Documented Life – Staying Organised in the New Year

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Well Christmas is finally over (and I really enjoyed my non-Slimming World friendly dinner J) – I hope you had a fabulous day filled with family, fairy lights and festive foods! I’m currently sat on the sofa in my onesie (thank you boyfriend, best present ever!) thinking about all of the projects I have to look forward to next year. I’ll write more in-depth about all of them at a later date, but today I just wanted to tell you about Documented Life.

Check out this post by Rae Missigman, where it is explained much better, but essentially it is all about spending the next year building an art journal/planner with weekly prompts, and a great community of artists to chatter with on Facebook.

While getting excited about getting started, I’ve also come across a few other posts about becoming more organised in the New Year – I always say it’s very important to think about what works for you… if you copy somebody else’s way of organising their life, it could just mean creating more stress and less time for you in the long run (which totally defeats the object!). I usually make a binder like this, but for 2014 I fancied something a bit different.

Here are a few ideas of other creative ways to get your year in order:

Alisa Burke shows us a snapshot of her gorgeous yearly planners, with sections for monthly calendars, blog post ideas and to do lists.

Traci Bautista shares a tutorial for her favourite way to plan and schedule blog posts (and I’ve tested this method – it really works!)

iHanna has a collection of DIY planner resources here, as well as a tutorial for a cool and quirky diary made from an old binder.

Or if you fancy something less homemade, check out Gala Darling’s ode to the filofax .

Lisa Jacobs has a 2014 Workbook and Creative Business Planner for sale here (it’s available in both printed and digital format).

How about you? Do you have any grand ambitions of being extra organised next year? I’d love to see the different ways you keep on top of everything 🙂

D x

Best in Book Blogging 2013

2023 - the best of book blogging

So this is the second instalment of the bookish survey I found on the Perpetual Page Turner (for the first part, click here).

New favourite book blog you discovered in 2013?

Hmmm… there are a few… I really love A Novel Idea (I participated in their event ‘Love Triangles 101‘ earlier in the year, which was a lot of fun) and Semi-Charmed Kind of Life (which hosts some really great reading challenges).

Favourite review that you wrote in 2013?

I don’t really have reasons why, but I think my favourite was Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. However, the ones that you guys seemed to enjoy the most were The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke and The Sculptor by Gregory Funaro.

Best discussion you had on your blog?

I really enjoyed the Non Fic November discussions we all had, I think this one was my favourite. I also had a lot of fun debating the pro’s and con’s of love triangles with you.

Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

Ooooh that’s a tricky one… Armchair BEA was amazing… I just wish I’d have found out about it sooner, I ended up cramming it all in over a couple of days. I also really enjoyed the Mother’s Curse/Daughter’s Justice blog tour (partly because I got to rediscover my love for fantasy, partly because the author interaction was great).

Best moment of book blogging/your book life in 2013?

I think maybe my best book blogging moment was pulling off Non Fic November… it was such a lot of work, and I was so unbelievably glad when it was over, but I definitely got a little buzz from pulling it off! The best moment from my ‘book life’ was reaching my reading goal on Goodreads… over the past few years my reading habits have slowed a lot, but this year I really managed to pick up pace again 🙂

Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

My most popular post of 2013 wasn’t even one that I wrote this year… and it definitely wasn’t one that I’m particularly fond of, but The Art of Benin is a popular with those studying the Arts Past and Present with the Open University. The next two most popular were two of my arty posts, the ‘myth and magic’ note card tutorial I published a while ago, and how doodling helps me to de-stress.

Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Is that a trick question? All of them!

Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I discovered a couple of really fun book memes this year, particularly Top Ten Tuesday and Book Chat – they’ve led to me making some great book blogging friends, and helped me to find some fab new blogs to add to my daily reading list! I also discovered NetGalley this year, which has been a really good way to discover new authors, even it has added a lot of ‘review pressure’.

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Well as I mentioned before, I managed to complete my goal of reading 50 books this year. I also stuck to one of my New Year’s Resolutions by hosting my own reading challenge (that I will be continuing with next year).

All in all, I’m glad with the way my blog has developed over the past 12 months, even if it is getting progressively less ‘bookish’ and leaning more towards the creative side of things… I’ve really enjoyed redesigning the layout of my blog, and learning so much more about how to generate great content and work on the visuals… I’ve even become brave enough to share Doing it the Open Way with everybody I know (which was a HUGE step for me). How about you? I’d love to hear what you’ve enjoyed doing to your blog this year. Do you have a favourite post you’d like to share?

