Hey there,

It’s been a bloody long while since I’ve posted here. I started writing on this blog as a travel diary. Since returning home to sunny Leeds in 2016 I didn’t really feel like I had anything interesting to write about.

Not much has changed, other than we got married in July 2017, (we had the best day ever!) And then in March 2019 I found out I was pregnant!

Now I’ve made it to the summer holidays and I finally have a bit of free time I thought I’d start writing about my experience so far with being “with child” (there are so many cringe inducing expressions to so with being preggo – here is a short list of ones I can’t bear:

“With child” – just weird and it’s like being a Victorian.

“Expecting” – I don’t know why I hate this but it seems too posh and formal. It make’s me want to scream “expecting what!!!?”  The “What to expect when you’re expecting” book makes me want to punch myself in the face.

And:

“We’re pregnant” – fuck off, I’m the one with the baby. (by the way, Tom has never said this – he clearly knows I’d have him shot if he did)

Anyway, ranting aside. I just wanted to write my memories down because I feel like I’ll enjoy coming back to them once Bopley has arrived. (sorry if I’ve gone down cringe lane again – Bopley is what we call the baby. We aren’t going to find out the gender and calling the baby “it” feels off.

So I thought I’d go back to when I found out I was pregnant. We had been trying for about quite a few months, so I was well in the habit of weeing on all sorts of ovulation sticks. The bathroom was full of various pregnancy tests which I had to be careful to hide away as our loo is often frequented by my music students.

I was horribly ill with a chest infection that had been lingering for weeks, so I went to see the doctor who gave me some antibiotics. I asked if they were pregnancy safe as there was the tiniest chance I could be pregnant. The doctor said “no – best to wait and see if your period turns up.” So wait I did, and iller I became, until one morning I woke up at 4am feeling like hell on earth, barely able to breath. I thought to myself – “okay, time for a pregnancy test (you have to use the first wee of the day) – it’ll be negative (I’d done millions of the things) then I can take the antibiotics and start feeling better again.”

So there I was, sat on the loo at 4am, barely conscious. I think I just sat there with my eyes closed so I could get back to sleep afterwards. This was me:

Anyway. After a while I opened my bleary eyes and peaked at the test and this is what I saw…

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Yep – you’re probably  thinking the same thing I was – “Is that a line?!”

Plus I had the added dilemma – was that line dark enough to wake Tom up?

I decided to wake him up. He had no idea what was going on, didn’t realise I was up, or taking a test, plus I made him turn the light on and look at the test. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just wait until the morning – but other than the fact that I was hysterical, the tests expire after a certain amount of time and you can’t read the results.

It was really hard, because we weren’t certain, and needed to do more tests. I didn’t sleep. We were heading to visit my family the next day but it was way too early for us to say anything. My brother and his wonderful girlfriend had just got engaged, so we celebrated with champagne. I had a few sips then left my glass – my family must have been like “WTF?!”

Anyway, over the next five days, I took five more pregnancy tests. And that little line got a tiny bit darker and I got a tiny bit more excited every day!

We decided to tell our parents and then wait until a few more weeks before telling anyone. The first person I told was Lottie, who was having a shit day… and i thought “well this will cheer her up!”

Then a few days later Rhiannon announced she was pregnant on Facebook, and I started manically messaging her “OMG!!! Amazing! Congratulations!!…. how are you feeling, how was the first trimester, have you been sick? have you got a bump??” To which she just replied “Heppy, are you pregnant?” BUSTED haha!

I downloaded an app and was delighted to discover what my baby looked like:

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I remember texting the photo to Lottie and being like “what the fuck is this?”

So a few close friends knew.

A horrid sicky feeling crept in which I can only describe as feeling like you have awful acid, and need to be sick and have a poo at the same time. I started wearing seabands which really helped. And spent a few weeks drinking ginger tea and subsisting on salt and vinegar pringles. The Easter holidays arrived at around week 8 of the pregnancy, and I spent two weeks pretty much feeling like death and falling asleep on the sofa. I was permanently thirsty. I would take two pints of water to bed with me at night, and finish them through the night and refill – mad! I was also very tired. This photo was taken around that time and sums up how I felt:

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I found it so weird feeling so ill, but for such a lovely reason. I was constantly terrified I’d be sick (amazingly, I never was, but constantly had plastic bags on my person in case of emergencies) Other lovely symptoms included getting gigantic sore boobs which were covered in veins, and a heightened sense of smell, making me storm out of my beloved local charity shops muttering “oh jesus christ the smell of BO is unbearable!”

Luckily, I had a few trips planned which made it easier, and kept me distracted. I had a wonderful weekend in Norway with Tom. It’s such a beautiful country. (Which makes spending a fiver on a bag of crisps bearable)

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We took lots of lovely photos, but this is the honest one.

I turned ten weeks pregnant whilst on a trip to Amsterdam with the girls. This photo is hilarious when you look closely:

Everyone is having a drink at the airport and I’m white as a ghost, sat there with my seabands on.

