Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Life Lately - November

I've been all over the place in November. Physically, mentally, emotionally. It's been a really strange month. I've done loads of brilliant, exciting, wonderful things, but I've also drained myself emotionally, taken on too much, made myself ill for most of the month, and Phil's family had an unexpected bereavement this month which has knocked us all for six.

I don't want to say it's been a bad month, because that would be terribly unfair on not only myself, but on the people I've been on some really great trips with this month (I've had two holidays in November!). But in between the great things this month, I've had some really overwhelming lows and in that sense, it has been difficult.

I've barely blogged this month at all, and I've barely read anything the last few weeks beyond Liverpool match day reports and Amazon reviews because I am overwhelmed and exhausted by politics and the world we now live in and can't bring myself to read any more.

For December, I'm ready for an opportunity to refocus, get back into my routine and try to get my anxiety under control as much as possible. I need to figure out what I want to achieve and reset my goals, and importantly, find a way to take more time for me for self-care, and stop being so hard on myself all the time and constantly beating myself up.

But anyway, here's what I've been up to in November...

What I've been doing
The short answer to this is way, way too much! I've been completely overwhelmed this month by trying to do everything - trying to work on my marketing diploma while being away nearly every weekend and having plans almost every night after work.
But like I said at the start, it's been busy but in a lot of ways it's been good busy - I've just been too busy doing fun things to have time to catch up with every day life! As a result I've had about three colds in the space of a month or so, mostly because I jumped back into everyday hectic life as soon as I felt a tiny bit better, but I seem to be on the mend now!
A few weeks ago I had a concert with my choir which was so great. I spent the whole day baking for the bake sale at the interval, and made millionaire's shortbread and chocolate chip cookies. The concert went really well, and I think both my solos sounded okay!

We've been sorting out a lot of house stuff this month and we're right in the thick of the bit where you feel like you're constantly filling in forms and paying up for stuff. I can't wait til we have everything sorted out!

I've been working a lot on my marketing diploma and trying to get into a routine of studying. I decided to start staying at work late to catch up if I end up not getting as much done as I would like at the weekends, and while I've only done it once, I think this is a good way of keeping focused. Staying til almost 9pm last Monday meant I could have a lovely evening out with Phil last Tuesday for a belated anniversary meal (more on that later!) and I was able to get everything I needed to do out of the way so I could see friends and (try to!) relax the rest of the week!

Where I've been
I've been lucky enough to have two brilliant holidays this month!
The first weekend in November was spent in Budapest with my Mum as a birthday gift from me for her 60th in July. We had such a brilliant time! We had dinner in a restaurant that looked like a bookshop, went to a ruin bar,  did a fantastic walking tour for nearly four hours, ate goulash, went to the spa, had cake in the most beautiful cafe in the world, toured the parliament building, visited St Stephen's basilica and just had the most wonderful time together! I'm hoping we make a trip together a yearly tradition!
And I spent this last weekend in Berlin! My friend, Kayleigh, lives out there and invited myself and my friend Eve over for a wintery visit to the Christmas markets. I've been to Berlin before so we had a really chilled out break which was much-needed! We had a relaxing Friday night with pizza and prosecco, spent Saturday morning seeing the sights and then spent the afternoon at the Gendarmenmarkt! I had a mulled wine and deep fried cheese balls before we went home to bake cookies, make raclette and watch Love Actually. It was absolutely brilliant and I cannot wait to go back!
And I've also had a lovely time at home in Manchester! We went to see Breaking the Code at the Royal Exchange (one of my all-time favourite places in Mancheser) a few weeks ago which was excellent.
We also finally went to Refuge which is an absolutely amazing bar round the corner from our flat.
What I've been loving
Apologies for the cheesefest, but this month I've been loving Phil for THREE WHOLE YEARS! Doesn't time fly when you're having fun, eh? We had dinner planned at Evelyn's in the Northern Quarter, but then on the actual day Phil was poorly! I spent our anniversary morning running to the shops to get him cough medicine, and cancelled our dinner reservations for a night on the sofa with a Dominos. And you know what? It wasn't the anniversary we had planned but it was really lovely!
I've also really been appreciating my friendships this month. Maintaining friendships as an adult is ROUGH. And I have to admit I've had a cry this month over feeling that I didn't have enough friends or worrying I was a bad friend. But then I had a really lovely evening with my friend, Riven, last week where we sat talking in Tampopo for what felt like hours, and then a wonderful weekend with my friends in Berlin and I've realised how lucky I am. I may not have dozens and dozens of friends, but you know what? I have some bloody good ones.

