Just Another Monthly #2

Something to think about:

baby child close up crying

My most hated word in the English language? Just.

“Why are you doing it like that? Just do it like this?”

Just do it”

Just don’t do it”

“It’s easy. Just…”

Just. Just. JUST

Why does such a seemingly inoffensive word rile me so much? It presumes so much. It presumes that the answer to your problem is simple and why haven’t you thought of it? It’s ok, the irony is not lost on me. The word just is in both my blog name and this post’s title. However, it’s the use of the word just when telling someone to do something that specifically gets my goat. Here’s an example:

Some years ago, when I was having terrible problems settling my baby in a cot for the first time, I had a little moan about it at the baby group I regularly attended.

“She won’t settle. She screams. She cries. She doesn’t like the cot at all and was much happier in her moses basket.”

“Ah,” interjected a fellow mum, “just put her in a sleeping bag in the cot”

“I’ve done that. It didn’t make a difference” was my reply

Just put her in the moses basket in the cot, to get her used to it”

“Yep, tried that too. Also didn’t work”

Just comfort her whilst she’s in the cot crying, so she knows there’s nothing to be scared of”

“I mean, I’ve definitely done that….”

Just leave her to cry it out”

“Sure, I’ve done that too, but she seems particularly unhappy…”

“Well, I don’t have any other suggestions. Sorry”

And that was the end of the conversation. The thing was, I wasn’t looking for advice. I merely wanted to have a moan. To get it off one’s chest as it were. And all I wanted in return was a “oh dear, that must be shit. It will be ok though” type response.

Here’s the thing, it’s my theory that most of the time when someone is upset about something or having a moan about something, they rarely want or need advice. Chances are if they’re relatively intelligent, they’ve already tried all the obvious solutions. All they need is someone to listen and allow them vent. We all need this outlet.

In a world where mental health is on the increase and we are encouraged to talk about our problems, we need as much encouragement to ensure people know how to listen and give people space to talk. It’s all very well giving advice and I’m sure people like the mum in my example have good intentions, but we should not underestimate the power of just listening and just letting people talk. Ha. Oh ok, perhaps I don’t dislike the word just all the time.

By the way, my baby got used to the cot. All she needed was a bit of time to get used to it. Nothing else.

Something to be cheerful about:

  • 5,000 people queued up in the rain to see if they were able to help save the life of one little 5-year old boy. Oscar Saxelby-Lee has a very rare form of blood cancer and needs a stem cell transplant in the next 3 months. After an appeal for potential donors, almost 5,000 people turned up at Oscar’s school to register for testing to see if they’re a match. This is over double the amount of people that have turned up for any other appeal for donors from the DKMS blood cancer charity- the previous record being 2,200. A further 1,000 people have since registered to be tested to see if they’re a match for Oscar.

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  • India has opened its first hospital for rescued and abused elephants. The hospital in Uttar Pradesh has already treated 26 elephants. The elephants have mainly been rescued from tourist attractions such as circuses, street-riding and also from private owners. Elephants held in these conditions results in them developing many health conditions and malnutrition. The hospital has plenty of sophisticated equipment such as ultrasound scans, radiology, laboratory testing and a hydrotherapy pool to help nurse the poor elephants back to health. Once they are healthy again, they are sent to elephant sanctuaries to spend their retirement in full health and happiness.

animal elephant tusk close up

Something to buy:

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Louche Jude Pooch Pyjama Shirt, £45, from Joy the Store

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Senora Ceramic Vase, £39.99, from Okla

Something to read:

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I’ve already talked about my love of food HERE and mentioned Ruby’s newsletter there, but I implore you to read this book by Ruby. It’s one long love song about food and reasons to enjoy it guilt free. Honestly, you won’t be able to read it without salivating. There’s also the odd recipe sewn in between all the chapters about why food matters and why we should enjoy it. It’s all about the pleasure.

Something to watch:

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Anybody that follows me on Instagram, will know that I’m currently obsessed with the Netflix reality makeover show Queer Eye. It’s so much more than a makeover show though. There’s more focus on making people feel happier with themselves and their lives. The Fab 5 (Karamo, Jonathan, Antoni, Tan and Bobby) spend a lot time sitting down with their heroes (as the participants are referred to as) talking to them and finding out about their lives and pasts. The show is engineered to be incredibly emotive,  but if you’re like me then you’re rather partial to a tearjerker. I’ve become obsessed with the show, binge watching the first two seasons, but for me the best thing about the show is the Fab 5. Their charisma and warmth is infectious. I am desperate for them to be my new best friends. And the good news is that the new season is on Netflix from today. So grab a box of tissues and get watching Queer Eye.

Something to cook:

Shakshouka

Okay so boiling an egg in a frying pan of tinned tomatoes, may not sound the most appealing, but trust me this recipe is delicious. It’s a very comforting and warming dish (and looking out of the window right now, we still need that comfort and warmth) plus the ingredients are usually always at hand. It’s traditionally a North African/Middle Eastern breakfast, but I have it for lunch.

Ingredients (serves 1)

Olive Oil

I garlic clove

Chilli flakes (as much as you like)

Paprika

1 egg (or 2 if you’re hungry)

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

Salt

Parmesan

Method

  • Fry the garlic in the oil with the chilli flakes for a minute
  • Chuck the tin of chopped tomatoes in and get them boiling
  • Crack the egg in the middle
  • Sprinkle parmesan on top (again, as much as you like)
  • Put a plate or lid over the frying pan and leave to simmer on a low heat for about 5 mins
  • Serve with a thick slice of buttered bread and more parmesan on top

Tip: you can pad this meal out with sliced peppers and/or onions. Fry them first before you add the tomatoes and egg. You can also add other spices to it that you might enjoy such as cumin and cayenne pepper.

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Sorry my food photos are pretty rubbish, but trust me- this is bloody lovely.

Something to help save the planet with:

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Natural Dental Floss £5

Plastic-free dental floss! I use this regularly (do I get a sticker?) and it’s as good as regular floss. It’s made from natural and sustainable silk, PETA certified cruelty free, 100% natural with no chemicals and it comes in a little reusable glass jar. When you finish the floss in this jar, you can buy refills, which in turns helps limit plastic waste. You can buy it in either mint or cardamon flavour. Oh and the floss is compostable. So what are you waiting for? Get flossing! You can get it HERE

Something to enjoy from the Blogosphere:

Please pop over to Angela’s blog and have a read of her candid and (as always) thoughtful post on co-parenting HERE. She always writes so well and this is an exceptional post on the difficulties of having to regularly wave goodbye to your child.

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Something to listen to:

Just Another Playlist #2- A weekly mix tape of an eclectic collection of tunes (maybe to listen to while you make the Shakshouka)

Something to laugh at:

Imma just gonna leave this here without comment:

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See you next week for the top The Cure songs and Just Another Monthly will be back in a month’s time!

