Welcome, Talitha!

As I mentioned in my previous post, things over her at Gathered Cheer HQ have been somewhat turned upside down after the arrival of our little girl, Tallie. Now that we're beginning to find our feet, I wanted to properly introduce you to our little bird (so nicknamed as she made the cutest pecking motions on my shoulder when she wanted food!) and also to share a little more of our journey as to how we got here. 

Our path to becoming parents certainly wasn't straightforward, and it definitely took a lot longer than I ever could have imagined. I've written a little about our journey on here - namely about having experienced three ectopic pregnancies in as many years (you can read those posts here and here). To be told that the chances of conceiving naturally are slim to non-existent, thanks to fallopian tubes which didn't seem to know what they were supposed to be doing, is possibly one of the hardest things I've ever had to hear. But in spite of that, B and I held onto the fact that one day we would be parents. We took a little break from the baby-making trials after our last ectopic a few years ago, but then mutually agreed to give IVF a shot. So last January we began treatment and in theory we were ideal candidates. It might seem odd but the days of our treatment were lovely. B managed to shuffle his work schedule so he could come to most appointments with me and the Drs and nurses were wonderful and always so kind and encouraging. All that said, when they retrieved my eggs and had only managed to get two I was super disappointed. A few days later one happy embryo was put back into me and I sat on tenterhooks for two weeks to see how it fared. Sadly it didn't stick. This unsuccessful treatment left me lower than I've ever been before. Having been told natural conception wasn't really on the cards, I'd put all my eggs in the IVF basket (unintended pun!) and really thought it was going to work for us - we'd finally have our baby. The weeks following that I felt so lost as I grappled with our situation, along with the fact that we really couldn't afford more treatment and weren't eligible on the NHS. 

Of course we didn't face all this alone. We were wrapped in love by our friends and family. It was through these amazing people that we began to hope again - expectant at what our future could look like. Our faith is central to our lives and we truly believe that God is good, is a healer and that miracles can and do happen. Even as I type that, I also remember thinking that, despite wholeheartedly believing those statements, it would never be me up the front of church sharing my miracle story . Growing up in the church I'd seen so many people sharing stories about what God had done for them - afflictions healed, relationships restored, chains broken... I just never thought it would ever be for me. Several friends and family members began telling us that they felt such faith that we'd conceive naturally and to hold onto hope. It's times like these that the faith of others is what holds you up; my own reserves had run dry, so I let them hope for me. 

Talitha - calligraphy by Quill London

You can probably see where this is going, but three short months after the negative blood test at the IVF clinic, I saw two lines on the pregnancy test! My goodness, what an amazing shock that was. Naturally I then bought out the whole stock of testing kits at Boots as I kept checking to see if it was really true. As excited as I was, with our history of ectopics I was still so nervous, praying that it was in the right place. Thankfully I only had a week to wait as my lovely Dr suggested I went for an early scan at five weeks at our walk in clinic. I remember so vividly being scanned and the Dr confirming our little poppy seed was in my womb! In that moment every empty scan that had gone before was redeemed - we had our baby! After that moment I was still so aware of the fragility of what was growing inside me, almost not wanting to get too attached in case something went wrong. But as worried as I got from time to time, I tried to keep holding onto hope, staying calm and trusting that this pregnancy was for keeps and that God had it all in his hands. Every week was a milestone, and was even better when it included a trip to see the midwife or the sonographer. Seeing our little Peanut grow and develop and hearing her heartbeat was the most beautiful thing. And sure enough, nine months (and a bit!) after that initial scan we welcomed baby Talitha in our lives. We named her Talitha Hope as the word Talitha is used by Jesus when he says to a dead child 'talitha cumi' meaning 'little girl, arise'. So for us she is our little girl who both brings hope with her and speaks of the hope of God. A precious reminder to keep holding on. 