The train to the airport was dire. I sent a group text saying “SOS about to be sick in a pringles tube” – but alas, crisis averted.

The trip was really lovely, if a bit strange being the only sober person in Amsterdam of all places! The tulip fields were wonderful with a heightened sense of smell, but I remember really struggling to carry my bag around, and finding walking really tiring. We stayed in an airbnb with very steep stairs that terrified me, I kept imagining falling all the way down them in the middle of the night. I also really missed Tom that weekend. I have never missed anyone more in my life. I know that sounds dramatic, but I felt vulnerable and it was hard being away from him. I spent that period feeling quite nervous and desperate to make it to twelve weeks pregnant when you hit the alleged “safe period.” Never the less, it was still a lovely holiday. Here is my favourite pic from the weekend: my first sober night out!

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It was a dreamy night – we were in bed and served food – it was actually the perfect night out for a pregnant person! Here’s a photo from later on (sorry Linsey)

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A couple of weeks passed and it was the evening before the twelve week scan, which I was very nervous about. We were due to go and see Jon Ronson at Leeds town hall when BAM hello migraine from hell.

Worst. Migraine. Ever.

Isn’t stress so obvious in hindsight?

Anyway, I enjoyed the evening in the end, and barely slept a wink. Tom drove me to the hospital for the scan. We sat in the waiting room for what felt like an eternity. I remember saying to Tom “If they scan me and there’s nothing in there, you won’t think I’m crazy will you?”

You know how in films everyone always cries when they see their baby for the first time during the ultrasound? I was fully prepared – I had a bag full of tissues.

Instead, seeing Bopley whizzing around – firing off the walls with his/her feet just seemed so strange and surreal to me that I started laughing hysterically and the screen kept blurring because my tummy was shaking and they couldn’t see what was going on.

Tiny baby waves hello:

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I can’t wait to meet him/her in at the end of November/early December!

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For the love of Pod!

Hello there, and happy Thursday my feathered friends. (Try saying that after a glass of wine.)

I wasn’t too sure what to write about this week, then it occurred to me that it might be good to write about my favourite podcasts, as I’m currently really hooked on them. I used to listen to audiobooks a lot when I was driving more for work, but now I’m working more from home and driving less, I found myself tuning into audiobooks and being like “what the hell is going on?” and found it really hard to follow the plot when I was listening in smaller bursts.

Enter the humble podcast. For those who don’t know, they are like radio shows that you download for free onto your phone. The range of topics is literally endless, so there’ll certainly be something for everyone.

Here are my favourites:

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The Habitat

This is the one podcast that I always want to recommend to people but always forget the title of. It is absolutely brilliant. On a remote mountain in Hawaii, there’s a fake planet Mars. Six volunteers are secluded in an imitation Mars habitat where they will work as imitation astronauts for one very real year. The goal: to help NASA understand what life might be like on the red planet.

I found this absolutely fascinating. It’s just a massive social experiment, and it was so interesting how six strangers interacted when they had to spend all day every day together.

Below is a picture of the habitat:

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Next favourite:

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The High Low

The High Low is a weekly pop culture and news podcast ran by journalists Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes. I adore this podcast. It gives you a good dose of current affairs, interesting interviews, and ideas for what to be reading, watching and listening to. I’m always pleased when I see a new episode appear on my phone each week.

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The Adam Buxton Podcast

British comedian Adam Buxton interviews people. It sounds boring, but each episode is interweaved with bizarre little songs created by Buxton which really appeal to my sense of humour. I often find myself wandering around the house singing to myself: “my name is Adam Buxton I’m a maaaaaan! I hope you will enjoy this, that’s the plan!” Highly recommend to anyone who likes the silly things in life.

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The Ground Up Show

A recent discovery of mine, the Ground Up Show interviews entrepreneurs and business owners. I always find something useful to take away each episode, and it gives me a good kick up the backside to stay motivated as a self-employed human.

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The Butterfly Effect with Jon Ronson

Some of you may know Jon Ronson from his books “The Psychopath Test” and “The Men Who Stare at Goats.” He is a brilliant writer and this podcast is a fantastic piece of journalism. Here he traces a very strange butterfly effect. A teen in Brussels had an idea – to make porn free and easy to stream online. The consequences of that idea are mysterious, delightful, surprising, and sad. As it’s quite controversial, I’d recommend listening discreetly… maybe not in the car with your windows down, as I did, and surprised some innocent pedestrians with some loud moaning coming from my speakers. haha.

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Today in Focus

As someone with their head constantly in a book, I have a slight aversion to reading the news. I find this guardian podcast really informative, and its short daily episodes keep me up to date with current affairs.

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This American Life

I’m sure anyone who listens to podcasts already knows about the hugely popular This American Life. But hey, it’s popular because it’s brilliant. Each episode centres on one theme, for example “coincidences” (one of my favourite episodes) and then tells a few short stories on the theme. Brilliant writing.

