Just an ordinary girl's life

Juggling work and language learning and all the rest

I’m surely not the first one to complain about how hard it can be to find time for everything we want to do in life, especially when working full time. I have to admit that I never make things easy for myself – instead of reducing the amount of things I want to give my attention to, I tend to recklessly expand my list until it’s completely out of control and I feel utterly overwhelmed 😅

It’s always nice to take 5 minutes to sit down and re-evaluate. Let’s see how my life is doing at this point.

language learning. I’ve managed my time pretty well during these first 3 weeks at my new job and I’ve been consistent in dedicating my early hours before going to work to keep up with Anki and Duolingo. Needless to say, I felt a bit in shortage of more focused study sessions in which I could go through some reading and grammar. I’ve been studying intensively on my days off, but I need a little more time during the week as well.

household. I’m going to the process of konmari-ing my flat, and this is taking a lot of time and effort. At the same time it’s something I want to get done – I keep wasting time trying to rearrange things in spaces that are clearly too tight, things that I don’t need and don’t enjoy using in the first place (madness). I’m almost done with the decluttering part, but now I have to decide what to do with all that stuff – what to throw away, what to donate, and what could be worth reselling.

yoga. A couple of days ago I finally finished my 28 day programme of yoga for beginners on DoYouYoga, and I’m really proud of myself for finally completing an entire course 🙂 I would like to start soon with a new one, which has the only downside of having much longer sessions (about half an hour each). I usually do yoga first thing in the morning with both Asana rebel and DoYouYoga, and longer sessions will definitely take time away from language learning.

books. I’ve recently finished a buddy read with one of my Instagram friends, just in time to start going mad about the Women’s Prize for Fiction 😅 I read only 3 books out of the 16 selected for the long list, and I got a bit carried away and reserved everything I have yet to read on my library account. I already have 5 books coming on my way (on top of all the others I am currently reading) which maybe is a little too much 🙃 what was I saying about not making things easy for myself?

I think I need to rethink my time management skills – and also, as always, my priorities. What I should probably do is to take a couple of weeks to sort out my apartment so that I can be done with it and move on, and something similar for reading as well. I should also probably go on with my morning yoga session on Asana rebel, and dedicate 3/4 nights a week to do the longer sessions on DoYouYoga.

But it’s all pretty much a work in progress, so stay tuned!

Japanese study resources

Underlying statement to this post is: I’m trying to keep things simple. Especially since I’m working on a very tight schedule now, I can’t waste time shuffling 10 or more different study resources. Also, from a psychological point of view is important to me to see progresses – something that becomes difficult when you entangle yourself in too many apps/textbooks/podcasts.

At the moment, my resources for studying Japanese are very basic:

  1. a good online dictionary, in my case Jisho.org. This is the number one resource for when I’m at my desk; if I’m out and about I use imiwa on my phone.
  2. Core 2000 Japanese vocabulary on Anki (free deck to download); I like this one in particular because it works its way through vocabulary via sentences, not just the single words. I think it’s supposed to have audio but that is not working for me at the moment (though I find audio for Japanese less essential than for Chinese, so I can live with that for now).
  3. Tatoeba for example sentences; I wonder if there’s anything specifically for Japanese (like Jukuu for Chinese), though it has worked just fine for me so far.
  4. Japanese Pod 101 for listening. I had the premium subscription 3 or 4 years ago but never really used it. Now I’m ready to work my way through all the levels, since listening is my main focus for Japanese at the moment.

At times I also like to download lyrics from songs that I like (unfortunately very few at the moment), and go through them for new vocabulary and expressions. I also use Netflix to watch Japanese shows from time to time, just to get used to how people actually speak.

I have quite a few textbooks that I’ve acquired throughout the years, but I’m not focusing on those at the moment. I can’t do everything at once anyway, so I’d rather stick to this routine for now and wait for some progress to show before taking the next step.

First week of back to Japanese! (seriously this time)

I’ve settled down to this routine of alternating weeks between Japanese and Chinese (at least for the moment, you never know), and this is my first actual week of proper Japanese study. Yay!

I don’t know how many times in these last couple of years I’ve said that I truly want to start studying Japanese again. And I did made some efforts, I can’t deny that; but effort very often is not enough.

If you have a busy life, to only way to make things happen is to actually *schedule* and allocate time to them; otherwise they become just something you do a couple of times, but never really engaged with.

After having studied Chinese intensely (especially since last August) for the sake of HSK3, I felt like I wanted to do the same for Japanese. I’ve been watching a few anime/dorama lately, and listening to spoken Japanese rekindled my never really faded passion for it.

Which means that I made a serious mental note to *really* get back to it in 2019. And here I am.

The trouble I’m having at the moment with it is that I mix up hanzi and kanji a lot. Like, a lot. I’ve practice hanzi quite intensely for HSK so now I find it confusing to go back to kanji (especially with regards to pronunciation). Since listening is always my weakest skill [for all languages], I’ve decided that for the moment I’m going to push my Japanese studies towards the direction of mainly vocabulary and listening. It’s something I’ll have to get to at some point anyway, so the sooner the better.

