Monday, 21 July 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 76)

Wasn't Sunday just GLORIOUS!? I spent the entire day reading in the garden, smothered in SPF30 but hoping to increase the tan- I think it worked, actually!

This week has been marvellous. I am completely back to myself, looking forwards with an excitement I haven't felt in ages. For a while, thoughts of the future were scaring me- which kind of told me that something wasn't right. I've since sorted that out, and I'm back to feeling like ME again. 

As an aside, I fear this blog is becoming a list of happy things, occasionally peppered with an outing or recipe. I've become useless at regular posting- life is just getting in the way, in a way not seen since before I started blogging. Look back at the early days of my blog, and you'll note I posted every day- I just cannot commit to this any more. But I'm interested- what would you like to see more of in this space of mine? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Anyway. This week, happiness is...

... graduation week! It's two years since I graduated, but last week was graduation week for the last few of my friends- those who studied medicine, did preliminary years, or completed Masters degrees last September. It was so much fun to have everyone around in high spirits, to drink champagne and cocktails with friends and their parents, and generally celebrate everyone's awesomeness.

... having somewhere to live!! Yep, I now have a new place to call my own. It's a lovely flat, with two lovely girls, and I'm finally properly excited about my move to London. It's all coming together!

... finishing a book in a day. I don't think I've done this since school, when I started training myself to take longer and more challenging books on holiday so I didn't have to take five away with me for a week (which was a regular occurrence, at one stage). It was Tampa, our next book club book- I demolished it, and think it's going to make for a very interesting chat. It certainly wasn't exactly what I expected- and apologies if you are of the delicate disposition, you may not like it- but it was a really interesting read!

... celebratory meals. When I got back from London on Saturday evening, M and M and I feasted on champagne, beef bourguignon, and blueberry and peach tarte tatin. It was blissful, and I have come to the firm conclusion that the French do the best celebratory food (and drink) in the world.

... thunderstorms. OK, so it wasn't much fun walking to the train station in the middle of one at 6:15am on a Saturday, but as a general rule, I love thunderstorms. The recent weather has been perfect, as far as I'm concerned- sunny days and stormy nights are where it's at.

What's making you happy this week?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Alternative Things Women Need To Know

So. I've seen this post about things girls need to remember floating around the Internet for a while now. And while at first glance, it's faintly inoffensive, when I look at it I can't help but think- this predominantly reduces women to little more than emotional beings who want to be thin and pretty.

Not going to lie- I'd like to think I'm more than that.

Okay, there are days when I sob for no reason, and days where I wish I had my housemate's body- but is that the only wisdom I have to impart? That other people feel like this too? I know guys that cry for no reason and who are more self conscious about their bodies than me!!

So. Here are my alternatives. Ten things every girl needs to know:

1. Being stupid isn't cute. Oh my god. Seriously- you will impress far more people (romantically and professionally) if you know your shit. Never dumb yourself down for anyone. Be a powerhouse. Impress directors and interview panellists and you will go much further than pretending you don't know how to switch your computer on. Men- yeah, you can do this too. 

2. Build bridges. Be polite and helpful. People (particularly in a workplace) respond better to people they like on a personal level. Be nice, and they're more likely to respond when you ask for something. Again- this applies to guys too...

3. Set goals. It's easier to get somewhere when you know where you want to be. There's a quote from Alice in Wonderland that is pretty applicable here:
'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ 
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat. 
‘I don’t much care where—’ said Alice. 
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat. 
‘—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation. 
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.'
Do you just want to end up SOMEWHERE? Because you will. If you want to buy a house, travel around Africa, or become the next prime minister, work out what you need to do to get there and START DOING IT. Don't come whinging to me when the thing you want to happen hasn't happened if you've done nothing about it. Oh look! That one could apply to men too...

4. Be selfish. Put yourself first sometimes. Don't stay in a relationship because you're worried how the other person will react. Don't let other people dictate your time. Do make time for the things that are important for you. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do (within reason- you DO often have to do what your boss tells you). Haters gonna hate (potatoes gonna potate), so you might as well just do whatever you want anyway. Hey guys- some of you could do with remembering that too.

5. You don't have to do what everyone else is doing. Your twenties and thirties are the shittiest time for comparing yourself to others. Think about number four. What do YOU want to do? It doesn't matter what you THINK you should be doing- do what you KNOW you WANT to do. You can be a doctor, or work in a supermarket, or be self employed. You don’t have to drink. You can buy a house, or you can rent, or you can live with your parents. You can buy your clothes from Primark or The White Company. As Fleetwood Mac once said, you can go your own way.   Are you sending a theme here? I know some guys who could remember this too...

6. Learn a language. Any language, actually. As many as you want. At least learn how to say "please" "thank you" "hello" and a few other key phrases in the language of whatever country you're visiting. It's respectful, and locals respond better to tourists who TRY. And if you have a whole language on your CV, employers think you're awesome. Men? You can do this too.

7. Learning about your car will save you an awful lot of time and money. If you know how to check your oil, water, tyre pressure, and if you're really on it, how to change a tyre, you can stop some things from going wrong before they do. Equally applicable to women and men...

8. Be nice to people. Wish them luck. Cheer their successes. Remember their birthdays. Don't put people down. Stop feeling like you're in competition with everyone you come across!!! It will make you happier, it will make them happier, it will make the world a nicer place to be. Be nice to your mum in particular- she made you from scratch. Don’t demean other people, don’t be stroppy with people for no reason, don’t put other people down. You’re entitled to be in a bad mood- but don’t take it out on the people who mean most to you. Men- my god, would you do well to remember this one too.

