Thursday, 12 December 2013

"Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store" #ShareAdvent

This was the starting point for my Sectret Santa project. I am Santa to a friend who has recently started a dress making course and loves to stitch. When I came across this old sewing stool, I knew that it was the perfect opportunity to make the most of what I'd picked up at The Button Boutique's furniture restoration class and to create something unique which (I hoped) my friend would love.
I'll be writing about this stool's journey once I've finished sprucing it up, so watch this space!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Childhood Memories #ShareAdvent

As a grown up, you don't get to visit Santa in a party dress (unless it's a seedy office party Santa and, thankfully, my office is Santa-free). This photo brings back memories of the Christmas parties we used to go to with my mum and dad and their friends' families. Just look at my brother's little smile in his braces and bow tie -  what a cutie!

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Joy is in the Giving #ShareAdvent

Sharing experiences and making memories. This is the general theme for my Christmas gifts this year. M and I had already decided that we would put money aside for a 2014 holiday, rather than buy expensive presents. Last year, I bought my brother an voucher for Airkix, an indoor skydiving centre in Manchester. We had a brilliant day together, crashing into the walls of the air tunnel. 

I've decided to book another experience day for my brother this year. This time, we'll be going skiing. EEK! We're both complete novices and neither of us fancy booking a ski trip before we've had a little practise. Much as I'm sure I'd enjoy the hot chocolates and snug fires that often seem to accompany ski holidays, I have visions of spending most of a trip crawling around on the snow, being unable to get back up on my skis after toppling over, face first. To try to remedy this, I found a one hour taster session and decided that it would be a perfect chance for us to face our fears together! I've also booked theatre tickets to see Miss Saigon when it opens next year. I'll team this with an overnight hotel stay and my mum and I will have a girly date to look forward to. Really looking forward to watching them open the gifts, and planning creative ways to package them.

Who's left on your Christmas shopping list? Maybe you could treat them with a bit of quality time, tied with a big red ribbon, naturally!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

"Dance like there's nobody watching" #ShareAdvent

This photograph was taken at my friend's wedding in October. These girls are my dancing queens and if The Proclaimers' 500 miles gets a play, you'll see us start to dance like happy idiots to a routine which we adopted while in Kavos for our post A-levels holiday (oh, yes!), much to the amusement of our relatives at every wedding we've been to together. 

It's been a while since I had my dancing shoes on, but this Saturday I'll be out with these gorgeous girlies for a night of birthday celebrations and I cannot wait!

Cosy Christmas Jumpers

Christmas is a-coming! My high school friends and I have cooked a Christmas dinner for each other every year since we were 18. It's another of my favourite Christmas dates. We've dressed in our finery, we've dressed in comfy slobs. This year, it's the year of the Christmas Jumper and so, I am jumping quickly and excitedly onto the Christmas Jumper bandwagon.

There's lots of Christmas jumpers around, ranging from a £10 supermarket novelty knit to ones that cost upward of £80 that you'd feel you ought to wear through to the following Christmas! I'm not necessarily budgeting myself at the low end, but certainly don't plan to spend silly money, either. Those extra pennies could be spent on mince pies and mulled wine, for goodness sake! Here's a selection of the ones I looked at.

Festive Red
A Little Bit Louder

Will you be wearing a Christmas jumper this year? I've now got to decide which one I'll buy, before they all sell out!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

"Joy To The World" #ShareAdvent

Today, I baked my very first Christmas cake* to the beautiful sounds of Sufjan Stevens' Christmas Joy. The whole house was filled with delicious baking smells. We sipped a tipple of brandy, and caught up with Australian MasterChef while kittens slept on our laps. Best of all, I got to Skype with my best friend who is travelling for eight months. This was the perfect Sunday Joy, all the way from Kuala Lumpur! 

*I'll share my recipe soon. I'm so proud - it definitely looks edible and smells amazing!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Looking Back Over November

A little round up of favourite moments of November 2013. Thank goodness for camera phones.

