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Friday, 30 September 2016

Why I'm taking a break from Maps and Dice


To sum up how I'm feeling right now in one word? UGH. 

I know that’s probably not what you were hoping to see when you started reading this. And I’m really sorry.

I’m currently sitting in my flat devouring a Galaxy bar...no not the standard 22.8g recommended portion size, I mean the 100g bar. By the time I’ve finished writing it’ll be gone and forgotten about to everyone except me when I try and put my jeans on tomorrow.

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front over the last couple of weeks because I’m struggling to find any words that mean anything. Any advice and tips from other bloggers say to "be honest" and I’ve kind of been avoiding that.

The truth is - ok this feels like confession - I’m not sure blogging is for me *cue Eastenders drums*

I know, I know why the hell did I start one in the first place?!

Simple answer - I love writing and wanted somewhere to share what I’ve got to say.

Complicated answer - my job was and still is at risk. I panicked about “career choices” and felt frustrated that I did Journalism in uni and it seems like I haven’t got anywhere with it. I’d lost my writing style because I work in Internal Communications and my job teaches me to remove as much context as possible and keep sentences short and snappy i.e. no feeling.

But to me - blogging isn’t just writing (like I thought it was).

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy it. When my fingers are in flow, and the words are spilling out in front of me, I feel full. And when one of you makes the effort to comment on one of my posts, it makes me so happy I could burst.

So why am I so unsure blogging is for me?

1. It’s my own blog and I’m responsible for building and promoting it

This is probably one of my main issues...I’m just not a “hey look at me” kind of person. I haven’t got any issue with the writing and opening myself up to the world, it’s the whole “HEY EVERYONE READ THIS” thing on social media that I just can’t bring myself to get comfortable about.

I’ve written for other blogs before and I currently write music reviews for a website called Gigslutz. It’s just so much easier when someone else is asking people to read my stuff - it takes pressure away and just lets me do what I love the most - write.

2. I have A LOT of opinions about A LOT of different things

Most people offering advice on how to start a blog will tell you to focus on specific topics - i.e. Life, Travel and Music. So when people visit your blog, they’ll know what to expect and it totally, totally makes sense.

Trouble is - I’ve got a lot interests and loads of opinions on them. The other day I had the desperate urge to write about what I thought about the pilot episode of The Man in the High Castle and realised that’s not what Maps and Dice is about...and it kind of makes me feel restricted.

3. I’m rubbish at social media (like really, really terrible)

It’s true, I don’t get Twitter. I love Instagram, hate Facebook and just getting an idea of wtf Pinterest is.
Building a blog relies so much on your social media presence and I don’t have one. So how does that work?!

4. I can’t cope with HTML

I don’t have anything else to add here.

5. Being glued to my computer is giving me cabin fever

To make a blog successful, you have to spend hours at your computer...especially at the beginning. I’m an outdoorsy person, and would like to stay as far as possible away from computer coding. There I said it. I’d much rather put pen to paper, let the ink bleed and email my stuff to other people who are SO much better at the internet than I am.

AND BREATHE.

I’ve got to tell you, letting that all out had made me feel so much lighter. I felt like I owed myself some justification as to why I’m avoiding blogging.

Here's what I am sure of...

1. I love writing
2. I want to try freelancing
3. I’ve had a few ideas for books for the last few years and never done anything with them - now’s the time to try
4. I’m proud of starting Maps and Dice - it got me back into writing
5. I’m so thankful to you all for visiting

And lastly...

I’m going to take a break. I need to find where my niche is and what I enjoy - whether it’s freelancing with less routine or whether it’s writing fiction.

Who knows?!

I won’t delete Maps and Dice because maybe the break will bring me back here. But for now, thank you for reading.

Melody
xx

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Why meeting people online doesn't mean you're desperate



Despite being born in 1991, and raised during the social media boom of the Noughties, my online presence is pretty tragic. 

As a new blogger, I’m very aware that I need to vamp up my social media activity if I ever want you guys to get to know me as a person. But if I’m being honest, social media can be a bit intimidating if by nature you’re not a “hey look at me” kind of person. 

Nevertheless! It’s 2016 and I’ve decided to “Get with the Times”. I’m slowly understanding Twitter, I’ve fallen hard for Instagram and I’m at the beginning of an epic love story with Pinterest. But the social media app that’s surprised me the most is MeetUp. 

Let me paint you a lil’ picture. I’ve got a few close friends that I met in uni, and when we graduated, most of them moved to Bristol. At the beginning we made so much effort to see each other but as time’s gone on, we’re seeing each other less and less because everyone’s got their own lives and let’s face it the rip off that is The Severn Bridge is enough to put anyone off. 

I still class them as my best friends and when we do see each other, nothing’s changed and it’s like we saw each other yesterday. HOWEVER, after moving back to Cardiff in January I couldn’t wait to meet new people, hang out with a different crowd closer to home. And I thought meeting people would be easy as pie.

