How to feel summery when it’s not sunny

Technically summer is not yet over, but the hot days have all but disappeared. If, like me, you’re not ready to accept the autumn is on its way just yet, what you need is a list of ideas to help you feel summery, even when it’s raining. Lucky for you, that’s exactly what I have right here!…

Summer feelings

Summer scents

If there’s one thing that really gives me the summer feels, it’s the smell of sun cream. And I have been known on occasion to put some on, even if it’s not particularly sunny. Find the scents that make you feel summery and use them! I also have a coconut-scented hand sanitiser that I keep in the office, which is the smell of pure summer.

Have an indoor picnic

Picnics are the essence of summer, so don’t miss out just because the weather isn’t great. Gather some friends and pack up your hamper with all your favourite treats – for me that’s pink lemonade, egg sandwiches, pork pies, veggies and hummus, strawberries, maybe a summer fruit tartlet. And then set up your picnic in someone’s home! Lay out the picnic blankets in exactly the same way you would outdoors, and enjoy the fact that there are no insects to bother you. And here’s a cute idea – if you have a big screen in the room, why not put something summery and outdoorsy (like this) on loop to give the impression you’re outside.

Picnic hamper

Holiday reads

Some books are just too summery to be read at any other time of the year. So even if it’s raining outside, curl up with one of your favourite beach-based reads (and perhaps some ice cream!) and imagine you’re exactly where they are.

Eat ice cream

Eat ice cream in a cone. Or make fruity ice pops to enjoy. Who said it had to be hot before you could do this?

Ice cream

Create a playlist of summer theme tunes

Every summer has a theme tune, and whenever you hear these songs you’ll think of summers past. So put all of them into a playlist which you can stick on whenever you need it. I can’t lie, mine features a lot of J Lo songs which make me feel so summery!

Drink rum cocktails

Pay a visit to your local Tiki bar or Caribbean-themed restaurant (hello Turtle Bay) for some holiday cocktail vibes. Or why not experiment with some rum cocktail recipes at home?

Plan day trips

Day trips are the memories you’ll have of this summer, so don’t put your plans on hold because it’s not sunny. Do them anyway! Or find new things to do that can’t be rained off.

DSCN2605

Cook up some summer recipes

Use Pinterest to find some new summery recipes to try. I’m currently being inspired by colourful non-basic salads, grilled fish and Greek and Mediterranean dishes. Check out my Food and Recipes Board here.

Summer movies

What films make you think of summer? In the run up to my holidays I like to watch these movies to get me in the mood, because they are full of sunshine, beach locations, holiday romances and general happy feelings:

  • The Beach
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Moana
  • Mamma Mia
  • Six Days Seven Nights
  • Cocktail

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How to feel summery when it's not sunny

Tips for a Great Day Out on a Canal Boat

If you’re looking for a great day out with a difference then I would absolutely recommend hiring a canal boat for a day. I recently did this with 9 of my friends, hiring a boat from Ellerbeck Narrowboats for 8 hours. It’s completely different to a party boat experience, as you get full control of the boat. You can steer it along a 12 mile stretch of the Leeds Liverpool canal in whichever direction and at whatever pace you fancy, moor when you feel like it, and it’s a no-stress situation because you aren’t allowed to pass through any of the locks (which would make things more technical). It’s as simple as steering your boat along the canal at a leisurely pace, whilst enjoying a party atmosphere with whatever food, drinks and games you bring along.

Canal boat day hire

We had such fun on our canal boat and I think it’s the perfect day trip for a birthday or celebration, so I’ve decided to share these 10 tips for making sure you have the most fun on your narrowboat day trip.

1. Go with a fun crew

Everything is fun when you’re with the right people, so choose your crew wisely! It helps when at least one of your group is great at driving, but it’s a low pressure environment and it wouldn’t really matter if you were all rubbish at it. Our boat capacity was 10 people and although it is quite a squeeze, it is worth having all the extra hands on board so that a few people can drive whilst others prepare food.

Canal boat friends

2. Have a nautical dress code (just for fun)

We decided to embrace a nautical theme for the day, which was pretty fun and makes our photos look extra special. A dress code is obviously optional.

3. Have a go at steering

Everyone on board should give it a go at the helm. Canal boats travel at a low speed so there’s really nothing to be worried about, although turning them around is slightly trickier.

Canal boat at the helm

4. Cook up a tasty breakfast

The first priority after setting sail has to be a delicious breakfast. Our boat had a hob and grill on board, and sausage sandwiches and bucks fizz were a welcome morning treat.

5. Enjoy the views

Take some time to enjoy the picturesque scenery and, at certain points, gaze enviously at luxurious waterside houses that you can’t possibly afford. Make the most of the scenic photo opportunities so you’ll always have reminders of your memorable day.