What I've been eating
It's November so I am obviously head over heels in love with my slow cooker. A big success this month was a vegetable stew with cheesy dumplings which was perfect on a cold, cold Sunday evening.
As I mentioned before we did make it out for a late anniversary meal and I did make it to Evelyn's! It's a gorgeous little cafe bar - right up my street, very Northern Quarter. I had the prawn and crab burger, after a starter of olives and guacamole, and Phil had a laksa. It was lovely!
What I've been reading
I hit my goal of reading 30 books in 2016 when I finished The Collector, which I loved. I've also just finished Stephen King's Needful Things, which I thought was one of his best.

After seeing a recommendation on Instagram I downloaded the audiobook of Matt Haig's Reasons to Stay Alive and I've been listening to that on and off. If I'm honest, it's quite hard to listen to and I can't quite work out if it's good for me or not. The way he talks about his depression and anxiety cuts a little bit too close to the bone, and I sometimes come away from it feeling very ... "in it" with my anxiety which doesn't really help. However I'm sure as the book progresses it will become more positive so I will stick with it.

What I've been watching
As Phil mentioned in his post, we've started doing "mystery film night" where Phil picks a film and I have 20 minutes to decide whether I want to stick with it or turn it off. So far we've had The Thing and Goodfellas, both of which I was never in the mood for when suggested, but loved as mystery films!
I've just been to the cinema once this month which is a bit of a poor show from me. We went to see Arrival which I thought was pretty good!
I also watched Love Actually, my favourite Christmas film, while we were in Berlin. I've watched it every year since I saw it at the cinema in 2003 (when I was only 13 and it was a 15 film - shhh!).

What I've been working on
I've been so busy this month I've kind of lost my focus a bit. I've obviously been working on my diploma, but I've not been running much because I've been ill a lot and away a few weekends.

I have been trying out new workouts this month though as a change from just running. Running will always be my first love, but when it's so dark it feels like the middle of the night and freezing cold I don't always fancy running, so while I'm not training for anything it's been nice to try new things. I've done a few workouts from Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guide (even though, bleurgh, that name makes me sick!), which were really tough and made me wayyyy more sore than I expected, and I've been giving yoga a go!

I've never enjoyed yoga at all, but I'd heard such great things about Yoga with Adriene that I've decided to give it a go, to be honest, more for my mental health than anything else. I've only done two days so far but I'm already excited to do it tomorrow and who knows, maybe I'll stick with it!

I get a bit restless and out of routine when I don't have a race to train for, but with everything else going on I know I really don't have the time or the energy for something else to focus on, so hopefully I can use this time well to try other things!

What I'm excited for
Oh my god I am so excited for Christmas. If I didn't have a business casual dress code at work I would 100% be wearing one of my Christmas jumpers tomorrow. I've finally made good headway on my shopping (although I decided to make a lot of presents this year which I now regret!) and I am fully ready to only listen to Christmas songs for the next 3 weeks. I love this time of year so much I'm already getting sad about it being over!

I've also got a trip to see my uni friends the weekend after next which I'm really looking forward to - it's going to be so nice to see everyone! And I'm out this weekend at Riot Jazz which sounds AMAZING.

