A Photo Per Day || January


Many of us believe that January sets the tone for the remainder of the year - that it's the defining month, you might say. I personally don't. If anything, I see it as a practice run for how we want the following 12 months to go. My year started with a horrendous cold (worse than I've had for years), and my grandparents having to put their dog of 7 years to sleep. It's was incredibly sad. And as with most bad moments in life, it set off a chain reaction and unwanted memories kept invading my minds eye which really dragged me down. After that, my month continued to be all gloom and doomy until... well, I don't know what exactly. It just seemed to snap back into place one day. Isn't that just life? I had a wonderful date with my beloved partner, which was easily one of my highlights of January. I met a new friend, who has become a treasured part of my day and has helped more than he could ever know. And most significantly, with the help of my beloved, we booked my flight to once again visit him in the USA. Next month! Yes, that soon. Yes, I've already started packing because I'm a worrywart.  

But throughout it all, I kept to my resolution of posting every single day on Instagram. Seems like an odd one, doesn't it? But quite simply, I wanted a reason to go through old photos, or take new ones. Preferably the latter. So here is my roundup of images this month. One (or sometimes more) a day. I hope to continue with this series for the next 12 months, so join me for the ride.
01/01/2017: Dreaming about Veggie Tacos. So yum. I'm still feeling rough and struggling to eat anything that isn't ice, but that doesn't stop food from looking yummy. Sigh.
02/01/2017: Nature can be overwhelmingly because. I'll be the first to admit that I don't appreciate my surroundings enough. Well, this (photo) is from last October but still.. I worry I miss these moments when they pass me by, I only look back with fondness. I was to work on that this year.
03/01/2017: Can I be him right now? This photo is super old but I can't handle how cute and cosy he looks. 1,2,3... Awwwhh! That paw though. I just want to nibble it (in a non-creepy way. I'm veggie, trust me.).
04/01/2017: You're gonna hear me rooarr! I sometimes pity my boyfriend's cat but then I remember that the four-legged man gets my better half's company 24/7. Lucky lion.
05/01/2017: I want to draw more this year. Preferably something that isn't plants, flowers or mainly roots. I seem to have a fascination with things that grow leaves. Hm. This photo isn't mine, I just found it on Google, saved it to my phone weeks ago and thought it was now fitting. Credits to the owner! PS: posting daily on Instagram seemed like a fun resolution but its quite tricky when you mostly spend the day feeling unwell in bed.
06/01/2017: A Christmas gift and my new favourite scent. If you haven't tried this range of natural colognes, most definitely do. A bargain at £15 for 30ml. Plus they smell amazing.
07/01/2017: I'm going to be 100% truthful. I used to loathe my freckles and "beauty" marks. So much. I have many scattered on my body, and I worried they made my already unattractive features more hideous. I thought they were cute on other people, but myself was a big no-no - the same for most things. I hated my body enough as it was, so why not dislike the decor too? As I've aged, I haven't particularly grown fond of my body but I've come to accept the little things that I once saw as flawed. I like the little quirks that make me different than the next overly pale body you might see. Life is too short to not appreciate your differences. 
08/01/2017: Photos become incredibly precious when time moves so quickly.
09/01/2017: Repost @mentalmovement with @repostapp || We're celebrating the launch of Rachel Kelly's incredible new book 'The Happy Kitchen'. Full of delicious recipes, this Good Mood Food book is an absolute must if you struggle to balance healthy choices when dealing with mental health. Find the recipes that help alleviate your stresses, anxiety and depression whilst you learn how to eat well for your mind. Click the LINK to read the full interview and to watch Rachel cook up her delicious spinach and spelt pancakes with avocado and salmon.
09/01/2017: If you fancy giving my review of A Monster Calls a read, please do! Link is HERE. Spoiler: I loved it.
10/01/2017: Having a sneaky takeaway every few weeks is perfectly okay. Life is about balance. Leftovers? Better. Dominoes thin crust pizza, low fat cheese, mushroom, peppers and pineapple. Ultimate pizza treat. Broccoli popped into the oven for 10 minutes coated in paprika, salt and pepper. Still not healthy per say, but better than most options and equally as yummy.
11/01/2017: Throwback || The puppy stage is still in full swing and every day that fact is making me grateful that I'm a cat lady. And yes, that is point on her face. She came like that.
12/01/2017: Photographer: "Now give me a smouldering look!" 
Bruno: "Nailed it."
13/01/2017: One of my 2017 goals was to draw more. I lack imagination and tend to draw trees or flowers (exhibit A). I hate to admit it, but I have yet to draw a single thing this year. I need to find a sketch book that fits my silly expectations. But.. why does the paper have to be thin in most? It's horrible. And I'm reluctant to spend over £5 on a hobby that I'm not overly good at. Blegh. Cheapskate troubles.
14/01/2017: This is what happens when you end up sitting in a dark room on your laptop for 5 hours (Organising that thing has become the bane of my existence). I swear I didn't look like this going in. Send help. And concealer. Maybe a hairbrush. PS: My Instagram keeps glitching. No fair.
