31 December 2014

2015 Goals


Call me a cliche but a new year always makes me want to start afresh; I feel like I can slough of the past year and move forward. I've come up with some goals that I hope 2015 will see me achieve.

  1. Work it all out: Basically my overarching aim of the year (if not my entire life). I have no clue what I want to do with my life. I did a law degree and a Masters in law too but I don't think law as a career is for me. I need to use this coming year to work out where my heart lies (clue: my heart lies in bed, with a good book) and take positive, practical steps to getting there. It's not going to be easy but I hope it will be worth it and by 2016 I will feel more confident with the direction my life's going.
  2. Take better care of myself: Usually my resolutions feature me wanting to lose weight, but this year it goes deeper. I want to move more, eat better, drink more water, develop a good sleep pattern, sort out a skincare routine and get better at moisturing after showering. Looking after myself really does make me feel better physically and mentally so it makes sense to make sure I'm doing it as much as possible.
    My self-confidence has definitely increased in the last year and I want to keep building on it and keep on loving myself like the fab babe I am!
  3. Read more- and more widely: I read 30 books in 2014 which I was really pleased with. In 2015 I want to read as much as possible but I want to be more diverse in the books I'm reading. I don't read much non-fiction so I'd like to change that. I'd also like to read more books by authors I've never read before, authors from all around the world and more authors of colour too.
    You can keep up with what I'm reading and be my friend on Goodreads.
  4. Save: Pretty self-explanatory. I want to add to my admittedly minimal savings and get in the habit of putting a little away as and when I can.
  5. See somewhere new: I try to visit somewhere new at least once each year. As I'm currently doing the London thing, money for jaunts abroad isn't exactly in abundance, so I can't vouch for how far afield I'll go. There are also some places in the UK I've never been that I would love to visit, and hopefully I'll get to cross one of them off my list in the coming year.
  6. Keep it minimal: I sometimes get sucked into shops and end up buying things I don't need. My storage space is already at its limit so I really want to reel in my purchasing and only buy things I need, rather than want or see on offer.
    I generally want to lead a more pared down life and not have so many 'things', so I hope this will be a good start.
  7. Stop. Buying. Red. Lipstick.: For real. I already have an obscene amount of lipstick (78!) and 32 of those are red. 32. I probably don't need to buy another red lipstick for my entire life. While I might not go so far as a lifetime ban, I am NOT going to buy a red lipstick in 2015. 
Hopefully in a year's time I'll look back on this post feeling like I've achieved what I wanted- and with a considerably smaller amount of red lipstick in my possession. Wish me luck!

What are your resolutions for 2015?

29 December 2014

Book Club: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

At the beginning of December my luck came in and I won a copy of The Shock of the Fall through the Harper Collins Instagram page. I'd been eyeing it up for ages and was planning to treat myself to a copy after Christmas, having been drawn in by the excellent reviews and ambiguous, intriguing summary on the back.

The Shock of the Fall is narrated by Matthew Homes who, haunted by the death of his elder brother when they were children, suffers with mental illness. Despite the dark themes and difficult subject matter, the novel is so easy to read; it's intriguing and engrossing right from the start. Buoyed along by some absolutely exquisite writing, I raced through it, Matthew guiding me through the tangles of his life and his mind, wrenched from laughter to tears at the turn of a page. (The line 'Of course he was in the flames' rendered me absolutely useless for reasons I'm not quite sure.)

Aside from the writing, the characters in the book are crafted with such pure love and it's impossible not to adore them. My copy of the novel has an interview with Filer and the way in which he talks about his creations is so lovely; it really feels that he adores each of them.
Matthew is one of the most incredible characters I have had the pleasure of meeting and is such a wonderful narrator. I was instantly drawn to him and his voice is so clear and wonderful that it was honestly difficult  to leave him behind in the pages of the book.
Aside from Matthew, all the other characters are so lovingly rendered and the entire family is just a joy to read about. Matthew's parents and Nanny Noo are so full of love and I loved spending time getting to know about each of them.

