Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Six Women who Inspire me to Work Harder

Do you have a mentor? I recently read in Elle magazine and then again on The Pool the importance of being mentored by someone younger than you. Lorraine Candy, editor of Elle said:  "If you work within a team I would highly recommend spending an hour or so a week talking through ideas with someone just embarking on their career". Now, I'm definitely just embarking on my career. I'm less than a year into the industry I want to be in and just 6 weeks into what I am already describing as "my dream job". I don't know if I inspire or offer any form of mentoring to those around me. I like to think I do or will have the opportunities to do so, but in the past few months to a year, I have been so inspired and developed by six particular women in their actions and writing. 

I could list so many women who inspire me, across all aspects of my life. But these are women who, particularly within my career and my personal development inspire me. 

Arianna Huffington 

I'm currently halfway through Ariana's third book: Thrive. It's a reminder that success does not have to come through working 80 hour weeks, pushing our bodies to the limit and not getting enough sleep. In fact, the opposite is true. It is a call to sleep, switch off, look after ourselves and avoid burnout. It might, therefore, seem strange to list her first in my list of women who inspire me to work harder. However, in a society where I am regularly told "your 20s are the time to work all the hours" or "you can sleep later", Arianna's words are not just encouraging but a solid foundation for my firm believe in making the most of annual leave, taking time out and not over working for the sake of working. 

Jo Elvin

I've been reading Glamour Magazine for so long and one of my most favourite parts is always Jo's editor letter. Her go-get-them attitude is so inspiring. Further inspiration comes from her Me and My Career interview in the guardian. Key points include: "just go for it" and "whatever you're asked to do is integral to the magazine.. do it with a smile on your face, immerse yourself in the magazine and soak it up like a sponge" - whilst her advice is for wannabe journalists I can't help feeling that it is so easily applicable to all industries. 

Gini Dietrich 

I've been reading Spin Sucks for nearly a year now and relish my daily boost of PR news and advice. But I also love Gini's posts on leadership, development and workplace. She has a firm stance on the correct use of email (i.e. don't unless you really have to - go speak to them face to face) and is also passionate about flexible working/teams. 

Within her role, Gini mentors and advises PR professionals on a daily basis but she also offers amazing advice through the Spin Sucks blog which has been so useful to me within y own career. 

Sheryl Sandberg

I'll be honest, I'm not completely  bought into the Lean In concept just yet, mostly because I just haven't read enough about it or researched it. 

However, the work Sheryl does both within Facebook and Disney (let's be real two of the coolest companies) inspires me: she's a pioneer for women within technology and encourages women to inspire and educate those around them. 

Marie Forleo

Every single one of Marie's weekly videos are inspirational and uplifiting. I come away so motivated to chase my goals and live the life I want. I mean, the minute you step on her website you are reminded "that the world needs that special gift that only you have", which is very motivational at 7am on a Tuesday morning don't you think?


This is probably the most personal on the list, hence the lack of last name. Call me a brown noser, but I am so inspired by my friend (and ok, boss) Jo. She has given me opportunities that have led to my career today, taken time out over the last year or so to offer training and advice to encourage my development. The work I did the other week around Ideal Week came from her. She inspires me both professionally and within my relationship with Andy. She has, and continues to, work so hard to be where she is today - whilst juggling a home life and gorgeous toddler.

Thank you, to the six amazing women, who inspires you?

Friday, 17 June 2016

Father's Day

It's Father's Day on Sunday and for the first time in I think.. 5 years...I will be with my dad! Which I am really, really looking forward to! In the meantime, I thought I'd take this opportunity to give a little shout out to my father and the other father figures in my life. I hope you'll forgive me a little emotion and sentimentality! 


Matt and Esther Photography

First off, I have only one dad. The other men below are wonderful but they are not my daddy. He is the first man I ever loved. My dad is endlessly protective, loving and supportive- I will never forget calling him with my A Level results and hearing him cry with pride over the phone, despite being in a supermarket in Crete. Yea, big Steve is a bit of a weeper!! 

He has taught me so much about working hard, reaching for my dreams and being proud of my achievements - he is still the first person I text with good news and the first person I call when I'm sad or stressed or need some advice. 

But it's not all serious, he is also so very funny and sarcastic (sound familiar) and he did a cracking job with his Father of the Bride speech. He is wonderful. Happy Father's Day, Daddy. I love you!



I should probably apologise in advance to my sister who I know will read this and cry. My grandad, Roly Downton, unfortunately, died 14 years ago. Prior to that, he was a rock for both me, my sisters, my mum and my nan. He never raised his voice, was endlessly patient with me and cheered the loudest for my successes- he even cheered for my fledgeling violin career when I think everyone else hoped I'd quit soon! I am immensely proud to be his granddaughter and my only regret is that he never got to meet Andy. Oh, and doesn't he look like Elvis?



