Experience | Why working with a life coach was the best thing I've ever done

Image courtesy of Mad Kitty Media - and you can buy the print here!

I've been wanting to share this story for a while now, but just as I like to give a skincare product a lengthy trial before I review it, I wanted to make sure that I was really in a position to recommend this experience to you. Between January and March this year, I worked with Jo Wren, a coach who specialises in helping her clients to listen to and trust their inner voice. When our time together ended in March, I felt on top of the world and believed I could achieve anything. And as I sit here today, I know that's possible. Last week, I left the job that was making me miserable and I'm taking some time out to explore new possibilities. At Christmas, the very idea of this terrified me, but right now, I'm as happy as I've ever been. All because I listened to my heart, and acted on what I heard.

So, here's the story of how it all happened:

In December last year, I found myself feeling pretty low. I was deeply unhappy at work, a few of my good friends were leaving London, and my first 'relationship' since splitting up with my ex was on very rocky ground. Life had started to feel as though it was happening to me, rather than me playing an active role in it, and I realised that I had absolutely no idea how to take control of things and get myself back on track. Even worse, I wondered if I even had a track to get back onto! I missed my family and friends back home in Manchester, and yet I was in the process of buying a flat over 250 miles away in Surrey, to build a life within commuting distance of a job I loathed. Smart, hey?

On one particularly rainy Monday, after spending all day arguing with the guy I'd been seeing, we agreed to go our separate ways, and I called one of my best friends to share just how low I felt. We talked for a while, and eventually, he asked if he could set up a call for me with the life coach he'd been working with to see if she could help. I'd never thought that working with a coach would be right for me, but I remember thinking in that moment that whatever I was doing just wasn't working, and so I said 'yes' to his offer. The call was set for the following evening, and I spent the next 24 hours anxiously wondering whether I made the right decision. After that first skype session with Jo, I felt inspired, uplifted and intrigued, but despite this, there were two big questions in my mind:

1. Three months was the minimum amount of time that we could work together, and all I could think was 'how will we possibly fill three months?' I was thinking more like three weeks! (I can't believe how naive I was, looking back!)
2. The cost was £1500, and I worried it was a frivolous investment (I dread to think how dwarfed this figure would be if I added up everything I've ever spent on clothes and makeup!)

As I look back, at the end of my journey and feeling utterly fantastic about life, I can answer those questions in two words:

1. Easily!
2. Absolutely!

Working with Jo brought about instant results. I quickly learned to stop rationalising away every feeling, and I started to embrace things I'd previously sought to disregard. Making big decisions became much easier, and I pulled out of the flat purchase, accepting that after ten years in London, I'm ready to start moving towards a return to the north. Professionally, I worked hard to effect change at work, but felt confident in my decision to leave and look for something better, rather than to stay in what was one of the most negative environments I've ever found myself in. My relationships with friends and family have become so much more fulfilling, and despite years of yoga and meditation practice, I finally feel able to tune out the noise and live completely for the moment. Life really is too short to do anything else.

I'm careful not to say that I feel like a 'new person' because I'm more 'me' than I've ever been. I know now that the only thing I needed to change was my ability to listen to myself and acknowledge what is important to me. I feel empowered and alive in a way that I couldn't have anticipated. In the past, I would've called the decisions I've made recently courageous: now I know that the best way to describe them is that they are 'right'. Fear holds us back from so many things, but if you know what's in your heart, making change feels like less of a risk.

Nothing in my environment has changed, but how I respond to it has. That is all thanks to Jo's wisdom and uncanny insight. Working with her has been a wonderful gift, and a truly worthwhile investment in the person I've always wanted to become, but never realised was already there.

You can find Jo at www.jowren.com/coaching, and if you have any more questions about my experience, please feel free to leave them in the comments below or email me here.