  • Watching the leaves turn, and disappear
  • Getting out the Winter woollies and heading to Sefton Park's firework display
  • Games night with friends and snug nights on the couch with Lottie and Bruce
  • Marking 12 years since my dad died with a family day of bowling and laughter
  • After work walks and Christmas cups
  • Baking. This one is Nigella's chocolate and raspberry cake. Icing sugar over the top... 
  • Being treated to an after work spa night at The Club and Spa and a meal at Marco Pierre White
  • Heading to New Orleans for a conference and returning with a suitcase full of sweets
  • Christmas crafting, starting with homemade Christmas cards  
  • My brother turning 25. Actually cannot believe he is so old, and lets forget for just a moment that I'm actually older than him!

This month seems to have whizzed by. In fact, this whole semester has whizzed by. BUT, with my last lecture now under my belt I can start to wind down and prepare for Christmas. Hoo-rah!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Skin & Blister's #ShareAdvent

Earlier this year I followed Florence Finds' #JanuaryJoy and it was a whole lot of fun. It also encouraged me to engage with this space as my digital diary, as I had originally intended it to be, reflecting on each of Rebecca's prompts and finding ways to stay positive against potential post-Christmas blues. It was also great to see how other people had interpreted the prompts and read about what they got up to. I found some beautiful blogs through #JanuaryJoy.

This December, I plan to follow Anna at Skin & Blister's #ShareAdvent. The idea is to try to follow a daily prompt, and there's some fantastic ones! I'm really looking forward to it and also hope that it encourages me to 1) enjoy the little things 2) practice my photography 3) be a better blogger 4) take a break from work. All good things in my book! Here are Anna's prompts.

Sunday 8th will be our 2013 tree putting up day - possibly one of my favourite days of the year, and I already have a little something planned for 'the joy is in the giving'. It all kick starts on Sunday with "Joy to the World". Thinking caps on...

Find out more about #ShareAdvent here. Are you planning to join in? I'd love to see what you get up to.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

NOLA-mber: Presentations, Pecans & Po-Boys

I am just back from a four night work trip to New Orleans where I attended a research conference. It was a really great conference which provided a (much needed) enthusiasm and confidence boost for my research. New Orleans had hosted the same annual conference two years ago and I was lucky enough to attend then, too. I was excited to go back and take better advantage of being in this vibrant city. 
I ate my fill of pralines and pecan pie, dipped in and out of bars with live music, went to a fantastic jazz brunch, admired the pretty (and the bizzare) in little antique stores in the French Quarter, had a po-boy, went for a morning stroll down Bourbon Street (having witnessed it on a Saturday night last time!) and took a trip to the Garden District on the traditional St. Charles street car. Honestly, I did attend conference sessions - I even presented! I had tried to travel light and didn't take my SLR camera but I still managed to snap away using my phone.
I really enjoyed the chance to visit New Orleans again. I wish M had been able to take the time off to come with me - I think he'd have really enjoyed it. It also gave me the time to think and make plans, generally. The two 16 hour journeys alone left more than enough time to reevaluate various things that have happened over the past couple of months and to get excited about future plans. Sometimes, the thing you need most is some time to yourself, to see new and exciting things. This reminded me of Kaplan and Kaplan's research on restorative environments and the need for us to be fascinated, as a way of overcoming fatigue. They consider natural environments, but New Orleans fascinated me. The trip was a break from routine and the long to-do lists and gave me opportunities to renew my enthusiasm for my work, and for my life in general. Thanks, NOLA!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Gift of Paper: An Anniversary Gift

We celebrated our first wedding anniversary in a little cottage in Dent and had a great few days away (you can read all about it here!). The first wedding anniversary is represented by paper in the UK and I thought I'd share my paper DIY. 

Full disclosure: This anniversary DIY isn't really complicated enough to showcase your crafty skills but you and the recipient both get get twelve fun days/nights out of it, so that earned it a gold star from me!
I picked up some sheets of recycled paper and 12 Kraft envelopes. Scrabble usually features in our weekend lineup and this Scrabble font was one of the fonts we used for our wedding day stationary. Each envelope contained a square of recycled paper with a printed 'voucher' which introduced the date for that month and said what was included. For some dates, I made little tickets and paper bits, too. I bundled the envelopes together, in date order, using a length of 'Admit One' ribbon bought on Etsy and put them inside a paper box filled with wedding day pictures and shredded recycled paper. Ta-da. Job done! 

The hardest, but also the most fun part was coming up with date ideas. I wanted the dates to be something we'd either talked about doing 'at some point' but never actually made a plan for, or something we do more regularly where the voucher would give us a good excuse to spend quality time together doing something which we love.

