A 24 hour trip to…

Cambridge and Ely

In August I reached two major milestones in my life. I celebrated 10 years of freelance working and 10 years of marriage! Both were achievements that I am very proud of and to celebrate my husband and I took a quick trip to Cambridge via Ely.

Getting there

Cambridge is about a 2 hour drive away from where we live but when we were in London, I used to visit the city a lot for work events. The railway station is a short walk into town and is very well connected. Once in Cambridge we walked everywhere but this is a cycle city and there are loads of great cycling options too.

(I should mention that if you are looking for a great Cambridge and Ely guide, then do head to Lizzie Woodman’s blog and Instagram account as she has been working with a lot of the store owners in Ely. )

We drove to Ely and parked in St Mary’s Street car park where it is free for 2 hours.

Where to stay

My husband has often stayed at Poets House Hotel in Ely. Its opposite the cathedral and has wonderful views at night.

I’d seen the University Arms in Cambridge on Doesmybumlook40 Instagram account last year when she was there for a Jaeger press trip and just knew my husband would love the interiors. We also loved the upgrade to a suite. Thank you! The room was great and we had a lovely view over the park, plus I was able to have a cup of tea, looking out the window. Happy days. Lovely decor and fantastic staff.

What to see

In Ely, it really is all about the Cathedral. It is utterly gorgeous – stands out from any part of the town and we spent a happy moment walking round its perimeter before venturing inside. Have to admit that we didn’t pay to go in because we definitely want to return with our daughter, and we would save that visit to do with her. There is also a High Street and a small market square to venture round. A good mix of chain stores and independents.

In Cambridge there is too much to see and do for this post! We walked everywhere, people-watched the punts and soaked up the atmosphere. In the past I have visited the colleges and would recommend a trip to Kings Chapel. Top tip – visit when Evensong is on and you get in for free. Other highlights include the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Botanical Gardens. There is a decent amount of chain stores and independents too and I would always recommend a visit to Heffers – the bookshop in Cambridge.

Heading out of Cambridge, I would suggest a visit to National Trust sites Wimpole and/or, Anglesey Abbey. You could happily spend a full day at each.

Where to eat

Ely – Walking down past the cathedral we ended up in an AMAZING Turkish restaurant for lunch: Ely Turkish Restaurant and Meze Bar (33 Fore Hill). You know when you walk by a restaurant at lunch and you see that it is packed? Yep, that’s the one we headed too. They have this incredible lunch offer where you get two courses for £8.95 per person. It was delicious with generous portions.

Being allergic to dairy has got a lot easier in the last few years because there are so many vegan cafes and restaurants out there. We popped next door from the Turkish restaurant to Truly Scrumptious vegan cafe for the best almond milk cappuccino and chocolate cake I’ve had in a long time. Bliss!

Cambridge – We ate in the hotel’s restaurant, Parker’s Tavern, that night, which was lovely – lots of options and great opportunities for people watching. It felt a bit like The Wolsey. Plus their cocktail menu is very tempting. I ate a beetroot tartare which was so yummy that I still think about it.

The next day it was really all about food – where we live there isn’t many dairy free options, so I was determined to track down as many great places to eat as possible – and keep my meat eating husband happy. We succeeded in The Old Bicycle Shop for breakfast (chia seed porridge for me, chorizo and avocado for him), followed by Novi for lunch (try the pork crackling with burnt apple puree) and then headed to Tom’s Cakes for pudding. All had lots of options to choose from and the coffee at Tom’s was particularly good.

Please note that nothing on this post was sponsored or an advert. We paid for the entire trip and had a ball!

Photo credits include:

How I manage the stress…

…of working as a freelancer when the work isn’t there.

At the beginning of the year I decided that I had taken on too much work in 2018 and that I would slow down a bit because I felt my work-life balance wasn’t right. (see post here) It is now September and I’m reviewing some of my decisions – was I too hasty in January? Should I have been networking a bit more in March?

I like to plan my workload and know when I have projects coming to me, that way I can work out my finances and project my income over the coming months. However I’m now wobbling because although I have a lot of work on at the moment, I need to look ahead to November – January and hope that the work starts coming in.

My clients have also been having tricky times and that does effect when they can hire me. This has meant that projects have been delayed, cancelled out they’ve chosen a different path to launch. All of this I completely understand but it has meant that I feel like I’m lurching from one project to the next without a strategy for my business. Something that can, at times make me anxious.

