Friday, 31 October 2014

Taking Control

I've been rather silly recently.

I have an ex who was the one person I've ever been completely silly about- a guy we'll call D. D and I were together for about a year, I guess, and broke up just over two years ago. We've never completely stopped talking though- and the power of social media means we've always been able to keep kind of abreast of each others' lives. And recently, we started talking again- sending messages back and forth most days.

Isn't this just the most stupid thing ever!?

Despite being warned of my stupidity by numerous friends (including Jenny- she's very smart with the life advice), I carried on chatting to D. "What harm could it do?" was my standard response. D and I live like 200 miles apart. We aren't likely to ever run into each other in the street. I kept giving him opportunities to stop the conversation, and he didn't, so I carried on too.

But one day this week, I woke up and thought to myself "What the hell are you doing?!". I suddenly realised that there was absolutely no benefit to be had from talking to him.

So I took control, and I stopped the conversation.

Much like our relationship, I now see that D was probably using me to bolster his own confidence. And hey- ain't nobody got time for that. I was enjoying the chatter, but I realised after a while that I was gaining absolutely nothing from it. At the end of our relationship, I was left feeling completely mashed up, and it took a long time to get back to normal. Why on earth would I even remotely put myself back in that position!?

It feels good to take control, even if it's only over a small thing like not talking to someone who doesn't make me feel phenomenal. There's so much in my life at the moment which isn't in control- so taking the reins over this feels pretty damn good.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

My Weekend Was Mostly Spent...

... leaving work ten minutes early because I was just too excited to sit still for a moment longer
... waiting impatiently for L at Paddington Station
... stocking up on train snacks
... helping L transcribe her interview on the train
... watching the most beautiful sunset from the train window
... squealing with delight at the proper darkness and cool, fresh Wiltshire air
... greeting MH at her car with massive enormous hugs
... being greeted at the farm by four very excitable dogs
... being handed a gin and tonic by MK while squeezing JH and N
... listening to J explain his nightmare living situation (does anyone know anyone looking for a housemate in Oxford?!)
... tucking into them most delicious chicken and ham pie
... drinking rioja and chatting about everything
... making an impromptu pudding of ice cream, banana slices, and melted chocolate
... greeting JT and B with squeals and hugs
... having a second pudding of profiteroles
... drinking more wine
... listening to J and MK swap stories of odd things they'd seen at work
... tumbling into bed beside L and hoping she didn't have any nightmares

... waking up early
... padding downstairs in my PJs to be greeted by MH, MK, and MH's brother
... breakfasting on bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast
... sipping cup after cup of tea
... waiting for the others to surface
... pulling on my new jumper
... heading into Marlborough for a potter
... lusting over Joules and Susie Watson bits and pieces
... sipping coffee and eating a giant cookie
... picking up brownie ingredients

... eating the most enormous lunch of cheese, fresh baguettes, and soup
... having a doze on the sofa
... being woken for tea and cake

... taking the dogs out for a little wander
... watching B and MK trying to set a bonfire alight
... getting caught in the rain
... feeling smug that I had worn a raincoat

... feeding the chickens and checking for eggs
... making brownies for pudding
... dressing for dinner
... greeting MH's brother and sister in law and their adorable border terrier
... being presented with a gin and tonic and crisps to nibble
... deciding I didn't like my outfit and changing
... drinking more gin and wine
... sitting down to a supper of pork fillet marinated in garlic and herbs wrapped in parma ham, served with dauphinoise potatoes and green veg
... devouring a bowlful of brownie, ice cream, and raspberries for pudding
... leaving the table for a little chat with JH
... breaking down, venting, and sobbing on JH for a good while
... rejoining the group for a round of the After Eight game
... getting overly competitive
... eating the most incredible cheese and delicious crackers
... moving on to Guess Who (the version where you have to guess the celebrity name on your forehead)
... having my piece of paper stuck to my head with cheese
... stumbling to bed at goodness only knows what time

... waking early
... being greeted in the kitchen by five very excitable dogs
... waving MH, MK, JT, and B off on a bike ride
... having a quick shower
... chatting to MH's sister-in-law, who popped in for breakfast
... checking the chickens and finding nine eggs
... making pancakes on the aga
... eating the most carby breakfast ever and loving every second of it

... lacing up my walking boots and pulling on my raincoat
... holding onto the border terrier while we drove deeper into the countryside
... walking along with the dogs and the girls while the boys (minus JH) stomped ahead
... feeling oh so loved
... saying hello to the cows in the fields as we passed

... throwing a tennis ball for the dogs
... popping into the pub for a quick one
... getting back to the house over three hours after we first left
... sitting down huge lunch of beef casserole and mashed potatoes
... following it up with yet more cake

... saying sad goodbyes
... being driven to the train station
... standing wearily on the platform, wishing the weekend didn't have to end.

