What happened to Valentines Day?

Ok, lets get this out the way…I HATE the modern day version of Valentines Day.

I bet you’re thinking – well I guess she’s some super grumpy, unromantic person who hates all this love and fuss stuff? Ironically that couldn’t be further from the truth. Let me explain…

In an age before the internet, social media, Tinder, non stop advertising and the media trying to convince us we should all live/look/spend like the rich and famous whatever our income; a pretty paper card sent anonymously to a loved one was an adorable way to show that you loved/liked/wanted to court them. It was personal and coy and sweet and seemingly now something of a time gone by…Let me tell you a bit about me – I would describe myself as a very romantic person. I tell my fiancé lots of times through the day I love him (as he does to me), send romantic messages and notes, go on date nights, take time to look after myself and look nice/wear pretty lingerie etc (because it makes me feel good – making my boyfriend smile is an added bonus), spend time cuddled upon the sofa in the evenings and generally make time to do things that will make him feel loved, appreciated and wanted. I love being in love and couldn’t imagine living any other way. I don’t dislike the idea of Valentines Day…I hate what marketing and the media has made the day become.

I think because I am a romantic person who loves to make a fuss of the people I care for, it makes me hate the whole concept of the modern day Valentines Day even more. Let me tell you why…

Its fake – So who was St Valentine? The saint of Beekeepers and Epilepsy amongst other things. Why do we celebrate Valentines Day? Well that one is full of debate. One thing is for sure – the whole thing is a mix of other celebrations and twisted to fit in with a modern day event created to sell stuff.

It encourages people to spend money have on things they don’t need – Valentines Day is a marketing dream (I should know, its what I do!). Adverts begin weeks ahead, stores replace their Christmas stock with Valentines stock, magazines tell us instead of a £5 box of chocolates and a card, we should buy the person we love a £200 designer watch because bigger is better and we start to get brainwashed by it all.

A whole industry has emerged created fun ‘novelty’ gifts no-one in their right mind would want – Everyone loves a teddy with a heart on, pair of fluffy handcuffs or fabric rose don’t they? Oh right, they don’t. And don’t get me started on things like chocolate body paint…

There’s some women who use it to make other women feel like lesser beings – There’s always those people who want to show you their huge bouquet of roses, heart shaped balloons, diamond earrings etc. Good for them…but show offs are never fun to be around and there’s a competitive, nasty side to it that I just don’t like. Ladies we don’t need to be like this!

Men generally don’t like it – You know when another ‘special’ day exactly a month later is created (it involves steak and other things men love – see the cheeky details here) by men for men, that Valentines Day is not a thing men on the whole want to be forced to do. There is of course, lots of romantic men out there but who wants to be told when and how you should be romantic?

Its creates ‘the pressure’ – The pressure to buy gifts, the pressure to book an expensive restaurant, the pressure to send flowers, the pressure to have sex that night whether you want to really or not, the pressure to out-do your friends. If you’re single there’s pressure to be in a relationship as that’s what society tells us will make us happy…well, I know quite a few people in relationships who seem utterly miserable. Anything to do with love should feel free, not forced.Whether you are single or in a relationship we all know the truth – we are being manipulated. Don’t be told when to be romantic – in fact if you’re anything like me make an effort of be romantic EVERY day…and don’t expect a present because of it. Do it because you want to. Do it because being in love compels you to do so. For me that’s what true love should do…and the rewards are much better than getting a gift you’ve guilted your other half into buying you.

Personally this Valentines Day, I will choose a card, write a heartfelt message and that night have dinner, watch TV, kiss and cuddle and then go to bed with the man I love just like I would any other night.And you know what? Life is about freedom of choice – if you truly love the whole idea of Valentines Day then go for it – the candlelit dinner, expensive gifts, rose petals on the bed, slow-mo sex; whatever says ‘love’ to you!

But do it because you want to…and don’t share it all over your social media for the attention and likes – the odd pic might be cute but your whole evening?  Intimate moments of love should be for 2 not 200. True love is the most precious thing we can have in our lives – lets not cheapen it – its worth far more than that.All photos via my Instagram – to follow me (its not all romance I promise!) click here.

