I was originally going to share a nice little ramble updating you all on what life looks like at the moment, but it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. I’ve had a funny few weeks/months (years too tbh) and after a bit of “blip” a couple of weeks ago I’ve been trying to focus on the good things instead. I realised it had been a little while since my last “happy things” post, so here we are.
It's been a really hectic time for me recently, but a lot of good stuff has happened that I really wanted to share. My blog is always the first to slip when I have a bit too much on my plate, so it's kind of been shoved to the back of my mind recently, but writing on here makes for a welcome change. It's my creative outlet for when I've been spending a bit too much time thinking about work and studying!
Even then, though, I do tend to end up writing huge posts that take forever and a day to put together, but I want to get back into the habit of sharing more quick updates like this. Although, I am still incredibly prone to rambling, so my version of "quick" isn't necessarily all that quick...
Enough rambling, let's begin. I actually like universityI was a bit anxious about starting university. My last attempt didn’t end too well and left me a little bit reluctant to be back in that environment, but this time around couldn’t have been any more different. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been hard work, and quite an adjustment - but I’m feeling positive about it!
The commute to Paisley is a bit difficult, I feel like I’m spending my life in my car, and my strategic management module is definitely frying my brain, but I’m learning more about subjects I genuinely enjoy and find interesting. I’m still not sure what my next move is after third year, but that’s something to think about another day.
When I first started out at university, studying fashion, I hated it from the very first day. I'm over a month in now, and I'm still loving it, so I'd say that's a good sign so far.
The house huntNot much has changed since my last chat about buying a house, but we’ve spoken to a mortgage advisor and sussed out the best options for us with my self-employment. I was terrified that they were going to tell us that I’d never get a mortgage, but that’s definitely not the case. It’ll be hard work, but it’ll be worth it!
We’re still in no huge rush to move, but this time next year we’ll hopefully be in a position to get things moving. I’ve hit my next savings goal for the deposit too, which will definitely be a huge help in the long run.
A bit of balanceTouch wood! I’d been having a lot of migraines back at the start of the summer and it was getting a bit much. I changed my pill to try to solve the issues, but that threw up some other issues with my mental state and it turned into a bit of a mess, really. Last week was the first time I actually felt like I’d returned to my “normal” state and it was a welcome change.
That’s not to say I haven’t been stressed, because I most definitely have, but I’m feeling a lot better equipped when it comes to coping with it all. Which is good, because I have a lot of work to get through over the coming months!
Work, work, work…Speaking of work, it’s going well. My business hadn’t been working for me, balance wise, and I was feeling quite burnt out as a result. I had to take a step back and figure out what I wanted to do, and whilst it’s an ongoing process, I had a bit of a breakthrough last week that’s left me feeling excited about the future of my various projects. There’s a lot to do, but at least I have my direction now!
One of my many projects, Blog & Beyond, has been growing arms and legs and I couldn’t be happier with how it’s going. I’ve hosted two workshops in Glasgow now, and tomorrow morning I’m hopping on a train to Liverpool to host another workshop with the fabulous Julia. There’s a lot in store for this side of my business, which I can’t wait to get stuck into.
…and the rewardI’ve been working flat out for the last year (and the five or so years before that), and after dealing with a lot of stress in the past 18 months it was time for a big treat. The biggest treat. Paddy and I were originally going to book a flying visit to New York, but we decided to swap it for pure relaxation because I don’t think I’ve ever needed a break this much.
Our alternative? Two weeks in a five star, “gourmet inclusive” resort in sunny Mexico. I’ve never had such a luxurious holiday, and the price we paid makes my eyes water, but it’s going to be so worth it. It’s really surreal for me to be able to afford such a nice holiday, but I know I’ve worked so incredibly hard for this.
So, in May next year, we’re jetting off on a fancy plane to the sunshine, where I’ll be spending 14 days doing nothing but eating amazing food, sleeping on the beach, drinking delicious cocktails and reading as many books as I can squeeze into a fortnight. If you see me at any point over the next few months then I’m sorry, but I’m not going to shut up about this holiday. I need this.
In my attempts to stop hoarding books, I’ve become a whole lot better at passing books on to friends or sticking them in the pile for the charity shop. What this means, however, is that I’ve been forgetting to keep my copies to photograph for my blog posts. It’s not the end of the world, and I can definitely work around it, but it’s making my decision to write my reading updates more often that little bit harder to fulfil!
My usual roundups tend to be quite long, as in the past I’ve been sharing them every 3-4 months, and I can read a lot in that time. I’ve still read a lot since my last update, but this will hopefully be a bit quicker than my usual posts! My reading has definitely taken a more academic turn since the start of term, so I probably won’t have as many good books to share over the next few months, but I’ll definitely be making these as regular as possible with my fluctuating reading habits.
My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella I read a lot of thrillers or books that are generally quite intense, so sometimes I just like a bit of “fluff”. My mum suggested that I should read My Not So Perfect Life as the main character worked in branding, so I did.
Katie Brenner is forever longing for a new, better life. Social media is full of glamour, but Katie’s life is not. Just as she’s finding her feet in her career and personal life, Katie’s world is tipped upside down and she retreats far from the bustling city of London to recoup.
This was a pretty typical Sophie Kinsella novel. It’s the kind of thing I love to read by the pool in the sunshine, and it makes for a nice little escape read. Again, I didn’t love the main character, as she was a bit petty - downright nasty at points. It was an easy enough read, but not particularly noteworthy. I did enjoy the underlying themes of insecurity and social media, definitely something I could relate to.
Get Your Sh*t Together Journal by Sarah KnightIf you’re new here, then you might not be aware of just how much I love Sarah Knight. I wish I’d had her books sooner because they’ve been brilliant guides for navigating life. I was very kindly sent the Get Your Sh*t Together Journal by Quercus, and as soon as it arrived I threw myself into the activities.
The Get Your Sh*t Together Journal is full of tips and activities for streamlining your life and being more organised. It’s a great accompaniment for the rest of her No F*cks Given Guides, as it summarises the key concepts from the original trilogy well. The practical exercises are good for consolidating her process (Sarah’s approach to to-do lists changed my life), but some of them took up too many pages in the book.
