Capturing the bump…

I never planned to do a ‘bump shoot’, thinking I would have lots of selfie style bump shots to suffice and Pete would have taken plenty too. Whilst the former is true, the latter hasn’t been – we have been far to busy in the house to be anywhere worthy of dressing up and taking photos of late. Maybe it’s also the looming end to my pregnancy that has made me cherish it more, I will certainly miss this bump and shifting baby inside, but I hope the reality in my arms will be infinitely better. :)

I had planned to have a newborn shoot, when baby is fresh and still scrunched up and small, to capture that newborn bubble the three of us will hopefully be in (read: chaotic, sleep derived blur,) and so at the last minute last week I decided to ask our good friends Laura and Peter Lawson to do a bump shoot too. They made us feel so at ease in front of the camera and I knew they would ‘get’ how blessed out together we both are just now, as they had their little boy Albert only 7 months ago.

I’m so glad we did it now and Pete loves the results too. This was too special a time in our lives not to make some memories to treasure and now I just have to pick some for the wall!





Have a great weekend readers, see you next week!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

What I have learned about Weddings: 5 years on

This Saturday is Pete and I’s fifth wedding anniversary. How did that even happen? As it’s somewhat of a milestone and I don’t talk about weddings on here very often, I thought it would be a nice time to do a little series on wedding reflections with that 5 year perspective. I also know that many of you know me via my wedding blogging background and shared the journey with me, getting married around the same time and in the couple of years after my wedding, so I’m sure you must have something to say on the subjects I’m going to cover too – I’ll be looking forward to reading your thoughts! I’m also away this week (at a wedding!) so it will be a ‘weddings only’ special week with reduced posts.

Firstly, I thought I would write a post about my perspective on the wedding now. It goes without saying that my tastes have changed and of course, I would probably change everything looking back if we were to get in to the detail. I guess some people would say that they wouldn’t change a thing and I get the sentimental aspect of that, but I tend to be the kind of person who changes as life changes, plus I don’t feel attached to my wedding ‘day’, but the resulting marriage.

The last couple of years has also seen some of our best friends get married and so I’ve been heavily involved in weddings all over again, after a break from wedding blogging. Having that outside/inside perspective and the benefit of hindsight is interesting and has made me think about the stress and money involved, so I thought I’d share my thoughts.


Image Via SMP

1. Less formality.
You know how Carrie and Big’s guest list in the SATC movie suddenly jumps to 200 and when she tries to explain it to Big she compares the wedding to a poker match, saying ‘The dress upped the ante.’ Well that kind of happened with our wedding. My dress was probably one of the first things I found, (totally wrong order,) and ended up commanding a grander venue when an informal garden wedding was something I had always wanted. Of course there were loads of other factors that dictated the wedding, like Pete’s specification that it be held in a church, our lack of venue to hold a ‘garden wedding’ and my fears about the weather. In actual fact we had the hottest day of the year and everyone I know who has planned outdoor parts of their wedding since has been lucky and the weather held up. We have always said since the day we got married that we should have done it at our rehearsal dinner – a garden BBQ we had the night before with just our immediate family and bridal party.

2. Less people
We had a guest list of 88 and I think around that number give or take a few attended. I remember overwhelmingly feeling that there were people there that we didn’t need there and afterwards realising there were still people we hadn’t managed to speak to.

3. Less nik knacks and stress
Don’t get me wrong, I still love a creative wedding and I really admire people who put masses of effort into their day, but it totally stressed me out and with the benefit of hindsight, it wasn’t necessary. People don’t notice (other than fleetingly,) and I’d concentrate on a great venue with good bones and overdose on the flowers, forgetting much else if I did it again. All of the extra details just contributed to stress and observing other peoples weddings has reinforced the fact that the more detail there is, the more stress there is for everyone involved.


Image via SMP

4. A comfortable dress!
It’s easy to say, having worn a princess dress once already, but I would choose something much softer and less intrusive on everyone else if I did it again. My dress wasn’t heavy (light as a feather) and it wasn’t uncomfortably tight, but it got in the way of just being around people and hugging and dancing with Pete and it’s not really me to wear something that restricts me doing everything I want to.

5. Party!
Lastly, I would make the wedding much more of a party and less of a sequence of events. (drinks reception, dinner, speeches, dancing.) Casual, relaxed, FUN!

