Friday, 31 May 2013

Zoo Animals and Internet Love

As I mentioned in Monday's Happiness Is... post, I went to the zoo on Saturday. Paignton Zoo, to be precise, which is about an hour's drive from me- so pretty close, in Devon terms.

So because it's Friday (and because I'm writing this late on Thursday evening, after spending most of my night baking and packing for my trip to Cardiff this weekend), here are some pictures of zoo animals. You're welcome!

Giraffes are my favourites- probably because I'd like to be that tall...

This camel's name was Alice. Yeah... (also. I wouldn't want to live in one of those houses, would you!?)

I found this orangutan fascinating.

Yes, that's a real crocodile. There was only an inch of perspex between us...
Moments before he tried to eat my brother's foot...

Also, here are some links to a few really great things I've come across this week.

Sally has it absolutely spot on in this post about bikini bodies. If you only read one thing today, read this.

Yesterday, I ran into town on my lunch break and bought this Origins cleanser (trust me to have difficult skin that requires their most expensive cleanser), and this Botanics facial oil. I like them both a lot (after one use...), and the lady on the Origins counter was so helpful.

This post full of advice from parents made me smile. I particularly love the last piece of advice from Patricia Scanlan's mother- "Love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe".

I would very much like some White Company bedding, and this Great Plains dress (please)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Granola Granola

For some reason, I always says that- granola granola. Or "granooolaaaaa". It's pretty hard to just say "granola". It sounds boring (and has now lost all meaning).

Breakfast is my absolute favourite meal of the day. Seriously, I could eat breakfast and nothing else some days (and some days at uni I probably did do this...). One of my favourite "healthy" breakfasts is yoghurt, granola, and some sort of soft fruit- I absolutely love it.

I wrote "healthy" because, frankly, granola isn't that good for you. As you'll see, it's got lots of sugary things in it. I mean, it's a hell of a lot better for you than cocoa pops or nutella on toast are, but to be honest, everything in moderation (including moderation), and generally speaking, you'll be fine.

Also, this is a ridiculously easy thing to make. Seriously, it's so straightforward, a monkey could do it. Or kids, if you want to get them into a healthier breakfast- they could pick the dried fruits that they like to put in it (NOT that I am comparing kids to monkeys there!), which might encourage them to eat it?! I don't know, I'm not a parent. Just an idea.

Anyways, before I put my foot in it any more, here's the recipe. You can put anything in this, fruit/ nuts wise. And listen to this why you read the recipe/ make this, please. (Robin Thicke- Blurred Lines. It's fun to dance to, but I am not a fan of the video, so just listen, maybe?)

You Will Need:
An oven, a big bowl, spoons, a big sharp knife, a chopping board, scales, baking trays.

200g mixed nuts (I used brazil nuts, hazlenuts, pecans, and almonds- but anything works)
200g porridge oats
100g mixed seeds (I used a four seed mix from Tesco)
1 tsp cinnamon/ mixed spice
3 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp vegetable oil (I think coconut oil would be an amazing substitution though)
2 tbsp olive oil
150g mixed dried fruit (I used apricots, cranberries, and sultanas)

OK. Start off by chopping your nuts up in whatever way you like. I prefer smaller bits of brazil nut, and roughly chopped hazlenuts, pecans, and almonds, but whole nuts will work too if you can't be bothered....

Mix together your oats, seeds, nuts, and cinnamon in a big bowl. Then add your honey, syrup, and oils, and mix together well- it should be a bit clumpy.

Tip the lot onto two baking trays, spread out so it's not all piled in the middle, then bake at 180C for 10 minutes. Take it out, stir it around a bit, then put it back in for another 10 minutes. Then repeat, until it's all golden brown and yummy smelling.
(Quick tip- when baking anything, the moment you can properly smell it in the kitchen, check it- it's probably nearly done)

Then stir through your dried fruit and leave the lot to cool. When it's cool, put it into a pretty kilner jar/ another airtight container, stash amongst the rest of your cereal, and eat for breakfast with yoghurt and fruit.

You can vary this really easily with the types of nut/ fruit you use- I think in the winter, dried apple, pear, and cranberry would be lovely, and in the summer, mango, pineapple, and banana chips would be great. 


Wednesday, 29 May 2013

What's In My (Not-Yet-A-Mulberry) Handbag?

Yesterday, as I was doing my standard evening blog-peruse, I happened across a post on a post on Temporary:Secretary which got me really rather excited.

