Wednesday, 18 October 2017

How Clothes Make Me Feel

A few weeks ago I had a really shitty day. Nothing bad happened, save for that I left the house in a little bit of a rush. The next day, nothing really happened and I had a great day. It was that evening, walking home from work, that I realised why. On the first day I was wearing an outfit I wasn't totally comfortable in. The trousers weren't the most flattering fit and the top was a little too loose yet the fabric would cling to my chubby bits when I sat down. In contrast, on the second day, I wore my favourite trousers with a shirt tucked in and buttoned up, with my hair up in a bun and big dangly earrings. I looked great and more to the point, I felt great.

"The sun is in my eyes but maybe it will look cool"
Dress | Boots - Old Topshop (similar) | Jacket - Men's vintage (similar) | Bag

"Oh shit there are people coming"
Simply wearing an outfit I wasn't 100% confident in affected my mood for the entire day, which seems kind of ridiculous. It's just clothes after all. Yet it really did have a big impact on my mental state for the day. I spent the whole first day self-conscious and moody, while the second day I was upbeat and cheerful. While this could have been a coincidence, I've since noted this as a trend in general.

I was reminded of this after Rhianna tweeted about experiencing the same thing, and it got me thinking about the clothes that make me feel good and the clothes that don't. If I feel rubbish in them, why am I keeping them? What's the point in cluttering up my wardrobe with clothes that make me miserable? There's going to be a very thorough clear out of my wardrobe this weekend, and I'm planning to be more ruthless than I have been in years. Off the top of my head though, these are the things that can definitely go to the charity shop or in a bin bag:

  • The green top with flared sleeves that's a gorgeous colour but makes me feel shapeless and fat
  • The pinafore I've never worn because it's too small
  • The cream jumper that looks shapeless when untucked but is too bulky to tuck
  • The bra that I know is objectively cute but I'm self-conscious in because I feel like it makes my boobs too pointy

This is just the tip of the iceberg and the things I can think of without even looking at my wardrobe. I dread to think how many pairs of shoes I'll be getting rid of with this mindset. The only problem is, I can't afford to replace everything I want to chuck with stuff I actually like, so I either wash clothes every other day for several months, or I bin stuff gradually over several months, accepting that some days I'm going to be wearing things I don't actually like. Ah well, you win some, you lose some. I'll at least endeavour to bin the things I literally never wear, like the items in the list above.

"Get a close up of the tassels!" *jiggles*
The photographs featured here (all taken by my wonderful boyfriend) are the first ever "proper" outfit photos I've done. They weren't planned, meaning I have a bobble round my wrist and my makeup is pretty shit, but I felt cute in this outfit. I could sit and pull apart all the things in these photos that I don't like about myself, but I prefer to look at them and remember how happy I was that day and how good I felt in that outfit. After all, that's all that really matters. 

"Damn it, I blinked AGAIN"

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Monday, 16 October 2017

Monday Medley #12

Once again, it's been a funny old week. I'm now completely moved in with other half and we've officially unpacked. We're still missing a few bits (lampshades, picture hooks and more plants), but we're pretty settled in. The internet came blessed us with its presence on Wednesday, and I've spent the last few days running around like a headless chicken, both virtually and physically, tying up loose ends. As such, I haven't had much time for reading which I really miss and need to get back in to this week, but I've still gathered up the best of the week's blog posts and even (shock! horror!) a game for ya. These are the bits I've been loving in the last week, hopefully you'll find something you love too.
Bathroom asparagus fern
Incredible Asparagus Fern that I bought for the bathroom. It's my current favourite plant in the flat.


READING

Rhianna's posts are always some of my favourites, but as someone who has always struggled with their body image, this post really resonated with me. I too am gradually learning to love my body for all it's done for me, but I'm not all the way there yet.

Okay, I try not to feature the same blogs two weeks in a row, but this post by Chloe about five monumental cock-ups had me roaring with laughter and I couldn't not share. Definitely worth a read if you're in need of some cheering up.

If you're in need of some autumnal makeup inspiration then look no further than Sally's post about her favourite autumnal eye shadows, featuring my beloved Zoeva Cocoa Blend. I now need everything else she talks about because warm autumnal tones are my 'hing.

Rebecca's photography is always amazing and I struggle with lighting at this time of year especially, so you can bet I was excited to read her tips for photography in autumn and winter. I definitely learnt a few new tricks I'll hopefully be implementing soon and I highly recommend it for anyone who also sucks at photos in winter.



