Saturday, 26 December 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! 


How did you spend your day?

Santa was very good to me this year :) As well as my Kenwood k-mixer I got this pile of presents below!


I got some more baking things including an icing kit and a small heart shaped cake tin; some makeup and face things; and lots of gym gear! I did good! I think I'll be wearing my gym clothes on the plane on the way home...

Can't be a good Christmas without a great Christmas dinner! And that's exactly what my dad made.
We always start off Christmas dinner with salmon roulade and I don't know how, cause it's only two ingredients, but it is really one of the best things ever. Well, if you like salmon that is. Which surprisingly out cat doesn't.


Of course the main part of the meal is the turkey will all the trimmings. Look how piled up my plate is! Turkey, two different types of stuffing, bacon, cranberry sauce, gravy, potatoes, green beans, carrots, parsnips and brussels sprouts with bacon bits. Soooo yummy.


There was obviously dessert as well but I forgot to take a picture of that.. Dad made his famous chocolate log and I made my pumpkin pie cheesecake which was thankfully a success with my parents. 

It was a great day :) Even Phoebe got into the Christmas spirit!


Well actually she looks pretty grumpy.... that hat didn't stay on for long. She was not amused.

Hope everyone else had a great day! What are your Christmas traditions?

Monday, 21 December 2015

Banana Bread Three Ways: Pumpkin Banana Bread; Pumpkin Cheesecake Banana Bread; and Normal Banana Bread

I have found the best recipe for banana bread! And it plays into my love for all pumpkin flavoured things at the moment. I'm still obsessed... 
What's even better about this recipe is that you can make the banana bread 3 ways!

You can make it the way the recipe sets it out and make pumpkin cheesecake banana bread: moist and bursting with pumpkin flavour with a creamy layer of cheesecake in the middle. Combines the best of both world! Banana bread and cheesecake! And it looks pretty impressive with the different layers in it. Loads of people asked me how I managed to get the cheesecake in the middle but its really simple. Just half the banana bread mixture, cheesecake mixture on top and then the other half of the banana bread mixture.


Second way to eat this delicious recipe is to leave the cheesecake layer out and just have the pumpkin banana bread! If you're not a fan of cheesecake or you don't like the texture of it in the middle of your banana bread or you just don't want to do the extra work of making the cheesecake mixture, this is the recipe for you! It is still really moist and packed with so much flavour. 


And the final way to make this banana bread is to leave out the cheesecake mixture and the pumpkin puree and just add in another banana to make plain old banana bread! Call me boring, but this was actually my favourite way of eating this recipe. It is just so delicious. I love pumpkin puree in a lot of things but I could do without it in this banana bread. Its so good by itself and the addition of the pumpkin pie spice gives it a little extra burst of flavour. 

Let me know what you think of this banana bread and which is your favourite way of making it!


Sunday, 13 December 2015

New Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer!

My parents are always so good at getting amazing presents for everyone in the family and this year was no exception. I know its not quite Christmas yet but I got my main present delivered early this year to the flat because I leave Tuesday and it would have been impossible for me to take it on the plane back with me from Singapore. Probably should have waited until after Christmas to use it but I genuinely couldn't help myself and I used it later that day. What was it? A Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer! 
It is actually my pride and joy. It is so beautiful and so amazing and I can't get enough of it. Anyone who's beating around the bush about whether to get one or not for themselves or for someone else, don't wait any longer. Just get it. You won't regret it. 


There's my baby. Its in a gorgeous almond colour and I think it just looks so retro and cool. 

It comes with a mixer attachment, a whisk attachment, a dough hook and a splash guard as well as an information booklet that contains a few different recipe ideas. 

It is so easy to use and it really makes a different to your baking. I didn't think that it would but I don't know if its because it mixes the batter better than you would be able to do by hand, but when the finished product comes out the oven it just looks so much better than it normally would. Its risen well and its even and it looks professional. I've used it to make two different cakes/breads so far [recipes coming soon] and I've just completely fallen in love with it.

If you're looking for Christmas ideas to give to someone who is a major foodie, this would be an amazing gift to give and they would love you forever!

Saturday, 5 December 2015

An Essay on Abortion

The topic of abortion is a highly sensitive and controversial topic, that often leads to very heated debates. People get so riled up about the subject that it can lead to them doing terrible things. Just at the end of November a gunman stormed a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, killing three people and injuring nine others, presumably as a way to express his hatred for abortion and the clinics that provide such services. 

What the abortion debate comes down to is the conflict between, on the one hand, the fetal interests in life, and on the other a woman's right to control her own body. This is such a difficult moral conflict to resolve that it's no wonder that it leaves people so divided on the subject. I personally am a supporter of the pro-choice view i.e. that a woman has the choice to do what she pleases with her own body. I understand that a lot of people will not share my view, and may even be extremely offended by it but this post is not meant to cause offence. Its merely a place for me to talk about the conflict surrounding the topic of abortion.

