Walhallavagen

Just an ordinary girl's life

{Books} Better reader wannabe

Today I want to talk about a personality issue the I have: the book reader impostor.

Beware, I’m not talking about reader impostor syndrome here; I’m talking about being someone who really loves books and really loves reading, who profess being a bookworm, who prefers shopping for books than shopping for clothes, who has a home literally full of the most interesting volumes – but who doesn’t put enough daily reading time as he/she should.

This is me. Welcome to my world.

Books are not the main focus of this blog, but they are definitely a huge part of who I am. Apart from a very brief phase when I was around 6/7 years old, during which I repeatedly stated that I hated reading, I’ve always been a booklover and an avid reader.

This said, I’m realising I’m not that good at reading after all.

In the last couple of years I’ve had quite a few months jam-packed with commitments, appointments and pretty busy work schedules – followed by few pretty relaxed months. Someone would naturally think that I used that time to immerse myself in my favourite activities – language learning, Asian dramas, books and graphic novels.

But that’s not what happened, for one reason or another.

I did a bit of all of the above, but not nearly as much as I wanted to (but who was stopping me? No one can say). I wasted a lot of precious time doing something that was clearly not that significant, since I can’t even recall what it was now.

Let’s be clear, I’m not saying I totally suck at reading. But I’m just decent, when I would like to be great, super cool, Rory Gilmore level.

But here’s the good news: I can change this, any moment, any time. I don’t have any physical impairment, any moral or ethic constraint: I can become an A level reader whenever I want, If I really want to. Hurray!

Second good news is that, in light of my current spending ban and my long term simple life project, I don’t even need to spend a dime in order to become Reading Wonderwoman. I already have all the resources that I need: a comfy couch, a cozy bed, tons of blankets, reading background music playlists on YouTube, endless variations of black tea and two amazing book repositories (aka, my own bookshelf and the local public library).

As everything in life is connected, I know that by becoming a better reader I will also improve my language learning skills and my overall well being. If there’s anything that I learned from this year’s Hallowreadathon i that immersing in reading activities for a prolonged period of time is one the best self-love act we can carry out.

My next natural steps in order to keep me engaged will be:
🍂 download reading lists challenges to give me a feeling of achievement and spicy things up a bit
🍂 connect with other readers in the blogosphere (there are such amazing and inspiring people out there)
🍂 read during the day, not only before bed!
🍂 reduce time spent reading articles online – I already cut down enormously the time I spend watching YT videos, I can do this too.

If anyone is looking for a reading partner let me know, I would love to be in a tandem!

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My night study routine

I’m not a night person by any means. After 6pm I start feeling hungry, slack and distracted. After 7pm I’m usually sleepy and slobby and I categorically refuse to talk about anything mentally challenging. By 8pm the only activities I can bare to carry out  are crawling from the kitchen to the bathroom (skincare!) and then from the bathroom to the bed.

Still! Sometimes I can find my night owl stamina and be productive language learning wise even after 9pm. (This usually happens when the significant other has the night shift at work and I find myself wandering and wondering how I should put this me-time into good use).

It still doesn’t mean I’m working all my way up to 12am, let’s just be clear; by 10 I’m usually off smearing my face with Banila Co. Clean It Zero anyway . But since I can’t stand doing many consecutive hours of Chinese study, it’s an additional time frame that I dedicate to reviewing the day’s lesson and consolidate some learning material.

So here’s how I like to do things recently:

a. first, tea (or herbal tea). I have plenty to use plus I need the warm kick if I want to face an additional study session (it’s almost winter here people). Hot beverages have the psychological power of helping me keeping my focus for a little longer, and they always make me feel motivated. So, yes, tea is a must.

b. second, ambient music. This is one the biggest arguments between me and the plus one, as he claims he can’t concentrate while listening to music. I’m exactly the opposite, nothing distracts me more than silence and music has always helped me to isolate from everything else that’s happening around me. Of course not all type of music will do [I’ll probably avoid something like this], but I have plenty of chill out / Buddha bar / study and concentration playlists to choose from. Lately I’ve been a lot into synthwave, and this is definitely one of my staples in my language learning routine [plus those endless videos are so hypnotic 😵].

c. third, a process to follow. One of the reasons I’ve been progressing so slowly in these Chinese learning years is that I’ve often found myself at a loss to what to do exactly with my Chinese resources. I haven’t figured out completely my  LL style yet [grandma here is slow you guys], but something that I know for sure is that I need a mix of writing [not necessarily fancy notes, or notes that I need to keep/revise] and repeating, otherwise nothing will stick. I’m trying a mixed approach of studying grammar, vocab and sentence patterns through phrases and context, and for now it seems to work. So instead of losing 20+ minutes trying to figure out what the best way of using my time would be, I just sit down, drink my tea and get sh0t done.