14/01/2017: My yummy tea tonight. I've been doing my best to eat clean when I can (minus the cheese), and am already feeling better for it. I write that as I'm sipping on a baileys. Dessert? No shame. Red and yellow peppers, greens, raw carrot, tomatoes, and a little cheese. I then proceeded to over it in paprika once we were alone with no camera. Yum.
15/01/2017: Happy Sunday, y'all.  (Am I able to pull that off yet?) I know the dreaded M word is tomorrow, but remember that even though it does indeed suck to get back to "real" life when you may of had a freebie day today, it's still a day of your life. Don't define the entire 24 hours by one thing. Do something you love - passionately. Smile. Take a second glance at something that you deem as beautiful. Spend 5 minutes creatively (even if that just means watching a tutorial on Youtube). Choose to find the positive, and most importantly, choose to remember that again on Tuesday. You got this.
16/01/2017: If you like short stories, supporting bloggers/writers, or just trees.. give my most recent story a read! Link is HERE. I really appreciate feedback.
17/01/2017; Currently Reading || More Than This by Patrick Ness.
I'm actually really enjoying this so far (I say, only being 127 pages in). As my second Ness book, I can now confidently say that he is incredible at storytelling. The imagery and characters practically jump off of the page and into your minds eye. So vivid and bright. What are you currently reading?
18/01/2017: When it's almost 11pm and you realize you haven't prepared/taken a photo for today's Instagram post. You go back to basics with a good ol' selfie. But then they all turn out hideous and your hair looks half curled and your glasses are wonky. So you just take a photo of your resting judging face. Yay?
19/01/2017: All the yummy veggies. Sweet potato, carrot, broccoli, green bell pepper and onion. A few sprays of the "1 cal" olive oil, sweet chilli sauce and paprika. Throw all of it together into a wok for 10 minutes. 
20/01/2017: A Mr. Bruno Roberts yawning. May be the cutest face ever. Look at those teeny fangs. Awh.
21/01/2017: I have yet to try any of the recipes in @Lea Michele's book. The crime! I need the Italian soup in my life. Soon. For now, let's just appreciate the beauty that is she on the cover. Fun Fact: This was actually my last read of 2016 and kept me entertained throughout my killer cold.
22/01/2017: This month was one of loss. My grandparents dog Lucy got put down on the 3rd of January. She had a tumor on her leg, and eventually her hips went. It was incredibly sad. It's never easy saying goodbye to a pet, is it? I think only now the weight of the loss is lifting off of them. I knew this four-legged girl for 7 years, and I'd like to thank her for the company she gave me during the times of all nighters and falling in love for the first time. I'll always remember that time she terrified me by making me think there was a ghost breathing in the room with me (I know it was illogical, but.. you know, senseless in the moment and all that jazz.). That night she threw up a total of four times and slept underneath my chair. You may have to leave, but the memories you left behind will stay.
22/01/2017: My overview of the infamous Winchester Mystery House is now up on my blog! Link is HERE. Spoiler: I didn't spot or feel any spirits. And I didn't get lost. Boo. (Get it? Ghosts.. boo? no?) The trip was also totally inspired by the Ghost Adventure episodes. Not gonna lie.
23/01/2017: A Dove and a Superman walk into a bar.. 2 weeks tomorrow I will be back in the arms of this handsome chap and I cannot wait. Time seems to simultaneously be racing and dragging. I wish I could skip ahead. LDR's are hard graft, but worth it once you're able to once again find solitude in another person.
24/01/2017: "Despite how calm the water may seem, sometimes you just have to take the bridge." Photo by @thetimtimthe on Twitter. I've had the privilege of making a new friend this month, and it has done wonders for my mental health. I forgot how lovely it is to just talk to someone for hours with no rhyme or reason. Definitely been a highlight of January,
25/01/2017: "I've found in my research that the biggest reason people aren't more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they'll become self-indulgent. They believe self criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be." - Kristen Neff. I've been having a crappy few days when it comes to BDD. Really bad. And I'm trying to power on forward, but it is surprisingly hard - which others can't seem to grasp. I'm a little lost, truth be told. I keep finding new things to dislike about myself, and nothing is swaying my opinion on them. I haven;t had a good day in a long while.
26/01/2017: Throwback: A day trip to California Academy of Sciences. A wall of accidental beauty. It is oddly satisfying. Granted, it isn't necessarily something one goes there to see.. but nevertheless, it's lovely. 
27/01/2017: Soup for the win. The base is fresh Minestrone soup from M&S. With added tinned tomatoes, carrots, onion, basil, paprika, and garlic. Yum.
28/01/2017: Black coffee for the soul, a kitty for the heart, and a good book to stimulate the mind, This is what Saturdays are for.
28/01/2017: Who says a ponytail is just for humans? In the words of Karen Walker "We can finally see her face!".
29/01/2017: Talking As Fast As I can by Lauren Graham. This continues to be my favourite read of 2017 so far. It's like opening a book to an old friend.
30/01/2017: Hungry (at 2:30am. Not good) and having a longing for the meal that was made the other night. Veggie stir fry with sweet chilli, and vegetable spring rolls. Sigh. *eats my banana*
30/01/2017: Amen. Laugh at the things that would otherwise hurt your heart, because what's the alternative option?
31/01/2017: This is my current face when I tell people "I think I miss my hair shorter." Talk about a hairisis (hair and crisis... yes? No?) What to do? First red problems.

