Favourite Things

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Ahhh, it is so nice to be tapping away here again! You’ve probably noticed that this blog has purely become a little hidey-hole of the internet that I only update when I know I will really enjoy scratching the itch and have a rare solo afternoon like today. Nick is wearily making his way back across the country from his stag do! And so, charged up on a millions cups (bowls) of tea and having completed all my wedmin / wedding crafty tasks I thought oh! Like a Skeleton Key! Let’s do this old friend. I stick mostly to posting about my travel adventures over on TwentySomething Burnouts and this really is a place for more intimate and ramshackle brain ramblings. However with the total-plot twist life change news that I am moving to LA (as in, this time next month I will be a fully fledged living-working resident of Los Angeles – woooah) I have a feeling that I will be recording my life a little more fully on the internet again. That said; I don’t know if it will be blogging. I LOVE it, don’t get me wrong, and having kept a diary since I learnt to write, and an online journal since I discovered Livejournal at the age of 17, I’ll always do this. That said, writing a blog entry takes quite a bit of brain power. Working in marketing I regularly write long form content (blogs, press releases, campaign round-ups, copy etc) all day long which means that in my downtime I am slightly more reluctant to sit at my laptop continuing to work. After quite a bit of thought I decided I’d like to document my move to LA a little more visually; so will be setting up some sort of home to post videos. I feel like since I’ll be on the other side of the world it might be an easier way to share my new life with friends and family than attempting to do it justice with fancy words. PLUS! I will find it much easier to sit and natter at a camera than typing away; although I have no editing skills so might need to sweet talk my husband (!!) for help there.

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But that’s enough of that, back to life right now. Well having said goodbye to London before; you’d think I’d be doing a better job of it this time but it seems to be a similar gut wrench of excitement to leave the pesky bits (tube traumas, grumpy folk, crazy creeping rent costs) and sadness to face the fact that realistically this may be the last time I live in the big smoke. Those pangs hit me at the funniest of moments. Don’t get me wrong, I know I am ridiculously blessed to be moving to a place that sounds like a dream to live in… but London has been my home for a decade. So I’m totally allowed a long goodbye! I even found myself gazing adoringly at Piccadilly Circus the other day – having spent 10 years desperately trying to avoid that particular patch. I think it boils down to the fact that I know who I am in London. I know I like to treat myself to a mocha from The Fields Beneath if it’s a dreary day. I know I like to wow visitors by taking them to Kings Cross Dishoom & nattering over pink drinks. I know I can pull on some trainers and be at the top of Primrose Hill in 15 minutes looking out over the whole of a toy-town skyline in the distance. I know that the cat who lives next door is called Thomas and where he likes his belly ruffled. I know Craig and I can go dancing at Archer Street at any given moment and they’ll play Taylor Swift and everything will feel ok again. I know I’m only a 3 hour train journey from Yorkshire and the wilderness when I need a brain break. I don’t know how to live my life in LA. Where will I go to make sense of myself?

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It’s ok though. Because I had all these feelings before I quit my life and backpacked around the place and they dissolved within about a day of me stepping foot off the plane. It’s hard to be all wistful and emo when a new culture and adventure is demanding every ounce of concentration! I’m also a bit over-whelmed and run-down from: a) leaving my job/downloading my work brain b) preparing for a new job c) planning a (very DIY) wedding and d) preparing to ship and move my life to another country. I’m sure all of these feature on a “most stressful life things” list somewhere and I’m a bit like a bingo card of THINGS TO THINK AND DO right now. I honestly don’t know how I would function without To Doist. Every second I spend my time right now feels like it’s been colour coded, tagged and categorised in that app right now (even writing this – cringe!) Luckily Nick has been on hand to save me from myself and make sure that I have downtime. This week he surprised me with tickets to see Empire Records at the Camden Market Backyard Cinema Film Festival! Let’s not talk about the fact that Empire Records is TWENTY years old this year (it’s ok though, Pretty Woman is 30 years old). Nick splurged on some sort of lux (so LA!) tickets that included a free whopping Honest Burger and a giant cider. We cosied up under blankets on deck chairs and not even a decent dose of British Summer rain could stop us bopping along to the soundtrack (which I used to have on tape cassette in my first car) and talking along with the unforgettable quotes that are taking up valuable GBs in my bee brain. Attention Rex Manning fans, to your left you will notice a shoplifter being chased by night manager, Lucas. This young man will be caught, deep fried in a vat of hot oil and served to our first hundred customers. Just another tasty treat from the gang at Empire Records! The festival is running for another couple of weeks, including the chance to see Amy in Camden which would be pretty fitting and a screening of Teen Wolf which sadly clashes with my work leaving shindig so please go and watch it on my behalf!

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Something else that’s been making me happy is flowers! When Blossoming Gifts emailed me to ask if I’d like to sample their delivery flower service I obviously said yes please and then swooned over the fact they had a bouquet of Apricot Rose & Hydrangea. I am having hydrangeas for my bridal flowers so the thought of having some in the house whilst I did the final bits and bobs of wedding planning felt really special. And no I haven’t walked up and down the side of my bed holding the vase as if it was my bouquet and smiling sweetly at the walls pretending they were guests. Nope, no siree. I was super impressed with the delivery bouquet options; it felt like they had some really unusual colour and flower combinations and are clearly experts in what works well together. The flowers arrived in a very sturdy box and lasted a whole week without wilting, even in the tropical London smog we had lately. In fact the apricot dalidas are still going strong so I’ve transferred them into a little glass vase that Nick bought me which is actually a wine carafe that is given to Italian army officers as standard kit (snazzy!) which he picked up at the local Army Surplus Store.

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Blossoming Gifts have kindly passed on a discount of 33% off if you’d like to treat yourself! I’d definitely rate them and the ease of being able to pick a bunch online and know they will be delivered safely and swiftly is so easy. No more scuttling around a service station hunting out a crummy old carnation creation when in need of thanking someone! You just need to enter the code BGIFTS33. You can check out their flowers by post here and their cheap flower selection (which don’t look cheap – score!) here. I’m already desperate to order myself the orangery selection – those giant daisies are cute as a button.

One thing that is also concerning me greatly about the upcoming move is WOE I will not be in the UK for the Great British Bake Off final. And apparently there isn’t a Great American Bake Off to fill the (cake) hole so I am going to need to work out how to use Tunnel Bear properly and work out the time zone different for watching it as soon as possible and hope it doesn’t involve being awake at 4am or something. Everybody without exception in my team at work is GBBO mad; so for the last couple of years I have helped to organise a team bake off where a different person bakes every Wednesday. Last year I burnt my arm so badly whilst making a Chocolate & Yorkshire Ale cake that I had to go to A&E when it made my veins turn red and angry! This year I managed to avoid any hospitalisation and also managed to make a random thought that had popped into my head a baked good reality. I had wondered if I could make a cake that looked like a watermelon using some kind of mystical food colouring / dark chocolate drop combo. And well… it kind of worked!

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Before I sign off I just want to share a few final things that are currently floating my boat, since I have been absent for a while. Mainly – PODCASTS. Serial was my gateway drug, which led onto podcasts about that podcast (still totally hooked on Undisclosed, Serial Dynasty, Serially Obsessed and Crime Writers on Serial) and about the same time I discovered Welcome to Night Vale and This American Life which tend to also be the big gateway podcast pathways for the less crime oriented types. Oh and I loved listening to Grantland’s Watch the Thrones almost more than watching this season of Game of Thrones. Podcasts have completely revolutionised my life in terms of how much more fun any sort of travel or chores now are. Whereas previously I might have put a few tunes on to motivate myself to do the washing up or my commute; now I honestly track my walk to work against how many episodes of podcasts I have to get through and get extremely excited about that time alone in a totally immersive world of audio. I feel embarrassed, as an audio book lover, why it took me so long to figure out that podcasts were swiftly going to become my favourite form of entertainment.

