So, it’s time for the final reveal of my office! I’ve hated the home office I’ve worked in ever since we moved in – peach walls, beige carpet, blonde wood bookcases, a bright purple desk (thanks teenage me!), a black fabric office chair… Nothing matched, it was always messy, and we didn’t use the space properly. Plus, I hate carpets and I couldn’t wait to rip everything up and replace it with fresh, clean laminate! (Style note: Charlotte Olympia kitty flats here.)
I’ve worked from home for a long time now – there are ups and downs, but one of the biggest ups has completely passed me by… until now! That’s the ability to create a working space which is beautiful, personal, and inspires you to get up to get to work every day! I have no before pictures of my office, but I can describe it to you and you’ll understand why my before photos are somewhat lacking. Picture light beigey-yellow walls, light beige carpet, dark blue curtains with a splodge pattern on them, a dark purple/blue desk covered in a mountain of paperwork, two birch IKEA Billy bookcases full to the brim with magazines and books, and a second desk in birch, slowly collapsing, covered in everything from signed autographs to games, folders, papers and ornaments. I hated it.
I’ve always wanted something light, bright, and airy, and over the past couple of weeks I’ve transformed this room with the help of my family into my ultimate dream space! I’m not going to unveil it yet because it’s not quite finished, but here are a few little sneak-peeks…
When it comes to yoga, I’m lucky enough to have a local teacher who is brilliant and teaches a class very close to me – but if you don’t live near a teacher or you want to take multiple classes in a week and the cost is starting to mount up, how can you practice at home? I’ve got a few resources I want to share with you!
Sometimes, even with the best will in the world, you can get derailed on a fitness regimen. Even with all the support possible, with the best fitness equipment, a budget for healthy food, and plenty of time for exercise, goals can fall by the wayside. Motivation is a fleeting thing, and willpower is even more elusive. Can you see where I’m going with this? Yes, it’s true… I have been derailed…
Partially, I blame Hush’s ridiculously comfortable harem trousers. I live in them, and they are the most cosy items of clothing I own. I rarely leave the house with them but as I work from home that certainly doesn’t limit my opportunities to wear them. However, they are incredibly forgiving of the woman-slob, and very accommodating to expanding rear ends. It’s entirely possible to go up a dress size and never even realise it when you have these comfortable trousers to hand. That exactly what happened to me after I took a bit of a break from exercise due to work-related stress and a really bad cold. When it was time to reach for those skinny jeans – let’s just say they didn’t fit so well…
I also blame a lack of a real and concrete goal for my fitness – every year I go to Ascot, but this year one of my friends wasn’t sure if she could attend, and of course, I couldn’t go without her. So, I slacked off. Then, when it was confirmed we were going, and I tried on my usual dress size at the shop… It didn’t fit. No way. No how.
It’s obviously stupid to base your self-worth on an arbitrary number in a dress. We’re always told that dress sizes are bigger now than ever. Vanity sizing is rampant and Marilyn Monroe was a size 16 anyway, so what’s the big deal? (She wasn’t…). Of course, psychology is more complex than that, and no matter how stupid and arbitrary the numbers may be, I’m not afraid to say that it had a real, demoralizing effect on me to have gone up a dress size. I hold my hands up and admit it’s ridiculous, that as an intelligent and educated woman I shouldn’t let other people define my self-worth – if I had fit into my usual size I probably wouldn’t have seen a problem, and so on. But still, the fact remains, I was faced with two and a half weeks to Ascot, and a dress that didn’t fit me. Rather than spiraling into self-hatred (again, I am not saying this is a sensible or worthy reaction, I am simply being incredibly honest about my feelings), I decided to put into action probably the most drastic weight-loss plan I’ve ever embarked on, and went for a full-on DIY Boot Camp.
Now, boot camps are everywhere in the UK and beyond, and I must confess, I’ve never been to one. Their results are legendary, and their toughness even more notorious. Hours of exercise coupled with carefully calorie-controlled food is the secret to their success, though, and I was sure I could replicate that at home. However, I am no personal trainer, nor am I a nutritionist, so I’m not going to share with you the minute details of what I did – you shouldn’t take me as the authority on this as I have no qualifications. However, I will let you know generally how I went about losing weight in my DIY boot camp so you can do your own research.
