Day 2 of NaNoWriMo is here and the prompt for #wrimohero is ‘Ordinary World: What’s your setting like?’ This is the beautiful building that inspired the first seed of my story: it’s the incredible John Rylands Library in Manchester. A key part of my setting is a stunning gothic library. I’m also going to be sneaking in a few of my other favourite Manchester places and Peak District haunts, all alongside and mysterious other-world where ideas manifest and thrive with none of the restrictions of our human world.
Last September we got a puppy. She turned our lives upside down (mostly for the better – who can resist a happy puppy face in the morning and when you get home from work?) but probably the biggest change she made is that I now actually HAVE to get up when my alarm goes off in the morning. No more snoozing. No more lying awake but savouring the warmth of my duvet. I am not a morning person but I have actually found that, once I’m up and out, I genuinely enjoy my morning walks with the pup. Hubby and I alternate the morning walk so we both get alternate days where we can be a tad more lazy/slow to wake up. But on my walking days, even when it’s raining, it’s nice to start the day with some fresh air. I can listen to my audiobook or some season or mood appropriate music to set me up for the day. Sometimes I blog as I walk (like I am now) with breaks, of course, to throw a stick or chase my playful not-quite-a-pup-anymore, or just to watch her revel in the general joy of being a dog off the lead. It’s lovely.
Now we are getting into autumn proper and winter is creeping it’s way toward the northern hemisphere, our morning walks are happening in the pitch black. I’m not so much watching the pup playing as I I am watching a disembodied LED collar trace circles round the park. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this time of year – the boots! The scarves! The autumnal food and music! It’s my favourite. And I still enjoy stepping out into the crisp morning air. But, this morning, as I walked, I couldn’t help but pen a realistic portrait of how I felt…
Some time ago, I discovered the Harry Potter And The Sacred Text podcast. This was a wonderful discovery. HP and the Sacred Text takes one of my (and the world’s) most beloved series of books, and engaged with them in a thoughtful and inquisitive way, exploring the lessons and ideas the story has to offer us and providing tools for treating any text – and I would argue any part of life – as sacred.
Here’s how the founders and hosts, Vanessa and Casper, explain what they are trying to do with the podcast:
This podcast creates time in your week to think about life’s big questions. Because reading fiction doesn’t help us escape the world, it helps us live in it.
On this podcast, we ask: What if we read the books we love as if they were sacred texts?
Each week, we explore a central theme through which to explore the characters and context, always grounding ourselves in the text. We’ll engage in traditional forms of sacred reading to unearth the hidden gifts within even the most mundane sentences.
Vanessa and Casper are so thoughtful and engaging in their exploration of Harry Potter and I have taken great joy and great comfort in approaching these much loved books in a new way.
I am also intrigued by the idea of viewing those things that might be considered ‘everyday’ as sacred, especially in light of my recent musings on my experience of religion and the church. When I was actively involved in the Christian church, one of the things I loved most about it was the chance to take a more considered approach to reading a text. I enjoyed the opportunity to explore deeper meanings and ideas and desperately wanted the change to question those ideas. The sacred practices shared on Harry Potter and the Sacred Text allow me to do just that.
On a recent episode, Vanessa beautifully broke down the elements they believe are necessary for applying this kind of sacred practice to wider contexts – not just the reading of any text but to things like writing or running – and I loved the simple clarity of it so much that I wanted to share it with you today.
- Faith – you must have faith that the more you do or engage with something the more gifts you will receive from it. If I persistently dedicate time to reading, writing, running, cooking or any other thing, then those things will reward me more and more.
- Rigour – the time you give to these things will be more rewarding still if you approach them with rigour. By ritualising the processes you use, the time you spend will be more focused and valuable. If I want to approach the reading of a text in a rigorous way, I can take notes and I can research or discuss the ideas that arise. If I want to approach my writing in a rigorous and sacred way, I can switch off my phone and focus my attention, I can carry out a mindfulness meditation before I begin.
- Community – find others to share the process with. By engaging in these practices alongside like-minded individuals – or even very un-like-minded individuals – you open up more opportunities for questioning, exploring and sharing ideas. If I share ideas about a text with people in my community, their ideas further enrich my own and open my mind to new perspectives. If I share my writing with other writers and readers, I will better understand the impact of my words and will be able to share the struggles and triumphs of the process.
