national stationery week

This week is National Stationery Week. Yahoo!!!

Of course I need no excuse to surround myself with pretty stationery but just in case you do then this week is the week to jump on board, get your pencil cases out and get writing.

My top tips for cultivating a healthy relationship with your stationery cupboards drawer.

1. Find your favourite kind of pen and buy lots. My favourite pens are always fine point black ballpoints, I think they make my handwriting look neat.  I'm partial to the paperchase ones and even more partial to the good old orange bic biros!

2. Have lots of notebooks and journals.  Keep stuff in them or just stash them in a box under the bed for easy access to pretty notebook joy.  Note to would-be journal hoarders, do NOT let your husband look in the box. Ever!

3. Send letters and postcards to your friends.  Decorate your envelopes, use stickers, make people smile, especially the postman.

4. Keep a journal, write stuff down, draw something, have a doodle, make a list and watch your dreams come true.

5. Do not be afraid of using every colour in the book to make your point, just buy one of these pen sets and have some fun.

6. Never underestimate the power of the post-it note!

7. Find brands you love and enjoy them.  I'm a bit partial to Korean and Japanese stationery, you can get some lovely bits and bobs from here and here.

8. Do not be dissing the filofax.  Still fabulous, still relevant and with hoards of fans worldwide this is one brand that is not going out of fashion.  I love my filofax.

9. Love your stationery, get it out and flaunt it at every opportunity. Be a stationery snob and refuse to use tatty old notebooks or anything boring, bland and functional.  Say no to functionality.

10. Visit the National Stationery Week website and get inspired and do learn how to spell the damn word, my pet hate is people who love stationary!

In homage to my own stationery addiction I will be posting a suitably delicious stationery photo on instagram every day this week, you can follow all the action here and please note that this is not a sponsored post, although in the name of research I did feel it necessary to visit a number of well known stationery outlets and lust over their items of papery, pencily loveliness.


the incredible woman

I am vexed.

Vexed because yesterday I was looking at glossy women's magazines in a waiting room and I realised, not for the first time, that they all pretty much have the same effect of making you feel miserable about yourself. Insidious little words and phrases put together like perfect weapons of mass esteem destruction.  Yesterday I felt miserable, not because I felt insecure but because I saw this one cover and my immediate thought was that it must have been written by an actual stupid person and if that actual stupid person was a woman (I did not check but I presume it was), then she should be ashamed of herself.

It's headline was 'Incredible Women' followed by a list entirely made up of beautiful, thin, models, actresses and fashion designers, all of whom seemed to be incredible through the seemingly effortless task of being beautiful and/or thin. I don't know about you but I don't think that there is anything incredible about a woman who looks pretty. Incredible to me is someone who has achieved something against the odds, cared for someone, fought a something bigger than themselves, figured something difficult out, taught important lessons, lost someone and carried on. Incredible is a big word to be bandied about in the name of looking pretty.

I do not find this kind of shit acceptable.  I have a daughter. I want her to think an incredible woman is one who gets up every day and loves her life, does her best, works hard to learn about the world, is interested in others, want to achieve her dreams even if it means fitting them in around a full-time job and/or motherhood.  I want her to think that all women are beautiful not just those who fit the warped industry-defined norm of beauty, I want her to look deeper than a person's skin to know the nature of their soul. I want her to laugh in the face of photo-shopped images, botoxed skin, bouffant hair and fake boobs.  I want her to feel like all she needs to do to have a beach body is have a body and go to the beach.

I have thus decided in the face of this media buffoonery that I am going to tell Elizabeth from an early age that magazines aimed at women are designed to make you hate yourself enough to buy all the crap they flog.  I'm going to tell her not to believe a word she reads until she finds out who wrote those words and who paid them to do it.  I'm going to start a list of my own.  A list of incredible and inspirational women for her to read about, learn about and love.  Yeah, some of them might be thin and all of them will be beautiful but these women will be inspirational for reasons other than how they look and that is the story I want to tell.



a good way to discover what your values are

I'm working on a project which requires me to know what my values are.

My values? Blimey. When prompted out of the blue to write down what they might be I froze.  I know I believe in honesty, integrity, hard work and happiness but they seemed rather flimsy building blocks for a long term project.  So I looked for tips and found this book which has an exercise to help determine what your values might be. And easy too, just list the twenty people you most admire (real or fictional) and why.

It might seem a bit abstract as a way to find out what your values are, in fact I skipped over the section at first but I revisited it and did the exercise last night with some surprising results. I'm going to share my list with you, they're not in any particular order, just as I thought of them.

1. My husband - for (nearly) always being calm and happy.
2. My Elizabeth - for overcoming a very difficult start in life to become a bright and lively chicken.
3. Whoopi Goldberg - for overcoming adversity and believing in herself and her dreams of stardom.
4. Rebecca Adlington - for all those hours training in a pool in order to fulfil her gold medal dreams.
5. Gill Edwards - for writing excellent books about magical living and loving life.
6. My cousin Katrina - for working so hard, achieving so much and remaining unruffled.
7. Oprah Winfrey - for bringing books to a wider audience and promoting self-improvement and self-love.
8. Queen Elizabeth I - for kicking ass in a male dominated world and not doing what men told her to do.
9. Lionel Shriver - for writing excellent books on controversial subjects.
10. Daphne du Maurier - for writing and living the life she wanted to live, for not conforming.
11. Oscar Wilde - for writing and living the life he wanted to live, for not conforming.
12. Lena Dunham - for being fearless and original.
13. Susannah Conway - for creating a successful business helping people in an authentic way.
14. Joan Rivers - for cracking the rudest jokes about the world's fattest egos and getting away with it.
15. Gandhi - for promoting civil rights and non-violent action.
16. Kathryn Bigelow - for kicking ass in the male dominated world of Hollywood.
17. Mary Beard - for loving history, being hugely intelligent and good role model for our daughters.
18. Saga Noren (character from The Bridge) - for not conforming to social niceties and for saying what she thinks.
19. Jesus - for teaching love and trying to help mankind.
20. Cleopatra - for kicking ass in a male dominated world.

