What I Watched in January

Goodness me, it feels like January is going on forever! Judging by social media, it looks like I'm not alone in that feeling either. The slowness of the month hasn't been helped by the fact that my last pay day was six weeks ago and for two weeks, I had a nasty cough and cold that would just not shift. The one good thing about feeling under the weather is that I've had plenty of time to watch TV...

Van Helsing Season 2 
One of the best things I had the pleasure of watching in 2017 was Van Helsing. A TV show based on a character from one of the greatest books of all time with a strong female lead? Obviously I had to watch it. I was delighted when I switched Netflix on during one of my sick days and noticed season two had landed and I managed to get it all done over the course of two days. Part of me is very sad I watched it so quickly because it's going to be a long time now before I get anymore!

For those not in the know, Van Helsing takes place in a post-apocalyptic Seattle. Vanessa Helsing has awoken from a coma to find her daughter missing and the US overrun by vampires after Yellowstone erupted. It's certainly not for the faint hearted, and it's not one to watch if you want to feel uplifted. It is however some insanely exciting, gripping TV and the plot has many intriguing twists and turns.

Grimm Season 6
Last year, I spent a good portion of my time watching Grimm seasons one to five. I'd started watching this show a few years back but for some reason it failed to capture my attention the first time round and I soon forgot about it. The second time round however...well. I became obsessed with this story of a fairy tale monster fighting detective in Portland.

Naturally, when the sixth and final season finally landed on Netflix, it was a bittersweet moment. I was ecstatic to finally watch it, but sad because I knew it was the last season. I watched it over the course of the week and spent the finale in floods of tears. The ending was incredibly cheesy, but I felt it was the perfect end to a show I thoroughly enjoyed.

Other things I'm in the middle of watching are Vikings season 5, Lucifer season 3 and Riverdale season 2 and, like everyone else with a Netflix account right now, FRIENDS! As usual, I like to wait until I've finished a season to give my thoughts - see you next month!

Why I've Ditched Planners, Organisers and Workbooks in 2018

Every year I buy myself a brand new diary and each year, I fail to use the diary. In the past few years I've also found myself purchasing a large number of workbooks - books I'm meant to fill in and then use to have "the best year ever." The theme is the same - I start with the best intentions, but I never complete them and by the end of the year, they're languishing in a drawer somewhere.

This year, I've decided enough is enough. 

2018 is the first year in a very long time that I haven't bought a diary. I have no calendars. I haven't purchased any goal setting workbooks. There are a variety of reasons I've made the decision to stop purchasing items like these, the first being it is incredibly wasteful to purchase things I don't use. This year I'm saving both my wallet and the environment.

That said, there's another reason behind my decision to ditch planners, organisers and workbooks in 2018.

Perhaps my biggest realisation in 2017 was that you have to get out there and live your life - organising and planning is absolutely no good if you don't go out and implement it. I've realised that my love for workbooks was playing a large part in the trap I'd fallen into, the trap of always planning but never taking action. I'd set aside an afternoon to write long lists of things I wanted to do and imagine I'd get round to them one day. List complete, I'd turn the TV on or start playing Stardew Valley. In a few months time, I'd remember the list, I'd feel bad that nothing was complete and then I'd write another list to rectify the situation. The cycle would then repeat.

Finding the balance between planning and action 

As is often the case, I'm learning that there is a balance to be found if I am to live a happy and successful life. It's incredibly hard to achieve anything without a good plan, but it's all too easy to spend too much time organising yourself and not enough time doing what needs to be done.

This year, I've recorded a handful of measurable and timebound goals digitally with some brief notes on how I could achieve these goals. I refer back to these goals at least weekly so they are always present in my mind, but the main focus is on actually carrying out the tasks in those notes.

Over the course of 2018, I'm hoping that this new approach will leave me feeling more content because I can see that I'm achieving things, even if it's just small victories each week.

