Friday, 23 January 2015

Judging January: Themed Months?

So there's this book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Apparently it's been around for a while, but I only actually picked up a copy towards the end of last year when I heard a few positive mumblings about it from the odd blog.

I really rather enjoyed reading it, so much so that I'm more than half-way through the second re-read at the moment.

In the book, Gretchen uses the practical knowledge and applicable theory that she's picked up from researching happiness (from writings by everyone from Aristotle to French nuns, to modern-day scientific studies) to create actionable resolutions which she monitored daily. Each month she added new resolutions to those already being monitored along a particular theme - so February was about strengthening her relationship with her husband (resolutions included "fight right", "quit nagging", and "give proofs of love") and September was focused on pursuing her passion for writing ("write a novel", "make time", "master a new technology"). You get the idea.

So now - probably completely missing the point - I'm suddenly very much into the idea of giving themes to months.

This month has been a bit of a wash-out thanks to everyone being poorly at once, moments of blind panic, and a whole new, never previously encountered level of stress, so I'm going for a slightly inhuman attempt to start Graft January from next week, then roll it into Fitness February pretty much right off the bat. Which may kill me. We'll see.

So here are the themes I'm working with so far...

Graft January
  • Develop something akin to a routine
  • Get Draft 2 of my first paper written
  • Get into the habit of working every day
  • Sort out the study and keep it nice

Fitness February

  • Join the local gym
  • Start (and stick to) Couch to 5k
  • Keep a food diary
  • Drink one bottle of water a day

Marching March
  • Go to the Peaks for a proper walk at least three times this month
  • (If new gym has a summit trainer, use it every day)
  • If you can (and it won't make you late), then walk it
  • Learn the basics of navigation

That's it for now - I'm toying with the idea of "Adventure April" (I'm so good at names) but I don't know how that would really work navigation-wise... Plus I think I'm getting way to into this alliteration thing. I suppose I'll see closer to the time what changes I have in mind closer to the time.


      Monday, 19 January 2015

      Update #1 for The Birthday List

      Well, I've been 26 for two whole months now (ugh), it's probably time to have a quick look at how the Birthday List is coming along...

      1. Get My Driver's Licence
      Still haven't organised a lesson as my focus up to now has been on getting on top of my uni work - but I'll hopefully be booking my first lesson in February.

      2. Keep a Gratitude Jar
      Yeah. This has been more than a little neglected since December. I need to get back on that.

      3. Go Abroad
      Not really had time just yet.

      4. Complete the Gala Darling Courses.
      This is also on the back-burner for the foreseeable

      5. Fill Two Scrapbooks with Happy Things.
      As above. Though I've been collecting things ready.

      6. Go To At Least Two Gigs (of bands I actually care about)
      Ticket bought for Primordial next month! Now I just need to think of a second...

      7. Try One New Pub/Restaurant Each Month
      This has been going fairly well. In November I visited The Harley in Sheffield (about which I'll do a little write up soon) and in December, Robyn took me to Crowd of Favours in Leeds, which is a nice little place. I should also be trying some new places in Leeds with Robyn and/or Patrick this month as well. So doing quite well on this score so far!

      8. Read 10 Novels Not By Terry Pratchett
      Do autobiographies count? Because I read Amy Poehler's. No? Thought not. Okay, I've not read any non-Pratchett novels yet, though I have just picked up two paperbacks(!) to read, so that will do as a starting point.

      9. Go Rock Climbing
      I will get round to this one day. Honest...

      10. Go Camping Somewhere Other Than The Lake District
      I am putting a great deal of effort into nagging Sam to let us camp in Wales, even if it's just for one night in the summer. We'll see how we go on that score.

      11. Make a Meal From Scratch Every Month
      While I cheated for November - December (by getting Sam to "help"), my success at making sweet potato wedges this year has brought untold joy (for me, at least, as Sam hates sweet potatoes) and made for some yummy dinners. Also, turns out markets are dirt cheap for veggies. Who'd have thought.