Money Supermarket (who seem to be pretty keen on blogger competitions, no?) are running a pretty awesome sounding competition. Show them what's in your handbag, think about how much it's worth, and possibly win some Mulberry goodies.

Yeah, I know, you're all in too, right? Just remember that I told you, so you can share your prize with me.

My enormous handbag/ satchel is from Zara- it was a Christmas present from my mum last year, and I'm not certain exactly how much it cost, but it was certainly over £100 (I'm starting the tally here, not showing off about my slightly pricy bag). I'm really not a massive handbag person- this is my main way of lugging all of my stuff around, and I don't chop and change between bags like most people seem to.

But because of this, I appear to accumulate a lot of stuff in my bag. Honestly, it's a little bit ridiculous. When I was pulling things out of it, I felt a little bit like Mary Poppins- I genuinely wouldn't have been surprised if a plant had come out.

So, as I'm sure you're all dying to know (sarcasm there, but not really because we're all nosy- don't lie, you are too), here is what's in my bag....


... told you it was a lot of stuff.

We'll start with the obvious bits, shall we?

My purse was also a Christmas gift, from my brother a few years ago. And when I say "a few" I mean "at least four" as I've still got ticket stubs in there from a trip to Paris in September 2010. Yeah. It's from Emma Bridgewater, and I think it was around £20- not too sure though.  On top of that is my 16-25 Railcard, which saves me many many pennies, but also cost £26... yeah, not ideal unless you're going to use it a lot.

My scarf, however, was a mere £5 from Tesco and I LOVE it. I always carry a scarf because I always get cold- and when it's a cheap as this, I don't care about squishing it up in my bag. My water bottle is a Bobble- it has a filter to filter out all the nasties in tap water (which is slightly redundant living in an area with tap water which is essentially mineral water straight off Dartmoor...). These cost around £10, but are very cheap compared to bottled water when you consider that I fill it up three times a day. I do really need to get a new filter though...

At the moment, I'm lugging around both A Clash of Kings (great conversation starter with guys, by the way...), and my Kindle, as I'm reading something for an upcoming Umbrella Collective post. So add on another £100 for the two of them, and the Kindle case...

I also have to carry snacks with me. Partly because I'm always hungry when I don't have any food with me, partly because I sometimes have blood-sugar issues and need a snack a bit sharpish. Normally, there's chocolate in my bag- you caught me on a good day (promise!).

I also have a lot of "stuff" in my bag- a Moleskine, diary and post-its, for jotting down ideas and reminders (I often have a mini post it stuck to the back of my phone to remind me to do things), and a handful of pens to go with these bits (I am obsessed with having lots of pens, in case one runs out and I don't have another...). My work ID card is also there, as are my car keys.

I also carry tissues, a kirby grip (unseen, it's tiny), Vaseline and hand cream wherever I go. I love this Burt's Bees one, £11.99, as my hands are so cracked and dry from the awful winter weather we're still having, and this seems to make a bit of a difference.

Finally, my bag also contains headphones- understandably- and a torch. Yes, a torch. I live in Deepest Darkest Devon, and at night, streetlights can be pretty few and far between. Let's just say that if I ever get lost down a country lane, I'll at least be able to see without resorting to using my phone as a torch.

So to tally up everything in my bag, including my bag itself, I'd say we're looking at around £300. Which is mildly terrifying. Though if you include my phone (which was taking the pictures) we're up to £400-odd, and  including my car (my car could be taken if my bag was lost...), you're into the thousands.

Now I'm officially terrified.

The final rule of the competition is to tag five other bloggers to take part- I'm going to tag BellaJessAnnieEmma, and Kaz, though of course you're all welcome to participate!!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

A Neutral Blazer

On Sunday, I went shopping with my gorgeous friend LR. The idea was that we'd go on a hunt for holiday clothes- me for my Thailand trip, her for her upcoming holiday in Portugal. I thought I was really successful, as I came home £50 lighter- but turns out, I only bought a pair of shorts and a dress for the holiday. Whoops.

I'm not going to do a haul post- I do have a bit of an aversion to them, as personally, I think they can be a bit show-off-y. But after shopping, you show your friends what you bought, right?! So I thought I'd show you something I picked up which was totally unrelated to my holiday.

A really pretty neutral blazer.

