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Let’s Catch Up: What I’ve Been Up To This Month

Well here we are, almost at the end of the month, year and decade. How scary is that? So much has changed for me in the last 10 years, I’ve met some amazing new people, visited exciting places, lost loved ones and started my blog. I’ve changed as a person, I’ve become stronger, more confident and finally accepted my current situation. Maybe things will be different in years to come, I can’t see into the future, no one can. But who knows what’s round the corner.

I’m a bit late writing this post so it does include November and half of December. Let’s find out what I’ve been up to lately.

I was reduced to tears one morning after opening a parcel from my wonderful friend Maggie who lives in Derbyshire. She’d arranged for her work colleague to make this beautiful memorial stone for my cat Pepper, who I sadly lost in October. Maggie and Debs work at a cat rescue centre and have one of these made every time they lose a cat. Thank you so much ladies, this honestly means the world to me.

On the 16th November I went to see my friend Rhian perform in the N.E.Dance end of year ballet show. It was absolutely fantastic, with a mix of classical and chart music and I thoroughly enjoyed every single minute, I sat right at the front and was able to see all the beautiful adult dancers alongside children ballerinas and their beautiful costumes. Rhian very kindly sent me some photos after the event so I could see everything in more detail. The show was put together by Nicola, who runs the dance school and I think she did an amazing job. Money from the ticket sales helped raise £300 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Well done to Rhian and everyone who was involved in the evening’s performance, you did yourself proud.

To get in the festive mood, I put my tree and a few decorations up in my bedroom. I bought the tree from Amazon about three years ago and each year I’ve added a new bauble, this year it’s the gold star and yes, you’ve guessed it, to remember Pepper. Most of my decorations are form B&M or Wilkos, both places are reasonably prices but don’t look cheap. And of course, my pink and white “Santa Baby” hat and jumper has made an appearance again, it wouldn’t be Christmas without them now.

At the end of November Adrian and I went into to town to see the Christmas Lights Switch on. We got down there super early, not only so we had a good view but to watch the entertainment that was on throughout the afternoon. First there was a local choir singing carols, which was followed by another local act, the New Town Centres and they performed a mix of Christmas songs and chart music. Both were amazing and yes, I did sing along to any of the tunes I knew. Luckily we were right at the front to see Santa, and his helper, turn on the Christmas lights. It was absolutely freezing but thankfully I kept warm with a jumbo hot chocolate from Starbucks and long sleeve thermals. The outfit I wore is in the main photo of this post, everything was bought secondhand and has to be one of my favourite outdoor festive outfits.

You know those impromptu get togethers that end up being so much better than if you’d spend weeks planning it and stressing over every tiny detail? Well that’s what we did for Adrian’s birthday on the 24th November. Our friends Stephanie, Wayne and Gerry came round with birthday cake and we added a few mini cakes. Normally I would have baked Adrian a birthday cake but as he hadn’t planned on celebrating in any way I just didn’t have time. We all had an amazing evening and everyone left with us all having had far too much sugar!

What have you been up to this month? What will you be doing over the Christmas holidays?

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Gift Guide and Stocking Fillers For Her

I absolutely love the festive season, I look forward to all the family and my friends coming together, enjoying each other’s company with a glass of mulled wine and a large tub of Quality Street. I look forward to making the house look festive with Christmas decorations and enough fairy lights to beat Blackpool illuminations. The Christmas tunes will have been on repeat from the start of November and I’ll most probably be singing them in my sleep by mid December.

Having said that, it can often feel like one of the most stressful times of the year. The shops are extra busy and you have no idea what gifts to get your nearest and dearest. I thought I’d put together a last minute gift and stocking filler guide for the ladies in your life, especially those who are ultra girly and love all things pink.

