Saturday, February 28, 2015

the goldfinch by donna tartt: an emotional review


"Sometimes we want what we want, even if we know it's going to kill us."

I'm going to try and write this review with no spoilers, and without sobbing, but I literally just finished The Goldfinch, and I have so many feelings about it, that I want to share. It might not be the most comprehensive review, but perhaps it is more of deconstruction of my emotional state, post-reading...
Firstly, I bought this book with some apprehension. The Secret History, also written by Donna Tarttis one of my favourite books in the world, and I read it at a time in my life when I was very impressionable and emotional. It was one of those things that 'spoke to me', if you will forgive me for how cheesy that sounds. It's for this sort of reason that I've never had any desire to pick up The Little Friend by Tartt - I read The Secret History, with its classical themes, Dionysian characters and bacchanalia's at a time when I was studying Classics and English Literature school, and it was all wrapped up in everything I loved and felt at the time, and it seemed so perfect. It's like a snapshot of my time at college and my life, then.
But, I'm digressing, we were supposed to be talking about The Goldfinch, here! When it was released, I was reluctant to pick it up, taking a few months to actually getting round to reading it. I started this book at New Year, got about 4 pages in, and felt like it was too much to read? I don't know, I was very ill and suffering from the flu, so maybe I was feverish. Either way, the next day, I tried again, and devoured two thirds of the book within several days.

The novel follows the life of Theo Decker, which begins in New York, where he lives with his mother, after his father has left. It starts of slowly, I won't lie, and it takes some getting used to, in a way. I almost lose interest in the details and minutia of Theo's life, until the catastrophe happens, and his mother dies, and I am hooked, just like that. I am suddenly thrown into a story that I'm incredibly invested in, and I find myself caring deeply for characters with questionable morals and motives. The painting in question, The Goldfinch by Fabritius, feels like a character in itself, in how Tartt describes it and how much of a role it plays.

"My moods were a slingshot; after being locked down and anaesthetised for years my heart was zinging and slamming itself around like a bee under a glass, everything bright, sharp, confusing, wrong - but it was a clean pain as opposed to the dull misery that had plagued me for years under the drugs like a rotten tooth, the dirty ache of something spoiled."

Whilst the beginning is slow, the middle portion of the novel, detailing the teenage years of Theo, could drag, but the way that Tartt writes, eases the process. The novel feels like something is slowly winding up, coiling and getting tighter until it springs or snaps, and when it does, I was flying through the pages, practically inhaling the words.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact I studied art that I feel so strongly about it; but there is a line about how a painting speaks to you, when when you see something that you can relate to so precisely, that you feel like it was created for you. I think that is sort of how I feel about The Goldfinch - and I guess my way of relating to something is unique to me. I find the book so emotional (the last page or so, I was sobbing) because it speaks to my own references, my own experiences of things loved and lost, and I want to claim it, and make other people view it the way that I do. But it doesn't really work like that, does it? Cause you will have a completely different experience and references of reading this book to me, or of viewing my favourite painting...

"But if a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don't think, 'oh, I love this picture because it's universal.' 'I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.' That's not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It's a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes you... Yours, yours, I was painted for you."

There is intrigue, obviously, violence and crime, and a bitterness and seediness that runs throughout the novel, and present always, is the distance you feel from Theo and everyone around him, because of the painting. This kind of thing is what I enjoy, as a bitter human myself; I enjoy romanticising things that are not and shouldn't be, and the last chapter or so, after everything has happened, I feel like I could've wrote myself, like Tartt reached into my conscience and poured out a bunch of my thoughts. I want to make people love things like I do, I want to protect beautiful things. People say I'm a marshmallow...

