Posts tagged ‘blog every day in November’

November 30, 2013

The End: #BEDN 30

Well, it’s the last day of ‘Blog Every Day in November’ and time for a few reflections. Clearly I’ve not blogged every day – it’s a real struggle for me to manage that – but I’ve written slightly more frequently than usual. And that’s been reflected in my statistics, which has been a really pleasant result.

Overwhelmingly, BEDN has been a blogging learning curve for me. I’ve really enjoyed writing a post from a prompt, meeting new bloggers and reading new blogs and trying to find the time to write more often. I’ve realised that I really need to make an editorial calendar (as recommended by Elizabeth at Rosalilium, founder of BEDN) in order to keep on track.

The first time I missed a day, I was quite anxious, thinking that I’d somehow ‘failed’ the challenge, but I came to realise that I should just be enjoying the process when I could. One of my favourite mantras comes from my lovely friend Jo – ‘Don’t use your plans as a stick to beat yourself with’ – and, remembering this helped when I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. And then came my usual up and down feeling about my blog anyway; the feelings that make me question the future of my blog. They’re usually enough for me to go quiet for a few days, before making the inevitable decision to stick with it!

Having spent a bit of time thinking about an editorial calendar, I’ve then spent some time thinking about content. As ‘Margot & Barbara’ has such a variety of content, it can often feel a bit disjointed, and I was wondering if a regular schedule of content might help that. One thing I’ve decided to do is bring back my ‘Three Good Things’ post for Wednesdays and then find a regular time for blogging each week, which should help me to balance that and the rest of my life.

I’m also going to tidy up my categories, so I have fewer, more coherent categories that should hopefully clearly show both the ‘Margot’ and ‘Barbara’ sides of the blog, and perhaps try my hand at a few more fashion and beauty posts, as I’ve enjoyed the few that I’ve done previously. I especially like the challenge of writing fashion and beauty posts that are both luxe and green at the same time, which is a win-win for this blog!

So, lots to do, changes to make, and hopefully a fresher, new and improved Margot & Barbara. Huge thanks to the inspiring Elizabeth at Rosalilium for creating ‘Blog Every Day in November’, it’s been a really fun challenge. I’d definitely try it again.

November 22, 2013

What’s in my Wardrobe? #BEDN 22

I missed the ‘fashion’ prompt for Blog Every Day in November, but I thought I’d return to it, even though I’m late! Goodness knows what subject I’m missing today, but it’ll all work out one way or another. Anyway, here goes.

Last week, I was listening to a podcast about simplifying your life. It’s a subject that I return to often, and the podcast, about a simple capsule wardrobe, promised to be interesting. After a few minutes, the woman who was speaking on the subject – who was basically offering instruction – mentioned how many pairs of shoes she had in this ‘capsule’ wardrobe.  Forty pairs. Forty… Needless to say, I rather took offence at this and, after a little rant about how the hell she was supposed to lecture anyone on simplicity owning forty pairs of shoes (and eighty items of ‘workout gear’, apparently) I stopped listening.

My shoe list?

  1. Red Converse All Stars. Worn almost daily.
  2. Sam Edelman sandals for the summer.
  3. One ancient pair of Office sandals, much loved, falling apart and destined for the bin, as I don’t think I can mend them again.
  4. One much loved and oft-repaired pair of knee-length boots for the winter
  5. One pair of smelly, yet comfortable trail running shoes. I should probably replace these, as I think much of the support in them has been all compressed over time.
  6. My new walking boots.
  7. One pair of red, painfully expensive Bottega Veneta intreccio flats. Cared for as though they were my third child. Worth every penny.
Favourite red shoes.

Favourite red shoes and black trousers.

Take that, simplicity lady! I will admit though, I have a handful of other pairs of designer shoes that I keep in storage for my daughter. I was planning to sell them off, but second-hand shoes don’t sell well, even those as barely worn and well looked after as mine. So, we’ll see if she ever wants them…

These Louboutins are in storage for my girl!

These Louboutins are in storage for my girl!

