Category Archives: Life

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.

T&T 44 | Tips For Starting A New Job

Tea & Tattle Podcast | Tips for Starting a New Job

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

Sophie is back on the podcast for the latest episode of Tea & Tattle, and we’re resuming our regular fortnightly chats, with interviews with female creatives in between. As it’s back-to-school and back-to-work season, I thought we’d do an episode focused on career, and today we’re sharing our best advice for starting a new job. Sophie has just started a part-time job as a lecturer at the University of East Anglia, so I thought this choice of topic particularly appropriate!

Listen to hear our best advice for successfully starting a new job.  

P.S. I’ve updated the Tea & Tattle newsletter! As well as sharing the latest episode each week, I’m including some ‘Weekly Loves’ from myself and Sophie as further inspiration for our listeners. Make sure you’ve subscribed to get our suggestions and updates!

Where I Write: My Office Tour

My Office Tour: see how I transformed a tiny box room into a cosy workplace, using basic furniture and the odd luxe detail - perfect office inspiration!

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

A woman must have…a room of her own if she is to write fiction. – Virginia Woolf

Last weekend, I did my first Instagram live chat (so much fun!), showing how I’d recently made a few changes to a tiny box room in my flat to transform it into a snug, pleasant little office where I love to work. I had so many messages from people after the chat saying how much they’d enjoyed getting a glimpse of my workplace, that I thought I would share a bit more detail about my office on Miranda’s Notebook.

My Office Tour: see how I transformed a tiny box room into a cosy workplace, using basic furniture and the odd luxe detail - perfect office inspiration!

Although I’d been using this room as a work space for a while, I was dissatisfied with how I’d initially set up the space, and the few shelves I had were full to bursting with books, spilling onto piles on the floor, stacked up by my radiator. As someone who prefers a tidy, calm environment in which to work, the messy piles of books were getting on my nerves, and I didn’t feel my office, sparsely furnished and somewhat haphazardly decorated as it was, best reflected my personality. It was time for a change!

Here are the steps and shopping lists I used to transform my workspace:

Making the Most of a Small Budget

My Office Tour: see how I transformed a tiny box room into a cosy workplace, using basic furniture and the odd luxe detail - perfect office inspiration!

Having a very small budget with which to work, IKEA was my destination of choice for picking up bookcases and a few other key pieces. The only furniture I already had was my desk, a pretty old-fashioned writing table I’d picked up at a closing down sale a few years ago when I was living in Kingston, as well as a matching chair. I knew I wanted a small armchair to fit by the window, a cosy rug and a few other things to make the room more attractive.

My Office Tour: see how I transformed a tiny box room into a cosy workplace, using basic furniture and the odd luxe detail - perfect office inspiration!

Here’s my shopping list with everything I bought from IKEA:

  • Billy Bookcases. I chose white ones, as I like to keep everything light and bright in a small space.
  • Small Rattan Chair. This was the smallest chair in IKEA, and fit perfectly in the space.
  • Cushion Cover. I liked the very pale pink
  • Sheepskin Rug. So cosy!
  • Stool. This works perfectly as a little side-table.
  • Rubbish Bin (actually a plant pot, but works well as a little bin!).
  • Net Curtains. I’m lucky to have a large window, but the view is far from attractive, so some white net curtains added a welcome dainty touch.
  • Curtain Rod. Happily very easy to put up!
Luxurious Details

My Office Tour: see how I transformed a tiny box room into a cosy workplace, using basic furniture and the odd luxe detail - perfect office inspiration!

Rather than spending much money on furnishing the room, instead I wanted to invest in a few small luxury pieces that would make my workplace more cosy and inviting. My office has now become my favourite room in the flat, despite its diminutive size, and this is partly because I’ve placed some of the things I love best in it and have taken care over details.