d. create the right ambient: physically, but also mentally. When I sit at my desk and before start studying, I like to lit a scented candle, turn on my Himalayan salt lamp and tidy up my space, so that I can have a clear and nice environment to get to work. But candle, tea, relaxation music: they are not just terribly mainstream [I am no innovator here], they are also extremely mundane. What is really essential, the point of all this, is my motivation and my love for the language. It’s the feeling I get when I remember a certain word, when I’m able to write down a 汉字 without having to look it up, when I can translate a complete sentence or I get a tone right. It’s the profound feeling of connection that I feel with the language, the culture, and the other people in the world who share the same passion I have. Candles and teas are just appendages, surely nice and cozy, but still appendages.

e. feel good about myself. This is my time, my space. I’ve shared it already in my post about the perfect drama night: I’m not just looking to feel good in the moment while I’m actually studying, I want that feeling of wellness to linger – because I’m time time off to do something good for myself and I want to savour it. I’m dedicating time to my passions, meaning, I’m actually sitting at my desk at 9:17pm doing something engaging for my brain, instead of just crashing on the couch with a cream soda watching yet another episode of whatever on Netflix. So yes, I think I deserve to feel good about myself.

f. go to bed before it’s too late. Studying at night it’s great since it’s one of the quietest times of the day, but overdoing it can have some unpleasant side effects. I know roughly how much time it takes me to go through my skincare routine so even if I feel like going on studying,  I always ensure to have enough time to complete my skincare routine and read my current novel before going to bed.

I guess I can consider this as a sort of self pampering activity: I dedicate time to something I love doing (studying Chinese) while listening to good, relaxing music and drinking my fave beverage; it’s also something that makes me feel good about myself so definitely improves my overall mood.

This just goes to show how we can pamper ourselves without spending a dime by just focusing on the things we really love and need in our life 🙂

 

{Beauty} Fall-time skincare essentials

Oh baby, it’s cold outside. It really is – current temperatures here in Northern Scotland are actually more on the winter-side for the standards of a Mediterranean girl like me.

So: cold and wind – and the heater going off at 5:00 am. The perfect ‘completely dry skin starter pack‘.

This time of the year I think I’ll be able to put on my face even goose fat in order to keep at bay that uncomfortable feeling of skin tightness around my eyes and in the cheek area. I always thought, the more I put on and the more layers I create, the better my skin will going to be. Right?

Wrong.

I discovered the true secret of non-dry skin: do not strip it in the first place.

I know that this is like reinventing the wheel for many – you know, I’m always a bit slow and it takes my longer than it should to realise perfectly logical concepts. I heard many times on yt or read on blogs that foam cleansers can be quite drying for the skin – and guess what kind of cleansers I’ve always been using? Foam. Of course!

At the end of September I found myself wandering around the shelves in a Boots store (ahem) and I stumbled on the new packaging of Botanics products (I reviewed a few of them this summer). They were on sale, and since I’ve been meaning to try the new formula sooner or later I picked up a couple from the Organic with Rosehip line.

I fell in love from like night one.

Ok, so let’s take it step by step.

 

Botanics Hot Cloth Cleansing Balm

This product is my new holy grail. Seriously, I don’t think I can even start to explain how deeply this one has changed my perception of beauty habits and skincare routine. It’s a gentle cleanser made by 87% of organic ingredients and with a very light scent of citronella (super fresh) that comes in the consistency of a butter. Again, I tend to have dry skin so I really don’t mind using products that are on the heavy/oily side. After applying it, you just rub it off with a muslin cloth soaked in warm water. And that’s it.

THAT’S LITERALLY IT.

Whenever I use this product, I almost feel like I don’t need anything else afterwards. I just spray my face with toner (more on that in a sec), eye cream (when I can be bothered) and moisturiser. The end. No need of essence, serum, lotions, sheet masks and other bits and bobs.

That’s why I was saying that this product has changed the way I see skincare: if you don’t take away the natural moisture of your skin, you don’t need to spread layers after layers of products trying to rebuild it. I could literally have just these three products (cleanser, toner and moisturiser) and be happy and not have dry skin ever again. Life changer.

