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Happy New Year

Our Year

 

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind.

Christmas and New Year were spent as they always are, among family and friends: with Martin’s family on Christmas morning; my family in the afternoon; and with friends on New Year’s Eve.

Christmas Tree

This year though has been somewhat different to usual. Having fallen in love with a house in early December, we put our flat on the market in the week before Christmas – it’s brought stress, excitement, tension and impatience.

Lots of back and forth with our estate agent and that of the sellers, with good progress on one and not much on the other..

Martin loves that the flat is the tidiest it’s been in years, being the neat freak that he is, as we have to keep it that way for viewings..

Christmas ended slightly early as we took our tree down on the 28th because we wanted the space back so it looks bigger when people come round..

Present

It’s just felt slightly less like Christmas this year, I guess. It’s obviously a sacrifice we’re happy to make if we can manage to secure our dream house – we’ve gone into the new year knowing what we want, and are working hard to get it. I don’t know what more you could ask for from a start to the new year.

Christmas Wishes

As for new year’s resolutions, I don’t think I’ll bother this year. There are things I want to do, as always: go to the gym, look after myself more, save money, be more mindful, etc. I suppose some of those things will happen as a natural progression over the next 12 months, and others I’ll need to do in order for us to continue progressing – or at least to keep me sane!

So, we’re set up for a big year ahead.

Here’s to 2017 – to ‘Our’ year.

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The Fifth Watches: Aki // Rose Gold and Navy Blue – Tokyo range review*

You may or may not have seen my previous reviews on The Fifth Watches (or ‘The 5th’), but just in case you don’t know, I’m a massive fan. I bought my first watch, the Melbourne Rose Gold and Peach watch from the Minimal range back in 2014, just after they first launched.

The Broadway (Black & Gold) from the New York range followed in 2015.

So, when the lovely guys there got in touch and offered to send me a watch from the Tokyo range, I couldn’t say no!

Fifth Watches Review - Aki - Relaxed
As with all of the watch collections, there are 5 to choose from, this time representing the seasons (I know there are only 4 seasons, you bright sparks – The 5th have included a ‘rainy’ season as well).

I chose the ‘Aki’, or Autumn.*

Fifth Watches Review - Aki

I’ve had my eye on the Aki for a while. It expertly represents autumn, a season of mixture and change: a dark navy leather strap, with a sandblasted rose gold watch casing and buckle. The face is white, as are the number indicators (including the ubiquitous ‘V’ for 5) and the minute and hour hands, while the minute hand is dark blue.

Fifth Watches Review - Aki - Close Up

This may seem like it would make the time hard to read, but it doesn’t; the details catch the light with every movement.Fifth Watches Review - Aki - Close Up

The leather strap is awesome quality as always, thick yet supple.

Fifth Watches Review - Aki - Buckle

Fifth Watches Review - Aki - Mirror

I still love these little touches.

Fifth Watches Review - Aki - Buckle

The packaging, by the way, is just as beautiful as the watch!

Fifth Watches Review - Aki - Packaging

Fifth Watches Review - Aki - Box

Fifth Watches Review - Aki - Box Open

Fifth Watches Review - Aki - Strap

I’m not sure you’d call it a motto as such but The 5th live by the phrase, “Time is what we make it”. I couldn’t agree more.

Fifth Watches Review - Aki - Motto

Fifth Watches Review - Aki - Motto

The watches go on sale every month on the 5th for a limited time. Styles sell out really quickly, so if there’s one you like the look of, I recommend signing up to become a ‘VIP’ and receive early access as well as being able to preload your cart.

Fifth Watches Review - Aki

 

The 5th have kindly given me a voucher or coupon code for you to use if you decide to buy – until 11 May 2017 get 10% off with the code:

FIFTY

 

Let me know if you own a 5th Watch – or which you’re going to buy! – in the comments below.

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Recent Reading #3

Around the New Year, I saw lots of blog posts, tweets and all sorts going round about the GoodReads 2016 Reading Challenge. Basically, you say how many books you aim to read in a year and track them as you go. I realised that I have no idea how many I should aim for. How many do I read? Not a clue. So rather than set a target, I decided to track all the books I read using the GoodReads app.

