These beautiful Mandalas have arrived at Southwood Stores and are making us dream of picnics in the long grass on a warm summers day.
I've been a regular gym goer for a couple of years and I knew what worked for me and what didn't, but I got bored, I wanted quicker results and was impressed by the before and after shots on The Body Coaches instagram account as well as the yummy looking lean in 15 meals. After very little deliberation I decided to sign up and give it a go, I paid my £150 and sent over my stats and measurements. A few days later I was excited to see cycle one land in my inbox but my excitement was short lived. The vegetarian plan included enough quorn fake meat to sink a ship. I was told to eat the equivalent of one packet off chicken pieces per meal in order to hit the protein quota needed. I've been a vegetarian for a decade now and the whole protein thing gets on my nerves so much. I was so disappointed to see such a lazy carnivorous approach to a vegetarian food plan. To be fair, the coaches at The Body Coach responded quickly to my concerns but unfortunately it was a case of following the plan and giving it a go which I duly did. Cycle one was good, I followed the hiit routines and ate the mountains of quorn recommended and lost a few inches, but I started to feel sluggish and uncomfortable from the amount of processed food (quorn) I was eating. I was also sad to see that sugar free products with aspartame in recommended on the plan and none of the yummy looking lean in 15 meals are featured. I stuck with it though and entered a carb heavy cycle two where I quickly gained back all the inches I lost in cycle one. I voiced my concerns to my coach and was told that it was a common occurrence, to stick with it, build muscle and cycle 3 would change it all. Cycle 3 bought be the same inch loss as cycle one but my transformation was by no means as drastic as the before and after shots I saw on instagram and I knew my diet was no where near as varied, colourful or nutritional as it was before.
That being said, people have found success with The Body Coaches programme, but I'm not sure its the best way to go for a vegetarian.
Hayley runs a anti-networking group for entrepreneurial/women in business on Facebook called The Conversational. This group is hugely successful with hundreds of members who are searching for success or who are already successful sharing pearls of wisdom and boosting each other.
This week Hayley started a thread titled "What's stopping you?", it turned into a heart warming honest post where women divulged their biggest fears and what is holding them back from the next level in their business or taking the plunge.
The resounding answer was lack of confidence, money and time.
In all honesty, Hayley and I read these comments and really struggled to relate. We've all been in that position, the Monday morning dread of going into a place of work we hate and the fear of spending the rest of our lives stuck in a rat race we feel no passion for. We are not saying "quit your job!" but making a plan is the key to living your passion. Writing your ideas down and figure out how you can get there. The reality is it, it is hard work, neither of us has been handed thousands of pounds to start a business on a whim. We've taken baby steps and both our businesses have organically grown. My Photography business started with a £350 camera and Hayley's Shop- Southwood Stores started on her kitchen table with a cupboard full of stock. Sheer determination, stubborn personalities and a massive dose of self belief were the driving force behind us. Whilst losing our mums young made us look at the world differently it was really just a reinforcement of who we already were, it certainly made us reject any notion of living an unhappy life, there was no longer time to waste.
It goes without saying that we are really lucky to have our supportive husbands and family but we somehow want to let you know that nothing pisses us off more than being lumped into a "ladies that lunch, playing around with the husbands money" category, because WE ABSOLUTELY ARE NOT. We, along with other small female run business owners are grafters and jugglers. Fitting in work around family life, school runs, ballet lessons and spelling homework is the norm and that can be confusing but don't let it make you think that your work isn't real. We are superheroes.
This year Shaneen and I went wreath making with the wonderful Jessica Naish. Jess is an amazing local florist who has the most beautiful studio. Shaneen and I have known Jess for years and have worked with her on photo shoots and weddings alike.
We asked Jess to tell us all about herself and here are her lovely words-
Ok, so I don’t really know where to begin.
I LOVE FLOWERS!!! I really do. I love to watch them grow. I love to see gardens full of colourful, blousy blooms. I love to pick them too. The real flower magic happens for me when I have a studio full of beautiful, carefully selected beauties and I can arrange them and create fabulous displays.
I LOVE WEDDINGS TOO!!! The excitement, the nerves and the fact that it is the main time in your life when everywhere is dressed and decorated to perfection and flowers can take centre stage... after the Bride and Groom of course.
There are so many highlights of being a wedding florist. I love initial meetings with Brides and Grooms. I do have to take a breath sometimes and remind myself it’s not my wedding, I tend to get carried away with ideas. And when a venue/marquee/restaurant is fully dressed and ready to greet the happy couple it does bring a tear... sometimes due to exhaustion but usually of pride x
So I have made it my floral mission to specialise in wedding floristry. I knew it was my calling on my first day of college, almost like a light was switched on and I thought ‘of course! Silly me, I should have been doing this ages ago’.
So ta da, that’s me Jessica Rose, mother of two, wife of gorgeous man and creator of floral joy xxx
So you're going through life and everything seems to be going well, you're in a happy place, work is good, family life is great. Everything is moving along the middle line nicely, but then someone tunnels their way into your life and you suddenly feel that you need to help this person through their problems. You didn't sign up for it, this person isn't even really a friend that has earnt your loyalty yet. Your friendship has no roots, no platform for you to work from and all of a sudden you are listening to their epic scaled problems that are so beyond your comprehension. It's not that you don't want to help, actually you feel compelled to help but as the friendship is so new and you haven't actually got to a place where you can be entirely honest so you become someone for them to sound off at, not to actually listen to and you are left with the weight of a relative stranger's problems when they walk away.
Sometimes wanting to be a good person takes over and the burden interferes with your life but you struggle to walk away and leave it. You have to remember you are not responsible for another persons happiness, and it takes a really true, and good friend to give you permission to cut an unhealthy new relationship out and tell you that you that you are still a good person, don't let someone who you barely know burden you.
