Winter coat

Yes, it suddenly dawned on me that any minute now we're going to be embracing all that is spring and I've yet to show you my new winter coat. My daugther Sasha bought it for my Christmas and it's been a fine addition to my winter wardrobe. This slim fitting leopard print coat comes from Tesco of all places and was in the sale for about £15 I think. I pointed it out to her when we were shopping together et voila, there it was on Christmas day!

I've worn the coat today with these fabulous orange satin disco pants from the Conscious Collection at H&M from quite a few years ago adding this mohair sweater by Diesel which I've also had for years. It's got a tiny bit of itch to it, so I always pop a vest top underneath to make it more comfortable. The ginger and spice colours of the look were just calling out for my nutmeg suede boots from Office and I finished it all off with my heavy gauge gold necklace (another gift from Sasha) along with some old rings. Oh, and let's not forget my old faithfuls - sunglasses by Quay Australia.

The winter has evoporated once again and I'm aware that our season on the island is just beginning again. I'm pleased that I've managed to get out and about in between the winter storms to capture some new backdrops for you. This setting is in the woodlands just above the church, looking out across Old Grimsby and onwards to Men-a-Vaur rock. One of my blogging friends, Julia from When the girls rule blog (see here) has asked to see more of the island - well this little corner is mainly populated by holiday cottages, but also is where the church, community centre and primary school are all located. My son, Jamie lives in a tiny bungalow at Old Grimsby where a lot of the young members of staff are housed in flats and staff accomodation. Our winter population is about 150, but that almost doubles in the summer when the seasonal workers arrive. With no shopping malls, night clubs, fast food joints or other temptations, the island is the perfect location to work for a summer and save up. Some, like me, come for a summer and fall in love, not just with island life, but with an islander, and never leave.

When I arrived on the islands (in 1978) Round Island Lighthouse was permanantly manned but is now operated remotely. On a stormy day the waves crash onto the rocks below and can break over the buildings on the island, sometimes obliterating the lighthouse completely. The sight can be exhilirating and is a great reminder of how tiny and insignificant we are at the hands of nature.

Linking with -
Catherine of Not Dressed As Lamb

Anna x


Anna meets...Neil

This month I'd like to introduce Neil Shah, Director (and Chief De-Stressing Officer) of the Stress Management Society. When I say Anna meets...Neil, it's stretching the truth somewhat, as I didn't so much meet him, as saw him on TV. His interview covered one of my pet topics, stress. I was greatly impressed by his enthusiasm for his subject as well as his general joy for life, not to mention his wonderful red patent shoes! Neil kindly agreed to answer some questions for the feature today.

For those who didn't see it, can you summarise what your appearance on BBC Breakfast covered?
We were talking about recent research which discovered the amygdala, the area of the brain responsible for things such as emotions, stress and our ‘fight or flight’ response, is also linked to heart disease and stroke.
What's the relevance of stress on the body, and what impact might it have?
Stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. This causes a number of reactions, such as blood being diverted to muscles and the shutting down of unnecessary bodily functions like digestion. This is why we experience things like a pounding heart, faster breathing, heartburn and indigestion.
Am I right in thinking that appropriate stress is good?
Stress is a natural instinct given to us to help protect us hence the ‘flight or fight’ response. Stress can be extremely useful in certain situations. It can be a great motivator as it can focus and sharpen our minds so we can achieve a desired outcome.  The problem is where we live in a longer term state of stress or get stressed in situations where it is not the most appropriate response.
I suffer from a stress related disease and have found that the understanding of appropriate stress is key. I place myself under a daily dose of appropriate stress every day by sea swimming, but realise that’s not possible for everyone. What other activities would you recommend as de-stressors?
Humans were designed to be active. Not only does exercise keep the heart healthy and get oxygen into the system but being active can burn off the stress hormones, boost your feel-good endorphins and take your mind off your daily worries. Most notably, exercise produces beta-endorphins, which improve mood.
Whether you are building muscle or stamina, all types of exercise relax tense muscles and tissues which can contribute to stress-related aches and pains. Yoga, martial arts, swimming and walking have all been proved to have specific benefits for stress relief.
Is meditation on its own a useful tool against stress?
Meditation is a useful tool in our armour against stress as it helps us to focus on our breathing. When we are stressed and in ‘fight or flight’ mode, our bodies release hormones from the adrenal glands that result in an increase in our pulse rate and breathing. Meditation will help to slow this all down. Is mediation on its own enough? Well it will certainly help, but ultimately the cumulative efforts of everything we do to combat stress is what makes the largest difference.
Are we as a society exposed to more stress than say, our parents were?
The changing ways we communicate via technologies like phones and watches has compounded our stress levels, as we are constantly contactable and have less downtime.  For example you receive a complaint, or a message from a manager adding to your workload by email at 9pm and you end up losing sleep over it! In the past you wouldn’t even find out about it until you got to work in the morning and had the opportunity to immediately address it. We actually spend the bulk of our time worrying about scenarios that may not actually happen! When it comes to worrying the actual concern represents 10% of the situation, the remaining 90% is how you react to it. React positively and you will find that its impact is far less detrimental!

