My Reading Challenge 2017: did I make it?

My failed Reading Challenge 2017

If you judge how late this blog post is then you’ve probably guessed already that I didn’t complete my Reading Challenge 2017.  Well, you guessed right, I didn’t – I may as well confirm this now.  Although it does start this blog post on a rather bad note, doesn’t it?

Oh well, I’m disappointed (and kind of embarrassed) that this is the second year in a row I’ve not managed to complete a Reading Challenge.  In my defence, I’ve had quite a busy year.  But let’s lift those spirits up a little bit and talk about the books!

Reading Challenge 2017

My Reading Challenge 2017 (what I actually managed…)

17.  Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Apologies to Reese Witherspoon, but Wild (the film) didn’t urge me to read the book.  It wasn’t until I listened to Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete podcast with Cheryl Strayed that I really wanted to read it. But not only this book, but other books Strayed has written too.  For purposes of my Reading Challenge 2017 however I’ll stick to this one.  (Well the truth is I’ve only read this one.)  It’s an epic true story of when Cheryl walked the Pacific Crest Trail – from California to Oregon, and how the pieces of her life fell away and lead to her decision to do it.  An incredible and at times emotional tale, I’m so glad I listened to that podcast otherwise I may have never read it.

18.  Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon
Oh look at that – this wasn’t even planned!  I probably couldn’t wait any longer before I dove straight into Emma Gannon’s memoir on how she grew up online. (Again, this read wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for her podcast.)  Emma and I are the same age, so plenty of the memories in this book and cringeworthy moments are quite familiar to me.  If you’re part of the generation that chatted to friends on MSN Messenger and learnt minor coding from designing your MySpace page, you need to read this book.

Reading_Challenge_2017

19.  Paris by Lonely Planet
Is it cheating to put a travel guide in my Reading Challenge 2017?  To be honest, I discovered Lonely Planet when I was backpacking and some of them are written so poetically, it’s like reading a novel anyway.  So that’s why I included this.  Plus I had my nose buried in it nearly every morning, whilst on the metro and in the evening when I was in Paris.  Just as lovely, yet informative, as their Asian counterparts that I’ve read, with some beautiful descriptions of Paris.  I usually never go on holiday without one.

20.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Have you noticed a pattern here?  I watch a movie, like it, then want to read the book.  I’ve got to say this one was definitely as good as the film, if not better.  The casting was also spot on with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, but I’ll keep to my review of the book.  Written fantastically from the perspective of two different characters; husband and wife.  If you don’t know the story (which lucky you if you don’t) it’ll keep you guessing and hit you with some twists you won’t see coming.  A story I couldn’t put down, even when I was in Paris.

21.  Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
One of the reasons I wasn’t able to finish my reading challenge could be down to a few chunky books I’ve tried to get myself through before the end of the year.  Such as Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run.  I love Bruce, but he had me reading 528 pages to get to know more about him.  I don’t hold it against him though, as every story and memory was written in the same beautiful way he writes his songs.  He sets the scene on his trips and shows across America, throwing in his thoughts and feelings in a way that’s inescapable to think and feel just as he does.  I love Bruce even more after reading it.

Reading Challenger 2017

Total: 21/25 books read

So I didn’t make it, but I’ve read some pretty good books on the way.  One of the biggest things that slowed me down was getting stuck trying to read a book I wasn’t enjoying, which was rather chunky.  This was much earlier on in the year and although I felt I was catching up after the summer, I was short of just 4 books to completing my Reading Challenge 2017.  (3 if I pulled my socks up more during Christmas.)

Will I lower my amount of books to read in 2018?  Rather stupidly no, actually.  2018 will be the last year of my twenties, so I think it’s kind of apt to aim for 30.  If I stick to books I both enjoy and are not too big, I can make it!  What have you been reading?

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See ya 2017!

Happy new year!  I’ve already been back at work for four days (and survived), yet 2018 is already getting ahead of me.  I’ve posted about what I got for Christmas, but my 2017 highlights?  Ahh wait a second – I need to start looking back first!

This probably sums up how 2017 felt for me; quick!  Although I’ve made some pretty big achievements this year (okay, at least one comes to mind…) its passed so quickly, I’m not sure if they’ve really sunk in yet.

This is definitely something I’m guilty of as soon as New Year rings in I’m ready and focused (most of the time) on what I want to achieve in that upcoming year.  Instead I should be taking a breather and appreciating what I achieved in the year before it… it’s an endless cycle.  Here’s taking a stab at that, or simply my 2017 highlights!

Buying a house 🏠

I’ve been dipping out of other 2017 highlights posts that have been written in month order.  But screw that, I can’t wait until the end of summer to reminisce about David and I getting the keys to our first home together!