By not allowing a woman to terminate a pregnancy, even though this goes against her right to bodily integrity or dignity, you are essentially diminishing a pregnant woman to something less than a whole, self-determining, rights-bearing individual. Many would argue that by denying a foetus the right to life, you are also diminishing it to something less than a whole, self-determining, rights-bearing individual. However, [and here comes the controversial part] I don't believe that a foetus can be classified as an 'individual'... I know that this can be a very unpopular view, but its what I believe. A foetus cannot think. It has no concept of existence let alone death. It has no fears and no desires. Unlike the woman who is carrying it. By not allowing abortions to take place, you are essentially giving more weight to something which cannot yet be classified as an individual, over an actual person who has a life and their own personal autonomy. Of course there are debates over when a foetus becomes an 'individual', and this relates to the threshold of when an abortion can take place and whether or not it should be lowered. Once you get to the later stages in a pregnancy, things become even more complicated and confusing because you are dealing with an actual baby. However, at the moment, I'm talking only about the very early stages of pregnancy when the foetus has not yet fully developed.
 
A lot of people view an abortion as an 'easy' way out. However, just because a woman is having an abortion does not mean that she is taking the experience lightly. I read something once that I thought was very poignant, and it links in well with this point:
"No woman wants an abortion like she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion like an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg."
Often an abortion is not just care-free process that a woman undergoes. It is a means to an end of a desperate situation.

There are two different reasons that a woman chooses to have an abortion: medical or social reasons. People often view one of these as more worthwhile than the other. Many people would have more sympathy for a woman who has an abortion because of medical reasons i.e. if she continues on with the pregnancy there is a risk of death to her or the potential baby or both, than for social reasons. We still view reproductive rights through a lense of there being a hierarchy of 'good' or 'bad' abortions. However, social reasons can be just as worthwhile as medical ones. For example, a teenage girl from a poor background becomes pregnant. She does not have the experience, help, finances or ability to look after the child, and therefore it would be better for her life if she aborted, not to mention the fact that the potential child would suffer from being brought up in such circumstances.

At the same time, even if there is not a desperate situation like the one I've mentioned above and maybe the woman just doesn't want a baby right now, I think her personal autonomy and reproductive rights should be respected. It does not mean that I pesonally would have an abortion, but I think that everyone should have the right to control their own bodies and not have them controlled by the State. One of the presumptions of liberal democracies is that citizens should be free to make their own choices with regard to their own values, whether or not these choices and values are acceptable to the majority. Just because others do not like it or are made uncomfortable by it, this is not enough for the right of an individual to be limited; in the current case, the reproductive rights of a woman. Furthermore, if you reduce personal autonomy when it comes to a woman's choices over her own reproductive wishes, it paves the way for individual's autonomy to be reduced in other areas, where there is a risk that others will be offended by their choices 

Personally I believe that the autonomy of a pregnant woman should be respected. Not because the foetus is insignificant, but rather because pregnant women are significant.


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

What's on My Bedside Table

Our bedroom is our place for rest and recuperation after a long and stressful day, and a good bedside table is as important as a comfortable bed in order to help us relax. I'm not talking about the make and design of the table, but more what it has on it. It has to have everything on it, within arms reach of your bed, that will help you unwind and chill out after a long day.

Want to see what mine looks like?


There you go! All my necessities and things I need to relax on one table. 

First off, a good book. What better way to relax then immersing yourself in another world, completely different from the one where all your worries and stress live. I'm reading Persuasion by Jane Austen at the moment. Its taking a while for me to get into it, but its still a good way to unwind at night. After going through my usual Facebook, DailyMail, Bloglovin' and Tumblr ritual at night, I need to turn off all my electronics and just read for a bit to be able to get to sleep. The longer I read, the easier it is for me to fall asleep.

Also a necessity to be able to read at night, a bedside lamp. Mine is just a £5 simple black one from Tesco. Cheap and cheerful.

And just a necessity for everyday life really - a bottle of water. Its a well known fact that its good to stay hydrated and there's no better way to accomplish that than to have a bottle of water sitting right beside you to remind you that you have to drink. I should really invest in a proper water bottle instead of relying on filling up my old Strawberry Flavoured Volvic water bottle... maybe I'll ask for one for Christmas!


Three new additions to my bedside table, and two of them are from my November wishlist post! These are actually my Christmas presents from my sister and her husband! A bit early, I know, but I was down there a few days ago and it seemed pointless for them to wrap up my presents and send them to me when I could just take them back myself. Also, I wanted to see her open her present from me, and so it was only fair that I got to open mine at the same time...

First off, a really pretty silver photoframe with my favourite picture of myself and Faith and John from her wedding day. I just adore that picture and it makes me happy and smile when I look at it. I think you need something in your room that cheers you up just by looking at it, and that picture right next to my bed does that job.

Second, my personalised strawberry and prosecco candle from Kisses and Creation [http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/kissesandcreations/product/personalised-candle]. I cannot explain how amazing this candle smells. I haven't even lit it yet, and yet my entire room smells amazing and sweet as soon as I walk into it. I'm waiting until after Christmas to actually light it, just so it makes it feel like it is an actual Christmas present. But to be honest, you don't even need to light it to be able to benefit from the smell. Seriously, you need to buy this candle. It smells so good that you just want to eat it. Also, light and fragrance are the most effective and easiest way to improve your rooms mood and ambiance and so a candle is the best way to combine both of these things, to make your bedroom the most relaxing place possible. 

