Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Where Has This Last Year Gone?!

It's been almost a year since I wrote a full blog post. So what happened?

Well, the short answer is that I was struggling. I was organising our wedding and spending all our spare time and money on it, and working in a job I hated, and my mental health was at an all time low.

My brain was in overdrive, I wasn't sleeping well, and I had no motivation to do anything. I confided in a small group of family and friends who were very supportive, and my doctor was brilliant and really helped me to understand what I was going through.

I was given medication which really helped but I knew that the root cause of it all was my work and that was something I needed to change, but I felt trapped. My husband Allan and I worked shifts which were structured to enable us to look after our daughters without paying for childcare. But because of how well our shifts worked together it wasn't going to be easy finding a role which fitted in.

But things started to look up! I started working for Temple Spa as a consultant and I instantly loved the freedom to work around my day job and family. Allan found a new job with more opportunity and flexibility.

We got married in August and had a fantastic time celebrating with all of our loved ones! A week later we flew off to spend almost two weeks in Singapore and Bali and we had the most fantastic, luxurious trip. A real holiday of a lifetime!

After we returned the next few months flew by with the Christmas rush, and in February I turned 40!

I decided that this would be a turning point and that I'd take steps towards achieving some goals. I trained in skincare and nails and opened a completely cruelty-free home salon. I concentrated on things that would make me happy and worked on improving my self care. Every day I spent time applying for jobs but the market is tough and I was getting nowhere.

I was finally invited to one interview but it was the one company I really wanted to work for. I was so worried that I'd mess it up but, a few days later, I was offered the job! I was absolutely ecstatic!

I was sad to leave my old work colleagues but so excited for my new adventure. I've now been working in my new role for a month and I absolutely love it! I've stopped taking my medication, my mood has completely lifted, my concentration and overall health have improved, and Allan has told me that I'm back to my old self!

So I've renamed and revamped the blog to reflect my new outlook and I hope you like it! I'll be focusing more on the things that make me happy, adventures with the family and whatever else life has in store!

Friday, 11 May 2018

Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge: April

It's been a really good month for my reading challenge as I read two great books, one modern and one classic.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

This book was not at all what I expected! After reading the blurb I thought it was going to be some easy reading Bridget Jones' Diary type thing about a single girl living a lonely existence until something tips the balance and she falls in love. But it's so far from the superficial book I expected, it's actually a dark story about dealing with trauma and mental health interspersed with some real laugh out loud moments.

I absolutely loved it and constantly felt the need to tell Allan what was happening as if these were people I knew, possibly because there's so much information about Eleanor and the other characters. This could be someone you know, someone you work with, study with, or see regularly at your local corner shop. Everyone has a life and their own struggles and complexities, just like these characters.

I honestly couldn't put this down. There was so much I wanted to know and couldn't wait to find out, and the story was constantly changing direction away from where I expected. Most people I know that have read it love it too, although there are definitely holes that can be picked, but I try not to worry too much about that!

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I'm quite surprised that I haven't read Animal Farm before. I've had it on my shelves for quite a long time and picked it because it was short enough that I could read it on a weekend away at the end of the month.

I decided to go straight to the story, skipping the introduction and notes, as I knew it would be something I would want to research later and I wanted to take it at face value first. Even then it's a timeless story about misuse of power and the lies we tell others and ourselves, and how the best of intentions can easily be corrupted. It says a lot about human nature and I do recognise a few of these creatures!

Fundamentally this is a great, quick read without knowing or understanding the subtext of Orwell's political views.

Have you read any of these? I'd love to know what you thought! Find me on goodreads and let me know what you're reading too!

Monday, 9 April 2018

Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge: March

Three months in and I'm already slacking! So I took a bit longer than a month to read this book but, where did this month go?!

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

This book left me confused. You know when you finish a book and you close it, but you just feel a bit...shook?

The story itself is about Caraval, an macabre invite-only game where the audience compete for a wish, but nothing is as it seems and the cost for taking part can be high. Two sisters seize the opportunity to escape from their cruel father and win their freedom. I picked it as I was intrigued; it seemed magical and dark and romantic, and it definitely was all of those things. And I really enjoyed the story, the writing was very descriptive and it has this Alice In Wonderland feel to it.

But...the game was confusing and I wasn't really invested in any of the characters. The story had as many twists and turns as the game in it, so even when I thought I'd worked something out the goalposts changed! I think this was why it fell short for me, it lacked a bit of depth because it was always moving on to the next thing.

20th Century Fox have picked up the film rights so we might see it on the big screen and Caraval has the potential to be a great movie. The sequel novel "Legendary" is out in May.

Have you read Caraval? I'd love to know what you thought! Find me on goodreads and let me know what you're reading too!

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Wedding On A Budget: 5 Months To Go!

Only 5 months to go until our big day! I was so excited to hit that 6 months to go milestone and I kind of thought that it would bring on a flurry of activity but we're just too darn organised!

According to our guide list we should be:
- Ordering or making invitations
- Ordering our wedding cake
- Buying shoes and accessories
- Booking hair and makeup
- Buying bridesmaid and flowergirl dresses
- Booking our honeymoon suite

Because we're on a budget, and don't think the majority of people tend to keep them, we decided quite early on that we wouldn't have physical invites for the majority of our guests. Our wedding website Joy has the function to send customisable e-invites with guests rsvps also being digital. We have designed some printable invites to send to those guests who aren't online which is only about 4 families!

