Category Archives: Thoughts and other Miscellany

What worked for me in 2016 – part 1

Inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy’s annual post along these lines, and soon to be followed by a “what didn’t work for me in 2016”. Some of these things are totally trivial, but I discovered them in 2016 and they changed my life for the better.

A new job. I got my personality profile today (we’ve been doing some management training and they paid for us to get profiled). “Yvann has exacting standards at work and at home.” Ummm, yes. Turns out, you can’t be a full-time client-facing audit senior manager to my standards in 35 hours a week every week. Maybe you can do it to other people’s standards, and in fact one person urged me to stay and “just be a bit less good”. My new job is absolutely ace, in subject matter that I love, and it is zero stress and perfectly possible to do in 35 hours a week.

Cycling to work. Now that I work at the same office every day, it’s much easier to cycle there. And I love cycling there. I get an hour a day of decent exercise, fresh air, I see London, I see horses in Hyde Park and red buses and Buckingham Palace and Big Ben and I cover 16km a day under my own steam, which feels like an achievement.

bike

And for those who want a laugh – this is my cycling get up… (excuse the poor photo, I was trying to take it quickly and get out the door!)cycling

Balsamic glaze. On salad, on steak, on grilled chicken, on mozzarella, on garlic bread, on pizza crusts. So good. I keep a bottle in my desk drawer. (along with some truffle salt)

Whatsapp groups. I only really got into Whatsapp when I was about 4 weeks shy of having Bookmark, and my NCT group were keen to have a group. Since then I’ve set up or participated in groups for my immediate family, various subsets of my cricket team, the friends with whom I go to tiny European countries, the friends with whom I do pub quiz, Supernanny and the other mum who sometimes drops her kid off with us… I love it as a communication tool.

Family Fitbit competitions. I went to the USA with the Musician, Mini-Me and Bookmark in September, and we were a little stretched between my perspective (will happily walk 20 blocks with Bookmark in the pram rather than carry the pram in and out of the subway / to get her to have a good nap) and theirs (sometimes, taxis are the way forward). We ended up walking more and more, and they were fascinated by how much ground we covered. The 25k the day we went to Disneyland was probably a bit much. Anyway after that we all got Fitbits, and have been merrily competing ever since. The Hedge Fund Slave has zero interest in getting one, which I find bemusing.

Pro tip: I didn’t get on with the Fitbit Flex because I didn’t like wearing it on my wrist. I keep my Fitbit Zip either attached to my bra strap, or in my sock, and I forget it’s there. I believe the Book Accumulator goes for the more traditional waist-band Fitbit location.

Putting the TV on to go to sleep. I know, I know, the screen is evil. But. I have a history of taking well over an hour to go to sleep, because the voices in my head won’t shut up. Alternatively, I put on BBC iPlayer (QI is a favourite, but Mock the Week, Have I Got News For You, Only Connect, No Such Thing As the News all do the trick), and I’m asleep within 5 minutes. Podcasts work too – I actually save the weekly QI Elves podcast No Such Thing As A Fish for bedtime listening. It often takes me the whole week to actually listen to the episode because I fall asleep so fast. WHY didn’t I discover this as a teenager? I do like all those shows and willingly watch them when awake, but I can’t use my favourite dramas like The West Wing for this, and similarly I don’t use podcasts like The Double X Gabfest or News In Slow French because they take too much brainpower to let me fall asleep.

More to follow!

Currently

Watching Play School – Everybody Sing! (1996) with Bookmark. Fun fact – this video is older than Mini-Me, and it’s still the best children’s TV I’ve seen. Second fun fact – one of the presenters is Philip Quast, who went on to become a West End star, singing the role of Javert in the 10th anniversary recording of Les Miserables (my favourite musical). The man has a voice like Nutella.

