STAND FOR SOMETHING

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While we’ve made a lot of progress in the world, a lot of things are in a bit of a state right now, and there’s plenty of work to be done. Right now, I want to implore you to do something about it.

There are so many issues to fight for, it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to start. I know I certainly feel that way a lot of the time. But I want to get down some ideas that I think may help in enabling myself to take some action for the things that I believe in, and I hope that you might be able to draw something from it, too.

Find something to stand for

For me this one is pretty easy, but perhaps so easy that it becomes difficult. There are so many things that I find important and worthy of support; equal rights for everyone, awareness around mental health, people’s involvement in politics, the impact of our actions on the environment, and to be honest, I could go on and on but that would be counter-productive. Perhaps it’s worth writing a list. A long one, with all of the things that you think are worth fighting for. Then you could prioritise that list. It might feel uneasy to give one issue more credit than another, but it’s important in being able to have an impact, personally.

When considering your list, think about the ways that you could take action for each issue. Personal actions, things within you community, and working on a national, or even international, scale. This might help you to be able to see where you can have the most impact, and therefore where you may be best to channel your focus.

Plan your actions

So we’re all busy people here, and as much as it feels like the world might be going to shit sometimes, life still goes on, and we all have daily responsibilities that we need to take care of. That’s why we should plan our actions. Set aside some time in your calendar each week, fortnight, or month, and use that to stand up for the things you believe in. What will you do in that time? We’ll come to that next!

Take action

I, personally, feel that each and every one of us has the ability to take some kind of action for the things that we believe in, and I want you to know that, whatever you do, it is enough.

Singing petitions sometimes feels like a pointless thing to do, but I promise you that it isn’t. If a petition gets over 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in parliament, and this is a great opportunity for us to show our government what’s important to us. Current petitions awaiting debate include ‘Pay Up Now! – Scrap the pay cap and give public servants a meaningful pay rise‘ and ‘Hold a referendum on the final Brexit deal‘.

Sharing petitions, and articles related to the issues you care about, on your social media is another great way to take action. If your post can educate one other person, that impact will be significant, and you may find it brings more opportunities for you to affect change.

If you’ve got a platform, use it. Whether that’s a sizeable social media following, a contact at a newspaper, a community group or anything in between, utilise what you’ve got to share your message. It’s amazing to consider the impact of word-of-mouth in different industries, and within issues of importance, it’s just as vital.

Get involved close to home. Find a local charity or community group that’s working towards the issues that you care about, and see how you can get involved. Perhaps you can volunteer some of your time and utilise your skills to help them out. You could organise a fundraising event to help them hit their yearly target and continue their important work, or make sure they get recognition in your local area.

Take the next step

If there’s an issue that you feel super strongly about, consider committing yourself to it more deeply. Depending on your area of expertise, you could apply for jobs at charities or non-profit organisations in the field you care about the most. You could help with project management, run fundraising, develop digital strategy or support with administration. The pay might not be as high as in other sectors, but the level of meaning you find in your work is likely to be much greater.

Don’t give yourself a hard time

Don’t worry if you’re finding it difficult to take action, or you’re not sure where to focus. That’s totally OK. We can’t do it all, all of the time, and it’s important to let yourself take it easy and find your own way. At some point the opportunities will come to you, so try to remain open so that, when they do, you can take hold of them and do your thing!

Are you taking action for something that you believe in, or do you have an idea of how you could? I’d love to know about it, so please drop me a comment and we can chat!

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4 YOUTUBERS WHO INSPIRE ME

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I’m a little late to the YouTube party if I’m being honest. It’s only really in the past couple of months that I’ve got into watching YouTube videos, but now that I have I just can’t get enough. It probably seems obvious to most that YouTube is a huge source of inspiration, and it’s helped me a lot lately, in exploring minimalism, dealing with my motivation struggles and encouraging me to try different things.

I’ve really only just got started, but I wanted to share a few of the YouTubers who’ve been top of my playlist, and whose videos I’ve found to be a treasure trove of great influence.

Madeleine Olivia

Maddie was the first person I discovered on YouTube, and I binge watched a huge chunk of her minimalism series in one weekend. One of the key things I learnt from her was to stop wearing clothes that aren’t comfortable, and that’s one valuable piece of advice. Thanks to that pearl of wisdom, I’ve replaced most of my underwired bras with cotton bralettes and the experience has been freeing! I’ve also ditched my standing-only jeans and shoes that rub, and I’m feeling much better for it.

Lavendaire

Aileen has been my go-to for productivity motivation. Her advice on habits and making the most of your time have been my favourites, and watching her channel has helped me to improve my routines and keep my commitment to them.  One of the most useful tips I picked up was to really plan your time. At first, I found myself a little stuck after creating a weekly planner, because I wasn’t sure what actions to log to fill those time gaps, but after putting a little effort in I’ve allocated time for writing, developing knitting patterns and prioritising self-care, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes to keep things organised.

Use Less

Signe is my number one for style inspiration, and will always be the one I look to for building a wardrobe of classic, timeless pieces that will remain staples throughout the year. I’m much more considered about my purchasing these days, and Signe’s channel is right up my alley. I love the way she puts together outfits, and I’m keen to develop an all-year wardrobe with quality pieces that will last.

Meghan Livingstone

I’m really inspired by Meghan’s natural lifestyle, and am constantly intrigued by her homemade beauty products, which are something that I’m really wanting to try for myself. I also found one of her videos to be the most simple, yet impactful, way to manage stress, during which she outlined three deep breathing exercises that have made the world of difference to me.

I’m really keen to continue to expand my YouTube viewing, so if you have any channels that you love, please do share them with me!

MY GO-TO RECIPES FOR FILLING MEALS

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I love food, I love to eat, and I quite enjoy cooking. As I’ve got older, I’ve better learnt the signs that my body uses to tell me how it’s feeling. I can tell when I’m hungry, when I’m craving and when I just don’t need to eat, and I’m learning how my body responds to certain foods.

If there’s one thing for sure, it’s that everything in life goes more smoothly when I’ve got a good meal in me! Since moving out of home, I’ve changed my eating habits quite a lot. Sam and I almost always eat the same thing, whether we’re eating together or not, and we do a good line in meal prep as at least one of Sam’s meals every work day needs to be tupperware-d.

Most of our meals are from, or inspired by, The Body Coach, and if you haven’t got his Lean in 15 book series, I recommend that you do. Here are my go-to dishes for filling meals that won’t leave you craving more.

SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE | RECIPE

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CREAMY CHICKEN PASTA WITH GREENS | RECIPE

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CHICKEN AND NEW POTATO HASH | THE BODY COACH

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PANCAKES WITH FRUIT AND YOGHURT | LUCY BEE

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What are your go-to recipes for filling food? I’m always on the lookout for menu staples, so let me know your faves if you fancy!

MENTAL HEALTH IS EVERYONE’S ISSUE

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I’m a bit late for World Mental Health Day, which was on 10th October, but, really, we shouldn’t need a dedicated day to talk about mental health, so today is as good as any.

In my opinion, mental health is everyone’s issue. Without a shadow of a doubt, we will all either experience difficulties with our own mental health, or interact with someone who has, at some point in our lifetime, and probably at some point in our day. Mental health is not discriminatory, anyone can struggle with their mental health, and it’s just as valid as any physical health difficulties that someone might experience.

I feel very lucky in my experiences with mental health, in that, while I’ve encountered things like stress and emotional responses, I’ve always felt that things have been under control. There have been a couple of times where I’ve considered seeking professional help, but, out of the moment, things didn’t feel so bad. It’s something that I will continue to hold as an option, though, because I want to be self-aware enough to know that, if I do need some kind of support, it’s out there and I can accept it.

If there’s one thing that I know for certain, it’s that we need to talk more about mental health. I’ve had experience of talking about mental health quite a lot as I’ve grown up, and I hope that those conversations have helped those close to me to deal with what they’ve been going through, but there’s so much more work to be done.

Even now, conversations can be guarded, down-played and issues discussed more lightly, because I guess there’s still a stigma, and these things can be difficult to admit and open up about.

Personally, I want to be the kind of open, non-judgemental person that you would feel comfortable talking to about anything that you’re going through. While I might not be able to relate, I can be an ear and I hope that will help to provide some relief.

I want to be the person that reaches out, just because, because I’m sure that knowing someone is thinking of you can make a whole lot of difference. I want to be a friend and an ally, and to contribute to a wider shift in society so anyone who is finding things difficult with their mental health feels accepted and connected.

I don’t want anyone to feel alone.

If you’re struggling with your mental health right now, please, talk to someone. You can seek professional help privately and through your GP, there are online therapy options such as Talk Space and Better Help, or you could message a friend. If you’re finding it difficult through any of those avenues, you can drop me an email at jessicafrjohnson@gmail.com. I’m not a professional, but I can lend an ear (or some eyeballs), if you need to talk.

There are a couple of initiatives that I’ve come across that I think are great for mental health. Visit The Blurt Foundation for lots of great resources and support, and Mental Health Mates if a walk and talk is up your street.

If you’d like to support someone who’s having a difficult time, the aforementioned Blurt Foundation have a BuddyBox, wonderfully described as ‘A hug in a box’, which you can gift on a one-off or subscription basis. And don’t forget – you can gift to yourself, too!

I’ve also discovered this line of unisex t-shirts from River Island’s collaboration with The Mix, a charity focused on providing essential support to people under 25, which also help to de-stigmatise mental health through their slogans.

Whatever position you’re in, know that there is help available for you, or you can help if you’d like to.

Together, we can change the attitude around mental health and make things better, for all of us.

5 THINGS I WANT TO DO BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR

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I feel as if I’ve hit a bit of a slump in my motivation lately, and what better way to get me back on track than to set myself some goals? In order to keep things short-to-medium term, and not give myself too much work to stay on track, I’m laying out five things that I’d like to do before the end of the year.

Hit my target of reading 26 books

At the very end of last year, I really got back into reading. I’d set myself a challenge to read 12 books in 2016, and while I did read 14, I didn’t read anything at all between July and December. This year, I wanted to be more consistent with my reading, because I find that it helps me to relax and keeps my imagination active, and I wanted to keep up those good things. I set myself the challenge to read 26 books, thinking an average of a fortnight per book was definitely achievable. I’ve read 23 so far, so I’m on track to make it, and I’m certainly keen to do so.

Teach someone something

Is there much better than knowledge shared? I’m a firm believer in the gift of giving skills, so it’s something that I want to be sure to do before the year end. Whether that’s passing on something I know in knitting or sewing, or teaching someone how to use WordPress, I’m going to look out for opportunities to pass it on.

Bake from my trusted Be-Ro recipe book

The Be-Ro recipe book has been in my family for generations. Mine is a nice new copy, but I will never forget the battered and stained version with the cover falling off that resides in my Mum’s kitchen. It’s always been a go-to for those hearty recipes that bring all of the comforts of home, like dumplings and Christmas cake. I’ve been a little lax on the baking front lately, so I want to set aside some time to dust off my apron and rustle up something sweet. Apple and blackberry crumble is at the top of my list, and the cravings are real, so I’m sure it’ll be on it’s way sometime soon!

Enjoy a warming drink and mince pie at the Calverley Park ice rink

For the past few years, there has been an ice rink at my local park, but I’ve still yet to go. This year, I’m adamant that I won’t miss out on a hot drink and a mince pie in the brisk winter air. I’m not bothered about the skating, but I’ll look forward to a peruse around the chalets and some time well-spent with my nearest and dearest.

Walk 150 miles 

By my count there are 78 days left of this year. That works out at an average of two miles per day, with a little wiggle room for the Christmas period and exceptionally bad-weather days. While it might not sound like a lot, and it’s a far cry from the recommended daily slog of five miles, it’ll be an improvement on my current standing, and you can’t say fairer that than. Working from home and knee troubles have combined to make me far less active than I would like to be so I hope that, by setting this goal, I’ll get myself up and about more and reap the benefits for it. We all know that getting moving, fresh air and mother nature are all excellent remedies so they deserve a spot in my list.

Have you got anything that you want to do before the end of the year? Let me know in the comments!

ON BEING UNAPOLOGETICALLY ME

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I feel that, for the past few years, I’ve had a pretty strong sense of myself. I think it’s something that has always been a part of me, but was probably more difficult to practise when I was younger, at school and working in retail, when peer pressure had more of an impact on me, and society was probably a little different, too.

Now, I’m older, I’m a lot more unapologetic about who I am, and the space that I take up. I believe for myself, and for everyone, that we are absolutely worth our place on this earth, and we can fill that with whoever we want to be, as long as we’re not hurting anyone.

Being happy and confident with who I am, regardless of what other people think, is such a powerful, healing and peaceful way to be, for me. I make my own decisions, act how I want to and trust that the people that attracts are the best ones for me anyway.

I don’t drink, I knit a lot, and my perfect evening has me staying indoors with my home comforts and something good on the TV. Not everyone understands that, but I’ve found that by being unapologetic about it, most people react really positively, and I’ve been able to connect with a lot of like-minded people because of it. What’s more important though, is that it works for me.

I trust myself, and the decisions that I make, so I never live with regrets, but I very rarely do anything on impulse either. I also value myself, so I’ve learnt when to step away form toxic situations that are detrimental to my personal wellbeing, because putting yourself first is an amazing thing to do.

I know that I’m a work in progress. The tagline of this blog is maker, baker, wannabe world-changer and I think I’ve got a lot to do on that last part, but that’s OK. I’m not going to beat myself up about what I haven’t done yet, because everything I have done so far is good enough, and I’m exactly where I need to be right now.

I don’t believe in fate, or paths laid out before us by some higher power, but I do believe that we are a product of our decisions and lived experiences, and whoever they have moulded us to be is who we are meant to be in this moment. We can impact that by the decisions that we make, and the experiences we choose to have, and the rest is just as it comes.

I believe that my voice is worth something, and that my opinion matters, and I believe that for everyone else, too. We all deserve to be heard, but we must also listen and take note, and consider the collective as well as ourselves. As much as I champion being unapologetically me, I want others to have the confidence to be just the person that they want to be, too. I’m sure it’s easier said than done, but I think a world of people being exactly who they are is the best we could hope for, as long as who you are isn’t hurting anyone.

