Turning 25 | What I Learned in My Early 20's

I thought, as I turned twenty-five this week, a post reflecting on how it feels to hit halfway through my twenties and what I've learned during this time would be a fun one to write. I've seen these kind of posts floating around and always find them interesting to read so, here's my own take on what I'd tell my younger self. Even if it's just something to look back on in a years time and laugh at.

You're allowed to make mistakes.

I think one of my favourite quotes is by David Nicholl's in One Day, which reads: "You feel a little bit lost right now about what to do with your life, a bit rudderless and oarless and aimless but that’s okay… That’s alright because we’re all meant to be like that at twenty-four.”

I've lost count how many times I've read that book, but it serves as a reminder that it's okay to not know. It's okay to try. It's okay to get things completely, utterly wrong. Just so long as you learn a thing or two about what not to do next time. Whether that's a job, a hair cut or just a lipstick shade that you know really isn't your colour. 

You're stronger than you think.

Yes, you can do it. How do I know? Because you overcame a damn lot more in a shorter space of time. Overcoming an eating disorder that stuck around for nine years, only to battle through anxiety that still hangs around now, is a testament to this. 

I'll always remember my nurse asking me how it feels to know no one other than me will comprehend what it's like to fight off my illness, and me replying that I didn't mind because I'd know. I'd carry it with me and hold onto that strength. I can fly down a zip-wire from above the trees, I can learn to drive and eat my dinner with enjoyment because these experiences are what I've earned. 

... But that doesn't mean you always have to be.

I know. You're a Virgo. The thought of not being seen as anything other than strong is sometimes a problem. Anything other than succeeding and not getting it right first time hits a nerve. But that's going to wear you down. You have people around you that will catch you if you trip. Literally speaking. There is no shame in being a human being who gets hurt, who needs a cry and has to sometimes say "I'm sorry, I can't do that today." 

You have a voice. Use it.

Eventually you're going to get a little fed up of people not taking mental health seriously enough. You're going to want to use your skills to speak up for animals who don't have their own voice. You're going to get a bit annoyed that people don't treat their surroundings quite right. So shout about it. You're allowed to be passionate. If people laugh at you for speaking about your eating disorder and animal cruelty again, you'll know why you're talking about it in the first place.


Maintaining a Cruelty-Free Post Summer Glow

As summer is now starting to draw to a close (if the whole two weeks of sunshine we experienced earlier this year count as summer, anyway), I thought I'd do a post with some tips I've learnt about how to keep my skin looking sun kissed in a healthy, natural looking way as we enter the autumn and winter months. I hope you find them useful!

Skinny Tan "Body Glow"

I was kindly gifted a sample of Skinny Tan's Body Glow* in their light shade earlier in the year. I must admit, as a complete fake tan novice, I found the prospect a bit daunting to begin with. However, not only does this stuff build lightly and gradually each time you use it, Body Glow contains naturally derived tanning actives and their ingredients are vegan. I figured there was no harm in giving it a go.

After shaving and exfoliating my skin, this stuff developed like a dream with no dreaded telltale signs. It also dried super quick too, meaning I wasn't stood around starkers for ages waiting for it to set. Not only is this a great gradual fake tan, but a daily moisturiser too, meaning you can swap it for your usual one when you fancy a bit more of a glow. 

I'm quite comfortable with my skin tone but, should I fancy an all over sun kissed glow for a special occasion, this will be my go to!

Happy Naturals Body Scrub

This is the exfoliator I use before applying Skinny Tan's Body Glow, which I picked up whilst shopping in Sainsburys. As you may have already guessed, Happy Naturals are completely natural and contains no synthetic microbeads, parabens and Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, meaning you're keeping your skin safe and plastic away from the sea! 

It smells lovely, is refreshing and isn't harsh either, which is a bonus for my slightly sensitive skin. It's a staple even if I'm not planning on tanning afterwards. If you are planning on using this before applying your fake tan, I'd recommend paying extra attention to your knees, elbows and wrists!