      12. Join a Gym
      This will be happening in about two weeks' time, ready for "Fitness February" (oh, yeah, I'm kind of into giving themes to months at the minute. I'll do a write up on that soon).

      13. Do a Wardrobe Clear Out.
      Not yet. If anything it's got worse...

      14. Lose a Stone.
      On the one hand I weigh about a quarter of a pound more than I did on my birthday... But on the other hand, that's still about 3lbs less than I did just after Christmas. Swings and Roundabouts. But I'm getting more into veggies, so hopefully this isn't too out of my reach.

      15. Take on More at Work
      I've put my name down to work on a major project at work, I started out my teaching for this term really well, and I've also put my name down to do some reviewing.... I'm still behind on my actual thesis, but still.

      16. Spend a Weekend in London. 
      Still needs sorting, but still very much on the cards. 

      17. Go Up 10 New Hills
      Oh I so want to go up even ONE hill right now. Might see how this week pans out time-wise and weather-wise and see if I can persuade Sam to do the Mam Tor Circuit with me.

      18. Drink More Water (and Less Pop)
      I've had very mixed success with this. Some days I've been really good and only had 1 can, others have been a shambles. So very much still a work-in-progress.

      19. Blog Better
      I think I'm blogging a little better, and I've been making a more conscious effort to post in a more consistent manner. I've also been making more of an effort to read posts by others on better blogging. But again, this is very much an on-going thing.

      20. Keep a 1-Line-a-Day Journal
      I've been doing this! Since New Years Day I've been keeping a 1-line-a-day journal as well as a day-to-view journal for a more detailed write up. I'm rubbish at doing it everyday, but I usually do it every two days, meaning that there are no blanks. Now just to keep this up.

      21. Complete the Couch-to-5k Program
      Again, something for Fitness February.

      22. Visit a Different Country in Great Britain
      I am seriously hoping it'll be Scotland, but this is looking like it's going to be Wales (which is no bad thing, but I'd like to try something totally new). Again, this will involve making puppy-dog eyes at Sam as to where we go - and indeed whether we go at all.

      23. Take Sam on a Sushi Date
      Today I'm taking Sam to a world buffet which serves sushi to make sure he can actually stomach the stuff - if all goes well, I'll be dragging him to Sakushi in Sheffield (or Yo! in Meadowhall, because convenience) another day. And if it doesn't, well at least I got to eat a load of sushi with Robyn last month.

      24. Save at Least £500 in an ISA
      I spent my first paycheque of the year on refilling my savings after Christmas and the delay in getting this month's pay emptied it - but I'm still hoping to put at least £50 in this month. If I manage to do that every month, then I should hit my target. And even more would be even better.

      25. Make More Time for Friends and Family
      Thanks to a crap start to the year, I'm even more aware than ever about the importance of not taking people for granted. This month has been very family orientated: I've been visiting my Grandma every week and ringing her most days, and Sam and I visited my Dad for his birthday on Friday and took him to the pub, which was nice. I've not been as great at keeping up with friends, but I still managed to fit in an all-dayer with one at the start of the month, an all-dayer with most of the gang this weekend, and will be seeing both my Leeds mates over the next two weeks. So really, I'm not doing too badly at all.

      This is the blank one - so it's been pretty easy to fill so far. But I really ought to think about filling it sometime soon. Those of you who read my hiking blog will know that I have something in mind for this, but we'll have to see for now.

      Do making neon orange smoothies count towards #11?
      How are you guys getting on with your resolutions/birthday lists?


      Friday, 16 January 2015

      When the Snow Came

      How was the snow for you?

      I don't mean the traffic jams, the chaos on the roads, the problems with transport, or a load of shops shutting. I mean when it first came.

      When you looked out of the window (or in my case, poked my head out of the door to see my Grandma rushing up the path shouting "it's snowing! Get the bins in!") and first realised it was really coming down.