Helen Mirren, one of the most iconic older women in the public eye got us thinking that there are plenty of stylish/inspirational women that happen to be over 35. Instagram celebrates youth, there are so many powerful and gorgeous young women on there either starting their journey and ultimately discovering themselves through a grid of 4x4 photos. We applaud this! Good for them. Social media can give you a great platform of self discovery, but their is a bracket of women out there who are perhaps not as vocal on social media, or as confident taking "selfies" as it's not the done thing in that generation, you get to a certain point where you think, no one wants to see this face. However they are the true inspiration for a lot of the trends we see emerging on these social media platforms.
The community that we surround ourselves with on instagram celebrate style. It isn't ageist, sexist or racist. We urge all women over 35 to start a revolution, celebrate that you too are cool! As Helen Mirren said, "growing up not growing old".
Now show us your cool! hashtag your photo-
When we started this blog a few years ago it was always about inspiring women to live a happy full life. It was about being brave enough to take risks and make your own choices that might not fit into what is perceived by others to be the norm. Even after studying at college for years and only a few months into my first ever job I was always yearning for more I never felt fulfilled in a work place. 21 years on I am truly the happiest I have ever been in my career and my personal life.
I have never been driven by money but being able to make a wage doing what I love most and am truly passionate about I feel full of gratitude.
Social media has given women like us a platform, a voice and it is bloody incredible. I choose my own hours that suit my lifestyle and family. I feel so privileged to be part of this amazing time, a time when we are able to create my own happiness doing a job that I love.
I think it is so important to surround yourself with a positive environment, have deep meaningful discussions with like minded women who are movers and shakers in their own right. Living outside of London I have always craved to move to a more exciting place. Then I had the epiphany that I could create this community online using social media. I recently started a group on facebook called the 'Conversational'. It is a non-profit group where women in business of any description can use the space as a kind of forum. Share concerns and successes, ask questions or just have a chat if you are having a bad day. There are over 300 women in my little group already and it is a very positive community. If you fancy joining us all search the group name and request membership.
Love Hayley x
They say time heals all wounds but I don't think that applies to grief. The pain of losing a loved one doesn't lessen over time, it just changes and numbs until inevitably something happens to reopen the wound and causes you to live it all over again.
I find this happens every time I am struck by a moment or milestone that has been stolen that didn't occur to me before. I had one of those moments this weekend.
I am a photographer who occasionally shoots weddings and I love the buzz that comes with being with a family on such a special day. The wedding that I shot this weekend was no different, full of loving proud families enjoying the moment and making memories.
The speeches focused on the tight bonds of the lovely families that were involved, especially the siblings. Missing my brother is something I carry with me every minute of every day. His death came from nowhere a month into his 22nd year and no one that knew him will ever come to terms with it. It is always a shock when after 8 years, the pain of him dying comes flying back through me like a bullet, taking me by surprise the same way it did the day that he died, but that's exactly what happened on Saturday when I realised that seeing my little brother get married was stolen from me. Having the opportunity to wonder whether the girl of his choosing was good enough for him, or hear his best man tease him during the speeches. Becoming an auntie, and having our children grow up together, even if they did fight as much as we did.
My grief has always been centred around all the things he wouldn't get to do so it was a painful shock when my grief flipped around and instead I realised that I'm angry about all the moments that have been stolen from me too and no matter how selfish my angry thoughts of "what about me" were, it was ok to feel them. I understood quite early on that I didn't want to "get over it", missing him matters to me and it has shaped me into the person I am today.
My brother would be 30 now, and his peers are getting married, having babies and beginning the next chapter in their lives which is probably the trigger for the way I'm feeling.
So be kind to those who have lost someone dear. Even if it seems they are coping with the kind of strength I try to have. The truth is, with every new chapter that life brings the grief they carry changes too. Griefs comes in waves. In the beginning it is like standing in the centre of a huge storm, debris flying all around you with no end in sight, but as time goes by things settle and it's only the uncovering of something important in the wreckage that awakens the pain that was buried. It can come from nowhere. A smell, a photograph, a song, the way the light pours in through the window one morning, little things like that can trigger a memory that will make you smile or want to crumble and curl up on the floor. And whilst these memories and stolen milestones create so much sadness you also don't want them to go away, because even though you miss that person so much, thinking about them is all you have left.
"Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief there is deep love." FB
This is a very hard post to write, I haven't actually put myself out there on this blog for a while. I've kind of been hibernating, and searching for my original dream and plan.
For a few years I photographed weddings for a living, and there were elements of it that I loved and still do. Being with the bride when she is getting ready, seeing the look in her families eyes as she leaves for the church, seeing them take their vows and of course the emotional highs of the speeches. I am really grateful for those opportunities and moments and still have weddings to shoot on the horizon that I'm very excited about. The trouble is, when you turn a passion into work it can become just that, a job. I felt my love of being behind a camera turning into a chore and it scared me. I decided to take a step back and re evaluate and thats when Blossom House was born. I'm in my element, my own space and back to working on projects, like my unicorn portraits. The added bonus is people are excited and want to be a part of it too. The unicorn portrait was something I wanted to do ever since I laid eyes on Broken Hare's sculptures and having people want to have their own children photographed with it is an added bonus. It is great to see my vision coming alive and the children's faces when they meet my unicorn.
Whether it's photography, painting or writing there are aspects of it that I feel I should do, make a living, be a success, be a business etc etc but in truth the things I enjoy doing, taking photos, painting and writing aren't shoulds, they are musts. I would do them if I was making money from them or not. My work life is a tightrope balancing act of keeping art real and not money driven.