I did not read as many books in 2017 as I would have liked. In fact, I was a whole 20 books of meeting my Goodreads challenge! In spite of that, 2017 was a really good reading year and I discovered some new favourite authors and some new favourite books. I can never pick ONE favourite book but it takes something special for a book to worm its way onto my favourites list and this year at least TWO of the books I read made the cut…possibly even three. I’m undecided.
Anyway, I thought I would recap my year in books by sharing my top ten reads from 2017…but then I couldn’t quite whittle it down so it’s my top eleven. Who’s even counting?!
I have never really listened to audiobooks. I like to hold the actual book and savour the words in my own time. I’ve also previously struggled to find narrations that don’t annoy me. This year, however, saw the addition of a puppy to our family and with her arrival went a good chunk of my peaceful reading time. So I decided to give audiobooks another try to stave off the story withdrawal, since I can listen to them whilst I walk the pup. And now I’m hooked. It still all depends on the narration, as there have been a couple of books that I haven’t got more than a few minutes into before giving up through sheer annoyance at the narrator’s voice, but here are four audiobooks which not only had excellent narration but were also outstanding stories in and of themselves.
How To Stop Time – Matt Haig
Matt Haig is one of those authors who I have been meaning to read for forever. I’ve followed him on Twitter for a while and have a huge amount of respect and gratitude for his openness about mental illness and the way in which he offers support and encouragement to those who are struggling with their own mental health. I’ve read a few of his books this year and he has quickly become a favourite author.
How To Stop Time is a beautiful, eloquent portrait of what it means to be human: to want, to feel, to fear, to contemplate, to search, to love. Haig weaves and paints prose that reads like poetry until you are so enraptured by the image before that you hardly notice that he also wields words like a sword, until the moment when it pierces right to the heart of something you didn’t even know you were holding inside you. With compelling characters and an intriguing, twisting storyline, this is a tale to get lost in. The story, much like Haig himself, is endlessly quotable and is a veritable treasure trove of wisdom. This was the one downside of listening on audiobook: there were so many points when I wanted to stop and write down or just re-hear a quote (not really achievable when out walking an energetic puppy). With the help of Goodreads I managed to track down some favourites:
“Whenever I see someone reading a book, especially if it is someone I don’t expect, I feel civilisation has become a little safer.”
“Everything is going to be all right. Or, if not, everything is going to be, so let’s not worry.”
“A problem with living in the twenty-first century….. we are made to feel poor on thirty thousand pounds a year. To feel poorly travelled if we have only been to ten other countries. To feel old if we have a wrinkle. To feel ugly if we aren’t photo shopped and filtered.”
“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”
“We have the knowledge to realise we are just a mess of quanta and particles, like everything else is, and yet we keep trying to separate ourselves from the universe we live in, to give ourselves a meaning above that of a tree or a rock or a cat or a turtle.”
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant is one of the most discomforting and yet endearing characters I have every come across. From very early on in the book I was intrigued by Eleanor’s unique way of seeing and operating in the world and desperate to understand more about her and her history. Raymond is a wonderfully loveable character and the development of his unlikely friendship with Eleanor is heartwarming – I loved every second of seeing it grow. Eleanor Oliphant is darkly comic in its exploration of the impacts of childhood trauma and the story raised both laughs and tears. I have to give special mention to Cathleen McCarron for her excellent narration of this tale – she really brought the characters to life and I so enjoyed listening to her unspool this story.
Although I have never experienced anything like what Eleanor has been through, I still found a lot to relate to in her character. Honeyman’s writing is amusing and highly relevant to so much human experience, here are just a few of my favourite quotes:
“A philosophical question: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? And if a woman who’s wholly alone occasionally talks to a pot plant, is she certifiable? I think that it is perfectly normal to talk to oneself occasionally. It’s not as though I’m expecting a reply. I’m fully aware that Polly is a houseplant.”
“I simply didn’t know how to make things better. I could not solve the puzzle of me.”
“In principle and reality, libraries are life-enhancing palaces of wonder.”
“There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock. The threads tighten slightly from Monday to Friday.”
“Sometimes you simply needed someone kind to sit with you while you dealt with things.”
“LOL could go and take a running jump. I wasn’t made for illiteracy; it simply didn’t come naturally.”
“If I’m ever unsure as to the correct course of action, I’ll think, “What would a ferret do?” or, “How would a salamander respond to this situation?” Invariably, I find the right answer.”
“My phone doesn’t ring often—it makes me jump when it does—and it’s usually people asking if I’ve been mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance. I whisper I know where you live to them, and hang up the phone very, very gently.”
