Just an ordinary girl's life

Summer TBR list

It’s so typical of me to write a list of books I want to read during summer when we’re already almost in October – it’s also very typical of me to plan to read a certain number of books I already know I won’t have time for.

Well, no big deal – honestly, I consider a tbr list more of an inspirational outlet than an actual reading plan. Don’t get me wrong, I love plans – it’s just that reading is not something you can really do with your brain. You have to actually feel like picking up that specific book, so my current reading choices may be different from those I’ll make in a month or so.

I’ve tried not to go overboard with the number of things to put on my list anyway. I’m going to have a busy end of summer so I’d rather play it safe. Since we are way into the season already, I had the time to finish one of the books and I’m in the process of reading another one –  so yeah, maybe I’ll be able to tick  a couple of items off the list before the season is over 😅


(1) Clifford D. Simak - City

This is the one book I finished, and it’s actually a third-time re-read for me. I love science fiction but, like fantasy, I’m often disappointed by books and movies of the genre. This is my all time favourite, a pivotal text everyone who loves sci-fi should read at least once in his/her life. Maybe twice.

(2) Robert Louis Stevenson - Treasure Island

I read this one 5 or 6 years ago in translation, so I thought it was time to give the original version a go. I’ve been feeling a lot like going back to classics lately, and I would love to start with something clever and adventurous like this one. Plus I now live in Scotland so I have to be knowledgeable in Scottish writers as much as I can!

(3) Rudyard Kipling - The Jungle Book

Talking about classics, I figured I’ve actually never read the original novel (despite having watched a number of movies adaptations). I got this old version from a charity shop 6 years ago when I was living in London, and it has been sitting in my bookshelf for all these years. Time to brush it off.

(4) Richard Morgan - Altered Carbon

Apart from classics, these days I also feel a lot like reading cyberpunk stuff (maybe my interest was rekindled by the release of Ghost in the Shell movie – which I haven’t watched and don’t intend to). I poked into the nutritious bookcase of the significant other and I found this one that meets my needs just fine. I’m actually looking forward to becoming an expert in the field, so this is my first precious step in that direction.

(5) J. K. Rowling - HP and the Philosopher’s Stone (20th anniversary ed.)

Now, isn’t this 20th anniversary edition gorgeous. I actually craving for the other three versions as well, but for money and space reason this will have to do. I’ve been willing to re-read some HP goodies for a while now, and what better occasion than the release of a luxurious new edition?

(6) Jay Asher - 13 Reasons Why (eBook edition)

This is the teenager that is in me, I know. Usually I’m not particularly interested in the YA genre, but every once in a while I find something that intrigues me and that I’m curious to try out. Plus I’ve just finished watching Riverdale so I need something to keep me busy while I wait for season 2 release in October 🤣 For these kind of books I prefer the digital version as, even if I end up enjoying them, I don’t particularly care about having them in my bookshelf.


I’m not planning to bring any paper book back home so I don’t know how much progress I’ll be able to work on this list, but since summer officially ends on 22nd September I’ll still have some time once I come back to Scotland 😅


The future of my Chinese study

So. I finished The Book. What now?

Now, essentially, I’m on my own.

I have to start reviewing, of course, but that’s not going to be my focus – so I have to set up a system and a workflow.

I think that the first thing I should avoid it to be too specific in the kind of study routine I want to establish. Second, I have to restrain from putting too much on my plate (something I’m always guilty of). So basically I should follow two guidelines: flexibility and simplicity.

How will I ever do that? ☹️

Ok so, first, lists. There’s no point for me in making a study plan if I can’t make lists. HA!

So let’s jot down a couple of point and let’s see what I can get out of them.

(1) organise my LL resources once and for all

Internet is a beautiful place and I continuously stumble upon dozens of different resources – blogs, apps, podcasts, textbooks reviews and so on. I have them saved almost *everywhere* (Evernote, OneNote, Trello, Apple Notes, my paper planner) and without fail every time I need to retrieve I certain information I don’t know where to look. It’s clear that I have to find a univocal system to organise all of this, and maybe also re-evaluate the actual usefulness of certain resources [things change over time].

(2) review my grammar notes

After years (literally) of error and trial, this February I finally figured out a useful way of setting up a grammar notebook in my Midori Traveler’s Notebook. It was an attempt I made just the two weeks prior to HSK, and it worked out very well. I don’t want to go through the beginner’s textbook one more time to review all the grammar I have forgotten in these 3/4 months, so having a personal tool will prove extremely useful.

