Why ageing’s actually ok

What’s the definition of ‘ageing’? If it’s a sound, surely it’s a groan. Or simply ‘meh’?

Anyone who has felt their first unexplained back twinge, or is carefully monitoring that could-be-a-crow’s-foot crease by their left eye, has the start of a typical relationship with ageing, and the mindset to go with it. Not surprising really – no-one looks forward to the day that their nipples finally tuck into their knee-high boots.

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But I saw an article earlier that turned ageing on its head, with a positive approach that you don’t see very often. It talks about the ages when you peak at certain things in life, and there’s far more to whoop about after the age of 30.

If you’re 23, you’re probably feeling pretty satisfied with life. If you’re 25, give a nod to your muscles, which are at peak strength. At 39, girls, you’ll hit your top salary, and your emotional intelligence is on fire aged 51:

7: Learning a new language
18: Brain processing power
22: Remembering names
23: Life satisfaction
25: Muscle strength
26: Finding a partner for marriage
28: Running a marathon
30: Bone mass
31: Playing chess
32: Remembering faces
39: Salary (women)
40: Making a Nobel Prize winning discovery
48: Salary (men)
50: Arithmetic skills
51: Understanding people’s emotions
69: Life satisfaction (again)
71: Vocabulary
74: Happiness with your body
82: Psychological wellbeing

I’ve never thought about my approach to ageing, but I know for sure that it’s instinctively more negative than positive. A process that leaves you with a moustache regardless of your gender and takes away your loved ones will always be rubbish. But, as a 30-year-old woman working in an office where the air still smells faintly of Clearasil, I need to give it a chance. So here we go – a little positivity to ease those aches and pains. Ageing is good because:

You have skills
You can remember you’re hosting a dinner party mere minutes before your guests arrive, and thanks to your finely tuned cooking skills and exemplary ‘cupboard staples’, pull it off with little more than tinned tomatoes and a smile. The same goes for small talk, which becomes a breeze somewhere around the region of 25, and homely skills like keeping pot plants alive for more than two weeks. You’ve done it all before and can think about more important (or fun) stuff.

You can get away with disgraceful behaviour
When older, and generally assumed to be a parent, stressed by work, tired of commuting or just busy with life, you can do what the hell you like and kind of get away with it. If you want to have friends over, drink copious amounts of wine and fall asleep on the sofa at 11pm, they’ll probably do the same and you’ll all be massively relieved. If you want to hit the clubs and behave disgracefully on top of a table while your mascara melts down your face, everyone smiles at you and thinks you’re just a stressed old person letting off steam.

You have a stash of cool stuff
Gone is the flimsy bargain furniture, having been replaced with classy statement pieces, and your wardrobe is a haven (well, realistically still a chaotic mass) of basics and investment buys.

You give less of a shit
In our teens, everything’s so concentrated. Life consists of school, what’s for tea, and attempts at romance. And cider. With age comes distractions. Work, meet family, meet money, meet worming the cat, meet pensions. It doesn’t mean you give less of a shit in the moment, but there’s less time to dwell and think about things. And thinking is sometimes a BAD thing!

You know who your friends are…
… and you’re not afraid to tell them. By the time most people have had pointless but longstanding disagreements with a couple of school friends and lost touch with others, you’re left with a small bunch of great friends. You know who to go to with a dilemma, who will indulge you with cake and sympathy, and who to take out dancing. You’re also over the awkward teenage years of pretending that you don’t do emotions, so are able to show them that you care and kind of love them, really. *Flushes bright red*

How do you feel about getting old? Good, bad, or just meh?

 Stats from Business Insider
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The 10 Women-to-women Commandments

We had a BIG focus on our relationships with men last week. You might not have noticed it as it was pretty low key – International Women’s Day? Haha.. of course you did 😉

It goes without saying that days like this are really important and need to happen. I haven’t known one to date that was quite so noisy and full of ferocious feminism.

