All posts by mirandasnotebook

UK Travel | Highlights of Penzance, Cornwall

When I was in Penzance last Spring, I managed to pack rather a lot into 3 days, taking in the delights of the town, as well as nearby Tremenheere Sculpture Park and St Michael’s Mount. This time, I returned to some familiar favourites (the Exchange Gallery, No. 56The Front Room, Endpaper and Barton Books all high on my list), but also explored some new places. A real pleasure in visiting Penzance is that there is so much to do and see. Here are some highlights from my recent trip:

1/ The National Dahlia Collection

We seized the opportunity of a sunny morning to head to the National Dahlia Collection at Varfell Farm, just outside of Penzance. The dahlia season was just ending, but we were still in time to see some gorgeous blooms.

It felt very peaceful to wander amongst the rows of colourful flowers, with only the hum of a lawnmower disturbing the peace. Butterflies fluttered in the breeze, and, a little hazy in the distance, St Michael’s Mount could be glimpsed.

2/ Tasting Menu at The Shore

You may remember that on my last press trip to Penzance, I was invited to review The Shore restaurant. I enjoyed it so much then that, when my Dad said he wanted to take us all out for a meal to celebrate my birthday, I instantly suggested The Shore.

Since our last visit, a tasting menu (either 5 or 7 courses), as well as the regular à la carte, has been introduced. My Dad treated us to the 7 course meal, with accompanying wine flight. It was incredible! All the wines and dishes were superb, and it would be impossible to pick a favourite, though some highlights for me were the cured monkfish with seaweed salad and wasabi sorbet, hake with roasted beetroot, puy lentils and red cabbage  and the raspberry sorbet. It was a fantastically memorable birthday meal.

3/ Morrab Library

This independent library, housed in a Victorian mansion, is only a few minutes walk from Myrtle House, just across the pretty Morrab Gardens, and is the perfect place for any bibliophile to while away a rainy afternoon. Morrab Library boasts an impressive collection of books, and the reading rooms are beautiful, with desks placed at windows offering  breath-taking views across the gardens and out to sea.

4/ An Afternoon in Mousehole.

I’d been disappointed not to make it to Mousehole (pronounced Mowsol), a charming fishing village about a 15 minute drive from Penzance, on my last visit, so this time I was determined to go. We stopped for lunch at Rock Pool, which served crab sandwiches, cream teas and cocktails and was a lot fun! The cafe offers terrific views of the sea, and although it was too cold to sit out on the terrace, we nabbed a table near the window.

After our sandwiches, I strolled on into the town, pausing to snap plenty of photos of the winding streets and pretty harbour. I thought Mousehole was delightful, with a fairytale quality to its colourful cottages and bobbing boats.

5/ Jubilee Pool.

The Jubilee Pool had been closed on my last trip, so I was very pleased to get to visit it this time, although I’m afraid I wasn’t brave enough to have a dip! I loved the Art Deco design, and the serenity of the quiet pool, jutting out into the sea.

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Next time I’m in Penzance, I’m planning a visit to Polgoon Vineyard (we tried some of their Cornish wine and cider, which were very good!) and the Minack Theatre, which I didn’t manage to get to this time. At least I have an excuse for another trip!

T&T 49 | Nell Stevens Discusses Bleaker House

Listen to hear the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

In today’s Tea & Tattle episode, I’m joined by the writer Nell Stevens to discuss Nell’s debut book, Bleaker House. Nell lives in London and has a PhD in Victorian literature from King’s College London, and an MFA in Fiction from Boston University.

In her book, Nell describes her journey to the Falkland Islands, in search of the distraction-free, solitary existence she believed would help her to write a novel. Both funny and poignant, Bleaker House is one of the best books I’ve read about the writing process and what it means to be a writer.

It was a real joy to get to chat to Nell on the podcast and find out more about her day-to-day routine on Bleaker Island, as well as what her experience taught her about herself and her writing. Nell also explained how she came to structure the book in an unusual way, assembling it into a kind of collage to include her account of life on Bleaker Island, as well as extracts from her fiction writing and anecdotes about her past.

