Why I Started Blogging + New Sunday Reflections Link Up

With only a few weeks left of 2017 my thoughts have naturally turned to looking back over the year and taking stock of what I’ve achieved. My Tuesday Style With a Smile link up has been going almost a year, and this week I’m excited to begin a new Sunday Reflections link up. Each Sunday I’ll discuss a topic in depth – don’t worry, they won’t all be this long!

Although I started blogging over six years ago I didn’t really get going with it properly until I migrated to WordPress two years ago this month. After more than four years of picking it up and putting it down, along with the frustrating constraints of being on Typepad (a very bad move) I decided it was now or never. This month I took another big plunge: I entered the UK Blog Awards. And breathe.

My decision to enter the UK Blog Awards made me think back to why I started blogging in the first place.

I’ve never won an award, never even been in the running for one. Partly down to the false start I had in the blogging world, I still struggle to shake off the imposter syndrome. Blowing my own trumpet doesn’t come easily to me, but there comes a time when you have to take a deep breath and just go for it. You only regret the things you didn’t do, right? My decision to enter the UK Blog Awards made me think back to why I started blogging in the first place. Back then there weren’t anywhere near the number of blogs there are now, and very few 35+ fashion/personal style bloggers. Thankfully that has changed, but it does make it even harder to stand out.

Deciding to put myself out there when the blogosphere was much smaller was a really nerve-wracking decision. I deliberated over it for months and months. But the years leading up to that moment had been challenging, to say the least. A divorce, two house moves, a baby, a marriage, being diagnosed with a hereditary kidney condition, and many other ups and downs along the way kind of put it all in perspective. Without doubt, the catalyst was becoming a mum and the major upheaval that entailed.

The catalyst

My pregnancy was fairly smooth sailing until 33 weeks + 5 days, when after doing body pump at the gym followed by a late shift, I went home to bed, fully expecting to get on with the project that was our new house. My body had other ideas. Early the next morning I was woken by my waters breaking and my world as I knew came crashing down. That might sound overly dramatic, but a few months before, I’d finally been given my big break at work. Now it was game over.

After years of trying to establish myself, I’d finally got some presenting work. Just sickness and holiday cover, but it was a start. I had to do it on top of my full time job, often working six-day weeks. Plus I’d just taken my Italian A level exams after two years of evening classes. What ensued was a monumental gear change, and one that I did not cope well with.

We hear a lot about post natal depression, but prenatal depression is rarely discussed.

In the space of a few hours I’d gone from being in complete control of my life to being a prisoner in a hospital ward, with no-one telling me what was going on. I rapidly spiralled into a severe bout of depression. We hear a lot about postnatal depression, but prenatal depression is rarely discussed. Maybe that’s because it’s not as common, but from my experience it’s every bit as debilitating. At the time I was unable to analyse my feelings and pinpoint exactly what it was that had triggered it, other than a visceral, overwhelming emotion that was reminiscent of the separation anxiety I felt as a young child. I am not exagerrating when I say I cried a river.

At my wits end, I discharged myself after one night in the hospital from hell, despite the patronising and hostile attitude of the doctor on duty that day. However, there was one condition: I had to return at 6.30am every morning and I wasn’t allowed to leave until I’d had a trace (of the fetal heartrate) in the evening. Often that wasn’t until 9pm. I was exhausted. We both were. Something had to give.

All I wanted was to have my body back to myself and have full control over it once more.

My mum, who was a few weeks away from retirement, managed to get some time off work on compassionate leave to be with me so my poor husband could get on with renovating the house, which resembled a building site. After making an empassioned plea to the community midwife, my husband convinced her to intervene and I was allowed to rest at home and just go in once a day for a trace. Why did it have to be such a battle? Ten days after my waters broke it was decided that I should be induced, which was a relief. All I wanted was to have my body back to myself and have full control over it once more.

