Friday, 31 May 2013

Finally Over!

That glorious day has finally arrived...I have finished my exams! I feel like that giraffe from Lion King (you know the one)

Blinking step into the sunnnnnn!

In my case I literally did step into the sun blinking as it is an absolutely gorgeous day today. I feel like the weather is celebrating with me! Everyone's coming over to the house tonight and we're all having a few drinks to celebrate the long haul being over. But that is not to say I shall be just spending my days lolling around the place, oh no! For I have sat myself a challenge of most epic proportions. Well....of proportions that much is certain. For I present to you now, my Summer Reading Challenge! (you can tell it's important because it's capitalised...)

  1. Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood
  2. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
  3. Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen
  4. The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
  5. The Fault In Our Stars - John Green
  6. The Enchantress of Florence - Salman Rushdie
  7. Stone Gods - Jeanette Winterson
  8. Daughter of the Empire - Raymond E. Feist
  9. The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller
  10. Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
  11. 1984 - George Orwell
  12. The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey
  13. Wind Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami
  14. Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
  15. Beloved - Toni Morrison

The list is a mix of things that can roughly be split into three categories: classic books that I really should have got round to reading, more modern books that are supposed to be brilliant, and then fun ones that I've been meaning to read for ever. I have calculated that there are seventeen weeks between the first of June and the first of October, which gives me just over a week for each book. Factor in the fact that I expect I shall have to do some dissertation reading in between that and I have my challenge! I'm really excited for this as I feel like it has been so long since I've really been able to just read a book for fun. I shall review each book as I go along so you guys will all know if I fail the challenge! Leave a comment below if any of you are planning reading challenges as well, I'd love to hear what books you have on yours! For now, I shall leave you as there is a nice, chilled glass of wine waiting for me downstairs, and I have the terribly difficult job of choosing which book to start with!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Childhood Heroes: Winnie the Pooh

My copy!

First off, big apologies for the lack of activity happening at the moment! I am currently in the middle of exams so as you can expect I am dedicating all my time to that. Any time when I'm not revising is generally spent eating, sleeping and occasionally having days off with the lovely boyfriend. However, seeing as I have just got one out of the way and have a week until the next, I thought I would seize the slightly calmer moment and stick to the biweekly schedule of this series! (Cause I'm all about schedules at the moment...)

Don't lie to me by saying you never played Pooh sticks like this!

