Category Archives: 25 new things

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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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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“Another day, another dollar.”

Well hello there,

You find us entering our eighth and final week of fruit thinning. There’s a lot of people muttering “another day, another dollar” around here. Catchy.  I’m just amazed that we’ve A) come this far and I haven’t yet fallen off the ladder and died (there’s still time…) B) I haven’t lost my temper and been sacked.

Nothing new to report over here. On a sunny day last week, our Kiwi friend Rochelle took us to the river, and we took some “flagoons” (takeaway beer) with us, so that was a nice change of scenery. We discussed how the supervisors are always yelling “check your tree before you leave!!” And how this might be, in fact some kind of philosophical life motto. Check your tree before you leave. Check your tree before you leave… Mind blowing!

We cycled to the supermarket and discovered that Whitakers chocolate was on offer!

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I also found this banana that was so big that I couldn’t leave it there.

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(I’ve added my passport for scale.) We later discovered that it was a plantain, not a banana. A bit disappointed, but eating plantain was one of my new tasks to try before my birthday, so it’s good to tick one off!!

I’m so delighted that next time I post on here we won’t be in Hastings!!!!!!!!!! Yes!!! It’s been a long week. So long, that Tom invented the “biscuit salad” in order to get us through.

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We’ve bought a laptop, so we should be able to start posting some decent photos for your to see soon. It also means that tom has been able to do some sound stuff, and he’s made a post of all the music we heard in Central Park! Takes me right back. Www.samplingtheglobe.wordpress.com

The majority of our evenings this weekhave been taken up with a Star Wars marathon. I have not watched a single of the six films all the way through without falling asleep. So tired. But very excited for the new film, which we plan to see in Wellington next week!

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So yes, as I said, not much to report, so I’ve decided to compile a list of things I’ve learnt over eight weeks of fruit thinning:

1) I can’t eat apples anymore.

2) The apples we are thinning are exported around the world, and sold in the UK in…. Wait for it…. HARRODS. Harrods daaaaarling! Only the best apples for us, oh yeah!

3) I HATE LADDERS.

4) If there is a god, he/she is responsible for creating audiobooks, the Women’s Hour and Serial podcast, Buffs (for holding your speaker and phone to your neck whilst you work, like a poor man’s hands free device) The Beatles, Newton Faulkner, and rubber palmed gloves. Speaking of audiobooks, I have never felt more British than when a weird sex scene happens on the book I’m listening to, and I have to cough loudly and shuffle around on my ladder so my colleagues won’t hear! Ha!

5) The cure for insomnia is a stress-free, physically tiring job.

6) Yoga is the answer to sore backs.

7) Wear Sunscreen. (Thanks Baz Lurmann.)

8) You will develop a comedy tan involving white hands and feet, which is really useful if you want to be some kind of weird mime artist in a bikini.

9) Pesticides are revolting, and make you sneeze constantly. And if you’re pregnant, you can’t work in the orchards – so it must be pretty harmful…. Which makes me even more glad to be leaving soon!

10) I can complain and whinge as much as I want, but in the end, I’m a lucky lucky person to be able to travel, and leave the job when I want. There’s plenty of people working here who have a family to support.

11) Shit jobs give you a drinking/chocolate consumption problem.

As a final note, here is a selfie that I accidentally took on my phone. I think it’s hilarious!!!!! HA

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When people discover that we’ve been working here for seven weeks, they are really surprised that we’ve survived this long. I like to respond with “yeah I used to look like Kate Moss before we started working here.”

Now I’m like this version of Mossy:

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New things: 9, 10 and 11

Well hello. It’s been a while hasn’t it. We’re leaving in less than two weeks. Can you believe it? In less than two weeks I’ll be on my way to New York via one way ticket. Yikes!

Recently I’ve been tying up loose ends with work,  visiting friends and family, and doing various essentials before we leave. Oh. And I got engaged. WHAT?!

I’ve also ticked a few things off my list of 25 things to do before I turn 25.

Number 9:  Try lobster

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As a massive lover of prawns, I had no doubt that I’d love lobster. I did, it was bloody delicious. Not so keen on smashing it open with tools that look like they belong in the Thackray Medical Museum however. I also wouldn’t eat it again because I don’t agree with boiling something alive for the sake of my tastebuds. Sorry to go all animal rights on you there -I’m currently teetering on the edge of vegetarianism!

Number 10: See my friends get married. 