But it made me think that, while a lot of things still need to be evened out in the men vs. women battle, there are other relationships that need just as much care. When we finally hit that equal pay mark, or agree on what anyone should and shouldn’t be told what to wear to work, we’ll still have our precious relationships with other women to watch. These relationships – some of which rival relatives in terms of closeness, and others which are volatile and unpredictable but just right when you need each other – have just as much of an impact on us every day.

So, in honour of our complex female friendships, here are ten women-to-women commandments that we should all live by:

Thou shalt not… express opinions on her boyfriend

The moment you express a stronger than average opinion on a friend’s significant other, you’re into hot-hot-hot danger territory. We all know this – she’ll love your foul-mouthed rant about what a loser he is and how you’ve always thought his bum/voice/facial hair questionable when she’s fresh from a blazing row with him. But wait for it… … … wait for a call to say they’re back together. #FACEPALM. All of a sudden, you’re the bad guy, despite your good intentions. By all means, express opinions, but keep them to things he has done, rather than insulting him personally. Vague words like ‘may’, ‘seems like’ and ‘perhaps’ will also soften even the harshest insults you throw in the heat of the moment, giving you a little feminine wiggle room when he’s been (temporarily) forgiven for his sins.

Thou shalt not… buy the same top

match dress
Pic: pasteldress.com

There are two levels with this one. If it’s a flimsy £20 crop top that will go to shit the first time it’s washed, it’s probably OK. But only if you point out in all photos for at least a month that your fabulous top was inspired by your right, honourable friend. And whoever had it first gets all the custody rights. You copy, and you’re the one sending the ‘what are you wearing?’ texts to avoid a twin situation. However, copy the expensive coat, boots or generally coveted, expensive item, and you’re treading on toes.


Thou shalt not…
flaunt snacks during diet season
Whatever the time of year – #dechox, pre-holiday season, the day before you usually bump into the fit postman – there will always be someone on a diet. Male or female, show a bit of restraint and make it a bit easier for them. They will sense the second you walk in the room that you have a chocolate bar, they’ll be listening to the rustle of the packaging and they know how good it tastes.. but they don’t need your moans and gasps to tip them over the edge.

Thou shalt not… bail on a gym class

BJBefore you even reach the worst part of this scenario – sweating it alone and turning into a shiny, purple mutant incapable of speech – there is the huge risk of saving gym equipment for your gym buddy. Like any good friend, you get your own space or mat, save one for your partner in crime, and stand guard. Ten minutes later, after you’ve told 14 people that this is your friend’s mat, actually, with a glare, and you’re left doing your workout alone, you become the dedicated class lunatic. There’s no going back from this. Smash your walkouts and plank for days, but your rep is down the drain.

Thou shalt not… blank frazzled female drivers
Call me sexist, but I’ve never seen a man lose it at the wheel. I’ve seen them angry and aggressive but never emotional. I, on the other hand, have my moments of hand waving or angry pouting if I’m under pressure and no-one in the world will help me out. This situation becomes instantly and significantly worse if the driver refusing to let you in is female and blatantly ignores you in your moment of need. Roads are dangerous and rage makes them worse – back off and help a girl out.

Thou shalt not… ignore a make-up disaster
browsI’m not talking about the blatant, can’t-look-away-from-them eyebrow disasters on the Mail Online. There’s no excuse for these and the offenders should not need to be told what’s what. However, innocent women caught up in an early start, or suffering from lack of make-up application space on the train should always be told if foundation or eyeliner has gone rogue. The same goes for stray pen, spinach in teeth and bogies. I’m quite bad at this (telling people, not bogies), in that I’ll notice it and look at it but not think to actually mention it?! I’m due some bad karma at some point in life. But the long and short of it is, you’d want to be told, so go forth and break the news.

Thou shalt not… share awful photos on Facebook
As long as you’re still open to the idea of mixing beer, porn star martinis and Prosecco in one night – or in fact, an innocent but lengthy bottomless brunch – you’re at risk of questionable photos. The severity of the photos almost certainly improves with age – anyone under the age of 25 will do anything with a lamp post for a good shot – but merely blinking while eating a salad can have catastrophic results when captured on camera. Standard protocol seems to be removing the truly awful shots and uploading the rest without tagging the offenders. Anyone who tags and laughs is going down.

