Entering a magazine writing competition was something I never thought I’d do. If you’re thinking of doing it – here’s why you should go for it. 

A Glamour Magazine Dream: The Perfect Prize and the Losing Entry

The UK’s leading lifestyle magazines regularly run competitions and giveaways for luxurious beauty products, limited edition fashion accessories or trips of a lifetime, but they rarely run competitions to see your article in print. When I saw Glamour magazine was offering up resident columnist Dawn O’Porter’s full page of prime space within its glossy sheets, I thought: “This. Is. It.”

After toying with a few ideas, I set to work on an article that seemed to fit the brief of ‘a lesson to live life by,’ as well as suiting the Glamour mag readership and my own aspirations as a writer. Unfortunately, this opportunity wasn’t the one for me (*sniffle) and Lucy Florence Wilson‘s honest and inspiring article was picked as the rightful winner. Still, not to throw mine in the bin in a tantrum, I thought I would share it with you lovely people right here! So here  it is, the first article I wrote for press (rejected) that is also the story of the inspiration for me starting The B-Line. 

Photo by Tai Jyun Chang on Unsplash

Childish dreams are not for the fainthearted

A gymnast, a police officer, a witch and an archaeologist. This isn’t the start of a joke; these are a few of my dream jobs from my childhood. 

All of them are really respectable career choices (maybe less so the witch, and you can blame that extraordinary teen, Sabrina for that one), but I ended up in PR. Now don’t get me wrong; PR is also a very respectable career choice, but believe it or not, it was never something I played make-believe about as I was growing up. So what happened to all those dreams? And is that all that they were, just dreams? 

In today’s fast-paced society it’s easy to get bogged down with sticking to the path that’s laid out in front of you. But what would happen if you reached a fork in the road and wanted to head off in an exciting new direction? Do you have the guts to jump tracks without being able to see what’s ahead?

Well I did exactly that, and it sure felt gutsy at the time. I had a steady career, working alongside interesting and talented people with the opportunity to grow. So what did I do? I quit. And with no other job to go to, I might add. It sounds drastic, and it was, because I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for. I just knew that if I wanted to live a dream life, to create my own path, then I needed to make a big change and fast.

So I set out as a freelance copywriter and content marketer with the aim to only work with brands that I bloody loved. And being freelance is great – you can catch the gym when its dead quiet and Skype calls in bottom half pyjamas always feels satisfyingly smug. There are also plenty of sucky days to be had as a freelancer too to keep you nicely grounded: such as maintaining a steady cash flow (current challenge). But on the good days, the days when you make a real, positive impact on someone else’s business, it can give you a buzz that makes you literally want to fist-pump the air. It’s helped me experience my ultimate high in self-worth, as well as my ultimate low – because working alone means your success is all on you.

What going freelance also showed me was just how passionate I was about writing. With more freedom to manage my time I was able to take evening and online classes in creative writing. I started my own blog. I’m writing this article right now for goodness’ sake!

Being a published writer is now my new dream. A couple of years ago I could have passed this ambition off as a childish whim, unnecessary to my career path. For now, I can only hope that by continuously putting myself out there, something good will come from it. After all, you only get out of life what you put in – the world owes you nothing, honey.

So, on that note, I would recommend letting your inner childhood dreamer speak out occasionally – listen to what she has to say. Her innocence to the world can only mean that her hopes are pure. Be as true to her as she was to weaving your dreams, and that way you never have to look back on life with any regret.

I may not be able to perform a double backflip with a half twist, or identify thousand-year-old fossils or even change my outfit simply by pointing a magical finger, but you know what? I’m happy and I hope I never stop dreaming, ever.

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Career Crush: Travel, Work and Friendship

The summer time for many people means that the holiday you booked and planned months in advance is finally near. You get to go out and purchase new swimwear, research the best beaches and finalise your travel itinerary. 

We do this because let’s face it; work sucks. Holidays are when you switch off the work email and have fun with friends. But what if your holiday was your job, and your work colleague was your best mate? And you basically got paid to travel? Whaaaaaat?

Well that’s what Natasha Oakley and Devin Brugman, or Tash and Dev as they call themselves, have achieved with absolute perfection, with their blog and brand, A Bikini A Day

A Bikini A Day Back Story 

It doesn’t sound like it was much of a rough starting point to the average girl living in the North East England as such, but it’s definitely a small-time to big-time success story. So, Tash and Dev were living and working in Hawaii shooting look books and videos for local swimwear brands. Sounds like a pretty good job so far, right?

