Saturday, 2 May 2020

April Life Lately

Erm so, April was a weird month right? I guess my "where I've been" section is going to be pretty short this month, but I can tell you now for free my reading and watching sections are enormous!

I'm trying not to be too sad about what I should have been doing, but like March, April was tough. Phil bought me tickets to see Hamilton again for Christmas and we were meant to be going on the 18th April. We'd planned a weekend in London, a trip to the Treasures Tour at the British Library, and we were going to do our "parkrun pilgrimage" to Bushy park.

And then at the end of the month, we were meant to be flying to Barcelona for the weekend - my 30th Birthday present from my parents and a trip I'd been looking forward to ever since they told me about it back in August. But you'll see in this post, we made the most of the weekend anyway.

I blogged a lot more than usual in April, so there might not be a lot of surprises in this post if you've been keeping up with my "Things bringing me joy" posts, but I love writing my monthly round up posts and at the moment I think I definitely need a reminder of the nice things that have been going on.

So here's my one second every day of April, and here's the few things I go up to!

What I did

I've been keeping busy during lockdown, and one of the best things I've discovered is free courses on Coursera! So far I've completed An Introduction to Neuromarketing and Consumer Neuroscience, A Practical Guide to Managing People at Work and, my favourite Social Psychology. I've just started a Content Marketing course, and next on my list is De-Mystifying Mindfulness.

Like everyone else too we've been doing lots of quizzes! We've been doing a quiz every Sunday with my parents, Phil's parents and his siblings which has been so much fun. My favourite round we did so far was "Guess the lookalike" thanks to "best in the business" Lookalikes.co.uk which I highly recommend. We've also enjoyed the Evolution of Horror film quiz and the Cineworld quiz.

We've also been part of a film club with some of Phil's friends from uni. We take it in turns to choose a film, which has to be one you haven't seen, and one ideally that 75% of the group haven't seen, then we all watch it and discuss on a Monday night. It's great fun!

We managed to get to B&Q before lockdown so we finally managed to repaint the kitchen. I won't go into loads of boring detail but we had issues with damp which was causing the paint to flake, but we had the pointing done in early March and we were just waiting for some dry weather to get it done. It looks so much better!

13th April marked our first wedding anniversary, and even though we couldn't have quite the day we had planned, we ate defrosted wedding cake (still good!), watched our wedding video, went through our album and guestbook and finished our honeymoon scrapbook. We spent the evening with a takeaway and a bottle of champagne, and we got each other some really lovely prints as our "paper" presents. (I blogged more about it here)

As you can imagine I'm missing parkrun so so so so much right now. We've created our own "parkrun" at a park around the corner, and every week we've been going at 9am, setting off at the same time and running our 5K course at our own pace, meeting up at the end and comparing our times to previous weeks - just like real parkrun! I've enjoyed being part of the parkrun tourism Facebook community during this parkrun-less time, so I jumped at the idea of "parkrun spelling" when someone suggested it in the group. The task is simple - spell p-a-r-k-r-u-n using road names you run past, bonus if the letters are in order. So once I'd found a U-named street I was off. This was so much fun, I did the letters in order and it took about 5 miles. I've already wondering what I can spell next!

One of my favourite things I've been doing throughout the month is cross-stitching! Phil's sister Suzie bought me a cross-stitch kit probably about two Birthdays ago but I'd always felt too intimidated to give it a go. Turns out that the instructions make it so easy, so after a few initial mishaps, I was hooked. I'd been picking it up and putting it down quite a bit before lockdown (I usually stopped when it got too hard!) but I've gotten really into it lately, ideally with a podcast on in the background, and this week I finally finished it! I've already started my next bookmark (Prose Before Bros).

Like everyone else I've also been cooking lots this month, my proudest creation being my sourdough loaf which I blogged about here. Now I just need the motivation to get my starter out of the fridge and make another loaf...

More about what I've been cooking in this post!

Finally, last weekend we should have been flying to Barcelona, my 30th Birthday present from my parents. So seeing as we couldn't go to Spain, we brought Spain to us! We were fortunate to have lovely weather over Friday and Saturday, so we went for a nice walk, and I made a Spanish feast for tea which we ate in the garden. 
We had patatas bravas, cheese, homemade bread, Spanish Omelette, salad, olives and homemade Sangria. We had a super chilled weekend, and I made Ottolenghi's paella on Sunday too with the rest of the sangria.


Phil still had a few days booked off so on Monday we went for an amazing walk along Middlewood Way which was absolutely beautiful - we're so lucky to have such a lovely trail within walking distance of us, and then Tuesday was grey and miserable so we spent the day inside and watching four films! Not quite Barcelona, but still a lovely weekend.

What I read

Yeah so, I read a lot this month. Have I read more books than any other month this month? I mean, not really worth it but silver lining and all that (however it is getting veryyyyyy expensive without being able to use the library! Normally a good 50% of the books I read are from the library).

I read 16 books in total this month so I've split them into the different types - 6 short story collections, 9 novels and one non-fiction audiobook.

Short stories

Hot Little Hands
Tenth of December
Exercises in Control
Things We Lost in the Fire
Mothers
This Way to Departures

At the start of the lockdown period I wrote about my struggle to focus on books and how short story collections were getting me through. I am really grateful for the wonderful short story collections I already owned or bought during this period because they really were a godsend when I couldn't concentrate for more than 20 minutes at a time.

