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My Illness Doesn’t Define The Person I Am Today

Illness isn’t a defining role in my life, it may have shaped me but it isn’t who I am. I’m a wife, sister, friend, fundraiser, blogger, and cat lover amongst many other things. These are how I define myself, I just happened to have a neurological illness. I am no more defined by my illness than I am by my blonde hair or the fact that I survived an abusive childhood. Having an illness or being a survivor of abuse doesn’t define my character, it’s what I’ve done afterwards that’s made all the difference to the person I am today.

Every time I have a bad day there’s an overwhelming feeling that hits me like a slap in the face. Irrational thoughts of I’m a failure or I’m not good enough come out of nowhere. The frustration that follows a neurological relapse is unreal, parts of my body no longer work as they’re supposed to and stop me from physically doing things I once took for granted. I’m willing my legs to move, my speech not to sound slurred and my hand to un-clench, but without Harry Potter’s wand it’s never going to happen.

On the outside I “look so well” but on the inside I’m trapped while the world moves on around me. I feel so alone. The fear hangs over me like a dark cloud. What if something happens to Adrian and I can’t get out of bed for days and no one knows I’m there? A million “What if” questions run through my head and bring on a panic attack. I can’t breathe, the walls are closing in around me and I want to scream but no sound leaves my mouth.

I’m both mentally and physically exhausted.

Life has been difficult at times. I had to give up full time work due to my physical disability. My eyesight is failing, I have tremors and lack of sensation in my legs, arms and lower back. I suffer from seizures that leave me unable to move for days and often I’m crying in agony because the pain is so severe.

With the help of a counsellor, a physiotherapist, an alternate therapist and, of course, Adrian, I’m making the best out of life that I possibly can. I had to re-evaluate how I did things. I joined a support group for people in the same situation as me, eventually becoming a “buddy” for newly diagnosed members to talk through how they were feeling. I began raising money for the charity by doing a sponsored wheelchair push and arranging a pamper evening for all the ladies. I developed new friendships as well as strengthening life long relationships. I also gave a presentation to health and social care workers where I talked about the advantages of using a day care centre or charity support group from a clients’ point of view.

It gave me a sense of purpose again. My anxiety improved and I felt mentally stronger. It was one day a week but I was making a difference to someone else’s life, not just my own.

I started writing my blog which allowed me to continue my love of fashion and beauty. I began talking to people on line who had similar interests to me, we’d have a laugh, a moan or support each other in whatever way we could. I learnt new photography skills by working my way round the manual settings of a camera, all about lighting and the use of props to tell a story. I stepped out of my comfort zone by posing in front of the camera and (hopefully) inspiring people on what outfits to wear. I’ve explored local places I perhaps wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t for writing my blog. I’ve even learnt how to bake cakes which I especially love doing for friend’s birthdays or baby showers. I find it very therapeutic mixing the ingredients from scratch and creating something that tastes delicious.

I still have bad days, both mentally and physically. I’m proud of all the little things I’ve achieved despite having a disability. I’ve learnt to understand what triggers a neurological symptom to flare up or what causes my panic attacks. Everything feels a million times worse if I cannot control a situation, however much I try to use my coping techniques. Yes I need the help of carers and cannot leave the house on my own or go to the ladies without assistance. But I won’t give up living life and doing the things I enjoy.

I’m incredibly proud of the small things I’ve achieved and won’t let it hold me back. I take life at my pace and still need to hide in my sanctuary every so often, but there’s nothing wrong in that. We all need to a day or two to recharge, no matter what we’re going through.

However bad life gets, I won’t let my illness define who I am, I’m more than just medical appointments, tablets and a wheelchair. It doesn’t make me a failure just because I’m not able to do something the way I once did. My illness isn’t a barrier to stop me doing the things I want to achieve in life, I just have to do them slightly differently.

If you’re in a dark place, remember there’s always someone you can talk to and get help. Most importantly, remember you’re not alone.

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A Celebratory Picnic At Hitchin Lavender

I’m extremely lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the UK with places such as Hitchin Lavender practically on my doorstep. I didn’t need to think twice when it came to deciding how we’d celebrate our anniversary this year. No fancy meal in a restaurant, no weekend break or a big family party.

