Just an ordinary girl's life

Books, routines and other stories

For a series of random events, the after-dinner time (between 7:30 and 8:30pm) has become my favourite moment of the day for language learning. I’m not always super productive [I’m still a morning person after all], but I’m kind of enjoying the general feeling of silence and calmness that this moment provides me.

The evening is also the only moment of the day in which the weather is less shitty a little more enjoyable, since April has been a pretty cloudy month here in Scotland.

Still working my ass off with Remembering Simplified Hanzi, nothing new over the horizon under this respect. But the daily routine allows me a sense of calmness and, though somewhat boring, in the end it doesn’t feel like a huge burden for me.


I’m still obsessed with Korean indie music and it has become my default soundtrack from morning till night. It’s just so perfect for every activity – working, studying, reading, even doing yoga. I’m also hooked on the Avalon novels [again], the minute I’m done with Chinese study I jump straight into my night skincare routine and in 15 minutes I’m curled up in bed with my iPad and eBooks. So many feelings!


It’s not always easy to maintain focus and motivation on language learning. I would really like to reach out to other language learning mates but it has proved harder than I thought. Many of my favourite LL bloggers are not updating anymore or too busy with life to be a steady presence on the internet [I’m not either, tbh], and everytime that I found a potentially interesting LL blog I discover that it hasn’t been updated since 2014. Really, 2014 has been a killer year for language learning bloggers for some reason.

So no, it’s not easy to do this journey all by myself. Even more so when we all have busy lives that oftentimes prevent us from fully dedicate our spare time to the cause. Trying my best by surrounding myself with all things Asian – music and dramas are lifesavers in this regard.

Remebering the Hanzi / Day 19 [Frames 853 ~ 873]

Another pretty short lesson which is fairly easy to handle. There are still some characters that just won’t stick, but this is something that happens in all chapters.

I’ve adjusted my daily study to a new and (apparently) more efficient rhythm. Normally I would use Anki once a day, either for studying new characters or reviewing previous lessons. But now that the total number of characters that I (am supposed to) know has grown significantly, I find it more and more difficult to memorize characters and keywords with a single daily review. Hence I started using Anki 2 or sometimes 3 times a day.

I know that this may seem a lot [and maybe even defeating the purpose of using SRS] but
1) SRS are set on what is more likely to be the best time for you to review words, which can hardly work well for everybody on this planet
2) I never review more than 35/40 characters each time. I use the custom study option to downsize the amount of characters I want to work on each session in order to keep it to a manageable level. Reviewing 50~100 characters three times a day would just be crazy.

The point is, one thing is learning characters and words in context, another thing is to concentrate only on components and keywords which have often a hard time working well together. I know that many consider this point the right reason not to study characters with Heisig’s book, but I can assure you I wasn’t going any further with the ‘classic’ character study methods. So yes, it’s still worth it for me.

I’m constantly torn between the drive to do more and finish the book asap in order to embrace the rest of my learning process and the awareness of the importance of proceeding at a slow and steady pace. My motivational levels are very high in the usual rollercoaster of emotions connected to language learning so I guess I’ll have to hold back a little in order to avoid burnouts.

Springtime is Language Learning Season

For some reasons, I tend to link this time of the year with a burst of LL activity.

Springtime was when I first decided to pick up Chinese after failing countless attempts to go back to Japanese. It was a risky move (how could I think I would succeed this time?) and in fact, I got criticized for that. Thankfully the Plus One was on my side and he pushed me to do what I felt it was right for me, regardless. I’m so grateful for that.

Springtime was also the season I started learning Japanese again. It was March 2014 and I was feeling good about myself. I was working part-time in order to save up for my future projects, I was attending my course to become an archivist and I was back studying the language that had changed my life so much. It wasn’t meant to last, but at that time I didn’t know and I was happy.


Apart from language learning, springtime is connected to Asian stuff in general for me.  It was 2009 and I had just discovered the blog of a lovely lady from Rome who was just passionate about Japan and Japanese language. Her blog wasn’t strictly about language learning as it was pretty much a lifestyle blog, but anyway it influenced so much my own passions and curiosity in the years to come. It was the first time for me to get contact with someone who had made her passion her lifestyle. And deep inside I knew I wanted to do the same, though it has taken me many years to fully realize that.

It was also the time I attended the Far East Film Festival for the first time, and I just loved it. Okuribito was premièred in Italy that night. So many memories. It seems like a lifetime ago.

