Monday, 21 May 2018

Monday Medley #37

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a good weekend whether you're a fan of the Royals or not. Personally, I was a staunch parliamentarian as a child, having been heavily influenced by far left Grandpa, but as I've got older I've mellowed a lot more and don't have a major issue with the Royal family, especially not as individuals. They do a lot of good although I'm not a fan of what they stand for. I think by now though we've all had enough of the hype and are quite happy to just get on with our lives, so without further ado I'll get on with the usual round-up of the best things I've been reading and watching in the last week.


Everything I've loved reading and watching in May, including The Handmaid's Tale.


WATCHING

Season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale is returning to Channel 4 but I've already sneakily watched the first four episodes online and guys you're in for a wild ride. Seriously, shit gets real.

READING

Visiting Christchurch in 2015 was one of the most emotional experiences of my life, as I was stunned by the devastation wrought by the 2011 earthquake that remained, which was sat happily alongside a flourishing city. Charlie visited more recently and wrote a post all about the city's street art, something which was in its nascent stage when I visited. I love street art of all kinds and Christchurch is an incredible city rebuilding from rubble; this post is well worth a read.

Last week I talked about the wonder that is Eurovision, and I've considered going to the finals in the past but never quite managed it. Well, Becky actually did and had the most incredible time and I loved her post all about her adventures in Lisbon, meeting crazy fans and experiencing a new city in the throes of a huge celebration.

I'm very excited to tell you that I'm going to Paris with my Mum at the end of June and have been looking for a few things to do that are slightly off the beaten track; Sophie's post about a library in a Parisian ghost town sounds right up our street, as it means books and not too many people, and reading and ignoring people are some of mine and my mother's favourite things to. It looks absolutely incredible, and I'm hoping we find time to visit next month.

I'll be back next week with more things I'm loving. TTFN.


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Friday, 18 May 2018

The Floating Flowers of Amsterdam

There's only one more Amsterdam blog post after this and I'm quite sad about it! I've loved talking about all the things I got up to on my trip there and it was a really wonderful time. This week, I wanted to share a few photos from the Bloemenmarkt, which is the world's only floating flower market. It's one of Amsterdam's most famous attractions, and is definitely worth a visit if you're in the city.

Amsterdam Bloemenmarkt

It's the place to go for flowers of all kinds, whether that's bouquets, potted plants, seeds and bulbs, or even artificial flowers, they have everything in a riot of colours. They also sell the traditional wooden tulips that a lot of people buy, and they're really quite pretty. Looking back I wish I'd bought some since it's a nightmare keeping plants alive in my flat, but I guess I'll just have to go back to Amsterdam soon!

Amsterdam Bloemenmarkt
Amsterdam Bloemenmarkt
Amsterdam Bloemenmarkt
Amsterdam Bloemenmarkt Cat
Amsterdam Bloemenmarkt
Amsterdam Bloemenmarkt Wooden Tulips

It's really easy to find the Bloemenmarkt, as it's centrally located and you can spot it easily once you're on the right canal. A few of the stalls sell some tacky souvenirs, but the actual flowers themselves are gorgeous. I wish I'd had the opportunity to buy some plants as the cacti in particular were great, but I couldn't exactly bring them back in my hand luggage.

Amsterdam Bloemenmarkt Cacti


Have you visited the Bloemenmarkt or have you added it to your Amsterdam bucket list?



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Talking all about the Bloemenmarkt of Amsterdam
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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

My Plants Keep Dying

I am a terrible plant owner. No matter what I do my plants seem to die, with the exception of a cactus I've had since university. The most recent loss was a gorgeous fiddle fig which has been gradually losing its leaves one by one, each mourned by my boyfriend and I. When we eventually reached one leaf we bit the bullet and binned it. As to how it died, we couldn't figure out if it was under watering or over watering, lack of sunlight or my worried hovering stressing it out, but it's safe to say that I am not the best with plants.


How I'm trying to stop my plants dying

We've been through a lot of plants since moving here, as I gradually figured out where the hot spots, cold spots, dark spots and light spots of the new space. I'm not great with plants in general, but I think our slightly shadowy flat doesn't help. The plant pictured is a relatively recent purchase, but I've had to move it from its perch in the kitchen to near the window because several leaves were turning yellow and dropping off; I think I've saved it, but we'll have to see what happens in the long run. 