There's been a lot of talk about social media's effect on our mental health in general, but hearing how it affects individuals differently always makes it seem more real. Reading Holly's post on her relationship with Instagram made me realise just how much I could relate, and to perhaps look at my social media use when I'm having a bad mental health day. 

Having just moved in with my boyfriend, Becky's post on 11 things that happen when you move in with your partner couldn't have been better timed. While not all of these apply (yet), there were definitely a few that had me giggling. 



PLAYING

My brother recently moved to Japan for a year and his treasured PS4 couldn't fit in his suitcase. Wonderful older sister that I am, have graciously decided to adopt it for a year until he returns. This means that I finally have an opportunity to play the games I've wanted to for about two years, and I started with Rise of the Tomb Raider. I'm about a quarter of the way through and so far it's just okay. It's not really a Tomb Raider game like the old ones were; I think it's all set in one place, and reminds me more of Assassin's Creed, Far Cry 3 and Uncharted. Although I'm enjoying it, I'm glad that I can still go back and play the old PS1 and PS2 games when I want to. 



EATING



I have two recipes to share with you today, both of which I've been seriously drooling over and may have to make very soon. First is a boeuf bourguignon from Emma Eats, which looks perfectly warm and homely for this time of year, and secondly this lentil bolognese by Lyd looks like an excellent healthy pick-me-up with compromising on comfort. I need it now.

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Thursday, 12 October 2017

Moments of Joy | An Evening In Wellington, NZ

Lately, I've been thinking about happiness. What makes me happy and when I've been happiest in the past. My life has been pretty up and down, but there are a few memories that have stuck in my mind as glorious shining moments of true happiness. The first one to spring to mind was an evening in Wellington, New Zealand. 
Wellington Harbour at night
Excellent photograph by my long-suffering travelling companion

I had arrived in Auckland a few days ago with an old uni friend, excited for a whirlwind tour of this incredible country. I already knew that I loved the people and culture, but it was that night that I fell for Wellington. There was another day, later in the trip that cemented my love for the country as a whole, but that's a story for another day.

We landed in Wellington at about 5pm; I had the window seat and watched nervously as the 'plane dropped lower and lower without any sign of land. About ten seconds before the wheels hit the tarmac I caught my first glimpse of Wellington. It was a relief to know that there actually was something to land on; the airport is on the Rongotai isthmus so you really don't see where you're going to land until you're pretty much on it. We were quickly off to our hotel, which didn't have a record of our booking, made almost a year ago. It caused a great deal of stress and worry, afraid we'd be stranded in Wellington, out of pocket and on the street for several days before we flew to Nelson. We were eventually upgraded to better rooms in a sister hotel, but it was almost 8pm by the time we had our rooms and were unpacked. At this point, I was feeling irritated, hungry and pretty unimpressed by Wellington. 

Deciding some food was in order, we headed out to Mt Vic Chippery, which was an excellent decision. There's a choice of fish, batters and chips, and as we went back several times I can confirm that they are all excellent. With full tummies and feeling decidedly more generous towards the city, we set off to explore before turning in for the night.

The sky was gradually turning darker, but the air was warm and the breeze cooling. We wandered through streets that reminded us of home yet were somehow brighter, more open and greener. I got a sense for the layout of the city as a modern metropolis in a bay, surrounded by dense bush. Wellington is a city of forest and sea, and neither can be avoided for long. Greenery is everywhere, and the sea breeze (or gales, depending on your outlook) is omnipresent. Wandering wide streets lined by independent bars and restaurants, wending our way through street food stalls, eventually we found ourselves at the harbour.

I've always had a strong connection with the sea. I was a proper water baby as a child, and my family's love of cruising only deepened my love for the open waves. My other great love is wind. This is perhaps less relatable than the sea, but I've always adored windy days. The days when you almost can't walk without being blown backwards, when your hair streams back from your face and you have to close your eyes to stop them streaming, when you come inside with a rat's nest for hair and pink cheeks and shining eyes: that's my kind of weather. Wellington definitely provides.

It's called the Windy City for a reason, and perhaps more than anywhere else it felt like my city. It reminded me of Manchester with its laid back, anything-goes vibe, but was greener and smelled of the sea. I fell in love there and then, on a spit of land between city and sea. I watched the sun set over the ocean, running like I was five again up and down the piers. I leapt into the wind to feel it push me forwards and I span and span until I was dizzy. I laughed the entire time no doubt looked like a lunatic. The harbour was empty save for us; the bars that are usually packed were quiet that night because of the wind, the locals preferring the more sheltered city centre. My friend focused on achieving the perfect night time city panorama and I focused on absolutely nothing. It was one of those moments where I couldn't stop grinning, completely and utterly in the moment. 