10 ways to make your gift wrapping stand out this Christmas

So, who has bought all their Christmas presents? Not me obviously as I am always a last minute kinda gal, but I’m sure all my sensible followers have bought at least some, if not all, of their Christmas gifts. I do love a nicely wrapped present and think it really adds to the whole gift giving experience so always try and make my presents look nice.

I was actually taught to gift wrap at Harrods when I was a junior window dresser so know a few tricks too to make them stand out from the crowd. I’ve created 10 looks to make your wrapping look amazing this year…plus none of it requires much outlay and much of it you probably already have. Oh yes, we are going to be eco-friendly too and do a bit of recycling! Lets get inspired…

Idea 1:Use fresh foliage –

Theres always so much stuff to use for free – you just have to look for it. Head to your local park for Holly, Ivy, Fir and berries. You’ll only need a few small bits, which you can leave in a small amount of water or damp oasis and then add them a few days before you gift your presents so they don’t dry out.

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogPillow pack / Wilkinsons

Idea 2: Get personal with personalised paper* –

For paper that really grabs peoples attention why not create something truly unique? Pretty Gifted is a fantastic online seller of personalised gift wrap – you pick your paper colour, your print foil, your font and your message and they do the rest. For £7.95 you get a large sheet of fantastic quality wrap, a gift tag and a metallic pen. I went for a little message to my boyfriend to wrap one of his presents in – ‘gifts are nice, but our love is everything!’ Lets get this whole season of buying stuff in proportion, eh?!?

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogGift wrap sheet, tag & metallic pen / Pretty Gifted*
Curling ribbon / The Works
Wooden decoration / Demelza Hospice shop

Idea 3: Map it out –

Know a person who loves to travel? Maps are something of a blast from the past these days but whenever I see old ones I want to make use of them. Dig out your old ones from the back of the cupboard or source vintage maps from charity shops and second hand stores and you will have some ready-made and totally personal, wrap. Just add ribbon…

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogVintage maps / various charity shops
Ribbon / Tiger Stores

Idea 4: Make part of the present the wrapping –

Giving a gift of a scarf or similar? Why not use it as the gift wrap? Theres nothing like getting two presents for the price of one! If you can’t use the gift itself you could use a beautiful off-cut of fabric – just wrap it around the gift, add a satin ribbon to fasten, and you are done!

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogVintage scarf / my own
Satin ribbon / John Lewis
Gift tag / Clintons

Idea 5: When theres not much time but you still want to be individual –

We’ve all seen all the gift boxes you can get in the card shops – they are easy to use, but usually not that exciting. However, life gets busy so for a short cut use pre-made gift boxes, but do it your way. Change the ribbon and the tags and add some personal touches such a giant bows and christmas decorations – now your box is totally unique.

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogGift boxes / The Works (striped), Card Factory (glitter), Sainsburys (gift card)
Curling ribbon / The Works
Tree decoration / Demelza Hospice shop

Idea 6: Christmas decorations –

This time of year its easy to find a different decoration to suit every type of person, so why not add it your parcel as a personalised gift tag? The person can keep it afterwards and add it to their tree as a keepsake. For a special gift, look for collectable decorations and for a more budget friendly version check out the supermarkets, Wilkinsons or charity shops – many charity shops have ranges of new decorations for sale and you can help a worthy cause at the same time.

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogChristmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blog25th Dec wrapping paper / Clintons
Wood & raffia decoration / Demelza Hospice shops
Set of 3 porcelain decorations / Georg Jenson at John Lewis
Ribbon / Tiger Stores

Idea 7: Recycle that newspaper –

Boring old newspaper can look amazing as a present wrapping. Use an unfamiliar paper such as one from a foreign country or as I have here, the Financial Times. Look out for vintage newspapers and comics – for a really individual touch you could use one from the year that person was born.

Christmas gift wrap wrapping Newspaper style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogChristmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogFinancial Times / selected newsagents
Ribbon / The Works

Idea 8: Doilies –

Paper doilies have gone out of fashion in recent years but they are easy to track down in the party and disposable plates section of many stores. They make a fabulous addition to gift wrap particularly with a simple paper underneath. Want a truly unique gift wrap? Then this look is for you.

