Simple, little and achievable aims for 2017


I don’t like making resolutions because I never stick to them. I also can’t face going on Facebook on New Year’s Day to see all the ‘new year new me!’ or ‘leaving all the fake friends behind this year’ style status updates. Thanks for that update hun, but no thanks.

Last year my main goals consisted of telling myself I will get more than two haircuts, to focus on my health more and cut down on drinking coffee. All of which I have achieved (I got three haircuts, high five) although the coffee drinking slowly started to increase as December neared.

I actually think goals help most people to achieve more and I do like ticking things off a list, so I am making one. Health is continuing to be my number one goal. Ehlers Danlos syndrome makes life hard at the best of times, and the bad times seem to get worse the older I get, despite being more infrequent, so I want to be as healthy as possible to combat the symptoms. Aside from making more progress on being well and getting stronger, these are my little aims for 2017:

Learn to knit – Yes, I say this every year, but this time I mean it. I WANT TO KNIT.

Master at least 10 new vegetarian recipes – I’m not a big meat eater at all, so I eat mainly veggie dishes already, but it’s getting repetitive. I would say I had lentil and chickpea curry at least 10 times in December, so I need new food in my life.

Join a club/team/activity of some kind – When I move, I want to find something local to do so I a) meet people in the area and b) spend more time learning new things and being sociable.

Start making packed lunches at least three times a week – I’ve gotten so bad at making healthy lunches at the tail end of 2016 and have started spending more money than I care to think about on Pret soups and salads. I also tend to add more unhealthy snacks by strolling through Tesco and deciding I definitely need a Milky Bar AND crisps AND chocolate raisins AND biscuits to dunk in tea during the 3pm lull. 

Get into gardening – I’m not sure how well I’ll cope with a reasonably big garden because I have zero gardening experience and no idea how to help plants thrive or whatever happens out there so I should probably buy a book or something.

Do life admin when it needs doing, not when a paperwork avalanche happens – I should learn to file.

This is me going pretty easy on me for next year, so here’s hoping I finally buy some knitting needles and learn to do more things with lentils. The excitement never ends. Happy NY!

All the blogging feels and stats from 2016

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Blogging in 2016

The end of this year has come around ridiculously fast. A year that I thought would drag in anticipation of moving and living back at home has flown by. It doesn’t feel possible that January is only a couple of days away.

This has been a weird blog year, particularly towards the end, where I’ve found myself with virtually no time to update, write, plan or do any kind of admin. I’ve also felt out of inspiration and a bit like the extra work isn’t worth it. I did toy with the idea of slowly shutting down and doing something new with the website next year, though I have no ideas for that either. I think this feeling will pass, as it has done by before, and I know this blog will still exist this time next year despite my bad blog mood, I just need some rejuvenation, which I’m hoping 2017 will provide.

Another reason I know I won’t actually pull the plug is because of how much blogging has evolved. It’s gone from strength to strength and while there will always be people who don’t understand the concept of blogging, or put it down as being pointless, flighty lifestyle content, it isn’t. It’s hard work, a lot of work, involves a lot of skill and is a fantastic community, recognised by brands and big companies and it makes a lot of people happy, which counts for more than just something.

Blogging stats in 2016

I didn’t have any goals or major aspirations for my blog this year, which is perhaps where I fell down in the past few months. I’m going to hopefully set some sort of benchmark in 2017, and give myself something to aim for.

It wasn’t a bad year though, far from it.

I reached 471 email subscribers. I got a record number of hits in one month- 12,401 in September. I started averaging at least 200 page views a day from August, which for a little blog like this feels like a solid and steady number.

Aside from numbers, I celebrated two years of blogging and I got a feel for what works best in my writing style, which until earlier this year was still a bit of a mystery to me. I also got to go along to a couple of events, and received invites to several I couldn’t go to, which is a nice feeling even when you can’t attend.

Blogging going forwards

My first aim of 2017 will be to kick this blogging slump aside and sit down and have a proper think about what I want to do next. I want to get on top of planning, stop being such a bad scheduler, start writing more frequently and do more stuff that suits me. I also want to meet more bloggers that I love in real life, go to more events, read more posts and reestablish the feeling of being connected to a community, be it just on Twitter or in real life – hopefully both!