I suppose I should temper this with things I wouldn’t change or am glad that we did do as this sounds negative and I’m certainly not sat here worrying about it 5 years later!


Image credit: Lawson Photography

1. Photography
I’m so glad we spent money on Photography. Admittedly it seemed like a huge chunk of our budget then, (it was probably about 10% relatively speaking) and decent photography is even more expensive now, but I don’t think it could ever be something you regret.

2. Fake cake
Our cake was made by a friend at the time who was a pro-cake maker. It was a gift and saved us a fortune, but looking back, I certainly wouldn’t spend money on one again in the future. Ours was four tiers and would have been so much bigger than required so the top three tiers were ‘fake’ polystyrene but you never would have known.


Image credit: Lawson Photography

3. The Ceremony
I wouldn’t change a single thing about our ceremony – every bit of effort that I put into it was worthwhile and the whole thing was perfect – it remains my best memory of the day, as it should be!

4. The feast
After having quite a few bad generic wedding chicken dinners, I am so glad we spent money on the food, (we held our wedding at a restaurant and as a result the food was incredible – a four course italian menu with antipasti, a pasta course, a fish/meat course and tiramisu for dessert!) People still say how great it was now and given how much I like my food it was a worthwhile expense! We also scheduled a longer than usual (even given the fact that we had photos close to the venue and weren’t away from the guests for long,) drinks reception – it’s often my favourite bit of the day at a wedding and over before it has begun.

5. Having it close to OUR home.
Looking back, I’m so glad we had our wedding in Manchester. It meant all of our suppliers were local to where we lived, which reduced the planning stress, and the majority of our guests didn’t have to fork out for accommodation or travel. The few that did had access to the whole range of accommodation options to suit their budget and the venue was walkable from the church.


Image Via

6. Time with family
The other precious moments that I cherish the most from our wedding are spending it with the people I loved the most – I don’t mean our extended guest list when I say that, but the rehearsal dinner the night before and the morning I spent getting ready with my mum and bridesmaids. That was such a relaxed and fun time and felt really special.

7. Flowers
I love flowers and still do, so although we spent a huge amount on flowers I would do it again in a heart beat. In fact I’d have even more!

8. Get a planner
I also asked Pete what he would change and we were pretty much on the same page; ‘Smaller, more casual and less formal,’ were his words and he also reminded me that we always said if we were to do it again we would get a planner. I think wedding planners are so under rated and always considered a luxury. Whilst it’s certainly not cheap, an affordable cost is to get an ‘on the day’ planner, or someone to support you around the last week of build up and expense wise, I’d say they are worth their weight in gold.

So readers, with the benefit of married hindsight, what would you do differently looking back on your wedding, and what are you glad you spent the time, money and effort on?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS Later in the week I’ll be talking marriage and sharing some pics of my own wedding :) I hope you enjoy reminiscing over it all!

Family Lifestyle: Mum & Dad’s Date night

Before we became parents, we always said we wanted to be the kind of parents who prioritised their marriage. I’m not sure where I come down on the ‘put your marriage before your children’ line, but what I do know is that I love my son and husband a huge amount. Tom and I have been together a long time and, despite this(!) I still love spending time with him and neither of us wanted to forget why were married and raising a child in the first place.


Image credit

I’m not going to lie, making an effort with my husband was way down on the priorities list for a long time – behind eating, washing my face and getting more sleep – but when the new year came round we decided together to make a resolution to have a date once a month and, so far, have stuck to it. Finding the time, and a babysitter, has been difficult, but we both feel very strongly about how important this is now. And, actually, it’s been wonderful and definitely worth it.

Perhaps you think I sound a little callous saying that I like spending time away from my baby. The fact of the matter is that before I became Freddie’s mum, I married Tom and made a commitment to him as his wife. It should go without saying that we make sure Freddie is with someone he knows and would rush home if he needed us, but as long as he’s doing alright, we will continue to make time for ourselves on a regular basis. I think it’s really important to get this into our routine now, before our baby becomes a child.

