Saturday, 18 June 2016

A year on...

I'm moving to central Oxford next weekend (goodbye commute).
I'm two weeks into a new job (hello a lot of travel).
I've become one of those people who checks their work email on weekends.
I'm flying to Finland for a friend's hen do/wedding three days after.
Nick is going back to Cyprus for a month at the end of July.
If Brexit happens, I might lose my job and everything will literally go to shit.

The last month has been a whirlwind of emotions and this week, Facebook reminded me that I graduated exactly a year ago. Things seem to be settling into where I want them to, minus the whole Brexit debate, and it's making me feel calmer, happier and more energised. I've gone from being bored, annoyed and wanting to hand in my notice to being busy, and both excited and nervous about my job. My boyfriend has noticed a massive difference in my moods (I am no longer grumpy as hell when I come home). I imagine this will get even better after next weekend when I can say goodbye Witney and hello to Oxford, and a 10 minute walk to work. When I'm in Oxford that is, since my new job involves a lot of travelling around, and I'll only be working in Oxford 1-2 days a week. But that will still cut 2 hours away in total from my daily commute and it will mean I don't need to survive with 5 hours of sleep if I want to go dancing mid-week and stay until the end.

My new job is still at Waterstones, but instead of being a shop based bookseller, I've taken up a head office role as part of the shop operations team. That won't say much to anyone, but it involves me ensuring that the 11(!) shops that I've been assigned to do all of the operational things right. Most people would probably think it's incredibly dull, but I love it. I was working in operational role as a bookseller as it was, but now I get to go around and make sure everyone else is doing a good job as well. In the nicest possible way, of course. It's slightly scary, because everyone else doing the same job that I have met has almost a decade of experience within the company and has been a shop manager, whereas I haven't even been in the company for a year. But as I keep telling myself, I got the job, not the other people who applied, which means they think I am capable, and better suited for the role. There is a lot to learn and take in, which is why the past two weeks have flown by quicker than I can quite fathom. I'm starting to feel more confident now though, and I'm excited for what the full 12 months of my secondment will bring.

I'm trying to get back into blogging, but I'm finding it very hard to decide on how I want to do it. I don't have problem with creating text-based content, but photos are proving tricky. Photography was a big part of why I started blogging in the first place, so I don't want to do away with it. I don't want to carry my big DLSR with me everywhere, but at the same time I'm not happy with just using my iPhone 5S for photos.

Monday, 9 May 2016

So far this year I've read...

Over the last 6 months or so, I've spending a lot more time reading. Not that I didn't read before, but ever since I started working in a bookshop and pretty much left my blog to wither away, I've been reading a lot more than I had since Uni finished (and I was no longer required to go through thousands of pages of text each week). Partly because I get my hands on so many books, partly because I'm surrounded by so many books and people who love books, partly because I just wanted to go back to losing myself between the pages without the stress and expectations that there were during my studies.

So, since I've read a lot of books I enjoyed since the beginning of the year, I thought I'd compile a little post about them. Book blogging is currently appealing to me (vlogging even more so, but I'm sans camera with recording properties so we'll leave that for now), so I thought doing a collection of mini reviews would be a nice start. Some of these are from as early on as January, so do excuse me if (and when) I can mostly just tell you that they were great. I basically just want to tell people how good these books are.

Here's my pile! A mixed bag, shall we say. We've got non-fiction, YA, sci-fi, thriller, contemporary... And I feel quite good about that. I always thought I was quite stuck in reading the same old stuff, but clearly I'm more varied than I thought I was.

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

First of all, let's ignore the tacky cover (the US cover is considerably more sophisticated). I would not have picked this up had I not read a comment from a fellow bookseller basically telling everyone to ignore the cover. And I'm so glad I did, because it really surprised me with how good it was. The Dark Days Club is a YA fantasy novel set in Regency London, following a young lady called Helen. A rather "slow" to start, in the sense that nothing much really happened until about a hundred pages in, but without actually feeling slow. The amount of research the author has done is clear and makes this a very mature YA novel. Not necessarily in terms of content, but definitely the tone of writing. It stays true to the era, but also raises questions about gender roles and the expectations of young women in that era, and the feelings they would have gone through if they did not fit the roles they were expected to. This is a first part to a series, and I have a feeling it will only get better. I hope I'm right!

