Monday, 30 April 2018

April Books

Welcome back to another monthly book post.  I'm really making an effort with my non fiction reading at the moment, this month's including some of Virginia Woolf's essays, as well as some great novels, as always. Please feel free to let me know what you're reading at the moment, or if you've read any of these texts and what you thought of them.




Misery by Stephen King

Oh damn. I read this book on recommendation - one of my colleagues literally finished it one morning and gave it to me to start reading that evening - and I am so glad I did. I've only read one Stephen King novel before, which was The Green Mile, and I loved it, but that one was slightly more on the tame side of his writing. Misery is pretty full on and if you don't enjoy reading anything remotely horrific then this is not the novel for you. I, however, loved it. I really liked that there were only two main characters - I tend to read a lot of books with bigger ensembles, so this was quite refreshing in the sense that you truly delved into them and what was going on in this one room. I thought the descriptions were great; graphic without being overbearing (the kind of stuff that if they had included it in the film I probably would have averted my eyes from). It was just really engaging and dramatic in a way that seemed like it could still certainly be real. The ending had me feeling a little similarly to how Paul felt, which was surprising as I'm someone who, whilst immersing them self in a book also easily deciphers them self away from it too. Honestly, a great read - you will consume it in the same way Annie devours Paul's books.


A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

I'm trying to start becoming more diverse in my reading, as since finishing my studies I've tended to stick to reading novels, dropping all of the theory and essays I used to read in favour of fiction. Therefore, I thought who better to start with than Virginia Woolf. My book actually came with Three Guineas in too, which I also read this month, but I started with A Room of One's Own. I loved how colloquial it was - I think essays often have a tendency to be overtly wordy and unnecessarily complicated, but it felt more like Woolf having a chat about what she was feeling and thinking about. Obviously some of the thoughts in the essay are now outdated, but from her contemporary perspective, she makes some important points about how it's possible that women can write literature, and the struggle they've gone through to be able to. She talks about women's access to education - or, more so, the lack of it; she discusses the history of women's writing and how for a long time anonymous was the only evidence that women might be writing at all. It's a great essay, and one I'd highly recommend to anyone interested in women and fiction.


Heroes and Villains by Angela Carter

Angela Carter tends to be a love or hate writer, and having previously read The Bloody Chamber stories, I was already swaying towards love, but now I am wholly there. This is perhaps a novel on the stranger side - if you don't tend to read super widely you might be a little confused or uncomfortable with this one - but at the same time it's truly compelling. At times, especially in the first 20-30 pages I was a bit unsure but at the same time found myself unable to put the book down. It's essentially a post-apocalyptic novel, but described in a way that feels a lot like it's set in the earlier stages of humanity, whilst still very modern in language and some customs? The novel looks closely at gender roles and the expectations of both men and women, as Carter is renounced for, and approaches the topic in a reasonably colloquial way; this is perhaps because some of the characters are unable to read so Carter has stripped back the language for both reader and character alike. I really enjoyed reading this novel, I was completely bound to it whilst reading, and it's one I would 100% recommend.


Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Continuing my quest to tick a few more classics off my to-be-read list, I thought I'd go with a Hardy novel. I really enjoyed reading Jude the Obscure when I was studying Victorian literature at uni, so I figured reading another novel by the same author would be a nice refresher on literature of that time period. For me, with Victorian or generally older literature, I have to read at least 50 pages in one sitting to really get into the novel, to know who the central characters are and what they're doing, and to start understanding where the plot is going; I think that first bit of reading needs to be super focused and then after that you can just enjoy the novel so much more. I found that regime certainly still worked for me when reading this text, as once I was 50 pages in, I was truly appreciating the content of the novel for what it was. I really liked this novel; it's an offering of traditional Victorian literature, with a slight dramatic/tragic twist, which Hardy is somewhat renowned for. I liked that it showed the pains and difficulties of marriage - something a lot of Victorian novels don't give you - and how realistic most of the characters seemed. A good read.


Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Red Clocks is a very realistic dystopian novel, published just last month. It portrays the possible - likely - outcome if abortion were made illegal in America, as well as specific laws about adoption and IVF. The explores the lives of four women and the bonds between them - the things that draw them closer together and the things that rally them apart. I thought the characterisation and the way that the characters are built in relation to each other worked really well, essentially forming a debate in itself, which is something admirable in a novel that seems to be fighting so hard against the world it portrays. The women struggle with each of them having things that they want and essentially the society they're forced to live in has caused a lot of this anger towards one another, truly showing, on a personal level, how important it is to constantly champion women's right to do what they want with their body - or else we'll end up hating each other for being allowed what we ourselves can't necessarily have. I really enjoyed reading this novel, and, as infuriating as it can be to read a book on such a disheartening topic, it's important to realise what is right and stand up for our rights in our own reality.


Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf

As mentioned, I also read another of Virginia Woolf's famous essays, Three Guineas. Again, a great insight into both wife as a woman in the late 30s and of what women during that era wanted and were doing to pursue further rights. Equally the essay showcasing just how many men were strongly against women earning their own living and becoming better educated, which, 80 years later, seems both strange and yet sometimes, sadly, familiar. The wage gap Woolf describes, though by no means as extreme, still exists today, showing, as she does, that women having the vote and a few rights here and there is not enough. The fact that we still have to fight for equality is, quite frankly, ridiculous, but Woolf's work shows just how far women have come in the past hundred years, and equally inspires us to continue the fight.



Until next time.



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Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Currently Coveting: & Other Stories

I've recently discovered & Other Stories and wow those are some pretty clothes.

For a while now, I've seen pieces from & Other Stories on Instagram, but I finally delved into the website and I was a little blown away by the beauty of it all. The brand is a little more elegant and sophisticated than the clothes I typically wear, but at the age of 22 I'm stepping out of the skinny jeans a lot more, so this one is perfect for me during this transitional period right now. There's actually an & Other Stories store that opened in Oxford at the end of last year, so I'll definitely be heading in there now that my spending ban has been lifted (hallelujah!).

Here are my top picks from the website - all of which I'm dying to go in and try on.


Dresses



I've started a love affair with midi dresses, and this brand has some of the most gorgeous ones I've seen around. I'm also loving the fact that yellow is in fashion at the moment, as it's my all time favourite colour and yet one that's often hard to find in the shops. This dreamy floral midi dress has got me looking forward to summer like never before. I love the cinched waist - always the most flattering fit on me, and the floaty nature of the style is just perfect for summertime in the countryside. A firm favourite.




Next is this denim number. I don't think I've ever gone with a denim dress before, so perhaps this will be the one. This style is super popular at the moment, to the point that I've just purchased two others in a very similar shape. But I love the back detail on this one, with the tie at the back baring a little more skin than you'd expect with this dress.




Last is a simple but classic sundress with a hibiscus print all over. I love the tie straps on this one, as they're always ideal for adjusting the strap length and it also adds a sweet detail in the easiest way. A great, simple cut but the kind of dress that everyone needs in their wardrobe for the warmer weather. And it has pockets - every girl's dream.


Tops




Top wise, I have major heart eyes for this yellow blouse. Again, the yellow thing, but also the jacquard fabric - this seems to be really in this spring, and it's something I'm all for. V necks tend to be the most flattering neckline so me too, so this is pretty ideal. And I am head over for heals for the little details like the tie front and the cuffed sleeves. Very romantic without being pink.




This plain white shirt is giving me all the lazy girl vibes, whilst also appearing very presentable. I think that's ultimately the look I tend to go for, as I am a) a lazy girl but b) like to seem like I try anyway. This is one of those pieces you should just have in your wardrobe; it never goes out of style and will always come in handy.



Finally on the top from is this starry t-shirt. Whilst I'm generally going for a slightly smarter look, I'm not going to forget who I am and how I feel comfortable, and there's nothing like a slouchy t-shirt for that. This one has a lovely starry pattern all over and a nice low v-ed back, which I really like. A little twist on a must have basic. Typically this has sold out in the time it's taken me to finish this post, so here's to hoping it'll make a reappearance.


Trousers




I haven't done white trousers in the longest time (I'm thinking probably a good 9-10 years), so it might be time to bring them back into my life? I'm a big fan of linen trousers for the warmer months, as they're super comfortable and at the same time presentable, and this vertically striped pair are a hit. I also appreciate the tie belt on the waist, as I always prefer to give me figure a little more shape when wearing loose trousers.


