Sunday, 28 February 2010

Going solo

I have been SO busy lately. Last week was the deadline for the first assignment of 2010 and now it is a never ending cycle of deadlines until the end of the semester in April. I've also started a new(ish) job, working as a library assistant where I had my placement. I love it lots, but it is tiring trying to fit it in with everything else. The past week I worked 30 hours in work, not including 2 full days in Uni!

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St James' Gardens

St James' Gardens

On Thursday I had a strange experience. I was on my lunch hour in Uni and my usual lunch buddy was off, so I decided to visit St James' Gardens, which is one of my favourite places in Liverpool. It is the cemetery for the Anglican Cathedral and is built into a quarry, meaning it is so hidden and secluded, it feels like a little haven away from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

I was sat there, admiring the snowdrops and listening to the birds and just thinking about how great it was to be there, relaxing. Then, a big tour group of OAPs came along. I was just about to get my book out, when one of these old ladies approached me and said 'Are you sat by yourself? Will no-one sit with you? Awww I feel sorry for you!'. I just said 'Err I'm alright...', because I was. I enjoy spending time alone. 

Then, as I was walking back into Uni, I began to get angrier and angrier about what she had said! I get the feeling that if I had been a man sat alone in a park, she wouldn't have batted an eyelid. Is it so wrong for a woman to sit in a park alone, unescorted? I do lots of things alone, like going to the cinema, going for a walk in the park, going shopping, having a coffee. Not because I'm a loner or dislike other people's company, but simply because sometimes people aren't available and I'm okay in my own company. In fact, I think I actually prefer shopping alone so that no-one else slows me down! However, after Thursday, I still think there is a slight stigma attached to women doing things alone. (At least to the older generation).  It made me feel quite conscious of the fact that I was alone, but I don't want it to put me off going places alone. I was also quite annoyed with how blunt she was - what if I did genuinely have no friends and was all alone? Surely that comment could be quite upsetting and distressing to some people!

Anyway that was an odd experience. How do you feel about going places alone? 

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Recent baking

This is a quick roundup of the goings on in my kitchen lately.

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Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Pancake Day....whatever you call it. Generally we call it Pancake Day here, which kind of makes everyone forget the true meaning but hey, any excuse for pancakes is okay with me. We decided to make some American style pancakes, using this really simple Martha Stewart recipe. They were so good! I studded a few with blueberries while they were in the pan. Then we realised we had no maple syrup, so we drizzled it with a bit of golden syrup to give it a British twist. I don't think I'm giving up anything for Lent, I was never really brought up doing it plus I have no self-restraint! Are you giving up anything for Lent?

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Whoopie pie!

For Valentines Day I made whoopie pies! I had tried whoopie pies ones, pumpkin ones, but I expected them to be like cookies for some reason so was disappointed when they were all cakey. However, I recently saw whoopie pies in Brew Tea Bar and also in my Olive magazine, claiming to be the new cupcakes. Then, when I saw this recipe on Annie's Eats, I knew I HAD to try them. Rather annoyingly, my local supermarket has decided to stop stocking buttermilk! I must have been about the only person who bought it anyway. In a rash decision, I decided to substitute the buttermilk for soured cream. It actually worked out pretty well, although maybe they were stodgier than if I had used buttermilk. It was also SO HARD to pipe the pies into heart shapes! I think they slightly resemble hearts right? And they're red so they're perfect for valentines day.

For World Nutella Day, I gave up on my Uni work, which wasn't going too well in the library, to go home and bake nutella cupcakes. I've made these before, but this time I think my presentation is better. I think that style of icing piped on is becoming my signature.

