A long overdue "life lately" (trips away, taking the plunge back to work, and trying out Tinder??!)

18.6.17

Good morning lovely blog people. I can only apologise for being MIA. Life suddenly got rather busy and the longer that time went on without me blogging the more I had to tell you, which made me wonder where to start. So here I go; I will attempt to summarise the last two months! And I promise to update more frequently from now on. Pinky promise!  

* I'm going to do a separate blog post about my health/CFS situation, but the overall vibe is that my health is getting better all the time; I am able to do so much more with my days without feeling too poorly from it. I still have mild symptoms of glandular fever/chronic fatigue syndrome/M.E. (whatever you wanna call it) but they are tolerable and I am learning how to manage them but also to push myself a little each week. I genuinely feel like I can 100% beat this and it feels pretty awesome. 

* I'm back at work, after a year off! I have managed a few months of part time working, doing a few hours every day, which I seem to be managing well so far. I'm really enjoying using my brain again. My manager is lovely and I am so grateful to be back out in the world of work because for such a long time I wondered if it would ever happen.


* After a few months of being happy as a clam as a single lady I launched myself into the world of online dating and swiftly remembered how stressful and horrendous it is. Thankfully (after a couple of dates which didn't go anywhere) I soon met a rather handsome and sweet chap who I have been seeing for about 7 weeks now. He's had a tough time of things too so we're just taking things steady and enjoying each other's company and that works for me!

* I have had weekends away in Manchester and York, a day trip to Ilkley and have been getting to grips with where everything is in Leeds with plenty of shopping trips, picnics and tea/cake dates.


* I'm exercising regularly and feeling good. It's early days but I really hope I can build up to running again and maybe start doing Parkruns. I would be over the moon if I managed that.

* I have just booked two holidays for this year which I could not be happier about. GIVE ME THE SUNSHINE! I'm going to Kefalonia in a couple of weeks time, and Amsterdam in September.

* I got a pink rinse on my hair and absolutely loved it.


* Life is a million miles away from where it was 6 months ago. And for that, I am one grateful lady!

Books I have read in 2017 (10 - 14)

11.6.17

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen - 3/5

I found this book on my mum's bookcase and I thought it looked like a book I would enjoy, considering it involves something small and furry which is always a winning combination. I am sure you will be familiar with it; the tale of a cat who befriends a homeless man and they become best pals. Overall it was a really nice read but I found the simplistic writing style a little bit tedious in places (says me, the bloody writing pro eh? ;)) It was a heartwarming tale and definitely gave me more awareness into what it's like to be homeless so I would recommend if you're looking for a quick, easy read. 

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella - 4.5/5

Finding Audrey isn't my usual kind of book as it's aimed at a younger market than my mature years (ahem) but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Audrey is a teenager struggling her way through not being able to leave the house and not wanting to take off her sunglasses, until her brother's friend comes into her life and helps her find the real world again. I wish I could go back in time to give my 13/14 year old self this book as it would have helped me an awful lot. Recommend recommend! 


Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert 4/5

I have wanted to read Eat Pray Love for ages but it was only once I spotted it in my local library that I took the plunge. It's quite a long, meaty book so it took me a while to read but overall I found the story of Elizabeth Gilbert's life from a newly divorced, kinda lost hot mess to a newly spiritual, kick ass inspirational kinda lady really, well, inspiring! I could relate to Elizabeth's life and thoughts in so many ways and that made reading this that little more special as I've been on a journey of my own (although nothing quite as exotic as going to Italy, Indonesia or Bali, sadly).

Milk and Honey - Rupi Kaur 100/5

Can I give a book 100 marks out of 5? No? Tough because I'm going to. I'm new to the world of poetry books but this wasn't a bad place to start. Rupi Kaur's words are so powerful and beautiful and I would recommend this book to everyone. Go buy it, now. 

The Things You Can Only See When You Slow Down - Haemin Sunim 5/5

Another corker that I thoroughly enjoyed and have since lent to my good pal in the hopes of spreading how wonderful this book is. It's written in such a way that you should take your time with it, drinking in the beautiful illustrations and wise words. Haemin covers a wide variety of subjects and his wisdom and peaceful nature, being a monk and all, really come through in the chapters of this book. Plus it's a hardback and has a pretty cover which are never a bad thing! 

Happy reading! 

Little things I have done lately to declutter my mind.

