My Favourite Books of 2014 So Far

Friday, March 28

It's been ages since I did a list of books that I have read and really enjoyed, and so here goes!

Now I hate knowing too much about a book before I start reading it. I rarely even read the back cover properly so as not to ruin any of the delight that I may encounter from turning each page.  This comes with it's obvious downfalls, especially because I read so much.  And so as you can imagine I have read WAY to many awful books in my time.

This year, I made a promise to myself that I would only read books that had been recommended by others, or that were already on best selling lists.  

And that NO matter what, I will NOT ever ever ever be tempted by another of the cheap kindle books on Amazon again.  Life is too short to be wasted reading rubbish because I thought it was a good deal.

So far, it has gone really well, and I'm going to recommend most of what I've read in 2014 below!

(With a short, non-book spoiling description)

The Husbands Secret, by Liane Moriarty.
An enjoyable read, but a little over rated I thought.

Apple Tree Yard, by Louise Doughty.
This freaked me out, I couldn't stop talking or thinking about it. Which is an indication of a good book I guess?

Snow White Must Die, by Nele Neuhaus.
It's been ages since I read a good murder mystery and I thought it was brilliant!

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.
Everyone needs to read this book! Loved loved loved it.

Unexpected Lessons in Love, by Bernardine Bishop.
Sweet and enjoyable.

The Hustlers Bible, by Gayton Mackenzie.
Advice from a former South African bank robber who is now a legitimate multi millionaire businessman.  I really enjoyed this!

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, by Jan Philipp Sendker.
My book of the year so far! I even broke my no week day, day time reading rule to finish this one!

Brain on Fire, by Susannah Callahan.
True account by the New York Post journalist who became psychotic for a month. I loved this.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt.
Ok, maybe this is a joint favourite with the Art of Hearing Heartbeats for my book of 2014? 
This was another recommendation from Bobbi. She is my go to for great recommendations!

The Shoemakers Wife, by Adriana Trigiani.
This book has been kicking around in our book club for a few months now, and weirdly none of us had read it.  And then in the past month, Nikki, Emer and I all really enjoyed it!

The Colour Purple, by Alice Walker.
Oh my goodness- How on Earth have I never read this before? Absolutely freaking amazing and it's no wonder that so many people consider it one of the greatest books out there!

The Rosie Project, by Graeme  C Simsion.
I started this on Wednesday and finished it last night, clearly breaking the no week day reading rule again. It is Brilliant! And perhaps even another contender for my tie first of 2014!

I hope that there are one or two on here that you have decided to add to your book list?

Please let me know of any books that you recommend! 

And have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them as much as I did?

Why I'm Proud to have taken a #nomakeupselfie

Wednesday, March 26

So yes I was one of the 'sheep' that took a no make up selfie this week, and donated £3 in 2 seconds on my phone by sending a text.

And I am so pleased that I did.

Because love it or loathe it, this 'armchair' approach has helped Cancer Research UK alone to raise £8 million from the trend that started on Facebook recently.  

In the past two days I have seen a number of articles being shared and written by people about how much this movement has disgusted them.  The points that they raise are valid, and I completely respect that everyone has their own opinion on this.  

But today I wanted to share some of my own.

Now I have never had to have chemotherapy, thankfully, and so I've never experienced losing my hair or being made terribly ill by a treatment regime.  

But I have had melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, three times.  

I have two big scars on my left leg, a gigantic z shaped scar on my right shoulder, and my arm swells and becomes painful far more frequently than I like to admit.  I wear a rather unsightly compression sleeve on my right arm often, and always to exercise in. I also squeeeze myself into a tight long sleeved compression vest in those narrow airport toilets just before I board any flight.  The pressures when you fly are not kind to an axilla or arm that are inclined to becoming oedematous (swollen).

So whilst I've never had half as horrendous a time as anyone who has gone through the horrible chemo/radio therapy journey, I do have visible evidence on my body of where my surgeons knives have sliced.  And I know ALL about the fear involved with a cancer diagnosis, or three.

A friend of mine, is a Scientist and currently working on a very exciting new discovery regarding melanoma and a new potential genetic predisposition.  Charities like Cancer Research UK, fund this type of research.

Back to the articles that I have read slating the #nomakeupselfie's.

Apparently women posting images of themselves with no make up on, has been thought to be condescending to those who have had cancer and not looked 'well' during their treatment.  Seriously? I don't think that anyone has intentionally posted a make up free selfie and thought - "I'm trying to look like someone who is undergoing cancer treatment."

