Travel Guide: Isle of Skye

Oh, beautiful Skye. A truly inspiring and breathtaking island, in the Scottish Highlands, the Isle of Skye is somewhere everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. It has been recognised as one of the top islands in Europe by Conde Nast and National Geographic so who can argue with that? Here is my latest travel guide and voted staycation of the year (by me)! 

Getting to the Isle of Skye 

I’m going to be honest with you. The journey up to the Isle of Skye is not for the faint-hearted. It’s an epic journey along winding, country roads and the further north you go, the more remote you feel. BUT, if you enjoy driving and don’t mind being in the car for the day, then it is 100% worth it, the views are just spectacular! 

I loved the drive up. It was my first road trip in my MINI. There’s something so freeing about driving along country roads, roof down, sun shining and music ON. Pair this with the fantastic scenery, and the drive becomes a real treat. I wish I had a photographer on hand to capture the incredible landscape. There were plenty of WOWs, OMGs, and THIS IS AMAZING whilst I was driving along. 

I drove up from Oxfordshire, which is a trek; however, I am lucky to have family in Scotland so made a pit stop half-way to break up the journey. So technically it took me two days. There are, of course, quicker ways to get there; you could fly to the nearest airport (Inverness or Glasgow) and then hire a car. 

One thing is sure though; you need a car in Skye!

Where to stay? 

I chose to base myself in the main town of Portree. The location is pretty great in terms of being central enough to drive to all of the attractions easily, and there is quite a bit going on (even in COVID times)! 

I stayed at the gorgeous Marmalade Hotel, a recently renovated manor house. It sits on a hill just a short walk from the centre, and I was lucky enough to wake up to incredible views of the coastline every morning at sunrise. *Not an ad*, but I would highly recommend staying here if you are looking for a stylish, comfortable hotel. I received a warm welcome, excellent customer service during my stay and fantastic food! What more could you want? They also have a second hotel, The Bosville, right opposite the harbour with equally gorgeous views so immediately you have two great options! 

Of course, there are plenty of other places to stay. When I was searching for accommodation, I found so many Bed and Breakfast’s, and if camping is more your style then there are options for you too! I would book ahead as it was pretty busy given everyone is opting for a staycation for the foreseeable.

What to do in the Isle of Skye

There are so many things to do and see in Skye, and I only had a couple of days so couldn’t squeeze in everything but I did have a little help from a friend choosing what to prioritise which was great! Here are some of my highlights that I recommend for you too. 

Fairy Pools 

The fairy pools are up there as one of my favourite places in Skye, and potentially the world. I know that’s a big statement to make, but they were stunning. You turn off the main road onto a single track road (there are lots of these) until you arrive at a car park on a hill. It’s £5 to park all day (you can pay by card) and there were plenty of spaces when I turned up at around 11 am. I hear it gets jam-packed though, so it might be best to plan your day with this in mind. 

I met some family friends who happened to be in Skye at the same time, and we hiked to the fairy pools together, which was lovely! There is a bit of walking involved here. You go down from the car park, have to cross the water on these large stepping stones and then walk up the side of the waterfalls to get to the top. On the way up, there are so many photo opportunities – it was hard to put my camera down! The water changed colour from deep blues to magnificent greens and purples. There are several ‘pools’ as you make your way up and if you’re brave enough, you can even have a swim. I did wear my bikini, but it was SO cold that I decided not to – I’ll have to go back another time! 

The fairy pools were honestly one of my favourite places, so I 100% recommend visiting here. Who knows, maybe you’re braver than me and will go for a dip. If you do, I want to see the photos!

Old Man of Storr – Munro

I had a big breakfast this morning ready to fuel my day and my god I’m glad I did. It was an active day of hiking and exploring, and I needed all of the energy I could get! After breakfast, I headed up to Old Man of Storr, parked in the car park (this one was hourly rated but wasn’t expensive) and made my way to the beginning of the site. I was already out of breath before I’d even started and this was the first time I had climbed a steep mountain since my illness, so I took it slowly and was proud of myself to reach the top. The views were incredible, and it was much quieter first thing so I would recommend conquering this one early on.

Neist Point Lighthouse 

I was undecided at first whether I would visit the lighthouse, it certainly wasn’t top of my list. But a lovely Canadian girl at the hotel recommended it as her favourite place on the island, so I listened and jumped in the car to drive over (which took about 1.5hrs from Portree). I remember passing a single Jewellery shop in the middle of nowhere on a hill and thought – how do they make money out here? The lighthouse was in a remote area of the west side of the island with nothing around it for miles, so I would recommend taking supplies with you (water and maybe even a picnic)! 

I lucked out with the weather as it was a beautiful, sunny day! It took me about 15 minutes to walk down the cliff to the lighthouse itself and then I chilled in the sun and took in my surroundings. A friend informed me that the sunsets here are amazing as well, so if you’re looking for a cute, romantic spot then this could be it! 

