Tag Archives: style_tips

5 Step Guide to Building A Capsule Wardrobe

signs of spring – this month’s blog theme – a reminder of our book club title – spring cleaning and sorting -capsule wardrobe guide

Welcome to March! I’m thrilled to see the first few hints of Spring in London; the tree opposite my flat is burgeoning into blossom, and I look out for the golden piles of daffodils at the florist next to my local tube station every morning.

With the start of Spring, there’s always a feeling of freshness and renewal in the air. It’s a time to sweep away the physical, as well as metaphorical, cobwebs; to take stock of your home and fill it with a renewed sense of energy after the inertia of winter. Although I’m no minimalist, I do think March is a good time of year to consider your surroundings and have a thorough declutter. This month’s theme on the blog, then, is devoted to home-making, and you can expect some related posts and podcast episodes centred around domesticity in the weeks to come.

Also, don’t forget this month’s Book Club choice is Longbourn by Jo Baker, which is also in keeping with the domestic theme. Longbourn tells the story of Jane Austen’s fictitious Bennet family from the point of view of their servants. I’ve started it and am thoroughly enjoying it already, so please do read along if you can as I’d love to hear your thoughts on it too.

For the first post of March, I thought I’d offer a guide to starting a capsule wardrobe. It always feels good to have a thorough sorting at the start of Spring, and these are the steps I used myself when I had a huge closet clear-out in January. I hope you find them useful if you’re inspired to take stock of your own wardrobe and make time for a bit of Spring sorting and cleaning.

1/ Make sure a finely-honed wardrobe is what you want.

This is key. If your heart isn’t really in it, then no matter how much you think your closet should be neater, you’ll never be willing to be ruthless in your sorting. Check in with yourself and make sure that a pared down, simpler wardrobe and style is really what you want. It’s ok if you are happier with a lot more choice and a full-to-the-brim closet (we can’t all be Marie Kondo, after all), but then you have to move on and realise a capsule wardrobe probably isn’t for you.

If you feel that a thorough sorting of your clothes is just what’s needed, though, then here are some great resources to get you fired up and reaching for the bin bags:

++The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. Definitely a little eccentric (I consider it part of the charm!), but I love how Marie Kondo encourages a no-guilt attitude to letting go of your possessions.

++ L’Art de la Simplicite by Dominique Loreau. This book will make you want to make everything in your life a little (or a lot) simpler.

++ Dominique Davis’ e-guide to building a capsule wardrobe. Dominique does a great job holding your hand through what can be quite a traumatic process, and she feels like a friendly big sister by your side, urging you on with practical advice. Of course, you can also listen to my Tea & Tattle interview with Dominique for some capsule wardrobe inspiration as well.

++ Un-fancy blog. This blog is perfect for inspiration on making the most out of every item in your closet and re-mixing and matching pieces to create great looking outfits.

2/ Define your personal style.

Before starting the clear-out, it’s essential that you’ve a clear idea of your personal style and what types of items you want in your capsule wardrobe. It makes the sorting process much easier, as you’ll be far less likely to be tempted to keep clothes that clearly fall outside of your capsule wardrobe parameters.

When refining your personal style, I think it’s a good idea to create a Pinterest board (it doesn’t have to be public – mine is currently private!) and to start to build up a collection of images that match the type of style you’d like to develop. Also key to this process, is to think about your lifestyle: do you realistically ever iron those cotton blouses? How many party dresses do you actually need, or, alternatively, do you in fact use any of your ‘loungewear’? I, for instance, realised that I love to wear comfortable, practical clothing a lot of the time, so I kept a lot of my jumpers, denim shirts, breton tops, jeans and trousers. These are the kinds of clothes I like to wear when I’m working from home, but I also realised that I needed slightly different outfits for when I’m teaching in schools and also for when I attend blog events or go out in the evening. This realisation brings me to the next tip….

3/ Think about the different types of capsule wardrobes you need.

This suggestion was one of the most useful hints I took away from my interview with Dominique. She said to think about having more than one capsule wardrobe, depending on your lifestyle. So, for instance, you may want a capsule wardrobe for work as well as weekend wear (and adjust the size of each according to what you wear most).

As I said, I have 3 capsule wardrobe categories: teaching, home and blog / evening wear. Thinking about the type of clothes I wear and use the most really helped me to be especially strict about not keeping too many clothes, like evening dresses, that I wear only a few times a month. I have to admit, I’m currently not too fussed about sticking to an exact number of items in each capsule collection; I’m just happy that now all seasons of my clothes fit together in my wardrobes and drawers. As long as that continues to be the case, I consider that I have the right amount of clothing for me.

4/ Set aside two whole days and get someone (non-judgemental) to help you.

It’s surprising how long a thorough sorting of your closet can take. Make sure you clear a weekend from any other distractions, and (so you won’t drive yourself insane debating whether you really do need one more black top, or if you’ll regret getting rid of it later) make sure to ask someone close to you to help and who won’t raise any judgemental eyebrows at the number of ballet flats you happen to own (cough).

5/ Plan what to do with the clothes once you’re finished sorting.

