Alphabet 15: The Halfway Edition

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For the second year running, I set out with 26 goals and ideas to see me through 2015. Now I find myself the wrong end of June realising half the year has already passed. The business of setting up a business has cram-filled my days, with the demands of ‘D’ filling in any spare moments. We’ve decided to stay close to home for the summer break, so I’m looking forward to having some of those stretchy, timeless days where I needn’t always be thinking of tomorrow.

I started my year Brushing the dirt off, and riding my Skateboard round the city. I hadn’t anticipated B to be quite so literal, but sprawling in a heap to general public amusement and getting back up again does feel good practise for doing the same with the other shit in one’s life.

Tom has really nailed the Homemade pizza, thanks to a great Smitten Kitchen recipe and some kneading know-how. I Played the Piano and learned this tune (it stands up to repeated playing.) I Made a mini movie, Quit sugar (for maybe 48hrs) and did some simple carpentry (nothing I would sit on).

This summer is for Wild camping and catching up on some long-dreamed-of afternoon Zzzzs. I’ll be trying a new craft (with this pattern) and watching the garden Grow. The Running and Juggling might just have to wait for the autumn; it’s far too hot for any of that nonsense. But really, the Yoga should be happening now (I think I’ve managed 10 minutes total this year.) Maybe I’ll blame it on Y being late in the alphabet.

Blogtacular is brought to you by the letter C.

Balloons

Blogtacular was a flurry of colour, friendly faces, and words of encouragement, just as expected. I didn’t expect it to take me days for everything to percolate down to words on the page. Most of it still lingers in the corners of my mind, just out of reach. So, for now, just a few of the things that caught my eye…

Blogtacular Collage

Creativity: an oft overused term that felt perfectly justified in a building filled with people sharing new ideas and generally making stuff that rocks. Marte really inspired me with her persistent focus on the things she felt passionate about in life and ability to carve out a career by focusing on her three great loves: travel, food, photography.

Connection: to walk across a room and be able to give a cheery hello, be it to a stranger or a friend, is so refreshing after the many winter months when we only connect with each other online. I’d be inclined to say it was lovely, but that was one of the ‘banned words’ on Mollie Makes’ talk.

Community: Blogtacular builds a sense that we’re all part of something big and exciting, even for those joining in through the weekly twitter chat, or the soon-to-be-released webinar. Grace Bonney‘s reminder that there is room enough for everyone only added to a sense of camraderie. We all have our unique and valuable perspective. Community is always better than competition.

Collaboration: I was inspired by the collaborative efforts of Judith De Graaf and Igor Josifovic, sharing their passion for house plants with a growing online community, with a focus on giving back to the huge international group of urban jungle bloggers they have brought together.

Coffee: I was lucky enough to join in the early morning photowalk with Xanthe and a group of other bloggers wielding cameras and bright balloons. It was so much fun to coordinate shots as part of a group. I’d never before come across #instagrammerdown or that clever person-repeated panorama trick (you know the one, right?!)

Getting to the photowalk in time required a 5am start, so the day was full, and requiring of much coffee. Top tip for next year – pack Jelly Beans. I wouldn’t Walk the Wight without them, and a full Blogtacular day requires just as much stamina.

I was glad I’d taken my bike to London; the slices of fresh air I squeezed in to my day, through St James and Hyde parks, round the back roads of Mayfair and Soho, were just what I needed to polish off a delicious day filled with encouragement from every angle.

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Finally, the many conversations I shared over the weekend convinced me to close comments on my blog. I love having conversations with people who read my posts, and it’s so much easier to properly chat on twitter or instagram. So, do please say hello!

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An Early Morning Ride

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Sometimes it’s worth setting the alarm for 4am…

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There will be other grey, less inviting days, when the sun hides under its cloudy duvet and so can you. But, when it’s bright and full of promise, why not get up with the birds? These are the days that afternoon naps were intended for.

Tom

The whole beach to ourselves, quiet air, smooth tarmac, and a thermos of coffee are just a few of my favourite things. I find a bag of oatmeal and raisin cookies also helps ease an early morning start, with the promise of a bacon sandwich on your return. After all, when you get up at 4am anything’s allowed.

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The Year in Books: 2015 So Far

Year in Books

Last year I accepted Laura’s challenge to read at least one book each month. I enjoyed the prompt to write about books, and read recommendations from others. Somehow it fell by the wayside this year. I’ve lost the daily hour of reading that my old commute carved out and have struggled to find my reading rhythm without it. Despite this, I have still enjoyed some beautiful books this year. A rainy day seemed the perfect excuse to read through my book of books and catch up on the year so far.

Last year I discovered a love of nature writing, which carried me in to January on a dark musky trail in pursuit of badgers. I now spot many more badger tracks and setts, but haven’t gone to the same lengths as Barkham to actually spot one.