Talisker Beach 

If you know me, you’ll see that I love a beach so when I added Talisker beach to my itinerary I had it in my head that I HAD to go. I had planned to go after the fairy pools on the first day, but the rain started to pour, and the winds picked up, so I thought it was best to wait and decided to have a cosy evening exploring Portree, enjoying dinner and then chilled at the hotel instead. 

So, the next day was my epic adventure. Having visited Old Man of Storr first thing in the morning, and Neist Point Lighthouse in the afternoon, it was nearing 4 pm. I was getting a bit hangry, my phone battery was dying, and my SatNav wasn’t recognising Talisker at all. I knew it was ‘off the beaten track’ and the funny thing was I knew I was close. I was on a mission to find this beach! Luckily, my grandpa had given me an AA Map before I set off ‘just in case’ and I turned to said map with my last bit of hope and as if by magic the good old trusty map lead me straight to Talisker! (Here’s a recommendation – take a map in case technology fails)! 

If you follow the single track road, past The Oyster Shed, to the end, you finally reach a small group of houses (it might only be 2) where there is parking (mainly just on the side of the road #remote). You then have to walk for a couple of km past the houses, following the signs for the beach, and along another track (I questioned if I was going the right way) which opens out to a beautiful cove and beach with surrounding cliffs.

It honestly took my breath away. The water was so clear, the sand was a very dark grey, and it was riddled with rocks (not little pebbles, giant stones). Because it was so remote, it was peaceful with only a handful of families and couples enjoying the views, and making sandcastles. There were even a few brave soles swimming. I took off my shoes, and walked along the beach, sand between my toes, the icy waves skimming my feet. I was so lucky with the weather, so I sat down on one of the rocks, closed my eyes and just enjoyed the sound of the waves crashing, the sun slowly starting to set in my happy place. 

Tip: I had to get back for a dinner reservation however I’ve heard this is a pretty special place to watch the sunset as an alternative to Neist Point Lighthouse. 

Where to eat 

There are so many lovely restaurants on the Isle of Skye, but you do need to plan your stops so I would encourage you to make some reservations. There’s also not much in between the small towns for snacks, so it’s worth popping into the Co-Op in Portree to stock up! 

Restaurant wise, there are plenty of options in Portree. My favourite was the restaurant at The Bosville – the food was delicious, and it had a friendly atmosphere. I even got chatting to some of the locals which I love doing as nothing beats getting recommendations from those who live in the area – you always uncover things off the beaten track. I also enjoyed fish and chips by the harbour one delicious evening! 

For all you foodies out there, there are also several excellent, high-end restaurants to choose from including 1 Michelin Star restaurant! Unfortunately, I didn’t know about these ahead of time, and they require booking in advance, so I’m leaving them below for you to check out! 

My top tips for visiting the Isle of Skye 

I can’t finish my travel guide without sharing my top tips! 

  1. Depending on the time of year you visit, you need to be aware of the dreaded midges! Make sure you get some strong midges spray – I used Avon Skin So Soft
  2. There are limited places to buy food when you get on the road so if you are planning a long day of visiting some of the attractions I would take a packed lunch and plenty of water with you.
  3. A lot of the sites are in and amongst nature, and therefore there were limited toilets! There were toilets in the main towns, so when driving through, it might be best to stop off. 
  4. I wasn’t expecting a good phone signal given the remoteness of the island, but fortunately, because I am on EE, I managed to get 4G easily! So the good news is if you’re an EE user, you’ll be fine. 
  5. If at all you have a choice, I would recommend taking an automatic car over a manual. It’s not a dealbreaker but, as the roads are single track, there was a lot of pulling over to let cars pass meaning you are always going up and down the gears! 
  6. Take a physical map in the car just in case! 
  7. Most importantly, be careful of the sheep! You will find that they are sometimes at the edge of the road or on the tracks so drive carefully. 

Further Information 

Someone I know recommended some brilliant activities during my stay so if you’re thinking about heading to the Isle of Skye, check out his website: https://www.myskyetime.com/

Travel guide: Cornwall, England

Staycation is the new vay-cation. 

It may seem a little strange to be talking about travel plans at a time of crisis. However, restrictions are starting to lift and let’s face it; everyone wants a break from staring at the same four walls for the past five months. 

Many of my friends, family and colleagues are making new plans for some time away. Still, it’s pretty challenging to navigate with the rules about which countries we can and can’t visit continually changing. Staycation to the rescue! 

Cornwall is the new ‘hot’ destination this summer in the UK, and I’m not surprised with its gorgeous beaches, walking routes, award-winning restaurants and microclimate. Having shared some recommendations with a few colleagues recently, I wanted to compile those into this travel guide for anyone heading to the South West of England this summer.

Cornwall: summer holiday destination 2020 

My family and I have visited Cornwall several times, usually during the October half-term, and we love it! There’s so much to see and do for all the family. I know we’re talking about summer holidays here but as an aside, we find that October is an excellent time to go – it’s not too busy yet you get relatively good weather, and the sea has had the summer to warm up which means when we go surfing it’s bearable. I don’t know about you, but I hate the cold and even with a wetsuit on the sea chills my bones! Whether you choose to go in the next few weeks, or months, there will be plenty of things to keep you busy.

