Last year was great for my reading list, which I posted here. I think reading as much as I did last year helped my mental health and the clarity of my mind, especially some of the cognitive symptoms I suffer from with my chronic condition. I should say I’m not advocating for all chronic sufferers to read as much as possible by no means – that is incredibly damaging. I’m merely saying my reading whether it be a few pages of a chunky book, some light poetry or even an audio book on bad days, when I physically couldn’t read or even hold a book, really helped me get through the year. It’s a mixture of this, the escapism books gave me through the year, and some of the books I have received that have got me so excited for this year of reading; and with that I wanted to share some of them here.
Flower Crowns & Fearsome Things, Amanda Lovelace: I recently received this in the post, have had a brief flip through it and I’m so excited to get into this read. I do love a bit of Lovelace’s work so I can’t wait to see what this book has in store.
Catherine de Medici, Leonie Frieda: This has been on my shelf for some time. Long time readers will know that I love a fierce, trailblazing female from history and I do usually have a history read on the go at any given time. Last year I read a few reads like this but I’d say my last big, chunky ‘fierce-female‘ book was probably The Favourite so I think it’s about time we change that. I also have been holding off reading this for a while too as I listen to a lot of podcasts featuring historical women, like Queens Podcast, Vulgar History, & The History Chicks, all of which I think have done episodes on Catherine de Medici so I needed time for that information to kinda fizzle away in my brain to truly enjoy reading this book. I think now is the time!
Mostly Hero, Anna Burns: I love these little books – they are so perfectly sized for my small handbag and so ideal to just pull out to read whenever. I try to look for these little guys whenever I’m in a bookstore but I do have a few on my shelf I need to catch up on reading: this being one of them.
Pillow Thoughts IV & All Dogs Are Good, Courtney Peppernell: As I have mentioned on this space before, I love Peppernell’s work – especially her Pillow Thoughts Series and I recently read her book Watering the Soul so I’m definitely on a ‘Peppernell-kick‘.
The Gift of Everything, Lang Leav: Having read a few more of Lang Leav’s books I’m definitely noticing that I enjoy and relate to her more recent work more so than her work at the beginning of her career so I’m really eager to read this newest addition.
The Story of Beatrix Potter: Her Enchanting Work and Surprising Life, Sarah Gristwood: Beatrix Potter has been the ultimate role model for me since I was about six or seven. My family has friends in the Lake District who we’ve visited throughout my life and been to the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction quite a few times. I’ve also read so much about her life over that time too, so I feel like this might overlap with a lot of the knowledge I already have about her but I simply couldn’t resist this one. I hadn’t heard of this book until the man queuing in front of me at Waterstones had it and I did kinda pounce on him (…in a socially distanced way) to ask what the title was.
Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs, Paul Koudounaris: Odd, I know. I bought this with a Christmas voucher and I’m already half way through the first chapter. It’s such a fascinating read. The title and visual of the cover make it sound a lot more odd than what it actually is. It goes into the Catholic faith and how these figures, believed to be martyrs, were being used as relics after the protestant reformation. I have to say it has been far more interesting than I expected when I first purchased it.
There we have it. A few books that I’m so so so excited to read this year. These are just a handful I have selected, I do have more strewn around my room but these are the ones that immediately come to mind when I think about the books in my year ahead. I also have my eye on a few titles being released this year such as the impending seventh book in the Frey & McGray Series as well as the final book in the you are your own fairytale trilogy by Amanda Lovelace unlock your storybook heart so no doubt those will be mentioned here soon.
Let me know what you’re excited to read this year – I’d love to find some more for my list!
Oof, I don’t know where to start with this beautiful place – yes, yes I just used the word beautiful to describe a cemetery. You’re thinking I must be mad, but give me chance to sway you. I should start at the beginning and in a way, explain myself.
I’ve always been drawn to the darker, more macabre things of history. I love reading about the more gruesome parts of history, especially anything to do with the concept of death and how people from different cultures or time periods honoured their dead. With this in mind, when I first came across the site Atlas Obscura I instantly fell in love but when I came across the cemeteries, specifically London’s Magnificent Seven it was like I could hear the angels singing to me (metaphorically).
Now this was all a few years ago, before even Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (filmed there) came out and it plucked a bit more interest. Highgate along with so many other places in London, had slipped off our radar for a while. We kept saying we needed to do more days out in London but for some reason or another, time slipped by and nothing happened. Until November when bearded boyfriend booked a day off work and we were soon on the train to Highgate, ready to explore every inch of it.
We booked ourselves on a tour of the West Cemetery but got there a little early to explore the East Cemetery, where we knew Karl Marx was waiting for us. While this part of the cemetery wasn’t as impressive as West Cemetery it was still impressive and I think we definitely made the right decision by heading here first.
East Cemetery was simply a sea of headstones and sculptures mixed with nature taking over but on a scale that I’d never seen before, even in photography. Like the West Cemetery, the east is laid out with pathways as well as still having the older, original pathways winding between graves; rippling up and rotting in areas from age. The majority of these were camouflaged in ivy and other foliage with only a danger sign to warn of their presence. I mention these pathways as even the path land was utilised, being used as common graves and marked with a simple wooden cross.
The East Cemetery was added as an expansion of the West in 1854, which then formed the East and West labels. The road dividing the two sites became an issue with the chapels being in the gatehouse on the West site. The victorians however, found a dignified way to get around this and transferred the coffins after funerals through an underground tunnel using a hydraulic lift that was built in 1855. This has since gone.
