Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Signature Style

I’ve yet to see someone who outdoes Kate Middleton in the style stakes.  I’m not really a fan of dressing up.  I like things to be simple and unfussy.  I own nothing with a flower or a frill.  It’s all clean lines and simplicity.  In fact, I would go as far to say that I like things so simple, I have my work uniform for summer (always a white shirt, ankle length chinos and ballet flats) and my work uniform for Autumn/Winter (white blouse, pencil skirt, nude tights and heels, sometimes with a cardy, sometimes without, sometimes swapping pencil skirt for bistro trousers).  The white shirt is the staple, and it’s my signature (which I’ll talk about later…) but I think in a ‘style off’ between K-Middy and M-Clarkey, Kate would surely win.

I don’t know what sets this outfit off – her signature wedges, the blazer, the skinnies or the sleeveless shirt.  It all just ‘works’!  If I had to choose one thing, it would be the blazer.  Instantly pushes a casual outfit up a peg or two!

Hers is Zara (where else?) and sold out within hours when she first wore back in April.  At £79.99, it’s affordable copyKate style.

This one’s Mango and it’s only £21.99!  (Quick – go get before anyone else sees!)

I’m not a shouty person. I never make much of my achievements, I’m not an ‘in your face’ kind gal giving it the ‘big ticket’ stuff.  I’m actually quite subdued and more of a thinker than a ‘show-er’. I don’t want to walk into a room and go ‘bang’.  I don’t like lots of attention so I never really want to wear anything over the top and ‘be noticed’.

That’s not to say I want to camouflage myself into the wallpaper, but low-key minimalism makes me feel happy, calm and content and it’s taken me oooooh, about 30 years to get here. 

Knowing your style can be the most difficult thing to pinpoint.  Knowing your own mind can be difficult enough at times.  We have so much ‘noise’ around us. So much to influence us.  We often aspire to look like other women, whether it’s celebrities or even friends that just always seem to be really fabulous all the time.

It’s really hard, and it’s a cliché but it is true.  Know yourself and be confident about your likes and who you are.  You might love wearing huge gold jangly bangles and pink sparkly flip flops with a sequined kaftan and that’s great.  That’s you and there is no better way to express yourself than through your particular brand of style and fashion.  That’ll never be me, unless I’m force fed cocktails for an entire day and drop a trip with a bunch of hippy dropouts, neither of which will ever, ever happen since I am sensible and a mum with a career and not in the 60s or early 90s (anymore…).

Knowing who you are, what you like and working out what suits you is key to dressing with unique, individual style.  There’s no point in copying someone else.  That’s not you, it’s them.  That was their choice.  What’s yours?  What you wear reveals so much about the person you are and if you really know who you are.  The people who always look fabulous?  They know who they are.  They’ve got it nailed.

We’re moving into a new season soon which throws up a million wardrobe dilemmas, so I’m writing this for you girls to stay one step ahead and get thinking so that you’re all set with your wardrobe defined for this Autumn/Winter.  Spend a bit of time working out what clothes you really love to wear – what colours and fabrics you like.  Are you ladylike, bohemian, modern, edgy, classic?  What image do you want to project?  Is there one recurring item in your wardrobe?  

For me it’s chinos, striped long sleeved t-shirts and lots and lots of white shirts! My look is jeans/chinos and white shirt.  That’s my staple.  It’s my signature and whatever I pair with it is fashion, whether it’s my Russell and Bromley Pippa Middleton flats or my Kurt Geiger suede ankle boots with studs.  I like having my uniform that I can ‘customise’.  It makes me happy and I know where I am when I’m dressing as me.  

Put me in sky-high heels and a tight dress and I feel like a tranny.  Sorry trannies, but I do.

That doesn’t make me boring or unadventurous.  Inside my head is like a packet of Skittles.  Really.  I promise.  But do I want to dress like a rainbow explosion or an acid freak?  Most definitely not.

I’ll keep it pared down, classic and minimal and let my creativity come through my work!  Nothing wrong with that.

Maybe I'm more like Audrey than I thought. All minimalist on the outside and mad as a brush in the inside.

She was so much more than that of course. 



Friday, 25 July 2014

Summer of '84

Most really hot summers feel like the best summer of your life but if I could pick one year out, it would be the summer of 1984.

Of course we always remember the sun shining every day when we were children, whether it did or not, so summers actually felt like summer but for me 1984 just felt like a special time.

