Everything I’ve learnt at 25

So today is my birthday and I officially feel really old! There are certain things about life that just feel very different now. I don’t think in the same way I used to, I don’t act the same way and I don’t want the same things. There is actually so much I’ve learnt, even over this past year and as 25 is a milestone (quarter of a century and all that), as well as a really strange birthday to have at the moment (during a global pandemic), I wanted to reflect on some of these things with you.

The first thing I’ve learnt is about myself. I feel like I’ve been learning so much about myself over the past couple of years and my character has really evolved. There are things I would do years ago that I couldn’t even dream of getting involved in now. The biggest one for me is confrontation and drama. There was a time when I would pride myself in being the type of person who would always say what was on their mind. That type of what you see is what you get person. But what I’ve learnt recently is that not everybody needs to see you. I’m very comfortable with who I am and I have nothing to prove to anybody. Having this mindset has led me to learn that there are a lot of things which are better left unsaid.

Things like gossip. I think there are plenty of us who love a gossip, but I’ve finally excluded myself from this group. In fact, there is nothing I hate more than gossip. I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to spread it and I don’t want to be involved in it.

When it comes to drama, I try my best to avoid it all costs. But I’ve also learnt that it’s impossible for me to be on damage control the whole time. I can’t ensure that every little inch of my life will fall perfectly into place. Sometimes, things will erupt. It’s just life. There is no calm without chaos. And a lot of the time, there are very valuable lessons to be learnt through chaos. You learn about yourself, you learn about the people around you and I think you learn how to avoid being in the same situations again.

I’ve also learnt a lot about money! The shopaholic in me finds it extremely hard to say no to materialistic purchases. Just a few hours ago I was in Harrods, talking to a sales assistant at YSL about whether I should buy a bag for £1600. My new life motto when it comes to big purchases (or any purchases really), is only buy it if you can buy it twice. In this situation, I applied the rule and I could definitely have checked out and been good. I wouldn’t have had to use any credit to buy the bag but I would have been -£1600 in savings and at least a few months back from being able to buy a house.

At this age, I value my long term goals a lot more than I value my immediate ones. My immediate goal with that bag would be to take it on an evening out, take it out for lunch, take it out shopping (and I know I am talking about the bag like it’s a person but I just love bags, okay?!); but to do all of those things, I would be spending even more money. So really, buying the bag would be costing me more money long term and drawing me further and further away from my long term goals. There will be a time for me to buy a YSL bag without having to think about these things and when the time comes, it will be so much more worth it.

The last thing I’ve learnt is about emotion. I have the tendency to react on emotion and in the past year or so, it’s meant that I’ve made decisions which have diverted me from some of my most important goals. I’m the kind of person who needs to detach from a situation, think about it on my own and work out a plan. I live for plans. There has to be a plan for everything to keep me sane. And maybe to some people that’s unhealthy and maybe by the time I’m 30 I’ll realise that I ditched all of my plans anyway. But for now, the best thing I can do when I’m feeling emotional about anything, is to take a step back, take a deep breath and take as much time as I need to come up with a plan.

Valuing my sanity and my time is something I put above almost anything else in my life. If you know me, you’ll know that my favourite saying is “I don’t have time for…”. Well, this has served me very well. I don’t have copious amounts of time to feel things that will prevent me from moving forward with my life. Whether that’s resentment, heartbreak, embarrassment, fear. I will do whatever I can to keep moving forward in life and this is what keeps me sane. This is what keeps me valuing my time. Most of all, this is what has kept me focused and happy.

I’m beginning to learn that happiness is a choice. I choose to let things go and I choose not to harbour negative emotions because it makes my happier immediately and it makes me happier long term. This is a tough one to learn and it’s taken me a while, but it’s been very worth it. Always forgive. Holding onto grudges is one thing that I can promise will only ever eat you up inside.

So here’s to 25 – I can’t wait to see what else I achieve in the next quarter of the century!

Let’s talk about US Police Officers Killing Black People

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Over the past few days, people have been sharing and re-posting anything and everything to do with George Floyd. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and pretty much every other social media app, George Floyd’s name has reverberated. It’s amazing to see so many people, of all different races, coming together to talk about this. But sadly, George Floyd is not the first black man to be unjustly killed by a US police officer. Heartbreakingly, we know that he will not be the last either.

Racism in America operates on a colossal scale. And I want to talk about racism in America because, right now, America is one of the least safe places in the world for a black person to be. This does not mean that any other country is exempt. Or that, for example, there are no racist police officers in the UK. There are. But this post is going to be about racism in the US and racism as a whole. I’ve never shied away from talking about race on this blog and it’s important to me that I say my piece on this.

