Monday, 31 July 2017

Monday Medley #2


Alright, so far so good with this series! This is two posts up on time and everything! If you missed the first Monday Medley check it out here, but basically this is my way of sharing the things I've read, watched and generally loved in the last week. So without further ado, these are the things I've loved this week!


READING

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I read the first book in Kristen Britain's Green Rider series a very long time ago, and I bloody loved it. It's a pretty classic fantasy format and all the books are very easy reads. This isn't a book series to brag about to all the cool people at work, but it is one to get excited about and unwind with. After the harrowing experience that was reading The Handmaid's Tale last week, I felt that I needed something fun to balance it out. Firebrand, the latest in Britain's series is a damn good read that I've raced through despite how hefty the book is. There are a few questionable plot points that made me raise an eyebrow, and it's not very sophisticated, but it was exactly what I wanted after a stressful week at work. Click for fantastical mayhem.

DIGITAL


With everyone graduating at the moment, Rhianna's post couldn't be better timed. Here she writes about the twists and turns that come after leaving university, and how different people move at different speeds. If you're feeling like a bit of a failure or your life is out of control it's well worth a read. Find Rhianna here!

I love all of Siobhán's brand focus posts, and she was back at it again this week with Anastasia Beverly Hills. This is a brand I've always felt was over-hyped, but my mind has changed because of this blog post and now I want it all. Read it here!

I was planning to not repeat any bloggers on consecutive weeks in this series, but Sophie Cliff's post on the minefield that is dressing for summer when you're not 100% body confident is well worth a read. Read it nowwww.

Vix Meldrew is one of those bloggers that seems like she has super powers. In this post, she's filter-free and speaking honestly about her experience with anti-depressants. Anyone worried about taking anti-depressants or anyone who knows someone struggling with depression should read this. Find Vix here.

Amyleigh's long and rambling post about the difficulties of being a woman in the modern world is damn good read and I'm pretty sure we can all relate. I love a good rant and her writing is as excellent as ever. Hell yes to solidarity.

If you're anything like me, then a tiny modern house hidden in the woods sounds like a dream (if only for a week or so). I'm also very into interiors at the moment, so this article rounding up the best woodland cabins was right up my street. Click for cabin-porn.

WATCHING


My boyfriend and I have been steamrolling our way through two TV series lately, and as we're finally approaching the end I thought I'd mention them here. His choice was Arrested Development, a show that in my opinion deserves way more recognition. It takes a few episodes to properly get into it, but once you're in, you're in. The humour is razor sharp and I know that I missed things, foreshadowing is subtle and everywhere and it's just a very clever show. Season Three shows its age with a decidedly non-PC storyline which I cringed through, but generally it's fantastic and features a young Michael Cera. I'll be rewatching the lot at some point to try and catch all the things I missed the first time around. Netflix it up.

My choice of series for us to watch was Firefly, the amazing space-western that was cut short so unjustly. While the movie tied up one story line, there was clearly so much slow character development planned that we never got to see. It's one of my favourite TV shows, and while I have the blu-ray, you can find it on Hulu.

EATING

I have two recipes to share this week! Katy's Watermelon, Feta and Rocket Salad went straight into my bookmarks, as did Hannah's Triple Chocolate Cookies. Rereading them now is giving me serious cravings and I may have to pop down the road for some watermelon stat.




That's your lot of this week, but I thought I'd leave you with the news that archaeologists have dug up a pot with a smiley face on it from Karkemish, and that the Ottomans really liked building fancy bird houses


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Thursday, 27 July 2017

All-in August

We're now rapidly approaching the end of July and I only have one more blog post planned, due up on the 31st. However, for August I have some pretty big plans: All-in August. I'm going to be away for much of the beginning of September, flying out to Japan on the 31st and returning on the 11th, no doubt seriously jet-lagged. I imagine I'll be spending most of the next few days either asleep or at work, as I don't have much in the way of holidays so it's back to work on the 12th. As for the name, it's no snappy Every Day May or Blogtober, but I figured it was better than the only other name I came up with: Smaugustbord. 

