Happy New Year!

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2016 is here! Heaven only knows where 2015 went. Was it just me, or did it whizz by in a flash? The first post of the New Year on Fennell Books normally has me resolving not to buy any more books until I have cleared some of the To Be Read Pile, which has accumulated alarmingly at Fennell Towers. I have decided not to bother this year. I mean really, it is a bit of a farce isn’t it? We all know I won’t be able to manage it, so why kid myself. I have also argued (successfully) that it would harm my wellbeing to try and restrict literary joy in my life, and why would I want to do that?

I often try to plan my reading for the year, particularly so I can organize items for the blog. This year we are going to wing it, so hang on to your hats folks as I have no idea what I will be reviewing and when.  I do like to live life on the edge.  

There are a few books coming out this year which I want to get my mitts on, but I’ll do a separate post about that in a couple of weeks (probably, with this new found “go where the wind takes me” posting approach, who knows where we will end up?)

I will also be keeping a running track of my Duke of Edinburgh Jubilee Award 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge, so watch out for me looking increasingly strong (or knackered) as the year goes on.  I have done the first workout of the year (see photo) so I am 60 swings down and only 9940 to go…

On the whole I have a good feeling about 2016, so best wishes to you all for a happy and healthy new year!

Duke Of Edinburgh Diamond Challenge – 10,000 Kettlebell Swings

It is possible that I had rather too much egg nog yesterday, but I have decided to sign up for the Duke of Edinburgh Diamond Challenge. For one reason and another I didn’t do the Duke of Edinburgh Award when I was at school, and had rather regretted it. Seeing as how for the normal award scheme you have to be, ahem, somewhat younger than me to qualify, I thought I had missed my chance.  However, 2016 is the 60th anniversary of the DofE Award, and the lovely folks there have set up the Diamond Challenge which is open to anyone and everyone in order to raise funds to support the work of the charity into the future.

You can pick any challenge you like, and I thought long and hard about mine. My original thought was to undertake some sort of reading challenge, but reading isn’t really hard work for me, and I thought it lacked the necessary personal struggle to be in the spirit of the thing. Then it came to me at about 2am this morning, what I need to do is be more consistent with my Kettlebell training. It is good for my MS and my general health. So I am going to try and clock up 10,000 Kettlebell swings in 2016.

The Delightful Mr F is going to help with training programmes, as he is a dab hand at the old Kettlebell workout. In order to reach 10,000 I am going to have to train three times per week at least. The number of swings I do in each session will vary, especially as I get stronger (I hope), I will go up a bell size and will need to drop my reps and build them back up again, then drop once more as I head up another bell size. I will probably mix up the training between on the minute, on the thirty second, ladders and so on and will need to take into account the MS MonSter.  Nevertheless, the whole crux of the matter will be consistency of training, which is something I am not as good at as I am in other parts of my life*.

I have a Just Giving page, so if you can see your way to donating a pound or two, that would be lovely. Also, all general encouragement gratefully received too!

I’ll blog my way through it, so you can see my progress. I start on 1st Jan 2016, and need to be complete by 31st December 2016. Bring on the kettlebell!

 

*Reading, mainly, everything else is a random shambles. 

As An Aside

It is a Sunday afternoon and I am doing a bit of blog planning, as one does. Looking at the site statistics is always an interesting exercise. Posts I think people may not be interested in as much prove to be very popular, whilst others are less so. This has got me thinking… what would you all like to see more of or less of on the blog?

Book reviews seem to be popular, as do the general literary chat items that I do every so often.  What about the Reader’s Reads? Did you enjoy those?

Unsurprisingly, the Mr B’s competition was very popular! I have some ideas for more bookish related regular posts. I would like to interview some authors, other book bloggers, and those in the publishing trade, if I can make some contacts. I am also working on giving you some heads up on good books which are due to be published soon*.  I have half wondered about a vlog too, but I am not sure about that. 

