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

Sunday, 4 February 2018

January Life Lately

I know this has been said a thousand times but January really was the longest month ever wasn't it? I realised even more as I was putting together this list - it seems like I did a lot over the course of the month!

Here's what I got up to in January...

What I've been doing
I passed my driving test 10 years ago (!) this year, but I actually haven't driven since 2011. I had an accident and my car was written off, and I've never needed to drive, nor had a car since.
One of my goals for when we moved into our house was to learn to drive again so I could get some independence back when Phil wasn't home. I got myself sorted on the car insurance back in September but we'd only been out for a drive once. I was hoping to just be able to practice with Phil and my Dad but after my first drive it became apparent I could do with a couple of refresher lessons with an instructor.

So this month I took my first refresh driving lesson and have been practising driving every weekend driving to my parents', parkrun and BMF (basically the three places I ever go!). It's scary and I hate it, but I am feeling more confident and I'm hoping to get some more lessons booked in to practise parking and manoeuvres, but I'm feeling loads better about it and so glad I've finally gotten started!

I've got a separate post for this, but I have done yoga and meditation every single day of January! I've always wanted to do one of Adriene's 30 day yoga journeys, but I've never found myself with the opportunity, so I decided to give True a try this year. I absolutely loved it, and I'm so proud I managed to do it every day of January! I've also been meditating every day with Headspace which I'm finding really helpful for my anxiety too.

Finally this month I made a new friend when one of my oldest friends gave birth to little Gracie! She was a bit of an early surprise so she's super tiny, but she's so lovely and I'm so proud of my friend for bringing her into the world!

Where I've been
Phil and I are a huge fan of the Royal Exchange Theatre and it's got a real special place in our hearts it's where we decided to become "official" (I just tried four attempts to make this sound not cringe but there is no other way to put it!), so it was really nice to go back engaged this month! Phil had bought his Mum and Dad tickets to see Guys and Dolls there for Christmas but we'd never seen a musical there before. I had a vague memory of doing Guys and Dolls at my theatre group as a teenager but had mostly forgotten the story, but it was absolutely brilliant! 
I've also been to the Lowry this month to see Hamlet  as part of a  lovely afternoon with my cousin. Hamlet is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays (Othello is my favourite but I've never seen that on tour!) and it was an amazing, modern day performance that I absolutely loved. The guy that played Hamlet was excellent!

What I've been eating

We had friends over for dinner a few weeks ago, and like usual I went a bit bonkers making way too much food! I decided to do an Indian Street Food theme, with pretty much everything from Meera Sodha's Made in India and Fresh India. I made pea and mint samosas, potato and chickpea chaat, paneer and pepper skewers, tomato chutney and lots of rice and not-homemade naan. It was absolutely delicious and I was particularly chuffed with my samosas!

What I've been reading
I'm already well on my way to my yearly reading goal of 40 books thanks to a few lovely novellas I read this month!

Here are the books I read this month: 

My absolute darling
All Grown Up
Conversations with Friends
The End we Start From
Evening Primrose

I absolutely loved Conversations with Friends, All Grown Up and Lullaby - all recommendations from my favourite podcast, What Page Are You On?

What I've been watching
I didn't realise this list was so long til I wrote it out! January has been pretty nice and quiet for us which means we've had a bit more time to go to the cinema and stay in and watch films, which is always a good thing for us!

The first film I watched this month was the Sound of Music which I'd never seen before! Phil's sister bought it for me on DVD nearly four years ago and we've been promising her we'd watch it together ever since. It's a tradition in Phil's family so it felt like a family initiation! We watched it on New Year's Day and everyone was singing along and it was wonderful. Already one of my favourite memories of the year!

At home this month we have also watched The Lobster, Road to Perdition and the Wicker Man, and also absolutely loved Big Little Lies! I read the book on holiday last year and have wanted to watch the TV series ever since, and I think the series was actually even better! We both absolutely loved it.

