Sunday, 30 August 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #33

1// Learning My new job has so far been a massive learning experience. I'm expected to know a lot about blood cancers and support services so there's been lots of research. It's been absolutely fascinating, even if it's a bit difficult to know at times.

2// Waking up early All week I've set my alarm extra early so I could have some time to myself before work. It feels good not to rush around and I'm certainly benefiting from the extra reading time. Next week I'm going to give morning pages a go and use the time to brush up on my writing skills.

3// A new tote My sister had a quick weekend trip to Paris last week and brought me back a new tote from the Shakespeare and Company bookshop. My old one is getting pretty battered now so it was a very exciting gift.

4// Midnight in Paris M and I watched this film yesterday and we both fell in love with it. I'm such a sucker for the lost generation (I'd call it an obsession really) so I don't know how I'd managed to miss this film.

5// Leaving drinks I ended my work week with my delayed leaving drinks from the NHS. It has only been a week, but it felt so good to see my old colleagues. We were such a close team because we'd been thrown together from day one so it felt a little weird not being with them this last week. Much wine was consumed and many giggles had - the perfect way to end a Friday.

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


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Reading Wish List

I seem to be on such a roll with reading at the moment. I'm powering through books - new and from the towering TBR - and buying them at an unusual rate (recently I bought and devoured The Opposite of Loneliness and The Offering, both of which were brilliant). The one downfall of bookshop browsing is the inevitable number of additions to my reading wish list and this is one consequence I'm currently dealing with. I've made it easier for myself by pushing the following four books right to the top of the list:

Noonday by Pat Barker
I'm pretty sure I've shared my love of Pat Barker here before as she is one of my favourite authors - not just because she writes about World War One, mind. This is the third in the trilogy after Life Class and Toby's Room and I'm really interested to see where the characters go now.

Devotion by Ros Barber
A long time ago I reviewed Barber's debut novel in verse The Marlowe Papers and was completely in awe for the most part. She's gone with traditional prose for Devotion, but I still think it will be incredibly lyrical.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Watching Gay's TED Talk has inspired me to add this to my list. Her points were so relevant and down to earth that I think we'll get along just fine.

Lady Constance Lytton by Lyndsey Jenkins
If I was going to say I have a heroine from the Suffrage Movement it would be Constance Lytton. I've been dying to read this biography since I heard about it via Lyndsey's twitter and I'm just waiting for the colder months so I can spend a few evenings curled up with it.

What's at the top of your wish list?


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #32

1// #activeaugust It's been a good week for being active. I'm definitely struggling to fit it in everyday, I think because it's always surprisingly hectic changing jobs, but I've done plenty this week and feeling brilliant for it.

2// Socialising I've been very social this week which is unusual for me. Being around friends is always such a boost and I need to remember that whenever I feel anxious.

3// Weddings I popped down to Somerset very briefly on Friday/Saturday to try on my bridesmaid dress for my best friend's wedding in September. It's such a lovely dress and I'm so excited to be part of her day. Apparently I love weddings now!

4// Evenings in the park After a whole day spent driving back to London from Taunton (including a quick stop in Cribbs Causeway, of course), M and I took ourselves to the local park with our books. We found a comfy spot in the shade and spent an hour or so just reading and chilling. Just what you need after a long drive.

5// Last day at work Thursday was my last day working for the NHS and I couldn't be happier. I will miss my fellow Navigators, but my new role is such a dream come true. I'm actually looking forward to Monday for once.

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


Friday, 21 August 2015

Be Kind

Something I am very guilty of doing is beating myself up for various things. Whether I eat something unhealthy, miss a workout, or watch one too many episodes of Parks and Rec when I could be doing something more productive, I'm almost certain to give myself a hard time.

It's all well and good to say 'just be nicer to yourself', but in reality I know how that can feel like an impossible task. Personally I'm working hard every day to soften my internal dialogue and keep my inner bully at bay. It's tough, really tough, so I make sure I follow a few key steps to keep myself focused on being kind:

Firstly it's important to accept that you can't do it all. Knowing and accepting this is half the battle. With so many people putting their lives on the internet and apparently doing so much in terms of jobs, family, homes, hobbies etc, it's no wonder that we pile the pressure on ourselves do keep doing more. But do you know, that's actually exhausting, and I'd rather do what I do and do it well. Think about how many pressures you're piling on yourself - are there any that can be relegated to the sidelines?

