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Recent Reads… Catching Up!

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It’s been quite a while since I wrote a post about books and I have a bit of catching up to do. I have a couple of books I finished at the end of last year and a my great start to this year so far!

Queen of Shadows – The 4th in the series and I enjoyed it a lot. After heading off to another continent in the previous book Aelin is back in the Empire and ready for revenge. I love a series and being able to read them as they come out is both exciting and infuriating. I find these fairly fast to read and enjoy being transported to another world. Overall a good read in my opinion and worth starting the series if you like fantasy  with strong female heroines.

The Red Queen – This book kept coming up in various book blogs I follow on Tumblr and so when I decided to treat myself to a selection books for my birthday I chose to give a new series a go. This is set in what feels like a post apocalyptic fantasy world where the world id divided between those with red blood and those with silver blood. I found it an engaging read and the class politics thrilling. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer – I have a soft spot for the Percy Jackson series so when a new series came out set in the same world, but based on the viking gods I couldn’t wait to read it. I was waiting for the paperback as although hardbacks are lovely books on shelves I’m not a fan of carrying them around, however this was a bargain I couldn’t pass up. I found this book good fun! I love how the author manages to teach you about the mythology while embed it within a really engaging story. Another series I am looking forward to reading as the books are published.

The Girl on the Train – A book I borrowed form a friend after she recommended it. I don’t think I would have chosen to pick it up if someone hadn’t recommended it. It’s a crime/thriller. I can’t say I really enjoyed it and I definitely skimmed some of the parts that felt like they were moving slow. I always base my opinions on these types of books on whether I can guess who did it, and with this one I didn’t until just before it was revealed and that’s good. I like it when they don’t give it away too quickly. However I didn’t really like any of the characters and found them in all honesty quite annoying. I’m not sure I will see the film when it comes out.

Blood Rites – An audiobook this time to change things up a bit. I’ve really gotten into listening to an audiobook when I get into bed. I love that I can put the sleep timer on and then usually find I just need to recap a couple of minutes from the previous chapter then next night to find where I fell asleep. Some nights I listen to quite a bit, other nights I drop off very quickly. I think I’ve said it before, for me it all comes down to the narrator for me with audiobooks and each night currently I have James Masters reading me to sleep. This was a good book and revealed some background about Harry, which I needed as it was all a bit of a mystery.

The Queen of Tearling – Another book with queen in the title! A little trend developed in my book purchasing in January I think. This was a wildcard for me, but I liked it a lot. It was a cross between chicklit and YA fantasy for me – chick fantasy – and I liked it a lot. A lost princess returned to her throne and the politics that surrounds it and the legacy of a mother she never knew. It was gripping and I am looking forward to reading the next one to find out happens with the countries on her border.

I’ve been reading a lot since January and am finding it relaxing. I needed to pick some books I really wanted to read, rather than force myself to read ones I have won or because it was a bookclub choice. For me reading should be fun and exciting and transport me to other worlds I can only imagine. So I’ve set my reading goal for 2016 to read 24 books. I’ve also set my budget to buy new books as 24 so I can enjoy going out and explorng book shops and buying the books that interest me.

Right now I am currently reading three books that fit that bill:

Strange Weather in Tokyo – a find on my birthday bookshop trip. It sounds intriguing because of my trip to Japan planned for later this year.

Dead Beat – Another audiobook and the next one in the Harry Dresden series.

The Miniaturist – a gift from bookclub and one I am intrigued by as I kept seeing it in shops, but hadn’t bought it. To me this is similar to The Night Circus, which I loved!

I have few books in my ‘to be read’ pile and I plan on buying some new ones in March when I go exploring some new bookshops.

Happy reading adventures everyone!

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Recent Wanderings… Bruges

This past weekend my friends Sian and I made our way to Bruges for our rearranged trip from December. It was a fabulous girls weekend of catching up and eating really good food – and of course some sight seeing!

We took the Eurostar from London to Brussels and changed to get an Intercity train to Bruges. Our Eurostar ended up being slightly delayed and so we missed the normal connecting trains. The train time they gave us on the Eurostar ended up being one that took 2.5 hours long! Make sure you pick a direct train between the cities as it was too long as the third train of the day!

