Category Archives: Life

Back to Blogging

As I write this, the sunshine is streaming through the window, and I’ve got a jug of just-about-to-burst daffs in view on the mantlepiece. I’ve just finished recording a Tea and Tattle interview, I’m trying to ignore the ache in my arms from a strenuous early morning workout, and I’ve made another cup of tea in the hope that it will perk me up a bit. I had a late night at the theatre last night, and it’s hard to stop yawning.

As I sat sipping the healing brew (as Bertie Wooster would say), it suddenly occurred to me that I haven’t blogged since before Christmas, and with another shock I realised that we’re almost mid-way through February. Why does the time go so quickly? January was a whirlwind of organising, recording and editing Tea & Tattle episodes to kickstart the new season. The podcast requires hours of work that tends to keep me from blogging as much as I’d like, but with the first taste of spring in the air, I’m in an optimistic mood and vowing to devote more time to this online room of my own.

Much as I love instagram, it certainly has its restrictions, and I’ve missed blogging as a means to write about and photograph whatever I want in relation to my London life and cultural pursuits.

So back to blogging it is!

A Relaxation Hamper and Evening Routines to Reduce Stress

A Relaxation Hamper and Evening Routines to Reduce Stress

Please note: I was sent a ‘relaxation hamper’ from The Grand Hotel and Spa, York to enjoy and photograph for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

As September approaches, I’ve been taking pleasure in noticing the first signs of Autumn (my favourite season!). The other morning, for the first time in months, I woke up to a nip in the early morning air that held the promise of crunchy leaves underfoot and pumpkin lattes from Starbucks. The blackberries that push through a broken fence further down my road are turning purple-black, and the shops are full of berry coloured dresses and mustard-yellow jumpers.

A Reflective Mood

A Relaxation Hamper and Evening Routines to Reduce Stress

‘Back-to-school’ season always inspires a reflective mood in me, and I’ve been thinking about some of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt over the past year, which was filled with plenty of ups and downs. With my Mum being diagnosed with and also recovering from breast cancer over the winter and spring, the paramount importance of good health has been on my mind a lot this year. I’ve realised how much stress affects my own health; as a classic type A personality, I can become overly anxious and give in to my perfectionist tendencies all too easily. Over the next few months, I’m keen to implement strategies that help me to effectively manage and reduce my stress levels.

I often find that I get most stressed in the evenings – a mental habit that’s likely leftover from when I was working a job I hated and would dread going in to work the following day. I feel so lucky to no longer be in that situation, but sometimes that lurking sense of dread will still creep over me in the evenings.  I’ve started implementing an evening routine that allows me to stay grounded and content and keeps me away from my other bad habit – too much screen time!

Relaxation Hamper from The Grand York

A Relaxation Hamper and Evening Routines to Reduce Stress

I was lucky enough to be sent a ‘relaxation hamper’ as a gift from The Grand York a couple of weeks ago. I was so delighted with the box, which was stuffed full of goodies to celebrate the pleasures of relaxing and rejuvenating from the comfort of my own home: soft, blush pink pyjamas from Victoria’s Secret; a fluffy white dressing gown, slippers and sleeping mask from the hotel; Lush bath and body products; a book about finding calm and a gorgeous ‘Autumn’ scented candle from The White Company.

My relaxation hamper has certainly prompted me to take more time for my physical and mental wellbeing, and I’m using everything I’ve been sent in my newly inspired evening routines to unwind and reduce stress:

My Evening Routines to Relax and Reduce Stress

A Relaxation Hamper and Evening Routines to Reduce Stress

1// Change into your comfiest loungewear 

I love changing into my comfiest clothes when I get home in the evenings. Whether I reach for my yoga pants or my pjs, I like to wear something that’s soft, loose and comfy and that helps me make the transition from ‘work’ to ‘home’ mode. I also remove all my makeup and spend time over my skincare regime, rather than wait until later in the evening when I might feel too tired to do a proper job. After this, I make myself a cup of herbal tea and generally take a seat in my tiny office/library, where I relax and look at my books. It may sound bizarre, but I always find browsing through my bookshelves incredibly soothing!

A Relaxation Hamper and Evening Routines to Reduce Stress

2// Spend some time on personal grooming

One of my favourite things to do in the evenings is to paint my nails, as then they’re ready for the next day, and I find it quite a calming activity – it at least makes me sit still and do nothing for 10 minutes! The evenings are also a good time to top up your self-tan (I use this gradual tanning cream on my legs).

I can get a little impatient whilst I wait for my nails to dry, so I often listen to an audiobook at the same time. I particularly like listening to a book that makes me laugh in the evenings, and my number one choice is any P.G. Wodehouse book read by Jonathan Cecil on Audible. Other favourite funny audiobooks of mine  are the Darling Buds of May series by H.E. Bates, The Diary of Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield and My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.