I didn’t know how to work any of the gadgets, or fold up the bloody pram. I was a shambles.

After a quick and fairly easy birth, I felt mildly elated that I’d survived the ordeal, but the really difficult part now began. At five weeks premature, Isobel had to be fed via a tube every four hours. When we took her home at five days old we were relieved to leave hospital but also scared shitless and completely clueless. Her early arrival meant that we’d missed all but one antenatal class. I didn’t know how to work any of the gadgets, or fold up the bloody pram. I was a shambles. Then she developed terrible colic and we kissed goodbye to sleep for a good four months.

The only thing that kept me sane was getting back in the gym two weeks after giving birth. That first workout felt like a liberation, even though I’d only been away a month. When I ran out of petrol one day and missed my body pump class I got on the treadmill to run off the frustration. I managed a slow 5km but over the weeks I ran farther and faster, and within three months I was running 16 miles. That’s when I started toying with the idea of doing a marathon.

Less that a year after I started running regularly I completed my first marathon in 4 hours 27 minutes.

It seemed like a ridiculous idea – I’d always been terrible at running, well any sport for that matter. I came last at every school sports day and did anything to get out of the humiliating experience of being called “fatty four eyes” as I huffed and puffed around the playing field. But I kept running, and I got faster, stronger and one day plucked up the courage to get off the treadmill in the secluded ladies only section of the gym and hit the road. Less that a year after I started running regularly I completed my first marathon in 4 hours 27 minutes. The month after I did a sub two hour half marathon.

When you feel like stopping you have to remember why you started in the first place.

After months of training, I felt like I’d got the old me back, but a better version of it. Running long distances requires enormous reserves of determination and self belief. Mental strength is every bit as important as the physical, if not more so. When the legs are tired and the lungs are burning it’s the mind that keeps them going. When you feel like stopping you have to remember why you started in the first place.

Whenever you feel held back from following a dream, ask yourself “what’s the worst that could happen?”

You might by now be completely bored and wondering what the hell any of this has to do with starting a blog. If you’re still reading, thank you for sticking with me. You see, without a doubt, overcoming all of these challenges gave me the courage to do something I’d wanted to do for some time. Whenever you feel held back from following a dream, ask yourself “what’s the worst that could happen?” Are you worried that people will laugh at you? That you might not achieve the goals you set out to? If you can envisage that happening and think about how you’d deal with it you’re halfway there already.

I was genuinely worried (and still am) that people will think “who the f@*k does she think she is?”.

I was scared to start a blog because I thought nobody would read it, and at first nobody did. Blogging requires a whole range of skills, including marketing. You can produce the best content in the world but if you don’t market yourself no-one will know about it. Blowing my own trumpet doesn’t come easily to me and I cringe at the thought of being seen as pushy. I was genuinely worried (and still am) that people will think “who the f@*k does she think she is?”. Maybe some do, but to let that stop me would like putting myself in a cage and giving them the key.

Life doesn’t always go to plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s a total disaster.

Now, whenever I’m full of trepidation I ask myself if I’d regret not doing it 10/20 years from now. All successful people have failed at some point. Failure isn’t something to be scared of, it’s something to learn from. Life doesn’t always go to plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s a total disaster. I didn’t get the home birth experience I wanted, and the days immediately before and after weren’t what I’d envisaged either. Motherhood did not come easily to me, but I think I’ve finally got the hang of this parenting lark. Likewise, it took me until the age of 35 to run farther than 10km, and in September aged 43 I completed my sixth marathon. Persistence pays off.

When it all comes crashing down, there’s only one thing to do: build it all again, only stronger.