Here's what we got up to:
September - 'A Cozy Night In' (Clockwise from top left) Knowing we'd have a busy month, this one was a night where we'd switch of our phones, lock the door, put on PJs and just relax with each other. It's not that we'd not have done this at some point in the month anyway, but putting a date in the calendar for such a night made it feel more special. The voucher included a film of M's choice, popcorn, sweets, and a large American Pizza Slice pizza (best pizza ever). 

October - 'A Trip to Blackpool'  One of our first dates was a trip to Blackpool. We had taken a Kodak disposable camera. I sent it off to TruPrint and they lost it. Devastated! We've gone to see the illuminations, or what's left of them, almost every October since. I made little tickets for tram rides, made up a £2 bag of penny coins, and promised a fish and chip dinner.

November - 'Nando's and Cinema'  Both of us love Twilight fans (please don't judge!) so this one gave us an excuse to enjoy a Nando's meal, buy cinema tickets to see Breaking Dawn Part 2 and munch pick'n'mix.

January - A Night of Fine Dining, At Home  A three course dinner with wine - his choice of menu. I made homemade pasta, without a pasta machine. It was a disaster but we had a great night laughing at my attempt to make pasta. The thick slimy tagliatelle wasn't quite what I'd imagined - not so fine dining, as it turned out.

February - Spa Pampering for Two  A day of pampering at a local spa. We went to Rookery Hall and Spa and had a relaxed day around their pool area with sauna and steam room, and a heavenly massage.

March - Beer A tour around Cains Brewery and a few bottles of beer to take away. This one was thwarted, sadly, by our cat, Jacques', accident and then the brewery closed and tours were no longer available. Instead, I bought a supply of beers from different countries, made a beer quiz and created little tasting note cards. No complaints - he had a well stocked fridge for a good while after!

April - A Little Mini Break Again, this one was put on hold because it was very difficult to go away overnight after Jacques' accident. Not quite what I'd planned, but we splashed out on a lovely hotel in Buxton after my friends wedding.

May - An Indoor Picnic Not trusting the British weather, this included a new board game and a picnic blanket covered with tasty food from Delifonseca, our favourite Liverpool based deli. We have most of the more traditional board games at home already so M decided on Family Fortunes, which kept us amused for long enough (but hasn't been out of it's box since!

June - Museum Time  The original plan was to head to Eden Camp in Yorkshire. We'd worked out  that we'd both been there on a primary school visit within a month of each other. We agreed to go together but have never got round to it. Well, we still haven't! We couldn't get away overnight without paying for a vet nurse to sit, so we took advantage of living in such an amazing city and went to the Chagall exhibition at Liverpool Tate instead. We followed it up with a meal and drinks at Miller and Carter. 

July - 'Lions and Tigers and Bears' After talking about it for years, we finally made a date for Chester Zoo! This one included a packed lunch with peanut butter and jam sandwiches and all the sorts of naughty goodies you were never allowed in your packed lunch as a kid. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we had an amazing time.

August - Next Stop, Cotton I knew this would be a busier month and probably when we'd go on holiday. I planned a 'show and tell' night, where we looked through all the photos from the past 12 months of anniversary gift related dates with a good bottle of red, too much cheese and charcuterie. This one also included a photobook for us to store our favourite snaps.

That's it - our twelve paper anniversary dates. I'm sure there are lots of things that you could include, depending on how much money you want to spend, what you enjoy doing together and how far you're able to travel. Circumstances meant that not all of the later dates went quite as I'd planned but having at least one pre-planned date in the diary each month really encouraged us (forced us, at times) to stop and set 'proper' time aside for each other. We've got some great memories, a photobook to create and a lot of ticket stumps to help us to remember our second year of marriage. 

Doing things with the people I love, rather than having things, is becoming increasingly important. With Christmas coming up fast, I think this could easily be adapted for a friend or relative. Can this help you to cross anyone off your Christmas shopping list? I hope so!

Friday, 25 October 2013

"Autumn Days When the Grass is Jewelled"

Autumn is my favourite season, tied with Spring. Honestly, it's the trees that do it. I'm fairly certain I drive my lovely husband mad with constant chatter about the changing colours of leaves. The green to yellow, burned orange and reds. I love it! Last Autumn we visited Paris and I was in paradise strolling little back streets, bag of macrons in hand, staring up at trees and enjoing a crisp, Autumn weekend. 

