Saturday, 31 October 2015

A Halloween Quiz From Grammarly

I wasn't planning on doing anything else Halloween related on here, but when Nick from Grammarly sent me their 'Which Literary Monster Are You?' Halloween quiz I couldn't help but share it.

Let me know which monster you are in the comments! I'm Frankenstein's Monster apparently and I'm really not sure what that says about me. Hopefully the fact that many people feel some sympathy for the Monster makes it a little better.

Quiz created by Grammarly.


Friday, 30 October 2015

10 Classics to Read This Halloween (if you dare)

I've always thought of myself as a non-reader of scary stories. I can no longer cope with the R.L. Stine induced sleepless nights and I'm completely perplexed as to why I'd continuously read Point Horror books as a teenager. Let's face it, I'm a total wimp. Once, not too long ago in the grand scheme of things, I had to go and watch Garfield instead of Shaun of the Dead (yes, I mean Shaun, not Dawn. I know). I put it down to my overactive imagination...

When I really think about it though, I actually do still read a lot of scary stories and they're all under the guise of 'classic literature'. Does it somehow make it less terrifying that I'm reading about a different era? I don't know. What I do know is that there are some truly spine tingling classics out there and I really have to share them with you.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
Moors and big dogs are terrifying, ok?!

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Ditto about the moors part.

The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins
Floating heads, odd smells and even odder people in Venice.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe
It's Poe, need I say more?

Don't Look Now and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
This caused a number of sleepless nights.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
He's a vampire, of course it's terrifying!

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
He's scary, but I did oddly have a soft spot for Frankenstein's monster.

Collected Ghost Stories by M.R. James

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Creepy children.

Uncanny Stories by May Sinclair
The uncanny is perhaps the freakiest thing ever.

Let me know in the comments if you've read any of these! What is your scariest read?


Sunday, 25 October 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #38

1// Making plans I've been really enjoying brainstorming for a new project with M this week. It's felt wonderful to be creative and come up with new ideas. I can't wait to see how it pans out.

2// Walking on Cars On Friday we took a trip to the Electric Ballroom in Camden to see Walking on Cars. My sister and I only went to see them a few months ago, but as they're very quickly becoming one of my favourite bands, I couldn't resist. The atmosphere was brilliant and I was amazed by their talent.

3// Somerset This weekend I'm in Somerset visiting the family. As usual there is plenty of good food and even more good drink. Much fun has been had by all.

4// The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton I've never actually read anything by Lupton, even though Sister was always on my radar. Her latest really piqued my interest and definitely paid off. It was compelling and perfectly thrilling to boot.

5// Feeling better After a few weeks of feeling really unwell I've finally started to kick this cold/virus/whatever. My recovery has been helped along with lots of resting, reading and chilled yoga.

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


Friday, 23 October 2015

Autumn || Looking Ahead

Welcome to the final post in my autumn series! So far I've looked at autumn reading, fitness, evening routines, eating, and various things to do on crisp weekends. Now I want to look a little further afield, beyond autumn, into the final two and a bit months of this year. The amount I have achieved thus far in 2015 is astounding, but I don't want to stop yet. There is still so much more I'd like to see and do (as always), so I've decided to make a bucket list for the remainder of the year.

1// Go to the theatre

2// Go to a comedy show

3// Visit Richmond and go for a long walk

4// Go somewhere new

5// Read at least five books from my shelves

6// Try something new

7// Write something

8// Get crafty

9// Work hard on secret project with M

10// Be social

What would you put on an 'end of the year bucket list'?

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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Autumn || Fitness

I've been holding off writing this post for a while as I didn't think it would be quite right to talk about fitness and exercise when my routine is so off kilter. Since starting my new job at the end of August my exercise routine has disappeared and it's only been in the last couple of weeks that I have started to fall back into some semblance of one again (after some news earlier this month which has had a huge impact on what I can and can't do).

As you're all aware running is a massive part of my life - I know I've banged on about it often enough! I've now been told that I should stop running until my hip recovers and I've finished a program of physio. This was devastating news, I tell you, even though it's been a long while since I've been able to comfortably run even 5km. Thankfully there is a lot I can still do and I've been encouraged to try different things to build up strength in the area and speed up recovery. He suggested swimming and I very quickly jumped on that so I've decided to add one swim per week into my routine. Thankfully there is a pool near my work so I can still fit it an early morning workout.