Others have mentioned that the images are condescending as they show women looking 'too perfect', even without make up on.  I also don't think anyone has posted a make up shot and thought 'Great now I get to show the world how hot I am with no make up on?'

I also don't agree with those who argue that this no make up selfie trend portrays that make up is to women as essential as water or oxygen? There are millions of women who who don't ever wear a stitch of make up and survive perfectly well! 

To be very honest,  I secretly hoped that I wouldn't be tagged at all in this.

For me, the thought of a no make up photo being posted on the internet made me feel quite vulnerable.  Did I feel as vulnerable as I've felt each time I've been slapped with a melanoma diagnosis? Of course not. but vulnerable none the less.  And I write a blog sharing my life stories freely on the internet! I know that I am not the only one to have felt like this, and so perhaps this vulnerability is a lesson enough in itself for each of us?

Back to being a 'sheep.' The sole reason that this trend has has raised so much money, is because by tagging others or being tagged yourself on Facebook to participate, you are being held accountable by social media.  I think we have all skimmed over friends requests for charitable donations in our home feeds, it's easily enough done. But when someone has posted on your profile page, it's difficult to ignore it.

And whilst I agree that there are 100's of things I could/should be doing that are far more altruistic and beneficial to the universal cancer problem than posting a selfie and sending a text to donate £3, I don't think I would have taken the time to do anything else this week.

But I truly applaud you if you have!

And so if a portion of my small donation goes towards true Cancer Research and those clever scientists can find a way to eliminate some of my melanoma nightmares or any of the cancer nightmares of so many others, I am so pleased that I have done at least something this week.

And if you have been one of the bare faces on Facebook this week, then I proudly salute you too!

5 things I've learnt 20 days into my Yoga Challenge

Monday, March 24

I'm halfway through my 40 days of yoga challenge today, and I've learnt a number of things in the process.

1. I have SO much respect for the Yogi's on Instagram that post daily pictures of themselves looking artistic and pretty in their poses. Any dreams I may have had about being as fabulous as Yoga girl or Kinoyoga or Lauraskyora have been very much dashed.

2. I am very seldom near as aligned as I think I am in a pose.

3.  Posting a daily picture on Instagram has made me far more accountable in this challenge than I may have been if I didn't put up a picture daily.

4. I have a VERY patient photo taking husband.

5.  I can't believe how great I have felt in the past three weeks whilst doing this.  I am more focussed and organised and feel more calm in general. I am also delighted by the people who have been inspired to begin their own home yoga practice routine through my little challenge!

Flower Crowns and why I LOVE my job

Friday, March 21

I so enjoyed joining Michelle from My Creative and Bethan from Decorator's Notebook on Instagram yesterday, making a flower crown for their Primavera crowns challenge!

Whilst mine was in no way as intricate or impressive as some of the others I saw on Instagram with primaveracrowns hashtag, it made me so happy.

And it brought back such happy childhood memories of making crowns from the branches of the willow tree down at to the stream on my parents farm, and then adding flowers from my Mum's garden.

I think it should be compulsory for everyone to make a pretty flower crown this week:)

My weekend couldn't have started any better today.  

This morning was my 4th yoga session with twin boys with special needs, and they have progressed so well! 

In our first session, neither of them would even remove their coats or shoes, and refused to get within a few metres of their yoga mats.  For session two, the one little boy initially refused to get out of the car to come inside and wanted nothing to do the session.

 Last week was better, and they engaged in about half of the session, preferring to run around and around and around in circles in the room.  

This morning, the little one who refused to get out of the car previously, put his coat and shoes on by himself and waited at the door whilst his Mother was still eating breakfast, announcing that he "was ready to go to Yoga!"

They both managed to stay on their mats for the entire 40 minutes today and tried so incredibly hard.  They remembered most of the poses that we did last week and even did some of the deep breathing exercises.  When it came to the relaxation, they both lay down completely still and lay transfixed as I talked them through a guided meditation where they were the lead characters!

I am constantly astounded at the incredible impact that Yoga can have on children with special needs.

And I am so incredibly lucky to do the job that I do!

Have a super weekend friends <3

My Epiphany

Wednesday, March 19

Two weeks ago, I had an epiphany.  

