Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Lessons From 2015...

We got off to a very rocky start, you and I. The passing of an old school friend came as the greatest of shocks; even now it feels so raw that it is hard to believe nearly a year has gone by. It took me a good while before I let go of my anger, but for the most part I've learnt to focus on how lucky I am and how blessed I was to have grown up with such a lovely chap.

Given that 2015 also saw me finishing uni and moving back home, it is hardly surprising that I've come to the end of the year feeling like I've got a fair few lessons tucked under my belt... and as this blog is about sharing and caring, I thought I'd write about the most helpful today!


For the entirety of 2014 and much of 2015 I had a spending problem, yet I was deeply in denial. Month after month my bank balance hovered only briefly above my overdraft, and it wasn't until I had a series of epiphanies this summer that I made some big changes. I've set myself a reasonable allowance for what I spend each month and saved the rest, a choice that has made me so much happier. I finally realised that a drawer full of lipsticks and wardrobe of cheap clothes was doing me no good, and that a consumerist lifestyle was doing the world harm too.


These words were said to me by a teacher friend during my year abroad, and they really struck a chord in 2015. It literally means "to step back in order to jump better", but she described it as taking what looks like a step backwards in order to make a better decision. I've moved home after uni and told myself that I'd take my time before I committed myself to any serious career moves like grad schemes and internships... I knew that after being pretty unhappy for much of the last few years, I needed to take time out to find the right fit and hopefully do some travelling in the meantime. It's the best decision I've ever made.


A recent lesson, and one that I know will be challenging to stick to, came to me from my boss during my appraisal last week. "Sometimes I can tell you're feeling insecure, and it's like you close in on yourself," she said. "You don't need to."

I was surprised and immediately moved by this comment... I had always thought that the shit I say to myself, and the mean voice that says it, were things only I could hear. To have someone I respect tell me they knew that I was struggling floored me, but this week I've been making a very conscious effort to answer back to that voice (cheesy as it sounds). I don't want to be in my 80s, desperately wishing I could have told my younger self she wasn't half bad, really. It is so hard to ignore our inner critics but I hope that I can get better at it this coming year.


A night in with my brothers. A gorgeous sunrise on my way to work. Singing in the car with my bestie. They're all moments that I used to let pass me by, but now I revel in these times... For all the grass-is-greener thinking that social media can encourage, there is no denying that there are really lots of little blessings to be spotted in the quiet of our everyday lives.

Anyone want a cracker with that chunk o' cheese?! ;)

But that's me done... What lessons came to you throughout the course of this year? Please feel free to share them in the comments!


Sunday, 20 December 2015


It's been a long time coming but my Simple Pleasures series is finally back, this time with a look on a winter's day.

If you've not come across my Simple Pleasures videos before, it is a series that celebrates the little things... The aim is to appreciate moments that can't be bought or even truly captured, just enjoyed.

Whatever you are up to this Sunday, I hope it is relaxing and suitably cosy too!


Wednesday, 9 December 2015

My Career Path Thusfar

This post idea is whole-heartedly taken from this beautifully shot piece by Siobhan (whose amazing new blog look has me itching to update my own site... Go take a look!)

I loved hearing about the jobs she has had, especially because I understand the feeling of not wanting to be pushed into one narrow path, to be followed until I retire.

As a child I wanted to do it all: to be a vet on a Monday; a singer on a Tuesday (thankfully that never moved beyond the pipe dream stage); an actor on Wednesdays; a writer on Thursdays and a painter on Fridays... I no doubt had plans for what I'd be doing work-wise on the weekend, too.

In school I liked pretty much everything, eventually choosing to do languages at university because I hoped it would yield more opportunities than other subjects.

If you, like me, find the idea of being pushed into doing just one thing simultaneously terrifying and dull beyond belief, you have to watch this video. Seriously, it will do you so much good.

In the meantime, I am a 23 year old French & German graduate with a little gaggle of jobs in my past, and today I wanted to tell you about them...


Yup, I'm not kidding you... My first job was cleaning out the chicken shed on a family friend's farm. At age 12 I was paid £2.50 or so for maybe a couple of hours' work and I loved it. Not the mucky specifics of the job; there is nothing glam about a week's worth of chicken sh*t, let's be real. Instead I loved feeling like I was independent, and my hen impressions at this time were solid gold. Dr Dolittle I was not, but was I training my ear for my language skills later in life? (Probably not.)


After my chicken shed days were behind me, I started babysitting for friends and neighbours for what I realise now were hilariously good rates. I remember being damn good at it; I love kids and I wasn't down for being a sitter who'd plonk themselves in front of the TV and ignore the sound of children's feet out of bed, oh no. They'd be in bed and asleep or they'd have to endure the punishment of me sitting in earshot, ready to call them out on any shenanigans. I also had a wicked trick for making kids fall asleep when they really needed to... It never failed me.


