It’s been a while hasn’t it and some of you have written in to ask why I haven’t been doing Midlife Lately. The thing is that for me, this is not a job. As I’ve always said, I started Midlifechic primarily as a personal journal so that I could leave a record that my future great grandchildren might read. I was inspired to start writing after reading through boxes of family letters that I discovered after my mum died. For the first time, I could ‘hear’ the voices of the great grandparents that I never met and it gave me an incredible insight into their daily lives, hopes and struggles. For the first few months of blogging I had very few readers and so it was easy to talk about very personal subjects on here – nobody who knew me read my blog. I never imagined that Midlifechic would grow to be as big as it has – and that means that there are now other people’s feelings to consider.
You all know what happened to our family at the beginning of October. Since then it has felt insensitive to talk about my normal life rolling on when for others who are close to me, life will never be the same again. I needed to find a way of maintaining a dialogue with you because it’s something that I really enjoy, however for a while I wanted to balance that carefully with everything else. Two months have now passed and it feels as though it’s ok to start sharing real life again. I’m not saying that everyone has suddenly recovered but some of the raw shock has abated; my mum-in-law is still really, really struggling though.
All the way back to Hallowe’en
So, let’s catch up – and I warn you, it’s a long one. October is a blur. As you know we took a lot of time off which meant that we then had to work very hard to catch up. One of the good things about running your own business is that you have the flexibility to take time out when you need to but (hopefully) the work doesn’t go away and so then you have to work twice as hard when you’re back.
All of our plans for half term were cancelled but we did take some time out with the boys. It was the first time for a while that the younger two were at home for Hallowe’en rather than out at a party or Trick or Treating so we spent a therapeutic afternoon carving pumpkins. “Look fierce” they said – so I did!
Striped Jumper; Boden jeans past season; Finery boots past season
Of course it’s their dad who is the creative lead and helps them to bring their visions to life….
… and the youngest was determined that his ‘sick’ pumpkin should be included here for posterity.
Having the eldest around
One of the nice things is that we’ve had all three boys at home this term. I didn’t want to mention it back in September because I knew a few of you were struggling with the beginning of the university term but our eldest was so absorbed in his year at Nike that he completely forgot to organise accommodation for his final year. It means he has two long bus journeys there and back but after a year of commuting in London it hasn’t been too bad. I think he’s managed to get a room on campus for next term but it’s been lovely having him here. Even though he’s out all day (in fact often all night too) his sunny face appears in time for dinner every so often.
Mr MC and I arrived home late last night to find crutches in the hall. Rugby! However I was thrilled this morning to see that his Movember moustache and beard had disappeared. He raised over £500 for the charity which is brilliant but I’m very grateful to a certain young lady he met on a night out this week – whoever she was, she convinced him that it needed to go!
The middle one…
It’s an exciting time for the second born. His UCAS form is in and we’re starting to get audition dates – thank you to everyone who sent advice about Drama Courses and Acting Schools, it was unbelievably helpful. I suspect that this year might be a practice year because the whole process seems so complex and competitive but we’ll see how it goes. In the meantime he’s spending all of his spare time out in the woods with a couple of friends filming a comedy series so it’ll be interesting to see how that turns out! I have to say we had so much fun with him going to the open days that I wouldn’t mind doing it again next year.
Planting the future
As you know, autumn and winter are not my favourite seasons and so I’ve been thinking ahead to spring. On the day before he started primary school when he was a pliable four year-old, I set the youngest to work with spring bulbs which he planted all around the garden and it means it’s extra special when I see them bloom. Over the years though some of them have failed so I tasked him with planting some more (and yes he was a bit reluctant but he got over it). The first flowers of spring will forever be linked to him.
So October was a quiet, introspective month for us as a family. November was busier. You’ve already seen some of the events such as the Amazing Women Awards and one of the business dinners we went to. With Mr MC’s increasing community involvement we’re finding that we have a lot of things to go to so you’ll see more of them coming up over the next two years. This was another dinner – I wore the same dress but here it is again:
This was the opening of the ice rink that I mentioned. If you go to the wonderful old city of Lancaster, they’ve iced over one of the main Georgian squares and it really is lovely – I won’t say Dickensian because I’d be mixing my eras but it’s the epitome of a traditional small town Christmas.
M&S ski jacket SS18
London and work related stuff
I’ve been up and down to London a few times. Mr MC usually gives me a lift to Lancaster so I can get a fast train and because I like to be early for everything there’s usually time for us to have a coffee before I go. When it was lighter we could get an outfit shot like this one but now it’s still pitch black when my train pulls away.