Time to go out and buy another new notebook obviously.

 

 

 

Between Christmas and NYE – 10 things that always happen


I sort of hate the bit between Christmas and NYE. I always feel bloated, end up walking the family dog in the rain a lot, and I miss the Christmas build up. The build up is the best bit. I see more people in the month of December than I do all year round and I love it. There’s better coffee to be drank, everything looks a bit nicer with fairy lights on and you get some tinsel obscuring your search bar at work. It’s just a nice time, and yes I do like wrapping presents. 

Last year I spent this bit really ill with a gross cold and tissue stuffed up my nose, but I feel this year will be a return to classic happenings. These classic happenings: 

1) I will go for my second run of the festive period (the first being Boxing Day) and then come home and refuel with cheese balls or salt and vinegar sticks. 

2) I will find myself in the kitchen talking about the fact we need to buy more Wednesleydale with cranberries next year, but we won’t and the cycle will continue. 

3) I will see more family and receive a key ring. Last year I got a fairy one, complete with glittery wings. Previous years include a Westie ( which I love and use) and a cactus with dimples.

4) “I’m going back to 4 gym classes a week as of Wednesday.” 

5) I’ll try and create a fancy coffee with alcohol in. It’ll be disgusting. 

6) I will wear several pairs of different coloured slipper socks and slip on the wooden floor at least once. 

7) I’ll write my annual health and fitness goals then immediately eat a buffet meal.

8) I will do a core workout following a YouTube video and kick the Christmas tree. 

9) I will take the dog to the park with my dad and she will roll in muddy puddles or poo until she’s brown and then we’ll bath her while she growls. Her very own festive tradition. 

10) I will wake up really early and think about all the rare sleeping in opportunities I’m missing and resent myself. 

PS. That is not my house. 

Christmas snowball truffles recipe


It’s close enough to Christmas to make these now and not to have worry about freezing them because in my experience, stuff like this never makes it to the day itself. When I decided to make these I was fully in Nigella mode, making lists and buying stacks of dark chocolate. Then it actually came to it and life reminded me that I am most certainly NOT Nigella.

It took me a while to get into the swing of truffle making, and despite the fact I had to clean chocolate off of the fridge, the floor, the tumble dryer and the back door handle (things got heated), it’s really not hard. It might be tempting to just buy the many thousands of truffles on sale in shops wrapped up in pretty boxes, but trust me, they taste so much better when you make them.

I made mine with dark chocolate 300g of it to be exact. You also need 300ml of double cream, some cocoa powder, some desiccated coconut and some butter. I also crushed up some almonds for mine, but if you can’t be bothered with that, the coconut is fine.

The chocolate making process is really simple, and you will still feel like a culinary, Christmassy genius at this stage. The cream and the butter go into a saucepan on a medium heat until they slowly combine, then simmer them for a couple of minutes, then mix in your chopped up your chocolate until it turns into a velvety smooth mixture. If you want to make it orange flavoured chocolate, squeeze in the juice and zest of a couple of oranges now. Once you’re done with the melting, pour it into a bowl and chill it for a few hours.

I usually get put off cooking or baking when you have to take a break in the middle, but it’s worth it. When your chocolate goo is chilled and hard (but not so hard you can’t scoop it and shape it) roll it into balls and then roll in the coconut, and THERE YOU HAVE IT. Snowball truffles. I did some of mine in plain cocoa powder too to mix it up and a few in almonds.

You’ll need to put them straight back in the fridge to avoid melted, messy truffles. You can also freeze them so they last a bit longer- the cream means they need to be eaten in about three days after making if you don’t freeze. Happy truffling! 

They are bloody delicious and if you need last minute presents they’re perfect. 

Pulling the good out of 2016

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It feels weird to try and say anything about 2016 in a general context. It’s been a very odd, often sad year and also one that I’ve found confusing and frustrating. I know I’m not alone in that though. I was talking to my colleague yesterday while we hovered in the kitchen making tea and we were talking about the good things that have happened this year.

It was mostly sentences formed of ‘well 2016 has been quite shit but…’ and the but is important. There’s got to be some good to pull out of times we find hard, even if it is just on a personal level. My good bits are a weird mixture of stuff, some of which sounds very insignificant but has been important to me.

