So much has happened this year since I last published a review post, and sadly not all of it was happy.
Firstly, I’ve decided to now split the year into three parts rather than four, so there’ll be one more year in review post at the end of the year. So this post covers April to August (or to today’s date I guess).
I promise this isn’t a depressing post, but the worst happened this summer. I do have lots of interesting news and things we got up to to share with you as well, but before that…
This is the part that I never wanted to have to share in my year in review posts, despite knowing it would happen one day.
At the end of June we lost our 14-year-old beloved lurcher Riley. To say we’ve had a pretty depressing summer is an understatement – it has affected us deeply and there’s been an overwhelming cloud of sadness over us the past couple of months. I wrote a post all about how I (we) felt about a week after losing him, and although it has got easier and the tears are less frequent, anything can still trigger us and get them flowing again.
(This picture above makes me smile so much… Riley – especially for such an elegant dog – looks so goofy.)
So we’re soldiering on, one day at a time. Both of us sometimes wonder whether we’re being too melodramatic, whether you really should get this upset over the loss of a pet, but from what everyone tells me it seems we’re absolutely the norm. The love that people have for their pets is somewhat overwhelming, judging by the comments I’ve received here and on Instagram.
We’ll never forget him, that’s for sure. He was 100% part of the family. He lived a long life, and despite his health problems in the last 16 months he lived a full and very happy life – and for that we couldn’t be more thankful.
But as I said this post is not all sad, I promise you(!) – we’ve done some great things this summer, and there might even be some fabulous (and happy) news if you stick with me to the end of the post…
Disclosure: I have been paid to work on the campaigns I have discussed here but this post is not sponsored in any way by the brands involved (click here for my full disclosure).
My year in review so far: Career
Normally I start with “life generally”, but I’ve moved that to the end this time. Work-wise I’ve had one of the biggest highlights of my whole blogging career to date…!
After a full-on video shoot in Prague in March and a few months of waiting, my L’Oréal ad finally came out in June. Advertising Olia by Garnier hair colourant, I’m actually on British television at opportune times, though I always seem to miss it when people tell me it’s been on! Here’s a video of the ad if you’ve not seen it, and here’s an account of behind the scenes on the day.
I’ll admit, it’s my proudest moment as a blogger. Real pinch-me stuff.
UK Blog Awards
After four years in a row entering the UK Blog Awards and winning on the third and fourth times, I thought I’d turn my hand at being a judge in 2019. I judged the fashion category with a fashion stylist and between us we crowned 40+ blogger The Sequinist as the winner – another proud moment for older women (she has since turned 50)!
Unfortunately the UK Blog Awards wrapped up for good this year which is a MASSIVE shame as there are few awards for bloggers that don’t centre around popularity and clicks/votes or give “smaller” bloggers a chance for recognition. The other judges and I were hoping that someone may come along and buy the awards from the current owner, but it seems sponsorship is getting harder and harder to get so it had to fold. A real shame – it feels like the end of an era.
Although not as many as I hoped, I’ve worked on a few fashion campaigns this summer (fashion brands are notorious for being very hard to collaborate with when they have so many bloggers who are willing to do a ton of work just for free clothes, sigh).
And of course there’s my long-term fashion collaborator JD Williams – I’ve featured sponsored posts on my blog and in July I modelled for them for their social content (see above) which was a whole lot of fun. Though the searing temperatures in London that day (the day before the hottest day on record in the UK ever) weren’t so fun… thank goodness for aircon in the studio, though modelling biker jackets on the terrace outside in nearly 40C heat was challenging!
I’m really thankful to have worked with quite a few beauty brands this year: beauty brands are always wanting to collaborate with older bloggers which is great news.
In May I attended a stunning breakfast (above) with several other bloggers to celebrate the launch of Avon’s new Vitamin C serum, which I absolutely LOVED – and still use now. I have yet to recreate the Vitamin C-rich cake which we hilariously made in a workshop on the day, though the recipe is sitting in my To-Do pile in the kitchen. We did think it was slightly unfair that one of the other people invited – and who got to make a cake with a couple of the bloggers – was Candice Brown, the 2016 winner of the Great British Bake Off. All I can say is that her cake wasn’t photographed for the promo photos… OURS was! ;-P
I also created campaigns for Astral moisturising cream (unchanged since the 1950s can you believe) and Estée Lauder SPF day creams. If you didn’t see the photo shoot I did for the latter, you really should check it out if you’d like a giggle. Let’s just say I don’t know what possessed me…!
