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