Friday, 31 July 2015

Be Active in August

Those of you who have been listening to me warble on for a while may remember that back in December I set myself a 25 Days of Fitness challenge. The crux of the challenge was, as I'm sure you can imagine, to work out for the 25 days running up to and including Christmas day. I nailed it, as you can see here.

This year has brought a number of huge changes to my lifestyle. The most difficult being a change from regular 9-5 work to shift work. I thought shifts would be good for me in terms of shaking up my very rigid routines, but it's not quite worked out as I hoped. So before it had a severe impact on my lifestyle and well being I started the job hunt again and at the end of August I'll be starting a new role with regular hours (excitement levels are through the roof, guys). As preparation for this change and to get me in the frame of mind to set new, healthy routines, I'm going to be rejuvenating the 25 Days of Fitness challenge for August.

Starting on Saturday 1st and ending on Monday 31st August I'll be aiming to be active every day. Whether that's a run, a gym session, yoga, a long walk or something different - maybe I'll go climbing again or try something entirely new.

This isn't a weight loss thing - though I can't deny that would be welcome - it's more about finding that activity sweet spot and working out what level, frequency and intensity of activity I need to keep me feeling good.

I know so well what a positive impact being active has on my well being, but I so often chose to ignore it. If I'm not ignoring it, I'm guilty of prioritising other things which I think make me feel good, but which in reality are only short term boosts. It's about time to put a stop to that habit and I this is the perfect time to do it - it's summer, there's change coming, and I've got things to look forward to socially and personally. Let's see, shall we?!

As before I'll be sharing my progress on twitter and instagram so fellow alliteration lovers can follow my progress via #activeaugust. If you're active in August be sure to tag me or use the hashtag!


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

5 Ways to Kickstart your Positive Mindset

1// Smile In his TED talk, Ron Gutman tells us that smiling can make us live longer, look better, and feel better. I don't know about you, but I can definitely see the truth in that because whenever I smile it instantly makes me feel more positive. It's also a great way to share the positivity - you may end up brightening someone's day just by giving them a smile on the tube, on the street or even in a lift. Go on try it, I dare you.

2// Find your enthusiasm having a hobby or pastime that you feel enthusiastic about can be a great way of finding some positivity, even if it's only in one small aspect of your life. Once you've grasped it, it can be the easiest thing to roll out to all the corners of your life. As you may have guessed, reading is my main enthusiasm. Whether I'm reading a book or reading about books, watching booktube videos or listening to a bookish podcast, I know that my enthusiasm for books will always let me find the positive in my day.

3// Take a minute to switch your thinking when I find myself stuck in cycle of negative thoughts, I try to really slow it down and put a different spin on them. It's the hardest thing to do, but it can make such a difference. From the everyday things to those more underlying deep seated thoughts, there is always a way you can flip the thought from negative to positive. Take my daily commute as an example. Whenever I hear that there's a delay on my tube line my initial reaction is one of annoyance and is generally accompanied by a heavy sigh. If I think about it in a different way however, it occurs to me that a five minute delay, when I'm already on the tube and I have a seat, purely means another five minutes of reading. Bonus!

Not all thoughts are as easy to transform as that, but start small and you'll soon see little changes and be able to work towards bigger goals.

4// Say something nice giving a compliment to a friend, family member, or even a complete stranger feels good. You will undoubtedly brighten someone's day and spread a little good cheer.

5// Write a list, any list I write my weekly 'Things That Made Me Happy' list because it means that I pay better attention to the good, regardless of how inconsequential it felt at the time, rather than letting one bad thing cast a shadow over the entire week. Once I've thought of one thing, the rest just seem to come tumbling out and even the process of writing it down can make me feel better. Whether you join in on a Sunday with my link-up or have a notebook ready and waiting to hold multiple lists, just get started. Think about what reasons you have to smile, things you're looking forward to, your favourite books or movies, things you want to do this summer, or a list of your fail-safe happy things (you know, those things that always make you happy, no matter what).