So here are some statistics. Black people make up 13% of the US population – just 13%. Yet, they are two and a half times more likely to be killed by the police. California, Texas and Florida have the highest number of killings of black people. In Minnesota, where George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer who knelt on his neck, while another police officer stood watch, until he stopped breathing, black people make up only 5% of the overall state population. Yet, they are nearly four times more likely to be killed by the police.

Racist police brutality is not a 2020 wave, let’s get this straight. This hasn’t just started happening now, it’s been happening for years. In 2012, Treyvon Martin was reported as a ‘suspicious person’ for going to visit his father in Sanford. A white neighbourhood watch officer then shot him. Treyvon was unarmed. He was not suspicious. He was not a threat. He was 17 years old, a black boy and a victim of institutional racism.

Tamir Rice was 12 years old and killed in 2014 by a white police officer for playing with a toy gun.

Eric Garner was choked to death by a police officer the same year, after being arrested for selling cigarettes from packs without tax stamps. He wasn’t, by the way.

Mike Brown was hit by six shots from a white police officer in Missouri, who fired twelve bullets at him as he ran away. He was 18 years old.

Freddie Grey was arrested for being in possession of an illegal switchblade in Baltimore. The blade was not illegal and he fell into a coma in the back of a police van 45 minutes after being arrested.

There are so many more names of black men killed by US police officers that I could mention. But then this post would run on for days and days. For anyone who wants to know more about black men specifically who have been killed by US police officers, then I’ve found this article. It compiles a whole list of them – see for yourself.

99% of police killings from 2014 to 2019 did not result in charges, or consequently convictions, of a crime.

Based on the above, I find it impossible to deny that America is facing a racism crisis. And it’s doing so with very little consequences. It takes mass outrage, protests and retaliation for these police officers to come under investigation. Even then, you’ll find that the correct language is not being used. Reports in the media will tell you that these men died, not that they were murdered. Charges are never severe enough. There are always justifications, which I really do fail to comprehend. Unarmed, unthreatening, innocent black people are being killed in America simply because police officers have the power and the status to do so. We need to change this.

Up until this point I’ve been talking about black men. Black men in America are perceived as violent and dangerous simply for being black. They are the most racially profiled members of the black community. But please do not think that police brutality begins and ends with them. Black women such as Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police officers in her own home, are victims of institutional racism too.

I don’t think that we have ever expected police officers to protect us. After all, they have a long history of doing the exact opposite. But in this day and age, we have the knowledge and the influence to at least fight for consequences. It’s very difficult to imagine a time when racism will not pervade our identity as black people and the generations of black people that are to come. So, I feel that the least we can do is fight for equal consequences. So that when a black life is lost, accountability does not lessen simply because it was a black life instead of a white one.

What is happening in America right now is opening the door even wider for overt racism. This is why we have cases like Ahmad Arbery’s, who was shot by two white men while he was out jogging. Racists don’t feel like they will face consequences for their actions because even the police officers don’t!

Then there are people like Amy Cooper, who called the police in New York on a black man because he told her to put her dog on a leash. She threatens that she’s going to call the police is “going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”

I’ve even seen a video of a white woman being pulled over on the highway and being told by the police officer not to worry because she’s white. “We only kill black people,” he jokes.

You can find footage like this almost everywhere now. You can find even worse footage, of black people actually being killed, too. The fact that there is video footage of black people being killed by police officers is strangely eye opening for some people. It doesn’t sit well with me. Do you see the same footage of white people being killed? And, at this point, do you really need to see video evidence of somebody being killed to believe that it happened unlawfully? Mutilated black bodies have become a spectacle and I am not okay with that. So the next time you see a video circulating on Twitter or Instagram, please think twice before sharing it. Your words can be powerful too, you should use them.

Racism is a very complex structure of barriers that has been set up to guarantee and maintain the success of white people. It means that there are socio-economic systems that have been set up to make the success of a person of colour harder. As a white person, there are things you will never have to worry about. I’ll give you some examples of things that I face all the time as a black girl, that you don’t.

You never have to worry about seeing people that look like you represented in your dream career. Chances are, the leading figure in your field is white and your dreams seem more achievable because of this.

You’ve never had to explain your achievements to anyone because its not puzzling for you to be smart or well-spoken.

You’ve never had to dilute your appearance to make yourself seem more appealing – for example, at a job interview or at school. It’s well known that black girls’ natural hair has been regulated in the workplace and in schools. You’ve never experienced this.

