Category Archives: A More Beautiful World

Tuesday With Moi

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sometimes I think about how much of our daily lives revolves around consumption. We consume food so we don’t die, we work so we can buy food, we spend our excess money on stuff that we want and occasionally need and as we cross things off our To Buy list, we add new items to it. We have to work harder because the list keeps growing and consuming is a tough cycle to break. Here’s a day in my consumerist life.

TWM_August19_2014_8As a child, I was quite taken with Willy Wonka’s meal gum. As I’ve grown, I’ve often daydreamed of its invention as it would make life much more productive. I’d love to replace time spent eating with time spent making, creating, and doing. As someone has yet to invent a chewing gum food alternative, I’m forced to settle for the second best: The NutriBullet. Every morning for the last few weeks, I throw a bunch of healthy stuff into the bullet and BOOM, fifteen seconds later it’s drink-able. 

Mundane drinking > mundane eating.

On this morning, my smoothie included oats, almond milk, spinach, strawberries, zucchini, and blueberries. Scoff if you must (a few weeks ago I would have), but it’s actually pretty tasty and, more importantly, totally convenient!

TWM_August19_2014_9My chilli plant has gotten big big big and is producing lots of chills, which is exciting. It’s miraculous to me what a little bit of water, some soil, and a seed can come together to create when sunlight’s involved.

TWM_August19_2014_10Lately, David and I have been dreaming about shipping container houses with ample garden spaces, hoards of plant babies, and lots of natural light. But we’ve also been thinking a lot about central city flats with small balconies and public parks. Problem is, we want both. Both the city pad and a country oasis. We want modern, stream-lined homes with energy efficient appliances and we want homes full of found objects from centuries past that are sustainably repurposed for our modern desires. We want to save the environment, but we want to get on planes and travel the world, see the sites, and take something back to prove we were there. We want both, we want it alland all this wanting is quite frankly ridiculous.

I often wonder, is all this wanting just a fixture of our entitled and over-stimulated generation or is it a by-product of being an ambitious person? I’d like to think it’s the latter, but more often than not I find myself thinking it’s the former. The wants of our generation are not sustainable. Or can we really have it all?  

I don’t think many people will be happy with the answer. 

TWM_August19_2014_11When I catch myself double-tapping my way through Instagram or clicking through the pages of my favourite blogs and getting lost in the fantasies of the lives of others, I often close my eyes and remind myself to work hard and stay humble. To chase my dreams, but keep simplicity and sustainability at the forefront. Our lives are great and we have much to be thankful for. Our worries are small and our opportunities are huge.

On the topic of huge opportunities, Liam and I are marching forward with Gradient and are constantly striving to push ourselves to grow and learn. This last Tuesday, we were especially focused on our business consumption– specifically relating to our finances and business plan. When it comes to both money and hardcore business planning, I’m the first to admit that I’m not especially great at all the nitty-gritty details, so it’s important that I find great resources to help me navigate those uncertain waters.

For business planning, I can’t recommend the book Business Model Generation enough. David initially bought it for me whilst we were living in Boston. At the time, the two of us were hatching a plan to start a social network-esque community engagement product and though our plan fizzled out, the communicative illustrations and real-talkin’ messages conveyed in the book stuck with me. Whilst Liam and I decide how to push forward with our own model, I’ve been referring to this book time and time again. And as our model changes and our business grows, I’ll likely keep thumbing through it.


As much as I love and believe in planning, I also believe that a very important part of any business plan is to be adaptable. We never know when a client will fall through or a new acquaintance will ask us to deliver a big job. It’s important to be open to new opportunities and advancements, but to be able to think them through to fit the overall plan. That’s why I like planning with sticky-notes. Things feel in flux with sticky notes, but like building blocks, too. If something changes an a particular block doesn’t fit where it used to, there’s room to restructure and build in a slightly different way.