It’s to easy to pile everything you don’t want into bags, feeling virtuous at how much you’ve managed to wean out of your closet, but then promptly forget about it all and never quite manage to get to the charity shop for a drop-off. Make sure you don’t fall into this trap by carefully planning how and when you’ll get rid of your discarded clothes and try to clear everything out of your home as quickly as possible.

Will you be doing any Spring cleaning this March? Are you tempted to pare down your closet and create a capsule wardrobe? I’d love to hear how you get on if so!

How to Have a Life Full of Romance When You’re Single

How to Have a Life Full of Romance When You're Single

{spoiler: it’s easy}

Happy first day of February! I’m excited to introduce this month’s theme word for the blog, which is romance.

Now, I’m aware that this month often brings up uncomfortable feelings, especially for people who are single. All, I can say is: I’m tired of the expectation that not having a date for Valentine’s Day is a reason to feel depressed. If you’re a single woman too, trust me: you don’t have to live up to that expectation.

It always saddens me whenever I get asked: how are you happy when you’re single? I mean, we’re meant to be in the 21st Century! Over time, I’ve learnt not to equate personal happiness with my relationship status, but that’s not an easy lesson to learn, especially when society tells you that if you’re single, you should be miserable.

Single girls are meant to be Bridget Jones, lip-syncing to sad music in their pjs, consoling themselves with wine and day-dreaming about the charming, but emotionally unavailable men in their lives (when they’re not having nightmares about dying alone and being eaten by dogs, that is). They’re meant to wilt when they see another engagement or wedding announcement on Facebook and question all the life choices that led them to wind up alone. They’re meant to feel like failures. Well, I say: scratch that!

I feel so lucky to know real single women who are carving out their own careers; checking into spin class; planning their next weekend trip; reading the latest books; taking the time to be exceptional friends; keeping their standards high. They’re leading great lives, and they’re doing all this against the expectation that they should feel inadequate without a man by their side.

Single women are put in a box, given a lot of limiting beliefs and told a list of things they can’t have: happiness, fulfilment, romance, love, +1 invites to weddings, babies – the list goes on. Is any of that actually true? No.

In contrast, what are single men told they can have? Freedom, spontaneity, excitement and, perhaps most importantly, time. Time to succeed in their career, time to figure out who they are, time to find the right woman, time to play the field, ‘sow wild oats,’ etc.

Do I think there’s anything wrong about being in a relationship? Of course not! I think good relationships are wonderful; I hope I have one some day. I just also think being single is great too. In the end, there is nothing limiting about being single or being in a relationship. You’ll only be limited if you believe you are.

Valentine’s Day is a time when all single people are meant to feel incomplete. This February, though, I’d really love you to join me – whether you’re single or not – in truly embracing a life of romance for this month.

Here’s a rather lovely definition of romance for you:

romance
a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life

synonyms: mystery, glamour, excitement, colourfulness, colour, exoticism, mystique

Doesn’t your heart quicken a little when you read that? Mystery, excitement, a breaking away from the mundane. Single or not, experiences that spark those emotions inside you are yours for the taking.

If you need a few prompts, here are some suggestions for ways to embrace the romantic life this month:

Visit the sea. Breathe deeply, run along the shore, gather seashells, throw stones, splash in the water.

Treat yourself in a way you usually wouldn’t: book a manicure, a massage, a yoga class, go to the cinema, order a fancy hot chocolate – whatever calls to you.

Read books that fire your imagination. 

Think of a skill you could develop.

Allow yourself to day-dream. What kind of life do you really want to live? 

 Imagine ways to surprise someone you love.

Act in a way you perceive as out of character: if you’re serious, do something playful; if you love to talk, take a turn to listen; if you’re shy, smile at a stranger.

Think about one area of your life you’d really like to change. Don’t let blame or judgement or guilt stand a chance in your head. What are the first steps towards making that change happen? Start doing them.

Do something unexpected, like having pancakes for supper or dancing like mad to your favourite music.

Go on a date.

Have a secret (not a bad one). Plan a surprise party, start a project, take yourself out to lunch – enjoy having something that only you know about, at least for a time.

Do a colour photography challenge: take pictures of all red things one week, orange the next etc.

Say yes to something you would normally decline.

Sample or buy a perfume that smells particularly exotic.

Read a poem and delight in the beautiful use of language.

Write down 5 things you love about yourself.

Start a journal filled with your favourite quotes.

Wear red lipstick.

Do let me know – are you tempted to embrace romance this month? What ways can you think of to fill your life with more excitement?

My Top 10 Female Role Models

I was travelling to Geneva on the 21st, so did not take part in any marches, but my Facebook and Instagram feeds were flooded with pictures of all the women and men who took to the streets to protest, and it was incredible to see so many people and inspiring placards photographed all over the world.

Female solidarity has been on my mind a lot lately, and one question I’ve pondered quite a bit is which women (outside of my own family and friends) I particularly admire and look up to as role models. I decided to narrow the list down to women who are alive today, and so here are my final Top 10 Female Role Models.