Growing up my parents didn’t have a very strong marriage and they divorced when I was a teenager. While they never wavered in showing me affection, looking back I find it sad that I don’t remember them going out much at all and certainly never cuddling on the sofa or holding hands. Clearly they married the wrong person, which is a whole other story, but I’ve always known that that’s not the kind of marriage I want and I don’t believe we can keep it strong without putting constant effort. We’ve also made a rule that we kiss each other hello and goodbye first, and Freddie second. It doesn’t always happen, but it does make me feel special when Tom comes home after a stressful day and although Freddie is reaching out for him, I get the first acknowledgement. (This was instigated after me telling a story about a family I used to see coming off the train from work: the dad brought the son to the station to meet mummy and she would instantly gather him up and smother him in kisses. It wasn’t until they were getting into their car that she would off-handedly ask her husband how his day had been. It was a bittersweet moment that I saw everyday.)

So far we’ve had a couple of meals out and a night at the cinema, but next on my list is a daytime date. Having a leisurely lunch without grabbing hands sounds like my idea of heaven right now, and with Freddie loving his time with grandparents and my sister and his cousin, it’s going to get booked in soon. We’ve also booked a night away for our anniversary in August, which feels like a huge step at the moment, but I know it’s the right thing to do.

As much as I cringe at the phrase ‘date night’, I’m a true convert now I’m a mum. I’d love to hear if you agree or disagree with my opinion on prioritising nights away from the kids. Could you do it? Or do you have any suggestions for keeping your marriage strong after you’ve had a baby?

Love, Esme.

Find Esme on her blog Esme Wins or @Real_Married

News Flash!

Ahem! So, today is quite a big day and I’m going to let the picture do all the talking… :)

I can’t believe that the time has gone so quickly already and I’ve been waiting to have a bump to show you all! It’s lovely to be finally able to announce that Pete and I are expecting our first baby! I’m almost half way along now and so glad the bump has finally popped out so I can start talking babies, motherhood and get advice from so many of the mums who I know read Florence Finds.

As always, the blog is a reflection of my life, so I hope I don’t put off those of you who don’t have or want children, yet or ever, but I’m not expecting to have a personality transplant now there are three of us, so much of the blog will remain unchanged. Hopefully, this will be a welcome addition, it certainly is for us. :)

Anyway, I’m going to write a bit more next week, for now, I’m so glad you all know!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS I’m wearing the ASOS dress I posted about last week in a size 12 for extra room!

Family Lifestyle: Family Fraud

Today Esme is broaching a subject that is very near to my heart as a blogger, the reality behind the on-screen facade. It’s extremely hard as a blogger to bridge the gap between those who want pretty escapism and those who find a perpetually positive approach at best saccharine and at worst perpetuating the media factory of idealism that makes the average reader feel inadequate. I personally prefer positivity as I feel I really have little in life to complain about, but thats not to say that like all of you I don’t have the same daily trials and tribulations. Being a new Mum is difficult enough without holding yourself up to ‘blogger mums’ so I’m glad Esme is keeping it real today…

I’m a fraud. I think you should know that I’m not what you think I am. Perhaps I should explain…

Nearly all of us bloggers are guilty of presenting an image that is not a complete representation of our lives, but, of course, most of the time that’s fine and kind of the point of blogging: it’s escapism and offering something to aspire to. Ever since Rebecca started Florence Finds that’s what this blog has been for me, an opportunity to look at some pretty clothes, dream about perfecting my beauty routine and a bit of a break from the daily grind imagining that one day I too could be as stylish and organised as her. When Rebecca asked me to write a family column here, I jumped at the chance. But when she titled it ‘family lifestyle’, I have to admit I was a bit scared – there was no way my real life could live up to what she would want.

The fear of coming across as Rebecca’s boring mum friend soon went away as I realised I had lots to write about, but when I started thinking about my next columns I realised that I had inadvertently already begun to portray a side of my family that is not completely honest. Don’t get me wrong, we really did go to Belgium, we do love the National Trust and Freddie really is that cute, but the smiley, happy, loved-up family days such as the Welcome to the World party are not our everyday and I would never want any new or expectant (or hoping one day to be) mums to think I’m something I’m not.

I adore my life right now, but it is not all baby giggles and trips away. We are by no means a perfect family and I am not a perfect mum: money is tight, my husband works more than I’d like, my baby does sleep through the night, but can be a complete nightmare during the day if he wants to. I get very stressed sometimes, am generally found to be wearing my least dirty terribly fitting jeans with a baggy t-shirt to hide my 9 months post-baby tummy and find myself doing that mum cliche of collapsing on the sofa at the end of the day with a glass of wine more often than I’d like to admit. I am not stylish, back in my pre-pregnancy jeans or able to juggle looking after a baby full-time with being a housewife (not mentioning an actual wife) and keeping in touch with friends as often as I’d like. I definitely don’t ‘have it all’.