Cornwall is a vast place, so a little disclaimer here. I’m sharing just some of my suggestions and the places I love based on my experiences. We tend to stay in Rock and spend a lot of our time in the Padstow and Polzeath area so if you’re heading that way then here’s my list of top things to see and do.

Padstow  

Padstow is a cute little fishing town (I’m obsessed) and is home to many famous restaurateurs including Paul Ainsworth and Rick Stein. You can spend your day exploring the town, walking the narrow cobbled streets coffee in hand, browsing in the local independent shops or you can take a walk along the coastline. The real draw here though is the fantastic food! If you’re a foodie like me, then you don’t want to miss out on these gems. 

Paul Ainsworth at Number 6
This is Paul’s Michelin Star restaurant, located in a beautiful Georgian townhouse in the heart of Padstow, serving British food with a focus on locally sourced Cornish produce.

Cafe Rojano 
Italian being my all-time favourite, Cafe Rojano is not to be missed. This restaurant is slightly more casual in style to reflect its Italian roots, with a menu to die for.

Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant
We were so impressed with Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant. A classic, serving deliciously fresh seafood in a lovely, bright atmosphere – perfect for a special dinner by the seaside.

NB: I would recommend checking their websites for updated guidance surrounding COVID,19 and it is probably worth booking as I know they’ll be super busy! 

The other thing we love about Padstow and Rock is the ferry that takes you from one to the other. Departing regularly throughout the day, and at a small price, you can quickly get across from Padstow to Rock (or the other way around) on foot which means you can enjoy that afternoon beer or glass of wine! 

Rock

We love to stay in Rock, just across the water from Padstow… a quieter town but equally as beautiful. Here you can pick up freshly baked goods from the bakery in the morning, and they have a couple of little clothes and home shops to explore. After walking the dogs in the fresh air, we like to stop at  ‘The Mariners’, another of Paul Ainsworth’s delights, for a cold drink and sometimes snacks although we’re often then tempted to stay for a full meal because it’s so lovely! It’s more casual than some of his other places and is great fun – it feels like you’re down your local pub with friendly faces there waiting to greet you on arrival. 

There are also loads of beautiful walks along the cliffs, and you can get down onto the beach to do watersports should you wish! Another little gem is a cafe called the Blue Tomato down by the shore – they serve a gorgeous breakfast, and the hot chocolate is ‘award-winning’ in my sister’s eyes. They even serve up dog treats for your furry friends. 

Polzeath 

Polzeath is well known for it’s surfing. The waves aren’t massive, which is great if you’re a beginner (which we are) so we enjoy it. You can hire wetsuits and have lessons at Surfs Up, and there are plenty of cafes on the beach for the spectators. You’re also guaranteed to see families and couples out walking their dogs here, which is adorable! 

There is a gorgeous walk that we religiously do with the dogs along the clifftops which I highly recommend. If you walk out to Pentire Point and The Rumps you’ll be able to get some breathtaking photos. 

That’s my travel guide to Cornwall. I appreciate there are so many other gorgeous places to visit, but I would highly recommend some of the above if you are in the area – it is truly breathtaking. Who needs the South of France when you have Cornwall? Wishing you all a lovely holiday wherever you may be and let me know if you do visit – I’d love to hear your travel stories and further recommendations for places I may have missed!

Summer reading list 2020

Every summer, I take a break from my monthly book club recommendations in place of my carefully crafted summer reading list. Although most of us aren’t hopping on a plane for a holiday this year, we can still ‘holiday’ at home, which means there is plenty of time for reading! And with the heatwave we’ve been having here in the UK, it’s the perfect timing.

So, may I present to you my favourite book picks for summer 2020, including everything from romance and thrillers to non-fiction and personal development.

Pretending by Holly Bourne

Why be yourself when you can be perfect?

April is finding it hard to get past date 5 – something’s just not clicking until one day she creates Gretel. Gretel is the girl that every man wants – beautiful, confident, intelligent … perfect. But we all know that Gretel doesn’t really exist. So when April meets unsuspecting Joshua, dating becomes fun again but how long can she keep the pretence up? 

This is a book that all women need to read, find it here.

Be your own best friend by Chessie King

If you follow Chessie on Instagram, then you’ll know that she is all about spreading body positivity and getting beneath the critical topics that are sometimes hard to discuss. She spreads nothing but joy, so when I heard she was releasing her first book, I couldn’t wait to snap it up. This is another one that I would encourage all women to read full of inspiration, helpful advice and that confidence boost you need to hear.

Buy the book here.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Named the biggest crime thriller of 2020, The Guest List is a clever murder mystery. Set off the coast of Ireland, guests gather for the wedding of the year, but when one of the guests is found dead, everyone starts to panic. With the wedding ruined and a storm coming in that traps everyone at the venue, will they escape alive and figure out who did it?