      Or, if you were as snowy as we were, when you woke up on the 27th to see that everything was covered.

      If I'm honest, I was very lucky.

      Because it was Christmas, I didn't have to be at work (I can't imagine getting to Manchester or Leeds would be a cakewalk in this).

      And, crucially, because it was Christmas, I was at the family home rather than the flat.

      Much as I love the flat, getting scenes like these on a 20 minute walk would have been much more unlikely...

      I really rather enjoyed the snow.

      For about half a day.
      Then the gritters didn't bother going round Rotherham and kinda spoiled it for everyone.

      I was more than a little glad when the rain and unexpected warmth on New Year's Day got rid of what remained of the snows (and, latterly ice) from Boxing Day.

      But for one morning, at least, it was really quite nice.


      Monday, 12 January 2015

      Day in the Life: Before & After

      I have decided not to have any time off next Christmas/New Years. The best that I will agree to is cutting down to an hour of work a day on those that I would otherwise have had off. A couple of people have told me that this seems a little harsh. In response, I thought I'd let the world see how my working life looked before Christmas, in comparison to now. Oh dear.

      Before Christmas...

      Wake up. Overdose on coffee and "breakfast biscuits" (I just like an excuse to eat biscuits for breakfast) while catching up on Instagram and Facebook.

      Jump on the bike for 45 minutes - usually while watching American Horror Story. Then a quick shower to make me look human again.

      After drying my hair and throwing on some comfortable clothes, I sit down with a coffee and biscuit and go over what uni stuff I need to get done for the day.
      Then, with some occasional distractions (and resorting to using Strict Workflow rather a lot), get on with the to-do list. I usually do the rougher stuff first, as I'm no use to anyone after lunch.

      Lunch! Usually soup and bread... though I'm occasionally naughty and pop up the road to the sandwich shop (including one of the branded ones... chicken and chorizo BBQ is dangerous stuff). If I'm in a good flow with work I'll usually read at my desk - either BBC News or a few blog posts. If I've burned out then I tend to veg a little and watch something on iPlayer or Netflix.

      If I've the energy/will to go on with uni stuff then I often do, otherwise I use this time to do chores around the flat, work on other projects, and start planning for the next day.

      6pm (or later, depending on circumstances)
      Start work on dinner. Sam usually cooks, as he's far better at it but I will occasionally have a go. Fortunately, no one has died yet.
      We'll usually eat at the dining table while watching something on the laptop (plugged into the TV for the novelty).

      At this point, Sam and I will either continue watching things (this was especially prevalent when we first moved in together and kept marathoning Parks and Rec), or we'll hang out in the other room: him playing games, me reading (...or playing games).

      Teeth cleaned, PJs on, Sam and I watch an episode of something - or a few Ashens/Robbaz videos - on the laptop in bed. After that, the lappy goes away and the Kindles come out. I wish I could say that there's a respectable "goodnight dear!" moment - but usually time is called on this when I fall asleep reading and the Kindle falls on my face (ow). This happens far more often than I would like to admit.

      Dad's gorgeously chaotic tree

      After Christmas...

      It varies. But overall: not like it was.
      At all.
      I have forgotten what pre-10am looks like (I sleep through an average of 4 alarms, even though I'm not late to bed).
      I have also fallen out of love with the bike, which would be fine were it not for the lack of fitness alternatives right now (though fortunately I should get a bonus soon - to the gym!).
      And I've only just got back to working on my thesis (I am a terrible human being).

      But it's getting there. And, if nothing else, hopefully this will shame me into turning back into wonder woman, as I apparently was at the end of last year.

      For now, I'm clearly going to need a far more annoying alarm clock.


      Saturday, 10 January 2015

      Coming Up This Month...

      Getting back to work after the Xmas break is hard.
      The struggle is real.

      And it's even more difficult when less-than-awesome family stuff is going on. Bad times.

      But there will be posts coming soon. For instance, coming up this month...