Operation Supervixen 2018

In 2017, I became increasingly aware that my lifestyle was not in alignment with my values as a
person. I was eating a large amount of meat and dairy, I was using skincare and cosmetics both containing animal products and tested on animals, and I was buying clothes from retailers with questionable moral values. I also realised I was doing very little to ensure my negative impact on the environment was as small as possible. As a result, I was starting to feel very uncomfortable about my day to day life and towards the end of the year, I realised I was going to have to make some big changes.

Going vegan

Taking up veganism is actually an idea I have experimented with since 2016. For many years I’ve suffered with a lot of digestive discomfort and my research into this subject led me to believe that dairy could be behind this. I also suspected my love of processed meats, for example chorizo, was not helping. I’d tried to give up meat and dairy a few times, but always gave up very quickly, convinced I couldn’t live my life without cheese and chocolate.

However, going vegan isn’t just about improving my health anymore. The more I consumed animals and the more I learnt about the egg and dairy industries, the more I realised that my contributions to this just didn’t feel right anymore. I have also recently become more aware of the environmental impact that animal farming has, which has provided me with even more motivation to adopt a vegan lifestyle.

I am currently participating in Veganuary and I'm amazed that not only have I succeeded this far, I am both enjoying it and planning to continue my new lifestyle outside of January.

However, I suspect the reason I've been successful so far is because I haven't banned myself from non-vegan food forever. I'm going for afternoon tea later this month and haven't requested the vegan menu, and I suspect when I go to America my willpower to eat vegan will die a death. I personally believe that by eating vegan the vast majority of the time, I am already taking large steps to lead a more ethical life so I'm happy with this decision. I also think that over time as I get more comfortable identifying as a vegan and more used to shopping as a vegan, I'll find the idea of meat, eggs and dairy more and more repulsive and will eventually wean myself off it completely.

Going cruelty free in beauty

Removing animal products from my diet doesn't really make sense if I don't also remove them from my beauty routine as well. It makes even less sense if I also continue to use products that are tested on animals. In 2018, I will be phasing all animal tested and non-vegan beauty products from my makeup bag - even if I don't succeed with a completely vegan diet. Eating animals is one thing, using animals for vanity is another issue. I do currently own some products from brands that test, and products with animal products in them. However, I think wasting things I already own would also be a terrible thing to do so I will be phasing things out and replacing with animal friendly alternatives when I need to. 

I will also continue to buy from brands that are cruelty free, but their parent companies are not. I know this ultimately funds non-ethical brands, but it is incredibly hard to shop in a way that is truly ethical. For example, Superdrug's own range is very often vegan and always cruelty free, but it's owned by AS Watson which is not cruelty free. It also obviously stocks brands like Loreal which is not cruelty free. Supermarkets are another: they sell meat and dairy but I still support them by buying my vegetables there. The issue of "is there such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism" is one I want to explore in more depth at some point - but this post isn't the time. 

Working out how I can minimise my impact on the environment

Like thousands of other Brits, last year, I was traumatised by film footage of plastic floating in the ocean, narrated by national treasure David Attenborough. I'd always thought I was quite environmentally conscious, but ultimately thought that it was up to big corporations or cities like Las Vegas where the lights are always on, to do something about climate change. Of course, it's probably everyone having the "not my problem" attitude that has got us in this mess to begin with. 

One change I can say I've already made is I've stopped getting takeaway coffee in disposable cups. I've also finally started started turning everything OFF in my house when I'm not using it. I'm ashamed to say that since I've moved into a house where my bills are included in the rent, I have been very lax about my electricity usage in a way I wasn't when I had to use a pay as you go electricity meter. It's time for me to realise there's a bigger picture than my finances when it comes to electricity. 

The next step is for me to tackle the amount of waste I create. I depend too much on single use products like cotton wool and kitchen roll. 