17.4.17

After my mammoth decluttering session with all of my belongings a whole heap of space became freed up in my brain and it's addictive let me tell you. So I started to think a bit more about what else I could do to simplify my life and keep my mind clear of anything it doesn't need. Once your health goes down the drain you realise what is important in life and what isn't. So I am now on a mission to make my life as simple as possible and use my energy for the things that really matter.

This list contains a few of the little things I have done lately which added up and made a difference to my head space. I hope they give you some ideas if you are looking to lift the load on your brain.

* Deleting things from my phone to make extra storage. Old photos and old unwanted memories. Old notes/to do lists. Old WhatsApp conversations that fill me with dread when I see that little photo staring back at me. Delete delete delete. It is satisfying to delete the old to make way for the new.

* Keeping my bedside table free from "stuff" and conducive to a good nights sleep. At one point I had a whole pile of books and trinkets on there and it definitely didn't give off relaxing bedtime vibes. Now I just have my Himalayan salt lamp, a couple of books that I read before sleeping, and a bottle of water for when I wake up and I'm all set.


* Unsubscribing from mailing lists. This is time consuming at first but then easy to keep on top of once you've got the bulk out of the way. There are also things like Unroll.Me which make this task a whole lot easier! I really don't want to be wasting time reading emails that aren't relevant or I don't even remember signing up for. So now I know that all my emails will be things I actually want to read. I also got rid of anything to do with online shopping and discount codes in an attempt to keep my wardrobe and spending down. 

* Taking a look at my subscriptions on YouTube. My tastes change all the time and I realised that my feeds were full of videos that I no longer had an interest in. However seeing all those unwatched videos was causing me massive amounts of anxiety. There's my Type A personality rearing its ugly head once again! So I spent a bit of time thinking about the type of topics I am interested in at the moment and the end result was a shorter subscription list full of health and wellbeing topics that add value to my life. 

* Asking myself "is this useful?" This is a really good one! Every so often I check in with myself and ask "is what I'm doing right now useful?" If I am mindlessly scrolling through my phone at that moment in time, or watching something on Netflix that I'm not concentrating on, it forces me to move onto a different task.

* Being more "mindful" on my daily walks. I love my walks along the canal, which I do most days, and I try to take in as much of my surroundings as I can. But this can be taken one step further by becoming even more present. Take notice of every footstep and how your foot makes contact with the ground. Pay attention to every sound. The smells (not so good for the patch of canal that goes past a sewage plant!) And so on. 

* Deleting all traces of your last boyfriend. Self explanatory!

* Picking a colour to focus on. Have you ever had thoughts racing through your mind and you want to escape just for a little while? Sometimes I will pick a colour, such as yellow because it's a happy colour, then spend a few minutes looking for anything with the colour yellow in it. Passing cars, flowers, book covers, clothes, whatever it may be. It's a good way of shifting your focus.

* Last but not least, increasing my mindfulness/meditation practice. I have been playing around with guided practice, having a go at doing it on my own to music, breathing exercises, mindfulness at regular intervals throughout the day. I really enjoy incorporating it into my daily life and it has definitely made a difference to my thoughts. I can't recommend starting your own daily practice enough, and if you need a few pointers you can check out my YouTube favourites playlist for some inspiration (click here!)

Why I'm getting rid of most of my possessions and why it feels SO GOOD!

8.4.17

In the last 10 years I have moved house a dozen times and each time I have a "spring clean" of stuff that I no longer need, use or want. It mainly goes off to the local charity shop or is given to friends and I temporarily feel better for it. But the bottom line is, I still have so much frickin' stuff!

When my relationship ended in December 2016 things were different. My health prevented me from moving straight into a place of my own which meant I was limited on what I could initially take with me when I was booted out of my home. For a couple of months I lived off the contents of one small suitcase and not once did I really need anything that was sat in my ex boyfriend's spare room. Whenever I thought about the amount of clothes, shoes, boxes of crap, furniture, and books it made me feel anxious and physically I felt weighed down by it all. It was constantly in the back of my mind and the idea of moving that amount of stuff was overwhelming, to put it mildly.

