Girl, Where Do You Think You’re Going?

Now that is something I’m never going to try and figure out again. The other day I was re-reading the post I wrote at the beginning of this year with my goals for 2017 Here and realised quite a few had been reached against all odds! And the odds are the 2 D words (so you know not just any odd hurdle…), no need to spell them out.

I might not know where I’m going (seriously after this year, I have no idea!) but I’ve been to some amazing places this year and as the sun slowly starts to set on 2017, I can confirm the following (this is probably going to sound like an empty list of platitudes and cliches but here goes…) :

  • Resilience is a force to be reckoned with
  • The worst of times can be linked to the best of times in mysterious ways. For example the weather on the day of my dad’s funeral was absolutely amazing, perfect, unseasonably warm and sunny. 2017 was destined to be the worse year ever but I have survived and actually had some amazing moments, there is always light and hope.
  • Music is more powerful than I ever thought, listening to Lemonade by Beyoncé has got me through some dark times and seeing Adele live was pretty special
  • Even though sunsets represent the end of the day, I have a bit of “a thing” for them and see them in a very positive light, not just because they are beautiful (3 of my favourite ones from this year are below, I am very grateful I got to see such amazing ones this year…) but also because, as with 2017, I have learnt that sometimes the end is actually the beginning

This is a bit of a random post, I will definitely write one at the end of the year to go over how many of those goals I reached!

As for 2018, come to mama…

PS: yes there are a few Lady Gaga “Joanne” references in this post…

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17 Goals For 2017

Happy New Year everybody! First things first – I am declaring 2017 the Year of Fun because 2016 just was  not fun enough to my liking. Let’s not forget we only get one life…

Let’s do a quick recap of why 2016 wasn’t my happiest year:

20% politics, terrorism and war – basically the year the world lost the plot

5% loss of great artists

75% unbloggable personal crap

However there were some highs that I blogged about:

Going to Ibiza , it was so nice and so much fun!

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I was miraculously thin during 2016, one good thing that I hope lasts!

Finding the perfect work dress

Spending 10 days in the sun with my mum

My best friend also had a second baby, one of my great friends got married, another is pregnant, all my girlfriends seem to be doing well, which is great but 2016 was lacking in fabulous, amazing moments. There were some lovely moments but could do better basically! I wanted to end 2016 on a high so yesterday, cheeks and I went for lunch at  The Hoxton, one of my favourite places in London:

I wore my AMAZING new shoes from Air and Grace, which make me happy

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Anyway 2016 is over! So here are my 17 goals/resolutions/hopes for 2017:

17 Things I’m going to aim to do/achieve in 2017 (it’s a very varied list!)

  1. Listen to more live music (lots of different genres) anybody want to be my concert buddy?!
  2. Have a girls night out at least once a month
  3. Go back to Ibiza
  4. Sort my hair out without becoming too mumsy
  5. Go clubbing in Berlin with my friend M
  6. Be more stylish
  7. Do something really out of my comfort zone – not sure what yet!
  8. Regain confidence, I lost some in 2016, need to get it back!
  9. Keep the blog going and make it better and get more out of it
  10. Reduce meat and dairy consumption by a third (have a veggie hello fresh box one week a month)
  11. Go to reformer pilates at least 4 times a month
  12. Get a subscription to Vanity Fair and the Economist
  13. Speak to Arabella in French 95% of the time
  14. Feel more goosebumps
  15. Cry more tears of joy
  16. Have more “this is amazing” moments
  17. Spend New Years Even 2017 thinking back on what an amazing year 2017 was, ideally on a beach or a ski slopeAnd here are some pictures to remember the good times of 2016:

    And here is one to set the tone of 2017:

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A Quick Note From The Four Seasons in Hampshire

Hello everyone!

A and I are staying at the Four Seasons in Hampshire this weekend and I just wanted to write a quick blog post about how life can change.

I came here the first time in May 2014 to celebrate mine and 2 of my best girlfriend’s birthdays. I announced I was pregnant that weekend. Next week my best friend is giving birth to her second child and this weekend I’m having a mother/daughter weekend away back here in this amazing hotel.

Neither of us had any idea what becoming a mum would be like that’s for sure. There is so much to write about on the topic but this evening as A ate spaghetti bolognese (risky business in a posh hotel I know), I sat next to her having a margarita because a day travelling and then discovering a hotel with a toddler is tiring and can be stressful. I simply had no idea when I was pregnant what it means to be “tired”, I also didn’t know how much I pleasure the following could bring:

– falling asleep next to your toddler on a great big bed

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-eating a massive lunch outside at the end of September with your toddler, who is on her best behaviour and saying “hello” to everyone

-coming up with the amazing plan to put the cot in the (big!) bathroom so you can eat room service and drink camomile tea in front of X Factor without worrying about waking her up!

