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Books I've Loved Reading This Month

LovesHolly MartinComment

I have always loved to read. I love books and genuinely think I’ve learned as much from reading as I did whilst I was at school. I like quite a wide range of genres and like to change it up with each book. I probably read at least one book a week but often two and I thought I’d share the one’s I’ve been enjoying this month with you:

I Heart Forever - Lindsey Kelk

Woohoo! I have been waiting for the latest instalment in the I Heart series for ages now and it was only released a few days ago but I’ve already finished it.

If you haven’t read any of the ‘I Heart’ series by Lindsey Kelk then you are seriously missing out. Seriously. You have to read them in order and it starts with ‘I Heart New York’ when Angela Clark, a normal girl living a very normal life, finds out her fiancé has been cheating on her and flees to the Big Apple. To cut a lot of stories short, you can follow her (hilarious) adventures in love, in friendships and her career all whilst finding herself.

(spoiler alert - if you haven’t read the first books in the series, look away now)

The latest book, I heart forever, picks back up with Angela in her role as editor at the magazine she started, Gloss. Her rock star husband has decided to go travelling, alone and her best friend is getting married.

As always, things start going wrong for Angela when the company decides to restructure, threatening her magazine and her position. In the midst of this, she also discovers she’s pregnant and can’t tell her husband because he’s in a far flung country with no wifi - sob!

I cannot stress how much I love these books. Sometimes Angela is a little frustrating because she rarely deals with things in the right way but she seemed a bit more in control in the latest book and I always find myself literally laughing out loud at her mishaps - cue, rocking up to her company’s event dressed as Game of Thrones character, mother of dragon’s Daenerys Targaryen, only to find that nobody else is in costume and as usual she takes it in her stride, well sort of!

I love finding a good series of books because it’s like being back with old friends and catching up on their adventures whenever a new one is released.

Plus Angela loves Christmas and you know, so do I.


Behind Closed Doors - B. A. Paris

Chilling is the best way to describe this book and this makes it the perfect book to curl up with for Halloween - just make sure you keep some lights on.

The book is about the perfect couple, Grace & Jack. Grace is the perfect wife, beautiful, polite, an excellent cook (please!) and Jack is the devoted husband with a successful career defending victims of domestic violence. But all is not what it seems.

I read this so quickly, partly because I was freaked out and had to just keep going but it’s fast paced anyway and at times incredibly frustrating to read. I don’t want to spoil it for you but I will say that what I really liked about it was that it isn’t especially graphic but it’s still sickening - does that make sense?

Give it a read and see if you agree.


Revenge Wears Prada - Lauren Wesiberger


You’ve almost definitely seen The Devil Wears Prada which is based on the first book in this series and if you haven’t, you need to.

Revenge Wears Prada comes back to Andy Sachs 10 years after she left Runway and is now an editor of her own wedding magazine along with arch-enemy turned friend, Emily.

She’s also a newly wed and then finds out she’s expecting. And if all of that isn’t enough to juggle, Miranda Priestley is back and this time Andy refuses to let her ruin her life a second time.

The author, Lauren Wesiberger, actually worked as an assistant to Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief, Anna Wintour and I’m sure she’s drawn on that experience in order to write these books - I just hope some of it was exaggerated!

I actually prefer this book to the first one as there’s bit more going on and you feel like you know Andy a lot better.

It’s funny, sad, easy to read and one of those books that I re-read on a regular basis.

A Mother’s Reckoning - Sue Klebold

This is one of those books that just blows your mind. It’s not an ‘easy read’ and it’s very emotional but it’s just so well written and so insightful that I had to put it on my list.

The book is written by a woman called Sue Klebold. Sue is the mother of Dylan Klebold and Dylan was one of two boys that murdered their classmates and a teacher in probably the most infamous school shooting in history at Columbine High School.

