Thursday, 31 March 2016

In Review: March

If February was a month full of stuff happening outside of work, March was definitely a month that was pretty heavy in terms of work things, so I will admit to be fairly happy that this March is almost over; basically because (at least for now) April looks a tad bit lighter.

(Nepalese dumplings at Gurkha Square; Bread & Butter pudding at The Olive Branch)
However, March wasn't all work and no play. At the beginning of the month, on Mother's Day to be precise, I turned 23 (eek). I headed home for the weekend and it was super relaxing. I got to have baths (seriously, I never released how much I missed baths until I lived somewhere without one) and we went to basically my favourite restaurant back home: The Olive Branch. It's fairly fancy; but the cocktails are delicious and so is the food. We were also literally there for about three hours, if not longer, at at no point did the staff try and throw us out, so that was lovely.

As for the rest of the month; I did a training course that literally required me to do homework and exams again which felt completely weird (and I'm experiencing the nerves of waiting for results again which is not fun), and also enjoying the first signs of Spring. Getting to break out my trenchcoat and summery handbag felt great too. I also spent Easter solo, it kind of crept up on me as I was so busy at work but I did appreciate some lovely little gifts from my family-including that Easter Egg from Hotel Chocolat which was filled with more of their chocolates-amazing.

I'll admit that I have been a tad mopey this month for some reason; I think we can all just get a bit down when the weather has been unremittingly grim for months and we still have the central heating on in March. However, I think the events in Belgium, Turkey, Iraq and I'm sure many other places this month have really put things into perspective.

(Birmingham Peace Gardens)

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

A Month in Books: March

I feel a little like a stuck record saying this, but I'm just feeling pretty slumpy when it comes to reading at the minute. If you can recommend any books that have sucked you in, please let me know in the comments! I really miss being really sucked into the books I'm reading, so please do share anything you've enjoyed reading lately.

A Sport & A Pastime by James Salter (1967, Picador)
I've heard James Salter completely raved about on Book Riot, and especially this novel which is widely considered something of a masterpiece. It's the story of a young American Philip Dean and his relationship with a young French woman Anne-Marie; narrated by an unnamed male narrator who is also living in France. 
I did just adore the sense of place in this novel, France itself just leaps from the pages and Salter just creates this very real world and the characters that inhabit also feel very vivid too. I just couldn't escape the fact that I just felt like I was missing something; I didn't find it particular new or revelatory and I also wasn't crazy about the way the sex scenes were written (despite numerous reviews calling them 'erotic' it might just be me). 

Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith (2014, Faber & Faber)
This thriller has one of the most interesting premises that I've really heard of. Martin Gray is a young civil rights lawyer, who beats the high-profile and hugely famous Damon Darrell in a case and is invited by the latter into his inner circle of powerful black men. Taken away on a weekend with them without wives or communication, Martin discovers that they share the desire to reinstate slavery-with white people performing the tasks their ancestors had to as a kind of retribution.
This is a really fascinating premise, and the sections of the book that deal with black American history and the real anger present in the characters were great. However, a lot of the characters weren't particularly nuanced and the writing wasn't...great, the flaws of having read thrillers by people like Gillian Flynn, means that perhaps my expectations in that respect are a bit high. However, Smith is a screenwriter by trade and I could definitely see Forty Acres making a very successful transfer to the screen.

Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran (2016, Ebury)

Caitlin is one of my all-time favourite writers, I don't necessarily always agree with her, but I think she's a fabulous person to have writing right now. Moranifesto is a collection of her columns from The Times and new writing under the umbrella of fighting for some kind of political change. She's frequently laugh-out-loud funny, but this collection is also really touching; her writing about the welfare state is massively important, as is her talking about abortion, her letter to girls during the Bad Days and her brilliant posthumous letter to her daughter. It's a tad repetitive, just due to the fact that a lot of pieces are directly lifted from the paper, but I would really recommend this.