A genius end to a lovely but long day!

 

 

Career Change and Happiness – The Inspirational Women of Walthamstow

A few months ago on the train on my way home, in a moment of “there must be more to life than this”, I posted the following on my local parents’ FB group: “OK parents, who LOVES their job and if so what do you do? Has anybody left a safe/well paid job to follow their passion/dreams and earn a lot less money? I’m sure there are some very happy inspirational local people out there! Parent related as a happy parent helps make a child hap-py! (In theory at least) Yes, it’s been one of those weeks…”
There were 93 comments to my post and even more “likes”, that’s when I realised that this was definitely a hot topic and I had to share it on my blog. Some people shared their career stories and some shared their dilemmas. Indeed the logistics of childcare (opening times, costs etc.), request for flexible working, the traditional office setup, financial pressures, stress etc make it hard for people (parents or not) to find a good work/life balance. Having children was definitely the overwhelming factor in promoting people to rethink their careers and the loss of earnings was definitely the biggest factor in preventing a career change. It’s also scary to leave a stable career and completely change direction, it takes courage and removing owns safety net is never easy but from what I’ve read with the support of friends, family and other organisations it can be done and nobody seems to regret it! Running campsites seems to be a common dream! What’s yours? I’m still to determine what mine is and I think that can be the problem, people aren’t always happy but are unsure what would make them happy…
There were so many amazing stories, so much courage, people following their dreams, people making it work, it was really inspiring. My motto is “carpe diem” and I don’t always follow it but these local women have and I hope you enjoy their comments and stories. So pour a glass of wine and settle in for one of my longest blog posts ever. Thank you to all the contributors! (I have only used the extra info sent directly for me to be used on this blog not the other comments).
I have tried to organise them into different sections:
• Teaching
• Charity/Helping Others
• Social media
• Creative
• Other

These were the follow up questions they kindly answered:
-what did you do before your big career change?
-what helped you take the big step? (A particular event, someone’s support etc)
-what do you do now and how does it make you happy?
-what was the hardest thing about changing careers?
-what would be your advice be to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following their dreams?
So let’s see who loves their job and who took the big step of changing careers!
Teaching:

Lots of people mentioned they loved their jobs as teachers, I don’t have any detailed stories but from primary school to university, it seems like teachers do it out of passion and therefore the right reason so seem to live their jobs even though it can be very stressful  and hard work from the comments I saw and from the teachers I know.

 

Charity/Helping Others:

J: “Before my career change I was doing admin and IT roles in various schools. The thing that changed my mind was after I had my daughter I got involved in a breastfeeding charity, and absolutely loved it, and decided I needed to do that for a living because it felt like it made a difference – seemed like midwifery was the means to the right end. I now manage a midwifery-led birth centre and absolutely adore it – it gives me a real sense of achievement and has restored my own confidence in my skills and self! Massively stressful because it’s a nursing job in the NHS but worth every moment. The hardest part was studying and worrying about money and getting poor support from my partner at the time, on top of being a mother, but I got there in the end! My biggest piece of advice would be explore every option. I didn’t know how I’d afford it before I spoke to UCAS – there are millions of pounds of unclaimed bursaries out there especially for minority groups – get everything you possibly can and go for it!”

S
“1) I worked for an energy company in the City as a contracts negotiator
2) having my baby and wanting to be with him (part time wasn’t granted) whilst he was little helped me in taking the decision to change career
3)I have two businesses: I am a cloth nappy retailer and advisor (www.nappylove.co.uk) and a Hypnobirthing practitioner (www.hipmamahypnobirthing.com). With the first job I know every nappy I sell is about 300 less disposable nappies in a landfill. A real difference. And I know with teaching my antenatal course I make a difference in empowering women to get the right birth on the day.
4) the hardest thing was…letting go. Of the security of the payslip, the benefits, the perks etc. Once you get going, you just use that momentum
5) don’t be scared, you will need to be open to learn new skills but apart from that it’s exhilarating to be solely responsible for a business venture, whatever that is. Beats any day in the office”

C: 1. I was a PA in further education 2. There was a massive restructure and I realise I was happy anymore and wanted more 3. I’m a midwife now and so glad I made the change 4. Training and studying meant sacrificing time with friends and family and especially my daughter who was 5 when I started my training but for 5 she was incredibly understanding when mummy had to work and study 5. Do as much research as you can it’s a huge step and make sure you have the support of those around you as when the stressful times come you will need them for help, love and support…and wine lots of wine 😆😆 lol”