What I've written
I have so many blog posts in my drafts I just need to finish up and publish, but it's been hectic this month, so of the two posts I published this month I only wrote one of them!
In defence of renting
And by Phil, Philhelm Scream

So November has been a strange one. A lot of lovely things mixed in with some really sad and stressful and upsetting things. Here's to a hopefully quiet and enjoyable December.

Charlotte x

Monday, 21 November 2016

Philhelm Scream

While I'm up to my eyes in my marketing diploma, I decided to let Phil write a little bit about himself and his blog, and show off his new clothes thanks to Jacamo! I'll be back to regular programming soon. Enjoy!
I’m not sure why Tom Hank’s fight against wrongful dismissal, HIV/AIDS, and homophobia in 1993’s Philadelphia would come up in conversation during a blind date, but it did at ours.  However it happened, I was shocked that Charlotte had never seen it, and bought her a copy ahead of our second date as a surprise.  I remember that same weekend Charlotte and her family watched (and loved) PHILadelphia, as well as Captain PHILlips, so I must have made quite an impression.  Well that’s what I tell myself anyway.  Our second date was also the first time we went to the cinema together.  About Time was a pretty perfect ‘second date movie,’ but little did we know that would be the first cinema trip of many.
jacket - c/o Jacamo
tshirt - c/o Jacamo
trousers - Burton
shoes - c/o Jacamo
Seeing as I have since taken it upon myself to work through the list of films Charlotte has never seen, it’s odd that the first DVD we sat down together to watch was one we had both seen already.  The night we watched The Departed will always be remembered as the last time Charlotte ever entrusted me to cook her salmon, and the first of many DVD nights.  We often really struggle on a Sunday night to pick one out of the hundreds of films to watch on DVD, Blu Ray or Netflix, and recently introduced a new rule.  I get to pick any film I like, but am not to tell Charlotte what it is.  The film begins, and after 20 minutes of watching it she can then decide whether we’re to watch the rest.  It’s a bit stressful, particularly when it’s a film you love, but it’s a great way of putting on something she may never pick from the pile of options you gather from the shelf.  As of yet we have only done this once when we watched The Thing last weekend.  The eerie soundtrack, isolated setting, and ambiguous character motivations sucked her in, and it passed the test.  By the time it came to the gruesome practical effects of dogs splitting in half, and human heads sprouting legs, Charlotte was already hooked.
It didn’t take long after we started dating for Charlotte to jump aboard the Unlimited Card bandwagon at Cineworld.  As I was already going 2 or 3 times a month it made sense for us to turn those trips into date nights.  Watch this space as I know the subject of the card’s pros and cons is something Charlotte will explore in more detail herself.  Since then we have managed to get our money’s worth and catch most new releases we have had our eye on, as well as the odd early preview thanks to the card.  We’ve loved our cinema trips, but still enjoy going to those where our card isn’t valid.  The Witch last year was even more terrifying in the beautifully characteristic Birmingham’s Electric theatre.  As sad as we were to see The Cornerhouse cinema in Manchester close, we have both fallen in love with its replacement, Home cinema.  Just down the road from our first flat together, we went for its opening day and caught an impromptu showing of another Tom Hanks classic (this is getting weird now…), Big.  As I was rudely riddled with man flu last week during our anniversary, we’ve also just decided that Home is also going to play venue to our 3rd year anniversary date night tomorrow night.

