What a summer!

What a summer it was! It had highs, it had lows, it had travel and adventure, and it was packed full of new experiences. This summer I’ve found myself in lavender fields, tents, and wildflower meadows, on mountain peaks, boats, climbing walls, and planes. As the weather turns cooler and the nights draw in I thought I’d look back at the last few months and make a note of this summer’s biggest moments.

What a summer - Meadow

Summer began cautiously, with a blast of lukewarm sunshine here and there. I was training for my first ever 10K race and I didn’t let weather stop me. I relished my very early morning runs in the countryside, just me and the ducks, the rabbits, and the cows. Since the race, my dedication to running has diminished slightly, and I miss that sense of achievement I got from every mile I logged. Now that I’m settling into my autumn routine I’m hoping to get back into running a few times a week.

What a summer - Field

At the end of June things took a very bad turn. I wrote down some thoughts on the sadness, uncertainty and xenophobia after the EU referendum a couple of months ago. I still end up yelling at the tv often when I watch the news as this awfulness unfolds but I trying to focus on the positive and the hopeful.

In what was possibly the best way to mend our broken hearts and cheer ourselves up, my boyfriend and I spent a fantastic week in northern Italy.  We split our time there between the Italian Alps, where we walked and walked and walked in countryside straight out of The Sound of Music, and the magnificent lake Garda, where we explored the prettiest and most colourful little towns and villages, and ate our weight in gelato. It was a truly wonderful holiday!

What a summer - Italy 3
What a summer - Italy 1
What a summer - Italy 2

After getting back from Italy, I gave myself a little project to help with the post-holiday blues. I would make this summer one for fearlessness, for adventure, for new things. This turned out to be a most excellent idea. Because of this new resolution I finally tried rock climbing which I loved and I am still obsessed with. Armed with this new mindset I dipped my toe in Youtube film making and I’ve really been enjoying it. Have you seen my Capsule Wardrobe videos?

I also tried being more spontaneous and said “Yes!” to a very last minute weekend getaway to “the other place”. Exploring Cambridge was great, and even though I was determined to find it lacking compared to Oxford, I came back completely charmed by it.

What a summer - Cambridge 1
What a summer - Cambridge 2

At the end of August, we went to The Big Feastival, a magical food and music festival on Alex James’ farm in the Cotswolds, for the third year in a row, except this time we camped there instead of coming home every night. Another first for me! I was a tad worried about this. After all, I’m relatively easy going but I do enjoy a spotless bathroom, hot showers, and fluffy pillows. In this case, I knew that the Feastival is always a super-fun weekend and suspected that camping in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside for three nights would make it even better. So I embraced my inner hippie – who knew I even had one? -and I loved it! That last weekend of August was definitely one of the highlights of my year.

What a summer - Feastival 1
What a summer - Feastival 1

Not ready to let go of sunshine and warmth, I planned a late-summer visit back home. It was perfect! My boyfriend and I visited with friends and family and enjoyed everything my tiny Mediterranean homeland has to offer. We walked in tiny medieval alleyways, explored quaint shops and found respite from the heat in traditional cafes with fresh lemonade and pastries. We hiked trails in the pine forest and took in magnificent views from the highest peaks. We swam in turquoise waters and found shells in white sand beaches. It was a very fitting end to an amazing summer.

What a summer - Mediterranean 3
What a summer - Mediterranean 4
What a summer - Mediterranean 2
What a summer - Mediterranean 1

The summer of living fearlessly

I realised a while ago that I was letting fear hold me back. I had many ideas and new things I’d like to try, in all areas of my life, but I was afraid to give it a go. I wanted to make a conscious effort to put myself out there, meet new people, try new activities, do the things that scare me. Because having a vague sort of resolution doesn’t work very well for me, I decided to make this summer a time for fearlessness.

The summer of living fearlessly

For me, this summer of living fearlessly means signing myself up for new courses, saying yes to things I would shy away from, taking a few more risks, and not letting fear determine my choices. I must say, so far it’s been going really well.

So, what have I been up to?

Last month, I ran my first ever 10K race. It was a local, low-key fun run and the route weaved through the beautiful countryside I am very familiar with. So I didn’t let my fear of finishing last stop me from participating and I did it! I felt strong and able, and even though it was slightly strange running with other people, I really enjoyed it. Having people cheer me on at various intervals felt great! (I kind of wish we did that for each other in everyday situations too.) By the time I ran the race, my goal was just to enjoy it and reach the finish line, I didn’t care if I came last. Just for the record, I finished somewhere in the middle and stayed on to cheer for everyone who crossed the finish line afterwards.