Living Nature Bronzer

I was also recently gifted a bronzer from Living Nature*, a certified natural and cruelty-free cosmetic company based in New Zealand. When they got in touch, I was immediately excited as I'd been after a new bronzer for a while. It arrived in the loveliest packaging (brown wrapping and twine is in fact the way to my heart) and I couldn't wait to try it out. It's also fragrance free, meaning it's suitable for all skin types.

My first impression was that it's very subtle, which isn't necessary a bad thing. For me it means I can build it up depending on what kind of coverage I'm after. In the past I've been guilty of being quite heavy handed with a bronzer, so this is a welcome addition to my makeup bag to ensure I'm not overdoing it!

What are your must have cruelty-free and natural products for a year long sun kissed glow? Let me know in the comments below!

* These products were kindly gifted to me. All opinions are my own.



Exploring the New Forest Wildlife Park

A few weeks ago, after feeling slightly glum, Kieran surprised me with a trip to the New Forest Wildlife Park to lift my spirits. Despite loving the forest and visiting quite a few spots over the years on our woodland visits, I hadn’t heard of the park until Kieran went on a recent college trip there as part of his Conservation and Wildlife Management course.

We met lots of cute animals, from European Bison, a Red-Necked Wallaby and Wild Boar, but I have to say my favourite moments were being able to witness roe deer being fed and roaming freely in the park, as well as seeing some wolves prowl their grounds.

It was hard to get a good photo, but I enjoyed sharing the experience with Kieran, who was equally as captivated with these gorgeous creatures. 

We also got to see Munchkin, the park’s resident Eurasian Lynx, be fed and learn all about her habits from one of their rangers.

It wasn’t until I did a little reading up after my visit that I realised just how much this amazing wildlife park contributes towards the conservation of endangered animals that we spotted on our travels around the site.

This included a giant otter, which is currently on the IUCN endangered species Red List, making the park the first in the UK to send a captive-bred giant otter to an international breeding programme. This is as well as various other conservation projects, such as the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned native species of owls, deers and Scottish wildcats. 

The park also works closely alongside the RSPCA, vets and police to help rescue injured or abandoned wild animals. After finding out about all of the work the New Forest Wildlife Park does, all without external subsidisation, I was pleased our entry fee would be put to good use to allow the park to carry on doing the great job they do... and would happily visit again!



Living Life Adventurously with Go Ape! Moors Valley

It really doesn't take much to persuade me to spend time in the forest. So, when I received an email from Go Ape! inviting me over to their Moors Valley site for a go on their Tree Top Adventure course, I didn't give it a second thought. Even if the notion of climbing ladders, balancing on wires among the treetops and free-falling into rope nets did make a tad nervous. To clarify, "a tad nervous" could also mean "I ended up crying when crossing a rope net to get from one podium to another" on my second ever visit. But hey, in fairness, I did a 5K park run before that. This girl was tired!

This time around, which was my third visit at the lovely Moors Valley site, I was accompanied by Kieran's sister Rikki. This was while her fiancee Matt, and children Olivia and Charlie, took on the Tree Top Junior course which is suitable for little adventurers over one metre tall.

After combatting the entire course on my second visit, I was feeling pretty confident about taking to the treetops again and (hopefully) reassuring Rikki that it wasn't as scary as it seemed! Despite my nerves, I have to say that having my own fiancee Kieran, who's an instructor at Go Ape! himself, sort out my harness, remind us of the safety guidelines and show us the ropes made me feel more at ease.

That's not to say that my legs didn't start to shake a little after climbing the first rope ladder and preparing myself to walk across wooden steps joined with rope, climbing up nets and shifting one foot at a time to get across a thin metal wire (while gripping onto the one above my head for dear life). And this is just the warm up course after your introduction!

For me, all of the nerves and precarious wobbling over platforms is made completely worth it once you reach each zipwire at the end of each course, of which there are four (five if you include the intro site) where you're rewarded with the feeling of flying through the sky. This is followed by a not-so-graceful landing (unless you're a pro of course) into wood chip at the bottom. And yes, I did once lose a shoe. So, if there's one thing you learn from this blog post, it's to tie your damn shoes up properly.