The big one- saving enough to buy a house The whole process of house buying has been long and stressful and not something I’m keen to repeat any time soon, but it’s also momentous and I feel relieved we’re nearing the end of it.

Running my first 10k This didn’t seem like it would be possible a few years ago due to my joint issues and Ehlers Danlos syndrome, but I actually did it. To me running a 10k felt like running marathon in terms of achievement, because  I didn’t ever expect my body to be able to run 3k let alone 10.

Changing my health and fitness This has been a long and not always successful journey but I feel like enough has changed for me to be happy and to know what I need to focus on to keep up the much improved wellness I’ve been feeling.

Falling in love with New York City This has been a relatively quiet travel year for me because of saving, but before we moved and started putting away our money like real adults I saved up for a trip to NYC for Dan’s birthday as a surprise and we LOVED it and can’t wait to go back.

Watching loved ones fight back aganist cancer My mum and best friend have both fought cancer in the last couple of years and while they’re now in the clear they’re both still fighting the long-lasting effects of treatment and mentally overcoming the journey. They’ve done a lot this year to kick cancer in the backside and make everyone proud.

Spending time at home I thought moving home for the year would feel weird and be suffocating as taking Dan with me has meant we’ve been tight on space, but it’s actually flown by and been nice. It’ll feel strange to be away again once we finally move.

Two weeks of glorious sunshine I spent two weeks in August soaking up the sun and relaxing with my family in Cyprus and it was so lovely. I spent a lot of time there when I was young and it was nice to go back and see the village we stayed in and the people we  know there. Oh and the amazing Greek fusion food.

The weirdest trip to Wales ever My friends and I go on an annual trip where we rent an Air Bnb house in the middle of nowhere, stock up on food and wine and become recluses for a few days. This year we went to Wales and it was a disaster. Two of us had horrific colds, one person got ORAL SHINGLES, we went to A&E, an emergency dentist, we bought burn cream, we drank Lemsip and we still had a good time. Proof that my friends are probably for life.

You have been awful 2016, but there has been fleeting moments of life being beautiful and all that jazz.

Friends and feelings and stuff 


There are few things in life I find as comforting as good friends. I love the feeling of sitting down with a group of people who I can be completely at ease with, talk to about anything and feel at home around, no matter where we are. It’s perhaps rarer than I probably think to have this luxury and I’m often reminded how lucky I am to have people in my life who make me feel comfortable. 

I don’t want to be made to feel important or special or better than anyone else. I’ll take comfortable all day long.

When I was a teenager I thought that popularity and having a massive circle of people around you would equate to happiness. It didn’t matter how much I really liked them, I just saw safety in numbers. I thought the best way to feel on top of life was to be liked, be in demand and be the envy of others from time to time. All of those thoughts of course were wrong and I’ve long since been put right by life. There’s so much more that matters when it comes to friends than quantity and friends matter for so many reasons. 

I don’t see my best friends all the time, and it doesn’t matter because they accept life for what it is- hectic. That’s been one of the biggest lessons life has thrown at me- it always gets in the way. It’s when it gets in the way with the worst kind of things, the big things, the things that shape us and upset us and change us, that having those people who bring comfort and happiness no matter how many weeks or months it’s been that become so important. 

I’m very happy with my understated, happy and unfussed group of friends. I’m happy with good people, feeling accepted and being supported. I no longer need social media displays of ‘look how great my friends are and how many I have’ and I don’t need reassurance and shows of allegiance. I just need to know that those people who rock up to our meetings in noisy bars, cosy pubs, weird restaurants and living rooms will stay in my life and keep that comfortable, warm feeling of friendship going for many years to come. I think Christmas has made me a bit emotional or something, but here’s to the best of friends and good human beings.

8 things I want in my kitchen

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The closer I get to actually moving, the more I keep letting myself look at homeware. One of the only rooms we have stuff for is the kitchen, so it feels easy to just build on that rather than face facts that we have other entire parts of a functioning home missing. These are all the fruits of random phone shopping on the train this week, apart from the teapot, which I found in Westfields. I’d never heard of  T2 before stumbling upon it a few weeks ago but I can see myself getting VERY well acquainted. If you know of any other places that sell homeware that I can browse online during my train strike fun times, link me up.

