The Festive Tag

So it’s finally December, and those of us who have been waiting impatiently for the days when Christmas jumpers and non-stop festive music are acceptable have finally been satiated. The inevitable excitement this produced in me, teamed with my guilty conscience for the neglect of my blog in favour of school work this past month, have really made me eager to get writing again. So when I got a message from Viola from apieceofviola tagging me in the Festive Tag, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get back into the swing of things as well as an opportunity to ramble about all things festive.

1. Favourite Festive Food

It goes without saying that one of the best things about this season is the ability to eat as much food as you’re physically capable of without fear of judgement. In terms of Christmas dinner itself, the stuffing and pigs in blankets have to be the high points, and aside from that, mince pies and mulled cider have to be the winners for me- nothing else warms you up quite as well.

2. Favourite Reindeer

After spending many a childhood Christmas arguing over it, I am proud to say I possess the wonderful talent of being able to recite the full collection of names by heart (it’s invaluable knowledge, trust me). Nevertheless, I have to admit I’ve never gone so far as to decide on a favourite.. I guess I’d have to do it based on name and go for Comet, which I think is quite apt for an animal that flies through the sky and makes wishes come true.

3. Favourite Day in the 12 Days of Christmas

Easily got to be Ten (I think) Lords-A-Leaping simply due to the hilarious corresponding actions it always seems to produce.

4. Favourite Christmas Song

I feel I’m quite unimaginative in my festive music choices, with my favourites being the obvious choices: The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’ and Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You‘. I’m one of those people that firmly believe in not playing Christmas songs until December, so now it’s finally here I’ve spent a worrying amount of time already prancing round my room to festive compilations!

5. Favourite Christmas Present

Without a doubt this would have to be my record player which my parents bought me when I was 16- an orange 70s portable Philips one which I absolutely adore. Since I was very young, we’ve always had many record players in the house as well as a jukebox, so I’ve grown up with an ingrained preference for vinyl over downloads, and this is certainly the case now I’ve started to build up my own collection.

6. Favourite Christmas Film

I’m sorry to disappoint in the fact that once again I have to choose the most obvious answers there are, but ‘Elf’ and ‘Love Actually’ are just too classic to have be beaten by any other, and the latter may be a large part of the reason I love ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ so very much.

7. Favourite Cracker Toy

I can remember many childhood Christmases longing to get the spring with the little metal ring on it (please tell me other people know what I’m talking about here). I always loved the fact that despite my youth, I seemed to be the only one who knew the ‘trick’ behind it- years later I look back and consider the very real possibility that they were simply humouring me…oh to be young and ignorant.

8. Favourite Cracker Joke

‘Why is it getting harder to buy Advent calendars?
Because their days are numbered.’

9. Favourite Christmas Decoration

That would easily be the terrifying “fairy” that I made when I was about 7 and my mum still begrudgingly finds space for every year. At least it has character, right?

10. Favourite Candle Smell

I’m really not a fan of anything overly sweet as a lot of Christmas scents tend to be; I lean more towards the spicy scents and my favourite this year has to be spiced apple, although the Spiced Orange Yankee Candle is also heavenly.

11. Favourite Christmas Advert

The John Lewis advert is always the most hyped up every year and never fails to impress, but this year I have to say the Waitrose advert brought a little tear to my eye. In general, the competition has definitely been upped this year and there are so many great ones if I’m honest.

12. Favourite Christmas Tradition

In our family, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are never complete without a long walk in the beautiful countryside around where I live, always accompanied by a flask of hot coffee and whatever leftovers can be found. It’s one of those traditions that I loved when I was little, despised as a teenager, and will probably pass down when I have a family of my own one day (sorry in advance kids).

13. Favourite Place to Spend Christmas

Anywhere as long as there are a lot of people- I love spending Christmas at my dads because there’s always so much of my family there and the house is so full of life, especially with my five-year-old brother and sister running around wreaking havoc.

14. Favourite Christmas Fact

According to data analyzed from Facebook posts, two weeks before Christmas is one of the two most popular times for couples to break up.. make sure you watch out for 11th December, kids.