(3) listening, listening, listening… and repeating

HSK3 audio tracks scare the hell out of me, and my issues with listening practice is well known. Listening morning and night to the exam samples bore me to death – plus, it can be good practice for HSK’s sake, but not for your LL process overall. ChineseClass101 is still my best option at the moment – I know it’s flawed, but it’s exactly the kind of thing I know I can handle right now. And since I’m trying to learn the language as a whole, I should also force myself to repeat the dialogues out loud in order to practice pronunciation AND get used listening to myself speaking Mandarin. 

(4) index cards - an attempt

CC101 is not a huge resource for what concerns grammar (textbook are way better for this purpose), but sometimes they offer some insights that can be useful to remember. I don’t what to mix things up in my grammar notebook, so I think index cards can provide a more flexible tool in this case. Let’s try out something new for once and see how I like it.


I’m going home on the 22nd and won’t be back in Scotland until mid September, which is a bit meh. It’s not like I don’t like going home, it’s just that every visit ends up being 1. extremely long 2. extremely packed with things to do, and this disrupts my routines and good efforts immensely. It was the same thing back in May, I was doing well with RSH and then I disappeared for 25+ days and when I was back it was extremely difficult to get the focus and motivation back.

Well I guess one good exercise will be to try to keep up with a bare minimum of personal activities even while I’m away (like listening to a podcast episode every night), so that when I’m back I don’t feel like I have to do things all over again. 


{Planner Maniac} One Book July 2017 review

It’s August already which means it’s time to wrap things up about the One Book July experience for 2017. Every year I learn something more about myself in terms of panning systems and preferences, and that’s why I like taking part in the challenge so badly.

For some weird reason, while it is a summer vacation kind of month for everyone else, for me July seems to be a quite busy (and somewhat life-changing) period for me, every single year. Which means

a) I need a functional planning system even more

b) I don’t have much time to dedicate to any other planner-related project

So basically during July I kind of set the ground for the things I would like to explore and expand in the following months (planner-wise). I will be moving again next year so this will definitely be a trend for 2018 as well!

This year too I’ve identified a couple of pivot points that are going to be the compass for my future decisions and set ups, but I also want to pinpoint a few open questions I’ll have to reflect upon in the next months:

  1. my current system works. I’ve been facing one of the worst planner slumps I ever had between September 2016 and March 201; things got a little better in April when I started experimenting with Strike Thru system – but I soon realised it just wasn’t enough for me. So at the end of May I deduced I needed the ‘structured flexibility’ that only a ring planner can provide me with, and I finally got to put my Filofax Boston Compact into use. I set it up with the GTD-inspired system I had experimented with back in September, and combined it with my Paperblanks Slim weekly diary – which has been the only constant bit in my planning process since February. Even thought there are still a few things I have to tweak (see below), it’s an easy, non-overlapping, trustworthy system. 
  2. I need lines. Everywhere. As much as I would love to have one of those amazing handwritings I actually don’t, and having to write in plain paper makes things even worse. This is why the Paperblanks has been a real deal breaker for me, and why things with the Muji planner didn’t work out. So lined, grid or dotted paper, but no blank.
  3. paper brain dump is key. I don’t know why I didn’t do this before (I had not designed a brain dump section in my first experience with GTD back in September), because it’s a real game changer. I still type quick notes on my phone when I’m out and about but jotting down ideas in a trusted place where I know there’re gonna be re-read and revised (instead of just sitting there for millennia) is huge for me. It doesn’t simply help reducing the pressure on my mind but it also ensures I actually take action on those ideas, evaluating and sorting them at the right time. Amazing.
  4. open question No. 1: how should I organise my weekly/dailies? (and my monthlies as well, but those are less urgent). I have a section for daily pages in my Filofax that are just grid papers I normally use in bullet-journal style. But this often doesn’t work out well, so in July I started playing more with my trusted digital apps (Trello and Wunderlist). I liked it but after a while I felt the need to go back to paper (unsurprisingly),though I don’t have a new system in mind that could work better than bullet journal at the moment. I use my Paperblanks weekly pages for appointments, due dates and time-bound activities – and I want it to stay that way, I definitely don’t want to mess it up with to dos and tasks. So in this regard I’m back at the starting point.
  5. open question No. 2: should I be bold with my planner again? Now that I know my system works, should I start incorporating new bits in it? Or this is exactly the way to go back to planner slump? I found a few ladies on YouTube that have given me a lot of inspirations/ideas lately + I know I tend to get bored after a while if I keep using always the same inserts. So I would like to find simple ways of introducing small novelties to keep me interested, without altering the system itself significantly.