2017 highlights

We’d been saving for such a long time and it started to feel like we were never going to get on the property ladder.  But eventually, we scrapped together enough for a deposit and the whole process seemed to go through quite quickly.  (2017 was, as I said, quick!)

The next day we were literally ripping off the wallpaper and decorating our new place from scratch.  There’s still been some struggles on the way (particularly when building furniture from Ikea) and I don’t feel quite ready to post a house tour or video soon.  The house still has a long wag to go, but I feel relieved that we’re getting there, slowly but surely.  One payday at a time…  Oh and I used a drill for the first time.

2017 highlights selfie

Celebrations 🎉

There was plenty to celebration in 2017, including four weddings David and I attended!  (But no funerals thankfully!)  It’s always nice to share a special day with friends and it’s kind of surreal when that special day is your friends’ special day.

But, I can’t resist getting dressed up, because when else will I be able to?  (Spray tan, ASOS order and hair rollers in – check!)  I may have uploaded a few suited-and-booted couple snaps of David and I this year, which is a bonus (for me) as we don’t get many pictures of us.

David and I before a friend's wedding

We also celebrated David’s 30th this year – a date in the calendar he wasn’t too fussed about.  But instead of letting it pass by as ‘just another day’, I tried making it special for him.

One of the things I did was getting together with his parents making a photo album of his life so far.  (This sounds maybe a little too deep than as it sounds!)  It was a complete surprise for him, which he loved, before we swiftly enjoyed a few beverages at a local beer festival.

2017 highlights with my boyfriend

Travel

Travel has been a big part of my life, but since we’ve been saving for a house sadly its had to take a backseat.  Regardless of that, I’ve luckily still managed to afford a few short breaks this year.

I always have a great time when I meet up with my friend Lisa, a girl I’d met and lived with when I went backpacking.  We’ve met up every year ever since and this time we met in the French capital; Paris!  (Paris is always a good idea.)

2017 highlights Paris

Being my third time in the city, it was nice to see Lisa’s first Paris visit she soon fell in love with too.  Plus I got to see some more of Paris I missed last time, like the Palace of Versailles and going on top of the Arc de Triomphe.

David and I also managed to have a short break away together. Just after I got back from Paris (and moving into our house – it was an expensive end to the year!) we headed for Belgium, on an altogether different trip.

Tyne Cot Cemetary

We drove to Belgium and explored the First World War history in the area of Ypres.  This is a blog post I still need to write (it’s coming soon I promise!), but I realise it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.  However I think it’s still important to remember and learning more about the war when we were there felt incredibly humbling.

Both of these trips do have something in common though; I drove abroad for the first time!  This definitely feels like a huge achievement, as I was feeling quite nervous about doing it.  But in another post I’m yet to write, it was a big confidence boost for me and I’m already thinking about where I’d like to drive to in Europe next!

Music

Ever since 2015, I’ve tried to make it to Glastonbury every year and make it to Glastonbury this year I did!  Although buying our tickets through the resale, it was a teeth clenching time to say the least.  (If you’ve ever had the stress of buying a Glastonbury ticket through the resale then you’ll know.  You’ll just know.)

2017_highlights_Glastonbury

All of the panic was worth it though and I had another unforgettable time at Glastonbury.  From surviving the heat wave on the first day to dancing to Craig David’s Pyramid set, it was awesome.  There’ll certainly be a Glastonbury shaped hole this year, its fallow year.

There’s another gig I can’t miss out as one of my 2017 highlights too – Demon Dayz Festival at Dreamland Margate.  I live not far from Margate and I’ve been surprised (and delighted) at seeing how many big acts the seaside town has managed to pull in not just this year, but in the past few years.

2017 highlights Demon Dayz Festival

I bought tickets in a matter of minutes since hearing Gorillaz confirm Demon Dayz festival.  With a banging new album released (my official review) it was a day I was looking forward to and it lived up to expectations.

My brother and I went together, enjoyed a Red Stripe at Ziggy’s Rooftop Bar (pictured above) before heading into Dreamland and genuinely having an awesome day.  I love you, Margate!

Sunset behind Ferris Wheel at Dreamland Margate

Looking forward

Although I think 2018 might be a year where the dust settles (from all the busyness), this doesn’t mean it’ll be any less quiet.  I’m soon to be 29, which means 2018 will be the last year of my twenties (!) and I don’t plan to waste it.

This month I’ll be drawing up my ’30 before 30′ list with fun, yet practicle goals I aim to tick off throughout the year.  Watch this space.

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What I got for Christmas 2017

What I got for Christmas 2017

It’s New Years Eve, everyone’s posting their 2017 highlights and I’m playing catch up with my What I got for Christmas 2017 write-up.  Okay, so maybe I’ve indulged a bit this holiday season.  When I have managed to peel myself off the sofa, I’ve been busy enjoying a few drinks with friends, or dining out, as opposed to just eating-everything-in-sight at home.  I just can’t stop eating.  Full-stop.