Nutella cupcakes

If you follow me on twitter, you will have seen how annoyed I was about not getting to try any of these! Nutella is one of my favourite things on earth, I could happily eat it from the jar. I love how they try to sell it as a 'healthy' breakfast though - it really isn't! It is delicious though hmmmm. I have previously posted the recipe for these amazing cupcakes here, if you want to try them. (Did I mention they are STUFFED with a big dollop of nutella? Nom)

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I also made these cupcakes for a prospective customer for wedding cupcakes. They wanted a sample and they were so pleased with them. I have also had enquiries about wedding cupcakes for a wedding in July and I am so excited and flattered that people actually think my cupcakes are good enough to be their wedding cake! How cute are the sugar flowers too? I get all of mine from this website, Cake Craft Shop. Their cupcakes boxes are also really good and sturdy. I could spend a fortune on that site!

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Brownies, nom nom nom. I made these using a recipe from the fabulous Smitten Kitchen. It uses only cocoa powder and no melted chocolate at all! I was a bit dubious about this but still eager to try it. Plus it gave me another excuse to use my delicious chocolate orange cocoa powder from Paris.

Did I mention I've also been trying to eat healthily lately too? Haha! I treat myself at the weekends but during the week I have no snacks inbetween meals at all. I palm off all my baked goods onto unsuspecting victims like Scott or my brother-in-law. What have you all been cooking lately? Anything nice for Valentines Day, pancake day or just for a naughty treat?

Monday, 15 February 2010

A tourist in your own city.

The other week, when we were in Liverpool, we saw a group of Spanish tourists waiting at the train station. We then started talking about what it must be like to see Liverpool for the first time, and to be a tourist in Liverpool. Growing up on the outskirts of Liverpool, we obviously can't even remember the first time we saw it and take things like The Albert Dock, the Mersey, the Liver Birds, the TWO cathedrals, for granted. So, for Valentines day we decided to go on The Yellow Duckmarine tour around the city.

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I couldn't really get many good photos while we were on the tour, because of the weird plastic sheeting over it, but look at the duckmarine! They're from World War II, created by the Americans specifically for use in the D-Day landings because they can go on both water and land. Now, over 60 years later, they're ferrying tourists around Liverpool and the docks. It was really fun - the tour guide was typically scouse, full of funny anecdotes and facts.

Albert dock

After the tour, we went for a wander around the Albert Dock. Whenever we go around the Albert Dock, we always reminisce about our childhood. My Grandad always used to bring us on days out, and Scott said it was a favourite day out for his Dad take them on too. We remember when Fred the Weatherman used to do the weather on the floating map of the UK and when he fell in and when there was the streaker! And of course visiting the Maritime Museum, and climbing on the huge anchor outside it.

Albert Dock

Me

We went and visited the Tate for another dose of culture. I love visiting the Tate, it always has such great exhibitions on that are mostly all free. In fact, all the museums in Liverpool are free to enter, which is pretty rare these days. Liverpool must be such a good city to be a tourist in I think though. I can't wait for the Museum of Liverpool to open too. We also decided that we're next going to go to the top of the Anglican Cathedral, because it has the best views of all the city apparently. 

I know this probably all reads like an advert for Liverpool, but that's because I really do love it! Have you ever gone on a sightseeing tour of your own city? 

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Books so far in 2010

This year I set myself a resolution to read more books. Since I graduated in July, I can probably count the number of books I read in the remainder of 2009 on one hand. It was nice to have a break from literature for a while, as studying it makes you read in a different way than just reading for pleasure. However, I ended up feeling slightly ashamed of how little I read and how I missed it, so in 2010 I am resolving to read lots more books! And I have. I have already read 4 books so far, which I am quite proud of. Not quite the same as having to read one huge novel in a week for my Undergraduate studies, but hey.

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

This has been on my bookshelf for such a long time - probably since about 2003. I think I was still at school! I remember vividly buying it at the same time that I bought Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, in Waterstones on a special offer. So it was about time that I got round to reading it and I am sad that I waited so long! It is was fabulous. It's about Pi, a 16 year old boy, and his journey after his ship to Canada sinks. His only companions are a Tiger called Richard Parker, a hyena and a dying zebra. It makes for one of the strangest but intriguing books I've read in a long time. It reminded me slightly of Salman Rushdie, maybe because it starts in India but it also has some magic realism aspects to it. Some people don't like that type of surrealism blended with reality, but I really enjoy that kind of writing.


Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls

I read this book because of the Slow Readers group that Diana created in the New Year. I won't talk about it too much, as I know some people are still reading it, plus there is the blog post to do on the 4th March regarding it, but I rather enjoyed it. It's not something I would choose to read myself and I'm not sure I would read it again, but it was a very easy read and enjoyable and sad all at the same time.




The Wild Things by Dave Eggers

I bought this book for 3 reasons: 1. I love Dave Eggers. 2. The cover is nice. And 3. It was on offer. As you can tell, it doesn't take too much to sell me a book! Hah. I really enjoyed this book. I had seen bits of Where the Wild Things Are from my Dad watching it, so reading it in book form was a bit weird. It was quite hard to keep track of which wild thing was which (except for Carol). But there were some bits that I loved about it that doesn't come across in the film, such as Max's thoughts about his father and his mother's new relationship, etc. He really manages to get inside Max's mind and it comes across perfectly. It was a nice, easy read again. I think I seemed to be going for easy books to break me in nicely! Plus it was a nice change from some of the heavy things I had to study in Uni.


A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

So, after 2 easy reads, I went for A Clockwork Orange. I was a bit worried about how I would cope with the Nadsat speech, but I got used to it quite easily (especially once I had googled for a nadsat dictionary/glossary! haha!). It wasn't light hearted either, and at times the violence was a bit creepy/scary. But then I ended up really enjoying it because it reminded me of 1984 in some aspects (the control from the government, etc). I really did end up feeling quite sorry for Alex by the end of it all, although perhaps that is because I tend to forgive too easy.



Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Now, I'm reading The Silver Linings Playbook, which is one of the books from the new Channel 4 TV Book Club. I got it out of the library out of curiosity really (it had a nice cover too). How do you like to choose books? Do you have any other recommendations for me?

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

2 simple outfits

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shoes - clarks, skirt - h&m, t-shirt - h&m, cardigan - cath kidston.
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shoes - clarks, skirt- h&m, t-shirt - h&m, cardigan - cath kidston

I finally feel like wearing some more colour now. I know spring is far from here, but we are getting more sunshine (so much sunshine that my solar powered garden lights keep coming on!) so I feel the need for colourful tights. I also love this cardigan, it was such a great buy in the Cath Kidston sale. It was still expensive(ish) at £32, but it's such good quality and I know it'll be in my wardrobe for a long, long time. As I get older I seem to be buying less clothes, but better quality. Like I don't even enter Primark anymore - I'd much rather buy some Tabio or M&S tights for the quality. The same with my shoes - I'd rather buy a pair from Clarks or Jones than Primark. Infact, these Clarks shoes were SUCH a great bargain! My Mum treated me to them whilst I was on my placement and not working. She got them for just £12! Each time I wear them she likes to brag about how great she is at buying me things haha.


This week I cannot stop listening to Los Campesinos! new album, Romance is Boring. I was listening to it in my car on the way to work the other day and it is SO good, I did not want to get out of my car. I haven't been this excited about a new album since I was a teenager probably. The lyrics are so good, it's slightly less twee than their first album, which I loved, but is miles miles better than their second album, which I just couldn't get into really. There are so many quotable one liners that just keep getting stuck into my head and I feel like scrawling them all over my notes in Uni when I get bored, but then I remember I'm not in school any more. I urge everyone to have a listen to it on Spotify and then buy it if you love it like I do. 



