A WONDERFULLY LAZY SATURDAY IN DECEMBER

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When I look back to the early weeks and months of this year I remember a lot of time for relaxation. I remember long afternoons spent reading books in the fading light, and early nights savouring the kind of rest and relaxation that seems to be only in memory.

I think I’ve been so caught up in the doing of things, and the thinking of doing of things, that I’ve missed the opportunity to enjoy time spent not doing much at all.

Though while I say not doing much, I guess I mean not doing much that’s productive. Not doing those things that you do because they get you a step closer to where you want to be, or those things that you do just so they don’t sit on your to-be-done list for another day. Instead, time to do all of the other things, that don’t have purpose or reason, except for the joy of experiencing them.

So I decided to gift myself a lazy Saturday in December to do all of the non-productive things that I like, and it was wonderful.

I slept in in the morning, waking up after the sun was high in the sky for the first time in what felt like an age. I spent time in the kitchen, considerately preparing myself a hearty plate of scrambled eggs and mushrooms on toast, and enjoyed a quiet moment with a cup of green tea while the morning crept away.

I watched five back-to-back episodes of Criminal Minds to catch up on the latest season, giving myself a moment to appreciate the open, personal dialogue between two of the show’s male characters. It was refreshing to see them share in emotion instead of burying it down, and that can only be a good example.

I knit on three different projects, breaking one needle and breaking into three balls of yarn.

I enjoyed the homely smell of a potato in the oven while it baked its way to perfection, before devouring it with a good slather of butter, piled high with cheese.

I put off doing the dishes because I’m an adult, and I can choose to do that if I want to, and instead curled up under a blanket with a nice cup of tea and a homemade chocolate chip muffin.

I spent time in the afternoon learning from a good book while waiting for Sam to get home, before sharing a pizza for dinner and letting the evening slip by with good conversation and our favourite TV.

What a refreshing way to spend a day, and evidence enough that I really ought to do myself a favour, and do it all again sometime.

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WHAT I WORE IN NOVEMBER

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The colder weather has really hit us this past month, hasn’t it? The air has been brisk, the heating’s been on and my arms have most definitely been covered!

November was a month for fully embracing the winter wardrobe, getting an awful lot of use out of my sweatshirts, and making what may turn out to be my best clothing purchase ever.

In this post I’m going to detail a few of the things that I came back to time and time again this month. I’m hoping that in doing so, it will help me to appreciate my smaller wardrobe, and allow me to continue to hone my personal style.

The first thing I’ve been wearing, and the one that I’m most excited about, is my new jeans. At the start of this year, my trusted black high waisted skinny jeans split in the most unfortunate place, and were rendered unwearable. I replaced them with a pair of Vero Moda jeans in the same style, which I got from T K Maxx for the bargain price of Β£7. They have served me well since then, but they’re too big on the waist and don’t have enough stretch in the leg to be particularly comfortable.

I’ve had a pair of Levi’s jeans on my wishlist for most of the year, telling myself I would get them when I had more money and I really *needed* them, and on a recent trip to London I thought it would be sensible to pop into the store and try them on for size. That way, I’d know exactly which ones to get once the time came. As you can probably tell, I didn’t leave the store empty handed, and instead walked away with the best fitting pair of jeans I’ve ever owned. I didn’t even know jeans could fit this well!

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I’ve worn these almost every day since I got them, and they haven’t shown a single sign of losing their shape. Yes, they were very pricey compared to what I can usually afford but I’d saved up some money and I’m absolutely certain that it’s been well-spent!

I’ve also pulled out my trusty roll-neck bodysuit, which I got last year. I really love this classic style, and I’ve found it to be a firm favourite this month. I’ve worn it with jeans, and my adorable denim dungaree dress, almost always paired with my go-to chunky boots. I’m also hoping that it’ll look good layered under my short sleeved t-shirt dress so I can style up a new outfit for December.

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My favourite sweatshirt has also seen a lot of wear this month, naturally, and it’s serving me well. It is so comfortable, and it brings me joy every single time I wear it. Without fail, I will always get L.O.V.E by Nat King Cole stuck in my head whenever I catch sight of myself in the mirror. I’ve been wearing this with my dungarees when it’s not too cold for trainers, and love to tuck in at the front when I’m wearing high waisted skinny jeans for a sort-of-pulled-together-but-still-casual look.

