Alexander Henry Zen Charmer Folkwear Frontier Shirt 9082

Finding Your Zen

Well hai there lovely readers! I hope last Sunday wasn’t too empty, the first week without my regular post! 👀 Welcome to the new normal.

I want to start off by saying a BIG FAT THANK YOU for all your lovely, supportive comments on my previous post. It makes me so, *so* happy to hear that so many of you enjoy my weekly rambles and find inspiration from them! I never dreamed that I would reach so many people. Much love to you all 💜 (I am working my way through responding to you all – I’m getting there! 😘)

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It’s hard to break the habit of posting weekly, especially as that’s all I’ve ever known with this blog. I felt a bit weird last week, not finishing off my post ready to hit up your inboxes on Sunday morning. Not just a bit weird, actually, but über weird. I’ll get used to it, I’m sure.

Now that I’ve had this very blunt life-changing pandemic-awakening, I want to try and be more mindful about how I spend my time, and my life. My mum only lived to be fifty-five, what if I only have twenty years left to enjoy? What if I work my ass off now, in a stressful job with a long commute, forsaking the things I enjoy with the intention of enjoying them when retirement comes, only to never get that far? A saying that has always resonated with me is ‘the only thing you can’t buy more of is time’… and it’s totally true. No matter how much money you have, it can’t buy you more days. You gotta spend your allocation wisely.

A while back, in a bid to combat the scroll-scroll-scroll time-wasting-habit that so many of us have, I moved all the social media icons off of the home screen on my phone and put them all into a folder on the second screen. If I absentmindedly picked up my phone, those icons would not stare me in the face and lure me into wasting ten, twenty, thirty minutes on social media. Of course, a complete social media strike isn’t the answer when you have a blog and like to share your makes on Instagram and keep up with what’s going on in the crafting community (and of course the dog meme community 😂), so the art is in finding the balance. I’m still working on that one. Even though I’m still relatively young (lolz), I actually forget what life was like before social media, and the internet. How did we communicate?! I remember dial-up internet – when you couldn’t use the phone if you wanted to be online, imagine that still being a thing now – and when text messages were text-only and limited to a certain number of characters. If I didn’t understand what a knitting abbreviation meant back then, I had to either go see my Mum, or look it up in a book. A book, can you believe it. With paper pages and everything.

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But it’s hard to remember what it was like, before all of these social platforms came charging into our lives. Did we have more hobbies? Did we talk – like actually talk – with our friends and family more? What did people do on their commutes if they weren’t staring down at their phones? (Talking of commutes, I’m keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed that my workplace embraces remote working permanently, because not having to commute is just amazeballs and I’d really like that to continue! 🤞🏻).

So if I don’t post to my Instagram account for a while, don’t panic, I’m still alive – I’m probably just reading a book or knitting my latest pair of socks 🧶🧦

In other news, the husbeast is still furloughed until the end of July, and weeds are slowly suffocating the car that’s been sitting on the driveway for almost three months. In fact, I’ve no idea whether the Yeti (that’s his name, because he’s big and white) will even start when it’s time for his first post-pandemic adventure 🤞🏻 Which is looking like it’s going to be… to the dentist. Because a few days ago, I was blessed with the most outrageous toothache. I’ve not had a toothache before, and I don’t want it again. The whole side of my face ached, and I was knocking back so many painkillers I was keeping Panadol in business. The husbeast tried shining a torch in my mouth and discovered that a small hole in my tooth might be the source of the pain… we shall see. To add to my injuries, I have a massive ugly bruise on my thigh where I walked into the pointy end of a cycle mudguard, and I think I might have an ingrowing toenail. Plus the dog has a wart-thing on his leg and some sort of small lump on his nose, and the vets is closed. When it rains, it pours hey 😫 *sigh*