I know that when Freddie was first born and I was struggling very, very hard with breast feeding, reading something like this ‘New Years Resolutions’ post on the stylist Emily Henderson’s blog would have made me feel completely inadequate and feel like I was failing even more than I already felt I was. Now I’ve got a few months under my belt (and a few more than Emily Henderson, I might add), I can step back from that post and knowingly declare to the mums who may have read it that they are not to worry. And because the last thing I would want to do is write something that would make someone like the new mum I was feel bad, I wanted to write this post so you all know the truth.

So what is the truth? Am I worthy of writing a column titled ‘family lifestyle’? Of course I am, as long as I give you all something you can believe in – a bit of the ‘sunnier’ side of life as a three, along with the starker reality.

Is that alright with you?

Love, Esme

Have you ever found yourself feeling inadequate after reading a blog, and do you have any favourite blogs that ‘keep it real’?

Find Esme on her blog Esme Wins or @Real_Married

Refocus on your career- Laura, Teacher (Abroad)

Today we are continuing our series on careers. Last month Victoria shared how redefining what she wanted out of a job reshaped her happiness at work, with a Parisian jaunt along the way. This month, in a similar vein Laura is talking about her move to Brussels where she teaches. I know working abroad is something so many people want to do so I thought this might be inspiring for many of you, not to feel stuck in your current circumstances. Thanks Laura!

How did you come to be a Teacher and what has your career path been so far.
I decided I wanted to teach when I was in my second year at Uni. There wasn’t a ‘Thou-shalt-TEACH!’ revelation from the heavens or anything like that; I simply reasoned I loved my subject (English Literature) too much to commit it to a dusty box in my parents’ loft after three years. Plus, take into account the bonus points of never ever clockwatching ever again combined with spectacular holidays and it pretty much clinched the deal. I trained and taught in Leeds for eight years – in a tough comprehensive and then a fancy new Academy – and learned the tricks of the trade. After three years and a promotion, I turned up at the fancy new Academy in my shiny shiny shoes and fancy pinafore dress delighted to be second in department – only to be greeted by my line manager with the words every 24-year-old deputy dreads: ‘I’m pregnant. You’ll be Head of Department at Christmas. Sorry.’ The next four years – she was promoted as soon as she came back to school and never returned to the HoD role – were a baptism of fire: consistently exhausting, very often terrifying and occasionally mind-numbing, but, by God, it transformed me.

What made you decide to look for a new opportunity and how did you end up in Brussels?
My husband Adam and I got itchy feet after we got married. Actually, we’d had itchy feet for a while beforehand, but having a monstrosity of an Anglo-Irish Wedding Extravaganza softens the ache of the daily grind and fills even the most gnat-like of attention spans – at least, for a while. So then there was the cliched post-wedding high and, following that, the cliched post-wedding lull and the utterly terrifying sense that life was passing us by. And we had plenty of idealistic notions about what we were going to do to change the world, oh yes we did. We were looking into VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) – in fact, we came within a whisker of booking a flight to Papau New Guinea – and when that didn’t work out, we worked out our immigration points totals for New Zealand and started Googling the most fuel efficient make of camper van.

Do we sound manic? We probably were. And so we were in the throes of ‘What-the-HELL-are-we-going-to-DO?’ when a job came up in my husband’s company. In their Brussels office. And we went back to the VSO checklist of things we wanted from the experience – a new culture, a more international outlook, a fecking adventure – and realised it ticked pretty much all of the boxes. And so he went for the job. And got it. And so I applied for a job as Head of English at a British school in Brussels which just-so-happened to have come up. And I got it. After months and months of inertia and indecision our whole life had changed in just short of two weeks.