I don’t really like “activity” books, and I hate writing in books, so I didn’t love this as much as I could have. I loved the original Get Your Sh*t Together book SO much, and this didn’t really add anything new. I do think it would be a great catch-all gift for someone who needs a little pick me up (or a kick up the backside), but it’s not as strong in comparison to the other books.
Excitingly, Sarah Knight has a new book due out at the end of this year. Calm the F*ck Down sounds like it was made for me, to be honest. Good thing I’ve got it preordered!
Panic by Lauren Oliver Hayley gave me a stack of books earlier this year and this was the first one I read from her selection. I’d read a couple of Lauren Oliver’s books before, albeit quite a while ago, and did really enjoy her work, so thought this was worth a read.
Panic is a game that changes lives. Every summer, the seniors in Heather’s town take part in it, hoping to reap the rewards this high stakes competition brings. Heather never imagined she’d join the competition, but things change and she decides to fight for her chance to win.
Again, this was very much an easy read, and it had me hooked throughout. I read it in the space of an afternoon as I just had to find out how it ended. Unfortunately, all of the tension and buildup throughout was let down by a disappointing ending. There were a couple of plot points that just confused me with their unrealistic nature (if you read it, you’ll know what I mean), but it was overall a good book to spend an afternoon with. It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair LewisI thought I was going to love this book - it’s exactly my sort of thing, but I just couldn’t get into it. It Can’t Happen Here is eerily reminiscent of our current times, with a vain, fear mongering, anti-immigrant “celebrity” who runs for president - and wins. He promises to make America proud, but it takes a much darker path.
The plot was great, but I do tend to struggle with older books. It’s quite a typical “classic”, with long chapters dedicated to setting the scene before the action really happens. It was a slow burner for me, but I am really glad I read it.
The Lying Game by Ruth WareAfter reading two of Ruth Ware’s books earlier this year, I was excited to get stuck into another. The Lying Game is quite similar to Friend Request, now that I think about it. A text message arrives in the small hours of the morning, and Isa drops everything to return to the village where she spent the most significant days of her life. 17 years later, something terrible has been found on the beach, and all of Isa’s darkest secrets are about to come to light.
I love a good psychological thriller, but this was a bit of a slow burner for me. Again, all of the main characters were pretty unlikeable (this is becoming a theme here), and it just lacked a certain something for me. It wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t great. I think Ruth Ware’s other books, In A Dark Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10, had raised my expectations a bit too much and it fell short in comparison.
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager I asked for some book recommendations after getting some Amazon vouchers for my birthday, and Amy suggested I read The Last Time I Lied. This was yet another book about a woman revisiting her dark past, this time following Emma’s return to the summer camp where she last saw her friends. Will she find out what really happened to them?
I loved this. It had the perfect amount of tension and suspense throughout, peppered with plenty of twists and turns to always keep you guessing. It was really well executed, with a brilliantly eerie setting. I highly recommend giving it a go if you enjoy a good thriller!
On The Other Side by Carrie Hope FletcherOver the summer I took part in one of those international book swaps that you always see floating around on Instagram, and this was one of the books I received. I was never a big fan of Carrie Fletcher, so it wasn’t a book that was on my radar before, however, I reached for it on another one of those days when I needed something quite lighthearted. I say lighthearted, I definitely cried at this one.
Evie Snow is 82 when she dies, but when she gets to heaven she discovers that she has some unresolved secrets to deal with before she can pass on to her resting place. This was a lovely little read, but a little bit too twee for me at points. The names are a bit ridiculous, and I was never quite sure how to feel about the “magical realism” combination. The lack of a clear time period was a bit distracting too, although probably intentional. Overall, it was fine. Nothing hard hitting, nothing too unbearable. It was maybe a little bit too childish for me, and just not my style.
Playing Big by Tara MohrIf you listen to the same podcasts I do, you’ll have no doubt heard of Playing Big. It had been mentioned so many times by people that I really admire, so I just had to give it a go. I decided to choose this for the Blog & Beyond Book Club read in September, just to give me a proper excuse to get stuck in.
Playing Big is all about teaching women to have the confidence to do bigger things, and I loved it. Some parts did drag out a bit longer than I would have liked, and my reserved “Britishness” did cringe a little at how “American” it could get, but it really helped me approach my insecurities in a new way. It taught me how to reframe some of my bad habits, down to the way I speak and the way I study. I’m not going to exude confidence overnight, but the simple act of reading this book has gone a long way in persuading me to trust myself more.
I only finished Playing Big at the weekend and I haven’t had a moment to pick my next book, so I’m not sure what I’ll go for next! Anything is better than Strategic Management though, I can tell you that much now.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am only 23 years oldEmphasis on the only. Yes, I may feel old, but I’m not. I’m hopefully less than a third of the way through my life, maybe a quarter if I’m lucky. I’m still very much “young”, despite the joy I find in staying in and buying new duvets. I’m an old soul, but that doesn’t change my age.
The thing is, society seems to tell us that we have to reach certain milestones at distinct points in our lives. I remember thinking quite clearly when I was in my teens that I would be married with a house and children at 25 years old. I’m less than two years away from 25 now, and I can quite honestly say that I don’t want that to happen. The house, yes, but I’ll be replacing those hypothetical children with dogs for now.
People often comment on how much I take on, which made me realise that I sure do like to fill up my plate a lot. At the moment I’m trying to balance two growing businesses and a blog whilst attempting to finish my degree, have a semblance of a social life and make regular visits to the gym. Why? Who is telling me I have to do all of this stuff? Why do I feel so much pressure to have such a hectic life?
It was counselling that showed me the answer - me. I am. I’m the source of all this pressure. I told myself that if I dropped out of university the first time around then I’d be letting everyone around me down. That was so far from the truth.
I am constantly telling myself that I need to prove myself and prove my worth. It’s my brain that tells me that people think I’m lazy, and it’s my brain that makes me believe the only logical resolution to this is to pile an obscene amount of pressure on myself to prove “them” wrong.
I hate this idea that we need to be busy to successful and I want to slap myself when someone asks me how things are and my response is “busy”. I hate being busy. Why is being busy idolised so much? I love everything I do, I love my course and I love my businesses and I love my blog - but why did I feel the need to do everything at once?
