7 Lessons I've Learnt in 2017

Returning from six months travelling around South America, a new husband on my arm and a job offer that would move us across the world to New York, 2017 was never going to be ordinary. Like our last few years if truth be told. It feels like a whirlwind - a magical, dreamy one - since our wedding last July and I haven't for a minute forgotten how lucky that makes me! Another year on this earth and with more incredible (and challenging) experiences under my belt, here are the lessons I have learnt in 2017.

Self-care is important. Six months into a new job and a new city, I was ready for a straight jacket. The moral of that story? Take a break! Use your vacation / holiday days and recalibrate. Treat yourself to a massage, go on a yoga break or just retreat to your parent’s/friend’s house for some TLC and a change of scenery. I got my escape in August and returned back to the UK to see all my friends and family with a wedding thrown in for good measure - the perfect antidote. I realised I needed to make a few lifestyle changes to prevent that from happening again. Enter Headspace, Berocca, herbal teas and lunchtime walks around the park - some little changes can make all the difference, it doesn't have to be moving mountains. There’s only one of you and burn out is not fun, yet, sadly on the rise. It was out of this period that I wrote my blog post 'How to De-Stress from Work' and even I have to go back to remind myself what will help keep the work sweats under control!
(It's OK to) Take your foot off the gas. Blame it on a Millennial trait but I see it in myself, my friends and my colleagues that no sooner have we accomplished something, we are fixated on the next challenge and getting there quickly. We take no time to stop, acknowledge and, dare I say it, celebrate our achievements and it's so important that we do!

“In between goals is a thing called LIFE, that has to be lived and enjoyed.”

It’s no surprise 2017 has seen more mental health topics brought into the fore and it's fantastic that we have the Royal family working to help end the stigma, raise the profile and change the conversation on mental wellbeing with the 'Heads Together' campaign. I'm no expert but a saying my mother always told me, 'a problem shared, is a problem halved.'

Go with the flow. I’m not the most spontaneous of people. In fact, you'll find me at the other end of the spectrum meticulously planning everything with military precision. But, what I have discovered is that I am spontaneous when it comes to creative writing. 90% of my blog posts have been written on my iPhone on the commute to work or return home from some weekend escapades. I’ve learnt to just go with it. I have totally loved working on my blog this year but found that if my head or heart isn't in it, the words don't flow so whilst I hope to keep developing my ideas in 2018 with some semblance of order, I'm not going to sweat the small stuff if I miss a week. This Christmas break has proven just that, even with the best of intentions, if you’re not feeling it and the wine isn’t spurring you on, wait until inspiration strikes (and so it did on my last night in the country!).
Have a hobby. When I was a kid, I had activities every night after school. Mostly dancing, apart from a phase I went through when I wanted to be an actress and my mum insisted I enrol in fencing lessons as if to prove I was really serious about my new ambition (I think she had a motive...). I quickly re-routed my career path once I had grown bored of that. Fast forward to my late twenties and since our evenings have been reclaimed from wedding planning, this has been the year of having my evenings back! Enter Netflix. (Does this count as a hobby if you call it 'cinematography'?). Well, it’s certainly been my main hobby in 2017 (alongside the blog, of course). Moving to another country, and with a period of turbulence, we switched our social life for a sofa life and I have loved every couch-potato moment of The Fall, Billions, Stranger Things, and The Crown - to name just a few of the marathons I have completed.

Endorphins are everything. Three months into life in New York and I pretty much hadn’t moved my butt between my desk and my sofa. And it was getting to me. It was then I realised I needed some of those happy hormones to lift my spirits; one defrosting of a credit card later and I had signed up to ClassPass. Exercise classes are my go-to as I find gym work just boring, boring, boring so I was delighted when this introduced me to my new exercise love Physique57 for some hardcore barre workouts! It’s the most intense overloading of every muscle group in the body, something to make you drip with sweat and feel empowered in just 57 minutes... my kinda exercise! Plus, the physical pain was rewarding both for helping my brain switch off from the work-day and releasing endorphins for a happy Mrs A to head home of an evening. 

Sociable Me. For me, 2016 was the year of Twitter but 2017 was definitely when I fell down an Instagram-filtered rabbit hole. I love the five hour time difference of living in NYC for the one purpose of having a host of Instagram stories at the ready to view whilst waking up for the day! Personal highlight - hitting 500 followers. It was a marathon and not a sprint but I found it sickeningly rewarding. Dare I make a four-figure target for 2018? But it can certainly harbour an unhealthy appetite and literally every blogger I follow has voiced the negative effects of social media on their mental wellbeing this year. The biggest lesson is to do it only if you're enjoying it. When you're not, let yourself have time off and dare I suggest a digital detox?

Carb-loading works. If you insist on eating a diet of mac'n'cheese and pizza, your waistband will expand. See Lesson #5 for further development next year!

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and fulfilling 2018!


