summer

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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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Every year, my dearest magical friend Craig and I have our annual day trip to the seaside.This year, as we both turned 30, we decided to ramp up the activity a little and go away for a day and a NIGHT! This meant we could travel a little further afield, and so we chose to zoom off to Norfolk. We both crawled out of heavy busy work weeks, and were in need of coffees the size of our heads at the thought of the long journey stretching out ahead of us. I picked up a car picnic of cherries, crisps and fizzy percy pig tails and soon our zip car (named Charlize!) was heading the right way from London. The journey took about 3 hours; mainly because the one road that takes you in and out of Norwich is currently being expanded. That’s great news for future visitors, but less great for people who want to drive down it now and its single carriage is packed with road works AND slow moving tractors. We also hit the tail-end of hurricane Bertha, which made for some tricksy driving conditions.

We stuck to our California road-trip specialist subjects (Craig driving, Me navigating) but this time my role extended to passing him water and also pouring crisps into his crotch (!) so he could chow down and keep one hand on the wheel. Some things you really can only do with close friends, and this is one of them. There was a reason we chose Norfolk, and that’s because it’s where Nick & I are getting married next year. Craig is (among other very exciting roles) chief of decoration, as I really don’t have the first clue and he made his music-festival-30th look so chic. So our first stop for the night was my Gran’s house, in order for Craig to recce the venue and start making some plots and plans. As soon as my Norfolk-based family hear there might be fresh meat in the vicinity, they flock down, so Craig spent the first night having an official “induction” which involved a frantic card game of Racing Demon with my cousin, aunt, uncles and gran. At 95, my gran still thrashed all 3 generations of us.

After an epic sleep (there’s definitely something in that Norfolk air) we started the day in the best possible way. Home-made ginger cake for breakfast, followed by a lesson on the spinning wheel, which Craig previously thought only existed in fairy tales.

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Then it was time to take a scamper around the grounds where Nick and I will be getting married. I won’t include too many photos because, well no-one wants too much of a spoiler before the big day surely. The sun was shining and the flora and fauna were in fine form; we’d be so lucky to get a day like that. I picked an apple that was as big as my entire face, and I reckon will be enough to fill a pie. There’s something so enchanting about this place!

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After another slice of cake, and an hour or two of my gran telling us incredible childhood and war stories; it was painful to tear ourselves away but we really did have to get a wriggle on and do what we came to do… see the sea! Also, thanks to Craig for being my stylist for the weekend. I had stupidly forgotten a spare tee-shirt so he kindly leant me his I <3 LA one which fitted a little too perfectly and is currently being held hostage. Not quite sure I am ready to give it back! The drive from Norwich to Cromer took about an hour. My gran was born in Cromer, therefore it’s a place I visited tons as a child but haven’t been to since my teens. I stuck to tradition, and we parked on the road my gran was born on (which is also handily free parking; therefore more money for tat from the tourist shops). I had a good peer at the house where my life-idol came into the world, the original name “Yerbury” is still etched into the gate, which is also my mum’s middle name in honour of it.

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Our first effort to fully de-Londonify ourselves was to head out towards Over Strand, where the beach is nestled next to miles of wild scrub. I love that Cromer has shingles and pebbles, but also soft sand and rock pools. We walked as far as we could see, stopping to scavenge for shells and to hunt for anemone. It was amazing how quickly we left the chaos of the town centre behind and were soon alone with the lapping sea and ramshackle abandoned beach huts.

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I don’t know how we manage it, but every year our day trip takes place in a different month and a different day, but whatever the weather forecast (usually beefy thunderclouds or remains of hurricane) we get tropical temperatures. As we stared out to sea, I felt the most at peace since I came home from travelling. You don’t need to get on a plane to find that sunny sweet spot when we get summers like this. The one thing I haven’t missed about UK beach offerings though, is these pests. Creepy wormy weirdos!

