I almost wanted to name this post Save Plymouth from Itself.  

I've lived, worked and played in Plymouth for the last eight years; it's the only home my four year old has ever known. 

And what a frustrating place Plymouth can be for parents, during the rainy season.

If the weather's great we have the great outdoors to play in.  

But where's the shelter?

The National Marine Aquarium, a couple of soft-play areas, Drake Circus (under daughter's duress) The Life Centre, and some cafes with play areas, such as the fabulous Eva's World and the almighty House of Fraser, who can't even sort out their basic facilities such as bathrooms (HOW hot is their water?) and accessibility - the elevators and escalators are frequently out. And don't get me started on their automated doors at the Royal Parade entrance. 

And then there's the Reel Cinema.

That quirky haven for film-lovers, historians and frustrated parents. The cosy cinema that was so dark and inviting my 18 month old daughter fell asleep on me. The cinema I went along with my Mum and Mother-in-Law to see Jersey Boys, the cinema I go to on date nights with Mr S15S, for the latest Star Trek (his choice) or X-Men (my choice)The cinema where my 2, 3, 4 and soon to be 5 year old enjoys Christmas films and early weekend Kids' Club choices. 

But the cinema won't be around for much longer if developers have their way. 

According to the Plymouth Herald today, there are plans afoot to knock down the Reel cinema, formerly the ABC, formerly a place The Beatles, however briefly, hung out, and possibly Lorenzos - yes, the gorgeous Spanish Tapas Bar and Restaurant, where I've had many an evening, often combined with a Reel visit. It could be last call for the Gala Bingo, too.

What's going on, Plymouth? 

What are you trying to do to us parents? Us hard-working people who are fed up with the lack of family-friendly indoor facilities.

In a time when the city is gearing itself up to celebrate a 400 year monumental piece of history - with a country who prides itself on Lights, Camera, Action - in 2020, and during the current development of an actual History Centre, why is this tiny safe-space being targeted?   

Why can't the Art Deco building be preserved, as a beacon of hope, for all the creativity that this city inspires? 

So I'll be popping along to ask that question, in the Public Consultation, at The Theatre Royal's Pennon Room on Monday 17th October, sometime between 11am - 7pm, to air my views for the record

Would be smashing to hear you'd joined in to #SavePlymouthReel and save Plymouth from itself. 


Ten ways to hygge through to Christmas (and beyond)

Have you heard of hygge? I hadn't until last year, and pronunciation varies, dependent on the scandi tongue; I find the easiest to say is 'hue-gah'. 

Maybe, like me, (a massive fan of Autumn and Winter) you've probably practised this unique aspect of Danish mindfulness and well-being, without ever knowing. Think candles, cosiness and quality time, as the Danes (and the rest of the northern hemisphere) prepare for colder weather and shorter days.

As children, my Sister and I used to love the darker days on the approach to Winter (er, Christmas).  We loved winter-proofing our house: we'd push comical sausage-dog draft excluders to the bottom of the doors, take pleasure in drawing the curtains closed in every room, switch on lamps, bring out blankets and cushions to curl up under on the sofa, to watch our favourite films. Mini Stylist loves closing the curtains in each room, too. From tomorrow we'll have Film Friday on the run through the next couple of seasons - post-school sofa crash with popcorn and a movie; hygge heaven.

As an adult I was lucky enough to live in southern China for a couple of years, but it was too close to the equator, and when the sun went down in about five minutes, every single day of every year ... well, by November I found myself longing for shorter days and the obvious seasonal changes (oh, the giddyness of collecting spinning jennies and conkers on the school walk with Mini Stylist!) . . . 

Hygge, see?  

So, how do I hygge October (and right on through to Easter)? 

1.  Appreciate knitwear. To wear, to cosy under, to wrap around your feet.  If I could hibernate, my cave would be made of wool. And house a lot of cushions.

2.  Dim the lights.  Candles or low-lighting, whichever releases your inner twirl.  I decorate my home with Yankee Candles, but use soft-lighting as soon as the curtains close. 

3. Skin rejuvenation. Deep moisturising, deep conditioning, deep sleeping. All my skincare minis are stored in this gorgeous wooden box near my bed; handy, eh? No, hygge. 

4.  Wooden boxes. And baskets, but especially boxes. I've no idea why, but I appreciate a good quality small box to store anything in, but usually stationery, mini beauty goodies and craft supplies. 