D x

Whimsical Reading – Farmyard Animals

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So far this year I have read 16 books. According to GoodReads that means I’m 8 books ahead of schedule (my target for 2013 is 50) but I have no intentions of slowing down. In fact, I’m here to share a few more reading suggestions with you, this time on the theme of ‘farmyard animals’:

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
TO BE READ. I really, really want to read this. I have a secret. A secret that nobody knows…. I love reading Westerns! It’s kind of strange because I cannot bear watching them, but I just seem to love the books. This is the first in a trilogy and has received some really great reviews, so hopefully it will live up to my expectations!

Teaching the Pig to Dance by Fred Thompson
I posted a (somewhat brutal) review of this book a while ago, click here to visit that page.

Rabbit, Run by John Updike
TO BE READ. I started my John Updike collection after being completely amazed by Jack Nicholson in The Witches of Eastwick. I knew the author of the novel had to be a genius, so I made an investment (by investment, I mean I scoured charity shops and car boot sales). I’m almost certain I’ll get round to reading one of these at some point… Rabbit, Run tells the story of a man who impulsively walks out on his family (doesn’t sound particularly enticing, but I’ve heard it’s really funny).

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
TO BE READ. Steinbeck is another one of those authors whose books I seem to have accidentally accumulated… I remember reading The Pearl when I was about 12 and for some reason I found it really upsetting (I can’t remember why) but it’s stopped me from picking up another of his novels ever since… I might have to get over myself and give this one a bash…

Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle
TO BE READ. The attraction of this book lies in the setting: Prohibition America. Think murder, smuggling and jazz and you have what I consider a near perfect read. Unfortunately this one is not in my possession yet, but I am in the process of trying to track it down…

Any other ideas of ‘farmyard animal’ books? If you’ve been taking part in my whimsical reading challenge, feel free to leave a link in the comment section below and I’ll pop by!

D x

Bienvenido 2013

New Year’s Resolutions, 2013

  1. Art Journal Every Day – this is something I’ve (surprisingly) never actually made a proper effort to do… but I know one thing, whenever I manage to squeeze a bit of art journaling into my day I feel so much better about everything. And that’s a good enough reason for me!
  2. Update my blog at least 3 times a week – I’ve not been the most faithful blogger ever, but since the summer I’ve been getting into it more, and I’ve really enjoyed it! The feedback I’ve received from readers has been overwhelming, and I can’t wait to keep going… I have a lot of exciting things planned for the upcoming year!

Other Plans, 2013

(Not New Year’s Resolutions per se, just bits and pieces I’ll be doing over the next year)

  1. Participate as a member of the Design Team on the Quirky Crafts Challenge Blog.
  2. Host a reading challenge of my very own.
  3. Taking part in a few awesome arty workshops (eeeeek!)
  4. Helping my darling dunce-of-a-baker boyfriend bake every single thing from the ‘Step-by-step cakes’ book I bought him for Christmas (and hopefully sharing some tantalizing pics with you).

Reading Challenge 2012, the final count

So now that Christmas is over I’ve started to think about New Years (which means resolutions), I think I’ll have a few for 2013! This year, I only had one… to read one book for fun each month. This resolution then morphed into me reading 31-40 books in the year, and then later 41-50. It’s the first time I’ve ever kept to a resolution, much less surpassed one! Seeing as you’ve been along for the ride with me for the past few months, I thought I’d share my grand total [insert drumroll] 45! Here’s the final list:

The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon
Juliet by Anne Fortier
One Day by David Nicholls
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
The Heroines by Eileen Favorite
Doghouse Roses by Steve Earle
A Daughter of the Sioux by Charles King
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday
Echoes by Maeve Binchy
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Adventures of Maya the Bee by Waldemar Bonsels
Diary by Chuck Palahnuik
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel
Dubliners by James Joyce
The Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas de Quincey
The Sandman by ETA Hoffman
A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince, as Related by Himself.
The Beach of Falesa by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Liar by Stephen Fry
Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott
The Intimate Confessions of a London Call Girl by Belle de Jour
Fall Love by Anne Whitehouse
Dial M for Monkey by Adam Maxwell
50 Shades of Grey/50 Shades Darker/50 Shades Freed by EL James
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
The Abortionist’s Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffeneger
Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
The L-Shaped Room by Lynee Reid Banks
206 Bones by Kathy Reichs
Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Don’t Blink by James Patterson
Frank Sinatra has a cold and other stories by Guy Talese

I managed to triple the amount of books I read in 2011, so I’m pretty chuffed with myself! I’ve decided to host my very own reading challenge starting in January, so make sure you come back and check it out!

