Chat · Guest Post

Guest Post: Bath, book, bed by Hannah from A Cup Of Wonderland.

I am delighted to welcome Hannah from A Cup Of Wonderland to my blog. A Cup Of Wonderland is a beautiful bookish blog with amazing photography and great reccomendations. If you haven’t found Hannah’s blog already, do check it out

Back in April, I wrote a post in support of BookTrust’s bath, book, bed campagain. I suggested adults and teenagers would do well to adopt this routine too. Hannah kindly agreed to give us a look at her own bath, book and bed habits. A big thanks to Hannah for your time. 

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Bath, Book and Bed.

 A while ago on BookMurmuation, Louise published a post which was inspired by the Booktrust recent campaign of Bath, Book and Bed routine. Louise wrote about the importance such a routine has not only for children but for adults as well. I found her post incredibly insightful as Louise illustrated the importance of this routine by discussing her own. Now I happily admit that I am quite an inquisitive person, which perhaps is just a polieter way of saying incredibly nosy, so I quite enjoyed her post. Which is why I was equally delighted when Louise invited me onto her blog to write this post presenting my own Bath, Book then Bed routine.

I feel that before I begin this post, I should include a disclaimer. The majority of the time my routine is quite chaotic and probably not good because I am a phone addict and will watch YouTube videos or Netflix instead of going to sleep. But at least once a week or a couple of times a month, I like to set some time aside especially for this routine. I think it’s a great way of recharging your batteries, allowing yourself a break which is incredibly important if your a bit of a workaholic like me. Now onto my Bath, Book and Bed routine.

 

The Bath:

hannahbathIn my household I live with both my parents so normally when I plan to have one of these types of evenings, I make sure I get in the bathroom last as it means I can happily spend an hour or two in the bath with a nice bath bomb with no complaints or someone (my dad) banging on the door telling me to get out. At the moment my bath bomb of choice has been Lush bath bombs which I love immensely which is due to the fact that it’s one of the few types of bath bombs which don’t irritate my skin or psoriasis. The one which I used for this bath in particular was the Monster one which Lush released for Halloween and it’s my favourite which is why I been rationning the ones which I have remaining.

Once in the bath, I always have a book in hand. After all I will happily spend an hour or more enjoying a good soak with a good book and a cup of tea too.

 

The Book:

hannahbookThe most important part of the evening. Now I normally read in bath for a good portion of time before I get out and light some candles, dry off and then dive right back in. The book in choice for this post was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I saw the movie adaptation when it was released. I adore the film but reading the book made fall entirely in love with every single character, place, and aspect of the novel. If you haven’t read it then I would definitely recommend you purchasing it. 

 

Bed:

hannahbedNow if the book is really really juicy, and I’m unable to put it down. I blow the candles, get my pjs on and slip into bed and continue reading. Which is better than normal as it means that my phone is not being used and I’m not working at all. Now when I finally put the book down and decided to go to sleep, unfortunately the plan deviated a little because my 6 month old pup Oscar, decided to bring his Micky Mouse up and wanted to play. So it was almost completely perfect then? Eventually I’ll to sleep.

 

Huge thank you to Louise for inviting  me to write this post as I too think it’s incredibly important to use your bedtime routine as a way of relaxing and having an allocated downtime.

 

Chat · Young Adult Reviews

Floored blog tour: ‘It’s grim up North’

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Floored is a collaborative novel written between seven young adult authors. The story is told by six characters and a narrator. This post is about wealthy, inconsiderate Hugo. Hugo is one of my favourite characters in the novel because he personifies an issue which has become apparent in recent years – the contempt held by the metropolitan elite for the working class outside of London.

Hugo’s opening line – It’s grim up North – is a snapshot of his character. He believes that people begrudge his privilege because they can’t be bothered to work for it themselves. He has no understanding of opportunity or inequality. Things go downhill as Hugo treats one of the girls as a cheap one-night stand.

 It’s grim up North is where Hugo starts. A cliché which he has never bothered to challenge because it doesn’t affect his life. This is where Hugo starts- but Floored is a story, and stories begin with a promise that our protagonist will not be the same person by the end. All stories, at their heart, are about transformation. Hugo may be entitled and arrogant and cruel but he isn’t content. The way he lives gives him no pleasure.

I hope people reading Floored will take note of Hugo’s disdain and start to see his attitude in other places. In the politicians who take photo-ops in deprived cities at election times then fail to provide the jobs and infrastructure those cities desperately need. In the national newspapers which continually pitch their work to a metropolitan middle-class readership. In the public-school educated television personalities who make jokes at the expense of working-class Northerners.