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Recently I have got deep in to three podcasts that I wanted to share; given that basically all my podcast discoveries have come via recommendations. They all have something in common and have unearthed a part of my tastes, likes and interests that had somehow become dampened as I have grown into an adult. That thing is… MYSTERY! As a child I was absolutely obsessive about mysteries. My sister and I would count down the excruciating seconds for Strange but True with Michael Aspel to come on each week. We had various books of unsolved mysteries including the classics like the Bermuda Triangle, Jack the Ripper and Mary Celeste and I would paw over them every night after lights out using the old torch-under-the-duvet trick. I can remember the giddy-terrified sensation of hearing about a new spooky story or unsolved mystery and laying awake for hours trying to unpick the details and try to solve it; not for the good of humanity but in order to not be totally freaked out and need to do the shameful climb into bed with my sister! As I’ve got older I have developed a more control-freak-ish personality and therefore all things mysterious have slightly gone out of the window. That said I have still always had a curiosity for true crime (mainly in the form of an addiction to Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City and always reading the headlines of Chat magazine when lurking at the supermarket checkout) and maintained a love for zombies and b-movies. All of these long lost loves have been re-ignited through my three top podcasts; hooray! Childhood me is so happy to feel that spooky goosebump skin once more!

  1. Lore : Sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction. This bi-weekly podcast explores topics such as real life zombies, folklore, mysterious beasts, asylums, cabins in the woods and haunted hotels. I almost squealed when I saw episode 9 pop-up in my feed as it covers the story of the Devil on the Roof; the story I remember terrifying me into a near catatonic state when I first read about it with sweaty palms at a stupidly young age (blame having elder siblings!) It’s hosted by Aaron Mahnke who has the worlds most soothing voice and is also a supernatural thriller author and resident of Boston (known for the Salem trials and being Lovecraft heartland; so a pretty good place to start) and I can’t recommend it enough. Just make sure you have an Ovaltine lined up for bedtime after listening.
  2. Generation Why : Murders, myths, monsters and miscarriages of justice. I have come to this cult podcast at a shamefully late date considering how much it’s my cup of tea. That said; it now means I could binge on about 50 incredible episodes in the space of 3 weeks – covering everything from the disappearance of Madeline McCann, the case of D B Cooper, the Zodiac Killer and Robert Durst. Amongst these more contemporary cases though are sprinkled a ton of old classics from my reading-by-torchlight days which I have gleefully revisited with an adult brain – Loch Ness Monster, Bermuda Triangle, Big Foot and the Bermuda Triangle! The podcast is so well produced and presented by Aaron and Justin that you soon feel like you are sitting down with a couple of old chums for a natter about the weird and wonderful. I like the fact that the more grizzly / grim cases (multiple homicides or violence against kids/women) often focus far more on education around the legal implications or the culture surrounding the circumstances than just fear-mongering or focussing on the gory details. For example I listened to the podcast about Lucie Blackman; a story I felt really affected by at the time when it was all over the news, and was relieved that the podcast was super respectful and featured a real expert in Japanese culture and lifestyle to explain the context of the case.
  3. The Mystery ShowA podcast where Starlee Kine solves mysteries. This podcast is a ridiculously simple concept – Starlee Kine investigates mysteries that cannot be solved by the power of Google. On the journey to solve the mysteries however; it’s the people and the places that Starlee is taken that create a rollercoaster of emotions, unexpected forks in the road and twists & turns that become so unexpected you almost forget what the original mystery way (for example the SPECTACULAR Phil Spector story that is revealed whilst looking for the source of Welcome Back, Kotter lunch pail artwork) it’s adorable, it’s engaging and it’s a must-listen.

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Ah that was nice. See you again sooner; I promise.

 

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Sometimes you have years that just slope by lazily, without much changing from one end to the next. Then you get those years where your life feels unrecognisable from the point that the bells struck midnight at the start, to the point where you tuck into the Christmas tree chocolates at the end. This has without a doubt been one of those years for me, in fact it’s been the biggest year of my entire life. On the first day of 2014 I woke up in Panama City. I was half way through 6 months of backpacking, starting in South America and taking in 16 countries through Central America up to the USA. I’d already seen and experienced so much; but felt like I still had so much left to go. Due to being on the opposite side of the world as the year started, I had no idea how the rest of it would unfold. Where I’d be living, what job I’d have or what my life would look like in any way. I certainly had NO idea I’d be planning a wedding! Being a total control freak; the concept of having so little idea or handle on my future is something that would have used to terrify my. But that’s what I mean when I say it’s been the biggest year of my life; travelling taught me so much about my personality and boundaries and lifestyle that basically meant I came back a different (better!) version of me.

Anyway! I could ramble on about my ~feelings~ and ~journey~ for hours but I’m guessing anyone reading this is doing it through a Baileys or mulled-something haze (if not, why not?) so I’m going to keep it simple, and just list some of the big events of this year that I most likely failed to blog about as I have been way more active over on our travel blog Twentysomething Burnouts. I’ll try and keep them in chronological order!

Why are you calling me Beyonce? I said FIANCEE!

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On the 25th January, not long into the shiny new year, Nick asked me to marry him (read all about it). We were enjoying a couple of weeks holiday from travelling (I know, how sickening) on the Corn Islands off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. We’d had a lovely meal, then strolled to a secluded beach that we had visited earlier in the day. It was just as beautiful at night. The air was balmy, the sea smelt incredible, and we sat snuggled up doing some star gazing. And then… it happened! Although it’s obviously something we had nattered about here and there, I had rationalised that there was no way Nick could bring a ring with him, so in my head I had completely parked the idea of any proposal speculation. It’s the first time in my life I have been fully speechless (until I yelled YES!) He couldn’t have asked at a more perfect time in our lives and trip. Having spent every minute of every day for the 4 months prior; and supporting each other through close-encounters with scorpions, death defying boat rides, teeny tin-can aeroplanes and 32 hour bus journeys with no air con OR toilets… we certainly knew each other well enough to be confident we can take on anything else in our forever future. We get married in September 2015 and so far I’ve done a bit of planning… and a LOT of obsessively watching Don’t Tell The Bride as research.

A friendly face in deepest, darkest Guatemala

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If I started writing about every highlight of our travels, it would go on for a hundred years and basically be Twentysomething Burnouts. If I started writing about every highlight with a certain Craig Heathcote in 2014, it would also go on for a hundred years. Therefore I will try to keep this section short and sweet! When we had initially announced our travel plans we had tons of people say they’d come out and see us at various points. Obviously then things like real life, work, holiday allowance and penny pinching get in the way; but despite all of those things Craig stuck to his guns and managed to wrangle over a week to join us out in the midst of Guatemala, a place I doubt would have been on his top holiday locations otherwise (to put it in context his mum kept asking, “Where are you going again? Guantanamo?” !)

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By the time February rolled around, I have to be honest and admit that we were slightly waning. We had been travelling at absolute breakneck speed in order to see all of Latin America in a tiny space of time; and sticking mostly to overland travel. Two detours had held us up; the first being an excursion to the Galapagas (yay), the second being Nick’s terrifying back injury in Colombia so as we trucked through into Central America we were racing against time to get to Guatemala in time for our date with a VIP. We hadn’t had basics like hot water for 5 months. We were SHARING a pair of socks. We had gone a month without soap. Everything we were carrying around stank, had holes in it and was bleached with too much DEET contact. We were obviously still loving our adventure, but were fraying around the edges and this meant that Craig’s arrival was exactly what we needed! He arrived with a giant My Little Pony tote bag (soz Craig) that my sister and he had packed full of clean clothes, British treats and stuff to make us smell better. He had magical things like new music – we had been sharing 2 ipods with a total of about 80 songs for months. He had new news from home, updates on all our friends and just a totally different outlook on life. It was so special! You can read all about our actual adventures here and here. Those 10 days are an absolute highlight of our entire trip. Big beers, breath-taking views and places that constantly 1-up’ed each other, wild swimming, late night jungle nattering and being zoomed about in the back of a 4×4. Oh and the time a monkey threw a rock at Craig’s head (and luckily missed!)