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Where Should We Begin?

And finally, “Where Should We Begin?” is another completely absorbing listen. Esther Perel is a relationship counselling expert, and each podcast is a real recording of one of her couples therapy sessions. Really insightful.

So, there we have it. I hope this inspires you to give something new a try.

Please, do recommend any podcasts that you enjoy. I’m alway on the hunt for new ones!

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January summary

Well hello there!

I’ve just logged in here and realised that my last blog post was a happy new year post from January 2018 *facepalm* so I thought I had better write something.

Wishing you all a belated new year from the arse end of January. We made it! January wasn’t too bad this year, and I’m about 95% sure the reason for that is my decision to avoid dry January this year. I mean seriously, it’s a hard enough month as it is without depriving yourself of drinking the cold and dark evenings away!

So, I started January feeling rather sluggish and fat, post Christmas. I looked a bit like Penny does in the below photo.

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I weirdly enjoy setting new years resolutions, and I found that I actually managed to stick to them this month.

My first one:

Watch less, read and write more

Or, read the books I own, and stop building book mountains around the house. (I’m convinced I’ll one day die in some kind of book related crushing or fire) One December day I decided to count how many books I have in the house that I haven’t yet read and the answer was…drumroll please…. over SIXTY! *insert screaming face emoji*

So, here came the resolution: stop buying books and read the ones I own. This meant I needed to create more time to read. So I got rid of social media, and stopped watching so much Netflix. I now watch one episode per evening, and head to bed at around 9pm so I can read before bed. You can call me Mick Jagger if you like.

At the start of each year I set a goodreads goal, and this year, I decided I’m aiming to read sixty books (the switched on among you will know where I got that number from) so that works out at five books a month. It’s the last day of January and I am still reading book number five, but thats okay, that just means shorter books next month hehe.

Here are the books I read in January:

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Quite a mixed bag! Let me give a quick review of each one:

Bridge of Clay – 4/5 

Loved the Book Thief, didn’t love this quite as much. Stunning, beautiful language, which is definitely worth a read, but I felt it was let down by a confusing plot where not an awful lot happened.

On Writing – 5/5

Long live the King! Brilliant non-fiction about writing. I heard this recommended several times by writers and thought I’d give it a go. Definitely would recommend to anyone interested in writing more, and writing better.

Norse Mythology – 4/5

Neil Gaiman is the perfect author for this book. I really enjoyed covering an aspect of mythology I hadn’t dipped my toes into before. Great escapism and the Norse Gods are so much more hardcore than the Greek gods!

The Scheme for Full Employment – 4/5

Absolutely bizarre. I’ve read a few of Mills’ books and Ruth agrees me with me in saying that his works are incredibly dull but impossible to put down. This story is about a futuristic world where everyone is employed, even if their job is utterly pointless. The main character drives a van from A to B for no reason, every day…. until things start to unwind. I think this book is a metaphor for the unionism in the UK under Thatcher but I can’t really be sure because I wasn’t alive then.

AAAAAAAND can we just talk about this book?

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I haven’t finished it yet but BLOODY HELL, it’s good. I think I’ve got a new favourite author after absolutely demolishing “The Human Stain” in December. I was actually late for work because I couldn’t stop reading. Anyway, American Pastoral is about “Swede” Levov, a man who has it all, the family business, the trophy wife… and then his daughter commits an act of terrorism. We watch his fall from grace, and the subsequent death of the american dream. I haven’t finished it yet but I’m calling it…. masterpiece.

Sorry, book ramble. Anyway. That Stephen King book has made me want to write more, so I might aim to write here once a week. Ho ho ho, I know I’ve said that before, but lets see how it goes!

Exercise

This January, I did a thirty day yoga challenge. It’s free on youtube, with a woman called Adriene. You should look up “yoga with Adriene” if you fancy giving it a go.

On day one, I was so stiff and sluggish. I was in pain just putting my chin to my test. Fast forward thirty days of swearing, laughing, belly flopping and I’ve completed thirty days this morning!

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I feel great! Calmer, and less tense. I can tell my arms and legs are stronger, and I’ve improved my general yoga. Some of it was really hard, but the sense of achievement is brilliant. Looking forward, it would be a shame to stop doing yoga, but I want to add some cardio into my routine. So I’ve blown the dust off my fitbit and I went for a little run this morning despite the fact that it is MINUS TWO outside.

Here’s photographic evidence:

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How cool is that spiderweb?

My hair actually froze!

Moving forward in work

I’ve been having a think about the things that I’m not enjoying and how I’d like my future to pan out. I’m not really enjoying my teaching in schools at the moment. I find teaching groups stressful, I don’t like driving, and I much prefer to teach one to one at home. But hey, I have a mortgage to pay.