1) Printed porcelain mug – H&M – £4.99

2)  Stripe gold rim mug – Matalan – £3.00

3)  Salter vintage scale – Dunelm – £16.99

4)  Skyscraper coasters 4 pack – H&M – £1.99

5)  Leaf salad servers – H&M –  £12.99

6)  Agate bottle opener – Anthropologie – £16.00

7)  Dazed & Dazzled teapot – T2 – £46.00 Salter vintage scale

8) Denby halo cereal bowl – Dunelm – £8.99

5 things worth watching on Netflix right now

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I’m doing the opposite to what I usually do at this time of year at the moment- planning lots of exercise and outdoor running. As much as I love a good winter hibernation period and annually purchasing festive fluffy Primark PJs to wear around the house, I feel like I need to be out and active to stop myself waking up in January feeling awful about myself in the post-Christmas lull.

Now, as much as I am committed to this, I am also still committed to lots of Netflix watching and hanging around under blankets etc etc. I’ve watched a few really good things on the old Netflix lately, and while I’m hardly ahead of the curve I feel a couple of them aren’t being watched/discovered enough. So if you’ve got some solid plans to spend some quality time with N coming up, I can highly recommend you give the following a watch:

1) Love Sick

I’ve been trying to talk everyone I know into watching this. It’s on its second season, and both are on Netflix but it actually started life on Channel 4…and it was called Scrotal Recall. I think the name might have put a lot of people off, which is a shame, because it’s absolutely brilliant, perfectly hilarious and very endearing. Season two is funny on a whole other level. It’s essentially the story of a group of uni friends continuing life after the student dream ends, and the main story is of Dylan, the main character, who has chlamydia and has to track down his past conquests to let them know. It develops into more of a failing love story as the show goes on and it’s brilliantly done. Plus the episodes are short- around 25 minutes, so it’s binge perfection.

2) Catfish

I’m unashamedly thrilled this is now on UK Netflix, and I don’t use the word thrilled lightly (or very often). I LOVED this when it came out on MTV. I’ve mentioned it on here before, probablt more than once, but I’m doing it again. This is a documentary more than a film, and is about falling in love online with a person who turns out not to be what they say they are- or more to the point, who they are. It inspired the MTV show Catfish, which is also really good.

3) Force Majeure

I started watching this with my housemate back in 2014 and having remembered it exists after seeing it pop up on Netflix I will be revisiting it. The idea of the show is to explore ‘adult responsibility’ and it gets pretty much every issue it looks at perfectly right. It’s funny, but is definitely a dark comedy and certainly not all light laughs. The first episode really dives straight in and while the humour is strong, it’s also really quite dramatic. Massively recommend this.

4) An education

This came out when I was a student and I went to the cinema to see it at 11am on a Wednesday. Remember when you could just do that? It’s a film starring Carey Mulligan looking incredibly young and it’s absolutely brilliant. It follows the story of very young woman who is all set to go to Oxford, but gets swept up by a man twice her age. It’s funny, relatable and weirdly feel-good.

5) Clueless

Because obviously, duh.

Image: Pixabay

Falling in the depressing black hole of the social media scroll

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I would really love someone to stand over me and snatch my phone out of my hands when I’ve had enough of the internet. This person or creature would need to be able to pick up on my sudden change of mood and be able to remove my phone or chuck my laptop out of the nearest window before I sink too far into the ‘why isn’t that my life?’ depression. If you fancy the job please submit your CV, I make a really good cup of tea.

It’s been written about to death, but the levels to which the internet affects happiness and perspective on young people right now is obviously still high. I see stuff about it every day. I am one of those people, despite how much I try to disregard the filtered view of others I get from scrolling social media and reading blogs, who still feel like they’re missing the mark.

When you’re scrolling through posts there’s always someone out there having a better day than you, having a nicer weekend than you, eating better food than you, forever buying new clothes, forever travelling to beautiful places and in the end, you just want to be someone who isn’t you. I don’t feel like this very often, but I know I spend way more time than is healthy glued to my phone and on social media. The other day I was sprawled on my bed in the evening feeling frustrated and angry at my body for making me unable to exercise due to a flare up of EDS and it took three things to turn my mood from annoyed to fully vile.