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Wow, we had such a lovely weekend seeing this pair tie the knot in Shropshire! We met Chris and Rhiannon at music college and they’ve been such good friends to us, so it was truly lovely to be a part of their big day. Rhiannon looked absolutely stunning and so so happy. Congratulations you two!

Number 11: Finish my TEFL qualification

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Finally! This feels like a massive achievement as it’s something I’ve been slogging away at since January. I’d love to teach whilst we’re away but I don’t think we will be in one place for long enough for me to do it. Sometime in the future though hey? Did you know that there are nine different types of pronoun? Neither did I.

Here are the other things I said I’d do before I turn 25 but probably won’t because of who I am as a person:

  • Read Jane Eyre (got the audiobook though didn’t I 😉 )
  • Eat plantain (maybe possible still?)
  • Watch The Lives of Others (no netflix now so…)
  • Reach my goal weight (unless I start rounding it up?)
  • Go carless for a week (actually, I will! Leaving lovely Gerald in Kendal today, so I’ll be carless by default)
  • Hike the three Yorkshire peaks. HA
  • Do some drawing (easy!)
  • Volunteer at a charity shop
  • Use my DSLR manually (I can do this whilst we’re travelling)
  • See live comedy
  • Clear out the house (I’ve been reading the life changing magic of tidying and I feel like I’m getting somewhere.)
  • Go on my first long haul flight. (yup)
  • Get drunk on the beach in Fiji to celebrate turning 25. (Not long now!)

 

Things I’ll be doing before we go:

  • Throwing a big house party.
  • Packing my rucksack. Jumping up and down on rucksack. Crying. Unpack rucksack. Repeat the above.
  • Clearing the house.
  • Crying into the fur of my cats.

 

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New things 8) meditate each morning for ten days

Why hello there. It’s been a while hasn’t it? It’s been a bonkers time of year here – end of the school term, so work has been mega busy, ergo little time for poor old bloggy blogs. Anyway. Amongst the madness, I’ve been travel planning: got my rucksack sorted and I’ve booked my travel jabs for Friday. Eek!

In other news, I’ve tackled a new item off my list of twenty five new things before I turn twenty five. Meditation.

Those of you who know me well will know that I am one of life’s stress heads. If I’m not worrying about something, I feel worried. So I decided meditation was something I wanted to try. I’ve heard it calms your mind and stops it going into overdrive – perfect. So I downloaded the free Headspace app and began meditating every morning before I got out of bed.

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Headspace has a free ten day guided meditation system.

Something that surprised me: It felt different every day. Some days I was entirely focused, and felt irritated when reminded to “bring the mind back if it has wandered.” Other days when this was mentioned I realised I was in a complete daydream.

Also, I didn’t feel the benefit of meditation until I stopped. The day after the ten day course was complete I felt really frazzled and stressed. It took me a while to realise that it was because I was no longer meditating.

Something that made me laugh: Quite often I’d forget to go to the toilet before beginning the session. Don’t do that. Opening my eyes to find Tom’s face in mine was another highlight.

What did I learn?: It’s not as hard as it seems. It’s also more beneficial than it seems, and less silly. I’m going to keep going 🙂

All together now: OMMMMMM

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New things 7) Try caviar

Before I turn 25 I’ve given myself 25 challenges.

One was to try something I’ve always wanted to try: caviar.

So off to Waitrose (of course) I popped, and got all the proper ingredients.

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(mini pancakes)

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(Lumpfish caviar. I’d never heard of lumpfish before, but it was a damn sight cheaper than salmon caviar)

DSC_0319(I read online that soured cream is what should be served with caviar.)

Drrrrumroll pleaaaaase

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I didn’t like it.

What did I learn?

  • Fewer things will make you feel more like a pretentious idiot than buying caviar in Waitrose darling.
  • You shouldn’t let stainless steel touch caviar, i.e. use a wooden or ceramic spoon. (apparently it ruins the taste.)
  • One should keep one’s caviar chilled. It should be served on ice during a dinner party situation.
  • Caviar tastes like fishy fish. Salty and with a small explosion in the mouth. Also it’s quite unsettling when you find a little egg nestling amongst your teeth afterwards. Shudder.
  • It allows you to take incredibly poncy photos like the one below.

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(La dee dah! Love the blue colour of the eggs though, amazing!)

Did I enjoy eating caviar?

Nope

Would I try it again?

Nope.

My other food challenges before I turn 25 are lobster and plantain. I have the feeling I might enjoy those more.