Nell Stevens, photographed by Mat Smith

I also questioned Nell about the title of her novel and the significance that Dickens’s Bleak House held for her writing process. Nell also makes an exciting announcement at the end of the episode about her next book, so be sure to listen out for that!

Listen to learn more about Nell’s experience of Bleaker Island and of writing a book. 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Tea & Tattle newsletter to get exclusive updates and recommendations of favourite books and products from Sophie and me every week.

UK Travel | A Family Reunion at Myrtle House Penzance

A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!

I spent the beginning of the month in beautiful Cornwall, exploring Penzance, Mawgan Porth, Carbis Bay and St Ives. I had the most wonderful time and love Cornwall even more than ever. You may remember I spent three days in Penzance last Spring, and so I was delighted to be able to take a longer autumnal trip and see a little more.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more about where I stayed and the cultural and foodie highlights from the trip, as well as my shopping haul! It was my birthday whilst I was in Penzance, so I made that an excuse to visit my favourite shops again.

For this trip, I stayed in a varied number of places, from self-catering homes to luxurious beachside hotels, and I’m very pleased to have such a wide range, which would suit many different types of holidays, to show you. First up, is Myrtle House Penzance: the perfect choice for a gathering of friends or family, or for those seeking plenty of space (see the end of the post for an exclusive discount offered to Miranda’s Notebook readers when booking a stay).

A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!

I’d been invited to Myrtle House to stay and review for the blog, and as this beautiful Georgian house in the heart of Penzance is self-catering and sleeps up to 8,  I decided it would be fun to invite some of my family along to join in the fun. Mum travelled down with me from London, and my Dad (along with my Grandma, who was paying a visit from Canada), flew over from Geneva, Switzerland.

On arriving at the house for a long weekend stay, we we were greeted by a hamper stuffed with Cornish treats, a tall vase filled with locally grown dahlias and Cornish cream, butter, milk and cheese stashed in the fridge. All the essentials, in fact!

A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers! A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!

We were all so impressed by the huge, well-stocked kitchen. I, of course, was delighted by the fantastic collection of teapots and pretty mugs and teacups. I always think the kitchen is the heart of a home, and we found we naturally collected a good deal around the large table, making plans for the day ahead over breakfast, or reliving adventures with a glass of wine in the evenings.

A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers! A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers! A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!

Also on the ground floor, along the corridor next to the kitchen, is a proper dining room, with a rather magnificent dining table and sideboard. We didn’t eat in this room, as we had suppers out and enjoyed breakfast in the kitchen, but I appreciated the table as another good workspace, and I enjoyed writing some cards and editing photos whilst looking out onto the front garden.

A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!

Stashed inside the sideboard, I discovered a marvellous collection of dainty china teacups and teapots, as well as linen napkins and tablecloths – perfect for an impromptu tea party!

We enjoyed the large sitting room as a cosy and inviting space to curl up with a book or sit and chat. The room features an attractive, useable fireplace – perfect for blustery autumnal evenings. I was drawn to the long window seat and coffee table heaped with good books and glossy magazines.

A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!

My dad especially loved the broad desk, and he ended up taking over this floor, the first floor, which, as well as the sitting room, has the French bedroom (I was charmed that all the bedrooms have their own name!).

A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers! A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!

All the bedrooms at Myrtle House are beautiful and every thought is given to comfort, with en suite shower rooms for each bedroom and chairs in the windows to sit and admire the view of Morrab Gardens, which are directly opposite the house. I thought the French room lived up to its name, with its dainty prettiness and slightly old-fashioned ornaments (those Staffordshire dogs!).

Two more bedrooms are on the second floor of the house, which I shared with my Grandma. She took a fancy to the Blue Room, which is painted in lovely tones of blue that reminded me of the sea only a short walk from the house.

A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!

A particularly charming touch was the fully stocked tea and coffee supplies in the bedrooms.

