Why the rat-race isn’t for me

nine to five

I had an epiphany.

We don’t need to force ourselves in rigid square boxes and work in the traditional nine to five in order to make a viable living. In fact, nine to five is not going to make many of us happy. It’s going to have the complete opposite affect. Humans are wonderful, creative, eccentric and individual beings, and we should all be embracing our individuality in every aspect of our lives, whether it be at home with the family, at work, or in the park, at the pub… everywhere!

This may sound weird coming from someone who has successfully made a living as a freelancer for the last 9 months. Surely I figured this out long ago? Surely my path to freedom is well and truly paved?

Well, I’m going to let you into a little secret. Although from the outside this DID appear to be the case. My friends and family all regularly congratulated me about getting off the hamster wheel and living a life which truly suited me. But in truth, well, I didn’t quite believe it myself.

Gulp.

I didn’t actually in my heart of hearts stand fully behind my convictions.

SURE, I had the perfect lifestyle, working in the garden, from coffee shops, taking leisurely breaks whenever I pleased. And don’t get me wrong I have, and am, putting in the work. But I have realised somewhere deep down I kind of assumed this was just a phase, something would go wrong, and I’d most probably be back in an office at some point in the future.

So, how did I finally come to my epiphany? Well…. I went back to working in an office nine to five. Yes, that’s right, I CHOSE to go back to the dark side, despite having clients of my own and regular freelance work coming in. It was only a momentary lapse, honest guv… It was really just meant to be a temping job for a month whilst I prepared for my Big Trip which is starting in June (more on that later).

I thought it would make my life easier, less stressful. I’d have a paycheck coming in weekly, I wouldn’t have to worry about finding clients, it wouldn’t be taxing. So off I merrily trotted to the temping agency, and two weeks later, this very Tuesday, I found myself at the gates of an unnamed educational establishment, suited and booted and reporting for duty – sir, yes SIR *stamp foot*

And you know what, oh my goodness it was BOOOOORING! Mind-numbingly, soul-destroyingly boring. For a whole 3 days I felt my life-force which I have so carefully built up over the last 9 months flood out of me. How could I EVER have thought this would be easier?!

And then, just to hammer the point home, when I left the office yesterday, after a whole 3 days temping, I found out that they have decided to offer the job internally as of next Monday, and no longer need a temp any more. So much for my big ‘dream’ of a month of security and easy money.

But you know what? Inside, my heart actually sang with joy at this news! I was free again, to do what I love, what makes me overwhelmingly happy, and best of all what I am actually good at.

Clichéd as this sounds, everything does happen for a reason, and now I just have even more conviction that I am on the right path, come rain or shine. It will be hard at times, but hey, the other option really isn’t any easier!

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Healthy snacking – Fit & Trim bars

I’ve been lucky enough to be sent some Fit & Trim bars to try.

Yum!

Fit and Trim bars

Now although I’m not an advocate of missing meals or meal replacement diet plans, there are times in my busy schedule when I just want to grab a quick snack without eating a packet of crisps or fattening chocolate bar. And yes, chocolate is my weakness!

At times like these, I like to have some kind of oaty flapjack type bar in my handbag – and these are ideal.

Fit & Trim health-bars have been developed by Lance Geringer, a trained exercise kinesiologist from Los Angeles. With almost 30 years of knowledge and experience behind him, he produced the bars with the aim of providing the correct ratios of protein, carbohydrates and fats to curb hunger, while using the best ingredients to satisfy cravings – such as tasty pieces of dried fruit, or real dark chocolate.  The bars are relatively low in calories, sugar, saturated fat and sodium, and perhaps just as important, they are filling, which means you are less likely to continue snacking or succumb to cravings. They have no artificial nasties in them either.

This is what Geringer says: “Diets fail due to hunger and cravings, and adding exercise actually increases both. I developed the Fit & Trim bars to answer these problems, allowing the dieter to continue their eating plan and lose more weight. They are the only bars in the market that do this.”

The taste

OK so enough of the science, how do they actually taste?

