Thursday, 27 February 2014

Happiness is...#5


At work last week I went to a creativity training day and managed to bring my personal life into it, by using the skills I learnt to brainstorm for SWB! It was a great way to combine my two lives and I learned a lot. As you can see, I have so many ideas!

I went home this weekend for the first time in a while; nothing beats leaving work and catching a train knowing that in a matter of hours you'll be back in the house where you grew up. This train journey was the first smooth-running journey I've had for months, without one cancellation or delay, so I was very happy!

My Dad bought me some very sweet daffodils at the train station when I arrived - they really, really smelled quite strongly, but they were adorable and dainty and they prove that spring is finally springing. Often, nothing makes my day more than a little bunch of flowers. Unfortunately they didn't last long and have already wilted, so I'll just have to get some more.

When I was at home I went for a pub lunch with Mum and Dad and indulged in a delicious prawn baguette (with a side of chips and a mocha to follow, of course). Nothing beats getting out of the house and spending some time chatting with loved ones, especially when there's comfort food involved!

I also went for a long walk in the countryside surrounding my home - one big reason why I love the fact that I grew up in the countryside. Lovely to get away from the city and breathe in some fresh air, getting all muddy.

I dressed up on Saturday for a family member's 21st Birthday! I love fancy dress and it's one of the main things I miss about my student social life. Nothing beats a great costume, especially if it involves a bow-tie and some corny jokes! Can you guess what I went as?

I bought these delicious biscuits from my local farm shop to share with my housemates. I couldn't resist and they taste as good as they sound. Mmm...

Starting my week with a cheeky Nescafé Gingerbread Latte to give myself a tiny caffeine boost after a long weekend. It tastes of winter lingering in the spring, and is a perfect substitute for my usual mocha when I give up chocolate for Lent next week!

I have been trying to go to the gym at least twice a week, which is better than nothing, and I ran my fastest Kilometer, 1 km in 6 minutes, earlier last week. Then I managed to run my fastest mile, in 10.21 minutes. It night not sound fantastic, but it's great to feel as if I am improving and hopefully now the only way is up. I'd love to go to the gym three times a week but life is so busy at the moment and, lets be honest, it's not always at the top of my post-workday schedule.

What has made you happy in the last week?




Jo
xxx
 

Monday, 24 February 2014

I'm Not Really a Waitress

A few weeks ago, when I arrived at my desk one morning, a colleague came up to me and passed me something small and heavy wrapped in bubble wrap.

"I know you were admiring my nail varnish last week," she said, "so I ordered you some!"

It was the most random gift, and so generous, I couldn't believe it! It completely made my week, and I couldn't wait to go home and paint my nails - as you can imagine. It sat on my desk all day, glinting at me, until I was allowed to go home.

The varnish in question was 'I'm Not Really a Waitress' by O.P.I - a stunning deep red, with a slight metallic twist, which was super shiny, sophisticated and classic. It is, as you can imagine with a blog name like mine, the perfect colour for me. I've never owned O.P.I varnish before and was so excited to add it to my growing collection!



Isn't is divine? You'll have to excuse my poor painting skills - staying 'inside the lines' was never my strong point!

Even the name is fantastic - giving the wearer a sense of an alternate identity. One slick of this, and you're a glamorous vixen beneath the drab office-worker exterior (or at least that's what I tell myself!)

The bottle itself is simple, and instantly recognisable as the brand. You get a generous amount of colour in one pot, so it seems to be value for money, too. The lid is easy to grip when you apply it, and it only took two coats to give my nails a deep, rich colour which shone beautifully. It's definitely up there among the nail varnishes I find easiest to apply!




However, as beautiful as the product is (the photos just don't do the colour justice, I promise) I did have a problem with the staying-power. Unfortunately my newly-painted nails were chipped in less than 24 hours, whilst I was just going about my usual daily routine. Even though this was without a top coat (which I suppose is a cardinal sin!) I do like my varnishes to be a little more resilient without any extra help. This left me a little disappointed, as I had such high hopes for this pretty product.

I did re-paint them using a top coat afterwards, and it stayed on for longer, chipping after a couple of days. I mentioned this to a friend who agreed that her experience of O.P.I varnishes was the same - that they chip incredibly quickly. I think in the future I will need to invest in an excellent top-coat, so that I can really get the most of this beautiful colour. Any recommendations?

I did get a lot of compliments on the colour too which  was a boost, I have to admit! It's clear that this really is a showstopper.

I love 'I'm Not Really a Waitress' and it is without a doubt one of the most beautiful colours I own. However, I am not really convinced by how easily it chipped. I will keep wearing it though - it's just too pretty to ignore!

Are you a fan of O.P.I Varnishes, or do you find they chip too easily?

Jo
xxx
 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Oh, Oreo! Ultimate Oreo Brownies

Brownies have always been my favourite thing to bake. I regularly made them throughout my time at university, much to my housemates delight, and they always went down a treat. Creating variations was also fun - including Rocky Road brownie and Triple Chocolate.

