This photo diary (and love letter!) is dedicated to…January. Yes, you read that correctly. I know it’s not exactly topical, but I have some stuff I need to say! Then we’ll get to the cute pics.
For this post (not a vlog for once, sound the alarms!!11!1!) I originally had January in the title but decided to remove it (wisely, I think) a couple o’ drafts before hitting publish. Why? Why, for fear of you running away screaming, recoiling at the very thought of reliving a single moment of such an underrated month, of course. Unless this all goes in my favour and you’re a Jan-fan too, agreeing that poor old J receives much too much unwarranted scrutiny. It’s most certainly the marmite of the Gregorian calendar. The Crocs of the 12 months, if you will.
The start of a new year can be a confusing time. For the first few days, January seems like a shiny new toy. A fresh start, an exciting time simply bursting with promise and optimism. Goals! Fitness! Unshakeable resolve! BE YOUR BEST SELF!
Then, suddenly, the tidal wave hits. Social media posts flood my feed (which says a lot, as I spend an average of about 10 minutes on Instagram these days, every other day – yay! A satisfactory improvement on 2019’s 25 minutes) with the same ubiquitous message. A whingefest that January feels about 9 years long.
I find this confusing.
Heck, I find it irritating. You have 31 glorious days (744 hours, to be exact) to do so, so many things. A brand new year, a new decade! Why the disillusion, 168ish hours in? Of course, you can pursue change and goals at any time, it doesn’t have to be a fresh new year; it’s not about that. It’s more about the ‘rush’, that eventually, leads to well…nowhere.
I know the evenings are still dark. I know it’s cold. But that, my friend…’tis life. It won’t be forever. It’s either that or move to the Southern Hemisphere. But trust me, winter will catch up with you there too.
The highlarious part of all this is that the very same bunch of goobers will soon be back at it, feed-flooding, rejoicing over the extra day in February. The gift of the leap year! “How spoiled we are to have an extra day! #MotivationMonday* #Blessed”.
To quote Noah from The Notebook (yes, I went there.)
WHAT DO YOU WANT?!
What *I* want is to be ejected from this planet. Just kidding!
*Yes I am aware that the 29th of February is, in fact, a Saturday and not a Monday, but you know what they say about the truth and getting in the way…yada yada
So, yeah…from my soapbox, I ask thee, why the need to rush January each year? Don’t let it be so! It’s the month that actually feels like a month should. February, too. I feel people always say that once Jan and Feb are over, it feels like someone is flooring the accelerator. Where’s your time to reflect? Quiet your mind? Percolate? Just…be?
Whether conscious or subconscious (let’s be honest, in today’s fast-paced world it tends to be the latter) hurtling toward June will only result in finding yourself contorted into a pretzel of anxiety, shaking back and forth wondering how you’re going to fit all your cool 2020 stuff/intentions/put-offs into the second half of a fresh new sparkly year.
We’re just 53 days in guys. Let’s put on some sweatpants. Stretch our calves. No need for speed.
I mean, it took me until February 22nd to post this! We could all use a little more time. I’d ask for two more Januarys if I had my way. Emma for President.
Ok, I’m done with the soapbox. And I know this post may feel totally irrelevant but maybe you’ll find it just before January 2021…Google spits out all kinds of stuff. I’m also not trying to give myself timelines or get obsessive about my to-do list. I am an avid list maker. They’re everywhere. Approach getting stuff done with kindness, a softness. That’s my new motto.
Anyway, January. The hero of months. I spent in three different places, lucky me. In short, January, I love you! And I always will.
So here’s what I did, where I went, what I ate (a given, and the best part), what I learned, how I felt (feeeeelings!!) I even bought some fun things. Yep. Because I enjoyed every single one of those 31 days. The ups and the downs. And I plan on doing so for the rest of 2020. Welcoming the good, the bad, and the downright uncomfortable. Who’s with me?!
- Fresh off a plane from Prague, I spent New Year’s Eve in the best way possible. At home, in my PJs, with Moët and Chinese food. No jammed pubs, no vocal cord strainage and certainly no trying to reach the bar before the clock strikes twelve. Gross. Already nailing 2020.
