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Winter walks, fresh flapjacks and Radio 3: a simple way of life at The Painswick

It’s a Monday morning, and while others are sat at their desks doing the same old 9-5, I’m fortunate enough to be off on a Bridget Jones-style mini break in the Cotswolds. I’ve never been before, but I can’t wait to get snapping buttery-coloured buildings and sit by an open fire with a glass of red wine.

We pull up in Bibury, having fought with other tourist BMWs to get a parking spot – don’t judge my sister in a Skoda, she is fierce. Bibury is everything I imagined and more: there’s a post office that sells postcards and fudge, ducks waddle over quaint wooden bridges, and autumn leaves cascade down pretty cottages with uneven roofs. I dream of what it would be like to live here: a simple life where I can have my own vegetable patch and chat to Cedric next door about what a scandal it was that Margaret’s turnip wasn’t picked as ‘best in show’ at the local village fête. Outrageous. But then I notice all the tourists (me included) taking pictures of the cottages and remember that I always forget to close the curtains when I’m getting dressed. Maybe it’s not the simple life I desire after all.

I forget that it’s winter and the sun only rises for practically 2 hours a day, so by 4pm it’s dark and we haven’t even made it to our destination yet. Although it’s only a half an hour drive to The Painswick, it’s so dark that we manage to get lost down country tracks and at one point my sister even drives over a village green. After a daunting ascent up a road with a 45° angle, we arrive at the welcoming sight of The Painswick.

As we go inside the typical Cotswolds hotel, we’re hit with the thick, smoky smell of a wood-burning fire. With only 16 bedrooms, The Painswick feels more like a luxurious B&B than a large, corporate hotel. Our room ‘Griffin Mill’ is the epitome of cosy. There’s a hot water bottle lying on top of a gold, herringbone wool blanket. We’ve been left homemade flapjacks from the chef, there are giant square pillows embroidered with the letter ‘P’ and Radio 3 is playing Vaughn Williams’ The Lark Ascending. We boil the kettle so we can sit down, have a cup of tea, and take it all in.

What to do first: have a bath? Read my book by the fire? Order a glass of Malbec to my room? It was just all so inviting! I run a bath while admiring the pencils-come-paintbrushes that are left on your bedside table (in case you want to do a sketch and then a watercolour, because that’s what you do while on a mini break in the Cotswolds).

After a solid 30 minutes of post-bath-and-nap selfie-taking, we head down to the lounge to sample ‘Merry Mondays’: half-price cocktails until 8pm. We peruse the dinner menu (one of my favourite pastimes) and nearly choke on our Pornstar Martinis as we spot ‘beef wellington with buttered greens and dauphinoise potatoes’. Oh, the delight of a chunk of meat wrapped in pastry!

Previously a vicarage, the restaurant – once a Parish room, is beautifully snug with original features such as arched window frames and tiny wooden doors perfect for escaping a tiresome Sunday School session. It’s warm and inviting with rustic hessian napkins, studded leather chairs and sturdy, solid wood furniture. My sister and I note how nice it is that all the furniture is matching. We’re so bored of this strange mis-matching furniture fashion.

We decide to share an ox cheek ravioli with beetroot and a grilled octopus to start. Formerly beetroot’s arch enemy, I apprehensively try the roasted delicacy, preparing myself for the worst. Whether it was the Guinness reduction, or the sprinkling of parmesan, the earthy root vegetable seemed to melt in my mouth in wholesome goodness, and I instantly retract any hatred I ever had towards the purple produce. The dinner was faultless and we finish off (as we always do) with a fresh mint tea.

It’s the details at The Painswick that make it so special. Local walking routes have been written, rolled up and stuffed in pigeon-holes for you to choose from. Whether it’s a 1 mile, 5 mile or 10 mile walk you’re looking for, they all start from the door of The Painswick. And don’t worry if you’ve only got leather loafers or white trainers with you, there are welly boots in every size to borrow.

We’re suffering from post-breakfast blues as we pack our bags. It’s not just the luxury of fresh linen or the delicious madeleines in our room that we’ll miss. It’s The Painswick’s all-consuming sensation of total relaxation. Walking the Cotswold Way, sketching the view, sipping tea while reading the next chapter of our page-turning novel: a slow way of life that all of us crave and few seem to achieve.

