SIMPLIFY - WARDROBE EDIT

Operation Simplification

Early in the new year I wrote about my 'resolution' words for 2016. One of those words was 'simplicity' and I knew the first place I wanted to apply the concept was in my wardrobe. It was such a freeing experience going through my closet and clearing out the things I no longer wear but have been holding onto for one reason or another. 

This is what I did:

1. Cleared the closet
I took EVERYTHING out of my closet and sorted through it all at once. I took an honest look at each piece and edited out the clothes I just don't wear or that don't fit well. And then edited again. And again. I was brutal, but it felt so good! 

2. Displayed what was left
I 'displayed' the pieces that made the cut on a clothes rail, using all matching hangers. Every morning when I get dressed, I choose from the clothes hanging here. The process has become much quicker since doing this as the clothes I'm choosing from are all ones I really love to wear and fit me well. I'm also more inclined to hang my clothes up at the end of the day instead of leaving them in a heap on the floor (usually).

3. Took note of the gaps
I am being much more intentional with what I buy these days by making purchases that compliment my wardrobe and style as a whole. This keeps things simple when it comes to putting outfits together. There are always exceptions, but so far I've been sticking to my rule. No impulse buying!

Here's an overview of what I choose from when I get dressed each morning:

1 x black jeans
1 x faux leather skirt 
1 x black midi skirt
1 x everyday dress
1 x party dress 
3 x white button-up shirts (one short, one long, one sheer)
1 x printed button-up blouse
1 x denim button-up shirt
1 x plaid tunic-dress
1 x spotted blouse
2 x striped jersey tops (one turtle neck)
1 x camel blazer 
1 x black jumper

And that's basically how I've edited my (winter) wardrobe so far! I'm so amazed at how few pieces I really need. Getting dressed in the morning no longer includes agonizing over all the choices and then declaring I have nothing to wear! 
There are definitely a few basics on my 'to buy' list that I'll be adding in the next month or so (mainly denim and trousers) and I have a few pieces hiding in the closet that I may slowly reintroduce at some point (or perhaps not - we'll see!).

I've also found I have less of a desire to shop these days. I would rather spend a bit more on one very intentional purchase once every month or two, than go out every weekend looking for cheap finds.
  
I know things will change in a few months as my sundresses come out, but I'll do another edit when if Spring ever decides to arrive.

Operation Simplification

 

RECIPE - NO BAKE ENERGY BITES


These no-bake energy bites are the easiest snack to keep on hand for those rushed mornings or for when you just need a sweet little pick-me-up in the afternoon. 
One Sunday morning I was getting ready for church and all of a sudden remembered I was supposed to bring cereal bars for the bump-in team breakfast. There's nothing open in Oxford at 6am. I realized I had all the ingredients to make energy bites. Plot twist: we had a guest sleeping in the living room of our flat which, coincidentally, is also where our kitchen is located. I stealthed in there like a ninja, collected all the ingredients from the cupboard and proceeded to make them on the windowsill in my bedroom. All in time to get to church by 6:30am. I told you - easy
Another great thing about these treats? You can customize to your hearts content! As long as you keep the wet/dry ratio to ensure the proper consistency, feel free to add in/switch out ingredients. Some suggestions: try almond butter instead of peanut butter, use 1/2 cup flax seed and use less oats, instead of chocolate chips use dried cranberries, maple syrup is a great alternative to honey. You see? Customize! (They also taste delicious dipped in chocolate, just so you know). Check out the video below for a quick breakdown of how easy these are!

What you'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 1/3 cup coconut 
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter 
  • 1/3 cup honey 

Method
  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes 
  • Roll into bite-sized rounds
  • Keep refrigerated in a sealed container for up to a week 



OUTFIT - THE WHITE SHIRT

The White Shirt
The White Shirt
The White Shirt
The White Shirt
The White Shirt
The White Shirt

There's nothing quite like a classic, crisp white cotton shirt. And there's nothing quite like a classic, crisp white cotton shirt with a bit of a twist. I found this shirt at TopShop a few months ago on the sales rack - it was the shape that caught my eye. It kind of reminds me of a lab coat, but in the best way possible (even more so when the sleeves aren't rolled up). It has quickly become a wardrobe staple and pairs perfectly with my TopShop Jamie Jeans (more on those another day!). 

I'm hoping to recreate this top by hacking THIS pattern from By Hand London. I'm thinking if I lengthen it and create a slightly dipped hem it will be a pretty close match (and super cute with a Peter Pan collar). I'll update you on how that goes - first I need to find the perfect fabric! 

Cheers, friends!

What I'm Wearing
Shirt: TopShop (similar)
Jeans: TopShop (similar)
Boots: Clarks (similar)
*Photos by Carmen, edited by me with A Color Story

I AM NOT MY JOB - NEITHER ARE YOU

by the sea

Have you ever defined someone based on what they do for work? You know, they tell you what they do for a living and in your mind you place them in a neat little boxed labeled 'teacher' or 'police officer' or 'stay-at-home mom' or 'secretary' and that's that. I've even done this with students and what they happen to be studying. There they go into their neat little box - 'law student' 'Political Studies student' 'Theatre student.' It's a terrible thing, and I'm so embarrassed to admit it.

