Tuesday, 1 May 2018

April Life Lately

I can't believe it's May already! April has gone so quickly - my last April as a single woman! I can't believe this time next year we'll be married! Here's what I've been up to in April

What I've been doing
So speaking on getting married, we've made some good progress on the ol' wedmin (urgh, I know. I started using the term ironically and now I can't stop). We've just sent out our save the dates and I LOVE them (thanks Mum! Never been a better time to have a Mum who works in printing!) and we've had a meeting with our photographer this month who I'm really excited to book.
Ready dress shopping ready with my Mum and maid of honour!

And most excitingly, I had my trip to a wedding dress shop!! I obviously can't say much at all (not being able to tell Phil stuff is KILLING me because I usually tell him everything!) but I can say I have not yet said yes to the dress, but I have definitely gotten a lot closer to what I do and don't want, and I think my next trip dress shopping - which is in a couple of weeks - I'll find the one! I made some notes afterwards for a blog post because despite reading up a LOT before I went, there are a few things I didn't expect, so we'll see how my next shops go and I'll try to write up a post.
I've played some excellent board games this month - 221B Baker Street which I bought for Phil's sister Suzie for Christmas, and Telestrations which I got for my Birthday. 221B Baker Street is like Cluedo times ten and is really good fun, and Telestrations is such a fun party game. I can't wait to play both of these again!

I've also had some really good nights this month catching up with my best friends. I've had bao in the sun with one of my best friends, and beer garden catch ups and hen party chat with two of my others. 

And despite injuries and challenges and niggles, I've been running. I ran 12 miles this weekend, painfully and slowly, but it means I'm feeling confident I can run 13.1 in two weeks - my sixth half marathon and my fifth Great Manchester Run. I've struggled through training so this will not be a PB, but I'm looking forward to getting to the physio to get sorted and hopefully running a strong sub 2 hour PB in my October half.

Where I've been
For Christmas, I bought Phil tickets for us to see Jaws at the Bridewater Hall with a live orchestra, as we went to see La la Land last year and it was amazing. Jaws was as incredible as you can imagine - and I jumped out of my skin at "the" jumpy bit!
And along the same theme of "buying people Christmas presents you also get to enjoy", I got my Mum a spa day voucher which we redeemed this month. We had a massage, facial, head massage, hand massage and foot massage, plus afternoon tea, and we followed it up with a lovely day shopping and for dinner and drinks afterwards. It was such a lovely day!
One thing I was most excited for in April was it being one year til our wedding! Our gorgeous wedding reception venue, Mottram Hall, invited us to enjoy our "ante-versary" with a complimentary overnight stay, dinner and breakfast on what will be our wedding date! Phil and I don't really do fancy hotels - when we're away we just tend to choose something cheap and local and usually plan to spend as little time there as possible, so this as a real treat! We had such a lovely time and it's made us super super excited for our wedding!

And this last weekend I went to Stafford to catch up with my friend, Ellen. We had lunch and hung out at her house and drank mugs of hot drinks and it was perfect!

What I've been reading

I've read more books this year already than I read in the whole of 2014! I'm currently on 26 books read this year, with seven read in April. Here's what I read this month:

Desperation Road
Dark Pines
The Hate U Give
Sing Unburied Sing
Little Fires Everywhere
This is How it Always Is
I'll Be Gone in the Dark

This has been a great month for reading - I think my favourites were Little Fires Everywhere, This is How it Always Is and, like everyone I know on Twitter, I'll Be Gone In the Dark, which I started the day before they caught the Golden State Killer. What a time to read this book!

What I've been watching
Three cinema trips this month - Ready Player One and a creepy double-bill of Ghost Stories followed by A Quiet Place for a spooky Sunday evening. I absolutely LOVED A Quiet Place and I think it will make it into my favourite films of the year.

We haven't watched loads at home this month, but we have watched The Omen as Phil continues my horror film education, and Magnolia, finally, when we finally had a Sunday afternoon with time for a three hour film!

TV-wise, we finished The Assassination of Gianni Versace which I know I've been banging on about for months but I absolutely loved (more on this below) and I'm kind of bereft it's over. We've also really enjoyed Clunk on Britain which has been absolutely cracking me up, and we've just started Westworld after hearing everyone praising it!