My new-found confidence gave me the boost I needed to make bolder choices, and that included my outfits too. I didn’t want to blend in anymore, I wanted to experiment and have fun with fashion. My career had stalled but I wasn’t going to let that define me. When it all comes crashing down, there’s only one thing to do: build it all again, only stronger. I needed a creative outlet and a place to be me again, a bolder, more brighter me. Starting a blog was the obvious choice. Now Isobel is eight years old I have a little shopping and blog buddy too 🙂

I don’t know what my blogging future holds. I hope one day I can turn it into a full time (as in enough to earn a living from) occupation. If that doesn’t happen it’s not the end of the world. Most importantly, it has brought me into contact with some lovely, amazing people, some of whom I’ve met IRL, others that I hope to. That was one side of blogging I didn’t foresee. Life is full of surprises.

I want to get to know my readers better and hopefully prompt some thoughtful discussions with this new Sunday Reflections link up.

I’d be lying if I said I’d never considered throwing in the towel, but that’s not my style. Sure there are disappointments, just like there are tough miles in a marathon, but that’s to be expected. No-one said it would be easy. I don’t know if I’ll ever win any awards for blogging (but if you do want to vote for me I would appreciate it enormously), that’s not my raison d’être. I’ve thought long and hard about sharing more of my story. Discussing the tough times isn’t easy, but I want this blog to be more than outfits and pretty pictures. I want to get to know my readers better and hopefully prompt some thoughtful discussions with this new Sunday Reflections link up. Next week will be lighter in subject and word count, I promise 😉

On a lighter note, I’m entered in both the Fashion & Beauty and Travel categories of the UK Blog Awards 2018. You can vote twice with each email address. Here is the full list of categories and individual entrants. It’s a real honour to be listed alongside other 40+ blogger pals Sam of Fake Fabulous, Nikki of Midlifechic, and Catherine of Not Dressed As Lamb. If you could spare a few moments to vote I’d be extremely grateful.

So now I want to know why you started blogging –  was there a lightbulb moment? Or maybe you’re thinking of starting a blog and still have doubts…whatever stage you’re at I’d love to hear your thoughts!

UK Blog Awards 2018

This is where I link up!


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Anne Klein Dress for Less Than a Fiver

You must all know by now how much I love picking up bargains in charity shops and on eBay. On a recent charity shop spree (when I bought this check jacket amongst other things) I found this Anne Klein dress for less than a fiver. To be precise it cost me £4.50. I didn’t even try it on, I just did my usual rough size check by holding it up across my chest; I know if it fits there it’s a deal. I only ever try jackets and coats on in charity shops, everything else is a gamble.

To make it season-appropriate I opted for navy tights and ankle boots, but added an orange bag and cuff for a shot of bright colour.

Thankfully the fabric is stretchy and slinky so I didn’t need to worry about the sleeves. When I tried it on at home I couldn’t have been happier with the fit. The gathered front allows the dress to drape flatteringly over the midsection, while the false crossover creates definition at the sides. The three-colour print means I can pick out any of these in my accessories. To make it season-appropriate I opted for navy tights and ankle boots, but added an orange bag and cuff for a shot of bright colour. In warmer weather I would wear the dress with either orange sandals or pale grey court shoes and bag for a more neutral theme.

Anne Klein Dress for Less Than a Fiver

I didn’t really need to do any research to know that finding an Anne Klein dress for less than a fiver is another great peachy style steal!

Although I’d heard of Anne Klein from reading other blogs I’d never bought anything from the brand before. As it wasn’t a label on my radar I had no idea about the price point, but I could judge the quality from feeling the fabric and looking at the finish. I didn’t really need to do any research to know that bagging an Anne Klein dress for less than a fiver is another great peachy style steal! I can’t find this dress online so I’ve featured some similar ones in the widget.

Do you ever buy things in store without trying them on? It’s link up day so scroll down to share your outfits!