Admittedly this app isn’t the best in my opinion. I find it hard to organise my ‘shelves’ through the app itself, so I usually just use the app for updating progress and login on the computer to organise things. Also, I should point out that it’s not ideal when using a site like NetGalley (more to come in another post) where you receive pre-release books… but eh. I’m making the best of it.

So far, I’ve read 30 books this year.

To be honest, I thought I would make it through more than that.. but in the last few months I’ve slacked off a little. I like to take a break now and again, and listen to podcasts or blogs instead.  Here are my favourites out of the 30 I’ve read so far.

Click to view the book on Amazon (*affiliate links*):

 

Alan Cumming

Not My Father’s Son: A Family Memoir – Alan Cumming

This is a memoir by the actor, Alan Cumming OBE. You may know him better as Eli Gold in The Good Wife (I certainly do). I don’t quite remember how I came across this, but read some reviews and decided to download it. I’m not a fan of memoirs or autobiographies of celebrities – most are ghost-written, irritating, show-off pieces of crap. This is so different. Cumming’s voice is evident throughout, and the story is so engrossing. It tells of his involvement in the show ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ and revisiting horrendous childhood at the hands of his abusive father. It really is a both harrowing and, at times, hilarious read. Well worth checking out if you’re a fan of his or not.

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Broken Sky

 Broken Sky (The Broken Trilogy #1) – L.A. Weatherly

Another day, another dystopian reality, another strong female lead – except the twist with this one is that it is set in an alternative 1940s. Amity is a peace fighter, a pilot who fights in air battles with other world peace fighters in order to pass international law. There’s a rising power which slowly starts to affect her and those she loves. I wasn’t too sure how I’d feel about this novel, but by the end I was hooked. The plot was unique, the characters interesting, and the ending to the first book… well, you’ll see. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

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The Last Girl

The Last Girl (The Dominion Trilogy #1) – Joe Hart

The same genre as the previous, The Last Girl follows Zoey, who we learn has been isolated as part of a medical programme; a virus has swept the world, causing only male babies to be born. Zoey becomes more and more suspicious of what she’s been told, and is left with no option but to try to escape. Some parts were a little ‘out there’ but overall I enjoyed this book and will pick up the rest of the series.

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The Girls

 The Girls – Emma Cline

OK, so I think just about everyone read this book this summer. I was intrigued by the plot – in 1960s California, a lonely girl gets involved with a group of older, ‘cooler’ girls, who it turns out are part of a cult – as it seemed to be ripped completely from the Manson Family. Spoiler: it’s not far off. But, hearing it first person was fascinating. The prose is heavy and over the top in places, and I can imagine some people giving up. I enjoyed it, though it wasn’t my top read.

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Kill Me Again – Rachel Abbott (DCI Tom Douglas #5)Kill Me Again

I’ve talked about how much I’ve loved Rachel Abbott’s books before in Recent Reading #2 and when I saw this had been released I snapped it up and I really wasn’t disappointed. Maggie’s husband Duncan disappears, leaving her two children at home alone. At the same time, women are being murdered who look remarkably like a victim from 12 years previous – as well as Maggie and Tom’s ex-girlfriend Leo… Maggie learns her husband is not who she thought he was, and Tom has a race against time to solve the murders, and save the women. As we move through this series the character of Tom Douglas continues to develop and the writing is still just as intoxicating. I’ll be following Rachel Abbott’s career closely, as she’s easily my favourite crime writer now!

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Cold Killing

 Cold Killing (DI Sean Corrigan #1) – Luke Delaney

I only found out afterwards that this was written by an ex-Met Police detective, and now it explains so much. This is an expertly written crime debut. Sean Corrigan is an intriguing character – despite a difficult childhood, he is seemingly well functioning, with a good career, wife and two kids. However he has an uncanny knack of getting inside the head of a criminal, as he connects to his own dark side. I really enjoyed this, and having learnt there are others in the series (this was published in 2013) I’ll be looking them up too.