Since there's likely to be a dearth of content for the first few weeks I thought I'd try and up my game for August. It's also my last month advertising with Gwennan for a while (I'll be back, don't you worry!) so I thought I should at least try and produce consistent content and try and make the most of it. She's always a fab advertiser, and the only reason I haven't signed up ad infinitum is at this rate she's going to run out of nice things to write about me for her advertisers round up. I'm not nice enough to warrant the many months of praise from these posts, though I will admit to kind of loving the little ego boost.

So for August, I'm going to attempt to post every single day. That's 31 days of content compared to my usual six to nine posts per month. It's going to be a challenge, but I've done it before with Blogtober in 2016. August is always a busy month for me anyway, as it's mine and my Mother's birthdays right at the end. While I'm going to aim to post every day, I'm not going to beat myself up about it too much if I only manage every other day. Essentially I'm just trying to churn out as much content as I can in a short space of time. I enjoy short term challenges, especially for blog content, as they're achievable but still require enough dedication that you feel like you've worked hard and achieved something.

So, keep your eyes peeled throughout August! All being well, there should be plenty of content coming your way very soon.

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Monday, 24 July 2017

Monday Medley #1

All being well, this will be the start of a new series on Spare Oom, hence the little #1 up there in the title. I realised that I spend a hell of a lot of my time reading, books and magazines and especially blogs, and I felt like it was time I shared a bit of the love. I thought I'd share a few of the things I've loved reading each week, on a Monday because yay alliteration, but also so that this post can serve as something to refer back to should you run out things to read. I hope it proves useful and that you discover some amazing bloggers and writers! However, I have absolutely no idea what to use image-wise for this series, as I don't like the idea of using images from other people's posts. You're getting something generic and inoffensive this time around, but I am open to any and all suggestions!


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This classic dystopian tale of a totalitarian Christian society represented in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood has had a resurgence in popularity, thanks to the new TV series on Hulu. This was a book that had been on my to read list for a very long time, and rather than just watch the series I thought I'd read the book first. It's an incredible piece of work that doesn't do anything as juvenile or simplistic as saying "all men are bad", but instead is a fair and complex examination of a deeply dysfunctional society. Each character has their own motivations, though these are hard to discern, as the book is told entirely by Offred. This is definitely worth a read and I would recommend it to everyone; the style of writing is quite fluid and speech-like, taking some getting used to, but it still makes for a very easy read.

DIGITAL

TIME LAPSE
One of my favourite types of blog posts to read is anything that covers a long period of time, in what I would call a time lapse post. It's when you choose to look back over a period of time through one consistent medium that reflects the changes that time. Two of my favourite bloggers wrote posts in this style very recently, and both are definitely worth a read if you're into that sort of thing. I also wrote a post along these lines (shameless plug), so I've linked that below as well if you fancy it!

Lizzy Hadfield of Shot from the Street shows us her favourite film photograph for a year, and it's really interesting to see how her style and circumstances change throughout. They're all beautiful photos but I particularly love the one with the wellies! Read it here!

Gwennan from Twenty Something Meltdown (a name I will forever relate to) did a round up of her 100 Days From Where I Stand Instagram project. It's essentially just 100 photos of her feet, but seeing the different places, shoes and times of day really gives a little snapshot into her life without being invasive or weird. My fave was definitely the paddling pool. Have a gander.

I've had a pretty eventful year, and coincidentally used up an entire notebook (an almost unheard of event) in that time. I wrote a little bit about how my life has changed and how that was reflected in that little book, which is mostly full of to do lists and the occasional diary entry. Clickity-boo.

MISCELLANEOUS
Rather than a selection of blog posts with a similar theme, the next few are just a mishmash of wonderful things I've read lately on all sorts of topics. There are a few on mental health and self-esteem, two about the realities of parenthood in different circumstances and one about robot furniture. I figure that covers most bases. 

Rebecca of From Roses wrote about the importance of taking time off, even if you love your job. This is not advice I needed as I'm prepared to go on holiday at the slightest excuse, but it made for very interesting reading about self-care and forgiving yourself for doing what you need to do. One to bookmark.

