Sammy and I have never met but we’ve adored each other from afar for a long time. I love her instagram, she loves Jules and Sarah the Podcast. I love her bright yellow hair and the pictures of her baby girl eating a cucumber in the bath and she bought my “Stand Up for Love” t shirt after I posted eating a crumpet in it at Field Day. We’re friends, we’ve just never had a G&T together.

Instagram is full of these glorious relationships. I’ve met people to work with, I’ve found events, clothes, homewares I wouldn’t otherwise know about and I’ve got my own little community of people I love but I’ve never met. One of the reasons I love this hotbed of instafriends is because I am obsessed with how people spend their time. I love knowing when they get up, what they eat, when they read, what they do of an evening. I feel like I work, watch First Dates, eat, have a bath and go to bed so if anyone finds the time to do anything apart from that I’m all over it.

When Sammy posted her incredible lobster “that shit cray” needlework on instagram I was in awe. I also wondered “how does she do it?!” Sammy is one of those amazing people who runs a teenage magazine, does massive celebrity interviews, has her daughter (the divine Daphne) makes amazing vagina cupcakes, has a cat, finds the best vintage tops and always has perfect eyeliner flicks. And now needlepoint that is on point. I barely have time to watch Dr Foster.

I told her it was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen and she said she would make me one and she has. She also asked if it would go into The Museum of Sarah and I said it would go front and centre on it’s own plinth and that’s exactly where it is.

She’s completely inspired me and tonight, I’m going to my first quilting class.

xoxx

So here we are, the start of September. The greatest time of the year. The conkers in vinegar, back in socks, new shoes fresh start. I live for Autumn. In fact it’s the only thing that gets me through summer. For most of August I stomp round with a hot stringy fringe and a single line of sweat down the middle of my back and tell myself it will all be over soon. I’ll be able to wear faux fur and jeans and a coat again, just hold out until September. The weather will change, the nights will draw in and I can wear slippers all of the time. I can get the blankets back out and start all over again. Have a lovely clean slate and turn a brand new fresh clean page.

There is nothing, not even jaffa cakes, that I love quite so much as notebooks.  A brand new notebook is entirely thrilling. The smell of the fresh sheets, the feel of the spine breaking, deciding it’s purpose before ravaging it for the first time. The first time pen meets paper I could actually moan. There is no questions one of the greatest passionate affairs of my life is with notebooks. I currently own 308. Some are stuffed with notes and postcards and marked with spilt tea. Others have just a few first pages of writing and some are still pristine in their packet, waiting for their time to come. I have notebooks for lists, for diaries, for reflections, for plans to come, for self care, for more lists and records. I have a pad dedicated entirely to planting herbs I don’t own and a 2015 planner than I only half used and can’t bear to throw out. I have pads designed for To Do lists, for monthly projections and for weekly food plans. I am the only person I know who still relies entirely on a Filofax to tell me where I need to be and when.

Now, I have recently rediscovered the joy of pencils. I find there is something very classy about a graceful HB freshly sharpened. Nothing feels like you’ve got your shit together like the fine clean point of a pencil. I also like the thought that you can go back and rub something out later on, pretend it never happened. Apparently, during the space race, the Americans spent months developing a special pen where the ink could defy gravity to stay on the page. The Russians used a pencil. I don’t know how true this story is but it’s glorious isn’t it.

In 2013 Emily Winter started a one woman revolution in a tiny village on the chilly North East coast of Scotland. She declared, in her dining room, that she would single handedly “Bring Back the Pencil.” Partridge and Bell was born and since then single mum Emily has dedicated herself to stamping words, by hand, onto pretty painted pencils.

She says she wanted to create pencils which really mean something to their owner, like a good quote or an in joke, just something that “will make you laugh every time you glance down.” I cannot convey my delight about owning a pencil with “What Would June Do?” stamped on it. June is my mother and a constant source of hilarity to me. She has become a star of Jules and Sarah the Podcast and my instagram stories. WWJD wouldn’t mean much to most people but to me and the podcast listeners, it’s the greatest thing on earth. Of course inspiration for what to stamp on a pencil can come at any moment, so Emily says she is “never without a notebook so I can jot down ideas.” This has led to a whole range of personalised embossed notebooks in all colours and fonts, which are all to die for.