I know, I want some right now. Mmmmm....

This Valentine's Day, I wanted to bake a gift for my boyfriend - sometimes nothing beats a hand-made present, and what's more indulgent and sweet than a box of brownies? But not just any brownies, oh no. I wanted to make these ones extra special, so after a bit of a think, I decided to add something extra to them.

Meet my indulgent Oreo Brownies:



So much chocolatey, biscuity goodness in one photo!

I was so pleased with how these turned out that I wanted to share them with you. They're super easy, require minimal ingredients, and will make sure you're the most popular person in the house / office / class. They're soft, squidgy chocolate brownies, with chocolate cookies and chunks inside inside. What could be better?

I've always used a recipe which my mum passed on to me. It's an American Brownie recipe from Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course book, but I have tweaked a few things here and there, adding extra fillings. It's a great book, by the way, with hundreds of classic recipes inside. You can't really go wrong!

You will need: 






1 baking tin, greased and lined with baking parchment.
50g dark chocolate (buy a large bar for extra chocolate chunks...and snacking)
110g butter
2 eggs, beaten
225g granulated sugar
50g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 packet of Oreo biscuits (I bought two just in case!)

First of all, pre-heat your oven at Gas Mark 4 / 180 Degrees Celsius, to get it nice and hot.

Melt the butter and the chocolate together.




While the chocolate and butter is melting, mix the sugar, flour, baking powder with the eggs, making a deliciously thick batter.

Next, chop up your Oreos! This can be quite tricky as the biscut will crumble. It's not a problem, as it all tastes wonderful, but I found very carefully and gently cutting them into quarters did the trick. I ended up using a whole packet, but had extra on hand just in case.




Chop up as much of the leftover dark chocolate as you want into chunks, to make the brownies extra chocolatey. Remember that you have the Oreos too, so don't go mad - you need the cake mix to stay together!

When the butter and chocolate is melted, pour into the plain cake batter and combine, making sure that it is all mixed up properly.




Add in the chocolate chunks and chopped Oreo biscuits, stirring gently so that they're as evenly distributed as possible.




Pour this mixture into your lined and greased tin, again making sure that you have an even distribution of Oreos and dark chocolate chunks. Pop some on top to make it look tantaslisingly tasty.




Place into the oven for about 30 minutes. To test, stick a skewer or knife into the centre - when they're done, the blade should come out mostly clean ( though don't over-bake, as it will get dry - we want these to be lovely and gooey).

Et voila! Instant Brownie love. 






Leave to cool, if you can bear to wait, then cut unto large squares and enjoy warm with some moreish vanilla ice cream,  save them for a loved one, or take them into the office. I can guarantee whatever you do with them, they won't last long! If you do have some self control, however, they will last for a few days, perhaps up to a week.



Enjoy!



Jo
xxx
 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Happiness Is...#4

It's been a couple of weeks since I last posted a happiness update - life has just been running away with me, and I haven't had a moment to collect my thoughts, photos and best bits together! So apologies for that - I'm sure you all know what it can be like!

These are the things which have been making me feel happy and blessed recently (warning;contains mostly delicious, unhealthy food!)


Two weeks ago I went along to Lou Lou's Vintage Fair with a friend for tea, cake and bargains. I had a wonderful day there and managed to find a gorgeous vintage Jaeger jacket (also pictured) which I have been wearing non-stop and deserves to have a blog post of its own. You can read about my vintage adventures HERE.

I received a letter from my dear friend Ellie this Valentine's Day, all the way from Denmark. Ellie is a very dear friend of mine, and her letter was so wonderful, encouraging and full of love. It made me remember how lucky I am to have such great friends like her. Ellie actually has her own  brilliant blog about her new life studying in Denmark, which you can find HERE.

I've been absolutely loving Graze's Breakfast boxes, containing delicious portions of porridge. They make my breakfasts so much more interesting! Naturally, I blogged about it HERE.

I was never allowed chocolate spread as a child, and even throughout university I never bought my own. However, after receiving a mini tube of Galaxy hazelnut spread at Christmas, I have become addicted, and bought my first ever very own tub of Nutella! Needless to say, half the jar was eaten with a spoon. Naughty! But it certainly has made me very happy indeed.

This Valentine's Day I made a delicious pie for my boyfriend. It went down a storm, and I couldn't believe I managed to pull it off! I'll be writing a post about this soon, so get your shopping lists ready! It;s a fantastic recipe.

Breakfast is my favourite meal, and this week I made an effort to put in a little effort. This photo has chocolate spread / jam crumpets, cinnamon yoghurt with blueberries and banana, and pomegranate green tea (a bid to force myself to enjoy drinking it!) breakfast makes me happy, especially before a long day at work.

I randomly entered a Facebook competition to win a £10 voucher for Wagamama about a month ago...and I couldn't believe it when I won! I've never won anything online like that before, so I was super excited, especially when it came in the post with a note. I' counting down the days until I can go and have some Yaki Soba. Mmmm...