I’m just going to write my dream for the future here… I feel silly but I think if you write ideas down they are more likely to take root and you’ll work towards making them real. (Whoops, I seem to have turned into a self help book)

Anyway, I digress. I want to make things and sell them. I want to make some nice knitwear, or homeware etc… I’m not really sure yet, and sell them online via etsy or something similar. My dream is to do this working from home during the day time, and to make enough money to not have to teach in schools anymore, and then still have my evenings and mornings free for private music students.

I believe in good things coming.

See you next week! (Now I’ve written that, I have to do it)

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Happy New Year!

Well hello,

And a very happy new year to you!

Christmas was a delight, just really lovely and relaxing. New year was great fun, and I’ve just about recovered from going to bed at 5am.

Anyway, I thought I’d start 2018 off with a bang on the blog by writing out my New Years Resolutions. I’ve never been a big setter of resolutions, but I’ve realised I’m more likely to stick with something if I publicly announce it. I need to be held accountable for everything otherwise I do NOTHING.

Without further ado, here are my three resolutions (with accompanying miserable January weather pics)

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1: Shop for clothes in charity shops only

By shopping only in charity shops for clothes, I hope to think a bit more about what I’m buying. I want to stop mindlessly shopping online and in shops for clothes I don’t really need. In doing this, it will be better for the environment, and better for my purse. I will give myself some leniency however, for example: I’ve got gigantic feet and I may struggle to find anything if my shoes wear out. But I’ll see how I go, and keep you updated! You can expect to see me looking more eclectic than usual this year.

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2: Review books once I’ve read them

Thank you to Susie for the above novel (which was amazing by the way – highly recommend if you like cats and Japanese fiction like me, or just good books 😉 ) I read a lot of books. So many, in fact, that I often forget what happened in them. I thought it would be nice this year to extend my hobby by not tearing through quit as many books, but instead using some time to review them on goodreads afterwards. You can find me on goodreads here. (Feel free to add me!) In doing so, I’ll hopefully connect with some more readers, and give myself a little more time to write.

And finally…

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3: Give myself a health/fitness goal each month

During January, I’ll be doing yoga every day for 30 days. (I’m using free youtube videos, find them here.) I thought this would be super easy as it means I no longer have to run/can do it in my pjs/don’t have to go outside etc. but it’s day three and I’m already struggling. I’m determined to get to day 10 without a hiccup and then I think once I’m past that point it should be easier.

I’m hoping to try something different in February, and each month going forwards: maybe a month of vegan, or trying a new fitness class etc. My aim is to try lots of different things, give myself a bit of a challenge and maybe find something I really enjoy. (hasn’t worked so far, but here’s hoping haha)

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Happy new year everyone!

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11 Things I Learnt This Year

Ahh 2017. The year that felt like a decade.

2017. The year political culture, what felt like constant terrorist attacks, and the Weinstein scandal made it feel like the world was ending.

On the other hand, it was also the year I became Mrs Copley, backpacked around Europe and the year two of my best friends brought their first little ones into the world. Hello Luca and Polly!

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So, without further ado, I thought I’d finish the year with a list of things that I’ve learnt this year:

  1. Spin classes are a torture that no human should have to endure

Before the wedding, I was trying to lose a bit of back fat to fit into my frock. I joined the gym. I spent hours in the gym, going to the gym, showering after the gym, returning from the gym, and thinking about the gym. I even went to a spin class several times which meant I had to walk up the stairs to the changing room backwards, like someone who had just completed the New York marathon.

And guess what? SO BORING!!!!! OH MY GOD!!!! When the wedding finally rolled around, I told the woman on reception that I would be cancelling my membership. She asked “why?” To which I responded “I’m about to get married, and then I plan to get very fat.” I will summarise with a photo of Olive, from the immortal film: “Little Miss Sunshine.”

2. Plants are harder to keep alive than cats

This is a fairly self-explanatory point. What is it with plants at the moment? They’re very in, and I was eager to jump on the Jungalow bandwagon in turning the whole house green, which just resulted in a lot of death and destruction, and wasted money.

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3. Once you hit 27, hangovers now last two days

WHAT IS THIS BLACK MAGIC. I used to spring back, and be in a lecture at 9am after getting in at 4am. Now I am bed ridden for a day and a muggy head with terrible reaction times the day after that… It’s all downhill from here. Still no stopping me though. 🙂

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4. Sometimes it’s okay to not read the news

I don’t know why it took me a while to figure this out. I’ve always felt it’s my duty as a literate citizen of the planet to be up to date with what’s going on in the world. But then I hit a point of earlier mentioned despair.. this sounds like an exaggeration, but I started to feel very anxious, not good in crowded spaces, etc. So I’ve decided to give myself permission to avoid the news when I feel like I need to.

 

5. It’s possible to gain a stone in three weeks

Ha. I’m actually quite impressed with this one. Over the course of our honeymoon, Mr Copley and I both put on a stone! HAAA! All the aperol spritz and deep-fried cheese of Europe took it’s toll in the end. Worth it.

