escapist books

Which, let’s face it, is a lot of the time.

These eight books aren’t self-help books or anything like that, they are just really lovely books, with amazing illustrations and photographs, or unusual stories. They are books that you can escape into, even if it’s just for ten minutes and you still have to clean the bathroom when you come out again.

Plus – and this is pretty cool – I’ve got a competition to win £150 to spend at the Book People on anything from their handpicked collection. If you’ve ever shopped with the Book People before you’ll appreciate just what a MASSIVE PILE of books you’ll be able to buy for that.

First then, the books.

I’ve chosen each of these because I think they are the perfect books to dip into when you need a bit of cheering up. With this in mind, I’ve taken a picture of a page inside each, to give you an idea of what you might find. Each title is a clickable link though, in case you want to find out more or see the front cover.

(Although you know you should never judge a book by its cover right?) View Post

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bicycles on the pavement

I was walking to work this morning and coming towards me was a woman pushing a pushchair. (With a baby in, not just for fun.)

Another woman came up behind pushchair lady on a bike, and there was an awkward moment where they jostled for position on the pavement. As she cycled past, the woman on the bike gave pushchair lady a look, as though somehow she had been the one getting in the way. As she walked past I gave pushchair lady a friendly smile, designed to show pedestrian solidarity, but my glasses were covered with rain and I think it came out wrong.

Anyway, that’s not okay is it? It’s a pavement! And it’s actually against the law. I just looked it up.

Cycling on footways (a pavement by side of a carriageway) is prohibited by Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888. 

(It works best if you say that in a geeky voice – I may learn it by heart so I can recite it at cyclists.)

It’s punishable by a £30 fine in fact.

Now I know that cycling on roads can be dangerous and scary. Personally I am way too much of a wimp to cycle on the road. Put me on a bike near traffic and I panic, make a funny squeaky noise, wobble and fall off. But that doesn’t mean I cycle on the pavement instead, it means I walk.

Am I being unreasonable here? Are cyclists so badly treated by drivers that they have to be on the pavement or am I right to be enraged?

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That’s a good question for a Monday morning isn’t it? How exactly do you know if you’ve made the right decision about something?

Well, maybe you don’t.

But maybe that’s okay.

I went and spent the night at the seaside last week, because I fancied a paddle. I did actually paddle too, even though it was really bloody freezing. I did a ten minute Twitter poll and surprise surprise, 95% of people were in favour of the February paddle. I feel a bit sad really for the 5% who said no because seriously, how can you go to the beach and not want to take your tights off and get your feet wet?

Making a decision isn’t always as easy though as conducting a Twitter poll, although we can take the paddling as a simple example of how you don’t always need to worry about whether you’ve made the right decision.

Twitter decided I should go for a paddle, so I did. It was fun – I felt like I was doing something exciting and exhilarating. I felt like I’d made the most of going to the beach. Let’s say though that I had decided not to paddle – I would have avoided having freezing cold feet and tiny bits of sand and stones in my boots for the rest of the day, which would have also been nice.

So this is my first point – it doesn’t normally matter what you decide, because in most cases there is no right or wrong answer.

I took this photo while I was at the beach to illustrate my point:

have I made the right decision? View Post

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How is 2017 going for you so far? International politics getting you down?

Thought so.

What you need is a holiday. Something like this:

travel secret of happiness

Because who could fail to be cheered by having a casual bit of watermelon on a lilo? I’m not sure of the practicalities of trying to eat such a large piece of fruit on water like that but hey, no one said living the dream was meant to be easy did they?

According to new research from Booking.com, over three quarters of people (77%) book a holiday when they need cheering up and 70% of us believe that travel brings more lasting happiness than material possessions. In fact, according to the results of the research, holidays top most things when it comes to happiness – 49% of the people surveyed even said they get more pleasure from a holiday than from their own wedding day!

The good news is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get the buzz. There’s almost as much happiness to be found in researching and planning a holiday as there is actually being on it – it isn’t just about lying on the beach, gazing into the sunset. (Although that bit is probably pretty nice too.)

travel secret of happiness

If you want to get the most from your holiday in terms of happiness, then planning is everything. Even just writing this, looking at these pictures and imagining where I might go has given me a little boost, and I’m not alone – nearly three quarters of people (72%) say they get a kick of excitement just from researching where to go on holiday.