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And, I got the nervous sweats after receiving an email from work that I’d been nominated for their ‘guess the house’ series. You know the drill – people send in photos of their home and you have to guess whose it is. I’ll be honest, we’ve had some pretty fancy houses featured. Like, proper posh. I was getting a sweat on because our home is far from a show home – it’s lived in. By two humans, two dogs and a cat. There’s fabric everywhere. Yarn everywhere. Half-finished sock projects strewn around. Spools of thread on the dining room table, along with my sewing machine. Dog blankets covering every surface, and marks on the door frame where the cat loves to rub his face that I haven’t quite got round to cleaning yet 🤷🏻‍♀️ I took some very carefully constructed shots – which the husbeast spent half an hour cleaning and dusting in preparation for – only to later receive an email that they’d published all the submissions they were going to, and apologies to those that weren’t featured. FFS 😡 Oh well, at least the house has been dusted now 😂

But anyway. There’s some sewing for you this week! YAY!

I’ve made a short sleeve shirt for the husbeast (specifically to wear to work, which obvs he’s not doing atm 😂). I’m such a good wifey. In fact, it was our wedding anniversary at the end of May – we’ve been married for fifteen years guys. Holy shitballs 😱

Look how young we were 👀

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And look how old we are now 😂

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Ahhhh. 🥰

We’re at a bit of a mid-life clothing-crossroads right now, it seems. Me and the husbeast are both thirty-five, but most clothes for thirty-five year olds in stores seem to be mom and dad clothes. As in, pretty boring, and pretty plain. Polo shirts. Chinos. Floral dresses. Easy care stuff, colours that hide baby vomit etc. Erm, no thanks 😨 If you go the other way and look at the stores aimed at the young’uns, you swing too wildly in that direction and you end up looking like Kevin and Perry.

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When we were in NYC, I saw a t-shirt that I really liked the look of, but my heart dropped when I saw the label – cropped t-shirt. Ah. I wasn’t sure that thirty-five was the age to start buying cropped T-shirts. But, I tried it on with the high waisted jeans I’d chosen and it didn’t flash my belly, so I bought it. I’ve yet to wear it, mind you, because I still haven’t worn jeans in ooooooh three months now, but it’s day will come.

But, back to the Handsome Husbeast and this shirt he’s not yet wearing 👀

When I first started sewing shirts for him, I used a Vogue pattern – because Vogue seemed to be the hot dog on the sewing pattern block 🔥 It was a good learning curve in sewing shirts – there were a lot of panels, a yoke, and proper cuffs and plackets – but looking back at the versions I made, they are very formal-looking. As in, businessman formal. It was Vogue 8759, that looked like this:

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Vogue V8759 men's shirt Bye Bye Birdie Atelier Brunette red leather collar

As style preferences and sewing skills evolved, we needed a more casual shirt pattern, and as crazy as it sounds, I accidentally found this in the Folkwear Patterns Frontier Shirt 😂

Yeah, I know – wild lol. But I have to say, it’s a damn fine shirt pattern if you’re in the market for one!

The fit is a bit looser, compared to the slim-fit of the Vogue. The back is in just two pieces (the yoke and the body), and the sleeves are one-piece compared to two. I first used this pattern on the cowboy shirt I so lovingly made, which remains one of my most awesome makes ever (in my opinion, anyway) 🤩

NYC Folkwear Frontier Shirt 9404

I can also confirm that the Frontier Shirt has the best sleeve placket in the West, yes sir 🤠

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The fabric I’ve used for this latest version of the shirt is ‘Zen Charmer’ by Alexander Henry, in the teal colourway. I’ve used the ‘colourful’ colourway for a couple of things for myself, including this dress:

Deer and Doe Belladonne Dress in Alexander Henry Zen Charmer Fabric

The teal fabric was bought on a whim as we were queuing to pay at the Fabrics Galore stand at the 2019 Spring Knitting and Stitching Show – I’d spotted that they had some of a Liberty print that I was struggling to get hold of so I snatched it up and was waiting to pay when I spotted it. Funnily enough, I was buying that Liberty fabric to make a replacement for a shirt that I’d made for the husbeast in the Vogue pattern which no longer fitted him:

V8759 Vogue Mens Shirt pattern Liberty Atlas Fabric

The replacement will be made using this Folkwear pattern (because I’m so over that Vogue one), and it makes me happy to be able to have a do-over because there’s some hideous failed-pattern-matching-slash-twinning on the front of that first version! 👀😳😨