Among the many at East Cemetery, there are some more well-known names. One of the most famous is Karl Marx, the philosopher and socialist whose body was exhumed from his original place and moved by the communist party in 1954. You can still find him in that same spot, where you’ll also see his bronze bust along with his words in gilded lettering ‘Workers of all lands unite‘ and ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways – the point however is to change it‘. What also struck me about Marx’s marble plinth was how it was still adorned with flowers from his admirers today, and how many were visiting there just for him. It’s also the resting place for Mary Ann Evans, more commonly known under her male writing name George Eliot. She’s best known for her classic novel Middlemarch as well as her unconventional home life of living with her partner for over twenty years while he was still married to another woman before moving on to marry a man twenty years younger than her –such scandal! Some other famous names include the civil rights campaigner Claudia Jones who fought against imperialism and racism throughout her life, and Malcolm McLaren who aptly has the engraving of his own words ‘Better a spectacular failure, than a benign success‘.
I think what is worth noting is that of the original ‘Magnificent Seven‘ cemeteries, Highgate is the only one owned and organised by a charity, while the rest have all been taken over by local councils. While it’s a great thing for all of these sites to still be around and accessible to the public, I wanted to highlight this fact about Highgate because as much as it is a bit more of an alternative ‘attraction’, it’s through their tours and admission that this site is maintained; and can ultimately remain open to the public.
I would recommend this to pretty much anyone. As I’ve said, at face value it does sound like an odd day out and some would say a pretty morbid thing to do but it was truly fascinating. Even my own mother (whose ideal day out is at the shopping centre or even zoo) found it interesting as I raved about our tour there. I found the whole experience so fascinating and will happily talk about this place for hours to whoever will listen to me.
I do have a post coming on the West Cemetery – a much longer, detailed post so brace yourself and stay tuned for that!.
As time goes by, I am increasingly reminded of the importance of self-care. I think it is one of those things as a teenager you deem as a face mask or lay in on a Sunday morning, but as you get older the meaning changes. For me, self-care holds immense importance for a number of reasons. The main two being when I’m stressed or feeling drained. I think self-care is being pushed to the forefront of a lot of peoples minds these days. Living in such a fast-paced word can often become exhausting and it’s important to look after yourself in your everyday routine, but even more so when you are feeling run down.
I think the pandemic and how we were forced to slow down, brought up a lot of thoughts and feelings for everyone. Right at the beginning, you know that odd period of time where everyone was a bit stunned and didn’t quite know what to do with themselves, we were all forced to be still and naturally that caused a lot of discomfort for so many of us. Looking back, I definitely indulged in some serious self-care practises throughout that period and I think some of them have really stuck with me since so I thought I’d share them with you all today.
Here are just a few things that I like to do when I’m in need of a little care:
Get the zzz’s: In my opinion, there is nothing better than heading to bed early when you are in need of some extra TLC. It honestly is one of my little pleasures in life: doing my nighttime skin routine, turning my phone on silent and plugging it in the other side of the room and then sliding into bed at nine o’clock (yes, I’m worse than a grandma). But honestly, I can’t recommend this step enough. It is truly luxurious.
Put the Phone Away: Not just in the evenings, but even at weekends or on your day off. I find technology extremely draining when I’m feeling low. It’s like a huge black-hole sitting waiting to suck me in. Checking my emails, leads to replying to ten, checking instagram leads to hours of dog videos and all around its not okay for my self-care. It is also really disheartening when you see everyone living ‘their best lives‘ on instagram while you are going through a rough patch.
Have a Bath or Pamper: Whatever you prefer, bath or shower, indulge a little and give yourself a pamper. I like to stick on a podcast and slide into a warm bath.
Read a Book: Disconnect from everything around you and submerge yourself in a fictional world for a few hours. Fiction not for you? Pick up an autobiography you’ve been meaning to read or if books aren’t for you put on a podcast, audio book or maybe just some tunes on in the background. My point is, it’s nice to tune out for a few moments.
Be Around a Furry Friend: There is something incredibly soothing about being around animals. The love and joy they radiate is just contagious and you can’t help but feel lighter and carefree around them. As annoying as it is to have three dogs at every angle of me, nudging me while I try to cram in an extra chapter of my book: I have now come to see that as their signal to stop for the day. They usually nap while I work so them coming up and nudging me is almost their way of saying ‘it’s time to play’. And as any pet parent knows, it’s not just having them around that is soothing it is also the fact that you have to be in a routine and take them out. With my three dogs, I have to take those breaks to let them out in the garden or get them to the park. This responsibility makes me get fresh air and see daylight which has such a restorative effect on all of us.
Eat Well: Think of your body like a vehicle, if you don’t give it the fuel it needs it won’t work. Giving yourself some self-care does not include binging on crisps and chocolates as you rewatch friends and wait for your pizza to arrive. Believe me, you will feel much more nourished by preparing a healthy meal instead -plus cooking is therapeutic too!
Keep Your Living Space and Bedroom Tidy: You can’t truly take those moments for yourself when you are distracted by the clutter around you. I think your bedroom should be the main thing to focus on. You want it to be clean and tidy so that when it’s time to switch off, you can slide into those sheets without tripping over piles of washing or your mind making a list of everything you need to tidy up. Your living space, as a whole, should be your oasis. Somewhere you can turn off the business of the fast-paced life we lead.
