Monday, 4 March 2019

February Life Lately

Hey! It's March!

March is always my favourite month of the year because it starts with Phil's Birthday and ends with mine, and this year means we're getting married next month!!

February has been a quick one - time flies when you're having fun! (You can see my One Second Every Day of the Month here!)

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

Where I went
The start of February meant one thing in my calendar - my hen weekend! I'm sure I've mentioned before but I'm a huge fan of surprises, and along with the debilitating decision fatigue I've had throughout wedding planning I didn't want to get involved in any of the planning for my hen. All I said I wanted a weekend away, in the UK, and who I wanted to come.

So I knew absolutely nothing about where we were going. On the days leading up I started to ask for weather updates and a list of what I was going to need to bring, and then as it got closer I started to panic about how little I knew!

Then the day before my hen I received a message telling me to meet at Manchester Piccadilly at 10.30am on Friday morning, and I was given a list of items I needed to remember. I was very happy to see trainers were on the list, and pleased to find out my sequin dress would be "perfect for Saturday night". I was intrigued!

So I packed my bag and headed to the station, and my hand rushed to my mouth as soon as I saw two of my bridesmaids. They'd made a huge life-size photo frame in the colour and style of our wedding invitations with real flowers stuck on! It was absolutely amazing! Straight away I knew they'd done an amazing job.

They followed this with a goodie bag of essentials (hairspray, nail polish, phallic straws) and then I received my sash and veil and... bouquet. And finally, an itinerary...

We were off to Bristol!

Five of us headed for the train, with three others joining us on the second day. We had such a laugh on the train with plenty of snacks and a giant wheely suitcase full of hen decorations! 

On Friday we went to the pub and while we had drinks, my two bridesmaids who had organised decorated the entire Air bnb with balloons and banners and sashes and signs - the amount of effort they made was absolutely incredible!

Friday night we went off to a secret cocktail bar which looked like a hole in the wall for drinks, but we knew we had to be up early on Saturday morning...

for parkrun!!

Yes, I know. And I've lost count of the number of people who have come up to me since going, "you did parkrun on your hen do?", and yes, yes I did. Before Phil and I were even engaged (although, it turned out later, when my best friend asked me, hypothetically speaking, back in October 2017 what I wanted to do for my hypothetical hen, she already knew Phil had the ring!) I said I wanted to do parkrun on my hen. 

And even though nobody else would have normally gotten up on a Saturday morning to do parkrun, they flipping did it!
So we went to Ashton Court parkrun, and I ran in my sash and veil and a Bride to Be vest top they'd bought me, and I was absolutely thrilled they took me to do my favourite thing on a Saturday morning! It was the absolute best!

Next on the agenda was brunch, and then the rest of the party arrived for an escape room! I love escape rooms so this was perfect, and was the perfect bonding activity for my group of girls. Once we'd all escaped we headed to the Slug and Lettuce for a pornstar martini tree (!), and by that point it was time to get ready to go out!
We all got our gladrags on to go out, and then we were ready for some hen games. My maid of honour had met up with Phil earlier in the week and recorded Mr and Mrs-style questions with him, so we played Mr and Mrs which was so much fun (I did pretty well!) and then we went out for dinner.

At Zsa Zsa Bazaar after a brilliant meal, I discovered a photobooth that took contactless and spent £20+ on photobooth pictures. No regrets.
And then we were onto Popworld for a night of dancing and 90s music. And for the first night out ever - I didn't want to leave! I could see everyone was flagging and it's normally me at 12.30pm who is ready to go home, but at 1.30pm I was still begging "three more songs?" until I eventually gave in - I was just having such a good time!

After cleaning out the apartment on Sunday morning, we had one last activity - a scavenger hunt of Bristol! This was one of my favourite things we did. We had a murder to solve and clues to find from landmarks around Bristol - it was so much fun! It was a great way to explore the city and I definitely want to do one again!
Finally, we finished the weekend with a roast dinner and my girls presented me with a washbag with Mrs Cantillon on and I cried. 

I had the absolutely best weekend ever with my favourite people and I felt so so loved by the amount of effort they put in! It was one of the best weekends of my life and I'm so so grateful for all the amazing women in my life!

