30 Before 30

I have a love/hate relationship with anything that resembles a ‘bucket list’ or ‘X before X’ list. I love the idea of optimistic goal setting but the realist (read: pessimist) in me knows that I likely won’t get to accomplish every goal I set myself due to lack of confidence, lack of money, or lack of opportunity – or all of the above. It’s because of this mindset that I have quite a fraught relationship with anything in this vein of list-making, particularly because it also strikes a strangely sensitive chord in me when it comes to travel-related goals which so often take up lists such as this.

You see, I have been to very few places in my life – growing up we just didn’t have the kind of disposable income that allowed for holidays to far-flung destinations; what we did have was the money to have a bloody good time going on a family holiday to a caravan site somewhere on the Spanish coast. Again largely because of money, I didn’t go on any school trips to places outside the UK either (no Easter skiing holiday or history trip to Auschwitz for me). I’ve never really felt particularly deprived because of this, I’ve just been very aware that I haven’t been to a lot of places that other people might have. But it’s because of this that I don’t even know where to start with places I want to see in my life.

So, you see, bucket lists and 30 before 30 lists spin me to all different kinds of personal places – and not necessarily in the way they intend. Even so, I’ve decided (probably quite foolishly considering I’m 25 at the time of writing this list, and 26 is fast approaching) to construct a list because God loves a trier, right? There’s a mix of low key goals or challenges here and there are some that are more dependent on me having the financial means and (to be honest) the annual leave left to complete them. However, I hope it’s a nice mix of doable and then the more challenging things to accomplish.

As I composed this list at the start of 2018 (yes it has taken me this long to decide what I really think of 30 Before 30 type lists, it’s a wonder I ever achieve anything at that rate), I’ll be already marking off anything I’ve achieved so far this year in 2018. I hope to document each challenge in some way on this blog, whether that’s through a blog post series explaining why I want to do each item on my list and/or through a blog post of me recounting my trip to the given destination or the skill I wanted to acquire etc. Either way, I hope you will stick with me on my journey to complete this 30 Before 30 list which might just help to change my initial perception/hesitation on the entire idea of them too!

  1. Visit 10 National Trust/English Heritage sites/national parks
  2. Visit Chatsworth House
  3. Visit Greenwich
  4. Visit Versailles
  5. Visit Paris catacombs
  6. Visit Notre-Dame Cathedral
  7. Visit Sagrada Familia
  8. Visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour
  9. Visit Wales
  10. Walk on Main Street USA
  11. See a Shakespeare play at the Globe
  12. Attend the Championships at Wimbledon
  13. Eat a croissant in France
  14. Eat a paella in Spain
  15. Eat pasta/pizza in Italy
  16. Read War and Peace
  17. Read Les Misérables
  18. Read all of Jane Austen’s novels
  19. Read a novel in Spanish
  20. Read all of Shakespeare’s plays
  21. Complete a ‘Classics Club’ list (reading 50 classics)
  22. Host a readathon/readalong
  23. ‘Win’ NaNoWriMo (write 50,000 words in a month)
  24. Do a ‘blog every day’ challenge
  25. Knit a full garment (e.g. scarf/hat)
  26. Learn how to drive
  27. Own a MacBook
  28. Learn how to bake bread
  29. Learn a ballroom dance
  30. Attend a spinning class

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My 2018 Resolutions | Quarterly Check-in #3

As you may have seen if you’re been around the blog for a while, I do check-ins for my yearly resolutions as a way of keeping me accountable to more people than just myself. At the end of the first quarter of 2018, I posted my first check-in, and at the end of June I posted my second check-in.

For those who care to have an in-depth reminder of my 2018 Resolutions you can find that post here. Even though the fact we’re now in October scares me a little a lot, let’s not panic about the encroaching end-of-the-year feeling and instead let’s see how I did with my resolutions in the months of July, August, and September.

READING GOALS

1. Complete Goodreads 52 Books goal

Verdict: Completed
At my last check-in, I was on-track to complete this goal at 45 books and I am very happy to report that I have smashed this goal and I’m now sitting pretty on 63 books read in 2018. I’m really hoping I can get to at least 75 books by the end of the year but let’s see how it goes, shall we?

