Embracing 2017 – ?

I’ve had a bit of a stalling start to 2017 one way and another. I’m just coming off the back of my second nasty cold of the year and feeling like all I’ve done for the first 51 days of this year is be ill and too tired to do anything or been working hard to catch up with myself with a bit of food preparation and sleep thrown in along the way. Basically, I don’t feel I have done anything personally productive or worthwhile, which is disheartening as I had big plans for 2017 being a year of real personal achievement.

I spent a lot of December carefully crafting a list of things I wanted to try/do/achieve in the new year. I keep writing these lists, mostly because I wish I’d done a ‘Things to do before I’m 30’ list, but didn’t and now my 30th is nearly 2 years behind me. I also find it useful to set goals and record my achievements as part of my constant efforts to bolster my mental well-being – all well and good until I feel like I’m failing at life and then it is all just counterproductive.

Anyway….I’ve been meaning to write a bit about my list of ambitions in order to make them more concrete and hold myself more accountable to them than if they’re just scribbled in the back of a notebook that no-one ever sees and even I might never look at again.

2017

  • Read 10 Books

I love reading and am a terrible book hoarder – I buy books at a much faster pace than I can read. I’ve possible got worse since I got a tablet last year and started reading Kindle books, although at least they don’t take up physical space in the house.

So far this year I finished reading The Unbroken Line of the Moon by Johanne Hildebrandt, which I really enjoyed and finished within a couple of weeks, and have moved on to Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, which is interesting but hasn’t gripped me like The Unbroken Line of the Moon and is taking me longer to get through. As a result of Kindle offers and sales I already have another 13 books waiting to be read – so I really shold get a move on with them!

  • Lose 7 Pounds

The ubiquitous weight loss goal! My success on the weight loss/management front has been really mixed over the past couple of years. I lost 8 pounds in the last 5 months of 2015, only to put it all back on over the Christmas period and subsequent months in which I was very ill. It took a while for me to find my stride again with watching what I ate and exercising but by the summer of last year I had got into a good habit of using the exercise bike between 3 and 6 times a week and lost around 6 pounds. The descent into autumn/winter and the festive season took it’s toll again and now I’m pretty much back at square one.

If I put my mind to it then 7 pounds really isn’t very much, but it’s the motivation and willpower that I lack. I have recently started doing Pilates as part of an initiative at work and am really enjoying that. Unfortunately it’s only a 6 week introduction though and I’m struggling to find a class locally that I can join once this is over.

  • Get another Tattoo & Get another Piercing

Both of these have been on my mental wish list for a while. I’ve had tattoo ideas in my mind and several occassions on which I intended to get inked – finishing my PhD and turning 30 in particular – but lack of funds, confidence and also knowing a good studio to go to have all contributed to me not actually doing anything about either.

I now have funds and think I have found a good studio, so it’s just the confidence to go in and talk to them about it that I need to work up! I know it’s silly, but my social anxiety usually does get the better of me still.

  • Climb Snowdon

We moved to North Wales 3 and a half year ago and now live around 25 miles from Snowdon. Despite this, and the fact that both Pete and our dog have made the ascent on more than a few occassions, I have still not made the trek myself.

Apart from the fact that it seems like something you should do if you live up here, it ties in with my general fitness and personal challenge aspirations so really want to tick this one off as soon as I can, hopefully in the spring once the weather is a little better but before the busy summer tourist season.

  • Have a birthday party

I’m less keen on this one than I was when I wrote this list. Since moving to Wales I haven’t had a party to celebrate my birthday, not even for my 30th, which was/is something that kind of upset me. As a result of Pete being away every summer for his research (my birthday in in July) and most of the people I know being 250 miles or more away, it’s just always seemed like more hassel/stess/upset/disappointment than it’s worth.

Pete turned 30 just over a week ago and had a party to celebrate last weekend, which kind of spurred me to want to do something for myself this year, but even organising his was a turbulent experience for me and being let down by people who I thought should care more is still a real kick in the gut for me that I’m not sure is really worth it.