That night was without a doubt one of my happiest moments as an adult. I let myself be a child again, enjoying that hour or so on the sea front with absolutely every aspect of my being. I have a deep desire to return to Wellington, but I'm terrified that it won't be as it was that night, that it won't be the city I remember. It hasn't been long, but what if I go back and it isn't the wonderland of that night? I don't want to tarnish this memory.

I hope I've managed to convey some of the wonder and child-like joy I experienced that night; I've let my mind and fingers run away with me as I type this post, and I'm only going to edit very minimally, for fear of ruining the feeling I'm trying to express. I think it's good to write like this sometimes. I've been stuck in a rut with my content for a few weeks but right now all I want to do is write more and more. I think I'll do more posts like this when I need some inspiration. 

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Monday, 9 October 2017

Monday Medley #11

I've had Mamma Mia stuck in my head all day, so here we go again with this week's list of my favourite things I've read and watched this week. I actually attempted to make this week's Medley shorter, but I came across more and more posts that I was dying to include so it's another long one! I've spent the last week and all of the weekend moving into a new flat with my boyfriend; I'm absolutely knackered but it's completely worth it. The place still needs some work (mostly it needs more plants) but it's all coming together. The photograph below was taken in the summer at an industrial estate near my old flat; as much as I kind of hated the place by the end of the year (#leakyroofproblems), I had one of the happiest years of my life there.




READING

DIGITAL

I love little snapshots into people's lives, and Laura's post on travel beauty essentials provides just that; I love seeing what other people prioritise and how different it can be to my own preferences. Also I really need to try the Queen of Hungary mist ASAP.

Elena's blog is a new discovery for me, having appeared on my radar thanks to her participation in Blogtober. I wanted to share two of her posts with you because they both warrant reading. The first is about trying to be a better person; Elena has talked openly about how she used to be racist, which I find extremely commendable in the quick-to-judge atmosphere of the internet. Another post on her history with self harm, why she did it and how she quit also makes for a powerful read for anyone with an interest or experience with mental health. TW for self harm, however. 

This blog was another new find for me, but Alexandra's post on her recent struggles with mental health and her unwavering love for clothes really made an impact on me for its brutal honesty.

Travel is one of my greatest loves in life, but it's definitely true that who you travel with can make or break a trip. I've mostly been successful in that arena, but I could definitely have done with this post by Sandra a few years ago, and it's definitely given me some food for thought about past and present travel companions!

Despite the knowledge that washing my hair every day isn't good for it, I am still very much a daily-washer. I simply cannot last any longer than two days without giving into the urge to scrub my hair until it shines. Lily's post on how she can last up to TWO WEEKS without washing her hair gives me hope that maybe one day I could at least make it to three days.

I always find videos and posts about genetics tests interesting, but Kate's post on the subject is particularly great. Astonishing coincidences that hark back to an unknown heritage always make for a good read, and I love the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? for the same reason.

Everyone is moaning about instagram lately, but Chloe's post is something a little different. She talks about the changing world of blogging and the conflict of interest between keeping up with the times and maintaining your integrity and making the content you love. This is well worth a read for anyone interested in the blogging industry.

Finally, Helen's post on smear tests is important reading for anyone with a cervix. She emphasises the importance of getting tested and shares her own experience of an abnormal result and the treatment that followed. 

WATCHING

The Apprentice is back and I'm loving it already. The BBC has successfully gathered the biggest dickheads in Britain to bitch and moan and make fools of themselves in their pursuit of fortune. I always enjoy The Apprentice for its colourful characters with terrible decision-making skills, and even better, I got to watch it with my boyfriend on the first night in our new flat. 


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Saturday, 7 October 2017

An End Of Year Bucket List

I realise that just the other day I wrote about how long term goals aren't for me and the futility of dreams, but yes, this is a series of goals in the form of a bucket list. While big long term goals aren't for me, short term ones definitely are. Much like ticking things off a to do list, achieving short term goals you've set for yourself is immensely satisfying. There's less than three months left until 2018 (!!!) and a fair few things I'd like to achieve before the end of the year, so I thought that I'd share them with you all today.