Tell me. What did you get up to this weekend?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 86)

I hadn't realised quite how much I missed country air, proper darkness, and birdsong until I arrived in Wiltshire with L on Friday night. We stepped off the train, straight into MH's waiting arms (and car) and were whisked off for a weekend at the farm. I'll be giving you full details tomorrow- in a my weekend was mainly spent... style post, but needless to say, it was the most wonderful weekend, and it completely soothed my soul. I hadn't even realised quite how much my soul needed it until I was there.

Anyway! I'm going in to the new week tired and happy and a little more ready to face everything that might be thrown at me. It's a nice feeling. And this week, happiness is... 

... my uni bests. Oh my god, I absolutely adore my university friends. I never feel quite so much myself as I do when I'm with these people. We caught up, laughed, ate unbelievable amounts of incredible food and generally enjoyed each other's company. I love the seven people I spent this weekend with so, so much, and I am so happy to be able to spend time with them.

... sending stroppy emails. We're having a whole host of issues with our flat at the moment, not least the fact that we have had a number of sightings of mice. It's awful, and incredibly upsetting- but I wrote the most stonking grumpy email to our letting agents about it all last night, and I felt so much better as a result. It was great fun!

... time spent with dogs. Historically, I have described myself as a cat person. But I spent my weekend with three labradors, a young border terrier, and an old (mostly blind) Jack Russell. Safe to say, these dogs (and my brother's adorable sproodle) are pretty quickly turning me into a dog person. I want one! (Just not while I'm living in the big city)

... after dinner games. Oh my gosh, we had so much fun playing the After Eight game and Guess Who (as in, where you have to guess the name of the person written on your forehead). Absolutely hilarious- there's nothing like some gentle competition after a small feast to round off your evening nicely.

... a successful practice of a wedding cake. I made a practice of the sponge layer of the wedding cake I'm making this weekend, and I was so happy with how it came out!! (It's the one on the right of hte picture) Perfectly light sponge, not too sweet, and didn't stale too quickly. And the uni bests gave me some pretty great feedback too, which is always pretty lovely.

What's making you happy this week?

Friday, 10 October 2014


I had a hard day yesterday.

Yesterday, I was reading a report which brought up a whole host of memories of very difficult things. And then I looked at the calendar, and all of a sudden realised that those very difficult things happened exactly six years ago today. 

I emailed my boss (who sits opposite me), and told him I was struggling. He pulled me aside, told me off for apologising for the tenth time that day, and told me to "put away the damn report" for the time being, and deal with it at another time. "Look at something else, Alice. While we have a particular affinity for issues that have affected us directly, I do not need you doing this today, certainly not tomorrow, or until you are ready to do it."

My boss is a very compassionate man, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

But in having this conversation, I realised how far I have come. How much stronger I am now than I was six years ago. Mama spoke to E a few days after I saw him, and he told her that I'm "the best I've seen her in a long time". I am so much more capable now of dealing with the things life throws at me. Before, I completely shut down. There was no part of me that could cope with the things that were going on six years ago. But now I can at least try to deal with the things life throws in my path.

And while I will never again be the girl I was seven, ten, fourteen years ago- now, I know that even when things get really, really difficult, there is a now small part of me which will not give up. I have dealt with some incredibly incredibly difficult things in my life- as we all have, really- but I am still here. I'm still walking tall, and smiling, and laughing. I haven't given up on the world. I may be cynical, but I still believe that people are good, that things can change, and that the world may be a difficult place but nothing so far has been insurmountable. 

I am so much stronger than I ever really knew I could be.

And if that night six years ago had not happened, I would not be who I am today.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Blogger Book Club- Here We Go Again!

It's back! Now that there is a giant Great British Bake Off sized hole in your lives, Jenny and I are going to fill it with a new Blogger Book Club book!