Now that I think about it, I realize that most of the best moments I’ve had in my life are connected with Asia and Asian languages in one way or another. I’m a person of many interests, and while this is generally a good thing is also something that often has prevented me from focusing on what I really love doing – studying Chinese, studying Japanese, immersing myself in the culture, reading about it, experiencing it. Out of the many things that are uncertain in my life, this is definitely not one of them. Who I am and what my passions are are not a subject of discussion.

So this is spring, which is my season, and it’s the perfect time to indulge myself with the things that I really love doing. Time to put these extra hours of light we get every night into good use.


{Simple Life} A welcome pack to myself

Last week I finally took possession of my new Scottish room. I’m very happy with this acquisition, not only because the room per se is gorgeous (I was really lucky), but also because after more than 4 years of living at my parents’ home in a room that wasn’t much suitable for a grown up life, I’m more than happy to finally have my own space.

At the same time, this lovely room costs my a fortune so I really need to save up and avoid mindless shopping if I want to afford the place. Furthermore, I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m going through a decluttering process of both activities and physical possessions, so I definitely don’t want to mess my new room up with useless junk. I think I already possess too much of it.

Nonetheless, I thought it could be nice to prepare a restricted amount of new items I could unpack and enjoy once I was settled in. In the previous month I’ve piled out some nice stuff to personalize my room with, while strictly staying on a budget.

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Mary Poppin’s Bag

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Who doesn’t need some fairy dust

I collected everything in a Primark paper-bag and secured the opening with a Fairy dust bottle which was supposed to shoot me dead if I were to open the bag beforehand. Never mess with Fairy dust.

I first focused my attention on bedding and everything in between. I get all my work done at the desk, but the bed is where I unravel and relax during the evening watching Netflix and reading novels. I wanted it to be comfy and homely without it being too much.  I also got a new pyjama for the occasion as pyjamas are by far my favourite piece of clothing to go shopping for (and to wear), and Primark keeps tempting me with this awesome Harry Potter themed collection.

After the essentials, I thought it would have been nice to indulge in some self-pampering products. I had recently run out of body scrub so I looked for a replacement since body scrubs, in general, are one of my beauty-related guilty pleasures. I also got a couple of makeup products from No.7 and with them I was given a gift box with mascara, blush and red lipstick. Finally, candles and ambient lights are a must for a cozy space (but, again, I didn’t want to overdo it so I kept it minimal). I got all these products either from Primark at a very low and affordable price or from the drugstore (on promotion).

And this is the final result (〃⌒∇⌒) I think it’s important to take care of ourselves as much as we can,  since nobody else can really do that for us. It’s nice to pamper ourselves with a few luxurious purchases, especially if they help to create a relaxing and inspiring living space. And self-love really doesn’t cost much in the end.


Remembering the Hanzi / Day 18 [Frames 793 ~ 852]

Writing practice always challenges my inability to remember big chunk of information. This becomes especially true when I have to tackle longer (and more boring) lessons like this one.

I hate lessons that have a lot of characters with completely unrelated meanings/semantic fields. It thus become mere rote memorisation which defeats the whole purpose of studying from a book like Remembering Simplified Hanzi in the first place. Though a certain amount of pure memorisation is requited anyway, I guess.

If I think about all the lessons I studied in the previous months and that I haven’t reviewed for the longest time now I almost feel sick 😦 It will take me forever to regain all that semi-lost knowledge.

That’s why I have to review my Anki cards almost everyday. If I do that, I can manage even bigger chunks of characters like in this lesson. What I’m finding really useful is, surprisingly enough, the bury card function. When I’m studying a specific lesson in Custom study mode and it has a great number of cards that I’m reviewing for the first time, I often find it very hard to memorise them all in one session. When I realise my brain cannot take any new info for that study session, I’ll just bury the new cards in order to review them another day, while focusing on those I’m training on at the moment.

The more I go on with the book and the writing practice, the more I realise the only way for me to manage all this is to break down everything (studying and reviewing sessions included) in very small chunks that my brain can handle with a certain amount of effort, but without straining itself too much. If I try to do the superhero, I just waste precious time and energy.


I just discovered the Korean indie music trend on Youtube and OMG I’m SO addicted *_* the tunes are incredibly soft and pleasant plus the female singers voices have such a relaxing and soothing effect on me that they’re perfect for both reading, studying and working. After Fm-84 they’re absolutely the main theme of this spring 2017!

{Books in a Nutshell} January ~ March 2017


So here I am with yet another Goodreads challenge for 2017. I decided to set my goal to 25 books like last year because I can’t predict how things will turn out with work and life in general in the next few months – plus 25 kinds of seems like a manageable number after all.