You’ve never received a backhanded compliment about your race. “You’re so pretty for a black girl.” “You’re light skin so its okay.” “When I was tanned, I was pretty much your colour.”

Your natural features have never been seen as ugly on you but beautiful on someone else that looks completely different to you. We all know about the Marc Jacobs show that used dreadlocks on white models. It’s fashionable on you but as a natural hairstyle on us, it’s messy and unkempt. Or what about lip fillers? Having naturally full lips is unattractive on a black girl but sexualised and appealing on a white girl.

You’ve never gone to a cosmetics store and struggled to find something in your shade. Or been disappointed to find that a big beauty brand has a line of products that they haven’t even made in your shade, even though you and other people that look like you, are a big part of their consumer demographic.

You’ve never walked into a store and realised that the security guard is following you because the colour of your skin makes him think that you’re going to steal something.

Imagine having all of these experiences in your mind everywhere you go. These are things you never forget because they characterise your identity. People always want to celebrate black culture without understanding what the implications of being black are, on your everyday experience of life.

These things don’t leave you. I don’t have the privilege of just ignoring what’s happening in America today. I can’t fathom really, how anyone as a human being could disassociate themselves from the fact that innocent lives are being taken based on race. I really can’t. But that’s white privilege – feeling entitled to dip in and out of a culture as and when it suits you. Being able to say you don’t see colour when it suits you. Being able to say and feel like a racial fight is not your fight, simply because its not your people that are being killed. And exercising silence over situations like these because of that.

To me, that’s the same as saying black lives don’t matter.

So, if you are the kind of person that thinks a person’s life should not be valued by the colour of their skin, then you will have something to say about this. Hopefully, you won’t just take my word for it, but you’ll do your own research, you’ll form your own opinion and you’ll help to fight against racism. Whether that’s going to protests, donating to charities in America that are fighting for black lives, not being afraid to call someone out on their racism, or whatever else you want to do to help.

There are so many things you can do. Lead a life that is anti-racist, not silent – this is perhaps the most important one. But you really can’t sit back and expect an oppressed group of people to fight against their own oppression.

Happy New Decade!

I can’t believe we are in a new decade! How crazy is that? I can’t find a straight answer on whether a decade is 10 or 12 years (I’ve always known it to be 12), but if I think back to all those years ago, then I was still in secondary school. I was 14 years old. I really never could have imagined that I’d be where I am now. My life was set to take a completely different path and it’s changed so much. But change has been incredibly good for me and I can say honestly, that I am very happy with where I am now and with where I’m heading.

2019 was a fast-paced year for me but I definitely got a lot out of it. At the beginning of the year, a little switch flicked in my head and I realised that I wanted to look into pursuing interior design seriously. Almost a year later, I really managed to shift careers and manifest what was just an idea into something very tangible. In January 2019, the most designing I had done was on The Sims and I was working for an estate agent. Since then, I’ve worked for an interior design firm and assisted with the design of two bathrooms, as well as helped with the sourcing for various different projects. I’ve been on site visits where I’ve seen my designs manifested – which was honestly so gratifying and surreal! I paid a lot of money to study at KLC School of Design and learnt how to use drawing programs that are going to be key to my career. I started an Instagram page (@tanyasinteriors) purely based on design to help me figure out my style as a designer. I’ve spent so much time drawing that I have actually managed to create a portfolio of all of my work so far.

Anyone who knows me knows how important my career is to me. There is nothing I want more than a successful career and I’m willing to do what it takes to make that happen. This year, I manifested lots of little components of this big dream (which is more than just being an interior designer) into real successes. Today, as I worked on my portfolio, I realised that every move I’ve made since having that little spark of realisation in January last year, has been absolutely worth it. I’ve learned so much, I’ve met so many new people and I’ve come to know even more of myself. I faced a few setbacks where I thought the dream was dead, but I’m so proud of myself for picking myself up and making sure I kept going. Now I can look back on 2019 happier than ever. It was a very successful year for me in terms of my career.

I’ve become a lot more confident in my abilities and in myself this year. I know who I am and exactly what I want out of lots of different aspects of life – friendships, money, housing, family, fitness, leisure. I want to make sure that the energy I keep around me is only positive and I think that I have been really good at that this year. I haven’t given negative people the leeway to stay in my life long enough to have any real effect on it and I’m proud of that.

This year, I’m looking forward to even more success and happiness. Although happiness is not as easy as saying this year, I would like to be happy, I would like to commit to taking more time to do the things that will maintain my happiness overall.

On the whole, I’ve had an incredible year. I wish everybody all the best for their New Year, all of the blessings, success and happiness. I hope that you are able to leave any negativity behind and move forward focusing on you and all of the things that will make you happy.