We've been to the cinema four times this month to see Three Billboard Outside Ebbing Missouri, Molly's Game, Darkest Hour and All the Money in the World. I absolutely loved Three Billboards as In Bruges is one of my favourite films (and basically the reason I'm going to Bruges next month!) and I really loved Molly's Game.

My friend, Eve, also introduced us to Inside Number 9 this month which is just the weirdest, darkest British comedy and we cannot wait to watch more.

What I've bought

January has been a long month so I've treated myself to a few things. First up, a floral dresss from Sugarhill Boutique as I have a similar navy dress which is just perfect for when you don't want to super dress up but want to look nice (annoyingly, I can't find it online now, but it's really nice I promise!).

I also got myself this dinosaur necklace after meeting up with my friend Karen who was wearing it and demanding to know where it was from!
I treated myself to two new cardigans after I realised my navy one will be hitting it's 10th Birthday in March, and after waiting two months for it to go in the sale, I finally got this dachshund jumper from Joules! 

I also picked up Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark which I've not had a lot of time to look at yet, but I'm hoping to review soon.

What I've been reading online

Poppy D - 23 things that made planning our wedding easier (I am devouring anything about wedding planning/saving money/making things easier at the moment so send anything like this my way!)
The Pool - I had no idea what depression felt like, until I did
The Pool - Small change, Big difference collection
Refinery 29 - New Year's Resolutions: There is no there
Refinery 29 - This is the most sensible advice we've heard this year (New Year's Resolutions stuff feels quite late now, but this is one of the best pieces I've read lately and I really recommend it!)
Daisy Buchanan - Perfectionism is ruining the mental health of my millennial generation
Angry chef - The reason I hate celebrity diet books
Sophie - Letter to my 18 year old self
Yes and yes - Choosing goals you don't have control over
The Pool - How to use all the leftovers in your fridge
Amy Jones - Prepackaged vegetables are a vital product, not a frivolous waste
Yes and Yes - How to not give up on your goals when you screw up
Vix Meldrew - Should we reward men for doing the bare minimum?
College Humour - The 10 Steps to planning your wedding (this is hilarious and so depressingly accurate!)
Michelle - What I learned from three months of writing challenges
Rosie - Lonliness, Laziness and Love

What I'm looking forward to
We've started having a look around wedding venues and we have a couple of wedding fayres coming up this month which will hopefully give us a bit of an idea of where we might want to get married. I'm kind of hoping once we pick a venue we can pick a date, book the church and then hopefully everything else will fall into place!

I get the results of my marketing diploma next week which I'm super nervous about. I had a dream I failed the other day so I'm kind of ready to know either way!

I'm also hoping to get my parkrun 100 tshirt this month as they are releasing more milestone tshirts and I've been waiting quite a while after hitting my 100th run in July. Fingers crossed I get mine soon!

Have a lovely month!

Charlotte x

Monday, 29 January 2018

Why I love British Military Fitness

This might sound like a sponsored post but I promise it's not - I just really love BMF!
Phil and I on our four year anniversary which fell on a Wednesday so we obviously spent it at BMF...

My requirements for all forms of exercise has always been threefold:
1. I have to be able to do it alone
2. I don't need to go anywhere to do it
3. I can do it in the morning.

This is how I fell in love with workout DVDs, running and at-home yoga - I can do these on my own, anytime, and in the comfort of my own house (or at least, outside of it).

So how did I end up falling in love with a group fitness class that we have to drive to, that takes places at a scheduled time in the evening?

What is British Military fitness?

If you haven't heard of British Military Fitness it's basically a kind-of bootcamp class, run by ex-military. It's a mix of cardio and strength in a high intensity interval style (exercises interspersed with sprints) and lasts an hour.

Every single class is different.

There's a bit of a misconception that you're going to be crawling through mud and yelled at by instructors, but it's not like that at all. Okay they're not afraid of making you do burpees in the mud and you'll never see a class cancelled because of rain or snow, and you are there to push yourself, but you are never going to be pushed beyond what you're capable of. 