Other non-Save The World! type goals

Whilst most of my goals this year seem to centre on not just improving my own life, but contributing to the betterment of the world as well, I do have a few that are purely selfish for me:
  1. Start exercise classes: I have a "Swim and Classes" membership at the local leisure centre but have never actually attended a class in the 10 months or so I've had it. Whilst I get my money's worth just from swimming, it'd be nice to get some variety in my exercise routine. 
  2. Start having driving lessons again: I initially believed I couldn't afford it this year but my calculations may have been wrong so I'm currently planning on starting my lessons again in February. It'd be nice to also pass my test in 2018 but we'll see. I also realise driving detracts from my environmental goals... 
  3. Other 30 Before 30 goals: other 30 Before 30 goals I'd like to make a start on or complete this year are my goals to visit new places in the UK, go to the Natural History Museum and keep growing my nails. 
Before I finish this post, I'd also like to note that I realise that I am in a place of privilege to be able to pursue these goals. This is not a post intended to guilt trip those who can't go vegan, or shame you into changing your lifestyle. As I mentioned at the start of this post, I personally was becoming uncomfortable with my own lifestyle and I needed to make some changes. If you feel the same, great. If you don't, carry on doing what you're doing. I just want to do the best that I can and you should focus on doing the best you can. 

What are your 2018 goals?

Let's Leave Complaining About Instagram in 2017

If you're a blogger, or follow other bloggers on Twitter, chances are you've noticed that it's currently very popular to complain about Instagram. Every other Tweet on my timeline at the moment seems to be someone whining that Instagram is out to get them. If you're lucky enough to not follow a significant amount of bloggers, or you don't use Twitter at all, the thing that's got everyone upset is the algorithm. A while ago now, Instagram changed its feeds so they don't appear in chronological order anymore and many users feel that the changes to Instagram have harmed their follower count and engagement, or for you non-bloggers, the amounts of likes and comments they're getting.

I'm at the point where I'm unfollowing or muting everyone I see doing it so that Twitter remains an enjoyable social network for me to use. I hate to break it to you, but complaining about Instagram is really, really boring. No one wants to hear it and it's incredibly unoriginal.

In fact, I've got some hard truths for you to hear. Starting with: Instagram is not out to get you, and it doesn't owe you anything.

What people don't seem to have grasped, is that Instagram is a completely FREE app. It's also a free app with millions of users worldwide. Running an app like that is expensive, and if it's a free to use app, how on earth does it generate enough money to cover its running costs? That's where the algorithm comes in.

Like most apps, Instagram monetises itself by selling ads. To survive, Instagram has to constantly adjust its algorithm to maximise its profits. It's obvious that a chronological feed is not the best way for it to do this.

I personally feel that claims that people never see content from the people they're interested in or only see photos that were posted a week ago are greatly exaggerated. Whenever I open up Instagram, the people I am most interested in always show at the top and I only ever see old posts if I haven't opened the app for a while. In this instance, the old posts I see are from accounts I frequently engage with. Instagram is making sure I don't miss posts from people I might want to see! I do admit that when I follow someone new, they dominate my feed for a few days, but after that, other people begin to pop up again.

I don't doubt that people have seen decreased engagement since non-chronological feeds were implemented. Unfortunately, what I have to say next is probably going to touch some nerves. The Instagram algorithm is designed to show people the content it thinks people want to see. If your engagement has decreased and your follower count is going down, it's probably because you're not posting anything particularly interesting. 

Over the years, your photos have most likely improved. You probably take really good photographs and know how to edit them properly. Sadly, this isn't enough. There are millions of blogs out there now, all with a very similar photography style and very similar content. It's really, really hard to do something that's totally unique now. This is why your likes are decreasing. You're doing the same thing you were a few years ago and expecting it to yield the same results even though Instagram has moved on since then.

As for the people that cry "Instagram is destroying my business!" - well., I have a lot to say about this and it's not particularly nice. I will leave you with the following thought: it isn't wise to base your entire business on a platform that you don't own. I'd also like to point out that nowhere does Instagram claim to be an app that helps businesses grow. It's just a  FREE photo sharing app. It's not obligated to provide free marketing for your business. 

What baffles me the most about all this is why people continue to use Instagram if they hate it so much. As I said at the beginning of this post, the algorithm is designed to maximise profit. If you're that disgruntled, stop using the app. If enough people did that, Instagram might actually be interested in changing. However, it's clear that most people don't have a problem with the changes it makes because they're still using the app. Until it stops being a money maker, the non-chronological feed is here to stay.