2. Complete Around the Year in 52 Books

Verdict: On Track
So, at my last check-in for the Around the Year in 52 Books challenge I had 18 challenges remaining and now I have 15 left to go so it’s safe to say I’ve completely neglected this reading challenge in the last quarter. As we head into the fourth and final quarter, I’ll need to re-focus on this goal if I hope to finish it this year. It would be a shame not to.

3. Finish off the books in a series I have yet to read

Verdict: Failing
So, since my last check-in, I’m not sure I even thought about finishing any series. I really need to get back on this reading challenge too. I’d really like to think I could at least finish off the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater by the end of the year, but I’ve been putting off finally finishing the fourth book since it was published so I’m not holding out too much hope.

4. Finish War and Peace and read another Russian classic

Verdict: Failing
Sooo I still haven’t finished War and Peace or another Russian classic, but I have read The Count of Monte Cristo if that at all counts. I don’t think it does but, even so, let’s all take a moment to celebrate the fact I actually managed to finish a huge (French) classic instead!

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My 2018 Resolutions | Quarterly Check-in #2

As you may have seen if you’re been around the blog for a while, I do check-ins for my yearly resolutions as a way of keeping me accountable to more people than just myself. At the end of the first quarter of 2018, I posted my first check-in, and here we are today with my second quarterly check-in for the months of April, May, and June.

For those who care to have an in-depth reminder of my 2018 Resolutions you can find that post here. Now let us examine how I’m doing now we’re halfway through the year…

READING GOALS

1. Complete Goodreads 52 Books goal

Verdict: On Track
I stand at 45 out of 52 books read for 2018 so, unless something major happens, I should comfortably make my goal to read 52 books. Depending how industrious I’m feeling I may even up the challenge goal/resolution once I get to 52.

2. Complete Around the Year in 52 Books

Verdict: On Track
At my last check-in, every single book I’d read at that point in 2018 had also completed one of the Around the Year challenges. That isn’t the case now since I’ve been doing some readalongs and readathons that don’t necessarily tally with the challenges. However, I’ve also had a pretty good quarter in terms of the number of books I’ve read so I’ve made good progress nevertheless with the Around the Year challenges. I’ve now ticked off most of the easy ones and have 18 challenges remaining so, with some forward planning, I should be able to complete this goal too.

3. Finish off the books in a series I have yet to read

Verdict: On Track
Although I haven’t actively been participating in Anna’s #SeriestoFinish2018 challenge (I feel so guilty about this), I have subconsciously been trying to force myself to get to sequels and finish off series, or at least get as up-to-date with them as I can. Case in point: I recently finally read the sequel to An Ember in the Ashes and am planning to pick up the newest book A Reaper at the Gates this month. I also only have one Winner’s trilogy book left, which is progress so… I’d consider this kind of a win?

4. Finish War and Peace and read another Russian classic

Verdict: Failing
Well I still haven’t finished War and Peace. Believe me, I know… I know it’s getting ridiculous now. However, in this quarter I have re-read all my weekly posts from during the War and Peace Newbies Readalong, so I’ve refreshed my memory of the plot and am ready to tackle the last 200 or so pages of Tolstoy’s tome this month in fact. After that I think I might try to finally make it through all the pages of Anna Karenina, again, I’ve tried multiple times but I always stall for some unknown reason, but that likely won’t be until near the end of 2018 since I have other readalongs and readathons planned over the summer/autumn.

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Feature | Bookish Savings Jar: An Update

Do you remember back in January when I floated the idea of the Bookish Savings Jar, the tactic that would solve not only my re-reading problem but also my book buying problem? Well since I seem to be checking in with my resolutions for this year lately, I thought I might as well do an update for how my Bookish Savings Jar is going so far.

tl;dr version: it’s going pretty well! But if you’re curious as to how well it’s going, keep reading!