Here we go again London

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We were moving to Brighton, then we weren’t. We were done with London, then we weren’t. I wrote all about it here and despite all my previous grumbles with life in the big smoke, I’ve had such a fantastic time since moving back and am so happy that a few twists and turns of fate bought us back here… for now!

It’s my job to read books!

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On the night we landed back in England, I couldn’t sleep. I had a serious case of reverse culture-shock, and a bigger case of jet lagging. Despite the fact I’d planned to avoid any semblance of job hunting for a few weeks of family time, it was 3am and I couldn’t sleep so I thought I’d just take a peek at the jobs on the market. I am so happy I did, because it’s then that I spotted the job advert for a role doing digital and social media bits at Penguin Random House; so after 6 months of not working or even thinking about work I had to attempt to pull together a convincing cover letter and update my CV. As a lifelong bookworm, it’s my dream job. I’m so lucky to work with so many inspiring people and just felt at home from my first day, it’s a very special company indeed and whilst there are challenging moments, it’s made life after travelling a lot easier to stomach. Plus, overtime is… reading! Who can complain about that?

Craigfest

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We had only been home for a month or so when our Craig turned 30! And luckily for all his friends, he did it in serious style. We rented out a beautiful venue in Dorset (um I think…my southern geography is so dire) for a couple of nights. There were bands (including Chime Hours), dancing, ping pong, walks in the beautiful grounds, bonfire, marshmallow toasting and all bunking down in dorms with lots of chattering late into the night/morning. And not even the British weather could dampen the party!

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Not such a Twentysomething Burnout anymore

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I turned 30 in May, officially hanging up my right to call myself a twentysomething burnout. I wrote about it here da da DAAAAAAA, but have come to the conclusion that the hype, fear and build up to 30 is so much worse than actually being 30 itself. In fact being 30 is absolutely no different to being 29, funnily enough! I was a total spoilt brat and milked my birthday for months. I am lucky enough that my eldest sibling Meg is my decade twin, and turned 40 this year. This meant we could throw a party for all of our friends, which Meg masterminded and did all the hard work on whilst I was still backpacking about; an amazing present in itself. The party was 80s Vs 90s movie themed… which sounds niche but it was amazing how inventive our lovely guests were. We had Ghostbusters… The Craft witches, Blue Brothers, Tank Girl, Marty McFly, Edward Scissorhands, THE TITANIC (!), Indiana Jones, When Harry Met Sally, Alien, Leon, Addams Family, Waynes World…. so many more. Meg and I took it in turns on our playlist with an hour of 80s, then an hour of 90s, and back again. I felt so fortunate to all my amazing friends who travelled from up and down the country to croon along to en vogue. The night ended strictly at 1am when the venue turned off the PA. But would we stop partying? No! And so my fondest memory is everyone insisting on screeching their own 90s hits super loudly until we were politely asked to leave… singing “this could be a case for Mald-ah and Scah-lly” at the top of our voices.

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Nick indulged (without TOO much persuasion) my wish to go as Sarah and the Goblin King from Labyrinth, my all time favourite childhood movie. I bought an 80s wedding dress from eBay and he ordered a “Sam Fox” wig from Amazon. He even did an amazing hypnotic dance with the crystal ball in front of everyone. I think he really embraced a bit of Bowie! A super special memory from this year was that after the party we were staying at Meg & Eds, which was just a 15 minutes walk down the river from the venue. Having had a few G&Ts, I decided we may as well just walk despite the time. So I walked in my full on HUGE wedding dress, holding 10 helium silver star balloons, through central London at 1am. Everyone we passed obviously thought we had just got married (I really hope Nick doesn’t take that as a hint to don his Goblin King costume at the wedding for real) and we had people shouting congratulations, asking to take photos and taxis beeping their horns. It was a balmy night, and town seemed to be full of just friendly, well wishing passer bys.

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Yorkshire Day

In the summer I had some holiday days to use up which coincided with YORKSHIRE DAY, the most wonderful day of the year! It was a great excuse to head up north and spend a week quality time with Lol, which I never get to do. We did lots of dancing, watching Ru Pauls Drag race, perfecting or telepathicness to the point of being too lazy to talk out loud, running round giant Asda, making nachos, eating nachos and gallivanting around the moors in the rain.

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End of Cougar Season

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In November Nick caught me up and turned 30. We went to Paris for a long weekend of real animals and skeleton animals (and eating lots of cheese) you can read about it over here and here. I also went on lovely trips to Exmoor, Sweden and Ghent, so haven’t really had too much time to get the post travel blues.

I am still stupid at 30

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Just so this isn’t a boring blog of humble brag-ish boasting (ugh I hope not) I am still monumentally bad at functioning in life. I have had 2 trips to A&E this year, an infected horsefly bite oh… and lets not forget the time I managed to drop a pint glass on my eye from a great height – I was bending down snuffling about in the fridge and knocked it off the side straight onto my eyeball. Cue black eye for a week that gradually turned into a purple eye, a green eye and then a yellow eye.

This has been such a lovely post to write, it’s been so fun reliving the best bits and remembering just how crazy this year has been. I’ve focussed on the ups here, because they are the nice bits to re-live rather than being a moaning minnie. However that isn’t to say there haven’t been downs. It’s been a really hard year in a lot of ways. My battle with the ombudsman over my messed up surgery in 2012 has cast a shadow, as has the fact I will need surgery again (wah) and the pain I still have pretty much most days on some level. A lot of my friends have had tough years and it hurts me to watch the people I love go through rough stuff; even though they are all handling it in really inspiring, impressive ways and it’s usually me wailing away rather than them! I guess this is just to acknowledge the fact that whilst the year on the surface can look pretty perfect, it’s definitely been a huge learning curve in so many ways and I’ve been trying really hard to get better at coping with my anxiety and being a worry wart. Thanks for reading the blog this year, and whilst I haven’t updated as much as I’d like, I can’t wait to tap away over the Christmas break some more.

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I know every blogger and their dog seems to freak out come autumn; but there is a legitimate reason for that. Autumn is breathtaking! I can’t get enough of scrolling through my Bloglovin’ feed and snooping on page after page of burnt colours and leaf kicking and pumpkin carving and conkers and knitwear. In fact I am lapping it up even more obsessively than usual because last year I skipped town before Autumn hit and my A/W 2013 was spent in, well, sweltering tropical heat. This means I haven’t had an autumn since 2012 and that particular gruesome autumn was mostly spent in and out of hospital, and barely participating. Safe to say I have been refreshing the met-office weather app every day, waiting for temperatures to justify the wool tights, woolly jumpers and COATS (ahh lovely coats!) that have sat unloved and unworn for two years. I’m basically delirious because I just ordered my winter coat. What a big decision and one that I used the entire Daylight Savings hour to mull over with a cuppa.

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Whilst a fair amount of my autumnal adventures have included misty ramblings around and stomping about the leaf sodden streets; yesterday it was time to give my cold ears and nose a break and plan something of the cosier variety. After accidentally spending 3 weekends in a row away from London (a hen do, a wedding, our wedding planning!) I have been so giddy all week at the prospect of an entire weekend to do whatever I wanted. So yesterday I did my annual trip to brave the city centre for some perusing up Oxford Street, window shopping on South Molton Street and to spend some time shoving my nose up to the Selfridge’s Christmas window displays. I had wondered where would be good to grab some brunch or lunch and none of my usual haunts were taking my fancy. I wanted somewhere that felt a bit more special than just grabbing a bacon butty somewhere. I wanted somewhere that wouldn’t be heaving, with a queue out the door (I love you Breakfast Club, but you need to have about 100 more tables!) but that would still have a buzzy atmosphere.

