Thoughts on setting boundaries.

7.12.17

I'm taking part in the Blurt Foundation's December photo challenge (#blurtmerrycalmness if you're interested) and Monday's word was "boundaries". I'm enjoying this photo challenge immensely after a few days in 1) because I'm poorly-sick at the moment and it gives me a little project to focus on and 2) because it has really got me thinking about different topics and how they impact on our mental health/physical health.

Setting boundaries is something I have been pretty hopeless with up until recently when I realised I needed to put some things into place to save my sanity. If you are anything like me (INFJ personality type, wants to be all things to all people) then you will use a lot of your energy thinking about other people's problems and trying to fix them. I have been on the other end of the phone for people at all times of the day and night, giving up sleep and rest in a desperate attempt to be there for everyone as much as possible. I have taken criticism from people very close to me and absorbed those comments as if they were true, failing to stick up for myself for fear of causing arguments. I have let my self-care routine slip as a result of feeling weighed down by a lack of support and judgement from others.


Writing the Instagram post got me thinking about ways that I can set clearer boundaries to live a happier life. Here are a few thoughts on healthy boundaries. I'd love to know what yours are too! Leave me a comment :) 

* spend your precious free time with friends and family who are supportive and encouraging

* reduce time spent with toxic people who criticise you, judge your life choices or make you feel bad for being 'you'

* don't feel guilty for prioritising doing things that make you happy even if others can't understand why you do them

* spend time alone to reset, doing whatever the hell you want to do - nap, meditate, draw, colour in, listen to music, cuddle your dog, have a bath, paint your nails, browse ASOS for things you can't afford, drink tea and eat cake, or just sit and 'be' for a bit 

* build up good communication with everyone in your life to avoid misunderstandings i.e. if you have a partner but you want some time to yourself, explain this to them and why it will make you feel better, instead of them wondering why you've gone quiet or why you don't seem to be enjoying their company (this is major one for me; after a stint of time with someone I need to be alone to reset myself!) 

* aim to stop absorbing the feelings and thoughts of others; listen to their problems without feeling responsible for fixing them single-handedly

* have a solid self-care routine which is non-negotiable; if someone needs you during this time then tough, they have to wait (unless it's life or death, obv!)

* write down what stresses you out the most and build boundaries around that - for me one thing that bothered me was late night txts that would weigh on my mind and cause me sleepless nights so I began to switch my phone off well before bedtime in an attempt to go "offline" and have a good nights sleep

Books I have read in 2017 (26 - 30).

25.11.17

#26 Letters To My Fanny - Cherry Healey 4/5

I'm going to be honest here; I bought this book purely for the funny title and pink cover because that's how I roll. I am not familiar with Cherry Healey as a journalist/celebrity but I am all for reading anything related to self-help / body image / being a lady.

This is Cherry's collection of letters to each part of her body, from head to toe (including her fanny, obviously). She has an open and comical way of writing and I genuinely felt more loving towards my body when I had finished reading this. I have a long way to go until I can accept my figure, face and brain as they are but this book definitely helped me along.

#27 The Letter - Kathryn Hughes 4.5/5

Sometimes you overdo the non-fiction and you need to get your teeth into a really good story, and The Letter was just that. It's a story of two women in different times; the 1970s and the 40s and how a letter hidden inside a jacket pocket can bring two strangers and their families together.

I really enjoyed this book. The time jumps were easy to follow and the experiences the women encountered were not your usual "chick lit" topics such as domestic violence and abortions. I genuinely wanted to know where each character would end up.


#28 Confidence - Katie Piper (audiobook) 3.5/5

Most of us are familiar with Katie Piper and the terrible events she encountered, leaving her scarred and in need of ongoing operations. I can't even begin to imagine the trauma she has been through yet she has come through the other side with confidence and I wanted to know her secrets.

I enjoyed this as an audiobook because listening to Katie read made it feel more personal, like I was chatting with a friend. There were lots of useful snippets and tips in this book, however, because I am a bit of a self-help-aholic I was familiar with a lot of the content already. That being said I would recommend this book for someone new to the world of self-help books as a perfect starting point. Perhaps a gift for someone who hasn't read much on the topic before.

#29 Big Magic - Elizabeth Gilbert (audiobook) 2.5/5

I really wanted to enjoy this but oh my, I did not. Elizabeth's voice grated on me to the point where it all came across as a little bit sanctimonious. I am totally on board with the concept of the book and I do genuinely feel like incorporating more creativity into my life because of it, but a lot of the chapters went way over my head. I definitely should have got the book version!

#30 Counselling for Toads - Robert De Board 5/5

I read this book in preparation for potentially studying counselling next year as I believe it is one of the recommended materials. I loved it! I plan to lend it to my friends and family as I really do think it could benefit everyone; whether you want to study counselling, have counselling, or you know someone who is struggling with their mental health and you want to know what to say and do to help them.

It's a twist on The Wind in the Willows which sees Toad feeling very depressed and his venture into counselling with Heron, and how his friends Rat, Badger and Mole deal with it along the way. 

Why "life plans" suck.

8.11.17

Lately I have been doing a lot of thinking (you know, additional thinking on top of all the other unnecessary things I think about) about the timings of life, the pressure to do what everybody else is doing, and how different my life has panned out to how I imagined it would be. Did I think I would be 32 years old, overcoming a chronic illness, living in my mum's spare room, with a failed engagement under my belt, no kids to speak of, and resorting to an app on my phone in an attempt to find "the one"? Well, no. And when I say it all like that in one sentence it makes me feel pretty shit.  The Victoria of 10 years ago would have been shouting "future Victoria, what the hell are you doing?!" But it is what it is and no amount of worrying can change my current circumstances (I will still worry though, because that is my speciality). 

