My Friday Favourites (02/11/18)

Hello! It has been awhile since I last posted one of these style of posts so I

Early morning walk with Maggie
Early morning walk with Maggie. Cold but beautiful!

thought that I would today! Happy November! I do love the crisp mornings we are getting at the moment but hate the darker evenings. I’ll get used to it by getting my ‘hygge’ on – lots of throws, cosy jumpers (I’m scouring our local charity shop), hot chocolate and candles.

My first favourite is the book “10 Things Girls Need Most to Grow Up Strong and Free” by Steve Biddulph. I came across this author after reading an interview with him in The Sunday Times a year or so ago. I’ve had the book awhile and find it really useful to

10 Things Girls Need Most by Steve Biddulph
I really recommend this book to ease any concerns and give sensible guidance.

dip in and out of. There are lots of thought provoking chapters and inspirational quotes to cling onto. If I’m having a wobble about my parenting style then I normally head back to this book. It really does help!

 

On a more trivial but gladdening to the

Who doesn't love cyclamens? Great for adding instant colour!
Who doesn’t love cyclamens? Great for adding instant colour!

heart note is the beauty of the winter flower. I absolutely love cyclamens and have them pottered around our driveway in pots. They are brilliant at adding extra colour. When they are looking a bit tired, I then plant them in the garden and they appear each year. It is really quite beautiful. My dried hydrangeas

Love my dried flowers for the kitchen!

are also bringing me joy in our kitchen!

Lastly, I am a huge fan of the clothes from Hush. They can be a little expensive but I’m obsessed with their dresses at the moment. With my work, I find dresses are the best solution as I can dress

Soleste dress from Hush
Just look at that trim!!!

them up and also down. The Soleste dress is a particular favourite which I’d wear with a red mid-length coat for work meetings and then a biker jacket for a night out. I love the trim!

Have a great weekend everyone! We are busy busy with family coming to stay, dance competitions, litter picking with the Beavers (Amy) and finally I am going to see The Greatest Showman! A bit late to the party with this one but I’m really excited!

 

How to look your best on Skype

Hi! I realise that this may not be for everyone that reads this blog but in my line of work (Publicity), I do an awful lot of Skype calls and visual conferencing. Especially when I am starting with a new client.

SkypeWithin my client base are authors that live in South East Asia and Australia which leans towards using Skype for initial chats before I start working for them. I like to show that I am professional, knowledgable at my job and am generally ‘with it.’ First impressions really do count and therefore I thought I would share my method which can be applied to Skype job interviews as well.

  1. Your username – make it professional and somehow linked to your business or an easy composite of your name. No @cutefluffybunnys as it doesn’t really give the best impression.
  2. Check your wifi – make sure that your bandwidth is up to it, especially if you are calling at peak usage – 9pm at night. Also perhaps ask everyone not to stream or download at the moment you are using Skype. I think it really does make a difference.
  3. I use the room with the largest window in for my Skype calls. Not my everyday desk.
    I use the room with the largest window in for my Skype calls. Not my everyday desk.

    Find a room that doesn’t have any distractions and that the door can be shut. Lots of natural light helps as well. I use our back room (or the Library as my husband calls it – we have a lot of books in our house as we both work in publishing) where there is a large window in-front of the desk, a desk lamp and I can shut the door. (keeps the dog out!)

  4. Think about what the camera sees – check you aren’t showing clothes, kitchen stuff or a bathroom behind you. Try and find a blank wall or something relevant to your
    This is where I usually work - the camera would show the kitchen detritus behind me. And it is dark. Not good!
    This is where I usually work – the camera would show the kitchen detritus behind me. And it is dark. Not good!

    work. (I have the book shelves in my background)

  5. Have your computer camera at eye level or a little higher. You look better when you are talking up – it helps with your posture as well.
    I use an old box to raise my laptop to eye level. And a cushion to help with my posture!
    I use an old box to raise my laptop to eye level. And a cushion to help with my posture!

    Nobody likes to be talked down to. I initially use a box on my desk to lift the camera on my laptop and I also use a cushion on my seat. It does work!

  6. Think about your appearance – I’m not a daily make up wearer but if I have a Skype call scheduled then I defiantly stick a bit on. I find adding lipstick, darkening my eyebrows and tying my hair back helps me stand out more on screen.
    This is my usual look! Not great for a Skype call.
    This is my usual look! Not great for a Skype call.

    I also add a scarf (nothing too fussy) or a good statement necklace (mine are from Stella & Dot) as well to a plain top. I wear a lot of blue and that seems to work with the screen.