We got to Bruges in the end  luckily we were staying right by the station in an Ibis Budget. It was clean and modern, but compact. You need to be very good friends to share a room in this chain.

Our first task was to find a restaurant for some dinner. We started walking towards the centre of the city, but aware that we wanted something on the outer streets as the closer you get to Markt, the more expensive it becomes. We end up finding a little pizza place called La Trattoria and it was fantastic. I enjoyed my first beer of the trip – a Bruges Zot – and a wonderfully fresh pizza.

We then had an early-ish night as we wanted to make the most of the full day we had in the city.

We started out on Saturday heading towards a tearoom come bakery I found online and that I knew was open early, called Carpie Diem. It was really popular with lots of couples having the Champagne breakfast. We went for a slightly cheaper option of crossiant, Belgian roll, and coffee, which came with a little slice of cake and a Belgium chocolate. It was a fantastic start to the day!

The chocolate was a caramel that melted in the mouth and the cake was a pecan pie type cake that was not too sweet and extremely delicious.

We then headed towards the Markt, passing the cathedral (which was closed?) and the Church of our Lady Bruges. We passed lots of shops we planned to wander back past once they opened and we had done all we had planned.

The firsts stop was the Markt and the Belfry. We didn’t end up going in and climbing to the top as it was awful weather and we didn’t think the view would be great, but we had a good look around from the outside.

I took lots of photos of the horse and carriages awaiting the tourists wanting tours. I always have mixed feelings about this activity, but all the horses looked in good health and as there was little traffic in the centre they didn’t seem to be at as much risk compared to other places. We didn’t take a tour, but instead headed to the canal to take a boat tour.

We got to the boats very early and watched the first one head off while we bought our ticket just after 10am. I would recommend taking the tour. It was 8 euros for a 30 minute tour that takes you one way and then the other (depending on where you get on the boat). I tried to take lots of photos, but have ended up with lots of heads in random places so will be having a bit of an edit as part of the photography lessons/practice  I’m currently having.

After our boat trip I made Sian walk to the other side of the city (probably around 20 minutes easy walking) as it wasn’t yet raining to see the windmills out by the river and the Gate of Ghent. I imagine this would be lovely in the summer when it is a bit warmer and you are able to go into one of the windmills.

We then decided as it was almost lunchtime it was time to try another speciality – a waffle! I went for one with cherries and Sian had chocolate and cream. They were freshly made from Chez Albert and absolutely amazing! Gooey, warm, sweet, sticky and light all at the same time. These were the real thing and I don’t think I will ever like waffles that are not like these again!

We then headed to the Choco-Story Museum for a lesson in the history of chocolate and to try some proper Belgium chocolate. I will say we both though the Cadburys Factory back home is better, with more free samples and a bit more fun with the history, but it was great to do and it got us out of the cold for a while.

Just because a chocolate museum was not enough we then headed to the Choco-Jungle Bar where I enjoyed an Aztec hot chocolate. I could use the moon chart to decide how to flavour my hot chocolate, and I used the God of Health I think. It was the one that had a little bit of every spice – cinnamon, cloves, pepper, star anise, and ginger.  It was a very rich hot chocolate made with real chocolate and the spices were an excellent touch that made it stand out. I made it my own by adding more cloves and cinnamon.

We decided then that we needed something savoury and went to the Frietmuseum – a museum dedicated to the chip! Yes you read that right…

The museum basically took you through the history of the potato and the theories for how the chip (and other versions) came into being. It was fun to spend another hour indoors out of the cold, plus there was a cafe in the basement that pretty much just did chips. We both had a cone with mayonnaise. I enjoyed them as they were cooked fresh, but I will always have a soft spot for chip shop chips over anything else!

We then went to wander the shops and find 2be The Beer Wall to get a taster of beers. Thanks to Ashley over at Healthy Happier Bear for the tip on this one. It was very busy as it had started to rain and everyone was looking for a spot of cover. We went for the light beer taster set of four beers and I like them all. It came with three little snacks, which were a great bonus for 10 euros.

We tried them in order starting with Coconut, then Blanc de Numar, then Kriek Boon, and lastly Bruges Zot. My favourite was definitely the Bruges Zot as it was the most lager type and was very smooth.