Lush Eau Roma Water Toner

I haven’t used many Lush products yet, though I definitely support their cruelty free and environmental friendly policy. At the beginning of June I was looking for a new toner and couldn’t find anything suitable at Boots (honestly, Western skincare brand still have to go a long way when it comes to toners), so I thought I could go back to basics and find something with few, highly hydrating ingredients. I don’t use toner with a cotton pad but I like to spray it on my face directly, so I appreciated the fact that the Lush bottles come with a spray (very, very rare). It absorbs quickly and I find it very moisturising, so much that I don’t even need to layer it twice or three times like I did with other toners. The scent is not quite what I was expecting (I though it was going to be more like rose water),  but it’s really subtle and also very natural.

Garnier SkinActive Botanical Balm Soothing Moisturiser

Let’s begin by saying that this moisturiser is quite thick and dense, so I guess that someone with oily skin would probably find it a bit too greasy. I don’t mind using creams with heavier consistencies, especially to use at night. It has a very light rose scent, and is designed to be a 3-in-1 product: morning moisturiser, night moisturiser and overnight sleep mask. I use it almost uniquely in the latter fashion, as due to its thickness it takes a little extra time to absorb properly so it’s not my favourite choice in the morning (plus it doesn’t have sunscreen protection). On the other hand, I love using it at night as my last step after using the other products mentioned above. I just spread a thicker layer on my face, sleep with it and in the morning I wake up with the softest skin ever. Parabens and silicone free, with is always a bonus.

Botanics Hydrating Super Balm

I don’t follow the above routine every single night as I still have other foam-based cleansers to finish up (plus my beloved Clean It Zero balm from Banila Co). For those nights in which I go back to my previous skincare routine I feel like I need a boost of hydration in the area around my  eyes (which is always my driest face zone). This product comes in handy for this purpose, as it’s not intended to be used all over your face but only on specific problematic areas. It has the same scent and consistency of the other Botanic balm. I would like to use it also on the driest zone of my heels, but I feel this would be a huge waste considering both the quantity and the quality of the product itself.

 

I think I had a serious revelation this time, something that is seriously making me rethink a lot about my skincare regime so far. This gives me even more motivation to get done with certain products I bought in the past on a whim (because I was attracted by the packaging, or by an offer or sale), without really thinking about the actual needs of my skin. I love beauty products and I enjoy both buying and using them, but I aim at being much more aware of what I’m actually buying and using.

 

 

Chinese mood and LL immersion

Noodles and books. Can you even think of a better combo?

I honestly can’t.

Today is a beautiful cold and sunny day and I’m enjoying the sight of autumn nature here from my window.

November weather is perfect for language learning =)

I’m immersing myself as much as I can in the language, trying to use all the resources that I know I can enjoy and that don’t feel too much of a constriction.

What I’m using in order to create the perfect Chinese-learning environment & mind frame:

– Chinese beauty vloggers (especially Rainie Tian)
– Chinese pop music (this in particular is what I’ve been loving in the last couple of months)
9 seconds / Eternal time drama (ok this is actually Korean XD but it still serves its purpose of creating the perfect Asian context)
10.000 sentences method, which practically means ‘studying vocab and grammar in context’
– chow mein noodles and fried chicken (nothing can put me in a better study mood than food – especially NOODLES)

Sometimes I can go even a couple of weeks without doing anything Chinese related. But this is and will always be what I love doing the most. LL is not 100% of my life of course, I have a lot too many CROSS interests to be honest; but Asian languages are without doubt a HUGE part of who I am, and going back to them always, always feels right.

***

Currently listening to this fall compilation 🍂

My GYST Sunday

Yesterday I had my first G(et)Y(our)S(h0t)T(ogether) Sunday.

I’ve come across this concept watching one of Kalyn Nicholson‘s videos (I’m not a subscriber, but I pretty much like her content), so it’s definitely not an original idea of mine.

As I’m one of the ‘I still have a lot to accomplish this week‘ type of person, the concept of taking a day at the end of the week to tie up all the loose ends really resonates with me (of course).

Lately I’ve been struggling especially with balancing my personal goals, house chores and those one-time tasks that are not urgent but that constantly end up being put on the back burner. I definitely need to work on the first ones, but this week end I decided to focus on the other two.

I took a blank page in my notebook and divided it into 4 categories:

  1. kitchen (everything I needed to clean up)
  2. living room (same)
  3. bedroom (same)
  4. bonus (all those one-time tasks)

I put on a good playlist and just got to work. It has been really refreshing not having to think of all the billions of other things that I potentially could/should have got done – I just focused on the practical work I had to complete in order to have a clean and tidy house.

Of course, I would have liked to write a blog post. Of course, I would have wanted to study Chinese for a couple of hours. But since I wasn’t going to find time for everything in any case, I just focused on my chores and let go of everything else.