My boyfriend came to visit me last weekend, and I naturally treated him to all sorts of delicious meals (including the pie!). On his first morning here, we made big, thick slices of eggy bread with smoked bacon and mushrooms. So gluttonous, so unhealthy...but so good!

Later that same day (can you believe it!) we went out for burgers at 7Bone, in Southampton. He fell in love and has since claimed he will never be able to eat burgers anywhere else again. It was delicious, as usual! You can read my review of 7Bone from last year HERE.

I used to love art, but haven't really done any since I finished school years ago. When my boyfriend bought me some pencils and a sketch pad for Christmas, I couldn't wait to get started again, and finally got round to practicing a few sketches last weekend. They weren't my best, but it felt so great to get back into it after so many years. I can't wait to do more sketching!

My mum sent me a Sainsbury's coupon in the post, and I decided to spend it on a good book instead of food! I ended up choosing The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, which has been intriguing me, so I can't wait to get stuck in on my next train journey.



Phew! What a great few weeks! This is just a selection of little things which have made me happy. Needless to say, food is a big thing for me, and it certainly makes me happy - but even more importantly, so does the company!

It's vital to remember these little moments of joy whenever life gets you down.

What has been making you happy over the last few days?

Jo
xxx
 

Monday, 17 February 2014

The Graze Good Breakfast Club

I've been a huge fan of Graze for years. Their little snack boxes helped me to survive many gruelling essays in my degree, and since re-starting my orders (thanks to no longer living on a student budget) I have been loving their little tubs of goodness at my desk. In fact, as I write this, I'm munching on 'Millionaire's Shortbread'. Talk about inspiration!

If you're not sure who Graze are, they're a little company who send you healthy snacks and goodies in letterbox-sized packages to keep you happy, full and healthy throughout the day! Once you have an account you're able to tell them what you do and don't want to receive, so you never get any nasty surprises, and there is so much variety you'll never get bored. The element of surprise brings the fun back into post - much more exciting to see one of these beauties on your doorstep than just boring bills and flyers!

So when I saw that Graze were releasing breakfast products, my heart skipped a beat. These were two of my all-time loves coming together; Graze's healthy, tasty and varied products, and my favourite meal of the day. How could I say no?

I ordered my first box at the special price of £2.99, selected the flavours which took my fancy, and eagerly awaited the arrival of my first batch of porridge.

Here's what I received in my little brown box:







They all sound delicious, don't they?

The idea is that you dispense your oats in a bowl, followed with 1 1/2 punnets of milk, and microwave until done. Extremely simple, no hassle, and even perfect if you like to have breakfast in the office. Some flavours even come with a little dollop of honey to sweeten things up!

I have since been enjoying these flavours over the last two weeks, and have been really impressed. The flavours are amazing. Although they contain dried fruit, there is no risk of munching down on a dry, wrinkled berry or crunchy old raisin. When the porridge is cooked, the fruit becomes plump, juicy and flavoursome, and incredibly tasty. The flavour combinations have been really well thought out and include some combinations I'd never try out if I was creating these myself. It's very easy to claim that these could be made at home, but when you have very little time in the morning, all the hard work has already been done for you.

My favourite ones this time were Cherry and Almond and Flame Raisin and Hazelnut. So moreish, I could have eaten three whole punnets of these flavours alone!

This brings me nicely onto one of my few issues with the Graze breakfast box; the little punnets don't really provide a large enough serving. As someone who normally has quite a big breakfast, I found that I had to eat my porridge with extra servings of toast, fruit and yoghurt on the side to keep myself full enough. This may not be an issue for some, as I know many barely eat anything in the mornings - but I like my first meal to keep me full up for four hours, and these little pots wouldn't be able to do that alone unless I had lost most of my appetite.

I have a feeling I need to train myself to eat smaller portion sizes!



Another little issue was my need to add honey to them. At the moment, I am struggling with a very sweet tooth, and I found that the oats which came without honey needed sweetening. Now, this may be because I need to cure my need for sugar at the moment - the fruit should be enough, and it defeats the 'healthy' nature of the Graze box - but just a warning for those of you who, like me, like things sweet. You may need to tame your tastebuds or add honey of your own.

I've been enjoying my delicious Graze porridge with a side of Nutella toast, banana, or even topped with a dollop of yoghurt (this makes it extra creamy!). They really have been making breakfast exciting again, and have broken the monotony of Bran Flakes and toast at the start of every day.

I've loved having these little pots for breakfast - it really makes these drab, rainy mornings bearable, and I really recommend trying them out if you need to enjoy breakfast a little more, or fancy a change to your usual routine. I'm already looking forward to my next delivery!

Are you a fan of Graze boxes? Would you consider ordering a breakfast box?