3// Run a bath

The older I get, the more I appreciate a long, hot soak in the tub in the evenings. Lush bath bombs always add an element of fun, and I either read a magazine or continue listening to my audiobook as I feel my muscles relax after a long day.

4// Choose some light reading material

I can never go to sleep without reading at least a sentence or two, no matter how late it is, and I find that the more I read in the evenings, the better I sleep. Nothing beats lighting a candle and curling up with a good book!

I don’t choose any reading material that’s particularly heavy or needs too much concentration at night; instead I reach for books that I can dip in and out of easily, like short story collections or poetry anthologies. A light novel is always a good choice too, and I like gentle memoirs (at the moment I’m particularly enjoying collecting Beverley Nichols‘s books, which focus on his experience living in a small village and the gardens he cultivated over his lifetime).

5// Meditate and/or do some restorative yoga

Nothing helps me regain perspective more after a bad day than taking 10 minutes for some meditation or restorative yoga in the evenings. This 7 Minute Bedtime Yoga Routine from Yoga with Adriene is a favourite of mine.


Thanks so much again to The Grand York for sending me such a lovely relaxation hamper and inspiring this post!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you may also like to listen to Episode 76 of Tea & Tattle Podcast, where Sophie and I chat more about our evening routines.

T&T 60 | Discussing Gretchen Rubin’s Personality Quiz

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

This week, I’m so delighted to say that my co-host, Sophie, is back on Tea & Tattle, after having some time away following a sad bereavement. Today on the podcast, we catch up with each other, swap our theme words for 2018 and discuss Gretchen Rubin’s fascinating book, The Four Tendencies.

Gretchen Rubin hosts one of my favourite podcasts, Happier, and she’s written several bestselling books on human nature, happiness and habits. The Four Tendencies is Gretchen’s most recent book, and in it she describes the framework she developed to help people better understand themselves in order to achieve their goals. Whether you’re an Obliger, Rebel, Questioner or Upholder is determined by how you respond to both internal and external expectations. I found The Four Tendenciesan illuminating read that helped pin-point my own strengths and weaknesses, and it was so fun to chat about it with Sophie and find out her tendency.

ALSO: I make a special announcement in this episode, concerning a change to Tea & Tattle Podcast (it’s a good one!), so do listen to the end to find out what I’m launching on Friday.

Listen to learn more about The Four Tendencies and which tendency we identify with the most.

T&T 59 | Johanna Basford Discusses the Mindful Art of Colouring

Johanna Basford Interview

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

Happy Tuesday! In today’s Tea & Tattle episode, I’m so delighted to be in conversation with the fabulous illustrator, Johanna Basford.

Johanna took the world by storm when her first adult colouring book, Secret Garden, was published in 2013. The book sold a million copies within the first year of publication, and since then, Johanna has gone from strength to strength, producing many more bestselling colouring books and being awarded an OBE in 2016.

Johanna Basford InterviewJohanna Basford in her studio in Scotland, photographed by Hayley Fraser

I love Johanna’s distinctive, hand-drawn ink illustrations, and I’ve collected several of her colouring books over the years.

In our chat together, I ask Johanna how she stays grounded when experiencing such tremendous success, and how she balances her busy working schedule with her family life. Johanna also gives some great tips on what pencils and techniques she likes to use for colouring in, and she shares the inspiration behind her latest book, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly, which charmingly combines storytelling with drawing.

‘Ivy and the Inky Butterfly’ by Johanna Basford. Stylist: Clare Nicolson. Photographer: Yeshen Venema. 

This is a brilliant episode for anyone who loves illustration and the mindful art of colouring, as well as being a truly inspiring success story showing how hard-work and passion really do pay off.

Listen to learn more about Johanna’s journey to success, as well as her latest book and colouring tips.

T&T 58 | The Girl Who Climbed Everest

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

Hello and Happy New Year! I hope you all had wonderful holidays and are having a fantastic start to 2018. I am so delighted to be back with Tea & Tattle Podcast, and I’ve got a fabulous episode for the start of the New Year.

Bonita Norris is a mountaineer who has broken many records. She is one of the youngest British women to have climbed Mount Everest, and last year she published a book about this experience, The Girl Who Climbed Everest.

Even though I am far from sporty and would never dream of climbing a mountain, I found Bonita’s book completely engrossing. It was fascinating to learn what being in the Death Zone of Everest is actually like (downright terrifying), but even more interesting to me was learning how Bonita uses the skills of mindfulness and living in the moment to push through fear and self-doubt and achieve incredible success.

Bonita Norris, photographed by Martin Hartley

I feel I read this book at exactly the right time: during a period when I was struggling to stay positive and to keep pushing forward. The Girl Who Climbed Everest is a fantastic read for anyone who’s trying to achieve a goal, as Bonita shows that simply not giving up, taking one small step at a time and trusting her instinct led her from randomly attending a lecture on mountaineering with a friend, to climbing the world’s highest mountain less than two years later. Big dreams are possible – as long as you don’t give up!

