Positive 2020 reflections

Welcome back ! I’ve been mostly absent on here this week, as final exams are fast approaching and I needed a lot of time to focus on studying and try to get my grades as high as I can before the end of the semester.

Still, I wanted to do a little more blog-hopping lately – something that’s been difficult to do this weekend as I got a quadruple tooth extraction on Friday (wisdom teeth, how I hate you…) that left me drowsy on painkillers for most of the weekend. I’ll try to catch up after finals, though, so I’ll do my best to go read all the amazing blog posts published while I was recovering from my operation!

Bookending Winter is a book blogging event run by Clo and Sam, in which different bloggers host a couple of prompts each during the month of December. Anyone who wants to participate can register on the announcement post, make 3 (or more) posts during the event, and link them up on the challenge spreadsheet so others can find them easily!

Today’s prompt is absolutely lovely, and comes from Sumedha @ the wordy habitat :

Prompt Explanation : 2020 has not been easy but we should take some time to find positives everywhere because it helps us move on easily. Take today to talk about the highlights that made this year bearable.

This year has been extremely difficult, and I appreciate a lot that this prompt takes the focus back to the good things instead of the endless stream of difficulties that we’ve probably all experienced during this trying time! I talked a bit about two big things that helped me a lot this year in another blog post this month, so reflecting on the small positives and highlights of the year seems like a good plan!

Related post : Warming your winter : the things that made this year better

This year, I….

Rediscovered photography

Photo by @rumandraisin on Unsplash

I have a pretty good camera, and I’ve always been interested in learning how to use it better, so this year, whenever I could, I took it out of the bag and tried taking pictures in different styles, figuring out what I do and don’t like, etc.

Some of the results were bad, some were good, and most of them helped me understand more how my camera works and improve my technique.

One of my friends also got me into a photoshoot with her and another friend in November, and the photographer that was there took some time to teach me how to take better portraits, which was super nice of him!

Read a ton of good books

I’m so grateful for my local library and the bookstore a couple of streets from my apartment. I’ve been reading a lot more this year, especially since we moved to a new part of the city where we’re much closer to those two places, and it’s been such a help in feeling better about confinement, and adjusting better to this new way of life!

Got some plants

Now, I’m not saying they’re all still alive, but I’m trying. So far, only two out of 5 have died ! (So far…). They’re adding so much joy to my living room, and they make my mornings happier and more tolerable, even when all I have to look forward to is a day inside, working until night falls, so I’m counting these as an important highlight. Even if they’re hard to keep alive.

Got a bike

Photo by @markusspiske on Unsplash

The highlight of my entire summer.

Biking almost every day made my days so much more bearable, especially when I had a job as an essential worker and was constantly under the stress of risking getting sick every day when I went to work. It’s also a super safe mean of transportation, covid-wise, since you’re not getting close to anybody!

Now that winter is here, I’m mostly just walking everywhere, but I’m taking the bike out as soon as the snow clears out in March!

Did sports semi-regularly

This was one of my resolutions for 2020, and one that I tried my best to maintain – and it did wonders for my mental health! I would definitely have fared much worse for the past 9 months if I hadn’t had the option and equipment necessary at home to do some form of physical exercise at lest 5 times a week. I’m not much of a spiritual or religious person, my family isn’t very supportive and I don’t really meditate, but doing sports helped me be calmer and center myself more on the things that matter, and decreased my anxiety by a lot.

The fact that I had a fitbit bracelet also helped achieve this goal, as it served as positive reinforcement most of the time, making me acknowledge – even on days when I felt like the human equivalent of a potato – that I was doing something good, and that taking care of myself was important.

Loved my classes and my program

It seems to me that the more I advance in my studies, the more I love psychology! I’ve been taking a lot of classes this year, and I’ve loved every single one of them so far. It’s an amazing feeling, being able to study what you love and do something that interests you that much!

Got nice clothes

I usually only buy clothing when the pieces I currently have are falling to pieces. About 90% of the stuff that I own is at least 3 to 4 years-old, or hand-me-downs from someone else in my family or friend circle. But this year, as I started to figure out more who I want to be as an adult, and what I like – as opposed to what other people want me to be / like – I did buy a little more than usual.

Three new pairs of pants, one comfortable knitted dress for the winter, and two knitted turtleneck cropped tops have been added to my closet, and I’m really happy with them! They make me feel more confident in myself, and in what I’m doing, and I like my image much more in this style. I’m still trying to figure out what style, exactly, I like the most, but this is a good start!

Started cooking more

Photo by @ellaolsson on Unsplash

Being in a bigger apartment came with having a bigger kitchen area – not a really large one, but enough space to prepare food, have the instant pot sitting on the countertop, and have a full-sized oven! I had never gotten a full-sized oven before, not since I moved out of my parents’ house… seven or so years ago?

