Cassiefairy – My Thrifty Life

Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog – Saving money every day with DIY crafts, sewing projets, low-cost recipes & shppping tips

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How to work fewer hours & have more time for fun

How many hours are you working each week? Whatever your answer is I’m going to say that’s too many hours. When the sun is shining and you’re overlooking people playing in the park it’s tempting to quit your office job there and then. But you really don’t need to do that in order to start working less and enjoying life a little more. It’s just a matter of careful planning and negotiating; if you play your cards right you could be spending less hours in that stuffy office while still doing the job you love. Here’s how:

Emilie’s home office from Stella + the Stars

Work from home

Alter your current work routine. Convince your boss that you should start working remotely. Plenty of guides exist on the best ways to persuade an employer. More and more of us are spending part of our working weeks doing our job from home. That’s because a business often benefits from the increased productivity of a remote worker. Forbes estimates that 91 percent of these employees feel they get more done when they’re working in their home office. There’s no distractions for a start! And you can set your own hours – so if you work best in the morning, get up early and do it all while you’re feeling energetic. Then the afternoon is free for strolls in the park or reading in your garden. Since you’re more productive when you work remotely (and you’re saving hours on the daily commute!) you’ll have extra time to spend with your family. 

Here’s Victoria’s home office from Apartment Number 4 as featured in Style at Home magazine 

Learn to delegate

Delegating tasks will make sure that things continue to run smoothly, even if you’re working from home. Think about your daily and weekly workload and see what you don’t need to be doing. Delegation of duties helps the company as much as you; rather than take on too much work on your own, you could train those who report to you so that they can handle these responsibilities in your absence. You want to set them up to succeed, offering advice when they struggle. You also need to wean yourself away from the habit of doing everything yourself. Delegation is the first step to getting more time to yourself. Once you master delegation, you’no longer need to spend excessive hours at the office!

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The ergonomics of working from home

If you’re a full-time freelancer like me, or someone who works just one day a week out of their home office, this is the blog post for you. That’s because I’m sharing some research I’ve done about the ergonomics of setting up a home workspace and I’m sure that it’ll help you enjoy working from home even more than you already do!

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If you’ve been making do with sitting at the kitchen table to do your work, or balancing your laptop on the arm of the sofa, or (like us bloggers occasionally admit) never even leave your bed, you won’t need me to tell you that it’s not the best way to work. You’ll ready know it yourself thanks to the numb bum, crick-in-the-neck and sore back you get at the end of the working day.

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Why don’t you have problems like this when you’re working at the office? Because most businesses have ergonomically designed desks and chairs, perfectly set up desks and monitors at just the right height. They need to provide a healthy working environment for their workers, and don’t want to have staff absences because a dodgy office chair caused spine problems for their employees.

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So the solution to having a more comfortable working environment at home is to replicate ‘the office’. I know it might seem dull (and you’ve only just got away from that bloomin’ office!) but you’re going to have to set up a proper desk, get a great office chair and stop working on that laptop. This guide below explains the best way to arrange your desk to make it ergonomically correct. And, most importantly, you’re going to have actually USE your newly arranged desk to do your work. No matter how tempting the sofa looks!

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Hygge and Lagom – Living the Scandinavian way this winter

