Hello 2018

Some of the best books I read in 2017 were classics and books that many people believe should be read by everyone before they die. Due to this I decided to create a reading list challenge for myself for 2018. It features more of the classics, books I bought years ago and haven’t gotten round to reading plus books that my friends believe everyone should read and that they generally loved. I posted across different social media asking for suggestions of books of any genre that people believe to be must-reads and created this list that I will be trying my hardest to finish before the end of the year.

  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  • 1984 – George Orwell
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
  • The Last Piece of My Heart – Paige Toon
  • When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – Dai Sijie
  • The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
  • The Bean Tree – Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
  • The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • The Book of Dust – Philip Pullman
  • N’oublier jamais – Michel Bussi
  • Maman a tort – Michel Bussi
  • The Light Between Oceans – L. Stedman
  • Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom
  • Parsnips, Buttered: How To Win At Modern Life, One Email At A Time – Joe Lycett
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ – Gail Honeyman
  • Attachments – Rainbow Rowell
  • Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell
  • Holding Up The Universe – Jennifer Niven
  • The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Cien años de soledad – Gabriel García Márquez
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
  • Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
  • And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini
  • El tiempo entre costuras – María Dueñas
  • The Waves – Virginia Woolf
  • The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  • The House of the Spirits – Isabel Allende
  • Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
  • Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  • I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai
  • Twelve Years a Slave – Solomon Northup
  • The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
  • White Teeth – Zadie Smith
  • Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman
  • The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
  • The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

Thank you to everyone who suggested something and stay tuned for updates and reviews.


Goodbye 2017

  • I will watch a TV series in Spanish – I haven’t managed to finish a series in Spanish but I have started Chicas de Cable – a drama about the phone operators in Madrid in the 20s – on Netflix and I intend to finish it and watch the second series that has just been put on.
  • I will read at least one book per month – The main purpose of this was to make myself read more generally throughout the year, which definitely worked, but there were a few months where I ended up reading nothing which I hope I am able to rectify next year and ensure I don’t go quite as long without reading.
  • I will read a book in Spanish – This didn’t happen. I bought myself and Agatha Christie novel in a second hand bookshop in the hope that if it was something I would probably read in English I would feel more encouraged to read it in Spanish but that didn’t work. I read 2 pages of it a few weeks ago before bed and then forgot about it again, maybe I’ll finally get round to reading it next year but we shall have to wait and see.
  • I will see more of Spain – In a way this did happen, inadvertently, but it did happen. While living in Spain I got to see more of Galicia and in October I finally visited the south of Spain on a family holiday to Granada. I’m hoping that next year I am able to visit some friends in Spain before they leave in May and see a little more of the country I have called home more than once.
  • I will try to be more adventurous with foods – cooking and eating. – The one thing I can take away from 2017 is that I now eat raw tomatoes which was bound to happen at some point and it probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that they were introduced to my diet on toasted bread rubbed with olive oil.
  • I will spend less time on my phone. – In order to tackle this one I had a 2 week cleanse from social media in August that curbed the use of my phone. However, I have definitely found that recently old habits have begun to creep back in so I am planning another break in the New Year.
  • I will try meditation. – I downloaded headspace early on in the year and completed the free 10 day trial but didn’t feel that it helped enough to fork out for the premium.
  • I will watch more sunrises. – Not as many as I would have liked but this will be an ongoing challenge for the rest of my life.
  • I will become more confident in my ability to speak Spanish while continuing to improve it. – I definitely found towards the end of my time in Spain that I had become a lot more relaxed about my Spanish especially around my flatmate and the teachers I worked with at school.
  • I will try not to get too caught up with money – as long as I have the money to pay for my rent and survive I will be fine. – Ugh, money. I’m not sure whether this will ever be entirely possible but I was able to save enough to visit New York and not have to think too much about money while I was there.
  • I will take just as many, if not more, photos and try to actually finish a scrapbook – Anybody who has ever spent any time with me knows that I still take hundreds of photos but I am yet to finish a scrapbook.
  • I will appreciate just how fortunate I am to have the opportunities I have – “2017 has been full of ups and downs” is a phrase I’ve seen everywhere for the past few days as people reflect on the past 12 months. It’s likely that most people feel the same way. 2017 has been absolutely insane for the planet but everybody has those little things that make that insanity more bearable; whether it was a holiday, an engagement, a birth or just more good times with the people you love. Here’s hoping that 2018 is full of more of the good times and less of the bad news and that everybody is able to enjoy the little things that make life great.