There’s no room for everything, every day. I have to make choices, and though I definitely don’t want to neglect my personal goals, I also know that some stuff have to be done anyway. I need to cross some things off my list and start the new week with a nicely smelling home.

And guess what? I finally got to clean up all my Filofaxes (a task that had been sitting in my to do list since August).

Happy Monday! (What happened to Monday???)

 

Hello November

October review

October goals

I like how things have developed during October. Though at times I still feel like my attention is scattered in too many directions, I think I’m slowly finding my own way – in life, and also on this blog. The only regret I have is to be not able to find enough time / energy / concentration to study Japanese properly; but I’m sure it will come with time. Also, the self-made subscription box project has been quite a success, I’ve enjoyed immensely using all the products I chose for myself and it has helped me putting things into perspective a lot 🙂 I’m very happy of the way I’m using my planner and my task manager apps as well, I feel like recently my planning has become way more effective than before. Way to go!

How I spent my time

Blog 15h47m;
Chinese 9h21m;
Productivity 27h49m;
Wellness 1h41m.

A lot of Chinese study this month! I’m very pleased with this result, and I plan to do the same in November (if not more!). Blogging time was ok, I think I should have done a little more but I still managed to put out a decent number of posts. Wellness (mainly yoga) still needs a lot of work.

How I spent my money

As mentioned in the previous month review, I had to put myself on a shopping ban for the month of October as I had been a spendthrift in the previous months. I’m happy to report that the plan has actually worked out pretty well and I’ve been able to restrain myself from useless purchases 90% of the time. I granted myself only one order on The Body Shop as I never tried this brand before and I wanted to stockpile a few skincare products for the upcoming colder months. It has been extremely good to just avoid temptations and enjoy what I already have around me (which is more than abundant), so much that I’ve decided to stick to this plan for November as well.

How I did with my Study

Starting the HSK3 prep course on Coursera has helped me a lot in keeping focus on Chinese study. It helps tremendously to have a structure to follow, as it makes much easier not to skip study sessions and to keep track of my progresses. Plus it has much more flexibility than regular language classes, so it’s definitely something I want to keep doing in the following months.

Personal/Misc

Highlight of the month have been Hallowreadathon and the release of Stranger Things season 2. I’m super happy when I can surround myself with the things I love (books and tv series in particular), but I like it even more when I can share the experience with my loved ones or other like-minded people on the internet. I’ve also watched a couple of Korean dramas on Netflix this month, nothing memorable, but I’m seeing things changing over there and the fact that they’re including more and more content from Asia makes me extremely hopeful for the future 😀

November’s goals

Only two months to go before the end of 2017 so I really really wanna make the most out of the time that I’ve left in 2017!

  1. finish watching Goblin
  2. go back to my 10:30pm/6:30am sleeping pattern [I’ve been having a hard time falling asleep recently, and consequently I feel super drowsy in the morning]
  3. reinforce my Trello-Wunderlist-Paper planner workflow; as we approach the final stage of the year planning becomes even more essential!
  4. don’t give up on yoga; try and go back to it even if I fail to stick to a proper routine
  5. start planning for Christmas (cards, decorations, things to do with my significant other, etc.)
  6. focus on HSK3 preparation, especially listening

Habit of the month : hair mask once a week

 

{Books} Hallowreadathon 2017 shortlist!

I’ve never taken part in a reading marathon before, though I find the idea extremely appealing; this year I have enough time to take the commitment on the occasion of the spookiest festivity ever 🎃 too bad 1st of November is not bank holiday here in the UK (it is in Italy), as it would have helped a lot with the finish-two-books-in-two-days project!

This year rules:
I. read a book with a ghost
II. read a book with red on the cover
III. two days (from 00:00 of Oct 31st to 23:59 of Nov 1st), two books

Since I’m such a pussy, I usually carefully avoid everything with an implicit nuance of ‘scary’, being it books or movies or tv series (American Horror Story? Hell no!!!). So it was quite a surprise to find a nice selection of Halloween-themed books in my bookshelf 😛

Graeme Macrae Burnet ~ His Bloody Project

I got this book from Waterstones exactly one year ago as part of their ‘Buy 1 get 1 half price’ policy. I’ve always been a crime lover [Cold Case is one of my fav shows of all times] and the blurb got my attention. It also takes place in the Scottish Highlands where I currently live, which makes ever more sense for me to read it!

