Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is this a big moment?

This is what the narrator of Encounters at the End of the World (the most random and surreal account of life in Antarctic you'll ever see) asks in the film at one point: "Is this a big moment?".
He was referring to a moment when a group of scientists had just discovered three new species. Everybody laughed, but the question seems an important one to me. We can never be sure whether the moment we're living is a big moment or not. What we think of as life changing may not be and small decisions to which we don't give a second thought could change our lives for ever.
So stopping and asking "Is this a big moment?" could be a good idea. And so I ask myself, I'm turning 30 (twenty ten!!!!) in three weeks, is this a big moment? Age has never bothered me, most of my friends are my age or older than me, and so I never "feel old" around them. However, this big birthday has thrown me a bit off course. Am I being silly for feeling like this? Or turning 30 is actually a big moment, an opportunity to reevaluate where I'm going with my life?
This may have to do with where I thought I'd be at 30. Married, with a mortgage and kids. Is it so bad that I'm not there yet? I'm on the right track to get all those things soon, so does it matter that it'd happen when I'm older? Would I change the past couple of years to be there NOW, at 30? No, most definitely not. Then, why is it that all of a sudden, I feel is if I'm late for things, as if I should start rushing.
Feeling like this has made me fall into some bad habits, the worse one, my compulsive buying. Yes, I confess (in true Polly style) that I haven't been doing very well on my Think before you buy challenge lately. Once I started using the "It's my birthday soon and I deserve a threat" excuse, I couldn't stop.
If you've been following my comments around the blogosphere (which I realize it's a lot to ask, but you never know), you'd have notice that I have just bought a camera (Nikon D40, LOVE IT!) and that I've been buying the books for our Hermit Book Club (Did you visit us last Friday? We had the first discussion and it was brilliant. There is still time if you want to participate!). I went to town on Saturday and before I got to my final destination (the park) I had a couple of things from Zara and a new pair of sunglasses.
I feel guilty, yes, and at bit disappointed, but I've decided to be good to myself. I'll give myself sometime to indulge, and then after my birthday, try to get back on track. There is no point in berating myself. As I said here, it's time we are all a bit more loving towards ourselves, even when we make a mistake, and stop trying to continuosly improve ouselves.
Because if turning 30 is after all a big moment, then I may as well celebrate, right?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Corner view: Cityscapes in Oxford, UK

Welcome to Oxford, a charming city where you can escape opening any door. It will almost always lead you to a beautiful place.

Where you can escape and hide in beautiful buildings full of books.

Where you can escape by sitting near the river, or better still, getting in one of those boats and enjoying the peace of a different Oxford.

I moved to Oxford from Spain seven years ago and, in that time, I've seen many sides of it. The cold, rainy city where everyone speaks a language I don't understand. The sunny place that welcomes foreigners and makes them feel at home. The town that speaks multiple languages and it's still so undeniably British. The city centre where locals, University students, English language students and tourists walk side by side (annoying each other). The neighborhoods, so different, each a small universe, I've lived in over the years (I've moved a lot!). A city that can be so infuriatingly small but amazingly lively.

The city that I now call home, for here I've grown and learnt about myself more than anywhere else, and here I've fallen in and out (and in again) love. A place I keep coming back to, everytime.

More cityscapes around the world:

caitlin, joyce, ani, kim, a day that is dessert, natsumi, epe, kaylovesvintage, trinsch, c.t.,jeannette, outi, schanett, ritva, dongdong, francesca, state of bliss, jennifer, dana, denise, cabrizette, bohemia girl, dianna, isabelle, amber, a girl in the yellow shoes, mister e, janis, kari, jgy, jenna, skymring, elizabeth, audrey, allison, lise, cate, mon, victoria, crescent moon, erin, otli, ida, caroline, lisa, dorte, kimmie, la lune dans le ciel, nicola, malo, vanessa, britta, virgina, april, rebecca, b, sunnymama, kyndale, samantha, karen, kristina, angelina, dorit, goldensunfamily, sophie, janet, nicki, ruth, mcgillicutty

Monday, May 25, 2009

Education and creativity

You may have seen this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson titled Do Schools Kill Creativity? I only discovered it last week when a friend of mine posted it on Facebook. It's not only interesting and insightful but also really funny ("If a man speaks his mind in a forest, and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?"), so if you haven't seen it, press Play. If you have, watch it again.