My plan for this week was to watch Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories with Japanese subtitles. I’ve watched it already with English subs (it’s actually one of the significant other’s favourite TV shows 😳). For the moment I’m not pushing it too hard – I just watch it glancing at the subtitles from time to time, but I’m mostly trying to get accustomed to the sound of the language (especially on the difference between women talking and men talking). It is incredibly relaxing and I enjoy the plot even more!

This is just week 2 of my language learning experiment, but I’m liking it so far. I think it gives me enough space to focus on one language for enough time to get serious with my learning, while remaining engaged  and motivated for the other as well.

The Perfect Reading Night


I am more an indoor kind of person (as you can easily tell by the fact that one of my hobbies is learning languages), so every time that I want to relax and have some pampering time I choose the cosiest spot in my house and let myself recharge mentally and physically.

One of the best ways for me to relax and wind down is reading. Books have had a huge comeback in my life since 2018, and I just feel so much more at ease and satisfied after a good hour of reading – away from socials and, well, any kind of screens really.

When I was younger reading was mostly and activity for bedtime, but now I like to enjoy my books at other times and locations as well (I often hit the local cafe for this purpose – I mean, books and cake? Who wouldn’t love that?).

More often than not, I just find the cosiest place in my house and have the time of my life. I particularly like to read at home during the winter time, when outside is dark and cold and you can curl up all fuzzy and warm on your sofa. So here’s basically my process for the best reading night experience:

  1. coziness is key, so throws, pillows, pijamas or comfy clothes are a must. The more the merrier.
  2. I used to read in complete silence, but now I enjoy a little musical background. There are a lot of nice compilations on youtube, my favourite at the moment are this, this and this. (I also like this live radio, but there are plenty more for you to check out).
  3. going back to coziness, candles and decorative lights also help a lot creating the right atmosphere
  4. and then, of course, tea. There’s no way you can truly enjoy a book without something warm to drink along. Hot chocolate is a valid decadent alternative, as well as herbal teas and coffee.


There’s really no need to spend money or surround yourself with redundant clutter to feel happy and relaxed. I’m trying to be more conscious about my money and possessions, and also about how I spend my free time and what I do to recharge. This is just my way to show myself I can actually do that in a very simple and yet rewarding fashion.

What and where are you reading at the moment? Let me know!


Study report #1

At the end of my first week at my new job and of my language learning comeback, I think it’s good to stop for a few minutes and reflect on what I’ve managed to accomplish in these last 7 days LL-wise.

First of all, my new job has a very different schedule from the old one. I now start quite late (9:45am) and finish equally late (6pm), which means two things:

  1. I can go back to have a morning routine (very much appreciated)
  2. I cannot count on my ability of studying before/after dinner because by the time I’m home my brain has already set itself on relaxation mode

This has required a certain organisation on my part, and even more a strong discipline in getting things done in the morning [because otherwise they won’t get done at all].

Let’s break my week down, shall we?

  1. Monday. My first day off since FOREVER. Went downtown to do some shopping in the morning and had noodles for lunch (a must). Did Duolingo + flashcards and characters review on Anki in the afternoon for both Chinese and Japanese.
  2. Tuesday. Second day off, spent at home in my new Friends jumper (love). Same as above in the morning; in the afternoon I dedicated myself to the much procrastinated tasks of reviewing some old printouts from Chinese Class 101 (and then discard them). Mission accomplished.
  3. Wednesday. First official day at my new job. I managed to do some Duolingo in the morning before work.
  4. Thursday. This is the day I usually start work at 10:45 so I decided to use the additional morning time to go to Starbucks and get some solid study there. I did a long character and vocabulary practice on Anki for both Chinese and Japanese, and took some notes on things I need to do next in my study.
  5. Friday. Only managed to do some Duolingo on the bus.
  6. Saturday. Same. I needed a slow morning.
  7. Sunday. Sunday is 10:45 start as well so I managed to both sleep a bit more and get some study done. The annoying thing about Anki is that even if you don’t review for a couple of days you immediately start to accumulate a thousands new cards to study. I guess I’m not the only one to complain about this.

All in all, I quite happy with the way I managed my time. My change of schedule has been huge so adjusting necessarily takes some time, and I could have done much much worse. I would like to be able to find even more time for language learning in my week, so I’ll probably try to do things a bit differently next week. I also have a lot of other commitments that I’m trying to carry on (too many?) on a daily basis, so balancing everything is definitely not easy. I’ll probably need to review my priorities a bit.

I’m finally off tomorrow and Tuesday, can’t wait to have some me-time for languages and books 🤤

Maki ramen

Having a pretty decent selection to choose from, I am now on a personal quest to try out all Asian food places in Edinburgh [it’s going to take time, but no one is in a rush here]. So it was only normal, after I got my job  interview and I was notified I had landed the position, for me to go and celebrate at Maki Ramen. The interior is sleek and essential, with wooden tables and wall panels and red lanterns hanging at the windows.

I ordered two dishes: okonomiyaki as appetiser and their tonkotsu ramen as main dish. I was surprised by the okonomiyaki: it came out in this curious icecream-like shape, but the taste was actually on point – and the wooden sticks made it nice and easy to eat.