Feeling tired. I’ve had a horrible cold for the last week, which I picked up after Bookmark had already had it for a few days (and therefore we’d already had several nights of very broken sleep). I’m mostly over it now, apart from the occasional cough that makes me sound like I’m a 40-a-day smoker, but it takes a bad cold/cough to confine me to my bed/the sofa for 3 days.

On my Netflix account history are all 8 episodes of ITV’s Victoria, half of The Crown, and the start of season 3 of The Good WifeVictoria was entertaining enough, though I found it overly focussed on the romance when I actually wanted more politics because I know so little about that patch of history. Ditto The Crown I’m now finding more enjoyable now that the characters are all thoroughly established and it’s less of the Elizabeth/Philip courtship/wedding/early marriage material. Matt Smith absolutely steals the show as Prince Philip. We’re still very much enjoying The Good Wife, though when I binge-watched half a series back-to-back it got a bit soapy as all the personal storylines progressed too far.

“Sustained. For no other reason than for use of the pluperfect tense.”

Wearing the old faithfuls: size 11 bootcut long leg jeans from Jeans West (I own 3 pairs of these and have worn them for 4 years, except for 10 months where I wore the maternity version), my St John’s College, Oxford dark blue hoodie, and a pair of Ugg boots I stole (with consent) from the Musician. And my favourite glasses (a set of dark blue plastic frames from Karen Millen – I love the fact that they don’t have nose pieces).

Eating tripoline pasta, which I’ve never encountered outside Tesco in the last year. It’s like tagliatelle or pappardelle, but ridged/wiggly on both sides, so you end up with curled, wiggly pasta. Look it up (Proud Italian Cook has a good photo), it’s pretty cool.

Setting the alarm for 6.30am. Getting over the cold means I’m not going to be cycling into work, but I do need to allow extra time to walk slowly (so I don’t cause myself any coughing paroxysms*) and to buy a chocolate torsade at Waitrose…

 

*paroxysm is a very satisfying word! Like syzygy – by knowing the spelling of which, my grandfather once won a dial-in radio spelling bee.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

… is my new audiobook, and it is delicious.

we-are-all-completely-besider-ourselves

I’m only about 45 minutes in, and it seems (so far) to be an August Osage County -style “crazy family” drama, except the family isn’t that crazy:

“Antagonism in my family comes wrapped in layers of code, sideways feints, full deniability. I believe the same can be said of many families.”

I love the narrator’s voice (Katharine Mangold) – it’s dreamy and fluid and just wry enough when needed.

Watch this space!

Currently

Listening to Eliza Doolittle’s self-titled album on Spotify – the doodlepop is harmless enough Friday night music.

Wearing a lovely new top from Marks and Spencer, and at least 7-year-old second-hand yoga pants that are too big for me. And these socks. Which are German and amazing. (Click on the photo for an affiliate Amazon link).

Cycling again: I cycled to work 2 days this week, 2 days last week, and I’ve been cycling to my UVB appointments 3 lunchtimes a week (fastest method of transport in central London – if you don’t believe me, watch this Top Gear episode).

Deciding that life is too short to iron fitted shirts. I’ve got no problem ironing unfitted shirts (i.e. men’s shirts) because it takes about 90 seconds a shirt with The Hedge Fund Slave’s easy-iron shirts. My shirts, on the other hand, had a minimum of 5 panels, usually more, often thinner than the iron so all sorts of shenanigans were called for. NO MORE. I’m getting rid of any clothes that I have to iron.

Despairing of the world and its politics.

Being tired. THFS worked through the night on Tuesday night following the US election as the results came out, and has worked a lot of late nights leading up to that, so parenting’s been a bit one-sided around here. I need a break. Or more tea and sleep.

Watching The Good Wife with THFS, one episode every few days (we don’t get a lot of time to ourselves between Bookmark and THFS’s work.) It’s proving pretty good so far. Must go back and re-watch Suits. Also Gilmore Girls. And of course carry on watching The West Wing. This gif seems as appropriate as anything else right now:

wwgif1

Catching up with friends: on Thursday night I met up with two friends and then one had to get on a train but the other and I chatted until late and put the world to rights and laughed a lot and talked about the things that are important to us at the moment.