When we return home we light a fire, sit under blankets and read our books. No phones or TV, only green tea and my sister’s company. We’re one step closer to that simple life we all desperately want, and that’s thanks to The Painswick.

 

 

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A Parisienne Tights Subscription: Gambettes Box

 

 

So here’s a little story about why I love Twitter. My sister asked for some patterned tights for Christmas, but not being quite up on the hosiery market, I had no idea where to look. When I tweeted asking for advice, the absolute babe that is Georgia replied and said I should check out Gambettes Box*, a subscription service that delivers 2 pairs of tights through your letterbox every month. So I signed up, ordered a box, and the minute the tights came to my flat, I fell in love.

 

What is a Gambettes Box? 

 

Designed in Paris, Gambettes Box delivers two pairs of beautiful tights every month. And I’m not talking cheap, snag-on-the-first-day tights.  These are beautifully made with a unique design, and the most Parisienne packaging you’ve ever seen. When I received my first box, I wanted to pull my new tights on, grab a café au lait and skip gaily down the Champs Elysées (instead I pulled them over my sausage legs and took photos round the corner from my flat, making sure the local Greggs was not in shot).

 

What do you get in a Gambettes Box?

 

The joy of a Gambettes Box is that you don’t quite know what you’re going to get every month! The tights are a complete surprise, but from the two boxes I’ve received so far, they’re always elegant and stylish. The packaging is absolutely beautiful too, complete with French quotes, and postcards of models styling the tights. They make great presents for your gal pals’ birthdays and they’re an absolute bargain at only £13.90 per box (I even have a cheeky discount code below too!).

 

Where can I buy a Gambettes Box? 

 

Gambettes Box is a subscription service, so you get a box monthly but if you just want to buy 1 box, you can! You sign up to the subscription and then cancel the service when you’ve collected enough beautiful tights to last you a lifetime! If you don’t cancel the subscription you’ll still be delivered a box a month, but it’s pretty much a rolling contract. And the brilliant thing is guys, that because I’ve teamed up with Gambettes Box, you can get £2 off your first order! All you have to do is use the code:

GAMBETTESEMMA

Click here to order your first box: https://www.gambettesbox.com/#ae165  

 

I can’t wait to see all of your beautiful patterned legs! (not in a weird way…)

Emma x

*Features press sample, see disclaimer

 

 

Outfit Details

Olive Clothing khaki wool mini skirt £48

Gambettes Box patterned tights £13.90 (for two pairs)

Hollister black turtle neck (similar)

Accessorize black wool beret £12

Primark black loafers (similar)

 

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A weekend in Dorset

Walking along jagged cliffs, breathing in sea air, and drinking lots of wine in cosy pubs with open fires. Have I just described your perfect weekend? Because I have definitely just described mine.

There are so many beautiful places in the UK to explore, and Dorset is one I’ve barely touched (despite living just down the road… #embarrassing) I spent last weekend with my boyfriend’s family in West Bay, which I was very excited to find out, was where they filmed Broadchurch!

We went on the most beautiful walk along the cliffs on Sunday morning (photos below) and I wore my fave new FILA colour-block sleeve jumper, which you can buy here. I hope you like my photo diary below!

Emma x

Outfit details

ASOS Fila Sweatshirt with colour block sleeves £55

Patagonia Grey Recycled wool hat £25

Accessorize Sterling Silver earrings £10

 

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Exercise and Mental Health

I’m not a big exercise person. I don’t LOVE the gym, I don’t get a rush from doing a HIIT workout and the last thing I want to do is sign up to a bloomin’ marathon.

Having said that, I’d rather be doing a Pilates class, or spend 10 mins in a steam room than sitting at home in a mess of misery and Kit Kat wrappers, watching reruns of The Apprentice.

We all have the odd down day, some of us more than others, and it’s so easy to slump into that all-familiar downward spiral of doom and gloom. When you’re knackered and can’t be bothered with life, the last thing you want to do is put lycra leggings on and go to a circuits class. BELIEVE ME, I know.

But sometimes I ask myself, what is sitting around feeling miserable going to achieve? Is it going to make me happier? No. Is it going to make me feel better about my life? No.

So I FORCE myself (with a bit of added motivation from my mum and boyfriend) to get off my bum, throw on an old t-shirt and do some exercise! Whether it’s a 10 minute walk round the block to get some fresh air, or a proper sesh in the gym (I use the term ‘sesh’ lightly…), I will now nearly always try and do at least 10 mins of exercise when I’m feeling rubbish.