The purpose of this post serves no purpose except to reach out to anyone who doesn't feel like their life is the way it "should" be or the way other people tell them it should be. I tend to over-complicate life when really it is very simple. If you want to use Tinder and date a different guy every week, you go girl. If you only recently came out of a relationship and you were fine on your own, but you meet someone who sweeps you off your feet, you grab them with both hands! Forget this unspoken rule that after a relationship there is "x" amount of time that needs to pass before you're ready. If you want to be on your own indefinitely, then that is awesome. Embrace it! If you're in a relationship and it doesn't feel right, do something to change it or walk away from it. Don't settle because the alternative is too difficult. We are all beautifully unique and life is very short and I for one am going to stop feeling like a failure just because I have done things slightly different to how I imagined I would.


My new life plan is literally just to laugh with my friends, cuddle my dogs, feel content, and drink enough water. Beyond that who bloody knows!

CFS / glandular fever recovery mini-series: 10 signs I knew my health was getting better (part 2).

6.11.17

6) My random bruises disappeared. For a long time I was covered in bruises. I am a fairly clumsy person so at first this wasn't too odd but I came to realise that they were popping up left, right and centre. I did some research into adrenal fatigue and it's a common symptom associated with that (I was tested for my adrenal function and it wasn't doing so great). The random bruises hung around for a while but now I only get bruises when I walk into objects (which is fairly often tbh). 

7) Cravings for salt, salt and more salt reduced in intensity. I used to crave it like an actual beast and I couldn't get enough of salty foods, but this has subsided somewhat. 

8) Tolerance to sunshine / sunbathing / sweating improved. For a good year or so I couldn't sit out in the sunshine for long periods of time and, if I did, I would have to pay the consequences. I was a bit nervous about my recent trip to Kefalonia as I wondered how all the heat would affect me but I was absolutely fine. 

9) My afternoon crashes stopped. For the first 18 months of this illness I had daily afternoon crashes. At the beginning of this year my body and brain would just stop functioning, the flu-like symptoms would come crashing in. and the only thing I could do was go lie down / sleep. I do still get very fatigued in the afternoons and the occasional crash but nothing like it once was. 

10) Miscellanous body pains disappeared. One of the worst symptoms for me was the leg pains I experienced, usually in the night. It was like an ache I had never experienced before, like my bones were on fire and no amount of soaks in the bath or tablets helped. Thankfully this stage passed and now the only aches and pains I get are from my permanently stiff shoulders and sore muscles after exercising which feels kinda good now.

Sending love and positive vibes to anyone who needs them!

5 good things (Lincoln, long time online pals, and lots of self-care).

2.11.17

I am spoilt for choice with content for today's "5 good things" post because so many wonderful things have been happening to me lately for which I am truly grateful. I had been feeling a little down in the dumps and not quite myself but these 5 things, along with a host of others, have helped to put a smile back on my face.

This time of year is always tricky isn't it? The change of weather, the darker nights, the festive season approaching (which some of us don't particularly look forward to, but we must endure the excitement of everybody else). I'm trying to be a little kinder to myself and also filling my time with as many lovely things as I can. And sleep. All the sleep. 

1) A trip to Alton Towers earlier this week where I managed to be on my feet for the best part of 8 or 9 hours, did 20,000 steps and queued in the freezing cold having the MOST fun with the nicest boy I know. It has been so long since I've been on any rides and I did wonder if my body would be able to stand all that stimulation as it was really sensitive to noise and motion at one point, but I smashed it guys! Going on The Smiler first was possibly a schoolboy error but I enjoyed the day nonetheless. Jelly legs and all! 

2) Wrapping up warm and exploring. Me and my pal Steph frequent Otley and Ilkley for coffee, lunch and strolls and each trip makes me so happy. It helps that our favourite haunt - Salami & Co - is doggie friendly so every time we go we make friends with all the furry pups. You can't beat good coffee, good food and then a walk by the water and a mess about on the (kids) playground to raise your spirits. 


3) Visiting long-time Internet pals! I recently visited my friend Rosalyn (@rosalynoxer on Instagram) who normally resides in Valencia with her husband but was back "home" in Lincoln for a few weeks. I drove down to stay with her at her folks place and we had such a lovely time together. We have always been pally online but grew closer when Rosalyn was diagnosed with glandular fever earlier this year, and of course we all know I've been tackling it since 2015. So I've tried to be on hand with advice and support as much as I can. We are hoping to meet up again in December for a Christmas market so fingers crossed our energy levels allow us to do so! 


4) Enjoying the company of a certain man beginning with O who has restored my faith in men a little.

5) Building up a self-care routine. I have been massively slacking on this recently and some previous bad habits were creeping back in. So I have pulled my socks up and re-introduced: regular epsom salt baths (a good 30 min soak), less phone time, more reading, pampering, face-masks, painting my nails, body brushing, and general relaxation time. Oh and early nights. There is nothing wrong with an 8:30pm bedtime folks!

What are your 5 good things at the moment? 

CFS / glandular fever recovery mini-series: 10 signs I knew my health was getting better (part 1).

27.10.17

For other posts about my recovery click ~here

Over the next couple of months I aim to write a little more about my recovery from glandular fever, which I got over two years ago (Jesus Christ). If this isn't relevant to you then apologies but I promise I will write about other topics too! But one promise I have made to myself is to put as much information out there on the internet as possible for anyone who needs it. There are a lot of forums full of the bad side of chronic illness but I want to balance that out. I'm going to keep the posts in this series short and sweet as much as possible, because I know how much glandular fever and cfs can affect "brain fog" and concentration levels. 