Looking back, I realise that except for last year, this happens most years in September. I’ve looked at my finances over the past 3 years and seen that I experience this wobble and every time this is what I do:

  • Network! I run through my list of contacts and say hello – gently reminding people that I exist and if they’d like to meet for a coffee/chat.
  • Look back at previous clients and get in touch. Do they have a new project that I can help with?
  • Update my LinkedIn profile with recent successes and projects I’m proud of.
  • Search for new clients – I get on the internet and search for businesses that I know that I can help. Making cold call approaches isn’t ideal but I have found some of my most productive projects through this.
  • Take myself off for a walk, get my heart going and start thinking about other ways that I can boost my income.
  • Tell friends and family that I’m looking for new clients in the coming months. I speak to parents at the playground as well, just in case. This is a tricky one because I never want to seem pushy or desperate (its a fine line…) but it can open up new avenues of work that I would never have expected.

I also know that I have to have a little faith in my abilities and my work ethic – because I work exceedingly hard for my clients and my enthusiasm for the work is always appreciated. Sometimes that can be hard when the diary is looking a little bare.

Early morning walk with Maggie
Go for a walk when I’m feeling stuck. (with my dog, she always helps!)

Other tricks that I *ought* to do include:

  • saving more of my income when the good times are rolling, that way I can stretch my income further. I do this in a fashion but I’m now making attempts to do this properly by creating a new account where I stash my “rainy day funds” so that this can be a comfort blanket to me when I’m stressing about money!
  • Keep a tighter rein on my spending – check my subscriptions (I just realised I was paying £9.99 a month for Dropbox still) and see where I can make budget cuts throughout the year.
  • Start to plan my business more – I’m considering starting to Bullet Journal as I can see how the techniques used there do help keep you focused on your ambitions and you can track your days.
  • Take one working day a quarter and plan the following 3 months work. Start making the contacts then, so that I can feel in control of my work flow or at least know that I am working towards it.

I’d be really curious to know how you plan your finances and/workload because I think that I need to step this up a bit!

How I cope with the ‘post school holiday blues…

…before starting my new work routine.

I woke up this morning not feeling my brightest (although who does at 6.30am?) and as I write this (it is currently 12.55pm), the feeling hasn’t really gone away. It is unusual for me to feel a bit ‘meh’ for so long but it is a feeling that I have come to recognise as it is so specific. It occurs around 3 times a year and the worst is always a few days after my daughter goes back to school at the end of August.

As I work from home, I notice the quiet that falls once she returns to school – after 6 weeks of noise filling the house, it at first is elating – peace and quiet! Being able to go to the loo without telling her, making drinks when I want etc… but after a few days, the elation disappears and I have to mourn the loss of the old routine, before I can move on to a new one.

So instead of ‘working’ through it – I’ve learn over the last few years that it doesn’t work for me, I embrace it and have a quiet day. Here’s what I do:

  • I eat anything and everything I want – just for that day, if I want chocolate for breakfast, then I’m having it. (I did today!)
  • A lot of trashy, easy on the eye television gets watched. Today it was TOWIE and a few YouTubes, plus I finally watched the Beyonce Coachella documentary on Netflix.
  • A long, hot bath is always required, sometimes with a face mask too. (I’m in love with Garnier sheet face masks at the moment)
  • None of my cleaning routines get achieved. (Sorry Team TOMM)
  • I refuse to feel guilty for anything – for missing her, missing work or not being what I feel I should be doing. I truly wallow.
  • At 3pm, I shake it off, dust the biscuit crumbs off my clothes and go get her. I smile and move on.

This might seem a little strange but it truly works for me. Yes I will still miss her tomorrow but because I’ve had my moment of complete wallowing, I know I can now get myself back in gear and start with my new September routine.

ps I *may* have also eaten an entire packet of Jaffa cakes whilst writing the post…

Back from the school hols…

…catch up and planning post

Hello! I’m a bit out of practice with writing a blog post because I realise that it has been ages since I last posted one. I have been on “Mummy mode” for the past 6 weeks and finding time to blog as well as everything else was something I just couldn’t manage. I have missed it though and I’m back with new ideas and feeling revitalised.