 Marion Zimmer Bradley – Ancestors of Avalon
|Italian Translation|

This was a good, absorbing novel. Actually I don’t know how much of it was written by Zimmer Bradley and how much by Diana Paxson, but I don’t think this is a matter of relevance here. The storyline was well constructed and the characters, as always, more than credible.

Rated 4/5 stars on Goodreads


 Cecilia Dart-Thorntorn – The Lady of the Sorrows [Bitterbynde series volume II]
|Italian Translation|

Cecilia Dart-Thorntorn was the big discover of 2016 for me and this second novel didn’t disappoint me. Her novels are the closest thing to the fangirl feeling I experience while watching particularly emotionally moving dramas – I just can’t read her pages with a cool detachment. The writing is superb, I’m in awe every time that I think about the monstrous amount of work she must have put to prepare such a thorough background and descriptions for her story. Amazing piece, amazing writer.

Rated 5/5 stars on Goodreads


 Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples – Saga vol. I
|Original version|

I discovered this graphic novel on VivaTrump’s blog and it immediately caught my eye. In terms of comics I come from a manga-only reading background, but now I’m all into expanding my reading experience. Saga is a very promising series, a great option to make my way towards the field of Western comic books. Both the graphic and the storyline are stunning, the style is extremely original and there’s an overall huge attention to details. I’m already planning to buy the second volume.

Rated 4/5 stars on Goodreads


 Marion Zimmer Bradley – The Sword of Avalon
|Italian Translation|

The book that has enchanted me the less in the series so far. I don’t even understand why, since I was really into it during the reading process. I also really liked the male lead, which is one of the most complex and complete characters in the whole saga. May I’ve just been reading too many Avalon stories in a too brief time frame. Still a good book though.

Rated 3/5 stars on Goodreads


 Claudio Magris – Un altro mare
|Original version|

I haven’t been reading ‘literature’ books for a while now. This novel has a special meaning to me as I used to walk by the author’s office often at Università di Trieste, so it represents a sort of sentimental attachment. It’s a one-of-a-kind book written in an extremely personal and refined style, which I don’t know how well can perform on translation tbh. Probably it’s not that special for those who have never been to this distinct part of the world – but it says a lot to me and to everything I experienced while I was a uni student there.

Rated 4/5 stars on Goodreads


More English language books coming in next month and – who knows – perhaps even some new comic books / 漫画.


Hello April


March review

March goals

I didn’t set goals for March as I knew it was going to be (yet another) crazy month. Nonetheless, since I arrived in Scotland I’ve been trying to set myself up a good acceptable daily/weekly routine in order to make the most out of my time. With mixed results, of course. But in just a couple of weeks I’ve been able to at least figure out 2 or 3 of the main problems I have in terms of time management – which is good, because being aware of what it’s wrong it’s the first step towards find a long-lasting solution.

One thing I actually did in March was to establish a movie night for me and Doctor L. to enjoy together, which implies loaded nachos dinner to be consumed in front of the screen. Nice nice nice.

How I spent my time

Blog 14h58m;
Chinese 8h51m;
Productivity 23h16m;
Wellness 7h26m.

I’m a bit surprised to see a decrease in the amount of time I spent studying Chinese, considering I’ve been practicing it almost everyday since 9th/10th of March. Apparently reviewing 汉字 is something I’m not able to do in long study sessions.

How I spent my money

March has been so-so regarding money. Apart from the obvious expenses I had to cope with (airplane and train tickets, etc.), I also kind of ‘celebrated’ my arrival in Scotland through a couple of shopping sessions AHEM. Paperchase + WH Smith + Primark + Boots where around £110 in total. I have to admit, it’s really hard for me to keep my purse shut with all my favourite shops around, but one of the main goals for April will be to learn how to resist the impulse of buying new stuff. I’m trying to trim down the overall amount of my possessions for a number of different reasons (environment, money, space) and I’m determined to work seriously on this.

How I did with my Study

I’ve been studying my Chinese characters with a steady rhythm this month. I did my practice almost everyday, even though some sessions where very short (around 15 minutes).  I’m now trying to organise regular study sessions for my career training, which is something I’ve been willing to do for a very long time now but never actually addressed.


I’ve been enjoying my new very Scottish life by having dinner at the pub, going to Starbucks for my work/study sessions, having brunch at the local shabby chic coffee shop and in general living the city as much as possible.  I’m still kind of adjusting to the weather (here is still much winter, at least to my parameters), but just to be clear I was born in a Southern country only by chance – I am and I will remain a Scandinavian girl so I actually do enjoy the northern weather. Really!