For a long time I felt like my recovery from glandular fever was bordering on being at a total standstill. I didn't seem to be making much progress at all and this had such a negative impact on my mental health. However don't be disheartened if you're in a similar boat because I did start to make progress once I'd got through some difficult events in my life and made my health my #1 priority again (it's all about being selfish folks).

Here are 10 things that improved for me and subsequently changed my recovery for the better. I hope that tracking the improvements in these areas works for you too.

1) My body could tolerate dry body brushing. When I first read about the benefits of body brushing I couldn't wait to get started, however the first time I did it I felt pretty rough afterwards to the point where I couldn't bear to do it again. So I waited a while and the next time I brushed myself using very light strokes, and only did it once a week to see how that worked for me. Eventually I realised that I could body brush every morning with no unpleasant consequences! 

2) My sleep improved. One of the worst patches of my recovery was my "insomnia phase" which was like living hell. I thought I was losing my mind. If you have suffered from sleepless nights I'm sure you will know what I mean. When this phase passed (with the help of over-the-counter sleeping tablets, meditation, a good bedtime routine, and lots of patience) I saw lots of improvements in my general health. 

3) Better tolerance to exercise / minimal post-exertional malaise. This one is self-explanatory. At first my experiments with exercise didn't go so well. Using (light) weights of any kind would make me feel like I'd been hit by a truck for a week and generally I could only manage 10 minutes at a time before my body would literally cease to function. I kept trying and eventually I noticed that I could tolerate heavier weights and longer workouts. 

4) Concentration levels improved. At one point I couldn't read a book or watch tv because I couldn't process the information at all. Very frustrating when all you have is time on your hands to fill. Now I can read and cross stitch and watch tv in short bursts and it's amazing to feel productive again. 

5) Slightly better appetite. My appetite is still pretty dodgy and sometimes non-existent but it is better than it was. In my poorlier days all I wanted was pate on toast or chicken nuggets and I've definitely come a long way since then (mind you I do still love pate on toast).

To be continued :) 

Forgiveness.

23.10.17

"You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day" - ML Stedman, 
The Light Between Oceans

For 10 months I have been holding on to a lot of anger, resentment, confusion and bitterness about the way my last serious relationship ended. It made no sense to me that two people could be so in love and talk about having a family, getting married, adopting another dog, one day, then in a space of a few weeks have split up abruptly with no possibility of working things out. I was far from perfect in that relationship, battling a few demons and dealing with glandular fever which turned my life upside down and brought lots of tears and tantrums with it, but the way I was treated in those last few moments was not what I deserved. Being told I was no longer a decent prospect because I had a few health problems was difficult to digest, to say the very least. And evicting me from my home, not allowing me to go back for even one night to help me find my feet was a bitter blow.

I'm tired though. Tired of carrying these feelings round with me. Tired of dreaming about him (well, nightmares, obv) and waking up confused and asking myself all the usual questions: was he cheating on me? how long was he unhappy for? did I deserve it? will I ever get closure? does any part of him regret ending it? 

Photo credit - Stephanie Baxter - click here 

So today I write this down in black and white to forgive him, so that I can be at peace and move on from carrying these heavy feelings around with me. He fell out of love with me and acted like a coward and those are the only facts I need to know. I have learnt from my mistakes and I will find love again with someone who will stick with me through the bad times, not just the good ones.

For a long time all I wanted was for us to get back together and go back to how things were at the start, but now I can't think of anything worse. I'm grateful to have seen his true colours sooner rather than later, and it has taught me so much about the type of person I want to settle down with. Also since we split up I have met so many wonderful people and been on some adventures and travels that would never have happened otherwise, which I'm grateful for every day. 

I hope now I have documented these words on my little corner of the internet that I can feel a little lighter and leave the past behind once and for all.

The last few months (Kefalonia, Amsterdam, divorce, tattoos, and Tinder).

19.10.17

Whoops. That was a slightly longer hiatus than expected but these things happen. I've been without a laptop, then without broadband, then without any inspiration to do anything much at all. A lot of my energy has been going into work, seeing friends and navigating my parents splitting up so making time for this place has been tough but I really miss it. So here I am. 

Since we last spoke properly I went to Kefalonia with my boy pal (now ex boy pal) for a week of sunshine, red wine and greek salads. I got the most unbelievable tan, explored the island, rested on the beach, and had a really lovely time with my pal and his family. It's a shame things didn't work out with our relationship (if you could call it that... I spent 3 months trying to get him to commit to calling me his girlfriend "lol") but that's life and it wasn't right for either of us so onwards and upwards as they say!


I went to Amsterdam with my lovely pal Steph (@stephsayshello) who I only made friends with this year but she has become like a sister from another mister to me. We arrived in Amsterdam on a sunny Friday morning and headed home on the following Monday afternoon, staying in an apartment booked through Air BnB. We walked for miles and bloody miles, hopped on and off the tram, stuffed our faces, laughed non stop, and took in the beautiful surroundings, buildings and history.

I feel so grateful to have had two wonderful holidays to new destinations in the last few months, and for my health holding up enough for me to keep up with the pace and enjoy myself.


I got 3 tattoos in the space of a couple of months, after spending 15+ years debating whether to take the plunge. There goes my "all or nothing" personality again.  I'll share them in a separate post at some point soon.

I dyed my hair back to its natural darker colour, and cut it shorter, and I don't feel pretty anymore. So I got my nose re-pierced in an attempt to feel more like "me".

I have been on and off Tinder more times than I've had hot dinners, wrestling between wanting to find my Mr Right and hating the dating scene with a passion. However I will say I recently met someone who has restored my faith that there are good eggs out there and someone who seems to like me exactly as I am, which is a turn up for the books. Watch this space.

