Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Howards End | Book Review

E.M. Forster is credited as being Zadie Smith’s favourite author; Zadie Smith is my favourite author; it was sort of inevitable that I would enjoy E.M. Forster’s writing. I chose ‘Howard’s End’ because of this - not because I thought the plot sounded interesting or the cover was pretty (sorry, I know I shouldn’t but I definitely buy books based on their covers). I resisted the temptation to Google the plot throughout (this was a lot harder than it sounds) and it was an oddly satisfying way to read a novel - continually asking myself is this a romance, is this a tragedy, what is this?!!?! 

First published in 1910, the novel opens with the hurried engagement of Helen Schlegel to Paul Wilcox. Helen is staying at the Wilcoxes family home, Howards End, after she met them travelling in Germany with her sister Margaret. The engagement is over as quickly as it began, however, the two families are inextricably tied to one another. The Schlegels enjoy cultural pursuits whilst the Wilcoxes enjoy accumulating property and amassing imperialistic wealth. Meanwhile, the impoverished Bast family loiter in the background of these two families as they interact with one another. The three different families are fascinated and repulsed by their differences in equal measure. The novel traces their interactions with one another, exploring whether these social strata can ever peacefully co-exist.

A star-studded adaptation of Forster’s novel is in the works and it’s not surprising. I was struck by the similarities between 1910 London and 2017 London. The theme of housing, property accumulation and economic divides is as pertinent today as it was then. Whilst there are some elements of the novel that belong distinctly in that time period (Forster’s take on women’s suffrage, for instance) there is also a timeless quality to it which makes it an interesting read. My only complaint is that the novel focuses primarily on the dependable and ever-so-slightly predictable Margaret, keeping the more revolutionary characters at the fringes of the narrative. I guess telling the novel from Helen’s perspective would have been a bit much for a 1910 audience!


Friday, June 9, 2017

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven | Review

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places - Ernest Hemingway.

Violet and Finch are broken.

Finch is an outcast. He shuns the popular students at school for his various personas depending on his mood. He routinely disappears, people take it as typical behaviour and stop questioning it. His father is abusive, his mother is depressive, his counsellor tries to connect with him but Finch isn’t interested. He doesn’t want to love anyone, until he meets Violet.

Violet survived a car crash which killed her older sister. The grief forces her to withdraw from her friends and boyfriend. She walks or cycles everywhere, she will not get in a car again. The words which once spilled from her mind have gone: she cannot write. The two meet at the top of their school’s bell tower, both of them are contemplating suicide.

In some ways, it is your typical young adult novel. They are intelligent, quirky, well-read individuals who quote Virginia Woolf at one another (without actually reading her work in full…I wondered what message that was supposed to send about literature? That it can be picked apart and remain intact?) There is a charm to the story, though. It encourages you to look more closely at the ordinary and mundane elements of our lives: the people and places that have become the backdrop to our inward lives.

I am not convinced, however, that its management of the theme of suicide is entirely responsible. Whilst the numbers for numerous suicide and depression helplines have been added at the back of the novel, the characters didn’t receive much support in the novel. The school counsellor consoles themselves / the reader that they did all that they could….although I probably could have done a whole lot more. Nobody cared that a teenager disappeared for weeks on end. Nobody. Not their family, their educators, their girlfriend, their friends…they all took it as typical behaviour. It all just felt a bit heavy handed and I am not convinced that including helpline numbers will convince suicidal people that there is someone who cares about them when this character went unnoticed and uncared for.



Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ten things I am happy about at this exact moment in history

 In no particular order...