Inspiring Women | My Top Ten Female Role Models | Ines de la FressangeThe epitome of grace and effortless Parisian style, Ines de la Fressange reminds me that true beauty is ageless. At 59, Ines continues to inspire with her flair for easy-to-wear, yet elegant clothing. Her collaborations with Uniqlo are wildly successful, proving she keeps her finger firmly on the sartorial pulse.

Inspiring Women | My Top Ten Female Role Models | Shonda RhimesQueen of TV writing and producing, Shonda Rhimes is responsible for hugely successful shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. Her book, Year of Yes, is one of the most inspiring I have read. In it, Shonda details how she overcame her fear of public speaking, lost over 100 pounds, juggles life as a single mother, as well as why she never wants to get married and how she got to dominating Thursday night prime time TV in the USA. If you are looking for a woman to remind you that anything is possible, as long as you work hard and stay true to who you are, then Shonda Rhimes is your girl.

Inspiring Women | My Top Ten Female Role Models | Tracy AndersonThe fitness guru reminds me to keep my own health a priority, and her exercise routines always make me feel stronger, both in body and in mind. I love that Tracy Anderson celebrates and nurtures female solidarity, and her fans carry out her message by offering supportive communities in person and on social media (just check out the #tamily hashtag on Instagram to see what I mean). Although a trainer to a seemingly endless list of celebrities, Tracy never forgets the ordinary woman, and regularly features a member of the #tamily crew in her newsletters.

Inspiring Women | My Top Ten Female Role Models | Michelle ObamaThe former (already greatly missed) First Lady is the embodiment of her own quote: ‘when they go low, we go high.’ Michelle Obama has shown the world how to handle the spotlight with grace and humility. An equal partner to her remarkable husband, she has become a role model for women everywhere.

Inspiring Women | My Top Ten Female Role Models | J.K. RowlingIt’s hard to imagine a story more like a modern day fairy tale than the Harry Potter author’s rise from an out-of-work single mum to the creator of the best-selling book series in history. If I’m having a bad day, I like to listen to her Harvard commencement speech and remind myself not to be so fearful of failure. Unsurprisingly, Rowling always has a gift for finding the right words, making her (in my opinion), the Queen of twitter, and a brilliant example of how to use social media to further your message.

Inspiring Women | My Top Ten Female Role Models | Ina GartenWatching Ina Garten’s food show is akin to receiving a warm hug and always cheers me up whenever I have a bad cold or am feeling a bit miserable. Along with millions of others, I love Ina’s warm, sparkling personality and the way she always manages to make life feel a bit more fun (as well as delicious). Also, her marriage with Jeffrey is my ultimate #relationshipgoals. They are the sweetest couple, and their mutual respect, love and support of each other is abundantly clear.

Inspiring Women | My Top Ten Female Role Models | Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieBeyond appreciating Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as a brilliant writer, it is also her TED talks on the danger of a single story and on feminism that I return to again and again for their wisdom, humanity and truth. These incredible speeches push me to be a better person, to see the wider perspective and to take pride in being a woman, and a feminist.

Inspiring Women | My Top 10 Female Role Models | Sophia AmorusoDespite the recent bad news, the Nasty Gal founder’s autobiography continues to inspire me to be my own #girlboss. Sophia Amoruso’s story in initially building her brand shows how dedication, drive and trusting your gut are all qualities that will help you on the road to success.

Inspiring Women | My Top 10 Female Role Models | Gretchen RubinGretchen Rubin’s fantastic books and podcast help me both to understand myself better and to expect more from myself. The happiness and habits expert has led me to realise that I work best in the morning, that I should always strive to ‘be Miranda’ and that every individual has the capacity for transformation and growth, should they wish for it.

Inspiring Women | My Top 10 Female Role Models | Priyanka ChopraAs the star of the American series Quantico, Priyanka Chopra is the first actress from India to play the role of a main lead character on US television. A hugely famous personality in her home country, Priyanka has an incredible number of strings to her bow: Bollywood actress, Miss India and Miss World winner, singer, film producer, philanthropist, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, gender-equality campaigner – oh, and did I mention she’s only 34? It’s women like Priyanka Chopra who remind me to dream big, work hard and seize opportunity.

I’m curious: which present-day women inspire you the most?

7 Quick Morning Rituals to Kickstart Your Day

This post is published in celebration of January’s blog theme: beginnings

Almost two years ago, I discovered the Miracle Morning philosophy, and it completely transformed my approach to the start of the day. I’ve always been a morning person, but the Miracle Morning taught me the importance of having a certain set routine that I perform everyday on waking up. Over time, I’ve adapted the principles of the Miracle Morning to best suit myself and my lifestyle. I no longer wake up at 5am (unless I am truly pushed for time and having a crazy week), but have changed my alarm to 6am, which I’ve found is early enough, especially when I often have a lot more evening commitments now than I used to do.

It can feel overwhelming to completely transform your routine, but there are some quick and easy morning rituals you can undertake that make a disproportionate difference to your happiness, productivity and stress levels. Even better, many of these only take about 5 minutes or less! You don’t have to start with all of them; just try out a few and see what works best for you.