Then they went travelling but kept their connections with the swimwear brands and started sharing pictures wearing said bikinis on the relatively new social network, Instagram. They took this simple idea and turned it into a fully fledged blog with travel and swimwear related content and named it, A Bikini A Day. Amassing a huge following this hobby quickly became a full-time job for both women.

A Day in the Bikini Life

OK so a comparison here would be helpful…

My social media: A snap of my lunch, quick video of my dogs and possibly a picture of my trip to the gym for good measure. 

Their social media: exclusive fashion party in the Hamptons, photoshoot on a beach in Turks and Caicos and definitely boat trips off the Amalfi coast. (I would love to share tons of their pictures but can’t because they aren’t my pics to share! – So head to their Instagram here or I have embedded a few Tweets of theirs throughout). 

This might make some people envious or slightly irritated. But these women are always working. The difference is they have managed to carve a career out of doing something they love and other people want too. In Tash’s own words:

“It’s a full-time, all-consuming job to be constantly creating content.” – Harpers Bazaar, 2016

Moral of the story is: find something you love and turn it into something that’s useful to other people too. 

A Blog that Works

With an endless stream of the type of share-worthy content everyone loves; from bikini reviews and healthy recipes, to the best suncreams and stylish beach bags, A Bikini A Day is a blog designed to fuel the ultimate traveller day dream. 

Starting out as photographers and bloggers themselves, Tash and Dev have continued to shoot and edit their own blog content, even with an audience well into the millions, located all across the globe. 

Making Waves

Tash and Dev now have their own bikini brand; Monday Swimwear. The reason for the name..?

“Because when you’re in a bikini on a Monday, you’re having a good day.” – Monday Swimwear

Fair play. As bikini experts they have managed to source the best fabrics in mix and match shapes and sizing to suit a variety of body shapes (only up to size 16 though I would mention as a downfall). But I really want one. They price at around £120 though, so this is unlikely for me. They also launched an activewear range; Monday Active and have multiple design collaborations with brands including Guess, Revolve and over in the UK, Missguided

Travel and Life Inspiration

If you’re looking for travel inspiration, or even if you have just booked a holiday, don’t forget to check in with A Bikini A Day blog as they have lots of tips for the best products for skin and hair protection in the sun as well as unique places to visit. Plus, if you have started working on a project with a friend that you love, just look at how it’s turned out for Tash and Dev – anything is possible. Dream big, work hard and have fun.

30 Things To Do After 30 – A Bucket List for Grown Ups

For most people, the bucket list is reserved for before you turn thirty. Everyone seems to want to cram everything in before this milestone birthday to feel that renowned sense of achievement. But why? What happens when you turn thirty?  

30 things to do after 30

When the hotel tries to romance you on your birthday. 

I turned thirty on 4th June and I spent the first few hours hungover in Palma airport with a cut knee, waiting for a second flight having missed my first (in my defence it was also my hen do). In this moment I realised I am not quite the person I expected to be at age thirty. However, having got over my hangover and made it safely back to the UK I have since realised I’m totally fine with that – and not just in a Ross from Friends kind of way – genuinely content. 

30 things to do after 30

View from my balcony in Palma (my hen / 30th holiday)

I never made an official bucket list before I turned thirty – so I’m doing one now and it doesn’t have a time limit, so feel free to pinch some ideas if you are looking to also create a no-pressure-bucket-list. So here it is  – my bucket list, after 30 – including travel experiences, goals for personal improvement and plenty of life ideas that are just plain sensible. 

