I’m going on holiday!

Very soon I’m going to be making my way to the airport to get on a flight to Portugal to visit Sintra (google it, it looks magical) and to revisit Lisbon. I am so excited. I am in need of some sunshine and a little bit of that treat yo self feeling when it comes to gifting myself some me-time.

I went to Portugal around 5 years ago now (oh wow that makes me feel old) at the start of my big gap year European travels. I went to Faro and Lisbon. I got horribly sunburned (having a peeling forehead isn’t a good look). I cycled to a beach by going through an airport. On the same trip, I fell off my bike on the motorway. I realised Portuguese people take karaoke very seriously. I watched a new friend tackle a plastic waiter through a glass barrier, then try and get into a rubbish truck. I almost gave an old Russian lady a heart attack by turning on the light in the hostel when I was going to bed (it was only 10pm okay!). I ate some incredible custard tarts. I saw Belem. I visited the street where Fernando Pessoa wrote The Book of Disquiet. In short, I had a fantastic time, and I can’t wait to go back and visit Sintra.

Because I’m going to be away, there’s not going to be any posts here, or really on social media, for about a week. For me, that seems like ages. There’s a big old gap in my editorial calendar. But for you, it probably won’t be that long. You, dear read (hi!) might not have even noticed if I hadn’t written this post. No one actually cares that much if I take a day off social, or if I take a week, or three, off blogging.

That might sounds like I’m being super negative. I’m not. When I came to this realisation, that no one is as invested in what I’m doing as I am it was so freeing. If I’m the only person I’m accountable to, if I’m the only person who will notice, then why should I feel bad about taking a week off to enjoy some sights and some sunshine? Have I let anyone down? No, in fact I’ll probably come back from a rest even better.

I’ve harped on about this before, but it is so important to take breaks, proper breaks. That said I’m the absolute worst at practising what I preach when it comes to time off. I hardly ever just take a full day off doing any work. Then, when I do, I spend the whole day anxious about what I could be doing.

Why do I do that? I’ve got to give myself some credit, to trust that things will be okay, that I’ve done what I need to, and if I’m happy with what I’m making and happy to take a break then that’s all that matters. At one point this year I was 2 months ahead on my blogging schedule, but I was still freaking out if I hadn’t written something that day. Man was that dumb. On one hand, it’s good to want to be productive. On the other, you (and I, mainly I) really need to understand that it’s also good to stop and to know that you can take a break, even if it isn’t a special occasion.

And right now I really feel like I need that break. I haven’t been feeling the best about what I’m creating. I’ve been comparing myself to others, and just generally feeling pretty down on myself and what I produce. While I’ve freed myself of your expectations, I haven’t managed to escape my own. I really don’t feel like I’m where I want to be in my work or in my life at the moment, and that’s a tricky feeling to navigate and keep working. So I’m hoping this break will do me the world of good, and allow me to step back and reevaluate.

So, I’m about to embark on a guilt-free holiday and damn does it feel good. If you need a break. If you need a holiday. Just do it.

See you all in a week or so, when I’m hopefully going to be well rested, and a little bit more tan.

I have never been, and probably will never be, a natural runner.

I was someone who hated PE at school. That’s not an exaggeration, I hated it. I wasn’t very good. I didn’t think it was fun. I was once chased by a girl wielding a hockey stick. I hated it.

But as a grew older, and yes, a little podgier, I realised that exercise was going to have to be a part of my life whether it brought back the old trauma of secondary school sports or not.

I’d heard good things about exercise, and many people around me seemed to really enjoy it. But for me, I just couldn’t get passed the “ugh I’m out of breath and uncomfortable” stage to get to their enlightened place of zen.

I tried, and quite liked, swimming but it ended up being too expensive when I moved. I attempted recreating HIIT videos within the confines of my own home, and then gave up 2 minutes in. I even got a gym membership. I went for a while. But the feeling of being watched while I attempted, very badly, to exercise never sat that well with me either.