Out of all of the courses, I have to say the final site was my favourite. I was disappointed in myself for not taking the site on during my first ever visit to GoApe! last year, so I've faced it head-on during my second and third go. There's nothing quite like the feeling of letting go of your fears and trusting your harness completely as you step off a towering platform and free fall into the Tarzan swing. I'm proud to say I still let out the most ridiculous scream.

So, whether you're looking to take on a challenge to overcome your fears like me, are a lover of adrenaline inducing activities or just love spending time in the forest, I couldn't recommend Go Ape! enough. For someone who was once petrified of heights and didn't think they'd overcome it, I'm glad I accepted their offer and gave it another go. Even if I did end up washing wood chip out of my hair for days.


Approaching Fitness After an Eating Disorder

It’s 8:45am on a Saturday morning and myself, along with roughly four hundred other participants, are lacing up their trainers, stretching on any available surface and bracing themselves for a 5K park run to start their day in Moors Valley Country Park. We are cheerfully greeted by the running director and volunteers, who wait to lead and encourage us on our way around the park towards the finish line. This is all before cheering on the regulars who have hit their 50th and 100th runs and have the pleasure of donning a ridiculous (and somewhat impractical looking) hat for the duration of their travels around the parks already familiar route.

It wasn’t too long ago that I would struggle to run 1K down the road, let alone manage to persuade myself to lift up my feet for another 4. I definitely have my best friend Paige to thank for suggesting I tag along and give it a go, as I now have my 6th run to look forward to this weekend. Whilst I have quite a while off until I get to wear that silly hat for my efforts, I can genuinely say I’m proud of myself for pushing past the doubts I had about my abilities. Sure, I still find myself taking a break and walking more often than I’d like, but it’s a start!

Add to this the occasional Pilates class when I'm feelin' fancy (or, in other words, can slightly justify the £7 for a class), daily ab and arm workouts and the occasional yoga video to wind down when I feel like I need it and I guess you have what some might (loosely) consider a routine. Whilst this may not sound particularly taxing, this is a huge step for someone who has struggled with their approach to fitness for many years.

After recovering from Anorexia Nervosa five years ago, I did wonder if I would ever be able to view exercise and fitness in anything other than a negative light. This is after seeing it solely as a means of punishment and a way to lose weight after feeling like I’d eaten too much for so long. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to adopt a different mindset and appreciate, if not enjoy, the benefits that being active has to offer.

Take, for example, my approach to one of my best friends Alice’s suggestion of cycling from Bournemouth gardens to Studland and back (for those not familiar with Dorset, it’s approximately 15 miles overall). During the grip of my eating disorder, my primary thought would have immediately been how many calories I would get to burn off. This time, however, I accepted straight away; purely for how fun it sounded and how much I wanted to visit Studland again.

Naturally I did have my doubts, seeing as I hadn’t ridden a bike for two years, but I saw it as a challenge that I could take on whilst catching up with my friends. As expected, it was fun and the end result of sitting in the glorious sunshine on the beach with a picnic and cider was more than worth it… even if we did have numb bums for the rest of the week!

I think my career and freelance lifestyle also has a huge part to play in wanting to be more active, as sitting at a desk for the majority of the day has its set backs. If I'm sat for too long I find myself throwing on a workout video that evening, just to get myself moving again and to avoid any tension, which has a habit of sitting in my neck and upper back otherwise.

Moreover, it's been about realising that I do have the ability to take care of myself without overstepping that boundary of overdoing it like I've feared for so long. Not only that but the headspace that running gives me, as well as the stress relief I get from yoga and Pilates, is the best outlet for someone who has a habit of bottling up their anxieties. It's another act of self love that's come with the aftermath of recovery which, after all this time, still gladly surprises me.


Black Magic Woman | A Style Post

I have to admit that I've wanted to do an outfit post for quite some time, but never knew what kind of ensemble to go for. When I bought this dress from Boohoo a couple of months back, however, I knew it summed up exactly what my style was all about... even if it'd only see the light of day for a special occasion! 