- Claridge’s reservation for the end of August {you need to book months in advance}
- That my fringe is long enough to be in a ponytail {it’s in that awkward growing out phase}
- That none of my family and friends were hurt in the London attacks last night {thoughts are with those who loved somebody they loved}
- The book I am reading {‘All the Bright Places’}
- That my to-do list is EMPTY. I am spending my Sunday not working and am not feeling GUILTY.
- That I will be able to make myself a cup of coffee in a few minutes {it’s the little things}
- I am going to become an auntie soon {but I’m not in a rush, take your time little one}
- I have time, energy and the inclination to blog again
- The idea of endless possibilities for the summer ahead {trips, memories, lots and lots of writing}
- I want to WRITE again. It’s an endless cycle: the happier I am - the more I write, the more I write - the happier I am.

I'm now off to make that cup of coffee.....hope you have a lovely Sunday. 


Sunday, May 7, 2017

The tiny decisions and choices

A post shared by Elle Kayem (@elle_kayem) on

Last month, I was fixated on an end-date. I wanted to calculate exactly how much weight I would need to lose each week to reach my target by a certain date. In the process, I made no progress. I maintained that week and had poor weight losses on other weeks because my mind was focusing on the wrong thing.

I've since learned that the progress you see can't be planned. You can't sit down and calculate the exact date you will fit into a pair of jeans which are the next size down. You can't calculate when you will notice your shrinking figure or when somebody will compliment you. You can, however, take control of the minute decisions and choices you make each and everyday to get to that point. And whilst I was busy doing my calculations, I wasn't paying any attention to those smaller decisions.

This month I want to notice the smaller decisions. I want to focus on my free foods: trying different types as well as eating more of it. Making that tiny decision to eat speed foods with every meal may not have immediate effects but it will show over time, I just need to learn how to be more patient!


Monday, May 1, 2017

Changing my routine

Honesty time: changing my routine is a disaster for my diet.

When I am at work, I can stick to the diet religiously. There’s no problem with snacking out of boredom or emotional eating. However, when I am at home more (as I will be over the summer) that’s when my good intentions fall by the way-side.

I am a little bit terrified of the coming summer. At the end of May, I will be on summer holidays until September. Unless I have a serious sit down and think of a new schedule or routine for myself, I will end up undoing all of the good work I have done so far. The whole time I have been on Slimming World, I have been working…. the proof will be in the pudding if I am able to stay on plan over the summer.

Weight loss this week: 2lbs

Weight loss target for this upcoming week: 2lbs.



Sunday, April 23, 2017

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

My full name is Cadence Sinclair Eastman.

I live in Burlington, Vermont, with Mummy and three dogs.

I am nearly eighteen.

I own a well-used library card and not much else, though it is true I live in a grand house full of expensive, useless objects.

I used to be blond, but now my hair is black.

I used to be strong, but now I am weak.

I used to be pretty, but now I look sick.

It is true I suffer migraines since my accident.

It is true I do not suffer fools.

I like a twist of meaning. You see? Suffer migraines. Do not suffer fools. The word means almost the same as it did in the previous sentence, but not quite.


You could say it means endure, but that's not exactly right.

My story starts before the accident. June of the summer I was fifteen, my father ran off with some woman he loved more than us.

'We Were Liars' grabs you from the very start. Told from the perspective of Cadence Eastman, it is the story of childhood summers spent in idyllic surroundings. There is a problem, though. Cadence has an accident which obliterates her memory of one summer. She doesn't remember the hospital treatments following her accident however hard she tries. Her mother stopped telling her what had happened as it kept upsetting her so there is nothing left for Cadence to do but remember it herself.

The novel is Cadence's attempt to piece the puzzle back together: the summers leading up to the accident, her growing love for her cousin's friend, her grandfather's stronghold on her mother and aunts. Something happened during the summer of the accident, that much she knows, but nobody will tell her exactly what happened. It is an enthralling read -- perfect as the weather warms up for summer!


Saturday, April 22, 2017

On Plan

People often talk about being 'on plan' at group. I thought I knew what they were talking about. I thought I was 'on plan' too. Sometimes, I was however most of the time I was half-heartedly on plan.Where I would keep a rough running total of my daily syns but not actually sit down and add them up to make sure they weren't over 15. This week I have been a lot more committed to the diet than I have been in a while. I've tracked my syns (especially when I go over my daily limit!) and tried to keep eating as much speed food as possible. I learned what staying 'on plan' means this week. Keeping under those 15 syns, tracking what I eat, fitting in some body magic.

