I spent the majority of my teens and twenties wearing pyjamas. It was part of the glamorous life of a girl with ME/CFS. Recently though, I've been more than making up for it and my wardrobe is packed to prove it. I've fallen in love with tea dresses and pretty shrugs, soft woollen jumpers and classic jeans.
The problem is I still have days where I feel like I have nothing to wear, despite having to cram the hangers onto the rail. Days when I look at all my clothes and wish I could get something new. Even though I know I've got too many clothes. I don't need this many clothes; but I still like buying new things.
I love the feel of a new top or dress, the buzz of wearing something for the first time, knowing people haven't seen me in it. The thing is, it can be hard to justify a shopping trip when my sagging clothes rail and wedged wardrobe doors say otherwise.
That's why I was excited when my WI organised a Swish.
Never heard of Swishing before? Me neither; but I found out it's when you swap your clothes, shoes and accessories with other people. It's a bit like free shopping and is a lot of fun.
The WI members all had to bring items that they no longer wanted - I had a dress and some tops that just weren't my style any more. I was happy to donate them to a new home.
In exchange for each item we took, we got a button as a token. This button could then be exchanged for a new piece of clothing. I hadn't really thought of what I would get, I was more focused on making some room in my own wardrobe; but I found some things that I fell in love with.
They were all things I would have bought myself if I'd seen them out shopping and now I can't wait to wear them.
I was amazed at how polite everybody was. I'd had visions of it being a cross between a car boot and a jumble sale - elbows at the ready; but everyone was really calm and lovely. They enjoyed browsing through the rails and each chose really individual pieces, things that I wouldn't have thought to pick up; but on them looked amazing. Everyone was really happy by the end.
I talked to my friend Lauren who has her own Frugal Blog. She had done a short talk at the beginning of the evening for us and given us some top tips on saving money. She had Swishing parties with her friends in their own homes. They were more informal; but just like our Swish, they each brought items they no longer wanted.
The best tip she told me was that if more than one person wanted an item, they each had to model it, then their friends decided who it suited. This way it avoided arguments and the piece of clothing went to the right home.
Have you ever swished? Is it something you'd want to do with your friends to help save money and get a fresh wardrobe?
So the idea was to clear space and I've now got the exact same number of clothes as I started; but I've got new things to wear and they didn't cost me a penny. Even better - I've already found four more items I want to Swish. I think I'll have to organise my WI to run another one very soon.
I'm not particularly green fingered, in fact I either over or under water plants; but I do love flower arranging. I know it's seen as an old lady thing; but I think it's cool and it brightens up the house. You can even make garage flowers look good!
The weather has been gorgeous at the moment and our garden is looking beautiful. It's a real joy seeing the plants coming on and establishing themselves. When we moved in four years ago, all we had was a rectangle of patchy green.
The soil is pretty rubbish, literally, the builders buried all their rubble and bricks under the garden; but somehow the plants seem to find a way to survive. I'm sure that's a very deep metaphor for life there.
My favourite flowers are roses, clichéd and girlie, I know; but I adore them. We went to a special rose seller called Beales Roses and chose scented varieties. Basically we went round sticking our faces close to each of the plants and taking deep breaths. We'd have looked insane if other people weren't doing the exact same thing.
I've been wanting to go out into the garden to pick some flowers for a summer floral wreath; but the evil that is pollen and hay fever, has been keeping me shut away in doors. Seriously, why can't there be high pollen in November when it's cold and wet outside? I wouldn't mind staying in? Being allergic to the summer sucks.
Fortunately I just have to wait it out until the end of July. I'm counting the days.
I decided that I would just go for it this evening and I'm so pleased I did because it was gorgeous being out in the fresh air, picking the flowers and foliage. I only got stabbed by rose thorns three times, I didn't bleed and I was only marginally sneezy afterwards. I call that a victory.
This is the unassuming oasis ring I started out with and below is how it turned out. I have to admit I'm rather proud of it. It's now filling our living room with the glorious scent of roses. An evening well spent.
What's your favourite way to spend a summer evening? Do you have to hide inside from pollen too? What do you do if you can't go out?
Over the past couple of months I've been organising a Club Night for International Women's Day 2014, with my friends from the Golden Triangle Girls WI. It's been a bit out of my comfort zone - not the event planning, I love anything like that. More the clubbing/dj side of things. I'm much more comfortable sat here with my laptop writing to you, than I am in a place with loud music and alcohol. Fish and water spring to mind.