This mindset has affected how I view my work, too. I used to be so afraid of being labeled by my job. People would ask me what I do for work (as you do when you meet someone new) and as I told them, I would be so quick to add the caveat that 'it's just a job' or 'you know...it pays the bills.'

You can imagine my shock and horror when I realized that I actually like my job. If you've perused my 'about me' page, you'll know that I'm an office assistant at a university science department. It's not glamorous, it's not particularly creatively stimulating, and it's definitely not what I want to do forever - but I like it.  

I used to be so worried that if I admitted I enjoyed my job I would a) be labeled as an office assistant for the rest of my life and b) be stuck being an office assistant for the rest of my life. Let me be quick to point out that neither of those things are true. Those lies came from mistake of defining people based on their job description. And so of course I defined myself in that way, too.

My realization that it's okay that I like my job hit me in two waves. The first wave was when I realized that my job doesn't define me (or anyone). I came to the decision that, instead of being discontent with a job that isn't the dream job, I would be grateful for having a job that allows me to help people, that encourages me to grow, that provides opportunities to learn new skills, and that gives me free time to pursue my passions. It was an incredibly freeing decision. 

The second wave came when I was on Facebook scrolling through the Humans of New York page. This caption caught my attention:

I'm a Customer Engagement Program Operations Director with a pharmaceutical company. I started working there twenty years ago. At the time, it was just a temporary position. I was writing standard operation procedures to ensure FDA compliance. It was boring and technical, but I was trying to become a theater director and needed the extra income. I remember looking at my coworkers, and thinking: 'I'm not one of them. I'm just here to make money and leave.' But I moved to a full time position after my daughter was born. I didn't want her to be at the mercy of me wanting to become an artist. Soon I no longer saw myself as different than my coworkers. The sense of 'other' disappeared. I realized that nobody saw themselves primarily as an employee at a pharmaceutical company. A few years ago, the company gave us a survey to test our morale. One of the questions was: 'Do you have a best friend at work?' Everyone laughed at that question. But I do have a best friend at work. His office is down the hall and we've seen each other every day for ten years. And that does make a big difference in my life.
(original post can be found HERE)

This story put into words the way I used to feel about work... and also the way I have now decided to view my job and the people I see everyday.
I don't work with finance officers, receptionists, academics, or administrators. I work alongside individuals with dreams, goals, hopes, fears. I work with sisters, fathers, aunties, friends. I work with creative souls, closet health-nuts, dreamers, and world travelers.

I needed a mind shift. No one, including myself, is defined by what they do with the working hours of their week. We are much much more than that.



RECIPE - ICED MATCHA 'LATTE'

Iced Matcha Latte
Iced Matcha Latte
   
I love matcha lattes (also known as green tea lattes). They aren't popular here in the UK (at least not in the coffeeshops I frequent, not even Starbucks!) and matcha is very expensive to purchase. Of course, I whined about it to my mum and she sent me all the essentials from David's Tea (love you, mum!)
     My favourite matcha beverage is an iced soy matcha latte (usually with vanilla or some form of yummy sweetener) so I'm going to spread the green love and share my recipe with you!

Iced Matcha Latte
Iced Matcha Latte

 Iced Soy Matcha Latte with Vanilla 
makes one 16oz (500ml) beverage

Ingredients
  • Soy milk (or your milk of choice - I used Alpro, Silk is also a good brand) just under 16oz
  • Ice cubes (optional)
  • 1tbsp maple syrup (or your sweetener of choice)
  • 1tsp matcha
  • 2-3tbsp hot (not boiling) water

To Make
  1. Fill a 16oz glass with soy milk, leaving space at the top
  2. Add some ice cubes
  3. Stir in flavouring of choice 
  4. In a separate bowl combine matcha and hot water
  5. Whisk together with a matcha whisk until smooth (it may take some time to smooth out all the lumps - it's worth taking the time to do, trust me, no one likes chunky matcha)
  6. Pour the now liquid matcha into your glass
  7. Stir to combine and enjoy!
Iced Matcha Latte
Iced Matcha Latte

      I've had to limit myself from this delicious treat to conserve my matcha supply which hasn't been easy!
      What about you, are you a matcha fan? Willing to give it a go? Let me know in the comments if you do!

Much love, 

FEAR(LESS)



I'm sitting here in the Bodleian library, probably one of the most inspirational places in the world for a book-lover / writer like me. I've got the Radcliffe Camera looming over me through the window on my right, more old stonework on my left, and books all around (along with their delightful old-book smell!). The wind is raging around the building but it's cozy here in the Lower Reading Room. I can hear the gentle 'tap tap tap' of fingers on keyboards, the soft rustle of pages being turned, the occasional whisper. The air is full of concentration, inspiration just waiting to be grasped.
And here I am, inspired, for sure, wide awake, ready to be productive. I've got the whole afternoon ahead of me, well into the evening, in fact. No plans. Nowhere to be. Just me, my laptop, and my notebook - a tantalising trio ready to embrace creativity one word at a time! Yet... I'm staring not only a blank page, but a blank document, too.
As I take in my surroundings, I can't help but wonder - what's holding me back? Oh, the answer is all too simple: fear.
I was browsing through my Instagram the other night and came across this caption that I wrote:

Dreaming of possibilities fills me with excitement, anticipation, hope, wonder... but equally all those possibilities can leave me feeling overwhelmed, confused, paralyzed, doubtful. Fear has a way of taking our deepest dreams and warping them into something frightening and unattainable Fear of what? Failure? Inadequacy? Those things are almost certain if we give into fear. Take a stand. Embrace the possibilities. Dream. Set goals. Don't let fear win.