Anne Klein Dress for Less Than a Fiver

Anne Klein Dress for Less Than a Fiver

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Anne Klein Dress for Less Than a Fiver

Anne Klein Dress for Less Than a Fiver orange leather bag Mango orange cuff

Anne Klein Dress for Less Than a Fiver orange leather bag

Anne Klein dress from charity shop | leather bag (old, similar) | Marks and Spencer ankle boots (old, similar) | Wallis gold necklace (old) | Asos sunglasses (old) | Mango cuff

Last week’s favourites were…

SWAS week 45 faves

Joi of In My Joi with her fabulous sparkly trousers, Tina of Tina’s Pink Friday wearing matching taxi bag and sweater, and Mel of Mom With Style looking stunning for her 30th birthday celebrations!


 

This is where I link up!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliates links which means if you click on them and/or purchase via a link I may earn a few pennies, at no extra cost to you. This helps towards the running costs of the blog and is very much appreciated.

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Bright Yellow Coat and Meeting Jacynth from The Bias Cut Emile Vidal Carr yellow Ellis coat

Did you all enjoy the fireworks over the weekend? We went over to a friend’s house for a bonfire and BBQ on Sunday evening. Thankfully the weather didn’t let us down, but boy was it cold! This isn’t my favourite time of year, although it does mean we get to wear gorgeous coats. I’ve actually been waiting to wear this bright yellow coat for about six months – since I bought it back in the Spring when I was invited to meet Jacynth, founder of The Bias Cut.

The attention to detail is what makes this bright yellow coat really unique…

It immediately caught my eye while I was looking through the clothes on the rails. As soon as I tried it on I was smitten. The asymmetric front gives a really modern twist on a classic style. The attention to detail is what makes this bright yellow coat really unique, such as the gold top button and the stunning deep red lining. The fact that it was on sale seemed to be a sign that it was meant to be!

Bright Yellow Coat and Meeting Jacynth from The Bias Cut Emile Vidal Carr yellow Ellis coat

I originally planned to work the deep red shade of the coat’s lining into my outfit, but on this occasion I played it safe with navy. This was partly due to having had a lot of rain overnight and the ground was sodden. I didn’t want to ruin any heels, so I chose my navy cone heel ankle boots and a pair of Reiss trousers that were hidden away in my wardrobe. As with all Reiss trousers, they are very long, and although I’m not exactly short (5’7″) they almost cover my feet. They’re fine with a high heel but I wear more mid heel shoes and boots now, so I’d better learn to use that sewing machine!

I’ve come to appreciate how important it is to invest in good quality clothes and accessories; they last a lifetime and always make you feel good.

You all know how I like to bring in a third colour to my outfits, so I opted for the gorgeous zip off clutch from my aubergine Jennifer Hamley Model KT bag (you can see it in more detail here). It adds just the right amount of accent colour, as well as matching the coat in the style stakes. I’ve come to appreciate how important it is to invest in good quality clothes and accessories; they last a lifetime and always make you feel good.

Bright Yellow Coat and Meeting Jacynth from The Bias Cut Emile Vidal Carr yellow Ellis coat

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Bright Yellow Coat and Meeting Jacynth from The Bias Cut Emile Vidal Carr yellow Ellis coat

Ellis Coat from The Bias Cut (still in sale but only available in a size 8, so I’ve selected alternatives in the widget) | Reiss pinstipe trousers (old, similar) | navy turtle neck from TKMaxx (similar) | sunglasses from Asos (old) | zip off clutch from the Jennifer Hamley Model KT bag

Bright Yellow Coat and Meeting Jacynth from The Bias Cut Emile Vidal Carr yellow Ellis coat Jennifer Hamley Model KT bag zip off clutch

Bright Yellow Coat and Meeting Jacynth from The Bias Cut Emile Vidal Carr Ellis coat

Rewind to the day I bought the coat…

It was a beautiful warm Spring day and I was actually the first to arrive…Jacynth’s dad was still vacuuming! Its not like me to be early! Jacynth welcomed me into the beautiful family home in Lewisham and I was introduced to her family, along with Joanna Zara who makes the most fabulous hats and headpieces (see her Instagram here).

