Sunday, 31 July 2016

In praise of lazy Sundays

Post-run brunch is an essential part of a lazy Sunday

My Sundays have become a sacred thing.
In my attempts to try to learn to relax, they've been the day I try to put aside to recharge my batteries.
They are a day to challenge myself to take it easy, even when every fibre of my being is against it.
They are my mental health days.

They begin without an alarm. As you can imagine, this is quite a big deal for me. Not knowing what time I might wake up instantly raises my heart rate, but I know that I'm pushing myself a lot to get up at 5.30am every day to get a run and, most days, a strength session, in before work. I know I need to catch up on sleep over the weekends (and Saturday I don't have the luxury of an indefinite lie-in because I always want to go to parkrun) so going to bed on Saturday night without an alarm is my attempt to reset my body clock. I rarely wake up after 8am.

After some lying in bed and reading my phone, I give myself about an hour to get myself ready for my run. A cup of tea and piece of toast are mandatory. I try not to put pressure on myself to be out the door at a certain time, which is hard, but I'm usually out the door by 9. I'm still learning not to panic if it's 9.05am.

Then a run, the length mandated by my training plan, then a load or two of washing. And then, usually, that's a big chunk of my to-do list done. And then the challenging part - to relax for the rest of the day without going crazy.

Sundays are for chores. For cleaning the kitchen and putting away the washing and food prep. For doing things to attempt to reduce my anxiety for the rest of the week.

And for blogging, for working through my anxiety books, for meal planning, for reading. For what I think of as "active relaxing", where I'm not quite relaxing, but I don't feel guilty about it.

I find it hard to portion of a period of time for nothing in particular, but I find it even harder not to. If I don't have at least one day at home over the weekend (and usually, at least one night in during the week), I find it very difficult to not feel overwhelmed by everything I need to do. Little things that take 5 minutes can derail me if I don't get them done over the weekend.

I know my Sundays might not seem lazy to everyone, and I don't call them "lazy" to show off that this is what I consider a quiet day, but it's a big deal for me to try to have a day of doing "nothing" without feeling guilty. And I'm starting to enjoy it. I wrestled with myself a lot today over whether we took a cinema trip, but I know in truth, I had a busy day yesterday (I didn't get more than an hour at home between 8.30am and 7.30pm between parkrun and food shopping and mortgage advisors and house viewings and family parties) and if I don't give myself today off I'll find those little tasks like cleaning the kitchen or writing a blog post hanging over me for the rest of the week.

So here's to lazy Sundays. Here's to fluffy slippers and no makeup and "what shall we do now?" and middle of the day films and unexpected naps. It could be they're exactly what I need.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Life lately - July

Remember when posts like this were the in thing in about 2010? Yeah well I'm bringing them back. Because sometimes I just want to talk about the book I'm reading or my weekend without making an entire post about this-one-bit-in-my-book-I-just-wanted-to-talk-about. (And be grateful, my original list had about 15 different things on it!)

Right now I'm...

I've just finished The Art of Fielding which I really enjoyed, after being quite disappointed by the two books I read on holiday. Next on my list is Stephen King's Gerald's Game. I asked for book recommendations before I went away so now I have 30+ books in my "holiday books" Amazon list, which should keep me quiet for a while!

I'm partying like it's 2013 over here. This weekend I finished season 2 of Girls (watching most of it over a bottle of prosecco with my best friend, Eve) and Phil and I are almost up to date with Game of Thrones after finishing season 5 last weekend. I'm also rewatching my all-time favourite, Parks and Recreation with Phil which is like a nice warm hug. We've also just started Stranger Things which I've heard great things about.

Working on...
As I mentioned in my 25 facts post, I had some really great recommendations for books to read after I posted about my anxiety, so I bought them right away (thanks for letting me share your Amazon Prime, Mum!) and I spent most of last Saturday working through Cure your Emetophobia and Thrive. I'm pretty cynical when it comes to self help, but what I've read so far makes a lot of sense, so it's just whether I can put it into practice.

Family time! My twin aunties were 60 last Sunday so we had a big family meal, and as I also mentioned in my 25 facts post, a big family meal in my family is big. We filled an entire function room. It was so lovely to catch up with my cousins - I definitely feel like my relationship has changed with them now we're all older and it's lovely - and met the newest member of our family, my cousin Chris' newborn baby, Evan! 

