Posted in: travel

My Dream Life

rippon lea estate, victoria

‘The maids are all dead!’ my friend and I morbidly joked, waiting outside of Rippon Lea House. These things happen when you’ve been watching too much Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and are also giant nerds. On a beautiful sunny day we explored the estate, traipsing around gardens that included a tropical plant greenhouse, ‘Hagrid’s Hut’, a lake, a boathouse (‘Where Snape died’…), a tennis court (‘Let’s have a revolution!!!!’), stables, a swimming pool (‘This is where you find the dead maid!’) and many more interesting things that rich people have, before our guided tour of the house.

After about an hour of making nerd jokes and taking pictures of ducks, our tour group was allowed inside under a strict promise not to touch anything. I understood this sentiment because I have the frail body of an old thing and do not enjoy being unnecessarily touched either. The house and I had a true connection. And I’m not really joking. Even though some of the decoration wasn’t quite to my taste, as we saw more and more of the house a quiet sense of melancholy swept over me. This is the life I dream of.

It’s not the wealth I admire, it’s simply the beauty. Despite house being full of things like Fortuny curtains, Japanese screen dividers, pianos, and elegant glassware… it all still looked so simple and lovely. Some of it is likely down to the passing of time, not all the original furniture and decoration was there, but the last owners of the house had a mind for entertaining and comfort. Everything was done with a mind to convenience and ease. Seeing as I am the kind of person who will rearrange my entire room to make it most convenient for the way I work and use things, the house really resonated with me.

I will be back around early June for the Miss Fisher Costume Exhibition. I believe this is a ‘new and improved’ exhibition on the last ones, which I was never able to attend, so I’m very much looking forward to it. I am a great lover of film & television costume design (as if you couldn’t tell), particularly historical costuming – you can bet I’m counting down the days until I’m there! If any of you are in Melbourne or thinking of travelling there for the exhibition, let me know – we could have a ‘joking-about-murder-and-crying-over-amazing-clothes’ meet up.


rippon lea estate, victoria

rippon lea estate, victoria

rippon lea estate, victoria

rippon lea estate, victoria

Spot the Fortuny curtains… pure heaven

rippon lea estate, victoria rippon lea estate, victoria
rippon lea estate, victoria
rippon lea estate, victoria rippon lea estate, victoria

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Posted in: personal

Things I Crave

Photograph by Federico Brunetti

I have been a little quiet lately, at least around here. Once again, a tiredness set in that I found no desire to do battle with. It’s been a waiting game, hoping that the brain fog will dissipate soon so that my life can continue once again. For now, however, I am suspended in time, surviving on little dreams and pretty pictures. I thought I would share some, even though my mind feels clogged and my writing feels just as clunky I must remember that this is a part of who I am, and hopefully one day, who I was. My muddled words and strenuous efforts should not go unrecorded simply because they aren’t perfect. The imperfection is a part of my story.


The Seaside

Wet and cold for most of the year, all fairisle knits and wellies on the sand, giving way to a glorious few months of Summer warmth with street parties, bare feet, sundresses, and children paddling in the shallows. Collected sea shells line windowsills and fill old jars, these little homages to the ocean spilling all over town. Teenagers throw chips to the seagulls and talk loudly about how they’re going to move away someday. An elderly couple walk the shoreline as the sun sets, their dog bounding happily before them. It smells of sea salt and lavender and burning wood.

Follow emily b. | MISS BLACK’s board seaside town on Pinterest. 

The Country House

It is overstuffed with gingham and velvet, and it smells like fresh bread and new rain. The walls are lined with books, old and new. The library is everywhere. There’s a dog and a cat and chickens. Sunday lunch is roasting every vegetable possible with rosemary from the garden (and a drizzle of lemon in the summertime). Days are spent in that kitchen, where slow, simple cooking is a way of saying ‘I love you’. Late summer and early Autumn days are spent lazily picking fruit and taking picnics. Here, soft, velvety horse noses sniff at hands and pockets for a treat, those soft, soulful eyes being impossible to refuse. Life is gentle and full and beautiful.

Follow emily b. | MISS BLACK’s board country home on Pinterest.

