Goodbye, 2018

Wow, 2018, just wow. You’ve been and gone and raged like a tornado through my life. As with every year there’s been heady highs and scary lows, but I really feel like 2018 as a year, has changed me so much more than any other year I can remember.

I found Kinning Park Complex

Well “found” is probably the wrong word, since I had actually been walking past it almost daily for 3 years, no I suppose it’s more accurate to say I “ventured in” to Kinning Park Complex. It’s actually impossible to overstate how much impact KPC and the people there have had on Kenny and I – it’s changed everything from our career paths to how we spend our free time, not to mention we’ve met some truly amazing people and eaten (a lot) of really good food.

I began my transition to veganism

If I’m being honest, my omnivore lifestyle hadn’t sat well with me for quite some time, but I buried my head in the sand, because, hey – cheese is tasty. Like, really tasty. 2018 saw me finally face up to things and begin the move towards veganism. Some parts have been easy, some bits I have failed at, miserably, but I’m excited to finally be on the path that feels right for me – and I’m sure I’ll be writing a lot more about it as we head into 2019.

I made the leap to being self employed

After years of my mental health issues making me miserable when trying to hold down a typical job, 2018 was the year that, with encouragement from Kenny and my family, I finally said, “enough”, and decided I’d figure out another way to do this. Unlike a lot of people I didn’t have savings to fall back on or, you know, a plan, just sheer determination to stand on my own two feet and to prove that my anxiety and depression wouldn’t hold me back from being successful in life, even if they did in a “normal” job.

I could go on, and on, and on – rapidly realising that starting this post may have been a mistake. I could talk about how my family rallied around each other – as we always do. I could talk about how proud I am of Kenny for surviving University and landing an amazing job. I could share stories of barbecues and cutting a fringe in my hair (bad move btw),  of finally finding our local pub, learning Sorani and completely failing at a capsule wardrobe system – yeah, 2018 was a lot. Big mood.

Ultimately though, I’m all about looking forward, not back. So thank you 2018, for the lessons and the snow, for the scares and the seitan, the hugs and the hellos and here’s to 2019! Wishing you all a Happy New Year for when the time comes – I hope 2019 is good to you.

What was 2018 about for you? Let me know your highlights down below in the comments!

 

The Best Non-Fiction Books I read in 2018

I’ve always been a total bookworm – a lot of my childhood memories centre around a leg going completely to sleep after I’ve been sitting in an odd position, reading for too long. Ah, the good ol’ days. I’ve always read primarily fiction, I love getting lost in new world and falling in love with people who don’t exist (Aragorn for life <3). In 2018 though I’ve read far, far more non-fiction than I ever have before and I’ve been absolutely loving the conversations its encouraged me to have with other folks and the ideas it’s caused me to churn over in my little noggin. I thought I’d share my absolute favourites with you here, in case you’re looking for some inspiration.

Stuffocation non fiction books favourites reading

I’ve linked to the books on Amazon in case you’re looking for more info/reviews/to purchase (they are affiliate links), but remember you can check with your local library before purchasing, I was pleasantly surprised by how many were available through Glasgow Libraries.

2018 was the year I found Caitlin. For those of you who don’t know, Caitlin runs a YouTube Channel called Ask a Mortician, and throughout the year she has become my favourite content creator. Her ability to talk about some of the topics considered most taboo in Western culture, and to do it with humor, sensitivity and transparency is truly incredible.

A lot of her work is centred around creating Death Positivity; encouraging people to have conversations about death and what we want to happen to our bodies. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is Caitlin’s memoir about her time working at a crematorium – it covers everything from little things you might always have wondered about (“what exactly IS embalming anyway?”) to discussions of much deeper topics that maybe we don’t often wonder about.

While the book is certainly emotional in places, it also made me laugh out loud and yeah, start having some conversations with family members about death. If you’d asked me at the start of the year if I thought I needed or wanted to read a book about working in the death industry I’d have firmly said “no”, but as it turns out, of all the books I’ve read this year, this has been the most valuable and thought-provoking.

Book flip through

I know, two books by the same author – but I honestly couldn’t pick just one! From Here to Eternity follows Caitlin on a journey around the world to find out how death is treated in all different cultures. She visits places where death is treated with the utmost clinical attitude, to places where people are a lot more comfortable with death and corpses. Again the book is wonderfully written in Caitlin’s voice, with her humor and absolute passion for the subject shining through. Such an eye-opening read!