Unless watching Fight Club and Snakes on a Plane on repeat counts (it doesn’t), Charlotte hadn’t seen a lot of films.  She’s been spending a lot of her time travelling the USA, reading every book ever written, running this blog, smashing marathons, and cooking a different meal every day.  All very impressive.  But has she seen Kindergarten Cop?  Does she know every line of The Sound of Music?  Was she not entertained by Gladiator?  This is where I come in, and I like to call it an education.  Seeing as Charlotte is such a huge fan of compiling list, my phone has one of films we need to work through.  These aren’t necessarily the best films ever made, but films that I grew up on and mean something to me… For every Indiana Jones, there is a Face Off.  For every Mission Impossible, there is a Mission Impossible 2.  Jurassic Park, Terminator 2 and Shallow Grave were massive hits.  The less said about Marathon Man the better.  As much as I poke fun at her for not having seen some of these before, it’s to Charlotte’s credit that she is so keen “to put it right.”  She’s always enjoyed films, but just never had the same exposure to them as I did and it’s a lot of fun watching these through the eyes of someone seeing it for the first time.  Maybe one day the tables will turn and I will be forced to read War & Peace, or sit through 17 Again.  We’ll see.

Looking forward, the countdown to Christmas has already begun.  Every year we now have a tradition of watching a DVD with Charlotte’s mum while her Dad is out for a few beers and eventually stumbles home with the gift of calzone.  The first two years we watched Les Misérables, but as if it were not humanly possible to take that punishment for a third year, last Christmas was Airplane.  I’m hoping for something similar this year, or at the very least Die Hard (Charlotte’s definitely coming round to my brave fight to convince the world that the greatest Christmas film is in fact Die Hard).  After that, we both currently have our eyes fixed on Oscar season and are pretty much counting down the days already for the release of La La Land.  What films are you all looking forward to at the moment, and which have a particularly special meaning to you and why?
Earlier this year, I jumped on the blogging bandwagon and started my own effort: Philhelm Scream.  edit: Charlotte here. I want everyone to know that I get full credit for the name of Phil's blog. Don't get why I'm a pun genius? Read thisFor more words about films, lists of films, and gifs of films, it’s a good place to go.  Thank you very much for reading and putting up with me.  Normal service will resume very soon I’m sure.


Sunday, 13 November 2016

In defence of renting

So I mentioned a few posts ago that Phil and I have bought our first house together, and I'm so, so, so excited to have a place that we actually own! 

But I'm going to be really, really, really, sad to move out of the little flat we've called home for the last nearly-two years.

Renting gets a really bad rep. If I had a pound for every time I'd heard the phrase "burning money", but I think it's important to address the other side of the argument.

I have absolutely no regrets when it comes to renting.

When we moved into our flat, we'd been together just over a year. We knew each other pretty well, but I always say there is absolutely nothing like living together - it will either make you or break you. Renting has given us plenty of time to find out if we can actually live together! Living together can be hard work, and it's good to get a taste of how you'll get on when you see each other every day! We've been together 3 years now and even after living together for nearly 2 years, it's still a big deal to be committing to a 30 year mortgage!

I also don't regret renting because it's given us an opportunity to live somewhere we wouldn't have been able to afford, or want to, buy a place in. I absolutely adore city centre living, and I'm going to miss it incredibly, but long term, it's not somewhere I want to live forever. Renting has given us an amazing opportunity to live in the city centre without the long-tern commitment.

Plus, despite "burning money" I think renting has given us a lot of discipline when it comes to spending and saving money. You have to be good with money to afford city centre living, and it's forced us to be really careful, get used to paying council tax and electric bills and we have very specific budgets for food shopping and socialising that we have to stick to. We both put away a certain amount of money every month, and I think having that structure and discipline has helped us to not be too reckless with money. When I lived at home I managed to spend a lot of money, and I have no idea what it was on! It was easy to spend more money when I didn't have to worry about it because I worked full time and lived at home!

Finally, I'm constantly amazed at how much time having your own place takes up! Cooking, cleaning, planning, washing... all the little things that mean Sundays are pretty much a write-off. Sure, we both lived away at uni for years but it's nothing like having your own place - my standards are definitely much higher than when I was 19! I'm glad I've had a couple of years experience of looking after a little flat before we move into a 3 bedroom house, and it's been good to test the water in a flat where we can call our estate agent if something breaks or floods or falls apart before we get a house and have to fix that stuff ourselves! I love having the independence and our own space full of our things and our choices and having our own schedules. I love my parents and had a great time living with them, but moving in with Phil has been one of the best things I've ever done.