I've been playing around with editing my pictures. Clearly I haven't got it quite right yet...!
I am fully aware of how boring this item of clothing is. I mean, it isn't even a colour. Or if it is, it's beige. But I love it, and that's that- I've been on the hunt for a great blazer of some description for a really long time, and after a work colleague came in wearing a beautiful pale pink blazer from Primark, I thought it was high time I checked it out again. And I was pretty pleased, to find this one for £19!

So I thought I'd go a bit fashion blogger, and show you how I'm planning on wearing this. Please remember that I'm not a fashionista in any way, shape, or form, so if my outfit choices look ridiculous, please be kind about it? Ta.

I like this idea of wearing the blazer over this Zara dress, which is £35.99. I have an addiction to stripes, and like the contrast between the bright blue and the neutral jacket. I'll probably wear this to work on a day with lots of important meetings (I like to look like a proper adult on those days).

(By the way, Zara/ Inditex are a lean manufacturer, and have a three week lead time, meaning that if something isn't selling, it can be pulled off the shelf and something new can be in its place in three weeks. Most fashion retailers have a three month lead time. They also make in small batches, and don't tend to re-make items. This means that if you see something you like in Zara, you'd better snap it up quickly, as if you miss it, they probably won't get another delivery of it. Fact of the day!)

This is actually what I'm wearing today- the jeans were £11, and the shoes £6 (both from Primark), and the silk blouse is from Zara (but is really old). This one is really similar though, and is £39.99. I have quite a quiet day today, so wearing something like this is fine- our office dress code is actually quite relaxed, but I prefer to dress up smartly the majority of the time. I feel really naughty wearing jeans to work!!

I pretty much live in stripes- I probably don't go more than two or three days without wearing some sort of striped garment. The jeans are my absolute favourite pair, despite having highlighter on the bum (I have no idea how it got there- maybe someone wanting to make my bum glow in the dark?) which WILL NOT come off. They're from Miss Selfridge, and I've been really impressed by them. These are pretty similar, and are £38. The top is also Zara (good god, I didn't realise how much of my stuff is from there!), but is seriously old. In terms of fit, this one is pretty similar (to the point that I might have to buy it, I love the way the red one fits), and is £17.99.

OK, now you can tell me if I've got this whole thing totally wrong.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Happiness Is... (Vol. 17)

I like this Monday. Mostly because it's a Bank Holiday (though I still woke up at 8:15. That said, that's a two hour lie in so I'm not complaining), but also because it's the 17th Monday after I started blogging, and 17 is my lucky number.

I am definitely appreciating Bank Holidays FAR more now I'm working- a free day off? I don't have to put in a leave application for a long weekend? SOLD. I mean, while you may have complained about school at the time, you get a bloody brilliant amount of holidays- and for that reason alone, I am jealous of teachers (and they definitely deserve all of their holidays from all of what they put in during term-time).

RIGHT. On to the business at hand. This week, happiness is...

... reconnecting with old friends (and making new ones). We had visitors from The North, and over dinner on Thursday night, we worked out that the last time they came to visit was seven years ago. While we have seen them since then (for instance, my brothers, dad, and I ran into them on holiday in Spain a few years back), we haven't all been together in yonks. Also, one visitor brought his girlfriend, who was so lovely and who fitted in splendidly. It was so lovely to see them all, and they've gone back with admonishments not to leave it so long next time.

... the zoo. Oh my god I love the zoo. While the grown ups went for a nice walk on Saturday, the Under-25s decided we would be a bit less adult, and went to the zoo. I haven't been in SO long, and it was a bloody brilliant day. We saw the elephants being fed, a monkey (ahem) "pleasuring himself", and an adorable baby orang-utan. All in all, a pretty good day

... friends doing incredibly special grown up things. Like getting promotions and moving in with boyfriends. And I am not in the slightest bit jealous, because as I mentioned yesterday, I like my stress-free, single existence. Doesn't mean I'm not over the moon for her though!!

... being back in my own bed. Much as I love visitors, I like it when they go and I get my amazingly comfortable bed back. Even better is the fact that that always involves fresh sheets and PJs.

... confirming my status as a crazy cat lady. Mostly because one of the visitors had a phobia of cats, and I was more worried about the poor cat being lonely/ cold/ unhappy if she was shut away from everyone, than the poor girl who was scared of her. Oops.

I mean really... who could be afraid of this?!

What's making you happy this week?

Sunday, 26 May 2013

On Singledom, Independence, And Being 23

I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel like the only single blogger in blog-land. You see all these adorable pictures of pretty bloggers and their handsome boyfriends, and it certainly feels like being the only single one at the wedding sometimes.