One of the ‘side effects’ of One Book July is that it always awakens the planner passion in me, so I guess I’ll give it even more energy during August and I expect myself to be more proactive in implementing new planner uses and strategies 📒


Hello August


July review

July goals

July was mostly suck up by the move and everything related to it, but I managed to accomplish a few personal goals nonetheless. The main highlight was of course finishing Remembering Simplified Hanzi, something I’m still gloating over tbh 😛 I’ve also worked on my routines (especially my morning ritual), taken part in the One Book July challenge and finished watching two Asian dramas (yay!). Finally, July has been the month of our amazing trip di Edinburgh, which I can’t wait to blog about!

How I spent my time

Blog 10h38m;
Chinese 1h32m;
Productivity 51h13m;
Wellness 5h28m.

All activities suffered from a decrease of dedicated time since I had to spend most of my days packing first, and unpacking later. I’m still happy about the way I actually used the free time I was given though.

How I spent my money

New house always means new stuff needed, so July was mostly focused on that (and I think August will follow along the lines). I also spent a good chunk of money during my Edinburgh trip, both on eating out and books (especially related to language learning). I will definitely have to be more tight with my finances next month in order to balance things up. No beauty or stationery purchases though – I’m behaving!

How I did with my Study

Again, not so much time to dedicate to Chinese and other stuff this month. But I’m pretty happy I at least accomplished something, plus I have to say I’ve been quite diligent in using my spare time wisely. Now that I’m done with the project I have to reinvent my self-study process, which is both intriguing and kind of scary.


There were a few fine-weather days in July and I’m happy to say I found ways to enjoy them (like going to the park to read one of my fav novels). We also made the most of our last days in A., going to our fav cafes, bookshops and pubs in town.
In July I finished reading the entire Avalon book series plus the above mentioned novel; I also completed watching A good wife (Taiwanese drama) and The good wife (Korean drama).

August’s goals

August is going to be yet another going-home month so I’ll just keep it simple:

  1. finish buying essential home forniture (mainly: bookshelf, desk and chairs)
  2. display all my language learning books, novels, planners and notebooks on the above mentioned new shelf (💜)
  3. read one paper and one digital novel
  4. select a few things in my wardrobe that can be discarded

Habit of the month : apply foot balm every night!


Remembering The Hanzi / 看书好了!!!

I. Freaking. Did. It.

I’m done! I’ve finished the book! ヤッタ!

All 55 damn lessons completed. I don’t think I can even start to express how happy and relieved I feel.

I started this project more than a year ago. A year and five months ago, to be precise. It’s been a very long time, and honestly I’m much surprised I managed to be consistent and keep up with the project (even though at different paces throughout this last year) for such an extended period of time.

Especially considering how boring and non-linguistic the whole process is.

2017 has unexpectedly resulted in a very satisfactory year language-learning wise, starting with HSK in February. I don’t think I’ll hit any other milestone this year, as the plan for this second part of 2017 is preparation for HSK3 (February 2018?) and retrieve of Japanese study.

I know this is just the beginning. The beginning of the beginning, probably. Time to see whether this fuss was well worth the effort.

So tonight I’m celebrating with wonton soup and chow mein (on their way right now) + the last episode of The Good Wife Korean!

(There’s a bit of language promiscuity going on here, but if you’re an Asian lover like me I’m sure you totally get me XD)


{Movies} Mini Movies Reviews ~ 1st Semester 2017



Time for the first instalment of this year movies!