While we were enjoying out beer tasting a random carival started to pass in the street outside. We watched what we could while drinking beer, but quickly finished and headed to the Markt to catch as much as we could. It was really great fun with lots of people laughing, singing, and dancing to rave music! The floats and costumes were very impressive and even with a Google search I haven’t been able to find anything to definitely say what it was for, but it made standing the the rain much more pleasant.

This was late afternoon and the only thing we had left to do was to find some souvenirs. I knew I wanted to take from delicious chocolate home, so we headed to find Galler, where I succumbed to my crazy cat lady status and bought chocolate in the shape of cats! This was a special edition I was told, as it was a collaboration with an artist and the chocolatiers.

We then went to The Chocolate Line as it was recommended by our friend Jen. I bought a selection of coffee chocolate. I ate these when I got home and they were absolutely amazing.

We then spent the Sunday travelling back home (on much quicker trains) after a wonderful time in Bruges. I would recommend it as place to visit. A day is all that is really needed. I would like to go back in the summer at some point as I imagine it to be lovely when warmer and everyone can sit outside. I would also still go for the the Christmas Market, but there are other places I would go first now I have been to Bruges. Overall a wonderful weekend and it showed me how easy it is to travel to Europe for a weekend without having to fly. I’m not thinking about Paris and Salzburg!

What happens when we want to change?

I’ve never been one to fear change, get a little nervous maybe, but not in way that has stopped me from going for what I want. I find though that I when I am worried about changing anything it is usually because I am thinking about what other people might think, which is really stupid!

I’ve felt my life changing for the last 6 months. I’ve been promoted to a new role and really want to make the most of this opportunity to prove to myself what I am capable of and continue to progress in the next couple of years. I’ve been being more sociable over the last year than I was when I created the life I currently hold myself to. I’m also not trying to do everything fitness wise anymore, but rather picking one goal and working towards it. I still want to lose weight, but I know it’s the food that makes the difference, not the exercise for me, so need time to cook more often.

So why am I finding it so hard to leave the clubs I joined?

I needed them at the time and have loved being a part of a running and swimming community, but now they just don’t fit with my life. I feel I am forced to go or if I chose not too I feel guilty for missing something I have paid for.

I want to switch things up and re-find my love of being active without the pressure to fit in. I keep meaning to go to the local circuits’ class, but can’t stand the thought of booking myself up every evening of the week. I want the flexibility to cook, read, blog, or even go swimming when I want to, not when the sessions are. I want to swim at the lake more and become part of that community more than I have been. I want to use my weekends to explore and see friends, not to catch up on sleep!

I want to change!

But I’m worried about what other people will think. That is what is currently holding me back. I’m known for trying. I’m known for giving everything a go. I’m known for doing all sorts of activity. So, stopping or reducing my involvement could be seen as going in the wrong direction. I think I partly believe this myself, which is why I keep thinking that is what other people will think.

For me this is changing for the better. It is freeing up my time to do things I want to do. It will reduce the stress I cause myself through the internal struggle I go through every time. I still have goals to lose weight and swim a bloody marathon! They don’t go away just because I stop being a member of a club. I’ve absolutely hated the club politics I’ve been on the edge of this last year too and when you are volunteering that is not how I want to spend my time or waste more time worrying about it.

When I look at it, it just seems silly to try to keep the life that no longer serves me. I want to adapt to a new life that serves what I need right now. I then want to change things up again when that is no longer what I want.

I want to keep changing and evolving as a person throughout my life!

That is what is important to me. Wow, I just feel like a weight has been lifted just from writing this post. It’s helped get my thoughts in order and work out what was really bothering me and what I really want to do.

So that’s it. I’m going to not sign up to running club for this year (I’ve been procrastinating on this since the start of the month) and I am going to at least reduce my swimming with the swimming club. I don’t think I can fully stop this one as I’m not a fan of public sessions, so will see how it goes.

That feels better.

Recent Wanderings… Museums in London

A couple of weeks ago I went to London on a super cheap train ticket and spent the day visiting museums, something I have not done in a long time.