    I added a scarf, tied my hair back and popped on a bit of lipstick. Much better!
    What the camera sees: I added a scarf, tied my hair back and popped on a bit of lipstick. Much better! You can also see the books in the background.
  7. Silence all other mobiles, iPads and lock the door so that you don’t have any neighbours popping in. I have been known to pop a note on my front door saying I’m in a meeting and to leave a package by the door. It has worked!
  8. Be ready at least 5 minutes before the call and make sure your Skype account says that you are online. It always gives a good impression that you are prepared.

 

Lastly, I do have those moments when a client suddenly decides to call me and in those circumstances, I usually whip a scarf on (my house is cold anyway so I’m usually wearing one) and take my laptop into the other room. Then I’ll answer. Sometimes I’ll request an audio call or ask to call them back in 5 minutes.

All ready for my Skype call

Skype is a great business tool when you work from home and are not close to a big city. Living in the countryside means that my trips to London tend to be once or twice a month but using Skype enables me to keep contact with my clients. And I’m a huge believer in face to face contact. Even if it is from behind a screen.

 

 

INSTAGRAM POST ALERT!

New Instagram post!
New Instagram post!

I’ve also posted a series of videos onto my account showing you my behind the scenes set up for Skype! So you can see the method in my madness.

@Laura_the_9_to_3

 

How I Work: Alexandra Wright

Hello!

Time for another How I Work highlight! When I asked this brilliant lady if she minded answering a few of my questions to appear on my blog, she was surprised as she didn’t consider herself ’employed’ and yet, to me she never stops working.

I met Alex a few years ago when our daughters started school (they are in the same class) and she has become a firm friend of mine. Determined, focused, and a force of nature, Alex is a pure grafter. She works to earn extra money to help her family whilst bringing up 3 children. Incredible.

She’s also a brilliant example that you don’t need to have a set career plan whilst working the 9 to 3. She’s making the most of her time and making the work, work for her. Truly inspirational.

Have a look!

  1. Name:  Alexandra Wright
  2. Name of Business: Housewife!
  3. What do you do: Self employed – Kind of!

    A photo of Alex Wright
    At one of her cleaning jobs…with her favourite gadget!
  4. Where do you work:  I am a housewife/homemaker for my 3 children. In between the school hours,  I do small  jobs to help top up the family income. These include – a paper round in my village, cleaning jobs, home from home dog boarding and looking after horses (though that is mainly in the winter months during the hunt season)
  5. How did you get to this point in your career: I used to work full time for Mars petcare. After having our first daughter I realised this wasn’t a realistic work life balance. My husband is a farm manger on our local dairy farm which is shift work but can be long hours, plus his days off are every other weekend. My job was also shift work, so when we were both working weekends we found that I would be asking the world and his wife to look after Sophie. We decided that I would stop working to care for our children and from this I started doing a few smaller jobs where and when I can to help with our cash flow.
  6. The best part of my job is: Being able to attend every school event that is thrown at school parents throughout the year!

    Walking two ponies – as well as a buggy.
  7. The worst part of my job is: Not having an identity
  8. Favourite time-saving trick: Can I pick two? Hoovering and mopping at night so you start the day with a clean floor. Putting sheets and duvet covers in the matching pillow case so when its bed changing day everything is ready.
  9. Best advice for anyone working 9 to 3: Don’t beat yourself up if work isn’t done. With children the days are long but the years are short.
  10. Favourite social media accounts/blogs: Umm… I don’t really have one but really looking forward to reading 9 to 3!

Thanks Alex!!!!

 

A (Wo)Man’s Best Friend 🐶

My lovely Maggie. (She’s a Cockapoo)

I’ve just posted on Instagram an image of my dog, Maggie. Slightly random but I wanted to share that she is  very much a huge contributor to my work/life balance. Why? We got her as Amy started Reception at school and suddenly I was aware that I would be working from home (Amy being in full time education meant that I could ramp up my PR business) and might be a little lonely.😓

Maggie has enabled me to meet new people (🙋🏼hello Doggy friends – that doesn’t seem weird at all…) and she gets me away from my laptop everyday. I get fresh air 🌲 and a chance to think about work issues or other stuff that happens to be bothering me and I get some exercise. I’m healthier and happier with her. 👊🏻 👣

I’m not saying that everyone should get a dog but I am saying that those 30 minutes or so of outside life a couple of times a day does benefit my work. I think I’m better because I HAVE to go out. Otherwise I have an energetic dog wiggling around me. She is also my constant companion (she even follows me to the loo!) and I am NEVER lonely when she is there. 😍

How do you force yourself away from work? Do you join an exercise class in the week? I’d be really interested to know.

