Monday, 30 August 2010

No Place Like Home: My Own Space

I've lived on my own for over three years* now, and I can say with utmost confidence that it's the most self-revealing thing I've ever experienced, as well as being an on-going module in 'important life lessons'. From removing stuck toilet blocks from the U-bend to dealing with power cuts at 5am, from suffering with flu to dealing with agonies of the most emotional kind; every situation seems unfamiliar when you have to face it alone.

When I tell people I have no housemates they generally seem quite surprised. I guess it's not completely normal for a student to choose not to live with friends, or in university accommodation at least. I have no idea why I chose to continue living alone when I returned to York; I hope it wasn't due to any strong misanthropic tendencies, or to an overriding intolerance of other people's bad habits, but I couldn't say for sure. All I know is that when I had to live alone for the first time in France, it was initially quite a shock to the system, but it soon became a luxury I could continuously indulge myself in.

I love having space and time completely for me. Before I worked on Sundays, I used to cordon-off the whole day for myself; my social network closed down for the day and I would take the time to enjoy my own company. Sundays usually involved breakfast in bed with a book, a long run, and a 'treat' such as a cinema trip or lunch in my favourite café, and it was pure bliss, every week.

I haven't taken any days for myself in such a long time; I can't even imagine eating alone in a restaurant now, only two years later. I find this quite disappointing - I'm not sure what, if anything has changed, but I can identify some sort of shift in my attitude in the past two years, almost as if I've somehow lost confidence in myself; as if I need reassurance from the company of someone else.

However, I'm not sure this is such a bad thing. I could accuse my former self of cutting off other people, cutting off opportunities to share myself, and my life, with people I care about. Two years ago I didn't want to ever get married, and I certainly didn't want children, and when I look back it all seems quite selfish. My outlook was 'always be your own number one', which isn't such a bad thing, in itself, but it cuts off every possibility of letting someone else in completely.

In two weeks I'll be moving in with someone who I hope to share every day with for a very long time: a thought that would have horrified me two years ago is now sending zaps of excitement through me every minute of every day. Two years ago I thought living with a boyfriend would reflect a weakness in myself. Now I see that what I saw then as 'giving up independance' is actually 'stopping being so selfish'. If this is giving up my independance then I don't want it anyway, thanks.

*Actually, I tell a lie: I lived in a 'shared house' for a year, and had two other housemates. But still I count this as alone; there was no one to depend on, I called neither housemate a friend, and for the majority of the time I had glorious free-reign of the only shared room in the house - the kitchen.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

What Sunday Evening is For

An evening stroll, chatting, planning and reflecting on the weekend behind us

Slow and thoughtful soup preparation

A hot bubble bath

A late and nourishing supper of hot soup and bread

Music that isn't for the background

Reading emails from friends too far away

I've spent so many Sundays with a feeling of dread simmering away inside me as I mourn the passing of the weekend before it's even through. For some reason, I start to fear the challenges and busyness ahead instead of enjoying the final hours of my weekend, which, in my opinion, is an incredible waste of precious free time!

Since my weeks have become so massively intense, I've somehow managed to overcome this, simply by welcoming the challenges ahead, rather than trying my best to put them off. Sunday evening has become the start of my new week, as I prepare myself, both mentally and physically, for a week in which I will produce my best efforts, while also enjoying the busy but very rewarding ride.

This evening has so far been perfect. A busy but enjoyable Sunday has tapered out to leave me with some 'me-time'; time for nourishment, reflection, forward-thinking and space to enjoy the things I somehow find myself too busy to enjoy in the first three quarters of the weekend. A little pause in time to gather myself, before I launch into Monday with energy and aplomb.

Incidentally, I read a post about this Sunday-afternoon gloom on Kaileen Elise's blog. Maybe this is something we all fight at the same time every week! Do you get the Sunday gloom? How do you deal with it?

I've also entered Kaileen Elise's 32 Days of Sparkle Giveaway - some really nice gifts are up for grabs, but the entries will be closed very shortly so hurry!

Friday, 27 August 2010


I may have jinxed myself in my last post. I'm struggling to keep my eyes open, my fingers have been typing what is sure to be something incomprehensible for the past 2 hours, and I have no motivation to write, think or do anything that isn't sleep. And I have a cold. Great.

I had a little word with myself: BUCK UP WOMAN, I suggested. This is it. Things will never be like this again: I'll never have the chance to work this hard ever again, I'll never have the freedom to write completely independantly again, I'll never be allowed to spend whole days in the library ever again, and in fact, my library-borrowing rights will never be so liberal ever again. Three weeks from now I'll be sorting out my new home, about to dive into a new job and a new life that right now I can't even begin to imagine. I'll be living with Daniel, earning more than £50 a week and paying taxes. I'll get two whole days off every week. I'll own my own fridge, my own washing machine and I'll actively be saving to buy a hoover. I'll have to look smart every day. The transition from this to that will be short and probably very sharp. I'm terrified, in all honesty.

It's Friday. The second-to-last Friday before Hand In. Some blanks, before I hit my summary over the head with a Concise Dictionary and Theasaurus and proclaim myself almost there.

