Gratitude Journal

Gratitude journal

Earlier this year, we had an elusive day put in our diaries at work. When that day rolled around in July, we discovered we were having a whole day with Gavin from Mindspan. Mindspan is a training and coaching performance programme, so obviously everyone at first was like, so what does this mean in English? Basically the day was centered around a number of different theories & exercises, such as how our thoughts can effect our emotions and actions, how to be more grateful and, hardly groundbreaking, but reminding us that you actually have a choice in *everything* you do! Anyway, the point was to talk about the one that really resonated with me which is the gratitude journal.

A gratitude journal pretty much what it says on the tin – a notebook or diary where you keep a list of things that make you happy and are grateful for in life.  To start one, just complete the following steps:

  1. Buy a notepad (or join the 21st century and use an app – but I’m a sucker for new stationery)
  2. Write stuff that makes you do this >>> :)

It can be anything from something that made you crack a slight smile on the inside (one time, I sneezed in the street and a strange man said “bless you”, and for some reason that made me really happy) right through to something that really is taken for granted by a lot of us every day (like access to clean water).

The reason I thought this important for me is I am so bad at comparing my life to others, people I went to school with, friends of friends and even complete strangers. It’s so easy to forget when scrolling through snapshots of peoples fantastic lives on social media that yours is actually pretty great too.

I also having this bad habit of wishing my life away, waiting for the next milestone, famous examples include:

  • I’ll be happier when I’ve finished my dissertation
  • I’ll be happier when I go on holiday
  • I’ll be happier when the weekend gets here

Yes, those events were fantastic achievements and certainly a cause for celebration & happiness, but you end up not living in the moment and wishing your life away. Of course, it’s great to have goals and things to look forward to (hi every Friday), but it’s also important to appreciate all the things you have currently in life and taking the time to write them down really helped me do this.

Don’t get me wrong, I am seriously lucky that I have a lovely house, a tolerate boyfriend, supportive family, great friends and a naughty cat, but because that’s the ‘norm’ for me now, it’s so so SO easy to take it all for granted. This is why, when I’m having a particularly ridiculous spoilt brat day, I take a read through my journal and realise that things ain’t so bad :)

Capsule Wardrobe

My Capsule Wardrobe

We’re all guilty of being that cliche female, screaming that we have nothing to wear whilst sobbing into a pile of perfectly suitable clothes and quite frankly, it’s something we could all do without. When I heard Anna talk about the capsule wardrobe, my ears pricked up with interest. I realised that I had made a habit of buying things for the sake of it, to make me feel better when in a bad mood or just because I felt like spending money, rather than only buying things I needed and more importantly, loved. 

Another reason for the capsule wardrobe movement was I felt I was spending a lot of money buying lots of budget clothes which just weren’t lasting – buy cheap, buy twice and all that. As a result, I made the decision to try and invest in more in versatile pieces which will be timeless & last, rather than buying something only to wear once before it falls apart or doesn’t fit quite right.

A capsule wardrobe is basically a stripped down version of your existing wardrobe containing only pieces that you love, including everything you need for work, play and everything in between for each season. You can only shop at the beginning of each season and this, for me, will be the killer. The breakdown ranges but I’ve been working with the 37 items suggestion from Un-fancy, THE capsule wardrobe extraordinaire.

Planning my capsule wardrobe

The first thing I did was make a list of my day to day activities to help identify the different themes of clothes I’d need

  • Work – catering for everything from casual Fridays to client meetings
  • Lunch, cinema, bowling – anything smart / casj basically
  • Going out out – wheeeeeeey party time
  • Family time / staying in – anything stretchy that I can eat enormous roast dinners in
  • Outside activities – any occasion where I’m likely to be walking a lot, outside for long periods of time or at football.

The wardrobe detox

It’s pretty much the same as all wardrobe clearing but basically, take everything yes everything, out of your wardrobe and give it a good clean.