I thought wrong.

Within a month, I’d joined a gym, went to a few classes, joined a Creative Writing class and tried to talk to my neighbours. The people I met were lovely, but sadly nothing ever went beyond polite small talk. As HB works most evenings, I was spending my time cooped up indoors playing guitar, bingeing on whatever was on Netflix and writing to you wonderful people - which are all things I love to do, but not every night of the week. 

I started to get lonely and to be honest, a bit introverted. I love being around people - talking, laughing and whatnot so this was weird. I know this is making me sound like an old spinster, living like a hermit with 13 cats but you get the picture?

Annnnnnyway, enough context. A few months ago I downloaded an app called MeetUp which is basically what it says on the tin. You sign up, add your location, tick all the things you’re interested in and a load of suggested groups and events pop up on your feed for you to peruse at your leisure, and if you see a group or event you like? Just join and RSVP. Simple.

Disclaimer - if you search for it in the App Store, there’s also one called MeetUp and F***. You don’t want that one - that’s something COMPLETELY different. 

I joined loads of groups but at first it made me feel really weird and a little desperate. Like this isn’t something 25 year olds should be resorting to, to make friends. I felt like a loser *cue violins*. 

It took me months to RSVP to an event. I kept chickening out and thinking of some really stupid excuses. But in the end I decided to get a grip and give it a go. I tapped RSVP to an event last Friday and I honestly had such a good time! The group in question is for girls living in Cardiff and the event was food, followed by the cinema and a couple of drinks afterwards. 

I was a little apprehensive - not nervous - just wasn’t expecting to enjoy it that much. When everyone arrived and we got talking, it was really comforting to hear other people saying how hard it is to make friends after school/uni/outside work, whatever. I was pleasantly surprised by how normal and funny everyone was, which is a bizarre observation to make I know but after labelling myself a loser for joining social groups online, I was expecting to be greeted by other oddballs with nobody to love them. But instead I met a great bunch of people in the same boat as me and I felt less pathetic. 

I got home that night feeling happier.

The next day, everyone commented on how much fun they had, and soon enough a Whatsapp group was born (like I haven’t got enough of them to keep up with). We’ve already planned another event for this weekend, and who knows what’ll come of it but that’s not the point. The point is, I was wrong about meeting people on the internet. It’s pretty normal, and it certainly does not make you a loser. 

If you’re reading this thinking, “yep, that’s me”, I urge you to try it. You never know, it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 

Friday, 16 September 2016

7 ways to conquer your Holiday Blues


I came back from Florida just over a week ago and it already seems like a distant memory.

Work is a bit tough at the moment – my fate either rests on redundancy or a promotion. And when shit hits the fan, the first thing I want to do is run away. So Florida was a break I desperately needed and closing down my work laptop on my last day was absolute bliss...but at the same time I was worried about the extreme case of holiday blues I’d get afterwards.

The truth is, I felt crap for all of four days (clearly I was being an absolute drama queen) because I was extremely aware of it, and went out of my way to do things to stop it.

Exercise (sweat your ass off...squeeze those cheeks sister) 
I know, I KNOW I've started with a boring one and it's not exactly the most appealing thing to throw yourself into after you've eaten your body weight in food. HOWEVER, you know what they say about those little endorphin things? Well they actually work. 

Whether it's a run, a brisk walk, swimming, sex, whatever - just get moving. You'll feel so much better afterwards.

Breathe in that fresh air - go outside
When do you ever spend time indoors on holiday? NEVER. So surely that helps you feel good right? Hell yes. I work in an office so I've been trying to spend as much time as I can outdoors since I came home and fresh late Summer/Autumn air will do wonders.

I'm outside right now (except I'm not. I'm actually in my comfies watching The Gilmore Girls, but I was outside earlier and felt great).

Obsess over a new TV show
So I've just started my month's trial of Amazon Prime and I'm trying to watch both seasons of The Man in the High Castle before it ends. If you haven't watched it, you need to; I won't spoil it, but there's this twist at the end of the first episode that'll hook you right in.

Disclaimer - I'm definitely not going to finish it by the end of the trial and I definitely am going to end up subscribing to finish it. Bugger.

Buy yourself a lil' sumpin nice 
Money's tight after a holiday, true. But if you have a little spare, then treat yourself to something. It'll make you feel better! I went a little crazy and bought this watch but I did get it for half price AND I've been wanting a watch that can do all that type of shit for a while.

Plan things to look forward to
My calendar for September and October is looking pretty damn fine. Seeing some old friends, going to Friends Fest, taking my nephew to his first concert, going to see Birdy in B'ham and it's AUTUMN! I love Autumn - it means Halloween and Bonfire Night.

This time next month, I'll be like Florida who?!