And third, my new strawberry and prosecco lipbalm. [http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/hearthandheritage/product/prosecco-and-strawberry-lip-balm-gift] I did not stick to my rule of waiting until after Christmas to use this present... As I've probably said before, I am completely addicted to lipbalm of any form and so I can't really relax unless I have one within reach which is why I always have lipbalm on my bedside table. Again, this lipbalm smells so amazing that you'll want to eat it straight out of the tin. It also makes your lips feel so silky and smooth.


Another necessity for me, are hairties. Because I have such long hair, I am constantly putting my hair up to get it off my face and to help cool me down. Anyone who uses hairties know that they are constantly going missing. You need a box or something to keep them all together and contained in one place. A couples of years ago, my friend James made this oragami box for me for Christmas, and filled it with chocolates. I've obviously eaten the chocolates since then and I now use the box to put all my hairties in. Its so handy to have them within reach when I'm lying in or on my bed and to have them in such a compact and pretty little box is an added bonus. 


And lastly, my ring stand. I have two rings that I wear every single day and I don't like sleeping with them on because my fingers swell during the night and they just don't feel comfortable and I feel odd with them on at night. So what better place to put them, than on my 'rockstar' ring stand from Urban Outfitters? They don't sell this particular one anymore, but they do have a really nice marble jewellery hand for £15, http://www.urbanoutfitters.com/uk/catalog/productdetail.jsp?id=5559382160101&category=JEWELLERY-STORAGE-EU
And just behind the ring stand, is a picture of me and my mum at Colleen's wedding in a really pretty pink picture frame. What better place to have pictures of your family, than right next to your bed?

So there is my bedside table! 
What are the necessities that you have to have next to your bed? What do you have on your bedside table that makes your room your centre of relaxation?
Let me know!

Monday, 30 November 2015

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake! And a recipe for pumpkin pie spice

I know I've missed Thanksgiving which is when you normally have pumpkin pie flavoured anything, but who says you can't have pumpkin pie any time of the year!

I first started looking for pumpkin flavoured desserts around Halloween time. You know, Halloween = everything pumpkin-y. 
Unfortunately, pumpkin puree isn't easy to come by in the UK. You can buy it in Waitrose, but there isn't one of those by me so I had to buy it online. Thank god for Amazon!

I made these pumpkin chocolate chunk cookies;  http://dearcrissy.com/pumpkin-chocolate-chunk-cookies and they were so delicious and so easy to make. They take about 5 minutes to make the mixture and then 10 minutes to cook. I was a bit worried they weren't cooked properly because they didn't feel like normal cookie texture, but I think its just because of the pumpkin puree. They have a slightly more doughy texture which I actually really liked. They are also incredibly addictive. I made like 60+ cookies and they were gone by the next day. Oops...

The best thing I made was this classic pumpkin spice cheesecake though. http://homemadehooplah.com/recipes/classic-pumpkin-spice-cheesecake/ It is so unbelievably good. I made it first for Halloween and then made it again this past weekend for my sister and brother-in-law.


The texure and creaminess of a classic cheesecake, but with the added bonus of the flavour of pumpkin pie. Again, I couldn't find pumpkin pie spice anywhere so in its place I used: 1tsp of pumpkin pie spice = 1/2 tsp of cinnamon + 1/4 tsp of nutmeg + 1/4 tsp of ginger. It tastes just as good! And smells amazing.

My next pumpkin pie flavoured task, is to make this chocolate cinnamon swirl pumpkin brioche bread: http://frame.bloglovin.com/?post=4602879780&blog=4090832
I might make it once I've finished uni for Christmas to give myself a relaxing baking session to congratulate myself for making it through the first term!

If anyone makes any of these recipes, let me know what you think of them! And how they turn out! Happy baking!


Friday, 20 November 2015

Top 10 Things to do in New York City!

I've finally been to one of the places that I've always wanted to visit! New York City!
As such, I've decided to compile a list of Top 10 Things to do there to give anyone that's planning on visiting New York, an idea of places to go.

1) Walk around Chinatown


 When I was in New York, we stayed in an Airbnb in Chinatown. As long as you enjoy food, culture, shopping and history, you're bound to find something to do here. You can browse around the street markets or shops, or pop into a little restaurant to get authentic, cheap and delicious food. Dim sum, anyone? It's so exciting to walk around all the little side streets, packed with people and stalls and bright colours and intense smells. It will make you completely forget that you're actually in New York for a second. You'll think that you've somehow managed to jump all the way over to Asia. 

2) Walk around Little Italy



Located right next to Chinatown, Little Italy is a gorgeous area. For anyone who enjoys good Italian food, this is clearly the place to come for that. For me, Little Italy was one of my favourite areas. Whenever I looked around and saw all the buildings and people and cars, it just made me so excited and happy because it just looked so much like... New York. When you picture New York in your head and you think of all the cool little cafes, and all the stylish people walking around, and all the apartments that you can imagine Joey, Monica, Chandler, Rachel, Phoebe and Ross living in, that's exactly what Little Italy was like. It was also so close to my new two places to visit...