1. The most adventurous thing I've ever done is probably white water rafting in Alberta. I would so do it again tomorrow if I could! I was absolutely terrified, but the adrenaline started coming the minute we hit the rapids and it was all over way too quickly!

2. If I were a pair of shoes I would be some Birkenstocks. Practical, breezy, chilled out (!) and a little quirky :-)

3. My preferred mode of digital communication is email. I love letter writing but it just isn't practical when you have many friends far away and not a hige amount of patience to sit still. I save letter writing for special occasion, and email keeps friendships running in the meantime!

4. I feel happiest when I'm in the countryside, preferably the mountains.

5. A little dream I have for my life is to own a health food store, and to write a book.

6. The one modern convenience I could NOT do without is hand sanitizer! I keep Cuticura in business!

7. Music, movies, TV or books: if I could only choose one to enjoy I would pick books! Even music is a poor second to what has become the pillar around which I turn on a daily basis.

Take part at The Little Things We Do :-)

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Getting Me Through

I do not know how my body is still going - marvellous piece of machinery that it is, it has not (yet!) shut up shop, despite 5 hours of sleep a night (I'm a solid 8-hours girl usually) and one cup of tea a day! I'm not letting this pass me by unnoticed, no way, and it will be rewarded with some serious care once I live in a house with hot water and have enough hours to enjoy a long bubble bath.

Certain things are really helping me get through this tough (yet very enjoyable) slog, and this post is a dedication to the simple and wonderful things that seem even more wonderful after 10 hours of typing in silence!

Millionaire's Shortbread

I am currently munching on a slice with a large cup of tea. One of my favourite ever treats (so long as the caramel:chocolate:shortbread ratio is right, which it is here). Bliss!

Pretty toes

I painted my toenails for the first time all summer on Sunday! I rarely go without colourful toenails, but this summer I've been so busy, and my toenails have been wrecked thanks to running/hiking so I haven't bothered. Then, on Sunday I had a bit of 'me-time' for some pampering, and now everytime I look at my toenails, I feel a sensation of chilled-out-ness, briefly. (nb. Those are not my feet. I wish!)


More specifically, the above pose, which doesn't look like the man above when I try it, but wow it feels good! I come to my yoga mat in an evening, and I am more un-bendy than I've ever been before; even Child's Pose is a struggle! Despite this, or maybe because of this, I feel better after yoga than I ever have before; my body feels awake, alive, loose and fresh. Surprisingly, I don't even feel demoralized by my inability to stretch and bend and balance like I used to - I simply feel grateful to be unfolded so thoroughly!

Late-night Radio


I lie awake and listen, and it's wonderful. Is sleep timer the best invention ever? I reckon so.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Two-Wheeled Freedom

I've been a keen cyclist for a long time, and have had many a happy day on two wheels, heading out with little more than a picnic and the intention of 'finding some space'. For about a year now I've been wanting to take it up a notch; my old rickety bike limited me in terms of distance, as well as holding Daniel back in terms of speed!

Serious cycling needs a serious bike, and on Friday, with a little help from the other man who spoils me rotten (my Dad) I got myself a serious, and seriously awesome, hybrid bike. So, when I was asked what I wanted to do on Saturday for my birthday day out, there was no need to consider my answer: I wanted to give my bike a road test!

Since spending the weeks cooped up in an office at a desk, I've been craving some salty sea air, and the urge to find a coastal wind to bluster around my face has never been so intense. It took a little persuasion ('maybe a shorter ride would be best to start off?'), but on Saturday morning we ate our porridge while pouring over maps, trying to figure out the best way to get to the East Coast on a bike.

As I said, I wanted serious cycling, and York-Filey is a rather serious distance on a bike. I love to throw myself in at the deep end, however, so not long after the last spoon of porridge had passed our lips, we were preparing a high-energy pack-up to get us through the day! The excitement!

Sat nav (next time I'll write it on the top of my arm...):

Another thing I love about York: it's a city in the middle of the country. There are no endless suburbs like there are in Manchester or London, so not long after setting out we were already in the heart of the Yorkshire countryside: bliss! It was a hot day, for a change, and there is nothing more liberating than speeding past a jam-packed motorway (all heading to the coast, too) on a bike, the wind in your sails and everything you require for a happy day either in a bag on your back, or riding the bike beside you.

We had to cross the Yorkshire Wolds to get to the coast - not quite the Moors or the Dales in stature, but just as stunning in their own way. As the name 'Wolds' suggests, however, we were anticipating low gears and burning thighs, and so we took a break in one of the many postcard-perfect villages for a pre-Wold energy stop.

Since taking up hiking/running/cycling, the one thing I've never been able to get to grips with is the energy stops. I love a good sit-down picnic in the perfect sunny spot, and nothing horrifies me more when I'm hungry than the realization that all I have in my bag is flapjack, crisps and bananas; inevitably I'm craving an apple, cucumber sandwiches and some carrot sticks with hummus ;-)

As anticipated, the next stage of the ride was torture, arriving at the top of one arduous hill only to find another not too far ahead. Short sharp hills are fine, as are long slow ones; but the middle-sized middle-inclining hills were horrific. My legs were going like crazy, but I was aware that I was going ridiculously slowly, and it'd probably be faster just to walk!

