12 Things I Want To Do In 2018

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a great New Year's Eve :) We spent it as we usually do: hosting a house party for our friends. It involved champagne, cheese, an excellent game called Hats Up, and Time Commanders. Really chilled-out and relaxed, and I absolutely loved it :)

2017 was a pretty good year for me (as those of you who read yesterday's post will know), and it's given me a great motivation to go on and make 2018 even better. I've got a lot of things

1: Finally, finally learn to drive
I had driving lessons at 17 but was absolutely terrified of being in control of a potentially lethal vehicle, so I never actually took my test (plus I moved to London where there is absolutely zero point in owning a car). However, due to a potential change in work circumstances which might make driving easier and quicker than public transport, I'm thinking it's now or never. I need to sort some financial things out first but once that's done I'm going to book some lessons and my theory test. I'm very nervous about it but also excited about the possible freedom it will bring. Wish me luck!

2: Make an item of clothing I can wear out of the house
After years of saying I'd start sewing, 2017 was the year I finally put needle through thread. I took a sewing course where I made a cushion and a couple of bags, plus I fixed a few hems and altered some collars on my own clothes. However, I still haven't managed to make something that I'd be willing to wear in public, so the goal is to make an item of clothing by the end of the year. I'm hoping to do a beginner's dressmaking course in the summer and am planning to make a few projects out of the Tilly and the Buttons book too. Hopefully this time next year when someone asks me what I'm wearing I'll be able to say 'thank you, I made it myself!'

3: Get back into regular blogging
I think I can safely say that 2017 was a crap year for the blog. Work was so busy for various reasons and then I was doing so much stuff for Entertainment Focus (more on that later) that unfortunately the blog completely fell by the wayside. So in a bid to get back on track, I'm going to try and blog more regularly in 2018. My plan is to start small, with two posts a week - I'm aiming for Wednesday and Sunday at the moment - and then reassess in six months to see if I can up it to three. I'm also planning on a redesign and maybe even a name change - watch this space...

4: Finish all the book series that I've started
One thing I did do pretty well at in 2017 was reading - I read a grand total of 61 books this year, and am hoping to continue with that in 2018. However, I have an awful lot of book series where I've read the first one and then not continued (because there are simply too many other books to read!), so this year I'd like to try and finish as many of those series as I can, starting with Phillipa Gregory's Plantagenet/Tudor novels.

5: Take better care of myself
Since we came back from Australia, I will fully admit that my diet and exercise have gone down the pan. I've pretty much given up running, my eating habits have been dreadful, and that's affected both my physical and mental health. So in a bid to get myself back on track I'm planning to drink more water, eat better (more fruit and vegetables, less processed rubbish) and get more exercise - whether that's parkrun, a YouTube workout at home or just a walk along the canal at lunchtime. The latter is potentially going to be difficult depending on what happens with my work situation, but I'm hoping that I can make it a good habit even if things change in that regard.

6: Go to an exhibition every month
One of the things I love most about living in London is the sheer variety of museums and galleries there are to go to. However, last year I neglected them a bit, so I'm aiming to visit at least one special exhibition a month in 2018 and actually justify getting my Art Pass (which I highly recommend if you go to museums a lot). First up is Scythians at the British Museum, but I also want to see the Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican and the Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library before the end of January.

7: Get my first tattoo
I have been banging on about getting a tattoo for so long and now I've turned 30, I've decided this is going to be the year I finally bite the bullet. I've decided on the design and the artist, but just haven't got round to getting it done yet. It's country music-related (surprise surprise!) so I'd like to have it in time for C2C, but it'll probably be more like Country Music Week at this rate. Rest assured though that there will be a post and pictures!

8: Give back
At the risk of sounding trite, 2017 was the year that it felt like there was a groundswell in everyone being more socially and environmentally conscious. That's something I want to continue this year7
, whether it's through limiting how much plastic I use with reusable water bottles and coffee cups or supporting small businesses within my local community. I've already signed up to donate blood later this month (which I'm hoping to be able to do regularly again if all goes well) and am looking at volunteering opportunities as well. It feels like this is a real time to make a change and even if I can only do something small then at least it's better than nothing.

