Saturday, 25 January 2014

A Birthday To Remember?

It was my birthday yesterday. 35 years young.

Last weekend, we happened to be driving past Nostell Priory.

"We should go for a walk round there one day," said I.

I think we once took Chris's nephew to a steam fair in the grounds a few years ago, but that's as close as I've been. Chris agreed, so I suggested that we go for my birthday, since we'd both got the day off work. A few minutes later, we drove past the Hepworth Gallery.

"We should go to the Hepworth, too," said I.
"We should," said Chris, "in fact, I'd prefer to go there instead of Nostell because it's free entry." (typical Chris response!).

"Ok then, we'll go to the Hepworth, and if the weather's ok, and we've still got time, we'll have a walk round Nostell too," said I.

Chris also asked me if I wanted to go for an evening meal for my birthday.

"Mmm, sounds good," said I.

Did we do any of those things on my birthday yesterday? No, we didn't, because I've been struck down by the lurgy, otherwise known as the common cold.

I have a very low tolerance threshold when it comes to having a cold. I am not a good patient. I feel incredibly sorry for myself, and I have the very annoying habit of telling anyone who'll listen how bad it is and at what stage my symptoms are at: God, my nose won't stop running! I sneeze, then I blow my nose, then I sneeze again! I've got that kind of scratchy tickly sore throat feeling! Anyone would think I'm the only person in the world who has ever had a cold.

So on my birthday, I opened my cards and my presents, and mostly sat on the sofa drinking honey in hot water, in between blowing my nose, sneezing and coughing. Chris thought he was coming down with something too, so neither of us felt like walking around an art gallery or a stately home, or anywhere else for that matter. And a nice meal out would've been wasted too. It's always a shame to be poorly on a day off from work, but I'd much rather be at home when I don't feel well. Luckily I've also booked Monday off as annual leave, so I've got an extra day to get over it. I think I'll be feeling a lot better by Tuesday.

Despite the lurgies, it was still a nice day because I did get some lovely presents. I'd asked Chris for some perfume - Bejeweled by Vera Wang (must be 'cause I'm obsessed with playing Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook!). I've only smelled it on one of those tester cards in the shop, so I hope I like it as much as I think I do (I'm a bit reluctant to open it until my cold has cleared up). I also asked him for a Nail Art Kit, as I'd like to get into doing more of that. I told my mum what I'd asked Chris to get me, and due to some kind of misunderstanding, she then went and bought me the exact same Nail Art Kit. She suggested taking one back and swapping it, but I said I don't mind keeping both, it just means I've got two of everything. I'm sure I'll probably make a few mistakes while I'm practicing, until I get the hang of it, so having extra is probably not a bad thing. Chris also bought me a UV light for drying gel nails, but I'm hoping it works on ordinary nail polish too. I think I need to do a bit of reading up on it all to be honest.

He also bought me a book of small, cute knitting patterns. He knows that I crochet, and I've said many times that I'm not into knitting, but he said he thought he'd just try it. I really never took to knitting, but since these are quite small patterns, I thought maybe I should have another go. I find the instructional drawings quite hard to follow sometimes, but if I really study it and start from the beginning, maybe it will become clearer to me.

I was going to take a photo of my pressies to show you, but we've just had such a downpour and howling winds, and it came over so dark, even though it was just after 2.00 in the afternoon. I took a photo out of the kitchen window - the sky actually looks lighter than it was - it felt like the end of the world!

the wind has just blown that garden chair upside down

It's still too dark and dismal to take any decent photos in the house.

Anyway, my stomach is growling so I'm going to go and get a bite to eat.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

*tentative wave*


I made my blog private for a while. The pressure of feeling like I had to keep blogging, even when I didn't feel like it / didn't have anything to say, was starting to get to me. Which was silly, but there you go. So I had a little break where I kept blogging, just to myself, and didn't have to worry about anything I said being public.

It was quite liberating, quite therapeutic. I can't say it cured my 'bloggers block', but I think I've gradually started to enjoy blogging again.

So I'm out there again. For now.

Couch to 5K

I read about Couch to 5K here. It's a nine week programme which aims to get you up off your couch, and running 5 kilometres.

I've kind of wanted to take up running for quite a while, but I just haven't got around to it. Laziness, I guess. Fear of not being able to do it. Self-conscious about what I'll look like, plodding along the pavement with all my wobbly bits wobbling, my face red as a beetroot, dripping in sweat!

I can't remember the last time I ran, apart from that little jog you do when you're crossing a road and there's a car coming. Due to my heart condition, I was told to stop doing PE at school - that was when I was 10 years old. I don't think I've run properly since then, and the only exercise I've done was my brief dalliance with the gym a couple of years ago. So when I say I'm unfit, I'm not lying.

The C-2-5K programme consists of nine weekly podcasts, which last for 30 minutes. Week one starts with a 5 minute brisk walk, then running for a minute (well, jogging really, nothing too strenuous to start with), 90 seconds brisk walking, another minute of running and so on. In total, you run for 8 minutes, separated by the 90 second 'rests' in between.