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Behind Closed Doors

 Behind Closed Doors – B.A. Paris

Jack and Grace seemingly have the perfect life: successful, good looking, powerful. But behind closed doors things are not what they seem.. I won’t give away any spoilers as it really helps to know little about the story line, but it’s a fantastic psychological thriller. I found some parts really emotional and I’m not sure I’ve ever hated a character so much! The characters are really well formed and rounded, though I could perhaps say some parts are a little far-fetched. However, it’s a cracking read if you’re willing to just go with it.

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Currently reading….

All The Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

I’m not a big fan of historical novels, so this – set in WW2 – is a bit of a departure for me. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but I loved the title and the cover artwork, and the description sounded OK, so thought I’d give it a go. I wasn’t disappointed; quite the opposite in fact – I’d not read the reviews, so I didn’t know it was a NY Times bestseller or a Pulitzer Prize winner, but it’s easy to see why it is both. The writing is simply beautiful. The storylines of Marie-Laure, a young blind girl from Paris, and Werner, a bright young German soldier are deftly woven together. I’m enjoying reading it so much that I don’t quite want it to end…!

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Check out my previous Recent Reading posts:

Recent Reading #1

Recent Reading #2

 

Let me know your thoughts on the books featured!

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My monthly exercise diary #3: When life gets in the way | March – April

I was doing fairly well at the start of March: I revelled in the number on the screen every time I signed into the gym, saying that I’d been 3 times in a 7 day period. I was getting on well with my new programme, which is a lot harder (plus some additions from me). I re-started the Couch to 5K programme again to try to ease back into running after some kind of shin splints.

 

And then life got in the way.

 

I got some bad news at work in the middle of the month – not the end-of-the-world kind, but the gut-wrenchingly disappointing kind. Things were already busy, and I knew this would drive me into the ground over the coming weeks (I was right!)

I was in a bit of a sad fog and I just couldn’t face the gym, and then the real work started and I just had so much on I told myself I’ll go if I feel like it, and if won’t wear me out for the next day – I was just so busy I couldn’t afford to be tired. But I was working such long hours (12 hour days in some cases) and the little time I had at home I was already so tired I couldn’t even imagine putting on gym clothes. So I decided not to put more pressure on myself and feel guilty; that I’d just ride out the next few weeks and then get straight back into it.

 

If there’s ever an incentive, it’s a holiday, and we’ve just booked ours! In September we’re going on a road trip from L.A. to Las Vegas, then on to Yosemite and San Francisco. So if I’m going to be in a bikini on Venice Beach and at pool parties in Vegas I’m going to need to pull my socks up!!

 

Now that the main slog of the project is out of the way, and I’m back from Venice, it’s time to get back on track.

  • I’ve decided I’d like to try to do a very brief yoga session every morning so I’m starting that tomorrow.
  • I also want to continue to try to rebuild my running, so yet again I’m restarting interval training using Couch to 5K.
  • Finally, I’m going to focus my exercise a bit more, and work on specific areas in a workout like I used to when doing BBG.

I keep some of my fitness inspiration and workout guides on my Keeping Fit Pinterest board. Take a look and feel free to follow 🙂

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Five Positive Things | April-May 2016

The last 6 weeks have gone by in a blur.

 

Work suddenly went utterly mental at the end of March, causing some serious stress, long working days / weeks (writing presentations on a Sunday, anyone?) and more dinners in the office than I’d ever wish on anyone. I think I only managed to cry once, and luckily at home, which is quite impressive considering!

So, now that I’m on the other side, I thought it would be good to focus on 5 happy things:

 

1 – Venice

The bonus at the end of it all was a trip to Venice with my Katy, my BFF and Maid of Honour. We’ve never been away together (unless you count Brighton!) so it was really nice to spend some quality time together and see somewhere new. Our Airbnb apartment was amazing and we made the most of the excellent local food and Prosecco – and Aperol Spritz of course!