Enjoy the rest of your holidays,
D x

Reading for Fun: July

Remember my ‘Reading for Fun’ New Year’s Resolution? (If no, click here) As this month comes to a close I thought I’d give you an update…

These are the books I’ve managed to read (for fun) throughout the month of July:

  • The Intimate Confessions of a London Call Girl by Belle de Jour

I really hate to say this about any book, but I hated it. You can tell from the tone she could be a great writer, but the subject matter was a bit too much for me.

  • Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott

Quaint and gentle, nothing too dramatic or thought-provoking, just some general niceness.

  • Fall Love by Anne Whitehouse

Peppered with some truly stunning descriptive passages but it seemed to go on for quite a while without that much happening. Available for free download here.

  • Dial M for Monkey by Adam Maxwell

Another one available for free on Feedbooks (here). Short stories are still not my favourite, but I did enjoy his dark, slightly twisted sense of humour. My favourite was probably ‘The Holy Face of Gary Barlow’ (surely it gets points just for the name?!).

  • The Liar by Stephen Fry

Written by a genius, but the book was not as amazing as he is. Just ok.

  • 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

The first in the much talked about trilogy, apparently loosely based on the Twilight saga. The shock factor was the main appeal, especially to start with.

  • 50 Shades Darker by E.L. James

The shock factor had time to wear off, but still easy reading. Not a Nobel prizewinner, but an alright book for the bus.

  • 50 Shades Freed by E.L. James

My least favourite of the three, I didn’t like the fragmented ‘flashback’ style she went for in this one.

I severely doubt that I’ll be reading as many books for fun as I have such looong set books to get through before the start of September, but I’m going to try to stick to my resolution of “at least one”.

D x

What to do?

I’m moving house on Wednesday. This means that packing and categorizing and labeling and cleaning have provided a nice little distraction from my usual June-time dilemma…

What do I do now that exams are over??

I always feel the need to embark on some sort of project over the summer; I find it really hard to relax like a normal person. After copious research (a.k.a. reading an inappropriate amount of blog posts during lunch hours) I’ve come up with a few ideas:

  1. Carry on with my ‘reading for fun’ resolution.
  2. Read all the set books for my next module.
  3. Start training for the Poppy Run, which I am hoping to take part in, in October.
  4. Start testing out some of the recipes that have made their way into my extensive collection (as much fun as improvising is, it defeats the object of hoarding recipes if I don’t use them).
  5. Finish the rag rug I promised to make for my friend… I’m thinking it might have to be a Happy Flativersary gift rather than a Housewarming present.
  6. Learn how to use the damn sewing machine! I’m determined to not be crap at sewing. My Auntie suggests starting with something a monkey could do, like just sewing squares together… sounds achievable. 😀
  7. Learn how to include photos in my blog posts (and for that matter, write more blog posts).
  8. Start writing for fun again- I feel like the only writing I’ve been doing for the past few months has been for study or work purposes. I’d just really like to start enjoying it again.
  9. Go camping.
  10. Start dance lessons (I’m feeling something Latin, maybe Salsa or Bachata?)
  11. Try to last the whole summer without eating a packet of biscuits in one sitting. And maybe cut down on cheese. (I said MAYBE).
  12. Unpack.

Whether I will actually do all of these things this summer, I don’t know. But I am going to try. I’ll keep you posted.

So how about you guys? What are you going to do with your months of (relative) freedom?

New Years Resolutions (Six months on…)

There’s one worry I’ve had in the back of my mind since I decided to study literature; reading would stop being fun. It’s the one thing that everyone kept warning me about, but obviously I just brushed them off. That could never happen to me, I love reading!

But then, of course, it happened… during the Christmas period I was perusing my bookshelves and I noticed something. I had only read about 5 books for the whole of my first year with the OU (not counting set texts). This is a number that worried me, considering my yearly average is about 35. So when the time came around when everyone else was deciding to stop smoking or join the gym, I remembered that feeling of failure.

Initially I decided I would read all the unread books I have piled up around my room. But the voice in my head said “Stupid, stupid girl! You are not going to get through 300 books in one year!” and I think I’m going to have to admit that the voice is probably right… After acknowledging this little gem of common sense I changed the plan. I decided to try to read at least one book for pleasure each month. If I get through more, that’s great, but my target is just one.