- The 1st of January also happens to be my dear Motherkin’s birthday. It was the last of the Christmas dinners for a while (nothing beats my stuffing or roast potatoes #notsorry) many of my favourite people were there, I ate way too much cheese and chocolate log (it was covered in edible glitter – that’s how they getcha) and we answered quiz questions around the table. Birthday presents were a success. Nailed it. Part 2.
- The days followed with J2 Sushi. I went twice (the very best salmon sashimi can be had there, you can quote me on that) I had some good ol’ Indian food (I can’t leave home without an Indie Spice trip with my family – what can I say, traditions).
- I caught up with a neighbour, the chats were A1. And she made the most amazing curry. You go, Michelle.
- I watched Rocketman with Motherkins, one of her birthday gifts (it’s no Bohemian Rhapsody but it was entertaining, and Jamie Bell is the sweetest) I watched the entire You, season 2, from my bed, no interruptions. Except for pee breaks. I started Yoga with Adriene, Home, this year’s 30 days series.
YWA always marks the start of my year’s ‘wellness’ journey, just like the last 3 years. I have been doing yoga every day, sometimes more than once a day. I feel ‘off’ when I don’t. I also started throwing Kundalini into the mix, as it happens. Daily yoga is a life-changing and constant journey, the benefits are endless. If you’ve never done it, or you’re thinking of giving it a chance, please do! It will change everything. Your mental health. Your posture, your bones, how you navigate your thoughts and your world, your perspective, your emotions. Your digestion, your nervous system. The benefits are endless – but that, my friends, is for another day.
I went to Knightsbrook Hotel & Spa with my sister, the first Sunday in Jan. We chatted mucho (we navigate the world, our moral compasses and existentialism together. Always.) had dinner together and enjoyed a good hearty breakfast. The room was huge, the bed was super comfy and the bathroom was the size of an apartment. We both went for a back neck & shoulder massage to top it all off. And so continues that 2020 be good to yoself golden wellness.
Sushi! Just look at that sashimi.
The second picture was Sophie’s with Mother Dearest, where we had a long leisurely view-of-Dublin lunch and many lols over the ridiculousness that is #swinggate (Mam got on the swing herself and commented on how low to the ground it is. I rest my case.) and we finished our date off at The Bailey before heading home.
- I had a long overdue catch up with my friend Karen, right after a healthy brunch at Balfe’s with my friend Caitriona. I love a good working-out-perfectly-multi-tasking-double-date situation. Karen is a gentle soul, one of the good ones. We spent the afternoon at PMacs – drinking, chatting and marvelling at the flamingo wallpaper. Well, I definitely marvelled. She’s probably more than used to it. The night before, I saw old friends at The Attic. Another bar I’m fond of visiting when I’m on trips home…a rite of passage, I suppose. I prefer seeing friends post Christmas, it feels less like sardines in a can. We can move, talk, breathe. Am I old?
- Then I visited Jule Spa (nothing like January’s 40% off stuff!) a few days later for Yonka’s Le Grand Classique facial (so many steps, so much squeaky clean) and I’m pretty sure I fell asleep on the massage table. Something I honestly can say I never do. I can still smell the intoxicating orange peel and lavender. A very memorable afternoon for the senses, and of course, REM.
- I also got a blood test. Nothing like the new year, new ‘what the hell did I screw up over Christmas’ mindset to get yourself prodded, extracted, tested…judged. Your health is indeed your wealth. In all honesty, I do these things for myself a lot, regularly, regardless of time, space, whatever. But I wanted to (and I’m lucky enough to) start my year on the right foot and this certainly wasn’t a means to an end. Money was well spent on good food, a few drinks, a massage, a thorough facial/nap, a blood test and a doctor’s visit. I felt freer and more productive in the weeks post-Christmas (and I’m not even talking about my job) than I did during the holiday rush. Actually, include November there too. And October. That was busy.
Dublin chapter of Jan, you were good to me.