Thou shalt not…steal her baby name

OUCH. This is of course going to be controversial. If she has a name in mind for her future children, the chances are, they have featured in every romantic dream sequence of her adult life. Take away that name and the dream sequences are gone forever. Mix in some strong female emotions, a hint of drama queen and some sort of flailing girl fight in the street, and you’ve basically ruined her life. HOME WRECKER.

Thou shalt not… reveal the big secrets
gossip
Pic: Brainjet.com

We’ve all sworn to keep a secret, only to then get swept away in the drama of it all – a la Trevor McDonald – and let it all come spilling out five minutes later. I think as a girl, you learn what kind of top secret info will make it round the rest of the group by lunchtime, and which info has a chance of staying between the two of you. The dodgy crush or a snippet of work gossip can probably get out without too much hassle, but let the biggies slip through the net and you lose your confidante status.

Thou shalt not…bring a gal down
On the average day, we’ve got enough on our plates. Work, relationships, lifting weights, avoiding carbs, period pain. The last thing anyone needs is a real-life scene from Mean Girls. This is where we (sorry) can probably learn from the boys, as they help us onto a level playing field. They’re experts at having a chat, having a row, generally hitting each other a bit, until whatever issue is sorted out. We, on the other hand, like to turn things into a mystery novel. Not always that helpful 😉
So, over to you. What would you note down in your list of women-to-women commendments?

The home wishlist

Do you have a room or feature that you’d love in your future home?

I remember falling madly in love with Cher’s outfit planner and revolving wardrobe in Clueless. So much so that I spent a (wasted) afternoon trying to draw every item of my clothing in Microsoft Paint, so that I could create something similar…

The impact of the new Cher, when I started watching Sex and the City, was similar. I’m sure, even if Carrie’s colour or clothing tastes didn’t suit every viewer, we all wished for a space dedicated to dressing, preening in the mirror and generally feeling fabulous. We all work so hard that a hint of self-indulgence every morning as we get dressed is an essential.

wardrobe

So, while we don’t, and probably never will, have the space or budget to go all out with a dressing room in our house, it makes it onto my future home wishlist:

  • Dressing room
  • Huge, open plan kitchen with sofa for entertaining
  • Roll top bath looking out through a floor to ceiling window
  • A view – hills, sea or city

In a bit of a showgirl mood (hence the feathers below), I planned out my dream dressing room. Naturally, it involves some sort of my standard blue and grey colour scheme, but pulls in more dramatic gold elements and luxurious textures like velvet. A dark wooden floor would pull this all together, with one wall in cream and gold wallpaper (Kelly Hoppen at Graham and Brown), and the rest in B&Q’s Blue Thistle. Statement features like the Arhaus mirror and lights, and lots of little hits of bling add the kind of opulence you can really go for in a dedicated dressing room.

dressing-room

Lovely items from:

Blue Thistle paint, B&Q; Geo wallpaper, Graham and Brown; Letter hooks, Dunelm; Mirror, Arhaus; Hemisphere chandelier, Arhaus; Velvet sofa, Next; Crushed velvet cushion, TK Maxx; Yolanda rug, Made.com.

What room or feature would you have in your dream home? Share it in the comments below – I can’t help with it, but it would be interesting to hear!

14th February: The plan

I’m going to say it.

VALENTINE’S DAY.

Are you feeling that funny slash hopeful slash ‘am I bovvered?’ feeling yet?

We are all the same. Single or coupled up, half of us KNOWS that the cards and teddies are a huge money-making scam, yet the other half secretly hopes for a bunch of one hundred roses, delivered in a very public place by swan…

If you don’t want to go down this route, here’s a selection of activities for Tuesday, 14th February – SHOULD YOU WISH TO DO SOMETHING – that don’t have to involve scratchy fancy underwear or awkward end-of-date kisses.