Divide your clothes into the following categories:

  • LOVE – this piece of clothing makes me feel my best version of myself & I always go back to it
  • Maybs – anything that you’ve not worn in the past year, has sentimental value, not something you wear on the reg but you just can’t. let. go
  • Nah – this makes me look like a sack of potatoes
  • Seasonal – love it but don’t fancy wearing crop tops in the snow

Then do the following:

  • LOVE – Put back into the wardrobe, in a logical way i.e. all tops together, all blacks together, all work clothes together, however you feel best to arrange your clothes.
  • Maybs – Put into a bag and hide away, that way you can always dig stuff out if you’re missing something terribly (which you won’t) and you can chuck out at the beginning of next season when the point has been proven.
  • Nah – Sell on eBay (high street shops such as Topshop, Zara, Asos etc… do quite well) but if you CBA, offer to your friends or take to a charity shop.
  • Seasonal – Store away somewhere out of sight as to not clutter your wardrobe / mind / life.

The end result

Once I had my final pieces (give or take a few), I took a deep breath, tried not to have a breakdown and made a list of all items loosely under the following categories:

  • Shoes – 9 (split roughly into 3 flats / 3 boots / 3 heels)
  • Tops – 15 (split roughly into 3 jumpers / 3 t-shirts / 3 button up shirts / 3 smart tops / 3 vests)
  • Bottoms – 7
  • Dresses – 2
  • Coats & jackets – 4

This made it really clear to see where I was missing staple items, leading me to the next (and most exciting) step…

Shopping list

At this point, I made the shocking realisation that I don’t have any flat shoes that aren’t trainers – scandalous. I also realised that all of my smart tops are white.

So far, I think the main thing to take away from this is to not be too strict, you can take the rules with the pinch of salt and tailor them so they work for your wardrobe and lifestyle. For example, one of the categories was tank tops (lol) and considering I have zero of these, I swapped it for ‘smart tops’ of which I have an abundance. Seriously, what is the difference a tank top & vest top?

I’m thinking about sharing what made the cut in a future post, once I’ve bought my new essentials of course, but as it’s the last time I can shop for 3 months, I might be a while…

Holiday Reads

IMG_8293

I have just returned from Cape Verde which, if you’re interested, was quiet, boring, hot and exactly what I wanted! As part of this trip, and any holiday which involves around 86% horizontal time, I like to chain read books. Here are the things that kept me entertained throughout my week stay.

Before I Go To Sleep

Recommended a number of times by Kate Lavie, this is about a woman named Christine who has an accident and as a result, suffered severe memory loss to the point where every morning she wakes up, she’s forgotten everything about her life. She has a husband who tells her everything she can’t recall but it soon becomes clear that her husbands version of events may not be entirely truthful after Christine begins to keep a journal. DUN DUN DUN.

I have a confession though, I DID start reading this before holiday and during that time, I didn’t find it enthralling to the point where I couldn’t put it down, but once I got on hols, I raced through the second half and would defs recommend giving it a read.

Side note: I just wanted the trailer for the film and it looks TERRIFYING. The book was not scary, at all, or else I wouldn’t have read it. I’m not sure I’ll be able to complete my normal ritual of reading the book followed by watching the film and slating everything they got wrong or missed out, DAMN.

The Girl on the Train

If there’s something that I can’t resist, it’s a fad. Anything that other people are raving about, whether it’s a TV programme or some kind of magic foundation, I’m into it. The Girl On The Train seemed to be the book of 2015.

As the title would suggest, this is about a girl called Rachel who gets the train into London every day and, en route, sees a perfect couple in their garden, with their perfect house, loving life. Though on one seemingly boring commute, Rachel sees something that makes her realise it’s not as perfect as she made up in her head. There’s also an interlinking story with this couple living nearby to Tom, Rachel’s ex-husband who lives with his new partner, Anna, which gives another twist to the main story.

I would recommend this mainly because I like that there’s almost two stories which run parallel which makes it difficult to put it down, as there’s always something going on! I also like that it reiterates that other peoples lives aren’t always as they seem. It’s a bit of an extreme example, I admit, but I think we’re all guilty of thinking our peers, old schools friends, even complete strangers, have it all when actually, you don’t know what happens behind closed doors.

Though the fact that I live right next to a train track did give me the heebie jeebies slightly after reading this…

Serial

I did something wild on holiday and listened to a podcast when I fancied giving my eyeballs a rest. Raved about by Hannah Gale, is the Serial podcast.  Serial has 12 episodes, all between 30 minutes to an hour, about a murder case in Baltimore. Hae Min Lee goes missing in 1999, her ex boyfriend (Adnan) is arrested 6 weeks later and, whilst he continues to maintain his innocence, has been in prison ever since. The podcast examines all the past evidence, the court and police recordings and also interviews characters involved in the story. It’s narrated by Sarah Koenig who tells it in a really easy to listen way and not at all bogged down with legal / boring information.