So why exercise? Why not shopping or reading or eating?

One word: ENDORPHINS. I bloody love endorphins, I don’t really know what they are but I know they exist and I know that they’re GOOD. Maybe it’s psychological, maybe it’s not, but I know that I feel better when I’ve got out the house and moved around a bit.

It’s such an easy and simple thing to do, plus you’ll feel like you’ve achieved something that day – something more than reminding yourself of who was ‘fired’ in Series 9, episode 6 (it was Rebecca, in case you were wondering).

In the words of Elle Woods (lol I am always quoting Legally Blonde):

 

‘Exercise gives you endorphins.

Endorphins make you happy.

Happy people just don’t kill their husbands, they just don’t. ’

 

Damn right they don’t, Elle.

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Winter layering

This one time in the office a colleague came up to me and said ‘do you know what I like about you, Emma? You’re all about comfort over style.’

Er, RUDE.

But also, 100% true.

Major respect for gals out there wandering round in knee-high boots in sub-zero temperatures, but personally I can’t be bothered. I’m all about cosy knits, long trousers, and polo necks. Anyone else have the never ending nightmare of wearing a wool coat because it’s -5 outside, but as soon as you get on a bus/enter a shopping centre/have a coffee, you get terrible Winter sweats?! I’m telling you, layering is the way forward.

This rust orange jumper from Native Youth is super snug and perfect for shoving over a black turtle neck.

I fell in love with these Topshop heritage trousers, they fit really well so they’re brill for you gals out there with short legs and a big bum (like me). I love how the orange jumper picks up the colour in the trousers – just team them with some classic Topshop loafers and your outfit is absolutely sorted.

 

Outfit details:

Native Youth rust coloured jumper – £60.00

Topshop Heritage trousers – £39

Topshop black loafers (similar) – £45

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Forget hygge, 2017 is all about lagom. (yay, another Scandinavian
word we don’t know how to pronounce!) Roughly translating as ‘not too much, not
too little, just right’, lagom is the art of living frugally, a pretty
essential life skill if, like me, you’ve still got a £9000 student loan to
repay. Lagom is a way of life that encourages you to be environmentally
friendly, financially economical and healthy. It’s certainly not as fun as
hygge, which, by the way, I readily embraced by purchasing new snuggly socks and an
endless supply of mulled wine. But apparently January is all about new starts
blah blah and I have a whacking great tax bill to pay, so I for one, am becoming lagom.

It’s quite difficult to think of stuff to do that doesn’t involve a lot of money, so here are some ideas of how to live lagomly, and yes, I have made that word up:

1. Made my own pizzas

I have a terrible habit of going out for dinner ALL the
time. I make great plans to boil down lentils, spinach and kale into some sort of healthy mush and yet, before you know it, I’ve got a dim sum in
each cheek and Katsu curry dripping down my chin. But I’ve realised that
although eating out is super convenient, it’s also bloody expensive, and half
the time what you have out isn’t as nice as what you could cook at home! So the
other evening I made my own pizzas – dough and all.

2. Went for a walk

I absolutely love going for a walk when it’s cold, crisp and
sunny to then return home and snuggle up with a hot chocolate. I went for a
winter walk on the beach the other day and it made me question why I don’t do
it more often. I love the UK. I think it’s beautiful, so get out there and make
the most of it without spending a penny!

3. Used my gym membership (lol)

Sometimes I forget that I pay £30 a month to be a member of
a gym. But then suddenly last week I remembered (miraculous) so I decided to
go. And I had a great time! Although furious that the hot tub wasn’t working, I
did 10 lengths in the pool (watch out Michael Phelps) and then sat in the sauna
for half an hour. It was glorious. Plus then I showered in water I’m not billed
for! Could life get any better?

4. Started a journal

At some point I’ll do a blog about my bullet journal, but
honestly it is my favourite new thing. Yes you need to buy a notebook and a
fancy array of coloured pens, but then you’ve got a year of journal-writing
fun! And there’s nothing funner than planning!