To build up strength I've been going to the gym once or twice a week, practicing yoga twice a week and I try to do fifteen to twenty minutes of either stretches or strength work every morning. Doing shorter bursts like this and focusing less on getting to the gym or doing long runs multiple times a week has been really helpful. I already feel stronger and doing a burst in the morning seems to give me more energy - who knew?!

Now it's all well and good me listing off what I do (or try to do, let's be realistic), when actually even getting enough motivation to get out there is much harder as the days become shorter. I try to get up at around 6am on a week day and it's getting tougher by the day. Without my sunrise alarm clock I'd still be lost in the land of nod come 7.30am. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this.

So on those days when you've just snoozed your alarm for the fifth time or you get home from work and donning your slippers seems a better idea than donning your trainers, try this:

Keep it short no one wants to be running for hours before or after a long day at work so don't try to, or you'll risk setting yourself up for failure. Keep it short and snappy - enough to get a sweat on, but not enough to put you off entirely.

Get prepared you know the whole 'fail to prepare/prepare to fail' thing? Well, it's actually pretty accurate. Make sure you have everything set up for your next workout, your kit bag packed, your clothes laid out on the bed and even leave your trainers waiting patiently by the front door if it works for you. Being prepared means you can get straight into the sweating, instead of risking a half an hour deliberation about whether to do exercise or just get into your pjs.

Build it into a routine you'll know from the above ramble that I'm pretty much all about the routine. Although I do worry about routines on occasion, they are the best thing to ensure a workout is actually going to happen. If you know Monday night is swim night or Wednesdays you need to get up early to do some yoga, then it will not come as a surprise and you'll slowly start to accept it as a given.

Visualise nothing beats that post-exercise endorphin high. That rock-star feeling. That 'I've got this' feeling of triumph, achievement and determination. Think about that when you're dragging yourself out of bed in the dark. It helps, I promise.

Mix it up don't stick to the same old thing day in and day out. Try something new (swimming is new for me at the moment), and be sure to have some variety in there. After all, variety is the spice of life.

And finally, just go ahead and dive in! Pull on your sweat pants, your lycra or your swimming costume and go for it. You'll never know how good it feels until you try.

Do you have any tips for exercising as the days get shorter?

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Thursday, 15 October 2015

On Collecting Books

For a while now I have called myself a collector of books. Initially this was just so I felt I had an excuse to hoard books rather than reading them and passing them straight on to the charity shops like I used to. These days though, it has become a moniker I truly embrace (much to my bank's disappointment).

Part of the reason I don't often give my books to charity any more is my memory. I have a bad memory at the best of times and when it comes to remembering what I've read it's generally much worse. It's a touch embarrassing to admit that I've often bought new books only to realise a few pages in that I'd read them previously.

For that reason, despite the odd hint from my mum to sort through my shelves, I keep my books. All of them. And that makes me happy. Looking at my bookshelves and the piles of alphabetised books they hold, calms me. I feel better knowing how many stories are within those shelves, how much history, and how much of my life.

Occasionally when I stay with my parents in Somerset, which is where the majority of my books still reside, I spend a little time communing with my bookshelves. I'll look through to see if there is anything I want to read or that I think my sister may enjoy. Mostly I just flick through books, pull them off the shelves, try and read my tiny notes in margins, read sentences, paragraphs and pages. As I do this memories flood back of where I read it, what I thought of it, and those moments that made me laugh, smile or cry.

Communing with a bookshelf is perhaps an odd thing to do and I'll be the first to admit it, but there's something about it. Once a book becomes yours it transforms into a more than just an inanimate object. It holds your thoughts, memories and experiences, and then waits for you to tune back in.

I collect books in two ways. Firstly by never letting go of them, and secondly by finding editions that grab me. On the top of my bookshelf in London I have six books that are my 'collector's editions'. All are old, all are second hand, and all are special in one way or another. Two are from the internet, one is from a market in Amsterdam, one is from an Oxfam bookshop, one is from a bookshop long since closed down, and one is from a book fair. None cost more than a tenner, but their worth to me is priceless.

A few weeks ago at a book fair in York I added a new book to my 'collector's editions' shelf: a copy of Woolf's 'A Writer's Diary' with Vanessa Bell's cover artwork. It's beautiful, it's full of wisdom, and it has been well-loved (I assume this from the newspaper clippings referring to the book and the leaflet for Monk's House tucked in the front).

I actually already own this book, in a very small paperback edition I found in a secondhand bookshop. You'd think that having a copy would stop me from buying another, but there is something about certain editions of certain works that feel so special. If this copy didn't have the clippings and leaflets in the front I doubt I would have the same attachment to it. There's something about holding a book another person has loved that fills me with joy. It's like holding a piece of someones history and grasping their hand across the boundary of years knowing that, with that book at least, you're the same.