Christmas Paper Doilies gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blog

Brown paper / Poundland
Decorative string / The Works
Paper Doilies / Tesco

Idea 9: Tins –

Tins, both vintage and Christmas themed are really a gift in themselves for wrapping smaller presents. Look out for unusual ones throughout the year and then add your smaller gifts into them. Finally just add a bow and boom – done!

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blog

Tins / charity shops, Poundland, Ikea
Ribbon / Tiger Stores, M&S

Idea 10: Tinsel is not just for the tree –

For a fun look tinsel can work perfectly as an alternative to ribbon. Look for rolls of mini tinsel which is usually used as a garland or for smaller trees and wrap it around your wrapped gifts. Cut smaller sections and tie together to make a starburst bow and your gift will look amazing!

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogMini tinsel garland / John Lewis
Gift tag / John Lewis
Wrapping paper / Poundland

And finally, some tips to make your wrapping look great. Remember with gift wrapping, the basics matter –

  • Measure out how much paper to cut by rolling out your wrapping paper and then placing the item (ideally a box) in the centre of the paper, upside down, so the seams of the paper will end up on the bottom of the package. Bring the paper up one side and over the top of the box, all the way to the opposite edge estimating how much additional paper you’ll need to cover the side of the box that’s not yet covered and then cut the paper.
  • Bring one side of the paper up the side and halfway across the top, affixing it to the box with a piece of tape.
  • Before bringing the second side of paper up and over the first, create a clean seam by folding over the last half-inch or so of the paper, using your fingers to create a tight crease. Now bring this side up so it just overlaps the first one and affix with tape – double-sided tape can be used for an even neater look. Position the fold on an edge for a seamless look, making sure you line up any patterns.
  • Fold the paper on each side of the present and starting on one end, fold down the top flap onto the side of the box, creating two little wings at the side. Flatten those in against the box, then fold the remaining triangle of paper up against the box. Fasten it in place with a small piece of tape.
  • Add your bows and tags as required. Curl ribbon with the underside of a sharp pair of scissors and cut ribbon ends into forks or angles.

Enjoy getting ready for the holiday season! If you use any of these ideas I would love to see! Tag me on Instagram – @blueskygirlie.

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*items marked with an asterisk denotes a gifted item but all views stated are my own. For more information please see my disclaimer section.

All photos are my own and cannot be used without permission.

Black Friday – Hints and Tips

As you all know I LOVE shopping and this week all our inboxes are being bombarded with Black Friday sales and offer deals, desperately trying to get our cash. But how do you know whats a great offer and whats a dud? I’ve pulled together a few tips below to help you get the best bargains this Black Friday.

But first – what is Black Friday?

Black Friday is an annual discount shopping event held the day after Thanksgiving (which is always on a Thursday), first starting in America as a way to ‘cheer people up’ from the comedown of Thanksgiving as most people would have that day off work also. Originally a one-day event, many retailers now offer sales and deals in the week leading up to it thanks to its huge success (and the fact it caused riots when it was just the one day!). You may of seen footage of people fighting over TV’s and the like…yep, that was during Black Friday. This year Black Friday falls on Friday 23rd November.

How to get the best deals this year –

Sign up for newsletters and keep your eyes on each brands social media

Yes, lots of spammy emails can be annoying but if there are brands you love or items you want to save on, sign up/follow their social media. It will be through these all their deals, codes and offers will be revealed. You can always unsubscribe afterwards.

Plan your attack

Write a list and stick to it. Double check all prices to make sure they are actually the cheapest and utilise ‘price matching’ if you want to buy from a particular retailer. Look at reviews – it might be cheap but is it any good?

Dont pay delivery costs if you can help it

It can be worth finding a cheap filler item to get free delivery to take your basket value up to the stores free delivery amount or use their collect at store option if there is a store near to you. If you buy from Amazon, opting into Prime for free 1 day delivery is definitely worth it, plus you get a great TV/movie/streaming service too!

Can you use a cashback website to cut the cost even more? 

Once you know where’s cheapest, check Quidco or TopCashBack for further savings – buying via their links can often save you up to 20% or gain you a single one-off payment (although you will have to wait for this – sometimes up to 12 weeks).