Sophie Cliff's blog is new to me but I fell in love with it after this post. She's a fantastic writer that really paints a picture with her words, and this post will make you feel like there's still good in the world even on the greyest of days. It will also make you crave soup. Perfect pick-me-up.

There have been loads of posts lately with people moaning about Instagram and the new algorithm. Imii breaks the mould with frankness and honesty about why she's lost Instagram followers lately, and it makes for a very refreshing read amongst all the (justified) whining. Go read it!
Elizabeth from Ice Cream Whispers Clara wrote about her experiences with ME and how it affects her life and her parenting. This was a beautiful post that gives a huge amount of insight into what it's like to live with ME, and I feel like I understand far more than I did. The photography is as gorgeous as ever, and it's definitely something you should take two minutes to read. Find it here.
Jo of Flourish and Blotting is a new Mum and general amazing human being; I do not understand how she's managing to blog with a newborn, but mad respect to her for that. In this post, she talks about self-esteem and how it's changed since having her daughter, and how you can't compare yourself to others. One to remember.
Robot furniture is a thing. No, really.

RECIPE

I figure this post wouldn't be complete without a recipe, and this lemon posset from Cake and Whisky sounds like a dream. I love all things lemony, and I'm just imagining this with a crunchy biscuit on the side for some extra texture. Excuse me while I buy 10,000 lemons.


And finally, I found out that cats in kimonos are a thing.


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Thursday, 20 July 2017

Summer Reading List | An Amazon Book Haul

Thanks to a £50 Amazon voucher that came as a bonus to switching my mobile phone contract to BT Mobile, I got rather overexcited and bought loads of books despite not having worked my way through my Spring Reading List. What can I say? My to-read pile is ever-growing. I may have to put myself on a little book spending ban after this, unless there's something I really want. My resolve is weak.


Jumping right on that bandwagon, I bought Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale as it's been on a mental TBR list for years, and with the new TV series people are raving about I thought I'd better give it a read before watching.

I saw Bad Girls Throughout History on a friend's bookshelf a few months ago, and as an Ancient History graduate and general history enthusiast this sounded like a fun read. The illustrations are cool and I'm looking forward to seeing if any of my favourite historical badasses feature.

Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn, which I only know from the Saorise Ronan film, has now released House of Names, a retelling of the Oresteia plays by Aeschylus. I didn't study the tragedies at university, preferring to keep things light and ridiculous with Aristophanes, before eventually specialising in the Near East. However, I've read all three plays that make up the Oresteia and I'm looking forward to seeing how they're humanised by Tóibín. The reviews paint it as astounding piece of work, so it should be interesting!

I've talked about my houseplant collection on here before, and my minor obsession is only growing. However, I'm notorious for having managed to kill a cactus and feel like my plants are always on the brink of death, so 
How Not To Kill Your Plants by Nik Southern sounded like a good bet.

At this point I had a few extra quid to spare so I plumped for Middlemarch by George Eliot to use up my voucher. This is one of those 'you must read this before you die' books that you see in broadsheet newspapers, so I thought I should at least give it ago.


Have you made any great book purchases lately?

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Monday, 17 July 2017

What I Packed for a Weekend In Scotland

(And What I Actually Used)

I am definitely guilty of over-packing. The amount of stuff I take with me on holiday is entirely dependent on the bag that I take; if you give me a giant suitcase, I will fill it, give me a rucksack and that will be plenty. No matter how small the bag is, I always end up not using certain things and asking myself why on earth I packed them in the first place. This post is all about the things I packed for two nights in Scotland visiting my family on the west coast, the things I used and the things I didn't.


Things I Actually Used

I wore this extremely old ASOS burgundy-swirly t-shirt and these ASOS Kimmi jeans on Friday and on the long train ride after work, along with my old trench coat from god-knows-where (ah, that elite brand) and my new favourite thing, these black ALDO shoes with fold-down backs. They're kind of weird, kind of masculine and not very me, but I'm absolutely loving them and starting to think that maybe they are me. 