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I picked this up at work from with absolutely no expectations whatsoever, just needing something to read on the bus home since I'd finished the book I had with me. It turned out to be one of the best contemporary YA novels I've read. Up there with Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (which is my favourite, shhhh). This was absolutely gorgeous. The novel follows a set of twins, Noah and Jude, and their life from children to late teens. There's jealousy, grief, love, self discovery and art, and the whole thing is just so beautiful and sad. The plot is so full of little twists and turns of life that I don't really want to say much about what actually happens, since I think it was better for the fact that I didn't know anything about it when I started reading it. Just trust me. If you like art and YA, pick this up.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Talking about Rainbow Rowell... When this came out, I bought it the same day, dropped everything else I was reading and finished it in no time at all. If you're not familiar with Rainbow Rowell, then let me explain. In Fangirl, one of her other novels, one of the protagonists, Cath, is obsessed with her world's Harry Potter-equivalent, and she is writing fanfiction about it (hence the name 'Fangirl'). Carry On is that fanfiction. The Goodreads blurb puts it better than I can: 'Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters'. It is basically everything I wanted in that particular state of mind.

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

This was a lot like watching a kinda cheesy feel-good teen film. And sometimes, you know, that's what I want. At 25. No shame. Add in the message of body confidence, I'm on board. It was entertaining and fun, and ticked all the boxes for me, in terms of what I like in a contemporary YA. Willowdean (aka "Dumplin'", as her mother lovingly calls her) was sometimes a little frustrating, but that's okay. It made her more realistic and also relatable. Because who, as a teen, is always sensible and never annoying? It never got to the point of being cringe-worthy, which a lot of contemporary YA does for me, so I basically loved it.

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

We've left the YA territory! Still contemporary though, and I always thought I was a fantasy reader! But never mind. Let's talk about this wonderful debut of a novel. I could not believe this was a debut — it is so well and so maturely written, and way better than almost any similar contemporary adult fiction I've ever read (not that it's a genre I read very widely). The Versions of Us begins in Cambridge in 1958, when Eva and Jim meet in Cambridge. The novel follows three different courses that their lives could take from that moment on, spanning over decades, and it does so incredibly well. They are all distinct enough that they are easy to keep track of, but the characters are clearly the same; what changes are their circumstances and the choices they make. It is a little heartbreaking, very beautiful and quite moving.

The Martian by Andy Weir

One of my colleagues was absolutely obsessed with this book in the lead up to Christmas and when I finally read it, I wish I hadn't waited so long. This was amazing. I lean far more towards fantasy than science fiction, but this is definitely one of the best books I've read this year. And I read it in January. Not only was it exciting, but it was funny. From what I've read on Goodreads, some people find this to be a flaw. They want harrowing survival drama. Which I do understand. But I found this enormously entertaining (I actually laughed out loud a couple of times), and for that, five stars.

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Something you probably don't know about me: I like really macabre stuff. Graveyards. Crime shows. Serial killer stories. Not sure why, because I'm terrified really easily (my boyfriend thinks it's hilarious to take me to see a scary film, because I spend most of the time covering my eyes and twitching). I couldn't even finish watching The Shining. But I like reading about serial killers. Who knows. This caught my eye in hardback last year, and I was very excited when it was chosen for one of our books of the month at work (because I got to read it for free!). I am pleased to say that it did not disappoint. The novel follows Tessa, the only surviving victim of a serial killer whose victims were called "Black Eyed Susans" because of the wildflowers that grew above their grave. She begins to wonder whether the man her testimony sentenced to death nearly 20 years ago was truly the killer, as the day of execution is looming closer, but someone keeps planting black eyed susans around her house. The whole story was well paced, and utterly addictive. The changing of narrative voice works really well, and seeing the differences between the Tessa right after the events and Tessa present day, nearly 20 years later gives great depth to the story, as well as making it more realistic. The ending was also totally unexpected and all the better for it.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo

I had to include both. I'm sure most people are familiar with Kondo's manifesto on tidying and decluttering by now. Was it life-changing? Not quite. It did make me want to get rid of large quantity of my possessions, so perhaps if I had followed her method, it would have. But I like stuff, and her stark minimalism doesn't quite appeal to me. It was still very eye-opening and definitely a book I will go back to. I already folded my clothes Kondo-style before reading the book though, just so you know (sans socks, but now I have seen the light). I'm pleased I'm not the only one who feels strongly about folding.

Now, the Knight title. Funny. Rude. Dare I say it, liberating. I care far too much about what people think, despite telling myself and a lot of other people that I don't. I do. I confess. And I still do, after reading this book. But I do it a little less, and it's made me feel a lot better. It took me maybe an hour or two to read, and it was most definitely time well spent. I particularly enjoyed the space to fill your own lists of things to give or not to give a fuck about.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

This took me so long to start, and when I did, I was slightly disappointed to find out that it was also very slow to get through. Why is it on this list then, you might ask. Despite its slowness, and the fact that it was not what I expected it to be, I did enjoy it and more importantly, it has stayed with me. My mind keeps wandering back to it, so clearly there is something that captured my attention and has not let go. Whether it was the elements of quest romance and links to Arthurian legends, fantasy, or the theme of memories, I am not sure. 

I rarely read books where the protagonists are old, but perhaps I should do it more, as it felt like a very different perspective to take on. I do think that their oldness was a contributing fact to the slowness of the beginning, but perhaps that only means that I am used to too much action.

And so that concludes my list of Books I've Enjoyed So Far This Year. Expect more bookish posts in the future, if I can manage to spend a little more time on my laptop (never thought I'd say that!). In the future I might manage photos that are less dark as well. Spring has sprung, after all.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

NYC Haul

My boyfriend and I visited New York in early March as an early anniversary trip (4 years!), and since I did some shopping while there, I thought it would be nice to share some photos of what I got. Funny enough, I didn't actually take photos during our trip (besides some iPhone snaps). It was nice to concentrate on experiencing the city though, instead of 'living through the lense'.

I feel like I was actually quite sensible when shopping in NYC (or at least certainly more so than I was my first time in London at 18!). For one, I bought hardly any clothes (shocking, I know)!

But without further ado, let me show you all the things I picked up!

First and foremost: Pusheen (from Forbidden Planet next to The Strand)! A detective Pusheen! I'm obsessed with the chubby kitty we all know from Facebook stickers (my boyfriend even got me an annual Pusheen subscription box for Christmas) and when I saw this Sherlock Holmes-inspired version, I couldn't help but bring him home. I came across loads more Pusheen merchandise, but I decided to be sensible (or as sensible as I possibly could). 

The dog-shaped salt and pepper shakers were from Target (because I wanted novelty shakers and these match our colours haha) and hair ties from Anthropologie. The incredible Alice in Wonderland socks and floral Rifle Paper Co temporary tattoos(!) are both from Strand Bookstore, which was one of the highlights of the trip. I managed to resist the temptations to buy any books, but decided to indulge in some bookish merchandise since the selection was so different from what we have in the UK (I also got some cool book-themed postcards, which I forgot to photograph). The Alice 2016 calendar is from a lovely stationary called Paper Source. I actually got it for the adorable prints (Rifle Paper Co can do no wrong), since I've already got a calendar and it was 75% off – bargain!

The bright and beautiful Kate Spade bag was a find from Crossroads Trading, which I'd seen a lot of people talk about. It's essentially a second hand clothing store, but it seems to be very popular with bloggers and everyone else I've chatted to. The bag was $65 and in great condition, so I was fairly pleased since it retailed around the $300+ mark.