I booked to go to the Cosmonaults exhibition at the Science Museum and arrived at 10am. There was already a queue when I arrived! It was very busy with families, but the exhibition I went to was quieter due to the additional cost of a ticket. It was a fascinating exhibition and gave me insight into an area of history I wasn’t really aware of. I remember doing space as a kid in school, but that focused on the moon landing and not the space race before and after it. If you have chance to go before mid March when it closes I recommend it!


  

I also had a wander around the rest o the museum, but it was very busy and not as relaxing as I would have liked, so I decided to go to the Natural History Museum.

The queue to the Natural History Museum was extremely long so I decided to go the the Victoria and Albert Museum instead. I’ve never been to this museum and would like to go back on a quieter day to explore more. I only did part of the ground floor as  it was lunchtime and I was hungry. The main part I explored was the Japan section as I’m going there in October and this made me super excited.


It ended up being a grey, but dry day so I decided to wander along in the direction of Harrods to find find somewhere for lunch. With the queue for NHM being so long when I left I decided to switch up my day slightly and wander the food hall and toy section of Harrods for something different. I then headed back to the Natural History Museum and luckily the queue had reduced, but it was still there (and was still there when I left to catch my train home). 

I was just going to have a wander around all the places I loved as a kid, but the dinosaur exhibition was closed so I ended up paying extra to see the Otherworlds exhibition instead and it was great! The photos and how they were put together was amazing. It really put our place in the universe in perspective. I almost went in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition as well, but ended up just looking in the shop as the queue for that was even longer and I was running out of time in my day.

  

  
  

I decided I wanted to walk back to Paddington through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. It wasn’t raining, but it was extremely windy. There were lots of people out running and walking and it felt nice to be going through a green area of the city. I couldn’t get away from the constant sound of traffic though and it made me appreciate the green spaces and parks that are closer to home and where you can peace and quiet easily. I think I could spend a whole day walking around the parks and would love to do that on a sunny warm day.

I would like to go back and do all the museums again, but at a quieter time, like during the week when kids are at school. I had a lovely day though and really want to do things like this more often this year.

2016 Swimming Challenge

This year I have set my 2016 challenge as the Thames Marathon Bridge to Bridge –  a 14km swim down the River Thames from Henley Bridge to Marlow Bridge.

However I currently feel the training is my biggest challenge!

I’ve been struggling to get back into regular swimming for a good few months now and felt last year I was very inconsistent with my training. I gave myself January off this year and just swam when I could as I was away a lot and it was birthday it just felt like the wrong time to put pressure on myself.

So I thought February would be my 2016 start and I made it one full week of sessions with my swimming club, before being away and then not feeling up to it with a dodgy shoulder. I just don’t feel that into swimming club anymore. I also feel the same about running club. Both feel restrictive to me for some reason. I almost feel like they have served their purpose and now I am moving into the next stage of my life where the things I once needed are no longer right for me.

I want more freedom and flexibility in my life and to stop feeling guilt for missing sessions I planned to go to. I also want more time to focus on my career and other loves. I want to read more and blog properly. I want to learn about coffee more and travel to new places. I want to cook nice meals that are healthy. I want to spend time with my cats and train them better to go outside more often. There are so many things I want to do!

And yet I feel guilty for not wanting to be part of these clubs anymore. Why is that?

I love the friends I have made. Perhaps I am worried I won’t see them anymore if I stop going, but I know that won’t be the case for all of them. Perhaps I am worried of what people will think of me if I no longer do the things I am known for doing. Overall I am worrying about what other people think, rather than what I want.

When I think about it I want to swim more at the lake. I’ve bought my membership. I can swim earlier then I can at the pool (when it’s lighter) and there is more space and less people. I want to get to know the people I’ll be doing the Thames Marathon with. It feel right and exciting, which is what I don’t get from swimming club anymore. I am currently thinking of going down to one club session a week to keep in the loop, and focus on the lake swimming. I’ll also be looking to step away from coaching in the summer as then I will have helped for 3 years and would be happier to be cover, rather than full commitment.

I’m still in thinking mode about this, but need to decide soon so I stop fretting about change. I just need to be happy with my decision and then it won’t matter what anyone else thinks.

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