Seriously if anyone is still reading my blog I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sticking with me. I feel like I have the nicest support network around my social media channels and it really does make a difference to my life. So cheers!

Books I have read in 2017 (21 - 25).

5.10.17

#21 - The Light Between Oceans - M. L. Stedman 4/5

This is a period drama about a lighthouse keeper and his wife, living a remote life off the coast of Australia, who rescue a baby from a shipwreck and raise her as their own. I really enjoyed the writing and use of imagery which made it easy to picture the setting. I didn't love this book but I did really like it and it has definitely helped to spark my love of fiction again (after a spell of struggling to read anything except non fiction/self help books). If you like anything set in the past with a romantic storyline, with a feel of The Notebook, then add this to your list. 


#22 - GUT - Giulia Enders 3.5/5 (rating for audiobook version)

This book has been on my wishlist for a little while, ever since I saw a nutritional therapist and wanted to find out more about the link between the gut and immune system. I decided to listen to it as an audiobook which I'm glad I did because things got a bit heavy for me to digest (excuse the pun) halfway through and I think I would have given up on the 'proper' book. There is a lot of information to take in and long scientific words that I definitely won't remember but I found it a good book to dip in and out of taking it in stages.

The main criticism for me is the choice of narrator whose voice was like nails on a chalkboard to me, and the way her constant pausing made the sentences feel disjointed. That aside, I definitely picked up some tips on how to make changes to my own diet and gut health so it was a worthwhile listen.


#23 - I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU JUST SAID THAT! - Danny Wallace 5/5

I love Danny Wallace and I bloody loved this book. Laugh out loud funny, easy to read, and a hilarious insight into why people are so damn rude.




#24 - The Other Hand - Chris Cleave 1/5

This book was lent to me with the promise that it was "one of the best books ever". I was intrigued especially as there is no synopsis on the back cover. Just a promise that you must keep the story a secret from your friends and not to ruin the ending. I thought I was in for an absolute TREAT! I was gearing up to lend it to everyone I knew with a smug look on my face that I knew about it and they didn't. In summary, all hype no substance. Very disappointing. Didn't enjoy. Waited for something to happen (a twist, a turn, anything!) but it never came.


#25 - Divergent - Veronica Roth 4.5/5

This was my summer holiday read after I spotted it on the bookshelf in the hotel's lobby. I liked The Hunger Games series so I thought this might be my cup of tea too, and I was right. Divergent is set in a dystopian future where 16 year old Tris must make a difficult decision to remain or switch "factions", following all of the subsequent drama that ensues. This was an easy to read, couldn't put it down sort of book and I really want to read the others in the series. Sometimes a book aimed at a slightly younger reader that you can absorb easily and quickly, set in a fantasy world, is just the ticket!

Oops, I did it again.

4.10.17

Hello! Yes, I am still alive! I'm doing my usual vibe of not going anywhere near my blog for months on end then wanting to write 20 posts in one sitting so I am going to start small and just check in to list all my excuses. My laptop broke (it really did) then the broadband broke (this is also true) then my motivation broke, I was busy with work, trips away, yada yada etc etc.

As a self confessed "quitter" my blog is one of the only consistent things in my life and it has been for many many years so although I have toyed with the idea of knocking it on the head a few times I'm not going to. It is here to stay! Now if my motivation to write it could also stick around that would be grand...

Books I have read in 2017 (17 - 20).

24.7.17

#17 When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalinthi 3.5/5

This is a non fiction book written by Paul Kalinthi about his own experience with cancer, which sadly he did not get to finish writing. It's a powerful thing to read the words of someone who you know didn't live to see his book get published. It is finished by his wife and her words really touched me (there were tears, of course).

Paul was a self-confessed workaholic and, as someone suffering from burnout, I found it difficult to read towards the end as he continued to push his body and brain to the absolute brink through his work despite being very poorly and having a young family.

I really wanted to like this book a lot more than I did and I hope you don't think I'm a terrible human being for not giving it top marks. 

#18 Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus - John Gray 4.5/5

There's a reason why this 1992 book is still going strong now and that's because it's a complete eye-opener into the world of men and woman, how different their brains work, and basically how we're all doomed (LOL J/K, but also not).

It feels a little repetitive towards the end but that aside I really enjoyed this book. It has taught me so much about why ex boyfriends did things they did, and why I do the things that I do. It gave me a little bit of faith that my newfound knowledge can help me to improve future relationships. They should make this book part of the GCSE curriculum or something. I wish I had read it a long time ago then maybe I wouldn't be 32 and a spinster...


#19 - The Princess Saves Herself In This One - Amanda Lovelace 4.5/5

I have been getting into poetry more and more recently so when I spotted Amanda's book giving off a similar vibe to Milk & Honey (by Rupi Kaur) I knew I had to have it. And I wasn't disappointed because it's an absolute beauty of a poetry book. Just like with Milk & Honey I connected with the words completely and wanted to devour it in one go. Recommend! 

#20 - Make Your Bed (little things that can change your life... and maybe the world) - William H. McRaven 4/5

This is a short but sweet read that I read in a couple of hours but it's a book I will read again in the future more than once. William is a retired Navy SEAL and all round bad-ass so not only is this a fascinating insight into his life but also how his experiences as a professional bad-ass can be applied to every day life to make the world a better place. i.e. make your bed (maybe not to the Navy's standards) every morning to feel a sense of achievement and to tick off your first completed task. 

Quality over quantity for sure, and a nice little book to keep on your bookshelf or to give as a gift. 

Haworth [60s weekend].

