The Resolution Reading Challenge

This year, as ever, I set myself some ludicrous and probably entirely unachievable resolutions. The one I’m most excited about for 2018, though, was one that I actually failed to keep a couple of years ago: although I love to read, it’s something that in my current life climate (doing a Masters, working 30-odd hours a week, watching the entire backlog of Friends on Netflix…) I don’t carve out enough precious time for.

Two years ago I set myself the challenge to read fifty two books in a year- one a week. I knew it was tough, but I figured with all the TV and Instagram scrolling that I engage with daily, it should be easy.

In 2016 I read twenty five books. Less than half of my challenged amount.

But, that’s a hell of a lot more than I read in 2015. It spurred me on, and last year, although I didn’t keep count, I kept reading and I’m pretty sure I broke that twenty five book-barrier.

So I’ve decided to try again, but with some changes to my resolution.

In 2018 I want to read a lot (fifty books would be great). But more importantly, I want to share what I read with Ramajamn. So at the end of every month I challenge myself to write my monthly ‘Round-Up’- a summary of what I’ve read, and whether I think you should (or, as always, should not) read it too.

 

‘It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.’
Oscar Wilde-

I would love to hear about what you’re reading, any awesome books you think should be on my list this year, or if you fancy joining in on the challenge and sharing what you read too.

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The Women that Inspire me

Hello Ramajamn… It’s been a while. A degree, a house-move, a new car, and a break-up have kinda got in the way of any album reviews/spontaneous weekend city breaks that makes for interesting blog content. Sometimes life happens, and all you can do is roll with the tides, however bad the timing.

In times of hardship, or just shit-ness, I find myself drawn more and more towards the women in my life that make me feel better about myself, and the world that happens to be collapsing around me. I read once that you should surround yourself only with people that make you feel like ‘you’, and this is a philosophy that I have always lived by: there is no reason for negativity in this life. And finding those people? They’re out there, I promise. Your friends are shit? Get rid. Find the people that make your face hurt from smiling. Another philosophy I love: if something is shitty, change it. You are not a tree; you can move. This is a concept I adore, especially now, at a time when I’m about to graduate, and my friends are all in different places, and the path I thought my life was going to take has become but a gravel-drive of confusion. But alas; I am not a tree, and plans change, and I have a 100% success rate of this thing so far, so what the hell.

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As I was saying, the people I am drawn to most in these times of confusion are the strong-af women in my life that make it all look easy when it really, really isn’t. There are a few people in the world that can walk into a room and make everything okay again. In my experience, they are all female. I don’t know if that’s some kind of nurturing complex I have, or if it’s just because I have a serious problem with the patriarchy (of course YOU’RE fine, you middle-class-white-male-thing), but I’m not ashamed to admit that my strength inspiration comes from the women in my life that are the strongest.

By now you’re thinking, who ARE these women that can make such a difference?! How can I find them?! And take them for coffee/ wine?! Well, they (the ones that I have actually met) are mine. Haha. Unlucky. Go get your own.

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1) Caitlin Moran- Obviously I had to start with a ‘fictional’ woman, and the one who’s life path I am most trying to imitate. If you haven’t read ‘How To Be a Woman’, just go and do it. I don’t care how old you are, or what genitals you happen to have been born with, you NEED this philosophy, and god knows it needs you back. Within half an hour you’ll be standing on your desk chair shouting ‘I AM A FEMINIST’ and I promise you it’s a glorious feeling. Thank me later.

2) My Aunty Lynne- Lynne Rivers was probably the strongest person I have ever met and every single day of my life I wonder ‘what she would do’. She managed to squeeze so much into a life that ended too soon, and that’s something I think about often. Life can be shit, and unfair, but who are you to not make the most of it and do everything you can to better the world?! One of the last conversations I had with Lynne was while she was lying in a hospital bed, advising me on my dissertation (the woman was never at rest). She turned to me and she said ‘but you know, this is why feminism is still so, so important. Don’t you forget that.’ Every time the state of the world upsets me, and I almost give up, I remember my Aunty Lynne, and everything she taught me, and her relentless never-give-up attitude.