30 Things To Do After 30

  1. Write a book. 
  2. Write a blog for Huffington Post.
  3. Learn to surf in a surfers paradise e.g. Hawaii, Gold Coast, Malibu… etc
  4. Win a bet in Las Vegas. 
  5. See the pyramids in Egypt.
  6. Learn another language.
  7. Quit smoking.
  8. Be a success in my own right (i.e. actually consider myself successful career-wise).
  9. Have a child or two. And raise them well. (Note to mum: remember this has no time limits). 
  10. Raise money for charity and / or give time to charity. 
  11. Eat sushi in Tokyo.
  12. Fly something better than economy class. I’m realistic: it might not be ultra first class, but a step up would be great. 
  13. Get really fit. Stay fit. 
  14. Save some money. Spend it on something worthwhile. 
  15. Read lots of the classics (in addition to all the other crap I read). 
  16. Swim with sharks in the Maldives. (This was a childhood one and I am already regretting adding it). 
  17. Go white water rafting in Canada. (Another one from childhood but I would do this tomorrow. Can you say: ‘The River Wild?’)
  18. Salsa dance in Havana. 
  19. Spoil my partner with an expensive gift or lavish holiday. 
  20. Learn to play guitar. (I own a guitar but don’t know how to play it. Got the first step down, just need the main step covered now).  
  21. Buy a piece of art that makes me feel happy.
  22. Print and frame lots of family and friend photos.
  23. Ruthlessly clear out entire wardrobe. And general possessions. If you haven’t used it in the last year – bin it (or charity shop of course). 
  24. Say ‘yes’ more. Events, gigs, holidays, a night out – whatever it is just saying yes could lead to so much more. 
  25. Call friends and family more. 
  26. Be an absolutely awesomely badass auntie (nephew coming soon…).
  27. Make fresh pasta. Ohhh yeahh.
  28. Deep clean the house more regularly. Not just when guests come. 
  29. Be more knowledgable about politics and world news. 
  30. Take my make up off every night. 

30 things to do after 30

Buy more flowers for the home? Nearly made the list, but that’s a job for other people. Like when it’s your birthday. 

The point is, turning thirty has not been a big deal, but it has made me realise how much more important it is to collect memories instead of things. So having a bucket list might just help me on my way to pursuing a fulfilling life – or at least, one without regret. 

What’s on your bucket list?

This Girl Can – and Phenomenal Women Will

Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign sparked a conversation a year ago that hasn’t stopped. It returned to our TV screens and social media a week ago and is already having phenomenal impact – especially with it’s new message to women; that it’s OK to start again. 

You’ve got two burpees left and your legs feel like two planks of wood, but you’re not stopping when every single person at the bootcamp is screaming your name. You sit down at the leg press machine at the gym and today, you’re going to push yourself a little more, so you move the metal pin down a notch pressing the heaviest weights you ever have *smug face. There’s never enough hours in the day, but a quick run around the block is better than nothing at all, so you go for it and with your short window, you actually achieve a personal best… 

This Girl Can

Lydia, 29, hated P.E., loves roller derby.

This Girl Can – but how do you get there?

Working out can fill you with an enormous sense of pride and achievement, but what about if you stop? When you stop for a week, a week can easily become a month and a few months all of sudden can become a year. The impending doom felt walking back into that class, gym or just stepping out solo on the tarmac, is enough to weigh heavy on anyone’s shoulders. Quite frankly, it’s awful. 

I used to go to dance school three or four times a week plus doing sports at school. During uni and my working life I’ve tried a few different things; I tried the gym and even going to dance classes again. But the gym was a whole new world of intimidating machinery and dancing felt embarrassing as I couldn’t do anything I was able to do all those years ago. Group classes at the gym were tough and without even a basic fitness level, (I smoke cigarettes and drink wine like it’s water) I started telling myself I needed to go to the gym alone before starting again at a group class, just to make sure I could do it (excuses, excuses). 

This Girl Can – and it’s OK to feel nervous

When I looked into the latest campaign for This Girl Can, I was actually relieved to see so many other people shared this feeling of anxiety about getting back into working out (not that I want people to feel anxious, but it’s nice to know you’re not alone).

“Many of the women we’ve featured talk about stopping, then starting again. It can feel like the hardest thing in the world to return after a few weeks off, when you fear you’ve lost ground or fitness, but we want to surface this as a discussion point, to say it’s normal to take a break, but that needn’t stop you for good.”

 – Sport England chief executive Jennie Price, Feb 2017

This year, I have a motivating factor that I’m getting married and I just want to be fitter and healthier. So I’ve started learning kickboxing, because I need something that keeps me focused on learning something new (running on a treadmill is mind-numbing to me). My partner and I also do a weekly strength and conditioning session together with our trainer. Plus, I’m starting to get into weights more at the gym in my own time. 