FURTHER READING: if you want a less ranty, more useful post about Instagram, my friend Lauren wrote an excellent one

Two Years of The Single Life

In December 2015, my on/off boyfriend of nearly five years finally broke up with me for good and I've been single ever since. It didn't take me too long to get over it, and I very quickly realised that I actually love being single. In fact, I love it so much that I wrote an entire post whining about all the people in my life that couldn't seem to grasp that my single life is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

So, now that it has been over two years of being single, how do I feel about the single life?

I still love it. Not only do I feel independent, I enjoy feeling independent. There's very little that I rely on other people for. I like that all my time is mine. I can watch whatever TV show I want, whenever I want. I can pursue my solitary hobbies like reading and swimming with ease. I don't get bored anymore because I'm more than capable of keeping myself amused rather than constantly wanting attention and time from other people.

My mental health is also the best it has been for years. I am a lot calmer and my emotions don't feel like some wild untamed beast anymore. I fully believe this is because I've been avoiding dating and relationships. I have a tendency to grow attached to people a bit too quickly, which opens me up to manipulation and emotional abuse too easily. Because I've not been putting myself in situations where this can happen, I've been able to protect myself while I heal from past wounds and strengthen myself in the process. I really don't miss being messed around by the opposite sex and I think my mental health would take a turn for the worst if I suddenly became desperate to find a boyfriend and started having to deal with the lowlifes on dating apps you always see stories about.

However, I am now slightly more open to the idea of dating and relationships. I have been on a date and I have even been speed dating. Nothing came of either of these things because I still don't think I was in the right mindset at the time but I do find myself now thinking occasionally it might be nice to have that kind of companionship again. The idea of meeting someone organically, and steadily getting to know them and maybe eventually starting a real relationship does sound alright. That being said, I am in no rush to make this happen and certainly won't do anything that can be construed as actively looking for a relationship for a while.

The thing that is most important to me right now is friendship. I'd much rather get closer to my existing friends, and make new friends, rather than go dating and find a boyfriend. I've got such a busy year planned that my life is more than full and comfortable without a romantic partner in it.

30 Before 30 Check In

Whilst it's a bit of a cliche, I personally feel there is no better time to check in on your goals than the New Year. Everyone is in that lovely fresh start mindset and there's more motivation knocking around than there is at other times in the year. With this in mind, I thought it was about time I took a look at my 30 Before 30 goals to see how I'm doing.

1) Pay off my credit card and Very account and cancel them both - COMPLETE!

So unbelievably pleased that I have managed to complete this goal. However, I've decided to keep my credit card around for emergencies. I feel I've matured enough in the past year or so to really stick to only using it in a genuine emergency. For example if my landlord decided to sell my house and I had to move out. My Very account has been closed though. Go me!

2) Pass my driving test - incomplete

Unfortunately getting the funds together and removing my fears so I can actually book some driving lessons hasn't happened yet. However my finances will be much better in February and I'm feeling a little motivated to drive at the moment so perhaps this year is the year? 

3) Get a car - incomplete

Obviously this isn't going to happen until goal 2 is complete!

4) Save £5000 - incomplete

Unfortunately I see this goal as being very unlikely to be completed. Life is just so darn expensive, as are my other goals! I don't know where I'm meant to find money to save at the moment.

5) Visit Asia - incomplete

This certainly won't be happening this year as I don't have enough annual leave left! Perhaps I'll manage to fit a little trip to Thailand in next year...

6) Go somewhere in the USA that isn't New York - in progress!!

As most people are sick of hearing by now, I have a trip to the US booked later this year and not one of the states I am visiting is New York. Hooray!

7) Visit somewhere on mainland Europe I haven't been before - incomplete

Like my Asia goal, this unfortunately won't happen this year due to my lack of annual leave. Sad times!

8) Go to Versailles - incomplete

Finances permitting, it would be quite nice to sneak a little weekend trip to Paris at some point this year. We'll see...

9) Go abroad alone - in progress!!

I will actually be flying to Seattle alone in June so here's another one I know will be ticked off soon, yay!

10) Visit 10 new places in the UK - in progress!!

