A blog about travel, books and navigating your twenties in one piece

Sunday, 31 August 2014

On My 'To Read' Pile

A couple of weekends ago Mum and I went for lunch at Cafe Rouge in London Bridge, followed by a look around the Riverside Bookshop. It's become a bit of a tradition of ours to do just this and it was wonderful to have some mother-daughter catch up time.

My Mum used to work at Guy's Hospital in London Bridge so has been coming to this bookshop for years, it's such a lovely shop with some equally-lovely staff who never fail to recommend some books to add to my ever-growing pile of what I want to read. So, having bought three new books (I can never leave empty-handed) and an audiobook on recommendation, I thought I would share them with you as I'm very excited to read them!

'Eat My Heart Out' by Zoe Pilger's blurb: Ann-Marie is twenty-three, her life has collapsed, and she's blaming everyone but herself. Heartbroken, skint and furious, she's convinced that love (sweet love!) is the answer to her problems, until she meets the legendary feminist Stephanie Haight, a woman who could be her saviour - or her final undoing. From a neo-burlesque pop-up strip club, to an iconic Little Mermaid-themed warehouse party, via disastrous one-night stands with extravagantly unsuitable men, naked cleaning jobs, a forced appearance on Woman's Hour and baby boomer house parties in Islington, Ann-Marie hurtles through London and through life, urged on by Stephanie, who is convinced that if she can save Ann-Marie she'll rescue an entire generation from the curse of ironic detachment.

'Eat My Heart Out' was published this year and is Pilger's first novel. This book sounded a bit different to anything I've been reading recently and, even if it doesn't turn out to be my cup of tea, I have no doubt that it'll be entertaining so, as I'm coming out of a bit of a reading slump at the moment, this book was immediately added to the top of my reading pile. 

'A Girl is a Half-formed Thing' by Eimear McBride's blurb: Eimear McBride's award-winning debut novel tells the story of a young woman's relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour. Not so much a stream of consciousness as an unconscious railing against a life that makes little sense, it is a shocking and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings and chaotic sexuality of a vulnerable and isolated protagonist. To read A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is to plunge inside its narrator's head, experiencing her world at first hand. This isn't always comfortable - but it is always a revelation.

Another book that has been published recently and a debut novel. It feels like I've been seeing this book everywhere over the last few months. I know this probably isn't what should make you buy a book but I am just captivated by the title for some reason. That, combined with the idea of truly getting to know the protagonist of a book meant that this was straight on the pile too. I have a feeling that this book is going to be a pretty heavy one but I'm hoping that it's also going to be a fantastic read.

'Tenth of December' by George Saunders' blurb: George Saunders' most wryly hilarious and disturbing collection yet, Tenth of December illuminates human experience and explores figures lost in a labyrinth of troubling preoccupations. A family member recollects a backyard pole dressed for all occasions; Jeff faces horrifying ultimatums and the prospect of Darkenfloxx in some unusual drug trials; and Al Roosten hides his own internal monologue behind a winning smile that he hopes will make him popular. With dark visions of the future riffing against ghosts of the past and the ever-settling present, this collection sings with astonishing charm and intensity.

I'm not usually one to pick up short stories, although my Mum can barely wait for me to read Salinger's, this was entirely picked up as a result of it being recommended in the shop. I'm not all that sure what to expect from this book, but I'm quite excited to give it a go and see what I make of Saunders' short stories in Tenth of December.

'The Fry Chronicles' by Stephen Fry's blurb: Stephen Fry arrived at Cambridge on probation: a convicted fraudster and thief, a fantasist and failed suicide, convinced that at any moment he would be found out and flung away. Instead, university life offered him love, romance and the chance to stand on stage and entertain. He met and befriended young things like Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie and emerged as one of the most promising comic talents in the country. This is the utterly compelling story of how Stephen began to make his presence felt as he took his first tentative steps in the worlds of television, radio, theatre and film. Shameful tales of sugar, shag and champagne jostle with insights into credit cards, classic cars and conspicuous consumption, Blackadder, Broadway and the BBC. 

Before I found this I'd been looking for an audiobook for quite a while. I've found that when I can't sleep they're perfect to put on and stop me over-thinking a million things which basically delay sleeping even more than it already has been in the first place! This one is perfect for me as, not only is it not too heavy that I don't have to concentrate much in my sleepy state, but I also absolutely love Stephen Fry like 99% of our population do and am loving hearing snippets of his life at university read by the very man himself.  