Our wedding cakes (yes, plural) have still to be ordered but we're on it, we just need to decide which flavours we want! We've put a poll on our private Facebook page so everyone can have their say!

We bought our bridesmaid and flowergirl dresses ages ago in the sales, and I bought my shoes last month in the sale too. Hair and makeup were booked around that same time. When you're on a budget timing is everything and you've got to grab those bargains while you can!

We won't be staying in a honeymoon suite because we live really close so we're just heading home (my parents have agreed to take the girls) and I quite like the idea of waking up to married life in our own home!

One big thing that did happen this month is that I lost a stone from my engagement ring (that one in the photo above). It was only ever meant to be a temporary one but I loved it because I remember us being newly engaged and picking it out together in Tenerife. Anyway, it was going to cost more to fix than it was worth so we headed to Goldsmiths again (where we got our wedding rings for free!) armed with more Tesco Clubcard vouchers which we've been collecting for two years and bought something similar but of much better quality with a substantial saving!

Otherwise we've been busy catching up with suppliers, speaking to guests to check if they need help booking accommodation and trying to organise transport. Allan's also picked out his outfit and I have no idea what it looks like! Sorsha went along to help but I wanted to keep it as a surprise, I can't wait to see how handsome he looks!

I think the 3 month mark will be a biggie and that's when it'll get really real! Did anyone else feel less busy that they thought they would? Am I just too casual about it all?!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge: February

This month I've started one book, decided that it's a bit of a thinker, a dip-in-and-out-of type book, so moved onto something completely different!

A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled by Ruby Wax

I remember Ruby Wax as a comedian, initially in Girls On Top in the 80s and through all her stand-up and presenting roles. Now she's taken her own experience with depression and her Masters degree in Cognitive Therapy from Oxford and written a book about Mindfulness. I haven't managed to get very far into the book because it keeps making me question things, like "What is my version of happiness?", "How can I deal differently with those situations from my past that mean nothing but appear in my head at 3am?" and "How can I remind myself that I'm content with the majority of areas in my life when I feel like I'm not?". See what I mean? Lots of brainwork going on!

Anyway, so far I'm really enjoying working on my mindfulness but this book will have to be carried over!

The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson

I picked this up just over a week ago because I liked the cover, and then I read the synopsis and was intrigued. It's actually a "young teens" book if we're labeling it and it deals with serious family issues like parents splitting up and abusive relationships in quite a soft, empathetic way that'll help the reader's understanding of them. The story itself is interesting and easy to read and just a really pleasant experience!

Have you read any of these? I'd love to know what you thought! Find me on goodreads and let me know what you're reading too!

Friday, 16 February 2018

The Giant Lanterns Of China At Edinburgh Zoo

Allan and I don't usually give Valentine's Day much thought, but this year it just so happened that Edinburgh Zoo was hosting a Giant Lanterns Of China event and one of the few remaining dates with tickets still available landed right on the 14th February.

I had seen some pictures on Instagram and I'm a sucker for pretty lights, so we bought a couple of tickets (children under 3 go free) and chose the revisit option so we have reduced price tickets to visit the zoo during the day before the end of April.

We packed the girls and lots of cosy clothes in the car and drove down. We had a quick picnic in the car (because the food ain't cheap in there!) and headed in. I was so glad that we picked a quieter day because we managed to view all the lanterns at our own pace and didn't have to squeeze our way in to see them.

Against the dark evening all of the lanterns were amazing, but I especially liked the peacocks, flowers and the dragon. Sorsha loved the lions and zebras. They also had a large area of light depicting the different animals in the Chinese zodiac. Allan is a rooster (which is so accurate!), Willow is a monkey (also very true!), and Sorsha and I are a couple of goats!

My absolute favourite display wasn't a silk lantern at all, it was the Qilins (chee-lins) who were made of thousands of individual glass bottles.

Towards the end there's a stage for regular performances by acrobats including plate-spinning, juggling and...well...acrobats! After standing in the cold for a while we decided to get a couple of hot drinks and dried up cakes in the cafe, hang the cost! Whilst I was at it I threw away some money by buying a spinning top that had lights and music because Willow was mesmerised by it. Needless to say it broke after one use.

Apart from that it was a really good event and the whole family loved it. If you can get tickets (I think only a few dates this month were still available when I checked) it's definitely worth seeing just make sure you wrap up warm!

Friday, 2 February 2018

Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge: January

At the beginning of this year I set myself the goal of reading a book a month. This doesn't seem like much but I have barely read a cereal box in the last year, let alone a book!  This month I've spent my spare time reading a book rather than my phone and completed two books!

The Image Of You: I Thought I Knew You. But You're A Liar by Adele Parks

This is my first Adele Parks book and I found it really easy to read. Unfortunately I guessed the plot quite early on which spoiled it for me and meant that the middle chapters dragged. But I think the idea of the book is good so if you don't guess the storyline, this should be an enjoyable read.

The Keeper Of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

This book is a lovely read and so full of charm and detail that I could visualise every detail. I loved the characters and how their stories intertwine, and the stories of all the found items. There's a real romance to this book that made my heart happy.

Find me on goodreads and let me know what you're reading!

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Maira Gall