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6. Eyeshadow primer is liquid gold

A slightly boring one, but wow! That Urban Decay stuff is really bloody good!

 

7. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it

This sounds obvious, but it’s taken me until the age of 27 to stop agreeing to everything and just do the things I want to do. Time is precious.

 

8. I will never be a professional wedding planner

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(The above photo of Parker is an accurate representation of what wedding planning did to my brain.)

When planning a wedding, I was like “yeah nine months is ages, and it’s just a big party, what’s the big deal?!” Well… it turns out that having a wedding reception somewhere that rarely holds events is quite difficult, and you shouldn’t try to plan your own hen do on top of that. (bridesmaids to the rescue!) Anyway. I didn’t quite go full bridezilla, but as someone who is outwardly quite chilled, finding myself wailing “How on earth could all this hassle be possibly worth it?” a few days before my wedding came as a bit of surprise. I will never ever get married again. 🙂

9. Social media is destructive to mental health

In October, I found myself fairly addicted to social media. I was completely hooked on Facebook and Instagram, wasting precious time trying to prove something that no one cares about.

I’m my own boss and I work weird hours, and I would often just fall down the rabbit hole and spend hours online. Not only is this a massive waste of time, but it was also making me feel shit. No, I’m not interested in your before/after weight loss photo. You look great either way, and as Ruth so wisely says: “you are not allowed to be on a diet unless you have diabetes.” This whole wellness bullshit just makes everyone else feel inadequate and terrible for having a snickers for breakfast.

The news on Facebook is unreliable and untrustworthy. I’ve also found myself spending more time speaking to my friends and spending time with them in real life now I’ve taken a step away. I still pop online once a week or so, but I’m no longer hooked on the dopamine highs of getting a “like” and god, I feel so much better for it!

10. If you wear a really long wedding dress, you will spend your entire walk down the aisle trying not to faceplant

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One last wedding-related one. Nobody tells you that when you walk down the aisle, you’ll have one hand holding flowers and the other clutching onto who is giving you away (thanks Daddy) for dear life. This means that your little toes are going step step step step on your wedding dress and you spend the entire thing going “oh my god oh my god I’m gonna fall, DAD! I think I’m about to fall over. Don’t let me fall over in front of all these people! If I fall, will you catch me?! Oh my god OH MY GOD.”

I didn’t even SEE Tom until I got to the end of the aisle. I could have been about to marry the wrong person for all I knew! Anyway. Advice to the future bride who may be reading (hey Leanne 😉 ) SORT OUT HOW TO WALK BEFORE YOU GO DOWN THE AISLE

 

11. My backpack is forever my happy place

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Waking up and taking a few seconds to remember where you are. Having nothing to do in the day but explore and eat. Saving every penny I earn to explore.

Bring on 2018, and INDIA

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I completed my reading challenge!

Hello from the sick bay!

This is a post I’ve been working on for quite a few weeks. I’m currently wiped out by a chest and kidney infection, but I’m feeling like I’m coming out of the other side now. so I thought I’d update the old blog to stop me dying of boredom. I’m going back to the doctors later on today where they will decide if I need shooting or not.

Anyway. As those of you who know me will know that I love to read. I’ve always loved reading and I’ve spent a lot of time with my head in a book. Every year I set myself a reading challenge on the goodreads app. This year, I decided I wanted to read sixty books. I realise this sounds a lot, but my biggest achievement so far was reading 78 books in 2015, so for me, it seemed manageable.

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Bloody hell, that’s a lot of pages.

2017 was a big year for us, because we got married! In terms of my reading though, this really didn’t help. I found the wedding planning incredibly stressful, and for one of the first times in my life, I found myself unable to read! The wedding was on my mind so much that every time I picked up a book, I’d just stare blankly at the text whilst my brain was tackling seating plans, or a food bill etc.

So there was a few months during the summer when I didn’t read a word. Then, as a wedding gift, my brother Jacob bought us a copy of “The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil” and it was exactly what I needed. Once the wedding dust (confetti?) had settled, I started reading again by tackling some graphic novels, then easing myself back in.

This reading hiatus left me really behind on my challenge, so I told myself “50 pages a day if you’re working, 100 pages a day if it’s a day off” and I got there in the end!

Here’s all the books I read this year. (The ones in bold were my favourites, which I’ve (very briefly) reviewed below the list, and italicised ones were audiobooks).