This morning, at about 7.00, I set off from home with the podcast from week one on my phone. I took a brisk walk up to the main road, and after five minutes, I ran. I actually ran. It wasn't quick, it wasn't pretty, but I was moving faster than I've moved in over 20 years.

In total, I think I only managed three runs (maybe four, I can't remember). Just before halfway I turned to head back home, which is slightly uphill, and I just couldn't manage to run anymore, so I walked as briskly as I could for the rest of the way back home. I'm disappointed that I didn't do more running, but at least I did some.

I didn't take any tissues with me and my nose started running almost straight away, so I was sniffing my way around which was really annoying - lesson learned for next time.

When I got back I developed a bit of a headache, although it didn't last too long. I did have two glasses of water as soon as I got back in the house, but maybe that wasn't enough and I was still dehydrated. I'm not aching (yet) but I did feel very sleepy this afternoon.

My overwhelming feelings now are a) that I'm incredibly proud of myself for just going out there and doing it, even though I didn't manage to do the whole thing 'properly', and b) that I'm actually looking forwards to doing it again!!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Empty Shelf Challenge

When it comes to my book mountain, I desperately need an intervention. Around Feb/March 2013, I realised that I hadn't read a single book. I decided to set myself what I thought was a very simple challenge - I would choose 12 books to read throughout the whole year - that's only one book a month (albeit I'd have to do a bit of catching up due to missing a couple of months). But one book a month, that's easy, right? Wrong! I just don't know where the time went, but I definitely did not complete the challenge. In fact, I'm still halfway through the book that I started in August!!

I did get really hooked on crochet in 2013 (pun intended), and I don't know about you, but I can't read and crochet at the same time (well, I've never tried, but I don't think I'd get very far with either). So I think books took a back seat to blankets.

I really want to read more in 2014 though, and although the simple thing would be to just pick a book off the shelf, read it, then choose another and so on, it's always good to have a bit of inspiration and motivation.

I first read about the Empty Shelf Challenge on Twitter, which linked me to this article. It's really simple - you empty a shelf, and then fill it with all the books you read during the year, taking regular photos of the shelf filling up. If you wish, you can share them on Twitter using the hashtag #emptyshelf. The idea is that by seeing the shelf fill up, and by taking part in the challenge with other people, you'll probably be more motivated to read more books. So far, so good. When I first read about it, I thought "I'm going to try that". But then I spotted the flaw. I want to get rid of my books once I've read them. I usually take them to work to give to a book-devouring colleague. I don't want to save them all up and still have them at the end of the year.

So, I think I might do the Empty Shelf Challenge in reverse. I'm going to fill a shelf with as many books as I can that I want to read this year, and I'll (hopefully) take photos of it as it empties.

Another dilemma that I always have is, should I read my favourite books first, or save them for later, something to look forwards to, and read some of the books that I'm less bothered about first? Well, I've decided that I'm definitely going to read all my favourite ones first. Life's too short to save things for later, isn't it? The only problem with that is that I might want to keep some of them, but hopefully I'll be able to give most away.

So here is the shelf that I filled with books that I really want to read this year:

2nd Jan 2014

There are multiple books by Kate Atkinson, Alice Hoffman, Anita Shreve, Jodi Picoult and Dorothy Koomson. There are also several Scotland-themed books, both fiction and non-fiction. Since I love Scotland so much, I feel that it is only right that I educate myself on it's history. I also want to start collecting novels that are set in Scotland (preferably the Highlands and Islands) and if they are written by Scottish authors, even better. So I'll end up keeping a few of those books. And there are one or two other novels and non-fiction books in there too.

I finished the book that I started last August, so I've updated my Books I've Read page. I've now taken my first book off the shelf - Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult - so here is the shelf on the 4th Jan:

Yes, I put my ornaments back...

So that's that - I've also tweeted about it using the hashtag.

Let me know if you're doing the Empty Shelf Challenge too.

Edited to add: Did you spot the mistake, because it took me a few days to notice?! Somehow I've acquired two copies of The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman, and both were on the shelf. I've actually started reading it and put the other copy with the other books that I'm planning to give away. So it wasn't intentional cheating, but I've managed to take two books off the shelf in one go!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year Resolutions

Well these posts are always fun, aren't they?

As usual, I'm in two minds whether to bother making any resolutions, because I rarely ever see them through. On the other hand, where's the harm? If nothing else, I think the new year always makes you take a look at your life, and ask yourself whether you're happy or if there is anything you'd like to change. Ok, maybe you shouldn't have to wait till January 1st to do that, but again, does it really matter when you do it? As long as you do it at some point?

So, I'm only putting this in a kind of list form to make it a bit easier (for me) to read each point, but it's not really an actual, definite list and it's not in any particular order. These are some of the things that I've been thinking about just lately.