Books read/reading

  • Marion Zimmer Bradley / Diana Paxson – Sword of Avalon
  • Clave Barker – The Scarlet Gospel
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley / Diana Paxson – Ravens of Avalon

TV series watched/watching

  • The Expanse S1
  • Gilmore Girls S7
  • The Good Wife S4
  • A Good Wife (Taiwanese drama)


April’s goals

  1. Finish my archives work and publish it, as for a number of health-related reasons I wasn’t able to finish everything while I was still in Italy. I have yet to finish the file review and write the introduction. I will be done in April, promise.
  2. Keep up with RSH study. Somehow, things are going better than expected: I feel slightly bored about it but much much less than I thought. Finishing the book is a huge accomplishment for me so I really wanna work hard in order to keep the motivation high and be done asap.
  3. Work hard on my career progress. One of the reasons I came here is because I want to get access to a number of possibilities that would otherwise be precluded to me. In the last 2 and a half years I’ve been working hard on my professional training as an archivist and I want to push it to the next level without further ado.
  4. Establish a daily/weekly routine. I have quite a lot of time on my hands at the moment so I need not to lose sight of what my major accomplishments are and which path I should follow in order to achieve them. It’s easy to waste time staying everyday at home, so a nice working inside/working outside balance will have to be implemented.

Habit of the month : work on my early morning routine (wake up, drink green tea, study Chinese and practice yoga before 8:00 am).


{Drama’s Drama} Current TBF List #1

I do watch quite a few American/British TV series, but since I discovered Asian dramas back in 2013 I’ve been switching between these two genres a lot. A pretty hectic and non-consistent schedule has often disrupted my focus, bringing me to (unwillingly) leave some pieces behind.

As I’m trying to avoid open loops as much as I can, now that I have more spare time I want to reach the final episode of all the Asian dramas I’ve been wrongfully neglecting.

The List

1) A Good Wife (Taiwan)


I started watching this back in January when I was looking for Mandarin Chinese content to consume as a pre-HSK training. I was tempted as it’s only 16 episodes long (after my experience with Love Cheque Charge I’ve decided to cut on those 25+ episode dramas, at least for the moment), and I’ve loved the opening theme from the very beginning. I stopped watching it simply because of a chronicle lack of time, but I’ve been back on it for the last two days so I hope to catch up pretty soon with this one.

2) The Good Wife (Korea)


I started watching this one after having watched only the first two seasons of the American original. I was actually pretty enjoying it (again, only 16 episodes), but as I didn’t want to spoiler myself the other one, I just had to stop with this. I’m now halfway through season 4 of the American Good wife, so once I’m done with it I’ll go back to its Korean counterpart.

3) The K2 (Korea)


I watched only the first episode of this drama in early December (worst timing ever), and to be completely honest it didn’t make any particular impression on me. I’m not saying I won’t probably like it, but I wasn’t hooked like it happened with Hello Monster (which I loved since the end of the very first episode).  I will definitely go back to it, it’s my first serious ‘dark’ drama and I’m still curious to see what kind of turn the story will take.

4) The Fierce Wife (Taiwan)


There’s a number of dramas concerning wives in my list (・о・) I started watching this back in July 2015 (it’s actually kind of funny the way I found out about this drama, but I’ll reserve it for the time I’ll be actually finished watching it), when I was preparing for my Archives board exam and I was totally stressed out as I was also working two jobs at that time. I have to be honest, I kind of dislike stories concerning adultery and cheating – it makes me feel really uncomfortable and sort of angry ( ︶︿︶) Still, I would really like to try finishing this one so I’ll give it a second chance, maybe in the latter part of the year.

5) Gu Family Book (Korea)


Ok this one is SUPER old for me (TωT) it brings back so many memories as it’s one of the very first dramas I’ve ever come across in my life, when I was young and innocent and I didn’t know yet what the fuss was all about. TBH I’m not much into period dramas right now plus I found the characters a little too clichéd (which is not something that usually bothers me). Still, I’m emotionally attached to this drama so I feel like I have to finish watching it, which I’m indeed determined to do.

Taiwanese and Korean dramas are 90% of all Asian dramas I watch, but I’m always opened to new suggestions of course (︶▽︶)

Remebering the Hanzi / Day 17 [Frames 762 ~ 792]

Time to get this 汉字 practice going and flowing.

As much boring as it is, I’m still determined to widen my characters knowledge. HSK3 features also a character writing part so I need to be prepared.