After about five hours of cycling it got really, really hard. The hills became less intense and more sporadic, the roads became wider and longer and straighter, but for some reason it was getting a bit too difficult. Anything that wasn't downhill set my legs off in slow, burning agony, my face was burned from the headwinds, my shoulders were aching from holding my torso up for so long; I realized that cycling actually isn't as easy as it looks! It might even be as hard as running, and I wasn't too proud to admit that to Daniel (who is a keen cyclist, for the record). However, the moment that the first seascape came into view as I reached the top of a steady hill was as triumphant as crossing any finish line; we'd made it to the seaside!

I may have been too tired to paddle, I may have fallen down splat hard onto the concrete in front of many sunburned on-lookers as soon as I got off my bike at the seafront (thank goodness for cycling gloves - a worthy investment!), I may have wanted to go straight back home for a hot shower and bed - but we had fifty amazing miles behind us, and I have many weekends ahead of me with the awesome freedom that comes with cycling. I cannot wait.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Birthday Update

Though I knew my birthday wasn't going to be a particularly festive occasion, I didn't think it would be quite as tough as it really was. It's funny though, how difficult moments are so enlightening, and how we often come out of the toughest days not depleated and pessimistic, but stronger and more excited about opportunities ahead.

The best thing about my 23rd birthday was never going to be the breakfast in bed, the lunchtime glass of chenin blanc on a sunny terrace, the piles of presents and cards on the table, or the merry gathering of friends and too much food and drink. Actually, one of the best things about my birthday was the realization that these things never are the best thing about a birthday; because the day was filled with everything that really matters on a birthday, and it took a day without balloons, presents and merriment to make that really clear!

As I sat alone at the breakfast table on Thursday morning and opened a package sent by one of my most wonderful friends, I realized that I need to be better at who I am. The beautifully hand-written letter and the thoughtful gift very nearly brought me to tears (it's been one of those weeks), and this was just the very first in a long line of moments which wrung out my heart and caused some intense introspection. I was completely humbled by the thoughtfulness of friends; once again I see how much bigger than myself my life is, and I want to live more out there, and less in here.

After an emotionally fraught day, I spent the evening with Daniel, who showered me in love and spoiled me rotten. He cooked a delicious meal, bought me way too many lovely gifts and shared the most delicious cake with me, and I fell asleep feeling like the luckiest 23-year-old in the world; a lucky 23-year-old who must make some changes if this is to continue.

So, for my twenty-fourth year, I have lined up a set of new intentions, in light of the way I felt throughout my birthday. I intend to spend more time with friends, to write more, to laugh more, to share moments with people I love and have more moments be shared with me. I want to enjoy other people's company and I want to get to know the people I already think I know better. I have some really incredible friends, many of them long-distance, and the time we could spend together were they closer-by can still be spent enjoying our friendship, with a pen and paper, or a phone, or even a note to say 'hello'.

Some birthday photos from my evening being spoiled rotten:

My favourite tea and some organic soap

Watch out world!

A beautiful print to put in our new house :-)

I definitely ate too much cake. So good!

What's more, I had the most wonderful post-birthday celebration yesterday - more on that soon! :-)

Friday, 20 August 2010

Salad Days

In an attempt to hold onto the last days of summer, I decided that this week I'd try out lots of exciting salad ideas to brighten up my lunchtime. I've never been a fan of salad; I'd rather a sandwich or soup any day of the week, but I do think that a good salad can be one of the most exciting dishes to try out. There are so many possibilities!

I remember the most epic salad I ever made. My Mum bought me loads of exciting things to add to my salads - beetroot, pine nuts, egg, celery, seeds, cheese - you name it, and I added it all to one salad. Needless to say, it was overwhelming and not so enjoyable; there's an art to salad, and I reckon that less is more where the exciting added bits are concerned!

So, the experiment: three lunches, three different salads. No recipes, simply combinations of things that I imagine would go well together. Normal, bagged lettuce and chopped celery as the basis to each dish. And it also had to fuel a long afternoon of writing, so it had to be filling and full of energy (I also had a seedy pitta bread every day, though, gotta have my bread!).

Day 1: Cheddar, Apple and Sultana

This one involved chunks of Braeburn apple and cheddar cheese tossed with sultanas and toasted pumpkin seeds (heat in a dry pan with salt and pepper until the seeds swell - yum) and dressed with 1tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Then, I drooled a big teaspoon of runny honey over the top.

This was yummy; it has a really woody, rustic flavour from the pumpkin seeds, which the sweetness of apple, sultana and honey complimented beautifully! The strength of the cheese added a real punch, too; you can't beat a good stinky cheddar!

Day 2: Carrot, Orange and Sunflower Seed

I grated the carrot, then added tinned mandarin segments, raisins and sunflower seeds. I dressed it with some orange juice and balsamic vinegar, and a large crunch of black pepper.

