I’m a bit of a book worm. At one point, I was paying nearly £200 a month for a storage container that mostly contained boxes of books. Books I couldn’t bare to part with even though downsizing meant I had nowhere to put them. In the end, I gave most of them away, to new homes with fellow book lovers, vowed to keep my collection to a minimum, then of course, promptly started buying new books on what can sometimes be a weekly basis.
Here’s some of what we’ve been reading over the last few weeks. Thank you to Kat Sighs for the book token, I’ll be putting that to good use very soon.
The Roald Dahl books are technically Princess’
But…. seeing as I read them out loud to her, they’re mine too. I loved Roald Dahl and I love that I’m getting to read his books all over again! My mum bought Princess the box set as she had so much fun reading the first one we tried. I think The B.F.G and James and The Giant Peach are by far her favourites. We now use words like snozzcumbers in everyday conversation and look up at seagulls with a whole new fascination. I don’t think there are many children’s authors who can capture the imagination of children and adults alike, but Roald has been doing it for generations.
I was unsure about Zadie Smith’s N W.
I think I bought it because the cover drew it to me, more than anything. I’m loathe to read anything that others rave about because then they have to live up to such steep expectations and I always feel slightly let down. The first chapter or so was quite hard going. Very arty. Sentences were left half finished, thoughts only partly said. I’m sure it’s all very theatrical and clever, but it made me feel frustrated and took a little getting used to before I finally found a rhythm.
N W turned out to be a fantastic read and I’m glad I stuck with it. There were a miss-match of different writing styles as the author changed characters and stories, which once you were used to, made it feel like you were engrossed in a soap opera. Only, instead of it being about a group of people living in the Yorkshire Dales, we were peeping into the lives of North West Londoners, all living very complex lives, all of which are somehow touched by each other.
It’s Not Raining Daddy, It’s Happy
Wow. Now If only everyone wrote like Benjamin Brooks-Dutton. His style of writing touches you deeply. Not just because of what he is writing about either. I bought this book after listening to Ben talk about his life at BritMums Live earlier this year. His book is about celebrating the life of his wife, whom he lost when she was tragically killed by a car. It also gives a blunt, wide angled view into his life in the days and months after her passing.
I cried. Laughed. Hugged my family. Realised what was really important in life. I encouraged others to buy this book. I didn’t offer them my copy as I leave it on my bedside table as a constant reminder to live everyday to the fullest.
The Girl With All The Gifts was unexpected
I bought this book in a lovely independent book shop off the Wood Green High Road a couple of weeks ago, after quickly scanning the sysnopsis and obviously getting the completely wrong idea. I realised within the first couple of pages that it wasn’t quite what I thought it was but that didn’t stop me from continuing.
The Girl With All The Gifts is the story of a young girl after the world has gone through an epic ‘plague’ which kills off most of the population and leaves many infected by a virus which literally turns humans into the walking dead. Not normally my cup of tea, but it worked! It could be that I was excited to recognise many of the places mentioned in the book, or maybe because it was simply so different to the last book I read, but I really enjoyed it.
I’ve read a few books in between these, which I’ve got to dig out of the shelves and share with you soon. In the meantime, if you want to buy any of these books for yourself, there’s an Amazon link right here for your benefit. I devour books at a ferocious pace, so I’m always on the look out for recommendations. So tell me, what was the last book you read and would you recommend I try it?
There’s this really nice bakery next to my offices. They sell bacon and egg cups in the mornings and they are delicious. The problem is they charge £2.50 each. Of course, I couldn’t stop myself from making them at home, at a much cheaper rate. These are super easy to make and only have three ingredients
1) Puff pastry
In fact, it’s basically child’s play, hence me letting Princess have a blast, making them from scratch. My only intervention came when it was time to pop the muffin tin in and out of the oven.
This is a great lazy brunch but it also works really well as a school day breakfast as it only takes a short while to prepare and we can get on with the morning routine whilst the bacon and egg pastry cups bake. As long as you don’t mind a tonne of crumbs in your car, it’s a great way to eat on the run if you’re running short on time. We tend to pair a pastry with a fruit and some fresh orange juice for a great start to the day.
Yup, I’m two weeks late. But, they say you leave the best till last, and I’m sure this is the last post on first days back to school you’re likely to read right? OK. To be honest, it’s been such a shock to the system, both for myself and Princess that it’s taken me a long time to get back into the swing of things, both in terms of blogging and general daily routines. Getting up at 5:30 was a thing of the past, some distant memory that I know used to happen, that I looked back at somewhat nostalgically, but when it came back to the reality of actually getting up to the bloody alarm, I struggled. Really struggled. By the time we’d factored in the daily school runs, a day at work and making dinners, plugging in a camera to upload these pictures? Hah! You may as well have asked me to run to the top of Mount Snowden with a pair of 9 inch stilletos on.
