Thursday, 23 February 2017

Love Notes from the Earth

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow. - Proverb

The little shoots that are bursting thought the soil are like little love notes from the earth. Each one cheers us on and reminds us to keep going even on the glummest and gloomiest of days. Spotting these green shoots, the white froth of snowdrops or the jewel-like crocuses that adorn the ground in colourful patches is good for our souls. We can rest assured that brighter days are on their way.

Of course, I love winter and I wrote this post last year about cherishing it before it goes. But there is something magical about the regenerative energy that spring gives our gardens and ourselves.


If you’ve been pondering change, thinking you could be more than the self-limiting beliefs you have placed on yourself, take inspiration from the season’s change and rise up now. Be the hopeful, curious little shoot because you might just be the thing inspiring someone else to do the same.
Are you cheered by the onset of spring? Leave a comment below

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Questions for Cultivating Confidence

Confidence plays a big part in our happiness. We measure our dreams against our own confidence in achieving them, often stopping before we’ve even begun. Part of having confidence is knowing how you define it. For me, confidence is talked about in too broad a term. Can anyone say they are truly confident in every single aspect of their life? We also need to discern whether we think confidence is positive or negative. Some would say confidence means self-obsessed, others would describe it as simply having inner peace. Once you know what confidence means for you, the more likely your chances of feeling it. So, take a deep breath, clear some time for yourself and answer these questions... 
  • What does confidence look like? 
  • Who is the most confident person in your life?
  • Do you need something in particular to be confident, i.e., a particular body type, profession etc.?
  • What tasks give you a sense of mastery? 
  • Is there anyone in your life who makes you feel confident? 
  • Do you properly acknowledge and celebrate your achievements? 
  • What is the difference between cockiness and self-assuredness? 
  • What hampers your self-confidence most? 
  • Can you be confident and introverted?
  • Which aspect of your life do you feel most confident in? 
  • How does the word ‘confident’ relate to a famous figure you adore? 
  • What situations are the greatest drain on your self-confidence?
  • What thoughts are the greatest drain on your self-confidence?  
  • What is the link between confidence and luck? 
  • What is one thing that your own self confidence made possible?
  • What is one thing that lack of confidence has held you back from doing (so far)? 
  • What advice would you give someone who feels low in confidence? 

I would love to know your feelings about confidence. Join the conversation and leave a comment below! 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Valentine Vanilla Hearts

Grand gestures of romance get all the attention; the sweetest things are the little acts of love. These valentine vanilla biscuits are a sweet way to say ‘I love you’. They are the perfect little treat to whip up in less than half an hour and only have four ingredients. Pop one in an envelope and seal with a loving kiss or fill up a biscuit tin to share with your beloved. 


225g/ 8oz plain flour
150g/ 5 ½ oz butter or vegan alternative, cut into small pieces.
125g/5 ½ caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Lay some baking paper on a baking tray.

2. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and vanilla extract and mix together to form a firm dough. You may need to add a little milk to bring it together.

3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to the thickness of 1cm. Stamp out the hearts with a heart shaped cutter until you run out of dough. Arrange the hearts on the prepared baking tray.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until just coloured. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

5. To decorate, dust with caster sugar, dip in melted chocolate or drizzle with icing and top with sprinkles.

(This simple recipe was adapted from a book called I Love Sugar)

Are you making any tasty treats this Valentine’s Day? Leave a comment below… 

Thursday, 9 February 2017

A Literary Alphabet: I is for Illustration

With little ones in our family again, I’ve been seeing familiar sights long buried in my memory. Toys I played with, tiny woollen mittens I used to wear and books which were once read to me. Looking over beloved storybooks, I realised how powerful illustration is to the mind. Illustrations are iconic to our memory– think Mr. Happy, The Snowman and the Very Hungry Caterpillar. Whilst the words may be lost between the pages of our ever-growing brain, the image remains long after we have put childish things away.