Over the last couple of months I have done a few trips back and forth to collect my things, with one giant sweep last weekend. After watching the Minimalism documentary on Netflix and listening to a few podcasts from "The Minimalists", and seeing the limited space I had in my new bedroom (and not wanting to be surrounded by mess) I felt inspired to reduce my belongings by a significant amount.

photo source unknown

The first thing I did was send 90% of my books to charity shops, keeping a small selection of special books or self-help books that I like to refer to regularly. I do love having a home with a big bookcase stuffed full of books, but right now I can't have that and that's okay.

For someone who struggles to find their personal style and an outfit to wear for specific occasions I have an insane amount of clothes. Initially it was easy to bag things up for charity but I was still left with way too much. This is when it got harder to let go. I had to get ruthless! I was holding onto things because they were designer and cost me a lot of money 10+ years ago, not that I would ever wear them again. So what was I planning to do, carry them round with me for the rest of my life looking at them or storing them? I managed to get my wardrobe down to a reasonable size but I am still listing things on eBay on a daily basis and working my way through my shoe collection. My eventual plan is to have a "capsule wardrobe" and invest in good basics that go with everything. That's the long term plan but for now I feel so much lighter and less cluttered in my mind for having less clutter in my wardrobe.

photo source unknown

Letting go has been tough but it has been a real healing process for me. The satisfaction of reducing my belongings to a more manageable amount, giving furniture to family whose need is greater than mine, donating to charity, and making a few hundred pounds on eBay has made the process totally worth it. 

Trying to do this with chronic fatigue syndrome hasn't been easy but I am so proud of myself for doing a little each day and persevering with it. 

If you are feeling weighed down or you're going through a tough time, break up, whatever it may be, I can highly recommend decluttering your stuff in order to help declutter your mind! It has worked a treat for me.

My top ten picks for Netflix.

20.3.17

There was one point where I felt like I had "completed" Netflix in that I had watched everything worth watching and anything left looked pretty rubbish, but lately it seems to have upped its game. I always seem to have a whole host of things to watch, so it's fair to say me and Netflix are firm friends.

If you have just joined and you don't know where to start here are the top ten series (actually one is a film) that I would recommend in no particular order.

1) My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
I didn't think this looked like my cup of tea but when I asked for recommendations on Instagram and a lovely lady pointed me in this direction I figured everything is worth trying with one episode so I gave it a whirl. Oh my God, I am absolutely obsessed with this show. I had no idea what it was about apart from I figured out it involved a crazy ex-girlfriend (because I'm clever like that) but I didn't really know what to expect. I certainly didn't expect musical numbers and for the characters to be so hilarious. I binge watched series 1 and was pleased to find there is a series 2 so I am almost done with that now, and I will genuinely be sad when it's over and I have to wait a while for more episodes! 

2) Bates Motel
Bates Motel has been going for a few years now so you've probably heard of it, if not I suggest you go and check it out immediately. It's the story of Norman Bates and his mother in the years before the film Psycho took place but you don't need to have watched Psycho to understand what is going on (however if we're on the topic of recommendations I would suggest you watch it because it's a pretty awesome film).

It's fair to say I have a bit of a crush on Freddie Highmore who plays Norman (is that inappropriate?!) but crushes aside this is one of the only series that has captured my attention and interest episode after episode. It's dark and creepy and the acting is superb. 



3) LOVE
LOVE is a dry comedy about the unlikely coming together of two very different individuals. The female character is a bit of a train wreck and therefore I obviously identify with her ;-) Series 2 was released on the 10th of March and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the new episodes pan out. It's easy to watch, funny, a little bit cringe, and something different to other American TV shows out there.

4) Grace and Frankie
I had heard good things about Grace and Frankie so even though I wasn't sure it would be my cup of tea I delved it. I was soon hooked, loving the relationship between the two main characters played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. They navigate their way through life, love and loss after their husbands have an affair with each other, with hilarious results! March also saw a new series of this so I am definitely going to be a busy bee making my way through the new episodes.

5) Black Mirror
I watched Black Mirror when it was first aired on Channel 4 and thoroughly enjoyed all of the episodes particularly 15 Million Credits. The episodes that were shown on Channel 4 are available on Netflix along with a new series that came out last year. I really like how the new episodes tackle social media and are hitting a nerve with everybody who watches them. We can all identify with the slippery slope that is being online and looking for validation! 

6) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
This is a show that has the potential to be a little bit like marmite but I absolutely love it. The character Titus is enough to make me watch this show alone but the other characters also create a lot of laughs. I've definitely laughed out loud at most of these episodes. It's completely silly and ridiculous but I love it! 