Need a code? Theres an app for that…

Check websites such as HotUKdeals.com, VoucherCodes.co.uk or VoucherCloud.co.uk where people share discount codes they receive as well as great bargains they have found. Some of these codes will work on top of Black Friday offers so its always worth trying them.

Be careful of scams

If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. In the week of Black Friday and Cyber Monday the following week scams, phishing emails and credit card fraud increase dramatically. Be careful using your mobile phone to place orders and only buy through sites you know are real and have a secure ‘https’ connection (look for the padlock in your url bar). Use a credit card if in doubt as this gives you extra protection (but pay it off afterwards!)

Don’t wait for Friday

Many retailers will start their offers early and on Friday stock will sell out and websites often crash. Miss all the mayhem by buying on the days before or if the offers are only on Black Friday shop early in the morning or late at night when website traffic is reduced.

You can always change your mind

If you get carried away, remember most of the time you can always return your items. Check out each companies return policy and make sure they accept unwanted items as well as faulty ones and keep your receipts. Don’t delay though, the sooner you process your return the better!

And finally remember the money mantra always given by Martin Lewis, financial expert at MoneySavingExpert.com – before you buy anything, ask yourself: ‘Do I need it, is it worth it, have I checked whether it’s cheaper elsewhere?’ If the answer to any of those is no, don’t buy it. And even if it’s yes, ensure you can afford it.

Remember no ‘bargain’ is ever worth getting into financial difficulties for.

There will be some great offers around this week – so are you ready to spend or do you think its a complete waste of time? I’d love to know…

Another way to say thank you with Cadburys Roses

On Saturday I had the chance to have the most lovely experience in London thanks to Cadbury’s Roses.

On a quiet street at the back of Oxford Street just opposite Soho Square, this gorgeous pop-up shop was hiding, waiting to share its beautiful thank-you with anyone who happened to pop in.

It looked absolutely adorable, from its 3D flowery signage right down to the vintage style yellow bike outside.

Once inside it got even better…

Set up like a high end florist, each classic Roses flavour had its own hand-made paper rose with the chocolate hidden inside surrounded by foil petals. I’m a Strawberry Cream and County Fudge kinda girl…what are your favourites?

The idea was you could pick one flower, write a thank you note to someone special and then take it away for free to gift to the person you wanted to say thank you to.

The pop up shop was created by GoLin PR Agency and Bearded Kitten Events with 7000 hand-made flowers created by set designer Tamara D’Silva and her team and was really lovely – a chocolate florist shop…it doesn’t get much cuter than that! As a creative, I love seeing a concept delivered really well and the shop was utter event/pop up perfection! I believe its due to go on tour around the UK so keep your eyes peeled for it in your city!

I had my son Reuben with me and he wanted to say his ‘thank you’ to me. I saw him chatting to the lovely ladies running the shop and the next thing I knew he had a huge bouquet in his arms for me! See the video below…

And this was his message to me…*heart almost bursts with love*. What a wonderful treat.

I think its fair to say I was very pleased with my bouquet of chocolate Roses (one of every flavour no less!). I mean, look at how I’m looking at them

Cadburys Roses Thanks a Bunch Another Way to Say Thank you 80th chocolate pop up event

Cadburys Roses Thanks a Bunch Another Way to Say Thank you 80th chocolate pop up event

Cadburys Roses Thanks a Bunch Another Way to Say Thank you 80th chocolate pop up event

The real reason for all this loveliness? Well that’s lovely too –  Cadbury’s have created a limited edition Roses tin to mark the chocolates 80th anniversary. Can you believe Roses have been around for 80 years? The retro vintage design tins feature a variety of coloured roses surrounded by ribbon-style banners against the traditional ‘Cadbury Roses Blue’ background. The design is really nostalgic and reminds me of a Nana’s sewing tin! On that note, sustainability has also played a key role in the decision to opt for metal packaging for the once-in-a-lifetime celebration tins. Its definitely not something you’d ever throw away – I mean, look how pretty it is…

Find your limited edition 800g tin exclusively in Tesco now! Its RRP is £9.99 although it was just £8.00 when I checked while writing this blog post. A total bargain I say!

And thank you to Cadburys for making me feel so happy and giving my wonderful son the opportunity to say thank you to me! If you’d like to say thank to someone too, I think the vintage tin would be a lovely way to say thank you to someone special this winter.