  • Go to Iceland

This one is as good as ticked off already. As my birthday present to Pete for his 30th I am taking him to Iceland at the end of March. Flights and hotels are all booked, now we just need to work out how much of what we want to do can be fit into 8 days!

  • Clear out more junk

This should probably be broadened to ‘Clear out more stuff’ – I’m not a hoarder exactly, but I do own a lot of stuff and have trouble getting rid of things, either for sentimental reasons or because, well, you never know when that might be useful! I know it’s been something that has annoyed Pete for a long time, but now even I am getting frustrated with the amount of stuff I have everywhere and would like to have some clearer spaces in the house. I really need to get better at getting rid of things that I really don’t need – I’ve already sold a few things on eBay and have a box to go to the charity shop, but need to get more serious about it if I’m ever going to make a real dent on my accumulations.

  • Write a short story

I always wanted to be a writer and as a teenager I would write stories regularly, although never anything I would dare share with anyone! I can’t guarantee it’ll be any different if I try again, but I at least want to try and see if I still can, so short stories seem like a good place to start. 

  • Renovate the Bathroom

A bit of a boring practical one. We’ve been quite slow on working on the house due to time and finances, but this year I really want to get the bathroom sorted. What we have is functional but very old – it still has a pink enamelled cast iron bath that is ugly and the surface is a bit pitted and marked. The tiling is old and the grout is patchy, the window needs replacing and there was an electric shower fitted by the last owner but without additional tiling so there is wallpaper that gets drenched and is peeling away from the wall.

I’m a bit intimidated by how much work it might be and I hate coordinating different tradespeople (plumber, window fitter, plasterer…..), especially up here where they can be a bit ‘relaxed’, i.e. hard to get hold of, but I really want to get it sorted now.

  • Learn how to be less afraid

This is both a big ambition and quite an abstract one. As part of my longterm depressive issues I suffer from varying degrees of social anxiety that are often quite debilitating and definitely stops me from doing things. I hate it. Sometimes it feel like I’m just afraid of life and I can get so frustrated with myself especially when I’m stuck in a spiral of being too afraid to do something that part of me wants to do, or at least wants to be able to do.

I don’t have much of an idea how to go about fixing it though.
As an additional one, as always, I’d like to blog more. I’m already doing better than last year, which is somethings. Hopefully I’ll manage to keep it up and keep you updated on what I’m getting up to.

Thanks for stopping by.

Love,

Betty

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Betty’s Book Club – My 2015 Reading List

I love books. Reading books, Buying books, Owning books, Talking about books, Flicking through books. Old books, New books, Fiction books, Non-fiction books. Books.

I have a bit of a book buying obsession actually, I certainly buy the more quickly than I can read them. Pete has even refused to buy me more books as gifts until I get through some of my massive stockpile of ones I bought and want to read but haven’t yet got around to.

I do find that, as much as I enjoy reading, I am finding less and less time to read these days. At the end of a day at work I’m often too tired to do much more than vegetate in front of the television for a few hours before dragging myself off to bed.

But, I want to change this and make more time for reading, for my own enjoyment and personal betterment. As a first step to achieving this I have dragged a few of the books waiting to be read off the bookshelf and I thought I would share with you a few of the titles I hope to be scratching off my Reading List over the next 12 months, in no particular order.

1. Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron. Kim Newman
This is the second book in the Anno Dracula series by Kim Newman; I read the first book ‘Anno Dracula’ last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. As you can probably tell from the title, this series feeds into my vampire obsession. The books are based on stories of what might have happened if Dracula hadn’t been defeated at the end of Bram Stoker’s novel and vampires were now a known entity in the world, living alongside humans. While the first book was based in Victorian London, this second book has moved forwards in time to look at events during the First World War.