Just Another Monthly

Something to think about:

accomplishment ceremony education graduation

Once when I casually mentioned in passing my attendance at university, it was met with a scoffing dismissal “Pah, I went to the University of Life, mate. No amount of education can teach you that”. True, BUT…..This wasn’t the first time me being a graduate has been criticised and met with an assumption that I know less about life because of going to university. It begs the question, do people who do this, think people stop living and experiencing life when they attend university? Like many students, I held down a part-time job during term time and worked full-time during the holidays as well as -of course- studying full-time. I met and lived with people from all different backgrounds. And I worked my tiny derriere off to obtain my degree (unlike the lazy stereotype that all students are lackadaisical). None of this is “not learning about life”. Also, university is for only 3 years (4/5 years max) of one’s life. If it truly does take you away from learning about life, it really is only for a small amount of time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t by any means think that going to university is a superior life choice. I’m not some kind of arsehole that walks around thinking they’re better than anyone that hasn’t been to university. And of course, being or not being a graduate is not an indicator of someone’s intelligence. I knew plenty of people at uni, who I would squint at and wonder how on earth they managed to get into university and there are countless people I know who are very clever and successful, but did not attend uni (my husband being one of them). There are many life choices people can make and university is just one of many. So here’s the thing, why is it ok for some people to openly criticise my life choice of going to uni? And to criticise it in a way that demeaning my character seems to be the motivation. I give very little fucks whether you’ve been to uni or not. Why do you give any that I have? We’re all different and all make different choices about our lives. Just because something is the right choice for you, doesn’t mean that it is for everyone. Relax. Like I said, I really don’t think people care what your choices are regarding your education (and if they do- they aren’t worth worrying about). Literally, all people care about is whether you’re a wanker or not. And insinuating that I know less about life than you do because I studied for an extra 3 years than you, is you know…a bit wankerish.

Something to be cheerful about:

It ain’t all going to shit you know. In this week’s news:

  • sandwich chain Pret A Manger has opened a new hostel this week that will provide jobs and housing for the city’s homeless. I worked for Pret for several years and can vouch that they have always cared for the homeless. In its infancy, any left over sandwiches would be bagged up and taken to local shelters. Nothing would go to waste. Pret hopes this hostel will be the first of many to open across the country. What a great idea to break the cycle of homelessness.
  • scientists have said the ozone layer is continuing to recover well. The northern hemisphere is due to be repaired by 2030 and the entire layer by 2060. This is due to global reduction of harmful gases. Great news, but drastic action is still needed to help further protect the planet from climate change.
  • goat yoga is a thing of the past. In England, you can now do Alpaca yoga. Yep, in sunny Devon you can now do yoga classes in a field of fuzzy alpacas and mediate amongst the herd in a mindful manner. Sign me up!

photo of a llama

 

Something to buy:

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Gingham flower dress, £85, Coco Fennell

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Please Go Away clutch bag, £25, from I Love Mel

Something to read:

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Whether you have depression, have suffered from it in past, know someone who is suffering from it or just want to learn more about it (and life), then please stop and read this book. Beautifully written by Matt Haig, who relays his own personal experiences with depression and anxiety. It will make you laugh and cry in equal measures. One of those books that you feel everyone should be made to read.

Something to watch:

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Roma won the BAFTA for Best Film this week (and Best Film not in the English Language, Best Cinematography and Best Director). I absolutely adored this film. Honest, moving, sweet, artistic and at times funny. After I watched it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Whilst, I’m still not 100% sure it should have won the Best Film category, it was most definitely worthy of the other three wins. You can watch it now on Netflix and if you’re a fan of films like this, then I guarantee you’ll love Roma.

Something to cook:

Chocolate Raspberry Heart Cake

Has it been Valentine’s Day this week? Well as you know, I’m not one for romance (you can read about it HERE), but I do like any excuse to bake. So, every year (if I can be bothered), I make this chocolate raspberry heart cake originally created by Annabel Karmel and slightly amended by me.

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A not very good (and old school Instagrammed) photo of my chocolate raspberry heart cake

Ingredients:

180g soft butter

180g caster sugar

180g self-raising flour

30g cocoa powder

3 large eggs

2 tbsp milk

Filling:

200ml double cream

Fresh raspberries

Icing:

100g dark chocolate

30g unsalted butter

Raspberry jam

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160/180/gas mark 4. Grease and line the bottom of a heart shaped tin (or whatever cake tins you might have at hand. I got my silicone heart shaped tin from good ole M&S)
  2. Chuck all the cake ingredients together. Take Mary Berry’s advice and make sure everything is at room temperature. If your butter is still hard and cold- melt it in the microwave for a few seconds. Give everything a jolly good mix.
  3. Whack it in the tin and bake it in the oven for 35-40mins. Take the tin out and leave for a couple of minutes. Then take the cake carefully out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.
  4. Now, let’s make the icing. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl over the pan of simmering water. Then leave to cool.
  5. Next, the filling. Whisk the cream until stiff. Mix with a good handful of the raspberries.
  6. Once the cake is cooled. Carefully, oh so very carefully slice in half. Then slather a bit of raspberry jam on the bottom half. Then dollop the cream filling on top. Then place the top half on and carefully press down.
  7. Slather more raspberry jam on the top half.
  8. Once the icing is cool. Paste it on top of the cake and around the sides (if you like or leave the sides “naked” if you prefer that look).
  9. Cover the top of the cake with the rest of the fresh raspberries.
  10. Stuff it into your face and enjoy every mouthful.
  11. Sharing this cake with your partner is not compulsory.

Something to help save the planet with:

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Beeswax Wraps kids pack of 4

Beeswax Wraps: Every little helps, eh? These little gems have been fantastic. I literally haven’t used any cling film since I bought them (coupled with silicone lids I also invested in). These beeswax wraps cling to food, just like cling film. I use them to wrap sandwiches, snacks, cheese, halved veg and there’s probably lots of other ways you can use them too. You just clean them along with all the rest of your washing up and when you have used them so many times, you can no longer use them any more, they are compostable. I’ve had mine for 6 months and there’s plenty of life left in them. Buy them HERE.

Something to enjoy from the Blogosphere:

Go have a read of this blog post HERE. It is one to cheer you all up. Features a mum who is now my role model quite frankly.

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Seriously, don’t mess with her.

Something to listen to:

Just Another Playlist #1- A weekly mix tape of an eclectic collection of tunes (maybe to listen to while you make the cake)

Something to laugh at:

  • Look no further than the SimonCowellsShoes.jpg Twitter account HERE. I am so thankful for this account. It is exactly what the internet is for.
  • And lastly, these french bull dogs with googly eyes are EVERYTHING:

***Don’t forget you can sign up to receive this monthly newsletter straight into your mailbox. Just click the little “Follow” box at the bottom, right hand side of the screen and enter your email address***

See you next week for the top Björk tunes (and Just Another Monthly will be back in a month’s time)!

 

My 10 Most Popular Posts from 2018

I thought I’d give you a countdown of my most popular posts form this year. What an up and down blogging year. I’ve written a total of 84 posts! I went and won myself a blogging award! But in the second half of the year, I haven’t been able to produce as many posts as normal as because….well you know…that thing called life.

So here they are, and I must say, I am very surprised at my no.1.

***Click on the titles to read each post***

10. Budget Beauty Products

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Probably one of my more useful posts, even though it was an unusual one from me.