The short of it

Another title for this blog post could of been – Body Image: Current status ‘its complicated’. Let me explain…

I’m just about to go away on holiday and for the past 11 weeks I have been religiously following the Weightwatchers Flex plan my aim to lose a stone before my holiday as well as running my usual 15km a week. As ever my commitment was unwavering and I exceeded my goal losing 17.5lb and over 10% of my body weight.

In a way that was the easy part. It has been an extremely hard journey to lose the weight this time round (I am now 45 and losing weight is getting harder and harder) but more importantly during this journey I have noticed some other significant changes happening to me. One of the biggest things that has happened is I have started to wear shorts!!!

Now thats probably not a big deal to most people but it is a huge deal for me…

Obviously a trivial thing like wearing shorts is the visible change but something much more significant has changed in me. Even though I have lost a lot of weight over the last 5+years (I was at my heaviest a size 20/22 and am now a size 10/12) I find it very hard to see myself and my body as ‘ok or even *gasp* quite good. These insecurities would mean I would wear leggings under dresses and go running in capri running tights even on the hottest of days.

Body image is a strange thing and however much other people tell you your body is ok unless you believe it yourself, it means nothing.

During the last 3 months I’m not sure why I started to feel different but I realised I was feeling angry. Angry mainly at myself for limiting my choices. Why shouldn’t I wear what I wanted? Why should I be hot and uncomfortable because I was worried someone might judge me? Was I really this stupid? Was I really this vain?

So, I bought some running shorts and I ran. And bought some summer shorts and I wore them. And you know what? The world didn’t end!!! No-one mentioned my admittedly wobbly thighs and even better I didn’t feel bad. I actually felt great. I felt free…and most importantly proud of myself.

Learning to love yourself is a journey thats for sure. But here I am, standing smiling in the sun wearing the kind of ‘short’ shorts I used to fear and a vest, embracing my new body, faults and all. I have bought a white bikini and will wear it by the pool and those running shorts are packed. My body is not perfect, but its better than it was. Its healthy and strong, my boyfriend thinks its sexy, it made a beautiful child and most importantly its the only one I’m getting!

More reading:

Find previous blogs about my weight loss journey here and here.

Find previous blogs about my fitness and running here, here and here.

Uniqlo/Marimekko collaboration

Sometimes theres just a coming together of two favourite brands that you cannot ignore. This happened recently when Uniqlo announced that their next designer collaboration would be with Finnish design house Marimekko.

For those not familiar with Finnish design house Marimekko, their style is bright, fun and vibrant and having started in the 1950’s has a very retro feel.  They create fashion and homewares and their fabrics are often used within interior and retail design projects.

The collaboration itself is a range of 6 different prints repeated into dresses, tops, trousers, bags and shoes with all the price points sitting within Uniqlo’s affordable set pricing structure.

After visiting the store and trying on a few pieces (being a Japanese brand I find Uniqlo clothing can come up a little on the small side) I settled on two t-shirts and a dress. I could of bought lot more but was strict on myself as my wardrobe is already bulging at the seams.

This is what I bought…

Dress – £19.90

Uniqlo Marimekko fashion range via www.AlwaysaBlueSkyGirl.com / Blueskygirlie

The print itself is named Polle (Horse) and is based on an image the Marimekko design team took of what they describe as the “round hoof prints left by a plump small pony.” so I’m already in love this print!  This is a comfortable slightly A-line fit, t-shirt dress and I went for a small which would fit a 10-12 fine. Its sizes run XS – L, is 100% cotton and costs just £19.90. Oh and did I mention it has pockets!!!

T-shirt – £12.90

Uniqlo Marimekko fashion range via www.AlwaysaBlueSkyGirl.com / Blueskygirlie

A boxy shape, I went for a size medium for a slightly roomy fit. It has all its print to the front, is available in sizes XXS – XL, is 100% cotton and costs just £12.90.  The Pompula (pompom) pattern depicts flowerpots. According to Marimekko, its been used as flowers are a warm way to remember friends, family and loved ones on different occasions.

T-shirt – £12.90

Again a boxy shape, I went for a size medium for a slightly roomy fit. It is white with just the print on an oversized chest patch pocket featuring that aforementioned plump pony print! It is available in sizes XXS – XL, is 100% cotton and costs just £12.90. Perfect with jeans and trainers I loved the cute simplicity of this tee.