Some of you may have noticed the tag “As an Aside”. I use this for the non-literary posts I do. I don’t do very many, but they are high up in the rankings. The post I did about Hobonichi is very popular as was the photo a day challenge. I have wondered about doing a few more posts of this type, just general bits and pieces I find interesting. I was thinking of covering a bit of photography, nature, wellbeing, productivity. Not fashion though**. They don’t really fit with the “book blog” remit though. I could do a them once per week say, or start another blog, either linked on this page under “Fennell Books”, or on a separate blog altogether. Someone suggested that an instagram account would be good, so I may investigate that. So many options…

So, let me know in the comments below what would interest you all. Should I keep this corner of the web a literary haven, or would a few other topics thrown in for good measure be nice?

Happy Sunday!

Helen
 

 

* I feel obligated to grow all of your book wish lists 🙂

** I am an engineer after all, sartorial matters are a bit beyond me. The Delightful Mr F is very well turned out though. He has a nice collection of vintage suits. 

My Pal Amanda and her 40 Challenges

This is my pal Amanda. We first met aged about 3 years old when our respective Mums decided we could use ballet lessons. I can’t vouch for Amanda’s Mum, but I suspect this was the first failed attempt by mine to try and install more grace into me. 

We then parted ways when we went off to different junior schools, and then found ourselves in the same senior school, sharing a joy for physics. We have recently reconnected via the wonder that is Facebook.

Just like me, Amanda is 40 years old this year, and being an adventurous sort is undertaking 40 challenges for charity. The complete list is on her blog, and you may notice number 14 has a distinctly bookish feel to it.  

Her charities are great, and definitely worth supporting. From Amanda’s Blog:

Womankind Worldwide – is a charity I used to work for. They are an international women’s rights and development charity. They work in partnership with organisations in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe to develop women’s rights and participation in society. By working with women they are able to facilitate long term sustainable change for women, children, and the communities in which they live. I have been privileged to meet some of the women they work with first hand in Africa, on just one of the issues they address – female genital mutilation and forced marriage.

Médecins Sans Frontières provides assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters and to victims of armed conflict. They do so irrespective of gender, race, religion, creed or political convictions. MSF are often the first on the ground in times of crises globally whether that be armed conflict, famine, or epidemics such as ebola. They support a truly inspirational global army of volunteers who are often the only lifeline for people trying to survive in absolutely horrific situations

Why not pop over to Amanda’s corner of the internet and have a read at what she has been up to. Some of those challenges are frankly terrifying*! If you can see your way to making a donation to her fundraising, that would be be lovely too.

*I’m talking mainly about the hotpants challenge 

#100daysofwellbeing: Days 99 & 100

Day 24 - My favourite shot
Day 24 – My favourite shot

Well, I did it! I took a photo every day for 100 days. I am rather proud of myself, and I learned a lot along the way. Before I ramble on here are Day 99 and Day 100. 

Day 99
Day 99
Day 100
Day 100

The whole exercise has been a lot of fun. I take a daily walk and have several routes close to Fennell Towers and knowing that I needed to take a photo each day has really made me look and observe my surroundings. I noticed people’s front gardens, the bark on trees, birds, insects, the sky, small flowers, the shapes in the natural world and more. It made me slow down, which can only be a good thing, and notice the beauty in almost everything. I have definitely improved my wellbeing through this project. 

It has also had an impact on my photography. The Delightful Mr F taught me to use an SLR when we first met, and I have enjoyed taking photos ever since. Although all these photos were taken on an iPhone and not on my beloved Fuji X10, they are still good quality shots, and it allowed me to learn more about composition and light. Coincidentally, the BBC ran this article on how to improve your photography which includes a suggestion to use your smart phone to develop your skills daily. They call this “photo-sketching”, analogous to artists who sketch daily to practise. I love this idea, and am going to continue using my iPhone camera like this as I think it really helping me improve. 

Day 24, the shot of the dandelion is by far my favourite shot of the 100 I took. I think I will get a print of this and put it in my office to remind me to continue to be mindful and to slow down once in a while. 