T // Gathered Cheer blog

Since then it's weird to think that baby loss and childlessness is no longer our current reality. God has redeemed all that with the life of our precious girl. I still think of the little lives we lost, but I no longer feel overshadowed by the pain or lost as we navigate our days. Life has taken on a new complexion as we try to learn to parent well, finding daily joy as we see Tallie grow and change. All that said, it's not been without its challenges. There's always a part of me that daren't complain about the hard days, as I know what it's like to so desperately want a baby, and hearing such complaints in those moments is the pits. But equally I'm trying to parent honestly too, sharing both the highs and the lows, the exhilerating and the mindane. 

First family photo fail ;)

First family photo fail ;)

And now onwards we go, walking on this new path - one that is already unfolding faster than I'd like. We toyed with how much to share on here and social media for a long while and finally reached the conclusion that Tallie is a huge part of our lives so to not refer to and share parts of her life would feel odd. So, while this won't be a full on parenting blog, she'll definitely pop up on here from time to time! 

So, that's our story - one of unfolding hope. If you're going through anything similar please know I am standing with you, holding onto hope for you too.

-x-

Snapshots from the summer

Hello friends. My, where has the time gone? I haven't blogged since the end of June - oops! What with a fair amount of personal stuff going on and the summer holidays too - which took us to Greece and France and Devon (lucky us, I know) - the days just flew by and the blog break, though totally unintentional, has done me good. Now it's September, my birthday has been and gone and a new term is upon us I feel rested and finally ready to get my head back in the game.

Rather than crashing straight in with business as usual I thought it would be fun to share some snapshots from the summer. It's been a wonderful time, full of trips to see friends and family, along with some fun blogging events too! That said, it still feels (at least here in London) that summer is still very much with us, as the temperatures are soaring and the sun is shining. You'll find no complaints here.

 

Travels - home and away // 

 

GREECE

This year we were thrilled to be able to return to the same spot we visited last year, the beautiful Lefkada island in Greece. It was a special time away celebrating my mum and dad-in law and both of their birthdays and their wedding anniversary too. The whole Garner clan had plenty of time to enjoy time together - eating, swimming, exploring and of course doing a whole lot of sunbathing. (Admiteddly not me, factor 50 and shade are my best friends...)

One thing I kept meaning to do last year was to capture the sunrise in all its glory, and this year, armed with my trusty tripod I managed it. It didn't disappoint.

DEVON

It's always a joy to visit Devon and the many friends and family who call it home. A flying visit, we made the most of the sunshine on a day trip out to the beach at South Milton. We also benefited from the fruits of the family garden - my freezer is now full of frozen plums waiting patiently for me to figure out what to make.

South Milton Sands, Devon // Gathered Cheer blog

 

FRANCE

You know you're at your home from home when you barely take a single photo, right? Well, on this short trip to visit my parents in France (they were there for a nice long summer holiday) I didn't even take one photo. It's a beautiful place to be sure, but relaxing in the sun and chatting to mum and dad was my priority and it was refreshing to have a break from taking photos. 

 

Blog events //

 

The White Company - Summer Entertaining

I was invited, along with a friendly group of bloggers, to a summer party hosted by The White Company all the way back in May. It was as you'd imagine the most beautiful event, dressed to perfection. Held at Eltham Palace (which I'd never previously visited, I will be back!) the sun shone, cocktails flowed and we had all the hearts eyes for the many White Company pieces. 

Here's a little video from the afternoon...

Gathered Cheer Socials

Two more of these lovely gatherings happened over the summer, hosted by some brilliant people. I had such fun that I'm going to make sure I blog about them both soon as we visited so many great places that I think you'd like to hear more about. 

The first was held in Faversham, and was hosted by illustrator and surface pattern designer Kate Clarke. Having never been to Faversham I was totally smitten by the charm and character on every street. Here's just a few snaps - more to follow! The shed pictured is Kate's - isn't it amazing?

Faversham Gathered Cheer Social // Gathered Cheer Blog
Faversham Gathered Cheer Social // Gathered Cheer Blog
Faversham Gathered Cheer Social // Gathered Cheer Blog
Faversham Gathered Cheer Social // Gathered Cheer Blog

The second social was hosted by Amy at Daisy Fay Interiors and Soumya from Made by Molu. They'd planned a fun photowalk around east London, taking in all the essential sights with plenty of time for snacks of course (bagels!). It was such a lovely walk with a great group of women, and Soumya even printed out a little map/guide for us. I'll be sure to share our east London must-visits soon. 

