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Florence has always been on my long wish list of places to visit along with so many other city breaks in Europe. An approaching five year anniversary gave us the perfect opportunity to book a romantic getaway. Leaving on the first flight on Friday morning, we had three days to explore the city. It’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, Florence offers stunning architecture, amazing sights and some of the best food I’ve ever had! It’s an extra special place for me now as it’s where I got engaged! Here is a taste of what we got up to in pictures.

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The Danish term ‘hygge’ has quickly been adopted as the perfect phrase to describe all things cosy – the elements of every day life that make you happy, calm and fulfilled. The term encourages you to embrace these simple pleasures and amplify them where possible.

It’s become so widely used that ‘hygge’ has been listed as a ‘word of the year’ by both the Collins and Oxford dictionaries. Caroline Sanderson, a writer for ‘Bookseller’ magazine says it is the most striking publishing trend in recent times, in terms of the sheer number of titles published at once.

Hygge has gone BIG on social media: on Instagram there are almost 1.5m #hygge posts of falling leaves, roaring fires, thick knit blankets and hot chocolate with marshmallows – the list goes on! On Pinterest, there has been a year-on-year rise of 285% in hygge-themed pinning.

In a year that’s set to feel the full repercussions of Brexit, making the most of every day moments that present happiness seems to make sense, if anything it’s a requirement. The notion that it is possible to feel genuinely happier by embracing these moments is surely worth investing in if it can improve quality of life. Hygge is no flash in the pan trend, it’s predicted to stick around and who knows, it could totally rub off on us Brits for the better!

So how can we adopt a hygge lifestyle and put this theory to the test? It doesn’t need to cost a lot of money or take up all your time. There are simple and easy changes you can make to make the most of every day and promote a happy lifestyle.

Start with the every day

Try and get the most out of every day by pinpointing the highs and the lows. What was the highlight of your day? Was it chatting to a colleague? Hitting the gym at lunch? Making time to cook a home-made meal for you and your partner? Reading a new book? Whatever it was, noting these little things that make the working day easier can be key to unlocking extra happiness for you. Equally, taking time to think about what wasn’t great about your day can also be helpful in identifying what you should stop doing or take action to resolve a problem.

It’s important to make some time in the evening for yourself to relax – read a magazine, have a bath, get into your favourite PJs, call a friend, watch your favourite film, anything that can help you switch off from work.

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Make simple changes to your home

By creating a home that you feel save, cosy and really enjoy living in, you will feel so much happier in yourself. The saying ‘it’s the simple things in life that count’ really rings true in this respect. You don’t need to spend a fortune to make a difference, shops such as H&M Home, Zara Home, John Lewis, Next Home, Home Sense and Primark have some lovely bits. If you want to splurge then try Anthropology or White Company. Some of the things i’ve invested in include blankets, good quality candles, vases, photo frames, pictures, serving plates, bowls and new PJs. These are all things that you’ll use and enjoy every single day so worth investing in. Another thing that makes me really happy is fresh flowers – there’s something really special about having flowers in your home. These can be expensive and fake flowers these days can look just as nice – Marks and Spencer do some fabulous one’s, I have some in my living room.

Up your exercise game

It’s no secret that sweating it out in the gym produces endorphins, the main function of this chemical is to cause lasting happiness and satisfaction. Experts say that increasing exercise can have just as good a results as anti-depressants which goes to show how important it is to include in our lives. Making simple changes to increase our step count (we should all aim for 10,000 steps a day) such as taking the stairs or going for a walk at lunch can get you on track. There are so many apps and devices for this, there’s no excuse not to be monitoring your step levels – download one today!

Make a conscious effort at the beginning of every week to decide what classes you’ll go to/when you’ll go to the gym. Book them up in advance, add it to your calendar and stick to it. 