Eating whatever I can find in the fridge. It’s slim pickings at the end of a difficult week. Thanks to the family jetlag (see above), there’s been a lot of takeaway this week, and all the stuff I had planned out to cook is now in the freezer.

Reading! I sat on the floor of the loungeroom and benevolently ignored Bookmark as she identified trains and buses on her Thomas the Tank Engine domino cards (this is a one person activity. Any efforts to actually play dominos are speedily rebuffed), and read Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill, which I read half of on my recent trip to the USA. This time I’m reading it with my Book Darts, which are essential for marking excellent quotes. (I bought them at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver, USA a few years ago; I can’t find them on the bookstore’s website, so I am regretfully linking up an Amazon link here)

Drinking decaf tea with lots of milk, obviously. Although I do have a nice Cucumber Mint blend from Whittards, which is weird but tasty.

Realising that cheap ironing board covers really aren’t worth it. Like cheap dishwasher tabs.

Looking forward to my birthday! Is there an age when you get too old to be allowed to be excited about your birthday? I haven’t hit it yet…

You?

Stationery

Ah, stationery. I’m not the only person who loves to spend time and money in a stationery shop, am I?

(side note – I cannot write “stationery” correctly first time, even though I know that “stationary” is a very different thing. Too many years of writing “stationary” in Physics homework)

It seems that for bullet journalling, pretty stationery is not absolutely necessary but very definitely encouraged.

My set-up is (click on pictures for Amazon links*):

A5 black Moleskine notebook with grid-ruled pages. The general bullet journalling community seems to encourage a grid rule, but I’m not sure I like it after a number of months. I’ll be going line-ruled next. The grid-rule is good for drawing grids of various sorts, but it takes me so long to draw up a month calendar that I have taken to printing out pre-designed grids like these ones and sticking them in.

Pilot v5 pens – I have loved these pens with a fierce passion since I was in high school. I still have my Physics IB (Higher level) revision book which I hand-wrote myself, using the standard blue Pilot v5. One day I’m going to treat myself to a 100x box of these. Or a 1000x box. What I particularly like about these is that they force me to write at a measured pace (and therefore neatly) and without pressing too hard on the paper (which I am generally inclined to do). What I dislike? They leak when taken on aeroplanes and then get ink all over the end of my fingers. So don’t fly with them.

Stabilo point 88 – just for when I feel like I need to mix up the colours a bit more. Someone gave me a 20-pack of these for a birthday present at some point, and they have occasionally been useful for filling in a cricket scorebook in glorious Technicolor, but otherwise I haven’t used them much. I don’t use them that much for the bullet journal either, to be honest, but they’re quite fun for making habit trackers colourful.

Other stationery I don’t use for bullet journalling but do use regularly or have used and loved in the past:

Disposable fountain pens – these have re-branded since I used to use them, but these ones in the picture look right. Many memories of doing maths AS level worksheets with these pens (my maths teacher used them too and had beautiful big round handwriting well suited to these pens. My handwriting has got smaller so I prefer the V5s now).

Magical stapler – when I went on secondment to Germany in 2009, I was given a batch of stationery and told to look after it otherwise I’d have to buy any replacements. Turns out, all 40 auditors at the bank had identical stationery, so we took to labelling ours with “I belong to X, give me back”. Anyway – I still have that stapler. It still has a label saying “I belong to Yvann” (in German). It’s the best stapler I’ve ever owned. You can reload it without accidentally using up a staple. It has a satisfying crunch. It’s never not stapled something (of reasonable thickness). I love it.

A quick inspection of my stationery drawer reveals lots more highlighters, biros, pencils (one of which I think I recognise from school?), matches, a hairbrush, semi-dead batteries, and sunglass lenses to clip onto reading glasses. Diverse.