I've concluded that I can only keep plants alive if they're right near the window, as we look out onto a narrow road surrounding by buildings with very little direct sunlight. I'm currently in the process of looking for a flat to buy and light is a definite priority as plants make such a difference to a space and make me feel so much calmer. In the meantime, I'm buying fresh cut flowers and lots of vases because they survive a while even in the darkness of the bathroom and bring a bit of colour to the room. I'm currently sticking with cacti and succulents literally on the windowsill, as they seem to be the only thing that lasts more than a couple of weeks, but I think I'll have to hold out for my next flat to build my ideal green palace.

If you have any tips for keeping plants alive in a dark space let me know!



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How I'm trying to stop my plants dying

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Monday, 14 May 2018

Monday Medley #36

Happy Monday everyone! I hope your weekends were as filled with sunshine as mine, although this photo from Amsterdam isn't exactly filled with blue skies I assure that here in Manchester it was a gorgeous weekend. My boyfriend and I spent a lot of time just enjoying the weather and taking lots of photos which will be popping up on the blog over the next few weeks, as well as binge watching Arrested Development in an effort to rewatch the whole thing before Season Five starts at the end of May. Although I struggled with timings a bit last week, I was really happy with the blog posts I put up, as I got to talk about something slightly controversial in one, and something very personal in the other and the whole thing was very cathartic. This week's content is a little more light hearted and features lots of plants, so keep an eye out for greenery over the next few days! For now though, here are a few of my favourites from the last week.


Everything I loved reading and watcing in the second week of May.

WATCHING


I've always loved Eurovision but wasn't this year dramatic?! Getting together with loved ones for a night of camp dancing and off key singing in foreign languages is always a highlight for me, and I spent it this year eating sweets on the sofa with my boyfriend. I really did think the UK deserved better this year, especially after the stage invasion, but Israel's song was a proper Eurovision one and I can see why people voted for it. I'm not sure how I feel about that victory politically, and I've seen the term cultural appropriation thrown around in relation to the act, but Eurovision isn't supposed to be about politics so I'm not going to get too up in arms about it. Next year should be interesting...

READING


Okay, GDPR has got to be one of the most confusing things ever for bloggers, and unfortunately it applies to almost all of us. I think I'm now GDPR compliant thanks to a very short and sweet privacy policy, but after next payday I may spring for an online custom privacy policy to make doubly sure that it's all a-okay. I had no idea that this new law was remotely relevant to me until I read this post from Wonder Forest which talks you through it. Well worth a read for anyone with a blog!

Since I'm going to be talking all things plants this week I had to include Gwennan's post all about homeware for plant lovers and I kind of need everything on this list. *surreptitiously forwards to boyfriend for birthday ideas*

I've been to Turkey before on a cruise and didn't have the best time, what with the heat and being a grumpy teenager. However, Turkey has been back on my mind lately as a place which is warm, beautiful and only a few hours away, and Hayley's post on several cities in the country has got me thinking that it might be the perfect spot for a getaway late in the year. She features some gorgeous photos and a few cities I've never heard of, and I'm definitely thinking about a visit some time soon!


Speak to you next Monday when I'll be sharing more great things that I'm loving! And pop your hot take on Eurovision down in the comments!



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Friday, 11 May 2018

When I Lost Myself

Almost two years ago I wrote a post that was absolute bullshit. I had just broken up my ex and it was an extremely emotional time. Since it's still one of my most read and commented posts even years later I thought I'd better address a few things. I was in an extremely damaged state, having been emotionally manipulated - some would say abused - and I spent the next four months just getting over him. 

A blog post all about how I lost myself while in an emotionally abusive relationship, and how I'm finally getting back to being me.
This is an outtake of a photo used in another post, and even though I don't particularly like how I look in it I love how happy I look. I felt like it represented who I am now, healthy and happy.

I said a lot of things about how our break up was due to circumstances. On the surface that was the case; he wanted to move abroad and we hadn't been together long enough to really commit and make that move together. At least, that's what we said. In reality, our relationship had been deteriorating for almost six months after he told me on a flight back from a skiing holiday that he would happily jump ship and move away if given an opportunity. Up until this point we had talked about moving abroad with words like maybe and one day, always meaning together. This shook me to my core as I struggled to deal with the fact that I meant so little to someone I loved. That night after getting home I considered leaving him, thought about calling a taxi and just running away to a friend's house, but after an argument that lasted days he convinced me to stay, told me he loved me but couldn't commit. I foolishly believed him.

