Discovered: One Domestic Princess!

Yes, that’s right, you’re not imaging things, it’s not an apparition, this is truly me writing my first blog post in a very long time.

2013 was a tumultuous year.  I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such lows or highs in one year.  What was meant to be a year full of happiness with the Domestic Prince turning 40 and me off on a mini world tour amongst other things, turned into a roller coaster of a ride.  You see, the thing is with grief, it’s totally unpredictable – it’s the one emotion we’re not really trained for or counselled on growing-up.  (If you’re new to the blog, this post will explain my absence from these pretty pink pages.)  Up until late summer, I thought I was coping with the gaping hole in my life, and “moving on”.  The acute daily pain that I had been feeling everyday had turned into more of a dull ache.  Then something hit me after our trip to Singapore in September – I’m not sure what, but I felt the loss all overall again and with a tsunami force.  Day to day life became a struggle and tears were always close to the surface.  As the one year anniversary loomed closer, the worse I became.  Things that normally gave me an inordinate amount of pleasure, totally lost their appeal.  My enthusiasm for life was diminishing and in my typical coping fashion (rightly or wrongly), I closed myself off to everyone and everything around me.  For much of the past 4 months profound grief has engulfed my every waking moment.  I was so angry.  Angry that she’d been taken from this world so suddenly and that there were so many things I wanted to say to her, but mainly I was consumed with a terrible sadness and sense of loss.  Having not had any experience of losing a parent before, I had no idea how to deal with, or control these emotions and feelings, so I just bumbled along in my own little world.

Whilst I haven’t been wallowing in self-pity, I also haven’t really been living – which is so wrong given that there are probably  many people out there who would give anything to live a full and happy life that I have the chance to do.  The only thing I’ve managed to truly focus on is keeping to a size 10; quite possibly a miracle given my penchant for Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Oreo.  So, today is the start of my new year.  I’ve made a promise to myself  that I’m going to try and do everything within my scope to help myself live life to the full.  You see, I’ve let nearly every aspect of my life fall by the wayside….from not remembering to take my medication regularly, to not being bothered to even put cream on my feet at night (they’re bordering on being super manky!) – everything has just felt too much of an effort and a chore.  However, by putting down on paper my focus for the next few months, I’m hoping it’ll help keep me on track and feel accountable.  Here’s what I’m going to be focusing on:

  1. My skin.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my skin has deteriorated.  I think the stress of the last year, coupled with not taking my meds has caused me to have worse skin than the spottiest teenager.  Therefore, I’m concentrating on getting back my bump-free glow.  I’ve invested in various tools and potions to help me get my glow-on, so I’ll be sharing with you what’s worked and what hasn’t.
  2. Although I comfortably fit into size 10 clothes, it’s quite often with a victoria sponge (not even a muffin) silhouette, rather than a pancake one.  Thus, I’m going to be working hard to achieve a lean and strong physique with not a cake in sight!  I used to focus on what the number on the scales said, but recently, thanks to Francesca on FFK, I’ve realised it’s just a pointless number.  If you have a Google, there’s plenty of examples of people weighing the same weight but looking totally different.  It’s certainly helped me think about things differently.
  3. Reading.  I used to be a voracious reader, but even something as enjoyable as a good book has somehow lost its appeal.  I’ve just downloaded a new book on my Kindle and have committed to reading at least a couple of pages every evening in bed.  I find reading quite soporific too, so am hoping it’ll help me sleep better as well.
  4. My squat challenge.  I’m sorry to say I didn’t complete this challenge I set myself.  But probably not as sorry as my bottom is.  My lack of apathy towards this challenge can’t be completely attributed to my state of mind, but to an injury I sustained whilst on my mini world tour – how it happened still remains a mystery!
  5. Be more active.  I might get put through the ringer by our fabulous personal trainer here in Bangalore, the infamous Raj, but that’s only an hour out of everyday.  Typically, the rest of my day is a pretty sedentary one.  There are so many studies out there proving that lack of movement accelerates the ageing process and is quite possibly a contributing factor in dementia that I’ve made the resolution to move a lot more during the day and to stop doing my best impression of a sloth!  I’m the proud owner of a Fitbit tracker, so I’ll be donning that every morning in an effort to make sure I’m doing my 10,000 steps a day.
  6. Be a better friend.  Now, I know I haven’t been a bad friend during this last year, I also know I haven’t been the best friend I could be to the wonderful people that I’m privileged to call friends.  I’ve been quite poor at keeping in contact and just being “available” to them, so I’m going to try and change that starting from today.