Surround yourself with positive people

The older you get the more you realise how important it is to spend time with positive people –  people who support you and have a positive impact on your life. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” says American entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn. He recommends that you should think about the people you’re spending time with the same way you think about what you’re eating. Some people are ‘takers’, they aren’t invested in your friendship, it’s all about them and they suck energy and time from your life. Think of this the same way you would as eating junk food. Then think about the people you like spending the time with most, what qualities do they have? Do they support you? Do you feel happy and energised when you’re around them? Once you have decided on this make a conscious effort to reduce or eliminate the people who don’t make you feel good. Remember positive’s attract, people will be drawn to you if you give off positive vibes and are confident in yourself.

Key quote:

“Surround yourself with people who make you happy. People who make you laugh, who help you when you’re in need. People who genuinely care. They are the ones worth keeping in your life. Everyone else is just passing through.” – Karl Marx

What things do you do to make yourself happy? Please leave comments below as i’d love to know!

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Perfume: Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia Cologne| Candle: Diptyque, Tubereuse | Mug: Anthropologie | Coaster: Anthropologie | Camera: Olympus Pen EPL7 | Kindle: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite eReader

Fiction

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the whole of 2016 you will have undoubtably heard of Girl on a Train, recently made into a hit movie, it’s a book that’s got everyone talking. I really enjoyed this book, it’s a classic can’t-put-down type – the kind that even though you’re so sleepy you’re eyes are closing you try and force them open to read some more. I won’t go into detail about the plot so as i’m sure you’ll already know the gist but – suspense, drama, murder, mystery and a great twist, it’s all in there – probably my favourite read from 2017.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Shortlisted for the Bailey’s women’s prize for fiction, this is an incredible coming of age novel set in both Nigeria and America. It’s a brilliant exploration of being African in America, giving a true reflection of the sort of life this entails.  An educational and well-crafted read while being warm, moving and compassionate. I would never have read this if my friend hadn’t recommended it last summer, and even then I was sceptical as to whether it was for me. I’m so glad I gave it a go as it has become a true favourite and a book i’ve recommended to many of my friends.

I Let You Go by Claire Macintosh

This read is a little more heart wrenching and takes you on a real journey of self discovery as you follow a woman starting a new life after her little boy is run over during the school run. Another great page turner with a killer twist you won’t see coming. It comes highly recommended.

Cookery

Chiltern Firehouse by Nuno Mendes

My new favourite cook book – this was given to me for Christmas and is such a good read. From the signature crab doughnuts to maple-glazed salmon and frozen apple panna cotta, Mendes delivers recipes of reimagined classics and bold new flavours. The book also covers details on what makes the staff tick including a run down of the sommelier’s favourite wine’s. Read it because you love food or because you want to looks smart at your next dinner party!

Jamie’s Superfood Family Classics by Jamie Oliver

Good old Jamie doesn’t disappoint in his most recent book. I happened to stumble upon this one day while browsing in Sainsbury’s and I have to say – I think it’s his best recipe book yet. It’s great for easy, delicious, healthy recipes ideas. This is probably the cookbook that i’ve made the most recipes from. Ever. That’s quite a statement for me as usually I buy a recipe book, flick through it and then up it goes on the shelf, unlikely to be read agin for a long while. This is definitely my go-to book out of my entire collection.


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Create a reading list

January is a great time to start a list of all the books that you would like to read in 2017. Ask friends and family for recommendations and research topics you’re interested in to compile the perfect list. Kindles can be a good investment, they make travelling so much easier, save on storage in your house and are cheaper than buying from book shops or Amazon. This year I’m setting myself a target of reading two books a month and so far i’m really enjoying it. Making time to read on the daily commute, during a lunch break or before bed is a good way to relax and a nice distraction from a busy day, even if for 5-10 minute!

Catch up with an old friend

Give an old friend a call or set a date to catch up. Our lives are so busy that it’s so easy to loose touch with people. Giving some of your time to replenish an old friendship will not only make you feel good but also show you’re making the effort to invest in them and that’s always appreciated.

Be a tourist in your own city

Spend a weekend enjoying the best your local town or city has to offer. It’s so easy to forget all the fun and enjoyable things right on your doorstep. Make a list of all things you would like to do – it might be going to one of the best restaurants, theatre, shopping, a spa or even exploring an area you haven’t had a chance to discover.