It's challenging, you have to push yourself, sometimes more than you think you're capable of, but more than anything else, it's FUN.

My first BMF classs

It all started last summer when I was on my "off-season" from running (I tend to run two big races a year - Spring and Autumn, and I start training about 4 months before, so I have a small gap between May and July, and another between November and February) and I usually find myself simultaneously bored and restless during this break and also so bloody sick of running. I'm a person who craves routine and being told what to do, so while I'm always exhausted and relieved to be done with training, I can find it hard to stick to a new temporary routine.

Phil had done British Military Fitness classes years ago and had always fancied the idea of going back, but I'd always bemoaned that it would interfere with my training, but during this summer break he floated the idea again - "we could go to a free class on Sunday and see what you think?"

We were living at my parents' at the time, so we were a bit restless and in-flux generally, so this seemed a perfect opportunity. Plus your first class is free anyway, and we managed to find a deal where we got the first month free too, so we thought, why not?

We are quite lucky near us that there are four parks nearby that do classes, and they do them on alternating days, so you could pretty much go every day if you wanted to (not that you'd ever want to!). Our local park has classes on Sunday mornings, Monday nights, Wednesday nights and Friday mornings, so we went along to a Sunday morning class.

On your first session you need to choose a bib colour which corresponds to your fitness group - green is the toughest, then red, then blue. Phil had always been a red before and we decided this was probably about the right level for us both. You are able to progress through the colours over time as your fitness improves.

My first class was bloody awful! My upper body strength is rubbish and I remember one part running with a tyre over my head, barely being able to keep it over my head and coming dead last.

But even from that first awful class, I was hooked!

What I love about British Military Fitness

What I both love, and hate, about BMF is that it pushes me. It challenges me. You can phone it in a bit when you're doing an at-home workout if you don't want to do that extra burpee, but when you've got 20 people watching you, you have to dig deeper. There are no excuses. 

It also makes me feel that kind of sore of a really great workout. I'm a typical runner in that I usually just run, and it's good to feel soreness in the muscles I don't normally use! I absolutely hate tricep dips and I'm a bit rubbish at push ups, but whenever I'm doing them I remind myself the more I do them the easier it will get!

I love the variety - I'm not exaggerating when I say every single class is different. Some days you might use equipment like kettle balls or bags or ropes, some days it might be nearly all cardio, sometimes you might be doing pull-ups on a climbing frame. The instructors nearly always plan the session on the spot, so you never know what you could be doing next! 

I personally love being told what to do, and I like that for an hour I can completely switch off from whatever happened in my day. I don't have time to worry about that work project or think about what I'm making for dinner next week - my focus is on burpees and runs and press ups and I think it does a lot of help for my always-fizzing brain!

I also love the flexibility. We're very lucky where we are that there are a few parks near us that offer sessions on alternative days - we usually do a Wednesday nigh and a Sunday morning, but we can do a Thursday night at a different park, or do our park's Monday session if we miss Sunday. I know this isn't the case for everyone, but for us it ensures we never miss a week if something unexpected comes us!

Phil and I have a nice little routine now too which makes it a lot easier. On a Wednesday we always have dinner from the slow cooker, or something out of the freezer, which means as soon as we get home I can quickly whack something in the microwave and toast some pittas and dinner is on the table in 5 minutes, which is entirely necessary at 8.30pm! I don't have the time, energy or inclination to cook when I get home from a tough session and it's really made me appreciate my slow cooker!

It's also really nice to do it with Phil. We're nearly always in the same group (we're both reds - the middle group - but my park quite often split the reds down the middle, half with the easier group and half with the harder group, and we're nearly always together in the harder group!) and sometimes we partner up, sometimes we don't, and it's nice to have that time together doing a hobby, and laughing on the way home about how hard it was and how sore we are the next day.