My mind was constantly changing on whether Adnan was guilty or not with new pieces of evidence, new interviews and twists on the story being told each episode. It was one of those things that just consumed my brain and I couldn’t stop thinking about. Because of this, I would 100% suggest making sure you know someone that has listened or is listening to it, as you’re gonna want to discuss ALL of the conspiracy theories. I genuinely considered joining some kind of forum whilst on holiday, I kid you not.

Oh there’s also a website with all the document and evidence to trawl through, if you’re a complete obsessive, like me.

OH OH and there’s a series 2 coming out soon so HURRY!

I’m now reading Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned just to take the edge off all the murder, crime, thrills & spills. If I have any readers firstly HI and secondly, let me know if you’d like to see any posts about my other book recommendations :)

Getting to know you

Can we all just take a moment to realise that I *actually* stuck to my last resolution, to post every week for a month! I mean, no one really read them, but I’m okay with that as I sure did like sitting down on a Sunday to write about myself.

I know, I know – it’s been 4 months since, but it’s been Summer in the meantime (and a pretty darn good one at that) so I’ve kind of been enjoying that thing called the outside world rather than sitting at a computer.

Anyway, I was thinking that if you’re a stranger that stumbled upon my little corner of the internet  somehow rather than being a pity reader from Twitter (all 4 of them – hey you guys), then I realised you won’t really know anything about me or my interests, so I have compiled this fancy collage below to illustrate a few of the things I enjoy in life. If you don’t like at least one of these things, we probably can’t be friends.

Getting to know you1. I was always, ALWAYS a dog person having grown up with two cocker spaniels. That all changed on Christmas Day 2014 when I was thrust a cardboard box making strange noises followed by a little Albus jumping out. Albie is my 10 month old kitten / baby who I am obsessed with. It’s a shame the feeling isn’t mutual but what can I say, he’s one sassy, independent man about town. I’m basically that person who likes animals more than humans and will cross the road to cuddle / talk to a stranger dogs (just FYI, not all dog owners appreciate this).

2. Now this is a double whammy – this is my boyfriend & I at Magic Kingdom at Disneyword. Firstly, I like spending time with Seb (funny that) and also, I like to go on holiday or any trip away really!

3. Here comes the materialism! I like buying things, whether that’s another collared shirt, another lipstick, another losing scratch card or stationery for my job working in a paperless office… I basically specialise in things I don’t need. I also like green. We can also see my positivity journal which I keep with me to write in anytime I get a have a moment of gratitude. Sounds lame, but there’s nothing better than having a flick through this when you feel like the world is against you (maybe more on that in future!)

4. This is a bit of a new one – fitness. As you may have read in a previous post, I tried my hand at running which I actually really enjoyed. Through the winter months, it was harder to motivate myself because it was so darn dark & cold so I signed up to the gym. Fast forward 6 months and I’ve actually kept it up and discovered a love of spinning (and buying jazzy workout gear). I also ran 10k in August which is probably my biggest fitness achievement to date – GO ME.

5. Isn’t tea & cake one of EVERYONE’S favourite things?! Anyone else find it difficult to trust people that don’t drink hot drinks or is that just me? Like how do these people even stay awake in the mornings? What do they do when they’re feeling stressed, under the weather or cold? A glass of orange squash just doesn’t cut it for me in those situations. Anyway that’s a discussion for another time.

6. I have a season ticket for Norwich City football club which occupies my Saturdays every couple of weeks, I go with my dad, so it’s a lovely little bonding exercise for us, but also genuinely really enjoy football. I used to play also as a youngster but now I mostly enjoy watching and seeing the look on men’s faces when I kind of know what I’m on about.

Hopefully that gives you a bit of an insight to me & my life! I realise it’s nothing groundbreaking, but nice to meet you :)

Hobby 4: DIY Photo Frame

Unlike the majority of my crafty endeavours, this one actually went as planned, first time, with no strops. I’d give it a success rate of 95% (the 5% drop will become clear soon…).