How was your summer? As I type, the weather in the UK is deliciously warm after a pretty on-off summer. My daughter goes back to school on Thursday (29th August) and I’m slightly dreading it as I know that all the routines that I have been ignoring in August will now need to kick in. That means, work, house cleaning, meal planning – the lot. Everything to make my life and our household just that little more efficient and financially afloat!

10
August was the month when I had been self-employed for 10 years!

I hit a pretty big anniversary this month, it has been 10 years (10 YEARS!!!) since I started freelancing and created my PR company. I didn’t even realise until the LinkedIn messages started coming through. I have let that sink in because in my head, I’ve not been self-employed for that long – but actually a decade, more than a quarter (just) of my life has been spent working for myself. Yay!

We have also lived in the countryside for 5 years now and I’m only just beginning to want to decorate the house in a significant way. It needs a bit of a refresh and I have been thinking about how I work and how important the environment around me is to working happily.

So, as with most times I have at least 24 hours to ponder on something, I’ve made a few short-term goals that I want to share with you. Nothing major, but something to get me focused. They are:

Ikea dressed set
My current decor inspiration – from Ikea!
  1. To decorate the room next to the kitchen where I work. This is Amy’s playroom and our dining room but from where I sit, I can look down the room and out into the garden. Currently it is a dirty white and I’d like to freshen it up with a more striking colour. Plus, I think it is time to declutter some of her toys as we make the slow transition from needing lots of toys around to creating space for her new interests.
  2. Search for a new client. Ideally I would like to work with another client on a longterm basis – this not only helps to give me more financial stability but I find the work more rewarding – I get to see over a longer period how I have helped the client.
  3. Get back to Yoga everyday. This makes such a difference to my health and happiness but in August, I’ve definitely not kept this up. I use the Yoga with Adriene Monthly calendar which is great. I print it out and pop it on my fridge – holding me accountable everyday.
My work environment really makes a difference to my productivity.

And that’s about it! I’ll write about how I intend to start my search for a new client on another post later but I think these are all do-able. I just need a bit of determination and focus!

What are you focusing on once the children are back in school? I’d love to know – it really helps to keep me on track.

Other posts that may interest you:

Book review: An Edited Life by Anna Newton

Why we should all be reading this book

I’ve been meaning to review this book for sometime and as always, work and life have gotten in the way! I was initially introduced to the author via the lifestyle editor, Erica Davies. She hosted an event with the author that I attended.

Anna Newton
Anna Newton is a life-style You Tuber

The book’s sub-title “Simple Steps to Streamlining Your Life, at Work and at Home’ really does explain the book. There is no stone that is left un-turned, not only does it feel like a conversation with a close friend but it actually gives you the tools to actually follow what she is saying.

Broken down into chapters with clear headings and illustrations, you can dip in and dip out of this book when the need arises. I found the diary, budgeting and planning your working day sections really helpful. I’ve implemented a few of the suggestions and they have made a massive difference. Anna uses her own working life as the example to which you can apply to your schedule. She, like me, works from home and is self-employed. She needs to plan, remain motivated but also accepts that from time to time, she’s going to want to read a book all morning instead of answering emails. Her honesty is refreshing and reassuring at the sametime.

I am defiantly applying some of her rules to help me become more disciplined with this blog. I feel that in my working life, I do plan and schedule for work projects but with this blog, it gets a little…hazy. She’s also a big fan of bullet journals, something I’m considering but one baby step at a time.

An Edited Life by Anna Newton
This book needs to be read!

Lastly, the book is truly about the process of editing – editing your day, your home and your work life – choosing the elements that make you happy, keep you less stressed (there is a big chapter on financial planning) and also removing any of the ‘stuff’ that doesn’t add to your situation.

I found it really helpful and I can often be found heading back into it on certain subjects. I’ve subscribed to Anna’s You Tube channel and love her honest approach. She’s somebody that we can all learn from.

Inside pages of An Edited Life by Anna Newton
The inside pages are beautifully designed and clear to read

You can read Anna’s blog here: www.theannaedit.com . Subscribe to her You Tube or follow her Instagram: @theannaedit

An Edited Life by Anna Newton is published by Quadrille £16.99

Other recommended reads:

*This post is my opinion only. I bought the book as part of an event I attended to hear the author speak. *