Well, they have a nice natural oaty consistency – a bit like a flapjack but not too sweet. The bars come in two flavours – Double Chocolate or Apricot & Cranberry. The chocolate bars have chunks of real chocolate and a satisfying texture – perfect for chocolate lovers like me. The fruit bars contain real fruit which adds a nice burst of sweetness and they are nice and moist. I ate one bar on a busy morning when I hadn’t had enough time for breakfast (slapped wrists!), and the other in the afternoon when I was off to an early evening Pilates class (more on that in a future post!) and wanted to fill-up without eating a massive meal. Both times I was left full without being bloated, and I had no desire to reach for the junk-food at all.

‘OK, I’m sold, where do I get them?’

You can order them direct from the Fit & Trim Bar website where you can get two bars for £3.90 (bargain!) or a box of 20 for £25.

 

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Finding your truth – Sunday joy

For years Sunday evening has for me, and many of my friends, been tinged with a slight feeling of melancholy. Melancholy about having to get up early on Monday and trudge, often in the dark, back to the office, to work my ass off making money for someone else to enjoy.

For me, Sundays were always a little wistful.

The weekend fun had been all spent, and I, tired and drained, had to face the week ahead and the prospect of a job I didn’t really enjoy, surrounded by people who didn’t really get me. Sound familiar?

I no longer feel like this.

Since making the leap (or should I say, excepting the push) into self-employment, Sunday evening is one of my favourite times of the week.

Often, I’ve tied up all my loose ends from the week before, and I’m ready and raring to launch into a new week, resplendent with new meetings, new ideas and new possibilities.

There is no reason why we can’t all feel like this. It’s just a case of finding your truth, and doing everything in your power to follow it through.

Don’t get me wrong, this has been a slow process for me, but when you’re working hard at something you love, it somehow doesn’t feel like work.

My dream has taken on so many different incarnations. First I started my blog, and began to truly write. Then I started to make, I wasn’t really sure what, just anything I could. I started printing cushions, and sold my first ever piece of work at a Christmas market in 2012. I didn’t even cover costs, but who cares! I was finally out there, doing something. I’ve always made jewellery, but nothing really sell-able. I couldn’t really pin point exactly when the eureka moment happened. I truly think that by releasing (some of) the fear, opening myself up and letting creativity flow through me again in a way it hadn’t since childhood,

I somehow allowed my truth to find me.

All the time still working in my 9-5, but feeling more and more content as time moved on and I continued to toil at each of my passions, clinging to the hope, or perhaps, if I am brutally honest, blindly believing that it would all somehow work out.

Now I run my own small business, Bristol Papillon, and have a regular market stall (happy face – a dream since my teenage years).

And you know what? It is working out.

I chuckle when I look at some of my early attempts, but they served their purpose and I learned so much.  Every day I chip away and my dreams piece by piece become reality. I am finally being completely truthful to myself, and working on my skills instead of trying to push myself into something that didn’t truly fit me – like a square peg in a round hole.

Finally I get to be my own boss, to write and create, to help people and, hopefully, spread a bit of joy.

And so, when I sometimes stop and come up for air and think ‘what the hell am I doing?!’ I take a deep breath, and remember

I may not be there yet, but I am closer every day

Motivation 1

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I quit!

I’m excited to introduce the first in a series of guest blogs on Another bite of the cherry, from my good friend (and sister!) Stephanie Miller. Stephanie has degree in psychology, and in this compelling piece talks about a topic which I am sure will resonate with many readers – trying to quit smoking.
Kudos to Steph, who has managed to kick the habit. Here she outlines her journey to finally being able to call herself a non-smoker….

Quit smoking

“I was a smoker for 15 years of my life. I no longer consider myself a smoker.

Last year I decided that 2014 was going to be the year I quit smoking… and so far, so good.

Any habitual smoker will concede that there are usually many failed attempts before something clicks and you are successful in your non-smoking ventures. I have certainly had my fair share of halfhearted, semi-successful attempts.

