Blogfest15: annual re-inspiration and entertainment

Were you there?

Were you?

Did you have an inspiringly awesome and motivating time, like I did?

(Did you lose a bag, but then become reunited with your worldly possessions – er, straightners and daughter’s Christmas presents - thanks to the fabulous Kings Place staff, like I did?)

Yes, I’m talking about the fabulousness that was Blogfest15.

And as if Mumsnet could better 2014, but They So Did. 


Diary of a Working Mum: Slow down, Time!

Time, you thief, who let you in? 

"Hurry up", I constantly plead with my pre-school daughter, "we'll be late/the shops will close" (why do I only go supermarket shopping at 3pm on a Sunday? When will I get my act together to shop online at 5 am?). I suddenly get serious; "You don't want to make Mummy/Daddy/Granny/Nannie late, do you?"

And on she goes, at her own steady pace, meticulously completing her task/skilfully being cute at teeth-brushing time.  I feel the centrifugal force tempting me to slow down with her, but I can't, otherwise the fine China plates I'm juggling of Mother/Daughter,/Employee/Friend/Girlfriend (in that order, sadly) will fall, but my own crash will be louder.

I diarise downtime; I know it's that essential. I love spending the morning with my little girl, in our PJs, making arts and crafts (who doesn't?!), but it doesn't happen as often as I'd like.

And I have no idea how I got this busy, or this feeling of perpetual lateness; the rabbit and the pocket-watch of Alice's world are suddenly a reality.  

Christmas Beauty Event with Boots

Forget Halloween - October is all about the beauty goodies!

Whether you’re treating yourself to a pampering Advent Calendar (pop along to the fab LBQ blog for a beautiful countdown summary) or just treating yourself, as I did during the Boots Advantage Card points event last Thursday, the middle of Autumn isn't all about pumpkins and bats.

Beauty Crackers

Writing Time

Have you ever tried to type on a laptop whilst zipping along an M road at 70 mph?  

That's how I've spent the last couple of days, zipping between Devon, Gloucestershire and Somerset, holidaying, apple-picking and family-visiting. And, yes, yes, I was the passenger, lest anyone think I'm a complete barmpot (as if writing and publishing an ebook in 4 weeks isn't already in that category). 

It's a might tricky, but one qwerty letter at a time edged the word count towards my first 1000.  

I was writing, one step at a time.  

From WAHM to Working Mum: Missing Social Media and (sleep)

Now, this post isn't going to be a whinge-fest; I know I'm lucky to have a job, never mind one I love, and that I was lucky enough to work from home during my little girl's first years, ....

...but, by, 'eck I miss blogging, catching up on Twitter, creating Facebook posts and sharing in networking events. 

And I miss sleep like a Mum with a newborn baby.

So, quick recap - a month ago I earned myself an amazing job which means I spend half the week engaging students with historical events and political futures.  Turns out the other half of the week is given to creating resources, assessing, wondering how to strike that balance between scary and approachable, driving and utter exhaustion.  

The weekends have been given over to marking work and planning three lessons for Monday; two of which I team-teach (skill in itself). 

I now wake up and leave the house an hour before my little girl awakes, and manage a quick hour with her before bath and bed (hers; I haven't personally groomed beyond a quick shower in four weeks). 

Networking - Liebster and local style!

My recent transition to almost full-time working has meant that I haven't spent that much time blogging or catching up on social media; well, except for Facebook which is essential down time, obviously. 

So I was very chuffed this week when the fabulous Shula at the Fun Fashion & Things blog nominated me for a Liebster Award - I may be away from the blogosphere, but I'm not forgotten! It served as a timely reminder that I may have thrown myself into work, but it's great to have me time, too. 

The idea is to connect with other bloggers, who may not be as well known, and to find out more about each other - the questions may also provide stimulus for future blog opportunities!

From WAHM to Working Mum

My name is Emma, and I’m ready to go back to work
 – and properly this time around. 

How I worked when my daughter was a baby:
When I had my daughter three and a half years ago I was lucky enough to return to an employer after 10 months’ maternity leave. But I arrived back into chaos - during a peak work and redundancy period, when my Mum went into hospital with a lung disease and I had undiagnosed PND. Just two months' later the three of us battled a form of norovirus, and I never want to lose half a stone that way again; Mini Stylist had the Rotovirus in the following April, too.

