Sunday, 12 February 2017

My new reading rules

I love to read, but I can often forget exactly how much I love to read. When I read on my commute, I feel like I've used the journey much more productively than when I scroll through my phone for 45 minutes, and while I've been living in the flat with Phil it's been hard to find a quiet space to read when we only had 3 rooms. 

Now we're back at my parents I've been determined to not lose my momentum with reading and get back into the habit of finding a quiet space to read for pleasure, so here are my new reading rules and goals to help me to read as much as possible, and find more books that I love...

1. Pick books that sound good, not just the ones with good reviews
I'm really terrible for picking up a book, reading the blurb, then going straight to Goodreads to see whether it's "good" or not. And "good" for me means whether it's got a rating of over 3.8. Under than and I might not bother. Which is ridiculous, because I have read dozens of "good" books with solid 4+ ratings I've hated, and when I look through my favourites list on Goodreads, some of my favourite books would have failed this system (Haunted only has 3.58, The Informers, only 3.38 and my favourite book in the last few months, Olive Kitteridge, only 3.77). So I need to make better decisions myself about what sounds like a good book to me, or maybe read the first few pages to see if I like the writing style (I have an English Lit degree, so I cannot read anything that's badly written), rather than trawling through the reviews of strangers.

2. Use the library
Since moving jobs in April last year, I'm no longer around the corner from Manchester's Central Library, which has an amazing catalogue of books. I am, however, round the corner from Stockport library, and although I have a card, I often don't search for books there because I "assume" they won't have the book I want. Often I'm right, but not always, so I need to get back into the habit of checking there first. Or at least give Phil my library card to get me something from Central on his lunch break!

3. Stop skimming!
Another Goodreads thing I have a love/hate relationship with is setting a reading goal. This gets in my head a bit, and I can find myself rushing through a book just to add it to my "read" list. Again, stupid. 

4. Put down books I don't love
I had an awkward altercation last week when I bemoaned rushing through a book I wasn't loving just to finish it so I could start something else. Everyone on Twitter told me to stop, even the author of the book in hand herself (!!!!). But I stuck with it and finished it and I am glad I did, but I do this far, far too often and you know what, life is too short to read books I don't love.

5. Research the authors I like
As soon as I start to finish a book, if I don't have my next one lined up, I get very panicky. I always worry that with every good book I read that's one less great book left in the world! So I'm going to start being better at researching the authors I love to find other things they've written. This feels like a very easy way to grow my reading list, but something I always forget to do!

6. Donate books I didn't love or won't read again
It's easy to think of my books as a collection, but as I mentioned with clothes, I have hundreds of books and so many of them I know I wouldn't read again. So why not donate them to someone who might be absolutely thrilled to find the book they've been looking for in a charity shop? I love this idea, and I love that it means helping a charity too. I don't need to keep every book I've ever read in my life - I'd rather just keep the ones I love.

7. Pick up a book more than my phone
I've mentioned before that when I'm in Spain, I turn my phone off and put it in a drawer, and spend all the time I'm away reaching for my book instead of yet another scroll through Twitter. I always have a book in my handbag, so I need to get into a better habit of picking it up at the times I'd normally reach for my phone, even if it's only for a couple of pages.

8. Make time to read
With a half-hour commute each way when I was living in Manchester, I got plenty read each week to and from work, and I absolutely loved this time. Now I'm back at my parents, my commute is quite a bit shorter, so I need to make sure I make the time to read. To read well, I need to be on my own and it needs to be quiet, so I need to get into a routine where I can make this happen, whether it's before bed or in the morning. Reading calms me down and makes me happy, so it's important that I make time for it every day.

9. Keep an open mind
As I mentioned before with my degree, I can be pretty judgey when it comes to books (I took an amazing class in my final year called Reading and Popular Culture which had a lot about how we determine "high art" and "low art" when it comes to books), but I really need to keep an open mind more. Not everything I read needs to be the best book ever, and nor does it need to be the best-written book ever. If I can enjoy a chick flick as much as an independent film, I need to learn to be more open to books that are good fun, even if they're not well written.

10. Buy more second hand
I've been buying most of my books lately either from charity shops or from Abe Books, rather than looking straight on Amazon for Kindle books. It's cheaper and I like the idea of my money going to independent bookshops. Simple as that! I've managed to get so many books for under £3 from Abe Books!

11. Visit bookshops more - and buy something!
I am 100% that person who loves a wander around a bookshop but will then see if the book is cheaper on Amazon. I KNOW I'M TERRIBLE. So my plan from now on is to actually buy from bookshops because I know if I don't, they'll die and I'll be devastated, which leads to...

12. Buy more books on a whim
Like I mentioned with clothes shopping in this post, I very rarely buy a book on a whim. I tend to have a list of all the books I want, both on Goodreads and in my phone, and I'll wait til I'm about to finish a book before I buy anything new. But buying books is a wonderful experience, especially when you just pick something up that you fancy, so I want to do more spontaenous book buying, just because.

13. Set a book-buying allowance
I always feel weirdly guilty about buying books, and when I asked on Twitter I found a few people had a dedicated spend each month to buying books, which I love the idea of. So every two months I allow myself a bit of spending on books. This means I feel less guilty about the books I don't finish and I get to enjoy the love that is buying books! Because buying books is buying happiness and knowledge and you just can't put a price on that, you know?

