Monday, 18 February 2019

What I wore in New York

I've been meaning to blog for a while about what I wore in New York. However, I must admit that my main motivation for publishing this post today was the lack of time and opportunity to take photos for any of my other potential posts. Roll on the lighter evenings!

While I'm busy admitting to things, I thought I'd talk about the military operation of me packing to go on holiday. It starts with a big Word document (set up immediately after we book a holiday) which details every single piece of clothing, every accessory, every toiletry and every miscellaneous item I'm planning to take with me. The packing itself usually commences about three weeks before we leave. Although part of me is very jealous when Neil somehow manages to pack his suitcase in 25 minutes, I do secretly enjoy my long-winded and highly organised packing process.

The photos of me in New York were all taken outside, so I'm only going to detail my coats, boots, hats and scarves because that's all you can see. To complete my outfits, I took a pair of jeans, a few jumpers, warm dresses, leggings and tights, along with some nice dresses for the evenings. I packed light on shoes and bags (for me), but definitely didn't pack light on hats, scarves and gloves.

I've linked to the relevant items where I can in the photos below, but most of them are either sold out or not in existence any more.

Parka from Dorothy Perkins, scarf from Joules' Ebay store, and
black boots from Shoe Zone 

Kate Spade hat from Ebay, scarf from Joules, coat from Debenhams,
bag from Kate Spade and boots from Ugg

Hat from New Look, scarf and gloves from Asda, coat from ASOS,
and bag from Kate Spade 

Hat and gloves from Accessorize, bag and scarf from New Look

The hat was a gift from Italy, and the scarf is from Primark 

Hat from New Look and scarf from ASOS 

Hat, scarf and gloves from New Look, bag from Kate Spade 

Is your packing process a bit like mine, or do you pack like a normal person? 

Monday, 11 February 2019

Rediscovering my reading mojo

I've always loved reading.

I used to completely devour books when I was in school. I'd read at the dining table, in the bathroom, in church, while everyone else in my family was watching TV, and in bed late at night with the help of the handy streetlamp outside my window. I also used to read in the car if I was in the middle of a particularly good book, even though I knew it would make me feel horribly sick by the time I got to the end of the journey. That's dedication for you.

After finishing school, I decided to study English Literature at Cardiff University. My degree was entirely focused on reading and writing and I absolutely loved it.

Quite predictably perhaps, I fell out of love with reading for a few years after I finished my degree. I'd almost forgotten what it was like to read for pleasure without needing to analyse and annotate significant words and phrases, and I found it quite difficult to get out of the habit.

Thankfully, after I had a Kindle for Christmas in 2012, I very quickly became a bookworm again and went on to discover lots of new authors and genres over the next few years.

I set myself a target of reading 50 books in 2015, and I did it! I set myself the same target for 2016 and fell four short, but 46 books in such a turbulent year still felt pretty impressive.

Unfortunately, in 2017 and 2018, I really struggled to lose myself in my beloved books. 2017 was a horribly difficult year where I only managed to read about 20 books. 2018 was a better year on the whole, but a lot of my brain space was taken up with starting and settling in to my new job which meant I only read 14 books throughout the whole year. These might sound like big numbers to some people, but for me they were pitifully low.

I started 2019 with a firm determination to rediscover my reading mojo, and I'm pleased to report that it's going well so far. I've already read 6 books since the beginning of January and I've got a couple of pre-ordered books arriving this week from two of my favourite authors.

My main motivation for rediscovering my insatiable love for books was realising that reading is a huge part of who I am. It helps me to escape into another world when I've had a stressful or upsetting day, it keeps me away from aimlessly scrolling through my phone, and it provides my introverted brain with valuable 'recharge' time.

I've started documenting the books I've read in 2019 on my Instagram stories with a little one sentence review. I'm always looking for recommendations, so if you're reading this and you also share the books you've read on Instagram or on your blog, please let me know!

On that note, I'm going to turn my laptop off and get back to my book.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Remembering what makes me 'me'

Lately, I've started to realise that significant life events can change the way you define yourself. In fact, if you let them, they can quickly become the only things that define you without you even realising it.

These events and their consequences can taint all the interests and accomplishments you had before they crashed into your life, forming unhelpful associations and thought patterns. When these thought patterns are prolonged and become second nature, you slowly start to lose sight of your authentic self.