All the items are all beautifully made and fantastic quality for the price.  Sizing can be a little confusing and I’d recommend a try on session but as ever Uniqlo has come up trumps.  It even comes in its own lovely paper carrier bag…

The range is available now in selected Uniqlo stores now and online here.

COLOUR POP: Red & Pink

When I saw this blouse in Zara the other day, displayed with a whole red and pink theme I just had to have it. Its rare I feel like that while shopping these days so didn’t hesitate in buying it.

Blouse/ £25.99 Zara

From the Zara Basic range it is made from a lovely silky material, with a hidden placket front, shaped shoulder pads and cuff button detail. At £25.99 it is a complete steal and looks so much more expensive than it was. Their VM fuelled my already slightly obsessive love of red and pink together and I also picked up a pair of pink Zara cropped wide leg trousers for £29.99 (although I think a pair of red peg leg trousers may be next on my shopping list – the Zara ones the model is wearing were about 6″ too long, so searching the petite ranges it will have to be!).

So instead heres how I styled it…

Size wise, I went for a small in the blouse and it fits well – fitted on the shoulders but loose enough on the hips to be worn longer with jeans. I was feeling smug about buying the small at Zara but had to size up to a large in the trousers as they are a pull on style so that soon put me in my place! Urgh, Zara sizing…

To complete the look I added some bright red sling-back flats from Primark…

…as well as a bright pink lip colour.

I really loved this outfit and will definitely wear it both for the office and with heels and tassel earring on a night out. I have SO many different red and pink items in my wardrobe this blouse has encouraged me to mix a few of them together. I cant wait to see what looks I can create next – I really think its the perfect bright colour combo for Spring/Summer!

Not quite your style? Heres some more red and pink Zara shopping inspo….theres something for everyone!

Red blazer /  trouser  Sleeve detail top  Ribbed t-shirt

Two tone bodysuit  Flower earrings    Floral wedges

Blouse / Zara (in store now)
Cropped trousers / Zara (in store now)
Shoes / Primark (old season but similar available in store now)

Letter to my 13 year old self

Today is International Women’s Day, a day that commemorates the movement for women’s rights. It is celebrated on March 8 after women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia on that date in 1917 and it became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.

This years theme is #PressforProgress. In a statement for 2018 they said “With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away – there has never been a more important time to keep motivated. And with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and more – there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity. And while we know that gender parity won’t happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day. Plus, there’s indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support. So we can’t be complacent. Now, more than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. A strong call to #PressforProgress. A strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.  International Women’s Day is not country, group or organisation specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. So together, let’s all be tenacious in accelerating gender parity. Collectively, let’s all Press for Progress.”

Recently I have been musing on how hard it can be to be a woman. In the light of the #TimesUp movement much has been spoken about about the challenges and inequalities of being female and although things are changing they still have a way to go. I have had my fair share of harassment and in my younger years had to stop a man trying to force me to do something I didn’t want to do on more than one occasion. It amazing how charming and funny you can be while trying to not get assaulted… Since having my son it has been very hard to maintain any consistency in my career (in fact even have a career), and its clear that women with children are still discriminated against quite openly and it is still a very male orientated world.

I wondered, if I knew then what I know now what would I tell myself? Here is the letter I would write to my pre-womanhood self…

Sarah,

You are just about to become a woman. Urgh, I know, periods are rubbish right?You’ve always been female, but you will soon learn you now have a whole new set of skills to use and issues to deal with. It is sad, but you will be judged on how you look – and even though you are a feminist you will use those looks when you can. Remember all the ‘look pretty’ and ‘be a good girl’ comments? It going to get worse…but now you will be judged on your body too. There nothing wrong with revelling in your femininity, but make sure it is not all you are.

Talking about bodies, do not compare yourself to others. Not your face, your figure and definitely not your personality. You will blossom and grow and by the time you are 40 you will look pretty good. It will take a ton of hard work but it will be worth it. You will always be short though, sorry.