TWM_August19_2014_13Now, I realise that this post is beginning to sound very heavy-handed, but I promise we’re not like that. See, we like to keep things light-hearted and fun! We enjoy laughing, we like connecting with our clients and believe that no matter the price of the things we want in life, the most valuable things that we have are our relationships, our smiles, and our memories. Working together, Liam and I remind each other that the reason we’ve pioneered out on our own ins’t to Scrooge McDuck dive our way into piles of dollar bills, but because we care about what we do, we enjoy it, and we want to help others who care about what they do better communicate about their brand of awesome, too. We believe that when people care about the things they make and the people they work with– like, really care– the world is better for it. If caring were a currency, we’d be rich.

TWM_August19_2014_14But caring isn’t a currency and people like me who would like to trade on good-will, beautiful trinkets and thoughtful favours need to get wise and name a price. Then we need to deliver on our promises, send out invoices, and– more often than not– chase ‘em up. And for me, that’s the most difficult part of having a business. (Though I have to say, whenever I start to get queazy about money matters, I refer to Kathleen Shannon’s post about thinking of money as energy. So so good, though I’m admittedly not always great at it.)

TWM_August19_2014_15After our planning session wrapped for the day, we meandered our way through town. After all that capital-b-and-p Business Planninge, ducking into Chapel Place Gallery to scope out some art was a very welcome diversion. This piece, Touch and Go by Henrietta Dubrey, caught my eye. I like the tension between the two figures. They remind me of interlocked fingers or barges narrowly passing each other in a harbour.

TWM_August19_2014_16We stopped in The Pantiles, which was charmingly decorated with bunting, and enjoyed a coffee as we prepared for a meeting that was sure to be especially taxing to a brain like mine. Enter excellent resource #2: BSR Bespoke, Accountants Extraordinaire.

TWM_August19_2014_17After learning so much about setting up our business, tax exemptions, and how I can’t keep buying my clients coffee/lunch and thinking we’ll just claim it back, Liam and I walked out to a beautiful rainbow. Was this a sign of pots of gold on the horizon? I don’t know, but I was feeling pretty blessed either way.

TWM_August19_2014_18With our heads full of numbers, we were happily lured into Wetherspoons for a last minute beer with our friends Sam and Scott. Sometimes I think that maybe I consume too much on the alcohol funtimez-front, but then I walk into Wetherspoons where half the occupants are basically human beer casks and feel a little better about my personal intake. Like, it could seriously be so much worse. 

TWM_August19_2014_19You might remember Sam from his TWV posts here, here, and here. Scott, however, has not done a TWV but you may have seen his face here once or twice due to his involvement in the Tunbridge Wells Writers.  Scott, in addition to being a brilliant comedian, is also the man who develops most of my film. One day, I want to take some really horrific photos on a roll of film and drop it off like “Oh, hey! Here’s another roll of film full of boring pseudo-artistic tourist photos and stuff. Kbye!” and scare the crap out of him.

Buuuuut now I’ve just given that secret away so I probably won’t do it but would’t it be so funny if I did?! 

TWM_August19_2014_20After a few bottles of beer, Liam and I headed toward my house so we could do some last minute gift-wrapping. You see, Tuesday was Nick’s birthday and we were late to the scheduled celebration.

TWM_August19_2014_21Our wild celebration started with some prosecco and Thai take-out. Fancy.

TWM_August19_2014_22The evening continued with a Disney sing-along and a deep discussion about which Disney characters and moments shaped us. We were sitting in the dark for most of the evening, which was both strange but also helpful as it gave the nature of our conversation more drama. Birthdays should always be about drama, don’t you think? It makes them more memorable that way.

TWM_August19_2014_23Liam and Nick’s three cats were not invited to the party as they are basically furry, land-walking piranhas and eat e’rything they find, regardless of whether or not it’s edible. They could smell our prawn crackers and hear our laughter so they sat directly outside the door, trying to peer through it and find a way to break in.

Keeping cats is kind of funny when you think about it. Don’t get me wrong, thinking about the amount of love I have for Le Chat sometimes makes my heart feel like it’s going to explode, but on a less personal not it’s funny that we buy these animals, feed them, clean up after them (which can be really yucky, can I get an amen?) and get what in return? Indifference. Bad behaviour. Dirty paw prints across freshly cleaned floors/tables/beds/keyboards. But then they jump on our laps and purr and give us lovely little nuzzles and somehow that is worth it to us.