15. Favourite Snowman Accessory

Must say this is a bit of a random question but I’d have to say the scarf as I used to have one just like in ‘The Snowman’, which is easily my favourite Christmas childhood book and which will always be a classic.

Thanks to Viola for tagging me, I’m throwing the ball out to you guys now- anyone who hasn’t already done the tag and wants to join in, feel free! As for me, I’m off to find myself a mince pie and my copy of Love Actually… happy December everyone!

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Rhythm and Views: Best of Reading 2014

We all know by now how much I love to ramble about bands I love so, as promised, I thought it was time to carry on that tradition in the form of my Reading 2014 highlights. If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know I was lucky enough to go to Reading this year and now, with a couple of weeks of sleep behind me (although still with an annoyingly persistent collection of illnesses and bruises), I feel I can properly look back on the weekend.

First off, it wouldn’t be right to start with any other than my beloved Arctics, who unsurprisingly smashed it. My friends and I were right near the front before they came on but decided to move further back so we could actually breathe- let alone dance- and I am so glad we did, as I think such a large part of enjoying a band is having a good crowd (yes I’m talking to you, crappy Vampire Weekend audience). From the opening riff of ‘Do I Wanna Know’ I just knew it would be a good’un; Alex was on point all the way through with his perfectly calculated obnoxious charm and the crowd were lapping up his every word. In terms of the setlist, they played ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ which I’ve always wanted to see live, but I can’t help feeling they missed some of their best hits- namely 505, Mardy Bum and Pretty Visitors (probably my favourite live track when I saw them on their AM tour). It’s hard to compare their Reading performance to seeing them at their own show; the latter was probably more slick and technically perfect, but you just can’t beat the amazing festival vibe and a fantastic crowd ten times the size.

One band who have definitely thrown themselves into the industry head first thanks to Reading has to be Catfish & The Bottlemen, who’ve managed to sell out their tour even before the release of their debut album (I’m still bitter that I missed out on tickets). I know they’re going to be huge, and I can’t be more happy that I got to see them in the tiny Festival Republic stage with one of the best crowds of the festival- complete with a naked crowdsurfer, egged on by the band themselves to “take it off, take it off!“. On straight after Catfish came King Charles, hands down my favourite act from 2000 Trees last year; nothing makes me want to dance more than his music does. Fab music, fab voice and even fabber hair- what more could you really ask for?

Now I’ve always been a fan of Cage The Elephant from their ‘Aint No Rest For The Wicked’ days, but I can’t say I’ve listened to a lot of their newer releases (my beautiful signed Shake Me Down picture vinyl is still unashamedly one of my favourite possessions). The same cannot be said for one of my friends though, so at her request we elbowed our way to near the front and I ended up counting it  as hands down one of my favourite acts of the festival. Definitely will be seeing them again sometime in the future. The end of Cage’s set meant a quick dash back to the main stage for Foster The People- I’ve been wanting to see them live for four years now and I’m still pretty amazed that I finally have. I know a lot of people aren’t fans but I really don’t get that- Mark Foster’s voice is just to die for and everything about their music is so happy, especially at a festival- nothing beats being in the middle of a crowd belting out some indie-pop lyrics as the sun slowly sets behind the stage.

I could go on for weeks about every band I saw at Reading, but I think (know) I would probably lose every subscriber I have, which is probably best avoided. I  just had to give a particular mention to a few bands that particularly stood out or I was especially impressed by- as I said before, any chance to ramble about music is a chance that I never fail to grasp with both hands. As I’m sure you’ve gathered.

Reading 2014

Oh boy, where to begin? I’m currently curled up with a hot mug of Twining’s English Breakfast Tea (yes this is a recurring theme, no I am not ashamed) and have been pretty much consistently since I rolled into my bed on a very soggy Monday morning; drenched, freezing cold and nursing a sore everything, but having had the best five days of my life. For those that somehow aren’t aware, last weekend was Reading and Leeds Festival and I was lucky enough (I say lucky, but I was the one that slaved away at work for months to be able to afford it) to go to the former, and oh my was it an amazing weekend.