So that's everything that's currently sitting on my bedside table waiting to be read (apart from the audiobook which is in my cd player). I'm hoping to get through them relatively quickly so that I can read as many books as possible before the end of the year! What have you been reading recently? I'd love some recommendations.

Friday, 29 August 2014

On The Things In My Weekly Shop

I got back from a lovely week in Dorset last night, which I'll hopefully be writing about sometime this weekend, and am feeling refreshed and ready to write about all the things I'd been planning to before I went away. So, if I can keep up with everything that's going on over the next few weeks, you're all in for a treat ;)

1. Peaches - I can't get enough of them with honey frozen yoghurt at the moment, they're also helping me to remain in a state of denial that summer is coming to an end (side note: am I the only person who isn't excited for Autumn yet?!)
2. Weetabix - for me, this is the most perfect breakfast.
3. Giant cous cous - this is going to be my new everyday lunch I'm certain; my friend Lydia introduced me to it in Dorset with feta, olives and sundried tomatoes and I have to say, it's so yummy!
4. Flowers - my Gran adores flowers and always manages to make them last for much longer than I ever could so it's an essential to buy those and make the house look all pretty.
5. Milk - because without milk there would be no tea and that would be a disaster.
6. Avocado - because it's *delicious*.
7. Smoked salmon - to eat with the avocado, trust me, they're a match made in heaven.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

On My Childhood Dreams

Sorry for the slight quiet here over the past few days - I've not quite been feeling myself (damn hormones) and have been pretty busy so although I've had so many ideas for things I want to write about on here, I just haven't felt like sitting down and writing it. But I'll do it as soon as I'm feeling back to normal, which I'm sure won't be very far off, promise. I'm also going to Dorset for six days tomorrow morning with some girl friends, which I think is just what I need to get back to feeling 100%, so I hope you'll bear with me over the next week or so! Anyway, onto this week's list.

1. To be a popstar/actress.
2. To be a poet (this was a very serious ambition when I was about ten).
3. To get married, preferably to an actor (read: Blaine from MI High on CBBC).
5. To own at least ten dogs.
6. To go to Disneyland.
7. To own heelies. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Currently #03


Reading: Democracy by Ross Harrison. At the moment my priority for what I'm picking up to read are books that I'm hoping to write about in my personal statement (which I still haven't gotten around to re-drafting nearly two months after having written the first draft, but let's pretend that's not true ;)) so this is one of those books. I'm finding it really interesting. It's a book on political philosophy and, unsurprisingly by looking at its title, has a focus around democracy and questions whether it's really the good thing we assume it to be. It's great in that it lightly takes you through all of the main philosophers' ideas, and then begins to use all of the main theories in a discussion to answer this question. I'm spending longer reading it than I would most books because it takes a lot more focus to really digest what Harrison is writing about; that and I end up re-reading parts when I have a highlighter on me so that I can easily flick back to the best parts at a later point!

Eating: Mum's delicious birthday cake (as pictured above). And other, slightly healthier things. But I mean, really, look at that thing. It has chocolate-covered strawberries on it! Every year Mum goes a little overboard on ordering a birthday cake. It was her birthday on Thursday and that evening we went out for dinner with lots of her friends but there was much too much for it to be finished at that sitting, the thing was giant! So I've been *helping* out by eating some of it, although Mum took most of what was left of it into work so it's not incredibly unhealthy.

Thinking about: How sad it is that good things must eventually come to an end. And how great it is that we get to experience these things. My summer holiday's nearly over and it feels like it's gone so so quickly. I love the freedom of having a break and finding the time to spend with people that I don't get to see as much as I'd like. I'm grateful for this time to recuperate and really appreciate my life and everyone in it. (Excuse the cheesiness, I'm feeling a little sentimental today).

Watching: Gossip Girl. Again. I finished House of Cards a couple of weeks ago, which I LOVED, and since then, instead of watching a new series, I've fallen back into the trap of Chuck and Blair and can't seem to stop myself from watching the next episode. It's the perfect series to get wrapped up in and to switch off a little. I'm also loving this year's Great British Bake Off already and can't believe how amazing Martha is!