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After a good dose of salty air and stomping around, we headed back to dry land to explore the pier. Cromer is the only pier in the UK to still have a regular Pier Show, although we weren’t organised enough to catch it. We also discovered that the thing to do at Cromer pier is to go crabbing! Every inch of pier-side was packed with families who were hanging fishing rope off the edge, with bacon on the end to tempt crabs into the nets. The unlucky crabs are then collected in a bucket in order to show off to everyone else how many have been snagged. I wasn’t sure what the point was, so asked a local man who recoiled in horror when I asked if he ate them (Cromer is famous for it’s crab!) but these were just little nippers and he told me they catch them for fun, but they are all chucked back in the sea at the end of the day.

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By this point in the day we both had a hive-mind desire for one thing, and one thing only. A GIANT fish (and chips). We found somewhere called the No.1 Fish & Chips, so we figured that must be the best in town and we were not disappointed. We tucked into the feast whilst gazing back out to sea and with sand between our toes; which I swear improves the taste by 80% at least. It’s so special when you have a friendship that never suffers an awkward silence. Even after spending 36 hours together back-to-back, we were nattering none stop. It feels like we never run out of conversation, I guess because we are at that age were lots of big life things are happening; which need endless analysis – in between chip mouthfuls.

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After a doze in the sunshine and a stop off at the amusements and funfair, it was time to bid Cromer farewell. I was tempted by the teacups but have learnt from sickly experience that swirly-round-&-round rides do not mix well with having just eaten a giant fish dish. This has definitely been one of my favourite day trips of all time; as the town and beach were just the right amount of buzzy Vs busy; and there seemed to be an infectious good mood in the air. Almost everyone we passed smiled, said hi or just looked happy with life. This is something that is sorely missing from the London rat race sometimes! This, coupled with my gran’s endless wise sage advice and life lessons, left us both really inspired and feeling zen as we headed back to the M11. I say this every year, but I really need to do this more often. A day at the seaside felt as good as a holiday.

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If you’ve never visited Norfolk, I highly recommend it. And if you have, but never went to Cromer, then do that too! Just remember to pack your sunglasses.

Read all about or previous day trips here:

2013: Rye & Camber Sands

2012: Reculver

2011: Isle of Purbeck

2010: Eastbourne

 

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If you read my recent accounts of my Los Angeles adventures (part i & part ii) you will have gathered that I recently went on a work trip to America; where I spent 1 week working from the West (Best?) Coast and then jetted over to New York for another week. Obviously my initial reaction when finding out about this trip was WAHOOooooooOoOooOooooOOo! However, my second instant reaction was, what the HECK am I going to pack for 2 weeks, 2 cities and 2 entirely different weather systems (not to mention an itinerary of formal work presentations, tourist treks and bar crawling)?

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After weeks of jotting down outfit plans in Evernote and hours of frantic trying-on sessions which resulted in my room looking like it had been burgalised on more than one occasion; I finally had a suitcase filled with lessons learnt on how to pack for two VERY different climates. In LA the weather hovered around 28-30 degrees with blazing sunshine; although out on the coast there was a wind chill to contend with. In NY there was a blizzard to welcome my arrival and the weather barely crept over zero degrees, mainly sticking to the minus section of the thermometer. I found it really tough to adapt by the time I reached New York as I had got so used to just skipping out into the California sun every day, so on my first lunch break in NY I eagerly packed up my bag and embarked on the 4 flights of stairs down to the street in just my cardigan. I had got so used to the bliss of no-coat living. The second I stepped out into the frost bitten city streets I realised my error and skulked back up 4 flights to retrieve my coat, scarf, gloves and did NOT make that mistake again!