I really really wish I'd used fresh orange, but I didn't have any. The tinned mandarins didn't have much flavour, and the whole thing was a little too bland. Next time I'll maybe add some cumin and chilli flakes, real orange and a little bit of good olive oil.

Day 3: Strawberry, Kiwi and Mint

This was as simple as it sounds - add chopped strawberries, sliced kiwi and mint leaves to the salad and season with black pepper.

This was so delicate, light and refreshing. Next time I'll splash out and buy some feta and watercress.

The verdict: I was very surprised to find that the strawberry, kiwi and mint salad was my favourite of the three, even without any cheese! It was the most simple, the only one without a dressing, and the most summery of the three, and I may well have it again tomorrow as a birthday treat! Highly highly recommended! (as is the apple and cheddar salad!)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Birthday Thoughts

My 22nd birthday in one of the best pub gardens ever...

My 21st birthday at the quirkiest (and most divine) restaurant in York...

My 20th birthday, playing games, drinking beer and eating cake in our PJs, in my scruffy student house.

Tomorrow it's my 23rd birthday!

After finally remembering last week that it's the middle of August and so my birthday is coming up, I'd been feeling pretty fed up about the fact that I'll be spending most of the day on my own, writing my dissertation. For the first time ever, I'll be waking to a solitary breakfast, without even a card to open and certainly no long day of self-indulgence before me (unless you count a Master's degree as self-indulgent, which actually I do, but that's a different story right now...!). But enough of the sob-story!

So, I've decided to make it an extra-special day; a day to celebrate being the free, independant and young person that I still happen to be! In under a month I'll be moving in with a man; giving up the solitude that I treasure to share my existence with someone else. Horror! [I'm going to post about this soon]

So, tomorrow, in honour of my 23 years: in honour of the hours I used to lay awake in anticipation before 'waking up' at 3am and opening all my presents, in honour of Playmobil and Tiny Tears and my beautiful French dictionary, in honour of the long labour that brought me into the world with only 2 paracetamols to ease my poor mother's pain; I will celebrate!

I'm going to enjoy a tasty breakfast with Radio 4 for company.

I'm going to wear a dress.

I'm going to have my favourite yogurt for lunch, and peanut butter and apple sandwiches.

I'm going to smile and spread birthday joy everywhere I go!


Monday, 16 August 2010

No Place Like Home: This City That I Love

I'm completely in love with the place I live, and I think this is quite a lucky thing to have going on. I've lived in York since moving to University here 5 years ago, and have continued to fall and fall and fall again for this magical place. I continue to discover hidden corners, boutiques, attitudes, organizations, cake shops and green spaces; something that I find almost overwhelming! As soon as I think I've found my favourite hotspots, more spring up, and so my 'Best Of: York' list is forever changing. Just like anyone else, the most special spaces in this city are the ones with memories attached to them, and its been five years of intense memory-making!

I'm so excited to call this place my home, and I intend to do so for the forseeable future. Here are some snapshots taken over the weekend, showing some of my favourite things to be found dotted about York.

The Minster, towering above the city so watchfully

Crooked buildings, quaint windows

Picnic spaces with a difference

Windows, windows, windows

The old and the new

Pride in what is local

Rustic and vibrant, proud of what it is

Sunday, 15 August 2010

City Days, Lazing Unlazily

As Saturday is my only day off, I try and make sure that each one is special in its own right; I avoid Saturday routines, and approach them with an 'every minute counts' sort of attitude. Somehow, this seems to work, as there have been very few Saturdays that haven't lived up to my expectations.

Since I've been incredibly tired and run down over the past couple of weeks (I've started getting migraines! I had no idea that such agony and discomfort could be possible!), the plan for this weekend (because there is always a plan) was to be lazy. And to go to a Marilyn Monroe exhibition at the local art gallery. My weekend completely did not go to plan. Being lazy is one of the things I'm worst at, and in this case, this annoying feature of my character made for a fabulous, if very busy, Saturday!

We strolled up at the art gallery to find that I'd got my wires twisted and there was no Marilyn Monroe exhibition taking place (queue confused gallery staff), but there was an exhibition on China's history, which we visited instead. I'd forgotten how brilliant museums and galleries can be!

We learned about spices - I must buy some star anise!

And I loved the puppet shows - the puppets were so intricate and the colours were beautiful!

Then, we got take-away panini from a local deli, and sat in the sun chatting and enjoying some fine deli savouries!

I had goat's cheese and red pepper; I sure do love a bit of goat's cheese! This was the hard variety, which is much easier on the tum, for some reason. And a ginger beer, of course.

Daniel had good ol' Yorkshire ham, cheese and chutney - Italian stylee. We came to the conclusion that we must own a sandwich toaster, as life cannot go on with out hot panini on a daily basis. (We ate panini in the same park on one of our first dates, incidentally)


That afternoon we went to play badminton, something I've got into since being with Daniel. I'm rubbish at competitive sports, which is why I run and do yoga as my chosen methods of exercise, but it turns out that I'm actually pretty ok at badminton. I really love it too; it's so nimble and quick, and the fact that I can actually play without feeling like an elephant is a small personal victory! I lost both games in fabulous style, but it wasn't through lack of trying!