J. K. Rowling ~ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Ok, I won’t dare saying the HP is on the spooky side but honestly it has its moments PLUS, as Imogen kindly pointed out, it has a ghost! It also has a pretty detailed description of Halloween’s celebrations at Hogwarts (the floating candles!), and with its shiny new red cover it just fits soooooo well.

Adrian Barnes ~ Nod

This is the second book I got out of the above-mentioned Waterstones offer. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking when I bought this tbh, and I don’t dismiss the possibility of being too scared to finish it; it’s definitely a challenge for me, and I think that if I don’t take the leap now during Halloween time I won’t be able to do it any other time of the year.

M. R. James ~ Collected Ghost Stories

When I mentioned the theme of this book marathon to the significant other, he was very eager to give me some guidance [he is the master of spookiness, after all] by drawing resources from his own bookshelf. The selection was pretty vast, but being a lover of 19th century British literature I thought that something written in the Victorian era would have been the perfect transition towards the world of horror and ghosts. It also adds an original touch to my personal literary expertise.

I also have Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospel, which would have fit both for the red cover and the spooky context, but I read that one already and to be completely honest I don’t feel like repeating the experience 😅

I don’t know how many of these books I’ll be able to fit in that 48h time frame, but nothing’s stopping me from going on in the following days [2nd November is Day of the Dead after all!]. Can’t wait to read what all the others have picked for the challenge and to update my progresses on twitter as well 😛

 

The hindrances to (my) productivity flow

Long post alert.

I have the misfortune of belonging to that portion of the population labelled as Type A personality, which basically means being a control-freak, time management-obsessed person who at the end of each and every weekend recites the ‘I accomplished half of the things I wanted to accomplish this week’ mantra.

I’m tired of finding myself making my life harder than it actually should (could) be. When I say this I think about language learning of course, but also planning, house chores, and time management in general.

I’ve tried to do some auto-analysis and I’ve found 3 main problematic areas that are preventing me from ______ (insert OCD aspiration here).

 

Theory No. 1 – The trap of perfectionism

Corollary: If I have access to a internet connection, I’ll use it until exhaustion.

I started a new HSK3 preparation course on Coursera a few days ago. As I’m trying to work my way through vocab and sentences, I would like to find an effective and efficient system for noting my new words an example sentences down so that I don’t engage into  another short-lived language learning note-taking attempt.

Can you see where we’re going here?

I can’t simply learn from my on past experiences and mistakes, no: I actually spent countless hours searching for ‘best ways of taking notes for language learning’. The result? I found absolutely nothing worth the attempt, not even a small hint at something that could prove useful in the future – and I wasted precious time that could have been spent studying.

I can’t just start doing what I need to do and adjust from there when something’s not working – no, because this is not enough. I need to have the BEST system for everything – planning, studying, folding the laundry, cleaning the kitchen counter and so on and so forth. I won’t accept failure (i.e. using a method and then realise it’s not that useful) as I often failed in the past and I hated it. I want it to be a perfect, Pinterest-worth system – whatever it is.

Which means: wasting A LOT of precious time on the internet looking at what other people are doing (I’ll get to this in a sec) without usually finding anything that resonates with me, or – worse – not even getting started for the fear of failing.

 

Theory No. 2 – Experiencing FOMO

This again has to do with the internet and the infinite possibilities it throws at us everyday, every minute. From a great power comes a great responsibility, you know. Endless possibilities, endless resources, endless cool things you could be using/doing/watching everyday. Stepping into a constant feeling of FOMO is just a matter of seconds.

This for me has been particularly true in terms of which planner to use each year, and it’s one of the main reasons why I switched so many different planning systems during 2016, and even more in 2017. It also becomes a trend for language learning: I start focusing on grammar but then I get FOMO about HSK3 as I see other people preparing for it. And it goes on and on.

What kind of  negative impact has this in terms of productivity? The direct consequence of FOMO is making you feel like you’re not experiencing enough: you should try more planners, more learning techniques, more productivity apps, more skincare products and routines. The results is of course having too much on your plate, which leads to a scatterbrain attitude, a superficial approach to one own’s commitments and an overall unfocused mental state.

Let’s talk about planners, for example. I love Filofax products and their ring system, but I’m also a Moleskine aficionado AND a huge huge huge MTN fan. I like the bullet journal approach, I’ve toyed with Strikethru in the past and enjoyed it, and I think I’ve used all possible combination of planner inserts (week on two pages, week on one page plus notes, monthly calendar plus daily pages, etc). I’m just lucky that I’m stingy when it comes to shipping costs so I never even thought about the possibility of buying an Hobonich Techo, but you get the idea. I like everything and I would like to use everything, at the same moment. I complain about not being able to have a one-planner system but it’s actually not true, I like having multiple planners because I can’t settle for just one system. FOMO gets the best of me.