What I've bought
More than I thought this month!
This is Cosmo, the lipstick I've been waiting for all my life

I got two new perfect nude MAC lipsticks in Cosmo (which is exactly what I want Mehr to look like on me) and Nicky's Nude. 

I also got the most beautiful Oasis dress for a wedding I have coming up.

One recipe book this month (whoops!) in the form of On the Side which is my new absolute favourite recipe book. The whole book is side dishes, which I felt sounded a bit dull, but the indexes in the back help you to find the perfect side dish for whatever your main dish is, and this is amazing! I've only made the spiced carrots so far, which I've made twice alongside different curries (we eat a lot of curries so this is a great back-pocket recipe!) but I've already convinced my Mum to get a copy. I'm really excited to explore this further and review it over here soon.

I also bought a copy of Vulgar Favours, the book that The Assasination of Gianni Versace is based on, which I can't wait to read, but I need to read something less-murdery-y after I'll Be Gone in the Dark.

Finally, two things bought for nostalgia. I bought a nude faux leather jacket almost identical to one I had in my early twenties (blog proof!) and I got some Tigi honey and oatmeal shampoo which I loved as a teenager because once someone reminded me of how good it smelled I couldn't resist!

What I've been loving

My friend Riven is an excellent present buyer, and this time I think she excelled herself. Look at those Fight Club tshirts! And a Parks and Rec/Jurassic World crossover tshirt! And a Charlie and the Chocolate factory makeup pallete! I'm in love!

One more Gianni-Versace-related thing - if you're as obsessed as I am you have to listen to the Vanity Fair Podcast - Now watching: Versace.

What I've been eating

So last week I read an article that said that my favourite Liverpool player, Mo Salah's, favourite food was an Egyptian street food called Kushari. So yes, I found a recipe for it and made it. It's the weirdest combo of rice, lentils, chickpeas, pasta (!), tomato sauce and cripsy onions and it's bloody amazing (and, as you might expect, crazy filling, which was perfect after a 12 mile run on Sunday!). Here's the recipe I followed.

What I've been reading online
The Pool - How would you look through the eyes of a terrible male author?
A Rosie Outlook - Be A Dead Fish
Norwegian gender pay gap video
Two Bossy Dames - We self-care too much
Virgin - Embracing Failure
The Pool - How to can help repeal the 8th
Self - I have depression and anxiety. Stop telling me to go for a run

What I'm excited for
I've got a really quiet May which I'm pretty excited for because March and April have been pretty exhausting (if fun!). I'm looking forward to my fifth Great Manchester Run because it's always an amazing atmosphere, and this year I'm running the half and Phil is running the 10K so it's going to be fun to be supporting each other.

And I also have a day of wedding dress appointments this month - fingers crossed I find "the one"!

Charlotte x

Monday, 30 April 2018

Recipe: Nostalgic sweet potato and and spinach curry

I wrote this, minus the recipe, without knowing whether it would be a blog post or a newsletter piece. I don't really know what goes where, and sometimes I don't know what this blog is "for" anymore, when most of my writing is in my newsletter, but sometimes it's nice to still blog.

I started university with a stack of green books, new and shiny with spines intact.
I don't remember buying them, but I'm sure they will have come from my Mum, from Borders, our favourite place, which Google tells me closed in 2009.

I didn't really know how to cook. Until I was 18 my speciality had been a concoction of kidney beans, microwaveable rice and pasta sauce.

I found my feet with those green shiny books.
Lentil bolognese and Quorn cottage pie and vegetable crumble in the days before I even thought to Google a recipe or read a food blog.
Everything was simple, but revolutionary. Lentil moussaka with a topping of cream cheese mixed with eggs and nutmeg. Easy versions of dishes, made cheaper and quicker for the amateur student cook.

And I learned a lot about cooking in those first few years of uni. Discovering why you wash spinach before use, and that bicarbonate of soda isn't the same as baking powder, and is a quick and efficient way to ruin a batch of cookies you've been salivating in anticipation of.
What my books look like now, after years of use and being used to lean on while doing my nails...