I was a bit reluctant to watch it because of the title, Do Schools Kill Creativity? It's all too easy to criticize schools and teachers. Most teachers want to encourage creativity and give every child an opportunity to shine. They do their best to make their subjects interesting and to promote creativity. But what many people don't realize is that teachers work in a very difficult environment and are under a lot of pressure to prove that they are doing their jobs well, which is why, a lot of the time, they have to teach children how to pass exams, instead of how to think for themselves.

Fortunately Sir (I love that he's been knighted) Ken Robinson is not talking about teacher's shortcomings, but about a systemic problem. The fact that our education is based on an outdated system that encourages homogeneous thinking, and it's based on memorizing facts, dates, and formulae instead of giving children the skills to come to their own conclusions. A system that doesn't encourage experimentation or the value of making mistakes as learning tools, and that, as he brilliantly put it, prepares everyone to be an University professor.

Shouldn't we be teaching children to think for themselves, shouldn't we be giving them the skills to create, look at things in a different light? Experiment? Shouldn't we be fostering their different talents?

I was lucky at school, I found it fairly easy and never had to try that hard, but I was definitely encouraged to stick with what I did well. Spanish and writing were my strong points, it was decided early on (and for this, I'm grateful). I was also told that Foreign Languages, and English in particular, were definitely not my thing. I now realize that what wasn't right for me was the teaching method, but if it hadn't been for my love of traveling and my curiosity about other cultures, I'd still think that English was something I couldn't do.

Sir Ken Robinson advocates a school that promotes uniqueness, that caters to different learning styles, that fosters mistakes as a way to learn things, that encourages children to experiment and be creative. I hope that we can make this a reality.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Randomness and links

I don't normally write random posts, but today my head is full of randomness and more than a bit fuzzy. This may or may not be due to the fact that I haven't had coffee in over 24 hours. I didn't decide not to have it (could never do THAT), but my stomach is telling me that it may be a good idea not to drink coffee for a while, like until tomorrow. And this leads me to the first bit of randomness:

How come I spent a whole year in South America, and didn't get any stomach bugs, while everyone around me was ill, then I come back to Europe and I start getting them? So I asked this very important question @ Twitter and I got interesting responses, VEG thinks that it's the Universe telling me to drink more coffee to kill the bugs, Extranjera thinks that the bugs already on my stomach were killing the South American bugs. I, the eternal optimistic, think that it's the Universe telling me to go and live in South America, since I liked it so much.


Which leads me to Twitter (Ha! Not so random after all, there IS a method to my randomness), I've been on it for while but couldn't actually understand the point of it! Suddenly I totally get it! See? I was told Twittering was microblogging, which may sound very exciting but gets boring after a while, specially if you like talking non stop (140 characters is not enough!). But it's actually such a good conversational tool and, when you are following interesting people, they post really good links to lots of good articles and websites. Do you twitter? If you want to follow me, I have a link on my sidebar.


I don't normally miss receiving letters in the mail, I think it's much easier keeping in touch in the age of email and Facebook, but I do miss getting pretty cards and postcards. If you want to start getting postcards from all over the world, join Postcrossing here. I've just joined! I discovered this website because it was tweeted (is that a word?) by Angelthreats. (Ah, Twitter again)

If you are anything like me and the blog camp girls and like to spend your whole day in your pyjamas, but feel bad and lazy when you do, and unfortunately need to eventually get changed when you have to leave the house, then go to this clothes website here. They had me at their name, Pyjama Room and their motto: "comfortable luxury". Is there anything better?


