Tattoo Talk: An Interview with Kate Gabrielle

kate-gabrielle-tattoo-1Kate Gabrielle, 27, Illustrator

Kate writes one of my favourite personal style blogs, Scathingly Brilliant. Her cheerful, pastel infused aesthetic comes across clearly in everything she does from the outfits she wears and the way she decorates her room, to the illustrations she sells on Etsy and the gift packs she curates on Sweet and Lovely. Kate recently got her first tattoo and I was curious what this experience was like for someone who is an artist herself. Today she was kind enough to tell us more about it.

When did you get your tattoo? May 2013

Have you always been interested in tattoos? What made you take the plunge and get your first one?
I always thought I might get one, but I didn’t decide for sure until my cat Hypatia passed away in February 2013, and I knew that I wanted to get one to memorialize her. It still took me a few months to finally get up the courage, and I ended up getting it done on her adoption anniversary, May 19th.

As an illustrator, what part did you play in creating the design of your tattoo?
I did a pencil drawing of Hypatia that I brought in with me to the tattoo parlour. It didn’t end up exactly like my drawing, but that was the intention.

kate-gabrielle-tattoo-2What’s the story behind your tattoo?
I had a really difficult time when my cat passed away, and this seemed like a good idea for keeping her with me always.

If you could go back, would you do anything differently?
I would definitely plan ahead! I had my sketch drawn and I knew where I wanted to place it, but I didn’t do any research about which parlour to visit. I finally decided to get my tattoo on her adoption anniversary, and just wanted it done right away. My brother and I went to a place that accepted walk-ins and got them done on the spot. To give you an idea of how bad our artist was — he misspelled the name on my brother’s tattoo! Yikes! He managed to (kind of) fix it but it’s a really funny family story now ;)

If I could go back, I’d definitely find a reputable artist and visit beforehand to make sure they were right for me. My artist didn’t do a really good job of accurately copying my sketch. I asked for him to copy my pencil lines, but he did traditional shading instead, and the lines in the tattoo make her fur look sharp and pointy. I’m sure in the hands of a much better artist I could have got something a lot closer to what I had in mind. At some point in the future I’d like to get it touched up a little.

Despite the issues with it, I really do love the tattoo though. Whenever I look at my wrist I’m reminded of my little angel and that’s why I got it in the first place.

kate-gabrielle-tattoo-3Do you see any more tattoos in your future?
Definitely. I’m planning on getting a little heart or paw print for each of my cats, since I want to give each cat a tattoo but I don’t want to end up with a full-sleeve of cat faces, either. I also really want to get some kind of tattoo that combines my favorite tv shows (The Office, The X-Files and 30 Rock) Just something discreet and symbolic that would make me smile whenever I look at it, but I’m not entirely sure what yet. And if I can ever get up the courage (I feel like this one requires more courage than any other body part) I’d LOVE to get my eyeliner tattooed on. It would be a dream to wake up with perfect eyeliner every day.

Thanks, Kate! It was so interesting to learn more about your tattoo and I’m glad to hear that although your first experience left some things to be desired, that it hasn’t put you off getting more.

If you’d like to see more of Kate, be sure to read her blog and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Love, sugar lips, & chocolate kisses,

The Expat Diaries: Becoming Grounded.

how-to-be-groundedPeople often encourage (the proverbial) us to “stay grounded.” But when you’ve just become an expat, this can feel like an impossible task.

You’ve ripped yourself up by the roots and moved away from everything that seems to hold you in place. Throwing yourself into the new and unfamiliar feels like the exact opposite of being “grounded.”

Now that I’ve lived there for almost a year, I usually feel so settled in and so in love with my London life that I forget that it’s still all so new. It takes a long time to put down roots and mine are still young shoots, pushing their way into the ground. They get bigger and stronger each day. But the roots that I spent most of my life growing and nurturing are on the other side of the world. And I pulled many of them up when I moved here.

Most days this doesn’t matter. Everything’s in the flow and it’s easy to let everything develop in it’s own good times.

But when a crisis occurs or things don’t go according to plan or I’m just in a bit of a funk, there are days when I feel like a lone leaf blowing in the wind. Like I’ve lost my footing and I don’t know how to connect with the ground beneath my feet.

how-to-be-grounded-2That’s why, as an expat, it’s important to learn how to become grounded from the inside out. Reaching across the ocean through Skype or leaning on relationships that are only just beginning to bloom provides a certain kind of support. But finding the peace of mind that comes from within means that you can take it with you wherever you go, because you’ve built roots that transcend geographical borders.