  • The way he looks – discovered thanks to one of my girlfriends, this movie it’s really a goody. It’s stunning the way it’s able to talk about many serious topics (blindness, homosexuality) in such respectful, intense and drama-free way. I’d recommend this to virtually anyone. (Also, Portuguese is an amazing language and I really enjoyed listening to it while watching the movie).
  • Contact – a classic, and a rewatch. It’s definitely not a masterpiece but I find myself missing more and more this kind of sci-fi movies. They had a thread they were able to follow from start to end, something that I feel is missing in current films of the genre.
  • The hateful eight – not the best Tarantino for me. I haven’t looked how it performed on the internet, I personally didn’t hate it, but neither loved it. We’re very very far from the peaks of Kill Bill.
  • Explorers – Watched this trying to satisfying my hunger for more Stranger Things material (am I the only one here who sees some similarities…?). It was good for the most part, too bad they decided to throw it all away at the very end. Enjoyable nonetheless.
  • Watchmen – Ok, I know, I’m picky. But spectacular scenes and special effects do not make a good super heroes movie. There must be something more, and it couldn’t find anything in this one.
  • A series of unfortunate events – another classic rewatch. Well needed before jumping both legs into the new Netflix series.
  • Your name – I. JUST. LOVED. THIS. I don’t know when was the last time I was so captured by an anime this way. It was perfect – the plot, the music, the graphic. I liked it so much I even decided to buy the manga!
  • The last witch hunter – this one was chosen by the plus one (of course). It would have been an entertaining action movie if just I hadn’t foresee all the main plot twists. Oh well.
  • Jumanji – I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t see this movie before. Again, I wish they could still make evergreens like this one.
  • Turbo Kid – Started watching this on a night I was really really tired, stopped after about an hour and a couple of days after – PUF! gone from Netflix. I have no idea of how this happened (aren’t they supposed to warn you before deleting materials…?) and I’m really really displeased because it was a work of genius and I’m craving to finish watching it.


When I was back home in May I also had my yearly appointment with the Star Wars original trilogy, but since those movies feature in my list every single year I though it was redundant to include them again.

Morning Routine / 2

They say that usually the first days are the easiest when you’re trying to set a new routine in place, and that things start to fall apart after the first week or so – when the motivation decreases and the frenzy of everyday life takes over.

Well, for me things always start to fall through the cracks right from day 2.

This is usually because I get too ambitious too soon and I start doing things big even when I’m still in adjusting mode.

By day 3 my so-called routine is a mess of dozens of different activities, each of which lasts for about 40/50 minutes – making the whole concept of ritual completely worthless. This is the time when I usually give up, and I start browsing ‘how to set up a morning routine’ all over the internet again.

I’m happy to report that this time I completed day 2 successfully. Sticking to the plan is essential, especially since I’ve realised that making things too long has been one of the main point for my failure in the past. I’m working to get serious about that 1% increment that I can obtain by doing things a little bit each day.

Thankfully also day 3 (today) is safe at this point, which means I can probably reach my weekly goal of 4 morning in a row (on fri-sat-sun the plus one is home so I may decide to loose things up a bit).

So my schedule for yesterday morning and today:

6:00 wake up
6:15 brush teeth, skincare routine, a couple of glasses of cold water
7:30 fix lunch for the significant other
7:00 a 10 minutes morning yoga practice with Brett Larkin
7:15 about 15 minutes of Chinese study (Lesson 53 and 54 of Remembering simplified hanzi completed)
7:35 about 15 minutes of blog post writing
8:00 breakfast and book reading

It seems that drinking hot green tea on an empty stomach stimulates my appetite, so that after the first half an hour I have to interrupt myself and have something to eat before completing my workflow (like it happened on day 1). Drinking a couple of glasses of cold water doesn’t have this effect, so I think I’ll go with them instead. Funny how many things you discover about yourself by trying to be just a little consistent and disciplined, isn’t it?


Remembering The Hanzi / Day 25 ~ Lessons 51 + 52

Lessons 51 and 52 have been quite fun to learn, but honestly I feel this way every time I start a new one – especially after I’ve been on hiatus for a while.

It’s like when you are learning a new language, all the vocab that you read magically sticks in your mind which is like a blank canvas at that initial stage. It’s when you start to pile things up that the game gets confusing.

I’m starting to dread the moment I’ll finally be over with the book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy as f0ck at the idea of being finally done with such a long term project – but I also know there have been too many and too long breaks in between my study sessions, and I’m afraid the review phase will be more of a ‘starting from ground zero’ activity. Which will make the whole concept of having finished the book a little dry.

But it’s true that in the second half of the book I’ve been taking notes and adjusting keywords and plots to my needs, so it shouldn’t be that bad.

Plus I know that the awareness of having completed the project, at least in his first draft, will keep the spirit high.

Lesson 52 was a lot about animals stuff so I think I’ll need to complete a more thorough list of all the characters related to the animal kingdom. This includes not only words like tiger and hare but also animal-related things like paws, droppings, tusk and so on. I love lists, and even though they need to be acted upon in order to be truly useful, they always make me feel confident that I’m not losing bits and pieces along the way.

Morning Routine / 1

So I said yesterday that I wanted to be serious serious about establishing a ritual for the start of my day and yes, at least for today, I’ve been serious.