I'm excited to move into our house, but I'm so glad we've had two wonderful years living in Manchester city centre together first, and I certainly don't feel like we've been burning money. Renting might not be everyone's first choice, and I can definitely understand waiting until you can afford a deposit before moving out, but for us, it's definitely been the best decision, and I'll be so sad to leave our flat! 

Charlotte x

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Life Lately - October

October has been pretty busy for us, considering we ran a half marathon and bought a house (and that was actually all in one weekend!). This month has also gone ridiculously fast as we didn't get back from Spain until the 10th, so I can't believe it's November! 

It's been so busy in fact, and I'm so full of a cold I've had for a week, that I wasn't sure I'd be able to get this post up as I'm off to Budapest tomorrow! 

So what's been keeping me so busy this month?

What I've been doing
We started the month with our yearly September trip to Spain. We had a lovely, relaxing break. I did lots of reading, had my phone switched off for 11 days, went on lots of long walks and obviously ate loads of patatas bravas. We also took trips to Murcia (see below) and Alicante for a bit of a change of scene. It was excellent.
Then, a few days after we got back I ran a half marathon! I've probably talked about it enough already, but I still can't believe I ran a sub-2-hour half marathon! (I've also barely run since thanks to this cold which has absolutely floored me...).
A couple of weekends ago I had a lovely day shopping with my Mum. She came into Manchester for the day and we had coffee in the Cosy Club, mooched around the shops and had dinner in Wahaca. It was fab.
Oh and we bought a house.

Where I've been
Not loads of travelling this month (that's all coming up in November!), but along with Spain we went to Scotland this last weekend for our family friends' Halloween party. Phil and I dressed up as Maverick and Charlie from Top Gun.
What I've been loving
I estimate that over the course of a year, I spend about 80% of my clothing spend in October and November. I've bought 5 new jumpers - a cream one, green one and a sweatshirt from Primark, a mustard yellow one from Zara and a gorgeous snuggly one from Mango (that I wish I had now bought in every colour).
I've also bought two new pairs of winter boots, after my black ones fell apart, literally, in Dublin last year. I managed to get the same pair in both black and brown from New Look, and they're smart enough for work which is perfect.
You know what I did love? Being able to do parkrun the weekend after my race! In my three years of running, I have never, ever been able to do parkrun the weekend after my race because I have always, always been injured. After my marathon it was my hip, after my last half marathon it was my foot. Admittedly, I took it super easy and I was pretty sore after two miles (of course, Phil smashed it and got a PB!) but I was so happy to be able to run again!
And now I can officially tell you we're on our way to be homeowners, I can tell you about my current Pinterest obsession. I have over 10,000 food pins so I'm not new to Pinterest, but I've starting looking for ideas for our house and I AM SO EXCITED. I've even got Phil pinning to my board!

I've been working from one recipe book at a time over the last few months, and was working through But I could Never Go Vegan, but as I mentioned in my "How I'm trying to make more time" post, I've been trying to cut down on my time in the kitchen, so I'm only cooking from this once every week or two.
What I am cooking with though, is my slow cooker. I absolutely love coming home to a meal that made itself while I was at work, or waking up to a curry that cooked overnight. I have a little timer that's dead easy to use that turns on the slow cooker at the right now, so I don't end up with vegetable mush! So far we've had a lentil chilli, sweet n sour quorn, chickpea tagine and a chana masala (slow cooker staples in our house!), but I've just bought Miss South's Slow Cooked and I'm really excited to use it more. 
When Mum came to visit I took her to Wahaca for the first time and it was AMAZING. I love going out for meals with my Mum when the food can be shared because she's happy to have veggie and fishy bits with me (Phil and I never share when we go out for dinner!). The sweet potato taquitos were unbelievable.