Start the day off right by accomplishing a small task like making your bed, and you’ll feel much more able to strike off bigger tasks on your to-do list. Plus, you’ll have a neat and inviting bed waiting for you at the end of the day – win-win!

Finding a moment of stillness and harmony first thing in the morning sets a good tone for the rest of the day. I admit, I’m struggling with meditation at the moment. I used to be able to find moments of stillness and mental clarity quite easily, but lately my brain really fights me when I try to empty my head of all the thoughts continually whirring around inside it. I’m pretty sure this means I’m in even more desperate need of meditation than ever before, so I’m struggling through, even though the process is generally more than a little frustrating right now.

Rather than meditating, which used to be a real source of calm and quiet pleasure for me, I’ve found that lately I have much more of a sense of peace after journalling. I like to use the 5 Minute Journal in the morning, but if you fancy something a little more soul-searching and quirky, then I highly recommend Meera Lee Patel’s gorgeous notebook Start Where You Are. It’s described as a thoughtful journal that ‘pairs insightful quotes with prompts that spark reflection through writing, drawing, list making, and more.’ I received it as a belated Christmas present and can’t wait to start using it.

There’s nothing worse than that feeling lurking in the back of your mind that you’re forgetting something, or you’re not quite sure what you had to get done today. Save yourself needless mental strain by taking 5 minutes in the morning to check and update your diary and to-do list.

I think it’s so important to take a few moments at the start of each day to do something that brings you joy. That could be dancing around to music, reading a book, listening to a podcast, drawing, knitting, working on your novel, watering your plants – do something that brings you a sense of satisfaction, even if only for 5 minutes. It will leave you feeling so much happier and ready for the day than time spent mindlessly instagram or facebook scrolling.

Getting your body moving and your blood circulating is important when you wake up; however, something I’ve realised about myself over the years is that I loathe vigorous exercise first thing in the morning. The idea of running, doing push-ups, or even more strenuous pilates before I’ve even had a cup of tea makes me shudder (ok, the idea of running always makes me tremble in horror, but you get my point…). Obviously, this isn’t the case for everyone, so embrace what you love and do whatever exercise calls to you at this hour of the day. I like to start off with something very light: perhaps some stretching, or a yoga pose or two, and then I’ll move to more demanding workouts later in the day/evening.

My skin care regime is definitely briefer in the morning than the evening, but I do still try to take the time to cleanse and moisturise my face. It instantly leaves me feeling (and looking) brighter and better and much more ready to tackle the day ahead.

What morning rituals do you enjoy?

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Style Personality Quiz

Visual Quiz: What is Your Style Personality?

I love thinking about fashion, and even more I love thinking about style. Personal style is so interesting, don’t you think? It says so much about a person. It gives a glimpse of their character, interests and lifestyle. Someone who has a truly cohesive style always manages to appear effortlessly chic: a common thread in taste and design runs through their wardrobe, making it easy to pull together a seamless outfit everyday.

Having recently undertaken a major wardrobe overhaul, I’ve been contemplating my own style and have tried to pin-point what types of clothes I particularly enjoy wearing. My goal is to have a wardrobe filled only with items I really love and that are representative of my own particular style. In thinking about style, I came up with 5 different ‘style personalities’ that reflect certain sartorial choices. Below, I’ve created mood boards that reflect each of the five. Which one (or mix of two or more) are you? Simply decide which board(s) you are drawn to most, then scroll to the bottom to find out which ‘style personality’ you fit! I’ll also reveal my own (I’m a mix of two). This quiz is hardly definitive (or scientific), but I hope it’s fun and provides a little insight into your own style preferences.

O P T I O N    O N E

Style Personality Visual Quiz: The Boho Wanderer Mood Board

O P T I O N    T W O

Style Personality Visual Quiz: The English Rose Mood Board

O P T I O N    T H R E E

Style Personality Visual Quiz: The Bloomsbury Babe Mood Board

O P T I O N    F O U R

Style Personality Visual Quiz: The Minimalist Mood Board

O P T I O N    F I V E

Style Personality Visual Quiz: The Parisian Mood Board

Ok, have you decided which is your favourite option? Here are the results!

bohowanderer

Happiest when exploring the world, you are drawn to comfortable, easy-to-wear clothing that you can throw in a suitcase, but that also has a touch of the exotic. Think brightly patterned maxi skirts and dresses, fringed bags, embroidered t-shirts, a floppy hat and suede boots. You accessorise with pieces of jewellery you’ve picked up from your many travels.

englishrose

An eternal romantic, The English Rose is drawn to all things feminine. Florals, lace and bows all find their way into your wardrobe. You swoon over the latest Kate Spade and Needle & Thread collections every time, but as well as heels, you also own a pair of wellies and enjoy taking long tramps through the countryside. The English Rose loves pastel hues and generally keeps makeup fairly light: you like a soft, natural look over a bold red lip.

bloomsburybabe

Drawn towards everything vintage, the Bloomsbury Babe’s go-to look is a floral tea dress and cardi, or trousers, a tweedy blazer and a big scarf. Mary Janes and loafers make up almost your entire shoe collection, and you think a book is often the best accessory. You enjoy pops of colour, often veering towards the unusual (mustard yellows, emerald greens and burgundy reds). Bloomsbury Babes love scouring charity shops for great retro pieces, but also keep their noses pressed against Orla Kiely‘s shop window. You love a bright pop of lip colour and a winged eye-liner to complete your vintage-inspired look.