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I snapped up a couple of metres of the teal Zen Charmer fabric, with the outright intention of it becoming a short-sleeved shirt. There is no short sleeve version in the Folkwear pattern envelope though, so I blagged it by just very scientifically lopping off the bottom three-quarters of the sleeve template 🤷🏻‍♀️ (Which worked, btw…)

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The Folkwear will give you a much more customisable fit due to different collar and body sizes available to cut – a common problem the husbeast has with store-bought shirts is that the body size he needs for his smaller frame comes with a nine-year-old boy’s collar size. Not ideal, or practical, obvs, unless you like to be choked. But with this pattern, you can choose your body and collar size, which gets all the whoops from me (and likely also men that do not fall into this ‘standard sizing’ bucket) 🙌🏻

Another difference to the Vogue pattern is that the Folkwear has a sewn-on front button placket – the Vogue has one of those turn-and-turn-again plackets that’s part of the main front piece. That does mean (for me, anyway) that pattern matching is harder across the front on the Folkwear – instead of just lining up centre fronts when you cut your pieces, you’ve got to align a placket piece not only with the front piece it joins to, but also to the other front piece across the placket closure. It’s a bit of a faff and I haven’t quite cracked it yet, so rather than try to match I just don’t bother at all and take it as it comes! Or, you can do a contrast collar-cuffs-placket combo and really jazz things up.

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I know I harp on about this with every single shirt I make, but if you’re not yet using bias tape for your hem then WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE. Yes, it takes a little longer, but you get to use some funky tape (if you want) and the finish is like a squillion bazillion times neater than any double-fold hem I will make in my life. I have literally never looked back after discovering this method! Half inch tape seems to be the sweet spot (anything bigger than this and it’s gonna be too wide, really) which you can buy in ready-made but don’t forget you can also make your own too! Don’t be shy, it’s easy once you’ve had a few stabs at it (although watch out you don’t iron your fingers as well as the tape yeah? Easily done… 🔥😂)

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The only issue I have with this pattern (and it’s one that’s no doubt of my making), is that the collar pieces overlap at the centre front. I even trimmed down my collar template for this version, thinking that it would fix the problem (it’s happened on all iterations of this pattern that I’ve made so far) but it’s STILL a little overlapped. WHY??! On every other shirt I’ve ever made, from several different patterns (all Vogue, actually, thinking about it), my issue has always been that the collar is too short and the two ends don’t quite stretch to meet over that top button. The husbeast says he doesn’t mind, because he never fastens that top button anyway, but meh. It still bothers me. And I WILL fix it. Somehow. I will just keep shaving millimetres off that collar piece until it’s short enough, most likely 🤷🏻‍♀️

Alexander Henry Zen Charmer Folkwear Frontier Shirt 9084

But that one little thing doesn’t take away from the overall awesomeness of this pattern, and the fact you can French seam the whole of the insides and make it look drool-worthy outside and in. Plus, if you’re really feeling the Western vibe you’ve got four other patterns in the envelope to crack your whip at – and why not add a little piping or fringing?!  Yee-hah.

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I even remembered that I have an edge stitching foot for this collar – it helps keep your topstitching the same distance from the edge of the fabric 👀

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Unfortunately, it only works on fabric edges – so if you’re topstitching something in the middle of a garment, it’s as much use as a chocolate fireplace 🍫🔥 But good for collars and plackets on shirts.

Another good technique which I’ve only recently started using is the burrito method for sewing the back yoke – long story short it saves you the folding in of seam allowance and hand stitching, but it’s better explained over on the Closet Case blog here.

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I think I’ve found my ‘forever pattern’ for a proper men’s shirt – this Folkwear is here to stay. I’ll probably line the cat litter tray with the Vogue one 😂 Now I just need to find a good camp collar shirt for the summer – there’s a couple of options lined up, so I’ll give them a whirl and see how they do. I need to remake the Thread Theory Quadra Jeans in a smaller size, and if they turn out well then the husbeast’s wardrobe is pretty much sorted apart from a Tshirt pattern, which I’m still working on. I don’t think he’s bothered if his whole wardrobe is different variations of the same template.