When I first started off with this adventure of Heisig’s book I was driven by the belief that reading is essential in language learning, and that I’ll never be able to read if I don’t know enough characters first.

Even though I still believe in that, after 2 or 3 months of just learning characters I’ve started feeling incredibly bored and I kind of lost sight of what the bigger learning process really was.

The kick I had to give myself in occasion of HSK really brought me back to all the reasons I had to begin studying Chinese in the first place. Which means, putting characters practice back into context.

It’s a long and often boring task but now I can see the bigger picture way more clearly and I have more determination to endure the… boredom.


Writing characters it’s way harder than recognising them, so the process is taking longer than I originally expected. But it’s fine, I think I can still meet my deadline of finishing the book by the end of May/beginning of June.

This lesson is actually ok, it’s not super long and it revolves around just 2/3 main components (wild rice, rice, bamboo), which in turn form characters of quite homogenous meaning. It is pretty easy to memorise so I think I’ll be able to jump to the next one right away.

Lately I’ve been totally obsessed with this album. I think I’ve mentioned my newly discovered obsession passion for new retro wave music, which is the perfect complement for a 80s baby like me. This album is just so evocative – decadent, glamorous and nostalgic enough to have me totally hooked. Playing it like 10,000 times a day without ever getting bored.

{Planners} Bits & Pieces, Error & Trial

It’s been a while since I last talked about planners and organisation. I think this happened mainly because I’ve been in a sort of prolonged planner slump, which has prevented me from talking about it in a clear and orderly manner. I know it may sound ridiculous to ‘normal people’, but for we planner addicts this is a serious matter.

I thought 2017 was going to be about planner peace but no, I actually found myself even more confused than before. What I find interesting is seeing people who are not into this whole planner fuss being more much effective and organised in their planning system than many stationery aficionados. But this is a reflection for another post.

Anyway I think I found a way of making my system work, and even though it may seem a little over-complicated (it is), it actually makes sense to me. Bottomline is that I’m currently working from home, that’s why I’m able to use all these resources; it would be impossible to carry everything around.

Looking for simplifying things for 2018, that’s for sure.

So, starting for the bottom up:

  1. Kikki.K A5 compendium which contains: A5 Muji planner, A6 Moleskine ruled notebook, A6 Muji grid notebook. Muji planner has a weekly calendar + notes page layout, and it includes monthly calendars from December 2016 to February 2018. I use this planner for appointments, deadlines, the plus one’s work schedule, household management notes, expenses tracking and everything that has to do with daily life organisation. Moleskine notebook is for my wishlist, divided by category and then by shop/brand (like: All the body butters I want to buy from The Body Shop). Muji notebook is a sort of ‘orderly braindump’ for those times I feel the need to organise a certain day or event in particular.
  2. Paperchase leather covered notebook: my current journal. I took an involuntary hiatus from journaling during February due to my super cluttered schedule but I’m working on going back to it.
  3. Filofax Original Personal in Lilac. It holds my project pages (previously stored in my Filofax original in fluoro pink, which as served as my planner from September to December 2016) + some organisational pages for my weekly and daily routines.
  4. Filofax Boston Compact in Pink. My current work planner. I actually like this planner very much and I’m waiting for the right occasion to use it as main planner.
  5. Paperblanks Weekly Planner. This is the newest addition to my planner insanity system; after having used the Strikethru system for a couple of months I started missing it and couldn’t really find a place in my Muji planner for it, even though it has many free pages at the back. This planner is basically the list of things I have to get done everyday, which is limited to 7 (but I hardly schedule more than 5). This planner has very quickly become the pivot of my daily schedule and routine, plus I really like the fact that the pages are lined since I can’t really write in blank spaces.
  6. Booklist & ruled notebook by Paperchase + todo list pad. I’ve actually re-discovered the pleasure of writing endless lists by hand. I do use technology (especially Trello and Wunderlist, plus Apple Notes, Calendar and Reminders) and I enjoy it, but for simple, everyday life todo lists I actually prefer paper. I don’t like the way things start to be overscheduled in the digital world, it ends up stressing me out instead of motivating me. So todo list pads and random notebooks for notes/braindump are surely going to by a milestone of my system.

I don’t even know where to start to say that all this has to be trimmed down and rationalized. Of course the first step would be to find a way of putting together the main planner with the Strikethru system and the work planner. I’ve always struggled with daily and even weekly to do lists so loose papersheets work just fine for now. But integrating that too would be way better of course.

Truth is, when I’m using a bound planner I miss the rings and when I’m in rings I miss the bound planner. Is happiness even possible for use stationery geeks?