Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Big things Small town

Casey, Illinois. You will be forgiven for not recognising the name. It really is a small town. But in this quiet, town surrounded by farmland, deep in Illinois, they've got some pretty big things going on.

In fact... very big things.

Casey Illinois is home to the worlds largest :

Rocking Chair


Windchime




Golf Tee



Pitch Fork


Wooden Shoes


Mailbox




and Crochet Hook and knitting needles




They also have a very big

Coin
Birdcage
Yardstick
and Pencil

but hey they ain't braggin'!

Most of the giant, (and might I say really damn cool), items you see about the place are the work of Jim Bolin who runs a family business in the area. He's said that small towns in America are in danger of "drying up and blowing away" if they can't catch the interest of passing drivers. And they certainly caught our interest and imagination!

We were on a road trip down from Chicago down through the state and had no idea Casey existed until we stopped to fill up the car and bumped into one of the town's very friendly residents who took us on a mini tour to see these wonders for ourselves.

Surreal is not the word.

There's something so American about this to me and I love it. Apart from looking like the perfect place to spend your childhood the town has taken an idea and made it their own and I hope they will continue smashing records and building bigger things!

Casey I salute you and will be back to visit next time I'm in the area!

For more information visit : www.bigthingssmalltown.com
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Monday, 29 January 2018

2018 Travel Resolutions

1.    Update your bucket list

This one is important. It’s all very well and good saying I want to travel more, or see more of the world, but where? Yeah you can stick 50 countries on your list but which do you want to see first, what can you tick off this year?

Don’t feel pressured by your friends and social media. I know there are a lot of cool photos in dreamy locations but what do you want to do. I know you can’t always know what’s going to happen in life but for me I like to organise my bucket list by things I need to do while I’m still young(ish) and things I don’t mind waiting til I’m older to do. For instance I put go to a Full Moon Party on Kho ** at the top of my list a few years ago because I know I won’t be raving on the shores of the Thai island with a bucket full of booze when I’ve got kids to look after, or I’m 80. I put visit Iceland near the bottom. I know it’s trendy to take a snap in the Blue Lagoon at the moment but I don’t mind doing that in the future and would rather head to sunnier climes at the moment.

Make a list for the next few years, then make it happen. And most importantly, go where YOU want to go and do the things YOU want to do!

2.    Be more spontaneous

Yes I know this may slightly contradict the last point but by meticulously planning your year out you leave no option for a ‘last minute – just can’t resist – what a deal’ – random getaway. Be open to packing up and going on a whim if you can. Some of my best holidays, trips and over night stays were decided hours if not minutes before and who knows what you might be missing out on if you don’t go. If you don’t go you’ll never know is what I always say.

3.    Eyes up camera down

Easier said than done I know. Remember photos are important and they do make great memories but being present and experiencing the moment, whatever it may be, is what really counts. I love a good photo as much as the next person, I love looking back on great times and I know when I’m old and wrinkled I’ll be glad I took so many of everywhere I went. That being said 2018 is going to be the year I put the camera down more and truly be present in the moment of wherever I am. I will of course get a snap but I’d rather eat my breakfast and be out exploring the streets of Paris than sat for 2 hours arranging it artistically on my balcony while my pancakes go cold. Life is for grabbing and experiencing and not always for impressing and sharing.

4.    Stop saying ‘staycation’ 

    I really hate the phrase staycation. I don’t know why, but I do vow never to use it in 2018 (apart from in this blog post!). I’ve made this resolution to help remind me that travelling within the UK still counts as travelling, it doesn't make it a 'staycation'. It’s a big old country, from the Highlands of Scotland, to a city break in Belfast, to the Yorkshire dales and the Welsh coastline, it all counts! So even if you have no big foreign trip planned remember you can always visit somewhere on your doorstep and see something new.

5.    Learn a new skill

I will admit I am making this resolution without an actual skill in mind. But that’s ok, there are lots of things I have no clue how to do so the world is my oyster! I’m always jealous of my friends who love snowboarding, or scuba diving, or roller blading or whatever it is because they can include that on so many trips and add a new dimension to their travels. I love the idea of learning to scuba dive, (or snorkel to be honest, I’m not the most confident in the water), and then where ever I go in the world I can experience the wildlife under the water as well as over it. When visiting Chicago I took a long bike ride along the lakefront and that helped me to see the city in a whole new way. Now I know a 6 year old can ride a bike, so I’m not saying that’s a skill a need to learn but it made me think of different ways I can experience new places instead of just walking around and eating!