Shoes by Dobell see here

Your recent interview with the BBC touched on the subject of your bright shirt and snazzy shoes. I'd really like to hear you justify my love of dressing up and embracing the fun of colourplay as part of my own anti-stress campaign.
Being able to express yourself is really important. People don’t always find it easy to express themselves, which might explain why mental health issues are epidemic. The quickest way to change your psychology is to change your physiology and the best way to do this is to move, be active, laugh and enjoy yourself. So if fashion gives you enjoyment and is a channel to express yourself…then why not! 

You can see the BBC Breakfast interview along with others that Neil has given by clicking here
To find out more about Neil and the Stress Management Society click here.

Many thanks to Neil for our virtual meeting. We're none of us living a stress-free life nowadays, but we can at least avail ourselves of the various techniques on offer to help reduce the impact on our health. The Stress Management Society website has a 10 Step Stress Solution that's a useful guide to start with (follow the link above).

Anna x


Ping-Pong Post no12

Hello and welcome to the 12th edition of Ping-Pong post, the monthly collaboration between myself, Samantha of Fake Fabulous and Ann of Kremb de la Kremb. To see the background of this style challenge read here. This month Samantha proffered her black drapey top which almost flummoxed me completely. Despite being simple in shape, it was still one of my least favourite of colours to work with. Let's start with Samantha who certainly didn't seem to struggle -

The black top has a scoop neck and cross over front, but very cleverly Samantha has chosen to wear it back to front revealing a stunning strappy feature below. Wet look leggings, and patent boots lift this plain cotton top into the realms of fabulousness. She has finished this off with a statement bag and necklace leaving no room to doubt that she is indeed a true style icon. Follow Samantha on Instagram here.

Details -
TOP: Yong Kim
NECKLACE: Oliver Bonas
LEGGINGS: Pamela Mann
BOOTS: Vagabond
BAG: River Island

Ann has given the top a more casual spin with her snakeskin jeans, biker boots and striped shirt, but hasn't forgotten a dash of glamour by way of her diy ostrich handbag (see the link below). A roll neck and gloves give a nod to the cooler weather Ann is experiencing in Hong Kong this week when she took these shots. Black doesn't look very difficult to wear when you've got the right hair colouring does it? Fab styling Ann! Follow Ann on Instagram here.

Details -
Outfit Details
Earrings--my guy Ben in Jardines Bazaar, a great ladies market in Hong Kong
Turtleneck--heat technology, Uniqlo
Striped Shirt--Zara
Black Top--Sam's
Gloves--market in Shanghai
Ostrich Bag--Kremb de la Kremb DIY
Snake Jeans--Bershka
Moto Boots--boutique on Houhai Lake, Beijing

Those who know me will recognise my default setting here - when in doubt, dress it up! Glitter tights and glitter boots, seemed like a great way of detracting from the pallor-inducing colour of the top. Adding some softer, more neutral tones against the skin also helped. One feature I did like was the pockets and by adding a belt the tunic took on a bit more shape. A splash of silver jewellery and studded clutch were the finishing touches. Samantha - I gave this my best shot, but heck it's been my least favourite of our challenges so far!

Details -
Top: Samantha's
Dress: H&M
Belt: Dorothy Perkins
Tights: H&M
Boots: Topshop
Necklace: M&S
Rings: old
Handbag: charity shopped

The news on Ping-Pong Post is that having completed a whole year of this style challenge we're going to evolve the series a little next month, so do come along to see exactly how on the 20th of March.

Linking with -
Catherine of Not Dressed As Lamb

Anna x


Decisions, decisions.

As you may know, I'm currently on holiday at home and spending most of my time indoors on a huge decluttering mission. Scruffy jeans and trainers aren't really going to inspire you much, so I'm taking a break from time to time to get out into the sunshine and take some shots for the blog. I recently posted this on instagram -

I wrote "When you can't decide which pair to wear" and got a lovely response to help me decide. However, the fact was that I'd already worn the outfit and the shoes for my photo shoot.

The majority of votes were in favour of the navy and silver shoe, as seen in isolation it might look like the best match, but when you consider the total outfit I think the brown and yellow is carrying its weight too. I added a pair of gold lurex socks which tied in with the gold sweater as well as the yellow shoe. But really, it's just a bit of fun and suits my personality too. I like the quirky nature of the look. It's not either or, it's - this is a pair of shoes as I'm wearing them. Odd shoes for an oddball you might say.

And as if to prove that there's no such thing as an original idea, this evening as I was flicking through the March edition of Marie Claire, I came across this -

My progress report on the home front is that the filing cabinet has arrived and is now almost full of newly organised wallets and files; lots and lots of old paperwork has been shredded along the way. I've swapped my sea swimming for two weeks of pool swimming so that I can do an hours practise a day to improve my freestyle. Rolling, breathing, reaching, catching are being broken down into drills to drum each element into my fuzzy head. At the moment when I think about rolling, I forget good (bilateral) breathing. When I concentrate on the breath, then the rolling slips away from me. I have a reference book that takes me through all of the steps to create the perfect stroke, but I do wonder if I'll reach that stage within this timescale. I do hope that I'll be able to see a difference when I get back to the beach.