Shoes




I also found these sandals, which are the prettiest shade of pale green. When I look for sandals, I tend to favour a thicker sole, as there's nothing more uncomfortable than super flat shoes, so these are ideal for that. I feel like a patent material is also great for the spring/summer, as I look for any way to make it seem like the sun's shining that little bit brighter.


Those are my top 8 picks from & Other Stories right now - see any of your favourites here?


Until next time.



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Thursday, 19 April 2018

What I Wore: Florals? For Spring?

Groundbreaking.





Top: ASOS
Jeans: Topshop
Sandals: Birkenstock
Bag: Topshop
Sunglasses: Quay Australia (similar)

On Wednesday I turned 22 so naturally wanted to take the day off and go to the beach.

And, even though we would've still gone in the rain... it was sunny!!! Something completely unexpected but nonetheless always welcomed in the UK. It was the loveliest, warmest day of the year so far and it made the best birthday ever. I'm not usually one to even celebrate, but the sun brought out all the joy.

I took this opportunity to bring out one of my new favourite tops, which is this b-e-a-utiful blouse from ASOS. I love the dainty floral print and the dreamy ruffles, and the tie-waist detail is a new favourite of mine, creating the most flattering cut imaginable. I think this style of top really compliments my body type, which makes it a wonderful find.

I paired the blouse with some new in Tall Awkward Cropped Jeans from Topshop. Now, I have been a stretchy skinny jeans only girl for probably about five year now, so this was a bit of a jump for me, but I adore the fit of these jeans. They are high-waisted and tight fitting at the top and then go out into the perfect wide leg. Cannot stop wearing these.

For shoes and accessories I continued the spring vibe. I dusted off my Birkenstocks, because it was actually that warm (!). These are the Milano style, which I bought a few years ago and are still going strong. Honestly the most comfortable sandals ever, despite the fact that they're a love them or hate them kind of shoe. And the bag I used, though you can barely see it in the pics (sorry, I'm new to this) is the most spring appropriate circle bag from Topshop that I've been using on all my outings recently. It's surprisingly roomy and even fits my ~enormous~ purse inside. Then I'm just wearing my Daniel Wellington watch, Monica Vinader ring and Quay Australia sunglasses. Everything is linked above.

I had the loveliest day at the beach and feel so lucky to have had such great weather for the day.

It's safe to say, I'm definitely feeling 22.


Until next time.



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Tuesday, 3 April 2018

7 Habits to Become More Productive

Today I wanted to talk about positive and constructive habits. Habits are often thought of in a negative way, but if you make productivity a habit, you'll ultimately have a positive outcome and outlook. I thought I'd discuss 7 habits I'm attempting to enforce in order to become more productive and, therefore, potentially more positive.


The first is an age old, tried and tested habit: waking up earlier.
Let me tell you, my friends, this isn't an easy one if it means waking up during the dark hours of the morning. I have struggled to do this through the colder months, but as it's getting lighter earlier in the mornings, it's working a lot better for me. If you wake up earlier you obviously have more time in the day to get things done, and equally to work on your own personal goals, as you've added in that extra time before work/any commitments you may have. As much as just waking up earlier is great, it's also important to wake up at a consistent time each morning, so that your sleeping pattern doesn't get caught up and lead you to become more tired. Therefore, even on my days off I try to get up at the same time as I would if I were working. I aim to get up between 6.30am and 7am each day, so that I can get that extra half an hour of sleep if I really need it. But generally, this just opens up your day and allows you to fit so much more into your daily routine, ultimately making you more productive and giving you more of a 'can do' attitude.

Another great habit is: exercising regularly
Like waking up early, exercise is something that requires a little motivation to start with, but once you get into the swing of it, it becomes not just a positive habit, but a part of your lifestyle. It doesn't really matter how you get your exercise in or what form of exercise you choose to do, it just matters that you do it. According to the British Heart Foundation, in 2015 only 67% of men in the UK met the recommended physical activity requirements to lead a healthy life, and the percentage of women was notably less at 55%. It's recommended that we do at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, whether that be walking, running, cycling, rowing etc. Exercise isn't just important for your physical wellbeing, but also for you mental health; it's a great way of clearing your mind and working on yourself without distractions. I personally love going to the gym and do so 3-5 times a week, depending on how busy I am, and I additionally walk a lot each day. Your body releases endorphins when you exercise, which trigger a positive feeling through your body. Exercising will help you feel good, which will therefore contribute to your productivity, as we naturally feel more productive when we're happier.


