My Happiness Project – September Review

So, September – how did I do?

I confess despite very best of intentions, September and half of October’s Happiness Project months have slid by. Trying to get hold of something so slippery as time was part of the challenge of my Happiness Project. That is still challenging. But I’ve found that the mental reminder of my overarching aim to “Embrace the Seasons” is (so far) working. I didn’t manage to achieve all my aims for September – far from it – and I can see why my Happiness Guru Gretchen Rubin uses a chart to keep tabs on herself for her habit changing resolutions. I’ve been going freestyle, and it shows.

I said in September I intended to:

Embrace the season:

– make a photo album to celebrate the summer

– back to school pictures

– plan some after school treats

Time is how you spend your love:

– three things for myself every day (bullet journal list)

– track my time

The days are long but the years are short (be a better parent):

– No snapping and no meanness

– No complaining

– Be prepared (snacks and water!)

Equinox:

– Read more

– Balance head vs. heart

I didn’t make my photo album yet- if I’m honest, the cost of doing a proper photobook put me off. However, photo albums are a big zone of guilt for me. I rarely print pictures and I’m really aware of the fact that all the pictures of the children are digital, and may not last in their current formats. So I’m going to add “photo album” to what I often think of as The Never Ending List, but I think I’m going to re-frame to a “Good Things to Do” list.

However, I did take back to school pictures, and I also took the littlest mini to the local pottery painting cafe and we made some souvenirs of both Autumn and forthcoming to Christmas. Squidging her little fingers in paint for fingerprints was lots of fun.

As usual, I went to the bottom of the list, behind work and my minis. So I did not do three things for myself everyday, or track my time – I kept on wanting to find a representative’ week and now I realise I should have just done it. But I was aware of my time, which is always good. I always think from my Personal Commandments that time is how I spend my love.

One of the things I always want to aim for is to be the best parent I can be. No snapping, complaining and being prepared – these are clearly aspirations that I carry with me all the time. At points with a nearly eight year old and recently three year old, it can be challenging not to lose one’s temper when refereeing over important issues such as toys, tv choices, seating positions on the sofa. I was, however, more often prepared with snacks for when we went out and about and even one day was prepared with bread for feeding ducks.

Reading more – YES! Thanks to crappy trains and other reasons I had not been reading as much, however, for me, reading is mindfulness and helps me feel balanced. So I have been working through some old fiction books, mainly. I’ve struggled with new stories despite picking up some enticing titles from the library and even the book swap shelves at my doctor’s surgery. In fact, I have abandoned books halfway through which really isn’t like me. But the joy of visiting the library with my girls is high, and I’ve got a blog post to come on an old favourite book.

The idea around balancing was to celebrate the Autumn Equinox. Hmm… I’ll admit that September didn’t find me effortlessly gliding my way through life. In fact, at one point, I hit a nadir. Head vs Heart were aligned but in agreement and I found I was struggling with my emotions. However, in the spirit of my personal commandments I decided to “Be mistress of myself” and somehow I found I was able to bring myself up again. However, I know that a spot of meditation wouldn’t go amiss. Need to dust off the headspace app again.

Next stop, October… halfway there already.

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My Personal Commandments

One of the starting points of my Happiness Project actually began earlier this year, as I started to formulate my own set of “Personal Commandments”. The idea is that you use the commandments as a set of guiding principles for the resolutions one makes as part of the Happiness Project.

My commandments vary from single words to quotations. Some of these are quotations from literature, some of them are things that I picked up from other people. One of them is now the name of my Happiness Project because I think it’s so important. Another is my blog name with a little addition. They are:

Time is how you spend your love.
Embrace the seasons.
Be mistress of myself.
Live more, write more, read more.
Wear it out.
Wait.
Respond.
Plan for serendipity.
Choose passion not stress.
Variety and moderation.
Set boundaries.

I’m not saying that I’m succeeding yet, in living my life by this set of rules. But coming up with the list was fun, particularly when I realised that a lot of these were things I already believed – I wasn’t making them up for the project, they’re actually part of what I already think. One of the pleasures, came from once I had composed the list of commandments, I really enjoyed writing them in a page in my bullet journal, with decoration. I am no great Pinterest example, but my bullet journal is one of my favourite relaxing things to do. Then I took a picture of them and printed it out and pinned it to my desk at work. Not because work is especially where I need to pay attention to these commandments, but because I feel like I spend more waking time at my work desk that anywhere else.