Luckily, Princess seems to have adapted to being back at school. She was super excited on her first day and posed without me even having to ask. I take these pictures so I can remind myself just how nice her uniform can look, because day after day, it comes back covered in new stubborn stains. We’ve had three nose bleeds this week, ruining three separate shirts and pinafores. Her shoes are no better, scuffed to within an inch of their lives. I’ll probably get so annoyed by them and buy yet another pair by half term. That’s £40 every 6 weeks – cringe!
I was in two minds about buying a whole new uniform this year as I know we’re trying to move to a whole new area and sod’s law will mean that her new school uniform will be an entirely different colour. Nature took over my decision making process as it turns out that nothing from last term fits her! So everything from undies upwards had to be replaced. I didn’t mind that much, I love walking into Marks and Spencer and BHS and kitting her out with school uniform. It’s something I have fond memories of my mum doing with me and I remember how special it feels to walk into class with brand new everythings on the first day of term! To be honest, I treated myself to some new undies whilst I was in M&S so I’ve been walking around with that special grin, only a new matching set can give a woman. You know what I mean. If you don’t go try it and see if you don’t smile!
Talking of smiles, Princess lost two teeth over the summer and has the cutest cheeky grin! I’m loving the look, although she was scared people wouldn’t be able to understand her any more. She has a slight lisp, but not so bad that it impedes her speech. It’s been two weeks at school and I’m pleased she’s still smiling!
Michelle is the curly haired evil genius behind Bod For Tea, one of my all time favourite blogs. I think I’ve been reading her posts since the very first month I started blogging, my favourites from way back in time, being her Parenting Around The Planet series. I’m a natural nosey anthropologist and loved hearing first hand accounts at how different the task of parenting can be depending on your geography. Michelle is a fellow kindred spirit and over the years, we’ve learnt we share similar life events, including having lived in China. Here, she shares some of her experiences of being an ex-pat in Shanghai, China. Please leave some comment love!
When I read this post from Tinuke I laughed out loud. I could immediately relate to her great tips from our time in China; an expat adventure with my husband that saw me leave my career, my family and my home behind in the UK and return almost four years later with a toddler and a head full of Mandarin. Time makes the out-of-the ordinary seem commonplace and we soon fitted back into British life. But when Tinuke asked me to write a post for her with what I missed about home when we lived overseas, the memories of our Shanghai sojourn flooded back…
The art of conversation
You know when you pop into a shop for something small like a newspaper or a pack of chewing gum and you have a chat with the person behind the counter or in the queue? It’s easy, you forget about it, take it for granted. But it’s these simple exchanges that make the world go round, that bind us to and identify us with our communities.
Oh I had language lessons, hours of them. My young Mandarin teacher, who spoke perfect English, visited our apartment every week. She patiently and painstakingly explained the nonsensical grammar rules and listened to us count or recite the days of the week or try to buy a drink in an imaginary cafe. In Mandarin (spoken in mainland China), as in Cantonese (spoken in Hong Kong), you have to learn not only the words but also the TONE to say them in. And unlike in english where a tone will change the emotion of a word or phrase, in Chinese the tone can change it’s WHOLE MEANING. Be careful telling a cab driver to take you to an ‘Internet bar’ for example – this little phrase can also mean “bastard”. You can imagine the trouble a new expat can get into!
By the time we left Shanghai I was comfortable buying things in a shop, even bartering! But that is really about as far as my social Chinese went. My husband was MUCH better at chatting away in Mandarin than me. He would start conversations with anyone, not caring if his tones weren’t quite right or his phrasing was all wrong. Whereas if someone threw in a random word that I didn’t understand I’d be left stumped, embarrassed and feeling stupid. Being a perfectionist can definitely hold you back!
Sometimes when I least expect it I still find myself speaking mandarin. Finishing all your sentences with ‘how ma?’ can be a real conversation stopper.
The £5 packet of cereal
There were other things I missed about home of course, like being able to buy all the things on my shopping list without playing the grocery equivalent of Russian roulette thanks to all the food scares that were happening at the time. I had regular shopping angst about not being able to buy what I needed, especially when our daughter was born, while at the same time I’d keel over because everything that I COULD buy was either super cheap or ridiculously expensive. £5 for a small pack of cereal, anyone? Many days I’d come home with a random selection of products from all over the world; Germany, Holland, Spain, Italy. Managing to get half the things on my shopping list was a cause for celebration. It’s amazing what you can learn to live without.