Finally started to properly read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao for The Hermit Book Club. I'm loving the writing style and specially the humour; the author manages to make everything funny. Even some very tragic things. I'll tell you some more when I'm at least half way through (hopefully I'll have time to read this weekend, as we're discussing it at the end of next week!

If you have a business and are struggling to find a cool name for it, go here. If you don't need a business name, go anyway, because it's so much fun! I quite like Peach Banana Design and Red Parrot Labs.


To end on a lovely note, lovely Lynette from the lovely blog My creative fling, gave me a lovely award. I want to pass on this award to lovely Jan, who writes a beautiful blog called Race of Style. Jan always finds the best things from Britain, tells us all we need to know about Paris Hilton (please, don't stop) and loves Cecil Beaton. Although she's not keen on Twitter. But she's a caring and lovely lady, so she truly deserves a lovely award. Go and visit her!


What randomness is going on in your head at this very minute?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Corner view: Coffee, Oxford (UK) and Salento (Colombia)

Back to my favourite topic! This week's theme for corner view is coffee!

This is my favourite place to have coffee in Oxford. The Jericho Cafe has good coffees, great food (if a bit overpriced, but this is Oxford, after all!), and good wine. Their English breakfasts are amazing! I love those coffee shops in England where you can spend the whole day, if you want to. Sit down and have breakfast, mid morning coffee, lunch, tea, and dinner with a glass of wine, all the while reading your book or a magazine or working with your laptop.

This is what my coffee looked like today half drunk (I know, fascinating!) inside The Jericho Cafe. It's a latte, which is my favourite type of coffee. I think this is also the most popular coffee choice in England, although if they want to splash out, they'll have a cappuccino!! England is traditionally a country of tea lovers, but with the arrival of Starbucks and others, the coffee shop culture has really taken off, specially among students and young people. It's all about the experience... and the pleasure of coffee.

Now, I know that Colombia is not exactly my corner of the world, but I couldn't resist posting these photos from the coffee region of the country, which we visited last year while traveling in South America. We went to a small coffee farm where the owner, Don Elias, showed us around and explained to us the coffee making process. He still does everything by hand, from picking to drying to roasting the coffee. We also went to a bigger farm, where they use machines for everything, but that's a lot less interesting.

You can have coffee around the world in the other view corners:

jane, ladybug-zen, ian, bonnie, esti, sophie, cele, modsquad,
caitlin, joyce, ani, kim, a day that is dessert, natsumi, epe, kaylovesvintage, trinsch, c.t.,jeannette, outi, schanett, ritva, dongdong, francesca, state of bliss, jennifer, dana, denise, cabrizette, bohemia girl, dianna, isabelle, amber, a girl in the yellow shoes, mister e, janis, kari, jgy, jenna, skymring, elizabeth, audrey, allison, lise, cate, mon, victoria, crescent moon, erin, otli, ida, caroline, lisa, dorte, kimmie, la lune dans le ciel, nicola, malo, vanessa, britta, virgina, april, rebecca, b, sunnymama, kyndale, samantha, karen, kristina, angelina, dorit, goldensunfamily, sophie, janet, nicki, ruth, mcgillicutty

Monday, May 18, 2009

Time for everything

Do you know how we are always running around trying to get ahead of time? Getting stressed because there are just not enough hours in the day to finish everything in our to do list? How we never spend a day doing nothing because there is always something to do? Well, this weekend I didn't have to. I woke up on Saturday with a feeling that I had almost forgotten. Something that I hadn't felt since I was a child. The knowledge that there is, indeed, time, that we don't need to rush, that at least once in a while we can stop and look around, take in the beauty of being here and doing nothing else. Magically, the two days of my weekend seemed to stretch so that I had time to do a lot of nothing and enough time to do everything that was on my list.
And so, magazines were read and cut, books were finished, the fabric for my dressmaking project was cut, meals were prepared (with my help; this almost never happens, the boyfriend cooks. I know, I'm lucky), naps were taken, photos were selected for my Mood postcards, new blogs were discovered... there was even some time to write in my journal.
I wish I knew where that feeling came from, and what it was that made me feel relaxed and productive at the same time. For it doesn't happen often and I know it won't last. Soon I'll be fretting around again, my piles of magazines and books always growing, my lists getting longer and longer.
Maybe it was the intermittent rain that we had all weekend. It relaxed me and made me sit still, listening to the drops. I almost wish it rained every day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's the small things...

