Getting Wild In The City

 

SP gives it a month before I start whinging, but right now I’m kind of glad to see a bit of cloud.

 

It has been the most fantastic summer, hasn’t it?  The past few months have felt like we’ve been on a permanent holiday and it was bliss, but the heatwave has left me pretty lethargic at times, so I’m looking forward to some fresh air, a change of pace and a new season.

 

Not that I’m willing us bad weather.  Please don’t blame me if we have non-stop rain the next few months…

 

As the new season approaches I’m starting to pick out tops with sleeves from the wardrobe and shove the summer dresses to the back. I’ve even worn jeans a few times recently (didn’t thank myself for it afterwards!) and as I start to think about to wear I’m thinking of venturing back to shops.

 

I’ve have looked in the shops or online for a couple of months, there’s hasn’t been a need since I went holiday shopping as I then needed to wear my holiday at home while the temperatures were high, but now I’ve started to take some interest and we are starting to see new shapes and designs coming into store.

 

One look that is going to BIG this Autumn has to be animal print.  I know I mentioned it so many times since I started writing this blog, but really it’s going to be huge in the stores this season.  I’m glad I bought my midi leopard skirt from Zara way back as it will be on repeat with boots the next few months.

 

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Long gone are the days when leopard and zebra print fashion were seen as uncool.  Nowadays, animal prints are defined as neutrals by the fashionistas and there’s so much choice, from coats and bags, to belts and skirts that everyone can find their own inner animal and wear it with style.

 

I’ve worn my skirt with bright colours this Summer, but I’m also looking to buy a camel colour sweaters this Autumn and wear it with tan ankle boots. Then I’ll turn to skinny black turtle necks jumpers as we head toward winter.  Yes, I can lots of ways that it will continue to be a staple in my wardrobe.  Red also looks good, see above, but we careful to pare the red down or the two can become a little competitive for the attention.

 

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If you’re thinking of starting the transition into Autumn (and there’s no need to rush just yet) then here’s a few pieces I’ve pulled out from what’s new in store.  It you want to start out slow, choose a belt.  That’s where I started and now I wear head to toe leopard at times. LOL.

 

 

Have a great weekend!

 

Gail xxx

5 Ways I’ve Made Working From Home A Success

 

I became a freelance PR at the end of 2006.  It wasn’t planned, at all.  I had become sick in the summer, suffering from Bells Palsy, which had me laid up for a few weeks and during that time I realised that I just didn’t want to go back to my job, working in a PR agency in Covent Garden.

 

While convalessing back in Bristol, where I’d fallen sick, I started to think about what I would do if the Bels Palsy left me with permanant damage to my face.  I was suffering from stroke like syptoms down the left-hand side of my face, and I began to wonder if I could do my job, which mainly involved writing and talking to the media, from home.

 

I met up with a good friend who said she was looking for some freelance support and that was all I needed to hand in my notice.  I leapt into an unknown future.

 

What I love most about being self-employed, though it has its ups and downs, is working from home.  It has surprised me that I don’t mind being alone for one thing, because for the most part I’m on my own and I love to talk.  I mean I can really chat some when I want to and I love company.  You only have to look at my old school reports to know, “well, Mrs Dibble, Gail is easily distracted”.

 

More and more people are choosing to work alone, so I thought I would share some tips that I’ve learned.  If you have tips and tricks please share in the comments below.

 

1 – Music All Day Long

Steve is the real music fan in this house, so I’ve learnt from the best and have a radio on in the background all day long.  It keeps me up to speed on the news of the day, there’s chatter that can imitate a noisy office background and I turn the dial to suit the different moods I’m in or need to get to.  If I need to quicken my pace it’s Kisstory club sounds all the day, but there’s plenty of times that I’ll go on Youtube and pick out a favourite and enjoy The Best Of…

 

2 – Early Morning Jog

It wakes me up with a blast of fresh air – there’s nothing more mind-numbing than moving from bed to desk in one move – and means I can tick exercise off the list before my day really begins.  I just have a quick espresso, start up Strava and stick on my head phones.  Admittedly sometimes I feel like I’m running in my sleep and my legs are still heavy from the night’s sleep, but I really am chuffed.

3 – Watching the Clock

It’s not what you think.  I watch the clock to do the best, most effective job I can.  By keeping track of my time, from the start of a piece of work, to when I finish, not only means I’m efficient for my own purposes, I’m accurately billing for my businesses.  If you don’t, you can easily think you haven’t done enough and over-service, equally, the people who pay me want their money’s worth.  Using timesheets means we’re both winning.