Clean out your crap
I gave the flat a real good clean before we went so when we came home it was all fresh and cosy. But why not clean out your wardrobe or drawers you haven't been into in months - it's refreshing and you might find some stuff you forgot you had.

Book another trip
Well duh?! HB and I actually booked a trip while we were in Florida. We're going to Amsterdam with some friends in April WOOOHOOO! And I'm keeping an eye on cheapflights.co.uk for any post Christmas bargains.

How do you conquer your holiday blues? Got any trips planned that I should know about?

Peace Out x

Monday, 12 September 2016

Florida: Two Weeks in Pictures



"If I see one more pair of Mickey Mouse ears, I may cry" 
- Melody Johns, day 12 of two week trip to Orlando, Florida.

JUST KIDDING! I had the best time. My family and I have been planning this holiday for about 10,000 years and officially booked everything last October, so as you can imagine it was looooonnnng overdue!

We (all 11 of us) spent two weeks in a villa in Davenport, did all the parks and crazy ass rollercoasters, HB and I saw the sun rise from a great height in a hot air balloon, and some of us took a trip over to Clearwater for the day. I ate A LOT (Denny's breakfasts are the best) and tried every flavour Oreo going...and the best part? Somehow only put on a pound?!

Take a peak inside my camera lens, and see for Orlando for yourself.
































Sunday, 11 September 2016

Daily Thanks: August



So August was fun! Lots of family visits, found new blogs that I love, and went along to an SEO workshop and learnt looooooads of stuff (I'm ignoring the fact that I didn't understand a lot of it). It was also my nephew's birthday, and I spent the last week of August in Florida.

It's been a good month...

Day 1: Slipper socks. I'm livid that I had to put these on in August but it was rainy and cold so whadyagonnado?

Day 2: Seeing Finding Dory in the cinema with HB. It was a sequel worth waiting for - I nearly died at the Sigourney Weaver part.

Day 3: A warm bowl of thick cut chips. Another rainy British Summer's day and who got caught in the it while running?! ME. Softball was cancelled so we went to the pub instead and hot food made up for it.

Day 4: Dinner with my parents. My mum and stepdad came over and we had a lovely catch up and enjoyed a good old bowl of spag bol (courtesy of moi).

Day 5: Belated birthday present from friends - Coldplay, A Head Full of Dreams on FUCKING VINYL. Best addition to the collection, thank you and goodnight <3

Day 6: Afternoon naps. So I woke up with a stinking hangover (apparently the three pint water rule before bed doesn't work after you reach the ripe old age of 25). I fell asleep on the sofa after I'd been out for lunch and I've forgotten how good naps are.

Day 7: Seeing wild animals in their own home. We went to Brecon Beacons and on the way back we saw this little foal munching on some grass without a care in the world.

Day 8: Pound shop bargains. No explanation needed really!

Day 9: A digital free couple of hours. Spent the afternoon reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child with no phone, TV or computer in sight. And it was delicious.

Day 10: A mint aero surprise. Mum came to visit when I was at my sister's house and she arrived with chocolate after I'd been craving it allllll day. She has some serious mind reading skills.


Day 11: Figuring out how to overlay text on pictures. The simple things!

Day 12: The Gilmore Girls. Latecomer to the GG fandom I know...it's been nice having a little comic relief after watching The Stranger Things.

Day 13: Finding other blogs that I LOVE

Day 14: Family time. Spent the weekend in Birmingham with HB's family and had an impromptu BBQ.

Day 15: A team goodbye present from my boss. Whatever happens next in work, we won't be in the same team so our boss got us all little handmade books called "Reasons we love *name of person*" and it was filled with stuff we'd all said we loved about each other. So thoughtful. 

Day 16: Spending a day giving back. Today I painted (badly) an Age UK community centre in the Midlands.

Day 17: My new camera <3 I treated myself this month and spent some time taking pictures today. 

Day 18: Reaffirming faith in humanity. I went to pick up dollars for Florida next week and I left my phone on the desk nearby and the customer after me handed it in. 

Day 19: Spending some good QT with Maps & Dice - just playing around with the layout and design. I'm new to HTML so it's like learning another language. 

Day 20: Hanging out with one of my best pals from uni - had some nice food, watched a bit of trashy telly and met her girlfriend's dog (and nearly stole her).



Day 21: My nephew turning 13 - HB and I got him his first ever concert tickets to see this girl band he loves and his face was a picture. Such a happy smile. 

Day 22: LAST DAY IN WORK FOR TWO WEEKS. GOODBYE EMAILS, HELLO FLORIDA

Day 23: Comfy hotel beds. After being stuck in a mini van on the way to London Stansted for what felt like 7,000 hours, I was more than happy to see a bed at the end if it.

Day 24: Holiday has officially begun. Long awaited break.