The Keeper Of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan
The Keeper Of Lost Things is a wonderful story of loss, love, finding and letting go. I was captivated by the idea of lost things being carefully collected and catalogued, eventually to be reunited with their owners and the cast of characters had the added charm of being lost on their own ways as well. The alternating narratives across different character’s perspectives and time provides a breadcrumb trail through the story – the connection there the whole time but just out of reach and understanding, until right towards the end. Happiness and heartache in almost equal measure make the story compelling and thoroughly enjoyable.
“Her grandmother had once told her that one could blame ugliness on one’s genes and ignorance on one’s education, but there was absolutely no excuse whatsoever for being dull.”
“Common decency, good manners, kindness and hard work were treated as peculiarities”
“A hush is a dangerous thing. Silence is solid and dependable, but a hush is expectant, like a pregnant pause; it invites mischief, like a loose thread begging to be pulled.”
The Bear And The Nightingale – Katherine Arden
This is one of my absolute favourite books, not just of 2017 but ever. I listened to the audiobook and was so utterly enraptured by the story that I am dying to get hold of a hardcopy so I can reread it and savour every word again. The first in the Winternight trilogy and voted best Sci-Fi and Fantasy book of 2017, The Bear And The Nightingale is one of those rare reads that is so immersive and enchanting that you forget you are reading (or in my case, listening) at all. I could feel the icy breath of the Russian winter with every turn of phrase and the magic seemed so real I felt Morozko himself dogged my footsteps. Here is a world caught in balance between the realities of harsh, arctic winters and the old, fantastical magic woven into centuries old folklore. It made me want to learn Russian and read every folk and fairytale I could get my hands on, and I did not want to leave the realm of the winter-king.
Arden’s prose is so lyrical it weaves a spell all of its own and her characters are so well developed that they step into being with barely the lift of an imaginary finger. The story was exquisitely narrated by Kathleen Gati and her voice only added to the wonder of the story. When I started listening I hadn’t realised it was the first of a trilogy so my excitement was palpable when I noticed The Girl In The Tower will be gracing bookshelves any day now. If I were to recommend any book from 2017, it would be this one.
“Wild birds die in cages.”
“Nay, it is the coming storm. The first sign is fear. The second is always fire. Your people are afraid, and now the fires burn.”
“It is a cruel task, to frighten people in God’s name.”
“But I think you should be careful, Batyushka, that God does not speak in the voice of your own wishing.”
Dear Ijeawele: A Femenist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I discovered Adichie through TED talks when I stumbled across her talk ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ and read her book of the same title off the back of it. I am yet to read any of her novels but immediately picked up Dear Ijeawele when I saw it and enjoyed it even more that We Should All Be Feminists. Both books should be required reading for everyone but Dear Ijeawele especially spoke to something deep in the heart of me. Direct, perceptive, and wryly amusing, Adichie’s letter to her friend gets to the root of what it is to be a woman in the 21st century.
A quick and compelling read, it’s one to shove into the hands of anyone and everyone. Politely of course.
“Your feminist premise should be: I matter. I matter equally. Not “if only.” Not “as long as.” I matter equally. Full stop.”
“If she likes makeup, let her wear it. If she likes fashion, let her dress up. But if she doesn’t like either, let her be. Don’t think that raising her feminist means forcing her to reject femininity. Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive.”
“Because you are a girl” is never a reason for anything. Ever.”
“We teach girls to be likeable, to be nice, to be false. And we do not teach boys the same. This is dangerous. Many sexual predators have capitalized on this. Many girls remain silent when abused because they want to be nice. Many girls spend too much time trying to be “nice” to people who do them harm. Many girls think of the “feelings” of those who are hurting them. This is the catastrophic consequence of likeability. We have a world full of women who are unable to exhale fully because they have for so long been conditioned to fold themselves into shapes to make themselves likeable.”
Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
Not ordinarily one to reach for contemporary reads, I was pleasantly surprised by Me Before You. In fact, I loved it. I absolutely adored Louisa Clark and quickly wanted to make friends with her and sit down for a cuppa and a heart to heart. The story itself is also engrossing, being both heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure. I think what I loved most about this book though was that it didn’t succumb to the temptation to make everything all right in the end. There was something viscerally real about the stories understanding that love does not automatically make everything ok and that sometimes a happy ending doesn’t seem all that happy or look at all how you pictured it. I haven’t yet read the sequel to this book but and very much looking forward to it.
