January – We all dread the first month of a New Year and I’m no exception. From “new beginnings” to “this year will be different” and New Year’s Resolutions that always seem to get broken half-way through the month, yes January can be both miserable but it can also be inspiring at the same time. However, from the moment the tree and the decorations come down on the 6th, it hits me, those dreaded January blues. It doesn’t matter how optimistic and happy a person you are, you can’t help but feel deflated in January after the fun and the buzz of December and Christmas is over. The weather seems to be even more miserable, the shops are empty, the credit card bills start coming in, what’s there to be cheerful about? It really doesn’t have to be that way if you concentrate on all the good things that a New Year can bring, the power is in your hands to make it a good one. I know how weird this is going to sound – my family call me crazy for this theory but for me, 2018 is an even number and years that have been even numbers generally work out better for me apart from 2012 but we won’t go there. So, this January, I told myself that 2018 will be a good year so I am summing up 2017 and reasons to be cheerful in 2018.
HOW AND WHY I STARTED A BLOG
The biggest thing that happened to me in 2017 was launching my blog in June. It’s something that had been on my mind since 2011 but I just didn’t know enough about blogging or where to start. Sure, I was a social media Queen, so my husband kept telling me, I had Facebook and Twitter at the time, I followed all the hotels and restaurants that I loved including all the Parisian Facebook pages and bloggers. I found myself telling my friends via Facebook where to go to eat, posting about the latest restaurants, what to do in Paris (I’m sure I drove them mad) and sharing my recipes. Cooking and baking have long been passions of mine, I got an A in my ‘O’ Level Home Economics as it was called when I was at school and I didn’t even have to try or revise to get that grade, I’m so proud of that achievement. I use to cook at home, bake, making bread and Danish Pastries were my speciality, in fact, making bread for my exam is what got me an A. I bought and still do all the cooking magazines, Good Food, Delicious, Sainsbury’s and Olive. Over the years, I’d tear out recipes that I liked and organised them into folders. It’s clear that I should have followed this path for a career, food writing, creating recipes and working for a cookery magazine. I’m so happy that my daughter seems to have the same talent and love of cooking as I do and she’s good! Perhaps she might follow a career in food.
Going back to blogging, because I was quite busy at the time working with my husband between 2012-2015, I just didn’t have the time to investigate it further. But then in May 2015, things changed because Andy re-located his business from Amersham (not too far from where we live) to beautiful Henley-on-Thames and I didn’t want to travel that far every day, suddenly I had all this time on my hands and time to think. Never far from my mind was blogging and the desire to learn French so I enrolled in a three month beginners course at AllianceFrancaise in Baker Street. It was hard, but I really enjoyed it and then I started looking into how I could start a blog. Through Twitter and speaking to a friend who was at Uni doing a web design course, I discovered that WordPress was the best platform to use to create the website/blog. Also, through Twitter, I followed this fantastic blog, Silverspoon London and I got chatting with the girl behind that blog Angie Silver. I emailed her constantly and bombarded her with questions from what camera she uses to which hosting company she recommends to a million other things. She very kindly suggested we meet for coffee and it all went on from there, thank you Angie because I couldn’t have done it without you. Angie is still at the end of an email always ready to help and chat, you can follow her bog here.
I also enrolled in a WordPress course in the Autumn of 2016 and I haven’t looked back. Since then, I’ve competed a Further WordPress Course, an SEO (search engine optimisation) course and a Food Writing Course. I’m also planning to go back to City Lit to do a Google Analytics course and start a whole new French Language course, I’m determined to learn this romantic and seductive language that will surely help with my blog and my visits to Paris. If you’re thinking about embarking on a course, CityLit is the place to go to, they’re in Covent Garden and they have a million and one courses so you’re sure to find something to suit.