I visited Blackpool for my birthday last year and even though I've been there before, I don't remember it at all so I'm counting this as one of my new places. This year I've already got one trip to a new place in the UK booked so far but it's a surprise for someone so I have to stay quiet about it for now! Hoping to get Scotland in this year too at some point.

11) Go to Stone Henge - COMPLETE

I drove past this in 2016 and decided that was all I needed to see.

12) Go to the Natural History Museum - incomplete

I keep planning to go here before evening events in London but I'm always lacking in the energy. This is one of the easiest goals I've set myself so I'd be surprised if I don't manage it this year.

13) Go to a theme park - COMPLETE

I went to Blackpool Pleasure Beach for my birthday in 2017. Unfortunately I chickened out of some of the larger rollercoasters, so I would like to try this goal again at some point - but I did go on some rides and spent all day in the park so it's complete for now.

14) Spend a birthday in Aberystwyth - incomplete

Obviously Blackpool Pleasure Beach isn't in Aber so this hasn't happened yet. It probably won't this year either as my birthday is very close to my US trip.

15) Go swimming in the sea - COMPLETE

I did this on my trip to Benidorm!

16) Have a professional massage - incomplete

I was determined to make this happen in December because I had three weeks off work and wanted to visit the new Thames Lido. However, in the end, my need to purchase Christmas presents for other people won and I put this goal on hold. Maybe this year...!

17) Read 260 books - in progress!!

I'm not quite on track to hit this goal but I am reading books on a regular basis so I feel confident I'll catch up and smash this goal when the time comes.

18) Sit on the Iron Throne - incomplete

I really need to sit down and work out how I'm gonna pull this one off. Watch this space.

19) Grow my nails until they sit over the end of my finger and keep them like that until at least the day after my 30th birthday - in progress!!

Whilst I have improved significantly on the nail biting front, I still have a long way to go. Every now and again I still find myself with my fingers absentmindedly stuck in my mouth and my growing nails ruined. However, so far, so good in 2018. I've yet to bite or break a nail.

20) Try out a high ropes course - incomplete

I have a sneaking suspicion I was fishing for adventurous sounding goals when I wrote this one down. It's not something that interests me as much anymore but I won't give up on it completely, it's just not a priority for me anymore.

21) Go camping - in progress!!

I will be camping in both the US and Cornwall this year, hooray!

22) Go to a fireworks display on Bonfire Night - COMPLETE

Last year I spent Bonfire Night at a bonfire with my youngest siblings and it was lovely.

23) Attend a Halloween celebration in fancy dress - incomplete

I am praying that this year is the year I get to do this but somehow I always end up at Wednesday 13 gigs on Halloween instead...

24) Take my youngest siblings on a day trip - incomplete

This will probably be more feasible when I have a car so it's on hold for now.

25) Go see a band/artist I haven't seen before - incomplete

I keep booking tickets for bands I've already seen instead, oops! Tragically due to work and finances I missed Lana del Rey when she was in London and I am DEVASTATED, even more so because she did an Insta live and I asked her about coming back to London and she said not for ages. At least she answered my question though?!

26) Join a gym - COMPLETE

I am marking this goal complete even though I don't actually visit the gym, I just use my membership to swim! It's still exercise and still meets the point of setting this as a goal.

27) Complete an Instagram photo challenge - SCRAPPED

I've decided to scrap this goal because it's forced creativity and I don't wanna do that to myself anymore!

28) Try horse riding - SCRAPPED

Like the high ropes course, I think I was just reaching for cool-sounding goals when I wrote this down and I'm not at all interested in it anymore. I'd clearly been playing too much Star Stable.

29) Go to the theatre - COMPLETE

I went to see a production of The Great Gatsby in Bracknell. I am also going to the theatre to see The League of Gentlemen in September, hooray!

30) Take up a non-internet based hobby - incomplete

I am not sure what this will be so who knows if I'll get round to completing this goal.

Scrapped: 2
Not completed: 15
In progress: 6
Completed: 7

Altogether, I'm pretty happy with my progress. Seven completed goals seems excellent and I'm glad I've got six more on the go. I think with my "Visit 10 New Places in the UK" goal I need to get a move on though as just one new place isn't so great.