Due to the fact that I slightly stressed and busy at the moment, I thought it was only fitting that I should focus on a character whose advice can be especially useful at times like this! I am talking, of course, about my wise friend Winnie the Pooh. Often dismissed as a bear of little brain, he comes out with some extremely wise sayings! Here is a little list to prove my point:
  • "I'm not lost for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost"
    Now, a lack of a sense of direction runs in my family. On one memorable visit to Portabello Road with my mum ended with us setting off to meet our friends, power walking up the road to be there on time, only to find out we had gone the wrong way. It is only thanks to a very lovely old lady and a convenient bus that we actually got there anywhere near the time we were supposed to. However, through the many times we have taken rather longer journeys than were initially intended we have always been very aware of where we are. It has always been where the destination is that's the problem...But I feel like these ramblings are what add to the journey! We have explored areas we wouldn't have otherwise discovered, and we have many amusing tales to share with people. I feel like Pooh understands this!
  • "For I am a bear of very little brain, and long words bother me"This relates to a very vital lesson I have learnt in uni. Just because a word sounds fancy, does not mean it is necessary or useful! I am guilty of overcomplicating arguments in my essays by using words that I think mean one thing, but which actually mean something completely different. I've learnt to be careful with my language choices in essays now and always make sure I very clearly know the meanings of words that are key to my arguments.
  • "Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them"
    Confession time: when I was about nine I wrote a poem for class called The Dandelion. It was from the dandelion's point of view (of course, what else?) and was lamenting the fact that it was viewed as a weed whereas daisies and pansies were lauded as beautiful flowers. To my perspective, I was highlighting the unfairness of prejudice and judging people on their appearance through the metaphor of flowers. To everyone else, I had a very strong and defensive attitude towards dandelions. Let it never be said that I was not a rebel of the highest order.
  • "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard"
    I feel like I am very blessed to have such lovely friends and family in my life! So if ever I get homesick or miss them while I'm away I try to turn it around and feel happy that I have such wonderful people in my life in the first place.
  • "The things that make me different are the things that make me me"
    Ok so I know that seemingly everyone nowadays is always saying how important it is to be yourself, but that only serves to highlight how important a message that is! It can be very easy to try to fit in with others because being different usually entails putting yourself in situations that are not safe and predictable which can be very scary. But in a way that's the whole point. You can only achieve your fullest potential if you embrace the aspects that make you unique and explore and develop them. Obviously, it is much easier to say these things than actually do them. However, I feel like as I'm getting older I am channelling this message much more than I used to and really enjoying the experiences gained just from being myself and not worrying about how everyone else does things.
  • "Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you. And all you do is go where they find you"
    I have a silly relationship with creative writing. I have so many ideas but I'm always far to scared of getting them wrong to actually try and write them. At the same time, I also have the logical knowledge that if I never get the courage to write them then not only will they be wasted, but I'll never improve enough to be adequately able to express them! I have the intention of spending summer changing this view by putting those worries to one side and seeking out ideas and writing them. This blog is actually part of my journey for this. It proves that if I can just sit down and write my thoughts without the pressure of them having to be perfect or beautiful. I can just express myself in a straight forward way and it is very enjoyable. Next step, finishing some stories I started far too long ago!
  • "If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you"
    I have this in a tiny frame on my mantlepiece at home and it means a lot to me. My mum gave it to me when I was little, so I thought I would include this in the list just for nostalgia's sake! Because no matter how stressed I get from exams and no matter how 'grown up' I get, I always know my mum is there for me whenever I need her. Which sometimes is all you need to know to get you through!

Another way Pooh proves his wisdom is his suitable esteem for honey.

I also think that Pooh has good focuses in life. He is primarily concerned with food and friendship, which I find I respect in a person! Let me know if you guys have any favourite Winnie the Pooh (or others from the Thousand Acre Wood!) quotes and we can all bask in our love of fictional bears together. Or do you guys have sayings by other people that help you out in times of stress? Hope anyone with exams is doing alright!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Recipe Time: Mozzarella, Mango & Ham Salad

Time for a nice, summer recipe! I got this off of the BBC Good Food website and I will post the link at the bottom of the page. I just thought this was so delicious it had to be shared!

I was so amazed at how simple but full of flavour this dish is! The original recipe is a bit fancier than mine, but I thought I would substitute some ingredients so that it becomes an everyday lunch rather than fancy starter. So where the recipe calls for rocket, fresh basil and serrano ham, I just bought the salad that coop had on offer (I am a student after all!), dried basil (easier to store in the cupboard) and normal ham. 

Et voilĂ ! My ingredients!

As you can see, the salad only consists of four elements meaning that I can actually afford to treat myself to it as lunches! It's really quick and easy to make as well. My only issue being that I have issues cutting mangos properly! I always make a mess of it. But other than that it's very easy!

Luckily one of my house mates swooped in to help me with my mango difficulties!

Essentially just roughly cut up as much mango, ham and mozzarella as you want and mix it in with the salad! Then that takes us to the dressing. The quantities on the recipe serve 4, but I kind of ignored them and just did everything to taste. I tend to like a fair bit of dressing on salads otherwise I get a bit bored of them, so I did roughly 2tblsp of olive oil, 3tblsp of sweet chilli sauce, the juice of half a small lime and 1tblsp dried basil. I really like the taste of sweet chilli, so others might want to lower the amount of it.

 All you need for a flavoursome dressing!

Just mixed up

Smothered in dressing!