My Social Media Cleanse

I recently embarked on a 2 week social media cleanse. This is not a new, revolutionary concept; more and more people are taking time away from social media as it becomes intrinsically linked with our generation. I began every morning with the same routine before I was even fully awake; Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Timehop and occasionally Twitter or Pinterest depending on how much time I had before I needed to get up. If I had nothing planned for the day I would then circle back and repeat, checking for any new updates and if none were available I would take to the Instagram explore page and just start scrolling. Sometimes I would look at my watch and realise an hour had just passed and I had achieved absolutely nothing – I couldn’t even check a TV show off my ever growing mental list.

Again, although the order of apps may differ, I know I am not alone in this. We have become dependent on a range of social media pages and apps – I have even been known to cite something I’ve seen on one of these pages as news. I have been aware of my dependency on it for a while but seemed unable to cut back. It wasn’t until I changed my profile photo on Facebook and found myself unnecessarily disappointed with the number of likes that I knew enough was enough. There was no way I would be able to delete my accounts as I use them to stay in contact with family and friends but I knew I needed a break. After discussing it with my friends on a Saturday evening, I woke on Sunday morning feeling that yet again I was going to let it pass and continue as normal. However after lunch something seemed to click and I started deleting apps off my phone and my iPad and blocking the main offending sites on my laptop. I decided to keep WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger in order to stay in contact with close friends and my sister and after restoring chrome to its basic settings on my phone – so that it wouldn’t remember my login details – it had begun.

Over the two weeks I wasn’t able to stay off completely and after the first week I logged back in to each to check on notifications and upload photos before logging out again and deleting the apps. Towards the end of the next week I began periodically logging in for 5 minute stints before logging back out again which is when I finally began to realise that I no longer felt the need to scroll for hours on end. Since finishing the cleanse I’ve placed limits on myself –not checking in the morning when I am likely to scroll and forget to do anything else with my day and only having the apps on one device. I’ve also managed to use the time I would normally spend scrolling for more productive things such as checking the actual news and reading more books.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s something everyone should do as not everyone was as reliant as I was but it definitely helped to cut it out completely for a while and has definitely made me feel happier and less reliant since.

Women of the World, We Have A Voice

I have had it with this week, and it’s only Thursday. 

The last 2 days I have been overwhelmed with sexist bullshit from each and every angle with it all getting too much yesterday evening. The afternoon began with discussions about Girl Up with Katie. We had open and frank discussions about victim shaming and consent, talked about individual experiences and continued our overflowing love fest for Girl Up. I had also spent the afternoon catching up with the latest Broadchurch – for anybody who hasn’t been watching, this series has been dealing with a serial rape case and it is gripping. The thing I have loved is the way they are shining light on the way victims are treated by their peers and people who should be helping them. Since the first episode they have had characters ask the same preposterous questions that people ask all the time “was she drunk? What was she wearing? She had been very sexually active so maybe she was asking for it?” AKA victim-blaming bullshit. The victim should never be blamed. 

It was after this that I started to notice that my Facebook was loaded with misogyny and sexism. The daily mail front page focussing on Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon’s legs instead of the very real possibility of Scotland becoming a completely independent country. United Airlines not allowing a group of young girls onto a flight as they weren’t dressed “appropriately”. The man who abused his wife, hitting her with a cricket bat and forcing her to drink bleach, being given a suspended sentence as the judge didn’t think the victim was vulnerable as she was an intelligent, educated woman with a lot of friends. 