There was the time I gave up during the week, but was allowed to smoke at weekends. There was another time I gave up, apart from when I was drinking alcohol (which unsurprisingly led my alcohol consumption to increase somewhat!). And then there was perhaps my weakest attempt of all, when I gave up… apart from when it was dark.

In all of these attempts I convinced myself that I was still allowed to smoke in certain circumstances, which only fueled my physical addiction and ingrained belief that I still ‘needed’ to smoke. I was not fully allowing myself to give up the crutch which I had truly grown to believe I needed. If asked to list things about myself, I would undoubtedly have included ‘I am a smoker’. It had come to be one of my defining characteristics and I’m ashamed to say, one that in a strange way I was proud of. Us hardened smokers, willing to huddle outside or trek down 5 flights of stairs to stand in the pouring rain / snow / freezing cold for our ‘fix’ were a dying breed and there was a sense of camaraderie.

My initial ‘quitting’ phase (day 1 = 1st Jan 2014) was aided by the mother of all hangovers after New Years Eve. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I moped about in bed for 3 days. I always found a nasty hangover works wonders for my attempts at quitting (even if it was only for a day or 2). And the hangover from NYE 2013 seemed to do the trick! In hindsight, I am pretty sure the moping, agitation, mild anxiety, desire to scoff anything I could get my hands on and general feelings of anger towards the world were in fact a result of my going cold turkey.

But I can honestly say, after those initial few days, I have so far (apart from the occasions when I have had an alcoholic drink in my hand) not experienced the same cravings that I had on previous attempts. I couldn’t tell you why this is, but I like to think that when I am ready to do something my brain and body work in harmony and allow me to be successful at it. I have now reached the stage where I can actually imagine my life without me smoking in it and the ‘aroma’ that hangs onto smokers’ clothes, hair and breath is now extremely potent to my now sensitive nose (and I thought I had a sensitive nose when I was smoker!).

So, to all you other ‘quitters’ out there, whether it be for 10 years, 6 months or 2 days… stay strong and just remember, we don’t need it! – Steph x

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Positive thaughts and life-changing experiences

PositivityThe power of positive thinking is a phrase often bandied around, without much thought for what it actually means, and how, exactly, can we harness this power?

This is something I have been thinking a lot about recently. My life has changed beyond recognition in the last 2 years. I now have my own business, I am my own boss, I’m living the dream, getting to be creative every day and forge my own way in the world. For the first time really, I am in control. This is all very positive.

But when the wheels were set in motion and I launched into this new life, it wasn’t because I had made any positive life decisions, I wasn’t even following I long cherished dream. It was, in fact, fear and anxiety that initially drove me. Fear of being unemployed as redundancy loomed ominously on the horizon. Fear of sinking into that damp, musty place of mornings spent loafing in bed and afternoons in front depressing daytime TV.

As the fear increased, so did the creativity. This is something I had never experienced before. It was exciting! And the more excited I became, the less fear I felt, and the more positive I became. The more positive I became, the more confident and less anxious I felt. As my confidence in my idea and my ability grew, I tried new things, and when they worked, I felt even more excited, spurring me on to try even more new things. I began to speak to people, not just friends and acquaintances, but strangers, others on their own path to being their own boss. People I could learn from, and people who I could pass on my own experiences to. More and more doors began to open, and I began to have even more ideas.  ‘Where am I going to find the time for all this?’ I thought. ‘It’s so exciting!’

And this, I think, illustrates how the power of positivity really works. It’s taking a bad situation, and somehow managing to find a positive, a good, and even an exciting. It’s embracing change instead of hiding away, and seeing where it takes you. It’s not necessarily following you dreams, but more, letting your dreams find you – and running with them! Be open to people and experiences, harness the excitement of the uncertain and the new, run with your ideas, and see where they take you, and let the energy of life drive you every day. That, I believe is the power of positivity, and it really can lead you to change your life forever.

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Alternative recipe for left-over turkey

The season of good will, mulled wine and turkey in abundance is well and truly upon us.  Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas in my household without the traditional turkey with all the trimmings.

We always get a big bird from Aune Valley Meat in Devon, a family run butchery, delicatessen and farm shop supplying locally-reared meat which has been farmed with high welfare standards – extremely important in my book if like me you are a carnivore.