When it comes to clothing and fashion, I think I’m an odd combination. I love fashion, utterly adore clothes and yet I have a tiny wardrobe. I was reading yet another article about capsule wardrobes recently (I’m on a bit of a roll with this subject) and the author stated that you should take your ten favourite pieces to use as a basis. In all honesty, I think I’d struggle to come up with ten things that I own that I really love.

Let’s see…

  1. Arcteryx softshell jacket. A gift from my lovely boyfriend. Perfect outdoor gear. Not exactly on-trend but cut really flatteringly around the waist and hips unlike so much outdoor gear.
  2. French Connection skinny jeans. Recently repaired. I love these, and I can’t find a replacement pair. Fingers crossed that they make some similar ones soon. Often skinny jeans are cut so low the world can see your underwear when you sit down. Not so with these.
  3. Reiss sequin-backed long sleeved grey top.  Not really everyday wear, but perfect to put with jeans to make me feel dressed up yet comfortable. Gorgeous.
  4. Long sleeved navy blue dress. Also from Reiss. The kind of dress that works equally well with my red flats in the summer as my long boots in the winter. Plus, it has pockets. Dresses with pockets are awesome.
  5. Whistles stripy linen top. Worn all summer, now full of holes. I have no idea where the holes have come from, but I’ve sewn one of them up twice now. Destined for the bin. Sad…
  6. Black Calvin Klein jersey wrap-around dressing gown and matching trousers. Because being comfortable at home is very important. I quote often get changed into these when I come home after work, it helps me feel as though I’m in a place to relax. Plus, feeling a tiny bit put-together whilst curling up on the sofa watching a film and eating chocolate is rather nice. Obviously the elasticated waist helps with this too! Ha…
  7. Ancient black biker-style jacket from Next. Cost per wear must be utterly nothing now. It’s falling to bits but I like it so much.
  8. Black slim capri trousers from Gap. Also ancient. Worn with red Bottega Veneta flats to fool myself that I’m gamine in an Audrey Heburn-like way. I’m laughing out loud as I write that. I’m about as gamine as a hippo. Still, they feel flattering, and go with lots of other things. I think they’re in dire need of replacement though as they’re rather a faded black now.
  9. My underwear. I have a thing about matching underwear, and I know I’m cheating a bit here as it’s not one item, and feels more of a philosophy than is practical, but I feel like I’m a properly organised grown up if I can get my underwear to match everyday. This includes socks, which more often than not I fail at.
  10. My brand-spanking new Whistles jumper, which is a beautiful blue with black lace cutouts.
  11. Ooh, look, I’m on eleven! My, also-new, peter-pan collared top from Hobbs. Black, with a white collar, it goes well with both jeans and black trousers.
  12. Old green belted mac from Zara. Torn in a handful of places and in need of a bit of TLC. I love it, but I think it’s time might be up.
  13. Yup. That’s it…
Whistles navy jumper with black lace cutouts.

Look at my giant hand! New Whistles jumper.

So. I can get to twelve things, if I include my nightwear, my underwear and a top that I’m about to throw away.. And, really and truly, that’s about all that’s in my wardrobe, save a couple of vests, dresses and jumpers, a couple of old things that I use for working on the allotment and more specialist stuff like running or horse riding stuff.  There are a handful of reasons behind my tiny wardrobe, which I think I’ll return to later in the month.

But for now, I’d love to know what your favourite pieces of clothing are…

November 21, 2013

World Television Day: BEDN #21

It’s World Television Day! Hurray for that. I love telly. I don’t have one though. My dad, upon hearing this news, was aghast. He told me I wasn’t being fair to my kids. What Dad didn’t consider was that with Netflix, the various online catch-up channel options and the DVD player on my laptop, we don’t actually need a TV in order to watch programmes or films. Plus, y’know, I don’t let them watch it all the time, because they will get square eyes. That’s definitely true, because my mum told me…

I remember one of my friends at high school didn’t have a TV and it was never really an issue because in their huge, bustling family life there was always so much happening. Her father eventually capitulated in order to watch an Olympic Games (I dare not try to remember which), but I seem to remember the TV was on loan and went back to the shop the minute the Closing Ceremony was over. Life then went back to its usual busy reality and I don’t really think the telly wasn’t missed. TV or not, I was always a bit envious of my lovely friend and her big, yet close-knit family. And the fact she had a proper clothing allowance and so was able to go shopping without her mum from a much younger age than I was! Anyway…

