5 Tips for Hygge Living

Hygge (pronounce hoo-gah) is a Danish concept and its closest translation is ‘coziness’. The clocks go back this week so I think now is the best time to let a little bit of ‘Hygge’ into your life.

Let me paint the picture for you…it’s a cold, wet and windy November day. What do you want when you get home? A lovely warm fire, a cosy blanket, a wooly jumper to put on and to relax in front of the telly with Mr. S. That my friends is Hygge in a nutshell.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) a type of depression which reoccurs on a seasonal basis, is affecting around one in 15 people in the UK between September and April, Hygge could be an attitude to adopt to help ease the winter blues.

Below are some ways you can totally get into the Hygge groove and not just survive but thrive this impending Winter.

Embrace Seasonal Produce

I love changing my weekly food shop to reflect the changing weather. Take root vegetables for example, they are in season at the mo making them fresher and cheaper than at other times of the year. Chuck them together  in differnt combinations to make wonderful warming soups. It’s a win win! Roast Red Pepper and Carrot is a personal favourite of mine..yum!

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*Image via Pinterest

Make Your Home as Cosy as Possible

Invest in faux fur and chunky knit throws and change your bed linen and duvet to the winter weight tog. Light a fire as often as you can and blow the dust off those ‘display’ candles and actually light them! The candle light and scent creates that super cosy atmopshere, how could you not be happy in your little nest thats is home!

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Invest in Cosy Loungewear 

If you know me at all, you will know loungewear is one of my favourite things in life. The best thing after a long day is getting out of those high heels and skinny jeans and putting on my comfy lounge pants and cosy jumper, oh, and not forgetting my cashmere socks (best investment I ever did make)!

Here are some of my picks of the season for lounge wear:

Cashmere socks M&S | Lounge wear Set Hush | Cashmere Jumpsuit The White Co

Plan a Trip Away

I love having something to work towards and planning a little trip away can help to put the long evenings in. A change of scenery also does wonders for the soul too! Here are two places that are on my never-ending wish list.

Northern Lights, Reykjavik, Iceland | Christmas Markets, Prague, Czech Republic

Fill Your Evenings with Laughter

Invite friends or family over, watch all the comedies Netflix has to offer, go to the cinema or out for a few cocktails…whatever..as long as it makes you feel good, do it! Alternatively, cosy up with a good book and a cup of tea.

If you would like to read a little bit more about ‘Hygge’ you can find a great book on it here.

I hope this helps give you some insight into the Hygge concept. Whatever you get up to this Winter just make sure that it makes your soul happy.

Much Love,

Judy xo

 

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Hello Autumn!

In the past few days the change in the season has been really apparent to me with the browning of the leaves, the darker mornings and also that little nip in the air! I have to say that Autumn is one of my favourite seasons and October one of my favourite months, I can’t give you any one reason but it just feels special!

As summer is such a busy time for Mr S and I we normally take a bit of time off work and try to go away in the early part of September when it starts to get a little quieter, this year we went to Rhodes, a Greek Island  located in the Southeast of the Aegean sea.

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Fast forward 4 weeks and the sun, sea and sand are a distant memory and now I am ready to swiftly adapt to the incoming Autumnal weather…

I did the necessary seasonal raid of my ‘other wardrobe’ (or room as it actually is) which I am ashamed and impressed at in equal measure. *note to self: time for a wardrobe clearout, you are not Carrie Bradshaw from SATC* I dusted off my boots, roll necks, cardigans and coats from last winter. The only thing that I really need to buy is new boots so the search is on for those!

When the season changes I commit wholeheartedly with my wardrobe choices, meal planning and also my home decor. I recently bought some knitted white pumpkins to update my home decor and also a real one from the local garden centre. The blues and greens have been put away awaiting Springs arrival and the nudes, greys and faux fur have come out to play.

October has already been an exciting month for me. Just yesterday I had the pleasure of hosting a Stella and Dot Trunk Show (jewellery/accessories and all thing nice if you aren’t so familiar) at my home this weekend with some of my favourite ladies. My wish list is overflowing and if you fancy a look at what is on offer you can do so here!

There is also some exciting new things planned for French Grey Lifestyle…I’ll be sure to update you all very soon!! Eek!!