And the unlaziness continued into the evening! After tea, we took a stroll out by the river, and enjoyed a drink and a sunset chat. It's one of those things that you always say you'll do, but never bother, and I'm so glad we did after all. I worry that my time is too planned, structured into sets of tasks, to the point where even relaxing becomes a task. I think that, slowly, I'm getting better at enjoying the moment, letting go of plans and worries and just indulging in the moment, which is the only time that we really have.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Learning New Things, Remembering Old Things

I've learned some valuable lessons over the past two days. Some of them might be valuable to others, most of them probably aren't, but it goes to show - err, well, it shows that I am losing my marbles, at least.

Lesson 1: Lunch is important.
I already knew this. I knew it so well that I have regularly lectured poor, unsuspecting lunch-avoiders on the advantages of lunch. Then today, I skipped lunch. Partly because I had to be somewhere at midday, partly because I have no more than a soggy carrot and an old tin of ravioli in my stores and fancied neither of the two [ok, exaggeration; what I really mean is that I had no bread or potato and I'm too greedy to eat rice cakes as a main meal]. Consequently, I've been snacking on cereals since midday. Not a bad thing, not at all, but I am unsatisfied, cold and tired. Wonder why? Nothing beats a good slap-up meal in the middle of the day, and I promise to no longer feel ashamed of my rather astounding 3-course-packed lunch efforts in the campus dining area!

Lesson 2: It's my birthday very soon.
And I honestly completely forgot! I have 5 days to sum up enough enthusiasm to make some sort of plan. I'm hoping Daniel is making some for me. I usually like birthdays, but this year my mind is elsewhere. 23 is pretty unimportant, anyway.

Lesson 3: Cycling in not enough clothes is especially fun in the 6am pouring rain.
Stay over at boyfriend's. Bring only the clothes on your back (and a map of the Lake District). Experience something you'd probably never choose to do, and love it. Dry off, eat porridge, drink tea: daily joy fulfilled by 7:30 - what more can a day have in store?! (more rain, apparently)

Lesson 4: Don't take laptop places where you will put it down and forget it.
It contains 10,000 (ish) very very very valuable words. And probably myself, in pixel format.

Lesson 5: I really like people.
Having time for other people is one of the best things ever. And I think I only really realized that today. Laughing with someone and allowing yourself to let go and be open with them creates a small bubble of joy, one that I prevent creating rather too often, I think.

Well it is Friday, but I don't feel it today. My word the rain is incredible. I'm on my third change of clothes for the day. And so, some blanks from Lauren, to remind us in case it's our birthday soon.

1. Birthdays are: the only day when it's all about you, and I think it's important to celebrate that! People should indulge more in their birthdays - after all, what's better than treating a good friend with some company, a drink and maybe a gift on their special day? I love other people's birthdays more than my own, in fact!

2. My favorite birthday memory was maybe my 13th birthday, when we hired a bouncy castle! Me and my Gran played on it before my friends arrived, and it's one of my most treasured memories of her. I also loved my 21st birthday, which lasted for days - everyone made me feel so special!

3. A birthday tradition I (or my family) has is creating cards from rubbish. It's a tradition held by my brother, first started by my cousin when he made a card out of kitchen paper. A good way to save cash, but they don't stand up well on the mantlepiece!

4. If I had to choose one birthday meal to eat for the rest of my birthdays hence forward, I would choose Mum's lasagne and birthday cake! .

5. My birthday is on 19th August - next Thursday! .

6. If I could take a birthday trip I would go to a health spa. I seriously need it right now!

7. The best gift I've ever received for my birthday was my flute, which I needed, but it's my most precious belonging. It's not the flute itself that was the gift, I guess, but the tool I needed to go further in my musical career. I really must play more often!

And finally, I'm taking part in a Give Away, hosted by Kaileen Elise - join in here!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Cookie Break

Typing typing typing thinking thinking thinking. Then, without warning, the creative flow stops flowing.

So, how does one deal with this, when there's t-minus 30 days until Hand In?

One makes cookies, that's how!

I needed a quick delve into something inspirational. Some way to re-coordinate my creative juices without stopping the creativity. I had 10 minutes; time is precious.

Just as precious is making time. Making time to feed creative needs. Making time to think about combinations of ingredients. Making time to breathe, to sit in the garden in the sunshine, feel the warmth and the breeze, enjoy the crunch of an apple and the sweetness of a maple oat cookie. Making time to reflect on life, because life is bigger than this project, bigger than me. I keep forgetting this somehow.

Trust me, you want to make these.

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup flour (I used spelt flour)
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup mixed seeds
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup sunflower oil

Mix everything together, make golf ball-sized blobs and flatten them on a tray. Bake at 180c for 12 minutes.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

No Place Like Home: Ma Chambre

In a recent Fill In The Blanks post I talked about my dream bedroom. The truth is that I already have a dream bedroom, and I thought I'd share it today!