Looking back, the reason I procrastinated so much is not knowing what direction the blog should take, strictly food? just Paris? or a bit of both? you need to find your niche and stick to it, that would be my advice. My blog is all about Paris and London, where to eat and stay and what to do, I also have a lifestyle section where I blog about random stuff, beauty and of course a category where I can feature my recipes, that’s very important to me. Paris is a huge passion of mine and it always has been, so it was a crucial part of the blog, after 10 visits and counting, I know the city well and throughout 2018, my aim is to travel to Paris more frequently adding content to the blog. I also need to say I am not a 30 something blogger as many are! I’m a woman in her prime, I have 4 children from 23 to 15 and I’ve been married for 26 years, no, I’m not going to reveal my age – unless I’m face to face with you! but you can pretty much guess. I’m proud to be part of a new wave of older bloggers who aren’t “past it” our kids are grown up and we have the freedom to travel and do stuff. We’re still young at heart, enjoy beauty and fashion and have a passion for writing. Blogging is tough at the best of times – it’s even tougher for an older blogger, it’s hard to get noticed, you need to work harder for sure and vlogging? it’s a definite no, no for me unless maybe it’s a cooking tutorial? or uploading a Paris video.
For sure, starting my blog was my biggest achievement in 2017. Launching the blog has seen me visit Paris twice, I’ve stayed at the iconic Savoy Hotel, I’ve had numerous Afternoon Teas from the Savoy to the Dorchester, Café Royal and many others. I’ve had some fantastic Japanese with my Sushi loving daughter and I’ve been to a few other restaurants – not as many as I’d like but I hope that changes in 2018. Partly because my husband is busy expanding his business, he works long hours now and is often home late, it’s stressful but we said we would make more of an effort in 2018 and it’ll be easier once he expands the business. I was also invited on a couple of press events which I’m so grateful for, both were great fun and above all, I’ve discovered a love of writing. My first ever post was all about our wedding anniversary stay at the Savoy which you can read here.
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL IN 2018
The biggest reason to be cheerful in 2018 is my son coming home after two years in South Korea. After he graduated from Manchester Uni in 2015 (with a degree in Politics, Philosophy & Economics) he didn’t want to be one of the many graduates out of work and since he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, he thought he’d go abroad and teach English so with that in mind and picking South Korea as his destination, he packed his bags and off he went in February 2016. He told us in November of that year that he’d extended his contract by another year, although my heart sank, I was happy and excited for him, he was having the time of his life, loved the school and his pupils and had travelled throughout South East Asia. What 21-year-old just decides to take off to a far away country out of his comfort zone? For sure, it’s enriched his CV and by far the best thing he’s ever done, he’s gained so much, grown so much and visited so many interesting places and countries. This experience has been the making of him, he’ll be home sometime in the spring ready to embark on his chosen career. Whatever he decides to do or where he wants to work, the world is his oyster and we’re so proud of him.
A new business venture is on the cards for my husband – this is an expansion of his current business. He’s been working on this since November looking for the right premises within Henley, it’s stressful but it’ll be worth it. He’s excited and nervous at the same time but no one knows the business like he does and I’ve every confidence in him, he’s so ambitious, he puts his everything into his job which has often left him burnt out. I’m excited to see things come together and I am excited for him too.
We’re off to Paris at the end of March! That excites me a great deal, it was a booking we made on a whim, a weekend trip to Paris will be a much-needed change of scenery for both of us and I get to add to the blog. We’re staying in a cheap tiny boutique hotel but has rave reviews. It’s important that I blog about affordable as well as luxurious hotels in Paris to suit everyone’s budget. It’s located within one of Paris’ covered passages and so we’ll be concentrating on that arrondissement. I’ve already made a list of things to do and where to go, I’ll have so much content to add to the blog. I’m really looking forward to the restaurant we’ve booked, it’s one that we’ve visited in London but it’s origins are Parisian. The original was founded in 1946 and still has the same reputation and high standards and that’s of a high-end, expensive and exclusive restaurant. The other, also in the 8th arrondissement is more affordable with the same concept as London branch – their wines and wine parings are a prominent feature of both restaurants. The Paris branch is on fashionable rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, home to many couture designers, you may have guessed where we’re going! The menu is quite different to London branch which is exceptional but it’s Paris, home to exquisite gastronomy so it’s bound to be super amazing.