Essentials: Fitness at home

Back in January, I joined a gym close to work. I figured that it'd be the perfect motivator to get me out of the office during my lunch break and free up the time I used to spend working out at home in the evenings. Since joining, I can count on both hands the number of times I've been, and what's more surprising, I found myself missing my evening workouts at home. For me, 30 minutes of yoga or cardio when I got home from the office was the perfect antidote to a stressful day, and is a routine that I've really relished reviving. Needless to say, I've cancelled my membership, and thought I'd share with you my essential kit for the perfect home workout. More importantly, all this works out at less than my monthly membership!

I've accumulated this equipment over a number of years as I've realised what works for me and will help me get the best from my training, so if you're looking to build a home routine, please don't rush out and buy everything here! Instead, take some time to work out what you enjoy and take it slowly from there. I consider these things my essentials: yours may look completely different, but hopefully this provides you with a bit of inspiration.

My fitness routine is a blend of weight training, cardio and yoga, and the combination is more to keep things interesting for me than some expertly crafted blend of exercises. For me, finding what feels good and what you enjoy is the key to a successful fitness routine, as you need an iron will to stick with a training programme that you don't enjoy! I try and run once a week, do at least one session with my kettlebell and one 30 minutes session of yoga - although I make time to stretch everyday. I'm definitely a solitary exerciser which makes working out at home perfect for me. Plus you can get as sweaty, red-faced and noisy as you like without ever feeling self-conscious!

So, onto the kit! The picture above shows (clockwise from bottom left) an 8kg kettlebell, Magnesium Oil spray, an Everlast 3lb hand weight, and a Gaiam yoga block. The kettlebell is by Matt Roberts (unfortunately, they're not available anymore), but you can pick them up from Amazon from around £15. This is honestly the best bit of home exercise equipment I've ever used, and I saw a massive change in my physique within a couple of weeks of training with this. I read some time ago that 8kg is the perfect weight for women starting to train, but I was pretty sceptical that I could do anything with it when I got it - it was so heavy! Although the first few sessions were very tough, I pushed through and am so glad I got that weight, as anything less would have quickly become too light. As well as resistance training, it really gets your heart rate up, and is therefore the perfect cardio exercise if you live in a flat, and don't want to be leaping about the place and disturbing your neighbours!

The Magnesium Oil is a recent additional and one that I know I will now never be without. Most of us are deficient in magnesium, but this mineral is essential for muscle repair. I find spraying this onto my body after I've showered helps keep almost all the post-workout aches at bay and it's improved the quality of my sleep considerably. This one is from Better You and costs around £12.00.

Next are the Everlast hand weights, which I've had for years (again, these have been discontinued but Calmia have an almost identical set of two for £6.99). I tend to use these when I'm doing sit ups or lunges at home, which helps up the intensity of your workout. Lastly, I think a yoga block is a fantastic addition for all you at-home yogis. It really helps you to progress into slightly deeper stretches, and is great to help stabilise you. Having two is probably more beneficial for certain postures, but I've never struggled with one. It's also great if you need to get something down from a high shelf! You can get the same one I have for £5.30 here.

If you're going to do yoga at home, it goes without saying that a mat is essential. I haven't photographed mine, but again, it's from Gaiam and it retails for £24.99. You can pick them up much more cheaply than this (I was sent this to review a few years ago), but I'd say it's worthwhile investing in a mat that's at least 5mm thick, as they're much more comfortable to work on.

The photo above shows my beloved Bed of Nails pillow (I also have the mat), which is the perfect way to de-stress. The pillow and the mat are covered in plastic 'spikes' to deliver the most heavenly accupressure - don't worry; you want be full of holes when you stand up! Just don't make the mistake of wriggling to the side while you're lying on it, as it does scratch! I got both of mine from Amazon (the pillow was £19 and the mat was £35). You can read more about Bed of Nails here.