- Take a look at the kinds of exercises offered by boot camps, with emphasis on duration and intensity. Taking a look at the boot camps I investigated, it looked as though 6-8 hours a day was usual. However, this mixed in everything from yoga to circuits and spinning, so there was a variety of exercises on offer, some of them fat burning, some of them more to do with sculpting muscle or relaxation. Gentle cardio and intense circuit training is something I’m familiar with doing, and have had good results from before – and more importantly, I knew I could keep it up, so I decided to opt for this for my own boot camp. A few hours of exercise biking in front of the TV, and a few work out DVDs back to back is the way I decided to replicate this at home. My go-to work out DVDs were ones I considered to be challenging but not advanced, so I stuck to Davina’s Three 30 Minute Work Outs (only cardio-box), Davina’s Super Fit, Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred (only level one), and Jillian’s Extreme Shed and Shred.
- Read up about the kinds of nutrition recommended at boot camps. I already had a head start thanks to my years of dieting and following healthy eating plans. It’s all simple stuff – low carbs, high protein, and lots of fruit and vegetables. I started off with one very low calorie day to kickstart my plan, then kept my intake to 1200-1500 calories a day of good food. In particular, I discovered Nakd bars, which are all-natural, raw food bars packed with fruit and nuts. Frustratingly, no boot camp will tell you how many calories they actually give participants, and given the amount of calories I was burning, I was reluctant to go below 1200.
- Hydrate. You will be sweating a lot. Drink as much as your body wants. Cut back on fizzy drinks, tea and coffee – you don’t have to cut these out, though, but I guarantee you if you do a lot of exercise, it’s water you will crave. I didn’t force myself to drink a lot at any point, but there’s no doubt I drank several liters in a day just by listening to what my body wanted. However, your body doesn’t just require water, but also electrolytes. So look into electrolyte replacement powder, sports drinks, and coconut water. Personally, my favourite way to hydrate naturally is coconut water because of its natural electrolyte content, but don’t forget that this and sports drinks contain calories that you need to count.
- Supplement. Boot camps aren’t a natural state of being for your body, and put an enormous amount of stress on it. You’ll be making huge demands of yourself, so you need to make sure you pay this back. A daily vitamin is always a good idea, but even more important during this time – and I also found out about the amazing anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil capsules by reading Bob Harper’s Jumpstart to Skinny. Although most people will take 1000mg a day if they supplement with this, he recommends 3000mg a day in order to combat muscle soreness. I have to say it really helps. Fish oil tablets also have loads of other great benefits, and they won’t break the bank, either. (Plus, they do great things for your hair!)
- Weigh yourself before, weigh yourself after. Do not weigh yourself during. This is something I can tell you from personal experience could derail you. In the first day on my plan, I lost 3lbs. In the second day, I lost 2lbs. I then regained everything I had lost over the next few days, before coming back to my original total loss of 5lbs. Now, for a week and two day’s worth of dieting and exercise, 5lbs loss is excellent (but not sustainable or necessarily typical). But my original 5lb loss was no doubt due to losing water weight and possibly some muscle, as well as a bit of fat. Regaining that weight over the next few days was demoralizing and painful to see, but it was just part of the process. If you weigh yourself every day during a boot camp, you might decide to give up when the pounds pile back on. But, if you stick to your guns, the weight does come off. It’s just nicer to see the progress at the end rather than that horrible up-down graph during. I am sure this is why boot camps ban scales and only weigh participants at the end of their stay. However, a slight amendment to this is measuring tape – you can use this throughout the process, because those inches will also drop off, and far more reliably than weight does.
- Know when to stop. This is not something that is healthy to do for the long term. Most boot camps last for one week, which seems a reasonable period of time. Think of it as a challenge to complete, not a way of life. Do not do anything without checking with your doctor first. Your body is amazing, so don’t damage it because of vanity. If you find yourself developing an unhealthy obsession with exercising or dieting, you need to seek help immediately. The psychological implications of this could be incredibly bad for your long term health and include disordered eating, or even anorexia. Look after yourself. Don’t follow advice without researching it yourself first – this includes everything I’ve written here. Only you can be responsible for your own health, and you owe it to your body to put the time in to research. If at any point, you feel faint, stop exercising for a while and give your body something good to eat.