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So, I have a (probably really silly) confession to make, and that is despite the fact I LOVE hotels – this was one of my first ever blog posts – and am aware that in London we are spoilt by the quality and quantity of them; I’ve never thought to head to a hotel restaurant for a meal, if I’m not staying at that hotel. In fact (and this is definitely silly) I wasn’t even sure you were allowed to go to one, if you weren’t staying. So, at the grand old age of 30, I can now share this valuable nugget of information – you are! In fact, it is encouraged! And it is such a great option for exactly my predicament of wanting somewhere to cosy up and while away a weekend in-between shops and scuttling about the streets.

With this new life lesson, I was fortunate enough to be invited by the delightful Fiona to the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill and their restaurant The Montagu to sample their new slant on traditional brunch; an Italian/New York influenced offering that is more of an experience than a meal. Oh, and did I mention it includes unlimited Bellinis? I am such a big fan of the holy Bellini that when I type it in my phone, Syri autocorrects it to caps lock and with three exclamation points which gives a clue as to how many times I must have written BELLINIS!!!

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We had barely stepped foot into The Montagu before a super friendly member of restaurant staff whisked us off by the elbows and toured us around the various treats that laid ahead of us. It was a little bit like walking into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Delicious smells and heaving piles of gorgeous food covered almost every surface surrounding the dining tables. Oh and a lovely man was serenading us on guitar; playing some really haunting covers of blues, swing and jazz classics.

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The first stop-off was the deli counter. To take the edge off any shopping starvation you might have entered with; this is an open plan station packed with cured meets, carpaccio, a giant cheese board, every bread you could dream up and glass mason jars of aubergine, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and picky-bits… and you are left to go WILD. I really liked this element to the brunch because it gave the meal a relaxed, luxurious feeling where it was totally acceptable to eat a bit of deli stuff, then something else, then go grazing for more. There is also a salad bar, where the friendly fellows will whisk you up anything that takes your fancy. I went for a Cobb, because I like my cheese to green ratio on the less-healthy side!

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As we let our first course settle, we were given the exact amount of space to natter and chatter; but we never felt like we’d been forgotten about, as our attentive waiter was either bringing us square slices of piping hot pizza fresh out of the oven (yknow, just to tide us over through all that exhausting story swapping!) or expertly topping up our glasses.

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The main course (you have to love a brunch that has a main course) is a unique offering where we scampered over to a big marble breakfast-bar attached to a vast open plan kitchen, where you can hover around and choose between fresh pastas, pizzas, risotto, steak and salmon. The great thing about the kitchen being right there, is that you have talk to the chefs about what they recommend, you can choose exactly what ingredients you want and then, if you are nosey like me, you can watch them prepare it and try to pick up hints to turn you into a chef too. I had Conchiglie (pasta sea shells to me) with tomato sauce, basil and meatballs. There is something just other-worldly about proper Italian pasta cooked by someone who knows exactly what they are doing! It was actual melt-in-the-mouth good.

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Now anyone who knows me can imagine that despite troughing my way through all of this, I really had my mind and my eye on the prize. The pudding prize! As we entered the restaurant I had already clocked the staggering dessert tray and thought “well I just want everything on that”. Here is a small sample of the choices that faced me:

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After an excessive amount of umming and ahhing, I opted for a slice of NYC style baked cheesecake and a tiramisu; just to be equal opportunities and trying something traditional from both sides of the ocean. The cheesecake was quite simply the best cheesecake I have ever eaten in my life. The vanilla tang, the crunchy super-buttery base and the cake itself being the perfect gooey texture. I feel like I’ll never want to order a cheesecake anywhere else in my life because there is no way it can be that good. The tiramisu was dreamy too; I loved the way it was served in a class tumbler, it means all the boozy coffee liquid had pooled at the bottom and just gave it the most amazing potent flavour. I polished both off in record speed despite being so full already. The pudding belly is a totally different thing right?

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I couldn’t believe it when I realised we had been brunching for almost three hours. We had completely pushed the official brunch-time-limit and passed through lunch and almost into afternoon tea territory. The fact this could happen without even noticing is a testament to the staff and the brunch. I hadn’t known what to expect from brunch at a 5* hotel; and worried it could feel stuffy. Instead, I felt totally relaxed. I absolutely loved the mixture of food you could choose yourself and create exactly what your heart desired, versus the food that the expert chefs could whip up. It meant that the experience felt really special, and like I was made a real fuss of, but it also felt really welcoming and intimate. Everyone we came into contact with was genuinely friendly, chatty and completely focused on making the occasion as dazzling as possible.

I am already trying to look ahead at my calendar of when I can go again; as I only had the stomach-space to try about a quarter of the delicacies on offer. The Montagu Italian meets New York Champagne Brunch is £39 a head; and that includes the unlimited bellini/champagne top ups and as much munch as you can muster. The Montagu also do something amazingly called “Sex & The City Par-Tea” which says it all really. I desperately want to take Lol; as she knows every word of every episode so could entertain me whilst we ate shoe shaped biscuits, by doing a one-woman performance of seasons 1-6! Thank you so much to Fiona and the staff at The Hyatt Regency Churchill and The Montagu for hosting me and treating me to such a marvellous menu.

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On the way out, I mentioned how the cheesecake had been the best I had ever had in my life, and an incredibly generous chap boxed up THREE slices for me to take home and so Nick could try some, rather than have me just describe how amazing it was.

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Now I am back home and whilst it’s great to have an extra hour of weekending, I feel a bit distressed about why there isn’t someone here to constantly top up my glass with BELLINI!!!

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This time last year I sat down in an excruciatingly hot & sticky cyber cafe in a tiny Venezuelan coastal town and wrote the first blog entry of my travels over on Twentysomething Burnouts.  In the strange way that time meddles with the mind; it feels like just yesterday and a million years ago at the same time. The next six months are going to be jam-packed with this sort of anniversary; this time last year I was in trekking up Machu Picchu Mountain, this time last year I was sleeping in a hammock, this time last year I was on the Amazon river spotting pink river dolphins, this time last year I shared a bed with the worlds deadliest scorpion… and every single one makes me take stock of where my life was then… and where my life is now. I’m learning that this has its (obvious) pros and cons! Whilst I love thinking back to the once-in-a-lifetime trip and the incredible memories; I also feel like a hostage to the past at the same time, and don’t really wish to live in a fog of reflection and comparison until next March. I have so many important life-things to focus on in the present (dream job! wedding! new flat! London stuff!) but I can feel the clawing clutch of nostalgia and wistful “I wish I was back there” gloom settling on me almost every morning as I pack my backpack and set off for the daily work grind (despite the fact I adore my current daily grinding and it’s in here:

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which kind of helps)

Something to help banish those blues has been making the most of living in one of the best places on earth! Forget my trip of a lifetime, some people aspire to visit London just once and I get it on our doorstep every day. I have to have a word with myself occasionally and remind myself how lucky I am (even if my lungs aren’t; living in London = now asthmatic)

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I turned 30 in May, and for my birthday I’ve been spoilt rotten over the summer by family as I cashed in IOU’ed London based experience gifts (the best kind) and kept milking the celebrations as hard as possible! Firstly my sibling Meg took me for my first ever tasting menu. This is where you are treated to a 6-course meal and each course has a wine selected to match the food selection. My inability at Geography did hamper the start of the night. I had diligently googled The Don, and as I know it was south, which is basically all the same to this northern lass, I headed off to the address provided. It was only when I had caught two buses and walked about 20 minutes in brand new Lotta From Stockholm clogs (breaking in shoes that contain brand new leather AND hard-wood is not the one) that I rocked up to a restaurant that looked… well… a little sketchier than what I was expecting. And sure enough there are TWO The Don’s in London and I was at entirely the wrong one. Already late and now in a bit of a sweaty state; I did something I never ever do. I hailed a black cab and it zoomed me over Tower Bridge giving me a “wow I’m a real life Londoner” moment; and in mere moments I had a glass of chilled bubbles in my hand and could rest up my sore feet.

