My Favourite Books & Films of 2016

As 2016 comes to a close here’s a round-up of some of my favourites for the year. The films featured were released in 2016, the books were not.

Films

Ghostbusters – The new Ghostbusters film was everything. Feminists everywhere rejoiced, finally a film where the leading roles were women who weren’t scantily clad and out to snare a man. I was never a Ghostbusters fan so I had my reservations but I loved this film. It was goofy and silly but sent a strong message that women can take the lead and the majority of screen time in a film and is still rocks.

The Jungle Book – I saw this film with my friend Kirsty in Cardiff and her excitment rubbed off on me. I don’t remember ever seeing the animated version but the 2016 remake blew me away. It is beautifully made, has it’s laugh out loud moments and the musical numbers have you singing along. A perfect feel good movie for a terrible year.

10 Cloverfield Lane – This is one of the most intriguing films I’ve ever watched – you keep thinking that you’ve figured out what’s going on and then – plot twist. It’s not scary as such but certainly gripping and jumpy at points. If you’ve not seen it I would definitely recommend. As with a lot of films these days it’s clearly been left open for a sequel so watch this space.

Books

What’s a Girl Gotta Do by Holly Bourne – I wrote a whole post on this book here but it’s so good that I couldn’t not include it in this post. It’s everything you could ask for from a light feminist novel. It’s aimed at a YA audience but it’s well written and covers topics that make it relatable to older readers also. Cannot recommend it enough!

The Mermaid’s Singing by Val McDermid – This is the first book in the Carol and Tony series (the TV show Wire In The Blood was based on these books). Carol is a police officer and Tony is a profiler and they team up to try to solve a case of a serial killer. I read a lot a crime fiction but this is a special series. There are 9 books so far in this series so it will keep me busy for a while.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber – This not the kind of book that I would normally pick up but it was my book club book and it was incredible. It’s about a Christian missionary who goes to a settlement on a planet to teach them the Bible (they call it the book of strange new things). He keeps in touch with his wife back on Earth using a bizarre machine and all is not what it seems. The pace of this book is a little slow but it’s worth it.

I only managed 12 books this year but I probably read the equivalent of 12 more in fan fiction and blogs. Hopefully in 2017 I’ll manage a few more.

V ❤

 

Top Tips For Making Resolutions

It’s that time of year again… Everyone around us is intent on pressuring us to change ourselves and our lives in 2017. Before you commit to a load of resolutions or goals here are my top tips to consider:

  • You’re already perfect how you are. If you want to make changes in your life that’s great but do them for you and only you.
  • Learning to love yourself will make you feel so much better than weight loss will. Fact!
  • If you have a functioning liver and kidneys your body will detox itself. Spending your money on tea filled with laxatives and diuretics will not improve your life.
  • Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect change to happen overnight. Whatever you resolve to do you will most likely slip up at times. It’s normal and human.
  • Be kind to others. It’s a great way to make a positive change in your own life as well as those people you help.
  • If you do decide to make a resolution that is triggering to others such as losing weight – don’t bang on about it. You do you but the rest of us are trying to look after ourselves at a toxic time of year.

If you are finding this season difficult and you need to chat you can always get in touch with me via Twitter or the comments below.

V ❤

Why I Quit Blogmas…

So I failed! I set out to blog every day in December and clearly it didn’t happen. I have thought of catching up and dating the posts for the days I missed but in this year of “post-truth” I decided I would buck the trend and be real.

Although I missed a couple of days a long the way and caught up using the method mentioned above, I was doing pretty well until it got really close Christmas. I just wasn’t organised enough. I had far too much stuff to do to make leaving Aberdeen and getting to my parents’ house a reality including going on a road trip to the cattery and blogmas just had to take a back seat.

I also wanted to take a break over Christmas. It’s so important at this time of year not to over-commit and to take time for yourself, especially in the north where the days are ridiculously short and the darkness starts to mess with you, so I took my own advice. I had pretty much a week off blogging and 4 proper days off social media etc. I only checked twitter sporadically to keep up to date with the latest news until last night and otherwise I just relaxed with the family (and away from them in my room with the door shut).

Sorry if anyone feels let down that I didn’t complete this but I will try again next year. I have a better idea of how to realistically do it now and I’m actually going to schedule a few blogmas posts each month throughout the year so that by the time December comes around I just have to write a few current posts summing up 2017 and a few gift guides.

I have a couple more posts to come in December then on to 2017!

