Sunday, 20 December 2015

A Life in Flux

Well this is awkward.
 
I promised you posts every day and December and I managed to keep that promise for a measly three days. Whoops.
 
I hate to fall back on my usual excuses but the reasons I haven't been writing are simply that I haven't had very much of interest to write about. Recently life has consisted of;
 


  1. Working
  2. Planning a wedding.
  3. Throwing strops about how much it costs to organise a wedding.
  4. Working some more to relieve the intense financial anxiety induced by wedding planning.
  5. Thinking about going out for a run.
  6. Realising that it's dark outside and deciding to stay inside and watch Gilmore Girls instead
  7. Considering the fact that watching five hours' worth of Gilmore Girls probably isn't really fulfilling my life's potential.
  8. Worrying about not fulfilling my life's potential.
  9. Repeating steps one through eight daily.
 
As the number of days remaining in 2015 grows ever smaller, I'm feeling a bit ambivalent about this year, which is a fairly marked difference to this triumphant round up of 2014. As years go, 2015 has been a strange one. It started off with a dramatic change of career for me, which has meant piecing together an income from three separate jobs at times. It has been tough and at times, has felt like a huge jump back in terms of my career and as a result there has been much soul searching throughout 2015.
 
Then there was an attempt to start afresh in a completely new field and that didn't quite work out for financial reasons. Financial worries, thankfully, have rarely featured in my adult life but these past five months have been full of them.  Alongside my career changes, Ryan has been building his own design studio. Starting a business is a huge change in mind-set and so, the impact on our little household has been massive.
 
And yet, it would be wrong to write 2015 off as simply a tough year. Money and careers are not the sum of a life and there have been plenty of wonderful moments to reflect back on.
 
Firstly, there were lots of opportunities for me to try out some new activities for the blog including
 
Edinburgh Leisure Aerial Assault Course
DW GT30
A Personal Training session with Edinburgh Leisure
A trip to Go Ape, Aberfoyle
 
There were also more achievements than I might, at first, acknowledge when I reflect back on this year. Those include successfully navigating to and then climbing another Munro, completing another obstacle course event and also completing my first half marathon and in a fairly respectable time too!
 
2015 was a great year for exploring. I explored Edinburgh quite a lot, writing about that here, here and here. Dundee also featured on the blog on a couple of occasions, as did the Cairngorms, East Wemyss, a random collection of other places in Scotland and, of course, Rome.
 
Last, but not least, 2015 was the year that Ryan proposed and we started planning our wedding.
 
This year has been a challenging one in a different way to 2014 but it has also been every bit as fun. The challenges I've faced this year have taught me some pretty crucial lessons. I now have a better idea of the things I like, and more importantly, the things I don't. I have a firmer idea of what I might like to do for a living and less shame about not living up to the ideas I held previously about what a successful life looked like. I'm more appreciative of my life outside of work than I've ever been and I'm trying hard to recognise my past achievements rather than constantly pushing onto the next one.
 
With regards to the blog, I've been thinking a lot about that over the past month. There's nothing like telling readers that you'll write every day to bring about a confidence crisis in terms of content. So, I've been looking back over the posts that I'm most proud of, and thinking about the reasons I originally started this blog and in 2016 I'll be focusing a bit more on returning to that. I definitely won't promise to write every day though. We've all seen how that turns out.
 
 

Saturday, 5 December 2015

You want prints? He'll give it ya.




















Today's post is a little different from most others in that it isn't actually about me. Shock horror.

Well....I am going to start off by talking about me just a little bit because today I was at the Xmas Fair at the Out of the Blue, Drill Hall in Edinburgh in order to help Ryan sell some of his prints. The fair was good, with a wide selection of crafty stuff and there were lots of people out supporting their local businesses. This, combined with the fact that it is Small Business Saturday made me think that I should share with you a little bit about what Ryan does.