Get new photos developed

We’re all guilty of taking lots of great photo’s on our phone, posting them on various social media but never having them actually printed. Take some time this weekend to select some snaps of your closest friends and family, maybe invest in some new frames and enjoy reliving the special memories every day. It will definitely make you smile.

Get Hygge in your home (pronounced hue-gah)

I know this is a huge trend at the moment, but I definitely think there is something in creating a warm and relaxing environment in your home. Somewhere that you can totally switch off and that fully reflects your style will automatically make you feel good. Hygge describes a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special and I think there is a lot to be said for that. That doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money – the likes of H&M home, John Lewis and Anthropology have great bits and bobs to add character to any home. Researching colour palettes and gaining inspiration from pinterest can also help if you decide to start from scratch.

Buy a new calendar and fill it
Find a calendar that you’ll love to look at throughout 2017 – put it up somewhere you’ll see it every day, I suggest your bedroom or kitchen, then start making plans! Make lots of plans – activities, nights out, dinner parties, trips away, brunch, winter walks, holidays… Make it a year to remember!

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There’s nothing I love more than cosy knitwear, its probably one of my favourite things to wear and over the year’s i’ve begun to invest in some key pieces; from soft cashmere to thick chunky knits and lighter pieces for layering. The older you get you realise the value of good quality knits, staples that you can keep in your wardrobe for years to come and rely on to get you through the colder winter months.

This said, I’ve been doing some research into the best ways to store and care for our knits and have learnt a few new tricks that I thought would be handy to share. In the post I plan on covering everything from hand washing tips to how to keep sweaters fresh and the best way to store them away over the summer months. So let’s get into it…

1| De-bobble your knit

Rather fustratingly, no matter how high quality your knits, you are bound to find the odd bobble or two and instead of trying to pick them off one by one, there is a much easier solution.

Find an old razor, comb, or you could invest in a proper sweater comb and carefully glide it across the garment. Try a patch test first to ensure the technique won’t cause any damage and make sure you are working under good light – working down the jumper following it’s contours and plucking away the unwanted fuzz as you go.

This works amazingly well, especially if you have an older item which is full of bobbles – it’s a great way of restoring life to knitwear and is a technic you could apply to revive any discarded older items or grab yourself a bargain from a charity shop!

For more finely milled items, try a toothbrush instead of a razor.

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2| Wear a layer under your knit 

Wearing a base layer under your jumpers can help keep them much cleaner and also mean they are more comfortable to wear if they are particularly itchy.

I don’t know how many knits i’ve loved, bought but when i’ve gone to wear, they’ve been far too itchy and i’ve had to take them off and often not worn again. It’s such a shame and there’s a really simple  solution – invest in a couple of inexpensive long sleeve tees to wear underneath such as this one from ASOS and away you go…

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3| Take care when hand washing

Cashmere and other delicate materials need a very gentle washing solution such as Woolite which you can get from most supermarkets. It will clean your delicates without stripping it of it’s natural softness, baby shampoo also works well.

Wash in luke-warm water and then leave it soaking for five minutes. Drain and refill with fresh water to get the soap out and take care to gently fold the item into itself when ringing out.

Place the garment onto a clean towel and fold from the bottom up so the towel absorbs all the excess water. Then pop on a drying rack somewhere warm to dry.

You could also use a steamer between washes – this will not only erase the creases but also act as a sanitiser, killing excess bacteria with the heat and getting rid of minimal odours.

If hand-washing isn’t for you, try putting your garments into a pillowcase and then using the delicate wash setting. This has worked for me in the past, but of course runs the risk of shrinking the item so can be a bit of a gamble!

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4|  Vacuum pack for summer storage

If you can, invest some vacuum packs to store away your more luxury and expensive knits over the summer months. This will ensure they are protected against mildew, mould and pesky insects. Make sure they are all clean before packing away. Otherwise store in plastic bags in a cool dry place.

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Et Voila! I hope some of this was helpful for caring for your knitwear, especially if you have received any new pieces for Christmas or in the sales! Let me know how you care for your knitwear and any top tips or tricks. xx

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