Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Signing Off..

Unfortunately the time has come, and I'm far too busy with deadlines and revision to continue blogging for the time being. I'm gutted, but I know that I've worked too hard over the past three years to let it slip now, so I will be back towards the end of May.



I wish you all the best luck in any exams and deadlines that you might be facing!


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Book Review | A Week in Paris by Rachel Hore

Dan knows well my love of books, and has managed to always nail the choices he gives me. For my birthday this year, he gave me "A Week in Paris" by Rachel Hore. Despite getting this book in October, I have only just got around to reading this book, and it was well worth the wait. I found myself hooked, and this was very risky considering I was finishing my dissertation around the same time I began reading.

This book tells the story of a mother and daughter; Kitty and Fay. It flicks between two time periods, Kitty in Paris during the war, and Fay in Paris in 1961 touring with an orchestra. This worked really well, and I didn't find myself confused as I could have done in the past. I liked learning about both of the women's lives both in the past and the present in the novel. It made the novel a lot more interesting than if it had just been told from the perspective of the past. I don't want to say too much because the novel really wasn't anything like I had predicted it to be in the beginning; it was a lot more grasping and interesting than I thought. It was such a good book, and I actually wish I could re-read it without knowing anything so I'd get the same amount of enjoyment out of it again which is really saying something.

"The streets of Paris hide a dark past...

September, 1937. Kitty Travers enrols at the Conservatoire on the banks of the Seine to pursure her dream of becoming a concert pianist. But then war breaks out and the city of light falls into shadow.

Nearly twenty-five years later, Fay Knox, a talented young violinist, visits Paris on tour with her orchestra. She barely knows the city, so why does it feel so familiar? Soon touches of memory become something stronger, and she realises her connection with these streets runs deeper than she ever expected. 

As Fay traces the past, with only an address in an old rucksack to help her, she discovers dark secrets hidden years ago, secrets that cause her to question who she is and where she belongs..."

I'm definitely going to track down some more of Rachel's books - if they are anything like this one you won't be able to drag me away. I enjoyed it so much!

Have you ever read any of Rachel Hore's books? 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Bucket List | Top Three Destinations

Everyone has a bucket list right? I have a bucket list, and a travel bucket list.. Personally, ticking off my travel bucket list is easily more important so today I'll be discussing my top three destinations. I'm facing a bleak year for travel so far. With no holidays booked as of yet, I feel like a little part of me is missing! However, it is always good to dream, so dream I shall.

Ireland 

Recently, I have been seeing some truly beautiful pictures of Ireland floating about. It looks like the most stunning place to explore, and take some time out. I can totally imagine myself in a cute little irish house looking out over some gorgeous scenery with a book and a cuppa! Also, I'm embarassed to say, considering it is so close to England by plane, that despite having roots in Ireland, I have never been. It is definitely one of my top destinations to head to by the end of the year. I'd love to explore more of the country my Grandma grew up in!

Poland 

Poland is another place that I have roots in. My Grandpa grew up in a little town called Jaslo. It would mean a lot to be able to see where part of my family is from. I'd also really like to see some of the more touristy cities there like Warsaw and Krakow, learn a little of the language and indulge in Polish food, which is delicious by the way. Poland definitely looks like a brilliant place to visit. Fingers crossed..

Norway

Norway is my final choice, it would be great to explore this chilly country. I'd feel like a true Frozen princess. This may seem quite generic, but one of my Bucket List and Travel Bucket List (it made it onto both!) dreams would be to see the Northern Lights. I can just imagine them being so beautiful. I also think that Norway will be unlike anywhere I have ever visited before so I see it as a new adventure which is super exciting.

I've posted this today as part of a competition Transun are holding. Transun are a company based in the UK that organised amazing travel experiences. If you are a UK blogger, you can enter their competition too by writing a blog post about your top three travel destinations. The competition closes on the 30th April 2015, and if you win the you will be lucky enough to get a trip to the arctic circle, with your prize including full board accommodation, flights there and back, a safari of the husky variety and more! It truly sounds incredible. Once you have written the blog post, you must tweet your blog post to @Transun and use the #TransunLights.

Fingers crossed! What are your top three travel destinations?



Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Ely | The Dining Room at The Poet's House

On Easter Monday, Dan, Sarah and I headed north to visit out grandparents in Ely. They announced to us that we would be going to The Dining Room at The Poet's House hotel which is part of The House Collection. Our Aunt had seen it in one of her magazines, saying how it was one of the top 10 boutique hotels in the world. Its safe to say we were excited to try this place out! And we were not disappointed.

I really liked the fact that we arrived when it was light, so I could take in our surroundings. Thank you Spring! The Dining Room is really beautiful, I loved the way it was decorated. I couldn't resist a few snaps...




We were given a set menu, and whilst Sarah and I chose to have a main and a desert, my grandparents and Dan chose to have a starter and a main instead. Before they brought out the starters however, we were given a complimentary course from the chef. It was a potatoe soup that has been made fluffy, almost like a mouse. Although this wasn't my favourite, it was still tasty and something I wouldn't have necessarily tried before. The starters arrived, and I sipped on the most delicious peach bellini I think I have ever had!