My cat, Misty (or Meems!) and her 2020 energy. Well, her everyday energy. She just wants a cosy pillow and some food, and to sleep indoors for 15 hours a day. I admire her persistence and her simple, straightforward needs. Not her work ethic though. I also admire my other cat’s (not pictured – sorry Cookie!) appetite. Homegirl is a bottomless pit. She’d most certainly eat me if I was in a coma, without a second thought.
Leaving Dublin, happy and feeling good. And just look-see. A whole aisle to myself! This happens to me more than you think. The trick? Don’t wear deodorant. JUST KIDDING. Still nailing 2020.
Back to the capital! Iñaki picked me up, so no taxi or metro needed. He’s the best. We tried a new local Japanese place, which was more of a funny experience than a very positive one.
It’s not that the food was bad…but I heard a lot of microwave noises. The buzzing, the beeps. I’m not kidding here, I didn’t hear a single wok sizzle or see anyone going in and out of a kitchen. In fact, the staff (and chef?!) were all around what looked like a reception desk.
We ordered sashimi (sadly, tasteless, but J2 has me spoiled) yakisoba, fried rice (most definitely both reheated) and dim sum with scallops. Half a toothpick was affixed to each scallop to keep it neatly on the dim sum. If Iñaki didn’t notice, there could have been possible choking or nasty oesophageal damage. Can you imagine kids eating there? An inch of sharp wooden toothpicks hidden deep in the food. I can’t recommend Longan. We saved 30% on The Fork (El Tenedor) which wasn’t so bad (as it wasn’t the cheapest, truth be told) try it next time you’re visiting Spain. The app! Not Longan.
Friday afternoon post-work, we went for a walk in Parque del Retiro. The weather was just beautiful. Sunny, dry, crisp and fresh. We did our first dry January, even if it started just a little under halfway through. We saw Mujercitas/Little Women (seeing movies was something we did a lot of in Jan and are continuing to do so in Feb) which I was a little disappointed with. During the first 40 minutes, I winced and asked myself why the hell I was there. For the rest, I hated Amy with pure passion. I know you’re supposed to, I love the book, I loved the last adaption – Kirsten Dunst forever! This one just wasn’t for me.
We then had dinner at one of our favourites, Patong Thai, and before hitting the metro has a mocktail at my other favourite, Harvey’s on Calle Fuencarral, and my choice was a winner, complex and exciting flavours with a little kick – ‘The Chilli Mango’. Mango, habanero chilli, chocolate essence, lime, ginger beer.
On Saturday (January 18th, if you’re curious!) the weather was wet, cold, just plain nasty. We walked around the Salamanca neighbourhood, then to Malasaña where we visited Corazón (which looks suspiciously like an old Irish pub – I think it was one at some point) for a couple of alcohol-free beers (dry Jan life!) then headed on to Plaza de Oriente for a Viennese coffee and a warming, thick hot chocolate for me at La Botillería.
I love that area of Madrid. So chic. We then went to Calle de Martín de Los Heros to visit Ocho y Medio, a bookstore dedicated to literature and accessories pertaining solely (and delightfully!) to cinema. I was in love. Iñaki said it used to be much bigger and much better before they added the cafe. Either way, it stole my heart. We then stopped by AHORA en el 16, a really cosy little cafe-wine bar before heading to the movies (Cines Renoir Princesa) to see El Faro (The Lighthouse) with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattison. Both performances were great, even if the movie was a little gross and bizarre in parts. It stays with you and gets the mind going!
Let it be Sunday! Sunday is very much pasta day in Iñaki’s family. I’m not much of a pasta eater when it comes to spaghetti etc, but I can be persuaded to eat something stuffed – tortellini, ravioli. So that’s what we had after I woke after a deep and comfortable sleep. Lunch, around the table en familia…ricotta and spinach tortellini with the nicest, richest tomato sauce. Perfect for the weather as Madrid continued to be totally gross and freezing.
Iñaki and I then headed toward the Prado to visit the Botanical Gardens, which were cute and a nice size (I was expecting a huge park) and ended up being incredible as there was a Chema Madoz exhibition going on, and his photography is just so creative and compelling. I love it because it’s simple, but so, so clever.