Top Tips for Hot to Cold to Sunny to Snowy Packing

01. Layers 

It’s the classic mum-advice whenever you visit a different climate and if it’s good enough for mums worldwide you just know it must be wise owl stuff, and it definitely is the first rule of thumb for packing for multi-climates. I would have a basic outift, then a multitude of others bits and bobs that I would carry around in a tote bag ready to layer on as the sun set or the snow set in. I sound smarter if I make it look mathematical:

cardie
cardie + hoodie
cardie + hoodie + scarf
cardie + hoodie + scarf + leather jacket
cardie + hoodie + scarf + leather jacket + coat
cardie + hoodie + scarf + leather jacket + coat + knit headband
cardie + hoodie + scarf + leather jacket+ coat + knit headband + bobble hat
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Even when I was beach-bumming around Malibu I still had a few emergency layers stuffed into my bag for when the sun set. You can see from this photograph, taken on the same day, I could wear a short-short dress and cardy during the day, but by dusk I had added my trusty American Apparel hoody, pink cotton scarf-snood and a pair of Uniqlo thermal leggings. Which takes me neatly onto…

 02. Thermals

I have been a fan of thermals ever since you could only buy them M&S and they were of the frilly/holy/granny variety. Luckily nowadays thanks to the kings aka HEATTECH Uniqlo and their subtle, fashionable thermal collection, life for chilly boned bods like me has vastly improved. In fact the latest tie-up between Uniqlo & Orla Kiely produced such thermal beauties that they were begging to be worn for the world to see, rather than buried beneath winter woollens. For my trip I took a camisole, vest, t-shirt, long-sleeved and legging versions of the Uniqlo thermals. I also took thermal tights; which you can pick up in Primark and are so thick they don’t have a denier. They are like leggings with feet! Finally, I took my trust thermal socks. If you have survived winter without making the discovery that is thermal socks with all your toes intact, I want to shake your hand! Thermal socks are the worlds best invention. They are fluffy, furry and take the heat you create whilst walking around and circulate it around your hoofs leading to toasty, happy feet. Mine are from Primark but I have spotted higher-brow versions in Fat Face.

03. Key Pieces

The skill of any great packer is an eye for key pieces. There is nothing worse than chucking a bunch of stuff in a bag and arriving at your destination to discover not one item matches! I have been guilty of this myself; usually when I’ve been travelling somewhere on a Saturday and just one drink after work on Friday turns into staggering in at 2am and up-ending a drawer into my weekend bag and hoping that the items somehow miraculously turn into outfits en route. They never ever do. One of my key pieces for this trip was my cream lace midi dress. It’s comfortable, work/fun friendly and they main reason is; it looked lovely in LA with just bare legs and sandals. It also looked as lovely in NY with tights, clompy lace-up boots and all the layers listed above. I used a snazzy Stylight board here to highlight what I mean, I could spend hours on Stylight making boards. It’s certainly captured my cut & paste/mood board interest where Pinterest failed.

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Here is another good example of a versatile outfit pick. I’m obsessed with this birdcage tropical River Island T-shirt (a steal at £15!) and in the Cali sun I matched it with a denim highwaist buttondown skirt and sandals and a leather jacket for the evening. In NY it worked just as well with thick tights and my boots and a woolly cardie.

04. A good excuse for SHOPPING

Now lets just get this straight. You don’t want to pack toooooo well, as if you have a few items missing it’s the perfect justification to hit the shops. By the tailend of my second week on the road, life was getting stale. That musty aeroplane/suitcase smell was wafting after me like a cartoon cloud and I was thoroughly sick of the same few choices. So, I scuttled to Broadway and spent the last of my precious per diems in Forever 21, Madewell & American Eagle. Was I sensible in my picking up of warm weather supplies? No, of course I got dazzled by the stocks of spring/summer/sunny offerings so shivered my way through the final weekend and am now seriously hoping we get a glimpse of sunshine so that I can debut my results of New York foraging.

I will be posting all about my Big Apple antics this week, but in the meantime I wanted to say thanks Shopping Unlike for picking Like A Skeleton Key as a highlight on their blog this week and giving it this write-up. Shucks.

 

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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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6th June 7th June

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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It may be grotty ‘summer’ weather, but I still think London is the most beautiful, diverse place I’ve ever lived. These are all photographs taken within one week of each other. I think I walk around gawping and gaping more than any tourist who visits!