5.  Crafting. I love crafting, but really indulge at this time of year.  Amateur at all levels, but fabulously enthusiastic for the simple pleasures I find in fabric, felt, craft magazines, wooden stamps, and oodles of wool.  Great chance to catch up with friends over coffee (or pots of tea) and share crafting tips/obsessions in the pre-school run hours.  

6.  Work from home. I'm fortunate that I work from home once or twice a week, so I surround myself with more hygge-inducing goodness that I could if I was in, say, an office or classroom.  As my work station is normally my bed, this means cushions, blankets, and lots of coffee.

7.  The right mug.  Some mugs are better suited for coffee, others for tea.  Only occasionally will a mug will work for either (thanks, Emma Bridgewater).  Mug-selection is more important than Mr S15S some people realise. I'm at my most settled when I have the right mug in my hand. 

8.  A weekly daytime nap. Okay, I know more people do this than they will acknowledge, so I'm just going to say it. I'm a busy working Mum and I'd like a weekly, if not daily, daytime nap. I'd rather close my eyes in a room of quiet than listen to more bad news on the radio, or another mind-numbing TV show.  So, once a month or so, I draw the curtains, curl under a blanket and lie down on my 'desk'- the bed - for a quick 40 winks. 

9.  Fountain pens.  I love a good quill; the slight scratch and easy flow across a clean notebook page is harmony to my senses.  Maybe they remind me of school, and the safety of childhood.  The budget ones are better than higher-end brands; far less ink to erase from your fingers.  And we can now buy pink ink! 

10. Walking my daughter to school. Crunching leaves, guessing the age of tree trunks, spotting pine cones and spikey conkers and naming trees, as the seasons merge from late summer to Christmas, the smell of winter on her way. And all the crafting the season brings! 

What's not to love?

 What hygge steps will you take today? 

5 ways to wear yourself fabulous on fat days

I'm about to have one of *those* days, where body parts just feel ... ripe. You know what I mean?

Body sensitive is an understatement. 

Nothing will fit quite right, my temperature will increase just  e v e r  so slightly, but I'll feel like I'm in a volcano, and I'll wish my belly button was actually a valve that I could loosen to release the bloated fatness. And my ankles will disappear.

So, how do I get through those fun-filled 24 hours, assuming I can't hide under the duvet? 

1. Leggings and a loose dress.

Dress + Leggings = Happy Size15Stylist

These two items are my standard wardrobe attire, and I have a lot of both, but they ensure my shoutiness is reigned in. Most of the time. Loose and simple is the key. But you don't have to wear the LD combo, there are some gorgeous loungewear options out there; think relaxed jersey and snuggly cashmere cardigans against moda camis and t-shirts.  Yum! If you have to wear a uniform, why not order a size bigger for these special occasions?

2. Choose your underwear carefully. 
No pokey wires or annoying trims. Go big (knickers; ensure you have had a bra fitting recently) or go home. Or to bed if you're already home. Hell, go braless if you can. However there are a gorgeous range of seamless, unpadded bras available in most stores, that almost make fat days fun.  Well, they allow room for the chocolate eating by not digging into your stomach at the end of the day.

3. Think! Feet!

When body, and outside, temperatures increase, things start to swell and sway.  Ditch the heels and flip-flop, ballet-flat or sneaker your way through the day, whatever you're most comfy in. This is why it's handy to buy the prettiest flat shoes that you can afford.

4.  Bag. 

Great news - any bag can make you feel fabulous, every day.  Just fill it with the necessaries: water, chocolate, sunnies (to block out the world), headphones (to block out the noise of the world); pain relief pills and spare leggings if necessary. 

Karen Millen SS2015

5. Wear fabulous your way. 
Look, your body is fantastic, take a peek at what it can actually do! Mini Stylist is absolutely fascinated with just breathing at the moment, never mind all the running, jumping, walking, sitting and lying down we can do.  

Indulge the bloat and then enjoy the upcoming skinny days. 

How do you wear fabulous? Why not share your tips in the comments box below?!

Are you a Me Time Practitioner?

I’m a busy Mum (aren’t we all?) and I’m a Me Time Practitioner. 

Er, what now? 

Well, I regularly shove parenting duties, housework (little encouragement needed) any kind of work-work and social engagements to one side, and I take care of myself, as the Boots’ research indicates we should, although Me Time is for non-Mums, too.  