Reduce your waste this Christmas

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It’s Christmas Eve! No, this is not your usual Christmas Eve post, where I give out last minute gift ideas or tell you how much I love Christmas. In typical me fashion, my brain is ticking away thinking about how much paper and plastic is going to be wasted tomorrow. *queue the eye-rolling*

If you’re wondering why I am concerned about the packaging waste this Christmas, it’s because a lot of it ends up in landfills and does not break down quickly or does not break down at all. The average household will get through four rolls of wrapping paper. UK consumers will use 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year. 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown out rather than recycled.

I’m conscious of making this post as short as possible as I don’t want to bore people, but it would be great if we thought more about how we can recycle and re-use packaging this Christmas. So, here are five quick tips for things you can do to help the environment this Christmas.

1. Save your wrapping paper and re-use it next year! Very simple, very easy, very quick. Or, buy recycled wrapping paper. It’s only going to get torn to shreds anyway!

2. Cut out the pattern on your Christmas cards and use them as gift tags next year.

3. Take re-usable shopping bags with you if you are going shopping on Boxing Day! A canvas tote or shopper would be perfect for this.

4. If you have a real Christmas tree, find out how you can recycle it – usually with your local council. They can usually get shredded and used as compost for planting new trees or chipping for covering pathways.

5. We all love unwrapping a present, but gift bags can be re-used. If you don’t want to re-use your wrapping paper next year, then shred it and use it as lining in your gift bags instead.

Hope everybody has a lovely Christmas!

My thoughts on the UK election result…

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This Thursday 12th December we held a general election in the UK. I was at the polling station at 7am on the dot. In fact, I was the first person to vote at my polling station – that’s how bloody eager I was. Now, I hope that those people reading this post who were able to vote in this election, did. Nothing frustrates me more (apart from the Tory win at this election, but we will come to that…) than people who don’t vote when they are eligible to do so!

I made sure to read the manifestos of the parties thoroughly – apart from the Lib Dems, whose manifesto lacked so much clarity that I personally didn’t see the point in continuing. In my opinion, the Conservative manifesto was all about Brexit. In fact, that’s not even an opinion – they proudly claim this themselves. Get Brexit done. Get Brexit done. Get Brexit done. Although Brexit is very important to me, it’s not the only thing that influenced my vote. Over the next 5 years, we have more to worry about than just Brexit. This should not have been a Brexit election.

If you have read my post on climate change (you can do so here), then you will know that I am extremely concerned about the future of the planet. So any manifestos that speak thoroughly to solving this global issue, go down favourably with me. I also care about issues like the cost of living, accessibility to skilled jobs, affordable housing and homelessness, crime and the way that we view and respond to immigration.

Now, with all of this in mind, I read the manifestos of the Conservative and Labour parties. My constituency has a majority Conservative hold so I was torn between tactical voting (Lib Dems) and genuinely just voting for who I most found my beliefs aligned with. I simply cannot support a Conservative government, when it means that the prime minister is a man who has repeatedly insulted every minority and under-privileged group in this country. Everyone that’s not a rich white man essentially. He is sexist, homophobic and he’s a racist. Referring to Muslim women as letterboxes and black children as picaninnies – are we just going to excuse this along with the long list of offensive things he’s said in the past? For a quick run through, you can read about them here. Or, you could just research him yourself and become informed about the kind of man that is going to be running this country for the next 5 years. Anyone who supports or even worse, tries to defend this man – well, frankly I don’t want to hear it.

The result of this election has been angering me all weekend. Genuinely, I am so disappointed. I think that the Conservative party is the worst party of them all and I just cannot understand why so many people voted for them. The only explanations I have for this, are that voters secretly share his controversial views and that he gained much of his support through leading his manifesto with Brexit.

Brexit has been going on since 2016. It’s now almost 2020. I know that this has been drawling on tirelessly. We’re all fed up of hearing about it on the news because we never get any clarity as to what is actually happening. We voted and the result of that vote, four years later, has not been fulfilled. It’s shambolic. During this time, we saw David Cameron immediately resign, Theresa May continually lead us into more and more disarray and then we got Boris as prime minister – who promises to get this whole ordeal sorted quickly and finally. To debate Brexit is really a separate topic on its own. I want to remain in the EU for several different reasons – the freedom to travel, work and live in any other EU country, access to emergency healthcare in any EU country as well as the option to seek help from an EU embassy outside of the EU if I’m abroad, the fact that the single market and trade sustains masses of UK jobs and businesses, which keeps the country thriving and the wider influence that we have from being part of a large union. These are just my reasons laid out simply, as I’m not going to be debating Brexit in this post. But I do feel that people voted Conservative not because they want to leave the EU with Boris’ deal or because they want to leave at all, but simply because they want to Get Brexit done. I’ve watched interviews with members of the public on this and even many of the remain voters say they just want to get this over with now. Boris promises to do that. People like Boris because he promises to do that and they believe that he will.