5. Rearranged my bedroom

I have a beautiful Roberts Radio that I never listen to,
which, considering what I do for a living, is really embarrassing. For some reason
I’d put it in a stupid place where the antennae didn’t get any signal, so, when
I realised how ridiculous it was, I decided to rearrange my room. And that kind
of turned into a big old sort out. It’s also nice to make your bedroom a little project: making bunting, picking up ring stands and vintage mirrors in charity shops, and framing photos that you’ve had lying around for a while! 

In general, hygge is definitely more fun than lagom, but lagom is about long-term fun: saving up those pennies for a house, getting a fit and healthy mind and body, appreciating the smaller things in life without having huge extravagances. So although we all have little splurges occasionally, it’s good to have lagom at the back of your mind. 

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Amsterdam is one of my fave places ever, because every time I’ve been, I’ve left wanting more. That sounds a bit odd, but there’s just SO much to do, you leave feeling like you’ve barely scraped the surface! Here are some of my fave things to do that hopefully don’t tick the classic ‘I’m-a-tourist-in-Amsterdam box’. 

1. Go on a (non-touristy) boat trip 

In a place that’s 50% canals, you’d be mad not to see the city by boat. There are hundreds of boat trips with tours in every language, but try and scout out a different, more unique trip. I managed to go on a beautiful wooden 1920s boat, driven by a lovely Dutch man called Arnout. Seeing the city via water is really beautiful way to experience the canals and all the pretty side streets and bridges. Plus it’s a great way of peering into all the cool houseboats if you’re nosy like me!

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2. Have a slice of Apple Pie

Apple pie is basically synonymous with the Netherlands. I had this gorgeous slice in Zuivere Koffie, a little cosy café on Utrechtsestraat (a beautiful street for shops and cafés), but you can literally get it everywhere. I refused to leave Amsterdam until I’d had a slice!

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3. Walk the streets of Amsterdam by night 

Amsterdam is beautiful by day, but my god, at night it’s magical. It’s a custom in Amsterdam to leave your curtains open (apparently if you have them closed, it shows that you’ve got something to hide!), so it’s a joy to walk along the canals at night and see all the lights of the canal houses twinkling away. The reflections are magnificent as well. 

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4. Go in a canal house (if you can!) 

I was lucky enough to stay in a canal house, so it was very easy for me to go in one, but there are a lot of cafés, restaurants and bars that are based in canal houses, just do a bit of research! The little canal house loft I stayed in was on Airbnb and it was beautiful, click here to see! 

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5. Go in (at least!) one independent shop

It wasn’t until I was in Amsterdam that I really appreciated how nice it is to go in a string of independent shops and not see the same old thing. Don’t get me wrong, the main chain shops are there too (although I completely avoided them) but it’s the independent shops you really need to experience. The window displays make you want to go in every bakery and every chocolate shop. Even a shop that sold buttons, and only buttons, took my eye (bloody love buttons). Make the most of it though, because it’s depressing when you get back to the UK. 

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Hutspot was my absolute favourite. It’s a café, come shop, come barbers – it has it all. Beautiful books, gifts, unique jewellery, clothing and there’s even an edgy black and white photobooth. There’s a few Hutspots dotted around so make sure you visit one!

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6. Go to (at least!) one museum 

It’s overwhelming how many museums there are in Amsterdam. Van Gogh, Anne Frank’s House, and the Rijksmuseum arguably being the most famous. It’s impossible to do all of them in a couple of days, but pick one and do it well. I focused on the Rijksmuseum, because apart from anything else, the building was meant to be extremely beautiful. Try and see at least one Van Gogh as well if you can, because Amsterdam has the largest collection of his paintings in the world! 

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7. Go to a Dutch supermarket 

I LOVE going out for dinner, but sometimes it’s just as fun to pick whatever food you fancy in a really nice delicatessen/supermarket, prepare it with a glass of red wine, and eat it in front of a cosy fire! It’s not cheap, but for a one-off meal, and the convenience of eating it in your little apartment, I’d say it’s pretty special. 

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Amsterdam is the best. If you’ve never been before, I highly advise you to book a flight right now. It’s a beautiful, unique city, filled with culture and food and canals, and I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed. 

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The best thing about winter fashion is being able to curl up in a woolen jumper. I love this lilac turtle neck from Topshop – the pastel lilac/blue colour’s beautiful, it’s actually got wool in it, and it’s not too itchy! Win win!

Jumper – Topshop £36

Jeans – BDG at Urban Outfitters £55

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