Jo
xxx
 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Rediscovering Lush Cosmetics: Rub Rub Rub

For as long as I can remember, I've been a huge fan of Lush. As soon as I had a little of my own money I was seduced by the scented shops on my highstreet, lured in with the promise of indulgent, fun and 'good-for-you' products. I regularly bought bath bombs, and spent every single Sunday night lying in brightly-coloured bathwater surrounded by heart-shaped confetti / gold glitter / melting shea butter. Perfect.

Unfortunately, my student life took over, my bank balance dwindled, and I rarely ventured in. It wasn't just that Lush was too expensive for my budget - I just spent less on body-care in general, indulging in a new foundation / mascara only when I absolutely had to, and purchasing shampoo and body wash only when I ran out. Treats for my bathroom took a back seat, and so my visits to Lush became rare.

Since emerging from the cocoon of student life as an educated butterfly (of sorts...) I am aiming to treat myself to one or two items each month to build up a collection. Last weekend, spurred on by a recent YouTube video from Megs at Wonderful You, I went into Lush to buy my first little treat.

I cannot tell you how excited I was!

As well as looking at face masks (to be discussed in a later post) body wash and cleanser, I found myself perusing the body scrubs. I am a huge fan of Soap and Glory, and was thinking of buying one of their infamous body scrubs to add to my collection. However, as a product I would use regularly, I wondered if this would be the best place to start my new Lush collection.

After a bit of a chat with a lovely Lush lady, I looked at some of the products they had to offer, before opting for Rub Rub Rub Shower Scrub. There's no missing this product! Inside the iconic black tub sits a bright blue concoction of sea salt, lemon, jasmine, orange and mimosa, throwing off delicious scents which seduce the senses. The bright colour instantly caught my eye and, after testing it out on my skin in-store, I was sold.




So what do I make of it?

Rub Rub Rub worked its magic on my skin after just one use. It's soft and not too coarse, despite the inclusion of sea salt, but I felt it working as I used it. It also smells really good. At first I was dubious that I wouldn't like the floral scents, as I'm more of a fruity, sweet kind of girl. However, after using it I love the way that they compliment the citrus notes; this product will both wake me up when used in the morning, and soothe me in the evenings. It reminds me a little of one of my favourite perfumes, Paul Smith's Floral

In comparison to other body scrubs I've bought, I really prefer this by far. I can tell it's natural; the salt used in the product does a far better job than the soft flakes some companies use. I like my scrubs to really scrub away, and this really does the trick. 





For a coarser effect, Rub Rub Rub can be used on dry skin first, ideal if you're looking for something really strong and effective. I think I'll be using it like this more in the summer, when my skin is on show a little more. Even though it is harsher like this, it still doesn't feel uncomfortable, and was easy to massage into my skin thanks to the lemon oil.





Once I washed the salt off, my skin felt so soft even without moisturising. There is no risk of your body being left raw and sensitive after this treatment - I felt smooth, soft and well-oiled. I thought this was fantastic, especially if you don't have time to moisturise after a morning shower. You can really tell that it's taking care of your skin.

I was advised not to use this product more than once or twice a week. This tub should last me about three or four weeks apparently, depending on how much I used each time and how regularly I showered with it. I think this is normal for body scrubs, and a little scoop of it goes a long way which is great!

I now see myself as a total Rub Rub Rub convert. I doubt I'll be using many other scrubs in the future, if only out of curiosity or if any brands have offers on. Using natural products really makes a difference and this product really feels indulgent, despite being not much more expensive than other leading body-care brands. 

I can't wait to build up more of a collection from Lush - I have a feeling this will not be alone on my shower shelf for long! I'm now on the look-out for a body moisturiser to apply after using this scrub.

Do you like using Lush products? What brand do you count on for your body scrub needs?



Jo
xxx
 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

It's Vintage, Darling

Saturday saw the return of  Lou Lou's Vintage Fair to Southampton's O2 Guildhall. After my last visit, I knew I just had to go along, and so I gathered my pennies, donned my floral tea dress, red lipstick and eyeliner (one must dress appropriately for these events!) and met my friend Amy in the very windy square to queue up for the midday opening.

We were grateful to be out of the weather by the time we made it inside. I like to get to these things early, giving me a chance to browse without the peak-time scrum, whilst allowing me to have the pick of the crop - if you go too late in the day, no doubt all the good products will have been snapped up. I didn't want to be rushed either. I had all afternoon to wander around the spacious room, eyeing up quirky accessories and vibrant clothing items and sipping on tea in gilded teacups.

Just like last time, the stalls were filled with something for everyone's taste. From garish nineties bomber jackets, reminiscent of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, to beautiful 1940s navy dresses; military jackets to floral fifties gowns. We wandered around the little sections of individual shops, lusting over garments, giggling at some of the more...unusual... items and reminiscing when we saw something we recognised from our childhoods. The range of items available meant that whatever you were looking for, you were bound to find it.





This, believe it or not, is a top. Do you think I should have bought it?

