort zone more often, be a little more independent and be a stronger person. A few years ago, I signed up for the Race for Life, which actually marked the start of a traumatic week for myself and my family. Mentally, the race was hell and the few days that followed were even worse. I won’t go into the details, but personally, the race was part of a period of my life I’m trying not to think about – I’ll never  psychologically heal from what followed, and as I associate the Race of Life with that horrible week of my life, I have feared ever doing it again. Part of me resented the race for the memories I had associated it with. But, it also stands for something important and something that I should be proud to be involved with – I’ve always wanted to do it again, but I’ve never been brave enough to put old memories aside and run for a more positive reason.

So, this year, I signed up. On my own (see, I am being braver!). Partly I signed up alone because I wanted to be independent and do things without needing other people to do it with me, and partly because I was terrified of the feelings it would bring to the surface and how I’d react. And I am so glad I did. It was one of the hottest days of the year so far, the atmosphere was so much fun and I was able to replace old memories of that event with new ones. I’ll never forget that week when I raced last time, but now I won’t only associate the Race for Life with that bad period in my life…I won’t resent it for the things that happened at the same time. And I raised a nice amount of money for Cancer Research, which is what it’s all about.

My psychologically scarred self will never heal, but I’m improving. Good memories are more frequent, and the bad ones are like bad dreams, where I’m not sure if they even happened. And I’m proud of myself. It was no record breaking time, or a personal best – but in the hot sun and with no training, I did well. It’s a step forward. I’ll keep signing up and before long, I’ll no longer associate the entire event with that week. It’ll be an event to honour and remember, rather than one to forget.

I’ve already signed up for next year, and hopefully I’ll enter more races too. My fitness is awful right now and I barely made it round the course jogging. I’ll be very happy to get my 34 minute 5k time down. With the Race for Life being a fun run and family orientated, it’s a great entry to running and perfect for me as a beginner in races. I’ve already checked out the local races and hopefully I’ll get a few non-Race for Life runs down before next year.

I’d definitely recommend taking part in the Race for Life – the atmosphere is great, very upbeat and positive and there’s nothing better than running alongside ladies in pink tutus with thousands of people cheering you along the way. You don’t have to run it – walking is very popular…it’s just  a great way to do something active for a good cause.

Sign up here to take part next time: http://raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org/index.html 

Tidy¬†house, tidy mind: Spring Cleaning and Interior Dreams

Recently, I’ve been on a bit of an interiors binge – oogling other people’s homes, shopping for accessories, drooling over in store displays. Since getting my own home, I’ve been much more into obsessing over interiors. And, Instagram, my trusty old addiction, doesn’t help, as I have a feed full of gorgeous homes popping up constantly. Seriously, I love house-snooping.

There is an element of interiors-obsessing I don’t like, and that’s the ‘never being satisfied’ bit of faffing. It seems I’m always on the hunt for ‘one more thing’ for that spot, or to finish the room off. I guess, being quite recently moved into a bare house, it’ll take time to add things and accumulate treasures, but I’m definitely happier with our home than I was a few months ago, given the extra effort we’ve put in to make it less bare. The new bookcase in the living room made a big difference, and although I’m still adding stuff, it’s made the room seem much more lived in.

The kitchen is another part of the house that I’ve been trying to improve. It’s not like we disliked the kitchen when we moved in, but we would have chosen something different if we had a choice. I’ve been trying to cosy it up a little – more homely touches that make it feel like our kitchen, rather than the previous owner’s.

Keeping the house clean and tidy is a challenge with two dogs and a very furry long-haired cat, but I’m forever motivated by the gorgeous snaps on instagram of cosy, clean homes. I always wondered how my mum has so much energy and motivation when keeping her home immaculate, and I’m starting to realise – there’s nothing more satisfying than a spotless room after it’s been cleaned.

I’d love to follow more pretty homes and interiors, so please say hi on Instagram or leave a comment so I can check out your page.

We are made of Stardust: Positivity and Good Vibes

Recently, I’ve been feeling a little under the weather, demotivated, a bit ‘meh’ in general, and I really have let feeling rundown get to me mentally. Despite Fibromyalgia not bothering me too much in my everyday life these days (believe me, there was a time when it was much worse, many years ago), I still get flare ups of feeling tired with pretty non-specific flu-like symptoms…you know, just feeling kinda¬†pants. And it gets to me. There’s nothing worse than feeling completely devoid of energy, of life, of purpose. And when you’ve got some pretty rubbish physical symptoms like muscle pain, aches and headaches, it makes for a really miserable time…especially when there’s nothing you can do but wait it out and hope it passes.

Luckily it doesn’t affect me as frequently as it used to. Maybe my lifestyle has changed enough to benefit my health (more exercise, being mindful of my eating, reducing stress) or I’ve been suffering with the lingering effects of glandular fever for years rather ‘officially’ fibromyalgia. Whatever the reason, I don’t feel as bad as I used to – my diagnosis (or rather, ruling out of everything else) was almost 10 years ago now.¬†It feels like a lifetime ago, and that period of my life seems like it belongs to a different person. But I’m constantly reminded of how frustrated I was with feeling rubbish, every time a flare up of old symptoms occurs and it takes me back to that life.

