Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Recent podcast discoveries..

Podcasts Collage

Last weekend I ended up with an unexpected couple of days to myself, as something I'd signed up to help out at didn't need me in the end. Which was great, as I was able to have a day or two to just catch up on life things. I've been clearing out cupboards, wardrobes and trundling things down to the charity shops, clothes banks and the local recycling centre as part of the preparation which you get into when you're planning to move house. And I needed a bit of background noise, so I raided my podasts app for something new. 

I was talking to someone a couple of weeks back who said they didn't like podcasts because they found it annoying to listen to people rabbiting on about subjects, even when they're subjects which may actually interest them in real life, because they end up being self-indulgent, like vlogs or Youtube videos, but I was trying to explain that there are so many different types of podcasts, that you don't have to be limited.

Here are a few of the things I've been listening to over the past couple of weeks:

Girl in Space: This follows the fate of a young scientist on board a dying space ship, with only a robot for company. Who she is, we're not entirely sure, but there are suddenly a lot of people who wish to find out. Told in the format of a recorded ship's log, it's super descriptive and doesn't take long to get sucked into life on board.

Lake Clarity: This was my first taste of the FateCrafters podcasts. Season 1 follows a group of teens who go camping in their summer break, heading out to a lake which was once the home of an abandoned summer camp. They record what they find and suddenly things get a little scary. Season 2, which is also available, follows reporter Sam, who picks up their story whilst she's reporting on an event in a nearby town. I really enjoyed this one and had listened to both seasons within a morning - perfect sewing accompaniment. 

The Boring Talks: Good old Radio 4 have produced this and it does exactly what it says on the tin. A weekly talk from someone on a subject which they (but possibly nobody else in the world) are passionate about. From changing your name, to road signs, to a man who has kept a record of every sneeze he's ever experienced, I like a weekly dose of this one. 

The Other Stories: I think I may have mentioned this one before, but I'm still listening avidly. Perfect for any fans of horror or gore, The Other Stories has a new theme each month (recently we've had Egypt, Virtual Reality and Theme Parks), and each episode is a standalone short story of 15-20mins, often covering all kinds of gruesome stuff. Another one which I subscribe to and look forward to each Monday, as I've binged my way up to date on all of the previous episodes.

Aftershocks: Another FateCrafters Network offering, I moved on to this one when I'd finished Lake Clarity and I love it. Riley, who has been hearing voices in her head for as long as she can remember, finds herself sent to an institution, where she gets to know some of the other patients and things seem okay, until something weird begins to happen. The others are convinced that some of the patients aren't "going home early" as the nurses suggest, but that they've actually been killed. But who would be doing that? 
There have only been a few episodes of this so far, but I can't wait for more.

Attention Hellmart Shoppers!: I think this may be my favourite of this list, despite being (from it's description) the one I expected to like the least. Hell-o-Mart is a hypermarket which is located in small-town America, right over the gates of Hell, so some of the staff and the customers aren't as human as you may expect. There are vampires on security, demons and leprechauns. Our anti-hero, Daniel, starts his new job at Hell-o-Mart and it takes him a while to get used to some of the oddities he finds there. 
Actually, this one turned out to be hilarious - it's full of witty jokes and fast-pasted dialogue and I was rooting for our band of merry oddballs to win their battle against the corporate bad guys by the finale - again, I listened to this entire show in the course of a day. 

Have you listened to anything good lately? I'm always on the lookout for new podcasts. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Blog Tour: The Leavers

The Leavers
The Leavers: Lisa Ko

One morning, Deming Guo's mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an "all-American boy." But far away from all he's ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother's disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind. Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It's the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he's loved has been taken away and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

I'm excited to be part of this blog tour. The Leavers is one of those books which will stick with you for a while after you finish the final page, I think. 

I'd liken the style to Little Fires Everywhere, which had a similar style and effect on me as a reader. Gently dealing with the issues of immigration and ethnicity and identity within society, I found the melancholy tone of writing describing Daniel's struggle to find his own identity pretty much resonated with the general struggles of growing up, as well as his situation with his mother. 