At 15 we did our two weeks of work experience, and I was very excited to be working for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. I'd chosen to apply to a charity as I had no idea what I wanted to do career-wise (little has changed) so I thought I'd try something that felt really helpful. However, the week beforehand brought a phone call, saying that they were sorry but they had to cancel on me. (I was pretty gutted.)

Long story short, my mum mentioned the situation to the ladies working in her favourite shop, and some rules were bent so that I could spend two weeks with them. I again loved it, and was asked to stay on to help out on the odd Saturday. Being the first to open all the boxes of new clothes was my favourite part of the job by far!


All UK language students are expected to take part in a Year Abroad, and as part of this our uni suggested that students studying two languages aim to spend time in two countries. My position started just five days after I finished my second year of uni, originally set to last two months but I ended up staying for another month as I was having so much fun. Being an aupair is always an intense experience, but I was lucky that it was intense in purely a positive sense. I loved the hyperactive five year old I was in charge of, her parents were fantastic and the surrounding area was utterly stunning. It was one of the best summers of my life and I still chat to friends I made there now!

A photo posted by Anna (@byhermirror) on


Alas, this was the only job on this list that I really didn't love. In retrospect, much of it was to do with the work environment - the team I was on was very unhappy and while things never got nasty, it was clear there were problems from long before I got there that were not going anywhere. Thankfully I loved the kids I was teaching and my home life was really happy, but it's made me want to put off any thoughts of teaching for a long time yet.


And now we come to my current job, one that started when I got back from France... and I love it. At present I work at the very same shop I did my work experience, but I get to be involved with lots of aspects of the business, including writing copy and taking product photos for the website. I work with a lovely team and every day is different. At times it can be much more demanding than you might think for a shop floor position... but I love it and I learn something new every day.

So there you have it... Head to the comments to tell me about your career experiences - what were your best and worst jobs?


Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Why You Should Start A Project 365

On Monday I finished my Project 365, a challenge wherein you aim to take one photo every day for a whole year. I am not someone who always finishes a personal challenge (I've secretly gone veggie and then secretly failed or forgotten more times than I can count) so this felt like such an achievement.

If you've never done a Project 365, I am here today to convince you to at least give it ago - with some of my tips from the experience to help you along!

It is an amazing record of your year. It's really lovely to go back and see what I was taking photos of a year ago; there is photographic evidence of when I started knitting again, what my favourite breakfasts are and lots of photos in my ugly but very zen uni room.

You can see how far you've progressed: my first shots are all night time ones, with artificial light, because I took a while to work out when to fit photo taking into my daily routine... As such they are certainly not my best work. I can also clearly see when I started getting to grips with framing and editing - my mistakes were not pretty but they were most certainly educational!

Every day, you have an opportunity to be creative. Taking a photo was, at times, a real struggle; if you look through the album you will see evidence of cheat days where I forgot and days where my shot was far from polished, but it meant that nearly every day I was pushing myself to find a new subject and to try again.

Tips and tricks: I'm not going to pretend I am the best photographer - I am a rookie who loves learning, plain and simple! That said, I did learn a lot through this experience, so I thought I would put together my best advice for you...

  • Make time for your photos. I used to tidy my camera in a box under my bed, but I ended up setting the habit of having it within arm's reach from my bed. It was one of the first things I would see each morning, meaning I could shoot first thing. In the winter, it is usually too dark in the morning, so I wish I'd set an alarm at lunchtime so I could take a photo on my lunch break - it would have meant fewer cheat days!
  • Don't worry if you miss a day. Just keep going. Some weeks involved nearly as many cheat days (when I'd post a snap that wasn't from the day in question) but I am very glad I carried on.
  • Consider posting to a private album. I didn't share the link for my Project the whole way through doing it, which worked for me as I felt less pressure.
  • Get inspired. I love Ines' project, and this one by M. Klasan.
  • Aim for consistency, not perfection. Simply taking photos every day means you will improve, so don't sweat it if yours start out as bad as mine did! As I said above, seeing where you went wrong is actually super helpful.

Apart from that, just get out there and have a go!

I hope you guys consider trying this project... It is a great challenge! If you are interested, here is mine to snoop at. In the meantime have a wonderful week!


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Cosy Weather Reading Material...

I don't know about you, but there's nothing like some super cold weather to make me feel appreciate a night in with a good read! As I write this, the house is being battered by a vicious storm and I am very glad to just be sat inside listening to it...