I’ve always loved Instagram but I find due to the excessive filtering, if you print them out for a standard 6 x 4 photo frame, they turn out looking pixelated and poop, so I wanted a quirky way to display my pictures whilst maintaining the quality.  I headed over to trusty Pintrest for some inspiration from places like here to create the below:

IMG_4792

And I’m not just saying this, but it was actually REALLY EASY to make.

My first port of call was the agonising process of choosing a select few prints before placing an order with Polargram. Polargram are a local company who print & post your selected Instagram pictures to you in a polaroid style fashion. And they sent sweets with your delivery for which me and my sweet tooth were very grateful for. The quality of the prints were excellent, delivery was speedy (and free I believe at the time) and exactly what I was looking for.

IMG_4682

To make the frame, I used:

  • 1 x plain wood photo frame
  • 1 x paint tester
  • String
  • Pegs
  • Photos

I bought a plain wood (or probably wood substitute if such exists) from Poundland and a white wall paint tester from Homebase to decorate the frame after knocking the glass out of the frame. Obviously you could pick any paint colour, or just buy a frame in your colour of choice, but you get the idea.

Next I got my string and hooked it behind those prongs which hold the glass in place and pinned my photos up using some very cute mini pegs from Hobbycraft (they aren’t the exact ones used, but there’s lots to choose from! Anything mini & pastel coloured is a win in my books).

It really was that simple. The only part I failed at is not actually hanging it up anywhere, I just propped it against the wall of various rooms around the house. Now Albie uses it as a play toy. At least I have the photo graphic evidence to show it wasn’t a complete fail!

Hobby 3: Netball

Back in my youth, I was proper sporty.  Between running club (shout out to Ryston Runners) and football, I also played for the school netball team. However by the time I got to high school, I pretty much gave all that up to concentrate on defacing homework diaries and school disco outfits.

It wasn’t until I got to uni that I really remembered the sport actually existed. So in the early stages of freshers, my friends flatmate suggested we join a casual netball league. “Casual” they said, “it will be fun” they said…  Genuinely my only memory of this is me skidding across the court, falling flat on my face, with my trainers making that squeeky skidding-along-a-sports-hall noise that I can still hear like it was yesterday. Cringing hell. Needless to say, the only activities I took part in throughout the rest of my university career were drinking games.

So last Summer, my friend’s mum who is a proper netballer (in that she plays for a team every week) mentioned there was a ‘Get back into netball’ session being put on locally for 8 weeks throughout the Summer.  It came at a really good time as I was going through a period where I was staying late at work too often for my liking, so as sad as it sounds, it gave me a good reason to leave on time.

My main concern with seriously taking up a team sport was a ‘Mean Girls’ scenario. Even at 25, as much as we try to get away from it, girls can still be really cliquey and bitchy.  Ain’t no one got time for that. The get back into Netball sessions weren’t at all like that, as many of us were all in same boat i.e. actually getting back into netball & not really knowing anyone in the sport. Although there were groups of players from the same team who stuck together, no one knew everyone which meant everyone was really friendly and I just felt like I could chat with anyone really!

Whilst I’m all for a bit of competition, as it was a casual league with no serious point scoring going down, it was all very lighthearted which is exactly what you want when you’re getting back into a sport. I never really felt like I was rubbish or letting anyone down.

In a team, you don’t really get a chance to try other positions but as it was all super casj, as long as the bib was available, you could play it! Whilst I realised I am a TERRIBLE defender, at least I tried it to know that I don’t want to do it again! Variety is the spice of life and all that.

A couple of girls mentioned about playing for a team. At first I feigned enthusiasm, however in my head I was thinking “oh it’s x amount of miles from my house”, “I need to fork out for a kit myself?!” and “I need to register with Netball England?! Can’t be bothered”. If I was that fussed, I would have driven / bought kit / registered but I realised  that whilst I didn’t love it enough to commit to seriously playing week in week out with a team, I really enjoyed the 8 weeks of meeting new people, re-kindling an interest in sport and generally being outside on a Summers evening! I’d definitely recommend it and would 100% look into taking part again this year.

These are sessions are held by England Netball and available across the country. You can read more about them here.

 

Hobby 2: Upcycling

I like to think I’m quite a creative individual with a basic level of DIY under my belt (highlights include hacking at a metal rail with a kitchen knife for a built in wardrobe), so reading through realms of upcycling blogs, I was optimistic. But it’s so simple, I thought, just add a slick of paint and pop it on Gumtree for a hefty profit. Oh how wrong I was!