theminimalist

As a Minimalist, you can struggle the most with fashion, sometimes feeling you’re not particularly fashionable, or that you’re more of a ‘tomboy.’ In fact, you have a very defined sense of what you like; it’s just not always well reflected in the fashion industry! Minimalists prefer calm, muted colour palettes and are often drawn towards monochrome looks. You delight in fuss-free dressing and are most inclined to a ‘uniform’ style, generally made up of of white / black / grey t-shirts, jumpers and denim shirts paired with jeans. For formal occasions, you opt for a simply cut, elegant dress, or pair a silk tank or blouse with your jeans and heels. Besides the odd striped shirt, you are rarely drawn to pattern and opt instead for solid colours. Minimalists prefer few pieces of (non-glitzy) jewellery and the very basics in make-up.

theparisian

The Parisian loves classic items with a twist. You have a taste for the luxurious, and your idea of a perfect outfit generally involves a tuxedo blazer and a Chanel bag. Audrey Hepburn is your idol, and you’re always on the lookout for a really great pair of capri trousers to pair with your ballet flats. Although you love classic, timeless pieces, you also enjoy having fun with fashion and delight in little details that complete an outfit:  a silk scarf tied around the neck, a perfectly angled beret and shoes with a fun print. Your go-to makeup look is either a dramatic smokey eye or a bold red lip.

***

Which style personality do you identify with the most? My dominant choice is definitely ‘The Parisian,’ with ‘The English Rose’ coming in second place. This realisation has helped me clear out even more from my wardrobe (no more suede, fringed bags for me!).

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Blogging 101: Finding Your Voice

How To Find Your Blogging Voice | Miranda's Notebook

Recently, I’ve had more people ask me for help about starting a blog, or changing their blogging approach or design. An issue that crops up a lot in conversation is how to go about finding that elusive blogging ‘voice.’ How can I develop my voice? I like yours, how do you do it? These are questions I’ve been asked, and I’ve had to think hard about my answers.

As a blogger, your writing ‘voice’ is hugely important. It’s one of the key tools you have at your disposal to make sure that someone stays on your website for more than 10 seconds or bothers to read your latest post. It can be hard to express what having a good ‘voice’ really means, but a reader instantly knows when they’ve stumbled upon one they like. Fundamentally, a good writing voice will always establish a sense of trust and connection with your reader. It’s not surprising, then, that developing their voice is something bloggers old and new worry about (myself included).

Here are some key lessons I have learnt (and continue to learn) about improving my writing style since I first started blogging.

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1/ Develop Your Confidence.

Developing your own voice generally happens over time, as it’s closely linked to your confidence as a writer. The quickest way to grow your confidence and sense of ease in writing is to do a lot of it. There are many reasons why I think it’s important to blog very regularly when you’re first starting out, but this is one of the most crucial. Also, if you ever feel in a blogging rut, my advice would be to write through it. Counter-intuitive as it may feel to produce content when you’re at your shakiest, the best thing you can do is not go into hiding. Instead, sit down at that laptop, grit your teeth and produce something – anything – to silence that inner critic, to prove to yourself that you can write, even when you’re tired, overwhelmed or seemingly out of ideas. Knowing that you can always rely on yourself to produce content is a pretty magical feeling and it will grow your confidence in your own writing ability (not to mention discipline) by leaps and bounds.

2/ Become More Skilful.

Although I think that your voice gradually and naturally develops over time, I don’t agree that it’s a technique that can’t be actively and knowingly improved. Good writers are always skilful writers, and increasing your writing skills will undoubtedly help you distinguish yourself from the crowd. Think about the blogs and magazines you enjoy reading the most. How are their articles crafted? Is there a regular pattern or structure to each piece? What tactics do the writers employ to hold your interest (personal anecdotes, ‘shock factor,’ the promise of a solution or answer to a question at the end of the article, etc etc)? You can pick and choose which ideas you like the most, adapting them to suit your own writing style. Don’t be afraid to play around with new ideas to discover what works best for you. Remember, writing is a craft, which means it can be honed. Oh, and it’s worth remembering the obvious: read your work with a critical eye! Check for errors, if possible get someone else to proof-read your work too and be open to feedback (I’m always grateful when I get an email from my Dad along the lines of ‘Great post! I just spotted a tiny typo….’).

3/ See The Bigger Picture.

Developing your voice doesn’t just involve your written content: it includes everything that reflects your personality and what people can expect from your online space. The most successful blogs are also the ones that feel the most harmonious: the colour palette, font choice, style of photo-editing and general design complement each other and reflect the writer’s interests and tastes. This sense of continuity, alongside the written content, allows a reader to feel like they really know the personality behind the blog. It’s important, then, to constantly analyse your blog design and branding: do they still reflect the person you are now, as well as the type of blog you’re writing? When you examine your blog, is there anything that strikes a discordant note?