The novel's conclusion, with the Beavers and Brownies Hut full of memories, was so painfully beautiful that it was difficult to read (and not just because of the tears in my eyes) and turning the final page was bittersweet. I was so sad to say goodbye to Matthew but felt so happy to have been able to meet him.

I recommend The Shock of the Fall without hesitation or reservation. Wonderful characters, beautiful writing and a gripping plot combine to create a perfect novel; my only regret is that I didn't read it sooner.

Have you read The Shock of the Fall? What did you think?

You can buy The Shock of the Fall on the Book Depository here.
This is an affiliate link; I receive a small return on each purchase made through this link.

22 December 2014

Soundtrack to my Life Tag

I first spotted this tag, created by Lily Melrose and Zoe London, in video form but after seeing Sarah's post I decided I wanted to get involved too. I've often thought about starting a music related feature on here but am never sure where to begin, so this could be the start of something beautiful!
It was incredibly difficult to choose just one answer for each question so I definitely cheated...

1. Song you listen to when you're happy? 
Something by Paul Simon! I especially love Obvious Child and You Can Call Me Al. Also Scatman by Scatman John makes me smile. even though it is completely ridiculous.

2. Song you listen to when you're sad? In Every Sunflower by Bell X1

3. What song will you have at your wedding? 

If Pete and I got married we'd probably have to have an Iron and Wine song; he's very important to us both! Lion's Mane would be a great wedding song but Belated Promise Ring is about a Rebekah too and has a line that says 'I think I could never love another girl' so it would pretty apt!
We've also both fallen in love with I'll Be on the Water by Akron/Family and there are some gorgeous lyrics in there so it could be that too!

4. What song do you dance around the house to? 

Anything by Beyonce but especially Single Ladies (of course) and Love on Top.

5. Song you play on your headphones when out and about?
It's usually some Iron and Wine or Laura Marling, especially her album Alas I Cannot Swim.

6. Song you listen to when you're angry?
Something from My Chemical Romance's Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge Album. Probably I'm Not Okay.

7. Song you'd have at your funeral? 
I always used to say it would be Asleep by The Smiths but I think that's too dark, even for a funeral. I love You'll Never Walk Alone by Gerry and the Pacemakers (though I'm not a Liverpool fan!) or Each Coming Night by Iron and Wine.

8. Song that makes you lose your shit at a party?
I love love LOVE all those 90s songs like Baby Got Back and Ice Ice Baby; I know all the words and you better believe I'll be singing them as loud as I can.

9. The last song you listened to? 
Before I started playing the songs on this list it was John C Clarke by Macalias.

10. Your karaoke song? 
Jolene by Dolly Parton or Proud Mary by Tina Turner.

11. What song do you work out/exercise to? 
Rock this Party by Bob Sinclair.

12. Song with the most memories attached? 
Dance Wiv Me by Dizzee Rascal. It came out around the time I turned 18 so I have lots of memories of dancing to it with my best friends before we all went off to uni. It also soundtracked a lot of my 'big nights out' in first year too.

13. Song that makes you cry?
The Trapeze Swinger by Iron and Wine and Coat of Many Colours by Dolly Parton. The music from Up! always gets me too.

14. Song you hate the most? 
Probably the Black and Yellow one that was big a few summers back. I just think it's hideous and the lyrics are so dull and repetitive.

15. Your favourite song of all time?
By far the hardest question! Landslide by Fleetwood Mac is one of the most important songs ever written and I'm not exaggerating. Also Blackbird by The Beatles, Wednesday Morning 3 AM by Simon and Garfunkel and I Wish You Love by Rachel Yamagata.

So there you have the soundtrack to my life. I really enjoyed this tag and it was nice to think of all the songs that are important to me and examine why I love them so much. I'll definitely be on a listening spree for the next while now!

Are any of your answers the same as mine? Let me know if you do this tag; I'd love to see your answers. You can be my friend on Last.fm or follow me on Spotify; I love getting new music recommendations.