If you’re thinking about booking a holiday, why not try these tips to get you in the mood and maximise happiness:

  • Make a bucket list of places you’d like to visit or create some holiday Pinterest boards full of pictures of dream destinations. Like this one.
  • Have a look at Booking.com’s destination finder. It allows you to browse holidays by interest rather than destination, so you can find places to go based on the fact that you like photography, local history, or whatever it might be.
  • Don’t be afraid to daydream. Holidays are meant to be the chance to experience something new so let your imagination run wild should you feel so inclined. I quite fancy watching the Northern lights from a glass igloo in Finland.
  • Share your holidays plans and dreams with friends and family. Dreams are more likely to come true when you say them out loud and talking about plans as a family will help to get you all excited. (75% of people surveyed by Booking.com said travelling with family makes them happier than travelling on their own.)

Once you’ve booked your holiday, then you can really get excited. You get to plan your wardrobe, look at maps, research trips – the works. Reading reviews of where you’re going and looking at other people’s pictures is a favourite way to give holiday happiness a boost and if you were going somewhere like this then you can see why:

travel secret of happiness

Once I have a holiday booked, these are my favourite things to do:

  • If I’m going by train or plane, I like to plan what I’m going to do on the way – I might download a film or maybe buy a new notebook. The travelling should be fun too.
  • Look up local restaurant reviews and think about all the yummy food I’m going to eat.
  • Pack about four different books, imagining I will read them all. (I never do – I am too busy posting pictures of my holiday on Instagram.)
  • Imagine that I will have some kind of Reese Witherspoon/Julia Roberts style ‘moment’ abroad where I suddenly find myself and the meaning of life becomes clear. (Never happens.)
travel secret of happiness

I wish this was from my Instagram feed

Belle’s favourite bits are:

  • Deciding what make-up look she is going to do for going away day.
  • Organising her toiletries into an airport friendly bag.
  • Being the first one into the accommodation – heaven forbid she doesn’t get first dibs on the key. (83% of people in the survey said that the first day of a holiday and seeing their accommodation for the first time are the happiest holiday moments, so she’s not alone there.)
  • Discovering the wifi password.

Do you enjoy planning and researching holidays? Which is your favourite bit about travelling?

Visit Booking.com for more inspiration and holiday your way to happiness!

travel secret of happiness

Sponsored post. Images – Alena OzerovaBalate DorinChantal de Bruijnestockphoto-graf and haveseen – all from shutterstock.

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When I was younger I was never really a coffee drinker. I thought that whole ‘first coffee of the day’ thing was totally blown out of proportion and, if I’m honest, I probably looked down a little bit on the kind of people who were all like ‘Oooh, let me just get a coffee and then I can think about it!’ Jeez, can you not just think on your own without some kind of stimulant?

(I do still hate this approach from a PR mentioning flat whites mind.)

In the last few years though I have become something of a convert. Perhaps it’s age. Perhaps I can’t just leap out of bed in the morning now and feel instantly excited about life. Most mornings I wake up feeling a teeny bit bleurgh about the world, and have to remind myself that it’s really okay, and that once I get out of bed, get moving, and have a coffee, I’ll be fine.

God, I’ve become one of those people.

Ah well, best embrace it I figure, so I’ve got a month’s supply of coffee to give away!

Cold brew from Minor Figures

The coffee I have for you is rather special. It’s a cold brew coffee from a small company called Minor Figures and having tried it, I can confirm that it’s amazing. The chocolate is especially ace, but I think my favourite is the milk. It has this wonderful smoothness to it that doesn’t give you any of that shuddery feeling that bad coffee can. It packs just the right punch to get me going without making my face twitchy.

Basically I love it, and I want you to share the coffee joy.

Oh and they look great too. Very Instagrammable, if that affects your coffee choices. (And why would it not?)

free cold brew coffee competition View Post

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