So I’ve been cooking a lot more this year, and rediscovering the pleasure of making tasty meals at home, and spending time on a recipe to learn a new technique or perfect something I really liked!

Got a makeup subscription

This is honestly the most self-indulgent this I did this year, and it made me so happy that I can’t regret it at all! I got a monthly subscription to a makeup bag, Ipsy, priced at 12$USD per month – with tax and delivery, it comes up to around 20$CAD. I’ve saved a bit of money on other things to be able to afford it, and getting that monthly package in the mail has been a highlight of many months this year!

I’ve been experimenting more with makeup as a consequence of this, and I probably won’t keep the subscription forever as I don’t want to hoard a ton of makeup either, but it’s been really fun to discover these surprise packages at the end of every month.

That’s all for me for today – see you tomorrow and the next three days for my hosting days for Bookending Winter!

It’s the final countdown!

Good morning! (or afternoon, whichever one it is on your side of the world). Today’s bookending winter prompt is hosted by the amazing Sam @ Fictionally Sam – check out her post for today!

Bookending Winter is a book blogging event run by Clo and Sam, in which different bloggers host a couple of prompts each during the month of December. Anyone who wants to participate can register on the announcement post, make 3 (or more) posts during the event, and link them up on the challenge spreadsheet so others can find them easily!

Prompt Explanation : Are you behind on your Goodreads goal and/or your resolutions this year? What are some plans you have to catch up and meet your goals before 2020 ends?

I talked about this a little in previous posts, but my Goodreads goal this year was set at 52 books – one a week. For a while there, I thought I wouldn’t manage to meet that goal on time – this year has been so hectic that finding spare time to read books became a much more difficult challenge every month.

But over the last week, surprisingly, as final papers were sent to my university teachers and there was nothing more to do than just study for exams, I finally found the right combination of time and motivation to read! A motivation which resulted in 6 books read in 10 days, and a Goodreads goal attained this morning – and I’m super happy about that!

Image by @markuswinkler on Unsplash

Looking at the list of books read in 2020 on my Goodreads shelves, 35% of them seem to be ARCs, 48% are books borrowed from my local library, and only 17% are books that I physically own. That makes sense, since I don’t really own a lot of books – probably less than 40, at this point, maybe even less than 35.

I’m always super envious when I see pictures of people’s shelves on Bookstagram, completely full of books, but then I remember : the reason why I don’t have that many physical copies of books is because for the past 7 years, I haven’t stayed in the same apartment more than 8 months in a row, and sometimes only two. Moving that much tends to make you live with very few possessions, and as little heavy items as possible. I’ve only started actually buying books that I want to keep this past year, and that’s because for the first time since I went to high school I think I might stay in one place for a while – maybe up to 5 years or so.

As my semester of university comes to an end, I’ll be (finally!) on holiday on December 17th. I have a huge TBR pile of books borrowed from the library that I’d like to go through before the year is over, but I don’t think I’ll edit my Goodreads goal to match my ambitions – it might just make me more stressed about finishing books as soon as possible, and I don’t think I’d enjoy them as much as I usually would if I did that.

At the beginning of the year, I set some personal and book-related goals, so I thought it might be fun to go back on these and see what happened!

Related post : check out my 2020 bookish goals !

Personal goals

  • Exercise 5 days a week – done! My fitbit helped me a lot this year in gaining motivation to move more, exercise and overall become more active.
  • Save money to go back home for the holidays – well, that didn’t happen. But hey, I used that money to get myself a new laptop when mine died at the beginning of the semester, so that wasn’t too bad!
  • Get a job – I got two! Well, one after the other, not two at a time. Hopefully I can get back to work when lockdown is over!

Bookish goals

  • Succeed at my Goodreads challenge – done!
  • Post more on my bookstagram – I tried, I swear! The conditions in my apartment aren’t really ideal to take photos, though, so I’ll have to work on that a little more in 2021.
  • Blog hop more – Feedly helped a lot with that!
  • Request less ARCs – …. maybe? I did read a lot of ARCs, but I didn’t request so many that I’d get overwhelmed by them, so I’ll count this one as a win.

Related posts : on the topic of Feedly, check out these two excellent posts from Kal @ Reader Voracious – Why I switched to Feedly for Bloghopping – and Lauren @ Northern Plunder – Be efficient with bloghopping | How (not) to use Feedly.

Did you manage to attain your Goodreads goal for this year? And would you edit your goal to read a little more, or keep it stable and just go past it? Tell me all about it in the comments!

My 2021 plans, goals and dreams

Hi ! For those of you who haven’t heard of Bookending Winter yet, you can check out the announcement post on Clo’s blog – there’s a ton of blogging prompts for you to try during December, so come have fun with us and check out everyone’s posts!

Today’s prompt is hosted by Clo – you can see her post here!