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3) My Best Friend- Okay so this is a cheat. I actually have four female best friends, that are all equally as strong and bad-ass as each other. Don’t worry, they know who they are. So this one goes out to all the best friends, the girls you can call at 4am, who send you motivational texts in the middle of the day, or who tag you in penis-related memes while you’re in a lecture. The girls who always bring wine, who warn their prospective boyfriends about you, who wing-woman to the fucking end. The girls who might not support your situation, because you’re being a prick right now, but who support you always. These are the girls you hold onto. Except you don’t have to, because they’re already next to you, hauling your drunk ass up a pole so you everyone can see you dance to R Kelly.

4) My Mother- Classic ‘female inspiration blog post’ time. I’ve written about my mum before, so if you’ve read my ‘Why Girls Should Try Travelling Alone’ post you’d have been expecting an appearance from Nicki. My mum is undoubtably the most inspirational woman I have ever met, and my respect for her grows every day. Never before have I met a woman that can bridge the gap between unconditional support and best friend so seamlessly, while making a Pad Thai and pouring you a glass of wine at the same time (yeah, really). When I think of mum, I think of her sat in the garden, with a glass of wine in hand, her face towards the sun. It’s November. She’s got a tan. Her undying energy towards life, despite the crap it throws her way (and believe me when I say there really has been a lot, LOT, of crap) is my inspiration every morning. I’m often told people are scared of me, but in a good way… well, I got it from my mumma. And I’m not at all scared to turn into her. In fact, I’m trying my very best to do just that.

I hope that reading about my inspirational women makes you look further into your world and find yours. I would LOVE for you to share them with me, because it can only be a good thing when we raise each other up. And I’m always on the look-out for bad-ass-ness. Tag them. Now. Do it.

Vegan in Falmouth- the best of

I’m so lucky to live in a town that’s so diverse in its foodie options, especially for alternative diets. Being vegan in Cornwall is not only easy, but it’s really fun too, and Falmouth is especially great. I thought I’d pick the best breakfast, lunch, dinner, takeout and street food options in case you’re visiting and wanna try something new, or if you live here and are looking for something a bit different (that’s great for your conscience, too!)

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Good Vibes Cafe

 

Breakfast- Good Vibes Café. The vegan breakfast at Good Vibes is probably the best breakfast in the world. ‘Home brew’ baked beans, smoky hummus, avocado, Da Bara Bakery toast, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, basil oil: so yummy, and so good for you! Enjoy with a green smoothie for a real superfood boost. Or if you’re just popping in for coffee and cake, Bonsoy soya milk and Rude Health almond milk are available, and there’s normally a couple of vegan sweet options on offer, too (the gluten-free peanut butter brownie is a must). GV have a special Vegan Night on the 27th of November- for more information check them out on Facebook or Instagram.

Lunch- The Courtyard Deli. I recently stopped off at the deli with my family when they were visiting Falmouth, and we all left super happy (which is always tough when you’re trying to make the right lunch destination choice for these occasions). The range of salads on offer for the mezze is always changing, and they were more than happy to put together a little vegan selection for me when I asked. It was delicious, and definitely did not live up to the boring name that salads are usually given. You can also pick up some goodies to take home with you after you’ve eaten- especially great for local Christmas gifts.

Dinner- Wildebeest. The food at Wildebeest is really something special. The selective menu is carefully put together, using fresh & in-season ingredients, to create beautiful and memorable plates of food. The staff are lovely and the atmosphere is relaxed and cosy: with only a few seats available, getting there early or booking ahead is definitely advised. Closed on Tuesdays. Check out the review I wrote for Thoroughly Modern Milly to find out more: http://www.thoroughlymodernmilly.com/2016/10/thoroughly-modern-miss-wildebeest-falmouth/

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Wildebeest

 

Takeout- Brothers Pizza. Pizza is probably the only thing I miss when following a vegan diet. But, fortunately, Brothers are on hand to make sure you don’t miss out when giving the cheese a miss. The ‘Vegan Dreams’ is definitely not lacking- stacked with olives, spinach, artichoke, red peppers and more, on a crispy base with rich tomato sauce- you’ll almost forget why people ever put cheese on this in the first place…haha. If you visit on a Tuesday you get two for the price of one- but get there early, because their tiny stone oven gets full pretty quick!