Early birds in Piccadilly Gardens


Move into a new flat with my boyfriend 

Okay, this is kind of a cheat, as by the time this post goes live I will have already achieved this. Hooray, let's tick it off the list! I always add stuff I've just done to my to do list so that I can tick it off and the list feels less daunting. I am now on a mission to make our rented flat as cosy as humanly possible, and I have hundreds tabs open of cushions, throws and candles at any given moment. House plants are the real MVP though, and the main homeware item that he's really on board with. Expect lots of leafiness in the coming months!

Finish my TBR pile

It's October and I am still working my way through my Spring and Summer Reading Lists, which is just plain embarrassing. I really want to get through them all so I can start afresh in the New Year with a whole new pile of books to neglect.


Get rid or donate my old clothes and cushions

I have lots of clothes that either don't fit or I don't like anymore, and the same goes for some of my homeware, especially cushions. I have cushions that were bought in Ikea back when I started uni (a LONG time ago) and none of them really go together, nor do I really like anymore. I've been due a trip to a charity to shop to give them to a better home for ages now, and I think it's finally time I got rid of this stuff cluttering up my life.


Blogmas

That's right, I will be doing Blogmas this year, barring unforeseeable disaster. Last year I did Blogtober, and I invented my own thing this year with All-in August. Writing a blog post every day for a month is big undertaking, especially at Christmas when it's all systems go while working full time and juggling family, friends and my boyfriend. This ought be, er, fun?



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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

I Don't Have Any Dreams

And maybe that's a good thing.


I've always had dreams of some kind. As a young child I either wanted to be a Queen or an astronaut, and occasionally I would combine the two and be Queen of the Moon. I got a little older and wanted to be and author or a biochemist, and then I wanted to be a historian, or a spy. The historian dream lasted a long time, until the general shit-show that was my Masters. After that I just kind of drifted. I'm still drifting, if I'm honest. 

The problem with dreams is that they frequently don't work out, and even if they do you're left with a sense of "what now?". Dreams are big, far-off things for a "some day" or "when I grow up". They're often unattainable, or simply impractical. Sometimes you achieve your dream and realise that it isn't a dream at all. Sometimes it's not what you wanted, or how you imagined it. Perhaps you had that dream when you were a different person, and didn't realise that it doesn't fit who you are anymore until it was too late? I've experienced all of these things. I'm not saying that I became Queen of the Moon and it wasn't all it's cracked up to be, but I have achieved things I desperately thought I wanted and were right for me, only to discover that they were the misguided fantasies of a child and I only clung to them for the sake of continuity and security.

When you have a dream, you have something you're aiming for: you have a plan. You can feel like your life is on track and put together so long as you're vaguely aiming for something, even if in reality you're like that dog in a burning house meme saying "This is fine". Dreams are safe. While having something to strive for is fantastic, it almost feels like it's looked down upon if you don't have a long term plan or goal. The thing is, not everyone can be an astronaut or a pop singer. We can't all do these fantastical things that seem like what we should aiming for. Most of us are just kind of average, working jobs that are okay, looking for love and happiness and pursuing our own small everyday goals. And y'know what? I think that's brilliant. 

Focusing on the now, the everyday achievements and the small ways in which I can improve my life has made me so much happier. I put far less pressure on myself, and while I may have vague things I'd like to do or achieve, by not making them too concrete they have room to change as I do. While having clear steps to achieving a goal may work for some people, I find that it just restricts me and ultimately make me miserable. I enjoy planning and structure, but I also enjoy being able to throw it all to the winds and change my mind if I want to.

I don't have any big, long-term goals or dreams right now, and while I may not be living a perfect life I'm definitely happier than I've been since the blissful ignorance of childhood. I achieved that first class degree and went on to start a Masters degree, only to discover that I hated academia and it was killing my love of the subject. I was well on my way to becoming a fully fledged Assyriologist and realised that it wasn't what I wanted. But I was already on my Masters course; I felt trapped and like I was being forced down a path I didn't want to be on. This led to some of the most miserable years of my life and had a serious impact on my mental and physical health. The dream of being a historian and a university lecturer was destroying me, and it took me a long time to understand that I was the one forcing myself down that path, one that didn't fit who I was anymore.

Nowadays, I don't really know what path I'm on or where I'll end up. All I know is that I could do anything and right now I'm happy. For now, that's enough for me.
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Monday, 2 October 2017

Monday Medley #10

I'm running slightly late with my Medley post this week, as I've been busy all weekend with my boyfriend's birthday and packing to move on Wednesday. The next week is likely to be even more hectic, so hopefully I'll be able to stay on top of things. For now though, here's everything I've loved reading and watching in the last week.