Rock climbing was something that often crossed my mind as an activity I would have liked to try but I was never brave enough to do it. I looked at descriptions of climbing courses online and that was as far as I got. Sure, I was worried about the very real possibility of injuring myself or falling to my death (far less likely to happen). But there were also silly concerns like “What if I’m too heavy for the ropes?”. I finally signed up for a novice climbing course and I’m so glad I did. After four hours of lessons so far, I love it! It’s just the right amount of challenging, it’s a great workout, and I’ve met some really awesome people. It’s even made me look forward to Mondays which is a minor miracle. Yay for being fearless!

Another small act of bravery was making a silly little video about my capsule wardrobe. You can watch it here!  It was something I had been thinking about for a while but was always too shy and self-conscious to actually try. But instead of pushing it to the back of my mind, I found a way to make it work for me. I found a format that I was comfortable with, while still trying out something new and working on new skills. I actually enjoyed working on it and I plan to have a second filming session soon.

Finally, there are all those unplanned moments and opportunities. Living fearlessly means taking little risks, and choosing to do the little things that scare me everyday. I had great success with this new attitude at a party a couple of weeks ago. My impulse would be to just hang out with my boyfriend and the people I had already met before. But I gave myself a nudge and struck up a conversation with new people. I found myself chatting with a girl who also has countless pictures of random cats on he phone. A kindred spirit indeed!

A successful experiment

I must say I am surprised by how much happiness pushing past my fears has added to my every day. I’m excited for what else comes my way this summer! If you have something you’d like to try but are too scared, I would highly recommend taking a deep breath and maybe saying yes to it. And please do tell me how it went, I’d love to celebrate everyone’s moments of fearlessness this summer.

A little update

I’ve tried writing this post half a dozen times but it’s been difficult to write down my thoughts in a coherent way. The fact is that I am sad, and that’s why I’ve been quiet in the last month. Sad, angry, disappointed, and worried.


In the months leading up to the EU referendum I saw the campaigns become uglier and more extreme. Hateful things were being said, things that people should be ashamed to even think let alone say out loud. There was widespread distrust of experts and suddenly being well-educated was not necessarily a good thing. Newspaper headlines were outrageous lies, spreading unsubstantiated fear every day. All working perfectly to manipulate ignorance and despair.

It was relatively easy for me to ignore all this. In my Oxford bubble I am fortunate to live in a reasonably prosperous, liberal, and diverse neighbourhood. Every day I interact with well-educated and open-minded people of different nationalities and backgrounds. In the almost seven years of living in this country, practically all my interactions with Brits showed them to be welcoming, kind, empathetic, good people. So it was easy, when confronted with all the ugliness in the news to think that it was only very few people who would actually share these beliefs.

However, since the referendum result was announced we’ve been plunged into a crazy nightmare. It’s as if a switch was flipped on the morning of Friday the 24th of June and this country lost its colour and stopped making sense. I think the worst part of all the madness that followed is the disgusting wave of racism that was released. Some of the very things I cherish about this country like its openness and diversity, many people see as flaws that need to be fixed. In some twisted way, the result of the vote is seen by some as license for racist abuse. I never thought this would happen in the UK and it breaks my heart.

In the first few days after the referendum I was worried and filled with anxiety. It’s terrible and absurd to have to wonder if I will be allowed to stay in this beloved country I chose to make my home for so many years. But now I’m also starting to wonder if I want to stay. I don’t want to be somewhere where I’m less than welcome. I work, I pay my taxes, I contribute to the society. Do I want to live in a xenophobic, racist, intolerant, and anti-intellectual society? These thoughts have started to creep in and so, I’m sad.

But I’m not giving up just yet. I’m trying even harder to focus on the beauty and kindness that I see every day to get over this sadness. Most importantly, I will try to find more ways to make a difference and do my part to help spread love and kindness in the world.

EDIT: Just as I was getting ready to post the above, I heard the news about yet another terrible terrorist attack in the world, this time in Nice. My heart is heavy once again.

The Capsule Wardrobe: Everyday Spring & Summer Edition + Video

It’s been over the year since I embarked on my capsule wardrobe adventure. I was fed up with always feeling like I had nothing to wear and being generally unhappy with my clothes. So I made up three wardrobe resolutions (one, two, and three) to help me out of my rut and to guide me as I tried to reinvent my style and my closet.

capsule wardrobe_ss16

I spent the winter months in grey or navy cashmere jumpers but a couple of months ago the sun started making tentative appearances and I began to think about warmer weather clothing. It dawned on me that since I was writing up my thesis and preparing for my PhD viva last year (which I basically did in pyjamas and lounge-wear), I really needed some decent spring and summer clothes. So this year I had a great opportunity for a fresh start.