While I do have a huge amount of interest in the concepts of mental wellness, self-improvement and living your best life, I also generally have quite a lot of skepticism about books or programs that promise “miracles” or such in those fields, especially those, like this book, that talk about them happening pre 8am! I am not a pre 8am person!

Had I just picked this book up in a store, or seen the title as I was scrolling through Amazon I’m honestly not 100% sure I would have picked it up, however, I saw the lovely Kay from Living the Life You Love talking about it, and the way she described it actually made a lot of sense to me.

What I like about this book, as opposed to some other books I’ve come across in this genre, is that yes, it promises big results, but it also gives you very tangible, logical steps to get there. This is not some airy fairy wishy washy thing, but rather an actual concrete program of simple things you can do in your own living room without buying anything. The Miracle Morning involves you completing six steps – you can do it in 5 minutes, or 2 hours or anything in between. You embrace silence, you vocalise affirmations, you visualise, you exercise (don’t panic, yoga is fine), you read and you write.

Each of the steps is enjoyable and I do genuinely find them to be enhancing. Have I started getting up at 5am? Uh, no. But as someone who used to start work 5 minutes after I got out of bed and was a ball of stress by mid-morning, this book hs given me a lot to think about in terms of establishing a strong mental foundation for the day.

Tesco refreshing mint dark chocolate

James Wallman is a trend forecaster who has worked with massive organisations like The New York Times, The Financial Times and GQ to analyse and predict upcoming trends. In Stuffocation, he looks at our current consumerist lifestyle and why it’s bad for the planet, the economy and why it’s leaving us all feeling Stuffocated.

I really enjoyed this book (though I’ll admit I lost interest a bit towards the end), as Wallman seems to be coming at things from a very objective point of view. He’s not a card-carrying minimalist or a die-hard consumer, he’s simply applying his huge amount of expertise in trends and forecasting to our current consumer climate and talking about how and why we got to this point and what on Earth the solutions could be.

Fun fact, I am incredibly squeamish. I grew up with a mother (and many of her friends) who worked in operating theatres, ICU’s, Accident and Emergency – all the gory places. If I’ve heard one intense description on what can happen in a motorbike crash, I’ve heard a thousand. If I’ve eaten one plate of pasta while listening to a step by step walk-through of a tricky surgery… well I think you get the point.

But, despite having so much medical chat in my life, I still grew up with the inability to handle the sight of my own blood. Or any medical procedures. So it’s safe to say that I wasn’t drawn to this book for the potentially intense medical details – it honestly isn’t very gory at all – but rather to hear the account of a junior doctor, having read so much about their plight in recent years.

It definitely was interesting to hear about how Junior Doctors are treated, really it was, but I got so much more from this book. I burst into fits of the giggles, I got the sensation of my stomach plummeting, and I cried very genuine tears. To use a cliché, this book is an emotional rollercoaster; a very personal account from someone who felt very passionately about the work they did.

It is on one hand so very human and relatable, and at the same time, so alien to think of the pressure that doctors – who’re just humans like you and me – have to work with.

Candle and Stuffocation book

This is the first book from The Minimalists that I’ve read, though I’ve been a long time follower of their podcast and blog. I really enjoyed this book, after years of hearing The Minimlaists discussing various issues, it was interesting to actually hear, not just their thoughts on something else, but their own stories of how and why they came to minimalism.

I feel like this book came at a good time for me, as while I could remember the “whats” of minimalism, I was losing touch with the “whys”, and with minimalism, it’s not really about the “what” of, have less stuff, it’s about “why” you would do that and “why” it matters.

The book was an easy read, it flowed like a conversation, and every so often I would read a paragraph or a sentence that resonated with something deep inside me, and it was like hearing a little bell chiming and feeling like, “oh yeah, I remember this feeling”. For all it felt like quite a casual read, it definitely had a lasting impact on me and left me feeling a lot more centred than I had been in a long time.

So that’s it then, the best non-fiction books I read in 2018! What about you? Have you read any of the books I mentioned? What did you think? Or, since I now well and truly have the non-fiction reading bug, do you have any suggestions for me?!

What’s on your reading list for 2019?