But for me, this vote was not just about Brexit. The Labour manifesto advocates change: It’s time for real change. There is a whole section on how they will lead a green industrial revolution through switching to renewable energy. This will create one million more jobs and reduce the cost of energy bills. Labour also recognise that the biggest polluters of our planet are in the wealthiest percentage of the population. If you read the Labour manifesto and compare it to the Lib Dems, you will find that Labour clearly details the how and the Lib Dems simply state that they are going to make sure they do this and that, without actually explaining the workings behind any of it. Saving the planet is my biggest concern and I felt that the Labour manifesto was the only one, out of all three manifestos that I considered, that gave this the detail and attention it deserves.

There is a whole section on tackling poverty and inequality – something the Conservatives only mention in passing. Not to mention that the homepage of their manifesto is scattered with images of white people and nobody else, when this is a multi-cultural country. Labour consider lots of different types of people in their manifesto – unemployed, self-employed, households with one person working, teenagers on minimum wage, people working full-time but facing too-high living costs, excessive working hours and the recognition that a healthy working environment allows you time to switch off. They also speak to several different injustices – gender differences and closing the pay gap, racial and religious injustice, taking care of our younger workers to make sure that they are not exploited with low pay and zero hour contracts. It’s the most inclusive manifesto.

Labour talk about making the NHS a zero-carbon service and investing in mental health to ensure that more people have access to the help they need. When they talk about the police, they talk about improving the relationship between communities and the police, providing more training and proportionate stop-and-searches. Unlike the Tories, who pledge to put 20,000 more officers on the streets and increase their powers to stop-and-search. They mention making stop-and-searches fair and proportionate, without even acknowledging the ways in which it currently isn’t. So how are we supposed to believe that they know what is fair and proportionate? There is one mention of the word minority in their manifesto and it is in reference to the ‘criminal minority’. There is one mention of ethnicity and religion, lumped together can I add and not addressed as separate entities. It simply states that a Conservative government will protect people from physical attack and harassment, without stating how and again, without recognising the specific problems that people are facing within these contexts. They just mention this for the sake of mentioning it.

The Conservative manifesto talks about ‘prevent[ing] any foreign interference in elections’. Which brings me on to the fact that there were so many European citizens who were turned away from their polling stations on Thursday and refused the right to vote! At the same time, there were people who didn’t receive their postal votes or received them the day after the election. I mean, really? These are the things we need to be talking about. If you ever want to get a sense of what is really happening to people in this world, read your Twitter feed. I’m not saying that Twitter is the voice of truth, but in a way, it is the voice of many people’s truths. The voice that speaks to the things you won’t be able to read about or hear on the news.

I voted Labour because, in my opinion, their discussions are holistic. They have detail and numbers in their manifesto to ensure we clearly understand the what and the how. You can question those numbers if you like but there are explanations behind what they say. It’s the most thorough and detailed manifesto I have read. I’m disappointed that more people didn’t vote Labour, I really am.

As I’m sure you can tell, I am really frustrated by the result of this election. In fact, it’s been irritating me all weekend. I know that the result is the result and we can’t change it now but I’m allowed to have my views, I’m allowed to be annoyed and I’m allowed to express why. For the next 5 years I have to have Boris Johnson as my prime minister and I really couldn’t think of anything worse.

What are your thoughts on the result?

Everything you (probably) shouldn’t do when dating.

Naming this post was almost as frustrating as the thought of writing it. But these kind of posts always go down really well on my blog and I do secretly enjoy writing them. They give me the opportunity to moan about all of the things that have been grating on me for a while now. I have the Summer Walker album playing, I’m comfy in bed, I have a cup of tea – which means that we have the perfect combination to start discussing my favourite (I’m being sarcastic) topic ever!

I think it’s been made fairly obvious in the past that I don’t really date but I somehow still manage to find myself involved with guys. Funny how that works isn’t it? On multiple occasions I’ve received texts from guys and had to stop to wonder how I even got myself into the position where they felt they needed to or could message me these things. Confounding, truly. I won’t tell you how many dates I have actually been on in my life as the figure is shocking in comparison to my age. But just know that it’s minimal.

In any case, I find myself somewhat equipped to share with you all of the things that you really shouldn’t do when dating. Probably because I’m ill-equipped to advise on the opposite.