14. It's okay to have a few books on the go
I'm usually a bit rubbish at having a few books on the go, and end up giving up on one and having to start from the beginning again when I realise I can't remember what was going on, but I've recently found I've liked having a fiction and a non-fiction on the go. I've been reading quite a few books to help my anxiety and I can find them a bit overwhelming to read more than a few pages of at a time, so it's nice to have a mix of fiction and non-fiction to work through at once.

Book recommendations for me? Just want to stalk my reading list? Follow me on Goodreads!

Charlotte x

Saturday, 11 February 2017

How I shop now

Moving back to my parents has made me realise one thing - I have an embarrassing amount of stuff. Clothes especially. Bags upon bags upon bags of them. And then getting back home and realising I already have wardrobes full of stuff at my parents that I clearly haven't worn in the two years I lived away.

So obviously, a big cull is in order (I did one a few weeks ago and had to stop myself getting nostalgic about dresses I wore when I first started writing my blog! Fancy some throwbacks? One of them was this dress from my first ever outfit post) but I've been thinking a lot more about how I shop now and how my style has changed over the past few years.

I've been honest time and time again about this no longer being a fashion blog, and that I am no longer a fashion blogger (despite the name - rebranding is far too overwhelming at this point!) and this realisation has definitely been a relief and taken a lot of pressure off me in terms of "being a blogger". I care way less about getting dressed now and my shopping habits have really changed as a result.

I still love to shop, don't get me wrong, but not at the same level as I used to, and I don't buy the same kind of things I would have done five years ago. Here's how I shop now...

1. I buy less
I think my shopping habit got a bit out of control when I was at uni and for the year or so after. I feel like I was buying stuff all.the.time. I was buying magazines on a weekly basis, constantly reading blogs and just being in an environment where I was always seeing new things I wanted to buy! I was blogging a lot and passionate about clothes, and I always wanted to try new trends and new ideas. I always wanted to wear something new and create a new outfit every day. Now I reckon I buy maybe 2 or 3 new things a month, and I wear the same outfits all the time! 

2. I choose quality over quantity
When I do shop now, I shop almost exclusively at ASOS, Oasis and Warehouse, places that I would very rarely shop at a few years ago. I'd rather have a gorgeous top that I'll really love and wear all the time than two cheaper tops that I wouldn't wear as much. Of course, I'll still dither massively, like a few weeks ago when I was reluctant to spend £30 on a ASOS little black dress which I've now realised I'll wear with everything, and I still find it easier to spend £20 than £40, but when I look in my wardrobe, it's the better quality items I love much more than the cheaper ones.

3. Focus on basics
I've recently started to assess where I have gaps in my wardrobe and looked to fill them with basics. Breton tops, a simple black dress for work or play, wear-with-everything ballet flats, simple black heels. These are the kinds of things that will go with everything and will really get worn. In the winter I'll spend a bit more on a decent pair of brown boots and a decent pair of black boots and wear them in a constant rotation, then in the summer I'll have a pair of nude ballet flats that I'll wear with everything, undoubtedly wear out, then I'll buy a similar pair the following year. I used to be all about wearing the pink shoes with the pink dress but now I'd much rather keep it simple and buy things that go with everything!

4. I buy what I will really wear
I love dresses, but if they're not wearable for work, they're probably not worth buying. I rarely go out, and even if I do, I've definitely got enough going-out dresses and I don't go out enough to justify buying more, and at the weekends I tend to reach for jeans anyway. Sometimes it can be a hard realisation when I love something that I really don't have anywhere to wear it! At the weekends I know I live in jeans, so a cosy sweatshirt is a much better investment than a pretty dress.

5. I know my style better
I used to read hundreds of fashion blogs, so I was constantly inspired by different bloggers' styles and always trying new things. Now I know what's me, and what isn't me, so I don't buy things for the style I wish I had. In the winter, that's jeans and jumpers, or a skirt and a jumper, and in the summer it's jeans and pretty tops. I recently got rid of loads of pairs of shorts, which I loved in my early twenties, but know I'll never wear again. I know I'm probably not as "stylish" and "on-trend" as I used to be, but I feel much more comfortable in how I dress now and I think that's something that comes naturally as you get older.

6. Comfort is king
I only wear heels now if I absolutely have to. I'm too impatient to walk slowly, and I like I get everywhere quickly! This means I'll rarely buy something, unless it's for the evening, if it absolutely needs heels. I'm old and boring and I like to be comfortable. I like cosy jumpers and cardigans and sweatshirts. I don't have the energy to be uncomfortable for the sake of looking good anymore.

7. I work 5 days a week
I have only 3 days a week (we have dress down Fridays) where I'm not in workwear, so if I'm going to buy anything new, I should probably spend money on something I can wear for work. Because otherwise there's only so many opportunities I'm going to get to wear something (seriously, I did the maths on this, and there are only 13 weeks in a season, which isn't a lot of outfits when you consider I try to avoid getting dressed after my run on Sundays...)

8. I live in jeans
This goes back to being honest about what I will really wear. On a cold Saturday, I won't be reaching for a dress. I'll be wearing jeans. I live in dresses and skirts at work, so when I get the chance to wear jeans, I'll take it. So I let myself buy as many tops as I like because I know they'll get worn much more than a dress or a skirt. I also have lots of pairs of jeans now. I'm currently in love with Primark's super high waisted skinny jeans, because at £8, they're less than a quarter of the price of my usual Topshop jeans.

9. I look for easy combinations and formulas
In the week, I wear a near-constant rotation of jumpers and skirts for work. I have a few nice jumpers and a few nice skirts that all go together in different combinations, which means I have very little to think about every week. So I try to buy things that already work with the combinations in my wardrobe.