With its long flowing skirt, bell sleeves, lace waist insert and button down detailing, it was love at first sight. Accompanied by my wide rim fedora, heavy bohemian earrings, rings and tan 70's style wedges, this is me in a nutshell and allowed me to embody my inner Stevie Nicks. 

Plus, who needs a special occasion to dress up and dance through the woods, right?

Hat: M&S | Dress: Boohoo | Earrings: Primark| Wedges: Primark | Rings: Primark |


Stress Free Tips for Freelancers

In Restless Wonder

Whilst I'm not out in the forest exploring or taking too many photos of trees and deer, I'm in my home office creating copy for my clients, planning my next steps and keeping track of my finances. If you're a fellow freelancer - or looking to venture down that route - you'll understand that, as great as being your own boss can be, it definitely has its stressful moments! So, as April is Stress Awareness Month, I thought I'd talk about some tips and tools I've found useful to make sure my work is the best it can be. Hope it helps you too!

I've found that one of the most efficient ways to keep stress at bay is by planning ahead to make sure I'm hitting those deadlines whilst not overloading myself by taking on too much at once. I keep a handy notebook next to me at all times, as I have a habit of drafting out the week ahead and what I want to achieve in this timeframe. That way, I can look at each day individually and assign myself tasks that work towards completing this goal. As easy as it sounds, its really effective in keeping me motivated.

Cluttered Desk, Cluttered Mind

One thing that really seems to hinder my productivity and increase my stress levels is having an untidy desk. I confess that I do have a habit of letting mail, magazines, post it notes and mugs creep up on me, despite knowing all too well that this directly affects how I feel about my work! Keep clutter at bay to ensure nothing distracts you and instead replace it with things that inspire you. For example, I have a mesh board in my direct eye line with photos, inspiring quotes, a loom wall hanging and macrame pot hanger with a selection of air plants. I find that these reminders of my goals and what makes me happy inspires me on a daily basis.

Money Management

Freelance work aside, I have to say I've never been the best at keeping tabs on my finances! Therefore having a go to accounting tool is a lifesaver, and one thing I'd definitely recommend for those just starting out. Online tools such as QuickBooks* offer a range of features useful for freelancers or those running small businesses, such as creating invoices on the go, quick HRMC self assessments and the option to store and separate your business and personal transactions at the swipe of a button. Lets just say I find the last feature particularly useful!

Cut the Caffeine

I know, I know. For some, grabbing a coffee on the way to work is a sacred part of a morning ritual, especially for those reluctant to leave their beloved beds in the early hours. However, as caffeine increases our levels of cortisol, one of our body's stress hormones, it might be worth considering cutting down if you're starting to feel the pressure and switching to decaf or tea instead.

Take Five. Or Thirty.

Whilst it's easy to fall into the trap of working way past lunchtime to get that extra piece of work finished, neglecting your own wellbeing in the process will catch up with you. I mentioned this back in my Keeping Motivated when Working from Home blog post last year, but I feel like its worth noting again. As spring starts to make an appearance, make it a priority to grab at least 30 minutes of fresh air. Not only is this much needed screen free time important for your eyes, but it's great for allowing the creative ideas to flow without interruption.

Do you have any tips for keeping stress at bay as a freelancer? Let me know in the comments below!

*This blog is in collaboration with Quickbooks. 


Alchemy Oils Amla Hair Oil Review

Alchemy Oils Amla Hair Remedy Review
I have to admit that, other than a quick spritz of hairspray, I’m not one for using styling products on my hair. As it’s super thick, I’ve never been keen on the thought of adding any weight to make it any heavier! Not only that but, because of it’s thickness, any style tends to hold quite well without the need to add any styling sprays or mouses.

However, when Alchemy Oils* kindly emailed me about trying their Amla Hair Remedy, I was intrigued. They only use natural essential oils and, even better, don’t test on animals and are Vegan Society approved. You won’t find any parabens, PEGS, phthalates, sulphates, silicones and the like hidden within its ingredients list either. This combination sounded like the perfect product to persuade me out of my reluctant ways!