Photo by Anton Gorlin on Unsplash

These events can be big, small or seemingly insignificant to other people, and everyone's story will be different. For me, this momentous event was my cancer diagnosis in August 2016.

The traumatic impact of the diagnosis and everything that's followed has been pretty damaging. It's had an overwhelming impact on so many aspects of my life, both emotionally and physically.

As a result, I've let the cancer and the situation I now find myself in completely overshadow me as a person until it feels as if that's the only thing that defines me. I struggle to think about myself and who I am without bringing my diagnosis into the equation. My friend Fee has written about this struggle of losing all sense of who you are far more eloquently than I ever could if you're interested in having a read.

On top of this potential loss of identity, we live in a world where there's a lot of pressure to be a certain way, to look a certain way and to get angry about certain things. You often get swept along with the tide and end up trying to be what everyone else thinks you should be rather than just being 'you'. All this pressure combined with the aftermath of those life-defining moments can make you completely lose sight of who you really are.

Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

I was on this earth for 30 years before cancer barged into my life. I had hobbies, quirks and passions just like everyone else. There's no denying that I've been through a traumatic time and that it still affects me in a big way, but I'm ultimately the same person as I was before my diagnosis.

With this in mind, I thought it would be useful to try to summarise all the things that make me 'me'. Over the next few weeks and months, I'm going to try to grab hold of these things with both hands and remind myself that my diagnosis doesn't have to define me. It's undeniably given me a new perspective on things which is often unhelpful, but I was a whole person before it happened and I can still be a whole person now.

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

I'm very introverted and my 'recharge' time is really important to me. Although I feel as if this has magnified over the last couple of years, I was definitely still that introverted person before my diagnosis. I have always been and will always be an introvert, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I love words. Reading words, writing words, proofreading and editing other people's words... I love anything to do with words. However, I don't love words which have mistakes in them. I'm a stickler for accurate spelling, grammar and punctuation and I make no apologies for that. It's my thing.

I'm very organised, to put it mildly. I have to-do lists for everything and I (try to) plan all aspects of my life with military precision. If you ever want to buy me a gift, pretty stationery to support my planning obsession will always go down well.

I love going for walks. I particularly love cold, crisp and sunny days, and I love seeing beautiful trees and white wispy clouds against a bright blue sky.

Catching up with family and my best friends always makes me feel a bit more 'me'. Although my aforementioned introverted self sometimes struggles to summon up the energy to catch up with people, spending time with my favourite people is vitally important because they know and like the real me. This proves that the real me is still there, deep down.

I take a lot of pride in everything I do, and I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Whether it's my work, my blog, my Instagram posts, my house or my gym sessions, it's important to me that everything I do is the very best it can be. This does mean that I'm often too hard on myself when I don't live up to my own high expectations, but I'm glad I still have that passion to succeed.

I have a firm set of values and a strong moral compass. These values serve as constant markers in my day-to-day life, and they're a helpful reminder of who I am and what I really care about. Their rigidity can sometimes be unhelpful when I feel as if I've compromised on those values (see above point about being a perfectionist), but for the most part they help to keep me grounded.

I love the fact that Neil and I go out for a hot chocolate every weekend. It's something we've always done since we first started dating nearly eight years ago, and there's something very comforting about keeping this tradition alive.

I love sleeping. I need a lot of sleep to be able to function like a normal person, so it's lucky that I love it so much. As a very important aside, I also love pyjamas, cosy socks and my dressing gown.

I'm a big fan of accessories and always have been. Give me shopping for jewellery, hats, scarves and handbags over shopping for actual clothes any day.

Disney makes my world go round. I love old Disney films, new Disney films, Disney princesses, Disney animals, Disney merchandise, Disney parks, Disney music... you get the picture.

I'm fiercely patriotic and am hugely passionate about the importance of respecting the Welsh language and keeping it alive.

I completely conform to the 'girls love pink and glitter' stereotype. I'm perfectly fine with that, and I don't need to pretend otherwise or to justify it to anyone.

Jessie, food and cwtches from Neil can instantly put a smile on my face, however bad my day has been.

I worry a lot about what people think of me, and that's definitely not a new thing. However, I'm trying hard to remember that I'm fundamentally a kind, caring and empathetic person. I make mistakes like everyone else, but above all I always try to be nice to people. I don't think many people will remember me as a particularly remarkable person, but if people say 'she was nice' then that's good enough for me.

Photo by Federico Bottos on Unsplash

What makes you 'you'?