Hoo-gah. Honestly, that’s how you pronounce it. Lagom is slightly a tougher one… lar-gohm. If you’re already over hygge, then maybe lagom is for you. With the new year in full swing, the Scandinavian concept of ‘everything in moderation’ may be better suited to you (especially if you’re making changes to your lifestyle and diet) than the full-on snuggle-up-and-get-cosy-during-deepest-darkest-winter concept of hygge. Lagom means ‘just the right amount’ and is a slightly more matter-of-fact approach to living a more balanced and thriftier lifestyle. As a very thrifty gal, it’s no wonder I’ve become intrigued by this concept, is it?The eagle-eyed of you may have spotted that I received a book relating to this topic for Christmas. Yes, I finally own a copy of the famous Hygge book by Meik Wiking. You know, the one that instagrammers seem to be posting photos of daily during the autumn and winter. The Danish art of hygge doesn’t necessarily have a certain look or design philosophy, it’s more about the feeling and atmosphere that a room gives you. It’s about appreciating the small things in life and about the times you have felt at your happiest. Recreating that vibe throughout your home is hygge, pure and simple. Lagom is very different and there are four ways to embrace lagom this year; eating with the seasons, reducing your environmental impact, stressing less, and enjoying things in moderation. So you can see that this Swedish concept is more about lifestyle as a whole, rather than focusing on creating a feeling of cosiness in the home like hygge. It’s about having just the right amount of food, achieving the ideal work/life balance and doing your bit for the environment. Sounds like a set of new year’s resolutions, doesn’t it? I already feel like it’s more serious concept than the warm-and-fluffy idea of hygge, but maybe that’s just my natural reaction resolutions in general. What a rebel.In contrast, home interior specialists Baytree Interiors have come up with the four elements needed to create the perfect winter sanctuary with the Danish concept of hygge. These are: textures, small spaces, natural colours and low lighting. Firstly, rustic materials such as wood and leather work well to create hygge-esque textures especially when combined with cable knits, faux fur and fluffy rugs. Secondly, larger rooms will benefit from being divided up, to make a series of cosy spaces. Thirdly and neutral colour scheme using brown, gray and cream will give a sense of bringing nature indoors. And finally, lighting is the most important element in any Hygge home and it’s the easiest way to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. Lamps and candles create soothing pools of light around the home, and the Danes are said to light more candles than any other country in Europe!I can see how the two ideas can work hand-in-hand. For example, if you’re practicing the lagom idea of stressing less, you’ll be wanting to create a lovely hygge environment in which to relax in. Food and drink can be hygge too (I’d call it comfort food…) and the lagom idea of having everything in moderation means that you really can enjoy that hot chocolate with squishy marshmallows without feeling guilty, because you’re just having one mugful. And of course, switching off the electricity to sit by hygge candlelight, couldn’t be more lagom in terms of reducing your environmental impact, could it?These two Scandinavian concepts aren’t in competition with each other, but they have both become really popular this winter and it seems like a good idea to learn a thing or two about lifestyle from the happiest nations in the world, doesn’t it? I can’t wait to introduce some of these concepts into my own home and life in 2017 and try to embrace a happier, cosier and more relaxed approach to life. So if you find me tucked up under a blanket that I’ve knitted myself rather than doing any work, that’ll be the reason why! Let me know if you’re inspired by these Scandinavian ideals or if you’ve been adding a touch of hygge to your home this winter by leaving me a comment below 🙂

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How a new dress can help you stay cool this summer

So I went away last weekend. I didn’t go far, just on our yearly jaunt to the Essex coast, but boy was it nice to be beside the seaside. The cool sea breeze was really needed after that heatwave the week before. Even stepping off the promenade and making my way inland caused instant overheating. Blimey it was hot! It was lovely to be on a UK break that actually felt like a trip abroad, and it meant that we could spend more time on the beach together as a family rather than sheltering from the rain in an arcade!hotsquash summer dress cool fabric ss16 outfitI think I’ve mentioned it before but I’m not great with the heat. My pale, freckly skin just doesn’t get on with the sun. On hot days you’ll find me slinking off into the beach hut to shelter from the sun and I’ll always choose to walk on the shadowy side of the street. SPF 50 is definitely my must-have beauty product at this time of year!hotsquash summer dress cool fabric polka dot outfit

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How to spot a future-proof house

When searching for a property, it’s important to consider the future. I’ve learnt this after viewing countless properties and each of them being just not quite right for us. Sure, plenty of the houses we’ve seen have been fine, more than fine, and would work perfectly well for us right now. But I don’t want this to be a ‘for now’ move, I want to find a home that I can grow into and stay in one place for the first time in years. After moving a whopping 11 times during our 15 years together, my husband and I want to stay put for once! We’d quite like to find a house that will work great for us right now, and still be a good investment in future years. So here’s what we’re considering when viewing properties – hope it helps:blogger writer home office inspiration

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Work proof

You know where you’re working right now, but things can certainly change in the future. You may be offered a position abroad, and would want to rent out your home while you’re working away. So is it rentable? Could it be a holiday home for a period of time? And if your role changes, or you become self-employed, is there space for you to be able to have an office and work from home? We are certainly looking for a house with an office space for me!family room home house buying inspiration ideas