Sanctuary Exquisite Bath Salts Boots / Midnight Plum & Wild Blackberry Luxury 2 Wick Candle Baylis & Harding / Luna 3 Sonic Cleansing Brush Foreo / Laura Mercier Paint with Light Radiant Face Illuminator Trio John Lewis / Baylis & Harding Midnight Plum & Wild Blackberry Mini Stack Gift Set Temptation Gifts

Zipped Jewellery Case Ted Baker / Ted Baker A5 folio ASOS / rose gold wireless earbuds with charging case Skinnydip / House of Marley Head Phones in rose gold ASOS / Glitter Water Bottle Skinnydip / Swarovski Crystal Heart Stud Earrings and Huggy Gift Set ASOS

Cashmere Bed Socks The White Company / Piped Silk Pyjamas The White Company / Satin and Lace Kimono (colour Vintage Pink) H&M / Fluffy Cross Over Slippers Boux Avenue / Christmas Cookie House Party Gift Set Too Faced / Hooded Pink Robe Boux Avenue

Jo Malone Rose & Magnolia Cologne John Lewis / GHD Platinum+ Straighteners Limited Edition Gift Set in Rose Gold John Lewis / GHD Platinum+ Air Limited Edition Deluxe Set NEXT / Vanity Case Ted Baker

monogram beanie hat / studded cliptop purse / rose gold colour diamante chain watch / diamante bow scrunchie / faux suede cross body bag – All from River Island

Burberry Check Cashmere Scarf Harvey Nichols / Blush Pink Jewellery Box Stackers / Rose Gold Earrings Monica Vinader / Rose Gold Mini Nugget Cluster Bracelet Monica Vinader

Paris: Through A Fashion Eye and The Dress: 100 Iconic Moments In Fashion Both by Megan Hess on Amazon / Tea and Cake Bath Slab Duo Miss Patisserie / Phone Case CaseApp / Wax Melts Glam Wax / Bath and Shower Gel Kathleen / Body and Massage Oil Kathleen / Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb Eau de Parfum John Lewis / Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Collection – Eyeshadow Pallette / Blusher / Lipstick / Lip Liner

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My Guide To Buying Secondhand Clothing

You can pick up some absolute gems when searching through racks of pre-loved clothes, all it takes is a little patience. I’ve been doing it for years and love creating outfits with beautiful pieces I’ve bought either on Depop, in a charity shop or vintage store. There’s something to suit everyone’s style. Here are my top tips for buying secondhand clothing for this seasons wardrobe.

Forget Any Preconceived Ideas

Charity shops have come a long way over the years and aren’t full of stained or moth eaten clothing that no one would ever dream of wearing. The stores are stocked with carefully chosen pieces that have already been washed and everywhere is laid out in sections, either by colour or style. The staff are extremely helpful and knowledgeable, just as you’d find in a high street store.

Minor Problems Can Be Fixed

You can easily sew on a button or put on a complete new set to jazz up a blazer or coat. Broken zip, no worries, a new zip can simply be sewn in, either by you or anyone you know with a sewing machine. A hem can be taken up to make a skirt or dress just the perfect length and if a top or dress is slightly too low cut across the bust, a few stitches are all it takes to protect your modesty. If there does happen to be a slight mark it can easily be removed by one of the many fabric cleaners on the market. Failing that take it along to a local dry cleaners, which is well worth doing for a one off vintage or designer garment.

Always Try It On

Clothes may look fabulous on a hanger but can look absolutely hideous the minute you try on what you thought was the perfect looking dress. The same rule applies the other way round, it could hang like a sack on the hanger but once you slip it on the dress could give you the most stunning shape and drape beautifully across the body.

Always Check The Returns Policy

This is definitely worth checking if you’re buying on Depop, Ebay or Oxfam On Line. Imagine how heartbroken you’d be after ordering a stunning piece of clothing only for it to arrive and it didn’t fit. Or there was a hole in the garment that wasn’t shown in the photo and the seller wouldn’t give you a refund.

Trust Your Instinct

If you know an item will go with at least 3 outfits in your wardrobe and you know you’ll get lots of wear from that piece then it’s worth having. Does it suit your personal style or are you buying it just because it’s something that’s on trend? Also don’t be a label snob, if you think you will wear the item then buy it.