I'm hoping to share my cosy weather playlist with you soon; so far I've got a few tracks that I love for capturing the sad beauty of this time of year, but it's still in its infancy at present! In the meantime, here's what I'll be enjoying this winter...


I first read this last year and immediately fell for its intense and delicious prose. It's one of those stories that takes you by the hand with its first line and doesn't let you go until the last. If you are unfamiliar with its premise, the tale opens on a sleepy French town and a north wind that brings two wholly unexpected visitors... Vianne Rocher and her young daughter Anouk instantly cast a spell of intrigue on the town's conservative population, drawing admiration and distaste in equal measure when they open a chocolaterie during Lent. It's a beautiful read, but be warned - it will leave you very hungry indeed...


I've mentioned my love for this beauty before (it made it into this roundup, in case you missed it) and the latest issue has proven to be my favourite so far. This is a gorgeous British women's magazine, which showcases lovely visuals and some of my favourite writing I've seen in any publication of its kind. Its stories are unique and endearing, written excellently and still retaining a sense of play too... I could truly waffle about its merits all day long.


A read that I purchased after hearing Lilly loved it, I quickly fell for this simple but stunning tale. We follow Etta, an elderly Canadian woman, as she begins a trek that will take her thousands of miles from the home she shares with her husband Otto. While her voyage takes her across Canada, we are led on a journey into her past, following her history with both Otto and their dearest friend Russell. You will adore its gentle storytelling style, perfect for bringing you intimately close to each of the characters. It feels effortless, immediately pulling you into its hold.


Yes, it's another read I've told you about (in this video in case you missed it) but this story is that darn good. Proving that you don't have to chuck in a load of vampires when writing about young romance, Eleanor and Park is about love and all its complications. I'll be frank and say that I can't truly summarise the power of this one without inadvertently making it sound banal when the opposite is the case... this book is funny and painful and nuanced and gorgeous. Expect to be sharply reminded of every raw love you ever felt as a teen.

That's my roundup done! What are you reading at the moment? Leave me the sweet sweet recommendations in the comments. In the meantime, I hope you are doing well and that this week is going better for you all...


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

THOUGHTS ON: Friendship Breakups

While relationship breakdowns have been heavily documented in our culture (with all of us knowing that the secret is to sob in your slobby pyjamas while devouring trashy films and too much ice cream) the friendship breakup gets far less press. This said, I would argue that the latter can be just as painful as the former, with many of the same emotions surfacing in both experiences. Whereas we can't move for tropes and stereotypes on how to get over an ex-lover, there is almost no guidance to be found on moving on from an ex-friend... So how do you go about it?

I'm not much of an expert on any kind of breakup, but like most people I have gone through this particular situation as both the "dumper" and the "dumped" (or as Facebook might put it, the unfriended). Neither end feels particularly pleasant, so I thought I'd round up what I have by way of "advice", with some suggestions for getting you through that raw, foetal-position-adopted-friend-loss stage and the oh-crap-I-just-don't-see-us-as-friends-any-more-what-do-I-do stage.



First of all, please don't overreact and assume a friendship has died because someone hasn't texted in a while. I know that this may sound like the most non-advice advice ever, but it never does hurt to remind ourselves that we all maintain our friendships in different ways. I'm someone who may not get in touch for any length of time, but it rarely means that I'm upset with my buds. Your pal's pace of friendship may be slower while your own may be faster... It's something to bear in mind.

Test the waters. Whereas relationships tend to end with a clear sense of separation*, friendship breakups can be murkier. A couple of attempts to extend the hand of friendship should suffice; if you find that attempts to arrange meeting up get blown off repeatedly or that messages and calls go unanswered, it's wisest to step back and leave things. As the other party in this scenario, it's not nice to receive a massive, accusatory message outlining where they have failed to maintain contact with you, so don't bother. True friends will come back without you needing to ask.

Accept what is. Seeing a friendship dwindle away is totally normal. It's often not about either of you having done something wrong, but more about changes of circumstance; you may have simply grown apart or literally moved further apart from one another. In these instances, it helps to simply accept this and not let the hurt get to you too much; by maintaining a level head, you may even find that a bond gets rekindled later down the road (and boy is it great when it does).

Friendships ending in betrayal are less common, and it's often harder to see these ties being repaired. Even in this situation, take the high road. My family is big into saying the expression least said, soonest mended, even if it's not something we can always stick to... but it really does help to do your best. A few years ago I ended up losing some of my dearest friends at the time and I still wish I'd handled things with more dignity; now I am that little bit older I can see that things could have ended more easily.