3) Visit Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

 

This quaint bookstore/cafe is a great place to come and relax and find great books, music and films for great prices. I managed to get a copy of The Bloody Chamber for $1! If you're a book lover, you should definitely come check out this place. With the winding stairs up to the different levels, and the ladders running around all the rows of books, you'll feel like Belle from Beauty and the Beast after the Beast gifted her his library.


There's pictures all around the shop of different singers or authors performing or doing signing/readings, so if you're lucky, you might be able to come on a day when someone is doing an event! Apparently you can also rent out the place for weddings, so... I know where I want my wedding taking place!

4) Visit McNally Jackson Books


Another bookstore! You can probably tell that I'm really into wandering around bookstores, right? I just find it so relaxing and there's nothing better than finding a really good book. Especially if you can couple this with a good slice of cake and a cup of tea. This place is only a few streets away from Housing Works, but it has a completely different vibe. This place has a much more modern, polished feeling and look than Housing Works. It would probably be described as the kind of place that "hipsters" or people who want other people to think that they're hipsters would come. But I loved it. Its hard to pick which one I liked best. All I know, is that if I lived in New York I would be going to both these bookstores every weekend. 


5) Go to the Williamsburg Mini Mall 


I loved this place. It had so many different cool little shops in it: a homemade soap shop, a bookstore, a vintage shop, a candy store... Even though it isn't very big, you could spend ages here browsing around all the different little shops. Even though it seems really grungy and down to earth, it is pretty expensive.. I saw so many nice clothes that I wanted to buy but hadn't really factored the kind of prices they were advertising into my budget for the trip... But if you're willing to spend a little, then you should definitely check this place out! Even if you don't have a lot of extra pocket money to spend, its still cool just walking around and window shopping.

 

6) Walk across Williamsburg Bridge


 Brooklyn bridge is normally the bridge people talk about when they talk about New York, but the views from this bridge are amazing. Looking downtown you can see the Brooklyn bridge, and looking uptown you can see all of midtown including all the sky scrapers and high lines. It really is amazing. Its also a good way to get in a bit of exercise because its a long way the whole way across! You start in the Williamsburg neighbourhood of Brooklyn and then end up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Or vice versa, depending which way you go. 
I would seriously reommend it, because its a great way to get practically a whole view of New York.


 7) Visit Times Square


This is the ultimate New York City experience. Seeing Times Square. I was so excited when I was there. For the most intense experience, I suggest going at night time because all the bright lights contrast so amazingly with the darkness and it just makes the experience all the more exciting. Although it is incredibly, incredibly busy, I completely thought it was worth it to be able to see such a famous and iconic place. Of course, if you're not the kind of person that likes touristy areas then you'll absolutely hate it. But I personally don't think you can come all the way to New York and not see some of the tourist areas. 

8) Visit Central Park


Another major tourist area to visit in New York is Central Park. Although it is a major tourist destination, because it is so big it is so easy to find a more secluded and private spot for you to totally relax in. We spent the entirety of our second day just walking around Central Park. It was so surreal to see this vast expanse of park surrounded by skyscrapers, but it was amazing all the same. It was so relaxing and I could so easily see myself coming here every weekend if I lived there. 


9) Visit Brooklyn Flea Markets

Okay, I'm not gonna lie. The next two places I didn't actually go to... but I wanted to! We just didn't get around to going to them. Firstly, the Brooklyn Flea Markets. They're on every weekend and include over 100 flea vendors and 30 food vendors. What a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday! I would have loved spending a day wandering around all the different stalls but unfortunately I didn't find out it until after I had left. Oh well! Maybe next time!

10) Visit Queens Night Market 


Lastly, Queens International Night Market. This is a large, family-friendly, open-air night market in Queens thats open from 6pm to midnight on Saturday's. It features independent vendors selling merchandise, art, and food, and featuring small-scale performances and entertainment. I can't get over how fun this would have been to go to! I was there during the week though so I couldn't go! I bet the atmosphere is incredible though, and it would be a great way to spend a Saturday night.


Well there you go! My Top 10 Things to do in New York! I hope it was helpful and let me know if you're planning on going to any of these places/have been and let me know what you thought of them!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

November Wish List!

Recently I've been preparing early for Christmas/procrastinating from doing work, by browsing around online for various presents for people. I have a number of go-to websites that I rely on when it comes to looking for presents - my favourite one at the moment is Notonthehighstreet.com and I've found a few things on it that I would like for myself... 

http://cdn.notonthehighstreet.com/system/product_images/images/000/620/091/normal_SPR12-015-g.jpgFirstly, what better way to enjoy the upcoming colder weather and darker days than by curling up in bed, lighting a nicely scented candle and reading a good book whilst sipping on some tea. Notonthehighstreet has some beautiful, eco-friendly candles from Kisses and Creations that you can personalise to suit each individual person buying them. Not only can you choose between a number of different fragrances [Vanilla, Very Berry, Strawberries and Cream, and Cinnamon Cake are my personal favourites], but you can also choose the colour of the label, the letter and icon on the front of the label, and finally, a personal message. I can think of nothing better to decorate my bedside table.
If you're interested in buying your own personalised candle or getting one for someone else, here is the link: http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/kissesandcreations/product/personalised-candle

http://cdn.notonthehighstreet.com/system/product_images/images/001/668/153/normal_personalised-photograph-reel-metal-book-mark.jpg
 Another item that I'd love to have on my bedside table, is this personalised photo film reel book mark from We Love To Create for only £7.99. I can think of nothing better to mark the pages of my books with, than some of my favourite people and pictures. Not only is this a special, sentimental present that's great for literary lovers, but it is also very stylish and unique.