I absolutely love a murder mystery, and this is up there on my list! Find the book here.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Longlisted for the Women’s prize for fiction 2020, Candice tells the tale of Queenie Jenkins, who is on a quest to understand how to rule her own life. Trying to fit into two worlds that don’t understand her, Queenie battles with relationships, family, work and society to figure it all out.

Find the book here.

The art of resilience by Ross Edgley

Ross Edgley is one impressive human being. He ran a marathon pulling a 1.4-tonne car, climbed a rope the height of Everest and became the first person in history to swim around Great Britain in 157 days. And these are just some of his achievements to date. In this book, Ross uncovers the secrets of mental fitness and the art of resilience to become a stronger person, whatever challenges you face.

Find the book here.

The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward

The Jetsetters is the perfect summer read. When 70-year-old Charlotte wins a ‘Become a jetsetter’ cruise around Europe, she invites her 3 grown-up estranged children in the hopes of reuniting them. But, with tensions running high and lots of baggage to get out on the table – will it work or be a complete disaster? This is an accurate tale of family, relationships and love.

Find the book here. 

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

This book is due to be released on 23 July in the UK, but I wanted to include it as it is very topical at this time. Set in Dublin in 1918, nurse Julia is attending to expected mothers who have come down with the unknown flu and are being quarantined together. Along with two helpers, these three women change each other lives unexpectedly as they navigate their way through the pandemic. This may be a bit heavier than the others but worth a read all the same.

You can find out more here.

I hope you all enjoy some downtime over the summer and can get your read on! Let me know what you think in the comments.

Chorizo and goats cheese pasta

This gorgeous chorizo and goats cheese pasta recipe is perfect for a weekend treat! The recipe serves 2, but you can increase or halve the ingredients to make it work for you!

Top tip: It is tastier eaten straight away rather than heated up.

Serves 2
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 200g pasta
  • 1 chorizo ring (or slightly less)
  • 250ml of cream
  • 1 red chilli, chopped
  • 1 generous handful of green beans
  • 1 goats cheese circle

Instructions

  1. Heat the pasta in lightly salted water for around 10 minutes until cooked
  2. Cook the green beans in lightly salted water for around 5 minutes until cooked
  3. In a separate pan, fry the chorizo on a medium heat until cooked through. Add the chilli for another 2 minutes and then pour in the cream, reduce the heat and stir occasionally until it thickens slightly.
  4. Slice the goats cheese into two and place under the grill until bubbling and golden (usually about 5 mins)
  5. Drain the pasta and beans, stir in the chorizo sauce and serve in a pasta bowl, placing the cooked goats cheese on top!

Enjoy, and share your photos if you decide to make it!

June book club pick: The Switch by Beth O’Leary

I don’t know about you, but the lockdown has me reading SO many new books and as a result, I have loads of great recommendations for you! This month’s pick is called The Switch by newcomer Beth O’Leary. The Switch is the heartwarming tale of Leena and her grandmother, Eileen. In need of a change they decide to swap lives for 2 months. The Switch is full of laugh out loud moments, relationship meltdowns and a whole lot of love. It is what I would describe as the perfect feel-good summer read!

Beth O’Leary

Beth O’Leary is an author whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages! She wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her journey to work at a children’s publisher which was featured on The Sunday Times top 5 bestseller list, and is now a full-time writer. The Switch is her second novel which was released in the UK in April 2020.

Beth describes her novels as “uplifting love stories – the sorts of books you reach for when you need a hug”

The Switch

The Switch follows Leena, a young professional living the London life. She has a great career, a ‘loving’ boyfriend, and shares a flat with some of her closest friends. Everything is going great, until one day she completely flunks a presentation at work (Leena NEVER messes up) and her life is turned upside down. Her boss calls her into the office and demands she takes 2 months out. What on earth is she going to fill her time with?

Eileen is Leena’s grandmother who lives in a small village in Yorkshire. She’s newly single, about to turn 80 and in need of a new adventure, and has always wanted to do a stint in London. When Leena goes up to visit Eileen and learns of Eileen’s quest for real love, Leena hatches a plan! A life swap – houses, mobiles and friends included, which makes for an exciting turn of events.

To begin with, Leena feels totally lost in Yorkshire. She agrees to take on Eileen’s commitments in the village which is made up of lots of committees and groups, dog walking and helping her sometimes grumpy neighbours. Then there’s also the long-distance relationship she is trying to hold onto plus reconnecting with her mum.

Eileen gets her dating profile set up, and Leena’s friends guide her into the modern era of online dating. Eileen is a massive hit with Leena’s friends and neighbours, setting up the Silver Shoreditchers Social Club in the community area at the flat. But is this new life really the one that Eileen wants or is her true love closer to home?

Eileen Cotton proves you don’t have to be in your thirties to be Bridget Jones. A triumph of a second novel

Anstey Harris

The Switch is a tale of families, friendships and love. Of how sometimes, as humans, we need to slow down, reflect and be grateful for all of the beautiful things life has to offer. This story is funny, warm, and an absolute joy to read, and I couldn’t recommend it enough. Especially if you are feeling a bit low in lockdown and need a virtual hug. Best enjoyed with your favourite cup of tea or coffee! Let me know what you think in the comments!