So, in December, that well known time when people like to be outside in shorts I decided to try running (again).

Throughout my attempts at exercise I have tried and given up on running, or rather shuffling, including an ill-fated and school sponsored mandated 10k.

I’m not sure why I thought this time would be different, but I did.

I knew I wasn’t very good at running. I wasn’t sure I could even run a single kilometre. But, instead of using that as an excuse not to try very hard I decided to get some help. I downloaded the NHS Couch to 5K podcast. I’d heard about it while at work and I thought I’d use my insider knowledge to beat running once and for all. I know realise, there’s a whole cult of Couch to 5K-ers and I wasn’t at all cool, alas.

The Couch to 5K podcast leads you through a series of run-walk sessions until finally you run, without stopping for half an hour or 5km. I followed the sound of Laura’s voice and ran and walked and ran and walked for 9 weeks.

Was it a bit embarrassing to feel knackered after running for just 3 minutes? Yes, but that’s where running on cold, dark December nights actually came into its own. Did I sometimes not quite make it? Of course, and I just did the run again because I became weirdly obsessed with earning the levels. Did I get there in the end? Oh yeah I did!

Once I got to the end of the programme I felt like I could jog reasonably well, enough that I could say I was going out for a run and actually run for a socially acceptable amount of time.

So, I, who hated PE with the burning rage of a thousand suns, now run 4 times a week. What’s more I kind of like it.

I’m still not at a stage where I just switch off and have a wonderful time while I’m running. I get out of breath. My legs ache. I get way too hot. But I do enjoy it.

As someone who sits at a desk at work all day, only to come home and sit at a desk some more, it feels really good just to move. It’s also so good to have half an hour away from a screen, outside. Whether I’m listening to a podcast or just my thoughts it’s so freeing to run in the “fresh” air, without a backpack or a coat to weigh me down, and just go.

I’ve also grown to like running because every time I go out it feels like an achievement. I’m reminded of the fact I stuck with it, and I went from not being able to run at all to where I am today and it makes me feel so powerful.

That confidence has helped me creatively too. It’s reminded me that if I set my mind to something I can actually do it and its encouraged me to try and learn new skills and actually push myself. Plus, having my half an hour outside gives me time to think about those skills.

I wanted to write this piece not just because I’m proud that I’m now running but to encourage you guys to commit to something new, even if it’s hard. Even if it’s exercise. Actually, especially if it’s exercise because we all need to get outside and move around more. Honestly, it feels so good to stick to something and keep going.

So here’s to running some more, maybes next year I might be writing about attempting a second, hopefully less ill-fated 10K.

*I would also encourage anyone who wants to start running to try Couch to 5K or something similar.

Your 9-5 doesn’t have to be your creative passion.

I’m serious. Your 9-5 doesn’t have to be your creative passion for you to be a creative person. It doesn’t.

I listen to a lot of creative podcasts, read a lot of blogs by creative people, and scroll through more creative content than is healthy. Everything I see seems to encourage the idea that you should be turning your creative passion into a job.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people monetising their passions, being creative, and just generally doing more of what makes them happy. But I do have a problem with the idea that it’s what you should be doing. That it’s the way you prove you’re serious about creating. That it’s necessary to show you’re committed and courageous. That it’s the way.

I have a problem with it because it’s not true and because it left me feeling really awful about myself.

I spend my 9-5 in an office, doing really engaging and interesting work. That means that I, like many people out there, work on my creative projects in my own time. My blog and my design work are side projects that happen on evenings and weekends. While I make a little bit of money through my design, it isn’t, and might not ever be, my full-time job, and I’m certainly not in a position to be able to do a similar role inside a company. My creative passion isn’t my job.

But that doesn’t devalue what I do. It doesn’t mean I’m nor creative. It doesn’t mean I’m not committed.

There are so many reasons I, and so many other people, have jobs that don’t involve our favourite creative pursuits, that don’t mean we’re running scared. We might like the stability they offer. We might be making sure we’re ready to take a creative leap. We might be gaining skills and contacts and experience. We might need their financial security. We might love the office environment. We might find inspiration in doing something completely different and being surrounded by people who are outside of our creative spheres. We just might love them too.