10. I shop almost exclusively online
I very rarely shop unless I need something specific, so I do nearly all my shopping online, and usually through searching, rather than browsing. This means I have less chance of getting distracted by something pretty! Of course, this still happens, both online and offline, but it's much easier to search "tan ballet flats" online than it is to hunt through shops for them! I resent paying for postage (but forever hunt for discount code!), but it usually makes better economic sense than going into town where I'll usually end up buying something else too!

11. I don't accept collaborations that aren't me
I very rarely collaborate with brands any more, but a lot of the clothes in my wardrobe are from collaborations that to be honest weren't very me. As a young fashion blogger I jumped at any chance of free clothes, which means I've ended up with so many things that I probably never wore again after the photos. So now I almost never collaborate, and I have to be sure whatever is offered is something I'd actually buy myself, otherwise it's just a waste of a spot in my wardrobe.

(On a similar topic, I really recommend this blog post from Michelle - Can we still call it fashion blogging when all you write about is shopping? )

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

My favourite places in Manchester

I've written my love letter to Manchester before, time and time again. The truth is, I love this city, and I love it more than any city in the world. Manchester is my home, and moving a handful of miles out of the centre is not going to change that. There are still so many places I'm yet to explore (I have a list of places I haven't yet visited and things I haven't yet done) but I think I've done pretty well over the past few years.

So here are my favourite places in the city. Maybe not the best places, but my favourites. The places I will go to again and again, the places I'll excitedly take people to and be excited to show them off. These are the places that represent my city, and my memories, my experieces of it. Some of them I've only recently discovered, and some I've been going to for years.

I've split them into lunch and coffee places, dinner, drinks, culture and shops, although I admit there's a bit of crossover in a few categories, especially dinner and drinks, but I tried to fit them into the categories that make the most sense to me.

Coffee, lunch and snacks
Our flat is located in a beautiful triangle of burrito places. Within a 5 minute walk, we have three burrito places. Changos is Phil's favourite, and Panchos is mine. In fact, a Panchos burrito bowl was my first meal after my marathon!
There are actually two Panchos branches in the city (I talked about the Arndale market one in this post edit: Unfortunately, Splendid Kitchen has since closed, which is such a shame because it used to be one of my absolute favourite places), but we favour the Quadrangle one, purely because it was just around the corner from our flat.
I love the gigantic portions, and the fact that veggie option isn't just guacamole (looking at you, Chilangos). We always go for bowls because you get more than in a burrito, and I always get the veggie chilli.
My favourite brunch spot, but you've got to be prepared to wait! On a Saturday or Sunday you're looking at a wait of at least 45 minutes to an hour, so get your name on the list and kill some time, it's worth it. Moose is all about American and Canadian-style breakfast, from eggs to waffles. I'm not a fan of a sweet breakfast, so I usually go for the Manolito (my absolute favourite, the Burrito state of mind, has sadly departed the menu) or the Bronx Burnch Green Line.
A blink-and-you'll-miss-it stall just outside the Arndale, this started out as a popup before becoming permanent. The most delicious grilled cheese sandwiches you'll ever have in your life. Choose from loads of fillings or keep it classic with just grilled onions. It's quick and dirty and delicious, and they change their menu every few weeks.
There are lots of places in Manchester for great tea and cake, and Proper Tea is no exception. Not the easier place to find, round the back of the Cathedral, but I love their tea-and-biscuits deal (Morning Tea), which includes a pot of tea and two of the nicest biscuits ever.
Perfect veggie and vegan fare just round the corner from Picadilly Gardens. I get a falafel bowl with everything, and it comes with houmous, tabbouleh and more salads than I can name!
I've written about Ziferblat before because it's just lovely. Pay per minute and enjoy as much tea, coffee, cake and cereal as you like. It's like walking into someone's living room, I just love it.
You'll need your GPS on your phone to find this one, but just down the back of a dodgy-looking alley is one of Manchester hidden gems. This and That cafe is a Manucian institution, and for good reason. It looks absolutely nothing from the outside, but once you go in there is bound to a queue for the caferia-style curries. Get 3 veggie curries and rice for just £3.90, or a maximum of £6.50 for three meat curries. The menu changes every day, so you get something different each time. We got two heaping platefuls (three veg for me, two meat and one veg for Phil), two cans of soft drink, a garlic naan and an onion bhaji for £12. It's both filling and delicious and I cannot wait to go again. Don't judge a book by its cover!
Just on the approach to Oxford Road Station is a lovely little coffee shop called Java. I love it as respite from the two Stabucks' and two Cafe Neros in the surrounding area. It's a bit of a hidden gem and it's a lovely, quiet spot for a coffee and a catch up. They do serve food but I've never eaten in, though the Greek mezze on the menu sounds incredible!
If I'm going to have cake, I'm going to go to Teacup. One of my favourite places for lunch (I love their fish fingers sandwiches), cake and tea in a pot, Teacup is another Northern Quarter institution. Pop in and please get the Rainbow cake because I've always wanted to try it.
Slice does exactly what it says on the tin. Cheap, but great!, slices of pizza, and excellent ice cream. Perfect for when you want a bit of a snack after a hard day's shopping.
Super pretentious hipster heaven, but I kind of like it, Takk could not be more Northern Quarter. I guarantee whoever serves you in here has a beard and is wearing a check shirt. BUT I had an amazing Welsh Rarebit in here once that I'll never forget, so this is one of my favourite places to meet friends, especially as it's super close to Piccadilly.
A sandwich here has been proclaimed by Phil to be "the best sandwich I've ever had in my life" (it was a reuben). I love sitting outside of here in the summer with a latte and some millionaire's shortbread. 