I wanted to enjoy a picnic, surrounded by a sea of stunning purple flowers and feel relaxed by the divine smell of lavender. Adrian and I packed up the hamper with pasta, fruit salad, a Victoria Sponge and a bottle of wine to toast our happy day.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather, the sun was shining and the skies were blue. The lavender fields were extremely busy, yet so peaceful with everyone going about their business, getting lost in their own thoughts. We were both given a paper bag each on the way in, so we collected as much lavender as we could to take home. I love to let the flowers dry out and make lavender bags for my wardrobes and drawers, they keep my clothes smelling fresh and the moths away!

Naturally, we had to take plenty of photos, I’ll be popping one in a frame to remember the day. Our actual wedding anniversary is in April when the weather can be a bit hit and miss. Instead, every year on 4th July (the date of our first night out together) we do something a little extra special rather than just watching a film and having a take away.

I felt super feminine in my white broderie anglaise mini dress, a straw hat that’s so old I can’t remember where it’s from and a basket bag I picked up from a charity shop for £4. My pearl jewellery is from a local vintage shop and made the perfect finishing touch to a pretty summer outfit.

We both had a wonderful afternoon, extremely full from all the food we ate and a little merry from the wine. I certainly slept well that night!

Have you been anywhere to celebrate a special day? I’d love to hear about the place you visited.

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Let’s Catch Up: What Have I Been Up To

Wearing my favourite pair of ankle boots while I sit down to have a catch up

I can’t believe we’re well into December and only a few weeks away from Christmas. I love this time of year, coming home on a dark evening and looking at all the pretty Christmas trees people have in their windows. I love getting home, closing the curtains, lighting the candles and switching on all the fairy lights we’ve got hung round the room, The first thing I do is change into my pyjamas, make a hot chocolate and get cosy under a blanket on the sofa for half an hour and enjoy the peace and quiet. 

Since the first of December I’ve been opening a mini stocking from my home made advent calendar that Adrian puts together for me. So far this year I’ve had some fantastic mini Decleor skincare products. I haven’t got round to taking any photos yet as I’m such a bad blogger.

In this month's catch up I'm toasting my husband's birthday with a glass of moet
In this month's catch up I show how we made a candle out of left over bits of wax using a candle making kit
In this month's catch up I show how we made a candle out of left over bits of wax using a candle making kit

On the 24th November we celebrated Adrian’s birthday with a glass of Moet that I was lucky enough to have been sent via the O2 Priority app. I wasn’t going to turn my nose up at a free bottle of drink. Adrian chose to stay at home on his birthday, order in a take away and watch a film. We are complete opposites when it comes to birthdays, I prefer to get dressed up and go out to celebrate. 

There’s so much waste left after a candle has finished burning. We’ve been saving up all the autumnal smelling bits of wax, then melted them down in a saucepan and made our own layered candle using a candle making kit we found on Amazon. Each layer smells absolutely delicious. 

having my hair cut and coloured in my monthly catch up post

I love that feeling when you’ve just had your hair cut at the salon. I’ve been going to Style Me Hairdressing for two years and my hair is in much better condition than it was back in 2016. The ends were dry and kept splitting, and my hair had absolutely no shape to it at all. I love how it looks now, especially when my hair stylist, Amy, puts a few waves in for me. I colour my hair at home using Clairol Nice and easy Permanent Dye in the shade SB1, it’s just been redone and will last me until the New Year.

in my monthly catch up I wanted to  talk about Blogosphire magazine where my photo had been featured
In this months catch up I'm featuring the candle and reed diffuser I won in a competition

There was one week where three fabulous things happened all close together. It started off on the Monday when I was extremely lucky and won a competition run by Alice and the prize was this amazing bundle from Heyland and Whittle gift company.  The room smells absolutely divine with this very festive Frankincense reed diffuser and Winter Spice candle, perfect for our cosy nights in, watching Christmas films and wrapped up under a fluffy blanket.

Next I got a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with the high street fashion brand Warehouse, featuring What To wear To An Office Party. I was so excited to put this post together and have chosen the trouser suit and pleated midi dress to wear to two parties I have coming up. 

Finally, I could not believe my eyes when I opened the latest edition of Blogosphere Magazine, which is run by bloggers for bloggers. On the page where they feature their favourite photos of the magazine was one of my photos. I quite literally cried with joy. 

in this months catch up post I'm wearing a cosy coat and bobble hat

At the end of November we went into town to see the Christmas lights being switched on. We had a fantastic evening watching the Christmas parade with Santa on his sleigh, drinking mulled wine and going round the stalls tasting all the yummy festive food. We enjoyed listening to a local school choir singing all the old Christmas carols and the DJ who kept us all entertained by playing our favourite Christmas number one songs and got us all excited ready for the countdown to the light switch on.  It was so busy, Adrian and I went back a few days later just so I could have my photo taken next to the tree. 