Turkey is a great meat if you are eating healthy.  Cooked well, it’s succulent, tasty and very low in fat.  However cooked for too long and it can become dry and chewy – not so great!

I love to have enough turkey left over from Christmas lunch to enjoy the obligatory turkey and stuffing sandwiches in the evening, and of course a hearty cold buffet following a wind-swept walk to the beach on boxing day.  Festive heaven!

But what happens on day three, when you STILL have turkey left over to polish off, but you fancy something a bit lighter?  Well, I thought I would share one of my favourite recipe’s with you – Turkey with spicy polenta crust and a zingy salsa.  It’s a great alternative for using up the left-over meat, and can also be cooked with fresh turkey or chicken fillets – just hammer the fillets out a bit and dry-fry on a low heat for 15-20 minutes instead of 5-10.

Turkey and polenta crust

Method

Pop a sweet potato in a hot oven to slowly bake.  They take about 45 minutes to an hour and provide a fabulous, healthy and satisfying alternative to traditional baked potatoes. Mix about half a cup of polenta with a good pinch of salt and pepper, and some cayenne pepper to taste – I like it quite spicy! Place in a shallow bowl, whisk up one egg and place that in a separate shallow bowl.  Slice a nice thick piece of turkey breast and first dip it into the whisked egg, then coat it in the polenta mix.  The egg helps the mix to stick to the meat.

Heat up a frying pan on the hob, and add your oil of choice.  I like to use fry-light because it is only 1 kcal per spray and acts as a healthy alternative to traditional oil.  Gently fry the slice on both sides until it is warmed through and the polenta has formed a crunchy crust – about 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile to make the salsa, chop tomatoes, spring onions, coriander, and a chilli.  Add to a bowl and mix in some sweetcorn kernels.  Finish with the juice of two limes and a pinch of salt and pepper – zingy and fresh!

I like to serve with some green beans which have been lightly boiled so they remain crisp and fresh, and some sweet-chilly sauce on the side.  The perfect antidote to the Christmas bloat!

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Christmas shopping take 2#

I wanted to talk about the Blog and Buy Sale Christmas Wishlist.  This is a fantastic website supporting British and handmade gifts for Christmas. Showcasing over 250 amazing gift ideas, all of the products featured are designed and handmade with the love and care only an artisan maker will give. Nothing is mass-produced, and everything is original. These are pieces which you won’t find on the high street, meaning you will be giving a truly unique gift to your loved ones this Christmas.

Copper hoop earringsMy Copper Hoop Earrings have been featured, along with a couple of Bristol Papillon necklaces too!

To celebrate the Blog and Buy Sale Christmas wishlist 2013, I have included below ‘the best of the rest’. My top five picks form the other fabulous designers which have been featured.

So why not pop over to the website and have a browse, there is something for everyone on there! Here is the URL:
http://stall.blogandbuysale.com/

Blog and Buy sale – the best of the rest

BBS 1

Love these Little Red Robin earrings from Jodie Anna.

They are so cute and festive with a hint of vintage too!

BBS2This Beautiful Escape Lampshade from Quincy Lampshades would brighten up any room.

The floral pattern is so pretty, and I love the cylinder shape too.

 

 

BBS3

I’m a sucker for a pair of shoes, and these ShoeLicks are such a fab way to pimp-up the sole! Want.

 

 

 

BBS4Perfect for the man in your life, this handy British Barbecue Gift Set from Victoria Eggs would make a great stocking filler.

 

 

 

BBS5I love the design on these Traditional Chippy Plates
They are made from bone china and hand-printed. What better way to enjoy the second most traditional British meal – after Christmas dinner of course!

Re-blogged from Bristol Papillon

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Christmas markets and shopping locally

Ashton Court 2Ashton Court Producers Market in Bristol

This year it’s been all about shopping locally and supporting artisans for me.  There is something really wonderful about spending a Saturday afternoon browsing market stalls and hunting for the perfect gift, for my loved ones, or for myself!