As a first time Reading-goer I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, and without a doubt it lived up to the “drink, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” reputation that it has gained itself- perhaps with less of the rock ‘n’ roll with the likes of Disclosure and Vampire Weekend topping the bill of famous faces. But in spite of that (or perhaps as a result of) the whole festival just had such a friendly atmosphere and you could tell that everyone was there for the same reason, apart from maybe the wonderful human outside my tent at 4am whose new friend asked him who he was most excited to see and to which he replied “oh I don’t even know who’s playing, I’m here for the ket”.

For those of us that were actually there for the music, we certainly weren’t disappointed, with my stand-out act being Arctic Monkeys (not really a surprise for anyone who knows me in the slightest)- it was the second time I’ve seen them and I finally got to see them play When The Sun Goes Down live, which pretty much made my year. I’ll probably end up doing some in-depth reviews of particular sets from across the weekend as it is way too much to fit into one post, but my other highlights would have to come from Catfish & The Bottlemen, Cage The Elephant, Foster The People, King Charles and The Kooks, just to name a few.

All in all, despite the gag-inducing toilet stench and complete lack of sleep, comfort or sanitation, it was a weekend I won’t be forgetting quickly- not least thanks to the multitude of illnesses I seem to have returned with that garner no sympathy from my parents on account of being “self-inflicted”. Can’t say I can really argue with that.

June Favourites

So much for the end of exams meaning a slow descent into summer relaxation.. it feels like June has flashed past my eyes in a blink and has held host to one of the most hectic months of my life- and it doesn’t stop here. From partying on the sunny beaches of Spain (which you can read about here) to attempted skydiving (we couldn’t go up because it was too cloudy ugh) and what seems like endless university open days, June has been exhausting in the best possible way.

As I’m sure you’ll have figured out by now, I can’t last a day without delving into a good book, and holidays are absolute prime reading time in my opinion. Spain was no exception and my holiday read (well, one of the four) was a recommendation from a friend- More Than This by Patrick Ness. Without giving too much of the plot away, the novel follows the story of teenager Seth who drowns and wakes up alone in his childhood town, which he finds completely abandoned. I am terrible at describing books without revealing the whole story, but let’s just say there’s a bit of sci-fi, a bit of romance, but all done in a very atypical and totally not cliché manner. Go read, now.

Even though the sun has finally graced us with her presence, this hasn’t stopped me from dragging my laptop outside to watch the next episode of my new obsession.. yes you guessed it, it’s Game of Thrones. If you read my last monthly favourites, you’ll know that I’ve been wanting to start this show for yonks but had to painfully restrain myself until the end of exams.. but now that they’re over I have definitely grasped the opportunity with both hands, managing to get through 23 hour-long episodes in a couple of weeks. It’s totally not my usual kind of thing and I only decided to watch it after not-so-gentle coaxing by a certain obsessed friend of mine, but I totally love her for it. One tip, I wouldn’t suggest watching it with your parents.

Whilst watching said tv show or reading said book, I’ve been snacking on the same things pretty much every day this month- Penn State Original Sea Salt Pretzels, fresh raspberries and orange and cranberry juice.. absolute heaven for the hot weather, nothing more to say. And what music is playing in the background, you may ask. Well, the answer to that one is easy. Recently I’ve fallen in love with acoustic covers, and I found this one a few weeks ago, fell head-over-heels in love with it and haven’t taken it off repeat since. It’s a beautiful version of one of my favourite songs- Kids by MGMT- that is deconstructed and remolded beautifully by US band Lady Danville (listen to it here) and is absolutely perfect for summer.

In terms of the whole beauty thing, I am seriously loving the Revlon ColourBurst Matte Balms. I have the colour Audacious which is a pretty scary looking coraly-orange, but is just the most incredibly vibrant and gorgeous summer shade and I wore it to death when I was on holiday. Although being a matte balm, meaning they have the tendency to show up any flaws on your lips (bit of an issue for those with dry lips like me), they are actually really moisturising compared to others of the same type. I would still definitely recommend using a lip scrub first though.. coincidentally I am planning on writing a post in the next couple of days for my favourite homemade scrub recipe so that’s a good place to start (nice subtle self-promo there Beckie).