I can honestly say I think I now have this under control – I may not be earning as much as I could be due to the number of campaigns I turn down, but CRIKEY my work-life balance is a whole lot better than it used to be. Sure, I still have very busy periods (where I’m ploughing furiously through all the content I have to produce and publish) interspersed with much quieter periods, but I don’t work anything like the long hours I used to. Spending time with family, plenty of downtime and looking after myself is so much more important to me than earning all the money there is, and Keith and I live a happy, comfortable (and compared to some, modest) life. We have to save up to buy things. We go on holiday only every few years. I like it that way.
Back to blogging though, and I still turn down a huge number of work offers – most of them are pretty crappy to be honest. I also turn down a huge number of gifts (I have enough beauty products and clothes/shoes etc. to last me a lifetime). This summer I made a promise that I wouldn’t accept anything that comes in ridiculous amounts of bubble wrap, unrecyclable Jiffy bags or other heinous packaging. I also decided that before attending events or campaigns with other bloggers that I’d ensure that there was a diverse mix of people attending.
So far it’s worked nicely, despite a cosmetics company promising me they’d send me something in recyclable packaging. I had to suggest what to send it in as they couldn’t think of what to use… I said how about a cardboard envelope or similar, they still sent it in a plastic bubble bag. I was NOT impressed.
My year in review so far: Health
Thankfully this area has improved enormously… I feel healthier and fitter than I have in a long time. Last week I touched on the subject of my weight and how that affected my self-esteem and caused a bad case of imposter syndrome at the L’Oréal shoot in March, but my health and fitness are good right now, and only getting better.
In June I went to the Slimmeria detox retreat* again (I went for the first time in September 2018) and unfortunately due to the routine we had with looking after a very old doggy (much like looking after a newborn baby, he needed to go out every 1-2 hours and couldn’t sleep alone so we were exhausted) I gained a whole lot more weight than I could ever have imagined. None of my regular clothes fit, none of the bigger clothes I bought last year fit, and I went to the retreat in June nearly 20lbs heavier than what I was when I came back the first time.
Thank goodness I went again because not only is the north Devon coast – namely Ilfracombe – a gorgeous part of the country, but I went with almost the same group that I went with in September (yes, we organised it to go together!), and I’ve gained a wonderful group of friends to boot.
*Disclosure: I receive a press discount when booking.
When I got back from Slimmeria in June I had about two weeks of really keeping up the regime (exercise and healthy eating) before we lost Riley. Although I did carry on as best I could afterwards (to honour his memory we said we’d get our health back), I did find myself eating more than I should. I love G&Ts and summer desserts, and long sunny days and barbeques are perfect for that.
It turns out that although I hadn’t really been trying (I still did my long walks in the morning), I lost more weight than I thought, and I’m sure this is down to stress and the grief from losing a pet. But once I bit the bullet a couple of weeks ago and weighed myself (expecting to be heavier, I was actually lighter), it gave me the encouragement to keep going and improve my fitness levels further.
I’ll be going to Slimmeria again this Sunday, so expect lots more stunning photos of the north Devon coastline and vegan meals on my Instagram stories. Again, I’m going at the same time as some of the same group from last year, and I absolutely cannot wait. Of course I miss Keith (and the boy when we had him), but it’s something that I do for myself and I feel so revived and alive when I’m there – as well as when I’m back home.
The first two times I think I was still learning about how to incorporate the regime into my life and keep it up; the fact that I’m into the regime long before even going this time is a testament to how it’s taught me to rethink my daily routine and habits (good and bad). Hopefully by Christmas my fitness and energy levels will be sky high: I’m planning a blog post later this year for how I did it, and how I kept it up… I’m assuming that I WILL keep it up this time (not hoping, I KNOW I will)!
My year in review so far: Loved ones
In the last review post I mentioned that Keith had taken voluntary redundancy; after three months he found himself a new job, and a really good one at that. A better company, better salary, practically no commuting time (his workplace is in our actual town)… it worked out really well and I’m so pleased for him. He had a total of three months off between jobs, and in hindsight it’s wonderful that he got to spend so much time with Riley in his final days.