Paris. October 2012.

Thinking back to this time last year made me think about what I'm most looking forward to this Autumn. Sadly, Paris 2013 isn't on the list, but there are lots of other things to get myself excited about!

  • Weekend walks crunching fallen leaves underfoot
  • Keeping snug in my new Massimo Dutti cape
  • Heading down to the annual firework display at Sefton Park on Bonfire Night, followed by a slice of gingercake and a mug of hot chocolate.
  • Baking (and eating) Autumn puds
  • Travelling to a research conference in New Orleans in November and eating pralines
  • Weekend walks crunching fallen leaves
  • Watching two very small and gorgeous kittens grow into little tigers
  • Curling up on the couch under a blanket catching up on brilliant Sky Atlantic dramas 
  • Making exciting festive plans for Christmas

What's in your diary this Autumn? I hope that there's something fun in there to look forward to!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A Cotton Anniversary

Image by Christian Ward Photography
The photograph was taken on our wedding day in 2011 by our lovely photographers, Christian and Erica. This photo is one of my favourites from the day. I think I've clocked the camera here. I just remember feeling so lucky - walking into one of my favourite buildings, holding hands with my favourite person, to see all of our family and friends smiling back at us, ready to celebrate our marriage. 

On 27th August, we celebrated our second wedding anniversary on Koh Tao, Thailand. We spent the morning opening the backpack-able cotton gifts we'd bought for each other at Chatuchak market in Bangkok and talking about our wedding day, passed the afternoon diving together and lazing on the beach, had a lovely Thai meal at a little hillside restaurant overlooking the bay and finished with a £4 beachfront Thai massage and mojitos. It was a pretty good wedding anniversary!

Wedding anniversary sunset, Koh Tao
Two years isn't a very long time, I suppose, but they've been two good years and I'm excited to see what we get up to in year number three. Our Southeast Asia holiday was a fantastic start and I'm keen to fill up the next twelve months with lots more adventures! 

Monday, 21 October 2013

An Autumn Pud

I am a sweet toothed pudding kind of girl. I love a good serving of sponge cake. I adore a good blob of whipped cream. I'll even take a bit of single cream, if I have to. In the Summer months I happily take a lighter fruit salad, yogurt or ice pop but now that the cold is starting to creep back, a bowl of chopped fruit just doesn't do it for me. I need something warm, something tasty but, if possible, something that isn't guilt inducing. Well, I've found such a pud. A yummy, warm in your tummy kind of dessert that can be served up with ice cream, custard or, for the calorie conscious, fat free fromage frais. D-elicious! 

We bought a 500g bag of frozen Summer fruits and a small Warbutons cinnamon and raisin loaf, and used four tablespoons of demerera sugar from the cupboard and a slither of butter. Defrost the fruit and then put most of the bag into a medium sized baking dish. Use a blender to make a puree with the remaining quarter(ish) of bag and pour over the fruit. Depending of the size of your dish, butter six to eight slices of the loaf and cut each in half. Arrange them over the top of your fruit, just as you would a bread and butter pud. Sprinkle the sugar over and then oven bake for around 15 minutes until the sugar starts to caramelise. Serve with a dollop of fromage frais, or your choice of topping. Next best bit, you've got slices of loaf left over for breakfast!

Oh I do love a good pud. Enjoy!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Sorry. I'm Busy with Kittens!