My paternal grandpa, the wonderful Roy. Never have a met a kinder, sweeter man. He manages to squeeze so much love into a 30-second phone call (a quick hello, how are you? Before he passes the phone to my Grandma). He is so very strong, despite tragedy and dignified where there could be anger. He is also so very generous - I know he would give me the shirt off his back if I even mentioned I felt a slight draught. He probably won't ever read this but I hope he knows how adored he is by all three of his girls. 


Matt and Esther Photography

My fantastic stepdad, Rob. I'll admit 10 years ago I might have struggled to say that sentence but in that time, I have grown to love this man so much. He is not only a wonderful husband to my mum but he is servant-hearted - whenever I came home from university I knew I never needed to worry about driving back without my car oil and washer fluid being checked, come rain or shine he'd be out there checking before I set off again. He is also very funny. 

So thank you to four of the most wonderful men. You have all shaped me into the person I am today. Happy Father's Day, I love you!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Wedding Wednesday White Wedding : The Flowers

I'm a little late for Wedding Wednesday today but hello!! As with most of my wedding posts, I've been meaning to share this one for a little while. 

Low on my priority list for wedding planning were flowers. Sure, I'd pinned bouquet after bouquet on Pinterest but I just couldn't get excited about choosing my own flowers! Then along came Anna from Floral Designs Dorset. Her website is full of stunning arrangements and all at amazing prices. From the get go Anna was enthusiastic and warm in all her emails so I knew we'd get along really well (I didn't really account for the fact that you actually want to like the people you work with when planning your wedding, but it's such an important factor - we actually hired our candelabras etc from another florists who were not nice at all!)

Matt and Esther Photography

Matt and Esther Photography

I came away from our first meeting with Anna feeling like she'd not just understood what I had in mind but was going to make my ideas even better. Throughout the planning process, she was diligent and communicative and did an amazing job of the flowers for Chloe and Duncan's wedding in September so I was super, super excited to see our flowers. She did not let me down, I especially adored my bouquet, I didn't want to put it down at all and wish I could have kept it- did I mention it had mini pinecones in it?! The sprays of gypsophila we used for table decorations lasted for weeks and weeks and now whenever I see it in shops I get a little reminder of our special day.

Matt and Esther Photography

Matt and Esther Photography

Matt and Esther Photography

Finally, Anna is just one of the loveliest people I've ever met, I feel like I've made a new friend! Not only did she do the flowers for our wedding, she also made the most beautiful thank you bouquets for my mum and stepmum and has since made birthday bouquets. She's an angel! 

Ok, I'm going to stop gushing and let the pictures do the talking. 

Matt and Esther Photography

Matt and Esther Photography

Matt and Esther Photography

Friday, 10 June 2016

Review: Knowing Anna by Sarah Meyrick*

I don't want to brag.. but I've read 3 books this week. Actually, there's nothing to brag about there, it just means I had a pretty free weekend and read books that I didn't want to put down until they were finished.

Knowing Anna by Sarah Meyrick is one of those books. My copy now has a salsa stain on one of the pages because why would I put it down merely for the task of eating?

Knowing Anna follows her (Anna's) family and friends as they venture along the Pilgrims Way, her final request before she died from cancer. Each pilgrim is battling their secrets, hearts aches and dramas as well as grieving for their wife, mum, friend, or daughter. 

 Then a stranger joins the group. Who is he? And what was the catastrophe that drove Anna from home a decade earlier?

Over the course of nine days, the pilgrims share their memories of Anna, and gradually the layers of her life are peeled back to uncover secrets that no one ever suspected. Can those who loved her come to terms with all that is past as her life is peeled back to uncover secrets that no one ever suspected.

Just to clarify, this book is a work of fiction, because I was pretty unsure when I first read the blurb!

Having just finished Dorothy Koomson's The Girl From Nowhere (review, soon) I wasn't sure if I was ready for another weepy book. But, I'm a sucker for my own punishment and knew I'd cry whenever I read it so I curled up on Friday night and read. First of all, it's a great length so I knew it was a "one weekend" kind of book. Secondly, I really want to walk the Pilgrim's Way as a result of this book. Who is joining me?

For the most part, the characters are relatable and likeable - I really felt for Anna's parents as they battled with their grieve and the ailments of getting old whilst also looking out for their son in law and grandchildren. The relationship between Anna's mum (grandma) and son, Sam is really touching. However, Beth was written as a "typical teenager" complete with a vocabulary I've never heard used by any of the young people I've worked with- this is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, there are plenty of teenagers who can talk without saying "whatever, like mega borezone" or similar. However, I was really rooting for her to come out top by the end of the novel. 

As well as a beautiful tour of the walk from Guildford to Canterbury; the story is full of twists, turns and revelations right up until the end. I cried for the tragedy that Anna suffered ten years ago as well as for her family suffering in the present and even I couldn't call the biggest secret of them all (and as I've previously mentioned I like to think I'm Miss Marple or something). 