Prompt Explanation : Share your plans, goals and dreams for next year! I always find December to be the month steeped in self reflection, planning for the months ahead and reassessing my situation. What you share is entirely choice, keep it to just blogs and books, or branch out!

I fully agree with the sentiment expressed in this prompt : December, and the end of the year as a whole, is an excellent time for self-reflection and thinking about one’s situation, whether you are where you want to be, or not yet.

For me, it’s going to be a month divided into two parts : the first one, from December 1st to December 16th, will be the most stressful part of the semester, as the final exams are approaching and final papers are due on the 16th. But from December 17th to December 31th, I’m officially on holiday (and, sadly, my workplace is still closed due to covid until at least January 11th) – my first real one since January 2020! I’ll finally have some good time on my hands to relax, lay down on the couch with my electric blanket and read a good book while the snow falls in the courtyard outside. Living my wildest holiday dreams!

So here’s a quick look at my plans, goals and dreams for 2021 :

Blog and books-related

Assessing my situation

This year has been super helpful for me to figure out what I wanted to do with this blog, where I wanted to go and what kind of aesthetic I wanted to have (I did a full redesign during the first lockdown, when classes were suspended, and I’ve been really happy with it so far!). I was way happier with my blog than I was before, and that had repercussions on my enjoyment of the books I read and the connections I made with other bloggers.

Posting regularly

I’ve been improving my posting schedule over the last six months, and I think I’ve finally found a rhythm I like, so I’m going to try to maintain it! I feel like getting back into a normal rhythm in my life in general, in November, has helped a lot with this, and given me back my motivation to do things in my free time, including reading and blogging.

Get better with social media

I’ve dusted off the cobwebs on my old Pinterest account, and began making new pins for my old blog posts, and I find it a lot of fun ! My bookstagram account, however, isn’t as nice as I’d like it to be. For 2021, I’d like to make it more personal and coherent for me, so I’ll try to work on that! Looking at other people’s bookstagrams really helps, and there’s so many good ones out there that I’ve been bookmarking a ton of posts for inspiration!

Participate in a blog tour

This one is in the dreams category, as I have a relatively small blog – in part due to the small number of free hours I have available to work on it, compared to a lot of bigger book bloggers – but it’s still something I sometimes think about, and go “huh, that’s be nice”, so. In the dreams category it goes!

Finish my pile of shame

Image by @daanouthere on Unsplash

I wrote a post in November about this – the pile of physical books that I bought / someone gifted me with, and haven’t read yet. I don’t own that many books, which means that each one I haven’t read yet takes a lot of place in my small bookshelf in comparison to the others.

I’ve been trying to alternate between reading one of these books, reading an ARC and reading a library book, to get through the pile without giving up halfway through – hopefully, that’ll be done in 2021!

Related posts : Tackling the pile of shame : my physical TBR

Personal goals, plans and dreams

Assessing my situation

2020 was bad for everyone, but I’m still in one piece, as well as the ones I love, and I know I’m very lucky for that. Still, it hasn’t been easy, and I’m more than ready for this horrible year to end.

My university grades have suffered a bit, but not too much, so I’m still okay on that – and, if everything goes well, on track to graduate in May 2021 with a Bsc in Psychology. On the work side, I was an essential worker for some time, then switched jobs to work in a restaurant – which ended up closing indoor dining in September, so I haven’t gotten a salary since. My partner got a full-time job in November, though, which helped a lot with the stress of our situation.

We haven’t been able to see our families for more than a year now, but we’re okay. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, though, which I why I have a ton of goals for the upcoming year!

Graduate and study more

I want to get into a selective program in my university – putting it out there, universe, please help me. I’m working hard for this degree, and I just want to get into the program of my dreams.

Still, I know that once I’ve applied to the program, asked for reference letters and given everything I have to have a good application, there’s nothing more I can do. The deadline to apply is February 1st, so after that date, I’ll just… try to not think about it until I get an answer, whatever it may be.

Take care of myself

Image by @contentpixie on Unsplash

All that studying and stress hasn’t resulted in excellent mental health for me, and I’ve had to ask for help a few times this year because I was struggling too much to be able to get back up by myself. And that’s okay, that’s a good thing to do – asking for help. It was the best thing I could do at the time, and it improved my situation by a lot.

Still, I know I haven’t been taking care of my mental well-being as much as I wanted to, and I’m planning on getting better with this for 2021.

Protecting my mental health and improving my quality of life are two goals I want to make priorities next year – because no matter what, at the end of the day, they’re both essential to my well-being, and I know the consequences of neglecting them are definitely not things I want to have in 2021.

Do more sports

I’ve been doing kickboxing for a year and a half now, after doing karate for about 8 years when I was younger. University, work, and my boyfriend working full-time have prevented me from doing a lot of that lately, and I don’t want to lose all the progress I made over all those months. The plan here would be to do at least one 1-hour session every week, and maybe a short 20-minutes session whenever we’re both not too tired in the evening.