I know I said I've got five ways to kickstart your positivity, but I actually have a bonus one for you.

6// Be you wear what makes you feel good, do what makes you feel alive, be friends with people who make you the best you can be. Live on your terms and search out your own way forward. As long as you continue to 'be you', those good feelings (warm fuzzies, as I call them) will all come from within.

Let me know how you kickstart or maintain a positive mindset!

twitter | facebook | pinterest | instagram

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #28

1// This quote from Wilkie:

"I can tell you why, Mr. Armadale," said the major's daughter, with great gravity. 'There are some unfortunate people in this world whose names are — how can I express it? — whose names are misfits. Mine is a misfit. I don't blame my parents, for of course it was impossible to know when I was a baby how I should grow up. But as things are, I and my name don't fit each other. When you hear a young lady called Eleanor, you think of a tall, beautiful, interesting creature directly — the very opposite of me! With my personal appearance, Eleanor sounds ridiculous; and Neelie, as you yourself remarked, is just the thing. No! no! don't say any more; I'm tired of the subject. I've got another name in my head, if we must speak of names, which is much better worth talking about than mine."

Oh, Wilkie, why do you injure me so? I'm in the same boat as Miss Milroy - my name is a misfit as I'm actually rather short.

2// Massive job news a week or so ago I applied for a job that came up within a charity I've always wanted to work for. Much to my surprise, excitement and disbelief, I was interviewed and offered the job. I spent a good hour shaking with joy after being given the news!

3// 1984 On Thursday I had a craving for theatre. After a quick look online I found some reasonably priced tickets for 1984 at the Playhouse Theatre and snapped them right up. It was such a brilliant show and one I'm still thinking about.

4// Extended visits from M More days with M always make me smile.

5// Flyleaf I've been listening to this band a lot this week. They have the sort of music which suits any mood.

What has made you happy this week? Share your link below and use #sharethehappy on twitter and instagram!


Friday, 24 July 2015

Reading Wilkie: Armadale

I mentioned in my June in Books post a couple of weeks ago that I turned to Wilkie in my hour of need after a mini panic attack on the plane home from Verona. The book was Armadale, the only one of his four main novels that I had yet to read (the others being The Woman in White, No Name and The Moonstone).

I'm just going to start by saying that Armadale is not my favourite Wilkie. In fact it's probably correct to say that it is my least favourite, but the reading experience was just as exciting and engaging as ever. There is something about Wilkie's narration that draws you in and takes you along for the ride, even when the story itself or the characters fall flat for you somehow.

I found the characters to be much more two-dimensional than is typical. I never quite got a real sense of them; sure, I knew their idiosyncrasies and I could tell who was speaking without their name being attached, but they don't quite make it off the page like the Marian's and Fosco's and Betteredge's do.

Lydia Gwilt was by far the most engaging character. I'm actually still thinking about her situation a few days on and the moral conundrums are definitely still taxing my mind. Overall though, my feelings for her are very much undecided. Initially I thought she was wonderfully conniving and cunning - the very best of Wilkie's antagonists - but as the story continued and the narrative shifted to her diary my opinion began to change. It becomes clear very quickly that she is a product of her circumstances and very much a victim of patriarchal society. I actually wanted to give her a hug.

Wilkie does write the situation very well. As Lydia's world became more claustrophobic and the chances of success became less and less likely, those feelings spread beyond the page until I wanted to reach in and pull her out.

Ultimately Armadale was a couple of hundred pages too long, the characters (excepting Lydia) felt flat and samey, and the denouement didn't quite have the explosive effect I was looking for.

But, having said all that...

Reading Armadale was a treat. A calming, welcome, exciting treat.

I  have come to realise that reading Wilkie is not just something I enjoy, it's also something that is good for me. It's absorbing enough to be a distraction, has social commentary enough to make me think, has characters to entertain, and is dark yet positive enough to test me without flicking the mood switch in my brain to low.

Whether it's a short story, a novella, or novel, the effect is inevitably the same and inevitably leaves me with a smile on my face. Thanks Wilkie, for being exactly the writer you are.