7) Orange is the New Black
I am up-to-date with Orange is the New Black and familiar with all of the characters by now. Although I'm not massively keen on Piper, who is the main character and wrote the book IRL about her time in prison, there are plenty of other characters to keep me interested. There are a lot of subplots and it's not just about Piper any more which is great. It's such an interesting insight into life in prison for women and I don't know about you but it definitely makes me feel better about my own circumstances! 

8) The OA
A good friend recommended The OA to me and I must admit that if she hadn't suggested it I probably would have given it a miss. Boy am I glad that I didn't! It's a little random at first and after one episode I did wonder where the whole story was going but that only whet my appetite to find out more. It's quite different to anything else out there and after the ending of series 1 I absolutely cannot wait to see where it goes next. Also it has Phyllis from the American Office in it which is epic!

9) Stranger Things
I know every man and his dog has been talking about this show but I couldn't exclude it from my top 10 because, like everybody else, I really really enjoyed this show. I loved the 80s vibe and the Goonies feel. The character of 11 is a standout for me and it's nice to see Winona Ryder return to our screens.

10) The Fundamentals of Caring
I will finish with a film recommendation, which is this made-for-Netflix film with Paul Rudd. If that's not enough of a reason for you to watch then how about watching it because it's a funny, heartwarming, inspiring and unique tale of a disabled boy who is cared for by, and goes on a road trip with, his new carer who is a bit lost in life too. I really enjoy films like this; they're what I call a "a good yarn".

Enjoy! x

Books I have read in 2017 (6 - 9) *self-help special!*

6.3.17

I should pop a disclaimer in here to say that these are all self-help books so if they're not your thing this post will be of zero interest to you.

I read some absolute crackers last month so if you are looking for a new self-help read, or you want to delve into this genre for the first time, one of these could be right up your street,

You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay - 5/5

I listened to this as an audiobook, twice over, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. It was of particular interest to me because I wanted to learn more about Louise's theories in relation to how feelings and thoughts connect to physical symptoms in our bodies. Louise has a beautifully calming voice and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of this audiobook. I will probably listen to it again and again throughout my life as it's one of those tools that has helped me a great deal.

There are exercises to complete throughout (for example practising forgiveness and sending good vibes to someone who has wronged you *this is as difficult as it sounds!*) as well as positive affirmations to repeat while you are reading/listening plus extra curricular affirmations too. It is a little bit weird talking to yourself in the mirror at first but trust me, it really does help!

If you are having trouble with relationships with your family, friends or partner, or you have physical symptoms that you can't get to the bottom of, I really think this book could help. 

Light is the New Black by Rebecca Campbell 5/5

Another set of full marks for me with this book which I absolutely did not want to put down or finish. It's a book I plan to read again from cover to cover in the near future. It opened my eyes to my spiritual side and helped me to understand the transitional period I am going through at the moment, which provided a great deal of comfort to me at a tricky time.

Rebecca's writing is wonderful and you feel like she is talking to you as a friend. It's a really meaty book with lots of information packed in but I would have quite happily kept reading on and on.

She guides you through how to connect with your true self, answer your soul's calling, and how to avoid dimming your light to fit in. There are plenty of exercises to complete as you work your way through the book which means you get to buy a pretty new notepad. Result!



10% Happier by Dan Harris 3/5

Dan's book tells the story of how he changed from a bit of a jerk (his words) to a more successful, calm and collected character all thanks to his discovery of and journey with meditation. Along this journey he meets the likes of Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra and I found those sections of the book really interesting.

About three quarters of the way through I started to lose interest in the story slightly as I'm not familiar with who he is on the television and I wanted the story to wrap up however things picked up at the end of the book where Dan includes a guide on how to meditate and  practice mindfulness, the benefits of doing so, and a question and answer section which was really insightful to me even though I already have a little bit of knowledge about meditation and mindfulness already.

When I purchased this book on my kindle  it was a really low price and therefore I would say that if you are looking to find out more about meditation, especially if you have a stressful and demanding career, then I would recommend this book to you particularly if you can get it for a bargain like I did.