Since 2014 is my year of new things I decided to just go for it and see how I got on. I enjoyed getting dressed up - you can see me here (far right) with some of the lovely committee, setting up for the event.
As part of International Women's Day we'd printed up some quotes by inspirational women that were put up around the city and some were made into postcards - as we are modelling here in my first ever group selfie. (I never realised how many people take until they get the perfect one!)
Mine is by Virginia Woolf and says "For most of history, Anonymous was a woman."
Out of the other postcards though, my favourite was by JK Rowling. "It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all."
I didn't do brilliantly with the whole loud music thing, in fact after fifteen minutes I was ready to come home. I made a discreet exit and then spent the rest of the night curled up with fish and chips, watching Hangover 3. Much more my kind of thing!
Today there was little bit of a drama - I had to play butterfly saviour! I know right? Not something I expected to have be doing. Fortunately I didn't have to don a cape or mask to do it.
I love butterflies, they are one of my favourite things, so when I saw a beautiful small tortoiseshell caught on a spider's web, clearly in distress, it was heartbreaking.
The poor little thing was fluttering around, dangling from this one long, sticky strand. It kept trying to fly off; but it was well and truly stuck. You never realise how strong spider's webs are until you see a butterfly pulling against it with all its might.
I got all Dr Doolittle on the butterfly. I had to cut most of the web away with scissors because it was so sticky, terrified the whole time of hurting it, cutting it's wing or antennae; but fortunately the butterfly was sitting quietly by now.
I carried it on a leaf to a nice sunny windowsill, literally the only place the setting sun still reached. I left it there; but went back to check on it a little late. The butterfly had moved off the leaf and onto the ledge, wings outstretched, soaking up the sunshine. It looked peaceful and I could see it fanning the warmth onto itself.
I couldn't bring myself to go back and check on it again though. Part of me is desperate to know it's flown away safely, the other part doesn't want to find out that the trauma was too much and it died.
I've no idea how people could collect butterflies, all I wanted was for this gorgeous living creature to fly free. It was so full of struggle and determination to survive. I really hope it did.
Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Society seems obsessed with labels - young/old, single/married, straight/gay, rich/poor. It's as if we need to fit into specific boxes, so that we can be defined, so people know what to categorise us as. I know I'm guilty of this too, of the way I see myself and others.
Last night I was reading a book that asked out right Who am I? I wrote the question on a blank piece of paper and stared at it for a long time. I just didn't know how to answer it. Obvious words came up: woman, adult, daughter, sister, business owner, disabled, single. None of them described me though; they were just roles that I play in other people's lives. They didn't satisfy me, they didn't make me feel anything, other than slightly restricted.
I started a new line; maybe I could define myself more by what I love. This is what I wrote...
"I love stories, telling them, reading them, listening, watching, imagining and writing them.
I'm not sure if I got closer to Who am I? But I did realise what I love - it's sharing and stories. That's my passion in life, it's what I love the most and with that knowledge things feel just that little bit clearer.
How would you answer the question Who am I? What do you love to do most? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Image courtesy of Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Today I had a fabulous day, Mum and I went to House, a local cafe for breakfast. The food there is amazing, real tea, in tea pots with bone china cups and saucers. Pancakes the same size as the saucers and you get three of them! I had mine with blueberries and maple syrup; but only managed to eat one, which was delicious. Fortunately they put the rest in a takeaway box for me!
We then went on to this amazing Orchid Festival. We've wanted to go for years; but have never been able to. It was in this small church hall; but it was full of these incredible orchids in so many different colours, shapes and sizes. If you thought the white and pink ones were all you could get, you couldn't be more wrong! There were orange ones, green ones, deep purple and brown ones. Some were like irises and others like snapdragons, big blooms, small delicate star shapes and the classic orchid flowers too.
And the smell... it was the most beautiful, sweetish perfume ever. It was gorgeous!
There was a man selling them, so we treated ourselves to this rather unusual specimen. We've already got a few and found that they're really easy to keep, we basically leave them alone and then they flower year after year. That's my kind of plant!
I won the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition. My novel, The Box, is going to be published on 25th July 2019, by Orion