 

Catch everyone in my Floored group blog tour: 

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Chat

Chat: Updating My Instagram

 

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I’ve finished spring-cleaning and there is no dust in sight.

 

Cleaning is an accepted part of spring. I have unhauled books, dusted the shelves and sorted my desk area. I thought I had a good job done. Then I logged on to my blog. A tired header, a boring Instagram feed and a whole host of misplaced commas.

 I may have finished cleaning my shelves, but my digital spring-clean has barely started.

This week I have worked on my Instagram feed. Instagram has never been my strong-point, but it had never occurred to me that it might be about more than the individual photographs. A quick Google suggested that I needed to think about the order of my feed. Google, that wise old genius, was right. My feed showed book after book after book, often in the same position.

Top tip: There are heaps of apps which allow you to preview your photographs as if you have loaded them to Instagram. Download one and play with different layouts. 

My first change was to mix book photographs with other objects. Bath-bombs, biscuits, and sunsets. I’ve got them all on my iPhone. I chose to use regular splashes of pink – one of my favourite and most photographed colours – between the book pictures. This broke up the book pictures but was still fairly restrictive in terms of subject. I chose to add a free choice for every fourth photograph.

I have been delighted with the response. I’ve had a couple of compliments, and more comments in a day that I used to get in a week. My Instagram may not be swoon-worthy, but it looks less sorry for itself. It allows more flexibility in terms of subject and reflects my ethos that being bookish goes beyond books themselves.

 

Are we following each other on Instagram? Check mine out at  @BookMurmuration, and leave your handle below. Look forward to seeing your pictures.

Chat

Chat: Do Second-Hand Books Always Find The Perfect Home?

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Do unloved books find the right home?

On Thursday 10th May, Mum and I went to see the Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society. Aside from loving Michiel Huisman, I was taken by a single line. Huisman’s character Dawsey Adams came into possession of a book which once belonged to writer Juliet. Dawsey describes books as being like ‘homing pigeons’. He suggests an unloved book will find its way into the right hands.

Dawsey has never sorted books in a charity shop.

I did this for eighteen months in my early 20s. The first time I was told to chuck something in the ‘rag box’ I had palpitations. The rag box is something between the dustbin and the shop floor. Books consigned to the rag box weren’t sold. A company bought them for pence, fished out the treasures, and sold the rest on Amazon. We ragged dog-eared books, out of date reference-books, and a dozen copies of The Da Vinci Code every session. If it broke me the first time, it soon became automatic. I consigned books to their fate without thinking.

Knowing about ragging makes it difficult to believe books find their perfect home. It sounds idealistic. 

Except that line in the film spoke to me. 

If I have been the person who threw books into the rag box, I have also been the person who bought a double-copy of a childhood favourite because I couldn’t bear for it to go unwanted. I have carried boxes of books home from clearance sales. At 16, I refused to hand my GCSE poetry anthology back because I didn’t want it to go to someone who failed to appreciate its contents. (Thank you to the teacher on duty that day who let me keep it. My love of Carol Ann Duffy began with that book.)

Many of the books I ragged would have been sold on by another company. Maybe the rag box was just a place along the way. Part of the book’s journey to the perfect owner.

A second-hand book can be more than a homing pigeon returned to roost. It can be a soulmate. A lifelong companion. I don’t know that every book finds its ideal owner, but I too have come into possession of books and felt it was meant to be. I have dusted them down and stroked their spines and created the perfect place on my shelves.

When unloved books find the right home, they find a place in someone’s heart.

 

Louise Nettleton

Has the perfect book ever found you? Let me know in the comments below.

Chat

Chat: Introverts Make Great Bloggers

 

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You don’t have to be a social butterfly to blog. 

Introverts. The dictionary definition of ‘introvert’ is a shy and reticent person. In my opinion, this is a narrow definition. Anybody who enjoys their own company and unwinds by being alone is an introvert.

When I figured there were other introverts, I realised being one wasn’t a bad thing. 

Blogs – especially lifestyle blogs – can give the impression that everybody in the blogosphere is confident and sociable. From blogging squads to pictures of beautiful people at parties, it can be easy for introverts to think that blogging is not something they would be successful at.

This impression is misleading. Blogging has plenty to offer introverts, and introverts have plenty to bring to blogging. 

Blogging starts with a computer. That makes a difference. To be successful at blogging, you need to network.  With online networking, there is less instant judgment, and we are screened from people’s reactions. Although I am an awkward conversationalist, I find online conversations easier. Networks are built on shared interest. This makes it easier for introspective people to share their thoughts. 

The second thing which helps is the chance to edit. Before I post this, I will read this over and think about what I have said. I have a chance to change my thoughts. Even in a fast-paced Twitter chat, I take a moment to scan over what I have said before I press ‘send’.  Every picture I take goes through my quality-control before it reaches my audience. Unlike in face-to-face situations, blogging and social-media allow us to edit our thoughts before we share. 

Blogging helped me to find like-minded people. Bookish people. Kidlitters. Aspiring writers. It is not that I dislike company, but I am so happy in the company of a book that I sometimes forget to seek out other people. It turns out we can be bookish together. Literary festivals have become popular on this principle, that we can make a party of reading, and book-buying and talking about our favourite books. My blogging friends have added value to my life, and their conversation has added value to my reading. 

Reading blogs might give you the impression that bloggers are outgoing party-people, but creating one teaches you that blogging is about hard work and editing. Introverts can thrive in a world where self-motivation and reflective feedback are key.

 

Louise Nettleton

Would you describe yourself as an introvert? Do you think introverts make great bloggers? Let me know in the comments below. 

Lifestyle

Five Things I Haven’t Done Since September

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Spring has sprung. Or at least it is springing. The nights are getting shorter, the mornings brighter and Marks And Spencers are selling cute raspberry-flavoured miniature biscuits. However much I like the crispy days of early autumn, by the time spring rolls around I am as ready as the next person to kick off my winter boots and sit back in the sunlight. Lambs! Blossom! Spring is a time of new hope and good feelings.

It feels like a long time since September and sunlight. Here are some of the things I haven’t done since September which I am welcoming back into my life. birdRead a Book Outdoors:

I am the kind of person who will make an office out in the garden. A mug of tea, a couple of pillows and a stack of notebooks. There is nothing like reading and writing outdoors. Birdsong and fresh air and a natural breeze. The second we have three dry days in a row I will pull out my tent and set up camp in the garden. 

 

Worn shoes without socks:

When autumn came in I was pleased to get back into my winter boots. Right now I would be glad to kick them off. Socks no longer feel like a hug for my feet. They are starting to feel more like a prison. Time for a good pedicure and some vitamin-D. I can’t wait to feel the grass between my toes. 

 

Woken up in a good mood: 

Dark. Wet. Really dark. Waking up in the dark plays havoc with my body clock. How am I supposed to get up when my internal alarm-clock thinks it is the middle of the night? More to the point, how am I supposed to keep my eyes open? Never mind those smiley-happy people. In the winter I am not myself until I have had two mugs of caffeine and a kitty cuddle. Roll on dawn chorus at 4am. 

 

Eaten Cold Spreads:

Avocado slices, and homemade hummus and pitta bread chips. Cheeses and quince jelly and pomegranate seeds. Childhood holidays in Greece have given me a lifelong love of rolling feasts. There is nothing better than a table covered in salads and dips and miniature pies. 

 

Fussed over baby animals:

The lambs are back. Skipping on the hillocks and sleeping under the hedges. There are a group of sheep in the field to the side of the village green. Currently there are four lambs, all button-eyed and lively. I defy you to feel miserable when faced with a lamb. 

 

Chat · Lifestyle

What’s affecting your productivity?

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I saw this idea over at The Everygirl and wanted to write my own thoughts about productivity. Which habits make us less productive? Let me stress – this is not a lecture. The most difficult thing about Social Media is seeing other people’s apparently impossible standards. Comparing yourself to a curated image will never make you feel better.  This post is designed for people who would like to get more out of their creative sessions but who don’t know how to turn their procrastination into work time.

Lots of posts exist about procrastination. Most of them will tell you that horrible truth. The golden rule: only you can put that work in. Some advice posts leave you there. You’ve had the lecture, you know the score and the rest is up to you. OK … but I think we all encounter these difficulties and we learn along the way. One person’s solution will be different from another. The key is to identify which behaviour is currently detrimental to your work ethic. 

Which habits stop you from getting the most out of your work time? Here is my list of ideas: birdPetty distractions:

  • Set a time or a work-goal for tea breaks and stick to it. If this is a regular time it will become habit, and you will find it easier to stick to.
  • Limit what you eat and drink during working time. Which foods distract you? Is it choosing a sugary snack or munching your way through the nut selection? Cut it from your working time or limit it to one portion a day. I will eat chocolate to procrastinate, but only eat healthy stuff if I am hungry.
  • Set social media times. Keep your phone out of reach and work with the internet off if you possibly can.
  • Get real – is it a job or another distraction? It is easy to convince yourself you need to type that email, respond to that comment and do your online shopping but if you are serious about your goals you need to give them time.
  • Don’t panic if you get distracted! Don’t berate yourself. Again, please let me stress these are not rules. Nobody can be perfect all the time. The worst thing you could do is go back to work in a negative frame of mind.

