Falling Forward: A Girl & Her Lists

Life List: Have a Library

Posted by in My Life In Lists, Projects

Guys, guys! Guess what! The library is finally finished! Hurrah! Rejoice, etc. We started working on it when we first moved in two and a half years ago (whoa) and it’s finally, finally finished.

It’s been on my Life List for as long as I remember, and I can’t express enough how much joy it brings me to spend time in this little room.


Oh, before. When we moved in the walls were pale blue paint over stripy blue wallpaper. The skirting boards were SILVER for reasons unknown, there were some strange shelves, an ugly lampshade and an incredibly fugly built in cupboard that housed the boiler (tucked around the corner in this photo).


It also had a very charming (and by charming I mean filthy) beige carpet and a window pane that was constantly full of condensation. It was a real winner.


We spent a lot of time and effort stripping everything out – wallpaper revealed lovely pale green paint – and then putting nicer stuff back in. We went for laminate floor that looked a bit like wood (but wasn’t really wood because that stuff is expeeeensive), replaced the window, had the boiler boxed in nicely and painted everything white.

It’s simple but since it was all going to be covered in bookcases I wasn’t really that bothered.


Chez Chong Library Makeover-2

Chez Chong Library Makeover-4

Ta da! Isn’t it beautiful? The answer to that rhetorical question is yes. Yes it is. I’m not going to talk through everything (it would bore me too) but we bought most of the items from IKEA. Billy Bookcases galore, basically.

Chez Chong Library Makeover-9

I wanted to add in some interchangeable art so I bought some cute, cheap clips from Tiger and hung up some postcards that were 70p each from Paperchase. Sorted! The little Hello sign was from Primark, believe it or not (their home section has been great this year) and the “love from me xx” signs were bought on Amazon a fair while ago.

Ps. Meet my new favourite candle – Scandinavian Log Fire – which was a bargainous £3 (£3!) from Matalan. I bought three because I love the smell so much and you just know they’re going to discontinue it eventually. (The big R E A D letters are also from Matalan, by the by.)

Chez Chong Library Makeover-7

Chez Chong Library Makeover-8

My beautiful BFF bought me an amazing set of yellow pencils that take pride of place on the ‘not books bookshelf’. I also have my ‘this book belongs to’ stamp (flipped so you can read it!), my print copies of Télégramme and our wedding guestbook.

Chez Chong Library Makeover-14

Chez Chong Library Makeover-18

We don’t have enough books to fill all the shelves (yet – so sad, I’ll have to buy more books) so we’re using the yellow shelf as a ‘favourites & recommendations’ shelf. I like it!

Chez Chong Library Makeover-21

Chez Chong Library Makeover-3

Chez Chong Library Makeover-22

I had a blank wall left so I ordered a ‘Read all the things’ banner from this glorious Etsy shop and taped up some more postcards around my favourite Marc Johns print. (You might remember that I also have it as a tattoo).

Chez Chong Library Makeover-1

Sigh. Welcome to the world, little library. I’m so happy that you’re here.

Picking Prints for the Library

Posted by in Books, My Life In Lists

Wait, you don’t have a library?

In all seriousness, we are very fortunate to have been able to buy a house large enough for me to indulge my childhood dreams. I’ve wanted my own library for as long as I can remember, and we’ve been working hard since we moved in to turn this dusty, neglected box room into a cosy, joyous haven.

The bulk of the renovation is done – we’ve removed the silver (!) paint from the skirting boards, stripped the stripy wallpaper and swapped out the hideous boiler cupboard for something much more unobtrusive. The bookshelves are in and we’ve even managed to decide on and buy a cosy chair so all that’s left now is a new ceiling light and some artwork to make it feel more personal.

Enter: the dilemma! Etsy is my go-to for affordable, unique art, since I made a promise to myself a few years ago that I wouldn’t buy any more ‘generic’ art and I’ve largely stuck to that. Which is great! But also terrible, because it means that choosing art is so much harder because there is so much of it and it would all look great on my walls. #firstworldproblems.

With that in mind, here are six prints that I’m considering. We only have room (and a budget), realistically, for one or two but I’m struggling to narrow it down.

Obviously I like the Ernest Hemmingway quote because yellow. But I think I’m leaning towards Jorge and Albert. (Related: where are the book quotes by women, please?)

Little help?