Those green shiny books sit in my loft. Piled up ready to go to the charity shop, ready for another student to educate on 15 ways with jacket potatoes, but I'm not quite ready to let go.
No longer shiny, but splattered with years of drips and splotches and spills.
While my shelves groan with the weight of Ottolenghi, and my cupboards fill with fenugreek and sumac and homemade baharat.
And tonight, I pick them up for the taste of nostalgia.

The sweet potato curry I used to make to impress my friends. That I made in a lonely kitchen in student halls, that I made for my housemates when we somehow managed to share the cooking every night for a year, that I made for my American housemate and her husband as a thank you for letting me stay over an alien-to-me Thanksgiving holiday, that I made in Minnesota and New Jersey, and of course, in Birmingham. Frozen in tiny, unidentifiable bags so that dinner was sometimes a surprise.

I've made hundreds of curries since. Dals and vindaloos and homemade samosas. I could make a sweet potato curry with my eyes closed.
But tonight  I turn to the book. Scared to get it wrong. Scared to miss out on the taste of nostalgia.
Remembering it eaten in a large pudding bowl, with carrots and broccoli lazily steamed to mush in the microwave at 9pm after two back-to-back dance classes.
Or splashing out on naan. Covering it in ketchup.

I must have made this curry thirty times. Eaten it sixty times more.
But tonight I make it for my fiancĂ© for the first time. Remembering all the times I made it before. And now making it for my soon-to-be-husband in a house that we own, after getting home from my 9 to 5.
I still love piling in the spinach and watching it wilt into velvet.
I no longer serve it with ketchup, but if I was home alone I would have microwaved the carrots and broccoli to submission, the way I did when I was 22. The way I did when I cried when the microwave broke because that's the only way I knew how to cook my vegetables.

It reminds me that delicious food need not be complicated, something I often forget. That it doesn't need every pan in the house or hours slaving over the stove. That I don't need to make something different every single night. And it tastes every bit as good as it did when I was 18.

Sweet potato and spinach curry
Serves 4
(adapted lightly to maintain as much nostalgia as possible, from The Vegetarian Student Cookbook. I've made this so many times this is more like a guide, and I was surprised how much of it was muscle memory, so I don't know quite how much olive oil I used or how long I cooked my onions for, but if you're any more advanced than 18 year old me in the kitchen you'll figure it out)
500g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tsp turmeric
1 large red chilli
400ml (1 can) coconut milk
250g baby spinach, washed
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook sweet potatoes in a large pan of boiling water for 8-10 minutes until cooked but not mushy. Drain and leave to the side.
2. Heat the oil in large pan, and cook the onions on a medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and chilli, and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the turmeric.
3. Add the coconut milk, stir well and simmer for 3-4 minutes until thickened
4. Add the cooked sweet potatoes and cook for a further 4 minutes
5. Stir in the spinach, and cook, stirring regularly, until it has all wilted
6. Season and serve!

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

March Life Lately

With the exception of December (Christmas! and now our engagement anniversary on Boxing Day!), March is my absolute favourite month. It's bookended with Phil's Birthday on the 1st and mine on the 30th, which means it feels like a big ol' month of celebrating, which is certainly what this year felt like!

Here's what I've been up to in March...

What I've been doing
We took a couple of days off for Phil's Birthday and despite crazy weather, we had the best day in Liverpool to celebrate. After two failed attempts previously to go, we finally made it to the Anfield Tour which we both absolutely loved and then we went for the best ever pizza at our favourite pizza place in Liverpool. I bought him a jacket and a tshirt from Pull and Bear, the Scrubs boxset and a framed print of the bridge where he proposed.
I've mentioned before that we've been having work done on our house over the last few weeks and we are finally almost getting there! This month was a big one with the addition of our mustard yellow feature wall in the living room! Over the last year we've gone from saying we'll have a yellow chair, to a yellow sofa, to finally deciding on a yellow wall. It looks absolutely incredible and I love it. Now all we need is new furniture and the living room is done and the kitchen should be done in the next week or so!
In sad news this month, while out in Manchester I realised at some point my Fitbit strap had broken and the whole thing had fallen off my wrist and was lost forever! I was absolutely devastated, especially as I'd already had the strap replaced once, but amazingly Fitbit replaced agreed to replace it and I had a new one just a few days later! I'm thrilled with their customer service and am keeping an eye on my strap obsessively now!