As hard as it is not to let it get to me, there’s nothing I want to do more than mope and feel sorry for myself. It takes summoning any remaining energy not to let myself get in that state of mind. I know that feeling like this will pass and I have to be mentally strong, taking comfort in the little things in life and focusing on feeling better. I think once you start wanting to see the beauty in life, the magic in just being alive, your whole perspective shifts. I often look up to the sky and realise just how amazing it is that we’re here, living life, with dreams and hopes and passions. I’m reminded of that quote about how we’re all stardust, and that seems pretty magical to me – how we’re here, going about our daily business, planning, laughing, working, cooking, creating art, philosophising, dreaming, loving, hoping…and yet, we’re all just stardust from the universe, leftover from stars that died long before we ever lived. Mind blowing.

And that’s enough to make me feel grateful. Grateful to be alive, grateful to be in this place and time, with the people I love. Grateful to have a body that works, despite feeling tired sometimes. Grateful for a home and family. Grateful for food to fill my belly. Grateful for a job that allows me to earn money for my home, food, bills. Grateful to for the freedom to say what I think and to do things that make me happy. The more gratitude I have, the more amazing I feel life is. So despite feeling unwell temporarily, I feel happy to be here, now – that somehow enough cosmic dust came together to allow me this human experience, and that’s pretty incredible.

We have calcium in our bones, iron in our veins, carbon in our souls, and nitrogen in our brains, 93 percent stardust, with souls made of flames, we are all just stars that have people names” – ¬†Nikita Gill

Lush Northampton, May 2016

We don’t have a Lush in our town…good job really, for my wallet! But it does make picking up some Lush when we visit a shop even more special. I have bought online before, but I love being in a shop and looking at all the amazing products on display. Bath goodies are my favourites and that’s usually what I pick up whenever I visit a Lush shop. Bubble bars are super comforting with their big fluffy bubbles and the ballistics are usually so fun with their exploding colours and mystery effects once their outer shell fizzes away.

My mum and I planned a girly day last week (so much fun!) and Lush was one of our stops while out shopping. I picked up a few goodies, thanks to mum for treating me, and I wandered around the shop browsing all the beautiful and bright colours like a kid in a sweet shop.

Like I’ve mentioned before in trips to my other favourite shop (the Emma Bridgewater Factory), it’s always fun to take photos of what’s on offer at a particular time so I can look back in amazement years later. Lush discontinues old products and introduces new products so often that their range is ever changing…I’ll enjoy looking back at these pictures in the future in awe at what products are no longer available!

These photos are from Lush Northampton in May 2016.

The mug life (it chose me!)

I’m sure anyone who follows my personal Instagram¬†or reads my blog regularly, knows I’ve got a mug problem. There’s an in-joke in our family, “I’ve got enough mugs” is a regular catchphrase but we still keep buying more. Each time we consider buying a mug (or actually go buy one), there will always be someone who says “got enough mugs?” as a joke.

I do love my mugs, and with collecting Emma Bridgewater pottery, there’s always a new pattern or a new phrase that we want personalising on a mug. A while ago, there was a tag game #myemmabridgewatermugs on Instagram where you’d share your mug collection when tagged. I was surprised how few mugs I actually had (always an excuse to buy more, eh?). I do treasure my mugs, especially the personalised ones I’ve either bought or been gifted. There’s nothing more special than having your favourite song, memory or meaningful wording on something you’ll enjoy for a long time. So many times, I smile when I drink out of one of my mugs because I’m reminded of something so meaningful (my Princess mug, for example, was gifted to me as it was what my grandma used to call me).

While I love scouring the Emma Bridgewater seconds shelves on my trips, I can never get my head around how something so personal to me could be bought by someone else as a second. I know ‘not quite perfect’ personalised mugs are¬†purchased by unsuspecting customers in the EB shop, not knowing the history or love behind the wording they’ve found on a seconds mug. But then, the customers who do purchase someone else’s seconds give their own meaning to the personalisation they find in store. I know myself every special memory behind the personalised mugs I own, and I think that’s why I hold such high sentimental value on my little pottery collection.


  

Signs of Summer, countryside walks and the great outdoors

I am most definitely at my happiest in the summer months…warm weather, sunshine-filled days, long walks in the countryside. In Northamptonshire, we have a fair bit of countryside – not quite as rural as some places, but beautiful nonetheless. With the weather warming up, I didn’t take much persuading to spend my weekends outdoors recently.

We’re lucky enough to live in walking distance to some stunning countryside views. The dogs love their walks, and I love a relaxing walk on a warm day…nothing better in my opinion! I also love taking photos of the countryside as we venture on our walks – it’s amazing to look back in my photos and see the same views in different seasons. Of course, I think it’s at it’s most gorgeous in the summer, with blue skies and green leaves, but it’s hard to deny it looking beautiful at any time of the year.