And then the week after that, I headed down to London for a Chartered Institute of Marketing course on leadership which I absolutely loved, and while I was there I had dinner with Sarah! It was so nice to meet up again and we had such a good time.
And then that weekend (it's been a busy month!) I had  "mini-hen" with my Mum and my Auntie and we had a lovely spa day and lunch at the Oddfellows. We had facials and massages and manicures and far too much prosecco for a Saturday lunchtime! It was fab!

What I've been doing
While Phil was off in Amsterdam on his stag I took myself out for the day and had a lovely day of me-time. I got my nails done for my hen (pink with glitter, obviously), went into town and bought myself some new dresses, looked at presents for Phil, took myself for an oat milk latte (I am a complete convert and had a paddy on Friday when my Asda didn't have any Oatly barista!) and made myself a delicious dinner that Phil wouldn't have liked. I obviously missed Phil but it was so nice to have a day to myself.

February obviously means Galentine's so as always, my friend Riven hosted a Galentine's party where we of course, had waffles, and did an exchange of presents. It's always so nice to celebrate every year!

Wedding stuff is obviously getting real now (as I write this we have 5 and a half weeks to go!) so this month we had our food tasting. It was so nice to get dressed up for a fancy date night at our venue and try some amazing food, although the wine tasting might have been ill-advised on a Monday night! 

I've also had my first dress-fitting and alterations meeting, with one more lot of alterations this month before we pick up my dress forever - eeek!

We've also had friends over for dinner this month and I realised that Ottolenghi is a genius and yes, you definitely should put feta and oregano on chips.

What I've read
After a bit of a disappointing January in terms of reading, where it felt like a quantity over quality, I decided I wanted to dive into some really meaty books in February. I often find if I read a book too quickly, especially if it's short, I miss that time to reflect in between reading and nothing stays with me at all. 

So I decided I wanted some books that were a bit longer that I could really get into. Here's what I read in February...

An American Marriage
A Prayer for Owen Meany
A Natural

An American Marriage was one of the those books I didn't want to get through quickly because I was enjoying it so much but I just couldn't put it down. I read this over a weekend and absolutely adored it.

Next I carried all 800 pages of A Prayer for Owen Meany around for nearly 2 weeks. I can't explain how brilliant this book was and how real the characters were. I know this will stay with me for a long time. I finished it at 6am in a hotel room on my own in London, crying.

I enjoyed A Natural and have since lent it to Phil but Crimson wasn't really for me, but Hydra left me absolutely completely gripped! It's the sequel to Six Stories which I read last year but this is even better. I was completely hooked and I love the podcast-style storytelling. I've got the third book of the series, Changeling, but I'm saving it!

What I've been watching
I feel like I didn't quite know what I was in for when I put Abducted in Plain Sight on while Phil was on his stag do, but so people were talking about it so my best friend and I decided to both watch it at the same time so we could discuss. Oh my god. I made Phil watch it as soon as he got home and have since convinced everyone I know to watch it so I can discuss it with them. I am all the memes.

In other films we keep telling people about, we've told lots of people not to watch Velvet Buzzsaw. We are massive Jake Gyllenhaal fans but this was just... not for us.

I also watched the Fyre Festival documentary on Netflix while recovering from my hen weekend.

And this week we've had an animation week, with me watching Big Hero 6 and Wall-E for the first time. I am now hoping for a plush Baymax for my Birthday. Hint.

What I've been enjoying
I decided this week to go back to daily yoga until at least the end of March. It's going to be a stressful few weeks and it was making me feel good mentally and physically, so I've switched out a couple of my midweek workouts for yoga, combined with parkrun (of course!) and my two Military Fitness sessions each week.

The house gets a bit quite while Phil is away, so I looked for a full-series podcast I could listen to while he was in Amsterdam and really enjoyed the Gladiator podcast. I've heard about the damage playing American Football can do to players' brains from an episode of Malcolm Gladwell's podcast but this goes way further. I definitely recommend it.