2.7.17

Last Sunday I visited Haworth for the first time; somewhere I have wanted to visit for a really long time. We picked a great day to go because, unbeknown to us, it was their 60s weekend! I knew they did a 40s weekend once a year but I didn't realise other decades got involved too so this was an exciting prospect.

We pulled up in the car park to the sounds of 60s live music pumping from nearby, multiple Mods on their scooters, and a few people dressed in 60s appropriate clothes truly getting into the spirit of things.


The weather wasn't on our side with on and off drizzle throughout the day but we did manage to sit outside with a cuppa while the sun made a brief appearance.

I made a beeline for every single dog I saw, with my favourites being a gang of three consisting of two Boston Terriers and a French Bulldog who we saw everywhere we went much to my delight. They were the sweetest dogs. I think Lily and Lola would have liked them (or tried to beat them all up, either or).

Haworth is such a beautiful place. I felt like I was on a Harry Potter set frequently throughout our visit with the cobbled streets lined with quirky shops. I can't wait to go back with Lily and Lola when things are a little quieter and we can have a steady stroll around.


A long overdue "life lately" (trips away, taking the plunge back to work, and trying out Tinder??!)

18.6.17

Good morning lovely blog people. I can only apologise for being MIA. Life suddenly got rather busy and the longer that time went on without me blogging the more I had to tell you, which made me wonder where to start. So here I go; I will attempt to summarise the last two months! And I promise to update more frequently from now on. Pinky promise!  

* I'm going to do a separate blog post about my health/CFS situation, but the overall vibe is that my health is getting better all the time; I am able to do so much more with my days without feeling too poorly from it. I still have mild symptoms of glandular fever/chronic fatigue syndrome/M.E. (whatever you wanna call it) but they are tolerable and I am learning how to manage them but also to push myself a little each week. I genuinely feel like I can 100% beat this and it feels pretty awesome. 

* I'm back at work, after a year off! I have managed a few months of part time working, doing a few hours every day, which I seem to be managing well so far. I'm really enjoying using my brain again. My manager is lovely and I am so grateful to be back out in the world of work because for such a long time I wondered if it would ever happen.


* After a few months of being happy as a clam as a single lady I launched myself into the world of online dating and swiftly remembered how stressful and horrendous it is. Thankfully (after a couple of dates which didn't go anywhere) I soon met a rather handsome and sweet chap who I have been seeing for about 7 weeks now. He's had a tough time of things too so we're just taking things steady and enjoying each other's company and that works for me!

* I have had weekends away in Manchester and York, a day trip to Ilkley and have been getting to grips with where everything is in Leeds with plenty of shopping trips, picnics and tea/cake dates.


* I'm exercising regularly and feeling good. It's early days but I really hope I can build up to running again and maybe start doing Parkruns. I would be over the moon if I managed that.

* I have just booked two holidays for this year which I could not be happier about. GIVE ME THE SUNSHINE! I'm going to Kefalonia in a couple of weeks time, and Amsterdam in September.

* I got a pink rinse on my hair and absolutely loved it.


* Life is a million miles away from where it was 6 months ago. And for that, I am one grateful lady!

Books I have read in 2017 (12 - 16).

11.6.17

#12 A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen - 3/5

I found this book on my mum's bookcase and I thought it looked like a book I would enjoy, considering it involves something small and furry which is always a winning combination. I am sure you will be familiar with it; the tale of a cat who befriends a homeless man and they become best pals. Overall it was a really nice read but I found the simplistic writing style a little bit tedious in places (says me, the bloody writing pro eh? ;)) It was a heartwarming tale and definitely gave me more awareness into what it's like to be homeless so I would recommend if you're looking for a quick, easy read. 

#13 Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella - 4.5/5

Finding Audrey isn't my usual kind of book as it's aimed at a younger market than my mature years (ahem) but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Audrey is a teenager struggling her way through not being able to leave the house and not wanting to take off her sunglasses, until her brother's friend comes into her life and helps her find the real world again. I wish I could go back in time to give my 13/14 year old self this book as it would have helped me an awful lot. Recommend recommend! 


#14 Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert 4/5

I have wanted to read Eat Pray Love for ages but it was only once I spotted it in my local library that I took the plunge. It's quite a long, meaty book so it took me a while to read but overall I found the story of Elizabeth Gilbert's life from a newly divorced, kinda lost hot mess to a newly spiritual, kick ass inspirational kinda lady really, well, inspiring! I could relate to Elizabeth's life and thoughts in so many ways and that made reading this that little more special as I've been on a journey of my own (although nothing quite as exotic as going to Italy, Indonesia or Bali, sadly).

#15 Milk and Honey - Rupi Kaur 100/5

Can I give a book 100 marks out of 5? No? Tough because I'm going to. I'm new to the world of poetry books but this wasn't a bad place to start. Rupi Kaur's words are so powerful and beautiful and I would recommend this book to everyone. Go buy it, now. 

#16 The Things You Can Only See When You Slow Down - Haemin Sunim 5/5

Another corker that I thoroughly enjoyed and have since lent to my good pal in the hopes of spreading how wonderful this book is. It's written in such a way that you should take your time with it, drinking in the beautiful illustrations and wise words. Haemin covers a wide variety of subjects and his wisdom and peaceful nature, being a monk and all, really come through in the chapters of this book. Plus it's a hardback and has a pretty cover which are never a bad thing! 

Happy reading! 

Little things I have done lately to declutter my mind.

17.4.17

After my mammoth decluttering session with all of my belongings a whole heap of space became freed up in my brain and it's addictive let me tell you. So I started to think a bit more about what else I could do to simplify my life and keep my mind clear of anything it doesn't need. Once your health goes down the drain you realise what is important in life and what isn't. So I am now on a mission to make my life as simple as possible and use my energy for the things that really matter.