Accepting that you can't do it all goes hand in hand with my second step which is: don't set yourself up to fail. If one look at your diary for the week makes the panic rise in your throat, then chances are you're setting yourself up for a fall. And a fall will inevitably be followed by anger, disappointment, and all manner of upset that you aim at yourself. Challenge yourself and push yourself, by all means (how else can we grow?), but don't overdo it. Give yourself space to succeed and celebrate those successes, no matter how small they seem to you.

Once I've got that part down I think about my strengths and weaknesses. Acknowledge your weaknesses but don't forget your strengths. I'm pretty sure we all have a healthy mixture of strengths and weaknesses - we're only human, after all. When we give ourselves a hard time we're more likely to focus on our weakness and forget that we have so many strength to celebrate too. Why not split a page into two and list your strengths on one side and weaknesses on the other? I have a page like this and it can be helpful to refer to on occasion.

I know very well how difficult it can be to adjust your thinking in this way so I have a couple of techniques I fall back on when my inner bully takes over:

Recently I learnt a technique for challenging automatic thoughts as they come. Ask yourself what you would say to a friend in the same situation. If they'd decided to spent Saturday morning in bed instead of hitting the gym would you tell them they are lazy? Or would you encourage them to make the most of the rest and start the next day with a renewed energy? I know which one I'd say! Check yourself: if you wouldn't say it to a friend, don't say it to yourself.

Finally, write it down and move on. Don't dwell on things. Get pen to paper and spill your thoughts until you've released them entirely. Then turn the page and put it out of your mind.

You ARE amazing - don't forget that - so be kind to yourself.


Sunday, 16 August 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #31

1// Deliciously Ella's Lentil Bolognese I adapted this quite heavily (she never seems to include herbs/spices), but this was a great recipe for a basic veggie bol sauce. I had leftovers for my lunch on Friday and it certainly brought some joy to the day.

2// Manicures Last weekend my Mum came to visit, but unfortunately I was working so I only saw her in the evenings. I was off on Monday though and she stayed until then so we went to a local nail bar and had manicures. As ever I opted for a grey colour (I'm nothing if not predictable) and I absolutely love it. It's still going strong!

3// Parks and Recreation I've been watching this for the last couple of weeks and it never fails to have me in stitches.

4// Christina Broom at the Museum of London Docklands Yesterday we went for a long wander around East London and ended up at this museum to see an exhibition of Broom's photography in 'Soldiers and Suffragettes'. Broom is regarded as the UK's first female press photographer and the photographs exhibited here are fascinating. It's brilliant arranged exhibition and I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in the period or photography as a medium.

5// The Handmaid's Tale M started reading this last week and I took the opportunity to read it with him. I have such a lovely edition (thank you second hand stores) and I'm enjoying it so far.

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


Thursday, 13 August 2015

Eat Yourself Happy

I'm a absolute sucker for a cookbook. Reading about food, seeing pictures of perfectly made food, and examining recipes with the intention of experimenting with food, all make me one very happy bunny. Thankfully, living with a professional chef, I have access to a huge number of gorgeous cookbooks, and I'm slowly starting to make my own collection.

I spotted Eat Yourself Happy by Gill Paul when I was birthday present shopping for the bestie. I went into Urban Outfitters which is usually somewhere I avoid like the plague, but I can't deny that they do good gift-books. I liked the idea that there could be ingredients which would act as mood-boosters and the recipes looked simple, fresh and healthy. Granted the title is click-bait for the printed word, but I can deal with that for the tastiness within.

The basic idea behind the book suggests that making wiser food choices can make you happier. Paul tells us that the right kinds of foods can 'synthesise ample supplies of brain neurotransmitters, address vitamin and mineral deficiencies and stabilise blood sugar levels'.

Now I'm a sceptical soul and don't tend to believe in such claims, but I am ready to give this a try. I'm well aware of the positive affects eating well can have on mind and body so I'm keen to see whether eating more of certain foods and perhaps less of others will change my mood as well.

Paul narrows the foods down to a number of superfoods, including:

Turkey | Sunflower seeds | Mackerel | Avocado | Dark chocolate | Live yoghurt | Oats | Bananas | Strawberries | Kale | Brazil nuts | Peanuts | Sesame seeds | Eggs | Wholewheat | Garlic | Asparagus | Watermelon | Ginger | Figs | Barley | Lentils | Artichokes | Grapes

Thankfully most of these foods I already love and eat plenty of (avocado, I'm looking at you), though others (mackerel, watermelon, figs) I very rarely eat. If anything this experiment will at least introduce me to some new foods and allow for a little more variety with recipes.