Yes, taking that leap to make your creative passion your full-time job is incredible and brave and something you should do if you want to. But don’t feel like you have to, or like if you’re not doing it right now or even planning on doing it that what you make is worth any less.

This one is for me as much as it is for anyone out there reading this one. However, creativity is a part of your life enjoy it and value it.

I think too often we define ourselves by our work titles rather than our values and our passions and who we actually are, which means that if you don’t have a creative title it can feel like you’re not actually a proper creative person. Whatever that means. So many people feel scared to define themselves as creative because their creativity comes in the form of a hobby or a side project.

“I paint but I’m not a painter.” “I design but I’m not a designer.” “I make badass creative projects and write about them but I’m not a creative.”

Do any of those seem familiar to you? Well, I’ve got news for you, if you’re creating and making and it brings you joy, you are a creative person.

Be inspired by the all the podcasts and the blogs and the creative content out there that pushes you to be more creative. But please don’t feel pressured to need a creative job title or a creative lifestyle as defined by someone else.

As long as you’re making time for your passions where you can and when you want to, then you’re already there. Prioritise creativity in a lifestyle that suits you and you’re doing it already. Keep pushing yourself to be and do better, but make sure it really is you pushing not some idea of what you should be doing.

Enjoy where you’re at. Whether you’re happy with your work situation or you’re on your way to making a change. Revel in the moment you have and the balance you currently have. Then get creative with it.

I can’t believe it has been well over 6 months since I did an update of the awesome creative blogs I’m following. I still love everyone on in my last updates. But now that I’m using Bloglovin, I’ve found, and refound, and read more of, so many incredible content creators that I just had to share. So here are 10, well 11 really, blogs I keep coming back to and saving posts from:


Greenhorn is a new blog from Marie Jaquemin, who you might know from the awesome New Age Creators project on YouTube. Its name comes from a term which “often describes fools or know-nothings in old westerns, but what it should actually describe is the acceptance that no one knows it all and that life is about learning and growing at every turn”. So, fittingly, Greenhorn is a blog all about learning, being green, and finding your place as a creative. It’s safe to say that I absolutely love this one, it ticks all of the boxes: interesting people, creative content, stunning visuals, great writing and a topic that I couldn’t resonate more with if I tried. I’m so excited to see Greenhorn grow!


I am a little bit ashamed to say that I’ve only just started reading Ella Master’s blog, but that has meant I could binge to my heart’s content! She has a real mix of themes, but all of them are incredibly well written and accompanied by stunning visuals – not that I would expect anything less! In particular, I’ve loved her behind the scenes look at her collections, her more personal feelings-y pieces, and her little fashion interludes. She has so much variety in a consistent style that it meant I was happy to sit and read for a good 2 hours, and I’m not sure there’s much higher praise than that. Also, if you like her blog definitely have a look at her illustrations and shop – I am so tempted to get a pet portrait of my fave furry fella.


Natasha Nuttall’s Graphique Fantastique has been a blog I’ve followed for a good while, but I’ve really gotten back into it, revisiting its plentiful archives, over the past months after watching more and more of her Youtube videos (you can check out some other creative Youtubers I love over here). Natasha’s blog follows her life as a freelance designer and features so much great design content on everything from paper and stationery (her stationery week posts were so good) to DIYs to run downs of inspirational creatives. Her blog recently had a bit of a rebrand, think all the turquoise triangles, and it’s looking so fresh – I’d highly recommend you check her out if you find any of my content vaguely interesting or if you love colour and design!


This is another blog I’ve fallen back in love with. Fab’s blog used to be about great mail, and as a huge fan of letters I loved it, but she’s recently had a bit of switch in direction, and let me tell you I love it just as much if not more. Snail Mail Love is now more about illustration and design, with lifestyle and awesome stationery still thrown in. Her posts are always absolutely stunning, but they’re also really useful and easy to read. As someone who follows quite a lot of blogs that’s something I cherish, trusting that when I sit down to read a blog there’s going to be some quality content in there that I know I’ll get something out of. Fans of illustration, creativity, and stationery definitely check her out!


