Maggie Bob Reviews: 2017

Well, that was a year, wasn’t it? In all honestly, I could easily sit here and trash 2017 as terrible year and in a lot of ways – personally and in the world – the past 12 months haven’t given us much to smile about. However, I am eternally driven to look on the bright side of life and that is what I am doing here. I started the year with a list of goals, and I’ve not ticked many of them off, blaming my health and various things outside of my control. However instead I’ve achieved a whole bunch of things I’m really proud of that I didn’t even consider would be possible 12 months ago. So in the spirit of optimism and celebrating successes, here’s my 7 achievements of 2017.

  1. We bought a house! More on this in future posts I’m sure, but with some determination and help from family, we have managed to break out of the renting cycle and are happily settled in our new home now. We’ve already done quite a few DIY jobs to spruce the place up and really make it our own, and it’s just nice to know we can settle here and put down roots.
  2. I tried wall climbing, and didn’t freak out (too much). Given my fear of heights and my tendency to vertigo this was a really personal physical challenge and I’m ridiculously proud of myself. I’ve been to the indoor climbing arena a couple of times with friends from work now and actually made it to the top of a wall my first day. Further trips took a back seat thanks to the above mentioned house-buying and the onset of winter, but I’m hoping to pick this up again this year as I genuinely enjoyed myself and would like to improve. Plus – I learned how to tie myself in to my harness and that’s not a skill I want to waste.
  3. We’ve gone vegetarian. It’s something I’d wanted to move towards for a while, but it was much more achievable once Tim decided he wanted to make the switch too. So, one day in April we decided no more meat, and managed to keep that up. And yes, you can expect more vegetarian recipes and recommendations on this here blog in the future.
  4. I’ve been much better with my self-care – I’ve actually made a tangible dent in all my lovely bath time goodies with my regular(ish) bath nights. I’ve taken the opportunity to whack on a face mask while watching YouTube ‘just because’ and have even broken out my extensive nail polish collection and given myself the occasional home manicure. This is definitely one I want to keep up and even do more of in to the next year.
  5. I swam in a loch you guys! A long term dream has been to try open water swimming, and I got a shot during a team building day at Loch Lomond. We were actually paddle boarding and canoeing (also amazing new experiences) but after a few deliberate and accidental capsizings I decided to swim in to shore. The life jacket (safety first!) did impede my progress a bit, but this is definitely an experience I’d love to repeat. However, don’t know where I’m going to find a wet suit that fits me properly as the borrowed one I was in had to have the sleeves and legs rolled up, which contributed to me getting a bit too waterlogged!
  6. I had an amazing Halloween run of performing Rocky Horror stuff. One brilliant show with Denton Deviants in Dumfries and two shows providing live singing at BAAD. There’s already some exciting potential Rocky shows on the horizon and I’m hoping for plenty of opportunities to take to the stage in 2018.
  7. I. SAW. HAMILTON. Having booked the tickets in January 2017, and following many months of anticipation, a delay due to the theatre refurbishment running over, and a few changes in attendees, I took a road trip to London with some friends at the beginning of December and finally saw Hamilton actually live on stage in front of me. I did worry that having played the OBC recording to death that the show might lack a bit of impact but I was thankfully very wrong. I’m already planning for when I can go back – there’s so much to take in and I just want to be in the room where it happens once more.

There’s been some more things I’ve achieved and plenty I didn’t get around to, but reading all that back, it seems 2017 wasn’t such a dumpster fire of a year after all. And now the calendar has turned, I’m hoping I can keep going on to better and brighter – and more fun – things.

So, what’s your plans for 2018 folks?

Maggie Bob Loves: 5 Things I’ve Learned From Yoga

If you follow me on twitter you will know I started doing yoga regularly last year. An instructor comes in to work one lunchtime a week, and at £2.50 per lesson I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. And now I’m hooked, good and proper. So let me share with you some things I’ve learned about life and myself while bending in to downward-facing dog.

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1. Take time to breathe
I know, I know – everyone says this. But it really is a continuing surprise to me how much simpler difficult things become when you stop and take a breath. Yoga is all about breathing – you move with a breath, hold for a breath, use a breath to drop down further in to a stretch. And the relief when, wobbling as I hold a tricky pose, the instructor says “just hold for one more breath”. I know I can get through anything that seems insurmountable if I can just get through this next breath.

2. Life needs balance
And we’re back to me wobbling away on my mat! I don’t mean physical balance, although I do feel like mine is gradually improving (I spend less time diving out of Warrior 3 than I used to anyway). Because I’m taking an hour out of the working week to stop, and stretch and slow down, I feel more balanced. I can spend so much of my time doing things for others, doing what is needed of me that it’s nice just to allow me some time for me.