Now the husbeast has a bit more time on his hands, he is working on another guest post for you guys 👀 I try and guilt-trip him saying that he knows how much you all enjoy reading his posts so why is he taking so long, and that seems to be working 😂 It’ll come with the usual bad language warning, no doubt 🤬

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A few of you have asked what books I’m reading at the moment, here’s what’s been ticked off my Lockdown Literature List so far:

  • Mindf*uck, Christopher Wylie: All about the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data scandal. Super interesting, though it’ll make you want to delete your Facebook account and live off the grid PRONTO.
  • Burial Rites, Hannah Kent – meh, it was okay, though I wouldn’t rave about it. Just wasn’t my bag. It’s based on true events of the last woman to be executed in Iceland in 1830.
  • Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh – had to give up on this one because it’s written in Scottish and took me five minutes just to process and understand one sentence 😂
  • Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer- a letdown. I wanted to understand more about what compelled the guy to go into the wild, but given that he died there this story is just someone’s opinion. I would have preferred the actual guy’s account, but obvs that’s not possible.
  • The Narrow Road To The Deep North, Richard Flanagan – An Australian doctor is haunted in later life by his experiences as a POW during the construction of the Burma Railway. Yeah, heavy going I know, but I have a weird thing about reading POW stories. My grandad was captured during WW2 in Singapore, and spent a few years in Japanese POW camps in the Far East. I never really understood the magnitude of what he must have gone through until after he died (when I was a teenager), and I never got to ask him about it. Not that he may have wanted to talk about it, mind you. He used to count to me in Japanese when I was small, and it never occurred to me where he learned that until I went digging in the National Archives in London some years later and found his Japanese prisoner record card.
  • Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts – YES YES YES. It’s my second time reading this, and it’s still awesome. Escaped convict from Australian prison tells of his life on the run in India – which makes it sound way less good than it is.
  • The Road, Cormac McCarthy – about twenty pages in, I thought I’d already read this. Turns out, I hadn’t – or at least if I have, I don’t remember it ending the way it did. I was expecting it to end differently (and I even had the ending clear as day in my head), so I have no idea what book it was I read that actually did have that ending I was expecting… a not so memorable one, obvs 🤷🏻‍♀️
  • The Rules of Attraction, Bret Easton Ellis – nah. Not for me. Didn’t gel with the characters and found it a bit boring. Finished it, but didn’t care how it ended.

Wow, out of those eight, only three I thought were any good. In case it’s not obvious, I’m hard to please with books 😂 Give me your recommendations! The one rule: no trashy chick-lit 😂 (Does anyone use GoodReads? Is it any good?)

Currently reading: The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt. A slow burner, which seems to put some people off if you read the Amazon reviews, but I’m enjoying it. I’m probably about 80% of the way through, so it’s looking likely that I’ll read her other book The Secret History as well.

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Sewing-wise, I’m hankering to do a few more stitches on my Gucci-inspired bomber jacket, which is good, but I just haven’t found the time 😂 I’ve finished knitting my Sorrel Sweater, which I have lots of opinions on, and I’ve started knitting a chunky sweater for the husbeast (because obvs the height of summer is *the* time to start knitting Arctic weather garments 🤦🏻‍♀️). Socks are still coming along, and after struggling with ideas of how to photograph them I’ve bought a child’s wooden stool off Amazon and will head out into the back garden to see if I can get some half-decent shots 😂👀📸 I mean, my garden ain’t no Kew that’s for sure 🌳

Talking of socks… next up on the blog is the very first pair of knitted socks that started it all! 🧦

I hope you’ve enjoyed the post, and you’re not too mad at me for the new frequency 😂 To make it up to you, I’ll leave you with some photos of the husbeast’s new shirt, and then some bonus shots of this man who is seemingly incapable of posing sensibly while I take pictures of him 🙄