How is your job there different to your old job?
How is my job here different? Oh God, where do I start? Funnily enough, I had my performance management review meeting the other day and I was able to say, in total honesty, that I’m happier professionally than I’ve ever been. That’s quite a statement, eh? So why? Well, school is a lovely, friendly place – virtually all of the staff are British or North American along with a number of North Europeans, and new staff are made just as welcome as new students. It’s also a TOTAL bubble, in the nicest possible way. By that, I mean we’re protected from the immediate impact of governmental policy shifts and so can avoid the knee-jerk reactions that UK schools are regularly forced to make. I’m freed up from a lot of time-wasting tasks to the point where I can actually do some meaningful extra-curricular – I’m currently organising a TEDx event with some students and making plans for an overhaul of the Secondary school library. This kind of stuff makes my heart sing. I teach the international GCSE qualification, which is a welcome change from the stuff that was getting a bit yawnsome at my old school, and I’m also teaching the International Baccalaureate as well as A levels, which is just the most beautiful post-16 qualification I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Seriously – you have to study 14 texts for Literature and some of them have to have originally been written in a language other than English and you must complete a certain number of Creativity, Action and Service hours in order to pass which could involve anything from a self-defence class to working at an old people’s home and….oh, it’s amazing. It’s been a proper intellectual challenge and completely reawakened my love of reading. Seriously, I sit on the tram in the mornings for twenty five blissful minutes and read. And twice a week I run in the beautiful park – lakes! forest! gorgeous sunsets! – behind our school building. At home, I didn’t have the time – I always had an excuse. Here, it’s… easier somehow.

What does the future hold for you, career-wise?
Do I want to live here forever? Strangely, I think the answer is probably no, and then I have to think about why that might be. It seems an odd answer initially, given that I’m happier professionally and more comfortable socially than ever before. Brussels is such a warm and vibrant place. It’s full of ex-pats and people are fairly transient and, as a result, everyone’s super-friendly and all ‘hey, what’s your number? We should go out somewhere!’ without it being weird. I can even cope with the aspects that are frequently cited as being the most annoying things about living in Brussels – the complete absence of regard for any kind of health and safety, for example, and the insanely bureaucratic civil administration system (applying for an ID card is a process that involves PhD level research skills and the patience of a minor saint) I find it a little bit quirky and endearing. It’s like a French city, I guess, but with very little pretension and more graffiti. So why resist the urge to commit forever? It’s a city, I suppose, would be one answer, whereas I ultimately see myself in the country or by the sea. It’s also a young person’s place, which is great while we’re relatively young, but might not suit so much as we get older. I don’t know; we’ll see.

Have you got any advice for anyone considering working or moving abroad?
I do worry about what I’ll do if and when I do come ‘home’, having lived in this lovely bubble when teaching in the UK sound a bit grim in the papers at the minute; all cuts and criticism from people who haven’t stood in a classroom for a long time – or ever. I suppose we’ll have to see what happens. If this whole experience has taught us anything so far, it’s how quickly it’s possible to change and adapt. Going to the post office and having to talk French used to bring me out in hives. Getting on the wrong metro train was breakdown-worthy. Now that the fear’s died down, though, it’s all good. Would I recommend a similar change? Totally.

Great post Laura. I often thought of working abroad but life kind of got in the way. I don’t regret it now but I’m so impressed at the way you made this happen.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS Find Laura on her blog Parliament of Owls, or on Twitter @missmacdonner (She’s funny) ;)

#JanuaryJoy: Refocus on your career – Victoria, Marketing Executive

So todays post marks the start of a new series for Florence Finds. For a long time I have wanted to involve other people here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the strengths of FF is the community. I know some people would say that they come here to hear what I have to say but I believe theres a lot more we can offer than just my opinion. Sometimes thats via discussion in the comments, but I also happen to know a whole host of intelligent, go-getting, vibrant women who are just as interesting as I am and have many different viewpoints. I want to hear more from these women on topical life issues and so I’m going to co-ordinate various essay series where I ask people with relevant life experiences to share their thoughts on a subject. I’m starting off with careers and Victoria is kicking us off. I asked her to reflect on her career after her recent secondment in Paris and what she has written may make you re-evaluate your perception of your job satisfaction…

***

As part of January Joy Rebecca asked me to write about a change of career, or even just a job change. I haven’t actually done that for a while though, so I was stuck about what I could write. I then realised that perhaps writing about just a simple change of attitude towards my current situation, and how that actually changed my job, and, if I’m allowed to be dramatic for a moment or two, my life.

Until I made that change, if you’d ask me about my “dream job”, I’d tell you that “I’m still deciding what I want to be when I grow up, *chortle chortle*”. That I was doing “this job” until some divine inspiration about my dazzling “dream career path” came and slapped me on the cheek. In my thirties, that slap still hadn’t happened, and I realised that for me, the title “dream job” is just a Hollywood fabrication!