Let’s remind ourselves of the 3 simple rules for dating my teenage daughter:

  • For every book read, £1 must be surrendered to the jar.
  • For every book that is reread, an additional £1 supplement must be surrendered to the jar.
  • For every book purchased, £1 must be surrendered to the jar.*

* Exceptions: eARCs and audiobooks do not incur charge, since they’re not adding to my physical TBR.

As of 19th January, I had surrendered £17. And as of today, 26th March? (Oo, the suspense is killing me…)

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My 2018 Resolutions | Quarterly Check-in #1

Last year I did quite well with my yearly resolutions, I think, in part, because I regularly “checked in” with them and had a look at how I was doing. Since it worked so well (not to blow my own trumpet) in 2017, I’ve decided to carry on that tradition into 2018 so this is the first of my Quarterly Check-in posts. I’ll have a look at each of my 2018 Resolutions and see how I’ve fared in the months of January, February, and March.

For those who care to have an in-depth reminder of my 2018 Resolutions you can find that post here. Now let us examine how I’m doing three months into the year…

READING GOALS

1. Complete Goodreads 52 Books goal

Verdict: On Track
I’ve managed to read 17 books already this year which Goodreads informs me is 6 books ahead of schedule – go me! If I carry on at this pace all year (which seems unlikely given some exciting holidays planned and a desire to read more classics), I should easily surpass my 52 books target. Fingers crossed?

2. Complete Around the Year in 52 Books

Verdict: On Track
As it stands, every single book I have read thus far in 2018 also completes one of the challenges for the Around the Year Reading Challenge. This is because I’ve been mindful of what books I’m choosing to read and, mostly, because the Reading Challenge is quite adaptable. That being said, once I start whittling the challenges down I am sure it will get harder to match a book to a challenge and I will instead find myself doing it vice versa, i.e. I’ll be picking a book to read that matches a challenge rather than finding which challenge matches the book I’ve just read!

3. Finish off the books in a series I have yet to read

Verdict: Failing
I am definitely failing quite supremely at this because I haven’t given it a moment’s thought after impulsively signing up for Anna’s #SeriestoFinish2018 challenge back in December. I’m feeling very guilty about my complete lack of participation so I hope to get back on the horse, so to speak, and concentrate on finishing off some of those books in a series.

4. Finish War and Peace and read another Russian classic

Verdict: Failing
Until earlier this week, I hadn’t even thought about picking up War and Peace again, even though I know every week is a ticking clock of me retaining any memory of what happened in the first 1000ish pages of this behemoth of a book. I only have about 300 pages left to read so I really need to get to it, it’s not even funny anymore. I won’t let myself move onto another Russian classic either until I’ve defeated this one so I really need to make this a priority – I’ve said I will in my recent Spring TBR post so I’m pretty much duty bound to now.

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Feature | The Bookish Savings Jar

Whilst taking part in my very first #SundayYA Twitter chat, I stumbled across a brilliant idea via Charlie (@charlieinabook), originally courtesy of Aoife (@prettyPPD) and Steph (@eenalol) , whereby you put £1 in a jar for every book read. ‘My oh my,’ I thought, ‘even if I only just about reached my Goodreads goal, that would be fifty-two whole English pounds extra to spend!’ You can imagine my delight; I love saving money and forgetting about it so you end up with a nice little pot of surprise at the end of the year.

Of course, this being me, I’m never be satisfied with not being a little bit of a masochist too so I decided to make it harder for myself. Thus the Bookish Savings Jar was born. Capitalised letters mean business. Do you see the jar? Does it look scary? Maybe I should decorate it accordingly…

bsj

This seemingly innocuous little jar is going to be my windfall come the end of the year (/when I go to Disney World because, let’s be real, I’ll probably use this money anyway to pay off the bills I will rack up when I’m there). The reason for this? Observe the 3 simple rules of the Bookish Savings Jar:

  • For every book read, £1 must be surrendered to the jar.
  • For every book that is reread, an additional £1 supplement must be surrendered to the jar.
  • For every book purchased, £1 must be surrendered to the jar.*

* Exceptions: eARCs and audiobooks do not incur charge, since they’re not adding to my physical TBR. (May revise this ruling if my audiobook buying goes off the charts!)