I reallu, really, really love the Corn Exchange. It's such a lovely spot in the centre of the city with some of my favourite restaurants, and they've done such a great job of transforming this empty space into something amazing. Mowgli is one of my favourite places. It's all Indian street food, like Indian tapas, and everything is delicious. I really love the Indian chip butty.
Sandinista is a cool little Spanish bar just off St Ann's Square, and I love it for a cocktail or for tapas. It's perfectly located from the Royal Exchange Theatre, and they do a discount if you show them your theatre ticket.
Artisan is pretty much the "fanciest" place on my list. Phil and I went here for our anniversary a few years ago! The food is fab, I love the decor and it's just generally a really cool place for a special occasion.
Okay, I know it's a chain, but we've only had Wahaca in Manchester for a year or so, and I absolutely love it so it deserves to be on the list! Just the best Mexican street food - I especially love the crispy prawn tacos and sweet potato taquitos. Also in the Corn Exchange, like all my favourite places!
  • Curry Mile
You can't visit Manchester without a trip to the curry mile. Mughli is our favourite place. It doesn't have an extensive menu like most curry houses, which put us off at first, but then we realised it's because they have a real expertise in some top dishes. A bus out of the city, or a decent walk, but well worth the trip.
We went here this year for our anniversary, and I love going somewhere with healthy, tasty food. I haven't been for brunch, but it looks fantastic! 
My favourite dark, dingy taco bar for big plates of nachos or tasty Mexican tapas. It's a great little tequila bar - super cool, super dark, great food and drinks. Pop into Kosmonaut next door after for a cocktail!
Rudy has become a bit of an institution. It's made such a name for itself as "the best pizza in Manchester" that they are constantly turning people away or instilling long wait times. Admittedly, we made the mistake of going on a Friday after work, and at 6.45pm were told it was an hour and half wait, so we popped across for a drink at Seven Brothers, then after an hour and a half we nipped back and were told it might be another hour. After half an hour in another bar, we got a call saying it would be another half an hour, and finally, after two and a half hours we got our table. Was it worth the wait? Yes. Would I wait again that long? Probably not. But it is unbelieavale pizza and I have no regrets, but the hanger when you don't have dinner til 9.30pm is real.

Solita serves the kind of food that is dirty and ridiculous and delicious and damn right dirty. Home of the Big Manc, it's a carnivore's dream, but they also have a great selection of veggie and fish options. Solita is the place for a real delicious blow out!

I LOVE Crazy Pedros! They have two sites now, the original in Spinningfield and a new one in the Northern Quarter. Only go during happy hour, which is 5-9pm Sunday-Friday. Cocktails are 2 for 1 (and they're delicious and surprisingly strong!) and pizza slices are £2 or pay £10 for a whole 16" pizza. They have a special every month (the Dirty Northener, which came with chips and gravy on top, was a bit weird) but the Nacho Libre is my favourite, due to being a pizza with nachos on.
Font Bar used to be my bar of choice when I was 18 before walking across t0 Fifth Ave in heels I couldn't walk in. But I've recently rediscovered how great it is, because £2 cocktails are great whether you're 18 or 26. Also the food is actually pretty good, and they often have a DJ on at the weekends, so I'm not embarrassed to put this on my list. Okay maybe a little bit.
Hula is a tiki bar in the Northern Quarter, where you can get flaming (literally!) zombies, which I'm not sure pass health and safety in a bar which is covered in straw. But it plays 90% R'n'B and does great cocktails, so what more could you want?
Refuge recently opened just around the corner from us, which is really annoying right before we move out because it's AWESOME. It's part of the fancy-schmancy Principal Hotel, and it's decor reminds me of the Overlook in The Shining. It's a really smart bar, equally great for a latte and also for a gin and tonic. It's the kind of place I need to take my Mum.
Fitzgerald's is a 1920s themed bar, which I think is a bit of a hidden gem, hiding down an alley at the side of Hula. It's all decked out in flapper style, and shows black and white films projected onto the wall. It has an amazing cocktail menu and is just a really unusual spot for drinks. My friends loved it here!
The Alchemist is in no way unique to Manchester - and we have two! - but I love the crazy cocktail concoctions with dry ice and foam and colour-changing madness. Definitely worth a visit if you love cocktails.

Home is one of my absolute favourite places in Manchester. It's an independent cinema, theatre, restaurant, gallery, bar and cafe all in one. We were pretty gutted when The Cornerhouse closed two years ago, but Home is a brilliant substitution. I love seeing films here because it's such an intimate space, but it's also great for a drink and the restaurant is fantastic (get the veggie burger!). I'll really miss having this around the corner.
Despite having a Cineworld Unlimited card, I have a huge appreciation for the other cinemas in Manchester, and along with Home, I love the Great Northern cinema. You get a proper old-fashioned ticket stub, and it has that quiet, classic cinema vibe that I love. 
Despite living in the city and growing up down the road, I am always trying to learn new things about Manchester. So one of the things I was desperate to do when was a Manchester walking tour - we do them in every city we visit, so why not in our own home? The Manchester walking tour is excellent. It lasts three hours, with a break in the middle, and is "free" and all done on tips (just like the Sandeman tours I love in Europe). It's well worth doing whether you're from Manchester or not - you're bound to find out something new! 

  • Vimto Statue

Did you know Manchester is the birthplace of Vimto? Yep, we have our very own statue dedicated to it too! It's one of my favourite things in the city because I had no idea about it until a few years ago!