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May Book Club Pick: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

If you’re finding yourself bored in lockdown, I have a fascinating read for you this month to keep you busy! I chose to read this book after it was recommended to me and I even suggested it for our last book club read at work. I was very intrigued, and it has certainly sparked a lot of debate. 

This month’s book club pick is Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. 

Kiley Reid 

Kiley Reid is an American novelist from Los Angeles, California and now resides in Philadelphia, US. She writes fiction about class, money and race. 

When Reid went off to college in New York, she became a nanny, caring for the children of wealthy families to earn an income. Although people mistake her for the main character of her story, Emira, her experiences definitely sparked the inspiration for the novel. She started writing the book when applying to grad school. She completed it while earning an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she was the recipient of the Truman Capote Fellowship. 

Such a Fun Age is her debut novel. Reid is now working on the screenplay adaptation of Such a Fun Age and is writing her second novel. 

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid 

Featured on The Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller list, Such a Fun Age has become a famous novel in a short space of time. Released in the UK in January 2020, Reid has received praise from many fellow novelists and readers alike. So, what’s the story about?  

Emira is a 25-year-old typist and babysitter who looks after Alix’s two-year-old, Briar. The story kicks off when Alix calls Emira late at night asking her to come and take Briar out of the house while she sorts out an emergency. Leaving her friends and a party behind, Emira collects Briar, and they head down to the supermarket. However, Emira is quickly accused of kidnapping the white child, Briar, and finds herself in a difficult situation. She is only appeased when she calls Briar’s dad, news anchor Peter, to set the record straight. This sets off a chain of events. 

Alix, an influencer who has built a female-centric brand, has previously spent a lot of time working and not much time with her kids. Later in the story, this changes. She tries to get closer to Emira, but this relationship develops into something a bit strange, almost obsessive. Alix regularly reads Emira’s phone for gossip, traps her in the kitchen for conversations over wine and invites her and her new boyfriend over for Thanksgiving. This would have been fine until it’s revealed that Alix know’s Emira’s new boyfriend and has a personal vendetta against him. This shakes things up, and the relationships explored throughout the novel get even more complicated.

Emira knows that she must leave the job, but broke, lost and with a soft spot for Briar, this becomes harder to do. The story comes to an explosive end where all feelings are laid out on the table, no stone unturned. 

A funny, charismatic book that will fire off a million debates… The one to watch.

Sunday Times

I’m going, to be honest. I felt that there were certain moments in the book that went too far. I didn’t really understand the motivations behind some of the characters – which we thought as a collective when discussing during my other book club. Having said that, it’s an exciting book that covers so many important themes of race, class, love, marriage, motherhood and is undoubtedly one to read! 

So there you have our May book club pick. I would love to hear your thoughts about the book and the characters! Please leave your comments below or on my Instagram, and I’ll respond! 

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5 ways to accelerate your personal development during COVID-19

We’re week 3 into lockdown in the UK and with the potential of this pandemic lasting much longer than the initial period set out by the government, I’ve been thinking of ways to use this time for something positive – personal development. It is something that tends to fall down everyone’s list when we’re busy but now we have an opportunity and a bit of down time to focus on this and reset. So, here are my top 5 ideas to keep you busy during isolation.

Enrol in an online training course

When COVID-19 hit, many learning establishments made their online courses free of charge so that the population can use the time to upskill. I think this is a great way to supercharge your development and it means you can do this from the comfort of your home. There are so many free resources out there that you can take advantage of, it’s just about identifying what new skills you want to develop and finding the right course for you. Here are some suggestions and links to get you started.

Open Learn by The Open University
Future learn
Edx | Free Online Courses by Harvard, MIT & more
School of Marketing – Digital Employability Skills Course

Equally, if you’ve had your eye on a specific training course for a while but have worried about finding the time to dedicate to it, perhaps now is an ideal environment with less distractions. I’ve been thinking this exact thing so I’m just exploring my options to complete some training whilst in isolation.

Schedule daily reading, audiobooks or podcasts 

I know I talk about reading a lot but for me, it is such an important part of life. There are so many self-help, business and personal development books written by the greatest minds and practitioners in the world! It would be crazy not to get stuck in. My advice would be to choose a subject that you’re curious about or something that’s going to help you develop a new skill, strength or mindset.

There are literally thousands to choose from so here are just a handful that I’m reading and listening to at the moment.

Books:
The Squiggly Career by Helen Tupper & Sarah Ellis
Good Vibes, Good Life by Vex King

Podcasts:
The Diary of a CEO – Steven Bartlett
TEDx Talks Daily – Various guests
Great Minds (by AW360) – Various industry experts

Audiobooks:
The subtle art of not giving a f*ck by Mark Manson
Rising Strong by Brené Brown

Of course, if you just want to lose yourself in a good fiction novel, then you have that option too! Check out my book club for some recommendations.