Amanda over at Sucker for marketing published 6 unimportant things that make her happy and invited us all to play along. So here it's my list!

Weekday mornings: Now, hear me out, not that I'm crazy to go to work, but I've come to cherish the time in the mornings before I go to work. I've got into the habit of getting up an hour earlier than I need to and so I'm normally the first one up. I love getting down to the kitchen, putting the kettle on, having the first coffee of the morning (one of many), and sitting down with my coffee and my journal or my Mac, to think, write, or read.

Home made fruit smoothies: They make me feel good and healthy and they are so, so yummy!

Borders: I love the Borders in Oxford. I should probably tell you that the concept of a bookshop where you can browse, pick up books or magazines, sit down with them (and a coffee), and just relax and enjoy is completely alien in Spain. I literally could not believe it the first time that I got into Borders when I moved here 8 years ago. It's still my favourite place, although I should probably not go so often, specially when I'm trying to think before I buy.

Friends, the TV series: I know what you are thinking. It may not be the best TV program in the history of TV, but a good episode of Friends never, ever fails to put me in a good mood. In fact, J has learnt that when I'm having "one of those days", he only has to suggest we watch an episode to make me happier.

Blogging: Why? Real people ask me (that's people not in the blogosphere). Let me see: I've made new friends, there's going to be a blog camp, and we're starting a book club. In blogs I find lots of inspiration, laughs, beautiful photos, crazy ideas, random facts... and all, without leaving the house.

My pink wellington boots! which are not really pink, but anyway...

What small things make you happy?

Sisterhood in the blogosphere

A while ago I got this lovely award from Mrs Rotty, and I've been meaning to pass it on.
I have to nominate at least 5 blogs with great attitude and/or gratitude. I'm nominating the lovely ladies who are coming to blog camp, because I do think that their blogs reflect the right attitude, with witty posts, sense of humour, clever social commentary and just the right amount of craziness, and because I think blog camp is the perfect example of the great things that can happen in the blogosphere, and a sign of true sisterhood. So for you ladies, no need to pass it on, just enjoy!
Julochka, from moments of perfect clarity
Extranjera, from What will I ever do with my life?
Polly, from Sotto Voce
Seaside Stories
Kristina, from Vigdis et al.
And, finally Lynette, from Wheatlands News, who is not coming to Denmark, but is organizing a Blog Camp: South Africa.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Corner view: The Great Outdoors, Oxford, UK

I'm taking part in Spain Daily's Corners View. Every week, a topic is chosen and we all use photos to show what that's like in our corner of the world. This week's topic is The Great Outdoors.

I've been a bit lazy lately about taking photos and hopefully this will get me back into it. These photographs, however, are from a couple of months ago, when I took a walk with J and his family in a small forrest near their house. I took lots of photos that day, and looking at them, I love how light and colour changed throughout our walk.

You'll find views of other corners of the world here:
jane, ladybug-zen, ian, bonnie, esti, sophie, cele, modsquad,caitlin, joyce, ani, couturecoucou, kim, a day that is dessert, natsumi, epe, kaylovesvintage, trinsch, c.t.,jeannette, outi, schanett, ritva, dongdong, francesca, state of bliss, jennifer, dana, denise, cabrizette, bohemia girl, ruth, dianna, isabelle, amber, a girl in the yellow shoes, mister e, janis, kari, jgy, jenna, skymring, elizabeth, audrey, allison, lise, cate, mon, victoria, crescent moon, erin, otli, amy, ida, caroline, lisa, dorte, kimmie, la lune dans le ciel, nicola, malo, vanessa, britta, virgina, april, rebecca, b

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A relaxing weekend

I finally had a relaxing weekend after what feels like months. No dinner plans at midnight, no family reunions, no commitments... Bliss! And it was sunny too!