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I’ve been feeling somewhat limited on the long-sleeve front when it comes to transitioning my wardrobe into winter, but I’m confident that I can make it work with some experimentation with layers, and the black cardigan which will hopefully make its way off the knitting needles soon, and into my wardrobe!

I’ll be back in a month to share what I wear in December. See you then!

THE BEST OF NOVEMBER

IMG_20171111_124046-01-02Getting together with an awesome group of women to chat all things environmental, from plastic cups to period pants.

Delivering my first pitch at work and feeling really proud of how it went.

Eating my favourite scrambled eggs and mushrooms and The Black Dog, more than once.

Rustling up a plate of mince pies, and praising the humble pastry roll.

Teaching my fellow Angels to make their own finger knitted necklaces and being bowled over by how positive the response was.

Thinking about the future and boosting my savings as a priority for the exciting times ahead.

Attending my very first knitting event and getting swept up in the festive cheer, with a rare glass of prosecco in hand.

Preparing to say goodbye to the home that I grew up in, and feeling grateful that positive changes are afoot.

Marvelling at the first snowfall of the season and allowing myself a moment to enjoy the magic of it all.

WHY I NEED TO STOP SAYING I’M STRESSED OUT

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There have been a lot of times this year that I’ve been stressed. It’s been a year of upheaval and I’ve had to stretch myself thin to be able to do everything that was needed of me. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve answered the question ‘How was your day?’ with ‘Stressful’, and I’ve felt the symptoms of stress in my forehead and shoulders pretty consistently.

I guess it was only natural, then, for stress to become part of my language. When you do something often enough, it becomes habit, so when something doesn’t go quite according to plan, or I’m experiencing something taxing, my immediate response is to say, to myself or out loud, ‘This is stressing me out’.

The problem, though? It’s not.

For a good while now, I’ve not actually felt stressed. I’ve not had that accelerated heart rate, the constant tension headaches, the aching back and the perpetual tiredness. In fact, I’ve felt quite calm, but the language of stress has remained where the symptoms have not.

I’ve become very conscious of this over the past couple of weeks. I wonder whether it has anything to do with the meditation I’ve been practising, or the fact that I’m making an effort to be more intuitive about the way that I feel and how I respond to those feelings. Whatever has caused it, I’m grateful for the awareness.

What I want to address most about this automatic habit, is its negative framing. My experiences of stress have been negative. It has inhibited my ability to do certain things, my productivity levels are really low during times of stress, and it’s when I find it hardest to be aware of things in balance. Now, I don’t want to be associating with those negative things, just because it has become habit.

Instead, I want to retrain my brain to come out of this negative cycle, and into something more positive. If the thought of stress comes into my head, I give myself pause and allow myself the time to consider it. I think about how I’m feeling in that moment, and whether or not a thought of stress has any merit. If it does, I’ll take further action to investigate. If not, I’ll cast the thought aside and focus on something else.

I’m hoping that, in doing this, thoughts of stress will become fewer as my brain learns that I’m not actually experiencing stress. That way, when I really am stressed, I’ll know it.

I’m interested to hear if you’ve had experiences with stress and how you’ve dealt with it, or if you’ve noticed a habit that has become subconscious like this. Please leave me a comment to let me know!

WHAT I LEARNED FROM SPENDING 24 HOURS OFFLINE

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Last weekend I shared my plans to take a day away from the internet. It was a bit of an impulse decision, but I was intrigued to see how spending some time offline would affect me. So, at 12pm on Saturday I put away my computer and switched off my phone, excited to see what would come to light.

The first thing to note, is that taking time away from those devices required some preparation. I knew I wanted to knit during my offline time, but all of my knitting patterns are saved to my Google Drive, accessed on my phone or laptop when I need them. I had to note down some of the instructions on paper, so I’d still be able to make progress.

I was also sure to inform some relevant people that I’d be offline, so they knew how to reach me in an emergency, and clarify that I wasn’t ignoring them if they didn’t hear from me. Thankfully, this didn’t turn out to be necessary, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

It’s worth noting here that the time I spent offline wasn’t how I would usually spend my time. I was in the middle of a kidney infection, and was feeling rather worse for wear, so I spent much more time in bed than I usually would, with some naps thrown in for good measure.

What I did find though, was that I was noticeably more focused on the tasks at hand. When I needed to nap, I did so straight away without the mindless scroll of Instagram that usually preludes that sort of thing. When I was knitting, I was entirely in the flow and enjoyed the process of having a one-track mind.

I also spent a lot of time reading. Granted, I was using my Kindle, but I wasn’t about to confiscate that for the experiment. I think I read almost half of my book, and again found myself more focused on that, without the distraction of my phone.

It’s interesting to note that I just picked up my phone here, lit up the screen and saw the notification that I already knew was there, and put it back down again. I can’t have checked the time, because I couldn’t tell you what it is now, and even if I needed to know it’s right here on my laptop as I type. I think this is a classic example of how my phone has become a habit, and one that I don’t need.

These impulses are something I’ve been actively aware of since switching my phone back on. I spend a lot of time looking at that screen, but not really taking in what’s on it, and IΒ  can see how that can be detrimental.

However, I’ve also become acutely aware of just how much of a tool my technology can be. I tend not to have hard copies of things, so my knitting patterns, blog plans and menu are all digital. I use my phone for taking and editing photos, and for managing all of my finances. OK Google is a lifesaver, performing quick searches, setting my reminders and putting the timer on for dinner, and all of these things are reasons why I absolutely love technology.

One thing I’ve found to be quite apparent is that I didn’t miss social media, and I wasn’t desperate to get back onto it either. I think this has been a long time in the making, but before this experiment I’d found myself back into the habit of scrolling regularly, even when there was nothing new to see. Now I’m keen to use social media when I need to or want to, but to find other activities to fill that time in a more productive way.

In conclusion, getting offline was fun, and a little inconvenient, but it showed me where I want to work on my digital habits. I also think I might take a few hours every weekend where I switch off my phone, so I can really focus on being in the moment without the urge to look at the little screen.

THE BEST OF OCTOBER

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Celebrating six years with my favourite in the best way we know how – sitting together in the dark of the cinema and consuming all of the dough.

Setting aside time to read Amy’s blog post recommendations and feeling incredibly grateful to be featured.

Baking (and eating) a blackberry and apple crumble on a dreary afternoon, which couldn’t have felt cosier.

Enjoying a Sunday roast with the family, and eating yorkshire puddings for the first time inΒ ages.

Casting on a few new knitting projects, some of which are already complete.

Beginning to plan for Christmas, and getting excited about the upcoming festive season.

Meeting with a banking adviser and overhauling my accounts, so I can make the most of my money.

Putting together my first ever PDF sewing pattern, and crossing my fingers that my foray into jersey will go well.

Completing the Blogtober challenge with this, my 31st post of the month, and getting all the inspiration to give this blog more love and attention in the future.

WHAT I’VE BEEN WEARING IN OCTOBER

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This post is the first of its kind, and it may or may not become a regular feature on the blog. Having worked a lot on my wardrobe, and created a more minimalist style and collection, I’ve been interested to see the things that I actually wear. I’m also keen to consider what I might not be wearing, and work to include those pieces more so I can get the most out of everything I have.

Not only do I think this will give me some new outfit inspiration, but I also think it will help me to appreciate what I have, and to alleviate some of my pining for new things. It’s worth a shot, right?

Here are a few of the things I’ve been wearing this month…

CROPPED LEATHER JACKET

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This jacket is possibly the most expensive piece of clothing I ever bought. I shelled out over Β£100 for this, and that’s including my staff discount, back when I worked at Topshop. It’s been in my wardrobe for years, but I think I’ve worn it more this month that I have in the last two years and I know exactly why. When I bought this jacket, it had fringe across the back and down the sleeves, which I loved at the time, but I now realise I’d grown out of. Cutting that all off left me with a classic jacket, that goes with everything, and is something I can’t get enough of wearing.

GREY SWEATS

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I’ve been a bit under the weather this month, and these sweats have saved me! They’re always a staple in my loungewear preferences, but I’ve found myself wearing them all day quite a lot recently and I couldn’t be more grateful for their comfort and ease.

CAT FACE TEE

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This cute little t-shirt has become a favourite this month, as I’ve moved away from some of my crops in favour of covering my middle in the cooler weather. I wasn’t sure about the fit at first, but styling it in different ways has shown me how much of a staple it can be. I’ve turned up the sleeves and stitched them in place, as I can be a bit fussy about the length of things, and I’m so glad that I did. This month I’ve been wearing it with my newly-sewn denim mini skirt, tucked in completely, and with my black high waisted jeans, tucked at the front but left to hang loose at the back. It’s also been layered under my above-mentioned leather jacket, too.