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  1. The Martian by Andy Weir
  2. My Dear I Wanted To Tell You by Louisa Young
  3. The Girls by Emma Cline
  4. Pretty Iconic by Sali Hughes
  5. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  6. So Much For That by Lionel Shriver
  7. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
  8. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  9. Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden

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10) Pure by Andrew Miller

11) The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman

12) The Trees by Ali Shaw

13) The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

14) Maus by Art Spiegelman

15) Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

16) A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

17)Rose Madder by Stephen King

18) A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

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19) When The Floods Came by Clare Morrall

20) Like A Queen by Constance Hall

21) Ctrl, Alt Delete: How I Grew Up Online by Emma Gannon

22) The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins

23) How To Understand Israel in Sixty Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

24) The People At Number 9 by Felicity Everett

25) Domina by L.S. Hilton

26)Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J K Rowling

27) Beautiful Bodies by Kimberley Rae Miller

 

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28) The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

29) He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

30) Rough Music by Patrick Gale

31) Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince by J K Rowling

32) The Children Act by Ian McEwan

33) Habibi by Craig Thompson

33) The Power by Naomi Alderman

34) Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling

35) The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

 

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36) The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

37) Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delise

38) My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

39) The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

40) American Gods by Neil Gaiman

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41) A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman

42) I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

43) The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver

44) Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

45) How Should A Person Be? by Sheila Heti

46) Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

47) Nutshell by Ian McEwan

48) Wonder by R.J. Palacio

49) The Bricks That Built The Houses by Kate Tempest

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50) The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura

52) Kaleidoscope City – A Year in Varanasi by Piers Moore Ede

53) Wool – The Graphic  Novel by Hugh Howey

54) Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

55) The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

56) Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

57) Black Hole by Charles Burns

58) Leap Year by Helen Russell

59) The Good Children by Roopa Farooki

60) The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

DONE!

I was interested to see all the books in one place, and see what that says about my reading habits:

I read 37/60 books by women (so 23/60 by men)

I read 47novels and 13 non-fiction books

I read 7 graphic novels

 

This year, I felt I read a lot of “easy” books, and the focus felt more quantity over quality. Next year I’m going to set a challenge of less books so I can hone in on some longer, classic novels.

Here are the books I’d recommend that I’ve read this year:

If you’re looking for the audiobook equivalent of comfort food: Listen to the Harry Potter audiobooks read by Stephen Fry

If you want a true life account that will render your troubles insignificant: Read “Wave” by  Sonali Deraniyagala – written by a woman who lost her family in the Boxing Day tsunami

If you’ve been living under a rock for 27 years like me: Read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Hilarious.

If you need an easy feel good read: Read “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. It’s just been made into a film too!

If you want a weirdly beautiful book with incredible language and imagery, read: “A Year of Marvellous Ways” by Sarah Winman (Thanks for lending me this Mimi!)

For an intriguing historical novel with a touch of the supernatural: “The Wonder” by Emma Donoghue

If you’re brave enough to have your heart blown into a million pieces (don’t say I didn’t warn you: Try “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara

For a laugh out loud, read: “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris

The best graphic novel: “Maus” by Art Spiegelman

If you want to fall in love with the characters, and then sob at the end: “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry

For a weepy love story: ‘My Dear I Wanted To Tell You” by Louisa Young

Here is what I did to read more:

Set a goodreads challenge. This is the single thing that motivates me to read the most. For those of you who haven’t come across it, goodreads is a book app. You make a profile, set a challenge and log the books you read. I also really enjoy reading other people’s reviews.

Read what you want to read. This may sound obvious, but to read a lot, you need to read what you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to read anything because you think that’s what you should be reading. This joins onto my next point:

Give yourself permission to ditch rubbish books. I have a fifty page rule: if I’m fifty pages in and I’m still hating a book then I give up and read something else. Life is to short to read shit books (and believe me there are SO many!!!!!!)

Listen to audiobooks. Yes, in my opinion, this still counts as reading. Controversial. Tom doesn’t believe that listening to audiobooks “counts,” but the way I view it, I still know the story, and all the characters, and can discuss the book with someone who has read it.

Always have a book with you. There’s a quote by Lemony Snicket that I feel is a good philosophy for life “Never trust anyone who hasn’t got a book with them.” Similarly, I always feel a little unsettled if I go to someone’s house and they haven’t got any books. Anyway, I digress. Always have a book with you. Those minutes where you arrive early somewhere, or you’re sat on the bus staring at your smartphone can be spent reading instead.

Quit social media: I’ve read SO much more since doing so.

Variety is the spice of life. If I’ve just read a 1000 page literary award-winning piece of literature, I’ll read a trashy page-turner next. Otherwise I get fed up and loose steam.

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Challenge: Learn to sew and make something wearable

Hello!

Okay, it’s Thursday… those of you who read my previous post will know I should have posted this on Monday, but hey, no one’s perfect!

I’ve made a list of 25 challenges, and here’s the first one I’ve managed to do:

Learn to sew, and make something wearable! Drum roll please……

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Ta dah! (excuse dodgy photo – was having a bad face day, but just wanted to prove that it is in fact wearable.)

In half term, I descended upon my mum, demanded sewing lessons and said “right! I’m gonna make a top today, a skirt tomorrow, and a dress on saturday!” Three days later, I realised I’d been a little ambitious and spent around 15 hours making just the one the dress in the end. Ho ho ho.