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Meg and I opted for the tasting menu at The Don; which was perfect in every way. The Don provided us with flawless food, impeccable service (polite and knowledgeable, but never stuffy or judgey) and a buzzy atmosphere where no one sat close enough to eavesdrop as our conversation got more scandalous as we drank more dessert wine! The absolute BEST bit of the night however was the cheese tray. More cultured readers may have experienced this delight before; but to me it was completely new. Basically at the end of your meal, a very smart cheese-expert wheels over a huge tray that is mounded up with about 50 cheeses. They are laid out from hard > soft, strong > mild. Oh and BLUE. Luckily these siblings share a passion for anything strong, sticky and stinky and loaded up our plates with everything that ticked that box. The waiter was happy to stand for about 20 minutes as we made our selection; patiently explaining where every cheese was from, how it was made and what was unique about it. We even tried one that had a line of charcoal running through it. Although every course was a taste sensation in its own right, I think I could probably have just eaten 6 courses of the holy cheese mountain.

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My next spoiling session was courtesy of my big sister Jess. As children we shared a bedroom and a unshakable love for My Little Pony’s. We tried to progress our toy pony love to real life horses, but sadly Bradford isn’t exactly big on wildlife. We managed to get to a couple of riding lessons in one summer holiday; but rather than scampering around with enchanted pastel coloured ponys, we were both a bit shocked when we were expected to clamber onto these stinky, snorty, huuuuge creatures. I have one really strong memory of forgetting to take a riding hat one time, and therefore being late because I had to go back and borrow someones, and by the time I arrived to the lesson there were no horses left. (On grown-up-person reflection, that seems like pretty bad planning) As a result they brought out the “naughty horse” who usually wasn’t trusted to have a rider. His name was Duke, he had a mohawk, he was about three times taller than me and it took him about 4 minutes between me saddling up to him chucking me off onto one of the jumps. Thanks Duke! Despite this sad story; both Jess and I have maintained a curious interest in horse riding and ever since we both moved to London have had “Horse Ride Around Hyde Park” firmly on our must do list.

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Because she’s a super smart cookie, Jess actually got organised and sorted this out for my 30th. We had to wait until the horses were back from summer holiday (!) so a recent autumnal Saturday we met in Hyde Park and headed off to find the Ross Nye Stables. The stables are tucked away down Bathurst Mews; an idyllic little collection of terraces where you suddenly feel like you are a million miles away from the sirens and hubub of central London. Now that I’ve ticked off a key must-do list item, I might just replace it with “Lurk around cute Mews more often”.

We were met by a friendly lady who pointed us in the direction of (super chic) riding boots and (less chic) hats. Jess was introduced to her gorgeous, placid horse and easily hopped on. I was introduced to my horse, the naughty one, and nearly fell right off the other side as I tried to graciously get on. We hadn’t been sure what to expect from our jaunt out, but had thought that as we had stated we were absolute beginners, that we’d get on a horse and then have someone just drag us about on a rope – a bit like riding a Donkey at Blackpool.

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What actually happened was that we both had a teacher who accompanied us on a horse next to us. Jess had a really chatty teacher about her own age. My teacher was 13 years old. (Are you spotting a theme?) My slight witheringness at her age quickly went out the window when the first thing we had to do with our horses was ride them out onto the MAIN ROAD to get to the park. Panic! Luckily my very capable teacher shouted instructions and occasionally reached over and gave my grumpy horse a nudge in the right direction. After successfully negotiating the road without any motorbikes, sudden car honking or anything else that might frighten the horses into doing something scary, we were in the park. I actually needn’t have worried about the road-scares, as it actually turned out my horse had one single phobia and that was… plastic bags! Totally rational! Luckily the litter collectors had been pretty over-zealous in the park that day, otherwise my joy-ride would have been over pretty quickly.

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I have a whole new respect for horse riders and pony people. I had always looked at anyone on a horse and thought; i could do that, just sit on the thing and it does all the work. WRONG. Actually even staying on a horse is pretty tricky! You have to hold the reins right, position your legs properly oh and tell the horse what to do using special secret signals. At first we had a pleasant stroll around; taking in the flame tinted autumn leaves, enjoying the cooling air and waving at the tourists taking photos. Then it was down to the hard work. In Hyde Park there are amazing horse-lanes that have existed since horse was the main form of transport in London. It was on these lanes that we learnt to trot, and canter. Jess was a natural, trotting away and looking elegant. I didn’t realise at first that you need to lift up and down out of the saddle in time with the horses movements. My first attempt at trotting just worked out to be me lifting up and down at exactly the opposite time to the horse and as a result I sat on a hot water bottle for about two days afterwards because of the damage I’d done to my poor glutes!

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I was full of enthusiasm though, if not talent, and soon we were hammering along and I was really enjoying the unusual feeling of moving that fast and that freely around the park. The lesson lasted an hour, and was so thorough. My teacher talked me through everything really patiently and answered all my inane questions such as how are police horses trained and how you can tell if the horse if miffed? I had imagined that Jess I would just be strolling slowly around the park swapping gossip and having a good natter, but we actually didn’t get to talk once. Luckily we’d had a good lunch and chat time first.

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After braving the main road again, and then scampering back into the mews, my legs turned to jelly trying to get off the horse. I hadn’t realised how every muscle in my body had been tense and active in the riding and I basically melted into a pool of ouch and relief that we had survived. It was such an amazing experience and so much better than I’d expected. It was really special to have that one on one teaching and to get to basically be riding independently from the off. We felt so proud of what we’d achieved and I definitely feel like getting straight back on the horse (ho ho) but maybe somewhere a little less public next time.

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SNOW!

I really wasn’t going to do a snow blog, because my brain is bursting with other things to blog about at the moment and I know you can’t blink on twitter/instagram/facebook without seeing another photo or reference to the cold white stuff but… it’s just SO pretty! And I get the hype, it’s so rare that we get a decent depth of snow to roam around in that it just brings out the sparkly child in everyone and what’s not to like about that?

I’m very fortunate that Hampstead Heath is basically my back garden and after 18 months of living around the area, I know it’s nooks and crannies pretty well. I know the best tree to climb and the secret sledge runs and even the areas you can be guaranteed not to see another soul (not even a shifty character!) But I don’t think I’ve ever seen it looking more beautiful than today. Snow definitely suits the heath. The sky was as bright white as the ground, obviously full of more snow just waiting to fall again. This transformed the winter trees into spindly silhouettes and the hoards of sledgers on parliament hill took on a ghostly Lowry-esque quality.