  • Alan Turing Memorial

Alan Turing is a hero that Manchester has really adopted as its own, and there are references to him all over the city, especially around the university. On Whitworth street there is a tiny park with a statue of Alan Turning sat on a bench, sitting right between the Gay Village and the University. It's a lovely tribute, and one of my favourite spots. It's well worth a visit if you are in the city.

We do pretty well for theatres in Manchester, with the Palace, Opera House and Lowry, but the Royal Exchange is by far my favourite. It's a very intimate-feeling theatre in the round, so you can see everything and everyone at all times. I've seen some amazing productions here, but the best has got to be Maxine Peake's A Streetcard Named Desire last year. It was also here, three years ago before we went to see Sweeney Todd, that Phil asked me to be his girlfriend.

When I worked in the city centre, I used to go to Central Library to read nearly every lunchtime and I miss it so much. It's recently been renovated and it's absolutely stunning. Plus wikipedia just informed me that is the second largest public lending library in Britain, so that's cool. It's probably my favourite building in the city, and I miss my lunchtime reading sessions there every day!

I ran past John Rylands library for months before I knew what it was, which is strange because it sticks out like a sore thumb! Although a sore thumb it is not. The John Rylands library is the most stunning Victorian gothic building nestled between all the bars and restaurants and pubs of Deansgate. The inside is a oxymoronic mix of classic neo-Gothic and ultra modern. It's free to enter and well worth a look around.
We used to go the Museum of Science and Industry on school trips almost every year when I was at school, and I still haven't lost my love for it. Every time I visit a new memory will pop up and I'm filled with nostalgia. But it's still as amazing a museum now as it was when I was a kid. I always remember the area with the trains and having to sketch them for school, and I recently learned they are on the site of the world's first railway station! It's also free to enter, and it amazing for kids and adults alike.

When Phil and I first started dating, we had to visit the Richard Goodall gallery every weekend. It's a very contemporary gallery, with all the prints related to pop culture, mostly music and films. We would always pick out things we wanted to one day buy for our own place! For Phil's birthday three years ago I got him the cinema redux of Blade Runner - a print made up of each one-second frame in the film, with each row representing one minute. If you're into films or music, save up your pennies and go in for a visit.
I can't help wandering into Oklahoma whenever I'm in the Northern Quarter. But I don't know how I would describe it. Maybe a novelty gift shop? It sells everything you didn't know you needed. Like a Godzilla lamp.

If you're veggie or vegan in the city, 8th Day is the best place to go to for your veggie needs, from nutritional yeast to vital wheat gluten to dates, nuts, brown rice syrup and vegan cheeses, this is the place to go. It also have a cafe downstairs but I still haven't made it in there for a visit!

Of course, there are still dozens of places I haven't visit yet, including Chethams Library, The Manchester Museum and the Whitworth Gallery and I can't wait to come back into the city and visit even more places. I'm sad to be moving away from the city I love, but I know I'm only around the corner, and all these amazing places will still be there, plus, I'm sure, hundreds more!

Want anymore Manchester recommendations? Hit me up on Twitter!

Charlotte x

Saturday, 4 February 2017


I’m not very good at change.
Change means goodbyes and last times.
Change means losing traditions and the every day becoming nostalgia.

But what is life without change?
Without change we cannot grow.
Life is change.
This too shall pass.

Without change I wouldn’t have moved away to university.
To America. Twice.
Or changed jobs or tried new things or started running.

Change should be exciting. 
It should be fresh starts and new firsts.

But change is scary.
They say we can get used to anything, but taking that first step is terrifying.

I'm preoccupied with the things I'll miss.
Even the things I won't really miss.
I've created a nostalgic reality for myself before the change has even happened.
I'm in a constantly state melancholy, worrying about all the things I'll miss.
I mourn every bar and cafe and restaurant and museum I never visited.

Will I really miss being close to Chinatown that much, when I maybe go a handful of times a year?
Will I really miss the convenience of the city centre that much when I live and work in Stockport?
Will I really miss the bars and restaurants when they're only a bus journey away?
Will I really miss our first home when we have a house that's entirely ours?

Things will change. Everything will change. But there will be new, wonderful things to be excited about.
New traditions, new memories, new routines, new places to visit. 

Of course I'll miss it here.
Of course I'll miss our life here.
But we're going to have a new life somewhere new.
And maybe change will be a great thing too. 

Friday, 3 February 2017

How to get up earlier in the morning

I've talked before about my love of mornings. Mornings are my time. It's the time I'm most productive and they're my special times for doing whatever the heck I want.

Now full disclosure here, I am a total morning person, so I can't guarantee my tips will work for everybody. But if you're okay with mornings and just want to be able to get up a little bit earlier, these tips might help.

I don't get up ridiculously early, I have to admit. For some people my start of the day probably isn't even early! But I get up about an hour earlier than I need to, which I think counts as "early" in context.

I've switched up my morning routines lately to do more in the mornings and I've found that's been a huge boost to my happiness, so a lot of these tips are actually things I've only tried lately, but they have really been working for me.

Here are my top tips on getting up earlier in the morning:

1. Go to bed earlier
This may sound like a no brainer, but a lot of people don't seem to consider that if they go to bed at the same time as usual but want to get up an hour earlier every day, they're going to feel it. We all need different amounts of sleep to get by successfully - some people can survive on 5 or 6, others need a solid 8-9. So if you're going to get up earlier, you need to start going to bed earlier too. This might mean a few tweaks to your evening routine. If I'm at home, I try to put my phone away at 9pm and spend the last hour or so of the evening relaxing with a book or watching TV with Phil, and I try to make sure I'm heading for bed by 10pm at the latest. That might sound early, but as I wake up most days between 5.30am and 6am, that gets me the 7.5 hours of sleep I need to not be a grumpy witch.