9: Travel more
Although I didn't do much travel last year - Australia and Portugal aside - I really loved it and am hungry to do more in 2018. Rather than doing any big trips though, Nick and I have decided that this will be our year of city breaks. Dublin, Paris, southern Spain (either Granada or Seville), Munich and Prague are all on our list - if you have tips for any of those, hit me up! I'm also working on a post about places I'd like to visit this year so look out for that on the blog soon too :)

10: Save up for Nashville next year
Following on from the previous goal, as we're not having a big holiday this year we're instead thinking about a big solo trip each in 2019 to go somewhere the other isn't mad keen on. No prizes for guessing where I picked - Nashville! I genuinely cannot wait to get over there and experience all the amazing music and history and food. But sadly, flights and accommodation and all the rest of it cost money, so my aim for this year is to cut back my spending and put all my spare income into savings for the trip. It's going to be difficult but having that amazing trip at the end will make it all worth it.

11: Sort the house out
We've been in our house for two and a half years now and I love it, but it does still need a little bit of work. So our plans for this year are to get new floors fitted downstairs - I'm hoping for a nice herringbone laminate in the hall and front room and black-and-white lino tiles in the kitchen - and change our spare room into a second living room/'man cave' for Nick. I'm actually really looking forward to it; I like a project and, in a slightly odd way, this feels like the last stage in really making the house our home. I can't wait to give you guys the tour when it's done!

12: Make a proper go of country music writing
So as those of you who follow me on Twitter will know, I've been writing country music reviews and interviews for Entertainment Focus for the last 18 months or so (along with other things like the Strictly Come Dancing recaps). And, although it feels cheesy to say it, I think I've found the thing that I love and want to do more of - it's what I wake up excited about every morning. I'm not quite sure I'm at the stage of jacking in my current job to do it full time, but I may be moving jobs in a few months to a role that would give me a much bigger opportunity to pursue it. I've also applied to a few more websites to do music writing - both country and in other genres - so fingers crossed that will help me build towards making the leap! It's scary and exciting and I genuinely can't wait to see what happens next.

So that's what I want to achieve in 2018! Here's hoping I'll reach those targets (or some of them, at least...

What do you want to do this year?