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Family proof

If you can manage to get a slightly larger house than strictly necessary at this stage, it means you won’t need to move again in a hurry if your family grows in the future. It could be that you’re planning to have children in many, many years time but just having that option to fit in a growing family means that you won’t need to give up the home you love just to fit in the little ones. We’re looking at it from the point of view of having nieces and nephews to stay in the future, and living nearby to our family so that we can help out as they grow up. All of these factors should be considered as it may influence the type of house you buy and the location you buying future proof house dining room downstairs bedroom

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Retirement proof

Okay, I’m talking many, many years into the future now, but we may still be living in the house we buy when we retire. If so, that probably means we’ve been happy living in our home for all these years and wouldn’t want to move in the future. So how upsetting would it be to have to move out when mobility becomes as issue later in life? Sure you can install stairlifts for the home so that it’s still possible to go upstairs, but having the option to use a downstairs room as a bedroom can eliminate the need to move house when you’re less mobile in the future. So we’re keeping an eye out for houses with dining rooms or office spaces that could be a bedroom and, rather unusually, we think that a downstairs bathroom is a bonus!

What do you think is an important thing to consider when you’re buying a first home? Should you try to get everything you need in one house or do you think that moving again in the future is inevitable? Let me know your thoughts and house-buying tips by leaving me a comment below or tweeting me @Cassiefairy.

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One week, no jeans challenge

We all have a style uniform, don’t we? A particular style of outfit that you pull on day-in-day-out without really thinking about it. For me, it’s comfy jeans combined with a jumper in winter and the same jeans rolled up with a t-shirt in the summer. I reach for my skinny jeans instinctively every morning because I know they work with whatever top I want to wear and whatever footwear is needed to tackle the weather outside. Perhaps you have favourite pair of jeans too, or a coat you can’t be without, or a piece of clothing you love so much you buy it in bulk and you have it in every colour?one week no jeans outfit challenge holiday travel packing outfit inspiration fashion ideas spring summer 2016We’re all guilty of sticking to what’s comfortable, but the team at George want to challenge us to mix up your #styleYOUniform by setting you a challenge: one week, no jeans. “It can’t be done!” I hear you cry. We’ll I took up the challenge last week and I wanted to share how I got on with my little ‘experiment’. After wearing blue jeans practically every day for a year (except special occasions) I wanted to at least try to shed my style uniform and mix it up with some new outfit choices. Plus, I wanted to do it with just four items of clothing – being thrifty and making the most of my wardrobe is my kinda thing..! george clothing one week no jeans challenge holiday outfits

These are the items I’ve chosen for my one week, no jeans challenge from George, with a few extra accessories from my own wardrobe thrown in for good measure.

Considering that the weather is warming up I wanted to try uncovering my legs and slipping into some dresses and skirts for the week. There was a time, only a couple of years ago, when I would wear dresses all the time. A dress was my #styleYOUniform because it was so easy to wear – you only needed to make on choice in the morning: with or without tights. So feels a little strange to me to be ‘going back in time’ to my uni days by wearing a dress all week. Even so, the ease of getting ready with a dress was still there and I just added a couple of other items to make sure I had enough to rework my outfits to get me through a whole week. I think this would be great if you were going on holiday – just imagine how much room you’d have in your suitcase if you only packed these few items! one week no jeans outfit challenge holiday travel packing_The first outfit is a Monday ‘back to work’ outfit. A day of meetings calls for a smart tailored blazer and fitted skirt. I wore my white cardigan buttoned up beneath the blazer, but a crisp white shirt would look equally neat for a day in the office. My tasselled shoes in a neutral colour have a mid-height chunky heel so they are comfortable enough for a full day’s work. I removed the long strap from my shoulder bag to use it as a handbag, and turned it so that the non-tasselled side was showing for a smarter look. It’s big enough to hold notebooks, my laptop and all the business essentials I need to carry with me. All in all, a very successful, smart look for a hard day’s week no jeans outfit challenge holiday travel packing_-4The second outfit is a ‘daytime date’ look. I wore the dress as a skirt, with the cardigan buttoned up over the top as a jumper. I dressed up this more casual look with a pretty necklace that my bestie gave me for my birthday and my tasselled heels. Again, I took off the long strap from my handbag and carried it tassel-side-out to add a touch of playfulness. Love the ditsy print of this dress and it’s definitely a cute look for a week no jeans outfit challenge holiday travel packing_-6 Continue reading “One week, no jeans challenge” »


Styling one tweed dress for work, casual & party time!

