Friday, 17 October 2014

So long, London

You may have noticed that the blog has been a little quiet of late. I won't bleat on about how busy I've been (after all, aren't we all?) but what I will say is that something quite exciting has been unfolding in my life that I haven't been able to talk about until now.

I know how irritating it can be to read vague blog posts that allude to 'big changes' and 'new adventures'. I also know how tedious it can be to read 10 paragraphs of background before getting to the point (which I always end up skipping because I'm too impatient to hear the big news). So I'll save you the trouble.

I've decided to move 200 miles away, from London to Manchester.

The View from the Shard

I know I know, it’s not as though I’m jetting off across the world. But as a born and bred southerner who’s never lived further north than the Midlands (and that was a decade ago), this feels like a very big and rather scary change indeed.

It's no secret that I've been steadily falling out of love with London for some time. My love-hate relationship with the city causes me no end of inner turmoil. Maybe it's because I grew up in a village by the sea and countryside, but I never fully adjusted to London life. I enjoy the vibrancy of the city, but the scale and scope of London is not for me. It’s just too darn big and too darn busy.

As you can imagine, there’s been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to get to this point, and I’ve spent a lot of time mulling over the pros and cons of London.

I love that I can sit eating cake surrounded by cats, admire a 15ft electric blue cockerel in Trafalgar Square, dine on crocodile and locusts and see Roman ruins sandwiched between skyscrapers.

I hate that I can pay £5 for a cider, £70 for a standard haircut and £1300 a month to rent a shoebox of a flat.

I love standing in the shadow of some of the world's most famous landmarks, feeling very small and very special.

I hate arguments between tightly-packed commuters that usually involve pursed lips, sarcastic remarks, stomach knots and awkward silences.

Russell Square

I love walking over Blackfriars Bridge every morning, with Big Ben on my left and St Paul's on my right, the sun peeking over Tower Bridge and the river buzzing with boats and people.

I hate travelling an hour to work or to see my friends, even though I live (and work) in Zone 1.

I love walking past a little piece of history every single day.

I hate getting complacent about it.

View of Canary Wharf

I love working in a creative hub, full of talented and inspiring people.

I hate having little hope of ever affording the £250k+ it will cost for me to buy a 2-bed flat, let alone a house with a garden.

This roughly gives you a flavour of how I’ve been feeling, and ultimately this move boils down to quality of life. The truth is, I don’t want or need to spend too much time justifying my decision. It’s done, dusted and I couldn’t be happier (and after 10 years as a northerner living in London, Frank is excited about it too).

So, in December I’ll be upping sticks with Frank and the cats and moving to Manchester. In January I start a new job working in a marketing communications role for the Development Team at the University of Manchester. This basically means helping fundraisers develop materials that showcase the university’s priority funding areas and hopefully raising lots of money for fantastic causes.

I’ll be leaving behind some very dear friends, as well as my sister and two of my bridesmaids, which I’m a little bit heartbroken about. I’ll be living much nearer to my ‘second family’ (ie Frank’s), who are near Liverpool, as well as one of my other bridesmaids.

So that’s my news. I can’t wait to explore a new city, spend time roaming around the peak and lake districts and bed into my exciting new job. It also means we can start realistically saving for a new home. Hurrah!

Tips about relocating (and living up t’north) gratefully received!

sally

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Friday, 10 October 2014

A few hours in Mostar, Herzegovina

The past week has flitted by so quickly I've barely had a moment to think, let alone bash out a blog post or two. Anyway, Friday is here, the sun is shining (despite it being a little chilly), and I'm looking forward to a weekend up in sunny Birkenhead to see the in-laws. I was scrolling through my photos recently and realised I never shared my little trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina during my Croatian holiday in September. I booked a little day trip before we went as I thought it would be fascinating to see how different it is from Croatia. While the landscape is largely similar and there are a lot of Croatians living in this part of Herzegovina, it has a distinctly Turkish feel.

We hopped on a coach and shot through the winding countryside roads, admiring the vineyards, oyster farms and turquoise glimpses of the ocean. Eventually we arrived in Mostar,

Mostar, Herzegovina

The 16th century bridge in the old town was built by the Ottomans, and is considered to be one of the most exquisite examples of Islamic architecture in the Balkans. The famous traveler Evliya Çelebi wrote in the 17th century that: "the bridge is like a rainbow arch soaring up to the skies, extending from one cliff to the other. ...I, a poor and miserable slave of Allah, have passed through 16 countries, but I have never seen such a high bridge. It is thrown from rock to rock as high as the sky."