A few things are keeping me busy at the moment. Work, in particular, is a very hectic. Now until Christmas is my busy teaching semester and we have a much larger first year cohort this year, which means more emails and generally more evening hours spent hunched over a laptop! I'm also trying to squeeze in some research in between and feeling guilty for not managing to get everything completed to plan. It's not all bad though. This photo was taken today while walking across campus and in November, I'll be taking photos while walking around New Orleans where I'm due to attend a research conference. I can hear the jazz beats calling out to me! 
The second thing(s) keeping me busy are these two little 'uns. Meet Lottie and Bruce (Wayne - just look at his little caped crusader mask!). Please excuse the poor quality phone picture! Two months was a very long time in a catless house and M was very keen for us to welcome a new cat into our home. These two 5 month old kittens arrived with us on Friday and most evenings are spent laughing at cat related antics, receiving lap cuddles (Bruce), or trying to coaxing Lottie out from under 'her' table. They're lovely, and I've quickly got used to having them around. It was a funny feeling - a mix of sadness and guilt, at first, having new kittens in the house. Jacques really was my little love and I spent so much of 2013 routing for Jacques' nervous system to recover. It's that tricky question of 'how soon is too soon?', but then I don't think that anyone is able to answer that but you. 
New roomies: Lottie and Bruce
Aside from that, I've been on a furniture restoration workshop at Liverpool's Baltic Creative, had a Wicked date with my mum in Manchester, attending my friend's beautiful wedding, saw a fantastic production of Crime and Punishment at Liverpool's Everyman Playhouse, started to whittle down holiday photographs, went to see the film Prisoners (brilliant) at Fact, tried on my bridesmaid dress and made hen do plans, went on a few sunny and some rather windy walks, enjoyed quite a lot of cake and drank quite a few hot chocolates to warm up colder Autumn nights. So, as you can see, it's been a fun but busy month or so since I returned home. Lets see what comes next...!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

"Those Summer Nights" (and Days)!

It's been such a long time since I sat down and wrote a post. I've missed it. When I was away on holiday, I realised how much I get out of writing in this space, even if it's not as often as others and if there's only a (baby sized) handful of lovely people that regularly read it.

I'm just back from what has been the most amazing three week adventure in Southeast Asia. It's going to take some time to go through our 4000+ photographs. When we've got to grips with them, I plan to write at least a couple of posts about our travels: the places we visited, where we stayed, how we spent our time, what we ate... oh man, what we ate! That will be a treat if you're a foodie - I think at least a quarter of our photographs will be images of food! Here's an Instagram-er to get your tastebuds going!
Our lunch at Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok
Food aside, it was so great to take a break and to have some time together, exploring new places and getting excited about the beautiful, small details of the world. The pre-holiday month had some pretty sad moments and the time away really has helped. We're back, ready to take on whatever comes next!

Really, with the massive exception of having to put our gorgeous Jacques to rest, this Summer has been pretty super. I'd drafted a couple of 'what I've been up to' posts but never finished them so, in an admittedly lazy fashion, I'm going to use them here as my record of Summer 2013.


  • My best friend got married in Buxton's Botanical Gardens. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and we cried a few a lot of happy tears, drank champagne, took a ride on the park train, and threw some shapes on the dance floor. 
  • We bought tasty deli treats and had an indoor picnic feast and played Family Fortunes
  • An annual African music festival, Africa Oyé, took place at our local park so we headed down for some food and music. Chicken rice and peas, and steel drum beats. Perfect!
  • My mum and I had some girly time with facials, bubbly and cake at The Club & Spa, Chester.
  • We had our first strawbs of the season
  • We had a Thai food date night, in preparation for our Southeast Asia trip.
  • M's parents came to stay for the night and I made creme caramels for the first time. Thankfully, they were a success!
  • I went to my first hot yoga class at Happiness Yoga, which has recently opened in South Liverpool. I was so warm and sweaty by the end of the session, but I'll definitely be going again.
  • I upgraded my phone (finally) and became addicted to Instagram

July's highlights included nightly Pimms and strawberries during Wimbledon, more wedding fun, a date day to Chester Zoo, a pottery painting class, dodging cows on a very long walk, fish and chip sunsets, and going to Indietracks and watching my very talented hubby play and his band play their first festival.
A cow
Pre-holiday, August was a busy month. I spent some quality time with my lovely little brother and we went indoor skydiving at Airkix. Lots of fun! M and I visited Tate Liverpool to see the Chagall exhibition and had our final date night of the first anniversary 'year of dates'. We basically scoffed loads of cheese, sipped wine and looked through the photos that we'd taken over the last 11 months of dates. I had my first every chiropractic session to try and beat these headaches (maybe not such a highlight given how sick I felt afterwards). Another best friend gets married in a couple of weeks and we celebrated her hen do in Manchester, and then my mum, brother and I travelled to London to celebrate my mum's birthday - more on this another time!
Kes at Somerset House for Mum's birthday
Then there were the three blissful weeks living out of a backpack and eating too much dim sum. A great little Summer. The new semester has started at work and I really need to bring myself back to this space regularly and remind myself all is well. This here's my little slice of calm when things, inevitably, get crazy!