I had my first trip abroad, to France with my family and I remember sitting in the back of the car with my Walkman listening to Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw, Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears and Duran Duran (probably for the entire trip).  I loved my music when I was little, so much so that I actually took my entire collection of U2 posters on holiday with me.  

I was too young at the time to wear a 'Frankie Says' t-shirt, but it's what every neon clad, raa-raa skirted teenager was wearing at the time.  I was still in Marks and Spencer pastels.  Oh how I craved neon!

My days were spent at Gourock pool, one of Scotland's few remaining outdoor pools, splashing about in freezing cold water that didn't feel freezing at the time, watching the Dunoon ferry going backwards and forwards, all the yachts floating up and down the Clyde, the sounds of Gary Davies on Radio 1 and the snapping of plastic jellybean shoes on concrete as they walked past.

Nights were warm and everything just felt so perfect, safe, secure, happy and carefree, falling asleep and knowing that you'd wake up and do it again.  I wonder what on earth we talked about when we were kids then.  Whether we would spend our daily pocket money on Tubes, a Funny Foot or a can of Top Deck probably.

I see summer through the eyes of a child and that's why I do everything I can to make this time the most carefree, happy time for my child.  It's what he'll remember when he's my age and what will give him that feeling of perfect happiness that would probably only really feel when you're a child because we all grow up and life becomes different. 

Today is all about playing tennis, a paddle and a picnic.  I wonder if 30 years from now he'll write a blog about it.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Comfort food for the mind

How do you deal with stress and that general feeling of yuckyness you get when something’s bothering you but you can’t quite pinpoint what it is or everything’s bothering you and it’s all just too much of a blurry mess to figure out? That feeling of living in a bowl of spaghetti I suppose, or like you’re trying to make lasagne sheets out of spaghetti, order out of chaos.

Some people run (like jogging, not running away although plenty of people do that…), some people eat buckets of ice cream.  We all have a ‘go to’ activity that we do when we’re feeling a bit ‘meh’!  That one thing we do that consistently makes us feel happier.

I clean.  Cleaning is my ultimate comfort food activity for the mind.  It helps me to work through the chaos in my head at times and while I’m working my way from room to room, making everything perfect, sparkly and shiny, I’m also processing thoughts and emotions which kind of just disappear into thin air as I go.  The result?  A tidy house and a pretty tidy mind with everything in a bit more order.  

Sometimes I want to make huge breakthroughs in lots of different areas of my life but know that there is no miracle overnight solution (the walls that need painted, the carpets that used to be perfect until the puppy came along, the loft that needs tidied, the fitness target I want to achieve, that extra half stone I want to lose!) but the one thing I can do and achieve, all in the one night is a perfectly tidy house.

My ‘comfort food’ activity is my battery recharge time, my ‘in my own bubble’ time and if I didn’t have it, I’d surely go mad.  And…my house would most certainly look like a bowl of spaghetti.

It’s my ‘time out’ when things become overwhelming and I find it difficult to break everything down into bite size chunks.  Cooking also works (specifically soup making – there’s something therapeutic about chopping, stirring and blending).  Gardening’s good too.  It has to be something positive, so opening wine and Kettle Chips is not what I would class as a ‘comfort activity for the mind’, but it is a pretty fabulous reward for a tidy house.

And of course, filling the house with beautiful candles, flowers and general pretty things!


Table set

So I posted a whole month ago and promised a table reshuffle and I kept my promise.  It's taken a month to reshuffle.  A few key dishes have been sent back and on the whole I've managed to create more space at my table for lots and lots of great things to happen.

I'd say a month is enough for a life reshuffle.  No more shuffling.  It's amazing what happens when you break through to the other side.

I have the road clear to do the things I love and writing is one of those things so will be posting every day now.

I should really start sharing the stuff I write for my newspaper lifestyle section since it's seemingly good enough to be published and paid for in pounds.  Hmmm - let's see what I have...  It might be too early for a Cocktail of the Week but I'm sure my Give it a Whirl might be just the thing!

Happy Wednesday!


Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Moveable Feast

I like to think of life as a moveable feast.  

I often have far too many plates at my table.  Sometimes I have too few and that feels a bit odd so making the decision about what to actually have on that table can be a difficult one and it's a decision I've stretched out for far too long.  I say far too long, it's not actually been far too long.  Life has a way of adding and removing dishes without any logic or predictable pattern that it can be difficult to see what the basic layout of that table should be.  The fundamentals. The 'nice to haves'.  The jazzy extras. The stuff you know you should be eating but really just want to push right off the table.