I fell for the Master Room, which, as well as boasting very generous proportions, has a large bathroom with an extremely inviting bathtub, in addition to a walk-in shower. Anticipating the chance at a particularly good soak, I’d brought a bottle of Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley Bath Oil with me from London. Bliss!

A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!

Finally, at the top of the house on the the third floor is the loft, which can be set up with either a double or twin beds, or simply left as another living area. This space is, I think, especially great for children, as the ceilings are quite low and slanted, and there’s a little landing / play area  just outside the bedroom that would be enchanting for youngsters.

There’s a little shower room tucked away in a corner too that wouldn’t fit a tall person, but is great for kids! However, we chose to have this area made up with a double bed for my Mum to use, and it’s a good option for another double bedroom (although you’d have to share a shower with one of the downstairs rooms!).

A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!

I always find that self-catering homes generally have a lot more character and individual charm compared with hotels. We all enjoyed the excellent choice of books scattered throughout the house: a shelf of classic cookbooks in the kitchen; stuffed bookshelves on each little staircase landing; piles of beautiful coffee table books in the sitting room and stacks of magazines arranged in bedrooms.

A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!

The owners of Myrtle House also clearly have a bit of a penchant for cows, as there’s a bovine theme to the ornamentation scattered throughout the house, from cow-creamers to the life-size cow ornament (Myrtle herself) welcoming you in the front garden!

A glorious family gathering in Cornwall at Myrtle House Penzance, a beautiful self-catering holiday home sleeping up to 8 people. 10% discount for readers!

If you have kids, a great project for them would be finding and drawing all the cows in the house – it would keep them quiet for quite a while!

I so enjoyed our family gathering at Myrtle House Penzance, and I can’t recommend it enough. The Property Manager, Claire, was such a delight too and so helpful about recommending some off-the-beaten-track destinations to explore in the area. I’ll share more about where we visited in my next post.

Myrtle House is a self-catering holiday home that sleeps up to 8 people. To claim 10% off website prices for stays up to end of May 2018, simply mention ‘Miranda’s Notebook’ when booking.

Note: my stay at Myrtle House Penzance was complimentary for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.

48 | Lagom and the Art of Balanced Living

Listen to the latest podcast episode here or on iTunes.

This week on Tea & Tattle podcast, Sophie and I are discussing the Swedish term, lagom, meaning ‘just the right amount,’ and how we can use the Scandinavian principle of living in balance to lead happier and healthier lives ourselves.

The modern world feels an increasingly chaotic and time-pressured place in which to live, and we examine how adopting a lagom approach to work and health may help us to identify our priorities and lead a less stressed existence.

Listen to learn more about the Swedish way of living and how to find more balance in your life.

Creative Crush | Sara Gordon, Bloom & Wild

Sara Gordon Bloom and Wild InterviewSara Gordon, Brand and Creative Director of Bloom & Wild

I’m a big fan of Bloom & Wild, and I’ve been surprised by many a thoughtful friend who has sent me one of their fabulous letterbox bouquets. It never fails to make my day whenever I see one of their long, thin boxes on the doormat, as I know there’s always a sweet note and a lovely selection of pretty blooms carefully wrapped inside.

I’ve been especially enjoying the latest Bloom and Wild collaboration with one of my favourite London-based florists, Nikki Tibbles of Wild at Heart. The new bouquets are perfect for autumn, with their seasonal blooms showcasing rich, luxurious colours. The Woodland Walk arrangement brightened up my office for weeks!

I was so pleased to meet Sara Gordon, the Brand and Creative Director of Bloom & Wild, at the launch party of the new floral collection, and I was delighted when Sara agreed to answer some of my questions about her career and give me some tips for styling flowers this season.

Sara Gordon Bloom and Wild InterviewRed Skies Bouquet, Bloom & Wild X Nikki Tibbles

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MN: Would you tell me a little about yourself and your career? Have you always loved flowers?

SG: I’ve always been a creative at heart and a flower lover. I studied design and psychology at University knowing I’d mix a passion for consumer behaviour with design in the digital age. After working in New York on everything from digital political campaigns to launching haircare lines internationally I became a seasoned digital brand strategist bringing together designers, content creators, social media experts and our clients to grow businesses beautifully.