know that things will get easier in time.  Friends who’ve also lost a parent and are further along the grieving process have told me this.  And since passing the one year anniversary, even though it’s only been a week, things do feel a tinier bit easier.  I’m not a religious bod, but I feel incredibly blessed to have beyond doubt the most incredible friends and family.  If any of them are reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting up with me these last 12 months, I know it can’t have been easy.

Anyway, enough about me, what have you lovely lot been up to?  I’d love to hear all your news.

Unlike before, there won’t be three posts a week, but two – sorry!  There’ll be one early on in the week and then my regular Friday recipe post.  If time permits, then occasionally I’ll pop up another one as a treat!  If there’s any topics you’d like me to write about then please just drop me a note in the comments section below.

It’s good to be back.

With much love
The Domestic Princess
xoxo

Shoot for the moon

A tweet by @tim_weeks (a fabulous personal trainer I follow on twitter) last week about the importance of setting goals got me thinking.  I’m not very good without a focus to my life, or without goals to strive for.  I think I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post that before coming to live in India, I worked in the City; which was rewarding and soul destroying in equal measures.  However, what my previous life did give me, was a purpose, a focus, goals to strive for: reaching my sales targets, being promoted to MD.  Whatever it was, it gave me direction and structure.  Moving to India, I lost all of that (as I don’t work here in the true sense) and my life no longer had any formal structure; I would drift from one day to the next, without ever really (in my mind anyway) achieving anything worthwhile.  Obviously I had the house in India to run (and believe me it takes more effort than I can articulate in this blog post), and being a supportive wife to the Domestic Prince, however, I wasn’t really doing anything for me and I kinda lost my way.  Launching, running and trying to take The Domestic Princess to the next level has helped me to become “me” again, if that makes sense.  What I’ve learnt from the last few years is that I need to have a purpose, direction and goals in my life.

Despite being a bit, ok, a major type-A personality (known for their goal-setting tendencies), the truth is, goal-setting is extremely important for everyone to help with our overall happiness and wellbeing.  Studies have shown that by setting goals, no matter how small, gives us direction, without which we can feel lost.  Having goals focuses our energy and helps us work towards things that are valuable and important to us.  Without them, we can feel as if we’re flailing, or aren’t sure about where our lives are heading.  By setting goals, it can help us get back on course and find our mojo.  Without goals, there can’t be accomplishments. You will know from experience that every time you reach your goal, you’ve proven to yourself that you are capable of achieving something, which in turn will boost your self-esteem and hopefully help you believe in yourself.  Also, goals help us to go out of our comfort zone (launching The Domestic Princess and putting myself “out there” in the public domain, certainly put me out of my comfort zone) and to take-on, and experience new and exciting challenges.  There was a BBC programme a few years go called “The Science of Happiness“, where they looked at different studies and research from around the world to see what makes us happy.  One of their findings was that setting goals for the long-term helps contribute towards our enduring happiness.  Chatting through this post with the Domestic Prince, he brought some interesting points up.  For example, why do million and billionaires carry on working when they clearly aren’t doing so just for the money?  Or, the flip-side to this, is why do lottery winners quite often go off the rails after their win when they’ve given up work?  Or probably one of my favourite examples of goal setting, is why do athletes do what they do, when the compensation they have traditionally received for doing what they love, is so poor compared to say footballers?  Well, it’s all because of goals, or in the case of the lottery winners, the lack of them.