I have a lot of clothes yet I hardly ever have anything to wear. In fact, I probably wear the same 5 or 6 outfits over and over again and rest of my clothes continue to hang in pristine condition in my wardrobe. Does this sound familiar? So many women claim to wear just 20% of their clothes 80% of the time and I certainly agree with this statistic. At the start of the year I wrote about making the most of the existing items in my wardrobe and although I’ve tried my best, I just can’t help buying new things and hoping that this will be the one dress that will do me for every occasion. And that’s where my new tweed dress comes in.

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Dress from Bonmarche

The dress is designed by David Emanuel (yes, he who created Princess Diana’s wedding dress) for Bonmarche and it’s a lovely grey tweed with a little stretch in it. Just the right midi length for me, it is very figure flattering and I am always happy to have sleeves on a dress! It comes with a skinny black belt and I’ve been wearing it just as it is for a while now. But I wanted to make it work harder for me so I’ve come up with three more ways to wear this dress so that it can be used for work, evening wear and for casual days off – and that’s where we’ll start.

I’ve decided that my casual look should include layers of textures so I’ve combined tweed, with tweed, with tweed. Yes, this is a particularly autumnal look and feels rather ‘countryside’ when I wear it! It’s definitely a cosy combination; I’ve added my tweed jacket and wrapped a soft checked scarf in shades of grey, beige and pink around the neck to tie in all the colours and textures. Even though the jacket is a smart shape, the combination of all three elements makes the outfit more casual and I’d wear a pair of knee-high boots with it during the autumn.

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Jacket from Joules and scarf from Next

My work outfit has been created by simply adding a white shirt underneath the dress. I’m sure everyone has a plain white shirt in their wardrobe so I’ve been able to create this look without any added expense. It makes use of the belt that came with the dress and I’ve added my staple black handbag to complete this smart outfit. I rarely need to be this dressed up for work unless I’m going to a meeting so it’s good to be able to create a neat look without having to invest in a whole work-wear wardrobe. I would wear thick dark tights and patent brogues to finish off this look for Autumn/Winter. David Emanuel tweed dress styled 4 ways-9 David Emanuel tweed dress styled 4 ways-10 David Emanuel tweed dress styled 4 ways-11

Shirt from New Look and handbag from St. Elizabeth Hospice charity shop

Finally, I wanted to be able to wear this dress for nights out and I’ve turned it into a pencil dress by simply adding a thick elasticated belt around the waist and adding a couple of glitzy accessories in the form of this studded clutch bag and black floral necklace. This shows just how easy it would be to transform this dress from a daytime casual or work look into evening wear just by adding a couple of low-cost accessories. I would wear killer heels with this outfit and a pair of seamed tights to emphasise the 40s/50s wiggle-dress shape created by the belt. David Emanuel tweed dress styled 4 ways-13 David Emanuel tweed dress styled 4 ways-14 David Emanuel tweed dress styled 4 ways-16

Clutch and necklace from Apricot and belt from Oxfam Online charity shop

Let me know what you think of these looks and if you can think of any other ways that I can create a different look with the same dress, please get in touch! Leave me a comment below or chat with me on Twitter @Cassiefairy.

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Watch out! It’s time to change…

Have you noticed that the days are already feeling shorter just by the evenings being slightly darker than usual? I’ve actually felt more rushed than usual in my work, and I feel like it’s taking up all of my day and I just don’t have the time to relax in the evenings. I know this is a psychological thing for me and I need to keep an eye on the time in order to realise that the day ISN’T running away with me. The light-until-10pm evenings we’ve been enjoying all summer have meant that I’ve been able to do more after work: I could still go places, hang out with friends, eat dinner al fresco and potter around the garden. I had ‘more’ time to do more activities because it was lighter until later and now I feel like it’s bed time pretty much as soon as I’ve finished dinner. Darker evenings means that I don’t want to go out for walks and once the sun has gone down the chill-factor is keeping me out of the garden. I want to make the most of my spare time but I don’t seem to be valuing my evenings as much as I did over the summer. I know it’s the same amount of hours but it’s what I can do with them that counts!