It's okay to preach to ourselves right?! I wrote that twenty-four weeks ago, according to Instagram, and I find it incredibly ironic that I'm in a very similar place, all these weeks later - but in a different set of circumstances.
The annoying thing with fear is that it crops up again and again. Like so many things in life, overcoming fear is not a destination, but a journey.
So, here I am, on the journey, determined not to give into fear; just writing about it has loosened its grip on my creativity.  I'm ready to leave fear behind, aren't you? I'm ready to step into all situations, fearless, again and again.







*photo by Mark (a.k.a. my amazing husband)


OUTFIT - THE WOOL BLAZER TAKE I

The Wool Blazer
The Wool Blazer
The Wool Blazer
The Wool Blazer

I almost didn't take any pictures of this outfit. Not because I don't like it - this is actually one of my go-to outfits these days and I feel quite good in it. No, I almost didn't take photos of this outfit because it was the end of a long day, my makeup wasn't fresh, I didn't bother to do anything with my hair that morning, and I got rained on just before the pictures were taken. 
Then I thought to myself, 'This is me. This is what I look like most days - hair unwashed and un-styled, same boots, same scarf, most likely rained on at some point during the day. Why can't I share that?' 
So I had my friend Carmen snap some pics of me.
It was almost dark so the photos are a bit fuzzy, but this is me - rough edges and all.

On a more sartorial note, I am really loving my new wool blazer from Zara. I saw it in the sales after Christmas but it was still sitting a bit outside of my budget (that being anything over a fiver after December!). A few weeks later I happened upon it again and lo and behold, it was marked down again (and I had been paid). I visited it a couple more times then decided to take the plunge. I'm trying to be much more intentional with my purchases, and I feel really confident that this will be a classic I'll come back to again and again. It's already proven its versatility in my wardrobe and I'm certain you'll be seeing it again soon.
 
What I'm Wearing 
Blazer - Zara (similar in navy)
Faux leather skirt - Zara (similar in black)
Boots - Clarks  
 
P.S.
I did not intentionally plan to be a walking Zara add when I put together this outfit, I promise.

*Photos by Carmen, edited with A Color Story 

PREPARATION

Preparation

     Sometimes radio silence on the blog is inevitable with a busy schedule! So for that, I apologise. That past few weeks I have been working a bit more than usual (yay for the bank, not-so-yay for my free time), and then we had a friend come visit for a week which meant lots of adventure and exploration (things that are always welcome!). 

We visited all of our favourite places, cycled to a stunning palace at sundown, attended a breathtaking choral evensong, played an open mic, drove through the Cotswolds, and more! It was full on but full of amazing experiences. 

On the day we drove through the Cotswolds, we visited a distillery for a tour and tasting. The distillery has only been around for about two years, but the tour was really interesting and enjoyable! The distillery has released a variety of spirits from gin to a cream liquer, and even an espresso martini. Eventually they will release a whiskey, as well. 

There's so much preparation involved in the making of whiskey, and then a whole lot of waiting as it must age for at least three years in big barrels (casks) before it can be considered whiskey. Careful planning is required for every step and every flavour nuance. There's math and chemistry involved that goes far beyond my understanding. And then begins the waiting. 

The Cotswold Distillery opened two years ago but won't be expecting their first batch of whiskey until closer to 2017, and even then, some whiskey will be left to age for up to ten years!

Learning about the process of making whiskey really got me thinking how similar life can be. I see an end result, a dream, but unless I put in the preparation and work, I can't really expect to see that dream fulfilled. And oftentimes, the end result doesn't manifest itself until much further down the line than I initially expected. There's often a period of waiting for the good stuff.  

A friend of mine shared something similar at church this past weekend, relating this idea to a harvest. A crop is decided (the dream), seeds are planted (the work), and only after a period of waiting can the harvest be reaped (the dream fulfilled). 

This has led me to ask myself: what am I preparing for now that will benefit my future? This answer doesn't even have to be overly specific. For example, not all the steps I've taken in life have been intentional, but the experiences I have had have culminated into a unique set of life skills, which now, further down the line, affect the way I view and interact with the world. What experiences am I seeking out now? Which relationships am I investing in? What opportunities are coming my way and how will those affect my life in the future, should I choose to pursue them? 

I suppose these questions come because, as often happens in life, I find myself at a crossroads. The one path offers comfort, ease, familiarity. The other path will require some deft navigation, sturdy walking shoes, and a fair amount of determination - but the views will be spectacular, and who knows, there may be some whiskey waiting for me at the end of the road. 
*photos edited with A Color Story

Preparation