Before seeing Tim’s tweet last week, my attention had already been turning to the future; more so than normal.  I’m not quite sure what prompted these prolonged thoughts…maybe it’s the fact the Domestic Queen has a form of dementia and I don’t know how much longer she’ll be around (gulp); maybe it’s the fact the big four oh is looming, or perhaps it’s because the Domestic Princess is going from strength to strength (thank you for your support!), or it could be that I fulfilled one of my goals a couple of weeks ago when we went to the Singapore Grand Prix.  Who knows?  But all of this culminated in me thinking….”what next”? “what do I want to achieve over the next x number of years?”  So, last night I sat down and put together some of the things I’m looking to achieve.  I was going to do forty things to do before I’m forty, however, there’s so much I want to achieve, some of which are longer term goals, which probably can’t be achieved within the next 18 months, that I’ve just decided this is a list of goals to strive for.  This list is by no means complete.  I am sure I’ll be adding to it as and when another aspiration/goal comes into my mind.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress!  Oh, and it’s not in any particular order either – it’s completely random!

  1. Go cage diving with sharks
  2. Swim with dolphins
  3. Have my cookery book published
  4. Design and live in my dream house
  5. Walk the Great Wall of China
  6. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
  7. Spend New Year’s in Sydney, Australia
  8. Party at the Rio Carnival
  9. Go to the Men’s Wimbledon tennis finals
  10. Go on a safari in Africa
  11. Have my own column in a magazine
  12. Tour Uluru on the back (I’m too chicken to be in charge) of a Harley Davidson
  13. Visit the Marlborough wine region in New Zealand
  14. Drive across the US on Route 66
  15. Reach my goal weight and maintain it
  16. Run 10k non-stop
  17. Be able to do 10 unassisted pull-ups
  18. See the cherry blossom in Japan
  19. See the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)
  20. See Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
  21. Find my abs(!)
  22. Learn to surf
  23. Start playing tennis again
  24. Learn to play golf
  25. Have my own cookery television programme
  26. Take the Leiths Cookery School Diploma in Food & Wine
  27. Set up and run my own highly successful business
  28. Watch a Chloe runway show at Fashion Week
  29. See a ballet at The Royal Opera House
  30. Learn how to make French macarons
  31. Learn how to make pasta
  32. Live in Manhattan
  33. Be able to confidently ski a black/double diamond black run without the aid of copious G&Ts or bombardinos
  34. Be able to do a fishtail plait on myself
  35. Make The Domestic Princess a lucrative venture
  36. Ride a gondola in Venice, Italy
  37. Go to a music festival – glamping style!
  38. Fully understand US politics
  39. Learn how to do “smokey eye” make-up
  40. Take singing lessons (so many people in my life will be grateful for this one!)
  41. Fly in a private jet
  42. Complete The Times crossword (I’m nearly there!)
  43. Learn how to make mozzarella
  44. Visit Tuscany, Italy
  45. Ride on the Orient Express
  46. Visit the Champagne region
  47. Watch the lighting of the christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center in NYC
  48. Complete Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution program
  49. Watch all the old MGM musical movies
  50. Read (or re-read) all the books on the BBC – The Big Read – Top 100 Books

I would love to hear if you’re a goal setter and if they’re important to you?  Do you feel you’ve lost your mojo when you aren’t striving towards something?  Have you got a list of aspirations / goals?  And if so, I’d love to hear about them.

With much love
The Domestic Princess
xoxo

I’ll get by with a little help…..

Today’s post is quite different from the ones you’ve been reading over the last few months.  Some of the blogs I enjoy reading the most, are ones where the author opens up and shares aspects of their own lives, be it career decisions they’re considering, at a crossroad in their lives or relationship issues.  Whatever the topic is, these types of posts nearly always generate great discussions and interactions between the blogger and his or her readers.  And on many a blog, these “reality” type posts have helped foster a great sense of community and a considerable number of friendships have been borne….which actually brings me nicely onto today’s post:  friendships.  Events during the last few weeks have got me thinking about the importance of friendships in our lives.