Much love,

Judy xo

A Solid Investment

I’m pretty sure all of us are very good at investing our hard earned $$ in the latest trends or that new lipstick but how much do we invest in our own wellbeing? Two years ago if you gave me the choice of spending £25 on a top or a personal training session, I’d have went straight to Topshop..every time!

It isn’t until something goes wrong with our health we reflect back and wish we had perhaps invested in ourselves a bit more.  The old saying, prevention is better than the cure is very apt.

I have made a few changes in the past year which have had a really positive effect. I am happier, healthier and have more energy. If you know me personally you will know 2015 was a pretty tough year for me and my health but I’m now on the other side and I want to share with you some super simple things I have done that have improved my quality of life and hopefully will benefit yours too.

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Lean in 15, Bodycoach.

The food we eat is our fuel…you wouldn’t put rubbish fuel in your car so why do it to yourself. If you load up on rubbish, you will in turn feel rubbish. Buying the Lean In 15 book was the first step I made in improving my diet. I have so many recipe books but most of the meals in them are complicated, expensive and take ages to cook. After a hard day at the office the last thing I want to do is start making a big dinner.  The Lean in 15 books are full of super simple, quick and yummy recipes that are easy to put together in the evening. With lots of veg and lean ingredients it’s had a really positive affect on my diet. I haven’t strictly followed the books plan but I do make a majority of my weeknight dinners and lunches from it.

Personal Training

For me this was a bit of a luxury, as I am sure it would be to you as well. Two operations on my abdomen in 2015 left me with pretty poor core strength, zero body confidence and had left me with a feeling that things were pretty much beyond the point of repair.

I was pretty anxious about starting back into exercise again after a year off and so I researched pretty hard about the best way to do so without hurting myself or landing back in hospital. I started off with a Yoga class to break myself in gently.  After attending Yoga regularly for a number of weeks I felt confident enough to up the ante a bit. I started Personal Training at a local gym, going on a Saturday morning and then also attending a class on a Monday evening. My personal trainer was great and tailored workouts specifically for me so that I don’t overdo it or put too much strain on my core. Even with that, initially the whole ‘exercise’ thing was a bit of a shock on my body and I found it reacting in various ways to all of this exercise it wasn’t used to. I listened to it and took a break as and when I needed to but I’ve since built up my stamina again and now attend twice a week without fail and I haven’t looked back.

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Mindfulness

If you have  been following my blogs you have probably heard me banging on about ‘Mindfulness’ a few times. When I was ill, I spent most days in constant discomfort and pain. Medication did it’s part to provide relief but some days it just wasn’t enough and so I started to look for alternative ways that I could manage the daily discomfort and it was through this search that I found ‘mindfulness’.

‘Mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique..’

I started with one of those pretty adult colouring books and although it seems silly, it was very effective  at helping me get through those really tough days. I have continued to practice it and having had such positive results I have also started to promote it to my patients in my job as a Psychiatric Nurse. It isn’t just a way of relaxing but can have very real benefits for those suffering from mental health problems as well as physical conditions.

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Massage

This is a recent addition to my portfolio of managing my condition in the long term and one of the most empowering. I have begun attending a specialist Physiotherapist in Belfast who specialises in helping woman manage health conditions including Endometriosis. She  provides therapeutic massage and gives specialist nutrition, exercise and lifestyle advice and I have to say the result has been fantastic. She has has made me feel like I am in  more control as I have a number of things I can do to help manage my symptoms on days when I am in a bit of pain and discomfort.
In addition to the really helpful advice the benefits of the therapeutic massage are amazing. Massage has the obvious of helping managing stress which can bring its own issues and it can have a positive effect on your lymphatic system and it can even boost your immune system.

Whilst I appreciate that everyone is different and our path to a better wellbeing is unique to each individual experiencing it, I feel that these are some tips that mostly everyone can adopt.

My hope is that we all start taking care of our insides as much as we do out outside and we can all have that natural glow that comes from within.

Much Love,

Judy xo

Social Media and our Mental Health

I will be the first to admit it, I spend a crazy amount of time online throughout the day. My iPhone is an extension of my hand as there is always a photo opportunity or a pretty Instagram feed to scroll through for inspiration.