TWM_August19_2014_24And the love we feel for these little creates and for the other things that we nurture and grow– like my wonderful chilli plant– it consumes us.

Consumption, people.  It’s everywhere.


Mothers+DayYesterday was Mother’s Day in The States.  I didn’t call my mom because I’m a terrible person, but I did send her a card (handmade, so there) and I’m pretty sure it even got to her on time.  (Did it?)

Remember when I said I was crap at watercolour painting?  See, I wasn’t lying.  BUT, I’m pretty confident that you can at least tell that the flowers are lupines.  I love lupines!  Lupines remind me of one of my favourite childhood literary heros, Miss Rumphius, who strove to make the world a more beautiful place.  Like Miss Rumphius, my mother makes the world around her more beautiful, too, and that’s just one of the many reasons why I love her so much. She also makes really great food and gives good shoulder rubs.  She’s really great, my mom!

So happy belated Mother’s Day to my mother and all the mothers out there.  But especially to my mother.  I love you.  Thanks for making the world beautiful and thanks for making ME.  xx


Dearest Reader,

This time last year, David and I downed a couple glasses of wine, boarded a flight to the UK, and accidentally put Le Chat through the most traumatising experience of her little feline life. Yes, it was a whole year ago that I voyaged to this country and became an American in England, and oh what a year it has been!

One+Year+American+In+EnglandThere have been times where I hated this year, moments where I stamped my feet and cried from a place of despair that I’d never before known, I want out.  I came here thinking I had my life all figured out and then hit rock bottom as those plans crumbled around me, around us.  Those moments sucked but they’ve forced me to grow enormously and I’ve learned to better accept uncertainty. After all, some of the best moments of my life have been spent in the English countryside, aimlessly following footpaths and marvelling at where my own two feet carry me.

It’s also been a year of trust and patience.  It’s been difficult to be this far from my nearest and dearest, but I’ve been blessed to start a new family with David and find a new tribe of friends whose kindness and camaraderie literally moves me to tears (seriously, you guys, I just wept typing this).  I’ve also learned that the bonds of friendship and family easily stretch the length of an ocean and that sometimes, a simple Skype call can cure the worst case of homesickness.

It’s been a year of sacrifice and simplicity, bravery and action.  An exciting year, a humbling year, the worst year, but the best year, and I thank you from the very bottom of the well that is my heart for sharing this it with me. The world is a tremendously beautiful place and I’m thrilled to see what this next year holds.

Onward and upward,

Earth Day

EarthDayHappy Earth Day, friends!

This Earth Day, I’m thinking a lot about bikes and houseplants.  First, because we live in a small town and don’t have a car (or, in my case, even a license anymore…), we walk a lot.  This is great, but I’m getting to the point where I’m craving more freedom and think I may be ready to brave the English roads.  Right now, I have my heart set on a tokyobike (particularly the Bisou in White) but my practical side (David) is urging me to get a cute second-hand bike before I invest in one that’s so beautiful and expensive.  He has a point.  I mean, what if I don’t like cycling?  What if helmets make me feel stupid and the narrow lanes make me feel unsafe?  So much to consider.  Le sigh…

Second, as any of you who follow me on Pinterest already know, I’m obsessed with the idea of a jungalow and am looking forward to collecting more house plants and growing an indoor herb garden this summer.  I’m still working out how I’m going to do this, so if any of you have recommendations for keeping plants in small places, do let me know.  In the meantime, I’m going to soak up some inspiration from James Wong and see where that leads.  Exciting times, indeed!

Off now to hug the world.  BYE.

Heartbroken {and inspired}

BostonAt first we were stunned, then terrified, and then frantically trying to get in touch with all our friends back home to make sure they were okay (they are).  Then I was thankful, but angry.  I was confused.  Who could do this?  Why?!

Today, I’m heartbroken.  Heartbroken for the city I love.  Heartbroken for the victims and their families.  Heartbroken by the violence that tears families apart all throughout the world.