The bridge that stands today is an exact replica of the original, which was tragically bombed during a 1992-3 siege following Bosnia and Herzegovina's declaration of independence from Yugoslavia. Local men wow tourists by jumping off the bridge into the water (once they've collected enough money of course!) We were lucky enough to spot someone just as he leapt off. It looked terrifying!

Mostar, Herzegovina

Our tour guide explained how the Muslim community had originally laid the cobbled stones throughout Mostar due to cleanliness. Because hygiene is so important for Muslims when they go to the mosque, traipsing through mud roads wasn't ideal, so they placed thousands of stones into the mud to create a walkway. Over time these hardened into cobbled roads, which take a lot of concentration to walk on. The tour guide also told us another theory - that the stones were laid so local women would be concentrating so hard on where they were stepping that they wouldn't be eyeing up men other than their husbands!

Mostar, Herzegovina

One of my favourite things about Mostar was seeing Christians, Jews and Muslims living together harmoniously. The town has several mosques and churches, and a spot where they're currently building a synagogue. The Jewish community had donated their synagogue to the people of the town so it could be used as a puppet theatre, so the town had offered them a piece of land in return so they could build a new place of worship.

We popped into one of the mosques and I loved the beautiful brightly coloured woven rugs that littered the floor.

Mostar, Herzegovina

We stopped for lunch in Mostar, where Frank ordered a local dish called Ćevapi (Bosnian kebabs). These are small grilled meat sausages made of a mix of lamb and beef, served with onions, sour cream, ajvar and Bosnian pita bread. I ordered something similar, although the meat had been flattened into a patty. It was possibly the best (and cheapest) food we had the whole time we were on holiday. It goes without saying that this was all washed down with an ice cold local beer!

Mostar, Herzegovina

Mostar, Herzegovina

And as a little bonus we spotted these two rather gorgeous pups while having our lunch :)

Mostar, Herzegovina

Having finished our tour and dashed around the street sellers to buy some souvenirs (needless to say I wanted everyone but didn't have enough suitcase room - boo!), we boarded the coach and headed back to Dubrovnik, feeling very snoozy and tired by the time we got home. For anyone thinking of going to this part of the world, I can thoroughly recommend a trip to Mostar. Culturally it was a stark change to Croatia and I'm itching to go back! We booked our trip through Viator. You can find the tour here.

Mostar, Herzegovina

Have you ever been to the Balkans?

sally

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Friday, 3 October 2014

ASOS bird skirt and general happy things

I've faced the raging tides of the office this week and come out the other side, albeit a little dishevelled and need of a long, deep sleep. I'm starting to feel that old familiar frustration of reaching for my camera on a weekday evening after work, only to find the sun is dipped beneath the horizon. Blogging during the winter months becomes a challenge. That said, it gives me an excuse to show you some of the backlog of photos that would otherwise be forgotten. I know I know, I'm wearing a bikini top in this picture, and it's not exactly sandal-wearing weather anymore, but considering I pretty much lived and slept in this skirt on holiday, AND it's all of £8 in the ASOS sale, I had to post a little link. There you go. The green and red peacock print is quite a garish combination in some ways, but it actually dresses in quite an understated way. I'm looking forward to trying it with tights, brogues and a cardigan too. Funny how a simple, elasticated skater skirt in a pretty fabric can be one of the one most versatile items I own.

Outfitv

September has been a busy month, but I still managed to get some downtime from the crazy busy-ness of life. As part of my 4 goals for October's #leaveyourlegacy challenge, I've been clock-watching like a hawk to guarantee myself an early bedtime. As soon as the clock chimes 9pm I'm scurrying about, brushing teeth, cleansing, making packed lunches, tidying, packing my bag for the next day and booking onto gym classes. It's funny how your whole evening can be swallowed up by little tasks and duties, and before you know it it's midnight and you wake up the next day feeling bleary and tired.

Talking about lunches, I recently acquired a copy of Harry Eastwood's A Salad for all Seasons and have been bookmarking lots of yummy salad recipes for work. This one had broad beans, peas, pancetta, ricotta, mint and lemon dressing. For the first time in ages I felt happy opening up my healthy lunchbox! I'll be posting a few lunchtime favourite soon.

Today's #salad is broad bean, pea, pancetta, ricotta, mint and lemon dressing. YUM #diet #weightloss #healthy

I also discovered that Tesco sell gladioli for £1.50. They don't look like much at first, with their long, thin stalks, but in a couple of days they burst into flower. They're definitely an underrated flower in my book, and have made my week rather lovely as the greet me from my hallway table when I open the front door.