"That maybe even if we're not always so glad to be here, it's our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Q #40


I find quotes like these awkward, because I do sort of hate that mentality of like, if someone hates you it's because they're jealous of you? Some people probably just hate you, and that's it. I feel like that is similar to this, in a way. 
However, I've recently realised that I've shed all those toxic friends you have at school and university, who put your down to make you feel better, and recently found myself in such a good place with my little group of work friends and old friends, and I'm just really happy that I have nice people around who support me, and I can in turn support with no bitterness, you know? They're all equal friendships, equalling giving and taking, and it's so nice and chill to get to that point. It's like I'm growing up, or something, god!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

couch to 5k - week 3 review


You might be sick of these posts by now - who knows? If you are, please tell me, and I'll space them out more, but I am really enjoying writing them, and really enjoying the running, too! After this week, I've had some real problems with my knee hurting me, so I'm going to postpone the running until after I've seen the doctor (which I'll be doing on Thursday) before starting week four, and hopefully the bit of a rest will help it, too. 
RUN 1: 8/2/15, 2.2M, cold with a bright sun, clear and a bit of wind.
I was very apprehensive about this run. Running for 3 minutes sounded really hard, when I'd just been able to run for 1.5minutes this week! I set out though, telling myself to just try. The first run is 90 seconds. I loved that 90 seconds! I don't know if I overdid it, but I felt like my body was craving that run, so it was good fun. The first 3 minute run was a tough, but I ran all the way to the end without stopping. The next 3 minutes, was a lot less fun. I got through all the way to the end, even if I did pull my phone out and count down the seconds until I had to stop! Haha. My pace was much quicker than my last run in the ice, for obvious reasons. So all in all, I was a bit of a high this morning, and felt so bloody proud of myself!
RUN 2: 14/2/15, 9.45am, 2.4M, warm (for February!) and sunny, clear and bright.
I felt a bit queasy in the morning, so put of running until I felt up to it, and thought I would take it easy. The walk was fine, and the first 1.5min run, then I had some headphone issues and kept missing the cues to start running or walking, which really annoyed me! Powered through the first 3 minutes, and the second 1.5min run.. Then I realised that I forgot to turn of my Whatsapp and thought a message was the cue to start running, so I think I did a bit more than 3 mins on the second run. I also felt like I kept starting and stopping during my run, so I decided to run a bit on the cool down walk, which is on actual streets! I normally hate people seeing me run, so I felt so brave! I much preferred it too, so I think for my next run I'm going to try and run on the roads/streets and see how that goes...I also bought some new trainers to try out on my next run!
RUN 3: 15/2/15, 8am, 2.2M, cool and foggy.
I ran on the roads for the first time! I ran quicker, today, but found it much harder, not finishing either of the 3 minute runs, which really annoyed me. Not sure if it's because where I normally run is very flat, and this was more hilly, or what, but it was tough. I enjoyed the change, though. New trainers were very comfy, though. 
Thoughts at the end of the week? 
Definitely going to repeat this run at some point in the week, hopefully. Had to work all weekend, which has really pissed me off, cause I won't be able to run until Friday now! 
Weight loss? 
Nope, nothing, na-da. ): 

Monday, February 23, 2015

the perfect breakfast: chia seed and peach jam porridge

A few months ago, I shared with you my recent affection for porridge, and how to make it really quickly. My affection is unwavering, especially since discovering this somewhat decadent breakfast that I can't help but wanting every morning. It's perfect for cold and crisp weekdays, the peach jam cutting perfectly through the milky porridge, warming you well and filling you up until lunch. I've also discovered the magic that are chia seeds - full of protein and omega 3's, they're great soaked in milk or water, and get a really weird, jelly-like texture to them.
- 1/2 cup porridge
- 1 cup semi-skimmed milk
- 1 heaped tablespoon of chia seeds, with enough milk or water to cover them.
- 1 tablespoon of peach jam
1. Measure out 1/2 cup porridge, and 1 cup semi-skimmed milk, in a microwaveable bowl. You don't have to use cup measurements, it's the ratio that is important here.
2. At this stage, measure out your chia seeds and cover them with milk or water (I normally do this in the cup I measure the porridge and milk out in). Stir to make sure all the chia seeds are covered in liquid and set aside.
3. Microwave the bowl of porridge and milk on full power for 1.5 minutes, then take out and stir well.
4. Microwave the porridge for a further 3.5 minutes, taking out and stirring well every 30 seconds, taking care not to let it boil over, the stirring is very important here.
5. When the porridge is thick and creamy, take it out and stir the chia seed mixture into the porridge, or just place on top.
6. Add jam to taste, and eat!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