31 for 31 – My Year In Lists

Posted by in 31 for 31, My Life In Lists, Projects

Well gosh, hasn’t it been a long time since I completed my 31 for 31. I fell off the blogging wagon big time and I’m still not really sure why. In general life has been pretty stable but my motivation for all things has been lacking of late and it’s starting to show in every facet.

Still. As good Mr Frost says, the only way out is through, right? I wrote this waaaay back in June and it’s bothered me ever since that I didn’t get around to posting it, so here you go. 31 things I did to celebrate being 31, presented without commentary because if I have to write something about each one it will never, never get published.

Re-set / Re-align / Re-start

Here’s to trying to climb out of ruts.

1. Make my own jam Completed 11th July 2014 

2. Get my eyes lasered Completed 11th August 2014

3. Host a Team Chong Supper Club to raise money for the head shave Completed 17th August 2014

4. Learn how to French braid my hair Completed 27th August 2014

5. Shave my head for charity Completed 30th August 2014

6. Donate my hair Completed 30th August 2014


7. Finish my 100 cheeses Completed 6th September 2014

8. Give blood at least once Completed 6th October 2014

9. Eat at 12 new places in Wales Completed 10th October 2014

10.Read a Man Booker prize winner Completed 20th November 2014

11. Finish the Top Secret Project for Arthur Completed 2nd December 2014

12. Re-watch 31 of my favourite films Completed 10th December 2014

13. learn how to make delicious gluten free cookies Completed 14th January 2015

14. No swearing for a day Completed 2nd February 2015

15. Visit another European country / tick off another continent Completed 11th February 2015

16. Swim a length under water Completed 12th February 2015

17. Read 31 more books I’ve been meaning to read forever Completed 6th March 2015

18. Sew something I can wear Completed 21st March 2015

19. Donate to 31 charities Completed 9th April 2015

20. Send 31 surprise gifts Completed 18th April 2015

21. Take a ballet class Completed 23rd April 2015

22. Finally Knit that owl sweater Completed 26th April 2015

23. Go UV bowling Completed 2nd May 2015

24. Get the EE Cummings & Grace quotes printed for our wall Completed 8th May 2015

25. Print our family cookbook Completed 7th June 2015

26. Complete the British Sign Language online course Completed 9th June 2015

27. Be debt free Completed 12th June 2015

28. Swim in a lido Completed 12th June 2015

29. Take the same walk every month & photograph the changes Completed 14th June 2015

30. Complete Couch to 5K Completed 16th June 2015

31. Throw the 2nd annual Life List Party Completed 20th June 2015

31 for 31/Life List: Take a Ballet Class

Posted by in 31 for 31, My Life In Lists, Projects

When I was a very small child I took ballet classes with my sister. I loved the wraparound cardigans (still do, I should pick up some of those) and the leg warmers and the silky soft shoes. But when the teacher casually remarked that I’d never be tall enough to be a professional ballerina (she was totally right by the way) I lost all interest and stopped going.

Fast forward 26 years and I found myself itching to get back to first position. There’s something calming and disciplined about ballet that I enjoy as a workout – it’s hard but it’s structured. Less panting and running, more holding poses. Presumably this is why I also like yoga and pilates but am less keen on runny jumpy ball sports.

There are a few adult ballet classes in Cardiff (am I the only one who thinks ‘adult ballet’ sounds kind of dirty, btw?) but we plumped for Wonderland Dance Studios (be warned: their website is awful!) as you didn’t have to book and I am big fan of not committing fully to things, apparently.

I roped in Jen and Liz to come with me because I’m too much of a wuss to go on my own (thanks guys!). It was actually a really fun hour although the studio was very, very warm and our temporary teacher decided to take us through a routine which left me feeling as ungainly as a rhino in tap shoes.

However, even when the other people in the class were twirling and pirouetting much more daintily than I was, I was still finding it a fun, joyous experience so I will gladly take that as a win, thank you very much.

I’m not sure if I’ll go back – I don’t want to do it every week and I feel like maybe I wouldn’t see the benefit (or really improve) if I didn’t do it regularly, but it was definitely a fun one to try! ☺️

ps. If you’re wondering about the header photo, it’s from an unexpectedly muddy walk that I took in Cambridge about ten years ago probably. I had to throw my shoes away at the end 😂

31 for 31/Life List: Swim in a Lido

Posted by in 31 for 31, My Life In Lists, Projects

Ah, this was such a fun one to tick off! Swimming outdoors is my number one joy and I hardly ever get to do it. There’s something so calming about being in the water and being able to feel the sun on your skin, no?