I’m trying to embrace a slower life with a bit less pressure but I’m not good at it. A lot of it probably stems from my anxiety, with a dose of good ol’ imposter syndrome just to jazz things up a bit too. I struggle to switch off and I often beat myself up for “wasting time” when I don’t have a day that I deem to be productive.
I’m forcing myself closer and closer to burnout because of this mythical concept that we have to have it all whilst we’re young. I want to enjoy being young. Yes, I want the house, but I also want the holidays and the lie-ins and the days spent lounging on the couch nursing a gin-induced hangover.
You always see those quotes floating around social media about how some of the world’s most famous people hadn’t even had their first break until they were considered “middle-aged”, yet society is consistently pushing a narrative that we are failures if we don’t buy property or have careers or children or plump savings accounts by a certain point in our lives.
I was sold the concept of leaving school after six years, going to university for four years then starting a graduate job straight away. Society told me, through my education, that anything else wasn’t good enough. In an attempt to chase this path I drove myself into the ground and put myself through so many miserable years instead of having the confidence to go my own way.
Social media probably has a part to play as we’re constantly being exposed to everyone’s achievements, but I don’t think it’s really to blame. This is ingrained in us from an early age and social media just exacerbates the issue. We’re sharing these things because we feel like we need to prove that we’re meeting these expectations that are set for us.
This fictional timeline that’s been set out for my life only gives me an overwhelming sense of dread instead. Why should I have to live up to these standards? Why can’t I forge my own path? I guess I’m trying, and it feels a lot better now that I’ve realised that this “pressure” nearly all comes from within.
I’m still trying to reset my default way of thinking that if I’m not pushing myself I’m a failure. I’m trying to focus on what I’ve achieved so far instead of what I haven’t ticked off the list yet. I don’t think I’ll ever be good at balance, and I’ll most likely always be pushing myself a bit too far under the weight of my own expectations, but I’m trying to cut myself some slack.
At the end of the day, we’re all, for the most part, muddling through. We live in a pretty shitty world these days which gets increasingly more depressing to hear about with each passing day. We deserve to take all the time we need to make our decisions and be who we want to be.
Pixi is definitely a bit of a “blogger favourite” brand these days, but up until the start of this year, I hadn’t actually tried any of their products for myself. Back in March, I had my first experiences with their cult Glow Tonic and straight away I could see why everyone loved them so much.
I’ve been trying to focus on cruelty-free beauty this year and finding brands like Pixi makes it so much easier. I know I can rely on their products to work for my skin, and although they’re not the cheapest of ranges they’re definitely not the most expensive. I wasn’t quite sure what all the hype was about before I tried them for myself, but having put them to the test I’m sold. I’d even go as far as to say that Pixi is my favourite beauty brand of 2018… but there are still 3 months left so we’ll see!
If you’re like I used to be, and are yet to understand the hype surrounding Pixi Beauty, here are some of my highlights from the brand’s range so far. Some of these products were kindly gifted to me at a press dinner earlier this summer, but I’ve already made some repurchases since then. That’s when you know they’re good - I’m not typically brand loyal.
SkincareMy first foray into the world of Pixi was with their cult Glow Tonic. I picked it up on a whim during an ASOS shopping spree as I had a voucher burning a hole in my pocket. It had rave reviews, so I knew it would be good, but I didn’t realise quite how good it would actually be.
My skin is usually plagued with dry patches, particularly at this transitional time of year, but having used the Pixi Glow Tonic religiously every day since the start of the year my skin has never looked better. My skin is softer and brighter, with a better texture overall and considerably fewer breakouts than before. It’s a total game changer, and I don’t think I’ll ever stray.
The Glow Tonic also comes in the form of some handy pre-soaked cotton pads, which are absolutely perfect for travelling as the little tub is great to just pop in my bag. The original formula is my favourite, but the newly released rose edition is great for calming redness and soothing sensitive skin. They’ve recently added a retinol version to their collection too, which helps to rejuvenate and replenish the skin.
I’d been on the lookout for a new gentle cleanser for my morning routine for a while until I started using the Rose Cream Cleanser. It’s super nourishing, making it the ideal addition to my morning routine, and the softening mineral-rich mud leaves my skin nice and smooth. Alongside rose, this cleanser also contains avocado, chamomile and aloe vera, so it’s brilliant for soothing sensitive skin.
I’ve only used the Glow-O2 mask a couple of times now, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the best fit for my skin. Aimed at solving dull or fatigued skin, this mask is packed with vitamins, antioxidants, caffeine and oxygen complex to help replenish and brighten. I don’t see too much of a difference using this, and I think it’s because the Pixi Glow Tonic has already done such a great job. I think my skin would probably be better suited to the Glow Mud Mask or the Nourishing Sleep Mask instead, so they’re on my shopping list for next time.
I use an oil treatment every single night, and since swapping my previous choice out for the Rose Oil Blend I’ve noticed a considerable difference in the hydration levels of my skin. Those dry patches I mentioned earlier have been mostly solved by the Pixi Glow Tonic, but when I’m stressed I’m prone to eczema. This is the only oil I’ve tried that’s been able to keep them at bay, so I’m hooked.
MakeupI haven’t been buying anywhere near as much makeup this year, and instead, have been focusing on the “big” launches (like that Urban Decay palette I had to have). It’s been a welcome change for my bank account, but it does mean that my makeup stash has been needing a bit of new blood.
I hadn’t even really realised that Pixi did makeup until my evening at their press dinner, but damn I’ve been missing out on some really good stuff. Their eye products, in particular! I definitely don’t need any more eyeshadow palettes but I had to make an exception for this beauty. The Eye Reflection shadow palette.
The shadows are beautifully soft and buttery but still pack a punch in terms of pigment. This palette is nearly all shimmer shades with one that’s slightly more matte so it would have been nice to see some more matte shades in there. I can easily mix and match with other palettes in my collection, though, so this isn’t the biggest deal for me.
If you want to go extra glittery, then the Liquid Fairy Lights shadows are definitely the one for you. They are absolutely stunning, and so pigmented in comparison to similar products. The glitter is quite chunky, but it’s beautiful on the eye, and the formula is infused with chamomile and rose to soothe the skin underneath.