In my eyes, a bedroom is exclusively for sleeping and other bed-related activities; it's not the place where I go in the daytime when I want to read or relax. Because of this, the décor in my dream boudoir doesn't necessarily reflect my tastes - rather, it reflects my idea of the perfect 'dreaming space'; a zone created for comfort, snoozing, drifting off and ultimate calm.

When I left for University my bedroom hadn't chamged for years - it was an utter mess, a horrible reminder of heavy teenage years, hours spent sulking with the curtains closed and Nirvana on full blast. There were posters on the walls of punk bands, the original colour scheme had disappeared under piles of baggy jeans, electric guitars and piles upon piles of CDs and books, and an accumulation of 'stuff' meant that the only decent space was on my tiny single bed.

Then I went travelling for a month, where I spent restless nights on trains and in bunks, waking up on all but two mornings in a room with strangers and having to locate my toothbrush and clean(ish) underwear from the depths of a backpack. After four weeks I was eager for my scruffy old bedroom back, impatient to sleep in a bed which felt the weight of so many weary bodies before my own. I got home, and after the 'welcome back' formalities had passed, I trudged upstaires in relief, impatient to shower and wear something clean and home-smelling.

As a surprise, my parents had completely re-decorated my bedroom. I'd had almost no input, but for a few admiring glances during a furniture shopping day a few months before. Three years later, I still delight in returning to that room, and I love waking up in what feels to me a lot like Paradise. Did they do a good job? Let's see...

(All soft furnishings handsewn by my Mum with material from Laura Ashley, except throw which is from Laura Ashley. Bed from Laura Ashley, antique mirror inherited from my Gran, chair inherited from my Gran and re-upholstered by my Mum)

Friday, 6 August 2010

No Place Like Home: Moving On Again

The concept of 'home' is something I've been exploring for a few years, and have more recently become quite obsessed with. Since I'll be moving to a new abode in September, and since it will be my first taste of co-habiting with a partner, there are lots of thoughts and ideas and fears and excitements mixing around in my head and my heart, and I thought it'd be fun to start a feature detailing some of these emotions. We'll start with a bit of background history...

What does 'home' really mean?

I'm not sure what it means for me yet, but that's not because I haven't thought about it; I have, a lot, sometimes for hours and days on end. Since starting University in 2005, I've lived in 6 different places. One room in a dreaded University corridor, one house shared with good friends, one tiny studio in a French village, one top-floor room in a shared flat in Germany, one room in a gorgeous house with 2 strangers, and one tiny bedsit in the backstreets of York. I've lived alone for the past three years, and have enjoyed every aspect of this odd and sometimes unnerving experience; after only a few days of waking up in an empty studio in France, I came to thrive on the solitude and the independance, to the point where having housemates seemed like a sorry second option.

Before moving to University, the situation wasn't much different. We moved house four times in under seven years, and even so, I spent every weekday at a childminder's home from being two weeks old. Even if we'd stayed in one place long enough to create a foundation to house all of our family memories, I'm not sure I'd have spent enough time there to really create my own sense of space. Until 2000, that is, when we finally found that shell in which my parents could start creating what they'd been dreaming of for years. This, I think, is what I'm looking for right now; a space where I can express myself by the way I live and where I live. I just hope it doesn't take me as long to find somewhere suitable!

When I left for University it was clear that I was moving out. I knew I wouldn't come back unless I really had to, and the only time I did come back for more than a week was between my time in France and Germany - an odd yet enjoyable 2 months where I was able to pretend that I lived here again. Because, of course, once you move away, your family home becomes a precious luxury. Childhood memories wait there for you to come back - teddies, photos, tantrums, favourite meals; when I come home I get to re-live it all again. I realize now that, though the building changed through the years, the place where I grew up remained the same; my 'home' was amongst my family, adventurous weekends in forests and mountains and streams, Enid Blyton stories, playing on the swing that my Dad built, the chaos of cousins, sleepovers at my Grandparents' house.

Whether they stay here or move on, the place where my family calls home will always be my home, too. But now I get to create another home, with someone really special. I'll be a bit like David Cameron, or the Queen, I suppose. It's not surprising that I never felt 'at home' during the previous 5 years of moving from place to place, but now Daniel and I get to build our own foundation, with our own stories and habits and ways of doing things, our own special Sunday routines and Friday night treats, games cupboards and bookshelves and what will eventually become a really pleasurable nostalgia to pass on to (dare I say it?) our children/nieces/grandchildren.

In answer to my own question, then, 'home' for me is the workings, excentricities and routines that take place in a family. The house is the stage where all of this takes place, important, but not always constant. What does home mean for you? Where is home for you?

Thinking Optimisation Plan: Progress Report

Yesterday I broke down completely. As if, when trying to swich off a single light, I'd accidentally switched everything off at the mains. Lights out, fridge off, no hot water, no radio. I wasn't able to think or function. A path of destruction followed me around: the stone fell out of the beautiful ring that Daniel bought me in Ireland, my lunch was a soggy mess, I even burned muffins from a recipe in Nigella's 'recipes for kids' section. (Mum and Dad ate them anyway, which was very generous of them!)