My Office Tour: see how I transformed a tiny box room into a cosy workplace, using basic furniture and the odd luxe detail - perfect office inspiration! My Office Tour: see how I transformed a tiny box room into a cosy workplace, using basic furniture and the odd luxe detail - perfect office inspiration! My Office Tour: see how I transformed a tiny box room into a cosy workplace, using basic furniture and the odd luxe detail - perfect office inspiration!My Office Tour: see how I transformed a tiny box room into a cosy workplace, using basic furniture and the odd luxe detail - perfect office inspiration!My Office Tour: see how I transformed a tiny box room into a cosy workplace, using basic furniture and the odd luxe detail - perfect office inspiration!

A gorgeous scented candle, fresh flowers, a snuggly shawl: these were the little details that elevated the space and made it my own. Here’s my list:

  • Diptyque Londres Candle (sadly only available in shops, but they have a lovely range of other candles you can view online). I also have this stunning Rifle Paper Co candle on my desk (and think it will be make a lovely vase or pen pot once I’ve finished the candle).
  • Emma Lacey everyday mugs – my favourite to use whilst drinking tea at my desk!
  • Bloom & Wild bouquets (mine is Woodland Walk). I love Bloom & Wild flowers because they get delivered in a box that fits through your mailbox, so you don’t have to worry about being in when they arrive.
  • Storage Basket (currently sold out, but I like these ones a lot) for keeping current magazines.
  • Ceramic Magpie’s pretty range – perfect for small plants or for storing trinkets and jewellery (her shop is updated with new things often, so keep an eye out!).
  • Brora cashmere poncho. I have mine on hand, hung on a peg on the wall, and I reach for it whenever it gets a little chilly.
  • Liberty bias binding (the pink one I got isn’t left online, but there are a couple other pretty ones), used for tying back my white net curtains.
  • Mini pom-pom baskets by Bohemia Design (so pretty that make a nice display on top of my bookcases).
Showcasing My Personality

My Office Tour: see how I transformed a tiny box room into a cosy workplace, using basic furniture and the odd luxe detail - perfect office inspiration!

Whenever I go to someone’s house, I make a beeline for their bookcases, as I always find the books people keep offer such a fascinating insight into their personality. I thought hard about the types of books I wanted to have to hand in my office, and finally settled on the following categories: classic fiction in my most attractive editions, childhood favourites and reference.

My Office Tour: see how I transformed a tiny box room into a cosy workplace, using basic furniture and the odd luxe detail - perfect office inspiration!

‘Reference’ encompasses a good deal, as I get the majority of my inspiration from books and magazines. Generally, it includes my favourite poetry books, writings on the natural world, memoir, biography and back issues of magazines. I also keep to hand any books I’m reading at the moment for upcoming interviews on Tea & Tattle Podcast or Miranda’s Notebook.

My Office Tour: see how I transformed a tiny box room into a cosy workplace, using basic furniture and the odd luxe detail - perfect office inspiration!

Besides lining my walls with books, my other favourite way to showcase my personality is to hang artwork on any leftover wall space. Even when decorating an exceedingly small space, don’t feel you can’t hang a statement art piece. I have a large Emily Sutton print hanging over my desk, and far from dwarfing the room, it adds some very welcome colour and beauty.

I also put up some favourite photographs: one of Grace Kelly, a heroine of mine, and another of a dancer leaping into the air. All you see are her extremely muscular legs taking flight and the skirts of her tutu flying out, but I love this picture because it reminds me that in order to jump for the stars, you have to have built the strength and technique that only comes from hours and hours of hard work and a disciplined, focused mind. This is the photo I look at when I’m at my desk, feeling overwhelmed or disheartened.

***

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of my office, and I’d love to know how you decorate your own workspace.

P.S. I’ll be doing live Instagram chats about various topics regularly from now on (next in line are my favourite stationery staples and a behind-the-scenes of how I run Tea & Tattle Podcast). If you’d like to receive advance notice of when these chats will be, as well as follow up notes with links and details about everything I’ve mentioned, you can sign up here.

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My Office Tour: see how I transformed a tiny box room into a cosy workplace, using basic furniture and the odd luxe detail - perfect office inspiration!