Two years ago, exhausted Ely mum Emma Smith decided she’d had enough of vegging out in front of the telly and wanted to push herself out of her comfort zone.
Since cancelling her pay TV subscription, she’s taken part in 10km races, acted as an extra in MacBeth, been part of the team behind Cambridge Style Week 2016 Night of Fashion – and blogged about it.
A mother of two, Emma decided to create her lifestyle blog – apply called #100DaysNoTV – as an adventurous alternative to unwinding in front of the telly after a full on day of looking after the children and working as a freelance proofreader.
She told Spotted in Ely: “It started in the summer of 2014. Our children were one and three and as tired parents, we spent a lot of evenings channel surfing.
“I decided I wanted to get more from our free time and pretty quickly the #100DaysNoTV project was hatched: we would cancel our TV subscription and do 100 different things with our newly found ‘freedom’.
“To make sure I actually went through with it, I decided to make it public by creating a blog – I didn’t believe anyone would actually read it! Yet, here we are!”
Her pioneering activity, in early 2015, didn’t entirely go to plan.
“My first blog was supposed to be about a hand-shaped jewellery holder made with plaster of Paris. I was going to paint it, stand it on a dressing table with bracelets and rings draped over the fingers – lovely.
“I tried three times: first time the rubber glove collapsed and plaster went everywhere; second time I didn’t leave it long enough to set and it broke into bits; third time I couldn’t get it out of the glove! So, I gave up and made flatbreads instead.”
Over the next few months, Emma got to make Easter felt decorations with Jenny Hughes of Needle Doodles, explore the beautiful Worcestershire town of Great Malvern with her husband Rob and sons Ollie and Ben, and try out Thai cooking to celebrate the Songkran water festival.
Looking to stretch herself further, she decided to take part in her first 10km Race For Life to support a friend battling with cancer, and discovered a new-found running addiction, even pounding the pavements during a date night with Rob in June 2015.
In October that year she was finally able to reveal on her blog what she’d been up to earlier in the year – taking part as an extra in Hollywood blockbuster MacBeth, filmed at Ely Cathedral and sharing Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard!
Fast forward to early 2016 and Emma’s blog adventures were just as varied: taking part in an advent running streak from December 1 to 24, making paper flowers with Julie Donnelly of Little Button Nose, creating resin keepsake pendants with Ely jewellery designer Tallulah does the Hula, and taking a solo spa break when her friend had to pull out last minute.
“From as far back as I can remember, I was the class tomboy who lived in tracksuits and played football, not kiss chase,” she reflects on her blog.
“Later it was a football shell suit (come on, it was the early 90s!) and I stayed out to play football, instead of staying in to paint my nails.
“Gradually fashion did start to play a part in my life, until finally – at around 18 – the penny dropped that I could look quite pretty if I made the effort, and by then I actually wanted to!”
During the spring and summer of 2016, Emma’s perfected her mixing skills (cocktail mixing, that is) at a masterclass at Poet’s House, blended her own gin at a Cambridge gin festival and on Day 24, attended an iPhoneography Workshop with Instagram queen Sara Tasker.
She also regularly takes part in blogging events and meet-ups and is part of the CambMeetUp group, which has almost 100 members from across Cambridgeshire.
“I’ve made some great friends, and because of the group I’ve been able to take part in various restaurant launches, shop events and fashion shows – something I never expected at the start of all this!”
Emma particularly enjoys her blog collaborations with friends.
“It gives me the chance to hang out with them and find more about their specific hobby or business, and have a dabble: I’ve made paper flowers, resin jewellery, decorations from felt, a new blend of tea, and I have some more awesome collaborations coming up.”
Her quirkiest adventure was taking part in the Godiva Chocolate Challenge.
“I had to invent a dessert containing three elements: chocolate, meringue and something pink. We didn’t make the final showdown in London (no surprise) but my husband and I had a lot of fun with it, as you can imagine!”
“Setting a goal of 100 days is an achievable goal for me, and as it’s not 100 consecutive days I can go at my own pace. ‘Bloggers block’ does rear its ugly head occasionally! I find the best way to overcome it is to have a bit of time to myself, remove all distractions, don’t over think it and get a few words or paragraphs written down – if I’m relaxed it normally begins to flow again.”
Since starting her blog, she’s made some unexpected discoveries about herself.
“Despite having small hands, I’m not that good at paper craft or sewing delicate things! I’ve also discovered I can push myself out of my comfort zone and survive to tell the tale.”