I ended up buying a huge selection of short stories around the time I was struggling to read anything else, and then of course, got obsessed with novels again, so I've got plenty more short story collections on my shelf now which I'm looking forward to reading.

My favourite short story collections this month were Exercises in Control and Things We Lost in the Fire, which I would also say made a lovely pair and complemented each other well when I read them in quick succession.

Novels and Memoirs

How to Murder your Life
The Discomfort of the Evening
Red at the Bone
Silver Sparrow
All This Could be Yours
Expectation
Ask Again, Yes
The Grace Year
The Godmother

I wrote in this post that Cat Marnell's How to Murder Your Life was my gateway back into reading longer books and I absolutely loved it. It's a shocking and juicy and harrowing and page-turning read which I absolutely loved. It was perfect to get me out of my reading slump because I could not put it down.

I also loved Red at the Bone, Silver Sparrow and Ask Again Yes this month, but honestly, it's been a solid month of absolute bangers to be honest.

Audiobooks

Finally, one audiobook, Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper which I absolutely loved. I'd read an article about Megan and her departures from the Westboro Baptist Church way back in about 2016 and as soon as I heard about her book (which I think I heard about from The High Low podcast) I knew I had to get it with my Audible credit. Megan's story is fascinating and her writing is beautiful - I highly recommend this in audio format but I'm sure the physical book is just as great.

What I watched

I think I've genuinely watched more TV and films this month than I have in my entire life.

TV

It took us 4 months to watch two seasons of The Americans. In this month alone we've watched two and a half. This month we finished season 3, and devoured seasons 4 and 5, and we've just started season 6 which we are rationing to make it last as long as possible. It's so brilliant and I'm going to be so sad when it's over. 

In between The Americans, we also watched Fleabag season 2 and were thrilled to find my childhood favourite, The Vicar of Dibley in its entirety on Netflix.

Documentaries

We've found ourselves watching loads of documentaries this month! Maradona was the first film chosen for our film club, so we followed it up with Hoop Dreams, a documentary we've wanted to watch for years which was available on Curzon Cinema at Home and definitely lived up to the hype.

Football-starved, we also watched Dare to Dream: England in the 2018 World Cup which Phil bought me for my Birthday last year, and as part of Four Film Tuesday this week, we watched Apollo 11 which we missed at the cinema but which is now on Netflix.

Films 

So many films this month!

We missed Portrait of a Lady on Fire when it was at the cinema but managed to get it thanks to Curzon Cinema at Home and I'm so glad we did because it was absolutely magnificent. It's so beautiful and wonderful, I urge you to spend a tenner to watch it.

My film club pick was Ingrid Goes West which we really enjoyed and led to a good debate, and we also enjoyed The Guilty this week as part of film club - a Danish film about a disgraced police officer forced to work the emergency call department who receives a call about a woman's kidnapping. It's only 90 minutes long and well worth a watch.

"Four Film Tuesday" also included a family favourite, Uncle Buck, as well as our first watch of Punch Drunk Love and a rewatch of Batman Begins.

We've had quite a John Candy month as we also watched Cool Runnings, and this month we also rewatched of one of my absolute favourite films, Game Night.

What I've been enjoying

I have a bit of a system when it comes to what I listen to, and I have different stories for different needs. For cooking, cleaning, getting ready etc. I like an audiobook. I like weekly recurring podcasts for driving to work (not essential right now obviously!), and I like an on-going story series podcast for running. Last month it was The Missing Cyptoqueen and Escaping Nxivm, and this month it's been Death in Ice Valley and Uncover: Bomb on Board, both of which have kept me hooked!

Does anyone else keep buying stuff just so that they have the post to look forward to? Yeah me too. This month it was more cross stitch kits from the wonderful Plastic Little Covers and bamboo socks, because they really are the softest and most comfiest socks in the world and who doesn't want cosy feet?!

I've also been enjoying some great recipe books this month which I can't wait to tell you more about! I've spent the last few weeks cooking through Lukas Volger's Start Simple and my review will be up in the next few days, and then of course, The Roasting Tin Around the World!


I have been so so so excited for this book and it definitely lives up to its expectations. I had a sneak peek last week so I've already cooked one recipe so far but I have a list of 30 still to make! I am also loving all the content around Roasting Tin Appreciation Day on Twitter and I'm spending all my time stalking the #tinlads hashtag to see what everyone else's favourite roasting tin recipes are (I blogged about my top 10 favourite recipes here!).

Finally, after finishing my social psychology course earlier in the week I've been absolutely bingeing TED talks! Quite a lot were required or recommended reading in my course and then I just fell completely down the rabbit hole. Here are some of the ones I've enjoyed this week:
Andy Puddicombe - All it takes is 10 mindful minutes
Lori Gottleib - How changing your story can change your life
Laura Vanderkam - How to gain control of your free time
Nic Marks - The Happy Planet Index
Barry Schwartz - The Paradox of choice

What I read online

Soooo many this month that I feel like I need to group them!

Food
Health and Well-being (especially in the time of coronavirus)



Misc
It's been a while since I last had this section! One of the joys of lockdown for me has been discovering and rediscovering hobbies, so I've loved getting my blogging mojo back this month and I've written a lot more frequently than usual which has been nice. I'm hoping to continue on with this into May and beyond.

Here's what I wrote this month:


Wow for a month where not much happened that's a lot to write about!
Hope you are doing okay.

Charlotte x

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