I'm planning to keep my 30 Before 30 page updated regularly so you can check back there if you're interested.

My 2018 Word of the Year

Each year, I like to give myself a "Word of the Year" to set my intentions for the year and have an anchor to come back to when I forget what I want to get out of the next 12 months. For example, my 2016 Word of the Year was "Me" and I spent the year making my own decisions and living my life for myself as opposed to letting others influence me too much. Last year, my word was "Think" because I made a few poor decisions in 2016 and I hoped that having "Think" as my theme for the year would minimise that. Luckily, it did!

So, what is my 2018 word of the year? This year I have chosen "Live". In most of my posts this year already I've mentioned my sudden realisation that I'm never going to get where I want to be with careful planning and instead need to start taking action to make my dreams a reality. I'm hoping that by setting "Live" as my theme for the year it will remind me to do just that, live, instead of sitting around and planning to live eventually.

Of course, I'm anticipating this won't be too difficult with the number of plans I've already set myself. Afternoon tea, hen parties and an epic trip around eight states in America just to name a few! However I'm well aware that life can't be all action, all the time so I will be taking extra care this year to make sure I am truly partaking in self care. After all, it's hard to live if you've driven yourself into the ground with exhaustion.

How I will incorporate "Live" into my daily life:

  • Put self care at the top of my priority list: when I need a rest, I will rest, when I need fresh air and exercise, I will get fresh air and exercise
  • I will make an effort to incorporate healthier food into my diet so that I have the energy and health to live 
  • I will say yes to exciting plans 
  • I will throw myself into all the exciting plans I've already made and be present and happy when they are happening 
Do you set yourself a word of the year? Share your blog posts with me!

7 Lessons Learnt in 2017

Each year I like to share the lessons I learnt in the year gone by and this year is no different. I'm pleased to say that during 2017, I can only think of one occasion where I feel I made a truly terrible decision, which means that I really must be learning from my mistakes! Here are seven lessons I learnt during 2017.

1) It's very surprising when you're placed in a situation where you get to learn who really cares about you 

When I went into hospital at the beginning of 2017, I was pleasantly surprised by the love and support I received. My family went above and beyond to visit me a lot and keep me as comfortable as possible while I was in there. Even better were the gifts, cards, flowers and messages of love I got from very surprising sources. Perhaps the most standout thoughtful gesture was the bouquet of chocolate bars I received from the bloggers I went to Center Parcs with. At this point I'd only known the girls a few months and was overwhelmed by their kindness.

Of course, there's a darker side to this lesson because whenever something bad happens, you also learn who definitely doesn't have your back. I was disappointed in the lack of response from one or two people but at least it taught me who was and wasn't worth my time once I was better and ready to start living my life again. Plus, there were far more people who did care so that outweighs any negativity!

2) Appreciate the people you love while they're still around to appreciate

Unfortunately my grandpa passed away in 2017. Although I've lost people before, this is the first time that I've really felt like it happened before their time and it's really hammered home that life is so precious and you should show people how you much you care about them while you still can. In 2018 I want to spend as much time as possible with my loved ones and make sure they know I love them.

3) Plans are no good, you've got to take action 

I am a planner. I love to sit down and write plans. I plan my budget each month. I write blog plans. I write life plans. I write daily plans. Weekly plans. Monthly plans. I'm sure you get the idea.

Unfortunately, it seems that at some point in the past few years I have fallen into the trap of always planning, but never taking action. Towards the end of 2017, I realised I was so guilty of never putting my plans into action and as a result of this, I spent my life looking forward to things that were never actually going to happen.

My mum and stepdad came to Reading to visit me in October and I was talking to them about "when I go to America" but I realised that unless I actually booked the damn holiday, I never was going to go to America. When they left to go back to Wakefield, I fired off a few emails and when I got paid, I finally booked that damn holiday.

This is a theme that I want to continue in 2018.