2. The Happiness Project. Gretchen Rubin
Now a step into non-fiction; self-improvement/self-help books are an increasing interest of mine. I don’t get on with all of them, but I forever in search of one that will help me, even just a little, to make a bit more sense of myself and my life.
The Happiness Project is the story of how Gretchen Rubin set out to be happier and how other people can take their own happiness journey.

3. A Force to be Reckoned With: A History of the Women’s Institute. Jane Robinson
I love the WI. Although I am, sadly, currently not involved in a Women’s Institute, I have so many wonderful memories of my time in the Sotonettes and really hope to get back involved in another WI soon.
I am fascinated by the history of the WI and this book documents the many ways in which the WI has contributed to and shaped our nation and the wonderful and strong women who made it possible.

4. The Historian. Elizabeth Kostova
This book was given to me by my mum, who, knowing my interest in vampire fiction, felt this might be right up my street.
I don’t know much about the story, but it seems to stem strongly from Bram Stoker’s original Dracula story and is told from the point of view of a 16 year old girl in the 1970s who comes across a collection of letters and documents relating to the Dracula legend.

5. Anno Dracula: Dracula Cha Cha Cha. Kim Newman
I enjoyed the first Anno Dracula so much that, once I’d finished it, I bought the next two novels in the series immediately. This is the third novel, after The Bloody Red Baron above.
The third novel jumps forward in time again to 1959 and Rome, where an unknown person is taking out old vampires resident in the city.

6. The Vintage Teacup Club. Vanessa Greene
Another gift from my mum here, but a bit of a departure from the rest of the list. Mum described this as ‘a nice relaxing read’ in the note that accompanied it. It is true that something relaxing to read is probably just what I need after a lot of blood-soaked, high-tension vampire fiction.
This is a book about a friendship formed after a chance meeting over a vintage tea set at a car boot sale. My focus on gothic-horror in this reading list may detract from the fact that I also have a lovely, vintage tea-set kind of side to my personality, where a chat over tea and a slice of sponge cake is just what I fancy – so this book is to entertain that side of my personality. My only fear is that a story of friendship like this might actually be terribly upsetting for me at the moment as I am having ongoing loneliness issues (for another time).

7. Brave New World. Aldous Huxley
This book makes this list under the criteria of ‘classic book I feel I really should have read’. I bought this quite a while ago (more than a year) but haven’t actually managed to read it yet. There is a lot of classic literature that I feel I really should have read – I have bought and been given a few but haven’t read many. My last attempt with ‘Wuthering Heights’ didn’t go well – I absolutely hated it but tried to persevere, which meant it took me forever and I still haven;t actually got all the way to the end.
Hopefully Brave New World, a story of a dystopian future, will fair better. I enjoyed 1984 by George Orwell, so there’s hope.

8. The Night Watch. Sergei Lukyanenko
The Night Watch, the first in a trilogy of novels, was recommended to me by a friend and finishes off my list with another vampire story.
I had never heard of this book, or any in the trilogy, and apparently there are movies too.
Based in Russia, the book tells the story of a world in which some people have supernatural powers, some of whom are good and some who are not. Those who work for good protect people from those who have more sinister intentions.
I have heard good things and expect that I will be moving on to the other books in the series after this one.

Does anyone else have a reading list for the year ahead? Or just a book you’ve always wanted to read?
I’m always interested in new reading suggestions – they don’t have to be vampire related (an please don;t suggest Twilight, as that’s the massive exception  to my vampire obsession).

Hope you are well – happy reading!
Love

This week I have been;
Watching – Season 2 of Arrow and Season 8 of Dexter
Listening to – War and Peace podcast from Radio 4
Wearing – all the layers!!

Books I Love: One Day

I might be a bit late to the party on this one; but I love this book!
I hadn’t heard of it before the movie came out, as much as it pains me to admit it. At first I wasn’t keen, I’m very resistant to jumping on band waggons, but in the end it just sounded like too good a read. It’s taken me a while to get through it, not because I haven’t enjoyed it but because I struggle to find time to read. If anything, I’ve gone out of my way to make extra time to read it because I enjoyed it so much!