“You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”
“I will never, ever regret the things I’ve done. Because most days, all you have are places in your memory that you can go to.”
“I hadn’t realized that music could unlock things in you, could transport you to somewhere even the composer hadn’t predicted. It left an imprint in the air around you, as if you carried its remnants with you when you went.”
“You can only actually help someone who wants to be helped.”
The Princess Saves Herself In This One – Amanda Lovelace
I love a good poetry collection and this one really hit the spot. Gritty, unashamedly honest and beautiful, there is something profoundly relatable in Lovelace’s poetry, in spite of the differences in my personal experiences. I don’t really have an awful lot more to say about this one because I find poetry to be a very personal thing. It does deal with some very difficult and potentially triggering issues but I found The Princess Saves Herself In This One to be validating and inspiring.
while we’re off
the pages of
“repeat after me:
– except maybe yourself.”
“once upon a time, the princess rose from the ashes her dragon lovers made of her & crowned herself the mother-fucking queen of herself. – how’s that for a happily ever after?”
– a mermaid escapist II.”
Blankets – Craig Thompson
Much like audiobooks, I’ve never really got into graphic novels but I’ve had a couple by Craig Thompson on my bookshelves for ages that my husband read and loved. So, over Christmas, I thought I’d give them a go and found I really enjoyed them. Blankets in particular was an excellent read with Thompson’s graphics really bringing the story and the characters’ struggles to life. The tale is both moving and thought provoking on a subject I have always found interesting and challenging: the tensions between the sense of belonging and the expectations present within a religion or religious community. The characters in Thompson’s story are imperfect and therefore very real. Whilst I’m not sure they will ever have the same richness as stories written in prose, I’ll definitely be trying more graphic novels as there they offer something unique.
“How satisfying it is to leave a mark on a blank surface. To make a map of my movement – no matter how temporary.”
“Sometimes, upon waking, the residual dream can be more appealing that reality, and one is reluctant to give it up. For a while, you feel like a ghost — Not fully materialized, and unable to manipulate your surroundings. Or else, it is the dream that haunts you. You wait with the promise of the next dream.”
“On my first visit to the public library, I was like a kid at a candy store where all the candy was free.”
“At night, lying on your back and staring at the falling snow, it’s easy to imagine oneself soaring through the stars.”
Reasons To Stay Alive – Matt Haig
Another wonderful book from Matt Haig; very different from the first mentioned in this post but just as profound. Haig’s unflinching account of his experiences of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts is raw, moving, and strangely uplifting. He gets right to the heart of what it is to be trapped in your own mind and the horrifying experience of not being able to be fully present in your own life, even when it’s a wonderful one. Reasons To Stay Alive gives you just that; as well as truly nailing the torment of mental illness, Haig’s account also provides a funny, even joyful reminder of what it is to truly love, and why we should strive to stay alive even when it seems the dark is closing in. It is a tale of survival as much as of struggle and reading it felt like being offered a hand to hold and hearing, in the voice of a friend, that we are never truly alone.
Recommended reading for all.
“THE WORLD IS increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser? You make someone worry about ageing. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind. To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.”
“Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind.”
“And most of all, books. They were, in and of themselves, reasons to stay alive. Every book written is the product of a human mind in a particular state. Add all the books together and you get the end sum of humanity. Every time I read a great book I felt I was reading a kind of map, a treasure map, and the treasure I was being directed to was in actual fact myself.”
“Maybe love is just about finding the person you can be your weird self with.”
“To other people, it sometimes seems like nothing at all. You are walking around with your head on fire and no one can see the flames.”
“You can be a depressive and be happy, just as you can be a sober alcoholic.”
The Power – Naomi Alderman
The Power is one of those books that I started shoving into everyone’s hands the moment I finished reading it. Before I finished reading it in fact. It is undoubtedly one of the most powerful and disturbing books I have ever read and it made me think about our world in a different way. It woke me up to some uncomfortable truths – some of which I had been aware of but somehow seemed to have accepted as just being the reality of things, and some to do with my own thinking which I was saddened to realise existed in my own thought patterns. Graphic, visceral, and haunting, it provides a frightening portrait of society, past, present, and…future? One can only hope not. With themes similar to those in The Handmaids Tale, The Power strikes at the heart of some of the most vivid fears, hopes, and tortures of being female, in any society, in any age. Whilst part of me wanted some of the storylines to be more rounded and developed, the messages of the book were sharp as a blade and I found it interesting to discuss the story with friends, both male and female, and everyone seemed to have taken something different from it. Above all else, it really seemed to highlight the dangers of power: in anybody’s hands.