Around ten minutes into our visit, I spotted a beautiful grey jacked nestled in one of the clothes rails. I'm not quite sure why it caught my eye, but I immediately grabbed it, admired it, and tried it on. It was a perfect fit: not too long in the arms and roomy around the waist (I like my jackets slightly androgynous, especially when worn undone). It went extremely well with the dress I was wearing at the time, and so after a couple of minutes dilly-dallying and asking my friend Amy if I should or shouldn't get it, I handed over a mere £15 for what turned out to be a vintage Jaeger jacket (which was, the seller claimed, worth hundreds originally). I'll be dedicating a whole post to this beauty once it's back from the dry cleaners!




I promise to get a better picture of it soon, but here it is for now, a la Instagram.

At the same time, Amy had treated herself to a very cute apron for just £5. As we browsed around for a little longer, I couldn't help but spot a very cute trilby, some beautiful and delicate jewellery items (I wish I'd bought some!) and a comfy-looking flannel shirt but, alas, my sensible side won and I pocketed my cash for another time.





It became apparent that, an hour in, we were starting to wilt; the queues were getting longer, the noise levels louder, and the clothes more ruffled on their hangers. So, after briefly watching a performance by the dancers on stage, and observing the retro hair and make-up demonstrations, we queued up for a well-deserved tea and cake break.

And OH, what cake!




I couldn't resist ordering a cup of tea in the cutest cup and saucer sets, and was faced with a very tough decision; which cake to choose. There were so, so many; cute fruit cupcakes, with large dollops of cream and juicy strawberries; indulgent chocolate flapjacks; great big coffee and walnut sandwich cakes...I could go on. In the end, I plumped for the first cake I saw and (no exaggeration) fell in love with; a mountainous fresh fruit cake. It was around the size of two ordinary cakes sandwiched together with a slathering of buttercream, topped with more buttercream and fresh blueberries and strawberries. It even had blueberries inside. It just looked so fresh and tasty, I couldn't resist.




In a bid to be sensible, I asked for a cake box rather than a pretty plate for my large slice of cake - I didn't want to feel I had to finish it all there and then, and though I had no doubt that I'd be able to give Bruce Bogtrotter (of Matilda fame) a run for his money, I wanted to savour the taste, and not feel forced to eat every last bite. This was a fantastic idea, and the lovely serving lady was very helpful, handing it to me in a cute pink box.




Even looking at a photo of  it squished into a little box, I could eat it all up right now!

The cake, let me tell you, was incredible - moist, sweet and fruity, and I finished half before hiding the rest away for the next day (which I appreciated when the time came!). Amy enjoyed a chocolate flapjack, which also looked very tasty, and we discussed life, ambitions and  business ideas before we felt that it was time to go home.





I had a wonderful afternoon at Lou Lou's Vintage Fair once again and was so happy I was able to share it with someone (and I even made time for cake this time!). I've already put the next date in my diary, and can't wait to see what beautiful items will be on offer. I am so pleased that I was able to find such a bargain this time.

If you're near a vintage fair at all, I really recommend going. I wouldn't say I'm a vintage fanatic - I think this jacket it my first ever vintage purchase! - but you are likely to find something really unique and special for a decent price, and normally they're great fun too!

Fellow blogger Hannah over at  Dimples Diaries went along to the same fair and has written a post with her tips for surviving a vintage shopping trip. I really recommend you check it out, especially if you're going to one in the near future! Her photos are just beautiful too (I need to pick up some tips!)




Jo
xxx
 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Liebster Award: Double Trouble

Over the last fortnight I've been nominated for the Liebster Award by two lovely bloggers; Victoria from Shabby Chic Home and The Sennockian. Thank you ladies!



The Liebster Award is given to new and up-and-coming bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers. The idea? The nominated blogger must reveal a little about themselves with 11 random facts, then must answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated them. Then, the nominee must nominate other bloggers with 11 of their own questions. Phew! Got that?

I don't know many blogs with fewer than 200 followers, so I'm afraid there will only be a few nominations from me...sorry guys!

Since I've been naughty and left is so late, I'm going to do both nominations in one post - but I'll still only be writing 11 facts about myself! I hope you enjoy finding out a little about myself and my little blog.


11 Random Facts about me:
  1. I am a twin (and no, we are not identical. Far from it!
  2. I have two degrees; a BA (Hons) and an MA. I guess you could say I am an academic at heart!
  3. I will go out of my way to eat anything with mushrooms in it. They are my favourite!
  4. My guilty pleasures include Cosmopolitan magazine and Sex and the City.
  5. I adore poetry, and wish I could write it.
  6. I hope to start sketching again this year.
  7. I have no idea how to apply blusher, bronzer or highlighter. Contouring is a far-away dream!
  8. My last meal would probably involve pie and mashed potato with lots of gravy; the ultimate comfort food.
  9. I will nearly always choose veggie options over meat, even though I am not vegetarian.
  10. I will never, ever get a tattoo.