Now that I’ve got 3 weeks off work for various things, I can actually paint my nails, which may sound like a small thing but when you work in a kitchen three times a week, it’s bliss not having to use up gallons of nail varnish remover on perfectly good, day-old nails. What a first world problem. For perfect summer shades, the Barry M Gelly Nails are definitely the place to go, with such a fab shade range and a salon-looking finish. I’ve got the colours Blueberry, Almond and Papaya, and there’s definitely quite a few more I have my eye on!

As I mentioned earlier, the month of June has been completely packed with university open days, with the most recent being the University of Leeds last Friday. Now, I’ve only ever been ‘up north’ twice in my life and never to Leeds, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.. but I was most definitely pleasantly surprised. I’m not sure if having a city as a favourite is allowed but it was just too beautiful to not give a mention to, with the university itself comprising of endless beautiful red brick buildings that are overwhelmingly reminiscent of the typical American colleges that you see in films. Now it’s just the small matter of getting the three A’s that they’re asking for..

So I think that’s it- I could be here for hours rambling about my favourite things but I guess this is just a snapshot of what I’ve been loving this month.. if you can call 800 words a snapshot that is. Now I should probably mention before I post this that for ten days starting from Tuesday I will be at a summer school at Eton College which is pretty intensive, so I’ll say now that it’s unlikely I will find time to post next week! Never fear though, I’m sure I’ll hit you with my thoughts on the experience, no holds barred, as soon as I return. Try to contain your excitement.

Escape To The Sun

I’m hoping from the title and photos you can already figure out what my inevitable excuse for not posting when I was supposed to is. I arrived home from Spain on midnight on Monday and was at a uni open day all day yesterday, and being my usual disorganised self, I didn’t make time to write before I left or schedule a post for while I was away.. oops. Either way, I’m back home for the busiest couple of months in a long time and I am giddily excited (all in good time, people).

Although I don’t actually have my last exam until tomorrow, Spain was an amazing chance to completely and utterly unwind on a deserted beach in the baking sun by day, and accompanied by live music and mojitos by night. For a typically ghostly-skinned redhead like myself, the sun is as much a foe as a friend and seems to completely disregard the effort I go to in order to slather every inch of exposed skin in sun cream. Nevertheless, the warm weather was a perfect remedy to all the exam stress that has been building up over the last few months, seeing as the UK has unsurprisingly failed to provide us with more than a couple of days of bare-legs weather.

We stayed in a town by the sea about an hour from Barcelona called Calella (a large part of the trip was spent eavesdropping on people to try and find out how to pronounce it correctly- turns out it’s cal-ey-a for anyone wondering). Although this kind of touristy town is completely unlike the usual kind of holiday we opt for- we’re normally the cute villa in the middle of nowhere types- there was actually a festival on that my parents wanted to go to, and I’m never one to say no to live music! From impromptu jam sessions to all night beach parties, I can honestly say I had the best time.

Holidays like that make me appreciate so much the fact that I get to go to beautiful places and experience incredible things; I honestly believe that travel is one of the most enriching and fulfilling things a person can do with their life. The excitement of exploring somewhere completely new is second to nothing, whether that just be visiting a new town near you or travelling round the world.

I must say I do love being back to sleeping in my own bed though…

May Favourites

So it’s that time again where I wonder at how fast time is going, complain about the British weather’s apparent disregard to this, and ramble about the things I’ve been loving recently. This month has been centred around the dreaded exams and not a lot else, so anything that has acted as a form of distraction or relaxation has been greatly appreciated.

My primary source of procrastination is, of course, a good book. This last week I have started reading Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and it’s just one of those books that immediately grips you; it may be confusing but the characters manage to make a seemingly boring story line so much more complex and intriguing. I’m awful at describing books but long story short (I’m going to ignore that perfect pun opportunity), I really like it and know it won’t be long until I finish it, and will probably end up writing a full review if I can think of some more literary-related adjectives. I find Virginia Woolf such an interesting woman and reading her work really starts to give you an insight into why she was such a leading figure and Mrs Dalloway is definitely one of those books that everyone should read.