It's really social too. Phil and I aren't really in the "in-crowd" and don't want to be either, but we know people to chat to and I always try to learn my partner's name if I get partnered up because it's nice to remember people's names when you see the same faces every week! There's a really active Facebook group for our area too so you do get to know people which is really nice. There's nothing quite like bonding over being absolutely exhausted and then finding out you have to do another 10 burpees!

Finally, you get out of it what you put in. It can seem a lot for unlimited membership at £37 or once-a-week at £28, but the more you go (obviously not if you're on limited) the cheaper it is and the more you get out of it. I'm notoriously tight and I don't mind spending the money because it's cheaper than most gyms and you get the motivation and focus of having a personal trainer or doing classes.

I couldn't recommend it more - plus your first class is free and there are quite often deals on like get £50 each if you bring a friend or free month trials. It's painful, it hurts, and it pushes you, but it's such a laugh and you feel so good afterwards, and I never, ever thought I'd be one for group fitness classes!

I am always keen to talk about BMF, so if you have any questions, drop me a line on Twitter!

Charlotte x

Monday, 8 January 2018

2017 Favourite Books, Films, Podcasts etc.

I've read some truly amazing books this year and it made me really want to write a post on them! Then I thought back over the brilliant films, TV shows and podcasts I've enjoyed this year and thought it would be fun to do a little roundup of my favourite things this year.

I'm rubbish at writing reviews, so this is just a list of my favourite things in 2017. Nearly all of these books/films etc did not come out in 2017, I'm just super late to the party.

I have no real aim of this list except it gave me great joy to reflect on my favourite things of the year and relive the enjoyment of reading/watching/consuming all these wonderful things, and it makes me excited for my books and films and podcasts in 2018! It's also a reminder to me of all the awesome books and films out there that I am yet to explore.

So here we go!

Books I loved in 2017

I read 43 books in 2017 and these were my absolute favourites (follow me on Goodreads for the rest!). In no order except the order in which I read them:
  • The Easter Parade by Richard Yates
  • My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
  • The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
  • How to be a Grown Up by Daisy Buchanan
  • The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis
  • Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
  • Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strour
  • My Shitty Twenties by Emily Morris
  • The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
  • The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero
  • I know this much is true by Wally Lamb
  • What I loved by Suri Hustvedt

Favourite films at the cinema in 2017

Phil and I have Cineworld Unlimited cards so we go to the cinema at least twice a month. These were my favourite "new" films in 2017. In no particular order:
  • La La Land
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Hidden Figures
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Moonlight
  • Wonder Woman
  • The Disaster Artist
  • Baby Driver
  • Get Out
  • Dunkirk
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
  • It
  • Wonder
  • Battle of the Sexes

My favourite films I saw the first time in 2017 that I definitely should have seen before:

Phil has a list in his phone called "Films I'm embarrassed Charlotte hasn't seen". He is constantly educating me in all the films I never managed to watch growing up! Here are some of my favourite new-to-me films I watched in 2017:
  • The Exorcist
  • American Werewolf in London
  • The Birds
  • Annie Hall
  • Let the Right One In
  • Minority Report
  • The Room 
  • Speed
  • Deadpool
  • Lars and the Real Girl

The best podcasts I discovered in 2017

I'm kind of addicted to downloading hundreds of podcasts every month and then I never listen to them all! Some of these were new in 2017, some were new-to-me, but these are the podcasts getting me through my long runs last year:
  • What page are you on?
  • The Guilty Feminist
  • Beautiful Anonymous
  • Made of Human
  • Hello Friend
  • And then what?
  • Sincerely X
  • Dirty John

TV shows I loved in 2017

Phil and I suck at watching TV shows - we still haven't watched the new season of Stranger Things and we've not caught up with Peaky Blinders yet, but these are the TV shows we did finish this year:
  • Mindhunter 
  • The Handmaid's Tale
  • The US Office (we finally finished this after starting it over 2 years ago!)
  • The Night Of
  • The People vs. OJ Simpson

The recipe books I loved in 2017

I don't even want to count how many new recipes books I bought or received in 2017, but these are the ones that I keep using over and over:
So those are my top favourites in 2017. It's like Oprah's favourite things list except I don't get to give you a car.