Best Non Fiction Books 2018 flatlay

 

 

Dark Winter Nights | Mindfulness for the Seasons

Rainy Weather Winter Scotland

Depending on where you live in the world, winter may or may not be a big deal. Here in Scotland, while we don’t typically experience heavy snowfall and absurdly cold temperatures, what we do get instead are months (and months) of very little daylight, it almost always raining even when it actually is daylight, and a colour scheme that features 17 shades of grey and bleh. It can be kind of tough. And then, once you get to the point of it being tough, you realise it’s only November, and it’s only just getting started.

So, why is it so tough?

We have electric lights, we have central heating and waterproofs; we’re not exactly camped out on the hills at the mercy of the elements here. For some people, clinical depression and S.A.D come into play of course – and just to clarify, while I have a long history with clinical depression that is typically worse in the winter months, I have never been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D) – so know that this post, as ever, isn’t intended as medical advice, just well-intentioned stories of experience and some suggestions.

I think there are a few reasons why it’s tough, especially here in the UK:

  • Looking out the window, words you might use to describe the view in winter might be “bleak”, “grey”, “lifeless” or something like “grim” – none of these words really hold positive connotations. We don’t get a lot of the blue skies, and crisp frosty mornings – it really is months of dullness, or as we would say in Scotland, it’s dreichit.
  • It’s all everyone talks about (Or at least it feels like it). I go into the Post Office and the lady at the counter greets me by grumbling about the bloody rain being on again. I call my Dad, who regales me with a story of how he had to put the lights on before 4pm (that’s BEFORE 4pm, Kitty). Even if you yourself are trying not to focus on the rain and the wind, it is constantly discussed and put to you – and it is almost never in a positive light.
  • It feels like it makes your world shrink. Some of this is real – like for me, as a petite woman, I can’t go jogging in my local area in the dark… so that’s anytime before 8:30 and after 15:30 then. Wow. And some of it is more of a perception, I think. A lot of the things we might enjoy or fill our time with in the lighter months, suddenly aren’t so enjoyable or viable. It’s all too easy to fall into a rut of just sitting in front of the TV every night.

rain winter cars traffic city

So, how can mindfulness help?

I think there’s actually a few ways that practicing mindfulness can help us not just  endure, but in fact, thrive in the winter months. If we apply some of the core principles of mindfulness, like slowing down and practicing awareness, and focus them on the winter season specifically, I think we can make a big change in the way we perceive and therefore experience things.

  • I think it can be easy for winter to seem to represent death, or the end. The trees are leafless, so many animals are hibernating – or keeping a low profile – and we ourselves may feel sluggish in the cold weather. I like to take the time to re-enforce the idea of winter, not as a time of dying, but as a time of resetting. It can be a time for looking into ourselves and doing some resetting of our own – of using meditation, and the wonderful stillness that winter brings, to work on closing some now un-needed chapters within ourselves, and preparing for a time of growth, of blossoming and of change.
  • Winter is easily seen as a time “without”. Without sunshine. Without warmth. Without the buzzing of bees or the fluttering of bats. It can be easy to feel that winter has a lot “wrong” with it; as if Summer is our norm and somehow winter is the antithesis of that. I find that it helps me to focus on the idea of impermanence – that everything is fluid and without a fixed state. Like the seasons, like my thoughts, my feelings and my very existence. The cycle of the seasons creates balance, and we can relax and know that this cycle will continue – whether we moan and resist and fight it, or not. Winter may feel difficult sometimes, but as with all struggles, it will pass – and I think being mindful of this fact can be a big help in keeping things in perspective.
  • Create light and joy for yourself. Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve mentioned above, I am usually all for trying to embrace winter for what it is and to love it, but sometimes, as the rain lashes against the window and the wind howls, it can be nice to draw yourself inwards instead. Close the blinds, light some candles or fairy lights (or, “winter lights” as my dad insists on calling his), make a hot beverage and take time to be still. At these times, I like to meditate on feelings of gratitude – which can be abundant in winter, if we give it a little thought. That I have a warm, safe house to retreat into, that I don’t have to worry about a bad winter leaving me without enough food, that I can have the time to simply sit and breathe when outside the weather is in such chaos – all of these things are huge blessings, and I do my best to stay mindful of them throughout the season.
  • Keep busy. As we spend more time with ourselves, perhaps reflecting more than we do in the busy Summer months, pay attention to ideas that may spring up. Winter can be an excellent time to pursue a hobby. I’m not suggesting that November 1st you go out and buy a shop’s worth of yarn or anything, but, if we slow down mindfully – rather than zoning out in front of the TV each night – we may find we have time, and the desire to learn something new, or return to neglected creative practice – whether that’s baking, playing the drums or crochet.