Drink
If any sort of enforced romance, or the lack of it, makes you reach for the alcohol, make it a formal thing. Leeds’ Lazy Lounge holds wine and gin tasting sessions every Tuesday. Grab your partner or your partners in crime and you’ll get an introduction to wine, a taste of seven varieties, and a selection of well-matched nibbles to bring out the flavours.

Wine tasting £20pp, gin tasting £25pp, from 6:30pm at Lazy Lounge, Unit D, Westpoint, Wellington Street, LS1 4JY. (Photo credit: godine.co.uk)

lazy

Haters
As a nation, we are excellent at moaning, so it was only a matter of time before someone mixed our skills into a dating app. Sign yourself up to Hater and you’ll be matched with people who hate the same things, including tuna, the word ‘moist’, weed and Taylor Swift. It’s only available in beta form on iOS at the moment, but there are plans in the pipeline for Android.

Churros
I love a good binge at Cielo Blanco, but when it’s rounded off with churros, one can look a little bloaty once home and in the nude. Not ideal if you have plans for a night of passion. This year though, you can try a number of new superfood mains, including superfood tacos, a warm kale and broccoli salad with toasted nuts and a poached egg, and avocado and black quinoa toastadas. You’ll also get a free bottomless superjuice with superfood dishes, to give you a glow regardless of your relationship status.

cielo

Queerology
This year marks the 50th anniversary of homosexuality being decriminalised in England. Now that’s romantic. Queerology showcases all sorts of artwork by LGBT and Queer artists in and around Leeds.

Queerology at Aire Place Studios, Units 2c, Aire Place Mills, Kirkstall Road, LS3 1JL. Open 12 – 5pm until Monday 27th February.

queer

Culture
Take a seat (and snacks) to the West Yorkshire Playhouse, for a “radical” take on Pygmalion, written by George Bernard Shaw in 1913. It’s the story of professor of phonetics, Henry Higgins, who makes a bet that he can train Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess, starting with impeccable speech. This new version brings in more video and sound technology and asks questions about today’s class identity and social behaviour.
Pygmalion at West Yorkshire Playhouse, 14th February. Tickets £13.50 – £30.

pyg

Skate
You can approach Leeds’ Ice Cube rink with two mindsets. For romance, cling onto each other and complement your pink cheeks with a cute bobble hat, or rejoice in falling over and bruising most of your limbs while showing no sympathy as your fella or friends hit the deck. The rink, its Snowslide, Starflyer and Glacier Run Simulator, plus the new Ice Jet, is open ’til 19th February.

Go ghost hunting
If you really want to go anti-romance, go on one of York’s famed ghost walks. The Original Ghost Walk of York starts every night outside The King’s Arms Pub, and will combine the city’s history with gruesome stories of its past.

The King’s Arms Pub (Ouse Bridge), at 8pm. £5 for adults, £3 for children, students and concessions. (Photo credit: imgarcade.com)

york

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? Doing anything different?

We need to talk about the bathroom

Hello, and welcome to our bathroom…

20170113_210103

Instead of giving each other big Christmas presents this year, we agreed to put most of our budgets towards the next house project – our upstairs bathroom, which has been lying dormant with its gammy hot water tap (no lounging around in the bath for me), perfectly nice but old fashioned tiles and peeling bath panel since we moved in.

20170102_110343 crop.jpg

To keep costs down – around £350 if we do the work ourselves – we’re keeping the original fixtures but replacing everything else. Here’s what’s left to do:

  • Hope that gammy tap is caused by nothing more than a dodgy washer and replace all taps with fresh chrome ones
  • Replace tiles with white brick tiles. We had LOVED crackle glaze putty coloured tiles but quickly learnt that when it comes to tiles, white is always cheaper. Putty has been earmarked for “the next house” 😉
  • Replace shimmery lino with simple rustic wood effect vinyl
  • Buy and fit replacement bath panel, which doesn’t seem to cost a great deal but who the hell knows how you fit this kind of thing?!
  • Give all fixtures a damn good scrub and polish
  • The fun bit – buy new towels, shelves, accessories and artwork. I’m painfully aware that 90% of our house is grey and that our ‘Maritime hush’ choice is not far from it, so am deliberately pushing our colour boundaries with a peacock feather theme. Think teal, blue, navy and golds…