V ❤

#Blogmas 20 – Preparing For Christmas With A Furry Friend

People who know me will know that the one thing that I like to be organised for is Christmas. By this point last year all my presents were wrapped, cards posted and everything was under control. One of my colleagues had mentioned to me that she was doing her whole Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve including putting together a hamper and I was beyond stressy about it. It genuinely freaks me out a little bit when people leave it all to the last minute but this year I’ve done that and it’s in part due to my furry friend Misty.

If you are going away for Christmas the most important thing to sort out is not your travel arrangements or what you will get your hosts – it’s finding care for your pet while you’re gone. That was a NIGHTMARE for me. Everywhere was full or only taking regular customers and then when I did find catteries with spaces or cancellations they were unwilling to take Misty due to her flu. At the 11th hour I found her a space but that wasn’t the end of it. It’s far out of town, I don’t drive, so then the struggle of organising transport began….

Even if you are staying at home there’s lots you have to think about at this time of year.

First and foremost DO NOT BUY A PONSETTIA PLANT. These are HIGHLY TOXIC for cats and can genuinely kill them. I recently read in a local paper about a woman who didn’t know this, bought one, her cat nibbled on it and required life-saving veterinary care. Please don’t risk it.

Decorating your home at Christmas is really fun and we all love looking at our pretty decorations but so do our pets. They are tempting for them to play with. This is common sense but don’t leave your pets unattended with Christmas decorations. There are choking hazards, in case of fairy lights there is risk of electrocution and if you have glass baubles all kinds of accidents can happen.

On Christmas Day itself most of us end up feeling a little bloated with all the rich food, sweets and drinks that will be consumed. It’s tempting to give our pets a few treats throughout the day such as a bit of fish or meat. A little treat will do no harm but please remember that most human foods are not suitable for pets. In particular rich fruit cake and chocolate is poisonous for pets. Keep these foods out of their reach. In my family there’s a well-loved anecdote of our childhood dog stealing a whole fruit loaf and my dad wrestling with her under the table to retrieve it. While very amusing to retell the tale, these kind of incidents are best avoided.

I hope this post has helped you keep your furry friend safe this festive season.

V ❤

#Blogmas 19 Apps That I Tossed In 2016

2016 was the year of “you do you” (and “realising things”) and I channelled that mantra when I removed a few apps from my life in order to improve my wellbeing, mental health and general happiness.

This may be controversial but I deleted Instagram… I hear the sharp intake of breath from all you bloggers who just read that. To qualify, I still have an account on there, all my photos still exist but I do not have the app and I don’t access Instagram on the internet except to follow someone for the purpose of completing a giveaway entry. The reason for my decision was the fact that Instagram is FULL of triggering images and body shaming and general unpleasantness. The fact that they fail their users by not allowing you to mute anyone,  despite blocking people their photos still show up on the “discover” section of the app if you have enough mutual followers/they’re famous, just compounds the issue. I had been growing my Instagram a bit so it was taking up a lot of time and I was being exposed to more and more of the troubling images so I decided to call it a day.  If, in the future, the app allows you to mute users/tags then I may consider reinstalling but until then I’m happier with it not being in my life.

Other apps that I deleted this year were things that had been hanging around on my phone for a while since I wasn’t very well and was losing weight etc. Those were MyFitnessPal (you’re no ones pal, mate) and MapMyRun. I’m glad to be shot of them. Even if I considered using MyFitnessPal to track some things in the future, I would never download the app again. Having it there in your fingertips makes it far too easy to become obsessive. It reminds you to log in about 4 times a day and is constantly popping up with notifications.  It’s also very weight loss focussed and constantly updates you on what you’ll weigh if your eating habits were consistently the same as they had been on each particular day. It’s madness. MapMyRun isn’t as problematic in app form however some of the emails they send out make me facepalm. Hopefully one day companies will learn not to try to sell things to people by shaming them. It’s vile that in 2016 this is still seen to be acceptable.

We are constantly attached to our phones these days so we shouldn’t be filling them with apps that make us unhappy, stressed and anxious. If you’re compiling your list of goals for 2017 at the moment like a lot of people are, a really achievable one would be to rid yourself of all the apps and social media that don’t make you happy. You won’t regret it.

V ❤

#Blogmas 18 Things Can Only Get Worse

I know what you’re thinking, this title doesn’t bode well, but hear me out. We’ve ranted and raved about 2016 and how desperate we are to see the back of it but here’s why 2017 not only won’t be an improvement, it could possibly be the worst year yet.