Half-term adventures 👨‍👩‍👧

Happy Monday! I’ve been a bit slack on here for the past week. What with juggling work and half-term, it meant that something had to be sacrificed and it was this! Hopefully you’ve kept up with me on Instagram instead.

Leicestershire have their half-term a week before most of the other counties I think and we took advantage of this and headed to Centre Parcs in Sherwood Forest for a Monday – Friday break. Its just a little cheaper on off-school holiday weeks. We’ve been visiting the holiday park since Amy was tiny as its close by, there are lots of activities to try and it still feels like a ‘proper holiday.’

Before that, we headed down to London to visit family and took advantage of the National Rail 2 for 1

We used the 2 for 1 offer with our National Rail train tickets

offers to gain cheaper entrance to The Globe. This is a great place to visit – really easy to get to and the tour/exhibition is fascinating. Top marks for being ready for children – they have a children’s audio guide and exhibition trail which meant Amy was able to take the tour at her own speed.

We visited The Globe in London

We definitely want to head back there when she’s older to watch a play.

On Monday, we packed the car and headed to Centre Parcs. We were going with my parents and had booked a 3 bedroom lodge. We opted for a lodge that was close to the main central area (near the pool and playgrounds) but one that hadn’t been refurbished so it was still a bit cheaper but the edges let’s say on the lodge were slightly frayed.

Here are my tips for getting the best from Centre Parcs:

We stayed at Centre Parcs in Sherwood Forest
  1. Take your own food. They have a great supermarket but it is expensive – £3.98 for a carton of Tropicana. I plan with my mum the meals before we go and split who is bringing what.
  2. If you do want to eat out in the evening, then book ahead. Lunches (expect on change over days) are normally less busy and this year we had a great breakfast at Cafe Rouge where we didn’t book at all. We were then given a 25% discount off our next meal – which we used on the Friday before heading home.
  3. Take your own bikes for riding round the park.

    Take your own bikes or at least a bike/wheels for the children. I’ve rented bikes in the past when we didn’t have a bike carrier which is fine but bringing your own wheels is more economical. Also bring portable bike locks and carrier bags as seat covers if it rains. No soggy bottoms here!

  4. If you want to play a sport then take your own racquets. We booked to play badminton and it was an extra £1 per racquet and then a take home shuttlecock for another £1. Its not a massive extra spend but you could use that saved money for something else.
  5. Don’t rely on the online booking system as there are plenty of deals to be had during your week there. I popped to their brilliant spa – Aqua Sana when we arrived to see what on the day and weekly specials they had running. I was able to book a last minute Twilight Spa session for my husband and I which was cheaper than online due to cancellations. (Take your own flip flops to wear during your session!)
  6. We stayed at 489 Lodge in the Oak area.

    You can gain access to the park from 12pm on your day of arrival. We got there a little after 1pm, parked the car outside our lodge (this is rare – normally you park in car park and then drive round later) and went straight away to explore. You don’t feel like you are wasting your first day there. Likewise on the Friday morning, we packed the car up and then went onto activities. We eventually left just after 2pm. I do know families that stay for the whole of Friday but we needed to pick up our dog!

  7. Bring a bag that is dedicated to the pool – swimsuits, towels, entertainment etc… as you can spend your entire day in there. Keep it separate from the rest of your stuff. I saw a family bring their cooler box with a picnic! (note to self – do this!) £1 coins are required for the lockers.
  8. Explore the whole park – there is so much to see away from the central village – birdwatching dens, golf-putting, a nature reserve – lots to see and do. Easy to do by bike! You don’t have to pay extra for the playgrounds or the walks. Plus there is so much going on, that it makes great entertainment too – horse-drawn carriages clip clop by and the beach by the lake is great.
  9. For the evenings, I took a selection of dvds to watch (you get a dvd player in the lodge) and each family member got to choose one each night. You are allowed to take Crackle logs with you (or purchase them at CP) and we were very cosy with a fire and a film each evening.
  10. Sounds silly but enjoy it! We saw a few families there that were booked on an activity or two every day. I enjoy a slower break – a mix of scheduled activities, messing around in the pool and pottering around the park.

To sum it up, I love Centre Parcs! It is expensive to visit but again you can make it work for you – decide what your priorities are before you go and then just enjoy every single minute. It is always super clean, kind staff and they are brilliant at fixing anything that doesn’t work. Brave CP!