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3. My body is amazing
No really – look at all the things I can do with it. I can lie down, sit, stand up. Reach my arms up, out, forwards. Lift my legs, bend my knees, flex my feet. My body can remember sequences my conscious brain has forgotten, and it gets stronger and more sure of the movements each time I do them. When I think I’ve taken my body as far as it can go I hold, take a breath (see above) and push it just that little bit further. Any time I start to worry about an imperfection of my body, I just remember all the things I can do with it.

4. I need to remember to relax
I’ll be twisted in to eagle pose, jaw clenched and shoulders pushed up, and I won’t even realise it until the instructor says “relax”. So I drop my shoulders, let my jaw relax and push down through my tailbone. Suddenly I feel stronger, more stable and more certain. When I think I’m relaxing at home, sprawled on the sofa or something, I’ll realise I’m still tensing up, holding on to something, and I need to remind myself to let go… relax.

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5. I don’t have to be the best at something to enjoy it
I’m not good at yoga. No really – no self depreciation there. I’m uncoordinated, unfit, get my left and right mixed up, and (although I blame it on my foot injury from a couple of years ago) I’ve never had good balance. But that’s fine, because I am still getting something out of yoga. I am improving by doing, something I often lack the patience for. I know with crafting I tend to give up if I don’t master a new skill quickly (see knitting, crochet, painting, jewellery making…), but I don’t feel that frustration with yoga. It’s the journey, not the destination, and I need to remember that when I’m off the mat

And a bonus lesson…

6. My favourite poses seem to be the ones that make me look the most ridiculous.
See – happy baby.

Have you tried yoga? What’s your favourite pose? If you’re interested in starting yoga, try from the comfort of your own home with Do Yoga With Me. To find instructor-led classes in your area, check out http://www.classfinder.org.uk/.

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(All images are free from https://pixabay.com/ because nobody is ready for photos of me mid sun-salutation yet)

Maggie Bob Reads: Jump Start Your Money Confidence

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Do you lack confidence with money? Does thinking about your finances make you feel lost, stressed or overwhelmed? Do you think you’re ‘no good’ or ‘useless’ with money? This 30-day challenge and guide is for you.

This book has been inspired by new research and findings in the field of behavioural science, and uses a wide range of simple yet powerful cognitive techniques and productivity tools to help you tackle your money issues and get you feeling confident and competent with your finances in a matter of days.

The Jump Start programme breaks down all the most essential personal finance topics into manageable bite-size chunks, with just one simple activity to try each day so you won’t end up feeling overwhelmed.

Work through the examples, exercises and actions step by step and you’ll soon be feeling much more confident about:
1. Shopping smarter
2. Dealing with debts
3. Budgeting effectively
4. Creating savings
5. Monitoring spending
6. Planning for the future
7. Managing your money mindset
…and much more

It all builds up steadily to give you real results.

Each simple daily suggestion is easy to carry out, and contributes to a positive change in your financial situation, knowledge, outlook and behaviours. These collectively create a renewed sense of money confidence and personal effectiveness, and will set you on the path to a healthier financial future.

I’m a big fan of Penny Golightly’s “savvy friend” approach to personal finance, and was pleased to get hold of a preview copy of her latest book. It’s out on Kindle on September 17th and if you order now you can get it at the special introductory price of £1.99.

The introduction eases you in to things, explaining how the book works and how to get the most out of it. Then we get in to the tasks: first Penny works you through the theme for that day, what you’ll need, what you should do and what you’ll get from it. At the end of each day’s chapter is your ‘money moment’ – a kind of summary or revelatory statement, plus a suggestion of alternatives if the main task doesn’t really apply to you.

The tasks come one day at a time, although you can pace them out a bit more than that. Some are easier than others, some will be more relevant and some won’t work for you at all, but everything is approached in a full-picture kind of way. Penny doesn’t just ask you to think about what you’re spending but also why and how you feel when doing it. It’s like having a good but sensible friend sit you down and say “we need to talk about your money” – a much better feeling than having a ‘financial expert’ preach at you.

I’m about 4 days in to the challenge and finding it easy to stick to. Penny has even got me keeping a spending diary – something I have strongly resisted during past efforts to get a handle on my finances. Today I set up my coin jar – it’s only going to be for coppers (started off nicely with the bundle discarded from my husbands wallet) but as they say, look after the pennies…

Thank you to Penny Golightly for my preview copy (in return for my honest review). You can pre-order yours on Amazon now.

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Maggie Bob Takes: A BookSelfie

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So pictures of this T-shirt have been whizzing around twitter, leaving a few of us miffed. Aside from the fact that it should be fewer, not less, these two things are not mutually exclusive – are they?