I added ‘swim in a lido’ to my Life List a little while ago – I knew there was one in Bristol but I had the vague idea that there would be one closer to home, after all, who doesn’t want to swim outdoors?

Turns out the people of Cardiff clearly don’t because there isn’t a lido for miles around (altho they’re redeveloping one in Pontypridd which is re-opening in September) so off I trotted to Bristol instead. I mean, in all honesty it wasn’t that much of a hardship, I got to hang out with Hayles which is always fun and the train journey there was totes easy.

So, Clifton Lido! At £20 a pop for non-members it’s not exactly budget friendly, but it’s a pretty cute place and the staff were charming and friendly throughout. Getting back into the pool after being in the hot tub was an error in hindsight tho – the pool was only 25°C and it was bloody freezing, ha.

While it’s a shame the weather was cloudy and grey (it threatened to rain but didn’t, boo) I still had a lovely time splashing about and chatting about blogging and boys with Hayley. If Cardiff had one of these I’d be in it every day. Who do I petition to get that started?

Swim in a lido was one of my Life List goals. See my full list here!

Life List: Complete a 5K

Posted by in My Life In Lists, Projects

I only added this goal to my Life List recently, but it’s one I’ve been considering for a while. It’s not one I ever thought I’d be able to tick off and honestly, before the start of the year I had very little inclination to achieve it.

Which makes it all the more surprising that last week I ran my first ever 5K. I ran 5 kilometres, in one go, without stopping. It doesn’t sound like much but having reached the age of 31 before I hit that achievement, I’m feeling pretty happy!

First ever 5K

I didn’t mean to do it. I was only on week 8 of Couch to 5K – I was supposed to be running for 28 minutes. Except I’m stubborn and (apparently) competitive (if only with myself) and once I hit 28 minutes I knew I just wanted to get my first 5K out of the way. It’s a big mental hurdle, I think, and I was struggling with the concept of completing it because previously my longest distance was 3.4km and after that I was tired.

I didn’t want to have to go for another run and get to another 28 minutes and then try and run a bit further, I just wanted to get it done. So I did.

I ended up completing it in 40:40 which is pleasing to the eye if not the fastest time on the planet. I still don’t feel like I’m fast enough to run Park Run, but that’s my next goal (that and sub 40!).

I’ve been posting ‘post-run selfies’ on Instagram as motivation (I don’t know why it works, it just does) – come join me there if you want to see a photo of my sweaty face every couple of days. Sounds appealing, right? 😉

2015 Goals: April Round-Up

Posted by in My Life In Lists, Projects

I’m doing a monthly round-up of how my resolutions are going, as a way to encourage me to stay on track and plan goals, rather than leaving everything to the last minute! Here’s my April round-up. 

Progress Made – April

  • 200 sugar free days: 22 (56/200)

This is definitely getting easier! I’m down to about one day a week now where I eat refined sugar, so the next step is to cut out other items that have a high sugar content like fruit juice. No sugar is easier when you’re on a calorie controlled diet because I often don’t want to ‘waste’ my calories on something sugary, heh.

  • Exercise 52 times: 15 (66/52) – completed!

This month was definitely a better month for exercise than March! I carried on with Couch to 5K (I’m now on week four using this app, if anyone is interested), took a ballet class and did some walking too. Next month I want to get back to swimming as I really miss it, and get some more toning/strengthening exercises in. Q is a fully qualified personal trainer now, so I really have no excuse 😉

I’ve actually hit my ‘exercise 52 times’ target, but obviously I’m not going to stop exercising. It was definitely a good motivator tho!

  • Clear my ‘to read’ shelf: 7 (13/48)

I made a big effort to read more books from my to-read shelf this month and it paid off. I did, however, buy a few more books so, er, there’s still quite a lot to get through. This is a recurring theme – I might have to put myself on a book ban for May! Ha.

  • Read 100 books: 13 (45/100)

Almost halfway with this goal now, always a nice feeling. The readathon helped as I read four books in one day, but overall it’s been a pretty solid month for reading!

  • Watch 100 films: 10 (47/100)

I didn’t watch many films this month – a few things on Netflix but nothing special or really of note. Ho hum.

  • Watch 26 films at the cinema: 1 (8/26)

This month was shocking for cinema films. There’s been a real dearth of things we want to watch lately – we went to see Woman in Gold which was okay but other than that, zip. Boo.

