Sunday, 22 March 2015

the art of doing nothing



When you realise you have no plans for the upcoming weekend, how do you feel? I know for some people, the thought of spending a day with no plans is like torture. For me (unsurprisingly) it's an excuse to recharge... and I revel in it. Now, of course, there is a time and a place for socialising, getting out there, seeing some sights, being productive and getting shit done.... but there is also a time and a place for doing nothing.

And by nothing, I don't mean literally nothing (obvs) I mean a day of no plans. A day when you have no obligations and have nothing on your to-do list. These days can be a blessing, if you use them right. Over the past couple of months I've probably had more 'nothing' days than 'doing' days at the weekend, so I feel I have honed in on the perfect routine. 

So, for those who dread a day of no plans - give this a whirl and see how you feel. You might be surprised.

1. First of all, don't set an alarm. Let your body clock wake you up and when you do wake up - stay up. Don't fall back to sleep. Your body knows better than you how much sleep you need.

2. Once you are awake, get up - go get a hot drink (I usually grab a hot water and lemon, but coffee is a nice treat) and get back into bed. Now, instead of falling back to sleep, spend some time in bed doing something you love. Maybe it's watching cookery shows or writing in a journal. For me it's either catching up on reading blogs or playing on Pinterest.

3. Next, it's time to get up. Get in the shower, use a zingy smelling shower gel to wake up the senses and linger for longer than normal. Wash your face and brush your teeth - but girls, don't put on any make-up. Let your skin breathe today.

4. Get dressed into something comfy. I like my printed yoga pants and a long-sleeved top with bare feet. I don't know why I avoid socks, it just feels right.

5. Go make yourself a tasty breakfast. During the week I scoff down pre-made overnight oats at my desk, so at the weekends I like to spend time making eggs, toast and fruit for breakfast.

6. Do something you always say you never have time to do. For me this inevitably involves listening to music and reading... or cleaning. For you it might be painting, fixing something around the house or clearing out your wardrobe.

7. MOVE (just a little). I know 'exercising' doesn't seem like doing nothing, but if I don't get moving at some point on my nothing days I end up achy, grumpy and unable to sleep that night. Now, I'm not suggesting you do anything too high in intensity (unless of course you want to), but getting yourself moving will make you feel better, promise. If the weather's nice, I go for a walk in the woods - if it's not, I do some yoga.

8. Have a nutritious lunch. After getting my body moving I crave healthy stuff, so usually make myself a chicken and avocado salad - nom. 

9. Be a bit creative. Go take some photographs, write a story or draw something. It feels nice to think creatively for a bit, even if you don't consider yourself a creative person. I usually end up blogging (hello!).

10. Have a cup of tea and do something that makes you happy. What little thing could you do that makes your heart sing? Watch your favourite movie? Listen to your favourite band? Binge watch the OC? (*hand up*). Whatever it is - do it.

11. Treat yourself. In the evening I like to pamper myself a little. I pop on a facemask, paint my nails and have a couple of chocolates after dinner. 

By the time the day is over I feel like a new person, like I've spent the day just soaking in energy. And I know that wouldn't be the case for everyone, but on the off chance that it would feel like that for you, I thought I would share.

What do you do on 'nothing' days?

Saturday, 7 March 2015

29


Last year I wrote a post after my birthday (28) so I thought I would do the same this year. Reading back at last year's post it's crazy to see how much has changed in a year. My birthday this year was a million miles away from last year. OK, not a million miles - 3396.08 to be exact. I was in Dubai.

My friend Paul moved out there a couple of years ago and I was dying to visit, so I figured what better time to go? I had such a great time and felt revitalised when I got home.

My actual birthday was different to any birthday I've had before. For one thing, I spent a lot of the day alone. For the past six years I've been in relationships on my birthday, so always had a significant other to spend it with. So being alone in a foreign country was certainly a first.  

And you know what? I actually kinda loved it. As soon as I woke up I opened my cards I brought along from home and then had a very lazy morning reading blogs. Eventually I got myself ready, slicked on some pink lippy and went for a wander. I headed to Baker and Spice, asked for a table for one and ate some tasty pasta salad. Then I went to the Dubai mall and found my way to Sephora and Cos (AKA Mecca). I grabbed a coffee on my way out and sat in front of the Burj Kalifa to take pictures and watch the world go by. 

When Paul got home from work we both got spruced up and headed out for dinner. Paul took me to a restaurant called Pai Thai which was in a beautiful setting and sold the best Thai food I have ever eaten. We finished the evening off with a couple of cocktails - perfection. All in all, a pretty wonderful day.