And then all there's left to do it eat it! I just really love this dressing. A little goes a long way due to how flavoursome it is. I like to eat healthily and enjoy fruit and veg, but I've never been a particularly big salad person. I think that's why I'm so impressed with this one! It's got me looking forward to having a salad for lunch which is an achievement! With this being exam season, I'm really trying to make sure I keep eating lots of fresh food rather than falling into the trap of always throwing frozen meals into the oven. So to have this salad be so delicious, but also quick and easy, is really great!

Check it out here:

Let me know what you guys think!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Summer Music Vol.1

With an exam coming up in a few days I have spent the majority of today sat indoors, shunning the sunlight and revising (I lead a truly exciting life). To make up for the lack of sunny rays being experienced at the moment, I decided to go through some of my favourite summer music while I worked! Here is a quick list for you guys, I'm calling it volume 1 because I am sure there are many more albums to be added to it!

1. Heartthrob - Tegan and Sara
I won't go into much detail here, see the review for my thoughts! It has definitely become my 2013 summer album though.

2. Surrealistic Pillow - Jefferson Airplane
Everything about this album screams summer to me. You've got the upbeat jangly-guitar songs like She Drives Funny Cars and Somebody To Love that make you want to dance around the room, but also really folk-styled, mellow songs like Comin' Back To Me and Today. Sixties music in general seems to embody summertime for me, but this album really hits the nail on the head. I love how when you hear the songs on their own, they seem to embody different musical genres, but the album together flows really well.

3. Eliza Doolittle - Eliza Doolittle
I went to see Eliza Doolittle probably about 4 or 5 years ago now, mostly because my friend didn't want to go on their own. I went into it only knowing Pack Up, and I can safely say it was actually one of the most enjoyable gigs I have been to! This might have had something to do with the fact that the audience mainly consisted of 12 year olds with their parents, but it was just lovely not having mosh pits springing up around me for once! (I don't know how but they always start right in front of where I am, I'm like a magnet!) I just find this whole album a lot of fun. It's all very upbeat and is perfect for both dancing to and just relaxing to (or in my case, revising to!). Particular favourites include Mr Medicine and Missing.

4. Torches - Foster The People
There's probably some sort of theme developing here, where I keep saying how light, poppy music makes me think of summer and this is another example. I also find this album really helps me revise though because whilst it has lots of interesting songs on it, they aren't too attention grabbing and don't distract me. 

5. What We Did On Our Holidays - Fairport Convention
As soon as Sandy Denny starts singing I instantly feel in a great, chilled out mood. She has such a distinctive voice that is so lovely. This whole album is just brilliant. I love folky music and this album is one of my absolute top of all time. I grew up playing classical guitar which I think is part of why I love the guitars on tracks like Fotheringay so much. 

6. Stairwells - Kina Grannis
My friend walked into the lounge while I was playing this album and just immediately said "this is perfect summer music isn't it?" Case in point! She has such a lovely, sweet voice and there isn't a single song on this album that I dislike. 

Okay so now we move away from albums and onto artists in general...

7. Led Zeppelin
Okay, so much as I love songs like Heartbreaker and Whole Lotta Love etc, these are not what I am talking about right now! I'm talking about that specific, not quite acoustic but generally less heavy guitar orientated style of theirs. Absolute prime example is Tangerine, but other key mentions include The Battle of Evermore, The Rain Song and Going To California. They are the sort of music that I could just put on, go lie in a field and really just soak up the sun. They completely mellow you out and I find I really appreciate Robert Plants voice on them.

8. Blondie
Now Blondie is on here for the complete opposite reason to Led Zeppelin! Where they chill me out, Blondie gets me up, dancing around the place and singing along. I actually started listening to it today when I was cooking, which led to me twirling around the kitchen on a little cleaning spree. She really gets me up and motivated to do things but in a very fun way. Sticking on the best of is the perfect way to wake up my mind after a long day of revising and get it back on track. 

That's it for now! I'm sure there will be a volume 2 posted up soon though. Let me know in the comments what you think of these bands, or if you have any particular recommendations for me! Hope you are all enjoying the sunny weather :)