Next are my Gaiam grippy yoga mitts (if you're prone to a sweaty paw, these are for you!) and a yoga strap to help stretch out my hamstrings and back, but you can use this to help you deepen into all sorts of postures. I picked both of these up from TK Maxx for next to nothing, but they can both be found online cheaply (and you can use a belt or scarf instead of the yoga strap!)

Lastly, I have a few videos I go back to time and time again. This kettlebell workout from Fitness Blender is incredible, but boy will you sweat! For yoga, it's anything and everything from Yoga with Adrienne - she's got such a great, easy style, but her videos are still a great challenge.

I hope you found this useful, and do let me know your favourite workout resources and at-home kit in the comments below!


Craft | Pom pom wall hanging

This is something of a departure from my usual posts, but I've been doing a lot of sprucing in the flat lately. After reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up late last year, I've thrown out so many things that failed to 'spark joy' (which is the foundation of author Marie Kondo's approach) and steadily started to introduce a whole host of new things that I really, really love. Careful sourcing of new furniture has brought new pieces into my life that I would previously have discounted on the basis that they felt too indulgent, but the happiness they've brought has convinced me that the investment has been worthwhile. I've spent so many delightful hours on Pinterest in recent weeks, and the fact that my home looks so much more like I want it to has meant that I've been much more keen to add things that I find really beautiful. What's been a revelation to me is that, despite my belief that I had a complete lack of artistic flair, I've managed to create something that has absolutely delighted me since I hung it last week: meet my pom pom wall hanging.
Before I get into the how, I can't pretend that this was a purely creative endeavour. I rent a very lovely Georgian flat in London, but one of the walls in my bedroom is blighted by quite a long, horizontal crack. Fellow renters will know the pain of finding common ground with one's landlord on what constitutes 'essential maintenance', so something needed to be done to conceal it. After hours browsing 'wall hangings' on Pinterest, I stumbled across a sweet pom pom creation, and skipped out to Crystal Palace's newly-opened wool and fabric shop to grab a couple of balls of wool: one grey, and one black for £4.95 each. My next destination was the garden centre to pick up an eight-foot bamboo cane for the bargain price of 60p! I had a spool of black cotton and a needle at home, so investment for this project was a very manageable £10.50. To make the pom poms, you also need a regular dining fork and a pair of scissors.

I followed this pom-pom making tutorial which involves wrapping wool around a fork 50 times, and then tying the yarn around the centre so the bundle is held together. You tie an additional loop around the middle and snip along the circumference, and you're left with a very fluffy little pom pom which needs to be trimmed down. The trick here is to be bold as bold as you dare with your trimming as it gives a much better result. You'll see below that the grey ones on the left are much fuzzier than the black ones towards the front, and this is all down to braver trimming of the latter!

To make the black and grey pom poms in the middle, I alternated ten wraps of each colour up to the regular 50 wraps. After a few practice runs, I was whipping up both plain and mixed poms in a few minutes. I found it much easier to create batches of the tied-off proto-poms, and then return to trim them down, as the latter stage is definitely the more labour-intensive step, requiring a bit more focus. You'll also get completely distracted by your finished poms which slows you down: they're so satisfying to hold! In total, I made 12 black, 12 grey, and eight mixed, which took me about 1.5hrs.

Once the poms were complete, the next step was to start threading the finished articles. I measured and marked even spaces along the length of the bamboo (8.5 inches apart, with space at either end) and started to thread the pom poms onto my thread using a sewing needles. I used regular cotton, measuring 36 inches in length, and spacing the poms 7.5 inches apart. You'll see that, despite trying to measure accurately, the pom poms at the bottom of each line are at slightly different heights. This is entirely accidental but I quite like the effect! I made an effort to line the top row up as evenly as possible, but there's definitely room for creative license here. I tied a double knot under each pom pom, hanging four to each thread. I attached them to the bamboo by looping the end of the thread a few times around the cane and tying them off with a double knot. I fixed three gold nails into the wall (from a picture-hanging kit from Ikea), and balanced the bamboo on top, tying strands of cotton around the bamboo and then around the head of the nail to ensure it was securely fastened. 