I will say the "stranger" who joins this is a bit built up in the blurb, but as a marketer I can forgive them for that! Whilst not my favourite character he certainly brings perspective to the whole group and offers the lesson of "never judge a book by its cover". 

Full of grace and wisdom I would definitely recommend this book. It's an emotional read but well worth a couple of tears. So curl up next weekend with a cup of tea and a couple of tissues and enjoy. 

*Thank you to Marylebone House (SPCK) for sending me a free copy of Knowing Anna in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Wedding Wednesday White Wedding: The Dress

Happy Wedding Wednesday!! I can't quite believe that we've nearly been married 6 months. Where has that time gone?

© Matt & Esther 2015

It is definitely about time I talked about THE dress, right? 

For those who don't know, I found dress shopping really, really difficult! In my fantasy world, it would be like playing dress up only with a nice glass of something cold and fizzy to drink with my mum and sisters. In reality, I visited one dress fair with my mother in law where she had to help me in and out of dresses that were entirely the wrong size whilst I stood on a stage in a village hall (the curtains were closed, it wasn't some sort of impromptu am-dram performance) and the one shop I visited only had one style of dress (big, puffy with long trains - beautiful but not on me or particularly suited to a wedding in December) I then promptly cut my leg on the shoes they provided and bled on a dress! Needless to say, my dress wasn't there- and I told my mum to get me out of there before I cried! 

© Matt & Esther 2015

© Matt & Esther 2015

 Eventually, I gave up on the idea of "the feeling" and decided for some people crying when you put on your dress just doesn't happen! It was at that point that we started to look to The High Street for dress inspiration. Enter Phase Eight and all it's wedding gloriousness! On Christmas Eve 2014 they released a whole new range of beautiful dresses whilst me and mum obsessively checked the website and messaged each other back and forth. Hope really caught our eye for its beautiful 1920s style glamour, heavy beading and lack of long train! The only problem was Phase Eight only have three wedding stores: Winchester, London and Edinburgh and Hope was selling out fast!

© Matt & Esther 2015

By chance, we were visiting Oxford Street in January anyway and stopped at Debenhams. Due to a lack of communication we didn't have a booked time slot so had to blag a chance to try the dress on, again in less than ideal circumstances. But even in an overly bright, busy Debenhams changing room with an ill-fitting dress, I knew there was something special about this dress with all its embellishments, sequins and beautiful draped top. Plus the reaction from everyone when I put it on was enough confirmation that if there is such a thing as "the one", this was it! Within 2 days I had ordered it (with a bit of cashback from Quidco!) and my dress buying drama was over!

© Matt & Esther 2015

© Matt & Esther 2015

Of course, I then spent 11 months worrying that I didn't actually like it, that I'd just picked it to get out of any more dress shopping and that I'd hate it on the day. Even at my final fitting I wasn't convinced. But it was a bit late to change then. 

However, the morning of the wedding, when I stepped into it I felt amazing, so sophisticated and beautiful. With the theatrical makeup and my hair all done up, it looked perfect and felt like a really unique choice which went hand in hand with our art-deco theme and venue. 

© Matt & Esther 2015

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The Two Best Times to Blog for Me

Good Morning!

I've started something new today. Last week, as part of my training in my new job we talked about our "Ideal Week", a concept taken from Leadership blogger, Michael Hyatt. The Ideal Week plans exactly how your week will look so that you are proactively choosing how you spend your time. Whilst the Ideal Week won't happen every week it's important to strive towards it as much as possible. 

A lot of the training focused on when we're at our most productive and creative during the work day - which actually for me is probably an hour or two after I get into work (say 9.30/10- lunchtime and then again 2-4). But it got me thinking and when I spend time blogging. For me, I used to think "I'll blog in the evenings". But, by the time I'd spent all day in front of a computer screen the last thing I felt like doing was turning my laptop on and trying to write, again. 

So, I decided to dedicate two early mornings a week to both blogging and the Hubspot Certificate in Email Marketing - an online course. As well as carving out some time on a Sunday afternoon for some additional writing.

For some bloggers, 3-4 hours a week for around 3 posts a week just isn't enough. But, I write quickly, I've often got the ideas in my head anyway and I can spend any additional time polishing it up.

So that's why this morning I set my alarm for 6.30 for the first time. Whilst I've definitely developed better habits with getting up earlier in the last month, this still feels like a bit of a shock to the system - made easier by a warm flat and the sun already streaming through my window (and tea of course)- hopefully by the Autumn it will feel like such a habit it won't be a battle. For me, Tuesday and Wednesday seemed the obvious choice - I'm not dealing with a weekend sleep hangover on Monday, or too tired from the rest of the week to not want to get out of bed (I really love my job but some days getting up is a battle!).

How about you? When is your best time to blog?

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