The shop at the Botanical Gardens is also a dream, and I loved the greenhouses, as you can tell. If you want to feel better, spend time with some plants. Chances are all you need is some green. That may be misinterpreted.
We then headed to Yatai Market, an Asian street food market we found by randomly googling ramen (when I crave something, I cannot be stopped.) There are all sorts of delightful goods in there, but the quest for ramen was unwavering. Spicy beef for me, pork belly for Iñaki. It was exciting to visit so many new places in a city I visit so much but sometimes take for granted. There really are so many places to discover. We haven’t even scratched the surface in many cases! There’s a lot to be said for giving the old reliables a break and shaking things up.
We were in Madrid that little bit longer as I was there to visit my trusty dermatologist (more on that later) but the time had come and on January 20th, to take the Ave to Granada. Back to our home, our cosy space. Exciting!
January chapter in Madrid – family, food, movies, walks, culture, check-ups, all good things. On to chapter three.
- Madrid Atocha! Saying goodbye for a while. We got to see another little botanical garden before our evening train.
- Our first couple of evenings were weird. Determined to do our half-dry Jan half-dry Feb (which was actually quite easy) we ate a lot of cake and drank a lot of coffee and hot chocolate. This was our thing for maybe, a week. Apart from the coffee part…coffee is forever. We did a lot of reading and writing in Melia, I spend a lot of time there – it’s the perfect spot for writing this kinda stuff!
- ELLE, Glamour, Marie Claire. The waiting room of Nina Merli, when I went for an eyelash lift. Wellness and spending on myself in nice ways continues. I booked a facial on my way out. Not even joking.
- The spending on myself (treat yoself) definitely took the wheel in Granada. Eyelash lift, massages, magazines (I wasn’t my usual Jan self who flies through books, I mainly read magazines but BookBub as always ensnared me, and I’m currently reading For Those Who Dare, and Sons & Brothers: The Days of Jack and Bobby Kennedy because I mean…The Kennedys. Fascinating.
- I’ve been loyal to my perfume for the past 7 years (I’ll never tell!) but bought a small bottle of Gucci Bloom for a change because a) it was a bargain for eau de parfum, and b) the level and strength of concentrated flower smellsies without being sweet or vile or not natural-smelling is intoxicating. I also bought many a Tony’s Chocolonely (sea salt caramel, THE BEST) several times (it’s worth the €3.85 and then some) and I happened to run out of facial oil so I’m currently using Youth to The People Hydrate & Glow facial oil. No idea if it does much yet, although it has been about 2 weeks of constant nightly use. People say it brightens. I don’t see that, yet. But as an eczema person, I’m always up for being drowned in oil. Bring me the vat.
- I bought bitchin’ kitten sticks from Tiger (amazing, just €1) and then bought more bitchin’ stickers in the form of pandas (only €1 also) a few days later. Bargain.
- I’ve been living off of these Matilde Vicenzi double chocolate gluten-free cookies with my morning espresso all throughout January and, well, now. They are the best. They will always be the best. Any Vicenzi biscuits are. The Italians know how to make the most delicate and delightful cookie. End of story. Speaking of, I booked a trip to Italy during January. Yas.
- When I went to Portugal on a FAM tour last September, we did a lot of Geopark stuff. One of our generous gifts was a reusable metal water bottle (among other fun hiking stuff all tucked into a Geopark backpack, of course) Anyway, I used the bottle so much, it’s beyond battered. So I bought a Chilly’s one, you know, the cute blue bottle with lemons all over it. Iñaki has one too, but like, more manly. We rock our bottles every day. A worthwhile 2020 purchase. Reusable is always good.
- The best rabo de toro (oxtail) croquetas ever. Even if there was gluten (eczema hates gluten!) Let’s just ignore that for now. These babies from La Telefónica are not to be missed. In fact, the tapas, the quality of most of the stuff there is great, as is the service. A relatively new Granada spot.