If the gyms reopen, I’m hoping I can have enough money from my part-time job (if indoor dining is allowed again) to pay for a gym membership, so we can have access to equipment and a better space than our 30 square meters apartment!

Win NaNoWriMo

Image by @craftedbygc on Unsplash

This one is a dream turned goal/plan. I want to write, but haven’t been able to take the time to do so. I think it’s time for me to try and put myself out of my comfort zone, and try NaNoWriMo seriously, to see what I can do and try to gain some confidence to write a little bit all year round.

I’m taking my time to plan this out – I’m definitely not a pantser (my partner lies to say I’m an Amy from his current favorite show, Brooklyn Nine Nine) so if I’m doing this, I’m going to be well prepared for it. We’ll see how that goes!

Save money to get my driving license

In my province, the process to get a driving license takes more than a year and a half, so I’m hoping to have the money to get started on this process in January 2022, and have it by the end of 2023. My partner has one, which means if we ever really need to go somewhere with a car, we still can, but Canada is a very large country compared to France, where we both used to live. At some point, I know I’m going to need to know how to drive and be able to. It’d be better if I had a license when that time comes!

What are your plans and goals for 2021?

Dealing with procrastination and avoidance

Procrastination isn’t good for you, and neither is avoiding the things you need to do. I know that. I know that for a fact.

Yet, the other day, I realized in a flash of panic that I had three extremely important things to do that I had just been passively avoiding for weeks – some for months, actually – and just had to muster the courage to face before it got too late. I needed to :

  • send a tax adjustment to the government (I made a small-ish mistake in my tax declaration and it’s been haunting me since I realized it)
  • send an email to my university’s administration to get my previous diploma’s classes credited so I can graduate this year (which. I’d like to be able to do. Tuition isn’t cheap.)
  • renew my medical insurance and my address on my social security card (it expires in a month and I have medical appointments I need to have that card / insurance for!)

Those three are, taken separately, pretty simple things that might take some time but aren’t necessarily complicated to do, and they’re clearly important enough that I should have come around to doing them a while ago. So how did it get to this point ?

It’s overwhelming

Sometimes, when something generates a lot of anxiety or overwhelms you, the unconscious reaction is to avoid it, as a coping mechanism : if you don’t think about that thing, then it can’t cause you any distress.

The problem with avoidance as a coping mechanism is that it teaches your brain that you aren’t capable of facing what causes you this type of anxiety, that it’s just so overwhelming that the only solution is to push it as much away from your conscious mind as possible.

Photo by @stilclassics on Unsplash

In essence, it’s the difference between stress management – the good thing, the one where you confront what’s stressing you out and deal with it in a way that makes you less stressed – and stress avoidance – where you ignore the stressors and hope they go away on their own (which they don’t.).

In the short run, sure, not thinking about it will make you feel better, help you not get overwhelmed by what you’re trying to avoid. But in the long run, it’s likely to turn your initial reaction to this stressor into an even bigger one – making it worse and worse until you either have to deal with the cause of your stress (in my case : those 3 administrative tasks that really really need to be done) or with the consequences of not doing it (here : losing my insurance so I can’t go see the dentist, or not being able to graduate this year because my classes haven’t been credited on time).

How to stop doing it

At the time I’m typing this, my papers for the class credit have been sent and half the classes have been approved, and my medical insurance has been renewed – I still have to take care of the social security and the tax returns, but it’s a work in progress. I’m getting there.

So how do you deal with avoidance as a coping mechanism?

I don’t have a universal method for this, but the thing that works for me – that actually works and forces me to confront what’s causing that behavior while not provoking even more distress – is to:

1 . Tackle one thing at a time.

Here, I’ve got three separate problems I’ve been avoiding unsuccessfully. I’m not going to try to solve all of these in the same day : that’s more likely to make me panic and quit / have a panic attack than succeed, and we’re trying to find a better solution than that. So I’m focusing on solving one after the other, step by step.

2 . Divide them into easily manageable chunks

Just like studying for midterms, if you try to do it all in one go, it’s going to be much more difficult than if you take the time to separate it into more manageable tasks that you can take care of efficiently and without too much stress.

For the class credits, I divided it like this : check out necessary papers / fill out class credit form / retreive official grades from my previous university / write email to the person in charge of class credits / add papers to the email and send.

While that may look like a lot of extra steps if you’re someone who’s not bothered with anxiety at the idea of doing important administrative papers, this was the right way to do it for me : it helped me stay focused on the small tasks I was doing, instead of thinking about the issue as a whole and getting overwhelmed by what was at stake here (and panicking. A lot.)

3 . Don’t hesitate to ask for help

Photo by @nate_dumlao on Unsplash

It’s easy to drown in something like this if you’re alone and have to do all of it on your own. But if you have anyone you can count on, someone you can ask some help from, then don’t hesitate to do so. My partner helped a lot, actually – not in actually doing the tasks that generated all that anxiety, but in making myself confident enough that I could handle them on my own.