Friday, 9 August 2013


Tomorrow we will put our beautiful little mister to sleep. We adore Jacques. He's the third person in our marriage and he even got a surprise mention in our wedding day service in the rector's talk! We have been caring for Jacques for over five months since he was hurt in a road traffic accident and suffered a sacral fracture. For most of that time he has truly been a content cat, ready to chase a fish-on-a-stick in a second, sitting on my lap purring in encouragement during his daily doses of strokes, and playing happily outside. We've been less happy but patient and hopeful for his recovery, manually emptying his bladder several times a day, making games out of administering medication, quizzing one another about how many wees/poos/puddles we've found, and finding cat litter everywhere! We've both learned a lot about ourselves and each other through caring for him. Things have become more challenging over the last few weeks. Jacques seems more withdrawn and has had a few more serious internal issues that, alongside other factors, have brought us to this decision. We were anxious about leaving him when we're away and I think, in some ways, there will be a relief for us when he is at peace. Darn the car that hit this little fellow. Oh how I will miss his beautiful face and his deep, reassuring purr. Tomorrow's going to be a horrid day. Bah! Sleep easy, tiger.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Just a photo

I've not made much time to write here recently and I don't have time to stay a while today. Instead, I thought I'd share a photograph. 

This was a photograph taken by the wonderful Christian and Erica Ward during our pre-wedding photo shoot. We had the photographs formed into a wedding guestbook that takes me back to both of these special days! I LOVE this photograph. It's not my best angle, and I think my hair looks flat and lifeless BUT it captures one of my favourite ways to spend time, in one of my favourite places. A good few afternoons have been spent playing Scrabble and strolling through Sefton Park the past few months! Less need for the umbrella recently, though!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Thoughts for a Thursday Afternoon

Image Source
 Indeed, Roald Dahl. Indeed.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Two Months to Go: What to Pack

A year ago, going to Southeast Asia was just a pipedream. Well, we're going. In two months. Hurrah! We're surprisingly organised! We fly out to Bangkok, spending three nights absorbing the sights, smells and sounds of this Thai city. I've heard a lot about Bangkok and I'm very excited to experience it myself. We then have a mixture of beach/ island stops and more built up city environments. 

It's difficult to know what to pack. I plan to travel light since I'll be spending a lot of time wearing my backpack in queues for planes, trains and boats. I'm not sure what size pack to take. I've already got a 60L but I think this will be too big for me for this trip.

I probabaly need to work out what I want to take and then decide how big a backpack I'll need to fit it all. In terms of clothing, I think the key thing is to take pieces that will go with other things, possibly in a similar colour palette. I had a little play around on Polyvore to create some travel outfits. Here's what I've got planned:

Flashpacker Travel Outfit Casual 2
Vests, shorts, and longer linen trousers are a travel wardrobe must. Then a bright patterned scarf will add a pop of colour and will also double up as a shoulder cover-up for temples and on cooler evenings. Shoes are my biggest pickle. I don't think we'll do enough trekking to justify packing walking boots, but I plan to take a pair of trainers, and then a pair of thinner pumps for exploring.

Flashpacker Travel Outfit Evening
A bit of evening glam. A while ago I wrote about multi way dresses. Well, I did some more research and I found a black one on ebay. I'm really happy with it, although I've found that it's surprisingly heavy because of all of the fabric. It will be a perfect travel dress because you really can style it in so many ways. I like the low V strapless look. Teamed with pretty sandals and some bright jewellery, I'll feel a bit more glam for evenings out.

Flashpacker Travel Outfit Beach
I plan on indulging in just a little bit of beach bum and good book time. Trusty flip flops will, of course, find their way into the bag. I want to take a cute sun hat but then they always get squashed in bags, don't they! I also want a new bikini that flatters my shape. I bought some new swimwear for honeymoon but I'm not sure it looks as good two years on! I like this wider strapped halterneck polka dot bikini with ruched sided bottoms.

Flashpacker Travel Outfit Casual

Finally, for relaxed nights watching the sun set over the sea, I've bought a couple of pairs of thin patterned trousers, like this pair from River Island, which could be teamed with simple block colour vests or tees and a chunky necklace or scarf. All of these would double up for sightseeing days and dinners, too.