Walking around that book fair and seeing the prices some booksellers charged for old, beautiful, loved copies made me feel quite disenchanted with the book world. The magic of books is lost to those booksellers who sell a book for £800+. Don't get me wrong, I understand that everyone has to make a living. What saddened me was that the books became merely objects again, status symbols, and something to show off. Whether it's a first edition of a Christie mystery, a play by Tom Stoppard, or a copy of Woolf's 'A Writer's Diary' with newspaper clipping tucked in the front, these books are moments of history. It is that history we should be celebrating, not how much it's worth financially.

Being a collector of books is more than having infinite funds to buy and possess all the books you want. It is understanding the true power of a book and wanting to be a part of it. It is communing with bookshelves and seeing the whole life you've already lived laid out before you and knowing that there is still yet more to come. It is reading secondhand and feeling the glimmer of a connection with the previous reader. It is loving books for what they are: words, dreams, stories, histories.


Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Autumn || Evenings

A few weeks ago I shared a few thoughts on creating a morning routine that invigorates and inspires. Now the nights are drawing in I've started doing a similar thing with my evenings and really thinking about how best to spend them. Evenings for me are all about winding down, relaxing and getting ready for the next day whilst reflecting on the one that is passing. Here's what I do to get the most out of my evenings:

Make a good dinner and drink tasty tea my evening can be made or ruined depending on what I eat. A healthy meal made from scratch makes me feel good inside and out, whereas a meal with nothing fresh or unprocessed often leaves me wanting more junk. Once I've eaten I'm all about the herbal teas - peppermint will always have my heart, but I'm also partial to various 'sleep' blends (love Twinings and Pukka).

Relax as an introvert I very much need my evenings to be protected quiet time after a long day talking to people on the support line at work. Occasionally I will plan things for after work, but I always make sure I schedule in at least one night a week for just me. This also means having a night only doing what truly relaxes me - reading. Something else I've been enjoying lately is colouring (joining the bandwagon a little later than most). The BBC have been doing some stonking adaptations recently and as a restless person I struggle to single-task TV. Colouring is the perfect activity to do whilst watching a gripping costume drama - it keeps my mind relaxed and engaged simultaneously. I love this new release from Johanna Basford: 'The Secret Garden: Artist's Edition'. You can pull out and frame each image when you're done being artistic which I think is such a lovely idea.

Keep going in order for my evenings to be as relaxing as possible I'll make sure I do what needs to be done as soon as I get home. This means I'll exercise, clean, cook and wash-up before I settle down for the night. I know then that the rest of the evening is all mine.

Set the mood I'm a lover of lamplight and candlelight and I'll always make sure the lighting in my room is relaxing, not dazzling. Whether candles, incense or lamplight is your jam, do what works for you.

Get comfy any make-up that remains at the end of the day gets cleaned straight off and I'm in to my comfies (usually my favourite Star Wars leggings, which you've all seen before, and some form of band top) before I make dinner. Once I've eaten and it's time to settle down I either sit at my desk and do some writing cocooned in a cosy blanket or set myself up on my bed with cushions and blankets galore.

Wind down we're constantly being told to limit screen usage for an hour before bed and as much as I try to comply, I have to admit that I'm on my phone right up until the moment I turn off my light (oh the joys of being in a distance relationship). Although I keep my phone near me I steer clear of any other screens and stick to a book before bed or, if I'm that tired, a few quiet moments thinking about the day.

How do you spend your evenings?

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Please note: I received a copy of 'The Secret Copy: Artist's Edition' from the publisher. This has in no way influenced my opinions. I'm influenced by it's beauty and how much I've enjoyed using it.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Autumn || Eating

Food is a huge part of my life - I love to eat, I love to cook, I love to try new food - and at this time of year I have a tendency to fall even more in love with cooking than usual. For the past few weeks I've had some serious cravings for warm, spicy foods like curry, chilli, and a variety of spice-infused soups. This happens every year when the cold starts to set in and is always magnified when I myself have a cold, which I have had for the last two weeks.

I think it's good to make meals from scratch, both for the physical health benefits (only putting the good stuff in) and for wellbeing. As long as there is no pressure, cooking can be such a relaxing activity. It's something to channel all your energy into, something practical, and it feels good to know you're feeding your body what it needs. I'm a huge advocate for putting a on podcast or some music and cracking on with it (dancing is required if you opt for music, obviously). Sitting down to a meal you've prepared, cooked and served is a wonderful feeling and quite the achievement. I'm certain it makes the food taste better too.