So, instead of enjoying what I have at the moment and getting the most out of it, I just keep thinking constantly about all the things I’m not using at the moment, and instinctively I start plotting how I could integrate other planners in my system. That’s one of the reason I was raving against the planner community a few weeks ago. Instead of feeling empowered, I feel impoverished and overwhelmed by all the things I could use but I’m not. And the same goes for everything else (do we want to talk about skincare?).

Instead of focusing on my numerous resources (whether we’re talking about face cleansers, notebooks or Chinese textbooks), I end up looking obsessively at what other people are doing and what they’re using, which ends up with me rushing to buy the new ___ (inserts whatever product here), wasting money, accumulating clutter, shattering my attention and feeling increasingly miserable and unfocused.

Which is exactly the contrary of what mastery is supposed to be.

 

Theory No. 3 – The illusion of ‘free time’ and the ideal self

This is a big one. We all have an ideal life we would like to live, and we often strive to reach this ideal. The person living that kind of life is, of course, our ideal self: the one eating healthy, exercising everyday, waking up at 5:00 to study Chinese, with the perfect house and he perfect job and the perfect bookshelf.

The ideal self is an essential part of our identity, which makes it even harder to let it go.

Let’s face it: if we’re just imagining doing certain things, and not doing them in reality, there must be a reason.

It’s not that we don’t like those things; and it’s not even that we don’t want them bad enough, or that we don’t have enough self-control or will power to achieve them.

The fact is that we objectively don’t have the time for them.

Yeah, we like to thing that we can do everything and accomplish all the things we would like to accomplish – it’s actually easier, especially for use over-achievers, to think that we’re just too lazy and that we could do everything if we just tried hard enough – than to admit that, really, there’s not place for everything in our lives.

I think a common thought, especially in the field of language learning, is something among the lines of ‘it’s already October and I still have to start preparing for the upcoming session of ___ (insert language proficiency test name here), why on earth didn’t I start studying back in January?’.

Well, guess what? In January you were busy doing other things. Sleeping, for one. Eating. Cooking. Washing the dishes, showering, shampooing. Having headaches. Watching a movie, reading a book. Spending time with your loved ones. Yes, also scrolling the news or Instagram feeds, sure. But it’s not only that.

Even if we cut 100% of the time we spend of social media, it’s not easy to assume we will finally find the time, all the time we actually need to do the things we’ve been putting off.

Does this mean that we (I) don’t waste way too much time on social medias? We (I) do, of course, but I think we should first evaluate how much time in total we have really available, then cut down on the SM consumption, and only then make a plan about how we’re going to use those super precious spare hours.

Adulthood brings along a lot of responsibilities – towards other people, but also towards ourselves. I’d love to find more time to study Chinese, but I don’t think I’ll make a great deal if in turn I have to take time away from house cleaning or personal hygiene.

Yes, my ideal self is the one who wakes up at 6:00am to do yoga and who studies 1h of Chinese before even eating breakfast; the real self is the one who in wintertime struggles to get up at 7:10 because outside is too dark and melatonin remains active much longer that it should. (Seriously, I need to get one of these lamps if I want to survive the Scottish winter).

There’s nothing wrong in trying to make the real self look a bit more like the ideal one; but there’s no point in stressing over it when we’re already juggling between work, family and personal commitments. Plus the ideal self is maybe someone we’re not even that interested in becoming – it took me a couple of months of scribbling in my planner before discovering I actually don’t give a damn about gratitude journals 😌 – despite what everyone else on the internet is doing right now.

The combination of the idea that I have infinite time in my days/weeks and the aspirations of my ideal self brings me to an habit of overscheduling and overcommitting, which in turns causes stress and disappointment in myself (hence the ‘I accomplished half of what I wanted’ thoughts).

 

Conclusion

Wrapping things up: there’s nothing inherently good or bad out there, and the internet is not exception. Instagram is not evil, Pinterest is not evil, FB is not evil (well, it actually is, but that’s not the point). I can’t even start to list all the ways internet has had an amazing impact on my life; I’ve had the chance to connect with some incredible, like-minded people scattered around the world I wouldn’t had the chance to meet otherwise. But it’s too easy to feel like what see and read online should automatically apply to our life as well, and that’s definitely not always the case.

I often expect too much of myself, without actually considering the material conditions in which I happen to operate. In this regard, browsing the internet is of no help as it fuels the idea that everyone else is doing everything – and so I should watch how they’re doing it, and expect and demand more from myself.