So, on my epic weight-loss tour I gave myself two and a half weeks to lose enough weight to fit into my usual dress size. I exercised for hours, passed up roast dinners and doughnuts, and ate a healthy, low calorie diet. I lost 5lbs in total in ten days, and now I fit comfortably into my dress for Ascot, well before my deadline. I will continue to maintain my usual 1200 calorie budget per day and exercise for around 30-60 minutes a day between then and now, but I am amazed at my progress in such a short amount of time, and I feel pretty proud of my achievement. Yes, it may be vain and vacuous, but on the other hand, it has reminded me that weight-loss can be simple and, dare I say it, easy, when you have a clear, concrete goal and no excuses.
Disclaimer: none of this is intended as a regimen for you to follow, it is merely my account of my own personal experiences and should not be used for your own weight loss plan. Consult your doctor before starting any weight-loss plan and please do not consider me to be an authority or expert on weight-loss.
This Halloween, I decided to challenge myself to make part of my outfit. I have a some specific rules about my Halloween costumes – firstly, that I don’t wear wholly pre-packaged outfits. Nothing off the peg for me, thanks! Thirdly, it has to be scary, or based on a Halloween theme. I guess this is pretty European-centric of me, because I know in the US, Halloween isn’t restricted to spooky costumes. But I love spooky things, so I’m always up for dabbing on the fake blood! Thirdly, I try to dress up as a different version of myself – this sounds very weird, but by that I simply mean that instead of dressing up like a specific person or character, I instead try to imagine what I would wear if I was a witch, vampire, or whatever. I’m sure a lot of people do the same thing! Last year I actually broke this rule when I dressed up as Morticia from The Addams Family, but hey – rules are meant to be broken…
As I’ve been doing this Halloween thing for a good many years now (ouch, how old am I?) I’ve already cycled through the obvious candidates – zombie, witch, vampire. So this year I decided to confront my fears head on and go as ARACHNIA! SPIDER WOMAN. Very scary. Mostly, it’s because I had seen these amazing cobweb style hats, and I wanted to wear one… Unfortunately for me, they were all pretty expensive, so I decided to make my own version. Startlingly, I really didn’t need to buy much in order to make this – but then again, that’s because I’m a failed craft nut, who had bought too many supplies and never used them.
- Sinamay hat base – any colour, round
- Black felt
- Wooden skewers
- Black paint
- Paint brush
- Black embroidery thread
- Plastic spiders
- Cut your felt a little larger than your hat base, then pin in place.
- Sew the felt onto your hat base with the black thread.
- Once you’ve covered your hat base with felt, you can either attach the headband now by sewing it on, or wait until you’ve constructed the cobweb. Either way, it can get fiddly! When you want to attach the headband, pin it in place, then use your thread to secure it in two places onto the base.
- Time to make the cobweb. Your skewers will be arranged in the classic spokes pattern, like this.
So, now you sew each spoke onto the hat using your black thread. Sew in two places to make it extra secure – just loop around the skewer, back under, and around again, almost like sewing on a button. You might find your cobweb looks more even if you sew four skewers on at the compass points, then fill in the gaps afterwards. Also, remember to leave a small gap in the middle so that your skewers don’t sit on top of each other. Place a plastic spider on this at the end to hide the gap! Before you add in your final skewer, though, grab your black embroidery thread bundle, and tie the end carefully onto the end of your final skewer. Then sew on as the rest. Tying the thread on at this point will make it less fiddly to attach!
- This rope demonstrates how to arrange the black embroidery thread onto your spokes to create the classic cobweb effect. Taking your embroidery bundle, weave the thread around the skewers, creating a loop over each stick to keep in place. This is tricky. You need to keep the sticks pulled apart so that the thread stays tight across the loops. Even so, you’ll find that it’s very difficult to keep everything looking tight – but that’s part of the homemade charm, right?
- At the end of the sticks, tie your thread off, then trim the end. If you haven’t attached your headband, do so now.
- For some optional final touches, add in a fake spider in the centre of your web to hide the spokes, and add another, smaller spider dangling from a thread at the front of the hat!
So, that’s how to create your own cobweb hat! Here’s a slightly better picture of the hat with the spider in the centre!
Anyone going to give this a try next year?