Reading these rules, you may well think I was trying to read less this year, since it seems as though I’m basically punishing/fining myself for reading. I did worry if that would be the case, whether I’d purposely not read as many books or else not read shorter books or graphic novels and instead opt for long tomes like War and Peace and A Dance with Dragons because then I could put off the inevitable £1 surrendering until a much later date. However, based on January’s progress thus far, I can safely say I needn’t have worried about that being the case at all. As of 19th January, this is how the humble jar looks:

Purchased: Artemis Fowl series (8 books)  = £8
Purchased: Down and Out in Paris and London = £1
Purchased: Fragile Things = £1
Purchased: Saga, Volume 8 = £1
Read: The Wicked Cometh = £1
Re-read: Princess Diaries, Take Two = £2
Read: The Winner’s Crime = £1
Read: The Fandom = £1
Read: Sourdough = £1

Already, I stand at a healthy £17 for and we’re only 19 days into the year. Imagine if I kept up this pace and averaged £20 a month – that would be £240 for the year which is definitely nothing to be sniffed at. I already save a portion of my monthly paycheck (I set it up so that it leaves my current account and pings into my savings account on pay day, before I’ve even had a chance to check my balance) but this will make a nice little bonus pot of money that I fully intend to spend on fun treats. A little reward at the end of the year. A fund with which to ‘treat ma self’, you might say… Let’s see how it fares over the coming months, shall we?

Do you have any savings tactics related to reading? Or maybe you have a plan to help you limit your book buying this year? Let me know in a comment, I’m curious!

Also, would you guys be interested in hearing how the savings jar is going periodically, each month maybe, in my wrap up posts? Let me know!


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My 2018 Resolutions

Yep, as you can see from the title of this, this is one of those posts – an overly optimistic goal-setting for the year ahead in the form of New Year’s Resolutions.

For the first time in years, I had a pretty good year in 2017 in terms of resolution fulfilling. I finally stopped just saying I’d do things and actually did them. This was all in the spirit of putting my money where my mouth was and a just do it attitude. I think this was the secret to this year’s success, along with a healthy realisation that life is too fucking short and you can’t take it with you, this is it, this is life, so if you have the chance to live it and to do something, do it, before you can’t.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Realising it and enacting it are two very different things though… and in that spirit, I’m going to continue into 2018 and hope that the upcoming year is as successful. Let’s get to these resolutions and goals which, I warn you, are probably far too numerous… buckle in, guys!

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My 2017 Resolutions | Final Review

Greetings folks! Today I bring you the last of my check-ins on my 2017 Resolutions – the final review of how I did with my goals this year. Around this time last year, I set some resolutions or goals for 2017. It’s something I try to do every year and every year, without fail, I forget my goals unless I keep them on a handily placed sheet of paper or, as is this year’s case, in the front of my bullet journal. This year I also did quarterly check-ins to keep myself accountable – click to peek at my first quarterly check-in, my second quarterly check-in, and my third quarterly check-in – and it turns out regularly checking in on the progress of your resolutions might actually help you achieve them. Who would’ve thought it?!?

Before I decide upon my 2018 resolutions, I thought I would do a final review of how I did in the final quarter and for the year overall!

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My 2017 Resolutions | Quarterly Check-in #3

Greetings folks! Today I bring you the third of my quarterly check-ins on my 2017 Resolutions. As you may, or may not (I often don’t!), remember, I set some resolutions or goals for this year. I do it every year and every year, without fail, I forget my goals unless I keep them on a handily placed sheet of paper or, as is this year’s case, in the front of my bullet journal. I’m also doing check-ins every so often to keep myself accountable – so you can take a peek at my first quarterly check-in or my second quarterly check-in, and then let us now have a look at my progress in the months of July, August, and September, shall we?

READING, BLOGGING & WATCHING GOALS

 

1. Read at least 52 books in 2017

Verdict: Completed
I’ve definitely smashed through this challenge this year, to the point that I’m considering whether or not to up it to at least 75 books, or maybe 100 if I’m feeling especially industrious.  I’m currently sitting pretty at 67 though so I’ve upped my Goodreads Reading Challenge to 75.