Start a side hustle

I was recently talking to a friend about side hustles. What are they and how do you get one? Well, that’s completely up to you. A side hustle is all about turning your passion into a business for a little extra cash.

Your side hustle could be anything you want it to be! Some examples include freelance writing or design, selling clothes, teaching music, event planning or coaching. The possibilities are endless.

Now that we have more free time on our hands, this could be a great opportunity to start building on that idea that’s been sitting at the back of your mind for a while, even if you can’t quite execute it yet.

This reminds me of one of my favourite quotes about grasping opportunities and working hard for the things you want.

Some people want it to happen, some people wish it would happen, others make it happen.

Learn a new language

I’m generalising but I am sure a lot of us WISH that we were fluent in a second language – I certainly do! I worked in Italy over the summer of 2011 and learned to speak and read a bit of Italian. I swore I would keep it up when I got back to the UK however life got away with me and I ultimately just didn’t make time to do this. Now, I can only remember a handful of phrases and struggle to put a sentence together!

Granted learning a language is probably one of the hardest things but this is a time to focus on the things you don’t normally get a chance to do. So, if learning a language has been on your bucket list, then how about trying these resources as a starting point.

Duolingo – This is a free app that allows you to take bite-size language classes in over 30 different languages and build on your skills including quizzes, games and speaking exercises.

Learn a language with Paul Noble (audiobook) – If you prefer to listen and absorb then there are some great audiobooks out there that help you to learn a language. You can switch on, listen for 30 minutes and return the next day to continue.

I can only share what I have come across and used but I am sure there are loads of materials out there that can help you to learn a new language. You could also reach out to friends who also speak or are learning different languages and set up virtual calls to practice! If you know of any, please comment at the bottom to help each other out with ideas!

Arts & crafts

I’m personally not an arts and crafts type of person – my drawing skills are appalling and I am useless in an art lesson! However, I know a lot of people are at home with children right now and need ways to keep the whole family busy and having fun which is why I wanted to share this as my 5th idea! I came across a brilliant Instagram profile for Michael Woodside who works in the animation team at Walt Disney and has created ‘Social Distancing Drawing’ – free online tutorials teaching you how to draw all of the Disney characters on YouTube!

Michael is amazing. He breaks it down easily so that you can follow step-by-step. He believes everyone can draw and that there are basic principles you can follow and then it’s just practice. If I can do it, you can do it! Why not pop on a Disney soundtrack quietly in the background for added effect.

Share your ideas

So, there you have 5 ideas to keep you focused during lockdown if you find yourself running out of Netflix series to watch! It’s really important to stay as positive as possible and find ways to keep some sort of routine at times like these. I know that is easier said than done, especially if you are juggling family commitments, but hopefully this post will inspire you to try something new.

If you have further ideas or additional resources people can access then please feel free to drop them in the comments at the bottom of this post!

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April Book Club Pick: Normal People by Sally Rooney

This is the first post I’ve written since the COVID-19 outbreak. Like many others, I have been adjusting to the new normal. We find ourselves in unprecedented times and as we try to navigate what that means, we need to find ways of keeping busy, focusing on the positives and most importantly, having fun! As you know, I absolutely love reading as a form of escapism and relaxation so it’s great to be able to share my recommendations with you all. 

So, I’m excited to share April’s book club pick with you all, the amazing Normal People by Sally Rooney.

Sally Rooney

First, a little bit about the author. Sally is an Irish author who launched her debut novel, Conversations with Friends, in 2017 followed by Normal People in 2018. She graduated from an MA at Trinity College in 2013 and resides in Dublin.

At just age 28, Sally Rooney has become a well-known name in the literary world with celebrities and readers from all over, praising her work. You’ll find her novels topping The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller List as well as being longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, among others which is an outstanding achievement! What’s more, Normal People is set to become a TV series and will be released on BBC Three in the UK at the end of this month. I can’t wait to see how they bring this to life on the screen!

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People follows the lives of two young Irish teenagers, Connell and Marianne over four years. They have grown up in the same small town but have very different upbringings. Connell is part of the popular group at school, while Marianne has no friends and keeps herself to herself. You wouldn’t have put the two together however when they cross paths, the unexpected happens. 

This is a romantic love story where Connell and Marianne try to navigate the highs and lows of a relationship whilst battling their own personal demons and everything that comes with growing up and moving away to university. 

In this new chapter of their lives, the roles are reversed and Marianne appears to be the popular one with lots of friends where Connell is struggling. As much as they might want to, they can’t stay apart and their mutual fascination keeps them coming back to each other, even when they have pursued other relationships.

She has never believed herself fit to be loved by any person. But now she has a new life, of which this is the first moment.

What makes this book so captivating is the way that Rooney develops the characters and dialogue throughout. Often books only tackle one person’s point of view but the way this book is written, it feels like you’re having conversations with both characters and getting both sides of the story which I loved. 