The first step was to find a piece of furniture, so one Sunday, we moseyed over to a carboot sale where I would surely find a solid pine, spotless coffee table for a fiver. Not quite, but amongst the jigsaw puzzles, broken photo frames and plant stands (plants? who knew people sold shrubbery at car boots?! I sure didn’t), I found this:

IMG_7048

The first alarm bell started ringing when I was reminded of my complete lack of negotiation skills. I just find it so awkward! The seller already haggled herself down from £15 to £10, Seb offered £8, and when mrs car boot seemed hesitant and started justifying her £10 bracket I hurriedly chipped in with, “10 IS FINE, WE’LL TAKE IT FOR 10”, with Seb glaring at me across the way. Apparently you have to be prepared to walk away, soz.

So excuse the negativity, but here’s all the stuff that went wrong when I got this lump of wood home..

1. There are just so many types of paint available on the market isn’t there?! I knew that chalk paint was good for furniture, Annie Sloan is pretty much the bees knees of the stuff as I understand it, but it’s pretty expensive. I did some light research and all the DIY-ers did recommend all different kinds – matte, gloss, water based, oil based, and confusingly, some of them are the same but are just called different names? I was pretty bamboozled in B&Q to be honest, so I’d suggest doing some INSANE research before shopping to ensure you get the exact finish you want. In this case, I got a glossy finish and for something that isn’t 10000% smooth (despite all the sanding), it just showed up every single teeny mark. Marks I could’t even see until I painted it!

2. Whilst my project started off exactly as I imagined it (sanding & cleaning outside in the sunshine – loving life), the majority of it was cooped up in our spare room, engulfed in fumes, with the door shut to stop Albie treading paint paw prints throughout the house. I thought it would be soothing & therapeutic, but I actually got pretty bored (and probably high), pretty quickly.

3. My choice of furniture could have been better for a first project – it had 4 compartments which obviously all had to be cleaned, sanded, primed & painted which to be honest, was a bit of a pain and in hindsight, I should have bought something squarer and easier!

4. Oil based paint gets everywhere, EVERYWHERE if you do not have white spirit. Apparently you just need cold water to clear brushes but this is not true. I can’t even explain how much it gets everywhere, anything you touched the brush with transferred to the cleaning object so it never actually cleaned, it just spread! Which is messy, especially if you have a black sink.  Ugh, it just pains me thinking about it again!

5. Paint DOES get underneath masking tape.  I still how no idea how.  So my vision came from Pintrest and is below:

Upcycling - the dream

The problem was that mine didn’t turn out QUITE so neat after seemingly not understanding how masking tape works, so this is what I’m stuck with:

Upcycling - the reality

In summary, I think the main flaws of the project come down to two aspects of my personality unfortunately . I am an inpatient perfectionist. I wanted the project to be perfect first time but didn’t have the patience to make it happen! I would like to try another upcycling project like this, but one that is a bit simpler.  I’d probably have more success with everything I’ve learnt from this disaster, but I’ll proceed with this in a few months, when the stench of fumes eventually leaves the house…

 

 

Hobby 1: Running

I’ll start with the hobby with the most longevity behind it, and that is running.

I feel like there’s SO many people (including me) that are guilty of claiming “I’m just not a runner”. Yes, some people may find it harder and that first run is, without a doubt, THE WORST OF YOUR LIFE, but if you have a working pair of legs, you can run! Even just for a couple of seconds. Look at it this way, at least 30 seconds running is more exercise than sitting on the sofa! You just need to build it up, keep at it and have patience. Don’t try and run before you can walk, literally. 

I wish I could take my own advice – I came back from my first 0.8 mile run around the block sweating profusely, red as a beetroot, feeling sick all with a sore throat (probably from swearing at Seb 99% of the way) adament I’d never go again. Apart from the latter, I still do all of these things but find the whole thing much more enjoyable!

As I’m sure you’ll soon gather from my other attempted hobbies, I have zero patience. If I’m not good at something immediately, I’ll be completely demotivated, hate my life and chuck all hobby-related paraphernalia in the bin. I’m not sure what it was about running, but I really wanted to get better.