I am one of those people that can’t revise without music playing in the background, and this month I’ve been loving a whole load of summery indie pop/rock kind of songs that can’t help but put a smile on your face. I have my summer playlist on Spotify including songs from the likes of Crystal Fighters, Young The Giant and The Mowgli’s, but probably my newest and biggest obsession is New Politics. Their song ‘Harlem’ is without a doubt one of my songs of the summer that gets me shamelessly dancing around my AS Politics notes and you can listen to it here.

I have to be honest and say that I don’t have a TV favourite this month at all as I’ve been trying my best to actually do the revision thing and I know that as soon as a start a new series there is no way of preventing myself from watching twenty episodes a day. I have so many lined up to watch as soon as my exams are over (next week, praise the lord)- the first being Game of Thrones, so that might well end up making it’s way into my June favourites.

In terms of films, I have to give a mention to one of my favourite films that is probably the biggest teenage white girl cliché ever, but it’s just one of those movies I can watch over and over and it makes me laugh and cry every time. Perks is a beautiful book and the film really does it justice as far as it can, making a perfect post-exam watch. Plus it has two of my favourite actors, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller, so what’s not to love?

On to beauty, and the Soap & Glory Peaches and Clean Deep Cleansing Milk has been my savior for bad skin reversal; since using this my face has got a whole lot clearer and it’s definitely down to this. I never really hear people talking abut this particular product in the beauty world, but for me it’s just perfect and has the most gorgeous smell.. and not to forget their ever-adorable packaging! Sticking to the skincare theme, my super dry skin has completely turned around this month thanks to the wonderful shop assistant in The Body Shop who spent a long time trying to find the perfect product for my skin, and eventually settled on the Aloe Soothing Day Cream. If a moisturiser could be described as thirst-quenching, this would be the one. As is typical when coming into summer, I’ve been loving using salt spray for that kind of beachy I-just-woke-up-this-fabulous look, and this month I’ve especially been liking the L’Oreal Matt & Messy Shine-free Salt Spray. It’s super cheap, super volumising, and just an all-round summer essential for me.

I’m sure most people already know about Graze boxes- but for those that don’t, they are small boxes that you can order one-off or regularly that are filled with delicious and healthy snacks that are literally heaven to snackers like me. Now, I know that these are pretty expensive for what they are which is why I sadly stopped my regular box, but through the exam period I’ve found myself craving these delicious treats and keep ordering boxes.. oops. My favourites of what I’ve tried so far have to be the black pepper popcorn and the boston baguettes.

Last but not least, my final two favourites are places that I’ve been recently with my dad, step-mum and half-brother and sister who are four and the most adorable yet patience-testing creatures known to man. With the nice weather (ish) we’ve been to both Westonbirt Arboretum and Cotswold Wildlife Park in the past few weeks, both of which are beautiful places to get outside with the family. I find that especially when I have exams, I spend way too much time indoors and it’s incredible what a few hours of fresh air can do for not only your physical well-being, but also your motivation and general mental state. And that’s coming from someone who generally prefers the company of YouTube videos to venturing into the outernet.

 

April Favourites

Another month down and I swear the weather has gotten even worse- so much for thinking summer was on its way. I’m sorry for not posting a review this week but my life has become pretty consumed with revision recently seeing as my exams start this week and saying I am unprepared is an understatement! Anyway, seeing as April has drawn to a close, here are some of the things I was loving throughout the month.

 

The-Great-British-Sewing-Bee-Book1TV show- The Great British Sewing Bee

I know that many of you will think this is an odd choice for a 17 year old girl, but this has to be one of my favourite programmes on TV. I am a huge fan of sewing, I took GCSE Textiles and considered it for A level, but ended up just doing plenty in my spare time. I’ve been obsessed with the American tv show Project Runway for years, and I guess this is our version of it. It’s incredibly British, surprisingly funny, and just pretty fab. I’m rather upset that it’s over and I’m not ashamed to admit it.