weekend wanderings #52


Friday, February 20, 2015

Q #39

quotes unciaandtigris.com2

I've been thinking, these last few weeks, about assertiveness, and growing into myself, and how I definitely think it has come with age. I used to be very shy, very naive, a pushover and a wallflower... I'm improving a lot, and the way I always felt inside is becoming inline with how I am seen on the outside, I think. I care less and less about what people think, I am a mess and have little to offer the world, but that is who I am. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

the snow day that never was

Last week (or the week before, time is running into one, apparently) I was off work, and had intended to go for an early morning run - however I opened my curtains and it was snowing. I hung about for a bit, but then the snow wasn't stopping, so decided to drag my mum out for a walk with my camera, instead. By the time we got to the lake, the snow had stopped and all but melted.
We walked around Virginia Water, up to the hill and the heather garden, then back around to the ruins of Leptis Magna, one of my favourite local ruins, haha. It was cold and brisk, and we made friends with a few puppies and some swans that tried to bite me, before having a cheeky hot dog and burger in the new cafe overlooking the water. It was really nice, but I miss how nice this place is in the spring and summer, I need some life in the trees and a bit more greenery about...

Monday, February 16, 2015

taking stock #8

pancake day shrove tuesday recipe
Making: a bit of a mess, when I wasn't paying attention to my porridge, this morning..
Cooking: tomorrow I'll be cooking pancakes, and lots of them.
Drinking: water, water, water. Been really good this month for it!
Reading: blogs, and not much else. Haven't picked up the Goldfinch in ages!
Wanting: to get back on the losing-weight train. Feel like I've plateaued. ):
Watching: Brooklyn Nine Nine, repeatedly, I'm almost finished with season one.
Eating: breakfast.
Deciding: on where to go for my holiday this year... it's looking like it might be New York City!
Wishing: that payday comes around a bit sooner.
Enjoying: reading blogs whilst I eat my porridge.
Waiting: for my daffodils to open.
Loving: the fact that sunset yesterday was at 5.18, it's getting later and later.
Hoping: to hear back from my job application this week.
Needing: to get a move on and get to the gym.
Smelling: fresh air.
Wearing: gym leggings and an Under Armour t-shirt.
Thinking: about my lack of a future, haha.
Hearing: Hold Back The River by James Bay.
Feeling: a bit sleepy this morning.
Admiring: a freshly made bed.
Buying: new trainers for running.
Getting: a bit demoralised with running, need to remember that one bad run doesn't mean anything!
(If you're looking for a pancake recipe for tomorrow, that results in the pancakes you see up there, click here!)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

weekend wanderings #51

weekend wanderings

Friday, February 13, 2015

Q #38


I am a firm believer of the fact it takes something very tough, hard times and the lowest points in life, to learn about yourself, to work out what you can stand as a person, to find your limits and to push your boundaries. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