Stay safe everyone ✌🏻

Alexander Henry Zen Charmer Folkwear Frontier Shirt 9048

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Alexander Henry Zen Charmer Folkwear Frontier Shirt 9087

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Alexander Henry Zen Charmer Folkwear Frontier Shirt 9060

Alexander Henry Zen Charmer Folkwear Frontier Shirt 9041

Alexander Henry Zen Charmer Folkwear Frontier Shirt 9065

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27 thoughts on “Finding Your Zen

  1. I was please to see your email waiting for m this morning. I missed it last week, but totally understand why you want to rethink your life. Sorry about your mum dying so young. My mum was 55 too when she died, my dad was 50 and my brother 45. I’m now 46 and it’s really important to stop and take a look at your life and prioritise the things that are important to you (as much as possible after all we all need money to live on!). Like you I’ve also decided to limit my social media – I’ve been through and muted lots of people and groups so I don’t have many messages to go through and I’m going to limit the time each day. It’s too easy to waste time on the internet aimlessly jumping from one thing to the next. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to use their time more for things they enjoy. I shall keep following you blog of course, because that’s one of the things I do enjoy reading. Best wishes Denise x


    1. Hi Denise! 💕 I’m so happy to hear that you enjoy the blog!
      I hear you on the social media – I’ve really culled mine down, and I might leave Instagram altogether… I haven’t made my mind up yet 🤔 It can all be a bit overwhelming at times.
      Oh gosh your parents died so young 💔 isn’t it so important to put the meaningful things first – no one gets to the end of their life only to say ‘I wish I’d worked more’ 🤦🏻‍♀️ I hope you’re managing to find balance, and time for the good things in life 💕


  2. This shirt is so awesome!
    Thinking about collars meeting/not meeting, I have a theory: the Vogue pattern (and most men’s shirt patterns, tbh) has been designed to be worn with a tie so the collar needs to have a gap but the Folkwear pattern (or any Western-style shirt) will never be worn with a tie, so the collar edges are supposed to meet. Whaddya reckon?


  3. The Goldfinch , Donna Tart is my go to book to read , I’ve read it 5 times at least , as I have her others too.

    Well, me for one missed you last week, your my sunday morning cyber friend, I kept looking for your name in my in box…yes sad cow…. but I’m an oap still in lockdown and will be till I have 2 new op requires me to be in total isolation 14 day prior to op, and they have offered me a cancellation option which means I have to just stay in as they could phone today , and I can say yes not been out of my home apart from my garden I’m very lucky live in the Hampshire, Jane Austin would of been my neighbour so very lucky with my garden.but I must add I’m going crazy… is my 14 yr old lad I adopted as he hasnt left the house either since march 26th as we both have to isolate as he could bring infection home to me.

    I ramble, but will say I missed you big time….
    Cindy xx


    1. Hi Cindy!
      The Goldfinch is SO good isn’t it! I think I could gladly read it again! I’ve bought the Secret History and am looking forward to starting that one.
      Aw that sucks having to be stuck inside, but at least you have each other for company! And of course all your crafting, too ✂️
      I hope you are keeping well 💜


  4. So glad you’re as in love with that Folkwear shirt as I am, it’s my SECOND favourite, but ohhhh that sleeve placket. Suggestion- I haven’t had the issue with collar ends not meeting [not that I’d be bothered if they didn’t as I’m not a perfectionist AT ALL] but here’s my suggestion: it’s a very SCULPTED collar. I find that some really need a little extra step when they seriously look as though collar and neck edge just don’t match up, to whit, stay stitching on the sewing line, then clipping into the shirt to release just a little tension, allowing the whole thing to curve as you pin and/or baste before stitching. The whole thing rocks into a brilliant 3D shape as required, and things that refuse to match suddenly do. I know you resist basting with the strength of the damned, but bearing in mind you embrace a million techniques that take ages [tracing, hello] why not go for it? Go on, you know you will….eventually


    1. OMG yes I love this shirt pattern! And the husbeast does too, so #winning.
      I actually don’t mind hand basting – but with this collar I’ll admit I just pin it 🤦🏻‍♀️ I’ll try the basting next time for sure! Thanks for the tips 💕


