One month.

I took a break from creating for one whole month. December 22nd to January 22nd. And here we are, here we meet, in a new year, quite the same as we ever were.

My blog and I. This tiny little place on the internet where I write and try to make beautiful things, sometimes just try to make sense. I feel - and wait for the irony - tremendous guilt at abandoning it, this little place I've created. Because well, if I don't love it, who the hell else will? No one else is going to tend to it in my absence, no one else is going to spend their weekends balancing on things to take photographs or looking menacingly at another grey, wintery sky that blots out all the good natural light. No one else is going to sit tapping their thumbs and fingernails against the glass of their iPhone looking at Instagram numbers ticking up and down, no one else is going to get upset when YouTube fuck their small creatives over once again. It's exhausting, all of this pruning and planting we do.

By we, I don't just mean bloggers. I mean people who are creative, people who work, people who study - those of us who start off a new year in the hope that what we sow now we'll reap in the later months. January feels like the intake of breath before curtain up, the orchestra tuning their strings. Expectation, hope, anticipation. The pressure for the desire for change. I don't know exactly what will come of this year, but I am making it my sole task in these odd days of returning to work and life after a bit of a sabbatical, to enjoy the prelude. So this post comes to you a little late, but with the sincere wish that you're all feeling as I am - excited for what's next. 2018 is going to be a hell of a year, I can feel it.

SEE: There's such an incredible crop of Oscar movies at the moment that I almost don't know where to start - except that I 100% do. I've been looking forward to seeing Lady Bird since I read this interview with Greta Gerwig, who is something of a personal hero of mine. I just know that she'll create something brave and tender and true, and I can't wait to see it!

LISTEN: There has been so much good music to kick the year off! I'm probably most excited about Filthy by JT because I absolutely hated it on first listen and now love it, a la Sexyback. Equally, Finesse is just wonderful in a much more 'if you don't love this I don't know how to make you happy' way. My gorgeous Sylvan Esso have also provided a happy, boppy start to 2018 for us all.

GO: It'd be silly if I didn't have a Dubai 'to go' after being out there for the beginning of this month and enjoying our time there as much as we did. One of our favourite days was spent at La Mer, a new hang in the vibe of The Walk, but quieter because not everyone has jumped on this bandwagon yet. Get there fast before everyone finds out about it! I also had an incredible day wandering around The Courtyard and the galleries around Al Quoz - next time we go back, I'm stopping off at Mirzam Chocolatiers for sure!

EAT: I have been on a hell of a cookie vibe and it ain't cute, but to get my semi-sweet tooth satisfied and grant myself a little indulgence, these Biccie Boms by Livia's Kitchen look immense - and they're stocked at Boots now! So handy!

DRINK: Confession time - I raided the Bluebird Tea Co sale, didn't I. I've been going pretty hard on their seasonal delights like 'Christmas Cake tea' and 'Mulled Cider tea', but in general, anything they do is pretty tops. I also tried my first matcha latte this month, which was a straight no, unless you like drinking dirt.

WEAR: Pretty exclusively lusting after this extortionately priced Whistles jumper at the mo'. Grazia 20% off code, where you at?

READ: I have so many recommendations from my Christmas break book blitz that saw me ploughing through about 5 novels cover to cover, but rather than spoiler that upcoming post for you, I'm looking at making Little Fires Everywhere my next read.

THINK: I'll also be writing an upcoming post about my intention word for the year, but until then, this month's word has been warmth. Not just because the year started in the sun, surrounded by loved ones and good vibes, but also because of the warmth created through doing things you love. More on that soon.

I hope January is being good to you all so far, and I'll be back soon with new content for all y'all. Thanks for bearing with!

Christmas weekend is about to begin, and so that means I'm writing another well-wishing post to you all to say, Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and I hope you have a wonderful, restful time, wherever you are.

I'm taking a little time off, as I'm sure you can tell, from creating content for the moment. I've taken a month off work, I'm headed to Dubai to spend some time in the sun recharging and enjoying the season with my family. I hope you're all getting the opportunity for quality time too.

As we move towards a new year, I encourage you to take time for yourself, be good to yourself, and wish you everything you'd wish for yourselves for 2018.