Do what you love. You wont want to follow the same path as your peers and that’s ok. Try as many things as you can both in your career, in life experiences and in bed (sorry mum). Give everything you try your all but if you do fail just dust yourself off and start again. Don’t worry about the applause, the applause won’t do for you what you think it will. Never, ever, give up.

You have your whole life ahead of you and you do not need to rush into anything. You are beautiful and talented and there is only one of you. Wait for a lover who knows what a gift he’s getting to get to have you in his life. You are not easy, but you are definitely worth it – don’t ever let a boy define your happiness.

Talking about happiness – let yourself be happy. Really happy. That can be harder than it sounds. You won’t always be perfectly happy – you’ll have to learn to find happiness, to fight for it sometimes. You’ll have to learn that no matter how sad you get, you can always fight your way back. It is always there…and in the meantime there’s always music and pick n mix.

Listen to yourself. You have an amazing instinct – it will save you again and again. Listen to advice when it is offered, but when it comes to taking it not all advice is created equal and you need to know this. Even those with the best of intentions might be unaware of how they are guiding you to the place that is best for them – not necessarily for you. You’ll know what’s right, trust me.

Learn to say no. No I would not like to go out with you. No you may not have my phone number. No I do not want to have sex with you. No I will not text you a picture of myself. No No No. Consider saying No about lots of other things too, but those no’s will be especially important. You do not have to do anything you don’t want to do. Those girls that are doing it all now? Its ‘tortoise and the hare’ I can promise you.

Find some friends. You don’t need a lot of them but nurture the great ones. As you get older you will realise how important true friends are. That girl in your class Veronica? She is going to be your bestie for life – you will see each other get married, have babies, even get divorced (sorry – spoiler alert).  Loving people makes you a better person – fact.

Learn to stand up for yourself as soon as you can. One of your best traits will be your bravery – you are so brave it amazes me. Family, friends or lovers might stand in for your own courage sometimes, but that there is no feeling the world which compares to standing on your own two feet. Earn your own money, buy your own things and own your own life. Always speak up if you think something is not right.

Be a proud feminist.  You have come from a long line of strong, intelligent, independent women.  Make them proud.  Make all women proud. 

You will be hurt. Anyone who lives a brave life gets hurt. So learn to forgive. Forgive your parents for not being perfect. Forgive the ones who tried to love you but couldn’t. Forgive friends who let you down. Forgive (but don’t forget). Try and remember that most people, most of the time, are doing the best they can. Try and be kind…its not your natural style but you will get better at it.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. You can be a little self-obsessed. Learn to laugh at yourself more than just about everyone else.

Look after yourself.  Health is everything.  You wont sort yourself out properly until youre about 40 and you will waste so much time before that hating yourself.  Love yourself whatever your size – you are the same person inside, remember that. You think you hate sport currently…try and change that mindset as it really will change your life – by 45 you’ll be running 3 times a week.

Spend as much time with your dad as you can. You’re going to really miss him when he’s gone.

You don’t think you want kids at the moment but becoming a mother will be the greatest thing you’ll ever do. In the meantime, learn from your own mum – she will show you how to be a truly great mother (and definitely use birth control till then – you wont believe how many people you know will have ‘surprise’ babies). She is and will always be, your greatest fan.

Try not to worry. You worry a lot. About everything. It really doesn’t change anything.  Fight your anxiety.  You will beat it.

And finally, that thing you think about the most – you will find true love.  However it wont be with Ben from Curiosty Killed the Cat, sorry.  But that love will make you truly love yourself finally…even if you tummy is still a bit fat and your nose is still a bit big.  Be brave in who and how you love – life is not a dress rehearsal. 

Can’t wait to watch you shine.

Love
Sarah xx

Oh and your fashion sense will get much much better…

Me and my mum circa 1986.

Gloria Steinem, once explained “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” So make International Women’s Day your day and do what you can to truly make a positive difference for women. It can be hard being a woman. It can be unfair. But at the same time it is amazing.

Doing Valentines Day your way…

Now lets start with a disclaimer…I am no fan of Valentines day. In fact I wrote a whole blog about it being a marketing ploy that we should not get caught up in (read my thoughts here). I personally don’t like being guilted in to acting a certain way and all these ‘holidays’ do seem to do that.