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New thing 6) Walk 10,000 steps everyday for a week.

Before I turn 25, I’m trying to do 25 new things. This is partly to get my out of my comfort zone, partly to stop me being bored waiting for September, and mainly so I have something to write about on here. Some of my new things are interesting, some are incredibly mundane. Unfortunately this weeks challenge falls into the latter category. You can read my about my past challenges here.

Health care professionals state that we should all walk 10,000 steps a day to stay healthy and fit and prevent weight gain. As a music teacher, I don’t do a lot of walking day to day. I literally get in the car, drive to a school/ student’s house, teach then drive back home. I run 5k twice a week. (You can read about my running antics here.)

So, I popped my pedometer on and walk I did.

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Things that surprised me: 

  • My pedometer doesn’t work very well. It told me my 5k run was 4.5km and got stuck on around 8,000 steps whilst I was walking on the spot in front of the TV.
  • 10,000 steps is a LOT. It’s essentially an hour of walking each day.
  • It’s hard to fit that amount of walking in during a working day. I had to work round it by walking on my lunch breaks and walking up and down the stairs in the house, and on the spot in front of Netflix in the evenings.
  • I actually felt happier and less stressed for walking throughout the week.

Things that made me laugh:

  • The little dancing celebratory man on the pedometer who pops up when you hit 10,000 steps.
  • Walking around Headingley on one lunch break thinking “fantastic! Clever old me for getting my steps up” and then realising I’d forgotten to put the pedometer on that morning.
  • Demanding that Tom came for a walk one evening as I hadn’t made up my steps and then walking to the pub thus cancelling all health benefits.

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(Looking gimpy whilst stomping round and round my local park during a downpour)

Moving forwards:

I’d like to add more walking to my daily routine. I love how it boosted my mood and reduced my stress levels. I also slept better throughout the week. However I won’t be wearing the pedometer anymore – it made me feel a bit pressured. Also, I need to find some new walking routes!

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New thing 5) Take a week off social media

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a complete social media addict. Current addictions include, but are not limited to:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • Pinterest
  • Youtube
  • Obsessively checking my email.

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As part of my 25 new things before I turn 25, I decided to give up social media for a week.

I began by deleting all the offending apps off my phone and iPad. I also cleared out my email inbox which had over 3,000 unread emails. That little red notification sign was making me feel stressed and I felt much better in having a clear out and unsubscribing from the ridiculous amount of spam I received daily.

Something that surprised me: I felt a lot calmer in my week away from Facebook. Scrolling through Facebook feels like an information overload. In getting rid of it, I actually had a clearer mind and more time to think.

Something gross: When I sat on the loo I found myself reaching for my phone to check Facebook, Tumblr, etc. etc. Yuck! That habit has now been culled. Next time I post a Facebook update I’ll always wonder who is reading it whilst sat on the pooper.!

Spare time: I felt like I had a lot more spare time throughout the week. I channelled this into reading more (surprise surprise) and also working on this blog.

How it changed my concentration: When watching Netflix in the evenings with Tom, I realised I no longer feel so confused and have to ask what’s going on. My concentration had improved because I was no longer constantly checking notifications. I also had better conversations and listened more intently when I wasn’t glued to my phone screen throughout the week.

Moving forward: After the week was up, I reinstalled Facebook on my iPad. I felt glad to be back, but immediately annoyed by the time I wasted on there. I no longer have the urge to transcribe my daily life into status updates. I’ll be keeping my phone social media free!

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New thing 4) go to a yoga class

As part of my 25 new things before I turn 25, I attended a beginner’s yoga class yesterday.

I payed my fee online (12 quid for ninety minutes) and shuffled up the road to Kula Yoga in Chapel Allerton after I’d finished my morning teaching work.

There were twelve attendees in the class, plus our lovely teacher, Claire, who was really helpful.

We began with some breathing and warming up exercises and then went into a few basic postures.

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Something that surprised me: Some of the moves were really hard. The above is ‘downward facing dog’ which made my arms and legs shake with the effort. I woke up the following day with achey muscles in my shoulders and legs.

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Something that made me laugh: At the end we lay on our mats, covered with a blanket with a bean bag over our eyes. We listened to calming music whilst we received a shoulder massage. This was one of those situations where I know it would be really inappropriate to laugh, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Miranda:

Would I do it again? I’m eager to start doing some sun salutations in the morning to wake up my body. But in terms of general exercise, I’m going to stick with my running. There was a bit too much lying about on the floor for my liking!

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