Saturday, 16 March 2019

It Begins With Sleep

Today marks the end of Sleep Awareness Week 2019 an initiative started by The Sleep Foundation to encourage us all to learn more about the importance of sleep. This years theme "Begin With Sleep" is all about highlighting the importance of good sleep health for individuals to achieve their goals and perform best in life.

For the past few years I have struggled quite a lot with sleep. As a teenager and young adult I could sleep for 10 hours straight no problem and always made sure I got at least 8 hours. But after I turned 22 it was like something just switched in my brain. Suddenly I found myself up at night with anxious thoughts, easily disturbed by noises and always waking up and feeling like I hadn't had enough sleep. As I have been suffering more with my chronic illness which causes me a lot of pain the problems I have with sleep have only got worse. This has lead me to try really hard to get a good nights sleep and I have managed to pick up a few tips and tricks that really do work the majority of the time.

I thought today would be the perfect time to share my tips and tricks along with my new favourite PJ's bought from Sancho's and made by People Tree. These are literally the best PJ's I have ever owned, they are so comfy and cosy and perfect for a good nights sleep.

I hope you enjoy my tips and tricks. I would love to hear yours in the comments below.

1. Stop Eating

My first tip would be to stop eating at least three hours before bed. Eating close to bed time means your digestive system is still having to work and break down food when you go to sleep. This can keep you up at night with indigestion and acid reflux. Sugary foods can also cause a surge in energy which is the last thing you need when winding down for bed. It's much better for your body to have a good break before sleep.

2. Switch Off

I try to switch off all screens by 9:30pm. My phone goes on do not disturb and I try to find something other than TV to do. I pick up my knitting or a magazine or a book and relax.

3. Take A Bath

This is one of my favourite things to do each night and really helps me to get in the right frame of mind for bedtime. This is also a great thing to do instead of looking at a screen. Take a book or a magazine in with you, fill the bath with bubbles and light some candles. Create a really relaxing atmosphere and let your body totally wind down for bed.

4. Put On PJs

Putting on my cosy PJs after my bath really signals to my body that it's time for bed. I get all snuggly and warm and cosy up ready for a good nights sleep.

5. Make It Cosy

For the best nights sleep experts suggest a cool dark room with cosy bedding. I will often leave my radiator off in the bedroom to keep it cool all the time. Sometimes I will open the window before my bath to fill the room with fresh cold air. I will then snuggle up in my cosy duvet and enjoy the comfort of my little nest.

6. Read

If you're still not feeling totally sleepy yet then cosy up with your pillows in bed and have a good read of something relaxing. Choose a good book to get into for half an hour. After a bit your eyes will start to droop and your body will be signalling it's time for sleep.

7. Yoga

If you're still not feeling like you can drift off just yet one thing I have tried before is bed yoga. This 10 minute sequence is super relaxing and the deep breathing at the end can really help with anxiety you might be feeling.

8. Write It Down

If you're in bed ready to sleep but your mind can't stay still it really does help to get it all down on paper. Keep a notebook by your bedside table and write down anything that's worrying you. Once you know it's written down and can be sorted tomorrow it will help you feel less anxious. Make yourself a promise that once it's down on paper that is where is will stay until tomorrow, you can't do anything about it now so just try to take it out of your mind.

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Friday, 8 March 2019

10 Women Who Inspire Me

Happy International Women's Day! This is one of my favourite days of the year as it gives us a chance to celebrate just how far we have come as women, all we've achieved and look to the future for what we can do next. I love reading about everything that is going on around the world in different organisations and by individuals to champion women's rights and lift years of oppression. 

To celebrate today I thought I would share with you 10 women who have inspired me. I love looking towards other women for inspiration and reading their stories just fires me up to keep writing my own. I hope you enjoy this post and I wish you a very happy International Women's Day! 

1. Coco Chanel 

"A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous."- Coco Chanel

Where would we be without Chanel?! Probably still wearing a corset every day yikes! Gabrielle Chanel is such an inspiration of mine. Starting from very humble roots she defied all expectations and became a world renowned fashion designer of what is now one of the most famous fashion houses in all the world. Chanel fought for a place in a world that told her she wasn't good enough because of the class she had been born into. 

She completely revolutionised women's fashion, getting rid of the restricting corseted fashion of the day and instead replacing it with beautiful elegant less restrictive clothing. Her style, elegance and sharp business acumen in a world dominated by male businessmen continues to inspire me today. 