Illustation by Bella Pilar

For the first four or five years after leaving university I moved on from jobs pretty swiftly, basically when I got bored and needed more out of the role, when I hated the environment I was working in or just simply needed a salary uplift. I moved to my current company over five years ago and I’ve been here ever since. The temptation to move has been there every now and again (money, job-envy, a feeling of stagnation), but I never actually did it. My gut always stopped me. I often look back and wonder why. I wonder if it’s because I found some happiness in what I do. If it’s because solid employment during a period of market and personal instability helped me find happiness by way of job security. I wonder if I haven’t moved on because when I moved here I stopped having panic attacks on the way to the office and crying on the way home. I also found a sense of community, made friends and developed a sense of loyalty to the team and firm and the thought of leaving made me feel a bit sad. That however doesn’t help a career pathway, does it?

On reflection, as well as a combination of the above, I think what actually happened is that I became settled because what I do, may not be my “dream job” but I want to do it, more than I want to do anything else.

It took some personal analysis, perhaps a year or so ago, to realise that. All accidental of course.

Sometimes I find that I get so bogged down in the day-to-day detail of what I do for a living that I forget I don’t actually have to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I have to do something so I can eat, live, drive, travel etc, but it’s not necessarily what I’m doing now that I have to do. I could give it all up and be a vet. I could re-train and become a teacher. I could move to the southern hemisphere and learn to track big cats on safari game reserves. I could hustle and get myself on an internship programme at a glossy magazine. I could go to evening classes and develop skills on floristry, make up artistry, hair dressing, photography and so on. I could drag my wobbly backside to the gym and become a lingerie model… actually, no, I couldn’t. But you get the picture. If I hated what I do now, it is totally within my power to change it and be something else. Yes there’d be sacrifice. Yes it’d be hard work. Yup, the opportunity costs of my decisions would be considerable. But the point is, if I know that I want a change, it’s my responsibility to make it happen. I’ve considered all these career options, and more (NOT the modelling, of course. That was a joke, of course,) some with more seriousness than others and I always end up realising that it’s just a phase, likely encouraged by a TV programme or a conversation with someone about their job and the perceived excitement and glamour it entails… wholly ignoring the downsides!

Anyway, I digress, I was talking about my personal analysis. So, I spent some time reflecting on what it is that I do, and why it is that I do it. I took part in a Myers Briggs test to understand my personal motivations better and enrolled on some training courses at work which incorporated some other personality tests to determine my leadership style. I discovered that all I really want to do is to help people, to be useful and to receive the appropriate recognition for my work. I’m not interested in power or leadership or the glory of achieving it. I want to help other people realise their own glory and all I “need” is to be quietly thanked for helping them do so. I’m an ENFJ in case you’re wondering…

All of a sudden, I stopped day dreaming about what I’d do if I didn’t have to do this and made peace with what I do do. All of a sudden I love what I do a whole lot more, because I’ve realised that if I view my job in the context of what makes me happy, there is so much more happiness and enjoyment I can derive from it.

So, I said it changed my life, I wasn’t being dramatic. I really think that the changes I made effected a number of amazing opportunities for me, one of them being a secondment to our Paris office. This gave me the chance to spend some time working abroad (a personal goal), living what can only be described as a fairy tale life for a short time (see some of my personal highlights from my weekends here,) and pushing me wholly out of my personal and my professional comfort zones (scary but exciting), and thus I came home from Paris a very different person on all counts.

In short, it wasn’t so much an actual physical career or job change that made me happy (or brought me [January] Joy, if you will), more a change in mindset to bring it about within my current situation.

My loved ones noticed how much happier I was at home. My boss, co-workers and clients noticed how much more enthusiastic and applied I was. Great things started to happen. Opportunities opened up, professional relationships became more developed, projects became more interesting and my working day became more fulfilling. All because I started to view them in a different way.

I have always been envious of people that knew what they wanted to be, and how they chose educational and career pathways to make that happen, but I guess I did much the same unconsciously. Really, all I’ve ever wanted to be was a city worker: trains and tubes, take away lattes, snappy meetings, office banter, city suits, after-work drinks, not forgetting the, ahem, important stuff like interesting, challenging opportunities and a work portfolio full of high-profile projects and clients, an international perspective and the opportunity to travel and work with people from around the globe. Recently I’ve also become a “premises snob” and realised that I’ve started assessing future employers on the standard of their building!