Funny how life turns out sometimes, isn’t it? It seemed so worrying at the time for him to not have a job, yet it was the best thing that could have happened.
Also, someone in my family celebrated their 90th birthday…
My dad turned 90 this spring, and of course we had a family party to celebrate. Here he is in his pre-moustachio’d days – my mum laughs at this picture but I think he looks amazing! Men were always so smart in those days (I think this is the early 1950s).
Earlier this year I also touched on the subject of receiving some bad news where another family member was concerned. I’m pleased to say they’re doing well and fingers crossed we’re hoping for a good outcome. Thank you for all the love where that was concerned, and for being understanding when I had to take a complete break from blogging for a bit.
My year in review so far: Life generally
So apart from things where my career, health and loved ones are concerned, that leaves life generally – these are some of the things I got up to:
Christian Dior at the V&A Museum
Oh my, WHAT an exhibition…! Totally living up to the hype, this was just the MOST incredible, breathtaking exhibition ever. Room after room after room of stunning outfits and displays, I never wanted it to end. It has now sadly ended its run at the V&A, but if it ever tours and is on somewhere near you, BOOK TICKETS IMMEDIATELY. I could have happily gone round it 10 times, it was that good. The most perfect example of how fashion is art, no question.
The Chemical Brothers at the Eden Project
Another incredible show, but a very different one to Dior! Having been a massive fan of electronic dance in the 80s and 90s (and still now, truth be told), a chance to see the Chemical Brothers was an opportunity not to be missed. The Eden Project in Cornwall is only 90 minutes from us so we tend to see a concert there every other year – they hold the ‘Eden Sessions’ every summer with a one-night concert from each act. I’ll take Eden over Glastonbury ANY day – no mud, proper toilets, incredible food, and a two-day pass to the Eden Project thrown in with your concert ticket.
The Chemical Brothers were UNBELIEVABLY good live. Took me right back to my clubbing days in the mid 90s. It was, unfortunately, a bittersweet event; it was the very next day after we lost Riley. We’d booked the tickets months beforehand, and it looked like we were just going to have to not go as he was so unwell. We had to call the vet sooner than we thought (we couldn’t let him go on any longer), and then we wondered whether we really should go to Eden. On my mum’s advice we DID go, however, as we thought a couple of days away from home would do us good (I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting at home in an empty house and crying).
It turns out it was the best tonic we could have given ourselves – an evening of noisy, banging music and then a day of tranquil gardens and tropical biomes. We needed it.
Apart from that we loved watching the Women’s World Cup in July… the women players could sure teach the men a thing or two about sportsmanship (sportswomanship?). But it was an incredible tournament and I’m so glad women’s sport is becoming more popular and more visible.
My birthday was in July and for my birthday/blogiversary post (they fall on the same day) I created six Not Dressed As Lamb alter egos had I been a different person starting a blog. Still me but different, if that makes sense: basically just an excuse to have a play with FaceApp, not just the ageing one! If you didn’t see it, you MUST check out the male me. I’m ashamed to say I weirded myself out by actually fancying myself as a bloke.
And finally: if you’ve stuck around till the end for the happy news I mentioned:
Now I don’t want to jinx this, but we potentially have a new member of the family joining us at the end of the month… it’s just not set in stone yet. Yes, we started the doggy adoption process a couple of weeks ago and of course we fell in love with someone (see her bum while we walked her at the rescue centre, above)! I won’t say more than that, but as I’m away at the retreat for a week and Keith’s at work and then he’s joining me for a few days in north Devon, we can’t reserve her till we’re back.
We’ve been to see her twice now just to make sure she’s the one – she is! – but we have to accept that someone else may adopt her in the meantime. So it would be lovely if she WAS adopted for her sake, but of course WE want to be her doggy parents. So please, keep your fingers crossed that she holds on till the 23rd of September for us.
We have felt a massive hole since losing Riley, and it goes without saying that we’ll never forget him. But we feel we’re ready to give our love to and share our home with another beautiful ball of fur. Or in this girl’s case, a streamlined ball of velvet…!
Fingers, toes and everything else crossed.
How’s life been for you this summer? Tell me in the comments!
EDIT 13/09/2019: She’s ours!! We had the home inspection and they rang straight away to say they’d happily reserve her for us until we’re back from North Devon… we’re so happy!! Watch this space!
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