http://cdn.notonthehighstreet.com/fs/ca/f4/ea37-b9d8-4137-bf25-cd949d9a0188/normal_personalised-cake-tins.jpg 
Recently I've been baking a lot [mostly pumpkin pie flavoured things] and because our fridge is so small, having a cake in there takes up pretty much all of the space which is slightly annoying. What I really need is a cake tin that will keep my cake fresh, but will also look pretty on our kitchen counter. What's better than this Personalised Cake Tin from Jonny's Sister?
Although its slightly more pricey [£39.75], its made of enamel with a seal around the rim so your cakes won't become stale and you can choose the font style and colour, as well as what the cake tin actually says. What better present to give an avid baker?


http://cdn.notonthehighstreet.com/fs/c5/b1/6962-3a6c-4f4b-b454-a7c9cef15306/normal_prosecco-and-strawberry-lip-balm-gift.jpgLastly, anyone who knows me knows that I am addicted to lip balm. So if I see a lip balm that has a nice sounding flavour, I'll automatically want it. This Prosecco and Strawberry Lip Balm from Hearth & Heritage is just the kind of lip balm that I would love. Not only do I love the smell, taste and colour of strawberries, but I'm also a massive fan of prosecco. A lip balm that encompasses both of those things will obviously be amazing. Also, this lip balm is eco-friendly and naturally flavoured so its great for those who worry about what goes on/in their bodies. If anyone else is like me and is already looking ahead to Christmas, this would be a great stocking-filler for a friend/relative/significant other. They also have Chocolate and Whisky as well and Gin and Tonic, so there are lip balms to appeal to everyone's different alcohol preferences! http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/hearthandheritage/product/prosecco-and-strawberry-lip-balm-gift

Friday, 30 October 2015

Proud of My Weight

Recently I've been yo-yoing between liking my body and feeling massive. When I look in the mirror, I generally like what I see. Yes, I could do with some toning up, but other than that there's nothing wrong with my size. I'm a size 10 which is in no way large. However, when I look back at old pictures of myself from 2-1 years ago, or I try on clothes that used to be baggy on me, I feel massive and realise the weight I've put on. 

Last night, for example. We were having a Halloween get together at our flat and I put on my Daphne costume. It fit but it was quite tight and I remember 2 years ago how it hung off of me and I got pretty bummed out thinking about how much weight I must have put on. 

But then it hit me. 

My weight now is my normal weight. For my height, its the average weight that I should be. A couple of years ago, or even last year, however, my weight was a few pounds away from being on the underweight scale for my height. 
Back then I knew that I had lost some weight because I was running a lot, but I still thought I was quite big when I looked in the mirror. Looking back at pictures of me then, however, and I can see how skinny I was. 
The day that picture was taken I remember feeling really uncomfortable wearing a bikini all day in front of people, and thinking my stomach was looking bloated or my legs looked big but looking at the picture now, I wish I could go back to that size! And then I remember how unhappy I was then. 

Back then I was running 5k almost every day. And although I do miss being so motivated about going to the gym and being able to run 5k in the time that I used to be able to, I also remember how running was my escape. I wasn't able to process the thoughts in my head, and my mind and emotions were so muddled up which was so upsetting and confusing for me, and it all made me retreat into myself. When I was running however, my mind was able to clear up for a bit. For some reason, I was able to process my feelings and thoughts better when I was on the treadmill and it made me feel happier and stronger. And so it became quite addictive. It was the only time when my thoughts and feelings weren't really consuming me. 

So yes, I am bigger now than when I was back then. But I'm fine with my body and I also know that I'm bigger because I don't have the need to run everyday to sort out my mind. I'm happy with the fact that I'm happier in myself and so I don't need to rely on the treadmill anymore. The fact that I've put on weight means that I've sorted out my mind and I'm not addicted to the feeling that running gave me. And I'm happy about that. So although I'm bigger, I'm fine with my body and I'm actually proud of the weight I've put on (in a strange way) because it shows that I've overcome that period in my life and I'm better for it.

Friday, 2 October 2015

The Book Barn, CT/RI

For anyone who is a book lover and is in the area of Connecticut/Rhode Island, you have to visit The Book Barn in Niantic, CT. 


Whilst there are 4 different locations dotted around the area, the one in Niantic is by far the best. I was expecting, as the name suggests, a barn full of books, but it was so much more than that. There was a main house and then a few more shed's and huts placed around a garden area, all filled to the brim with books. Any books you could think of. And they were all $1! 