Do you have an author that you can rely on to keep your mood balanced?

twitter | facebook | pinterest | instagram

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #27

1// Persephone books Yesterday we popped into the Persephone Bookshop for a quick look as we happened to be in the area (I promise we only 'happened' to be there *looks shifty*). I treated myself to Wilfred and Eileen by Jonathan Smith which I've had my eye on since it came out. This novel is centres around the First World War and is based on the lives of Smith's grandparents. Persephone's selection of war novels is top notch and I'm sure this will be worthy of a space in the WW1 collection.

2// Chilling with Virginia and others Yesterday M and finally got around to doing something I've wanted to do for months - searching for blue plaques. I plotted us a route around Bloomsbury and west London and we set off walking. It was the perfect way to spend a sunny Saturday.

3// Meeting new people Friday saw M and I heading out to Loughton to spend the evening with some of his friends. It freaks me out meeting new people and I certainly had one too many for dutch courage, but it turned out to be a really brilliant night. Shame about the hangover yesterday!

4// Homemade chilli cheese fries I don't think I need to say anything about this point, except YUM.

5// Wedding planning with the bestie Today my best friend is here to do some wedding planning (her wedding, not mine!). It's been ages since we last saw each other so it's very exciting to have her here and to be talking about weddings.

What has made you happy this week? Share your link below and use #sharethehappy on twitter and instagram!


Friday, 17 July 2015

Thoughts on Staying in London

When I moved to London two years ago it was never with the intention to stay permanently. I moved here to experience life in the city and to make the most of my twenties whilst I still have no particular ties. Over the last few weeks I've seen a number of articles where the writer talks about giving up on the capital and leaving. Reading those articles has made me think about my own position in London - do I still love it the same way I did in the first six months or has my relationship with the city changed?

I won't say it is always easy to live here. The hardest thing is the expense. Rent, bills, travel card, drinks, food, things... I suffer from buyer's guilt quite seriously, but mostly because buying that handbag, pair of shoes or necklace will mean one less theatre trip that month. In this sense I actually have to thank London for curbing my love of shopping. I used to really enjoy a day spent in town buying useless things and spending money unnecessarily, but London has cured me of that. Granted, it wasn't a cure I'd asked for, nevertheless I have since realised it was a cure I needed. Aside from books (come on, I'm never not going to buy books), London has encouraged a more minimalist lifestyle. Even when it comes to books I lean so heavily on second hand purchases and London makes that very easy with the delights of Charing Cross Road and the South Bank Book Market.

Over the last two years I've become quite the expert of searching out bargains and ways to save. I moved here for the museums, theatres and music venues and having very little spare cash doesn't mean I don't (or can't) make the most of what's on offer. Lots of the big theatres and arts venues (the Old Vic, Barbican, National Theatre to name a few) have memberships for under 25's or 26's which mean much cheaper tickets. Saving money there allows me to buy tickets for the slightly smaller theatres (the Southwark Playhouse is a favourite) at full price without worrying about the expense. I also have a National Art Card which entitles me to free, half-price or reduced entry to a huge number of museums and exhibitions for a yearly fee (again, there's one for under 26's). Plus, I'm giving to a good cause at the same time so, you know, it's all good.

Even after the expense, London is anonymous city; it's fast and it can be harsh and unforgiving. Everyone is in a rush and on those days when a smile from a stranger would be most welcome, the likelihood is that you won't get one. Having said that, Londoners can be kind on occasion. More than once I've headed for the last empty seat on the tube at the same time as someone else and they've let me take it. Yes, you may get pushed and shoved and knocked out of the way, but sometimes someone will be different and, in a city like this, the someone sometime can be all you need.

London forever surprises me. No matter how I make my way around the city - foot, bus or tube - it's not unusual to see something new every time I go out. Just the other day when I walked to work, along a route I drive each time I leave London, I came across a statue of Rossetti which I'd not before noticed as a driver or passenger. I also noticed a number of the blue plaques (which I love to spot). Whenever I see something like that I always think to myself  'well, you don't get that in Taunton'. For me, that sums up exactly why I live here and why I'll continue to live here until I'm dragged out kicking and screaming (or, you know, decide to start a family or some such).