Excited for...
Even though Phil and I aren't planning to move out of our flat before our contact expires in February, we are looking at houses online and we're going to our first viewing today! I'm nervous and excited and 100% not ready, but I'm sure I'll feel differently when we find the one!

My job! I don't talk much about my job on here, but it's been 3 months now and it's going really well! Every day is different, every day is challenging, every day has at least one thing that I'm excited about. 

Good friends. As often the case in your twenties, I don't have as many friends as I used to, but I definitely feel like I have quality over quantity. There are few things in life better than a girly night in, good food and a great catch up. I'm so lucky that my best friend Eve lives round the corner and I see her at least once a week. My friend, Ellen, who is a teacher, came up for dinner on Wednesday too and it was so lovely to see her, and I went out with my friend Riven and her colleagues last night. I get a bit sad sometimes about not seeing all my friends as much as I would like with us being spread across the country, but I really appreciate them and our friendships and I know they're always there for me, and nothing ever changes when we see each other. I'm very lucky to have such great people in my life!

Interesting reads...
When did the media turn against Taylor Swift?
No matter what side you're on in the whole Taylor/Kim/Kanye debate, this is well worth a read

Young, drunk and female - the surest path to victim blaming
I read The Pool every day. This post is horribly, depressingly real but something we need to talk about more.

Jack Monroe: I want to be treated as a person, not a woman or a man
I'm a massive fan of Jack Monroe, and I loved this Observer feature. 

3 Things I'd tell my past self
I can relate so hard to "relax and have more fun".

Let's see if I can maintain this as a regular feature, eh?

Charlotte x

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Cookbook review: Eating in the Middle

I am a huge fan of Andie Mitchell's blog. She was the one who introduced me to roasted broccoli and it's basically changed my life (seriously, I eat it pretty much every week) and her poached salmon is one of my favourite dinners.

So I was absolutely thrilled to find out she was releasing a recipe book. It was due out on the 29th March - the day before my birthday - and despite preordering it I didn't actually receive it until a few weeks later. I was so excited it was driving me crazy waiting!

When it finally arrived I was so excited to give it a proper flick through. As I've mentioned before, that first flick through of a recipe book is like Christmas morning for me. I absolutely love that initial look through - the excitement and inspiration and nervousness.

First impressions

And I have to be honest, I was a little disappointed. Now full disclosure here, this is a non-vegetarian book, so there is naturally going to be fewer recipes that I would like to cook compared with a veggie or vegan book, but as I do eat fish I was excited to see if there were some fish recipes I fancied (a la the salmon mentioned above). But there is a lot of meat in this book. And from first impressions, a lot of unnecessary meat. Does sweet potato hash really need bacon? Does egg salad need bacon? Do breakfast potatoes need bacon? (apparently this book really likes bacon!). Of course, in these examples meat can easily be omitted, but in a lot of recipes the option to adapt to remove meat is near-impossible. And of course, if you eat meat, that's fine! I can't really mark the book down from an objective perspective for having too many meat recipes, but for me personally, it was a struggle.

I was also disappointed because I simply wasn't excited about a lot of the recipes. The book is split into "healthy" recipes in the first part of the book, and "sharing and treats" at the back. A big chunk of the book is desserts, and I'm just not a dessert person. And a lot of the other recipes are a little... unoriginal. Chia pudding, overnight oats, brown sugar salmon, tofu stir fry. Kale, pomegranate and butternut squash salad is pretty much that - kale, pomegranate and butternut squash with a vinaigrette. I tend to lean towards the healthy side, which could be why, but almost nothing in the "for sharing" section inspired me. I liked the sound of the cheesy baked gnocchi, but buying packaged gnocchi felt like cheating, and there are only two other meat-free recipes in the sharing section. From an initial look through I just felt there weren't many recipes (that I could eat) that felt original or exciting.

But enough first impressions, here are the recipes I tried...

Sweet potato hash
I made this a few weeks ago (minus the bacon!) for brunch after parkrun. It was tasty, but with 40 minutes for the potatoes it takes a long time for a breakfast! I overcooked it a bit so it was a bit dry, and I used 2 eggs per person (I halved the recipe and 2 eggs for 2 people didn't seem enough!). This was nice, but not that original or exciting I'm afraid!

