Lessons learned from 2015 – or, the year that kicked my ass


I've gone on enough – particularly on Instagram – about how terrible 2015 was for me. I'm not one of these people who strives to be positive all of the time (I know, that'll be a shock to most of you), and I have no problem admitting it when I'm having a rubbish time or generally feeling low, and one of the big lessons I've learned not just this year, but over the course of my life, is that sometimes, you have to let yourself be sad. So today, when I was looking back over my Instagram posts from 2015, I was expecting to see more bad than good – because when I think back on the year, I won't lie, it's mostly grey. But then I realised that, I guess unsurprisingly, 2015 wasn't all bad. Nothing's ever all bad, right? It had its high points, and I learned some really valuable lessons. So I thought I'd share them with you – just in case you need a few things to take with you into 2016!

Growing basil doesn't have to be hard


I don't know how many basil plants I've bought, only to have them wither and die within days. I decided it was an unavoidable consequence of living in Ireland – not enough sun for those Mediterranean moans, obviously – and didn't think too much about it, until I visited my cousin Roseanne and realised that her basil was thriving. Thriving!

As you can imagine, I was raging with jealousy – so I just had to know her secret. Turns out, she was clipping and propagating her basil the minute she got the plant home, dividing it into little glass jars and multiplying her plant into several incredible, leafy green plants.

I immediately tried it – you can see the results above – and I will never, ever look back. I now have enough basil for all of my Italian cooking needs (and more!) and feel insanely smug when I see other people's withered plants. Here's the how-to.

Anyone can change their body


We all know that losing weight is simple, right? Eat less and move more – but knowing how and making it happen are two very different things. I'm hoping that, in time, I'll start to remember 2015 as the year I finally started changing a body I was not at all happy about, with the help of an amazing trainer (Niamh at Lift Training Studios), the first person who has ever succeeded in making me adjust my eating patterns and, in turn, my mindset.

I've been taking weekly progress pics (shared on my Instagram) to keep track of the changes, and I'm constantly surprised by what's getting smaller – like my neck! – and more toned. I'm really excited to see what this year is going to bring, in terms of training and muscle growth. (By December, I'm hoping for @shapingsteph levels of muscle definition!)

Cycling 64km in one day is possible (even for me)


I'm not saying it was a doddle, but when my friend Ciara and I cycled from Knockranny House Hotel & Spa in Westport to Mulranny and back in the one day, along the Great Western Greenway, I was pleasantly surprised at just what my body – or, more specifically, my legs – could do.

Okay, I'll admit that I had to dismount for a couple of particularly challenging hills, and there was a lot of moaning on the homeward leg of the journey, but it was incredibly exhilarating to get out in the fresh air and see parts of Ireland that I never knew existed. I'd like to do it again in 2016 – only, y'know, faster.

Eating healthily can be seriously delicious


It helps that there are so many great restaurants that cater for clean eaters, but before this year, I would have sworn to you that nothing could possibly be as delicious as an Eddie Rocket's dinner. Now I'm one of those dickheads who would (honestly) rather have grilled fish and green vegetables than battered fish and chips.

It's clearly a cyclical thing; once you start eating clean, you like eating clean because your body is less accustomed to eating huge levels of sugar and processed foods, so I'm not saying that pizza addicts can suddenly begin to adore lean meat and veg. But changing my eating patterns – both for my body and for my mind – was the best thing I did in 2015.

Some of the healthy treats I am loving include:

Everything is better when you have long hair


During the summer, courtesy of Great Lengths Ireland, I had long hair – for the first time in my whole life – and I loved it. I don't know what it is about long hair (actually, I do; I suspect it has a lot to do with our cultural norms and expectations of femininity, standards of beauty and ingrained feelings of self-worth and value as relating to looks, but how and ever...) – but I suddenly felt as if I was being treated completely, utterly differently.

Having them removed, three months later, proved that I was right; it wasn't just about attention from men, but people – generally speaking – were nicer to me when I had long hair than they ever had been before. This could, of course, be due to the fact that my natural hair makes me look like a human mountain lion...

Ultimately, I'm too low-maintenance (read: lazy) for the upkeep, but my foray into the world of extensions did make me determined to grow my own hair, no matter how long it takes.

Always meet your heroes


I'm always a little nervous about meeting people I know from The Internet – because, y'know, we all play roles online, and no one's ever what they seem. Er, except a lot of people are exactly what they seem.

This year, I met a whole host of people I knew – intimately – from Snapchat, and each and every one lived up to the idea I had about them. Grace (above), James Butler, Tara O'Farrell, Lovely Girly Karen – all people who completely and utterly lived up to the idea I had of them. The serious upshot? I now know that any time I go to a "blogger" event in Dublin, I have a whole group of people I'm dying to talk to, instead of being nervous about the awkwardness of it all.

Fashion can be stylish and practical (who knew?!)


I've always been a firm believer that clothing is either stylish or practical, but never both. Take UGGs: they're so comfy, and toasty warm, but they look like giant orthopaedic snow boots. Or how about leggings: comfy, casual, bloat-defying legwear, but never good-looking outside the house.

Until this year, I would have lumped sports and rain gear in with those first two – then I discovered the StellaSport range at Life Style Sports and began to really, really love sports gear. Next, I came across Ember and Earth, an Irish brand creating deadly raincoats (above) in a host of gorgeous colours. (Get 10% off yours using the promo code ROSEMARY.)

You never NEED the bag


Another thing I always believed? If you see something you love, and you can't stop thinking about it, you need to own it. Y'know what? This is bullshit. Nobody needs a robot clutch bag (mine is from Asos, incidentally), or a multicoloured faux fur stole, or a jumper with a sequinned mouth on it.

Things I do need: a pair of jeans that actually fits me (have my eye on a pair of Freddys, which I love); a pair of white runners; sports socks that don't slip down under my runners every time I move; some bras that actually fit me, now that my boobs have started to shrink.

Things I don't need: whimsical handbags; sequinned dresses; anything with comic book motifs / cutesy slogans.

I'd love to know what 2015 taught you (because, chances are, your lessons will be a little more meaningful than some of mine...!). Here's to a 2016 filled with love, laughs – and some shit times because, y'know, they're inevitable. It's just what you do with them that counts.