      • Giving Themes to Months (and is this going to go Horribly Wrong?)
      • Sales Haul (part 2)
      • Update on the progress of the Birthday List
      • A Recipe (?!)
      And they're just the ones I have planned at the moment.

      See you all soon! 


      Friday, 2 January 2015

      January Sales Haul!

      Oh but the January Sales are wonderful. There really is nothing better than dragging your long-suffering boyfriend 'round town for hours on end, spending up your Christmas money.

      And I'm rather chuffed with how I did this year, so I thought I'd do a quick post to show off my haul (I believe this is a standard blogger thing to do). So here are the bits I bought, organised by where I bought them...


      Probably my most exciting haul - especially as I'm pretty new to Lush. I've always had a quiet fascination when it comes to their things, but I've always been put off by the pretty high prices. I briefly broke with this habit back in June when I bought my lip scrub and in doing so realised that when you do fork out, the stuff is pretty decent. So when I heard there was a sale on, my feet barely touched the ground.

      What I bought...

      • It's Magic! Gift Set (containing: Dragon Egg, Shoot for the Stars, and Northern Lights bath bombs and Magic Wand bubble bar)
      • Hot Toddy Shower Gel (100g - not pictured)
      • Star Light, Star Bright Bath Melt
      • 2 x Shoot for the Stars Bath Bombs
      • First Snow Gift Set (containing: (takes a deep breath) First Snow dusting powder, Shimmy Shimmy, Snow Fairy Shower Gel (100g), Bubblegum lip scrub, Rock Star soap (100g), Baked Alaska soap (120g), and Snowman Fun (bubble bar, solid shampoo, and soap that can be moulded into the shape of a snowman).)
      Original cost: £71.35(ish) I Paid: £35.73 

      I'm now banned from going in there ever again (well, at least until the next January Sales), but it was worth it.


      I was pretty well-behaved in Wilkos. Mostly because Sam was being a voice of reason, but I need to pop into the shop again tomorrow, so the Wilko 'haul' may yet get bigger. 

      I bought a roll of wrapping paper (which looks pretty year-round), some indoor fairy lights (though I bought the wrong colour, so I will need to buy another box), and a mini box of Roses as a 'thank you' to Sam for allowing me to drag him around Sheffield.
      Original cost: £6.50 I Paid: £3.25

      Marks and Spencers

      Well now I do feel old. But in my defense, I originally popped in to see if I could find some nice pyjamas as a present for my Grandma (shockingly, there were all a bit rubbish), and ended up treating myself in the sales...

      What I bought...
      • Five of those glittery letters
      • A cute, personalised garland-making kit (I'm going to make something wonderful for the study)
      • A day-to-view 2015 diary
      Original cost: £18  I Paid: £7.50

      I'm going to give the letters out to people at the start of Christmas 2015, but I've already snuck off with two of them and am giving serious thought to having them up the year-round. (we'll see...)


      I'm really sad to say that I found the Paperchase sales to be really underwhelming this year. Though I did get some bits with which I was rather happy, it was nothing compared to some previous sales hauls.

      I bought a cute black and orange box (which I'm using to keep my papers and notebook in while I work in the living room, to keep the place tidy), some more glitter washi tape, and some snow-in-a-can for next Christmas. Earth-shatteringly exciting.
      Original cost: £14  I Paid: £7

      Online Buys!

      I've also splurged on things over the internet. Shockingly.
      There have been two main sites at which I have impersonated that well-known Futurama meme: Miss Selfridge and, surprisingly for some, Steam.

      Miss Selfridge

      Now this is cheating slightly, as I actually bought this in their pre-Xmas sale, but this skirt was too good a deal to pass up (especially for someone as sparkle-obsessed as I am). My only issue with this skirt is that it sheds like a particularly fluffy dog in the summer, but otherwise it is rather lovely...

      Original cost: £55  I Paid: £15.30 (with free P&P. All of the win).