And here's the finished article! It started out as a project to conceal an unsightly patch on my wall, but it ended as something I really love, and that I can't quite believe I created. In total, this probably took me four hours (the measuring, threading and hanging definitely took the bulk of the time), so it's a great rainy day project. I'm already pondering what's next for my pom pom endeavours as I have so much wool leftover, and have a feeling that if it doesn't move, it may end up with a pom pom on it. I've told family and friends to keep moving if they see me clutching the wool!

So, hurrah for my first craft 'tutorial'! Please do let me know if you fancy seeing more of this kind of thing, and if you're looking for more inspiration, you can follow me on Pinterest here.


Life | Fun with friends

If this scene isn't the perfect way to end a weekend with friends, I don't know what is! These photos were taken after an hour's wandering around Rutland Water with my most favourite people. Now that we're all spread across the UK, our catch ups are a precious thing, and so incredibly restorative. I don't think I've laughed quite so much since the last time we all got together, and it made me realise how important it is to make time for the ones we love.

I'd intended to take plenty of photos to remember our time together by, but I was so lost in the fun that I didn't manage to take a single snap - perhaps the best indicator of a perfect get together with friends!

There was a wedding taking place at this stunning church below: what an amazingly romantic place to get married!

Hope you're all having a fabulous post-festive week! 


The simple things

The greatest truth about blogging is that it's a thing to be done when the mood is right, and as you'll see from the lack of posts in 2015, I've not been especially inspired. I've long battled with the fact that I started this blog to write about beauty (on day one, this site was called The Beauty Hall), but in recent years, I've become less and less enamoured with the image-obsessed world of social media (hence I had a slight re-brand to Beyond the beauty hall) and I yearned to do something different. But finding a new niche away from beauty was trickier than I thought, and that change of name still didn't feel entirely right. I agonised over the decision to edit out all of the beauty content here, or whether to abandon it all and move to a completely new blog for a fresh start. I chose the latter option, hoping for inspiration, but I wrote a grand total of one post. Now I find myself back here, right where it all started.

I'd thought returning to this blog might feel like an admission of failure, but in a way, it makes complete sense for me to be back. The way this blog has changed in the five years since it was created is part of the story, and where I want to go next is informed by everything that's gone before. Leaving and starting afresh just didn't feel quite right, and perhaps the simplest option - to just keep going - was always going to win out in the end. As I said at the start, if the mood takes you, it's probably best to just go with it, and that's exactly what I'm doing.

That same desire for 'newness' that motivated my decision to create a new blog is a cornerstone of beauty blogging. Yet 'new' has a short lifespan in beauty, and the PR machine behind the biggest brands means that there are now mere moments between release and total ubiquity. The latest product, the exclusive pre-release, the innovative new technology, and the sea of bloggers covering every launch, often reviewing products before their release, means that things get old pretty quickly. Those products that are deemed 'holy grail' today will often be ousted in favour of the next big thing tomorrow. Nothing is forever, and that's never been more true than in an industry expected to turnover $265 billion by 2017. 

What I want to pursue here is the idea that 'new' doesn't equal 'better'. I want a site that makes people feel good about what they have and who they are, rather than something that reinforces or creates anxieties and insecurities. What we see on blogs is a tiny, idealised part of people's lives, but it's presented as a glossy and complete world. We see edited photos, the latest products sent for free, expensive wardrobes, and an endless stream of events and parties, and our own lives look less by comparison. We see young woman speak with authority on diet and exercise routines, posting pictures of toned bodies and green smoothies, with little thought about the impact they're having on the attitudes and outlooks of girls for whom instagram isn't just a place to look at pretty things, but the lens through which they view the world: a world that is filtered and manipulated to such an extent that it can no longer be considered real. The message that there will always be something to make you look prettier or younger never stops, and I'd like this site to be a bit of a break from that. 