There are two more socials in the diary, so if you fancy joining us in Bristol on October 8th, click here to find out more and book your place! 

And that friends brings us up to date! It's been a busy few months, but they have been so enjoyable and it's made me realise that taking breaks away from the everyday are a wonderful way to recharge and gain perspective. 

Here's to the fast-approaching autumn season - I for one can't wait to enjoy watching the leaves turn and the sunlight show of its warm golden tones. I trust it will be a brilliant one for you, too!

-x-

Healthy Habits | Sleep

I'm happy to be introducing a new series on the blog today - the 'Healthy Habits' series. Inspired by my growing interest in living life well, I thought it would be useful to delve into these habits - discussing what they are and how we can nurture them in our own lives. I'm sure I'm not alone in that I'm aware of the good things I should be making time for, even going so far as to understand the benefits of these - but I then somehow find translating these good intentions into everyday habits a real battle.

First up on the agenda is sleep. Oh sweet, sweet sleep. How I love it. If I don't get enough I spend most of the following day in a daze, but despite this obvious need, getting a full night of zzz's is much harder than I'd like it to be. As long as I can remember I've favoured early nights and early morning wake up calls. I hit a wall at around 10.30pm and if I'm not asleep shortly thereafter I spend the day after with that delightful hungover feeling (without having the fun of enjoying a few too many GnT's...) But somehow the art of actually staying asleep is what eludes me most. I tend to wake up most mornings around 4am, when I have a drink of water and attempt to lull myself back to sleep. But, if I'm naughty and I turn on my phone, then it's game over. I then spend the best part of an hour faffing on my phone - checking instagram, twitter and playing Candy Crush. All the while my brain wakes up, but my body is crying out for more rest. 

Healthy Habits - Sleep | Gathered Cheer blog

With all this in mind we've recently taken a few fairly big steps in a bid to aid our quality of sleep... here are some things we've done that might help you if you're in a similar no-sleep situation! 

HANG BLACKOUT CURTAINS

We've actually gone to the rather extreme lengths of moving bedroom and hanging blackout curtains. Previously our bedroom (in our Victorian London terrace) was at the front of the house, and the blinds were less than effective - cue a whole lot of street lights. Add to that the general noise of city living and it was a recipe for insomnia! Admittedly, having the option of moving rooms (when my brother moved out) was something of a luxury, but my goodness it has made such a difference. Our room is now in the loft space at the back of the house and is so much quieter. The blackout curtains are the icing on the cake, making the room pitch black. A must if you're a light sleeper! 

Healthy Habits - Sleep | Gathered Cheer blog

DECLUTTER 

I get so stressed by clutter, that I've taken the dramatic steps to literally ditch as much as possible in our bedroom. Our bedside tables hold any essentials (books, kindle, bible, water glass, candle etc), my dressing table is similarly pared back, and apart from these surfaces our room is bare. While I do want to add some interest to the room via art and prints on the walls, this simple and minimal styling has meant the room feels so calm and more like a sanctuary. If you want to declutter, try upping the storage potential of any nooks and crannies in your home - then everything will have its own spot, and the visible clutter will be hugely reduced.

Healthy Habits - Sleep | Gathered Cheer blog

PICK SUPER SOFT BEDDING

This wasn't something I initially thought about, but recently it dawned on me that it totally makes sense to invest in good quality bedding if possible. B is basically a human hot water bottle at night, so light and cool fabrics like linen and cotton are a must. Right now I am loving our new seersucker bed linen from Soak & Sleep: it's so soft. Plus with its gorgeous texture, it means post washing and drying creases are positively encouraged - no need to iron these sheets! I've recently also teamed it with the beautiful cotton quilted bedspread. The king size bedspread is huge, and makes the bed feel extra cosy for chillier nights. 