By the time I really knew what was happening I realised – between the hot-desking and drive-mapping - that  I was shattered, stressed out and very shouty at home from all the traveling and ushering around of my daughter, between nursery and two sets of wonderful grandparents.  

5 reasons why I love the end of summer

I live in the UK, in the beautiful south-west county of Devon, so I enjoy bountiful sunny days and balmy evenings for months on end, right?  

Not really.  

April and May are typically lovely, and the flip-flops come out from their hibernation around Easter time.  But the moment the actual summer arrives (June, July, August) the glorious weather seems to depart for better climes.

However, I've worn my ankle boots too often this summer as this year has been particularly wet, and I spent most of last week trying to dry out from the inside (I had to throw away the really soggy clothes that refused to dry). 

It was around the time of wringing out Mini Stylist's socks for the third time one day when I decided to make peace with not having had a summer (and vowed to book a winter sun break at the first opportunity). 

So I was delighted with a good run of three dry, if slightly cloudy, days at the start of the August Bank Holiday, and took advantage of the East Devon and Dorset Jurassic coastline of Seaton and Lyme Regis to wrap up my birthday week of celebrations.  

But, really, I love the end of summer, and here's why: 

1. I love vests and cardigans 
Unless describing a house, cozy is a fabulous state to be in; strappy tops that offer summer embarrassment (bare, pasty white, arms; unexpected toddler top-peekaboo) are suddenly perfect for wearing under your favourite dresses for an extra layer of warmth.  And I absolutely love the comforting snuggle of shrugging into a chunky knit, particularly first thing in the morning or at the end of a busy day. You know I'm right. 

How to declutter your mind (as a parent blogger)

Today I've had a bit of a declutter. 

No, no, no, I haven't spent the day up and down on a chair making space amongst packets of noodles, or rummaging through my vanity cases.  It's August; the penultimate Vitamin D month, and the mini-stylist is in nursery on a Tuesday, so I left the house sharpish this morning to take advantage of a full day without appointments or rain.

And I spent the entire day to myself, admiring Plymouth from the waterfront (instead of the usual city centre viewpoint I have), and not hiding from the laundry/dishes/toys at home, whilst indulging in a Box Set binge (currently switching between The West Wing and Nashville) and pretending that I was working.   

Yup, I decluttered my mind, and created the drafts of a couple of blog posts that I'll be uploading soon, amongst a bit of life-planning.   

 7 Steps to Declutter your Mind 
(as a parent blogger, although children are optional) 

1. Timings 
Make no immediate time restrictions beyond a home time; aim to be back at least ten minutes before DH and DD (I’m the Tasmanian Devil in the kitchen; creating at least havoc if not culinary art a la Jamie's 15 minute meals).

2. Reflection
Make no plans to work, carry no to do list, but carry the tech just in case inspiration turns up (she more than likely will, you best be prepared). It helps to have a couple of life questions to ponder, to give your mind something to reflect upon. I'm planning to take on a part-time teaching role, so this is a precious month for me. 

3. Water
The water is calming and great for a little mind tidy-up, and I'm fortunate enough to live in Plymouth, apparently the Ocean City (although I still say we overlook the Channel).  I have traveled a four-hour round trip in search of the sea on other declutter days, though. Take advantage of the British coastline, or at least make your way to a lake/reservoir/stream.
4. Shop (or indulge in other interests)  
I still like a potter around the shops during a declutter, for me this is also calming, especially if I'm not bribing Mini-Stylist or rushing.  I had a lovely wander around the Barbican's Edinburgh Woollen Mill and bumped into a Yankee Candle sale.  You could spend an hour or so doing something you usually enjoy but have no time for. Freeing your mind of work will settle the snow-storm going on in your head.

5. Eat Well
I took the water taxi to Mount Batten and enjoyed a lovely tailored lunch overlooking the Plymouth skyline of Smeaton's Tower and the Citadel. Whilst listening to one of my favourite country artists (Kip Moore) I watched life on the waterfront while the sun did her best to burn up the clouds. Don't just grab a sandwich in your usual cafe; make lunch meaningful.