6.    Spend less money on material things and more on experiences

    As cheesy as is sounds, people are right when they say 'you can’t take it with you'. All the things we buy will bury us, and the sad thing is we live in a world convincing us we need more and more. A few years ago when I was a student, I had nothing, I didn’t have tons of clothes or bags or shoes, my car cost peanuts, but I travelled LOADS. Back then I would always choose a cheap flight over an eyeshadow palette, a trip over an expensive hair cut and outfit, I’d buy my clothes on eBay for the trip I was about to take and sell them when I got back! But recently since I’ve been more ‘grown up’ and working I’ve gradually bought more and more ‘stuff’ and convinced myself I need things I don’t. 2018 is the year I plan on prioritising travel over anything else, learning to travel with less and be free like old Kate was!

7.    Be more adventurous with food

If you’ve ever been some where on a trip and screwed your nose up at the local cuisine without even trying it you know what I mean. If something is on offer we aren’t used to I feel most of us would have the initial instinct to pass. But no longer! I think there is a lot to be gained by fully immersing yourself in an experience and food is a big part of that. I remember when I visited New Orleans I only had 1 day and night in the city and I was determined to get as much of an authentic experience as I could. I went to a local restaurant and ordered as much of the menu as I could, I had crawfish etouffee, an alligator po boy, delicious gumbo, and a whole host of other typical dishes, then went off into the night in search of real live jazz and a Sazerac to drink. I’m bringing that girl back and wherever I go this year I vow to try as much new food as I can.

8.    Be a packing pro

Although I’ve travelled a fair bit the packing never gets easier for me. Whether it’s back packing through Thailand, an American road trip, or a city break in Paris I always over pack. I want to be prepared for anything and so I end up with far too many options and things I really don’t need to carry. I’m determined this year to only take what I need and get this capsule wardrobe thing down! I’m also making sure I get my travel toiletries and makeup as compact as possible so I’m not holding up the queues at airport security.

9.    Be more socially conscious

There’s no excuse in this day and age to ever be exploiting, abusing or offending the local people and environment where ever we go. With the whole internet at our fingertips there’s just no reason not to be clued up on the place you are visiting. Do your research, learn about what you will find in your destination, be careful not to negatively impact people or places by just not knowing. This may all sound a little vague but for instance if you know animals are being exploited for tourists in an area, don’t add to problem by signing yourself up for it, don’t litter or pollute, don’t dress inappropriately if you are visiting somewhere that things like that matter. Just be aware, open your eyes and travel responsibly.

10. Pause more, breathe and take it in

I try to pack in as much as possible when I travel, I’m usually trying to fit in a weeks itinerary into 3 days, or 3 months backpacking into a month, because hey a girls busy you know? Sometimes we get so lost in fitting everything in and making sure we see it all we miss the point of why we are there in the first place. This year I’m going to pause more, I’m going to look up at the stars and be still. When we lived in Fuerteventura, we were on a tiny island, with hardly any light pollution and every night when we went outside we’d glance up and see a sky teaming with stars and my breath would catch every time. We are busy people and we are always rushing and missing things just staring at the TV; being somewhere we are able to see something so different is exciting just as it is, it needs nothing else, just a moment to take it in and appreciate it. There were so many nights I’d sit out front of our house, a beer in hand, just taking in the night peacefully. Sometimes that’s all we need.




So there we have my 10 Travel Resolutions 2018. I hope this list has inspired you to create some of your own. I’d love to hear if you have anything you want to achieve in 2018 when it comes to travel. Comment below or let me know on my socials.


Keep wandering.



Kate x
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Sunday, 28 January 2018

10 Simple Ways I Deal With My Anxiety


Although I've tried to hide from it in the past I do struggle with anxiety and it's taken a while for me to own it and learn my own ways to cope with it. I hope these 10 simple ways to deal with anxiety might help you too.


1. Get Appy


Although smartphones and the internet in general can play a big role in increasing my anxiety, they can actually help with calming and clearing my mind. There are a few apps and tools I use to help myself meditate, (kind of), and be mindful, still and calm. Here are a few of my favourites :

Headspace - I love this app, you can get a free version where you can do 3, 5 and 10 minute quick sessions to clear your mind. You can have a guided walkthroughs or you can go your own way, but personally I love the guy's voice and it gives me just 5 whole minutes of focusing on my breathing, getting away from my thoughts and helping me deal with my day.