Brown sugar salad with avocado crema
I know this looks horrendous! I'm always looking for new salmon recipes as we're both big fans of salmon (in fact, when we first started dating salmon was the only thing we ate because Phil never knew what to make me!) so I was excited to try something new. I'm not a big parsley fan so I used basil, and I hate cream so I swapped sour cream for greek yoghurt. 
Conclusion? It was tasty and I'd make it again, but according to my notes, "not life changing" (I clearly have very high expectations when it comes to salmon recipes!).

Roasted broccoli
I've mentioned Andie's roasted broccoli before, but in her book she adds garlic. YUM. A welcome addition indeed! I'll definitely be adding garlic whenever I make roasted broccoli from now on.

Lightened up pad Thai
I'm the first to admit I don't really "get" pad Thai. I've had it a few times and just feel like I'm missing something. However I liked the idea of creating it with cabbage so I thought I'd give this a go. Turns out, Phil doesn't really like cabbage. This came together quickly, but needed some protein (I added prawns). It was okay. I'm not sure I would make it again.

Sweet potato curry
I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say we eat curry at least once a week in our house (I swear mango chutney is on the shopping list every fortnight!). I'm a huge curry fan, and I love the unlimited options there are for veggie curry. This came together pretty quickly so is perfect for midweek, and isn't super spicy, so good for people who don't like their curries hot. This was a success, especially with bread, as it wasn't quite as thick as in the photos. I'd definitely add this to the list of easy midweek dinners. 

Black bean burgers
I've mentioned before that I'm really rubbish at making burgers and here's another example of me being rubbish at it! I think my downfall was using regular oats over quick oats (with being in American measurements, I suspect you can't pack as many regular oats into the cup size as you can ground up oats, and I forgot to adjust the recipe to compensate) these fell apart a lot. However, they were delicious and I would definitely make them again (but pulse my oats down a bit first!).

I've only made five recipes from this book so far, and to be honest, I don't think there's anything else that has inspired me. I can't talk for everyone - I think as a non-meat eater, choosing a non-vegetarian recipe book is always a challenge, so there's every chance that all the meat recipes in this book are exceptional! For me, I was disappointed. I really wanted to like this book, but the recipes just weren't new or inspiring enough, and there was too much dependence on meat (which is strange as Andie says in the introduction to the bean burgers she used to be vegetarian). I also noticed a few recipes that are already on her blog, which is disappointing as this is one thing I loved from the Minimalist Baker book.

Overall, I'll probably use this book from time to time, but it's a little bit of a let down for me. I still love Andie and her blog, and her writing between chapters is engaging and fun, but I think I expected a little bit more from her recipes.

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

This is not a fashion blog (but I'm not sure what it is)

I've blogged more in the last few weeks that I have for months.
I have four fully-formed blog posts in draft and a list in my phone with over 40 ideas for content.
I'm blogging on my lunch break, planning posts on the bus, writing down ideas in the morning before work.

I'm writing about travel, about mental health, about food, about family.
I'm writing whatever I feel like writing.

The reality is that fashion hasn't been a part of this blog, other than in name, for the last three or four years.
In what I consider my "blogging peak" of 2011-2012, I was photographing my outfits every day. I was carefully curating my clothing, spending hours putting different outfits together and noting them down.

I was up-to-date with hundreds of blogs. I bought Glamour and Cosmo and Vogue and InStyle and Look and more! . I stuck photos of outfits on my bedroom walls.

I wanted to be a fashion writer. 

Now, while I think I still manage to look presentable most of the time, I couldn't care less about fashion. I don't know what's in style, and furthermore, I don't care. The only magazine I read is Runner's World and I rarely buy new clothes on a whim. I only read a handful of blogs, and never for the outfits.

I do still take the occasional outfit photo, if I particularly love my outfit, but I no longer feel that I need nice outfits in order to be able to blog.

Now I want to blog about everything.

I've been particularly inspired lately by two of my favourite bloggers. Michelle, who now posts nearly-daily articles on everything from motherhood to content marketing to body image to creative writing, and Amy, who has recently started her own newsletter, that covers so much more than just food.

Over the years I've come to find that I don't read blogs for the pretty pictures, I read them for the person, for their writing, for their story. I have absolutely no interest in becoming a Mum any time soon, but I read Michelle's motherhood posts or Amy's meat recipes with vigour. And that's what I want to create.

