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?

Monday, 29 December 2014

2014

Left to right: Jan = passed driving test / Feb = painting from my sister for my bday / March = dinner in the shard / April = new dress / May = BBQs and pink lippy / June = visiting friends in Zurich / July = cuddles with Sanka / August = volleyball in Southsea / Sept = top-down selfies / Oct = weekend with the girls / Nov = haircut / Dec = exploring Berlin

If I had to describe 2014 in one word, it would probably be 'challenging'. There were plenty of ups, plenty of downs and if anything, I certainly learnt a lot about myself. 

I passed my driving test and started the battle to get over my anxieties about driving. I turned 28. I ate some fantastic food at incredible restaurants. I travelled to Switzerland in the summer and Berlin in the winter. I attended two wedding receptions and two of my oldest friends got engaged to their partners. I visited friends in Southsea and ate at Pie & Vinyl twice. My family got a cat and I got a new cuddle buddy. I discovered red wine. My relationship ended. I cut my hair off. I went out drinking (a lot) and got 'escorted' out of a club. I said yes to as many social invitations as I could. I went to the cinema by myself. I became painfully aware of the limitations of my comfort zone. I spent Christmas with friends and family and loved it. I freaked out about the future.

Like I said, challenging.

So, what about 2015? If there's anything I've learnt this year, it's that life doesn't give a flying fuck about your plans - so I don't want to worry too much about making plans. I just want to live in the moment - be healthy, happy and mindful. The only plans I have made for 2015 is booking flights to Dubai to celebrate my birthday in the sun, drinking cocktails with a good friend. 

I'll save any resolutions or goals I make for another post. Until then - I hope you have had a lovely Christmas and are looking forward to a fresh start in 2015, I know I am.

Monday, 10 November 2014

what I've learnt



After almost two years in my current job writing about various health and wellness industries, I'd like to think I've learnt a fair bit. So, unsurprisingly perhaps, quite a few of these lessons have seeped into my personal life. I am certainly not an expert, but I thought it might be nice to share the few things that have gone from 'tips' I wrote about in a blog at work, to life-long habits. Let's see.

Mental health

1. Talking to someone always helps

Whether it's your family, a good friend, your boss or even a counsellor - when you're feeling low, talking is the best medicine. Don't feel embarassed or ashamed, we all have demons and mental health issues need to be discussed. 

2. Writing it down does too

If I'm feeling anxious or 'all in my head' about something, I find it incredibly helpful to write about it. This works especially well when you're trying to sleep but your brain is all "la la la, isn't thinking FUN?" give those thoughts somewhere to go - on paper.

3. There is little a long bath and a good cry can't fix

I always fall into the trap of trying to be "OK" even when I'm really not. And this isn't just in front of other people, this is to myself. So sometimes I need to remind myself that it is OK to not be OK. We all need to feel our feelings and burying them will do more harm than good. I recommend running a bath, having a good cry, feeling the pain and listening to Damien Rice. When you're done, wash your face, take a few deep breaths and write down everything you are grateful for.

Nutrition

1. Chewing gum can help stave cravings

I always crave sweet things after eating a meal, so I always carry gum and chew this instead. It gives me a sweet fix while being good for my teeth - winner! 

2. Snacking on fruit is where it's at 

I always have a punnet of fruit on my desk at work (usually blueberries) to snack on when hunger strikes. This usually stops me reaching for the biscuit tin and makes me feel better all round.

3. Giving in to temptation (occasionally) keeps you sane

I eat well during the week, but weekends are fair game. Chocolate brownie with my coffee? Hell yeah. A cheeky burger at the pub? Why not. I think eating everything in moderation is the best way to eat.

Fitness

1. Finding an exercise you enjoy is like looking for the 'one'

It may take a while, but when you've found it you'll know. Yoga is the only exercise I truly enjoy it and while I do other cardio bits to keep things ticking over, yoga really is the one.

2. Listening to your body is key

I try to break a sweat, build strength and stretch out a few times a week, but there are times when my body just can't do it. Tonight for example, I have a sore throat, my body is aching and all I want to do is sleep. So instead of my usual spinning and yoga routine, I've had a long bath and when I've finished writing this I will be lying in bed watching TV until I fall asleep. 

3. Exercise makes you feel frickin' awesome

This has only really kicked in recently, but I'm finally getting that endorphin rush everyone always harps on about. I feel calmer, more confident and generally happier when I'm exercising.

Beauty

1. Moisturising is essential, whatever your skin type

I cannot tell you how much clearer my skin has got since I ditched the spot treatments and moisturised instead. I have combination skin, but I was treating it like it was oily and tried to strip it of any natural oils. Now I use gentle products and moisturise morning and night.

2. Investing in skincare is worth it

I never used to be that into beauty or skincare, but since I started writing about it for work, I've become a tad obsessed. Now I spend more money in Space NK and relish my weekly face mask habit.

3. Being a girl is fun, take advantage

Again, in the past I never cared about nail varnish and I rarely experimented with my make-up, but you know what - it's really fun. Now I have two (yes TWO) bright lip colours (planning to get more) and a whole box full of nail varnishes.

Wow, that was quite a long one, hope I didn't lose anyone there. What have you learnt at your job?

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