So that's my roundup of January in the way of Instagram and photos. 
Let's see what February brings.

Winchester Mystery House: Tour & Experience


Sidenote: This blog post was written and prepped last November, but I never got a chance to upload it (Okay, okay. I forgot.). I know it's late, but the Winchester House isn't a time sensitive place and I figure it might still be helpful for anyone out there who may be debating going. So, please excuse the pumpkins. 

My mum has somehow made me a fan of the show Ghost Adventures. I don't know how or when it happened, but it did. I am now a Zak Bagans supporter and I laugh when I hear the word "step". Oy vey. Prior to my leaving for vacation, me and my mother watched both lockdowns that took place at the Winchester Mystery House. It's on her bucket list of places she wants to visit and half sulked/half demanded I go there to take photos so she can live vicariously through me (confusing times, aye?). Sadly it is not permitted to take photos during the tour itself, to prevent future visitors from getting spoilt. Confusing seen as the whole house was on a TV show, but alrighty. I can respect some rules. I did my best in the photo department, but this reasoning for this post is to clue you up on the pricing, tour and whether I thought it was worth a visit. Remember all thoughts are my own.

Unavoidably, this is going to cost a good chunk of money. It's the ultimate tourist attraction. Is it worth it? Yes, absolutely. But only if the history of the house and everything that goes alongside it interests you. I booked our tickets through Groupon, which saved us $18 and then on top of that, I had a coupon of 25% off. I love these deal sites for day trips. GetYourGuide is another great one and went to good use during our trip to Scotland. These sites are always worth a look. The apps are good and easy to navigate, which is a bonus. 

Back to the house.. You enter through the very large gift shop that will rob you of all your money and either buy your tickets there or hand the electronic ones over to the clerk, who then tells you what time your tour is. The gardens are beautiful and if you have some time to kill, take a wander. They do free guided tours of said gardens at certain times, so that is worth asking about if it interests you. Which I would recommend. We didn't, as we were on a time crunch, but given how much the tickets are, it is worth it to get the freebie bonuses out of the trip.

The house itself looks fake, in a really good way. The architecture is wonderful. It's like a funky dollhouse, each nook and cranny offers a new adventure for your eyes. That part certainly didn't disappoint. Unlike some things (I speak being a homebody), the Winchester Mystery House can't be appreciated through a screen. It's just one of those things you have to appreciate in person.

They have a cafe on site, but it really is pricey so maybe think of taking your own bottle of water. Possibly some snacks. Food and drink is not permitted inside the house, for obvious reasons, but it's worth having something on you during the wait for the tour to start if you're on a budget.