Sue is clearly an extremely intelligent, compassionate and articulate woman and you can literally feel the pain in her words. She talks about the day of the shooting and then the aftermath but she also talks about her son’s past and their family life. One of the main purposes of the book is to make people more aware of mental health issues and how frighteningly easy people, especially teenagers, can hide the issues they are dealing with.

I think Sue is incredibly brave to write a book like this, especially as both herself and her husband were judged very harshly from people all over the world after Columbine. People felt that they must be to blame for their son’s horrific actions, that they were abusive or neglectful. This wasn’t the case at all and that is what makes this such a compelling read. Their family life sounds idyllic and that is what Sue says can be most dangerous. Small signs that a person you love is struggling are easily missed or passed over as ‘typical teenage behaviour’ when it can be so much more serious.

She also donated all the profits from the book to research and charities that focus on mental health issues.

The book is heartbreaking but there’s also some light and hope there too and it’s one of those books that will keep you thinking about it long after your finishing reading.


"Your Choices Are Half Chance"

LifeHolly Martin2 Comments

The other day, I was shown a video on Youtube called “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”

Originally the lyrics were a column that was written by Mary Schmich back in 1997 and they were later made into a song by Baz Luhrmann and that song was apparently a worldwide hit.

Clearly, I’ve been living under a rock because I had never heard the song until the other day but one of the lyrics really struck me.

The whole song is basically advice to a younger generation but written in an amusing and non-patronising way. The lyrics that caught my attention the most though were these ones:

“Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s”

I had one of the weird moments when you suddenly see things from a totally different view from the one you’re used to.


And I’ll explain why. I love a good quote and I really do find them to be inspiring and sometimes just what I need to hear BUT.. a lot of my favourites are based on the idea that if you really want something, I mean TRULY want it and if you’re prepared to work hard enough to get it then you will succeed.

However, the lyrics from this song made me realise that this isn’t always true. Please, don’t think I’m being a debbie-downer here but the truth is that a lot of things that happen in our lives are not within in our control and those things can and will affect your decisions and ultimately where you end up.

I’ve always admired other people and their achievements, whether that’s someone who has devoted their life to helping others or someone who has created a successful business or someone who has a long and still loving marriage or someone who is an incredible parent - there are so many inspirational people to look up to and I always hope that I will find out the secrets to their successes.

But when you think about it, there was a little lady luck in play too. I mean, you’re unlikely to have a long and happy marriage if your partner suddenly changes or decides that they no longer want to be with you. Or if you have a brilliant business idea but cannot afford to fund it or if you’re about to take a world adventure and then find out someone you love is sick and you can’t go.

So much can just happen to us and there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it which is actually pretty terrifying when I say it like that but at the same time as thinking about scary that thought is - that maybe no matter how much you try, or how hard you work, you still won’t achieve your dreams,

But what I also felt was a bit of relief. Relief because as the lyrics say, you don’t always have to blame yourself when something doesn’t work out. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve failed or that you didn’t try hard enough. Sometimes, things are simply outside of your control and no matter what choice you make you can never know for sure what would have happened if you chose differently.

And that’s kinda nice to hear. Because as much as we all need motivation or inspiration, we also need to remember to be humble, to appreciate what we have and also to know that despite the pressure to succeed, no matter what area of your life that might be in, if you don’t, it isn’t your fault.


Creating A Brand Style Guide

BusinessHolly MartinComment

As well as designing my own logos and websites over the last few years, I’ve also designed for other people and I thought you might like to see a little bit more of the process behind creating a strong brand for your business and how you can do it yourself. This is a topic that I’ll probably go through in a few different posts so that we can look at each stage.

One of the first things I create when preparing for a new design project is brand style guide. You might have heard this called a few different names such as inspiration board, mood board, brand guide etc but essentially it’s a collection of images, text and colours that represent and reflect your own brand and help you to visualise your own designs more clearly.

The best place to start is Pinterest. You’ll find a whole world of inspiration there and can easily set up a board solely for this purpose. The images your choose don't need to be related to your business in terms of their content. Usually they represent colour schemes or certain styles and shapes you want to incorporate into your branding.