#latergram #venezia #venice #cannaregio #nofilter

A photo posted by Jen 💋 (@jbarrett238) on

 

2 – Booking our American road trip!

We’ve also been booking up our American road trip! Martin’s wanted to go ever since some friends were meant to get married in Las Vegas this year, which was cancelled due to them expecting a baby. After a long while of saying no (saving for a house etc), I eventually caved once I looked into how much our usual all-inclusive holiday would cost – for some reason it seems so much more expensive this year, so I decided I’d rather put the money towards an AMAZING trip rather than paying it for 10 days on a beach! So in September we’re going to LA, Disneyland, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and San Francisco. Now that I’ve been booking and researching I really can’t wait!

 

3 – Dr Faustus

I’m going to the theatre on Thursday with a friend to see Dr Faustus (starring Kit Harington, of Game of Thrones fame!) It’s meant to be a modern interpretation which isn’t particularly close to Marlowe’s original text, so I’m intrigued to see what it’s like. The reviews for Dr Faustus aren’t that great (!) but apparently Kit spends a lot of time with his chest out, so there’s a bonus…

 

4 – Sunshine!

I’m a summer baby, so I definitely get a bit of SAD. The current sunny weather is just the most awesome thing, I can’t explain how much my spirit lifts when I see the sun, and can feel its warmth on my face.

 

5 – Quality time

This past weekend (being the first since the Month of No Weekends and going to Venice, then him working overtime followed by going to Birmingham for work) it was SO lovely to finally spend some quality time with my husband. I had a baby shower to go to on Saturday, but other than that, we just relaxed, watched a serious amount of TV and went for a nice Sunday walk in High Elms, a local country park, and some lunch. Sometimes, it’s the little things 🙂

 

Relaxing Sunday morning walk with the hubby #sundays #walk #woods #bluebells #latergram

A photo posted by Jen 💋 (@jbarrett238) on

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Making Time

In my Medium Daily Digest the other week was a post by Heather Sundell, a writer from LA. I don’t know if you use Medium, but if you do, the Daily Digest is a great way of discovering new content, and this article really resonated with me.

Her article, If You Keep Trying to Find Time to Do Something, You’ll Be Looking Forever, talks about how people always say they can’t find time to contribute towards their passions or things they want to do, but really it’s just an excuse for procrastination or lack of effective prioritisation. Reading this, I realised this is me down to a T, particularly when I consider this blog. I often think I don’t have time to write for it, but I also don’t make time.

Jones Clock

Heather says:

Even after you’ve budgeted your time out and only have an hour to give to your passion, whatever that is, that hour will get you a lot farther than an excuse.

This couldn’t be more true. I spend my lunchtimes at work reading blogs, and daydreaming about posts I could write. I make notes of potential blog topics or titles in my Evernote or OneNote. But do I ever actually use that hour to write those posts? Of course not. But then I beat myself up for only having written one post in the last month. I’m never going to be happy with it if I continue in this way.

On a similar note, when I was younger, I used to write poetry and short stories, and I’ve thought about it often. I’d like to try again. So, the other day, I turned the TV down, and just started writing. I’m not sure what it is yet, I doubt it’s very good and that anyone will ever read it, but never mind. It was so freeing.

I really need to make a concerted effort to be more accountable for how I choose to spend my spare time.

Would you say you use your time effectively?

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Earth Hour 2016

Shortly it will be time for #EarthHour here in the UK, starting at 8.30pm GMT, and I’ve just been getting my candles ready.  Earth Hour - candles

Earth Hour asks you to switch off your lights for an hour in a symbolic gesture against climate change. It was started by the WWF in Sydney in 2007 and has since spread across the globe.

The hope is that the message goes further than just this one hour – how can everyone do something to help against climate change? Even little things can help turn the tide.

Earth Hour - stag
I certainly can do more – we don’t recycle as much as we should, and we could definitely reduce our electricity usage. It’s something I’m going to try and be better at in the future.

I hope you’re turning off your lights too.

#ChangeClimateChange

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