We’ve decided to spend our 27th wedding anniversary at the Ritz hotel again. We spent our 21st anniversary here in May 2012 but we didn’t eat at the hotel’s restaurant although we did have Afternoon Tea the following day which was stunning. I didn’t have my blog then and remembering what a wonderful time we had at this majestic hotel, I wanted to stay here again. The Ritz is surprisingly reasonable in price, their packages are amazing, the one we’ve chosen means we get to have a bottle of champagne on arrival, enjoy dinner at their iconic restaurant with jazz music and dancing and I also look forward to enjoying some drinks at their Rivoli bar, it has a cosy and intimate ambience and I can’t wait.
Later in the year, with my eldest son back home, the six of us are taking what I consider to be the “last big family holiday” to Cyprus. We’ve not been in nearly 7 years and I wanted us all to enjoy a holiday together one last time, it had to be in Cyprus where my parents come from. Even though my parents live in London, they’re 5 minutes away from me, I still have family in Cyprus. We’re going back to the same hotel we’ve been visiting since 2007, we have many wonderful memories of our holidays at this hotel and the kids really love it there, it’s almost like a home away from home. The language is a problem for them as they don’t speak Greek but with me there, they get to converse with my family and make the most of the island.
I’m planning on a staycation or two, another overnight stay in London perhaps for my birthday as I’d love to review more London hotels and in November, I finally get to take my husband to Barcelona as we postponed his “big birthday” last November. It’s his favourite city and I’ve booked his favourite hotel.
This has been a difficult decision for me, I’m looking for a part time job, yes, the blog is so fulfilling, and it keeps me busy, but I also need to work a few hours a week, the money will be handy too just because I don’t know how long it’ll take to monetise my blog. I know you’ll agree with me, a woman must always have her own income and there’s nothing more un-sexy than be reliant on a man for money. I hope to take the blog further too, I’m having a think about re-organising my categories, perhaps have a book club too, maybe even a cookery book club. I hope to add to my “Beyond Paris” category with Paris based books, restaurants, cafés and delis specialising in French food – it’ll be a taste of Paris on the blog.
There are so many things to be cheerful about in 2018, I understand that people have problems that are sometimes out of their control, some may be facing demons of their own whether that’s the odd “down day” or week to more serious depression or anxiety, I’ve touched on this subject a few times in my blog. It can prevent you from enjoying life but ultimately you can change things if you really want to. Approach things differently, put a positive spin on things, and change your mindset, consequently that can change how your day goes. Take a walk, listen to some music, put some soothing classical music on and meditate, it’s so important for our mental health. Above all, seek medical advice if you’re feeling particularly bad. Confidence is important and with a beach holiday in August, I really do need to make a conscious effort to lose weight and get fit. I’m finding myself back in love with the gym, it’s a work in progress but I’m slowly getting there. I try to go 2-3 days a week using weights and doing a couple of spinning classes a week. I’m walking a lot and eating better, good food has a positive impact on our hormones and general wellbeing and though I tried Veganuary, Veganism is not for me. I’ve adopted better eating habits because of it so that’s one positive that’s come out of Veganuary, for instance, I’ve realised that I don’t need meat, chicken or fish every day. I’ve made some great meat-free dishes which I’ll carry on making Monday to Friday, but my weekends will be to enjoy the odd treat, glass of wine or three and a good roast on a Sunday, everything in moderation, we’ve all heard the annoying saying but it’s true.
I’ve enjoyed writing this post and I hope I’ve inspired you to follow your dreams and make 2018 the year you get out of your comfort zone and do all those things you’ve always dreamed of and promised yourself whatever age you are. February is a lovely month not least because it’s Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) and of course, it’s Valentine’s Day and we all need a little bit of love in our lives…..
Love Helen XxX
If anyone is suffering with depression or anxiety, I share some valuable tips in my October update here drawing on my own experience of this affliction, you’re not alone, there is help out there x