9. Learn how to cook. You will save yourself so much time and money if you can cook. Even just knowing how to make ten great dishes (and these could be as simple as roast chicken, bolognese sauce (and therefore lasagne), chilli, fish pie, sausage and mash, beef stew, risotto, leek and potato soup, salmon en papillot, and a pasta bake) will serve you SO well.  Making your own food is so much more satisfying than sticking a pizza in the oven (not cooking), making curry from a jar (not cooking) or ordering a takeaway (definitely not cooking). Knowing how to bake something will impress people too. This one is so applicable to both men and women. EVERYONE should know how to cook something.

10. There is no problem so great or so grave that cannot be greatly diminished by a nice cup of tea. I’m serious. If you’re sad, if you’re stressed, if you’re having a cry in your car, if you’re cold, if you’re hungry- make a cup of tea, and you everything will feel better. It is also the perfect celebratory drink when it’s just that little bit too early to crack out the champagne. It’s the perfect thing to hug while you’re breaking up with someone (as in, clutch the mug like a crux, not hug the actual liquid). It’s the best thing to drink while catching up with friends. Also applies to coffee- but I like tea better. And of course- this obviously is universally applicable.

And overall: Love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe.

Being a girl is fantastic. We get to create life, impress people, smash through glass ceilings. We are so much more than emotional beings who like make up and want to be thin. We are different from men, but certainly should be equal to them. And don’t let anyone- male OR female- tell you otherwise.

Friday, 18 July 2014

In Barcelona

If you're the sort of person who likes a soundtrack to their reading, might I suggest George Ezra's Barcelona while you skim through this?

SO. Barcelona!! It was amazing. Honestly, it's such a wonderful city- if you're looking for somewhere not too terribly far from the UK to explore for a few days, I'd certainly recommend it (though first, go to Guernsey. And then Paris. And perhaps a few other places. But still- Barcelona is well up there).

First- logistics!

Mama and I stayed at the NH Calderon- and I would certainly recommend it. Friendly, just luxurious enough, and just a tiny walk from the top of La Rambla, the only time we got the metro was to go to Park Guell and then back down to the beach. The metro is so easy, too- though we decided it was easier to get a taxi in from the airport to the hotel (which cost around 25 euros each way). We did, however, feel that breakfast was wildly overpriced, so didn't pay for it- instead, we bought water and fruit from Carrefour, and popped into one of the many patisseries on Rambla de Catalunya each morning.

We drank a lot of sangria. We ate tapas and paella and montaditos. We walked, and explored, and visited, and shopped, and got a little Gaudi-ed out- but it was so, so worth it.

So- my top tips for Barcelona:

- On a Sunday, make your way to Placa del Pi, and explore around the farmers' market and artists' market- then make sure you're in front of the Cathedral (Placa Nova) to watch the locals dancing in the square. It sounds twee- it isn't. It's wonderful.

- If you don't have time to visit all the Gaudi sites, give La Pedrera a miss. The chimneys (pictured) really are wonderful, it's true- but inside the building is a disappointment, compared to Casa Batllo. 

- Always get the audio tour. They really do add so much to your trip, I swear to god.

- Whatever you do, book to go to Sagrada Familia. Don't be a mug stuck in the queue. Book online, skip around to the Nativity facade, show them your ticket on your phone, and feel like the smuggest person on the planet.

- Get the furnicular railway up to Montjuic, and get the cable car to the top- then walk back down to the furnicular. Real haven in the city- beautiful, and relatively few tourists. Another great picnic spot.

- Gabriel in Placeta del Pi does some of the best calamari I've ever tried- and great cheap red wine too.

- Keep an eye on your bag. We didn't have any trouble at all, actually- other than the moron street performer who tried to look up my skirt and made me cry- but everyone says it, and it's better to be safe than sorry.

- Park Guell is well worth the trip- take a picnic, and spend some time. Despite what Lonely Planet says, you will now have to pay to get into the monument section- so go early, get your ticket, and do that first before exploring and chilling in the rest of the park.

I may go into a bit more detail about some of what we did at a later date, but for now? Think that's the bare bones. It was a wonderful, wonderful trip. 

Tell me. Have you been to Barcelona? Where should I visit next? I'm thinking Copenhagen. Or maybe a spot of Greek island hopping...

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Blogger Book Club: Our Next Book Is...

So, the votes are in, the lines have closed, and votes have been counted and verified...

... or something like that.


Regardless, you guys have voted, and I am very excited by the fact that the next book we will be reading for the Blogger Book Club is Tampa by Alissa Nutting.

Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She is attractive. She drives a red Corvette. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed and devoted to her. But Celeste has a secret. She has a singular sexual obsession - fourteen-year-old boys. It is a craving she pursues with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought.
Within weeks of her first term at a new school, Celeste has lured the charmingly modest Jack Patrick into her web - car rides after dark, rendezvous at Jack's house while his single father works the late shift, and body-slamming encounters in Celeste's empty classroom between periods. It is bliss.
Celeste must constantly confront the forces threatening their affair - the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack's father's own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind. But the insatiable Celeste is remorseless. She deceives everyone, is close to no one and cares little for anything but her pleasure.

Personally, I think this sounds great, and I think it will make for a really interesting chat. We will be conducting the next chat in much the same way as the last one- so namely via Skype, using the instant messenger. Last time it was SO much fun, so please come and join us! I'll be buying the book after work tomorrow or Friday to keep myself entertained on the way to and from London on Saturday.

We will be discussing the book on Tuesday 9th September, probably around 8pm- so get the date in your diary now!!

And if you haven't already, you can sign up to our Blogger Book Club mailing list here! We won't spam you, promise.

What do you think of our book choice this time?