Then, last night I slept for 8 hours. I haven't had more than 6 hours sleep in one night for months! I woke, bright and breezy, to a huge bowl of porridge (with real maple syrup from a recent trip to Canada - I love being home!) and enough energy to hit the hilly country paths in my running shoes. The sky looked fit to burst, so I ran in a waterproof, which I hate. I was sticky and tired after a couple of miles, soaking in a capsule of humidity on the hilliest route I've done since Keswick. Then, a gift from above the sky opened. I love running in the rain! The last few miles was just about all up-hill, and the wind against me would have made it even more unpleasant, were it not for this delightful cold spray soaking me through; such joy I wanted to sing!

I got home, soaking wet, and tucked into a huge bowl of fruit salad and yogurt. Another amazing thing about home: the fruit! I'm spoiled for choice; four different types of melon, three mangoes, pineapple, kiwi, grapes, cherries, raspberries...! Teamed with the 4.8kg of yogurt in the fridge and the selection of 12 different cereals, this makes for a lot of joyful snacking. Hurrah!

The couch is currently gobbling me up into its comfy underworld as I sit in old pyjamas sipping mug after mug of tea. Friday. Lasagne for tea. Bubble bath tonight. Wine in fridge. Life is good!

Progress: High.

Finally, some blanks, on my favourite topic ever: food!

1. Today for breakfast I ate porridge with banana covered in maple syrup! There wasn't really enough, but really there never is - I could eat porridge all day!

2. My go to/never fail recipe is rice. With chilli or curry or burgers, but the rice is the main feature. I love making huge bowls of spiced vegetable rice, it overshadows everything else on the plate (mainly because I always make too much, hehe)!

3. Something I eat that other people think is weird is 'uncooked' vegetables. My housemate used to complain that I never cooked the brocolli, but I can't stand soggy veg, so I just blanche them really quickly. If a vegetable doesn't crunch, I don't want to eat it! (excepting squash and parsnip, of course...!)

4. My worst cooking disaster ever was the time when I baked. Every single time. Maybe the time I made a birthday cake for my brother and it ended up like a huge flat biscuit, but we still put candles in it and sang - quite embarrassing!

5. If I could only eat one flavor of ice cream the rest of my life it would be ginger ice cream. I dislike ice cream in 98% of cases, but the time I tried ginger ice cream I managed to ignore the unpleasant sugary cold feeling and delight in the chunks of ginger. Yum!

6. One food I hate and avoid at all costs is meringue. Ick ick ick! And ice cream takes a close second place!

7. What is your favorite meal? Breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Breakfast! I could eat it all day! I love breakfast foods, and I'm always so hungry in the early morning that I really could eat so much. I like the way that a decent breakfast pulls you so gently into the day. That being said, I hate cooked breakfasts; anything 'meaty' or eggy or cheesy and I'm happy to wait for lunch!.

Thanks Lauren! Have a great weekend everyone! I'll be back later as I've had an idea for an exciting new theme to post about!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


Sometimes even winding down can feel like too much effort.

After a day of sitting crouched before a spreadsheet, I desperately needed some yoga this evening, specifically a few good spinal twists. Spinal twists are my favourite type of yoga pose; I can feel myself opening out, as if worries and preoccupations float out through the spread of my ribcage. Today I needed remedy only found in a spinal twist. I got it, eventually, but as I was following the instructions of Dawnelle from Yoga Download, I had no choice but to go via Ukatasana, a good handful of Downward Dogs (not a fan, I hate being upside-down) and various front and back lunges. It paid off though, with the unexpected bonus of Eagle towards the end. So much physical effort when I felt so lazy, but worth it.

I need to wind down. I finished a very important stage in my dissertation today - analysis is over! This means no more mindless formatting and checking; it's time to get creative! This is the bit that I love, the reason I've stayed at University for an extra year. I love writing and thinking and researching ideas. The ideas are smashing around in my head, bumping into one another uncomfortably, and no matter how hard I try, at this point I cannot get them to stand still. I'm taking this opportunity to seek some brain space; I'm heading to my parents' house for 3 days, where I'll hopefully get some much-needed TLC. (I've pre-ordered Mum's lasagne, hurrah!)

I intend to spend a lot of time thinking while I'm away. But I have plenty of other intentions too.

So here we have my 3-Day Thinking-Optimisation Plan:

Indulge in a bubble bath with plenty of Lush treats

Enjoy uninterrupted breakfasts with my book and multiple mugs of tea

Write in my blog about thoughts and feelings, rather than events

Write in my diary; record feelings for safe-keeping

Talk properly with my family, especially my brother

Do some simple gardening such as weeding and clearing leaves

Run in the countryside

Time to breathe out is just what I need; I know when my body needs rest, and I know that any academic efforts will be hampered by exhaustion if I don't give it what it needs. Three days should be enough to untangle the knot in my chest and re-discover the depth of my lungs.