4/ Choose Your Own Style.

You can never please everyone (and if you try to, you’ll simply come across as having no personality), so it’s important that your blog and writing style truly reflect who you are. Think about what kind of topics you’d love to discuss; passion always shines through, so concentrate on what fires you up, rather than what you think would be popular. Sometimes, too, it’s helpful to think about what guidelines you’d use if you had to instruct someone else to write a post in your style. What would you tell them? I, for instance, don’t use swear words in my writing, not because I disapprove of other people using them, but it’s just not me. Also, at least at this stage in my life, I could never see myself writing about my personal relationships. There are certain ‘just don’t go there’ areas that I have – what are yours?

5/ Take Risks.

A lesson I’ve learnt most recently is that it’s important to step outside of your writing comfort zone. I’d always thought I’d keep the majority of my posts short and snappy, with the main emphasis on photography. Lately, though, I’ve been experimenting with a new technique: writing fewer posts, but trying to delve into topics a little more deeply and generally writing longer articles. I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed writing a little more in-depth, and although I still feel I don’t have the perfect balance and routine, I’m doing my best to work it out in a way that feels most natural to me. It can be really scary to make changes, but, although it may sound cliche, it is change that leads to growth.

6/ Always Write For Your Audience.

Finally, always try to write with your reader in mind. How can you give value to your audience? How can you make an article more informative? Relatable? Funny? Moving? People enjoy writing that they can connect with personally, so make sure you include the personal (and by personal, I don’t mean sharing TMI….). Perhaps you just want to make someone smile over a beautiful image, or make them laugh at a funny anecdote. Maybe you want to give advice and tips on personal style, beauty or cooking, or engender discussion on what you feel is an important topic. Whatever the case, thinking about how to make your post as enjoyable or useful as possible is a guaranteed ingredient for success.

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I’d love to hear your thoughts on creating a blogging voice – is this something you have struggled with in the past, or are struggling with now? What would be your top tips? Do any of these points ring particularly true for you?

++ Read more in my Blogging 101 Series: How To Start A Blog, Part One, Two and Three and Guide to Food Styling and Photography ++

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How to Find Balance

How to Find Balance | Miranda's Notebook

As part of my quest to live lightly, I thought I’d share more posts about some of the issues I’m tackling that I feel are relevant to others besides myself. Like so many people, I find I struggle endlessly to find balance in my life, and I’m always seeking out ways to try to fit in more: more work, more fun, more time (but still stay sane). Lately, I’ve been struggling to keep up physically with all that my mind wants to do. Sometimes I drive myself crazy, as I constantly get new ideas for projects or posts that I want to tackle, and I have had to learn to reign myself in, or I end up an exhausted, frazzled mess. Learning to take one thing at a time, have realistic expectations and keep a balance between work, blogging and a social life are some of the toughest lessons I’ve had to learn over the past few months especially.

The simple answer is it’s impossible to do it all, and the picture-perfect life that plays out in my head where there are 48 hours in a day and I only need 4 hours of sleep is indeed just a fantasy. Perfection is impossible; however, I believe that living the life that is perfect for you is not. It is possible to find a balance that works best for you, as long as you learn to cut yourself some slack and do a little soul-searching to figure out which areas in your life you want to prioritise.

Here are the some of the most important lessons I’ve learnt in trying to balance all aspects of my life:

1/ Get some perspective.

Whenever I feel particularly stressed, I think of the many mothers I have known and realise I have it pretty easy. A lovely woman I used to work with somehow managed to balance a full-time job whilst being a full-time mum to two boys, studying for an education degree and always taking the time to be a great wife, daughter, mother and friend. Oh, and she did all this pregnant with another child too, by the way!  When I think of her, I realise there are so many women who work tirelessly and uncomplainingly, and I’m lucky to have only myself and my own dreams to worry about at the moment. I have a lot more free time than many people, so I try to remember to fully appreciate that and not complain about being too busy all the time.

2/ Have fun.

All work and no play makes Jill a bit of a bore. Whenever I start feeling particularly stressed out, or feel I should be accomplishing more than I am, I take some time out and focus on adding more fun into my life. I stop worrying endlessly about my to-do list and goals and make sure that I take the time to do things I enjoy: like reading a book, meeting a friend for dinner or listening to music. I make sure I’m exercising, eating healthily and taking time to take care of my skin properly. These activities always put me in a much more positive state – both mentally and physically – which in turn allows me to accomplish more, as I’m not wasting energy needlessly worrying or listening to those voices of self-doubt in my head. I firmly believe there’s a direct correlation between success and your state of mind, so the next time you feel something isn’t going well, try just stepping away for a bit and focusing on things that make you happy.

3/ Pay attention to what DOESN’T bring you joy (and eliminate it).

Write a list of the activities and people that you find the most draining. When it comes to finding balance, it’s really important to realise that your time is limited, and you need to be mindful about how you’re spending that time. Don’t waste precious hours on people who bring you down; instead invest your energy into getting together with friends who appreciate you and leave you feeling happier and more energised. If there’s a particular activity you hate, is there some way not to do it, or to make it more enjoyable? I, for instance, loathe grocery shopping, and it was a huge improvement when I started meal-planning on Saturday mornings, bookmarking recipes I wanted to use in my cookbooks and placing an order online for my groceries to be delivered the next day. I now know exactly what I’m cooking each week, and I don’t have to constantly grocery shop, which makes me a lot happier and frees up valuable time in the evenings.