I first discovered Nikki Strange Ltd at a Not on the High Street Christmas event. I threw myself at her tropical print Wellness Planner and have followed her ever since. Nikki uses watercolours and inks to design all her prints at her Hackney studio and she specialises “in whimsical, travel inspired prints.” Well she had me at whimsical.

As well as terrific planners, Nikki Strange also make the most delicious travel and make up bags as well as coasters, art prints, phone cases, pocket mirrors and obviously lovely notebooks of various sizes. There is also a wedding section which includes dreamy Will you be my Bridesmaid? cards and notebooks, worth sending out whether you’re getting married or not. All their products are made in the UK using independent manufacturers, a sentence which brings me so much joy I let out a small squeal. Things that make Nikki happy are dog walks, grapefruit gin, cinnamon winter spiced candles, bed picnics, Tori Amos and rose gold glitter. Nikki and I would get on VERY well.

Finally I want to mention again one of my favourite shops in London, We Built This City on Carnaby Street. I went in yesterday to buy an art print of a deconstructed fry up (sure) for my brother’s birthday. The shop now has two floors selling incredible prints, cards and various other things you didn’t know you needed. A full size white porcelain crown and a Princess Diana perspex necklace must both get a special mention. Upstairs I had a good rifle through their sale box where I happened upon this Natalie Lea Owen illustrated Camden lock notebook. “A bargain!” I thought and “I live near there!” so I bought it immediately. Natalie is a surface pattern designer (which is a very fun title) who started her own brand in 2015 with some help from The Prince’s Trust. Natalie designs everything in her London studio and all of her products and printed and manufactured in the UK. Lovely. She’s also very chic and her products are sold in Fenwicks and Museum of London.

A notebook can be a fresh start, a best friend and just a damn fine accessory. Whatever the rest of 2017 has got for you, make sure you’re armed with one and quite honestly, there is nothing you can’t do.

xxox

“Dream more, learn more, care more and be more” Dolly Parton

Inspiration comes usually while I’m in the shower. During the course of a good wash I can have 34 life changing, brilliant ideas for articles, outfits, dinners, tv documentaries, my own talk show and ways to get thin. I emerge clean, damp and ready to change the world. But then I have to do my make up, eat, send an email, put something on instagram, eat again and watch Corrie, so many of these ideas don’t get any further than the bath mat. Despite having the same hours in the day as Obama, I just can’t action all of them. Being inspired is easy, staying inspired is not.

Sometimes you need a bit of extra guidance. A bit of something to reinvigorate you. To pick you up and get you going again. Yes there are quotes and affirmations everywhere, but sometimes I need more. I need the big guns. I want direct advice from someone incredible, untouchable, a legend. I want to know, What would Dolly Parton Do?

Now I love a bit of a book. And by “bit of a book” I mean those books that are usually sold by the till in places that aren’t book shops.  A small and fun book. A “look at this” book. A “oh that’s funny, she’ll love that” book. I can’t resist them. They make excellent presents which is why most of the ones I own were given to me. Currently on my shelf I can see “Everything is Going to Be OK,” “Get Sh*t Done,” and one of my favourites “F*ck That: An Honest Meditation.”

However, there are two little books on my shelf that I flick through more than any other. They are packed full of inspirational goodness and are part of the Pocket Wisdom series, Both were presents and both are excellent women: Pocket Iris Wisdom and Pocket Dolly Wisdom.

Iris Apfel is a businesswoman, interior designer and fashion icon.  If you haven’t seen the film Iris please and go and watch it on Netflix now.  I can’t remember how I found out about Iris Apfel but I think it was after watching the Channel 4 documentary “Fabulous Fashionistas.” This followed six ladies with an average age of 80 who all have an incredible sense of style. They are all empowered and wonderful and ridiculously inspiring. I’ve watched that documentary about 14 times so was hungry for something else and that’s how I found Iris.

Iris is no nonsense, she’s a fierce New Yorker and has no time for bullshit.