In complete contrast, I read about the history of women in skateboarding and felt outraged and inspired in equal parts, by the prevalent machismo and the success of many women regardless.

It would be hard for The Goldfinch to live up to all the hype, which made me hesitant, but I wasn’t disappointed. It really was a delicious big fat read, full of life and love and the many facets of life that make for a great piece of fiction. Both The Son and A Fine Balance offered up grand swathes of life on opposites sides of the globe: Texas and India, whilst Lemon Cake was a little quirky slice of a child’s life in LA (with the added magic of tasting emotions in food; what a burden!)

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Despite the storm that passed through our town last night, I am optimistic in my reading, and have chosen The Prodigal Summer for this month’s read. Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is one of my all-time favourite books, but I’ve never before read any of her fiction. I’m looking forward to getting started. What are you reading this month? Why not join The Year In Books?

How to Ride Where You’re Going Without Looking Like You Have

Bike OOTD

We’ve recently cut down to one car and I’m enjoying the push to travel by bike. It’s a good time of year to ditch a car, when the sun’s shining and the daylight hours are long. You’re unlikely to arrive at your destination soaked by rain, splattered in mud, with frostbitten fingers.

Even in good weather it can be difficult to figure out what to wear, especially if you want to avoid the fully-clad lycra look. If you’re in the saddle all day you definitely want to have padded shorts, but when your bike is just your gas-free way of getting around, it’s nice to dress for your destination and not your ride.

I am by no means an expert in this department. It wasn’t until I looked at this photo that I realised how desperately I need some new cycling shoes (I’m tired of looking like a Smurf.) But, there are a few tips I’ve stumbled upon along the way.

1) Put a lid on it.
Helmets: not for protecting your skull but simply to keep your hair in some semblance of order. We might complain about helmet hair, but mine looks far worse when it’s battled with the wind unhindered. A plait is a good option for long hair, plus emergency bobby pins. (This is mainly for the kickass Mary Poppins vibe gained by having emergency hair slides in one’s bag.)

2) Pedals, meet shoes.
It’s worth having your foot somehow attached to your pedal, be it with SPD shoes (minus the Smurf look) or with good old-fashioned toe clips. It makes stopping and starting at junctions much easier and generally improves your pedal power.

3) Don’t be a snail.
No one wants to arrive at their destination a sweaty mess. Carrying all your gear on your back will pretty much guarantee it. Getting a pannier/ saddlebag/ bar bag makes the ride easier and it won’t crease your shirt.

4) Be a snail.
Go slow, enjoy the breeze, stop for that IG photo, use your lowest gear up the hill.

5) Take your granny’s advice.
Wear a vest, so if you do work up a sweat going up that hill, your shirt is safe.

Discovering Hidden Gems

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On an island less than 150 square miles, it’s easy to assume we’ve explored every inch. Yet I’m constantly surprised by new lanes, paths and woodland. We have our favourite haunts, always worthy of a repeat visit, but recently we’ve been seeking out some new corners. There’s no doubt that daily dog walks have added to our explorations. Now we’re always on the hunt for variety, interest and plenty of space to run.

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Parkhurst Forest is far more than the typical forestry commission conifers I too often dismiss. Wandering up to the top of the hill we found big beautiful expanses of deciduous trees, views for miles across to the Downs, and plenty of undergrowth to entertain an inquisitive wet nose.

White Flowers

The heartland hills around Gatcombe are a crisscross of quiet paths, with Ransom underfoot and shoulder-height Umbellifers. We climbed a steep path and noticed the air change from heady wild garlic to salty sea breezes. Thanks to the village scarecrow festival we also met Adam & Eve, the Gruffalo, and a rather indomitable nurse on our travels.

Whilst we love the big tourist-worthy hotspots of this island, it’s still lovely to discover some unassuming, untouched corners of rural life just off the beaten track. This gentleman encourages us to plan our everyday routes with that in mind. You never know what delights may await.

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Rainy Day Office Companions

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Some days are just plain soggy. The rain has been hammering at the window for hours. Walking the dog has been a wet affair. I’ve spent much of the day at my desk with a pot of tea by my side.

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I’ve heard that working from home can be lonely, perhaps particularly so when the damp keeps all our doors firmly shut. But, I’m pretty happy hibernating on a day like this. After all, it’s still a hive of activity in this little room..

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I’ll admit some of us are busier than others. Mabel is a master in carrying her entire body weight in sunflower seeds across the length of the desk at high speed. Rolo offers a fine repertoire of creaky yawns, enormous sighs and full-body stretches. He’s certainly fitting more yoga into his day than I am.

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I’m settling in to the routine of self-employed life, discovering the delights and challenges of being accountable to noone but myself. Early days have involved plenty of big-sketch planning, strong black coffee and fresh air. And why not? I’m pretty sure Mabel won’t bust my ass for taking a long lunch break.

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PS – you can catch up on my recent SaLT by the Sea work over here.