So it turns out that I actually have achieved everything I ever wanted from a job and/or a career. I wanted to be a helpful, respected, appreciated city worker, with fun and exciting opportunities available to me, and that I am. And I am happy about it.

I am January Joyful.

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.

#JanuaryJoy: Have a social media sort out


Image Credit

Todays prompt is one that I have never really approved of, but the last few months I have really gotten to thinking about social media and how I use it. For example, for some reason, I have found myself on Facebook more recently than I have done for a long time and my conclusion is that I would dearly love to just get rid of it all together. I have 247 friends on Facebook which is a pretty conservative number I think, mainly because I refuse to add everyone who asks me or that I have come into fleeting contact with. Despite this policy, there are still tons of people on there that I barely know. You might be wondering why I keep it at all and there are 2 reasons. Firstly, it’s the only method via which I keep in touch with some friends – the message facility is so convenient and I would miss out socially without it. Secondly, I have to have a personal account to have a business account, i.e. for Florence Finds.

Most of the time when people complain about social media (this is something I hear a lot about Twitter for example,) is that they sap the joy out of you and leave you feeling inadequate. I don’t get that with Twitter, but I do find that the type of status updates people post on Facebook are enough to leave me feeling bored and depressed. All I want from FB is to see how people are doing (i.e. happy life news) and to see their holiday photo’s! One story that has always stuck with me is that of Sam. She told me how she and her husband used to spend time on Facebook instead of actually talking to each other or having real interactions with friends. They agreed to close their accounts and sent all their friends message with their address and phone number, encouraging them to call or pop by next time they missed ‘poking’ them on Facebook, for a real-life holiday photo reel. Of course, they found out who their friends are, but is that a bad thing?

When it comes to Twitter, I’m pretty happy. Because I started my Twitter account for the blog, I have always applied different rules to it. I follow people I am personally friends with and would chat to day to day, some brands, (although not that many,) and I use it a bit like a Google reader type tool, by following bloggers that I read infrequently but want to be reminded of from time to time. As a result I’m seldom bored by my feed and as I read recently via the great communications expert Liene Stevens, ‘If you’re bored of your Twitter feed, who’s fault is that?’ I always used to feel that people who cleared out their Twitter were unnecessarily cruel (not helped by my being signed up to Qwitter, so I know exactly who unfollows me!) but in actual fact, for business or blogging it’s always better to have 10 followers who read and engage with what you are saying than 100 with only a few that do.

My favourite social media though has to be Instagram. I LOVE seeing inspirational photos from other peoples lives and glimpses of different places all around the world. I follow my friends on Instagram and stylish people and bloggers worldwide, and I endeavour to provide the same on my feed, without too much of the mundane. I use it as a way of showing the real life behind the blog, and I guess thats what I want from it too.

So, I have decided I’ll be having a Facebook clear out, watch this space. I’m intrigued to hear your thoughts on social media and whether you feel you should have a clear out. Have you done it? Did you feel better for it? Are you done with Facebook?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

#JanuaryJoy: Treat Yourself…


Givenchy Antigona bag at Net-A-Porter// Valentino Rockstuds // De La Espada Lounge chair by Matthew Hilton for Heals

So, pay day has either been, or is coming (and can’t come quick enough!) and after a long, dark, grim month I think it’s time to treat yourself. However, I know from reading your comments here, talking about budgets and houses, that the majority of people reading really aren’t in a position to treat themselves. When I was turning over the concept of a treat in my mind, I first of all thought of the age old bag v shoes dilemma every woman is supposed to have. And then I thought, I wonder how many of use would choose to splurge on something for the house instead if you unexpectedly had some money left over, or wanted to mark a big achievement. I know a year or two ago I’d have been straight to the front of the handbag department queue, but give me a bit of spare cash now and I’ll be looking for something for the house without a doubt.