Here is the South West we are spoilt for choice, and Bristol has such a thriving arts and craft scene there is something new to be discovered every weekend.

The Ashton Court Producers Market happens on the third Sunday of every month, and not only does it allow local designer-makers to showcase their work, it also sells tasty goodies from organic vegetables, to locally reared meat, and artisan biscuits from the delicious Mullion Cove.

If it’s unusual gifts, entertainment and even workshops that you are after, a firm favourite of mine is Market at The Moon, a weekly alternative market at the Full Moon Pub in the vibrant Stokes Croft area of Bristol.

Another popular market happens monthly at the Tabacco Factory selling food, crafts and sometimes clothes.

So why have I decided to do all my Christmas shopping at local markets this year? Well, running my own small business, Bristol Papillon Jewellery I can really appreciate the time, love and care which designers and makers put into every piece which they make.  Bristol Papillon at market

With mass produced items, you have no guarantee of quality, and you don’t necessarily know the conditions which the producers work under.  With handmade and local products, you can often trace the materials and learn about the techniques used. That’s why I love both selling my products and buying gifts for others at market.  You get to speak directly to the designer-maker, and for me this really brings each piece alive.  I want to be original, and this is something which you don’t get with mass-produced items.  Who want’s to be a sheep and look like everyone else in the crowd!

Christmas marketsWe’ve only got a week left until Christmas, and if like me you have left your shopping to the last minute (eek), then why not support your local community, get out there and find a local market, speak to some crafts-people about their passion for making, and spread the love.  Isn’t that, after-all, what Christmas should be all about?

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Natural moisturising balm from Wild Sage & Co

Jojoba BalmOver the years I have become increasingly aware of all the chemicals and nasties that are used in conventional moisturisers.  Look on the back of even the most gentle of products designed for sensitive dry skin and you will still find such ingredients as Potassium Hydroxide, Sodium Chloride and the preservative methylisothiazolinone.  I know they are all dermatological tested and safe for use, but that doesn’t stop me being just ever so slightly concerned about where they come from and how they are made.  They are cheap, and convenient, often packaged in plastic and long lasting.

But really, this is my skin and for a few extra pounds I am happy to invest in something which is natural and kind, comes from ethical sources and smells fabulous to boot!

I’ve blogged before about my love of Spiezia Organics products. A few years ago I discovered their Rose and Vanilla face oil. A light, delicate smelling oil which glides onto the skin and left me feeling supple and radiant.  At £31.95 for 50 ml it doesn’t compete with the supermarket brands, but I found one small bottle lasted me 6 months, and I really did get compliments after using it!

I’ve discovered a new wonder-product, purely by accident, when I was browsing a local market recently.  Produced by Wild Sage & Co this Jojoba Balm glides lightly onto the skin and can be used for both face and hands.  A little goes a long way, and the earthy slightly citrus smell is very pleasant. Priced at £16, the Jojoba Balm contains natural essential oils and moisturisers such as shea butter and almond oil which leave the skin soft and supple, getting rid of unwanted dry patches without being oily.

One of the joys of buying at local markets is the ability to speak to the people who make the products, learn about the love and care which goes into their production, and get to try before you buy.  The lovely stall holder told me that Jojoba is the closest to our natural skin oils as you can get – I was sold! However if you can’t make it to a market or shop, then I would highly recommend this brand – they also have some delightful natural soaps all available to buy on their website. Added to that, the balm comes in a handy little tin which can be kept snugly in your handbag for those cold winter days. I’ll certainly be using this lovely product again!

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Morning inspiration

IMG_20121027_220202

I’m lucky enough to have grown up near to the sea, and although I now live in a city, Bristol is on the waterfront so if I need a daily dose of soothing water I can just pop down to the Harbourside and listen to the sea gulls.

This picture was taken at Blackpool Sands in Devon a lovely beach, glorious in the summer and dramatically desolate in the winter months. Whenever I feel a bit glum I just look at this picture, shut my eyes and imagine I am here with the warm sun on my face and let it re-energize me for the day ahead.

Cherry 3

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