I can't wait to see what it brings!

*The candle in the photograph above was kindly gifted to me by Gemporia - it's called Christmas Magic and is absolutely divine, just in case you wanted to treat yourself this weekend! To browse more of their gorgeous candles and home wares, be sure to visit their collection.

Clueless gifters of the world unite - I've got the answers for you here. The plight of the perfect Christmas pressie is a well-documented one, so I thought I'd do my bit as a compulsive window shopper/internet browser and list some tried and true gifts for the fairer sex. These are just some little bits and bobs that'd make any Christmas stocking complete, or some great places to start as part of a larger gift. Happy shopping!

The Warm, Woody Scent:

You can't go wrong with a travel-size rollerball of perfume, as thoughtful gifts go. For popping in a handbag or taking on holiday, I wish these Sephora staples were more common in the UK. They're so bloody convenient! One of my favourite scents for the season is Nirvana Bourbon, a sweet, warm and spicy scent. For those looking a little more upmarket and even headier, you might want to try Oud Immortel by Byredo. Another failsafe is the classic Wood Sage and Sea Salt by Jo Malone.

The Christmas PJs:

A soft and snuggly pair of pyjamas for Christmas Day is three gifts rolled into one. First, something thoughtful, useful and kitsch. Secondly, the unspoken permission to spend all day in your comfies. Thirdly - two words: elastic. waistbands. I love this Next night shirt, these Hush PJs and these fancies from ASOS. The only rules are - must be adorable, and must be softer-than-soft to the touch. Fluffy socks optional, but encouraged.

... Or Something A Little Less Comfortable:

Heads up to those who are coupled - buying lingerie is expensive. Usually, lingerie is bought to delight the beholder. So, behold all the things that delight you, and gift them to your significant other. I love Rosie for M&S' range for really sexy, luxe pieces. If I could afford it, I'd stock my entire top drawer with La Perla (this bra is almost too much). Still, there are steals to be had too, and once again ASOS comes through with the sexy, thrifty good times.

The Gift That Keeps Giving:

One of the best presents I ever received was a magazine subscription - think about it, Christmas lasts all year! A present a month for the next 12 months is something no one will say no to. So gifting a magazine that's difficult to find, or an indie read like one of my faves Suitcase, is a no brainer.  For those a little less literarily-inclined, why not gift flowers, for three months?

The Quirky Christmas... Everything: 

I am all about a novelty earring or Christmas jumper, and there's plenty of good stuff out there to choose from this year. This Santa mug is everything I want in a gift without trying. These novelty earrings from Accessorize offer you no end of festive items to dress up any outfit. And this candy cane jumper is stylish, cozy, and a design piece. Who can beat THAT?

The 'How Did You Know...?' Make Up:

Lest you aren't a part of the blogging community and don't keep up with Instagram, let me introduce you to the gift we all didn't know we needed: Glossier. Their no-nonsense, effortlessly chic range of minimalist skincare and make up will make even the loudest naysayers look twice. I've written a more in-depth review of some of my favourite make up pieces from the brand, but start with either the Phase 1 or Phase 2 set and you won't go far wrong.

And if all else fails... chocolate coins and selection boxes. Because some things just cannot be bettered. Merry Christmas!

We've reached the last 31 days of 2017.

I wrote this on my Twitter on Friday night and it hardly seemed real. Today, we're on to our final 27, and that seems even less real. I punctuate each one of these monthly posts, which I love, with 'somehow we've reached' and it doesn't get any less true. December has arrived in the same whirlwind I felt began somewhere around January, and maybe that was still a continuation of the total mindfuck that was 2016. As I write, President Trump is still President (although, thankfully, that seems to come with the caveat of *just about* at this point), Brexit is still happening (again, same caveat), I'm about to enter into the year I turn 30, my Christmas tree is lit and beside me for the last time in this flat probably.

Yes, the new year looks like it will come with a move - only a few doors down, but thankfully to a bigger space. I'll have an office with an honest-to-God window and space to roll out my yoga mat. We'll have a slightly bigger kitchen to litter with washing up and a slightly bigger boiler for all those super indulgent winter baths we haven't quite kicked the habit of, despite best efforts. On paper, 2017 has been a banner year. So why do I come up feeling like it has slipped through my hands?