“This is the trouble with history. You can’t see what’s not there. You can look at an empty space and see that something’s missing, but there’s no way to know what it was.”
“One of them says, ‘Why did they do it?’
And the other answers, ‘Because they could.’
That is the only answer there ever is.”
“Gender is a shell game. What is a man? Whatever a woman isn’t. What is a woman? Whatever a man is not, Tap on it and it’s hollow. Look under the shells: it’s not there.”
“the highest among us aren’t always the wisest…”
“We’re only pretending everything is normal because we don’t know what else to do.”
Strange The Dreamer – Laini Taylor
Strange The Dreamer was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017 and it did not disappoint. Taylor’s writing is rich, magical, and utterly mesmerising and her latest, long awaited, book is wonderful and beautifully strange: a dream in every sense. Uplifting and heartbreaking and utterly fantastic – stepping into this story is to have tour imagination ripped open in the best possible way, to find stars and flowers and terribly beautiful monsters waiting above. I didn’t think that Taylor would be able to beat the magic she wove with her Daughter Of Smoke And Bone trilogy but with Strange The Dreamer she did just that and I did not want to leave Dreamer’s Weep.
“”You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”
“Beautiful and full of monsters?”
“All the best stories are.””
“It was impossible, of course. But when did that ever stop any dreamer from dreaming.”
“I turned my nightmares into fireflies and caught them in a jar.”
“And that’s how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can.”
“You think good people can’t hate?” she asked. “You think good people don’t kill?”[…]”Good people do all the things bad people do, Lazlo. It’s just that when they do them, they call it justice.”
“Without his books, his room felt like a body with its hearts cut out.”
“There was a man who loved the moon, but whenever he tried to embrace her, she broke into a thousand pieces and left him drenched, with empty arms.”
“The library knows its own mind… When it steals a boy, we let it keep him.”
So there you have it, my top reads of 2017. I highly recommend that you pop off and read every one of them immediately. Just the thing to brighten up the wet, cold start we’re having to 2018.
The Earth smoulders
With the turning of the season
And the clouds drift down
To kiss the burning land.
A veil of tears
Lands softly on flaming leaves
But even heaven’s weeping
Cannot dull the
Of autumn’s inferno.
And when the most parts,
Making way for the pale light
Of winter’s promise,
And the chill of year’s end
Arrives on the breath of the hills,
The leaves curl and crisp underfoot,
Rustling their accompaniment to fading birdsong.
Polished conkers gleam amongst summer’s debris.
Woodsmoke hangs in the air,
The crackle of logs echoing in the quiet.
The world exhales
A long sigh of letting go.
As though, after a long day,
She has come home to rest.
Hello lovelies. It’s been a hell of a few weeks. It’s been busy, tiring, stressful, emotional and I’ve had this post in the back of my head for probably a month now without doing anything with it. As it happens, a post focusing on a few of my favourite things is just what I need right now. Sometimes it’s good to take a step back from all the busyness and negativity that can wear us down and spend a bit of time recognising those little things that make our days brighter. I’m also coming back to my word for 2017, Nourish, and looking at the things that I invest in (aside from the obvious of spending time with my favourite people) to help me take care of myself.
Before I start my raving I should just clarify that I have no affiliation with any of the products or sites listed, and I’m promoting them purely because I love them all and they make my days brighter!
Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my latest loves:
1. Book Subscription Boxes – Illumicrate
Anyone who knows me even a little bit will know of my eternal love for books. Just over a year ago I signed up for my first ever book subscription box and it is honestly one of the best things I’ve ever treated myself to. I signed up with Illumicrate, which is UK based and quarterly – great for my bank balance because a) the delivery is MUCH cheaper than many of the other boxes that are based elsewhere in the world, and b) it’s a 4-times-a-year treat rather than every month (which I would feel less able to justify). I have had one offs of other boxes but Illumicrate is my favourite and my joy. It is the MOST exciting thing to have this bright box appear at my door, stuffed fit to bursting with books and bookish goodies. There have been jewellery items, stationary, tote bags, bookmarks, lip balms, candles, socks, mugs – the list is endless. Every single box has been amazingly curated. There hasn’t been a book included that I haven’t loved. It’s like a little box of sunshine every season. Daphne, who runs the whole things whilst also working full time and looking after a little one (hello Wonder Woman!), is super lovely, interacts with her followers on social media and is really helpful if you need to get in touch about anything. In short, Illumicrate is just fabulous. I can’t recommend it enough. If you want to subscribe (which you should) then pop over to the website and sign on up. (If you head over to Instagram you might also be able to find yourself a discount code from one of their reps!)