I've been getting back into driving lately after having not driven for 7 years up until a few months ago, and this month I drove on my own for the first time! This was a huge and scary and exciting deal and it's totally boosted my confidence! I only drove to my parents' about 2 miles away to go to parkrun but it's so great to be able to drive myself now when Phil is away!
My friend Riven has started to knit and she's doing really well! She lent me her yarn a few weeks about and taught me to knit a bit and I'm starting to get the hang of it! I've wanted to learn for ages so I need to get practising!
This month also brought our first race of the year with the Poynton 10K. I'm in the middle of half marathon training at the moment but I'm having trouble with bursitis in my hip (which I've had before during my marathon training!) and some knee pain so I wasn't very excited for this race! It ended up being a really tough course and I started to feel pain after a few miles in so it wasn't my best time, but it was a nice local race I'm looking forward to tackling again next year!
When Phil's parents asked me what I wanted for my Birthday I asked for a really good vegetable peeler (theirs is great!) and Exploding Kittens. We've played this game so much in the week and a half we've had it and Phil has beaten me all but one time! We've already ordered a second pack so we can play it with more people!
And of course, this month brought my Birthday! I've had some amazing meals out, an amazing weekend away (more on that below!) and some incredible presents! From Phil I got two prints - one of the park where he proposed and an Arrested Development one, along with a Mo Salah Egypt national shirt. From my parents I got two bags, two jumpers and a board game, and from work I got the cutest teapot and teacups. I've been completely spoiled!

Where I've been
I was a little distracted because it was the night I lost my Fitbit but this month I finally made it to Grub Food Fair. I've wanted to go for ages and it was so much cooler than I expected! I had the most amazing aubergine pitta and masala chips which were absolutely incredible. It's the coolest little space and I cannot wait to go back.
Okay, so obviously the biggest thing that happened in March was that WE FINALLY SAW HAMILTON! We booked our tickets in January last year so it's been a long 14 months of waiting and 18 months of listening to the soundtrack over 100 times. I don't think I'd been as excited for anything in my whole life and it was honestly the best thing I've ever seen. I can't even begin to explain how incredible it was. I thought having listened to it so many times I knew it inside out, but seeing on stage was just... I don't even have the words. Seeing the acting and the costumes and the set and the choreography just absolutely blew my mind and it was almost a completely different musical. I'm going to stop going on about it now but it was a million times better than my insanely high expectations. I'm already desperate to see it again!

So Hamilton was on the Thursday with my Birthday on the Friday, so Friday morning we woke up and I opened the cards and presents that we could fit in our cases and after a lovely brunch we headed to St Pancras to get the Eurostar to Bruges!
Well our first stop was Brussels, and the one thing we wanted to do there was visit the Cantillon brewery. Phil's surname is Cantillon (and it will be mine in just over a year's time!) and we got off the train at 4.20pm when the brewery closed at 5pm, so we raced there just in time to buy matching Cantillon-branded sweatshirts (cringe!) and get a selfie outside, but didn't have enough time to get a drink (which is probably for the best because Cantillon is a sour beer and I'm not sure if I'd like it!). 
I should probably write an entire blog post on Bruges but if I don't get around to it, we found some amazing bars and I found a taste for Belgium beer, we had hot chocolate and waffles and mussels and chocolates, we climbed the 366 steps up the Belfry and took a boat tour and spent the weekend trying to find all the locations in In Bruges, and even went to Retsin's Lucifernum which completely freaked me out. We had the best weekend ever and it was the best way to spend my Birthday! 

What I've been reading
Six books in March and some absolute bangers. Here's what I read:

Pages for Her
The Dark Circle
Three Things about Elsie

I absolutely loved Three Things About Elsie after loving The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and I read the whole thing in a weekend, but my absolute favourite book of the month was Beartown which I adored in every single way. It was a brilliant story with amazingly developed characters and it was beautifully written on a challenging subject. It's instantly gone onto my favourites list!

What I've been watching
Quite a lot of film this month! At the cinema we did a double bill of Game Night and The Greatest Showman. Game Night I absolutely loved and know it's one of those perfect "background noise" films I know I'll buy on DVD. 