Friday, 25 March 2016

On My Mind: Heather Havrilesky & Caitlin Moran

"I lived in a cave because at some point I decided it was wrong to be BIG and loud and arrogant and alive. I lived in a cave because I took my cues from the people who were ambivalent about me instead of taking my cues from the people who loved me like crazy. I lived in a cave because I handed out scoring sheets and asked everyone to score me and paid special attention to the NOT VERY SATISFIED CUSTOMERS and ignored the people who said 'We love the fuck out of you, five stars, keep up the good work!'

That is what I see in you, Too Many Questions. You have chosen the life of the cave dweller. Stop reading the tea leaves of indifferent male faces and get the fuck on with your life. I know you want love. Love will find you, eventually, some time after you stop asking questions and start answering them. Stop asking indifferent strangers about the brilliant sparks emanating from your big head. Indifferent strangers were born to tell you that those sparks are something scary; a house on fire, a burning bush, powers beyond their control, fearsome and loathsome and wrong."

"Buy flowers or if you are poor, steal one from someone's garden; the world owes you that much at least: blossom-and put them at the end of the bed. When you wake, look at them, and tell yourself you are the kind of person who wakes up and sees flowers...Thinking about blossom before you think about terror is what girls must always do, in the Bad Years"

On this Good Friday, here's to new starts.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Current Favourites

So it's been a good few months since I last wrote on of these posts and due to me having a bit of a stressful couple of weeks (I'm very much looking forward to the long weekend!), I figured it was high time to talk about some things that I've been really enjoying.

B. Pure Micellar Water
I've been a little wary of the micellar water hype that has swept the entire internet, but as I'm running out of my favourite make-up cleanser (Soap & Glory's Peaches & Clean) I was looking out for a slightly cheaper product to do the job. This was reduced in Superdrug to just £2.45, so it seemed like a bit of a no-brainer to pick up. And it is truly fab. Just a few drops on a cotton pad got rid of all my face make-up. I'm definitely going to keep an eye on the B. range at Superdrug which is pretty reasonably priced and all entirely Cruelty Free which is nice.

Township App
So this is possibly the first app I've been properly addicted to since the heady early days of Candy Crush. I first heard about this in Emma Pickles' February Favourites, downloaded it, and have been contently harvesting wheat and wool ever since. It's essentially a kind of town-building game, where you begin with a farming community & essentially work on growing into more of a thriving city. There's even a zoo that you unlock at some point, making it kind of a blend of SimCity and Zoo Tycoon (two of my favourite games growing up).

(I'm now on about level 20...)
Amazon Fire TV Stick
This was actually a birthday present from my brother (the first present he's bought me a) out of his own money & b) without any prodding from my Mum) and it's great. For those of you who don't know, it essentially turns your TV into a smart TV, meaning you can watch all the on-demand channels, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video through your TV. It's been great for me to finally finish off watching series I've started on Netflix when I'm eating dinner rather than watching an episode of Come Dine with Me for the hundredth time.

Too Faced Born This Way Foundation
I've had my eye on this foundation since it came out, and I believe it was Gemma's review that really cemented it as something that I wanted to buy. I tend to be a high street girl for all things make-up, but asked for a Debenhams gift card for my birthday so I could finally pick this up. It's really natural looking on the skin and feels really light too despite giving good coverage and being really blendable with my concealers. The only downside is that it doesn't really wear as well as my usual work day foundation (Rimmel's Lasting Finish 25 Hour Foundation) even when 'set' with powder, so I am on a mission to find a decent (and not crazy expensive) primer-so if you have any recommendations please let me know!

Clipper Lemon & Green Tea
I'd completely forgotten how much I enjoyed green tea. Whilst I do quite like the subtle taste of standard green tea, this with a hint of lemon is even more tasty and is really refreshing. While I do, of course, love standard English Breakfast tea there's something just weirdly calming about having some green tea in the evening.