“I think it’s an awful thing to look like everybody else”

“Caviar is my drug of choice”

“If your hair is done properly and you’re wearing good shoes, you can get away with anything”

🙌🏻

Like everyone else, my sister Lorna and I love Dolly Parton. Her kindness, her humour, her hair, there is nothing I can write here to describe the majesty of Dolly.

It was a glorious Sunday afternoon at Glastonbury. I wore a candy striped dress and we drank red wine and danced at the Pyramid Stage singing Jolene and hearing Dolly tell us she was so happy to be there. It was so big and emotional and the wine and I started to cry.  I turned round to see another girl crying, I said “I don’t know why I’m crying!” she said she didn’t know either and we laughed.

When Lorna moved to Buenos Aires for two years she gave me this little book so I’d always have Dolly to turn to when she wasn’t there. Which made me cry again.

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose”

“When I was with Andy Warhol, I thought ‘God his wig looks cheaper than mine!’”

You can also have other pocket wisdoms from David Bowie, Kanye West, Coco Chanel and even Michelle Obama. All of them are available from Wordery.

“You only have one trip, you might as well enjoy it” Iris Apfel

xxox

Afternoon tea is my favourite meal. The fact that tea is central enough to be included in the title is enough. I am part woman, part tea. If something is wrong it’s usually because I need a cuppa and I firmly believe most things can be sorted out over one. I own several teapots and send official Sarah Powell teabags out to everyone on my mailing list (why yes you can sign up right here)

The Powells are a Tetley household. We have always had Tetley tea unless there was a very good offer on another brand that my mother June was swayed by. In the morning June will say “don’t speak to me I haven’t had tea yet” and never goes abroad without several sandwich bags packed full of Tetley. One year she also took Rich Tea biscuits but it turns out they don’t travel well.

The only other thing I love more than tea is tiny little sandwiches. The sort you can eat in two bites. Meaning you can eat 84 of them. Add to this, cakes, scones, cream, jam and the occasional scotch egg and you have the greatest spread on earth. As if this weren’t quite enough, there is also the option to add cocktails and fizz. I believe firmly in adding booze to things. Booze and cheese. Here there is the option for add both.

I have had a lot of afternoon teas. Mine is a body built on clotted cream. I have taken afternoon tea in fancy hotels, by the seaside, at craft afternoons, summer fetes and in the ballroom of a cruise ship. I am delighted by crumpets, squeal for macarons and will always, always have a second scone. Taking tea with someone you love, chatting the afternoon away then going for a lie down is quite simply heaven.

The Sanderson Hotel is a retro 1950’s building outside but inside it’s clever and almost cheeky. I plonked myself down on a red lips sofa in the foyer and honestly didn’t think I’d get up again. To my left was a row of barstools with a giant eye staring out of the back of each of them and to my right twirled a dangling 60s orb seat. How anyone could get in or out of that when full of scone, I will never know.

The Sanderson Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea is centered around their outdoor terrace, a square courtyard with a good breeze but covered enough to stay dry. The first thing to say is there is no fancy dress. Not even if you wanted to. There are no top hats, no bunny ears and no one in a Cheshire Cat purple body stocking. The first thing is to choose from five Alice- inspired teas. Don’t be alarmed by a lack of English Breakfast. I’m someone who only drinks builder’s tea but Alice’s bergamot and vanilla is sweet nectar. In fact it’s so gorgeous they sell it on the way out to take home. Tea is served in bucket sized amounts from fat, stout tea pots guarded by the Queen of Hearts and too heavy not to use both hands. The sugar is found in a ballerina jewellry box which sings when you open it and the menu is bound into a vintage book, the sort of thing Alice would read.

Then comes the towering glory of it all. A skyscraper of delights. The three tiered cakestand of joy. I almost rugby tackled it from the lady bringing it over. Cucumber sandwiches and crab buns  at the bottom, pocket watch macaroons in the middle and caterpillar marshmallows at the top. I am now in love with the Queen of Heart biscuits full of jam and cream and I could have eloped with Tweedle Dee’s lemon curd financier. A tiny plant pot of caramel ice cream covered in chocolate soil and honeycombe, arrived as a surprise, the very best sort of surprise. Finally let’s please talk about the darling little bottle of  cinnamon, apple and peach “Drink Me” potion, which have daydreamed about at the busstop since. Obviously just in case we weren’t ready to roll home perfect scones, jam came with cream you could have stood up in.