 

 

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If you were wondering what I’ve been doing all summer…

I have a serious case of instagramatitus. I’m no longer interested in any element of life that I can’t apply a sun-dappled nostalgic filter to and swoon at it’s beauty!  Although, just as I got into the addict spectrum, my iPhone broke. Overheated and apparently it’s terminal! I wonder if there was a connection between discovering Instagram and this…?

So for now I am stuck with a £12.99 brick that doesn’t even have predictive text! In fact the only thing I have worked out how to do is set the ‘Greeting Message’ (remember them!) to “I’m a stupid hunk of junk”. Yup.

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This will be my last NYC holiday blog post, thanks for bearing with me! I just knew if I never documented the trip in any detail anywhere, then it would slip off into the sands of time and after a few weeks back in real-world Bee life I would barely be able to recount the places I saw or the best memories and it would just feel like a dream.

I have missed out about 1000 minute details too like the man we met who own a bar called The Crooked Tree and gave me a free chocolate & mango crepe and a glass of his house delicacy – prosecco with a merlot sorbet float! Or the fact most houses I saw on the greyhound drive looked like the one from Amityville . The shooting stars I saw out in the mountains and the dragonfly as big as a dinner plate. The morning we lazed in bed and watched Maury and the show was called Think your spouse is fooling around with the delivery man? (How specific?!) or the day we got a taxi in the rain and I saw lightening hit the Empire State building. I suppose I will have to rely on my battered NewYork moleskin packed with scribbled wobbly notes for them!

On our last morning in Williamsburg we went to an amazing little diner called Pies n Thighs. Just check out their brunch menu and feel our pain when it made no sense whatsoever! I opted for a hippie banjo which was sprouts (!) egg tomato and cheese on a biscuit (which is a scone to us Brits) and the beau had a Rob Evans which was scarmbled egg, cheese and gravy on a biscuit. Apart from the undeciferable menu, the food was amazing and we were served by a girl who wore super mario dungarees and was maximum friendly. We then went on a hike across the Brooklyn bridge…

It was a cloudy day but the views were still amazing and we were on a mission anyway, to Grimaldi’s – apparently the best pizza in New York. Tucked away under Brooklyn Bridge, whatever the day, time OR weather there will always be a queue of at least 20 people. We waited for 40 minutes and eventually shuffled into a booth and I’m going to go against the grain and say it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had in my life BUT the set up, the traditional chefs shouting in Italian to each other over the tables and the amazingly random decor definitely made it one of my best NY experiences.

I’m sure thousands of tourist types go to New York and never venture anywhere near the library which is such a crying shame. Even if you aren’t the worlds hugest Ghostbusters nerd (err, that’d be me) then you can appreciate the incredible architecture and endless rooms and offices and specialist areas and nooks and crannies. That is me in the ACTUAL aisle where the librarian ghost scene was filmed. It’s so typical that I don’t have a single photo of me in Times Square… Statue of Liberty… Empire State…  but of course I have a tourist shot in the library! We found some amazing old records too of all the ferrys that arrived from England and Ireland pre-war, with the names of every single person who came.

My number one recomendation if you are in NYC is that you check out St Marks Place. That was definitely my favourite place for drinking and socialising. It’s a wonderful road packed with cafes, diners, Japanese saki bars, and was where I felt most at home. On St Marks place was a bar called PDT (Please Don’t Tell!) which we had read about in Time Out on the flight over. It’s in such high demand that we had to phone at 3pm on the day to make reservations and the lines were busy for HALF an hour (hello £100 phonebill, urk) and then when we got through, we got the last table. The concept is that PDT is a speakeasy. From the outside, it just looks like Criff Dogs which is a working, functioning hot dog diner. However if you have a reservation you pass through Criff Dogs to a payphone in the corner. You dial a code and then the door swing open and you are quickly ushered into a 1920s Speakeasy. It IS prohibition and you must mutter and mumble so as not to draw attention, as you sip the most amazing and intricate cocktails. It was such a unique experience and everything from the barmen in bow ties, to the language used in the menu, to the spirits available is as authentic as possible.