Creative/Social Media/Arts:

M: “Since graduating I’d been an Artist-in Residence, taught in art centres and made a few murals to commission for schools. I moved to London in ’97 and got sucked into a full-time Web Editor job (because the money was good and the team lovely and I felt like a teeny fish in a massive pond here so was scared t push the art) Getting RSI (from long hours on computer) was a blessing in a way. In ’99 I set up Artyface Community Art and it has been enormously satisfying, making public art and community murals (the one at Winns and also the ones opposite The Camel pub behind the Buddhist Centre Bethnal Green to name a few). Making, teaching, training other artists in clay and mosaics, involving parents and community, enabling teachers and children to try something new- and to transform blank walls for everyone to enjoy. It’s been hard work, current austerity cuts are biting all school budgets, but I am very proud of the past 17 years of hard work. I am also a single mum and sometimes I feel I am not doing anything well enough, but everyone feels like that don’t they, with small kids? Www.artyface.co.uk is our website and we work with primaries, secondaries and nurseries: around 4,000 participants a year. Sometimes I’d love to retire because I’m exhausted… But I can’t afford to and I do love what I do. ”

L:
“Q: what did you do before your big career change? A: marketing manager working a 9-5 in central London for a well-known British heritage brand.
Q: what helped you take the big step? (A particular event, someone’s support etc) A: a friend at work who I respected immensely was in a similar position to me; I wanted to work and quite liked my job but I struggled emotionally to leave my little boy at nursery every day 8-6. My partner and i both hated our work life balance and felt like we were on a constant work treadmill. My work friend quit to do Digital Mums and it gave me the confidence to make the change too.
Q: what do you do now and how does it make you happy? A: after graduating from Digital Mums last year we moved to Folkestone and I now have my own marketing and social media consultancy Stokes & Co. I work flexibly from home mostly, around my little boy’s child care. He even gets involved in my work-recently taking part in a photo shoot I had to arrange for a client. We are all so much happier as my work actually works for me and my family; and I’m passionate about marketing again.
Q: what was the hardest thing about changing careers? A: the fear of the unknown and leaving a solid well paid job that I probably could have had for life if I’d wanted. Also leaving behind the office dynamic; most days it’s just me, my laptop and radio for company.
Q: what would be your advice be to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following their dreams? A: have a plan and try and stick to it-imagine what would life look like in 2 years if you made the change (the ups and downs). And also take stock of your finances. We realised that moving out of London, my working from home and our childcare costs for a 3 year old meant we didn’t need my big full time London salary to have a good lifestyle”

Other:

C:
“1) What did you do before your big career change? I trained as a secondary school teacher. I started in a school teaching French and when I left, I was also teaching French in the local primary schools.
2) What helped you take a big step? Every school holidays, I used to be unhappy. I was working more than 50 hours a week and didn’t have the time to rest nor think about anything else than work. I liked it though! And every school holidays, I used to say “I cannot carry on, it’s too hard” and each time I was going back to work after the break, the ball was rolling again and I didn’t have a second left in my timetable to think about anything else than work. In 2013, I had a baby and stayed at home for a bit. I was super happy to go back to work to be honest, life at home with a small baby was not for me at all. I started working my usual 50 hours a week… However my life had changed: I had to get up several times during the night and I was tired during the day. To be able to do all my work, I had to work after putting my son to bed and at the weekend, both Saturdays and Sundays. I guess it was bound to happen: I had a nervous breakdown, I was in tears in the car on the way to school, in tears on the way back because I had a shitty day, miserable at home, not enjoying my little boy. So what made me take a big step? I was concerned about my health and I wanted a change of lifestyle. I wanted a job with more flexibility and that would be a 100 times less stressful.
3) What do you do now and how it makes you happy? I now work in the publishing industry. After quitting my teaching job, I did a MA in Publishing and I enjoyed studying again, taking more time for myself. I work in a small publishing company and for now (touch wood), I haven’t had to bring work at home.
4) What was the hardest thing about changing careers? It was realising that I wasn’t happy and that my son wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t. It was also very hard to leave something I loved. I was good at my job but I think I didn’t get the right support when I was going through a hard time.
5) What would be your advice to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following your dreams? I wouldn’t advise “go for it!”. I would advise to think about the different alternatives, research what can be done and how it can be done. You need to know what is going to come ahead (applying for more than 30 jobs without getting any interviews) and save money! Career changes are expensive!”
L:
“-what did you do before your big career change?
I actually stayed in the same industry of UX (user experience) & Product design because I love it! But I switched from being at Lead level full time, manging teams and projects to an Independent freelancer
-what helped you take the big step? (A particular event, someone’s support etc)
Having my first child and the realisation of wanting more work/life balance but I did not want loose the career status I worked so hard at achieving as well as not wanting a pay cut. I knew I was experienced enough to manage my own time and efficient enough to pick projects that fit my skill set, so I wouldn’t waste time on projects that weren’t for me just because I was working for someone
-what do you do now and how does it make you happy?
I’m an independent UX and Product designer. I work on digital or products or services, usually apps or web based apps. It makes me happy because I only pick projects that I know my skillset is right for. I also pick projects that challenge me in the direction I want to advance my career. I also make sure my projects are open to flexible working hours as long as I manage expectations of the job at hand. It’s all about clarity and communication
-what was the hardest thing about changing careers?
The hardest part is losing the respect that I got as a manager, but that’s ok. In UK titles are more significant in decision making then in other cultures. I just have to prove and back up my ideas with a little more effort. At home I have a young child, family and expecting a baby soon and managing all that is enough for now, when they’re grown I can go back to the status/career thing, but it really doesn’t appeal to me now
-what would be your advice be to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following their dreams?
Speak to others that share you same ambitions, join groups, and go with your gut. Never be afraid to ask what what you want.
Before the change I spoke with other freelancers, an employment solicitor friend, and potential businesses I planned to target for work.
One big lesson I learned was to sell yourself, skills and experience before discussion flexible working. Once they love you, flexible working is no big deal. But if you start a conversation off with the idea that uou want flexible working, that sticks with them before they dive deep into skillset. I learned that the hard way. This group was very inspiring to me, they are all about flexible working : http://www.aherdtorunwith.com/”