I use Adobe Illustrator for nearly all of my design projects so I just ‘place’ my favourite Pinterest images into a page on Illustrator and then crop and edit them into a board. I also add colour swatches here too.


This, combined with information I’ve gathered from the client, such as their key brand words, target audience and mission statement etc. helps me to come up with the logo design and final brand style guide. This board is a mixture of images from the initial board combined with their logo design and key fonts.


This board then becomes a key tool that I continue to use throughout the design project. I refer back to it when building the website or designing other things such as business cards, leaflets or labels.

I'll share a few more brand style guides I've created soon but if there's anything you'd like to know in more detail, feel free to drop me a message.


My Favourite Autumn Handbags

LovesHolly MartinComment

Okay, technically, it's still summer.. especially in Spain, however it actually rained yesterday. Rained! And it was amazing. I got to sleep in pyjamas and put my make up on without it sliding straight off. AND it got me thinking about the upcoming season - AUTUMN! We're so close I can smell the pumpkin spice lattes and I've spent some happy hours looking at knitted jumpers, cosy hats and of course handbags!

So my lovelies, as it's always nice to share, I thought I'd show you some of my fave bags for autumn from designer to high street.

Side note: Could I write one of these beauties off as a business expense if I used it in a blog post???

The Classic Tote

I'll be straight up here. I'm totes a tote kinda girl (see what I did there?) The classic tote can be easily overlooked by it's flashy sisters but you will never and I repeat never, go wrong with a simple yet stylish tote bag. Perfect for every day use, easy to carry and you get a ton of room for all your junk. I mean, very important essentials. So here are my favourite over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders:

DESIGNER - The Bayswater Tote - Mulberry

This emerald goddess is selling for £695 on Mulberry's website and comes in quite the range of colours but I really thought this Ocean Green was the perfect addition to any autumn wardrobe. It features the classic postman's lock, can probably hold more than Mary Poppins' own bag and even comes with a removable pocket for your smaller essentials!


HIGH STREET - Moc Croc Tote Bag - Glamourous

I found this gem on ASOS and couldn't believe it's bargain price tag of £28.00. It's faux leather and ring detail makes it look especially glam and it comes in a greeny-grey colour that I think would go with pretty much everything.

The (not-so) Hobo Bag

Still gives a girl plenty of space and has that strange ability to bring both sophistication and youth to an outfit. Win win.

DESIGNER - The Pierce Suede Hobo Bag - JW Anderson

I found this bad boy on Selfridges website for (a slightly eye watering) £1,250. In soft, supple suede and featuring the signature barbell piercing, this bag will make your autumn wardrobe oh so cool whilst also giving you plenty of space. It has a detachable shoulder strap and is light to carry making it the perfect daytime bag for busy women.


HIGH STREET - The Sienna Leather Slouch Hobo Bag - Topshop

Talk about twin-ing, I found this one on Topshop's website for just £38 and you can't deny it's similarities to the designer version. This hobo features a single strap too and is also made from tanned soft suede.

The Small Shoulder Bag

Another wardrobe staple. The small shoulder bag should never be underestimated. This bag can go from office to bar and holds just the right amount of 'stuff'.

DESIGNER - Monogram Quilted Shoulder Bag - Saint Laurent

Currently selling for £1,625 on Selfridges' website, this bag has been top of my wish list for quite some time, but alas no one has yet found an appropriate occasion to buy it for me - sigh. It's the ultimate little black bag in quilted leather and features a gold chain strap and gold monogram. This is a classic bag, guaranteed to stand the test of time.


HIGH STREET - Sandy Chain Quilted Bag - Accessorize

Okay, so it's not quite the YSL bag of my dreams but this cute quilted bag from Accessorize is pretty close for it's price tag of just £20 (currently reduced from £25) It will still do the job and plus, my mum's name is Sandy!