Christmas Past & Christmas Present

Christmas Present- 23rd December, 2017

Landing back into Heathrow airport on a grey, drizzly day would have been nothing short of unremarkable (and incredibly depressing) if it wasn't for the fact it was December 23rd and (nearly) Christmas. It's been made more remarkable for the fact that 'December 23rd' for the past two years has consisted on "flying home for Christmas". Today, we have flown "home" from New York, where we currently live, for a Christmas in the English countryside. In 2016, exactly one year ago to the day, we took a similar long-distance flight, but this time from Cuba to London after 134 days away travelling the Americas on the honeymoon of a lifetime. 

This blog post is a retrospective account of where my head was after returning from six months exploring North, South and Central America with my new husband. I'd had the most incredible adventures seeing several Wonders of the World, living out of a backpack and working tirelessly on what will always be known as this English Rose's best tan to date. Little did I know that no sooner than seven weeks later we would have been granted visas and moved across the Atlantic to set-up a new life in New York...

Christmas Past - 23rd December, 2016

Our arrival back to the UK was much anticipated and the festive spirit had certainly rubbed off on my parents who tackled the M25 rush hour to replicate the opening scene from Love Actually. Our version would be called Tears Actually. Which there were. Sort of. 

Playing up to the stereotype of men chaotically last-minute shopping, Mr A dashed off into the airport crowds to enjoy the temperamental service of Southern trains (clearly some things haven't changed since we've been away!) and headed for Selfridges. Meanwhile, feeling like my right arm had been chopped off without him by my side, I was embracing every bit of the festivities and particularly bowled over by the live music at Gatwick's Arrivals Lounge sharing some definite Christmas cheer. 

In a whirlwind of unpacking the trusty (yet a little disheveled by now) backpack and re-packing for our first 'Mr & Mrs A' Christmas in the 'shire, I was more than ecstatic to reacquaint myself with a fully-stocked fridge. Forty-eight hours back into life on British soil and I'm remarking on the biggest shocks of being home...

My iPhone can do more than just Candy Crush now??!
If you were following my blog during our travels in the latter half of 2016, you will know of my despair at lack of wifi and, lately, the Internet as a whole in the 1950s (aka Cuba). So, to have constant 3G and broadband connecting to my iPhone is a luxury that I won't be taking for granted anytime soon! Hello new apps, updated iCloud and new downloads on Spotify and, of course, the blogging world is now back at my fingertips - Planoly, Buffer, Crowdfire, Blogger, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram - ...my good friends, I've missed you!
Who turned the lights out...
I forgot what it was like for it to be dark at 4pm! The days weren't massively longer in a Central America of late, with sunset typically around 6pm which felt short at the time but is nothing compared to Blighty. Luckily I'm in proper snuggle mode so cosying down by the log burner and drinking mulled wine totally works it! For those of you who are feeling the endurance of Autumn/Winter, just remember that since December 21st (Winter Solstice) we get an extra five minutes of daylight a day!

...and turned down the heating?
Having been used to spending the majority of the last eight to twelve weeks in shorts and a t-shirt, usually sweating it out very unglamorously and stripping into my bikini whenever it was culturally acceptable, I'm now embracing layers, and crucially, jumpers! Pass me the roll-neck.

The budget books have closed.
The discipline of writing down each and every expenditure (even for using the loo!) seems to be a habit I'm feeling at a loss for. You mean I can buy a drink and not have to write it in my Notes, tally up all costs at the end of the day, convert it from whichever of the ten currencies we were using into Sterling and add into our Excel spreadsheet? Well...I don't know what to do with all this free time!

Yet there's cash at my fingertips?
Until my little trip to South America this year, the only queues I had ever seen at a bank were on the BBC News when Northern Rock was in trouble and everyone was panic withdrawing. I now know that queuing for hours (I'm talking literally) to get to an ATM or cashier is commonplace in South America. And there's absolutely no guarantee that the cash machine won't run out of funds for several days. Thank you banks of Britain for your easy and FREE withdrawals. Not being charged a fortune to get hold of my money is just the kind of treat I've been waiting for (oh and cashback after this extravagant year of spending!!)

And the other silly things...

...Not having to pay for every meal, snack or bottle of water (thanks Mum & Dad). In the same breath, having to cook. I had next to no knowledge beforehand but now I'm back to uni days and boiling a kettle. 

...Wearing high heels, boy did that hurt! Pass me my Havianas. 

...Putting my wedding and engagement rings back on after safe keeping. Whilst I feel very attached to the silver band I handmade in my Yr 9 Design Technology class which has travelled with me during this trip, I'm glad to be reunited with the real McCoy!

...Still saying 'Gracias' and my poor Spanish lingo coming out. Apparently my mother doesn't understand 'Donde este le wrapping paper?'

And so on this note, I wish you a 'Feliz Navidad' as I tackle the jet-lag and reflect on just how lucky I am for another year of adventures.