The last few weeks have been really strange for me, as I’ve had a date looming over me like the blackest rain cloud.  You see, as I’m typing this post, on my way to NYC to meet-up with the Domestic Prince, I have tears rolling down my face, having had to say goodbye to the gorgeous Alice, and the rest of her family, who are off for a new adventure.  (I’m sure I’m going to get banned from flying with BA the amount of tears they’ve seen me shed over the last few years.  I’m not sure I’ve taken a flight in recent times without great, big fat tears rolling down my cheeks!)

I didn’t expect the goodbye to be as hard as it was, as when we arrived in India 4 years ago (tomorrow will be our 4 year anniversary of living in India!), I never expected to make the friendships that I have, and which I treasure dearly.  We were supposedly only coming for an 18 month assignment (how little did I know back then!), so I pretty much had the view that I had enough wonderful friends in my life, the 18 months would fly by (we had a lot of travel planned!) and that I didn’t really need, or want anymore friends.  I was worried about being lonely, but thought a few casual friendships / acquaintances would get me through the short 18 months.  Anyhow, what I hadn’t bargained for, was meeting some amazing people and forming what I know are life-long friendships.

In the “real world”, aka not the expat bubble I currently live in, the opportunities to make new friends were few and far between, unless they were connected to work.  I worked long, hard hours in the City, so pretty much most of my free time was spent catching-up on chores, catching-up on sleep, or seeing the existing friends I already had.

I think those closest to me would agree that I don’t make friends quickly.  It takes me a long time to trust people and to feel comfortable opening myself up to them and to go from a superficial friendship, into something more meaningful.   However, the friendships I’ve made during my time in India have been formed hard and fast.  In writing this post, it’s made me think about why friendships are formed quicker in an expat environment?

  1. Many of the people who choose to take an expat assignment often have similar personalities and outlook to life and who are eager for an adventure; I think this is especially the case with a crazy place like India!
  2. The frequency that you see people.  In the UK, you’re lucky to see your friends once a month, as everybody is so busy.  However, in India, it’s not uncommon to socialise with your friends most weekends.  And the wives, or WAGS, as we’re fondly known, tend to see each other regularly during the week too.
  3. I think the best analogy I can use, is that it’s a bit like speed dating.  You quickly learn and find out the people who’s company you enjoy the most.
  4. You’re all living a very similar life and experience pretty much the same highs and lows, where back in reality, this just isn’t the case.  People’s lives don’t run in parallel.  The commonality with your friends here runs much deeper, be it the frustrations of no water or electricity, to sharing the details of your most recent travel adventures.
  5. Because your families are typically thousands of miles away, your friends end up becoming your family and your support network.

Life puts all sorts of pressures on friendships:  different life choices, being at varying life stages, growing apart and physical distance.  All of these factors make it very hard to keep friendships alive, especially when there are maybe other pressures being experienced. Your friends might not be constant in your day to day existence, but when you finally see each other after weeks, months or even years, a close friendship will just pick-up exactly where you left off.  That’s not to say that you don’t need to nurture or foster the relationship; effort still needs to be put in from both sides in order for the friendship to be sustained.

I value my friendships; they are incredibly important to me.  The friends I have range from the ones I met at school, to those I met whilst working, through to my most recent ones made during our expat assignment.  I love them all dearly and am blessed to have them in my life.  I miss the ones that are not in my daily life and relish the time we do spend together.  They are all completely different and have various qualities and personalities – my friendship with each one is extremely different.  Different friends fill different needs.