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When people ask me what my favourite season is, I don’t really have a favourite. I just like proper seasons. I like my spring to be cherry blossom cardigan weather. I like my summer to have long balmy evenings drinking cider on a picnic blanket in the park. I like my autumn to burn through yellow orange and red colours and finally I desperately want my winter to dazzle me with Hollywood snow. So far winter has just been wet in London. Grey, wet, glum and with the occasional chilly night (always at the most inconvenient times when I’ve braved massive heels or left my woolly hat at work) so I knew it was vital to make the most of this fleeting snow day. Nick was a very willing companion as we bundled up in thermals and woollens and started a near-2 hour trek from one side to the other of the heath, stopping to do as much cheesy snow stuff as possible – snowballs, snow men with twig afros, snow angels, nearly falling into the frozen lake…

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I haven’t made many snow angels before and Nick had never ever made one (I think they are quite an American thing? I only learnt about them as a kid from watching Groundhog Day obsessively) so I gave him the patch of snow that didn’t have a single footprint on. I was at least smart enough to wait to the end of the walk to go rolling around in the snow as once you’ve angel-ed it manages to find it’s way in everywhere and suddenly I had damp patches and icy trickles everywhere, brrr! I really liked getting so cold though,  there’s no point being all adult and sensible in the snow.  We soon warmed up with a giant cup of tea and a big wedge of cheese & chutney on toast at home. We also finally finished True Blood season 4 – Did you watch it? What did you think? I have been a huge True Blood obsessive since season 1. I even have a Merlotte’s tee-shirt! I loved everything about it; the southern drawls, the incredible opening titles, the theme tune, the sultry Sookie, the vampires, the concept of true blood itself, Sam… In fact I thought season 3 was the best so far and was so excited for season 4 but wow. What a mess! Half way through the season I just couldn’t care less about any of the characters and the stories seemed to have gone off in a witchcraft weird tangent and there were constant wtf moments. I barely watch TV at the moment so when I do have a boxset feast I want it to be really good! I’ve never been so underwhelmed by a season finale and definitely won’t be watching season 5, I’ll probably just read the episode summaries on wikipedia and continue to be disappointed! The first one I looked up had the phrase “giant blood spraying vampire goddess” in it. Next up for boxset viewing for me is The Hour (which is a bit ridiculous I never started watching as I adore Mad Men and this is meant to be the UK attempt) and Community which my sister is desperate for me to watch and discuss and that’s a good enough reason for me. Ok, end of TV tangent…

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^By far the classiest photograph of me on the internet! Also Nick, despite being a first timer, is certified more angelic than me. We saw lots of sights on our snow mission; like a jack russell being pulled along on an old fashioned sledge, alot of questionable snowboot footwear oh and I absolutely loved creeping up to what I call Hansel & Gretel’s fairytale cabin which is actually the mens toilets (!!
but in typical Hampstead style, super stylish) and Nick thinks my obsession with it is ridiculous as he claims “if you’d visited them, and smelt them, in the height of summer you wouldn’t love it so much”! But look how cute it is…

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Finally, just to fashion up this blog a bit, here is my winter hat, glove and scarf combo. As you can see not a single item matches! Higgedlypiggeldy or what? The hat is long suffering bluey that I bought in San Francisco Urban Outfitters for $2 after arriving there and realising that my hotpants, vests and sunglasses were not going to fly in 7 degree fog (I just assumed it’s in California = it’s sunny. Wrong!) Then the scarf is a snood, I’ve recently discovered the wonder of the snood. I think I’ve avoided them because of the silly name but it’s just a giant extra toasty scarf without the long dangly bits that I always get caught in the tube door/any door. Finally my owl gloves. I know that animal covered knitwear is totally played out, and everyone owns a panda hat or hood with ears, but I quite like clothes that straddle costume/fancy dress so they still make me smile. These are the only version of animal knits I own though, they were a very welcome Christmas gift and I’ve barely taken them off since (except to roll snowballs!)

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I can’t believe how quickly this year has sped by. My new year’s resolution was to take a photo every day and I stuck to it, which has made it so much easier when trying to cast my mulled-wine pickled brain back over the year to recap what I got up to; as I certainly wasn’t blogging about it. Sorry! It’s been a pretty grim year, one that makes you grit your teeth and fear answering the phone as you know it will be another piece of bad news. Sadly this has continued right into the festive season and so I’ll be very relieved tonight to toast the end of a rotten apple year and the start of 2013 which can surely only be better. That said though, I think it’s all too easy to write off a bad year and in fact there have been some sparkly moments of wonderful wanderings, experiences and memories that I wouldn’t swap for anything.

This turned into such an epic beast that I am blogging it in two parts, the first being January – June.

January

January

This was a walk that Nick & I took up Malham Cove with my parents. If you ever find yourself in Yorkshire then Malham is my absolute favourite place to visit and my top recommendation. Looking up at the cove itself  will leave you breathless and feeling very tiny indeed. We were so fortunate with the weather, as despite deep snow for miles around, the treacherous 400 stone steps that take you up to the top of the 260 foot cliff face were clear and could still be climbed in my £6 Primark brogues with no grips.

 February

February

One of the “how is this happening to me” moments that have peppered the most successful professional year in my career. Considering I still speak with such a broad Yorkshire accent I basically need subtitles, get ID’d every single time I purchase alcohol and still constantly get comments on my “quirky” fashion sense, I still struggle to remember I am actually a head of my own department and seem to be doing pretty well at this whole work thing. It feels like the 12 hour days are finally paying off (although maybe not for my health; see October) In February I was still working for a children’s media company and was invited to the Houses of Parliament to take part in a seminar on children’s welfare and charity work. It was such a privilege and something I know not many people will experience. I just wish I’d had more time to poke my nose around the incredible wooden chambers and rooms with vast ceilings and chandeliers. Instead I was ushered in for breakfast, where they had the most tempting looking Danish pastries but my stupid etiquette meant I was too embarrassed to eat one as they were too far for me to easily reach, so instead I just had to make do with a few bits of (extra posh) fruit salad and a super strong coffee.

 March

March

I didn’t go to many gigs this year because my main entertainment-indulgence money went on my monthly Cineworld card and spending hour after hour in the various West End cinemas (in total I saw 34 films this year!) Luckily it was quality over quantity and this gig, Future Islands at Scala, was my favourite. If you aren’t familiar with the band you should definitely download some, I’d recommend Before The Bridge, Inch of Dust and Balance. What I love about them is that the singer has this incredible theatrical voice but looks NOTHING like what you expect him to. He is probably the best showman I have ever encountered, as despite being at the end of a lengthy European tour he seemed to adore every moment, resulting in the audience storming the stage for the encore.

 April

April

The image sort of sums it up, but after 5 years working for the same company, I took a new job in April. It was scary as I had always worked in the same office, with the same people, for my whole London life but it was definitely what I needed and I haven’t regretted the decision once. The fact that regular trips to New York and Los Angeles are now part of my job kinda helps too!

 May

May

After a tequila-fuelled London celebration, Nick & I went to Dorset for an extended Birthday spoiling. There were so many highlights, but I think Swanage remains one of my favourite places in the UK. For many reasons (the beautiful twinkling lights as the sun sets, the boats in the harbour, the road into the sea, the ice cream and the beautiful Jurassic coastline) but mainly because we discovered Jurassic Park crazy golf there! Wildly flaunting a million copyright infringements this combination of two of my all-time favourite things (crazy golf + dinosaurs) was the perfect birthday present. We also went on a huge walk and spotted my first ever slow worm, which it turns out isn’t a snake but it still has a cool fork-y tongue.

 June


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I had been promising to go on holiday with my oldest school friend for about a decade but we’ve never had time or holiday budget that matched up. This year we finally got it together and after a few vetoed suggestions of destinations (Benidorm being one…) we settled on Ibiza. Given that I’m not exactly a clubber at the best of times, and that the music isn’t my cup of tea, I was a bit eye-rolly about the whole thing. The flight from Bradford to Ibiza isn’t one I’d want to repeat (just an aeroplane FULL of hammered northern men, 5 of whom were arrested before even leaving the airport!) but I enjoyed every second after that. We were away for the Jubilee weekend so decked our hotel balcony with chintzy union jack bunting and celebrated with carton after carton of 70cent Sangria.