Having always loved flowers, and their meaning, it really inspires me to come to work every day and be able to say that we’re all collectively working together to help brighten people’s days around the UK, France and Germany through flowers. We’re designing and delivering next generation gifting in the palm of our client’s hands.

Sara Gordon Bloom and Wild InterviewAutumn Mornings Bouquet, Bloom & Wild X Nikki Tibbles

MN: How did you first come to join Bloom and Wild? 

SG: I was actually sent a box of Bloom & Wild letterbox flowers very early when the company started by a friend of mine, Camilla, who was looking to invest. A year or so later she asked me for some help to recruit for my role… so I thought, why not join and help build a brand from the start?

 MN: Would you tell me more about what your role as Brand and Creative Director involves?

SG: Brand starts at our company’s heart – the culture we create internally and the behaviours we have. I look after ensuring that we’re a value-driven company that cares for our customers through a real mission: to make sending and receiving flowers a joy again. This means my team and I look after everything from the copy our Customer Delight team send to clients to the unboxing experience of our flowers to the photography on site and our marketing campaigns. Every day there’s something new to tackle which makes what we do really interesting. I’m currently working on our PR launches for France and Germany and how we make them truly memorable for consumers and journalists – it really stretches my brain to try and think of new experiences with flowers that haven’t been done before!

Sara Gordon Bloom and Wild InterviewWoodland Walk Bouquet, Bloom & Wild X Nikki Tibbles

MN: I absolutely love the Bloom and Wild X Wild at Heart collaboration. Would you tell me about the process in designing a collection together?

SG: Nikki is one of our design muses and we’ve always looked to her floral style for inspiration. It was a dream to work with their team to come up with seasonal collections that change every two months and to really design with stems that push up the luxury element of our letterbox and hand-tied bouquets. We focussed heavily on seasonality and trends puling from fashion and interiors. For example, a year ago small micro-florals were really popular but for Christmas this year its all about dark, big, blousy stems that make a statement. I can’t wait for you to see the next collection!

MN: Do you have a favourite bouquet from the collection?

SG: Hydrangeas are my absolute favourite flower – so it’s Red Skies hands down! Also the idea of burgundy skies in the late autumn… just dreamy.

Sara Gordon Bloom and Wild InterviewRed Skies Bouquet, Bloom & Wild X Nikki Tibbles

MN: What are some of your favourite ways to style flowers in the home for Autumn / Winter? Are there any colour combinations you’re particularly drawn to this season?

SG: In the autumn, I love adding big unruly branches to a huge apothecary jar as a centrepiece, it’s low maintenance and lovely for the home. For sending as a gift, contrasting textures like we’ve got in our Woodland Walk bouquet really makes a unique statement and feels truly seasonal. I always tell friends to find a vase that nips in at the mouth to give the blooms a bit of a lift and a round shape and to criss cross foliage first, then sturdier blooms followed by the really delicate bits popping out ever so slightly.

MN: Finally, what do you enjoy most about being part of the Bloom and Wild team?

SG: My favourite part is the people! We have an outstanding team that is impressive, has grace and grit, and I’m always happy to share a drink with on evenings and weekends. You spend most of your life at work so a mix of people and brightening people’s days with flower delivery keeps me going.

***

Thank you so much again to Sara for her wonderful answers to my questions. I’m inspired to arrange to track down an apothecary jar for arranging some big hydrangeas or branches of berries!

You can follow Bloom and Wild on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter  and Pinterest. Check out their website and the Bloom & Wild X Nikki Tibbles range.

Note: All photographs used in this post courtesy Bloom & Wild.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, you may like to read my interview with the floral photographer and author, Georgianna Lane.

T&T 47 | A Secret Sisterhood

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes

Today on Tea & Tattle, I’m joined by authors Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney, to discuss their book, A Secret Sisterhood, which describes the hidden literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf.