Marks & Spencer Lemon Curd & Almond Shortbread
Another birthday present which I have made me way through was this tin of shortbread. These are so good. I'm not sure if they're still available in store (my birthday was Mother's Day so they may have been a limited gift purchase) but if they are I recommend grabbing a pack. Lemon curd and almond didn't sound like a 'normal' combination, but the tangy lemon and almond texture just works. Trust me.

What have you been loving recently?

Twitter | Instagram

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Clicklist #15

From the Blogosphere 
Chocolate. Peanut. Butter. Tart.

Rose went swimming with pigs. Really. Totally bizarre and brilliant at the same time.

More great-sounding food: pull-apart pizza muffins; churros; raspberry brulee rice pudding

I really liked Ria's post on her favourite female film directors, which has given me the wonderful excuse of adding a bunch of films to my 'to watch' list.

Jane's posts on her trip to Egypt all have brilliant photography in them (as always), start here.

Michelle's tips on travelling alone are great; I'm fine with doing so many things solo but for some reason being a tourist alone has always scared me. Maybe that should change.

Maya from The Financial Diet on 21 things you can do to be a better Significant Other (or person in general) that don't cost a thing.

Vix in outraged brilliance on 5 things society tells women they shouldn't do.

Josie (who I just find completely amazing) giving a really honest insight into the impact of organ transplants on cystic fibrosis (and people who have them in general).

Lauren from TFD on what she learned from being the girl who cried at work (lots of interesting stuff about emotional intelligence which I found super interesting).

Katy really knocking it out of the park in this piece about friendship break-ups

Around the Internet
"I'm not interested in the inevitable beef over "who is the real feminist". I'm not interested in making sure all celebrity women embrace the label or live their beliefs in a specific way. I love that it's cool for celebs to speak up in defence of women. And I agree...that certain stars like Taylor Swift are brand ambassadors who provide soft introductions to feminism, not the movement itself. But at what point is the mainstream feminist conversation sophisticated enough that we start expecting more from people who embrace the label? And what does 'more' look like?"
So You're a Feminist Celebrity, Now What?

"At first I was really trying to say I'm not like Hermione. I'm into fashion and I'm cooler than she is, and then I came to a place of acceptance." 
Emma Watson and bell hooks in conversation

"While the ship looped from San Pedro to Cabo San Lucas and back, some 100 of its passengers and I would be focused on uncharted waters, where nothing is as it seems. Before we dock again, two of them would end up following me around the ship, convinced I was a CIA plant."
A conspiracy theorist cruise, seriously.

"Women are sexually liberated, we're astronauts, CEOs, politicians. So shouldn't we be over the the idea that only men should make the first move? In our day-to-day lives, we're outspoken, ambitious, won't-stand-for-that women, yet throw a Tinder match on the cards and things begin to blur. Stereotypes coyly masked as traditions mean my friends & I regularly shrivel into dating-handbook-bots: we refuse to text twice in a row (lest we worry for days about being unfairly labelled needy); we won't call first during the first six months, we definitely won't text first. We accept (despite how much it might jar with, you know, our right to make decisions about our own lives) that it is normal for women to wait four years for the one day they're 'allowed' to propose." 
Why is dating still so sexist?

"They're being politically correct the way they take them out...protesters, they realise there's no consequences to protesting anymore. There used to be consequences...Our country needs to toughen up. These people are bringing us down."
The leading candidate for the Republican nomination for President complaining about how protesting is entirely legal. Literally nothing about him is funny any more.

Sunday, 13 March 2016


So when you're reading this I'll have been 23 for a whole week, which is a little surreal. For someone who is still convinced that they're actually 19, every birthday beyond 20 has felt like a bit of a rude addition. I did have a really lovely day, sharing it with Mother's Day meant that I was home for the weekend and we went to one of my favourite restaurants (look out for my month in review post which will chat about this more!). 

I also thought my birthday would be a good point to do a bit more of ~get to know~ me style post-so here we go with 23 things about me.