I was less impressed with the ramen though, the main reason being the fact that they added corn to it. Corn is one of my greatest food pet peeves, and in general I don’t think it adds anything special to a broth dish like ラーメン.  Apart from that, the soup was good (even if not exceptional).

Close up of the broth and egg part

All in all it was a nice lunch experience, though I must admit I have tried better places. I think I may be go back and have a go at some other dish, but for now I’m curious to try some place else.


Maki Ramen
37 Leith St,

Chinese study plan for busy people


Time to do some language learning planning today. I was having a great time with Chinese and Japanese back at the beginning of January and my goal right now is mostly to built back my momentum.

I’m going to go back to my plan to focus one week on one language and the following week to the other, as it is even more imperative now to use my focus wisely. So this week is going to be about Chinese.

Daily Activities

  • Duolingo + index cards
  • characters review on Anki

Weekly activities

  • finish reviewing old vocabulary notes
  • finish practicing listening tracks on Hello HSK app

Of course these are not the tasks I intend to complete this week, but simply the things I’ll be working on this month and probably part of the next one. Having not much time to dedicate to language learning, it is essential that I at least have a very clear idea of what I’m supposed to do and when, or I may waste even more time simply trying to figure out what I should study (which is plain silly).

I’ll come up with a similar plan next week for Japanese as well. Let’s see how it goes!

Happy study week everyone 😉

Quick life update

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ll know by now that I’ve been busy with some life changes lately, so there’s been no much language learning activity around here. I’m starting a new job next week and these last 10 days or so have been just so hectic that I’ve barely had the time to eat and sleep properly 😅 (in fact, often I haven’t).

I count on being back on a somewhat acceptable study routine by the end of next week, so hopefully by that time I’ll also be able to resume a more regular blog activity. I’ll be working full time from now on so I’ll have to rethink my priorities and set different goals for myself, but there’s no way I’m giving up on language learning!

Hope you’re all doing great and making great progresses in your language studies!

Hakataya Japanese Restaurant review

To celebrate the completion of my HSK3 experience, the significant other and I treated ourselves to dinner at Hakataya, a small Japanese restaurant located at the heart of Edinburgh city centre. I spotted it in the summer of 2017 (imagine) during our Edinburgh trip [we were living in Aberdeen at the time] and meant to try it ever since. I can be very patient when it comes to food, especially Asian food 😃

Hakataya serves traditional Japanese hot dishes together with a nice selection of sushi. The interior is quite minimal, with basic wooden furniture mixed with a few elements of modern deco. The place is small, so reservations are highly recommended.

All pictures were taken with my iPhone camera and at night, so I apologise in advance for the undeniable low quality!

For our first visit, we decided not to get sushi – I was craving more traditional dishes, especially since I spotted takoyaki on their menu! I think this was the first time I had takoyaki after my Japanese days in 2010, so you can imagine the emotional 懐かしい feeling. And they were absolutely delicious!

The pork gyoza were superlative as well 🤤

As main dish, I ordered ramen (surprise surprise). I was definitely one of the best ramen I’ve had outside Japan – the broth was rich but not fatty, the pork was the most tender meat I’ve ever tasted in my life and the noodles… Ha, the noodles! Absolutely sublime.

The significant other had chicken katsu don, which looked delicious as well. I plan to try it soon, I just love Japanese dishes with rice and eggs together.

And this is me slurping my ramen bowl and having the time of my life!

(this may be the first time I show my face on the blog, so: Hi!)

We plan to go back before the end of the month, and next time we’re totally going to try the sushi and maybe some other appetisers. いただきます!

Hakataya Japanese restaurant
122 Rose St S Lane
EH2 4BB - Edinburgh
0131 629 3320



Language Learning weekly schedule

Studying both Japanese and Chinese at the same time, and as intensely as possible, is no joke. I’ve been wondering for quite some time now whether or not I’d be able to do that – as much as I love language learning, I also have other commitments in life and there’s only so much that I can to with the free time I have.

For the purpose of being intentional as well as realist with my LL study, I’ve decided to try and do some further planning in terms of how I want to structure my language schedule. I’ve basically divided my tasks into daily and weekly, and this is the kind of structure I’m considering to follow:

  1. daily tasks: practice with Duolingo and index cards + vocabulary and characters practice on Anki for both Chinese and Japanese. This is the bare minimum I’d like to do every day or on most days, as keeping words and characters fresh and constantly reviewed is the first step not to feel overwhelmed in the long run. Listening would be important too, but for now I’m trying not to overdo it.
  2. weekly tasks: one week I’m going to focus on Chinese, and the following week on Japanese. By focusing I mean studying the language more in-depth [studying grammar points, reading articles, listening to podcasts and YouTube videos, etc].

I’ve started last week right away with Chinese, and I already have my tasks to complete set and ready for Japanese. I don’t know how (if) well this is going to work, but what I know for sure is that there’s no chance I can fit it both C and J grammar/listening/reading/writing practice every week. It may not be much but it surely is more than trying to do too much and then get inevitably stuck.

If you have any tips on how to study two Asian language at the same time, feel free to share!