50 Happy Things In 2017

For my last post of 2017, I wanted to write about the things that have made me happy this year. Whilst it hasn't been a year of massive achievements - I'm still in the same job, still living in the same place - I feel like I've done a lot of small things that have brought a smile to my face and that I'm genuinely making progress. So, although it's not the most exciting list in the world, here are 50 things that have made me happy in 2017. Unsurprisingly, an awful lot of them are music-related...
  1. Going to Australia for the second time.
  2. Perth, particularly its awesome bars and restaurants.
  3. The history on offer in Fremantle.
  4. Tasmania and its beautiful scenery.
  5. Hobart - the perfect little compact city, with water, great museums, gorgeous landscapes and excellent wine.
  6. Melbourne, particularly the street art. I still stand by my view that I could live there.
  7. Fussing a baby wombat at a wildlife park in Tasmania.
  8. Watching my AFL team win their first playoff game on the way to the Premiership (go Tiges!)
  9. Seeing Brad Paisley at C2C.
  10. Seeing Zac Brown Band at C2C.
  11. Going to see the Nashville cast at the Royal Albert Hall.
  12. Interviewing Charlie Worsham for Entertainment Focus. It was my first 'big' interview and I was so nervous, but he was so warm and friendly and put me completely at ease. That was the first time I thought I might actually be able to make a go of the music writing thing.
  13. Getting to meet Charlie Worsham four times.
  14. Interviewing Lucie Silvas for Entertainment Focus - she was utterly lovely.
  15. Writing the Strictly Come Dancing recaps for Entertainment Focus, even if it did mean I couldn't go out on Saturday nights for three months...
  16. Getting to be in the Strictly Come Dancing studio audience. (I love my job.)
  17. Seeing Kip Moore at Shepherds Bush Empire.
  18. Seeing Drake White at Shepherds Bush Empire.
  19. Seeing Cadillac Three at Kentish Town Forum.
  20. Seeing Brothers Osborne at Kentish Town Forum and C2C.
  21. Seeing Lindsay Ell at the Borderline - best guitar player I've ever seen.
  22. Seeing Lucie Silvas at C2C, Nashville Meets London and Islington Assembly Hall.
  23. Seeing Maren Morris at Shepherds Bush Empire and C2C.
  24. Seeing Chris Young at C2C.
  25. Seeing Brandy Clark at Union Chapel.
  26. Interviewing Brandy Clark for Entertainment Focus - she was so great to chat to!
  27. Beating my reading goal for the year and reading 61 books.
  28. Getting to hang out with old blogger friends and make some new ones at Katy's garden party.
  29. Going to my first Test cricket match (and England winning, which seems like a distant dream now...)
  30. Going to watch Liverpool play at Anfield for the first time, and crying at You'll Never Walk Alone.
  31. Going to Lisbon and having the most amazing meal at 100 Maneiras.
  32. Spending a day exploring on my own in Lisbon, which is something I wouldn't have been brave enough to do before.
  33. Going to Porto and getting to see the staircase that inspired Hogwarts.
  34. Drinking a port the same age as me by the river in Porto.
  35. Celebrating my 30th birthday with afternoon tea at the Hard Days Night Hotel in Liverpool.
  36. Going to Duck &Waffle for breakfast on my birthday.
  37. Finding out I'm going to be an auntie again in April!
  38. Finding some new favourite books, particularly I Capture The Castle.
  39. Improving my photography. I'm not that great yet, but it's a darn sight better than it was last year...
  40. Spending the weekend on my dad's canal boat. (I'm scared of boats, so for me this is kind of a big deal.)
  41. Going to Dandelyan for birthday cocktails with my friends.
  42. Visiting Cambridge at Christmas, which was absolutely magical.
  43. Cleared out the shed and made it into a lovely office, including building a piece of furniture from scratch.
  44. My cats, who always make me happy because they're so adorable.
  45. My lovely husband. I genuinely don't know what I'd do without him sometimes.
  46. Seeing some amazing exhibitions, particularly Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum.
  47. Making some small health changes which have made me feel a lot happier about myself and given me something to build on for next year.
  48. Ran the furthest I ever have (even if I wasn't great at sticking with the actual running...)
  49. Getting to spend a lovely relaxing Christmas with my parents and my husband.
  50. Feeling more confident that I can actually make a go of what I want to achieve going into 2018.
What's made you happy this year?

Happy Christmas!

A short post today, because I'm sure you've all got far better things to be doing today than reading my blog. So I just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful day full of lovely food, cosy rooms and being with the people you love (which can include yourself!), and that Father Christmas brought you what you wished for :)

Some Thoughts On Turning 30

'I think I'll take a moment / To celebrate my age / The ending of an era / And the turning of a page...'

Today is my 30th birthday. (Cue balloons, streamers, cake emoji etc.) When I was younger, I thought 30 was old - like really, really old - and now of course I realise that's ridiculous. But it is something I've been thinking about a lot in the last couple of weeks as the milestone has crept up, so I wanted to write down how I felt about

I have to admit that a couple of years ago I wasn't looking forward to turning 30. I think it was because of the fact that there seems to be a weird pressure to have your entire life sorted: to be set in your career, to be married - or at the very least engaged and/or living with your partner, to have bought a house and to be about to start a family. Maybe that's the prevalence of social media, where a lot of people seem to live their lives on fast-forward, but it still seems a bit weird when hopefully I'll have another 30 years on this planet at least to do all those things.

So far I have managed 50% of those; Nick and I will have been married for three years next month and we've been living in our house for just over two years. Yes we would like a bigger place, but given the way the property market is I'm very happy - and incredibly grateful - that we were able to buy a house at all, and although I have moaned about it no end I've actually really enjoyed the process of making it into our own home and will be very sad when/if we eventually have to leave.

I've also been incredibly lucky that in the last 18 months or so I've found the thing I really love (country music writing) and have had some incredible opportunities in that regard - I got published in a magazine (twice), have been to some brilliant gigs (including at least one that I think will be an 'I was there when...' moment), met some genuinely lovely people and built up a pretty decent portfolio of work. Part of me does wish that I'd come to it sooner, but better late than never, right?