So at last, I'm finally confident to say that things really will look a little different around here. I will never again stop myself from blogging because I haven't got a photograph to accompany the post; I won't be driven by what's happening in the beauty hall, and will instead just write about the things that I think, like or dislike, and if you enjoy that, I'm very happy. But for the first time ever, I can finally say that this site is for me, and that feels pretty good.



Synopsis of life of late: work has been insane, and I have invested far too much of myself and my sanity in it at the expense of almost everything else. I say 'almost' as I have successfully managed to cultivate a Wahaca habit and completed a wardrobe overhaul to the tune of seven bags to the charity shop. *Smug satisfaction at decluttered living coupled with terror at discovering that I had retained a Lily Allen-era prom dress* #horror

Speaking of being so five minutes ago on the fashion front, I have returned to my most-beloved teenage trend: slogan t-shirts. After spotting a picture on ASOS's instagram some months ago which made me gasp aloud on the commute (shame), I found myself hauling all the tees that I'd seen on fashion blogs about a hundred years ago: FELINE MEOW, More Issues Than Vogue (thanks, Laura) and the daddy of them all, the double Cs Glen Coco affair. 

Mature, non?

I could insert a vague promise about blogging more, blah blah, but that doesn't make for good content. You all know I've been wrestling with the need to find my inspiration for my blog for ages, so perhaps the next few months ought to be a bit of a marriage guidance exercise. You know, spend more time together, rediscover the reasons you first fell in love, and try things that push your boundaries (I'm thinking maybe vlogging over role play, but you get the picture!)

Image (left): Pinterest
Image (right): ebay


Life | Pink Sky

If I was starting to get the spring feeling in my last post, it has well and truly taken over this week. Stephen and I spent a long weekend in his home town of Sheffield, and we decided to spend Saturday in Whitby on the north Yorkshire coast. Just us, two dogs, and two enormous portions of fish and chips from the delicious Magpie Cafe. After a bracing walk, we dropped down to the beach just as the tide was starting to go out, and we had a rather eventful time: I misjudged the tide and found myself with ankle boots full of sea water, and he jumped up on some rocks, which turned out to be a mound of clay. We like to think of ourselves as tough northerners, but by the time our walk was over and we were wet through and caked in mud, it rather appeared that London has rubbed off on us a little too much!

On our walk back towards the town, we turned back to be greeted by the most beautiful sunset, which intensified with every passing minute. Utterly stunning.

We returned to London on Monday, and I was reminded why I love my street so much: who needs a trip to Japan when I have five cherry blossom trees (plus a magnolia) in full bloom. There are few things more beautiful to me than the soft pink hue of this fleeting blossom, so I'm making sure to keep my weekend clear so I can spend time reading my book and gazing out of the window, before they disappear altogether. Next week, I'll make sure to have my camera with me at all times, as last year, I was caught in a confetti-like swirl as the spent petals descended from the trees in the breeze. It was one of the most magical walks I've ever had.

While I adore pink, it seldom finds its way into my wardrobe, but I have to admit, this rosy haze has me feeling more than a little inspired.

Clockwise from l-r: Jonathan Simkhai top, £325; Linda Farrow sunglasses, £350; Lanvin silk top, £740; Elizabeth and James bag, £445; Nina Ricci skirt, £1000; Thakoon shorts, £430. All from www.net-a-porter.com

Oh, I should add that it pains me to always include such expensive clothing in my edits, but net-a-porter is, without question, the best site for images of clothing rather than models in clothing. I love my edits to be simple, which means that I'm constrained by what's available online. I promise that I will try and find another way to do this (maybe Polyvore?) to showcase some cheaper alternatives. I will try Zara next time, although their occasional grey backgrounds jar with my desire for a pure white background! Serious OCD alert.

Hope you're all having a wonderful week!

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