Everywhere I looked I was surrounded by stories of sexism and misogyny and it infuriated me. Each one of these stories is yet another reason why we need feminism. We live in a society where inequality for women has become the norm. So normal in fact that people don’t realise when they are being sexist or they refuse to believe there is inequality at all. The best way to try and move forward is education, it needs to be discussed in schools with children and teenagers who are still trying to work out who they are in this world. But it needs to start even before that so that young girls aren’t being told they can’t play football and they aren’t strong, while at the same time young boys aren’t being told they can’t like princess films and playing with dolls. 

The world is full of inequality, a lot of it is difficult for us to change but every thing starts small and every little thing helps to contribute to the bigger movement. So let the small discussions become big discussions and let’s try and help gender equality move forward. 
The title of the post comes from Lessie – Daughters which you can listen to here: https://youtu.be/xqmEInn9pKc 

Feminist is not a dirty word

Today is international women’s day – yass women. However my joy over the day was somewhat stilted when I saw a quote from Katy Perry posted by some man on instagram which read “I’m not a feminist but I believe in the strength of women”. Great, so you believe in the strength of women but don’t believe they should be given equal opportunities, given equal rights, treated equally. That, in its simplest form, is feminism. The oxford dictionary defines feminism as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of equality of the sexes”. It isn’t the idea – that is held by many – that feminists hate men, have to grow their armpit hair and live in a commune with other feminists. Maya Angelou once said “I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side”. That is what feminism is – supporting other women in the fight for equal rights for all women. And that’s what it is, it’s a fight. And this is the time to come together and keep pushing for equality. Women should be able to live their lives the way they want to. Girls should be taught that they can do anything they put they mind to, because they can. Want to be a architect? Great. Want to be a hairdresser? Excellent. Want to be a world leader? You go for it girl. 
Women are fantastic. We are strong, intelligent and brave. We should be supporting each other so that when we’re faced with misogyny and sexist bullshit, we have each other for support and encouragement. 

I am a feminist – because feminist is not a dirty word. 

Invest in Yourself 

When Katie arrived back after Christmas she told me she had only one New Year’s resolution: to invest in herself. For her this meant taking more time out for cooking, travel more and refocus a little with her Spanish learning. At the time I wasn’t convinced. I had just written my own resolutions and was trying to focus on them. However over the past few weeks I’ve been giving it a lot more thought. The list of bucket list resolutions I wrote at the beginning of the year fall under the idea of investing in yourself and I definitely feel like it’s a resolution everybody should give some thought to. I had a look through a range of different Pinterest and blog posts to see how other people were trying to invest in themselves. The results were fairly similar; read more, drink more water, meditate, spend less time on phones, etc. These were ideas I had already thought about and had either taken steps to achieve or was trying to take steps towards – I’m finding the phone one way more difficult than it should be. One goal I found that I thought was interesting was to practice positive affirmations and after finding this article it’s something I am going to try – no harm in trying to strengthen your mind.

The main area I knew I needed to invest more time, energy and a little money in is my health. So over the weekend I focused most of my energy onto this in order to give it a good and productive start. I bought my first pair of actual trainers in years, I did my Davina DVD 3 times – the trainers have allowed me to start doing the aerobics section again – and I started the 30 day squat challenge. I also paid more attention to my meal plan and then made my meals for the week to reduce the chance of excuses and falling back on pesto pasta. Over the past few years I’ve found that although at the start it’s great to cut out everything that’s bad for you, after a few weeks you resent the lifestyle you’ve started to embark on and end up binging on everything you’ve missed. The same goes for cheat days. I’ve decided not to put too much pressure on myself. I’ll have bad days but I’ll also have really good days that will motivate me to keep going. I’ll still be having crepes once a week and I doubt I’ll be able to resist the churros that come with my cup of tea but maybe I’ll stop buying croissants that I don’t really enjoy just to fill some time.

I’m also hoping that by writing all this down it’ll push me to continually return to the phrase “Invest in Yourself” and refocus my mind about what I want to achieve; a happier, healthier me.