Sometimes I pop 30 minutes into my diary, sometimes an afternoon or day, usually once a week/month so that I can catch up on my favourite TV shows (not the ones I share with anyone else) or gorge on an Amazon video with a Bounty mid-morning. Sometimes I just hole up in the bathroom and gather my hundreds of beauty products for a bit of a tidy-up session, without a five year old investigative reporter by my side (Mummy, why are your toes hairy?).

Are Holland and Barrett changing the way we shop?

One of only 3 flagship Holland and Barrett More stores opened in Plymouth's Drake Circus mall on Thursday – have you been in yet?   The other two stores are in York and Chester, so the South West really has something to shout about retail-wise this week!

I think I've only ever been into H&B for energy bars (read Nakd cocoa bars) however I popped in on launch day for a complimentary tour and was hugely impressed with the range of healthy beauty products available alongside the healthy food options, including the fabulous Dr Organic, Weleda and  Yes to Carrots/Tomatoes/Cucumber et al range - which I've sent MrS15S pootling around Europe for in the past - so my inner twirl was seriously twirling. 

How many hand creams is too many?

Hello, Dear Readers 

As I made my way to the railway station for the journey to Marie Claire Live last weekend, a sudden thought whacked me around the head and near halted my stride ‘I need hand cream’.

Perfectly  ordinary thought, and possibly not deserving of such a lightening bolt mention.

Apart from the fact I have a bunch of hand creams at home. In every room of the house.   And in my several work bags, and in Mr S15S's car (though weirdly not mine; must amend that once I’ve finished uploading my post). 

Marie Claire At Work LIve: Part 2 The Afternoon

Ahhhhh, Mini Stylist is in bed – how long she keeps her four year old self there for is anyone’s guess – and I have a lukewarm coffee by my side.  Time to continue with the reflection on the 2016 Marie Claire #AtWorkLive event. 

After a lengthy lunch working our way around the sponsor’s stalls, sampling tasters of the Cointreau Fizz, and devouring gorgeous peanut butter brownies for dessert - in the ginormous lunch queue - it was back to the second breakout session to re-engage myself with business advice from insiders (Sharmadean Reid of WAH nails, Julie Deane of The Cambridge Satchel Company, Kate Unsworth of wearable, productivity-enhancing tech, in search of a tech-reliance-free-life company Vinaya and Amy Hanson of the humanitarian SmallSteps Project), chaired by the inquisitive and engaging deputy editor of MC Miranda McMinn. 

So, what were the best tips of the Starting your Own Business session?

Marie Claire At Work Live: Part 1 The Morning

Hiya, how was your weekend?

I took to the trains again; Great Western Railway is doing well out of me this month!  

I closed the work bag of my full-time job on Thursday night and thought, ‘bring on the blogging this weekend -the marking can wait until Monday.’  

Marie Claire’s annual #atworklive event, held this year at the Millbank Tower overlooking the Thames, whilst not strictly a blogging event is designed to help the career-bemused, women looking for a day out (the annual cocktails are fabulous, this year hosted by Cointreau) and regular subscribers to Marie Claire who know a beauty shindig when they see one advertised. 

And, Dear Readers, the day was so stuffed with magic that this is part 1 of a 2-part post, lest your eyes start to glaze over, or Mini realises that I'm working instead of watching Frozen with her....

I packed my Inner Twirl blogging diary (a treat to myself from the fab Bloggers Planner team at Christmas) to plan content, alongside my gadgets and snacks, and caught up with a fab friend and fellow attendee on the Friday night in Kent – we take our cocktail practice very seriously, you know.
After coffee and registration on the day, the inspiration began with the Game-changers panel, hosted by Editor-in-Chief Trish Halpin and featuring:

Laura Bates (writer and campaigner, Everyday Sexism project)
“Learn very quickly....it’s okay to ask for help....you don’t have to answer a question, just go off in a different direction”.

Nishma Robb (Head of Marketing at Google)
“Take control...demonstrate the how...How did you overcome challenges?  Think about your experiences.....how you went about them, how you learned from them....present yourself as an opportunity”. 


Laverne Antrobus (Psychologist)
“What’s the worst that can happen.....really positive statement. Failure is a building block to which direction to take. Listen to the internal narrative you hear”.

Anita Rami (Broadcaster and all round challenge-seeker)
“Fumble your way through....with drive and ambition.....How? No idea....going to get there. What’s the worst that can happen? Just deal with the challenges”.