We also went to a Mystery Screening at The Light which is the new cinema in Stockport which we LOVE but we're still currently cardholders at Cineworld. We were super disappointed when we found out it was Love, Simon as it had been a Cineworld Unlimited Screening the week before and we really didn't fancy it! However as we'd paid a fiver at The Light rather than it being free at Cineworld we decided to stick it out and I'm glad we did! It was not my kind of thing at all but I really enjoyed it!

But the best film we saw at the cinema this month was also at The Light. They were showing The Florida Project which we'd missed the first time around for a fiver and we were  so glad to have caught it! This was one of the best films I've seen this year.

At home this month we've watched Fantastic Mr Fox, There Will Be Blood (arghhhhhh so good!) and of course, we had to watch In Bruges in preparation for our trip!

Finally, we've been loving Queer Eye obviously, and we've just started The Assassination of Gianni Versace which I am super into!

What I've been eating
While we were in Liverpool we had the best pizza and garlic bread ever at American Slice. We'd been a few years ago and were relived it was every bit as good as we remembered!
A couple of new places have opened in Stockport which we enjoyed this month - falafel from Falafel  4 U was excellent before our film and ice cream at Creams was amazing afterwards (I got the black vanilla!). I also had a lovely brunch with my best friend at the newly-opened Berretto lounge. We also had a great Birthday dinner at Jack's which is just across the road from our house and the Vimto jelly was amazing!
Obviously we had some amazing food in Bruges! I'm not usually a fan of waffles at all but we had the best waffles in Bruges and the most incredible hot chocolate. I also found a love for fruit beer and wish we'd had checked luggage so we could have brought some back with us!

What I've bought
In two weeks we have our one-year-til-our-wedding date at the hotel we're getting married at and I wanted a new dress for the occasion. I bought four dresses online and just could not find what I wanted but when I was killing time in Manchester I fell in love with the most perfect bright pink lace dress in Oasis and bought it there and then! I absolutely love it!
Two new recipe books just happened to land on my doorstep this month! I preordered 15 Minute Vegan Comfort Food a few months ago after loving Katy's original book, and this month I was thrilled to receive Jack Monroe's Cooking on a Bootstrap after backing their Kickstarter about two years ago! The book is brilliant and so worth the wait - plus it's nearly all vegetarian!

As mentioned above I love my Cantillon sweatshirt from the brewery and I cannot wait to wear it lounging around the house.
I was dithering for ages over what I was going to buy from the merchandise stall at Hamilton and I'm so glad I decided to go for this amazing mug! We also get a mug from every city we visit (we have a lot of mugs!) and I love the Bruges mug we chose!

What I've been reading online
Yes and Yes - How to Choose a Goal 
Red online - Friendship breakups
Michelle - 10 Habits I've started to reduce anxiety
Biscuits and Blisters - Controlling the fall
Amy - On OCD
Yes and Yes - Is that self care or self sabotage?
Kate Leaver - The Joys of a new Grown Up Friend
Amy - The Mental Health Benefits of Knitting

What I'm excited about
So I am super excited for our "ante-versary" aka, our one-year-til-our-wedding stay at the hotel we're getting married at! We're getting a free night's stay, breakfast, dinner and use of the facilities and I cannot wait!

For Christmas I bought Phil tickets to see Jaws with a live orchestra and it's on Friday! It's going to be so much fun!

And hopefully we're going to get some wedding planning done this month! We've been so busy with the house stuff we've not really done much this month but April means one year to go so we need to get those save the dates out! I've also got a date in to go dress shopping with my Mum and maid of honour in May - eeeee!

Hope your April is going brilliantly!

Charlotte x

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

February Life Lately

February is always the month I want to just hurry up please - both mine and Phil's birthdays are in March, with Phil's being on the 1st, so usually by the start of February I've already bought all of his presents and I just want to be able to give them to him!

The good news is, unlike January, February always seems to go super quick, and this February has actually had a couple of pretty exciting goings-on (which funnily enough basically happened on the same day!). So here's what I've been up to this month...