couch to 5k - week 2 review

couch to 5k week 2 review

I did this this for Week 1, and here is Week 2! I had said I might re-do week 2, but Jenny told me to just give it a try, and it went really well! I'm enjoying getting out in the fresh air (even though it's freezing most days) and I think the extra cardio in my fitness routine is doing me good. Anyway, here is the run down...
RUN 1: 25/01/2015, 9am, frozen ground, a bit cloudy, a bit windy, brightening up towards end of run.
As I said in my last post, I had my concerns about being able to do week 2, if I hadn't run for the whole 8 minutes. However, I attempted it and did really well! I think I actually quite enjoyed today's run, weirdly. Missed one of the intervals because I was fiddling with my headphones, so actually replayed it instead of just cheating myself and giving up, so feel really proud of myself for that. Had a bit of an ache in my hip from the previous runs, but I made sure to do a good few stretches when I got home and hopefully that will help.
RUN 2: 01/02/2015, 9.45am, 2.36 miles, cloudy with a bit of sun, two degrees and very windy.
I was actually really looking forward to todays run, I'm annoyed that I didn't manage to go at all this week because it's been snowing. It was SO cold out and very windy but I'm proud of myself for running the whole 9 minutes. I was actually really getting into it, even though I felt kind of sick at the end, I didn't look to see how far through I was until I was on the very last run, so obviously my stamina is improving! Breathed better this week, and had less muscle pain (none in my hamstrings!), just the same ache in my hip, that I need to work on stretching out.
RUN 3: 04/02/2015, 8.30am, 2.32 miles, very cold and cloudy, icy ground with some snow. 
The ground was very icy and I slipped several times (no falls though, my balance is improving!) so I had to go very slow. My time per mile was awful, but at least I went! I ran through all 9 minutes of it with a lot more ease this morning. Hip still ached post-run, no hamstring problems anymore.
Thoughts at the end of the week?
Need to research some better stretches for my hip, as nothing seems to be helping it. I also have a reoccurring pain in my knee that I've had for years (and attributed to be overweight) that I want to get seen too, as it feels like I've got a lump of cartilage or something where I shouldn't have... Also worried about being able to do week 3, but my lovely friend Tara is encouraging me on Instagram, so are my friends and family, so hopefully I can keep on going!
Weight lost?
A tentative 3lbs, that I'm mostly attributing to last week when I ate better. I feel like I look thinner though in the mirror, particularly around my hips/bum/lower stomach where I hold a lot of weight. I posted a little picture of my progress over on my Instagram, if you're interested
Well I feel like I'm making some progress, even if my last run was painfully slow. Finally got my GPS tracker working, so I can see the sort of miles and speed that I'm doing. Got myself some new tops and stuff to run in, invested in an Under-Armour t-shirt and an Addidas vest, so now I've got some options. I'm also thinking about getting myself some better shoes, still, going to check out a running shop this week or next to look into it.

Are you doing couch to 5k?! How is it going? Please share your story below, I need inspiration and motivation! 

Monday, February 09, 2015

how to create and use an editorial calendar

how to create an editorial calendar

I've wanted to talk about how to create an editorial calendar for blogging for the longest time, because it's really changed how I plan blog posts, how I schedule content and keep myself organised in general. 
I mentioned last week how I love to use a little handwritten planner to keep track of things I want to do, ideas that spring to mind, or content that I need to write, and I do really love that method for the creative side of things. However, once the copy is written, photos are taken, and posts are are ready to be published, I like to bring my up editorial calendar to have a look at when I'll post. 

There are so many ways out there to create an editorial calendar, from traditional diaries, printables, and even apps like CoSchedule, but I prefer this method, which I had sort of attempted doing before I found the lovely Gillian' tutorial over at Elevator Musik for how to set this up properly and a lot of this post is inspired by hers, so please go check it out, it's all much prettier than mine! I've been using this for blogging since May 2014, and it's been so brilliant! The amount of posts I wrote in 2014 tripled from 2013, and I think this is in part to getting organised. Some of this organisation may seem like over-kill for something that is a hobby of mine, but I enjoy getting myself organised!

You can use any format you like, obviously, but I love to use my Google Drive for my calendar, as it's accessible from anywhere, saves automatically, and is just really easy to bring up when I'm blogging, as I have it bookmarked on my toolbar. Go to your Google Docs, and from the drop down menu at the side, select Sheets, then press the green cross in the bottom corner to bring up a new spreadsheet - it's pretty much as easy as that. Name it something obvious, that you can find, like Blog Calendar 2015, then you're ready...
how to create an editorial calendar 1

This is the fun bit, you can make this look like whatever you like. I copied Gillian's format for this, in having the days across the top, and then Week 1-5 down the left hand side. I made it match my blog colours/font, cause I'm ridiculous like that, simply put. You can make all your cells the same size, highlight all the columns/rows you want, then right click and select Resize columns, and enter a defined value for them. You can use the colour picker to select a colour that suits your blog, and make the font match and all sorts.
At the bottom (which I annoyingly cut off in these images, but you can see in my main image, at the top of the post) you can see that I created tabs for each month, and I fill in the dates manually using the calendar on my phone or laptop. 
how to create an editorial calendar 2