2. Write more reviews

Verdict: Failing-ish
I’m getting better at writing reviews in general, even for books I was just so-so on but these reviews are rarely ever written on time. I like to leave a little bit of time between finishing a book and reviewing it, to let it really sink it etc. (and also because I’m lazy), but it’s just a joke sometimes. Must do better.

3. Blog more & comment more

Verdict:  On Track(ish)
I’m really trying to get into a proper weekly schedule and, for the most part, I think I’m getting there. I’m now aiming to have 4-5 posts a week up, and these are usually a mixture of tags, weekly memes, discussions, TBRs, and reviews – I’d like to have more reviews and discussions and less tags but I’m happy-ish with the direction my blog is headed in. Actually scheduling ahead of time really helps me to read more of other people’s blogs and leave comments – I’m now trying to write my posts for the week ahead on a weekend but that doesn’t always happen.

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My 2017 Resolutions | Quarterly Check-in #2

Greetings folks! Today I bring you the second of my quarterly check-ins on my 2017 Resolutions. As you may, or may not (I often don’t!), remember, I set some resolutions or goals for this year. I do it every year and every year, without fail, I forget my goals unless I keep them on a handily placed sheet of paper or, as is this year’s case, in the front of my bullet journal. I’m also doing check-ins every so often to keep myself accountable – so you can take a peek at my first quarterly check-in, and then let us now have a look at my progress in the months of April, May, and June, shall we?

READING, BLOGGING & WATCHING GOALS

 

1. Read at least 52 books in 2017

Verdict: On Track
At the time of writing this post, I’m sitting pretty at 46 books which Goodreads informs me is 20 books ahead of schedule. Let us take a moment to bask once more in the glow of that meaningless and arbitrary accolade, shall we? Back in Quarterly Check-in #1 I was wondering whether to up my Goodreads goal to 75 books but I’ve decided now not to do that. Whilst I’m sure it’s an achievable number, I want to concentrate on reading some longer books over the summer and I don’t want to constantly be thinking in the back of my head about my Goodreads goal – so at 52 books it shall stay!

2. Write more reviews

Verdict: Failing
Let me explain something – if I dislike a book, I find it infinitely easier to write a review explaining why me and the book didn’t get along very well. A recent case in point is Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. When it comes to a book I liked, if I loved it I will be high and delirious on the buzz of all the feelings and I will then happily skip onto reading my next book, forgetting to write a review. Skip forward a few weeks and then I have a moment of realisation that I never did write that gushing review about that book I loved. At that point I start to feel that perhaps too much time has passed for me to properly convey my adoration so the review remains unwritten. This is a silly cycle to get trapped into and I must do better.

3. Blog more & comment more

Verdict:  On Track(ish)
For a while back there I was on something of a roll with posting to a vaguely regular schedule. And I wouldn’t say I’m failing this goal because I do still post a decent enough amount of things every week – it’s just that in recent days and weeks I’m feeling a bit disheartened about the quality of my blog. Don’t get me wrong, I love participating in weekly memes and all that jazz but I do find myself settling on doing posts like this because they’re “easy posts” for me to write and don’t require huge amounts of thought on my part. I’d like to have more discussion posts and reviews and interesting content. Truthfully, it’s been a while since I’ve been truly 100% happy with any of my posts and I constantly struggle to find the right tone for my blog given my academic literature background but desire to appeal also to a more popular audience. (Maybe that in itself is worth a blog post to unpack some of those feelings – would that be of interest to anyone?)

4. Read at least 4 classics

Verdict: Completed!
Guys, guys, guys, I’ve actually completed a goal – yay! I’ve read Hard Times by Charles Dickens, A Room with a View by E.M. Forster, Howards End by E.M. Forster, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Ok, ok, so Atwood probably counts a modern classic at a push, but it’s still considering a classic so I’m completely allowing myself this one. I didn’t even have to think “ugh maybe I should read a classic”, I just found myself picking up A Room with a View and then that led to me realising I found Forster’s style very readable and then I followed it up with Howards End and voila, here we are. It feels good to actually have something completed and so early in the year – but I suspect that’s because this was an easily quantifiable goal and I set the bar pretty low… even so, I’ll take it!