#100daysofwellbeing: Days 22 – 28

Day 28 - Apples are starting to grow in the orchard
Day 28 – Apples are starting to grow in the orchard

I’ve made it to the end of week 4, and still haven’t missed a day. I am quite impressed with myself.  If I am honest though, I am really enjoying the iPhone photography. The Delightful Mr F taught me how to use an SLR when we first met, and since then I have always enjoyed taking pictures. This project his helping me understand the iPhone camera and with a little online help from various blogs and websites, I am getting the hang of it quite nicely. I nearly always have my phone with me, so the idea that I can use it for more creative photographs and not just snaps is really appealing. 

This week was one of those awkward weeks, where nothing really went wrong, but nothing quite went to plan either. Monday (Day 22) was a lovely afternoon, and the woodland floor seemed to have burst into bloom. It’s a beautiful sight, and the insects are starting to emerge too.  Tuesday was a somewhat adversarial day at work, and so I was really pleased to pick up the fourth Granchester Mystery book by James Runcie. I think this one will be coming on holiday with me a in a month or so. By Wednesday I was feeling a bit threadbare and so my walk through the woods became more of an amble. I saw lots of lovely things, including the best den I have ever seen, presumably built by some local kids. What really took my eye was a dandelion and I think this is the best shot I have taken so far.

Day 22 - Woodland Blooms
Day 22 – Woodland Blooms
Day 23 - Granchester Book 4
Day 23 – Granchester Book 4
Day 24 - Dandelion
Day 24 – Dandelion

It rained a lot on Thursday and whilst I still walked/squelched around the woods, it wasn’t really photography weather, so I went hunting for patters and found this, which is quite pretty. On Friday I spotted some pine cones, which I rather like. They have a nice mathematical air about them.  Yesterday the Delightful Mr F and I didn’t do much at all. After the irritating week we had had, all we wanted was peace and quiet. And today… well, much joy was experienced when we spotted that the fruit is starting to grow in the Fennell Towers orchard. All being well, there will be apple jam aplenty in the autumn!

How has your week been?

Day 25 - Pretty
Day 25 – Pretty
Day 26 - Pine Cones
Day 26 – Pine Cones
Day 27 - Hoot!
Day 27 – Hoot!

100 Days Project #100daysofwellbeing

Of late I have been itching to do something creative. I get like this every so often, not sure why. So, where does one head for inspiration in the 21st Century? The Internet of course! I had a little amble around and quite quickly found the 100 Days Project. The idea centres around doing the same thing for 100 days straight and was originally aimed at young design students to help their creativity. 

Regular readers know that I have Multiple Sclerosis, which means that wellbeing is at the top of my to-do list. The problem with this is that activities which should be enjoyable such as a daily walk can become just another chore to be done and crossed off. MS can be difficult to live with at times, and so wellbeing to me isn’t just physical, but mental too. 

I mulled this over for a while, and formulated a little plan for my own 100 Days Project. Each day I will do something which enhances my physical or mental wellbeing, but to make it more creative I will take a photo which represents that activity. I like photography, but haven’t done any serious creative photography for a long time. I am going to use my iPhone to take the photos as I always have that with me, so quality won’t be great, but it is more about thinking about connecting with what I am doing than applying for Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society. I promise not to use this as an excuse to repeatedly visit Mr B’s and buy books. 

I'll take photos like this...
I’ll take photos like this…

Millie over at Planet Millie is doing the photo a day challenge this year, and so far she has taken a shot every day. Pop over and see her photos of Archie her cat, the cutest cat on the internet. It is a similar idea. In a similar vein, my old school chum (we used to go to ballet together aged 4), Amanda is doing 40 challenges to celebrate her 40th birthday. Have a look at her blog, and if you can, make a donation to one the charities she is fundraising for. Sometimes I think having a little challenge to focus your mind is good for you. 

This year’s 100 Days Project doesn’t start until July, but I want to start this now, so will begin tomorrow, 20th April 2015, which means day 100 will be 28th July 2015.  If you fancy joining in with the Official Project  you can get updates for the launch in July on Facebook. If you fancy keeping me company, you would be very welcome.