But then when I really think of a treat, I don’t necessarily think of expensive things, it’s the little things and the money can’t buy experience that I really long for. Time to myself with Pete, uninterrupted time in each others company. A long bath with a large glass of ice cold wine and a stack of magazines. A long luxurious lie in followed by breakfast in bed and those magazines again. Blue skies and sunshine warming my skin. Freshly painted nails. A spa facial with a friend…

So, today I have 2 questions for you…

1. For a monetary treat… Shoes, bag or home stuff?
2. For your actual treat as January comes to an end, what do you really want most?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS. I very almost wrote a fashion post today… Lots of that to come in February :)

#JanuaryJoy: Plan your savings

Sounds pretty boring hey? Money. I don’t think we talk about it enough, with typical British reserve but aside from all the obvious statements about money not buying happiness, if you have a good enough handle on your finances, you can really start to make things happen and stop feeling trapped by your circumstances. Maybe you are postponing having a baby because you are worried about poor maternity pay or financial stability. Maybe you are desperate to move but have no idea how to get the required deposit, or maybe you have debts – don’t we all! I’m no financial advisor (but I do have a great one if anybody is interested and wants a recommendation – just email me,) but I thought I’d share a bit of a personal financial story that might help some of you rethink your ideas and start working towards your financial goals this year.


Image via The Everygirl

As most of you will know, we moved at the end of last year and it’s some of the comments I received around that time via social media and on the blog that made me want to write this post. There were a few grumblings about how ‘lucky’ I was to live in the north, implying how ‘cheap’ my house must have been in comparison to the south. Whatever your income or location, it’s never easy to save a lot. It’s all relative, including your expectations of what you will need to move (I’m using my move as an example here but this can be applied to any financial situation.) Basically everyone is different.

So, how did we get moving? I’ll say first that for about 4 years I had wanted to move. We bought our terraced house which had 2 bedrooms and box room we used as a study in 2006, just before the peak and then crash of the property market. Our intention given the state of the market then was to move upwards in 3 years, but it soon became clear that with the cost of moving, (stamp duty, fees, etc) and the less buoyant market, that that would be foolish. One thing after another trapped us in that house, lack of funds, eventually our employment circumstances (we each in turn became self-employed limiting our mortgage options,) but as we realised we wouldn’t be buying an intermediate home, the deposit we needed became the big issue. How on earth do you save such a big deposit?

We managed to come up with just short of a 20% deposit in the end. About 30% of that was equity in our house – we had barely any equity as we had a huge LTV mortgage and were paying interest only – a set up that suited us at the time of purchase then we stuck with later as we couldn’t get competitive remortgage deals due to our low equity. Instead we decided to stick what would have been a mortgage overpayment in the bank and that became our savings. The rest was all savings cobbled together over a 18-24month period.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, well it’s all very well if you earn a lot… and that is true – if you have more you can save more, but as I said before it is all relative. We did not save more. And I did not see how we could cut a single outgoing, but bit by bit we managed it. We started with all the usual things like changing over our energy and internet providers to get better deals but clearly that wasn’t going to make much headway. We needed to make big drastic changes. We decided to try and live on one salary and bank the other. When we dd the maths it didn’t work at all. We tentatively transferred all my personal direct debits (I have significant professional outgoings too for insurance and professional memberships etc which I let in my own account for tax purposes) to Petes accounts. And every month we went into our overdraft, but little by little we started to live within our means. I bought (a lot) less clothes, we planned cheaper holidays, we ate out less. Note that I’m saying ‘less’, because if we had cut out all fun, I never would have stuck with it. Altogether it made me feel more accountable, to Pete and our future together. Finally we made a big change and sold Petes car – his baby, bought to celebrate his first proper job out of training. It was costing a lot to run and maintain and so in a big sacrifice he swapped it for a 14 year old £500 banger. (Side note: it breaks down nearly every day on his way to work, he pushes it to the side of the road, waits 5 minutes and goes again, but we’re sticking with it!)

We’ve got so good at sticking within the budget that now, with a bigger mortgage and outgoings, we’re still managing it. That’s not meant to sound smug, but as people who (I’m not proud to say) spent the vast majority of our expendable income rather than saving it, we have made massive changes and as a result changed our life in a way that thought was impossible in the near future. We even recommended it to our friends who were saving for their wedding and really stuck for how to save – they too couldn’t see how it was possible but are now doing it and converted.

I know this plan won’t be for everyone, but I’m really curious as to how you guys plans and save for the future. I’d love to hear how you planned and budgeted for a move or other big financial change, perhaps a career break or change, or adjusting to maternity leave. Please do leave a comment.

Love,
Rebecca
xo