A few quick recipes to try and get the problem under control:

I. restrain myself from typing on google the formula ‘how to….’ whatever follows. I already know how to everything since I spent the last 3/4 years reading every possible article on every possible topic may be of interest for me – and if I don’t actually know, let’s try something myself instead of relying on others.

II. believe in my choices (whether it’s planners, language learning programs etc.) and don’t just assume other people have it all figured out smarter and better. Even if they do, I still have to learn by myself and make my own mistakes – I’m not going to be miss perfect anyway.

III. draw inspiration from my own past work instead of that of others. One of the problems I may have in finding the right system for note taking in Chinese for example must derive from the fact that I never actually stopped to think what worked and what didn’t in my own system. More inward reflection will definitely benefit.

IV. go back to basics – less apps, less planners, less skincare products, less language learning resources. Start again from what worked in the past and stick to it, don’t keep adding things up. Aim at mastery, get my values straight and eliminate everything else.

 

Will I be able to follow my own advice?

 

Coming back to LL (for real): Chinese reading challenge and prep for HSK3

I fell for the hype of studying Chinese again. If there’s anything I learnt about language learning in all these years is that it’s a constant roller-coaster of emotions, for better and for worse. There’s no such thing as ‘I’m finally getting hold of my language learning process‘, it’s not and it’ll never be a linear journey. Two steps ahead, three steps behind, and so on and so forth. This is the only recognisable truth about LL. I’m just lucky to be in a phase of high right now.

How long it will last, no one can say. Still.

I don’t know if it’s the idea of being in the last third of the year that boosted my motivation, but somehow I’ve realised I’m less than 4 months away from next HSK session [assuming it will be in February same as last year, which I can’t be sure of since I don’t think they have a fixed schedule all around the world like for the Noryoku – but I’m digressing] and if I really want to take the test, then I really have to work my butt off. HSK3 is no joke, there’s the character writing part and a much longer reading part and gosh don’t let me even start raving about the listening level (impossible).

There’s still time, yes, but I’m also quite behind with my study schedule (as always), and I need to see tangible progresses, or this time I won’t get away with it as easily as this year. No one is asking me to do this, I’m committing to it because I want to do it for own satisfaction; I still remember how good it felt last year just being there, even before knowing that I had passed, because just showing up and making the effort meant I was ready to invest in myself and my passions.

So at least once a year, I wanna feel good about myself and take time for this me-project.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been making myself busy with:

  1. Chinese reading challenge over on Hacking Chinese (I already talked about it here). I’ve tried different resources, and among those the one that I prefer by far is the Du Chinese app. I hope to be able to make a dedicated post about each of them, but for now if someone is still looking for a good Chinese reading app this is my No. 1 recommendation. [If you don’t see my updates on the HC challenge page is because for some mysterious reasons it doesn’t allow me to enter anymore -.-]
  2. HSK3 preparation course on Coursera. This will be worth of reviewing as well, for now I’m still attending my first week so it’s a bit to early to express an opinion. Still, there are plenty of lessons (it’s impossible to keep up if you don’t study at least 5 days a week :0) involving parts of vocab, grammar and listening practice – for free!

Challenges and courses apart, it just feels really good to be immersing myself in the language again. Sometimes I wonder whether the whole RSH experience was actually worth it; I still have to see its actual benefits on the ground, and apart from this it also detached me completely from the actual language [which I’m sure impacted very negatively my motivation]. Anyhow, for the moment I’m only concerned about keeping the focus in the right direction, enjoying myself in the language and trying not to spoil everything like I usually do 😅

 

October subscription box

So, following my post of a few days ago (thanks to all those who liked it!) I’m now ready to enjoy my selection of self-pampering goodies for this month 🙂 This is all part of my Simple Life Project; all the items featuring in this box are things I already owned, so this is a 100% money-saving undertaking.

Books

1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone ~ 20th Anniversary Edition [J. K. Rowling]. I bought this book back in April with the intention of reading it asap, and then it just went the way it always goes (sitting on the shelf). I always have a lot of feelings about HP as I practically grew up with his books, plus living in Scotland makes it even more real [I had a Harry Potter pilgrimage in Edinburgh back in July]. For some weird reason fall feels a lot like a Hogwarts season, so this is the perfect moment to finally dig into this book (it also has a red cover, which would fit perfectly for the Hallowreadathon of this year!).