I've had to wrestle with the notion that having a full table doesn't mean you have to keep everything on the table.  Sending a dish back with a 'It's fine - I won't be needing any more of that' is a bit of a gamble.  Hmm - what if I fancy a bit of that later?  What if I need a bit of that later?  What if I can never have that again?

See?  Not easy.

My table really was too full and what's more, it was too full of dishes which bore no relation to one another.  So in one corner I had some mashed potato, with a bowl of jelly next to it.  In the middle of the table I had an enormous roast haunch of venison with a side serving of roast potatoes and Skittles. A Thai Green Curry served with a giant bowl of Angel Delight (albeit Butterscotch) and a baguette. A beautiful cheeseboard served with chocolate animal biscuits.

Every dish fine on its own (probably with the exception of the Angel Delight) but a bit of a dog's dinner really, or a super feast for a 60s dropout from San Francisco.

So - I made the decision to send some of these dishes back and to move some of the other stuff about.  I sent the Thai Green Curry back.  I kept the roast haunch of venison.  The Skittles and the Angel Delight sit together.  The baguette and the cheeseboard are getting to know one another better.  The chocolate animal biscuits have been joined by a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

I made the decision to stop consulting.  So, at the moment, I no longer run my PR Consultancy.  I wanted to remove the overwhelming responsibility for the success or failure of the PR for a number of different businesses.  I was spreading myself too thinly, flying by the seat of my pants and feeling unreliable, scatty and generally disappointed with myself.  With nobody else to share that responsibility, I decided that things would only go in one direction and I wasn't prepared to put my professional reputation on the line or disappoint clients.  So I called the waiter.  The Thai Green Curry was removed from the table without too many splodges spilling over and marking the tablecloth and it all stopped.

I chose professional integrity over money which is completely bumming I have to say every month when Mr School Fees comes knocking but I know it was the right thing to do.

So, my table is looking a bit different now, but reassuringly so.  I have a great job - I am so, so lucky and that's my main focus.  I realised a little while ago that writing is my biggest passion and that I had been a bit lost in the wilderness without a voice for a while as I tried to figure out what was what and what to do really.  Working, running a home and sleeping has pretty much been my life this year and really just allowing life to take its course.

A year ago to today, I resigned from a job because it felt like the right thing to do.  Everything in my life was thrown up in the air and I didn't know where all the pieces were going to land.  It hasn't been a simple process of just picking things up and getting on with it.  When everything in your life is thrown up in the air, you question every single decision you make from that point on.  Throw 'Turning 40' into that, and you've got the perfect storm for a midlife crisis.

Crisis has been averted by making some bold decisions.  I believe if I had continued to work an almost full time big, big job with running a PR consultancy, a clothing business and a home (single handedly), someone would have suffered.  Probably me, more than I did.

So, having gone full circle now after the decision I took a year ago, I'm liking the look of table.  I have no doubt there will be more dishes added but at this stage in life, I'm definitely going to be making sure that they are the right ones to complement my feast - my solid staples with side portions of madness.

And I'll be doing lots, lots more writing.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Steal Her Style - Kylie Minogue

If you were watching The Voice this week, you couldn’t fail to be wow wow wow wowed by Kylie’s drop dead gorgeous gold number.  We can’t all be as beautifully perfect, tiny, slim and dinky doo as Miss Minogue, but we can wear gold dresses and still look fabulous!

Hers was Stella McCartney, priced £3125.

Ours is M & S.  Not as slinky but just as dinky.

Scoop Neck Jacquard Prom Belted Dress, £89, Marks and Spencer.


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Cocktail of the week - Champagne Limoncello

With Easter just a hop around the corner, you’ll no doubt be planning get togethers with families and friends and perhaps wondering what to serve to make your bash go with a zing and swing.  We are over spoiled with recipes at Christmas but when it comes to Easter, it’s the same old same old.  It’s always about the lamb and the chocolate eggs, and while I like tradition and all that goes with that, I like to put my own twist on things, do things a bit differently and add a bit of interest and “oh my goodness what was that?”, so this Easter, I’m serving up these for friends and anyone else who hops by!


8 (3 x ½ inch) lemon rind strips
8 tablespoons Limoncello
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 bottle Champagne/Cava/Prosecco – whatever fits your budget


1.     Roll up each stip of lemon rind and place 1 into each of the eight champagne flutes
2.     Add 1 tablespoon liqeur an ½ teaspoon juice to each glass
3.     Serve immediately

Lemoniscious.  Like Springtime in a glass!