We were originally hoping for our next chat to be in person- but because Jenny and I (your Readers in Chief) are completely incapable of finding a free weekend at the start of 2015, we're looking to have our physical chat somewhere around April. This chat will, as before, take place on Skype at 8pm on Tuesday 27th January. Put it in your diary now- I'll be missing korfball training for the occasion, so you'd better all turn up. 

So we have the time, we have the date, but what about the book?

Our survey says...

(Do you think that's really her surname? How very Sherlock Holmes)

Anyway. Jenny and I had a giggle on whatsapp trying to work out precisely what the husband's secret could be. My theories included everything from incest to terrorism by way of time travel. So I'm expecting good things. Though not that great, purely because the fact this book has a cover quote which misuses literally has put my back up. Unless it was literally stuck to your hand Sophie Hannah, you could have put the book down. But I'm willing to be persuaded.

What do you think of our latest choice? Will you be joining us on 27th January? Let me know!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 85)

Hello, October. You've really entered with a bang, haven't you? We went from short wearing to coat wearing in less than a week. I'm quite impressed, and certainly not complaining- I love my coats. I don't have my full winter wardrobe in London, however, so I'd appreciate it if the weather didn't get any colder until I've had the time to pop back to Devon for a wardrobe replenishing trip.

I'm excited for October. I have some really great plans- seeing friends, visiting places I've never been before, a week at home, and making a wedding cake, amongst other things. I think this month will be a good one. And to kick off, this week, happiness is...

... October sunrises. This one was actually taken last October, while I drove to then-work across Dartmoor, but the one I saw this morning through the skylight in the bathroom while I showered was almost as beautiful. There's something about the sunrises at this time of year- I think it's mostly that they happen at just the right time for me to catch them in all their glory- but they're my favourites.

... feeling perfectly dressed for the weather. On Sunday, I wore a light long sleeved dress, a trench coat, ankle boots, and a scarf. Not only did a complete stranger come up to me on the street and compliment me on my outfit (he told me I looked like I worked in fashion, and was thoroughly shocked when I told him what I really do), but I was the perfect temperature. That doesn't happen often, and it was certainly something to celebrate!

... copious cups of tea (and occasional biscuits). We have a tea club at work, and already this week we've gone through a pint of milk. And yes, we've only done one full day in the office. Saturday afternoon was also spent on the sofa with my housemate S, watching Harry Potter and drinking tea. It's the cure for all things, isn't it!? (Except as Ellie pointed out- not a caffeine addiction...)

... London friendships. I know London is meant to be an incredibly lonely city, but I've actually found it to be quite the opposite. Since being here, I've had the opportunity to reconnect and spend some great time with one of my oldest friends, and also make lots of wonderful new ones, mostly through blogging, and spend time with some of my uni besties! It's a lovely, lovely thing.

... good food weeks. Good lord, I've eaten like a queen recently. From Dishoom with Meg, to brunch at Lantana with Z, to an epic homemade roast, and a trip to Chicken Shop on a Monday night- it's been some great food lately. I just now need to detox...

What's making you happy this week?

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Peach and Blueberry Crumble

Sometimes, on a Monday, you just need something a little decadent to celebrate the fact that there are no more Monday mornings for a whole week. 

On those occasions, I suggest you treat yourself. Sometimes, you just need pudding, and to be honest, there don't always need to be reasons for them. And sometimes, you don't want to make a pudding to share, either- solo puddings are so much more fun.

And this one? It's as easy as pie (or crumble). You'll have all the ingredients anyway- or ingredients which would work just as well, at any rate. Baking it in a heart shaped dish is truly optional, but highly recommended- after all, we all deserve a bit of love every now and then. 

Peach and Blueberry Crumble

(Serves one)

One ripe peach
A small handful of frozen blueberries
(You could also use apple and blackberries, or raspberries, or plums, or cherries, or anything really. Except banana/ citrus fruits)
A tablespoon of butter
A tablespoon of plain flour
A shake of brown sugar
A shake of oats
A shake of flaked almonds

Roughly chop your peach- don't worry about peeling it. Place the peach and blueberries into an individual oven proof baking dish.

In a small bowl, rub in the flour and butter, then stir through the sugar, oats and almonds. Make sure you don't add too many dry ingredients though- when you gently squeeze the mixture, it should form a damp dough, almost.

Top the fruit with your crumble mixture. Bake at 200C for 25-30 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if you'd like. 