2. Nomatic Planners
Every year I get a new planner. I could just put everything in my phone but I’m a sucker for pen and paper so I like having a pretty planner to put my appointments and notes in. I’ve had Moleskines for the past few years but, whilst I still love their notebooks and planners, when I saw the Nomatic I couldn’t resist. I’m terrible for having several notebooks on the go at once, all for different things, but this year I’ve been able to cut that down massively because this planner is so flipping versatile! I love it! The whole thing is undated so it can be started at any point; 12 months of monthly spread calendar pages with 5 week-to-view double spreads between each month; a section of lined pages and a section of plain pages, both of which have some perforated sheets; a pocket in the back with mini whiteboard sheets for erasable notes; space for goal setting each week and month; three page markers; opens to flat lay; two elastic closures to keep everything secure or to hold pages open; lovely quality paper with very little show or bleed through; space between the top page edge and elastic closure for your pen to sit tucked away comfortably.
ALL the things in one place. It’s such a beautifully put together planner and it’s so lovely to use that for the first time ever I have actually filled it in consistently. And when you buy the Nomatic BASICS planner you get a code to give you a 20% discount for LIFE! I am one happy Nomatic customer. It you want to explore their planners and notebooks and buy one for yourself, head over here and treat yourself.
3. Graphik Linemaker Pens
To go right along with my lovely planner are some lovely pens. I have been so pleased with the Graphik Linemakers from Derwent: various nib thicknesses, different colours/sets, perfect for line drawing, doodling, and writing. They’ve been great for the combination of notemaking, writing, doodling, hand lettering, and illustrating that goes on in my planner and can’t recommend them highly enough as a good all-round creative’s pen. Easily picked up from arts and craft stores, amazon, or direct from Derwent.
4. Paperfury – Blog and Bookstagram
Not a favourite thing, rather a favourite place/person. The Paperfury blog, Twitter and Instagram feeds are currently some of my absolute favourite places to spend time on the internet. Cait’s bright and bubbly blog speaks to my bookish soul and never fails to bring a smile to my face. Her bookstagram photos are stunning, her recommendations excellent, and her insights into bookworm/writer life are hilarious and relatable. Her contributions to twitter are also wildly entertaining. She’s super fun to chat to and interact with in her comments or on social media. Perfect if you’re into fantasy (especially of the stabby/dragon based variety), cake (who isn’t into cake?), and world domination. Seriously, go make friends. Or, alternatively, do what I do and lurk in the shadowy corners of her rainbow space, occasionally retweeting and commenting with all caps because you just can’t contain the ME TOO feelings…
5. Literary Pins
I am an absolute sucker for literary accessories and have a particular weakness for literary pins. These are just some of my favourites from my ever growing collection. Some of my favourite shops for literary pins include Nutmeg and Arlo, The Literary Gift Company, and The Literary Emporium. They currently live on my work lanyard and they make me smile every day. Perfect small gifts for book lovers!
6. Polaroid Zip Instant Printer
I have wanted a mini photo printer for ages. One that would link up to my phone so I could quickly and easily print some of my photos to use in my journaling or just for keepsakes. I’d looked at the Polaroid Zip on and off and was a bit wary as it had mixed reviews. I found a second hand one going cheap and decided to give it a shot and I’m so glad I did. I get why it has mixed reviews: the photo quality isn’t amazing, the paper isn’t cheap and the app can be a bit clunky…but for what I was looking for it’s great! The photos print quickly and the quality is good enough for small prints (I like to think of them as having a kind of retro vibe – think Instagram filters!). The printer is a really neat size and I love that the photo papers have sticky backs! Super easy to print off a snap from the weekend and stick it straight into my planner. I was able to put together this mini album spread from our trip to Prague in just a few minutes. I’m really enjoying being able to print some of my favourite photos at the click of a button rather than leaving them sat on my phone.