This list contains a few of the little things I have done lately which added up and made a difference to my head space. I hope they give you some ideas if you are looking to lift the load on your brain.

* Deleting things from my phone to make extra storage. Old photos and old unwanted memories. Old notes/to do lists. Old WhatsApp conversations that fill me with dread when I see that little photo staring back at me. Delete delete delete. It is satisfying to delete the old to make way for the new.

* Keeping my bedside table free from "stuff" and conducive to a good nights sleep. At one point I had a whole pile of books and trinkets on there and it definitely didn't give off relaxing bedtime vibes. Now I just have my Himalayan salt lamp, a couple of books that I read before sleeping, and a bottle of water for when I wake up and I'm all set.


* Unsubscribing from mailing lists. This is time consuming at first but then easy to keep on top of once you've got the bulk out of the way. There are also things like Unroll.Me which make this task a whole lot easier! I really don't want to be wasting time reading emails that aren't relevant or I don't even remember signing up for. So now I know that all my emails will be things I actually want to read. I also got rid of anything to do with online shopping and discount codes in an attempt to keep my wardrobe and spending down. 

* Taking a look at my subscriptions on YouTube. My tastes change all the time and I realised that my feeds were full of videos that I no longer had an interest in. However seeing all those unwatched videos was causing me massive amounts of anxiety. There's my Type A personality rearing its ugly head once again! So I spent a bit of time thinking about the type of topics I am interested in at the moment and the end result was a shorter subscription list full of health and wellbeing topics that add value to my life. 

* Asking myself "is this useful?" This is a really good one! Every so often I check in with myself and ask "is what I'm doing right now useful?" If I am mindlessly scrolling through my phone at that moment in time, or watching something on Netflix that I'm not concentrating on, it forces me to move onto a different task.

* Being more "mindful" on my daily walks. I love my walks along the canal, which I do most days, and I try to take in as much of my surroundings as I can. But this can be taken one step further by becoming even more present. Take notice of every footstep and how your foot makes contact with the ground. Pay attention to every sound. The smells (not so good for the patch of canal that goes past a sewage plant!) And so on. 

* Deleting all traces of your last boyfriend. Self explanatory!

* Picking a colour to focus on. Have you ever had thoughts racing through your mind and you want to escape just for a little while? Sometimes I will pick a colour, such as yellow because it's a happy colour, then spend a few minutes looking for anything with the colour yellow in it. Passing cars, flowers, book covers, clothes, whatever it may be. It's a good way of shifting your focus.

* Last but not least, increasing my mindfulness/meditation practice. I have been playing around with guided practice, having a go at doing it on my own to music, breathing exercises, mindfulness at regular intervals throughout the day. I really enjoy incorporating it into my daily life and it has definitely made a difference to my thoughts. I can't recommend starting your own daily practice enough, and if you need a few pointers you can check out my YouTube favourites playlist for some inspiration (click here!)

Why I'm getting rid of most of my possessions and why it feels SO GOOD!

8.4.17

In the last 10 years I have moved house a dozen times and each time I have a "spring clean" of stuff that I no longer need, use or want. It mainly goes off to the local charity shop or is given to friends and I temporarily feel better for it. But the bottom line is, I still have so much frickin' stuff!

When my relationship ended in December 2016 things were different. My health prevented me from moving straight into a place of my own which meant I was limited on what I could initially take with me when I was booted out of my home. For a couple of months I lived off the contents of one small suitcase and not once did I really need anything that was sat in my ex boyfriend's spare room. Whenever I thought about the amount of clothes, shoes, boxes of crap, furniture, and books it made me feel anxious and physically I felt weighed down by it all. It was constantly in the back of my mind and the idea of moving that amount of stuff was overwhelming, to put it mildly.

Over the last couple of months I have done a few trips back and forth to collect my things, with one giant sweep last weekend. After watching the Minimalism documentary on Netflix and listening to a few podcasts from "The Minimalists", and seeing the limited space I had in my new bedroom (and not wanting to be surrounded by mess) I felt inspired to reduce my belongings by a significant amount.

photo source unknown

The first thing I did was send 90% of my books to charity shops, keeping a small selection of special books or self-help books that I like to refer to regularly. I do love having a home with a big bookcase stuffed full of books, but right now I can't have that and that's okay.

For someone who struggles to find their personal style and an outfit to wear for specific occasions I have an insane amount of clothes. Initially it was easy to bag things up for charity but I was still left with way too much. This is when it got harder to let go. I had to get ruthless! I was holding onto things because they were designer and cost me a lot of money 10+ years ago, not that I would ever wear them again. So what was I planning to do, carry them round with me for the rest of my life looking at them or storing them? I managed to get my wardrobe down to a reasonable size but I am still listing things on eBay on a daily basis and working my way through my shoe collection. My eventual plan is to have a "capsule wardrobe" and invest in good basics that go with everything. That's the long term plan but for now I feel so much lighter and less cluttered in my mind for having less clutter in my wardrobe.

photo source unknown

Letting go has been tough but it has been a real healing process for me. The satisfaction of reducing my belongings to a more manageable amount, giving furniture to family whose need is greater than mine, donating to charity, and making a few hundred pounds on eBay has made the process totally worth it. 

Trying to do this with chronic fatigue syndrome hasn't been easy but I am so proud of myself for doing a little each day and persevering with it. 

If you are feeling weighed down or you're going through a tough time, break up, whatever it may be, I can highly recommend decluttering your stuff in order to help declutter your mind! It has worked a treat for me.

My top ten picks for Netflix.