Bathroom plan.JPG

Lovely items from:
Zigzag bath mat, M&S; Blue candlestick holder, Maisons du Monde; Peacock print inspiration, Papier; Blue agate bookend, TK Maxx; Green glass vase, H&M; Print towels, Asda; Peacock feather artwork, art.co.uk; Vinyl flooring, Carpetright; Paint – Maritime Hush by Valspar.

Stylists at home: Karl Grant

This month, I’ve been lucky enough to feature in Style at Home magazine, sharing thoughts and tips on readers’ homes.

sah-comments

On the panel with me were five fellow interior enthusiasts, and over the next few weeks, I’ll be chatting to them and sharing their own interior tales with you.

karl-grantFirst up is Karl Grant from Bedfordshire, who is studying at the British Academy of Interior Design and runs an online homeware boutique – The Whitewash Hare.

He lives in a converted chapel which was built in 1807 and rebuilt in the ’90s, maintaining the external style but introducing a new open plan layout and upstairs gallery: “When we were looking to move from our previous home, we were ready for something that had straight walls and plaster that wasn’t made of horse hair.. but couldn’t overcome the allure of old school houses, chapels and toll buildings.”

 

Karl Grant1.JPGTell us a bit more about The Old Chapel
For us, it represented the perfect compromise between modern build and character home, plus its village location is perfect for raising our young daughter, and happily growing into an old recluse couple.

The original build had cut a few corners in terms of finishing – skirting boards, doors, frames etc. We discovered that one window frame wasn’t fitted to the building itself and the steps leading to the double front doors had all but collapsed. Rebuilding them was complicated as we live in a conservation area, and I still think the local community believed we neglected them to reduce the risk of them turning up uninvited.

How would you sum up your style?
Eccentric British quirkiness built on the foundations of neutral modern country.

Which is your favourite room in the house?
It sounds odd, but right now it’s the downstairs guest bathroom (below) – often the forgotten workhorse! It’s a quirky take on industrial chic which gives a gentle nod to the history of the chapel. The dummy drawer handles, shoelast and obligatory Singer sewing machine give a subtle sense of British eccentricity, but the key piece has to be the vintage drawer wallpaper from Debbie McKeegan British Design. The relationship between the textured paper and photo realistic print is utterly fantastic.

karl-bathroom

Where do you take your inspiration from?
The unique personalities of the home owner should be the biggest inspiration, but they must remain sensitive to the property type and the surrounding environment. My mood changes a lot (according to my wife) and I’m inspired by so many things I see on TV, in fashion magazines, in hotels and trendy bars or boutique gastro pubs. The important thing is to show constraint – I’m not keen on seeing a 1960’s mid terrace town house on the outside, with a glorious French cottage shabby chic style on the inside.

karl-various

Where do you find your vintage items?
Ebay is surprisingly impressive in this area, and I love to visit antique stores and ‘collectors barns’. Unfortunately there aren’t many of these nearby, so it usually consists of weekends away – which in the cold hard light of day probably explains why my wife is so supportive.

Sometimes it can be pure luck. I have a good friend who frequently gives me things she finds in one of her dad’s outbuildings. One of my favourite pieces is a Kenlite workman’s lamp that she gave me. I stripped and polished it, added some fairy lights and turned it into a lamp.  Her dad couldn’t understand why anyone would want some old rusty lamps that were ready for the scrap yard, but for me, upcycling and repurposing items is a wonderful way to be creative.

My advice is always start by exploring what’s nearest to where you live…and don’t expect that everyone has the same vision as you. If you think something will look great go for it, and don’t let other people’s doubts put you off.