Talk to friends: Taking the time to switch off and simply catch up with friends is such a lovely thing to do. Nothing quite beats taking time out to see your friends, chat for a few hours and have a few giggles too. This is especially true if you have a lot on your mind and want to unburden yourself or even get another persons perspective on a matter. It also helps to remind yourself that you are not alone.
So those are just a few of my self care ‘go-to’s’. I hope theres some helpful ideas here. What are yours?
Knitting has definitely became a saving grace for me throughout the beginning of the pandemic and ever since has just become an inherent part of my life now. It has done wonders for my anxiety to the point where my hands now feel a bit restless if I try to watch Netflix without knitting.
While there’s a lot of projects below, I’m using this post as a bit of a landing page for me to remind myself of all the great projects I could start when I complete something but also to keep it real in comparing projects. I’m trying to be a more sustainable knitter and what that means to me is knitting things that I may already have the wool for but that also align with my style and what I would actually wear in my day-to-day life. Some of the items below I know I have the materials for but I would be making them for friends or family members and it would merely be for my own practise rather than my own wardrobe. Although I know that I won’t be able to make all of the below this year, I still wanted to share these patterns with you lovely lot incase there’s any budding knitters out there who might benefit from these patterns.
I should note that this is in no particular order of importance, etc – I’ve simply listed them as I thought of them.
-The first project I’m working on this year is a piece commissioned by a best friend of mine. I got a message and photo over the festive period asking if I could make her a scarf like the one she had seen on instagram. She wanted pastel tones mixed with a bubblegum pink so I’ve been working on that for her and I’m working towards that being complete by mid-late February.
-For Christmas I was gifted two knit kits by Lauren Aston Designs; the ‘Simply the Vest‘ and the Dreamy Oversized Cardigan. I’ve done some knit kits by LAD before and love working with their super chunky yarn so I’m really looking forward to completing these kits. I’ll be making the vest in Emerald green and the cardigan in Ruby red.
-I have this unfinished project from last year, Miffy and her balloon; all I need to do is knit her dress and then that will be complete.
-I made this Bubble-stitch Cardigan last year but it turned out waayyy too big (my mom and her friend both fit in it at the same time!) so it was quickly unravelled it and stored away the materials. I’d like to try it again this year, paying more attention to the sizing and my tension gauge. I would say this is the main project that I would really like to complete this year.
-I got this pattern last autumn and then received pony beads for my birthday for this project so I really wanna get this made by early spring. The pattern requires Aran yarn which I find has more body and structure to it and while it’s only a simple stocking stitch, I wonder if it would be a good option for spring time. I have a navy wool I’d like to work with and then do multi-coloured beading throughout.
-I bought this cross-stitch pattern on Etsy just under a year ago to work on for my granddad who loves VW Beetles and is a huge Herbie fan. I started this project last year and I’m about two-thirds through it so it shouldn’t be long until it is complete now.
-I would really like to work on my colour-working a bit more this year. Last year I made this Rainbow Cardigan by Paintbox Yarns (the adult version though) which I love but it was definitely a learning curve for me with the colour-work. This year I’d love to expand on that a bit more. I made this Beetlejuice hat last year but I think I’d like to try this Grinch hat this year and then maybe take a go at making this stocking.
-Speaking of Christmas, I would really like to make the members of my family something for the festive season ’22. I’m not talking something big like ugly Christmas jumpers, maybe something like a bobble hat or even cracker crowns – I have a crown pattern from LAD so this would be a pretty easy project to do with minimal effort… and it could be something we keep for each year.
-I would like to make a cardigan or jumper to add to my collection but I’m unsure of whether I want it to be plain or patterned. I have a few plain options saved like this Basket Weave cardigan pattern and this Nonna Manmi cardigan pattern. I love how textured these pieces look, and I think it’s always good to practise different stitch patterns; especially factoring in gauge tensions, etc. I do however, really love the look of this Moon & Sun jumper (I’d probably do it in a navy and mustard), this Astro Vest but I have been going back and forth whether to take the plunge and do the JW Colour block Patchwork Cardigan that Harry Styles made oh so famous and fabulous. I go back and forth on this piece as the colours aren’t typically something I’d wear myself but I don’t know what other colour palette I would do it in – it does look like a really cozy fit of pattern though… what a conundrum.
-I have been following Alix Kramers work for some time. I absolutely love her Spoonie Top, but all her vest designs are so beautiful and on point for me. I would love to give either her checkerboard Grace’s vest a go or her Eat the Rich Vest – which always makes me smile. I do also love her Pop Art Cardigan Design. I just think she’s so insanely talented and would love to try her patterns out.
-Another great vest is this Space Face pattern by Andrea Arts on Ravelry. I’d really love to have a whirl at this at some point in the future.
-I recently bought this Coraline-inspired jumper pattern on Etsy. In some ways this is quite similar to the Moon & Star jumper that I previously mentioned – maybe I’m going through a star phase? I think before I do either of these projects, I’ll have to compare them and see which I’d prefer to do. I know this Coraline jumper pattern calls for use of both merino and mohair yarn which I believe I have only used two yarns at the same time once on a small project, so this is something I should think about.
-I’d like to try knit some sort of baby/child’s item like this cardigan… not expecting, just to try out some baby yarn work.