This year has been, to understate it somewhat, a bit of a whirlwind for him. This was partly because earlier in the year, he took the plunge and started his own design agency. You can peruse most of his work at Ryanstrachan.co.uk and if you have any design needs then you can contact him on ryan@ryanstrachan.co.uk to discuss a bit further. All of his work is wonderful, but my favourite is the design that he did for this wee blog. Often when people talk to me about my blog they start off by saying that the design is their favourite bit. I'm not bitter about it all. (WHAT ABOUT THE WRITING EH? OR THE PHOTOS? OR ANYTHING THAT I DO? TRAITORS) 

In addition to being a super hero designer who has saved this blog from my terrible HTML skills, he has also designed a range of animal prints, which all the cool kids are hanging on their walls. They are digitally printed on 260gsm uncoated iPrint stock, which Ryan assures me is good stuff. Trust me, he should know because his favourite part of the week is when the paper man comes to visit and it wasn't that long ago that he dragged me to a paper exhibition. I can tell now that you're all jealous of my rock and roll lifestyle as a graphic designer WAG.

Ryan's prints would make a great addition to your Christmas gift list if you know any animal (or paper) lovers. Otherwise, they are great gifts for children as they look great on a nursery wall. In the spirit of Small Business Saturday, if you'd like to support a new, Scottish designer and also, you know, fund my wedding, then you can buy the prints online here.

N.B This post is not technically sponsored by Ryan Strachan but he did promise he'd do the dishes all week if I gave him a shout out so you can make your own judgement as to whether I've been compromised.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Podcasts I love


I've been running quite a bit recently, which you probably already know because I keep banging on about it. It's quite a turn around for me because although I've been running since I was a teenager, I've always harboured a secret hatred for it and only forced myself out onto the pavements as a means to keep my weight in check. Upon deciding to sign up for a half marathon in October, I felt sure that my relationship with running wouldn't get any better and I'd continue to see it as a chore.

That wasn't quite the case. In fact, I've become quite a convert, planning my runs in advance and getting a little angsty if I don't manage to get out regularly. I've even enjoyed the runs which have lasted longer than an hour. That's unheard of for me. 

A big part of this change has definitely been my discovery of a few key podcasts which have kept me company on those longer runs. I now look forward to getting outside because it means I can pop my earphones in and catch up with the stories I've been following.

Thanks to a comment on yesterday's post by Katy, I was prompted to write a post today sharing some of my favourites with you.

The first podcast I ever came across was Serial. This is an absolute must listen to. The production quality is top notch, as is the story telling. It's a journalistic exploration of a real life murder case in Baltimore just before the turn of the millennium. I won't give too much more away, because the podcast does such a stellar job of telling the story and I wouldn't want to give away any spoilers in case you haven't listened to it. 

My obsession with Serial led me on to the Undisclosed podcast. This continues on with the story that Serial focuses on. It's worth noting that you shouldn't jump straight into this without listening to Serial first as it definitely assumes that you have knowledge of the case and so the hosts often reference certain things which are explained more fully in Serial.

Undisclosed is produced by three lawyers so it's a lot more technical and less about telling a story than Serial is, but it's just as fascinating, if not more. When training for the half marathon, this was the main podcast I would listen to as each episode is quite long and there are quite a few to get through. It can be a little difficult to keep up with all the legal jargon and the complexity of the story. I found that quite useful though as it meant that I was so busy concentrating on the podcast that I didn't even notice how tough the run was!

There's a clear thread throughout this post because Serial is actually a spin off from the next podcast I'll mention which is This American Life. This is a weekly podcast which tends to have a few stories loosely based around the same topic, although the format varies a little from time to time. As with Serial, the production quality and story telling are top quality and so it's a really good listen. I also have quite a strong crush on the main host, Ira Glass. Give it a few episodes and you'll totally be with me on that! This American Life has a huge back catalogue and publishes a new episode each week so you'd have to be a really obsessive listener to run out of episodes. 

With such a wide variety of episodes to choose from, I'll highlight a few of my favourite ones for you to get started with.

The Night in Question  - This explores the assassination of the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, the resulting consequences and the conspiracy theories which have circulated ever since. I'm an international relations geek so I love diving into these sort of topics and this was excellently done.