June

We stayed in Bossa Park which is the ‘up and coming’ area according to our hotel manager and I definitely felt like it had a cooler vibe than the hen/stag saturated San Antonio side of the island. It was fun to chat to the people selling tickets on the street and haggling deals. On our first night we ended up buying from a Scottish guy who kept flipping between heavy Glaswegian accented English into perfectly fluent Spanish and who led us through a quiet civilised fancy restaurant down some stairs into the most heaving secret basement bar I’ve ever seen where everything glowed UV, we drank free cocktails and danced to Rihanna with the locals. I can’t remember the last time I felt so young, and so free. It was such a glorious four days with tons of sun lounger reading, playing beach ball in the pool and stocking up on our grimy B&B breakfast to make it last the whole day.

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The daytime highlight was definitely an afternoon at Café Mambo watching the sunset which is as phenomenal as everyone says and is definitely something everyone should see once in their life. The night-time highlight was seeing Tiesto at Pacha (still can’t believe those words are coming out of my mouth, in the same way I can’t believe I since downloaded that Tonight We Are Youuuung song as it was played every third song anywhere we went). The clubbing was so easy to throw yourself in to, and I barely drank (mainly because even a bottle of water is 8 euros) but you don’t need to as the atmosphere itself is contagious and totally electric. It was like being at a really good music festival as everyone is so happy and just enjoying the experience. It wasn’t at all what I expected and we ended up making tons of friends with waifs and strays from all over Europe. My favourite clubs were definitely Pacha, Ibiza Rocks (for the pool alone, which everyone was drunkenly chucking each other into – it reminded me of the bad donkey island in Pinocchio!) and Es Paradis which has a stunning interior and played my kind of music rather than the mwam mwam mwam of everywhere else. I definitely have the fabled Ibiza-bug and would go back in a heartbeat.

June 2

I couldn’t re-cap this year without featuring this image that will forever be burnt into my retina! This view from the heady heights of the London Eye, where myself and my dear Craig got stuck for nearly an hour! The jaunt started happily enough, with my ticket being a generous birthday gift and thoughtfully planned to take in the sunset on the longest day of the year. We scuttled down to South Bank, devoured a pizza and a bottle of rose wine and were actually a bit tipsy as we boarded the Eye. As our little pod climbed towards the sky, we shoved our noses up against the glass and oohed and ahhed and it was brilliant. Then, at the just-before-the-top slot, we stopped. After 20 minutes a few people started asking why we were stopped and I reassured them that it was totally normal and just to give us a ‘good view’ (! which actually on reflection makes no sense as then the wheel would never move) after 30 minutes I started to feel a bit antsy with that sinking feeling that something’s gone array and I am stuck 135 metres in the sky in a glass capsule.

I only have one fear, and its claustrophobia, so the next half an hour were a massive test of my ability to keep a gigantic panic attack at bay. It helped that I had Craig at my side so we just spotted landmarks and took in the incredible view and laughed about the fact that a) this type of this ALWAYS happens to us and b) at least we got our moneys worth. An unhelpful recorded message reassured us that “due to unforeseen circumstances your rotation had been terminated, do not panic & do not be alarmed” (!) and they cranked up the air con so much I had to huddle with the rest of the tourists in a borrowed woolly hat for warmth. Eventually we got moving again and we never did find out why we got stuck but I was certainly relieved to get my feet back on solid London ground again as I had been envisioning helicopter rescues.  I have definitely had my fill of the London Eye for life now. Never again! Not even in one of the swish champagne VIP pods.

 

 

 

 

 

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There are certain times you hear a song for the first time and you know that the moment will be forever engrained on your memory, no matter if that artist/band turns into a flitting one hit wonder interest, or a firm forever favourite. In the middle of October last year there was a bizarre week in London which I refer to as fake-summer. Despite crinkly autumn leaves skittering around the place and the fact I already had to huddle into my faux fur coat, suddenly the sun shone and the temperatures soared and scorched in the late twenties. It was one of these days that I was lazing around in my (at the time) shiny-new boyfriend’s bedroom, and it was stuffy and sticky and a song came on his shuffle. It made me sit up and get that rare tingly twinkly feeling on the back of your neck that is physically impossible to recreate on demand. A combination of the singers voice, the urgent melody and the lyrics (Everybody wants to see all the lovers in the streets, I don’t know why, And everywhere we go leaving trails in the snow, I don’t know why we long to be…)

I was still in the stage where I didn’t want to look uncool (!) so really ummed and ahhed about whether I should ask him who the singer was, feeling sure it must be someone hugely massively popular that in my real-summer of hermit living I had somehow missed. As the song finished I took the plunge and asked, because I knew I couldn’t cope without being able to hear it again very very soon and download it for myself. I was really shocked with he told me that it was in fact his little brother singing, otherwise known as Chime Hours. Shocked, but also pleased, because now we have become friends and I get to say that I knew him before he was a huge, famous rock star. Alright! To recreate my spine tingly first listen, you can check it out here.

I probably can’t sum up Chime Hours any more accurately than his own official bio, which says “Chime Hours (aka Philip Horton) weaves tales of love and loss around a distinct combination of guitar, vocal loops, drum machine and anything else that makes a noise” but reasons for adoring certain music is always subjective so I have to add my two pence worth. I think the thing Chime Hours does that really strikes a cord (and is a running theme in most of my favourite artists) is that his lyrics are beautiful. I know beautiful is a totally overused word and if I could create a new word to describe how haunting and goosebump-inducing they are, then I would. Each song creates an entirely new world or character or emotion, that sucks you in from the first to last beat.

Chime Hours repertoire is completely varied too. I think this is aided by his extraordinary vocal range where he can seemingly switch from heights even a tiny dog probably couldn’t reach (well definitely not in such a graceful and tuneful manner) back to bottom bass that vibrates through you. Listening to a few songs in a row is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster as they can go from making you feel gut wrenchingly sad to smiley head-boppy in swift succession. To experience this first hand I recommend you plug some earphones in and head over to…

Chime Hours Sound Cloud

& listen to the other three songs there. Wanton will leave you a bit meloncholy and breathless, The Waiting List will make you feel nostaligc and a bit lost, and Ha Woo will make you want to put the song on a tape and sing along in your car with the windows down! (Do cars still have cassette tape decks? I haven’t driven for six years but I really really hope so)

Even better, if you are a London-er  (particularly South of the river) trot down to Streatham on Friday and catch Chime Hours live at the The White Lion on the High Rd. He is on around 7.30pm and entry is the best price – FREE.

Please go show a lil’ love and follow & like too.

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Everyone likes to be able to say they discovered someone before everyone else and I would place a hefty bet that this will be the case in pretty soon judging the hype so far.. But yknow,  feel free to buy me a drink at the gig on Friday in advance to thank me.

 

 

 

 

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I definitely don’t count myself as any sort of fashionista and since the second most common comment when I interact with complete strangers (after you look like a vegetarian) is are you a student? I’m pretty certain the rest of the world agrees that my fashion ‘thing’ is generally being a bit higgeldy piggeldy and unpredictable. And permanently teenage. That bit is better.

But there is one thing that I adore, and will never ever stop adoring. And that is a BIG COLLAR.

Is there anything better?!

 

 

 

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This months spotlight is on a truley terrific gal from Northern Ireland – Claire aka French For Cupcake. Claires blog basically consists of all my favourite things – LOTS of baking, lots of recipes and lots of pretty dresses. Now when I say that Claire can bake, I mean she can really bake.  She could easily live off her skills in the kitchen department, as the magical things she conjours up are out of this world and oh so professional. I wish I lived close enough to pop round for a cup of tea and baked good!            

It’s my absolutely pleasure to be able to feature this very talented lady and I advise you to instantly add her to your reader; she never fails to put a smile on my face by immersing me in her magical world.

1. When did you start your blog & why? I started my blog in January 2009. I have kept a livejournal since I was 14 but I liked to keep that quite private so I wanted to find a more public platform for sharing my photos and a blog seemed to be the best way.