Grandpa had goats cheese,

Grandma went for the chicken liver pate,

and Dan chose the salmon, which he said was incredible! I'm not a big fan of fish myself, but I have to say it did look good.

Our mains arrived, and wow. It was delicious! Grandma and I chose the Chicken Supreme, with spring vegetables, chicken and tarragon dumplings and chorizo. It was so yummy, but if I had it again I'd ask for it without Chorizo. I find the taste quite overpowering!


Dan and Sarah had steak. Medium rare and Well done respectively. They came with the most beautiful triple-cooked chips I have ever tasted (yes, I am the girlfriend who knicks a few chips, but I exchanged them for some of my chicken!). I've never really had steak, but I think I'd get it next time just for the chips!

Unfortunately, I didn't manage to take a photo of Grandpa's meal, but he went for the Cumbrian beef with truffle mash. I have to say, it looked delicious!

Deserts were next up for me and Sarah. I'm so excited to tell you about this part. I went for the select variety of ice cream and sorbets. Boring right? Wrong. I had the most delicious White Chocolate sorbet that I haven't been able to get out of my mind since. It was spot on, and I kind of wished I had decided to have three scoops of that instead of getting chocolate and vanilla ice cream too! It was absolutely incredible.


The Dining Room at The Poet's House was such a lovely restaurant. If you are ever in the area, I'd definitely put this down on your "to-dine" list!

Have you ever been to The Poets's House?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Book Review | Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

My mum runs a monthly book club, so when I was home in Easter I thought I would join, and I ended up agreeing to read the next book even though I'm unlikely to be home for it. This chosen book was called "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" by Jamie Ford. I have to admit, although the blurb sounded good, it was definitely not one I'd have chosen personally, but I'm so glad I read it. Once I'd started, I had finished it in three days, SUCH a page turner.

"1986, The Panama Hotel, 
The old Seattle landmark has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made a startling discovery in the basement: personal belongings stored away by Japanese families sent to internment camps during World War 2.
Among the fascinated crowd gathering outside the hotel stands Henry Lee who, as the owner unfurls a distinctive parasol, is flooded by memories of his childhood.
He wonders if by some miracle, in amongst the boxes of dusty treasures, lies a link to the Okabe family, and the girl he lost his heart to so many years ago."

This book, despite being sad in some places, is such an interesting read. I found myself experiencing a real mixture of emotions! I liked the characters Ford has created, and I was willing for things to happen to them. I might sound a bit naive here, embarrassingly, but I just didn't realise how badly the Japanese were treated in America, and it made me so mad. I learnt a lot from this book, and I really enjoyed it. 

I don't want to give too much away, because the book really took a path I wasn't expecting from the beginning. My only slight disappointment for me was I would have liked a bit more of a descriptive ending but I don't want to spoil anything incase. Overall though, I think this was a fantastic book, and I enjoyed reading something a little different to what I would usually read.

Have you ever heard of this book? Would you be interested in reading it?



Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Leigh on Sea | Stop The World

Stop the World is a gorgeous little cafe on Leigh on Sea high street. Whenever I go and visit my friend Mary, we go there and I slowly think it will become a tradition, its a lovely little cafe and they sell the most amazing cakes. Although we always grab the cake menu as quickly as possible, they do serve other foods and we saw some amazing looking eggs which might be on our next "to-try" list!







Stop the World is decorated so gorgeously! Whenever I have been, its been so busy which I really like as it shows just how popular it is. I love that they take real care in decorating even their noticeboards as you can see in the last picture. Its beautiful...




Even the menus are super cute too! The effort put into this little cafe is just ridiculous, its lovely. 





I chose a Zebra brownie which was milk and white chocolate and it was heaven. So beautifully made, and it tasted amazing without being too sweet and sickly as well. Mary decided to go for the Macaroons, You actually get three, but I forgot to take a photo before she began eating! Stop the World also had a really good choice of tea flavours, but we both decided on the Spiced Apple tea. It was delicious! Not too bitter as I can find some fruity teas to be, but very light and tasty too. 

If you ever get the chance to visit Leigh on Sea - this is a place you should definitely go. I already can't wait for my next visit! 

Have you ever been to Stop the World cafe? Do you like the look of it?

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Little Green Teddy

Random one today, but I wanted to share a story with you all from my time in Brazil (5 years ago this year!) which I always find so humbling and touching. In the picture below you will see a plastic green teddy bear...


You might be wondering why on earth I'm going to write a blog post about this teddy. You might be wondering how I can actually even write a blog post about this teddy. After all its only a plastic toy right? 

Wrong. When I was in Brazil back in 2010, we went with a team of people who regularly visited the street children on one of the busiest roads in Belo Horizonte (the third biggest city in Brazil, in the state of Minas Gerais). This was something they did often, and something they were very prepared for. Unfortunately, I don't think many of our additional team were prepared at all. I kept a diary whilst I was in Brazil, and the pages I wrote after visiting this street are very upsetting to read. 