Street food- Street food in Cornwall is pretty damn good, and in Falmouth we have some awesome vegan options to choose from (so much so that I couldn’t just pick one for this section). Falfalafel serve up fab Middle-Eastern inspired pittas and salad, with freshly made falafel and a bunch of tasty toppings (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Falfalafel/139830362756526?fref=ts). Terry at Salvador Thali is cooking up an Indian storm with his entirely vegan dosas- and he’s always up for good chat (https://www.facebook.com/salvadorthali/?fref=ts). Bango kitchen is out and about with his mouth-watering vegan options of sushi or dumplings- check his Facebook for local ‘banquet’ events.

 

I hope you enjoy getting out in our lovely little town and getting stuck in to some of the great local food on offer. It’s always best to support the small businesses that make Falmouth the cultural melting-pot that we all love, and it’s even better if you can do it without any animal-guilt.

 

SIDENOTE- If you wanna read more about experimenting with home-made vegan treats, check out veganasphuck.wordpress.com. Jesse makes amazing pasta (‘The Pasta Project’, as he calls it) and is really into using innovating combinations of ingredients to create the dishes we know and love, without the animal addition. 

 

 

Why girls should try travelling alone- The Travel Edit

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Coffee with a view- my hotel room the morning after the night of the panic attack.

When I was 18 I went travelling for three months. Growing up I’d always known I wanted to take a gap year and seek the sun, surf and freedom that travelling provides, but I just didn’t know who to go with. I have a few best friends that I’ve pretty much always had, but their lives were on different tracks, and anyway I’m sure they won’t mind me saying that we’re not the type of people to spent every hour of every day together for an extended period of time.

So it was in this way that I ended up going solo. I wasn’t nervous- I’ve always been reasonably independent and when I set my mind to something there’s no doubting that it’ll happen. My mum and stepdad dropped me off at Plymouth bus depot- on the same day that my school friends were starting freshers week at uni- with a hand luggage-size suitcase, a back-packer-style rucksack and my camera swinging round my neck, my mind full of expectation and a beautiful naivety that would barely last to the service station.

The trip was without a doubt the most eye-opening period of my admittedly short life.

There were times (my first night away- a hotel room in Hong Kong, frantically Skyping mum, jet lag ridden and mid-panic attack) where I thought I couldn’t do it. Times when I was fed up of the voice inside my head, constantly over-thinking everything and talking myself out of situations that a less anxiety plagued friend would have easily been able to talk me into.

But then a wonderful thing happened.

I learnt to find strength within that inner-voice, while listening to it when it mattered and controlling it when I needed to. I learnt to trust myself, follow my instincts, learn from my mistakes without blaming anyone else, and have an absolute resolve in my own ability to do anything. Yeah, I checked my passport a hundred times on the bus to Heathrow. Yeah, I had to ask a lot of strangers to take my photo in front of views that I could have been sharing with someone, but you know what? Sharing something beautiful with yourself is so special; you’re the only person that has that memory, and I think that’s pretty cool.

You’re also going to make more friends when you go solo, instead of just falling out with the ones you’ve come travelling with. There’s nothing worse than that couple who won’t talk to anyone else on holiday, or the group of girls that make you feel excluded in the hostel. I made so many amazing friends from all over the world, who taught me so much, and whom I’ll never forget.

The world isn’t always as horrible as we make it out to be.

My mum left home and went travelling alone when she was in her early twenties, and ended up living in Saudi Arabia, working and travelling for most of the decade. She trusts me a damn sight more now that she’s seen that I can go it alone too, and I’m proud that I can be just as strong and independent as her.

My gap year changed my life in that where I used to have an itch to travel, I now have a full-blown, flame-red rash. I go without things other girls my age spend their student loan on- a new phone or weekly nights out- and I travel as much as I can. Planning trips, researching the best places to hang out, but also just exploring and getting lost… I love everything that comes hand-in-hand with having being bitten by the bug, and my permanently itchy feet have become a necessary and enriching part of my life.

So go forth and get lost, and please don’t be afraid to do it alone.