Then I think about the things that weren't on that list that I've achieved - travelling, for instance, which I have fallen completely in love with and am desperate to do as much of as possible for as long as I can. And there are the other things I've wanted to do but didn't have the confidence to until recently, like asking for more opportunities at work and being able to push back, as well as the side of me that feels much more inclined to say 'stuff it' and do things because I want to, not because I feel under pressure to do or because other people think I should (within reason, obviously).

There are some things I'm not enjoying about getting older - the white eyebrow hairs (seriously, why???), the hangovers lasting two days, the twinges that remind me to sit up straight and not push myself too hard when I run. But that stuff is inspiring me to make changes in terms of the things I wasn't good at, like investing time in myself - eating better, exercising more, and being more diligent about my skincare routine. And there are the new things I want to learn as well, like how to drive (finally) and being better at planning so that, in the words of Ron Swanson, I stop half-assing two things and whole-ass one thing.

So all in all, I'm feeling pretty good about turning 30. Yes I don't have a perfect life - to be honest though, who does? - but I'm very happy with where I am right now, and looking forward to what's to come. Now bring on the birthday cake...

Oh, and in case anyone's wondering where the lyrics at the start of this post are from, it's 'My Next Thirty Years' by Tim McGraw, which I think sums things up pretty nicely:

The First Lines Game

Regular readers will know that I am a massive music fan, and even though I mostly listen to country I think it's fair to say that I have fairly eclectic taste. I also have a worrying memory for lyrics (in more ways than one), so when I came across the First Lines Game on Claire's blog I had to give it a go!

The rules are pretty straightforward:

- Put your music player of choice on shuffle (I used my saved songs list on Spotify)
- Post the first line (or a couple) from each song that comes up
- Players then have to guess which songs the lyrics come from by posting in the comments
- Italicise the lyrics and post the details when someone guesses correctly. I'll add YouTube links for the ones with videos as well
- For those who are playing the game - no googling or using other search engines to look up lyrics!
- If you like the game post your own version (and link to it in the comments)

So here are my 30 songs - best of luck!

1. When I'm sitting in traffic some afternoon / Or bored to death in some waiting room
2. It took a million miles of wrong turns just to find you
3. Now you're gone / I wonder why / You left me here / I think about it on and on and on and on again
4. I got your postcard scribbled from a nowhere town / It said I think I still love you
5. These boots have counted off many a band / Playing one night roadhouse stands
6. So far away / I've slept for days / And I just lay right next to you
7. Rode into town at only 18 / Girl beside me and our baby in a car seat
8. Brothers and sisters put this record down / Take my advice cause we are bad news
9. Look at the tears filling up your eyes / I've been around so don't even try to tell me
10. So don't wait up for me cause I'll be gone til well past three
11. Hey there Mr Tin Man / You don't know how lucky you are
12. If you ain't got two kids by 21 you're probably gonna die alone
13. It's a lonely road / Two for the pain and three for the show
14. I don't want another heartbreak / I don't need another turn to cry
15. I've been thinking (Yeah) / It's been a while since we got out of town
16. You could never know what it's like / Your blood like winter freezes just like ice
17. Everybody's always waiting on Friday / Watching that clock and sitting on go
18. Work sucks truck died hot as hell outside my AC just broke
19. Close like that little strap to your shoulder / Close like you've been since you slid over
20. It's got a touch of the town where I grew up / Something bout it them California girls love
21. The moon / Outside / Too bright
22. I gotta thank a small town preacher / making me a hymn singer
23. I was a liar / I gave into the fire
24. Goodbye / It's an easy word to say / People use it every day / Just a line they throw away
25. She looks so pretty with no make up on / You should hear her talking to her mama on the phone
26. If I could kill a word and watch it die / I'd poison never and shoot goodbye
27. That Sunday morning choir calling church doors open wide
28. B-U-S-H-P-A-R-T-Y / We'll have some if you're in tonight
29. When I first got to Nashville town / They called me in and sat me down
30. Hey girl do you feel that temperature drop / That time time going tick tock

How many did you get?