Saturday, 6 February 2010

Label love

Sonia by Sonia Rykiel

I love Sonia Rykiel, and her diffusion line Sonia by Sonia Rykiel. She set up her first boutique on the Parisian left bank in 1968 and has been designing perfectly chic and french-inspired clothes ever since. I love how playful her clothes seem, yet not too childish either. When I was in Paris, I visited Printemps and drooled over her clothes and wished that I had enough money to buy something so that I could say I bought some Sonia Rykiel from Paris. I didn't, but I still get really excited when I see her new season stuff. One of the great things about her is that it doesn't seem out of reach - you can be inspired by her and appliqué your own old sweater, add a lot of bows to a stripy t-shirt, or some sequins to an old sweater, for your own slice of Parisian chic



Wednesday, 3 February 2010

My make-up essentials

I have a very streamlined make up bag. (Well, maybe more than some people but less than most I think!). I don't wear make up everyday, because as a teenager I had bad acne and the dermatologist drummed it into me not to wear make up everyday and I really do think it's good to give your skin a break. Some days I just wear a bit of lipstick, some days nothing. I think it's partly because I can be lazy too! I'd rather spend an extra 10 minutes in bed than applying make up. Still, in the past 2 years or so I have become more interested in make up than usual (especially lipsticks!). These are my make up essentials.

my make up essentials - face
Bourjois blusher in Rose ambdre
Clinique superfit make up in neutral
Clinique almost powder in neutral
Benefit some kind-a gorgeous
Marks & Spencer foundation & powder brushes

I've always used clinique foundation, mainly because my Mum does also. It may seem pricey but I think they do some really good products for different skin types and this super-fit make up is oil-free and long wear so suits me really well! I use a little bit of powder over it just to make it set. On really lazy days, I just wipe a bit of the benefit some kind-a gorgeous over my face to even my complexion slightly and it works wonders considering how little I use. It's good for days when I want light coverage too. I've always used bourjois blusher so I can't really compare it to anything, but it lasts ages and also smells nice!

Lipsticks
L-R Mac lipstick in spice is nice
Mac lipstick in satin brave
Mac lipstick in amplified brick-o-la
Collection 2000 Colour extreme in sultry
Chanel Rouge Allure in audace

I love lipsticks. They really make me feel like a lady. I still use lipglosses and balms, but to me some of them can be sticky and gloopy and bleh. I also hate it when your hair blows everywhere and gets stuck in your lipgloss - not a sexy look at all. My favourite everyday lipstick is the Mac Brave. It is a lovely pink shade. I wore it for my sister's wedding and it gives just enough colour but not too much. My other favourite is the Chanel, but I reserve that for special occassions.

Eye stuff
Benefit badgal waterproof mascara in black
Mac eye kohl in smoulder
Clinique lash power mascara in black onyx
No7 stayperfect eyeshadow palette in twilight

I don't really use much eye make up. Most days nothing. Sometimes just a smidgen of eye-liner and a brush of mascara. I always think sometimes that when you wear a bold lipstick, eye make up just looks too much at the same time. Plus, I have very small eyelids (thanks to my father) so eye-shadow is never visible! I have to say I think that the benefit mascara is a bit disappointing. A bit gloopy for me. The clinique stuff was a sample I received from one of their bonus times and it is definitely better. Lancome Hypnose mascara is also very good, because my sister has that, so I think when I finish with the benefit I will either get some clinique or lancome. Do you have any recommendations for me?

What do you keep in your make-up bag? Is it a huge collection or just a group of essentials like mine? What make up items could you NOT live without?! Oh and my make up bag is Cath Kidston (of course). It's the perfect size for my modest collection



Monday, 1 February 2010

Goodbye January!


January


Can you believe it's February already? I have completed one month of my 365 project and I am feeling quite proud of it! There are days of course where I don't do anything exciting at all and it results in a photo of my dogs or my room, but hey. At the end of the year I want it to be a true reflection of what I've got up to so I guess there will be some boring photos and some exciting ones too. Through my photos I see a theme emerging that represents my life somewhat: dogs, baking and books! January has been a strange month, it kind of went by in a flash but also changed me lots because of my placement in the libraries. I now feel even more motivated towards qualifying as a librarian and finding my dream job in a public library. How has January been for everyone else? I hope everyone is as optimistic about 2010 as I am now! After all, we've managed to say goodbye to the recession and a Tesco branch has banned people from shopping in their pyjamas, so things can only get better!


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