What I've been reading
I've done loads of reading (for me at least!) this month, and read 5 books while we were in Spain - Eileen (which I really enjoyed), The Possibilities (an instant favourite, I adored this), and Burial Rites, and then decided I needed a couple of easy reads, so I demolished I Let You Go in one day, then raced through Behind Closed Doors (both alright, but not my cup of tea).
I also read Post Office - my first Bukowski - before we went away, and since we got home I've read The Shipping News (again, adored it. I didn't want it to end it was so beautiful), We We Liars (a quick and enjoyable read) and I've just finished Olive Kitteridge, which is one of the best books I've read for a long time. I know this all sounds hyperbolic, but I really have read some great books this month!

I also discovered Abe Books this month and bought a tonne of second hand books online for just £17! I've already read two and I'm a third of the way through my third (The Collector). This is definitely my new favourite way to buy books!
I've been too busy to do much watching this month to be totally honest (except Bake Off, duh) so I'm completely behind on everything. We managed just one cinema trip this month too. We were planning to go see The Girl on the Train, but it was the night I am Daniel Blake came out, and we decided that I am Daniel Blake would be a better option. It was terribly upsetting but an important film that I'm glad we saw.
The only other thing I've watched is In Bruges. Phil wrote his dissertation on it and it's one of his favourites (he's really into films - go read his blog!) and I was tired and grumpy and it was Sunday night, but as soon as the film began, I put down my nail polish and was absolutely gripped. I haven't stopped thinking about it since.

Working on
Well with my half marathon over the only thing I've really been working on is my Diploma in Professional Marketing. I've finished my first two units so I'm well on my way with my first module. I've managed to stick my headphones on and work at home which has probably saved me a fortune already in Starbucks.

Excited for
I'm off to Budapest in the morning with my Mum! It was my gift to her for her 60th back in July so we've been counting down for months! I've booked us a cute little central hotel and dinner at Konyvbar for tomorrow night, and I'm looking forward to exploring a new city!
I'm also off to Berlin at the end of November to see my friend Kayleigh who lives out there and visit the real German Markets!
I'm obviously excited for more progression with our house! It's still early days but everything seems to be going well so far, so fingers crossed!
And one last thing I'm excited about, it's our anniversary on Tuesday! Three whole years! Where has the time gone eh? Remember this blog post when I mentioned I was going on a date? I promise I won't get all soppy but it's honestly been the best three years of my life, and I can't wait for the future.

What I've written
On not getting a London Marathon place
10 things that always happen during race week
Running, racing and anxiety
On achieving your goal
How I'm trying to make more time
We're buying a house!

What I've been reading online
Did my short skirt distract from my two degrees and six years at Cambridge? from Amy's blog
Timexity from Rosie. I could have written this
I am Daniel Blake - and there are millions more like me - from Jack Monroe, who I think is wonderful and amazing and a huge inspiration
I am not Daniel Blake, but how do I help?
How to say No to social plans without feeling guilty
It's time to address the dirty underbelly of clean eating - I feel so strongly about this. I'm so glad it's being talked about.
My struggle with body image - this is heartbreaking and so honest and brilliant from Vix Meldrew. I think every woman I know could have written this, and that makes me so sad.
13 little things anxiety suffers should know
24 hilarious tweets that will make English majors lol
Let's talk about slut shaming - my cousin Niamh wrote this. She's only 17 and I'm so proud of her to standing up and writing about things like this
Striking a balance from Sian. We always talk about trying to do everything and never having time to do it all!
And because we're buying a house, everything on Swoonworthy! I used to work with Kimberly and I've been pinning all of her tips onto my new house board in preparation!

And one last thing, my friend Steph sent me this and I'm going to remind myself of it whenever I feel down. It's a letter to Runners' World in 1966...
Now, I'd better get back to my bridge...

Charlotte x