This feels like a much more manageable goal, and hopefully I’ll be back to my usual book-worming in no time!  Part of the struggle is picking what to read next (especially as I have so much choice!), so if anyone has any recommendations feel free to drop me a line!

January
The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon
A great book to start off with: whimsical, fun and divided into very short chapters… perfect for slotting in during assignment breaks.

February
Juliet by Anne Fortier
Nice and well-rounded, combining the easy reading of chick lit, the literariness of Shakespeare, and the added bonus of scandalous ‘history bits’. Joy!

March
One Day by David Nicholls
So easy to read and boasting some truly great characters. The film is every bit of good- probably because Mr Nicholls adapted it for the screen himself.

April
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
Not sure if I’m philosophical enough for stuff like this… lovely imagery though.

May
The Heroines by Eileen Favorite
The idea behind this book is great- what if the heroines from all your favourite novels came to visit? Made for lots of daydreaming on my part…

Doghouse Roses by Steve Earle
Written by an incredibly profound songwriter, a change from what I’d usually read (being a less than huge fan of the short story…) but I absolutely loved it. Very gritty, with a compelling country/rock feel, not necessarily where you’d go to find a happy ending but interesting subject matter and so, so well written. I’m not gonna lie, I may have squirreled away a few of his metaphors for future recycling…

A Daughter of the Sioux by Charles King
My first experience of Project Gutenberg (what a goldmine). I basically just picked out a random title off a list and got stuck in. Despite being infused with sexism and racism it’s somehow still an appealing story, maybe it just adds an extra layer of authenticity…? Not sure, all I know is it was way less torturous than watching a Western!

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday
Unusual format (letters, emails, interviews, articles and diary entries) which is not really my bag to be honest. Original story, some quite vivid characters and gentle humour, but a bit of a nothingy ending.

June
Echoes by Maeve Binchy
I’ve read it before and I’ll read it again. There is something so familiar and comforting about Maeve Binchy, she’s my go-to author for when I’m feeling a bit on the miserable side, reading her books is something akin to curling up in your duvet with a brew and a packet of chocolate digestives.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This came out of the ‘4 for £1’ bin outside a charity shop, and was picked purely for its name. And to be honest I only started reading it because it was one of the few that escaped my frenzied packing… but I loved it! Usually I find it irritating when books are written in letters, but this one was great (quirky characters, book analyses and entirely bizarre couplings, what more could I possibly ask for in a bus book??) And I’ve heard a rumour that this will soon be a film starring the wonderful Kate Winslet, so yay!

The Adventures of Maya the Bee by Waldemar Bonsels
Again, I was attracted by a whimsical title. This was a free ebook downloaded to keep me occupied during lunch hours, and although I enjoyed reading something COMPLETELY different to anything I’d usually pick, I was relieved when I finished! The insects were just so much less lovable than the ones in A Bug’s Life. I’ve got this overwhelming desire to illustrate this book though… maybe a suitable lunch hour project?

Diary by Chuck Palahnuik
Whaaat???? I would actually describe this book as MENTAL. But fabulous. It was simultaneously abhorrent and addictive, and I have been recommending it to everyone I come into contact with. I feel like Chuck Palahnuik may be a new obsession (i.e. I’m scouring amazon as we speak for anything and everything he’s ever written!).

Happy New Year!

So Happy New Year to one and all. Let me start out by saying my New Year’s Resolution is to write a blog post every week. Let’s just see how long it takes me to break that one…

I definitely underestimated how draining it was going to be doing two 60 point modules while working full-time, but I feel like I finally have some sort of rhythm going on. At the moment I’m on track. Fingers crossed things will stay that way for a while.

A few days ago I submitted one of my most challenging TMAs so far…. writing a short story. The main difficulty was that we were given no limits; we could write about any topic we liked. Narrowing down a subject took me weeks; writing the actual story took me a day and a half. There’s something so completely nerve-wracking about doing a creative course, it doesn’t just feel like your work is being marked, it feels like you’re being judged! I’m at that point where every 20 minutes I log onto the OU website to see if my results have been posted yet…

My next challenge, that oh-so-dreaded-world-I-don’t-understand, is poetry. And that’s in both modules. In A230 I’m studying Romantic poetry and in A215 I’m working on creating my own poetry. I really, really don’t love poetry. Half the time I want to stand up and scream JUST SAY IT ALREADY. Anyway, I’m on a bit of a mission to change my own mind- my theory is that if I find some poetry that I like to read, writing it will be a more pleasurable experience. So any recommendations are welcome.

Good luck with all your January TMAs! x