Now look, I must tell you this because the people next to us didn’t realise until it was too late, but you can reorder anything you like. This is quite standard at any afternoon tea so always make enquiries. You want more croque monsieur? You have them. Another mocha chessboard gateau? Go for it. We had six smoked salmon scotch eggs.

Usually I am someone who demands colour to really enjoy a thing and the only thing that is bright orange is the mini macarons nestled in grass. I have to concede, the tea set is perfect in monochrome covered in prancing horses and the stripes of the White Rabbit’s waistcoat. It’s made by Luna and Curious and you can buy the lot if you’re feeling flash or a teacup and saucer to be chic at home.

As I write this, the time is now 3.15pm. Which I think we can all agree is the perfect time for tea.

xoxx

I was at heat towers last week and Hannah pointed to my bright pink jelly pumps and said “I used to wear jelly shoes when I was little!”

There is something brilliantly nostalgic about plastic jelly shoes. If you were born in the 80s PVC was fancy and exciting and alarmingly cheap. So cheap that anyone under 10 could easily get through 3 pairs of jellies in a summer. Sturdier than a flip flop and better for rock pooling, they were the ideal holiday shoe.

Jelly shoes were brilliant when you were little for the same reasons they are now, you can shove them on in all weathers and they don’t get wet. They’re good for puddles, beaches and fields. If you spill Ribena or a white wine spritzer on them, no problem! Simply remove, flap around a bit, pop it back on and carry on. In the late 90s jellies came back as a throwback back item and then they came back in the 00s as a 90s throwback item then again and again, so for the last 10 years they haven’t really gone away.

I bought my first pair of Juju “Vicky” mint green cut outs four years ago on an asos haul. I thought they would be “handy” to have as a back up shoe or for running to the shop in. They didn’t leave my feet for the whole summer and then into autumn and even winter for a dash across the road to get my nails done.

They have been a true friend, there for allsorts of capers. They’ve been to Glastonbury, survived seaside trips, British beach walks and actually very long city walks. They have been to brunches, cinema trips and one particular walk around an estuary. They have been strong and sturdy and shown love and tenacity in difficult times. Oddly they also seem to go with everything; dresses, shorts, harem pants, jeans and the most tailored of trousers all look outstanding with the Juju. I’m thinking of making them some sort of award.

But I knew it couldn’t last for forever, I knew they could only take so many train journeys, dog walks and trips to big Sainsbury’s. The other day I went to put them on and they felt different, sort of wonky and I looked down to see one of the cut out at the back had snapped. I wore them anyway.

You can imagine my concern when I saw they were no longer stocked on asos. Were they discontinued everywhere? A small brand that only saw one summer? What the hell would replace them? Thankfully though Office and Schuh both stock Juju Jellies and they of course have their own website. I bought a bright pink pair of Vicky’s as soon as I found out.

Juju Footwear is a family run business, started in 1986 and based in Northampton, which does make them something of A Brit Excellent. They are “exceptionally proud to call ourselves the creators of the the original British jelly shoe” and have been making shoes and wellies for over 25 years. Juju still use the traditional manufacturing method, in the same factory since they started. All their materials are sourced in England and are recyclable, so all the waste jellies are ground up to make new products which I LOVE. In 2012 they became involved in Project Jelly, making kid’s jelly shoes for charity and 20% of all their profits go to Great Ormond Street hospital.

I have just lost a full 40 minutes on jujufootwear.com and have a wishlist of about 18 pairs I want. They have every jelly shoe a person could ever need: heels, flats, cut outs, pastels, neons, monochrome, glitter, casual, smart, playful, high fashion, throwback and just good quality everyday sandals. I have genuine sorrow I missed out on their glittery jelly chelsea boots, making up for it with the glitter jellyboot. And a special mention has got to go to the Kigu parrot wellies. They also do amazing kids wellies for just £7.50.

In these times of changeable inclement weather, it’s good to have a true friend who will support you and be by your side. Or rather on your feet.

xxox