I've also been listening to The Happiness Advantage on audiobook from the library (side note - if you don't already know this, you can get audiobooks from your library! My library is on BorrowBox and while they don't have a huge selection, I've managed to get a few books I wanted and it's been a good test of whether I want an Audible subscription. I only listen to non-fiction on audio so I'm trying to determine if it's worth £8 a month with Audible, and this has been a great test!). This book is absolutely blowing my mind - I keep boring Phil and my colleagues with amazing facts from the tests they carried out on the power of psychology. I've also ordered the physical book so I can make notes.

I got myself two new recipe books this month which I am super excited about - The Essential Vegan Instant Pot, and Laura Goodman's Carbs. I've not made anything from either of them yet, but I've been reading Carbs constantly since it arrived and I'm so excited to cook from it!

What I've been reading online
Yes and Yes - 9 morning habits that are do-able and day-improving
Yes and Yes - When to start a new habit (and when to keep plugging at the old ones)
Man Repeller - The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies into Hustles
The Guardian - The Deadly Truth about a World made for Men - from Car Crashes to Stab Vests
The Guardian - Burned out? Why you should embrace the power of no
Ruth Writes - Marie Kondo-ing my Life
The Washington Post - Want to be happier? Stop scheduling your free time <--- this one has been huge for me!
The Times - Dolly Alderton tackles privilege and guilt
Yes and Yes - How to make an unpleasant situation suck less
Rebel Angel - Maternity Style and Body Confidence
Yes and Yes - Five ways to document travel without a scrapbook <----I am definitely doing some of these in Canada!
Yes and Yes - Everything you need to plan a roadtrip
The New York Times - Let Children be Bored Again

And now we're onto March which my Birthday and the last month before our wedding and I'm so excited!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 3 February 2019

January Life Lately

I admit, at the start of January I was deep in the "January hating". I was distracted and bored during my daily yoga, I wasn't enjoying the books I was reading, and getting up for work was a real struggle!

But after a week or so I really started to enjoy the month! February is super busy for us  - Phil is on his stag this weekend and my hen is next weekend, and there's dress fittings and food tasting and loads of other exciting stuff coming up - so it's been nice to have a pretty quiet month.

Also, how is our wedding THE MONTH AFTER NEXT?! What the actual heck!

Anyway, here's what I got up to in January...

What I did
Our family friends do amazing work looking after future guide dog puppies before they go on to be guide dogs, and last month we met their newest recruit, Alfie. He is heart-meltingly gorgeous, if a bit nibbly, and it was so fun meeting him!

Three weeks earlier than billed, our new sofa arrived! After an attempt trying to get the old sofa to fit in the front room, Phil and his brother eventually gave up after it got stuck wedged in the hall, and for a week and a half we lived with the old sofa stood up on its side in the kitchen. BUT the new sofa is here and it is gorgeous and amazing and soooooo comfy, and I've said at least twice now that having a footstool has changed my life.

I've said we're not allowed to spend any more money on the house now til after the wedding, but we did buy a nice fake plant from IKEA (I cannot be trusted around house plants, and plus Phil's Mum fell for it!) and finally framed my print of Stockport Library I've had nearly a year!

And of course, wedding stuff has ramped up this month! I had my hair and makeup trials a few weeks ago which was so much fun and totally surreal, and I went out with the girls after and avoided Phil seeing my face and hair all day! We've also finalised details with the florist, sorted out our centrepieces and ordered our wedding rings.

Oh and we booked our minimoon! Our "big" honeymoon (I've heard this called a "megamoon" which is excellent!) in Canada isn't until September, and we'd had a few ideas for our minimoon but we hadn't properly planned it. So we're going on the Monday after the wedding to the Cotswolds - we've got two nights at the Lygon Arms in Broadway which is a gorgeous spa hotel, and then 3 nights at an air bnb in Cheltenham. We don't have much specifically planned (except for Cheltenham parkrun, obviously!) and there's a really cool cinema we want to visit, so let me know if you have any Cotswolds recommendations!

What I read
January was a bit of a mixed bag for reading. The books I really enjoyed were really short and I wish they'd been longer, and the ones I didn't love were really long! It didn't feel like I read loads this month, but I think with being a quiet month I had quite a few nice nights in with my book!