4/ Seek out moments of quiet.

I’m definitely an introvert, so it’s crucial for me to spend time alone, as this is the only way I can truly tap into the creative well within me. I also get cranky and suffer a lot more from overwhelm if I don’t have a moment in my day when I can have some quiet, reflective peace. My favourite ways to seek moments of quiet are to: meditate, journal, cross-stitch, light candles & make some ginger tea or cook a meal.

5/ Do what you can with what you have. Start now.

I honestly believe everyone should have some kind of side hustle or project alongside their day-job. Even if you love your work, pursuing another passion can be incredibly life-expanding and creatively fulfilling. People often refuse to start something, however, unless they think they can do it perfectly, or will be guaranteed success. This attitude really saddens me, as the only way you are definitely going to fail is by not even starting.

I once read an article with Rachel Khoo where she talked about realising she didn’t have the resources or funds to start a restaurant whilst living in Paris. So what did she do? Did she give up on her dream to work in the food industry? Did she feel embittered towards people who were lucky enough to have that kind of money behind them? No. She started a supper club in the evenings serving only 2 people at a time in her tiny flat in Paris. She thought hard about what she had, what she could do with it, and she went ahead and did it. Would it have been easier to be able to set up a cafe, or to have a flat big enough to seat more people at once? Most probably yes. Would she have ended up being as successful if she’d never had to get creative, or realise her dream was worth pursuing, even if she couldn’t live the ‘perfect’ version of it at the time? Somehow I doubt it. In order to live a happy, balanced life, it’s essential to give up on perfection.

6/ Keep a gratitude journal or some kind of record of what you’ve accomplished each day.

This simple technique has helped me so very much. You’ve probably gathered by now that I tend to err on the overly self-critical, glass-half-empty side when it comes to judging what I’ve managed to accomplish in a day. I used to often end a day feeling a little disappointed with myself and that I hadn’t ticked off as many tasks as I’d wished. Starting my 5 Minute Journal really helped to change my attitude: now when I write down 3 amazing things that happened during the day every night, I realise how much I have managed to accomplish and feel genuinely grateful for the (often many) lovely things that happened. It’s a great way to end the day, as it always boosts my mood and puts me in a positive, productive mindset for the following day.

Can finding balance be a struggle for you too? What are your top tips?

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No Booking Required: Ideas for Valentine’s Day in London

10 No Booking Required Idea for Valentine's Day in London

More and more, people are keen to spend their money on experiences, rather than possessions. Rather than the obligatory bunch of flowers and box of chocolates, why not use Valentine’s Day to spend some quality time with a loved one? I personally hate going to over-priced, over-crowded restaurants on February 14th, considering it much nicer to cook a low-key, but still special, meal together at home. This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday, leaving plenty of scope for fun ways to spend the day, without having the stress of needing to book weeks in advance or spend a lot of money. Here are my top suggestions for having an understated, but romantic day in London:

1/ Have coffee at a charming cafe and make sure to unplug. Switch off those mobile phones and make sure to spend the day truly living in the moment, talking and enjoying being in each other’s company. Spending a leisurely morning over coffee is definitely a luxury in today’s hectic climate so embrace the ‘live slow’ philosophy and feel yourself relax. People watch, discuss ideas for the week, pour over newspapers and magazines and share favourite articles. Cafes perfect for this type of morning are: Ginger & White; Leila’s Shop & Cafe; Angie’s Little Food Shop and Fix.

2/ Rather than going out, you can enjoy making brunch at home. I suggest one of you brews the perfect pot of tea / coffee, whilst the other whips up some avocado toast and poached eggs. Sunday morning Perfection!

3/ Go on a chocolate or macaron (or both!) tour of London. Seek out the best chocolate and macaron shops in the capital and sample treats from each. A few to try are: Rococo, Pierre Marcolini, Laduree, William Curley, Pierre Herme, Cocomaya, Melt and Mast Brothers. If neither of you have a sweet tooth, you could do a cheese tour instead: buy a cheese or two from London’s best cheesemongers and then enjoy them with some good wine, olives and grapes later that night.

4/ Take a romantic stroll or bike ride. Get away from the crowds by exploring the charming Pergola and Hill Gardens in Hampstead, visit the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park (and look out for deer), or take a wander around pretty Blackheath.

5/ Admire the views. Going up the Shard is rather cliche: instead, bring along your own flask of hot chocolate (or bottle of champagne!) and enjoy the views from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, Hampstead Heath or Primrose Hill.

6/ Buy each other a surprise book. Head to an independent book shop (some ideas: Daunt Books, Foyles, Lutyens & RubinsteinHeywood Hill, The Idler, Persephone Books and London Review of Books), arrange a spot to meet back in 1/2 an hour and present each other with a book you’ve chosen and had wrapped in the shop.