 

Desert Island Disks- my top 5

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A recent new friend of mine asked me a couple of weeks ago (as a way of getting to know me better, having no doubt been told that ‘music’ is my only defining characteristic) what my ‘desert island disks’ would be. He told me I had 5 to chose from, and he wanted an answer at that moment. Panic-stricken, not wanting to make a wrong impression, aware that other people were watching & reminded that I have a (admittedly mild) reputation to repute, I resisted the urge to shout ‘Spice Girls: the best of’ as my first answer.

This is a HARD question. Everyone enjoys music for different reasons, and in different ways. I’ve always stood by the notion that I don’t have any ‘guilty pleasures’; if I like something I don’t need to qualify my opinion and, as I said, different music has different purposes and intentions. Most of these albums take me to a very specific time and place, a different part of my life that is brought back every time I hear one of these songs. To me it doesn’t matter what the critics thought, how high the record went in the charts, or whether my uni professor likes it. Music is a universal language, but it means something different to everyone. Sometimes it’s something really specific- our stomach lurches when a crap pop song comes on the radio, remembering THAT boyfriend, that breakup. Other times it takes us back to whole summers, running around in a field in a flowery skirt with our best friend, thinking that nothing could ever make us feel as free (see number 3, Fran your friendship still makes me feel as free as it always has).

None of the above changes the fact that this could be very embarrassing.

So, *deep breath*, after much (much) thought, and slightly fearful of how this may forever define me, in no particular order (this was enough of a challenge), here are my 5 desert island disks:

1) Beautiful South- Solid Bronze (greatest hits)– I don’t remember the first time I listened to this album, I think my mum probably played it while I was in the womb. I know how crap it is, and I listen to it now and mostly laugh. But ‘Don’t Marry Her’ still makes me cry, and ‘Rotterdam’ will always come on when me and mum are drunk and we will hug and cry as if it’s some massive private thing that we have where that song really means something. I think it just reminds her of when it was just us, doing the washing up in our massive Belfast sink and listening to this terrible, terrible album on repeat.

2) Thunder- The Very Best of Thunder– Who even knew there could be a very best of thunder? My dad used to play this in the car all the time- it’s one of the first things I remember about him (he adopted me when I was 4). I still remember all the words, and I see the streets of my hometown and my dad pretending the steering wheel was a drum kit every time I listen to this. It was the first CD I owned; he bought it for me when it wasn’t even my birthday. Love you daddy.

3) Donavan Frankenreiter (self-titled)– This album was given to me and my mum as a present when I was young. ‘He’s like Jack Johnson, really big over in Oz, you’ll love it.’ I more than love it. It reminds me of so many happy summers, and the title track ‘It Don’t Matter’ took on an entirely new meaning when I was lucky enough to sing it with Donavan on stage last summer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaI5zLnHZu0).

4) Paolo Nutini- Caustic Love– A more recent one. I genuinely think this is one of the best albums ever written. It’s so sexy and sophisticated, without being so pretentious that I have to just pretend to like it in front of my cool friends. Paolo Nutini has been one of my favourites for forever, but he out-did himself with this one. ‘Scream (Funk my Life Up)’ is so fucking good. If you haven’t fallen in love with this record go and listen to it, and dance naked in your bedroom while pretending Paolo is watching you under his mop of a fringe. Sigh.

5) Jack Johnson- In Between Dreams– My stepdad bought this from WHSmiths when I was a kid because it was £3. My (sometimes obsessive) love of Jack Johnson has only grown since. I guess this album is symbolic of a few things about my life- it was at that young age, listening to ‘Better Together’ on the fluffy carpet in the dining room that I decided I was going to listen to this kind of music all the time, move to the seaside, learn to surf, travel to sunny places and go to as many gigs as I could. This in turn lead me to move to Falmouth, do a degree in music so that I could meet other people that like Jack Johnson (haha) and work in a healthy-surf-travel cafe on the weekends. This album didn’t so much change my life as it did shape it altogether.

 
Well, there they are! Now you can imagine exactly what rubbish I’m listening to as I’m stuck on my own little desert island, hopefully sipping a margarita and surrounded by all the people that have influenced my music taste to be so bloody bad (thanks mum and dad).

Follow me on Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/user/jadiephipps) to find out what else I like, it’s not all that crap I promise.