-And finally, I always have the goal of trying to learn how to crochet at some point. I say this mainly because I would love to be able to do granny-square projects but also I love the look of these patterns too: the last of us Ellie & Joel, Coraline Doll, and Shrunken Head Guy. We’ll see though. I’m so used to knitting now I wonder if I’d even be able to adapt to crocheting.
So that’s quite a long list – I definitely have some favourites and some patterns that I am mentally prioritising but I’m looking forward to just seeing how the year plays out. Stay tuned
2021 was a great year of reading for me. I really hit a great stride with my reading and the books I came across. Like my reading in 2020, I read a fair bit of poetry and discovered some new writers who I already have a list of their books that I want to read for 2022. I definitely delved into a lot of works other than plain old fiction which I am proud of and think I did a really good job of not only hitting my (altered) reading goal of 50 books, but surpassing it by doing 52 – proud bookworm!
So without further ado, these were my reads of 2021…
The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern: Ugh, this book. I have done a book review here on this one so you can read a bit more detail about it and my thoughts over there but I will just say this book for me was a bit of a let down. There were elements I loved and then ones that just didn’t work for me which was a little disappointing considering The Night Circus is one of my all-time favs.
The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One, Amanda Lovelace: This book is the second in the Women are Some Kind of Magic trilogy and it was both my favourite and least favourite in the trio. I’ve gone into it in more detail here but briefly, while I loved the female empowerment in it it sometimes overstepped that boundary line into ‘man-hating’ which I’m not a fan of.
The Binding, Bridget Collins: A huuuuge let-down and just overall disappointment. This book had been hyped up to be something that it just weren’t for me but I do have a post coming out soon which goes into the details in more depth.
The Mermaids Voice Returns in This One, Amanda Lovelace: The third in the Women are Some Kind of Magic trio and yes, it’s also detailed in this post here with the other two. While I enjoyed this last instalment to the trio, I would say that I wasn’t as connected to this material as the other two and that definitely clouded my enjoyment of it slightly.
The Timekeeper, Mitch Albom: This was a good read, a bit of a slow-burner and a bit choppy at times with the pacing but it still made for a good read. It followed three storylines connected by time and the timekeeper, and just held so many nuggets of wisdom that made you stop, think and feel throughout.
September Love, Lang Leav: Beautiful -yet another amazing addition to Lang Leav’s catalogue of published works. Her words are eloquent and personal but yet relevant and relatable. I can’t wait to read more of her work in the future.
2am Thoughts, Makenzie Campbell: This was okay-sh. It had some relatable and interesting entries to it but as a whole was a collection of one-liners and sentences strung together haphazardly rather than thought-out poetry.
within these four walls, mindfully Evie: This was a tough read for me at times. I went into it in more depth in this post here. As someone with the same diagnosis as Evie at times her writing stepped over into the ‘sh!t this is a bit too real for me‘ area and reading is a form of escapism for me, so it probably wasn’t the most enjoyable however I think it would be a great read for anyone. I would especially recommend this to those who are family members of a chronically-ill person because it would truly be enlightening for them.
The Dance of the Serpents, Oscar de Muriel: Right lets try not to overwrite this absolute gem of a book… Now, I have a book post here reviewing it in more detail but all I will say here is 5/5 stars from me. The ending messed with me a little but it didn’t take any enjoyment away from my experience of this book. I cannot wait until the seventh and final book to series (for now) comes out in February this year (…just realising that is next month -eeep!).
The Favourite: Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, Ophelia Fields: a very informative and well-researched read but it was quite stiff and dragged in large areas. It was also a bit too long for my liking. There were times when I thought I was reading something that was relevant to what comes next but in reality it was just more information in case you wanted it. I had to finish this through audible or I just wouldn’t have finished it.
break your glass slippers (you are your own fairy tale), Amanda Lovelace: Ugh, this book. This is the first in Lovelace’s you are your own fairy tale trio and this has to be, hands down my favourite of her works. It absolutely oozes female empowerment throughout with its consistent use of fairy tales, princesses and the reoccurring use of fairy godmother says. This is a wonderful start to Lovelace’s new trio.
Intimations: Six Essays, Zadie Smith: a bit of an impulse buy at the Waterstones check out but what a wonderful impulsive buy it was! Absolutely beautiful collection of writing full of little vignettes from throughout 2020. Really quite stunning and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of reading it. I went into more detail about it in this post here.
Twilight, Stephanie Meyer: ugh. a reread and total journey of nostalgia but so so good. Sometimes it’s just good to reread certain books – this took me back to when I first read it, as a twelve-year-old girl trying to fit into secondary school whilst also trying to figure out if I was team Edward or team Jacob.
New Moon, Stephanie Meyer: another reread of course. I actually have the LP of the movies soundtrack which I absolutely love so I did crack that out whilst reading a few times.
No Shame, Tom Allen: This book was brilliant. I would say it’s up there with my favourites this year and I even had to get it on audible too just to hear Tom Allens voice narrate his hilarious words to me. It was so insanely good and beyond hilarious! Ugh, I could talk forever about this book but I’ll just redirect you to thispost here where I got to gush about it a bit more.