Be it someone who can re-read your email before you send it for that internship you really want, someone who’s there to help you figure out which papers go where, or even just a friend to stay with you at that party where you’re so anxious to go because you won’t know anyone else… A little support can go a long way.

And if you feel like you don’t know where to even start, or that anxiety is significantly deteriorating your mental health, please consider speaking with a licensed therapist, who has the skills and knowledge needed to best assist you with these issues.

I hope this post was a little bit useful – if you have any tips on how to deal with avoidance as a coping mechanism, or with procrastination in general, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Jumping on the Notion bandwagon

It’s finally October!

As Zoom University is now back at full speed, I’ve been gradually shifting my interests in YouTube content from outfit and meme videos to studytube guides and tips for online school. I’m a very easily suggestible person, and I’d been hopping from studytube to studytube until I got to Mariana’s Study Corner‘s channel – which you can find here.

She makes a lot of excellent quality content, and has done a whole series of videos using everybody’s new favorite content manager – Notion. Being an aficionado of the bullet journal method, and loving writing stuff on paper all the time, I didn’t particularly care for it, but it still sounded interesting. It looked like something I might have wanted to check out if it fitted my style a bit better.

Then, CW from The Quiet Pond tweeted about book bloggers all making their personal Notion pages right now (and it was a really funny tweet, by the way), and that was it. I was interested.

So I went on the internet, hoping to discourage myself from trying yet one more thing just because I saw an ad for it, or heard people talking about it, and I googled “disadvantages to using Notion”.

The main one was it takes a long time to charge if you have bad internet. Wait. That’s not an inconvenient for me, I have good internet ! (I’m paying a lot for it, but with Zoom University, we couldn’t afford not to).

Aaaaand here I went, hopping on the Notion bandwagon just like everybody else. I’ve now spent a lot of hours on my homepage, set up a budget tracker, an internship hours tracker, a class tasks masterlist and a page to help me manage my late ARCs. And so far, it’s been great!

Image from @mikeyharris on Unsplash

I love how flexible Notion is, and how easy it is to use and adapt to your own methods. It lets you create tables, drop lists, checklists inside tables which you can filter according to due dates for your work, or different tags for your TBR books… the possibilities are endless and I’m enjoying it a lot.

So since I’m here and talking about Notion, I thought I’d share three of the videos that inspired me and helped me the most to understand all the different functionalities Notion has to offer :

And as an extra, if anyone’s interested, here are some pictures of my current Notion setup :

Back to blogging!

It’s been a long time since I wrote something here – my last post dates back to June 3rd, and so much has passed since then ! I got a new job, quit my old one, got back into Zoom university for a brand new semester, picked up old hobbies I’d stopped doing months ago, got really into cycling and biked every day to work… it’s been a long few months.

I’d love to make a series of posts on what I’ve been up to recently, but I honestly don’t have enough time right now (more on that later, by the way – it’s good news!), so I’ll just give you a relatively short overview here!

1 . I quit my job, and got a new one

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that up until my last post, I was working in a supermarket as a cashier / customer service agent. I really enjoyed this job, and the colleagues were all super nice, but during the month of July, my hours were cut – by a lot. Long story short, the salary I ended up making over July wasn’t enough for what I needed it for anymore (namely : food, phone bill, a new laptop and my university tuition fees due in September).

Fortunately, a local restaurant near my house was recruiting at that time, so I sent them a resume and a short email just in case my profile interested them – and it did! I got an interview a week or so later, and ended up quitting my supermarket job at the beginning of August to work at the restaurant full-time for the remainder of the summer.

As of now, I’ve been changed into a part-time worker at the restaurant, and I’m hoping my city stays safe enough that we don’t have to close, so I can keep working as much as possible during the school year. Even with parental support (and I’m lucky and privileged enough to have some, so if the worst happens and I lose my job, I can still pay my rent and eat), living in a big city is expensive, and being a university student comes with a lot of extra costs, which means I really want to hold on to this job as long as I can!

2 . University started again

Photo by Fallon Michael on Pexels.com

I took two summer classes during the lockdown, and those were really useful to familiarize myself with Zoom. For the current semester, I have five classes, all online, one of which is actually an internship in a psychology lab at the university.

I’m super excited for the lab! I got into my first choice of internship, and the project we’re going to be working on is on the very topic I’d like to do my doctorate thesis on – there’s honestly no better option I could have had.

It is, however, going to ask a lot of time and effort from me. I’ve got classes on 3 days a week, and one full day for the internship, with the remaining three days for work shifts at the restaurant – with the way things are working out now, I won’t really have a full day of rest anytime soon, so I’ll take it wherever I can.

3 . Reading

I spent a lot of my reading time getting through personal finance books, university mandatory readings, etc. and ended up reading mostly non-fiction for the past 3 months.