What I've been doing
One of the biggest reasons I was nervously anticipating February was that it meant the final results of my final module of my diploma in professional marketing. I worked on this qualification for 14 months and I handed in my final piece of coursework at the end of November. My last module was particularly challenging and I really struggled to get my head around the questions, and I was more than a little bit convinced that I might actually have failed. Thankfully, after sending Phil out of the room so I could refresh my emails constantly, I found out this month that I passed my final module with merit! I was absolutely thrilled and definitely didn't cry. I am so relieved I passed and that I passed well, but more than anything else just so glad it's all over!
The other big exciting thing that happened this month was that we booked our wedding! We are getting married on 13th April 2019 - eeeee! It all happened very quickly - we'd seen four venues, and were down to two we were considering. One was gorgeous but had a few boxes unticked, and another was perfectly fine and would probably have looked really nice with the right decor, but definitely felt a bit like we were settling. When it came to going to the open day at our now-venue, we weren't that excited and almost didn't go, and spent the whole journey there convincing each other of all the reasons it wasn't right! However as soon as we got there we fell in love, and we'd agreed the date the next day! It's starting to feel kind of real now, and it's crazy that in less than 14 months we'll be married! So far we've booked the church, the venue, the DJ and have chosen our photographer so while I keep getting completely overwhelmed we're doing okay considering we've only been engaged two months!
While Phil and I don't really celebrate Valentine's, I do always celebrate Galentine's and this year my friend Riven completely excelled herself with homemade waffles and a plethora of toppings at her annual Galentine's get together. We had presents and snacks and I came home with a whole bag of treats, from candles, to chocolates, to tea, to games, and my Galentine loved her makeup palette. Leslie Knope would have been so proud!

This month we've been super into board games which is the best because I love board games! My friend Sarah introduced us to Jaipur which we've been getting the hang of, and Love Letter, which we're yet to play. We also had a board game night at my friend, Eve's this month, where we played Codenames and Heads up, and my friend Riven bought me Sushi Go! as a present for passing my diploma - yay!
I'm considering writing this up as a full blog post, but last week I gave blood for the 11th time, even though I absolutely hate needles. I can't even watch injections on TV! I wrote a tweet about how you can donate even if you're scared which got more likes and retweets than I've ever had before, so I'm hoping to get a full post up with tips and advice in March.
Our house is currently a bombsite as we're having our living room and kitchen done - which is super exciting and I can't wait to show you everything when it's done! - but before it was a complete state we had visitors come to stay a few weeks ago. I've never had so many people in my house! Five of Phil's friends came up to visit and we had a lovely time in the pub (playing board games!) and out for dinner and then we went for a walk around Lyme Park on the Sunday, which was where Phil proposed. It was so lovely to have people come all the way from down south to visit us!

Finally, I usually give up chocolate for lent, but seeing as we're off to Bruges before lent is over and I didn't want to deprive myself of delicious Belgium chocolates, I decided to look for an alternative thing to do during lent. As you might already know I care passionately about foodbanks and ran the Manchester Marathon in 2016 for the Manchester foodbank, so I was thrilled to find the Trussell Trust do a Lent "advent calendar", which has something different to donate to your local foodbank every day of lent. I've been picking things up every weekend at Aldi and have cried every single time when I'm buying things like baby food and nappies and washing powder and thinking of the people who can't afford those basic things. It's easy to feel powerless and that you can't do anything to help, and while I know I'm not changing the world, I am glad I'm doing something to help, even if it feels small.

What I've been eating
On a similar note to board games, my friend Sarah told me her and her boyfriend play board games and bake on a Sunday and I said that sounded like the dream, so I've been trying to bake at the weekends to try to will myself to enjoy baking. So far, lemon drizzle, banana bread and banana muffins have all been a success.

I've also started to slowly work through Dinner: Changing The Game which is going well so far. I've only made a few recipes so far but hopefully I'll have a review in the next few weeks!

What I've been reading
I've read seven books this month, bringing me to a total of 13 this year so far, so I think my Goodreads goal of 40 books this year might need updating! I've completely fallen in love with reading again and want to read all my time!
Here's what I've read this month:

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep
Eat Up
Thin Air
The Silent Companions
Pages for You
See What I Have Done

My favourites were The Silent Companions, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, Pages for You and Ruby Tandoh's brilliant manifesto of the joy of food, Eat Up.