Hailed as ‘the best young novelist’ and ‘a major young writer in the English-speaking world’ Rooney has set the bar high for herself and other writers alike. If you haven’t read this book then I highly recommend finding some time to get stuck in!

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March Book Club Pick: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

This month’s book club pick is a little bit different but a must-read nonetheless. American Dirt is a heartbreaking tale of a mother and her eight-year-old son on the run from Mexico to the United States, having escaped an attack by one of the most dangerous Mexican drug cartels. Unputdownable, if you read anything this year then it needs to be this book! 

Jeanine Cummins

Jeanine Cummins is an American author of three books: The Outside Boy, The Crooked Branch and one memoir, A Rip in Heaven. 

Jeanine was born in Spain whilst her father was stationed there as a member of the US Navy and then moved back to America with her family where she grew up and studied. Jeanine worked in publishing for 10 years before becoming a full-time author and spent four years writing American Dirt before publishing earlier this year in 2020. She’s drawn on family and past experiences for inspiration. 

American Dirt 

Released at the beginning of this year, American Dirt has quickly become a favourite read amongst many, named The Sunday Times and New York Times Bestseller. Jeanine has crafted a masterful plotline that is full of unpredictable twists and turns.

The story follows Lydia and her eight-year-old son Luca who are on the run from a drug cartel hoping to find safety in the United States. Suddenly forced to flee their home they have no plan and very little with them but they do know one thing… they must make it to el Norte without being found. 

Lydia and Luca endure some god awful things on their journey towards freedom. They walk miles and miles, leap onto high-speed moving trains (la Bestia), have to ration food and water and protect each other and their friends from the dangers of being migrants on the run. 

The story is one of heartbreak and love, of terror and relief. There’s only one way they will make it – by focusing on the task at hand and not sparing time to reflect on what they’ve lost.

I strive to write page-turners because I love to read them, and it’s been a long time since I turned pages as fast as I did with American Dirt.

John Grisham

This story covers a lot of ground and provides an important voice on the discussion around immigration. When you read content like this it really puts things into perspective.

As always leave a comment below if you’re planning to read along and let me know your thoughts! I will be doing another Instagram Chat at the end of March to discuss so keep an eye on my page for updates.


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February Book Club: Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

Each month I love browsing the book stores in search of my next book club pick to share with you all. I started this section on my blog when I realised that people were coming to me for recommendations and ideas, knowing that I’ve always got a book in my hand! This month’s book club pick is the brilliant Someone We Know by Shari Lapena.

I really enjoy Lapena’s work and have read some of her other novels, so when I was searching for a thriller and came across her latest release, I couldn’t say no! Read on to find out more about the book (don’t worry there are no spoilers)!

Shari Lapena 

Shari Lapena is an international bestselling author and has written titles such as ‘An unwanted guest’ and ‘The couple next door’, which was the bestselling fiction title in the UK in 2017 and has been optioned for TV! Before becoming a writer, she was a lawyer and an English teacher and is based in Canada. 

Someone We Know 

Someone We Know is a true ‘whodunnit’ thriller and page-turner.

The story follows the families and couples who live in a tight-knit neighbourhood in the suburbs of America – an otherwise ordinary town. When a local woman is found murdered the residents start to talk and question whether they really know their neighbours as well as they think they do.

“Shari’s novels are domestic noir at its finest”  

Simon Kernick

To make matters worse, an anonymous note is left in 3 houses apologising for a break-in but ‘reassuring’ those that live there that nothing was stolen. Who is keeping secrets and to what extent would you protect your family?

This novel is brilliantly told bringing together multiple characters and backstories into one and leaves you gasping for more at the end!

I found myself finishing off the last couple of chapters at the weekend whilst my family were sitting around the table eating breakfast as I just could not put it down until I knew the final details. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re into your thrillers.

Book club chat

This month I’m also going to be trialling a book club chat via my Instagram page at the end of this month for those of you who’ve read the book and want to discuss! Hopefully the first of many more to come. Keep your eyes peeled for details on my Instagram stories!

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January Book Pick: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

We’re back with the first book club of 2020 and the decade! This month I wanted to take it back to a book that was released in 2018 and is a must-read if you haven’t already – Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen. I didn’t get a chance to read this last year so I ordered it over the Christmas break to kick start my reading for 2020 and it was worth the wait! 

Delia Owens

Delia Owens is an American zoologist and has taken inspiration from her work to write her debut novel, Where the Crawdads Sing. She has previously co-authored 3 internationally bestselling books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa and her work has been published in many journals. This experience shines through in her first novel with such flair.

Where the Crawdads Sing 

Where the Crawdads Sing topped The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2019 for a number of weeks and has sold over 4 million copies worldwide. If that’s not an indication of a great book then I don’t know what is! 

Where the Crawdads Sing is set in Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast and is centred around the main character Kya Clark, known as the ‘marsh girl’ by the locals. She’s young, has had a tough upbringing and when her mother and siblings leave her in search of a better life she is pretty much left to fend for herself, with very little money and an almost non-existent relationship with her father (who is barely home). When Chase Andrews is found dead in the marsh, the locals suspect poor Kya.