I was ogling at one of the many Yogi Instagram accounts that I follow, and I thought, 

I am never going to be as young or as strong as I am today.

It made me feel a little sad.

  And then suddenly it made me feel so incredibly motivated.  

After my surgery for melanoma cancer 2 years ago, my right arm has given me countless problems.  It swells up and aches, and as a result of this I have largely avoided any poses that are very challenging to my upper limbs for the past while.

Although I've never been able to directly collaborate any single yoga pose using my arms with the onset of a painful arm episode, I've just not challenged with myself with any.

Last year, on our Yoga retreat, our teacher shared the most wonderful story with us.

She told us of an elderly lady whom she had met that week.  She was in her 70's, and still did Yoga everyday.  This lady said that when she was 7 years old, her friends Mother was doing Yoga at home, and moved deeply into a forward bend in sitting.  She was fascinated by this and asked her why she was doing so.  "Because," said the women, "if I do this everyday until I'm 70, I will still be able to do it when I am 70." 

Today, that 7 year old, is in her 70's, and still doing yoga daily.

In the minutes after my epiphany, I thought back to the 70 year old, who did a few Yoga poses everyday from when she was 7 years old.

 I promised myself right there and then that I would be able to do a headstand by the end of this year.  

It was like a switch flipped in my mind and I became a little obsessed with the idea.  It was a Thursday, and I practiced for 10 minutes twice each day for the next few days. 

By Tuesday evening I could do a headstand by myself. You can see me doing on this morning, here on Instagram.

It also obviously inspired my 40 Days of Yoga Challenge.

And then this week I was reading my Om Yoga Magazine, and I saw a short feature about Mary Brewer, aged 95, who still regularly practices Yoga and believes everybody should do Yoga.

 The photograph alongside the feature, shows Mary in a pose that I can't even hold!

If that is not inspiration for starting your Yoga practice today, then I'm not sure what is.

Seriously, you will be amazed by how much stronger your body will become, and it will happen so much more quickly than you could imagine.

To read more about Mary and for further Yoga inspirations, download the Om Yoga Magazine here!

Disclaimer: The kind people at Om Yoga Magazine, have given me a free online subscription in return for me occasionally sharing articles in the magazine on Berry Diaries. Considering that I buy the magazine every month anyway, I was delighted to be asked, and I hope that you enjoy hearing about the online Om Yoga magazine on here too!

Sunny Sunday

Monday, March 17

She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
"Winter is dead."
AA Milne

I felt like I was AA Milne's girl yesterday.

The sun graced us with beautiful rays, and we spent most of the day in Richmond on the river bank. 

We drove through Richmond park to get there and back, and it never ceases to amaze me, what an incredibly large space of land exists in London.  A gigantic park, with deer grazing peacefully, as people run, cycle, picnic and walk near by.

Pete and I were early, and the first to arrive at our designated meeting spot.  We sat on a blanket together and enjoyed the suns warmth.  I can't think of the last time we just sat and did nothing together outside.

Kate, Chez and the boys then joined us and we had the most delicious lunch at Pitcher and Piano, followed by ice creams and more relaxing and chatting on our picnic blankets.

I got home feeling that kind of tiredness that only comes from a day of being outside, and a heart full of love for my husband, friends, and the world around me.

 I hope that you had a wonderful weekend too!

10/40 Days on my Yoga Mat

Friday, March 14

I can't believe that I am already a quarter of the way through my #40DaysonMyYogaMat Challenge!

I have so enjoyed it so far, and I LOVE how many people have been messaging me saying that they are doing it too, or doing the Headspace guided meditations!

I am really looking forward to another sunny weekend, filled with golf lessons, yoga, catch ups with friends and a little bit of work.

I hope that you have a super weekend friends <3

What is "Enough"?

Wednesday, March 12

Last week, one of my extremely wealthy patients, sighed and said to me, "Lulu, sometimes I think life would be so much easier if I just had Enough."

She moved her arm in a circular motion as to encompass the mansion around her, her two housekeepers and bodyguards downstairs, and continued, "not all this, just enough."

And as I walked down her driveway past her two luxury cars and an overflowing recycling box of designer clothing shopping carriers, it struck me that this world of ours really is very upside down.

What is enough?  For a homeless person, enough is perhaps shelter and warmth.  For the starved, a meal, and for the dying another day with loved ones.

And for the rest of us, privileged enough to have a device on which to read this?