It was amazing. I loved it so much. Not only am I a book lover and so this place appealed to my literary side, I am also an animal lover which was great because the book barn had goats that you could hand feed, but it was also home to a number of cats who were so used to visitors that you could go up and stroke them and they wouldn't bat an eyelid. The barn has a leaflet with all the different cats on it, including their names and their usual hang out places around the book barn so you can go and find them.

If you want to have a browse around the book barn, but you don't want to drag around your unenthusiastic young kids, don't fear! The book barn has an outside playground that kids can go and have a run around on whilst you go and search out that book you've been wanting to read forever. 


Its easy to spend hours at this place and I could easily have spent the whole day there. It was so relaxing to be surrounded by nature and books and cats. 



Good thing I didn't stay there longer though, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to carry all the books I would have bought back to Glasgow! I already bought 6!

If anyone is near this book barn, or even if you're not, it is definitely worth the road trip to come and visit this place. I was in Westerly RI, but it was only a half an hour drive there and it was so worth it. It is so quaint and relaxing and it will make you fall in love with books all over again.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Prague! End of the Euro-trip!

I've come to my last Euro-trip post, sadly!

We ended our adventure in Prague which was probably the best place that we could have ended up in. As I said in my very first post, Venice and Prague were my favourite places that we visited. Prague was just so much fun and it was just such a relaxing way to end such a long and exhausting (but fun!) holiday. 

Despite saying that, I just spent about 20 minutes with Ashleigh trying to remember what we did there fore 4 days :/ I think we were so relaxed that all I remember is chilling out in our room and in the bar downstairs in the hostel and making friends and it just outweighs everything else. Plus it was the end of such a long trip and we had done so many things by then, that everything just kind of blurs into one when I try and look back on it. 


My favourite part of Prague, I have to say, was the hostel we stayed in and the people we met. If you're going to Prague and looking for a hostel to stay in, go to Sir Toby's Hostel [www.sirtobys.com]. It is amazing. The people who work there know so much about the city and are so welcoming and helpful and its clean and comfortable and there's a great pub downstairs where you can meet people and hang out. Its just such a fun hostel to stay in and its right next to a tram station so its really easy to get into the centre of Prague. Plus they sell tram tickets in the hostel reception and they're really cheap so its so easy to make your way around the city.


I feel bad that this post is going to be a really unhelpful guide to Prague because we didn't actually get up to much when we were there so I can't recommend many things to do. We of course went into the old town square and saw the astronomical clock and all the churches and things. And obviously we walked across the Charles Bridge and up to the castle. But if you end up going there, I suggest just relaxing and walking around the city and drinking beer/absinthe and having fun. Its just such a beautiful and fun city that you don't want to stress yourself out trying to find certain things to do and missing out on the relaxed vibe that the city gives off. 

Even though I haven't been very helpful about certain things to do in Prague, if you were on the fence about going or thinking about the next place that you should go to, hopefully I've convinced you to make your way to Prague. Its such a beautiful city and its so much fun. You definitely won't regret going. Especially if you stay at Sir Toby's Hostel. 

Despite what I thought though, my euro-trip lead on to more adventures seeing as I just got back from America after visiting someone I met in Prague... more posts to follow!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Latteria Mozzarella Bar Part 2: Singapore

I have a list of places that I want to eat at every time I come to Singapore, and Latteria mozzarella bar has become one of those places.

I've written a post on this restaurant before and raved not only about the amazing food, but the amazing waiter that we had as well. Unfortunately at that time I couldn't remember his name so I couldn't give him the direct praise that he deserved. However, I went back a few days ago with Jess and there he was! Surprisingly he remembered me as well and I managed to get his card so I can tell you all who to look out for when you visit this amazing restaurant.

His name is Kirby and he's actually the assistant manager. If you ever come to this restaurant you have to ask for him because he is without a doubt, the best waiter I've ever had. He's so friendly and knows all about the food and is always making recommendations. He really helps to make the entire eating experience even better.

So come to this restaurant and experience the amazing food and service! Let me know what you think!

Friday, 4 September 2015

For Those of You Going Through a Breakup

Before I write my last post about my Euro-trip experience, I should probably write about my recent break-up. Well, it's not recent. It actually happened about 3 months ago. A few days before I flew out to Rome to start my adventure, and the night before my sister's hen-do. Great timing, right? He was very considerate on that front. [Note the sarcasm]. 

I won't go into details about what happened but lets just say it was very sudden and random and shocking. Because of that, I kept on hoping for ages that we would get back together seeing as things were great between us literally just the day before we broke up. When you go through a break up that is just so sudden and out of the blue, there is always the hope that you'll get back together because the feelings were there just the day before, how can they have disappeared overnight? How can someone who supposedly had such strong feelings for you be able to throw you away so easily? 
I made the stupid mistake of being in that frame of mind and thinking that he must miss me as much as I missed him and that he'd want to get back together as well, because we had seemed so happy together.
And so I messaged him a few times when I was away on my trip. No reply. 
Don't make the same mistake I did. Don't message them, because it just feeds their ego and makes you feel even worse. You just have to come to terms with the fact that maybe he just doesn't care anymore, and all the things you're feeling he probably isnt' feeling. It might sound really harsh, but read below:


Of course I was heartbroken and it did ruin my trip a little. When you go through a break up, it is constantly on your mind, and you're constantly thinking about him and it totally drew my attention away from parts of the trip where I should have been having the time of my life. Not only was I obviously mad at him for breaking up with me, but I was furious that he would do it when he knew I was about to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I still am actually. It was incredibly selfish.

