Essence + Alchemy

For me, candles are a rare and special treat. In the whirlwind of my home life, I use them cautiously, worried an excitable moment from my daughter will lead to disaster. I like a lit candle to help me concentrate while I create, which often means candles are tucked into the hours of the day that are just mine. During these darker months, I'm finding that candles begin and end my work days even more than the rest of the year. I seem to work best if I wake a little ahead of my family, slipping downstairs for uninterrupted tea and a catch up on my emails. I will often light a candle to wake my senses and bring me out of my sleep time fog. Then, at the end of a day full of screens and chaos, I like to wind down for 15 minutes or so with knitting on my lap and a sleep inducing scented candle nearby. The gentle flicker and glow really helps me reframe my busy thoughts till I'm finally ready to let go and sleep. 


Recently, I've taken to using Essence + Alchemy to signpost my daily rituals. I had the pleasure of featuring this small batch producer a few months ago when I wrote about them for Project Calm magazine. Impressed by what I read, I reached out to Lesley, the founder, who sent two candles along for me to try. 

At the start of each day I've been enjoying the WINTER BERGAMOT Candle. This is a hand poured candle with a wooden wick that means it crackles a little as it burns, adding to the atmosphere as I sleepily sip my tea and see what I need to get done for the day. All Essence + Alchemy Candles are 100% natural, blending the finest rapeseed wax and pure organic essential oils with no added chemical fragrances or additives. The part I like almost as much as the comforting smell is the fact the vessel is hand blown by a British producer and can be reused after the candle has finished. Although, I'm trying not to dwell on the idea of it being gone. 

WINTER BERGAMOT by Essence+Alchemy

WINTER BERGAMOT by Essence+Alchemy

At night, I use the 'SLEEP' Utility Candles designed with travellers in mind. The candle is poured in a large amber glass jar (also with a woodwick), and comes in a fair-trade sustainable cotton drawstring bag, which can be used to carry your travelling bits in. My favourite moment is unscrewing the lid each day and getting a heady waft of lavender, sage, bergamot and howood. Delicious. 

I'm so thrilled to share a discount code for you here as I think these will make perfect Christmas gifts and totally work with my Shop Small Christmas goals this year. To qualify for 15% off your purchase, please enter code APD15 at checkout. You'll need to move fast thought as Lesley's last orders before Christmas are 12th December 2016. Direct link to the shop here:


Post created in collaboration with Essence+Alchemy who provided both candles. Opinions and words are all my own. All photography Kate O'Sullivan


The Happier Path

I spent a lot of the past few days travelling across Europe so that I could teach a photography workshop at Scheepjes HQ. As is often the case when I travel, I feel a huge urge to write and this weekend was no exception. Sat on a train, bound for the airport, I stared thoughtfully out the window at frost covered fields, blanketed by mist. My mind was sifting through memories that I'd formed with an impressive group of female designers. As always I was enormously struck by the power we hold when we invest in one another. 

Hand lettering quote about women who support one another via Simple Devine Creation

Hand lettering quote about women who support one another via Simple Devine Creation

I consider myself very lucky to have worked my way into a position that I can collaborate with multiple brands and business owners who believe firmly in the power of women and work with them to remove any barriers to their success. Over the past five years I've interviewed 100's of female creators and spoken in front of many rooms full of women determined to shape their own story. Each time, the women who truly impress me the most are those who lead the way.... and bring others with them. These are the women I seek out first when I'm looking for new opportunities or find myself in the position to offer opportunities to others too. If I've noticed you raising up others, I figure you're the kind of person I want to bring good things to. 

There is a lot of people offering business advice out there. They tell me what I'm doing wrong online. They tell me the social media I should be using. They tell me the methods I should be using to reach astronomical levels of followers. For the most part I ignore them and choose story and relationships over strategy every time. For me, when I remove the personal, I remove so much of myself that it's not my business anymore. What's more, I don't feel like I have any real people around me anymore. 

The incredible thing that has happened from this decision is that I have a healthy stream of work. Sure, there's been times I've feared whether or not I will make rent some months. I am, after all, a single parent and need to earn the equivalent of two parents whilst still making sure my daughter feels she has enough love and attention from me. However, I have now reached a point where I can work with some of the best women in the business because I value what they do. It's not always easy to carve out and establish your place in an online world but it is possible. What's more, we can make our businesses work without trampling over one another to grab an opportunity. 

Just a few of the Scheepjes crew this weekend. Image courtesy of Dedri

Just a few of the Scheepjes crew this weekend. Image courtesy of Dedri

When we host our businesses online we can often fall into a trap of comparing ourselves unfavourably to others. We can experience a fear of missing out or being left behind. Dare I say it, we may even feel resentful and jealous of others seemingly effortlessly won success. Stopping for a moment though and reflecting on the valuable alliances we have formed and the way we have shaped our lives through the hands we held and doors we opened on the way? That's a pretty powerful thing. I will often decline an invitation to work for free in return for exposure. Yes I believe my skills should be valued but mostly I fear for the next woman behind me trying to earn from her online life too. 