- Pad thai for Iñaki and Tom Yum soup at for me at Pad Thai Wok, Nevada shopping mall. The cinema is right next door. We went to see a horror movie called Malasaña and went the week after to see Knives Out. Neither were…great. I do love the cinema at Nevada though, and go as often as I can – it’s a Kinepolis. So good. You can get there from the centre on the metro!
My super cool new espresso cup from H&M Home at Nevada Shopping. Who knew €2.99 could bring me so much joy? I use it several times a day. I love it.
I’m back to my daily walks. Ritual wise they’re so important, just as important as yoga.
I’m currently going through a gnarly period of alopecia. It’s why I changed my flight from Dublin, to coincide with my dermatologist appointment. He’s a popular guy. I’ve had alopecia a few times before, a patch here, a patch there. This time, I’m losing a lot. All day every day…it’s getting more difficult to hide. I’d be lying if I said I’m not afraid I might lose it all. Mr. Dermatologist didn’t seem worried, yet I’ve been on treatment now for a month and a few days, with no improvements yet. He wants me to be patient. See? There’s an underlying message in this post.
Sometimes it’s really hard, some days it’s just hair. There are so many worse things, and plenty to be grateful for. I’m doing all I can to be good to myself, slow down, take things easy. There’s no sign of it stopping yet (it started with extra strands, now daily handfuls, spanning about 8 weeks now) and I’m hoping for the fallout to stop first and foremost before I’ve even thought about re-growth. I can’t really say the cause, my blood results were fine…I don’t know. Maybe it was just simply meant to happen.
I guess it’s part of the purpose of this post. If I’m losing my hair, I don’t want to lose anything else. I want to be totally present. This time last year, a nasty bought of eczema wiped me out (i guess it’s all connected, these autoimmune episodes!) and I chose to wipe it out. It’s like those months never existed. Well, not this time!
- Coffee! My favourite. Another ritual. Coffee-wise, Granada has some really solid options. Speciality coffee shop wise, (I’ll update my post eventually, Granada has really changed in 3 years!) we’ve got La Finca, Dulcimena, Noat and Coffee Corner Sur, the newest addition. A pretty good line up. Noat is still the winner for me, they use Right Side coffee beans from Barcelona, which are just the best. Rich and toasty…the coffee always tastes decadent. It’s also the cheapest flat white in the city, €2.Side note: I descaled my own coffee machine during January. See? Productive. I also cleaned out my closet, we got rid of a few bags of stuff between us. I’ve been journaling every day, something I haven’t done since my teens. Not because I feel I have to, but because I want to. The month of starting the year off right! I want to stay focused on the moments, experiences and as much as I can, ze positives. Eventually, we become what we do the most and the most consistently, right?
Other great Granada January experiences – going back to Muglia, our favourite Indian, twice. If the saag aloo was a person, it would be iconic. Post lunch coffee at Casa Palacete 1822, because I love their décor, the sights, the sounds. It’s a calming, comfortable space.
Morning coffee on one of the stormiest days of the year, in my favourite corner of our apartment, my reading book. It looks like nighttime, but it was around 11am. I love those kinds of days in Granada, where I can give myself permission to do very little.
And last but not least, the pizza featured here more than pics of myself, Sunday lunch at La Tagliatella. The thin base doesn’t seem to bother me (another gluten break, I know!) and it’s the best pizza on this planet, in my opinion. Salad first, because greens, and balance.
In short, after another lengthy Emma post (I never learn, and just contradicted myself there) I want to emphasise slowing down. Prioritise what matters, be kind, be present. Be nice to your body. Feed your mind. Cry! Crying is good, it’s cathartic. I cried over A Marriage Story, This is Where I Leave You (I’ve seen it before but it’s great and Adam Driver is clearly the best) and Vivir Dos Veces, all I l enjoyed (all I recommend) all recently watched, two Netflix, one Movistar.
Do some yoga, hips are the junk drawers of the body, y’all. Go for a walk. Get off your dang smartphone. Unless you’re using it to read this, in that case, it’s totally fine.
Have a great Saturday! xx