The Rucksack

Light-years away from the hideous one shoulder strap I carted around school (cringe) the rucksack is now in a league of it's own and makes it both easy and stylish to travel a bit heavier.

DESIGNER - The rucksack backpack - Burberry

More than just a rucksack this beautiful backpack is on Net-a-Porter for £1,395 but just look at it. Made from soft leather in the perfect pink and with lots of compartments I feel like this bag would actually organise my life for me. It's even got a padded mesh back for added comfort!


HIGH STREET - Crushed Velvet Backpack - Glamorous

I thought twice about this one as it's a bit of a marmite bag but personally, I love it and it's just £30 from ASOS. It's super feminine in this soft pink velvet and I would 100% use it especially for travelling as I think it would bring some fun to your outfit.

I could talk about bags forever so I should probably stop here but hopefully I've given you a few ideas for your Autumn handbag collection!


I Love A Home Manicure

LovesHolly MartinComment

One of the things on my August's self care challenge was to book in for your fave beauty treatment so I dutifully booked myself in for a manicure. However, things are so busy lately that I ended up having to cancel and instead I decided to treat myself to some new nail polish and do an at home mani.

I discovered these little beauties and I have to say I'm seriously impressed! They are the Essence gel nail polish, high intensity colour with long lasting wear.


Not only were they an absolute bargain (about £2 per polish) but they are hands down one of the best home gel nail polishes I've ever used. Easy to apply, lots of pretty colours and the shine lasted for days. If you do a really good home manicure I would say it should last for at least a week without chipping or peeling.

So here are my steps to a really good home manicure:

Step One - Nail prep is key! Firstly wash your hands and nails to remove any little hairs and build up. Then file your nails into the shape you want them, I always go for a round finish as I think it looks more natural. Now this step is the key to success - make sure you buff your nails to remove some of the natural oils that build up. This will help the polish adhere much better.

Step Two - Apply the base coat. Try to do this in one smooth movement starting from the nail bed right to the top. Allow to dry fully.


Step Three - Apply colour. Depending on which colour you go for you may need two coats. I love pale pinks and nude colours in the summer so I went for no. 5 Sweet as candy. Allow to dry fully.


Step Four - Apply the top coat. Make sure you have a good sized blob and seal the ends of your nails by taking the brush along the edge of your nail tip. Allow to dry fully.


And voilah! Beautiful nails! Definitely do this when you have a little time on your hands or you are bound to smudge them and make sure you let each layer dry before applying the next one. I find this makes big difference to how long they last and seems to prevent them turning into one thick layer that peels right off.


Re-designing My Website

BusinessHolly MartinComment

If you’ve read any of my recent blog posts you’ll have seen that I was talking about how working on the shop got my creative juices flowing and gave me so many ideas for ilovealist.com

It’s funny how sometimes taking a step back from something can help you see everything more clearly, because I’ve been spending every day working on the shop for the last few months, my blog felt more like a hobby again. Something I was doing for fun and I realised I hadn’t felt that way about it for some time.

For a while now, I’ve felt like something was missing from my blog and strangely, I think that thing was me. I’d tried to keep it more professional and informative but now I’ve realised that it lacked personality and it also made it harder for me to think of new content when I was trying to keep my personal life at a distance.


I decided to re-think it all and over the last few weeks, I’ve re-designed the whole site including my logo. I’ve also re-designed the planning pages and have taken away some of the products that I don’t have time to work on right now.

And I’m already feeling so much happier with it, I have tons of ideas and a whole list of content which is awesome.

I will write some more detailed posts about design and branding because it’s the centre of every business no matter how big or small and can’t be covered in one post but I can talk about the inspiration for my new website.

Because I have graphic design experience and build all my own websites it comes in super handy whenever I decide I want to make changes as I can do it all myself and save money on paying someone else but that does also mean that I have to spend a lot of time gathering inspiration to make sure my designs are original and reflective of my brand.

