08 May 2015

Day in the Life 2.0 #BEDM

Let's ignore that I've not posted since mid-February (quality over quantity, right? At least that's what I'm telling myself) and that I'm not actually taking part in Elizabeth's BEDM, mainly because I am currently being a crap blogger. I mean, there are other reasons, the usual busyness etc. but also that I am now blogging as part of my job which removes some of the enthusiasm somewhat. I did take part in BEDM 2013 and it was a very fun challenge. But like 2014, I decided to opt-out this year.

But then I started seeing others' BEDM posts and I got those jealous vibes. And now it's May 8... so I'm late. We know I'm not going to blog every day for the whole month. You know it. I know it.

I've basically got fomo. So now I can't stop myself. I'm getting involved. I'll be using some of the BEDM prompts but daily it shall not be. In the style of sweeping a difficult conversation under the carpet; let's not talk about it, let's just enjoy it while it lasts.

What does my day look like? Well, it largely looks the same as my average day in 2013 except I have a different shower (and residence), my Clarks brogues are now 2.0, and I've grown that index finger back...

This is recycling content isn't it?

Again, we both know it is. But I'm going to let it slide, maybe you can too?


20 February 2015

February in New York


That's what February in New York is: damn cold! And this year saw record low temperatures, even New Yorkers were exclaiming it was cold.

So yes, to pre-celebrate my 30th birthday, myself and three friends decided to hit up the Big Apple for 5 days. We had an awesome time! We visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the top of the Rockefeller Centre: Top of the Rock, Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Brewery, NY MoMA, World Trade Center Memorial, Magnolia Bakery, the City's Highline, and of course ate a shedload of good food.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is a photomentary.


28 January 2015

The Big Blog Clothes Swap

You may have already seen this around the blogosphere but if not, Janet of Words That Can Only Be Your Own and Steph of The Wardrobe Angel are organising a big blog clothes swap!

Janet has been wanting to run a clothes swap for ages, but was intimidated by the amount of work that was potentially needed, along with the fear that, after all that work, no-one would turn up! Then Janet and her soon-to-be-sister-in-law Steph put their heads together and the idea was born.

The swap will gather together as many bloggers, and blog readers (you don't have to be a blogger!), as possible, who will be paired according to size and off you swap! The swap is inclusive of all sizes and will also include shoes and accessories. The deadline for posting your swap-package is 10 March.

I don't know about you, but I have a good number of clothes, shoes and accessories waiting patiently in my wardrobe, show drawer and jewellery box to be worn. And there they stay. I always think they could be good for someone else. And I give lots to charity shops but some items always seemed just a little too nice to let go in that direction. The idea of a real-world clothes swap has always intimidated me, and that's just attending! It's the same as vintage fairs: what do I do there?! I feel like an imposter. Yeah, intimidating. So when I saw this: hell yeah! was my first thought.

Want to take part? To sign up, e-mail the following information to either jbistheinitial@gmail.com or info@wardrobeangel.co.uk, by 9 February:

Blog address and/or social media:
Clothes size (if you need to split this for tops/bottoms, do):
Shoe size:
Swapping preferences (for example, Do you want to swap one item only or more? Do you have specific clothing preferences, e.g. dresses only? Would you be willing, or prefer, to swap shoes, bags, accessories, etc?):

Janet and Steph will wade through the responses and pair you with someone of the same size. You can then always use social media to get to know your partner and their style. Or just opt for the surprise effect!

So who's in?!


Image credit: Provided by and reproduced with permission from Janet @ Words Can Only Be Your Own

21 January 2015

Twenty Fifteen and I

A few days, that's when I said I'd be back. And here we are, more than 2 weeks later. Blogging more is unlikely to be one of my goals this year.

So, what are my plans for 2015? Make a list? Choose a word? Follow a pre-defined plan? It wasn't going to be any of these. Instead, I was going to be the epitome of aiming high and this year — the year in which I turn 30 — set myself, wait for it, one goal. Ah huh. Just the one. Which one?

Learn to drive.

Wait, you're nearly 30 and you can't drive?! Yes.