Work Work Work is all about how women in aspirational, often creative, industries got where they are through hard work and struggles they’ve had to face along the way. It’s not just a blog it’s “an anti-perfectionism project which aims to reveal and explore the non-edited challenges that women face behind the fantasy of social media”. I feel like this is such a necessary voice, or rather group of voices online, and it’s absolutely fascinating to get to see what it’s really like to do many of the things that are glorified across the web. Work Work Work is also incredibly produced, honestly, their posts are of such high quality. It should really be required reading for anyone who’s comparing themselves to images and ideas they see online.


Whenever I read Wit & Delight I just feel better. Kate Arends started W&D in 2008, and since then she’s been growing it as a source for all things style and designed lifestyles. We’re talking fashion, food, wellness, beauty, homes, travel, careers and everything in between. I particularly love her pieces on becoming a freelancer and alternative career paths, as someone who isn’t 100% sure about where they want their career to go (and who is) they have given me a lot of food for thought and also a lot of reassurance and motivation.


I started reading Pair and a Spare for their DIYs. I love a good DIY, especially when the outcome doesn’t look like you did it yourself/got a child to do it and it’s relatively simple which is what they specialise in: easy DIYs that have awesome outcomes. But I find myself coming back to them for their blogging and lifestyle content which is really lovely and has given me so much, take notes and use it outside of the internet, inspiration.


It’s not a blog. But I find myself of Man Repeller at least once a day so I had to include it. It’s so much of what I would want in a fun magazine and so much more. It’s funny and smart and much more colourful than I am. They talk about everything from fashion to pop culture to relationships and feminism. While most of their stuff is upbeat and quirky, and just a little bit sarcastic, every once in a while, they have a thought piece that makes you stop for a hot minute and just reflect. If you need to up the quality of your daily reading, or just want to add an injection of colour and cool ass ladies, Man Repeller is definitely for you!


I love how Erin Loechner writes, it’s the perfect balance of poetic and creative and easy to read, and I just love it. Her blog is somewhere on the creative lifestyle spectrum, but I’m not sure where because it inhabits a corner all of its own. It’s at once real and relatable, and inspirational and a bit motivating. I think you just have to read it for yourself because clearly, I’m not sure how to describe it other than in vague and gushing platitudes.


I love both of these blogs for inspiration. They post some really high quality and inventive design work, all centred around print. It’s amazing to see what people are doing and managing to innovate, in a medium that has effectively been around forever. Whenever I feel stagnated or like everything I’m seeing is the same these are the blog to which I turn. To add to that, For Print Only structures its posts so so well, and I love how they include production or personal lessons from each piece. It’s really refreshing and adds something personal to what could just be a “hey look at this cool thing” post.

Which blogs are you loving right now? Who should I be following?

PS – if you’re not following me on Bloglovin I’d recommend it, it’s the best way to keep up to date with any new posts/what I’m reading!

I have found myself gravitating towards the illustrated books on recent, and quite frequent trips to bookshops. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved illustrated books; one of my final GCSE projects was an illustrated book about a llama who got lost. They’re not just works of art, and they’re not just stories, they’re a magical melding of the two that elevates each element to something more.

So, I thought I’d share 10 of my favourite illustrated books at the minute after having so much fun doing my list of the best book covers. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are 10 of my favourite illustrated books (that aren’t just for children):


We Found a Hat, Jon Klassen

Illustrator: Jon Klassen

We Found a Hat is one of the most aesthetically pleasing books on this list with its graded backgrounds and pastel shades. It’s a simple story of two turtles who find a hat, which is paired perfectly with Klassen’s minimal illustrations that leave plenty of breathing room on the page for you to think. It’s a quiet book, but it’s filled with heart and a subtle humour. If you have a friend you need to buy a gift for, I can’t recommend this tale of friendship and hats enough.