As a good part of it was in French, I probably won’t be reviewing these on the blog, but I might add them to my Goodreads account just to keep track of them. The library in my city has reopened, and I’ve been making the most of my library card since we can’t go there to sit, browse books a long tine, read with a snack or study quietly anymore.

4 . New hobbies

Last week, I took out my camera to take some pictures outside, when – to my utmost horror – it didn’t turn on. Cue one full day of me panicking over it, thinking I’ll need to mail it back to the manufacturer to get it repaired and pay hundreds of dollars since the warranty has expired… and then my cool-headed better half came and said “Maude, have you tried bringing it to the closest photography shop? They might know what’s going on, and be able to repair it for less than that!”.

Well. Turns out the better half was right – the battery was dead, and even if batteries aren’t cheap, it still cost me way less than what I has scared myself into believing it would.

Photography is a hobby I used to love a few years ago, and I gradually stopped doing it when this whole pandemic business happened. But my university has started a new psychology project, the Resilience project, to help students find good ways to cope during the months to come, and this week’s task was to re-discover old hobbies or things we used to love, and try them out again. So, with my now-functional camera in hand, I got back into photography!

5 . New laptop

A lot of my saved money from this summer has gone to my student tuition, but I also needed to save some of it for a new laptop : my old one had broken down at the hinges to the point that the screen was falling off one side, and whenever it slightly moved, it would go completely dark until I found an angle that made the bad connection work again for a short while. Long story short – it wasn’t going to work for and entire semester of Zoom university™. No way.

So since I had to get a new laptop, I tried and saved enough money for one that would let me study, blog, edit photos and play good videogames, and got myself an Acer Nitro 5 on sale! I got it for waaay cheaper than the current retail price is, because it was a) on sale and b) a box that someone else had bought and returned to the store, so it had an even bigger discount while still having a 1-year warranty. This model is light, fast, has a backlit keyboard and a full HD display with a 120Hz screen, and my comfort while working with it is incredible.

… and I’ve fallen into the No Man’s Sky hole and have been spending hours of my “rest” time for the past week playing this game and having lots of fun with it. 10/10, worth it, would definitely recommend.

I’ve also been watching a lot of studytube videos, and recently tried my hand at Notion (I might make a post about this later, or link to some interesting resources posts on it that I’ve read this week!) to plan my days and keep track of all my current projects.

I’m slowly easing back into blogging, and will try to post a little more before the end of the month and the beginning of October – we’ll see how that goes!

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A day in my life during the summer

Continuing on with the personal posts, this one is more of an “about the blogger” type – I’ve been thinking about making a “day in the life” post for a while, so here’s a summer-themed one!

During the summer, my days are mostly split between rest days and work/study days. During the rest days, I mostly… do nothing, watch some TV, and maybe go out to do a short jogging. The work/study days are much more interesting.

Regardless of the day, I usually go to sleep pretty late, so I tend to wake up late in the morning too : it’s rare to see me emerge before 10 am on a day when I don’t have any video calls scheduled in the morning. Breakfast tends to be optional, depending on how close to 12pm I’m getting up : if it’s too close, I’ll just directly get lunch and get on with the rest of my day.

It’s taken me a while to go beyond the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” mentality, and actually listen to what my body is telling me – if I’m hungry, I’ll eat something. If I’m not, and just want to eat for no apparent reason, I’ll think about it and try to figure out if the real reason might be boredom, sadness, anxiety, tiredness…

I use a bullet journal to keep track of my daily, weekly and monthly tasks, and I’ll usually check it in the morning after I wake up. If my laptop is on, I’ll also open feedly and check out what new blog posts have come out in the past day or so, and try to comment on a few of these.

Related posts : check out Kal’s post on @reader voraciousWhy I switched to Feedly for blogopping ! It’s an excellent guide on how to use Feedly to your advantage.

A part of my – relatively short – morning is spent studying : I’m taking two intensive classes this summer, and exams are fast approaching (in fact, I have one today!), which means I need to do my best to stay on top of the course work. I’ve been having some difficulties with one of those classes, as the teacher posts videos online and asks the students to watch them at home : the videos are longer and the content is more dense than in an in-person class, and it requires a lot much work to take notes on all of it.

I’ll also try to write some more on a future blog post during that time, as the building is calm and silent in the morning and I can focus much better than in the evening. I try to have a consistent lunch, but it depends on whether or not I have a lot of time before I have to go to work – for the moment, my work schedule is alternating between days when I start at 3:15pm, and days when I start at 4:15 – and it makes a huge difference in what I’m able to do at home before I have to leave.

Our apartment is located downtown, and there’s a big park nearby where me and my boyfriend sometimes go to play American football, or do some jogging – we’d like to do some boxing too, but so far haven’t found the time to do so. Often, after lunch (around 1pm), we’ll go out and spend some time outside before I have to go to work or get back home to attend my online classes.