P:”-what did you do before your big career change?

I was head of HR and Operations for a Charity

-what helped you take the big step? (A particular event, someone’s support etc)

2 reasons – I was in a very busy roll which constantly fed into my home life on a daily basis (i.e calls, emails etc during family time) and also the nursery my kids were at narrowly missed being shut down due to it’s lack of care and neglect. That’s when I realised that I had to sacrifice something and it certsinly wasn’t going to be my kids

-what do you do now and how does it make you happy? I returned to the nail and beauty field which has always been my first love! And I still continue to do HR work but on a consultancy basis. Both roles allow me to work at my own pace and more importantly around the kids
-what was the hardest thing about changing careers?

Money! I was giving up a very well paid job and taking that initial leap into the unknown world of freelance and irregular pay

-what would be your advice be to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following their dreams?

Go for it! It’s scary but if you don’t take a chance you’ll never know! We only get one go at life and it’s way to short to have regrets. I always told myself thst if it didn’t work out I could always work checkouts”

N:”1. A technology project manager in Investment banking

2 Taking a sabbatical year to travel to help me look at my options from a distance and get some perspective. Also I decided to do it slowly and retrain whilst my job remained the same

3 I am a career and business coach and I absolutely love it because it has real purpose (investment banking is a joke!), I predominantly help people take control of their careers or businesses and be happier. I also love running my own business – the challenge of being the accounts clerk, the marketing manager, CEO, digital person and actually do the job is amazing – I have learnt (and continue to learn) so much more about businesses and customers than I ever learn’t in 15 years in IT. I also love the flexibility that running your own business brings and the piece de resistence is the low stress lifestyle 🙂

4. Hardest thing was to truly believe in myself that I was capable of having a viable business that I could live off and dare to dream it was possible to still make a living without the long hours and stress.

5 Advice I would give is – try and make sure its the right choice of new career (over half my clients are working on “the decision what to do with the rest of my life” as they are concerned about making the wrong one) It is good to be cautious but don’t let that stop you taking the plunge. Speak to people who are doing that career/business already to find out more about it and what it’s like to work in that environment. Save money to help fund you through the transition (it’s easy to give up when money becomes a bit tight). Have a plan and know where you are on that plan at all times – it keeps you focused along the way. Have strategies for helping you through doubt (a friend you can call, something visual to focus you, whatever works for you) and find others who are going through a similar process so you can help support each other. Developing a network in the area you are moving into early is very important to your future success and if you can find a mentor all the better. A coach will also support you through the process and keep you on track, deal with fears and doubts, check the job/business is viable and meets your criteria/values and is right for your skills. I truly believe at the end of the day we only get one life and why spending 50 years of that doing something that we don’t love or that makes us unhappy.”