Enjoy, and let it put the smile back on your face after a long day. 

Friday, 3 October 2014

Meet Me In Margate

Far too many weeks ago for my liking, I spent a day in Margate with the beautiful Charlotte and the equally lovely Jenny. I've said it before and I'll say it again-  my absolute favourite, favourite thing about blogging is the friendships I've made through it- and these two are particularly wonderful girls.

Jenny had planned to spend the weekend with Charlotte a good while ago, and they very kindly invited me to join them for a day trip to Margate. Now, growing up in South West England, then going to university in Cardiff, I've never really been particularly far from the sea- and it's something I've actually started to really miss since moving to London. So a day trip to the seaside sounded right up my street, and so I found myself at St Pancras bright and early one Saturday morning in September, trying to resist the temptation to head for the Eurostar, rather than the platform for my own train. I couldn't let down my fellow day trippers, however, and my train went right through the town Charlotte lives in, so the girls joined me about halfway through my journey. And from about that point on, I'm not sure that we stopped talking all day...

Arriving in Margate, Charlotte steered us straight for tea and cake at The Cupcake Cafe. We cosied up inside, marvelled at the enormous slabs of cheese on toast winging their way to our fellow customers, and ordered our own tea and cake to fill our rumbling stomachs. 

Suitably stuffed, we headed out for an explore. Margate is so charming, filled with amusement arcades, old-school sweet shops, and incredible antique and curiosity shops. We could have spent all afternoon marvelling over the old photographs and maps (I bought one, which I can't wait to frame and get on the wall), peering into old cabinets, and freaking out slightly at any examples of taxidermy (or at least, I did- the other two seem to find taxidermy inherently fascinating. Weirdos)

But before long, our stomachs were rumbling again and we went in search of chips to nibble on the seafront. Because it just isn't a seaside trip without chips, is it!?

Margate is also home to the Turner Gallery, which is stuffed full of modern art. Now normally, modern art is not  my thing- I get confused, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, and I switch off pretty quickly. But Spencer Finch's Back to Kansas was incredible- in natural light, each of the squares in the image slowly fade to grey as the sun sets- like in the Wizard of Oz, when Oz is in colour and Kansas is in colour? It was beautiful.

I can't remember for the life of me the name of this piece- but I could have spent spent hours staring at it. As the light moved around the room, the opacity and translucency changed- kind of like a cloud passing by. It was unbelievably beautiful. As were the images of  a forest emerging as fog cleared on the wall behind.

But for us, the real treat were the incredible colour blocks outside (I genuinely cannot work out how to describe them other than that)- these were actually at all different distances from the camera, but the perception is kind of confused here- they were amazing.

But all art-ed out, we decided it was high time for a cider on the breakwater. And at £3 a pint, could you blame us? We sat in the sun, talking about life,t he universe, and everything (also known as weddings, birthdays, and other upcoming celebrations).

But all too soon, the sun started to set, Jenny obsessed over getting a picture of a seagull (she did the same when we went to Tenby at Easter), and we had to get the train home. 

I love spending time with these girls- they are so, so good for my heart- in every picture Charlotte has shared of me from that day, I'm laughing. I cannot wait to see Jenny in a couple of weeks, and the three of us are already plotting a festive weekend in December. 

Weekends like this are certainly good for the soul.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Hey Now

So titled because I am, once again, listening to the full London Grammar album as I write, and Hey Now is one of my favourites. Seriously, as Bee once told me- I think that album has medicinal properties. It's magical. My attempts to sing along, though? Not so magical. Sorry neighbours!

I think my favourite thing about blogging is being able to be nosy and really find out about what people have been up to though, so I suppose it's only fair that I do my own.It's been so long since I wrote a post like this- there's an awful lot to catch up on. I'll forgive you for skim reading though, I know we all have busy busy lives to lead (seriously- I can't remember the last time I even read a blog post that wasn't on my phone on my lunchbreak at work?!)

So! Here goes nothing.

One of my favourite things about living in London is the ability to visit all of the amazing markets. Since being here, I've popped to Borough Market (how I had never been before is beyond me- it's beyond incredible, and if you're a food lover, go, go now), Old Spitalfields (where I bought the cutest fox print scarf for three pounds), Greenwich Market (with Mama, where we bought beautiful snoods for five pounds), and Columbia Road Flower Market (where I managed to refrain from buying all the hydrangeas and Z bought the most beautiful lisianthus). I missed out on a trip to Broadway Market on Saturday, but I'm so keen to get up there soon, and despite how crazy busy it always is, I want to pop back to Portobello Market soon (and hopefully run into Lauren, because she's just the cutest).