Strange the Dreamer Laini Taylor mini-review

READING

PRINT

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor is one of those books that wraps you up in its world and captures the mind, only releasing you when you run out of pages. It follows Lazlo Strange in his obsession with the fabled city of Weep, and his journey to discover the reason its name was plucked from his mind as a child. There were definitely some twists and turns I didn't expect in this book, and there are definite hints that the sequel might be a bit more sci-fi in nature, rather than fantasy. I'm desperate to find out what will happen next as the book ended on a bit of a cliff hanger and absolutely cannot wait for the sequel.

DIGITAL

I've read some seriously amazing blog posts this week and I really struggled to narrow it down, but these are the ones I loved the most in the last week.

Tomorrow is Bake Off day and what with the stress of moving house I'm seriously considering having a go at Hayley's Bake Off Drinking Game to go along with it. I figure something sweet and lots of vodka is the perfect way to destress, although I'll probably regret the hangover.

Despite having just come back from Japan, I'm already craving a long relaxing holiday. This post by the Travelettes is all about taking yourself on your own honeymoon; I've always been too intimidated to go to traditional honeymoon destinations by myself, but perhaps it's time to book myself a holiday in the Maldive while I've got the chance. 

The blogging industry is a controversial one, and Rachel's post about the paradoxes that exist within it highlights this really well. I can never quite make my mind up about what I want to be or what I really think of the industry and community, which usually leads to me not interacting with it as much as most bloggers.

With my imminent house move I am all about homeware (let's be honest, the move is just an excuse and I'm obsessed all the time), Lauren's post featuring some absolutely beautiful pieces was perfectly timed. I love her colour scheme of bright whites and pastel colours and I need everything in the post ASAP.

As I mentioned earlier, I don't really get involved with a lot of the blogging community. This post from Dippy Writes is all about making the community a better and more positive place, and there are definitely a few things I'll be trying to do going forwards.

Katie's post on how life with a stoma doesn't have to make you miserable was probably my absolute favourite. I don't have any personal experience with stoma, but this was so well-written and powerful and it made me think about the massive improvement in quality of life a stoma can bring to people.; headlines calling them "miserable" are incredibly damaging to people who rely on them. This is definitely one to read this week.

Speaking of well-written blog content, Cherie's post about kindness to strangers and friends was a joy to read. It's a series of stories about people online and the friends she's made through blogging. If you're feeling down this is definitely a great pick-me-up, and maybe it's the PMS but I got little emotional reading it.

Finally, the saddest post of the week definitely goes to Tara's post about her exit from the blogging world. I'm gutted that she's decided to step back from blogging but I'm glad that she's doing what's right for her. I shall be watching her Twitter to see what her next projects entail!

WATCHING

As I mentioned earlier, I've been watching Bake Off. It's taken me a few weeks to get back into it but I think I'm cool with the minor Channel 4 changes and I'm loving the new bakers. Yan to win!

EATING

APPARENTLY, last week Tesco were selling chocolate oranges with a buy one, get TWO free deal and I bloody missed it. Hannah's chocolate orange cookie recipe looks delicious but just compounds the pain; I might make them once I've moved and have a new kitchen!


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Saturday, 30 September 2017

Seven Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Japan


After spending just 10 days in Japan I learnt more than I did in all of my guide book and blog research. A few of the things I learnt were incidental, but others would have been seriously handy to know beforehand. So without further ado, these are seven things I wish I'd known before going to Japan.

Fushimi Inari Temple in Kyoto

1 - A distinct lack of street names
While planning I couldn't figure out why google maps didn't show street names, no matter how much I zoomed in. Upon arriving in Japan I realised the horrifying truth - almost no streets have names. Big shopping streets and main roads will generally be named, but everything else is a mystery. I can imagine that this doesn't pose much of a problem to the locals, but for tourists trying to find a particular recommended restaurant it makes life difficult. Your best bet is to get a decent, accurate map (more on that later) and count the streets to the place you're looking for, but always plan ahead and give yourself an extra half an hour to get anywhere. I frequently would plan my route on google maps using the hotel wifi and then screenshot it, so I would at least have a vague idea of where I was going.