2. Agatha Christie

“The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes. ” ― Agatha Christie

You'll know if you read my post yesterday just how much Christie's books have changed my life. Her writing is such an inspiration to me as a writer. Her intelligence, quick wit and unbelievable imagination continue to inspire my writing every day. She published her first Poirot novel at the age of 30 and then continued to publish over 70 books in her life time. 

Her enthusiasm for her craft and the use of inspiration that she found all around her from her archaeologist husbands digs to the medicines and poisons she learnt about during her time as at the pharmacy during the war, continue to inspire me as a writer. She has taught me that a story can be made from anything if one simply has the imagination to bring it to life.  

3. Audrey Hepburn

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others - Audrey Hepburn

My obsession with Audrey Hepburn has lasted a lifetime. It began as a child when I found a box of Audrey Hepburn films on video and I decided to watch Roman Holiday. It was love at first sight. Her beauty, her poise, her grace, her charm and her amazing talent as an actress had me straight away. As I grew older I began to learn more and more about the actress I had fallen in love with. After a very difficult childhood spent in occupied Holland during the second world war Audrey decided to follow her dream and become a professional ballet dancer. However a turn in her career lead to time on the stage, appearing in films as minor roles and then a sudden shot to stardom when she took on the lead in Roman Holiday

As a young girl I dreamed of becoming an actress just like Audrey. And it was not only her acting skills that inspired me. I loved to recreate her looks and even now so much of my style is influenced by her classic and elegant fashion sense. I even got myself a pixie cut at one point just like Audrey! I have also greatly admired the work she did in later life using her platform to highlight the plight of starving children. Hepburn worked for UNICEF doing all she could to help end poverty and starvation for children around the world. 

She is a style icon, humanitarian inspiration and her films still bring so much joy and pleasure to so many. She has been such an inspiration to me in my life as I have spent many years battling between my more glamorous side and my humanitarian side. As I was growing up it felt like I was either allowed to be glamorous or I was allowed to want to help the world and its people. I couldn't do both. Even now I find people judge me because I choose to wear make up and dresses as if that means I couldn't possibly care about anybody but myself. I presumed stupid and self obsessed. Audrey taught me that it is allowed to be fashion icon and a humanitarian. She inspires me everyday.

4. Jane Austen

"I wish, as well as everybody else to be perfectly happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way" - Jane Austen

As with Agatha Christie, if you read my post yesterday you will know how much Austen's writings, especially Pride and Prejudice, have influenced my own life. I love her books and have found so much solace and pleasure hiding in them from time to time. Jane taught me what a man ought to be and that waiting for the right one was never a bad thing.

I have been inspired by Jane Austen from the age of ten when I first read Pride and Prejudice. I loved the clever intricacies of the story, the amazing characters and the beautiful language. As I began to learn more about Austen over the years I fell in love with her writing even more.

She wasn't from a well off family and it is well documented that her family struggled. She had six brothers and a sister which meant money was tight and the best thing for her to do was to marry well. However, it is believed she refused many proposals including one from a rather wealthy man that could have changed her life completely. She was a strong believer in marrying for love and would not be pressured by society.

She was a women before her time choosing to have a career as a writer in a day when lady novelists were few and far between. She was forced to publish anonymously through her brother as at the time women could not sign contracts of their own. It was also seen as unseemly for women to be novelists as their primary roles were to be wives and mothers. But she defied all the odds, publishing four novels in her life time and two were published after her death. She is still over 200 years later one of the most popular authors of all time and her books have been translated into languages all over the world. Her strong and intelligent female characters have stood the test of time and continue to inspire my own romantic fiction writing today.

5. Michelle Obama

"No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half its citizens." - Michelle Obama

I fell in love with this woman only recently when I read her autobiography Becoming. If you haven't read it go out and get yourself a copy right now! Michelle is honestly one of the most inspiring women of our time. She came from very humble beginnings but proved to so many that anything is possible. She defied expectations attending Princeton University where she spent most of her time very much in the minority as a young black woman. She then went on to study at Harvard Law School and began her career as a lawyer in a world dominated by white, privileged men.

Over the years she decided to change career and instead focus a lot of her attention on public services before becoming the first lady of the USA. After moving into the White House she did not lose any of her enthusiasm for changing the world around her. She devoted herself to projects using her own platform to help make change for so many.

She is an incredibly intelligent, hard working and talented woman who has never let her gender or race determine who she could be and what she could do. She continues to fight for the rights of women all over the globe and is an inspiration to so many young women.