The City

Nights of the theatre and champagne and lust. Floor length gowns, silky lingerie, bouquets of fresh flowers. Life is collecting fascinating people, hosting dinner parties full of intellectuals, artists, dreamers, lovers… there is sometimes shouting, often laughing, and definitely dancing. It is passionate and vivacious and never, ever boring. Weekends are gentle mornings of farmer’s markets and museums. Days are spent writing, readings, revelling. There is a promise in every second. The scent? Musky, woody, amber… and slightly, delicately floral.

Follow emily b. | MISS BLACK’s board elegance on Pinterest.

Posted in: advice

Positivity Isn’t Happiness

Positivity Isn't Happiness

It’s true. Positivity isn’t happiness. Sometimes people say to be they hope to be most positive, but I get the feeling what they’re actually thinking of is ‘happy’. Positivity doesn’t really have a lot to do with happiness, other than the fact that positivity might create a little more room for the good stuff. It’s more important than happiness. You don’t have to be happy all the time. In fact, you are not going to be happy all the time. That is normal and healthy and okay.

Particularly in the USA, but subtly pervading elsewhere too, happiness is practically your expected ‘default mode’. People grow up thinking they’re meant to be happy all the time, and that every second they aren’t blissfully happy is some kind of failure. It’s not. This standard has been set because it’s impossible to reach. Happiness has become a prime commodity – companies can package it up and sell it to us, knowing full well constant happiness is impossible. When we fail to be continually happy, we wonder what is wrong with us, regard ourselves as failures, and find ourselves once again buying things we think might ‘fix’ us. The process may not be so obvious, but it’s there, ingrained in our culture and getting in the way.

As a healthy human being, you are meant to experience a variety of emotions. Ranging from anger and sadness to happiness and joy. Too long in either end of the spectrum often isn’t pretty – ‘dangerous risk taking’ and irrational behaviour are attributed to both high and low moods. However, somewhere in the middle there is contentedness. I always strive to be content. It is a solid middle ground that you can always come back to after feeling some of those stronger emotions, while still being in the ‘positive zone’. When content we feel grateful and calm and rested. It is relaxing and natural, and the best state for productivity.

Positivity isn’t about forcing yourself to feel happy and joyous about everything. If you are prancing around with a giant smile saying “HELLO FLOWERS! HELLO SUN! HELLO WORLD I LOVE YOU!!!” all the time, you’re probably just going to get tired and bored. We feel a range of emotions because they help us stay safe and healthy. Some days the sun is just way too hot and it makes you grumpy. Some days everyone is annoying you because you need some peace and quiet. You might cry everyday after a break up or a loss, because you are sad. It’s all normal until you’re spending too long in the extremes, having trouble controlling yourself, and a bunch of other things that are the Beast of Possible Mental Illness (see a doctor if possible in this case).

Everyday Mindfulness recently said on Twitter:

— Everyday Mindfulness (@mindfuleveryday) February 15, 2015

I really agree. You must never force yourself to feel anything. Life is going to make you feel lots of different things, and positivity simply helps you cope a bit better by ensuring you have the coping skills to stay on task and feel confident. Happiness is a false ideal, dreamed up by people who want to sell it back to you and, ultimately, ensure your continued misery. Swap this ideal for contentedness, remain self-aware and practice being grateful, letting go, patience, and kindness.

Posted in: style

Style Direction: Everyday Elegance

Sleek basics with over-the-top jewels. Drop earrings, layered necklaces, red lips. Low heels because life is too short for anything else. Intense, oriental perfumes for sophistication and intoxication. This is performance art, darling.

High waisted trousers and hands on hips to channel Lix Storm on busy days. Tweed, cable knits, and brogues for the country Winter; think John H. Watson. Needless to say, life is all stacks of books, cups of coffee, and to-do lists. Oh, and blocks of chocolate, of course! (Other fictional inspirations: Emily Gilmore & Phryne Fisher.)

Floating around in camisoles and wide-legged pyjama bottoms, wrapped in a faux kimono or piano shawl. Soft, dreamy perfumes on rainy days, and floral-orientals of romanticism for restless, bored days when anywhere else in the world but here would do.

It is yesterday, tomorrow, never, and always.