So I’ve finally found my way back to sport and more than anything I feel like me again. I always considered myself a busy and active person, and now I really am, plus I’m aiming to be the fittest I’ve ever been. Because, why not? 

This Girl Can

This Girl Can – and she’s going to make waves

Sport England has returned with it’s latest advert for the This Girl Can campaign to keep the positive momentum going and to continue to inspire and connect with a female audience – because believe it or not there is still a big gender gap in sport participation. 

“…the job is far from done. With a gender gap of 1.73 million fewer women playing sport compared to men, we need to keep getting the message out there that women come in all shapes and sizes and levels of ability, and they should all feel able to exercise and play sport.”

– Sport England chief executive Jennie Price, Jan 2016

This year, the target age demographic has widened; originally targeting 14-40 year olds, this year’s campaign focuses on 14-60 year olds. If the success of the original campaign is anything to go by, with a whopping 2.8 million women saying they did more sporting activity as a result of the campaign, (Sport England, Feb 2017) then this year’s is set to inspire even more, including that older demographic.

this girl can

Sue, 67, cold water gives her a buzz.

Just check out 67-year-old Sue who enjoys cold water swimming (!) To overcome the anxiety of getting back into something, or even starting something new, maybe consider what motivates you to be active then find the right activity to suit your lifestyle – there’s so much out there to choose from! There’s everything from aerial trapeze to rave trampolining, but cold water swimming is absolutely not for me. I couldn’t possibly think of anything much worse, but props to anyone that chooses to do this! 

This Girl Can – and nothing will stop her

Personally, I have always whinged about going to fitness classes. My mum used to tell me as she pushed me towards the car, “you’ll be fine when you get there” (a phrase that covered a multitude of foot-stomping situations, see also: ‘getting to school when feeling sick’). But I always was fine. In fact, I was more than fine, I was really happy. So take the advice from my mum, because ‘Mum knows best’ and tell yourself, ‘you’ll be fine when you get there.’ Then you can feel extra surprised when you feel phenomenal when you’re done. 

This Girl Can – watch the full advert

 Click to watch the full 2017 This Girl Can advert from Sport England.

Featuring words by Maya Angelou and soundtrack by Beth Ditto. 

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YOU’RE FULLY ENGAGED, WEDDING TARGET IS LOCKED IN

I am engaged. It’s a wonderful, yet strange feeling. One I haven’t quite fully comprehended yet. I have a fiancé!! (I haven’t quite managed to say that word yet without sounding like Del Boy attempting a French accent).

I feel a bit guilty though because I’m sure you are supposed to feel completely elated to the point of skipping and singing everywhere you go, and don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly happy and lucky to be Peter’s wife one day, but my issue is solely to do with… “The Wedding”.

Getting engaged is the fun part; you have a movie-perfect, surprising and romantic moment with someone you adore, you get a serious bit of jewelry, and everyone is really nice to you for at least a couple of weeks with cards and gifts etc – it’s like a really good birthday.

But then come the questions; “when are you planning the wedding for?” “What sort of venue do you think you’ll pick?” “Are you getting married here or abroad?” “Thinking summer or winter wedding?”

I’m told many people – women in particular – have a vision of their wedding right from being a child. I have not. I think I’ve probably imagined a wedding several times throughout my life, particularly after meeting Peter, but the vision is forever changing, much like Madonna’s style, if you please. So now that it is here and it’s a reality I feel lost as to what to do or even where to start.

I also get anxiety when I think about the number of people attending, seating arrangements, who comes to the day event or the night event and even who will be part of our actual wedding party.

I’m renowned for struggling to make a decision; even choosing which flavor packet of crisps I want can be a laborious task (one of the many reasons I’m thankful for Peter; his patience). I also worry a lot about what other people will think, which is why the thought of letting anyone down with my wedding is terrible.

Maybe I just need to think of a wedding as not such a bit deal; its just one day – sign some papers, get pissed, go home. Then it won’t stress me so much. But it is a big deal, isn’t it? Possibly one of the most important days of your life…?!

Luckily, I’m marrying someone who is very grounded and rational. Peter doesn’t worry about what others think and wouldn’t let something so personal stress him out.

In fact, I think I’ll just let him plan it. Ooh maybe we can do it through ‘Don’t Tell the Bride?!’

Problem solved.

anna sheffield engagement ring

Anna Sheffield ‘Bea’ engagement ring suite