This rose gold shade is called Passion Light, and it pairs perfectly with the Endless Silky Eye pencil in shade Rose Glow. The pencil has a soft gel formula making it super smooth to apply, but the staying power will really surprise you. It’s really long wearing and will stay in tip-top condition all day long, but it’s still really gentle on your eyes.
If a glow is what you’re after, then you can’t go wrong with the beautiful Glow-y Gossamer highlighter duos. I have the shade Delicate Dew and have been reaching for it every day for a subtle glow. It’s a lot more pigmented if you use your fingers instead of a brush, but it’s got a creamy finish that blends like a dream. They’re not the most obvious of highlighters, with no big chunks of glitter, which I really like. You can easily layer for extra glow if that’s what you’re looking for!
The LipLift Max in shade Sweet Nectar was the only real disappointment for me, and I think it’s because the shade just doesn’t suit my complexion. I’m not a huge fan of super glossy lip products anyway, so I wasn’t expecting to be wowed. I didn’t see too much of a plumping effect from the gloss, either, so I’d maybe give this one a miss.
Otherwise, I’ve heard good things about their mascaras, so they’re definitely going in my basket when I finish my current mascara.
Pixi isn’t the cheapest of brands but they are far from expensive, and nearly everything I’ve tried from them has been worth the money. I’ve been so impressed by the quality of their products and I think the results I’ve seen are enough to keep me loyal to Pixi from here on out. I was worried that my move to cruelty-free would limit my choices for good skincare and makeup, but it’s safe to say that Pixi has proven otherwise.
Do you have any favourite Pixi products?
This post contains some press samples - read my full disclaimer here
Or so they say, anyway. Whatever the general consensus is, I do find that I tend to work better and be in a better frame of mind if my space is tidy. That doesn't mean that I'm great at keeping it tidy, because both my mum and my floordrobe will attest to my bad habits, but I do try my best.
With the start of a new year at university looming, it seemed like a good opportunity to rejig my workspace a bit and get myself ready for the long days of studying that lie ahead. Yes, I will find any excuse for "productive procrastination" as I possibly can. I mean, it's worked, because here I am writing this blog post from my nice tidy desk.
My favourite Pinterest board is my workspace inspiration board, which I add to most days. I'm mostly saving inspiration for the day when I finally buy a house and have a spare room to turn into a beautiful office, as opposed to shoving a desk into a corner of my cramped room - but it still comes in handy in the meantime.
If you, like me, find that having a nice workspace works wonders for your productivity, then here are some of my top tips for creating a workspace that really works, no matter how much space you have.
Set the moodLighting is so important for me, and you'll nearly always find me working as close to a window as I possibly can. I find that I'm naturally attracted to nice lighting. I dream of big bay windows and glass conservatories with light flooding in, so tend to gravitate towards the lightest spots to work from. A well-lit space will be kinder on your eyes, too, and as someone with ever-deteriorating eyesight, I find that my eyes get tired fast if I don't have good lighting when I'm working.
With the winter months fast approaching I'm painfully aware of the reducing daylight hours, but I'll happily substitute natural light for a cosy candle, a good lamp or some cute little fairy lights. Whatever the source, good lighting is key for me, as it helps to keep me awake and focused. Plus, there's something about a nice candle that makes me feel like I have my shit together, which is always good for my productivity levels.
Keep it clean
I used to be a bit of a hoarder, but I'm finding now that clutter stresses me out a bit. I'm by no means a minimalist and I love some good accessories for a workspace, but too much irrelevant crap proves distracting. I try to limit myself these days and find that it helps me focus if my workspace is clear of distractions.
I have two desks (it's too far, I know), with my iMac set up in the back room downstairs for "work" work and a desk in my room where I usually do coursework from my laptop. It's not a setup I plan on continuing when I eventually move out, as I hate having a desk in my bedroom because it makes it harder to switch off and I'm prone to dumping all of my crap (hello washing I can't be bothered putting away yet) on there.
I tell myself that it'll be easier to keep my desk tidy when I have a house of my own, but I know I'll still have to make a concentrated effort to sort it out. It helps, though, so it'll be worth keeping up.
Easy ReachI am very prone to distraction, particularly if I need to stop what I'm doing to rifle through some drawers to find what I need. I'm looking at you, random charging cables. In a vague attempt to reduce my distraction time, I like to keep everything I need within easy reach. My desk has lots of storage, which I love, but even then I can still lose half an hour "rediscovering" everything I've put away in the drawers.
As a result, I keep my most used bits and bobs on my desk, right in front of me. Sarah bought me this beautiful wire grid for my birthday and I love that it has a little storage section at the bottom to keep things handy. On my desk, you'll usually find spare memory cards, assorted pencils and highlighters, multiple notebooks and an array of hand creams to see me through even the longest study session.
I do usually keep snacks nearby too, but they don't last long. Sometimes a break to make a cup of tea and grab something from the kitchen is a good way to break up an intense work period - or a good excuse to go see what my cats are up to.
I'm one of those people who loves a good motivational quote, so you'll usually find a nice print by my desk. When I have a whole home office to fill, I'll probably end up with an entire gallery wall of the kick-ass quote prints I've been collecting over the years. It's really important to me to have a workspace that's both inviting and inspirational, so I do like to have little bits and bobs that make me smile on display.
Outside of prints and candles, my favourite way to bring a bit of sunshine to my desk is flowers. They just make me happy, so I try to make a habit of buying them for myself regularly. Pretty stationery also helps and I'm a sucker for a good notebook. I've actually started finishing my notebooks now, so I can totally justify buying lots.
I could probably decorate a home office a hundred times over with all of the ideas I have saved up in my head. Being self-employed and a student means that I spend a lot of time at a desk - so it's nice to have a welcoming environment to work in. It makes it that little bit easier to put in the long hours poring over a textbook or catching up on emails, don't you think?
This post contains gifted items - read my full disclaimer here
My mum and I love programmes like Four in a Bed and Hotel Inspector, so I guess it’s only natural that I also love visiting new hotels. Reviewing hotels is definitely one of my favourite “blogger perks”, and I always love being able to share these perks with my friends and family, too. My mum and I were originally supposed to head down to Biggar earlier this year, but when my dad’s health issues came to light we had to postpone for a couple of months. Instead, we ended up taking our trip to Biggar to review the Elphinstone Hotel at the start of this month, making it a welcome end to both of our summers.