What I love most about blogger meet ups and press events is that you never know who you’re going to bump into.

Before long more people arrived, including a familiar face…Jacqueline of Petite Silver Vixen blog! We first met at the 3040 Blogger Meet almost a year earlier, and we hit it off straight away. It was so lovely to see Jacqueline again – in fact after we left Jacynth’s we went for a cheeky glass of wine at Waterloo station before I got my train back to Cheshire. 😉 What I love most about blogger meet ups and press events is that you never know who you’re going to bump into.

The online boutique sources the most stylish, contemporary labels made to high manufacturing and ethical standards.

Below are a few photos of the clothes and accessories available at The Bias Cut.  Although only in her 20s, Jacynth was inspired to start the company, which celebrates style at any age, because of her mum’s frustration with clothes shopping. The Bias Cut’s mission is to tackle ageism and offer women of all ages beautiful and modern pieces. The online boutique sources the most stylish, contemporary labels made to high manufacturing and ethical standards. You can read more about The Bias Cut here, and some of you may already be members of Jacynth’s Facebook group Ageism Is Never In Style.

Do you think brands are catering for 40+ women better now, or do you think there’s still a long way to go? I’d love to hear what you think. It’s link up day so please share your fabulous outfits!

Bright Yellow Coat and Meeting Jacynth from The Bias Cut shoe and bag display

leopard print fox bag

Bright Yellow Coat and Meeting Jacynth from The Bias Cut shoe and jewellery display

 

Bright Yellow Coat and Meeting Jacynth from The Bias Cut clothes rail

Bright Yellow Coat and Meeting Jacynth from The Bias Cut Emma, Jacqueline and Jacynth

Photo courtesy of Petite Silver Vixen

Last week’s favourites were…

Jacqui of Mumma B Stylish in a lovely lemon and grey outfit, Nancy of Nancy’s Fashion Style in a pair of gorgeous checked trousers paired with burgundy, and Jennie of A Pocketful of Polka Dots in her fantastic foxy Halloween costume!


This is where I link up!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliates links which means if you click on them and/or purchase via a link I may earn a few pennies, at no extra cost to you. This helps towards the running costs of the blog and is very much appreciated.

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Red faux fur coat and black coated jeans

I’m sure you all know how much I love red, and it just so happens to be THE colour this season. I already have a couple of red coats, but when I saw this faux fur one on the LOTD website it had to be mine! Last week I chose Lisa of the Sequinist as one of my link up favourites. She was wearing a coat very similar to this, and I was a bit sad when I read that it was sold out. But as if by magic LOTD invited me to choose some things from their website for review…and I found this lookalike 🙂

I’m looking forward to styling the coat different ways, and experimenting with different colour combinations.

The coat feels heavenly on, it’s the softest faux fur I’ve ever touched. In fact, I think I want to hibernate in it over winter. But then I’d miss out on showing it off. It was hideously windy at the weekend when we took these photos (thanks Storm Brian!) and we were having to dodge the showers. My poor photographer (aka husband) was freezing in his T-shirt while I stayed warm and cosy in my big red coat. I’m looking forward to styling the coat different ways, and experimenting with different colour combinations. However, on a cold and windy day, teaming the red faux fur coat and black coated jeans with boots and a hat seemed the most sensible option.

Red faux fur coat and black coated jeans

Keeping the colour palette simple, I chose my red and black striped bag (the one with the magic two-way sequins, first seen here).