And Savasana.


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Mega-Excitement Got Even Mega-er

On Friday I hinted towards the existence of some mega-excitement in my life. It sort of appeared unexpectedly, creating a huge twist in my current existence, knocking me a little bit for six and causing jitters of trepidation and wonder all at once.

On Saturday, this mega-excitement was met with its most appropriate accompaniment. As if the jam landed perfectly on top of the peanut butter.

The wonder-trepidation dichotomy continues, but in a more controlled sort of manner.

Disclaimer: I am approaching both of these things with a lot of caution; life changes, people un-make decisions, choices which seem amazing don't always work out the way you hope - the traffic lights are still very much on amber, and they won't turn green until late September, if at all. I'm ok with this.

On Friday, much sooner that I thought these things could happen, I got a phonecall from the company I'd interviewed with only two days before. They told me that the job was mine if I wanted it, and to phone them back later that day to confirm a start date. I put the phone down, trembling, and phoned my Mum. No answer. I phoned my Dad. No answer. It was such an unfamiliar situation. After much deliberation (by no means is the overall situation ideal), I phoned them back that afternoon and confirmed a start-date of September 20th. The day I'll step onto the first rung of a career in publishing, with a mega-amazing company who can help me get exactly where I previously daredn't dream I'd go. Seriously, the publishing house was incredible; I'd need a whole post just to talk about the book shelf that I spotted on my way to the interview room!

Then, on Saturday, everything fell into place. We viewed and fell in love with a house, and put forward an application for it straight away. If all goes to plan, I'll be falling into bed in my dream home after the long days in my dream career. I'll be cooking soup in a humongous kitchen, sitting with Daniel around the table on a Sunday with the door open to the back yard, loungfing outside in the evenings while drinking wine amongst baskets of lavendar and tubs of tomatoes. Lining my books on shelves that reach as high as the very high ceilings. Simply crossing the street to take leisurely evening walks by the river, nipping to my favourite whole-foods shop for organic soap or bags of dried fruits, stopping by the beer and wine shop when I fancy a treat.

Suddenly, a real life materialised in my future, sitting waiting for me in mid-September, coaxing me out of the comfortable student paradise into real-time independance and responsability. I felt so ready for it, but now I'm holding onto the final weeks of this comfort that remain - who knows where life will go in the next six months!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

A Day At The Races

Last night I dreamt that my running shorts blew away.

After a restless few hours, I jumped out of bed at 6:50am, flickering indecisively between dread and excitement. The past week was incredibly tiring, with not enough sleep and two bad runs in a row, and this didn't forecast the energy and stamina necessary for a 10km race. However, I love running, and races are the best way to enjoy it. Adrenaline is never so high, energy is never so concentrated, and the feeling of finishing is never as proud as when there's a finish line to cross.

We tucked in to overly-humongous bowls of porridge, sleepily hanging over the breakfast table as news stories ticked over the radio. We were still eating in our pyjamas when my parents arrived, and a stressful half hour passed as our nervous energy combined, pulling into lycra and aertex and fastening up our laces, carrying out the famliarly unnerving rituals that come with every long-distance run.

Heading out towards the starting point at York Racecourse, colourful runners walked, jogged and cycled alongside us, and the atmosphere was buzzing excitedly. As predicted, the racecourse was decked out with raceday paraphenalia; running gear tents, energy drink stands, St John's ambulance, banners and whistles and rows upon rows of portaloos, in front of miles of patient runners waiting for their final wee before the horn.

We assembled into a hub before the starting line, where I, a little behind schedule, decided I needed to use a portaloo. No time for that as the warm-up was beginning, so I crossed my fingers that running on a full bladder wouldn't be too harsh on my finishing time.

The horn sounded: we were off! The ardenaline swept from my toes to the top of my head, and I ran, happily, though a little too aware of my bladder. The route was great, if a little crowded; running through the city I love is one of the best feelings, as the Minster chimes above you, the Ouse swims below you, and crowds of runners' heads bob ahead in a colourful pool. Six thousand people all running in a group makes for a fantastic view through the city.

It was over too quickly! Though, if I'm honest, not quickly enough! I beat last year's time by 3 minutes, and since I was training harder then, this just reflects how lazy I really was on my first race. However, I was 6 minutes behind the time I was aiming for; I may be a little bitter about this! (it was the crowds! I couldn't get past the crowds!) The good news is that my bladder held out, at least!

Daniel and my Dad both did well - my Dad finished in an amazing 45 minutes (it was his first 10km; a completely different challenge to a half marathon), and the first thing Daniel said to me on meeting me at the end was 'let's do the New York marathon!'. We'll see, we'll see.

Replenishment in the shape of choclatey freebies!

After a tasty pizza lunch in a restaurant in town, and a day of full-on walking and chatting and laughing, I'm ready for some rest. An unquenchable thirst, aching head and tight chest remind me of the fun I had today, and a vitamin-packed soup is simmering on the stove as I type, ready to replenish my feigning energies and worn-out nerves. Already I can't wait for the next race, whenever that will be!