Canal boat day trip

Canal boat day hire 2

Canal boat day hire 3

6. Play games

No day of fun is complete without a few games, and it’s simple enough to moor up the boat so that everyone on board can join in.

7. Serve Pimms and afternoon tea

Once breakfast is done you’ll need to consider other meals, and I think something typically English like Pimms and afternoon tea would be perfect. We had a kettle on board for making hot drinks.

8. Moor up for a break

We moored up once for games and a second time to pay a call to a waterside ice cream parlour. I’m sure there are plenty of other stops we could have made too, if we’d fancied visiting a pub or having a short stroll.

Fredericks Ice Cream

9. Prepare for the weather

It’s England and impossible to predict the weather. We prepared for everything, with blankets for the chilly morning, wet weather wear in case of rain, and (luckily, because it turned out glorious!) sun cream.

10. Take it easy

This is not a fast paced day by anyone’s standards. It’s a leisurely, casual, fun-filled, fun one, so enjoy the slow pace and take the chance to relax with friends.

Canal boat day hire 4

A week in sunny Salcombe

An amazing thing has happened. We booked a week’s holiday in the UK, and the weather was glorious! This never happens to us, and I can’t tell you how lovely it was to spend time relaxing in the sun instead of trying to look for things to do on a drizzly day. Seaside towns are best on sunny days!

Salcombe harbourMill Bay beach DevonKingsbridge estuary view

Salcombe is a pretty seaside town in South Devon, and thanks to the heatwave we spent a whole week lying on its pretty beaches. Our favourite one (Mill Bay) was accessible by a cute ferry ride across the Kingsbridge estuary, which took less than 60 seconds. This ferry also helped us locate our favourite drinking spot – the Ferry Inn, situated right on the water’s edge with a view of the beaches opposite. Lovely!

Ferry Inn SalcombeSalcombe war memorialKingsbridge estuary view

Salcombe has a cute high street, which is perfect if you are looking for nautical striped fashion or lovely (but pretty expensive) unique homewares. We spent many an afternoon wandering the pretty shops before settling down in a beer garden or in harbour with some fish and chips. Have you noticed how sitting outside feels like you’re doing something amazing if it’s sunny? Another of our favourite places, The Fortescue had an extensive gin menu, complete with complimentary tonics and garnishes, and made the most amazing stone baked pizzas. Definitely a place worth visiting!

And speaking of gin… Salcombe has its own gin distillery which makes the award winning Salcombe gin. Their stylish gin bar upstairs looks out over the estuary and we made sure we paid a visit. After all, we were staying in the cottage across the road! If the main street of Salcombe is pretty and seaside-y, Island Street (featuring our cottage and the distillery) is the cool and creative back street. It was a fantastic street to stay on, full of art galleries, crafty spaces, workshops, boat building yards and independent shops (also, did I mention a gin distillery?) My favourite shop was Will Bees Bespoke – makers of unique British bags. This was such a cool store, with an entrance on Island Street and the back of the shop open to the water, and full of their gorgeous bags ready to be embossed instore.

Salcombe GinSalcombe Gin and Tonic GalleryWill Bees BespokeNautical stripesArtist on Salcombe South Sands

So… gin, beach, food, shopping… a perfect little break in the sun.

20 things to do this summer

20 things to do this summer

I love making summer plans, and this isn’t just a list for general inspiration but an actual “to do” list for my summer! Some things are on my list every year, like having a picnic… which is basically just weather dependent. But I’ll be hoping to put a tick next to everything by the end of summer…

Number 2: I’ll be reading lots of books anyway, but there’s something special about reading in the garden with a glass of wine, or perhaps on the beach. Classic summer feels.

Number 4: Going to a music festival is a big part of summer for a lot of people, but I was thinking it doesn’t even have to be the scale of Glastonbury or Coachella. In Manchester we are having an ice cream festival this summer(!) so I’ll definitely be attending that one. Plus there’s Manchester International Festival during July. So whether it’s vintage, gin, film or arts, festivals are a good one for the list.

Number 8: I love the idea of giving my home interiors a new look every now and again, even if it’s just moving the furniture around or buying a whole new set of cushions.

Number 10: Because receiving a proper letter (i.e. not bills or marketing material) feels amazing, so why not share the love?

Number 16: Summer is a great time to learn something new. Whether it’s crafty, something outdoorsy, or even something technical that could help with your career goals.

Number 17: Summer isn’t summer if you haven’t found a theme song by the end of it. And then whenever you hear this song in the future you’ll always remember summer 2017!

What summer plans do you have?