Red faux fur coat and black coated jeans Zara black and red sequin bag

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Red faux fur coat and black coated jeans

This outfit didn’t call for much jewellery so I only added a ring and these deep red tassel earrings. Mmm…I’m thinking that shade would look good on my hair!

red tassel earrings

Red faux fur coat and black coated jeans

The boots

These boots are sooo comfortable! When I first tried them on I honestly didn’t want to take them off. The block heel makes them practical for everyday wear, and the generous width means they won’t rub or pinch. They look and feel like real suede but they are actually faux suede. Although wearing them with jeans seems like the obvious styling option, they’d also look fab with a floral print maxi dress. Scroll down to last week’s favourites and you’ll see what I mean 😉

Truffle black buckle ankle boots

I mentioned in my previous post that I often find heavily discounted items on members only sale sites. These Reiss jeans were one such bargain at around a third of the RRP. I rarely buy jeans online because the fit and size is really hard to get right but I decided to take a gamble. In all honesty, I’m not keen on them: they bag around the knees and they aren’t snug enough on the ankles. They are quite long so I tucked them up at the hem but that didn’t help much. I think my plain Gap skinnies would have worked better. You live and learn, right?

Do you love faux fur? Are you looking for a new Winter coat? If so what’s on your wishlist? It’s link up day so scroll down and share what you’ve been wearing!

 

Red faux fur coat and black coated jeans

Coat*, boots and earrings c/o LOTD (*if your size is sold out, keep checking because stock seems to fluctuate) | Reiss coated jeans  | hat from Debenhams (old, similar) | Zara bag (similar) | Kevia ring (old)

 

Last week’s favourites were…

Jennie from Pocketful of Polka Dots in her gorgeous ruffled sleeve top, Lizzie from Lizzie in Lace in a beautiful floral print maxi dress, and Joi from In My Joi in a fabulous wide-legged jumpsuit!


 

This is where I link up!

 

Disclaimer: I was gifted the coat, boots and earrings in exchange for a review. All opinions are completely honest and unbiased. This post contains affiliates links which means if you click on them and/or purchase via a link I may earn a few pennies, at no extra cost to you. This helps towards the running costs of the blog and is very much appreciated.

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Red Skirt and Sock Boots Coast asymmetric red skirt Raid red sock boots

It’s Tuesday again already and I can’t believe how quickly the last week has flown by! I spent the weekend visiting my mum as it was her birthday last week. The annual 1940s weekend event was taking place just a few miles away in a neighbouring village, so we spent the afternoon there along with my brother who loves history. There’s a post all about it coming soon!

The double whammy of a red skirt and sock boots is guaranteed to brighten up a grey day.

You may remember that I included red boots in my Key Trends For Your Autumn Wardrobe Update post. Well I’m practising what I preach here with these sock boots from Asos. The stretchy fabric and low heel make them super comfortable. You all know how much I love red, so I’m cock-a-hoop that red is a major trend this A/W. The double whammy of a red skirt and sock boots is guaranteed to brighten up a grey day.

Red Skirt and Sock Boots

Red Skirt and Sock Boots

SHOP THE LOOK

Red Skirt and Sock Boots Zara sequin bag

I bought this skirt just last week in the House of Fraser sale. It was reduced from £79 to £29, so quite a saving. I have a couple of other red skirts, but I love the asymmetric hem of this one from Coast. I don’t usually like asymmetric hem skirts because they tend to make my bottom half look wider, but every now and then (like with this striped one) I’m won over.

Red Skirt and Sock Boots Coast asymmetric red skirt Raid red sock boots

Red Skirt and Sock Boots Zara sequin bag

This bag is perfect for people like me who are prone to indecision: you can change the colour of the sequins with a quick swipe!

Red Skirt and Sock Boots Coast asymmetric red skirt Raid red sock boots

Red Skirt and Sock Boots

I have to say a big thank you to my daughter Isobel who took these photos. She’s only eight but already showing a lot of interest in photography and blogging. My husband usually takes my blog photos but he’s not around much during daylight hours due to work for a few weeks. The shorter days make life difficult for us bloggers, right?

Are you loving the trend for red this season? It’s link up day so time to share what you’ve been wearing!

Style With a Smile link up week 39 favourites

Last week’s favourites were Grace of Color and Grace, Kim of Champagneista and Debbie of Fashion Fairy Dust!

 

 

 


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