I'm excited to see which of the books on my 200+ to read list will be on 2018's list, or which films I'm excited for, and which podcasts I will discover. Only time will tell!

Also please please please hit me up if you have any recommendations for me based on my favourites (ESPECIALLY book recommendations cause I loooooooove book recommendations!).

Charlotte x

Saturday, 6 January 2018

December Life Lately

Ahh I know it's already the 6th December and I'm super late to the party, but with the end-of-year blog posts I wanted to write I've found myself a bit behind with this one (and I'm still only half way through another 2017 post!) but I love writing these posts and reflecting on my month so I thought better late than never!

December feels an age away now but I swear I always feel like that at the start of a new month. There are some things on my list where I think, wait was that only last month?

So I promise I won't detail everything to do with our engagement again (I am still milking it for at least another few weeks on Instagram though!) or go into loads of detail about Christmas (because it feels forever ago!) but this is what I got up to in December...

What I've been doing

On 29th November I handed in my final piece of coursework for my marketing diploma, so to celebrate Phil and I took a few days off work. It was absolutely love to have a few days to go to the cinema multiple times, go for lunch, see family and friends and have the kind of weekend I haven't been able to have for a very long time! 

One of the things we did as part of our time off was explore The Light which is at the new leisure complex in Stockport, Redrock. As I've written before, Phil and I are both Cineworld Unlimited card holders and go to the cinema at least two or three times a month (and sometimes a lot more!) but while we were off we thought we might go and see if the grass is greener!
The first thing that pique our interest was a showing of Gremlins on 1st December - just when I was starting to get in the festive spirit! - which included a Q&A with Zach Galligan who played Billy. We couldn't resist watching one of our favourite Christmas films and the Q&A totally sold it for us. The cinema is absolutely gorgeous with so much legroom (even Phil, who is 6'5" could stretch out!) and while we were waiting for the film we found out they were offering Unlimited card holders a week of trying out the cinema for free - sold! Gremlins was brilliant and I got to ask Zach what he thought of the "dead-Dad-stuck-up-the-chimney" storyline which has always haunted me, and we got to meet him after! 

We ended up going to The Light twice more in December which I'll go into in my "watching" section!

This month we also booked my Birthday trip to Bruges which I'm so excited about! We're going to London to see Hamilton (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) finally on the 29th March, and my Birthday is the 30th which happens to be Good Friday. So we're getting the Eurostar across to Brussels then travelling to Bruges and having a long weekend there before coming back on Monday. We've been talking about booking this trip ever since we booked Hamilton tickets a year ago so I'm really excited!
We've done a lot of work on our house in December too. A few weeks ago we finally painted the bathroom after buying paint samples in August so it's no longer bright Barbie pink.

And then we spent two days between Christmas and New Year stripping our living room, stairs and landing wallpaper so we can start afresh with something new for 2018. So far we've got about as far as picking paint colours, and we're going to completely change up the room and make it ours which is really exciting so stay tuned for that over the next few months!
Of course we also celebrated our 5th Christmas together with our traditional two-Christmas-dinners, and I was completely spoiled as usual! Highlights include a tofu press, a cast iron pan, new slippers and a new dressing gown, and from Phil I got a print of Duluth, which was my home in Minnesota for a year while I was at uni, and a print of the building we lived in in Manchester from the 1920s. We had a drink early last year in the pub underneath our old building and they had this old photo on the front of the building and I loved it and said we had to find a copy for the house. So Phil spent ages looking through the library archives before emailing the pub to ask for a copy. It's so amazing to see that old building nearly 100 years ago!
And yes, if I haven't milked it already, on Boxing Day we got engaged in Lyme Park, and you can read the full story of how it happened in this post. That was definitely the biggest surprise in December!
We brought 2017 to a close quiet(ish) with a board game night at Phil's parents. However I'm not sure we've all quite recovered from the fall-out over Codenames!