I obviously won’t go into too much detail, as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. The book tells the story of two characters, Emma and Dexter, on the same day every year from the day of their graduation from uni and for 20 years afterwards. They remain friends but develop their own lives and go through all the things you would expect in life; partners, jobs, friends, marriages, children, highs and lows. It was so well written and I found I really related to so much of it, being someone in my mid-twenties trying to find my place in the world. There is also so much emotion in it, as I said, both highs and lows. In one part, it was so sad I was on the verge of tears and had to put the book down.
I would recommend this book to everyone. The balance of the male and female characters means I think both men and women could really engage with the story. If you’re not a reader, I guess I would say see the movie, although I haven’t seen it myself. I’m afraid I am one of those people who almost always thinks the book is better than the movie, so I’m torn as to whether I want to watch it or not. I’m also really not a big fan of Anne Hathaway, so it seems unlikely. But I really love the story, so I still might crack.
Have you read One Day? Any other book recommendations? I’ve got back into a bit of a reading habit!

Hope you are well,
Love,

Wish List: Books

I love books. I buy a lot of books, I read a lot of books and I give a lot of books as presents.
Now, I’m sure there are some of you out there who don’t consider books to be good gifts, but a thoughtfully selected book can be the best present. Fair enough, some of the little novelty books they have by the tills in book shops can be a bit of a waste of a (small) tree, but even then, if the joke is appropriate, it can still be a good gift.

One problem I have with giving books as gifts is that, for every book I find to give to someone else, I find at least two I want for myself! So, for anyone out there thinking of getting me a Christmas present who is stuck for ideas, here is a brief run-down of some of the books currently loitering on my Amazon wishlist.

In no particular order;

1. The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking by Kate Payne

I only found out about this book a week or so ago when I saw it reviewed in the latest edition of Mollie Makes, and it went straight on to my wishlist. It has airs of Domestic Sluttery (which I love and still need to write about), cheap and easy ways to get on with being domestic without it taking over your life.

2. Outsider Tart: Baked in America by David Muniz and David Lesniak

What better than being a Domestic Slut and an Outsider Tart (combined with Happy Hooking, there seems to be a downward turn in the morals of domesticity).
As you should know by now, I love to bake and eat cake, so this book is pretty perfect. The recipes inside are described as ‘decadent’ and cover all my favourites from cupcakes to brownies and cookies.
The obvious American influence suggests a significant calorie content as well.

3. Chic on a Shoestring by Mary Jane Baxter

Another book for living a stylish but budget lifestyle, with an added vintage twist. Bringing together my other loves of clothes, accessories, crafting and vintage styling.

4. How to Make Jewellery with Tatty Devine by Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine

Oh look, more crafting and accessories! What can I say, I know what I like!
I’ve always been a fan of Tatty Devine jewellery, although so far haven’t ever had enough excess cash to buy myself any. So, this book seems like a good solution, make my own TD inspired pieces and keep myself occupied in the mean time.

5. Preserves: A Beginner’s Guide to making jams and jellies, chutneys and pickles, sauces and ketchups, syrups and alcoholic sips by Jill Nice

I really enjoyed my first attempt at making jam earlier this year. While I still have quite a lot of what I made left, I’m keen to find out more about jams and preserving so I can try something different next time.
This book seems pretty comprehensive and I like the cover (not that I’m judging…).

6. CakeSpy presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar Filled Life by Jessie Oleson

I may have a bit of a cake obsession, but as long as part of that obsession is filled with cake related books, I should be safe from obesity and diabetes for a while.
I’ve been a reader of the CakeSpy blog for quite a while now, and when I heard she was publishing a book I knew I would have to have it.
Yet more high calorie american baking goodness, all wrapped up in a pink cartoon-y shell. Perfect 🙂

7. Bossypants by Tina Fey

Something a bit different.
I like Tina Fey, I have heard good things about this book. Not much more to say!