I love planning holiday outfits and I consider myself to be a pretty awesome packer, once I've decided what I'm taking (it's all about tight rolling!). It's a bit different planning for this trip because I'll be packing for different environments and different activities. At least we don't need to pack any cold weather gear! Have you got any travel packing tips to share? What would be on your perfect holiday packing list? 

*My friend is currently on a travelling adventure and has so far visited areas of Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. If you fancy a gander at some informative, funny and well written posts about the adventures of a twenty-something in Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, you can check out my friend's travel blog posts here on 'Travelling in Rollers'.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


I was recently treated to my first Balinese massage by a work colleague after talking to her about my long term headaches. I've had several professional massages and always enjoy them but this massage was quite different. My lovely holistic massage therapist, Vicky, took time to discuss my headaches and postural problems and then spent an hour pushing, folding and pulling my body. Bliss! The treatment session ended with a Balinese tea ceremony where I graciously had to 'slurp' a little glass cup of tea in three noisy slurps, which apparently makes it more cleansing! The whole experience was wonderful!
I've always avoided talking during my massage but, as a holistic therapist, Vicky asked a few questions about my lifestyle. Chatting really added to the experience and, counter to what I'd always thought, it made it a more relaxing experience. One question that Vicky asked was 'do you find it easy to relax?'. I answered with a shaky 'err, I guess so'. I continued to think about this during and after the treatment.  Actually, I think I find it pretty difficult to relax.

It's so easy to get swallowed up in the day to day rush, to spend the evening sat in front of the TV, or to have a quick shower instead of a candle bubble bath. It's really rare for me to just take ten minutes to do nothing more than sit and relax. Then I wondered, how should I relax? I recently watched Eat Pray Love (a predictable but inoffensive Julia Roberts movie) where the central character sets off to find peace and direction. She travels to India for a temple stay where she learns how to meditate. A quick Google with 'relaxation ideas' as the search tag brings up countless websites about deep breathing and yoga. Is meditation the only way to relax?  

It seems I need to book in more regular relaxation slots. My Balinese massage was definitely relaxing and I've booked myself a series of four more treatments but I wondered what other people do for R n R? What do you do to relax? Is it a deliberate effort, or just something that comes with that activity? I've been to a few fitness yoga and pilates classes and I've now got a posture chair at work (doc's orders!), but what else can I do? I'd love to hear your ideas and get rid of this permanent tension headache for good!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Casa Morita, Brixton

We stumbled upon Casa Morita in Brixton Market when we were in London last month to see The Postal Service at Brixton Academy. We were spoilt for choice in terms of the range of eateries but it was a busy Sunday afernoon and places were starting to get busy. We were both in the mood for Mexican and noticed that Casa Morita had some tables free. In we went!

The restaurant is small and welcoming with colourful decor. Little pots of chilli sauce and cutlery tins decorate each table. The 'door' opens onto the market walkway and there's a fun, if not slightly 'hipster', atmosphere about the market itself. The menu at Casa Morita is small but each of the dishes sound tasty. I went with a chicken enchillada served with refried beans. It tasted far better than it looked! It was very flavoursome and not at all heavy. 

Drink prices were reasonable (around £6 for a cocktail). I had a mojito, which was nice enough. M had a beer cocktail called a Michelada which was made up of his beer of choice, tabasco sauce, salsa and lime (I think). He wasn't too taken by it in the end. Serves him right for ordering the most obscure drink on the menu!

For us, the only thing that let Casa Morita down was the service. I liked the relaxed atmosphere but the food took quite a while to arrive and we'd ordered some tortillas to start, which we didn't get, and my drink was brought over after we'd more or less finished eating. 

I'd go back to Casa Morita because their food was delicious, the atmosphere was good and it was nice to eat more authentic Mexican food, rather than the 'American Mexican' I've become more used to. I'd just make sure I had a bit more time to spare!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

To You, Dad

"I don't know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn't" ~ George
"Yeah. That never really changes" ~ Christina 
Grey's Anatomy Season 3 Episode 12

My dad died, very suddenly, when I was 16.  How it has affected my life and the person I am today is immeasurable. It's influenced my relationships, my career, and the type of person I try to be. I aim to make him proud every day. Most days, it's just an awareness. A subtle feeling of something missing; something not quite right. Other days, like my wedding day and the day that I received my doctorate, that feeling is more intrusive. There are calendar days like today that have some significance, too. Today is Fathers Day in the UK. I can remember a Fathers Day years and years ago when I made my dad a card with a textured picture of a cooked breakfast and included a £1 coin for him to go to Asda and have a fry up treat. My five year old self was very proud! I wish he was here today. I wish I could take him for a fry up and share our news. I wish he could meet M. I wish I had taken more time to listen and learn his stories.  Lots of wishes! But, today, I am thankful for everything my dad was, and continues to be, to me. I am thankful for the influence he has on my life and hope that he is as proud of me as I am to be his.  