Rainy weather winter Scotland rain

But, we’re all still human…

Let’s be honest, while the points I’ve listed seem (I think) sensible and fairly logical, we’re all human and we will all still have days where we show up at work soaked to the skin, or when our heating breaks during the coldest week of the year. And what then?

Yup, winter does suck sometimes. It just does, and honestly, I think it’s perfectly okay to feel that way –  the one suggestion I would make though? Don’t be the person that greets strangers on the street with a “morning, horrible day, isn’t it?”. Try and remember that most people struggle with the long winters here, and honestly, contributing to the constant moaning about it isn’t helping anyone – although I’ll hold my hands up and admit I totally do this myself sometimes. I’m not suggesting you stand there in torrential rain and gale force winds with a slightly manic smile on your face as you declare, “BEAUTIFUL DAY ISN’T IT!?!?”, but rather that, when possible, we adopt a Thumper approach. You know, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all – about the weather or lack of daylight, anyway.

I hope you found this post helpful, or that it gave you some food for thought. I’d love to hear from you on what your winter experience is like – are winters hard where you live? Have you typically struggled a bit in the winter months? Do you have any suggestions for me, or other readers, as to what we might try?

 

 

The Best Sustainable Changes I Made in 2018

2018 has been an incredible year for me. I’ve made a lot of changes in my life and while I’m not going to lie – they’ve certainly not all been easy and they’ve not all stuck 100% – I’m really happy with the direction I’m moving in. Some of my favourite changes from this past year have been in regards to me living a more sustainable lifestyle, and I wanted to share them here with you today, in case you were looking for inspiration to make some sustainable changes yourself.

Eco cleaning products reusing old bottles vinegar spray

1. Cleaning my house almost exclusively with white vinegar and water

I say “almost” because I do still have some nasty chemical cleaner that I keep on hand for, you know, cat vomit. But other than that we basically wipe everything down with diluted white vinegar and reusable cloths. We’re also technically re-using an empty bottle of Astonish cleaner to house the new vinegar spray in. We buy our vinegar in huge bottles from Amazon – and while yes, obviously they’re still plastic, we’re doing a lot better than we were at this time last year when we bought about a dozen different, but equally toxic cleaners… which were also all in plastic.

I actually now can’t imagine why I ever wanted to have a whole bunch of different cleaners, I’m lazy with housework as it is and so the idea of having to change cloths and product every time I move from glass to wood to flooring is just super unappealing.

Eco period reusable sanitary towels sustainable period

2. Using Reusable Sanitary Pads

This is a newer change, and I’m still in the process of building up a big enough collection that I can use only these, but already I’m LOVING when I get to use these instead disposable ones. They’re so much more comfy, they’re breathable, they’re more flexible, there’s not random plastic wings to work their way loose and chafe mercilessly at your inner thigh for hours… and mine have sharks on them. Oh yeah.

I feel like we hear a lot about re-usable menstrual cups, and a lot less about pads. I think the cups sound great, but due to previous health complications I can’t use tampons or menstrual cups, which is a bit gutting really, but at least there is an eco alternative out there for pad users too.

I bought my first lot of pads from a seller on Etsy, but honestly didn’t have the best experience with service or product quality and so I’m on the hunt for some other ones. There are loads of people selling them on Etsy in all different materials, sizes and patterns – it’s actually amazingly fun choosing sanitary pads… which is a sentence I never thought I would write.

eco makeup removal sustainable living

3. Swapping to reusable cotton pads

Much like with the sanitary pads, I made the switch to using homemade, reusable cotton pads for environmental reasons, but now that I have and have realised how much softer and better they are for taking off my makeup,  I can’t imagine ever wanting to use disposable again!

I know you can buy these kinds of things online, again, in all sorts of different patterns, materials and sizes, but erm, I’ve just been sewing my own together from old pyjama bottoms? They may not look super sexy, but they get the job done, and I do love a little sewing project.