After working on this myself over the past 12 months, here are my top 3 tips for becoming grounded. Whether you’ve just moved to a foreign land or are just looking for a sense of inner fortitude in your day-to-day life, I promise they’ll serve you well.

Commit to loving yourself. 
I know I talk about this in almost every post, but that’s because it really is the most important thing you can do. When you truly love and accept yourself just as you are, you’re no longer as effected by external circumstances. Your life is infused with a sense of calm and contentment. For most of us, this will be a lifelong journey, so find ways to re-commit to loving yourself each and every day. If you’re not sure where to begin, take a look at my Adventures in Self-Love series.

how-to-be-grounded-3Create a practice that centres you.
This will be something that calms you down and re-connects you with yourself when you’re feeling lost or unsettled. I like a simple meditation practice – just sitting still and tuning into my breath. In DARE/DREAM/DO Gala describes a wonderful exercise for clearing out negative energy and grounding yourself. The importance is choosing something that works for you and practicing it consistently everyday, even for just a few minutes. That way when you need to ground yourself, it will be a familiar, comforting, and effective  practice to come back to.

Find comfort in routines.
Although I’m a big advocate of spontaneity and adventure, when life is feeling chaotic, I take solace in the familiar. A barista who knows my name and regular order. My favourite corner of my favourite coffee shop. A weekly pilgrimage to the flower market. The order of a nourishing morning routine. These things become our anchors. The familiar comforts that pull us back to ourselves when life feels out of control.

It’s naturally to feel swept away sometime, especially when you’ve just made a major life change. Be gentle with yourself. Commit to self-love. Find your centre. Embrace the routines that make you happy. These are the keys to becoming grounded and growing roots that you can take with you anywhere.

Love always,




Photos by Soops.

Adventures in Self-Love: It’s Not About You (So Stop Taking it Personally)

how-to-not-take-things-personally“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

When we’re not completely in love with ourselves, we make a habit of blaming ourselves for everything. When something goes wrong or we face criticism, we’re quick to take it personally and feeling guilty becomes our natural state of being.

Of course it’s important to take responsibility for our thoughts and actions, but that’s all we can be responsible for.

I’m willing to bet that you’re a good person and are just doing your best to get by and have a good life. So why are you so quick to assume that someone’s bad mood or unkind words are a reflection of your inadequacy? Why do you take it personally?

I’m believe that it’s because, on some level, we believe we are inadequate.

The reasons we internalize this belief are as diverse as we are. It may have been subconsciously passed down to us from our parents. Or instilled in us by our peers when we are young. Or due to the fact that we live in societies largely built around blame and guilt.

how-to-not-take-things-personally-2Regardless of where we learned it, when we hear someone expressing displeasure, whether they are intending to direct it at us or not, we take it personally and react by becoming defensive or by feeling guilty. Not because we are guilty but because they’ve touched on our own fears and limiting beliefs. My favourite text on the importance of not taking things personally is The Four Agreements. In it, Miguel Ruiz writes, “It is not what I am saying that is hurting you; it is that you have wounds that I touch by what I have said. You are hurting yourself. There is no way I can take this personally.”

The fact is: at the most basic level, nothing anyone says or does has anything to do with us. It’s all about them. Their beliefs. Their patterns. Their feelings about themselves. Their choices.

If we are at fault, of course we should apologize and make amends as quickly and sincerely as possible. But even in these situations, how someone reacts to us is up to them. And that means that, ultimately, taking things personally is a choice that we make.

“The ultimate goal is to become strong enough internally …[to] remember with utter clarity and poise that the person is speaking about themselves, they are telling us the extent of their pain, not a statement about ourselves. This is, simply, the only language and form available to most of us to express pain.” – Miki Kashtan, Ph.D.

But knowing that we shouldn’t take things personally, and that we have a choice not to, doesn’t make it easy to choose otherwise.

These are patterns that we have been creating and reinforcing over the course of our entire lives, and it takes persistence and consistency to change them.

However, the knowledge that other people’s words and actions have nothing to do with you is empowering in and of itself.

how-to-not-take-things-personally-3When you feel yourself feeling attacked, offended, or hurt, pause and take a breath. Say to yourself, “This isn’t really about me.” Remind yourself that your reaction has everything to do with your beliefs and needs but the other person’s words have everything to do with their beliefs and needs. They have nothing to do with you.

Remembering this creates distance between their words and you. It gives you space to put yourself in their shoes and remember that they have fears and insecurities that are shaping their perceptions of the world, just like yours are for you.

Sometimes this becomes a mantra that I repeat silently to myself: “This has nothing to do with me. This has nothing to do with me. This has nothing to do with me”

We all want to do well by the people in our lives and so we’re quick to become enmeshed in their fears and crises. Reminding myself that “This has nothing to do with me” saves me from a lot of needless suffering.