Weight loss this week: 2.5lbs

Aim for next week: 2lbs and to stay 'on plan' the whole week!


Monday, April 17, 2017

To My Wife by Oscar Wilde

I can write no stately proem
As a prelude to my lay;
From a poet to a poem
I would dare to say.

For if of these fallen petals

One to you seem fair,
Love will waft it till it settles
On your hair.

And when wind and winter harden

All the loveless land,
It will whisper of the garden,
You will understand.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Why did I start?

When something becomes routine, it's hard to remember why you do it in the first place.

So, why did I want to lose weight in the first place?

-          To change my shape
-          To fit into better clothes
-          To stop emotionally eating
-          To be able to shop for clothes on the high street
-          To become more confident
-          To not be told ‘[insert random medical condition here] is probably due to your weight.’
-          To not be the odd-one-out in the wedding
-          To look at the photos from my niece / nephew’s baptism and not cringe
-          To change my future
-          To have a healthier attitude towards food
-          To see if I can do it.


Saturday, April 8, 2017


I've spent the past week fixated on how long my weight loss journey is going to be. I calculated endlessly how long it will take me to lose the rest of the weight. At least another year, if you're interested. 

And what happened? 

Instead of focusing on my day-to-day weight loss, I became complacent and let it slide. It wasn't until the day before my weigh-in when I noticed I hadn't lost weight at all. I can't even tell you exactly where I went wrong -- I genuinely just didn't take much notice of what I was eating this week. I am lucky that I didn't gain but so frustrated that I didn't lose the 1.5lbs I needed to get my 4 stone certificate.

Weight loss this week: maintain

Aiming for 4 lbs weight loss next week (need to make up for lost time!)


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Musings

It's funny - the things which will forever tie a portion of yourself to the past can never be predicted. I spend a lot of my time thinking about the past. I think it's natural when you're a teacher to think back to what life was like when you were in their shoes: taking your exams, uncertain of the future, hating this teacher or that person with a passion that knew no equal. I am fairly certain that I spent my teenage years daydreaming. Dreaming about a life that was far away from my reality -- it was the only way I could keep sane.

I found myself in a bookshop today, looking at the aisles upon aisles of books. I spent a lot of my teenage years in bookshops too -- trying to figure out which books were they books I was supposed to read. I was always drawn to Sylvia Plath, like many a cliché before me I found solace in her anger -- in her Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through. Looking at this book on the shelves transported me back to a time and place when I would read her poems and diaries and feel like she was the only one who knew. It sounds silly and it felt silly thinking about it in that bookshop -- how very deeply attached I was to her words.

I picked this up and began to read it, the familiar words washing over me. I already had a copy of her collected poems but there was something about this copy that I needed. On the train home I read them. It was different this time. I think in my youthful naïveté I glorified her suicide: it made her emotions sharper, somehow. It made the fuzziness and blurriness palatable because a life lived in sharp focus was too much to bear.

On that train back through London, I found comfort in knowing how far I had come from the last time I read her words. The same words had a different effect on me -- they weren't anchoring me to a dead poet, they were anchoring me to a very hurt and sad girl who felt incredibly lonely.  I knew that I was going to be okay because I wasn't done growing, evolving, finding answers to things. I felt happy to be older: to be able to look back and forward at the same time. To know how far I had come and how far I still have to go.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Aims for April

This week I managed a loss of 2lbs. It was a surprise - I've finished my second placement and that involved a lot of celebratory biscuits and cake! I did take myself off to the gym twice, though, to counter those naughty moments. It was the first time in a while that I have felt pleased with my weight loss though (last week's 1lb was not well received when I had been so good). I really want to use this good feeling to motivate me throughout April.

My aims for April:

Drink more water on a daily basis.