What happens on tour, stays on tour

I’ve been meaning to write about my friend for a long time. I wanted to write about her because she’s a great friend, definitely part of my squad. But we said a temporary goodbye as she waddled off into a sunset with a tummy swollen with baby, preparing to add a beautiful girl to her very beautiful family. And I knew I wanted to write something in tribute to our working life together in honour of its temporary hiatus.

Do you have a work friend who keeps you on the straight and narrow? Who gets the work started, and also points out to you what you really actually need to do? My work friend has never failed to have already drafted a straw man, in an appropriate template, or to have set up that meeting, or to have been sympathetic about a tedious and frustrating meeting. She’s positive, full of humour, and brings me up, acknowledging that I struggle to reach her level of positivity and lack of cynicism. Meaning that I like to whinge. But we think a lot of the same things, and feel the same way about a lot of stuff too. It’s nice to be in concordance with someone, but to know that if you’re not, it’s an appropriate challenge, not someone being contrary for the sake of it.

Of course, one spends more hours with one’s colleagues than with one’s spouse/family. So my friend knows everything about all the work and life crap that I have been through over the past couple of years. She knows the real story, she watched it happen. She also knows exactly how many sandwiches I ate that day when I was really really hungover.**

But this is all just preamble. I knew what I wanted to write about, straightaway. It’s part of a much bigger, more complex story. But essentially, I wanted to write about the magic that happens when two or more people take a long car journey together. Conversations get to the nitty gritty quickly. Secrets are divulged. Tears are shed (by me, mostly).

For our first road trip to the midlands satellite office, I arrived at St Ives Park and Ride in our hire car at stupidly early o’clock. I had my happiness playlist playing, and no make up on. We got lost – which is my modus operandi – and thus extended our journey by a good half an hour. Having done some initial work chat, we got into talking about the really important stuff. And that was when I asked her opinion about the butt plug. It’s part of a longer more complicated story, and in that sense, what gets talked about on tour, stays on tour. But this is a brilliant example of how my friend provides “appropriate challenge”.

Me: Would you think a butt plug with a tail would be an appropriate Secret Santa present?
Her: Yeah, I think that would be hilarious!
Me: From an older man to a younger woman? [voice rising] I think that’s inappropriate.
Her: I think you’re being uptight. If I were friends with that person and it was a good joke, I’d totally do it!
Me: Even amongst all their colleagues? In a professional environment? Don’t you think it could be interpreted as sexually aggressive? If that happened in my team, I’d take the person aside and Have A Word.
Her: No! It’s got a tail. It’s clearly a joke!
Me: Well I stand by my opinion. I didn’t even know butt plugs could have tails!
Her: I know what I’m going to get you for your birthday.*
Me: I googled. They’re really bloody expensive you know.

For our second road trip, we were joined by our colleague. We are like the three angels to our boss’s Charlie… or something like that. To mark our first road trip as a threesome, I added their own handpicked songs to my happiness playlist to represent them (Groove Is in the Heart by Dee-Lite and A-Punk by Vampire Weekend, in case you were wondering). On the outbound journey, we talked about work, but in a masterful stroke, my friend spread out her pregnant self in the back of the car on the way home. This meant that our colleague had to sit in the front seat, next to me. Maybe it was just timing, maybe it was the stars aligning, perhaps it was that skilful back seat manoeuvre, but that was the day our colleague really opened up and started to tell us about herself. Part of becoming friends is being aware of other people’s shit. And that stays on tour too.

*On my birthday, she gave me a cool lipstick set. They were from a premium brand I suspect they still were less expensive than a butt plug with a tail. She said to me “I didn’t want to spend that amount of money on something for a joke!”
**Four. Breakfast was a Tesco sandwich with a Coke Zero.

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Today I’m wearing… more shades of grey (and a cold shoulder jumper)

I was dubious about the cold shoulder trend, because, well, I’m a cynic. What’s the point of flashing a bit of upper arm, I’d think, when I’ve spent all my life trying to *hide* my upper arms… And would it make any difference to feeling too hot or too cold? I didn’t think so, and I wrote off cold-shoulders as ridiculous, another way to torment those who do don’t like to show flesh, and therefore not for me.

But then I had a a revelatory moment… and it was the cold shoulder jumper. I’ve never bought anything from Lipsy before, thinking it was for small, skinny types, but I saw this jumper and despite the holes in the upper arms, I had to have it. It’s pale pink, the kind of punky pop pale pink, that cries out for bubblegum lips and smudgy kohl eyeliner… and it’s long sleeved and high necked, so a tiny bit of upper arm reveal can’t possibly be gratuitous.