Galentine’s Day

Galentine’s day has very quickly become one of my favourite days in the year. It was created for the TV show Parks and Recreation in 2010. It is best described by Leslie Knope as ” the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and boyfriends at home and just come kick it breakfast style. Ladies celebrating ladies.” I first watched Parks and Recreation in 2014. “Watched” is probably putting it quite lightly – for a month or so at the beginning of my final year I watched little else and I was instantly obsessed.

With my obsession in full flow by February it was decided that we would celebrate Galentine’s day and it was excellent. I had only spent time with Else once or twice prior to the 13th but when Briony asked if it would be cool if she joined I of course said yes. It was the evening that Else and I became Facebook friends and the evening we became a trio, the Clan. It was also the evening that caused my first two day hangover but it was definitely worth it. Between us we drank a bottle of cava followed by 1l bottle of Gordon’s turned into a range of cocktails, we ate pasta bake – before Briony went full gluten free – and we discussed our lives. It was 100% the best evening of my university life in Hull.

Last year was when I became seriously committed to Galentine’s card making. I made and sent 6 cards – some with a load of heart shaped chocolates and other treats, all full of glitter confetti. Hannah and I then went for belated Galentine’s celebrations at Hop and Cleaver and I ate incredible chicken and waffles and we drank cocktails. Friends and cocktails; there is no downside to Galentine’s day.

This year i’ve sent 8 cards as my love for Galentine’s and my fave gals grows.

It has unfortunately fallen on a Monday this year meaning I can’t get ridiculously gin drunk but it will no doubt include some wine and waffles, and is sure to immensely improve a Monday.

My best friends and I rarely need an occasion to share our appreciation for each other. It spills out when one of us is a little drunk, sad or just feeling the love and turns into a fountain of compliments, reminiscing and joy. But the thing I love about Galentine’s is it’s a day dedicated to empowering, embracing and generally just loving your female friends. Women often forget how incredible close friends are; we get caught up in our daily lives, distracted by men or allow some little thing to break up a friendship. Female friendships are essential. They’re the people who are there for you when you’re upset, celebrating or having yet another breakdown about what you’re going to do with your life.

So next week appreciate the gals in your life, tell them what they mean to you and shower them with the love – and glitter confetti – that they deserve. Share the Galentine’s joy ❤️

New Year Bucket List

This year has been a whirlwind for most of the planet, everybody has seen all the memes on Facebook and many people are glad the year is coming to a close. 2017 will no doubt bring a whole new batch of challenges, upset and joyous occasions. The end of one year also brings with it the often heard, rarely done “New Year, New Me” resolutions- I am guilty of making a half arsed resolution at the beginning of January which by February I’ve already failed to keep. My hope is that writing these down will help with keeping them. I’ve tried to make them more like a bucket list for the next 12 months in a way to add to my life rather than stopping things that I do enjoy – like drinking wine.

  • I will watch a TV series in Spanish – probably El Tiempo Entre Costuras which caught my attention when I was originally in Spain in 2013/14 but was put off by the fact I couldn’t find it with English subtitles.
  • I will read at least one book per month
  • I will read a book in Spanish- I’ve read Spanish books for University but I tended to rely too heavily on the translation and I would love to be able to finish a book in another language
  • I will see more of Spain – this is constantly something I say then I rarely get round to committing to it as I’m spending too much time binge watching series on Netflix
  • I will try to be more adventurous with foods – cooking and eating
  • I will spend less time on my phone
  • I will try meditation – I have wanted to try meditation since I was told by a lecturer in my final year that it had helped another student with their oral exams and I keep downloading apps to try and deleting them after 10 minutes
  • I will watch more sunrises
  • I will become more confident in my ability to speak Spanish while continuing to improve it
  • I will try not to get too caught up with money – as long as I have the money to pay for my rent and survive I will be fine
  • I will take just as many, if not more, photos and try to actually finish a scrapbook
  • I will appreciate just how fortunate I am to have the opportunities I have