Biggar sits right on the edge of the Clyde Valley and The Borders, making it a great base for exploring some of the beautiful tourist attractions on offer in both areas. It’s about an hour’s drive from Glasgow and the same from Edinburgh, so it’s not too far to travel and the route is very scenic - winding through the countryside with great views over the hills. Nearby, you’ll find plenty of botanic gardens, museums and country estates, as well as long walks, waterfalls and cycle paths aplenty.
We arrived in Biggar at about 4pm on a Saturday afternoon and checked in to the Elphinstone before heading out for a wander around the town before getting ready for dinner. It’s a quiet little town, but it has some lovely independent shops and charity shops to peruse - another favourite activity for me and my mum. I could have happily spent a whole day browsing their local bookshop. Things were closing up as we wandered, so we didn’t have time to stop in every shop, but we wandered the length of the town to see what was on offer. Alongside the shops, there were some little museums to pop your head into, as well as a puppet theatre.
After meandering our way around the streets of Biggar, we headed back to the hotel for a cup of tea and a rest before dinner. The hotel sits right on the main street and is housed in a former coaching inn. The Elphinstone is a family run business, with 11 bedrooms, a bar, a restaurant and a spacious beer garden. It might look small from the front, but the hotel itself is actually a bit of a maze and spreads right back from the main street. I was amazed at the sheer size of the place.
My mum and I were given one of the spacious family rooms, and ours was situated right at the back of the hotel. The room had a big comfy double bed, which I was delighted to find had a full mattress instead of two singles - a pet peeve of mine, and a set of bunk beds. Each bed had its own TV screen, which was a nice touch. Our room had a full ensuite, with a bath, plenty of storage, a hairdryer, a seating area and a tea and coffee station - with accompanying biscuits. It was nice and clean, passing all of my mum’s meticulous Four in a Bed style dust tests.
The Elphinstone has a sprawling restaurant area on the ground floor, and when we sat down for dinner at 6.30 on a Saturday night it was clear to see that it’s a popular spot. The restaurant was bustling with diners and parties, with both hotel guests and locals stopping in for a taste of their menu.
There’s no denying that the menu is packed full of options for all palates - with countless options to pick from. The Elphinstone pride themselves on their use of local suppliers wherever possible, even down to the gin, with a local Biggar Gin available to try. I can confirm that it is delicious, particularly with an elderflower tonic, but damn it is strong. I’m also a lightweight, so that may cloud my judgement slightly…
One thing that really stood out to me from our visit to The Elphinstone was the quality of food on offer. I started my meal with fried brie, a firm favourite of mine which came in a generous portion with delicious cranberry sauce on the side. My mum, being able to escape the complaints of my dad and his dislike of fish, opted for the Cullen Skink. For mains, I had the spinach, walnut and ricotta cannelloni in a rich tomato sauce. My mum’s choice was the Elphinstone Salad, which was packed with poached chicken, ham, pate, prawn marie rose, cheese and coleslaw.
Both meals were absolutely delicious, packed with flavour and really filling - but the dessert was the cherry on top. I was suckered in by the special brownie served with local ice cream for the evening, which did not disappoint. It was delightfully rich and fudgy, and the portion was so big that I couldn’t even get close to finishing it. That’s unlike me! My mum decided on the banoffee pie which disappeared in a matter of seconds - that’s always a sign of a good meal.
The bar area had live music from 9pm, but we were so stuffed after our meal that we decided to head up for an early night and catch a movie in bed instead. There was a bit of noise from the bar in our room, but nothing too distracting and we both still managed to fall asleep in the very comfy beds without any issues.
Once we’d had our beauty sleep, we headed back downstairs to the restaurant to check out the breakfast selection. Breakfast is served buffet style, with your standard fare of cooked items, alongside a selection of cereals, yoghurt and juices. I don’t often eat a cooked breakfast, but I had to make an exception for this one, as it had received rave reviews in the TripAdvisor listings I’d trawled before our visit. Those reviews are well deserved, I’d say, with delicious sausages and perfectly cooked eggs being a highlight.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Elphinstone, or from Biggar for that matter, but I was charmed. Sure, the decor is a bit dated - red carpets aren’t my favourite - but the service was impeccably friendly from start to finish and the food was top quality. It’s a cosy wee spot, and one I’d definitely visit again on my next trip to the area.
How do you know when you’re ready to make the move?Recently, Paddy and I have started making moves toward, eh, moving. We’ve been together for over eight years now and it feels right that we finally start thinking about moving in together. We’ve talked about it plenty of times before, but the timing has never been right up until now.
This is the first time in our relationship where we’ve both been living and working in the same city since I left high school. I spent two years studying in Aberdeen, and then when I returned neither of us had a job that would have really allowed us to move out. Then, Paddy did get a job, but it was hundreds of miles away in Leicester, and I had a degree to finish.
Now we’re both in the same city, both with jobs that put us in a position to afford the responsibilities and necessities that come with moving out, and it’s time to look at flying the nest. Our original plan had been to move out within the next few months and rent closer to the city centre, but we’ve since realised that saving to buy is a bit more attainable than we’d first realised.
That’s not to say I’ll be able to whip up a deposit in a matter of months - realistically it’s going to be at least a year, probably longer - but our ISAs are open and the saving frenzy has commenced. I'm planning on doing a masters, so I'll be a student for at least the next two years, and I'm self-employed too. It's complicated, and it's difficult to find information for our situation. Despite it being a while away, it hasn’t stopped me spending a lot of time on property sites trying to figure out what we can afford and where.
The prospect of moving out, let alone buying an actual bloody house, is kind of terrifying. Deep down I know I’m ready to move out, but I can’t imagine not living in my family home. I’ve moved out before, but the places I lived during university weren’t the nicest and I never felt like they were “mine”. I get on well with my family, I know I’d miss them if I didn’t live at home, and I’d definitely miss my cats.
At the same time, I miss space. Sure, my student flats were dives, but I had free reign of the place. Now, I’m unsuccessfully trying to cram everything into my bedroom, with a lot of overspill. I’m desperate for a dedicated home office space that I can call my own, instead of sharing a room with my brother’s countless monitors and listening to him scream at his games whilst I try to work.