What I've been eating
After really loving Meera Sodha's Fresh India, I bought Made in India last month after borrowing it from the library and deciding I needed it! Highlights so far are the green beans, the dal and the chana masala.

Also this month I finally learned to make amazing poached eggs, so I've basically spent the last few weeks eating poached eggs at every opportunity. (I use this recipe!)
I'm currently working through the Winter/Start of the Year second of The Modern Cook's Year (read my Autumn review over here) and so far my favourite thing has been the cauliflower-topped puy lentil pie.
And finally, Phil made this excellent lemon meringue pie for New Year's Eve and I am super impressed with his egg white skills!

What I've been loving
Ooh lots of lovely things this month!

One of my goals for 2018 is to look after my mental health and I started this in December with the Happyfeed app. Every day I have to write about 3 things that made me happy that day. I like to do this the following morning as it gives me time to reflect on the previous day and it really makes you think about the little things you might have forgotten!
At the start of December I decided I wanted to buy a few new nail polishes, and I always buy Essie. While I was picking colours I noticed Superdrug had an Essie Advent Calendar for only £25, which had 7 full-size colours and lots of smaller colours and other nail products. I got one for myself and one for my Mum! We both absolutely loved having a little nail polish treat every day of December!

One of my favourite people, Cate of Cate in the Kitchen has started a podcast and it's absolutely brilliant. It's all about food and cooking and food culture and food memories and ah, it's just lovely. Go download it now!
Every Christmas I make Phil's parents and my Nan a hamper, and this year I got one myself! My friend Riven made us the most amazing hamper, containing two books, homemade flavoured gin, two kinds of biscuits, two kinds of condiments, chocolate, SHARK name but a few! It was so lovely and thoughtful and everyone has been amazing so far!
Finally, I got myself a Buddy Box this month so I could get a copy of their Self Care book and it was really lovely. If you haven't heard of Buddy Boxes they're a subscription box from mental health charity, The Blurt Foundation, full of treats to help your mental health. I got a copy of the Self Care book, lovely socks and lots of other lovely things this month.

What I've bought
On top of Christmas presents, just two small things this month! A new bullet journal because I've finished my first one (and I'm still in the process of moving everything over!) and World Vegetarian which I got for a few quid second hand and I'm using for the first time this weekend.

What I've been watching
A bit of a mixed bag this month! I absolutely loved everything we saw at the cinema this month - Wonder, Battle of the Sexes, The Last Jedi and The Disaster Artist.

But films we watched at home, not as much. This month we watched Glengarry Glen Ross and The Game, which were both a bit disappointing!

Finally, Phil and I are completely obsessed with Love it or List it, the Kirstie and Phil programme. As we're redoing our living room we're kind of obsessed with home programmes and instead of catching up with Peaky Blinders or Stranger Things 2, we're really enjoying watching mindless episodes of this!

What I've been reading
I've read 5 books this month, my absolute favourite being What I Loved, which has instantly made it's way into my favourite books list. I read Siri Husdvedt at uni but hadn't read any of hers since, and I'm really excited to work through all her books.

I also really enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine at the end of the month, and am glad to hear it's won a Costa award.
Other books this month were Fever Dream, which was a surreal and bizarre but interesting read, Fingersmith which I was super into but then got a bit bored of towards the end, and You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine which I'm still trying to decide how I felt about!

What I've been reading online
I absolutely adore Louise and she is one of the people I'm so glad I "met" in 2017. All her blog posts are brilliant, but I love this one on Why your dreams don't have to scare you.

Google's A Year In Search video gave me all the feels.

And The Pool's post on Matt Damon completely summed up how I felt.

So there we go - better late than never right? In January I am looking forward to a quiet month, choosing paint for our living room and playing with layouts and maybe starting to plan our wedding!

Hope 2018 is treating you well so far!

Charlotte x