Don’t Rule Out Accessories

Hats, jewellery and bags all add those perfect finishing touches to any outfit. You may stumble across a 1950s bag that looks brand new and you’re unlikely to see one of your friends with the same one. If you can’t quite stretch to a full price designer handbag, then buying secondhand is the best way to go, especially if it’s a classic design that’s never going to go out of style.

Have you found a great secondhand bargain?

You may also like to read My Autumn Charity and Vintage Shop Haul

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October Round Up: What I’ve Been Up To This Month

I say this every time, but what the heck happened to October? I seemed to have been catapulted forward in time from the end of September. I feel like the days have wizzed past so quick, I’ve hardly had time to catch my breath. To be fair, I’ve had loads of fun this month which you’ll see later on in this post. The clocks went back, which always seems strange for the first week. The nights are getting darker, yes the candles have been lit and fairy lights are now on, I don’t need an excuse. We’ve been doing plenty of seasonal baking in our house, cakes and cookies as well as casseroles and pasta dishes, so the house smells divine. I finally went to the cinema to watch Downton Abbey and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve got every episode on box set and couldn’t wait to watch the film.

 As we’d had such a great day at Hitchin Lavender in the summer, we decided to go back again for a spot of pumpkin picking. I hadn’t realised they’d even got a pumpkin field until I saw a few photos on my friend’s Facebook page and couldn’t wait to go along to see for myself. Adrian had to lift on the straw bale and I chose that very moment to get the fit giggles. We took along a flask of tea and packet of biscuits to share, which was most welcome. There’s also a very rare sight in this photo…..I’m wearing jean’s.

As if I didn’t think this year could get any worse. On 8th October my sweet little Pepper said goodnight for the very last time. She was 22 years old and we’d had her for 11 of those years after adopting her from our neighbours. My heart was literally broken. Her funny little ways have given us so much joy over the years. I’ll miss the cuddles she gave when I’d been poorly, her cute furry face and soggy pink nose staring over me first thing in the morning and the way she’d snuggle up to any of my clothes or in the washing basket. I’ll miss the look of excitement when she’d hear the sound of her favourite packet of treats and her sweet little meow when she’d want my attention.

We’ve planted a chrysanthemum bush on her grave, so every October it will flower as beautiful as she was. Sleep tight sweet Pepper, Nan will look after you now.

I thought I’d share a few snaps from some of our Autumnal walks. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous, cold but sunny, and it seemed the perfect opportunity to get out and explore. We didn’t have to go far to find some beautiful woodland walks and the crisp air certainly blew the cobwebs away. I love seeing all the beautiful colours around this time of year and of course had to collect all things Autumnal.

Speaking of the countryside, while we were out and about in the villages we came across a bus shelter that’s being used as a library where people donate books. What a fab idea, I know where to take my unused books now. Luckily I was able to pick up some inspiration for an Autumn baking session from The Great British Bake Off.

When our friend Andrew invites us to his party, Adrian and I are usually first through the door. Not because I’m eager to tuck into the amazing buffet he’d prepared or anything like that, no I love just love a good party. It was lovely to see our other friends there too, we all lead pretty different lives and don’t get to catch up with each other as often as we’d like to. We all had a wonderful everything, paying silly games, dancing to the music and chatting until the wee small hours.

On the 18th October we took a walk into town to visit a French Market. I tried delicious delicacies, chatted to stall holders and danced along to music being played. I came home with a beautiful blanket scarf for when the weather turns colder and some tasty fruit tartlets. It certainly was a fantastic few hours, plus it was a great excuse to wear the new coat I’d featured in my latest fashion post 8 Autumn Pieces To Wear Everyday.

I couldn’t finish this post without a mention of Halloween. There was a time when I wouldn’t have stepped foot near anything spooky, so to attend a themed party for the third year in a row is such an achievement for me. I chose to dress up as a Grave Yard Bride and oh my word did we have an absolute ball. I’ll leave a link here if you’d like to see a few more photos. I’d love to say that I baked these Halloween cookies but sadly not, they were in the window of a local bakers and I thought they looked delicious. And a great photo to complete my October round up with.

What have you been up to this month? Have you been celebrating Halloween?

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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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