What’s the next big interiors trend?
I think the next trend will counter the neutrals that are so popular right now, with people playing with vibrancy, and warm colours like terracota coming into play. This also lends itself to people feeling more comfortable moving away from traditional white ceilings.

What is your one tip for creating a great room?
I always find that good room schemes follow a 70/20/10 rule. Keep 70% of the room (eg walls and floors) as one colour, 20% in a second colour (eg prints and fabrics) and the final 10% (eg accessories) more vibrant. It’s much simpler and cheaper to change the room look when you only have to worry about 30% of the room.

I also live by the rule of presenting accessories in multiples of 3, 5 and 9, as humans seem to respond better to seeing things presented in odd numbers. I always find great impact is achieved presenting three framed pictures in a row over one single larger piece.

And finally, what do you make of one recent trend – hygge?
Hygge is a great move away from the harshness of the industrial chic movement that was being rammed down our throats a few years back. It is also a natural amalgamation of the Scandi look and the current focus on personal mindfulness and wellbeing. From a design perspective and due to their focus on warmth, soft textures and neutral colours, hygge-styles rooms can also make absolute eye candy.

How to save money the ‘lagom’ way this January

If, like me, one of your resolutions this year is to save money, you could be in luck.

Granted, it’s through another of the hygge-like trends that seems to overcomplicate the concept of just living well and being happy, but this one is about more than just sheepskin throws and candles.

Tipped to be the Scandinavian lifestyle trend of 2017, is ‘lagom’. You pronounce it ‘lar-gom’ and, as it loosely translates to “not too little, not too much, just right”, it may well help us to stick to the penny-pinching and one-ricecake-a-day diets that dominate January.

It’s a big change from hygge, which really just made it acceptable to bulk buy cushions and bury ourselves under them with a tub of icecream for the whole of December. Now, the focus is on living well, recycling, clean living and being a good person.

And (unsurprisingly) there’s no shortage of brands up for helping us on the quest. Ikea is already sharing the results of its Live LAGOM Project, and refers to the concept as ‘living a kinder life’. It asked customers and employees to try products that would help them to save energy and water, reduce waste and live a healthier lifestyle that – you hope – goes on to make people happier.

The following methods and products stood out to me as simple but really useful for saving money:

  • Swap standard bulbs for LED bulbs, or use LED lamps. Despite moving from a small five-roomed house to a larger eight-roomed house, Lydia has seen a 40% drop in her energy bills: “A comparison chart of our electricity use shows that since switching to LED lights in January, we are using around half of the national average”.
  • Water saving Lydia also used a timer to see how long her family spent in the shower, allowing them to save time in the morning and reducing their water consumption.
  • Indoor gardening Juliette tried an indoor gardening kit and went on a composting course in order to grow her own food and reduce wastage. “I have been experimenting with growing on kitchen scraps such as celery hearts, avocado stone and lettuce bottoms, and love that the gardening kit means I can pull off a few leaves for my lunch and there is no wastage”. See how a hydroponics indoor garden kit works here. The kits and components aren’t cheap, but could pay off in the long run. Here’s one from Ikea.
  • Keeping heat in Luke was finding it impossible to keep his house warm as a lot of heat was being lost through the windows. Since fitting blinds in every window, as well as curtains, he has saved £30 per month in heating costs.

The catch is, that to be balanced and go full-on lagom, you need to make a few investments. Here are my top four suggestions, all free or less than £11 (excluding postage), for living kindly but keeping an eye on costs, too. Fill the empty juice bottle with water or pebbles to save water in your toilet cistern, turn food waste into compost with an indoor composter, and never have to buy supermarket plastic bags with a reusable cotton shopper:lagom1

1 litre empty plastic bottle; Eddingtons Eco Composter, Robert Dyas, £10.49; Counter top compost bin, aplaceforeverything.co.uk, £9; Wally personal finance app, Free on Android and iOS; Deer cotton shopper bag, £5.49, eBay.

Are you embracing lagom this year? I’m feeling motivated to make some small changes now and see if they make a difference – even if it’s just pennies. Share your tips below!