Like with my blog planner, it takes using the calendar to find out how to make it work for you. I set myself up with a key, using different coloured highlighted squares to figure out how to plan my content. For example, you can see that his month I didn't post any recipes because I was posting other kind of content that I enjoyed writing, so it's all sort of swings and roundabouts. I have regular features on Friday and Sunday, so I fill those columns in ahead of time, as I know that they'll be frequent features. You can see that the beginning of January was a bit all over the place, because I was getting back into the swing of things, post-Christmas, but it really does help me stick to my posting schedule. When I've scheduled a post, I strikethrough the whole box, and it makes me like I've accomplished something! 
how to create an editorial calendar 3

  • I like to be able to see the last month, to compare the kind of content I've posted, but anything before that clutters up my workspace. Right click on the old page tab at the bottom of the page and select hide sheet. To view the sheet again, select View > View Hidden Sheets... From the toolbar, and you'll have access to them all again.
  • I used the Notes column more frequently untilI set up my blog planner, but I like to still have there, just in case I need to add comments or reminders to myself, and I haven't got my planner to hand.
  • I've recently started adding the 'buffered' comment to my calendar, to remind me that I need to scheduled tweets for that post, also. 
  • I use italics to add in posts that I write, that are 'last minute' additions. They're ones that I haven't planned on posting necessarily, they're written then and there and published on the spot. 
  • I highlight boxes bright red, as opposed to their corresponding colour, if I know I haven't yet completed everything for that certain post, and it reminds me that the post needs something doing for it!
  • I like to stay about one-week ahead of schedule, so I have some time to write some posts if I feel like I'm short on content that week. You can see that like 95% of my content is scheduled, and I know from recent Twitter chats that some people have a problem with that, but I don't see how it make a damn bit of difference! haha
And there we go, hopefully this helps a little bit! There are hundreds of ways out there to make an editorial calendar work for you, though - if this doesn't float your boat, try looking on Pinterest for inspiration, or turn your hand to making your own. 
Do you use an editorial calendar? Share how it helps you in the comments below, I love finding out new things! 

Sunday, February 08, 2015

weekend wanderings #50

weekend wanderings #50

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Bloglovin and Pinterest!

Friday, February 06, 2015

Q #37

I have a lot of ~feelings~ about this quote: I've been told a lot, in life, that I'm too much, too much to handle, people can't cope with me and all that I come with... I just think it'd be good to get to that place where someone can deal with all that.  I could talk a lot more about this, but I think I've over shared enough - I just thought it was really nice and I wanted to show you it all. 

Thursday, February 05, 2015

the sun through the trees - part two

winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors, winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors, winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors, winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors,

There are some things that feel a little better though, like when the sun breaks from behind the grey clouds, you manage to catch the setting sun in the woods, there is a pinecone in your pocket and some twigs in your hair and everything feels alright again. Sometimes it's really good to get out and get dirty, to cake your boots in mood and run through the frozen over puddles on the ground, feeling the ice crack beneath your unsuitable trainers. You forget what date it is, when the sun gets in your eyes and you feel hot for the first time all day; and on the walk home, the bulbs your mother and father planted are poking out of the ground in the garden, there is a red kite crying, somewhere above your head; you can take a deep breath and say that you'll get through it, because you always do.

winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors, winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors, d p2-6 winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors,
winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors,

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

the sun through the trees - part one

winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors, winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors,

I find winter a hard time - despite my adoration for the all the things I dream of in a winter, like crisp frosty mornings and brisk weekend walks in the sunshine, it always turns out differently. The crisp frosty mornings are less beautiful when walking to work in the dark at 8AM or scraping the ice from your car until your fingers are blue. The sunny Saturday strolls are few and far between in January and you spend a lot more time indoors, looking out at the rain falling, with the wind trying to get in through the cracks in the house than I do out walking in the sunshine. At times like these it's hard to push through without the lure of Christmas to cheer you on, your only hope is that the solstice has passed and that the days are getting longer again, the sun is lingering that little bit more and that soon it will be spring.