I'm not sure where this sudden re-engagement with my blog has come from. Over the last few years there have been times where I've considered throwing the towel in, when blogging has felt like work, when it's felt like a chore, when I haven't posted for weeks because I've worn the same outfit three times in a week. Some of the posts I've been planning lately have been sat in my "blog posts to write list" for a year without me even getting started on them.

Maybe part of it is to do with a lack of pressure. I don't have ads anymore and I rarely have sponsors, so this feel much more like my space. Maybe it's because I'm not writing quite so much at work and I need a creative outlet. Maybe it's because Phil has recently started a blog so we can both quietly sit and blog all evening, so posts aren't rushed before we put a DVD on.  Maybe I'm just working harder at it - making the effort to actually write down what's in my head rather than letting it drift off.

I'm excited. I'm writing so much that I'm scared to publish everything in case my creativity dries up. It feels so good to feel passionate and excited about blogging again, especially after almost 7 years.

I don't know yet how long it will last. But it's good to be back.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

25 facts

First off, I just want to thank everyone who got in touch after my last post. I've had so many emails and comments and tweets from people who are going through something similar and I've had so much support that it's been truly incredible. It didn't really feel right going from that kind of post into a review of my Garmin or something, so I thought I'd write a post I've wanted to write for a while.

These "25 facts" posts were going round about a year ago (I think they were the "what's in my bag" of 2015) and I really loved them. I think part of it is because you think you "know" a blogger so well, especially if you've been reading their blog for years, but I found even the most open bloggers had some really interesting facts I didn't know about!

As you already know, if Thursday's post wasn't enough, I'm a pretty open book, so there's a chance you might know some of these things already (especially if you've been reading my blog for years - when I was receiving emails about my last post I couldn't believe the number of people who had been reading my blog since my year abroad in Minnesota nearly 6 years ago!). But I hope you learn something knew and hey, maybe we'll find some more fun things to talk about! (Real talk, I told Phil something the other day that he didn't know about me that he was totally shocked about so I had to reshuffle my list to include it!)

1. My favourite song is Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show. It reminds me of my time living abroad, especially my road trip across America. We live above an Irish pub and at least once a month I hear someone playing it downstairs and it makes me so happy.

2. But my "jam" aka, my karaoke song, is Smooth by Santana and Rob Thomas

3. I like my food really, really hot. I quite often start eating and if it's not hot enough I have to give it a minute or two in the microwave. I burn my tongue a lot.

4. When I was 17 I was in a metal band. I spent 4 hours a week realising I couldn't write songs and we never played a gig together. Two of the guys in the band were roughly twice my age.

5. When I was a lifeguard I saved two people from drowning.

6. I suffer from emetophobia (fear of being sick/other people being sick). I actually meant to mention this in my anxiety post but couldn't find a way to work it in. I've been recommended to read "Cure your emetophobia and Thrive" and I started it today, so we'll see if it helps.

7. The music I listen to hasn't really changed since I was 15. My favourite band are Brand New and I listen to mostly mid 00s emo - Fall Out Boy, Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance, Good Charlotte, Something Corporate, Jimmy Eat World, Bayside, Manchester Orchestra, Panic at the disco, The Used...

8. But before that I was obsessed with Blue, wrote a letter to Lee Ryan (and got a response!), was really active on the Official Blue forum 

9. And then I moved onto Livejournal, where I spent my teenage years making 100x100 icons and entering icon competitions. In fact, I think one of my icon sites is still live (okay I totally found it but I think there's a link to my old livejournal there somewhere and I don't think I'm ready to go down that rabbit hole...)

10. I've been a pescatarian since I was 11

11. I have three middle names - my full name is Charlotte Elizabeth Bridget Eve Crowley

12. Despite being an only child I have a huge family. My Dad is one of 8, so I have 14 aunties and uncles and 10 cousins. All in one room, with partners, there's about 35 of us. We're all very loud.

13. As a teenager I worked in Woolworths for two years on the sweets counter. I totally saw you steal pick n mix.

14. I don't like doughnuts, pancakes, marshmallows, pastries or popcorn. Or any kind of cream (except ice cream, duh). I tend to manage to keep this quiet until pancake day when I have to confess...