4) You have to give yourself what you need

Over the past few years I have become utterly obsessed with productivity. I had somehow convinced myself that unless I was spending every waking minute doing something I deemed useful, then I was wasting my time. It meant I was resenting myself for watching TV or spending time scrolling through social media. I was becoming exhausted because I wasn't "achieving anything" and my inner monologue was just me constantly berating myself.

I don't know exactly when my mindset shifted, but I think it was around August which is when I stopped blogging in 2017. I realised the reason I never managed to hit my blogging goals is because I just didn't feel passionate about it anymore and I decided to step back and take a break. I think because I did that, I realised I needed a break everywhere else in my life as well.

I decided to stop writing daily to do lists with an insane number of tasks. I decided to do "useful" things when I was in the mood to, and rest when I felt like I really needed it. I tried to embrace a more intuitive way of living where I gave myself what I needed, when I needed it, and so far, so good!

5) Regular exercise is one of the best medicines 

My mental health during 2017 was the best it has been since before I went to university. I would never say that I am "cured" and there were certainly a few dark moments where I worried everything was going to go to hell again, but overall, I was much, much better.

I've also noticed that whilst I still don't have as much energy as I would like to have, my energy levels were a little improved during 2017 and I didn't seem to need as many naps as I used to towards the second half of the year.

Why is this? I'm pretty damn sure it was the amount of exercise I was doing. At the end of April when I finally felt like I'd recovered from my surgery, I started going swimming 1-3 times per week and I also made a long walk a non-negotiable part of my weekends. I think doing this has worked wonders.

6) Life's too short to read rubbish books

Since around 2016, I've been setting myself a goal to read 52 books in a year, an average of one book per week. I failed dramatically in 2016, but in 2017, I reached 41 - a significantly better effort. The reason I got so close to my goal last year is because I finally realised that life is too short to read boring books.

As an English graduate, I put a lot of pressure on myself to read the classics, or more "serious" literature. Unfortunately, the truth is, I don't always enjoy the classics. This means it takes me months to read them whereas I devour other genres in a matter of hours.

I decided that it's time to drop my internal prejudices about so called serious literature and just read what I truly love reading - young adult fantasy fiction. I think this year I will manage my 52 books.

7) I want to have a more positive impact on this planet

I really don't think I'm alone in this, but in 2017, I really started to learn about the impact my life has on the planet and unfortunately, it's not really a positive one. My lifestyle isn't great for the environment, it isn't great for animals and it isn't great for my health. In 2018, I want to make some positive changes to my lifestyle so that I live a life that doesn't harm the planet as much as I have done in the past. I want to be more compassionate towards animals and other human beings.

My morals and ethics versus the way I actually live my life really started to clash in 2017 and in 2018, I want to bring them in line with each other. It's definitely something I'll be exploring in the blog too.

Did you learn any important lessons last year? 

What To Expect From The Glitter Vixen In 2018

One of my resolutions this year is to blog relatively regularly. Of course, this was also my resolution in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 but I've got a good feeling about this year! Because I'm intending to blog consistently, I thought I'd set out my intentions for the blog over the course of the year. This will help keep me focused and motivated, but also give you an idea of what to expect from The Glitter Vixen in 2018.

When to expect content
My current plan is to try and publish a new post every other day. However, I'd much rather only publish content I am truly happy with so occasionally, I may skip days to give me more time to share something I really want to share. 

What content to expect
I'm hoping to shake my usual content up a little this year. I'll be exploring this in more depth in a later post, but towards the end of 2017 I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. I'm in the process of trying different medications to help with the pain, but I'm also going straight to the source and altering my diet. This is a process I want to share on the blog because it will help me keep track of what is going on, but it will also hopefully help others in the same boat.

That being said, here are the topics and types of post I intend to publish on The Glitter Vixen this year:

  • Health, food and fitness (Operation Supervixen): updates on my IBS journey, what has worked and not worked with my diet, recipes, my fitness journey
  • Style: new additions to my wardrobe, outfit ideas, style wishlists
  • Beauty: product reviews
  • Lifestyle: life in Reading, days out, restaurants, books I've read, things I've watched
  • Travel: my USA trip, my Cornwall trip, any other trips I take
  • The Vixen Thinks: my usual "opinion column" type series is here to stay!