The next six months were terrible. I was more miserable than I have ever been, trapped in a tiny flat with a man who claimed to love me and deep down I knew he didn't. We fought constantly and I cried daily, usually in secret. I was always wrestling with the fact that I saw a future for us and he didn't. The last straw was when we both had a week off work together and he ignored me the entire time. We had booked that week off to work on our relationship and try and fix things, but instead, he sat and worked on his Japanese for the future he was planning for himself, moving alone to Japan to pursue a PhD. I remember asking him if we could do something, anything, together, just go to the cinema, or eat a meal together where we weren't watching TV. I was politely asked to give him space, he'd say "I'm an introvert, remember?" and I would back off, not wanting to start another argument. After seven days of sitting in a room together not speaking, I dumped him.

Once again, he begged me to stay, and I listened. I dumped him on the Monday and by Wednesday he had decided he wanted me to come to Japan with him. I was excited and began working on my Japanese, thinking that by leaving him I had scared him into realising how much he loved me and didn't want to lose me. That Saturday, he dumped me for good. 

I remember the moment vividly. I had just learnt a load of new kanji and was excited to show off how much work I had done when my phone buzzed and I read a text saying that a friend of mine had just broken up with his fiancee. Shocked, I looked up as the door opened and my ex walked back in, still wet and wrapped in a towel from the shower. He was crying, knowing what this was going to do to me. He told me he couldn't do it anymore, framed it as him liberating me and doing me a favour. I screamed at him, called my mother and was gone in less than two hours.

It didn't end there, with trips to retrieve things I'd left behind in which he told me loved me, held me and said he'd never forget me. This messed me up even more, believing that it was somehow all my fault for pushing to be together and commit. It was all a lie. He was lying to himself and to me the whole time. I actually think I hit the nail on the head in that first post, saying that he loved me but was never in love with me. He probably did, but he had absolutely no respect for me. It didn't help that I had no respect for myself, constantly going out of my way to do what was best for him. He took advantage of my generally kind and giving nature, and I allowed myself to become his doormat and verbal punching bag.

In the time I was with him I wasn't myself. My mother told me in the months after that I had lost a part of myself, the vibrancy and joy I've had since I was a child. She likened it to when I became trapped in an abusive friendship with a housemate back in university, and that was when I first realised that my relationship had been emotionally manipulative. He played me like a fiddle, kept me hanging on his every word and dancing to his tune. I would have done anything for him, and looking back I hate that about myself. 

I spent two months crying at my Mum's house, a month in an absolute rage after realising just how poorly I'd been treated, and a month in a weird limbo between anger and moving on. It was during this last month that I met up with an old friend who eventually became my boyfriend, and he has made my life so much better. He loves me, but more to the point he respects me like my ex never did. I couldn't be happier and I'm grateful every day that we found each other.

What's changed the most since then is my relationship with myself. I vowed never to let myself become such a pushover again, despite my natural tendency to be a people pleaser. I still slip into this trap, but I will never allow myself to spiral down to the depths of despair I found in those last six months of the relationship. Frankly, I deserve better.

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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

When In Amsterdam...

While planning for my recent trip to Amsterdam I did my usual thing of trawling through guidebooks and blogs, researching the best things to do, the best places to eat and since it's Amsterdam, the best places to try weed. I found nothing. Marijuana is legal in small quantities in the Netherlands, and coffee shops, which specialise in smoking and weed in all forms as well as selling coffee, abound in the city centre. Since weed is pretty harmless, I fancied trying it in a safe, legal environment, but found almost no information from all my usual sources. Since there's a real dearth of information available without digging through Reddit, here's everything I learned about weed and coffee shops in Amsterdam.

Advice for first time weed marijuana users visiting Amsterdam

I know this post isn't going to be for everyone, but for anyone who fancies trying a true Amsterdam tradition this should prove helpful. I can understand why many bloggers don't feature it in blog posts, as it's not exactly part of the whole blogger image. I'm not a smoker in any way, but I figured I ought to at least give it a try while on holiday. I eventually concluded that weed and I aren't a great mix, which I'll talk about later, but hopefully this post will be of help for anyone considering trying weed for the first time.