Instead lets talk about things I do love…

  • Fashion
  • Hearts
  • Vintage
  • Personalisation
  • Cute design
  • Being romantic

Regardless of the date, let me share some lovely ways to be cute around Valentines Day or Galantines Day or just a random day in February depending on your view, using things I love.

Dress the part –

Don’t worry, I’m not talking sexy underwear (although most men would agree its never a bad idea, I’m sure!). I’m talking a cute reference to the season without looking like you tried too hard. This cropped jumper looks great and I co-ordinated it with a leather skirt for a low key sexy look. It has a sense of humour (a key part of fashion for me), is a great price and best of all you can wear it any day of the year! After all, who doesn’t love LOVE!

Jumper / Divided at H&M, Skirt / Very.co.uk

Get retro –

As you may know I love vintage (I run a vintage shop full of curated pieces on Etsy – take a look) and buying vintage items is a cheap and cheerful way to add a unique touch to proceedings. I discovered these 1960’s glasses in a local secondhand shop and just had to have them.

…and they came in a pair so are perfect for a glass of bubbly with a loved one during a cheeky romantic meal – or how about using them for a yummy dessert?

Smell great –

They say our sense of smell plays a huge part in arousal and smelling good makes you feel confident which in turn makes you sexy. So add a few sprays of a great scent onto your skin and see what happens! Lately theres been some fantastic perfumes launch that don’t break the bank, in fact my two favourites at the moment are actually budget buys from Missguided and Primark.

Pink Candy fragrance / Primark, Babe Power fragrance / Missguided

Wrap a gift but make it personal* –

I discovered Pretty Gifted just before Christmas. They are a fantastic online seller of personalised gift wrap – you pick your paper colour, your print foil, your font and your message and they do the rest. For £7.95 you get a large sheet of fantastic quality wrap, a gift tag and a metallic pen. This time I chose the new rainbow foil effect and went for a cute little message to my boyfriend to wrap a token gift in – ‘can I borrow a kiss? I promise to give it back…’ I’m smooth right!?!

Wrapping paper / Pretty Gifted, Ribbon / Wilkinsons

I have kindly been given a code for my followers to receive an exclusive 10% off all orders – bluesky18val . It is valid until their Valentines cut off (midday on Friday 9th Feb)

Have a nibble –

My local independent baker makes the cutest cookies and cakes for Valentines (and lots of other seasonal events) and I bet yours does too. For just a £1.50 or so you can pick a super cute treat for a favourite person to have with their coffee which is guaranteed to make them smile and remind them how much you care…oh and you get to support a small independent business too!

Be cute not crass –

One of the reasons I’m not a fan of V-day is the pressure it creates. It encourages us to spend money we often cant afford on booking restaurants or spending £50 on roses that will be dead in a week, feel we must be waiting in red underwear ready to ‘perform’ as if we were in a XXX movie and the fake world of social media has just made it even worse. Thanks Facebook/Snapchat/Insta but I don’t need to see 37 photos of *insert name here*s Valentines day…no one does!

Often a token gift can mean much more than something expensive but with no thought behind it. A pretty pair of earrings because he knows you love to dress up, a lip balm because he loves to kiss your lips, a Lego mini figure of a favourite comic book character, a book mark because he knows you love reading…These type of things mean much more to me and are the things I have come to cherish particularly as I get older…

Heart Peg / The Works (pack of 10), Earrings / F&F, Trinket dish / Clintons, Lip balm / Beauty Base , Silver Love Heart / Suck UK , Love potion bottle / East of India, Harley Quinn figure / Lego.

So for a simpler way to celebrate, put your phone away, don’t broadcast what you’re doing or not doing and just do something that makes the person you love (whether its a lover, a friend or yourself – self love counts too remember) happy. Write a note, share a memory, make a favourite meal or just sit on the sofa watching a favourite film. Obviously feel free to do any of the other ‘Valentiney’ things if thats your bag, but do them because you want to and can afford to, not because you’re trying to out-do the rest of Facebook, impress your friends or feel pressured to by others.

Celebrate or don’t celebrate, but do it you way!

…And most importantly, none of the ideas shown in this blog cost a lot… because I truly believe love shouldn’t come with a price tag! xx

*items marked with an asterisk denotes a gifted item but all views stated are my own. For more information please see my disclaimer section.