I hope you stay, Courtney Peppernell: As you’ll go on to read, I have really enjoyed and fallen in love with Peppernell’s work this year but this one wasn’t as enjoyable as the others I have read. I would still recommend it but it just wasn’t my favourite.
shine your icy crown, Amanda Lovelace: A good second book to the new trio, you are your own fairy tale, but not groundbreakingly impressive. Having said that, this also had the same sense of female empowerment and unity as break your glass slippers; I especially liked the Big Sister Says pieces.
The Truth About Magic, Atticus Poetry: Some nice pieces but not up there with my favourites of the year. I would definitely revisit this in the years to come though – it seems like a body of work that would age well.
Tales of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald: A nice collection of some of Fitzgerald’s shorter fictional works. The Tale of Benjamin Button was included which was a really great read, especially given that I had only ever seen the film before.
Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury: ugh. so. bloody. good. I do have a post coming out with all my thoughts about this beautiful book. It was so much more than I could have ever expected and I anticipate it will be an annual autumn read for me from here on out.
Lamentation, C. J. Sansom: a recommendation from my grandfather. This is the sixth in the Shardlake series (I think) but I had no previous reading or knowledge of that fact. It was a slow burner but had so many plot twists and was a really great historical fiction read.
Shy: How Being Quiet Can Lead to Success, Annie Ridout: I am currently working on a post dedicated to this book. While there was some surface-level stuff in this, it also had so much great information and gems of advice that I really want to highlight and share so stay tuned for that!
7,300 Days, Isabella Mente: some beautiful pieces on depression and self-love but outweighed by traumatic and somewhat over-sexualised poetry for my own personal taste. My copy was also a used one with musings scribbled in pencil by the previous owner which made my reading so much more magical.
Magic Lessons, Alice Hoffman: This was an okay-ish read. It had elements that I really loved but there were other parts of the plot line that I could not get on board with at all. I haven’t read the four books that come after this though so maybe I’ll give those a go.
Introducing Marx, Rius: Having visited Highgate Cemetery (post to come!), my grandfather lent me this utter gem. This was such a great read! I felt so enlightened after reading this.
*Only Dull People are Brilliant at Breakfast, Oscar Wilde: a neat collection of the witticisms of Wilde and all that he embodied. A great little edition to keep on your person for light reading here and there. This was completed a few days into the new year so it is technically for next years list (oops) but I did start it this year.
*A Dance with Dragons 1: Dreams and Dust (A Song of Ice and Fire #5), George R. R. Martin: I started this book at the beginning of the year and I’m still yet to finish it – I know, it’s awful of me. I even got the audible to try make it more accessible and have less of an excuse not to read it but here we are so clearly that didn’t work out as planned. I will say that I am in the last quarter of it so you know, not far off but I really wanna get this done for 2022… and part 2!
I think for 2022 I want to read more books like Shy, the type of ones that help you grow and evolve a bit more but I would also love to read more informative, reference books. I already have a few to hand ready like this Art Nouveau one (I’m seeing the Klimt Immersive experience in August – covid permitting, so this will be a perfect read beforehand) and I also have a book called Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs which yes, I know sounds (and looks) weird but having read the first few pages already sounds absolutely fascinating so I cannot wait to devour that. I’m now wondering if I should write a To Be Read post… we’ll see. Anyways, I hope you all had a good year – particularly with your reading, watching, or whatever your thing is!
I think it would be an understatement to say that the past couple of years have been a bit of a stressful, and quite frankly, draining for us all at times. The spare days or moments I would get to myself here and there would soon be full of face masks, living off teapots and major relaxing (accompanied by binge watching Netflix). Netflix is sometimes (translation – always) enjoyed with tea and some form of treat. Whether thats a handful of Minstrels or popcorn, there is usually something to munch on. But looking back, I can’t help but wonder if it was really classed as self-care?
What is the definition of self-care?
I think self-care is an act which benefits your emotional, physical or mental health. Something which alleviates and nourishes your body leaving you feeling restored. The Cambridge English Dictionary’s websitestates self-care is an act of caring for oneself when they are ill or to prevent them from becoming ill. Clearly there are strong connotations pointing to health and wellbeing, and I think overall we are all aware of that: but the line between what feels good and what is actually good for us often becomes blurred.
Self-care has become very trend-driven for the past few years. These days it’s projected as more of a fad or hashtag doing the rounds on instagram. Portrayed through images of shopping deliveries, takeaways and numerous naughty treat yo’self snacks its no wonder we now assosciate frivolous online spending sprees with self-care. The root of all this comes down to two very different things: what feels good and what is good.
What feels good
For me what feels good aligns with our wants, desires, and what feels good in the moment. These things give us a satisfaction which is momentary and wears off quickly. It’s the late night takeaway, the pair of heels after you have reached a personal goal, or binge-eating junk while you marathon watch Gilmore Girls on your day off. These things are luxuries that you like to treat yourself with, and thats nice once in awhile but are they really classed as self-care? Self-love perhaps but I’m not sure I can say they fall into self-care.
What is good
What is actually good is connected to your wellbeing – your emotional, physical and mental health. Watching Gilmore Girls in the aftermath of emotional turmoil, like a break up, might help lift your spirits but you don’t have to bestow a ton of junk food on your body in the process. Instead grab a punnet of grapes to chow down on or plug the headphones in and watch it on your phone while your on the treadmill at the gym. I know it might not sound all that fun and it may not feel good in the moment but you’ll feel the benefits after and thank yourself later.