9. Top 10 American Sitcoms

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LOVED doing this post. Still love all my choices and no Seinfield still doesn’t make my top 10. You’re just going to have to find a way to live with it. Soz.

8. The School Run Game

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Oh, I am very glad, this is in here. It is still very much my life and very possibly yours too.

7. Don’t Make Me Go Out

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Ah yes, this is the post where I’m a bit miserable and even more so at this time of year, I stand by everything I say in this post.

6. Ironing: why bother?

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This was my attempt at starting a revolution. I still say it: “Throw out the irons, people”

5. The Insignificance of Romance

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The one where I gave two fingers to hearts and flowers

4. Celebrities That Should Just Get Back Together

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None of them have got back together since I wrote this. None of them listened to me. Idiots.

 

AND THE TOP THREE POSTS WERE…..

3. How To Break Up With Your Phone- Week I

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How’s your phone addiction going? Mine is still a work in progress, but I’m a lot better than I was. Probably should have a re-read of this book though…

2. In Celebration of Food

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Of course a pornographic article was going to be popular with you very clever and astute readers. You are my people. Now make me dinner.

And my post popular post in 2018 was…..

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1. Every Live Act I Have Ever Seen

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Whaaaaaaa? The post I quickly cobbled together in about 10 minutes and posted as a laugh along with my mate sexy Phil Taylor?! I literally didn’t think anyone would care, but there you go, folks. It’s been updated recently too!

The one that didn’t quite make my top ten: Just a few clicks away from being in my top ten was The Representation of Brits in American Culture

My least popular post this year (for balance): Oh go give it some love- bless it- Just Another Book Club- June book

My post popular post of all time: It’s still- Why Women’s Procreation Choices Are None of Your Business

And here’s a list of my TOP TEN POSTS FROM 2017

Thank you so much for reading and Happy New Year!

Just Another Book Club- 2019 (part I)

As you know, I’m running the book club slightly differently. I’m now reviewing and discussing the books we read for this book club on my Instagram HERE and Facebook HERE, usually on the first Monday of the month (following the month a book was allocated to).

As before, there is absolutely no pressure to read all six books and you don’t have to read them during the months I suggest. That’s just there for guidance and also because some books might not be published on paperback until a certain date. And as always, one of the six books will be a non-fiction book. I hope you’ll join me in reading these books. I love to hear what you think about them.

So, the 6 books we’ll be reading for the first half of 2019 will be:

January: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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February: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

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March: The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni

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April: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

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May: Christodora by Tim Murphy

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June: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

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This chosen list of books is final. If you don’t fancy reading a particular book one month, just give it a miss that month.

I’ll post a new list of books for the second half of 2019 in early/mid-June time.

For a list of the books we read during the second half of 2018, click HERE

For a list of the books we read during the first half of 2018, click HERE

For a list of the books we read during the second half of 2017, click HERE

Don’t forget you can leave a review of any of the past books that we have read at any point.

For my Goodreads page, click HERE

Just Another Book Club- June Book

Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.

***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***

Stay With Me

by

Ayombami Adebayo

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Synopsis

Set in 1980s Nigeria during times of political unrest, Stay With Me tells the story of Yejide and her husband Akin and their hope for a child. When a new wife for Akin is introduced at the insistence of his family, it is not view favourably by Yejide.

My Quick Review

Stay With Me covers many difficult subjects including child mortality, extra-marital sex, sexism, grief, infertility and politics. As you can imagine, this makes the book quite difficult to read on a occasion. However, the book is written with a lot of humanity and at times with humour.

The book features many strong female characters, including our protagonist Yejide. What consistently shocked me about the book was the horrific sexism deployed by the mother-in-law towards Yejide. This book is an excellent portrayal of Nigerian family culture and I learned so much from it.

I felt like the title of the book was referring more to Yejide’s children than her husband. When I first started to read the book, I thought it would be referring to their marriage, but it came clearer further into the book that it was the children that she so desperately wanted to stay with her.

This book is well-written and shows a lot of potential for author Ayobami Adebayo. It is a book about the bond of mothers with their children, about female strength, family and love.

Questions to Consider

1. Discuss the early stages of Yejide and Akin’s courtship, from both of their perspectives. What is Yejide’s initial reaction to Akin’s romantic propositions? Consider Yejide’s childhood and past that is revealed over the course of the novel. What does she seek in a romantic relationship? How does Akin provide security for her? How does Akin convince Yejide that he is trustworthy?

2. Consider the family unit as a social force in Stay with Me. How do the opinions of Akin’s family members influence his decisions? Describe the relationship between Akin and his parents. How does Akin both obey and defy the wishes of his family? How does Yejide navigate her role as a daughter-in-law?

3. In the beginning of Stay with Me, the reader is introduced to the central conflict of Yejide and Akin’s life: their infertility as a couple. How is Yejide and Akin’s childlessness seen as a reflection on the family unit? What is the burden of expectation placed on Yejide? How is she treated by Akin’s family as a result of her infertility? By the community? How do attitudes toward Yejide change once she is pregnant?

4. Discuss the road leading to Yejide’s first pregnancy. How do the social pressures to become a mother weigh on Yejide? Once Yejide learns that she is no longer Akin’s only wife, how does the urgency of her mission become more pronounced? Consider the barriers to her pregnancy, and what she learns about herself from the field remedies and the medical establishment. How does the psychological trauma that accompanies her journey weigh on her throughout the novel?

5. The tension between modern attitudes and traditional thought informs much of Stay with Me. How does Yejide and Akin’s early agreement of monogamy conflict with the prevailing social attitude? How does this create tension over the course of the novel? How does Yejide defy the wishes of her husband’s family? How does the eventual shift of parental responsibilities to Akin upend the expectations of motherhood and parenting?

6. Consider the identity of “mother,” and how understanding of that role shifts for Yejide over the course of the novel. How does the story of her mother’s death influence her worldview and her perspective on family? Discuss the relationship Yejide had with her father’s other wives. Which woman in her life, if any, provides her with an understanding of what a loving mother-child relationship looks like? Once she becomes a mother, how does her self-image change?

7. Describe Yejide’s relationship with Iya Bolu. How does Iya Bolu’s attitude toward Yejide shift over the years? When does Yejide seem to earn the most respect from Iya Bolu? When does she earn her sympathy?

8. Consider the political background of Stay with Me. How does the instability of the government undermine the health and happiness of Yejide and her family? How does the political upheaval reflect the emotional turmoil of Yejide and Akin?

9. The reveal of Akin’s medical condition is an important development in the plot. Given this revelation, would you consider Funmi’s death to be purposeful? How did you interpret his reaction to her accusation? How does Akin contend with threats to his masculinity throughout the novel?

10. Discuss the significance of the hair salon in Yejide’s life. How does it encourage her independence? How does it act as a place of gathering within their community?

11. Compare the bedtime story that Yejide tells her children with the tale that Akin shares with Rotimi as she grows. What do these stories reveal about the worldviews of both parents? What lessons are they sharing? How is it a cautionary tale between parent and child? How does it reflect Yejide’s own childhood experiences?

12. Discuss the process of mourning as depicted in Stay with Me. How does the community react to Yejide’s mourning for the loss of her first child versus her second? Discuss the general attitude towards Yejide’s depression from her family and those around her.