Spotify - I know right, usually more associated with party tunes and your favourite road trip/gym sesh/bedroom dance routines than anxiety busting meditations but there are plenty of playlists and tracks dedicated to bringing you to peace. Sometimes I like to put on a guided hypnosis before bed and let it relax me into a deep sleep. If you already have Spotify, this is a great way to really get your moneys worth by using it for the biggest and best girl power anthems to get you feeling fizzy when you need it, or relax you and help you escape your thoughts when it's all becoming a little too much.

Calm - Another great app is Calm. You do have to pay but you can get a free trial and various free meditations and they even have things like bed time stories for adults read by people such as Stephen Fry - I mean seriously what more can you ask for in life? - It's all down to personal preference but there's so much to try on there it's worth taking a look.

Youtube - I know it's not technically an app but sometimes I listen to guided meditations for free on Youtube, there's a world of knowledge and help on there. Sometimes I prefer to go to bed at night listening to self hypnosis - I really like Joe Treacy - look him up -  I literally completely go under listening to him and always feel refreshed afterwards.

2.  Get reading




Now there's two types of books I use to help me deal with my anxiety. I do like to read some self help books but also I like a lot of fiction. So lets break it down.

The top books at the moment, self help wise, that are really speaking to me are :
  • The Universe Has Your Back
  • How To Heal Your Life
  • Recovery
All three of them talk about going into your past to bring up what is causing repeat behavioural problems and patterns and how to free yourself from them. I could write a whole post about just these books and the themes within them alone, but the basis of what they discuss is learning about yourself and why you feel and think the way you do, freeing yourself of those patterns and trusting in something higher than yourself to help make your life amazing. I think this last part is important, you don't have to feel alone with your thoughts and feelings, you can put your faith in something, (of your choice), to take the weight off you and give you hope.


I also rely a lot on taking time to read a good fiction book. You can become quite self obsessed when dealing with anxiety and when you only read books about helping yourself you are dwelling on your feelings a lot. Getting lost in a great book can really help take your mind from your current mood and shift it into a twisty, turny world of adventure. My favourite books to read are Terry Pratchett, I read them over and over again each year (and that's no mean feat there are about 40 of them!). For me it feels like going home, or meeting up with an old friend, I just find the Discworld books hilarious completely on my wavelength. Find something you love just as much and you've always got a happy place to go to.

I also love to read essays and poems from inspirational people. Ralph Waldo Emmerson was my fave long before all the cute Pinterest quotes with his words on existed.

It's also good to keep up to date with some of the great books of the moment, it's a great way to find something new and connect with others who are also reading the flavour of the month.



3. TV is ok too!



For exactly the same reasons as your favourite books, having a few TV shows where you can just switch off and feel good can really help with anxiety and altering your mood. Now let us be clear, I'm not talking about that gripping new Netflix boxset, you know the one that's got everyone on the edge of their seat.. no, no, this is not the time for that. When I feel down, uneasy or anxious I like to watch an easy breezy comedy, something where I know nothing bad is going to happen, I'm not going to be shocked, or shook or devastated and crying at the end of the programme! I want something where the characters feel like my friends, (sad I know!), and I can laugh along and feel good.

My current three 'go to' shows are - Friends, (of course, I doubt this will ever leave my top three), New Girl, (an easy 20 min show, I get them on my phone if I've not got long, and I just switch off for a little time), and How I Met Your Mother, (I literally love the characters in this, I feel like I could easily watch it over and over again and it always makes me laugh).

Get nostalgic for old shows you used to love, or find a new comedy to get lost in and to make you smile and I swear it will lift you up.

4. Essential Oils




It might be a cliche but essential oils are proven to help with anxiety and they really work for me. I bought an inexpensive diffuser on Amazon, I just plug it in and pop my favourite scent in.

My top oils are Peppermint, Eucalyptus, May Chang, Geranium and Grapefruit. I use the fresher minty scents to clear my mind and pep me up and the more spa-like scents to relax me and help me unwind. Candles also work just as well I love the IT Works candle, it lasts forever too!