Healthy Habits - Sleep | Gathered Cheer blog

TURN YOUR PHONE OFF

I should probably extend this tip to become a general 'no tech in the bedroom' rule - but really, how achievable is that? I value lazy mornings watching TV on my laptop, so such a rule would be broken almost as soon as it was decreed. But when it comes to my mobile, I really am trying to switch it to 'do not disturb' at night time, and force myself to not pick it up if I wake up in the night. This takes a whole lot of willpower, but on the nights I stick to it, I do find myself drifting off to sleep again rather than staying up getting more frustrated and exhausted. If you simply must use your phone just before sleeping or during the night, try turning the screen hue to 'night shift' on iPhone and turning the brightness right down - this will eliminate the blue light emitted and should stop your brain perking up too much! 

Healthy Habits - Sleep | Gathered Cheer blog

EMBRACE ESSENTIAL OILS

I've enjoyed using both the This Works pillow spray and stress less remedy and The White Company spa relax pulse point oil recently. Having never really used essential oils, I've been surprised to see how effective simple scents such as lavender and peppermint can be on promoting restfulness ahead of a good night's sleep. Just dabbing a little on my wrist as I wind down, breathing in a few deep breaths seems to set me up for a calmer night.

Healthy Habits - Sleep | Gathered Cheer blog

These are just a few ways I'm trying to be more intentional with my healthy habit of sleeping, but I'd love to hear your tips. What do you do to promote a healthy sleep pattern? All tips are so welcome and appreciated - just comment below or tweet me

-x-

This post was written in collaboration with Soak & Sleep, and for it I was given the lovely bedding set and bedspread. All opinions are of course my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep Gathered Cheer going. 

Photo credits // All shot and styled by Ruth Garner for Gathered Cheer


On Reflection

Last week I turned 32. Admittedly, quite a non-eventful age. Not grand enough by comparison to its 30 or 35-year-old neighbours. But a birthday nonetheless. And, much like the chiming clock that welcomes each new year, I find birthdays bring with them a certain amount of reflection. Dare I say, navel gazing. I'm not a 'serial birthday celebrator' (the thought of too much attention makes me feel skittish), so no big parties for me, but I do relish the idea of looking back over the previous year. Always a fan of a fresh notebook and a clear diary, my September birthday seems to offer both. (It must be the back to school spirit which happily coincides with my birth date.) 

Being heavily influenced by my surroundings is one trait that remains year after year, and so for this reflective moment I decided to light a candle. To me candles offer calm, clarity and the chance to just sit and breathe. With a mind that constantly buzzes, during times of prayer or thinking and mulling things over, watching a flickering flames brings welcome respite.
On Reflection (with The Fragrance Lounge) | Gathered Cheer blog

*Lights candle*

Oh, wait. What's for dinner?

Forcing my mind back to its quiet place. To stillness. And calm.  Don't forget to defrost the chicken. 

And so it goes. The ever constant tightrope walk between the sublime and the mundane. 

The fresh fragrance of earl grey and cucumber fills the room. And I finally find peace.

On Reflection (with The Fragrance Lounge) | Gathered Cheer blog

While we're here, let me just say how enamoured I am with this gorgeous Terrain by Paddywax candle. As a gatherer of all things ceramic and pot-shaped, it's my new favourite. While I'm loving it burning in our living room, I can't wait to fill it with a little pot plant! Just look at those watercolour, earthy stripes. Sigh. It's just perfect.

On Reflection (with The Fragrance Lounge) | Gathered Cheer blog

32. So, what have I learnt? 

I'm comfortable with who I am - thankfully, I seem to be reaching an age where the worries that filled my former years (about fitting in, being liked, not drawing attention) seem to be drifting away. 

I am confident in who I am becoming - the path I'm following, in work and life may not look the same as many others I know, but I feel God is leading me on. So I'm going to trust him and his plans for me.

Fretting doesn't help anyone - I'm finding life so much easier since I've gradually learnt to not obsess about things. Whether its friendship struggles, my weight, where we'll live next year... 

Love the ones you're with - I am so so grateful for the people that surround me. This last year has brought much change and new friends who now I couldn't imagine being without. 