13. What is Akin’s relationship with his brother? How do they compete with each other? How do they jockey for the coveted spot of favored son throughout the novel? After their brawl, how does their relationship change? Do you think Dotun possessed real romantic feelings for Yejide?

14. Discuss Yejide’s reunion with Rotimi. Were you surprised by this reveal? How did you interpret Timi’s insistence on calling Yejide “Moomi”?

15. Stay with Me is a novel that challenges readers’ expectations with its surprising reveals, its secrets, and its deception. What plot development did you find to be most surprising? How does Adebayo play with the idea of expectation versus reality throughout the novel?

My order (by how much I enjoyed them), of the 6 books we read in the first half of 2018. Click on the titles for the book club reviews:

6. Sweet Pea by C J Skuse

5. Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

3. Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (joint 3rd place)

3. This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

2. Slade House by David Mitchell

1. Animal by Sara Pascoe

As you know, I’m dong things slightly differently with Just Another Book Club. I will now only be opening the book club discussion at the end of every 6 months, but I will be leaving a space on my Facebook page and Instagram on a monthly basis for people to discuss earlier if they so wish.

For a list of the books we are reading for the second half of 2018, click HERE

You can view my Goodreads page here

Just Another Book Club- 2018 (part II)

So, for the second half of this year, I’m going to run this book club slightly differently. I’m still providing a list of six books and the months you could read them in. However, I won’t be putting up my review on a monthly basis. Instead at the end of the six months, I’ll put up one post discussing all six books. People can then leave comments as to what they thought of all the books that they read from the list. As before, there is absolutely no pressure to read all six books and you don’t have to read them during the months I suggest. That’s just there for guidance and also because some books might not be published on paperback until a certain date. And as always, one of the six books will be a non-fiction book. I hope you’ll still join me in reading these books. I love to hear what you think about them. I just needed to take a bit of pressure of myself to have books read by a certain date. Oh and also, if you want to discuss any of the books with me before six months time then I’ll be leaving a space to discuss the books on a monthly basis on both my Facebook page HERE and on my Instagram account HERE

So, on with our six books to read for this second half of the year:

  • July: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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  • August: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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  • September: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

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  • October: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

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  • November: The Immortalist: if you knew the date of your death, how would you live? by Chloe Benjamin

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  • December: Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

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This chosen list of books is final. If you don’t fancy reading a particular book one month, just give it a miss that month.

So, my aim is to post my review of all these books around the beginning of January next year. It’ll be here before you know it! In the meanwhile, don’t be afraid to communicate with me as mentioned above if you ever want to discuss these books any earlier. I’ll also post a new list of books for the first half of 2019 in mid-December this year.

For a list of the books we read during the first half of this year, click HERE

For a list of the books we read during the last half of 2017, click HERE

Don’t forget you can leave a review of any of the past books that we have read at any point.

 

Vrouwen-ochtend-kring

 

 

 

Just Another Book Club- May Book

Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.

***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***

This Is How It Always Is

by

Laurie Frankel

9781472241580

Synopsis

This book tells the story of Rosie and Penn and their family of 5 boys. One day their youngest, Claude comes downstairs in a dress and wants to take a handbag to kindergarten. He also wants to grow his hair long and play with dolls. While other boys want to be fire officers or astronauts when they grow up, Claude says he wants to be a girl. This book looks at the complexities of parenthood and how it always is a leap into the unknown.

My Quick Review

This Is How It Always Is is a well written book and one that is easy to read. The two aspects of the book that I appreciated the most was how it looked at parenthood. No matter what issue your child has, no matter how big or small it is, the reader if they are a parent can relate to how we try and parent. The book looks into how parenting is incredibly unpredictable and how none of us as parents know what the future holds for our child. While this is somewhat terrifying, it was also a comfort to read this book and know that as parents we are all going through this unpredictability together. The other aspect of the book that I loved, is how this book raises important questions about gender identity. It’s a book that is incredibly well-informed (whilst the book is entirely fictional, the author’s daughter was once a boy) and as Rose and Penn have conflicting opinions on how to approach their situation, this illustrates the antagonising feelings surrounding transgender children.

The main negative side of the book is that I felt the whole trip to Thailand somewhat contrived. I felt it was a unbelievable coincidence that the mother was offered work in Thailand, was able to take her transgender child and that the main person she worked with also happened to be transgender. I felt the enlightenment that both Rosie and Poppy gained from this trip could have been achieved through other more believable circumstances. The other slightly negative side of the book was the use of fairytales to explain the situation. As I’ve mentioned before I’m not a fan of most fantasy, so I was never going to be a big fan of this part of the book. However, as a reader I also found it a tad patronising having things explained to me in the form of a fairytale.

In conclusion, this is a fascinating book that approaches a very difficult subject. It wasn’t the ground breaking, tear inducing novel that I expected, but it is definitely worth a read.

I loved these two quotes from the book:

How did you teach your small human that it’s what’s inside that counts when the truth was everyone was pretty preoccupied with what you put on over the outside too?

You never know. You only guess. This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decisions on behalf of your kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands, who trusts you to know what’s good and right and then to be able to make that happen. You never have enough information. You don’t get to see the future. And if you screw up, and with your incomplete, contradictory information you make the wrong call,  well, nothing less than your child’s entire future and happiness is at stake. It’s impossible. It’s heartbreaking. It’s maddening. But there’s no alternative. 

Questions to Consider

  1. How authentic do you think the author’s portrayal of a family and family life is? Do you find her depiction of the children and their sibling dynamics true to life?
  2. How are traditional gender roles explored through the characters of Rosie and Penn? Are they portrayed as conforming to, or defying traditional roles?
  3. Explore the use of fairy tales in the novel and the effects of this narrative device.
  4. When Claude first begins to wear dresses and identifies as female, what contrasts are drawn between how other children react to his transformation and how adults react?
  5. When Rosie and Penn discuss what course Poppy should take before puberty, Rosie says: “When a little girl wants to wear jeans and play soccer, her parents are thrilled, but when a little boy wants to wear a dress and play dolls, his parents send him to therapy and enrol him in a study.” Are young boys more constrained by gender stereotypes than young girls?
  6. “Didn’t you know then, the doctors said later? Weren’t you listening?” Discuss how the role of a parent, and the dilemma of what parenting means, is explored in the novel.
  7. Secrets are a central theme in the novel. Do you think that Rosie and Penn made the right decision in keeping Poppy’s past a secret when they moved to Seattle?
  8. Poppy’s transgender identity mean that Rosie and Penn prioritise her needs within the family, and they decide to uproot their life and move across the country. What other family situations can result in parents having to prioritise the needs of one child over their others?
  9. After Jane Doe’s trauma, Rosie thinks, “Head colds should be tolerated.Children should be celebrated.” What is the difference between tolerance and acceptance? Acceptance and celebration?
  10. Towards the end of the novel we travel to Thailand. Why do you think the author chose to take the characters here and what aspects of the Thai culture were explored?
  11. “You think your generation invented kids who are different?” How does the novel make you question your own attitudes to gender identity, difference and the acceptance of others?