In their captivating book, Emily and Emma offer a fresh perspective on the lives of these famous women and show how important their friendships with other female writers were to their literary endeavours. As best friends and writers themselves, Emma and Emily have a particular interest in examining the role of friendship in writing, and they run the charming blog, Something Rhymed, which is dedicated to celebrating female literary friendships from the past and present.

I was so delighted to be able to speak to them both about how their friendship has influenced their own writing careers, as well as the discoveries they made whilst writing A Secret Sisterhood. Their book has been meticulously researched, and Emily and Emma even uncovered a document written by Jane Austen’s niece, Fanny, that had never previously been found. We chat about this exciting discovery, as well as how Emma nerved up the courage to ask one of her present-day literary heroines, Margaret Atwood, to write the brilliant introduction to the book, and so much more.

Listen to learn more about the hidden literary friendships of some of the most famous female writers. 

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up to receive the Tea & Tattle newsletter for exclusive content and the latest episode.

T&T 46 | Wabi-Sabi and the Art of Imperfection

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Episode here or on iTunes.

Today on Tea & Tattle podcast, Sophie and I examine our concerns about having too much of a perfectionist mentality, and how the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi helps us to embrace the imperfect and lead happier lives.

Wabi-sabi is rooted in Japan and is closely linked to the Japanese tea ceremony, but it’s an approach to life that can be adopted by anyone, anywhere in the world. Having a wabi-sabi mindset enables you to recognise and appreciate beauty in the imperfect and the transient, such as a worn, much-read book, or leaves falling from a tree.

Leafing through Wabi-Sabi Welcome by Julie Pointer Adams

In this episode, Sophie and I share our favourite definitions of wabi-sabi from literature we’ve read on the subject, and discuss more generally what wabi-sabi means to us and how we’re trying to accept and be at peace with imperfection in our own lives.

Listen to learn more about the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi and how to embrace the perfectly imperfect.

Remember to subscribe to the podcast to receive exclusive recommendations from Sophie and me every week.

How to Spark Creativity in Your Work

How to Spark Creativity in Your Work

{This post is written as part of September’s theme word of ‘work’ on Miranda’s Notebook.}

Whether you love or hate your job, are contemplating starting a ‘side-hustle,’ or are perfectly content with the traditional career path, there’s no denying that bringing a more creative approach to what you do will not only improve the work you produce, but will make the process much more enjoyable too.

My work as a primary school teacher and as a blogger/podcaster requires me to continually pull fresh ideas out of my head and churn out creative content on a daily basis. I rarely suffer from a lack of inspiration, however having a bank of ideas to hand is never due to chance, but is the result of a carefully managed system I have in place that keeps my creative fuel burning.

Here are the steps I take that enable me take a more creative approach to work and life.

1/ Have daily routines that help you cut through the noise in your head.

Many of us are perfectionists and suffer from from self-doubt and anxiety. It can be all too easy to get trapped into a negative cycle of thoughts spinning round your head, and this acts as a terrible block to your own creativity. Journalling first thing in the morning is a great way to get all the messy, anxious thoughts out of your head and on to paper, leaving you feeling clearer-thinking and more balanced as you start the day. Whenever I notice my thoughts starting to spiral, I know I have to fall back on journalling, meditation and exercise to help me cut through all the negative noise and feel grounded again.

2/ Listen to inspiring podcasts.

I like to listen to a wide range of podcasts to get the most inspiration. Here are some favourites:

For pure creative joy, I listen to The Writer’s Almanac, hosted by the fabulous Garrison Keillor. This is a bite-size podcast that offers a daily poem or prose and a bit of literary history. It never fails to teach me something new.

Hal Elrod’s Achieve Your Goals Podcast is brilliant to help you establish a productive morning routine and stick to goals.

Happier in Hollywood gives an entertaining insight into the lives of two Hollywood-based screenwriters, but there are also plenty of great tips on how to navigate a successful career and work as part of a team.

Side Hustle School will inspire anyone to have a go at pulling in extra income from a sideline hobby.

3/ Get out of your comfort zone.