 

4 – Office Essentials

Includes a clutter free desk (have I said I can be easily distracted), good coffee (see last week’s post here), hand cream – (currently loving Neutrogena Hydra Boost), a pin board with motivational quotes and pics of family and friends, cute fairy lights to cheer me up in the winter and a leafy plant to help clean the air.  I have a Spider plant on a shelf, which I bought years ago.  I’ve never looked after a plant so well.  And I talk to it!

 

 

Lastly, I always have a bottle of bubbles on the side of my desk. It reminds me that my job is supposed to be fun.  I’m not saving the planet, but sometimes it can get stressful when working to others deadlines.  You remember Ab Fab, right?!  Successful pitches, wins, achievements just need to be celebrated…

 

5. Decor

 

We turned our small bedroom into an office space.  Aside from the usual equipment (desk, exec-style office chair, printer/copier/scanner, modern table lamp, white blinds and a mug coaster) I added a snazzy rug and brick wallpaper, to give the space a sense of being in a real office.  There’s no room for lying on a bed when you’re trying to earn money.

 

Have a great weekend.

 

 

Gail xx

 

P.S  I didn’t take the photo on the front page.  Credit: wong via unsplash

Coffee and Me

Credit: Snapbythree- va Unsplash

 

About a month before we went on holiday in June I decided to give up milky coffees.

 

I drink at least three or four coffees a day, two mugs before work and then one at nine and the other around 11 am.

 

Not only do I like the caffeine kick to help wake me up I love the taste.

 

That said, it was causing me two problems.  I was full before even thinking about breakfast and I think the dairy was leaving me bloated.  I’m not a doctor, but I’ve taken an intolerance test (Cambridge Nutritional Sciences) and know that cow’s milk and sady, cashew nuts, should be avoided.

 

Leaving the intolerance aside, not eating breakfast was leaving me with low reserves of energy to keep me going through the latter part of day, but also, I would eat most of my daily food intake during the evening, erm, and then go to sleep on a full stomach.

 

I was basically enduring a famine during the day, when I needed to nourish my body with energy-giving food the most, and then rewarding myself for getting through it at the end of the day.  What is she doing, I hear you cry?!

 

It’s amazing how you can pick up bad habits and live with them for a long time, without realising the harm they’re doing.  Perhaps these habits had been okay during my twenties and thirties, but not in my forties when I need all the energy I could get, and this pattern was obviously not helping.

 

So, my day needed a better start, but should I cut the coffee?

 

According to the British Coffee Association drinking coffee can have a positive effect on an individual’s alertness and concentration.  Well known for containing caffeine, a mild central nervous system stimulant, it can aid a better performance and benefit when an individual is feeling tired or lethargic.

Credit: Devin Avery pic via Unsplash

 

Keeping coffee in the equation was therefore a necessity and in truth a part of my daily routine I was keen to keep, so first off, I dropped the milk and went straight for an Americano (black coffee), using the same instant coffee, but to be honest without the milk is was a bit bland.

 

Luckily, we do have a Nespresso coffee machine that my mother-in-law bought us when we got married.  At the time we made lots of cappuccinos, but it hadn’t been regularly used for a while, so off I went to my nearest store at The Mall, Cribbs Causeway.

 

The assistant sat me down and asked me what type of flavour I was looking for.  Not being a connoisseur, and giving a poor description “uh, something quite strong please” she began pouring a few samples.  After a few that were too light and a couple that were too intense for me I ended up choosing Roma, which offers ‘a balance of lightly roasted south and Central American Arabicas with Robusta beans, giving it sweet and woody notes and a full lasting taste on the palate’.   Roma is an intensity level eight in flavour.

 

I have started enjoying two espressos in the morning, along with drinking lots of water throughout the day.  At first, I thought I would suffer a headache or two, but no those two small cups were enough to get me started and keep me going for some time.  I would then have an Americano around 11ish.

 

A new habit has been formed and because I’m not full of the milky mugs of coffee I have started to eat earlier in the day.  Breakfast is now fruit and yogurt or at the weekends a cheeky crumpet and peanut butter, or a lean bacon butty (with the fat cut off and no butter).

 

At least I’m starting the day better.

 

Since getting stuck in to the espressos I’ve also tried the Nespresso pod dupes from Aldi.  I love the Colombian Coffee Pods

which have an intensity flavour level of 6.  Perfect!

 

I really kind of love the mornings now.  I’m getting the hit, starting the day off stronger and I don’t have a bloated tummy from all the milk I was drinking.  I can also choose different coffee tastes to suit my mood, so I’m building a selection of choice rather than reaching for the same jar every morning. Yep, I’m really enjoying all the benefits. I think this new habit is going to stick.

 

Hope you had a good weekend folks.  Here’s to a great week!

 

 

Gail xxx

Three Reasons To Wear A Belt

 

I haven’t really worn belts for a while. Hadn’t really thought they were necessary to be honest.  My jeans were staying up or if they needed a hoist it didn’t seem to bother me that much.

 

The lack of belt love became more obvious when I ventured in to the wardrobe to look for a belt for my holiday and I found a number a low slung wide belts from the 2000s and a couple of elastic/plastic numbers that I can’t believe are still hanging around.

 

Obviously people do still wear belts.  This Gucci belt is THE belt to own right now, but at £315 and my past history with belts to keep my head in check, my hard-earned cash was safe.

So why did I want a belt anyway.   I’ll give you three reasons:

 

  1. I wanted it to appear as if I have a waist.  Sometimes denim and in this particular case, denim shorts, need something to help give you a bit of shape
  2. Accessories, when done right, turn a plain outfit into something way more stylish.  A great belt can be just the finishing touch you need
  3. I wanted to switch up the look of several outfits.  See dress below.

 

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I think I actually prefer the dress worn with the tan belt, but it’s great to have the option.

 

So without having over 300 hundred quid for a Gucci I looked around for some dupes and ended up with the double circle tan belt from Miss Selfridge (via ASOS) for £10.  I didn’t want to go mad now did I!!  It could end up in the drawer with all the others.

 

But I absolutely love it.  I wore it loads on holiday and I’m still wearing it back in blighty.  I’m chuffed to bits with it and to be honest I don’t need to swop it for a more expensive version.

 

If you fancy belting up (couldn’t resist), here’s some options.

Have a great weekend!

Gail xx

A Week on the Amalfi Coast

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Visiting the Amalfi Coast was a long-held romantic dream of mine. I had wanted to spend my honeymoon on a beautiful clifftop hideaway, but we ended up in Vegas.  I know, go fgure.  So for our 10th wedding anniversary I was taking no chances, the flights were booked well in advance.  Whatever it cost (and to be honest it didn’t break the bank) I was going and him indoors was coming with me.

 

Getting there…

 

Again, as we do with most of our flights, we booked with Easy Jet.  Tickets were around £150 return, per person, and I booked about 10 months in advance.  Flying out of Bristol, the flight to Naples took just under three hours and for this flight it was an early alarm call of 3.00 am, which I normally try to avoid, but sometimes you just got to go with it.

 

Arriving in Naples just after ten we looked out for someone holding a card with The Painters across it and off we went.  Traffic in and around Naples is super busy and arriving during a rain storm didn’t help, but we were soon winding along the Amalfi coastline and it took around an hour and 40 minutes at a cost of around £100 to get us to our hotel.

 

You can train it to Sorrento and get a taxi or ferry to various destinations, or of course hire a car, but from what we witnessed, someone else driving along the narrow clifftop roads where you’re squished into awkward spaces as vehicles manoeuvre to get by, was preferable to the other options. You need bags of patience and nerves of steel for that journey and SP and I bickering wouldn’t have been the idyllic start to the holiday I was aiming for.

 

Where to stay…

 

When it came to choose the perfect place to stay I asked my sister-in-law who had honeymooned in the Amalfi Coast the previous year.  I knew I didn’t want to stay in a big resort like Sorrento and reading reviews of Positano led me to think it was over-priced and over-crowded (I was right), so when she said to look at Praiano, a quieter spot with a 10 minute boat ride into Positano, I knew I’d found our holiday home.

 

A bit more digging around on destination websites and I found Hotel Le Fioriere, which offered the one thing I know SP loves (aside from being near water) a rooftop terrace.

 

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Run by brother and sister, Luigi and Rosalia, who made us feel immediately welcome and at home, we stayed on the first floor in a large sea-facing room that included a double and sofa bed.

 

Aside from the great location (in between Positano and Amalfi), breakfast was plentiful and served buffet-style with plenty of fresh coffee, our room was clean and tidy with a balcony, and the restaurant, Voce e Notte Grill and Sunset Bar, was an absolute treat.

 

We couldn’t believe our luck to find such a perfect view that we could enjoy every night.  The menu isn’t lengthy but offers plenty of delicious choice.

 

As for drinks, Steve worked his way through a number of Italian craft beers and I enjoyed refreshing gin from Tuscany, thanks to Federica the bar manager, who was always on hand to talk us through and pour some of the country’s quality drinks.

 

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Where to visit…

 

Positano

 

A must-see, Positano is picture postcard perfect.  I wanted to come in to the town from the sea, so that we could feel the effect and it didn’t disappoint.

 

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Plenty of restaurants, naturally serving all the classic Italian favourites with a good selection of seafood dishes and a side order of chilled Peroni.

 

The beach has plenty of beds, roughly costing 20 euros each with parasol and little table and bear in mind that you’ll find few sandy beaches here, it’s all pebble-based so we took our aqua shoes.