At present, there are 151 books on my Amazon Wishlist, so I think I’ll leave you with just this selection for now. The rest are a pretty eclectic mix of brief introductions to…., popular science, lifestyle, autobiography, fiction, craft and a lot of things in between.

I’ll leave you with this video of a kid who doesn’t want books for Christmas, just because I think it’s funny.

Best Wishes,
Betty
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Queen of Crafts

Last weekend I received my copy of Queen of Crafts by Jazz Domino Holly.
I have been really excited about this book since I first read about it in Mollie Makes magazine back in May or June, when September seemed like a really long way away! A craft book written by the daughter of Joe Strummer, is there anything more awesome!? I added it to my Amazon wishlist straight away, then kinda let it slip my mind, until last week when I saw an announcement that it had been released and I bought it right away.

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I have certainly not been disappointed and, even though I’m really busy, I pick it up at every available opportunity.
The book itself is beautiful. Just on an initial flick through I already knew I was going to love it. The pages are filled with beautiful colours, great little illustrations and photographs that accompany the projects.
There are sections for handicraft, woolcraft, patchwork, baking, preserving, gardening and beauty, amongst other things, the full gamut of crafting disciplines, and more than enough to keep even the most voracious crafter occupied. Don’t think that the wide range of crafts covered means it’s a whistle stop tour that lacks detail and doesn’t allow for you to properly engage with the crafts. To my mind, each chapter contains as much detail as you would want to find in any book devoted to introducing a single one of the crafts covered here. I’m sure once you become more proficient you’ll want to read more and search out new projects, but this is a wonderfully comprehensive starting point. Plus, the range of crafts might lead to you taking up something you hadn’t originally intended to.

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The book opens with a lovely introduction written by Jazz about the resurgence in the popularity of crafting, her childhood and how she got into crafting and creating and her involvement with the WI (Women’s Institute). It is written with a lovely personal tone, in a way that it feels like she has sat down with you and is going to impart her great wisdom to you alone. This continues throughout the book as she takes you through the various crafts, from the basics of tools and terminology, through to techniques and tips, then on to practical modern projects and hosting craft based events. She walks you through knitting a chunky scarf and a bow headband, sewing a cake-shaped pin cushion and a knitting bag, various patchwork items, baking sponge cakes and jam tarts, making a range of jams, whipping up your own lip balm and body scrub and that’s just a sample of the projects covered. There’s something in there for everyone. I can’t wait to try out the bow headband, and all the baking looks delicious, to be honest, I want to do all of it!

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At every stage the book makes everything seem so easy and accessible, acknowledging that you might not be a master straight off, but always being encouraging. Jazz also makes efforts throughout to highlight the modern aspects and relevance of the crafts. There’s no way you could come away from this book thinking that crafting is only for the elderly!
Everything about this book is just an absolute joy. It’s beautiful, inspiring and packed with so many hints, tips and advice. Jazz Domino Holly totally makes it onto my list of inspiring women, talented, resourceful, motivated, funky and beautiful to boot. Plus, she has a leopard print sewing box!! (It’s not one of the projects but I’m pretty sure I can make one on my own). If I wasn’t inspired, I’d be jealous!
I personally love the little Clash/Rock N Roll/Rebel references that are sprinkled throughout – Hey, Ho, Let’s Sew 😉

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I have been into making things and crafting for a while already, but this book has served to further ignite my passion and inspire me to turn my hand to so much more. I am also really interested in her final chapter on setting up social craft groups. Jazz started her own WI group in Shoreditch, London, known as the Shoreditch Sisters, which have helped revolutionise the image of the WI. Now, starting my own WI group might be a bit much, but I would definitely be interested to get a group together to knit, sew, drink tea and eat cake together.
In my opinion, everyone should buy this book (and also, get yourself a copy of Mollie Makes).

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If anyone would be interested in getting a craft group together in Hampshire then get in touch.
Happy Crafting,
Betty
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