Having close friends helps give a different perspective on life, together with the ability to bounce around different ideas that you may never have thought of.  They are always there for us:  to laugh with in happy times and providing a shoulder to cry when life throws us a curve ball.  In my experience, a good friend will accept you for who you are.  They will rejoice at your success and commiserate your failure.  They’ll empathise and let you know that they care deeply about you.  With good friends in your life, you should never feel lonely.  A friendship should be a relationship of balance.  You should get from a friend as much as you put in. Of course, there will be hard times , when a friend needs you more than you need them.  That’s only natural.  But you look at your friend in the whole, and know they’d do exactly the same for you in a heartbeat, and you never, EVER feel as if you’re being taken for granted.  If you start feeling the relationship is lopsided or that you’re being taken for granted, then it’s probably time to re-evaluate that friendship and ask if it is still working for you.

It’s not just my friendships with my girlfriends that I value, but also my friendship with my husband.  Our expat assignment has helped cement my friendship with the Domestic Prince.  I didn’t think it was possible to become closer than we already were, but we actually are.  When we first arrived in India, we didn’t have the wonderful friends and support network that we have now, so we had to be everything to each other.  We became a really tight unit.  That’s not to say I don’t need my other friendships, I do.  But it goes back to what I was saying earlier, that each friend in your life brings a different dimension / quality to the friendship.  I know The Domestic Prince will always be brutually honest with me.

So, what is the point of today’s post and my ramblings?  I guess it’s a reminder to myself to not close myself off to the possibilities of forming new friendships and that for the right person, there is always room for another special friendship in your life.  I’m so glad I didn’t close myself off to forming new friendships, as I wouldn’t have the friends that I have today.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that last night’s goodbye was extremely distressing – I look like I’ve done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.  I’m devastated that Alice won’t be there when I return in two weeks.  It feels like a great big void.  But, just like my other friendships that are divided by thousands of miles, I know that the friendship we have built over the last 4 years will last forever.  This year, I’ve had to say say goodbyes to four wonderful girls and I’m just super grateful that I have some fabulous friends in Bangalore to go back to, otherwise I would be truly lost.

In the words of The Domestic Prince (who, incidentally is equally sad), saying goodbye is not goodbye, but au revoir.  And on that thought, I’m off to watch an episode of Glee…in fact it’s the Whitney Houston tribute week and if that can’t cheer me up, nothing can!

I’d love to hear if friendships are as important to you, as it is to me?  And what qualities do you look for in a friend?

With much love to everyone, but especially my amazing friends near and far!

The Domestic Princess

xoxo

Five More Minutes

I have a confession to make…..getting into bed is possibly my favourite time of the day and getting up, probably my worst!  I bet I’m not the only person to utter “5 more minutes” when the alarm goes off.  In my opinion, there is nothing nicer than an inviting bed and slipping into luxuriously soft bed linen.  During the last few years we’ve been lucky enough to have slept in some of the loveliest, comfiest beds in the world – the Ritz Carlton Battery Park springs to mind.

However, it was on holiday a few years ago that really ignited my love affair with beautiful linens and trying to make our bed a true haven.  We were staying at The Club at The Legian in Bali, when we both fell in love with the linen, divine pillows, duvet and featherbed (also known as a mattress topper).  During our 10-day stay (look out for a future post on this), we slept like babies every night.  Whilst some of this was down to the relaxing nature of our holiday, a large element was the luxurious bed we snuggled into every night.  So impressed were we, we asked the hotel which company provided the linens, duvets and pillows.  Much to our joy, we discovered the supplier also sold to the general public.  And that lead us to the delight that is Ploh.

Once home, I hit the Internet and soon our dreamy linens, duvet, featherbed and pillows were winging their way to us.  Quite honestly it is some of the best money we’ve ever spent and haven’t regretted it for one moment.  Getting into bed every night is such a pleasure and sleeping on the featherbed, well, it’s just like sleeping on a cloud!

We all know that sleep is essential to our everyday wellbeing.  With more studies proving that adequate sleep can help with our battle of the bulge, creating the perfect sleeping environment has become even more important.  So, here are my tips so you too can create your perfect bed.