When I think back to the beginning of the year, and choosing 'abundance' as my word for 2017, I have to smile. The phrase 'careful what you wish for' comes to mind. It has been a year of plenty and a year of change, all culminating in this wonderful month of cosiness, family time and yes - excess. And perhaps, on reflection, this is what I'm really feeling - the excess of it all. The weight of the noise I have created in rushing forward, pursuing goals and setting deadlines for myself that had no business being there. As I approach this month and the new year ahead of me, I want to remember that. I want to make traditions and memories, not deadlines and pages of goals. I want to take care of my body and mind, not take every extraneous comfort that won't nourish me. Most of all, I want to surround myself with those I love the most, not 'stuff'.

I hope your December is a peaceful one, full of love and loved ones, and yes - mincepies and mulled wine, but moments and memories, most of all.

SEE: One thing I'm so sad to have missed in my local cinema is Call Me By Your Name - it just looks like the most beautiful piece of cinematography. We're heading into Oscar season though, so cinema fodder is rife, and let's not pretend like we're not all really jazzed for the next instalment of the Star Wars reboot. I watched 'The Force Awakens' on Netflix the other night and remembered just how special it was. However, the thing I am MOST excited about seeing this month - uncontested - is Hamilton. I am so, so thrilled to be going to one of the preview nights with one of my best friends and I can't even write about it anymore because too excited and I just want to random letter all over the keyboard.

LISTEN: Here it is - the Ed Sheeran and Beyonce song? Really not a fan. There I said it. You all know how I feel about Bey by now but this is so schmaltzy and the cynic in me says it's purely facilitated for a Christmas #1 spot-grab. What I've been listening to over and over again is Sia's Christmas album, particularly Snowflake. I've also loved my baby cuz's Live Lounge cover of Finders Keepers/Walk On Water/New Rules/No Scrubs (yep, she DID that). And the Rihanna verse on Lemon is a gift to us all, forever and ever Amen.

GO: We've booked a last minute trip to spend New Year's Eve and the beginning of 2018 with my family in Dubai, and one of the places I'm most looking forward to visiting while we're there is actually in another city - the new Louvre Abu Dhabi looks so beautiful, and it's been such a long time since I visited I feel like I should update myself on all the new things happening there. I can't believe there's going to be another Guggenheim there soon!

EAT: I'm really excited to be having our office Christmas party at The Alchemist in Oxford. It's a really cool steampunk-styled bar and restaurant, and the menu alone made me absolutely drool - I'm sure judging by the constant queues around the place that the food and legendary cocktails must be well worth the hype. We're truly being spoilt for choice at the minute with the new Westgate!

DRINK: It's mulled wine and mulled cider time, so grab yourself something warm and clove-infused and you'll be on the right track. Make your own on your hob and fill your house with the comforting scents of the season.

WEAR: Parties abound during December and I've been looking for my perfect 'can permit a food baby and still look glam' outfit - I think H&M might just have bailed me out of trouble. Whilst I would love to have the denari to buy this beaut Rixo London number, 'tis the season to give graciously, good will to all men and that. So H&M have gone and done a lovely and made a Tami price range affordable version. Cheers, you babes.

READ: I have so many books to catch up on it's untrue but if you're in the mood for a long read this piece on Greta Gerwig's Radical Confidence made my whole day last month. And yes, I would otherwise link Jay Z's interview with Dean Baquet here but to we really need to be giving more airtime to toxic male behaviour, apology or no apology?

THINK: Forgive yourself. That's all. Sometimes your achievements don't look the way you think they should, sometimes the goals and 'to dos' you set for yourself are too much for the peak hours of productivity you have in a day. Winter is a natural signal for hibernation, gathering and slowing down. Grace and gratitude, and forgiveness. And together. Because that's what December is really all about.

PS - I might've appeared on the Sky News site in November so if you need me, I'll still be broadcasting all my snowflake feelings on my Twitter feed for journalists to use as important representations of ~youf~. Laterrrrrr.