Let yourself heal. It may involve multiple sadness baths, millions of late night phone calls and more Parks and Rec marathons than you can shake a stick at, but you'll get there. Allow the loss of one bond to give strength to others, by making the most of the buds that are looking after you while you get through your friendship breakup.

*unless you are Ann Perkins




Don't beat yourself up too much. We all need to move on sometimes and especially from friendships that bring us down instead of up. Sometimes drawing a line in the sand to say that enough is enough really is the kindest thing; struggling on with a bond that is just making you unhappy can lead to toxicity and real misery. It is okay to say no thank you to something that is no longer healthy for you.

Withdraw quietly. Again, writing an accusatory letter just isn't an option. Writing that letter and keeping it may prove cathartic, but any interactions with one another should be gentle and respectful. With a close friend, I truly can't imagine anything more hurtful than being told in detail, blow by blow, why they no longer want to be your mate, so don't do it to someone else no matter how justified you might feel. If you can't drift away quietly, perhaps a more direct interaction is necessary, just saying that you feel differently but that you wish them well. Don't have another friend do your dirty work and don't say anything that you wouldn't be comfortable hearing yourself.

Let them feel their hurt. They are likely to react with upset and our unhappy selves are not our best selves, so a thicker skin may be needed. Accept that they may feel lost and betrayed, but don't forget that you are doing so for the right reasons.

Feel your pain too. It is still an awful experience, even if you are the one who instigated a friendship breakup, so be prepared for your own upset. You may miss them and feel angry at them at the same time; this is again normal and just needs to be felt and dealt with patiently and with lots of chocolate based snacks.

Do you guys have any advice on this subject? Are you going through a friendship breakup at the moment? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments...


Saturday, 31 October 2015

The October Project #5

Dear You...

This is my last instalment of the October Project and how quickly this month seems to have gone!

Whereas last week saw me thrilled for my birthday but feeling overwhelmingly anxious for seemingly no reason, this week I seem to be back on track and had even forgotten that I was struggling at all! Funny how meditation and a bit of me-time can sort life out a little.

Last Saturday, I went to Brighton with two of my best buds from uni and we had a rare old time. With our closest friends it is true that you could be dumped absolutely anywhere and still have a ball, but Brighton was definitely a setting that added a lil summin' to our high spirits.

If you know me, you may be aware I am mildly obsessed with supporting independent businesses; if I had any power, we'd all be buying from small establishments with character over huge chains (you can totally kick me if this annoys you!) Thankfully for me, the Laines are knee deep in little businesses with big hearts. If you're not familiar with Brighton, definitely add Snooper's Paradise to your itinerary; I first visited a good six years ago and it's a wonderful place. There are also lots of secondhand shops, indie book places, stand alone homeware heavens and beautiful boutiques... So worth a wander.

A photo posted by Anna (@byhermirror) on


I've re-ignited my passion for soup - cue eye rolls from former housemates who were forced to watch me consuming it on a nightly basis - but this time it's been all about my own recipe! Get me. Essentially I've been roasting the veggies I fancy (usually involving sweet potatoes, onions, peppers and tomatoes) and then giving them a darn good blitz with a hand blender. Filling and so warming too.


I finished Go Set A Watchman and I'm in two minds as to whether I should dedicate a review to it... Let me know if you'd be up for it! I've also started Etta and Otto and Russell and James based on Lilly's recommendations and I am enjoying it so far.


I got super into the Weeknd this week (I really need to stop vetoing things because they are linked to 50 Shades... but this track is an old favourite that I rediscovered). I also jammed out to Mount Dreams and fingers crossed their songs will be in my videos soon!


It feels so sad to be sharing my last link roundup but here we go:

5 Night Routine Hacks - My girl Jenn shares some excellent advice for making routines a little more hassle free
Through A Lens: In The Vineyards - Lilly's visual stun me again
Why Some of Us Don't Have One True Calling - This video explained SO MUCH about myself and you may relate too!
Why Generation Z Are Deleting Their Social Media Accounts - Something I saw coming a while back but I loved this article's thoughts; via DotDaria
Defining Who You Are As A Blogger - Hanh's thoughts are fascinating as ever
Hello - Adele making the rest of us look like shoddy excuses for human beings as per
American Horrory Story - What do you make of this season? I've heard some complain but I am loving it (that may be the Matt Bomer effect)
FvF visit Rosa Park & Rich Stapleton - an oldie but a goldie
Elaine Bolt Ceramics - help I'm dead...
Instagram? More Like Latergram - interesting insight into the mechanics of our favourite network

And thus concludes the October Project! Many thanks for your kind words and catchups this month, it was a lovely experience sharing with you!! Please let me know how your month has gone and if you enjoyed this series - perhaps it can pop up at a later date...