I also got some candles! I obviously had to pop in to Bath & Body Works, where I got two candles (how I managed to leave with only two is a mystery!) — 'Lemon & Mint Tea' and 'London: Lemon and Tea'. Sensing a theme? I also found a Woodwick candle in 'Honeydew Melon' at Century 21 for less than half the price!

Cosmetics! I got a EOS lip balm ($2.99 at Target), The Body Shop Frosted Cranberry bath jelly ($2 at TJMaxx), Essie nail polishes ($2.99 at TJMaxx), Revlon nail polished (around $5 at Target) and Bath & Body Works hand gels in a variety of scents (the blue 'Endless Weekend' is my favourite!). I also popped into Sephora and got the much hyped Kat Von D tattoo liner in Trooper after swatching it on my hand (and being very impressed) and a Sephora lip stain in Mandarin Muse. 

Food! First off, cinnamon chewing gum. Not for everyone certainly, but as someone who drowns everything they eat in cinnamon, this is great. I also popped into M&M shop to get a selection of the more unusual flavours (like honey nut and chili nut!). 

We came across a beautiful tea shop called David's Tea and I got this amazing machine-washable see-through travel tea mug with a built-in strainer (that you can pop up when you're done steeping your tea!) and some tea. The tea nerd in me was practically purring when I saw the travel mug. The teas my boyfriend and I got were Blueberry Jam black tea, Citron oolong tea, Pear-Ginger white tea and La La Lemon black tea.

I have seriously problem with Clif bars so when faced with the seriously low price tag ($0.99!) and a variety of flavours I haven't seen in the UK, I obviously had to get one of each. So sue me. I also got a peanut butter and jelly Lära bar, because hey, peanut butter and jelly. The packet of matcha chocolate Pocky's also made their way to my suitcase since we didn't get around to eating them while in New York.

This doesn't look like much, but the shoes on the left were probably my favourite purchase from New York. They're my new dance shoes, with suede soles, heels and prettiness. They're also pretty damn comfy for high heels. I got them from a dance shoe shop near Times Square, and that itself was an experience. Mirrors, mini dance floors to try out your shoes — spoiled! They've also really made a difference to my dancing so I'm very pleased.

I also got a pair of Keds, which is the brand I usually wear for classes. These are from the Taylor Swift collaboration and I've been wanting them for ages because of that cat peeking out at the heel. Sorry T-Swift, I do like you, but I'm really just here for the cats. I got them at Century21 for about $20.

Aaaand finally, clothes!

Above, a sports bra with super cool strap situation at the back ($12.99 at Forever21)! These never ever fit me since either the band is too big, or the "cups" area is too small. This, however, was sort of okay so I can wear it for yoga/chilling out. And look cool. Forever21 had a fabulous selection of workout clothing and I must remember this in the UK as well.

Midi skirt (or maxi in my case, hah) from Forever21 ($24.99). Pink is not usually a colour I would wear, but for some reason I felt like going out of my comfort zone. Plus it looks very spring-like and romantic. Maybe paired with a leather biker jacket and some heels?

And fiiiinally, my vintage find! I dragged my boyfriend to approximately 150 vintage shops, ooh'd and aah'd over dozens and dozens of beautiful 50's frocks and other treasures (for very reasonable prices too!), but since I knew there's no way I'd ever actually wear them, I left them for better homes. This $8 find is probably from 80's (because SHOULDER PADS), and I intend to work some DIY magic on it before wearing it. I'll definitely take the shoulder pads off, for one.

So that's all I got from New York. Sorry for a lot of text! I'd really like to do video hauls (and book talks!), because I think the format works much better for hauls, but I'm scared of YouTube (and would have to invest in a camera that takes video). Hmmmmm.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Outfit: Back in Time

I have been meaning to post these photos for approximately half a century at this point, and by each passing month it got pushed further down on my to-do list. But since I came across the photos on my phone again, I thought I would finally post them. Even if they are about 6 months late, and taken with my phone. Maybe this will also inspire me to start posting again more regularly?