part two tomorrow...

winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors, winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors, winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors, winter, walks, days out, mental health, nature, countryside, outdoors,

Monday, February 02, 2015

on losing weight: getting back on track after christmas

on losing weight back on track after christmas

green thai chicken curry/soup - chinese style salmon with veg and rice
tomato, spinach and cheese pasta bake - potato, kale, bean and pearl barley soup

I always think it's a pretty harsh thing to do to yourself, after christmas, to be super strict with your eating and health habits. There is no love lost between me and January - it's a month of bad memories and bad weather, why would I enjoy it? To me, I can't think of anything worse than going from the lovely, indulgent time at Christmas, when really, the weather isn't as bad, to the harsh daylight of the new year, with no nice food and forcing yourself to get in the gym every night.., Basically, you all need to be easier on yourselves! 

I really struggle with my depression at this time of year, it's generally not a fun time of the year for me, but like I posted about in my 8 tips on beating January blues post, I'm trying to be nicer to myself, and look after myself mentally. One of the things that I find really helps that, is really good, home-cooked foods to keep your energy levels up, as well as making small efforts to keep your mood up, which then in turn, make you want to get out more, exercise more, etc.

So I'm not going to rant on about the benefits of slogging it out in the gym, thought I have found myself weirdly enjoying my runs, nor am I going to extoll the virtues of skinny veg super green smoothies everyone seems to be obsessed with at the moment (guess it was all those nutri-bullets people got for Christmas?!). I just think you should make yourself some really good food. Get out for walks when you can, don't pay attention to the scales, don't chuck out all your excess Christmas cheese and chocolate (work through it, for sure - just.. in moderation!). 

I thought I would show you how my week looked earlier this month to give you a clue on how I break down my fitness and food habits:
Gym AM, run PM.
Chicken, sweetcorn and potato wedges for lunch, green thai chicken curry for dinner. Some chocolate raisins as a snack in the evening.
Yoghurt and a peach for breakfast, halloumi and pitta bread for lunch, healthy shepherd's pie for dinner.
Run AM.
Meet a friend for lunch and had pasta with chicken, chinese style salmon and stir fry veg with a small amount of rice for dinner, snack on popcorn in the evening.
Gym AM.
Toast and banana for lunch, vegetable, bean, kale and pearl barley soup for dinner with rice pudding.
Gym PM.
Blueberry muffin for breakfast, leftover vegetable soup for lunch. Spinach, tomato and mozzarella pasta bake for dinner. Probably some dessert but I don't remember! 
No gym, no run, but I did walk about London a lot and only took the tube once.
Full fat greek yoghurt for breakfast, a mountain of pitta breads and houmous for lunch with some lamb koftas, and just a chocolate pot for dinner because I was still full. (My most unhealthy day!)
Full fat greek yoghurt for breakfast, low fat M&S; chicken curry ready-meal for lunch, spiced chicken with sweetcorn for dinner and some cake.
Full fat greek yoghurt for breakfast, soup for lunch with a crusty roll (and a naughty bit of cheesecake, shh), mum's homemade and slightly healthier version of lasagne for dinner.
As you can see I started off the week well, but then it sort of tailed off towards Friday, when I went back to work after a few days and just sort of felt a bit rubbish. I have had a good mixture of healthy food and some decadent snacks and stuff, and I did a lot of exercise at the beginning of the week to make up for my lack of it later in the week, I feel like. 

I've lost a bit of weight, not much, but I'm not that fussed by it, I'ts been a particularly miserable week with early morning arctic temperature (-7 degrees!) and having to de-ice my car after work at 8.30pm in the evening, so I'm not punishing myself by eating nothing but stripped back salads and lean protein. I'm allowed myself some treats and trying to get lots of healthy, well balanced meals in wherever possible!

Sunday, February 01, 2015

weekend wanderings #49