  • Weigh no more at the end of the year than I did at the start: -2lbs (-8lbs overall)

I lost less weight this month but that’s okay. Slow and steady and all that jazz. I took my measurements again and I’ve lost 8.25 inches in total since January 1st and I will take that, thank you. I’m still calorie counting, still exercising, still being mindful of what I put into my body.

It’s a funny thing, really. I’ve always known these things are good for me but it’s still a mystery to me why they’re so easy to ignore in favour of something that I know is not. My mindset is changing, tho.

In the same way that it took a while for my brain to click into “no gluten”, I think healthy eating + exercise will take a little bit longer, but I definitely feel happier, healthier and brighter and that’s making it easier to carry on.

Push against my comfort zone

I ran eight times this month, outdoors, on the street. I also ran on a treadmill in a shop full of people and I didn’t want to do it but it was fine. (Learn that lesson, kiddo.) I took a ballet class even tho I haven’t done ballet for about 25 years and it was fun – my comfort zone is definitely expanding, little by little.

Spend less at the supermarket than we did in 2014

Tick tick tick. Buying less “treat” stuff is certainly helping, but mostly just being aware in the first place is keeping us in check.

Be kind!

Lots of surprise gifts given this month. Tick!

Be productive!

(side note: I never thought I’d post so many photos of myself looking stupid on this blog, ha)

I ticked a few things off my 31 for 31 this month (like donating to 31 charities, going to a ballet class, finally knitting the owl sweater and giving 31 surprise gifts) so I’m counting this as done. We did spend quite a lot of our evenings mainlining Community on Netflix but I also did a lot of knitting and blog post writing at the same time, so I think that’s okay.

Finish the library

After the disappearing carpenter didn’t reappear we started the search over again. Seriously – why is it so hard to find tradesmen who will turn up on time and, y’know, actually do the work you want to pay them for?! We’ve had another quote but it’s fairly expensive and now I’m in a quandary. Do we try and find someone cheaper or just suck it up and use the guy we know will actually do the work?

Build a WordPress theme

I made a tiny bit of progress with this, hand coding a landing page for a client and learning some new techniques along the way. I also changed up the layout of this site slightly which always helps me to learn how WordPress deals with CSS changes. I need to throw myself into this one, I think, it’s not going to be easy to learn in dribs and drabs.

Have more patience

This month has been less stressful in a lot of respects which has helped with the patience endeavour. Clearly what I need to learn are techniques for dealing with impatience when I’m not feeling 100% since those are the time when I need patience the most!


Life List: Win a Game of Chess

Posted by in My Life In Lists, Projects

Check! (Little chess pun for you there. Ba-dom-cha.)

Q & I playing chess, on our bed, using a laptop as a tray. #classy

Technically neither of us noticed Q’s king sitting all exposed and in danger, so I did kind of swoop in and win without putting him in check first. We looked up the rules (he insisted 😉 ) and it turns out saying check is a courtesy but not a requirement, so I’m going to class this one as complete! Ha.

It’d be nice to win a game that wasn’t a total fluke, of course. I’ll keep trying. Anyone want to play?

Life List: Find Grace in 500 Small Things

Posted by in Grace In Small Things, My Life In Lists, Projects

I’ve had this goal on my list for a few years now. I’ve been writing Grace in Small Things posts since October 2009 (gosh!) and I honestly think it’s been so good for me to practice gratitude on a regular basis. I hit 500 a while ago, but as I looked through the list I realised I had a fair few duplicates (the perils of writing them weekly I suppose) so I cleaned out the dupes and waited to hit 500 originals before ticking it off.

At a quick glance it looks like the things that make me happiest are the weather, ways to regulate my temperature, food and laughing. Which sounds completely and utterly perfect to me.

Some of my favourites:

  • Empty streets, in the early morning sun
  • Receiving surprise post
  • Crunching on new snow
  • The warmth of putting on a jumper when the air is chilly
  • Dipping your feet in the sea

Signs In The Sand

  • Chips soaked in vinegar
  • Putting on a pair of brand new socks
  • Snuggling in a duvet on a cold day
  • The sound of rain on the balcony


  • Soft, salty, perfectly ripe blue cheese
  • Working through the fear
  • Falling into bed when you’re exhausted
  • The feeling of relief after you put down something heavy
  • Shoes covered in glitter