Looking at the changing seasons, it makes me realise how precious time is, how quickly the world changes without you noticing and how cyclical nature is. It seems like only a few weeks ago I was sharing photos of this same view covered in snow – where has that time gone? It certainly makes me want to savour every moment of my favourite season, as I know that before I know it the days will be colder and darker and we’ll be saying goodbye to 2016. But not just being more aware of the changing seasons, but time in general. Sometimes I think that the years are rolling by, disappearing without me making a significant impact on the world around me or making any memories. Looking back at photos from the last year or so, I realise that’s not quite the case as I see all the good times that have been had. It’s still important to value our time and savour ever moment, as I’m sure we are all guilty of letting the days, weeks and months fly by. I’m definitely going to try and remember to enjoy every second of the summer months while they’re here!

#Girlswholift: adventures in weightlifting

I’ve never been a particularly slim, or fit person. I remember being 15 or 16 years old and having size 16 trousers, but to me, it was just a number –¬†I was never brought up to feel ashamed of my size or ever thought that was anything but a trouser size. I never associated it with an emotional feeling about my body. Looking back at old photos, I look like a completely different person then compared to now, but it wasn’t until I got older and started getting interested in health and wellbeing as a whole, that I realised¬†that I wasn’t destined to be that size forever. Firstly, I got ill (thanks glandular fever) which caused me to lose¬†a lot of weight, and joined a gym where I focused mainly on cardio while lifting light weights. I became¬†what they call ‘skinny fat’ – a low weight, but I didn’t have much in the way of lean muscle, and still a high body fat percentage. With stress, grief and an unhealthy relationship with food and cardio, I looked skinny – at one point, I remember the Mr saying how I looked like a frail old lady in my oversized cardigan and my bony collarbone peeking through (said with love and concern of course).

Earlier this year, one of those ‘low cost, no contract’ gyms opened up, less than a 5 minute walk away and we decided to give it a go. As soon as I stepped in, I felt more at home in this gym than I ever did in my previous gym and I started spending time learning how to lift weights. Something suddenly clicked into place and I realised that years of cardio and eating under my calorie goal just wasn’t enough – I had to build muscle too. I always knew that building muscle was the foundation to a slim, lean body, but I guess I didn’t know how best to do it and kept returning to the treadmill to burn more calories because that was my misguided priority.

I’m feeling less self conscious at the gym now – I think not caring what other people think, putting my music up loud and realising that everyone is there to achieve their own goals, is something that makes me feel more confident in the weights area. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the best form for each exercise and I’d much rather complete my work out with perfect form at a (sometimes embarrassingly) lighter weight, than use shoddy form to lift a heavier weight. Thankfully, I am able to go to the gym during the day when it’s quieter and get my workout done quickly and well – and it’s so nice to see so many females in the weights area too. It seems that the rise of social media fitness accounts and youtube stars have made weightlifting more accessible for women – fewer people are believing the misconception that weights make you look manly (search¬†my favourite inspirational youtuber Heidi Somers aka buffbunny, for example, for ‘girls with muscle’ fitspiration).

While I’m a long way off achieving my body goals, I’m getting stronger with each week that passes. I’m combining weightlifting with cardio and a good diet and I feel really good for it! I’m slowly noticing my body fat decreasing, my strength is increasing, and there are muscles where I never had muscles before. It’ll be a while before I have any real definition, as my body fat percentage is still quite high, but I’m noticing progress and I know that if I keep at it, I’ll be a different person months down the line, not just in body composition, but mentally, having put time, effort and discipline into my health and fitness.

My goals for 2016 are:

  • Get down to a healthy¬†body fat of 20% (at the moment, my scales say I’m 35%, my body fat callipers say 25% – I’m not sure which to believe, haha!).
  • Do a real, unassisted pullup.
  • Run a 5k in under 30 minutes.

 

 

Beach Trip – The dogs first dip in the sea

In February, we took a visit down south to stay with family, the pup’s first little holiday. We were lucky enough to see some amazingly sunny weather, and with summer just around the corner, I’m reminiscing about warm days, the sound of waves and the sun glistening on the water. I realised I never shared the photos, even though there are only a few (I spent the morning taking videos of the dogs reaction to seeing the sea for the first time), it’s enough to make me long for the sea.

Luckily, the beach was fairly empty and we could allow the dogs off their leads to enjoy the sea unrestricted, which they loved. There’s nothing better than seeing puppies leap into the waves and chase each other in the shallow water…especially when the sun is beating down and the wind isn’t too chilly. I wish we didn’t live so far inland – trips to the beach (at least 3 hours away from where we live) are few and far between, but much loved when they happen. Now we have the dogs, it’d be lovely to spend more time at dog friendly beaches so they can enjoy the seaside too.

Bring on the summer! I love being outdoors, especially in the summer when carefree afternoons can be spent appreciating nature and getting some well needed vitamin D.

(Wellies are Emma Bridgewater too, of course….any excuse to wear them!)¬†