Bloody Brexit

This week the teacher I work with in secondary asked if she thought her daughter should spend a term in England to improve her English when the opportunity arises. Thinking she was simply asking if it would be a good idea, I told her yes of course. “But with the situation in England like it is at the moment, do you think she should go?”  It was then that the penny dropped and my stomach with it. She wasn’t simply asking if her daughter would enjoy it or if it would be beneficial to her studies. She was asking if I thought her daughter would be safe in England; the country where I grew up, the country I love dearly, the country where my family continues to grow and prosper. I tried to reassure her that as a student she would be fine – she would be surrounded by open-minded young people who enjoy experiencing other cultures and broadening their horizons. I tried to tell her it would be great but inside I was horrified. I was horrified mostly because at the moment, after the last few months, the question is completely valid. It isn’t an outrageous thing for a mother to think that her daughter, a European national, wouldn’t feel as safe in England as she once would have.

Brexit brought with it a whole host of uncertainties, nearly 6 months later and no one seems to be any the wiser as to what is actually going to happen. But one sure thing that came almost instantaneously after the vote is the outrageous notion that racism is ok. Over the past few months there have been numerous news stories about non-UK nationals, and some UK nationals who happen to have a foreign-sounding name or be of a different race, being attacked in the UK. In July of this year, there was 41% increase in hate crimes compared to the same month the year before. That figure is staggering. It makes me nervous about our future, scared for others who may experience what is becoming more and more frequent and furious at those who feel this is acceptable.

The other auxiliares and I have all noticed the sheer amount of willing on behalf of the teachers we work with to make us feel welcome while we’re living away from home. The fact that when that is reversed and someone from outside the UK gets a job to help better whatever field they are working in they don’t feel the same sense of warmth that we experience here is outrageous. We the British people need to ensure this doesn’t carry on any longer; it isn’t acceptable and people need to realise that it should not be tolerated.

These are a few of my favourite things

This is not my regular weekly update blog. That will still be posted on Saturday/Strictly Day as normal. After spending days watching videos and trawling through websites looking for ideas for my presentation on Bonfire Night over the weekend I began to realise I am actually feeling a little homesick. It all seemed to happen very quickly, one minute I was fine, the next I saw a picture for November on Instagram with a little drawing for Bonfire Night and I realised that I would not be spending it in England. There’s something about Bonfire Night and autumn in England in general that I just love. Maybe I’m idealising it as I’m not able to experience it this year and it’s still roasting during the days here so unlike when I lived in La Rioja I feel like autumn is almost non-existent this year. Last night as I was trying to sleep I began thinking of all the little things that I don’t fully appreciate at the time but as soon as I’m away from home, they’re the things I miss first. This is essentially just a list of those things as I wrote them down so I was able to actually get some sleep last night.

  • My Dad’s Sunday dinner – this is a big one as it brings with it both family and the best comfort food on the planet, gravy.
  • Drives in the Northumbrian countryside with my Mam – generally hand in hand with singing Dolly Parton.
  • Cosy nights in with the fire burning and a big glass of wine in my hand – at least I still have the wine.
  • On car trips when my Dad looks in the rear view mirror, gives me a big grin and asks if I’m ok – this is generally followed by “Do you want a mint?”
  • Shopping trips with my Mam – for clothes
  • Shopping trips with my Dad – for food
  • When Roisin comes home for a few days and we inevitably have an argument within the first hour of her being home but then spend the entire evening chatting till one of us falls asleep
  • Re-watching Parks and Recreation with Niall – thanks Dave
  • Watching my Grandma wave till we’re at the end of the street after any time we’ve been to visit.
  • Big cuddles from tiny people – these are becoming rarer as the boys are all getting too cool for cuddles and Olivia is still not overly enamoured with me but hopefully new baby Dwyer will be hug lover
  • Watching rom-coms I’ve seen hundreds of times with my Mam

And on that note, I’m going to snuggle back into bed and watch While You Were Sleeping.