6. Livia Firth

"We (consumers) have the power...we are in charge" - Livia Firth 

I have been following Livia Firth's amazing work since I realised just how important sustainable fashion is to our world. Married to a very famous male actor, she hasn't let that take anything away from who she is and instead has chosen to use her platform as his wife for good. She is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of EcoAge as well as the founder of the Green Carpet Challenge an initiative that encourages celebrities to wear sustainable fashion on the red carpet. She spearheads multiple campaigns for environmental and social justice as well as being a UN Leader of Change.

As an advocate and keen campaigner for environmental and social justice myself I find her such an inspiration. Her dedication to changing the world through how we wear and view fashion is making such an impact on so many. She continues to inspire me and this blog every day.

7. Amal Clooney

"If you're a woman lying on the beach in the Maldives, you might want to know that a kilometre away, another woman is being flogged. And you might want to find your own way to protest that." - Amal Clooney

As I mentioned before something I have struggled with all my life is the idea pressed upon me that a woman cannot be both beautiful and change the world. Amal Clooney proves this wrong. As a top human rights lawyer and one of the most stylish and glamorous women in the world she is such an inspiration to me. She has made huge strides in her career as a human rights lawyer, taking on many major cases and helping to change the world. In a career that is normally dominated by white privileged males it is so inspiring to see a woman take centre stage.

Her intelligence, commitment to her career and fabulous sense of style continues to inspire me and reminds me that a woman can be both kick ass and glamourous.

8. Corrie ten Boom

"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." - Corrie ten Boom

I first learnt about Corrie ten Boom when I was in school in a religious studies lesson and I found her story completely captivating. Corrie ten Boom was a dutch watch maker who during the dutch occupation in world war two helped many jewish dutch escape the holocaust by hiding them in her home. As a Christian she inspires me and my faith. Her unbelievable courage and trust in God during a time of such fear knowing that at any moment they could be caught. This courage and trust continued after the Gastapo arrested her and her whole family sending them to a concentration camp. Luckily Corrie survived and shared her famous story in the book The Hiding Place. She went on to write many more books about her Christian faith and they make for very inspiring reading. I hope one day to write books full of amazing testimonies like hers.

As  Christian I find her story utterly captivating and inspiring. She was such a brave woman who knew what was right and decided to fight for it.

9. Baroness Helena Kennedy

I recently came across Helena Kennedy when I read her latest book Eve Was Shamed and I was completely blown away by her work. Helena trained to become a barrister in a time when women were few and far between. She defied all the odds and although was repeatedly met with sexism in a heavily white privileged male dominated career, she has managed to help implement change for other women to step into the role of barrister.

She also campaigns heavily for the rights of women and her latest book Eve Was Shamed highlights just how much our legal system fails women. We as women are constantly fighting the battle everyday for our right to be seen as equals and Helena's work has been vital in pushing change within the legal system so that women can be treated as people not less than men.

Her book was so inspiring to me and really encouraged me to keep fighting for the rights of women around the world. If you haven't read it I really suggest you do!

10. Katherine Johnson

"Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing. Sometimes they have more imagination than men." - Katherine Johnson 

Being so totally hopeless as maths and science it seems strange I would choose a mathematician in my list of 10 women who have inspired me. But the fact is she really has inspired me! Katherine Johnson is an amazing woman and I am so glad I got to learn about her story.

Katherine Johnson was an African-American woman living in Virginia during a time when women, let alone black women, were not seen as anymore than wives and mothers. But with her bright mathematicians brain she managed to defy all the odds and got a job at NASA. She was repeatedly faced with racism and sexism but continued to pursue her passion and what she knew to be her calling. She proved her place by being instrumental in the success of the first and second U.S manned flights into space. Without her maths it never would have worked.

She turned 100 last summer and a few years ago was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her determination to fight for her place in a world that told her she had no business to be there is such an inspiration to me. She was an amazing woman with unbelievable mathematical skills who din't let anybody tell her who she could be and what she could do.

There you have it. 10 amazing women to inspire you today. Let me know your inspirational women down in the comments!
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Thursday, 7 March 2019

World Book Day 2019: Ten Books That Changed My Life

Happy World Book Day! This used to be one of my favourite days at school when I was little. I loved the chance to dress up as my favourite characters, talk about books all day and get a book token at the end! I think it's a shame we don't continue dressing up each year once we are adults really, maybe we should all suggest it to HR for next year hehe.

To celebrate today I thought it would be really interesting and fun to share 10 books that have changed my life. For me books will always be a magical place to disappear into with life changing possibilities with each turn of the page and I will never stop reading. I hope you enjoy having a little look at ten books that changed my life.