Tuesday 24

GO read this, and see what the others on the tour thought of it, too.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Tiptoe through the tulips..

Emily Skirt*: 405Story
It's been a while since I had something new drop through the door. I mean, I know that's the whole point of having a spending ban in place (and I keep telling myself that it will all be worth it in the end!) but still. It made a nice change to unwrap something new and know I'd have to put a pretty outfit together to show it off.

Picnic Basket Bag: Accessorize

The skirt is from 405Story; purveyors of bold prints and classic styles, who take their inspiration from the Californian coast. This tulip print appealed to me because of it's bright colour and retro vibe. The mix of bright colours makes me think it's going to be easy to style with lots of items - I've visions of pairing it with my trusty red cable knit jumper in the colder weather, too.


As it happened, the weather on Thursday rather played a part in deciding how to style this pretty tulip print. It was just too warm for anything other than bare arms (cue this bottle green vest top) and bare legs.

Shoes: Irregular Choice 
I picked out these shoes because I liked the idea of throwing in a contrasting print in the red stripes, and the gingham on this picnic basket bag as well, just added to the mix. 

Pelican Necklace: I Am Acrylic

This pelican necklace, too, is something which I only tend to wear when the sun is shining. I'm not sure whether it's because it has beach-like connotations, or what. But it's bright, and cheerful, and seems to be a major talking point when out and about and completing menial tasks like posting parcels and wandering around the supermarket.. I love the little fish on a chain, which fits into the mouth (beak?) or the pelican, too. 


Anyhow, how would you dress for the warm weather? Is that it, after those glorious few days of sunshine, or are we in for any more?

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Sequins galore..

Dress: Handmade 
At last, the sun has caught up with the weather reports and it's getting warmer. Don't worry, I didn't wear this today and risk melting into a little puddle of plastic. But, it seems like an age since I last shared any outfit photos so here's one from last week.

Bag: Accessorize // Brooch: Topshop
Since buying them last November, these boots have skyrocketed up to being one of my most-worn pairs of shoes. Over the winter when we had the bouts of rubbish weather, I reached for them as despite being sequinned to the nines, they're sturdy and waterproof and have fared me well through puddles and ice.

Boots: ASOS
Because I'm clearing out my wardrobes (it's a slow and gradual process, but it *is* happening), I've been finding things I'd forgotten about. Some of which, like this robot bag, are completely awesome and I wonder how I could have ever forgotten.. See also, the Crown and Glory headband which is barely visible, but says "love", in sparkles.

Jacket: Primark

This dress has been another of my most-worn items since making it before Xmas. It's funny how I can reach for one and overlook others which are made to the same pattern. I guess there's just something about the print and the fit which appeals to me. As for the sequins jacket? Well, one can never have enough sequins...right? 

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Blog Tour: The Lido

The Lido
The Lido: Libby Page 
You'd be forgiven for thinking you were getting a case of déjà vu here with this book, as I did already review it when I finished reading it the other day. Because I loved it and I couldn't wait. You can read that review here if you should so desire... #lovethelido.

Nonetheless, I volunteered when the publishers were asking for people to take part in the blog tour for The Lido as I this is a book I've not stopped talking about for the past few weeks. I love a good underdog story and this one brings the whole community together in their attempt to save something which has been so important in so many people's lives. 

Excitingly, it comes out on 19th April and if you haven't pre-ordered it, I'd definitely recommend it!

Rosemary, our leading lady, is 86 and has lived in Brixton all for all of her life, and the lido has played a huge part in her life. When so many other things are changing, she takes comfort in a place she spent so much time with her beloved husband. 

When council plans for redevelopment threaten to close the lido she swims at daily, Rosemary won't let her age stop her from playing a huge part in rallying the community together and the determination and tenacity which she shows is something to be admired. She fights for what she believes in and makes the reader long to Be More Rosemary. 