What have I missed?

(this post is full of affiliate links – all the pictures take you through to an Amazon affiliate. If you purchase anything through any of these links, it is no extra cost to you, but a small percentage of your purchase price comes to me, which I put towards the running costs of the site)

Things I tried to do on my sabbatical

I took two months off between quitting my old job and starting my new job. On my to-do list for the sabbatical were the following, and this is how I got on.

whatsapp-image-2016-10-31-at-08-45-05

Please bear in mind I was expecting this sabbatical to last at least 4 months, and actually it was a week and then 4 weeks… (interrupted by a week in the USA, and two weeks of full time mum mode with Supernanny out recovering from appendicitis):

  • read 10 books – pfff. I opened and abandoned one, and have started but not abandoned 3 more.
  • resurrect blog – done! Right at the end of the break, but it still counts, right?
  • cook 10 new meals – definitely done. I like HelloFresh* and Gousto* for helping me switch up the meal planning
  • go on 3 long bike rides – pfff. Not a single one. We did take the bikes to CenterParcs though.
  • Walk at least 10 miles across London – who was I kidding?
  • lose 8kg – yeah, right. Next!
  • Start learning Italian again – ummm, nope.
  • establish a gym habit – hmm. Start gym habit, sure. Establish – no.
  • Run a sub-30 minute 5km – astonishingly, done! New shoes and a new route helped, as did a new podcast to listen to!
  • Learn to write a website – I did a few website sessions but it’s painfully slow progress.

* There are referral benefits for these – if you want me to introduce you, drop me an email at readingwithtea@gmail.com and I’ll set you up.

Less loftily, my specific Bullet Journal October tasks and goals were:

  • Get a new job – done!
  • Catch up on the family budget – done at some point early in October for the previous 6 months, and I’ve been keeping up since
  • Get new clothes – done. I have been throwing out anything that doesn’t fit / I don’t like (a la Marie Kondo) and found myself somewhat short of clothes. A £100 spree at Marks and Spencer fixed that up.
  • Get Bookmark to go to sleep in her bed – achieved on a few occasions, but not a solid habit yet, though we are doing pretty well so far in November despite teething and a horrible cold
  • Go to Confession – done
  • Sew 3 projects – I sewed two (a plastic shopping bag holder and some cleaning clothes that are flannellette on one side and a silly pattern on the other). I failed miserably at two skirts and got grumpy.
  • Start a crochet project – done (earwarmers)! I even finished it too. Unfortunately it’s a bit small for me, and Bookmark doesn’t see the point in earwarmers.
  • Sort the photos we have of Bookmark to date, and get a new canvas printed up – didn’t touch this one
  • Practise 3 braid hairstyles – or this one!

On my November goal list is (some of them are the things I didn’t get done in the last few months!):

  • Start new job (done!)
  • Get Christmas shopping started and completed (urgh!)
  • Get Bookmark to go to sleep by herself consistently
  • Sew/crochet 3 new projects
  • Practise 3 braid hairstyles
  • Read and review 5 books
  • Go on one long bike ride. See how I’m not defining “long”?
  • Take Bookmark out on the bike at least once
  • Finish the German Duolingo tree and have it all gold at once!
  • Get started on another language’s Duolingo
  • Look at other language learning tools e.g. Memrise, conversation tools
  • Carry on with website learning

And on the November task list (I put less lofty aspirations here):

  • Birthday present for Supernanny, whose birthday is a week before mine
  • Sort the photos we have of Bookmark to date, and get a new canvas printed up
  • Fix up my very broken cricket pads

Plenty to keep me busy!

US election mood-lightener

I haven’t watched much Stephen Colbert, but this job interview preparation session he did with Barack Obama is very entertaining.

It’s 7 minutes in total and not safe for work or small ears, but I recommend it anyway for a little bit of light-hearted diversion from the anxiety of waiting for the election results.