For a little while now my favourite thing to cook has been beanie chilli, which I'll serve with a generous portion of avocado and cherry tomatoes instead of rice (at 25 I am still unable to cook rice). Initially the recipe was from Deliciously Ella's cookbook, but after the first go I amended it somewhat to add some flavour.

Now, I call myself an experimental cook*. This means that I can get away with my food never tasting the same twice - I'm terrible at measuring and following recipes so generally I just guess what would taste good and bung it all in a pan, hoping for the best. I'd say 99% of the time it works out quite well and thankfully five days of the week I'm only cooking for myself, but there have been occasions when it's gone quite wrong. I think my biggest failure was putting a shed load of extra hot chilli powder into some black bean burgers. I couldn't eat them and neither could my sister.

Anyway, that explains why I've not put any measurements for this recipe - throw caution to the wind and just go with it! Or, you know, add small amounts until you're happy. Either way I hope you enjoy this recipe.

What's your favourite autumn meal?

* this is very strange given that spontaneity is not something I'm good with, I love rules, I'm meticulous and I adore to plan. Hmm.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Autumn || Reading

There's something about the start of autumn that immediately puts me in the mood for cosy evenings spent curled up with a blanket, a book and a large pot of peppermint tea. I'm a very particular person and I like to use my particular blanket (that's extra cosy), my particular mug for tea, and a very particular type of book for autumn.

In my mind autumn is all about the mighty chunksters, the classics, the mysteries and detective novels, war writing, and perhaps a memoir or two that are bound to make me cry. I want a good story that I can get my teeth into on these crisp autumnal nights.

Now we all know that, for me, Wilkie is the answer to everything life may throw our way. Certainly when autumn envelops us in her rusty red blanket, Wilkie is there to keep the heat in. Although that sounds a touch highfalutin I actually speak the truth - reading Wilkie is often a very physical experience. He makes me laugh out loud, tense up my whole body, and wait with bated breath for the next twist. In a rather roundabout way, what I'm saying is that I plan to read plenty of Wilkie this autumn.

I had intended to re-read The Woman in White for the umpteenth time, but when I took it off the shelf my sister pulled a most disagreeable face and said, with such dissatisfaction in her voice, 'not again!'. Not again, indeed. Thankfully I did have another Wilkie languishing on my shelves which I've not read yet so I've started that instead. I'll read The Woman in White when she's not looking.

For the rest of my seasonal reading I've gone for a literary memoir about my beloved Russians (The Possessed), a novel of WW1 (While the Gods Were Sleeping), and a memoir about 'this magnificent life' (Late Fragments). 

I've been reading a fair bit of non-fiction lately, actually rather a lot now I come to think of it, so I'm leaving the non-fiction for a month and spending October with novels. I vaguely recall seeing something about non-fiction November and if that definitely is a thing (please tell me if it is!), then I'll save up a little pile for then. Who'd have thought I'd be such a non-fiction convert?!

What do you like to read in Autumn?


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #37

1// My first work trip On Monday I got into a car with four of my colleagues and went to Leeds to attend my first event. It was terrifying and exhausting (not helped by the spider in my hotel room), but I loved every minute. I've got another one at the end of the month which I'm looking forward to. I'm learning that it really pays to be courageous and talk to people even when I'm beyond nervous.

2// New trainers I treated myself to some new everyday Nikes this week. They're black with white polka dots and they feel like I'm walking on clouds. They've not left my feet ever since.

3// Buffy I've been poorly and feeling very sorry for myself all week which called for a couple of evenings spent re-watching Buffy. I still love it.

4// Lifehouse Last night my sister and I hopped on the tube to Shepherd's Bush to go and see one of our all time favourite bands. I've adored Lifehouse ever since my Dad bought my their first album on a random recommendation so it was very much one of those surreal/dream come true moments. They were absolutely amazing and we've spent all of today listening to them.

5// The Martian On Friday I braved the crowds at Westfield and swallowed down my rancour towards cinemas and their unreasonable prices, to watch The Martian. It was completely worth it. I've not read the book, but my goodness was the film good.

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


Thursday, 1 October 2015

October Goals

Take one photograph every day

Continue to walk home from work once a week

Join the swimming pool near work and go once a week

Spend at least one whole evening a week working on Centenary News

Try one new recipe every week

Write at least two of the posts I've half-planned in my notebook

What are your goals for this month?

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