What I've been watching
Four cinema trips this month - The Shape of Water, Black Panther, Lady Bird and
I, Tonya. These were all brilliant, but I think Lady Bird was my favourite, followed closely by I, Tonya.

Films at home this month have been When Harry Met Sally as I had one of those weeks where it followed me around, thanks to Ruby's book and This American Life, and also two classics I should have seen way before now Gladiator and Apollo 13.

I've mentioned loads of times before that Fargo is pretty much my favourite ever TV drama, so we finally started season 3 and I am absolutely buzzing.

Finally, I kept hearing people talking about Queer Eye on Twitter so tonight I put it on and 20 minutes in I'm almost crying already.

What I've been reading online
Cate - The Power of 10 Minutes
Amy Jones - The Goopification of self care misrepresents how hard looking after yourself can be
Amy Jones - Am I the asshole?
Jack Monroe - My ready meal is none of your business
The Pool - As someone with mental health issues, what do I owe my friends and loved ones?
Biscuits and Blisters - Legal Damages (Trigger warning - my amazing friend Louise wrote this story of her abuse and she is just the most incredible, brave and wonderful lady. I am so proud of her for writing this)
Hummusapien - How I became the eater I want to be

What I'm looking forward to 
YAY MARCH! So first up is Phil's Birthday on the 1st - we're having a couple of days off work so we're finally going to do the Anfield tour and get pizza in Liverpool and maybe see a couple of films. Then it's also my Birthday which means two things - Birthday trip to Bruges, but more importantly IT'S FINALLY GOING TO BE TIME TO SEE HAMILTON AFTER 14 MONTHS OF WAITING. I genuinely don't think I've ever been more excited for anything in my life and I've waited so so so long. God I'm so excited.

I'm also looking forward to my house being less of a bombsite and hopefully having the living room and kitchen finished!

Speak to you soon!

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

What I learned from doing yoga every day for 32 days

I discovered Yoga with Adriene about a year and a half ago, and like everyone else I was immediately enthralled. I have never been into yoga -  I remember taking some classes with my Mum as a teenager and falling asleep at the end, and as someone who loves intense exercise, it's always felt a bit "nothing" to me.

It also doesn't help that I am incredibly inflexible. So not only was I not into it, I was rubbish at it.

I think it all started in my usual post-half-marathon injury time which seems to happen every single October when I push myself too much in my autumn race, and I was looking for something to do while I couldn't run. I'd seen a few people recommend Adriene, so when I was looking for yoga workouts, hers seemed like a friendly face.

I instantly loved her.

Ask anyone who has ever done a Yoga with Adriene workout and their face will light up. Adriene is just the BEST. She is sunny without being sickening, funny without trying too hard and an incredible teacher without making you feel inferior. She's fun and she makes you laugh, and you know she just wants you to be able to do a great job! She makes yoga easy to understand, and more importantly, she makes it fun.

I've wanted to do a full 30 days of yoga for a while, her 2018 series, True, is her third 30 day challenge, but with running and coursework and everything else I'd never managed to squeeze it in, but I decided this year I was going to do it. Yoga every day is a big commitment, and the hardest part for me was deciding that if I was going to do it, I was going to do it properly, and for a month I was going to do it as my primary form of exercise next to BMF and parkrun. I'm not in training so I decided to prioritise it midweek over running, which has been really hard, and focus and push myself like I would any other workout. 

So I used my Productive app to ensure I did my yoga every single day and focused primarily on doing it in the morning, with the exception of a few times at the weekend. The practices vary in length from 20 to 45 minutes, and the practise lengths are available in advance, which was perfect for me so I knew how early I needed to get up each day!

Annoyingly, the practises went online at about 8am and I tend to do mine at 6, so I was always a day behind, so I did an extra practise on the 1st and 2nd of Jan before starting the series on the 3rd so technically it's 32 days of yoga for me!