I learnt quite a few new things. Having my mum there (aka sewing guru) was a massive help when things started going a bit dodgy, or if I reached a point where I didn’t understand what I was doing.

Weirdly, I also found myself being a lot more careful and patient under her watchful eye. When I sew alone, it usually goes wrong because I get frustrated, go really fast and wreck everything!

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Above is our sewing station. My mum was also making a dress, which she did in quadruple speed compared to me. I’ve got a lot of practise to do!

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Here’s the moment when Mishka came to help 🙂

And here’s the end result:

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I’m quite chuffed with my dress, and I wore it to the lovely Polly’s christening, which made it extra special.

Things I’ve learnt whilst making my first dress:

  1. It takes a LOT longer than I’d expected
  2. But it’s a lot quicker than knitting a jumper
  3. Sometimes you need to take a breather and go outside to stop yourself destroying your garment.
  4. You need to use an iron a lot in sewing (eye roll)
  5. Bias binding is a pain in the arse.

Onto the next challenge!

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The habit project

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Greetings earthlings!

It’s getting cold up here in Yorkshire, the windows are damp in the mornings and the cats are permanently attached the radiators (quite literally now they now have magnets on their collars to open their new cat flap. Hilarious.)

Anyway.

As mentioned before, I’ve been reading a book recently called “Better Than Before – mastering the habits of our everyday lives” by Gretchen Rubin. It’s an interesting study in how we form habits, how they stick and how they effect our lives. It got me thinking about my daily habits, and I thought I’d share some habits that I’m currently trying to implement in my routine.

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Morning Routine

  1. Get up early. I can hear my parents guffawing into their cereal over this one. But I read that the best time to implement this is when the clocks go back – perfect! The clocks have just changed, so I’ve been getting up at the usual hour, and getting shit DONE. This is always one of those things that you read in those lists of “habits of successful people” and yes, I may not always be productive during this time, but I certainly feel the benefit of having more of a day.
  2. Read before getting up. As mentioned previously, I may not always be doing stuff in this early time, but I’m getting closer to my goal of reading sixty books in a year. Gulp.
  3. Watch a ted talk whilst I eat breakfast. I used to scroll through Facebook and insta and look at pictures of other people’s breakfasts whilst I ate my morning meal. No more! Now I’m actually learning stuff! I make notes, and feel like I’m doing something amazing, even if I don’t have time to watch the whole thing and finish it the following day. Here are a few of my favourite ted talks: Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are, Your Elusive Creative Genius, and The Power of Introverts
  4. No shower until I’ve exercised. Ha. This one isn’t going that well, but I’m aiming to exercise five days a week, and a good way to encourage this is to not allow myself a shower until I’ve “earnt” it.

 

House Stuff

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  1. Keep the above plant alive. Haha. I bought the above gigantic fern plant… it seemed a suitable size in the shop, but then it just got bigger and bigger! It’s now living at the end of our bath and I am trying to water it once a week and spray it every day with water. I see it as I step out of the shower and I’m reminded to look after it. So far so good.
  2. “Power Hour” a.k.a “Operation Shit Shift” Rubin suggests in her book, that you keep a list of “nagging tasks” i.e. annoying things you need to do and then give yourself an hour or two a week, where you do nothing but power through the tasks. This reminded me of when we were little and my mum used to yell “Operation Shit Shift!” (How HILARIOUS!!) and we all ran around and tidied hahaha. Well, I think this works really well as a messy person, because giving yourself a deadline of an hour for these horrible tasks makes them a lot more doable.
  3. Take an item when leaving a room. Another good tip I’ve found that helps with my incurable messiness is that when I leave a room, I look for something to take with me that needs to be somewhere else. All those dirty mugs now slowly make their way to the kitchen, and Tom no longer exclaims “Have you been making a nest in here?!” when he finds me alone on the sofa.

 

Music

  1. One hour of practice a day. Pah. That’s the sound of my twenty year old self who practised at least three hours a day dying. Anyway. Life gets in the way, and if I don’t make myself practice every day on either instrument, I get really grumpy and I feel useless, and I can’t figure out what’s wrong with me until the lightbulb dings and I go “Ah! More practice!” Music is my meditation. I love playing something so complicated that my brain can’t possibly handle any other thoughts or worries.
  2. Improvisation each week. In terms of my playing, I’ve always been a very sheet music oriented person, it’s just how I learnt. So I’m forcing myself once weekly, out of my comfort zone. I wait until I’m alone in the house and let rip on the piano. Most of it sounds bloody awful, but I reckon it’s really good for my development as a musician.