Source: The White Company

Domestic Princess tips on creating your perfect bed:

1.  Mattress

The foundation, as you all know, is the mattress, so don’t skimp on it.  In the long-term, it’s just a false economy. Remember, the variety and quality of mattresses are vast.

We have an Ambassador mattress from Jensen that we discovered when they had just launched in the UK, so got an amazing bargain compared with prices now!  I’d recommend going to a proper bed store so the salesperson may assess how you (and your partner) share the bed and inform you of the brands and different types of mattresses available.  Try out as many as you can.  We chose And So To Bed in Harrods and the saleslady couldn’t have been more helpful.  The Domestic Prince was adamant he needed a hard mattress and I was pretty determined I wanted a soft one.  Turns out we were both wrong, the most suitable one for us, as a couple, was a medium one.

Which? have recently published their findings on the best mattresses and suppliers in the UK.  So, if you’re thinking of purchasing a new one, click by and have a read.

2.  A featherbed or mattress topper

Now, we were late to the party on this delicious addition to a bed, but gosh are we happy we finally did arrive!  Sinking into 4 inches of feathers and goose down is just bliss and creates an extra layer cwtchiness (def: the Welsh word for cuddling).  It moulds around your body providing support and cushioning for your joints.

There are many different fillings available in a topper, which can be bought from The White Company, John Lewis, Macys and Marriott to name but a few.  Go for it, I promise you won’t regret it!

3.  Duvet and Pillows

Duvet

The warmth, softness and weight of a duvet, depends very much on the tog rating and the type of filling.  The three things to consider when purchasing a new duvet are: tog rating, type of filling and size.

The tog rating tells you how effective the duvet is at trapping warm air, so the higher the rating, the warmer the duvet.  Duvets made up of natural fillings have better thermal properties than synthetically filled ones.  However, if you suffer from allergies, you’d probably want a synthetically filled one in preference to a natural one.  With regards to the size of the duvet, if you and your partner tussle over the duvet, you’re better off opting for the next size up to ensure no more squabbles!

Pillows

Finding the correct pillow is essential for a comfortable night’s sleep.  When choosing new pillows, things to consider are:  shape, size, filling and firmness.

4.  Bed linen

Bed linen comes in many types of fabric:  cotton, Egyptian cotton, cotton sateen, silk, linen, polycotton.  I prefer sateen and tend to go for something like Montabello Cappuccino linen from The White Company.  Many people have the impression that the higher the thread count, the better the bed linen; this is simply not true.  Pure linen, for example, will always have a lower thread count than cotton, but is still considered extremely luxurious.  For me though, the thought of ironing pure linen puts me right off!  Before purchasing any bed linen, I always, always have to feel it – the softer the better!

John Lewis and The White Company both have detailed guides on how to purchase duvets, pillows and bed linen.

Another few tips that help me sleep deeply are:

  1. Eye shades – I think I started wearing these when we had shutters installed in our house in London.  Whilst the shutters look fabulous, they don’t create the pitch black room that I like and which is recommended by the sleep experts to help enhance one’s sleep.  There are many lovely eye-shades available, but I tend to use the ones I pick-up on the ‘plane when travelling.  They’ve worked for me for nearly 10 years, so I think I’ll stick with them.  However, Susie Amy on her wonderful Blusher and Blogging blog swears by this lavender eye mask.  Maybe I’ll treat myself and give it a whirl to see how they compare?
  2. Chamomile tea – most nights we trot off to bed with mugs of chamomile tea, which we both swear helps us enjoy a deep slumber.
  3. Magnesium supplements – a new addition to our nighttime routine is 400mg of magnesium citrate.  Magnesium is known to have a calming effect on the brain and is also important for muscle function; a lack of it may cause muscle cramps and restless legs.

So, readers – tell me what makes your dream bed?  Is going to bed your favourite time of day?  And do you have any good tips on what helps you enjoy a good night’s sleep?

With much love

The Domestic Princess

Xoxo

PS, if you enjoyed this post, please sign-up and follow the blog to receive many more like it.

%d bloggers like this: