General, Travel

Chicago: The Windy City

For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you may have seen a previous entry for the Windy city way back when I was traveling the world for a year (found here). I loved Chicago on my first visit, it’s safe to say that I feel in love with the place back then, so when I found out that everyone would join up to celebrate for a big finale together in Chicago, I was extremely excited.

It smashed any expectations and any hopes that I had, and was spectacular!! Continue reading “Chicago: The Windy City”

Books, General, Travel

The Dark Tourist | Review

Title: The Dark Tourist

Author: Dom Joly

Rating: 5 Stars

Dates read: 19 Mar 18 – 30 Mar 18

Publication date: 2 Sep 2010

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Genre(s): Memoir, Travel

Description:

Ever since he can remember, Dom Joly has been fascinated by travel to odd places. In part this stems from a childhood spent in war-torn Lebanon, where instead of swapping marbles in the schoolyard, he had a shrapnel collection — the schoolboy currency of Beirut. Dom’s upbringing was interspersed with terrifying days and nights spent hunkered in the family basement under Syrian rocket attack or coming across a pile of severed heads from a sectarian execution in the pine forests near his home.

These early experiences left Dom with a profound loathing for the sanitized experiences of the modern day travel industry and a taste for the darkest of places. And in this brilliantly odd and hilariously told travel memoir, Dom Joly sets out on a quest to visit those destinations from which the average tourist would, and should, run a mile. The more insalubrious the place, the more interesting is the journey and so we follow Dom as he skis in Iran on segregated slopes, spends a weekend in Chernobyl, tours the assassination sites of America and becomes one of the few Westerners to be granted entry into North Korea. Eventually Dom journeys back to his roots in Beirut only to discover he was at school with Osama Bin Laden.

Funny and frightening in equal measure, this is a uniquely bizarre and compelling travelogue from one of the most fearless and innovative comedians around.

Continue reading “The Dark Tourist | Review”

Books, General

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set in Another Country

Wow, I am cutting it a little fine this week, but we have an hour or so left, so we have time to get through this! I’ve been in work today for the first time in a week, so I’m a bit all over the place in finding my feet. Isn’t it weird how that works so quick? Anyways, Top Ten Tuesday, yes that’s why we’re here, and this week is all about books set in other countries. Fun!

For all of you who don’t know what Top Ten Tuesday is, or don’t know how to get involved, click here. The lovely folks at Broke and Bookish teamed together to create this awesome weekly prompt, which is now hosted by the wonderful Jana @ The Artsy Reader Girl. Then you simply get listing! Continue reading “Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set in Another Country”

General

New Year’s Resolution: 1st Quarter Check-In

Last year, I decided to make a 2017 New Years Resolutions list. I thought about all of the things I wanted to accomplish throughout 2017, and at the end of the year, I checked back and reviewed the progress I had made. OK, so I didn’t complete everything that I wanted to, abandoning some things and excelling at others, but I think I did an all round alright job of sticking to them. In part, this is because I had a year full of motivations, but also because I regularly checked back throughout the year, from the start where I was finding my feet, the last half where I was attempting to complete as many as I could.

It really worked for me. For a start, I remember the resolutions I had made, and had them at the forefront of my mind for at least a few days. It allowed me to prioritise different tasks and goals throughout the year, and allowed me to keep track of the progress I made. AS it worked so well last year (if I do say so myself), I’m employing the same tactic this year!

My list is split up into sections, just like it was on my original 2018 Resolutions list. I’ve kept it like this to see if there are any areas I’m doing better or worse in, and to allow me to look back at different parts of my life separate from the others. I’m also operating a colour scheme this year too!

Completed

On Track

Failing

Amended

Abandoned

Reading

Read at least 52 books

As of March 2018, I’ve read 27 books in 2018. I’m already over half way to my 52 book target, so I think it’s pretty safe to say that this target is on track, and will potentially be completed by the next quarterly check in. I thought about setting this target a little higher at New Year, but I wanted to make sure I left time to enjoy what I was reading and give myself the opportunity to read longer novels, or ones that take longer to finish.

Read 5 classics

I have finished a couple of books so far this year that would probably be considered as classics. I am currently reading another and have finished a couple of books that would be considered modern classics. I am not sure whether to count these yet, but, I am definitely reading more books with a classical pedigree.

Read 3 Non-fiction

In 2017 I really discovered non-fiction, and I am happy to say that I have nearly finished my 3rd non-fiction book of the year already. I have surprised myself a little bit by finishing so many so early, but it’s a genre that I’ve really come to embrace and enjoy!

Take part and actively engage in at least 5 readathons

As always, Bout of Books happens in January and I took great joy in taking part and being an expert once again. I’m actually liaising with the ladies to help a little more too. There will be 2 more readathons before the end of the year too. I’m taking part in a few reading challenges (Around the Year, Book Riot Read Harder, The Classics Club) and paid a little attention to 24in48 that happened earlier in the year (timing didn’t work out to engage fully). There are lots of readathons that happen throughout the year so I am sure I will comfortably hit this target.

Review every book I read

I have trialled a new thing this year: writing a full review for ARCs and some of the books I read, and completing a 140 character review for every book I read. I feel like it leaves me with pathetic reviews for a lot of what I read which didn’t happen last year, but it definitely means that I am fully reviewing more books, so it’s balancing act.

Blogging

Find a balance between blogging quality and quantity that I am happy with

Eek, I have put this as on track but I fear it might be a little generous. I am definitely writing a variety of post types which means the quality varies too. I like blogging every day and have done so for months now, but it does sometimes mean I forsake quality if time is lacking. I’d like to get a slightly better balance but I am definitely getting there.

Maintain blogging diversity e.g, travel, and personal, and books

Well, I don’t know if it is quite as diverse as I would like it, but I am definitely maintaining different blogging features. At the moment, my blog is largely book and lifestyle based. Books and reading feature heavily as does personal and adulting posts, but travel has become a little lost. I definitely have some work to do in this arena, but I am finding a good balance between personal and bookish posts so far.

Utilise scheduling

OK, so I have actually scheduled this post, but in reality I don’t do this often and therefore I am still left scrambling for a post and then desperately trying to finish it before I want it to go out. I feel so much better when I have posts scheduled, so I really need to start thinking about when I am posting, and writing it a little in advance.

Engage with other bloggers and online communities

D’you know what, of all my blogging commitments, this is probably the one I have thought about most. I am making a real effort to read more blog posts, and then like them if I have enjoyed them. I’m also commenting a lot more, because I like comments on my posts, and find it’s the best way to get to know fellow bloggers. I also love to reply to comments on my own blog so do my best to engage with every opinion on my posts.

Invest time tidying up my blog appearance/layout

I have been thinking a lot more than acting when it comes to my blog, but, I have started to make some changes. I have (finally) bought my domain which has made me happy, which also means that in the background I also have more storage. I have changed and tweaked some widgets and categories, and have started looking into new themes that have the capability of doing what I want them to. I am having a hard time splitting with my current theme fictive, it’s served me well and I really like it, but sadly doesn’t do some of the things I want or need it to, so I am researching and testing the logical alternatives. Watch this space!

Personal

Lose weight

This single resolution is by far the most important for me in 2018. I really want to shift some serious weight before my holidays, and even though I have stalled of late and not made as much progress as I would like to, Fat Friday has seen me lose over 20lbs overall so I can’t say I’m failing quite yet!

Exercise more

I am still not 100% up to as much as exercise as I would like, but I do regularly attend the gym, zumba classes, aquacise, do home yoga sessions, and now as the weather is starting to improve, I am walking more and more. I think I have started to notice an improvement with my fitness as a result, and could definitely do more, but I’m probably doing more than I have since leaving school, so that’s good.

Broaden healthy eating/recipes

OK, snacking is sneaking back into my diet a little bit, but often in the guise of healthier snacks like flavoured chickpeas or alike. I have broadened into the world of Moroccan food a little more, and made some pretty nice stews and slow cooker dishes this year. I’ve also embraced vegetables and began roasting vegetables more and more. I really like them so it’s worked well. I haven’t cooked as much as I would like to have, or with as much variety, but I definitely have tried some new things.

Travel more in the UK

I have not done well here, and I know that. I don’t think I have been to anywhere new this year, or even really visited anywhere I’ve been to before either. Oops.

Complete 5 things from my Bucket List/30 Before 30 list

I, erm, I haven’t really looked at these lists recently, never mind looked for things to cross off, but there is room for improvement, and I could certainly try to cross some things off, or set the wheels in motion at least.

Adulting

Save at least £100 every month

I have actually written a recent savings update post that details some of the strides I am making in both saving money, and understanding the complexities of the ways to save money. I have saved quite a lot of money for future travel plans, and I have also taken strides to understand my pension too. I can’t say I’ve completed it, because I haven’t passed through every month, but I have already saved the £1200 I was hoping for so there is that.

Sort my papers, bills, and important documents into a file

I really did intend to do this, on more that one occasion, but then I simply didn’t. It’s a real shame, because I’ve tried to organise other sections of my life and have made some serious progress. Now as things are more organised elsewhere then maybe I can concentrate on sorting important documents. I have at least put them all together(ish).

Tidy, sort, clean, and maintain my bedroom

I guilted myself into acting on this a few weeks ago by writing a Spring Clean post. I didn’t do everything I needed to, it’s not finished, but I have tidied it, and actually kept it in a reasonably good state since. I sorted my things out, so the cupboards and drawers are tidy inside and not just outside, and I have really thought about how I want the room to look. There is still some cleaning to do, and a couple of bits of tidying, and then there is also the gallery wall to complete too, but other than that it is looking good.

Tidy, sort, clean, and maintain the house, and do the decorating odd jobs I have been meaning to do in 2017

Again, this is by no means a finished article, but we’ve tried to look at things we need to do and finish them. The dining room has been sorted a few times, we finally got rid of the stuff we didn’t need (mainly cardboard). We’ve tried to clean the bathroom a little bit, and are trying to improve how it looks. The books around the house are looking better, and we have both got rid of a lot books and DVDs that we don’t want. Again, there are things we need to do around the house, art we need to frame and put up, but we’ve changed light bulbs, added light shades, and dismantled furniture we don’t want to let us think about the way we want the house to go.

Don’t waste time

OK, so I still sit around on the couch more than I probably should, but I have given up napping for lent (successfully I might add) and have been getting up a little earlier on the whole. Emma and I have been out a few times, to the cinema, theatre, Cheshire Oaks, and have plans to see more places over the spring/summer period. Yes, there is a lot of time I could utilise better still, but I’ve made a huge improvement here already.


Overall

We’re only 3 months in, so it’s really just early scores on the door, but I think I am doing OK. Unsurprisingly, I am doing best at my bookish/reading goals. It’s easy to curl up under a blanket in the cold weather, and to spend dark nights reading. I know I’ll still read lots over the year, but I always tend to read more when it’s winter. I am quite pleased with my blogging progress too. I am undoubtedly investing more time in my blogging content, appearance, and trying to engage more with the blogging community, and as a result I definitely feel like I am getting more out of it.

Personally, I am doing OK. I’ve had a few ups and downs at the beginning of the year, which has definitely impacted my progress. I am trying to improve this, and now as the weather is turning, I’m hoping to embrace the sun and warmth and harness it to help me with my fitness and weight loss goals. If I could get somewhere with those, I know my overall happiness would sky rocket.

Yes, there is definitely things to work on, but there are also good foundations for this. Lot’s of good things and lot’s of areas to improve, see you in June!

Have you made any goals or resolutions for 2018?

How are you finding them, and have you achieved any yet?

General, Travel

Thailand | A Traveller’s Review

I was in work earlier this week and a colleague asked on our work intranet if anyone had any recommendations for a trip to Thailand. I advised a few things for the places she said she was visiting, and it got me thinking that it might make a good post for my blog. It’s been a while since I post about travel, so maybe this is a good way back into the world of travel blogging.

In 2014 I graduated University and had grand plans to travel the world. The starting point was South East Asia. After a whistle stop tour of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and some of Thailand, I training as  TEFL teacher, and started life in the North East of Thailand as a primary school teacher in Roi-Et. I spent months living and travelling around Thailand, experiencing the foods and the cultures, and enjoying as many of the sites and sounds as could be before we left for Malaysia.

In addition, my parents are due to travel to South East Asia at the end of the year. I have been looking at things to do and places to see, and advising them as much as I can, so my favourite things to do are very much in the forefront of my mind.

So, I’ve decided to write a post about my favourite things to do in Thailand. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, there will be places missing and obvious answers, but it’s a compilation of activities I enjoyed, places I liked to see, and tips I learnt along the way:

Continue reading “Thailand | A Traveller’s Review”

General, Travel

The Sunshine Blogger Award

I was looking for a light, fun Sunday post, and found that I had been nominated to complete this by the lovely Wandering Waffles.I haven’t posted as much about travel likely as I should have or would like to have, so this is the perfect way of getting my travel post shoes back on.

The Sunshine Blogger is an award given to bloggers by bloggers for bringing creativity, positivity and sunshine into the lives of readers. And of course, there are a few rules that we have to follow: Continue reading “The Sunshine Blogger Award”

General, Travel

Miami and Fort Lauderdale

When planning a holiday in February/March, two things spring to mind as someone who lives in Europe: Ski break, or winter sun. I’ve broken too many bones and had too many injuries to truly opt for the first option, so after my Dad and brother booked to go skiing in France, my Mum and I decided to go to Florida for some Caribbean sun. Sandwiched either side of our Caribbean cruise was a little time to see a bit more of Florida that I haven’t yet made it to, so, before we spent a couple of days in Fort Lauderdale, and on the way back to the airport, we took an all important pit stop at a Miami mall. Continue reading “Miami and Fort Lauderdale”