TV for me these days is a bit of a hit and miss affair. I have several shows that I adore, but rarely watch a whole series from beginning to end. I get easily bored, and life often gets in the way of the TV schedule, and then I forget to do the whole on-demand thing in time. I even missed the start of the new series of Borgen. (I’m definitely going to catch up with it though, so no spoilers!) And I’m probably the only person I know who still references episodes of Friends like they’ve just happened. Seriously. From the window of our new flat I can see a woman in another house regularly hanging out of a window to smoke, and the other day I said that we were watching her as though she was Ugly Naked Guy. See? Never grows old…

Mind you, neither will The Good Life, and that ended roughly around the same time I was born. Other series I’ve seen from start to finish are an eclectic bunch that includes The West Wing, Buffy (but not Angel, for some reason) and The Darling Buds of May…Hmm. An odd collection there.  I have a lot of fondness for The Big Bang Theory and How I met Your Mother too, but I’m not chasing every episode down. I love a good crime drama and am really looking forward to watching David Suchet bring Poirot to a close later this year. Nothing beats a bit of Sunday night Agatha Christie in the winter evenings. A gentle murder mystery after a giant roast dinner feels like a terribly British way to spend an evening.

The one type of TV show I don’t really watch is reality TV. It means that I have to abandon Twitter on a Saturday night because my entire time line is filled up with stuff I don’t understand. I’m not utterly against reality TV, I’ll admit I watched the first series of Big Brother as much as the rest of the world did. But I just know that I only have one life, and so if I’m going to spend some time of it in front of the telly, then I’d rather be watching a great film, well-crafted drama, or a teenage vampire slayer save the world, than cringing on behalf of some misguided individual who thinks they can sing and is basically being encouraged to make a fool of themselves in front of millions. It’s all just a bit too much schadenfreude for me.

The list of programmes that (according to the rest of the world) I should have watched is legion. Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead. I only managed a handful of episodes of The Wire and I never even watched The Sopranos. One day, when I’m really old, poorly or bored, I shall hope to come across some vintage channel that will allow me to make up for this sacrilege. Until then though, I shall carry on referencing Friends as though it’s box-fresh, missing most of the great programmes, and watching the odd episode of comedy. Life’s too short to spend it all watching telly, as much as I love it…

November 19, 2013

Newsflash: BEDN #19

Today I shall be at a celebration event at which John Craven (of Newsround and latterly, Countryfile fame) will be presenting awards to amazing people who have been volunteers for a range of ‘Access to Nature’ environmental projects. There will be tears as these fabulous folk get a bit of well-deserved recognition and I’ve heard there will be cake too! Sometimes, I just love my job.

From childhood, John Craven has been a bit of a hero of mine, I was a regular Newsround watcher from a young age. As long term host of Countryfile, he’s on his way to ‘National Treasure’ status, and I’m very much hoping that I get the chance to say hello to him today.

It’s not the first time I’ve met one of my heroes. I met Mark Todd (Olympic gold medal winning three-day eventer, show-jumper and all round equestrian superstar) many years ago and he was just as I’d imagined and a thoroughly nice man.

It’s always a bit of a risk though, isn’t it? Meeting someone you’ve admired can leave you feeling a bit underwhelmed, or even make you realise they’re not the person you thought they’d be.

Still, I’m pretty confident that John Craven will be as lovely as he appears on TV and it’s going to be a great day.

Have you met any of your heroes? Or anyone famous? What where they like? I’d love to know!

November 16, 2013

Hobbies: BEDN #16

It’s Hobbies Day on #BEDN! Yay! Or, perhaps boo…

You see, for a scanner, everything is interesting. And therefore everything is potentially a hobby. On a great day, that can make you feel like you’re on top of the world but on a bad day it’s just impossibly frustrating as the knowledge that you’ve only got one life and are simply not going to get the chance to try everything that takes your fancy, never mind actually get any good at tennis, piano-playing, photography (or whatever subject is this week’s passion) is all too real.