6. Artistic decision making
Now's the time to bring out those key reflective questions you're wondering, whether it's where to spend Christmas, or how to make a major life decision.  I imagine I'm living the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. You could revisit your favourite literary/science moment to guide you. it's also important that you make actual directional decisions to make the most of your day; his way or that. Keep going until it's time for cake.

7. Transition
Chances are you'll be inspired towards the end of your declutter day, so leave yourself time to write up notes, and do any brief research that needs doing.  It is also vital that you leave yourself enough time to make the transition from selfish parent thinking only of themselves to actual parenting; an hour is a good time, although if you've been particularly relaxed over your reflective coffee (and why the flipping hell not?), you may only get home five minutes before everyone else.  You will need this time to say goodbye to your Mind Declutter day, and perhaps plan the next date! 

When was the last time you spent a day to yourself? 


A Cornish Mum

10 signs you're a 30plus Blogger (whatever your age)

Hayley Carr, the fabulous London Beauty Queen blogger has recently established the 30plus Blog Collective, for a unique bunch of bloggers: those of us over the age of 30, mostly.  But, as LBQ herself says, this is an inclusive, not exclusive collective, established to raise awareness of blogging and to form a fabulously supportive network; anyone of any age is welcome to join in the fun. 

Over 300 blogs are now listed (imagine the summer reading!) and you can connect with your local representative (I’ll be organising some events in Devon and Cornwall over the next few months), join in the Twitter chats (#30plusblogs), read our blogs (always welcome) or work on your own blog and share resources, ideas and life tips. A new online magazine has also been launched as of today: Femme Intemporelle  

What’s not to love about #30plusblogs? 


Now, how do you tell if you’re a 30plus blogger? 

Here are the top 10 signs: 

1. Blogging 
Well, you probably have a blog. Or maybe you’re a bloggee (a gorgeous reader of blogs) and you're thinking about starting a blog one day. 
2. Children
You could have a child, or five, or none.  You’ve perhaps decided where your opinions lie on this (and on other people’s children).  Blogging is not just for parents and teenagers.
3. Coffee (or Tea; we're inclusive, remember)
Starbucks, Nero, Costa, Indepenedent. You know what you like, and what you drink (PS – Starbucks, Starbucks, Starbucks).

4. Travel 
You may have traveled the world; you may know every nook and cranny of your own town. You likely have done a little of both.

5. Beauty
You probably have money to spend on *beauty products. And you like spending money on *insert items of choice.  There are a lot of products out there so you read blog reviews to inform your decisions.
6. Confidence
You know what confidence is, can fake it if you have to, and sometimes you wonder at your teenage self and all the anguish you lived through.  Some days you don’t think you have any, but just look around you; confidence likes to play peek-a-boo. The tinker.
7. Social Media
You use social media A Lot (hourly, too?) and are self-taught.  Ditto with Wordpress or Blogger or Canva or PicMonkey or YouTube or Google+ or IG or Pinterest or Amazon (you probably know your way around all of these and are happy to share your knowledge).

8. 90s IT Visionary
You taught yourself early IT skills with the help of dial-up, a dot matrix and books; you wrote the emoticon (early emoji) code during your hours of MSN Messenger time.

9. Life before Social Media
You remember a time before Facebook and Amazon, and how you amused yourself/studied without being able to ‘Google it’; you have whispered your thanks to Page & Brin, Zuckerberg and Besos once or twice.  

10. Shopping
You shop online and offline, and you know which you prefer (music and books offline, beauty and clothes offline. Mostly); you read blog reviews and product reviews before you buy.

Regardless of your age, under or over 30 (or spot on), you are gorgeous, creative, funny and supportive and hopefully you know this, too.   

Where are you at in the blogosphere? I would love to read your comments on blogging (whether blogger or bloggee) and your consumer habits! 

An Exeter Shopping Adventure

I love my blogging job. 

This morning I took the train from Plymouth to Exeter (about an hour) for a shopping trip, and just look at these gorgeous coastal views along the sea wall from Teignmouth to Starcross:

Have you ever been to Exeter? The historic and pretty city is home to three railway stations, one cathedral, one university, one college, and a lot of amazing shops.  