After pondering about this for the past week,

I think that 'enough' is being able to appreciate and be grateful for what we already have, rather than always postponing happiness for one day when we have more.

This video has made me think so much. This lady discusses how doing a year long Gratitide project improved her marriage and her life as she began to reflect on what she already had to be grateful for.

What do you think having "enough" is?

Yoga in the Sunshine

Monday, March 10

This weekend, 10 girls, 2 bridesmaids, 1 bride to be and a pooch called Noodlez went away to celebrate the bride to be's Hens Party.

The sun shone beautifully and we spent Saturday on the beach! Yes we were in long sleeves but it was warm and wonderful. 

And we laughed and ate and relaxed all weekend.

I taught the girls a yoga class on Saturday morning as part of my Challenge, and the yoga theme continued on our beach walk as you can see in the last picture above!

Nik I am so honoured to be your bridesmaid in April and I can't wait for your Wedding celebrations to begin <3

Happy Friday

Friday, March 7

The sun has been shining this week and I just love seeing blue skies behind the blossoms on so many of the trees.

My 40 Days of Yoga Challenge is going well and I've LOVED hearing from those of you who have also decided to join in! YAY!

You can follow me along my 40 days on Instagram.

Talking about Yoga, I'm really looking forward to these tickets being released...

This afternoon we are going to a super secret location, (as the bride to be doesn't know where it is!) to celebrate Nik's Hens, and I am so excited.

The weather promises to be fabulous, (well as fab as March in England can be), and I get to spend the weekend with some of my favourite girls.

What are you up to?

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Happy Birthday Tess

Thursday, March 6

Happy 15th Birthday to my beautiful baby sister!

I hope that you have a wonderful day Tessa Bear, and I wish that I was there to spoil you in person.

You are such a wonderfully kind, smart and funny girl and we are so blessed to have you in our family!

I love that even though strangers used to think that I was your Mother when you were a baby, (which at 16 I suppose I could have been!) we are now the best of friends.

I don't know anyone else in the world who is as happy to hang out and engage with people of all ages.

You have been so strong over the past few weeks, with all that has been going on, and you are wise beyond your years.

I am so proud to call you my sister.

I Love you and I Miss you and Hope you have the most deservedly fabulous Happy Day ever!

P.s: I hope you don't mind me putting these pictures up! I found them on our camera after you and Ninz were messing around at home in December, and I think they capture you so well!

PPS: Ninz, how are you taking photo's this good at the age of 13??

40 Days on My Yoga Mat Challenge

Wednesday, March 5

For the past few years I have given up chocolate for Lent.  And I plan to do it again this year, although the struggle that I have with maintaing 40 days chocolate free often concerns me.  

I also like the idea of taking up a positive habit during this set time frame.  And with the general consensus being that it takes 21 days to make a task into a habit, after 40 days, you should be well on your way there.

Whilst nearly every day I make time do at least a short meditation, I don't always manage to do any asana (posture)  or pranayama (breathing) practice.  A yoga teacher advised me once, to just sit on my mat at home every day for 10 minutes.  "Just sit or lie there." she said.  Of course once you are on the mat, you end up doing more than just that!

And so, for the next 40 days, I will spend at least 10 minutes every single day on my Yoga Mat.  In a mixture of meditation, breathing and posture practices.

And I'm Challenging three of my South African blogger Yoga Loving friends to join me.

 Che from Indieberries, Katie from Eye Heart Travel and Keri from Midlands Musings to join me for the next 40 days. Are you up for it girls?

Lets make the  #40daysonmyyogamat

and check in via Instagram or Twitter every Friday?

Would you like to join us too?

The South Bank Photo Hunt

Monday, March 3

On Saturday we held our second Photo Hunt event, this time on the South Bank.

Whilst it was freezing cold, we were fortunate to have more sunshine than we have had in weeks, and some blue sky too!

This time, we had a combination of creative and location based tasks, with some very cryptic clues, which then lead teams to a letter.  When unscrambled, the letters spelt a phrase.

Once again, the event attracted the most wonderful bunch of human beings.  Creative, friendly and interesting girls (and boys) who embraced the whole adventure and made new friends!

A number of people had been to our previous event, and so it was wonderful to see them again, and we also got to meet some fabulous new people!

Thanks so much to all of you who came.

Yay for new internet turned real life mates!

And Che and Bobbi, thanks for making all the planning and execution so much fun! 

We will be announcing the date of our next event soon! 

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