Archive for December, 2012

December 29, 2012

My 2012: the year in review

It’s been a while since I wrote a post. My blogging timetable has gone completely out of the window and I barely know what day of the week it is. I blame that period in between Christmas and New Year – perfectly named ‘The Lull’ by a Twitter friend of mine. I don’t enjoy The Lull, I find these days to be an utterly frustrating combination of post-Christmas comedown and impatiently waiting for the new year to begin. Anyway, enough of my whining. I hope that those of you who celebrated Christmas had a lovely time. I’ll probably be starting the new year with a carefully-scheduled post about plans and resolutions and all my usual self-challenging kind of behaviour, but for today, I thought I’d look back at 2012.

It’s been an interesting year, one that I was really looking forward to, and I can’t quite believe it’s over bar the New Year’s Eve rendition of Auld Lang’s Syne. I suspect that most British reviews of the year will talk about the London Olympics, although I think that Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour De France was my own favourite sporting event of the year, and I’m utterly thrilled that Leeds will host the Grand Depart of the Tour in 2014.

My review will be a bit more self-centred than everyone else’s because I’m going to have a look at my own personal highlights of the year.

Luckily, it’s easy for me to look back on these, because this blog is a good record of what I’ve done. It’s amazing to look back and think that I did all these things this year. The trip to Rome in the spring was a wonderful highlight. It’s an incredible city and I’m glad to have visited. It didn’t quite capture my heart the way that Paris has though, so I suspect that I’ll be back in Paris before I return to Rome, but the hotel we stayed in was a unique experience, and one I’ll always remember.

Other highlights included my kayaking trip, despite the near-death experience of falling into freezing water twice. Ok, that’s a touch over-dramatic, I know. Anyway, it’s not been enough to put me off wanting to have another go if I get the chance, even though I have a feeling that I’m never going to be great at watersports. I’m planning to go surfing in 2013, which feels even more ridiculous than kayaking as far as the potential for doing myself some damage is concerned. What the hell, you only live once, right?

Earlier in the year I wrote a post about why Twitter has changed my life, and that remains as true as ever. Over the past year, I’ve met some people through Twitter who have become incredibly important to me in a very short space of time. They know who they are. The ever-increasing number of people I count as friends from Twitter is a wonderful thing. Basically, if we’ve ever had some kind of beverage together, then you’re on my list! This has only happened in 2012, and yet in many cases, it feels like I’ve known people far longer, particularly the ones who are responsible for the dramatic increase in my coffee consumption because of our regular lunchtime meet-ups.

As far as this blog is concerned, the absolute highlight has to be my commendation from the Blog North Awards, which simultaneously reduced me to tears and boosted my confidence in what I write so very much. It was completely unexpected and I will always be grateful for being nominated.

Of course, some things didn’t go quite according to plan. I didn’t manage to do 35 new things in my 35th year, which ended in June. Partly because, as always, I forget that I don’t have endless amounts of spare time and bags of cash to do things with. Not sure I’ll ever really learn that lesson though. I do regret that I didn’t manage to do Cycletta again on my new Pashley, but I might have a go at riding it next year. The other thing I regret is that I’m very, very unlikely to complete my Goodreads Challenge to read 52 books in the year. I’m still about ten books away from completing it, with only days of the year left. Having decided to read children’s books in order to complete it, I’ve found myself reading Michael Chabon’s ‘The Mysteries of Pittsburgh’ instead. A good book, but not a particularly quick read. Still, I have learnt that quality is more important to me when it comes to my choice of reading than quantity, so it’s not been a complete failure of an exercise.

The things I did complete during my challenge were all good in their own ways – from pop-up tea-rooms to drumming lessons – and I loved doing my challenge. After that finished, I’ve managed to do most of the things I wanted to get done in the latter half of this year, which has mostly revolved around my allotment and setting up Sage and Thrift with the most important person I’ve met in a long time, the wonderful and remarkable Josephine Borg.

So, a good year. As I’d hoped. They do seem to get faster and faster though, which is a little terrifying. Once it gets to this point in December, I never really want to bother with New Year’s Eve. I want to tidy up the Christmas decorations and get cracking with the next year. I know, I shouldn’t wish my own life away  but there is lots to look forward to in 2013 and I’m impatient for it to arrive…

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December 17, 2012

My Sole Christmas Gift Idea: Stack Magazines.

Regular readers of this blog might notice that I’ve been absent for a week or so. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, I’ve been spending a lot of time reading for my Goodreads Challenge (more on that in another post) secondly, I wrote a guest post about great Christmas gifts for gardeners for the utterly marvellous The Culture Vulture and lastly because the run up to Christmas is a bit crazy, and I’ve been struggling to find the time. And, if I’m honest, the motivation.