My £1.50 gladioli are looking bootiful! #flowers #lbloggers

I was also treated to some yummy Halloween goodies from Soreen. My favourite has to be the lunchbox loaves. They're only 100 calories each and come in yummy toffee apple and chocolate flavours. Plus I noticed that you can win a year's supply on their website. Lunchbox sorted!

#Halloween has started early thanks to @soreenHQ! As a serial snacker these have brightened up my Friday no end. My colleagues' heads popped up from their computers like meerkats when the package arrived. Guess I'll have to share  #nomnomnom #foodporn

I was cooped up a little bit last weekend due to feeling poorly, so Frank and I took a little turn in one of the local public gardens where I spotted this little fella chilling out by a pond.

Went for a little pootle in #londonbridge this morning and came across this wee fella. #bugslife #lbloggers

Granted it's not exactly al fresco dining weather anymore, but I have fond memories of a particularly rubbish day at work this summer when I grabbed some burgers and a disposable barbecue from the shop and we sat in the park munching burgers.

London bbq

London bbq

London bbq


And here are some recent timewasters that have kept me busy this month...

 This video by Nina Paley offers a beautiful and unique portrayal of the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
 A bit creepy but utterly compelling: four photographers snuck into Michael Jackson's Neverland.
 If you loved The Notebook, think again. Lindy West's review is hysterical and completely right on.
 These incredible photographs by Arthur Tress capture children's nightmares.

I hope you're all feeling excited for the weekend and lots of fun things in store!
sally

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This site contains links to outside sources including paid affiliates. Queenie and the Dew is not responsible for the content of any third party website.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

What do you want your legacy to be? 4 October goals

A couple of weeks ago I was strolling through Borough when I spotted some spray-painted graffiti on the pavement. Of course, this isn't unusual for London, but this particular moment felt a little eerie. It was Sunday morning, I'd cancelled my gym class in favour of a pootle along the river, and the street was completely empty (a rarity in the city). Stretching across the path in front of me, bold as brass, I spotted this:

unnamed

I stopped dead in my tracks, looked inquisitively around, took a photo (obvs) and pondered over who had done it and why. It transpires that this wasn't the only little slogan on the streets of South London that day (here's another that I posted on Instagram). In any case, the mystery surrounding it made me feel like it was speaking directly to me, as if the stark black letters were tiny hands reaching out of the paving slabs with the sole intention of tripping me up as I coasted along on my same, familiar trajectory.

And it got me thinking: what DO I want my legacy to be?

That same day, an email popped into my inbox from a new sportswear brand called.... wait for it.... Legacy, inviting me to take part in their #leaveyourlegacy challenge. They asked me to think of four goals I'd like to set myself in order to improve my way of life, and keep them up over the period of a month.

The word 'legacy' is a funny one. I do quite a bit of work in legacy marketing, and it's a word that gets bandied about a lot, without anyone stopping to let it really sink in. In fact, 'legacy' is a pretty powerful word. Just think about it for a moment... Legacy.

Essentially it's about the imprint you'd like to leave behind on life's tapestry, and how that imprint might be seen (or used) by others in the future. As the beloved Robin Williams said in one of my favourite films: "that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?" It's a humbling (and daunting thought). At GOSH, I work with some of the world's most eminent doctors. I know my name will never go down in history in this way, but I also know I want to be the best version of myself, and in that way leave a positive legacy behind.

And that's where Legacy sportswear came in, who very kindly offered to set me on my way with a couple of bits of sports kit from their women's range.

Legacy sportswear

I opted for their grey sweatpants, because I knew I wanted to focus on practising yoga on a regular basis as one of my goals. They're thick and cosy and ultra comfortable - the perfect option for a yoga class (after all, it's hard to feel zen when you're shivering in an air conditioned workout studio!)

Legacy sportswear3

I also chose this blue marble training vest, which has a lightweight, loose fit, and is good for covering me up when I'm bending and contorting in all sorts of unsightly positions during my power plate classes.

Legacy sportswear2

As for my 4 goals? This took some serious pondering, and after several rounds of amends, here's what I came up with:

1. Make healthy (and exciting) lunches and dinners
For me, the key to a positive mindset is largely down to nutrition. I'm an avid lover of food, and my diet strongly dictates my mood. While I love healthy options, if they're uninspiring I'm much more likely to feel gloomy and demotivated, before falling off the wagon with a trip to Nando's or Pizza Express as a 'treat to cheer myself up'.

2. Work out 4 times a week (one of which is yoga)
According to my physio, yoga and/or pilates is a must for me, but I also want to work in a mixture of cardio and strength/resistance training. I'm not at the level yet where I can workout every day (my tummy muscles are still sore right now from Monday's power plate class!) but I want exercise to become a natural part of my weekly routine.