15. If I'm on a night out and Blurred Lines comes on I will just stand there and refuse to dance.

16. I really love magic. One of my all-time favourite things ever is finding one of those "50 Greatest Magic tricks" programmes on TV.

17. I always say if I ever won the lottery I'd travel the world going around theme parks. I love rollercoasters.

18. I started dancing at the age of 2 and have done some kind of dancing/performing ever since. I'm currently in a charity choir and we practice every week.

19. I can play the piano and the cello. I got up to Grade 6 piano and Grade 4 cello.

20. I have really, really bad eyesight. I wear contacts most of the time but I'm -5.00 in both eyes.

21. My favourite book is Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk.

22. I'm an absolute nightmare when I'm tired. Just get me to bed.

23. I saw Snakes on a Plane at the cinema 4 times because I was obsessed with the song at the end (this is what Phil didn't know til this week!).

24. I've completed a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course.

25. Despite having lived abroad in America twice, I'm actually a really nervous flier and whenever I'm flying I count down the time until it's over. I love travelling more than I fear flying, though.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Real talk: I have generalised anxiety disorder

I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder in December last year.
I've been trying to find a way to write about it for the last 8 months, but as you might expect, writing about my anxiety makes me, well,  anxious. 
But I know I need to talk about it. I know we need to talk about mental health more. I know we need to remove the stigma. But it's hard to talk about your own brain betraying you. It's hard to talk about how small parts of every day life can be overwhelmingly difficult. It's hard to talk about not knowing where your personality ends and your disorder begins.

I've always been a worrier. Always. My Dad always joked that my favourite phrase is "I'm really worried." I've worried about everything for as long as I can remember. It's hard to know when it stopped becoming normal, or if I just had different ways of coping with it. I knew it was time to get help when I found myself sobbing uncontrollably because I was half an hour behind my prescribed schedule for the day because Phil and I had chatted in bed longer than I'd planned. 

I don't remember what I said to the doctor. I remember crying. A lot. I remember ugly, gasping sobs, an unsympathetic tissue, a stoic reception. A form to fill in. A referral for counselling. The suggestion of medication. For me, being diagnosed helped. It made me realise that it wasn't normal to feel like this. And that, in a strange way, was reassuring.

I remember that walk back to work. That desperate need to tell someone, but at the same time to not wanting to make a fuss, to not want anyone to treat me differently, not wanting anyone to think I couldn't do my job properly. Telling a manager, being asked "what can we do to help you?", not knowing the answer.

And that's the problem with anxiety. I don't know what anyone else can do. I wish I could tell you to rub it better or put a plaster over where it hurts. But I can't. Because I don't know where it hurts. You can't just tell me to calm down. 

I've noticed in the people I know who have anxiety that we tend to be a certain type of person (this is just my observation at least). We're the people who always want to do better. We're always putting pressure on ourselves. We're the hard workers and the perfectionists and the people pleasers. We're the ones who never, ever feel like we're good enough.

And this is the part that scares me. I don't know who I am without my anxiety. I don't know where my personality begins and my anxiety begins.

My anxiety is deeply rooted in not being good enough. I'm tremendously influenced by other people. But other people's achievements don't spur me on, they destroy me. I don't feel jealous, I feel inferior. I find it hard to relax because I feel like I should always be doing something better. I should be reading more, I should be learning another language, I should be blogging. I shouldn't be wasting time. I should be getting up earlier. But then maybe I also should be getting more sleep? I get a pang of joy whenever someone tells me I'm so organised or so healthy or so good at planning or so productive. But is that my anxiety winning? Is everything I do just anxiety management?

Is everything I do a symptom of my anxiety, or a way to control it? My list-writing, my planning, my obsessive organisation. Is this just the house of cards I build to protect myself, in constant fear of that gust of wind that will tear it all down? Is it my anxiety that pushes me through marathon training? That fear of failure and need for success? All my planning, my habits - are these just the ways I try to stop my anxiety from rearing its ugly head?

I plan everything obsessively because I'm scared of the unknown. As soon as there is a slight change to my schedule - a lunchtime meeting where food will be provided, or someone coming over for dinner - I'm straight into my Notes app to update my meal plan. I have to do it right away. I plan my weekends, I plan my free time, I plan my shopping lists, I plan my exercise schedule. Everything is planned and organised, because the smallest change can absolutely floor me.