(Questions provided by the publisher)

June’s book is Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo. I’ll be starting the conversation for this on Monday 2nd July.

A list of all the books we read for the first half of 2018 can be found here

***I’ll be publishing a new list of books for the second half of the year next Monday 11th June. There will be a slight amendment as to how the Just Another Book Club will run from now on too***

I’ve finally sorted out my Goodreads page, so as a few people have asked, you can view it here

How To Break Up With Your Phone- week 4

I’m currently following the How To Break Up With Your Phone plan as featured in the book (of the same title) by Catherine Price. You can read about the previous weeks of the plan by clicking these links: WEEK 1  WEEK 2  WEEK 3. Now it’s week 4 and the FINAL WEEK, here’s what I had to do every day this week.

Week Four- Your New Relationship

Day 22- Trial Separation Recap. What did I observe about myself and my behaviour and emotions in the 24hrs? I felt a lot more “in the moment” and I didn’t have that sensation of feeling “rushed” all the time. I felt like my concentration was a lot better too.

What do these observations make me think about? What do I think when I reflect not he experience? That living your life constantly behind a screen, is no life.

How do I feel about my phone now and my relationship with it? My relationship with it has been very unhealthy. I think I still have work to do. I still need to be mindful all the time. However, I weirdly like my phone more now than when I used it all the time. I appreciate the usefulness of it without out letting it suck me in and distract me from everything.

What questions to have about phones and my phone usage now I’ve been through the trial separation? How would I cope without a smartphone and just an old-fashioned flip phone. I think it might be a beautiful thing. I’m also wondering how society might change if we all used our smartphones a lot less. How would the day be different if the whole world turned their phones off for 24hrs?

What was the hardest part of the trial separation? We needed the phone number to order takeaway pizza (a must for watching the Eurovision Song Contest), so we turned the iPad on for a brief minute to look it up then immediately turned it off again. I missed my smart phone’s usefulness, but really not that much. It was only that one occasion. I also also got anxious in the final hour as I knew I’d have a few messages waiting for me from friends and I just wanted to really see them by that point.

What was the best part? I interacted and played with my daughter so much for than I normally would on a Saturday. This was by far the best part. Plus I felt freer. I suddenly had all this free time and I could do whatever I liked with it. That was lovely.

What surprised me? That I really didn’t miss my phone. It was only that final hour that I wanted to use it.

What did I learn from the trial separation that I can use once the break-up plan is over? That I don’t need it anywhere near as much as I think I do. That messages and comments will all be waiting for me when I pick my phone up and that I don’t need to be immediately replying to people all the time. That more fun things happen without my phone. This is the most important thing I learnt.

Day 23- Phast. Catherine suggests that taking short phone “phasts” are as important as a long one. Today, she suggests that at some point in the day I allocate an hour where I’ll turn my phone off again and go without. Full disclosure gang, I completely forgot to check what I was meant to do on the plan today, BUT I didn’t check my phone past 8pm on this day, so you could say I took my mini phast then. Catherine suggests we do mini phasts every day until the end of the plan. The more regularly one phasts, the less likely we’ll be drawn to our phones. She also says it’s important not to punish ourselves. We should never ask “when shall I force myself to go without my phone?”, rather we should ask “when would I like to go without my phone?”. Therefore, leaving your phone behind when you go for a walk or going out for dinner might be a nice idea (I know, if you’re a parent of a young child, this isn’t a reality, but you could always make the conscious decision not to use your phone during those times).

Day 24- Manage Your Invitations. So today isn’t about managing physical invitations. It’s about managing the invitations that our brain sends us. For example, “ooh you’re bored, why don’t you pick up your phone and check social media”. Today, is about revising the Stop, Breathe and Be method. She suggests we also extend this into non-phone activities. Instead of reacting to something immediately (i.e. someone cuts you off in traffic), she suggests stopping, taking a breath, thinking about the possible alternative ways you could react and choose how you’d like to react. You’ll be proud of me in the doctors, instead of playing on my phone whilst in the waiting room. I just sat and let myself be. It was strangely nice. Now to extend that into non-phone activities.

Day 25- Clean Up The Rest of Your Digital Life. Today, I’m looking how to tidy up any other remains parts of digital life. Namely:

  • Unsubscribe from any emails I don’t want to receive anymore. Very soon companies will have to regain your permission to send you these junk emails, so the law may well do this job for me.
  • Use an email plug-in that controls how often I check my email. I don’t think I need to do this as I don’t check my email that often.
  • Create a ‘Needs Response’ folder. This can stop you from feeling overwhelmed when looking at my inbox. I did this one immediately. I also feel like I need to go through my emails and delete all old emails that I no longer need to keep. A general email clean-up is needed.
  • Set up a commerce email account. An email account for when you buy things. This isn’t a bad idea. My inbox will look cleaner and probably not so “large”.
  • Set up a VIP list of people who’s emails you don’t want to miss. Good plan, Stan. On it.
  • Set up an “important” email account for when you’re away on holiday. Set up an automated response that says you’re on holiday, but also that you won’t respond to any emails on your return and leave details of someone else they can contract instead during your absence. If they still really need a response from just you, tell them to send their email to the important email account. Apparently, when you get back you’ll be surprised by how many people don’t bother with your “important” email account. All of this reduces the huge email pile-up you get when you go on holiday. I personally, don’t need to do this though. Would your workplace, allow you to do this?
  • Within social media, unfollow people you no longer care about or whose posts make you feel bad. Create lists of people with regards to how you know them i.e. friends, family, colleagues etc. So you can control who sees which posts of yours. This is a very good idea.
  • Use automatic drive modes that disable your phone whilst driving. I don’t drive, so don’t need to do this. However, I cannot abide people using their phones whilst driving, whatever the excuse is. People should pull in somewhere safely to use their phone if they really need to whilst on a journey.
  • Unlink your social media with other laps. Many sites give you the option to log in using your Facebook account. Apparently, you should never do this and if you have- unlink them. Luckily, I’ve never done this.

All these small digital clean-up tips help alleviate the stress that your digital life can have.

Day 26- Check Your Checking. Every time you go to reach for your phone, ask yourself “What is the best thing that can happen as a result of me checking my phone?”. What’s the best email I could receive? The best piece of news? The best notification? Then ask yourself: what’s the likelihood of any of this happening? Chances are: very low indeed. It’s probably more likely you’ll see something that’ll stress you out. Also, try using other people using their phones as a cue not to use yours. For example, when you’re in a lift and everyone is reaching for their phones. Take a deep breath and ask yourself what it is you want to pay attention right now. It really doesn’t need to be your phone.