I wore it on Monday and got the seal of approval with my grey jeans and the ankle sliver above my metallic trainers. After a quick wash, I wore it today, with a flippy floral skirt in pink and grey.   I just love pink and grey together, vibrant shades make the pink pop, but silvery grey and pastel pink are a soothing combination.

The photos aren’t the best, they don’t do either outfit justice.  Or maybe actually it’s just not very flattering, the ribbing and frilling emphasising as it does, curves and bumps.  But I enjoyed wearing it for a change, as after all, that’s the whole point of my fashion posts – to challenge myself to wear things I love, but otherwise wouldn’t.  Pushing my boundaries! I particularly like the way the flip of the skirt and the frills of the jumper echo each other… just sayin’… And yes, I wore it with the smudgy eyes and bubblegum pink lips described in my shopping haul!

Rosa was very taken with my outfit, when I took my coat off this evening she said “Mummy your jumper and skirt are so pretty!” Meanwhile Persie kissed the soft part of my upper arm tonight as I carried her and said “I like this nice shoulder, Mummy,” and carried on smooching it for a bit.  Got to love toddlers.

The observant amongst you will note that I also matched this week’s manicure to the shades of grey theme. This is OPI “No More Mr Night Sky” a purplish grey with a shimmer… Love it!!

IMG_2105

Today I’m wearing… grown up dungarees

A couple of months ago, I bough a pinstriped jumpsuit in Tesco for £12.99, when they were having a sale. But I didn’t wear it, because I couldn’t work out what to wear it with, and how to make the cropped trousers palatable, and I thought it was navy (it’s not, it’s just not a very strong black) and then I wasn’t certain if I could get away with it – whatever that means. Then there was the fact that the girls’ dad said it looked “like Madonna circa 1990” – and I knew exactly what he meant, I can picture Madonna doing the running man in a pinstriped suit, flanked by backing dancers, wearing a headset… this jumpsuit definitely has that kind of vibe.

I digress! This morning, I could have gone safe, and I could have gone floral, I could even have gone for jersey, but instead I went bold, and I wore the jumpsuit! I went for a thin red knit underneath, and my already-ubiquitous red boots, which were a bit clashy, but in a sort of deliberate way. And you can sort of see on the picture, a sliver of calf was revealed, in a nonchalant, my-ankles-aren’t-cold-today-but-I’m-still-on-trend kind of way.

A tailored jumpsuit is not actually as easy as dungarees to get on and off, thanks to a side zip on the bodice as well as poppers on the shoulders, and that really was the “if you are prepared to take the extra steps when you go to the toilet” moment for me, when I regretted my second cup of coffee this morning. But I didn’t regret the ensemble overall, although admittedly it was a bit of a statement. I could tell that some people didn’t like it, and Cindy at the nail salon asked if I got told off today for “wearing casual clothes” which goes to show how different a look it was for me. Overall, though, I’m claiming a victory – a woman from a different business stream stopped me in the cafe to tell me how much she loved my outfit and I think she’s pretty awesome, so… outfit success!  I’m looking forward to wearing it with a white tee shirt and trainers on a dress down day next.

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This weekend I wore… several shades of grey and the ankle sliver

MOTHER’S DAY! Rosa and Persie excelled themselves with the help of nursery/school and their dad. Persie in particular has been very excited about this day, because she was making a 3D card which was the receptacle of two chocolates, which she and Rosa ate themselves. On Sunday morning, Persie had a moment of impressive realisation and shouted at me “IS SUNDAY! HAPPY MUVVERS’ DAY!” with true joy. My Waitrose-purchased and school created haul included a card with “I love you Mummy” written in Mandarin (oh yes!), a new Mummy mug and the biggest box of Ferrero Rocher you’ve ever seen. Cue many jokes about the ambassador’s reception etc etc…

And we went to the Suffolk coast! Aldeburgh is one of my favourite places and has been since I was quite young. There is a tiny house along the sea front that used to be painted pink, and I wanted to live in it and write books.  That’s pretty much my ambition still… Anyway, we didn’t have the famous fish and chips, because the queues for both chip shops stretched down the road (seriously!) but we did visit both the Joules shops, Fat Face (OH! So many cardigans of desire!), and had shabby chic tea and cake in a tea room. We also spent a happy forty minutes dropping serious money in Aldeburgh bookshop, where I made the most satisfying purchase of a box of 20 Poems, printed on thick buff card, by The School of Life. When we opened the box to take a look the first poem was so perfect, so apt, I simply had to buy them. The poems in the image are not that poem, which definitely deserves a post all of its own in the future. I can’t wait to find ways to display the cards and to using them for inspiration.