1. I'm a Pisces and read my horoscope each morning, even though I'm not 100% sure I truly believe in it!
2. I'm a Hufflepuff  and totally proud
3. My Myers Briggs type is INFJ, and in case you hadn't guessed, I'm totally obsessed with personality quizzes
4. I literally cannot use eyebrow pencils, so my eyebrows are never on fleek.
5. I am one of the clumsiest people I know; I once threw five trays of drinks down myself when I was working a dinner party
6. I could eat Italian food every day for the rest of my life
7. The first concert I ever went to was S Club 7, where I worked flares and butterfly clips 
8. The first 'grown-up' concert I went to was Foals at the Engine Shed in Lincoln, where I rocked Tammy Girl red jeans & spent most of the night dodging flying pints
9. I was born six weeks early and have been annoyingly early to everything ever since
10. I had train-track braces for almost two years and then promptly lost my retainers; don't be like me
11. I ditched Gymnastic classes as a child because I got upset that I couldn't do a forward roll
12. I rode horses for 10 years, and I miss it a lot
13. I've been dying my hair on-and-off since I was 14, I've been a 'lovely' shade of copper (blonde that went wrong), plummy brown, light brown, reddish brown, straight-up red and then my current dark brown
14. I can't imagine ever wearing anything other than skinny jeans when it comes to jeans
15. My first celebrity crush was Orlando Bloom, specifically in the Pirates of the Caribbean films
16. I saw The Princess Diaries film in the cinema four times
17. My favourite restaurant in Birmingham (of the ones I've visited) is The Lost & Found
18. Snapchat makes me feel like an old woman as I just don't get it
19. If I had to shop in one shop forever it would be Zara, which I just adore
20. I cry at most films (including Ice Age...don't ask)
21. My middle name is Victoria
22. I have a younger brother who is two years younger than me
23. There is nothing that drives me more crazy than people who are never on time


Friday, 11 March 2016

In Review: February

(Photo Credit: Oh Deere)

So this is a pretty belated February wrap-up, but that might just say something about how surprisingly busy February was for me, despite it only being the shortest month-even in its leap year guise.

Staying In

The most fun home-based thing that happened over the past month when my friend from school came up to Birmingham from London and made a really delicious vegan meal of roasted veg, chickpeas and crushed potatoes which I'm definitely underselling but was super delicious. We also enjoyed some prosecco & limoncello cocktails and just had a proper catch-up which was lovely.

This month also saw me become a Dementia Friend with the Alzheimer's Society, you can find out about local sessions or become a friend online by clicking here. It's a really interesting and eye-opening experience and I recommend getting involved (especially if you do any kind of customer-facing role).

I've also got properly into two television series this month which are both on the BBC over here. The first is American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson. This is essentially a dramatisation of the OJ Simpson trial which I am vaguely familiar with, but took place the same year I was born so I'm definitely not aware of all the details! The performances are all great, especially those by Cuba Gooding Jr as OJ and Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran, a civil rights lawyer, and it's just a really insightful look at the court case and all the racism issues that were present in the States in the early 90s (and how little has changed).

The second programme is The Night Manager which replaced the fabulous War & Peace. This stars Tom Hiddleston, in a performance that has made me understand why everyone finds him so attractive, as a hotel manager who becomes tangled up in the life of arms-dealer Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie). Based on a novel by John le Carre, it is filmed beautifully with incredible locations and is packed with solid performances (Olivia Colman & David Harewood as a trans-atlantic intelligence partnership; Tom Hollander as one of Roper's crew; Natasha Little as a mistreated wife and Tobias Menzies as a slippery intelligence agent are all great). Plus Elizabeth Debicki (who plays Roper's wife) has a seriously enviable wardrobe in this too.

Going Out

The obvious highlight of this month was getting to go to the theatre twice in one month, which was such a treat. Seeing a really modern Matthew Bourne production in Sleeping Beauty and a really classic ballet in Romeo & Juliet  within a couple of weeks was a lot of fun, and the casts of both were great. You can find my full thoughts on both pieces at the end of this entry.