7/ Wander the markets. Buy flowers at Columbia Road Market and munch your way around the stalls of Borough Market or Southbank.

8/ Make each other a cocktail. Source a great sounding cocktail recipe (check out my Drinks section for ideas) that’s new to both of you, make sure you’ve bought the ingredients in advance of Valentine’s Day and whip up the cocktails together in the evening. Whose was the best?

9/ Do a silly photoshoot. Have some fun props ready for the day (a red balloon goes a long way) and snap pictures of you both with it as you amble around London. Who needs a professional photographer? If you are going to get a gift, by the way, then a prynt case would be the perfect accompaniment to your photoshoot.

10/ Seek out the most romantic pictures at Tate Britain. My favourite is The Lady of Shalott, which I never tire of seeing in person.

How are you planning to spend Valentine’s Day? Do any of these ideas appeal?

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I’m Back!! (And Reflections on Moving)

Reflections on Moving | Bookcase and Laptop

Apologies for the radio silence! Unfortunately, I’ve been struggling with internet issues in the new flat and have also been rather overwhelmed with getting things cleaned, unpacked and starting a new job. Internet has just been sorted though which is marvellous!

I should be back to my planned schedule of posting 3-4 times a week next week, but until then I thought I’d drop in to reassure you I’m still here and to share a few things I’ve learnt from this move:

1/ Everything always takes MUCH longer than you think it will.

2/ Only I would take on a fitness challenge + a move at the same time (I was working out at 11pm a couple times). Note to future self: don’t do that again.

3/ Saying that, I was really glad I’d worked out a lot over Christmas and strengthened my back and arms…I did some serious heavy lifting! Clearly, strengthening your core muscles before a move is always a good idea.

4/ I really love my books. Love them enough I carried every single one (6 bookcases worth) up flights of stairs to the new flat.

5/ It’s surprising how well you can last without a fridge / oven / washing machine. Toast and scrambled eggs (made in the microwave) are my new staples.

6/ Airbeds deflate.

7/ It takes a while to get used to the sounds of a new place. I’ve never moved faster than when I ran out of the living room the other night, having heard rustling and seen some kind of movement in the fireplace. Further investigation (by my Mum, I was on the other side of the door. Cowardly, I know), proved this was simply the chimney insulation bag moving. I have to admit, I’m still a little freaked out though.

8/ I still have too much stuff. Seriously, how can I have so many clothes?? Do they breed? After reading this, I’m going to tackle my wardrobes all over again.

9/ There’s something oddly calming about an empty room.

10/ Although one can live without a fridge, living without internet is a nightmare. It amazes me how much I rely on being online to complete tasks in almost every aspect of my life (even working out).

11/ Exploring a new area is infinitely fun. I’m also still getting used to the fact that I can get into central London within 10 minutes on the tube. AMAZING. (Reality check: of course, my first weekend in London the Jubilee line is down.)

I feel so out of touch! What have you all been up to? I’ll be sure to catch-up on everyone’s blogs once life is a little calmer again!

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5 Lessons I’ve Learnt From Life-Long Moving

5 Lessons I've Learnt From Life-Long Moving | Miranda's Notebook

Throughout my life, I’ve moved a great deal. It often felt hard to be uprooted every few years, but it made me who I am today, and I’m thankful for all the experiences I have had. As I’m getting ready for another move now – back to North West London – I’ve been reflecting on all the lessons a life of packing and unpacking brown boxes has taught me. Here are my top 5:

1/ You experience both the good and the bad of friendship.

Moving as a child taught be some fairly tough lessons about friendship. From as young as 5, I was moving 1000s of miles away from best friends, and I learnt pretty quickly that people can get angry with the ones who leave. I remember a friend from ballet school who refused to speak to me for 6 months when she found out I was leaving California for New York, only to break down in floods of tears on my last day. Experiences like these though, tough as they are, can make you pretty invincible: I learnt to go after what I wanted, and live wherever I wanted, without worrying or being held back by what other people thought. Moving also teaches you the best of human nature, with friendships that can stand the tests of both time and distance.

2/ Home is wherever you’re living.

People who have moved around most of their life always hate the dreaded question ‘so where are you from?’ I’ve become content with the fact that I don’t really feel like I’m from anywhere in particular (although I felt a particular affinity with London the very first time I visited it at 16); instead it’s important to make ‘home’ wherever you happen to be.

3/ Possessions both do and don’t matter.

Having certain well-loved and familiar items with you goes a big way in making any house or flat feel like a home. I remember when I was younger I had my ballet posters, as well as my John William Waterhouse prints, which instantly made any new bedroom feel familiar and homey. At the same time, though, it’s also important to know when to let certain possessions go. Constantly moving means that sometimes you just need to lighten the burden!

4/ Change should always be embraced.

You can never fight change, and in general I like to view it as a good thing. It can feel scary, as well as exciting, to move somewhere new, but conquering new experiences always makes you a stronger and more interesting person.

5/ Always make the effort to make the best out of wherever you’re living.

I’ve lived in places I’ve loved and places I haven’t, but there’s good to be found wherever you’re living, and it’s important to always search it out.

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