Something else that made this birthday different was what I saw for myself in the future. Last year I thought I knew exactly what the future held. I could see it clear as day and was so excited for it. This year is different. For the first time in a long time I have no clue what the future looks like. 

While this is slightly scary, there is a sense of freedom about not knowing. 

For example, being in a different country reminded me how much I love to travel. This combined with a newfound obsession with creating wish lists on the Airbnb app has given me seriously itchy feet. So I think 29 will be a year for exploring. Exploring different cities, exploring other cultures and yeah, exploring myself. 

I don't know where I'll be when I turn 30, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it'll be somewhere new. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Harlequins



As many of you know by now, music makes my soul happy. My tastes are varied, but I have a soft spot for anything with folk-y, blues-y, rock-y tones. I also have a soft spot for male vocalists who show grit, determination and passion when they sing. 

Enter Russell Joslin.

The first time I heard Russell Joslin was when a friend of mine recommended his album 'Dream Token'. I listened, I loved - I swooned. I reviewed his second offering, 'Jet Black and White' when I volunteered at For Folks Sake and, again, was happy to witness Joslin as he transformed acoustic folk into a genre all his own.

In the years since, I'll admit, he slipped out of my regular music rotation, becoming like a rare treasure I would rediscover every six months or so. So when I got the opportunity to review to his latest offering, Harlequins, I jumped at the chance to rediscover him all over again and see what he's been up to. 

And I was not disappointed. 

The opening track, 'Up with the birds' immediately grabs your attention with strings adding a new layer and jarring you in the best way possible. When the electric guitar kicks in, it turns what could have been a steady ditty to nod your head to into what feels like a beautiful, French tragedy.  

'Our Queen' lulls you back to safety with a more upbeat tempo, laced with rock-inspired riffs before the first single from the album, 'What a waste', changes it up again with a slicker, yet more sombre feel. The saxaphone weaves itself around lines like "you threw your love around in the wrong place", quickly elevating it to stand-out-track status. 

The simplicity of 'Doves may fly' stole my heart (and if I had to pick favourites, this would be it), telling a love story the only way Joslin could, with poetic metaphor and honesty. 

The rest of the album holds steady, 'The chosen few' is a crowd pleaser I envision doing well at festivals, and 'Victory parade' tells a veteran's story and makes me want to learn all the words so I can sing along. The closing track, 'Pale Mary', featured on Joslin's previous album, but I welcomed the re-recording back into my life like an old friend who I always had a crush on.

Listening to Harlequins, what stands out most for me is that Joslin's story telling abilities are well and truly intact. His music has evolved for sure, he's added new dimensions and new moods, but the way he writes lyrics, stories and music is as beautiful as ever. 

Harlequins will be released on 23rd Feb (my birthday!) and you can pick it up here

Who have you been listening to recently?

*********************************************************************************

Edit: I just read through some old entries on here and came across a stream of consciousness I wrote back in 2008 that mentioned Mr. Joslin - clearly I was inspired (and a little sad)...

Thursday 12th June 2008, 01:33 AM

How can music do that? Reach into the bottom of your soul and reveal to you long forgotten emotions. God she loves it. These early hours are the best, when all are asleep but her and her new best friend - Mr Joslin. Oh how you move her, recreate tears that fell years ago. She thought they had died, gone forever - but you found them. You have decorated her sketched face with the artful little shapes. You are reminding her what her calling is, showing her it needn’t all be electrical nonsense - just passion. And her loves, (oh her loves), losses and continuing loneliness, you’ve found them too. Her mind is shooting scenes every second - various men take their turn in the role of leading man. He’s in bed with her and holds onto her naked skin for dear life. And you, good sir, are their soundtrack, and you are infuriating their imaginary passion and her real hurt. She thanks you for it, truly, nothing has moved her this far for years indeed. I think it was the push she needed to finally approach the belly of the beast... and secretly enjoy it.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

why you should throw away your scales...


Between the ages of 14 and 17, one thing and one thing only determined my happiness - my weight. If I had lost some, I was happy. If I hadn't, I was distraught. Those menacing numbers on the scales were my obsession. In my head I "knew" that if I just reached my target weight, I would be OK. Everything in my life would be better.

Of course, thanks to therapy and a good support system, I overcame this obsession and stopped standing on the scales. In the years since I have gone back to them from time to time - like a distant relative I hated but felt obliged to visit. And yes, I would still feel a tinge of unhappiness whenever the number creeped up, but I was much better able to handle those feelings. 

My most recent encounter with the scales was last week when my curiosity got the better of me, and this was my thought process...