Being away on the trip, I can't make up my mind if it helped or hindered the break up experience. I was emotionally exhausted the entire time we were travelling [not to mention physically exhausted] and I just wanted to be by myself and cry and let it all out. But staying in hostels with strangers kind of inhibits you from doing that. It also wouldn't have been fair to my friends to be constantly moaning and crying and talking about it, because that's not what they want to have happen on their Euro-trip. And so I had to bottle it all up. So although that was so hard, because I was away I was distracted a lot more than I would have been if I was just sitting in my bed in Glasgow. It made me skip over that wallowing period of the break up but I'm wondering if one day it will just hit me cause I haven't actually been able to go through it yet.
So maybe if you're going through a break up, the answer is to go on a trip with your friends! It'll help take your mind off it, but you'll also have to give yourself a few days to cry it out because you need that. You need to go through the pain. 

I've reached that point where I can logically look back on it and say to myself, 'you don't need or want to be with someone who would treat you like that'. Because I don't. He was so rash and impulsive and selfish and cruel about it and if someone can treat me like that, they're obviously not the kind of guy I should be with. What always hurt the most was that he didn't care enough about me to talk through it. He got angry and it was so easy for him to throw me away. If someone truely cares about you, they shouldn't be able to do that. They shouldn't be able to treat you like you're expendable. I read something on tumblr [good old tumblr] that I thought definitely put a positive spin on a crappy situation like a break up and I thought I would share it.
Because it's true. However long it takes, one day they will look back on it when they have matured a bit and realise what an idiot they were and how they lost something so important. But it's their loss and they should feel sad about it, but not you. The only thing you've lost is someone who obviously didn't care enough about you.

One last piece of advice before I sign off. Do yourself a favour and don't stay updated with those who you realised weren't good for you. You don't need to know how they're doing. Trust me, it just makes it so much worse. You see them enjoying their life and you sit there heartbroken, coming to the realisation that they're not thinking about you at all, let alone missing you. As hard as it is to resist, don't look them up on facebook/instagram/snapchat. Delete them off everything. You don't need to look at their snapchat stories and see them in bed with another girl. Yep, that happened. 

So good luck with getting through this difficult period. It sucks and hurts so much but you'll get over it. Even if it doesn't feel like it, you will. And one day you'll be able to look back and realise what a mistake they made and maybe even feel sorry for them.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Munich!

We're nearing the end of our Euro-trip and our seond last stop is Munich! Just like before, four becomes three. Cosmo was going off home to Romania after we finished our trip so to save her a rail journy on her interrail pass, she skipped Munich and went straight to Prague where we'd end up meeting her later.
I wasn't really fussed about going to Germany. It's never really called out to me as a country that I really wanted to visit but it was on Carmen's list of places she wanted to visit and its another country to tick off my list! I ended up really liking it though, even if we were only there for a very short time. Another thing on Carmen's list was visiting a beer garden. You can't really visit Germany without going to a beer garden to be fair! Luckily there was one about a 15 minute walk away from our hostel (which you can see a small part of in the picture above). 
The beer garden was massive and there were so many people there. It was in the middle of this massive park and there were loads of different stands serving different foods and of course, beer. I had to go for traditional German food seeing as we were in Germany so I went for sausages, chicken and pretzels. Didn't go for any beer though because unfortunately I absolutely hate beer. It was all delicious though and it was a gorgeous day so after we'd stuffed ourselves, we went to lie down on the grass in the park and chilled out there for a bit. For some reason, we were under the impression that Germany would be slightly cooler than the other places we'd visited but boy were we wrong! It was absolutely boiling and I'm pretty sure I got sunburnt sitting out in the sun, eating my typical German meal. Am I being a tad stereotypical?
If you're in Munich and don't mind having a very somber day, you should take the train and visit the Dachau concentration camp. It's only about an hour train journey, maybe even less than that and it is definitely worth it. It is so informative and so emotional and its worthwhile to go there and find out what the prisoners went through. It's also free to get in. We spent only about 2-3 Euros to get the audio-guide which is worth it. There are actual tour guides which you can attend but I think its better to go around at your own pace and really spend the time that each section deserves. The audio tour not only gives detailed descriptions of all the different areas in the camp, but it also has a huge amount of testimonies from survivors of the camp and some of the liberators which are very emotional to listen to. 
Dachau was the first of the Nazi concentation camps opened in Germany, intended to hold political prisoners but ended up holding all different kinds of prisoners. Dachau was the camp that was in operation the longest, nearly all 12 years of the Nazi regime, and during that time there were 32,000 documented deaths in the camp and thousands of undocumented deaths. Not only do you get to walk around the grounds and view where the barrack were, and see the crematorium, but the main building itself houses a massive exhibition which goes into extra detail about the camp. There is also a documentary that you can view at certain times that is harrowing to watch. In the grounds there are a few memorials that are so powerful to see. A pathway leads down between giant granite slabs and as you get lower down the downward slope, the sculpture by Nandor Gild looms over you. It encompasses fence posts, ditches and barb wire which are reminiscent of the security facilities that surrounded the camp. The human skeleton entangled in the barb wire commemorates those who jumped into the barbed wire fence, in order to commit suicide and escape the horror that they were forced to live in. At the lowest point of the pathway, the view to another monument opens up: a sculpture made up of giant chains that have triangles on them, symbolising the triangle badges that marked evey prisoner, showing what they were imprisoned for. Sadly, the memorial does not contain the black triangle that represents the 'asocials', the green triangle for the category of of 'criminal prisoners' or the pink triangle representing homosexuals in the camp. At the end of the monument the words 'Never Again' are written in Yiddish using Hebrew letters, and in French, German, English and Russian. An urn with the ashes of an unknown concentration camp prisoner lies before it, symbolising the tens of thousands of victims that died during the lifespan of the camp. 
There is also a giant sign after you enter the gates of the camp that states "May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defence of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men." 
As you can probably tell, if you visit Dachau it will be a very emotional visit but also a very informative and worthwhile one.
To end this post on a happier note, it is obvious that Munich is the place for stag and hen do's. There was such a party feel in the main area that was really infectious. We even saw a party tram go by which looked amazing. I didn't even know those existed. I knew party buses were a thing, but not party trams. As soon as we saw it we immediately wanted to jump on but unfortunately we couldn't. We walked to the Marienplatz (the central square) and there was so much going on. So many people out drinking and having fun. I was in awe of the city hall as well. It was absolutely gorgeous. We found a little pub to have dinner and drinks in and afterwards, when we were walking back to catch the train back to our hostel, we could see the nightlife really coming alive. If we were there for longer I think we would have spent a night out in Munich but unfortunately not. It looked like so much fun though and I would recommend it as a fun weekend away with your friends even just by looking at the atmosphere!
If you're in Munich, you should also get the train to go and see the Neuschwanstein Castle. We unfortunately didn't go. I think it was on our list of things to see but we just didn't have enough time to take the train and go and see it. I didn't mind at all until someone we met in our hostel in Prague (he'll feature later on) asked us if we had gone to see the 'Cinderella Castle' and when I googled it because I didn't make the connection between the two places, I actually felt like crying a little bit when I saw it and saw how beautiful it was. Not gonna lie, I was a little heatbroken. 
I mean look at that, doesn't that look like a fairytale castle? Of course it wouldn't look exactly like that in the summer but it would still have been absolutely gorgeous. 