Ultimately, I think self-care is really all about making time for adopting healthier routines which will benefit all facets of our lives. Sure, treating yourself is fine and we all need it at times but lets not trick ourselves into thinking its self-care.
A few ideas for healthy self-care could be unplugging from wifi for a few hours and picking up your favourite book or mag instead, getting fresh air or exercising. Spending your Sunday doing meal prep for the following week, giving yourself an all-over body scrub or even just going to bed early. These things sound so simple and mundane but they truly are luxurious, and really epitomise self-care for me.
Way back, at the beginning of 2019 actually, I took part in what I can only describe as a digital detox. I had already deactivated my Facebook account months beforehand and had felt incredibly light since scrubbing that from my brain. The difference I felt in my mind and brain power after deactivating it was insane to me. I couldn’t believe it and so, I wanted to extend that to other areas too.
Since then I have done numerous digital detoxes. I typically do them whenever I feel overwhelmed and also, whenever I’m realistically able to do one. When I say digital detox I don’t exactly mean avoidance of digital devices. I still have my phone, my computer and tv but I delete my social media apps (no insta, YouTube, etc), my tv is only for a specific amount of time in the evening, and my computer is restricted to work and emails -no browsing anything online that could influence me. The only apps that I still use on my phone is audible and Spotify, which are where I listen to a lot of my podcasts and audiobooks. So it’s not an entire detox and some would probably say that I’m cheating but it’s important to be realistic and as a housebound Spoonie, I don’t think I could commit to a full detox at this time.
Having done a few of these detoxes now, usually for a few weeks at a time, I wanted to share some things that I’ve learnt from them. Some of these are quite obvious and then others really surprised me. Even just the experience of it and how clear my mind seems during a detox is amazing and something I would recommend everyone do at some point.
How much damn time I spend on meaningless apps
I always knew I spent far too long on apps like instagram and YouTube, even apps like Pinterest and Tumblr I could spend hours on. They’re like rabbit holes into the digital abyss that would take up so much of my time and before I know it an hour or so is gone and I really need to get sh!t done. By taking all those apps away, it made it all the more evident how much of my day is eaten up by mindless scrolling – it was an eyeopener! So much so that when I did finally have my apps back it made me more mindful of my use of social media and how long I spend on there.
Facebook doesn’t contribute anything to my life
While I had somewhat realised this before the detoxes, it became ever more obvious to me as time went on. Throughout the detoxes, I kept thinking about how I use social media apps and the roles each of them play in my life. I realised very quickly that Facebook just doesn’t contribute to my life. For people like my mom and her friends, its a way for them to keep up to date with one another’s lives even if they don’t have the time to physically see one another. For me, it became more burdensome. I’d be tagged in meaningless videos and status’ that really didn’t bring anything to my life, or if they did it was a more negative tone. I’d feel like I had to comment or acknowledge the tagged posts in some way, even if I didn’t like them which would feel tiresome but at the same time I didn’t want to be rude so it also felt somewhat fake.
Now I know this perhaps sounds very ‘first world problems’ and just outright rude of me, feeling burdened by having to comment to friends and families online, but I just realised that I much prefer seeing people. By not being involved on the Facebook scene I’m far more present when I do spend time with them and I really love that. When I ask about their trip away, I enjoy seeing how their face lights up that I remember and I’m interested in them and their experience. They usually pull out their phone and show me photos of what they’re talking about and telling me their funny encounters, etc. It’s far more fulfilling for me then swiping through and simply ‘liking’ them.
Instagram inspires me but also burdens me
I think there’s different ways in which people tend to use instagram, I have friends who use it in a very social way but for me it’s a little different. I follow a lot of independent businesses, especially those with a sustainable initiative and I absolutely love following activists and keeping in touch with the different ways in which they are striving the change this world. I find these figures so incredibly inspiring but while I love this kind of content, too much of it can be overwhelming; especially if something particularly poignant is happening in the social sphere such as the death of Sarah Everard. Instagram was inundated with posts of advice and ‘what to do’s’, and there was so much conversation around this topic that needed to happen. I know personally that this event and these posts conjured so many open conversations with my boyfriend. Quite often he would send me a post he’d seen with his thoughts which would open up a discussion about it. While I loved this and to my mind these conversations are how we will change society, it can get a lot. Every so often I find instagram too much and I need to take a time out. It’s not that I don’t want to interact or stay up to date with things, and I still care about whatever’s happening at that given time, but I also need to take time out to help my own mental health and I think that’s okay.
How valuable time is
Now it’s a bit of a cliché but digital detoxes have really taught me how precious time is. I’m not talking about time in the grand scheme of things but the little chunks of time. Those 10 or 20 minutes of scrolling here and there throughout the day when you’re on a break at work or between jobs or chores, etc. Those moments all add up and can make quite a sizeable chunk when you really think about it. I didn’t realise this until I scrubbed social media from my routine for the detoxes. Instead I’d spend those little moments doing other things like getting fresh air with the dogs in the garden, reading a few pages of a book, practising some mindfulness or even just doing a little bit of knitting. I noticed not only the difference in my time but also how that time spent elsewhere contributed to my mental health. It was refreshing to sit outside with the dogs, even when it was the colder months and I really loved those moments of stillness in practising mindfulness (the daily calm tracks with Tamara Levitt on the Calm app are godsends to me).