"Hmmm, I weigh more than I thought."
"That's weird, I've been eating healthily, exercising and I feel more toned than I have in ages."
"I suppose muscle weighs more than fat."
"Wait a sec.... who the hell cares?!?!?"

Do you know what I know? I know that the clothes I squeezed myself into towards the end of last year now fit me better. I know that my tummy jiggles less than it did. I know that I can now cycle on level three for 30 minutes on an exercise bike without thinking I might die (previously level two for 25 minutes was my limit). I know that I feel fitter, leaner, more confident and more energetic than I have in ages.

That's what I know. And I do not need an inanimate object to tell me otherwise. 

If you're trying to lose weight, instead of having a target weight, why don't you think up a different target? Aim to run a 5K race. Aim to fit in those skinny jeans hidden in the back of your wardrobe. Aim to feel confident in a tank top. And for the sake of your sanity, stop being a slave to your scales. 

Now, of course in some cases scales can be handy to keep track of your progress (especially if your doctor has advised you to lose weight) but try to reign in the habit and don't let your mood be dictated by a number. Muscle does weigh more than fat and yes, your weight will fluctuate a lot depending on all sorts of things. 

I won't be weighing myself any time soon - I'm living a healthy lifestyle now and while I'm happy I seem to be toning up - I'm not doing this to lose weight. I'm doing it to feel better inside. And I do.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

project life





Ever since I was 12 I have been a big believer in documenting life. It was at this age that I started writing my first diary, a habit I have continued (on and off) throughout my life. Nowadays, I tend to only turn to my diary when I'm feeling low and need to 'write it out' to gain clarity. For the happier moments, I turn to my camera (phone) instead. 

I love the power photos have - bringing back a memory with a single glance, I mean what else has that power? If you follow me on Instagram, you'll probably notice that I am a bit of a photograph-a-holic, and while some of the pictures I take are mundane, they are a moment captured that I'll never experience again. And I think that's pretty freakin' awesome.

And indeed, thanks to social networks like Instagram and Facebook, I can look back at those moments whenever I want - as long as I have a decent Wifi connection. While this is admittedly kinda cool in it's own right, I've always loved tangible photos. When I studied photography in college my favourite part of the lesson was always cutting and pasting my pictures in the project book, making it look as pretty as possible. And now that I'm older, with a full time job and boring responsibilities? I wanna rekindle that creativity.

But also - I'm lazy. I don't have time to learn calligraphy, and I have no desire to get covered in glue. As I mentioned in my previous post, I read about Project Life scrapbooks on Lily Pebbles' blog, and I was drawn to it's simplicity. They provide the book and some funky cards - you provide the photos. All you have to do is arrange and slot in the cards/photos. EASY.

Today I started my project life scrapbook and am really happy with the results - my favourite pages are up there ^^^. It feels nice to be documenting life again, and I can't wait to look back over it again and again.

Do you print your photos? What do you do with them? 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

this week








Getting back into a routine after the festivities of Christmas is hard, but it's also kinda nice. It's the time to dictate what your new routine will be; you figure out just how realistic those resolutions you made on January 1st really are and you can set the tone for the year ahead.

My first week 'back to reality' has been pretty low key, but also quite pleasant. Here's what I did.

Drank warm water with lemon every day

This has been an easy adjustment to make to my morning routine and I'm sure it's doing me good. I boil the kettle, roll a lemon around on the side (makes it easier to juice) chop it in half and hand squeeze the juice from one half into a cup. Fill the cup halfway with boiled water, top the rest up with cold water. Sip and enjoy. I find it surprisingly filling, so I've started to take my breakfast to work rather than trying to scoff it down straight after my lemon water.

Made overnight oats

I was inspired by my manager who enjoyed some yummy bircher muesli over Christmas and looked up some overnight oat recipes. I tweaked one and came up with this banana and blueberry concoction:

Mash up 1/2 banana and a handful of blueberries
Add 1/3 cup of rolled oats
Add 1/3 cup of soy milk
Add 1 tbsp 0% Greek yoghurt
Stir, cover with clingfilm and pop in the fridge overnight.

The next morning give it another stir and top with more blueberries. I make mine in a tupperware pot and take it to work - super quick and easy.

Did spinning once, yoga three times and walking once

Slowly but surely getting back into my exercise routine and feeling sooo much better for it. Less bloated, more energetic and overall a bit buzzy. Oh, and for those interested I do my yoga using this website (you do have to pay to subscribe, but not much and I think it's worth it).