Let me explain. I resolved to learn when I was 17 but my dad convinced me otherwise. For reasons that are unclear. I can only assume he was nervous about me being on the road, or more specifically, being involved in an accident. So I put it off, thinking I could do it later. Plus, I was/am rarely one to go against my dad's advice.  Also, my mom is unable to drive due to her epilepsy and I think this instilled in me the idea 'hey! I don't need a car to get around!'. This theory propagates if you look at the fact my sister doesn't drive and both my brothers now do. Then, living in Manchester for a decade where cycling is a very acceptable way to travel, especially as it's flat and the cycle lanes are well established, having a car just wasn't a requirement nor a desire. And as I got older, I suppose I became a little nervous of being a 'mature learner'; that is, being less fearless and potentially disliking being told what to do. All of this has resulted in no driving licence and relying on trains to visit friends and family, my dad picking me up from stations etc., and taxis in scenarios where a car would've been perfect. I mean, it's not all bad: public transport offers a wonderful opportunity to delve into a good book or podcast, browse your phone, or write an e-mail or blog post.

But this year, I'm going to do it. What really pushed me over the edge? When I mentioned it to my dad, his response was; Yes, I think you should. Wow. I wonder how long he'd been wondering when, or indeed if, I might actually get around to it?!

I'm already doing pretty well against this goal: I purchased a provisional driving licence last week and it arrived on Saturday which was probably altogether too exciting than it should be for a 29 year old. The whole process is completed online now and different arms of gov.uk manage to communicate with one another to use your passport photo and signature on your licence. Although I don't plan to start lessons until at least March, as I have other things to do and pay for in the interim, I shall conduct some driving school research. Speaking of which, does anyone have any experience with BSM? Or have local driving schools fared better for you?

So, I was pretty happy with just this one goal.

But then I started to feel like the schoolchild who brings a rubbish game to school on 'bring-you-own-games-to-school' day (usually coupled with being allowed to wear non-uniform, right? What a day of excitement and anxiety!) and everyone's looking at me like: 'That. That's what you brought?!'

All in my mind, of course. But it had the same resultant effect: me wanting to add more goals. It's not going to morph into a word to represent the whole year, a master plan, or even a 31 before 31 list but it is a little longer than one single, solitary goal which, let's face it, is fairly achievable anyway.

Let's see what else we've got.


I've made pretty good progress with dressmaking over the last year and have high hopes for where it might take me next. Setting goals in this arena has little to do with it being a new year, only that it's a convenient time to list such things. There are a good number of basic dressmaking skills I'm fairly confident with, and have a decent number of garments under my belt. But there's loooooads more! Like what? Trousers, coats, jeans, sewing with leather and denim, all the hems. Lots! I'm toying with a few other ideas as well, including a Technique Checklist à la Fiona's at Diary of a Chainstitcher, which Tasia's Sewtionary would help a lot with. And even starting a sewing blog. It's tricky though: thinking of a name (all the good ones are taken!), creating and posting content in two places, having more than one social media account/presence, etc. I know a few that manage it well, e.g. Janet of Words That Can Only Be Your Own and The Hungry Vegan, (I'm sure there are other great examples too) but I'm still reluctant to take the plunge. Anyone have any words of wisdom?


Following on from last year, I've set myself another 2015 Reading Challenge on goodreads of 20 books. You can find me on goodreads here. I really enjoyed taking part in circle of pine treesthe year in books project in 2014 (you can see all my posts here) and she is running it again in 2015. However, I've opted not to post this year, but there are still plenty of bloggers I follow who are taking part so will pick books up that way. I'm still considering joining another book club but am yet to commit.


Just like the other goals, this probably isn't going to be a SMART target but I really want to be financially sensible in 2015. How I'm going to achieve that? I'm not entirely sure but plan to address it in some way. I've downloaded a spending app (Apple | Android) that allows you to track and report on how much you're spending and on what. At this point, I've not been through enough monthly cycles to infer a great deal and it hasn't really stopped me spending but hey, who knows. I mean, I've tried tracking my spending before but have lost interest. Maybe this time will be different. OK, I should probably think about this one a little more. Just having the intention to do something won't necessarily make it happen.

And that's your lot. All the 'ings. Nothing groundbreaking.

What have you lot got planned for 2015?


03 January 2015

My 2014: in review

It's time to jump on that blogging bandwagon and review my 2014.