I love to read. I love big books, short books, old books, new books, and yes, even ebooks. The smell of them, the way they feel in my hand, the stories and whole worlds tucked away inside them. And… I also like to take selfies. I am that social cliche with an Instagram full of pictures of me and my dinner. No sunsets though – I’m too busy admiring them to photograph them.

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(If you can’t read the badge in that photo, it says “I like big books and I cannot lie” and it’s from the wonderful Literary Emporium)

I’m fairly happy with myself and comfortable in my body, but selfies still make me feel good about myself. Selfies are great because I’m in control so I get to show only the bits of my day I want to. And thanks to social media I get to share those bits of my life with my friends. These selfies can validate me – here I am, important, not invisible. Some selfies are because I particularly like how I look that day, some allow me to express an emotion better than text – as the ridiculous snapchats I send to my sister would attest. Sometimes I’m showing off an achievement, even if that’s as simple as getting my eyeliner on point!

Anyway, the point of all this is that although the T-shirt is missing the point, it did give me an idea. Selfies and books: why not combine the two? So here are my #bookselfie shots with the books I’ve been reading so far this year.

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Come over to my Instagram to follow what I’m reading along with my gorgeous/gormless mug!

And as a final note, since this post has lodged it in to my head and I like to share the pain – here’s a music video for you…

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Maggie Bob Reads: October to December Read List

 Yeah, this is a hella summary post. I’ve been reading fairly steadily across the last part of 2014, so here it is:

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  • Holly Martin: 100 Christmas Proposals – a festive follow-up to 100 Proposals, which I wrote more about here.
  • Chris Brosnahan: Deadlines – this was really good fun to follow. The book was released in a serialised format over 10 weeks. It was good to follow the reactions on twitter week after week to this journalistic thriller, and Chris’ writing is a treat!
  • Cecelia Ahern: Where Rainbows End – this was a reread in anticipation of going to see the movie adaptation (Love, Rosie). However, the film didn’t hang around in cinemas long and looking at the reviews it seems I dodged a bullet by missing it!
  • Jane Bradley & Lucy Middlemass: Convertable – When my twitter pal Jane linked to her newly published short story, I just had to have it. And I recommend you do too!
  • Amy Poehler: Yes Please! – after so many of my fem friends received this for Christmas, I decided I *had* to treat myself to a copy for my birthday on the 27th, and I started it the same day. Technically I finished this on the 1st of January, but as it was still during the Christmas break I decided that counted.

So there wasn’t a lot of reading happening at the end of 2014, but there was a lot of settling in and exploring Edinburgh, getting to grips with a new job, and making the most of my new craft room! I’m hoping to bring you a lot more blogs about crafting and my cooking through 2015, but we shall see. I’ll still be reading, and talking about books (maybe more on twitter/Instagram than here though) of course, but I’d like to get back to my crafty blog beginnings…

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Maggie Bob Reads: September Read List

Still a quiet month on the reading front, what with having go learn a new job and a new city and stuff but I managed to pick up a couple of books throughout September that I would like to tell you about:

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  • Dolores Deluce: Blow Jobs: A Guide To Making It In Show Business – this was a special offer on Kindle. Billed as the memoirs of a ‘counter culture diva’ this was definitely an entertaining biography and great to read some behind-the-scenes gossip!
  • James Ward: Adventures In Stationery – I was a very lucky girl last month and won a signed copy of this book in a twitter competition, along with some vouchers for Rymans. I couldn’t think of a better prize for a stationery nerd, right? And the book is brilliant – going in to the proper minute detail of the fascinating (no, really) history of stationery. My favourite chapter is titled “Everything I know about people, I learnt from pens”
  • Amelia Thorn: Beneath The Moon And The Stars – I’m taking part in a blog tour for this soon, so I won’t tell you too much, but I’m very grateful to Carina and Amelia herself for getting in touch and inviting me to take part. Can’t wait to tell you all about this one!

Maggie Bob Reads: July & August Read List

So in all the fuss of finding a new job and trekking from London to Edinburgh for interviews I gave you June’s read list very late. Now the ridiculously stressful process of packing up everything we owned, actually moving up, and then settling in to a new home and workplace means that we’re now at the end of September and I owe you two read lists, so this will be a bumper edition. Well, not that bumper – all that work didn’t leave much time for recreational reading. Without further ado…