Day 27- Digital Sabbath Life Hacks. Catherine encourages us to think about doing a regular digital sabbath. It doesn’t have to be every week. It can be just once a month. Also, you don’t have to turn all devices off. The idea is to personalise your digital sabbath into whatever works for you. I think I might just do a monthly one, but turn everything off. I enjoyed my trial separation and I also liked the challenge to fill my time non-digitally. Here are some life hacks to make the digital sabbath easier:

  • Untangle your devices (buy an alarm clock, think about getting separate music devices etc)
  • Create a “house phone” (instead of chucking an old phone when you upgrade. Keep it purely as a tool. This way you can hide away your actual smartphone, but have the “house phone” on hand to do the useful things)
  • Use your phone’s suspension modes
  • Customise your do not disturb settings
  • Download maps ahead of time
  • Get a landline
  • Downgrade to a dumbphone (I’ve actually thought about this. To go back to life before a smartphone would be pretty amazing, but for now I’ll stick to my smartphone and see how I get on the aftermath of this plan)
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment (it’s all about adopting the habits that work for you. Not everything in this book is going to work for you. See what does and what does not)

***Gang, I have to tell you, I seriously regressed today and the next day. This is probably due to attending the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards and -ahem- winning a prize and dealing with lots of lovely messages. Did I tell you I got the runner-up prize in my category? Did I not mention that? No? Never mind, you can read a bit more about it HERE. Disgusting brag over. Soz***

Day 28- The Seven Phone Habits of Highly Effective People

So now let’s check-in to see if I have healthy phone habits:

  • I have healthy phone routines. I need to answer the following questions to establish these routines and to also continue practising them to ensure that these habits become second nature.

Where do you charge my phone? Downstairs.

At what time do you put it away at night? 9pm. Don’t bother trying to contact me after that time.

When do you check it for the first time after you wake up? An hour after I wake up. However, I think during term time, I need to make that after I drop my daughter off at school as me checking my phone before then still delays me leaving the house.

Where do you keep your phone when you’re at work? On my desk, in sight. I have a young child at school, so that’s never going to change.

Where do you keep your phone when you’re at home? Still in reach, but after 9pm out of reach. I think I need to keep it out of reach at certain times during the day though.

Where do you keep your phone at mealtimes? Not at the table anymore. I can still see it though and reach it if needs be. I should probably move it out of sight.

Where do you carry your phone? In my coat pocket.

What do you use your phone for? Social media, checking my blog, Spotify, shopping, occasionally tools.

What are the situations that you have decided that you don’t use your phone? Waiting in queues, waiting to pick my daughter up from somewhere, in the company of someone.

Which apps are tools that enrich or simplify your life? Sky TV, weather, camera, Google Maps, SecureSafe, Podcasts, Spotify, Health and my calendar.

Which apps do you know are dangerous/the most likely to suck you in? Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but I don’t have them as apps anymore. I only access them via the browser. Also, Wikipedia and IMDb can suck me in too.

Based on the previous question, which apps have you blocked? I haven’t blocked any yet, but like I said, I have deleted Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

  • I have manners, and I know how to use them. Questions again.

Where do you keep your phone and how do you use it when you are:

Spending time with people? If I’m socialising with friends, it’s away out of sight. I still need to work on this in the presence of my family. I have been keeping my phone in a different room when with my daughter after school.

Watching a movie or TV? Sometimes, it’s in reach and sometimes it’s out of reach. I’m getting much better at not picking it up when watching TV though. I need to still work on this a little bit.

Having a meal? No phones at the table is a hard and fast rule now. I need to probably put it more out of sight still.

Driving a car? I don’t drive.

In classes, lecture or meetings? Out of sight.

  • I cut myself a break. Ok so my old habits reared their ugly head this past weekend, but Catherine advices to forgive yourself quickly if this happens and move on. She also suggests allowing yourself some guilt-free time to aimlessly scroll through the internet to give yourself a break. Allowing yourself some guilt-free time on the phone will actually help avoid bingeing. Catherine suggests thinking of a time in the day for this phone time. It might be a good idea for me to do it when my daughter has first gone to bed.
  • I phast. I need to establish how and when I will phast. I intend to do a 24hrs phast once a month and when I’m on holiday (as much as possible).
  • I have a life. Now, I have to think of constructive ways to spend my time instead of being on the phone. I think I’ve mentioned these before, but they will be reading, walking (when my body allows me to), baking, singing and writing.
  • I practice pausing. Why is it important to practice stillness? I think to allow your brain bit of space and recharge the batteries. What will I do when I find myself with a bit of downtime? If it’s just a few minutes, then I just be and look around my surroundings. Looking up, I have learned is a good thing. If it’s several hours, then I will do any of the above things listed.
  • I exercise my attention. What will I do to rebuild my attention span? Read, always just do one thing at a time and remember to meditate for at least 5 minutes a day (I keep on forgetting- sorry Catherine!)

Day 29- Keep Yourself on Track. Once a month, I have to check in with myself and run through these questions:

What parts of your relationship with your phone are going well?

What things about the relationship with your phone do you want to change? What’s one thing you could do to start?

What are you doing or could do to strengthen your focus?

What are your goals for the next 30 days?

What fun plans could you make to spend time with people you care about?

Have you reinstalled any of the apps that you previously deleted, let your phone back into your bedroom or turned notifications back on? If so, does it feel like the right decision (no judgement)?

What do you want o pay attention in your life?

I have to set a date in my calendar (yes it is fine to use the calendar on your phone) to ensure I go through these questions each month.

Day 30- Congratulations. I’ve done it! I’ve completed the 30 day How To Break Up With Your Phone plan. I am mighty proud of myself. So now, I need to think about my achievements and write a note to myself. I have to say, I still need to work on certain areas. In particular, where I leave my phone during the day, phubbing my family and watching TV, but even those areas are better than what they were. Here’s my note using the prompts that Catherine provides:

  • I used to think my phone…was indispensable and a boredom reliever. Now I think…it’s generally a waste of time and brain power, but it does have its uses at times.
  • I’ve learned that…my phone rarely relieves boredom and it makes me frustrated. That my attention span is diminshing.
  • I’m happy to know that…I actually don’t know what this prompt means. Do you?
  • I’m proud of myself for…easily doing the 24 hours phast, not touching my phone after 9pm, during certain situations and during mealtimes.

The Actions I Took That I think Helped Me Most:

  • Sorting my apps into different folders and organising my homepage
  • Deleting my social media apps
  • Being mindful of the times I always reach for my phone
  • Rules surrounding when my phone is off limits (at mealtimes, after 9pm, the first hour I’m awake)
  • Leaving my phone downstairs at night

How Have I Changed Since Starting This Programme

  • I can sense a slight improvement in my attention span
  • I am less frustrated
  • I am more productive
  • I am interacting with my family much more at home (this is the best thing to come out of completing the plan).

Thank you so much for joining me throughout this plan. Now, if you haven’t already, buy this book. It will change your life.

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Now, is probably the right time to mention that I’ll shortly be taking bit of a blogging break. I’ll still be doing my weekly music posts and the occasional other pre-planned post over the next few months, but it’s a good time in my life to free my time up a bit and concentrate on other projects. I’ll be back though, my friends. Thank you for all of your support so far on this blogging journey.

How To Break Up With Your Phone- week 3

I’m currently following the How To Break Up With Your Phone plan as featured in the book (of the same title) by Catherine Price. You can read about the previous weeks of the plan by clicking these links: WEEK 1  WEEK 2 Now it’s week 3 and here’s what I had to do every day this week.