But suddenly, I really don't care that I'm single. Although I have been for a good while now, and not unhappily so, suddenly I'm absolutely bloody thrilled about it.

And not for the "obvious" reason either- I have no interest in going out and sleeping with as many random guys as possible- that's just not my scene in the slightest (though there is no judgement if it is yours). All of a sudden, I've realised how bloody brilliant it is to be 23 and single and independent.

For instance- look at this picture. 

I've had this picture for ages and have lost the source... So sorry!
Yes, the kissing couple are absolutely freaking adorable. But the girl to the left of the image- she's the one who interests me. Now taking this picture at face value- we know nothing about any of the people in it, after all- all I can see is one girl who has dealt with all of the stress of having a person she loves go away to war and come back safely- and one who has happily not had to deal with all of that.

I like being the one who doesn't have to deal with all of the stress of a boyfriend.

I went to the zoo with two couples on Saturday. I could quite easily have felt like the fifth wheel, but did I? Not in the slightest. We all had a lovely day, I got my ticket paid for me too (by a young man whose mother has clearly brought him up very well- his girlfriend is a lucky young lady), and I didn't get nagged for cooing over the adorable baby orang-utan for too long, or have to nag someone for putting their foot into the emu enclosure and getting it pecked.

I don't feel that I'm missing out right now by being single. Maybe there will come a time that I do- but right now, I get to do everything everyone else does, but without the hassle of having to try to find time to fit everyone in. I don't have to try to find a boyfriend a birthday present (hardest task ever) I don't have to feel guilty about spending £60 on clothes for a girly holiday- and I don't have to feel guilty about the girly holiday either. For instance, my brother is going on holiday with a friend in August- and not with his girlfriend. I imagine there has probably been A Conversation about this, and it's possible that there is some guilt and bad feeling about it. Do I feel guilty about my holiday? Hell no!

No, I'm not moving in with anyone. No, I don't have someone who brings me cups of tea in bed. No, I don't have someone to sob at when everything feels awful (actually, mums are the best people for this though). No, I don't have any imminent plans for marriage. But I don't care. 

I like my life. I like making decisions based entirely on my own thoughts and wishes and hopes and dreams. And yes, that might sound selfish, but if I'm not allowed to be selfish at 23, when am I!? 

If I never get married, yes, that might be a bit lame, as I don't really want to be a spinster. But right now, I'm pretty content with being single and independent, and not having to answer to anyone but myself. Because really, what is the point in moping when there's no one to judge you for eating two desserts?

From here

Friday, 24 May 2013

Thoughts on A Game of Thrones

I've been intending to write a review of A Game of Thrones for an absolute age, but given that life has been slightly insanely busy recently, I just have not got around to it, despite finishing it a few weeks ago. But here it is now- and don’t worry, I’m going to try to keep this review spoiler-free in case you want to read it and get as annoyed at spoilers as I do. (It’s in the name- it SPOILS things. So don’t do it without a whacking great warning, please)

Wayyy back when I first started blogging, the wonderful Jen of Sunny Sweet Pea organised a blogger book swap. I was paired with Jen herself, and the lovely Jasmine of Life Is My Movie. Given that we had a three way swap, I sent Rebecca to Jen , Jen sent The Book Thief to Jasmine, and Jasmine sent me A Game of Thrones. I had said that I wanted to try something a bit different to my normal rotation of historical fiction/ The Time Traveler’s Wife/ classics/ The Time Traveler’s Wife/ modern classics and so on, and Jasmine suggested this one. I’d heard a lot about the books- my friend J had waxed lyrical about them, and the accompanying TV show (which I’m yet to watch), but while we have very similar taste in books normally, for some reason I really didn’t think that it would be for me. But after yet another recommendation, I thought it was about time I gave A Game of Thrones a chance.

My god am I glad I did.

For the uninitiated, A Game of Thrones is set in a fantasy kingdom (Westeros), and centres on the Starks of Winterfell and the other ruling families of the kingdom, and their interactions. (Which now I’ve written it down, sounds really boring, but I promise that it isn’t). For some reason, I was expecting something kind of Lord Of The Rings-esque, full of fantasy creatures and stuff- and since I’ve never even read the Hobbit, I think this was what put me off reading it.

This isn’t your typical fantasy novel. If anything, I would compare it more to a boy version of historical fiction, as it features all of the political infighting and relationships as novels like The Other Boleyn Girl. You do have Danaerys Targaryen and her brother Viserys, who claim to have the blood of the dragon, and there are a few other magical-type things, but really it just has the typical quasi-medieval setting as most fantasy novels and is set in a made-up land, where apparently incest is somewhat acceptable (weird).