2 - Train fares vs JR pass
Before heading to Japan every single website recommended the JR Rail Pass. There are national and regional variations, and since I was staying in the Kansai area the Kansai pass sounded like the best bet for me. However, the pass only covered three days, and I was going to be there for ten. Despite the travel agent, both guide books and every website I came across saying what a good deal the JR Pass was, I decided against it. If you're travelling around Japan and are going to be taking lots of bullet trains then it is definitely worth it, but for me it just wasn't. Trains in Japan are seriously cheap in comparison in to the UK; the longest journey I took was to Kyoto, it took an hour by the cheapest train and cost a measly ¥560 which is about £3.70. BARGAIN.  

Osaka Castle

3 - Food is expensive
While trains were cheaper than I expected, food was definitely more expensive. In Dotonbori two bowls of ramen can easily cost you £20, and that's the cheaper end of the spectrum. Food was where the majority of my spending money went for the holiday, and even while trying to do it on the cheap I found I was running out of spending money by the end. 

4 - Fruit is hard to find
I love fruit. I always have apples in the house and will attempt to squeeze fruit into every meal if I can. I didn't really give second thought to my diet for while I was in Japan, aside from dreaming of ramen and sushi most days. However, it turns out that in Japan fruit it considered a luxury, with fancy fruit baskets highly prized as gifts. While I've since been assured by a friend that you can find reasonably priced fruit at the larger supermarkets, if you're a tourist and just craving an apple, you're not going to have much luck at your local 7-Eleven. All I ever really saw were bananas and ridiculously overpriced peaches (like ¥2000 for two peaches expensive). By the time I was leaving Japan I would dive on any piece of fruit I saw; I had a practically religious experience at a food stall outside Fushimi Inari temple in Kyoto where a guy was selling ice cold pineapple on sticks for ¥100 a pop. I think I spent about ¥500 and he was watched me devouring pineapple like a lunatic. 

5 - Safety
Japan is ridiculously safe. I'm fairly safety conscious in the UK, especially regarding things like my bag and belongings, but that's amped up times a hundred whenever I go abroad. However, by the end of my time in Japan my safety conscious self had seriously relaxed. While I still wouldn't recommend walking down any dark alleyways alone (I did this by accident a lot and it was creepy) but for the awkward travelling alone and trying to reserve a table dilemma, Japan is amazing. I noticed early on people leacing bags and valuables on tables when they went to the loo or to reserve their seat, and they were never even touched. This video by Life Where I'm From really makes it clear just how safe Japan is.

Hozen-ji Osaka

6 - Don't trust the guidebooks
In Kobe I discovered the problem with guidebooks - their maps are not always accurate. My brother and I spent the best part of an hour desperately wandering around a small area of Kobe where the guidebook told us Wanto Burger should be, only to discover thanks to a helpful local that it was about ten minutes walk down the road and had always been there. With the serious lack of road names, an accurate map is essential, and while the Wanto Burger incident was the worst there were several instances where our Lonely Planet guidebook let us down.

7 - Japanese
Okay, this would have been really handy to know beforehand, but in all honesty, as long as you're in the main cities you can get by without knowing much, if any, Japanese. Restaurants with an English menu tend to advertise that fact, and even with a Japanese menu it's not too hard to manage as many have photographs of the food. It's worth learning some key phrases such as please and thank you, and how to ask for the bill, but generally most Japanese people will be patient with you as you both struggle through the language barrier. However, if you know any Japanese at all and head out of the big cities, people will often be delighted that you've taken the time to learn something of their language. I'd love to have been fluent in Japanese and it definitely would have made the trip easier, but it's certainly not a prerequisite. 

Dotombori Canal Osaka


If you enjoyed this post, have a gander at some of my other blog posts about my time in Japan!


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Wednesday, 27 September 2017

NARS Anita | My New True Lipstick Love

Just a quickie for you today, as I wanted to share the lipstick that has hardly left my lips since I bought it as a birthday present to myself back in August. As much as I love my Charlotte Tilbury Very Victoria, lately I've been craving a nude with a bit more pink in it. 


NARS Audacious Anita Review


A few days after my birthday, with cash burning a hole in my pocket, I popped in Selfridges in Manchester. I know that I love the Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution formula so I swatched a few of those but none were quite the right mixture of a warm-toned pink and brown. I definitely err more towards warmer lipsticks as I definitely suit them better on a daily basis. I save my cool tones for more dramatic looks or days when I can be bothered with blush.