Adrian and I are just about ready for Christmas now. Our decorations went up the first week in December and I’ve finished all my Christmas shopping, apart from fresh items which I’ll get a few days before. I’ve wrapped all the gifts and written out cards ready to posts to friends and family far away. This year we’ve chosen to send personalised cards to close family and the photo we decided to have on the front was this one of a robin sitting in our garden. Adrian took it a few years ago and it’s one of my all time favourite winter themed photos. All that’s left is to make some mince pies, it’s amazing how many of my friends still think these actually have meat inside.

I also had a great time at a Christmas Victorian themed market where we bought little stocking fillers from small businesses. The atmosphere was buzzing and I wish I was able to get dressed up in one of the amazing costumes. 

I’ve been going through my wardrobe and recycling clothes that have been in there for ages. I’m much more mindful about the way I shop now, instead of buying loads of items I’ll never wear I add in a few new key pieces all built around my 10 Winter Wardrobe Staples. It’s been great to make up new outfits from clothes I already had just by wearing them with a different accessory, skirt or jumper. I did treat myself to a new pair of nude ankle boots from TK Maxx, they’re the ones in the main photo and worn with this dress from Zara. I can see myself wearing these all year round, how cute would these look with a floaty knee length dress on chillier summer days?

Well that’s all for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this very festive catch up.  Are you ready for Christmas? Have you been to a Christmas light switch on or festive themed markets?

You may also enjoy last year’s festive catch up.

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What To Wear To An Office Christmas Party

Christmas Party Outfits

It’s officially party season, which means your work’s Christmas do is just around the corner and you’ll want to look your best over the festive period. There’s always the dilemma of what to wear to the office party, do you dress formal, keep it casual or go head to toe with full on sparkle?

Personally I like to have one or two Christmas party dresses that I can change the look of just by styling each one with a different set of accessories and will see me through the festive season. Unless the requirements for your office party are to wear a cute Christmas jumper for a few mulled wines out of paper cups you’ll still want to look fabulous and feel comfortable in what you wear.

Warehouse* have some amazing pieces in their party wear section this year. I’ve chosen five outfit options that will suit everyone’s style and hopefully you’ll find something that will inspire you with what to wear to your office Christmas party.

Christmas Party Outfits

Christmas Party Outfits

Outfit 1

I love to wear metallics during the festive season and I fell in love with this foil pleated midi dress as soon as I saw it. The warm gold colour is absolutely gorgeous and with a halter neck design and asymmetric hemline it oozes sophistication. Worn with statement gold jewellery and an animal print bag, this look is ideal for all occasions and dress codes.

Bracelet: £10.00 Earrings: £14.99 Bag: £36.00 (currently on offer for £27.00)

Christmas Party Outfits

Christmas Party Outfits

Outfit 2

You can’t beat a little black dress during the party season. This sparkle star dress is absolutely stunning, I love the tie back detail and the loose chiffon three quarter sleeves are perfect for covering up your upper arms if you’re not comfortable having them on show. I think this dress looks classy and elegant and great worn with diamante drop earrings and a cute black bag with silver hardware.

Earrings: £16.00 Bag: £29.00 (currently on offer at £21.75) Bracelet: £12.00

Christmas Party Outfits

Christmas Party Outfits

Outfit 3

Sequins or a sparkly metallic dress are not everyone’s cup of tea. A black trouser suit will take you from desk to party with some statement jewellery and a pair of gold strappy heels. You’ll look classy and elegant for any work event and this trouser suit can be worn even after the festive season. I love the wrap over top and wide legs which almost give it a Hollywood look, imagine how glamorous you’ll look sipping on your glass of champagne.

Disc Loop Necklace: £14.00 Hoop Earrings: £10.00 Quilted Bag: £26.00 now on offer for £19.50)

Christmas Party Outfits

Outfit 4

Is there anything more festive than sequins? If it’s a black tie event and you do want to go full on glamour then this velvet sequin high neck dress will be perfect for the occasion. It’s the ultimate trend for the party season. It’s so eye catching, you’ll sparkle the night away while sipping cocktails at the bar. Don’t feel you have to keep your hemlines below your knees just because it’s a posh do, the modesty is balanced out by the longer sleeves. Remember to keep your accessories simple as the dress does all the talking.