First of all, you want to start with actually accepting some date invitations. That’s always a good way to kick things off. If somebody asks you out and you think they’re alright (at the least), say yes. You really don’t have much to lose. (I mean apart from wasted time, clothes, hair, make-up, effort etc…). Plus, you get a nice evening out! (Not like you would rather have spent this in bed with Pizza Hut cookie dough and The Sims. Ha no, never!)

I want to take this opportunity to remind you that accepting a date is not signing yourself off to marriage. Something I have to remind myself often. Accepting a first date can make you feel quite anxious if you’re a very independent person. You’re used to doing everything for you and it’s probably going to be somewhat difficult to start dividing your time. Maybe you don’t want to give them the wrong impression, hurt their feelings if it doesn’t go well or end up in a situation that you feel you can’t get out of. You probably don’t want it to be too intense either, right? I always want a first date to be very chilled out, see where it goes kind of vibe. If you feel too much pressure early on then you’re more likely to hit a premature boiling point…

Anyway let’s say the first date does go well. It’s exactly what you wanted and you’re open to seeing them again. My second tip is to be vocal about this. Girls especially, don’t wait for the guy to text you. If you ever wait for a guy for anything, I can tell you now that you’ll be waiting for the next few years. You don’t have to send a long paragraph, you don’t have to make it into a big thing either. Just let them know that you would want to see them again and… see what happens.

The whole seeing what happens thing is key for me. It’s my whole vibe. But, I have to advise from experience, that you shouldn’t cut this stage short too soon. Perhaps your patience is limited. I can understand this completely – mine barely exists. But, in order to see what happens, you actually have to see what happens. This can, unfortunately, take time.

But I would caution against you giving it too much time. If something is regressing or remaining at the same level, then you know what to do. There is absolutely no point in dragging something out for the sake of it. You might be bored or you might be lonely. Yes yes we’ve all been there. But you really don’t want to toy with anybody’s emotions. It’s also important to be comfortable on your own. You don’t necessarily have to be happy on your own. But you should note that nobody is ever going to give you as much attention as you can give yourself.

Now whenever you’re dating someone, there will always be those handful of boxes left un-ticked. For a control freak like me, some of those boxes have been checked before I’ve even gone on the date – which is why I’m there. They’ve been pre-assessed you see. But this is not a mentality I would recommend. Instead of looking for things that you like about someone, you’ll already be sub-consciously flaw finding. Flaw finding is a dangerous cycle of thinking to adopt, as it always leads back to the same point – disappointment.

What do I suggest instead? Well, forget the boxes. I almost (not quite, don’t get excited) feel that the person you’ll end up with, is not going to fit perfectly into your grid of yes and no behaviours. They’ll just be on a different scale altogether and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much you want to swap your normal scale for this one instead. Does that make sense? To me it does.

My final piece of advice and I swear by this one, is to never let a dating failure upset you. Annoyed? Yes. Frustrated? Absolutely. Upset? No. We don’t have time for that. Do what you need to do to pick yourself back up as quickly as possible (I mean it) and keep going. As I love to say, we move.

Portobello Eggs – Easy Breakfast Recipe

Next in my little recipe series is this baked eggs in portobello mushrooms breakfast. It’s really quick and requires next to no effort to make. Perfect for mornings where you’re short on time!

Ingredients:
2 x medium sized eggs
2 x portobello mushrooms
Kale or spinach – whichever you prefer and as much as you like!

Method:

1. Peel the mushrooms. Make sure that your mushrooms are clean and dry and gently twist off the stem.

2. Use a teaspoon to carefully scrape out the gills of the mushroom. You don’t have to do this but I usually do.

3. Season the mushroom as you please. I usually use salt, pepper and about half a teaspoon of garlic powder.

4. Wash your greens and add as much spinach, kale or whichever leafy greens you have chosen to each mushroom. Not too much, just enough to line and fill the mushrooms!

5. Being careful to avoid breaking the yolk, crack an egg into each mushroom. This is the tricky part! It doesn’t matter too much if your yolk breaks, it just won’t look as pretty.

6. Bake on about 190 degrees for 15 minutes. After this, double check that your egg whites are cooked all the way through – this is important. If they need an extra 2-3 minutes to cook fully then that’s fine too!

7. Serve on their own or with whatever else you like to make a substantial breakfast. Enjoy!

ClassPass – A new way to exercise?