Of course I had to follow my wardrobe resolutions: I went through what spring and summer clothes I had and only kept what I loved to wear, and then I tried to make a few well-researched purchases to fill the gaps. I didn’t want anything too complicated or requiring much effort, my goal was to have a capsule wardrobe of a small number pieces that I can mix and match easily every day.

I came up with two simple wardrobe formulas:

Workday = Light-coloured blouse + skinny jeans or tapered leg trousers + black or blush flats

Weekend = Breton top or simple shirt + skinny jeans or girlfriend jeans + flats or trainers

Of course, the above are just general guidelines; I sometimes wear my stripy tops at work (just add a little blazer) or a “fancier” blouse on my weekend pursuits (just dress it down with trainers). I should mention here that I work in a tech start-up company, with virtually no dress code, which is why I basically live in my jeans. When I’m meeting customers I switch my jeans for a dressier pair of trousers and on very special occasions I throw on a pair of block heels. I understand that if you work in a more conservative environment you may well need a whole separate wardrobe for workwear but even in that case I highly recommend coming up with a few simple formulas that work for you and make getting dressed every day easy.

I’ve had my spring and summer capsule wardrobe for a couple of months now and I’m surprised at how well it works. Using the formulas as general rules means I don’t have to really think about what I wear, which definitely makes my mornings easier and happier.

I was feeling creative (and a bit silly) the other day so I filmed a little video of everything that’s in my everyday capsule wardrobe for the warmer months. Let me know what you think!

Now the weather is not just warmer but actually getting warm I think I’ll need to rotate in a couple more short-sleeved tops, a few pops of brighter colour, and some summer dresses. So look out for a High Summer update of my Capsule Wardrobe coming up in a couple of weeks.

I’m dying to hear from other capsule wardrobe adventurers, tell me what works for you and what doesn’t, and any tips you might have to share.

On running

I’ve tried running many times in my life but it never actually became a habit. Every so often I’d decide to give it another go and start the Couch to 5K program once again. But it didn’t work. Most times I would quit halfway. Even when I stuck with it and was running consistently a few times every week for a while, it never actually felt good to run. Running was always unpleasant at the very least. I don’t know why I kept on trying, I guess I just had this dream of going on long runs in the countryside, of being strong and fast and slim. My dream runner self just seemed like such a better version of me.

More recently I had just about given up on this dream self and was beginning to accept that I’m not built to be a runner. But then Laura kept mentioning running and I could see how she was getting hooked on it (and also looking fantastic). And then she shared this post. And that was it. I decided to give running one more try.

I don’t really know what made this time feel so completely different, and I can’t quite believe I’m saying it but, I love running! I’m running faster (still very slow by anyone’s standards) and longer than I’ve ever done but that’s not the important thing. This time, running actually feels good, it’s something I enjoy and look forward to. I seem to have found my stride. I no longer make excuses to skip a run, and while I’m running I’m not counting down the seconds till it’s over. It’s great!

This time around I didn’t use the C25K app which is beloved by so many, instead I downloaded the Nike running app and started using the 5K beginner program in the Coach function. These two programs are very similar. I must say however, that I think the Nike Coach Beginner 5K isn’t as good as C25K, mainly because while most of the runs in this program are a mixture of walking and running, this app doesn’t actually tell you when it’s time to switch from walking to running and vice versa (at least in the Android version). So one would have to keep checking the time and when a run involves alternating walking and running every two minutes that can get annoying fast. Which is why when I first started this program I thought I would simply keep on running.

In my case this turned out to be a brilliant idea, as I think it was the mix of walking and running, all the stopping and starting that was putting me off in the past. So I just ran and to my surprise I could easily do the whole 5K by week 3. I found it so much easier to find a rhythm and stick to it and just keep going. This in turn gave me a confidence boost, I felt stronger and running became a positive experience. This is why I was so uncharacteristically diligent with it and never missed a run day.

All this was back in mid-November and I’ve maintained a reasonable consistency since finishing the 5K program as well. Not that long ago I ran my longest run ever: 7 miles or approximately 11 kilometers! I’m really surprising myself, and I get a sense of pride with every milestone I hit. I’m so very happy I gave running another go. I really needed to find some kind of cardio activity that I actually enjoyed, plus I find running to be a great way to gather my thoughts, make mental lists, de-stress, and catch up on my podcasts.

Next up is my first ever 10K race in a few weeks. I can’t wait!