There are some iconic British brands that I hated leaving behind. Whenever we came home for a holiday I’d head straight to Boots the Chemist to stock up on all my favourite toiletries and hair products – not many Chinese ladies have frizzy curly hair like me! Can you guess my second stop? Yep good ‘ol Marks and Spencer. A girl needs good underwear. (It was AMAZING when they eventually opened up a branch on Huai Hai Lu. A little slice of home, right there on my doorstep.) Then if there was time I’d stop by John Lewis too – just because it’s my favourite place. I’d wander around, breathing in it’s quintessential Britishness.
Of course I missed my family, LOADS. Particularly when I became a new Mum, thousands of miles from home with a premature baby.
(But that’s another story which you can read over on my blog – bodfortea.co.uk – along with my random control-freak musings on life and all things family!)
And then, there’s Marmite. Lashings of it. Sorry, 50 percent of you are probably gagging into your coffee now, but I LOVE the stuff.
There were lots of fab things about living in Shanghai too – the great friends I made that I still keep in touch with; wonderful pedicures and massages, amazing food, the fun game of spotting Chinglish road signs; the simple everyday adventure of it all. Yes I must admit that I do miss China from time to time, but I’m loving my ex-expat life.
Enjoyed the post? Click on the links below for more Bod For Tea loveliness!
I remember one day, when I was heavily pregnant with Princess, my mum looked at me and started chuckling to herself, shaking her head and looking in my direction. I asked her what was so funny.
Things to do during your commute
Read a novel
Learn a language
Call your parents/friends
Write blog posts
Pelvic floor exercises (why not?)
Take a distance degree
Do your online grocery shop
Make friends with a fellow commuter
Learn to code (raspberry pi/ coding app)
Plan your wedding
Listen to a self help tape
(Written in collaboration with Dormeo. All words, random analogies, opinions and Pinky Pie ponies are my own)
Living abroad can be one of the most momentous and life changing decisions you can ever make in your life. Regardless of whether you’re 21, straight out of uni and in search of adventure, or 32, moving abroad for a fresh start with your family, there are some challenges which will be the same. Yes, you may anticipate some degree of homesickness, but that can sometimes be just the tip of the iceberg with regards to unexpected challenges when living in a new country. Here are a few other factors which may come into play when you find yourself living in a foreign country.
You may think you have a grasp on Mandarin/ French / Swahili, based on the college course you took a few years ago, but putting it into practice once actually on the ground can be a complete shock to the system. People talk faster in real life. In different regional accents and with their own personal intonations. You may find it a challenge to perform the simplest tasks in your host language, such as ordering a cab or explaining to the lady in the coffee shop that you only drink soy.
This constant challenge to communicate can be overwhelming or somewhat frustrating at times but stick with it – it will does get easier.
Immerse yourself within your surroundings
Talk to native speakers at every opportunity
Don’t use fellow expats as your crutch, it will make the immersion into your new language slower, if not none existent!
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! I once referred to myself as a poop rather than a teacher, using the wrong tone for laoshi in Mandarin. People will laugh, but then you will learn.
We take our personal space for granted. You know, that invisible perimeter around your body that is only breached by family hugs or people who are super drunk, proclaiming their undying love for for each other? You may find that your new country of residence has very different ideas on personal space. You may be on the underground in London and find the concept of a stranger’s armpit 2 inches from your face rather rude, but then realise this is a commonplace occurrence that native Londoners are totally not bothered by.
If you are used to keeping your distance / sitting thigh to thigh with complete strangers but the opposite custom seems the norm in your new country of choice, don’t freak out!
Not being able to share a momentous event instantly with your closest friend because they are in the middle of a deep sleep can be a bummer. Needing advice from your parents on what to do in a moral emergency but having them reply 12 hours after you’ve made your decision can be interesting. Even with all the advances in modern communications methods, Skype calls or FaceTime messages are of little use if the person you’re trying to reach is so far behind or in front of you that the window for communication narrows to a couple of hours of the day.
Schedule in time for calls with friends and family, perhaps on weekends where no work gives you a larger window to overlap
Create a blog so people can follow your escapades and comment at their convenience
The big C
You or those around you may change. A lot. When you’re faced with the opportunity to explore who you are as a person without the preconceived notions of who you are, you may find you have a whole new side to your personality. Living abroad can fill you with a new sense of confidence or a sense of being comfortable in your own skin. You realise you’re more competent than you previously gave yourself credit for. You’ve started a new life for yourself in a new country, figured out where the best take out in the city is and managed to have an entire conversation with the barista without grabbing the dog eared English-Czech pocket guide. You have changed! Embrace the changes in you and those around you. You’re growing as a person. Understand it may take time for others to get used to the ways in which living abroad changes you as an individual.
You find yourself converting the price of EVERYTHING into your native currency in order to work out if it is good value for money. You are not in your native country, you’re not being paid in your native currency so stop it! Yes, you’ve had a three course meal for the equivalent of $3 but you’re also only getting paid $500 per month so it’s all relative, isn’t it?