I have fallen out of love with the gym. Yes, I said it. The gym is just… it’s boring now. I’ve been going for about two years and I try to diversify my workouts as much as possible. But with a tiny, crowded space to work out in and not enough opportunity to utilise all of the equipment (well, what there is of it in my gym), I have just found myself completely de-motivated. £50 a month is a lot of money to spend on working out, especially if you’re not enjoying it and you’re not seeing any changes. So I sought out something different and exciting instead.

ClassPass is an app that gives you access to lots of different exercise classes around London. From weights training to yoga, to pilates, to rock climbing, there are so many different classes to choose from. So if you’re bored one day and thinking about trying something new, then having a ClassPass membership is a great way to do that.

I’ve really enjoyed each of the classes I have been to so far. The instructors are all very welcoming to newcomers and you can select classes based on ability level. So don’t worry if you’ve never tried something before, you can go to a beginners or an open level class and you’ll find yourself surrounded by a mix of different people. The instructors help you through the classes too. This gives the classes a group personal training feel, which is great for perfecting your form and increasing your ability. The classes absolutely fly by too! Nothing like when you’re forcing yourself to do that last set at the gym. During these classes, you will work so hard that you won’t even realise you’ve done an hour. The instructors motivate you, the other people in the class motivate you and I have left each of them feeling very sore afterwards.

I don’t know about you but I love that feeling. This is something that I was starting to miss out on at the gym. I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough and I felt like I didn’t really know how to anymore. Signing up to ClassPass has given me the opportunity to learn new exercises and to push my body in different ways. I have been to a weights training class, a beginners pilates class and a kettlebells class so far. Each have been very different and have tested my body in different ways.

You can choose classes based on distance, the number of credits they cost, the length of class and the time of class. This makes it super easy for you to find something that fits in with your schedule.

Just beware of a couple of little things. Booked classes have to be cancelled 12 hours in advance to avoid a cancellation fee. Missed classes also incur a charge. I think the charge for both is between £15 and £20 – so quite pricey! Instructors also will not let you into their classes if you are late. I repeat, they do not accept lateness. Classes start pretty much on the dot and even being 5 minutes late is risky. I’ve been in classes where the instructor has outright said that he won’t be letting anybody else in.

There are different types of membership. £15/month, £35/month, £60/month etc, so you can choose one that fits in with your budget and schedule. The more you pay, the more credits you get. Each class varies in terms of how many credits it costs. There are also credits for “gym time”, which just give you standard gym access.

ClassPass is a great way to challenge your body and to try a little bit of everything as and when you feel like it. Yoga one day, hardcore strength training the next. What more can you ask for?

Riveting Reads – October

This month, I’ve been reading Circe by Madeline Miller. The story takes place inside the world of Greek mythology, with many of the well known Titan and Olympian gods making frequent appearances throughout the novel. I have mentioned before that I love Greek mythology. The myths are so witty and they really make you think about all the different aspects of life – karma, fate, creation. If you are new to mythology, then I recommend picking up a little storybook like the one I have pictured above. Mine was bought while I was on holiday in Greece but you can find these stories in books all over the world. They’re such inventive little tales, bright and colourful with a lot of humour thrown in. In Circe, Madeline manages to pick up on these key elements of myth-telling, that make them so attractive to us readers and weave them into her own, unique tale.

We follow the story of the goddess Circe, daughter of Helios. Circe lives with her father and siblings in the house of Helios, where she is constantly outcast as the ugly, odd one out. Throughout the beginning chapters of the book, we learn of her ostracism. How she is hated, mocked, ridiculed and insulted daily by her family, all whilst trying to build an identity for herself. It’s interesting to see how Circe’s character develops, slowly, through all of her hardships. Never being loved by her family leaves her susceptible to falling easily in love with multiple different men throughout the novel. Although she denies her feelings to the reader, describing her relationships with each man as strictly physical, the length at which she talks about each of them reveals to us that she is in love.

Circe is not your typical goddess anyway. She feels emotion when she shouldn’t and she seems to have an affinity for mortal men. Of course, this has happened many times before in Greek mythology, but often the gods and goddesses will use mortals to their advantage. Circe is never capable of being this self-serving. Not only this, but Circe is a witch and has a way with spells that makes her threatening to the gods. The one time she uses her powers selfishly, out of lust, she finds herself banished to the island of Aiaia for eternity, where she must live out the rest of her immortal days in solitude.

It is interesting how even during this banishment, Circe manages to spend a lot of her time with other people – always men. Whether that’s from ships of mortal men looking for refuge on her island or from Hermes, who delights in paying her visits frequently throughout her punishment. But it is when she meets Odysseus that the story really begins to tie itself in knots and it is only until the final few pages that we find Circe untying them – and not in the way that we expect.