Week Three- Reclaiming Your Brain

Day 15- Stop, Breathe and Be. So today, I was meant to take a moment to stop, breathe (can you guess what comes next?) and be. It’s a mindfulness technique where you take a moment to take account of how you’re feeling emotionally as well as physically and to also take notice of the environment surrounding you. Catherine suggests you could do this every time you automatically reach for your phone, but she asked that you did this stop, breathe and be technique at least twice today. Today, I had an incredibly busy and hectic day as my daughter was in the local carnival and then after the carnival,  I had the pleasure of taking her to the fair (I fucking hate fairs) and my darling husband meanwhile was holidaying working abroad, so I got to do all the running about with her by myself, so I did not have time to stop, breathe nor frigging be today. HOWEVER, I did make a concerted effort to do it the next day. I noticed that my brain is very busy with thoughts and so many different thoughts racing in and out of my head. Not too dissimilar  to scrolling through social media and having lots of different pieces of information thrown at me. My brain seems to be functioning like a bloody smartphone. Also, I noticed that despite living in a town centre, next a train station and a busy road, the loudest sound in my garden was the birds singing, which was quite nice really.

Day 16- Practice Pausing. This practice does relate to yesterday’s slightly and it’s also about mastering the art of being still. If we’re never still and always keep our minds busy and entertained, we never get a chance to recharge our batteries, nor do we get a chance to mull over thoughts and ideas. Being still also gives us a chance to develop our creativity, it’s when our creative ideas become nurtured. Catherine asks that we think of situations when we grab our phones to occupy our minds. It could be when waiting at the train station, waiting for a lift or having lunch. She then asked that we practice being still during those moments. I knew I was going to the cinema today and I always play on my phone until the trailers start, so I stubbornly left my phone in my bag and let myself just be. I kind of felt like bit of a twat as everyone around me was chatting or playing on their phones. This is going to take some practice, but seriously, what did we do in these moments before smartphones were invented. Did we all just stand around staring? Probably and it probably just seemed quite natural. I also, play on my phone whilst I’m cooking (gawd knows how my phone hasn’t ended up becoming part of my bolognese sauce boiling away), so I’m going to leave it well alone and just get lost in my thoughts whilst cooking instead.

Day 17- Exercise Your Attention Span. Today I need to do something to exercise my attention span. This is so I can start rebuilding my ability to ignore distractions and strengthen my attention span. Like most things, the more we practice something the better we get. Catherine provides lots of suggestions. One of them was quite simply to read and as that is something that I definitely want to do more of and for longer (my mind currently starts to get distracted 2 pages into a book. Whereas, before I had a smartphone, it would take about 30 pages of a book before I’d want to do something else. I basically have the attention span of a toddler right now). So, anyway, that is what I did. I read in the evening and then in the morning when I woke, instead of reaching for my phone, I picked up my book and read again. I know. Shocker. It’s early days yet to say if my attention span has increased, but more reaching for a book rather than a phone will surely improve it over time. Also, I have been continuing to be mindful of those times that I always reach for my phone. When waiting for my daughter to come out of Brownies, I’m usually on my phone, but instead I just left it in my pocket and what happened? I struck up a nice conversation with another parent. That wouldn’t have happened otherwise. By the way, regular reading has a hugely positive effect on the human brain (unlike our smartphones), including our reasoning skills, processing of visual signs and our memories. Catherine suggests that we should incorporate at least one attention-building exercise into our daily routine.

Day 18- Meditate. Whaaaaaa? You want me to meditate? Catherine, mate, me and mediation have never got on. Why? Because I get bored very quickly and my mind just starts racing….oh hold on…I get it. This is probably because of my smartphone addiction, isn’t it? Right fine. I’ll give meditation a go again. Did you know you can do meditation via -gasp- an app on your phone? Yes, yes I know OH THE IRONY, but this is the whole point gang. Your phone is a very useful tool and that’s exactly as it should be used- as a tool and not as a constant distraction. Something that you pick up to do something specifically helpful to your daily life and then you put back down once you’ve done it. Use and abuse it, my friend. Once you’ve got what you want from it, cast it aside. Anyway, so opened my Headspace app for the first time in years and did a quick 5 minute mediation and I have to say I quite enjoyed it. Catherine strongly recommends trying to fit in at least a 5 minute mediation everyday. Obviously, it’s not for everyone and it’s not always going to be possible to do it, but I’m going to try and do a quick 5 minutes everyday as much as I can. I think it’ll be worth it, just to calm my mind for those few minutes. It will also be very good for my attention span.

Day 19- Prepare For Your Trial Separation. Now, this is the biggy. Tonight, I am going to switch my phone off for 24 hours and at this point of the plan- I cannot wait. This separation will show us that we can actually live without our phones plus it’s a lovely reminder of what life was like before our smartphones. I have a landline plus an actual alarm clock, so I can do this trial separation in it’s entirety and that’s not just put your phone somewhere else, but with it still on and not just have my phone on airplane mode, the separation means phone off. Completely and utterly off. So, there are a few things I need to do to prepare for it. I need to:

Identify what I’m taking a break from: Catherine suggests that you take a break from all screens. It is meant to be a dramatic break. However, she does leave some screens up to us as to whether we want a break from them. The screens that we most definitely have to take a break from are: our phones (obvs), iPads, laptops, smartwatches and PCs. She does leave whether we take a break from TV and films up to us though. I’m going to watch a couple of programmes this evening and then that will be it. No TV during the day tomorrow though. Sooooo, what am I going to do with my time? Interact with my family?!?! Jeez.

Tell people what you’re doing: I’m probably not going to bother. Other than my husband and child obviously. The only people that will probably try and contact me is my Mum and she contacts me on the landline, so that will be fine.

Get others on board: Yes, I am trying to get both my husband and child on board. I will update you as to whether I was successful or not though.

Make plans: I’m planning on doing some baking with my child tomorrow. I also want to read a lot and if I’m up to it- go for a walk.

Use hard-copy instructions: I don’t think I need to do this and we’re not doing or travelling anywhere new.

Get a pad or paper or notebook: This is so I can make a list of things to do on my phone when I switch it back on again. Catherine reckons that by the time, I turn my phone back on, I probably won’t care about them anymore.

Set an automated phone greeting: Nah, I’m not going to bother to do this.

Create a physical contact list: Yes, probably a good idea to write down a few numbers, just in case.

Use call forwarding: I’m not going to bother doing this either, but apparently you can have calls forwarded from your mobile onto your landline.

Set an out of office response: Nope. Ain’t doing this either.

Set an automated text message response: I might do this (though I need to look into how to do it), but it sends an automatic response to anyone who sends you a text, informing them that you’re not currently checking your texts. It might be useful.

Day 20 & 21- Your Trial Separation. I decided to start my trail separation on Friday evening, so that it ended Saturday evening. I had to time it to finish by Saturday evening as it was the Eurovision Song Contest and I was’t missing that for anything. And guess what? I actually managed to persuade both my daughter and my husband to do the whole no screens thing for 24hrs. The things that we did instead of looking at screens was: bake, read, walk around town, play board games and play fish and chip shops (that last one was definitely my daughter’s idea). I will reflect on the experience of my trial separation or my phone-fast at the beginning of next week’s plan.