Poems

Finally, we went for a walk along the beach collecting pebbles. The pebble bag weighed more than Persie by the time we went back to the car.  I was delighted that I found a Hag Stone,  a naturally occurring stone with a hole.  I brought it home in my coat pocket, and put on on my windowsill, and seeing it makes me happy.

Clothes wise, I had made a recent purchase of grey jeans, and some paisley patterned springy trainers by Rocket Dog, which I got via Groupon, both items I was very excited to try out. Despite my reservations about the fact that it’s a good few degrees cooler out on the coast, I went for the bare-ankle look. My ankles were cold, I admit, but only because of the wind on the seaside, they would have been fine in town, and indeed today in the sunshine they were not cold in the slightest. No picture of the whole outfit, I teamed the grey jeans with the now-famous and faithful yellow jumper, a great colour combination, and there’s yellow in them paisley trainers, so they tied together brilliantly, and we know that yellow does indeed make me very happy.

The ankle sliver is even more of a thing this spring than it was last year, I’m finding. I was not alone in suffering for fashion in Aldeburgh on Sunday, there were many blue-grey ankles on show, freshly shaved, some with loafers, some with pumps, and some with trainers. Since the cropped trouser and the stepped hem are the new thing this Spring, I think I’ll just have to harden myself up a bit until the weather fits the fashion.

grey stones

This week I’m wearing… florals and spring boots

Autumn, traditionally, is the season of new boots, isn’t it?  Shops full of conker-shiny, Hallowe’en black footwear, ready for the onslaught of the rain, wind and cold.  

Yep, but something very exciting has happened to me this Spring… and it’s the SPRING BOOT.

Over the knee, pale and a bit slouchy, but smart enough for work.  Block heeled, bright and ankle length, and very very eye catching.  I have two new pairs of boots and I can’t wait to show them off.  Well, I already have, but just haven’t had time to blog about it!   Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t been entirely dry, so it was lucky I had treated my new boots to lashings of suede protector spray, so much in fact, that I need to buy some more.

I’d been hankering for a pair of over-the-knee boots since reading Jess Cartner-Morley in the Guardian on them and feeling that I was ready to embrace them.  Like the pleather conundrum, I was concerned about the tart-factor, but you’ll see that I turned to my preppy, 40s landgirl inspired outfit from the previous week, jumper-over-tea-dress, to ensure that there was no inappropriateness, just not-cold-legs on a sunny spring day.  The trick to keeping these work-ok is to make sure that your skirt goes *over* the top of the boots.  However, I am quite looking forward to experimenting with making them non-work appropriate, and have been merrily Pinteresting “how to style over-the-knee boots” so no doubt there will be an update!  The floral dress wasn’t too cold on Monday, when combined with the boots and a mild day.  I sense it’s going to be a 2017 stalwart.


The second outfit this week, was styled twice, once with nude tights and once with navy. The nude tights made the outfit exceptionally attention grabbing, I know this because in the end my colleague consoled me with “if you’re going to get your legs out, you’re just going to have to get used to the comments”. So here’s a picture of the slightly less startling styled with dark legs, navy floral shirt dress, with military gold brassy buttons, and orangey red block heeled boots. There’s a reason all of these tone together – they’re all from the Next directory! All the sane, a triumph, I think you’ll agree. Like the other boots, I’m looking forward to styling these in different ways through spring, and hoping that in time these boots plus bare legs won’t be quite so controversial. Maybe in May…

This week I wore… all yellow

Look at the stars
Look how they shine for you
And everything you do
Yeah they were all yellow

I came along
I wrote a song for you
And all the things you do
And it was called yellow

So then I took my turn
Oh what a thing to have done
And it was all yellow

Coldplay

Don’t scoff at the Coldplay reference, that song has been in my head all week! On Monday morning, I was feeling pretty uninspired. After the triumph of the statement lip last weekend, the dungaree goodness, how could I top that excitement when I had to dress for work? As a result, I didn’t really try, I went for a grey Boden jersey dress and yellow cardigan. Boring, unthoughtful dressing. I did the statement lip to cheer myself up and… POP! Suddenly that yellow cardigan was looking awesome.

I love yellow. Apologies to Caitlin Moran, but yellow is a neutral. My feeling is that it works on the principal that because yellow doesn’t go with anything, it goes with everything. It is my favourite colour, I love it because of sunshine, happiness, daffodils, sandy beaches, sunflowers, autumn leaves, and champagne. It’s vivid mustard, warm and golden, or pale lemon, creamy, zesty… When I imagine death, I imagine yellow.