  5. Great shirt. Love the wedding photo and the cat with the book and glasses, too! I know what a life changer working from home is. I did it for a few days, here and there, but then someone at work (with a different job) complained that they couldn’t do it, so it was stopped. Long may it last for you. I missed you last week, but I’ll cope 🙂


    1. Awww Bren, I hope your Sunday morning wasn’t too empty! 💕 Another post is on the way this week 🙃
      We look so young in our wedding photos (we were 20, so I guess we were young!), it’s hard to believe that we’re so much older now!
      Working from home is game-changing, and I hope I can stay doing it forever! Looks like my office won’t be reopening at all until about September, so I’ve got it for a few more months at least. That’s really frustrating that they ruled it out for everyone just because one person couldn’t do it… surely it should be just be a ‘if you can, then do, if you can’t, then don’t’ principle?!🤷🏻‍♀️


  6. Definitely recommend the Secret History- I read it in my final year at uni after being what felt like the only Classics student who hadn’t read it. I’ve just started Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi and recently read Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport (which will also encourage you to bin social media! He advises cultivating high-quality leisure activities- in particular, making or fixing something at least once a week (inveterate crafter and tinkerer punches air…)). My regular reading of dystopian fiction and murders aren’t really doing it for me at the moment. I nearly bought a Jilly Cooper on a Kindle cheapie before I came to my senses.

    Knitting cold-weather clothes in summer seems reasonable to me- you’ll have it finished by the time it gets cold! Tricky when it’s big enough to cover your lap though!


    1. Thanks for the book recommendations – both are now in the Amazon basket ready for when I buy myself a new batch of reading material! (Jilly Cooper? 😳😱 Haha) Not really into murders… but I am defo down for hearing your dystopian recommendations!
      It’s certainly getting a bit sweaty knitting the jumper now… 😂


  7. Happy Anniversary! 15 is a BIG number and you both continue to appreciate and enjoy each other so much which is lovely to see. My husb & I just celebrated out 30th in Feb (exactly twice yours!) which never fails to AMAZEBALLS me no end :)) We’re both creative, independent, freedom loving folk – not that we haven’t had our challenges…. Love your shirts and reading your experiences with them. Such a brave woman! Making the man shirts! Not in a lifetime would I ever attempt that.


    1. Ahh 30 years! Congrats! 💕 Yes totally, everyone has their ups and downs… we’ve definitely had rough years along the way, but in the end I think that makes you stronger 💪🏻
      Making a man shirt was one of the first things I attempted! (With a very nervous reaction from the husbeast… 😂) Sure the first few were a bit dodgy, but thankfully I got better quickly 😁 Go onnnnn give it a try… it might be easier than you think 😘


  8. I enjoy reading your blog and seeing your style. I love its originality. I love your productivity too!


  9. Hola. I’m sad with your new posting schedule, I WANT MOAR CONTENT, but I totally get why. And hey, I don’t have a blog at all now and am in no position to judge 😬 I love GoodReads, and have been using it for almost 10 years 😱 I don’t really use it for social media, though I do add people and will add you if you join 😉 I just use it for tracking my mountain of books, and trying to keep myself on track with my reading (I take reading seriously, but I am terrible at focusing!). I love the yearly challenge function (where you set how many books you want to read and it tells you how you’re doing), and the shelving functions of to be read, currently reading, read etc are super useful. Whenever I’m booking shopping I just open my to be read shelf and pick things off my ginormous list!

    And yes you must read The Secret History. It was really good I thought!


    1. DON’T HAVE A SAD. You now have extra time every other Sunday for more reading! Yay! See – every cloud, and all that…
      Hmm okay maybe I’ll give Goodreads a little looksie… I tend to just use my Amazon basket as a ‘to be read’ list, and my current pile of unread books (maybe like, six? Seven?) are just piled up on my bedside table waiting for me to work my way through them 🤷🏻‍♀️
      Pleeeeeeease tell me you don’t read more than one book at a time? I feel very strongly that this is JUST WRONG.


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