Coffee Shops vs Cafes

First up, you need to know the difference between coffee shops and cafes. Cafes are regular places like you'd find anywhere, serving coffee, tea and often doubling as small restaurants. Coffee shops will sell you coffee, tea and weed in various forms, but are strictly anti-alcohol. The laws in Amsterdam are such that marijuana and alcohol are kept pretty separate and that law, and I wouldn't recommend mixing the two as it can leave you feeling queasy and generally unwell.

Coffee Shop Etiquette

Once you're inside a coffee shop it can easily become overwhelming. There are menus with different blends available in different forms while everyone around you seems to know exactly what they're doing. Your best bet at this point is to speak to someone who works there. Everyone I encountered was friendly and knowledgable, and comepletely happy to advise me on what would be good for a first timer. If you fancy smoking I'd go for a pre-rolled joint unless you're practiced at hand-rolling cigarettes. They'll come in different strengths and mixed with a herbal blend to help it burn as it can be difficult to get pure weed to burn well. Tobacco isn't really smoked at coffee shops and it's considered rude to mix it into your joints as people consider it an air pollutant.

You're quite likely to need ID to go to a coffee shop, and the vast majority only accept cash so make sure you've got some on hand. PRICES Quite often you end up buying packs of three or four bifters (joints) so you're likely to have some leftover. You can smoke other establishment's joints in coffee shops but it's at least polite to buy a coffee.

If you don't fancy smoking or try it and find that it isn't for you (tip, you need to actually inhale and hold it, not just cough up a lung, which is tricky if you've never smoke before), you can try edibles. Edibles are basically different foods, usually baked goods which have weed as one of the ingredients; the classic example is space brownies. Take it slow with edibles, as while you'll feel an effect almost immediately with a bifter it can take a while for edibles to kick in, meaning people often eat too much thinking that they're not working. Edibles aren't available everywhere but are still fairly common; just ask behind the bar.

Price-wise it varies between coffee shops, but the most commercialised chain and therefore likely the most expensive, Bulldog, will charge you
€15 for a pack of four bifters. A brownie from Grey Area coffee shop cost me €8.

Smoking Outside of Coffee Shops

Generally people smoke either in their own homes or in coffee shops, but on a beautiful summer day everyone wants to smoke outside. A lot of coffee shops have outdoor seating areas, but if you fancy a bifter in the park there are a few things you should bear in mind. Although it's technically legal, smoking brazenly in publish is frowned up in busy areas, and people will ask you to stop if there are children around. If you find a quiet spot without many people then you're free to light up, but bear in mind your surroundings. Hotels rarely allow smoking in rooms, just like the rest of Europe.

Personal Experiences

I tried a bifter and a brownie while in Amsterdam and they affected me in the same way. The brownie didn't kick in noticeably for almost two hours but it left me just as giggly and lethargic as the joint did. The sensation wasn't unpleasant or pleasant; I just felt a little numb and silly. It honestly wasn't particularly exciting for me. A lot of people get a real buzz from weed but I think it's just not for me.

Recommended Coffee Shops

Hopefully this is of use to someone, hit me with any questions you may have and I'll do my best to answer!



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Advice for first time weed marijuana users visiting Amsterdam
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Monday, 7 May 2018

Monday Medley #35

It's bank holiday Monday and my condolences to everyone who is still at work today. I'm one of the many annoying people who is free today and I'm off to Altrincham later with the other half for a nosey around the market and at the charity shops, followed by a BBQ with friends. This last week has been pretty stressful as I kind of let myself spiral out of control a bit, but having taken a couple of days to reset I'm feeling lot more self assured and in control. I've found some absolute gems this week in terms of blog posts and TV shows I've loved, so keep reading to find out more.


Everything I've loved reading and watching in the first week of May.

WATCHING

I love Arrested Development and I think it's seriously underrated as a show. Some of the jokes haven't aged well, especially season 3, but it's still solidly hilarious and extremely clever. The recut version of season 4 just came out on Netflix, as many people weren't a fan of the unusual format it originally aired in. Season 5 is due any day now and I can't wait to hopefully get some answers to the cliffhanger at the end of season 4!