(beautiful places are great for getting in a good walk, as you often walk for longer because you're enjoying your surroundings)

Linking on from the previous habit: care about your health
Productive people care about their health and they make their health a habit. Of all the habits here, this is the most essential to become more productive. If you don't make your health a priority, you will become ill more frequently, which will of course hinder your productivity. The main ways to do this are to eat well, drink lots of water,  exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and make time for yourself. You might think that the first four are more essential than the latter point, but making time for yourself - whether that be through meditation, or reading, or going for a walk by yourself, or tuning out and listening to your favourite album - is very important for your mental health, which, as it should be, is now recognised as an important factor in our overall health and wellbeing. I think the whole concept of health can be slightly overwhelming if you're not doing enough to look after yourself already, but the only way to improve your health is to recognise what you're doing wrong and make gradual changes to benefit your wellbeing.



Next up: set goals
As I mentioned, you often need motivation to be more productive. Setting goals is a great way to motivate yourself, as you know that even though you're going to have to do something you might not want to do right now, if you get the task at hand done, you will move closer to achieving the goal you've set yourself. Sometimes your goals are reward based and sometimes they are just things you want to achieve/do. For instance, my motivation to go to the gym is the knowledge that I'm not entirely comfortable with having my legs out in the warmer months, therefore I know that by going to the gym and exercising regularly, I will begin to see changes in not just the way my legs literally look, but also in the way that I see them myself - I know that they're stronger and they can take me further in life because I've made a health conscious decision to work out. For me that's both an achievement and a kind of mental reward that helps me to understand what my body is capable of.

Similar to setting goals: remain focused
You won't achieve your goals if you don't focus on what you want and how you're going to do it. For example, I'm really working on my skin at the moment - I'm trying to look after it and keep it as blemish free as possible. As a result, even when I've gotten home late and want to just fall into bed, I know that I need to take off my makeup and do my whole evening skincare routine. It only takes five minutes and the following morning I know I'll glad that I took that time to do it, as my skin will look all the more clear for it. Focusing can be a tough habit, as we have the tendency to think 'well, does it really matter that much' in the moment and then regret it later on. Think about the long term outcomes of you goals and make time to truly zone out from all distractions and focus on what you want.


The penultimate habit is: carrying a book everywhere
The saying 'knowledge is power' comes to mind with this one. A great way to become more knowledgable is to read more, and more often than not you can use this new knowledge in a productive way, whether that's helping you with your job or your hobbies and interests. Or maybe you just enjoy reading in general but don't do it often enough. The best way to be more productive in the time between tasks/meetings/working hours is to carry a book with you everywhere you go. Aim to stop pointlessly scrolling through your phone at every opportunity (we all do it), and instead, read a chapter of your current book. You'll learn more, you'll unwind from technology, disconnect from the potentially negative results of social media and relax more. I'm an avid reader anyway, but since enforcing this habit, I have read so much more than I usually would, which personally is something that brings me a lot of joy. I tend to read novels, but I'm trying to branch out and read more essays and non-fiction texts, as once you're out of education, if you're not teaching yourself, you're not going to learn anything.

Lastly, and probably the most important habit in terms of implementing all these other habits: plan ahead
To-do lists will become your best friend. The best way to be productive is to know what you've got to do and write it down in a prioritised or timetabled list. I like to write a to-do list in the evening for the following day, adding in any commitments/scheduled plans first, and then working in what else I want to achieve that day in the time I know I will have left available to me. Personally, I find great satisfaction in ticking things off, so this is what works best for me. This way, you know what you're doing when and what you'll have time for in between those things. You'll know to bring your book, you'll know when you've got time to workout, and you'll know when you've got time by yourself. Planning is the catalyst for productivity and for enforcing your productive habits.


So that's what I'm doing to try to become more productive. So far, so good.

Until next time.



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