Having written one Christmas gift guide post, I didn’t really want to write another one, and the internet is overflowing with Christmas blog posts and wonderful gift guides anyway. I’m not feeling particularly Christmassy myself so haven’t felt much like adding my two penn’orth to the conversation until now. This isn’t because I’m feeling Scrooge-like about it, but I really only ever feel Christmassy in those final few days leading up to Christmas Day, when I’ve finished work and am at home wrapping presents, mulling wine and listening to Carols. I rather hate that we start being bombarded with Christmas stuff roughly the day after the shops have finished trying to sell us Hallowe’en costumes and fireworks. How cynical I am…

If you’re anything like me, you’ll still have gifts to choose and not much time to get them organised. So, in my only contribution to the whole Christmas shopping conversation, I present to you my last minute gift solution for that difficult-to-buy-for person in your life: A subscription to Stack.

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I’ve spoken before about my magazine buying addiction – and how it’s a constant battle, but one that I’m gradually winning – but the one subscription I’m not giving up is my subscription to Stack. Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to go to a Guardian Masterclass on Reinventing Magazines, during which the founder of Stack spoke with lots of passion about the future of the printed word. When I got home from the event, I subscribed immediately. It’s a unique service, posting out a different independently produced magazine each month. You don’t know what you’re going to be sent, so each month is like a little surprise. The one thing that links them all is that they’re beautifully created. I’ve had a variety of titles, on subjects including film, food, cycling and urban art. All of them have had something to interest me, and in some cases, I’ve fallen completely in love with them. This month I received Delayed Gratification, a magazine dedicated to ‘Slow Journalism’ and it’s wonderful. Some other titles they send out include Little White Lies, Fire & Knives, Rouleur, Wooden-Toy Quarterly and Oh Comely. All of which are gorgeous, intelligent and worth savouring. Not like many other glossy magazines that are basically stuffed full of adverts and articles that promise to help us ‘Get the Perfect Life/Body/Wardrobe in Ten Easy Steps’… Or, in other words, a lot of wasted paper and ink.

Because I am tardy with my Christmas post, it’s too late to get a gift issue sent out before Christmas, but you can get a gift card right up to Christmas Eve so it’s a perfect last minute gift for someone who will then receive magazines in the new year. And given how much I love Delayed Gratification, that seems rather appropriate…

December 3, 2012

Returning to Running.

A couple of weeks ago, during an appointment for something completely unrelated, my doctor checked my blood pressure and announced that unless I could manage to get it to come down, I’d have to start taking some medication for it. And that once I was taking that medication, it would be for the rest of my life.

My immediate response was to go home, burst into stressful tears and drink beer on the stairs. Excellent. And a touch over-dramatic, I know. Not the first time I’ve had that kind of response to something a doctor has told me. Once I’d pulled myself together, splendidly supported by a soundtrack suggested by Twitter (and in particular from the always-on-the-money @wandapops) I started to think about the last time I’d been told that I needed to reduce my blood pressure and how I’d managed it.

Since my first pregnancy ended at thirty weeks with severe pre-eclampsia, I’ve suffered with high blood pressure and the only thing that has really worked to reduce it is running. Since returning to full time work after the birth of my second child, I’ve struggled to fit it into my schedule. And, like many people, looking after myself has dropped further and further down the list until it barely registers at all. Now, though, I have to re-think how I approach exercise. Not as a luxury bit of time for myself – which is how I’ve increasingly come to think of it – but as something essential, something that underpins the rest of my life.

Alongside running, I’ve got to lose a bit of weight again, and try to eat healthily and drink less alcohol. All those behavioural things that, even if they don’t give you a longer life, certainly make it feel as though you’ve lived longer! I’m not going to turn into a fun-free Puritan though. Everything in moderation. But I know that I owe it to myself and the people that love me to make a decent job of looking after myself a bit better. I know that taking medication is not the end of the world, and I’m grateful that it exists, should I need it. However, I really want to return to better habits, so that I don’t need to just yet.  I feel too young to be taking beta-blockers!

So, a new schedule is needed. One in which running is built in as an essential element, not as an afterthought. I’ve struggled with running on and off for the past few years. I have poor feet and knees. But I’ve been out three times this week, and I’ve surprised myself by enjoying it enormously. I’ve learnt that what Jayne from Veggie Runners told me is very true  – namely that once you’ve been a runner, no matter how long the break, it’ll be easier to run again than it was the first time around. This is very encouraging, and has helped me to keep going when it’s been tough, cold and muddy. I’m also grateful to those people who have offered to run with me. I’m better in (slow!) company,  I think. My initial goal is to do a decent time at a Parkrun in January, and then see how I get on, perhaps with Outlaw Runners in Leeds. But this time, I’m less bothered about improving times, entering races or anything like that. This time the only numbers that count are 120/80, and my goal is to get closer to them…

See, I told you it was muddy…