Just saying that makes me feel so pathetic. That I can't cope with the every day inevitability of change. Or I suppose I can cope. You likely wouldn't notice if I was having a complete meltdown. It's all in my head. Which is good, at least, because I don't want people to know that I'm struggling.

My anxiety comes in peaks and troughs. I can have a few good weeks, then a few bad ones. Anxiety is sometimes described as "anxiety and low mood" and sometimes I have a few days of an unshakable low mood that seems to come from nowhere. I can get on with my life - I would never call it anything like depression - but I just feel like I'm under a little black cloud.

For me, counselling didn't really work. I had six sessions under the NHS, but didn't really feel I made any progress. In those six sessions, over the course of about 3 months, I think I just moved into a non-anxious period, thought I was getting better and that was that, until the dark cloud returned. I'm too scared to try medication, although I've heard good things, because I'm scared of how they might change me.

But I worry (bad choice of word there...) that I'm not addressing my anxiety at the moment. I worry that the things I love - the high pressure of marathon training, for example - aren't good for my mental health. I'm worried that I let my anxiety win too much. That I don't relax enough. That I let the guilt beat me too often. I worry about being hard to live with. I wonder if Phil would love me more without my anxiety.

I'm in a trough right now. I think about my anxiety every day, my mood is lower than usual and I feel like I'm battling a thousand different thoughts in my head at once that I can't write down or "plan out" fast enough. I'm trying to take time to relax, but I end up "planning" my relaxation, or feeling guilty, although I know relaxation is one of the main treatments that work for me.

I don't talk about my anxiety a lot, hence why this is hard to write, but Phil has been amazingly supportive. He knows when to try to calm me down, when not to. When to help me work through the problem. When to just let me talk. When I need to not talk at all. I know my anxiety makes me difficult at times, but he never makes me feel like it's my fault.

I don't know what I want to achieve from writing this. I'm scared people will treat me differently. I'm scared of being thought of as a delicate little flower that can't cope with the world, because I'm not. I'm tough enough to get through the day fighting my own brain and my own quickened pulse and shallow breath. I don't want this to be "brave" because I don't want talking about mental health to be a brave thing to do. I'm scared to talk about this but I'm also scared not to.

I just wanted to say something. Because I don't like to keep things from people. And I want other people to know if they're struggling they're not alone.

Blog comments or Facebook or Twitter aren't the place for this. If you want to talk, drop me an email -

And now I just have to press "publish"...

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Third time's a charm

I've just started training for my third half marathon.

My first was about finishing, about completing 13.1 miles, about proving I could do it after only 9 months of running. Which I did, eventually, after three long, painful, gruelling hours.

My second was about proving I could do it well. I worked hard, I trained hard and I ran 13.1 miles with a smiled glued on my face, and whizzed over the finish line in 2 hours 8 minutes - a PB of over 54 minutes.

So what is the third one for? I'm reluctant to set a time goal with that elusive sub-2 hours looming so closely. 8 minutes may not seem a lot, but a pace of over 30 seconds a mile faster than last year seems questionable. (Plus I really, really don't want to be disappointed if I come in with a 2 hour 2 minute time or something like that).

My third half marathon is because it's fun. Two years ago, after my first half marathon, I never thought I would run one again. I think I actually uttered the words "never again". But now I've been known to call it my favourite distance. 

While I run a lot of 10Ks, I'm not fast enough to really enjoy them, and while this might sound conceited, I don't need to train for a 10K. I can sign up for a 10K any time and usually be fit enough to do an alright job. But for me, I like an endurance test over a speed test.

A marathon is... a lot. A commitment. I loved it and it was the greatest thing I've ever done, but the training was hard and all-consuming and exhausting and carb loading was nowhere near as fun as I hoped it would be. For me, a marathon is a once a year job, max. I trained for 6 months for my last one, so I need a break.

But a half is perfect. It needs work, and I like that. It needs training, it needs endurance, it needs effort. I'm definitely a long distance runner these days, and I like that I can take my time and settle into the race. With a 10K I often find by the time I'm into the rhythm it's almost over. But it doesn't require gels or new shoes or bruised toenails or Sunday morning four hour runs. 

I need a goal. I need to always have a goal. Goals make me a better runner, goals make me a better person. Without a goal I have no direction, no motivation, no inspiration. I need something to focus on, something to work towards.