There is a lot of lengthy description in this novel, which is very important for setting the historical scene. As a writer myself, I have to applaud Miller on her writing – she has such an enchanting way with words and the setting is beautifully tangible. She ensures that we are well rooted within this mythical world, with no room for doubt. The speech is humorous and thoughtfully written and the interactions with each different character are unique enough to distinguish them as separate entities with a presence in Circe’s story.

At times, I did feel that I was ploughing through Circe’s mind. She tells the reader every one of her thoughts and sometimes these feel long and drawn out. But it reminds us, importantly, that Circe is immortal and also that she has been exiled. Her days are long and drawn out and they always will be. She cannot escape solitude, for fear of the wrath of her father and Zeus. And, if there are no guests on her island, then her only interactions are only with nature and the wildlife.

I really enjoyed this book and the sort of wavering affection that you build for Circe. You go from pitying her, to finding her slightly annoying, to committing yourself to the success of her final quests. Throughout the last 100 pages, where Circe’s life dramatically changes, Miller gives us a much more mature version of Circe and we see a passionate side of her that builds depth to an already evolving character. I’m still thinking about the final twist, which comes surprisingly in the final sentence of the novel. Don’t be tempted to skip ahead! The shock is worth it and the sentiment that you feel with it gives you a sort of pride for making it through Circe’s journey with her.

I can see why this novel was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. I’m almost hoping that someone will make it into a film, as there are so many brilliantly visual scenes that I feel it deserves it. Then again, some of the best books that inspire this longing to see their descriptions lifted off the page and projected onto screen, are perfect because they have been written so vividly. That’s the beauty of writing and sometimes we have to leave that to inspire us as it was intended to – through words.

A truly magical and powerful read and if you get the chance to devour it in a weekend alone, then I highly suggest that you do!

Travel Diaries – New York City, USA

You might have thought it was impossible for me to fall in love with another city more than Oslo, but New York is definitely a strong contender! New York is the most inspiring city I have ever been to. People who say it’s like London are so wrong, it really isn’t. It’s bigger, it’s bolder and its like twenty times better. At first, it was a little daunting but by the end of the first day I was already horrified at the thought of leaving. I now want a holiday home in Holmenkollen and an apartment in New York for the Summer.

Flights: British Airways and American Airlines
Accommodation: The Roger Hotel, Midtown Manhattan
Recommendations: Coney Island, Little Italy Pizza and Walmart

Top Tips

Tip! – Yes, it’s true what they say, you have to tip. Most of the tips come up as options when you pay. So for example, when you’re handed the receipt, it will have suggestions on it of how much to tip – usually between 18% and 20%. The service is pretty exceptional over there though so they definitely deserve it.

Two meals a day – I could not stomach three meals a day, USA sized. No way. You order one thing and then they bring you extras for the table. Those extras are usually in the form of bread sticks, which in the USA are literally sticks of bread. There’s so much food in such large quantities that a big lunch and a big dinner are genuinely enough to keep you going throughout the day.

Get a metro card – A 7 day metro card costs about $30 and will give you access to all the trains around the city. New York is pretty easy to navigate, everything is in a grid and most of the lines run through to the most central locations like Times Square. They’re quick too and they have air conditioning.

Visit Coney Island – We went to Coney Island on 4th July, which was the perfect way to celebrate. Yes, it was absolutely heaving but it was so nice. It’s a great way to get a bit of beach relaxation time into your city trip, providing you with the best of both worlds. There are also lots of rides and a very picturesque boardwalk.

Check hotel fees – Every hotel has their own fees which they charge either at the beginning, end of per night of your stay. We got caught out with this as we booked with British Airways, who stated that we would have to pay a fee at the end of our stay. This was actually incorrect, as when we arrived, we were told that it is hotel policy to charge the room at $100 a night, which we would get back if we didn’t use anything from the minibar. So, always check direct with the hotel.

Brooklyn Bridge is a long walk – Brooklyn Bridge is the longest bridge I have ever walked in my life. Honestly, my feet were blistered so badly after crossing it. As stunning as the views are, it’s no joke. It’s genuinely a trek so don’t be fooled. Also, if you don’t like heights, maybe just avoid it altogether. The wooden slats look quite old and there are prominent gaps in them allowing you to look down at the moving cars below. I didn’t mind it but my friend was not comfortable walking across it at all.

Don’t plan – New York is such a cool city that it encourages you to be spontaneous. You can have a rough idea of where you want to go and what you want to see on each day, but leave yourself open to a bit of exploring too. It’s so easy to get the subway around and to figure out where you’re going because all of the streets are numbered.