Exercise at least twice a week.

Lose 12lbs.

Get 4 stone and 4.5 stone awards.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lush Haul

I feel like when people say 'haul', it's tons and tons of stuff. Except, this isn't freebies and I am definitely on a budget!I decided to treat myself to some bits and pieces recently -- I love a bubble bath. It's the perfect way to destress and unwind. There's something about being in water that I find so soothing. But anyway, here are some bits I bought recently from Lush. In total they came to around £25.

Products listed from top to bottom: bath melt | bath bomb | milky bath bar | flamingo bubble wand | windmill bubble wand


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Quick -- change!

There's something strange about wanting to lose a lot of weight. The changes happen at a microscopic level -- gradually coming to the surface and showing themselves. Do you notice them on a day-to-day basis? Not really. If I search for the changes when I look in the mirror, I won't see them. Instead, I see them when I catch a passing glimpse of myself in a window or put my hand on my waist and feel hardness instead of softness. My body is changing -- slowly, gradually, I am changing. 

Weight loss this week: 1 lb

Total weight loss for March: 8lbs

Aiming for 12lbs in April!


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Coping with your PGCE course

In our lecture at university today, they were telling us about the dates for our graduation. Although it's in July, we will only be in university three more times between now and then. We're flying the nest, it would seem...

1. Be kind to yourself:
Make sure you take regular breaks, don't overwhelm yourself with extra responsibilities (just trying to impress people), try to keep to a routine where you finish work at a certain time, don't set all of your classes huge assignments at the same time (marking is time consuming!), don't work all weekend, save at least a couple of days at holidays for an actual break, keep in touch with friends, drink lots of tea and coffee, know that you're not perfect (and that nobody else is either).

2. Learn from the 'bad' teachers:
It is easy as a trainee to sit at the back of a classroom tutting and shaking your head at somebody's teaching practice. Even if you think the person you are observing is the worst teacher, they will be doing some good. It is infinitely easier to pick out the flaws in someone's practice than it is to reflect on what they have done well. There will always be something they've done well.

3. Don't leave university assignments to the last second
It may have worked with your undergraduate degree but leaving your assignments to the last second on a PGCE just means a whole lot of extra stress that you can definitely do without.

4. Don't fear observations
Nobody likes to be judged. Especially if the judge is sat at the back of the room writing and highlighting furiously whilst you're trying to concentrate on teaching. It can be really distracting! Put it to the back of your mind - prepare as much as you can in advance (but don't expect it to be perfect), adapt if necessary, and accept their comments and advice afterwards.

5. Don't blindly follow all advice
When you're training to teach, suddenly everyone is an expert. From my hairdresser to relatives and family friends, everyone thinks they know what teaching is like because they were a student once. Smile and nod. Smile and nod. Similarly, don't feel obliged to follow all the advice trained teachers give you (you may find a lot of it contradicts). Try it out - if it works, keep it, if it doesn't, forget it.

6. Kids (probably) won't kill you
There are behaviour policies in schools that ensure that disruption is dealt with and problem students are removed from a lesson. Know this like it's the back of your hand and don't be afraid to use it. There is a network of support available to you as a trainee and you definitely don't need to deal with it alone.

7. Informal chats about teaching are key
I found that just having a chat with fellow teachers about an issue or student can be really productive. It allows people to share ideas and practice in a way that isn't forced. It also allows you to get to know your colleagues better. Plus you're under no obligation to actually follow their advice...

8. Make friends with people on your course
This one is the number one lifesaver. Don't isolate yourself from your fellow trainees. There were some people on my course who were desperate to establish themselves as 'proper' teachers so didn't really come to training sessions or socialise with us. I know that I couldn't have done this course without my friends. Knowing that there was somebody else out there going through the exact same thing as me was a constant reassurance. Sharing ideas, resources, or just having a good moan....good friends are priceless!

Remember: you will have bad days and you will have amazing days. Keep the amazing days in mind when you're having a bad one and forget all about the bad ones as soon as they're over.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Back on track...