The book itself is really nicely laid out, with plenty of information at the start and details about the benefits of each food. There is also a quick look through the various causes/types of low mood or unhappiness including anxiety, PMS and sleep problems. This brief overview comes with a handy key and each recipe is linked to the issues it can help with.

All the recipes look supremely tasty, but I decided to start small and try the sunflower seed and banana cookies. I was not disappointed! They're meant to be quite bitesize but I got a little over-enthusiastic with the dough and only made around 10-12 huge ones. No complaints here. They have such a squidgy consistency - exactly like banana bread - with a bit of crunch from the seeds. They certainly cheered me up, but that could just be down to tastiness rather than any benefits from the ingredients.

Interested in the recipe? Here you go:

-200g plain flour
-1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
-2 very ripe bananas, mashed
-125g butter, softened
-100g light soft brown sugar
-1tsp vanilla extract
-125g sunflower seeds (I did also add pumpkin seeds just because I had a few hanging around)

1. Mix bananas, butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl.
2. Fold in the flour and bicarb until mixed well.
3. Stir in the seeds then cover and chill for 1 hour.
4. Place the dough in bite-size chunks on a baking tray at 180°C for 12 mins or until golden brown.
5. Eat them all.

I'll keep you guys informed with any results or changes I see in my mood as I continue to try out these recipes. I'm sure I'll be eating some pretty tasty meals, even if I don't see any significant changes.

Let me know if you try making these cookies!


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Beat-the-Funk Favourites

I'm guessing I'm not alone in this, but do you ever feel in the mood to read and find that you can't? Maybe your mind drifts, or you're so tired that even matchsticks couldn't keep your eyelids open, or you've got too many racing thoughts to take in what's on the page. It's frustrating when the activity that typically alleviates those exact things, suddenly falls prey to them instead.

Falling into a reading funk, whether it's only for a few hours, a day or even longer, can be the worst thing for lit nerds like myself. Not incomparable to hell on earth, I'd say.

Well, don't panic, I've found a way around it.

I'm sure everyone will have had days when you turn a page and realise you have no idea what just happened. Sometimes you may even make it through a whole chapter before noticing that your mind is blank and a character has died but you lost track of who, what and why.

In these inevitable situations I take a different route to relaxation. I put the novel down and instead pick up any one of my 'maximum chillax books'. These are books that are beautiful, entertaining or informative, but do not take too much brain power or concentration to enjoy. They're books I can flick through over and over, dip in and out of, and spend a few minutes or a few hours pouring over.

I have a few such books in my metaphorical armoury and here are my beat-the-funk favourites:

Ways to Walk in London by Alice Stevenson
The illustrations in this book are top notch. This is a recent addition to the armoury, but it can be motivating on those days when going outside feels like a no-go.

Well Read Women by Samantha Hahn
Literary heroines, quotes and beautiful images - this one is perfect for exhausted and achy days.

The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin
Just because you can't read a book it doesn't mean you can't add to your TBR, surely?! I love looking up random afflictions in this compendium and seeing what 'cure' is recommended. It can be very cheering.

Books: A Living History by Martyn Lyons
Had the design of this book been different it wouldn't have made the cut for this list. Thankfully it's full of intriguing images as well as the fascinating history of books. This is a good choice when you still want to take in the knowledge, but rest your mind at the same time.

Another favourite which I don't currently have in London is The Book Addict's Treasury. Well worth a flick through if you love to read about reading.

When these fail it's generally a toss up between hitting the chocolates and hitting the gym. I'm sure you can guess which one usually comes out on top.

Do you have any beat-the-funk favourites?

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Sunday, 9 August 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #30

1// World War Z (ish) M lent me his copy of World War Z last week, complete with little sticky notes from his dissertation, and told me to read it. Now, I'm not usually one for anything remotely horror/zombie-related and post-apocalyptic stuff tends to just give me the heebie jeebies (hello, nightmares), but I really enjoyed this book. I adored the style (interviews) and felt it was such a refreshing way of writing a post-apocalyptic world. Yes, I may have one ear constantly listening out for zombie moans, but surely that's the sign of a good book?!

2// Long gym sessions I've been on early shifts this week which usually means I get home and dive straight into bed. Thanks to my #activeaugust challenge I've found the motivation to hit the gym and have managed to get back to hour-long sessions that leave me drenched, exhausted and grinning from ear to ear.