 

We just went the once and to be honest that was enough.  It is heaving and I’ve read gets worse in July and August, when really it’s best to avoid if you’re not a fan of crowds

 

Ravello

 

A ten-minute bus ride can take 30 on the Amalfi Drive and luckily on our way to the town of Amalfi I found a seat.  Steve had to stand.  Public transport is slow, but it does get you from A to B for just two euros each.  With crowds already building in the day, once we got to Amalfi our first step was  straight on to the next bus to Ravello, the hilltop town with the most amazing views.

 

A large village some 335m up, the climb is steady on a full bus, but the views at the top are fabulous.  However, I didn’t capture any of it on camera as we grabbed a table in a café on the square on arrival and as we went to walk around the heavens opened, so along with everyone else we got the next bus back down to Amalfi.

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If you visit Ravello, I have heard that Villa Rufolo is a must-see.  With cascading gardens high above the coast, the views are spectacular.

 

Back in Amalfi, we just stopped for a quick ice cream, before getting back on a bus to Praiano.

 

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One Fire Beach

 

There are two small areas to catch some rays in Praiano and the one closest to us (signposted the beach, next to the church) was Lido, One Fire Beach.

 

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There are 300 steps to get this spot, but once down there two beds and parasol costs 40 euros for the day and you can jump in and out of the water to your hearts content, knowing that bar service, a shaded restaurant and clean loos are to hand.  Staff are young and friendly and there is a good energy about the place.  You can also catch water taxis from here to reach Positano.

 

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Where to eat and enjoy a Limoncello

 

There are two main areas in Praiano, Vettica Maggiore and the Marina di Praiano.  We stayed in the former, which is the first stop after leaving Positano, so we ended up eating and drinking around this area as the walk to the marina didn’t appeal.  We did it once during the day and it took around 40 minutes, but with no pavements, I didn’t fancy doing it again, on an evening.

 

Voce e Notte Grill and Sunset Bar

Our hotel roof-top restaurant and the reason why I booked our stay here, was the nicest spot we found in Praiano.  Friendly service, modern surroundings, great food and a choice of drinks with an absolutely stunning view, it was the easiest choice to ‘stay home’.

 

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Trattoria San Gennaro

Next up is the first place we visited as it was opposite our hotel and was featured in my copy of Rough Guide to Italy.  Trattoria San Gennaro is garden-based with white plastic chairs, but don’t let that put off.  You overlook the square where local kids kick a football around every night blowing off steam after a hot day and the view over-looks Positano.

 

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The food is fabulous.  I went for home-made pasta with prawns and courgette – scialatilli con zucchini e gamberitti and Steve had seafood.  Delizioso!

 

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We tried our first Lemoncello Spritz here and absolutely love it.

 

Tramonto d Oro

This restaurant is upmarket and boasts panoramic views over the coastline.  We dined here for our anniversary, so it was lobster for SP.  Gorgeous food and a fine dining ambience, where we felt completely looked-after.  Pricier than the others, but worth it.

 

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Café Mirante

The best thing about walking up 300 steps from the beach is stepping in to Café Mirante at the top, where the shades are up, the vibe is relaxed, and the drinks made to order.  They also come with free snacks.  We loved the Café Mirante Mule that specially made for us as we (I mean me) like gin.

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What to know…

 

  • The Amalfi Coast is busy in June and gets busier July to August
  • SITA buses (orange) are regular and cheap. You buy tickets ahead in shops, hotels, etc.
  • Small resorts like Praiano have little or no pavements and if the Amalfi Drive runs through it then you will spend a bunch of time pressed against a wall
  • There is a hotel in Praiano that has a lift to the beach Le Grand Hotel Tritone
  • SP and I agreed we came at the right time, with kids or walking issues the trip wouldn’t have been so successful
  • The church in Praiano has a gorgeous square in front of it. If you’re running out of cash, grab a bottle of wine and snacks from a supermarket, sit and enjoy the view with the locals.  It’s the same view as every restaurant nearby.

 

The last word…

 

In another lifetime, as a millionaire, I’ll go back to the Amalfi Coast by Super Yacht.  I do think that’s a great way to see it and I can totally see why cruises around this area are so popular.  It is simply stunning and jumping off and spending the day in Positano is a day well spent.

 

 

We loved it.  We also really enjoyed the last night of our holiday in Naples, getting back into the bustling city was great fun. It was alive and bursting with energy and we were advised to visit Antica Pizza Fritta Da Zia Esterina Sorbillo for one of its famous pizzas.  We queued for around 50 minutes to enjoy that pizza, but was super delicious.  Steve ordered the famous fried pizza, but in truth mine was better.

 

Visit my Instagram page and click on Highlights to see videos and more pics.

 

Have a great weekend folks!

 

Gail xx

 

Have you visited the Amalfi Coast?  Please share your thoughts below.