Social Media is a minefield of positives and negatives and as a Mental Health professional I sit back from time to time and think, ‘How is this affecting our Mental Health?’

I have read around a lot of research on social media and its links to low self esteem, Anxiety and Depression.

Did you know that 56% of people aged 18-25 spend more than 3 hours a day on social media?

Comparison is the thief of joy…

There is always going to be someone who is always skinnier, prettier or has a nicer house and we all think ‘where the flip did I go wrong?’.  It’s difficult but we need to be content with what we have. Just because someone else portrays a happy and care free life does not always mean that they are more fulfilled. Remember, people are only sharing the things they want  you to see, rarely will you see the negative stuff, the arguments, the work pressures or the credit card debt accrued in trying to have a ‘perfect life’ – nobody’s life is perfect no matter how amazing their Instagram profile leads you to believe. #nofilter? I think not.

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‘Likes’ do not make you a better person…

Social media is addictive and our smile can beam from ear to ear when a photo gets a certain number of likes or we get a few more followers. Although this might give you boost of confidence for a short period of time, the number of ‘likes’ you get on Social Media should not validate you as a person. You are more than that, trust me. You are individual, unique and special in so many ways…your worth cannot be measured in ‘likes’.

There is always one…

Ten positive comments and one negative comment, which one will we dwell on? People can hide behind social media and say nasty things because they think that they can get away with it (I hear the term ‘keyboard warrior’ mentioned from time to time, more like keyboard cowards). In my experience in the mental health field, ‘pain causes pain’, although the comment may be hurtful, I always think about what might be going on with the individual that made them hurtful things in the first place.  All behaviour makes sense but that does not make it right. If you feel you cannot deal with the person, block them, delete them and do whatever makes you feel better. Its cathartic on so many levels.

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FOMO…

A.K.A Fear Of Missing Out

It’s the pressure we feel that makes us want to do what everyone else is doing, go to the same place everyone else is going and having the need to share it to prove our lives are just as good as theirs. This can give us a sense of anxiety that our lives are not as ‘Instagrammable‘ as everyone else’s. I think to myself, why are people doing this to themselves??

I’m a bit of a rebel in that if someone is going to a ‘cool place’ I tend to go the opposite way and find something different. I see this ‘anxiety’ to please others so much on my feeds I just want to tell people to relax and live the life YOU feel comfortable with! We  categorically cannot please everyone and you will just wear yourself out trying to do so.

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It’s not all doom and gloom…

For every person I see on social media that makes me ‘eye roll’, there someone that inspires immense creativity. I have met so many people through blogging and social media that are truly amazing. It’s a great way to find people with similar interests and the same life values as you. I have had some super luck in finding a few lovely people who now I consider friends and if it wasn’t for social media we may have never met!

How can I help myself?

Switch off. Literally.

Set the phone or laptop down and take time out from social media, our poor brains need a rest after a long day at work or looking after the kids. Use the time to have a relaxing bath or read a book. Being continually ‘switched on’ our brains cannot cope with the information overload which leads to exhaustion.

Do not use social media before bed.

I have a rule of no technology in the bedroom but I still find myself having a last scroll through (1 hour later…) before going to bed. Social media can effect our sleep pattern and the light of our phones messes up the bodies natural ‘wind down time’ so if you must look, make sure you switch your screen to night mode. If we don’t get a proper rest our body cannot cope which can lead to physical and mental exhaustion.

Talk to someone.

If you feel that it is all getting you down and your feeling of Anxiety or Depression is getting in the way of you living your life. There is always someone to talk to (and I mean face to face talking with a cup of tea not over whatsapp messages)… A friend, your GP or someone you trust.

I hope to continue to inspire others and make my social media channels a happy and positive place. Always be yourself and try and not succumb to the perceived way of life you think you should be having, happiness always comes from within yourself and not from external gratifications.

Much Love,

Judy xo

 

Rookery Hall and Other Adventures.