 

Vague goals and unrealistic objectives:

My rule of thumb: if I am flicking on to social media on a regular basis, my writing goal is probably too vague. Every writer – published and unpublished, fiction writer, blogger or journalist – learns that there is only one way to fill the blank screen. That doesn’t mean you should sit staring aimlessly at it for hours. If you aren’t typing, ask yourself why. Is it because you need a clearer plan for the next paragraphs? Because you haven’t made enough notes? If so take it back to the drawing board.

Make your plans realistic within the time available. The desperation to be better and achieve more has killed many creatives before they have started. If you have an hour you will not be producing half a novel. Or a beautiful new blog. You might write a draft a decent blog post or write 1000 words. Know from experience how much you are likely to achieve.

 

Not taking time for yourself:

We have six books to review. We want that novel drafted. We want to improve our photography or our web-design skills. We need to respond to our social media. Sometimes this thing called real life gets in the way too. Guys … there will never be enough time in the day, but if you work work work you will burn out.

  • Set a finish time. Excepting Fridays, my internet is supposed to go off at 8pm. I need some hours in the day where I am not in contact with the giant web of information.
  • Allow you-time. Blogging and writing are hobbies, but if you aspire to turn them into a career, odds are you’re working hard at them. Make sure you factor in down-time.
  • You-time is not for planning. I’ve spoken to lots of bloggers who are like me. INFJ-types. Over-thinkers. You have to allow yourself head space. If you find this difficult try some meditation techniques or ‘active rest’ (engage your brain in something repetitive like cross-stitch or Sudoku.)
  • Get enough sleep. I can’t stress this enough. You need sleep to function. You need sleep to think. Sleep is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

 

Which are your worst habits? How do you overcome them? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Stationery

Stationery – Why I have a Pencil Case

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Last week I said my love of stationery began with a writing course. This is true … but I loved stationery once before. September. What does the word September mean to you? Once upon a time, it meant the start of the new school term, but more importantly it meant a new pencil case. Do you remember the choices? Themed stationery or plain? Pencils or felt-tips? Should the pencil sharpener match the pencil-case or contrast?

By the time I was twelve I had a room full of pencil-cases. My friends once counted around the bedroom. It added up to more than one a year. There were pencil tins – the best ones had special trays, which turned them into multi-layer tins. These looked really smart until they burst open in the school corridor. There were those fantastic zippered sets which came ready-packed with their own notebooks and pens. Do those still exist? Disney used to make them for every major film release. My favourite childhood pencil case had three sections, which meant grotty pencils could be kept separate from writing pens.

It is fair to say that until I was a teenager, my pencil case was like my second home. It was also a statement. One year I had a bright red pencil case with a cartoon spider. A couple of years later, I wouldn’t have been seen with such a thing. It was matching pink equipment or nothing.

I have grown back into stationery, and am pleased the digital age has not seen away pencil cases. I have draws full of pens, but my pencil case is reliably there when I am working. My current pencil case is dark purple, and nature-themed. I bought it the day after that writing course. The one which made me take my writing seriously. It reminds me that writing is a pleasure, and that the implements which allow me to record my thoughts are precious. Children have it right. Our pencil cases reflect who we are.

Louise Nettleton

What was your favourite childhood pencil case like? Do you think pencil cases are important, or just a necessity?

Chat

10 ways to keep Christmas alive

christmaseverydayWish it could be Christmas every day? While some people are pleased to get back into their daily routine, others would wear a Christmas jumper every day if only it wouldn’t spoil the magic of it. My Mum, sister and I have almost elfish levels of Christmas tolerance. My sister’s room has affectionately been called ‘the grotto’ for the past six weeks, while I wrap every one of my tree decorations in tissue paper and bubble wrap to ensure they are safe. Every single one.

Would it be Christmas if it came every day? The good news is you don’t have to decide. If Christmas is something you enjoy, there are ways to bring festive sparkle to even the dullest January.bird

Christmas tree farm in Iowa.Keep a live Christmas tree – this is a great idea for people with garden or patio space. My neighbours in London had a live tree. It was waist-high that first year, and the cutest thing is the new growth looks different, so you can see how much it has grown. I have a patio cherry tree which I bought eight years ago. I love watering and tending to my little tree. It isn’t high-maintenance, but encourages me to potter in the garden.