I’ve got to that age where people I went to school with have started buying houses, and it’s surreal. I’m only 23, which feels simultaneously old and young, and I know a lot of people don’t move out until much later. Whilst it feels like the right time for me to start thinking about this sort of thing, I also feel wildly incapable of this so-called “adulting”. I don’t even know where to begin with getting a mortgage, and things are only complicated by being self-employed.
It feels like the most terrifying but exciting purchase I’ll make. A whole house?! Or a flat, whatever. But property? It felt like a pipe dream for a very long time, but we’re so lucky to be in a position where we can live at home and save for this. Plus, it means that we’ll be one step closer to having a dog. And cats. And hopefully chickens one day, too.
The most frustrating thing right now is wanting to redecorate and buy furniture. I’ve wanted a new desk for a while, and I have a lot of regrets about my shoddy paintwork from when I repainted my room when I was 15. There’s probably not much point in me picking up new furniture or spending the time repainting when I’ll just have to do the same thing again somewhere new.
It hasn’t stopped me shopping, though. I’ve been trying to pick up some “versatile” bits, that are easily adapted for new spaces or easy to pack up and move. As much as I want to buy that new bed I saw in the sale or the most beautiful green couch that I spotted on Pinterest, it’s going to be a while before those purchases are justifiable. Particularly considering how bloody expensive they are. Buying the house is expensive enough, why does the furniture have to cost an arm and a leg too?!
So whilst the majority of my earnings have been going straight into my ISA I haven’t been able to resist the odd addition here and there. I’ve got a beautiful new print on the way from Cawligraphy, that will sit perfectly with the “Le Peche” print from Annie Dornan Smith’s latest Peachy Keen collection. I finally started buying frames for my prints, which feels very grown up and sensible. There are countless sets of new bedding in my Amazon basket, and I’ve been eyeing up the H&M home section for trinkets most days.
Pair this homeware excitement with my love of Pinterest and I’ll probably end up with enough decor and ideas for three houses worth before I’ve even been to see one - let alone bought one. It’s a long road ahead, but it’s a journey I’m very excited for.
Our First citizenM ExperienceVisiting London is frustratingly expensive sometimes, with a long weekend costing just as much as a week abroad. As amazing as the capital is, it’s somewhere I don’t visit half as much as I’d like. In fact, until my visit earlier this month, it had been the best part of four years since my last visit.
We spent a long time deliberating over hotels, but as CitizenM had been a brand we’d wanted to try out for a while now, we ended up picking their Shoreditch hotel for our stay. There wasn’t much difference in price between this and some of the other hotels we’d look at, mostly around Shoreditch or Tower Bridge, with three nights setting us back just short of £380. This didn’t include breakfast, which was an additional £16 per person.
The Shoreditch hotel is easy enough to get to - after arriving in Euston we hopped on the tube to Old Street, and from there it was less than ten minutes walking. It’s tucked away down a side street, but you can’t miss it as it’s pretty tall. The main lobby is on the first floor, as opposed to the ground, and consists of a bank of self-check-in desks. There was a short queue when we arrived, but it had soon dissipated before we’d even had a chance to find our booking reservation.
The check-in process was simple, and I loved that it gave you the option to pick which side of the hotel your room was based on and if you’d like a higher floor. We picked a high room on the east side of the hotel and ended up with a room on the seventh floor looking directly over to Boxpark and the Shoreditch High Street station, as well as a view over the city. The views were complemented by the huge window, which let plenty of light into the room.
The CitizenM rooms are all very similar, near enough identical really, and everything is designed with space saving in mind. The majority of the room is taken up by the huge king sized bed, but there was still space for a chair and a desk alongside the bathroom and plenty of storage. Last time we came to London we stayed in a hotel that operated on a similar “compact” design, however, it seriously lacked storage and was incredibly cramped in comparison.
The bathroom was small but had a great shower with plenty of room. I loved that they had two options for complimentary shower gel, one for mornings and one for evenings, which just felt like a lovely little example of their attention to detail.
The rooms offer smart functionality, controlled by an iPad, including coloured mood lighting and a full entertainment system. The huge window had both a curtain and a blackout blind, which would be perfect for a decent daytime nap. When I woke up in the room for the first time on the Saturday morning I was convinced it was the dead of night, only to discover it was actually 7am when I opened the blinds a crack to be blinded by the glaring sun. Those blinds were good.
Despite looking out onto a train line and being in a busy part of London, the room was so peaceful. When walking home on the Saturday night we realised that there was a club night on in the arts space next door that ran until 6am (that alone gives me the fear), and we were preparing ourselves for a disrupted sleep. Nope, not a peep. They’ve got some serious soundproofing in that hotel and it was very much appreciated.
Our weekend in London coincided with some of the sweltering heat we’ve been seeing this summer, and we were very grateful to have a room with decent aircon, controlled through the iPad. At first, I thought it wasn’t working, as it was just so quiet - but that wasn’t the case. Quiet air conditioning that actually works is a dream come true, especially with this heatwave.
These crucial ingredients, combined with an incredibly comfortable king sized bed, made for a great night’s sleep. It was brilliant not being woken up by Paddy asking me to move over or fighting for a share of the duvet during the night.
Although we didn’t have too much time to use the in-built entertainment system much, I was absolutely delighted to see some excellent films like The Greatest Showman available to watch - amongst others. We ended up putting on a couple of films whilst getting ready, and being able to connect my phone to the TV to stream from my Netflix account was a brilliant touch. I was finally able to introduce Paddy to the wonders of Queer Eye after we woke up stupidly early on the Saturday morning but didn’t feel like getting up just yet.
We only ate in the hotel one morning, paying £16 each to help ourselves to the breakfast spread available in the sprawling open lobby. As well as the check-in desks, the first floor is also home to lots of comfortable spots to sit and work - including a lovely balcony area where I could definitely spend a couple of hours tapping away at my laptop - a bar, and the CitizenM canteen.
Our only experience of the canteen was our breakfast, but it was pretty delicious. We arrived with about 20 minutes to spare before the end of breakfast, intending on just picking up a few bits to see us through to lunchtime, but instead I was delighted to grab some fresh pastries alongside plenty of fruit, bread, deli meats and cheese. I even ended up sneaking some of Paddy’s cooked breakfast and can confirm the sausages were delish.