A few weeks ago, some close female friends and I jokingly toasted that we were now working for free until 2018 because of the gender pay gap. Unsurprisingly to every woman I know, our situation hasn't improved for some three years, and indeed it looks bleaker the more you read into it. In 2017, male full-time workers earn an average 9.1% more than women. An almost 10% gap. In 2017.

Corporate culture and indeed, even working for yourself, can breed a strange silence culture around pay, money and transparency - but today's post is written to say fuck that. Wherever your working and however your skills are being used, valuing your time and effort is not a taboo subject, or a tricky conversation. In this day and age, and particularly for women, defining what you are worth from the outset is crucial to not only your happiness career-wise, but also to your future success and opportunities. And make no mistake about it - that is what a salary conversation is. It is a representation of your worth. So there is absolutely no need or obligation on you to shy away from it - quite the opposite in fact.

I've just had to renegotiate myself and it can sometimes be a very ugly, sticky process. From a purely standard transaction of back-and-forth and sticking points, to more ugly encounters where manipulation and guilting can sometimes come into play - I've gone through a really wide range of salary talks, and I thought it might be useful to share some of the things I've learned along the way with you.

BEFORE ANYTHING, SET YOUR BASE LINE: When coming out of any interview, I ask myself honestly what the lowest salary is that I'm prepared to do the job for. I set that as my base line figure, and decide then and there that any offers lower than this will be met with a polite refusal from me. This is perspective that you gain through experience and having worked for a few different kinds of managers, but you'll quickly learn that a job is a job, and valuing yourself and your time is worth a hell of a lot more than punching in and out of a job you hate for less money than you should be accepting.

To set this figure, factor in the lowest amount you require a month to live (rent, bills, expenses etc.), any relocation costs if you are moving for the job, and then how much the job will add to your portfolio or CV. Always remember that interviews are as much for you assessing how well the company suits your personality and life, as they are for the company to see your fit for them.

ALWAYS AIM HIGH: This might seem counter-intuitive, but I live by 'eyes on the stars, feet on the ground' - when stating your salary expectations, always hit somewhere around the upper limit for what you believe the job to be worth. The chances are, in today's climate, that you'll be low-balled at the outset of negotiations, so having a stance where the halfway point is still acceptable to you puts you in a much stronger position, or so I've found.

MAKE A CASE: That being said, you can't just pluck a figure out of thin air - do your homework. Sites like Glassdoor enable you to get a good handle on industry averages, local averages and to see where your company stands amongst its competitors in terms of pay and fair treatment of staff. It also helps to weigh your experience into this figuring - if you're entering a job role with three to five years experience behind you, your cost is going to be higher than someone coming fresh out of university - don't apologise for this. If a company or client desire you and your expertise, they should be prepared to pay what's appropriate for your work.

USE POSITIVE LANGUAGE: How you frame a discussion around salary can be so crucial - very often, you'll be having this discussion with an HR or Finance representative rather than your future boss-to-be, and these are people who have these kinds of conversations every day. There's no need to be apologetic or overly saccharine - I've found phrases like: 'This offer is below what I was expecting - as stated at interview, my expectation was around this figure. Can we work together to find a compromise that reflects my skills and experience and fits the pay grading of this role?' You never want to dwell too long on the negative - things like compromise, working together, finding a halfway, help to guide the conversation in a more constructive direction.

BUT DON'T BACK DOWN: I received an offer once that was some £6000 off where it needed to be. That's quite a gap to close, and no amount of compromise was going to bring them near enough to what I expected. When you find yourself facing that kind of gulf or feeling defeated at a really low-ball offer, be upfront and polite: 'The lowest figure I would be prepared to accept this offer at is xx.' Going in with this strategy does leave you open to a rock and a hard place situation where you've stuck to your guns and might have to turn down an offer, but if you feel in your gut that the offer they've made is massively unfair, sometimes it's the best way to get through.

AND FINALLY: You are almost always worth more than even you know, and definitely worth more than a figure someone will assign to you. Salary negotiations should make you feel excited, valued and great about accepting an offer of work, and not dissatisfied, guilty and downtrodden before you've even begun. If a company or person aren't willing to treat you well during negotiation time, chances are they'll be painful to work with moving forward. Trust your gut, trust your skills and your worth, and be confident in what you ask for. You'll nail it!

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