Firstly I didn't realise that I was such a raging feminist! Secondly, hardly any men! My husband is in good company with Oscar, Gandhi and Jesus isn't he? And yes I did wiki Jesus, it was the least religiously affiliated information on him I could find, I'm not religious but the man was a dude!

Regardless of my feminist, man-hating tendencies - ahem - I'm so happy with the results, seeing all the themes leap out of the page, literally leap out, nothing subtle about me, gives me a deeper understanding of what my values really are.

My values

We can all overcome adversity of any sort to succeed in the pursuit of our dreams.
As women we should fight against culturally established standards of 'womanly' behaviour.
Be your authentic self, no pretending or trying to fit it.
Teach yourself and others, in whatever way feels right to you, about living well, being happy and connecting with your soul.
Work hard, be fearless, be original and stay calm.

I love them, I own them, they are mine, uniquely mine plus they are now going to come in incredibly handy for planning, prepping and getting excited about the future.


on lists

I am a list junkie.

I make so many of the darn things you could almost call it a hobby.

I have a massive, totally geeky, list for the year, aka my resolutions, which basically tells me what I'm going to be doing for the year and as you will know from my previous post, this is how I ended up having a baby at 40 so them resolutions darn well work y'know.  This year's list has less lofty aspirations and includes wearing nice trainers (what?) and making my rather enormous (and not in a good way) garden look pretty.

I then break down my resolutions into monthly actions, yes I really do and no I don't have more time than sense I just find list-making quite relaxing, and this forms the basis of my weekly to-do list which I write every week on a Monday morning with a cup of tea. See, what did I tell you, list junkie.

To add to my list-loving fervour, I started this year with a wonderful journaling course and one of the techniques taught was writing lists. This was magic to my ears, the premise being that you can write a list about pretty much anything and use it to tap into your creativity and awaken your authentic self. So I feel validated in my addiction, I'm not the only one who believes in the magical power of lists, they are actually awesome.

One of the course tasks was to write a list of one hundred things you love about yourself.  100! Not one to shy away from a daunting task of self-absorption, I got to it with gusto and whilst it took a while; a whole evening sat at the dining table on my own and the odd "I have nice hair" entry, I have ended up with an inspiring list that makes me smile, laugh and even blush a little bit.  There is nothing quite like bigging yourself up.  I highly recommend you write your own "I love myself a hundred long times" list, it really is an instant pick-me-up, works about the same as a double shot of gin sunshine.

:: source ::
Since being introduced to the concept I have now completed my hundred favourite words, my hundred favourite things to do and am halfway through and finding hard my hundred best memories, yeah, well, you try that one in your forties with a life of excess behind you!

I now find myself looking for list inspiration everywhere, this lady has got it all sorted out for the year and this book is a must.


have courage

If you don't ask, you don't get.

A simple little ditty, oft quoted, much ignored.  Harder for some to believe than others especially if you are a Brit like me, who learned from a young age that asking for stuff is somehow vulgar. Nevertheless, I love this quote, so short, so simple, so get what you want if you dare to ask true.

Sometimes it's more about having the courage to admit something to yourself. To finally say I want this, I want this so bad, I want this so bad I could cry.  It might be knowing you need to lose weight, leave a relationship, start your own business or ask for a pay rise at work. For me it was admitting to myself that I desperately wanted to have a baby.

Sounds silly but it was hard as hell.  Hard because I'd wanted it for a long time, harder because I'd been told by the doctors that I was just too old. Fair enough, I was 39 at the time, and we had been trying for a while. They said our only option for having a baby would be IVF. I was gutted. I didn't want IVF, I'm not patient enough to deal with the fuss or strong enough to deal with the heartache. So instead I got drunk as hell (my usual response to a crisis) and did the one thing I'd never dreamed I would do.

I dared myself to write the wish down.

This dare was enabled by the fact it was the Christmas holidays and I always write resolutions for the coming year over the holiday period. I will sit myself down, have a think and set my intentions for the year ahead.  And so I found myself at the end of 2011, three months short of my 40th birthday writing these words: 2012 - I'm going to have a baby.

My stomach was churning, my palms were sweating and my heart was beating so fast I thought I was going to faint.  Writing those words down was the hardest thing I'd ever done, why is it so difficult to admit secret wishes to yourself?  Is it the fear of failure, the permanence of the words serving as a reminder of your inability to fulfil your dreams?

I haven't got the answers but what I will say to you is that within the month, within the actual month, by the middle of January I was pregnant. Really pregnant, wee on twenty sticks just to be sure pregnant and every time I look back at those words on the page I smile to myself knowing that I did something good.

Have courage my loves, be brave in 2014 and ask for what you want even if it's just a second piece of pie because if you want it, you should have it and the only thing stopping you is you!

:: beautiful quote source via pinterest ::