Day 25: Warm sunshine - pool day at the villa, already got sucked into a stupid bat and ball competition. 

Day 26: Fireworks at Magic Kingdom. Well I wasn't expecting it to be that good, it's no bloody wonder it costs a bomb for tickets.

Day 27: Go karting in Old Town, Florida. Never been on a track like that before - there was this massive drop at the beginning and it scared the shit out of me.

Day 28: Rubber dinghies - best water park rides involve dinghies. 

Day 29: Seeing the Universal globe. Looked forward to going to Universal the most, and it did NOT disappoint. 

Day 30: Yummy shrimp tacos. If you go to Florida, go to Chili's (it's a chain I think so they'll be everywhere). BEST EVER.

Day 31: Going on the Hogwarts Express. Harry Potter World (Universal) made me sooooo nostalgic and they've designed everything so well. I was so impressed.



How was your August? Devo'd that summer's over but September has been warm so far so hopefully it'll drag out!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Mixtapes: Really Good Covers


I'm not usually a fan of covers so I've surprised myself doing this post. HOWEVER, I reeeeeeeally admire it when an artist covers a song in their own way so it doesn't sound EXACTLY like the original and may take you a minute to realise what song it is...that's when you know it's a good cover.

Here are some of the best covers I've heard. Some of the songs are old, some are new, and some you may not know! I hope you enjoy these versions as much as I do, and if you want to listen to the original versions of the songs, scroll to the bottom for the full playlist on Spotify.

Florence Welch and Kid Harpoon - I'm Goin' Down



Covering Bruce is brave - but I like this stripped back version and has some good harmonies in the chorus.

Michael Schulte - A Sky Full of Stars



His voice makes me go all goosebumpy (is that a word?) and I love this version. Michael rose to fame through his covers on YouTube and has now released his own album, which you can buy on iTunes.

Tina Turner - Proud Mary



One of my favourite songs EVER, I prefer this to the original actually - soooooo much sass.

Aretha Franklin - Let it Be



Can you tell I like soul?! The sax solo just makes it for me, I could listen to this over and over.

 Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah 



Well duh.

 Lykke Li - Hold On, We're Going Home



Majestic (skip to 0:18 for the song to start). I don't know her music very well but I got to see her live a couple of years ago and she was pretty captivating. Her voice is so haunting in this cover - you just forget she's singing Drake, WTF?!

Civil Wars - Billy Jean



If you haven't listened to these guys yet, you need to now. Their harmonies are out of this world.

Ryan Adams - Wonderwall



I first heard this in The O.C. when Seth Cohen was being an absolute gentleman.

Listen to the original versions of the songs on Spotify!


Wednesday, 24 August 2016

My flight bag and the stuff that goes in it



So guys...HB and I are off to Florida today with my family. Excited is an understatement! We've been planning this holiday for years and finally booked it last October so it's been a long wait.

Maps & Dice might be a little quieter than usual but I've scheduled a couple of posts to keep you entertained while I'm away. 

The last few days have turned me into Monica Geller's doppelgänger, just double and triple checking everything and making sure the flat is clean and tidy so we don't come home to a massive pile of shit. I'm never this organised, it's usually Hayley that's the most practical.

If there's one thing I enjoy least about going away, it's packing...along with the rest of civilisation. And while I was shoving some stuff in my flight bag, I thought I'd do travellers' version of Through the Keyhole and let you have a nose at what I pack when I go away!

Camera(s) - plural



Aside from the obvious passport and currency priority, packing my cameras is the first check...I have a digital one that I recently treated myself to, and an Instax Mini 70 that HB bought me for Christmas last year. I plan on taking A LOT of photos (with and without selfie stick) and making some sort of collage with them when I get home (check me trying to be arty again).

Bangin' CHOONS and stuff to read



I have Spotify so I don't really use my iPod anymore. However...I found my old iPod in the drawer yesterday and quite fancy taking a trip down memory lane and listening to a few old tunes. But I've also got my new Spotify playlist downloaded just in case my old music library is shocking (highly likely).

I got a Kindle for my birthday from HB (she's good isn't she?!). I prefer reading real paper books at home but this will be the first time using my Kindle and it's perfect for travelling. Same weight as a bag of crisps. I've downloaded Gone Girl and Girl on the Train to read, among a few other questionable titles found under "free books".

Chromebook (basically a mini laptop)



Ya know, in case I want to do a bit of blogging from The Sunshine State!

Bullet Journal



I am a Bullet Journal Junkie and can't go anywhere without it anymore. I like to make notes of places want to visit, and other noteworthy type things that happen along the way.

I also pack make up and perfume but my skills and knowledge in that department aren't worthy enough to share with you...

While I'm away, follow me on Instagram if you want to see me behave like a tit at Disneyland...hopefully wearing Mickey Mouse ears!


See ya!