For the last few days we stayed in Manhattan, near Chelsea Market. I visited the chess men, and I don’t think this guy was very happy I caught his losing being mocked on camera! Then, a pilgrimage to Magnolia Bakery…

We picked up the cakes to take-away, and ate them in the courtyard under the Rockerfellar Centre. We opted for a Red Velvet and a Chocolate Devil Food and they were, as expected, out of this world good. The scariest thing was that although they were incredible – moist, rich and delish… but dangerously they were so fluffy that you felt like you could easily eat about 20. In fact when we were queuing for our purchases (you take them from the bakery counter, then to a seperate cashier to pay), a girl behind me devoured her two WHILST STILL IN THE QUEUE TO PAY. That would so be me if I lived in New York.

As we sat eating our cakes, my beau said there’s a storm coming, I can feel it and I looked at him like alright Mystic Meg! Jog on! It’s all white sky and no grey clouds!

Fast forward ten minutes and as we are walking to the subway, a crash of thunder shakes the city and suddenly we are in the most torrential rainstorm! We had to cower in a tourist shop whilst the thunder roared and lightening crackled and the radio started talking about the TORNADO about to hit Manhattan! It was all quite dramatic and although after a while we braved the weather and skipped through the rain getting soggy feet – the tornado did really hit Queens and destroyed two roads of houses and killed one woman. So that was my first taste of real extreme weather I’ve ever had and it was a little bit un-nerving.

On our last night we really went large in Brooklyn. As I mentioned on my return, we went to the quirkiest place called Barcade which is basically cocktails + all the BEST old school arcade machines = :]) And obviously the merrier you get, the better you think you are at games like Pacman, Outrun and my personal favourite Paperboy. Or in my case, you get more and more outraged that you can’t complete one level and start thinking it’s a comlete fix and telling everyone you meet so. Ahem…

  

We then managed to accidentally gatecrash a lovely ladys bachalorette party and join the party train to a Hiphop club where we were the only ones on the dancefloor for many hours. I can’t remember much about getting home except that we got a really shady non-taxi who only charged $8 from Brookly to Manhattan… errr!

Safe to say on my last day in NYC I was a complete state. We checked out late because it took me an hour to even be able to lift my head from the pillow. We then had reservations at the very hard-to-get-into brunch at Essex. I had been SO excited about our last brunch (and the unlimited bloody marys!) but when we actually got there I could do nothing but sit and shake and try not to be sick. I couldnt touch a drop of alcohol and couldn’t eat my banana and chocolate pancake either – I had to ask for it in a doggy bag. Mortifying! I was so cross with myself! I also was spotted! by the adorable Helen who happened to be brunching in Essex too. What a small blogworld it is. I’m absolutely cringing that she saw me in such a shrivelled, sad state of affairs! Luckily, a brisk walk across the WIlliamsburg bridge to say a final goodbye to the NY skyline sorted me out enough to be able to get on the plane with out too much fuss but a 6 hour flight with a raging hangover is something I will never repeat! I literally sat weeping to myself and half watching The Runaways.

So, I get it now. I get New York and why everyone loves it enough to emblazen their adoration on their teeshirt, and sing about it and set endless movies there. I of course like anyone who’s ever visited, am now hellbent on moving there at some point. And you know what, I have a feeling it might just happen! I don’t think I’m finished with the big apple just yet…

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We spent the next part of the holiday staying in Williamsburg. This was a part of the holiday I had been apprehensive about, as we were staying in an appartment that had been recommended by a friend – but is basically a room in someones flat that he rents out to tourists for £50 a night (unHEARD of in NYC!) and so I was a little nervous about what awaited us as his emails had been a bit terse and I was having Hostel-like fears that it did sound like the start of a horror movie scenario! When we arrived – the tiny graffitied door in what looked like a car garage didn’t exactly ellay our fears!