So despite me being behind everyone’s schedule (apparently), my 2017 highlights will be delayed until it’s no longer 2017 so I can embrace the ‘better late than never’ spirit and show you what I got for Christmas first!

What I got for Christmas 2017 flat lay

A few surprises…

Apparently, I’m a ‘difficult person’ to buy presents for.  Every year, my friends and family usually ask me what I want for Christmas, which means I’ve also grown used to a lack of surprises on Christmas Day.

It was eerily quiet this year though.  When we were entering mid-December I still wasn’t asked one question about what I want to see wrapped up in pretty paper this year.  So when I said ‘I really wasn’t expecting this’, I really meant I wasn’t expecting this!  (As I didn’t know what to expect.)

Example; as I unwrapped and caught a glimpse of a GoPro logo I let out a gasp and stared blankly at my boyfriend for at least 2 long seconds in disbelief.  (A happy disbelief though, of course.)  I gave a similar reaction when I unwrapped an iPad from my parents too – needless to say, I’ve done well on the technology front this year.

What I got for Christmas 2017

Gifts for Body & Mind

I can always count on my sister to get me a good read for Christmas.  This year she’s given me Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird,  a book I’ve ashamedly never read (I know!).  This will soon change in 2018, don’t worry.  I’m a lover of the sixties decade too, so In her own Fashion is guaranteed to keep me absorbed, along with the Woodstock soundtrack.  (Oh she also gave me a Rolling Stones patch and cute panda earrings on top of this!)

I’m definitely set for some good pampering sessions in the new year too, with David’s parents and grandparents spoiling me with a mixture of smellies.  An array of The Body Shop and Nature’s Ingredients will keep me exfoliated, moisturised and smelling pretty probably way into spring!

An incredibly thoughtful gift from David’s parents of new Dune ankle boots is already keeping my feet feeling happy and stylish, as well as…

What I got for Christmas 2017

Gifts for the home

With buying our first house this year, I was happy to see home inspired gifts, even from the person I share my ‘home’ with!  My feet will be kept warm and snug inside as well as out with the slippers David bought me.  Along with the gorgeous yellow furry throw (featured in all the above pictures and from David’s parents, but unfortunately I forgot to feature it in the video). You’ll find us hibernating on our sofa until warmer times whilst devouring the new Black Mirror series!

I’m keeping the festive cheer going too with my new reindeer adorned cereal bowl – because it would be a crime to hide it away until next year, right?!  Finally, David’s grandparents have kindly provided us with some funds to continue decorating our house too, which is a great help to us.  Ikea round 3?

Watch what I got for Christmas 2017:

Well that’s Christmas over and done with (why must it always pass by so quick?) and my last post of 2017 (ahh!).  Although I’ve not written one before, a ‘2017 highlights’ post will be up in the new year when I’m back to getting motivated (and finished eating all the leftovers in the fridge…).

Happy new year to any new and old readers of my blog, let’s see what 2018 brings!

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Our first Christmas tree in our first home

Baubles on our First Christmas tree

I’m not one to usually get excited about Christmas.  I’ve been called a grinch, a scrooge, but it’s not that I don’t enjoy Christmas.  I just have a limit to Christmas.

I’m all for staying in from the cold, seeing family and of course eating plenty of food.  I even like a good Christmas jumper!  But I draw the line at Michael Bublé on repeat (sorry to anyone who’s a fan) and Christmas decorations before December 1st.

But despite being a reserved Christmas fan (a reserved Christmas fan?), I’ve always liked Christmas trees.  Christmas trees have never made me cringe, unlike people referring to Micheal Bublé as ‘the Boobs’.  (Sorry, I just really don’t like Bublé.)  Christmas trees make Christmas, in my opinion.  They warm my heart.  Micheal Bubleé doesn’t.

Feeling festive

David and I made our biggest purchase in our lives so far earlier this year; we bought our first home together.  With moving out into our own place, I realised we’ll be in complete control of our own Christmas decorations. But when the Christmas period began creeping up on us it made me groan somewhat… (more expense!).

Getting out first Christmas tree

We’re definitely feeling the pull on our purse strings and Christmas decorations – like a tree, baubles, tinsel, wreath and, who knows, even one of those a random reindeer ornaments and a wooden carving that spells out ‘NOEL’ – all adds up.  We haven’t even bought blinds/curtains for our living room yet, how are we going to afford Christmas decorations?!

But I was in for a bit of luck as I was gifted a Debenhams Gift Voucher (from work, what a Christmas bonus).  So David went out to buy the Christmas tree (it had to be a real one, not fake) and I shopped the website for our first Christmas tree decorations!