In the central waiting area, the house that stores the famous Winchester rifles is open for anyone, so you can take your time (and take countless photos for your mother, if you're like me). There's a game that involves shooting lights, or something of that nature. My point being, you won't get bored if you have an hour or so to spare.
When the tour starts you line up and have the option of taking a photo that you can purchase on the way out. We skipped this step because of my dislike of not controlling the camera (sorry, boyfriend), but hey, fun for normal people! The tour lasted approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes. I won't delve deeply into the details as it should be something for you to enjoy with the experience (or, you know, episode of GA). But it was fascinating and I left with a lot more knowledge on the history of the house than I expected to. I don't know why, but I was half expecting for the guide to just say what everyone already knew. Places like the Winchester Mystery House can sometimes, not a tourist trap per say, but you can know the entire history of a building or site going in and yet still pay to hear someone read the facts out to you despite the fact you can just find them on Google. This was different.

For all you people out there like my mother, no, I didn't see anything paranormal nor did anyone else on the tour. There weren't any cold spots and nobody fell at the portal point on the stair case. Maybe the ghosts were napping in prep for all hallows eve! You never know.

All in all, I would recommend this as a day trip, but make sure you have a few hours to explore everything else the location has to offer. There is more to this place than the house. Don't let it go to waste. And most definitely check out the discount/coupon sites that there are to offer. There's never any point spending more than you have to on tickets. 

If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to shoot me a question on here or Twitter. (@RootingBranches just FYI)

- Anne x

Book Review || A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness [spoiler free]


A Monster Calls follows 12-year-old Conor as he struggles with high school invisibility and more importantly, his unwell mother. One night, he gets a visit from a monster (think of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, but less friendly.). The monster promises to tell the boy three stories, and says that the young man will tell him the fourth when it's time. Did Conor dream this? Or are nightmares now in his real life? With confusion and his mother's health deteriorating with every turn of a page, he tries to make sense of everything.

Hauntingly beautiful are the only two words I can come up with when thinking of how to describe A Monster Calls. I devoured (get it? 'Cause it's got a monster in the book? No? Too much of a stretch? Okay.) the 236 pages in under two hours - yes, I'm a fast reader, no, I don't take it for granted. But to be honest, I don't think it matters how fast your eyes soak in words, once you start this book, it really is a difficulty to put it down. The words just flow so easily from the page - which could easily be put down to the fact that the book itself usually falls under the children's/YA category in book stores, but I really don't believe that's the reason why. The story is written smoothly in the way of, there are no kinks and no attempts at over describing or trying to be fancy. It was unapologetically human and most often when dealing with the subjects brought about in this novel, you need the simplicity. Because when it comes to having to live with things in life that test your inner strength everyday, they aren't complicated. Sadness can't be over described, its too potent. It's pain. No and's or but's.

This review will of course but spoiler free, but what I will say is that I really enjoyed how despite the fact Conor is facing something so dark that most children couldn't relate to, he is also struggling with your usual high school problems; bullies, lack of friends, betrayal. You could argue that he was simply foreshadowing his home life into school due to the heaviness of his heart (making everything seem gloomy), but whether that is true of not, it's a remarkable reflection on a lonely child's days. Add onto that the family problems that aren't related to his mother's health, and the abundant hatred of change.. You realise this is just a boy. That's what makes the story come alive, at least for me. The monster was just a scary bonus.

Sidenote: My UK edition didn't have any pictures, which I later learnt some do. So strange.

So as you can probably tell, I enjoyed this book and I wholeheartedly recommend you give it a read if you enjoy a little magic, a little sadness, and a lot of character growth. As you may know, A Monster Calls has now been translated to the big screen and has been released in most places, I personally have no desire to cry alone in the dark, but my partner braved it and said he really did enjoy the movie. Actually, when asked, he said he preferred the movie over the book. But he is a giant movie buff, so that is only 75% surprising. I digress, if you prefer movies, you shouldn't be disappointed by watching it first.

This was my first Patrick Ness book, which has resulted in More Than This being next on my list. (Have you read it? Any of his other books you like? Let me know!) His writing style semi reminds me of being a child and devouring (still not funny?) Roald Dahl books, but with a little more maturity. It's a true story. Until reading this, I didn't realise that I have an inner longing for good story-story books. A little magic never hurt anyone, right? I've been too busy reading about murders, aliens, witches, and people I fangirl over. In spite of the sadness of A Monster Calls, it was still.. light. Something my mother would've read to me when I was younger and then had me pestering for "one more chapter". It was a refreshing change.

- Anne x

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