It's been a pretty good year, I've had rather a good time. I set myself some goals wants for the year and don't think I did too badly by them:
FRIENDSHIPS. Yeah, so the idea was to spend more time with friends I've lost touch with, visit them and such like. That didn't really happen. In fact, a couple of my friends came to visit me. But I did make the effort whenever I went home (Walsall and my second-home Manchester) to meet up with friends. And if it weren't for a lot of the work-related travel over the past year, I would've had the availability to go on more friend-visiting adventures. Work is not set to be quite as busy this year so maybe that'll make way for it. 
BLOG. Blogging more is almost always one of my goals for the year. Sadly, quantitatively, I blogged just about the same as the previous year: 51 in 2014 compared with 55 in 2013, so, less in fact. I'd like to say it was richer content but that's not for me to decide. The year did feature more blog series and projects, including:
  • Project365: it began on my 29th birthday and was supposed to culminate in my 30th birthday in February 2015. But I lasted about 3 months. And I don't know for sure because I cannot bare to check. So a massive flop.
  • the year in books: quite a success I'd say, even if I still have some from the end of 2014 to blog. Maybe I'll combine them all into one. 
  • Playlists: I made it three quarters of the way through. But I intend to publish the remainder retrospectively. Basically, in secret so it will look like I made good on this series. 
  • 52 lists: another flop! And barely worth mentioning because I think I composed one list. However, I did discover I like lists that are for a purpose only, i.e. to be ticked off, not just the sake of making them. 
My carefully considered list of blog content for the year, the majority of which remained just ideas, half- and even fully written, but unpublished, is still ripe for sharing though so maybe in 2015? I got more involved with the blogging community, albeit only a little, when I signed up for Janet's Thrifty Christmas Gift Swap, receiving an awesome Christmas parcel from Janet's other half Thomas, and co-host of The Hungry Vegan. I would really like to get more involved and meet some of you lovely people!
CRAFT. This mostly centred around my signing up for a sewing class at the end of 2013 at the Bristol Folk House, followed by a dressmaking course. And I really have the sewing/dressmaking bug! I heart it. To the point that I regularly daydream about starting some sort of business but I'm nowhere near that really so I'm happy with daydreaming at the moment. I have in fact just signed up for the same dressmaking course this spring! Just some of the things I've made this year: 4 dresses, 5 tops/blouses, 2 shorts, 2 pyjama bottoms, 1 blazer, 1 skirt, 1 tie, 3 scarves, 8 bags, 5 zippered pouches, and 7 cushions. I told you; small-time. I did try to blog some of these makes (even creating a sewing page on the blog) but I'm having a little trouble figuring out how to fit that into my blog; I'm not sure the content really fits here. I don't want it to be a blog that tries to be/do lots of different things  all mixed together (although, in essence, that is me!) and I don't want to blog about sewing alone. So for the time being, Instagram is where most of my makes get documented. Like-a-so:

READ. I set myself a Goodreads challenge of reading 20 books in 2014. I read 17. That's 85%. I'll take that since I read hmm 13 in 2013.  I've set myself the same challenge for 2015. Nothing like pushing yourself, right?
EXPLORE. Plenty of travel in 2014 meant I did a good amount of exploring: Germany twice, Italy, and Hawaii. And I just generally did more stuff, and had lots of fun doing it, which was the goal. Like what? 
  • Joined a book club. Left said book club. 
  • Moved house, again. In with another friend and work colleague.
  • Went to watch live theatre in the form of Jane Eyre at Bristol Old Vic which was excellent! And Madame Butterfly at The Tobacco Factory, which was pretty good.
  • Went to a champagne tasting event at The Clifton Cellars. Also excellent! Despite retaining minimal knowledge about champagne.
  • Tried online dating. Twice. After swearing for years that I wouldn't, or rather, that it wasn't for me.
  • Listened to live music at two festivals and three gigs.
  • Was an invited panel member for a University of Manchester careers event.
  • Night-walked from Bath to Bristol for 8 hours to raise money for FareShare South West (FSSW).
  • Went on a mates' holiday to Italy. Molto divertente!
  • Made and sold my wares at a craft fair, again to raise money for FSSW.
  • Became a mini sewing and dressmaking production line, with output including no less than four Christmas presents!
Wow. I'd like to thank Google Calendar for sponsoring that list. 
DECISIONS. BE OPEN. This wasn't the clearest of wants really, was it? It was largely related wanting to explore, above. But I would say I've been pretty open to things this year; said yes to things I wouldn't have in the past, just 'gone with it' in scenarios that my over-thinking would've previously lead me to decline, and certainly tried to be more fun and relaxed. I swear, I immature as I age. That's not supposed to happen. 
And how was everyone else's 2014?