20.3.17

There was one point where I felt like I had "completed" Netflix in that I had watched everything worth watching and anything left looked pretty rubbish, but lately it seems to have upped its game. I always seem to have a whole host of things to watch, so it's fair to say me and Netflix are firm friends.

If you have just joined and you don't know where to start here are the top ten series (actually one is a film) that I would recommend in no particular order.

1) My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
I didn't think this looked like my cup of tea but when I asked for recommendations on Instagram and a lovely lady pointed me in this direction I figured everything is worth trying with one episode so I gave it a whirl. Oh my God, I am absolutely obsessed with this show. I had no idea what it was about apart from I figured out it involved a crazy ex-girlfriend (because I'm clever like that) but I didn't really know what to expect. I certainly didn't expect musical numbers and for the characters to be so hilarious. I binge watched series 1 and was pleased to find there is a series 2 so I am almost done with that now, and I will genuinely be sad when it's over and I have to wait a while for more episodes! 

2) Bates Motel
Bates Motel has been going for a few years now so you've probably heard of it, if not I suggest you go and check it out immediately. It's the story of Norman Bates and his mother in the years before the film Psycho took place but you don't need to have watched Psycho to understand what is going on (however if we're on the topic of recommendations I would suggest you watch it because it's a pretty awesome film).

It's fair to say I have a bit of a crush on Freddie Highmore who plays Norman (is that inappropriate?!) but crushes aside this is one of the only series that has captured my attention and interest episode after episode. It's dark and creepy and the acting is superb. 



3) LOVE
LOVE is a dry comedy about the unlikely coming together of two very different individuals. The female character is a bit of a train wreck and therefore I obviously identify with her ;-) Series 2 was released on the 10th of March and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the new episodes pan out. It's easy to watch, funny, a little bit cringe, and something different to other American TV shows out there.

4) Grace and Frankie
I had heard good things about Grace and Frankie so even though I wasn't sure it would be my cup of tea I delved it. I was soon hooked, loving the relationship between the two main characters played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. They navigate their way through life, love and loss after their husbands have an affair with each other, with hilarious results! March also saw a new series of this so I am definitely going to be a busy bee making my way through the new episodes.

5) Black Mirror
I watched Black Mirror when it was first aired on Channel 4 and thoroughly enjoyed all of the episodes particularly 15 Million Credits. The episodes that were shown on Channel 4 are available on Netflix along with a new series that came out last year. I really like how the new episodes tackle social media and are hitting a nerve with everybody who watches them. We can all identify with the slippery slope that is being online and looking for validation! 

6) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
This is a show that has the potential to be a little bit like marmite but I absolutely love it. The character Titus is enough to make me watch this show alone but the other characters also create a lot of laughs. I've definitely laughed out loud at most of these episodes. It's completely silly and ridiculous but I love it! 

7) Orange is the New Black
I am up-to-date with Orange is the New Black and familiar with all of the characters by now. Although I'm not massively keen on Piper, who is the main character and wrote the book IRL about her time in prison, there are plenty of other characters to keep me interested. There are a lot of subplots and it's not just about Piper any more which is great. It's such an interesting insight into life in prison for women and I don't know about you but it definitely makes me feel better about my own circumstances! 

8) The OA
A good friend recommended The OA to me and I must admit that if she hadn't suggested it I probably would have given it a miss. Boy am I glad that I didn't! It's a little random at first and after one episode I did wonder where the whole story was going but that only whet my appetite to find out more. It's quite different to anything else out there and after the ending of series 1 I absolutely cannot wait to see where it goes next. Also it has Phyllis from the American Office in it which is epic!

9) Stranger Things
I know every man and his dog has been talking about this show but I couldn't exclude it from my top 10 because, like everybody else, I really really enjoyed this show. I loved the 80s vibe and the Goonies feel. The character of 11 is a standout for me and it's nice to see Winona Ryder return to our screens.

10) The Fundamentals of Caring
I will finish with a film recommendation, which is this made-for-Netflix film with Paul Rudd. If that's not enough of a reason for you to watch then how about watching it because it's a funny, heartwarming, inspiring and unique tale of a disabled boy who is cared for by, and goes on a road trip with, his new carer who is a bit lost in life too. I really enjoy films like this; they're what I call a "a good yarn".

Enjoy! x

Books I have read in 2017 (8 - 11) *self-help special!*

6.3.17

I should pop a disclaimer in here to say that these are all self-help books so if they're not your thing this post will be of zero interest to you.

I read some absolute crackers last month so if you are looking for a new self-help read, or you want to delve into this genre for the first time, one of these could be right up your street,

#8 You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay - 5/5

I listened to this as an audiobook, twice over, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. It was of particular interest to me because I wanted to learn more about Louise's theories in relation to how feelings and thoughts connect to physical symptoms in our bodies. Louise has a beautifully calming voice and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of this audiobook. I will probably listen to it again and again throughout my life as it's one of those tools that has helped me a great deal.

There are exercises to complete throughout (for example practising forgiveness and sending good vibes to someone who has wronged you *this is as difficult as it sounds!*) as well as positive affirmations to repeat while you are reading/listening plus extra curricular affirmations too. It is a little bit weird talking to yourself in the mirror at first but trust me, it really does help!

If you are having trouble with relationships with your family, friends or partner, or you have physical symptoms that you can't get to the bottom of, I really think this book could help. 

#9 Light is the New Black by Rebecca Campbell 5/5

Another set of full marks for me with this book which I absolutely did not want to put down or finish. It's a book I plan to read again from cover to cover in the near future. It opened my eyes to my spiritual side and helped me to understand the transitional period I am going through at the moment, which provided a great deal of comfort to me at a tricky time.