In terms of eating out, I had three first-time visits this month. First up was 1847, which is an entirely vegetarian and vegan restaurant based in the Great Western Arcade in Birmingham. This was such a fun experience for someone who is a bit of a hardened meat eater, and I really enjoyed the halloumi 'fish' and chips-especially as the cheese was really melty rather than grilled as it is usually.

There was then Caffe Concerto, which is found in Grand Central above New Street Station. This is one of those places that has the sort of cakes that cause people to slow-walk past the counter and my mille-fieulle (chosen after seeing it made on GBBO-obviously) was packed with delicious vanilla-cream. Finally, was Thai Edge based in Brindleyplace. Whilst the service is a little on the slow side, the coconut rice is truly amazing and my stir-fried mussels were really tasty too.

I also had my first 'out out' experience for ages, which was a fun experience and also the first time I'd used Uber which I was super happy with-especially with it only costing £3.50 to get across town, even after midnight.

Finally, I finished the month going to Birmingham Town Hall (one of the venue's I worked at when I was at university) with my parents to see British Sea Power, a band that my Dad loves. This was a bit of a different date as they were accompanied by a brass band, so it was a lot more instrumental than their usual sound. I really liked it; the musicianship on display by everyone was really impressive. Plus Town Hall is a really gorgeous venue too (not that I'm biased obviously).

Posts this month:
January in review
Clicklist #13
My thoughts on Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty
A Rookie Recruiter's Guide to Getting a Job
My thoughts on Birmingham Royal Ballet's Romeo & Juliet
Clicklist #14

February was surprisingly busy, and March is already shaping up to be pretty busy too! 2016 is really hurtling along.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

A Month in Books: February

February was a bit of a *Kanye shrug* month for reading really, I think perhaps I've been feeling a bit slumpy and just not engaged with the books I read this past month. Maybe this is the downside to trying to read books that I've had for a while, rather than books I'm necessarily really excited to be reading.

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (2011, Scribner)
I've probably said this here before, but I find Jon Ronson to be a hugely compelling writer and he has pretty much become an author who I want to read more of. The Psychopath Test generally deals with the idea that maybe everyone is just a little bit mad, and the ways in which we can define 'madness' or mental illness. Ronson tells numerous stories of different really interesting people; including a man who has apparently faked madness to get out of a jail term and has now found himself in Broadmoor alongside serial killers, a businessman who views psychopathy as key to business and even Ronson himself as he becomes obsessed with defining those around him. Like Them and So You've Been Publically Shamed, this was just a super engaging read and leaves you plenty of facts to annoy intrigue your friends with.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (2013, Simon & Schuster)
This has been on my shelf for an embarrassing amount of time and so I'm glad to have finally read it, although it didn't engage me as well as I think it may have done a few years ago. It tells the story of Julia, an 11-year-old girl who at the start of the novel is just dealing with growing-up. However, it's soon found that the Earth's rotation is slowing, throwing normal life out of context. The writing in this is lovely, as it's told by an older Julia looking back, it feels wonderfully nostalgic and there's a great sense of place; almost reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird. However, I just found the plot progressions to be mostly pretty predictable, despite an original premise, and I just didn't find myself really reaching to read it. I will say that this would be a great 'cross-over' novel, if you enjoy Young Adult science fiction novels and fancy something a little more 'adult' (but not by much).

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (2014, Corsair)
I've been itching to read this for ages, having heard only good things and really liking Gay's essay collection Bad Feminist. This is the story of Miri, a successful lawyer from a wealthy Haitian family who is kidnapped when visiting her parents in the country with her husband and young son. The novel then tells the story of what happens to her during her captivity, and then what happens after. Gay doesn't flinch from describing the things that happen to a woman in this situation, so it's frequently not an easy read but I really loved the insight into Haiti as a country and culture. Gay also handles the issue of trauma fantastically too. The only thing that distracted from really loving it was some pretty clunky dialogue (especially in the romantic scenes) and some plot choices that just seemed a tad convienet. However, I would really recommend this if you're looking for a fast-paced, thought-provoking read.