To deal with my endless interests, I’ve always written plans, annual lists of what I want out of my life. When moving house the other day, I came across a handful of my notebooks and had a quick read through.

They made for depressing reading. Year after year, I’d written the same goals about my hobbies, about things I wanted to try or improve. Yet for some reason, I’ve never achieved many of these goals. I suppose there are many potential reasons for this. It could be a genuine lack of time or money. It could have been for reasons outside my control. But in honesty I think there are two main issues.

One – that I have far too many goals for my hobbies without any sense of prioritisation. Without knowing where to start I procrastinate endlessly, because the fear of choosing one thing over another feels like taking a one-way road and cutting other routes off forever. This is clearly not true, I can change my mind whenever I like!

Two – that I need to do the things I want to do, not the things I think I should want to do.

Which means allowing myself to just enjoy doing something for fun not purely for a challenge or to improve. It means going out horse riding just to enjoy a hack around the countryside instead of to improve my half pass. It means cycling to spend time with my boyfriend instead of purely to increase my distance. It means a slow walk in the woods instead of a hike around The Three Peaks. It means reading a novel for pure enjoyment and escapism instead of picking a ‘must-read’ improving classic. Sometimes, I need to slow down, and allow a hobby to be just that – something I do for fun!

And I need to recognise when, really, I don’t want to do something. For example, I’ve written ‘run a marathon’ on one of my wish lists for a few years in a row. Do I want to run a marathon? No. I do not. But I’ve written it because I think I should want to run a marathon. Because I’m a runner (or have been, at least) and that’s what runners do. They run marathons. But I’m bring honest with you and myself here – I never, ever want to run a marathon. A few miles of running around the local woods will do me just fine, thank you.

And, if I stop turning every hobby into a challenge of one kind or another, then I’ll probably end up doing more anyway because it takes the self-imposed pressure off.

I’m going to ride my new bike this week. And do you know, the highlight will be the grin that my new pink bar tape gives me, not the distance I cover. Because hobbies should be fun and I’ll do well to remember that…

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November 14, 2013

Workspace: BEDN #14

I’m really fortunate to have a great employer, one who understands that life is complicated and flexibility is key to maintaining a happy workforce. I’m also lucky in that I really like my job. I’ve made many of my closest friends at work, who have seen me through highs and lows and been there through many of the really important moments in my life.

One of the ways in which my employment is flexible is that I’m allowed to work from home, which means that I get to stay tucked up in our cosy new flat instead of trudging into the office. On those days, though I miss the office chat, I do get to spend my day surrounded by the pretty views from the windows.

Autumnal trees

I find myself peering out the window staring at the trees on a daily basis. There are squirrels playing, little blue tits dancing along branches and magpies pinching insects. And that’s before I’ve even started looking at the little green over the road, with dog walkers, tai chi practitioners, wedding parties coming out of the church. It’s better than telly. Which is good, because we don’t have a telly…

November 12, 2013

A Month without Supermarkets Update: BEDN #12

So, we’re 12 days into November and I thought I’d give you a bit of an update about how we’re getting on without supermarkets. We’ve had some notable successes and failures over the past few days, which have provided us with much food for thought (no pun intended!) and set us on course for what comes next.

Here’s what I’ve learnt:

  • Organisation is key to living without supermarkets. On the couple of occasions that we’ve failed, it’s because of a lack of organisation.  Mostly discovering that we’ve run out of milk. Next plan – freeze some milk. Supermarkets are often the only place open on the occasions when you discover that you’ve run out of something vital, and sadly we don’t have a local corner shop that would fill the need for somewhere at short notice, or late at night.
  • Vegetable boxes are great; we’ve really enjoyed using ours. BUT – in order to make the most of them, we’ve needed to be pretty organised. Eating the vegetables in some kind of order of their longevity, rather than leaving the salad until it’s a wilting, soggy mess is important, and has helped us minimise waste.
  • To make sure that you can cook genuinely great food from a veg box, you need a decent stock of the other stuff – herbs, spices, carbohydrates, dairy, protein. In short, everything else. Otherwise you find yourself going “Oh, we’ve got a great squash in the veg box, we could make curry/risotto/soup”, only to discover that you lack everything but squash…
  • Also, getting a veg box rather turns food planning on its head a bit. Often, we might decide to cook something because we’ve seen a recipe or have a hunger for a particular thing. Getting a veg box means that you cook with what you’re sent, not with what you’ve decided to buy from the supermarket. With Abel and Cole, we’re able to see a few days in advance what we’re getting, which means the cookbooks come out, and I have a lovely time planning what to do with what we’re having delivered.