Well this week was a success!

I lost 4.5lbs and am feeling really motivated to stay on track and keep going… I now have another 4.5lbs to go until I have lost 4 stone. The idea of losing four stone (and never regaining it, ever ever again) is enough to make me a little bit giddy. I love looking in the mirror and noticing my changing body shape. I am now more determined than ever to keep it up and to make March 2017 a month I really dedicated to changing my life for the better.

And the secret? Planning. Planning everything I will eat, when I will eat it and making sure I am not forced to grab a supermarket sandwich (those things are so bad for you!) or something equally horrendous…

On another note, thank god the weather is getting warmer and the sun is shining more. It’s making me look forward to summer – lounging on the beach (maybe even getting a bit of a tan….or is that too much to ask for?!) and having more time to read, relax and unwind.

 Weight loss this week: 4.5lbs

 Target weight loss for this week: 3lbs


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Loneliness or longing for change?

Disclaimer: I am not writing this because I have found the answer. I am writing this to try and find an answer.

I can’t remember exactly when it started.

I remember feeling content and happy for a long time. I didn’t have anybody in my life but I was okay with that. Then it started to come. Like waves washing over me. This intense feeling of loneliness.

Watching everyone around you develop, find somebody and settle down is fine for a certain period of time. Then after a while you can see nothing but happy couples.

One thing I have found out though is that finding somebody or something to distract you from that feeling does not work. I do not believe, perhaps incorrectly, that I feel this way sometimes because I am single. I feel it because I am longing for change in my life. I am waiting for somebody to enter my life and change the way I view myself, my life, the world.

I don’t feel like this all the time. I am trying to be more honest and confront these feelings when they come though.

So when the loneliness consumes me I can look in the mirror and tell myself:  

okay, you want change? I’ll give you change.



Saturday, March 11, 2017

Getting back on track

It is easy to lose focus. It is easy to become consumed by the worries and stresses of life.These slips - where we do something we know we shouldn't - don't need to be the end of it all though. They can be just that - momentary slips - before we get back on track. For me, the key to regaining my focus is to plan. To write down what I will do, do it, and tick it off my life.

I know this week hasn't been horrific. I haven't had any major bad days. Instead, what's happened is I have let little things slide here and there (and those little things definitely add up!) Here's my planned menu for this week..

Body Magic
Bacon sandwich

Slimming World Spaghetti Bolognaise with side salad
Gym 45 mins
Bacon, scrambled eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes.

Salad with boiled eggs, tuna and new potatoes.
Zingy chicken tray bake (family feasts cookbook page 36)

Overnight oats with strawberries and bananas.
Muller light yogurt, banana, apple
Couscous salad with onions, peppers, tomatoes and chicken.
Beef kofta kebabs with spiced potatoes (family feasts cookbook pg 14)

Overnight oats with apple and blueberries
Muller light yogurt, banana, apple
Tuna salad with cherry tomatoes, boiled egg and new potatoes.
Gammon, egg, slimming world chips, carrots.
Gym 30 mins
Overnight oats with strawberries and bananas
Muller light yogurt, banana, apple
Chicken salad
Turkey burgers with tzatziki (family feasts cookbook page 52)

Overnight oats with strawberries
Muller light yogurt, banana, apple
Tuna Salad
Paprika Pork (family feast cookbook page 26)
Gym 30 mins
Overnight oats with apple and blueberries
Muller light yogurt, banana, apple
Ham salad
BBQ chicken (with apple and dill coleslaw) and jacket potatoes. (Family feast cookbook page 40)

I'd forgotten I had this cookbook to be honest - when I picked it up the pages had little stains from previous attempts...there are some seriously delicious recipes in here and the best thing is that the focus is for families on a budget so they're not ridiculous with the ingredients you need to buy.

Maintained this week.

Weight loss next week: 3lbs

{one of the things i want most, being able to wear dresses like that ^}

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