11 Questions from Victoria:
  1. Why did you start your blog?
 I've been reading blogs for years; they pretty much kept me sane during my postgraduate studies, and I've had a passion for writing ever since I could remember. I also love sharing my life - not the personal and boring aspects, but the beautiful things I see and discover. As soon as my studies finished, I started blogging! I think it's a great creative outlet and a fantastic community to be a part of.

   2.  How old are you?

I am 23, but sometime I still feel 17. and sometimes I feel about 50.

 3. What's your favourite phrase, quote or motto?

I want to say something meaningful like 'This too shall pass' which is beautiful, but to be honest I rarely remember to say it to myself. I don't have a particular favourite, so I suppose my motto would be to make the most of life as much as possible.

4. What did you want to be when you were little?

I wanted to be a vet, then a palaeontologist, then a writer, then a teacher. I still haven't decided! 

5. Tea, coffee, or neither?

Tea mostly (with too much sugar, oops!) but I love coffee, particularly the smell. Coffee is a treat as I need to steer clear of too much caffeine, but I love a good Mocha, Amaretto latte or iced coffee.  

6.  Favourite movie line?



7.  What's your biggest fear?

Death. My loved ones dying without them knowing they mean the world to me.

8. What one celebrity would you be and why?

I'll be honest, I'm not one for celebrities; look's wise I'd love to be Ann Hathaway or Zoe Deschanel, but I wouldn't mind being known for my work rather than my looks. I'm not sure!  

7. What are your top three favourite blogs right now?

Wonderful You, Wish Wish Wish and Couture Girl  

9. Have you got any holidays booked for 2014?

No. This saddens me - I haven't been on a summer holiday for nearly three years. But I'm staying hopeful, and might look into going somewhere like Pompeii, Santorini or Paris. Anywhere with sunshine, and maybe Hamburg.

10. Would you rather be rich or famous?

That's tough; fame often comes with riches, but also harassment; I suppose if I was famous for something like writing, I wouldn't mind! I'll have to think about that one.



Thanks Victoria! Now it's The Sennockian's turn!



11 Questions from The Sennockian:


1. If you are having a blogging lull, how do you inspire and motivate yourself?

 I take time away from writing and often I'll get my passion back after a few days. I find forcing content just makes for bad writing. 
 
2. Favourite clothes shop?

This varies from season to season, but I mostly go for River Island, New Look and Miss Selfridge.
 
3. Marmite. Love it or hate it?

Oh god, hate it. Always have, always will.

4. Which film or TV star would you compare yourself to?

Recently I've been compared to Oregon from Fresh Meat (looks wise, not attitude!) but I don't watch a lot of TV. I'd love to say Jess from New Girl but definitely toned down with less pink...

5. If you were a crayon, what colour would you be!?

Burgundy, or course! Or black. Black is useful!
 
6. Have you ever met anyone famous?

I had a chat with Dan from Bastille in July 2012 (just before they took off) and had a chat with the Mystery Jets in the back of a van. That's about it!

7. Favourite book?

I've just finished John Green's The Fault in our Stars and adored it - also recent loves include David Nicholls' The Understudy and Starter for Ten and The Silver Linings Playbook. I love too many books though, so those are just my recent favourites!
 
8. What's your party trick?

I can flip my tongue upside down, and touch my nose with my tongue.

9. Where would you like to be 5 years from now?

In my own flat or house, contentedly in love, writing for a living and having seen much more of the world than I have so far!
 
10. What is your favourite movie quote?

I've just answered this, but I'll come up with another one to mix things up!

 
11. And last but not least, what is one goal that you have set yourself for 2014?

Keep blogging!


My Nominees: 


All wonderful blogs, well worth checking out and following!

...And here are the questions you'll need to answer!

  1. Are you more of a cat person, or a dog person?
  2. Do you have any siblings?
  3. Do you prefer traditional paperbacks, or a shiny e-reader?
  4. A soak in the bath, or a quick and practical shower?
  5. Would you rather go to the cinema, or watch a DVD at home?
  6. What is your favourite time of year, and why?
  7. What beauty product could you never live without?
  8. What is the scariest thing you've ever done?
  9. What's your favourite music?
  10.  If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life...what would it be?
  11. What is your favourite smell / scent?

Thanks for reading everyone! And thank you to Victoria and The Sennockian for nominating me. I hope you had fun finding out a little bit about me, and discovering a few new blogs!
Let me know how you'd answer some of the questions in the comments.

Jo
xxx
 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Be Mine: Valentines Card Inspiration

It's February...and Valentines Day is looming. If you're not in a relationship, it can be a tricky time - either you care too much, or not at all, but either way you have to navigate your way around aisles of cards, cheesy gifts and over-sized chocolate boxes for weeks.

For me, Valentines isn't about gifts. As long as you show your loved one how you feel throughout the rest of the year, all you need is a simple card to show them you care, you've remembered, and that you love / like them. Presents and dates are just a (very lovely!) bonus on this day.  However, I admit, I would much rather spend time and money on others than on myself, so I tend to take on any excuse to buy gifts!