Here's what I read this month:

A Head Full of Ghosts
The Idiot
What Belongs to You
My Sister the Serial Killer
Nine Perfect Strangers
Red Snow
Strange Weather in Toyko

And on audiobook I finished A False Report.

My favourites were Loyalties, Strange Weather in Toyko, Looker, and My Sister the Serial Killer. I wish all of these books had been three times as long!

What I watched

Two trips to the cinema this month - The Favourite, which I loved, and If Beale Street Could Talk,  which I didn't.

It's been a good month for films at home. We watched Four Weddings and a Funeral (a Christmas gift from Phil's parents), Strangers on a Train, Roma and my favourite film of the month, maybe even the year (I know, it's January), we finally watched Call Me By Your Name. I am obsessed. I'd put it off for ages cause I couldn't get into the book so I convinced myself I'd eventually go back to it, and I like to read the book before I watch the film, but in this instance the film might actually be better than the book. I've been listening to the soundtrack constantly.

What I bought
I was wandering around Sainsburys (okay, this is lame, especially as I live a 5 minute walk from Sainsburys, but going to big Sainsburys is a bit of a treat) and as I was loading my basket with the things I can't get in Aldi (tofu! Ginger puree! Cumin seeds! Heinz tomato soup!) I spotted the book Leon Fast Vegan and I didn't even hesitate before it was in my basket. I joked with Phil that there was no way it wasn't coming home with me. I have 4 of the Leon books now (Leon Happy Salads is my favourite) and Fast Vegan has been amazing so far - review coming soon!

My orange trainers have been through a lot. Usually I buy a new pair after each half marathon training cycle (about 300-400 miles) but I've actually run 3 half marathons in them now. The plan was to get fitted for new trainers as I've not had a gait analysis since 2014 - I just buy the same trainers I was prescribed then every time! But I realised that this isn't going to be a big running year - my usual annual half marathons are May and October (both too close to the wedding and to our honeymoon!) so it didn't make sense to spend a load of money on new trainers. I was also torn over whether to get trail shoes or road shoes, as I've been finding myself needing trail shoes for BMF and for parkrun, but I also want to be able to run on pavement. So, long story short, I ended up getting two new pairs of trainers for less than the price of one pair thanks to M&M! So now I have my favourite New Balance fresh foam road shoes, and trail running shoes too!

What I enjoyed
Like last year, I spent all of January with Adriene, and did 30 (well 32) days of yoga. It took me a week or so to get into, but like last year, I forgot how good it makes me feel and I was enjoying it so much by the end. And I'm hoping, unlike last year, I can find a way to keep it up!

Last year, Phil did a whole year of One Second Every Day and I absolutely loved watching his monthly videos. So this year I've been doing it too! You can see my January video on my Instagram.

I've also had a new podcast obsession this month - The Dream podcast. Last year Phil and I watched a documentary about Herbalife (it's called Betting on Zero) and I'm fascinated by the world of MLMs. This podcast is absolutely fascinating if you're interested in that world - and it's completely wild.

What I read online
The Pool - Your life goals should change as regularly as you do
Cracked - 6 hard truths that will make you a better person (this is really old but I reread it every year or so for a kick up the bum!)
The Pool - What I'm doing differently this year - not a lot
The Guardian - My name is Jack Monroe and I am an alcoholic
The Pool - I'm not a vegan but what's wrong with more choice?
Vox - I used all the best stuff for a week and it nearly broke me
Refinery 29 - Everything I learned from renovating my first flat
Little Winter - The best things in life are free (kinda)
Yes and yes - The glorious freedom of "good enough" and how to find it
Story of a girl - 5 things I want to be better at in my fourth decade
Slate - The troubling thing about the "fit mom" Instagram
Writing between pauses - What I learned from my December slump
The Atlantic - Millennial burnout is being televised
The New Enquiry - You're right, I didn't eat that
A Rosie Outlook - Overcoming food shaming
Writing between pauses - Help! My foundation looks terrible
Foodism - The true foods of love are pasta and potatoes

Hope you're having a great February so far and you're keeping warm!