Princesshay (I actually saw this place being built in 2007, from my office window).

Hosted by the three shopping hubs of Princesshay (Debenhams, Reiss, Karen Millen), the High Street (Gap, Boots, John Lewis) and the Guildhall ShoppingCentre (Primark, WIlkos, Superdrug). Nestled amongst these hubs lie more shops and tea rooms and bars and eateries along Gandy Street and Queen Street.  But believe me, just head for Exeter Central Station (or walk the steep, steep hill from Exeter St David’s station) and all the shops are accessible, with plenty of rest stops to suit every taste and budget, from Michael Caine’s Abode to a Subway.

I digress from shopping (and that won't do, oh no).
After an hour planning and writing on the train, I alighted at Central and headed straight for Princesshay for Karen Millen, Zara, Cath Kidston and Joules – all stores that are not yet available in Plymouth (although there is a Karen Millen concession in our House of Fraser).  Then onto Gap, via a quick foray in The Card Factory, to top up on birthday cards (17 for £2.00 – all I have to do now is remember the dates).  

Clothing sizes: we are more than just a number

Wow, look at these fabulous dresses I found in the sales this weekend - I just fell in love with the raspberry pink pattern (Kew from TK Maxx; £22), and I go weak at the knees for the any kind of monochrome (BHS, £12.50), but this dress has a particularly gorgeous collar and structure. 

What's in a number anyway?

And now take a look at the numbers next to them.  

Cake Style

I like cake. A lot. 

You know how you can sometimes become a bit merry on wine or cocktails (which I do)?  Well, I get cake-faced, from the sugar-rush unique to devouring A Lot of Cake. 

So when the fabulous Blogger, Little Ellie Mae, organised a cupcake decorating class for this month’s Plymouth blogging network (#PlymouthBlogMeet), I was definitely in. 

And what a great afternoon was had at Mrs Brown’s, located just off North Hill in Plymouth.  Georgie and Jemma patiently guided us through rose-decorating four cupcakes, which, thankfully, they had baked, as I am dire at baking.  

Over a relaxing two hours we enjoyed chatting, tea-drinking, Victoria-sponge-cake-eating (chuffing yum!) and learned how to pipe rose-style frosting onto our cakes, and create rose petals as cupcake centre-pieces. (Don't worry; Georgie only had her arms folded to stop herself joining in with decorating cakes - she is very friendly). 

Do you save for the sales, or experiences?

I’ve previously posted about saving £10 a week, in order to enjoy guilt-free sale shopping, and to never miss a bargain that has you inner-twirling.  I mean, we do work ridiculously hard all year.   

You could have fun trying out some of the amazing budget makeup out there, instead of the higher-end products, and follow London Beauty Queen’s savvy advice to Do it like a Dupe or read how she secures samples. Or check out the budget-friendly tips from Penny Golightly.

Or, like me, you could swap a Venti caramel latte for a Tall tea (you’re welcome, waistline) and pop the change in a recycled coffee (or jam) jar, and surround it by inspiration.

And yes, the season of summer-sales is almost upon us (I have it on good word that the Next sale will start on the 18th July; check with your local staff for exact timings: Plymouth doors will be wide open at 6 am 5am is the latest rumour).

So, where are we at with our sale savings? 

Yeah, I don’t quite have the £250 that I perhaps should have – but I was able to buy a three-day festival ticket for C2C2016 in March, when I wouldn’t ordinarily have been able to, so saving doesn’t have to be about the act of stuffocation and simply buying more things – I definitely enjoy an experience as much as a DKNY sale. But I do like buying.

I’ve also discovered eBay selling in the last six months, and the fabulous tingles when your pre-loved items find a new home.  I would love to say that my home is a lot more decluttered, but then I’m also an eBay buyer (shopping from the sofa at 11pm?  Yes, please!) However, I have posted more than I’ve received, just.

Marie Kondo’s approach to organization (Red, Psychologies, Wikipedia, Amazon) reminds me that if an item doesn’t ‘spark joy’ (release my inner twirl) then it’s time to let go.  Which means this weekend I’ll be sorting out my wardrobes to top up my sales reserves with a few eBay listings.

Do you save for the sales, or experiences?  Share your best tips, purchases and events with other readers here!