Vogue, 1953. Photo by Milton Greene



Posted in: advice

5 Mistakes of Positivity Beginners

Positivity Mistakes

The Positivity Series

So you’ve decided to cut the toxicity and stop seeing the negatives; you want to reap the rewards that positivity can bring: productivity, confidence, a better life. YES! I’m so excited for you! This is a decision you will never regret. But the decision is only half the battle. Navigating positivity can be difficult at first, and I’ve noticed there are a few common mistakes that limit progress significantly. Positivity isn’t all airy-dreamy “I love flowers! Clouds are nice! The world is great!” No. Positivity takes real self-scrutiny. It is an undoing of toxic, damaging habits and mindsets that takes commitment and hard work.

If you are making these mistakes, don’t worry! I did too. You are certainly not alone. The beautiful thing about making positivity ‘mistakes’ is that it’s a great chance to put your positivity to the test! You can either take it in your stride and acknowledge that you’ve learned some valuable lessons through the mistakes… or you can get upset, feel discouraged, maybe even give up trying. I wonder which scenario you want to be?

Are you ready? Here are some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen.

1. Failing To Take Responsibility

The most colossal mistake! The majority of negativity stems directly from a person’s inability to take responsibility for themselves. The most negative people I have known are constantly blaming everyone and everything for their problems, using setbacks as an excuse to give up or not try. They focus on blaming instead of finding solutions for the issue at hand. They also tend to act as though they are the only people in the world with problems, that the rain or unsupportive parents or their most recent break up are situations unique wholly to them. Positive people’s lives aren’t devoid of problems: we just put our energy into finding our way around them! My advice? Get over yourself, realise it doesn’t matter whose fault it is & take some responsibility!

2. Believing Complaining Makes Things Better

Does this one strike you as being strange? It does to me, but it’s really common. I’ve had people come directly to me, saying they want to be more positive. Hooray! We celebrate! I encourage! …And then they promptly use me as an outlet to throw every single little petty complaint and problem at. I think it’s a result of the age-old saying “get it off your chest, you’ll feel better”. But I disagree with this advice. For big, huge, horrible things that have happened, talking about it can really, really help. But you do yourself zero favours dwelling on every petty, inane annoyance and problem that crosses your path. The second you have a problem, you should shift your mindset immediately to “how can I fix this?”. Not “whose fault is this?” or “this makes me feel bad and negative”. Be pro-active. Don’t dump your problems on people unless you’ve already thought of a solution or are looking for help finding one. I LOVE being a cheerleader, I DON’T love being a problem dumpsite.

3. Not Understanding What Positivity Will Bring

It will bring confidence and self-assurance. It will bring productivity. You will stop feeling rotten and judgemental. A lot of people try to be more positive but haven’t really outlined why they’re trying. What are the things you have problems with? Complaining? Getting angry over little things? Feeling easily discouraged? Are you sitting around waiting for other people to support or care about you? Do you put things off because it’s not the ‘perfect’ time to start? Maybe you aren’t being the best friend, partner, parent, co-worker, or boss that you could be? There are lots of ways negativity holds people back, but if you don’t know what your problem areas are, how are you going to fix them?

4. Not Understanding What Positivity Won’t Bring

Positivity doesn’t magically wash away all your problems. Those things that annoy you? They’re still going to exist. But positivity is about slowly shifting your mindset so that life’s little annoyances won’t bother you anymore. By committing to a positive mindset, you focus on what you can do despite annoyances, roadblocks, and challenges. Eventually you will get to a point where it doesn’t even cross your mind to get annoyed at and complain about things that used to consume you. Bad drivers, slow walkers, line-cutters, people misunderstanding you… you’ll be able to take it in your stride and, most importantly, let go. I hear the complaints people make about the little inconveniences that we all experience, and can’t help but think “who cares?” Either turn it into a funny story to laugh about or get over it.

5. Thinking It Will Happen Overnight

It won’t. And putting that much pressure on yourself to literally re-wire your brain’s knee-jerk reactions to life will only end in disappointment. It takes time. It takes commitment. It takes forgiveness. It takes intention. There will be ups and downs. Mistakes. Triumphs. The transition isn’t always smooth, sometimes your frustrations will only build up while you’re figuring out new ways to deal with them, and come exploding out at the worst times. It’s highly personal, highly intimate, but worth every single second. Be patient. Be gentle. If you’re trying you’ve already won half the battle: don’t forget that.

So let’s work on self-awareness! 7 ways to start start feeling positive has practical actions you can take in order to begin shifting to a more positive mindset, and checking that you aren’t making these mistakes too often will ensure you aren’t using counter-productive methods.

I hope to see you back here next week for more of the positivity series!

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