Red and navy appears to be my fallback combination for work at the moment. When I had a catch-up meeting with Baukjen a few weeks ago they invited me to choose a couple of pieces from their current collection. I always think very carefully when I’m given an opportunity like this because Baukjen’s strength lies in the cut and cloth of their items (I’m working hard to encourage them away from black so hopefully we’ll soon be able to add colour to that list). Because of this, I skip over the fashion forward pieces and go for things that will have a place in my wardrobe for years to come. I opted for the lace wrap dress that you’ve already seen and this coat with its chic military styling. It’s a coat for life.
My London trips are usually just for meetings or consultancy work but last week I went to a couple of blogger events too. I’m amazed by how much the over 40 blogging community has exploded this year. I should call it the influencer community because most of them are Instagrammers rather than bloggers but I don’t like being called an influencer. It’s fascinating watching the Instagrammers in action though – they tend to arrive with a wheelie suitcase that has at least three outfits inside. They then get changed during the event and ask someone to take outfit photos so that they have a flow of new images for their feed. It must take so much shopping and outfit planning – it’s a good thing that I’m not an Instagram fan because I’d never make it!
Anyway I want to tell you about the best afternoon tea that I’ve experienced in London. It was hosted by JD Williams at One Aldwych and it had a Charlie and The Chocolate Factory theme. Charlie is a name that is particularly close to my heart and the book always has been too so they had my attention as soon as we arrived. They did the usual ‘gone in a bite’ Southern sandwiches thing but then… came this!
Now as you know I love a pudding and from left to right we had a mini trifle, gingerbread on sticks with popping candy, golden chocolate eggs filled with white chocolate mousse, candy floss and malted milkshakes (you can see a lonely pixie-sized sandwich on the right too). It was all served with this winter whisky cocktail:
It isn’t often that I rave about a London afternoon tea, I often find them to be a lot of fluff and not much flavour or substance. However if you have a sweet tooth, this one is pure joy. Another highlight of the event was finally meeting Beth Goodrham from StyleGuile. Beth’s is one of the few blogs that I still read and have done since the beginning. We sometimes chat over Instagram so it was a real pleasure and… we both have great taste in skirts – as does StripeyCoral!
The next day I had a breakfast meeting followed by a couple of press shows – it’s so very cheering seeing all of the summer clothes on the rails. Then I popped into Selfridges for a wistful wander round and coffee with Marie-Louise who has a PR agency and is one of two bloggers behind The F Club blog. She was working in fashion PR when I was at Selfridges so we had a really good chat about life back then and how things have changed.
A night away
We’re nearly up to date now. This brings us to last weekend when we were invited to spend a night at Storrs Hall in Windermere. Now in the interests of clarity, I was invited to stay free of charge with no obligation to write a review. I get a lot of offers like this and they sound lovely in principle but there’s often a long drive involved however this was only 25 minutes away. As usual, Mr MC and I have hardly seen each other recently – any time we’ve had together has been based around the functional (work or the boys) so it came at just the right time.
There are over a thousand hotels in The Lake District and I find that the vast majority tend to fall into one of three categories: the hotel that hasn’t changed since 1982; the hotel that has had a soul destroying corporate makeover and the hotel that has had an urban gentrification job. I think the hotels in the last category are my least favourite and yet they tend to win all of the awards.
Thankfully Storrs Hall didn’t fall into any of my categories, it was an absolute delight. This is turning into a long post so I’m not going to go into too much detail but one of the reasons that it’s held onto its soul is that it’s family owned. This isn’t a shot from last weekend obviously but I didn’t have a drone to hand(!)
It feels like somebody’s country home…
…. the décor is authentic rather than chi-chi country style and it’s slightly shabby but in a good way (I was munching on a freshly baked chocolate cookie that they’d brought with the coffees).
There are beautiful architectural details, the bar was rescued from The Winter Gardens in Blackpool during the 1940s…
… the restaurant has two AA rosettes…
and the views are incredible (even when covered in mist)…
… and lastly, Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter often used to visit Storrs Hall for parties (not together though, that’s not a literary exposé because their dates didn’t coincide!).
So often hotel rooms are underwhelming but this one certainly wasn’t (Room 3 if you’re booking). Eclectically furnished, it has three large windows overlooking the lake. Even though it was December we kept one window fully open all night just so we could enjoy the fresh air.