EFT Tapping by Kelly Ashley 4/5

Short but sweet, Kelly's book is an account of how EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique / tapping) assisted her in her healing from chronic fatigue syndrome, which as you will probably know by now is a condition I have. I stumbled across EFT on YouTube a few months ago and dabbled in it but it was only after reading Kelly's book and having more detailed information about how to do it that I made it a bigger part of my daily routine. It really is very simple once you get your head around it and Kelly explains it in a really clear manner.

I have yet to learn the scientific ins and outs of EFT in terms of how it actually works and what the different points of the body that you tap mean, but what I do know is that it works! It really does work!

There will be more fiction next time, promise! 


Little ways I make social media more enjoyable.

3.3.17

We all at some time or other will have fallen guilty to comparing ourselves to others on social media and feeling like a failure in comparison, because it is so easy to forget that comparing our entire lives to a strangers' "best bits" is never going to be a good idea. But we all do it. I certainly do!

Recently I have been trying to spend more time working on my blog and my Instagram feed because I get a lot of enjoyment out of the interaction and the feedback, but I found I needed to make a few little tweaks here and there to make my time on social media work for me and not against me.

* 'Muting' stories on Instagram. I love Instagram stories, both watching and sharing my own, but if you follow hundreds of people it can be hard to keep up with the constant stream of videos (especially when it's so damn glitchy, anyone else?) I have muted accounts for people whose stories don't interest me which has left me with my closest Instagram buddies whose lives I do want to follow. This works both ways so feel free to mute me if you're not interested in videos of pugs, cups of tea or the occasional life update. I won't be offended!

* Deleting apps. A couple of months ago I deactivated my Facebook account and deleted the app for it to remove temptation to log back on, which are two of the best things I've ever done. My primary motivation for this was that I didn't want to see what my ex-boyfriend was doing and I didn't want to see constant photos and memories popping up. Also since Facebook changed its rules and you see things from people that aren't even on your friends list it's kind of annoying. I don't want to see photos of babies of a friend of someone I went to primary school with (again no offence but life really is too short to keep up with the lives of people that you haven't chosen to follow). I'm also trying to minimise my time on Twitter because I generally find it is a negative place and a place I don't enjoy visiting that much any more so I have deleted the app from my phone and use my browser to check in every now and again because I do genuinely enjoy replying to any comments I get on there.


* Sharing the good and bad bits. One thing that is really important to me is that I am open and honest, sharing the good bits and the bad bits and all the bits in between. I would hate for anyone to compare themselves to me and feel inferior and I think if more bloggers did this it would alleviate some of the pressure that people feel to have a picture-perfect life. Sometimes I wish that I had more readers or my photography was better, or that I physically looked a bit more stylish/polished, but ultimately I like to be relateable and it's important to me to continue to do that. I am happy to be a relatively small blogger in a big pond and to keep things real with you guys because life isn't all sunshine and roses (with a perfect blurry background).

* Making friends. Over the past few years I have made some absolutely wonderful friends through my blog and Instagram; some I now see in real life and others I definitely plan to see at some point. As an adult it can be hard to make friends especially if you have confidence issues or you are shy until you get to know people (like I am). What could be better than having a world of like-minded people with the same interests as you at your fingertips. I always try to reply to comments and leave comments for others as much as possible because that's a side of social media that makes me happy!

5 good things (snail mail, spring cleaning, and so much LOVE!)

2.3.17

1) All the love on this post (and just the love from you guys in general, seriously I feel like the luckiest blogger ever with the people who read my rambling). Just this second I found a couple of comments from one anonymous person that had found their way into my spam folder (which I rarely check because it's usually full of gibberish!) so if that was you, "hello!" and thank you for your kind words and being a reader of Lily loves Lola since the start. It has been a long ol' ride hasn't it?!

2) Snail mail. I was recently reunited with my box of craft supplies and I could not be happier about having cards, envelopes, stamps, stickers and wax seals in my possession again! #nerd 

3) I'm going back to the Isle of Man next week for another week with my niece. It's all fun and games until you get "jelly on a plate" stuck in your head on a constant loop. Argh! I'm hoping for less rain and more outside time/trips to the beach. Fingers crossed!

4) Having a really good spring clean. This week I have taken heaps of things to a charity shop, binned a few old/broken bits and bobs, and commenced the mammoth task of listing clothes and shoes on eBay to raise a few pennies. It is SO satisfying to just end up with the belongings that you need/use regularly. 

5) Crazy Ex Girlfriend on Netflix. Seriously guys, I'm obsessed. Does anyone else watch it?