Tips for working from home - Creating a timetable plan

It’s time to start keeping track of my day with a timetable (yes, the first one I’ve ever made since my revision timetable at school!) and I think that I need to invest in a watch to help me stay on top of it. So far, I’ve already been putting my lunch break back by an hour each day, just because I like to finish one task before moving onto the next but I have decided to start wearing a watch for the first time in 10 years to help me keep on schedule while I’m working. It’s easy to ignore time passing when you have to pick up your phone to check what time it is, and I’ve realised that I don’t have any clocks up in my workspace, so it seems to me that a watch is an essential business investment to make sure that I work when I need to and that I actually stop when I need to!

Ever since the first pocket watches were built in the 15th Century, they have been seen as treasured items that often hold a lot of sentimental value for the wearer. As we reach the point where ‘smart watches’ are beginning to slip into the market – the recent release of the Apple Watch has shown that these gadgets come with a hefty price tag too, starting at around £215 – there is still an immense appeal for the traditional timepiece. It still ok to want a watch to just A) tell the time and B) look good! Surely that’s good enough for my needs, isn’t it?! This may also be the perfect time to find a watch that doesn’t require software updates, as non-smart watches might begin to come down in price. Technology tends to look outdated so quickly – think of those first LED watches in the 80s! – while a classic watch style is timeless (excuse the pun!).

Tips for working from home - Creating a timetable

Here are some things to bear in mind:

  • Tradition is key 

Traditional brands of watches such as Tissot, Raymond Weil, and Rotary never go out of style and stores such as Watches of Switzerland have all the classics. When I looked on the website I was like a kid in a candy store! These brands have lingered for a reason and, if you are looking for a watch to mark a special occasion, a graduation or a wedding, going for one of these ‘Heirloom’ brands will always be a smart move.

  • Activity

This is one of the most key elements of choosing a watch. There is no point whatsoever in buying a Rolex if you are someone who is always active; climbing mountains, riding bikes, sailing etc. Imagine the terror when your prized possession cracks (literally) under the pressure of such a lifestyle. While my lifestyle is pretty-much the opposite (!) if you frequently enjoy activities like these, you can find a watch that suits them, and also looks good when you’re in a business situation.

  • Classic materials

A watch made from platinum, titanium or rose gold, end across all the right messages as these materials are more expensive, classic and stylish. But you don’t have to spend more just for the sheer hell of it and I love leather and canvas straps just as much. Investing in these sorts of materials doesn’t come without their benefits; they are ultimately so much stronger too, lasting longer in more challenging conditions.

  • Style and fashion

Sometimes a watch will tick (argh, I just can’t help the puns!) all the right boxes but in the end, it simply doesn’t suit your wrist, existing jewellery essentials or taste. It may be too flash for your appearance (this is an instant reaction) but you need to think about the comfort too. Trying on a number of styles before you buy is so important and will give you the best idea of what to invest if you’re on the fence about a number of styles.

  • Ignore ‘jewels’ inside the watch

These are often promoted by the people selling expensive watches but I’ve found out that really the ‘jewels’ are of little importance. They are worth only a few pennies and add no real value to the watch. The exact number required for a watch depends on the design of the watch but the average mechanical watch needs about 17. They are just used as low friction pivots for parts of the mechanism rather than having any value.

I’d love to be given a watch for my upcoming birthday but I think I’d rather have the freedom to choose my own style and materials so that I can be sure that it will work with my existing wardrobe. I’m really not very flashy and I think that a smaller style would be better for me – after all, I’m only using it to keep track of my schedule so that I can finish tasks on time and so that I know when to stop work make the most of my evenings!