Which got me thinking about strong role models in my life. Age shouldn't stand in the way of standing up for what you believe in and in many ways I see a lot of my own grandmother in Rosemary's character and actions. Kind and caring, whilst looking as though she wouldn't say boo to a goose, she never fails to amaze me with the way she'll stand up for the things she believes in. 

Have you read any books where the characters make you think of people you know? I find it happens to me quite often. 

Saturday, 14 April 2018

On the fringe..


I don't think I've ever been much of a girly girl. I know this probably sounds like a strange thing to say, coming from someone who loves pinks and pastels, sequins, kitsch and bows at every opportunity. But when it comes to the finer details, the haircuts, nail polish and eyebrows, etc etc, which so many girls seem to spend forever on, I tend to give it a miss. I don't know what to do with most of the contents of a make up bag. Literally. No. Idea.

I couldn't tell you the last time I had my hair cut...until last week. Professionally, I mean, rather than just hacking away at the wonky split ends or plucking out the grey ones with a pair of tweezers (I know, I know, you're not supposed to do that. Kill me.) 

But, I'd been thinking for a while that I wanted a fringe again. It's been years and years since I had one, but I didn't hate it and it's cheaper than Botox, and seemed as good a way as any to hide my horrid forehead, which frankly seems to be a mixture of age lines and ridiculous acne, all of the time. Ugh. 

So, leaving things right until the last minute, as per, I frantically telephoned around a bundle of local hair salons. One of them could fit me in that day and I turned up looking windswept and embarrassed that I'm hopeless at things like this and never know what to ask for, and get all stressed out at being asked to look at myself in the mirror etc. 

But, my hairdresser was lovely, and listened to me and reassured me that she would cut off as little of the length as possible (I *like* my long hair and kinda want to keep it.) And she cut me in a fringe and shaped my hair around my face, and showed me it and for the first time in as long as I can remember, I looked in the mirror and hated what I saw a little bit less. So that's a start. And that's the story of my new hair.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Friday Favourites 274..

Isn't it funny how as soon as Easter is out of the way, people start talking about holidays and jetting off to sunnier climes. If only! But, whilst I may not be going on a holiday this year, it doesn't stop me thinking about holidays and enjoying all of the holiday themed prints which seem to be hitting the shelves lately..

001 // 002 // 003 // 004 // 005 // 006 // 007 // 008

Lobsters, swimmers and ice creams, oh my! Clearly sunbather prints are currently all the rage, as I also have about three different sunbather print fabrics bookmarked at the moment. But here's my pick of the beach prints from the high street for now. 

Palava seem to be going all beachy-themed this season with lobster print dresses and cardigans, as well as the long-awaited swimmer print. (006, 003, 005)

I really like the contrast of the red stripe along this Yumi beach print dress, as well. (008)

My Cath Kidston wishlist is long at the moment, and this ice cream bag (001) would be perfect for toting my seaside essentials about. The sunbather print dress (004) is pretty cute with it's shoulder cut-outs and the button detail to the front, but I think I'd need to see it in person as I have a feeling it might be rather short. 

007: This Little Moose necklace is still one of my favourites of their current offerings; I'm fairly sure I've mentioned it before. Also this glittery ice cream necklace is pretty awesome, too (002).

Do you have any holiday plans? 

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Her fight and fury is fiery..


When I was little I remember having what I thought were the very best items of clothing I've ever owned. Maybe even ever seen. I (and my sister, as my parents had a tendency to dress us in matching outfits) had a set of green dungarees which had a dragon face on them, with a tail to the back, and another blue set with an elephant face and trunk on the front. I know that sounds like the ubiquitous onesie now and there are many similar things to this available on the childrens' clothes market these days, but at the time they were pretty cool. I think that's where my love for dungarees was born.


In my teens I remember managing to track a couple of pairs down, too. I had a beige coloured set which allowed you to zip off the lower legs, to make them into a playsuit, and these I wore a LOT. I also had a yellow pair from La Redoute (I'm actually parting with them over on my clothes sale at the moment..) which I wore a lot whilst I was in college but did used to be regarded as a little weird. I was super glad to see the return of the dungarees into mainstream fashion (hello Lucy and Yak, who seem to be taking the "creative Insta-type" market by storm!!!)