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Happy in... Paris. Part Two.

Okay, it's time for a format change for this second part: I've made the photos bigger! Blogging has been an adventure into making photographs 'work' on the web. I don't think the Photoshop frames do much to show the details in the photographs, so back to big images, albeit with big white gaps between.

We hopped on the Metro across to Champs Elysees and took standard tourist photos of the Arc de Triomphe. Unless you're there at an unusually quiet moment, you're basically going to have to risk your life jumping into traffic or end up at a distance away with lots of cars stealing the spotlight). We did spot a bride who didn't seem to be put off by the angry drivers as she braved it into the middle of the road to pose. We then headed down the crowded Champs Elysees at a pace. If I'm honest, I was disappointed. It didn't have any of the sophisticated glamour I'd imagined and we were shoulder to shoulder with aggressive tourists. We were conscious of time and so didn't stop to admire any of the shops but, in my mind, this just means that there's a return visit on the cards! I'm sure if we pick our time of day/ year right, I'd have a different experience.
Saturday evening we had a 10pm dinner reservation at a restaurant in Saint Germain, Le Petit Zinc. We'd manage to book this earlier in the day and it was the last available table in the restaurant. I don't think I've ever had a 10pm dinner reservation! It was great because we didn't have to rush our day and had plenty of time to head back to the hotel and get ready with some vino. The meal at Le Petit Zinc was great and the service was perfect. I had my first snail, followed by duck a l'orange and the most delicious crème brûlée I've ever tasted.
The next morning we packed and then headed out towards Le Marais and wandered through the quiet cobbled streets. It was a beautiful dry Autumn day and leaves on the trees were the most gorgeous shades of orange. We stumbled upon a market, Marché des Enfants Rouges, which I later found out was one of Paris' oldest markets, and ordered huge sweet crepes. We stopped for a bit of cafe culture and people watching; ordered cream filled chocolate eclairs from a patisserie; hired bikes and cycled through a couple of streets before realising we were feeling dangerously unbalanced on them in the busy traffic and returning them; ate even more sweet treats; and visited a squat with resident artists and bought an original painting to remind us of our trip to Paris.

After our morning of food indulgence and wobbly cycling, we walked through Le Louvre. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to go inside and explore; another good reason for a return visit. We did spend a good amount of time in the grounds and nearby gardens, though. The sun was still shining as we walked through les Jardin des Tuileries. Groups of people were sat out with picnics and wine, and children were playing with little wooden sail boats in the fountains. There had also been an art and design festival and sculpture installations dotted around so we made sure we got a good look at those that we passed. We stopped for a quick drink at a cafe and paid 8 Euros for an Orangina!

We had pre-booked tickets to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and so we headed to the nearest Metro and made our way to Paris' most famous structure. It was a good job we'd booked ahead. The queues were massive and people appeared to have been waiting for hours to buy their tickets. A definite top tip if you're going to make a visit. The views from the top of the Eiffel Tower were amazing. The journey to the top is in two stages: First, take a lift up the 'leg' to the primary viewing platform. Next, queue for one of four much smaller lifts that will take you straight up to the top viewing platform where you can pay a silly sum of money for a glass of bubbly. If you can afford to dine at the restaurant, brilliant; you're going to get your very own lift straight up to the top. If not, well, be prepared to wait a while for your turn in the lift. So we waited and on the top viewing platform, champagne in hand, we watched the sun set over Paris. As we walked away to catch a Metro back to the hotel, pick up our luggage and head to the airport for our return flight, the Eiffel Tower lit up and sparkled away at us. Absolutely perfect way to end our stay in Paris!

I really enjoyed our weekend in Paris. Time went quickly and I felt there was so much more left to see. I hope to make a return trip to Paris and take more time to get right into the cafe culture, eat more macrons and explore new places.
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