Here are some of my tips for creating a timetable that works:

  • Include some ‘me time’ in your schedule so that you don’t start working from the minute you get up. You need this time to ease into the day and get yourself ready for the work ahead.
  • Be sure to include breaks – especially lunch – because you can work on an empty stomach and you need to take your eyes off you work for a while so that you don’t end up tired and strained – see my article on tea breaks if you need more reasons why you should take a break!
  • I’ve added in a hour of personal development each day. You would be given this time in an office-based job, so why not allow yourself time to develop your skills or knowledge while you’re working from home too? I watch industry videos on YouTube and like to visit for business and life tips.
  • Over-estimate the amount of time it will take you to complete a task, because work always over-runs and takes longer that you think, so by adding a ‘buffer’ of half an hour will mean that you’re not always chasing time to ‘catch up’ but will sometimes finish a task ahead of time. If you do, you’re free to do some social fiddling on twitter – you have my permission!
  • Don’t keep your email open all day and respond to messages as soon as they arrive. Instead, give yourself an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon dedicated to emails only. This way you’ll stay on task while working during the day, without interruptions.
  • Allocate time for finishing off projects at the end of the day, to plan your next day’s work, or even just for reading so that you stay in touch with what’s going on in the world or in your industry – you’ll find yourself being even more motivated for the next day of work.

Do you have anything to add to my list? What do you include in your work-from-home timetable? Please leave me a comment below 🙂


The importance of tea breaks

Or coffee breaks. Or just a water break. What’s important is actually taking a break from whatever you’re doing and giving yourself a little breathing space. This time last year, I remember rushing through my work at break-neck speed, barely stopping to have a bite to eat at lunch (okay, who are we kidding? I ate at my keyboard). I felt crazy-busy all the time yet I never seemed to be getting anywhere with my work. It was go-go-go from the minute I started work at 7am and I stared at that computer screen non-stop until 7pm when my husband prised my fingers away from the keyboard.

In truth, I didn’t really want to stop. I was kind of enjoying being so busy and I had so much to do yet so little time to do it in. Or so I thought. I soon began to realise that I was swimming against the current. Running through treacle. Whatever you want to call it, I was getting nowhere fast. Not only was I not being totally productive, but I also was dehydrated, which made me more hungry and when I stuffed my face with food I felt sluggish. Which of course I tried to fight against because I was soooo busy. But I managed to change one part of my routine and things improved overnight. What was it? Break time!the importance of taking a break-1

Enjoying a cup of tea in my favourite mug – from LetsGoHme

Children get break time at school and at work employment regulations stipulate that we must have 20 minutes of uninterrupted rest every 6 hours. This is because teachers and employers know that concentrating on one activity for a prolonged period of time will addle your brain and make you less productive. When I think back to the time when I was rushing head-first into my work without a pause to refresh, I can honestly say that if you’d asked me what I’d achieved that day, the answer would have been ‘errrm, I don’t really know…’ because really I wasn’t getting anything significant done in all those hours of work.

So now I’ve divided up my work into ‘sessions’ all of which are followed by a tea break, coffee break or lunch break. I’ll write for a couple of hours, then I’ll take a break. And that means getting up from the computer, spending time making a drink and sitting down to enjoy it rather than taking it back to my desk. There are many reasons why breaks are important and here’s a few that I can think of:

Eyes: It’s important for your eyes to focus on something different. If you’re staring at a screen all day, or working on intricate details of a craft or design, it would be sensible to spend some time looking into the distance to allow your eyes times to refocus and prevent fatigue or eye strain. HSE advises regular breaks for workers who use Display Screen Equipment (DSE) and just because I’m working for myself doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t impose the same rules – after all, I’m the most important employee (not to mention the only employee!) I have 😉

Time to think: When you’re rushing from one task to the next, do you ever really get the chance to actually think? I find that I get better ideas when I allow myself quiet time and new ideas start to flow more easily over a cup of coffee. Richard Branson agrees that it gives you ‘a moment to stop and think without distraction’, so if it’s good enough for Branson, it’s good enough for me!

It rehydrates you: Everyone knows that a hydrated brain is an active brain and on the flip-side, being dehydrated makes it harder to concentrate and you’ll be more prone to headaches. I just read a study that investigated whether water deprivation had an effect on reaction times and mental performance of volunteers. The study found that dehydrated subjects were more sluggish, tired and took significantly more effort to concentrate compared with when they were adequately hydrated. So having a drink (even if it’s just water) while you take a break will make you more productive than if you were to use that break time working.

 the importance of taking a break-3Enjoying a caffeine boost with a cup of Pact coffee – this one tastes like Earl Grey and Garibaldi biscuits!