2. Use an app like SleepCycle
I swear by SleepCycle. I admit, I don't understand the science behind it, but I really notice when I don't use it. SleepCycle is alarm app, but it wakes you up at the lightest point in your sleep cycle so you don't feel as tired, within a half an hour window. So for example, if my alarm is set for 6am, it will go off at some point between 5.30am and 6am, depending on when I'm at the lightest point in my cycle. So some mornings I get half an hour of free, unexpected time!
I also love SleepCycle because it tracks how long you are asleep, the quality of your sleep and you can see a graph of your evening's sleep. I really like that you can look at your stats over time, and see your average number of hours sleep. This is perfect for determining the best time to go to bed for your morning alarm.
The only challenge is making sure you don't want that bonus free time you get, or snoozing through it!

3. Put your feet straight on the floor
Okay I'm trying to get better at this, because I have been totally guilty of setting my alarm 15 minutes early just so I can catch up on my phone, but I've started trying to get rid of that extra 15 minutes to give myself a bit of "the fear" to get me out of bed! This is a tip I read in an article on The Pool lately on getting up earlier. The author said the first thing she did when her alarm went off was to put her feet on the floor. From there it's much easier to get out of bed, because you're almost there. I admit I've not quite managed this yet, but I am starting to learn I really haven't missed much on Twitter overnight, and I really could scroll through Facebook on the bus or while drying my hair and save myself some precious morning time. It's a work in progress!

4. Give yourself a reason to get up
It's much, much easier to get up if you have a reason to get up. I never have a problem getting up early on my workout days because I know if I don't haul myself out of bed I'll miss my workout. It's much harder on the days I don't have to get out of bed early. I used to always sleep in on Mondays and Fridays because they are my rest days, but now I love using these days to catch up with my blog, or read, or some days just doing the washing up I didn't want to do last night. For me, my reason is "it's my me-time, get yourself out of bed", but it could be the only time you get to read, or prepare your breakfast, or do your nails, whatver.

5. Get into a routine
I admit I don't get up at 6am at the weekends, and I do sometimes need a "reset" early night if I find myself having a late night in the week, but for the most part my 6am starts are part of my weekly routine now. I thought I'd find it hard getting up on Mondays and Fridays when I didn't have to, but knowing I could get a solid hour of doing whatever I want is a huge motivator for me. 
It's not always easy. I have to kick friends out of my house at 10pm if they come around during the week, and I'm always tired after a midweek cinema trip, but I love my mornings so much it's worth being a little bit tired from time to time!
Even when I've had a workout, I give myself 15-20 minutes of me-time, just to read or journal and make a cup of tea, and I always feel ready to face the day much better than when I just roll out of bed!

What are you tips for getting up earlier in the morning?

Charlotte x

Want to start exercising in the morning? Read How to become a morning exerciser.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

January Life Lately

January has been quiet, and I think that's what I've needed after a busy few months. We've spent every weekend at home, had few plans during the week, and as I talked about in this post, this was partially intentional and partially through lethargy. I'm bad at relaxing, but I've forced myself to do less this month and I think it's helped. It's been nice to think "what should I do now?" rather than constantly feeling like I'm working through an endless to-do list.

But then looking at this list of everything I've done this month has made me realise I actually have done quite a lot this month. Sure I haven't been on any big exciting trips or some anything significant or dramatic, but I've still managed to do quite a lot!

We move out of our flat in less than two weeks, so January has been a month of packing boxes and taking down photos and trying to make the most of our time in the city. I'm devastated, but I'm starting to focus on the bigger picture. The next chapter of our lives is coming and I'm excited to have our own house with more than four rooms which we can really make "ours". Things are progressing slowly with the purchase of our new house, which hasn't helped with the overwhelming feeling of gloom throughout January, but progressing they are, so hopefully soon we'll be feeling more secure about our fuure.

So here's what I've been doing in January...

What I've been doing...
I kind of hate going out, ever, and I especially hate New Year's Eve, but with it being our last New Year in town (and realistically, we are never going to pay for taxis back from Manchester when we move!) we decided we had to go out.
A group of us went to Pop Bubble Rock and I had the best time dancing to the songs I used to scream along to when I was 16.
As I mentioned in this post on dinner parties, we successfully held a great dinner party at the start of the month, and I was really proud of the spread I put on. I even made my own pitta!
I've been really working on my morning and evening routines this month, while simulateneously trying not to put too much pressure on myself if I don't quite manage it every day. I'm trying to get up earlier, do my workout on workout days, fill in my gratitude journal and start my day more calmly. I've not quite gotten there yet and quite often end up making myself late and stressed, but it's a work in progress. I've also been trying to meditate with Headspace but I'm not really sure if it's working for me, so I might try an alternative app for guided meditation. I'm also trying to put my phone in the other room after 9pm, making myself a sleepytime tea and preparing for bed with my journal and a book. Like I said I'm not fully there yet, but I'm trying to instill some new habits to improve my mental health.