So, what's in store for 2015? Well, I was only going to set myself one goal but the more I've thought about it, I would like to add a couple more so I'll be back in a few days to lay that down. But for now, all that's left to say is Happy New Year to you all!


30 December 2014

The year in books: December

This is a double whammy post in that I am reviewing both November and December's books (because I finished them both in December actually).


Richard Flanagan - The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013)

date finished: 24 December 2014     |     ASIN: B00J4SNT48     |     pages: 353 (Kindle)

The story of Dorrigo Evans, a doctor in the Japanese POW camps building the Burma Death Railway, following his life during and afterwards. Winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

A friend recommended this one to me, describing it as "a little bit harrowing". I thought, what the hell, I'll take it with me to Hawaii, it can't be too upsetting for a holiday. A little bit harrowing?! Descriptions of the living conditions, health of the POWs and the treatment by the officers and commanders was often difficult to read! One element in particular took me by surprise, and was actually quite upsetting (not that it all wasn't of course): cue a wobbly chin and damp eyes. There is an intertwined love story that frankly, mostly annoyed me. And there were elements of the story that got a little boring. Whilst no-one's life is linear, I wasn't sure why they were included. In the end, I found it a bit of slog, hence me not finishing it until Christmas Eve, however, that was likely due to the subject matter. The end left me in a similar frame of mind as when I read David Mitchell's book Ghostwritten; I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. For me, this was an average read.

rating: ★★★


John Sweeney - Elephant Moon (2013)

date finished: 29 December 2014     |     ASIN: B00C2UORQ4     |     pages: 300 (Kindle)

Not the artiest of photos: I took it just now at my desk! 
As the Second World War rages, the Japanese Imperial Army enters Burma and the British rulers prepare to flee. But the human legacy of the British Empire will be left behind in the shape of sixty-two Anglo-Burmese children, born to local women after affairs with foreign men. Half-castes, they are not acknowledged by either side and they are to be abandoned with no one to protect them. Their teacher, Grace Collins, a young Englishwoman, refuses to join the European evacuation and instead sets out to deliver the orphans to the safety of India. She faces impossible odds because between her and India lie one thousand miles of jungle, mountains, rivers and the constant, unseen threat of the Japanese. With Japanese soldiers chasing them down, the group s chances of survival shrink - until they come across a herd of fifty-three elephants who, with their awesome strength and kindness, quickly become the orphans only hope of survival. Based on a true story, Elephant Moon is an unforgettable epic tale of courage and compassion in the midst of brutality and destruction.
This was a Kindle book I came across when trying to escape from the horror of The Narrow Road to the Deep North in Hawaii, and at just £1, I thought I'd give it ago. Although, I wasn't sure I expected much in terms of respite with it being set in the same era I was hoping the appearance of elephants would bring some light relief. And I have to say, they did. Whilst the elephants are the backdrop, you still get to know the characters. I found Grace to be a little wimpy at times, and the 'bad guy' was quite cliche, including his demise. But, on the whole, I really quite enjoyed it. The average rating on goodreads shows that enjoyment is above average though.

rating: ★★★

And with that, my first year in books is over! I must say, I've thoroughly enjoyed it. I shall be back with a post summarising the year. I encourage you to take part in 2015's project that Laura is kindly running again! I'm still debating whether to take part again myself, I probably will but may not do the individual posts.

What are you reading?


Want to take part in The Year in Books project in 2015?
Visit Laura's January link-up post at The Circle of Pine Trees blog to add yourself to the list and grab the  button she's very kindly created. You can take part using the hashtag  #theyearinbooks on Instagram and Twitter. There is also a Pinterest board and a Goodreads group. I know; great, right?