It can be difficult to find the right card, though, especially if you're looking for something unique and heart-felt. So, while I've been hunting online for my own card to give,  I've selected a couple of my favourites for you! I saw these while I was browsing online, and I hope it inspires some of you who may be struggling for inspiration or who just fancy a little snoop.

All card names are linked to the website, so you can go and take a look yourself!




I loved the tartan card as soon as I saw it - it's perfect if you're in love with a Scot, or if you just want something quirky. I also love the simplicity of the heart card from Paperchase; no frills, no flamboyancy, just a simple message. The last one is for the poetry lover - I thought this was so sweet and, again, simple - the next best thing to writing a little verse of your own, and no 'Roses are Red' in sight!





The moon card is just wonderful - perfect, I think, for those not into hearts and cutesy images, but who want to convey their feelings - perhaps perfect if your loved one is a fan of astronomy! The card in the centre is cheerful, bright and fun - and who better to quote than The Beatles, who use the word love over 600 times in their songs! The third card here is so thoughtful. A lot of couples and friendships are based on trust, and the ability to make each other feel better even on the worst day; and this card sums that up perfectly.


Personalised Map (Not on the Highstreet, £9) -- Letterpress (Paperchase, £2) -- Really Like You  (Paperchase £2.50)


Personalising your card is the best way to really show your feelings, and this card does just the trick. It is expensive, and I'm not sure I'd pay this much, but it's a lovely idea and perhaps one to re-create yourself on a budget. The second card here is simple and delicate - I just loved the way it looked, it'd even be nice as a piece of art on a set of shelves. The third is another of my favourites - very gender neutral, quirky and perfect for couples who haven't yet said the L-Word - always a difficult area to navigate on the big V day!


If you're on the hunt for the perfect card, I really recommend the stores used in this blog post. I'm a huge fan of Paperchase all year round, so I knew they'd have plenty of cards to my taste! It might be worth going offline too, especially if you have some independent stores around your area.

I've not done any 'idea' posts before, so I hope this gave you a little inspiration! Sometimes nothing is better than a simple card with 'Will you be my Valentine' etched inside. It really is the thought that counts.


Jo
xxx
 


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Happiness is...(#3)

Each week I look back on the little things that made me happy - to remind myself that the world isn't so bad, even after a hard day.

Last week, happiness was...


  • Stepping out of my fashion comfort zone and wearing some hand-me-down tartan trousers and some silver loafers to work - thanks to my sister for letting me adopt them!
  • Getting into work at 8am on Friday was worthwhile after I saw the beautiful sunrise. The weather was awful later that day, and I had a bad evening as my train was cancelled and I was stuck in the cold for two hours....but that moment of sunshine made it better.
  • Friday was also payday (thank god! Who else was waiting forever?) and so I treated myself to a skinny caramel macchiato at my desk as a mini celebration.
  • I was in beautiful Bristol this weekend and the sun came out for us on Saturday after a morning in the museum. A great start to February.
  • I had a cup of loose-leaf tea in Boston Tea Party - I promise their tea is amazing (as are their breakfasts) so if you get to go to one of their cafes, go for one of those- on a side note, their goats cheese toasties are also pretty good. It's even better when you get to enjoy it with someone you love.
The last week has been a little tough for many reasons, but these little gems made it worthwhile - which is exactly why I'm doing this series!

Not all photos are taken from my Instagram, but most are. If you want to follow me, you can find me @JEFisher90, or take a look at my sidebar to the right - my latest photos go up there.

What little moments made you happy last week?

Jo
xxx
 

Sunday, 2 February 2014

REVIEW: 'Starter for Ten' by David Nicholls

Having adored David Nicholl's One Day since I first read it a few years ago, I recently decided it was time to try his other novels to see what I made of them. I'd bought Starter for Ten and The Understudy in a charity shop at the beginning of my Master's degree, knowing I wouldn't be able to read them until I was free. For a whole year they sat temptingly on my shelves, watching as I read course book after course book. The moment I completed my course in September, I started enjoying reading for pleasure again and finally got round to starting Nicholls's Starter for Ten.


Look at my battered and very-much-loved copy. You can tell I enjoyed reading it, can't you?

Starter for Ten is actually Nicholls's first novel, having been published in 2003, so I expected his style to be a little less polished and a little more raw than One Day, which incidentally is his last text, published in 2009. Prior to reading the book, I had no idea what it was about and wasn't quite sure what to expect. I had only heard a number of vague opinions from friends and family - my mum had started to read it but never felt compelled to get further than the first few lines. This probably made it more determined to enjoy it!

Starter for Ten follows the unfortunate and awkward Brian Jackson as he moves away from home and starts university in the 1980s. Brian mourns the loss of his dad, adjusts to new-found independence, falls unwittingly in love with the busty blonde across the dance floor, and eventually finds himself in a downward spiral of lies, cheating, and rejection. The main bulk of the story is written around his overall endeavour to get onto the University Challenge team, which explains the name of the book - and this is what gives it it's originality. After all, for many people (especially in the eighties) teams on University Challenge represented student life - and this book gives us an insight into the life of just one. 