I mentioned last month that my fitness routine had been a bit all over the place, so I've managed to get myself a new routine this month which I love. I still run at the weekends (parkrun on Saturday, long-ish run on Sundays) and one day in the week, and then I've been doing Kayla Itsines' BBG (Bikini Body Guide, bleurgh!) two days a week. I resisted this for ages because I hate the cult-like nature of this programme, and the awful shame-inducing name, but I needed to get some more strength training into my life and it fits well with my routine. I do legs and cardio on Tuesdays and arms and abs on Thursdays. I don't know if I'll carry on with this when I start half marathon training again but for now I really like it (although it's bloody hard work!). I like that I can do it easily, like on Sunday when I managed 2 minutes of my run before realising it was too icy, and came home and did a full body circuit. I love that it only takes 30 minutes and you really feel it!

Where I've been
A few weeks ago we went out for our annual Crowley family new year drink, which was lovely, and afterwards Phil and I had an impromtu date night! We hadn't eaten and I was musing over what I could make, when we decided just to go to Home. Home is one of my favourite, favourite places in Manchester, and I'll miss living round the corner so much, so it was so lovely just to go out for dinner on a whim (see! I am being more spontaneous!).

As I said in the intro, everything has been quite quiet this month, but I have been to my friend Riven's for dinner, and we also had our last hurrah at Ultimate Power last week. 

What I've been loving
Did you know that Tuesday was National Compliment Day? I celebrated by texting all my friends a real, honest compliment about how much I loved and appreciated them, and it was so lovely to tell everyone how much I truly loved them! 

What I've been eating
When I went to Wahaca last month I signed up for their January promo - a free plate of tacos when you buy any other dish. Erm, okay! So at the start of January Phil and I went into town to claim our tacos, and then Phil's Mum ended up joining us! It was lovely - I really, really love Wahaca and I'm so glad we have one in Manchester now!
I've already gone on enough about the Greek feast I made, but I didn't mention Phil's magnificient Custard Cream cheesecake! I've never known him to make dessert before so I was really, really impressed and it was delicious! (Although neither of us could look at a custard cream for a few weeks after!).
I've made a few things I've really enjoyed lately - slutty brownies for a colleague's birthday, homemade pizza (including homemade sauce), pea falafels and pitta, apple crumble, Mexican lasange. I also had my first ever IKEA hotdog this month - I had no idea they did vegetarian ones! I can't remember the last time I'd had a hotdog!
I also finally made it to This and That cafe last weekend, where I've wanted to go for years. You wouldn't stumble over it if you weren't looked for it, but it's a tiny, caferia-like curry shop in the Northern Quarter, famous for its rice-and-three curries for £4. I had the three veggie curries of the day, Phil had two meat and one veg, and with a garlic naan, onion bhaji and two cans it was £12! They have different curries on the menu every day and I can't wait to go back!

What I've been watching
As I mentioned in my post on my Cineworld Unlimited Card, we have been going to the cinema a LOT lately! 
We've been 7 times this month, with four of those being Unlimited Screenings, and we've seen Silence (bit too long, didn't not enjoy it, but not sure I'd recommend it), La La Land (which we both LOVED), Manchester by the Sea (which I really enjoyed but this post in The Pool completely sums up my feelings on recommending it), Lion (which was okay, but we didn't really get all the hype around it), Hacksaw Ridge (which I really didn't expect to love, but I thought was incredible and I cried 4 times), Split (good, but I lost interest in the last 20 minutes) and Moonlight (which was beautiful).

We also finally watched Deadpool, which was as good as I was expecting!

We've got back into the US Office so we're currently finishing that off, and we're still on my second watch of Parks and Rec. I'm desperate to start a new drama as nothing has quite filled the Game of Thrones-shaped gap in my life but Phil isn't sure. We watched the first episode of the OA this weekend I quite fancy sticking with it, but Phil thinks it's too weird!

Oh and Gilmore Girls whenever Phil is out, which is rare, so I'm only about 6 episodes into the first series.

Things I've bought
I've actually treated myself to a few things this month, which is weird, but nice!
I reluctantly bought new trainers after Phil pointed out I'd worn through my beloved turquoise pair, which isn't surprising after a marathon, a half marathon and over 800 miles in them. So I caved and got myself the exact same pair in another colour! I actually got these for £42 after Amazon did a £10 discount code a few weeks ago!
I've been investing in a lot of classics lately, which I think says a lot about where I'm at with my style at the moment. I just don't care as much as I used to, and I'm just not excited about getting dressed in the morning. And that's okay! I've said it before but I am not a fashion blogger anymore and I'm 100% okay with that. Right now I am all about being easy and comfortable, so I've bought myself a lovely little black skater dress for work, two striped tops from Uniqlo, a stripey sweatshirt from Primark (I have the grey version and it's the softest, comfiest thing I own and only £5 so I couldn't resist) and some new jeans, also from Primark, which I'm most excited about. My Topshop Joni jeans are worn out after only a year, and I went to buy some new ones a few weeks ago before having a complete existentialist crisis in the queue when I realised I really didn't want to spend £45 on a pair of jeans that would last me a year. When I asked for recommendations on Twitter, my friend Laura recommended Primark's super skinny high waisted jeans, so I tried them on this weekend (in a size down, on her recommendation) and they're fab for only £8. Even if I only get 6 months out of them they'll still be a saving!

What I've been reading
I've read some great books this month! I absolutely adored The Easter Parade, by Richard Yates. I loved Revolutionary Road so I knew I'd love this. Heartbreaking, real and beautifully written, it ticked all the boxes I need to love a book. Similarly, My Name is Lucy Barton ticked all those boxes too and I read it in a day. I just couldn't put it down - I only wish it had been longer!