Cookbooks

  • Because part of our hope for this project was to reduce waste, we’re making a lot more use of the freezer too; we’ve made breadcrumbs from stale bread, cooked in bulk, and frozen bananas to make smoothies.
  • There’s a lot less packaging waste from this kind of shopping, simply because there’s a heck of a lot less plastic. It wasn’t part of the original plan, but it’s now something we’re actively seeking to do.
  • We will never be able to do a one-stop-shop at anywhere but a supermarket – not even the central market in Leeds, which is wonderful, stocks everything we’d like. I think we’ve pretty much accepted this, and decided that because the time spent on food shopping in local shops or markets is a joy, rather than a chore, that helps to make up for it taking more time.
  • Having said that, time is precious and short supply here. So, if you’re as busy as us, I recommend that once you’ve found your perfect butcher/baker/cheesemonger, it’s a good idea to stick with them and build some kind of routine, in order to reduce the amount of time you spend on food shopping, even though it is fun! A great case in point is the Leeds Bread Co-op . We’ve just signed up to a regular order, that we will collect every Wednesday, hopefully it will help us stay a bit more organised (see point one!) and the bread is splendid.

Overall, the whole project is going really well. It’s making us appreciate our food more, think about what we’re buying and how we’re cooking it. We’re wasting less food, using less plastic, and really enjoying ourselves in the process. We’ll be continuing with this beyond the month of November, that’s for sure. And even if we do end up buying last-minute milk from a supermarket, if the overwhelming majority of our food comes from elsewhere, then I think we’ll still consider this to be a great success…

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November 10, 2013

Something Different: BEDN #10

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I’ve never had poetry on the blog before. This excerpt (from ‘A Few Figs from Thistles’ by Edna St Vincent Millay) was letterpressed by one of my fellow students on the West Yorkshire Print Workshop course and given to me.

Not only is it beautiful, I think it sums up my life rather well…

November 9, 2013

Blog Chat: BEDN #9

Today’s blog post is about the subject of blogging itself. I’ve had a day off from #BEDN because yesterday was a bit of a crazy day. If I’d done a post on the prompted subject, which was ‘A Day in the Life’ you’d probably just have needed a lie down after living vicariously through my dashing around.

Anyway, after a day off it was time to get back in the ‘Blog Every Day in November‘ zone, and I did that by reading one of my favourite blogs, Espresso Coco. On there, Dave had written his post using questions from Janet (who writes a blog that I’ve just discovered because of #BEDN) and so I was cheeky and asked if I could use them too. And because they’re clearly both fabulous, they said yes.

So, here we go…

How and when did you decide to start blogging? Um. I have utterly no idea why I started blogging, if I’m honest. Other than for some misguided feeling that the world needed to know what was going on in my head, perhaps? Seriously, I think it was more that I wanted to write, and couldn’t get my head around the idea of being a ‘writer’ (still can’t) and so I thought that starting a blog would be a good way to have a go at writing about things that I was interested in, in a safe and accessible way.

I wrote a blog called ‘Daisy, Daisy’ on Typepad for a really brief period of time, which has now been mothballed because I lost heart with it. Then, after a while, I decided that I wanted to try again, and started ‘Margot and Barbara’ in May 2011. If you asked me now why I blog, it’s basically because I have to. I often go round in circles, loving and hating my blog with equal force. I’m always on the verge of quitting and always on the verge of self-hosting to make it more than a hobby; two completely opposing views about my blogging future. For now though, you’ll find me here, writing because I don’t know how to stop.