It’s a great story which really does pull you along- and given that it’s the first in a series of novels, you aren’t going to run out of reading material quickly once you’ve started reading this series. The book is split into chapters told by different characters, giving you a different view of the events. As far as characters are concerned, you do have your typical good guys/ bad guys, but I’ve found that now I’m on A Clash of Kings (the second in the series), my opinion of some of these characters is changing. I will say though (and I know I may get lynched for this)- I do not get the obsession with Danaerys Targaryen. I’ve not seen the TV show, so maybe she’s represented differently there, but in the book, she isn’t someone I’ve found myself getting attachd to, and I find it much easier to put the books down when it’s one of her chapters. This could be just because thus far she is quite separate to the rest of the story, but really, I’m not that keen on the girl. Arya Stark and Tyrion Lannister, however, I like, and the more I read, the more others are growing on me, or going down in my estimation.

Overall, it is a really good read. It’s not highly intellectual, like some books, so may not please any book snobs who are reading, but if you’re up for something a bit different, or are looking for a new series to get sucked into, I would definitely recommend these books. They are also a great talking point with cute, slightly geeky guys, like the adorable IT man I was chatting to on Wednesday. Oo-er.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to bury my nose in A Clash of Kings...

Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Devon County Show

On Saturday, my mum, grandma and I headed to Westpoint Arena for that most magical of things- The Devon County Show.

Now, if you aren't from a particularly rural area, you may have no idea what one of these strange things is. Basically, a county show is where farmers, producers, the WI, companies, and all manner of people gather from all around the county (in this case, Devon, though they happen everywhere) to show off their wares to as wide an audience as possible. My great-uncle volunteers as a steward at the Show, so we were lucky enough to get three free tickets. We were pretty pleased about this, as at £19 a ticket for an adult, we otherwise may not have gone.

But go we did, so we set off bright and early (as in 8:15am) and drove East from our little village towards Exeter. The day started pretty well, with me finding a Diet Coke bottle with my name on it (bloody brilliant marketing ploy, I didn't even want it but I had to get it). But as we drove out across the moor, we got stuck behind some cows who were out for a morning stroll. (On Monday I got stuck on my way to work in the exact same place behind the exact same cows).  Ahhh Devon!!

We then got stuck in the horrific traffic on the way into the show on the A38- seriously we queued for around an hour to travel probably less than three miles. Not ideal, particularly as we were trying to get to the show in time to see my younger brother play his cornet with the Devon Youth Brass Band. This was actually the only low point of the day, as we ended up missing about half of their set, despite leaving home two hours before they were due to play (it's normally just over an hour's journey, I do it every day for work).

But soon enough we got into the show ground, and dashed to the bandstand just in time to hear them play an arrangement of Coldplay's Viva La Vida (which sounds weird but works amazingly) and catch our breath in the sunshine.

Once we'd fulfilled our duty as loving family members and listened to the end of their set, we were free to explore the Show- and explore we did...

No idea why she was dressed like this.
There is something so classically British about something like this. Helter-skelters, ferris wheels, and candy floss just make me feel like a child all over again. This is mostly because of Goose Fair, which I'll explain more about when it happens in October.

The main reason I go to these things is for the food. I mean come on, where else can you get Oreo and Irn Bru flavoured fudge?!

Inside the actual food tent, mum and I worked our way around the entire thing. Twice. And when we momentarily lost my grandmother, we found her at the bar sampling cider. Top lady!!

Would it be Devon without copious amounts of scrumpy (cider)? I think not...

There is always a lot of cheese at these shows. And this one really went for it...

I was clearly very happy about the cheese. Sorry.
I also love the tent hosting the flower-arranging competitions (I don't recommend this if you have hayfever)- just look at how creative they were!!

It's a sheep made of CAULIFLOWER!
Though of course, animal shows still feature heavily here. Just check out some of these cuties...!

But the heavy machinery is still a pretty big deal. Massey-Ferguson is the height of cool around these here parts...! 

So after all of that, we headed home with empty pockets and lots of delicious goodies (including raspberry lemonade, sea-salted fudge, and an incredibly cherry pie).  

Seriously, if there is a county show near you- or even just a little local town show- I can't recommend it enough. Mostly because in my experience, there are always a lot of free samples of cider, fudge, and cheese.