Firstly, I changed the logo. I still love the name but I wanted my logo to stand out more with an easier to read font and show more of my personality. I asked my talented sister to take some photos of me and I had one of them turned into a sketch to use in my logo and I’m thrilled with the outcome.

I spent a long time thinking about how to lay out my home page. After all, it’s the first page most people visit on a website so it needs to be visually striking but also user friendly. It’s great to look at other websites that appeal to you but I often find that by doing that I can block my own ideas somewhat and I really wanted the site to be original. Whilst I was planning layouts for the shop and trawling pinterest for inspiration, I found one of my old boards that I had created to pin gallery wall ideas and suddenly realised that this would be perfect for my homepage.

So I created ‘image buttons’ that direct people to the different pages on my website but laid them out like photos on a wall. I also added a few other decorative images and a photo of myself to further the gallery wall style and I think the effect works really well and makes my homepage much more interesting as well as making my brand clearer.

My main aim for the site was to split my one page blog into multiple sections so that people can easily find the blogs they are most interested in reading and that is exactly what I’ve done. The shop is a big priority right now and put simply I just don’t have the time to consistently work on new designs and hand make lots of products but I really enjoy writing and am working hard on improving my photography which is a challenge in itself so rather than spread myself too thin and not feel like any of it is getting my best efforts, I decided instead to just concentrate on the areas I enjoy the most and I really hope that comes through in my more recent posts.

I’d love to hear what you think of the new site and if you’re running your own website do share your design inspirations with me.


DIY Pallet & Door Furniture

DecorHolly MartinComment

Buenos Dias!

Hopefully you’ve had a lovely weekend and are feeling motivated for the week ahead!

I’ve had a lot of comments about some of the DIY furniture we made for the shop so I thought I’d share it with you here.

Reclaiming wood furniture such as old doors or pallets can be a great way to save money and is also quite good fun.

Pallets are usually pretty easy to pick up for free as most large companies have their deliveries bought on them and then chuck them out. We found nearly all of ours for free but did ask one large shop if we could buy a few from them that were stacked outside and they only charged us €2 per pallet so it was still a bargain.

We also found the old wooden door but again if you can’t find one you can usually pick them up cheaply enough from reclamation yards.

You will also need some sandpaper, filler and some paint. If you can, go for chalk paint for indoor furniture but if you’re using it outdoors you will need a waterproof paint. You may also need to use a primer for bare wood, such as the pallets, as this will make the paint smoother and easier to apply.

We turned an old wooden door into a headboard:

Firstly, we scraped and sanded back as much of the old paint as we could. Then we used filler to smooth out any cracks in the wood.

Once the filler had dried we applied a grey chalk paint. We then rubbed this down to create a distressed look and finally we waxed it afterwards.

We then fixed 2 wooden posts to the door and screwed these into the wall. And voila! A new headboard that cost next to nothing.

Pallet Shop Counter:

We had a pretty large space to create our shop counter but struggled to find one for a reasonable price with the right layout, so we decided to make one instead.

As I said, we got nearly all the pallets for free and in total we used four.

We sanded each pallet, filled in any cracks and then painted them with acrylic paint.

 Next we screwed them together and attached a wooden top that we bought from hardware shop.

It turned out perfectly as we have plenty of space for our chairs and bags, tissue paper etc and a nice long counter for display as well as the till.

Pallet Furniture:

You can pretty much turn pallets into any furniture you want but we just doubled them up, popped a few cushions on and added one to create a back for a little seating area.

This also works really well in a garden and you can have glass or perspex cut to size to create a little table.

I hope you found a little inspiration from this post. Feel free to message me if you have any questions and please do share any photos of your own DIY creations.





"What Is Done In Love Is Done Well"

Life, BusinessHolly MartinComment

Wow, what a week. It has literally flashed by..  As you know, we officially opened on Tuesday and we had a little launch party at the shop on Saturday inviting people to join us for a glass of fizz.