Luckily, behind the door lay a sprawling, bright and airy appartment with the most amazing decor and the guy renting the room was absolutely amazing. Our room had a slight prison-cell feeling (no windows!) but was huge and right in the heart of everything going on in the big W. I absolutely ADORED Williamsburg and think if I was to (fingers crossed) get to relocate there at some stage for work, it would be there that I would flat hunt. It had a young, modern, laid back vibe with tons of amazing street art, little nookys and crannys filled with vintage shops and flea markets. All the cafes and food was quirky and homely and we  met some of the friendliest folk there.

Here is my absolute favourite NYC outfit of mine: daisy playsuit (from Primark!), geek glasses from ASOS and bronze ballet pumps. We picked a pefect blue-sky scorcher to walk across the Williamsburg bridge to the Lower East Side (recommend this to everyone!) and we even spotted Tobey Maguire jogging past us & Chloe Sevigny riding her bike.

Once in Lower East Side we stopped off at possibly my favourite New York location…

So, even if you aren’t a fan – you have to go and check out Peanut Butter & Co’s Menu. Luckily I AM a huge PB fan, in any form, any how and so this place was a little slice of heaven for me and my belly. It was a tough choice but we decided to opt for sampling The Elvis (apparently his all time favuorite sandwich? if so I can see why he was heart-issue bound) which was Peanut Butter, Bacon, Honey and Banana! And it was dee-lish. The second was they Bagel of the Week which was Peanut Butter, Cream Cheese and Apple. Again it was a taste sensation. The whole cafe is decked out in old PB adverts, packaging and there is a huge shop where you can buy just about every type of Peanut Butter going. We then spent the day people watching in Washington Square Park before passing through Grand Central station which as with most well known tourist/film locations was slightly underwhelming in some ways but still absolutely beautiful.

That night we headed to a modest, unassuming little bar and food place in Williamsburg called Fatty Cue. We walked in to a rammed bar expecting to have to perch in a corner, but were instead led through a warren of narrow corridors into a beautiful half-outdoor eating patio. This actually turned out to be the best meal of either of our entire lives! So if you head to NYC, it is worth a trip over the bridge for. The food was un-catagorisable but just quirky, exciting and modern and all with a waiter on hand to guide on how to eat it (lots of using your fingers) and I sampled my first lavender cocktail which seemed to be the thing in NYC – and it definitely made me view the herb in a different light than old lady perfume and draw liners.

The next day we went to the World Trade Centre site. I had ummed and aahed extensively about if I even wanted to visit ground zero. A huge part of me felt slightly ghoulish and dis-respectful somehow. But a bigger part of me felt as someone who never visited pre-9/11 it would be dis-respectful to spend time in this incredible city and not dedicate any part of it thinking and reflecting on this amazing architectural feat and building, then the huge event that took place there, and the impact it has had. At first ground zero, weirdly, to me looked just like a huge building site. I was struggling to connect the horrific memories and images to this mile of cranes and foundations.

But we then visited the WTC Trribute Centre and it was an experience unlike anything else I have ever experienced. Obviously in no way was it comfortable but it left me humbled and definitely feeling that life had been shaken very much back into perspective. The most admirable part was that it was created by relatives and friends of those lost at the WTC and a substantial part of the gallery is dedicated to immersing you in what life was like at the WTC before the tragedy. It was educational and really interesting, but also made everything feel even more heartbreaking as the WTC represented such hope, such pride and such community. The rest of the gallery contains details of the day, artefacts, missing posters, news reports and items such as one of the recognisable gnarled, burnt windows from one of the planes. It also has a wall with photographs of the majority of the victims. I’m actually crying just writing this because it really did personalise an event which although shocking, has always felt quite distant to me. Seeing that wall of smiles, families, memories… it was just too much. The memory of that emotion will never leave me. The gallery space has about 7 boxes of tissues dotted around on benches. Standing with a room full of strangers, most with tears rolling down their faces, is very surreal.

After spending a couple of hours in there, walking back out into the sunlight and seeing the site with completely new eyes was hard. I only took one photograph, which is of the two original steel tridents from the twin towers (which formed part of the entrance) which had just been returned 2 days earlier for use in building the Memorial Museum.