2. What inspired you in terms of content/theme/appearence? I have always loved documenting things, probably mostly boring everyday things that nobody would be interested in really! I worried for a while that my blog had no unifying theme and tried to stick to either fashion or food but then I realised others were just posting what they wanted and loving it so I decided to do the same. The appearance of my blog is very simple although I am in the process of redesigning!

3. How would you describe your blog in three words? Oh gosh, that’s hard. Probably sweet, creative and eclectic.

4. What do you love (/if anything hate) about your blog? I love when I get comments and emails from other girls telling me I have inspired them to have self confidence and feel proud in their own skin. That’s a big thing for me. To learn that I have taught girls that they can be beautiful no matter what their size makes me feel really happy. I don’t really hate anything, one thing I dislike about blogger, at least compared to livejournal, is that it’s difficult to reply directly to comments and I don’t want readers to think I am ignoring them! If anyone can help me with this let me know!


 5. What makes you the most happy and most sad? I am a girl of simple pleasures, the things that make me happy are films, a good cup of tea and or a night of dancing with my friends. What makes me sad? When my expectations of people are let down, I hate that.

 6. Who is behind French For Cupcake? Well I’m Claire, a 22 year old Masters student from Belfast in Northern Ireland. I love films (obviously) particularly French New Wave, and my focus of research is on gender theory within films, representations of women etc. I’m a true feminist and my academic writing tends to reflect that. I love folk and alternative music, my parents were complete hippies and I have been given their record collection (lucky me!). I particularly love Tori Amos, Edith Piaf, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel, Carole King and Laura Marling.

   
 
7. What is the best fact you know? Oh god, I don’t know what the best one is! I giggled when I read about penguin prostitutes.
 
8. Which others blogs do you feast on? I have hundreds of blogs added to my google reader, but these are some of my favorites:

Messy Carla
Ulrikah
WishWishWish
LLYMLRS
Elinkan

9. What is your all time favourite outfit? My taste is constantly changing, at the moment I’ll pick this one; because I love the shape of the dress and how it flatters my curves. I got it in  A-wear, I wish they would make the same dress in all colours!
 
10. What is your blogging soundtrack? Right now it is a mix of Robyn (I love her) and Alessi’s Ark. I like to listen to cheerful music when I blog!

    

   

11. What are your plans both fashion and otherwise to survive the predicted snowy winter? Lots of tea, hot water bottles, dvds, books, scarves, boots gloves and my trusty panda hat!

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This months blogger spotlight is someone I get a little starstruck by and am chuffed to bits that she agreed to feature for me. She’s a force to be reckoned with and a serious head girl of all things fashion and style. If you don’t have Rachael aka Fur Coat, No Knickers on your reader-list then you are missing a trick and a treat!

From her run-downs of latest designer catwalks to items she’s currently coveting, to her AMAZING Friday Afternoon Disco Spotify playlists (my ultimate favourite being the Doo-wop classics week!) and from her own super duper personal style to her pug and norwegian heavy metal obsession (and shared girlcrush – Isabel Lucas hello!)- every post is unique and unexpected and a delight to behold. & So is her interview…

1. When did you start your blog & why?
I have been blogging in one way or another since the dawn of internet time. My brother is a massive computer geek, so we had the internet from a very early date. I started with a Geocities site about NOFX, and have pretty much worked my way up from there. I can’t remember when my blog in its current format really began – I know I registered the domain when I was at university to use as an online portfolio, so probably about six years ago – although I moved to WordPress this year because it’s so much easier to handle. I guess I started my blog because I love the internet and have to be involved in all aspects of it, but also to serve as a kind of scrapbook of all the things I love. Also, as a journalist by trade, it’s good to have somewhere online where potential employees can scout you out!

2. What inspired you in terms of content/theme/appearence?
I did a fashion degree, then did a fashion journalism masters. Somehow after that, I fell in to hair and beauty journalism – which is what I do now for a living. I love my job, but I am still obsessed with fashion, so it’s really just somewhere to keep that side of my brain occupied. In terms of appearance… it’s a bit of a work in progress. I am quite fanatical about how blogs look, but I’m not quite sure where I want mine to be at the moment. It’s the constant recurring battle that I have in my life between chic minimalism and complete OTT naffness – I wish I could be sophisticated and just have a lovely white background, but I think have to face facts and accept I am not that way inclined at heart! Same with fashion – sigh.

3. How would you describe your blog in three words?
Shit I like? Hah! It really does cover a bit of everything though, from literature and music to fashion and beauty.

4. What do you love (/if anything hate) about your blog?
I love the fact I’m getting to do loads of fun projects with it – considering it’s really just a hobby outside The Day Job, I’ve been really lucky to do some fun things, with lots more exciting projects to come. I hate the fact that I don’t have time to update as much as I would like – despite being obsessed with the WordPress app on my iPhone.

5. What makes you the most happy and most sad?

I’m a fairly simple being, so it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Pugs, reading the Guardian in bed on a Saturday morning with spaghetti on toast, napping, gin… Not much makes me sad. It’s something which constantly annoys people in my office. I am that irritating, eternal optimist person. Not being able to afford these shoes?

6. Who is behind Fur Coat, No Knickers?
Just me, Rachael – despite the fact people keep emailing and asking if they can have a job?! I write about hair for a living, which is a very nice way to make your money. I live in New Cross, south east London, although I am a northerner really – from Sheffield. My musical tastes are pretty firmly pre-2000 because I’m a miserable old bastard, with favourite genres being heavy metal/punk/surf/general alternative stuff. I love anything touched by the hand of Phil Spector too, mostly Beach Boys and all the wonderful girl groups of the 50s and 60s. I love reading, and am currently going through a 1920s ‘thing’ which has now lasted about two years… Fitzgerald, Waugh, and obviously Wodehouse are all favourites, although I have also read a hlof of biographies of people from the era – everything from the Mitfords to Brilliant Chang. I love pizza, Henry Rollins, and have an inordinate knowledge of celebrity gossip.

7. What is the best fact you know?
The London Eye has 32 pods – one to represent each of the London boroughs. FACT!

8. Which others blogs do you feast on?
Anything in my link list comes with a big thumbs up, but my Google reader contains about a million more! IRL pals with blogs I love include my Twin, Iso, Sofie and Alex. Some recent discoveries are Hanneli, Beckerman Bite Plate, So Much To Tell You – and of course, Anna Della Russo’s blog, which is nuts.


9. What is your all time favourite outfit?

It’s not glamorous, but it would have to be The Hangover Outfit. I actually don’t have a picture of it, but it consists of the XXL Guns n Roses t-shirt I’ve had since I was about 11, and a paisley print maxi skirt. If it’s winter, add my Levis denim waistcoat and a grey marl American Apparel hoodie on the top. It’s the comfiest outfit ever, and it’s become so synonymous with me being hungover that on the odd occasion I wear it for a ‘normal’ day, my friends ask me what I did last night.

10. What is your blogging soundtrack?
OMG, good question. I don’t have a set soundtrack, just a huge Spotify collection, but at the moment I’m listening to a lot of Parliament/Mandrill/Funkadelic. I have an embarrassing love for the era. One of the hairdressers I interviewed recently used to be a DJ and he scribbled down loads of rare funk for me to purchase – although I am struggling to read his scrawled drunken napkin notes in the cold light of day!

11. What are your plans, fashion and otherwise, to survive the predicted snowy winter? The big furry coats from Next I blogged about recently, an attempt at sensible shoes – probably from ASOS, this hat, and the New Look Parka of Dreams layered over one million cardigans. And my Slanket, which was kindly sent to me by a PR last year. Best. Gift. Ever.

Isn’t she just awesome? I was nodding my head with every answer. So go check out her blog now now now!

[Previous spotlights= Blair On A Budget and Earth Vs The Wildheart]

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