I saw a photo of someone on my Instagram feed in gym clothes looking pretty perfectly toned and posting about training for winter runs, I then got an advert targeted at me on Facebook for homeware I could never afford after snappily swapping apps. Then to finish me off I went into my emails and saw I had been invited to yet another PR event that I wouldn’t be able attend because it’s in the day and I have a job.

These three things, separately, don’t really mean anything. This person looking good on Instagram would not get a second thought from me 99.9% of the time. The most likely outcome usually would be me looking for where they got their leggings because they’re always so nice. On that evening though, it just amplified my ‘I can’t exercise and I’ve been comfort eating crap all day so I’m just going to get fatter and fatter’ mood even more. I just felt worse about myself and angrier at my health for looking at one photo.

The advert for homeware appeared because of the stuff I’ve been looking at for Christmas presents. Cookies and data collecting and all that stuff the internet does to advertise things to you came together to make me feel worse about money and worse about not being able to buy things for myself- this shouldn’t matter. I’m not a materialistic person. I don’t go shopping much. I don’t have online baskets full of stuff waiting for payday. I just suddenly felt inadequate and left out and behind from an advert telling me I need a marble crockery set.

The event thing is perhaps the most stupid. This happens fairly often to me and I usually just politely decline and don’t dwell. I have a job that I like and I’m happy in. I can’t go out in the middle of the day to meet PRs and have tea with people. I know that, yet that evening I was suddenly of the opinion that it was unfair, stupid and I shouldn’t have to pick between the two. Hello first world problems brat, how are you?

I don’t like the version of myself I feel when I overdose on the internet. Social media isn’t the place to be when you’re feeling down- not for me anyway. Sometimes it can lift me up- a lot of the time I consume it thankfully and I contribute. I post and tweet and will carry on doing so- I tried the whole digital detox thing and I hated it. When I’m feeling bad about myself, most of the time a jaunt on social media ends in a downward spiral of asking why I don’t look better, why my house doesn’t look as good as those I see splashed on online, why I don’t have more money and why I can’t afford six holidays a year.

It’s not pretty to fall down the black hole of the scroll and I really hope that as time goes on, young people get better at separating reality and filtered lives. I don’t know how that can happen but it’s definitely what I want for when I have children who despite my best efforts will most likely be scrolling themselves before I know it.

8 alternative reasons to love Christmas

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Yes, Christmas is great, no disputing it over here. I love the present wrapping and the festive films and all the good cheer and wooden huts selling mulled wine, but there’s plenty of other reasons to fawn over the winter/festive period that don’t involve glitter and coffee cups with jumpers on. For example:

1) News stories about really awful winter wonderland experiences. Two hour queues to park, muddy fields, drunk santa, no santa at all, angry parents and brown fake snow. This is my personal favourite and you can guarantee a whole flurry (see what I did there) of them every year.

2) Men in full suits and Christmas jumpers on the tube. Christmas jumper day (this year it’s December 16th, get ready people) is my favourite commute of the year. I love nothing more than seeing men in sharp suits with a casual reindeer chilling under their blazer.

3) Photos of really awful Christmas baking. Gingerbread houses with more problems than vogue, sad looking mince pies and attempts at making snowmen that look like melty piles of shampoo with eyes. I’ve already seen about three round ups like this in the news and it’s only December 7th.

4) Any story of any person who isn’t you doing something awful and highly regrettable at their office party. It’s such a cliche but also fully hilarious to watch your friends die inside while they tell you the horrors of their night out and why they can probably never go back to work.

5) The word eggnog.

6) Photos of cats stuck in Christmas trees. Another classic.

7) Horrific office Christmas decorations. The bald Christmas tree celebrating it’s 20th Christmas. The broken baubles and really sad looking streamers. Quite frankly, the worse the better.

8) People crammed on public transport standing silently in their work suits holding massive boxes with ‘Adventure Farm including 15 different animals’ or ‘Sleepy baby complete with two sets of pyjamas’ emblazoned across them.