IMG_1957Book- Popular by Maya van Wagenen

I heard about this book from my mum actually, who has been invited to the book launch for this and I’m lucky enough to be going with her, so I thought I should probably read the book first. It’s written by 15-year-old Maya who lives in Texas and is a true story about her discovery of a book written in the 1950s about how to be popular, with chapters ranging from makeup. Maya, a social outcast, decides it would be a fun experiment to follow a chapter each month of the year to the letter, and see whether there was any wisdom in this book that was still relevant 60 years later. Whilst this may sound like the plot of many a Disney tween movie, it’s surprisingly funny and well-written considering Maya’s age. Considering I read it not expecting much, I enjoyed it surprising amounts and ended up finishing it in about 3 hours without stopping.


IMG_1852Makeup- Bourjois Delice de Poudre Bronzing Powder

I bought this finally a few weeks ago after wanting it for ages thanks to Tanya Burr’s love for it, and I can totally see why. First off, it looks like chocolate and smells delicious, so that’s always a bonus. More importantly though, they actually do it in a colour pale enough that my ghostly skin doesn’t look like it’s been rubbed in mud and instead just looks nicely sunkissed. Plus the ‘glints of sunshine’ which it claims to be filled with give your skin a really beautiful glow, so for the price I think it’s a pretty fab product.

 


IMG_1764Hair Care- Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Luscious Long Deep Treatment

Well that’s a heck of a name. I bought this a while ago because since I’ve been growing my hair it’s become horribly dry at the ends, so I figured a deep treatment was the way forward. I know Aussie is well-known as a great brand of hair products, but I hadn’t heard much about this product in particular so it was a bit of a blind buy. I must say I love it though; I’ve definitely noticed the difference after applying this to the ends of my hair instead of my usual conditioner. They do loads of different variations depending on your particular hair type and issues, which is great. Plus, it’s super cheap.


crystal-fightersMusic- Crystal Fighters

I’ve loved Crystal Fighters for quite a while, but this month I’ve found myself listening to them non-stop, especially You & I. It’s the perfect mix of genres and reminds me so much of summer. It’s just one of those songs that makes you happy every time you hear it, so what’s not to love about that. Moreover, the cover art is just the most beautiful thing. (ps I’ve started a summer playlist on spotify so if anyone is even  slightly interested you can click here)


220px-The_boat_that_rocked_posterFilm- The Boat That Rocked

I know I’m very late to hop on the bandwagon for this one, but I watched this film for the first time when it was on TV last week and totally fell in love. For some reason, I had it in my head that it was a completely different kind of film so I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s hilarious, heart-warming and incredibly feel good- after the credits rolled I just sat there for ages with a huge grin on my face. Has to be up there with my favourite films of all time, and I don’t say that lightly.


IMG_1783Place- Boston Tea Party, Bristol

When I went to Bristol a couple of weeks ago for Record Store Day, I knew that brunch at Boston Tea Party was a must. Even though I’ve heard they’re awesome, I’d never actually got the chance to visit one and I immediately loved it. The decor is so completely me and the food is fabulous. I introduced my friends Hannah and Shona to pancakes, bacon and maple syrup (what kind of weirdos haven’t tried that before) which as you may know, is my favourite breakfast of all time. Big love for this place, I could see myself spending a lot of time there.


IMG_1820Food- Easter Eggs

What else could I possibly put for my food favourite in Easter? Although the amount of chocolate I got kind of stressed me out, it was a lovely day full with the family and the Easter egg hunt was super cute. Although I wanted to put in a photo of my egg from my mum, which was the most beautiful thing ever, I realised I ate most of it before taking a photo… oops. So have an adorable basked of mini eggs instead, and a belated happy Easter!

So there you have it: some of my favourite things this month which I couldn’t help but share with you. Make sure to check the stuff out because I don’t just obsess over things for nothing. I apologise in advance if my posts become less frequent or worse quality in the coming weeks; starting on Tuesday I am in exam season until the middle of June so will be in full-on stress mode. Of course, I’ll still be posting as much as I can because ultimately this is what I love and exams can sod off if they think I’m giving this up for a month!