I got the pattern and fabric for my first dressmaking project! I love, love, love this fabric and I think it's perfect for a belly dancing costume. I'm going to make the skirt only and if everything goes well, I'd make the top and a veil too. My class is tomorrow and we're going to learn how patterns work... which I'm really intrigued about, as I have no idea what to do with them.

We had friends over for dinner on Saturday. It was fun, it was relaxing and our wine had a yellow label (yes, I chose it for the label). Sorry, not the best photo, I've already had some of the contents when I took it.

And today, it was sunny and warm, so I spent the whole day in the garden, reading the Saturday Guardian (not the news, only The Review and the other supplements) and looking at magazines. We even had a picnic for lunch!

Of course this is only going to make it harder to go to work tomorrow...

Friday, May 8, 2009

No room for improvement

That's right, I'm perfect as I am. Or actually, I'm learning to live with my imperfections. That's the new challenge.

I was going to write about my Disconnect challenge today, my attempt at spending less time on the Internet and, specifically less time reading blogs. Then, I read this post in The Fragrant Muse blog that made me realize how much I actually enjoy reading blogs, and that I'm meeting fabulous people and learning lots of interesting things in the blogsphere, so why stop? Of course, I want to free up some time to do other things, but I also want to stop feeling guilty for doing something that I enjoy and that it's not hurting anyone.

So that got me thinking... Lately, boyfriend and I seem to be in this self improvement race. As in: from now on, I'm going to eat more fruit and vegs, from now on, I'm going to go to bed earlier, from now on, I'm going to write/draw every day, from now on, I'm going to give up chocolate and coffee, from now on, from now on... Frankly, it's exhausting.

I'm not saying it's bad to stop and look at what you can do to improve your life from time to time, but shouldn't we also learnt to enjoy what we do? Why give up blogging if you like it so much? Why give up chocolate if it sweetens your day?

So these are some of the things I'm not giving up:
  • Blogs: If I wasn't reading blogs and writing my own, I wouldn't be going to blog camp with some amazing ladies, and that's reason enough not to stop.
  • Coffee: I enjoy my first cup of coffee in the morning No, I LOVE my first cup of coffee in the morning. Having a coffee in the office is a great excuse to talk to my co-workers, going to Starbucks after work is the perfect moment to relax with your journal or a book. Why give it up?
  • Pastries for breakfast: I should probably be more careful with what I eat, but frankly, breakfast is one of my favourite moments of the day, and I don't want to spoil it. Plus, if you are going to eat them at all, why not eat those (bad) things in the morning, so you have the whole day to burn those calories (not that I'm burning many calories sitting here in the office, but, hey, I cycle to work).
  • An untidy room: Specially if it means I'm doing something fun instead of tidying up!

What are you NOT giving up?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Coffee and blogs

I have been given an award. It's a very important one. It's got to do with coffee. Specifically, morning coffee. It's definitely my kind of award.
Diet Foodie created this "for those blogs that go well with morning coffee". Blogs and coffee are some of my favourite things to do in the morning, to try to forget that I have to go to work (actually, it's also two things that I do to forget that I AM at work).

Extranjera, who awarded me this honour, added the rule that we have to show our favourite place to have that morning coffee. Here it's mine, in my garden, sipping coffee, reading blogs and having my breakfast cereal (my only attempt all day to eat healthy. I forget my good intentions at around 10 when I have my first snack). I don't have my morning coffee here very often; this is, after all, England, so no tropical weather, specially not in the morning, but this is the place where I like to have it most.