9 December 2014

An Alternative Gift Guide: Shopping for Strangers


With Christmas fast approaching, thoughts are turning to buying perfect presents and every other post on my feed at the minute seems to be a beauty lover's gift guide.

There is something about finding that perfect gift for a loved one that is hard to beat, but I thought today I would offer you an alternative guide of sorts that will allow you the opportunity to provide a gift for a stranger but which could enhance their lives, if even for a short while.

Give as You Live: A nice easy one to begin with! I wrote about using Give as You Live last year but it's definitely worth knowing about as it can help all year round. Give as You Live allows you to raise money for your chosen charity when you shop online. You simply sign up, choose your charity and install the toolbar, which will then appear when you visit a participating website. You don't pay any extra and the money is donated from the total you paid to the retailer. Over 3000 retailers are affiliated with Give as You Live, including Amazon, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and ASOS so if you're doing any online shopping this year I would recommend using this to raise some extra cash for your chosen cause.

Crisis at Christmas: Homelessness is a year-round problem and since 2010 the numbers of homeless people in the UK has increased. Close to 2,500 people slept rough each night last year, but the true figures of homelessness are difficult to quantify due to the hidden nature of the problem. Those who are homeless are often likely to have mental health issues and the average age of death for a homeless person is just 47.
Crisis has been at the forefront of ending homelessness and helping those who are currently on the streets and their Crisis at Christmas campaign is no different. For £21.62 you can reserve a place at a Crisis centre for a homeless person, providing them with three hot meals, access to support and medical assistance, a shower and the opportunity to gain advice and assistance. It really could make all the difference to someone who is sleeping rough and provide them with vital support.
For more information on the Crisis at Christmas campaign or to donate, go here. You can also give a general donation to Crisis here.

The Body Shop: The Body Shop is a bit of a mainstay with Christmas gifts as it is (if you've smelt basically any of their products then you'll know why!) but this year they've teamed up with War Child to provide children in areas of conflict with the chance to attend lessons and gain an education. The Body Shop will donate money from certain gifts to War Child and help send a child to school. You can read more about this project here.
FYI- The Body Shop is also affiliated with Give as You Live so you can do twice the amount of good without even leaving your bed!

Oxfam Unwrapped: Oxfam is a charity dear to my heart, having volunteered there for a year while completing my Masters. Even before I was involved with them, I always bought a couple of their Unwrapped gifts to give to people each year and will definitely do so this year too.
Oxfam Unwrapped gifts begin at £5 and allow you to purchase practical, useful items and services for people in less economically developed countries. There is a range to choose from, from mosquito nets to goats to clean water for an entire school, and each gift will make a real difference to the lives of people across the world, keeping them safe from disease or providing them with the tools to develop their own livelihoods.

Donate to a food bank: The thought that there are people in the UK relying on food banks to feed themselves and their children makes my blood boil. It is an absolute travesty that people have been left so vulnerable and reliant on the kindness of strangers, but that is a rant for another day.
I am so glad that there are people out there who are organising these vital services. There are over 400 food banks being operated by the Trussell Trust alone, with independently-operated food banks thought to double that figure.
Donating to a food bank couldn't be simpler. You can search for your nearest Trussell Trust food bank here and simply take along some non-perishable items which will help prevent those in your community going hungry. Many supermarkets are also taking donations in the run up to Christmas so it's worth keeping an eye out when you're out shopping and slipping a few extra tins into the trolley.
You can also donate cash to the Trussell Trust here.

So there you have it- a few simple ways to do some good this Christmas. This is by no means a definitive list but more of a rough guide to some of the good things that are out there this Christmas trying to improve the lives of others.

Will you be using one of these charitable ideas this Christmas? Please also let me know if there are any causes or events you've found to donate to this year; I 'd love to learn of any more! Let me know what charities are important to you or how you help out- not just at Christmas but all year round!

This post is not sponsored by any of the organisations mentioned and I have not been asked to write this post by anyone. I simply wanted to share some information on charities and events that could do with a helping hand; not just at Christmas but all year round.
I also do not mean to imply that anyone *should* donate to any of these organisations!