What I've learned from 32 days of yoga

  • I can do it every day
I've always had an excuse not to do a 30 day yoga practice before and it usually came around fitting in other workouts, or training for a race, so now was a good time to challenge myself to see if I actually could do it every day while I'm not training. I still did BMF twice a week and parkrun on a Saturday, but I managed to fit it in every single morning before work, and a couple of afternoons and evenings on the weekend. 
  • I had to put it first though
I considered trying to run first a few days in the week and then do my practice, but I decided if I was really serious about completing 30 days of yoga in a row, it had to be my priority over running.
  • It is a good workout
Another thing that always put me off was the idea that it wasn't a "good workout" and that I should supplement it with a run or a high intensity session or strength training, but it is genuinely a good workout on it's own! I was sore and tired and my heart-rate was up a lot of the time, and I liked that it was about "finding what feels good" and not just pushing yourself all the time into uncomfortable and painful places (like BMF!)
  • And I am getting stronger 
At the start of the month, I hated downward-facing-dogs because my arm strength was non-existent, but by the end of the month I didn't have to take breaks and found the position fairly comfortable. I no longer struggle with anything on my arms, or planks, and found myself able to keep up constantly towards the end, where I'd struggled at the start.
  • You don't need to be flexible
I am horribly inflexible. I can't even touch my toes. I think this was one thing that always put me off yoga, and while I still can't touch my toes, I have become slightly more flexible, and I haven't found not being flexible a hindrance - Adriene always gives you plenty of options if you can't quite get there.
  • It does wonders for my mind
With the odd couple of wobbles, I've been in a really good place this month and I really feel like daily yoga has helped. It's a nice, soothing half an hour of my day and I can't imagine starting a weekday without it right now!
  • I don't always enjoy it - but does that matter?
I have to be honest, I do find myself looking at my watch sometimes - and that's okay! I'm still getting used to it, and I do find my mind wandering 10 minutes into a 45 minute practice, but I'm okay with that. It's taken some time to get into the routine so the next thing I need to work on is my focus.
  • I feel great after
Even if I've not especially enjoyed a practice, taken breaks or found it hard, I always feel really great afterwards, and that's what's pushed me to keep going even when I haven't wanted to. I've been reminding myself how good it feels and it definitely works!
  • It's one of the best ways to use my morning
I get up most days between 5.45 and 6am, usually do a run or a workout or yoga, and then I give myself from about 6.30-7 to read, write my newsletter or generally get bits done around the house. For the past 6 months or so I've done a yoga practice on a Monday morning, but most of the time I've just done a quick 10-15 minute practice just to get it done. What I've realised throughout this is I can do 40+ minutes in the morning, and as much as I love that reading and relaxing time, this is probably a better way to use my time and my brain. I don't know yet if I'll be able to combine it with early morning runs when I start training for my next half next week, but I need to remind myself as much as I love to read in the morning or write my newsletter or blog, yoga is probably the best way to spend that extra 30 minutes of my morning.
  • I love the variety
Every session of True has been completely different - some more relaxing and meditation-based, some more challenging. I've learned a lot about yoga and what I'm capable of this month and it's amazing that Adriene put together 30 brand new yoga videos for the month! I'm definitely looking forward to doing this programme again from the beginning because I know it wouldn't get boring. It's really well constructed too - each session builds on the previous so you feel real progression as you work through it.
  • I love Adriene
Adriene has a kind of cult-like following and it's easy to see why. She is absolutely amazing - funny, encouraging, kind, an amazing teacher - I feel like I know her. Her relaxed and fun attitude is what makes her yoga so accessible. It's not serious or painful - she encourages you to find what feels good and understand that your energy levels will change from day to day. I honestly believe she is the reason I've managed to stick with yoga - I enjoy my time with her every day!
  • I want to keep going
I really want to keep yoga as part of my routine. I don't know if every day will be possible when half marathon training starts next week, but I want to try to do yoga at least three or four times a week, for my mind if nothing else. Even if I don't always enjoy it, I feel so good after and it feels like an important thing to carve out time to do for myself, so I really want to find a routine where I can do it regularly as I know it makes a big difference to my mental health.

So far I've managed to keep it up into February (so far, today is the first day I've just been for a run and I'm already thinking about getting a quick 10 minutes in this morning!). I never thought I'd stick with yoga, or enjoy it, but it's such a great exercise for the mind, and it's really helped with my anxiety. While I know it's not a "cure" or a quick fix, if you have an overactive mind like mine, I highly recommend giving it a try.

Hit me up on Twitter if you want to talk about it!

Charlotte x