It was silly o’clock on Monday morning when we set off to catch a plane to Manchester and begin our adventure. The plan was to stay in Rookery Hall Hotel and Spa for 2 nights and spend Monday exploring Cheshire and the surrounding area. On Tuesday we would go to the Emma Bridgewater Collectors day before flying home on Wednesday evening. In order to give us as much time as possible we decided to get the first flight out on Monday morning.

It was only a short flight from Belfast to Manchester Airport and on arrival we picked up our hire car ‘FiFi’ the Fiat 500. A quick 20minute car journey later and we arrived at Rookery Hall. We arrived well before check-in time so we left our luggage and decided to go for lunch in the nearby town of Nantwich. While we were there we took a little look around the shops too (thank you to one of my Instagram followers for the local knowledge!!).

Nantwich is a really picturesque market town and was best explored on foot so we parked up FiFi the Fiat and went exploring.

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After a quick walk through the town my tummy started growling, I’d had breakfast at 5am and that seemed like a lifetime ago so we decided to go for an early lunch. A quick search on the Tripadvisor app and we found a cute sandwich shop called ‘Bloom’ which was only on the next street. Bloom was a lovely little cafe where we re-fueled with sourdough sandwiches and oodles of tea finished off with big slice of homemade ginger cake for good measure.

*For those who are into their motor cycles,  this one parked in front of the cafe drew quite a lot of attention from men walking past.

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Tummies suitably satisfied, off we went to explore the rest of the historic and beautiful town of Nantwich. Between the 14th century black and white timber buildings were  lots of beautiful interiors shops filled to the brim with stunning furniture, textiles and accessories…if only I lived closer.

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Around mid-afternoon the temperature had creeped up into the low 30’s so we decided to venture back to the hotel to check-in and use the swimming pool and spa to cool down. Phew!

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Sitting outside on the terrace overlooking the gardens in 30 degree heat, you could have easily convinced me that I was in France.

After a quick cool down in the swimming pool and spa we dragged ourselves away from the to check and check the rest of the hotel.

Our room was in the original house which has 12 rooms named after the months. We were staying in ‘May’. It was right above that middle window in the picture above and enjoyed beautiful views of the garden and Cheshire countryside.

Like a complete blogging novice I forgot to take photos of the room but I assure you it was lovely.

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On Monday evening we booked a table in the 2 AA rosette restaurant at the hotel for dinner. As the weather was beautiful, we went down early and spent an hour out on the terrace and sampled a few Gins on the extensive list.

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Forest gin which is made in nearby Macclesfield in small batch was a particular highlight, paired with mango and rosemary garnish and a Fever Tree slimline tonic it was perfect for a sunny July evening. On the whole, all of the bar staff at the hotel were very knowledgeable and were able to recommend and suggest the different gins for our particular tastes and were able to pair each with a tonic and garnish to compliment each.

The next day we were up and away super early to make the 45 minute drive to the Emma Bridgewater Factory in Stoke-en-Trent. You can read about the Collectors Day here!  Tuesday evening consisted of some more Gin tasting following by a light dinner out on the terrace.

On Wednesday morning we had a hearty cooked breakfast to keep us going before our long journey home. On our way back to Manchester Airport we made a detour to Cheshire Oaks Outlet Village (which is a bit like Kildare Shopping Outlet for any Irish readers!). We spent a couple of hours noodling around the shops. I didn’t buy much as we were travelling on hand luggage only but I did get a very cute dress out of Jack Wills. Cheshire Oaks is a pretty large outlet so by the time we had walked around it was nearly lunchtime so we had a quick bite of lunch in Yo! Sushi before making our way back to Manchester Airport. We dropped off FiFi the Fiat 500 before hopping aboard our flight home.

All good things must come to an end…until our next adventure 😉

Much Love,

Judy xo

Emma Bridgewater Collectors Day July 2016

Rewinding back to the beginning of 2016 I put my name in the hat for the July Collectors Day at Emma Bridgewater. I have done this for the last few years but never have been successful but you’ve got to be in it to win it, right?!

Being a massive fan this is what you would consider the ‘Holy Grail’, a day at the factory in Stoke, various activities, sneak peaks as well as a chance to buy special limited edition pieces. I often looked longingly at other collectors special pieces on Instagram and really wanted to have some of my own 😦 *cue worlds smallest violin*.