My first tracked run was 20th August 2014 where I ran 1.35 miles which took me 13:26 minutes (roughly 10 minute miles). My PB for distance (lol, so profesh) is 7 miles which I did in 1:04:29 (9″11 minute miles) on 11th January 2015. It’s not even the distance but the time duration – running non-stop for 1 hour at a decent pace makes me really proud!

You’ll feel knackered after every run, whether it’s for 5 minutes or 5K, so using a running app to keep track and see your progress in cold, hard numbers is really motivational. I’ve used Runkeeper & Fitbit but they’re all very much the same. So when you’re feeling like you’ve plateaued, take a look through all your tracked runs and if you’re going regularly enough, you’re going to start doing longer distances or running a quicker pace, and that’s a promise. 

Getting deep here, but not only does running help with that ever present fitness / I want a bangin’ body aim, but I genuinely think it’s good for your mind.  Something about being in the fresh air with your own thoughts  really clears your head if you’re worrying, having a bad day, feeling restless, the list is endless! Do you ever have those Sundays where you’ve slobbed around the house and by about 7pm you’re deep in Sunday blues territory, feeling gross and unproductive? Going for a quick run makes you feel like you’ve achieved something with your day!

If you’re kind of into the idea, but not fully committed, go out there and buy some bright, ridiculous, crazy running gear which makes you happy to wear, and you’ll be flying!

Also reading “Running Like A Girl” is super inspirational – read it!

 

New Years resolutions (take 2).

So, I just remembered this little page existed (my bad). Looking back at my 2014 resolutions, I’d say I’ve done pretty good at sticking to my word (no fringe and I do currently have a book on the go….) however the one niggling item from the list is number 1: get a hobby.

Over the year, I feel like I’ve tried pretty damn hard to find a hobby, a project, something that I can be like “yep, that’s my thing” and after washing my brushes in white spirit and fumigating the house for what felt like the millionth time, I thought I would revisit the idea of a blog.

I spend so much time looking at a computer, iPad, iPhone, just all variations of blue light really, so I ideally wanted something to give my eyeballs a break, but here I am! I’m going to attempt to write something, once a week, for all of May and see how I get on (I think that’s achievable – let’s not get ahead of ourselves here).

But for now, here’s a photo of me cradling my cat Albie like a child…

IMG_6988

New Years resolutions

I drafted this post on the 3rd January with full intentions of sticking to all New Years resolutions for the full year and I’m happy to say I’m currently looking at a good 50% pass rate! Not too shabby. I usually end up with a huge list that I promise myself I’ll keep, and end up forgetting most of them. This year, I’ve gone with a concise 5 (and at least they’re written down so I have no excuse of forgetting…!)

1. Get a hobby

The end of last year was crazy – moving into a new house in November, Christmas preparations, festive season… Now I’m back at work and well & truly bogged down by January blues, I need something to look forward to. It sounds sad, but moving to a new city (albeit only one hour away from home & home friends) means that I don’t really have any Norwich based friends apart from those I have at work, so I thought getting a hobby would be a good way to meet new people. The thought of it is pretty terrifying, but we’ll see how I get on!

2. Be more experimental in the hair & beauty department

Lets face it, my ‘look’ is very basic and I’ve pretty much had the same hairstyle for as long as I can remember (huge forehead = constant need for fringe). Reading blogs has inspired me to be a little more experimental in the way I look, I have started wearing eyeshadow more in the day (only brown, nothing too crazy, but still!) and hoping to make a few more alterations throughout the year. Think slightly bolder lipsticks, darker / lighter highlights, you won’t see me sporting fushia pink hair any time soon…

3.  Be more positive / worry less

Despite lots of inspirations quotes always popping up on my Pintrest feed, I think I’m just one of those people that has worrying ingrained into their being. I just can’t help myself. Sometimes when life is going swimmingly, I will find something to worry about, which is CRAZY! It’s just that unnecessary worrying that I”m going to try and cut out.

4. Read more 

Back in the day, I used to be a massive book worm, reading before bed, when I woke up, and every given opportunity in-between. However at uni, reading was replaced with working socialising and I’ve just never really got back into it so this year, I’m determined to re-kindle (ha, get it?) my love for books. I am currently reading “The Fault in Our Stars”.

5. Keep all new years resolutions 

Pretty self explanatory…