International Women’s Day -#BEBOLDFORCHANGE

Today is International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme is #BEBOLDFORCHANGE because the World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186.

How completely crazy is this? I find it hard to comprehend how any inequality can still be allowed to exist in today’s world, let alone that it might take another 170 years until we achieve true gender parity.

#BeBoldForChange

I count myself very lucky that my personal life is filled with both men and women who treat each other as equals, and that I work for a large company with a female CEO and where many of the senior leadership positions are occupied by women. Most of the time inequality is not an issue I’m aware of in my day-to-day life, and I know I’m lucky in that respect. And yet I do see it displayed in small ways all the time across the media. Just last week I was Googling Brie Larson and all I got back were tabloid articles about how her cleavage on The One Show had caused a social media storm the previous night. She was on the show to promote her latest film, not that you’d know it from the headlines. The issue of inequality is always present and is not worlds away from my life. Even here in Britain, where we have a female monarch and a female prime minister, gender issues are still part of our society and culture, and possibly will be for another 170 years.

Brie Larson One Show headlines

So I’m taking the opportunity to celebrate some of the moments that high-profile women have inspired me recently. Their words remind me that gender issues do still exist in all kinds of ways, but also that people are always willing to challenge them.

  • Last week Spanish MEP Iratxe Garcia Perez responded to Polish MEP Janusz Korwin Mikke’s sexist rant about the pay gap, where he says that ‘women must earn less than men because they are weaker, they are smaller and they are less intelligent’.

“According to what you’re saying and your theory I don’t have the right to be here as a member of parliament. And I know it hurts you, I know it hurts and worries you that today women can sit in this house and represent European citizens with the same rights as you. I am here to defend European women against men like you.”Iratxe Garcia Perez

No one is being paid equally

  • In the last few days Emma Watson has had to defend her right to be both a feminist and an attractive woman, so let’s remember her interview in Esquire magazine last year where she spoke out about the pay gap in Hollywood.

“We are not supposed to talk about money, because people will think you’re “difficult” or a “diva”. But there’s a willingness now to be like, “Fine. Call me a ‘diva’, call me a ‘feminazi’, call me ‘difficult’, call me a “First World feminist’, call me whatever you want, it’s not going to stop me from trying to do the right thing and make sure that the right thing happens.”

“Hollywood is just a small piece of a gigantic puzzle but it’s in the spotlight. Whether you are a woman on a tea plantation in Kenya, or a stockbroker on Wall Street, or a Hollywood actress, no one is being paid equally.”Emma Watson

  • During the US election campaign trail Michelle Obama expressed her disgust at Donald Trump’s sexist comments and attitude to women in general. It’s worth reading the whole thing.

“The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman.

“It reminds us of stories we heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how, back in their day, the boss could say and do whatever he pleased to the women in the office, and even though they worked so hard, jumped over every hurdle to prove themselves, it was never enough.”Michelle Obama

  • Model Emily Bador uses Instagram to challenge the objectification of women’s bodies.

“You don’t owe it to anyone to be perfect. You are not less worthy because you don’t have a flat stomach. You are not less valid because you don’t shave your armpits. You are not less beautiful because of your scars, stretch marks, eczema, acne. I’m just so sick and tired of the objectification of women’s bodies and how it’s seemingly ok to dictate a woman’s worth based on what she looks like… (this also obviously applies to men, and those who don’t conform to gender binary stereotypes too, inclusivity and intersectionality is key)”Emily Bador

  • After wearing men’s clothes for a month Lucy Rycroft-Smith makes some discoveries about how some clothing seems designed to make you uncomfortable in both body and mind. I thought this was a very interesting experiment, and although I don’t think I’d dress in men’s clothes full-time, it did make me think about how much thought the women I know give to clothes compared to the men I know.

“I’m a forthright, intellectual woman who’s never had a problem with confidence. But I’ve spent 20 years wearing clothes designed to make me feel ill at ease—in both my body and mind. It sickens me, remembering just how self-conscious I’ve been about my clothing at the exact moments when my attention should have been directed elsewhere.”Lucy Rycroft-Smith

  • After the sad passing of Carrie Fisher, the world remembered her strong feminist ideals rather than just her gold bikini. I narrowed masses of her thought-provoking quotes down to just three.

“What I didn’t realize, back when I was this 25-year-old pinup for geeks… was that I had signed an invisible contract to stay looking the exact same way for the next 30 to 40 years. Well, clearly I’ve broken that contract.”  Carrie Fisher

“Screw beauty, it’s superficial anyway, and my other attributes matter way more than my appearance.” – Carrie Fisher

“Men don’t age better than women, they’re just allowed to age.” – Carrie Fisher

#BEBOLDFORCHANGE is the 2017 motto for a reason. Speaking out against inequality and declaring yourself a feminist comes with backlash, as many of the above women found out. But if nobody does then we can definitely expect it to take 170 years for the changes to happen. So let’s all make an extra effort #BEBOLDFORCHANGE.