So imagine the sheer joy when an email confirming that I had got tickets pinged into my inbox on a rainy April afternoon, I was actually going, yaaaayy! You can imagine the excitement as the days got closer, I literally skipped out of work last week in anticipation of Tuesday the 19th!

We arrived on the Tuesday morning after a leisurely drive from Rookery Hall in Cheshire where we were staying (I will cover this  in another post. Spoiler alert: It was amazing) to be greeted by lovely smiling faces who ushered ‘FiFi’ our little red Fiat 500 hire car into its parking space.

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Waiting for the day to start, we helped ourselves to tea and toast set out in the Cafe.  Mr S and I also enjoyed a little bit of sun and background music provided by a brass band.

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We started the day off with a tour of the factory which is a must if you decide to visit. Our tour guide was really friendly and explained every part of the pottery making process. It made me appreciate the time, effort and many hands that touch each piece before it becomes the finished product.

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Can you spot one of the new Christmas patterns?

I even got to try my hand at throwing a plate. Not to brag or anything *ahem* but it was good enough to go into production! So if you receive a 6.5 plate in the next while it could of been made by me!

Don’t worry I think this man’s job is safe 😀

On a bit of a high after becoming a master potter, we decided to go do one of the activities. As part of the Collectors Day, everyone got to paint 2 little fluted bowls in the Decorating Studio.

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The real star of the show was Mr S though. He found his painting zen and created two beauties which received oodles of praise from onlookers.

If you were keeping score it would be 1-1 right now.

The likelihood of me starting a pottery business was getting more realistic by the minute (I joke obviously).

Next on the agenda was some ice cream before we went and picked our special pieces!

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Everyone was split into groups to go view and buy their special pieces. So the dealio with special items is that there is a limited number and are only for collectors and not the general public. Group 4 was up and it was time.

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As I was group 4, a lot was already sold, if you want to see what I purchased you can spot them on my Instagram!

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After buying some special pieces we had worked up a bit of an appetite. Lunch was served (on EB of course…) Our tummies were ready for it, breakfast seemed a long time ago. We were presented a beautiful veggie quiche, salad and warm potato salad. Pudding was a delicious chocolate brownie with clotted cream..yum!

We chatted to our fellow guests at the table, had some hearty laughs, then it was time to finish the rest of our day.IMG_5372

After consulting our itinerary,  we decided to do some tea towel printing.

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Some of the other collectors beautiful attempts.

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Needless to say this didn’t win any prizes for beauty, as for Simon’s…well…he tried!

Laughing at our lack of skill, we went to the seconds shop for a browse while we waited for our “masterpieces” to dry.

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Restricted to hand luggage, I felt like weeping. If only we lived a little closer…

Last stop of the day, the garden!

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Bags in hand and smiles on our faces, we bid fair well to the factory and made our way back to our little Fiat which at this point had reached 1 million degrees (how lucky we were to have such amazing weather!?).

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Until next time EB…

Much Love,

Judy xo

Grey for days…

I find myself trying to be drawn to different colours in the hope of sparking a new love but I always come back to grey. I am in the midst of planning the decor for a second living room (which has been happening for the past year) so I have been immersing myself in Pinterest, my ever trusty source of inspiration and frustration.

The second living room in my house is currently sporting a concrete floor, bare walls, dust bunnies and some washing piled into the corner which will get ironed during the week (or so I keep telling myself). Where some might see a mammoth task, I see 110 possibilities. I’m not great at explaining to others what I envisage but I can see it very clearly in my own head!

I hope to make this living room into a ‘snug’ and use the one we currently inhabit as a more formal space where we can entertain guests and maybe use on other special occasions such as Christmas.

I’ve had carried out extensive research on Pinterest and above is some of my sources of inspiration for the new living room. I am really loving the different layers of grey and white in these rooms from the deep brooding charcoal to the chalky barely there grey. I am forever torn between Contemporary, French and Georgian style/design and I hope that my new room has a little bit of all 3.

If you are undertaking a project of your own, be it little or large, I would love to know what your plans or what your inspiration is. Otherwise watch this space to keep up to date on my progress!

P.s If you have any ideas I would love to hear them!

Much love,

Judy xo