I also really enjoyed The Group by Mary McCarthy which has been on my to-read list for years. It's amazing how a book set in the 1930s can still feel so relevant,

What I'm excited for
I'm obviously mostly excited for our house, even though it still feel like we're not quite there yet. I can't wait to actually have moved in, even though that probably won't be for a few months while we get some work done on it (we're moving in with my parents in the interim). I can't wait for it to finally be ours to decorate!

BUT on Monday WE GOT HAMILTON TICKETS!!!!!! We were both poised at our computers at 12pm, logged in, multiple browsers open, strategy defined. I started to get through the process when Phil text me and said "I'm through" then "I'm paying", and then a few minutes later he sent me the order confirmation! Okay so it's not til next March, but it's the day before my Birthday, which also happens to be Easter weekend next  year, so we're going to make a real weekend of it in London. I'm so excited I was shaking! I didn't think we'd have a chance so I still can't quite believe it!

What I've written
After a prolific December, I got into a bit of a slump with blogging in the middle of the month but I feel like I'm clawing it back at the moment and have a handful of blog posts I'm working on, so hopefully I'm over that now! I think I get overwhelmed which I have big blog post ideas, especially posts that are "tips" or "advice" because I'm scared to get it wrong, and these are often the biggest, most involved pieces to write, so they can take quite a few hours to get finished and I think this can paralyse me at times! Nevertheless, I have managed to write five blog posts this month:
2017 goals
Making a home
January Lethargy
How to host a vegetarian dinner party (even if your guests eat meat)
Is having a Cineworld Unlimited card worth it?
For the love of mornings

What other people have written
Even though I feel like I've struggled to write this month, I've been really inspired by a lot of the great content I've read this month! The theme here definitely seems to be on mental health, happiness and giving ourselves a bit of a break, which have definitely been things I've been trying to work on this month!
(Also, I read The Pool every day, so yes there are a lot of posts from there!)

Why single-tasking can make everything better
I relate to this so much, and I often use the Pomodoro technique when I'm at work, and also when I'm doing my coursework, and I find it really helps me to focus. I'm also trying to put my phone away when I'm watching TV or watching a film. It's hard, but I'm trying.

Rediscovering the lost art of having a hobby
As much as I'm trying not to give myself a million new things to do, I love this post on having a hobby.

How to figure out what makes you happy
Loads of self-care stuff on the internet is about "doing what makes you happy", and I've been a bit embarrassed to admit that honestly? I don't really know what makes me happy. And this has made me feel like a bit of a weirdo. How can you not know what makes you happy?! So I was completely relieved to find this post from Yes and Yes on how to find what really makes you happy! I especially love the bit on reminding yourself "this makes me happy". I absolutely loathe painting my nails, but I love having painted nails, so I have to remind myself of this. Ditto I love spending time with my friends, but sometimes feel overwhelmed committing to making plans (more on this in a later link), and this really spoke to me. I've started to keep a list of the things that make me happy and I'm going to try to do those things more.

On Setting Goals
I can often (always) overwhelm myself with my endless need to set goals, but if you're not a goal-setting mess like me, you will love this post from Michelle on how she sets goals. There are free goal-setting printables too!

Baths and other simple ways to feel better immediately
The Pool have done a great series throughout January on "small changes, big difference", and while I hate baths I really love this post of tips on how to feel instantly better.

Confessions of a diary grump
You know when you have one of those "God I thought it was just me?" moments and you suddenly no longer feel alone in the world? This. post. As I mentioned above, I love spending time with my friends and scheduling in time to see them, but then as soon as the date looms I feel overwhelmed, even though I know I'll have a great time and I'll feel amazing after! This post completely gets it, and I'm not alone! 

The One Goals I gave up on in 2016
Sometimes I think Michelle and I are the exact same person. I could have written this. So one of Michelle's goals for 2016 was to use her free time more productively (me too!), but then she decided to give up on this goal and embrace not being productive all the time. Whoosh! This hit me like a ton of bricks! I constantly feel guilty if I'm not using my free time to do something productive, and I beat myself up if I feel like I'm "wasting time." I'm so glad Michelle wrote this, as I'm learning to embrace "me-time" a little bit more and trying not to feel guilty about it. Also on this theme, this post from Random Cath on productivity.

How to spend money on yourself and your happiness
Although I mentioned earlier than I bought myself a few things this month, I am incredible tight with money, and even when I'm doing okay, I feel guilty all the time when I spend money, especially if I'm not already accounted for it in my month's budget. I mentioned our spontaneous date night earlier - I agonised on whether we should do that or just save the money, and I'm a bit obsessed with not spending money unnecessarily, even when it can result in great memories like that night. So this post really hit home for me and I think coupled with that great unexpected date night, will hopefully help me to learn to be a bit more flexible with my spending, when I can afford to be.

Going out for dinner on my own keeps me sane
I always say I hate being alone, but that's actually not true. I'm alone as I write this, and I actually really enjoy having my own space. However I often feel guilty if I don't spend time with Phil, and in our small flat it's hard to get some space. I'm excited to have more rooms in our house so we can spend time apart without feeling like it's compromising our relationship (I'm really silly about stuff like that). Anyway, I loved this post from The Pool about having dinner alone. I love spending my lunch hour by myself, at the library or going or a coffee or at the shops, and it makes me want to embrace alone time a bit more.

I'm scared and sad to be moving out of our flat this month, but I'm hopefully that February brings good news and progress with our house, and I know we'll be well-looked-after by my parents! Let's see what February brings!

Charlotte x