So, when I received the Cotton and Chalk Sunday Set as a free gift with a copy of Simply Sewing magazine, I hung onto it and decided I would definitely make myself a pair when I found a suitable fabric. This embroidered twill, which Sarah was getting rid of seemed the perfect thing to use for my first pair. 


As you can see, I was a little concerned about them when I was partway through the construction process, but I hadn't read ahead far enough in the pattern notes to realise that I would be gathering the top of the trousers to fit their waistband. Yes, I wanted them oversized but I was worried they were going to be completely silly. 


Luckily, all turned out well in the end, and I still really like them, after a few wears. I'd definitely recommend the pattern, and have also made the pinafore dress, although that one *did* end up a little too big on the waist and so is waiting patiently in the alteration pile. Does anyone else find that these take longer to get around to than new projects?

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Where the demons dwell..


We spent last weekend down in Wiltshire and whilst we were there, we decided to make the most of our time and pay a little visit to Stonehenge, as the wedding we'd been attending was not very far away. I booked tickets online, because I'd read a lot of reviews online that if you haven't pre-booked, you might be turned away when you get there, depending on the number of visitors. 


We'd opted for the first available slot, which was 2pm when we looked on Sunday morning to book for later that day (I hadn't wanted to book in advance as it was going to depend on the weather and what else we'd planned to do in the town we'd been staying in, but as it happened there was a half marathon in Devizes on Sunday so it looked as though various parts of the town were going to be closed, so we opted to be on our way as soon as possible...)


Upon arrival, we navigated the confusing parking system (you pay £5 to park but then you get it back when you buy your tickets, unless you've booked online in which case you don', what on Earth is that?!) and headed for the pre-booked tickets line. As well as the parking faff, when I gave the booking reference on my email, it didn't seem to match up with my name or booking information. To be honest, the whole entrance system had me less than impressed by this point. Ugh. 

Due to the weather, which was grey and rainy and misty, we opted not to hire the audio tours (which would have cost another £9 each), as they had lots of stops where you'd have to wait and listen. We decided to head for the shuttle bus (which takes you from the entrance to the stones themselves) and didn't have to wait long to get onto the next bus. It looked as though these run pretty much constantly back and forth. 


Navigating our way around tourists and low-flying selfie sticks, we joined the masses in shuffling around the roped off stones of Stonehenge, stopping to read the information boards which are located around the stones and to take some photos. They are quite impressive, particularly when you think about the effort people must have gone to to move them into position: quite the feat of engineering, but it seemed a shame that we were kept so far from them. 


Once we'd passed the Heel Stone and made it back to the bus stop, we decided not to do any of the walks which were signposted from the stones as the weather was looking worse. We caught the bus back to the Visitor Centre, which directs you through the gift shop (where you can buy just about anything one can imagine with the word Stonehenge printed on it!) and then went to the exhibition, which was really interesting


Outside, there was a little village made up of mock wattle and daub huts, to give an indication of what life woudl have been like for the people who built the formation (although most of these were padlocked up so you that visitors couldn't actually access them) and a replica stone on a wooden sledge with a sign telling you to test your strength to see how many more people you'd need to be able to move one of the stones. Again, this would have been pretty good to try, but it was broken.

All in all, I'm glad that I can say I've visited Stonehenge, but it's probably not something I'd bother visiting again. Have you been?

Friday, 6 April 2018

Friday Favourites 273..

FF273 Collage
001 // 002 // 003 // 004 // 005

This week has seen me stuck in that weird, post-bank holiday limbo where I'm not entirely sure what day it is, and despite only being a three day week, it's felt a little like dragging through treacle for most of it. 

But hey, it's Friday again so the weekly tradition of sharing what's on my internal wishlist is upon us..

001: I have this dress from Joanie in the super mermaid print they also released last year and wore it so much, so I'd be more than happy to add it's yellow striped sister to my wardrobe. 