Christmas Party Outfits

Outfit 5

If you’re not one for having your legs on show and prefer to wear classic straight or wide leg trousers, you can still look the part by pairing them with a sparkly top and strappy heels. You can play around with different textures until you find what’s right for you. I love the style of this sequin camisole top, the muted colour gives a subtle glam look if bold shades aren’t your thing. It would also look fabulous worn under the trouser suit for hint of sparkle.

If your office Christmas party is a casual event yet you still want to look like you’re going to a festive occasion, why not try this rainbow foil stripe top worn with a pair of chic trousers, ankle boots and gold statement jewellery.

Finally, if you are going a to Christmas jumper party but you don’t want to turn up wearing one covered with cute reindeer, have no fear, I’ve got something here for you too. This stunning sequin disc jumper comes in both berry and silver, you’ll look super chic standing next to your colleagues getting tipsy on yet another mulled wine.

Whatever you choose to wear, I’m sure you’ll look absolutely gorgeous and have the best time ever.

*This was a collaborative post but all writing/opinions are my own

You may also be interested in 10 Winter Wardrobe Staples

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My 10 Winter Wardrobe Staples

10 Winter Wardrobe Staples

When it comes to Winter fashion I have streamlined my wardrobe around 10 wardrobe staples, these are items that come out year after year and I’ll inject a few key pieces into my wardrobe throughout the season.

This hasn’t always been the case. When I was in my late teens I would go out at the weekend and buy three or four items and not think about how I’d wear them or how I could style them with items I already had in my wardrobe. I’d end up with bags of stuff which I didn’t wear and find I was giving most of it away. As I’ve got older I’m much more methodical about what items of clothing I buy.

I build my outfits around 10 wardrobe staples and I know I’ll always be warm and stay looking chic. They’re such classic pieces which never go out of fashion, I sometimes have a scroll through Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration on new ways to style them and make outfits I’d never thought of trying before.

10 Winter Wardrobe Staples

Classic Camel Coat

A camel coat is one of the best things things I’ve ever bought. It’s the ultimate wardrobe staple that everyone needs during winter. It’s such a classic, classy piece and literally goes with everything while keeping you cosy and warm. You can even style it with a floaty dress with a thermal underneath and still look feminine and super chic.

I bought my camel coat around 5 years ago in the January sales at House of Fraser, it was marked down to £100 from £250, it’s such good quality and the price per wear is probably less that a cup of coffee by now. The faux fur collar is detachable so you’re almost getting two different styles of coats, even better value for money. I really mean it when I say this camel coat looks great worn with anything, I’ve even even styled it with an evening dress to keep me warm on my way to a Christmas party. This one is definitely going to stay in my wardrobe forever.

Another of my favourite coats to wear during the winter is the belted double breasted wool coat, I have a one in cream and one with a check print. Both are extremely versatile, I occasionally wear the cream coat with a faux fur collar that I bought separately and it changes the look of the coat entirely. I’ve added photos of both styles further on in the post so you get an idea of how I wear them.

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Faux Fur Jacket

A Faux Fur or Faux Shearling Jacket is the perfect finishing touch to any outfit. and comes back on trend nearly every year. I tend to go for neutral colours that will go with everything in my wardrobe, classic shapes that will never go out of style. These are three of my all time favourite coats, they’re a few years old but I’ll continue wearing them until they need replacing. There are so many good affordable coats and jackets on the high street, ones that look amazing and keep you warm all day. I’ve not tried the full on teddy bear coat yet, it’s only a matter of time.

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Chunky Knit Jumper

I’m obsessed with a chunky knit jumper to keep me warm and toasty, especially those with a roll neck, it’s a classic style and looks sophisticated and goes with everything. I love experimenting with different ways to wear a chunky knit, they look great with jeans, skirts and even over a dress so it looks like you’re wearing a skirt, great for getting extra wear out of a floaty dress and keeping super cosy. However you style a chunky knit it’s a perfect winter staple and keeps you snuggly and warm.

I go for neutral shades as I know I’ll get a lot more wear out of them.  Once I find the right style, and colour I have the tendency to wear it all the time and with everything. A chunky knit doesn’t have to be expensive but I’ll try and get a good quality jumper so I know it will last for years. Right now I love wearing this neutral brown roll neck jumper from River Island and this cream cowl neck one from Topshop.

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Over The Knee Boots

I couldn’t do a post on wardrobe staples without mentioning Over The Knee Boots, they’re an absolute essential and I practically live in them throughout the colder months. I have a few pairs in different colours, beige, grey, brown and black, they go with everything and it’s an extra layer to keep your legs warm and cosy.