Outfit details - Leather bomber: Next, gold sweater: H&M, jeans: Zara, tee shirt: Dorothy Perkins, socks: ASOS, shoes: Boden (sold out, but these are fab), sunglasses: Quay Australia.

Anna x


Seemed like a good idea

The other day I had a long walk around the outskirts of the island, stopping here to take in the view and decided that this ruin (The Old Blockhouse) might make a good backdrop for a photo shoot. That day it was sunny and very calm, but when I returned a day later the wind had risen to almost gale force meaning that I had to take cover as best as I could. 

There was a holiday maker walking along the path below the castle while I was setting up my tripod and camera. He probably thought I was crazy, taking off my coat and changing out of trainers into my heels to stand there getting blasted in the wind. It was totally impossible trying to get some decent close-ups as the tripod was wavering about, in danger of completely blowing over in the gusts. I tried to weigh it down with my bag and shoes, but it was all very precarious and a bit of a worry in case my camera got smashed to the ground.

Anyway, it was quite exhilarating to stand on the top, watching the white tops on the sea and the surge of the waves out beyond Men-A-Vaur rock. I wanted to capture that to show you but my battery died just after this final shot. 

I paired up this tweed jacket (charity shopped in December) with my long loved tweed skirt (ancient from TK Maxx) and these leopard print shoes (also from TK Maxx by BCBGeneration - these are rather lovely) and a roll neck which I bought on eBay a couple of years ago. The handbag is crocodile skin and was a charity shop trophy for my last big splurge in Exeter about 18 months ago. Sunglasses are by Quay Australia and my rings are old.

The reason I bought the jacket is for this wonderful gem trim. I love the colourful lining too. Can you guess the brand? It's Next. I was really surprised. You'll no doubt see this again in the Spring - I can't wait for Polly to capture it a bit better than I did!

Linking with -
Catherine of Not Dressed As Lamb
Cherie of Style Nudge

Anna x


Velvet + embroidery = my perfect jacket

This gorgeous jacket was a Christmas present from my husband, albeit with a bit of guidance from me. I love embroidery on most things and on this velvet jacket it's a great addition. I have lots of bomber jackets, each different, but all so useful as that extra layer at work for when it's a bit chilly.

I bought this nude pleated skirt in Tesco in December, but have been waiting to find the right pieces to style it up. I also had another (Christmas jacket) in burgundy that would work just as well, so may redo this another time. The blouse was from Topshop (sold out but this is pretty), the vest is from River Island (charity shopped), and the jacket is by Glamorous from ASOS (it's in the sale here). The shoes are from my favourite supplier of brogues, Office, but currently they have nothing similar. And last, but by no means least are my silver glitter socks by ASOS.

I'll apologise in advance if these links don't work. I seem to be having a technology blip at the moment. Instagram decided not to work for the day on Tuesday. Then yesterday my camera went all huffy on me when I was out and about, supposedly to take some shots of the island. The blog links have been a challenge for the past week, meaning I've fought shy of posting a blog in case it keeps happening. Fingers crossed it'll be OK!

News on my staycation is that I'm having a lovely time, thank you. I've just ordered a new filing cabinet to set to with the dreaded task of sorting out my paperwork; filing, shredding and dealing with all the collected clutter along the way. Next week will herald the start of the big clothes cull. I'm going to group into jumble, which will go to the clothes bank on the islands, eBay for anything that's worth selling, and finally the keep pieces which will be checked for any mending or dry cleaning needed. 

Running parallel to all of the bigger jobs are the daily swimming, shopping, tidying etc as well as batch cooking for the freezer so that I don't have to cook at the end of the working day. Yesterday I also went to yoga and had a walk around the beaches as I tried to find the perfect spot for my swim - we've had some wild weather recently, and that means big ground seas leave the beaches awash with huge reams of seaweed (yuk) and also there is a big run of tide that sucks in and out of the beaches, sometimes a 15 foot drag that feels quite threatening when you get caught up in it. 

I've just read Leap In by Alexandra Heminsley which has been very inspirational. The story of her determination to crack open water swimming resonated with me, and best of all she shares so much of what she learnt. Alex traded up her strong breast stroke for a hard-earned front crawl which took her out into the sea as well as tackling river swimming and finally a crossing from Kefalonia to Ithaca. Inspired by Alex I too want to trade my strong breast stroke for the less labour intensive front crawl. My daily efforts at this streamline stroke are handicapped by a poor breathing technique which impacts on the smooth glide and rhythm. All of this is covered in the book and fills me with excitement that I too, may conquer this challenge. The book is a great read, not just for those who swim or want to, but it's more about her dogged determination that shows her true spirit. 

Anna x

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