A few years ago everyone suddenly started wearing charm bracelets with bead style charms rather than the traditional clip on/dangly ones. I was ahead of the game. I’d already had my Trollbeads bracelet which was, and still is, one of my favourite pieces of jewellery. I absolutely adore Trollbeads. They have such original and quirky designs, beautifully made and with a whole host of different metals and stones to choose from, as well as their gorgeous glass beads. After years of collecting (and mostly being bought beads for birthdays and Christmases by my dad) my Trollbeads bracelet really tells a story. There are beads that reflect significant moments in my life, beads that were given with true sentiment, beads I treated myself to in celebration or comiseration. It’s me in charms and I love it. They’ve increased their range and offer other jewellery as well as charm bracelets – I have a beautiful pair of earrings and one of their fantasy necklaces which I also adore. Their service is always excellent – on one occasion I managed to get one of my beads stuck in the clasp (don’t ask me how!) and by sending my bracelet off to them they kindly rectified the problem for me. Their glass and silver beads also start at really reasonable prices. I love wearing my Trollbeads and I honestly think their charms are more beautiful and original in design than those from other charm retailers.
8. Bellabeat Leaf
In an attempt to keep track of how active I was being and encourage myself to do more exercise I had been tracking my steps and activity using apps on my phone. That was fine but I couldn’t always have my phone on me and some of the apps were real batter drainers. So I started looking at fitbits and pedometers. They seemed useful and did what I wanted them to do but they were quite pricey and were just not attractive to look at. I could see myself buying one and not wearing it all the time because it would look too clunky with my outfit. I’m not a fashionista or anything but I do like my accessories to look good and match what I’m wearing. Enter Bellabeat leaf…
I LOVE this fitness tracker. Yes, that beautifully crafted piece of jewellery is in fact a fitness tracker. It counts my steps, I can add other exercise, it measures my sleep, has meditations in the paired app to help you engage with and track mindfulness activities, it will track my menstrual cycle and it looks gorgeous! I most often wear it as a necklace but it can be worn as a bracelet or just clipped to the edge of a top or pair of trousers. It really is a stunning piece of smart jewellery that I am more than happy to show off with my day to day or going out outfits, or if it’s not quite the right piece for what I’m wearing, I can clip it to my waistand or bra so it’s neatly tucked out of sight but still measures all the things I want it to. The app it pairs with is really user friendly and also beautifully designed. It is not really any more expensive than other fitness trackers (especially when you consider you get a versatile piece of jewellery out of it too). You can also customise I with different necklaces, bracelets and even change the metal section so you can choose between silver or rose gold. LOVE. It is one of the best investments I have made for myself and I wear it every. single. day.
9. Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer
You may or may not have picked up but I’m a bit of an aspiring writer. I don’t write as often as I’d like and I can’t really decide if I’m actually any good at it, but I enjoy it and I like to dream that one day I might actually knuckle down and write something that people want to read. I love dipping into different website and books for inspiration, I love finding writing prompts and activities to try. One of my absolute favourite discoveries for writing inspiration and motivation is Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook. This. Book. Is. AMAZING. It is stunningly illustrated, beautifully written, full of interesting insights and anecdotes, unusual writing prompts, and with contributions for writers of varied genres and walks of life. It’s great for dipping into or for sitting and reading in big chunks. Highly recommended for writers (aspiring or otherwise) – a perfect addition to your shelves.
10. Flow Magazine & Flow Specials
I have told of my love for Flow magazine before. In fact, I wrote a whole post gushing about the wonder that is Flow over here. I’m going to gush again. Flow remains the only magazine that I have ever read cover to cover. I eagerly anticipate its quarterly release and still marvel at the beautiful content that the wonderful team at Flow put together. The articles are varied and interesting, layout gorgeously designed, the activities excellent for promoting well being and reflection, the extra freebies perfect for paper lovers and creatives. I’ve also been really impressed by the Flow specials and paper books. The paper books are crammed with paper goodies and I love using their wrapping and writing papers, and have a whole wall covered in Flow posters and postcards next to my desk at work. The Flow specials are relevant and so good for helping refocus, recentre, and live a balanced and meaningful life. I’ve found their mindfulness special great for helping me manage anxious periods and have recently bought their latest special on love and friendships which I can’t wait to dive into. I can’t recommend Flow highly enough and it’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of every day life. Find your me-time in between the pages.
There you have it. Mini-reviews of some of my favourite things. I hope you enjoyed seeing a little of what I chose to spend my time (and money) on and maybe saw something you’d like to try for yourself. What are some of your favourite things?