How many important tasks I can complete instead of being on my phone
This one is somewhat linked to the one above. It’s all too easy to get distracted by our phones and let the important tasks slip by. They don’t even have to be important but even chores and little things that need doing but all too often stack up until you need a full-on chore day. Instead of browsing my apps, I got into the the routine of doing a task off my list with a podcast or audiobook on. One of my favourite chores to do is set up my stall and try do some ironing while I have an audiobook on. I can enjoy the book while ticking a thing off my to-do list -which never would have happened had I still been sucked into all my apps.
While I know this list is by no means ground-breaking, I do hope that it gives you something to think about and maybe even inspire you to try your own digital detox. Everyone is different and uses technology in their own individual ways, especially since so many had to work from home during the pandemic, so be realistic if you want to try one and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Let me know your thoughts or your experience if you’ve tried a digital detox before.
Nikita Gill is one of the first modern poets who’s work I delved into when I first started getting into poetry. I remember seeing some of her work online years ago but it weren’t until I read Wild Embers that I really became entranced by her words. As I’ve mentioned here before, I got into poetry during the very beginning of the pandemic, when the world stopped and emotionally I just felt numb; and consequently didn’t know what to do with myself. Nikita Gill’s Wild Embers: Poems of rebellion, fire and beauty served as a welcome distraction and so I escaped into a new world of modern poetry.
I wanted to share a few books by Gill that I’ve read and fell in love with over the past couple of years
As I mentioned above, this was my first experience of Gill’s work: a collection of both poetry and prose. There’s a strong sense of validation and empowerment to her work. The language is both gentle and fierce, charged with so much emotion whether it be recognition, anger, rage, love, empowerment… I could go on. I also think her choice of words works beautifully in this work as it’s lyrical and there’s a musicality to the language which is incredibly moving at times. I love the themes she uses, especially those of rebellion and revolution; they definitely light that fire in you which is such a powerful thing. I also really appreciate Gill’s comparisons to nature and universe, an ongoing tool she’s also used in her other works, and how it relates to our acceptance and growth in personal ways. I think I’d characterise this work as very much ‘self-care-poetry‘: I cannot tell you how much solace and comfort that it brought me.
I had such a huge appreciation for her revisited, or should I say rewritten, fairytales and goddesses in her writing. She slightly changes the classic tales from mythology and princesses to show them in a feminist light and highlight how toxic society can be – which was so refreshing and truly enjoyable to read. I hate to leave this section on a bad note but my only little niggle was the fact that it was slightly repetitive in areas. Rather than a growing development and ‘journey’ through the different themes, it became tiresome as it flipped back and forth and dwelled on some of them. Ultimately though, I would say that this is a great first read to test the waters with Gill’s work and I’d definitely recommend it to any avid poetry reader or poet themselves.
This is Gill’s most recent book off poetry and my second read of her work. Written as the world went into lockdown, there’s strong themes of loneliness and mental health throughout it. I found it incredibly poignant as it explores so many emotions that we, as a collective society, experienced to such extremes through this period of time. It explored the moments of isolation, fear and despair, hopelessness and hurt, depression and darkness, and anxiety and exhaustion. As I mentioned previously Nikita Gill’s work always seems to have strong imagery of the universe throughout, but this book also included imagery of constellations and the universe which was a nice change. I think the majority of us had a tough time through the lockdowns especially the very beginning of the pandemic, however I think even if you had an easy time and breezed through it, you’d be hard pressed not to feel touched and emotional from Gill’s work depicting this time. I personally found it a bit too much at times. I read this as they started to slowly ease our third lockdown and while there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel, it definitely didn’t feel like we were out of the woods; so at times I had to put the book down for awhile to recharge before I could continue on.
I only had a few issues with this book. While I did find it inspirational and it created a sense of hope and optimism towards the end, at times it was a bit too spiritual and godly for my liking but I wouldn’t say this ruined my reading of the book as a whole. Also I’d say sometimes it read more so as affirmations than poetry which, while still powerful, wasn’t what I expected or wanted from this book.
This is the most recent book of Gill’s work that I have read. I found it quite a cathartic read as it definitely explores a lot of wounds and trauma, especially that of mental health. I felt as though it took me to the darker, more damaged parts of myself and then gave me safe and more comforting words to heal. I definitely felt like this book was more of a journey than the other books above. It had a bit more melancholy to it and was very much a ‘wallow-hollow’; which looking back felt as though it tore you down to build you back up. Having said this, there’s a connection through the trauma and turmoil that these poems explore which I think many could relate to. It deals themes such as trauma, healing, self-care and hope so I think it would appeal to a wider range of readers, across all age-groups.
This book is split into eight sections, The Anguish, The Descent, The Acceptance, The Defiance, The Survival, The Worship, The Wonder, and The Beginning, which makes it a bit easier to pick up and put down as and when you need to. Gill also draws on the classic Greek Gods and mythology in The Worship section of this book too, such as Narcissus, the Minotaur, Athena & Medusa, Orpheus & Eurydice, etc, which is a nice layer to the book. Overall, I loved this book. The language was simple but used with such weighty subject matters and themes that it felt like an extremely profound experience. I think the simplicity of Nikita Gill’s language too adds to an effortless effect; it hits all the right notes without trying.