Abdi and the Golden Ticket -A really touching and eye opening look into the life of a Somalian man facing many obstacles on his way to fulfil his dream of emigrating to the United States. It's highly likely that I cried at this one, which was a little bit awkward when out running in public.

Cops See it Differently: Part One - This is a two episode exploration of the issue of race and American policing. I liked it because it took the time to explore both sides of the issue and was really quite thought provoking.

Batman - I won't tell you anything about this one. Just listen to it. It's incredible.

These are the main podcasts that take up a most of my time but I dip in and out of a few others such as 

Dear Sugar - an advice podcast featuring Cheryl Strayed who wrote the wonderful Wild. 

Invisibilia - this is actually the podcast on which Batman was originally featured and it focuses on more of the same type of thing. Overall, the podcast is a look at the forces that shape human behaviour and is an interesting mix of science reporting and story telling. 

Radio Lab - Another podcast weaving science and storytelling together.

Hopefully there's something new there to pique your interest. If you fall in love with any of the podcasts (or Ira Glass) then do let me know. 

Also, I realise that this list is quite USA focused so if you know of any good British podcasts then please tell me because I'm desperate to find one.

Have you listened to any of these? What's your favourite podcast?

Thursday, 3 December 2015

I like to blog all the time, blog all the time

Tenuous christmas photo link.

Do you remember that time I promised to read and write every day for 100 days and managed to do so for only, erm, a pathetic three days? Despite that poor effort, I'm back to making promises I will likely never keep. This one is to blog every day in the run up to Christmas. Blogmas, it's called apparently.

I don't really know why I'm doing this, other than that I've been a bit sporadic with the blogging recently and I figured it might be a good kick up the arse and a way to get the creative juices flowing again.

I thought that the best way to kick this whole thing off was just to give a very brief summary of what I've been up to since I last wrote here and I might come back to some of these things in blog posts of their own later in the month.

Firstly, some wedding chat. We've set a date! And booked a venue! And organised food! And hired a photographer! And had many palpitations about exactly how much it costs to put on a pretty basic wedding for quite a small number of people. Also there was a really fun evening when we realised that there's a big, mad eighties festival in Perthshire the same weekend we get married and so there is NO FUCKING ACCOMMODATION FOR ANYONE. Then after a few panicked phone calls to our parents and more than a few tears (on my behalf rather than Ryan's) we decided not to take the internet's word for it and called a couple of hotels, upon which we discovered that, in actual fact, there are indeed some rooms available. This has done nothing to dissuade me that Google is trying to ruin my  life.

Perhaps partly due to the wedding stress I decided that I need a holiday to Italy. As you do. So I booked a little trip out to Como to see my Sister in February. I realised after booking, that it has been at least seven years since I've been out there. I can't wait to see her, eat pizza and drink wine at lunch time. Also she lives near George Clooney so sometimes we drive past his house on her moped and hope that we might get a chance to give ol' Georgie a wee wave.

Meanwhile, I'm still running. Although not nearly as much as I was when training for the half marathon. I was supposed to be taking part in a 10k run at the end of November but, ahem, just didn't quite manage to get out of bed in time for it. I did, however run six miles by myself later in the day to make up for it. I'm trying to get a little bit faster and had my first introduction to speed work today which was definitely not a wonderful experience. I much prefer just plodding along, listening to my podcasts and barely breaking a sweat.

So that's a little update for you all and I'll return tomorrow with equally dull enthralling stories no doubt.


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Christmas Wish List for Losers

This time of year the blogosphere is filled with wish lists, detailing all the pretty, quaint and wonderful things that have made it onto peoples' Christmas lists. I was thinking that I might do something similar until it dawned on me that I have, perhaps, the least exciting Christmas list ever.

Would you like to know what I'm asking Santa for?

A decent waterproof jacket.




In fairness to me, I do live in Scotland, where it has been known to rain from time to time. So really, it's a mighty sensible choice of Christmas gift, if a little uninspired.

In any case, at least it's a little bit more exciting than the year I asked for (and received) a kitchen bin for Christmas.

Image from here