On Saturday I knew it was forecast to rain, so I was very glad that I had packed my pink raincoat, a blessing on those rainy days, which is basically every day tbh. I wore this with my La Redoute long sleeved Breton and my jeans, along with my black ALDO shoes. This was enough for a wander on the beach with the mad dog and my slightly mad Grampa, along with several hours of intensely competitive board games. Monopoly and Pictionary Queen, right here.

For travelling home on Sunday I threw on this & Other Stories striped t-shirt (no longer online) with my jeans and black flats, along with my trench coat for the long train ride(s) home. We went for brunch in the morning but nowhere very fancy so I was dressed perfectly for that since I actually had some makeup on.


Skincare-wise, I generally cleansed with the La Roche Posay Micellar Water and a cotton pad, followed by a few drops of The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid (review), a smear of Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream SPF30 all over my face and some of the La Roche Posay Toleraine Eye Contour Cream, morning and night.

As for makeup, I didn't even bother with it on Saturday. I slapped on my skincare routine and was good to go. The dog doesn't care what I look like, and we were just having a Chinese for tea, so I didn't need to look fancy for that. On Sunday I just threw on some of The Ordinary's Coverage Foundation in 1.0P (review) with my Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge, and a little bit of the Estee Lauder Double Wear Concealer in Extra Light under my eyes. A slick of the Zoeva Graphic Brow Fix in Bistre, a little of the Charlotte Tilbury Rock 'N' Kohl Eyeliner in Barbarella Brown and the No7 Exceptional Definition Mascara, with the Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Very Victoria to finish.

I always pack and find a use for these travel size White Company Shampoo and Conditioner, which I'm pretty sure I pinched off a cruise ship. 

Things I Don't Know Why I Bothered Packing

I did okay for actually wearing the clothes I packed, simply because I only packed one outfit per day. However, I also packed a very old pair of burgundy lace up sandals from Peacocks to dress up my jeans, should we go out for an evening meal at any point. Generally, when I go to Scotland I have no idea what I'm going to be doing while I'm there and just go with the flow; this is great, but it does mean that I need to be prepared for most eventualities. Quite often I pack something slightly fancy and never get a chance to wear it, and this was one of those times.



It was a rainy few days in Scotland, so I stuck with just the SPF30 in my moisturiser and didn't feel the need to reach for my usual SPF of choice, the La Roche Posay Anthelios XL SPF50+. I also kind of forgot that I packed my Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser and just used my micellar water, which is the opposite of what I usually do at home. I guess because I wasn't wearing much makeup I felt fine without it. Equally, I didn't use my REN Evercalm Mask, a new find that I'm loving for when my face is feeling sensitive and irritated. As for my Laura Mercier Tarte Au Citron eau de toilette, I think I just can't be bothered with perfume in Scotland. My days are filled with running after a dog on a beach and generally reverting to being an eight-year-old, climbing trees and getting grubby; it's not a place for perfume, which would be whipped away by the sea air at any rate.


Lately, I've been getting kind of bored of my Zoeva Cocoa Blend palette. I still love it, but I'm craving a change. I really want the Zoeva Nude Spectrum palette, so that may make an appearance after my birthday next month. As such I didn't use any eyeshadow while I was away, nor did I use any of my eyeshadow brushes.

Three eyebrow products is excessive, but I'm testing them out for a future post and wasn't sure which one I would fancy using. I tried out the Zoeva Graphic Brow Fix as mentioned above, but the NYX Tinted Brow Mascara and Benefit Gimme Brow will have to wait for another day. This Bobbi Brown Lip Colour in Orange was planned for any slightly dressier evenings, so it didn't get any use this time around, but I am absolutely loving it with a striped top and my boyfriend jeans at the moment. 

I think that clothes-wise I did pretty well at packing this time, but I massively overpacked on skincare and makeup. I'd say that I'll learn from my mistakes but I almost certainly won't. 

Are any of you guilty of over- or under-packing?

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Friday, 14 July 2017

A Year In A Notebook

This notebook was part of a gift given to me when I left my old job back in April 2016, and it became a firm favourite of mine. I always end up with one notebook that I use to death and write in constantly, and this one certainly stood the test of time. This notebook was with me through one of the most tumultuous times of my life, and it's weird looking back through it and seeing how my life changed reflected in its pages.