  1. Donald Trump will actually be President. At the time of writing this it has been confirmed that the Russians tampered with the US election and that the vote counting machines were broken in Detroit which was a Clinton stronghold but it’s doubtful that anything will actually change. Donald Trump will be inaugurated and the world as we know it will descend into depths of racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia etc etc.
  2. Brexit will start to happen…. See above re: the consequences of that and descent of humanity into hatred and discrimination.
  3. 2016 saw the deaths of many beloved famous people including, to name a few, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Caroline Aherne and Muhammad Ali. The reason for the increase in deaths of famouses over the past few years is not a coincidence, nor is it a plot by the Russian government… The first wave of celebrities as we know them today are elderly now and as the years go on more and more famous faces are going to be reaching the ends of their lives. It’s just a sad fact.
  4. The world is going to keep getting warmer. Drawing your attention back to Donald Trump, under his leadership it’s unlikely that America will continue to move in the right direction in relation to climate change. It’s also possible the US’ relationship and influence with China will all but disintegrate which makes it very unlikely that positive change will happen to reduce the catastrophic damage we are doing to the planet.
  5. In 2016 whenever we had the opportunity to stand up for equality and positive social change, as a society, we chose the other option, to go backwards. It stands to reason that this is a pattern that will continue and worsen as the far right/alt-right/nazis now have validation for their views.

So they are the serious reasons why things are going to keep getting worse. Here are the more light-hearted ones.

  1. In all likelihood Serena Williams will retire from tennis in 2017. We’re going to miss you baby. 😦
  2. All my favourite characters on The Walking Dead are probably going to die and Neegan is going to ruin everything. My heart still hasn’t recovered from Season 7 episode 1.
  3. All of our favourite things are going to get more expensive… Damn you Brexit.
  4. Sugar Tax
  5. Arsenal will continue to suck and Arsene Wenger will continue to not spend money.

If anyone has a more positive outlook for 2017 do let me know. :’)

V ❤

#Blogmas 17 Apps That Improved My Wellbeing in 2016

Nowadays we rely on apps for more and more things including health and wellbeing. The apps featured in this post are maybe not what you would expect when discussing wellness but all will be explained. For info I use an android operating system and all these apps are available free of charge (although Eve has a premium option) from the Google Play store although I think they’ll all be available for Apple as well.

YouTube – I think we all know what YouTube is and what it does, but how has it helped with my wellbeing I hear you ask? YouTube is an incredible resource for relaxation and meditation recordings as well as guided self-hypnosis. It’s also great to put on the background when you’re needing a bit of a distraction. I find it weirdly soothing watching haul videos.

Plant Nanny – Like a lot of people I struggle to drink enough water. This app is a bit of a gimmick but basically you look after a plant and record your water intake at the same time. The more you drink the more your plant grows bigger, stronger and may even flower. One thing to note with this app as it seems to overestimate your required daily water intake so you may want to manually adjust that.

Eve by Glow – A period tracker with a difference. This app is an all singing, all dancing period tracker and lifestyle monitor. Its LGBT+ positive, and body positive to a point. (“Toning” exercise guys? I think you mean strength training…)  It allows you to monitor your cycle and refer back to previous cycles. It helped me pick out trends such as the fact I normally get a migraine on day 7. Now I know I can plan for it and take action like rest plenty the day before, drink lots of water and take pain killers as soon as the headache starts rather than waiting to see if a migraine develops. Anyway, on the whole it’s a fantastic app and now that my phone is broken it’s the one thing that I feel a bit lost without. It’s a shame that they don’t have a web equivalent.

Netflix – If I’m feeling down Netflix is my go-to app for a pick me up. There are so many fantastic comedies on there these days like The Big Bang Theory, Still Game and Outnumbered that I can be laughing within seconds of loading up the app.

Twitter – Social media gets a bit of a bad rep for causing a lot of problems, especially for young people, however when used correctly it can really work as a positive. This year through Twitter I’ve become part of the #TalkMH movement and as such met many like-minded people who all support each other. If I need to have a chat particularly if it’s late at night/very early in the morning, there’s always someone around via Twitter. I’ve relied on that a few times during late night panic attacks and someone always comes through me.

Do you use any apps to help with your health/wellbeing?

V ❤

#Blogmas 16 My Favourite Comfort TV

One of my self care tips is to distract yourself with some funny TV. Since my anxiety has flared up over the past week I’ve been turning to my Now TV and Netflix account for some comforting TV. Here are some of my favourites.