What content I hope to be able to include later in the year
Regular readers of the blog will probably notice that I didn't mention outfit posts in the types of post I intend to publish this year. I had intended to take a large number of outfit posts over the Christmas period to store up and use but unfortunately due to being busy with my family and catching a very nasty cold, this didn't happen.

Outfit posts are my favourite type of post, but they are also the hardest to create to the standard that I like. I'm hoping that at some point this year, I figure out a way to start publishing them again. It's a case of finding a regular photographer, or finding somewhere cool where I'm confident enough to use my tripod.

Monetised content  
As mentioned in my "Hello 2018" post, I have a lot of plans this year. These plans require funds, so I'm going to be using a few affiliate links here and there on the blog. These will always be clearly indicated.

Extra things
I believe last year I spoke about my intentions to start a newsletter - it's something I might actually get round to in 2018!

Are you a blogger? What are your 2018 blog plans? 

Hello 2018

Hello 2018.

If 2017 was the year of transformation, 2018 will be the year of taking action. Last year I learnt that it's so important to just do the things you want to do. A little bit of planning is great, but it's far too easy to fall into the trap of constantly organising yourself without actually taking any action.

In 2017, I set a number of wheels in motion, and in 2018, some of my biggest dreams will become reality. We're just a few days into the year and already, I've got such a full and exciting year planned!

Later this month, I'll be meeting up with my favourite blogger babes to go for my first ever afternoon tea. In March, I'm going to a location on my must visit list for a hen party. I'd love to indulge more information but it's a surprise for the hen in question!

In June, I'm going to visit the Yellowstone National Park in the USA  - and because I took action to make that happen, I'll also be ticking a few other dream destinations off as well: Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and the Grand Canyon.

In August, I'm heading back to Cornwall for the first time since 2012 and in September, I get to see Garbage live again and I'm finally going to see The League of Gentlemen live too.

It's practically impossible for me to have a bad year! 

I've yet to set any concrete goals for the year, but I have a vague idea of what I want to achieve and I know how I want to live my life in between adventures. This year I'll be exploring veganism, I'll be expanding my exercise routine beyond trips to the swimming pool and I'm hoping to well and truly rekindle my love for blogging.

I left 2017 feeling happy and hopeful and I've got an excellent feeling about the year ahead.

So, hello 2018!

Goodbye 2017

If you asked me to sum up the year 2017 in one word, it would be "transformative". On the whole, 2017 was a positive year for me, but two particular events were distressing and difficult for me.

One of these events is one that I have mentioned on the blog before: my illness, hospitalisation, surgery and recovery. The second is one that only those closest to me are aware of: I lost my grandpa.

However, my experience with a sometimes fatal illness and the death of a loved one have provided me with some very valuable lessons. In 2017, I began to see the world with new eyes. I have a new found appreciation for my life and the people in it. I am so grateful for the opportunities and experiences available to me. I've realised how important it is to actually do the things you want to do, rather than sitting there and dreaming about doing them someday.

For the first time in a long time, I haven't reached the end of the year feeling like a total failure. I feel like I've made pretty good use of my time and can celebrate some small personal achievements.

In April, I finally managed to get abroad for the first time since 2011 when my sister and I flew to Benidorm. In May, I had a fantastic birthday in Blackpool with two of my sisters. I've spent a lot of time with my favourite blogger babes and I paid all my debt off. I took steps to make sure that 2018 is the best year of my life by booking holidays and other experiences. I've finally got a regular exercise routine: I swim 2-3 times a week and I've managed to go from being able to swim no lengths at all, to 50 lengths, in just a matter of months.

There are a few things that didn't go quite to plan. You've probably noticed this is my first blog post since September. After a few false starts during the year, I realised I'd just lost my passion for blogging and decided to take a very long break. I also haven't really achieved my goal of eating a much healthier and more balanced diet. For once though, I don't feel like I've let myself down. I'm just really proud of the things I have done this year, despite the terrible start.

I'm entering 2018 with a positive mindset. I'm already very excited for the things I've planned and I'm looking forward to seeing what else this brand new year has in store for me.