If you’re going to take a break, why not make it into a ritual that you enjoy and look forward to? I even used to rush making my tea, so I’d pour the kettle too quickly and boiling water would splash out of the sides of the lid. Whereas I now enjoy the sound of a kettle being s-l-o-w-l-y poured into a cup, in the same way that I used to enjoy the glug-glug-glug of wine being poured into a glass. Far from the quick-stir-with-a-spoon-and-whip-the-teabag-out method of tea-making that I used to favour, I now take pleasure from letting the tea infuse for the suggested amount of time and enjoying a full-flavoured cuppa! Of course, there’s nothing better than percolating coffee, with the ritual of grinding the coffee beans, hearing the water come to the boil, watching the steam puffing out and seeing the coffee blip away. The rich aroma and the bubbling sounds makes me feel instantly more relaxed and ready to rest.

I usually take my coffee or tea outside with me so that I’m far enough away from distractions and technology to give my brain time to reset itself. Again, it’s an instantly relaxing ritual to rest outside because you can feel the change in temperature, smell flowers and grass (or in my case, the herb garden) and can hear birds chirping or bees buzzing. It’s stimulating these senses that will help you to relax and refocus. The rest (and the drink!) will help you to be even more productive when you get back to work – so if you want to work better, TAKE A BREAK!


Why I started my blog & how I ended up in the Cosmo Blog Awards!

What happens when your dreams come true? I’m not sure, but I think that’s kind of how I’m feeling about being a finalist in the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards.

As a teenager I remember spending my pocket money on glittery Spectacular nail polish and Cosmopolitan magazine, and spending hours reading it from cover to cover. It’s amazing how much effort teenagers will put into reading when it’s not a school assignment, isn’t it?! I’ve grown up reading this publication for the last 17 years and (as it is so often described by countless women around the country), Cosmo was my bible.

Photos of the Cosmo Blog Awards article that I snapped on my phone back in the Spring when I was considering entering!

I dreamed of one day being a journalist, having my work published and my articles being read by girls like me. And now, thanks to all the votes that my lovely friends, family and super-kind readers submitted for me, my Cosmopolitan heroes are actually reading MY work! And I just can’t quite believe it. It’s actually unreal. Surreal. And if I think about it too much, it gives me a total writers block and I can’t finish my…

Over the years I’ve found countless reasons to continue working on my blog and to try to make writing my full-time job, but there was only one reason why I started the blog: I wanted to get better at writing. Just like an artist draws in their sketchbook and as a photographer snaps photos every day, I wanted this to be a place where I could practice writing and try to get better at it. I had no real concept that people could read my writing and I was kind of doing it just for me. It was my online sketchbook of ideas, photos and articles, and I’m still using it in pretty-much the same away. Practice makes perfect, after all. And I’m sure I’ll get there one day 😉

What happened when I heard I’d been shortlisted!

So after exercising my writing muscle almost daily on the blog, I started to get a little better (well, it couldn’t get much worse! – don’t just take my word for it – my early articles are all there in the blog archives for all to see, eek!), and readers started to keep coming back for more. And I’m so pleased that you did because it spurred me on, and every kind comment lifted my heart. I’m definitely still learning from every post I write and I still cringe at articles that I published only last year. And my photos still leave a lot to be desired (today’s are phone photos, sorry about the quality). Of course, I’m my own worst critic and despite a few articles that make me smile, I’m still not sure I’m doing it 100% right, but who can ever really claim that anyway?! Most importantly, I’ve been writing every day (or sometimes twice a day when I’m feeling particularly motivated!) and it’s really become my passion. The blog is as much a part of me and I am of it, so I can’t imagine my life without it. What on earth would I do with my time if I couldn’t write?! Writing for a magazine is my big dream and I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but hey, I’m SO enjoying the journey!

Actually, writing that last sentence has just made me realised that perhaps I already AM a published magazine writer? Albeit on my own blog. But the point is that there are many fabulous ladies out there who actually ARE reading my articles every day and seem to be enjoying my work. It’s thanks to them that I’ve even got a place at the Blog Awards and that I have this opportunity for Cosmopolitan to check out my writing. I am forever in your debt and if you ever need anything from me, just ask and I will be happy to help you out. And please keep coming back to see me and carry on telling me what you think of my writing, because your feedback is what’s most important to me.

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