Impulse bought scrapbook materials

Thanks to Lily Pebbles I got a bit overexcited and bought a ton of Project Life scrapbook bits from Hobbycraft. I love taking pictures and always want to do something more with them, so very excited to while away some rainy afternoons with glue, scissors and glitter pens.

Watched The Theory of Everything & Walking the Nile

The Theory of Everything (Steven Hawking biopic) was fantastic and I think I fell a little bit more in love with Eddie Redmayne. If he doesn't get an oscar for that performance I will be miffed. Walking the Nile is a documentary on channel 4 following Levison Wood as he walks the length of the Nile. The first episode was incredible and tragic at the same time (watch it here). The next episode in on tonight (Sunday) at 9:00PM - watch it!

Cooked tuna linguini

My first family meal endeavour was super duper easy and ended up being really rather tasty (from this recipe book). But then again, you can't go wrong with pasta, fish, garlic and tomatoes can you? I served it with garlic bread and some faux wine (sparkling pomegranate and elderflower). 

Found a quote I liked from Rachel Brathen

Also known as @yoga_girl on Instagram, I love this quote (this is just a section of the quote) about balance. PS. I made the image above on PicMonkey.

Spent time with the family

Visited my sister on Saturday and played with her cats (the one in the pic is Daphne - what a doll) and walked around Windsor with my parents and brother on Sunday. Nothing particularly new or exciting there, but after the shock to the system of going back to work, it was just what I needed.

Listened to the soundtrack from Inside Llewyn Davis

Ahhhh the songs from this movie make me so happy. If you like folk music, I implore you to watch the film and then download the album pronto. On Saturday I spent three hours solid listening to music. The last hour I wasn't reading, scrolling through my phone - nothing. Just lay down on my bed, eyes to the ceiling and got lost in the lyrics. Here's my favourite song from the soundtrack:



Are you back in the swing of things yet?

Friday, 2 January 2015

2015

NYE with friends / out for a walk / healthy breakfast

I love new years, the slate is wiped clean and we can delight in making plans for the future. It's all about looking ahead, and that I can totally get on board with. This year I'm keen to steer clear of huge unattainable 'resolutions' and instead try to make small changes that will (hopefully) result in a seismic shift. So let's see what I'll be attempting in 2015...

1) Start the day with hot water and lemon

There are lots of health benefits associated with this small action so setting my alarm a few minutes early and adding this to my morning routine feels like a no brainer.

2) Cut down on sugar

Overindulging on sugar makes me feel and look rubbish (hello spotty skin) so I'm keen to reign in my sweet tooth, starting by replacing the sugar I normally have in my coffee with cinnamon. As explained here, this is a simple but effective swap. I'll also be giving up chocolate from Mon-Fri and upping my veg intake. 

3) Quit drinking (temporarily)

I don't like how I feel when I drink at the moment. Instead of feeling social, chatty and enthused about the night, lately it's just made me seek validation from other people and/or get upset - not great. So for the next month and a bit I'm giving up alcohol to give my physical and mental health a little boost. I'll celebrate this with a couple of cocktails on my birthday in Dubai.

4) Get back into an exercise routine

Last year I did manage to get myself into quite a good exercise routine, switching between spinning, yoga and arm workouts - but then I got a cold. Then I went to Berlin and ate all the pastries. Then I got tonsillitis. And then, well - Christmas happened. So, time to get back into my routine and maybe even join the gym. Maybe.

5) Cook dinner for the family once a week

Cooking more is always on my list - I hate cooking. But I need to get over it. So I've decided I will cook for my family once a week to ease myself into it. Then of course when I move out I will be a culinary Goddess ;)

6) Drive somewhere new once a week

I am perfectly comfortable driving routes I know (especially if I know where I can park easily) but I am still nervous when it comes to new routes. And again, I need to get the hell over it. So every weekend I will take myself out for a drive with my satnav and some tunes, and I'll be just fine.

7) Instill some house rules before the move

I was planning to move to a flat by myself after my birthday, but now I have an opportunity to live with one of my closest friends later on in the year (yay!) - so I will be staying put until then. I have been living at home with my family for a long time and the need for independence is at times, suffocating. So I've asked that when my bedroom door is closed, to please not disturb. That may sound a tad harsh, but there are times when I just need to decompress and be alone. I also plan to go out for walks alone with some music when I feel overwhelmed or simply need to get out of the house - it is so good for clearing your head.

That's about it for now. I'm sure some of these will fall by the wayside as the months roll by - but I'll pick them back up. And I may even add some new ones. Either way, I think 2015 is going to be a defining year.

What do you have planned for 2015? Will you make big changes or small tweaks?

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