5. Be mindful of Reading Challenges and actually complete them!

Verdict: On Track
In terms of the Goodreads Challenge and the Around the Year in 52 Books challenge, I’m on track. For Around the Year we’re at week 27 and I’m at 36 out of 52 books which is not too bad at all. As for the Book Riot Read Harder challenge, I’m no longer failing it quite as spectacularly as I was at my first quarterly check-in – I’ve now completed 8 out of 24 challenges which, don’t get me wrong, isn’t brilliant but it’s definitely better than I was doing. Must keep these challenges more in the back of my head as they will definitely require some tailored TBRs for me. And finally as far as Mount TBR goes, I’ve achieved Pike’s Peak (yay!) and am now aiming for Mount Blanc which means another 12 books – I got this, guys.

6. Explore more TV shows/films

Verdict: Failing
Unless you count watching far too many episodes of Police Interceptors as “progress” then, yeah, I’m failing this quite spectacularly. Case in point: yesterday when stuck on a train journey I chose to re-watch Ed Byrne’s Different Class rather than watch The Circle which I had not seen and wanted to. I ALWAYS choose re-watching for the sake of nostalgia/assured enjoyment and I need to stop doing this and let myself explore some new TV and film.

PERSONAL GOALS

 

1. Exercise more regularly

Verdict: Failing
So I changed jobs during quarter 2 which has meant that my walk to/from work has shortened considerably. However, that 10 minute (as opposed to 20 minute) walk in on a morning is now uphill and at speed because I panic about being late. And the downhill walk on the way to the station to get home is also at speed because otherwise I’d miss a train by like 2 minutes and have to wait for the next one. All of this is a way of procrastinating talking about what I really should be talking about… the gym. Ha hahahahaha ha ha. yeah, no, the gym is taking my money for no reason at all since I couldn’t tell you the last time I went. A combination of sheer laziness, lack of motivation, and near-constant blisters on the back of my feet making wearing my gym shoes uncomfortable have all meant I haven’t been in a while. It’s gonna hurt when I do but I know I need to work on my fitness. Sigh.

Also, if any of you happen to know of any beginners yoga videos online can you hook me up? I’m not so much about the mind-clearing and meditation aspects of it but I really need to improve my core strength, stability, and flexibility so I’d greatly appreciate any recommendations.

2. Experiment and find a skincare routine that works

Verdict: On Track
I’m still loving the St Ive’s face scrub in my morning shower but I’m yet to find a day cream that I really like. I continue to use No. 7 but I’m still vaguely suspicious that, despite its claims, it’s not actually the best thing for my sensitive skin. Will report back more later.

3. Travel more

Verdict: On Track
Ok so technically I haven’t been anywhere much since my last check-in (aside from tagging along with Liz and her parents on a lovely day trip to the Lake District which remains stunning by the way) but I do have a pretty damn exciting holiday planned – I’m going to Washington DC and New York! This is all down to Liz being amazed and getting flights but yeah we’re popping over to Washington for a few days to see all the sights and then we’re on a train to NYC for a couple of days and seeing Phantom on Broadway. I’m so ridiculously excited I can’t even begin to explain. Also, if you have recs for places to eat and/or things to do in DC or NYC, please let me know!

4. Allow myself to write more

Verdict: Failing
As I stated in my previous check-in: “I need to let myself write more, whether that is working on that novel I abandoned during NaNoWriMo or trying to get inspiration for some kind of new project. Or maybe I should just allow myself to write more reviews, for a start.” Nothing has changed since and I agree with that previous statement.

Overall

As we stand at the mid-way point of the year, I don’t think I’m doing too badly on a lot of my goals. I’m on-track mostly with my blogging and reading related goals, it’s just my “real life” and personal ones that could do with some much needed attention. That’s pretty par for the course for my life in general, to be perfectly honest. As the weather gets better though, my excuses for the exercise and travel goals really don’t really hold much weight and I will hopefully be trying to address these in the coming months.

Did you make New Years’ Resolutions or goals for this year?
How are you doing at achieving them?


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