3// Cooking from scratch It's been so lovely to get in the kitchen and make my dinners from scratch this week. Beanie chilli on baked sweet potato is a must.

4// Banana and sunflower seed cookies These are the actual bomb. The recipe is from the Eat Yourself Happy cookbook and I'll be sharing it next week along with my thoughts on the book. The cookies have the consistency of banana bread with added crunch from the seeds - definitely a winner.

5// Open air theatre On Friday M, my sister and I walked to the Scoop on the South Bank, an open air venue for theatre, film and music. In August they do a month of free theatre so we took ourselves there with a picnic and a couple of ciders and settled in. I make the most of this every year and would recommend it if you fancy watching a play in the shadow of Tower Bridge.

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


Wednesday, 5 August 2015

On Making Smarter Goals

Usually at the beginning of the month I spend some time thinking about my goals for the weeks ahead. I don't always share them on here, but I have been doing for the last few months in the hopes that will provide a feeling of accountability.

To some extent, it has. In other ways though, the process of thinking up goals, writing them down and posting them for all to see, has become merely another action. Another form of procrastination and just another thing to do that can prolong the time between thinking and changing. Essentially, I'm just as good at procrastinating as I was during university, but better at persuading myself that I'm not.

I've always been a list-maker, a goal-setter and an ambitious dreamer. It's occurred to me recently that 'dreamer' is the most powerful of those. I like to think up goals and I like the thought of goals, but I don't seem to like following through with goals.

Ultimately I think the goals I make are too vague. Last month I said that I wanted to rest following a whirlwind tour of Europe and a change in work schedule on my return. Did I rest? Not in a way that let me feel rested.

Resting may have been a bad example as I'm notoriously bad at sitting still. In a way it's like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. How much scheduling is too much? Do you schedule relaxation or is that counterproductive?

I read recently about making SMART goals. Aside from being a fervent lover of acronyms (I was nicked acronym girl in my GCSE history classes because I used to remember all the Cold War related acronyms), this concept seems to be just the thing I need to make goals and achieve them.

SMART goals are:


Basically, more detailed than simply saying 'I will have a rest this month'. It perhaps would have been better to say 'I will set aside one night a week for the next month to read/watch a film/relax'.

It's easier than you may think to make goals SMART. It's all about focusing on the details rather than lofty ideals. I've been experimenting with adjusting my goals for this month and I've decided I will start small and only make two goals:

'I will do something active daily from 1st to 31st August'

'I will upload one new featured book a week to Centenary News'

These are specific, measurable, very attainable, certainly relevant and time-bound. I'm looking forward to seeing what I achieve by narrowing down my aims and being more specific with my goals.

Have you ever tried making SMART goals?

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Sunday, 2 August 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #29

1// Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time My sister treated us to tickets for this on Wednesday. It's a show I've been desperate to see since it started in the National so I was very excited for it. Thankfully it thoroughly lived up to expectations, if not surpassing them. The acting was great, the dialogue perfect, the visuals were stimulating and engaging, and it stuck wonderfully to the book. I'd really recommend it - we got tickets from and they were great seats and a good price FYI.

2// The Blacklock Before heading to the theatre we wandered around soho looking for somewhere to eat. We decided on The Blacklock, a restaurant my sister has been to before, which basically serves chops. All kinds of chops. I'm not a huge meat lover and tend to eat veggie or fish meals mostly, but the food was so tasty. Well cooked, well seasoned and accompanied by a very nice wine. Yum.

3// Life in Squares On Tuesday after my late shift I was feeling too wired to sleep so I went on catchup and put Life in Squares on. The Bloomsbury Group is one of my main interests in terms of art and writing so I was very intrigued. I really enjoyed the first episode and look forward to the next. Even cooler is the fact that is was filmed round the corner from where I used to work!

4// Every Seventh Wave by Daniel Glattauer I started this epistolary novel on Wednesday night and finished it on Friday morning. That's the fastest I've read a book in ages. It's written in emails and follows Emmi and Leo's complicated relationship/friendship. I really liked how it played out and, as ever, the epistolary format was a winner.

5// Lazy Saturdays I had big plans for yesterday, but I woke up in the mood to do nothing much. I achieved a lot - gym, food shopping, cleaning etc - but I also spent the late afternoon sat reading. I'm always so determined to make the most of having London on my doorstep, but sometimes it's best to just take a day doing life admin and taking a breather.

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

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