  • Running your wrists under the cold tap
  • Staying up late to read a good book
  • Enjoying something you thought you wouldn’t
  • The reassuring sound of the Minolta shutter
  • Swimming in the sunshine


  • Hair long enough to put in a ponytail
  • Holding hands
  • Running your fingers through wet hair
  • Tape dispensers
  • Any song with a harp in it

  • Offensively neon jumpers
  • Finally reading books that have been on the ‘to read’ list for years
  • Indoor picnics
  • A really good pair of tweezers
  • The first autumn chill


  • Learning new words
  • Amazing water pressure
  • Cats who purr when you pet them
  • Working from the hammock

33/365: Somewhere Over The Rainbow

  • Opening a brand new jar of something
  • Laughing with my mum
  • Quiet moments of peace
  • Adding more hot water to a bath
  • Salt and lemon on everything

32/365: Grit Your Teeth

I can wholeheartedly say that starting this practice was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’m not going to stop, of course, but I’m going to stop counting them.

Let me know if you write a Grace in Small Things list, I love to read them! :)

2015 Goals: March Round-Up

Posted by in My Life In Lists, Projects

I thought I’d do a monthly round-up of how my resolutions are going, as a way to encourage me to stay on track and plan goals, rather than leaving everything to the last minute! Here’s my March round-up. 

Progress Made – March

  • 200 sugar free days: 20 (54/200)

Nakd bars are basically getting me through this. £37 for 98 bars!

I made a good dent in this one this month and I’m on target for the rest of the year. We’ve got rid of the majority of the sugary crap in our house now, so it’s far easier not to mindless snack on it! :)

  • Exercise 52 times: 10 (49/52)

My very red face after doing the first run of the Couch to 5K programme.

March was bad for exercise – the weather made me want to hibernate and ignore everything so that’s pretty much what I did. I did go on a few walks and I did the first run from the Couch to 5K programme, but overall it was pretty lacklustre and I could have done better!

  • Clear my ‘to read’ shelf: 1 (/34)

Um. Paper books are boring to read when you have a Kindle, apparently. Holding books open with two hands? Urgh. I managed to read one book from my to-read shelf but I actually read the Kindle version of it, ha, which I’m pretty sure is cheating. Also, I bought more books. Oops.

  • Read 100 books: 7 (32/100)

March was a poor month for reading in general actually, but that’s okay, I can’t read 31 books every month. Sometimes it ebbs and flows, right?

  • Watch 100 films: 15 (37/100)

I’ve started watching films on Netflix while I work so my film count was pretty decent this month (the film quality, however, not so much. Ha).

  • Watch 26 films at the cinema: 3 (7/26)

We saw Big Hero 6, X + Y and Focus at the cinema. Focus was only so so but Big Hero 6 and X + Y were wonderful. See them if you can.

  • Weigh no more at the end of the year than I did at the start: -4lbs (-6lbs overall)

In a totally boring turn of events I’ve started a calorie controlled diet and it’s working. Yawn. I mean, that’s great and all but by god is it dull.

Push against my comfort zone

Did I do this in March? I don’t know, actually. I went to some doctors appointments that I didn’t really want to go to, and had a few frank conversations with people but, eh. It was a minimal effort at best.

Spend less at the supermarket than we did in 2014

£41 of food that only cost us £7.80. God bless you, Morrisons and your barmy 9p reductions.

So far we’ve slashed what we spent last year from an average of £274 a month to £156 a month. Go us! Now we just have to keep it up, heh.

Be kind!

I sent out a few surprise packages this month which was fun for me and hopefully nice for the recipients.

Be productive!

This wonky cutting became a pair of pyjamas!

I made progress on the 31 for 31 list this month, ticking off one big item (sew something I can wear) and doing a lot of work on a few others. So yeah, I’m going to count this as achieved this month!

Knitting the owl sweater. Still.

No Progress Made

Finish the library

Carpenters apparently aren’t fond of replying to follow up emails. Who knew! We did get rid of the dark bookcase we had stashed in the corner, but other than that the library is still languishing, half finished. Sigh!

Build a WordPress theme

The less said about this the better, I think. Moving on!

Have more patience

Oh lord, I don’t know what’s happening but I think I’ve actually been less patient this month than before. I’m losing my temper a lot, snapping and stressed by all manner of things. So. That’s super fun.


How are you all getting on with your New Year’s Resolutions? Are you finding your enthusiasm for them is starting to wain or are you still raring to go? I think I could do with some renewed motivation for April! :)