As I stood gazing over at the site, in silence, wondering how the hell we could just get on with a normal day now… I noticed what I thought was litter in the sky. As I squinted, I realised it was a HUGE butterfly. It flew around in front of me, and then around the men building, and the girders of the Freedom Tower, and then back close enough for me to take a photograph of before flying away. Take from this what you will, but in a second of despair, that butterfly comforted me and gave me hope and it felt like a really profound and fortunate thing to happen.

I’ll leave this there; bored of my NYC ramblings yet? Only one more I promise, then normal service will resume! It’s really more for my sieve-brain benefit than anything so apologies if you are thinking snore.

DON’T forget to enter/tweet my NYC Giveaway! it closes TOMORROW!

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Our third day in NYC was cloudy but we braved the gloom and headed to Central Park which is as incredible as everyone says. Forget any oh-its-like-Hyde-Park-in-London preconceptions, this park is VAST. And it has so many fun things to stumble across around every corner.

   

We went on a carousel, had a belini at the boathouse, took a rowboat out onto the lake (and got stuck more than once trying to explore illegal narrow streams!) we saw plenty of amazing musicians, photography lessons, art exhibitions and a dog-training school with every type of dog in a group from a baby chihuahua to a St Bernards (can you spot them?). It really is a sanctuary but with sky scrapers still towering around every corner.

That night I met a colleague for dinner and after feeling all smug and like I understood the subway; I hadn’t grasped the difference between local (stop every stop) and express (miss stops out) and ended up unable to get to the subway I needed for the restaraunt. In the end I had to RUN from 34th Street to 18th Street in wedges (that’s 16 big blocks) and was 30minutes late to meet her. What a faux pas. Luckily she was very patient and as soon as I realised she was Americas biggest Blur fan we quickly got over any cultural differences. We ate at an amazing mexican – Rosa Mexicano where they come and make the worlds best guacamole in front of you in a bowl as big as your head. The margaritas weren’t half bad either.

The next day it was all aboard the Greyhound for a 5 hour drive to Pittsfield where I was going to my beautiful friends Mel & Scotts wedding out in the mountains.

  

The greyhound wasn’t as bad as everyone makes out; it smelt like pickles but had free wifi. It was also amazing to see so much of America out of the window. I saw pumpkin patches, huge ‘Amytiville’ style houses, proper motels oh and a shop that simply had a sign saying Beer & TV Repairs. Ummm…

  

  

The wedding was incredible from start to finish. The night before as everyone congregated out at Buck Steep (manor hotel out in the middle of nowhere… supposedly haunted and I can definitely see why!) we had a bonfire under the perfect stars. Everyone chatted and snuggled for warmth and there was ghost stories and guitar playing and lots of junk food and local ale! It was like being on adult summer camp and one of the highlights of my trip. The funniest part was when a girl offered my beau a cookie and told his they had wheat in them. Halfway through his second he turned to me and asked why did I need to know they had wheat in them… are lots of americans wheat sensitive or something? And I quickly helped him realise what exactly was in them, something more herbal than wheat altogether… !

The wedding day was gloriously sunny with clear blue skies and was a very romantic affair with beautiful vows, stunning bridal party, sparklers and lots of fun late into the night.

We headed back to NYC the next day and had a cheeky Shake Shack on route. If you are ever in New York you have to eat here! It’s like a very very upmarket MaccyDs. The most amazing burgers, crinkly fries AND phenomenal milkshakes including peanut butter and oreo flavours. They also played DeathCabForCutie the whole time we ate, which you wouldn’t get in any UK fast food joint…

     

Then we snuck up onto the roof terrace of the Hudson Hotel (and I don’t do lifts, so reckon the 16 flights of stairs definitely cancelled out the burger face!) where we watched the sun set over the river and I took some of my favourite photgraphs of New York.

More soon; including falling in love with Williamsburg, the top celeb spots of my life and discovering what the Elvis sandwich is…. and eating one.

Don’t forget to enter & hype the NYC Giveaway. Only 5 days left!

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