5. Getting into a night time routine



Getting into a relaxing night time routine really helps me switch off and gets me ready for a goodnight's sleep. I've had problems with bouts of insomnia since my teens and every now and then I get scared it's going to happen to me again, (which is especially sad for me because man I really love sleep!). A hot, long bubble bath is the answer to most of my problems, especially when filled with my favourite smells and products.

Even if I've had the busiest day I love just setting aside half an hour to turn off electricals, wash my face, (Liz Earle's Hot Polish is the best for helping me feel relaxed), moisturise, rub a little of Lush's Sleepy into my body, drink some water, maybe read a book and be quiet, calm and chill before I turn out the light.




6. Getting some shut eye



Getting a decent amount of sleep is so important for my mental health. When I'm tired it's easier to not want to face things or feel that things are getting on top of me. It can be hard when you have an over active mind to try to settle down on a night and this can mean you lose out on sleep. If you know this is happening then start a routine to wind down to sleep earlier so you are totally settled by bedtime. Make sure you aim for 8 hours, I know we are all busy people and have lots to fit into a day but you'll find all your jobs a lot easier if you prioritise sleep in your to do list!

7. Tidy room Tidy mind





I know it seems daft but I feel much more anxious if I know my things are unorganised or my bedroom is messy. There's something just so amazing about having everything in it's place and a neat, tidy room to be in. The same goes for the whole house but if you are spending time in your bedroom this needs to be a place of sanctuary and calm. For me it's worth spending a day tidying and sorting and finding a home for things because I know it will help me feel more positive going forward.





8. Avoiding the negativity


This one is important. It's hard because you can't just shut out the whole world forever but it's good to work out where the source of your anxiety is coming from. This is where point 1. is helpful because by shutting off and clearing your mind things do come to you that you might never have thought of before.

If you know a certain friend is dragging you down or making you feel bad make a point of stepping back from them for a while, if some one on Facebook is a source of negativity, you don't have to unfriend them, just unfollow them, take little steps to stop people being in your consciousness so much.

If you are worrying about an event or something at work, take steps to be as prepared as possible and then distract yourself with other things and stop dwelling on it. It can even be a family member or someone you care about who is affecting you, whatever it is, avoid the subject, don't put yourself in a situation where you will be exposed to something that is bringing you down. Even if it's just a temporary measure while you start to feel better again.


9. Write it down




Even if you never read it again, writing down what is making you feel unhappy or anxious can be a great way of getting it off your mind. Sometimes I don't want to talk to people about what's on my mind, (mostly because I think they'll think I'm crazy, or it just isn't worth involving someone else).

Writing down what is on my mind helps me put it in perspective, gets it all out, instead of just me tying myself up in knots in my head. A lot of the time I'll write everything out on a piece of paper, read it, then screw it up and throw it away, just letting go of all the irrational worries.

Other times I'll write down exactly what I want to happen, the best case scenario, and visualise what I want actually happening, this is a powerful way of gaining control over your thoughts and changing the thought patterns. You can choose to keep a journal, or if you prefer sit at your computer and type it all out and then delete it! Either way you'll feel better.


10. Do something nice for someone else



This one always makes me feel better, and sometimes I forget how powerful it can be. It can be a tiny thing such as getting someone their favourite Starbucks on the way to work, or as big as planning a surprise party or trip for a loved one. Even visiting a relative you don't see very often, sending a message to a friend you haven't spoken to for a while letting them know they are thought about, but don't stop there, you be as creative as you like.

Making someone else happy is the best feeling in the world and even though it's not a long term fix to your problems the best part is you can do it as many times as you like, every single day of your life! Anxiety can be a very selfish thing, even though it doesn't feel good it invites you to stay locked in your mind and focusing on your thoughts and your feelings, by changing the programme and thinking about what you can do for someone else you are free for a time, and it helps you to focus on others, and takes you out of your own head.

Kindness never feels bad.

So there ends the 10 ways I deal with my anxiety, I hope these were helpful and gave you something to think about. I'm always looking for ways to be happier and healthier so if you've got any top tips please share them with me, I'd love to know! 

For anyone who is really struggling with their mental health, please talk to someone, there are so many charities and support groups out there, search for something local and get some real help. Everyone is at a different place in life so never compare yourself and know that it's ok not to be ok right now. 



Visit https://www.mind.org.uk/ for more on dealing with your mental health.
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