It's not going to be easy, and I know that. Before I started training I thought it would be a walk in the park after the marathon, but I can see already it's going to be hard. I'm still going to have to turn down weekends away and bring my trainers when I'm away for work and get up before 6am. But I like the hard work. I like putting in the time and knowing there's a goal in sight.

I'm planning to do another marathon next year - London, if I get a place, and the new Birmingham marathon if I don't, but maybe I'll jump back on the half marathon wagon instead. Right now I love the idea of a couple of half marathons instead of a full, but I know, deep down, nothing feels like crossing the line of a marathon. Nothing in the world. And crossing the lines of two half marathons would be amazing, but a marathon is far, far greater than the sum of its parts. Last year my half marathon really just a part of my marathon training, so I'm not sure if halves alone will be enough for me anymore. But right now I'm glad to be able to get up at 6am, not 5am, and for my Sunday runs to be an hour, not three. But who knows. I'd love to get a few more half marathons under my belt over the next few years.

Last time I knew no matter what (well, unless I fell over and broke my ankle but you get the idea) that I'd beat my time. I knew that even worse-case scenario I'd be coming in under 2 hours 30 - still 30 minutes faster than previously. But this time I have to work. Those speed sessions aren't optional. I'm researching optimum interval paces and adding in two days a week of strength training on top of five days a week of running. I'm pushing myself harder and faster than I have done for a long time and I'm hoping it will be worth it. (If you're interested, I'm doing Hal Higdon's Intermediate program, running 5 days a week and doing 30 minutes of No More Trouble Zones twice a week after my Tuesday and Thursday runs, plus doing parkrun on a Saturday rather than the prescribed run).

The biggest success of my last half marathon was that I spent the race with a smile on my face the whole way around, and if I can do that again I'll be happy. Oh and a PB.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

By the ocean

Saving for a house sucks.
I'm excited, don't get me wrong (I'm also really, really sad at the idea of moving out of our little flat and out of the city centre, but that's a story for another day), but I do find myself questioning whether we go out for dinner or whether I'll really regret not saving £30 for a cabinet or something (I don't know, maybe I'll start caring about cabinets).

I'm pretty tight anyway. Okay I'm really tight. I call it "careful with money", and I just tell everyone I get it from my Dad. But I'm extra tight now. Which means I get even more anxious and guilty and stressed out than usual when it comes to treating myself.

I remember seeing this dress for the first time. It was on the Oasis Instagram and I screengrabbed it instantly and sent it to my Mum. The £50 price tag was not missed. I buy nearly all my clothes from Oasis now, but by "all my clothes" I mean "I buy myself something maybe once every three months and it has to be something I'll wear at least once a fortnight and go with everything else I own." I've definitely leaned towards quality over quantity in the last few years, but a sundress was definitely not on my list of things I really needed.

But it kept popping up. I saw it a few days later in the flesh and rushed over to touch it. It was even nicer in real life. It had jumped in and out of my Oasis online basket so many times I'd lost count. I knew it would be perfect for my holiday, but I also knew I had a box of sundresses under my bed that only came out once a year and that it rains in England all through the summer.

I'd given up hope of owning the beautiful dress when I got an email. I was like Charlie Bucket finding a golden ticket. Ocean credit cards were giving bloggers £50 to help bloggers treat themselves without worrying about their finances. I had to read the email twice! I couldn't believe the perfect timing! The dress was in my basket before I'd put the phone down.

And, once I finally got the right fit after a long boring story about swapping dresses around (being in between sizes is the worst. Do you buy two sizes? Do you size up and risk it being too big or size down and risk hating your life if it doesn't fit? I always go for the former and nearly always end up sending things back), it was a thing of beauty. It is absolutely stunning. And the fit is perfect! So much so, Phil said "it's as if it was made for you." It was the perfect dress to take to Spain (I wore it once with converse, as seen here, and again with sandals and a denim jacket for the evening, which unfortunately I didn't get any photos of), and for a dress with boats on, I knew exactly where to take the photos...
dress - Oasis c/o Ocean credit cards 
(IT'S STILL AVAILABLE! BUY IT! BUY IT NOW! But if you're in between sizes, size down)
converse - Size?
sunglasses - H&M
necklace - Onecklace
Let's just not talk about my sunburn okay? :(
It's really strange to look at these photos and think these were only taken last week. People keep asking me how my holiday was and I have to stop and think because it seems so long ago! We got back on Monday and went straight to Phil's parents to say hi to his cousin who was over from Australia for a brief 48 hours and about to head back home, I worked away in Newcastle Tuesday and Wednesday, and was out Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings! Today I'm trying to relax, but as always, I know I'm going to be restless later. I always look forward to "a nice quiet Sunday, promise?" where I can catch up on washing and blogging and try to relax, and inevitably end up going crazy by 3pm worrying that I'm "wasting time" and feeling restless. We did head out this morning for a 5 mile run followed by a 3 mile Pokehunt, but I caught two Eevees and my favourite ever Pokemon, Meowth, so it was totally worth it!