There are a number of pros and cons to living here, as you can see. Neither of which outweigh the other in my opinion, at least not yet. I know London is changing and some would say it's becoming a place unwelcoming to Londoners. I'm determined to stick it out until I can longer afford to, or I can no longer bear the anonymity of the city.

It may be expensive and it may drive me up the wall sometimes, but London still has my heart and will no doubt hold it for quite some time. My relationship with this sprawling metropolis has had its ups and downs, but ultimately I love this city for its history, for its energy and for its beauty, so I won't be going anywhere just yet.

Put it this way - London is not without its flaws, but for the moment I'll be embracing them.


Sunday, 12 July 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #26

1// Fresh air thanks to the tube strike this week I had to make my way to work via an alternative route. My commute is generally an hour each way and I was given the opportunity to take the day as annual leave, but I'll be damned if I waste my leave on tube drivers. Instead I made the decision to walk in to work and run home. I left my house at 6am on Thursday and made it to work for exactly 8am. Not bad going! As much as it sucked because it was early and a long way, it was also the perfect time to experience the best of what London has to offer. That, and plenty of fresh air.

2// Wandering on Saturday, after a delicious brunch, M and I ended up wandering around London and winding our way home. I adore walking in London, but walking in London with no destination is even better.

3// Old school periodicals I've always had a thing for magazines and periodicals, having studied several throughout my time at uni, so when I stumbled on copies of Horizon edited by Cyril Connelly on Charing Cross road I was thrilled. 

4// Running 10k the second part of my epic journey on Thursday was the 10km run home. It hurt and it proved that I need to train more, but it sure felt good when I arrived home. 

5// Family we're having a family get together today and I just know it's going to make me happy.

What has made you happy this week? Share your link below and use #sharethehappy on twitter and instagram!


Wednesday, 8 July 2015

10 Things I Learnt About Myself in Europe

1. I will always find a bookstore. I'm like one of those pigs searching for truffles - if there's one to be found, I'll find it.

2. Ditto cider

3. I will always pack too much and usually too much of the wrong thing

4. I think I'm a good navigator, but actually I'm really not (walking for an hour in the wrong direction does not make you good with a map)

5. Getting lost doesn't worry me as much as I think it does

6. But going into restaurants and cafes worries me more than I thought

7. There are times when it's best to do what scares me and there are others when it is just best to walk away

8. Missed opportunities feel worse than a moment of fear

9. I'm much less high maintenance than I thought

10. Eating local food is always best, even if it isn't what I would usually consider eating (e.g. lots of meat and carbs)


Sunday, 5 July 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #25

1// Early morning birthday run I don't usually make a big deal of my birthday, but one thing I will always do is go for a run - it is one of my favourite hobbies, after all. This year I had to get up at 5.30am on the hottest day of the year to fit it in and I was rewarded with the most beautiful sight as I walked out of my front door (see above!).

2// Sitting at my desk You may remember me talking about my new desk with M bought me for my birthday. This week I've finally had the chance to give it a whirl and it's safe to say that I love it. It makes such a difference being able to sit up and do things, rather than recline on my bed.

3// Wilkie This fella is often featured in my happy lists and for good reason. This week I've been reading Armadale and, though I'm making slow progress due to a lack of reading time, I'm loving it. Miss Gwilt has just been introduced and I just know she will be a wonderfully devilish antagonist.

4// Criminal Minds marathons My sister bought me (and her, really) the latest Criminal Minds box set on DVD this week and we sat down last night after the gym and watched a couple with a lovely dinner and a glass of wine. Now we are both doing shifts we're often like ships in the night so it was good to have a chilled out evening together.

5// Friends and family I've had a couple of wobbly moments this week, but thankfully my friends and family have been there to keep me on the straight and narrow. They make me smile every day.