I think I’ve finally come to realise that (1) I can’t have a routine that is more than an hour long (2) mornings are still the fresher moments of my entire day, in which my mind feels focused and my body awake.

I’m also realising I can’t let the so called ‘everyday life’ suck up the wholeness of my waking hours leaving no time at all for my personal growth and development. But I also understand that this doesn’t come easy, because even if you do have potential free time to dedicate to yourself, you end up filling it up with other stuff without even realising it. It’s probably absurd the way we have to force ourselves to find more me-time during the day, but that’s the they it is and honestly the more we are aware of that the better.

So this was my morning routine for today:

6:10 wake up
6:30 brush teeth, have a cup of green tea
7:00 fix lunch for the significant other
7:30 a 10 minutes morning yoga practice with Cole Chance
7:45 about 15 minutes of Chinese study (Lesson 52 of Remembering simplified hanzi completed)
8:00 breakfast (I was starving by this time)
8:20 skincare
8:30 about 15 minutes of blog post writing

The core of my kaizen morning routine is finding time for the three most important areas of my life (currently yoga, Chinese language and blogging) at the very beginning of the day, so that even if I got sucked up in everyone else’s business during the rest day, at least I know I accomplished something important for me.

The idea is to spend 10 to 15 minutes max on each of those three main areas, because if I start doing 40 minutes of yoga followed by 50 minutes of Chinese study I’m consuming the majority of my morning time and it’s not sustainable in the long run. And I think we can all agree that 10 minutes every day or so is way better than 40 minutes every once in a while.

So here we are for Day One. Hopefully there are more on the way.

Weekly Plans / 2

Oh boy. And I thought that May was a hectic month. I hadn’t seen anything yet.

Sometimes I honestly wonder if it’s just my life to be always like this or if other people experience the same lack of regularity as well. Most of the time I feel like I’m living in between travel periods and I find myself unable to plan for the medium and long run. 2017 has been a year full of changes and I mostly welcome that, but tbh I’m looking forward to a little more stability right now.

Discomfort time over, it’s now the right moment to sit down and think about the week ahead – there’s honestly nothing more pleasant to do in a rainy Sunday afternoon like this one. Plus I have to keep my mind occupied if I don’t want to watch Stranger Things S2 teaser trailer again. 27th October seems so so far away right now. Damn it.

So, some healthier activities for the upcoming week:

1# apply my newly redesigned morning routine. I know I know, I’ve been talking about this for months and gone practically nowhere with my plans. As I said before, the constantly changing schedule of the plus one is of no help for me, but again, it’s not like I’m powerless and have 0 control over my time. The more I go on, the more I discover how not having a morning ritual is affecting my productivity, which in turn makes it harder to reach my goals and feel content about myself. So, yes, here’s attempt No. 75,649.

2# implement my kaizen personal training, which has a lot to do with the above-mentioned morning routine plan. I can’t remember how I came across the concept of 改善, but I’ve been reading about it a lot lately and I think I may have reached disclosure on how to ensure I find time for my priorities (nearly) every day. Try a little harder to be a little better: this is my new mantra.

3# enjoy our last week in Aberdeen. With all the frenzy of the moving already said and done, we finally have a few more day to enjoy ourselves in the granite city before moving to Inverness for the next 12 months. Our to do list is already packed (mainly with our fav food places to visit one last time) so I can see an intensive taste marathon awaiting us.

4# treat myself to a few reading appointments. Last Tuesday I went to the park to enjoy the fine weather and read my current novel (which is actually a third time re-read) and I really love it. BBC weather forecast is telling me that this week I can forget about summer and park time, so I’ll have to reinvent something indoors. Library sofas and Starbucks armchairs are at the top of my list right now.

5# finish studying RSH for good this time. I was supposed to be done with it weeks ago and it’s ok, I know I really didn’t have either the time or the mental focus to do it so I’m not feeling guilty for that. It’s pointless to just open the book for the sake of it when you are too tired to even figure out what a single sentence means. This week I don’t have any specific and time-consuming tasks scheduled apart from the usual ones (laundry, groceries and the like), so I guess I can carve out time to finish those few confounded lessons.


Now that I have my weekly plan laid out neat and clear in front of me I feel a lot better. I hate not knowing where my time is going to be spent during the upcoming 7 days and even though I can never plan 100% accurately, having a general overview of the main tasks I need to tackle definitely helps. And this is one of the reasons why I love planners and planning apps so much.