With amla, avocado, coconut, argan oils and a dash of lemon essential oil, the Amla Hair Remedy is not only a feast for the senses, but perfect for those seeking a product to strengthen their hair and promote growth. Amla, which is derived from the Indian Gooseberry and contains a number of essential fatty acids, is also known for its hair follicle stimulating and conditioning properties.

Nourishing elements aside, I was pretty excited that the Amla Hair Remedy also promised a brilliant shine to my hair. As someone who dyes their hair on regular basis, lets just say my hair could do with a little TLC. So, when I arrived home to a lovely package waiting for me, you can imagine how eager I was to give my new product a try!

The first thing I noticed was how beautiful the packaging was. Anything that incorporates a wooden cork topper grabs my attention! I also appreciated how much consideration had gone into the delivery, as it arrived in a small box stuffed with polystyrene cushioning to avoid any unfortunate mishaps. It smells absolutely gorgeous, and the lemon essential oil really packs a punch, so if you find yourself drawn to citrus scents then this is one you’ll love.

You can either use the Hair Remedy as a heavenly deep conditioning treatment by massaging it into the roots and leaving it for thirty minutes before washing, or as styling product on damp hair before drying. I’ve found this to be the perfect excuse to cram in some pamper time, as there’s nothing lovelier than massaging the remedy into my hair, tying it up in a bun and grabbing a moment to relax before jumping into a hot shower.

I’ve also since used it as a styling product by applying a small amount to the ends of just curled hair to tame any flyaways or frizz. I’m not exaggerating when I say I resemble Friend’s Monica in “The One in Barbados” when the slightest bit of humidity is in the air, so I can imagine I’ll be appreciating this even more as summer approaches!

*This post is in collaboration with Alchemy Oils and I was kindly sent their Amla Hair Remedy to try. All opinions are my own.


A Love Letter to the New Forest

Taking five with a flask of hot chocolate in the New Forest
You know that scene in Almost Famous when Kate Hudson’s Penny Lane tells Patrick Fugit that, whenever she’s feeling lonely, she goes to the record store to visit her friends? Said friends being in the form of a collection of 7” vinyls. Well, for me, whenever I’m feeling down, stressed or lonely, I seek refuge in the New Forest. As someone who spends most of her days at a desk, I savour these resplendent moments in a haven that almost feels like a second home to me now. 

And yet there’s still so much waiting to be explored.

There’s nothing quite like basking in the morning sunlight that escapes from between the trees and cascades streams of light, as if to tend to new life hidden amongst its expanse of green, or finally taking the leads off of your eager pups and watching them run uninhibited as you share their elation at finding freedom, even if for just for an hour or two.
And with each season, the forest brings with it something new for each and every incomparable month.

Wrapping up in a multitude of layers, throwing on my wellies and filling a flask to the hilt with a hot chocolate to take on our travels can’t be compared to seeing the early blooms of spring, just as packing up the car boot with a picnic and soaking up the sunshine can’t be compared to the reds, oranges and yellows of falling crisp leaves that paint the forest in an array of colour during the autumn months.

Knowing that the New Forest is within close reach is a thought that reassures me on a daily basis. Should I need a moment to take five, or if I’m feeling the pressures of everyday life becoming a little to much to bear, we simply load up the car and go. The moment that I step foot on a forest floor of leaves and feel the snapping of branches beneath my feet, all of my trivial anxieties fade as I breathe in that fresh air and appreciate what nature has always had to offer.

Each day, I find myself facing emails, social media and the inevitable feeling of not being good enough. Switching off from the outside world, where no one mentions deadlines, bills or life’s expectations, is a retreat for the mind.

What could be more humbling than standing before a Sequoia Tree at over 200 years old and 51m tall in the beautiful Rhinefield Ornamental Drive? Or catching sight of a pure white deer daintily dancing it's way between the trees near Anderwood? Or watching as horses serenely mind their own business in Burley as you make your way through their familiar ground?

With this in mind, I remind myself everyday of how lucky I am to live a stones throw away from this National Park, which is not only a sight to behold but steeped with such a fascinating history. This is well as having a fiancee who's lifelong appreciation with the great outdoors, and a current ambition to become a forest ranger, has only added to my own love of this beautiful spot in Hampshire.