The most recent pair are from River Island, they’re a classic style in the most gorgeous chocolate brown colour which looks classy and chic. They’re extremely comfortable, they’ve got lace up detail at the back so they fit perfectly around my leg and I love that they don’t fall down. They look amazing worn with knitted dresses, skirts, floaty dresses or jeans. I’m literally so in love with them, I’ve not wanted to take them off.

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Midi Skirt

A midi skirt goes with endless outfit options during the colder months, even if you’re not sure what to wear, just pop on a chunky knit and pair of boots and you’ve got the day’s outfit sorted. Midi skirts come in various styles from pleats, checks, florals and faux leather, whatever you choose a midi skirt looks great worn smart or casually.

I’d been looking for the perfect pleated skirt for ages and found this olive one from ASOS, I think it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s the type of skirt that looks chic and stylish, either worn casually with a roll neck, a blouse for work or a sparkly top and heels for the office Christmas party. I think it would also look amazing worn with an outfit if you have any Winter weddings coming up and you’re not sure on dress code.

Another skirt I wear year after year is this check skirt from M and Co. Checks just scream Autumn Winter and look great styled with a chunky knit, camel coat and over the knee boots. The perfect way to keep you super warm yet still looking chic and classy.

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Jumper Dress

I absolutely love wearing jumper dresses throughout the winter, it’s one of those staples you don’t even need to think about, it’s practically a ready made outfit. Just stick on a pair of over the knee boots and a camel coat and you’re done. A jumper dress will keep you super snuggly throughout the day, for an extra layer of warmth you can always add a thermal vest underneath.

I’m so happy I managed to get hold of this ribbed oatmeal jumper dress from ASOS, it’s so cosy and I love that it has flute sleeves. It’s the perfect dress that will go with any of my boots, coats and accessories and still look chic and stylish. It’s comfy, cosy and snuggly, it literally feels like I’m wearing a blanket and it doesn’t get better than that when the temperatures drop.

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Hats

One accessory that always has the ability to completely change the look of an Autumn Winter outfit is a hat, especially when the temperatures are freezing cold. I am obsessed with hats and have quite a few different styles, from fedoras and wide brimmed hats, to baker boy caps and faux fur hats. I know what style suits me and again I’ll go for neutral colours so I can mix and match my hat with different outfits and feel extra cosy. To be honest I get excited about wearing a hat with my outfit in the same way people get excited about wearing a different pair of shoes.

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Scarves and Gloves

Gloves really need no introduction, they are an absolute must for those colder months, they not only keep your hands super snug but they’re an extra accessory to make your outfit look chic and classy. I have a few in different colours and designs, my all time favourite pair are these pink ones with a bow and faux fur cuff, they also have a faux fur lining to keep my hands extra warm.

There are so many different ways to wear a scarf, as well as simply wrapping it round your neck a scarf can also be worn hanging long down the front of your outfit and tied with a belt around the waist for an extra layer of warmth. My two favourites are this pinky beige wool one from ASOS and the checked scarf from Barbour, I think it’s an instant way of elevating your outfit and look chic and stylish worn with any winter coat.

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Midi Dress

A midi dress is another really versatile outfit and you can carry over your floaty autumn dresses into winter. Whatever your style, checks, polka dots, florals or stripes, a midi dress is an instant outfit. It’s perfect for layering with a thermal top or long sleeve knit underneath, along with a pair of thermal tights and over the knee boots. You’ll be super cosy yet keeping your feminine style through the colder months.

I’m so in love with this polka dot wrap style midi dress from Joanie, it’s such a versatile dress and will take me from day to night. I’ve worn it for a date night, coffee with friends and out to dinner, it looks chic and feminine for any occasion.

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Thin Roll Neck Jumper

A long sleeve, thin roll neck jumper is another ultimate wardrobe staple. It’s extremely versatile, great for layering and looks different with every outfit you wear, from jeans, skirts and dresses. I’d never have thought about popping a thin roll neck under a summer dress to get even more wear out of it through the winter.I wear a roll neck constantly throughout autumn winter, tucked into skirts, trousers or under a chunky knit for an extra layer of warmth. Basic colours, camel, cream and black, go with everything and you have all your outfit options covered.

Winter Wardrobe Staples

I hope I’ve given you some inspiration for your Winter Wardrobe Staples, you may already own these pieces and forgotten about them or you might be looking to invest in a few new items that will see you through year after year. Once you have your winter staples you just need a few new items each year and you’ll still look super chic and stylish.

What Winter wardrobe staples do you bring out every year?

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