Illustration naturally reminds us of our childhood books but there are occasions when we grown-ups can enjoy this symphony between word and image too. Try Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle with spell bounding illustrations by Chris Riddle or the brilliant Life Portrait series which tells the life stories of iconic women via drawings. I just love the engravings that appear alongside the text in Victorian novels. These illustrations depict a key moment within the text. The artist must convey hundreds of words in one picture. Rightly or wrongly, those illustrations stay with us as we read. They shape our impression of a character or situation strongly.

Illustrators have a lot of responsibility – like us, they must process the text and conjure up a corresponding image in their minds. But then they take the additional step of putting that image onto paper. Their image can become, or even replace our own. George Du Maurier, Victorian illustrator (and father of Daphne), believed there were two types of readers: the reader ‘who visualises what he reads with the mind's eye, unconsciously, perhaps, and without effort, but in a manner so satisfactory to himself that he wants the help of no picture’ and those who do ‘not possess this gift’. The latter type is who, Du Maurier believed, the illustrator is there to serve. He compares it to theatre – the action can unfold visually before us without any need for our imagination.

I think this underestimates both the reader and the power of pictures. I prefer thinking of illustrations as cues, or keys that can unlock our imagination. We can take the illustrated image and let our imagination run with it. When illustrators get it right, their drawings can be masterful suggestions to our imaginations. If books are there to transport us, illustrations sure can help us on our way.

Catch up with more in my Literary Alphabet series here.
Do you love illustration? What does it mean for you? Do leave a comment below!  

Monday, 6 February 2017

Journal Prompt: Love Stories

‘And when love speaks, the voice of all the gods makes Heaven drowsy with the harmony.' - William Shakespeare

Will, you old smooth talker. February is the month of moonlight and roses. To celebrate, here are some journal prompts to help you connect with your inner Cupid.

  • Look up dictionary definitions of love. How would you change it, what would you add to these definitions? Are there any synonyms for love? How would you describe it using the five senses?
  •   Single or in a relationship, list ways you can bring more romance into your life. How about planning a visit to a place that inspires you? Writing a sonnet? Devising new self-care rituals for yourself?
  •  What are your favourite representations of love in literature, film and music? Why is it that they move you?
  • To have and to hold. Your longest relationship is with yourself no matter who is in your life. Write a set of marriage vows to yourself – what do you promise to yourself? To never speak harshly? To always get a good night’s sleep?
  • What is your greatest passion in life? Describe in detail why this thing has such a presence in your life. Allow the feelings of accomplishment and joy to wash over you as you write about it.

Join the conversation! Leave a comment below… 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Who Are Your Teachers?

When was the last time you learnt something? When was the last time you felt curious or compelled to find out more? Being inquisitive is what keeps our soul alive. If you’ve ever been depressed then you’ll know that one side effect is a huge disinterest in anything. Joy is just the opposite – a thirst for knowledge and an appetite for exploring.

We often limit our definition of education to the image of students sitting in a classroom. But to do this is to underestimate your capacity to learn. A different way of looking at it, is to think about who your teachers are. If you’re lucky, you’ll have had one or two really special teachers at school who inspired or encouraged you. When you think of all the confidence shattering episodes that occur in our early lives, these figures ought to be treasured. But our teachers aren’t just the ones who we encounter at school. There are teachers available to us at all times.

Our teachers can be the people who lived thousands of years ago whose words we find in the pages of a book.

Our teachers can be the people who we find so irritating we have to learn patience and empathy.

Our teachers can be the little babies who can’t yet speak but have an insatiable zest for life.

Our teachers can be the difficult situations we find ourselves in that force us to know ourselves better.
When you seek to find your teachers, you’ll find that there are numerous chances to be enlightened and grow. Even if we meet that person fleetingly, or via the television screen, or they end up our life’s mentor, the chance to learn has to be a decision you make. Once we’re willing to learn, our teachers make themselves known, or as the saying goes, ‘When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.’ When we pay attention to what people have to say and maintain a childlike curiosity we may be opened up to worlds we didn’t know existed. Let people spark your interest. Follow up on fascinating insights. Buy a biography about that historical figure who sounds fascinating.

Find your teachers and begin your journey.
Who are your teachers? Leave a comment below! 

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