Loving: That I bought three new books today and an audio book, which I think I'll write about very soon. I haven't bought any books in ages and I can't wait to read something that isn't for academic purposes if I'm honest. Like I said, I am enjoying Democracy but it's not something I can just read before bed when I'm exhausted like I usually do and I've been missing that so these books are keeping me energised to finish Democracy and get on to them!                                                                                                                

Friday, 15 August 2014

On What I See Right Now

1. A desk that is in serious need of a tidy.
2. A pile of university prospectuses.
3. Beautiful trees outside my bedroom window. 
4. My unmade bed with favourite floral bedding on it.
5. A massive pile of books on my 'to read' pile by my bed.
6. Open tabs on Google Chrome of things that need doing.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

On A Trip To West Yorkshire

I got back from staying at my sister's this afternoon and, boy, did I have a lovely time. This may sound odd but as I'm slowly getting older and older, family is becoming more and more important to me, and I feel so very lucky to have these munchkins as a part of mine. I go up to Cait's almost every Christmas and over the past couple of years have gone up on my own in the summer and sometimes at Easter. Harry came with me last year and wanted to come again this year - much to mine and Cait's surprise as he spends the majority of the time with my little niece and nephews running at/climbing on/sneezing over him!

As I mentioned in my last post, our train on Saturday morning was stupidly early and so we were exhausted by that evening; Harry was so tired that he didn't come out with us in the afternoon and decided to have a lie down instead, which was probably the safest option after spending the morning playing football with Alfie. While the boys had been playing footie, which Elena and I got bored of pretty quickly, we made chocolate cakes. They were delicious and I'll have to get the recipe from Cait because I'd love to make them again and share them on here too. We went out to the Huddersfield Food Festival while Harry had a lie down. It was great fun and I had a delicious homemade oreo ice cream.

The next day it was tipping it down so we went swimming at Barnsley Metrodome which is a perfect swimming pool for kids with a range of slides, a wave machine and two pools. We also spent a lot of time going to the park and having come back from it on Monday, decided to have an indoor picnic. It was actually my Dad's birthday on that day so, as he was in France, we thought it would be a great idea to stick a candle on one of the cakes we'd decorated, stick a picture of him in the middle and have the picnic in his name.. we're a normal family, promise!

It was a lovely few days away and it's always so nice for me to get to spend a bit more time with my family and get to know the kids more and more as they grow, which they're doing far too quickly for my liking! It's also nice to be home now though and I'm hoping to relax over the next few days after working last week and going up to Yorkshire straight after.

Friday, 8 August 2014

On Dinner At The Cricketers

Since my Dad and his girlfriend have been together (which is about two and a half years now) they spend their summers in France as that's where she lives so last week we decided to go out for dinner after I'd got back from Romania because I won't be seeing him until September now. It was such a lovely, warm evening that we decided eating outside to enjoy the weather was simply a *must*. And the perfect place in Epsom to go to do just that is the Cricketers. It's a lovely pub with outdoor seating overlooking the lake and some fields. They're quite good at rustling up food too!

I hadn't been to the Cricketers for about three years we worked out, the last time had been with my sister Tai and her then fiance Scott a few weeks before the wedding, so it was nice to go back after such a long time. As pictured, I had a chicken, bacon and cheese burger and chips. It definitely wasn't the best burger I've ever had for sure but it wasn't bad. It was so lovely to spend the evening sitting by the beautiful lake and enjoying the English weather for once! I still find it a little difficult communicating with Nicole (she doesn't speak English), although I can understand quite a lot of French I've found I can't speak it to save my life! It's a bit of a shame but Dad translates and it's not as awkward anymore.

We were much too full for pudding, (which is always a disappointment for me!), so Dad dropped me home fairly early as they got the ferry to France the next morning and had to get up at the crack of dawn to drive down to Dover for it. Speaking of which, Harry and I will be doing the same tomorrow morning as we're getting a 7am train from central London to Yorkshire to stay with my sister for five days. I can already tell that I'm going to be absolutely exhausted by tomorrow evening, probably by tomorrow afternoon if I'm being realistic! Anyway, it'll be quiet around these parts over the next five days and that's why, I hope you all have wonderful weekends xo

Monday, 4 August 2014

There's Nothing Better Than A Good Cup Of Tea

Something that made me very happy whilst in Romania last week (apart from seeing so many loved ones and the food, of course) was discovering this beautiful tea. We'd landed late on our first night in Romania, so on the second and first 'proper' evening we went to Gabi and Tudor's. Gabi and my Mum went to university together but didn't become close until about five years ago, hence me becoming great friends with Gabi's son, Tudor. Anyway my Mum, having lived in England for nearly twenty-five years, adores tea and can't seem to live without it. So inevitably when choosing something to drink at Gabi's, she was delighted to hear that they had tea, as were Harry and I (tea isn't such a popular drink in Romania).