So, that’s the end of week 3. Tune in next Wednesday (it’s a 30 day trial, so week 4 is slightly longer) to see how I get on with the final week. And if you feel like joining in too, comment below on how you’re getting on.

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How To Break Up With Your Phone- week 2

I’m currently following the How To Break Up With Your Phone plan as featured in the book (of the same title) by Catherine Price. Last week, I talked about how and why I hate using my phone so much and kicked off the first week of the plan. You can read about it HERENow it’s week 2 and here’s what I had to do every day this week.

Week Two- Changing Your Habits

Day 8- say “no” to notifications

Today, I’m instructed to turn off all notifications on my phone. Catherine references the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov who managed to condition dogs to salivate every time they heard a bell. He did this by giving them a treat every time they heard the bell and the dopamine in their brains caused them to salivate every time they heard the bell. Catherine suggests that our brains reaction to notifications is similar to that of Pavlov’s dogs and I agree with her. Luckily, as I mentioned last week, I have most of my notifications turned off anyway. I only had to turn off my email notification. I decided to leave notifications on for both my phone and text messages (I don’t get many texts anyway). I also decided to leave on my Parentmail notifications as it is good to know I’d be alerted immediately if there is anything I need to know in regards to my daughter’s school, especially in the case of emergencies. Everything else, I ensured was off.

Day 9- the life changing magic of tidying apps

Today, I’m going to tidy all of my apps up into specific folders. The idea of this is to slow down my app usage. It gives me a chance to briefly question how essential my usage of it is. The other reason, is that if you don’t clearing see your little app icons, you are also less tempted to use them and scroll through them. There should be at the most six folder categories that our apps can come under. They are:

  • Tools: apps that improve your life without stealing your attention i.e. maps, camera, weather, music, actual phone. These are the only apps allowed to stay on your homepage as they serve a practical purpose without being tempting. It s a judgement call as to whether we leave our internet browser on the home page (I won’t be for now).
  • Junk food apps: fun or useful apps to use for a short amount of time, but are hard to stop using once you start. I had to ask myself do these apps steal my attention more than they steal it? If an app’s risks outweigh its benefits, then I have to delete it. Examples are social media, news apps, shopping apps, messaging apps, email, games, internet browser
  • Slot Machine apps: these are apps that don’t improve your life AND steal your attention. And the message here is delete them. Examples are social media, shopping apps, games, dating apps (so you might have certain social media apps in the Junk Food folder and some in this folder. Depending on how they personally effect your life.
  • Clutter: apps that you never use. They don’t steal your attention, but they don’t improve your life either. I can either delete them or hide them all in a folder and hide the folder on the third page of my phone.
  • Utility apps: apps that serve some practical purpose, but improve your daily life enough to define as a full-time tool. Examples are Find iPhone, the App store.
  • The Undeletables: annoying apps that can’t be deleted. Put them in a folder and leave on your third page.

Catherine also suggests that if you find your phone too tempting after doing this then to turn it to “greyscale”. You can do this in your settings. It turns everything grey, which then makes your phone less appealing to use. I did this last year and whilst it did effect my usage at first, I actually quickly got used to it and carried on using it as I did before, so I didn’t bother doing it again.

I also, need to edit my menu bar. Email needs to be removed from it and perhaps replace less tempting apps with tool apps.

At the end of doing all this, I was left with a homepage with my life-improving apps, on my second screen were my junk food apps (there were a lot of these and I still haven’t re-added Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that I deleted last week) and on my third page were my occasionally used utility apps in one folder and my undeletables and clutter in another folder. This is what my home page now looks like. I wish I’d taken a “before” photo, but it was full of social media, IMDb, Wikipedia, Amazon and eBay.

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Yes YouTube Kids is there, but trust me- it’s not me that uses that

Day 10- change where you charge it. Today, I have to change where I charge my phone at night. Most people charge them in their bedroom and sleep with their phone next to them in bed. This means that people end looking at their phone last thing at night (often delaying when they go to sleep) and first thing int he morning, and possibly during the night if they wake up. This is another area where I’m surprisingly quite good. I don’t have my phone near me at night, BUT it is in my bedroom. I charge it right over the other side of the room. However, this does still tempt me to go on my phone when I get up in the morning instead of jumping straight into the shower and this inevitably makes me late to leave the house. Every single day. So, despite not sleeping with it near me, I still need to change where I charge it at night. Therefore, I’ll be charging it downstairs from now on. The only time I’ll have it near me at night, is when my husband is working away. Catherine strongly advises that you buy a non-phone alarm clock to help remove your phone from the bedroom and luckily I had one already.

Day 11- set yourself up for success.  So today, is all about thinking about what I’d like to do instead of being on my phone and setting myself up, so that I actually do those thing I want to do. So for example, if I want to read in the evening instead of faffing on my phone, I should leave my phone in a different part of the house and make sure my book is nearby instead. Pretty simple stuff. So, as reading more is exactly what I want to do more of, I shall be leaving my phone in another room in the evening. I have to say, today was the day I found my old habits starting to creep back. I think this might be that I’m getting used to accessing social media via a web browser, so I think tomorrow’s task might be good timing.

Day 12- download an app blocker. There are clever apps that you can use that restrict or schedule your apps usage (yes I know- an app that stops you from using apps. Get over it). Even though, I feel like I’m starting to spend a bit more time on my phone again, it’s still a lot less time and I don’t think I’m there yet with needing to schedule when I can use apps, BUT I think it’s a really good idea and I might return to this. What I will do is long out of social media on my web browser though.

Day 13- set boundaries. Today is about setting up physical boundaries when it comes to your phone usage. Thankfully, I have already set some of these up, but I do need to ensure I’m consistently using these boundaries. The dinner table is a no phone zone.

  • No phones allowed at the table whilst eating. I’m very good at this when I’m eating as a family, but if I’m by myself I’m on my phone, so I need to make sure I’m setting uptake same boundary when I’m by myself as when I’m with my family.
  • No phones in the bedroom. I had already done this the other day. The only time I can have my phone in the bedroom is when my husband works away.
  • Don’t use my phone for the first hour of the day. As I leave my phone downstairs to charge overnight now, this naturally ensures that I don’t do this.
  • I’d also like to not use my phone after 9pm. I didn’t start doing this today, but I will do over the next few days.

Day 14- stop phubbing. Do you know what phubbing is? It’s short for phone snubbing. It’s when you snub the person you’re with and use your phone instead. I’m very good at not doing this when I’m with friends and extended family, but I am terrible at phubbing both my husband and child. You know, the two most important people in my life. This has to stop now. I need to make myself really conscious of the fact that I’m doing this. Catherine also makes suggestions on how to stop other people phubbing in your company, but I just don’t think I’m brave enough to tell other people to put their phone down when they’re with me. Not yet anyway. I can see it will increasingly annoy me though. So the golden rule with phubbing is that it is not okay to pull your phone out if you’re using it to distance yourself from the people you’re meant to be interacting with. So, maybe you don’t need to check how many likes you’ve got for that photo of your dinner you put on Instagram when you’re meant to be having tea with Aunt Mavis.

So, that’s the end of week 2. Tune in next Monday to see how I get on with week 3. And if you feel like joining in too, comment below on how you’re getting on.

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