What has made you happy this week? Share your link below and use #sharethehappy on twitter and instagram!


Saturday, 4 July 2015

June in Books

Books finished:
The Lost Art of Sinking by Naomi Booth
Rough Riders by Peter Doyle
The Unseen by Katherine Webb
City of Women by David Gillham
Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig
Girl at War by Sara Novic
The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller
Miss Garnet's Angel by Salley Vickers
The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins

In progress:
Armadale by Wilkie Collins
Italian Neighbours by Tim Parks

June was a very good month for reading and I have my travels to thank for that (and the post-War and Peace euphoria). I adored pairing books with the countries I visited. If anything, it made my experience in those places even better and it felt like I was truly soaking up the atmosphere in each city. Reading Girl at War in Zagreb was particularly powerful because I think the repercussions of that war are still evident in the city in certain areas, and reading history whilst being there in the present was a little spine-tingling.

It was similar with Miss Garnet's Angel. I've visited Venice a couple of times previously - once with my family and once when my bestie and I travelled around Italy - so it is fairly familiar to me. Reading about places, sights and most of all churches, that I remember was one thing, but then revisiting these places with the lovely Julia Garnet in my head was something else entirely. It made reading the book quite an immersive experience and it felt like I was walking the same streets Julia walked (albeit metaphorically speaking).

Unusually for me I actually think I retained a lot more information from the books, particularly with the more contemporary novels. I have an awful memory and I don't often hold on to facts, anecdotes or little nuggets of information so this was all new to me and pretty great. I'm sure I drove my sister crazy by parroting on about the war in Croatia and Italian churches! It's hard to explain why reading in this way was so different, but I would certainly recommend pairing books and cities if you travel.

After narrowly avoiding a horrible panic attack on the flight home I decided that Tim Parks's non-fiction offering was not going to cut it. Thankfully I'd downloaded Wilkie's Armadale before leaving London so I turned to this in my hour of need. As ever the lovely Wilkie helped bring my breathing - if not my heart rate - back to normal. It's a shame it couldn't do the same for my sister's hand (sorry, chuck).

Book of the month: Girl at War by Sara Novic
Let down of the month: The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

What books did you read in June? Do you have a book of the month or a let down of the month?


Thursday, 2 July 2015

July Goals

June flew by a bit, didn't it? How was it for you? I've always loved June. There are plenty of birthdays to celebrate and the weather tends to be just right - more sunlight, but without the relentless heat of July. Although I spent half the month travelling I still made a number of goals so let's check back and see how I did.

1// Don't hold back There was the odd iffy bit during our travels and there is at least one thing I wish I'd forced myself to do, but in general I worked hard to stay out of my own way and experience things.
2// Finish War and Peace
3// Get back into a yoga routine Not so much...
4// Journal more I created a travel journal whilst I was away which I'm really proud of and it's given me a bit of motivation to journal more in my daily life.
5// Be more mindful I feel like I've started working towards this goal, but there is a long way to go.
6// Create a routine that allows for rest days  It's been hard to work on this goal with over half the month being taken up by no exercise at all (although 8hours of walking a day has to be something), so over the next month I'm working on getting into a solid routine again.

Even though only half of my goals have been crossed off I'm still going to say that it was a great month. Getting into a routine when you're away for half the month is difficult and I should have thought about that before  setting those goals. Regardless, I've started July feeling refreshed and full of positivity even if I am dripping with sweat (why, sun, WHY?!).

Now we've moved into the second half of the year I've been starting to take stock of 2015 so far. Unfortunately I still feel like I've not achieved (or even come close to achieving) something that will make a huge difference to my happiness - a comfortably healthy lifestyle. Starting this month and hopefully continuing for the future, I will be focusing on making those little changes which will set me on the way to the lifestyle I'm aiming to have.

1// Find courage Moving to London for me was all about being courageous and pushing myself to do new things and meet new people. I seem to have got myself into a comfortable - yet anti-social - routine now and it's time to change that. This month I'll be focusing on finding my courage again.