Inspiring right???? I have nothing to add, I am in awe of all these women. Go forth and be happy!

Please share your story if you have taken the plunge too and made a big career change or if you simply LOVE your job!

A Perfect Friday or A Cooking Class At Leith’s

For my birthday, my husband bought me a gift voucher for a cooking class at Leith’s called “Flavours of the Pacific Rim”. I had already been to a knife skills course there before and really enjoyed it so was really excited to go back. I don’t work Fridays and the idea of no work, A in nursery and a cooking course was basically my idea of heaven and I wasn’t disappointed!

Leith’s was founded in 1974 by Prue Leith and Caroline Waldegrave, it offers professional (Lorraine Pascale is an alumni for example) and non-professional courses and a lot more (they have a shop, organise corporate events etc). If When I am rich, I will definitely be hiring one of their chefs to come to my house! They are based in West London and so off to Shepherd’s Bush I went on a rainy August Friday morning.

The school is at the end of a very pretty street, I was nosing into the houses as I went along

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The class was from 10 til 2.30PM and I have to say I was exhausted and elated by the end. Anyway back to the beginning! They provide tea, coffee and freshly cooked pastries, whilst you are waiting for the class to start

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All sorts of people go to these classes the first lady I met was house-sitting in Brixton (she lives in France most of the time) and then I was paired up with an American and a Anglo-American couple, I was really lucky, my group was really fun, we had a seriously good laugh, Tom, who I was paired with was super enthusiastic, I thought he was going to jump into the oil to eat a wonton at some point!

I won’t go into all the details of each recipe but point out the tips (I have provided photos of them all). After a safety briefing, we went off to start making dessert in the nice big room that was at the perfect temperature (I thought it might be stuffy). Our main teacher for the day, Jess was really great. She was very clear, hands on, miraculously seem to manage to spend time with all of us (we were 10) and had amazing eyelashes!

Everything is prepared for you, all ingredients weighed out etc

The menu we were about to make was as follows:

  • Deep Fried Wontons with Nam Prik dipping sauce and miso dipping sauce
  • Pan fried duck breasts with plum and teriyaki sauce
  • Sesame soba noodle salad
  • Mango and passion fruit pavlova

We started by making the pavlova as it takes 1h30mins to cook, here is the recipe:

img_0469The key tips I retained from this part are:

  • use  metal instruments and make sure they are grease free
  • older egg whites work betterimg_0374
  • start by beating the eggs slowly and remember to incorporate all the mixture and go round the sides or there won’t be an even consistency (Jess’s eagle eyes spotted I was making this mistake)
  • You can use some of the mixture to stick the baking sheet down in the corners
  • Always add icing sugar to the cream or it can taste a bit too savoury

Nope we didn’t do the over the head test but apparently mine was a really good consistency! I took to a party the next day and it was a great success.

Here is one the others made (I decided to not eat mine or the day but had some of theirs!)

And here’s a video of the cream whipping action:

We were then take through the wonton recipe including a little chopping demo:

The wontons were DELICIOUS! Fiddly but seriously delicious, so more-ish.

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The top tips for these amazing babies are:

  • You have to remove a  lot of the layers from the lemongrass and discard the top 3rd, what’s left should be pliable, soft and thin. I had clearly not been discarding enough! You can use the rest to add flavor to sauces etc but you cant eat it.
  • Expel as much air as possible to avoid exploding wontons! and make sure there are no holes
  • Wrapping them isn’t easy, use water to stick the edges together and aim for a “moneybag” shape.

We checked the first one but it was still raw inside so we turned the oil down so the inside would cook but the outside wouldn’t burn. The next ones were perfect and delicious!

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The main tips for the super easy sauces was to peal the ginger and roll the limes before juicing, both super efficient!

Finally, we made the duck, its sauce and the soba noodle salad (which was a doddle).

Here is the duck recipe and the beautiful meat:

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The duck was all about the rendering…I had never rendered any meat but it is so easy and worth it! You basically just get rid of the fat by really slowly heating the duck to get rid of as much fat as possible, you need to start with a cold pan and then wait about 8 mins on a low heat. I turned mine up a bit too high so it was slightly burnt…

We then put it in the oven and made the soba noodle salad , which could not have been simpler and prepared the delicious teriyaki, plum and red wine sauce:

And here it is all coming together:

I had such a great time, I’m really considering doing their Cooking with Confidence evening course and will definitely do some more day classes. They are super professional, friendly, organised and make it all seem so easy. If you like cooking, you can’t go wrong with Leiths!

Linking up with Honest Mum’s Brilliant Blog posts because it really was a brilliant day!

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com