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  • Stephen King: Carrie – my first ever King novel (I know, I know!) and I started with a stonker. So impactful I’m glad I didn’t watch any of the movie adaptations beforehand, even though popular culture already ensured I knew (roughly) what was going to happen.
  • Sophie Kinsella: Twenties Girl – my sister and I share a love of Sophie Kinsella so I was very happy to take this off her hands after she finished it. A nicely written story about discovering who you are through an ancestor and taking chances. Sometimes you’ve got to cut loose and do the Charleston!
  • Maeve Binchy: Quentins- another one from my sister; more specifically she gifted me a Maeve Binchy box set, and after this one I’m looking forward to working through more of these
  • Danny Wallace: Charlotte Street – this wasn’t the book o thought it would be, based either on the blurb or on the opening. And yet it is exactly the type of humour and heart I would expect from Danny Wallace. Well worth a punt
  • Sarah Waters: The Little Stranger – I have loved everything Sarah Waters has ever written, and this is no exception. A ghost story that made me think a little (a tiny little little) bit of Woman In Black, but feels a lot more about an exploration of the class system. Entirely my own fault I didn’t read this sooner – I went and bought the hardback as soon as it came out and I couldn’t face carrying that hefty thing about to read day-to-day

Not long until I put September’s read list up (honest) but please do tell me what you are reading just now.

Maggie Bob Reads: June Read List

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I am so, so late with my round-up post this month, but with a good excuse. At the end of June I was offered a new job – in Edinburgh. Thus the last couple of weeks have been a blur of packing and paperwork as we prepare for a huge move. More on this later, but for now…

  • Evie Gaughan: The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris. A nice read that kept me engrossed during some of the long train journeys I had to make it June. A little bit chick-lit, a little bit ghost story, a lot fun.
  • The Wicked + The Divine. If I’ve not already raved at you to go and read this comic, please take this as me doing so. I think the intro/synopsis says all you need to know – “Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead.”
  • Mary Vensel White: The Qualities of Wood. I was sent a copy of this for review (my review is up on Goodreads). Nice to indulge in a bit of more ‘literary’ fiction. Lots of small-town atmosphere building going on through this mystery story.
  • Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. May brought with it the sad news of Maya Angelou’s death, and definitely made me want to read some of her poetry. The title poem itself is particularly captivating, but nothing beats the version read by Maya herself

Maggie Bob Reads: May Read List

Bit late on posting this, but I did loads of reading in May, so here goes:

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  • JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The re-read ploughed on. I really like The Half Blood Prince, even if I don’t like how it ends *scowls*
  • JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Even though they split this story across 2 movies, I am astounded at how much they still cut out. There’s a lot of build-up and a lot of explaining to be done in order to round out Harry’s adventures. Now I find having read the books again I now want to watch the movies again (I fear I’m entering an infinite loop here)
  • Angelo Tirotto & Richard Jordan: No Place Like Home. I’m instantly hooked on this 5 part series from Image Comics, taking some elements from the traditional Wizard of Oz story and giving them a horror story twist. So good! And I’m pleased to here there will be a follow up this year.
  • Ms Marvel #2 & #3: I seemed to be in the mood for comic books this month. Carrying on with the new Ms Marvel series, loving how this character is growing in to her persona.
  • Ruth Mancini: Swimming Upstream. Of course, if you checked out my review as part of the book tour, you’ll know exactly what I thought of this. A really enjoyable story about what happens after the end of a relationship.
  • Sarah Salway: Something Beginning With. A quirky story told through a series of short chapters, arranged alphabetically by subject words from ‘Ambition’ to ‘Zzzzzz’. Works really well.
  • Holly Martin: 100 Proposals. I loved, loved, loved, loved this – I’m reviewing it later this month (it’s not released until the 25th), so you’re going to want to watch this space!

5 books and 7 comics? I was on a roll in May! What have you been reading?

Maggie Bob Reads: April Read List

A little bit slower on the reading front in April, although I’m now getting in to the heftier editions of Harry Potter, so it’s not like I can whizz through them at the same speed as Philosopher’s Stone. Here’s what I got through:

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  •  JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Still the weakest of the books in the series. Sorry if you disagree, but it is!
  • JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Builds a much stronger picture of the Maurauders than the film ever managed. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please go and read the books. Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you after all
  • JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I mean – I knew the film had needed to trim a lot out of this 635 page (!) book in order to make it fit even a two and a half our film, but I had forgotten just quite how much had been cut out of the meat of the story.
  • JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Another one that suffered hefty cuts to fit the movie format, which is a shame as you miss so much of the bonding relationship between Harry and Sirius, and this is of course all the more important come the end of the book.
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Half of a Yellow Sun. I treated myself to this as an early Christmas present (thanks Big Green Bookshop!) and it’s been lingering in my to read pile, silently judging me for ignoring it. So glad I finally picked it up. Wow, wow, wow. Impactful, really important story – and I love anything set around real historical events which involves me so much that I want to go and read up on those events (in this case, the Nigerian Civil War).

So only two Harry Potters left to go – and a whole heap of other unread books clamouring for my attention. What have you been reading this month? Help me grow my pile!

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