Top: H&M | Skirt: H&M | Coat: ASOS | Bag: TKMaxx (Nica) | Shoes: Primark 
We visited Cheltenham on one fine sunny day last autumn for some shopping, dinner and a movie. I hadn't seen much of Cheltenham besides the beginning of the high street, the parking and the cinema, and it was actually a very pleasant surprise to venture further.

Showing off my make up or basking in the sun? Possibly both.

We also found a church with the prettiest doors ever.

Sunday, 28 February 2016


It's been clear to me for a while now that the way I was blogging during Uni just isn't working anymore, even less so during winter when there's no natural light. I started feeling silly pressure about having to wear nice clothes and take photos every day I had off (when in reality I'd just be chilling in leggings and a jumper, having a Great British Bake Off marathon), and it made me quite unhappy, both with any photos that I rarely managed to take and myself. 

This led me to do some thinking, and I decided that I wanted to have a little shift in the focus of my blog — because I do to continue with the blog. I will still talk about pretty clothes and post outfit photos when I have time and energy, but I'm going to be talking more about the other big interest in my life - books! I've been reading a lot lately, and due to my job in a bookshop, I get my hands on a lot of books and get excited about new releases. I've done a book haul before, so I feel like this is not a radical change — just an expansion of one side of this blog, which is basically all about my big interests. So expect some more book hauls, little book reviews and possibly other book related content in the future.

I hope that taking the pressure of myself, and stopping worrying about what I 'should' or 'should not' be posting about, will also make me more inspired about creating fashion content for my blog. Perhaps not many outfit posts until the days lengthen and the weather improves (because taking photos in pouring rain and howling wind is not on my to-do list), but certainly some wishlists and general inspiration posts. That is after all why I started this blog in the first place.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Home: Living Room Snapshots

I wanted to do a sort-of house tour at some point when I felt that we'd finished decorating. We're now about 6 months in to living here, and I still feel like it's unfinished. I still have photos I haven't put up, and things I'd like to arrange differently (even if we already did a little re-arrange pre- and post-Christmas tree) or things I'd like to get. Maybe this is how it always is.

I took a few photos of our living room one Saturday ages ago now, after I'd tidied up and it was looking quite nice. Despite the fact that it's been months and we've had some additions and changes since I took the photos, I still wanted to share them. A little snapshot into our little home!

Don't be fooled by the "bright light" coming through the window. Being absolutely minuscule, the window let very little light in and the flat is actually a bit like a cave.

My boyfriend despairs over what he calls my pillow hoarding. I haven't bought any new ones since I filled the sofa, so I really don't know what he complains about.

The sofa is like a sample of the colours I wanted for the living room: grey, yellow, turquoise. Now also with little touches of copper, consisting of a lantern and the inside of our IKEA ceiling light (this one, which actually looks much nicer in real life). And an unhung picture frame.

My friend got me this beautiful Orla Kiely flower vase as a birthday present. She knows me so well.

The copper lantern!

Hope you enjoyed these little snapshots into our home.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Blenheim Palace Revisited

(I know Christmas is over but bear with me for one festive throwback)

On one blustery winter's day, just before Christmas, a pair of total homebodies decided to leave their home to find something slightly more exciting and festive to do than watch TV. This pair of homebodies was of course, my boyfriend and I. On our last visit to Blenheim Palace, at the height of summer when it was incredibly hot (and I vividly remember physically melting in the butterfly house), we got our day passes changed to annual passes (for free!) and vowed to return.

It took us about six months, but we did. What a sharp contrast there was between the visits though! It was absolutely freezing this time around, for a start. The buildings were decked out with Christmas trees and there was a band playing Christmas carols — so festive!

I'm not serious enough fashion blogger to take my coat off on a freezing winter's day. But I love my (old) Topshop duffle coat, (old) ASOS tartan scarf, (newish) Nica bag and (oldish) Primark boots, so I'm not too apologetic. Outerwear deserves some love too!

Shirt: Mango | Jumper: Louche | Skirt: Forever21
Got inside and managed to shed the coat! 

 Can I have a personal library please? Preferably complete with antique armchairs.