2// Rest June was a crazy month and I've started this month feeling very tired and wanting to sleep more than usual. I know that working on getting my diet back to it's usual healthiness will help, but I'm also going to give myself permission to relax rather than feeling the need to be 'on' constantly.

3// Find and join a bookclub It's time, guys. I'm dying to join a book club in London. Let me know if you know of any which may have spaces for a newbie!

4// Build up my running mileage again My running fitness has gone seriously downhill in the last few months. I'm not sure what's up, I just seem to be unable to keep going past even a 5k mark. Running alone has a lot to do with it so I think I need to find a way to motivate myself on longer runs even when it feels hard.

5// Read Victorian Lit Allie from A Literary Odyssey is running a Victorian Celebration event throughout June and July that I've joined in with. I've already read one Wilkie and have started a second, but I also hope to read something else before the end of the month. I just have to decide what that book will be.

6// Get back to a healthy lifestyle I would definitely consider myself to be a healthy person and I'm sure those close to me would agree, but recently I've let it slip and I've got into a routine of laziness that's been triggered by shift work. As a consequence I feel like I'm falling apart physically - bad skin, weak nails, headaches, fatigued etc etc. It's time to turn that around and drink more water, eat fresh food, cook from scratch and move more.

Do you have any goals for July?


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

25 Before 25

25 before 25 Lit Nerd

Here we are then, my 25th birthday, and the end date for my 25 before 25 challenge. It has been a hectic year and one that has definitely flown past (don't they always), but I'm feeling pretty optimistic about this challenge and how much I have achieved since my 24th birthday. So let's take a look!

1.  Read War and Peace 

2. Learn a new language - in progress

3. Run a half marathon in 1hr 50 - this wasn't going to happen, but I did run a 10k in 51:20

4. Get a job I enjoy  

5. Go to the top of the Shard - not got around to it yet

6. Read something out of my comfort zone

7. Learn a new skill

8. Visit a new country - Austria, Croatia

9. Go to five new cities/towns in the UK - Hastings, Lowestoft, Southwold, Oxford, Cambridge

10. Get a new tattoo - more or less planned (sorry, Mum)

11. Do a tough mudder/mud run - not sure I fancy it anymore, but one day maybe

12. Listen to a new genre of music 

13. Walk over the Millennium Dome - maybe one day

14. Try a new sport

15. Plan a WW1 battlefield tour

16. Watch a Quentin Tarantino film

17. Watch The Lion King on stage - I'd still love to see this

18. Go on a bookish trip - within London, but it counts

19. Climb a mountain - I've walked up a lot of hills, does that count?

20. Go on a solo trip - still something I need to do

21. Make a new friend

22. Complete a creative writing project - in progress

23. Re-learn the cello

24. Re-read all my childhood favourites - re-reading always takes such a backseat

25. Finish reading the complete works of Wilkie Collins - in progress (currently reading Armadale)

I've managed 13 out of 25 which I am actually pretty impressed with given that some of those aren't exactly small tasks - War and Peace, anyone?! A number of the others are in progress to varying degrees so again, I'm feeling pretty good about those.

A lot has changed since my 24th birthday when I first posted this list - both in terms of my circumstances and my priorities. Getting a new job required a number of adjustments to my lifestyle due to the hours and uncertainty of the role (it's a pilot project so we're winging it), but it has also encouraged me to work on my emotional resilience. Aside from the job there have been all sorts of other changes throughout the year. Some good, some not so good, but I'm trying to put a positive spin on all of them. 

This list has been quite the motivational tool and I know it has pushed me to do things that I would otherwise have let drift. For example, as much as I know I've always wanted to visit new places in the UK, I feel like this challenge has given me a reason and a little push to do that extra bit of exploring (and a little bit of book shopping!).

I'm now toying with the idea of a 26 before 26!

Have you ever tried a challenge like this? Would you?

© Lit Nerd. All rights reserved.
Blogger Templates by pipdig