I'm also seriously enjoying playing tourist in my own city (though it still feels weird to refer to London as my city- however at home I feel here). I've been to visit the poppies at the Tower of London again, this time with Mama, and was once again blown away by their beauty and humbled by the notion that every single ceramic flower represent a life lost. It's incredible, and if you haven't been and you live anywhere near London, you must go. They're wonderful. Mama and I also waved at the Queen as we strolled past Buckingham Palace, and I've spent a fair bit of time in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, saying hi to Peter Pan and strolling past the Italian Gardens

I've also had my fair share of bizarre London moments- including running into my old Cardiff housemate/ bestie M at the theatre (of all the theatres in London, we both ended up seeing Miss Saigon- which was wonderful, you should go- and she was sitting about ten rows behind me and Mama); then the following weekend running into M's sister L and her husband G outside the Southbank Centre. One sign that London is where I'm meant to be right now is the fact I run into more people I know here, in a city of eight million people, than I do in my home village of less than 4000. 

I also was truly shocked on the Tube the other day when a trio of hilarious Australians started talking to me. Strangers. Talking. On. The. Tube. It's the stuff of science fiction, seriously. We had an entertaining conversation about One Direction and Taylor Swift, and I was sad to see them hop off one stop before me. 

I've also been catching up with plenty of people I do know- including my brother E and our friend O on Saturday. Both were horrifically hungover and regaled me with stories of their previous night (where they had fallen asleep on a London street at 4am and more shockingly woke up with all of their belongings) over smoothies and milkshakes at Whole Foods. 

I'm also loving how easily I can catch up with my blogging favourites- Ellie and Emily live literally around the corner, Becca is just down the road, and Charlotte lives a hop, skip and a jump away. Bess has moved a little further away, and Meg has always been far away, but it's easy enough to meet them centrally. It's lovely.

On the subject of Becca, the two of us went for pizza at Franco Manca, and then for cocktails at Harrison's last week. We were so disappointed to find that their website was wrong and their cocktails were not £5 on a Wednesday, and I sent a little tweet to let them know that their website was incorrect. I got a tweet back quickly after with a sincere apology and the offer of asking for a specific member of staff who would look after us. The owner then phoned the manager to tell him to give us each a free cocktail of our choice by way of an apology. What sweethearts! Absolutely impeccable customer service, I'm sure you'll agree.

And on Saturday I also met two of my absolute best friends from uni, L and J, and we went for Pimms and beer at the Southbank Centre's roof garden, where we gossiped about J's new job, boys, and life in general. Those two make me so happy.

Work is also going well, for the most part. Of course, I have my ups and downs, but I genuinely feel as though I am seriously good at what I do. Of course, there are office politics, upsetting rumours, and days where I have absolutely no idea which way is up, but on the whole I love my colleagues, and I love the environment I'm in. I took in a whole load of brownies on Monday, just because. It's my favourite way of making my colleagues like me.

I've also started a new fitness pledge. I am desperate to feel body confident at my brother's wedding, and so I have a new policy- I have to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day, be that a run, korfball training (I joined a new team! They're amazing, and it's slightly terrifying, but so so friendly and I love it just as much as before), a YouTube yoga workout, or something else. I'm also trying to walk home from work at least two or three times a week- though last week, I walked home every day. A) It's cheaper and B) it's good for me. I feel very brave posting a picture of myself in sports gear on the internet- it's my inspiration to DO SOMETHING about it. What's the point in moaning if I do nothing about it!?

And a few more bits- I'm on a spending ban. I've just finished re-reading Birdsong and Never Let Me Go. I'm finally reading Gone Girl. I'm still working my way through Gossip Girl on Netflix. How good is Educating the East End!? I'm so sad the Great British Bake Off is nearly over. I went a whole day without tea on Saturday. I then chain drank three cups on Sunday. There have been sightings of MICE in my kitchen. I cried about that. I went to Margate with Jenny and Charlotte, but I'll be posting about that separately. How good is Taylor Swift's new song!? Jenny gives the best life advice. I went for afternoon tea with Mama!

I think that's quite enough now. Tell me- what's new with you?