But, I’m also inspired.  Inspired and touched by the kindness, the bravery, and the generosity of those who have volunteered to help in light of this tragedy.  The world really is a beautiful place– a tragic, but beautiful place.  My heart is with you, Boston.  xx

We Shop Local

David and I always try our best to support local businesses.  Generally, we’re pretty good, but sometimes, well, sometimes it’s just too easy to pop out to the grocery chain around the corner to pick up whatever our cupboards (or bellies) may need.  But here’s the thing about me and David, we’d rather do things that are interesting than easy, so we’ve made a commitment to each other to buy all our food locally.  Farm stalls, veg stands, butcher shops, and coffee roasters– and we’re committed to not just buy food from local shops, but to buy local food from local shops.  Shop+Local+1 Shop+Local+3Shop+Local+2Shop+Local+4On Saturday, with coffees from Basil in hand, we took a leisurely 3.7 mile stroll through town collecting our favourite foods: bread from La Roche, locally-sourced meats from Peter Speaight, cheese from Gill Wing Farm Shop, fruit and veg from Locality, and coffee from Ismail.  We had a lot of fun planning our meals in advance and walking from shop to shop.  We also enjoyed knowing that every pound we spent will support a local business and that by shopping local, we’re learning more about the marvellous people who make up the fabric of our community.

Our bellies and our hearts are happy.  xx

Things I Believe About the Work / Life Balance


In the last four years, I’ve learned a lot about how I work, how I want to work, and how I play.  And now that I’m freelance, the difference between my time on the clock and time off has become a little bit blurry (all you freelancers and small business owners out there, I know you feel me).  To ensure I maintain a healthy work/life balance, I’ve created a few guidelines to keep myself on track and help me run my business without feeling like I’m being run by my business.  These are principles I believe in and am constantly reminding myself of.  I find them helpful and I hope you will, too.

  1. If you want others to respect your time, you need to respect your time.   When you’re at the helm of your business, its success relies on you, and it’s all too easy to cave into the pressure or doing everything for everyone– everyone except yourself.  Luckily, it’s pretty easy to give your personal life the TLC it needs; all you need to do is declare when you’re unavailable, and then disappear (for real, put the phone down!).  If you’re like me and don’t believe in answering emails on the weekend, let your clients know.  If you take a yoga class in the mornings or take Fridays off in the summer, let people know.  And when they call on a Friday, don’t answer.  You’ll be surprised by how often the world will wait for you.  You’ll also be surprised by how nice it feels to take the time to focus on yourself.

  2. Manage expectations.  Like all relationships, the key to a successful business relationship is to manage expectations.  Tell your clients when you’ll deliver the goods and then do it.  Be realistic about what and when you’ll deliver and you’ll never let your clients down.  Similarly, tell people when you need things from them and hold them accountable.  This will help you feel in control of your business relationships and allow you to produce better work on time and with minimal stress.

  3. Say yes. I say yes to many opportunities that come my way.  You want me to give a talk about social media at your networking event?  Okay!  You want me to snap some photos for an article you’re writing?  Absolutely!  You want me to be a brand ambassador for your clothing line?  Great, tell me more!  Be open to new experiences, new projects, and new adventures, they can lead to fantastic places.

  4. But say no, too.  As it sometimes goes when you jump at a new opportunity, you realize the initial offer was a lot sweeter than the nitty gritty details.  Perhaps the payment you’re being offered for the set of photos will be “a link in the article” when the guy writing the article is being paid with, you know, real money.  Or maybe the brand you’ll be representing struggles to email you back in a timely manner which makes you question whether they can actually deliver the important things, like inventory.  In these situations where the integrity of your work is being negatively effected, your standards are not being met, and you’re compromising and feeling uneasy, by all means say NO.  It will be difficult, but it’ll be so much better for you in the long run.  Trust.

  5. Remember, everyone is busy.  When you’re feeling under pressure and need something done, it’s all too easy to send a frantic email and ask for it Now, right now!  But, before you hit send, ask yourself how you’d feel receiving that email.  Remember, all of us are busy.  We all have lives, worries, goals, and external pressures.  In these moments of stress, take a deep breath and remember to be respectful of others and their time.  Especially if you want them to be respectful of yours.