Sustainable living eco hair care

4. Giving up my Head and Shoulders Conditioner

I have huge, thick, curly hair and over the years I’ve tried what feels like hundreds of different conditioners, from budget high street to fancy salon stuff and everything in between – finding conditioner to give my hair just the right amount of moisture is tricky. A few years ago I started using, of all things, one of the conditioners from Head and Shoulders, and it’s literally the best thing for my hair. But let’s face it…they’re not exactly a brand I’m proud to support.

In 2018 I finished my last bottle of Head and Shoulders and starting making a move to find a more sustainable and ethical alternative. I haven’t found my holy grail yet – I do like this one from Faith in Nature though – but hey, it gives me something to research and at least now I don’t feel guilty every time I wash my hair. Please leave any and all suggestions for good conditioners below in the comments folks – my frizz halo and I thank you!

Sustainable living aluminium water bottle

5. Buying my Sigg Bottle

I had tried a number of times over the years to start carrying a reusable water bottle around with me, and I always failed miserably. Now, I think I know why – I was always using a plastic bottle – and I think drinking water out of a plastic bottle (especially if it’s been in my bag for a few hours) tastes absolutely revolting. But honestly, I just didn’t really know there was another way!

Unsurprisingly, after even a little research I came to realise that both glass and aluminium are much, much better alternatives to plastic bottles. Glass was right out for me as broken glass is one of my major anxiety triggers – so that was just an accident waiting to happen – and so aluminium it was to be. I really wanted to buy a quality bottle that I liked the look of and could use for a long time – imagine my joy then when I found my Sigg bottle on clearance at TK Maxx for £6.00. *Hallilujiah Chorus plays*

Like a lot of the other changes on here, now that I’ve gotten used to having my Sigg bottle, I can’t imagine not carrying it with me. Like what did I do before if I was out shopping and needed a drink? I probably just dehydrated to avoid having to pay for and generate the waste from a bottle of soda. Looking back that’s a fairly moronic life plan, so I’m glad I’ve finally gotten on board with the alternative – and what’s even better, Kenny and my mum are on the aluminium bottle train too, yay!

6. Swapping to using handkerchiefs

Okay, yeah, I can get that this isn’t the sexiest of sustainable changes. I can get that, and I can see why for some people it might just be a hard no, but for me, swapping from disposable tissues to reusable handkerchiefs has been brilliant.

I get hayfever throughout the Spring and Summer (…and Autumn fml) and so I have a runny nose a lot. It’s not infectious or anything, it’s just, you know, snot. When I was using disposable tissues I would go through a pocket pack a day, easily. If you add that up over time it’s a) really wasteful and b) frigging expensive.

Now obviously if you’re someone who uses a tissue like once a week, then this may not be a high priority for you, and that makes sense, but I have to say, even if I stopped needing handkerchiefs for err.. “volume” reasons, I would still keep using them because I think they’re a lot softer and more pleasant to wipe my nose with! Who knew?!?

I knew nothing about handkerchiefs when I went to buy them (in fact, it’s only now as I sit down to write this post I realise I’ve been spelling the word wrong my whole life), but I’ve been using these ones and they seem pleasantly soft and a good size and stuff (not really sure what the official criteria for measuring the quality of handkerchiefs are tbh).

Vegan junk food Oreo cookies

7. Transitioning to Veganism

This is definitely in the “work in progress” category for me, but I’ve come on leaps and bounds compared to where I was last year and I’m really proud of myself. Moving towards being a vegan has been really rewarding, both in terms of helping me feel like I’m really making a difference in supporting the environmental causes I believe in and also, nutritionally. Although I admit, I’d be doing a lot better on the latter point if Oreos weren’t vegan. Dammit Oreos.

I’m sure I’ll write plenty of content in the future about my journey to veganism, the struggles and the successes, so I don’t want to rabbit on here too much, but I had to include it in this list as it’s one of the biggest life changes I’ve made this year, and it was defintiely to do with sustainability.

So that’s it then, the best sustainable changes I made in 2018. It’s funny, because writing it all down like this, it seems like a lot (or at least, it does to me), but actually, it hasn’t felt like a lot because honestly most of these changes have been so easy to make, and in the long run are actually less hassle than their non-environmentally-friendly alternatives.

Have you made any moves towards a more sustainable lifestyle in 2018? What changes have you made?

Do you have any changes you’d like to make going forward into 2019?