NARS Audacious Anita Review Swatch


I then headed over to the NARS counter as I've been meaning to try them out for a while, and fell in love as soon as I swatched Anita. It's a perfect blend of rose and nude and looks great on my fairly pigmented lips. I'm chuffed to bits with it and it's all I've been wearing since I bought it. Definitely my new favourite day-time lip colour.

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Monday, 25 September 2017

Monday Medley #9

This is actually the second time I've written this post. After spending an entire evening working on it, I woke up the next morning to discover that Blogger had inexplicably decided to delete the post from my drafts. I was rather less than pleased, so here's hoping my second attempt actually manages to be published!

Caraval by Stephanie Garber Mini Review

READING

PRINT

I purchased Caraval by Stephanie Garber waaaay back in March for my Spring Reading List, and I've only just got round to reading it. I do find that I get into phases of reading loads and then reading hardly at all, and I'm getting back into the swing of things with this. I'm absolutely loving this so far and have almost finished and can't wait to find out how it will end. It follows Scarlett and Tella, two sisters caught up in a dangerous game where, I promise, absolutely nothing is what you think. There have already been so many twists to the tale that I didn't expect and that doesn't happen very often these days.  

DIGITAL

First up is a great post from Martha Jane Edwards all about the ethics of buying dupes of designer products. It's a controversial subject but she covers all bases and it makes for a great read. Find it here.

Katy's travel posts are always amazing and it was with a slight sigh that I immediately added Syros to my travel bucket list immediately after reading this post. Click for stunning photographs and instant wanderlust.

Another travel post here from Media Marmalade, all about a few things you need to know before going to San Francisco. San Francisco is definitely on my list of places to go and the information about flights and getting around is invaluable for any tourist. Read it here.

My fave is back, yep, it's Gwennan! This week she's talking about the value of living in the moment and a few moments lately that have reminded her to appreciate where she is. Clickety-boo.

Jemma needs no introduction in the blogging community, and I absolutely loved her recent post about self-care. As someone who, on bad days, tends to neglect the absolute basics of looking after myself, this was a post I could relate to. Well worth a read.

Beverley's post about how she became a solo traveller is a bit of a rollercoaster read but her journey definitely qualifies as inspiring. Reading this convinced me to reconsider travelling alone and try to make it work for myself since I've had mixed experiences. Find Beverley here.

Finally, Paula of Thirteen Thoughts wrote about how to enjoy time alone and use it productively. I've spent a good portion of the last few years living alone and have definitely implemented some of these tips myself. I'm moving in with my boyfriend in a few weeks so it's less relevant for myself, but hopefully, someone else who struggles with time alone will find some value in it. One to bookmark.
 

WATCHING

I was recently introduced to Rick and Morty, and while initially being a bit unimpressed by all the burping, you kind of stop noticing it after a while and just become absorbed in the outlandish stories. The bonkers sci-fi themes are right up my street, but I love the character realism that goes along with it. 

That's your lot for this week, here's hoping Blogger doesn't delete it all again before it goes live...

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Saturday, 23 September 2017

Top 5 Things To Do in Osaka

I spent a grand total of a week in Osaka, but I managed to pack a lot in. As a city, Osaka is vibrant and buzzing, with the wildly contrasting districts of Minami and Kita standing out from the crowd. While you would need a lot longer than a week to truly see this city; if you're pressed for time these are the five things I would recommend adding to your list.

Dotombori Dotonbori Canal at Night
Dotombori Canal
 
Hozenji Yokocho
Hozenji Yokocho

Dotonbori and Hozen-Ji Shrine

You'll see it spelled with an 'm' as well but in case of confusion, but it's the same place. Dotonbori is where the locals go out to play; in the day it's a little bleak and boring, but at night the area around the Dotonbori Canal is a neon wonderland, filled with restaurants, street food stalls, nightclubs and bars, and absolutely heaving with people of all ages. This is the place to go for good food (more on this later), and to really experience Osaka's nightlife. You can escape the bustle by taking a turn and heading for the canal, where you can sit in a slightly more relaxed atmosphere and watch the party boats pass by. 

While wending your way through the crowds on Dotonbori Street, take a turn into the arcade with the giant animatronic crab opposite and the big green dragon on the corner. Carry on down for a little while then take a right into the alleyway Hozenji Yokocho for a taste of Osaka a hundred years ago. The cobbled alleyway is lined by quieter, more traditional restaurants, and leads to the Hozen-ji shrine with a moss-covered statue from the frequent dousings with water by worshipers. Paper lanterns abound in this quiet pocket of old Osaka, and it's well worth a visit.


Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle
Gout Boulangerie Osaka Review
Goût pastries

Osaka Castle and Goût

Osaka Castle is definitely worth a visit, for all that it's technically a modern restoration. Even if you have no interest in Japanese history it's worth it for the scenery; set within 15 acres of grounds including a moat it makes for a beautiful early morning walk. Early morning is also the best time to visit in order to beat the crowds. The castle itself was far larger than I imagined, towering intimidatingly above visitors; you can easily see how it was a formidable fortress in the past.

While you're in the area, if you happen to be craving Western food at this point in your holiday I would definitely recommend visiting Goût, a French bakery and cafe as good as any I've eaten at in Europe. It's just around the corner from the main entrance and Tanimachi-yon-chome subway station, which is the easiest way of getting to Osaka Castle by public transport. 

Yakitori Dotombori Dotonbori Canal
Yakitori
Takoyaki Osaka
Takoyaki

Kuiadore

Osaka is renowned within Japan for its food, with kuiadore or "eat until you drop" an unofficial motto. There are a few dishes in particular you should keep an eye out for which I've listed below. I didn't manage to track down all of them but can confirm that the ones I managed to find were amazing.

Takoyaki - Deep fried octopus balls (balls of octopus, octopi do not have testicles - I checked). These are amazing and served on a stick; you'll often find them served at roadside stalls. The best ones I tried were from a stall down by the canal at Ebisu-bashi bridge in Dotombori. Look for the octopus balloon and you're basically there.

Okonomiyaki - Savoury pancakes filled with meat and vegetables and Japanese mayonnaise. In Osaka the fillings are mixed with the pancakes before cooking whereas other regions cook it separately. I had really good okonomiyaki at Chibo in Dotombori.



Yakitori and kushikatsu - More food on sticks! Yakitori is grilled chicken on sticks (tori meaning bird) but also refers to grilled seafood and veg. Kushikatsu involves crumbing and deep frying the meat/veg instead of grilling it, which is an Osaka speciality. 

Kaiten-sushi - This will be familiar to most Westerners thanks to companies like YO! Sushi. Conveyer belt sushi was invented in Osaka and is worth checking out if you get the chance.

Kitsune udon - A noodle soup flavoured with aburaage, which is made from soy and is slightly sweet. Aburaage is supposed to be the favourite food of the mythological kitsune foxes and the god Inari, so it's appropriate that I first tried aburaage at the Inari temple in Kyoto. Honestly, I wasn't keen, but it's one of the Kansai delicacies so is worth trying!

Kappo-ryori - This is the Osaka version of kaiseki, which is a fancy meal with loads of courses of traditional Japanese food. I wish I could tell you what it's like but I was on a budget and it's very expensive. 


Weird things I found in shopping centres part 1
Weird things I found in shopping centres part 2

Explore big department stores

This is when you want to head up to the Kita, or Northern, part of town. This is the area near Umeda Station and the Sky Tower, which is well worth a visit itself if you like city views. For me though, the real attraction was the gargantuan shopping centres. Daimaru, Hankyu, Hanshin and Tokyu Hands are all crazy and worth wandering around. The big stations are also packed with shops and cafes, and you could spend a good few hours just wandering around those. I wrote a post on all the amazing beauty bits I picked up from Tokyu Hands; we're talking sheet masks galore! Click here if you fancy a read of that.


Nunobiki Falls, Kobe
Nunobiki Falls, Kobe
Wanto Burger, Kobe
Wanto Burger, Kobe

Leave Osaka

That's right! One of the best things you can do while in Osaka is leave. It's a perfect base for day trips to the incredible cities of Nara, Kobe and Himeji. Nara is the place with the cute deer that bow to you in exchange for food that you might have seen on the internet, but it's also worth visiting to see the incredible Daibutsu or Great Buddha, within the temple of Todai-ji. 

Kobe is worth a visit; there will be a whole separate blog post going up about how to spend 24 hours in Kobe so I won't spoil too much, but safe to say that it's worth visiting just to try the famous Kobe beef.

Himeji is the home of Himeji Castle, the best remaining example of a traditional Japanese castle. It's pretty spectacular, and I'm gutted that I didn't manage to squeeze a visit in; the wisteria grove and gardens sound stunning, and the castle itself is huge and so important in Japanese history.

Very jetlagged, no makeup and very happy

That's everything for today, but safe to say that I had a fantastic time in Osaka and can't wait to go back! I definitely need to tick a few more off my list.


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