002: Another new Joanie beauty - this swan print is so muted that in my head it could pass for a fairly neutral day dress, and yet it's covered in swans. Awesome, no?

003: Puffins! I love the Lindy Bop Audrey shape - probably my favourite of all their styles and I have a *lot* to choose from. And, puffins!

004: 405Story are a fairly new-to-me brand, but they've got some lovely items online. I particularly adore this bright floral print - it would go with just about anything. 

005: Another Audrey, this time in this classic lemon print. So lovely!

What are you wishing for this week? 

Monday, 2 April 2018

Can some ghosts live upstairs?


I love baking and I love a challenge, so of course when my sister asked me a few weeks ago whether I'd make her a birthday cake, I agreed and started racking my brains (and browsing Pintrest) to think of something she'd love. She's a big Studio Ghibli fan, recently introducing me to a couple of her favourites (we've seen The Red Turtle and she's also had me watch Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro recently too). In fact, when I needed something to cheer her up a couple of weeks back, I set about making her some soot sprite cookies and I guess that inspired me to attempt a Totoro cake for her actual party. 


She's fairly easy to please when it comes to the actual cake part of things - a chocolate sponge always goes down well. For this, I used my tried and tested usual sponge cake method: weigh your eggs, use the same weight of butter, sugar and plain flour. Add a splash of milk, 1.5tsp of baking powder and for chocolate sponge, a tablespoon of cocoa powder. I made three layers, using a slightly smaller tin for the top layer in the hope that they'd end up kind of dome shaped when I stacked them up. 

KXPZ8334 (2)

I sandwiched the layers with seedless strawberry jam (her favourite, bleugh) and whipped up some buttercream to smooth around the shape. I'd hoped to mix up some fondant icing using fondant icing sugar but it didn't seem to want to thicken up enough, so in the end I dyed the majority of a block of shop-bought white fondant icing with a little bit of black food colour gel to give me a greyish colour. 


I modelled some primitive ears from the grey and held a little back for the marks on Totoro's tummy, before rolling the remainder out quite thin to cover the cake. I tend to make things like this up as I go along, and when I'm putting together a cake find it easier to place it onto it's stand first to work directly on there - too many occasions in the past where I've tried to move something once it was complete and had it fall apart. 


More primitive fondant icing shapes, all using shop-bought blocks (one green and one black, but I didn't use very much of either, and the remains of the white block I'd turned grey for the eyes and the tummy. I stuck the second layer on with just a little warm water, using a pastry brush to soften the layers up, and found that it worked perfectly well. I know that sometimes people seem to use thinned down jam for this part. 


The only other thing I used was a pair of sugar eye (which I've previously bought from Hobbycraft but have noticed that our local Tesco has begun selling them) for the soot sprite. Everything else is just fodant icing and it all seemed to stay together well, even in transit. I must invest in some larger cake boxes. 

It seemed to be well-received and hopefully tasted good, too. I know it's a little primitive, but at least she knew what he was meant to be!

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Did somebody say new shoes..?

IC Spartoo Collage

Not being able to buy new shoes when I fancy is definitely being hindered by the amount of time I seem to spend browsing new shoes. At the moment, here is what's topping my Spartoo wishlist, but I have to admit this changes on an often daily basis. All Irregular Choice, of course.

001: I have a pair of Ascot already but this new take on them is great with the pineapple print. Also, I'm a sucker for just about anything with a bow on it.

002: Blue glitter heels with a bow on the front just make me think of Cinderella and her glass slippers. I love these and think they'd be worn soooo often. 

003: Pineapples once again - they seem to still be reigning strong over the rest of the fruit for popularity, don't they?! Although it seems odd to say this about a shoe with a big, sparkly pineapple embellishment on the front, I think these look really classy and love the T-front shape of them. 

004: Fluffy Love: the perfect alternative Easter gift? I can't quite decide whether I love the bunny front strap, but I definitely do love the heart shaped heel. 

005: These are a fabulous new take on the classic IC courtesan shape and I think the corsage front gives them such a toadstooly, woodland theme. Very much like these. 

Any favourites?