10 OF MY EVERGREEN FAVOURITE THINGS

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This inspiration for this post came from Sasha Wilkins aka @libertylndngirl, when she posted on Instagram recently and started her caption with “A new frock, Hampstead Heath and @lovelylettice: three of my evergreen favourite things.”. I thought the idea was wonderful, and so I wanted to create this list to share a little gratitude for some of my own personal evergreen favourite things.

1. Walks around the rec

I’m lucky in that my house is a stone’s throw from our local recreation ground. Literally. I could throw a stone out of my window and it’d hit the rec with ease. I love to walk around there after stressful days, Sam and I venting our woes to each other. I love to take a stroll in the height of the summer sun, and hear the kids playing joyfully on the playground. I love to wrap up warm in my winter cosiest and take a brisk walk to clear the cobwebs in the biting air. In a way, it’s become habitual, and it’s amazing to see how the landscape changes with the seasons.

2. Denim

I love me some good denim. Jeans are an absolute staple of mine, and since I bought my dungarees earlier this year I’ve practically lived in them constantly. You might have also seen that I recently made myself a denim skirt, so yeah, you can see where I’m going with this. I wear denim all of the time, and will get away with jeans in the summer with a crop top as much as I can, while cosy-ing them up in the winter with an oversized knit and a blanket scarf.

3. Knitting

Knitting for me is a constant. It’s my stress-reliever, and the most prominent way that I channel my creativity, and I do it all the time. This year I found myself knitting the biggest blanket all throughout summer, because I was desperate to have it finished when the cooler weather came around. Now, I’m working on jumpers and I’m hoping to do a good line in handmade winter socks, and I’ve already got my eyes on a couple of cotton vests for next spring.

4. Breakfast at The Black Dog

This was a long-standing tradition with my Dad on a Saturday morning, and while it’s not such a regular occurrence these days, breakfast at The Black Dog will forever be one of my favourite things. It’s always fun to go to a place and have a ‘usual’, but with french toast back on the menu, and a whole array of delicious breakfast-y options, it’s too good not to try something different every once in a while.

5. Green Tea

It was a while ago now that I got into green tea, and it’s been a staple of mine ever since. I can’t remember the exact motivation, though I’m sure it had something to do with the health benefits of green tea I heard about on the internet and from friends. I’ve incorporated a cup into my morning routine, and it helps me to start the day right. In fact, I really miss it when I don’t have it, and I definitely notice the difference.

6. Crime Dramas

Crime dramas are my thing. I’ve watched them for as long as I can remember and I’m sure that they’ve helped me to develop my deductive skills! The best thing, though, is that the series’ are staggered, so I get to dive into my favourite dramas, year round. I always save them for an evening when Sam is working late, and settle down with a good snack and my best detective skills at the ready.

7. Dinner and a movie

This has always been our go-to date night, and I can’t picture a time when it won’t work for us. Luckily, we have pretty similar tastes in films, and food, so it’s always an easy-going and enjoyable thing to do. We try to use Meerkat Movie codes and restaurant vouchers as much as we can, so we can continue to save money for the big things, while enjoying the little ones.

8. Pancakes

I’m a firm believer that pancakes are to be enjoyed much more frequently than every Shrove Tuesday, and they’re top of my list when we fancy having an adventurous breakfast or we head out for brunch. I’m not really fussy with how I take them, be they fluffy or thin, piled high with berries and cream, or bacon and syrup, or just drizzled lightly with a sprinkling of sugar. There’s something decadent about a plate full of pancakes, and I’ll always be grateful for their goodness.

9. My Kindle

After reading an awful lot as a kid (you’d have to pry the Jacqueline Wilson books from my hands!), I fell out of love with it for a long while. I’d read on an ad-hoc basis, but nothing committed, and I certainly missed it. These past couple of years, though, I’ve got back into reading in a big way, for me at least, and I set myself a challenge to read 26 books in 2017. There’s absolutely no way I would be anywhere close if it wasn’t for my Kindle, not only because books are much cheaper to buy that way, but also because it’s so much easier to transport on long train journeys and weekends away.

10. Chunky Black Boots

I bought my favourite chunky black boots two years ago as we were coming into autumn and it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. I can be pretty fussy with fashion in general, but boots that I love are one of the hardest things for me to come by, and now that I have them I never want to let them go! I’ve worn these to death more than once, having the heels and soles reattached on three occasions now, so that I’ve taken to gluing them myself with the strongest stuff I can find. I wear these boots with everything, and I can make them work regardless of the season. Here’s hoping they last forever!

What are your evergreen favourite things? I’d love to know, so drop me a comment and fill me in if you feel like sharing!