I first started using this book for Chinese. I started taking Mandarin lessons in April 2016 as a reaction to my (now ex) boyfriend who I was living with at the time. He was very much immersed in teaching himself Japanese, which actually ended up being one of the things that drove us apart; it sounds bizarre but it makes sense, I promise. I've always been interested in languages so it wasn't purely just to show him that I could be interesting and improve myself too, but about a month into my lessons we had a very messy breakup and I left Manchester.


Which is where I was on the 23rd of May. We broke up on the 21st and I moved out of our flat and back to my Mum's that afternoon. It had been brewing for a while but the whole thing was pretty undignified and an extremely negative experience. You can see from the little pep talk I was giving myself here that I was in a pretty bad place. I was trying to convince myself that it was time to pick myself up and move on, but in reality, I didn't manage to actually do that until about August.


I appear to have written out the carrot cake recipe that I used for my Nan's birthday cake, so this would have been in early June. This is the recipe that my Nan loves the best; I often don't make the prettiest cakes but this carrot cake is always hella moist and delicious. I think sultanas really add to it and my Mum loves them, but I know a lot of people have strong feelings about sultanas so you can always leave them out.


Now in July, you can see how much I was desperately trying to take control of my life. I was still seriously messed up after my break up and to do lists were my control mechanism. I had huge lists of things to do; you can see I still hadn't even cancelled my broadband contract months after moving out from my own flat, in with my ex and then out again! I had forgotten about it for ages and then put it off for literally months. I can assure you that I did eventually cancel it. I also started really working on this blog properly last Summer, simply as I had nothing else to do.


In August I had an interview down in Leamington Spa for which I brushed up on some slightly more advanced Excel skills. I had to pay to get to the interview, pay to stay over the night before, and then had to endure a very sad and very delayed train journey back up North when I didn't get the job. It was a bad day. 


Now jumping ahead to November, I have more lists that reflect a massive change in my life. In September I reconnected with an old friend who is now my boyfriend, through whom I finally found a job and ended up with two weeks to move back to Manchester before I started. It was a mad time in which I actually neglected this blog quite a lot, and ended up writing a post about where I had been. I'll link that post here, as it talks about the major life changes that happened in a few short weeks.


This was a really weird day. There are a few diary-style entries dotted throughout this notebook, most of which I haven't shared as they're either hideously self-pitying or too personal. This was written when I met my ex for lunch and to clear the air for the first time since the day we both swapped a few leftover belongings in July. It had ended in us sobbing in the street outside Wagamama Spinningfields; this time was very different. My rose-tinted glasses were finally gone. I was actually kind of bored once the relief that there were no residual feelings wore off. After that lunch, I don't think I've ever been happier to go and see my boyfriend and realise how much better my life is, in large part thanks to him.


For several months it's pretty much meal planning and more to do lists, but you can see how I was becoming (or attempting) to be more organised, splitting up my lists into categories because I get confused and overwhelmed by long lists. FYI, there are still things on this list that I haven't done.


This was my packing list for several days in France, along with my plan, backup plan and backup backup plan for getting to the airport on time. I actually made it to the airport way earlier than I needed to be, resulting in me waiting for my brother to show up for half an hour so we could check in and I could finally eat something.



This is one of the last pages in my notebook. I recently purchased Madeleine Shaw's A Year of Beautiful Eating cookbook and am loving it, but frequently find that when it comes to meal planning I can't be bothered leafing through and deciding on recipes. Instead, I decided to go through A Year of Beautiful Eating and Anna Jones' A Modern Way to Cook and pick out recipes I'd like to try at some point. It speeds up the whole process and makes planning meals a lot easier.



After that, there are just a few more to do lists which are pretty dull, so I thought I'd leave it there for this post. This notebook has been with me through the ups and downs and it was really cathartic to go back and read through it and see how I've felt and what I've been up to over the last twelve months. I do have other notebooks floating around, one of which will no doubt replace this one very soon.


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