Fully invigorated and raring to go it was time to select one of three breakout options - I chose, From Blog to Business: Dream. Dare. Create, and so bloody pleased that I did...

Postcard from a Me Break: Belize

I love it when a friend rings up to ask if I’d like to fly halfway around the world (thereabouts) to spend a week on a gorgeous beach with her. 

‘Definitely’, is my first response, quickly followed with, ‘How the doodahs am I going to make that happen?’ 

Said invitation was to Belize, for her wedding.  And, handily, I’d just begun a new job, when she asked me.  We’ve previously traveled around Thailand together in our twenties, and as she lives in Toronto and I in the south-west UK (one of the furthest points away from a decent airport), the last beach we met up on was Waikiki, Hawaii, and that was eight years ago (that’s what new relationships, careers and having a baby – me – will do to an itinerary). 

My toes could almost feel the sand.  

Which would be funny if I wasn’t such a staunch flip-flop wearer, such is my fear of anything biting my feet.  And I don’t swim, so I’m a strict paddler; I’ll sit down if the water is clear enough, and free of territorial crabs.

But who doesn’t love a week in a proper sun, skin kissed by its rays, with lashings of SPF50, cool showers and inevitable aloe vera slathering?    

After lengthy talks with Mr S15S, consultation of maps, Kayak-checking for the quickest flight options, not to mention the mention of a four-seater plane to travel from Belize International airport to the southern town of Dangriga in 20 minutes (as opposed to a 24 hour bus journey) it was felt that that the trip would be most enjoyed by me and me alone.

Considering I had an:

  • overnight train journey to Heathrow
  • a forever-walk to the right terminal (probably only about 30 minutes but I was tired!)
  • an 8 hour flight to Chicago (that was delayed by two hours) 
  • an early flight onto Houston (there are only 4 cities in the US that travel directly to Belize) 

AND then ...

  • another 2-3 hour flight to Belize, before I’d even stepped onto the wonky steps to the small plane to Dangriga
  • a 30 minute bumpy van drive to the dock
  • a 45 minute boat ride trying to avoid the rain to the gorgeous island of South Water Quay

well.... I’m sure Mini Stylist will one day understand why she wasn’t on that particular beach with me.  

Oh, and I repeated all that a mere, albeit very relaxed, four days later, with another two hour delay; thanks, United....

Easter, Easter, I need an Easter

Only another week left of term; the cry of students and teachers across the UK as they claw their way to a (bleddy) Good Friday.  

As a parent, I do appreciate the sinking feeling this equally invokes of childcare Vs employer Vs self-employment issues.  But as a lecturer  - well, these four days cannot go fast enough. Except I have about three weeks' worth of work left to cram into my students' exhausted minds.  

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

(I've been planning on the sofa this afternoon with my little girl as she watches Finding Nemo, periodically reminding her that it's a Disney film, so there is a happy ending on the way). 

However, after about 18 hours sleep, in between lambing and Easter egg hunts, I have set aside some well overdue time over the break to maintain the Size15Stylist site, and upload some posts to get us all ready for the summer. 

In the meantime..... 

Let me know your thoughts on the very early Easter fortnight this year! 

ALMOST half-term; thank you for your patience!

I've been away from the blog for so long, that frankly I'm very grateful I got out of bed at 4 am on that chilly 26th December to queue up (with coffee and friends) outside Next

I found the perfect four dresses (have pockets; don't need ironing) that I've somehow managed to rotate with my other three staple dresses, and the appropriate cardi., into student-friendly outfits over the last six weeks. 

Talk about a working wardrobe! 

But, we only have two more sleeps until half-term, and then, after a spot of sleep (18 straight hours, please?) I'll update the blog.  Or pass out trying.  I may even find my camera again and take a few stylish photos. 

All I know is that the Spring/Summer 2016 stock will be on the shop floors very, very, soon, and this year the weather is actually mild enough to take advantage of the pastels and Breton stripes to look fabulous during the Six Nations rugby!  Look out H&M, I'm coming for you.

In the last few weeks I've also undertaken a gorgeous new enterprise, Gorgeous Cards and Stationery, because the only inner-twirl better than receiving a beautiful work of art in the post is that which is generated by buying and sending the right card for your favourite people! Feel free to browse this season's fab brochure on my Phoenix Trading website.

Keep in touch, mes amis.