Sunday, 6 January 2019

December Life Lately

It always feels a bit strange looking back on last year when it's already 2019, but while I covered some of December in my 2018 Best Bits post, there's plenty I didn't talk about.

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

What I've been doing

I started the month with a lovely day with my bridesmaids picking their dress! With 6 bridesmaids I'd bee panicking for months about being able to find a dress they all liked, and I spent a LOT of money on the credit card ordering four dresses in five different sizes. But in the end, after a few definitely "nos", we found a dress that everyone liked and I'm so happy and relieved. I might write a blog post on how we did it because I know I would have found that helpful to read! After we picked the dress we all went for a drink and out for pizza and it was just the best day with my favourite ladies - I can't wait to have them all there on my big day!

We booked a few days of annual leave off before the Christmas break and it was so nice to have some time to do all the things we never get time to do! We went on a lovely walk we'd been talking about doing for ages, fit in some extra fitness classes, and ended up buying a load of new furniture for our living room! 

We found a dining table in John Lewis which was exactly what we were looking for, and then in the time between Christmas and New Year we got new dining chairs and then we finally ordered a new sofa! 

And obviously, there was Christmas! I had such a good one this year, with Hamilton-themed presents from Phil, Parks-and-Rec-themed presents from Phil's brother, things for the house, a new handbag and lots of other lovely things! 

Boxing Day was also one year since we got engaged so we celebrated at the same Indian restaurant we went to last year.

Where I've been

A few months ago, someone posted on Twitter about going to see a musical about Henry the 8th's six wives set to pop music. Erm, hello, my wheelhouse! So of course when I found out it was coming to the Lowry, I had to see Six: The Musical. It was the most fun I've had at the theatre in ages and I only wish it had been longer. I've been listening to the soundtrack constantly on Spotify and my cousin and I are already planning to get tickets for next year.

Also on Twitter I'd been hearing for years how good Dishoom in London is and Indian Street Food is kind of my favourite thing ever so I was absolutely buzzing when I found out they were opening one in Manchester. Riven and I managed to get in last week and honestly it was one of the best meals I've ever had in Manchester. I haven't stopped thinking about that bowl of greens and I can't wait to go back.

What I've been watching

Five cinema trips this month! Starting with a secret unlimited screening which ended up being Green Book. We knew absolutely nothing about it so it was a really nice surprise and we loved it.

We've also been to see Creed II, Mary Poppins Returns, another unlimited screening of Stan & Ollie, and one of our favourite films of the year, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.

I watched Dumplin' one night Phil was out and I was crying in the first 5 minutes.

We watched a lot of our Christmas classics - Gremlins, Die Hard, Elf and The Holiday, and also watched The Christmas Chronicles which is my new favourite, and Black Christmas.

What I've been reading

Nine books in December, finishing the year on 95 books. Plus I listened to my first audiobook! Lots of people had been talking about Bad Blood on audiobook and I really like non-fiction on audio so this was perfect. I didn't want to commit to Audible so I got the Kindle book with whispersync and I really loved it. It was such a fascinating story and so good on audio - like a really long podcast!

Other books in December:
Give me your hand
Revolting Prostitutes
Six Stories
The End of Everything
The Black Land
Ghost Wall

Revolting Prostitutes was so interesting and I confess, I didn't know anything about the topic before I read it. It's a really good introduction into understanding sex workers' rights and understanding their needs from a feminist perspective. It makes some complicated theories really accessible.

I also loved Bitter, Less, Women and Six Stories - I've got the next two books in that series ready to read on my Kindle.