There was a massive group of homeless people when we arrived, and we were quite shocked at that anyway despite having seen the homeless in England. Children as young as 7 were there without parents, there were pregnant teenagers and if I'm honest some of the people were actually quite intimidating and scary. I remember being quite upset, and having to walk away because I knew I couldn't stop the tears. After a while though, we all settled in and got chatting to the people and put our upset away. The majority of these people were high, with many of them sniffing dirty rags covered in paint thinner. It was very tough emotionally, especially seeing those as young as 7 doing this. 

Anyway, we played games with them (street uno is a very interesting one rules wise!), and one of the members of the team brought along their guitar so we had a little sing song, and all of a sudden it was time to leave. One of the smaller children turned to me and thrust this little green teddy into my hand. I tried so hard to give it back, but he refused and wanted me to take it with me. This was such a small action, but its one that has stayed with me since that visit and will stay with me for years to come I have no doubts about it. Here was a boy, of around 10 years old, giving me probably one of his only toys. He was so selfless, and it really made me think. At 10 years old, I was in year six, doing well, and enjoying my final year of primary school. I had a lovely home, and family to go to after school and we went on the most fantastic family holiday that summer!

Whenever I see this teddy, I will always think of that selfless little boy. Perhaps there are great lessons to learn from this little green teddy; if someone in such a terrible situation can be so generous and considerate then, so can I. I will always love this story, despite it being so sad as well!

Have you ever had an experience like this?

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Canterbury | Bucketlist

When I go back to Canterbury at the end of April, I have approximately 2 months left of this beautiful city. I cannot believe that my three years at CCCU are coming to a close, and soon I will not longer live a stones throw away from a Cathedral, and the cutest town centre. I've decided to really make the most of my last two months (especially after exams) here and do all the things I've wanted to do but never made time for, or just the things I have loved and want to do all over again

Spend more time at the Cathedral



Go on another boat tour along the river

Visit the Canterbury Tales museum 




Eat at 5 places I've never eaten before (including Club Burritos and Smokeys, I have a feeling this will be an easy one)

Go back to Pinocchio's for a special occasion



Make better use of the city library, and read the books in the sun at Westgate gardens

Go to Wildwood animal park 



FINALLY visit the Marlowe Theatre which I've been trying to do for ages

Spend a sunny day by the beach



Go for a long walk out of the city into the countryside

There are so many more things that I will probably add to this list as I go along! I cannot believe my time here is coming to a close, it makes me so sad. Canterbury will always be a very special place.


Have you made the most of your university city? What would be on your bucketlist?

Thursday, 2 April 2015

University | Stress

I've done alright stress-wise in the past couple of years. Obviously there are times when I've had a major panic and a melt down but luckily these seem to be quite sparse at the moment. When I get that stressed, I tend to also become counterproductive which leads to be even more stressed that I originally was! Never ideal. BUT I've been here before, and worse. So I know I can cope with the stress that faces me over the next couple of weeks (all the way until the 14th May - I can smell freedom!!) so I thought I'd do a little post. Just incase, like me back in year twelve, you don't really know how to cope with the stresses you are facing.

Lists

Although this may seem counterproductive and stress inducing at first, I promise it will be a lot easier to keep on top of everything you have to do if you can find it all in one simple, easy place. I find it so useful to list the revision topics I have to cover, or the essays I have to do and its so satisfying finally being able to tick those things off as you do it. You don't have to have this list as an obvious and stressful reminder of all the things you have to do, but its good to be able to refer to something when your mind is all a bit jumbled about!

Perspective

Once you have thought about everything you have to do, you are bound to feel a bit panicky. This is why you have to look at the tasks you have with a certain perspective. You have to think about the timescale you have to do these tasks (hopefully you are organised and aren't panicky because you've not left enough time - rooky error!). Realistically, the stress is going to be temporary so you have to focus on that. Despite how you are feeling, tell yourself that you can do this, and that the reward will be much greater than the stress you are feeling at this second.

Rewards

Something that REALLY motivates me is having rewards set up. Maybe you will say to yourself that if you write 500 words in a day, you can go out and meet your friend that evening. Sometimes, I like to set myself bigger rewards. For example, last year my lovely parents treated me and Dan to a spa day which you can read about here which was amazing because I knew that I had something to work towards and look forward to. Although this was quite an expensive treat, you can find other things that will work too - perhaps you and your housemates might organise free days out for when you are all free from exams. Maybe you have a holiday booked for the summer, or know you are seeing your family; just think of the things you have to look forward to...but make sure not to get too distracted by this!

Communicate (Early)

One of the mistakes I made when I wasn't quite sure how to deal with the stress I was feeling, was to hide it under the carpet. This was a mistake. Talk to your tutors, teachers or parents. Even just confiding in a friend will help you to get it off your chest and feel better about it all!

Hopefully these tips will help you to feel better about the things you are facing at the moment! Just remember that everything will be alright on the night and if you weren't able to achieve the things you are working towards you wouldn't be in the position you are in; no one would hired or enroll someone into their business/school/university if they didn't believe that they were capable of achieving!


What are your top tips for coping with stress?
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