So after a weekend of observing the loving nurture women can bestow on one another and how it has boosted their potential earnings, I am minded once again to take stock, be thankful for my girl gang and say, if you're reading this and trying to workout how to make it all work running your own business? You've got this and we're right behind you. Hold hands. It's the happier path  xx

Social Action For Everyone

Dawn. A high pitch scream from my daughter's room jolts me awake. Gently, I lift her from bed and coo gently in her ear. I carry her to my bed, tucking her next to me on the mattress. I stroke away the bad dream and watch as her breathing slows once more. Her brow is hot and sweaty. Tendrils of curls are stuck to her temples. I turn my attention to the notifications showing with increasing urgency on my phone. 

It's not good news. 

In those dark hours before light begins to creep into my room I work hard to organise my thoughts about our newly elected world leader. I try hard to bite down the rising panic I feel as I watch my daughter slumber, genuinely afraid for a world that continues a relentless march towards the right. These are not my family values. This is not a world I wish her to witness. 

Social Action for Everyone

I sift through my timelines and quickly see that people feel powerless and abandoned. People want someone or something to blame. They're scared and angry and I understand. I saw it here in the UK in June. There are many reasons that people in the UK voted in such an inwardly looking way, leaving us with a government that views me as homeless because I identify as a citizen of the world. It is not for me to shame someone for their voting choice though and I'm trying hard to work on my responses and understanding of why people have made the choices they have. I'm learning that not all these choices are clear cut. 

Since June I've begun taking action. Realising that I lived in an echo chamber of my own political views, I enrolled in several community projects. I wanted to take positive action in supporting some of the people I was concerned were becoming more marginalised and vulnerable. It's also hard to condemn those who voted differently to me (and that's the majority where I live) when I'm working side by side to improve our local school's inclusion programme, for example.

However, this is not about people who other than their voting choices are pretty much the same as me. This is about difference that runs far deeper than that. In one of the sessions I ran recently about inclusion, a colleague admitted that she often shies away from diversity for fear of getting it wrong. Gently, I asked what her silence communicated to people of colour, to those who did not have the same set of beliefs or sexuality that she did. Together we looked for questions she feared to ask and then we talked about where we would find the answers. It was a good lesson for me too if I'm honest. If we are asking, perhaps our children are too and more than ever, I want them to find the right answers. 

Social Action for Everyone

I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I could move forward in a way that is helpful to the biggest number of people I can be of help to. I've turned my attention to my own social media and podcast and the messages that I convey on a regular basis. I've thought hard about some of the stories I wish to tell next season. Will they be reflective of the global community I currently live in? 

I am as responsible as the next person to make this world feel like a safe home to everyone. One thing I've already learned these past few months is that by stepping outside of my bubble and listening as well as acting whenever possible, I feel less powerless. I can start with me and if I'm lucky, that ripple of change will grow. For example, I can share some of the brilliant things I've discovered online that you can be a part of today if you're feeling powerless too:

1. What to do if you witness a hate crime

2. This brilliant advice about how to be an ally if you're white came up again as it should, because it's important

3. Be clear that your place of business is a safe and accepting refuge for every community member with these transfers. 

4. The Brandjamming Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (Lego listened!)

5. Consider donating time or money to some of these causes if you're concerned about people in our communities. 

Toni Morrison Quote

It might be time to go to work and you know what? I'm ready. 

See you for Season 4?


Grown: Sophisticated Sweater Designs

10 sweater designs from a trusted knitwear designer? Yes. Let's get into THAT because it's cold and my knit fever is strong right now. 

Grown by Kate Oates

I've known knit designer Kate Oates of Tot Toppers for a few years now. I've read her blog and smiled at each new design as it released. I like her tendency to design things that don't need much finishing. Some would say that I'm a lazy knitter but I just like to say energy efficient and if it looks good, I'm ok with keeping it fuss free. In my mind Kate has always been a childrenswear designer but all that changed recently when she wrote an email, inviting me to be a part of the Grown blog tour. 

Grown is a collection of 10 raglan-style sweater designs with very little finishing and sewing. Each design was inspired by an original Tot Toppers pattern which means you could knit something for your entire family if you wished. The designs have been thoughtfully 'matured' so that they are flattering for adult figures and include options for customising. The collection is beautifully shot on a range of models so you get a different flavour with each design. I like this method actually as it means I don't get stuck on a collection only working for one particular person. It helps me to visualise how it might work for my knitting needs. 

My top pick from the collection is the Scholar Cardigan. I have a thing for these deeply collared, ribbed sweaters for men, children and women alike. This just ticks all the right boxes for me. I'm not going to lie, I want a slightly unisex version with elbow patches. Those elbow patches should be leather if you're wondering. 

Scholar Cardigan by Kate Oates of Tot Toppers
Scholar Cardigan by Kate Oates of Tot Toppers

Is it ok to say I'm completely in support of how preppy this pair are? I have a sudden urge to swap out my usual boxy style and get college cute all over again. If I wasn't in too big a rush to do that though, I'd probably play it safe with a sweater that I think was designed just for me, the Sidewalk Sweater. 

Sidewalk Sweater by Kate Oates

This is a great collection with plenty of options for different body types and if you're a hand dyed yarn fan, this will help you scratch that itch in terms of yarn suggestions. Here's all the important links if you want to check out more:

With thanks to Kate for kindly sending me an ecopy of her new collection for review purposes. Opinions and ideas expressed here are my own.