I'm more capable than I think - Often times I defer to others - be it my husband, family or friends. But this last year has taught me how much I can achieve for myself. 

On Reflection (with The Fragrance Lounge) | Gathered Cheer blog

What an amazing year it has been. There has been: a house move, a new church plant, new friends and new work and blogging avenues. Busy? Yes. Scary? Absolutely. Worth it? For sure.

On Reflection (with The Fragrance Lounge) | Gathered Cheer blog

All photos styled and photographed by Ruth Garner for Gathered Cheer, with the exception of the lighting candle shot, which was kindly taken by the lovely Emily Quinton

Please note - the candle was gifted to me by The Fragrance Lounge. All opinions are totally my own, and I only ever write about things I'd be happy to enjoy in my own home! 


I'm so happy to have been nominated for an Amara Interior Blog award, in the 'design inspiration' category. I'm up against some incredible blogs so I feel honoured to be in such company. If you would be up for voting for me, I'd be ever so grateful. Just click the badge below. Voting closes in a few days! Thanks! x

Amara Interior Blog Awards

Little victories

In a world that celebrates the finished product - the goals attained, the dreams realised - lately I've had a strong desire to swim against the tide. Celebrating the small, not final, victories. You went to the gym? High five. Washed your face before bed? Good job. Apologised for being sharp with your husband? Nice one. It's in these little victories where life is lived. Real life, that doesn't let up and where trials pop out shouting boo, determined to throw you off course.

Celebrating small victories with JING tea | Gathered Cheer blog

One of my daily battles is to coffee or not to coffee? I love and loathe it in equal measure. Love the taste, the ritual, the kick. Loathe the side effects, the need for more, the withdrawal headaches. So, when a day passes and I've stayed strong I give myself a big high five. Of course there are alternatives, although it pays to buy the good stuff. Wishy washy dishwater equivalents will only make your heart sad and the longing for caffeine even greater. Trust me. 

So, when JING tea got in touch and offered me a sample of their range, complete with teaware, I was thrilled. I'd long admired the brand, their reputation and absolute commitment to sourcing the very best teas from around the world. Picking from their huge range was not easy - there really is a flavour for everyone. I plumped for loose tea in the shape of jasmine pearls, peppermint leaves and earl grey which, while caffeinated, it is oh-so elegant and delicious.

Celebrating small victories with JING tea | Gathered Cheer blog
Celebrating small victories with JING tea | Gathered Cheer blog
Celebrating small victories with JING tea | Gathered Cheer blog
Celebrating small victories with JING tea | Gathered Cheer blog

Soon enough, the sachets of loose tea arrived - complete with beautiful a tea timer and infuser mug. And they came just at the right moment. I was celebrating actually going to the gym, staying there and getting my sweat on and for me this was a moment to relish. How better than with a cup of jasmine tea? 

There's something so beautiful in the ritual of the tea ceremony. Prepare the mug and infuser with just the right amount of tea leaves. Set the kettle to boil. Bubble, bubble. Pour in the steaming water. Flip over the timer. Wait patiently for three minutes, relishing in a much-needed pause. Watch the tea timer, mesmerised by the white sand as the tea peals unfurl. Remove infuser. Take a seat. Breath in the delicious scent of the tea and finally, when the moment is just right, drink it in. 

Celebrating small victories with JING tea | Gathered Cheer blog

The jasmine tea, pictured here, is such a delicious green tea. Other jasmine varieties I've tried in the past have had a tendency to turn bitter after a while, this JING variety was the most refreshing and clean Chinese tea I've ever tasted. A small victory fighting my coffee fix became a precious moment of clarity as I sipped on my tea. 

Celebrating small victories with JING tea | Gathered Cheer blog

What are you pleased to have done (or not done) today? I'd love to know, so I can give you a virtual high five! Here's to each and every little victory.

-x-

Photo credit // All images shot and styled by Ruth Garner

This post was written in collaboration with JING tea, a company I love and wholeheartedly recommend. Thank you for supporting the companies I work with that keep Gathered Cheer going!