2. Never let me go [Katsuo Ishiguro]. I’m just realising this while I’m writing, both these books are actually re-reads for me 🙂 I read this one back in 2010 a month before leaving for my semester in Japan, and it was one of the first gifts from my at-the-time boyfriend [currently husband]. For all these reasons is a novel attached to many intense feelings – and a story that I deeply loved. I read both these books in their Italian translation, and I’m more than ready now to finally taste their original version.

Beauty

If I had to pick up a sector in which my hoarder madness has outdone itself I would definitely say beauty products. I’m improving, but there’s still a lot of work to do – and many, many accumulated products to finally start using.

1. Boots face sheet masks: Super Hyaluronic, Lotus flower &Tiger Lily, Safflower & Peony. My skincare routine had fallen through the cracks in July-August, mainly because of an utterly annoying eye infection and the madness following the house move. One of the things I really enjoyed about my 10 steps skincare routine was having a sheet mask once a week, on Sunday evening after my bath. By the time I’m writing this, I’ve already used two of them and I’ve enjoyed going back to my routine immensely.

2. Sanctuary Spa Sea salt body scrub. I bought this one a few days before moving from Aberdeen together with the related body wash, perfectly knowing it was a purchase I shouldn’t have done. In my defence I can say that I go through my body scrubs pretty quickly – and in fact, I’m about to finish my current one. Salt and oil body scrub are one of my fav beauty products on earth, plus the packaging was pretty irresistible (and I already plan to save and reuse it).

Makeup

It goes without saying that Halloween calls for a lot of orange, black and purple. Purple is actually one of my favourite colours in the universe [and the colour of my football team, as well] and I love wearing it. I’m always a little hesitant in using it for makeup as I feel like it makes my under-eye circles stand out even more, but hey, we have to take some risks in life.

1. Essence eyeshadows in Vintage Lilac, Frosted Apple and Keep Calm and Berry On. I don’t know how this brand performs here in the Uk, but in Italy is pretty popular due to its low princes and reasonable good quality. I bought these eyeshadows more than a year ago and practically never used them (though Vintage Lilac is one of my fav shades ever!), so yeah, Halloween it is!

2. 100% precision eyeliner by Debby (purple) + Dark Tide eyeliner by Kiko Milano (purple). I usually use more eye pencils than eyeliners, but these have a very nice colour and they’re quite easy to apply. Pretty much never used either of them, I think they’ll go very well with the above mentioned eyeshadows.

3. Super colour mascara by Kiko Milano (purple). This one is quite old and I really need to either used it or dispose of it. I actually like quite a lot coloured mascara (dark blue, brown, etc.) but these from Kiko are really bad quality as they dry up in the bottle almost immediately. I’ve tried to revitalise this one by adding a few drops of eye solution, hoping they’ll help making this usable for at least the current month. If not, off it goes straight into the bin.

4. Laser nail lacquer by Kiko Milano (dark purple and black). I’ve used these in the past, but since (a) dark nail polish requires a lot of maintenance and (b) I have way too many nail polishes overall, I still have more than half bottle to use up. Since i like them very much, this month I’ll try to be good and wear them as much as I can.

Misc

1. Golden Snitch necklace. Bought it two year ago at Lucca Comics and Games and it’s one of the best purchases I ever made there. I actually wear this a lot, but I included it here because it goes well with this month’s theme.

2. HP soft socks. I think I got these back in December, during one of my Harry Potter splurge at Primark. Never used them (I was waiting for the ‘perfect occasion’).

3. Whittard Toffee Apple. I have way too many teas and herbal teas. Nonetheless, I couldn’t resist this match-in-heaven mixture when I visited Whittard in Edinburgh two months ago. I didn’t want this one to end up like all the others (sitting on the shelf for months) so i set myself a deadline to actually use and finish it.

4. Black cobweb earrings. I don’t even remember where I got this from (Accessories?), but it was definitely more than 5 years ago. My tastes in jewellery have changed quite a lot in the last 2/3 years, but I still like these ones and for some reason I think there’re well themed for Halloween.

5. Bottega Verde argan-scented candle. I found myself without pumpkin-scented candles this year, but going out and buying one would have defeated the whole purpose of this project – so I picked up one of the many unused scented candles I already had instead. This one is super old (>4 years) and I was honestly growing tired of moving it from country to country. It also has a subtle spiced flavour that goes very well with the season.

 

So this is it for this month, I hope the list wasn’t too long. The weather is already acting up here in the outskirts of Europe so I expect a lot of early-at-home nights using up my monthly goodies. No Chinese or Japanese textbooks this month as I’m already busy with other projects language-learning wise, but they’ll surely feature in future sub-boxes!