The tea Gabi made us was the one in the picture above; Mariage Frères' Marco Polo Rouge. It's safe to say that Mum and I fell a little bit in love with it, leading me to go looking for where I could find it in London as soon as we got home. So, when Lucy, Hannah and I went shopping on Thursday I persuaded them to come to Selfridges with me which is the only place in London that sells it. It was a bit pricey for tea at £13.50 for the tin but I had been expecting it to be more to be honest so was quite happy to hand over the money for it. 

For me, it's definitely worth the price. I'm a self-confessed tea-aholic who had never tried red tea before, which Marco Polo Rouge is, and I'm loving being able to have a cup of it at my side whenever I crave it! It quite literally does what is says on the tin, it's red tea that tastes a little fruity, yet it's not over-poweringly fruity like I find some teas are. In short, as you can probably already tell, it's my perfect tea. I've just been looking at the Mariage Frères website and have found that they do an iced tea range - I'd better sign off quickly or my bank account will never forgive me!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

On A Holiday In Romania:: Busteni, Brasov, Sighisoara & Bran

Peles castle
The view from Bran castle - (so-called Dracula's castle)
The narrowest street in Romania
Supposedly Prince Charles' house in Viscri

Our few days in the mountains of Romania were lovely. Honestly, I preferred being in Bucharest with my friends and relaxing and it felt a little weird to be playing the tourist in a country that I've been coming to since I was a baby, although I don't actually know enough about Romania if I'm being completely honest. But it was nevertheless nice to be in the cooler mountains, to see new places and to show Harry a different side to Romania.

The castle in the first two pictures is Peles which is in Sinaia near Busteni, and was the summer home to Romania's King in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. We had a tour of it which I really enjoyed, it's such a stunning place on both the inside and the outside and truly impressive for when it was built; it had fully-functioning heating, lifts and hot water as well as many other impressive features. It was a real surprise for me as, although I love history, I've never been all that interested in castles so brushed off the tour as something that wouldn't interest me much but I was pleasantly surprised in that it was my favourite part of our time in the mountains.

That same day we visited Bran in Transylvania which is famous for being the home to 'Dracula's castle'. It never was home to Dracula of course although it is an impressive castle that is great to visit and while my Mum and her friends visited some old friends who live in Bran, Harry and I went to visit it. In Sighisoara Harry and I had our portrait drawn, which I don't actually have a picture of as he kept it, but it was strange to look at a drawing that looked in some ways so like us but at the same time just wasn't us, if that makes any sense!

All in all, our road trip to the mountains consisted of:

  • seeing a bear - Mum was absolutely shocked but it was late at night and we shouldn't really have been walking, although it wasn't interested in us in the slightest and we got inside quickly.
  • looooots of driving in a car full of people with no air conditioning - not fun. not fun at all!
  • also lots of eating - as is to be/should be expected.
  • visiting the village in which Prince Charles has bought houses - apparently he loves Romania, he's been visiting it quite a lot recently.
  • playing lots of wist - I think it's Harry's new favourite card game.
  • listening to Queen's greatest hits on repeat - it's a classic and good music is an essential for a road trip.

They were a great few days but I was happy to get back to Bucharest after seven hours of driving in the heat on the last day! And that's the end of my write-up of Romania. It was a really lovely holiday and so nice to catch up with so many people and eat such great food (do you think I've mentioned the food enough?? ;))

Friday, 1 August 2014

On The Good Things I've Done This Week

1. Been to see a family friend's Mum in hospital.
2. Not let my fear of flying get to me *too* much when flying on two planes in one day.
3. Improved my Romanian a lot (I think).
4. Put together a slideshow of our holiday in Romania to show to my Gran.
5. Ordered my Dad's birthday present and bought my Mum's - they're only three days apart!
6. Caught up with some of my favourites.
7. Donated a pound to charity when I was buying lip balm at Lush.
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