It also helps to take some time to ask yourself why your are feeling attacked, hurt, or offended. What assumptions are you making about the other person’s intentions? What meaning are you assigning to their words? What fears or insecurities does it touch on?

Going through this process will allow you to notice how much you are projecting onto the situation that goes way beyond what was said and the intention behind it.

We’re all so wrapped up in our own fears, our own insecurities, our own lives. But so is everyone else. We’re quick to take things personally, because we’re quick to assume that it’s all about us. But instead of taking it personally and being hurt or getting defensive, remember: This has nothing to do with you. Consistently reminding ourselves of this fact is the key to learning not to take things personally.

Recommended Reading:
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Hyper love & mega joy,




Photography by Phil Poynter for Vogue Italia.

7 Purse Essentials for Spontaneous Magic

purse-essentials-magic“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” -Roald Dahl

Our lives become more magical not from purchasing luxury goods or even from overhauling our routines, but from taking time to savour all of life’s small joys and living in awe of all the wondrous things happening around us. That being said, I think there are many things we can do to live more magically. Seek out silliness. Inject delight into your day. Infuse your routine with merriment. Take time to make the world more beautiful.

Here are seven small items to keep in your handbag for creating spontaneous bursts of magic. And you could go out and buy them all right now for less than a tenner.

“Blowing bubbles” was one of the prompts for #radicalselflovejuly. I picked up this little bottle at an off license for 50p and have been carrying them in my purse ever since. I pull it out to blow bubbles when I’m walking down the street, sitting in the park, hanging out in a beer garden, or even just dancing in my room. It’s amazing to watch the joy that lights up people’s faces when they see bubbles floating past. The simplest magic.

Travel Candle
For making spontaneous picnics, park dates, or an afternoon drink by the canal instantly more romantic.

For throwing in celebration, blowing into the camera, tucking into envelopes, hiding in newspapers, and leaving a glittery trail in your wake.

For scrawling encouraging messages on park benches, joining the conversation on the walls of bathroom stalls, writing love letters on your arms, and leaving your mark on the world.

Colourful chalk
If permanent graffiti is too rebellious for you, leave positive messages on the sidewalk to make passersby smile (I wrote this one in July) or have an impromptu drawing session with your friends.

For spontaneous celebrations, lighting up cupcakes, spelling your name in the dark, and waving around with absolute glee just because you can.

Googley Eyes
For pulling silly faces, defacing offensive ads, dressing up condiment bottles, giving your tattoos a humourous twist, and adding life your doodles (see Chloe Rice for lots on inspiration).

What’s your favourite way to make your life a little bit more magical?

Yours in everyday magic,




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The Birthday List: Go On A Picnic

IMG_4836When writing a birthday list, I think it’s really important to include some items that are quite simple. Make sure they’re things you’re itching to do, but that they aren’t going to take you all year to check off. “Going on a picnic” was one of those items for me this year.

I added it to the list, not because it was something I’ve never done (we used to go on one nearly every week of the summer when I was little), but because I haven’t done in so long.

My choice of picnic foods has certainly changed (grown-up Sarah thinks Cheese Whiz and mayonnaise sandwiches are disgusting), but my desire to feast on the grass with some of my favourite people hasn’t.

Last Saturday I rounded up a group of friends and we made our way to London Fields to do just that (no Cheese Whiz sandwiches allowed). In typical British fashion, the weather was a little bit dodgy, but we managed to avoid getting rained on and had a really nice afternoon.

London Fields on a Saturday in the summer is one of my favourite places. It’s crammed with people BBQing in everything from disposable tinfoil contraptions to full barrels that they had brought hitched to their bicycles. There was colourful bunting hung from trees and one group celebrated a birthday wearing pointed hats and elaborate get-ups. There’s often music playing, people dancing, and it’s always a good time.

Our picnic was definitely on the low key side of things. We snacked on hummus and crisps, popcorn from Broadway Market, vegan potato salad, and grilled portobello mushrooms. For dessert there was Prosecco and homemade chocolate chip cookies – perfection!

It was a great chance to catch up with some of my favourite ladies and for them to meet my boyfriend. We chatted about everything from the ins and outs of Tinder to our upcoming holidays and the meaning of contemporary art.

I think those are the ingredients of a perfect picnic: delicious food, great friends, and interesting conversation. It doesn’t need to look like something off of Pinterest. Simplicity is key.

What about you: have you had a picnic lately? What are your favourite foods to bring on one?

Love, sunny days, & checkered blankets,

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