Rebecca's writing is wonderful and you feel like she is talking to you as a friend. It's a really meaty book with lots of information packed in but I would have quite happily kept reading on and on.

She guides you through how to connect with your true self, answer your soul's calling, and how to avoid dimming your light to fit in. There are plenty of exercises to complete as you work your way through the book which means you get to buy a pretty new notepad. Result!



#10 10% Happier by Dan Harris 3/5

Dan's book tells the story of how he changed from a bit of a jerk (his words) to a more successful, calm and collected character all thanks to his discovery of and journey with meditation. Along this journey he meets the likes of Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra and I found those sections of the book really interesting.

About three quarters of the way through I started to lose interest in the story slightly as I'm not familiar with who he is on the television and I wanted the story to wrap up however things picked up at the end of the book where Dan includes a guide on how to meditate and  practice mindfulness, the benefits of doing so, and a question and answer section which was really insightful to me even though I already have a little bit of knowledge about meditation and mindfulness already.

When I purchased this book on my kindle  it was a really low price and therefore I would say that if you are looking to find out more about meditation, especially if you have a stressful and demanding career, then I would recommend this book to you particularly if you can get it for a bargain like I did.

#11 EFT Tapping by Kelly Ashley 4/5

Short but sweet, Kelly's book is an account of how EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique / tapping) assisted her in her healing from chronic fatigue syndrome, which as you will probably know by now is a condition I have. I stumbled across EFT on YouTube a few months ago and dabbled in it but it was only after reading Kelly's book and having more detailed information about how to do it that I made it a bigger part of my daily routine. It really is very simple once you get your head around it and Kelly explains it in a really clear manner.

I have yet to learn the scientific ins and outs of EFT in terms of how it actually works and what the different points of the body that you tap mean, but what I do know is that it works! It really does work!

There will be more fiction next time, promise! 


Little ways I make social media more enjoyable.

3.3.17

We all at some time or other will have fallen guilty to comparing ourselves to others on social media and feeling like a failure in comparison, because it is so easy to forget that comparing our entire lives to a strangers' "best bits" is never going to be a good idea. But we all do it. I certainly do!

Recently I have been trying to spend more time working on my blog and my Instagram feed because I get a lot of enjoyment out of the interaction and the feedback, but I found I needed to make a few little tweaks here and there to make my time on social media work for me and not against me.

* 'Muting' stories on Instagram. I love Instagram stories, both watching and sharing my own, but if you follow hundreds of people it can be hard to keep up with the constant stream of videos (especially when it's so damn glitchy, anyone else?) I have muted accounts for people whose stories don't interest me which has left me with my closest Instagram buddies whose lives I do want to follow. This works both ways so feel free to mute me if you're not interested in videos of pugs, cups of tea or the occasional life update. I won't be offended!

* Deleting apps. A couple of months ago I deactivated my Facebook account and deleted the app for it to remove temptation to log back on, which are two of the best things I've ever done. My primary motivation for this was that I didn't want to see what my ex-boyfriend was doing and I didn't want to see constant photos and memories popping up. Also since Facebook changed its rules and you see things from people that aren't even on your friends list it's kind of annoying. I don't want to see photos of babies of a friend of someone I went to primary school with (again no offence but life really is too short to keep up with the lives of people that you haven't chosen to follow). I'm also trying to minimise my time on Twitter because I generally find it is a negative place and a place I don't enjoy visiting that much any more so I have deleted the app from my phone and use my browser to check in every now and again because I do genuinely enjoy replying to any comments I get on there.


* Sharing the good and bad bits. One thing that is really important to me is that I am open and honest, sharing the good bits and the bad bits and all the bits in between. I would hate for anyone to compare themselves to me and feel inferior and I think if more bloggers did this it would alleviate some of the pressure that people feel to have a picture-perfect life. Sometimes I wish that I had more readers or my photography was better, or that I physically looked a bit more stylish/polished, but ultimately I like to be relateable and it's important to me to continue to do that. I am happy to be a relatively small blogger in a big pond and to keep things real with you guys because life isn't all sunshine and roses (with a perfect blurry background).

* Making friends. Over the past few years I have made some absolutely wonderful friends through my blog and Instagram; some I now see in real life and others I definitely plan to see at some point. As an adult it can be hard to make friends especially if you have confidence issues or you are shy until you get to know people (like I am). What could be better than having a world of like-minded people with the same interests as you at your fingertips. I always try to reply to comments and leave comments for others as much as possible because that's a side of social media that makes me happy!

5 good things (snail mail, spring cleaning, and so much LOVE!)

2.3.17

1) All the love on this post (and just the love from you guys in general, seriously I feel like the luckiest blogger ever with the people who read my rambling). Just this second I found a couple of comments from one anonymous person that had found their way into my spam folder (which I rarely check because it's usually full of gibberish!) so if that was you, "hello!" and thank you for your kind words and being a reader of Lily loves Lola since the start. It has been a long ol' ride hasn't it?!

2) Snail mail. I was recently reunited with my box of craft supplies and I could not be happier about having cards, envelopes, stamps, stickers and wax seals in my possession again! #nerd 

3) I'm going back to the Isle of Man next week for another week with my niece. It's all fun and games until you get "jelly on a plate" stuck in your head on a constant loop. Argh! I'm hoping for less rain and more outside time/trips to the beach. Fingers crossed!

4) Having a really good spring clean. This week I have taken heaps of things to a charity shop, binned a few old/broken bits and bobs, and commenced the mammoth task of listing clothes and shoes on eBay to raise a few pennies. It is SO satisfying to just end up with the belongings that you need/use regularly. 

5) Crazy Ex Girlfriend on Netflix. Seriously guys, I'm obsessed. Does anyone else watch it?