In order to grow as a person, and also become more successful, it’s essential to stretch yourself by taking on tasks that are unfamiliar to you, or require you to learn certain skills.

Also, It’s too easy to get stuck in a comfortable rut of consuming the same types of material: you have your favourite authors, TV shows, restaurants, Instagram feeds, etc that keep you in your own little bubble. Making a conscious effort to try something new that you wouldn’t normally do is an excellent way to keep an open-minded outlook on life and helps you become more adaptive and resilient to change.

4/ Read more.

I always say books are my biggest source of inspiration. Reading a wide range of books, from fiction to non-fiction, essays, poems and articles, exposes you to new ideas and perspectives, which may well spark an interesting thought of your own.

Reading around your particular expertise is always a good idea too. For instance, I read many books about teaching whilst training to be a primary school teacher, but I also looked out for top-quality children’s books all the time too and continually added to the collection in my classroom.

5/ Make time to play.

There’s definite truth in the saying that all work and no play makes Jill a dull girl. Even the most interesting of jobs requires hours of hard work and ploughing through dull tasks. It’s important to take on an activity that, to you, is pure fun. I’m learning brush lettering and needlework, as I enjoy doing something that is soothing and occupies my hands, but that lets my mind wander freely. I’m also doing some water-colouring, even though I’m terrible at it, but I love mixing colours and just getting to play a little.

T&T 45 | A Chat With Carolyn Stritch (@theslowtraveler)

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Podcast here or on iTunes.

This week on Tea & Tattle Podcast, I’m in conversation with the freelance photographer, Carolyn Stritch. Carolyn lives in Newcastle, UK, and is the creator of The Slow Traveler blog and Instagram account. Her beautiful photographs never fail to leave me spell-bound, and I always appreciate the photography and Instagram advice she gives through articles on her blog.

Carolyn has one of the most beautiful, imaginative galleries on Instagram, so it’s hardly surprising that she’s attracted a huge following. I was so delighted when Carolyn agreed to interview on Tea & Tattle, and it was wonderful to find out more about how her career as a freelance photographer began and her creative process.

Knowing Carolyn to be an avid reader as well, I also asked her for some great book recommendations to curl up with as we head into autumn, and her suggestions had me rushing out to my nearest bookshop immediately!

Listen to learn about ways to improve your photography and navigate instagram. 

Note: images courtesy Carolyn Stritch.

Diary of a Flâneuse | First Signs of Autumn on Hampstead Heath

This post is part of a new series on Miranda’s Notebook, Diary of a Flâneuse, which is inspired by my interview with Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse, and offers photographs and observations drawn from what I see in my strolls through London.

Towards the end of summer, I went on a stroll through Hampstead Heath, when the sun was setting and the light was golden. Here are some of the things I noted and photographed along the way:

swans gliding on the ponds
golden reflections
blackberries ripening
dappled shadows
people dog training, almost getting pulled over by their canine friends
picnic baskets being packed away
families on bikes
a fallen log that made a good bench
deserted pathways
rustling willow trees

Seeing the blackberries made me think of one of my favourite poems, and -incidentally – made me crave blackberry crumble, served in pretty bowls with a jar of cream to go round.

Blackberries
for Jo

On the high iron railroad they drag their barbed wires
Through ditches, and twist
Up paths that look down over Consett, its fires gone out.
You are too young to remember.

But the sky is the colour of iron.
There is slag underfoot.
The hawthorn grows rusty. The dock rattles its seeds
Down the steep track. Each September,

Every year of our lives, Jo, we’ve climbed up here with
buckets
Where the fat berries blacken on clinker.
The urge to pick them comes stronger than hunger.
Very soon, it says, it will be winter.

So fill your pails now for the time when there will be no
blackberries.
Go home. Bottle them up,
Black as the midnight sky above the ironworks
Flaring red before the furnace doors clashed shut;

And over the sweet steam of the jam-pan, dream of
December
And blackberries in February, and the shoots that already
Shove through the dust a gift from the dead to the living,
Older than words, Jo. As old as loving.

– Katrina Porteous

Note: poem from Poetry Please: The Seasons