1) I need to read some books. I hardly read anything last year, and I've missed it. I have lots and lots of wonderful stories just waiting for me to lose myself in, and I really need to get back to them. So I think I'm going to take part in the Empty Shelf Challenge (#emptyshelf on Twitter) - separate post about that coming soon...

2) One of the reasons I didn't read much is because I was doing quite a bit of crochet, on and off, all year. I definitely don't want that to stop, in fact, I want to do lots more this year, and possibly also somehow incorporate some sewing into that, if/when I get a sewing machine.

3) Another reason why I didn't read much is probably because I've spent too much time on the internet or watching tv. I'm not a telly addict, I'm not obsessed with soaps or programmes like TOWIE and Made In Chelsea. The only reality show I watched last year was Strictly Come Dancing. My bad habit is just putting the tv on for the sake of it, for a bit of background noise or something to watch while I'm eating breakfast or tea. For example, on a weekend, or a weekday when I'm at home (like today), I'll get a bowl of cereal for breakfast and sit on the sofa to eat it. I'll put the tv on and try and find something interesting to watch, but at 8am there isn't much on, so I usually end up watching BBC news. This morning I thought I'd start as I mean to go on, so I didn't put the telly on, and instead I looked out of the window. I saw a skein of geese flying by, high overhead. I wouldn't have seen that if I'd had the tv on. So I'm going to try and stop putting it on just for the sake of it.

As for the internet, it might be a bit harder to give up. As I write this post, I've got Twitter open in one tab, Facebook in another, my email in a third one... But this morning I 'unfollowed' lots of people on Twitter (more on that in a minute) which was very liberating, and I'm just going to have to try to not spend as much time on my computer, or at least spend it more wisely. This also ties in with number one - try and read more book pages, rather than internet pages.

4) Linked to number three, I've decided to try and give up 'the news'. It's so depressing, isn't it, most of the time? Sometimes I don't think I realise just how much of the negativity I absorb from it, and how it probably stays with me, even when I don't think it has. Like I said above, I have this habit of putting BBC news on just for something to watch, but I'm not really interested in it, and it just brings me down. I've also become a bit obsessed with the Daily Mail website. I've never read the actual newspaper, and I don't support it's political stance or any other views (I don't even know what they are). In fact, I don't really like it at all. The only reason I look at the website is because they have loads of news stories from all over the world, serious and lighthearted, and the stories always have lots of photos accompanying them so that you hardly even have to read the article, just look at the pictures and read the captions. I got into the habit of reading it on my lunch break at work, and then I started looking at it at home, and then I downloaded the app for my phone.

The other day I was scrolling down the page, and before it'd really registered with me, I'd read the headline about a dog which braved the cold to lie beside it's friend all night, another dog who had been knocked down and killed by a car. And there was the photo, of the dog curled up next to it's dead companion. Well, I'm sorry, but I just don't need to see stories like that. Utterly heartbreaking. I don't care if I'm in denial about the 'bad things' that happen in the world, I just don't want to read or hear about them. So that's that. I've deleted it from my bookmarks (so at least it's more than just one click away) and I've deleted the app off my phone. When I get back to work, I'm going to delete it from my bookmarks there too. While I was at it, I've also got rid of other news websites that I sometimes looked at, and the Twitter purge this morning was all the local and national news accounts and journalists who I seem to have started following over the years. All gone. Very therapeutic!

In my office at work, there are three of us who all have a radio tuned to Radio 2 all day, so I can't really avoid the hourly news updates (even if I turn mine off, I can still hear theirs). And if Chris puts the news on, I'm not going to ask him to turn it off. But as much as possible I'm going to try to not read, watch or listen to any news, and see how long I can keep it up for.

5) *Whisper it* Lose weight. Yeah, probably not going to happen, but it wouldn't be a list of resolutions without that one, would it? Chris started going to they gym two or three months back, and he's really getting into it, and buying protein supplements and all sorts (nothing dodgy). There is nothing more annoying than the person who is being smug about exercise, when you know deep down that you really need to get off your arse and move more. I'm not going to join the gym though. I might try and do a bit more walking every day.

I think that's it, unless anything else springs to mind. The beauty of 'silent blogging' (private blog, no one is reading it) is that I can come back and edit my posts whenever I want!*

It's a bit weird having New Year's Day off, I keep forgetting that I've got to back to work tomorrow! 

*6) Make gift tags for next year by cutting out appropriate designs from all our Christmas cards - Ha! Done this already - see what I mean? 

7) Thought of another one - I'm going to try and get all my photos into some kind of order, and back them up too. Before we went digital, we always had our photos developed (well, you had to really, didn't you?) but now they just get downloaded onto the computer and you hardly ever see them. I've got too many to have them all printed, but I might pick out the really good ones, and I was thinking about making some of those photo-books. Maybe one for each holiday that we've been on, and maybe one with just photos of the cats... 

Edited to add: These are more like advice than resolutions, but on New Year's Eve, a very drunk Caitlin Moran was busy tweeting her words of wisdom, and Cosmo has gathered them all together here. I think they're brilliant!

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