My Christmas List

I have the best childhood memories of writing my Christmas list. Every year, at some point during October or November, my sister and I would stay overnight at my grandparents. After several games of What! and Monopoly, a dinner of sugar sandwiches (you’d never guess my Gran grew up above a sweetshop), we would be tucked into bed. Only we’d be far too excited to sleep and, as a tactic to wear us out, my Gran would hand us both the Argos catalogue and a notepad each to write our Christmas lists. 3,000 pages later and my list would be complete. I particularly remember being age 8 or 9 and obsessed with getting a pager (the pre-cursor to the mobile phone and not something that any of my peers had so I don’t know what I expected to achieve by owning one!). Years later that obsessive yearning would move onto the Sims computer game and eventually the Friends box set which I spent all of my pocket money on filling the gaps until I owned every episode! Needless to say, aged 28, I still love writing a Christmas list and love even more that my family still asks for it!


I have been crushing on this duo since Missoma took the YouTube scene by storm (you will see a trend emerging here in my Christmas List, I confess...). I’m not very fickle when it comes to jewellery but this duo is a completely different look from my usual. After months of lusting, I think I'm ready to commit. LUCY WILLIAMS MINI FANG NECKLACE £105 | LUCY WILLIAMS LARGE HORN NECKLACE £139


These boots are to die for. I’m not generally an over-the-knee kind of a gal (I think you generally know if you are or not) and historically all my boots have all been below-knee in life thus far. I, however, have been on the lookout for a good pair of winter boots for the last five years as my damn Letley calves (read: larger-than-your-average) make this an incredibly difficult task. I love the block heel and light grey colour which make these perfect for daytime. SUEDE OVER-THE-KNEE BOOTS £395


My gym kit has been seriously tested since my Physique 57 membership has been reinstated. Needless to say, the endless washing is taking its toll on a few items. Sweaty Betty is a brand of dreams so it has its rightful place on my Christmas List (if a little punchy for most gift budgets) but I’ve had my eye on this sports bra - a tried and tested design that I know offers the support I’m after for the ladies. I'm completing the look with this slogan top that has my motivation nailed to perfection plus a pair of their iconic gym leggings. VICTORY PADDED RUN BRA £45 | ASTEYA LONG SLEEVE YOGA TOP £55 | reversible 7/8 yoga leggings £90


I had this exact item on my Christmas List about five years ago but after much love and use, I literally wore it out! Now it’s time for a replacement. I am loving the limited edition all-black design and it’s the perfect size to carry my make-up bag, book and gym kit in one go (and even a laptop if needs be). I’m currently resembling a saddle-horse every Monday morning as I carry my laptop case, gym bag and handbag to work! LE PLIAGE NÉO TOTE BAG L £95
I found this brand on the Sephora website and have been intrigued ever since. I’m a big advocate of vitamins and have, over the years, taken Evening Primrose Oil, Cod Liver Oil and Calcium amongst others. If you’re new to this world, HUM have a great online consultation tool on their website which is super simple to fill out and gets to the bottom of what your body needs. Their business is built upon a network of qualified nutritionists reviewing your answers to tailor a bespoke package just for you. Tackling every kind of digestive issue, nutrient-deficiency and health concern, HUM have you covered. A regular addition to my morning routine is a vitamin hit for skin, nail and hair. Ideal for the winter and to kick-start 2018. Runway Ready Skin, Body and Nail Repair Kit $35


My sister first introduced me to By Terry a few Christmases ago thanks to her frequent visits to SpaceNK (what a haven that place!)! It’s a beauty brand that has been rising in popularity but comes with a pretty hefty price tag. Their cult hero product, Baume de Rose, is in good company of other beauty classics such as YSL’s Touche Eclat, Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream and Nars Blush in Orgasm. So, inevitably, I want in on the action and I love the look of this packaging vs. the traditional Baume de Rose pot which can be a little messy on the go. Anyone else have lip-balm smears down their sleeves and coats? Another product on my radar thanks to Lydia Elise Millen’s constant advocacy is the Cellularose Brightening CC Lumi-Serum as a perfect base before foundation. It’s available in different shades to match your skin tone. Mini Baume de Rose Crystalline $19 | Cellularose Brightening CC Lumi-Serum $90


New womenswear brand of the moment and my new favourite shop in New York is Sezane. Having said a tearful goodbye to a (very old) Warehouse faux leopard print handbag, I’m having withdrawals. It’s the perfect pop to add to a darker winter wardrobe. I am loving this bucket bag – their signature style – and super cute Arthur boots. I promise not to wear them together but definitely have a home for both of these in my wardrobe! LEOPARD HOPE BAG $280 | LEOPARD LOW ARTHUR BOOTS $235
Now that piece of festive admin is done, someone pass me a Radio Times, I have my highlighter ready for planning out my sofa schedule with Christmas specials and movie time! What’s on your Christmas List this year?
© Mrs A to B

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