Christmas tree colour theme

I understand a strict colour theme for a wedding, an Instagram grid but for a Christmas tree?  No, I don’t believe in such madness – another thing I simply draw the line at, in terms of Christmas do’s and don’ts!

Silver Reindeer Christmas tree decoration
Silver glitter stag Christmas decorations from Debenhams

I prefer an assortment of decorations, with different colours and varied levels of sparkle.  (Although, admittedly I do like an overall ‘warm’ theme over a ‘cold’ one, so I went easy on the silver decorations.)  A robin is a must-have for me, too.  (I very nearly ordered a walrus bauble out of sheer enjoyment to have something completely odd on the tree as well.  But I held back – maybe next year.)

The finishing touches included a massive gold and glittery star to top off our tree (although it’s a bit wonky – does anyone ever get theirs straight?) with multi-coloured LED lights that have 8 different settings – not to be messed with.

Robin Bauble
I love this podgy robin bauble from Debenhams!

Our first Christmas tree

So after a busy day at work on Friday, the stresses soon swept away when I walked into our living room that night.  David had not only bought in the Christmas tree – but he decorated it too!  (It’s okay, I told him to do so.)

And for someone who’s not that Christmassy, I was quite pleased and excited to see it.  (So much so that I instagrammed it straight away.)

Our first Christmas tree
Gold pine cone bauble from pack of 62 Christmas set

And although I now can’t spend my Debenhams voucher on more Mac lipsticks or another Urban Decay eyeshadow palette (like I did last year) I feel a little, dare I say it, Christmas cheer.  The thought of these being our first Christmas decorations that will build up into a collection was quite a warming thought.  Now to wrap up our presents!

Have you bought any of your own Christmas decorations yet?  Which ones are your favourite?  Let me know in comments below – I still regret not buying the walrus.

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Finding out I didn’t get a place in the London Marathon (again!)

London marathon

In the past few weeks I’ve been stopping in my tracks and thinking; why, oh why did I apply for the London Marathon?

A number of reasons why I thought it was a stupid time for me to apply bubbled up in my mind whenever I was reminded of receiving the result soon.  I’ve just bought a house with my partner, meaning all of my spare money and time will be invested in that, do I even have time and money to invest in training for a marathon?  Training in those dark, cold nights will be hard.  Really hard, I thought.  Despite the fact I haven’t ran for a fair few months now, not properly, and I’ve definitely never ran anything over 10K.

And so my doubtful mind went on… and I thought, I bet this is the year I get in on a ballot entry. I could actually feel the dread growing as I visualised seeing an acceptance into the ballot letter.  “SHIT” would probably be my first reaction.  Or something stronger.

When the time came and I saw that packaged fleece and magazine near to my door, I was nervous.  It was facing down, as it always seems to be, and my heart was beating when I started to peel it over to reveal to myself either the ‘Sorry’ or ‘You’re In!’ message plastered over the magazine.  I felt very tense.

The first thing I saw was yellow.  ‘Sorry’.  A glum looking female runner.  Typical, I huffed and threw down the magazine back on the table.

Nike Womens Pegasus Running Shoes
Back in more motivating times (when I was running)

Bloody Ballot…

This year was the third year I’d applied for the London Marathon, and the third year I’d failed to get in.  In previous years I hyped myself up with ideas of vlogging my marathon progress, seeing myself going out on long scenic runs in the countryside and racking up the miles on the Nike Running app.

Although I felt this year didn’t feel like a good time, I thought I’d feel relief if I saw that ‘Sorry’ magazine again.  I was wrong, what I actually felt was the same as I did the previous two years when I saw that five lettered word; determination.

London marathon fleece and magazine

Applying for the London Marathon (again)

I’m determined to apply for the London Marathon once again again (when the ballot opens next year).  My determinations was/is mixed in with the images of me training, talking about training, researching about training, buying a whole new running wardrobe, figuring out which foods to eat, when to run, where to run.  But most of all, seeing images flash into my mind of marathon day, feeling like I’m bricking it before starting the race, the tears I might cry when I felt I couldn’t go on, to the visualisation of running that last mile with Buckingham Palace in my sights.

Because that’s really why I apply for the London Marathon, not because I’m fanatical about running – I’m not a great runner!  I hated it in school and I’ve only really taken it up in the past 3/4 years.  But there’s something about the London marathon which would feel like a great achievement I’d want to complete in my life, even if it’s just once.  Why London?  I’m British and it’s my capital, I’ve also lived within it and loved it dearly (and still do).  And it’s supposed to be the best.

So well done to all the lucky ballot entrants who got themselves a place.  I hope you laugh, cry, love and hate every minute of training to make getting past that finishing line a memory you’ll certainly never forget.

This year, I’ll have to lump for a 10k race instead.

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