In today’s episode, Bonita shares more about what she’s learnt from tackling death-defying climbs; how a near fatal descent from Everest taught her to overcome a fear of failure and how climbing has helped her become more courageous in other areas of her life. It’s a fantastic listen that will be bound to inspire and encourage you to stick to those New Year resolutions!

Listen to learn more about climbing Everest and what it takes to achieve incredible goals.

My January Reading Goals

Although I don’t generally consciously articulate any reading goals I may have, I’ve come to realise that I often do have reading targets I like to meet on a monthly basis. I thought it would be fun to start writing them down properly and sharing them with you. Here are my reading goals for January:

1/ Read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. This month celebrates the 200th anniversary since Frankenstein was first published, so I thought it was about time I finally read it. When I announced I was going to start it on my @mirandasbookcase account, people’s opinions seemed quite divided on it – many loved it, but some said they’d be glad never to read it again. I’m curious to see what I make of it!

2/ Continuing the Frankenstein theme, I also want to read the latest biography of Mary Shelley by Fiona Sampson, which sounds fascinating. Someone also suggested I read Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon, which describes the lives of both Mary Shelley and her famous mother, Mary Wollstonecraft. I’ve bought the book, which looks fantastic, but it’s enormous so I doubt I’ll get to it this month.

3/ Keep a Reading Journal. This January, I’ve started a journal where I write down a list of books I read, buy and am given. I’m finding it so much fun already, and I think I’ll love looking back on it at the end of the year.

4/ Read a book that helps me keep better habits. I’ve knocked this goal off my list already, as I read The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin, which describes the framework she uses to help people better understand themselves and their ability to form good habits.

5/ Take part in a book discussion on Instagram. This month, I’m joining in Shelbi’s discussion of Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’m half way through the book, so I’m keeping up fairly well which pleases me!

As always, too, I am constantly looking out for good books and reading a great deal for Tea & Tattle Podcast. I’m changing the layout slightly to my joint episodes with Sophie, and I’m including a section that will help our listeners to read more in less time, which I’m very excited about and enjoying researching at the moment.

Do you have any reading goals for the month?

My Theme Word for 2018

Hello, and a somewhat belated Happy New Year! I’ve been enjoying a slow start to 2018, getting back into my rhythm of blogging, podcasting and teaching. I’ve also been thinking about the year ahead and reflecting on what I’ve learnt from 2017. Although a lot of good things happened last year, 2017 was, overall, a stressful 12 months, and my mum’s diagnosis of breast cancer towards the tail end of it really put things in perspective for me (thank you to everyone who has been sending through good wishes – she is recovering well from surgery and starting her radiation treatment).

When it came to deciding my ‘theme word’ for the year ahead, it didn’t take me long to settle on ‘nurture.’ 2018 is my year to take care of those I love, prioritise my own health and protect and nurture my time and my creativity in order to truly thrive. I’ll be discussing my choice of word a little more in my first Tea & Tattle Podcast episode back with Sophie, when we’ll be sharing some of our goals for the coming year. Thank you so much too to everyone who sent such kind messages for Sophie after her Mum so sadly passed away in November. I know she very much appreciated them, and for your understanding as she took some time away from the podcast. We’ll be resuming our joint episodes from 30th January, although Tea & Tattle will be back next week, when I’m interviewing one of the youngest women ever to have climbed Mount Everest. It’s an incredibly inspirational episode, and I can’t wait to share!

I’ll also be back to blogging much more frequently from now on, and I’m looking forward to sharing the content I have lined up for Miranda’s Notebook too. There’s still my wonderful holiday in St Ives to publish, some great interviews with authors and health experts, fun times in London, good books and so much more.

I wish you all a healthy, joyful and successful 2018!

T&T 52 | 1st Year Anniversary Special

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

I’m so excited to announce that it’s Tea & Tattle’s birthday! Sophie and I have now been podcasting for a year, which is very hard for us to believe (where does the time go?!). In celebration of our 1st year anniversary, we’ve prepared a special episode, where we’re discussing our own highlights from the first year of the podcast and then answering the fantastic listener questions that were sent in for this episode.

Sophie and I want to say thank you so much to all our listeners, from those who have been with us from the beginning, to those who recently discovered the podcast. It’s so wonderful to hear from our listeners, and we so appreciate your support. Many people have shared Tea & Tattle with their friends and on their social media accounts, and that makes all the difference to us – you’re really helping Tea & Tattle to grow, so thank you!

Special thanks go to everyone who sent in a question for this episode. We had so much fun reading through them, and I hope you enjoy our answers!

Listen to hear our highlights from the first year of podcasting and our answers to listener questions.

P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Tea & Tattle newsletter for the latest episodes and exclusive news and recommendations from Sophie and me every week.

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.