1. Mathilda by Roald Dahl

I thought I'd start at the beginning with a book I read as a little one. I absolutely loved the character of Mathilda. I was already a total book worm by that point but she encouraged me to keep discovering and experiencing the world through reading. The Trunchbull absolutely terrified me as she did most children I think but that only added to the excitement and magic of the story.

2. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

It may seem cliché but it's a cliché for a reason! Most of us have all been touched by the magical world of Harry Potter and I will always love diving back into these books. They were a place of safety to go to when things were tough. I had my first cry reading a book to Harry Potter and my first fit of giggles. They will always hold a special place in my heart.

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I first read Pride and Prejudice when I was 10 years old after picking up a copy at my church fair for only 50p. Little did I know that 50p would change my life and start a life long love affair with Jane Austen, Mr Darcy and classic literature. I was enraptured by the story and in total awe of Elizabeth Bennet's sparkling character. I loved the beauty of the language, the twist and turns of the plot and couldn't wait to read more. I've read the book countless times now and it is still a firm favourite.

4. Poirot by Agatha Christie

I couldn't pin point an exact book, although I do have some firm favourites (Death on the Nile anyone?) but Agatha Christies writing has always been a huge favourite of mine. I first read a Poirot novel in my early teens and fell in love with the excitement of the old fashioned crime novels. It inspired me to try writing my own crime novels and one holiday I wrote my first ever short novel. Christie's writing has continued to inspire me for years and years and I love discovering more and more about her.

5. Wedding Season by Katie Fforde

I read this when I was a teenager and absolutely fell in love with it. I was already quite enamoured by the genre of romantic fiction thanks to Jane Austen but I loved Katie Fforde's modern take on it. I read this book a few times over the years and it inspired me to start writing my own romantic fiction. This is now the genre which the majority of my stories are based in one of which got me a place to study Creative Writing at Oxford University. I'm not quite sure my writing would be the same without this book.

6. God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew

I read this book shortly after becoming a Christian. If you don't know about this book it is an autobiography of a man who smuggled bibles under the iron curtain during the 60s and 70s. It is the most amazing story of a man's unbelievable faith and a miracle working God. It is totally inspiring and changed the way I viewed my faith pushing me to trust my God and take risks in ways I never would have before. It is awe inspiring, beautiful and trust me when I say, you really won't be able to put it down.

7. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

This book! Ahhh I love it so much. It is a Christian fiction romance with so much power and beauty in each page it just blows you away. This book really did change my life, helping me to process some of the darker parts of my past and to know I belonged to a God who could redeem any story. It not only changed the way I viewed myself, my faith and my God but it also inspired me to write stories like this. I realised I could use my love of romantic fiction and writing to create beautiful novels that might help others as this one has helped me. It set me firmly on the path of Christian romantic fiction and pointed me towards my future as a writer.

8. To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World by Lucy Siegle

I read this book a few years ago when I started to learn that buying lots of cheap clothes was definitely not the right thing to be doing. It completely changed my life. Over night I decided to completely change my habits and become an advocate for slow, sustainable and ethical fashion. I changed the premise of my blog, I began researching more about the many problems and looking for solutions and I also started to campaign for the rights of those making my clothes. This book completely changed how I lived and has influenced all I've done since then. I am now about to do my third talk on ethical and sustainable fashion, I write for Tearfund's online magazine about sustainable and ethical fashion and I'm also working on a book on sustainable living. For me this book changed everything and helped me to become the person I am today.

9. Home For Good by Krish Kandiah

When I began studying social work at university when I was 20 it opened my eyes up to just how many people in this country struggle each and every day. There are so many terrible things that privileged people like myself have never had to go through. I soon realised I wanted to do as much as I could to help and one of the things I felt really called to was to foster. I told my boyfriend at the time (now my husband) and we decided it was something we might do one day in the future when we were married.

A few years later I read this fantastic book. The book is all about fostering and adopting from a Christian perspective and it totally blew me away. I had always thought about fostering because I felt I wanted to do it but this book made me realise it was something I should do as a Christian, a really important job that God needed us to do in this world. It pushed me to think about doing it now and over the last year we have started putting things into place to become foster parents. We are hoping to start this journey by the end of 2019 and I honestly don't think we'd be here without this book.

10. The Bible

Obviously couldn't have this post without the most important book in my life. It is my strength, my solace, my love, my everything. Just opening my flowery NIV up brings me peace and joy that I cannot describe. If I could only have one more book for the rest of my life this would be the one.

And there you have my ten books that changed my life! I would so love to hear yours in the comments so please do share and I wish you all a very happy World Book Day!
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