What I've written
2018 best bits
2018 favourites - Books

What I've been reading online

Bon Appetit - How wellness influencers made Indian food a trend
Peach Trees and Bumblebees - Post partum
Metro - Podcast of the week: What page are you on?
The Pool - I used to ignore my bullies - now I know what's at stake
The Pool - The pensions at my gym are my fitspo
A Rosie Outlook - An ode to 2018
The Pool - I didn't ask to be followed around the internet by a pregnancy that ended too soon
New Statesman - I rewatched The Holiday and I have questions
Stylist - How to go home for Christmas without turning into an angry teen
The Pool - May contain anxiety: My nut allergy and me
The Pool - Finally, harmful stereotypes are being banned from adverts
The Pool - Tis the season for women to do all the emotional labour
Blisters and Biscuits - 20 running goals for 2019 that have nothing to do with actual running
Refinery 29 - In defence of being unproductive
New Statesman - The guilty pleasure of watching strangers' lives on social media
I news - How the pause became the biggest thing on reality TV
Jocelyn K Glei - Why you need white space in your daily routine
Yes and Yes - How to create a "new things" practice
Yes and Yes - Make yourself 25% more uncomfortable
Yes and Yes - Networking for introverts

Hope your 2019 is going really well so far!

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

2018 Favourites - Books

At the start of 2018 I really enjoyed doing a post on my favourite things in 2017 - from films to podcasts and of course, books.

I wanted to do the same thing for 2018, but with 95 books read over the year I thought books might require their own post!

2018 was definitely a year of reading.

I set my goodreads goal for 2018 at 40 books, after reading 43 in 2017, 13 over my 2017 goal of 30 books. I had absolutely no idea I'd hit my reading goal for the year in July, or that I'd have hit double that goal by October.

(And no, I'm not disappointed I didn't hit 100, because honestly I didn't think I'd read 50 books this year, let alone 95!)

Reading definitely became a hobby in 2018. I read in the morning, on the way to work, on my lunch break, on my way home from work, and in the evenings. I read waiting for the bus or waiting in queues. 

I read every single day of 2018.

Some days I read a page, some days I read a whole book. But I made it a challenge to read at least something of a book every day.

And the biggest help was my constant stream of reading material - thanks to reading podcasts, book twitter, reading blogs and goodreads. I read voraciously as I was always constantly excited by what else was out there to read. In the past I'd found my reading drop when I've been stuck for what to read next - right now I have 56 unread books on my Kindle, 71 books on my library saved list and 134 books on my Amazon wishlist, not even including the dozens of unread books on my shelves!

I love being excited about reading again. The sadness of finishing a book I loved is reduced by knowing there's always something else brilliant waiting for me!

And I have put books down this year. Any time I find myself scrolling through Twitter instead of reading I know I'm not enjoying my current book, and I've been better this year at not forcing myself to read things I'm not enjoying, or reading books I feel I "should" read.

I've definitely used my library card this year - 44 (nearly half!) of my books read this year were from the library. It saves me a fortune!

And while I have bought a lot of books on Kindle, I've been much better at buying most of my physical books this year either second hand or from bookshops, as was one of my goals for 2018.

I'm naturally asked how I find the time to read as much as I do, and the reality is as I said before, I squeeze time in when I can, but I've also done it instead of many other things this year. I didn't carry on with much yoga after my first 32 days of the year, I didn't start learning Spanish again - but I don't regret the time I've spent reading! Like anything else, I've read lots by making reading a priority.

So, what did I love that I read in 2018?

My original "favourites" list of the year contained 29 books. Not much of a shortlist! So I've managed to cut it down to my 15 favourites.

These are in no particular order, but I do have a favourite book of the year...

  • Everything I know about Love - Dolly Alderton
  • The Guilty Feminist - Deborah Frances-White
  • Beartown - Fredrick Backman
  • Normal People - Sally Rooney
  • This Must be the Place - Maggie O Farrell
  • The Nix - Nathan Hill
  • Educated - Tara Westover
  • Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng
  • Based on a True Story - Delphone de Vigan
  • Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng
  • I'll be Gone in the Dark - Michelle McNamara
  • Three Things about Elsie - Joanna Cannon
  • The Silent Companions - Laura Purcell
  • Lullaby - Leila Slimani
  • I am, I am, I am  - Maggie O Farrell
I'm surprised how many of my favourite books this year were non-fiction - 5 of my top 15, including my book of the year, Everything I know about Love.

I have read some absolutely incredible books this year and I am so excited for what my 2019 in reading will bring!

Charlotte x

PS. You can see my full year in books on my goodreads