Outnumbered- This BBC sitcom is available on Netflix (and it’s returning to the BBC for a one-off Christmas special this year). It follows the lives of a family  living in London. The children are the real stars of the show – some of their lines have me in stitches even now that I’ve seen all the episodes multiple times.

Family Guy/American Dad – I’ve been watching these on Fox through Now TV as well as on DVD. I’ve loved them since I was at school and there’s something familiar and comforting about them. Anything that makes me laugh is a winner when I’m not feeling well. If you’ve been living under a rock since 1999 and you’re not familiar with Family Guy it’s worth noting that these programmes contain adult humour and are not to everyone’s taste.

The Big Bang Theory – Particularly the episode when Sheldon is ill (Season 1, Ep 11 The Pancake Batter Anomaly) . Whenever I’m ill I love to watch this episode. I’ve been described as being a little like Sheldon because I’m an absolute nightmare when I’m ill or when I’m around people who have recently been ill so it’s extra funny for me. The Big Bang Theory is available on Netflix.

The Simpsons – It’s a familiarity thing again with The Simpsons. My brother and I have watched this together since childhood and if I’m feeling homesick or down this always cheers me up and reminds me of a simpler time. The great thing about The Simpsons is, in the evening, it’s ALWAYS on. I’ve got it playing in another tab as I type this. I’ve been using Now TV to watch Sky 1.

What are your go to comfort TV shows?

V ❤

 

#Blogmas 15 Surviving The Winter With Emetophobia

The winter is probably the worst time of year for us emetophobes. Being afraid of being sick is even more draining than normal when everywhere you go the world and his wife are discussing their sickness bugs. Like many people I work in an office with air conditioning so all the bugs get recirculated around the office and before long everyone is ill. This past week has been particularly stressful so here are some tips to help us get through the winter months.

TW: OCD (hand hygiene & germs)

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Keep yourself clean – I’m not suggesting you start washing your hands 100 times a day or anything like that but definitely washing your hands before eating and after going to the toilet is a good start. If you work in an office, school, hospital or somewhere else where you are around a lot of bugs and germs, it wouldn’t do any harm to change in to clean clothes after work as well. Putting on comfy pjs is always a boost after a long day anyway.

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Eat healthily and drink plenty of water – Boosting your immune system is always a winner. It’s easy to avoid eating in a bid to prevent yourself being sick but staying strong is the better option.

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Take time to relax – While naturally we spend a lot of time worrying about being ill, getting stressed and worked up will drain you and take its toll on your immune system. Be sure to schedule time to relax.

Avoid sick people Sounds obvious but as far as possible try to avoid people who have been ill for 24-48hrs after their symptoms have passed. This is sometimes difficult, for example in the work place, but talk to your colleagues about your worries. For example one of my colleagues agreed to communicate with me solely by email because it was her first day back after having norovirus.

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Talk about how your feeling – Whether this is to a trusted friend, colleague, parent or a listening service letting someone know how your feeling can help a lot. They can reassure you or at the very least listen and make you feel less alone. You can always message me if you need to.

I hope you all stay well over the Festive period, and if you do get ill, as a few of my twitter friends reminded me today, while being sick is the scariest thing, if it happens we won’t die. We’ve got this!

V ❤

#Blogmas 14 #MHLetters Lauren

This is the second open letter to a member of the #TalkMH community as part of Marc’s #MHLetters project. My letter to Marc and all the links can be found here.

For those of you who don’t know, Lauren is pretty wonderful. (Also pretty AND wonderful.) Anyway, she can be found on Twitter and her blog is over at http://www.laurenevie.co.uk/

Dear Lauren,

Kind, intelligent, powerful and beautiful Lauren. My #1 Twitter crush. 😉 I know things have been hard for you recently but I am so so so proud of you. I know that there have been times when you haven’t felt strong but you’ve got this I promise you. When I saw your tweets today about pushing yourself to attend an event that this time last week you wouldn’t have managed I inwardly went “YAS QUEEN”. You are so inspiring, out there doing your thing and constantly pushing on.

I’m so glad that Twitter allowed us to “meet” and I hope that one day we will meet irl. You were one of the first people to show that they believed in me, this blog and the difference that I’m trying to make to others. I really hope that I’ve helped you in some small way and can continue to do so. I’ve always got your back and if you ever need a friend just shout. To literally “be there” may require some forward planning but I can always be at the end of the phone or on the other side of a DM chat.

I don’t want to sound like a starstruck competition winner or something but I am genuinely so in awe of you and still stunned to be able to call you a friend. Keep doing what you’re doing and being your awesome self!

V ❤