I managed to find time to see Avengers: Infinity War in the cinema this week and I spend the whole time slightly overwhelmed. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but so much happened with so many characters that I feel like I could do with watching it again. If you're not invested in the Marvel universe and character then I doubt you'd get much out of it as it's so heavily dependent on prior knowledge to get the most out of it.

READING


I've loved Sophie's blog for a long time, especially her travel posts, but it's often her most personal stories that resonate best with me. She talks about her experience of grief and loss and talks about how it changes over time. Anyone who has expereinced grief will be able to relate and it was an emotional read for me.

Hannah Gale needs no introduction, but as a relative newcomer to her blog I was surprised to read that she's struggled with bulimia in the past. She talks about she kind of grew out of it, and I underwent a similar process myself with a bit of backsliding occasionally. She writes far more eloquently about it than I could and this is well worth a read.

I've followed Katie's journey with ulcerative colitis for a while now and I'm so proud of her for taking the step of a total proctectomy. It's a pretty big operation but she made the decision that was right for her. She writes insightfully about her life with a stoma and her recent post about one week after her operation is great.

That's all for this week but I'll be back next Monday with more.




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Friday, 4 May 2018

Making Time For Me

Regular readers will have noticed that generally, my posts go up at 8am sharp, three times a week, yet here we are at 8pm on Friday and it's been radio silence since Monday. This is out of the ordinary to say the least, as I've been tweeting minimally and have hardly used Instagram at all despite my growing love for the platform. Unfortunately, I haven't been off doing anything fun and just forgotten to blog, nor has my personal life suffered a great disaster. All that happened was a bout of anaemia that kept me off work for a few days, coupled with me not really looking after myself.

How I'm making time for me to prevent my life from spinning out of control

Last week was busy, with several nights out being social which always leaves me exhausted. The weekend was good but seemed just as busy somehow, and then blood tests on Monday followed by anaemia just laid me low for a while. I finally realised why I've been feeling so rubbish mentally, not just physically. I haven't made any time to actually look after myself at all this week.

I'm definitely guilty of falling into this trap from time to time, focusing on others or all the jobs I have to do rather than what's best for me. Rather than scrabbling to catch up on Wednesday's missed blog post it will go up next Wednesday, as it's a lengthy one that I'd like to get right. Just making that decision has lifted a real weight from me and I feel like I can breathe. I think I need to make sure I put aside time for myself at least twice a week, focusing on the things that make me feel calm and fulfilled, as they give me a measure of control over my hectic everyday life. When I don't give myself this downtime I struggle to cope with my everyday stress, meaning things like my blog tend to fall by the wayside, which makes me even more stressed and upset.

Ways to make time for me


I really need to start taking advantage of my alone time when my boyfriend goes to band practice twice a week. I love spending time with him more than anyone, but sometimes it's nice to have the flat to myself and really embrace time alone. I lived alone before we moved in together and I'm still getting used to it.

I've recently started the Brambling Books series on here in which I talk about the books I've been reading each month, and making the effort sit and immerse myself in a book really made a difference to my mental and emotional state.

Actively watching TV or films, rather than just having them on in the background, is so healing in many ways. So much of time is spent doing three things at once, so actually

Making it to the gym once a week makes my body feel so much lighter and my mind clearer. I so often slack off and don't exercise at all, and I hate myself for it every time. I really enjoy having that time in which my mind is completely clear and I'm just focused on moving, and I feel good for days.

Actually doing those little nagging odd jobs makes such a difference. Sewing on that button that fell off a month ago, or fixing that hole in your pocket means it's one less thing on my mind and the annoying voice in the back of my head that sounds like my Nan goes away for a while.

Giving myself an extra five minutes in the morning to do things like put on jewellery or a little more makeup makes me feel much more myself and like I can face the day properly. I hate leaving the house not feeling my best, like I did this morning and got to work to find that I still had some of my SPF on my chin that I hadn't rubbed in properly, despite having managed to throw on some mascara and hadn't noticed it somehow, as I was in such a rush. A slower, calmer morning leads to a much more productive and enjoyable day.

These are just a few of the things I think I need to start including in my daily life in order to keep it from spinning out of control. Here's hoping the next week will be calmer as a result!




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How I'm making time for me to prevent my life from spinning out of control
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