What’s the story behind your blog’s name? For those of you of a certain age, Margot and Barbara will be synonymous with The Good Life, and indeed, that’s where my blog name comes from. You can find out more about why I chose the name over on my About Me page. Really, it’s an odd name and I accept that. People often think that there are two people writing it, and if I ever get unsolicited spam emails about ‘working with your blog’ they’re always, but always, addressed to Margot.

On the plus side, many of my Leeds-based Twitter friends now call me ‘Babs’ and I love them for it.  For the record, my name is Elizabeth. You can call me Liz, if we’ve met and you’ve bought me a beer…

What’s the best post you’ve ever written? Dunno. You tell me? In terms of the number of hits it has received since it was published, it’s this post about equestrian influences in fashion. I’m clearly not a ‘fashion’ blogger though, despite my love of clothes, so it’s an unusual post for me. I might write more fashion posts, as I do love the subject. But I’d write from the perspective of a 37 year old woman with a strong belief in sustainability, small wardrobes of clothing, long sleeves and looking good on a budget, so not sure I’d have much of an audience! What do you think? The other things I’d quite like to write a bit more about (at least at the present time) are cycling and beauty. I appreciate that makes this blog a bit odd, but at least it’s honestly who I am. My favourite posts are those that feel true to me. When I feel as though I’ve been open with people, and it’s got a good response, then that’s a good post.

What are your favourite and least favourite things about blogging? Hmm. The worst things are probably trying to fit it into my life. With a full time job, two small kids, one very important lovely boyfriend (with a blog of his own!) family and friends to spend time with, an allotment, loads of hobbies and a to-do list as long as my arm, it’s always a juggling act to find the time for it. It’s partly why I sometimes struggle with blogging and decide to quit, only to return after a few days off, with yet another plan, post or series that I want to write. It’s like a bloody drug… I’m also trying to make more time for finding, reading and commenting on other blogs. Being part of the blogging community is important, yet because I don’t fit into an easy niche, I do sometimes feel a bit lonely.

The best thing about blogging, without question, is the people I’ve met. That, and finding a place where I can be just me. A place that I can talk about the myriad of different things that interest me, and generally find at least one other person on the whole planet who is interested too! I don’t have any great advice for would-be bloggers other than this: if you want to blog, then do. Find the things that you care about, write about them as often as you’d like, as well as you can. And above all, enjoy it…

November 7, 2013

10 Things: BEDN #7

Today, on BEDN, the blog post prompt was ‘Ten Things’. I’m pretty sure that I’m supposed to write a list. I’m a great list writer. At the start of every year, I write a list of plans and goals for the year, and then I review them each month to see if I’m on track to complete them or not. It usually works really well and there’s nothing I like better than being able to cross something off my list with a sense of achievement. On the year I turned 35, I planned to try 35 new things before I reached 36. It nearly worked too!

For various reasons, my list of goals for 2013 went somewhat awry. But, I’m not one to be defeated and  in the coming month I shall be spending a considerable amount of thought on what I’d like 2014 to look like. I’ll probably share those plans on here, because there’s nothing quite like telling the world your plans to make you want to stick to them!

But today, I’m turning this list making on its head a bit, because I want your help. On Sunday, my beloved girl turns seven and she’s getting her first iPod for her birthday. It might seem a bit extravagant but she loves music and dancing, and I know she’ll adore it and get lots of use out of it. Every time I buy her toys they only seem to be played with for a few days before they find themselves languishing, unused, with all the other stuff, so I decided that it was worth the expense to buy something I’m sure she’ll use for ages. I’m going through the settings making sure that I set the volume control so she can’t deafen herself, and most importantly, adding songs to it.

This is where you come in. What I’d really like to know is this: what ten songs should definitely be added to the playlist?

I’m looking for great, great music. The songs that you think everyone should hear. Nothing over sexualised or with swearing, obviously. But tell me what you’d add; classics, fun stuff, your favourite song in the whole world, whatever you think should be on there. I’ve already added some songs she’s asked for, and believe me when I tell you, we need a bit more quality music – especially because she’s getting a little speaker too, so we’ll all get to enjoy what she plays and I can only take so much Gangnam Style!

So, help me out? Add your song suggestions in the comments and lets see if we can make a ‘Top Ten Songs’ playlist for my birthday girl…