I’m pleased to say that it went brilliantly. As well as popping in throughout the week, lots of people turned up on Saturday to have a browse and they were all so lovely and welcoming with lots of good wishes for our new little shop.

It’s always a bit nerve wracking when you reveal something that’s special and personal to you to other people. Whether it be something you’ve written or made or photographed and no matter how hard you’ve worked on it or how good you think it is, that finally reveal is pretty frightening.

The night before I was terrified that no one would come in but also that they would come in but wouldn’t like the shop or our stock.

Luckily, neither happened (phew) but I do realise that you’ll never please all of the people all of the time. Mum and I chose pretty much all of our stock together and we agreed from the start that we both had to love everything we chose. We pretty much stuck to this, of course sometimes one of us loved something a bit more than the other, but ultimately we felt like we had to feel proud of what we were selling and we have certainly felt that way this week.


This isn’t the first time I’ve run a business but it does feel different to all my previous experiences. I think mainly because it’s a real, tangible entity whereas before I’ve been pretty much web based. Every day I now have to be at the shop and even when I go home I can’t stop thinking about it and researching our new stock and making marketing plans but none of it feels like work. It’s so exciting, it literally gives me tummy fizz.

I don’t underestimate the challenges that come with running your own business and in the past have experienced the taste of disappointment and failure but it is 100% worth it. To be responsible for your success is of course scary but also amazing because you get to make the decisions and do it your way.

And I’ve also found that the whole process has gotten all of my creative juices flowing again. It can be so easy to slip into a rut and struggle to find the inspiration and motivation but over the last fews weeks I’ve made so many plans for ilovealist.com and have ideas for new designs and projects so watch this space because I’ll be working on that very soon.

Image by my talented sister - www.francesfilms.co.uk

Image by my talented sister - www.francesfilms.co.uk

I’ve also been trying to keep up with the Self Care Challenge I created for August. So far I have woken up early to watch the sunrise, I have booked myself in for a manicure and I have watched a movie. I did also take a bath but rather than long and hot it was short and freezing.. thanks to heatwave Lucifer, it’s been hitting 38degrees most days here and so the only relief is an icy shower or cold bath because even our pool is now pretty warm.

I didn’t quite manage the long walk… I’m taking my inspiration from one of the plaques in the shop


I’d love to hear how your week’s been and if you’ve been following along with the challenge.

Until next week


Fig Is Open - Shop Reveal!

Business, LifeHolly Martin1 Comment

Well, we finally did it, we opened Fig! Strangely the last push was almost the hardest. There were so many small things still to get done and we definitely learned the hard way that the peak of summer may not have been the best time to be trying to decorate, furnish and clean a shop!

But despite the heat, we’ve made it to opening day and it feels amazing. I’m writing this on our opening day afternoon and can happily say we had quite a few visitors to the shop this morning and our first few sales. Everybody was really complimentary of the shop and stock and had lots of good wishes for us which was a lovely way to start the day.

It feels rather surreal that we actually have our own shop filled with beautiful things. I was awake early this morning as we suddenly realised we needed a cash float for the till so I had to get to the bank first thing and in all honesty, I was freaked. Firstly, it was already 30 degrees so my plan to get all dolled up for my first day went straight to s***t as make up slid down my face and despite straightening my hair, twice, I went with what is quickly becoming my signature look and had to pull it up. I then got to the bank and realised I’d forgotten all the paperwork for the shop. Luckily, Mark went and picked it up for me and once I arrived at the shop and after downing an iced frappe latte, I felt a lot calmer.

I don’t know if I was more nervous about no customers coming in or about them actually coming in!

It was all fine though and I’m looking forward to the week ahead and our launch party on Saturday.

I know I shared a few sneak peak photos on social media, but I thought I’d also share some of the “before” and “after” and maybe some in-betweens too.

I also just wanted to thank you all for your messages of luck and support because they really do mean so much.