I doubt, however, most University Challenge contestants have such a dramatic experience during their studies!

There is a very authentic feel about it. Nicholls has captured the era perfectly through his great attention to detail (or as perfectly as I can imagine the eighties, since I am a nineties baby!). You can tell instantly that it draws extensively on Nicholl's own heady university experiences, as he confirms in an interview with the Guardian in 2006:

"Unless you're writing in the serial killer genre, it's a safe bet that first novels will have a strong autobiographical element, and while some of the more extreme social faux pas are mercifully fictional, I should confess now that both book and film are a fairly accurate account of my feelings and behaviour at that time."

This is obviously what gives the book its incredibly realistic feel - I was instantly swallowed whole by a world in which Kate Bush was queen and Bamber Gascgoin was an icon. It is this believable element which emphasised my own feelings towards Brian, as if I was slowly watching a friend spiral downwards without any control, and being unable to lend him a shoulder to cry on, or a friendly piece of advice.

Don't get me wrong; it's not as though Brian Jackson turns into a drug-addled raving nymphomaniac, corrupted by debauched students, peer pressure and an alcoholic society. Brian is a 'nice guy' easily influenced by those around him, and intent with impressing fellow students and his mum. His downfalls are genuine, realistic and have probably affected the majority of us at some point in our lives. Brian experiences issues which other students may face; troubles with love, keeping up with studies and keeping friends and family back at home happy while adjusting to a new life. You can see why he starts to drown under all of this pressure. As you read, you watch him slowly digging himself a deeper hole, and you wait for it all to culminate in one big disastrous event; which, unfortunately for Brian, is witnessed by far more people than just his nearest and dearest.

I won't ruin the plot for you at all. I highly recommend reading this novel, regardless of whether or not you've read any of his other books. As I've said, the mistakes you watch Brian make are plausible and realistic...and this is what makes the book so gripping and ultimately so...cringe-worthy.

I found myself frequently holding my head in my hands as I read whilst simultaneously suppressing a giggle. Nicholls really has a knack for dark comedy - you can't help but laugh at Brian, whilst also feeling immense guilt, frustration and anxiety. I personally love Nicholls's style. The book is well written and gripping - I found it hard to put down, which says a lot about a book. As a recent University graduate too, I really identified with how the pressures of student life grip Brian in their clutches.

This is a book with funny and embarrassing moments, and despite some of this review making it seem like a heavy, depressing book, it really is enjoyable. My main thoughts when reflecting on the novel are how sorry I felt for Brian throughout the book. He's a likeable character, but is just unfortunate. It's not always his fault...but quite frequently, he really is his own worst enemy.

If you haven't got the time to read the book, I really recommend watching the film instead, which was released in 2006.  I'm always dubious about film adaptations, but this one was pretty close to the plot of the book, albeit with minor changes. I really enjoyed it (though felt James Macavoy needed a few more pimples to really evoke that 'Brian-esque' image) and Benedict Cumberbatch (yes, he's in it too!) was superb. I was laughing and cringing all over again, despite knowing the plot very well. If you're short of time, not a fan of reading, or just fancy a good film to watch at the weekend, this is perfect.


As someone who also watches University Challenge (I think I may actually be an 80 year-old in a 23 year-old's body) I appreciate its centrality to the story and the humour revolving around it. Let's just say the thought of a contestant appearing on the programme with a black eye or in a ballgown would really make the show for me!

Overall, I highly recommendStarter for Ten (and the film, of course). Don't just assume David Nicholls's One Day is all he has to offer. His earlier work is slightly less polished but is all the more riveting for it.

Have you read this book, or any of Nicholls's other books? Let me know what you thought!



Jo
xxx
 

Saturday, 1 February 2014

InstaJanuary

January dragged by, pulling it's withered legs behind it. It just seemed to be never ending, and that's not just considering how far away Pay Day was! Regardless of how grey and dire the month was, I still got up to a few lovely things; so here is my monthly summary, via the wonders of Instagram.

If you want to see more of my life on Instagram, you can follow me on @JEFisher90


 Amaretto Sours on a Friday Night // My new Moleskine Diary // Sunday Tea // Healthy Bean Stew //  Stuffed Peppers // Legs, Bums & Tums // Cosy Boots // Panini Saturday // Benefit Makeup // Stress Relieving Bath // Frosty Mornings // Coffee and Catch-Up // Illamasqua Treats // Cambridge at Sundown // Ostrich Burgers // Monday Morning Commute // King's Cross AM // O.P.I Present // Cute Birthday Cupcakes // Saturday in Chelsea // Stormy Chelsea Bridge // Cosy Hot Chocolate // Dominos Pizza Feast.


Jo
xxx