I hope you're having a lovely weekend!

Charlotte x

Friday, 15 July 2016

A break from routine

When I was a teenager, I don't think I really got the luxury of my parents having an apartment in Spain. I was always up early, asking what are we were doing today? rushing my Mum off the balcony while she's trying to read, to forcing her to get ready so we could finally go out. Always asking, what are we doing next?
I never used to understand why you would want to keep going back to the same place over and over again. It seemed like such a waste of time. I was bored. I'd done everything before. I just didn't get it.
I started my first job out of uni when I was 22, and that summer, I got it. That shift from university life (and for me, a summer of working abroad and travelling) to 9 til 5 is hard. And I finally, finally got it. I understood why we weren't rushing to go out every day at 9am. I understood relaxing breakfasts on the balcony. I understood stopping for a drink in the middle of a long walk, not just rushing to the end. I understood taking time to read and relax and take a break from every day life.
These days, I crave our yearly trips to Spain. I crave boiled eggs and toast and the freshest tomatoes I've ever tasted that we eat every morning we're away. My mouth waters at the thought of the tapas bar we always stop at and the free sample paella they always bring. I long for the long walks with the sun beating down and the breaks for Fanta orange at the same bars. I love that familiarity. I love doing the same things every time we go. It's like a homesickness, and every time I can't wait to be back. Going back every year means it doesn't matter if we don't get around to doing "everything", there will always be a next time. I love having a few days away where for once I don't have lists and responsibilities and that sinking heart feeling of "what have I forgotten". I love having a few days where I'm not aware of my anxiety. Where I'm not always wondering "what are we doing next?", when I don't even care. For someone who lives for routine, it takes a lot for me to not have one. But when we're in Spain I just let go. Try to live in the moment. Try to live from one minute to the next. Try not to be always rushing through everything. Try not to worry about "wasting time."
What's been even better the last few times is taking Phil. Showing him our favourite places, telling him our little jokes. This last trip was our third time together and everything is familiar to him now too. Every time is similar, but each time is different. "Was that last year, or the year before?". We have our own memories together there now.
It's our home away from home, which I think is the point. This trip was only 5 days so it felt short but just enough of a taste so that we've got a list ready of all the things we can't wait to do next time. Which is only ever a few months away...

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Happy 60th Mum!

People who think I love my birthday haven't met my Mum. Nobody loves their birthday like my Mum.
We started planning for her 60th in December. A whole 6 months early.
By the time this post goes live, her birthday will be here. By the time this post goes live she'll know what my gift to her was, that I've been planning for about as long as she's been planning her party.
My Mum is hands down my best friend.
I tell her everything.
Even things you really, really, really shouldn't tell your Mum.
She's my go-to.
For advice, for support, for "should I buy these shoes?", for help. For a chat, for a gossip, for a shopping trip, for a boozy lunch.
She will do absolutely anything for me, and today is her day. I hope she knows how appreciated she is.
Nobody can drive my crazy like my Mum. 
We are way too similar, and we know exactly how to wind each other up.
But we're a team.
I'm so close to both my parents that people often say, "how did your parents cope when you lived abroad twice?!"
Yeah, we still don't know how we coped with that. I text her about 300 times a day.
My Mum is brilliant. 
She's glamorous and beautiful and stylish and fun and passionate and excitable and everyone loves to be around her.
Happy Birthday Mum. I love you more than anything. I hope you have the best birthday!
If you want to read more about how great my Mum is, here's a post about her I wrote last year for Mother's Day.