Don’t. Just don’t convert it! You’ll drive yourself mad thinking about how much everything cost back home and may find yourself blowing your budget.
Getting used to a new pace of life
You loved the idea of 2 hour siestas after lunch and long evening meals around a wood burner, it’s what attracted you to your dream isle in the sun. But the reality of this pace of life when you’re used to instant access, 24/7 service and next day delivery if you order before 6pm? *Bangs head on hard object* You want things now and adapting to a different pace of life can take some getting used to.
Take a deep breath and like that blonde Disney princess famously sang, “let it be”
What would you add? Feel free to drop me a comment!
Last weekend we went to view some apartments in Hertfordshire as part of our drive to start afresh with a new home and a new postcode to boot. I realised that how a blogger approaches moving home may be a tad different. We were in the lovely market town of Hitchin and I found myself not only ticking off the proximity to good schools from each prospective location, but also doing internet searches to check out the broadband speed available within each. The proximity to the train station was also a key deciding factor, not only for work, but so I can keep attending much loved Sunday morning film previews with Mini Me without too much effort.
Another consideration, totally fuelled by being a blogger was the aesthetics of the apartment – in case I wanted to do some family friendly photos in the kitchen making our favourite recipes, or perhaps, create a vlog series from my bedroom or living room, showing off the beautifully decorated walls behind me. That’s a thing. It is. Really.
After blogging for so quite a few years now, it’s a hobby that is just as much a part of me as my love of books or my burgeoning love of cycling. So along with needing enough space for a substantial amount of book cases and outdoor bike storage, so as not to clutter the flat, I’m thinking about the amount of natural light coming in for nice photos and space to set up a full time desk for writing, so I don’t sit with my laptop, under the duvet, on my super comfy memory foam mattress, slowly sinking into a deep, cosy –
I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly good blogger. I do it because its therapeutic, gives me the opportunity to meet amazing people from all around the country, who otherwise, our paths would never have crossed. It also allows me to have time to be creative once in a while. I don’t write as regularly as I’d like and am by no means in the pro category. No massive advertising revenue to let me stay at home full time and pursue my passions just yet. If I did fall into that category, I’d also add an extra room or garden office onto the criteria for our new place. But as I’m not, there’s no way of justifying it to The King, nor in fact a way to pay for it!! Oh, but I can dream right?
For now, we need to live somewhere close enough to London for us to get into work, and of course, for me to attend the annual blogging conferences Britmums, Cybher and other amazing blogging meet ups every year. I know there are people who travel as far afield as Scotland or Spain to attend, but I’m not that hardcore yet, plus I like being able to go back to my own cosy bed at the end of the night to sleep off the
Has your hobbies or passions played a role on your house moving decisions? Moved near the coast to encourage your loved ones passion for sailing? Closer into the city so you can attend more fashion shows and product launches? Is that all too crazy? Is this #bloggerproblems on a whole new level? Love to hear your thoughts!
There’s a tag going around on Instagram where called 20 things about me, and as the title suggests, you tell people twenty things about yourself. From what I can tell, that is the only rule. What you decide to divulge is entirely up to you.
I was tagged last week by @MsXpat, who blogs over at Tiger Tales. I actually found the exercise quite hard to complete and had to come back to my list over a few sittings in order to reach the twenty mark. Who knew that someone who talks so much could be lost for words when it came to talking about oneself?
Anyway, I thought it would be nice to put my #20thingsaboutme on here for all of you to see too. So without no further ado, here are twenty random facts about moi.
#1 I’m the eldest of two kids.
#2 I’ve serious weight insecurities, so much so that I sometimes avoid social events because I feel everyone will stare at me in disgust. Seriously. It’s irrational but something I can’t shake.
#3 I love travelling
#4 I used to run for Enfield and Haringey Harriers as a teen
#5 I have a impulsive personality
#6 I hate doing my hair. I love hairdressers doing it though.
#7 I used to think I was a twin. I’m not
#8 I have a massive crush on Denzel Washington
#9 I have a phobia of sharp objects poking my eyes (pens, car antennas, fishtail combs…)
#10 I taught English in Northern China for a year
#11 I’m messy.
#12 I have a habit of fixating over small details
#13 I love to write
#14 I hoard books
#15 I want to have three kids by 30. A tad impossible.
#16 I have discovered a love for photography
#17 I can’t say the word sandwich
#18 I have big feet
#19 I love being alone just as much as I love being surrounded by people. Constant tug of war. Seriously
#20 I usually ignore convention.
So there you have it, 20 things about me!
Have you taken part in this? If not, why not have a go writing 20 things about yourself and post it on Instagram too? Be sure to tag me so I can have a snoop! (@circusmum_)