On an average work day, it takes me about 40 minutes from the moment I leave my apartment to the moment I start working. I walk for about 10 of those, then take the metro, and get to work 5 minutes before my shift begins so I can put on my uniform shirt and grab my cashier bag to open a cash register. (And, if I’ve slept extra late the day before, I leave home 5 minutes earlier and grab a small coffee at Tim Hortons on the way to the metro station. The perks of living in a big city where you don’t have to walk half an hour to get to the nearest Tims…)

I have relatively short work days – the longest one lasts about 6 hours – since I’m not a full-time worker : my heaviest week so far is going to be this week, with a total of 27 hours planned. But I really like this job, and it helps me keep a somewhat good work-life balance : mornings are mine, afternoons and evenings are for work, and I’m home by 10pm every day so I can eat dinner, relax and spend time with my boyfriend.

In all of that, I usually manage to find some reading time during my breaks at work, and in public transport, as well as in my wake-up time before I try to do much of anything else. I’m currently trying my best to get through The way of kings by Brandon Sanderson – I liked his Skyward series so much that I decided to give a chance to his other writing too – and even if it is super interesting, it’s taking me a long time to read.

What does your day-to-day look like during the summer? Does it usually change a lot, or do you have a regular schedule you tend to follow? And how do you fit your favorite activities into your “work” days?

Blogging when English isn’t your first language

Today’s post is a little more personal than usual – I’m going to be talking about the challenges of writing blog posts when English isn’t your first language. (And yes, this might have been inspired by my frustrations this week, trying to understand some subtleties in English grammar and spending hours on it).

Learning English

When I first discovered blogs as a teenager, I was mostly reading blogs in my native language, French. I read a lot of lifestyle blogs at the time, and absolutely loved the visuals, the soft colors, the energy in those blog posts. (Sadly, when I got back into blogging in my twenties, I couldn’t find those French lifestyle blogs again – I wonder where they went…)

In high school, I went on to learn English out of spite. I began high school with grades averaging 20% in English class, and tried to talk about it with my teacher at the time. Having no patience for a student with grades as bad as mine, he looked me right in the eye, and, in front of the whole class, loudly said : “It’s not my fault if you’re lousy.

Yeah. Talk about building confidence.

So I learned English out of spite. I started reading fanfiction in English only, changing the soundtracks on my favorite TV shows, and slowly improving step by step. By the end of high school, I was back with the same teacher for my last semester – the irony! – and when he gave me my last exam paper, he pulled me aside and told me he was impressed by my progress. (I always wondered if he knew being mean would motivate me to study even more ?)

Blogging in English

Moving to Canada in a bilingual province helped me become more confident in my ability to communicate in English, and I started reading almost all of my books in their original language, without having to wait for a French translation – but I didn’t feel comfortable enough to write and blog in my second language yet.

Blogging in French, however, was much more difficult than I expected. Not because I had trouble with the writing part, but because finding an audience was challenging and even though blogging isn’t for the followers, it is in part for the interactions and the comments – which I just couldn’t get in French. English is the language of the internet, and if you want to reach out to people, you’ll have much more luck using a language that so many of them will understand.

I started blogging in English about a year ago, and every time I write a post it takes me forever to write – not because I don’t know the words, but because my sentence structure is inherently French and I want my posts to feel as natural as possible for the readers.

My boyfriend kindly offers to check up some of my posts once in a while, but it can get really frustrating to spend so much time re-writing every single sentence in my posts. Usually, he’ll point out phrasings that mimic French grammar a little too much, or that would seem a bit strange to an English speaker – and help me find more specific words for the precise thoughts I want to express.

For example : just this week, more than 10 minutes were spent trying to figure out the essential difference between “this lacks _” and “this doesn’t have _“. It’s something that can seem extremely simple, but if you’re writing in a language that’s not your first, it’s one of the many things you might want to pay attention to so you don’t write something that sounds unbalanced, or poorly constructed – at least, that’s what I was thinking.

Is it really important?

More and more, I question the relevance of putting so much effort into the perceived “quality” of my writing. I know it’s important when I’m trying to write something more narrative, like fanfiction, for example.

But should people try to use elaborate sentence structures in blog posts, or should we try to make them as accessible as possible, with more direct phrasing and easily understandable vocabulary?

I’ve read a few posts on how to improve your posts when English isn’t your first language, and some of them mention that an overly complicated language might be perceived as pretentious or showy. A more conversational writing style seems to be preferable – but how do you, as a non native speaker, distinguish a conversational writing style from an overly simple one?

Do you blog in your first language? If not, what kind of methods do you have to make your posts as “natural” as possible?

Related posts : on the same topic, you can check out Kristina’s post @books and dachshundsblogging with anxiety : can I say that?