So I set myself a challenge – I shall wear yellow all week! I thought, and then immediately felt the pressure of the restriction. Luckily, I actually own quite a lot of yellow clothing, but I found in the end that the issue wasn’t wearing yellow per se, but styling it without black as the second colour. 


Day 1 – jersey dress and yellow cardigan. Boden, both items, so the palette toned, and the grey and yellow are a fresher combination than yellow and black.
Day 2 – pleather skirt with yellow chunky jumper *tucked in*! Very exciting, until I realised it was a big work exhibition that morning and I had to keep my mac on inside as my skirt was really really short and there were lots of important people there.
Day 3 – Roadtrip day, so comfort. Jacquard shift dress in yellow, layered over black thermal top as I set off at 6:30am and arrived home late – didn’t want to be cold. I don’t normally wear midi-dresses, so this required a higher heel than usual (not shown) – platform shoe boots. 
Day 4 – cheating, really, a spring floral dress (M&S several years ago) with significant amounts of yellow in the floral, with a beige jumper layered over the top, and brogues for a change from my ankle boots. I love this outfit, loving the jumper-over-dress preppiness of it, but it was the least yellow of the days. Oh, and I was absolutely bloody freezing – not warm enough yet for a thin cotton dress!
Day 5 – Dress down Friday! Yellow cold shoulder top (New Look), over khaki jeans, showing ‘the sliver’ at the ankle (brrr!) and a black shawl cardigan over the top. I wished I’d had a pale cardigan with a shape that worked, to make the outfit a little less black, but my boots were black which sort of pulled it together.

And then at the weekend, trusty dungas and that yellow jumper again, AKA “the sexy minion” look.

I have actually gone into my storage bags to retrieve some more yellow clothes from my spring/summer wardrobe, although it is definitely too cold to be thinking truly spring-like clothing. thoughts. I could have done another week of yellow, but I’m thinking next week to go for a different challenge… maybe florals, which is also not too much of a stretch with my wardrobe. Probably the challenge should actually be “no black”- maybe that’s for another time when I’m feeling especially creative. 

My Eyelashes!

The girls at The Kimono are eyelash extension aficionados. I was always fascinated by their flirty, fluttery long lashes, but hadn’t realised that they weren’t natural. Then I was there when each of them made the effort to get a taxi across Cambridge to Salon at No. 5, the lash and brow bar, which also has a second branch where I live, and I knew then that both the lashes and the salon must be something special.

I resisted the lure of the lashes for a long time, but then one day there was a Groupon offer for a full set of eyelash extensions at Salon at No. 5. I can not resist a good Groupon! I snapped it up, booked myself in and (after a patch test) excitedly succumbed to having four fake eyelashes glued to each of my individual eyelashes in the spirit of flirty, flutteriness.

In a strange twist of fate, the day after my appointment, I ended up having a very serious job interview, but didn’t want to cancel the lashes as it had been a bit of a nightmare to book in due to my schedule and the salon’s. So I did actually end up being interviewed for my big important job role with slightly burlesque looking. I don’t know if any of the interviewers noticed or if the associated slow blinking (the lashes are a bit heavy) helped or hindered!

The extended lash look was indeed full and lush, but a bit too full on for me, for everyday. Plus there’s the fact that you have to be careful with the eye make up you wear. I like creamy eyeshadow, smudgy kohl pencils, and these are not your eyelash extensions’ friends – nothing with oil in is. You can’t wear mascara on top of them, for example – you have to really commit to just the extensions. So after an aborted infill session for the extensions, and a full and frank discussion about my love of eyeliner, Bella, the lash technician, recommended that instead I try an LVL Lash Lift instead. Pretty much, it’s a lash tint and perm.

After another patch test, I rocked up at the salon last Saturday and after removing all my eye make up with a baby wipe (effective but stingy!) the treatment took about an hour, and was actually very very relaxing, as you might imagine lying back with your eyes closed for nearly an hour might be! Like any kind of perm, you can’t get it wet for 24 hrs afterwards, and there was a touch of rain as I left the salon, but as recommended, I wore protective eyewear in the shower the following day, and I think that the effect is lasting very well.

I already have dark eyelashes, so I’m looking to enhance my lashes prior to mascara, rather than to be able to skip mascara altogether, which might be the aim if you are very fair lashed and don’t wear much make up. My next eyelash adventure is going to be with a very exciting product… but more of that another time.

Here is my before and after picture! Thanks to Bella for the photography!

 

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