So there you go, a whirlwind tour of Munich. I wish we had spent at least another day there but cest la vie! Let me know if you've been to Munich and what you did when you were there, or what you're planning on doing!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Salzburg! Austria, Part 2

Onto Salzburg, the home of the Sound of Music, for my second post on Austria.

After the big city feel that Vienna gave off, Salzburg felt like a very small, quaint village. The area that our hostel was in felt so small in fact that it took us a while to find a store to get things to eat from. And the store that we did find was pretty small so there wasn't many options of things to eat. That's not a complaint about Salzburg though! It was nice to stay in a little Austrian village and be able to walk fo a bit to get into the main city. Our hostel was obviously taking on board the whole Sound of Music thing as well, because they played it every night at 8pm in the tv room. We sat down and watched it one night and it was amazing but for the people at reception, they must absoutely hate it now.


Not only was Salzburg big on promoting their attachment to the Sound of Music, but there was also a lot of promotion everywhere with Salzburg's affinity with Mozart. In fact, near our hostel, hidden behind a church was a beautiful little graveyard which had Mozart's parents gravestone's in it. And then in the main area of the city was Mozart's former home. It was so expensive to get into though so we just took a picture of the oustide. 


Salzburg was beautiful. So many gorgeous buildings and beautiful gardens, surrounded by mountains. It was amazing to be able to walk around such a picteresque place. Perhaps one of the most gorgeous views you can get of Salzburg, is from the funicular that takes you up to Fortress Hohensalzburg, and then from the Fortress Hohensalzburg itself. Hohensalzburg castle is an 11th century fortress complex sitting on a hilltop with amazing views over the city and to the Alps. Not only does it have gorgeous views, but you can also take an audio-guided tour around the fortress and learn about it's history. There's also a restaurant next to the fortress which overlooks the spectacular views of the city which must be an amazing place to have lunch. 




On our way to see the Fortress, we walked through a market where we bought delicious schnitzel and I got a huge apple pretzel. Don't think there was a more Austrian meal that we could have eaten on the steps of an Austrian church, next to an Austrian market. 

Side note, we passed the fanciest McDonald's I have ever seen on our way through the city centre. We didn't go in but I just had to take a picutre of the infamous 'M' sign. 



Side, side note. I thought Paris was the only city that had a love lock bridge but apparently not! It was amazing to see all these different locks on this bridge in Salzburg, with all the different message on them of people declaring their love for each other. It was rather sweet. 



If you want a more picturesque, relaxing trip to Austria, I definitely recommend Salzburg. It's a perfect little story-book setting.

Anyone else been to Salzburg? Anyone want to go? Let me know!