Although we didn’t have too much time with the staff at the hotel, whenever we did get to experience it the service was nothing short of great. They have a really friendly team who are always happy to help, making for a comforting presence throughout.
As much as I love boutique hotels, and CitizenM is most definitely more of a chain, with properties around the world, it blurred the lines enough that I’d happily stay at any of their hotels around the world. Their set up is perfect, the beds are dreamy and the room has all of the essentials in a compact setting without compromising. I loved the attention to detail throughout, and everything felt very on brand. The copy on their materials, including the soap and the shower gel, was just brilliant. I’d stay there again in a heartbeat, and I’m planning on booking one of their New York locations when I eventually get to return to the city.
On Sunday, you’ll turn 23.I know that Blink 182 famously say that nobody likes you when you’re 23, but you’ll be okay with that by now. We’ve learned a lot over the past ten years, and realising that not everybody is going to like you was a late-but-welcome player in that game.
Right now, you’ll probably think you’ve got things sussed out - like all thirteen-year-olds do. When you turn 23 you’ll barely remember being 20, let alone 13, and the things that are taking over your life right now will barely matter. Arguments with friends might seem like the end of the world right now, but in ten years time, you’ll realise that it was all for the best.
I know that school is a difficult path to tread, and I can tell you that it doesn’t really get any easier. The “support system” in place in that school will let you down more times than you can count, and they will push you towards a future that is not meant to be. You will struggle with exams, you’ll fail prelims and it will be suggested that you’ll need to repeat a year - but you will persevere.
You’ll persevere, and you’ll ace those exams. The voices and guidance provided by the school will tell you to go to university. That voice in your head will tell you that fashion is the right choice and moving away will be good for you - it won’t. It’ll nearly break you, but you are strong, and you will make it through. At thirteen, you won’t even be thinking about your career path, but when it takes an unplanned turn you’ll learn to embrace it. It’ll work. You’ll find a new way forward and you will get to where you want to be eventually. Even now, on the cusp of 23, you’re not quite there yet - but it’s within reach.
In two years time, you’ll start a blog. People won’t understand, they’ll judge you and question you and it will become tiresome. Keep going, though, and it will change your life. If you could only see the position that you’re in right now, you’d be so proud. Sometimes you’ll wonder what the point is, and why you spend so much of your time slaving away on project after project, but just wait. You’ll prove them all wrong, and you will do great things at 23 years old and beyond.
In a few months time, you’ll meet a boy and you’ll think he’s the one for you. He’s not, you’re being the typical naive teenager, and he’ll only break your heart. You’ll think it’s love, but just before you turn 15 you’ll meet the real deal. You’ll go to a gig, you’ll discover your favourite band, and he’ll be there too. He’ll support you and make you smile and stay by your side through it all - stick with him and you’ll be ok.
Just now, you’ll be convinced that you’re set with a friendship group that will last a lifetime. Spoiler alert: it won’t. You’ll spend a lot of time chasing friendships that just weren’t meant to be, but it works out okay in the end. You have a lot of arguments to weather over the coming years, and it’ll feel like the end of the world, but you’ll come out the other side with friendships that are really built to last.
A lot of that will come down to how you, and they, handle your health issues. You thought migraines were bad? Just wait and see what’s in store for you, gal. You’ll get your first taste at 13, but in a few years time, you’ll have a lot more to handle. You’ll cope, but it’ll be difficult. In the next ten years, you’ll have multiple surgeries, you’ll lose your hair, you’ll be in a car accident and you’ll have plenty more doctors trips in-between.
You’ll lose a lot of weight in the coming year and food will be the enemy. In a few years time you’ll discover Dominos and the joys of dining out, so it’ll even out. For a while, you’ll hate the body that dealing with chronic illness leaves you with, but eventually, you’ll learn to be more comfortable in your own skin and appreciate what your body carries you through. Surprisingly enough, you’ll also learn to love the gym, too - although not quite as much as you love food. It’ll never be the perfect relationship, but you’ll appreciate yourself more one day - I promise.
Really, through it all, it’s no surprise that you’ll eventually be told you have anxiety. The start of university will be a low point for you, probably one of your lowest. You’ll cry and hide away and cut yourself off from the people who matter most, until one day the word is uttered and it all falls into place. Your mental health won’t define you, but it will hinder you until you realise you are more than a diagnosis. It will keep you up at night and you will be a ball of stress for years on end, but eventually, you’ll learn to somewhat manage it.
Most importantly, however, you’ll get through it all. In ten years time, you will be stronger than you ever realised, and you’ll look back at being thirteen with a laugh creeping across your face. As well as a substantial dose of secondhand embarrassment, because you were a bit of a twat at thirteen.
We’ve moved into the third quarter of the year at breakneck speed and it’s time for another lengthy update on my recent reads. Much like the first quarter of the year, I read a lot between April and June. I really need to start writing these reading updates more often, because they end up so long otherwise! I’ve still got a growing pile of books beside my bed, and my wishlist is always growing, but here’s what I’ve loved getting stuck into over the last few months…
The F Word by Lily Pebbles I desperately wanted to love this book but it fell so short of the mark for me. The F Word is marketed as an “exploration of modern female friendship”, but it’s more of a memoir of Lily’s experiences with her own friends. I found this really repetitive and poorly edited, reading like a mishmash of agony aunt style advice columns that you’d find in the likes of Shout. I think it maybe should have been marketed to a younger audience, although some parts came across as preachy and a tad patronising. I usually enjoy Lily’s work, but this just was not for me.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman This was one hell of a hyped up book - to the point that I was actually a bit worried that it would fall short of the mark for me. Fortunately, it didn’t, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Eleanor Oliphant struggles with social skills and lives a relatively small existence - timetabling her life to avoid social interactions, and spending her weekends with a frozen pizza and a bottle of vodka. One day, Eleanor meets someone and everything changes. It was quite an emotional read, to be honest, and I did spend a lot of time feeling sorry for Eleanor. There was some really heartwarming character development and had plenty of humour, despite the tinge of sadness. So worth a read.
Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton I was a bit reluctant to get stuck into Dolly Alderton’s memoir after having read The F Word, but this was so much better. My god, Dolly can write. Even though I couldn’t relate to a lot of her experiences - having been with my boyfriend since I was fourteen and being too painfully awkward to attend many parties - I loved every minute of this book. She made me feel like I was her best pal, and she was just filling me in on the weekend’s activities. Everything I Know About Love was a rollercoaster of emotion - it was hilarious, heartbreaking and honest. It’s cliche, but this book made me laugh and cry.
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan I ordered this because the cover was pretty - there’s no point in lying about that. I had to spend a few pounds to get free delivery on Amazon and, as I always do, I added a book to my order to meet the threshold. Anthony Peardew is the “keeper of lost things”, after losing something special to him many years ago. This charming tale follows his journey, as well as that of his assistant Laura, and the twisting paths that life often takes. It’s a beautiful read, very moving and clever, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a bit too slow paced for my tastes, because I’m very much a fan of lightning-fast thrillers, but it made a welcome change and I loved it nonetheless. Dark of Night: Episode Three by C.S. Duffy
In my last reading update, I chatted about the first two books in the Dark of Night series, proclaiming my love for them and their infuriating cliffhangers. Episode Three is much the same - full of twists and turns that will leave you with no clue who to trust. I honestly think this was even better than the first two, as it starts to bring various elements of the story together in a very clever way. I’m waiting for the next instalment with baited breath!
Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh I love Ruby Tandoh. I love who she is and what she stands for. I love her ethos and the fact that she’s not afraid to take a stand when people get preachy online. Eat Up, however, wasn’t quite for me. I thought I’d love it, but it came across as a bit too repetitive for me. It felt dragged out and I struggled to make it through - partly because it made me so hungry all the time. It’s a shame, because I had such high hopes, but I don’t think it’s my sort of read. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella Audrey is recovering after an incident at school resulted in severe anxiety until she meets Linus, and he starts to entice her into the “real world”. I’ve started to realise that I’m maybe a bit old for “young adult” fiction now, and this was potentially the catalyst. I thought the overall concept was great but was frustrating overall, left me with a lot of questions and felt a bit cliche in its execution. Probably better suited to a younger audience than me!
The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine This book follows the intertwining lives of Amber - a wannabe socialite who’s desperate for money and power - and Daphne, an actual socialite who has the life Amber dreams of. There are two parts to the story, and whilst the first was a little bit slow, the second is where things really take off. This is an incredibly written look at the psychological aspects of manipulation. It’s marketed as a thriller, which I don’t feel is accurate, but it is incredibly intense, very well executed and really enjoyable overall.
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware Now, this is the perfect example of my kind of book. Nora hadn’t seen Clare for ten years, and out of the blue, an invitation arrives for her hen do - which is when things start to go very wrong. What happens next will suck you in and take you on an electrifying rollercoaster of suspense and confusion. This is the epitome of a thriller. It’s really fast-paced, to the point that I finished it in a night, and I can’t wait to read more of Ruth’s work.
The Multi-Hyphen Method by Emma GannonI read a fair bit of non-fiction, with lots of personal and business development books topping my to-read list on a regular occasion. I’ll be honest, I really did not like Emma Gannon’s first book, so I was a bit reluctant to read her second. Luckily, it proved me wrong in a big way. The Multi-Hyphen Method is probably one of my favourite non-fiction reads of all time, and it’s definitely my favourite for the year so far. It’s packed full of relatable, practical advice and covers everything from freelancing and side hustles to pensions, banking, flexible working and feminism in the workplace. It summed up a lot of what I want in life - flexibility to have a life I love - and I’d highly recommend it for anyone who has any sort of interest in modern working practices.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng I read Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You earlier in the year and loved it, so I’m not too sure why it took me so long to get round to reading Little Fires Everywhere. Celeste’s second book was just as beautifully written as the first, following a heart-wrenching situation that takes over the sleepy suburb of Shaker Heights. I thought this was really well executed, covering different perspectives in a way that flowed well. It was a great book, really worth picking up this summer. The Idea in You by Martin Amor and Alex Pellew This probably wouldn’t have been my first choice of book, but when it was announced as the first pick for The Coven’s book group, I had to give it a shot. I really enjoyed a lot of it, but think it would be more suited to someone at an earlier stage of starting a business than me. That said, there were a lot of points made that were relevant to some stuff I’m working on for the rest of the year and it did help me clarify some forward steps for Blog & Beyond. I really enjoyed the explanation of our approach to learning, which really cleared some things up for me. Their outline helped me figure out my own brain a bit more, and acted as words of encouragement in favour of being a bit more patient with my capabilities.
Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom FletcherI wanted to love this so much, the concept is right up my street and I adore dystopian fiction (although it's painfully realistic these days), but it really fell short of the mark. Over time, mankind loses the ability to reproduce, with wave after wave of boys being born and not a girl in sight - until Eve. Eve must be protected at all costs, even if that's at the expense of others. A lot of the plot felt reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale, but the execution was rubbish. It was such a cliche from start to finish, with an incredibly predictable plot. Again, this was probably targeted at a younger reader than me, but I was disappointed nonetheless.
One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus I loved this. One of Us is Lying is described as being The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, and I'd say that's an accurate description. Five near-enough strangers walk into detention together, but only four make it out alive. This had me hooked from the off and is full of twists throughout. This is the first young adult book I've enjoyed this much in a really long time, but it's easily one of my favourite reads of the year. It's overly dramatic, but it will totally suck you in.
Up NextI've got a fair pile beside my bed now and my Kindle is really filling up - I just need to find more hours in the day to get reading! I'm currently reading Friend Request, a creepy psychological thriller, then I'm planning on picking up Start With Why for the next book in The Coven's book club. My beloved Sarah Knight has added a new book to her series of "No F*cks Given Guides" in the form of the Get Your Sh*t Together Journal, which I'm going to share a full review of shortly.
I’ll also be getting stuck into something nice and inspirational for the Blog & Beyond book club, which starts this month! Come on over and join the Facebook group to find out more about getting involved.
As always, I track my reads over on Goodreads, so feel free to add me as a friend on there if you fancy some regular updates on what I've been reading this year.