Self-isolation library eBook haul

If you’ve been around for some time, you’ll have noticed that, since the beginning of 2020, I haven’t made any proper TBRs or monthly wrap-up posts. The truth is, I’ve been planning to make them for a while, but always postponed writing them, up until the moment when they were no longer relevant. I hit a big blogging slump in march, and only just recently got out of it, which gave me the motivation needed to write this one !

With that newfound motivation, I wanted to make a reading list for April, but with self-isolation and the recent amount of covid-19 cases in my city, I haven’t gone shopping for books, or borrowed any physical copies of anything lately. However, just because I didn’t get out of my (tiny) apartment doesn’t mean I didn’t borrow anything !

My local library has an excellent online catalogue of eBooks and audiobooks. Personally, I’m not a fan of audiobooks, but I do love eBooks. I usually read them on the way to university in the morning, or to my once-a-week kickboxing class in the evening – on average, I spend one hour a day in public transport, so I like to use this time to read and be in my own little bubble before starting my day.

I’m especially lucky, because the library’s website is super well designed, and allows me to browse and discover titles I never would have found on paper. The different filters allow for a lot of freedom in your selection, and the holds / wish list system works very well for me : when I see a book I might like, I add it to my wish list, and when I see one I absolutely can’t miss a chance to get, I use one of my 5 available holds to ensure I get it ASAP.

These past few days, I’ve been wanting to read some non-fiction, and learn more about interior design. It’s not an accident : I’ve applied for a new apartment with my boyfriend, for may 1st, so I’m thinking about all the ways in which we could make that place our home, and how we could decorate and furnish it. My eBook reading tastes depend a lot on what’s going on in my life at the moment, and right now, that’s home improvement, personal organization, and nutrition.

So here are the books I currently have on loan, and will endeavor to read during the next 21-days period : 

So, in that pile, we have : 7 non-fiction books and 2 novels, including 3 books on home design, one on budgeting, and one on journaling. I should have more than enough material for the next three weeks !

I also have some ARCs I’ve been meaning to read and review – they’re NetGalley ARCs, so I’ll post the reviews on NetGalley before posting them on the blog, but I’ll cross-post them eventually, closer to their respective release dates. 

My university classes have resumed this morning. As they all have been changed from in-person classes to online sessions, I’ll save a couple of hours every week by studying from home. But this new situation is going to change a lot in my usual routine, and I’ll need to change some things to be able to accommodate that.

I haven’t planned all my posts for the next few weeks yet, but hopefully I’ll be able to keep a consistent posting schedule – and ace my exams !

2020 bookish goals

Happy New Year everyone ! I’ve been away from home for the new year, spending a few days with friends, and I had a lot of fun ! 

I love new year resolutions, or goal-setting of any kind, really, so here’s mine for 2020 – I wanted to keep them simple and measurable, so it’ll be easier for me to keep going and not give up halfway through the year.

Personal life goals

1. Get a job – this one is quite straightforward : I need money to pay rent, food, and my telephone bill. I was hoping to get some student loans this year, but since my parents didn’t fill out the paperwork correctly and refused to send the necessary papers for my application, I never even got approved for the loans. Which means I need to pay everything by myself, and find money somewhere.

2. Save 900$CAD for a plane ticket to France – I didn’t get the chance to go home and see friends and family this year, so I’m doing that in 2020. My boyfriend and I are planning to go skiing for Christmas, near where his parents live in France, and see my family after the festivities. But for that, I need to be able to afford a plane ticket and a train ride !

3. Exercise 5 times a week – I got a fitbit this year, and it’s changed my last months of 2019 for the better. I’ve been way more active, walked a lot, ate and slept better… being more active helped with my mental health too, and with getting good grades at my university. In 2020, we’re exercising 5 days a week !

Reading and blogging goals

1. Goodreads challenge – I’m keeping it low pressure, and going for a reading goal of 52 books this year. I know it’s a manageable goal for me and for the rhythm at which I read, and I don’t want to aim for something higher as there’s a good chance that’ll just discourage me and get me into a reading slump.

2. Post more on bookstagram – I’d like to aim for a short goal of two instagram posts a month : since I mostly read ebooks, I have less opportunities to take nice bookstagram pictures, but I’d still like to try to get my bookstagram the way I want it to look like.

3. Request less ARCs – This year, I’ve struggled quite a bit to keep up with my ARCs. I did what new bloggers do when they discover what ARCs are : requested a bunch of them, struggled to read them all, let some get past due date for the review and felt terribly bad about it. So this year, the limit is set to 10 ARCs for the entire year. I want to focus more on what I actually want to read for fun, and what I truly appreciate reading.

4. Blog hopping – I haven’t blog hopped enough in 2019, and I definitely need to change that in the future, so the goal is to spend some time on it once every week. Nothing too time-consuming, but I really need to get better at that.

What are your 2020 resolutions ? Did you make any ?