      All hail Gaben! This sale has been brilliant - and there's still 4 hours left! (my poor bank balance...)

      So far, my digital haul has included...

      • Child of Light
      • BattleBlock Theatre
      • Little Inferno (this is surprisingly fun...)
      • The Stanley Parable
      • Brave New World (Civ V extension) 
      There's not a huge point in doing a comparison like above, as Steam prices can fluctuate dramatically, but on the whole I think there are far worse ways to spend £17.

      Now, get thee to the Steam Sale for the last few hours - there's some amazing deals on right now! (must... not... buy... Kerbal Space Program)

      So that's my haul for this year's January Sales. All-in-all I've saved around £97 this year - not including the Steam splurge. Ok, I've also spent £69 (or £86 if you include Steam). But that's not the point and you know it's not. How dare you.

      How have you found the Sales? Any triumphs/disappointments? Have you bought anything nice? Answers on a postcard...


      Thursday, 1 January 2015

      Hello 2015!

      Happy New Year! I hope you all had a good NYE - we spent ours eating delicious food, drinking strange drinks (Southern Comfort with Apple Tango tastes way better than you'd expect it to) while playing Big Fat Quiz of the Year.

      I sported an NYE look that was as demure as it was subtle...

      A Crown and Glory birthday crown, dark red lippy, glitter eye shadow cream, glitter nails, lace top, and this super low-key skirt.

      At midnight we watched a few fireworks, I sang all the verses to Auld Lang Syne at a volume that made the furniture bleed, and I rang my folks for ages after Sam fell asleep at roughly 00:08. Rock n roll.

      This morning it was a case of in with the New Year and out with the iced-over pavements, and we were finally able to leave our flat and walk around without me panicking/whimpering more than usual.

      So this afternoon we had a New Year’s lunch at the Red Deer followed by home-made Amaretto Truffles when we got back. Tonight I foresee an Ashen’s binge and more leftover goodies (well we need to get them ‘et) and me getting overexcited about finally getting to use my new diary and the fake Filofax I got for Jingly.


      I've also had a think about resolutions and it occurs to me that I'm 99% covered by my Birthday List in the goal-setting department, but here are my big umbrella resolutions for me to keep in the forefront of my mind over the next 12 months...

      • Treat my PhD Like It's My Job
        Because it basically is.
        This ties in with number 15 on the Birthday List but it's also there to remind me that while I am still technically a student, I shouldn't act like one. Coasting, being lazy, greater-than-average procrastination will not be tolerated.

      • Take Better Care of My Health
        This ties in with a fair few of the items on the List, but I really was a bit rubbish between my birthday and the new year (birthday + deadlines + holidays do not a healthy Roxy make) and I need to try my utmost to avoid turning into a giant marshmallow in the new year. Besides, I'll need to make sure I'm fighting fit for my next resolution...

      • More Hills & More Adventures
        As I will note soon over on the hiking blog (breaking radio-silence in doing so), this year has been shocking for hills. I haven't been up a hill since we got back from the Lakes. What. The. Hell. I've even moved closer to hills since then and still the only hills I've been tackling are those in Sheffield and my home village. So this needs to get sorted.
        Also, as noted in the List, there's a whole bunch of other adventures that need to get done - for a start: I haven't been abroad for nearly 6 years. That's obscene. And I want more mini-adventures with Sam, my friends, and my family - after all, staying up til 5am playing Cards Against Humanity might not be walking the Wast Water Screes, but it was still one of my best memories from 2014.

      • Don't Take Anyone, or Anything, for Granted
        2014 was a year of scares for the health of loved ones (and there's already been some fretting in 2015), and I wasted way too much of last year slobbing or procrastinating in really pointless ways (possible add-on: All Procrastination Must Be Productive ...I just hope that's not too paradoxical!). Nothing is guaranteed; nothing - and no one - lasts forever. I need to be mindful of that.

      • Follow The Wise Words of The Oatmeal...

      I hope you're all having a wonderful start to 2015!