So here’s what I’m proposing: Let’s create a positive feedback loop of mutual respect and consideration so we can all create comfortable and happy work environments.  I don’t care if you’re a freelancer, start-up entrepreneur, CEO or secretary, let’s be open with our communication, honest and respectful.  Who’s with me?

>>> If you want some extra organisation tips for running your business, check out these 8 Gmail Features You Should Be Using by Jessica Sutton.  I’m a huge fan of Boomerang, which is perfect for sending 12:30 AM emails at 10:00AM, instead.

Desktop Still Life

Cereal+Magazine+Still+LifeDavid picked up Vol. 2 of Cereal for me yesterday whilst in London.  I’m looking forward to spending the weekend nestled between the pages, reading about our staple tabletop seasonings (salt & pepper), Welsh getaways, and fiery Korean condiments.

Also this weekend, I’m planning on finally making some DIY business cards (my linocutting skills are about to be truly tested), creating more sharable content for The Etiquette Shop, and taking a long walk to TN2 to buy some cheese.  I have some homemade, chilli-infused honey sitting in my cupboard and I think it’s about time I crafted a cheese plate to pair it with.

Before I disappear for the weekend, I just wanted to share a few things that have inspired me throughout the week.

  1. “Connection is why we’re here.” Brené Brown‘s TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability, reinforces everything I believe about sharing content and running a small business in the digital age.
  2. “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”  15 Social Media Tips from Dr. Seuss– so creative and so spot-on.  
  3.  ”About herself, she said, ‘I’m very kindhearted, naive at times. I’m lost and scared.’”  I’ve carried Chris Arnade‘s stories of addiction, brokenness,  honesty, and hope with me for over a week now.  His lens and words give us a window into a world that is all too easy to ignore and by telling the stories of the Hunt’s Point addicts and sex workers that he’s come to know, to care for, he’s giving them a voice and empowering them.  Empowering them to be recognised for what they are, human beings with insecurities, ambitions, families and sorrow, and empowering them to hopefully get clean, get well, too.  By ignoring stories like theirs, we simply perpetuate the problem.  Let’s not do that.  Let’s encourage people who are struggling, who have ugly problems and need help, to do better, be better, and let’s make this world a more beautiful place.


Tulips & Toothy Grins


I don’t think of myself as someone who’s easy to please, per se,  but still, lots of things make me happy.  Three things in particular:

  1. That moment when I’m working with a client, teaching them how to better tell their story, utilise social media and engage with their clients, and suddenly they realise that anything is possible. I feel in those moments what Willy Wonka must have felt slipping golden tickets into chocolate bars– like I’m giving a gift of boundless possibility.
  2. Fresh tulips.
  3. The fact that the days are getting longer.  And warmer.  And sunnier!  Sunshine will always put a smile on my face.

What’s making you happy these days, dear reader?  Whether it’s simple or grand, no joy is too simple to acknowledge and celebrate.

Girls, Girls, Girls



IWD1Friday was International Women’s Day, and while I understand the sentiment some western women expressed– I mean, a women’s day?  Why not an international humanity day?– I think the day gave us a great opportunity to reflect on how awesome we (WOMEN) are, to celebrate our successes and focus our attention on groups of women around the world– and at home– who don’t have the freedoms and opportunities that many of us enjoy on the regular.  Freedoms like voicing a dissenting opinion, enjoying sex, healthily caring for our bodies, standing up for our beliefs, working, and chasing our dreams.  These freedoms may seem hum-drum to some, but they’re downright radical to so many women here, there, everywhere.   We must never forget that.

As such, I was delighted to join an inspiring group of women who support the cause at Juliets on Friday evening.  Under a canopy of green and cream bunting, I made new friends (hi, guys!), snacked on delicious cakes, and was treated to beautiful music by a lovely lady whose name* I forgot but whose perfect ringlets I will always remember.  Many, many thanks to Rosie Mockett for organising the event, to Juliets for hosting, and to Oxfam for bringing the books and helping to make this world a more beautiful place!  xx

*UPDATE: Jennifer Lee Ridley was the wonderful songstress with the beautiful tresses. Her music is so lyrically rich and her voice is captivating.