Friday, 27 January 2017

Study Abroad Diary: Nesting

The day I arrived at my Edinburgh accommodation, I nearly broke down in tears. I've always felt it is important to have a 'safe space' that you can escape to when needed, and to find my room adorned with red curtains, red carpet, and a bright blue door (not to mention the extremely dated furniture), was a bit of a shock. After a little bit of a meltdown and some complaining to Mum, I decided it was time to visit IKEA and turn this dark space into a cozy and inviting bedroom for the next six months. I've always loved turning something plain into something beautiful, so this was the perfect challenge. And the results? A total success. I love this space now, it is the perfect inviting place to be after a long day of classes and exploring Edinburgh.

Some of the key purchases I made were a floor lamp and lovely green desk lamp from IKEA, as well as a faux sheepskin rug for my chair (it's so fluffy!) and of course, a nice selection of novels. My advice would be to have a look at your budget, see how much you can spend on decor, and just go for it. It has made my time so far substantially more comfortable. If you are planning to study abroad, or even if you just find yourself with a space that's a bit 'umph,' I hope you can find some inspiration here.

Papercutting is a new hobby! Add some tealights and you have a very 'hygge' setup. 

Adore my new IKEA bedding

Mood lighting, only six pounds at IKEA!

My ever-growing stack of books, I'm doing well with the Goodreads reading challenge for 2017.


Friday, 20 January 2017

The Problem With "Just Be Yourself"

Loving life in the sunshine atop the Altare Della Patria in Rome. The easiest instance of self-love that I can remember.

Today's post was originally published for The Odyssey, when I was a writer for them. It was one of my favourite pieces to work on, and one of the issues I was most passionate about, so I thought I would share it again here. I hope you like it...

These days, it feels like women (and sometimes men, too) are bombarded by the media with advice on how to improve our hair/body/eyebrows, because apparently these things are all inherently linked to our self-worth and value as human beings. In the last few years however, many media outlets have begun changing this message to "just be yourself" as if this is somehow a whole lot easier than looking a certain way. I do think that the idea behind this message has a lot of value, it still has many problems that come along with it.
Trying to "be yourself" can be a little problematic because most, if not all of us, can find that it is incredibly difficult to embrace ourselves as one unchanging being. The concept of "be yourself" is tough because everyone's identity is so fluid and always changing, even for those who are consciously struggling to define themselves. And don't even get me started on the idea of "real women" holding certain qualities. What exactly makes a "real woman?" These messages are so contradictory and hard to grapple with.
The "be yourself" message is, I think, synonymous with the notion that women must always be authentic: but what happens if the authentic you doesn't line up with the image of the happy, energetic and self-loving woman that we are told to aspire to be? In my opinion, aspiring to "be yourself" in today's world is a hell of a lot harder than aspiring to be the physically perfect women plastered on magazine covers. I can laugh at those images, and understand that there is no way I'm ever going to look like a VS model. It's so much harder to embrace the difficulty of being ourselves, totally authentic and self-loving. You can't just go out and get your teeth whitened, pay for plastic surgery or get a haircut. To "be yourself" you need to push aside the societal message that some parts of yourself are "unattractive" or "flaws."
In my experience, we are different people in every situation. In one average day, I can be many different versions of myself. I don't want to just be "myself" because I haven't got a clue who that is yet. I'm still learning, and growing, and trying to figure out who I really am. I think better advice to young people would be something like "be human to the fullest" or "you are enough as you are." Ultimately, I think the big problem with the message "be yourself" is that not a whole lot has changed. There is still the notion that we need to change in order to be valued by society, rather than the notion that society needs to change in order to value us.
x B


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Bookshelf: January 2017

Happy 2017! I know it's been a while since I last posted, but I'm hoping to make things a little more regular this year. I had a lovely holiday season, traveling the UK with my Mum. After ten days in London, full of long walks and sightseeing, we drove up through some beautiful towns and cities: Frome, Bath, Castle Combe, The Mumbles, Castleton, York, Haworth, Ambleside, Keswick and Windermere. We finished the road trip in Edinburgh, where I have just started my semester abroad (classes commence Monday). I'll be sure to share some photographs soon!

I love what I have seen of the city so far, and I've spent the last couple of days decorating my room and making sure it can serve as a cozy getaway from classes and the bustling city streets. Before classes start, I have also been taking advantage of my free time to do some reading! I set a Goodreads goal of 75 books this year (including school texts), and I am off to a good start. Without further ado, here are some of the books I've read recently, as well as some that I have next on my list.


According to Yes by Dawn French
I have mixed feelings about this one. I love Dawn French (Vicar of Dibley, anyone??) but somehow this story just didn't appeal to me. The novel tells the story of Rosie Kitto, a 38 year-old woman from Cornwall who moves to NYC to nanny two young boys. Chaos ensues when she develops relationships with the men of the family (yes, more than one). It's predictable and a little boring in parts, and there are also many editorial mistakes. That said, it is nicely fluffy and a good one to breeze through if you fancy something light.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
I really enjoyed this novel. I read Fangirl last year, also by Rowell, and liked that too. This is not a monumental or life-changing read, that's for sure, but it is well written and explores some complex themes effectively. The chemistry between characters is believable, and I had a great time reading it.

Not pictured: The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
I have mixed feelings about Moyes's Me Before You, but I categorically loved The One Plus One. The story follows Jess, a young single mother of two, and Ed, a wealthy businessman in the center of a major scandal. It's not for everyone, as it's full of family drama and very realistic problems, but so many of Jess's issues resonated with me and I really enjoyed flipping through this novel (it took me less than 24 hours!) The romance between Jess and Ed was nicely done, and I particularly liked that the narrator is constantly changing, but the story is grounded in the perspective of Tanzie, the 11 year-old math prodigy daughter of Jess. I highly recommend it!

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon (almost finished!)
How fitting, considering I've just started my studies in Scotland. I picked this up immediately after finishing Dragonfly in Amber, and this is just as gripping. Without any spoilers, Claire and Jamie's story picks up in a beautiful way, and I have loved seeing how they handle their next adventures.


Britt-Marie Was Here by Frederik Backman
I've had Backman's A Man Called Ove on my list since I finished The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Something to do with the fact that I am actually a grandma inside a 20 year-old body and I like to read stories about older folks. ??? Anyways, my mum read this one and really loved it, so she passed it on to me.

The Revolving Door of Life by Alexander McCall-Smith
An Edinburgh author! A must read now that I'm here. I have actually never read any McCall-Smith but I did enjoy the TV adaptation of his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, so here's hoping this one is just as fun.

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
Another that Mum left for me. When she was reading this, she couldn't stop talking about how great the dialogue is, so I am excited to pick this up. I've also heard the TV show is pretty fantastic!

Not Quite Nice by Celia Imrie
Next on my list, I think I'll start it tonight! I love love love Celia Imrie's acting work, and only just found out that she is also a novelist. This seems to be about some middle aged women escaping to Southern France after a scandal/crime of some kind. Sounds like fun.

What have you enjoyed lately, and what's next on your list?

x B

© The North Wind. All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Designed by pipdig