Clara Barton equal pay quote

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How I’m defeating the January blues in 2017

A couple of years ago I wrote a post on Ways to Defeat the January Blues, and I still love reading it each January for tips. I used to suffer with the post-Christmas blues really badly, but now I think I’m pretty good at forward planning and keeping busy during this strange month of the year.

Winter walks

One of my tips was to have plenty planned in for January, and I’ve definitely done that this year. I’m busy every weekend this month, with spa visits, theatre trips, meals out and drinks with friends all penned into my calendar. And because I made these plans with plenty of notice, I’ve already made sure that I’ve budgeted for them. After all, money can sometimes be tight after Christmas!

I’ve also starting making plans for the rest of the year. If you didn’t see my exciting news on Instagram, I got engaged over Christmas so there’s plenty of planning to be done there! Plus a bit of summer holiday planning is always a great January distraction.

I also find that having a clear out at home is a great way to feel refreshed for the new year. We’ve been moving our furniture round, having a clear out of DVDs and I’m about to sort through all my clothes to see if there’s anything I can donate to charity.

January is usually all about the Sales, but this year I’ve only done sensible sale shopping – only buying things I actually already wanted or needed and not being distracted by impulse “bargains”. This means I’ve hardly bought anything at all, and just saved a bit of money on items I would have been buying anyway.

But one of the best ways to get through January is to actually enjoy it! There’s a lot to be said for enjoying the small things, such as having long winter walks followed by relaxing baths, and playing with all the new things that you got over Christmas. I’ve been painting my nails in new colours, watching new DVDs and curling up with a new book.

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10 gift ideas that aren’t “things”

Sometimes the nicest gifts aren’t even “things” at all. Whether it’s a class to inspire a new hobby or something that gets them out and about, “things to do” gifts show that you really know a person, and it’s always nice to buy something you know they will definitely use! So if you are looking for a thoughtful gift that’s a little out of the ordinary, see if anything on my list inspires you!

Gift ideas

For a theatre lover:

1. Theatre tickets. Well if someone likes theatre, they’re bound to appreciate tickets to see a show. It could be tickets to a specific show you know they’ll love, or if you want to leave the choice up to them try Theatre Tokens or even a gift voucher for their local theatre.

2. Theatre workshop. Something a little more unusual for theatre creatives. Check out your local independent theatre for their upcoming workshops. For example, HOME MCR always have an interesting schedule of industry-led practical workshops.

For a foodie:

3. Cooking class. I love the fact that some of Manchester’s restaurants also offer cookery classes. Zouk offers half day courses in Indian dishes with their expert chefs and at Chaophraya you can learn to master Thai cooking. Plus you’ll get to eat your creations at the end of the session!

4. Restaurant gift cards. If cookery classes are too adventurous though, you can’t go wrong with a gift card for their favourite restaurant or for somewhere they haven’t got around to trying yet!

For a crafter:

5. Crafting workshop or voucher. Manchester’s Ministry of Craft not only offers a range of sewing and crafting workshops, they also sell gift vouchers valid against any of the workshops so that you can give the gift of “crafting time”. Or how about one of Annie Sloan’s chalk painting techniques workshops to inspire some furniture up-cycling projects? Or even a calligraphy class! There are plenty of craft skills workshops out there, so you just have to find one in your local area.

For someone who needs pampering:

6. Spa treatment. Why not buy someone a voucher for a spa day or treatment for a bit of pampering? And if you don’t know what they’d like, I also think a Treatwell gift card is a nice idea because it leaves the choice of venue, treatment and date up to them.

7. Afternoon tea voucher. Because surely cake is the best gift ever?! Most tea shops who serve afternoon tea also offer gift vouchers for afternoon tea.

For an animal lover:

8. Adopt an animal. Show your caring side by giving a gift and giving to charity at the same time. How about adopting a donkey at The Donkey Sanctuary or one of the primates at Monkey World?

For someone who likes to be out and about:

9. National Trust Membership. An annual membership costs £63 and for that you’ll get free entry to over 500 national trust places in the UK. That’s a lot of days out to enjoy!

10. Treasure Trail. This is a cute idea for a Secret Santa gift because the trails are within a £10 budget. There are over 1000 themed treasure trails across the UK, and you can have the printed booklets posted out to you. You can even be extra thoughtful and personalise them.

The opportunities are endless but there will almost certainly be something to suit whoever you’re buying for. So hopefully I’ve inspired you in time for Christmas!

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