Painfully beautiful… At once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative and a celebration of nature 

New York Times Book Review 

I love the way Delia has written this book, switching between the 1950s when Kya is only a young girl trying to find a way to survive and 1969 when the suspected murder takes place. You come to understand more about Kya’s upbringing and family whilst being taken on a ride with the locals trying to solve the murder and the two come together in a very clever way. 

This novel is beautifully descriptive and takes into account nature as much as the characters and action within the story. And can we just take a moment to appreciate the beautiful cover design.

If you have read this already I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book in the comments below, and if not then please please add this to your reading list! 

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Lessons from 2019, hopes for 2020

As we all get ready to welcome in the new year and a new decade with family and loved ones, I like to reflect on what I have achieved and what I have learned. So much can happen in that time and I find it useful to spend time doing this before making plans for the new year. So, here is my year in highlights. 

2019 highlights 

I’ve had a great year this year minus a hurdle I had to overcome in the Autumn with my health, but that aside, I am so grateful to a lot of people for giving me some amazing opportunities, helping me to grow as a person and for being by my side throughout it all. 

January – April was dominated by rehearsals and performing with the PwC Pantomime in the Westend, Newcastle and Birr, Ireland alongside work. This was a dream come true and reminded me of how much I love performing and I’d love to find more opportunities to build this into my life. I made some friends for life, have been able to use my choreography skills, and I’m excited to see next year’s performance, Treasure Island, in January. 

2019 was our first full year as a digital marketing team at work and we’ve achieved so much in a short space of time including entering into new partnerships, developing new ways of working, running high profile paid advertising campaigns and we were shortlisted for several industry awards. A great achievement all round! 

We (The Founding 50) officially kicked off the School of Marketing (SoM) with some help from our advisory board and of course the brilliant Ritchie! We devised a strategy for SoM to raise awareness of our purpose and promote a career in marketing to youngsters. We hosted a successful launch event at Saatchi & Saatchi for aspiring marketers and I got to feature in my first ever (Marketing Week) podcast. We ran our first student competition with the Festival of Marketing where I was a mentor for one of the student’s groups and we created and ran our first pilot workshop in schools. This is only the beginning of what we’re hoping to achieve and I’m so excited to see where we can take this in 2020 and beyond. 

I took my fitness to new levels this year, training at my favourite London gym Third Space, and prioritised healthy eating probably more than I ever have (although I still found room for plenty of treats). I probably felt my best and strongest the first half of this year and in 2020 I hope to continue my fitness journey.

This time last year when I was thinking about 2019 I was so excited to plan my dream trip to California. I finally made this happen and in June, took 3 ½ weeks off work to travel the West Coast and had a blast! I was fortunate to visit many places including LA, San Diego, Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Vegas, Yosemite & Bass Lake, San Fran and Monterrey (I might do a post on this in 2020 if anyone’s thinking of planning something similar). I ticked off a few bucket list moments such as a hot air balloon ride in Arizona, a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon and taking in all of the sights in LA. I also met so many amazing people during this trip from all over the world who I can now call friends. 

Then came the hurdle at the end of the summer. I was diagnosed with a collapsed lung. This meant I was out of action for 5 full weeks and have had to ease myself back into work and life over these last few months. It honestly felt like I skipped a season in between summer and winter! Although this was a tough time, I was able to slow right down and take stock of what I was doing and focus more on my health which has also provided me with plenty of lessons to take forward into 2020. 

Lessons to take into 2020 

Slow and steady wins the race

I have a tendency to want to rush ahead and do everything at once which I’m well aware is something I need to be careful of and is something I’ve been working on. This year has proven to me that you don’t have to have everything figured out right now and choosing a few things to focus on will have far better outcomes!

Don’t take your health for granted 

This year has definitely proven to me that you absolutely shouldn’t take your health for granted. Even if you feel ok, make sure you’re giving yourself plenty of time to relax, get enough sleep and if you don’t feel well then take time to get better rather than ploughing through (which I know a lot of us can be guilty of). There is nothing more important than your health – everything else can wait!

Stop putting so much pressure on yourself  

It is so easy to fall into a trap of putting pressure on yourself to excel in every area of your life but this is unnecessary and can do more damage than good. Instead, I’ve learned to relax and give myself a bit of space to do the things that I want to do and to not get worked up if, for example, I haven’t completed my to-do list one day. This also helps me to focus on the things that matter most whether that be in my personal or professional life.  

Looking forward to 2020

A piece of advice that I received this year, that I wholeheartedly agree with and was already living by, is to never live or work the same year twice. Now, of course, that’s not possible if you think about this literally but in essence, this is about trying new things, taking on new challenges and exploring different opportunities so that you can grow as a person and your career. So, although I don’t have any solid plans for 2020 as of yet, I look forward to seeing what adventures I find myself on! 

Wishing you a happy, healthy and successful 2020! x

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