This Moose Belongs to Me, Oliver Jeffers

Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers

I could have included every single one of Oliver Jeffers’ books on this list, but I thought I should restrain myself. I love how This Moose Belongs to Me really showcases Jeffers’ gorgeous landscape paintings without detracting from his characters. Their sense of scale within the vast world he has painted only serves to amplify their story. Also, it features a moose, what more do you need?


Each Peach Pear Plum, Allan Ahlberg

Illustrator: Janet Ahlberg

I know the story to Each Peach Pear Plum off by heart, much to many of my friends’ great distress when I recite it. Its illustrations remind me of a very specific part of my childhood in the most wonderful way. But my favourite images will always be the front and back covers and the way they take what is quite a grown up almost Morris-eque pattern and fill it with nursery rhyme imagery – they’re just perfect!


The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle

Illustrator: Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is another unescapable classic. There is nothing more I can say about it. It’s the Very Hungry Caterpillar. It’s amazing. If I have kids they will read it to their kids and so and so forth ad infinitum.


Shackleton’s Journey, William Grill

Illustrator: William Grill

William Grill’s illustrated guide to the true story of Ernest Shackleton’s journey to the heart of Antarctica might just be the most charming book I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I love his coloured pencil drawings, for some reason they remind me of school geography projects, but the school geography project you wish you could have made. There’s just something about the softness of it. I also learned so much when I was reading it, I had no idea they took so many dogs with them!


The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne

Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers

Okay so I know that I said that this list wasn’t going to be all Oliver Jeffers, but you know what it’s my list and I couldn’t just pick one, and I felt like this illustrated version of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas brings something a little different to this run down. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is an incredible novel in its own right, but Jeffers’ illustrations really add something extra to the story and bring it to life. I’m not normally a huge fan of novels with sporadic illustrations, but here it just seems to work and the images are perfectly placed and designed to make you reflect more and understand the story.


All My Friends Are Dead, Jory John & Avery Monsen

Illustrator: Avery Monsen

All My Friends Are Dead is at once wickedly dark and funny, and just a little bit too cute. I feel like everyone already owns a copy so I don’t need to spend too long singing its praises, but what I will say that whenever I’ve felt down and picked up this book I have always felt better afterwards.


The Tale of Kitty in Boots, Beatrix Potter

Illustrator: Quentin Blake

I went to an exhibition at The House of Illustration all about Quentin Blake’s illustrations for this recently discovered Beatrix Potter story of a cat with a double life. The partnership of Potter’s humour and rebellious feline hero and Blake’s lively and energetic style is just perfect. Even though his distinctive illustrations are quite different to Potter’s they fit perfectly and it’s easy to see why he was the first choice of illustrator when Penguin Random House decided to publish it. I think this quote from Blake really captures some of that playful partnership: “I liked the story immediately – it’s full of incident and mischief and character –and I was fascinated to think that I was being asked to draw pictures for it. I have a strange feeling that it might have been waiting for me.”


The Journey, Francesca Sanna

Illustrator: Francesca Sanna

The Journey is so beautiful, haunting, and emotionally compelling that it’s hard to believe it’s Francesca Sanna’s first book. Inspired by stories she had heard of the current refugee crisis Sanna’s stunning illustrated book follows the heartbreakingly unimaginable decisions made a family have to make leave their home and everything they know to escape war. This is very much a book you just need to have a quiet moment with before showing everyone you know so they can experience it too.


Big Hid, Roisin Swales

Illustrator, Roisin Swales

After reading this article on Creative Review about Roisin Swales and Big Hid I knew I had to get my hands on a copy, and I’m so glad I did. Big Hid discusses mental health, and in particular depression, in a really accessible way. Swales’ charming colourful illustrations make sense of what it means to have a friend with depression so beautifully that it should be required reading for everyone big and little.


What are your favourite picture books? Who are your favourite artists making illustrated stories?