3. Plan my time and use it well
This might seem a little vague, and not particularly measurable, but in light of yesterday's post about me wanting to avoid procrastination, I feel like it's an important one to include. I'm guilty of 'hopping onto the internet' for a few minutes, only to be engulfed for the next few hours, or else allowing a 'quick drink' to turn into a boozy late night affair. I'd really like to concentrate on planning my time in advance so that it can include coffee with friends, crafty pursuits, good conversation, reading and all the little things that seem to pass me by.

4. Get early nights
I mustn't underestimate the difference an early night can do for my mind, my skin and my overall wellbeing. I'm always naughty and stay up an extra hour or two than I should. 11.30pm bedtimes are a regular occurence, with my alarm cruelly snatching me from sleep at 6.30am. I know in an ideal world I need a good 9 hours' sleep to function my best, and I want to take a little more care of myself with longer nightime snoozes.

You can follow my progress both here, on Instagram and on Twitter using the hashtag #leaveyourlegacy. Better yet, why don't you join in too?

What's more, Legacy have very kindly given Queenie and the Dew readers 30% off their range using the code Queenieandthedew30. 

What would you choose as your 4 goals?


sally

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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Down with procrastination

Last week I was a bundle of snotty, sneezy, spluttery germiness, tucked up on the sofa in my pyjamas and hugging a hot mug of Lemsip, with nothing but a box of tissues and a remote control for company. Predictably, both of my cats deliberately ignored my pleading whimpers for a cuddle and curled up on the bed at the opposite end of the flat. Rotters. I hate being poorly.

Four days of being housebound and sedentary are enough to make the majority of people a little morose I suppose, but I have to confess that I didn't do myself any favours. In between little snoozes and bouts of daytime TV I mostly snacked on bread and diet coke. Not exactly a winning combination for feeling better, and by the time Frank came home from football practice on Monday evening I was feeling pretty irritable and low.

Illness aside, what this little period of feeling sorry for myself has proved is how, for me, time spent procrastinating is utterly unfulfilling, and yet I succumb to it so readily. I know full well I could have alleviated some of my discomfort by reading, making healthy salads and guzzling water, but instead I moped, ate mundane things, watched mundane things and felt, well, mundane.


Even as I write this, I was just flicking through the channels on the remote before a quiet, firm voice in my head said "Sally - switch it off and put it down". I ignored it, as I usually do, leaned over towards the bookcase and started prodding at my DVDs. "Sally," I heard the voice say again, "switch it off and PUT. IT. DOWN." So I did. I set up my laptop at the dining table (not on the sofa in front of the TV), popped on the soundtrack to Hugo through my Spotify, closed down the chattering ASOS, New Look, Amazon and Topshop browsers that were shouting 'Buy me! Buy me! Buy me!' and started to write. Just me, my mind and my fingers stroking the smooth black keys. Just as it should be.


At home I'm guilty of being an eternally busy bee, without necessarily being all that productive. I have a list as long as my arm of the things I SHOULD be doing (actually that's a lie, I haven't got round to writing the list yet, which is worse because the endless little 'to dos' are muddled up inside my head instead) and yet I'm likely to end my day having achieved very little. The suitcase from my Croatia holiday still sits in the hall (with a cat curled up on top - obviously thinking it's now a permanent fixture), my paperwork lies unfiled on the kitchen counter and I still haven't recycled those old magazines from... when was it? April?

This is not to say I'm domestically lazy. I feel like I'm forever cleaning, scrubbing and shifting piles of clutter from one surface to another. I spend a lot of time doing the domestic chores we all know and love, and yet I don't ever go to bed wanting to high five myself because I emptied the dishwasher. People don't blog about these things I suppose - you're not going to see photos of me in my marigolds anytime soon, up to my elbows scrubbing the toilet bowl.

What I mean is, between work, exercise and domestic sluttery, I've let my life go a bit... limp.

I'm so ready to go off and do some #autumn exploring. #landscape #nature

The conclusion to this little brain dump I guess is twofold: I want to be more efficient with my time, and I want to spend more time doing valuable things, be it hunching over a good book, running a few extra miles on the treadmill, crunching through autumn leaves, sewing quilt blocks or exploring more of the city. I want to finish each day feeling like I've been productive, or as Rudyard Kipling would put it: "fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run".

So my pledge for the next month is not necessarily do more, but to choose things that add value to my life.

How do you keep yourself productive and fulfilled?

sally

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