Learning

  1. Always have a “study book” on the go. As an avid reader of fiction, I now pick out books on topics I’m interested in, or I’ve always wanted to read, (A Brief History of Time. One Day!) and devote a bit of time, where I work through and make notes. This feels amazing as someone who’s been out of the education loop for a while, as it stops me feeling vegetative.
  2. Blog on Mondays. Another “working towards” habit. When I’m not travelling, I find it hard to write. I’m aiming to post once a week here, so I’m trying to get into the habit of working on a post through the week and posting it on Mondays. Let’s see how we go!
  3. Listen to podcasts/audiobooks when doing mundane tasks. This is REVOLUTIONARY. Sometimes being an adult is shit, and you have to clean the bog, do a boringly long drive to work, etc. etc. Now I listen to audiobooks and podcasts, and I no longer feel that time is wasted.

General Annoyances

  1. Identify problems and solve them. Sounds obvious. But I’m forever going “ARGH I NEED A RUBBER!!!” or “WHY IS THERE NO TOILET PAPER” so in a bid to be more organised, I’m now aiming to…
  2. Keep a list of stuff I need. This works really well to prevent overbuying and shopping sprees. Especially now I’m trying to save money to go to India in the summer. I keep a list of groceries, clothes (Steve Jobs turtlenecks and a grey cardigan if you’re interested. You’re not. Okay) etc. that I need on my phone, and then when I’m in the shop, I buy them. Mind-blowing, I know.

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Night time Routine 

  1. Take makeup off earlier. This is a bit of a mundane one but I was always getting ready for bed absolutely knackered then being like FOR FUCKS SAKE I HATE WASHING MAKE UP OFF. Then going to bed grumpy. Well, now once I’ve finished work for the night, I put my pyjamas on, take my make up off, then go and chill out. The when I go to bed I just need to brush my teeth. Much easier.
  2. Write a to-do list for the following day. This is a really good one that I’ve found helps me to sleep. Once I’m settling down for the evening, I write a quick list of things that need to be tackled the next day. This helps my brain to not be overloaded and then I don’t end up lying there for hours thinking about what I need to be doing the following day.

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Ahh. Isn’t autumn incredible?! I took these pics in the woods behind our house. Anyway, I hope some of this has been useful. Until next time,

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May what you touch be touched

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You don’t have to eat tofu.

You don’t have to read the books that people say you should read, or watch the TV shows people think you should be watching.

You don’t have to spend an hour scrolling through someone that you went to school with ten years ago’s holiday photos.

You don’t have to go to a spin class.

You don’t have to explain yourself to anybody.

You don’t have to feel your heart rate rise when you read articles about the tango-haired sex pest who resides in the White House.

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You do have to do your tax return.

You do have to be passionate.

You do have to make something, even if it’s just a big mess or a horrible noise.

You do have to clean the bathroom.

You do have to show up to work on time when you’d rather spend the day watching Netflix and drinking tea.

You do have to get your face in the sun when you’re feeling sad.

You do have to water the plants.

You do have to spend the day doing the things you’d be happy to die doing.

You do have to take in life’s wonders.

You do have to be kind.

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May what you touch be touched.

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A new set of challenges

Hello from a very soggy Sunday morning in Leeds. We are in the middle of “Storm Brian,” which is pretty full on. I’ve been awake since 5am (great Sunday lie in) after waking up from a horrible zombie nightmare. Maybe I need to stop watching The Walking Dead right before  we go to sleep…

Parker is delighted that I’m up so early and has pushed my laptop off me and has started giving me a slightly scratchy massage.

Anyway.

When I first started my blog in 2015, I gave myself something fun to do, and also to write about by setting myself 25 challenges to complete before I was 25. I didn’t really complete them all, but it was good fun. You can click the links to read about when I tried lobster, caviar, and meditated for ten days.

Now I’m picking up my blog again, I’ve decided to give myself a new set of challenges. (With no more fishy business – now I’m a veggie)

Although I’ve just turned 27, I’m sticking with 25 challenges (seems like a more manageable number haha)

Here we go, here are my challenges for the year!

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1- Visit India

2 – Hike one of the three Yorkshire Peaks

3 – Read “Shantaram”

4 – See live comedy

5 – Watch “Gone With The Wind”

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6 – Get a tarot card reading

7 –  Take a language class

8 – Donate 200 things to charity

9 – Spend no money for one week

10 – Go to a pilates class

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11 – Learn to salsa dance

12 – Play piccolo in an orchestra

13 – Learn to sew and make something wearable

14 – Host a dinner party for my friends

15 – Go plastic free for a week

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16 – Try making my own cosmetics

17 – Go Christmas shopping in York

18- Go to Ireland

19- Go to a concert of music from another culture

20- Go vegan for a week

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21- Read sixty books in a year

22- Volunteer to help out with a charitable cause

23- Start drawing again

24- Have a car-free week

25- Do yoga every day for thirty days

So there we have it! I’m excited to get going. How nice to have a list of stuff to fall back on when I’m bored.

I’ll keep you posted with how I get on.

P.S. apologies for the photo overload! These are all photos I took on our visit to Harewood House yesterday where I had my mind blown by the dahlias. I am no longer using instagram, so you can expect a lot of photos making there way on here.

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