 

Keep a decoration out – A Simple one. It wouldn’t be special if we had them all out everyimg_4607 day, but why not keep one decoration out of the box? In my experience one misses the box, and it makes me smile to see them through the year. I have also wondered whether to keep my synthetic flowers out for bookstagram purposes.

 

Craft – start in the next few weeks, and you should have enough handmade cards for Christmas 2018. From cross-stitching to card-making to papercutting, many crafts have a back catalogue of Christmas patterns available.

 

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Gingerbread person DNA.

Enjoy your food – If you enjoyed cooking or baking for Christmas, why go back to ready-meals? A three-course meal isn’t feasible every day, or even on a weekly basis, but whether it is baking on a Saturday, hosting a dinner party or starting a foodstagram account, you can turn food into a fulfilling hobby.

 

Visit a donkey sanctuary – When I lived in London, my favourite place to visit was Redwings Ada Cole in Essex. I sponsored a donkey for years, until he died. I kid you not, the sanctuary host birthday parties for their adoption club residents. You can sing happy birthday to a donkey and watch them eat donkey-friendly cake. I’ll never forget Ada Cole. It is a super-special place.

 

11781267186_ccfca86bbd_bBecome a visual merchandiser – Use your decorating skills to promote brands and make shops beautiful. As well as thinking up decorative schemes throughout the year, you will never have more fun than at Christmas. (Who did you think did the Liberty window? The Christmas Elves?) Check out entry routes and qualifications here.

 

Louise Nettleton

Would you like more Christmas in your year? What do you do throughout the year that keeps Christmas alive? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Chat

Anti-Resolutions

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This is not another post knocking resolutions. I have made my blogging goals. Whether or not you make them ahead of the new year, setting goals can help us move towards our ambitions. However, I did start a series of anti-resolutions about my blog. It was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. Should I keep my GoodReads up to date, or is life too short? Do I really want to sit through every Twitter chat? Do you know what? By thinking about what I didn’t want, I started to get a clearer picture of what was important to me. bird

  • Goodreads: I do not want to spend hours copying and pasting into GoodReads

Actually, I remain unresolved on this one. What I don’t want to do is copy and paste every review into every site for hours on end. People who go to GoodReads look for short, snappy round-ups of books and a couple of reasons to read them. I might review a smaller number of books separately on GoodReads, or resume the copy and paste with a small number reviewed separately. The New Year might be a good point to log back on – I can let myself off the catch-up session which is putting me off, and start afresh with 2018 releases.

 

  • Twitter chats: I do not want to go to every Twitter Chat

Humbug? Not necessarily. There is a Twitter Chat on almost every night of the week, between blogging communities, writing communities and the bookish network (yes there is overlap between these!). As a new blogger, and one who was a hermit in a previous life, I thought you ‘did’ these or ‘didn’t’. Maybe new bloggers are just overenthusiastic. The result was I went to chat after chat, until I had nothing left to say. I joined in on nights when I was exhausted, nights when I wasn’t mad-keen on the book in discussion and nights when the topic wasn’t relevant to me. (This was a writing chat. I learned SO MUCH from these chats, and spoke to so many great people, but I joined in a couple of chats about issues so far past the publication point they were just not something an unpublished writer could talk about.) My point? I want to share the best of myself, look after my mental health and enjoy time offline too.

 

  • Social Media: I won’t make every comment sparkle

Sorry. Sometimes all I can say is ‘that looks amazing’. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? There are two or three bloggers who I admire very much. They have great blogs, and whenever I say this about a new release, they share information about the book. You know what? With more information and another enthusiastic reader to talk to, I often find more to say. 

 

  • I won’t write 7 pieces a week

Two reviews, Top Ten Tuesday, Waiting On Wednesday and a Chat. What if I have three things to say? Or could share one short anecdote? I don’t have a formula yet, but this year I would like to work on original content. I want to learn from bloggers in different spheres, and most of all I would like to hear from my readers. What do you like to read most? 

 

2018 will be the year I move away from having a blog to running one. 2018 will be the year I work on original content. 2018 will be the year where I socialise to move my blog into new networks. That doesn’t mean there won’t be books, book talk or time for the wonderful bookish chat I enjoyed through 2017. Far from it. The point is I have dipped my toes into the blogging waters. Now it is time to take the plunge. Happy New Year to you all, and remember – resolutions are elastic. They are made, stretched, and restretched when your efforts do not bring the desired results. 

 

Have you made any resolutions? What do you think about starting in reverse? Let me know in the comments below.