I'd like to see where Lynette and The Fragrant Muse like to have their morning coffee. I won't be adding any more rules to this award. But do feel free to shake it up a little if you fancy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What I don't tell you

Blog camp has got me thinking about blogging, blog friends, why we blog, how we blog... all those big blogging questions. Because, you see? My blogging life is about to become real. I'm really looking forward to meeting this lady (blog camp in chief), and this lady, and possibly this lady. And there are others I'm looking forward to getting to know. I know it'd be fun, but it's also kind of scary.

My first thought when I found out about this was something along the lines of "Fun! After all, I already know these people". And then I thought, "But how much do I really know them?" and then, scary thought, "How much do they really know me? How much of what I'm like in person can you get from my blog? What if they imagine something completely different?"

I try really hard to be honest here, in my little corner of the big blogosphere. I try to be myself when I write, I think about what I want to say, my opinions are mine and everything I say it's true. But how about what I don't say? Let's make a short list, because one thing we do know is that we love lists:

1. I hardly ever talk about my boyfriend, even though he's one of the most important things in my life. He does follow me, though (Hello, J, I love you!)

2. The same with my family and friends. Not many of my friends read this blog. My sister does (Hello, H!), but never comments. My mum reads my Spanish blog and always complains that she can't understand what I write about here. Which I think it's a good thing. So there's really no pressure or fear that they will be hurt by what I say. But still I never talk about them.

3. Work. You really don't want me to post about this. It's BORING. I could bore you to tears telling you how boring I find it. A couple of years ago, I really liked my job. I could have bored you to tears telling you how much I liked it. My job hasn't changed so I'm still trying to figure out what happened (apart from the fact that I spent a year travelling last year) and what to do about it (this is the hard part). This consumes a big part of my life. But I don't tell you about it very often.

4. Embarrassing things. Like when I told you about my jewellery course, but never told you what happened next (Horrible incident involving beautiful flower earrings made with great effort by me being almost consumed by flames while I was soldering. I blame the teacher of course.)

I didn't decide not to blog about these things (except the earrings, it's taken me all this time to get over it), and one day I may do. But I thought I'd mention them here now so they don't come as a surprise in blog camp. Oh! This is exciting!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Am I taking on too many challenges?

I kind of started another challenge yesterday, the "Think before you read the news challenge" (although I need another name for it!!). I'm still trying to work out how I'm going to keep myself informed and, at the same time, avoid the panic and mass media induced hysteria. You left some good suggestions on the comments, so I'll try some of those and report back.

But this got me thinking about my other challenges (yes, I'm one of those, in order to do something, I need a challenge... or a deadline, although worryingly these don't seem to work as well anymore). I can remember three at the moment, and I'm sure there were others. As always, trying to do too much.

The 2009 Reading Dangerously challenge (more info here) is, incidentally, how I met Julochka, who brought most of you here. I'm so happy you are here so thank you for coming and thank you, Julie!

You can see my list of dangerous books in my sidebar, of which I've read exactly one. I remind you I'm writing this on May. I'm reading, I'm just not reading dangerously enough. I've just finished eat pray love, which is a lot of things, but definitely not challenging. I'm still trying to decide if I liked it or hated it (can a book be inspirational and annoying in equal measures?). So, next on my list, one that has been on my bookshelves for a really, really long time: White Teeth. I'm trying, really trying.

The other self imposed challenge is Think before you buy (I'm so good at coming up with catchy names!). I'm trying to be more careful with impulsive purchases (mainly clothes, magazines, Starbucks coffee and yes, books!). This was going pretty well (except I did get one or two magazines that I definitely didn't need), but I miserably and utterly failed two weeks ago, when Gap decided to send me a 30% discount voucher. Of course I blame Gap, sending me the voucher AND having a collection that I actually like this year! This is not so bad, considering that I used to get a new piece of clothing (or two) every week. It's funny, despite the Gap incident, I've realized that I don't miss all that clothes shopping at all, which has been a real surprise, and just goes to show that sometimes we have no idea what makes us happy.

As for the Disconnect challenge, in which I try to spend less time on the Internet... let's just say I need to try harder.