While I loved all of the books above, and no doubt will return to them at some point, I think Wild Embers was my favourite of Gill’s work so far however, that is probably more so to do with where we all were with the pandemic and how that started my love of modern poetry at the time. I look back on it fondly and even now still have a flick through it’s pages occasionally, reading a piece here and there. I’d recommend any of these works, or any of her other works too – she is truly talented!
Have you read any of these books? What did you think?
Cheerio for now!
((If you are a Nikita Gill fan, I’d recommend you listen to her as a guest on the Saturn Returns with Caggie Podcast, hosted by Caggie Dunlop. I love the podcast anyway but listening to Nikita Gill talk about poetry as a form of self-expression and how you can create beautiful things through your more painful experiences was so inspiring. I’d definitely recommend you give it a listen)).
While I love a Christmas film, especially when you discover one you’ve never seen before on the Christmas channel, I do sometimes prefer a good Christmas read that I can get lost in and avoid the hecticness of the season for a few hours; there’s nothing better. Now some of these are pretty obvious whilst others are a bit more obscure but I wanted to share those that I like and keep returning to for those Christmas feels.
A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Stories, Charles Dickens
An obvious one? Of course! Dickens is synonymous with Christmas if you ask me. Growing up in Rochester, Kent and still living nearby, I’ve been forever surrounded by this acclaimed wordsmith. While he’s not by no means the ‘father’ of christmas, he’s definitely a close companion to the season in my mind; especially with his works having themes such as generosity, kindness, and charity – all hand-in-glove with the season! This edition by Barnes & Noble was a gift one Christmas and every year since, I’ve revisited its pages and relived the seasonal magic. While A Christmas Carol is a classic, I do often prefer reading the shorter Other Christmas Stories found accompanying it. I find them a bit more digestible.
The Folio book of Christmas
This is an anthology of prose and some poems all surrounding Christmas. It has excerpts of letters, journal entries, and articles from the likes of Kenneth Grahame, J. R. R. Tolkien, William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Cecil Beaton, and even Queen Victoria. I love reading the journal entries and letters recounting their festive days and how detailed they are. It’s nice to read something that was written so long ago but the feelings surrounding Christmas are still very much the same as we experience today. Because of the fact this book is a collection, it makes it so much easier to dip in and out of when I want to.
The other book I have absolutely loved reading recently and is a newer addition to my bookshelf is Poems for Christmas by Macmillan Collector’s Library. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or size) but it is such a cute and convenient size to grab and take it out with me in my bag. I also love that it not only has poetry but also what we now call songs. I know they started somewhere as poetry originally but it seems so odd to see them in print outside of a school assembly. It also means that I can’t read them as poetry but instead have to mentally sing them or even hum them to myself.
A Family Under The Christmas Tree, Terri Reed
As I mentioned in my Christmas Films post, I’d watched the hallmark adaptation of this but hadn’t read it yet – well that has now changed. I read A Family Under The Christmas Tree in the span of about two evenings. I was anxious to see what it was like and how many changes Hallmark had made from the original work. I did have a few problems with this book (review here) but if you’re looking for a book with all those Christmas feels and that family warmth to a story then look no further, this is perfect… I also recommend watching the film too.
So those are my festive reading recommendations. If there’s any you think I’ve missed or would like to recommend me some, then please do – I’m always looking for new reads!
What started as an instagram and hashtag movement, connecting like-minded folk of all walks of life through the storytelling and empowering words of Danielle Doby comes I Am Her Tribe. A collection of poetry drawing on this movement and growing into a safe place to, as Doby puts it on one of her first pages, ‘come as you are. your breath can rest here’.
Doby has created a book of simple moments portrayed with simple words but which has a beguiling affect on its reader. At first glance or even a skim read, these pieces don’t seem to hold much substance but when you take the time to sit with them and truly allow yourself to be taken by each piece, and the language it uses, you allow yourself to be engulfed by the emotion her work can conjure and it’s an extraordinary process. There are moments that a piece requires a slow, more thoughtful read while other pieces command to be read with a sense of urgency, the weight and emotion of the words not truly sinking in until you’ve finished reading it. Doby’s pacing and choice of language is mesmerising, and truly beautiful to behold.
both soft + fierce
and still be powerful
I Am Her Tribe, Danielle Doby p. 137
It’s unlike other poetry that I’ve read in that it feels not so much as an individuals voice but very much a collective voice of the masses. The feel of much of her work is one of empowerment and solidarity; especially that for women which feels even more poignant given the social context since the MeToo movement and more recently the case of Sarah Everard. The raw emotion and imagery she employs in her work is moving and, while it covers many themes such as self-love, healing, and personal growth, it’s very much one of inner peace. There’s such an overwhelming sense of peace when you read her works. I personally love the astrological sign ending to the book which for me ends your reading on a more personal note – a beautiful touch.
Now I don’t want to be a Debbie-Downer and end of a negative note but I have one qualm with this book which is the cover. My copy is a matte white cover with a slight embossed title repeated several times and the authors name, all in white. While aesthetically it is somewhat cute to me, it is also becoming kinda dirty and quick to mark/scuff in all manner of ways which is infuriating to me. I love to revisit my poetry collection whenever I feel drawn to delving back into the authors work and I often take whatever book I’m in the middle of wherever I go with me so this does not bode well for this cover at all and makes me a little apprehensive to reread in the future. I also wonder how inclined readers would be to read it if they picked up a copy at that bookstore to find it a little grubby before they’ve even bought it. There that’s my nit-picking over with.