This is absolutely my favourite time of year. The trees are aflame and their burnished colours make the world seem warm even when that autumn chill pierces the air. It’s time to snuggle up inside cosy layers: jumpers, scarves, boots, hats – it’s your time to shine. The nights close in earlier and earlier, and whilst sometimes it feels like you don’t get to see the day (especially when you’re working) it has the distinct advantage of meaning you have every excuse to pull up the draw bridge as soon as you’re through your front door. Change into those comfy clothes, light some candles or even a fire, snuggle under a blanket and enjoy the unique hush of an autumn evening. Read a book, watch a film, just enjoy being.
And then there’s the food…soups and stews and stuffed jacket potatoes! Warm crusty bread and mugs of hot chocolate! Forget about the carbs or the calorie count. Everything in moderation and don’t forget you need that energy to keep you going – since our bodies are tuned to work better in daylight, the shorter days mean we need that fuel.
All these things and so many more are the reasons I’m in love with the season.
When the leaves have turned and the nights draw in, I find it so much easier to be at peace with the world. It goes a little bit quieter in my head and it feels like home.
This year autumn seems to have got off to a particularly brilliant start. The leaves are turning more slowly and the colours are more vivid than in recent years. October was beautiful and, if this morning is anything to go by, November promises to be crisp and cool and the perfect run up to the year’s festive finale.
I was lucky enough to spend a fabulous few days in the peace and quiet of Cartmel with my hubby. We found a cosy little hideaway (complete with log burning stove), and holed up for four restful days of reading and lazing and (occasionally) exploring the village. It was perfect and made me feel incredibly blessed, not only that we have the means to take trips like that but also that I have a husband who I can just be quiet with; no pressure to talk all the time or be busy doing things, with the happy ability to just be in each others company, reading books, listening to music: just enjoying.
We’re now back into the swing of things after our time away; he to a busy PR office and stack of writing and emails and projects to complete, but with a great, fun team to take the edge off; me to another hectic school term with resources to make, interventions to plan and meetings to attend, but also with a great, fun team to take the edge off!
November 1st saw another beginning…yep, you guessed it: NaNoWriMo! I have considered getting involved in NaNo for a few years now and never had the guts to do it (hello self doubt!), and whilst I’m still not sure I have a novel in me quite yet, I am determined that I want to improve my writing practice. So, with a little nudge from a friend, here I am. Writing. I signed up on the NaNoWriMo website and am hoping to write every day, but I’m not anticipating 50,000 words or anything like it and I’m not planning a novel. Instead, I want to use the NaNo spirit that permeates November to write anything I can. Right now it’s a blog post. Yesterday I started outlining some short stories and even came up with some ideas for poems. Who knows what I’ll produce, or whether it will be any good, but actually it doesn’t matter: I just want to have a go.
I’m in love with the season and it has me feeling happy, hopeful, productive, and creative. You never know, maybe I’ll discover I had a novel in me after all…
So here goes, I name my favourite…
Place – at home curled up on my sofa (or in my bed) with a good book and my lovely hubby.
Person – well I can’t just pick one person now can I?! I have favourite people…Dave is my favourite husband…my mum is my favourite mum and my dad is my favourite dad…my brother is my favourite brother…this could go in for a long time…
Color – Red!
Food – mmmm, tricky. I’m always a lover of chocolate but if we are talking ‘proper’ food I’m currently a bit of a chicken pie fan. Also love potatoes cooked any way you can think of! And mango! Mmmm. Food.
Smell – wood smoke. And freshly laundered bedding.
Book – ONE? Haha! No. Not possible to name one. You can see a small selection of my favourites here, but you should bear in mind this list is by no means complete and also grows on a regular basis.
Movie – depends entirely on my mood. I’m a sucker for You’ve Got Mail, it’s my go to feel good movie, so that’s probably a steady favourite.
Music artist – I go through phases but Newton Faulkner definitely makes regular appearances on my playlists.
Thing to do when bored – Read. Journal. Pinterest.
Genre of literature – fantasy and/or young adult.
Magazine – without a shadow of a doubt it’s got to be Flow magazine. Beautiful beautiful loveliness in a papery package. See here.
Texture – paper. Mostly the edges of books. I also love that ridiculously soft material that babies plush toys are made from.
Time of day – evening. Or lunch time.
Day of the week – Saturday, there are so many possibilities!
Thing to learn about – science (especially space!), history, literature, religion. I like learning most things really. Learning in general is one of my favourites.
Thing about yourself – the person I am becoming.
Lifehack (a time saving, efficiency technique for life) – curling my hair in my sleep using only a headband!! See here.
So that’s me! What are your favourites?