The bathrooms was one of the best I’ve seen in a UK hotel. A walk-in shower with multiple jets, a large, double-ended bath with TV, two large basins, Molton Brown toiletries and underfloor heating.
In true Lake District style it rained all Saturday and so we just relaxed in front of a roaring fire with the newspapers (they had them all there).
Katya from tiny brand Bombshell London had sent me one of her latest designs and I knew that it would be perfect for dinner here. The tartan was just right for stately home style. I was amazed by the response it got on Instagram and I’m wondering if people are getting a little tired of seeing endless floaty midis.
As I’ve said before, Katya knows how to flatter a woman’s body. Note how the V-neck reveals the clavicles but there is no cleavage on show. The tops of the arms are concealed and narrowed by the angle of the capped sleeve (a long sleeved version is available too). It’s also just the right length – I’m not keen on my knees and so I’m happiest when they’re covered.
Dinner was lovely and we liked the fact that you could order very good wine in a 500ml carafe so we could change our wine with our courses. At the end of the evening we had the drawing room to ourselves and so we pulled our chairs up to the roaring fire and for a while, pretended it was ours.
The following morning we had a really good, freshly cooked breakfast – so often these days you have to help yourself from stewing tureens. And then we went out for a much shorter walk than we’d planned because the mists were still down.
So I can honestly say I recommend Storrs Hall with all my heart. It’s grand and yet cosy at the same time. It feels true to itself and Mr MC has decided that it’s his new favourite place for us to escape to (previously it was The Punch Bowl but we’re finding it’s becoming a bit too pretentious). They have a few offers on here including Twixmas – now there’s a thought…
Wearing ‘that’ dress
And that brings me up to this week. A little while ago our friends from Hope asked me to review their new Power Foundation dress but then it was featured in The Daily Mail and it sold out overnight. They photographed it on women ranging from size 8 to 18 and it looked good on everyone. You can read the feature and an interview with each woman who wore it here.
After that, a reader got in touch to tell me that she’d bought one and I must feature it. She said she’d cried when she put it on because she felt better about herself than she had for years so when it came back into stock, Hope lent me one to show you and this is how it looks on me.
Now I’m feeling annoyed with myself at the moment because I’m at the heaviest end of the weight I allow myself to be. I usually make a point of being at least 6lbs lighter than this at the beginning of December but life has been a bit out of control (and as I read through this post I realise I’ve been wholeheartedly enjoying the events I’ve been to as well). Despite that, this dress really did make me feel good. The Power Foundation fabric pulls you in where you need pulling in and pushes you up where you need pushing up. I choose not to worry about my arms as you know but if you don’t like yours, the sheer sleeves have just the right opacity to conceal and reveal.
Hope have a partywear offer running this weekend and so the dress has 30% off – if you want one be quick before it sells out again. Don’t forget they’re a very small brand so this truly is feel good fashion.
I’ve had reports of two technical issues that we haven’t been able to solve so I wondered if any of you could help. The first is with people whose home broadband is provided by Vodafone – they’re not seeing images and the links don’t work. I know one of you (Sarah F was it you?) had the same problem and your son did something to your settings -if you know what the solution was, please could you jot it down in the comments or email me. We’ve tried contacting Vodafone but they were as much use as the proverbial chocolate teapot.
The other issue is that a couple of non-Vodafone readers have suddenly stopped seeing images altogether. Is this happening to anyone else? We’ve tried pushing smushing technology through the site to reduce the size of everything but it doesn’t seem to have helped. Does anyone out there have any ideas?
If there are any other technical bugs please could you let me know – I’ll be taking time off over Christmas and so I can commission work on the site then while it’s quiet if necessary.
So now it’s Friday and I’ve turned down the opportunity to go to one of Mr MC’s Christmas lunches. It’ll go on late, we’ve been out every night this week and we have a week full of events ahead so I’m staying at home by the fire with sole control of the remote! It’s been good to catch up with you and I’m sorry it’s been so long but I hope you understand. If you’re still reading you must do so thank you for not being a fairweather friend. Normal service has now resumed and I’ll be back with a (probably rather weary) Midlife Lately update next Friday.
Disclosure: ‘Midlife lately – what I’ve been doing’ is not a sponsored post
Baukjen 25% off everything here with code TREAT25
Sézane – new collection launches Sunday but preview here
Midlifechic Christmas inspiration posts
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